It’s been another busy week in tech news, but this time, there’s been far more villains for us at Trusted Reviews to pour scorn on than heroes to deify.
On the plus side, it’s been a great week for products. There’s a new Raspberry Pi mini computer out, the Raspberry Pi 4, a new Panasonic 4K Blu-ray player, the Panasonic DP-UB820, and the Acoustic Energy AE1 Active speakers, all of which have scored full marks in testing.
Elsewhere, the Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 7000 2-in-1 didn’t quite get a top score, but it’s one of the best Chromebooks we’ve ever tested, and is worth checking out if you’re on the hunt for a cheap(ish) laptop just for doing the basics.
In terms of news? There’s been precious little positivity on that front.
So as to not start off your weekend on a bad note, we’ll lead with the one standout good story from the week, and leave all of the bad vibes below the fold. If you don’t want us to rain on your parade, you could stop reading there. We’d rather you didn’t, for obvious reasons, but also because the stinkers lining up in the rouge’s gallery this week are particularly whiffy, and therefore worthy of your attention.
Enough waffle, on with the good news…
Winner: Vodafone tries to convert data-hungry 5G fans with no-premium promise
Excited about picking up a 5G phone? You should be.
You might be less excited about the prospect of having to fork out more for the privilege of accessing 5G networks – especially when you consider that, at the time of writing, 5G is only available in a handful of places.
Vodafone, however, is not having any of that nonsense. While it’s been beaten to the punch by the launch of EE 5G services, which went live back in May, and 5G will, for the short term, be something of a postcode lottery, Vodafone’s making a promise that you won’t have to pay more for access.
“We don’t charge a premium for 5G. No catches. This is a vital point of difference between us and our competitors,” said Max Taylor, Vodafone’s consumer director, at a press event in London today.
“To charge a premium makes a customer have to judge how often they’re going to be in a 5G area − a barrier that is not needed. One of the benefits of 5G is that it helps to provide more reliable service in congested areas. So why charge a customer a premium for a service they should already expect?”
While contract prices will still vary between networks – and you can still expect to have to pay through the nose for the likes of the iPhone 11 – so far, Vodafone is looking like the better option, money-wise.
OK, so I’m basing this on the fact that both networks are selling the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, one of the first wave of 5G phones, and on the whole, the Vodafone prices look better.
For example, you can get a 256GB Samsung Galaxy S10 5G on an EE 5G plan now for £200 up front and £69 a month for 24 months. This gets you unlimited calls and texts and 30GB of data to play with.
Vodafone, by contrast, offers the same phone for just £49 up front for £70 a month over 24 months, on a plan which gives you 60GB of data, unlimited minutes and messages.
The nearest EE 4G equivalent compares a little better, wallet-wise – £10 up front cost, £74 a month, 24 months, 30GB of data – and that’s a deal you might go for if 5G isn’t due to roll out to your postcode for a while yet. But even then, you’re getting less data and over time, it’s £36 more expensive than the Voda deal.
It’s early days yet, and with both networks only selling one phone on 5G plans, it’s hard to compare like for like and declare who is the best value overall – we’re not even able to take speed test data into account yet either – but Vodafone’s initial move is a bold one.
Less clear is why Vodafone chose rugby stars Juan de Jongh and Will Rowlands to demonstrate the power of 5G, though…
Losers: the ISPA has a D’oh moment when it brands Mozilla a villain for offering DNS over HTTPS, games reseller G2A branded ‘worse than piracy’ by devs, and Samsung has not had a good week…
The Internet Service Provider’s Association (ISPA) is a trade organisation representing the UK’s main ISPs. Like many trade bodies, it holds an annual knees up, which sees gongs handed out to heroes and villains alike.
The latter awards are usually good natured, often with personal privacy and freedom of expression violations taken into account – previous recipients and nominees have included GHCQ and the NSA for monitoring the online activities of citizens in the UK and the United States, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for blocking Wikipedia in Turkey.
It’s surprising then, to see Firefox makers Mozilla shortlisted for a villain trophy for the 2019 ISPA Awards.
The reason? Mozilla’s “proposed approach to introduce DNS-over-HTTPS in such a way as to bypass UK filtering obligations and parental controls, undermining #internet safety standards in the UK.”
Some context: the UK’s biggest ISPs were all encouraged to adopt network-level content filtering at the behest of then-PM David Cameron, back in 2010, with a view to blocking access to specific content (mostly pornographic content) by default. Despite not being legally required to do so, BT, Virgin Media, Sky and TalkTalk began applying network-level filters in late 2013 (NB, this is not the same as the one surrounding the forever-delayed age verification plans).
Content filters have generally been unpopular with users who presumably, don’t like being told how to raise their children by the government, preferring to install and use their own content filtering software – or don’t have any kids that need protecting in the first place.
Some more context: DNS-over-HTTPS (or DoH) is a way in which Internet users can encrypt DNS queries – the process by which a URL like www.trustedreviews.com is translated into a machine-readable IP address. If this process isn’t encrypted, it’s possible for others to keep a record of the sites you visit.
Digital security and privacy consultant Alex Haydock explains:
“Encrypted DNS generally involves one of two similar standards: DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH), or DNS-over-TLS (DoT). For whatever reason, most political discussion seems to only make reference to DoH, even though DoT is the older and more mature of the two standards (and has already been available in Android since 2018).
“At a simple level, both standards work to encrypt Domain Name System (DNS) queries issued by a user or a user’s device so that they cannot be read or modified in transit between the user’s hardware and the DNS server which responds to the query…
“Traditional DNS services do not offer encryption which means that, for the majority of internet users, records about the websites they visit are available to anyone with the ability to eavesdrop on their connection. Attackers could also choose to maliciously modify the replies provided by a user’s DNS server to send a user’s traffic to a malicious destination.”
You can encrypt or obscure DNS requests with the right VPN, but Mozilla, which currently supports DoH, is looking to make it a default feature for all Firefox users.
Why the ISPA has decided to brand Mozilla a villain for this remains a mystery – seeing as DoH can be set up to work in tandem with any ISP or user-specified blacklist.
After being mocked relentlessly on Twitter, the ISPA issued a follow-up statement on Friday which did little to clarify things:
“The debate on DNS over HTTPS is evidently a topic that polarises opinion. However, our position is clear. ISPA believes that bringing in DNS over HTTPS (DoH) by default would be harmful for online safety, cyber security, and consumer choice.
“We are working with stakeholders and want to engage with browser and app companies to make DoH fit for purpose in the UK. Our nomination is a light-hearted way of encouraging further debate about how DoH is implemented in the UK.”
We’re not sure that Mozilla quite agrees about the light-hearted bit – or the points about security and safety.
On the subject of Twitter roastings, games reseller G2A has borne the brunt of developer Mike Rose, founder of publisher No More Robots, this week.
Content warning – some rather rough language follows:
Following Rose’s call to hard-up/stingy players to steal their games rather than buy them from G2A, developer Ragesquid and Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail chimed in saying the same thing.
G2A then issued a statement, declaring that it would “pay developers 10 times the money they lost on chargebacks after their illegally obtained keys were sold on G2A”, provided that devs could prove that such a thing happened.
Rose isn’t buying G2A’s offer. In a separate Twitter thread, Rose explains how one person was able to sell 102 Steam keys of Descenders on G2A, at a time when the game was only available via Steam.
“100 keys appearing from a single person? 3 people selling 85% of keys for a game on G2A? Come on now, haha. These are clearly flaggable, yet G2A did nothing.”
At the time of writing, this story was still unfolding, and Rose had threatened to post email exchanges between No More Robots and G2A.
While G2A has yet to respond to a request for comment from Trusted Reviews, developers have made it pretty clear that they’d rather you steered clear of the reseller.
Finally, we’ll end this round-up by pointing out that it’s been a pretty hard week for Samsung.
First came news that the ongoing trade beef between the U.S. and China is starting to have a collateral effect – Samsung’s not been able to flog its DRAM and NAND memory to Huawei, thanks to trade restrictions. So while Samsung might be able to shift more of its own phone and laptop units, it’s not able to do business with one of its biggest customers.
After that came news that Australia’s ad watchdog the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) was administering a kick up the bum over an advert which implied that the Samsung Galaxy S10 could be used underwater. Spoiler: it can’t.
Then came an admission from Samsung itself that profits for the second quarter of its financial year were expected to be less than half of what they were a year ago.
On top of that, a rumour that Samsung won’t be picked to supply displays for the iPhone 11 is doing the rounds – add a big heap of salt to that one, as it’s unverified speculation, but if true, could be more bad news for the Korean tech giant.
There are some silver linings for Samsung, however. Nvidia has chosen Samsung’s 7nm node as the basis for its next series of GPUs which will follow on from the current 20 Series, which includes the RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti, which follow a 12nm manufacturing process. Short version: smaller components = much better overall graphics card performance.
A trailer for the Galaxy Note 10, which is due to be announced on August 7, may also contain some rather exciting clues, as to the phone’s features, and, the rumoured Galaxy Tab A8, if true, could prove to be a real money spinner – Amazon has proven that there’s a demand for inexpensive tablets with its Fire HD line, so it could be that the Q3 balance sheet looks a little more healthy.
And with that, we’re done for this week’s Winners & Losers. Get in touch if you’ve any comments, suggestions of tips – we’ll be at the pub, so we might not get back to you right away…