Tech round-up for February 27: Samsung Galaxy S10's killer feature, mobility plan pricing in Canada, YouTube has a problem with kids videos, Anthem tries something new

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, some YouTube videos intended for kids have content decidedly not for kids and a review of BioWare’s new game, Anthem. But first, mobility plans in Canada and hands-on with the new Samsung Galaxy S10 handsets.

Hands-on with Samsung’s new smartphones and earbuds

In a Vancouver hotel room last week, I got my hands on some of the new gadgets Samsung announced in an event in San Francisco.

The Galaxy Fold was not among them, sadly. And company representatives were not able to say when the folding smartphone may be making its way to Canada.

What will be in Canada as of March 8 are the Galaxy S10e, the Galaxy S10, and the Galaxy S10+.

The biggest difference between the three models is the screen size and the pricing:

  • S10e: 5.8-inch, starting at $1,020
  • S10: 6.1-inch, starting at $1,260
  • S10+: 6.4-inch, starting at $1,420

There are some additional differences. The S10e has a flatscreen, not the curved, wrap-around display of the S10 and S10+. It also has a fingerprint scanner on the side of the phone.

The S10 and S10+ have an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor under the display. This is a new approach to fingerprint security that “reads the 3-D contours” of your finger or thumb, which Samsung says makes it more secure.

All three handsets have three cameras on the rear of the phone, a telephoto, a wide-angle, and an ultra-wide-angle. When you’re setting up your shot and using fingertips to pinch-zoom, the device will select and use the best lens for the picture you want to take.

The killer feature of the new S10 handsets, though, may be that they can act as a wireless charging pad. Not only can they charge wirelessly, but they can also distribute power wirelessly. In the hotel room, I saw a S10+ charge a Galaxy Watch and Galaxy Buds. You can use the smartphones to charge anything that uses the Qi wireless charging standard.

I also took a look at the new Galaxy Buds earphones from Samsung, which are priced at $199 and are wireless, delivering five hours of talk time or six hours of listening on a charge. The earbuds each have microphones which deliver robust voice audio and can allow you to hear outside sound. They’re also priced $20 cheaper than Air Pods.

Canada’s cheapest mobility plans aren’t actually cheap

An article by Global News journalist Dani-Elle Dubé that published on the weekend breaks down the mobility plans available in Canada.

Her results show that there’s effectively no difference in pricing between the three national carriers. For the same packages, there wasn’t more than a $5 difference between Bell, Rogers, and Telus.

Dubé also reports that the most recent data from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada shows that Canadians continue to pay the highest rates for cellular and wireless data compared to other countries.

YouTube has a problem with videos for kids

Clips of video content inappropriate for children have been spliced into videos posted to YouTube and YouTube Kids. One of the first reported incidents came from paediatrician Free Hess.

Earlier this month, she was notified that the same clip – featuring Filthy Frank talking about suicide – had appeared in another video intended for kids.

YouTube has since removed the video, but it had reportedly been available online for months before being flagged by Hess.

I don’t think this is a grand conspiracy to affect youth. More likely it is the work of ignorant, idiotic people who think this is a simple prank. It’s not, of course.

But this is a problem YouTube has to solve. And policies against such actions are useless if there isn’t a better system in place to flag and remove this dangerous content.

Relying on users to complain about the offensive content isn’t enough. A vulnerable child can’t un-see content that could incite them to suicide.

This is why broadcasters and publishers are irreplaceable. There’s little chance of content like that accidentally appearing on a channel that has been properly curated by a human.

Anthem has a great story but it sucks at telling it

Anthem is something of a quandary for me. There’s a lot to love about this game, published by Electronic Arts and available for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One. But there are aspects of the experience that are, frankly, frustrating.

Developed by Edmonton’s BioWare and under the guidance of Casey Hudson, Anthem was always going to have a lot to live up to. After all, this is the studio that has given us some of the best storytelling and role-playing experiences with games like Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect, and the first Mass Effect trilogy was a success in part because of Hudson’s vision.

When it comes to those aspects, Anthem is outstanding. The world that BioWare has created is unique, distinct, and compelling. The Anthem in question is actually the “Anthem of Creation”, a relic of an earlier time, and it has the power to shape and shift life itself. The set up here contains lots of myth and mystery and high stakes.

The characters are similarly diverse and interesting, and the writing that pulls it all together excellent. Again, this is what we expect from Bioware.

Players become Freelancers, once respected explorers and protectors that kept the chaotic forces of the Anthem at bay, but now eking out an existence on the frontier, where human settlements are still under threat. They are still explorers and protectors, but they just don’t have the same elevated status.

To complete the contracts that sustain them, Freelancers pilot Javelins, suits of powerful, mechanized armour. Freelancers become more powerful and capable by improving the Javelins that are available to them, and changing out the weapons and appliances equipped. What this means is that with one character, you can effectively switch from a heavy fighter to a fast-moving scout to a support, instead of being locked into a character class for the entire game.

There are familiar elements, here, but with science fiction games that make heroes out of players, they are expected and allowed.

Despite the narrative excellence, though, Anthem fails because it forces multiplayer on gamers.

The missions that give players a chance to develop their skills and follow the narrative require four players to complete. If you don’t have friends to play with, the game matches you up with others.

Knowing that not everyone wants to interact with strangers, Anthem doesn’t ask you to. But there is no opportunity for the story to be delivered asynchronously, so if I get twisted around a bit trying to find the next waypoint while the others get there quickly, or if I want to take my time getting over there because I see a crafting item I can collect, I miss out on everything that happens. I miss out on the battle, I miss out on the collection of loot and experience, and I miss out on getting an understanding of the story.

So while I’m not forced to interact with other players, my progress and experience of the game is completely entwined with them. There’s no opportunity for me to play the story on my own. In attempting to create a new approach to cooperative multiplayer, BioWare has effectively eliminated the single-player experience.

Anthem is a game with incredible potential that is thwarted by insisting on telling me how to play.

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