Fortnite Fortbyte #59 – Accessible with Durrr! Emoji inside Pizza Pit restaurant is now available to collect. Here’s where you can collect it.
Epic Games released the v9.30 Fortnite patch update today, which will likely be followed by 3 content updates. In the update, a large amount of new files were added to the game including a handful of new LTM’s, upcoming Fortnite cosmetics, a new 14 days of Fortnite event and much more.
Epic also added a bunch of new Fortbyte challenges which will see us through to the end of Fortnite Season 9. Yesterday’s Fortbyte challenge was accessible by using the sad trombone emote at the north end of Snobby Shores. You can take a look at our guide here if you’re yet to collect it.
Today’s new Fortbyte challenge and location guide can be seen below.
When the Ford
Explorer launched some 30 years ago, it was an instant hit. Since then, more than 8 million Explorers have found happy homes, and this totally redesigned, sixth-gen 2020 Explorer should only further the SUV’s appeal, especially for those looking for the extra practicality and efficiency of a hybrid.
The Explorer might not look all that different than its predecessor, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The new model enhances the old one’s look with a slightly more tapered roofline, nicely sculpted body sides, and a longer wheelbase with shorter front and rear overhangs. Sleeker headlights and redesigned fog lights spruce up the front fascia, though the Explorer’s rump looks largely the same as before.
The big change for 2020 is actually underneath the Explorer’s skin. The longer wheelbase comes courtesy of a new, rear-wheel-drive platform, which is a big departure from the front-drive architecture normally used for midsize crossovers. The rear-drive platform not only makes the Explorer a little better to drive, with better overall handling, it means the SUV can tow a maximum of 5,600 pounds.
The Explorer’s base engine is a 2.3-liter, turbocharged, EcoBoost I4 making 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Stepping up from there, you’ll find a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 with a more robust 365 horsepower and 380 pound-feet. The ST gets a higher-output version of that 3.0-liter engine, with 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet — stay tuned for a separate review of this model later. Finally, we get to the brand-new Explorer Hybrid, which is the version I’m testing for the sake of this first drive.
Electrified, not electric
Under the hood, the Explorer Hybrid has a 3.3-liter, naturally aspirated V6, complemented by a 35-kilowatt-hour battery and electric motor. The Hybrid delivers a total of 318 horsepower and 322 pound-feet of torque, and buyers can spec the electrified powertrain with either rear- or all-wheel drive. A 10-speed automatic transmission handles shifting duties.
The Explorer Hybrid doesn’t allow me to choose when it uses electric power, and it just operates in its most efficient mode all the time. It relies on battery-only power at parking lot speeds, the engine kicking in when you’re up and moving on the road. The Explorer Hybrid certainly doesn’t leap off the line, but it gets up to speed quickly enough, and offers ample power for cruising and passing along the open highways of my test route.
The Hybrid doesn’t struggle on a steep, winding, uphill climb, either. The 10-speed transmission doesn’t hunt for gears, and will happily skip a cog or two when needed. On the way down, the Hybrid’s regenerative brakes don’t feel all that different from the Explorer’s standard stoppers, with progressive pedal response and no grabby tendencies.
Neither Ford or the EPA have official fuel economy data for the 2020 Explorer Hybrid yet, though the automaker says the electrified SUV should be able to travel about 500 miles between fill-ups. The Explorer has an 18-gallon fuel tank, so my quick math estimates a 27- or 28-mpg rating.
While the powertrain itself dictates how much of the battery’s energy is used at any time, drivers can select between Normal, Sport and Eco modes to adjust things like throttle tip in, transmission shift points and steering feel. Furthermore, a Slippery mode improves traction in slick conditions, and a Trail, Deep Snow and Sand modes help the Explorer get through tougher terrain. Finally, there’s a Tow/Haul drive mode that keeps the transmission in a higher gear for more power when dragging a trailer. It’s also worth noting that while non-hybrid Explorer models can tow as much as the aforementioned 5,600 pounds, the Hybrid is limited to 5,000. Still, that’s a fair bit more than a Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which is only rated to tow 3,500 pounds.
Just fine in the dirt
The redesigned Explorer’s shorter overhangs make it more agile off road, with a 20-degree approach angle to better help it get up and over obstacles. The Hybrid can ford up to 18 inches of water, and the available hill-descent control keeps the Explorer nice and steady on a 45-degree slope (though the system is pretty noisy). The Explorer isn’t a serious off-roader, but it’s nice to know plenty of capability is baked in, for those who like a good off-the-beaten-path adventure.
Standard on my all-wheel-drive Hybrid tester are Michelin’s trick new SelfSeal tires. These rollers come with a cured, natural rubber inside the tire, which works as a sealant to fill most tread punctures and can help slow down leaks. Unlike some run-flat tires, which have a very stiff sidewall, the SelfSeal tires don’t compromise on traction or ride quality. Even with large, 20-inch wheels, the Hybrid doesn’t crash over potholes and offers a compliant ride. And hey, if you do gash the sidewall on a huge rock, the Explorer still comes with a spare tire.
Every Explorer comes with Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 driver assistance suite, which bundles things like blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist. The Hybrid, though, comes standard with the Assist+ pack, which adds adaptive cruise control, lane-centering tech, speed limit sign recognition and evasive steering assist.
The gasoline-electric powertrain is only available on the Explorer Limited trim, so it comes with standard equipment like LED headlights and taillights, rain-sensing wipers, heated and cooled front seats, heated captain’s chairs in the second row and power-folding third row seats. Speaking of which, the second-row seats fold up quickly for easy access to the third row, though the way-back is kind of tight for passengers. Fold the seats down and you’ll find nearly 88 cubic feet of cargo space and a big enough area to haul four-by-eight-foot sheets of plywood.
Overall, the interior isn’t hugely different from before, with the exception of the optional, 10.1-inch, portrait-oriented infotainment display. My Limited Hybrid model, however, has the standard, 8-inch screen along with embedded navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A wireless charging pad is also standard on this trim, and there are myriad 12-volt, USB-A and USB-C ports scattered throughout the cabin.
An optional 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster is an optional bit of tech, with a function called the Calm Screen, which only displays a small amount of information in order to reduce distraction. Think of it as a modern take on Saab’s old Night Panel function.
In general, the 2020 Ford Explorer represents a nice improvement over its predecessor. It’s not a massive leap forward in any way, but that’s because the fifth-gen model was already decent and well-liked by consumers. If I can register any complaint, it’s that the hybrid drivetrain is pretty loud, even with the Explorer’s active noise-cancellation tech.
The Hybrid is pretty expensive, too: $52,280 to start or $57,975 all loaded up like the one you see here, including $1,095 for destination. Yes, it’s based on the Limited trim, but keep in mind the aforementioned Highlander Hybrid starts around $37,000. Heck, even the three-row Lexus RX 450h is cheaper.
However, you can save a few bucks by opting for the base XLT model, starting at $36,395. A non-hybrid Limited trim starts at $48,130 while the Platinum jumps up to $58,250. New for 2020 is an ST variant for those go-fast families, starting at $54,740.
Still, I have no doubt the Explorer — and its Hybrid variant — will be well received by SUV-hungry shoppers. It looks great and packs up all the tech buyers in this segment want, while offering better driving dynamics and even more off-road and hauling capability. The Ford Explorer was already a solid offering in the midsize SUV space, and this 2020 model only improves on those attributes.
Google Earth first made use of its rich global 3D visualization as a backdrop for a Carmen Sandiego tie-in back in March, but today there’s a new adventure to explore. After solving The Crown Jewels Caper, amateur home gumshoes are now tasked with finding out the secrets of The Keys to the Kremlin Caper, which kicks off in Russia, as you might’ve guessed from the name.
Google makes use of the Netflix re-imagining of the classic globetrotting Carmen Sandiego character, which debuted in a 1985 computer game released by Broderbund Software. The Google Earth version includes pixelated graphics and gameplay inspired by the original series, with the modern look that’s used in the Netflix show by educational publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
The game can be played on Android, iOS or desktop (via Chrome) and has a lot of the same charm and appeal of the original series, with similar educational value in terms of highlighting some key cultural and geographic details along the way as you investigate the case.
The first time I showed the Palm phone to the TechCrunch staff, they were excited. At the very least, it was a unique take on the category, designed to be a second phone for those moments that didn’t require a larger, bulkier device.
But reality set in pretty quickly. The device’s capabilities were severely limited by a number of factors, including size. The biggest issue, however, was a Verizon exclusive that only let users purchase the device as a second handset tied to an existing account.
Back in April, the company announced that the 3.3-inch phone could be purchased as a standalone device — albeit still through Verizon or US Mobile. Today, it’s expanding that, making the handset available unlocked, so it will work with AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and MetroPCS SIMs.
The phone’s available “at only” $350. That’s cheap compared to many full-sized, mid-tier handsets, but cheapness is certainly a relative concept. It still seems like a lot for a second phone, and while it’s certainly adorable, I’d strongly advise against anyone using it as a primary handset. Heck, it’s not even all that great as a standalone MP3 player.
If you’re still interested, you can pre-order it today — and Palm will throw in a $30 leather case with neck and wrist lanyards. It starts shipping in six to eight weeks.
Many people try to learn an instrument at one point or another in their life, and for a lot of us that instrument is the piano. But when you give up learning there’s no easy way back — not without paying for expensive lessons at least.
Music hardware startup Roli wants to change this with the launch of Lumi: a 24-key, light-up keyboard and companion app that teaches users how to play the piano from scratch, before transforming into a tool for jamming and even composition.
Roli founder Roland Lamb says the aim is to appeal to as wide a group of music-lovers as possible. With that in mind, he says, Lumi’s learning functions don’t start by teaching you the basics of sheet music. Instead, Lumi offers a Guitar Hero-style interface that coaxes you into playing your favorite songs by hitting the light-up keys in time with on-screen notes.
“Music education frequently starts with reading music [but] no good language learning program starts by teaching you to read before you can speak,” Lamb tells The Verge. “Guitar Hero has a lot of value because it’s fun and easy to use — you just follow the lights.”
By giving users an intuitive interface that lets them play before they can read, Lamb says Lumi creates an easy on-ramp for beginners. After users progress past the Guitar Hero stage, the app makes things trickier by adding in first the names of notes, then a left-to-right interface, then chords and keys, and finally offering up regular sheet music.
This certainly seems like a good way to get beginners started, but an equally important part of the Lumi package is the library of songs.
In a demo version of the app The Verge briefly tried out, the tracks available were nicely varied. They included music from pop titans like Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars, as well as jazz and classical standards from J.S. Bach to Herbie Hancock. Roli says the app will launch with a few hundred tracks, but that this library will be updated over time for no extra cost.
Lumi marks an interesting milestone for Roli. Since the company was founded in 2009, it’s made a series of products that have become progressively more mass market over time.
Its signature technology has always been its squishy keyboards, which are touch-sensitive and allow musicians to bend notes on a piano or synthesizer like they would on a guitar, but as the years go by it’s repackaged this into more and more affordable products.
But Lumi feels like the first time the company has made a product that is supposed to appeal to people who aren’t already making music. Though Lamb hopes the music-making demographic will still get a kick out of Lumi. Multiple keyboards can be attached together to create larger playing spaces, and the device also works as a regular MIDI input which can be used with all the usual professional music software, such as Ableton Live and Cubase.
“The concept of having a very low floor and a high ceiling was always very important,” says Lamb. “I’ve had some really nice moments where I’ve had the chance to show Lumi to some eminent musicians and have them replay their track. It’s been very entertaining to see how they respond to their own music … they see how easy it is, how direct it is to play.”
But trying to appeal to as big a demographic as possible might also hinder Lumi. Even with its companion app and library of tracks, $249 is a big price for such a small keyboard. Using illuminated keys as a teaching device is also not a new concept. Casio sells a number of bigger, cheaper keyboards with light-up keys, for example (although they don’t have a companion app or popular songs). And you can even buy add-on LED strips for acoustic pianos that offer similar functionality.
During our time with a prototype version of the Lumi hardware, we were also a bit underwhelmed by the hardware’s quality and responsiveness. Too many key presses went unregistered, and the keys themselves felt overly flimsy and cheap.
Roli, though, says it’s still developing the final build for the keyboard, which we’ll try ourselves before the device’s launch. “The keyboard action is definitely something we’re tuning right now,” said Lamb. “It’s getting much better even as of a couple of weeks ago, and we’ll definitely be far and away the best of any portable keyboard of this size.”
These caveats aside, Lumi certainly offers some unique experiences. One stand-out feature is a jam mode in which keys light up with the chords and scales of a song. The stronger the color of each note, the closer it is to the root of the song’s key. It’s a simple approach that allows even jazz novices like myself to feel like they’re improvising with a degree of skill.
Lamb — an accomplished pianist himself — says it’s his favorite way to use the keyboard, especially when it comes to playing along with jazz standards from the likes of John Coltrane. “I love playing “Giant Steps“ in jam mode, because I can understand the chord changes in a different way,” he says. “It presents musical opportunities in a way I hadn’t seen before.”
The Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630 further expands the boundaries of what you can expect from a Chromebook in 2019. The standout feature is a terrific convertible, 15.6-inch, 4K display — but it also has a complement of solid components and a sturdy, tasteful aluminum chassis. And like most Chromebooks, it costs hundreds less than a similarly-configured Windows counterpart.
And, in fact, the C630 is the Chromebook version of Lenovo’s excellent C930 — an Editor’s Choice and one of our all-time favorite 2-in-1 convertibles. The C930, which runs Windows, can be configured with some higher-end components and has a few noteworthy extras that the C630 Chromebook lacks (e.g. a fingerprint reader and digital stylus that can be housed in the display’s hinge). But it also costs a lot more.
We tested the top-tier C630 Chromebook configuration (model 81JX0008UX) which retails for $900. That retail price converts roughly to £715 and AU$1,300. At the time this review was published it was selling for $730 — but we’ve seen Lenovo discount it to closer to $600. In addition to the UHD 4K display, our test unit came with an eighth-generation Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, 8GB of DDR4 RAM and a 128GB of eMMC storage. That’s less firepower than what you’ll find on the average Windows machine, but more than potent enough to keep webpages loading fast and apps zipping along on this Chromebook, which is as fast as any we’ve tested.
Amazon and Square Enix have teamed up to offer a new promotion that benefits Final Fantasy XIV players, and it involves the life-encompassing mount system. If you spend $19.99 on “any game,” you get the Black Fat Chocobo Mount for free: the promo is running through July 1, which is the day before the new Shadowbringers expansion launches.
Basically, if you spend $19.99 on “any video game,” you get the mount for free as DLC. There’s a proviso involved so be sure before you pull the trigger: it needs to be purchased from Amazon proper, not a first-party seller. Just make sure the logo is on the thing you’re buying first (it’ll show up as a “product alert”), and the easiest way to satisfying it now is to get a game time code for XIV. It’s a fairly big promotion given that it spans all of gaming and focuses around the darkness-tinted Shadowbringers expansion, so you know Square Enix is trying to strike while the iron is hot and the subscription-base is high.
As a note you can still get the regular Fat Chocobo mount in XIV if you’re a previous Collector’s Edition buyer or you earn 3000 player commendations (“thumbs-up after a group activity”).
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UPDATE: 11AM EST – Ice Universe has made another tweet with a screen protector including a gap for the central punch-hole camera. This article has been updated to include this.
The Galaxy Note 10 leaks just keep popping up, and one of the most notable sources has today produced some new info about the display of Samsung’s two upcoming phablets.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9. Credit: Tom’s GuideThe unknown individual behind the Twitter account Ice Universe, which posts numerous leaks about Samsung and other phones, has posted two images showing what look to be screen protectors for the Note 10. The first tweet shows the difference in size between the standard Note 10, and the Note 10 Pro, a new premium version of the handset.
As one might have expected from the previous rumors about these phones, the Pro is significantly larger. You can also see the spots where Samsung’s ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensors will be. The Note 10 is expected to be 6.3 inches while the Note 10 Pro will allegedly by a 6.75-inch beast.
The second image is a few different angles showing how the display’s curved edges look. Samsung has been putting these on its phone since the Galaxy S6, and many manufacturers have followed its example, so it isn’t surprising to see this look again.
These panels seem to have a bit more curvature to them than the Galaxy S10+, but we won’t know for sure until Samsung announces the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Pro in August.
Ice Universe later tweeted another image of a screen cover for the Note 10 Pro. This one features a hole where the central selfie camera will be, one of the most notable exterior features of the Note 10, as well as the thin bezels, where you can spot the thicker chin of the phone also. Once again though, these images can’t be verified, and probably won’t be until we see the the official announcement.
Other notable upgrades expected include three cameras for the Note 10 and four cameras for the Note 10 Pro, Snapdragon 855 power, in-screen fingerprint readers, an enhanced S Pen and at least one version with 5G connectivity. It also looks like Samsung is ditching the headphone jack.
There’s long been much talk about Apple’s China problems, a topic given new impetus this year by the company revealing that falling iPhone sales in the country was almost the sole reason for missing its original holiday quarter guidance. CEO Tim Cook said in January that revenue in China fell $4.8B year-on-year, while sales increased elsewhere.
Two more analysts have commented this week, with Credit Suisse taking the more pessimistic view …
Apple’s position in the Chinese market remains precarious, analysts at JPMorgan and Credit Suisse said on Monday in separate reports.
JPMorgan trimmed its price target and iPhone sales estimates because of macroeconomic uncertainty fueled by the US-China trade war but kept its bullish rating.
Credit Suisse said that although iPhone sales in China through May are “less bad” than past quarters, competition in the region remains a fundamental challenge.
Credit Suisse said Apple’s China problems are three-fold:
The trade war between the US and China
Competition from much cheaper flagship smartphones from local brands
Less of an Apple ecosystem lock-in
It’s the second two which pose the more fundamental problem, says the bank.
“Looking beyond macro/trade concerns, we believe aggressive local competition and a narrower ecosystem advantage in China remain deeper structural challenges for Apple, with no easy near-term fix,” the Credit Suisse analysts led by Matthew Cabral wrote.
The Apple ecosystem is less important in China because everyone uses WeChat, a platform which started as a messaging app but has since grown into everything from a mobile payment service to a social network. Given that WeChat is so dominant in China, it doesn’t much matter whether you use iOS or Android, as we explained earlier this year.
JPMorgan analysts agree that Apple faces challenges in China which continue through the next iPhone generation, but says that the trade war won’t last forever, and Apple is making gains in other developing markets that will help to offset declining sales in China.
“The worsening macro environment and its likely impact on consumer spending globally is driving us to trim our iPhone shipment estimates, which in effect modestly lowers the earnings outlook for the near-term,” including estimates through year-end, the JPMorgan analysts led by Samik Chatterjee wrote […]
“We find investor concerns relative to Apple’s share loss in China somewhat overblown, given the continued decline in iPhone shipments in China over the last few years, which Apple has been used to navigating consistently by leveraging their strong presence in the developed markets and APAC ex-China,” they wrote.
Apple itself seems optimistic. CEO Tim Cook recently said that China was unlikely to target the iPhone maker for retaliatory action, and iPhone assembler Foxconn said that all US iPhones could be made outside China to escape the impact of 25% tariffs on Chinese imports.
Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!
Samsung smartphones will be the real winner of the US-China trade war which will damage Apple and Huawei.
TrendForce analyst Mia Huang said that overall global demand this year, especially for Apple and Huawei, that demand has weakened even more than originally predicted due to the ongoing trade war between the US and China.
“We previously forecasted this year’s total smartphone production volume to stand at around 1.4 billion units (a 3.7 percent decline from 2018), with the worst case scenario previously forecast to be negative growth of five per cent but we have now lowered that estimation to negative seven”, she said.
Even though Samsung is expected to benefit from the stalled US-China trade talks, the top six vendors for this year remain the same Samsung, Huawei, Apple, Oppo, Xiaomi and Vivo. Therefore, TrendForce adjusts its predictions for Samsung’s total production volume upwards back to a level of above 300 million units.
TrendForce noted that Samsung produced 293 million smartphones and Huawei produced 205 million units in 2018.
Huang said that due to the enormous fluctuations in the market and the possible influences to shipments that may arise from the G20 negotiations, “we predict Huawei’s total production volume this year to go below 200 million units”.
“For Huawei’s smartphone production volume, our forecast made earlier this year may probably be cut by 30 per cent as of now despite benefiting from domestic demand in the second half-year and softening the impact of markets abroad”, she said.
Huawei’s main markets consisted of Europe and South America in the past, but she said the competitor Samsung also has a long history in these regional markets and is predicted to emerge as the direct beneficiary from the politico-economic risks.
Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei had indicated that its revenues may continue decreasing towards the end of this year but the US ban will not lead to negative growth. After blacklisting Huawei, the White House has issued three-month reprieve to allow US companies to continue to do business with the group, until August 19.
“There is no clarity yet and we don’t know really what is going to happen. Right now, it is regarding the security threat coming from the telecoms equipment and as smartphone business is linked to it, Huawei and ZTE are under the microscope”, Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner, said.
Huang said that Apple is also feeling the effects of the trade war, suffering a blow to sales performance in Chinese markets. TrendForce predicts iPhone’s market shares in China to drop from the seven per centoriginally projected to five percent with this year’s production volume adjusted down from 190 million units to 183 million.
And while Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo will feel the fallout from Huawei’s outspoken domestic presence, Huang feels that the three brands may, however, find consolation in the gains made in Southeast Asian and Indian markets and hope to trend flat in production volume this year compared to 2018.