Vivo’s all-screen phone with a flip-up camera could arrive in June

The all-screen smartphone is an inevitability. The question at this point, really, is who will get there first and how they’ll accomplish that feat. I spoke to a LG rep at the G7 launch, who suggested that the notch is going to be fact of life for the next couple of years, but a number of manufacturers are pushing to get there a heck of a lot quicker.

Back at MWC in Febrary, Vivo’s Apex handset seemed like little more than a concept, but a couple of new teasers suggest otherwise. A new video demonstrates the handset’s flip-up selfie camera in action, along with a “Save the Date” notice for a June 12 event in Shanghai. The handset appears to be, at the very least, a close relative of the concept phone. 

A February press release highlights the concept in a bit more detail.

“In keeping with the promise to continuously support user habits,” the company notes, “Apex also features an 8MP Elevating Front Camera. The camera seamlessly rises in 0.8 seconds when it is required and retracts after use. Together with the hidden proximity sensor and ambient light sensor, this eliminates the space taken up by conventional front cameras, while offering the same selfie experience to users.”

Vivo’s just one of a number of companies who think they’ve got the answer here. When we met with Doogee back in February, the company showed off a number of prototypes aimed at circumventing the notch, including a similar pop up model and a version that slides to reveal a camera inside.

And then, of course, there’s the Lenovo Z5, which a VP for the company showed off via social media earlier this month. Though that presently seems to amount to little more than a sketch. For the moment, all of this feels like a bunch of companies showing off concepts aimed at demonstrating that they “thought of it first.”

Perhaps next month, however, Vivo will be ready to put its money where its mouth is.

Gaming monitors, headsets and peripherals for a winning desktop setup

Editor’s note: This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch earn affiliate commissions.

New and serious gamers know that it takes a significant amount of time sharpen skills, and to strategize ways to capture high scores. Staying ahead of player 2 is easier when you have the right gaming peripherals.

A monitor with a crisp display, a responsive gaming mouse, a comfortable headset—or all of these items combined—are what you need to take your PC gaming experience to the next level. We can’t promise that new equipment will keep you at the top of the board, but the best gear with accommodating features is essential to a great setup, and to helping you try.

G-Sync Monitor: Asus ROG Swift PG279Q

For the best option to pair with a Nvidia graphics card, we recommend the Asus ROG Swift PG279Q (Amazon) G-Sync gaming monitor. At 27 inches it’s big enough to give off an immersive feeling, but not so big that visuals seem overwhelming. It only works over displayport and has two connection options (HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 1.2a). You’ll still be able to plug in peripherals like a keyboard or phone via its built-in USB 3.0 port. We tested it with a variety of games and it performed well with them all. This monitor’s luminance range is also pretty wide so it’ll display images nicely if placed in dim or bright areas.

Photo: Rozette Rago

FreeSync monitor: Asus MG279Q

The Asus MG279Q (Amazon), our top FreeSync monitor pick, is best for those who use an AMD graphics card. A gaming console and computer work well with this 27-inch monitor as it’s packed with connection options (one Mini DisplayPort 1.2 connection, two HDMI 1.4 connections and one DisplayPort 1.2).

We like its adjustability and that you can detach it completely from its stand. It can be mounted on a monitor arm to better accommodate different setups. Though it supports FreeSync between 35 Hz and 90 Hz, it has 1440p resolution and a standard refresh rate of 144 Hz for clear, high-quality visuals.

Photo: Rozette Rago

Headset: Kingston HyperX Cloud

The excitement that comes along with gaming is largely attached to being able to clearly hear the action. A gaming headset that can offer all-day comfort, a high-quality microphone and full sound is a headset you want to go with.

Our top pick, the Kingston HyperX Cloud (Amazon), offers all of these features and after about 30 months of testing, it’s held up well. It’ll still look as good as new after being tossed around, but more importantly, its headband and ear cups don’t feel heavy or constricting. You’ll be able to play online with teammates without hearing an overlap between headset and microphone audio. It’s also a decent headset for watching movies and listening to music.

Photo: Michael Hession

Mouse: Razer DeathAdder Elite

The Razer DeathAdder Elite, our top gaming mouse pick, has a design that’s ideal for hands of all sizes. We like that it has textured grip, and that you’re able to get comfortable with preferred settings using its customizable buttons and scroll wheel. It isn’t clunky and you won’t press the wrong buttons, as they’re intuitive and well-placed.

Aside from its RGB lights that change color, it doesn’t look much different from a mouse you’d find at a work desk. It comes with Razer’s Synapse software (which works on Mac and Windows), and it has an accurate, exclusive Pixart PMW3389 sensor that tracks without issue.

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Keyboard: Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition Chroma V2

Though we like the multicolored backlighting on the Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition Chroma V2 (Amazon), there’s more than a few reasons why this compact mechanical keyboard is our top recommendation. Its removable palm rest makes getting comfortable in different positions easier and it comes with a durable protective case.

Its learning curve isn’t as steep as competitors, so if the Chroma V2 is your first gaming keyboard it won’t be long before you get into the swing of things. You can set macros to specific keys and applications and use a variety of switch options. Like the Razer DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse, it uses Synapse software.                                                                                                   

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

PC gaming controller: DualShock 4 Wireless Controller

Gamers who prefer playing on consoles will enjoy using a PC gaming controller with a computer. The DualShock 4 Wireless Controller (which comes with the PlayStation 4) is our top pick, because it’s the most capable PC controller, as well as a few extra features: The touchpad can be used like a mouse cursor and it has an internal rechargeable battery. It connects over Bluetooth or USB and is best used with a separate gaming headset, as its audio jack doesn’t function properly with PCs.

The controller works great with Steam, though in order to get it working with MacOS or non-Steam Windows games, you’ll have to adjust some settings. We think it’s worth the effort for a responsive controller that’s comfortable to hold for long periods of time.

Photo: Andrew Cunningham

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter.

Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

IBM’s Verifier inspects (and verifies) diamonds, pills and materials at the micron level

It’s not enough in this day and age that we have to deal with fake news, we also have to deal with fake prescription drugs, fake luxury goods, and fake Renaissance-era paintings. Sometimes all at once! IBM’s Verifier is a gadget and platform made (naturally) to instantly verify that something is what it claims to be, by inspecting it at a microscopic level.

Essentially you stick a little thing on your phone’s camera, open the app, and put the sensor against what you’re trying to verify, be it a generic antidepressant or an ore sample. By combining microscopy, spectroscopy, and a little bit of AI, the Verifier compares what it sees to a known version of the item and tells you whether they’re the same.

The key component in this process is an “optical element” that sits in front of the camera (it can be anything that takes a decent image) amounting to a specialized hyper-macro lens. It allows the camera to detect features as small as a micron — for comparison, a human hair is usually a few dozen microns wide.

At the micron level there are patterns and optical characteristics that aren’t visible to the human eye, like precisely which wavelengths of light it reflects. The quality of a weave, the number of flaws in a gem, the mixture of metals in an alloy… all stuff you or I would miss, but a machine learning system trained on such examples will pick out instantly.

For instance a counterfeit pill, although orange and smooth and imprinted just like a real one if one were to just look at it, will likely appear totally different at the micro level: textures and structures with a very distinct pattern, or at least distinct from the real thing — not to mention a spectral signature that’s probably way different. There’s also no reason it can’t be used on things like expensive wines or oils, contaminated water, currency, and plenty of other items.

IBM was eager to highlight the AI element, which is trained on the various patterns and differentiates between them, though as far as I can tell it’s a pretty straightforward classification task. I’m more impressed by the lens they put together that can resolve at a micron level with so little distortion and not exclude or distort the colors too much. It even works on multiple phones — you don’t have to have this or that model.

The first application IBM is announcing for its Verifier is as a part of the diamond trade, which is of course known for fetishizing the stones and their uniqueness, and also establishing elaborate supply trains to ensure product is carefully controlled. The Verifier will be used as an aide for grading stones, not on its own but as a tool for human checkers; it’s a partnership with the Gemological Institute of America, which will test integrating the tool into its own workflow.

By imaging the stone from several angles, the individual identity of the diamond can be recorded and tracked as well, so that its provenance and trail through the industry can be tracked over the years. Here IBM imagines blockchain will be useful, which is possible but not exactly a given.

It’ll be a while before you can have one of your own, but here’s hoping this type of tech becomes popular enough that you can check the quality or makeup of something at least without having to visit some lab.

Meet the speakers at The Europas, and get your ticket free (July 3, London)

Excited to announce that this year’s The Europas Unconference & Awards is shaping up! Our half day Unconference kicks off on 3 July, 2018 at The Brewery in the heart of London’s “Tech City” area, followed by our startup awards dinner and fantastic party and celebration of European startups!

The event is run in partnership with TechCrunch, the official media partner. Attendees, nominees and winners will get deep discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.
The Europas Awards are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. But key to the daytime is all the speakers and invited guests. There’s no “off-limits speaker room” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs and speakers.

What exactly is an Unconference? We’re dispensing with the lectures and going straight to the deep-dives, where you’ll get a front row seat with Europe’s leading investors, founders and thought leaders to discuss and debate the most urgent issues, challenges and opportunities. Up close and personal! And, crucially, a few feet away from handing over a business card. The Unconference is focused into zones including AI, Fintech, Mobility, Startups, Society, and Enterprise and Crypto / Blockchain.

We’ve confirmed 10 new speakers including:


Eileen Burbidge, Passion Capital

Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp

Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures

Sitar Teli, Connect Ventures

Nancy Fechnay, Blockchain Technologist + Angel

George McDonaugh, KR1

Candice Lo, Blossom Capital

Scott Sage, Crane Venture Partners

Andrei Brasoveanu, Accel

Tina Baker, Jag Shaw Baker

How To Get Your Ticket For FREE

We’d love for you to ask your friends to join us at The Europas – and we’ve got a special way to thank you for sharing.

Your friend will enjoy a 15% discount off the price of their ticket with your code, and you’ll get 15% off the price of YOUR ticket.

That’s right, we will refund you 15% off the cost of your ticket automatically when your friend purchases a Europas ticket.

So you can grab tickets here.

Vote for your Favourite Startups

Public Voting is still humming along. Please remember to vote for your favourite startups!

Awards by category:

Hottest Media/Entertainment Startup

Hottest E-commerce/Retail Startup

Hottest Education Startup

Hottest Startup Accelerator

Hottest Marketing/AdTech Startup

Hottest Games Startup

Hottest Mobile Startup

Hottest FinTech Startup

Hottest Enterprise, SaaS or B2B Startup

Hottest Hardware Startup

Hottest Platform Economy / Marketplace

Hottest Health Startup

Hottest Cyber Security Startup

Hottest Travel Startup

Hottest Internet of Things Startup

Hottest Technology Innovation

Hottest FashionTech Startup

Hottest Tech For Good

Hottest A.I. Startup

Fastest Rising Startup Of The Year

Hottest GreenTech Startup of The Year

Hottest Startup Founders

Hottest CEO of the Year

Best Angel/Seed Investor of the Year

Hottest VC Investor of the Year

Hottest Blockchain/Crypto Startup Founder(s)

Hottest Blockchain Protocol Project

Hottest Blockchain DApp

Hottest Corporate Blockchain Project

Hottest Blockchain Investor

Hottest Blockchain ICO (Europe)

Hottest Financial Crypto Project

Hottest Blockchain for Good Project

Hottest Blockchain Identity Project

Hall Of Fame Award – Awarded to a long-term player in Europe

The Europas Grand Prix Award (to be decided from winners)

The Awards celebrates the most forward thinking and innovative tech & blockchain startups across over some 30+ categories.

Startups can apply for an award or be nominated by anyone, including our judges. It is free to enter or be nominated.

What is The Europas?

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with 1,000 of the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the Speakers

• Key Founders and investors speaking; featured attendees invited to just network

• Expert speeches, discussions, and Q&A directly from the main stage

• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players on vertical topics

• The opportunity to meet almost everyone in those small groups, super-charging your networking

• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters

• A parallel Founders-only track geared towards fund-raising and hyper-networking

• A stunning awards dinner and party which honors both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene

• All on one day to maximise your time in London. And it’s PROBABLY sunny!

europas8

That’s just the beginning. There’s more to come…

europas13

Interested in sponsoring the Europas or hosting a table at the awards? Or purchasing a table for 10 or 12 guest or a half table for 5 guests? Get in touch with:
Petra Johansson
Petra@theeuropas.com
Phone: +44 (0) 20 3239 9325

Edge Sense is starting to come into its own with HTC’s U12+

Edge Sense has always been a gimmick — but who can blame HTC for embracing a gimmick. The company’s mobile division has been struggling in recent years, so why not embrace the novelty of a squeezable side input? The tech got a bit more support when Google embraced it for the Pixel 2, renaming it Active Edge in the process.

With today’s announcement of the U12+, HTC is introducing Edge Sense 2. The company promised it would keep updating the feature, and this new flagship is starting to making it that much more compelling. The second generation doesn’t make it an essential feature, but some key additions point to how more sensors on the sides of the handset could turn it into more than just a glorified additional button for the phone.

Some of the coolest additions here are the ability for the phone to recognize which hand is holding it and adapt the interface accordingly. When held in a single hand, the feature offers up multiple options, including the ability to lock screen orientation for video viewing and squeezing to take photos or shoot video. And, that functionality is customizable, meaning users won’t get locked into a devoted Bixby button-style situation here.

Also worth noting on the Edge Sense front is that HTC has swapped out the mechanical buttons on the side of the phone, moving instead toward haptic feedback. It takes a little getting used to, but the upshot is that it helps keep the phone that much more water-resistant, and fewer moving parts means less opportunity for breakage — always a good thing.

As far as the other ways HTC is working to distinguish its latest flagship, the six-inch handset retains the “Liquid Surface” design language found on the U11. The glossy service is even more aesthetically distinct this time out, with the addition of the Translucent Blue color scheme, which offers a cloudy and colorful peek into the phone’s innards.

The camera deserves mention here, too. Granted, it’s a tough place to distinguish your handset these days, but the U12+ scored a 103 from DxOMark, which puts it ahead of the rest of the handset market, save for the Huawei P20 Pro with its ridiculous three cameras. Highlights for its two cameras include super-fast autofocus and HDR Boost 2 for improved images in poor lighting conditions.

HTC’s made a point of upping its game on the audio front, and that continues here with loud built-in speakers and a pair of active noise-cancelling earbuds. Inside is a Snapdragon 845, coupled with 6GB of RAM and up to 128GB of storage. All in all, it’s looking like a solid handset.

There’s no notch on the screen this time out, but the company implied in a meeting that that’s something likely to arrive on the next-gen flagship. The phone goes up for pre-order today and will start shipping early next month. No word on pricing yet, but HTC tells me it won’t be “dramatically different” than its predecessor.

OpenPath raises $7M to help you access your office with your phone

If you’ve ever worked in an office building, chances are somebody issued you a keycard or NFC-enabled badge to open the doors to the building. Those cards and badges do their job, but they can be both cumbersome and prone to problems. OpenPath wants to do away with all of these issues and add a new level of convenience to this whole process by replacing these access cards with the phone you already have.

Until today, OpenPath, which currently has about 20 employees, remained in stealth mode since it was founded by Edgecast co-founders Alex Kazerani (CEO)and James Segil (President), together with a number of other former Edgecast execs. The founders are putting their own money into this startup and are leading a $7 million seed round. A number of institutional investors also participated in this round, though, including Upfront Ventures, Sorenson Ventures, Bonfire Ventures, Pritzker Group Venture Capital and Fika Ventures.

Over the course of the last few years, the team developed — and patented — both the hardware and software for allowing employees to securely open doors and for security teams to manage their access. Instead of NFC, the company’s so-called SurePath Mobile technology uses Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and LTE to authenticate the user. The system integrates directly with G Suite and Office 365 so that users and IT teams don’t have to create multiple user accounts to give employees access to their spaces.

Segil argues that employees have come to expect a certain level of convenience in the workplace and while our homes are getting smarter, most offices aren’t. During our conversation ahead of today’s announcement, Kazerani also stressed that the company’s platform had to be enterprise-grade and ready to be used thousands of times a day.

The OpenPath team developed its own reader hardware, which businesses have to install at their doors. The hardware uses the same wiring as existing services, though, making it easy to replace a legacy system with this new solution.

Yubico launches an SDK that lets iOS devs add support for its NFC keys

Yubico, the company behind the increasingly popular YubiKey security keys, today announced the launch of a new SDK for iOS developers that allows them to add support for two-factor authentication over NFC with the company’s YubiKey NEO keys. With this, the company now offers solutions for all the major platforms. The first company to support this new feature, by the way, is LastPass, which already supported the Yubico one-time passwords over NFC on Android.

While it was already possible to build an integration with the YubiKey NEO once iOS 11 launched, the new SDK will make it significantly easier for more developers to support these keys over NFC.

It’s absolutely critical to have a hardware-based root of trust, like the YubiKey, to establish an approved relationship between a mobile phone and the apps we use,” said Stina Ehrensvard, Yubico’s CEO and founder, in today’s announcement. “Mobile authentication methods, like SMS or push apps, cannot be considered as trusted second factors to authenticate in a mobile app setting.”

The company argues that NFC authentication is about four times faster than getting traditional one-time passwords. Developers can use the NEO keys for giving users access to an application, as well as for step-up security to initiate actions like money transfers or password resets.

Users simply have to touch the phone with their key (assuming they have an iPhone 7 or newer and run iOS 11) and they should be good to go.

“Integrating the Yubico SDK into the LastPass iOS app was a quick and painless process, mostly because the NFC API matched almost 1:1 with the Yubico SDK API,” said Akos Putz, Principal Product Manager for LastPass in the announcement. “We’re excited to offer this new authentication method for our iOS users right out of the gate, giving them another option for adding an extra layer of security to their LastPass vault.”

Razer’s new external graphics enclosure is compatible with Macs

A couple of gaming hardware announcements just dropped from team Razer. What makes the Core X graphics enclosure arguably the most notable of the bunch is the inclusion of a standard Thunderbolt 3 connection on the rear of the device.

In addition to Razer’s own systems and Windows 10 PCs, the new enclosure is compatible with Apple products running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4. That’s part of a whole new focus on gaming for Apple’s devices, unveiled back at WWDC roughly this time last year, along with the promise of VR development support.

In late March, external GPU support officially arrived for High Sierra 10.13.4, and now Razer’s ready to get on-board. The Core X is designed to hold up to three desktop graphics cards and can charge a connected laptop through the aforementioned Thunrderbolt 3 connection.

The enclosure is available now for $299. Along with the X, Razer’s Core V2 is now also compatible with Macs via Thunderbolt 3. That one will run you $499. Good new all around for Mac users ready to get serious about gaming.

Also new today is the Razer Blade 15.6-inch, an ultra thin gaming notebook the company has taken to calling “the world’s smallest…in its class.” The 15.6-inch display comes 1920 x 1080, standard, which users can upgrade to 4k. All of that is surrounded by some skinny 4.9mm bezels.

Inside is an 8th gen Core i7 processor, coupled with either a either GeForce GTX 1060 or GeForce GTX 1070  graphics. There’s also up to 16GB of memory and up to 512GB of storage inside, loaded with what Razer says is $420 of games and software. The system features a 16.8 million color keyboard and output for up to three external displays.

The new system starts at $1,899.

Comcast is leaking the names and passwords of customers’ wireless routers

Comcast has just been caught in a major security snafu: revealing the passwords of its customers’ Xfinity-provided wireless routers in plaintext on the web. Anyone with a subscriber’s account number and street address number will be served up the wi-fi name and password via the company’s Xfinity internet activation service.

Security researchers Karan Saini and Ryan Stevenson reported the issue to ZDnet.

The site is meant to help people setting up their internet for the first time: ideally, you put in your data, and Comcast sends back the router credentials while activating the service.

The problem is threefold:

  1. You can “activate” an account that’s already active
  2. The data required to do so is minimal and it is not verified via text or email
  3. The wireless name and password are sent on the web in plaintext

This means that anyone with your account number and street address number (e.g. the 1425 in “1425 Alder Ave,” no street name, city, or apartment number needed), both of which can be found on your paper bill or in an email, will instantly be given your router’s SSID and password, allowing them to log in and use it however they like or monitor its traffic. They could also rename the router’s network or change its password, locking out subscribers.

This only affects people who use a router provided by Xfinity/Comcast, which comes with its own name and password built in. Though it also returns custom SSIDs and passwords, since they’re synced with your account and can be changed via app and other methods.

What can you do? While this problem is at large, it’s no good changing your password — Comcast will just provide any malicious actor the new one. So until further notice all of Comcast’s Xfinity customers with routers provided by the company are at risk.

One thing you can do for now is treat your home network as if it is a public one — if you must use it, make sure encryption is enabled if you conduct any private business like buying things online. What will likely happen is Comcast will issue a notice and ask users to change their router passwords at large.

Another is to buy your own router — this is a good idea anyway, as it will pay for itself in a few months and you can do more stuff with it. Which to buy and how to install it, however, are beyond the scope of this article. But if you’re really worried, you could conceivably fix this security issue today by bringing your own hardware to the bargain.

I’ve contacted the company for comment and will update when I hear back.

Sony shrinks its Digital Paper tablet down to a more manageable 10 inches

I had a great time last year with Sony’s catchily named DPT-RP1, an e-paper tablet that’s perfect for reading PDFs and other big documents, but one of my main issues was simply how big the thing is. Light and thin but 13 inches across, the tablet was just unwieldy. Heeding (I assume) my advice, Sony is putting out a smaller version and I can’t wait to try it out.

At the time, I was comparing the RP1 with the reMarkable, a crowdfunded rival that offers fantastic writing ability but isn’t without its flaws. Watch this great video I made:

The 10-inch DPT-CP1 has a couple small differences from its larger sibling. The screen has a slightly lower resolution but should be the same PPI — it’s more of a cutout of the original screen than a miniaturization. And it’s considerably lighter: 240 grams to the 13-inch version’s 350. Considering the latter already felt almost alarmingly light, this one probably feels like it’ll float out of your hands and enter orbit.

More important are the software changes. There’s a new mobile app for iOS and Android that should make loading and sharing documents easier. A new screen-sharing mode sounds handy but a little cumbrous — you have to plug it into a PC and then plug the PC into a display. And PDF handling has been improved so that you can jump to pages, zoom and pan and scan through thumbnails more easily. Limited interaction (think checkboxes) is also possible.

There’s nothing that addresses my main issue with both the RP1 and the reMarkable: that it’s a pain to do anything substantial on the devices, such as edit or highlight in a document, and if you do, it’s a pain to bring that work into other environments.

So for now it looks like the Digital Paper series will remain mostly focused on consuming content rather than creating or modifying it. That’s fine — I loved reading stuff on the device, and mainly just wished it were a bit smaller. Now that Sony has granted that wish, it can get to work on the rest.