Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

The Wrap – IKEA’s Sonos and unlocking iPhones with a mask

This week on The Wrap, dive into the kerfuffle of Spotify this week, plus hear about IKEA’s Symfonisk Picture Frame speaker, new headphones, and how you’ll soon be able to unlock an iPhone while wearing a face mask. All in five.

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It’s the last bit of January 2022, and you’re tuned into The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and while it can be hard to believe that the first month of the year is done and dusted, that’s where we are. Here. Done and dusted.

But not without news for the week, because this has been a bit of a doozy, with good news for recent iPhone owners, and less good news for Spotify, and even its subscribers.

In the world of Spotify, subscribers to the service will no longer be able to hear the music of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, as both depart the streaming service over misinformation communicated by one of Spotify’s podcasters, Joe Rogan.

Rogan’s show on Spotify has been accused of promoting misinformation and lies about covid vaccines, and Neil Young took the first stand, essentially giving Spotify an ultimatum, and Spotify made the bad choice, removing Neil Young’s music. I’ve never actually listened to Rogan’s show, and honestly, it sounds like I’m not missing much, but personally, I’d have taken the excellence that is Neil Young over anyone spouting crap about vaccine science any day, and it appears Joni Mitchell isn’t putting up with it either, announcing she’ll be removing her music from Spotify, as well.

That’s bad news if you like either of their music and subscribe to Spotify, but there are also other services that don’t have the same issue, and you can find it on those as well.

It shouldn’t affect what you listen on, though. You can still listen to whatever you can hear on any device you own, and there are new gadgets for that this week.

Panasonic’s Technics brand has a new pair of large noise cancelling headphones this year in the A800, a big pair of headphones with eight microphones to deal with noise and wind and such, and up to 50 hours of listening time, which has to be something of a record for wireless noise cancelling headphones. They’ll be coming for around $550 in Australia, which is more than Sony’s benchmark XM4, but not as much as the AirPods Max, both of which rank amongst our favourites, so we can’t wait to hear these, either.

We spent time listening to another sound gadget this week, and from an unlikely subject: IKEA.

You might rely on the Swedish furniture company for a Billy or Kallax or something else that needs an Allen key to assemble, but this week, we’ve been checking out a variety of speaker from IKEA, and one that runs on the Sonos network.

It’s new in Australia, and it’s very different, with the Symfonisk Picture Frame speaker essentially being a multiroom speaker that not only works with the entire Sonos speaker system, but also looks like a picture on the wall. Unfortunately, you can’t print your own artwork for the speaker, so it’s really whatever IKEA makes for it, but this is a surprisingly decent and quite loud speaker that works really well for $299 in Australia.

Music typically sounded quite balanced on the Frame speaker, though we found the lows weren’t always super complex. However for most things, the Symfonisk Frame sounded great. It’s very easy to setup and there’s also Sonos’ custom-sound tech TruePlay working here, though there’s no smarts to be had. You can’t call up Google or Alexa from this speaker like you can a Sonos One, or most of the other Sonos speakers.

One thing worth noting is the cord, which is difficult to hide. We love that the Symfonisk speaker is like a functional decoration, and one that sounds pretty great, too, but there’s still a cord hanging down, and that won’t be for everyone. Just a minor catch in the whole thing.

Kind of like the ease of use of opening a phone these days while wearing a mask.

You probably know that feeling all too well if you have a recent iPhone, because ever since the pandemic hit and we all had to wear masks, facial unlocks just haven’t worked. Phones with a fingerprint sensor have had the upper hand, or even upper finger, so to speak, while Apple’s Face ID has largely felt useless.

That looks set to change, though, as Apple this week releases a beta of a version of iOS that can unlock phones while you wear a mask.

It’s a feature that’s part of the upcoming iOS 15.4 release, and it works really well. We tried it this week with both a N95 mask and one of the smaller cloth ones, and in each situation, an iPhone was able to unlock while wearing a mask, giving us a hint of what’s to come in an upcoming release. It won’t work with every iPhone, though, with models in the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 range seeing this technology first, though possibly others later.

One final thing. While Apple is previewing face mask unlocking on the phone, Microsoft is previewing something else entirely: Android apps on Windows.

It was originally one of those things mentioned for Windows 11 at its launch last year, but it didn’t quite make it. This year, though, it’s on the cards, with an upcoming preview set to support Android apps on the Windows equivalent of the app store. It won’t quite be like the Google Play Store, but you will be able to find Android apps that work on computers with Windows, plus likely a lot more.

For now, you’ve been listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. A new episode appears every week on LiSTNR, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts, but otherwise, have a great week. We’ll see you next time on The Wrap. Stay safe, stay sane, and take care.

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