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2
Mar

MailWise: Trying to make your inbox more pleasant [Review]


For an industry that changes so quickly, it’s surprising to see the slow pace of innovation in email. If you think about it, we use email exactly the same way

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2
Mar

You can now use your Amazon Echo to check on flights with Skyscanner


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Skyscanner, the travel search engine, is now available as a skill for Alexa, the digital assistant powering the Amazon Echo. You can use Skyscanner on any device that supports Alexa, including the Echo and the most recent version of the Amazon Fire TV.

With the Skyscanner skill enabled, an Echo owner could search for flights using only their voice. Alexa can also suggest flights based on information your provide on upcoming trips, and will provide the best, cheapest option that it can find.

You can add Skyscanner, along with other skills, using Amazon’s Alexa app.

Amazon Echo

  • Read our updated review
  • Get the latest news
  • Join the discussion
  • Download the Echo app

Amazon

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2
Mar

Best Fitbit to buy: Here’s what our editors are using!


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Fitbit is one of the most popular wearables on the planet. Here’s what the Mobile Nations editor’s wear, and why.

There are lots of reasons to get a Fitbit. More than just a fitness-focused wearable, it comes a whole social platform that its some 21 million users can all be a part of. For some, it means bragging rights over their friends, for others it’s a way to keep motivated to stay in shape.

It’s also a favorite among the Mobile Nations editors at iMore, Android Central, CrackBerry, and Windows Central. So, if you’re looking to buy a Fitbit but aren’t sure which one to get, we can help!

We’ve rounded up our Fitbit wearing colleagues and they’re here to tell you what they wear and why they like it so much. Let’s get to it!

Let’s get to it!

Phil Nickinson

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I wear a Fitbit Flex. In basic black, of course. And to be completely honest I’m not entirely sure why. I’ve got a Fitbit on one arm, Android Wear on the other. The Fitbit is more accurate, I think, even when worn on the dominant hand, like I do. (And the Fitbit app can compensate for that.)

I do think that because it’s a dedicated fitness tracker and not a watch that happens to track fitness I tend to wear it a little more, and I’m more conscious of just how much I’m walking. I’m not necessarily going out of my way to hit my 10,000 every day, but I’m definitely more aware of when I do.

Or maybe the most important part is that my wife’s been wearing a Fitbit for a while now, and I get off on the competition — and the taunting feature.

Married 11 years and counting, folks.

Kevin Michaluk

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Why do I like Fitbit in general? Because of the Friends and Challenges. It’s not about the tracking, as lots of products can do that. What makes the difference is that I can compete with my co-workers, friends, family, nieces and nephews. Whenever I have a challenge on a week or weekend I do way more steps and I’m more conscious of my physical activities. And now Fitbit has sold enough of them that you’re almost guaranteed to know people who have them.

My favorite model is the Fitbit Charge HR. I can wear it all day easily, even at the computer. It’s easy to take on and off when I have to and the band is durable. I also really like having the heart rate all the time. It’s comfortable enough to sleep with for tracking, though I don’t always do this. Also, fashion-wise, because I like to wear mechanical watches, I wear this on the opposite wrist along with another leather bracelet and it blends in well. It’s not trying to define my style, it just blends in. The battery life is good enough, I only need to charge it maybe twice a week. And a pro tip: Leave your charger in the bathroom and charge it when you shower (that’s when you know you’ll be taking it off consistently.)

While the Charge HR is my favorite, I’ve used enough of the various Fitbit products to have some opinions on all of them:

Fitbit Flex

  • Likes: Lots of colors of bands which is great. Can coordinate colors for different wardrobes and occasions.
  • Dislikes: I have trouble putting it on sometimes with the way the clasp is designed and have broken the clasp on numerous occasions. Taking the bit out of the bracelet for charging is kind of annoying. It is actually is less comfortable to wear at a computer than the Charge/Charge HR.

Fitbit Surge

  • Likes: If I’m hardcore training (such as getting ready for a half marathon), I like the built-in GPS.
  • Dislikes: It’s big and watch-like — it looks and feels more like a sports/heart rate monitor watch. The Surge doesn’t have that all day wearability that I desire, but some of my more athletic friends are all about the Surge.

Fitbit One

  • Likes: Price is good, especially if you just care most about tracking your daily steps.
  • Dislikes: Because it’s not strapped to my wrist, I’ve lost them before :(

Fitbit Blaze:

This one takes the most common smartwatch tasks and puts them in a Fitbit without trying to do too much. It provides a lot of customization options, but it’s not for me, though — it starts to define your style. I prefer my fitness tracker to just blend in with my own style. At least for now, maybe some day that will change.

James Falconer

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Having been a Fitbit user for many years now, I can safely say their fitness products (and apps) keep getting better and better. I’m invested in their ecosystem, and have cycled through the Fitbit One, Flex, and Charge. Heck, I even have the Aria wireless scale (to tell me how fat — or not fat — I am). These days I’m sporting the Charge HR on my left wrist. I rarely (if ever) go a day without wearing it.

The Charge HR is actually quite comfortable. It’s not too bulky, is easy to take on and off, and stays put on my wrist. I can actually work with it on without feeling uncomfortable.

The heart rate tracking is actually really good. I use it when I’m out for a run or workout to keep me on track. I have never had an issue with this feature, it works as advertised.

The Charge makes key data glanceable. You can set the display to show you whatever information you like (time, current heart rate, steps, etc.) when you raise your wrist as you would a watch. I usually set this to the time, but if I’m out for a run I might set it to distance, steps, or heart rate. No matter the situation this is easily tweaked from within the Fitbit app.

On that note, the apps are just plain solid. I’ve used both the Android and iPhone apps, and the detailed data is great. It easily lets me go back to monitor progress, pick up on trends, and more. But most important is the social aspect. I enjoy entering competitions with friends and colleagues, and the extra motivation can really push you to put in that extra workout, or push that little bit harder to win the day!

Alicia Erlich

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I spend most of my time working in my cubicle, so I wear the Fitbit Flex to help with my day-to-day fitness goals.

Motivation is a key aspect of the Flex. Not only do I have myself to rely on, but there is also the added benefit of social interaction. I can connect with my friends who cheer on my accomplishments. That’s not to say that the Flex doesn’t do typical fitness tracker things like tracking my step count and distance towards my daily goal. If I do reach that goal, there’s a sense of accomplishment. If I don’t, I try to make up for it the following day. As such, I find myself opting out of public transportation and walking more even for minor errands.

I chose the Flex for two reasons. The first being I already use a smartwatch, so having a tracker with a built-in clock was unnecessary. The second is for the sleep monitoring capability. I tend to ignore the recommended number of hours one needs for a good night’s sleep due. On average I think I was getting five or six hours depending on what I was working on during the week. Using the tracker, I can see not only the duration but the quality as well. I am aware of how much sleep I get on a daily basis and have learned to plan my schedule accordingly.

While I cannot always find the time to exercise at the gym, my Flex helps me to stay fit and reach my fitness goals in other ways.

Michelle Haag

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I’ve been a Fitbit user off an on for years now. I started with a Fitbit One, moved briefly to a Fitbit Charge HR and then upgraded to the Fitbit Surge shortly after. Working from home, you’d think it’s easy to get 10k steps in daily, but it tends to have the opposite effect. Some days I find myself wondering if I even moved at all. Wearing a Fitbit helps me stay accountable and motivates me to hit step goals to ensure I’m getting in at least the bare minimum of activity.

I often participate in the weekly challenges with my Fitbit wearing friends. A little friendly competition always helps me get in gear. I also appreciate how Fitbit integrates with other apps like Pact and MyFitnessPal.

I just upgraded from the Surge to the Blaze, and so far I’m loving it! I liked the touchscreen features of the Surge, but it was kind of bulky for me. The Blaze is solving that problem for me, plus the on-screen workouts are going to be super useful during the day when I just need a quick break and a little activity. And I’m looking forward to buying bands so I can switch up the look!

Rich Edmonds

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Fitbit is the most popular form of wearable available today and it’s clear to see why when you strap one to your wrist, or attach another option to a piece of clothing. Coupling the company’s trackers with the connected scales and social platform enables you to conveniently check out how you’re progressing through selected fitness programs, or to boast about how many steps you managed to rack up during that evening stroll.

I enjoy using Fitbit due to the battery life of the Flex, as well as having the official app available cross-platform. I was relatively unfit compared to my younger years, but sticking to a strict regime, watching what I eat and noting it down on the Fitbit website (which counts your calories and whatnot), as well as ensuring I’m smashing all my set goals really turned things around.

I’m now in the frame of mind to head out each and every day for a run or walk, which is especially important for someone who sits at their desk for a number of hours in the morning and afternoon. Should you be looking for an easy-to-use tracker with a platform to really expand upon, look no further than Fitbit.

DJ Reyes

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While I use a smartwatch, I prefer to use a dedicated fitness tracker for tracking my overall fitness. Right now my current choice of fitness device is the Fitbit Flex. It’s simple, not too big and it lets me track my steps as well as my sleep. My initial reason for picking one up is because a lot of the Mobile Nations team owned one and Fitbit offers a great way of competing with your friends, family and colleagues through challenges. It’s certainly a great motivator and seeing a colleague’s name further up on the list always makes me aim to get my step count up. Fitbit also has a sleep tracker, and while I was not really into tracking my sleep before owning a Fitbit Flex, I’ve found it to be very helpful and does lead me to try and sleep better.

I do have plans to upgrade my Flex to a newer model. I have been eyeing the Charge HR, mainly due to the heart rate monitor but with the new models announced, I am holding out a little while to see what the reviews say about them. While I’ve thought about other brands of fitness tracker, I’m very partial to the Fitbit brand and the motivation I get from competing with the Mobile Nations team.

Marc Lagace

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Being relatively new to wearing a Fitbit, I can’t help wishing I had jumped on the bandwagon sooner. I spent my university and college years piling on the pounds through pizza, beer, and a sedentary lifestyle marked by Netflix and an aversion to going to the gym.

Now in my late-20s, I’ve decided to finally focus on improving my health by setting better lifestyle habits for myself. I’ve been wearing the Fitbit Surge for the past month or so as part of my overall fitness plan along with eating healthier and hitting the gym.

And the Fitbit Surge has definitely played a role in getting me off the couch, thanks in larger part to the Fitbit Friends and Challenges. It motivates me to use my standing desk at work and to go for walks as I try and keep pace in challenges. I’ve also appreciated reviewing the activity data from my workouts and tracking the calories I burn at my weekly dodgeball league. I’ve yet to use the built-in GPS much as it’s been too icy outside to go for runs, but once the sidewalks have cleared I’m eager to have the Surge literally track my path to better fitness.

Aesthetically, I’ve never really seen the point in wearing a watch — smartphones are essentially modern pocket watches — but I’ve actually come to enjoy wearing the Surge. On top of looking stylish on my wrist, I can get quick info about my recent activity (or inactivity) from just briefly glancing at the watch face. And I’ve found it’s comfortable enough to wear to bed for the sleep tracking features—a data set I value and have previously attempted to track via clunkier smartphone apps in the past.

That’s ultimately my favorite part about the Fitbit experience. It’s designed to track your steps, sleep, and active minutes automatically so I don’t have to fuddle around in the Fitbit app too much. You just wear it and go.

If you’re interested in any of these for yourselves, hit up the link below to check out Amazon’s dedicated Fitbit store.

Fitbit Store at Amazon

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2
Mar

Google starts testing Hands Free mobile payments app


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Google has announced a new pilot program for hands-free payments with a new app, appropriately named Hands Free. With the app, you won’t need to grab your wallet, hunt for cash, or even pull your phone out of your pocket or purse in order to pay. Currently separate from Android Pay, the Hands Free beta is currently limited to the South Bay area of San Francisco.

From Google:

Once you’ve installed and set up the app, Hands Free uses Bluetooth low energy, Wi-Fi, and location services on your phone to detect whether you’re near a participating store. When you’re ready to pay, you can simply tell the cashier, “I’ll pay with Google.” The cashier will ask for your initials and use the picture you added to your Hands Free profile to confirm your identity.

Google says that Hands Free is currently rolling out to a small number of partners, including McDonald’s and Papa John’s. Some stores are even implementing their own dedicated cameras that will be used to confirm your identity. Customers who beta test Hands Free can get up to $5 off their first purchase using the system at participating stores.

South Bay residents can grab and start testing the Hands Free app from the Google Play Store now.

Source: Google

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2
Mar

Mobile World Congress 2016: The Android Central postmortem


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Everything Android from the show in Barcelona.

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This year’s Mobile World Congress was the most eventful in years, with major flagship announcements from some of the biggest names in Android. The weeklong show gave us newer and faster phones with more beautiful hardware than ever, along with some surprises from the biggest players in the smartphone space.

There’s been a lot of news to keep track of, so we’ve done the legwork for you, condensing all the major MWC 2016 developments into one place. So what are you waiting for? Head past the break to get up to speed on everything from the biggest show in mobile.

More: Catch up on the big announcements from MWC 2016!

Samsung

As much as MWC 2016 was one of the busiest single events in years for Android, it was once again Samsung’s show. The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge are undoubtedly going to be among the best-selling Android phones of the year, and deservedly so.

You can argue that Samsung didn’t give us any revolutionary changes this time around. Instead, it did something much more important: taking three good phones — the Galaxy S6, S6 edge and S6 edge+ — and condensing them into two awesome phones. Water resistance and improvements in battery capacity are important advancements. Meanwhile an improved low-light camera should keep the Korean firm at the top of the pile (or at least near its summit) when it comes to imaging. All three are areas in which smartphone hardware has yet to plateau, and thus important spaces for Samsung to differentiate its products.

More: Samsung Galaxy S7 + S7 edge preview

The Unpacked event itself also bears mentioning. For the third year running, Samsung did its thing at the CCIB (Centre de Convencions Internacional de Barcelona), located away from the bustle of the main MWC venue, and a stone’s throw from the beach. Unpacked 2016 was a mix of virtual reality showboating and real-life spectacle, with Gear VR-equipped attendees arranged around a central stage.

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Samsung Unpacked 2016 was bombastic and showy, but not weird.

New Samsung Mobile boss DJ Koh put in a strong performance, tying together a presentation that managed to be bombastic and showy, but not weird — a balance Samsung hasn’t always managed to pull off. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, already in town for his MWC keynote, talked up VR as a platform for sharing important moments, giving us a glimpse of something beyond the relatively crude stereoscopic experience of the current Gear VR. Also a big deal: A brief cameo from Epic Games co-founder Tim Sweeney — who’s previously made appearances at Apple launch events — to talk up the GS7’s gaming prowess.

Samsung Galaxy S7

  • Galaxy S7 and S7 edge hands-on
  • Galaxy S7 and S7 edge specs
  • Here are all four Galaxy S7 colors
  • Details on the Galaxy S7’s camera
  • The SD card is back on the GS7
  • Join our Galaxy S7 forums

AT&T Sprint T-Mobile Verizon

LG

Samsung’s local rival LG focused on being different at this year’s MWC, introducing the G5 — a phone built with differentiation in mind, and a clean break from the past three years of LG smartphones. It’s LG’s first metal-bodied flagship, with a unique design that keeps necessary antenna lines out of sight. It’s got two cameras — one regular, one wide-angle — along with LG’s trademark laser autofocus. But the biggest technological feat comes from the G5’s removable modules — remove the bottom section of the phone and swap out for extra camera controls and an additional 1,100mAh of battery, or 32-bit audio from Band & Olufsen.

LG’s new mobile products are all about being different.

Modular attachments for mobile devices aren’t a new idea, and not everyone is convinced they’ll be anything beyond one big gimmick.

Nevertheless, this is pure LG, trying different and crazy ideas in order to position itself as the de facto alternative to Samsung. (And in fact, the company’s Feb. 21 press conference contained more than a few Samsung comparisons.)

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LG’s positioning the G5 at the heart of a new ecosystem of “Friends” — add-ons that work with the phone with a minimal amount of setup. These include the LG 360 CAM and 360 VR, as well as the adorable LG Rolling Bot. The latter two are clear rivals to Samsung’s own Gear VR and Gear 360 offerings, while the Rolling Bot is a product of the kind of crazy experimentation that makes LG LG.

However these new products work out for LG, it’s clear the company’s not afraid of trying new stuff. And that’s going to make its 2016 lineup very interesting to watch.

LG G5

  • LG G5 hands-on
  • LG G5 complete specs
  • LG G5 CAM Plus module
  • LG G5 B&O Hi-Fi audio module
  • The G5 has an always-on display
  • LG G5 keeps the SD card, shuns adoptable storage
  • Join the LG G5 discussion

Sony

When it comes to its high-end Xperia phones, Sony Mobile is normally about predictable (almost boring) incremental upgrades every six months. At MWC this year, that changed.

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The Xperia X is the new flagship series for Sony, the old Z series being not entirely 100 percent dead, but unlikely to make a return anytime soon. Sony’s new portfolio is centered around the “super-mid” 5-inch Xperia X, a Snapdragon 650-powered beast, which incorporates an updated version of the Xperia Z5’s camera, along with a new metal-backed design. Then at the high end, the Xperia X Performance packs a Snapdragon 820 into an almost identical body. The biggest surprise from the Sony booth was that both performed pretty much identically in day-to-day tasks.

Xperia Z isn’t quite dead, but it’s clear the new, leaner Xperia X series is what’s next for Sony.

It’s a readjustment for Sony, which arguably sees it sidestepping a direct confrontation with the likes of Samsung and Apple, as it moves towards a leaner lineup of smartphones.

The other big news from Sony came from its new smart wearable — the Xperia Ear, and a range of “Concept” devices including the Xperia Eye, Xperia Agent and Xperia Projector. Taking after its 2015 Marshmallow software Concept, these are more about showing Sony’s future direction than any specific product — and the devices we saw on the show floor were very early. Regardless, they show the importance of the Xperia brand, and point to its expansion beyond phones and tablets in the near future.

More: Xperia X + X Performance hands-on

HTC

In an announcement largely steamrolled by Samsung and LG, HTC unveiled three new entry-level Desire phones on MWC media day, while also bringing the dual-SIM One X9 to international markets. For enthusiasts, the most interesting thing about these is the move back to capacitive buttons for the Taiwanese firm as it readies its next flagship. (And that would fit with rumors already doing the rounds concerning the HTC One M10.)

As for HTC’s next big thing, it took to Twitter to tease the M10’s arrival as MWC was coming to a close.

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In the absence of any firm M10 details however, the biggest HTC announcement of the show wasn’t a mobile device at all, it was Vive, the firm’s VR hardware developed in partnership with Valve. MWC brought news of the VR kit’s $799 price tag. (That’s just $200 more than rival Oculus.) HTC also took the wraps off the final Vive hardware itself, which included a new polished finish, a refined head strap to hold it more securely, along with improved gaskets. Vive is available for pre-order now, with units set to ship in April.

More: First look at HTC Vive consumer version

Huawei

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Boom: Huawei is now a laptop manufacturer. The Chinese firm didn’t have any Android-specific announcements in Barcelona. Instead, it used the show to launch itself into the Windows 2-in-1 world with the MateBook.

This Surface-like device borrows from the design language of Huawei’s phones, including a fingerprint scanner, a super-slim profile and a new app to connect seamlessly to your Android phone.

For more on the Huawei MateBook, check out Richard Device’s write-up over on Windows Central.

Xiaomi

Chinese giant Xiaomi introduced itself to a global audience at this year’s MWC, taking the wraps off the Snapdragon 820-powered Mi 5. At a high level the phone is classic Xiaomi, packing trailblazing internals into a highly affordable package — in this case, one with a price tag below $400.

Much like Samsung, Xiaomi’s latest is all about curves, metal and glass. The rounded ceramic rear reminds us of the Galaxy Note 5, as does the front-mounted fingerprint scanner, which also doubles as a home key. On the software side though, it’s all Xiaomi, with MIUI 7 living atop Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

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Snapdragon 820 for less than 400 bucks.

And Qualcomm also played a huge role in the company’s Feb. 24 press conference, with Xiaomi’s Hugo Barra talking up the processor’s computational, graphical and LTE chops.

While we won’t see the Mi 5 (officially) in Europe or North America anytime soon, it’s already hit 16 million pre-orders in other markets. And with the company courting attention from Western press, it’s likely it won’t stick to traditional strongholds like China and India forever.

More: Xiaomi Mi 5 hands-on

Alcatel

Alcatel OneTouch is dead. The TCL-owned firm is now simply Alcatel, and with this change in branding comes two intriguing new handsets: the Idol 4 and Idol 4s. The regular Idol 4 sticks with the mid-level internals for which Alcatel has been known, with a Snapdragon 615 running the show and a 1080p display, while the Idol 4s steps up to a new Snapdragon 652 and a 2K AMOLED display — a first for the company.

Also praiseworthy: Alcatel’s new glass-backed design language, borrowing a little from Samsung while introducing a unique dual front and rear-facing speaker setup. And the “Boom” key, a programmable switch which can be pressed to ramp up brightness in movies, increase volume and bass in music playback, or perform a variety of other tasks.

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Alcatel’s new phones will become available this April for €279 to €449 depending on configuration, which is a bit more expensive than the firm’s 2015 portfolio. There are no plans for a U.S. launch of these specific models, but Alcatel reps left us with the impression that something similar but slightly different is on the cards for American buyers later this year.

More: Alcatel Idol 4 and 4s hands-on

Qualcomm and Google

Qualcomm was one of the big winners of the show, with Snapdragon 820- and 650-based handsets dominating the announcements out of Barcelona. The LG G5, Sony Xperia X Premium, Xiaomi Mi 5 and (in some markets) the Galaxy S7 all use Qualcomm’s latest and greatest SoC. And the company was keen to talk up its performance and efficiency compared to the previous generation 810 — a chipset with a somewhat tarnished reputation.

What’s more, Snapdragon 650 and 652, with their newer and more powerful A72 cores and Adreno 510 GPU, could be seen taking over from the older Snapdragon 615 in the mid-range space.

Qualcomm will continue to face tough competition from MediaTek in Asia, but the chipmaker looks set for a strong 2016 based on what we’ve seen in Barcelona.

And Google’s presence at MWC was centered around the “Android Garden,” a characteristically whimsical collection of Android topiaries, smoothies, “Androidify” characters and wacky experiments. And aptly for an OS at the heart of most of the gadgets on show in Barcelona, Android’s official home was sandwiched between two of the main exhibition halls.

More: A closer look at the Android Garden at MWC

Head on over to our Mobile World Congress landing page for all our stories from Barcelona. And be sure to share your favorite announcement down in the comments!

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2
Mar

Google Photos for Android gets a visual refresh with simplified navigation


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Google Photos has received a substantial update, redesigning the interface and making it easier to find different features like Assistant and Albums. Rather than hiding these sections away in a sidebar, Assistant, Albums, and Photos can now be found in a bar at the bottom of the screen.

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In addition to their new placement, both Albums and Assistant have been redesigned. Albums now offers easier access to all of your personal and shared albums, and makes it easier to find photos of specific people and places. Assistant now sports large buttons at the top of the screen to help you perform popular actions quickly. You can create a new album, collage, animation, or movie, all with a single tap.

Naturally, this update is currently rolling out, so it may be a little while before you see it. You can grab Google Photos on the Google Play Store now.

Google Photos

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  • Getting to know the new Google Photos
  • Get your Google Photos library started
  • Manage Google Photos backup settings
  • What happens when you delete pictures in Google Photos?
  • Managing your shared photo links
  • Where did Auto Awesome go?
  • Discuss Google Photos in the forums!

Google Play

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2
Mar

‘Big Hero 6’ gets a TV show on Disney XD next year


Baymax fans rejoice — Big Hero 6 is back! But don’t get your hopes up for another film just yet. Disney announced this morning that the Marvel property will get a TV series on its Disney XD channel next year. Picking up right after the end of the original film, it’ll follow the young genius Hiro as he adjusts to life at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. You can expect all of the characters from the original film to appear, and it’ll certainly be a fine outlet for more adorable Baymax interactions. As a concept, Big Hero 6 is ripe for serialization, I just hope the show can keep up the rich world design from the original film and comic.

Source: Disney

2
Mar

Sling TV App Briefly Appears in Apple TV App Store, Hinting at Upcoming Launch


Sling TV customers who have been hoping for a tvOS app may soon be able to watch the service on their fourth-generation Apple TVs, as it appears a launch could be coming in the near future. This morning, a MacRumors reader came across a Sling TV app in the tvOS App Store, which he says “works great” after he downloaded it.

The app disappeared from the tvOS App Store shortly after he installed it, but screenshots show the app interface, complete with Sling channels to select from, and they depict the Sling TV app on the Home screen.

For those unfamiliar with Sling TV, it is an Internet-based streaming television service that’s designed for cord cutters. Sling TV offers a $20 bundle of channels that can be watched live on a range of devices, from iPhones and iPads to Macs, consoles, and set-top boxes like the Amazon Fire TV and the Roku.

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The third-generation Apple TV did not support Sling TV because Apple exercised strict control over the available content options, but with the fourth-generation Apple TV, Apple has loosened up its guidelines to make a much wider range of content available. With an inability to secure its own deals for a streaming television service, Apple has turned to making the tvOS App Store a way for content providers to offer a varied and rich selection of media options.

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There was some speculation suggesting Apple had banned Sling from creating an Apple TV app, but a Sling representative later clarified that was not true, saying “We’d like to be on as many platforms as possible.”

As recently as this morning, Sling said it had no information to divulge when questioned about the release of an Apple TV app, but the screenshots obtained this morning seem to suggest that an app is in the works and that it could be released in the near future.

(Thanks, Ron!)

Related Roundup: Apple TV
Tag: Sling TV
Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)
Discuss this article in our forums

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2
Mar

iPhone 6 vs. iPhone 6s Buyer’s Guide


Apple’s smartphones have been released on a “tick-tock” cycle since 2008. The iPhone 6 lineup represented a “tick” year, which involved a complete design overhaul, while the iPhone 6s lineup was part of a “tock” year, which generally focused on camera and processor improvements, new features such as 3D Touch and Live Photos, and incremental refinements like faster Touch ID, LTE, and Wi-Fi.

From a distance, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s lineups look and feel like virtually identical smartphones. It is true that both models share several attributes, but the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus have many features that are not included on the year-older iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. So, which one should you choose to purchase or upgrade to? What about the rumored iPhone SE and iPhone 7? Let’s take a closer look.

Shared Features Between iPhone 6s and iPhone 6

Design

iphone_screen_sizes_6_6plus
Apple fulfilled consumer demand for larger-screen smartphones with the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, and it retained those sizes for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. If you prefer another screen size, the so-called 4-inch “iPhone SE” is expected to be announced at Apple’s rumored March media event. All older iPhones released in 2013 or earlier also measure between 3.5″ and 4″ diagonally.

Virtually all other design aspects of the larger iPhones are the same, including a unibody aluminum shell, 2.5D curved glass, round edges, pill-shaped volume buttons, circular speaker grilles, and more. Apple has always stuck with nearly identical designs for iPhone “S” models, including the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS in 2008-09, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s in 2010-11, and iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s in 2012-13.

iOS 9

ios_9_iconiOS 9 is focused on intelligence and proactivity, enabling iOS devices to learn user habits and act on that information through app suggestions, notifications, and a customized “Siri Suggestions” interface populated with the user’s favorite contacts and apps, nearby places, and relevant news stories.

iOS 9 includes several new features and improvements beyond Proactive Siri and Search, including Apple News, Apple Maps transit routing, Notes checklists and sketches, app thinning, a simpler HomeKit setup process, under-the-hood battery life enhancements, built-in two-factor authentication, and more.

Battery Life

The iPhone 6s has a 1715 mAh battery, which is smaller in capacity than the 1810 mAh battery that was in the iPhone 6. The iPhone 6s Plus has a 2750 mAh battery, also smaller in capacity than the 2915 mAh battery that was used in the iPhone 6 Plus.

Apple may have used a smaller battery to make room for vital 3D Touch components in the new iPhones, both of which include a new part called a “Taptic Engine.” The Taptic Engine provides haptic feedback for 3D Touch gestures and also powers the vibrations for alarms and notifications.

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Nevertheless, efficiency improvements introduced with the A9 chip and other performance enhancements have resulted in the two devices offering the same battery life as the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

On paper, the iPhone 6s offers up to 14 hours of talk time, 10 days of standby time, 11 hours of video playback, 10 hours of Internet use on LTE. The iPhone 6s Plus offers 24 hours of talk time, 16 days of standby time, 14 hours of video playback, and 12 hours of Internet use on LTE.

New Features Found Only in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus

Faster A9 Chip with 2GB of RAM

iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus have a 64-bit Apple A9 chip with 2GB of RAM for up to 70% faster CPU performance and up to 90% faster graphics compared to the 64-bit A8 chip with 1GB of RAM in iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The upgrades result in apps opening slightly quicker and overall improved speed across iOS, apps, and games.

iPhone-6s-A9-vs-A8-charts
Apple has also directly embedded the M9 motion coprocessor into the A9 chip for increased performance and efficiency. Both the iPhone 6’s M8 and iPhone 6s’s M9 connect to the accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, and barometer for fitness tracking, but only the M9 is efficient enough to detect audio input in the background for always-on “Hey Siri” functionality on iOS 9 or later.

Improved Cameras with 4K Video

iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus have an upgraded 12-megapixel rear-facing iSight camera and 5-megapixel front-facing FaceTime camera, compared to an 8-megapixel iSight camera and 1.2-megapixel FaceTime camera on iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Coupled with the A9 chip, this translates to faster auto focus, and improved color accuracy, details, and sharpness, particularly in low light.

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The FaceTime camera’s jump to a 5-megapixel sensor is especially noticeable, resulting in significantly reduced noise for “selfies” and other photos. The front-facing shooter still lacks LED flash, but Apple introduced a new feature called “Retina Flash” that flashes the display when you take a photo. The feature is based on a custom chip that makes the display flash up to three times brighter than usual.

macrocomparisonCamera+’s comprehensive gallery of side-by-side iPhone camera comparison photos
iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus can also capture 4K video at 30FPS, allowing iPhone users to take videos with incredible levels of detail. 4K video joins 240FPS Slo-mo video and Time-Lapse video, both features introduced in past-generation devices. Time-Lapse video gains new stabilization features with the new iPhones.

Apple also says the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus cameras have improved local tone mapping, improved noise reduction, panoramas up to 63 megapixels, playback zoom, and the ability to shoot 8-megapixel still photos while recording 4K video. iPhone 6s Plus also exclusively has image stabilization for video.

Live Photos

Live Photos is a new feature exclusive to the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. When enabled, the feature captures an extra 1.5 seconds before and after a shot, with the footage being used to animate the photo with movement and sound. The result looks something like a short GIF.


When a 3D Touch press is used on a photo, it comes to life with animation to add a bit of context. Live Photos are not true videos, but rather a combination of a 12-megapixel JPG with a MOV file that contains 45 frames playing back at around 15 frames per second. Live Photos take up about twice the space of normal photos.

Live Photos can still be viewed on iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

3D Touch

iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models have new pressure-sensitive screens that can detect the level of force applied to the screen, allowing for a new technology called 3D Touch. The new feature builds upon traditional multi-touch gestures like tapping, pinching, and swiping by introducing two more interactions called Peek and Pop, Quick Actions home screen shortcuts, and pressure-sensitive drawing in supported apps.


Peek and Pop enable you to preview content within iOS apps without opening it. If someone sends you an address in Messages, for example, you can press down the screen lightly to Peek at the location on Apple Maps, without leaving the conversation. If you want to view more details about the address in Apple Maps, you can press a little bit harder and the Pop gesture will switch you to the app.

Quick Actions are one-tap shortcuts that work right from the Home screen by firmly pressing on the icon of any supported stock or third-party app. By pressing on the Facebook app icon, for example, a Quick Actions menu pops up with shortcuts for writing a post, uploading a photo or video, taking a photo or video, or viewing your personal profile. Many popular apps have been updated with the feature.


But is 3D Touch something that you will use? For some iPhone users, the feature is not as natural of an experience as tapping, pinching, or swiping, so it may take some time before Peek and Pop gestures become registered in your muscle memory. Even then, Peek, Pop, and Quick Actions trim only a few seconds off most tasks. Ultimately, the convenience of 3D Touch comes down to personal preference.

Faster Touch ID


iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus have a next-generation Touch ID sensor that detects your fingerprint faster, but the difference only amounts to a fraction of a second over the iPhone 6. Some users have complained that the new Touch ID is actually too fast, preventing access to the Lock screen when pressing the home button.

Faster LTE and Wi-Fi

Apple says data speeds on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are theoretically up to twice as fast — up to 300 Mbps — with LTE-Advanced, and the 23 supported LTE bands are the most of any smartphone. 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi‑Fi with MIMO is also up to twice as fast on iPhone 6s, with theoretical speeds up to 866 Mbps. The improvements lead to faster web browsing, messaging, video buffering, and other data-based tasks.

Other Features

  • More Colors and Storage: iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are available in Gold, Rose Gold, Silver, and Space Gray with 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB storage capacities. Meanwhile, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are currently only offered in Silver and Space Gray with 32GB and 64GB storage.
  • 7000 Series Aluminum: Apple addressed iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus bending issues, colloquially known as Bendgate, by switching to 7000 series aluminum on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have 6000 series aluminum. Apple also strengthened weak points of the new iPhone shell for increased durability.

Side-by-Side Comparison

iPhone 6

  • 4.7″ and 5.5″ Screen Sizes
  • Ion-strengthened glass
  • 6000 Series Aluminum
  • A8 Chip/M8 Motion Coprocessor
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 8-megapixel rear-facing camera
  • 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Up to 1080p video recording at 60FPS
  • Focus Pixels
  • Panoramas up to 43 megapixels
  • Touch ID
  • LTE
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi‑Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Hey Siri

iPhone 6s

  • 4.7″ and 5.5″ Screen Sizes
  • Stronger ion-strengthened glass
  • 7000 Series Aluminum
  • A9 Chip/M9 Motion Coprocessor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 12-megapixel rear-facing camera
  • 5-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Up to 4K video recording at 30FPS
  • Focus Pixels
  • Panoramas up to 63 megapixels
  • Faster Touch ID
  • LTE Advanced
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi‑Fi with MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Always-on Hey Siri
  • 3D Touch
  • Live Photos
  • Retina Flash
  • Playback Zoom

Pricing

  • iPhone 6 (16GB): $549
  • iPhone 6 (64GB): $649
  • iPhone 6 Plus (16GB): $649
  • iPhone 6 Plus (64GB): $749

Pricing

  • iPhone 6s (16GB): $649
  • iPhone 6s (32GB): $749
  • iPhone 6s (64GB): $849
  • iPhone 6s Plus (16GB): $749
  • iPhone 6s Plus (16GB): $849
  • iPhone 6s Plus (16GB): $949

Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, Trade Up With Installments, and carrier financing are also available.

Which iPhone Should You Buy?

Buying Later

iPhone-7-Headphone-vs-LightningIf you are planning on purchasing a new iPhone, consider holding off for about six months if possible. Apple’s much-rumored iPhone 7 will likely be released in September, and the next-generation flagship smartphone is expected to be significantly different than the iPhone 6s.

Multiple sources have reported, for example, that Apple will remove the 3.5mm headphone jack on the iPhone 7 in favor of an all-in-one Lightning connector for audio output, charging, and connecting peripherals.

The iPhone 7 would support Lightning-equipped headphones, along with Bluetooth wireless headphones as usual. Apple may also release a digital-to-analog adapter that supports EarPods and other wired headphones with 3.5mm stereo jacks. The device may also have a dual-lens camera system. The new hardware could be based on LinX technology, allowing for brighter and clearer DSLR-quality photos and several other major advantages.

Other rumors claim the iPhone 7 could have a fully waterproof design, stereo speakers, no rear antenna bands, a flush rear camera, and wireless charging if readied in time. The device is expected to be thinner overall and, like the iPhone 4, iPhone 5, and iPhone 6, could have an entirely new design aesthetic. The screen sizes will likely remain 4.7″ and 5.5″ like the previous two generations.

Meanwhile, Apple will reportedly launch a new 4-inch iPhone at its rumored March 21 media event. The so-called “iPhone SE” is expected to resemble an upgraded iPhone 5s with an A9 chip, 12-megapixel rear-facing iSight camera, 16GB and 64GB storage capacities, NFC for Apple Pay, VoLTE calling, and more. The device will likely be Apple’s entry-level iPhone and could have a lower price accordingly.

Buying Now

If you must purchase a new iPhone now, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are unsurprisingly Apple’s best smartphones right now. The A9 chip, 3D Touch, Live Photos, improved cameras, second-generation Touch ID, faster LTE and Wi-Fi, and many other new features are worthwhile upgrades, while the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus remain good options for budget-conscious customers.

If you you take a lot of photos with your iPhone, consider purchasing the iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus. The smartphones have significant camera upgrades, including higher-megapixel iSight and FaceTime lenses, 4K video recording at 30 FPS, Retina Flash, larger panoramas, and optical video stabilization on the iPhone 6s Plus.

The iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus are also ideal if you plan on keeping the iPhone for a while, as both smartphones are notably faster and will remain more competitive with future-generation devices. Apple’s A9 and A9X chips will likely continue being used in 2016 devices, including the so-called “iPhone SE” and new 9.7-inch iPad.

3D Touch is also a major new feature that makes the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus worthwhile. Apple has included similar pressure-sensitive screens on the Apple Watch and MacBooks, and it will likely expand the technology to other devices going forward. Many developers are still updating their apps with 3D Touch support.

Nevertheless, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are still very capable smartphones for those on a budget. Apple no longer sells Gold or 128GB versions of the devices, but the models that remain are each $100 cheaper than the comparative iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus model. Both smartphones should continue to receive the latest iOS updates for at least three to four years.

Ultimately, choosing between the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6 comes down to price and features. You can decide to save $100 by purchasing the older iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, or put that money towards a package of new features, including an A9 chip, 3D Touch, Live Photos, improved cameras, second-generation Touch ID, faster LTE and Wi-Fi, 7000 series aluminum, and more.

Related Roundup: iPhone 6s
Buyer’s Guide: iPhone (Neutral)
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2
Mar

Another big PS4 and Xbox One delay, Mass Effect: Andromeda not coming until 2017


Mass Effect: Andromeda, otherwise known as Mass Effect 4, will not be available until 2017, even though it was previously expected to be released before Christmas.

With many thinking that the long-awaited RPG sequel to the Mass Effect trilogy would make it for the fourth quarter of 2016, it seems that it will hit stores in EA’s fourth fiscal quarter instead.

Traditionally, the financial year runs from the end of March to the following March, rather than the calendar year. So when Electronic Arts’ chief financial officer, Blake Jorgensen, revealed that Mass Effect: Andromeda will be released in the fourth quarter, he actually means between January and March next year.

During an investor call he explained that there will be new games in the Battlefield and Titanfall series, with the latter’s sequel available across platforms, not just Xbox and PC.

“Both of those are first-person shooters and will be targeted at around both fast action-driven shooter market as well as the strategy driven market in that quarter,” he said.

And then Jorgensen revealed that the fourth Mass Effect game will be at the end of the fiscal year.

“We have all our sports games, we have our Mirror’s Edge runner game that’s first quarter, and then we have Mass Effect, which is a sci-fi action game, in our fourth quarter,” he said.

After Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End suffering yet another delay, it seems that it is becoming much more normal for triple-A games to slip their deadlines. And if that means they are less bugged and better for it, who are we to complain?

READ: Shocking news for PS4 fans, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End delayed again

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