Gather round, gather round, because we’ve got some tales to tell you – tales from the last seven days in the land of technology. It’s been another busy week in a run of busy weeks, with a host of new gadgets launched and plenty of consumer tech news besides.
We saw three new flagship devices from Google – the Pixel 8, the Pixel 8 Pro and the Pixel Watch 2 – plus new SmartTags from Samsung and a new instant camera from Leica. The Fitbit app got redesigned too, though it didn’t get the best of responses.
A week is a long time in technology – especially weeks like this one – but we can get you caught up quickly. Read on to find out everything that’s been happening.
8. The Samsung Galaxy SmartTag2 is here to track your stuff
Samsung has launched a follow-up to its original SmartTag, and has played it straight and obvious with the naming: the SmartTag2 is a perfectly respectable upgrade that can be yours for $30 / AU$55 (around £25, though we await UK pricing).
The battery life is twice as good (up to 700 days now), the water and dust protection has been improved, the tracking features are more comprehensive, and there’s a new design to make these devices easier to attach to your possessions.
All in all, lots to like, then – but it does leave us wondering what’s happened to the Google AirTag rivals that have been rumored to be launching all year. The Pixel 8 event has come and gone and there’s no sign of them.
7. Google revealed its Chromebook Plus plans
The long-rumored Chromebook Plus project swung into action this week, with Google telling us which Chrome OS-powered laptops would make the grade and which wouldn’t – and introducing some new models at the same time.
The idea is that if you see the Chromebook Plus badge on a particular product, then you know that a certain level of quality is guaranteed, in terms of the performance under the hood and the resolution of the display.
There are software improvements heading to this line of laptops too, including some impressive AI-powered features for Google Photos, and Google is even throwing in a few deals with Chromebook Plus purchases – like a free Nvidia GeForce NOW trial.
6. We got a hair-raisingly horrible trailer from Netflix
If you only watch one movie trailer this week, make it the clip for Netflix’s Leave The World Behind. The film stars Ethan Hawke, Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali and Myha’la Herrold, and combines small-scale drama with a large-scale apocalypse.
The film is based on an award-winning and hugely successful book by Rumaan Alam, and asks the question of what you might do – and who you might trust – if you thought that civilization as we know it was coming to an end.
As is the norm for modern-day trailers, the video preview perhaps gives away a little too much – it’s the sort of tale where the less you know, the better. However, if you want to whet your appetite, give it a whirl.
5. The Leica Sofort 2 instant camera became an instant icon
Seven years after the original Leica Sofort broke cover, the sequel has appeared: it offers the choice of both prints that pop straight out of the camera, or the more conventional digital photography approach where snaps are saved to storage.
That means it can do the novelty instant camera trick if you’re feeling nostalgic, as well as storing photos that you can save and use elsewhere – not a bad combination, and some serious competition for rivals such as the Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo.
The Leica Sofort 2 list price is $389 / £350 / AU$649 and it is available in stores from November 9, 2023 in three colors: black, white and red. That’s quite a steep price, but it might just have enough about it to be worth it.
4. OnePlus claimed to have made the best foldable phone so far
There’s another foldable phone on the way, and it’s the OnePlus Open. Understandably, OnePlus is claiming that it’s going to be the best folding phone to arrive yet – but there might be something in that beyond hyperbole.
In a preview video, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau enthused about the hinge of the upcoming handset. That’s quite a specific component to focus in on, but it’s also pretty important when it comes to a foldable smartphone.
It looks as though there have been very few compromises when it comes to the OnePlus Open, and we’re looking forward to giving it the full TechRadar review treatment when the launch day arrives – which could be this month.
3. Fitbit fans were furious about their app’s redesign
Once users get accustomed to a particular app design, it’s hard to make changes – as Fitbit discovered when its app was updated to (in theory) make the interface cleaner and more accessible for everyone who owns a Fitbit device.
Complaints covered everything from the color scheme used with the new design, to the removal of certain features that users had come to depend on. It might take a while for Fitbit (and Google) to iron out these issues.
Also this week, Fitbit joined just about every other tech company in recent months in showcasing an AI-powered feature. Fitbit Labs, coming next year, uses generative AI to give you more detailed feedback on your fitness stats and future goals.
2. The Pixel Watch 2 became an instant contender for the best smartwatch
We had a big Google Pixel event this week, and one of the stars of the show was the Pixel Watch 2: like the original, but better. It offers more advanced heart rate tracking, improved battery life, a new safety check feature, and a stress management function as well.
We’ve already spent some hands-on time with the wearable, and praised its lighter aluminum body, as well as the extra safety and workout features that Google has managed to pack into a watch that looks more or less the same.
There’s a new quad-core processor under the hood, and the latest Wear OS 4 software – so if you don’t have an iPhone and aren’t going to get an Apple Watch, then it’s well worth putting on your list of potential purchases.
1. The Google Pixel 8 Pro landed with new camera party tricks
As well as the Pixel Watch 2, Google also unveiled the Pixel 8 and the Pixel 8 Pro, and we’ve had some hands-on time with both. The 6.7-inch Pro model is the real star, with an advanced camera system and multiple AI tricks to improve your photos.
While the design retains the familiar Pixel look, on the software side the Pixel 8 Pro can now let you instantly remove objects (and people) from photos, reposition people in a scene, and even pick the best facial expressions from a series of shots.
Add in 5x optical zoom and it’s clear that this is a smartphone that’s going to appeal to serious mobile photographers. There’s also a temperature sensor, which we haven’t seen before on a handset; to be honest, we’re not quite sure how useful that’ll be. Still, our early impressions are positive and it looks like being another contender for our best phones list. Watch out for a full review very soon.