New Windows 11 energy-saving option could save money and extend your laptop’s battery life

Windows 11 laptops could soon benefit from improved battery life thanks to a change in the works currently in testing.

The new feature called ‘Energy Saver’ is in the freshly released preview build 26002 of Windows 11 in the Canary channel (the earliest testing avenue).

Microsoft describes it as an extension of battery saver, and it reins in system performance to give you more battery life. The blurb for the feature notes it will limit some background activities, so apps and the system may run a bit slower, or be a touch less responsive when you return to them, but your laptop will last longer.

Energy Saver can be set to kick in when your battery percentage drops to a certain level, or you can manually select it. In the latter case, the option is present in the quick settings accessed via the system tray (far right on the taskbar).

Speaking of the quick settings panel, in build 26002 Microsoft has applied some other work here, including experimenting with a tweak that makes it pop up faster and act more responsively, which will be a useful addition to the mix.

Furthermore, dealing with VPNs has been improved in quick settings, with the introduction of the ability to turn your VPN on or off with just a single click.

For all the gory details of the changes made in build 26002, check out Microsoft’s blog post (spoiler alert – they’re not all that gory).

Analysis: Energy Saver – and Money Saver, too

What we don’t know yet is how much effect this new Energy Saver will have in extending battery life, but Microsoft is certainly billing it as a more heavy-duty method of eking out greater longevity than battery saver, so that’s promising.

What’s also interesting with this feature is that while it’s designed for laptops, Microsoft is also allowing it to be used for desktop PCs (or notebooks plugged into the mains and not running on battery, for that matter).

In short, this allows you to save a bit of money when running your desktop PC all day – maybe you work from home and do so, like us – if you’re happy with somewhat constrained performance levels, of course. With power bills being what they are, though, and the cost-of-living crisis still very much around, it’s a useful option to have. Not to mention an environmentally-friendly choice, to boot.

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This Windows app could soon let you use your phone as a webcam

Right now, there’s no need to use one of the best webcams to record yourself in video calls and meetings, as there are plenty of third-party apps that let you use your phone as a webcam. Even Apple has got in on the act with its Continuity Camera system, and it now seems that Microsoft also wants a slice of the pie.

According to Android Authority, Microsoft is working on adding this functionality to its Phone Link app that helps connect Android phones to Windows. That could be a major boost to anyone who doesn’t want to spend money on a webcam when they already have excellent cameras built into their smartphone.

Android Authority claims that code in the 1.23102.190.0 version of the Phone Link app gives the game away. The outlet has spotted code strings that reference setting up a camera stream on your computer, with controls allowing you to switch to the front or back cameras, enable Do Not Disturb, and more.

As well as that, there look to be a raft of video effects that you might be able to apply, ranging from HDR and night modes to soft focus, image stabilization, face retouching, and more. There’s also an 'auto-framing' feature that sounds similar to Apple’s Center Stage.

Plenty of competition

Apple's Craig Federighi demonstrating Continuity Camera in macOS Ventura at WWDC 2022.

(Image credit: Apple)

Phone Link can already access your camera, but in its current state this just mirrors video-calling apps on your phone. The new code, on the other hand, suggests that Microsoft is working to bring video-conferencing functionality into Phone Link itself.

It’s not known which devices this feature will be available on, but Android Authority speculates that it could end up being limited to products that include Phone Link as a system app. That would include a number of the best Samsung Galaxy phones, as well as the OnePlus 11 running Android 14, for example.

When – or if – this feature does launch, it’ll face some stiff competition. For instance, the Camo app is a superb tool for using your phone as a webcam, and contains a ton of fine-grained control for perfecting your videos. Microsoft will need to work hard to overcome that challenge.

Stepping back for a moment, there’s no guarantee that this feature will eventually make it into Phone Link. It could be that Microsoft is simply experimenting with it, and might scrap the feature before launch. Time will tell, but if Microsoft can do what Apple has done with Continuity Camera it could be a great addition for Windows and Android users.

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Got an old Android phone? Google Calendar could soon stop working on it

If you're the sort of person who likes to keep their Android phone or tablet running for several years, you might want to take note that Google Calendar could be dropping support for devices that aren't running Android 8 or newer.

The team at TheSpAndroid (via Android Police) has spotted code and an image in the latest release of Google Calendar for Android, which tells the user that “your current Android version is no longer supported”.

There's a flag labeled “UnsupportedOperatingSystem__enabled”, and the app is now marked as only supporting Android 8 (Oreo) and newer. For now though, it doesn't seem as though the switch has been hit that will disqualify older devices.

When that happens, you'll see a message on screen if you try and run the Google Calendar app on something older than Android 8, telling you to upgrade. Presumably Google Calendar will still be available via a mobile web browser on these phones and tablets.

The end is nigh

To be fair to Google, Android 8 was launched all the way back in August 2017. There aren't going to be a huge number of devices still running Android 7 (or Nougat) that can't be updated to Android 8, with the final Android 7.1.2 update pushed out in April 2017.

According to StatCounter, 2.12% of Android devices worldwide are running Android 7 or Android 7.1, with another 3.42% of devices on anything older than that – so we're looking at about 1 in 20 phones and tablets overall. The newest version, Android 14, started to roll out in October 2023.

Some of those older devices will be eligible for upgrades to newer Android versions, but if you have one that doesn't, it might be time to think about investing in a new gadget – at least if you want to carry on using Google Calendar.

Besides offering an improved set of features, newer versions of Android also give you better security, which is probably Google's main motivation here. According to TheSpAndroid, Google Calendar on Android currently supports devices running Android 5 (Lollipop), launched in June 2014.

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Spotify could soon let you turn off personalized recommendations

While we're patiently waiting for Spotify Wrapped 2023 to drop, it seems as though a tweak is on the way in terms of how recommendations are served up: Spotify would appear to be testing the option to turn off personalized recommendations.

This comes from code spotted in a beta version of one of Spotify's apps, by a MacRumors source. At the moment though, we don't know much else about this potential new feature or how it might work if it rolls out to users.

Personalized recommendations are of course based on listening history and habits, so presumably most people will want to keep them switched on to see more music that matches their tastes. Without the personalization, presumably the recommendations would be what's trending and popular, or picked out by Spotify staff.

It does seem that this will be an optional extra for users, so personalized recommendations are by no means going away. It might also be useful if someone else (like your kids) are using your Spotify account – though the Taste Profile features do help you modify the way your recommendations work, to some extent.

Keep on tracking

By default, Spotify does of course keep tabs on everything you do in the app, to make sure you're never short of something to listen to – you can have playlists automatically continue with related music, for example. These algorithm-driven recommendations apply to Spotify audiobooks and podcasts too.

There's a possibility that some people just don't want to be driven by algorithms and AI, or don't want Spotify keeping tabs on every playlist they put on, or both. Until we get an official word on what this new setting might mean, we can only speculate about why it would be implemented.

This built-in tracking is what makes features such as Spotify Wrapped 2023 work, giving you a deep dive into all the tracks you've played over the years – and perhaps surfacing some listening trends that you wouldn't otherwise have noted.

We will of course keep you posted if we hear anything else about what might be happening with Spotify and personalized recommendations. In the meantime, check out our Spotify tips and tricks guide to get more out of the music streaming service.

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Samsung Glasses could be the name of a new pair of Samsung smart specs

Rumors of some kind of Samsung smart glasses have been swirling for years at this point, but it looks as though the wait for an actual device might soon be over: Samsung has filed to register “Samsung Glasses” as a trademark in the UK.

This comes from UploadVR (via Android Central), and the filing comes with a description of the categories the product covers: virtual reality headsets, augmented reality headsets, headphones, smartphones, and smart glasses.

That covers a lot of ground. Virtual reality or VR means fully enclosed digital experiences, augmented reality or AR means looking at the real world with digital graphics overlaid on top, mixed reality or MR is enhanced AR where the digital elements and real elements interact, and extended reality or XR is used to mean VR, AR and MR all together.

Exactly which category the Samsung Glasses might fall into remains to be seen, but we know that the company is working on several different products offering these technologies, after previously being responsible for the Samsung Gear VR.

What to expect

Samsung itself has confirmed that it has an XR headset in the pipeline to rival the Apple Vision Pro, but it's not expected to appear until later in 2024, so that Samsung has time to get features such as display sharpness as good as they can be.

The term “glasses” really doesn't sound like a headset, anyway. Could it be that Samsung is also working on a pair of AR specs? We've seen suggestions of this in previous years, though no confirmation from Samsung itself.

Or, we might be talking about more basic smart glasses: able to take photos and videos, an on-board smart assistant, but no fancy augmented reality. See our Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses review for Meta's recent entry in this product category.

Right now it's not clear exactly what to expect – but it looks very much like Samsung will soon launch a device that you can wear on your face. Its next big launch event should be for the Samsung Galaxy S24 phone, sometime in January.

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Apple Vision Pro finger controllers could be the VR equivalent of the Apple Pencil

When Apple unveiled its Vision Pro headset, it made a point of saying you wouldn’t need any external controllers to use it, just your fingers. Well, that might not end up being true forever, as a recent patent has revealed that Apple has had an intriguing idea for how you could one day control the headset – and it might take things to the next level.

As spotted by Patently Apple, future iterations of the Vision Pro might include finger-pointer devices that look an awful lot like space-age thimbles. But these aren’t designed to help you with your knitting; no, they might one day let you draw and write with the Vision Pro more accurately than ever before.

Apple’s idea involves showing a virtual trackpad on the Vision Pro’s display. Once you’re wearing the finger controllers, they’d connect to the headset and allow it to track your finger movements more closely, giving you a more reliable way of interacting with the trackpad than if you were to simply use your unadorned fingers.

But this trackpad wouldn’t just be a floating area in space; it would be mapped to a physical location in front of you, such as a portion of the desk you’re sitting at. That’s important, because it would allow you to be more consistent with your trackpad motions. Try it now – you’ll find that tracing a shape on a solid surface is much easier and more comfortable than trying to do it in mid-air.

The Apple Pencil moment

Apple Vision Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

The addition of the finger trackers is an interesting move by Apple, as it seems to be an admission that the Vision Pro’s camera system is perhaps not yet accurate enough for really fine-grained work of the kind a trackpad would be good at.

By adding more precision via the finger controllers, Apple could be paving the way for additional ways to use the Vision Pro. Activities like digital painting might become much more viable while wearing the headset, as could writing messages by hand.

That could make these finger pointers an accessory akin the iPad’s Apple Pencil: not necessary for most people to enjoy the device, but something that can seriously ramp up its potential in the right hands (or on the right fingers), and for certain applications.

Seeing as this idea is just a patent at this point, we don’t know when (or if) Apple will implement it; the company could just be exploring ideas. Still, it’s something to look out for in the coming months and years – perhaps it’ll even make an appearance in the second-generation Vision Pro, which could give that device a serious usability boost.

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Generative AI could get more active thanks to this wild Stable Diffusion update

Stability AI, the developer behind the Stable Diffusion, is previewing a new generative AI that can create short-form videos with a text prompt.

Aptly called Stable Video Diffusion, it consists of two AI models (known as SVD and SVD-XT) and is capable of creating clips at a 576 x 1,024 pixel resolution. Users will be able to customize the frame rate speed to run between three and 30 FPS. The length of the videos depends on which of the twin models is chosen. If you select SVD, the content will play for 14 frames while SVD-XT extends that a bit to 25 frames. The length doesn’t matter too much as rendered clips will only play for about four seconds before ending, according to the official listing on Hugging Face.

The company posted a video on its YouTube channel showing off what Stable Video Diffusion is capable of and the content is surprisingly high quality. They're certainly not the nightmare fuel you see on other AI like Meta’s Make-A-Video. The most impressive, in our opinion, has to be the Ice Dragon demo. You can see a high amount of detail in the dragon’s scales plus the mountains in the back look like something out of a painting. Animation, as you can imagine, is rather limited as the subject can only slowly bob its head. The same can be seen in other demos. It’s either a stiff walking cycle or a slow panning shot. 

In the early stages

Limitations don’t stop there. Stable Video Diffusion reportedly cannot “achieve perfect photorealism”, it can’t generate “legible text”, plus it has a tough time with faces. Another demonstration on Stability AI’s website does show its model is able to render a man’s face without any weird flaws so it could be on a case-by-case basis.

Keep in mind that this project is still in the early stages. It’s obvious the model is not ready for a wide release nor are there any plans to do so. Stability AI emphasizes that Stable Video Diffusion is not meant “for real-world or commercial applications” at this time. In fact, it is currently “intended for research purposes only.” We’re not surprised the developer is being very cautious with its tech. There was an incident last year where Stability Diffusion’s model leaked online, leading to bad actors using it to create deep fake images.


If you’re interested in trying out Stable Video Diffusion, you can enter a waitlist by filling out a form on the company website. It’s unknown when people will be allowed in, but the preview will include a Text-To-Video interface. In the meantime, you can check out the AI’s white paper and read up on all the nitty gritty behind the project. 

One thing we found interesting after digging through the document is it mentions using “publicly accessible video datasets” as some of the training material. Again, it's not surprising to hear this considering that Getty Images sued Stability AI over data scraping allegations earlier this year. It looks like the team is striving to be more careful so it doesn't make any more enemies.

No word on when Stable Video Diffusion will launch. Luckily, there are other options. Be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best AI video makers for 2023.

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Google Photos update could make it a powerful new reminders app

Google Photos continues to get smarter and it could soon gain the ability to let you set reminders for certain tasks and events, all from within the photo management app. 

There’s already a myriad of smart AI-powered options within Google Photos, from being able to extract text from an image, translate languages, and use the Google Lens feature to pick out even more information in photos and search Google for highlighted items. But this forthcoming reminder function, spotted by The SpAndroid, continues to build out the Photos app into more than just a place to store, edit and peruse shots. 

Much like the “Copy text”, “Search” and “Listen”  ‘chips’ (aka prompts) that pop up to offer you various options, an incoming Google Photos update could soon serve up the option to “Set reminder”. 

Tapping this effectively lets you create a calendar entry for a corresponding Google Calendar app. So let's say you snapped a photo of a restaurant board offering specials on certain days, you could use the new feature to then set a calendar reminder to check out the restaurant on a particular day.

As someone who snaps photos on his phone to serve as reminders and reference points, this new feature seems particularly handy. Sure, it’s not hard to bounce into a calendar app and set your own reminder, but being able to do things with fewer taps or swipes through app menus is certainly appealing to me. And it also means the information you’re after is right in front of you, rather than forcing you to bounce between apps.

Unfortunately, this reminder feature doesn't appear to have rolled out widely yet, with it not popping up in Google Photos on my iPhone 13 Pro or Google Pixel 7 Pro. However such updates can take time to roll out worldwide. I’m running Google Photos version 6.60, so I may need to wait until version 6.61 as that was used by The SpAndroid to test the reminder feature.

Ever smarter software 

Given Google is pushing AI-powered tools into its software, as well as Pixel phones with the Pixel 8 Pro at the top of the pile, it’s no surprise to see it bolster Photos with AI-centric features. 

It might seem creepy that Google could extract all manner of information from your smartphone snaps, but these tools can be very handy at times, letting you do more with less back and forth between apps. 

I’m actually keen to see Google do more in embracing interoperability between its app ecosystem. I’d like Google Maps to pull Google Photos into my timeline so I can better retrace my steps when trying to remember where I went and when; you can manually add photos to Maps and map locations can be automatically added to photos, but it doesn't quite feel like there’s perfect harmony between the apps. 

Nevertheless, it’s neat to see how Google Photos continues to evolve. I only hope it sticks to the side of being handy and not fall into the realms of creepiness. 

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Google Maps could soon be getting its own AI chatbot

Google hasn't been shy about pushing artificial intelligence into its various apps and services, and it seems that the venerable Google Maps could be next in line to get an integrated AI chatbot of its own.

Code hidden in the latest beta version of Google Maps for Android, as spotted by Android Authority, makes various mentions of in-app conversations – including the line “you're talking with a chatbot”, which sort of gives the game away.

However, only a few strings of related code have been spotted so far, so we don't have too much more information about this chatbot in terms of what form it will take, what it's designed to do, and how it will integrate with the rest of Google Maps.

Nothing is certain yet, and of course Google could easily change its mind about the Maps chatbot – but given the company's focus on AI these last few months, we wouldn't be surprised to see this new feature arriving in the app very soon.

Getting chatty

Without any official word from Google, we're left to speculate what an AI chatbot in Google Maps might do. As Android Authority points out, it could well be something to do with submitting reviews and comments to Google Maps, perhaps via the Local Guides program.

The line of code that says “thank you for your contribution” certainly backs that up. Perhaps a chatbot might swing into action when you've visited a place, asking what your experience was like or what you thought of the service.

Another possibility is that the upcoming bot will actually give you travel advice: what to see in a particular area, where the best places to stay are, and so on. This would be similar to the advice that Google Bard (now with Google Maps integration) can already give.

AI chatbots might also be used to field questions from Google Maps users to businesses – questions about opening hours and facilities, for example. Right now, these questions can be posted and answered by humans, but AI might be about to step in.

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Bing AI could soon be much more versatile and powerful thanks to plug-ins

Microsoft’s Bing AI may be close to finally getting plug-ins, a feature that has been experimented with before, and will make the chatbot considerably more versatile and powerful (in theory, anyway).

Windows Latest reports that the update to add plug-ins has rolled out to a ‘small’ number of Bing Chat users over the weekend, and the tech site was one of those to get access.

Note that it appears the rollout is only happening for those using the Canary version of Microsoft’s Edge browser (and Windows Latest only got the feature in that preview release, not in the finished version of Edge).

We’re told that the AI currently offers five plug-ins to testers and you can pick any three of those to use in a session. If you want to change plug-ins, you’ll need to start a new Bing Chat session.

Windows Latest carried out some testing with a couple of those plug-ins, and the results seemed useful, with the OpenTable add-on providing some restaurant recommendations in a query.

Other plug-ins available in testing include Kayak, Klarna, and a shopping add-on for buying suggestions – we’ve already got you covered there, of course, especially for the imminent Black Friday sale – but it may be the case that different plug-ins appear for different users.

Analysis: Faster and better

Eventually, of course, there will be a whole load of plug-ins for the Bing AI, or that’s certainly Microsoft’s plan, although they’ll doubtless be rolled out in stages over time. One of those will be the much-awaited ‘no search’ function that was switched to be implemented via a plug-in not so long ago. (This allows the user to specify that the AI can’t use search content scraped from the web in its responses).

We’ve seen plug-ins in a limited test rollout before (in August), but they were pulled, so this is effectively a return of the feature – hinting it might arrive sooner rather than later.

Fingers crossed, and the good news is that Windows Latest observes that these new plug-ins seem to be more responsive and work better than the old efforts (performance-related concerns are likely one of the reasons that the test plug-ins got pulled earlier this year).

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