Week in Tech: Android N, the world's best phone, and the rise of the machines


It's been a big week for Google-related news: not only did we get our hands on the next version of its mobile operating system, Android N, but we saw Google's AI beat human intelligence, and the hiring of Moot, founder of the infamous 4Chan. But Google wasn't the only big deal this week. We discovered the best phone in the whole wide world, we were shocked to see a famous game studio shuttered, and we discovered what real-life Martians can have for dinner. It's Week in Tech!

Google's nougat news

Android N – we're hoping the N stands for Nougat, or maybe Nutella – is the latest version of the world's favourite smartphone operating system, and it made an unexpected debut this week. We've put the developer preview through its paces, and discovered what joys we can expect from the next big Android release. Matt Swider discovered the best new features, including genuine multitasking, even better battery optimisation, quicker quick settings and much simpler installation. It's a super-early beta, so there's lots of polishing still to be done, but Nougat/Nutella is already looking pretty sweet.

Samsung Edges it

Looking for the best smartphone in the world right now? Look no further than the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. As our smartphone supremo Gareth Beavis explains: "Five stars to Samsung, as the brand iterates perfectly on an already award-winning smartphone, adding a brilliant camera and gorgeous design." The worst thing about it? The price: a phone this good doesn't come cheap.

Do not pass Go

It's all Go at Google. Its DeepMind artificial intelligence system has thrashed its human opponent in the first two of three games of Go. That's significant because Go is REALLY difficult to play – much harder than chess, which computers have been spanking humans at for ages now. If the AI wins all three matches, which is looking increasingly likely, it'll pocket a $1m cash prize – although as it's an artificial construct there's very little for it to spend its winnings on, so it'll be donating any prize pot to charity.

Hitman or miss, man?

Hitman is back! Back! BACK! But is it any good? There's only one way to find out, and that's to ask Dan Griliopoulos. Tell us about Hitman, Dan! "Hitman has turned from the antisocial murder simulator par excellence into Groundhog Day, where your infinite lives allow you to track and poke each and every person's life," he says. Is that good? "Looking at what you get here for $15/£12, we can't complain about the amount of content." The story isn't up to much, apparently, but the gameplay is excellent.

Opera glasses Google

Bad news for ad giants such as Google: automatic ad-blocking has come to web browsers. Opera is the first major browser to do it, but it probably won't be the last. Remember when pop-up blocking was a rare thing? It's terrible news for ad-based businesses, but with the blocker delivering an estimated 90% improvement in website loading times, it's a pretty savage indictment of the ad-based internet too.

Shelf Life on Mars

What do people on Mars eat? No, not Mars Bars. Right now the answer is 'nothing', because of course there aren't any people on Mars. But when there are, those people are going to want lunch. The good news is that Dutch researchers are on the case, and they've already had success growing food in Martian conditions. However, as Farrha Khan explains, "while the crop harvest was largely successful, the scientists do explain that the produce isn't quite ready for human consumption. The simulated soils have heavy metals like lead, arsenic and mercury, plus a high concentration of iron. It's likely those have been absorbed into the crops, making them pretty much poisonous to people."

Mr Moot goes to Google

How's this for an unusual hire: Moot, founder of 4Chan, has joined Google. The community expert also known as Chris Poole is now a Google employee, as Michelle Fitzsimmons explains. "Google has largely left its social network to rot on the vine, and it likely hopes Poole will give it the fresh, community-based perspective it desperately needs. If memes and other shareable content is what Google wants, Poole is probably the person to deliver it. We can 'thank' 4Chan for many things that make the internet great, no least of which are lolcats and Rickrolling." Not to mention some of the less pleasant aspects of online culture too.

Fable's finished, and we're losing Lionhead

Sad news for gamers: Lionhead Studios, home to the Fable franchise, is no more. "These have been tough decisions, and we have not made them lightly, nor are they a reflection on these development teams," wrote Microsoft's Hanno Lemke in a blog post. "These changes are taking effect as Microsoft Studios continues to focus its investment and development on the games and franchises that fans find most exciting and want to play." With the Xbox One currently losing the console war to the PS4, Microsoft may well undertake more streamlining in the coming months.

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