What is xrOS? The Apple VR headset’s rumored software explained

The Apple VR headset is getting close to its rumored arrival at WWDC 2023 on June 5 – and the mixed-reality wearable is expected be launched alongside an exciting new operating system, likely called xrOS.

What is xrOS? We may now be approaching iOS 17, iPadOS 16 and macOS 13 Ventura on Apple's other tech, but the Apple VR headset – rumored to be called the Apple Reality One – is expected to debut the first version of a new operating system that'll likely get regular updates just like its equivalents on iPhone, iPad and Mac.

The latest leaks suggest that Apple has settled on the xrOS name for its AR/VR headset, but a lot of questions remain. For example, what new things might xrOS allow developers (and us) to do in mixed reality compared to the likes of iOS? And will xrOS run ports of existing Apple apps like Freeform?

Here's everything we know so far about xrOS and the kinds of things it could allow Apple's mixed-reality headset to do in both augmented and virtual reality.

xrOS release date

It looks likely that Apple will launch its new xrOS operating system, alongside its new AR/VR headset, at WWDC 2023 on June 5. If you're looking to tune in, the event's keynote is scheduled to kick off at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm BST (or 3am ACT on June 6).

This doesn't necessarily mean that a final version of xrOS will be released on that day. A likely scenario is that Apple will launch an xrOS developer kit to allow software makers to develop apps and experiences for the new headset. 

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While not a typical Apple approach, this is something it has done previously for the Apple TV and other products. A full version of xrOS 1.0 could then follow when the headset hits shelves in late 2023.

The software's name now at least looks set in stone. As spotted by Parker Ortolani on Twitter on May 16, Apple trademarked the 'xrOS' name in its traditional 'SF Pro' typeface in New Zealand, via a shell company. 

We'd previously seen reports from Bloomberg  that 'xrOS' would be the name for Apple's mixed-reality operating system, but the timing of this discovery (and the font used) bolster the rumors that it'll be revealed at WWDC 2023.

Apple Glasses

(Image credit: Future)

A report from Apple leaker Mark Gurman on December 1, 2022, suggested that Apple had “recently changed the name of the operating system to “xrOS” from “realityOS,” and that the name stands for “extended reality”. This term covers both augmented reality (which overlays information on the real world) and virtual reality, a more sealed experience that we're familiar with on the likes of the Meta Quest 2.

While xrOS is expected to have an iOS-like familiarity – with apps, widgets and a homescreen – the fact that the Apple AR/VR headset will apparently run both AR and VR experiences, and also use gesture inputs, explains why a new operating system has been created and will likely be previewed for developers at WWDC.

What is xrOS?

Apple's xrOS platform could take advantage of the AR/VR headset's unique hardware, which includes an array of chips, cameras and sensors. It's different from ARKit, the software that lets your iPhone or iPad run AR apps. Apple's xrOS is also expected to lean heavily on the design language seen on the iPhone, in order to help  fans feel at home.

According to Bloomberg's Gurman, xrOS “will have many of the same features as an iPhone and iPad but in a 3D environment”. This means we can expect an iOS-like interface, complete with re-arrangeable apps, customizable widgets and a homescreen. Apple is apparently also creating an App Store for the headset.

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Stock apps on the AR/VR headset will apparently include Apple's Safari, Photos, Mail, Messages and Calendar apps, plus Apple TV Plus, Apple Music and Podcasts. App developers will also be able to take advantage of its health-tracking potential.

Gurman says that the headset experience will feel familiar to Apple fans – when you put it on, he claims that “the main interface will be nearly identical to that of the iPhone and iPad, featuring a home screen with a grid of icons that can be reorganized”. 

But how will you type when wearing the Apple Reality Pro (as it's rumored to be called)? After all, there probably won't be any controllers.

Spacetop computer used in public

The Sightful Spacetop (above) gives us a glimpse of how the Apple AR/VR headset could work us a virtual Mac display. (Image credit: Sightful)

Instead, you'll apparently be able to type using a keyboard on an iPhone, Mac or iPad. There's also the slightly less appealing prospect of using the Siri voice assistant. Apple is rumored to be creating a system that lets you type in mid-air, but Gurman claims that this feature “is unlikely to be ready for the initial launch”.

It's possible that you'll be able to connect the headset to a Mac, with the headset serving as the Mac's display. We've recently seen a glimpse of how this might work with the Spacetop (above), a laptop that connects to some NReal AR glasses to give you a massive 100-inch virtual display.

What apps will run on xrOS?

We've already mentioned that Apple's AR/VR headset will likely run some optimized versions of existing stock apps, including Safari, Photos, Mail, Messages, Contacts, Reminders, Maps and Calendar. 

But given that those apps aren't exactly crying out for a reinvention in AR or VR, they're likely to be sideshows to some of the more exciting offerings from both Apple and third-party developers. 

So what might those be? Here are some of the most interesting possibilities, based on the latest rumors and what we've seen on the likes of the Meta Quest Pro

1. Apple Fitness Plus

An AR fitness experience on the Litesport app

Apps like Litesport (above) give us a glimpse of AR fitness experiences that could arrive of Apple’s headset. (Image credit: Litesport)

Assuming the Apple AR/VR headset is light and practical enough for workouts – which is something we can't say for the Apple AirPods Max headphones – then it definitely has some AR fitness potential.

According to a report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman on April 18, Apple is planning to tap that potential with “a version of its Fitness+ service for the headset, which will let users exercise while watching an instructor in VR”.

Of course, VR fitness experiences are nothing new, and we've certainly enjoyed some of the best Oculus Quest fitness games. An added AR component could make them even more powerful and motivating, with targets added to your real-world view.

2. Apple Freeform

The Freeform app on an iPad on an orange background

(Image credit: Apple)

We called Apple's Freeform, which gives you a blank canvas to brainstorm ideas with others, “one of its best software releases in years”. And it could be taken to the next level with a version of AR or VR.

Sure enough, Bloomberg's aforementioned report claims that “Apple is developing a version of its Freeform collaboration app for the headset”, which it apparently “sees as a major selling point for the product”.

Okay, work-themed AR/VR work experiences might not sound thrilling and we certainly had misgivings after working for a whole week in VR with the Meta Quest Pro. But mixed-reality whiteboards also sound potentially fun, particularly if we get to play around with them in work time.

3. Apple TV Plus

A basketball team scoring in a NextVR stream

(Image credit: NextVR)

Because Apple's headset will have a VR flipside to its AR mode, it has huge potential for letting us watch TV and video on giant virtual screens, or in entirely new ways. This means that Apple TV Plus will also likely be pre-installed in xrOS.  

Another claim from that Bloomberg report on April 18 was that “one selling point for the headset will be viewing sports in an immersive way”. This makes sense, given Apple already has deals for Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer on Apple TV Plus

And while they're only rumors, Apple has also considered bidding for Premier League soccer rights in the UK. Well, it'd be cheaper than a season ticket for Manchester United.

4. FaceTime

Joining a call through FaceTime links in macOS 12 Monterey

(Image credit: Apple)

While we haven't been blown away by our experiences with VR meetings in Horizon Workrooms on the Meta Quest, the Apple mixed-reality headset will apparently deliver a next-gen version of FaceTime – and the Reality Pro's hardware could take the whole experience up a notch,

With an earlier report from The Information suggesting that Apple's headset will have at least 12 cameras (possibly 14) to track your eyes, face, hands and body, it should do a decent job of creating a 3D version of you in virtual meeting rooms.

We still haven't really seen a major real-world benefit to VR video meets, even if you can do them from a virtual beach. But we're looking forward to trying it out, while crossing our virtual fingers that it works more consistently than today's non-VR FaceTime.

5. Adobe Substance 3D Modeler 

Adobe has already released some compelling demos, plus some beta software called Substance 3D Modeler (above), showing the potential of its creative apps in VR headsets. Will that software's list of compatible headsets soon include the Apple Reality Pro? It certainly seems possible.

The software effectively lets you design 3D objects using virtual clay in a VR playground. Quite how this would work with Apple's headset on xrOS isn't clear, given it's rumored to lack any kind of physical controllers. 

These kinds of design tools feel like a shoo-in for Apple's headset, given many of its users are already happy to shell out thousands on high-end Macs and MacBooks to use that kind of software in a 2D environment.

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ChatGPT explained: everything you need to know about the AI chatbot

ChatGPT has quickly become one of the most significant tech launches since the original Apple iPhone in 2007. The chatbot is now the fastest-growing consumer app in history, hitting 100 million users in only two months – but it's also a rapidly-changing AI shapeshifter, which can make it confusing and overwhelming.

That's why we've put together this regularly-updated explainer to answer all your burning ChatGPT questions. What exactly can you use it for? What does ChatGPT stand for? And when will it move to the next-gen GPT-4 model? We've answered all of these questions and more below. And no, ChatGPT wasn't willing to comment on all of them either.

In this guide, we'll mainly be covering OpenAI's own ChatGPT model, launched in November 2022. Since then, ChatGPT has sparked an AI arms race, with Microsoft using a form of the chatbot in its new Bing search engine and Microsoft Edge browser. Google has also quickly responded by announcing a chatbot, tentatively described as an “experimental conversational AI service”, called Google Bard.

These will be just the start of the ChatGPT rivals and offshoots, as OpenAI is offering an API (or application programming interface) for developers to build its skills into other programs. In fact, Snapchat has recently announced a chatbot 'called My AI' that runs on the latest version of OpenAI's tech.

For now, though, here are all of the ChatGPT basics explained – along with our thoughts on where the AI chatbot is heading in the near future.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an AI chatbot that's built on a family of large language models (LLMs) that are collectively called GPT-3. These models can understand and generate human-like answers to text prompts, because they've been trained on huge amounts of data.

For example, ChatGPT's most recent GPT-3.5 model was trained on 570GB of text data from the internet, which OpenAI says included books, articles, websites, and even social media. Because it's been trained on hundreds of billions of words, ChatGPT can create responses that make it seem like, in its own words, “a friendly and intelligent robot”.

A laptop on a green background showing ChatGPT

(Image credit: ChatGPT)

This ability to produce human-like, and frequently accurate, responses to a vast range of questions is why ChatGPT became the fastest-growing app of all time, reaching 100 million users in only two months. The fact that it can also generate essays, articles, and poetry has only added to its appeal (and controversy, in areas like education).

But early users have also revealed some of ChatGPT's limitations. OpenAI says that its responses “may be inaccurate, untruthful, and otherwise misleading at times”. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman also admitted in December 2022 that the AI chatbot is “incredibly limited” and that “it's a mistake to be relying on it for anything important right now”. But the world is currently having a ball exploring ChatGPT and, despite the arrival of a paid ChatGPT Plus version, you can still use it for free. 

What does ChatGPT stand for?

ChatGPT stands for “Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer”. Let's take a look at each of those words in turn. 

The 'chat' naturally refers to the chatbot front-end that OpenAI has built for its GPT language model. The second and third words show that this model was created using 'generative pre-training', which means it's been trained on huge amounts of text data to predict the next word in a given sequence.

A laptop screen showing a word illustration from Google's Transformer research paper

An illustration from Google’s 2017 research paper for the Transformer architecture, which ChatGPT is based on. (Image credit: Google)

Lastly, there's the 'transformer' architecture, the type of neural network ChatGPT is based on. Interestingly, this transformer architecture was actually developed by Google researchers in 2017 and is particularly well-suited to natural language processing tasks, like answering questions or generating text. 

Google was only too keen to point out its role in developing the technology during its announcement of Google Bard. But ChatGPT was the AI chatbot that took the concept mainstream, earning it another multi-billion investment from Microsoft, which said that it was as important as the invention of the PC and the internet.

When was ChatGPT released?

ChatGPT was released as a “research preview” on November 30, 2022. A blog post casually introduced the AI chatbot to the world, with OpenAI stating that “we’ve trained a model called ChatGPT which interacts in a conversational way”.

The interface was, as it is now, a simple text box that allowed users to answer follow-up questions. OpenAI said that the dialogue format, which you can now see in the new Bing search engine, allows ChatGPT to “admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests”.

A laptop screen showing the ChatGPT Plus welcome screen

(Image credit: OpenAI)

ChatGPT is based on a language model from the GPT-3.5 series, which OpenAI says finished its training in early 2022. But OpenAI did also previously release earlier GPT models in limited form – its GPT-2 language model, for example, was announced in February 2019, but the company said it wouldn't release the fully-trained model “due to our concerns about malicious applications of the technology”.

OpenAI also released a larger and more capable model, called GPT-3, in June 2020. But it was the full arrival of ChatGPT in November 2022 that saw the technology burst into the mainstream.

How much does ChatGPT cost?

ChatGPT is still available to use for free, but now also has a paid tier. After growing rumors of a ChatGPT Professional tier, OpenAI said in February that it was introducing a “pilot subscription plan” called ChatGPT Plus in the US. A week later, it made the subscription tier available to the rest of the world.

ChatGPT Plus costs $ 20 p/month (around £17 / AU$ 30) and brings a few benefits over the free tier. It promises to give you full access to ChatGPT even during peak times, which is when you'll otherwise frequently see “ChatGPT is at capacity right now” messages during down times.

A laptop screen on a green background showing the pricing for ChatGPT Plus

(Image credit: OpenAI)

OpenAI says the ChatGPT Plus subscribers also get “faster response times”, which means you should get answers around three times quicker than the free version (although this is no slouch). And the final benefit is “priority access to new features and improvements”, like the experimental 'Turbo' mode that boosts response times even further. 

It isn't clear how long OpenAI will keep its free ChatGPT tier, but the current signs are promising. The company says “we love our free users and will continue to offer free access to ChatGPT”. Right now, the subscription is apparently helping to support free access to ChatGPT. Whether that's something that continues long-term is another matter.

How does ChatGPT work?

ChatGPT has been created with one main objective – to predict the next word in a sentence, based on what's typically happened in the gigabytes of text data that it's been trained on.

Once you give ChatGPT a question or prompt, it passes through the AI model and the chatbot produces a response based on the information you've given and how that fits into its vast amount of training data. It's during this training that ChatGPT has learned what word, or sequence of words, typically follows the last one in a given context.

For a long deep dive into this process, we recommend setting aside a few hours to read this blog post from Stephen Wolfram (creator of the Wolfram Alpha search engine), which goes under the bonnet of 'large language models' like ChatGPT to take a peek at their inner workings.

But the short answer? ChatGPT works thanks to a combination of deep learning algorithms, a dash of natural language processing, and a generous dollop of generative pre-training, which all combine to help it produce disarmingly human-like responses to text questions. Even if all it's ultimately been trained to do is fill in the next word, based on its experience of being the world's most voracious reader.

What can you use ChatGPT for?

ChatGPT has been trained on a vast amount of text covering a huge range of subjects, so its possibilities are nearly endless. But in its early days, users have discovered several particularly useful ways to use the AI helper.

Broadly speaking, these can be divided into natural language tasks and coding assistance. In our guide to six exciting ways to use ChatGPT, we showed how you can use it for drafting letters, writing poetry, and creating (or adapting) fiction. That said, it does still have its limitations, as we found when ChatGPT showed us just how far it is from writing a blockbuster movie

That hasn't stopped self-publishing authors from embracing the tech, though. With YouTube and Reddit forums packed with tutorials on how to write a novel using the AI tech, the Amazon Kindle store is already on the cusp of being overrun with ChatGPT-authored books.

A laptop screen showing the MagicSlides Chrome extension for Google Slides

(Image credit: MagicSlides)

Other language-based tasks that ChatGPT enjoys are translations, helping you learn new languages (watch out, Duolingo), generating job descriptions, and creating meal plans. Just tell it the ingredients you have and the number of people you need to serve, and it'll rustle up some impressive ideas. 

But ChatGPT is also equally talented at coding and productivity tasks. For the former, its ability to create code from natural speech makes it a powerful ally for both new and experienced coders who either aren't familiar with a particular language or want to troubleshoot existing code. Unfortunately, there is also the potential for it to be misused to create malicious emails and malware

We're also particularly looking forward to seeing it integrated with some of our favorite cloud software and the best productivity tools. There are several ways that ChatGPT could transform Microsoft Office, and someone has already made a nifty ChatGPT plug-in for Google Slides. Microsoft has also announced that the AI tech will be baked into Skype, where it'll be able to produce meeting summaries or make suggestions based on questions that pop up in your group chat.

Does ChatGPT have an app?

ChatGPT doesn't currently have an official app, but that doesn't mean that you can't use the AI tech on your smartphone. Microsoft released new Bing and Edge apps for Android and iOS that give you access to their new ChatGPT-powered modes – and they even support voice search.

The AI helper has landed on social media, too. Snapchat announced a new ChatGPT sidekick called 'My AI', which is designed to help you with everything from designing dinner recipes to writing haikus. It's based on OpenAI's latest GPT-3.5 model and is an “experimental feature” that's currently restricted to Snapchat Plus subscribers (which costs $ 3.99 / £3.99 / AU$ 5.99 a month).

A phone screen showing Snapchat's My AI chatbot

(Image credit: Snap)

The arrival of a new ChatGPT API for businesses means we'll soon see an explosion of apps that are built around the AI chatbot. In the pipeline are ChatGPT-powered app features from the likes of Shopify (and its Shop app) and Instacart. The dating app OKCupid has also started dabbling with in-app questions that have been created by OpenAI's chatbot.

What is ChatGPT 4?

OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman has confirmed that it's working on a successor to the GPT-3.5 language model used to create ChatGPT, and according to the New York Times this is GPT-4.

Despite the huge number of rumors swirling around GPT-4, there is very little confirmed information describing its potential powers or release date. Some early rumors suggested GPT-4 might even arrive in the first few months of 2023, but more recent quotes from Sam Altman suggest that could be optimistic.

For example, in an interview with StrictlyVC in February the OpenAI CEO said in response to a question about GPT-4 that “in general we are going to release technology much more slowly than people would like”.

He also added that “people are begging to be disappointed and they will be. The hype is just like… We don’t have an actual AGI and that’s sort of what’s expected of us.” That said, rumors from the likes of the New York Times have suggested that Microsoft's new Bing search engine is actually based on a version of GPT-4.

While GPT-4 is unlikely to bring anything as drastic as graphics or visuals to the text-only chatbot, it is expected to improve on the current ChatGPT's already impressive skills in areas like coding. We'll update this article as soon as we hear any more official news on the next-gen ChatGPT technology.

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What is VoIP jitter in VoIP phone systems? |Network jitter explained

What is VoIP jitter?

VoIP jitter, usually referred to as network jitter, is the time delay experienced by VoIP phone users between signal transmission and signal reception over a data network. During VoIP voice and video calls the audible and video performative effects of network jitter are usually seen as a loss of connection, glitches or ‘lag’.

VoIP jitter time delay

High quality data stream vs. same stream with jitter visualisation. (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Do you recognize this situation?

“You’re currently number 23 in the queue.”

That’s my starting position as I begin the familiar, on-hold phone game with my gas supplier. Four and a half minutes in and waiting patiently. 

It’s not my position in the queue (down to position 17 now) that irritates me so much as the increasingly poor quality of the not-so-delightful hold music wailing in my ear. It’s choppy too, cutting in and out incessantly. 

Do I really need to speak to them today? Last time I was on hold for almost 48 whole minutes. I'd groan if I wasn't concentrating so hard on waiting to hear this sorrowful hold music stop. 

Oh, I could always call back. I won't though. I'm definitely not going through all of this again. Almost eight minutes now and my brain is starting to feel like a cheese grater. 

Woman is frustrated with customer service connection over VoIP phone

For some, the effects of VoIP network jitter are enraging.  (Image credit: Getty Images)

I can barely make out the audio, but it sounds like I’m now number 9 in the queue, progress! But of course, the longer I wait to speak to someone, the more dire the call quality becomes. Typical. Wait. Why does the hold music now resemble a toddler let loose in a Yamaha Music shop? 

“You’re currently number 7 in the queue. We're sorry, all of our customer service agents are busy at this time. Please continue to hold. ”

Honestly, if they’re going to make me sit and wait for this long, they could at least check the hold music and queue updates actually work… I can feel the blood pressure rising before I’ve even spoken with the poor customer service agent!

Why is network jitter important?

The scenario described above is precisely why combating VoIP network jitter is important. Being placed in virtual customer service queues with distorted hold music is enough to make anyone grouchy and grumpy. 

In this article, we look at how you can minimise customer irritation caused by network jitter on VoIP phones. Understanding VoIP jitter can help you increase customer satisfaction, minimise customer wait times and ultimately offer better customer service for increased sales. 

What we’re dealing with here is quite simple – Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) jitter, often called network jitter.

VoIP or network jitter is congestion generated by millions of internet connections that are all active simultaneously, and which effectively start to clog up the ‘routes’ they’re taking to get to their individual destinations.

The technical definition of VoIP jitter is the variability over time of network latency

Latency, in turn, is defined as the time it takes for one packet of data to pass along its route. Learn more about VoIP Quality of Service, how data packets work and what packet loss is.  

It’s important to know about and understand VoIP jitter because it ultimately has an impact on how your business operates. It can be the difference between retaining a customer and losing them. 

VoIP phone user stands on car for network signal

When you’re trying to close a sale the last thing you need is network interference.  (Image credit: Getty Images)

Jitter is a common occurrence that affects online activities that depend on two-way, real-time communication. Examples include customer service lines, conference calls, IP security cameras, and more. Jitter problems can affect any network connection, but end users experience it most often on wi-fi.

❕ Example of jitter business interference:

Complain keyboard button

(Image credit: Future)

If your VoIP system connectivity is poor and your customer is being put on hold with crackly music and unintelligible muffled message updates, they’ll quickly hang up and start looking for alternatives, and alternatives often mean going with a competitor!

Thinking back to our data packets that transfer information along these communication lines, when packets arrive at different intervals, fluctuations result and voice packets end up being dropped. 

As VoIP converts sound into data packets, every packet matters. So packet delays can result in gaps in conversation or drops in sound quality. 

From an end user perspective, VoIP is particularly prone to jitter problems as people can perceive delays above 500 milliseconds (more on that below). 

Depending on the level of jitter, the sound can therefore be choppy or even incomprehensible – that cheese grater effect!

What is VoIP latency what does it have to do with network latency?

We mentioned earlier that the technical definition of VoIP jitter is the variability over time of network latency and that latency is defined as the time it takes for one packet of data to pass along its route. If you’ve ever tried watching a video over the internet that kept getting interrupted, then you’ll be familiar with this type of latency.

Example of network jitter, video buffering

Don’t worry it’s not your internet, this is an image to show the affects of VoIP jitter on data transmission.  (Image credit: Getty Images)

When it comes to VoIP specifically, latency generally occurs in two ways:

1) The delay between a person speaking, and then the recipient on the other end of the phone hearing those words.

2) The time it takes for the VoIP solution to actually process and convert the voice information into data packets.

A bundle of optical fibres: Even fibre optic broadband isn't safe from VoIP network jitter.

Even fibre optic broadband isn’t safe from VoIP network jitter. (Image credit: Denny Müller on Unsplash)

It’s easy to see how this directly impacts the quality of the call, leading to those long pauses we all know and love and, of course, speakers interrupting or talking over each other. Latency is usually impacted by a number of different factors. These include:

Network hardware – some routers can only transmit data at limited rates.

Wireless interference – this is down to the distance between devices and the lack of stability that comes with a wired connection.

Network software and set-up – firewalls that are incorrectly set up, or quality of service settings that aren’t configured correctly, can delay the transmission of data.

Location – this is the most common cause of latency. The further away, the longer it will take to transmit that data.

Congestion – think of your network as a road and latency as the congestion caused by extra traffic. The more data that’s being transmitted, the slower it goes.

Luckily, measuring latency is pretty easy to do – it’s calculated using what’s called a ping test. A ping test is really simple. You carry out a basic data transfer test (a ‘ping’) and measure the time it takes for your network to send and receive this data packet. You’ll then be able to work out your latency using the below equation:

Latency = ping send time + ping receipt time in milliseconds (ms).

What are the different types of VoIP jitter?

VoIP jitter definition: (n.) The technical definition of jitter defines the variability over time of network latency.

Synonyms include: Network stuttering, bandwidth issues, network connectivity problems, ping delays and pings.  (Image credit: Future)

The ultimate goal is to eliminate any form of VoIP jitter – there’s no such thing as good or bad, high or low, as it all contributes to poor communication quality and negative business outcomes.  However, there are acceptable levels of jitter depending on the situation. For interactive video streaming, Skype calls and the like, jitter tolerance is low.

According to Cisco, jitter tolerance, packet loss and network latency should be as follows: 

  • Jitter should be below 30 ms.
  • Packet loss should be no more than 1%. (Learn more here on how to measure packet loss).
  • Network latency should not go over 300 ms (for the full ping send and receipt time).

However, if you’re streaming a Netflix video, i.e., the communication is uni- or one directional, then a higher jitter tolerance can be exploited.  As a business relying on VoIP for business-critical customer service activities, the lower jitter tolerance level is a good best practice to follow.

VoIP jitter, ping delays and network stuttering: understanding VoIP terminology 

There are a plethora of different words and phrases used to describe VoIP jitter. Very often, however, they all describe the same thing. This goes for ‘network stuttering’, ‘bandwidth issues’, ‘network connectivity problems’, ‘ping delays’ and even simply ‘pings’. 

On the face of it, this might seem irrelevant, especially if you’re used to dealing internally with other network and IT-savvy people. 

Diagnostic tip 💡

Understanding the different terms used to describe network jitter as a professional means you can identify and diagnose network problems in a flash, and troubleshoot them faster.

However, if you’re dealing on a daily basis with other company departments and even customers, then you’ll want to familiarize yourself with all the different variations and even come up with a common ‘dictionary’ that your company uses. 

It may appear trivial, but a huge amount of time can be saved if you’re all talking the same language and can therefore identify, diagnose and fix problems more quickly.

How to fix VoIP jitter

Use a jitter buffer

A jitter buffer is a device installed on a VoIP system to counter delay and latency.

The way they work is to delay incoming voice packets and store them for a short period of time. They can be configured to buffer traffic for 30 to 200 milliseconds, before the traffic is then sent on to the end user. This process ensures the data packets arrive in order and with minimal delay.

It’s worth noting that using a jitter buffer won’t fix everything. While jitter buffering improves VoIP call quality, it also increases the overall network delay. This is because the jitter buffer holds traffic for up to 200 milliseconds, adding latency to the service. 

In effect, they don’t address the root cause of the issue, only the symptoms. For more on how to prevent jitter in the first place, scroll down to the next section on how to prevent VoIP jitter.

Prioritize packets

Packet prioritization refers to a VoIP Quality of Service (QoS) setting that gives certain traffic types priority over others. 

The traffic you decide to prioritize will depend on which service you want to maintain or enhance the quality of. Typically, packet prioritization is only used when the service you’re trying to uphold demands constant high performance and is of critical importance to your organization.

If you choose to support VoIP calls, then you’ll need to make sure any packets containing VoIP data are given priority over other traffic types.

How to prevent VoIP jitter

Of course, the best way to stay on top of issues with VoIP jitter is to avoid it in the first place. Thankfully, there are a number of preventative measures that can be taken to do this, so you can avoid headaches later on down the line with irate employees and unhappy customers. 

Test your connection’s quality

This may sound simple but poor internet connection may be the biggest cause of your jitter issues. Some VoIP providers already offer speed tests. 

They are designed to show you the level of quality you’d expect to see when making calls through their platform. You can get in touch with your provider to see if they offer these tests and how they can help improve connection quality.

Use an Ethernet cable 

Ethernet cables are an uncommon sight these days but they’re actually a great resource if you’re not reliant on constant mobile working and are at a fixed desk for periods of time. 

Ethernet cables generally provide a much more powerful connection that wi-fi ones so you’re less likely to experience jitter.

Check your hardware

Even the most basic of networks now consists of a good number of hardware components. Think of your company set-up – it’s probably made up of physical firewalls, digital converters, physical network cables, modems, switches, wi-fi components… and that’s just for starters!

If any of this equipment is outdated, or worse, damaged, then it’s probably going to give you jitter problems. So it’s really important you ensure hardware is in top shape and as modern as possible.

Configure Quality of Service (QoS) and other settings

QoS settings are typically included in routers – they’re what you use to prioritize data packets. 

But beware with data packet prioritization: on the one hand you are improving your VoIP services, on the other hand other traffic may suffer, so settings should be configured based on the specific needs of your business. 

You should explore the other QoS settings available through your router to optimize your VoIP service.  

Don’t scrimp on a good router

Routers are so important that they deserve their own mention. A router is effectively the brain of your internal network, connecting together the other components to create a complete circuit. 

They provide both wired and wireless connections, and can create a massive bottle neck if they aren’t up to the job. Good routers also have those QoS settings we’ve talked about and that you’ll want to take advantage of depending on your business.

Use a VoIP monitoring tool

Finally, there are VoIP monitoring tools designed to give you in-depth insights into critical call and QoS metrics. 

This one from solarwinds has a range of highly advanced features, including VoIP call quality troubleshooting, real-time WAN monitoring and visual VoIP call path tracing. 

In other words, they go beyond simple ping tests to offer a fully comprehensive solution. They can even let you generate simulated VoIP traffic so you can monitor network quality during periods of downtime when calls are less active. 

Final thoughts

VoIP is fast becoming a business-critical system for organizations of all sizes. Events of the past year or so have accelerated the move to VoIP for a number of reasons and have meant that even the smallest of businesses now rely on it to maintain their day-to-day operations.

Read next 💡

ringcentral logo

(Image credit: RingCentral)

We've listed the best VoIP services and best VoIP headsets available for businesses to help give you a head start in your search. 

Why not also take a look at our popular RingCentral VoIP services review or Nextiva vs RingCentral VoIP comparison? Or, if you're just starting out with VoIP learn the difference between VoIP and PBX.

But as with any high-performance system, it does need a degree of maintenance and upkeep to ensure it supports business teams in the right way and to guarantee that customers receive an optimal customer experience.

We’ve all been there ourselves on the other end of the phone when jitter is occurring. Thankfully, jitter is easily fixed and even prevented. 

Cutting corners when it comes to your foundational VoIP and internet infrastructure is not recommended; taking the proper measures to prevent jitter and minimize latency to ensure your VoIP runs smoothly is a much better route.

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What is the Cameo app? Prices, how to use and more explained

A world in which Kevin from The Office, Jay from the Inbetweeners, and Karl Kennedy from Neighbours rule the roost may sound like the hazy figment of a beautiful imagination, but that's exactly what the Cameo app has made a reality.

Cameo saw its popularity explode during lockdown, as thousands of bored stars of film, TV, music and sport rushed to Cameo to showcase their talents, make a buck or two, and brighten fans' days in the process.

Dunder Mifflin's slickest accountant has lined his accounts to the tune of more than $ 1 million purely from his Cameo appearances and, having seen him in action, it's little wonder why fans of The Office can't get enough.

But what is Cameo, how is it any different to Instagram, Twitter and any other social platform, and what can you use it for? Keep reading for all you need to know about Cameo.

What is the Cameo app?

Have you ever dreamed of getting a pep talk from your team's star player? Fantasized about your favorite movie star reenacting *that* iconic line, just for you? Or wanted to be serenaded by your 90s crush?

Cameo is a website and app that is specifically dedicated to making your most outlandish, niche and even your dullest celebrity-oriented daydreams come true – within reason of course. 

The video-first platform literally allows you to pay famous stars (current and former) to either record a personalized video message, or chat one-to-one on a video call. 

It's the latest evolution of social media, and what many of us rather over-ambitiously envisaged when Twitter and Instagram first emerged all those years ago; only now camera phones are good enough and data speeds fast and reliable enough to make that vision a reality.

As well as making you feel like you've got a direct and intimate line to your idols, it gives bored and out-of-work celebrities something to do.

How does the Cameo app work?

Performers as they may be, your favorite celebs won't be able to churn out a personalized video on the spot. You instead need to submit a request, which you can do on behalf of yourself, as a gift to somebody else, or for an entire company, by visiting their Cameo page.

They'll then have up to seven days to fulfil it, although many guarantee a 24-hour turnaround. They also have the option to decline requests. 

The request process itself includes plenty of guidelines, but the trick is to be clear and concise. For instance, you won't need to set out that your request is for a birthday message, as there are dedicated special occasions toggles, which also include holiday, pep talk, and roast.

However, you may want to explain any potentially tricky name pronunciations, specify the tone of the message, and include precise details to make the video message or call as personal as possible. Or if you'd prefer them to freestyle, or to say or do something specific, say so in your request.

When your request has been fulfilled, you'll receive a link to your personalized video message, which you can download and share online.

A selection of the available celebrities on Cameo

(Image credit: Cameo)

What celebrities are on the Cameo app?

Hollywood royalty, sporting idols and global megastar musicians have flocked to the platform in their thousands.

Think you've got what it takes to withstand both barrels from Logan Roy himself? Brian Cox  from Succession is a relative newcomer to Cameo, and will happily sling a few f-words your way, whatever the occasion.

Tony Hawk, Magic Johnson and Brett Favre are just some of the legendary sportspeople on the app, plus you could just get Bruce Buffer to shout “Iiiiiiit's TIIIIIIIIIIME!” over and over again, if you wanted to. Unless you'd rather “Get rrrrrrrready to RRRRRUMBLE!” instead, of course, in which case Michael's also available.

Gloria Estefan's rhythm really could get you, while you no longer need wonder how you might live without LeAnn Rimes. And let's not forget about the smooth, sultry tones of Kenny G, who'll pull out all the stops if the price is right.

And who else but Caitlyn Jenner heads up Cameo's superabundance of personalities from reality TV? RuPaul's Drag Race's Divina de Campo and NYC's realest housewife Sonja Morgan are also immensely popular on the app.

But Cameo's biggest draws aren't necessarily who you might expect them to be. Cult TV actors James Buckley (Jay from The Inbetweeners), Alan Fletcher (Karl Kennedy from Neighbours), and the undisputed king of Cameo, Brian Baumgartner (Kevin from the US version of The Office), are amongst the app's star attractions and despite getting perfect reviews pretty much across the board, they're also far cheaper than many others.

In fact, when USA Today published a list of the biggest TV stars on Cameo in 2020, there were certainly some surprising names on there: 

  1. Ed Brown (90 Day franchise)
  2. Josh Sussman (Glee, Wizards of Waverly Place)
  3. Brian Baumgartner (The Office)
  4. Larry Thomas (Seinfeld)
  5. William Hung (American Idol)
  6. Fred Stoller (Handy Manny, Everybody Loves Raymond)
  7. Colin Mochrie (Whose Line Is It Anyway?)
  8. Ray Abruzzo (The Sopranos, The Practice)
  9. Sandra Diaz Twine (Survivor)
  10. Lee Rosbach aka Captain Lee (Below Deck)

What does the Cameo app cost?

The Cameo app is free to download, but the rich and famous don't just give away their time and energy for nothing. They set their own fees, which vary wildly.

Video messages, either for yourself or another individual, are by far the most affordable service available on Cameo, with prices starting at $ 15 per message at the time of publication. The, ahem, celebrities around this price point tend to be niche comedians and lookalikes, although in most cases they have excellent reviews.

The $ 50 mark is where you'll start recognizing household names. As a general rule of thumb, the more you're willing to spend, the more famous the face – though you'll find a few exceptions along the way.

Some celebrities have a higher opinion of themselves than others (more on this below), and charge several hundred dollars, or even thousands per message.

Live video calls tend to be a little pricier than pre-recorded messages, but not outrageously so. However, they do have the potential to be much more awkward.

Commercial bookings are by far the most expensive. Several hundred dollars would be at the cheaper end of the scale, with these types of bookings regularly climbing into the thousands.

Who is the most expensive person on Cameo?

He long ago made the pursuit of money, money and more money the central pillar of his persona, so it's little surprise that Floyd “Money” Mayweather is one of the most expensive people on Cameo, a fact that he's very proud of.

The former champ's prices are set at $ 15,000, though he only accepts commercial bookings.

However, fellow boxing Hall of Famer Mike Tyson has thrown his hat into the ring by charging $ 20,000, also strictly for business requests. 

The one-time “Baddest Man on the Planet” has rather mellowed out in his later years, and for that extra $ 5,000, is likely to deliver a few more pearls of wisdom than the abrasive Mayweather, a suspicion backed up by their ratings.

Cameo app on Android and iOS

(Image credit: Cameo)

How do I get the Cameo app?

Signing up to Cameo is straightforward, and takes just a couple of minutes.

You can do so via the app, which is available to download for free on both on iOS and Android, or via the Cameo website.

We'd recommend signing up on the website if you can, since some celebrities' Cameo profiles aren't accessible on the app at all due to Apple taking a significant chunk of the money made from bookings through the iOS app.

You just need a few key details to sign up, including your name, email address and a password.

How do 1:1 live video calls work on Cameo?

For some, the chance to speak to their idols one-to-one on a video call is the most exciting thing about Cameo, although a significant number of the celebrities on the platform have opted out of live video calls (and those that do offer them charge a premium for the privilege).

There are no phone numbers involved. Rather, you can join your favorite celebrity's Cameo Fan Club on their profile. You'll then be notified when they plan to go live.

When you join, prepare to wait a short while as you likely won't be first in the queue, and bear in mind that many of the celebrities who do offer live calls on Cameo prefer to keep conversations sharp.

While you can't record live video calls, you will get a photo opportunity at the end.

Get started by heading to the Cameo website

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Disney Plus UK: how to sign up, movies, app links, Sky Q and more explained

Disney Plus is out now in the UK. For just £5.99 a month, you can stream a whole host of fantastic old movies for a reasonable price, with some classic TV shows thrown in for good measure. 

With Disney Plus, you can watch all the Star Wars, Disney, Marvel and The Simpsons you can handle. Think of it as like Netflix, but focused specifically on Disney-related and Disney-owned content, like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and more. Here's the full list of Disney Plus UK movies and TV shows that Disney released at launch, which will help you figure out if you want the service. 

The launch line-up was pretty good, even compared to the existing libraries in the US and Australia. Now we've spent plenty of time with the app, too, we can see it retains the Disney US feature of explaining when content is coming to the service in the future. 

That's how we know Frozen 2 will be on Disney Plus UK on July 17 2020, for example. We're less sure about Onward, which doesn't have a UK release date. 

If you were hoping you'd get to watch every episode of Star Wars show The Mandalorian at launch in the UK, episodes have only started to 'roll out'. Still, you've now got three episodes of this excellent show to enjoy. And let's not underestimate how awesome it is to have 30 seasons of The Simpsons available to stream.

Subscribe here, at monthly or yearly tiers:

Below, we'll talk you through everything we know about Disney Plus post-launch, including the price, compatible devices, free trial, shows, movies and more. You can also click here for our first impressions of Disney Plus UK.

Disney Plus UK release date: it's live!

Disney Plus is now live in the UK! You can start watching it now

How to sign up to Disney Plus

All you have to do is head to the Disney Plus website, create an account and enter your billing details to get started. With your login details to hand, you'll then want to download Disney Plus onto the device of your choice, say a smartphone, smart TV, games console or tablet. Scroll down for a list of compatible devices. 

Not sure you want it yet? Head here to grab a 7-day free trial of Disney Plus. It's easy to cancel if you don't want to commit (here's how you cancel Disney Plus). 

Disney Plus UK in April 2020: new movies and TV shows

As well as new episodes of all its originals, including The Mandalorian and The Clone Wars, April 2020 brings other new content to Disney Plus in the UK. That includes the Simpsons short film Playdate with Destiny (10 April), Edward Scissorhands (10 April), Descendants 3 (11 April) and Night at the Museum (10 April). A Celebration of the Music from Coco (10 April), Dolphin Reef (3 April) and Elephant (3 April) also join it this month.

Disney Plus app links: how to download Disney Plus

Below, we've added app links we've found so far for the UK launch, and we'll add more as they appear.

Disney Plus: UK price and subscription tiers explained

Disney Plus costs £59.99 for an annual subscription, or £5.99 per month. These are the two available tiers, and you can cancel at any time. Unlike in the US, where it's bundled in with ESPN and Hulu, in the UK Disney Plus is a standalone service. 

Either tier gets you four concurrent streams, unlimited downloads with a maximum of 10 devices and the option to create seven profiles. 

In the US, you can gift a year of Disney Plus either digitally or in the form of physical cards, but no such option has been announced for the UK yet.

Disney Plus supports 4K and HDR streams

Disney Plus indeed supports 4K and HDR. When you're in the app, head over to the 'details' tab of a given movie or show and you'll see a section that says 'available in the following formats', which will explain if the content in question features 4K Ultra HD and HDR. 

You now have every Star Wars movie to watch in 4K with HDR. Enjoy!

Disney Plus UK: compatible devices and apps

Disney Plus has launched on pretty much any device you can name in the UK, including mobile devices, games consoles, streaming media devices and smart TVs. You can take Disney Plus shows on the go, too, downloading as many movies and shows as you can fit on your device, as long as you have an active subscription and connect to the internet every 30 days.  

Disney Plus UK has launched on LG TVs, Sky Q, Apple TV, Roku streaming devices, Android (5.0 and later), iOS (11.0 and later), PS4, Xbox One, LG WebOS smart TVs, Samsung Tizen smart TVs, Google Chromecast and Amazon's Fire range of streaming devices. 

One notable exception is the Nintendo Switch, which is still pretty poor at supporting streaming services. 

Phillips' Android-based smart TVs support Disney Plus too. Your Samsung TV may be able to get Disney Plus, as well. Read our guide and discover if your TV can support it.

Disney Plus UK: shows and movies, including The Simpsons 

Click to see the full list of Disney Plus UK movies and shows at launch, and see what you can stream right now. Every Star Wars movie minus The Rise of Skywalker is on there, as well as a near-complete list of Pixar movies and Marvel movies. You've also got 2019's Aladdin and The Lion King movies on day one. Frozen 2, which just launched in the US, doesn't arrive until 17 July in the UK according to the app. 

Looking for recommendations? Check out our list of the best Disney Plus TV shows and best Disney Plus movies. Star Wars series The Mandalorian is the clear highlight of Disney Plus originals. Episodes are rolling out weekly, and the first two are available now. 

In the UK, all new episodes of original shows on Disney Plus will be released at 8am each Friday. Expect one new episode for each Disney Plus original show per week, except The Clone Wars, which will get two episodes per week until the show catches up with the US. 

Other originals include the live-action Lady and the Tramp, High School Musical: The Series, Encore!, The World According to Jeff Goldblum, Togo, Diary of a Future President, Forky Asks a Question and The Imagineering Story at launch, too. Expect one episode for each original at launch. 

Disney Plus: future shows and movies

In the future, Disney Plus is getting plenty of big exclusive shows. From the Marvel Cinematic Universe side of things, new shows include The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (August), WandaVision (November), Loki (2021), Hawkeye (2021) and animated show What If?. Further off, expect TV shows based on Moon Knight, Ms Marvel and She-Hulk. Unlike Marvel's Netflix shows, too, these will canonically be part of the MCU, and feature actors crossing over between the movies and these TV series.

Lucasfilm has a second season of The Mandalorian coming in October 2020, then further off it's making shows featuring Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi and Diego Luna's Cassian Andor from Rogue One. 

It's likely you can expect recent Disney-associated movies like Pixar's Onward, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil on there before the end of 2020. In the US, Onward arrives early on April 3. Hopefully we'll see it in the UK before long. 

Disney Plus has launched with Sky Q and Now TV is coming at a later date

Disney Plus has made a deal with Sky to host Disney Plus on its Sky Q platform at launch. That means you can watch Disney Plus as well as your other Sky content – it'll just be added to your Sky bill. According to Pocket Lint, full integration into the Sky Q platform won't come until April, but you can watch Disney Plus through an app on your Sky Q box.

Disney Plus will be available on Now TV in the coming months, too. 

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