ACCC warns Aussie telcos not to mislead customers with “unlimited” data plans

While the latest trend among Australian telcos is to offer “unlimited” data mobile plans, ACCC chairman Rod Sims has now officially warned the companies not to mislead customers with this terminology.

The issue that the Commission found with plans from Optus, Vodafone and Telstra is that their respective “unlimited” plans did, indeed, pose some limits on customers. 

The plan from Optus restricted speeds to 1.5Mbps when tethering, streaming and downloading (which is pretty much everything except for light browsing), while Telstra and Vodafone both imposed the same throttled 1.5Mbps download rate once the user had surpassed a data allowance (...or data 'limit', you could say).

While all of this was indeed explained by the telcos in some of their finest print, these qualifications were “not sufficiently prominent or clear to explain to consumers the existence and impacts of the limitations”, according to the ACCC.

Crime and punishment

If telecommunications companies aren’t transparent with their advertising in the future, the ACCC will invoke “court action from the regulator”, promising to “seek the highest possible penalties”.

“We have taken a range of actions against telecommunication companies for misleading consumers,” states Sims. “It is about time they showed more respect for their customers and the Australian Consumer Law."

Since a Federal Court case found Telstra guilty of false advertising with its slogan “One word for Australia’s best mobile network. Unlimited”, all three telcos have stopped using the word as a headline claim, replacing it with phrases such as “Peace of Mind data”, and “Mobile data that never ends”.

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P20 Pro among Huawei handsets caught cheating in benchmark tests

Following a discovery earlier this week by AnandTech that Huawei’s P20 flagship handset was fudging its numbers in graphics benchmarking app 3DMark, the phone's results have been delisted from the official results site, along with three other Huawei handsets.

UL Benchmarks – the company responsible for popular mobile and desktop benchmarking software such as 3DMark, PCMark and VRMark – released a statement about the delisting, claiming that it ran its own tests which confirmed AnandTech’s results and had subsequently delisted the Huawei P20 Pro, Huawei P20, Huawei Nova 3 and the Honor Play (a sub-brand of Huawei) as a result.

Specifically, UL found that Huawei had incorporated a hidden performance mode into its handsets, which only activated when the devices recognized the 3DMark app being run. This would bypass the phones’ typical restrictions on battery use and heat levels in order to eke out as much power as possible.

Huawei's P20 flagship handset

When UL compared the public version of 3DMark on these handsets with their own private benchmarks, they found that this performance mode boosted the handsets' scores by up to 47%. While the existence of high-performance modes on phones isn’t inherently cheating, UL’s benchmarking rules state that these modes must be disabled when running the benchmark. 

Huawei has responded to UL’s findings, stating that it’s “planning to provide users with access to 'Performance Mode' so they can use the maximum power of their device when they need to”.

It’s unclear whether Huawei users would have seen the release of this mode if the manufacturer hadn’t been caught cheating, and additionally, whether handset owners that choose to use the option could be causing long-term damage to their devices – something that's certainly a possibility if the mode disables Android's built-in heat- and battery-protection features.

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Samsung’s cheaper Galaxy A phones will be first in line for new tech advances

While we’ve grown accustomed to cutting-edge tech landing with a manufacturer’s flagship phone, Samsung has announced that it will be flipping this plan on its head in a new strategy to boost sales.

In a CNBC interview with Samsung’s president of mobile communications, DJ Koh stated that his revised plan is to introduce new technology to its mid-range handsets first, rather than its premium models, from this year forward. 

Considering 2018 has already seen the launch of the South Korean company’s Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 9 flagships, this means we can look forward to an exciting new feature in one of Samsung’s Galaxy A series handsets, which will apparently be arriving later this year.

Why the change?

With the ever-rising prices of flagship handsets among the major players, Samsung is looking to compete directly with the likes of Huawei, Oppo and other Chinese manufacturers that are offering top-notch specs for a diminished price.

Similarly, the shift is an attempt to attract “millenials who cannot afford the flagship”, as Koh stated that he intends to “deliver meaningful innovation” to this demographic without having to price them out.

Although Samsung hasn’t spilt the beans on just what this “new technology and differentiation” actually entails, if this interview is anything to go by, we should be seeing it in a new mid-range handset before the year’s out.

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Google Pixel 3 leak details the smaller flagship inside and out

While we’ve already had plenty of chances to check out the larger Google Pixel 3 XL in the slew of leaks over the last few months, we’re finally seeing what is very likely to be Google’s smaller Pixel 3 flagship.

The leaked photos and screenshots come from an anonymous Reddit user whose account has since been deleted, so the veracity of the leaks should be taken with a pinch of salt. 

However, given the current volume of new Pixel leaks and rumors, there's a strong possibility we’ve been given a fairly accurate description of the smaller handset.

For instance, /r/GooglePixel moderator Racer_77 stated in the thread that “based on all other leaks and renders seen so far, I personally have enough confidence to say that this is likely the Pixel 3.”

Familiar faces

The three images the Reddit user has taken of the handset give us a pretty good look at the upcoming Pixel 3. The rear of the handset closely resembles the current Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL design with their single-lens camera and fingerprint scanner, albeit with a curved boundary between the glass and aluminum sections.

Similarly, the side of the phone isn’t anything too exciting or surprising – with a volume rocker and power button as we’ve come to expect and a slightly more rounded side profile overall.

The handset’s screen looks a whole lot like the Pixel 2 XL but smaller, with much thinner bezels than the existing Google Pixel 2, and rounded edges on the display that match the curvature of the handset itself, just like the 2 XL.

While it’s a touch difficult to make out, the image of the phone’s face also appears to be sporting two front-facing cameras. This is supported by the specification screenshots which list two 8MP cameras – one with a dual aperture of f/1.8 and f/2.2, and the other with f/1.8.

It’s what’s inside that counts

If this leak does indeed prove accurate, the screengrabs show off a great deal of nitty-gritty when it comes to the inner-workings of Google’s next flagship.

Assuming this is true, the Pixel 3 will be sporting a 2,915mAh battery, slightly improving on the Pixel 2’s 2,700mAh capacity. Its display will also be bumped up from 5.0 to 5.5-inches, increasing the aspect ratio from 16:9 to 18:9 (or 2:1).

Although the slimmer bezels allow for a bigger screen, the resolution of 1,080 x 2,160 maintains the same 440ppi density that the Pixel 2 had. As mentioned before, the specs also seem to confirm a dual front-facing camera, which has previously been speculated to support 3D facial recognition.

While we can't know for sure whether this is in fact a legitimate Pixel 3 and if the specs in the screenshots are accurate, the chances are looking pretty good at this point. For complete peace of mind, however, we'll have to wait for the likely October announcement from Google itself.

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Instagram follows Twitter and will require popular users to verify their identities

Facebook’s ongoing battle against bad actors has largely been waged on its primary social media platform, but now the company has announced a few safety features that will soon land on its image- and video-oriented service, Instagram.

The announcement reveals three new strategies to tackle fake accounts and identity theft, which includes new ways to verify a popular account’s veracity, and an improved two-factor authentication procedure.

Guess who?

On pages for users “that reach large audiences”, viewers will start seeing an “about this account” section containing an extended pool of information that helps to verify the legitimacy of the user.

According to Instagram’s announcement, this will include information such as “the date the account joined Instagram, the country where the account is located, accounts with shared followers, any username changes in the last year and any ads the account is currently running”.

[Image courtesy of Instagram]

While Instagram already has a blue-tick verification badge system similar to that of Twitter’s, it will now resemble the microblogging site's system more closely by offering a more direct request form in the ‘settings’ tab.

Users will need to provide a username, their full name, and proof of identity, and they “must comply with Instagram’s Terms of Service and Community Guidelines” in order to be verified.

[Image courtesy of Instagram]

Naturally, applying for the verification won’t guarantee you’ll get it. Each submission will be reviewed “to confirm its authenticity, uniqueness, completeness and notability”. Users will receive a notification letting them know it’s been confirmed or denied on these grounds.

Two factors are better than one

Instagram has supported two-factor authentication via text messaging for quite some time, but the platform is soon opening the extra layer of security up to third-party authenticator apps.

[Image courtesy of Instagram]

Again, this feature will be found under the ‘settings’ tab and allows you to use apps such as LastPass or Dashlane to verify your password, which is arguably a safer bet than using your mobile number.

While we haven’t been given an explicit availability date on these features, the announcement mentions they have already begun rolling out and will be available to all users in the coming weeks.

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Huawei and ZTE aren’t allowed to help build Australia’s 5G network

After the Australian Government announced that it would disqualify companies from participating in the 5G network rollout that are “likely subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government”, Huawei has confirmed that both it, and fellow Chinese mobile provider ZTE, have been banned from providing infrastructure.

The Government’s decision is likely the result of of a similar ban that the US has enforced on the two companies, where there were fears of espionage if such third-party vendors were to supply core communications infrastructure.

More specifically, the Australian Government claims that using these vendors “may risk failure by the carrier to adequately protect a 5G network from unauthorised access or interference”.

Response

In the same confirmation tweet, Huawei Australia stated that the company had been “safely and securely delivering wireless technology in Aust for close to 15 yrs” and that it was an “extremely disappointing result for consumers.”

China has responded by pleading for a change of heart, with Foreign Minister Lu Kang warning the Australian Government not to “use various excuses to artificially erect barriers", and urging it to “abandon ideological prejudices and provide a fair competitive environment for Chinese companies' operations in Australia.”

Similarly, China’s Ministry of Commerce has said that Australia has made the “wrong decision” — the effects of which will negatively impact both Australian and Chinese companies.

Vodafone’s Chief Strategy Officer, Dan Lloyd, has pointed out that the decision will have significant economical impacts for carriers’ investment plans, claiming that it “fundamentally undermines Australia’s 5G future”. 

It’s unclear exactly what impact this decision will have on Australian consumers, but considering Huawei is the world’s largest producer of telecommunications equipment globally, the rollout may ultimately cost more and take longer as a result of its absence.

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Google Pixel 3 XL offered up for sale on Russian black market

Leaks and rumors surrounding Google’s upcoming flagship, the Pixel 3 XL, have been flying thick and fast in recent months, but now it looks like we’ve just hit the motherlode.

Russian blog Rozetked has managed to get its hands on what is likely to be a stolen shipment of Pixel 3 XL’s and has published extensive details, images, and photos captured with the handset’s camera.

According to 9to5Google, a single Ukranian seller is offering what is assumed to be stolen handsets for $2,000 a piece, which is likely the cause of earlier leaks that showed off retail packaging and contents, including what looks to be a set of wired Pixel Buds.

[Images from Rozetked]

Details, details

If this leak is to be believed (and it really does seem like the real deal), then the Google Pixel 3 XL will indeed be wearing a rather deep notch and sizable chin bezel on what is apparently a 2,960 x 1,440 display, although its actual size measurement isn’t mentioned in the blog.

The blog post also seemingly confirms the inclusion of the aforementioned wired Pixel Buds in the box, and also indicates – unsurprisingly – that the Pixel 3 XL will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and will run on Android 9 Pie.

Aesthetically, the sides and rear of the handset appear to be near-identical to the second iteration of the device – the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL – with a fingerprint scanner embedded in the aluminum majority of the body while the single camera, flash, and sensors are found in the smaller, glass section at the top. 

One notable change is the relocation of the SIM card slot to the bottom of the phone, next to the USB-C port.

Another Russian blogger that goes by the name Wylsacom, has also seemingly gotten his hands on a Pixel 3 XL, showing the phone off from a number of angles in some hi-res images in his latest Tweet.

If these two handsets do turn out to be the new Pixel 3 XL, there won’t be many surprises left when the pair of Google devices get announced on October 4 (a likely date given the last two years of announcements).

Slightly fewer leaks have surface regarding its smaller sibling, the Pixel 3, and even less is known about the possibility of a third budget Pixel option, which may or may not exist. But if you can’t wait for the announcement, stick around for more news and rumors.

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iPhone pre-order date potentially leaked by German carriers

While Apple hasn’t strayed too far from its iPhone announcement formula in recent years, it hasn’t stopped the launch-date rumor mill from churning.

German publication Macerkopf is the latest to reveal details about when the next batch of iPhones could be announced, and more specifically, when we might be able to jump in and order one.

The article cites two unnamed German carriers as its source, both of which are allegedly preparing for iPhone pre-orders on September 14, 2018, giving us our best indication yet as to when the new 2018 iPhones will be available.

Precedence

Since 2012, each new line of iPhones has been announced on the second Tuesday or Wednesday of September, without fail, so it’s fair to expect similar timing this year. 

This would pin the announcement down to either September 11 or September 12 —  we’re anticipating it'll be the latter, considering the somber occasion the former is for the US.

In 2017, we saw the iPhones announced on September 12, available for pre-order September 14, and then officially released a week later on September 22.

With all this in mind, we predict that the next batch of iPhones from Apple will be announced Wednesday, September 12, and will be available for pre-order Friday, September 14, and be officially available Friday, September 21.

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The best Samsung Galaxy Note 9 plans and prices in Australia compared

Samsung's latest monolith of a phablet has officially been unveiled, and we've now got the lowdown on what makes the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 special. For instance, we know it features a record-breaking display, and is quite capable of replacing the average user's home PC.

The Note 9 has been announced in three different colours – Ocean Blue, Metallic Copper and Midnight Black – as well as two configurations, one with 128GB of onboard storage and 6GB of RAM for $1,499, and the other with an unprecedented 512GB of storage and 8GB of RAM for $1,799.

With prices like this, it seems that Samsung is going for the throat of the iPhone X, but is this work-meets-play powerhouse enough to sway Apple die-hards? And does this generation of the Note offer enough promise for those upgrading from the Galaxy Note 8?

For more in-depth thoughts, check out our Samsung Galaxy Note 9 hands-on review.

See also: Galaxy S9 deals | Galaxy S9 Plus deals | iPhone X deals | Galaxy Note 8 deals

The best Samsung Galaxy Note 9 plans

Given the $1,499 starting price of this monolithic handset, there's a good chance you'll want to soften that blow with a 24-month contract. Although the plans are still fairly steep, some come with some excellent bonus offers and other neat ways to reduce the wallet-damage.

As you may be able to tell, Optus is crushing it on the Note 9 deals at the moment. This isn't all that surprising though, as the carrier has tended to favour Samsung's flagships with its deals in the past as well, while Telstra is a bit more of an Apple fan.

The best Galaxy Note 9 plan for each carrier

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Huawei’s mid-range Nova 3i is now up for pre-order Down Under

Huawei has announced that its Nova 3i handset – the big sibling to the spectacular Nova 3e – is available for pre-order for $599 in Australia with a very solid and very limited bonus gift offer.

The Nova 3i sports an almost bezel-free facade with a prominent notch and slight chin, and the contemporary aesthetic carries over to the rear with its flat faux-glass. 

There’s no denying that Huawei has taken some inspiration from Apple’s trend-setting iPhone X design and the results are similarly premium, despite the thousand-dollar price difference.

Alongside its mammoth 6.3-inch display (2,340 x 1,080 FHD+ resolution), the Nova 3i’s most impressive feature is its camera aptitude — something Huawei has been championing for years at this point.

Not only does the Nova 3i boast twin rear cameras, there’s a pair of equally powerful front-facing cameras as well, and all four of them are coupled with new AI functionality that lets you manipulate and enhance your photos with 3D effects.

But how about that bonus offer? If you pre-order the handset before August 23 from the select suppliers, you’ll also net yourself a free pair of the Huawei FreeBuds valued at $199. 

These truly wireless earbuds give the Apple AirPods a run for their money, offering 10 hours of playtime, IP54 water and sweat resistance, and a neat charging case while you’re on the go.

The Huawei Nova 3i has been priced at $599 and is available to pre-order in Black or Purple from JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, and Mobileciti, with the bonus gift offer expiring on the official launch date of August 23 (or until stocks last).

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iPad Pro 2018 will likely borrow some of the iPhone X’s neatest features

Rumors around an upcoming iPad Pro launch have been increasing in recent months, and now it’s looking more likely than ever that 2018’s professional tablet from Apple will bear the resemblance of a big iPhone X.

Up until the iPhone X, every iPhone and iPad display had squared-off edges, but the iPhone X introduced a display with rounded edges to match the curvature of the handset itself. 

While digging through the iOS 12 developer beta, 9to5Mac has found an asset that appears to be a visual mask used to round the corners of the UI, and it bears the codename “J3XX”, which itself is indicative of the 2018 iPad Pro model.

By itself, this strongly suggests that the 2018 iPad Pro will follow in the design footsteps of the iPhone X, sporting rounded corners on its display.

iPad Pro ... X?

When you consider this UI mask alongside rumors that this iPad Pro will support Face ID, it’s seems increasingly likely that this year’s model won't feature a Home button and will have severely reduced bezels.

Some more juicy hints that support this rumor have been uncovered by 9to5Mac in the form of two small icons in a battery usage diagnostic. These tiny tiles seem to show both a current iPad with prominent bezels and a Home button, and a future model that lacks either.

Credit: 9to5Mac

We're expecting to hear more about the upcoming iPad Pro at the anticipated iPhone XI launch in early September, but until then, be sure to follow all the latest iPad Pro news, leaks and rumors here at TechRadar.

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Samsung Duo wireless charger accidentally leaked by Amazon

Rumors have been swirling ahead of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 launch about a wireless charging pad known as the Duo, and now Amazon has all but confirmed this unreleased product.

As the name should imply, the Samsung Wireless Charger Duo is capable of charging two devices simultaneously, whether that’s the upcoming Note 9 and Galaxy Watch, or a pair of older mobile devices like the wireless charging-capable Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S9.

In a press preview event attended by Gizmodo, Amazon put a device on display that looks identical to the current leaked image of the Duo, although it was labelled here as the Samsung Qi Pad (2018) and its associated QR code linked to Samsung’s standard single charging pad.

Samsung Wireless Charger Duo

From the rear, you can see the Duo's USB-C connection. [Image by Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo]

What appears to be the Samsung Duo has a single USB-C connection and twin indicator lights to show each device’s charging status. 

One half of the unit retains the same angular disc design of the original Samsung Qi Pad, which presumably was intended to be displayed here instead of the Duo.

Gizmodo found the device to have an input rating of 12V and 2.1A but, apart from that, there were few details on show. If you’re keen to check out more images, head over to Sam Rutherford’s article on Gizmodo.

We expect all will be revealed when the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is revealed on August 9, so stay tuned for all the juicy Galaxy news.

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Apple likely to include dual-SIM support in upcoming iPhones

The latest version of the iOS 12 developer beta (release 5) has allowed for some interesting discoveries that support existing rumors and raise some new ones.

While Android handsets are typically rather generous in offering a dedicated slot for a second SIM card, this feature has been notably absent from Apple’s handsets over the last ten years. 

However, rumors have been mounting for one of the upcoming iPhone models to support dual-SIM functionality, and these rumors have been strongly buffed by some lines of code that 9to5Mac has found in the iOS 12 developer beta 5. 

Dual-SIM iPhone

Evidence found in iOS 12 developer code supports dual-SIM iPhone. [Image courtesy of 9to5Mac]

The report has identified some lines of diagnostic text that specifically reference “secondSimStatus”, “secondSimTrayStatus”, and “isDualSimDevice” – all of which seem to suggest that dual SIM cards will be supported at the software level at the very least. And considering the mention of a “tray”, there’s also likely to be the hardware to match.

A second SIM card slot may not be useful to every user, but for those who like to switch between two different plans within their home country, or regularly travel abroad to regions with different networks, it’s an indispensable tool.

The second slot allows you to make the switch over to another plan via a menu option in settings rather than having to physically exchange SIM cards and risk losing the tiny sliver of plastic and copper.

The scenic route

Another fresh theory floating around the rumor-mill is specifically in regards to the reported iPhone XI Plus with its 6.5-inch OLED display, and it suggests that the mega-screened device may inherit one of the iPad’s neater features.

On the iPad, Apple apps such as Calendar, Mail, and Contacts offer a landscape view that makes much better use of the additional screen real estate. For instance, when using Mail, your inbox appears as a list on the left-hand side with a preview of each email on the right.

According to iHelpBR, the iPhone XI Plus will have a 6.5-inch display with a resolution of 1,242 x 2,688, and from their testing with the aforementioned iOS 12 developer beta 5, they noticed this iPad-style feature activated when running at this resolution and size. 

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YouTube dark mode begins rolling out to Android users

After YouTube introduced a dark mode to its desktop site last year and migrated the feature to iOS in March this year, it’s finally starting to arrive for Android users.

The alternative theme exchanges YouTube’s white backgrounds and menus for a deep grey, aiming to alleviate the eye strain associated with brighter light when viewing in a darker room or at nighttime.

As reported by 9to5google, some users have already begun seeing the change, with the dark theme applied by default when opening their YouTube app for the first time since updating, along with a pop-up offering the option to revert to the regular theme.

You can also enable or disable the mode in the 'General' section of the app’s settings by toggling the aptly-titled 'dark theme' option.

Although not yet available to all Android users, the feature has begun rolling out at random on a trial basis, and we expect it won't be long before it’s widely available.

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Apple won’t be using Qualcomm wireless chipsets in 2018 iPhones

In the latest turn on the rollercoaster of Apple-Qualcomm relations, the chipmaker's financial chief, George Davis, has confirmed that Apple will solely use its competitor’s modems on its upcoming handsets.

Davis made the statement to investors during an earnings call, and its implication is that Intel (Qualcomm’s primary competitor) would instead develop the wireless chipset responsible for cellular and other wireless communications in Apple’s 2018 handsets – the iPhone XI and iPhone 9.

The move away from this specific chipmaker isn’t really all that surprising given the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Qualcomm, but it should ideally mean that all the products in Apple's 2018 lineup will use the same provider, which was not the case in the past.

What does the future hold?

While Apple has used Intel wireless chips in the past alongside those manufactured by Qualcomm, there’s nothing to indicate that it will continue its allegiance with either one of the companies into the future.

In fact, there were reports earlier this month that the 5G chip initially rumored for inclusion in Apple’s 2020 line of iPhones would no longer be developed by Intel, but the company since responded claiming its “5G customer engagements and roadmap have not changed for 2018 through 2020. We remain committed to our 5G plans and projects.” 

If there’s anything to be taken from the back-and-forth between these wireless chipset manufacturers is that the world of smartphone modems is a fickle one.

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