BlackPink is performing a free VR concert for Meta Quest 3 and Oculus Quest 2 owners as a post-Christmas gift

If you’re a K-Pop fan who owns a Meta Quest headset or gets one for Christmas, Meta has a gift for you; free front-row seats to a BlackPink concert in virtual reality taking place on December 26 at 5pm PT / Wednesday 1am GMT / Wednesday 12am ACT.

The recording is from the group’s finale show of its recent World Tour – performed at the Gocheok Sky Dome – and will be available inside Meta’s Horizon Worlds metaverse platform.

And this isn’t some 10-minute clip show, this is a full-on 70-minute performance that has been custom-made for VR according to a Meta press release. It’ll feature a number of the group’s most popular tracks including Shut Down, Pink Venom, and How You Like That and more.

Get in early to avoid disappointment

You can RSVP for the BlackPink concert on the event’s page but to watch it you’ll need a Quest headset – specifically an Oculus Quest 2, Meta Quest Pro, or Meta Quest 3 – and the latest version of Meta Horizon Worlds installed.

I’d recommend setting an alarm about 1 hour before the start time. This should give you time to install any updates if your app or headset isn’t up to date, get your avatar into the right outfit or created if you don’t yet have one, and go through the Horizon Worlds tutorial and into the Music Valley event space if you haven’t played it already.

From experience, I can tell you it’s better to wait for a while in the event than it is to try and hop in last minute and be stuck in long virtual queues that cause you to miss the concert.

Popular artists are known to cause server crashes when an influx of people try to load in all at the same time. Meta’s first big Foo Fighters VR concert suffered from this, and more recently Eminiem’s performance in Fortnite’s Big Bang event was missed by a lot of fans because of similar issues.

Thankfully if you do miss the BlackPink concert premiere because of server issues, simply can’t make it because of other commitments, or want to watch it again later, replays will be available until “the end of January” according to the official press release.

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Meta Quest 3 owners check the phone app as 12 free games might be waiting for you

If you own a Meta Quest 3 you should check your Meta Quest smartphone app as you might have a six-month free trial of Meta Quest Plus waiting for you.

Previously this offer was an exclusive order incentive for people who bought the 512GB Meta Quest 3 model, but Quest 3 owners on Reddit have noticed that the 6-month trial is available to them even if they bought the 128GB version. This means rather than saving only $ 7.99 / £7.99 from a one-month trial everyone can get $ 47.94 / £47.94 worth of subscription value for no cost.

Meta Quest Plus is like a Netflix for Quest VR games. Each month you’ll get 2 free VR titles that you can add to your Quest library, and for as long as you are subscribed you can play them. If you unsubscribe, you’ll lose access to your free games until you rejoin Meta Quest Plus.  So with this trial that’s 12 free games, which is a pretty excellent deal that rivals this year’s best Black Friday deals.

To see if you can get this free six-month trial you’ll need to open open the Meta Quest app on your smartphone. Use Search to look for Meta Quest Plus, then on the Quest Plus store page tap the blue button at the bottom of your screen that says “Start your six-month trial.”

Meta Quest Plus advert showing Pistol Whip and Pixel Ripper 1995

(Image credit: Meta)

This offer doesn’t appear to be exclusive to new subscribers either. Comments on the original Reddit post suggest that people can get the six-month trial if they’ve tried the one-month trial before, and even if they’re subscribed – with the six free months being added on top of the subscription they already have.

It also appears to be available in every region, though some users have reported they can only see the one-month trial; that said it’s not clear if they’re Meta Quest 3 or Oculus Quest 2 owners.

If you’re looking to expand your VR library then Meta Quest Plus is a good way to do it, as the two games you get are worth more than the monthly $ 7.99 / £7.99 fee. However, you don’t get to pick which games you get so you might prefer to spend more but get the games you actually want.

The two free titles at the time of writing are NFL Pro Era and Angry Birds: Isle of Pigs. We've not tried either but both titles have been fairly well received with a four and four-and-a-half star rating, respectively, on the Quest Store.

If you don’t have a Meta Quest 3, or an Oculus Quest 2, then you can check out our Black Friday Oculus Quest 2 deals guide to see the latest and greatest offers. If it’s still available you might want to go after Amazon’s incredible Quest 2 deal as it gets you $ 50 / £50 off the headset and free $ 50 / £50 Amazon credit too.

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Oculus Quest 2 owners beware: the Meta Quest 3 launch is bad news for your storage

As highlighted in our Meta Quest 3 review, the new VR headset is bringing a lot of improvements to the VR world, but for Oculus Quest 2 owners it’s also bringing one major downside – your headset’s storage space might soon feel a lot smaller than it did before.

To take advantage of the Quest 3’s improved Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chipset, its 8GB of RAM, and its full-color mixed reality, VR app developers will be releasing updates to their software (Meta said it’s coming to over 50 during Meta Connect 2023). However, as reported by UploadVR, these updated files won’t be exclusive to Quest 3 owners. 

People using a Quest 2 will also be forced to download the new, larger file sizes, but here’s the kicker: they won't be able to benefit from any of the improvements stored in those bigger files. And the size increases aren’t insignificant – for example, Red Matter 2 is jumping from 5.6GB to 9.1GB. 

Just under 3.5GB might not seem like a lot, but if you’ve been a long-running Oculus Quest 2 user and have an original 64GB model (as this writer does) then 3.5GB is 5.5% of your total storage space – or 6.2% of the available space after you factor in the 7.5GB taken up by the Quest 2 OS.

Thankfully this might not be an issue forever. While developers currently don’t have the option to release distinct Quest 2 and Quest 3 versions of their VR experiences, they can release a separate, simplified version for the Quest 1. 

Meta didn’t provide an exact timeline, but it did reportedly tell UploadVR that it has plans to “extend this [facility to release distinct versions of apps] to Quest Pro and Quest 3 in the future.” So hopefully Quest 2 owners will soon be able to reclaim any storage space that has been snatched away from them.

In the meantime, be prepared to have to delete some apps from your Quest 2’s digital library. Alternatively, you could check out the Meta Quest 3 and see if it’s worth upgrading too – if you have to download the bigger files, you might at least take advantage of the benefits they bring.

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Check your emails Oculus Quest 2 owners, Meta might be giving you a free upgrade

If you own an Oculus Quest 2 VR headset then go and check your emails, as Meta might be trying to give you a free Elite Strap accessory for it.

User u/claimingmarrow7 took to Reddit to show off an email they claim to have received from Meta. In it they’re told they’ve been sent a unique code they can redeem to be sent a Quest 2 Elite Strap with “no string attached” – all they have to do is take advantage of the promotion before it expires on August 4, 2023.

It’s not currently clear if this is an offer exclusive to select users like claimingmarrow7, or if all Quest 2 owners will be sent similar emails in the near future. We’ve reached out to Meta for clarification, but while we wait for a response we’d recommend looking in the inbox for your Quest account’s registered email (and the spam folder too) to see if you’ve also got a code for a free VR accessory.

The Meta Quest 2 headset next to a plastic Elite Strap

(Image credit: Meta)

What is the Elite Strap?

The Elite Strap is an optional Quest 2 upgrade that replaces the original elastic strap with a plastic one that tightens using a fit wheel. This mechanism gives the headset a much more secure fit on your head and is generally more comfortable than the regular strap.

It doesn’t come cheap, however, with the strap usually costing $ 59.99 / £59.99 / AU$ 89.99 – so getting one for free is a solid deal. 

Just note that this offer appears to be for the regular Elite Strap rather than the version with a battery. The upgraded (but more expensive) Elite Strap with battery model not only provides an extra hour or two of battery life – effectively doubling your Quest 2’s usage time – but further improves the Quest 2’s comfort as the battery serves a counterweight to the usually front-heavy design of the headset.

If you aren’t lucky enough to get a code for a free Elite Strap from Meta and are looking to buy your own, the Elite Strap with battery option is the one we’d recommend – it’s definitely worth the higher cost for people who use their headset a lot.

Looking for a bigger upgrade to your Quest 2? Check out our picks for the best VR headset to see what other options are out there for you to try out.

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Microsoft just made its Bing AI chatbot much better for iPhone owners

Microsoft’s Bing chatbot is now more readily accessible for iOS users thanks to a new widget, plus the AI has been bolstered to perform more responsively when using voice input on an iPhone.

Windows Central spotted that Microsoft has implemented a Bing Chat widget that can be added to the Home screen, allowing you to initiate a session with the chatbot with a simple tap. That’s a handy ability indeed for regular users of Bing AI on iOS devices.

For instructions on how to add a widget to the iPhone Home screen, check here.

In the Bing blog post announcing this new feature for iOS, Microsoft also tells us that it has made progress on another front for iPhone owners – namely better performance for the voice input button on the Bing mobile app (for iOS, and Android as well). When you tap the button it should now indicate that it’s listening instantly.


Analysis: Catching up with Android

The widget is a very useful touch in terms of convenience for regular users on the iPhone, and it brings the Bing Chat experience up to parity with the Android version (which already had this feature).

Overall, Microsoft’s setting a pretty fast pace of development with its Bing AI, as considerable progress is being made on a weekly basis, with both the mobile and desktop incarnations of the chatbot.

Regarding the latter, we’ve just seen that Microsoft has brought voice input to desktop PCs (previously this had been a mobile-only feature). The idea is to make for a more natural chatting experience with the Bing chatbot, allowing you to speak to the AI, and have it reply via spoken words, too.

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Windows 11’s Phone Link for iOS reportedly being used to spy on iPhone owners

Windows 11 has just introduced Phone Link support for iOS, which has now rolled out to everyone – but we’re hearing a warning that iPhone owners could be spied upon by somebody leveraging a flaw allowing for misuse of the app.

Phone Link has been around for Android for ages, and allows messages, notifications, and much more to be piped through to a Windows 11 PC, so you can deal with them there on the desktop without even picking up your smartphone.

So, its introduction to iOS is a definite boon for iPhone users – even if it’s a more limited set of features than Android – but the problem is that cyber-stalkers could abuse the functionality due to the way Phone Link has been implemented for Apple handsets.

Certo Software, a mobile security outfit, reports that several of its users have said they’ve been spied upon using Phone Link for iOS.

How does this work? Certo explains (via Apple Insider) the process in a news post, though the key thing to note is that to compromise an individual, the cyber-stalker needs physical access to the victim’s iPhone.

If the attacker can get that – and knows the passcode for the device – it’s an easy enough matter to set up Phone Link on their own Windows PC. Certo doesn’t detail the exact steps, so as not to give would-be abusers that information, but observes that it involves scanning a QR code on the PC monitor with the victim’s iPhone in order to setup a Bluetooth connection.

Once that’s done and Phone Link is set up, then things like phone call history, iMessages, and the content of any notifications can be viewed on that PC, with the iPhone owner unaware that any of their data is being compromised in this manner.

Certo notes that “cyberstalkers seem to be rapidly exploiting this new feature” and that this is obviously worrying.

iPhone 15

(Image credit: Thai Nguyen / Unsplash)

Analysis: What can be done?

This is particularly concerning as it could be leveraged in scenarios where, for example, an abusive partner might use this. They’d be able to view all messages and notifications, and engage in some quite in-depth spying on their victim, all without their partner’s knowledge.

If you own an iPhone and are now feeling concerned, Certo explains there are several actions you can take to check that you’re not being spied on in this way. Firstly, if you don’t ever use Bluetooth, check to make sure it’s turned off – without that wireless connection enabled, there can be no communication with the linked Windows PC.

Alternatively, you can look at what devices have been hooked up to your iPhone’s Bluetooth, and delete any you don’t recognize. To do that, head into Settings, and navigate to Bluetooth > My Devices. If you see any devices that you’re not sure about, or don’t know what they are, you can use ‘Forget This Device’ to remove them from your iPhone (thereby cutting the link).

Finally, it obviously helps if no one else knows your iPhone passcode to unlock it to gain access – if they do, or you think they might, then change it, and don’t share the passcode with anyone at all (after you’ve completed the above Bluetooth housekeeping).

Certo further warns: “As with previous loopholes in iPhone security, it may not be long before spyware makers start creating tools that make use of this method to extract even more information from victim’s iPhones.”

We don’t know how widely this method might’ve been exploited thus far, as the suggestion seems to be it’s just a scattering of reports, with the potential for things to get worse.

Hopefully, both Microsoft and Apple will be looking into this right now, to ensure that doesn’t happen, and to take any extra measures necessary to defend the privacy of iPhone users. One of Certo’s suggestions is for Apple to bring in some kind of visual warning indicator in iOS when notifications or messages are being shared with another device via Bluetooth.

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Windows 11 just got loads of new features including one that iPhone owners will love

Windows 11 has just been graced with a big update, albeit not a full feature update, but one of Microsoft’s so-called ‘Moment’ upgrades.

Moment 2 to be precise, and if that sounds familiar, that’s because Microsoft released it in testing (as an optional update) at the end of February. Now, however, it has arrived as a full release, which means it’s coming to all Windows 11 PCs as we type this.

If you haven’t already been offered what is formally known as patch KB5023706, then you can head to Windows Update and check for new updates, whereupon you should see Moment 2 ready to roll.

The update introduces a raft of new features, including improvements for those using Windows 11 with a touchscreen (a touch-optimized taskbar). Another big move is Phone Link for iOS, giving iPhone owners the ability to hook up their handset to the desktop (giving access to iMessage correspondence from their PC).

Windows 11 will now provide energy efficiency recommendations and additional help when troubleshooting issues with your PC (via ‘Quick Assist’). On top of that, the system tray has been given a fresh lick of paint in the form of a rounded focus (rather than square, when mousing over icons bottom-right, to be more in keeping with the rest of Windows 11’s modern look).

Accessibility features have also been improved, most notably with enhanced support for braille devices, and Voice Access getting new commands.

As well as all the feature additions, KB5023706 comes boasting the usual slew of security fixes provided by Microsoft with these monthly cumulative updates.


Analysis: Plenty of features and hopefully no bugs

So, all the testing of the preview version of the Moment 2 update is now done and dusted, and with no major bugbears sighted, everything should go smoothly with the upgrade now it has become available – in theory. Of course, when a much wider rollout happens, with a lot more PCs involved, fresh bugs can still make their unwelcome presence felt.

Nothing’s guaranteed even with finished updates for Windows, as we’ve seen in the past. Windows 10 in particular has seen the release of patches with some serious problems lurking within (we’re talking file deletion, if you recall that memorable and very unfortunate episode).

Another thing you might also recall is when Microsoft revealed the preview version of Moment 2, the company talked about the ChatGPT-powered Bing being put on the taskbar, giving us the impression that this was a full integration of the AI chatbot with the Windows 11 interface.

As we’ve discussed in the past, though, this wasn’t the case – the implementation of this ‘feature’ (ahem) was simply a link in the search box that brought up Bing in the Edge browser.

Users were pretty disappointed about that, and the Bing icon swiftly vanished, with Microsoft subsequently assuring us that the chatbot hadn’t been ditched from the taskbar, but was in a rotation with other search highlights. And wouldn’t you know, just as Moment 2 is rolling out, we can now see the Bing icon in our search box once again (doubtless just temporarily, though). Interesting timing…

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