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This week, Apple’s best things for your iOS devices even while the company shares fall because they aren’t selling enough iPhones, Deloitte predicts what technology will bring in 2019, and why Netflix’s Bandersnatch is not a game. But first, what will you do about Facebook this year?

Is it time to delete Facebook?

Mark Zuckerberg must be glad to have 2018 behind him, but the truth is that 2019 might not be any better for Facebook. Just consider that in December, there were two more revelations of errors the social media company made: allowing developers to see personal data of users, and a glitch that exposed private photos of nearly 7 million users.

There are good roundups of Facebook’s many mistakes of 2018 by Ad Age and The Guardian.

Apple’s best things for your iPads and iPhones from 2018

Every year, Apple collates the data from users of its devices and shares the list of things we’ve spent our time with.

In 2018, most of the free apps being downloaded for iPad and iPhone were the software we used to access our social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Also in the top 10 were content services Netflix and Spotify Music.

When it came to games, Fortnite and PUBG Mobile were, unsurprisingly, among the most popular free-to-play titles, while Minecraft and Plague Inc. were in the top paid games.

I note with interest that when looking only at paid iPad apps, four of the top 10 were interactive experiences designed for kids by Toca Boca, which indicates that lots of people out there are giving their iPads to their toddlers to play with.

Deloitte’s predictions for technology in 2019

Every year, Deloitte has its smart employees think about what’s coming up in the next year in fields of technology, media, and communications.

The latest predictions are out, and among the highlights are:

  • This will be the year that 5G mobile networks really become available to general consumers
  • Artificial intelligence – mostly machine learning – will become more available to all of us
  • eSports is poised to take off

Apple revises Q1 2019 earnings prediction down by up to $9 billion

Apple isn’t selling as many iPhones as it expected, and it’s led the company to reduce its guidance to investors. Apple CEO Tim Cook made the announcement in a public letter issued today.

In an interview with CNBC, Cook said that the “shortfall” is primarily a result of changes in China, from a slowing economy and also “the trade tensions between the United States and China”.

Netflix’s Bandersnatch is about a game, but it isn’t a game itself

You may find yourself using a game controller to interact with Netflix’s Black Mirror experiment, Bandersnatch, but that doesn’t mean that you’re playing a game.

Instead, Bandersnatch is an interactive narrative. It’s a fancy choose-your-own-adventure. It’s intriguing and compelling and very aligned with the Black Mirror series, but it’s not a game.

Games are also interactive entertainment, but they have systems and structures – rules – that players learn and master, and there are often challenges to undertake and some kind of goals and achievements.

Bandersnatch is a fictional creature from Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky, which is part of his novel, Through the Looking-Glass. The term has come to represent horrific and dangerous things that have mysterious or unknown origins.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Gaems makes it possible for console gaming to be portable and video games for the holidays. But first, the new MacBook Air is the new must-have laptop.

New MacBook Air is the gold standard for productivity laptops

I was one of the first people to use a MacBook Air when Apple introduced the line of laptops back in 2008. It was weird operating a system without a DVD drive and without a port for a network cable, but now it seems strange and off-putting to have those things in a laptop.

The entire point of the Air was that it was as light as air. With a dramatic knife-edge and wedge design, it provided incredible portability and functionality, even if some of the functionality was dropped in favour of greater portability.

Over the years, the Air continued to be my workhorse. Over a few iterations it improved, but then Apple seemed content to just sustain the lineup, not improve on it.

That changed this fall. The latest MacBook Air (starting at $1,499) to be released was a fundamentally different machine, and it is packed with the best of the improvements that Apple has been rolling out to its other products.

The case, for example, is smaller (and made entirely of recycled aluminum), but still contains a crisp 13.3-inch Retina display with the thin bezel that is in the MacBook Pros. There’s also a butterfly keyboard which allows for a thinner device, and a large and responsive trackpad with a haptic motor allowing for Apple’s Force Touch feedback.

Instead of the full-width touch bar found on the MacBook Pro, the Air has a touch button instead. That means you can use your fingerprint to unlock the computer with Touch ID, which is the only thing many people use the touch bar for anyway.

There’s still some sacrifice in the MacBook Air. You’re not getting the biggest hard drive (off-the-shelf models have solid state drives in either a 128 GB or 256 GB sizes, but you can upgrade up to 1.5 TB) or the fastest processor (it features the 8th-generation Intel Core i5, not the i7). For those things you need to look to the MacBook Pro lineup.

I’ve been using the latest MacBook Pro for months, and while it’s a powerful and capable computer, I’d trade it in right now for the new Macbook Air. If you’re a typical laptop user, and you want a robust, useful, beautiful laptop, that’s what you’d do, too.

In the last few years, as the Air lineup dwindled, other computer manufacturers have been coming up with rival laptop designs that were better in terms of power, functionality, and design. But with the new Air, Apple has leapt to the front once again, setting a new bar, higher than before.

New Gaems Sentinel makes console gaming portable

With the new Sentinel system, Gaems has again provide gamers with a way to take console gaming with them wherever they go.

The Sentinel is like a small briefcase, and inside is a 17.3-inch high-definition screen, stereo speaker system, and space for a PS4 or Xbox One. Plug your console into the included HDMI and power adapter, and you can play Red Dead Redemption II anywhere.

The Sentinel is going to cost US$350, and while it’s not going to be available until mid-January, you can pre-order now. Just print out a picture of the set-up and put it in a stocking.

Video game gift guide 2018

There were astounding games released this year. Dozens of them. I’ll make it easier for you to decide on gifts for the person on your list with my list. I’ve chosen to focus on console experiences, here, which captures most gamers, and not VR or PC-only titles.

Games made in Canada

Social media was abuzz a couple of weeks ago when Capybara Games announced that its latest game, the long-awaited Below (rated teen), was about to launch (on Friday, December 14). It’s got a distinct art and atmosphere, elements the developer brought to earlier games Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery and Super Time Force. Fans have been waiting for this since it was first revealed in 2013, and now you can play it on Windows and Xbox One.

While The Long Dark (Hinterland Studio, rated teen) has been playable in one form or another for the past couple of years, it’s now in a final release form for all consoles. There’s lots of game here, from the first-person narrative experience to the pure survival mode, and the one thing shared among then all is the setting: a stark, beautiful northwestern landscape that takes inspiration from the B.C. wilderness the developers spend time in.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Ubisoft, rated everyone 10+) is the latest game to integrate physical toys with the digital play. In this action game, developed in Toronto, you can purchase spaceships that can be configured with different types of wings and weapons. And you can get pilots with different skills they bring to the experience.

If you were playing games seven years ago, you may have come across this side-scrolling action game in an earlier incarnation. Now remastered by the Vancouver developer, Mark of the Ninja (Klei, rated mature) is playable on PS4 and Xbox One, and it’s just as much fun as ever.

The best Assassin’s Creed game in years is Assassins Creed Odyssey (Ubisoft, rated mature), which is set in Greece and features two Canadians portraying the protagonist. Play as the female Kassandra and you get Melissanthi Mahmut. Choose to play as Alexios and you get Michael Antonakos. Both are top notch.

Games for teens and grown-ups

This year’s instalment of the first-person wartime experience is Battlefield V (EA, rated mature), which takes the franchise to the Second World War. The single-player experience is presented in the vignette “War Stories” that was introduced in 2016’s Battlefield 1. Multiplayer modes include “Grand Operations,” which takes place over multiple stages.

Set in the American west, Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar, rated mature) is a slow burn. The beautiful and compelling open world invites you to spend time in it, and the game, which puts you in the shoes of a gun-slinging outlaw, gives you plenty of excuses to stay there.

One of the best games of the year, God of War (Santa Monica, rated mature) is a tender exploration of fatherhood that happens to occur in the middle of an often vicious third-person action game. Steeped in Norse mythology, it is an essential and unequaled gaming experience.

You’ll spend hours playing Marvel’s Spider-Man (Sony, rated teen) before you even get to the story simply because it’s so much fun swinging through New York. The mechanics of traversal and combat are sublime and satisfying, and when you do get down to the narrative, you’ll find it sophisticated.

Games for everyone

Perhaps the biggest release as we approach the holiday is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Nintendo, rated everyone 10+), which collects nearly 80 characters, including every fighter that’s ever appeared in the fighting franchise from Nintendo. It’s the first time the game has appeared on the Switch, and it’s a good reason to get that console in your household.

Another Switch exclusive are the latest games in the Pokémon series, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! (Nintendo, rated everyone). The physical disk edition of the game comes with a Poké Ball controller that really sells the notion that you’re capturing the pocket monsters.

Spyro Reignited Trilogy (Activision, rated everyone 10+) packages up remasters of three action platforming games, Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. The new experiences feature enhanced graphics and new audio mixes.

Hardware

The PlayStation 4 Pro ($500) is essential because Sony has so many exceptional exclusive games. It’s the only console on which you can play God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man and last year’s best game, Horizon Zero Dawn. In 2019 it will be the console you’ll need if you want to play The Last of Us 2.

A smaller investment gets the PlayStation Classic ($130), a mini version of the first PlayStation console. It comes with two controllers and 20 games pre-installed, including Grand Theft Auto, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil Director’s Cut, Ridge Racer Type 4, Syphon Filter, Tekken 3, and Twisted Metal.

If there’s not already a Nintendo Switch in your household, this is a great time to get one. Not only are they portable, but there are more and more games being released for the system. This holiday the big Nintendo game is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, an essential, but in recent months titles for myriad audiences have hit, including Broken Age, Diablo III: Eternal Collection, Gone Home, South Park: The Stick of Truth, and Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery. The Switch is available starting at $380, and there are sweet bundles available for Diablo III ($450), Mario Tennis Aces and 1-2 Switch ($470), Pokémon: Let’s Go! ($460), Super Smash Bros Ultimate ($450), and Fortnite ($380).

If you’ve got a brand new flatscreen TV with 4K resolution and HDR you’re going to want to connect it to an Xbox One X, the most powerful console available right now. Models with a 1 TB hard drive can be had for between $500 and $600, depending on which bundle you get. You can also design your own controller at the Xbox Design Lab, which is now offering paint gradients and camouflage colour patch options.

Microsoft is also selling the Xbox Adaptive Controller ($130) which makes video games accessible to everyone. In development for a few years and released this fall, the device was designed with the help of differently-abled gamers to make it easier for people who aren’t able to use traditional game controllers.

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Last night on The Shift with Drex, I talked about the new Apple Pencil and how it works with the new iPad Pro, the two hair styling products from Dyson, the Supersonic dryer and the Airwrap curler, the Momentum True Wireless earbuds from Sennheiser, and the sleek Nomad Base Station Apple Watch Edition.

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This week, more cool tech to get you through your gift list. The Dyson Supersonic and Airwrap disrupt how hair gets styled, Sennheiser continues delivering the best sound to your ears, and Nomad’s classy base station is made for wireless charging. But first, what makes the new iPad Pro so great is its stylus.

New iPad Pro and Apple Pencil make for perfect pairing

When Apple’s new iPad Pro arrived at my house, it was more than a week before I got to spend any time with it. My first impression when I pulled the 12.9-inch model from the box, though, was that it is thin – the thinnest tablet made by Apple – and light enough to hold comfortably in one hand.

My kids, aged 8 and 11, made it their own for the first dozen days. They’ve got their own iPads, but they were curious about the Apple Pencil magnetically attached to the side of the new tablet. That led them to explore what they could do with the Apple Pencil. I downloaded Linea Sketch onto the device so they could do more drawing.

So it’s my own fault that I ended up hiding the device one morning and telling them that I’d sent it back to Apple. How else was I going to get my own time with it?

I spent a few days using it as a primary device, so I watched video, read some books, and played some games. I used it to FaceTime my mom and brother with Group FaceTime (part of iOS 12.1) and checked social networks and reviewed emails. I also played with some augmented reality (AR) experiences, which are perfect for this device because of its portability.

The new A12X Bionic chip that powers the new iPad Pro wasn’t slowed by anything I did.

As with the iPhone X models, there’s no home button here, which only gives me more opportunity to be amazed by Face ID, the most convenient way to use a mobile device. There’s also a much thinner bezel, which means you’re getting more screen as a result. The Liquid Retina LCD display is bright and responsive, and features Apple’s True Tone colouring.

There’s also no headphone jack, so you’ll need a dongle or Bluetooth headphones. The only port on the iPad is a USB-C, which makes it easier to charge the iPad, and allows you to more simply connect other devices to it.

And while I’m not skillful at drawing, I played with the Apple Pencil for a bit and realized that any real artist who isn’t already experimenting with what they can do on the new iPad Pro needs to give it a try. It’s remarkable what’s possible.

The new Apple Pencil is flat on one side, which not only provides a surface to attach to the side of the tablet but also keeps it from rolling onto the floor. While being able to charge the Pencil by attaching it to the iPad, the other killer feature of the new stylus is the ability to double tap with a fingertip to rapidly switch between things like a pen tip and the eraser.

The iPad Pro has now been sent back to Apple. The kids and I already miss it.

  • iPad Pro 11-inch starts at $999 for Wi-Fi and $1,199 for Wi-Fi and cellular
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch start at $1,249 for Wi-Fi and $1,449 for Wi-Fi and cellular
  • Smart Keyboard Folios are $239 and $269 depending on size
  • Apple Pencil (second generation) is priced at $169

Dyson Supersonic and Airwrap disrupt hair styling

Clever Dyson engineers keep finding ways to leverage their digital motor and fluid dynamic technologies.

The Supersonic dryer ($500) and Airwrap styler ($600) are for sculpting your hair without having to cook it with heat.

The Supersonic can produce heat if you need it, but the power of the Dyson digital motor flows air with such power that it can dry even the thickest of locks.

The Airwrap uses the Coanda effect, which is the same law of physics that gets airplanes off the ground, to pull and curl hair. It’s genius.

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless earbuds deliver top-notch sound

Combining Sennheiser’s quality speaker technology with robust wireless connectivity, the Momentum earbuds ($380) are also comfortable.

Charged with a USB-C cable, they’ll keep you going for about four hours, and the stylish case will give you an extra couple of fill-ups.

The microphone response is excellent, and the sound quality uncompromising.

With these in your ears, you won’t miss that headphone jack at all.

Nomad Base Station Apple Watch Edition

This stylish charging hub ($140) was designed for those wearing an Apple Watch. So while the base will wirelessly charge any Qi-certified smartphone, odds are it’ll be an iPhone nestling into the padded leather surface.

Nomad also sells a more generic base station without the Apple Watch holder. It can charge up to two devices wirelessly on the pad at the same time, outputting up to 20W. It also has two USB ports, one A and one C, to charge up to two additional devices with cables.

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