It might start to replace the dollar. But, then again, it might not.

Soon, you may be able to use cryptocurrency to pay for anything from your morning coffee to happy hour drinks (or, you know, maybe some things that aren’t a beverage). And you could do it as easily as you use your credit card or Venmo today.

Circle, a payment startup owned by Goldman Sachs, announced yesterday that it’s launching a new cryptocurrency called the Circle USD Coin. The new currency is basically a digital version of the dollar that you’ll be able to purchase by trading in, you know, real money.

The USD Coin is the first cryptocurrency released by a major financial institution. While this sort of goes against the whole point of decentralized and distributed cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, Goldman Sachs and Circle hope to bring some stability to the cryptocurrency market, which has crashed and rebounded an exhausting number of times this year alone.

Circle doesn’t want its USD Coin to be subject to the instability and inflation inherent to other unregulated cryptocurrencies, so it will tie the value of a coin to that of a US dollar, according to CNBC. Again, this pretty much goes against the whole point of cryptocurrencies, which were originally designed to present a transparent financial market free of regulation from federal government and the influence of big banks. And though it has seemed increasingly likely that regulation and corporate influence will play a bigger role in the space, some, including Silicon Valley investor Sam Altman, staunchly believe that any USD-based cryptocurrency must remain under distributed control.

While other cryptocurrencies can be mined when users lend a part of their computer’s processing power to help maintain the updated ledger of all transactions, it seems like the only way to acquire new USD Coin — which will operate on the Ethereum platform for the foreseeable future — is to purchase them. So your extensive rig won’t help you get more USD Coin — looks like you’ll just have to buy it. With USD.

Since you need to give Circle one (1) dollar every time you would like one (1) dollarcoin please, it seems like the currency will serve more as an open-source Venmo, where you can pay for things with a digital cryptocurrency instead of paying with a debit or credit card.

Given Goldman Sachs’ recent investments in the crypto realm and announcement that the firm would trade Bitcoin on behalf of investors, it makes sense that the financial giant is trying to control the market as best it can.

So for now, the USD Coin doesn’t seem to have any practical purpose beyond introducing a stable and maybe accessible cryptocurrency. For the foreseeable future, a dollar in your hand is about the same as a dollar on the USD Coin blockchain.

Huawei P20 Pro: Beautiful inside out

The Huawei P20 Pro is catered to photography enthusiasts with other features that many can appreciate.

I FOUND myself really popular over the last two weeks, being asked to parties and events. At first, I thought that it was due to my dazzling personality, but my friends brought me back to reality quite bluntly. “We just want you to take photos using the Huawei P20 Pro.” They are not my friends anymore.

The P20 Pro has a stunning 6.1in screen that takes up almost the entire front but if the ‘notch’ bothers you, it can be turned off (bottom). — Photos: YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

The P20 Pro has a stunning 6.1in screen that takes up almost the entire front. — YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

However, I understand the craze. The P20 Pro does take ­amazing photographs, and the best part? That is not all there is to this latest flagship from the Chinese tech giant.

Hey good lookin’

This is by far the prettiest ­smartphone I have reviewed. Named Twilight, the colour is inspired by the Northern Lights, and one is supposed to see purple fading to blue and then green on the panel. Don’t worry, I don’t always see the green either.

The P20 Pro in Twilight has to be one of the prettiest smartphones in the market right now.

The P20 Pro in Twilight has to be one of the prettiest smartphones in the market right now. — YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

The aluminium finish gives it a sleek and gorgeous feel, but I ­seriously cannot handle the amount of fingerprints it attracts. Don’t get me started on how slippery it is. If I don’t lay it flat on a flat surface, it will slide, threaten to fall and give me mini heart attacks.

And then there’s the notch, which unfortunately is an OCD freak’s nightmare in this case because it’s uneven. Gasp! So how did I deal with it? I just opted to hide the notch.

The P20 Pro has a 6.1in OLED (organic light emitting diode) screen, slightly bigger than the 5.8in LCD screen sported by its ­sibling, the P20, and both have an aspect ratio of 18.7:9 for an ­immersive viewing experience.

As someone who could watch an entire movie and more on a ­smartphone, I love its vivid colours and the brightness is just right.

If you dont like the notch on the P20 Pro, you can opt to hide it. — YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

If you don’t like the notch on the P20 Pro, you can opt to hide it. — YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

Because I didn’t have the ­earphones with a USB Type-C jack that were supposed to come with the review set, I had to watch my shows with the speakers on blast – but only when I was alone, and the stereo speakers at the bottom ­deliver clear and rich audio even from a few metres away.

What makes it work

The device runs on Android 8.1 with Huawei’s EMUI 8.1 user ­interface, and is powered by the company’s Kirin 970 processor.

The P20 Pro has a 4,000mAh ­battery while the P20 has a 3,400mAh one.

I used the P20 Pro while ­covering the GE14 nomination day, and I was so worried that the phone would run out of battery.

The standard earphone jack is gone so you will need Type-C earphones.

The standard earphone jack is gone so you will need Type-C earphones. — YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

Well, I Wazed my way to and from the nomination centre while listening to Spotify in the car, took hundreds of photos and videos of the candidates, recorded ­interviews, wrote articles, WhatsApped bosses, checked social media accounts, made phone calls, and still didn’t have to charge the phone till the next day.

And when I needed to charge the phone, the SuperCharge capability brought the battery from 1% to 100% in about 60 minutes or so. Unfortunately, the P20 Pro doesn’t support wireless charging.

With 128GB memory and 6GB RAM, I didn’t have to worry about running out of space or even ­dealing with a lagging phone.

Smile for the camera

If you haven’t heard the hoopla surrounding the three rear ­cameras on the P20 Pro, then ­welcome back from the year you spent in a cave.

The phone is equipped with three cameras – 40-megapixel RGB sensor, 20-megapixel monochrome sensor and 8-megapixel sensor with 5x hybrid zoom telephoto lens.

The P20 Pro has three rear cameras: 40-megapixel RGB sensor, 20- megapixel monochrome sensor and 8-megapixel sensor with 5x hybrid zoom telephoto lens.

The P20 Pro has three rear cameras: 40-megapixel RGB sensor, 20- megapixel monochrome sensor and 8-megapixel sensor with 5x hybrid zoom telephoto lens. — YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

I am not great at taking ­photographs, so I let someone who knows cameras test out this ­feature. One of the outstanding results was the crisp and clear night time images taken without a tripod. Even when you zoom into your subject, with slightly shaky hands, the photo doesn’t turn out blurry.

If you’re a photography ­enthusiast, be sure to check out the Pro mode where you can play around with the shutter speed, aperture and ISO level (which goes up to 6,400, by the way).

I particularly like the Ultra Snapshot feature which lets you take a quick snapshot even when the screen is off. Just double-press the down volume button and voila! You get a picture.

And of course, selfie fans will love the 24-megapixel front-facing camera that takes impressive ­portrait shots and even throws in dramatic blurred backgrounds.

Three Leica Camera AG lenses sit on a P20 Pro smartphone, manufactured by Huawei Technologies Co., during its unveiling in Paris, France, on Tuesday, March 21, 2018. Huawei Technologies Co. is launching the P20 as an upgrade to the higher end of its flagship smartphones, walking in the footsteps of rival Samsung Electronics Co. by betting heavily on the camera. Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg

The special Twilight colour is only available for the P20 Pro. — Bloomberg

You don’t have to worry about the lighting as the 3D lighting effect automatically adjusts the setting to make sure that you get a great ­selfie each time.

Conclusion

The Huawei P20 Pro is absolutely worth the hype. This device gives everything you possibly want from a smartphone – amazing photos, fast performance and a long-lasting battery.

The P20 Pro is priced at RM3,299 while the P20 goes for RM2,599. They come in Black, Midnight Blue and Pink Gold. The special Twilight edition is only available for the P20 Pro.

PROS: Excellent cameras; fast performance; sleek design. 

CONS: No wireless charging; slippery.

Get the Huawei P20 Pro right now at Lazada.

To download the Lazada App and start shopping on your mobile devices, click here.

P20 Pro
(Huawei)
Android smartphone
NETWORK: 4G
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 8.1 Oreo
DISPLAY: 6.1in (1,080 x 2,240 pixels)
PROCESSOR: Hisilicon Kirin 970
CAMERA: 40-megapixel RGB + 20-megapixel monochrome + 8-megapixel (rear); 24-megapixel (front)
MEMORY: 128GB storage, 6GB RAM
CONNECTIVITY: WiFi 802.11, Bluetooth, NFC
BATTERY: 4,000mAh
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 73.9 x 7.8 x 155mm
WEIGHT: 180g
PRICE: RM3,299
RATING: 4 stars
Review unit courtesy of Huawei Technologies Malaysia, 1800-22-3366

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Nintendo Labo: A Labo of love

Nintendo Labo lets you craft your own toys out of cardboard, and then use them to play videogames in a uniquely physical way.

Labo is probably the Nintendo’s craziest experiment yet: it’s a “game” where you build toys out of cardboard, then use your ­cardboard creations to interact with the Nintendo Switch in a ­variety of creative and uniquely tactile videogames.

Does this look complicated? I hope not, because it's just a part of what's needed to build the fishing pole.

The Labo is a whole lotta cardboard.

Honestly, this is going to be more of a toy review than a videogame review. Labo shares a lot more with Lego than it does with Super Mario – aside, of course, from the sheer amount of joyful imagination its creators poured into the design.

Right, so on to the review: let’s open a box of Labo and see what’s inside! (Hint: it’s a lot of ­cardboard.)

Toy-Con

First, a quick note: Labo actually refers to the overall DIY cardboard/toy/videogame system that works with the Switch, just like how Lego refers to a system of plastic bricks.

If you’re out shopping, you’ll want to ask for a specific Labo product (which are boxed kits called “Toy-Cons”), and you only have two to choose from at the moment.

Does this look complicated? I hope not, because it's just a part of what's needed to build the fishing pole.

Does this look complicated? I hope not, because it’s just a part of what’s needed to build the fishing pole.

Toy-Con 01 is the Variety Kit, which contains everything you need to build a cardboard RC car, fully functional piano, fishing rod with a fishing game, quirky ­interactive “doll house”, and motorbike racing game.

This is the kit I’d recommend you start with, especially if you intend to play the Labo with your children/­nephews/nieces/surprisingly ­intelligent pets.

Toy-Con 02 is the Robot Kit, which contains materials for building your own suit of robot armour which lets you stomp around as an in-game transforming robot.

Yes, okay, this sounds way more fun, but trust me, you’ll want to start with the easier Variety Kit so you can learn the ropes of working with cardboard.

Make

Every Labo project can be ­divided into three stages – Make, Play, and Discover. The Make stage, of course, is where you actually build your ­cardboard toy by following an interactive video on your Switch.

Each step of the process is ­actually easy to perform: the ­cardboard pieces pop out and fold easily so you don’t need scissors or glue, and the instructions move at the pace you dictate.

The cardboard pieces pop out very easily. Scissors and glue aren't required, unless you're making repairs for some reason.

The cardboard pieces pop out very easily. Scissors and glue aren’t required, unless you’re making repairs for some reason.

I enjoyed this stage the most, as I’d go into a Zen-like trance as I folded cardboard pieces like I was folding an origami animal, only to later realise I spent two hours ­performing some incredible feats of mechanical engineering with interlocking cardboard pieces.

Of course, your experience may differ – if you’re someone who likes jumping straight to the end result to start playing, this stage may be the most mentally taxing as it requires you to be careful.

Just remember, you’re working with cardboard here, not ­adamantium – it’s not an ­indestructible material.

Play

The Play stage is where all your hard work pays off, and it usually starts with you putting your Switch and your Joy-Cons (the controllers) into the toys that you just built.

When I slotted my Joy-Cons into the fishing rod I just made, it struck me: (the realisation, not the rod – I’m not that clumsy) I was actually building my own personal “arcade booth”.

The cardboard accessories added a tactile dimension to the game controls that hitherto could only be found at videogame arcades.

The RC car is one of the simplest toys you'll build, but it's still fun to play with nonetheless.

The RC car is one of the simplest toys you’ll build, but it’s still fun to play with nonetheless.

The fishing game, for example, had me physically spinning a ­cardboard fishing reel to reel in digital fish, and a mechanism of strings and rubber bands made it feel like the fish was pulling back as I tried catching it.

Admittedly, the games for each toy are very simple interactive experiences (in fact, “mini games geared towards younger players” would be a better description), but I nonetheless found them ­satisfying to play, in no small part due to the fact that I’m playing with accessories that I created myself.

Of course, this raises the obvious question: if the real sense of ­gratification comes from building the toys, what happens when you have nothing left to make?

Discover

Well, that’s where the Discover stage comes in. The more I played with the Labo, the more I realised that the system is aimed towards younger minds who are filled with imagination and curiosity.

Once you’ve completed your project, whether it’s a doll house or a motorbike, Labo encourages you to find your own ways to play and have fun.

The software that comes with the Toy-Cons are packed with hints on how to customise your toys (for example, advice on how to paint your cardboard creations) and, interestingly enough, in-depth guides on how the mechanics of each toy works.

The doll house is one of the strangest toys you'll build, as it's more of a Tamagotchi-like experience than an actual minigame.

The doll house is one of the strangest toys you’ll build, as it’s more of a Tamagotchi-like experience than an actual minigame.

Some of these guides are downright educational, explaining the functionality of gyroscopes and accelerometers in a way that’s understandable to kids.

Combined with the flexibility of the Toy-Con Garage – a part of the software that lets you program your own mini games – I can see the limitless potential for people to make their own fun with the Labo system, not unlike Minecraft’s ­creative mode, or Lego bricks.

Of course, I can’t speak for the fertile imagination of kids and what they might come up with, so I’ll just speak for myself: I’m trying to invent a Labo back massager using nothing but a Joy-Con, ­cardboard and rubber bands. It has gone as terribly as you might expect, but I’m still enjoying myself!

Making your own fun

If the idea of building and ­playing with your own videogame toys sounds fun, that’s because it is but be aware that the amount of enjoyment you get out of Labo is directly proportional to the amount of creativity and imagination you put into it.

If you enjoy working with handicrafts, have a playful imagination, or have kids that do, then you absolutely should get a Labo Toy-Con kit just to experience the unique joy of building your own toys.

If not, hey, don’t sweat it – if Labo teaches us anything, it’s that we can always make our own fun anywhere we want to.

Pros: Making your own toys is awesome, and you get to play what you build; it’s like crafting your own tiny arcade booth; this is origami for the future, isn’t it? 

Cons: I hope you know how to be careful around fragile cardboard; nobody mentioned how much storage space I’d need after I built these toys.

Labo
(Nintendo)
Toy DIY kits for Switch
WEBSITE: labo.nintendo.com
PRICE: US$69.99 (RM275) for Toy-Con 01; US$79.99 (RM315) for Toy-Con 02
RATING: 5 stars

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