Microsoft has overhauled the Windows 11 Photos app with some cool new features – but they come at a cost

Microsoft recently pushed out an update for the Photos app in Windows 11, one that brings some major changes under the hood, and it could also produce a noticeable change in terms of how the app runs on your PC.

The crux of the matter is that the Photos app has been migrated from Microsoft's UWP (Universal Windows Platform) to Windows App SDK, meaning that the app has been redeveloped using a different framework making it better suited for newer versions of Windows

The revamped version of Photos is currently available to testers in the Windows Insider Program, and, as Windows Latest reports, it has already begun rolling out to individual customers running the finished version of Windows 11, too. 

The new Photos app shifting to Windows App SDK allows for the incorporation of WebView2, and this web tech allows for various improvements to the software. Microsoft notes that these benefits include better image rendering quality for starters, and AI-related boosts.

There are many other tangible improvements ushered in with the new Photos app, such as it being able to run at a medium integrity level by default, the security status assigned to most activities and processes on a Windows PC. Furthermore, you can save a newly edited photo in the same location as the original photo without having to choose a file destination manually.

Another useful change is the previous multiple processes the Photos app consisted of being combined into a single process clearly labeled as ‘Photos,’ making it easier to hunt out and force-close the Photos app in Task Manager

However, there’s apparently a downside here, namely that as Windows Latest claims, the big switchover to a new way of working for the Photos app means it takes longer to load than before. 

The new Photos app in Windows 11

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Balancing new features with longer load times

Seemingly we’re looking at a trade-off between better quality-of-life and new features, versus a longer loading time. Windows Latest observes that this is a characteristic of many Windows App SDK apps, and that you may be staring at a ‘Getting things ready’ loading splash screen for some time while Photos fires itself up (perhaps for 20 seconds or so).

Additionally, the new Photos app could use more of your PC’s resources, especially when using the new web-based functions of the client. For example, when you’re editing a pic, the Photos app is rendering web-based image editing (WebView2) within the app’s native interface.

If you’re not interested in having this newer version of the Photos app, and the new AI features recently added to the software, you can download the Legacy Photos app from the Microsoft Store, and stick with that (for now anyway). 

So, if you’re fine with these changes, your Windows 11 PC should automatically install the updated Photos app in the coming weeks, but if you find that you’re not happy with the app’s performance, you can switch back to the legacy version of Photos instead.

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I love my MacBook, but these are the macOS 15 rumors I want to come true at WWDC

macOS Sonoma was announced at last year's WWDC event and turned out to be my favorite macOS update – and I expect to see another new version of Apple’s desktop operating system, namely macOS 15, at WWDC 2024. 

Apple’s biggest competitor, Microsoft, has jumped head first into the AI race and implemented a plethora of AI-powered features and somewhat helpful tools like Copilot, alongside sprinkling in features throughout the operating system. Even Chromebook Plus laptops are reaping the benefits of Google Gemini. It’s about time Apple finally stepped into the AI race and showcased what it's got.

You may know by now that the company is rarely the ‘first’ at something – Apple will play the long game and watch before deciding to take on-board a new feature, in an attempt to produce the most perfect version of it. While we knew Apple wouldn’t be rushing to slap some AI into its Macs, we’re pretty certain we will see a fair amount of AI at this year's WWDC. 

So, with that in mind, let’s look at the top prospects for feature additions to macOS 15 that we might just catch at WWDC 2024.

 Finally a change to the System Settings  

Perhaps the most exciting potential move will be a refresh of the menus and apps in macOS 15, with the System Settings rumored to see the biggest change. If you’ve been a long-time Apple user (or use multiple Apple products) you’re probably very familiar with the Settings menu layout, so perhaps a fresh coat of paint will add to the feeling of novelty that comes with an operating system update.

According to Apple Insider, respective settings will be sorted by priority and importance. So, for example, notifications and sound settings will be lower down the list, whereas general settings will be higher (right underneath network settings). A source seemingly involved with these changes told Apple Insider that wallpaper and display settings will also be shifted and no longer have their own section but will be merged in with other options.

To add my own speculation, I believe there could be a dedicated section in the Settings menu for AI-related feature management in time. I don’t think we’ll see something like this right from the OS's launch, but I do think Apple will be laying the groundwork with macOS 15 to introduce a Copilot-esque assistant, hopefully by giving Siri a massive boost. Speaking of which…

 A smarter Siri and more AI 

After plenty of hoping, I’m pretty certain we’re going to see a complete transformation with Siri. While Apple’s assistant may not be at the level of ChatGPT’s voice capabilities, I do expect Siri to have a bit more of an active role besides setting timers. 

That said, we’re likely to see a more beefed-up version of Siri on iOS before macOS, but we can use those iOS rumors to possibly glean what might eventually make its way onto our Macs. According to the most recent iOS 18 rumors, Siri will have deeper app integration, allowing the virtual assistant to control what your phone apps can do, move files around, email documents, and more.

We can guess that Apple may transfer those skills over to the Mac once they’ve landed on the iPhone. I don’t think we’ll see all the features transferred over, but it would be interesting to see what Siri could do on a powerful M3 MacBook with a new macOS!

Tom’s Guide notes that at a shareholder event, Tim Cook claimed Apple will “break new ground in generative AI” this year, which has me buzzing about the upcoming WWDC event. Though it seems like iOS 18 has a lot more potential features on the way (or at the very least, more information is swirling around than macOS), we’re certain the generative AI love will be passed onto Macs. 

These AI features will undoubtedly take advantage of the powerful M-series chips, which should be good news for AI enthusiasts who’ve been waiting for Apple to jump into the race. We already know the M3 Max and M3 Pro chips are very powerful processors, so it’ll be exciting to see what these features will look like with access to all that raw processing power. 

Overall, as a fan of Sonoma and all its new features, I am really excited about a new version of macOS. We still know very little about macOS 15, as macOS updates seem to be cards played closer to Apple’s chest compared to iOS. So, while I can only sit here and hope to see a better Settings layout and an improved Siri, I’ll have to wait and see until WWDC itself to find out what Apple’s got planned. 

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Microsoft makes big promises with new ‘AI PCs’ that will come with AI Explorer feature for Windows 11

Microsoft has told us that it’s working on embedding artificial intelligence (AI) across a range of products, and it looks like it meant it, with the latest reports suggesting a more fleshed-out ‘AI Explorer’ feature for Windows 11.

Windows Central writes that AI Explorer will be the major new feature of an upcoming Windows 11 update, with Microsoft rumored to be working on a new AI assistance experience that’s described as an ‘advanced Copilot’ that will offer an embedded history and timeline feature. 

Apparently, this will transform the activities you do on your PC into searchable moments. It’s said that this AI Explorer will be able to be used in any app, enabling users to search conversations, documents, web pages, and images using natural language.

That promises a lot, implying you’ll be able to make requests like the following that Windows Central gives:

“Find me that list of restaurants Jenna said she liked.”

“Find me that thing about dinosaurs.”

The advanced Copilot should then present everything it deems relevant – including every related word, phrase, image, and topic it can pull. It’s not clear if this means bringing up results from users' data stored locally on their PC or the internet (or a combination, as we see in Windows 11's Search box). I personally would prefer it if AI Explorer kept to just searching local files stored on a device's hard drive for privacy reasons, or at least give us the option to exclude internet results. 

The feature could also offer up suggestions for things you can do based on what you currently have on your screen. For instance, if you’re viewing a photo, you might see suggestions to remove the background in the Photos app. 

The new Photos app in Windows 11

(Image credit: Microsoft)

When we except more information

Rumors suggest that on March 21 there will be an announcement for the Surface Laptop 6 and Surface Pro 10, which are being hailed as Microsoft’s first real “AI PCs,” and will offer a range of features and upgrades powered by Microsoft’s next-gen AI tools. Sources say that these will go head-to-head with rivals like the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro in terms of efficiency and performance.

According to Neowin, we can look forward to the official launch of these PCs in April and June, but the AI features aren’t expected to be included right away. They’re forecasted to be added in the second half of the year, so the first of these shipped PCs will be pretty much like presently existing PCs running Windows 11 with some flashy hardware upgrades. It also seems like AI Explorer is specifically intended for these new machines, even if not right away, and existing device users won’t be able to use it. 

It sounds like we’ll have to continue to watch for more information from Microsoft, especially as it’s not clear what exactly to expect on March 21, but it’s a lot of hype and excitement that I hope it can fulfill. Copilot’s present form is generally thought to be underwhelming and somewhat disappointing, so Microsoft has a lot to deliver if it wants to impress users and show them that it’s leading the pack with generative AI.

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The Meta Quest 3’s popularity is proof a cheap Vision Pro can’t come soon enough

The Oculus Quest 2 has been the most popular VR headset in the world for the past couple of years – dominating sales and usage charts with its blend of solid performance, amazing software library and, most importantly, affordability. 

Now its successor – the Meta Quest 3 – is following in its footsteps. 

Just four months after launch it’s the third most popular headset used on Steam (and will likely be the second most popular in the next Steam Hardware Survey). What’s more, while we estimate the Quest 3’s not selling quite as well as the Quest 2 was at the four-month mark, it still looks to be a hit (plus, lower sales figures are expected considering it’s almost double the launch price of the Quest 2).

Despite its higher cost, $ 499.99 / £479.99 / AU$ 799.99 is still relatively affordable in the VR space, and its early success continues the ongoing trend in VR that accessibility is the make or break factor in a VR gadget’s popularity.  

Oculus Quest 2 floating next to its handsets

The cheap Oculus Quest 2 made VR mainstream (Image credit: Facebook)

There’s something to be said for high-end hardware such as the Apple Vision Pro bringing the wow factor back to VR (how can you not be impressed by its crisp OLED displays and inventive eye-and-hand-tracking system), but I’ll admit I was worried that its launch – and announcement of other high-end, and high-priced, headsets – would see VR return to its early, less affordable days.

Now I’m more confident than ever that we’ll see Apple’s rumored cheaper Vision Pro follow-up and other budget-friendly hardware sooner rather than later.

Rising up the charts 

According to the Steam Hardware Survey, which tracks the popularity of hardware for participating Steam users, 14.05% of all Steam VR players used a Quest 3 last month. That’s a 4.78% rise in its popularity over the previous month’s results and means it’s within spitting distance of the number two spot, which is currently held by the Valve Index – 15% of users prefer it over other VR headsets, even three-and-a-half years after its launch.

It has a ways to go before it reaches the top spot, however, with the Oculus Quest 2 preferred by 40.64% of Steam VR players. The Quest 3’s predecessor has held this top spot for a couple of years now, and it’s unlikely to lose to the Quest 3 or another headset for a while. Even though the Quest 3 is doing well for itself, it’s not selling quite as fast as the Quest 2.

(Image credit: Future)

Using Steam Hardware Survey data for January 2024 (four months after its launch) and data from January 2021 (four months after the Quest 2’s launch) – as well as average Steam player counts for these months based on SteamDB data – it appears that the Quest 3 has sold about 87% as many units as the Quest 2 did at the same point in its life.

Considering the Quest 3 is priced at $ 499.99 / £479.99 / AU$ 799.99, a fair bit more than the $ 299 / £299 / AU$ 479 the Quest 2 cost at launch, to even come close to matching the sales speed of its predecessor is impressive. And the Quest 2 did sell very well out of the gate.

We don’t have exact Quest 2 sales data from its early days – Meta only highlights when the device passes certain major milestones – but we do know that after five months, its total sales were higher than the total sales of all other Oculus VR headsets combined, some of which had been out for over five years. Meta’s gone on to sell roughly 20 million Quest 2s, according to a March 2023 leak. That's about as fast as the Xbox Series X is believed to have sold, which launched around the same time.

This 87% of Quest 2 sales figure can be taken with a pinch of salt – you can find out how I got to this number at the bottom of this piece; it required pulling data from a few sources and making some reasonable assumptions – but that number and the Quest 2 and 3’s popularity on Steam shows that affordability is still the most powerful driving force in the VR space. So, I hope other headset makers are paying attention.

Lance Ulanoff wearing Apple Vision Pro

The Apple Vision had me a little concerned (Image credit: Future)

A scary expensive VR future

The Apple Vision Pro is far from unpopular. Reports suggest that between 160,000 and 200,000 preorders were placed on the headset ahead of its release on February 2, 2024 (some of those orders have been put on eBay with ridiculously high markups and others have been returned by some disappointed Vision Pro customers).

The early popularity makes sense. Whatever Mark Zuckerberg says about the superiority of the Quest 3, the Apple Vision Pro is the best of the best VR headsets from a technical perspective. There’s some debate on the comfort and immersive software side of things, but eye-tracking, ridiculously crisp OLED displays, and a beautiful design do make up for that.

Unfortunately, thanks to these high-end specs and some ridiculous design choices – like the outer OLED display for EyeSight (which lets an onlooker see the wearer’s eyes while they're wearing the device) – the headset is pretty pricey coming in at $ 3,499 for the 256GB model (it’s not yet available outside the US).

Seeing this, and the instant renewed attention Apple has drawn to the VR space – with high-end rivals like the Samsung XR headset now on the way – I’ll admit I was a little concerned we might see a return to VR’s early, less accessible days. In those days, you’d spend around $ 1,000 / £1,000 / AU$ 1,500 on a headset and the same again (or more) on a VR-ready PC.

Valve Index being worn by a person

The Valve Index is impressive, but it’s damn expensive (Image credit: Future)

Apple has a way of driving the tech conversation and development in the direction it chooses. Be it turning more niche tech into a mainstream affair like it did for smartwatches with the Apple Watch or renaming well-established terms by sheer force of will (VR computing and 3D video are now exclusively called spatial computing and spatial video after Apple started using those phrases).

While, yes, there’s something to be said for the wow factor of top-of-the-line tech, I hoped we wouldn’t be swamped with the stuff while more budget-friendly options get forgotten about because this is the way Apple has moved the industry with its Vision Pro.

The numbers in the Steam Hardware Survey have assuaged those fears. It shows that meaningful budget hardware – like the Quest 2 and 3, which, despite being newer, have less impressive displays and specs than many older, pricier models – is still too popular to be going anywhere anytime soon.

If anything, I’m more confident than ever that Apple, Samsung, and the like need to get their own affordable VR headsets out the door soon. Especially the non-Apple companies that can’t rely on a legion of rabid fans ready to eat up everything they release. 

If they don’t launch budget-friendly – but still worthwhile – VR headsets, then Meta could once again be left as the only real contender in this sector of VR. Sure, I like the Meta headsets I’ve used, but nothing helps spur on better tech and/or prices than proper competition. And this is something Meta is proving it doesn’t really have right now.

Girl wearing Meta Quest 3 headset interacting with a jungle playset

(Image credit: Meta)

Where did my data come from?

It’s important to know where data has come from and what assumptions have been made by people handling that data, but, equally, not everyone finds this interesting, and it can get quite long and distracting. So, I’ve put this section at the bottom for those interested in seeing my work on the 87% sales figure comparison between the Oculus Quest 2 and Meta Quest 3 four months after their respective launches.

As I mentioned above, most of the data for this piece has been gathered from the Steam Hardware Survey. I had to rely on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to see some historical Steam Hardware Survey data because the results page only shows the most recent month’s figures.

When looking at the relative popularity of headsets in any given month, I could just read off the figures in the survey results. However, to compare the Quest 2 and Quest 3’s four-month sales to each other, I had to use player counts from SteamDB and make a few assumptions.

The first assumption is that the Steam Hardware Survey’s data is consistent for all users. Because Steam users have to opt-in to the survey, when it says that 2.24% of Steam users used a VR headset in January 2024, what it really means is that 2.24% of Steam Hardware Survey participants used a VR headset that month. There’s no reason to believe the survey’s sample isn’t representative of the whole of Steam’s user base, and this is an assumption that’s generally taken for granted when looking at Hardware Survey data. But if I’m going to break down where my numbers come from, I might as well do it thoroughly.

Secondly, I had to assume that Steam users only used one VR headset each month and that they didn’t share their headsets with other Steam users. These assumptions allow me to say that if the Meta Quest 3 was used for 14.05% of Steam VR sessions, then 14.05% of Steam users with a VR headset (which is 2.24% of Steam’s total users) owned a Quest 3 in January 2024. Not making these assumptions leads to an undercount and overcount, respectively, so they kinda cancel each other out. Also, without this assumption, I couldn’t continue beyond this step as I’d lack the data I need.

The Oculus Quest 2 headset sat on top of its box and next to its controllers

Who needs more than one VR headset anyway? (Image credit: Shutterstock / agencies)

Valve doesn’t publish Steam’s total user numbers, and the last time it published monthly active user data was in 2021 – and that was an average for the whole year rather than for each month. It also doesn’t say how many people take part in the Hardware Survey. All it does publish is how many people are using Steam right now. This information is gathered by SteamDB so that I and other people can see Steam’s Daily Active User (DAU) average for January 2021 and January 2024 (as well as other months, but I only care about these two).

My penultimate assumption was that the proportion of DAUs compared to the total number of Steam users in January 2021 is the same as the proportion of DAUs compared to the total number of Steam users in January 2024. The exact proportion of DAUs to the total doesn’t matter (it could be 1% or 100%). By assuming it stays consistent between these two months, I can take the DAU figures I have – 25,295,361 in January 2024 and 24,674,583 in January 2021 – multiply them by the percentage of Steam users with a Quest 3 and Quest 2 during these months, respectively – 0.31% and 0.37% – then finally compare the numbers to one another.

The result is that the number of Steam users with a Quest 3 in January 2024 is 87.05% of the number of Steam users with a Quest 2 in January 2021.

My final assumption was that Quest headset owners haven’t become more or less likely to connect their devices to a PC to play Steam VR. So if it's 87% as popular on Steam four months after their respective launches, the Quest 3 has sold 87% as well as the Quest 2 did after their first four months on sale.

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Windows 10’s next update might come with a predictable but annoying extra – yet more badgering to upgrade to Windows 11

Some Windows 10 users are apparently being treated (ahem) to a multi-panel pop-up that takes over the whole screen, and consists of three pages of persuading those with eligible PCs to get the upgrade to Windows 11.

This kind of effectively long-winded nag – three full screens of selling the upgrade to Windows 11 – has been seen before, but it’s now appearing again as shown by Windows Latest.

The tech site observed that they stumbled on this sprawling pop-up after installing the optional update (in preview) for January 2024.

The first screen informs the user about the available free upgrade to Windows 11, and suggests allowing it to download in the background (while still using the PC).

As we’ve seen before, there are sneaky tactics with the buttons too – both available options in the center of the screen are saying ‘yes’ to the upgrade (the choice is either get it right now or schedule the upgrade for later). If you want to ‘Keep Windows 10’ that selection is sort of tucked away towards the bottom of the screen.

Clicking to keep the current OS, mind, means you still have to navigate through another two pages, the first of which tells you that the best choice is to switch to Windows 11, and the second of which makes you confirm that you want to stay on Windows 10.

We should note that Windows Latest calls this a four-page pop-up, but that’s not strictly true. There is a fourth panel, but you’ll only see that if you click the ‘See what’s inside’ button to learn more about Windows 11 (which most upgrade avoiders won’t, of course).


Analysis: Stop it already – or at least go more succinct

And that’s the point for the aforementioned upgrade avoiders, really – we all know what Windows 11 is by now, and we know if our PC is eligible for a free upgrade. Mainly because Microsoft has repeatedly told us so with overly lengthy ads for Windows 11 like this one. In fact, we’ve had something like 10 counts of badgering to upgrade our Windows 10 PC (at least), with the last three (or maybe even four) being this multi-panel effort that takes some clicking through.

So, why is Microsoft still doing this, given that this is definitely not new info at this stage of the game? Okay, so we get that Windows 11 is struggling to attract users, so there’s that obvious problem to rectify. But if you’re going to do this sort of thing, Microsoft, we suggest at least coming up with a new, more succinct nag screen to point out the upgrade (if you must).

Given that this pop-up appeared after installing the latest preview update in testing, it’s quite possible that Windows 10 users will experience this after installing the February cumulative update, which rolls out a week today (and is the finished version of that preview). So, steel yourself appropriately, and get that mouse index finger in training now in order to facilitate as fast a click-through the panels as you can manage.

That said, it’s not a foregone conclusion this will happen, of course, but these kind of sprawling pop-ups are appearing fairly regularly anyway on eligible Windows 10 PCs, as noted.

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Worried about what apps will actually come with the Vision Pro? Here’s what Apple has planned

Apple’s take on the virtual computing headset, the Vision Pro, will soon be in people's hands (and on their heads), but there's been some concern about what apps will actually be available to run natively – and thankfully, Apple has now given us an idea.

In an official Newsroom post, Apple stated that the Vision Pro App Store will offer “spatial computing experiences unlike any other platform.” The Vision Pro’s capabilities will allow users to experience apps in a whole new way – allowing users to scale apps to nearly any size and arrange them to anywhere in their field of vision.

These apps, which have been specially made for the Vision Pro, certainly sound exciting, but we've recently learned that major apps such as Spotify, Netflix and YouTube won't have native Vision Pro apps – at least at launch. This will be a blow to anyone wanting to use the Vision Pro as a media player, so what exactly can we expect app-wise?

An indication of what kind of apps users can expect

Vision Pro users will be able to experience productivity, communication, entertainment (including streaming), and gaming spatial computing apps. According to Apple, because the visionOS makes use of existing developer frameworks, there are already “more than 1 million familiar apps” compatible with the Vision Pro.

Some of the apps currently in development for productivity are Microsoft 365 apps, Fantastical, JigSpace, Slack, and Apple’s Freeform. 

Apple has already shown demonstrations of Keynote and Safari visionOS apps, which 9to5Mac speculates that they may be ready to download and use (or will be very soon) and assumes that more iWork suite apps will follow in quick succession. 

Communication apps for the Vision Pro will work with the help of its Persona feature, which will still be in beta upon the Vision Pro’s launch. Apps that already qualify for this include FaceTime, Zoom, Cisco Webex, and Microsoft Teams.

Here's a list of the confirmed Vision Pro apps so far:

  • Microsoft 365
  • Fantastical (a calendar app)
  • JigSpace (for 3D presentations)
  • Slack
  • Apple Freeform
  • FaceTime
  • Zoom
  • Webex
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Apple TV (with support for Apple Immersive Video format videos)
  • Apple TV Plus (the streaming service)
  • Disney Plus
  • Max
  • Apple Arcade

The following apps have been demoed by Apple, but not yet confirmed for the Apple Vision Pro launch:

  • Apple Keynote
  • Safari

The Vision Pro's entertainment potential

One huge selling point for any virtual reality headset is how users can experience media like entertainment media and gaming. 

Some streaming services will be available and ready to use upon the Vision Pro’s arrival like Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, Max (HBO Max and Discovery) and more, though as I mentioned earlier, there are some noticeable exceptions.

Apple has been talking about the Vision Pro’s visual display specs as one of its most cutting-edge features, particularly thanks to the new Apple Immersive Video format that makes the Vision Pro capable of processing and displaying 180-degree, 3D, 8K content with spatial audio. To take advantage of this Apple is making 150 titles available in the Apple TV app. 

Over 250 games will also be available on the Vision Pro with the Apple Arcade, with the potential for games outside of the Apple Arcade to be added as well. Apple is also adding support for PS5 and Xbox wireless controllers that can be used in conjunction with the Vision Pro for gaming.

Apple CEO Tim Cook declared the Vision Pro as “the most advanced consumer electronics device ever created,” which is certainly a bold claim. 

Virtual reality (and similar technologies) and virtual computing devices have had a mixed reception so far, and it’s an interesting move for Apple to launch an augmented reality headset (which is what it is, no matter what Apple wants us to think) when many of its competitors have instead turned their attention to artificial intelligence (AI) – something Apple has so far not shown much interest in. But who knows? If the product is really as good as Apple wants us to think it is, and the price point comes down a little in the future, this could be the next Apple product that becomes a part of our everyday life – but it'll need more apps before it can manage that.

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The Vision Pro App Store will come with all your favourite apps, ready to go

According to an update from Apple, iPad and iPhone apps will automatically be imported to the Vision Pro “with no additional work required”, which means developers will only have to optimize their apps if they feel it's needed. 

Apple states, “By default, your iPad and/or iPhone apps will be published automatically on the App Store on Apple Vision Pro,” and “Most frameworks available in iPadOS and iOS are also included in visionOS, which means nearly all iPad and iPhone apps can run on visionOS, unmodified.”

The Vision Pro headset is Apple’s first mixed-reality headset that’s been years in the making. It may look like a fancy pair of ski goggles or a futuristic pair of sunglasses, but the Vision Pro is an extraordinary piece of technology. It was the standout product during Apple's WWDC 2023 event earlier this year, and we expect it to again dominate the conversation on it's release early next year.

This means app developers won’t have to worry about rebuilding their apps to fit the brand new operating system to work with the mixed reality device. But, they will still be able to build new apps using Apple’s visionOS software development kit. Apple started taking applications for the kits in July of this year.

From a consumer perspective, this is great news as it means people who can pay the steep price for the headset ($ 3,499 in the US) won’t be receiving the hardware without optimal software. It also means you can expect to see your favorite apps ready to go when you start using the headset. 

As we wait for the headset to make its debut, we’re taking updates like these as a good sign that Apple is investing a considerable amount of time and energy into the new product. With the recent news that we may be seeing a cheaper version of the Vision Pro and the instant accessibility of apps, the future looks promising for the headset. 

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The Meta Quest 3 feature I was most excited about might come at a price

The Meta Quest 3 launch event is less than a month away, and excitement for the new VR headset is reaching boiling point. But if this leak is correct, the feature I was most excited about might require a pricey add-on.

Ahead of the Oculus Quest 2  successor’s reveal the online retailer UnboundXR.eu has seemingly posted prices for several Quest 3 accessories. This includes a carrying case for €79.99 (around $ 86 / £68 / AU$ 134), an Elite Strap with Battery for €149.99 ($ 161 / £128 / AU$ 252), and a Silicone Face Interface for €49.99 ($ 54 / £42 / AU$ 84). These were spotted by u/Fredricko on Reddit, but the store pages have since been hidden. 

The one that’s most disappointing to me is seeing the Meta Quest 3 Charging Dock for €149.99 ($ 161 / £128 / AU$ 252). 

Thanks to a different Meta Quest 3 leak (courtesy of a US Federal Communication Agency filing) it looked like the new gadget would be getting a charging dock – my favorite Meta Quest Pro feature. Thanks to this peripheral I’ve never gone to wear my Quest Pro and found it’s out of charge – something I can’t say about my Quest 2. The dock also makes it easy to keep the headset and controllers powered up without needing to use multiple power outlets for charging – an issue with headsets such as the HTC Vive XR Elite, which requires three outlets for charging instead of one.

The Meta Quest 3 and its controllers are sat in a white plastic dock in an official looking image

The leaked Quest 3 dock. (Image credit: Meta)

Most importantly, this dock was included in the price of the Meta Quest Pro – which was $ 1,500 / £1,500 / AU$ 2,450 at launch and is now $ 999.99 / £999.99 / AU$ 1,729.99.  According to Meta, the cheapest Meta Quest 3 will be $ 499 / £499 / AU$ 829 / €499  so I was already a little worried that the dock wouldn’t come with the cheaper headset – forcing us to pay a little extra for its advantages. What I didn’t expect, however, was that the dock might be roughly a third of the price of the new machine, as this leak has suggested.

While these leaks come from a semi-official source – a Reddit user claims UnboundXR has said the prices are from Meta directly  – it’s still worth taking the information with a pinch of salt. They could be best-guess placeholder prices while the store builds the product pages ahead of the Quest 3 launch later this year. What’s more, the peripherals UnboudXR listed might still come packaged with the headset with the listings here merely being for replacement parts. We won’t know how pricey the add-ons really are until the headset launches at Meta Connect 2023.

Out with the old

If the price of these XR peripherals has got you down, I’m sorry to say the bad news doesn’t stop there. According to separate leaks, the Quest 3 may not be compatible with your Quest 2 accessories – forcing you to pay for all-new add-ons if you want them.

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This is with respect to the headset strap; @ZGFTECH on X (formerly Twitter) posted a picture seemingly showing a side-by-side of the Quest 3 strap and the Quest 2 Elite strap with the two having pretty different designs – suggesting the old strap will be incompatible with the new hardware. I’m still holding out hope however that my Quest Pro charging dock will be compatible with the Quest 3, though given the new dock’s wildly different design, I’m not holding my breath.

Admittedly this shouldn’t be entirely unexpected – it’s not unheard of for tech peripherals to be exclusive to specific devices. But it’s something to keep in mind if you’re looking to upgrade to Meta's latest VR hardware.

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Web hosting can come in three common types, but do you know what they mean?

There’s no shortage of challenges you’re going to face once you decide to create a website. Whether you want to boost your business with a beautiful site or kick off that blog you’ve always wanted to create – one is sure. You’re going to need a solid web hosting service – it’ll be your site’s forever home, hopefully.  

The good news is that there’s a perfect web hosting solution somewhere out there, regardless of your level of technical know-how and available budget. However, finding the right one for you and your business can take some time and careful consideration. 

It’s not all about the cost, you know? A solution fit for a fabulous WordPress blog probably won’t fulfil the needs of an online store with an ever-growing number of visitors. 

Before being able to pick out the perfect solution for your online project, you should make sure that it provides the right amount of resources, as well as an ability to scale up/down. A seemingly small thing like this can set your site for success right at the start.  

So, to make things simpler for you, we’ll go through the three most common types of web hosting and tell you everything you should know before opting for any of them. 

The three common types of web hosting 

Whether you’re starting out or wish to switch your web hosting solution for a superior one, you’ll want to catch wind of the most common web hosting types and tackle their meaning. After that, you can be sure you’ve made the best decision for the future of your website.   

Most people start their journey into cyberspace with shared hosting. It’s not only simple to start with but also considerably cheaper than other solutions out there. Consequently, it’s also the least powerful one. This is because with this type of solution a single server is shared among several users. Thereby, the resources are also shared – storage space, bandwidth, CPUs, and RAM included.   

Once your site begins to grow and outgrow your shared hosting solution, you’ll probably want to upgrade to a virtual private server (VPS) hosting solution. Without breaking the bank, it will let you get rid of the primary drawback of shared hosting – shared resources. So, with a VPS solution, you’ll still share a physical server with other sites, but you will get a set of resources that are dedicated to your site, and your site only. 

If you want to step up your game from a VPS solution and don't mind paying a pretty penny for it – you should consider dedicated server hosting. As the name suggests, you’ll get your dedicated physical server with your dedicated resources and you won’t have to share them with anyone else.  

Apart from these three, other popular web hosting solutions include cloud hosting, WordPress hosting, reseller hosting, and colocation hosting.

Why are these three the most common types? 

It’s no secret that shared hosting is popular for its cost-effectiveness and ease of use. It’s the cheapest out of these three options, so if you can spare a mere $ 5 per month – you can afford it. Also, shared hosting is exceedingly easy to use, so even if you’ve never made or managed a site before, you’ll catch up with everything in no time. So, there’s no need for technical know-how – the technical team will walk you through every step of the journey. 

Acting as a bridge between shared hosting and dedicated server hosting, VPS offers powerful performance, high uptime, superb long-term scalability, enhanced security, customizability, and control over your server space. However, the ease of use will vary depending on whether you’re using a managed or unmanaged service. 

While dedicated server hosting will cost you a big buck, it can get you everything a VPS provides plus complete control over your solution. With full root access, you can perform direct server customizations without any restrictions – alter your hardware specifications, add advanced security tools, install applications across your server, and much more. Also, a dedicated solution comes with a dedicated, round-the-clock support staff. 

Web hosting

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Who should use each type of web hosting? 

Being the simplest solution out of the three, shared hosting is the best choice for small sites and blogs that don’t get too many visitors. It’s also a solid solution for young entrepreneurs that lack a big budget and technical know-how but don’t mind starting small. 

A VPS solution offers a fine balance between resources and budget, and it’s aimed at those who have outgrown shared hosting. It’s perfect for those running high-traffic sites for small to mid-sized businesses including ecommerce platforms, SaaS providers, software engineers, and so forth. 

Dedicated servers are “state-of-the-art” web hosting solutions geared towards mid-sized to big businesses that employ over 500 people that are processing massive amounts of data every day. For instance, if you’re running a booming ecommerce store with hundreds of transactions per hour, you’ll want to consider this type of solution.  

The benefits of each type of web hosting 

The three primary advantages of choosing a shared hosting solution are its budget-friendliness (the pricing starts at $ 5 per month), a beginner-friendly approach (simple setup, built-in control panel, and site-building tools), and solid customer support (expect to get live chat support and access to well-supplied knowledgebase). 

In comparison with shared hosting, VPS will get you more powerful performance, higher reliability, and the ability to scale up/down your server with ease. It also gives you more control over your server and a superb level of customizability. 

The main benefit of utilizing a dedicated server solution is having dedicated resources that can keep up and promote the growth of your business. Also, your business site/sites should benefit from increased speed, improved SEO, and superior security. 

While fully managed dedicated servers are pretty popular with large enterprises, you can also opt for a partially managed or unmanaged server and save up some money.  

Things to avoid when choosing a web hosting service 

Since we’ve already shared our tips and trick on how to choose a web hosting service, now we’re going to uncover what mistakes you should avoid making when searching for your solution.

If you want to go with shared hosting, don’t settle for a free hosting service just to save up some money at the start. It will cripple your site with seriously slow speed, unreliable uptime, and non-existent customer support. Before you know it, most of your potential customers will lose trust in your brand and your business will go bust. 

Likewise, don’t purchase a shared or VPS hosting solution before trying it out with a free trial – if one is provided. If not, check whether there is a money-back guarantee. Plus, don’t forget to see what the small print says – this is true for all three types of hosting.  

If you thinking about purchasing a self-managed VPS solution even if you aren’t particularly tech-savvy – don’t do it.  It’s harder than you think and it’ll take plenty of time before you get the hang of it. 

Also, don’t fail to check the company behind the solution including their track record and history of security incidents – if there are any. Take some time to read out reviews about your potential web hosting provider, professional reviews and customer testimonials alike. And if a provider has a bad track record, avoid it like the plague. 

This is particularly important when picking out a dedicated server solution as with this type of hosting one should never make compromises in terms of security. 

On the end note, don’t forget to consider the needs of your online project before picking out a web hosting package for it. What type of site do you wish to create? Will you be creating a single site or more of them? How do you plan to build your site? What amount of traffic do you expect to receive each month? What additional features do you want to receive? And how much money are you willing to give up each month?

Once you’ve answered all these questions, you’ll be a couple of steps closer to choosing the best web hosting solution for your business. 

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Home Widget brings a feature that I hoped would come in iOS 16

During the first few months of the pandemic in 2020 when the UK was in lockdown, I decided to finally follow through with some plans for the house to help make some appliances easier to manage.

The first easy win in this was smart lights. Over a weekend, I replaced every light that we used across the house with a smart one that would be available to manage over Apple's Home app, or Amazon's Alexa as a way to command the lights in the living room.

But while Apple's Home app, in which you can manage all of your lights and other smart home appliances, was easy enough to use, it's never had widgets, which has always baffled me.

Widgets first arrived in iOS 14 back in 2020, but it's taken an innovative app called Home Widget to lessen my annoyance with the lack of a Home one. Now, I've got a bunch of widgets on my home screen for my lights, without opening a single app.

Let there be (smart) light

Home Widget app in iOS

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Available for free, alongside an in-app purchase of $ 8.99 / £8.99 / AU$ 10.99 to let you create an unlimited amount of widgets, the app will monitor every smart appliance that's connected to your iPhone, and these will show in the app.

After this, you can create different panels for the lights or other appliances in your home, alongside choosing the colors, icons, and more.

Once you're done, you can place them on your iPhone or iPad home screen. Pressing one of these will either switch on or off what you've selected, without having to go into an app like Apple's Home.

Yes, this may sound very obvious to those who don't have smart lights in their home that manage them through an iPhone, but after two years of using the Home app, it's always felt off that a tentpole iOS feature that Apple has been showcasing since 2020, is nowhere to be found in its own Home app.

But Home Widget does it well, especially in how easy it is to manage your widgets. There's also a nice touch of the app showing all the widgets you've made on its launch screen, in a Tetris layout.

The app recently updated to 1.2, which brings support for HomeKit cameras, battery sensors, the color of your lights, and more.

Regardless of whether Apple brings widgets to its Home app in the future, perhaps at WWDC 2022, Home Widget is already a favorite and scratches a big itch that I've had for my house for two years.

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