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30
Jun

Best icon packs [2015]


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Are you getting tired of looking at the same old icons every time you go back to your home screen? Did you just set yourself up with a launcher, but things still aren’t fresh enough for you? Well, Android customization goes even further–you can replace the icons on all of your downloaded applications.

Icon packs, which are generally free in the Play Store, add a new and invigorating look to your home screen. Not only that, but there’s a wide variety of exciting styles you could go for.

Not sure where to get started? No problem! What follows is Talk Android’s top 10 favorite icon packs on the Play Store. Be sure to check them out! Do keep in mind that it is more than likely that you’ll need to be running a launcher in order to take advantage of many of these.

Stealth

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The Stealthychief’s Stealth icon pack is literally makes your icons take on a dark and shadowy theme, perfect for those that want to transform their home screen into something stealth-like. It also includes a variety of darker wallpapers to help you transform your home screen into something unique.

For the most part, the Stealth icon pack should have all the icons you’ll ever need. But if for some reason there’s not a support icon, you can just jump into the app and request icons that are missing from the pack. Unlike many icon packs on the Play Store, this particular option isn’t free. It’ll cost you $1.99, but they’ll also run 50% off sales here and there.
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Play Store Download Link

Numix Circle

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Numix Project’s Numix Circle icon pack is a unique offering in that all the icons are circular. It looks nice, for the most part. However, there are some apps where forcing it into a circle just looks clunky and weird. For instance, it just makes Stack Exchange and The Verge look awkward. Besides that, it’s actually really unique and a beautiful take on icons.

It does come with its own Numix Circle wallpaper, and it supports a wide variety of different launchers.

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Play Store Download Link

Moonshine

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Valient Pixel’s Moonshine icon pack is a fan favorite over here at Talk Android. Icons are unique and look stunningly gorgeous. It has a very sexy, flat, and “free form” look going on. There’s an icon for just about every app you might use, unless you’ve got an extremely uncommon application installed. However, featuring 925+ different icons, that isn’t likely.

It also comes with 28 unique wallpapers. And the best part? It’s free!

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Play Store Download Link

Silhouette

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Silhouette takes on a gorgeous and almost flat, three-dimensional theme. The design of this particular icon pack is gorgeous, but there are a few caveats. For instance, this particular icon pack meshes will with darker backgrounds over colorful options.

It’s also one of the few icon packs to handle unsupported icons. Unfortunately, while they do handle unsupported icons, they look awful. However, if you’re running a darker theme on your Android device and don’t mind only supported icons on your home screen, Silhouette is a gorgeous solution, and you couldn’t go wrong with it.

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Play Store Download Link

Vintage

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Stealthychief’s Vintage is one of our favorites here at Talk Android, as it gives your home screen an old, nostalgic style. The icon pack is constantly being updated, it supports many launchers, and even unthemed icons are able to fluently take on the Vintage style. The downside? It costs $1.99, but the developer occasionally has 50% off sales running.

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Play Store Download Link

Phix

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Phix is a fairly new icon pack, but is gorgeous and follows Google’s Material Design guidelines, putting it up there with other beautiful icon packs like Moonshine and Stark. However, you might have to relearn what icons are what.

The Phix icon pack does try to keep with the same general resemblance of icons you know and love, but many of them have had a major redesign, and in a good way. The Phix icon pack will only cost you $1.08.
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Play Store Download Link

Paper Crush

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The Paper Crush icon pack, developed by Vadnere, is a lovely paper-themed solution. It looks awkward on your standard wallpaper options, but the icon pack does include three wallpapers that mesh perfectly with the theme of the icon pack. Not only that, but there’s a couple of dock options, too.
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Play Store Download Link

Smoke and Glass

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Hoolm’s Smoke and Glass icon pack gives your home screen a smoke and glass theme. For instance, it takes the outline of an app like Twitter, and puts it behind smoke and glass, essentially making your apps look like a handful of marbles. It’s a unique icon pack, and the developer has created a couple hundred icons, so all of the popular apps are easily compatible. Keep in mind that it will cost you $1.80 for this solution.
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Play Store Download Link

Hekz

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Hekz is fairly self-explanatory. For the most part, most of the original icons are present in this package, but over the standard flat-style, apps now take on a hexagon theme. It’s very stylish, and there are two different Hekz themes you can choose from. Hekz’s icon pack will run you $1.49.
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Play Store Download Link

Stark

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As developer kovdev touts, Stark is perfect for those that love the minimalist theme. Everything is flat and there’s not a whole lot of going on. Being a minimalist theme, there’s nothing flashy here, but the simple and vivid colors bring its own beauty to the home screen. It’s one of my favorites, and it’s what I personally use. It supports thousands of icons and it will work with most launchers. However, it will run you $1.99.
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Play Store Download Link

Conclusion

There are a large arsenal of icon packs available on the Google Play Store, many that we missed. There’s all types available–Steampunk, retro, modern styles, you name it. However, there’s just too many to throw into a single article. That said, we’re giving the mic to you, the readers. What’s your favorite icon pack and launcher that you’re running on your device?

Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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30
Jun

This is what innovation looks like in big-budget video games


Indie games don’t sell as many copies as big-budget titles, though not necessarily because they’re lower-quality. In general, indie game development starts with a handicap: a limited market. They are, mostly, experiences made for niche audiences. AAA games — think Call of Duty, Halo, Battlefield, Destiny — are made for everyone, an audience that’s been intensely researched over decades of action-movie box-office sales and Black Friday marketing campaigns. AAA consultants know exactly which games sell the best, where they sell the most, how much the mainstream audience wants to think and what their boundaries are. This approach to creation contributes to the flood of sequels and first-person shooters in our game libraries, now and into the foreseeable future. Sony and Microsoft’s showcases at E3 2015 were soaked in sequels and remakes, leading some fans to question the creative status of the industry as a whole. But, the AAA industry does innovate — in its own, small way.

AAA’s focus on mainstream appeal and major money keeps the video game industry churning in the public eye, which is a good thing as gaming strives to be taken seriously as a form of entertainment and art. However, AAA is not too big to fail. It needs to innovate, as much as it can, to stay relevant. It needs to take risks; it needs to offer players new experiences, even if these take place in familiar worlds. Innovation in the AAA space looks dramatically different than anything in the indie realm — because it has to, in the name of the industry’s bottom line.

Four games shown off at E3 2015 clearly demonstrate the delicate balance of innovation and familiarity required in sustained AAA development: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, and Horizon: Zero Dawn and ReCore.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst both build off of a familiar sci-fi premise: In the future, society is controlled by a fear-mongering, murderous and inhumane government, and the protagonist fights against the system in the name of justice. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a dark exploration of the war between cybernetically enhanced people and organic-only humans, taking world-building cues from dystopian sci-fi classics Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Transmetropolitan and Neuromancer. Players can slaughter their way through claustrophobic, metal-soaked cities or sneak around, only killing when necessary.

Innovation in the AAA space doesn’t always mean “different.” Sometimes, it just means “more.”

In a hands-off demo at E3, Deus Ex developers emphasized a variety of new gadgets and weapons available to protagonist Adam Jensen in the new game. According to Square Enix’s market analysts, this is what dedicated Deus Ex players want: New toys, bigger worlds and more moves. No major changes, no big shake-ups. Deus Ex consistently offers a cool universe, a badass protagonist and a beloved sci-fi franchise, and many players are happy to play within its walls over and over again. Mankind Divided is on track to be a serious, action-heavy, technologically fabulous game about our dystopian future. Yes, again. Innovation in the AAA space doesn’t always mean “different.” Sometimes, it just means “more.”

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst approaches sci-fi dystopia from a drastically different vantage point. First of all, the game world is bright white, compared with the dreary yellows and browns of Deus Ex. Second, Catalyst highlights one woman, Faith, as the player’s only weapon against a corrupt government — and Faith truly is the only weapon that players need. She’s a parkour and hand-to-hand-combat master, and she soars through a stark white city by sliding, climbing and leaping around rooftops and alleyways. In an alpha build I played at E3, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst felt buttery smooth and Faith’s universe seemed free and open, even in a limited demo space.

Mirror’s Edge represents a different kind of innovation than Deus ExCatalyst needs to play better than the original Mirror’s Edge in order to retain the series’ cult-like status, so DICE is focused on making the controls and movements work well. Plus, with the robust AI capabilities of current-gen consoles, Catalyst can be bigger and offer more replay value than its predecessor. These are wonderful additions to revive a nearly forgotten franchise, even though, at first glance, the tweaks don’t look like major additions. Much like timing a jump from the top of one rooftop to the next, it’s all about subtlety here.

It’s easier to spot something that looks like AAA “innovation” in original IPs, even when two new games offer nearly the same storyline. Horizon: Zero Dawn and ReCore share a conceit: Robots vastly outnumber humans in a post-apocalyptic Earth steeped in a mysterious past. Again, extremely different vibes emanate from each of these titles. Horizon is billed as a realistic, large game featuring weapon-based combat, stealth, crafting and explosive boss battles. It looks beautiful so far and that’s a big part of the battle for a new IP. Even if the story doesn’t live up to expectations, as some players fear, this could be the birth of a fresh franchise — the lifeblood of the AAA industry.

Even though it’s also a new IP, ReCore carries more history than Horizon simply because it comes from Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune. Its universe mirrors Horizon‘s, though things are more cartoonish. Instead of massive, dinosaur-like machines, ReCore features dog-like robots and metal creatures with rounded, friendly edges, even for the baddies. As Inafune said in our interview with him at E3, ReCore offers something familiar for longtime video game fans: “As some people may know, I really love robots. Pretty much all of my games have some type of robots in them.” ReCore may be a new game, but it carries immediately recognizable themes. It’s like a fuzzy blanket of familiarity wrapped around a tiny ball of novelty.

This is innovation, AAA-style. It’s a balance of familiarity and newness; safety and risk. Even new games, the ones that we want to call “innovative,” feature recognizable and accessible aspects for the mainstream market. These games have to appeal to a mass audience, meaning that once something works, large developers are slower to change and publishers are less inclined to try something new. This has led to yearly, multi-million-dollar franchises such as Call of Duty and Battlefield — but even these titles suffer when they don’t innovate enough. Sales of Call of Duty have fallen for the past three years, though the franchise still dominates the gaming industry. For now.

Besides, to anyone who claims that the video game industry is devoid of creativity or new experiences: You’re not looking hard enough. The indie scene — or whatever you want to call titles made by small teams with little traditional funding — is bursting with fresh ideas and creative, exciting games. These aren’t all 16-bit nostalgia bombs or harsh experiments in social commentary, either. Complaints about over-saturation on video game distribution hubs like the App Store or Steam may be valid, but it’s difficult to despair a lack of new games and a glut of new games in the same breath. Dig a little deeper. But, however creative the indie industry may be, it can’t support the entire multi-billion-dollar gaming market on its own.

Today, there are more games than ever for players to enjoy, from indie to AAA. As the indie scene creates weird, subtle and soul-shattering experiences, big-budget developers tweak the formula that works in order to keep the industry afloat. And, in the process, all of these studios create games that excite, entertain and soothe players for years on end, even if they repeatedly offer the same experience with a different skin, map or gadget. This is how it works, until the market — meaning, everyone — dictates otherwise.

Filed under: Gaming

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30
Jun

The best of Public Access Vol. 3: the Atari ST, virtues of HD Audio and more


You can learn a lot from someone’s personal gadget arsenal, whether at home or on the road. This past week on Public Access gave us a glimpse of your technological inclinations and taught us quite a bit. Miné Salkin’s at-home gear is all about enabling multimedia storytelling and journalism, and constitutes a pretty impressive setup for creating and editing 4K video. Alexander Hohenthaner shared the gear he packs in his bag to get through his daily grind. It’s not all about now, however. Nostalgia’s a powerful thing, and Jess James gave us a heavy dose with fond memories of his first PC, the Atari ST. Meanwhile, Chris Carroll waxed poetic on how filming family get togethers has brought about some peculiar behavior from his relatives.

P.S. The homepage is coming soon! in the meantime you can check out the latest from Public Access right here. Not a member? Apply, and keep the weird alive.

This week, however, we want y’all to look a bit further back in time for inspiration. In honor of Independence Day, we’re looking for you to create an alternate universe, where the founding of our nation was helped along (or eliminated) by a technological nudge… from you! Tell us what piece of tech you’d bring back to the 1770s to change the course of history during America’s revolutionary war. And, once you’ve redirected the sands of time, it’s time to fast forward to the present and tell us what sorts of gear you’ll be using to throw that epic BBQ you’ve got planned for this weekend.

Oh, and in case you’ve got some moving pictures or social media to enhance your writing, we’ve made it really simple to embed YouTube videos and social posts in your stories — all you need is the URL or embed code and you’re good to go!

RECOMMENDED READING

“I finished J-school five years ago, graduating at a time when multimedia reporting was finding its voice, Twitter was only two or three years old, a 6 megapixel camera was super sweet and 2GB of RAM made you edit video at (what felt like) superhuman speeds.”

Read the rest of GadgetUtopia: My descent into full, immersive multimedia by Miné Salkin

“What I find interesting this time around is that higher-quality audio formats are being greeted with a fair amount of skepticism in the press. The general argument goes something like this: “I’ve done listening tests and can’t tell the difference between compressed music formats and these high-resolution files. Besides, the human ear can only hear so much, so don’t bother with any of these products and services because you won’t be able to get any real benefits.”

Read the rest of Appreciating HD Audio by Bob O’Donnell

“While I absolutely loathe the [Moto 360’s] voice command function – Can it simply not handle German? Do I have a lisp? Is it simply not working? – I like everything else about it. Especially after the latest update it is beginning to feel like the futuristic gadget it was always meant to be.”

Read the rest of Show and Tell: Traveling nerd – the basics by Alexander Hohenthaner

“My parents got their own Super 8 camera and I specifically remember one recorded event. Probably because I made myself the star in it. It was the late 1960s and in my neighborhood adults regulary hosted dance parties. It was our night and for the first half hour or so, my younger brother and I could stay up and join the fun. I got a kid’s grasshopper, put on a pair of oversized sunglasses I got at the circus (three times as big as my head), and made my way into the crowd.”

Read the rest of The Camera and the Wave by Chris Carroll

“The HP Stream 11 (or as I like to call it, the Barney Laptop) is a nice, low-budget Windows laptop. For being as inexpensive as it is, it’s a very nice laptop. Sure, you can’t run Photoshop or Sony Vegas but you can do a lot of typing on the very nice keyboard. As an added bonus, it’s sturdy enough it probably won’t shatter the first time you drop it on the ground.”

Read the rest of Show and Tell, or: I have way too many computers by Sean Ellis

“Interestingly the Atari ST was my first exposure to fanboyism. There was a rival computer on the shelves at the time and it was called a Commodore Amiga. When my Dad walked me into the shop to get my new computer I vividly remember him actually asking me whether I wanted an Amiga instead. I’d read magazines, researched the specs and I knew it was the Atari that I wanted because the Amiga just sucked.”

Read the rest of Love and PCs: Your first computer memories by Jess James

“When I was 14 years old I was a Professional Babysitter. I kid you not; I took a course and had a certificate and everything. My favourite clients were a young couple with a four month old baby who was usually already in bed when I arrived. There was a fridge full of snacks, ready-made bottles for the inevitable late night feedings, and a base station CB radio. This was my first foray into social media (though the term had not yet been coined) and I decided to pay homage to my favourite comic strip by adopting the handle Ziggy.”

Read the rest of My second first screen name by Richard Mackey

YOUR DOSE OF INSPIRATION

Rewriting history: friend or foe?

Friday is Independence day here in the US, a day when Americans celebrate our freedom from the English crown, but the road to liberty was paved through hardship and guerilla warfare. Imagine you’re a time-traveling patriot (or British loyalist), able to bring General Washington (or Benedict Arnold) one piece of non-weapon technology — and keep in mind that there were neither cell towers nor electrical outlets in the colonies. What would you bring back to the 18th century and why?

Better partying through technology

As with many holidays, one of the best parts about July 4th (other than the fireworks) is that it gives us a good excuse to eat and drink well with friends. But grilling your favorite meats and veggies and delivering ice cold beverages to the attendees of your backyard soiree ain’t easy. What gadgets, tools and tricks do you use to keep your guests fed, buzzed and entertained? Show us with your party pics and tell us what you do!

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30
Jun

Facebook Messenger’s money-sending tool arrives for all US users


When it first announced plans to let you send money to your pals in its Messenger app, Facebook said the feature would roll out in the States in the coming months. Well, the time has come. After flipping the switch for folks in New York City and the surrounding areas in late May, the social network is letting users in the rest of the US beam funds to friends, too. To leverage the currency tool, you’ll need to link a debit card before money can be transferred from your bank account to a recipient. For added security, you’ll have to input a PIN before each transaction and iPhone/iPad users can employ Touch ID to verify their identity. And all of the transferred data travels via an encrypted connection. Messenger may not be your first choice to reimburse someone for concert tickets or for picking up your tab, but if you use the app to chat with friends or family, it could come in handy.

Filed under: Software, Mobile, Facebook

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Source: David Marcus (Facebook)

30
Jun

Top Android devices speed test: the winner is clear


There’s a reason Samsung just became the top smartphone manufacturer in the U.S thanks to their Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge devices; they just got pitted up against the best smartphones available on the market right now, and it was a whitewash.

Except for 3 categories, the Galaxy S6 ranked first in all the other benchmark and tests. The only ones it didn’t win in was the Camera Open Time and Basemark OSII Memory, where it placed 2nd, and the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, where it placed 3rd.

The sheer speed and performance of the Galaxy S6 is clear that it is the best Android smartphone you can buy on the market, in terms of raw performance. Experience may be another story.

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When it comes to experience, the HTC One M9 takes the crown, at least on paper. Yet more argument for TouchWiz optimisation on the Galaxy S6 to further compliment the performance it is clearly capable of.

What else is significantly clear from the speed test performed is that the Snapdragon 810 is as much of a disappointment as expected.

What do you think of the results? Are you surprised? Drop us a comment below to let us know your thoughts.

VIA: SAM Mobile

The post Top Android devices speed test: the winner is clear appeared first on AndroidGuys.

30
Jun

YouTube shows off some upcoming features for video creators


YouTube’s always placed huge levels of importance on its community, starting with the people who regularly upload content to the platform. Now, to make things better for video creators, the Google-owned service has revealed a list of features that are in the works. Most notably, YouTube is set to introduce a new ranking system for comments; improved, more customizable notifications for subscribers; and the ability for channel owners to manage their videos settings, like monetization options, from the mobile app. YouTube says it will also be enhancing its 360-degree video and live-streaming features, with the goal being to let creators easily setup and manage those tools.

While most of these changes are geared toward content creators, they will still benefit those of you who simply enjoy watching videos. According to YouTube, some of these features will arrive over the next two weeks, others later in the year.

Filed under: Internet, HD, Google

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Source: YouTube

30
Jun

Apple will replace your battery once it hits 80 percent health


Apple iPhone Stock

Apple’s recently changed the terms of its AppleCare+ extended warranty program. Now, no matter what iOS or OSX device you own (yes, even the Watch), Apple will replace the battery as soon as it hits 80 percent health. That’s up 30 points from the previous 50 percent threshold for iOS devices. What’s more, Mac batteries used to only be covered for manufacturing defects, not normal performance degradation. So basically anything with an Apple logo will get a new battery once the old one loses 20 percent of its capacity. The policy kicks in immediately for devices purchased after April 10th of this year.

[Image Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive]

Filed under: Tablets, Apple

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Via: LifeHacker

Source: Apple

30
Jun

‘Quiplash,’ a streaming party game for 10,000 people


Most people haven’t hosted a party for 10,000 guests (the bathroom situation alone is daunting), but thanks to the internet and Jackbox Games, that’s now a super-easy, low-mess situation. Quiplash is the newest game from Jackbox — makers of You Don’t Know Jack and Fibbage — and it boasts a pretty cool feature: Just one person needs to own the game for up to 10,000 people to play in a single round. This is a game built for streaming.

Here’s how it works: One person fires up the game and a unique code appears on his or her screen. Anyone who wants to play heads to jackbox.tv on any internet-connected device, types in the code and viola. You don’t need extra controllers or anything, and Quiplash is available now on Xbox One, PC, Mac, PlayStation 3 and PS4 for $10. This means that streamers can go live with the code and invite basically all of their Twitch viewers to join in on the fun. It’s rather unlikely that anyone will actually play a Quiplash game with 10,000 people, but it’s nice knowing the option is there. Previous Jackbox games allowed players to share codes in the same way, though only for up to 100 people at a time. Maybe this ridiculous, 10,000-player humor game will help lead to a more globalized, connected and compassionate world or something.

As for gameplay, Quiplash requires three to eight “core” players, while everyone else is the voting “audience.” The core players go head-to-head, two people at a time, with a prompt and a blank slate. The game offers something like, “An inventive way to get rid of head lice,” and two players type in whatever they think will score them the most votes from the audience (probably something funny). The more votes you get, the better your score. Securing all of the available votes results in a “quiplash,” which basically means that you’re the raddest quipper in town.

“Our goal is to keep making party games that everyone — and maybe someday, literally everyone — can play simply by pulling out their phones,” Jackbox Editorial Director Steve Heinrich writes on the PlayStation Blog. “We’re planning more and more of this in our future games, but for now, we hope our first stab at this feature in Quiplash is a successful first stab, without anyone getting hurt. It’s not that kind of stab.”

Back in January, ye olde Joystiq crew played Fibbage live on a stream with Heinrich himself. Check out how this no-controller, online-party-game thing works in the archive below.

Filed under: Gaming, Handhelds, Internet, HD

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30
Jun

A closer look at Apple Music: feature packed, but a bit disjointed


Apple Music is here. Finally. Now that the company steered the streaming service to a successful launch, it now has to prove to the world that it’s actually something worth paying for – after all, there are like 80 other streaming music services (maybe not, but it feels like it) fighting for the subscription revenue in our wallets. Apple’s master plan: make Apple Music a one-stop shop by kitting out it with gobs of features. We’ll follow up with a longer writeup once we’ve had more than a few hours to play with it, but for now, let’s a take a quick peek at what Apple came up with.

Once everything is installed and you fire up Music for the first time, you’re asked to make a choice: Do you want to go with the three-month free trial, or just jump straight into your music? If you choose yes, then you’ll automatically start paying $9.99/month as soon as the three-month trial winds down (until you turn off the auto-renewal, anyway). Thing is, Apple manages your Apple Music subscription the same way it does recurring iTunes subscriptions — that is, it’s nestled away in your Apple account settings, and easy to miss unless you know exactly where to look.

After that, Apple tries to figure out your musical tastes the same way Beats did: By making you choose your preferred genres and artists from a stream of cutesy bubbles. So far, so good: I’ve locked my predilections for jazz, EDM and Third Eye Blind. Bring on the recommendations! Those all live in a section of the app called “For You”, and it’s almost surprising how densely they’re packed. Apple Music will quietly chew on your musical preferences and offers up albums and playlists you might like in a very busy grid. Everything’s mostly pretty perfectly intelligible, though; I’m just not used to Apple trying to do so much at once. Naturally, your recommendations will change over time, and not all of them will be up your alley — I had to kill a list of Madonna ballads by long-pressing the tile and asking Music to “recommend less like this”. (A brief aside: I bet you Apple swaps that long press for Force Touch in the next iPhone.)

The next section over is “New,” where — you guessed it — all the new/top tracks and albums live. You can sort drill down by different genres if today is more a blues day than an indie one, and the whole thing would be nice and straightforward… if Apple didn’t decide to stick their genre and activity-centered playlists in there too. Considering how proud Apple is of its human curators and tastemakers, I’m a little shocked these playlists live ignominiously under a bunch of new song charts and not in their own separate section.

I’ve always thought there was something a little magical about radio, about little voices talking and singing and floating out of a box, and Apple seems to have done a fine job recreating that experience with Beats 1. As I write this, DJ Zane Lowe and the rest of the crew are only two hours into their first broadcast day, which was largely problem-free despite streaming to users in 100 countries. I say “largely” because there were a good four or five minutes that I just could not connect to the station out of our New York office (perhaps because of all the new upgraders crushing Apple’s servers). Lowe and company like to drop little snippets of Beats audio branding into songs while they’re playing, too. Ugh.

If your ideal radio experience has nothing to do with DJs chattering about how exciting and rad their jobs are, you can always scroll down past the Beats marquee to pick from some tried-and-true genre stations. Hell, you can even ask Siri to play the “Top 20 songs from 1988,” if you feel oddly specific. I did just that, and to my infinite pleasure, George Michael’s Faith was immediately piped through my headphones. Well done, you beautiful machine.

Then there’s Connect, a sort-of-social-network for artists to interact with fans. Well, maybe “interact” is a strong word – artists, or their handlers, post things and we get to comment on them. By default, you’re set to follow the artists who already live in your music library, and in my case only four of them (Fallout Boy and Flying Lotus, RCHP and Ke$ha) had anything up on Connect to mark the occasion. Connect remains the single biggest question mark about this whole thing — I can see how some people would like to see occasional status updates from the musicians they love, but does it seem crucial to the rest of the Music experience? Is it necessary? Valuable? I’m really not sure. Right now, Connect isn’t much more than a music-enabled Instagram for celebrities; hopefully that changes soon.

Finally, there’s My Music, where all the music you own and have saved live. It’s still got the same super-flat look that debuted in iOS 7, but like the “For You” section, it feels a little constricted. Your three most recent additions now get a shout-out at the top of your library, for one, and the Now Playing controls section now lives in a slide-out tab at the bottom — a full-screen look at the song is no longer the default. It’s really no wonder thing seemed cramped; all of the bottom row tabs that used to be dedicated to Artist, Song and Playlist views have been given to Connect and Radio. If you’re anything like me, your muscle memory is going to need some serious retraining. Still, searching for tracks from the entirety of Apple’s music collection is quick and they sound pretty good even over cellular connections. Adding them to your own library is simple too, even though it means you’re giving local space on your phone to accommodate them.

A closer look at Apple Music: feature packed, but a bit disjointed

So, that’s Apple Music in a (pretty lengthy) nutshell. The thing is, even after all that, I’m not sure if I would give up my existing Spotify setup for it. Apple Music is “good” in the sense that there’s plenty (and I mean plenty) of music to stream and add to your local collection. That bar has been cleared with ease. And the rest of the stuff that’s here to help Apple Music compete with other services works pretty well too. It’s just that Music feels a little more disjointed and confusing than I’d expect from an Apple product; it’s as if the folks in Cupertino decided they could trade a little polish in exchange for more features. That’s the sort of design arithmetic that more-or-less makes sense on paper, but the reality is, well, less than elegant.

Filed under: Mobile, Apple

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30
Jun

Cisco buys a DNS provider to protect you in the cloud


Cisco!

When you think of internet security from Cisco, you probably imagine firewalls and routers (usually) stopping hackers and malware from hitting your network. You’re going to have to expand that definition very shortly, though. Cisco has snapped up OpenDNS, whose domain name services you might have used to dodge regional restrictions or improve on your internet provider’s less-than-stellar connection. The networking giant isn’t making the acquisition for any of those reasons, though. Instead, it’s all about boosting Cisco’s cloud security — the goal is to defend against attacks on your corporate network wherever you happen to be, and to predict threats before they strike.

You might not get much first-hand experience with the fruits of this merger, but things will likely kick into high gear when the purchase closes later in 2015. And in case you’re wondering: no, OpenDNS’ existing services aren’t going away. They’ll continue to run as-is (and importantly, expand) under the deal, so you won’t have to scrounge around for an alternative.

[Image credit: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma]

Filed under: Networking, Internet

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Source: Cisco, OpenDNS

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