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This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked with guest host Shane Hewitt about why the iPhone 11 is the best smartphone for most people, what makes UAG iPhone cases so good, changes in the electric vehicle manufacturing business, details on Google Stadia launching on November 19, and a look at Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, why I think the iPhone 11 is the best smartphone for most people, the case I’m using on my iPhone 11, the latest developments in the world of electric vehicle manufacturing, the launch of Google Stadia approaches, and a look at the shooter game, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for the Neighborville.

Apple iPhone 11 is the best mobile device for most people

Of all the features that Apple has introduced to their iPhones over the years, the one I love most is Face ID. There’s nothing else that makes using my mobile so simple and easy, and it’s become so convenient that there are some tasks I prefer to do on my iPhone because I can accomplish them by simply looking at the screen.

When I need to make a payment, I can use Face ID. When I need to put a book on hold at the library, I can use Face ID. If I want to purchase media, I can use Face ID.

Some of this is enabled by my adoption of 1Password as a password manager. The software, which saves my data in a cloud-based vault and syncs it across all my devices, has been configured to unlock with Face ID.

All of the latest iPhone models are equipped with Face ID, and while the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max are premium handsets, I’m using the iPhone 11 and think it’s the best option for most people.

You get most of the same features in the iPhone 11 as in the more expensive models, but most people are unlikely to miss many of them. The iPhone 11 screen is crisp and bright, even though it’s not the “Super Retina XDR” screen of the other two devices, and you’re sacrificing a telephoto camera lens, but the photographic capability of the iPhone 11 is still among the best you can get.

You also get a device that is sized in between the other two, with a 6.1” screen, and the iPhone 11 is cheaper, starting at $979 (compared to $1379 for the iPhone 11 Pro and $1519 for the iPhone Pro Max). To top it off, you get a battery that will last you the entire day.

When you do the math, the iPhone 11 gives you the best bang for your buck.

UAG iPhone cases are tops

The protective cases that Apple has to go with the new line of iPhones are clear. The idea, I suspect, is that customers are going to want to show off the nice new colours the devices are available in.

But the damn things are smooth and slippery. I couldn’t wait to find an alternative for the iPhone 11 I’m using.

I settled on Urban Armor Gear (UAG), which has a few different styles available for the entire range of iPhone 11s, including the Pro and Pro +. The Pathfinder case I’m using has a nice, tactical look to it, and it gives me some much needed grip on my iPhone.

These cases are light, provide solid protection against drops, and they won’t get in the way of wireless charging.

UAG iPhone cases range in price from $54 to $80.

What’s going on in the world of electric vehicles?

While the electrification of transportation continues, we’re witnessing the growing pains of the nascent industry.

Municipalities are struggling with how to manage communal bikes and scooters, consumers are trying to work out the logistics of owning electric cars, and companies looking to make money off the industry are experiencing their own trials.

Dyson, the British company known for vacuums and fans, has scrapped its EV project, according to reports.

I was curious to know what a Dyson would have looked like. This is a company with expertise in digital motors, batteries, and fluid dynamics, all of which are critical to electric vehicle design. But founder James Dyson told employees that there was, “no longer see a way to make it commercially viable.”

The viability of Faraday Future, meanwhile, has been threatened because of the knock-on consequences of business decisions made by its founder, Jia Yueting, who filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this month.

The company appointed a new CEO, a former BMW executive, to run the company in September, and sales of EVs are up across the board.

For now, it’s all up to the investors, who need to pour money into these companies with hopes they’ll see a return.

Google Stadia begins on November 19

Next month, Google’s video game service will launch in Canada, the U.S., and select other countries. Google Stadia is the comapny’s cloud video gaming service that promises to deliver console-quality gaming through a broadband connection and without a significant hardware outlay.

The Founder’s Edition, which was made available for presale back in June when Stadia was first announced, is sold out and has been replaced with a Premiere Edition pre-order for the same price of $129 CAN.

The preorder bundles a controller, a Chromecast Ultra, and a three-month subscription.

While Stadia’s service is assumed to be up and running on November 19, gamers looking to try out the service will need the hardware to do so, and depending on when a pre-order is received, consumers may or may not get their equipment on November 19.

Sometime in 2020, Stadia is expected to enable gameplay through the Chrome browser and with apps developed for mobile devices.

Battle for Neighborville continues with fun and funny shooter action pitting plants against zombies

In wide release as of last week, after a surprise announcement at the beginning of September, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is the third shooter game from PopCap Vancouver (Electronic Arts) in the goofy world that pits animated garden creatures against cartoonish undead ghouls.

My son, Owen, now nine, started playing Garden Warfare about two years ago. It was the perfect, PG environment for him to learn the standard shooter game controls. He upgraded to Garden Warfare 2 about a year ago, and ever since has been asking me on a monthly basis when Garden Warfare 3 was going to be released.

While different in name, Battle for Neighborville is the next generation Garden Warfare. The mechanics are mostly the same but there are new characters to unlock and new environments and maps to explore. The graphics appear to have been bumped up a bit on our Xbox One (the game is also available on PS4 and Windows), too.

The writing continues to be clever and irreverant, too.

There are six different multiplayer modes in Neighborville, including Turf Takeover and Team Vanquish, favourites from Garden Warfare, and the new four-versus-four Battle Arena. On the consoles, all of the multiplayer modes are playable either online or split-screen co-op.

There’s also Ops mode, where you defend against waves of increasingly difficult enemies, and the free roaming areas where you can just enjoy the friendly, neighborville battles against computer-controlled enemies.

And on top of all are the unlockable characters, including new ones like Night Cap (plant) and 80s Action Hero (zombie), and the ability to improve and customize them.

My concern with Battle for Neighborville is that it requires a persistent online connection, and players will need an EA account in order to play. There doesn’t seem to be a way to allow guests or family members to play otherwise, and for a game like this that is the perfect entry point for kids to learn how to play shooter games, this feels like an oversight.

Owen is pleased with the new game. He’d mostly exhausted the add-ons and unlockables from the previous two PvZ shooters, so Battle for Neighborville was perfectly timed for him.

And his comfort with the controller and the systems of the game have made it easier for him to explore other games and know that he’s going to be able to find out what they are like without worrying about what his hands are doing.

Which means more fun for both of us.

Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is available now for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One. It costs about $50.

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This week, how Fortnite got sucked into a black hole, only to be reborn. Plus, Facebook’s Libra non-profit is official and Tile has some new tracking devices available. But first, all the new hardware coming from Google.

Pixel 4, Pixelbook Go, and more new stuff coming from Google

In a media event in New York this week, Google announced a host of new devices, including two new smartphones, a tablet, wireless earbuds, and more. You can watch the entire event below.

The Pixel 4 (starting at $999) and Pixel 4 XL, which are available for pre-order now and will be in your hand before the end of the month, don’t set a new standard for smartphone cameras, like the previous generation of Pixel devices.

Instead, Google has focused on improving its handset in other areas. They have face identification, for one, so you can simply look at the device to unlock it.

More interesting is Motion Sense, which lets you control the device with a gesture without having to touch your phone. This is achieved with a radar chip built into the phone.

There are high quality cameras, of course, a 12 MP and 16 MP telephoto on the back, and a 8 MP front camera. And they are supported by Google’s outstanding photo-taking software.

The Pixel 4 devices do not come with headphones or earbuds, but pre-ordering a handset from Google will get you $150 towards accessories from the Google Store. Which could be the new Pixel Buds, which look slick. They are very small and will work not just with Android devices but also iOS. But they won’t be coming until the spring.

Google also showed off the new Pixelbook Go ($879 to $1,849 depending on configuration) a Chromebook with a touchscreen that weighs less than three pounds.

There were also revelations about what Google is doing with the Nest brand.

Formerly known as the Google Home Mini, the speaker with Google Assistant built in is now the Nest Mini ($69) and it comes with better speakers.

Nest Wifi is the new router/Wifi extending devices (two pack for $269, three pack for $349) are backwards compatible, so they’ll work with any Google Wifi devices currently in your home.

Canada is also getting the Nest Hub Max, the speaker with a screen that replaced the Google Home Hub. It’s priced at $299.

Finally, Google is launching a new subscription service for its suite of Nest devices. Nest Aware is, essentially, a cloud-based video solution. Any videos that are captured by your various Nest devices are viewable online, you can get notifications for certain triggering events, and the video is archived for between 30 ($8 a month) and 60 days ($16 a month).

The state of Facebook’s new Libra concept

Paypal is out. So are Mastercard and Visa. As is eBay. With all the major payment processing companies getting out of the Libra project, what happens next?

The companies dropped out last week, just days before the first meeting of the Libra Association to elect a board and formalize the new cryptocurrency organization. That happened yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland, where the non-profit is to be headquartered.

Russell Brandom, who covers cryptocurrency for the Verge, suggests that the departures were a result of the grey areas around how Libra will deal with the regulatory requirements that governments have in place to prevent things like money laundering.

New Tile devices will help you keep track of your stuff

Tiles are clever devices that use Bluetooth technology to help you find things you misplace. The concept is simple: Attach a Tile to the object you want to keep track of, and when you want to find it, simply use your smartphone to ping the device and make it start ringing.

The company has been around since 2014, and just recently announced the latest Tile products.

The Tile Mate ($30 or a four pack for $90) now has a range of 60 metres (200 feet) and a replaceable battery. It has a hole in the top corner of the device so you can attach it to your keys, a backpack, or even a pet collar.

The Tile Slim ($35) is the size of a credit card for a reason. It’s perfect for wallets and purses, and also has a 60-metre range.

The Tile Sticker (two pack for $50, four pack for $75) is a waterproof dot with an adhesive back and a weight of only five grams. Stick one of these on your TV remote control or even a bicycle.

You don’t need to use your smartphone to use the Tile finding, either, as the various devices will integrate with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri.

Fortnite world gets sucked into a black hole before being reborn with all new stuff

After more than 35 hours staring at blank screen, Fortnite players finally found out what they’d all been waiting for.

More than 5 million player watched as Fortnite: Chapter 1 came to an end, with a black hole consuming everything, including player avatars, and leaving an image of the black hole, animated and with some music playing. Every once in a while, numbers would emerge from the event horizon.

And at one point nearly 500,000 people were just watching this. Waiting.

Early Tuesday morning, Epic Games, which develops and publishes Fortnite, pulled the veil back on Chapter 2, Season 1 of the game.

There’s a new world, new vehicles and mechanics, and a new weapon that you can use to heal your teammates.

Plus: Fishing.

Epic is well aware that many Fortnite players are in the space just hanging out with friends. They’ve created a new space that players can explore and have loaded it up with things that encourage the having of fun.

Looks like a winner.

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