Amazon Alexa can now play Audible books in Australia and New Zealand

Alexa’s available skills Down Under are on the rise. Starting today, Aussies and Kiwis with an Audible membership can ask their Alexa-powered smart speaker to play their favourite audiobooks for them.

All you need to do is say, “Alexa, read [name of book]” and you can listen to your heart’s content, allowing you to relax, whip up a meal in the kitchen, or keep up with your chores without missing out on any reading.

If you need to pause or resume the narration, just say “Alexa, pause” or “Alexa, resume my book” and Amazon’s digital assistant will do the needful. By saying, “Alexa, go back” or “Alexa, go forward”, the digital assistant will skip 30 seconds in the requested direction. You'll even be able to skip chapters, and know that Alexa will begin playing your audiobook where you left off the last time.

With hundreds of thousands of audiobook titles to choose from, and more being added every day, your book choices are plenty. For new members, Audible offers the first audiobook on the house, with memberships costing $16.45 per month after a free 30-day trial.

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Best laptop sales in Australia: Cheap laptops to buy in May 2018

If you're looking for a cheap laptop or a mammoth saving on a premium portable computer, you've come to the right place. We've scoured the web for savings – from the usual suspects to the niche deal sites – and rounded up all the genuine and worthwhile specials in one neat place. We've covered everything from budget browsing machines to high-performance powerhouses, so you'll no doubt find something to match your needs.

Up the top, we've highlighted a selection of the latest deals that we've sniffed out, so you can reap the rewards of having your finger on the pulse. Below that we've covered some of the more popular laptops that often come up on special, and then included a quick list of the best prices on TechRadar's pick of the latest best laptops.

If you're from the US or the UK, check out our selections of the top laptop deals in the US or in the UK.

Best laptop deals this week

laptop deals

We'll keep on updating the list of deals as and when we find them. Below, you'll find up to date prices on TechRadar's favourite laptop, so keep an eye out for those savings.

The best deals on our favourite laptops

Over the years we've reviewed plenty of laptops and, as a result, we've seen what to avoid and what to jump on when there's savings to be had. We'll keep track of the prices of some of the best we've seen so that you can snatch up a bargain when they do show up. Check out the prices below and see if anything has dropped enough to tickle your fancy.

Best laptops

Saying that we're very happy with Dell's XPS 13 is a huge understatement. The slim profile, revolutionary design and small frame bely its powerful performance and gorgeous 13-inch screen. Typically you'd have to weigh up portability and performance, but the XPS 13 has managed to strike a fine balance between the two. With Intel's latest Skylake processors plus lighting, quick storage and memory, the XPS 13's starting price is certainly an impressive one. We're so chuffed with it that it's taken the top slot as the best Ultrabook, the best Windows laptop and the best overall laptop.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13

There are some seriously expensive gaming laptops out there, once you get involved in the optimisation and the latest GPUs, things start get pricey. But if you're after a capable machine on a budget, try out the Dell Inspiron 15-inch gaming laptop.

Read the full review: Dell Inspiron 15-inch gaming laptop

cheap laptop deals

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A seriously sleek all-aluminium chassis, a higher resolution than the discontinued Asus ZenBook UX305, and an impressive swath of ports, including the latest USB-C interface, the latest UX310UA ZenBook is a serious contender for the MacBook Air and, if you're a Windows person, is much better value.

Read the full review: Asus ZenBook UX310

Although the specs are modest, the forward-thinking design of Lenovo's Yoga Book makes it a decent option for creative types and those that want a little more out of their laptops. Sacrificing a bit of raw power means you'll get an innovative digital touchpad and drawing surface for a much more intuitive and precise approach to graphical art.

Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga Book

cheap surface pro deals

We know this is technically not a laptop, but it does come close to being a 2-in-1 (if you get the Type Case) and, most importantly, it has the power to get in the ring with some of its non-tablet competitors. Running the full-blown version of Windows 10 and having the option for a powerful Intel Core processor, this is by far the laptoppiest tablet available, and the price certainly isn't that bad.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro 4

If you're after some more further info on the best laptops, check out some of our other dedicated articles:

Watch the video below for the top 7 things to consider when buying a laptop. 

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Obama: Why Silicon Valley and US government need to buddy up

Former President Barack Obama has urged the technology sector to get friendly with the government in order to keep innovation

Speaking at the Oktane18 event attended by TechRadar Pro in Las Vegas earlier this week, the 44th President outlined that the two sides need to work more closely to ensure a profitable future.

"It is in the interest of all of us for there to be a good conversation between the tech community and the people in Washington, and create a structure of ongoing deliberation and exchange,” the former President said.

“Right now the technology industry believes this is inefficient and…just go to do our own thing,” he added, “that doesn't help anybody."

One area that could benefit hugely from this closer partnership is online voting. The debate around a possible introduction of an online voting system has rumbled on for some time, and the former President said he supported introducing such a platform – not least to make voting easier and more inclusive.

Calling for “simple things” that don’t require outstanding encryption and authentication processes, President Obama hailed technology as the answer, noting that, “if we can secure the voting process – and have a paper record generated, it should be something that should be considered.”

During his chat with Okta CEO Todd McKinnon, President Obama, who is set to release a new Netflix series soon, also highlighted the issues concerning online security – particularly safeguarding people’s online identity.

“All of us are trying to shape and absorb information in ways that can be confusing,” President Obama said. 

“If you ask people in Washington DC what identity means, they may well first describe their racial identity. By definition (Americans) are a nation of people that came from everywhere else. I think the big challenge we have today is how do we maintain a sense of common purpose rather than splinter or divide.”

“We are seeing this debated on social media every day, but if we don’t figure it out then our society and democracy may not survive.”

Revealing that life outside the Presidency was like the end of famous sci-fi film The Matrix, President Obama called for more pragmatism when it comes to balancing a digital and online life, particularly as the world as we know it is evolving with the embracing of technology.

"Change is hard,” he said, “it's hard for society to change, particularly when change is happening so rapidly.”

"We live in a culture where everybody feels the "crush of information" and collision of worlds,” he said, “it's disruptive in a way previous generations didn't experience."

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The Essential Phone 2 reportedly canceled

The Essential Phone 2, the proposed sequel to the ambitious modular smartphone by Android co-founder Andy Rubin, has reportedly been canceled.

We were expecting a second-generation version of the original Essential Phone later this year, but development on it has ceased at the start-up, according to Bloomberg.

The Essential Phone's one-and-done smartphone fate isn't a big surprise today. The company is said to have sold just 150,000 phones to date. That's not nearly enough to stay afloat.

The start-up company, once valued at as much as $1 billion, is now reportedly on sale with its patents, hardware and upcoming smart home device up for grabs.

There are other options: Essential is said to have shifted resources to its upcoming smart home product, on track to launch by 2019. Or it could live on as a brand, without a hand in the costly development process.

It's far from the plans Rubin had for the company, when he laid out his vision last year. But we always knew it was a wildcard against Samsung, Apple and Google.

What went wrong with The Essential Phone?

The Essential Phone was a well-crafted all-screen smartphone and the precursor to the notch phones that have exploded in popularity. It pre-dated the iPhone X notch.

However, the unique ceramic and titanium design and 360-degree camera mod couldn't save it from two major flaws. First, it had a poor camera, something the company admitted. The Google Pixel 2 and Samsung Note 8 launched in its wake with the best camera phones.

Second, the price and availability were all wrong. Price drops shifted the Essential Phone PH-1 from a steep $699 (about £523, AU$923) to $299 (about £224, AU$394) in eight months. 

It also lacked broad carrier support in the US, with only Sprint selling it initially, and only came to the UK last month.

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NBN Co has cancelled its 100Mbps fixed-wireless service

There was great news for the thousands of end users connected to the NBN's fixed wireless connection last year, when NBN Co announced that they’d see their data quota for each month doubled. A year on and the national broadband service’s CEO, Bill Morrow, has revealed that the company will be canning the 100Mbps speed tier for the hundreds of thousands of Australians on a fixed wireless connection.

Speaking to a Senate Estimates committee, Morrow said, “We killed it,” adding that “there’s not mass-market demand for 100Mbps services” in areas where the service is already active. Instead, NBN Co wants to concentrate on supplying 25Mbps speeds to customers in rural and regional areas, which accounts for nearly 600,000 premises.

The high cost of high-speed broadband

According to Morrow, there are currently “240,000 active users on the fixed wireless network today,” with that number expected to grow to 400,000 in the near future.

“If you said for all those 400,000 users we want everyone to have 100Mbps speed to all use in the same concurrency levels in the evening, you would be blown away at the cost. It would just never happen,” he explained, adding that it would cost “billions and billions of dollars” of taxpayer money to maintain those speeds.

While end users on fibre and cable – largely in cities and metropolitan areas – are opting for higher speeds, Morrow denies there would be a digital divide between cities and the country. According to him, regional Australia “had next to nothing” before the NBN service launched and what they currently have has “changed their lives”.

Customer dissatisfaction

While the NBN might be finding ways and means of making sure the rollout happens on time with the least number of glitches, the service has not been without drama for cable, fibre and fixed wireless customers, with delays, connection issues and lack of speed.

Despite all the fracas, NBN Co announced in January this year that it expected nearly half of its fixed-wireless base to be served by the 100Mbps speed tier by the end of its 2020 rollout, yet the nearly 300,000 customers still waiting for an upgrade will now no longer have the option.

NBN Co will, instead, concentrate on supplying most users with at least 50Mbps, while the rest will have to be satisfied with at least 25Mbps.

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