Windows 11 is getting a new look according to a leak – but it might be exclusive to AI-powered PCs

It looks like Windows 11 could get a new official default wallpaper, according to leaked images that have emerged just before Microsoft Build 2024, the company’s annual conference for developers – where it’s expected that we’ll see some big debuts showing off the fruits of collaboration between Microsoft, Qualcomm, and other partners. 

Microsoft has been pretty tight-lipped about what it plans to show off, and hasn’t even officially announced the new wallpaper, although it’s already available for download in high resolution. 

This was uncovered by German tech blog WinFuture, whose sources leaked information about Samsung Galaxy Book4 Edge Pro laptops with ARM chips. The leak included multiple photographs of the laptop from a variety of angles, as well as the new wallpaper, which joins the series of Windows 11 signature Bloom wallpapers (Neowin has a collection of others you can view and download). Neowin speculates that the new AI-focused PCs will ship with the new background. 

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Accompanying the leak, X user @cadenzza_ shared a high-resolution version of the brand new Bloom wallpaper variation (apparently shared in a private Windows Insider Telegram group originally) that you can download by saving the image below or from @cadenzza_’s post, and set on your device.

The full image of the new Windows 11 colorful Bloom background wallpaper

(Image credit: Microsoft/X(Twitter) user @cadenzza_)

Microsoft's lips are sealed and it's got our attention

It’s interesting how closely Microsoft’s been guarding what it’s about to share, with this static wallpaper being one of the things that we can confirm at all. Neowin has proposed that Microsoft might be crafting new desktop background effects for Windows 11, perhaps making use of the next-generation devices’ AI capabilities, and creating effects simulating depth, and possibly making the background reactive to how you move your cursor. 

We’ll have to see if this is the case at some point in the next few days as Microsoft Build goes on. We expect the announcement of consumer versions of the Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 laptops with Qualcomm Snapdragon X processors, and whatever AI innovations Microsoft wants to bring to our attention. Another new hardware introduction we expect is a Copilot keyboard button, which has been discussed for a while now. Other Copilot-related news could have to do with OpenAI’s recent debut of GPT-4o, and possibly a souped-up Windows Copilot AI assistant.


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These are the Meta Quest alternatives we could get soon with Horizon OS, according to Mark Zuckerberg

Meta is making its Horizon OS – the operating system its Quest headsets run on – available to third-party XR devices (XR is a catchall for virtual, augmented, and mixed reality), and it might be the biggest VR announcement anyone makes this decade.

The first batch will include headsets from Asus, Lenovo, and Xbox, and while we have an idea what these gadgets might offer, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg may have just provided us with a few more details, or outlined other non-Quest hardware we might see running Horizon OS in the future.

To get you up to speed, the three devices that were teased in the Horizon OS-sharing announcement are a “performance gaming headset” from Asus, “mixed reality devices for productivity” from Lenovo, and a more Quest-like headset from Xbox.

And in Meta’s Q1 2024 earnings call, Zuckerberg discussed the recent announcement by explaining the sorts of diverse XR hardware we might see by providing some pretty specific examples.

One was a “work-focused headset” that’s “lighter” and “less designed for motion;” you plug it into a laptop to use it, and this could be something we see from laptop-manufacturer Lenovo’s device. Another Zuckerberg description was for a “gaming-focused headset” that prioritizes “peripherals and haptics,” which could be the Asus headset.

Then there was a device that would be packaged with “Xbox controllers and a Game Pass subscription out of the box” – with Zuckerberg specifically connecting it to the announced Xbox device.

More Horizon OS headsets incoming?

The Meta Quest 3 being used while someone boxes in a home gym

A fitness-focused VR headset could be coming (Image credit: Meta)

He also detailed two devices which haven’t yet been teased: “An entertainment-focused headset” designed with the “highest-resolution displays” at the expense of its other specs, and “a fitness-focused headset” that’s “lighter with sweat-wicking materials.”

It’s possible that these suggestions were simply Zuckerberg riffing on potential Horizon OS devices rather than gadgets that are currently in the works. But we wouldn’t be surprised to hear that these gadgets are on their way given how plausible they sound – with it being that the partners aren’t yet ready to reveal they're working on something.

There’s also the question of other already-announced XR devices like the Samsung XR headset and if they’ll run on Horizon OS. Given Samsung has partnered with Google on its upcoming headset – which we assume is for software support – we posit that won't be the case. But we’ll have to wait and see what’s announced when the device is revealed (hopefully later this year).

All we can say is that Meta’s approach already looks to be paving the way for more diverse hardware than we’ve previously seen before in VR, finally giving us some fantastic options that aren’t just the Meta Quest 3 or whatever comes next to replace it.

Speaking of which, Zuckerberg added in the investor call that he thinks that Meta’s “first-party Quest devices will continue to be the most popular headsets as we see today” and that the company plans to keep making its state-of-the-art VR tech accessible to everyone. So if you do want to wait for the next Quest – perhaps the rumored Meta Quest 3 Lite or Meta Quest Pro 2 – then know that it’s likely still on the way.

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Samsung’s XR headset could be launching soon according to a new report

We might not have heard much about it since it was announced in February 2023, but Samsung is apparently still working on the Samsung XR headset (XR being a catchall for VR, MR, and AR), and a new rumor suggests we’ll see it this year.

We know for certain that the Samsung headset is being made in partnership with Google – Samsung has said as much itself – and we know the device will use the Snapdragon XR2 Plus Gen 2 chipset according to a Qualcomm announcement, but that’s about it from official channels. Unofficial reports peg the headset as a cheaper Apple Vision Pro rival with high-end performance but a not-so-high-end price tag – with a rumor saying Samsung delayed the headset to help it stand up better against Apple’s device.

This not only means a solid performance but also high-end displays, with it believed the headset will boast dual OLED screens (one for each eye) likely similar to the 1.03-inch OLEDoS display (OLED on Silicon) – with a 3,500 pixel-per-inch pixel density – it showed off earlier this year. 

That said these screens were created by eMagin rather than the Samsung Display team, and Samsung only acquired this company fairly recently so there’s a chance these displays will be reserved for a later headset model (assuming we even see more than one).

Key Snapdragon XR2 Plus Gen 2 specs, including that it has support fo 4.3k displays, 8x better AI performance, and 2.5x better GPU performance

The Snapdragon XR2 Plus Gen 2 promises big thing for the Samsung headset (Image credit: Qualcomm)

But given the headset was apparently delayed to give the team more time to improve its screens, there’s a chance these impressive OLED panels could make their way into the headset. We hopefully won’t be waiting long to find out if they have. A new report (translated into English) from Korean Economic Daily (nicknamed Hankyung) suggests the Samsung XR headset will drop in the second half of the year.

We should always take rumors with a pinch of salt but this isn’t the first time we’ve heard the Samsung headset will launch in late 2024 – with it previously being suggested that the Samsung VR headset might arrive alongside the Galaxy Z Flip 6 which is also due to launch in the second half of 2024.

If it is coming this year, let's hope Samsung has had enough time to learn from its rivals' mistakes. Mark Zuckerberg might think the Meta Quest 3 is better than the Vision Pro but it has some issues of its own, and the Vision Pro isn’t perfect either according to all the people sending it back to Apple for a refund.

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These are the 10 best Android apps of the year – according to Google

2024 is about a month away, and to celebrate the end of the year, Google has named the winners of the Google Play’s Best of 2023 Awards.

For the sake of brevity, we're going to primarily focus on the best Androids apps as the company introduced a new categories for this year, such as Best with AI and Best Multi-device App. This caused the list to grow by a significant amount so we couldn’t include the likes of the best Chromebook or best tablet apps (If you’re curious to know, the winner of the best Chromebook app is FlipaClip, software that can help people create 2D animation, and the winner for best tablet app is Concepts, a vector-based drawing tool).

Google states the list on its blog is centered around the American winners. Other countries are said to have different winners. However, when we looked at other region, the entries matched the US list except for a single outlier which we’ll shout out later on.

Android Apps of the Year

1. Imprint: Learn Visually

Imprint: Learn Visually

(Image credit: Future)

Google has given the Best App of 2023 award to Imprint: Learn Visually, an education software that strives to teach you new skills and the world around you in bite-sized lessons. It offers a personalized experience where you can learn about topics that interest you from human history to psychology. And Imprint does this via eye-catching visual storytelling. 

2. Spotify


(Image credit: Future)

Spotify has earned the Best Multi-device App award for allowing music streaming across a variety of locations – be it in the kitchen, on the commute to hike, or out on the town. The company highlights the service’s ability to “remotely control playback on another device”. Plus, you can download your favorite songs for offline listening. What’s interesting, it's the only music streaming app on the whole list.

3. ChatGPT


(Image credit: Future)

At the beginning of November, Google allowed people to come in to vote for what they believed was the best app of the year. Winning the Users’ Choice Award is ChatGPT, which isn’t surprising in our opinion. ChatGPT took the world by storm in 2023 as one of the premiere generative AI platforms and whose technology fuels Microsoft’s Bing Chat. On top of that, 2024 is shaping up to be a big year for it.

4. Bumble For Friends: Meet IRL

Bumble For Friends

(Image credit: Future)

If you’re looking to make new friends or have recently moved to a different city, the company recommends installing Bumble For Friends (BFF for short) on your smartphone. It differs from the regular Bumble app as it doesn't focus on helping you find dates. Instead, BFF is all about helping you make genuine friendships, as the name suggests, with others in your local area

5. Voidpet Garden: Mental Health

Voidpet Garden

(Image credit: Future)

Voidpet Garden: Mental Health won the Best for Personal Growth award and it’s pretty unique. Its goal is to help you practice mindfulness and self care as a way to improve your mental health. It does this in a Pokemon-esque manner by having you collect Void Pets which are said to be creatures born from negative emotion. You raise these creatures by completing tasks in order to turn them into celestial-looking dragons with each representing a positive attribute about the user.

6. Artifact: Feed Your Curiosity

Artifact: Feed Your Curiosity

(Image credit: Future)

Artifact: Feed Your Curiosity is similar to Imprint: Learn Visually in that it’s an app that can teach users about the world, but it does so in a different way. The service functions like X’s (formerly known as Twitter) Explore page by offering a curated stream of news articles from across the internet. It covers a variety of topics like the tech industry, politics, and gaming. Users even have the option to mark certain stories as clickbait for better curation.

In the UK, the award went to ReciMe, a social platform where home cooks share their family recipes.

7. Aware: Mindfulness & Wellbeing

Aware: Mindful & Wellbeing

(Image credit: Future)

Aware is another mental health app like Voidpet Garden although it takes a more grounded approach towards mindfulness. It’s a type of journaling software housing “science-based exercises [alongside] live guided sessions”. You don’t have to create an account, plus it’s totally free. No subscription necessary.

It’s worth mentioning this has the least amount of downloads out of everything on this roundup although we do expect it to grow exponentially since it won the Best Hidden Gem award.

8. Character AI: AI-Powered Chat

Character AI

(Image credit: Future)

Despite winning the Users’ Choice award, ChatGPT was effectively snubbed by Google as it didn’t get the crown for Best AI. That honor went to Character AI, an app filled with personality-driven chat bots that you can talk to. For example, you can talk to Amelia Earhart, Julius Caesar, or Poseidon, God of the Ocean. People can even talk to Whiskers the Cat. 

As you can probably guess, it’s not meant to be taken seriously. It aims to be a fun interactive experience – almost like a video game.

9. PAW Patrol Academy

For families, Google has given the nod to PAW Patrol Academy, an app where young kids ages two to five can learn problem-solving skills, gain confidence, and get in touch with their creative side. It features characters from the popular animated series in a variety of interactive adventures as well as clips from certain episodes. What’s more is it doesn’t need to connect to Wi-Fi so kids can enjoy it on the go.

PAW Patrol Academy

(Image credit: Future)

10. AWorld in support of ActNow

AWorld in support of ActNow

(Image credit: Future)

Rounding out the list of Google’s best Android apps for 2023 is AWorld in support of ActNow. Its purpose is to teach people how to counteract climate change by calculating their carbon footprint and learn how they can change their lifestyle to reduce the impact they may have on the environment. The software will recommend basic activities like planting trees to lessen carbon emissions or use natural products among other things. AWorld will also encourage you to join group challenges by completing a set number of environmentally-friendly actions.

And that’s Google’s list of recommendations.If you want to know what’s at the top on iOS, check out TechRadar’s roundup of the 14 best iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch of the year – according to Apple.  

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The Apple Vision Pro has a comfort problem, according to early testers

Apple’s Vision Pro headset is making it into the hands of more testers following its announcement, but according to reports early reactions are underwhelming, with some users reporting that it's not comfortable to wear for long periods.

The eagerly anticipated VR device offers several innovative and performance improvements over the current best VR headsets, including unique hand-tracking controls and Apple's powerful M2 processor. Unfortunately, it looks like it could have the same flaw that's affected several models before it.

In our hands-on Apple’s Vision Pro review, our US Editor-in-Chief Lance Ulanoff described the headset as feeling “snug and comfortable” after he'd made the necessary adjustments, although he was only able to try the Vision Pro for a short time.

But in a report that also provided leaked details of 18 Apple products that are set to launch in the coming years, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman highlighted early testers' critiques of the Vision Pro VR headset, chiefly that it feels too heavy after they've worn it for a couple of hours.

Some of the testers, who at this stage are said to mostly be senior Apple engineers and executives, have also reported experiencing motion sickness, although to a lesser degree than when wearing other headsets. 

We've experienced comfort issues with the Meta Quest Pro (we tried wearing it every day for a week for work and it wasn't fun), and we hoped the Vision Pro could overcome this shortcoming, in part due to the external battery back reducing the weight of the headset itself. However, it appears that the external battery could be causing problems in the comfort department rather than solving things. 

Most VR headsets tend to be front-heavy, as all the components are housed in a box at the front that sits over your eyes. More recent designs like the Meta Quest Pro offer better weight distribution by moving the internal battery to the back of the headset’s strap, and while this solution isn’t perfect the Quest Pro does generally feel more comfortable to wear than the front-heavy Oculus Quest 2.

While we think the Apple headset’s external battery could overall be a smart choice, it’s not able to serve as a counterweight like the internal battery used by the Vision Pro’s rivals. Apple could have tried moving other components to the strap to serve the same purpose, but for this first iteration that’s not the case.

Another problem is the apparently lack of an overhead strap, which serves as another weight-balancing tool. A few brief shots in Apple’s Vision Pro introduction video show someone using the Vision Pro with such a strap, but Apple hasn’t gone into much detail about it – and according to Gurman, Apple might sell you the strap as an add-on accessory rather than include one in the box.

Considering that the headset already costs $ 3,500 (about £2,750 / AU$ 3,240 – Apple hasn't yet revealed pricing outside the US), and that this strap appears to basically be a fairly thin elastic band that would alleviate a potential issue with the gadget, we hope Apple wouldn’t try to sting its customers for the extra. It wouldn’t be the first time, however – let’s just hope this strap isn’t as ridiculously priced as the $ 700 / £700 / AU$ 1,049 Mac Pro wheels.

We’ll have to wait and see how Apple chooses to address potential comfort issues with the Vision Pro, but it might be a problem that won’t get fixed for a generation or two, perhaps in the two follow-up Apple headsets that are reportedly on the way.

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Why today’s Wordle answer is so hard, according to the experts

Another day, another irksome Wordle conundrum. Like puzzle #265 before it, today’s Wordle is proving a particularly tricky beast for players around the world to reckon with – but not for the same reasons as its predecessor. 

Once again, TechRadar spoke to Dr Matthew Voice, an Assistant Professor in Applied Linguistics at the UK’s University of Warwick, to find out the granular details behind puzzle #270. We also heard from Shaun Savage, Editor in Chief at Try Hard Games Guides, for more on today’s troublesome term.

Naturally, we’ll be divulging the solution to today’s puzzle below, so turn back now if you’re committed to weathering the latest Wordle alone. 

So, ladies and gents, today’s Wordle answer is CATER. Granted, that’s decidedly more obscure than WATCH (puzzle #265), but it’s not exactly a term that demands you dig out a dictionary. 

Dr Voice explained to us last week that WATCH was a prime example of an n-gram, i.e. a group of letters of a length (n) that commonly cluster together. Again, CATER is an n-gram with a length of four letters – a quadrigram – which presents similar problems, on top of some extra word-specific difficulty. 

It's all in the morphology

“Looking back at Project Gutenberg's list of common n-grams,” Dr Voice tells us, “you can really see why getting some of today's letters in place isn't necessarily narrowing down the possibilities. ER is the fourth most common combination of any two letters in the whole of the English language, it seems, and TER the twelfth most common combination of three.”

“That said,” he adds, “I also think it's interesting to think about why 'cater' might not seem like an immediately obvious option to everyone who's got the point of finding _ATER. The answer to this might be to do with our expectations about morphology – the way we combine together different parts of language to make new words.”

Morphology. Right, we’re following. 

“ER is a very common bigram partly because '-er' is a highly productive suffix in English. It can be added to the end of most verbs in order to make a new noun, usually to describe someone or something doing the original verb. So 'report' becomes 'reporter' and 'play' becomes 'player', for example.”

“So we might associate an '-er' ending with nouns in particular. The data for the eleven options to fill the last slot in _ATER bears this out, too: nine of them are nouns, with one adjective ('later') and our solution, 'cater', being the only verb in the group. Players caught thinking of 'verb + -er' words might have overlooked this exception.”

So there you have it, Wordle-ers. CATER is tricking you with its sneaky bigram, which is subsequently encouraging the mind to think of 'verb + -er’ words (which, of course, does not account for the existence of ‘cater’). 

This is what we learned from Shaun Savage, Editor in Chief at Try Hard Games Guides, on the matter of puzzle #270’s internet infamy: “While we definitely see more traffic on days where people need help figuring out what possible words the answer could be – with _ATER, people have a few words that likely came to mind! – we have seen the answer post trend higher in these instances, same with 'watch' and 'dodge'.”

“This past week's words haven't been too offbeat,” Savage adds. “We have seen steady traffic, but no mega surges like we have for a few words (‘vivid’ comes to mind) that are harder to figure out. The situation with _ATER, though, is that there are lots of possibilities, and all of them fit without specifically trying to eliminate more consonants.”

Well then, that's two tricky terms in the space of five days. Come on, Wordle, give us and our broken streaks a break…

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Why your usual Wordle strategy isn’t working today, according to a linguistics professor

If you’ve found today’s Wordle answer more difficult than most, you’re not alone. Puzzle #256 has proven so tough, in fact, that we’ve been live-blogging the internet’s reactions to the latest headache-inducing five-letter term. 

But why is today's answer proving trickier than others? TechRadar spoke to Dr Matthew Voice, an Assistant Professor in Applied Linguistics at the UK’s University of Warwick, to find out the science behind the struggle. 

Naturally, we’ll be divulging the solution to today’s puzzle below, so turn back now if you’re committed to weathering the latest Wordle alone. 

Ok, here goes. Today’s Wordle answer is WATCH. Yep, little old WATCH – by all accounts, a fairly simple, universally-accepted noun and verb. Don’t worry, we’re kicking ourselves too. But Professor Voice explains that there is some genuine reasoning behind why you (and we) may not have been so quick on the draw this week.

“[In your live blog] you've already talked about _ATCH as a kind of trap. This is an example of an n-gram, i.e. a group of letters of a length (n) that commonly cluster together. So this is an n-gram with a length of four letters: a quadrigram,” Professor Voice tells us. 

“Using [this] Project Gutenberg data, it's interesting to note that _ATCH isn't listed as one of the most common quadrigrams in English overall, but the [same] data considers words of all lengths, rather than just the five letters Wordle is limited to. I don't know of any corpus exclusively composed of common 5 letter words, but it might be the case that _ATCH happens to be particularly productive for that length.”

Understand your quadrigrams

“The other thing to mention,” Professor Voice adds, “would be that the quadrigram _ATCH is made up of smaller n-grams, like the bigram AT, which is extremely common in English. So we're seeing a lot of common building blocks in one word, which means that sorting individual letters might not be narrowing down people's guesses as much as it would with other words.”

So there you have it. WATCH may in fact be too simple a word, after all – so much so that your usual method of deduction doesn’t account for the myriad possible solutions. 

Here's hoping tomorrow's answer is a little more… difficult?

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