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Google adds a handful of family-friendly games to the Chromecast for the holidays

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Looking for something fun to do with your family this holiday season? Good news – Google has just announced a handful of family-friendly games have gained Chromecast support, which should help liven up your get-togethers. Most notably, Rovio’s Angry Birds Friends, Risk, Monopoly Here & Now, Yahtzee Blitz, The Game of Life and Scrabble Blitz 2.0 have been added to the list of Chromecast-enabled games. These titles should definitely help bring the family together. Additionally, Ubisoft’s Driver Speedboat Paradise has also gained Chromecast support.

These titles are made better by utilizing the split-screen functionality Google introduce awhile back. For instance, if you’re playing one of the Hasbro board games listed above, you’ll be able to see your cards on your phone while the moves are displayed on the big screen.

chromecast 2015 review aa (1 of 26)Related: Chromecast 2015 and Chromecast Audio Review19

Don’t have a Chromecast? Here’s another bit of good news. Google just recently announced a new promotion that would get you $20 in Google Play credit when you buy a Chromecast through January 2nd. If you’re interested in saving even more, you can buy two Chromecast devices (including Chromecast Audio) and get them for only $55, which is a $15 discount.

For a full list of Chromecast-compatible games and more, visit


Samsung allegedly cutting smartphone shipments

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It looks like Samsung is planning on reducing the number of smartphones they ship in 2016. Local retailers in South Korea received a message from the company yesterday that told them to expect 12% fewer smartphones next year than they enjoyed this year.

Samsung hasn’t released any official word that gives us insight into the reasons behind their cutback, but some believe it may be due to an increasingly saturated marketplace worldwide. Smartphones are becoming less and less a luxury product and more an essential part of our everyday lives. While the scramble to adopt smartphones over the last decade made for a thriving marketplace for manufacturers, it seems like we’re hitting something of a slump as more and more people have devices that they’re happy with.

samsung galaxy s6 edge logo mwc 2015 c 1See also: Samsung Galaxy S7 rumor roundup: release date, price, specs, features25

Samsung, which holds a fifth of the current market share, says they will only be manufacturing between 420 million and 430 million smartphones over the next twelve months. They claim that their focus for 2016 will be producing budget phones for developing nations. This makes a lot of sense, as entry-level Android devices are exactly what gave upstart companies like Xiaomi the edge they needed to become competitive.

In spite of their focus on less expensive smartphones over the next year, Samsung says they’re still planning to unveil their Galaxy S7 in early 2016. A Samsung official says that even though they’re adjusting their productivity and market concentration, the sales prospects for the Galaxy S7 remain high and “will help Samsung maintain its global share next year.”

What do you think of Samsung’s smartphone cutback? Savvy business move or a bad omen? Let us know in the comments below!


Problems with the Nexus 6P and how to fix them

This year, Google strayed from their usual release pattern by launching not one, but two new Nexus smartphones. The availability of a more affordable option meant that Google was able to go all out with their high-end offering, and in the Nexus 6P, we finally have a device that can more than effectively compete with other current generation flagships. With its beautiful design and solid build quality, high-end specs, top of the line camera, and of course, a smooth and snappy pure Android experience, the Nexus 6P is certainly one of the best Android smartphones of the year.

That said, as is the case with any smartphone or tablet nowadays, the latest flagship offering from Google is not without its issues. Which is why, we’ve rounded up some of the most common problems that Nexus 6P owners have faced, and offer potential solutions on how to fix them!

Disclaimer: Not every Nexus 6P owner will face these issues, and it is actually more than likely that you won’t come across any of the problems listed below.

Problem #1 – Auto Rotate not working

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Some users have found the auto-rotate feature of the Nexus 6P to not be working even though the setting is enabled. This issue occurs across all apps, including when watching videos, playing games, or using the camera. Users who face this problem have found it to occur after a few weeks of use, during which everything was working fine.

Potential solutions:

  • A rogue app may be causing this issue. To check if this is the case, boot the device in Safe Mode (you can find the instructions below), and see if the problem persists. If it doesn’t, a recently-installed application is the cause for concern. Uninstall any apps that were added just before the problem started, and see if that fixes it.
  • This could also be an issue with the accelerometer and G-sensor as well. Download an app from the Google Play Store like GPS & Status Toolbox and re-calibrate the sensors, and see if that fixes it. If this is proves to be a hardware issue, the only option will be to pick up a replacement.
  • A temporary workaround that has worked for some is using an third-party app, such as Rotation Control, that will let you manually trigger the switch to the landscape orientations. This seems to be a software issue and is something that Google is tracking, so a permanent fix will hopefully be available soon.

Problem #2 – Device stuck on Do Not Disturb mode

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After having set the device to Do Not Disturb, or with Priority notifications set up with automatic rules, some users have found themselves unable to de-activate these settings anymore, using either the on-screen toggles or the volume buttons, even after multiple reboots.

Potential solutions:

  • This is a software issue that has been acknowledged by Google, and hopefully a permanent fix will be on the way soon.
  • A temporary workaround that users have found to have worked is to go to  Settings – Sound and Notification – Do not disturb – Automatic Rules, and set up a custom rule to start at some point in the past, and end a few minutes after you set up the setting. Let the phone go into standby, and after the rule expires, it will turn off Do not disturb.

lg-g4-vs-samsung-galaxy-s6-edge-quick-look-aa-2-of-141See also: Best Android phones (December 2015)389

Problem #3 – Muffled voice, poor call quality

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A lot of users have found the call quality to be very poor, with the other party hearing a muffled or very quiet voice. This issue seems to be related to the sensitivity of the noise-cancelling microphone on the back of the device.

Potential solutions:

  • This is a software issue that Google has acknowledged, and the official update to Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow seems to have fixed this problem for some.
  • As mentioned, this issue seems to be related to the noise-cancelling mic found on the back of the device below the camera unit, but the solution seems to be quite different. Some users have found that covering up the mic fixes the issue, while others have stated that the fact that the mic is covered, by a case or how you are holding the phone, is what is creating the problem. While on a call, either uncover or cover the mic to see what works for you.
  • If you are rooted, users have found that de-activating the noise-cancelling setting seems to make the problem go away. You can do so in your build.prop, by finding, and changing it to false.

Problem #4 – Connectivity issues

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As is the case with any new device, you may find yourself facing some connectivity issues with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Bluetooth issues seem to be especially prominent with the Nexus 6P, with problems connecting to Bluetooth speakers, the car, and smartwatches.

Potential solutions:

Wi-Fi issues

  • Turn the device and the router off for at least ten seconds, then turn them back and retry the connection.
  • Go to Settings – Power saving and ensure that this option is turned off.
  • Use the Wi-Fi Analyzer to check how crowded your channel is, and switch to a better option.
  • Forget the Wi-Fi connection by going to Settings – Wi-Fi and long tapping the connection you want, then selecting “Forget”. Re-enter the details and try again.
  • Make sure the router firmware is up to date.
  • Make sure the applications and software on the device are up to date.
  • Go into Wi-Fi – Settings – Advanced and make a note of your device MAC address, then make sure that it is allowed access in the router’s MAC filter.

Bluetooth issues

  • With issues when connecting to the car, check the manufacturer’s manual for the device and the car and reset your connections.
  • Ensure that you are not missing a vital part of the connection process.
  • Go to Settings – Bluetooth and ensure nothing needs changing
  • Go into Settings – Bluetooth delete all prior pairings and try setting them up again from scratch.
  • When it comes to issues with multiple device connection, only a future update will be able to address this problem.

Guides: Hard reset, Wipe cache partition, Safe Mode

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Hard reset:

  • Turn off the phone
  • Hold the volume down button and Power button simultaneously until the device switches on.
  • You should see “Start” with an arrow
  • Tap volume down twice and the power button to enter Recovery Mode
  • Hold the power button then press and release the volume up button
  • Use the volume buttons to select wipe data/factory reset
  • Choose “Yes – erase all data” with the power button

Safe Mode:

  • Hold the power button after ensuring the screen is on.
  • Tap and hold the Power off selection in the menu
  • Tap OK to initiate Safe Mode

Wipe cache partition:

  • Turn off the phone
  • Hold the volume down button and Power button simultaneously until the device switches on.
  • You should see “Start” with an arrow
  • Tap volume down twice and the power button to enter Recovery Mode
  • Use the volume buttons to select Wipe cache partition

[alert variation =”alert-success”] The official update to Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow has addressed a few other issues already, including the device not recognizing the camera, camera taking photos upside down, colors on the display appearing washed out, and device being unable to switch easily between Wi-Fi and data connectivity. [/alert]

So, there you have it for this roundup of some of the common issues that Nexus 6P owners face, and the potential solutions on how to fix them. We will continue to update this post as more problems or solutions arise, and if you have faced any other issues, do let us know in the comments section below. For more Nexus 6P discussions, check out our official forums as well.

Nexus 6P videos

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It is also worth mentioning that if you are considering picking up the Nexus 6P, don’t let these issues put you off. Most of these issues are software related, and future updates will fix them, and in all likelihood, these problems won’t come up for you anyway. The Nexus 6P is still one of the best Android smartphones currently available, and is a great choice for anyone.


[TA Deals] Get a lifetime subscription to Stone River Academy developer courses for 92% off

stone river academyIf you’re interested in getting started with graphic development, Stone River Academy offers a growing library of courses and material to teach how you to do everything from building mobile games to graphic design to simple website design.

There are currently over 2000 hours of material and 90 classes available, and up to five classes are added to the library each month. There’s material for beginners and advanced users, and plenty of material about Unity 3D, Java, CSS, and tons more, making it one of the most comprehensive resources available.

You can score a lifetime subscription for $102, which is about 92% off the list price of what a lifetime sub would normally cost. Not only does that get you access to everything that’s already available, but it also guarantees you’ll have access to everything that’s being added.

[Talk Android Deals]

Come comment on this article: [TA Deals] Get a lifetime subscription to Stone River Academy developer courses for 92% off


Instagram adds small improvements to its Boomerang app


An update is starting to roll out to Instagram’s standalone Boomerang app. This update brings with it a few small little tweaks to make the app a little smoother.

The app no longer automatically saves the videos you take to your phones camera roll allowing you to pick and choose which videos you want to save. In addition to this, sharing your work is made easier with faster and smoother Instagram sharing.

Unfortunately for us Android users, it looks like our iOS counterparts will get a little extra functionality in this update. On top of the features above, Boomerang for iOS will now work with an iOS device’s flash for video capture in the dark, and also allow users to control the length of Boomerang videos for up to 20 frames.

The update should hit your phone soon, but if you don’t have Boomerang and would like to try it out hit the link below.

Play Store Download Link

Come comment on this article: Instagram adds small improvements to its Boomerang app


Why I’m leaving Spotify after six years

Spotify changed the way I listen to music. When I joined the service in 2009, I had maybe 4GB of music on my laptop at any given time, and a 2GB Sony MP3 player that I rotated my collection on. I now have an ever-expanding online library that amounts to the equivalent of 80GB, and near-constant access to that stockpile when I’m on the go. I’ve been a paid subscriber of Spotify since early 2010, and later that year became a user of its mobile app. Last week, after six long and fruitful years, I left the service. Here’s why.

During the honeymoon period, being a member of Spotify felt like being a foot soldier in a silent revolution. Everyone I knew was either paying Apple £100s per year for access to a few albums, buying CDs (!) or pirating everything they wanted to hear. I quickly indoctrinated friends to join the cause, promising them unlimited music at a fraction of the cost. I organized my music collection into hundreds of playlists. And I started listening to a lot more music.

Last week, after six long and fruitful years, I left Spotify

What used to be a hobby became an obsession. I got better speakers. Better headphones. More speakers. More headphones. I bought my first Android phone (the Galaxy S) purely because it had Wolfson’s killer WM8994 DAC, and could be rooted to improve the audio quality further. It was then that I started using Spotify’s mobile app, saying goodbye to my MP3 player forever. The switch perfectly coincided with my UK carrier offering unlimited data plans. When I switched to iPhone the next year, I used a handmade DAC gifted by my brother and a line-out cable to ensure I was powering those expensive headphones properly.

Then Spotify started creeping into my social life. Playlists became a modern-day take on the mixtape (or, actually, mix CDs. I’m only 30 after all). I shared them with friends to show off my impeccable taste in mid-’90s hiphop, shared them with love interests in the hope of finding a common string. I think a crush from a few years back is still subscribed to one my playlists.

Playlists became a modern-day take on the mixtape

I’d noticed a few albums here and there were missing from Spotify over the years. The first were just obscurities, some old album I’d considered way more important than most would. The reasons weren’t always clear. Dead Prez’s Let’s Get Free, for example, wasn’t there for years. In 2011, that new Adele album everyone was talking about wasn’t there, either. The year after — my love for Taylor Swift kindled by a colleague’s heartfelt Karaoke rendition of “Love Story” — Red was also gone. The cracks were appearing.

The pattern continued, and continues to this day. There are still some hard-to-find tracks missing from Spotify, but that doesn’t bother me massively. There’s always Soundcloud and YouTube for those moments when all that will do is some ’93 Orca or ’05 Kano. What does bother me is the slow but steady stream of missing or delayed tracks from big artists. Even when albums I don’t plan to listen to are affected it still rubs me the wrong way. Because their absence is almost entirely preventable, a side effect of Spotify’s stubbornness.

I’ve written about the issue before, but to briefly re-explain, Spotify gives paying and free-tier members access to exactly the same collection. This makes a lot of artists uncomfortable — a typical argument would be that free streaming “devalues music.” Those large enough to take a stand do. In the most recent incident, Coldplay withheld its album from Spotify for a week because of the free tier. Just like Taylor Swift, the band explicitly told the streaming service that it would be happy to give it to paying customers immediately, but free tier members would have to wait. Spotify declined.

Why? Because Spotify is and has always been broke. It needs to grow its subscriber numbers to achieve the near-impossible task of being a profitable streaming company. It made huge operating losses of €55.9m ($61 million) and €165.1m ($180 million) in 2013 and 2014 respectively thanks to that search for new members. “We believe we will generate substantial revenues as our reach expands, and that, at scale, our margins will improve. We will therefore continue to invest relentlessly in our product and marketing initiatives to accelerate reach,” the company’s directors said in a report leaked by The Guardian. Put simply: attracting new customers is more important to Spotify than looking after its existing members.

This policy is reflected in its marketing — not a month goes by without some headline-grabbing campaign designed to attract attention and persuade free tier members to stick around. And it’s reflected in its continued insistence that those members get the same music catalogue as paying customers. It essentially operates a free, ad-supported trial, indefinitely. For everyone. The “cost” of the free tier is, of course, lower royalty rates for artists, and a steady stream of unavailable albums.

Attracting new customers was more important to Spotify than looking after me

In growing frustration I’ve tried out other music services this past year, but there’s always been a downside. Rdio was clearly a service in decline by the time I reached it. Deezer — which I got a free year-long subscription to with a speaker purchase — has a great collection, but its apps and overall experience just aren’t as polished as Spotify’s, especially on iOS. I even tried Tidal for a few days.

Apple Music, which offered a free three-month trial, impressed me with a solid experience. I use an iPhone and a Mac, so the apps are just sitting there, and in terms of user experience it’s not actually a massive change. The service has a good-enough desktop app (it could definitely be a lot better, but so could Spotify’s); it has a simple-enough mobile app with support for Android (essential for me, as I review quite a few Android devices); and a large music library. The one thing that was missing was Sonos support. Because almost all my music at home is played through Sonos, I abandoned the trial very quickly, with a note to return at a later date.

Apple Music’s Sonos support went live December 15th, and I subscribed to the service the same day — this is my phone in the photo. After a few days, I realized that it was a good enough alternative. And so I decided to call an end to the most important musical relationship of my life. I canceled my Spotify subscription.

It’s taking some time to get used to the switch, but I’m finding some things I prefer over Spotify. That Sonos integration — currently in beta — is already looking like it’ll be more robust than what I’m used to, with Apple’s “For You” and “New” tabs in the Music app fully represented within the Sonos Controller interface. The For You section offers rock-solid curation, as well, with a decent mix of albums, artists and playlists it knows I like already and new tracks that it thinks I’ll enjoy. Most of the time its recommendations are great, but it really needs to stop pushing Jack White on me!

Because there’s no free tier, Apple is unlikely to ever fall afoul of the issues that drove me to leave Spotify. There will be exceptions, of course — Adele’s 25 doesn’t look like showing up on any streaming service soon, for example — but Music at least offers a (paid) way to listen to excluded albums within its app if I’m really desperate. Apple’s u-turn on royalties during the free trial period also gives me some faith that it’s willing to bend to the will of artists and labels to ensure customers get the widest possible range of music. I’m not yet sure how I feel about Apple’s apparent policy of chasing exclusives — the whole world deserves to see Taylor Swift in action — but I suppose it at least adds some value to the £9.99 I pay every month.

The one thing I’m missing with Apple Music is playlists. I ported all mine over from Spotify, of course, but they’re not static things. My colleague Jamie Rigg made one I listen to a lot, but if he changes it on Spotify, I won’t know. I’ve had to tell him to keep me abreast of new tracks as and when they’re added. Given that I’m a few years older, and less socially active in general, playlists don’t hold the same importance they once did. Apple Music’s curators also do a really good job with playlists that are relevant to my interests, but I do wish I could persuade a few friends to jump over with me. Maybe in time.

I wish I could persuade a few friends to jump over with me

Running the math, I handed Spotify about $1,000 over my six years with the company. That doesn’t seem like a crazy high number. But it is enough for me to feel like I deserved to at least matter. That maybe my needs should be put above those people that haven’t given the company a penny.

To date, no company has proved that an á la carte music streaming service is a sustainable business. The fall of Rdio proves the opposite, in fact, and it’s clear that Spotify needs a lot more premium members to survive as an independent company. I’m just one person, with an admittedly emotional response to a problem most people probably don’t care about. But Spotify shouldn’t be okay with losing me. It shouldn’t be okay with losing anyone. Even if it makes the right decision now, it’s too late for me.


10-year-old kid becomes first Minecraft National Champion

eSports are here to stay. And as part of this growing culture, Super League Gaming, a firm that sets up tournaments in theaters across the world, recently launched the first ever Minecraft National Championship. The eventual winner? A 10-year-old-kid named Julien Wiltshire, who beat more than 1,000 other players in the US — many of which were in high school and “far more experienced,” according to Super League Gaming. Over the course of a six-week season, the Minecraft tournament tested participants from 40 US cities on their creativity, critical thinking and teamwork in a series of custom game mods.

Wiltshire, also known by his moniker SuperKraft11, now gets to take home the coveted Super Bolt trophy and a $5,000 scholarship. Most importantly, he’ll always have the memories and bragging rights of being crowned as Minecraft boss at such a young age.

Source: Super League Gaming


The best stuff we bought in 2015

Favorite Tech Buys 2015

When you write about technology for a living, a lot of folks ask you for buying advice. And, while we get to test the latest and greatest gear on the planet, telling others what to spend their money on is often easier than shopping for ourselves. Only a select few devices are deemed worthy of our dollars. These are the best gadgets we bought in 2015.

Roberto Baldwin

My wife’s seven year old iMac died this year. After years of delivering email, editing photos and being used exactly once to boot Windows XP, I’m pretty sure it was the power supply that did it in. Naturally, the only option to replace that 17-inch computer was a 27-inch, 5K Retina display iMac with a 1TB drive. The screen is amazing. It makes all those stored photos look way better than they actually are. Also, that email text is really, really crisp. It’s really great for watching Rick and Morty when your wife commandeers the TV to watch a period piece on PBS. The computer, while probably more than we needed, is making our lives a bit better. If only OS X El Capitan would stop putting it to sleep and refusing to wake back up when pinged by the network — even though I’ve set it to wake for network access. Really, if that niggle were fixed, it would be the perfect emailing, photo editing, random cartoon-watching machine.

While we shelled out a hefty chunk of cash to use only ten percent of that 5K iMac’s potential (We’ll grow into it!), I’m actually pretty thrifty. So, a few months ago I treated myself to a soldering station with a magnifying glass and two alligator clips to hold my delicate pieces of electronics while I melted metal to metal. I’ve used it to fix a few microphones (I’m in a band) and I totally intend to use it to finally put together that LED sign set I bought at DEFCON. In recent years, I find myself gravitating more towards these maker type of tech purchases. Sure, I buy a new iPhone every year or two, but as I look at the commercial hardware filling the tech world, I’m largely unimpressed. On the other hand, the DIY/Maker world is currently where the fun is at. BRB, I gotta go buy some LEDs.

SEATTLE, USA - May 9, 2015: Man Using App on Apple Watch While Outside. Multiple Apps View.

Edgar Alvarez

Like millions of other people, I also stayed up late to pre-order the Apple Watch on the night of April 10th, 2015. I’d tried many smartwatches before that, including the original Moto 360, but none of them ever managed to become an essential part of my life. Not that I was expecting the Apple Watch to do what those couldn’t, but having recently switched back to an iPhone and it being Apple’s first take on this kind of device, I simply couldn’t resist. I did debate whether or not to pull the trigger on the stainless steel version, but ultimately decided to wait until the second generation before springing for the higher-end Watch.

So, I bought the entry-level model.

Eight months later, I find myself wearing it every day and suffering no buyer’s remorse. That’s much to my own surprise, since I’ve never been a “watch guy.” Worst case scenario, I figured I could return it to Apple if I didn’t end up using it much. But here it is, strapped to my left wrist as I type these very words. Now, the Watch is far from being a gadget I feel the need to be rockin’ on a daily basis. While it’s a nice extension of my iPhone, letting me view notifications or use Apple Pay directly from my wrist, I would be okay without either of those features. That said, the Watch is now one of the first things I grab when I start getting ready for the day, which says a lot about its effect on me.

More than anything, I just love the way it looks and feels. Unlike the Moto 360 I have, Apple’s 42mm Watch doesn’t feel big or bulky on my wrist — most of the time I forget I’m even wearing it. My favorite part of the Watch, however, is the feature that reminds me to stand up if I’ve been sitting for long periods of time. If I’m​ at my desk, every hour I get a notification telling my to​ ​stand​ ​up and walk around for a few minutes. Considering my job requires me to be in front of a computer for nine or more hours every day, those periodic reminders are much appreciated, since chronic sitting just might slowly be killing me. That the Watch does what it does in style is just a plus, and it really pops when paired with that Product Red band I purchased a few weeks ago.

Devindra Hardawar

My favorite gadget purchase this year is actually something released last year: Amazon’s Echo. I’ve written a love letter about the Echo already, but as we near the end of 2015, it’s worth reiterating just how great it is. I usually start every day by asking Alexa, the Echo’s digital assistant, to play WNYC, my local NPR station. As I’m feeding my cats, I ask about the weather. When I’m making dinner, I can have Alexa set timers and change music tracks, all hands-free. At this point, the Echo is basically the household computer I’ve always wanted.

Even today, Siri and Google Now can’t compete with the Echo when it comes to listening and responding to voice commands. Apple only recently added hands-free Siri support to the iPhone with iOS 9, a feature that’s nice to have, but has been mostly frustrating in my testing. I’ve had better luck with Google Now, but it still sometimes takes several tries of shouting “Okay Google” for it to work properly. Since the Echo is always plugged in and has an array of microphones at the ready, it’s simply better at listening to your voice.

I’m also a big fan of the Chromecast Audio, which can transform just about any speaker into a modern, connected music machine for just $35. It sounds a lot better than streaming Bluetooth audio, and it’s not locked into a proprietary platform like Apple’s AirPlay. The Chromecast standard is also far easier to connect to than either Bluetooth or AirPlay, and it also allows you to do other things with your phone without messing up music streams. And Google just made it better by adding high-res music support and multi-room syncing. If you’ve already got decent speakers, Chromecast Audio can give you a Sonos-like experience without shelling out big bucks (or being locked into a more closed ecosystem).

Andrew Tarantola

My favorite tech purchase this year came in the form of the Fitbit Charge HR and Aria scale — both of which I purchased as part of the #EngadgetFitnessChallenge. The Charge has been fantastic, pulling triple duty as timepiece, pedometer and health/sleep tracker. The associated FitBit app, especially its calorie tracking feature, has been a boon as well. I can see exactly how much I’ve done in a given day, plot my progress over time, check my heart rate and keep tabs on how many Doritos I’ve crammed into my face during the past 24 hours.

I initially had a couple issues with the Charge HR because, prior to the last firmware update, the unit did not automatically track my exercise and I would continually forget to manually activate the feature. Or worse, I’d forget to stop it after my workout ended and would wind up with results for 10 hours of “exercise.” Still, the Charge HR has motivated me to not only exercise consistently for the first time in years but also change my eating and sleeping habits. Armed with this information, I’ve managed to drop 8 pounds over the past two months.

The Aria, however, I despise — namely because it keeps pointing out how fat I still am whenever I stand on it.

Jon Turi

The 5X is my third Nexus phone. My first was a Samsung Galaxy Nexus I picked up while waiting for the iPhone 5 to be released, and never looked back. I followed that up with a beautiful red Nexus 5, which served me well until two months shy of the 5X launch, when I dropped it and cracked the screen. I suffered with it for weeks, as shards of glass slowly flaked off, until my new Nexus 5X finally arrived.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from LG’s third Google offering, but I’d become a fan of its immediate predecessor’s raw Android experience, light weight and affordable price. The 5X’s ice blue shade doesn’t quite pop like the brilliant red of the 5, but it still lets me escape the mundanity of basic black and white. Sadly, Qi wireless charging — a favorite feature of mine — failed to make the cut this time around. And, being ahead of the curve with USB-C requires you to plan out your charging regimen, since compatible cables are scarce. The phone feels great, but its plastic exterior and ultra-lightweight build look a bit like a budget phone — which, to be fair, it kind of is.

OK, I lied before, this is technically my fourth Nexus phone, since I had to return my first 5X. It arrived with a speck on the inside of the lens that ruined every photo. After attempting to replace it through Nexus Protect, I learned that a) Google handles all warranty replacements itself and b) the insurance company administering claims doesn’t use email to update you — it uses actual, physical letters. Despite the archaic means of communication, my new handset arrived a few days later. Unfortunately, I still see bits of stuff on the inside of the camera lens, though they have yet to interfere with the camera. It may have something to do with the rattling noise that emanates from the phone — an issue that spans all three 5X handsets I’ve checked.

It’s not all bad, though. The second-rate camera that’s plagued the Nexus line for several iterations has been improved upon a great deal in the 5X. Photos are crisp and bright, especially in low light, so you can finally get to Instagramming at parties with the best of them. Another great leap forward is the 5X’s fingerprint sensor that provides quick and secure access to the phone. The rear placement meshes well with how I hold the thing and it’s saved me a lot of time compared to entering a pin code repeatedly.

Could it be better? Sure, but the price, feature set and design make it a worthwhile purchase. Being first in line for Android updates is also a nice bonus. Android 6.0 Marshmallow works well, feels comfortable and doesn’t suffer from skinning or bloatware like many forked versions. Thus far, I’m happy enough with this most recent Nexus that I see Google reference phones in my hand for the foreseeable future.

Nicole Lee

Though I often tell people that I am not a gamer, the truth is that I do enjoy and play video games. I have fond memories of Doom, The Secret of Monkey Island and Myst, and I had Atari and SNES consoles as a kid. I’ve even owned a PS2 and an Xbox 360. But I’m really more of a casual gamer with a closer affinity to Threes than Halo or Call of Duty. That fact — combined with my nostalgic love for Nintendo titles like Super Mario Bros and Zelda — is why I bought the Nintendo Wii U this year instead of an Xbox One or PS4.

The first two titles I bought were Splatoon and Mario Kart 8; the former was more for my husband, while I’ve always been a fan of the quintessential kart racing game. While I rarely partake in Splatoon, I still enjoy watching my husband wreak havoc in paint-festooned battlegrounds, blasting his opponents with blanket color bombs. But the real fun comes when we compete against each other in Mario Kart — few things are more satisfying than yelling “BLUE TURTLESHELL INCOMING” to your spouse and laughing (perhaps a bit too loudly) at his misfortune when it hits home.

Since then, we’ve expanded our repertoire with Super Mario Bros 3D World and, most recently, Yoshi’s Wooly World, which is the most delightful game I’ve played this year. Little Yoshis made of yarn? Swallowing enemies and then pooping them out as yarn balls? It’s charming game that never fails to lift my mood every time I play. This combination of whimsy and solid gameplay is precisely why I bought the Wii U, and why Nintendo will always hold a special place in my heart.

Chris Velazco

Earlier this year I found myself on the basement level of a mall in China standing face-to-face with the MOTQRONA, a hideous gold knock-off of a Zach Morris-era Motorola phone. I obviously couldn’t leave without it (never mind the price), and it’s by far the best gadget I bought in 2015. It might even be the best gadget I’ve ever purchased, period, because it’s so damned versatile.

Goodness, where to even start? First off, it’s enormous, and the huge battery wedged in its back should make the MOTQRONA an effective weapon in a pinch. That battery pulls double duty, too — thanks to a full-size USB port, the MOTQRONA also works as a power bank, though I dare not use it to charge anything I actually like. There’s a big LED embedded in the top of the phone for lighting up those dark, wintry New York City streets, too. And next to that, the already-long antenna telescopes outward to become even more ridiculous looking, yet ideal for picking up radio stations and OTA television signals. (That TV capability is pretty much useless here in the States, but I did manage to watch a few moments of… something… in my Shenzhen hotel room.)

Did I mention that the MOTQRONA also has the loudest speakers known to man? Just ask anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot when I’ve turned the phone on or off — the phone plays a traditional melody that would be delightful if it wasn’t loud enough to burst an eardrum or two. Even better, there’s no way to turn that insanely loud greeting off. At this point, I’m fairly sure no one in our New York office can stand the sight of me or my hulking gold monstrosity. And the pièce de résistance: whoever made this phone slavishly copied iOS’s design, from the slide-to-unlock mechanic (yes, it has a touchscreen) to just about every single icon. Oh, and the MOTQRONA gets bonus points for speaking aloud the names of menu items in Mandarin, just because.


Google is testing a new login feature

google new logo

Google is testing a new feature allowing users to login to their Google account on a PC, Mac or Chromebook without the need of their password. Google believes people have too many passwords these days to remember and wants to help solve that problem. Here’s how it works.

When logging in, users will be prompted for just their email address. Once entered, Google will send a notification to your connected smartphone (must be connected to the Google account in which you’re trying to login). When you see the notification on your smartphone you’ll have to confirm that it’s you and then Google will automatically authorize you the entry on your computer. No password needed.

Users will most likely have to set up the device in which they want to authorize prior to trying out the feature. There’s also a rumor floating around that the feature may only work with Nexus devices.

Although this requires more steps and is a bit more time-consuming than just entering your passcode, it saves people from having to memorize another code. It’s great to see that Google is working on this and it may come in handy if you forget that passcode you recently changed. Let’s just wait and see if we actually get it.

Via: Reddit

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Meizu posts an impressive 350% growth in sales over last year


Meizu’s annual results show that the company had its biggest year ever. The company managed to sell 20 million handsets this year, which is up 350% over just a year ago.

Meizu focuses mainly on Asian and European markets when it comes to smartphones and is more than pleased with this year’s results. Meizu believes that its success came due in part by their stylish metallic design and new Flyme custom skin for Android. Meizu’s strategy is to create smartphones that perform well and look nice while maintaining a price tag in which most can afford. The strategy seemed to work out very well for the company this year, let’s see if they can keep the momentum rolling next year.

Source: Meizu
Via: PhoneArena

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