October Surprise: a roundup of the biggest stories from a crazy month

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We knew October would be busy. We had the invitations, the embargoes, and a stockpile of coffee and seltzer. But this past month turned out to be more insane and more exciting than almost any month in the past year.There was rarely a moment to rest, and it seems like the internet was always reacting to something, somewhere. Microsoft, Amazon, and Google responded with equal parts panic and determination to the onslaught of Apple’s hype machine. People around the world watched with reverence as Felix Baumgartner successfully completely a historic free-fall from the edge of space. Live, on the internet. Reddit’s insular community reacted when one of its most unsavory characters was outed by the media. Apple attempted to avoid a reaction by announcing a major executive shake up in the middle of a catastrophic hurricane. New York City reacted to hurricane Sandy, and the rest of the internet reacted to our reactions via social media. And then Disney bought Lucasfilm, and the internet almost exploded.

Beyond the massive, non-stop wave of news, The Verge also explored the culture of Philip K. Dick, got to know the cosplayers of New York Comic Con, broke down the K-Pop phenomenon, spoke with the Singularity's true believers, and got the inside scoop on what's next for Android — straight from Google.

In hindsight, it seems like all of this more or less happened at once, making the past 31 days one of the most intense and exciting months since The Verge began. And that’s fitting because tomorrow is our first birthday.

We're only scratching the surface here, so dig into the stories below to get the best of the month's news, features, reviews, and original reporting from The Verge.

28 updates and 10940 comments below.

Oct 30 9:01p

iPad mini review

The iPad mini has arrived — and so has our review. Just last week, Apple <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2012/10/23/3543248/apple-ipad-mini-event-news" >introduced the world</a> to the newest member of its wildly successful tablet line, an adorable, diminutive slate with a 7.9-inch display. It even had an adorable ad<a href="http://www.theverge.com/2012/10/23/3546198/watch-this-apple-ipad-mini-smart-cover-videos" > to show along with it</a>: an iPad mini joining in with a full-sized iPad to play "Heart and Soul" on the piano. But to think of the iPad mini as a companion to the 3rd or 4th generation iPad — some kind of secondary player to the bigger version — would probably be a mistake. With a price tag starting at $329 and heading all the way up to $659 (with LTE and 64GB of storage), this isn't really a step down from the existing iPad (well, the iPad 2 at least) as much as it is a step<em> to the side</em>. At least, that's the impression I get. Want a big iPad that isn't too expensive? Get the 2nd gen one. Want one that you can throw in a bag or keep on the nightstand? Get the iPad mini. You fly business class and work in photography? Let me point you in the direction of the new 4th generation model. But regardless of market positioning, the iPad mini has to be viewed in a world with a $199 <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/29/3125396/google-nexus-7-review" >Nexus 7</a> or <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2012/9/11/3317586/kindle-fire-hd-review-7-inch" >Kindle Fire HD</a> — two strong performers that are a far cry, at least in price, from the iPad mini. Even though Apple might want consumers to see these as separate product categories, consumers may only see that $129 gulf. On the other hand, Apple has a lot to fill that gulf, including the absolute best software ecosystem for tablets on the planet right now. But is the iPad mini worth the stretch, or would you be smarter to save the cash and saddle up to another device? Continue reading »


During Hurricane Sandy, misinformation and fact-checking clash on Twitter

When Hurricane Sandy drew near the East Coast, Twitter and Instagram came alive with pictures of the storm. One showed ominous clouds gathering over Midtown Manhattan. In another, soldiers guarded Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under a haze of rain. A third showed a massive wave crashing around the Statue of Liberty. They were stunning images, capturing the scale of the disaster as well as its human impact. There was just one problem: none of them were actually...

Continue reading »


Disney buys Lucasfilm, plans to release 'Star Wars: Episode 7' in 2015 (update)

Star Wars fans, you might want to sit down for this one — The Walt Disney Company just announced its plans to purchase Lucasfilm Ltd from George Lucas, with plans to release Star Wars: Episode 7 sometime during 2015. While there aren't any release dates yet for Episodes 8 and 9, those films will be coming as well — and the studio has even more beyond a new trilogy planned for the future.

The deal is a stock and cash transaction, with Lucas receiving about half of the $4.05 billion value of...

Continue reading »

Oct 29 9:12p

Apple's Scott Forstall's fatal mistake was not signing iOS 6 Maps apology letter: sources

Scott Forstall — the departing Apple executive who'd become the public face of iOS in his role as head of mobile software — may have met his demise when he refused to put his name on the apology letter Apple released several weeks ago, a rare show of contrition from Cupertino when its revamped (and Google-free) Maps product fell short of expectations at the release of iOS 6. The New York Times and CNNMoney are both reporting the story this evening; we've heard similar from sources as well.


Continue reading »


Windows Phone 8 review

<div style="font-size:0.8em;line-height:18px"><em>By Dieter Bohn and Chris Ziegler</em></div> “<em>This</em> is Windows Phone. No, for real this time.” That’s what I thought when I started hearing about <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/20/3101545/windows-phone-8-summit-details-features" >Windows Phone 8</a> a few months ago. Just like Windows Phone 7, it represents yet another clean break for Microsoft’s mobile ambitions — but unlike 7, now it’s got the hardware to match. The truth is a little more complicated: this clean break isn’t as nearly as obvious as Windows Phone 7’s split from Windows Mobile was back in 2010. A quick glance at Windows Phone 8’s home screen, its apps, and its overall aesthetic lead you to believe that it’s only a mild evolution of Windows Phone 7.5 — and in many ways, that’s true. Much of Redmond’s grunt work instead went into overhauling what’s under the hood: these latest-generation phones now use what Microsoft calls the “NT kernel,” the same kernel that underpins Windows 8 and several generations of Windows for the desktop that came before it. As much of an engineering challenge as that conversion may have been, the switch to the NT kernel is something Microsoft insists it needed to do. Amazingly, the framework lying beneath Windows Phone 7.x traces its roots back to Windows CE, Microsoft’s first attempt to port Windows to lightweight devices in the 1990s. It was never designed to accommodate today’s turbocharged smartphones — a market segment where features like multi-core processors are now the norm, not the exception. But under-the-hood changes are tough sells for consumers drawn in by visuals and feature lists. So many of the questions raised by Windows Phone 8 are the same questions raised by Windows Phone 7.5 and 7 before it: is this finally the mobile platform that Microsoft (and Nokia) need to find widespread success? Continue reading »


Slow lane: why Google's new Nexus 4 doesn't have LTE

By Dieter Bohn and Nilay Patel

The Nexus 4 is an impressive smartphone that ticks off every modern spec checkbox you could ask for, save one: LTE. Instead, the Nexus 4 will only come unlocked with HSPA+ radios. It is a disappointing omission, driven by both Google's complex philosophical desire to build open devices as well as the fairly simple economics of building a halo product for a small niche of early adopters.

For Google, Nexus is a flagship brand that represents the best of Android,...

Continue reading »


Inside Android's next wave: Building the Nexus 4, Nexus 10, and Android 4.2

An exclusive look at the team crafting Google's most ambitious brand, and the inside story of its latest work Continue reading »


Google Now: behind the predictive future of search

How Google learned to un-fragment itself and create the next big thing Continue reading »

Oct 24 10:00a

In 2012 election, the meme factory hones its assembly line

About 100 people had gathered for a generously-catered, open bar party in the West Village offices of Livestream, which was co-hosting a viewing of the third presidential debate with Tumblr. The night’s official theme was "Live-GIFing the 2012 Debates," and, despite the free flow of wine, the audience was initially discouraged by the dry debate's dearth of meme-able moments.

The startups had commissioned six digital artists to live-GIF the debate. They sat around a table in the middle of the...

Continue reading »

Oct 23 9:00p

Microsoft Surface review

The Microsoft Surface is no minor thing to review, especially when you consider the stakes for this product. The tablet / laptop hybrid — which was announced at a surprise event in Los Angeles back in June — is not just a unique product in the market, it's also the first of its kind for Microsoft. The company's foray into designing and building its own hardware is not exactly unheard of, but competing directly with partners on PCs certainly is. Adding fuel to an already-crackling fire, Microsoft is making two distinct versions of the Surface available: the $499 (and up) Surface with Windows RT, which runs a scaled back version of Windows for ARM chipsets, and the yet-to-be-released Surface with Windows 8 Pro, a full-on, Intel-based Windows machine with all the power you'd expect from a modern laptop. I've been tasked with reviewing the former, a product which competes in both price and functionality with the iPad and higher-end Android tablets. The device itself is an interesting new addition to a crowded market. Though Windows RT touts a desktop environment which looks and feels very similar to Windows 7, the OS doesn't allow for legacy Windows applications to be run or installed, save for the Office suite and a desktop version of Internet Explorer 10. Furthermore, new apps must be written for the tiled environment of Windows 8 — the new Windows Phone-influenced interface which seemingly defines Microsoft's future. So what to make of this strange hybrid? Is it the next logical step in computing — a transmutable slab which offers the best of the past and the present — or is it something else? A half-step, a feint, a compromise? Can you really have it all, as Microsoft suggests, or is the Surface trying to go in too many directions at once? Continue reading »


Windows 8 review

Windows 8 is a rebirth, a "reimagining" of Windows and the entire Microsoft brand. It's also the single riskiest project that Microsoft has ever embarked upon — a bet from Redmond that users can adapt to a new way of computing. With mobile alternatives from Google and Apple eating into sales of traditional PCs, Microsoft needed to act quickly to protect its Windows revenue. A short testing phase of under a year from Developer Preview to a finished product in stores shows that Microsoft is serious this time around. The result? An entirely new Windows user interface designed for touch and a new generation of Windows apps. This isn't the Windows you're familiar with, but is that a good thing? Continue reading »

Oct 22 1:00p


Rapture of the nerds: will the Singularity turn us into gods or end the human race?

A gathering of experts on artificial intelligence becomes a search for deeper meaning Continue reading »

Oct 19 11:00a

Reddit's road rules: trolling America's heartland, one startup at a time

The internet's 'front page' looks for links the old-fashioned way Continue reading »

Oct 18 4:45p

Why Apple acquiring Color makes sense in Silicon Valley: the strange logic of the acqui-hire

Color, a photo sharing app that launched in August of 2010, has the unpleasant distinction of having raised $41 million before it even launched, by far one of the largest sums bestowed on any software company prior to them acquiring a single customer. Its technology, a location based social network that automatically found and shared photos with relevant people nearby, was hyped by every tech blogger who had the good fortune of enjoying early access to the product. And of course, after...

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Newsweek turns to digital-only publication

Long-running publication Newsweek is shifting to an all-digital format, Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown and CEO Baba Shetty announced today on sister site The Daily Beast. Newsweek will end its US print run on December 31st, and future editions will be released under the moniker Newsweek Global, a subscription-based online magazine for tablets and browsers. Some content will also be released through The Daily Beast, which Brown and Shetty say has seen a 70 percent increase in traffic this year to...

Continue reading »

Oct 17 5:13p

White House-ordered Huawei probe reveals no evidence of spying, says Reuters (update)

A White House-ordered probe has revealed no evidence that telecommunications company Huawei spied for the Chinese government, sources tell Reuters. According to two people apparently familiar with the review, there was nothing to indicate active spying, although one source says that "certain parts of government really wanted" such evidence. This contrasts sharply with a US Congressional report released last week, calling both Huawei and ZTE, another major Chinese tech company, a national...

Continue reading »


Behind the mask: being yourself as someone else at New York Comic Con

Thousands of people spent their weekend in costume; we asked a few of them to step out of character Continue reading »


Obama and Romney clash over Apple, Made in China

Tuesday night's feisty presidential debate covered largely familiar ground, as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney traded jabs over hot-button issues such as immigration, tax plans, and foreign policy. The discourse became more pointed toward the end, however, when moderator Candy Crowley confronted both candidates about the outsourcing of tech manufacturing jobs.

"iPad, the Macs, the iPhones, they are all manufactured in China," Crowley said, citing low labor costs as a primary driver. "How do you...

Continue reading »

Oct 16 3:01p

Banned Reddit moderator fears 'cloak and dagger' handling of criticism

Thanks to its 40 million loosely moderated users, Reddit has achieved massive growth with a minimum of regulation. Its hands-off approach is strongly libertarian, giving users a platform to say almost anything while treating anonymity as sacrosanct. But after the publication of a Gawker article outing Violentacrez, one of Reddit’s most controversial users, moderators and admins are increasingly having to decide where to draw the line when the two conflict — and how to deal with criticism of...

Continue reading »

Oct 14 2:13p

Felix Baumgartner completes free fall from the edge of space, breaks sound barrier

Moments ago skydiver Felix Baumgartner successfully completed a jump from over 128,000 feet above the Earth, a feat which immediately broke numerous world records and etched his name into the history books. After a postponed launch and some last-minute concerns during ascent, Baumgartner left his capsule and stood on a step no larger than a skateboard. Then he jumped.

The accomplishment shatters a number of long-standing world records. Before today, Joseph Kittinger held the honor of highest...

Continue reading »

Oct 11 11:30a

Why can't you vote online?

Making internet voting secure is a big challenge, but American elections have bigger demons Continue reading »

Oct 09 10:30a

Terrorism as art: Mark Pauline's dangerous machines

Robots, rebellion, and the post-apocalyptic performance art of Survival Research Labs Continue reading »

Oct 08 10:17a

Nobel Prize awarded to two scientists responsible for major cloning and stem cell advancements

Two scientists whose stem-cell research was separated by over four decades have been announced as the winners of 2012's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Sir John B. Gurdon of Cambridge, UK discovered in 1962 that the "specialization" of cells is reversible — in his experiment, he replaced an immature cell nucleus in an egg cell of a frog with a cell that had matured and developed into an intestinal cell. Despite this change, the frog egg cell matured into a normal tadpole, proving that...

Continue reading »

Oct 03 9:39a

3D printing for fun and profit: a serious hobby grows up

The ragged edges produced in 3D printing rather suit this Yoda sample from the Afinia H-Series 3D Printer, which costs $1,500 and comes with tech support.

There were 76 exhibits in the 3D printing category at this year’s Maker Faire, and the two tents devoted to it were jammed. Attendees handled interlocking cubes, spherical lattices, bracelets, and brightly-colored figurines at every table, repeatedly asking, "This was 3D-printed?" even though the answer was always yes. "It’ll be a parent...

Continue reading »

Oct 01 11:01a

More human than human: how Philip K. Dick can change your life

'Dickheads' gather in San Francisco to celebrate the sci-fi visionary Continue reading »
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