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Review: You Won’t Lose Your Apple Pencil Cap With the PencilCozy

If you own an Apple Pencil, you’ve probably already misplaced its cap once or twice when charging it. The cap, which hides the Lightning connector, is fully removable and easily lost, a flaw the PencilCozy, from CozyIndustries, aims to fix.

Made of a soft, pliable silicone, the PencilCozy has a top portion that fits snugly over the cap of the Apple Pencil and a ring that fits over the Apple Pencil itself. Between the top of the cozy and the ring, there’s a strip of silicone to connect the two pieces to ensure the cap of the Apple Pencil doesn’t become separated from the body when it’s removed for charging.

The PencilCozy comes in three colors: an opaque white that closely matches the white shade of the Apple Pencil, a minty teal green shade, and a glow-in-the dark color that’s a translucent white in the light and a bright green in the dark. The glow-in-the-dark shade may be useful for locating the Apple Pencil in the dark, but because the glow doesn’t last very long it’s more of a novelty than a truly functional feature.

Both the design and the colors are muted enough that they don’t stand out or significantly interfere with the aesthetic of the Apple Pencil, but people who like the unadulterated look of the accessory may not want to sully it with an $8 piece of rubber. I didn’t mind the appearance of the PencilCozy, taking into account its utility.

Along with the standalone PencilCozy, CozyIndustries sells a combo pack that includes a cozy to fit over the Lightning adapter that ships with the Apple Pencil. Like the PencilCozy, the Lightning adapter cozy is designed to keep the adapter attached to a Lightning cable so it doesn’t get lost, which is handy because it’s easy to misplace that tiny piece of plastic. The adapter cozy is made out of the same soft silicone and is available in white and glow-in-the-dark shades.

The material the adapter cozy and the PencilCozy are made of has a tendency to pick up dust and pet fur. It wipes away, but it’s still an annoyance. Mine got quite a bit of dust and fuzz on it after being carried in my backpack for a day. As for durability, I did my best to tear or rip the PencilCozy by pulling on it, but it stayed intact. I’ve only had it on my Apple Pencil for a little over a week and a half, but it looks like it’s going to be highly resistant to damage.

Applying the PencilCozy is simple. Slide the Apple Pencil cap into the top of the PencilCozy and then fit the ring over the body of the Apple Pencil. The fit is tight enough that the PencilCozy isn’t going to slip off, even when it’s carried in a pocket or a purse. The fit means the Apple Pencil’s cap is secure, but it also prevents the PencilCozy from being easily removed from the Apple Pencil. It takes a lot of pushing and pulling to get the cap out, which was one of the biggest negatives to the product.

Putting the Lightning adapter cozy in place is done in the same way, with a few simple application instructions that take less than 30 seconds to complete. Since the Lightning adapter cozy only fits over a portion of the adapter, it’s much easier to remove than the PencilCozy. With the adapter cozy attached to a Lightning cable, it can be snapped in place whenever needed, leaving the cable free for charging other iOS devices the rest of the time.

The PencilCozy keeps the Apple Pencil’s cap in place, but it has one other use that shouldn’t be overlooked — it stops the Apple Pencil from rolling off of tables, desks, and other flat surfaces. The Apple Pencil itself is weighted in an effort to keep it from rolling, but the weighting doesn’t always keep it from falling to the floor.

Bottom Line

For a little piece of silicone that’s just $8, the PencilCozy is surprisingly useful and well worth purchasing for anyone who has a tendency to misplace things.

Some people won’t like the look of the PencilCozy because it mars the clean lines of the Apple Pencil, but for most, utility is likely to outweigh aesthetics. The PencilCozy is going to prevent the Apple Pencil’s cap from getting lost, and it’s also useful to stop it from rolling.

As for the additional Lightning cable adapter, if you charge with a Lightning cable rather than the iPad Pro, it’s well worth picking up too. $10 is a reasonable price to pay to ensure you’re not going to lose key components of an accessory that’s priced at $99.


  • Keeps Apple Pencil cap in place when charging
  • Optional Lightning adapter cozy
  • Prevents Apple Pencil from rolling
  • Inexpensive


  • Collects dust
  • Difficult to remove

How to Buy

The PencilCozy can be purchased from the CozyIndustries website or from Amazon for $7.99. Combo packs that include the PencilCozy and the Lightning adapter are available for $9.99.

Note: CozyIndustries provided the PencilCozy and Lightning adapter cozy to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received.

Tags: review, Apple Pencil, PencilCozy
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DS 3 first drive: Fun French fancy

Rolling out originally with the chevrons of Citroën on the front, the DS 3 has had a revamp and refresh, now sitting pretty in the avant-garde livery of DS Automobiles. 

Ok, so they may be one and the same, but with the DS 5, DS 4 and now the DS 3 getting a more established identity, we’re well on the way towards seeing DS Automobiles establishing itself as a fresh brand, looking to bring you exquisite French design and challenge some of the premium German cars that are so common on the roads.

The DS 3 has been something of a success, and what’s perhaps surprising is that the DS 3 has sold more in the UK than it has in its home country France. In this latest twist of the tale, DS Automobiles is looking to pitch the DS 3 as an alternative to the Mini Hatch, another car that’s been a success in the UK, and for many of the same reasons.


DS 3 design: A new marque

A cursory glance at the new DS 3 reveals that the lines are very similar to the previous model. That’s a trend reflected in the DS 5 and the DS 4 too and we’re happy with that: it’s not a brand new model, but there are subtle changes to the exterior, as well as an update to the interior.

The look and feel of the DS 3 is very much the same however. DS Automobiles says that this car embraces the spirit of avant-garde, but for us this is a young and fun 3-door hatchback. It’s a good looking car, distinct enough to set it apart from many of the similar compacts, but really going head-to-head with some cars like the Mini (particularly) or the Fiat 500, sitting in that space offering something that leans more towards quality while still staying compact and, importantly, original is design.

The changes on this model are really about leaving the Citroën brand behind and that means reworking the front of the car around the grille. That grille pattern is now more unique and more DS, cutting across the front of the car and underlining the new headlight cluster. It gives the DS 3 a smarter look, adding a little prestige.


The DS 3 – and the DS 3 Cabrio that sees a parallel launch – is still about personalisation, with a wide range of colours to choose from, so you can have contrasting body and roof options for not a lot of cash and in some cases, free with particular trim levels. 

There are Chic, Elegance and Prestige trim levels, before stepping up to Ultra Prestige, Performance and a new Performance Black that tops the range. The DS 3 in its new guise starts at only £700 more than the old model, but you are getting more kit for standard. Alloys are now standard, rather than offering a steel wheel with trim at the bottom end, which helps move the DS 3 more into line with some of its notable rivals. 

We still think the DS 3 looks good. It’s the same overall body shape as it was before, but it offers slightly softer lines than the likes of Audi or VW and offers a slightly more practical arrangement than the Mini Hatch, with a higher ride and larger boot opening and more headroom for those rear seats.

DS 3 interior: Distinctly styled, wonderfully unique

We’ve always had a soft spot for the interior of the DS, marking itself aside from some of the compact cars of Citroën with more elegance. Much of the interior of this DS 3 reflects that of the previous model. The driver display is the same and the general layout is too, but now the 7-inch touchscreen is standard, dominating the central cluster of controls.

The line that DS is pushing with this move is that it’s enabled them to reduce the clutter in the interior: there are 20 fewer buttons and controls, as more is handled through that central display.


The interior is light and airy, even with the dark finishes that DS offers, thanks to the spread of the windows. It’s a compact car, sure, but there’s plenty of space in for the driver and passenger. The back seats are comfortable, but there’s not a huge amount of legroom, even if there’s plenty of headroom. If you have a long-legged driver, you’ll probably find it a bit of a squeeze in the back, but that’s a given for this size of car.

For the driver, however, things are neatly arranged and we like the looks of the floating driver display cowl. The quality of the interior is good too. Leather is widely used once you’re up to the Prestige level, with highlights and touch points having a quality feel to them. Soft plastics are also used, with DS avoiding some of the finishes and textures that put its Citroën cousins slightly less premium place.

There’s also bags of character. Like the Mini Hatch or Fiat 500, this is a car that uses funkier design without getting too ridiculous, where some of it’s German rivals can be a little serious in the interior. It’s not all perfect though. The armrest blocks access to the handbrake and there’s no hill hold, so you’ll need to be deftly-footed on the clutch at times, although we’d rather have that armrest as it’s a comfortable addition on longer drives.


Then we have the touchscreen. This gives you plenty of modern features – including Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink for Android – but the removal of buttons isn’t necessarily a huge bonus. We found it a little tricky to navigate, and the menu button is a long way down at the bottom of the centre stack. There are also no steering wheel controls, nor any crossover into the driver display, so it feels as though you spend a little too much time jabbing away at the screen and looking into the centre of the car, rather than being able to keep your eyes on the road.

There’s a lot of technology on offer with the base Chic level of trim giving you air conditioning, an integrated air freshener, that 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, USB, DAB and mood lighting. Stepping up to Elegance brings LED fog lights, sports pedals and plenty more, and finally the Prestige brings things like powered folding heated mirrors, LED Vision lights, satnav, and active city break to stop you driving into the car in front when you’re not concentrating in busy traffic.


DS 3: Driving change

But there are some elements of the DS 3 that are really good. The seats are really comfortable, especially with the leather finishes and the unique “watchstrap” design and there’s plenty of adjustment in the steering column to get a comfortable position. All trim levels get a leather steering wheel, although this increases in quality as you step up the trim, although as we mentioned, we miss any sort of steering wheel controls.

The DS 3 is naturally set for a fairly sporty ride. With wheels starting at 16-inch and increasing to 17-inch on the higher trims, you don’t lose that fun feeling when you’re on the road. The suspension is comfortable though, soaking away those broken road surfaces and easing out speed bumps, even if we found the road noise to be a little higher than we expected – a product of lower profile tyres and not too much body insulation we suspect.

There are a range of engine choices (we drove the 130 and 165 petrol engines, there are a range of diesels for those more interested in economy), and the exhaust note gives you a sporty feeling too, as does the detailing of the rear splitter, sitting alongside the chrome exhaust pipes. We found the PureTech 130 to give a surprisingly sporty soundtrack, but it’s still an economical option, with CO2 emissions rated at 105g/km.

There will also be a THP 210, for those looking for sportier performance. DS doesn’t pitch this as a hot hatch, more a gentleman’s GT, for those who want something with a bit of poke without turning into a boy racer. It take you from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, so it’s no slouch.


On the road the DS 3 is a fun car to drive. The visibility is good, with large wing mirrors and the steering is weighty enough to feel purposeful. In the THP 165 mated with a 6-speed manual gearbox, there’s enough power to pull this compact car up the hills, and the acceleration to give you an exciting drive. It takes 7.5-seconds to hit 62mph, which in real terms, is racey enough to stay in contention with the rest of the traffic.

We found that it also returned over 40mpg in the mixed driving we’d been doing, some motorway, but much on twisty-turny A roads, with plenty of junctions. All in all, it’s a fun drive. It perhaps lacks the twitchy “go-kart” drive of the Mini Hatch, but it’s certainly not lacking in character.

First Impressions

We’ve always liked the DS 3. We liked this car when it was a fresh idea from Citroën and we like it now it’s leading the charge from DS Automobiles. It sits as the starting point in the DS family, better looking and fresher than the DS 4, and facing less-serious executive competition than the DS 5. To us, that makes it the star of the show and that’s a feeling that’s reflected in strong sales of the older model.

The DS 3 is fresh and funky. We like the drive and we like the looks. Yes, this isn’t a rethinking of this compact hatch and it’s very much the same character as the original, but if you’re looking to upgrade, there’s probably enough of a change to help you move from your 5-year-old car to the new DS 3. 

The DS 3 starts from £13,995 with PureTech 82 engine and manual gearbox with Chic trim, rising up to £22,495 for the top spec THP 210 engine with Performance Black trim. Somewhere in the middle is a sweet spot, giving your blend of unique styling, plenty of creature comforts and an exciting drive.


Sony smartphone showdown: Xperia X vs Xperia Z vs Xperia M

Sony Mobile churns out smartphones like they are going out of fashion. There are currently four devices available to buy across its M range and Z range, but the company has just announced another three within the new X range, two of which will launch in the summer. The third is an Asia only device.

Confused yet? Well just to add to that, Sony has also announced the Z line will stop with the Xperia Z5 family, meaning the X series will be the future of Sony Mobile.

To ease the confusion and help you work out which Sony smartphone might be right for you, here is how the Xperia ranges compare. This is the difference between the Xperia XA, Xperia X, Xperia X Performance, Xperia Z5 Compact, Xperia Z5, Xperia Z5 Premium and Xperia M5. Phew.  

Xperia X vs Xperia Z vs Xperia M design

The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact is the smallest and thickest of the Xperia handsets measuring 127 x 65 x 8.9mm. The slimmest is the Xperia Z5 and the largest is the Xperia Z5 Premium. 

In terms of weight, the Xperia Z5 Compact and the Xperia XA are the lightest hitting the scales at just 138g, followed closely by the Xperia M5 at 143g. The Xperia Z5 Premium is the heaviest at 180g, with the Xperia X Performance following at 165g.

All the Xperia smartphones offer a similar OmniBalance design but there are a couple of differences across the three ranges. The Xperia M5 has a plastic rear, while the Z5 Compact, Z5 and Z5 Premium all opt for frosted glass and squarer edges. The Xperia XA, X and X Performance all go down the metal rear path and all three of the newest devices offer 2D curved glass over the front, as well as slightly more rounded edges making them more pleasurable to hold.

Each of the seven devices has a capless Micro-USB port and they are all waterproof and dust proof to IP68 and IP65, apart from the Xperia XA and Xperia X. The Xperia Z5 Compact, Z5, Z5 Premium, X and X Performance all offer a built-in fingerprint sensor within the oblong side power button. It is worth noting that the Z5 and Z5 Compact in the US don’t offer a fingerprint sensor for some strange reason.

The Xperia XA and Xperia M have a circular side power button instead with no fingerprint recognition, like the previous Xperia Z3 and Z3+ range.

Xperia X vs Xperia Z vs Xperia M display

The smallest display sits within the Xperia Z5 Compact at 4.6-inches, while the largest is within the Z5 Premium at 5.5-inches. The Z5 has a 5.2-inch display while the other four devices all come with a 5-inch display.

In terms of resolution, the Z5 Premium is the winner of the sharpest, crispest display with its 4K resolution, offering a pixel density of a whopping 806ppi. The lowest resolution sits within the Z5 Compact and Xperia XA, both of which have a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution. As the Z5 Compact is a little smaller it squeezes a few more pixels in per inch than the XA with a pixel density of 319ppi compared to 293ppi.

The Xperia X, X Performance and M5 all have Full HD displays for pixel densities of 441ppi. A Full HD resolution is also on board the Z5 for a pixel density of 423ppi. A few of the Xperia handsets also have Sony’s Triluminos and X-Reality technologies including the X, X Performance and all three devices in the Z5 family.

The Xperia XA has the most exciting display though, even if it isn’t the largest or sharpest, because it has an edge-to-edge screen which is stunning.

Xperia X vs Xperia Z vs Xperia M camera

The Xperia XA has the lowest resolution camera sensor on the rear at 13-megapixels, while the Xperia Z5, Z5 Compact and Z5 Premium have the lowest resolution on the front at 5.1-megapixels.

A 23-megaixel sensor with sensitivity up to ISO 12800, an aperture of f/2.0 and a 24mm wide-angle G lens sits within the Xperia X, X Performance, Z5 Compact, Z5 and Z5 Premium. The Xperia M5 has a 21.5-megapixel rear camera.

The Xperia X, X Performance and the M5 all come with a 13-megapixel f/2.0 front-facing camera. The X and X Performance have a sensitivity of ISO 6400 so overall these two are likely to offer the best selfies. These two devices and the XA also all come with a new feature called Predictive Hybrid Auto Focus which tracks and predicts moment to ensure moments aren’t missed.

Xperia X vs Xperia Z vs Xperia M hardware

The fastest and newest chip sits within the Xperia X Performance. It sports the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, while all three in the Z5 family opt for the slightly older Qualcomm Snapdragon 810. The Xperia X has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 on board.

The Xperia XA and M5 both have MediaTek chips with the XA sporting the P10 and the M5 opting for the X10. There is 3GB of RAM on board all of the Xperia handsets, except for the XA that offers just 2GB.

All seven Xperia devices have microSD support for storage expansion. The Xperia Z5 family, X Performance and M5 all come with 32GB of internal memory while the X comes in 32GB and 64GB options and the XA in 16GB only.

The biggest battery capacity is in the Xperia Z5 Premium at 3430mAh, followed by the Z5 at 2900mAh and then the Z5 Compact and X Performance, both of which have 2700mAh. The smallest capacity is within the XA at 2300mAh while the X and M5 both sit around the 2600mAh mark.

Xperia X vs Xperia Z vs Xperia M software

The Xperia XA, X and X Performance will all arrive with Android Marshmallow in the Summer. The X Performance will only be available in Asia, while the XA and X will come to other territories.

The Xperia Z5 family and the M5 are all on Android Lollipop but they should all get an update to Marshmallow eventually, at least the Z5 devices anyway. The software experience should be very similar across all the devices when they are all updated, with all featuring Sony’s software overlay on top of Android. Not all the Xperia devices will offer every feature though.

For example, the Xperia X, X Performance and Z5 family will all have PS4 Remote Play while the M5 and XA won’t.

Xperia X vs Xperia Z vs Xperia M conclusion

So which Sony Xperia smartphone is the right one for you? Well, that depends on what you want from your smartphone as well as where you live. If you aren’t in Asia then you can forget the X Performance altogether, leaving just six to choose from, two of which – the X and XA –  won’t be available till Summer.

The Xperia XA has the most interesting display and a metal design, which is also one of the lightest. Its hardware isn’t as powerful as its siblings, it is not waterproof and there is no fingerprint sensor however.

The Xperia X has the metal design and a fingerprint sensor, while also offering powerful cameras on the front and rear. It isn’t waterproof though and its battery is a little smaller than others.

The Xperia X Performance, for those in Asia, is the most powerful Xperia handset at the moment. It offers the fingerprint sensor, waterproofing, decent front and rear cameras and it has a lovely metal build to boot. It very much a flagship device to rival the Z5. 

The Xperia Z5 Compact is the smallest and also one of the lightest of the Xperia devices but is also the thickest. Waterproofing is on board here too, as well as a fingerprint sensor and it has some powerful specs too, even if the front camera is probably not as good as the X, X Performance or M5.

The Xperia Z5 is the slimmest handset, bringing powerful hardware and a big battery capacity, as well as a decent main camera. That fingerprint sensor and waterproofing is present here too.

The Xperia Z5 Premium has the sharpest and largest display. It is the device to buy if you want to use it with a VR headset. The Premium also has powerful hardware and a huge battery, along with waterproofing and a fingerprint sensor.

The Xperia M5 is waterproof and has well-specced front and main cameras, although its hardware is perhaps a little less powerful than others. It also features a plastic rear and ditches the fingerprint sensor but it is likely to be the cheapest of the Xperia devices.

That’s the Xperia smartphones in a nutshell. Which one you choose is up to you.


What to expect at Apple’s 15 March event: iPhone 5SE, iPad Air 3 and more

Apple is holding an event on 15 March, or so it is thought. Of course nothing has been officially confirmed, nor will it be until the invites go out, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun speculating about what to expect.

The Cupertino company notably never attends the major trade shows like MWC and IFA. Instead, especially in the case of IFA, it does its own separate event very close to the show, stealing a few headlines of its own.

Apple’s September and June events have a much more predictable pattern than the March events, with only two previous March events to date – one in 2012 and the second in 2015. Despite this however, a March 2016 event is looking very likely based on reports. With MWC now over after stealing plenty of headlines, what will Apple announce to get back in the spotlight?

Apple iPad Air 3

Apple decided not to update the iPad Air 2 during the September 2015 event where the iPad mini 4 and iPad Pro were both announced. That decision has led many to believe the iPad Air 3, or smaller iPad Pro as it has also been referred to, will be announced during the March 2016 event.

Reports suggest the new 9.7-inch iPad will adopt a similar design to the larger Apple iPad Pro including a four-speaker setup, Smart Connector and compatibility with the Apple Pencil. It has also been suggested that a rear LED camera flash will appear too, which would make it the first iPad to offer this feature.

A newer and faster processor than the iPad Air 2 is expected and there has also been some talk of a higher resolution display, coupled with the next-generation of pressure-sensing technology. It’s all a guessing game at the moment though.

READ MORE Apple iPad Air 3: What’s the story so far?

Apple iPhone 5SE

The Apple iPhone 5SE, previously referred to as the iPhone 6C, is the rumoured successor to the colourful, 4-inch iPhone 5C that was announced way back in September 2013. It has been talked about for several months now, hence the different names, but it is thought it might finally reveal itself at the March event.

The iPhone 5C is no longer available to buy through Apple, making the iPhone 5S the cheaper and smaller option within the iPhone portfolio. The iPhone 5SE, if it arrives at all, is expected to replace the iPhone 5S, possibly bringing a colourful metal build with it.

Rumours suggest the 4-inch display will remain intact, along with the same resolution as the iPhone 5S. It also isn’t likely to come with any of the newer technologies like the pressure-sensitive display found on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.

READ MORE Apple iPhone 5SE: What’s the story so far?

Apple Watch 2

Apple announced the Apple Watch in September 2014, offering further details on the wearable in March 2015 and finally releasing it for purchase in April 2015. It’s been suggested we might therefore see its successor appear at the March event this year.

What Apple will call the second-gen smartwatch is still questionable but we will go with Apple Watch 2 for now. It’s been suggested that it will sport the same design and form factor as the original model, with the same rectangular screen, resolution and body.

Other reports claim new materials will be added to the mix and features such as a front-facing video camera will be added, as well as a chip that will allow for better functionality when without a Bluetooth connection. With a bit of luck those super expensive straps might even still be compatible. Here’s hoping.

READ MORE Apple Watch 2: What’s the story so far?


MWC Revisited: The best phones in Barcelona this year

The booths have been dismantled, the bigwigs have boarded their planes and the doors have been closed. That’s a wrap for Mobile World Congress 2016. Now that our team has had a chance to kick back and reflect on the mobile maelstrom we’ve just waded through, meet the four smartphones (in no particular order) that stole our hearts and stole the show.

The G5 is LG’s boldest move

After the stopgap release that was the G4, we’ve finally got an LG flagship that’s really worth getting excited over. Sure, it folds a now standard Snapdragon 820 chipset, a lovely 5.3-inch Quad HD screen and a fascinating dual-camera setup into an attractive little body. That alone might have been enough for LG to pick up more momentum, but there’s a twist: You can plug in a handful of modular accessories to help the G5 do even more. Serious about photography? The Cam Plus grip module could help you capture some better shots. And I could see at least a few audiophiles shell out for the Hi-Fi Plus DAC module LG co-developed with Bang & Olufsen. The G5, then, isn’t just a flagship phone — it’s a physical foundation for others to build cool things for.

And that’s really the big question mark, isn’t it? Whether LG can build a collection of truly valuable “Friend” modules is up in the air, but you’ve got to give the company credit for going all out this time. Oh, and those modules will most likely work with the G6, too — LG’s got time to figure this stuff out.

Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge stands out

Don’t get me wrong — the standard S7 is a great phone in its own right, but the Edge balances that same high level of performance with a bigger, more compelling screen and a better battery in an incredible package. Samsung contends that people use bigger displays differently than smaller ones; there’s a greater focus on consuming media and being productive. In a way, though, it doesn’t really matter if that logic shakes out. The S7 Edge represents the pinnacle of Samsung’s mobile-design and engineering shops, and that it’ll sell like crazy is almost a foregone conclusion. That might not be a surprise, though — the original S6 Edge captured people’s attention in a way that the regular S6 couldn’t.

Despite those advancements, the S7 siblings feel like incremental updates to Samsung’s work last year. That’s not a bad thing — every formula needs some touching up — but the timing is a little unfortunate, since LG spent the past year building a phone that threw caution to the wind. One thing is for sure, though: Great as the S7 Edge is, Samsung’s going to bring it with next year’s model.

Xiaomi Mi 5 was the show’s surprise hit

We knew Xiaomi’s Mi 5 was coming to Barcelona for MWC well before we landed here, but we didn’t expect it to be so impressive. Comfortable, handsome design? Check. Snapdragon 820? Yep (and with two variants, no less). Throw in a camera that seems to resist the most jittery of hands and we’ve got a serious contender for between $310 and $410. The version of Android the Mi 5 comes with is painted over with Xiaomi’s MIUI interface, but even that doesn’t really detract from the experience — it’s lightweight and can be surprisingly pretty. It doesn’t matter that Xiaomi sometimes gets jeers for being a copycat (a story for another time). The Mi 5 is an incredibly well-built, powerful device for its price. With any luck, Xiaomi plans to bring it to markets beyond China and India, where the phone will be released next month.

Alcatel Idol 4S

Fine, Alcatel’s new Idol 4S may not be as downright pretty or powerful as the other phones on this list. The market for damned good, inexpensive unlocked phones is growing, though, and Alcatel just might make a killing with this one. Part of that is because the Idol 4S squeezes an octa-core Snapdragon 652 into a very slim body that also houses a 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED display. And in addition to keeping around tricks like being able to answer the phone no matter which way you hold it, the inclusion of a context-sensitive “Boom” key helps add some smart functionality to an otherwise near-stock version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

Really, though, we’re a sucker for its packaging — it’s a full-blown, sturdy plastic VR headset that the Idol 4S snaps into. We ran into a little trouble when testing it the first time around, but Alcatel says the issues have been polished out of the final version. We’ll be the judges of that; still, people probably aren’t going to back away from a decent, free ticket to VR-ville.


Lumo stops forcing you to buy its running shorts

If there’s one thing guaranteed to annoy your customers, it’s being forced to buy something that they don’t want. It’s been an issue with the forthcoming Lumo Run, a posture-fixing sports wearable that only worked with a pair of custom-made shorts. Thankfully, the company has seen fit to alter its policy and will now release a version that can just clip onto whatever garment you’re wearing. The clip-on version is cheaper, too, priced at $99 rather than the $149/$169 you’ll pay for extra shorts or capri pants. Even better is that, until the gear launches this summer, pre-order customers can snag one for just $79.99.

Source: Lumo


Google Inbox adds two time-saving snooze options

One of the great things about Google Inbox’s snooze function is being able to set the exact date and time to resurface emails you intend to read and reply to later. Sometimes, though, you just want to get non-urgent emails out of the way without thinking too hard. This latest Inbox update allows you to do just that. Now, when you choose to toss a digital missive into your read-it-much-much-later pile, you can choose from two new snooze times: Later this week and This weekend. And since different people have different weekends, you can choose a particular day when you think you’ll be ready to face what you’ve put off.

They sound a bit dangerous for the eternal procrastinator, but incredibly useful for people who have lot going on in their lives. Google is rolling out these features over the next week, so you’ll be able to use them soon enough.

Correction: This post originally attributed some additional features recently added to the Android Gmail app to Google’s Inbox apps. These features appear to still be exclusive only to Gmail for Android.

Source: Gmail


‘Dragon Front’ is Oculus Rift’s most exciting game yet

High Voltage debuted its newest offering for the Oculus Rift, an immersive, turn-based collectable card game called Dragon Front. It plays much like Magic: the Gathering in that players draw from customized 30-card decks, arrange them on a standardized playing field — in this case a 4 x 4 grid — and attempt to whittle down the HP of the opposing player, as well as their forces, to win. Players can choose from single player (vs AI) or multiplayer matchups. Like similar physical card games, these various assets all consume Mana to operate. However, with the added capabilities of VR, the actual combat is closer to a Dejarik match than a simple card game.

Players can choose among four warring factions, each with their own relative strengths and weaknesses. Along with the attacking and defending characters, the game offers a litany of buffing and debuffing spells, encampments — even ultra-powerful “Heroes” that can be called upon to wreak havoc on the opponent’s base. What’s more, players can heavily customize their decks from 250 available cards to accommodate their preferred combat style or to counter an opponent’s tactics. Dragon Front is currently scheduled for release in the first half of this year. Plus, three additional add-on packs are already in the works.

I had an opportunity to play the Beta version on Tuesday and, though I totally got smoked in my first non-tutorial game, I found Dragon Front to be surprisingly engaging. It definitely takes a good deal of inspiration from Magic but also incorporates a much more straightforward damage/defense metric, more akin to RISK. That’s helpful given how much is going on throughout the game. Overall I found it to be really enjoyable. Despite the initial drubbing, I’m raring to play more.


Have some cake and enjoy the ‘Indie Dev Supershow’ this weekend

Alix Stolzer was one of the first game developers to truly embrace the power of livestreaming. She’s the feline half of independent studio Robot Loves Kitty (her husband, Calvin Goble, is the android), and she’s been using Twitch as a marketing and communication tool since 2013. That year, she organized the inaugural Indie Dev Supershow, a weekend marathon on Twitch highlighting a handful of games trying to score spots on Steam.

Since then, the annual Indie Dev Supershow has garnered roughly 700,000 unique views. This year’s show kicks off today at 11 AM EST, and it’s poised to add a lot more viewers.

“I’m really happy with the number,” Stolzer says. “My goal is to get other devs into the eyes of the public, and it’s better than the turnout of a year’s worth of expos like PAX and E3. That doesn’t mean I’m not trying to grow what we have, though.”

This year’s Indie Dev Supershow is the largest yet, featuring more than 40 games and their developers over three days. Games include 20XX, Guns of Icarus, Ninja Pizza Girl, Catacomb Kids, Renowned Explorers, Brawlhalla and cake. Like, real cake. Stolzer and friends encourage their audience to enjoy a slice with them at the end of the show (and no, this isn’t a lie — it’s a tradition). The live event ends on Sunday, February 28th at 4 PM EST.

One game missing from the lineup is Stolzer’s own, Legend of Dungeon: Masters. It’s a stylish, pixelated romp that utilizes Twitch in fascinating ways: If someone is streaming the game, viewers can boot up the Masters client and drop items into that streamer’s game, live. Some items help, while others most certainly do not.

Stolzer and Goble will play Legend of Dungeon: Masters during the pre-show each day, but it’s not on the official lineup and they don’t want to draw attention to it.

“I’ve actually made a point of leaving our own games out of the Supershow,” Stolzer says. “This year we’ll be playing a bit of our stuff before the Supershow starts and even that feels a bit… dirty? I’ve always felt that it’s a more meaningful show when I do it selflessly.”

That’s how the Supershow started, after all.

Back in the early days of Steam Greenlight, Valve’s new system was incredibly frustrating for many independent developers. It was 2012 and Greenlight was supposed to streamline the submission process: Hordes of independent games were vying for spots on Steam, and Greenlight allowed the community to vote in the games they liked. If a title got enough votes, it would launch on Steam.

Valve accepted Greenlight games in batches at first, launching a handful every month or so. Then, that transformed into nearly 100 games every month. Then, Valve stopped announcing Greenlit games entirely and just started rolling out the titles at the top of the list with no announcements. The system drastically increased the number of games available on Steam, and it heightened competition among independent developers. Everyone was looking for a way to stand out in the crowd.

That’s why Stolzer started the Supershow. She wanted to find a fun way of marketing Legend of Dungeon for the Greenlight voting audience. This was back when Valve was accepting just 10 games a month. The Supershow seemed like a perfect solution, and it might have been, had the Greenlight gods not intervened.

“I came up with the idea, but then Legend of Dungeon got Greenlit days later,” Stolzer says. “I decided to do the Supershow anyhow because it was something I wanted to see, and I thought the idea could help other devs connect with the community.”

The Supershow is a huge undertaking and it’s only getting bigger. Stolzer estimates she’ll have spent about 200 hours planning this year’s run.

“The most stressful part of organizing the Supershow is the sheer size of it and the fact that I’m organizing it alone while also trying to make my own games,” she says. “I play every game that gets submitted (100-plus), and am in frequent contact with the devs in the show, guest streamers and all kinds of planning things.”

Indie Dev Supershow Day 1 is live!

— i[o o]i ♥ =^.^= (@RobotLovesKitty) February 26, 2016

However, planning the Supershow isn’t the hardest part.

“The most harrowing part is having to inform the devs who I couldn’t fit in the show that they aren’t in the show,” Stolzer says. “It breaks my heart, even though I know curation makes the show better.”

Stolzer knows how to run a live event, make a game, live in a tree (yes, really) and how to use streaming to boost her brand. At the core of all these things, Stolzer is driven to have fun and help people at the same time.

“Robot Loves Kitty is one of the studios that jumped into streaming really early on, pretty much as soon as we knew it was possible,” she says. “It’s definitely affected everything we do. We think of it as a great way to stay in touch with our community and fans.”


Apple Working on Fix for Spotify Kernel Panic Bug on OS X

Spotify team member Johan Lindstrom has confirmed that Apple is working on a fix for a bug that occasionally triggers a kernel panic on OS X when running the streaming music service’s official Mac desktop app.

The issue first arose in the Spotify support community in October, when a user claimed that OS X 10.9.5 was crashing after updating to Spotify version Since then, dozens of other affected users have shared kernel panic logs.

I’ve been in contact with Apple and they have confirmed that this is a known bug in the current and recent versions of OS X. They are working on a fix, but I don’t know when they will roll that out. The bug that is causing the kernel panic is being triggered when running Spotify simply because the Spotify app is making network requests (to stream music etc.) and there are several other apps that also cause the same kernel panic to occur.

In the meantime, the user-suggested workaround is to disable OS X’s built-in system firewall under System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Firewall. The firewall is normally used to control which apps send or receive network traffic, so be aware of the potential security implications of disabling it.

Spotify has sent the kernel panic logs to Apple and pointed them towards the support community topic, but it remains unclear when the bug will be fixed. Apple seeded the fourth beta of OS X 10.11.4 to developers for testing earlier this week, while OS X 10.12 will likely be previewed at WWDC in June.

(Thanks, Daniel!)

Tags: Spotify, OS X
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