Out with ugly. In with Awesome.
Stop me if you’re heard this one: you’ve got an app you love to use, one with excellent features and snappy response time. But every time you go to open in, you just shake your head and wonder what the developer was thinking when they were creating that icon. Some of us hide ugly icons in folders, just so we have to look at them less. But there’s another way, a better way.
We can replace that icon entirely. And you don’t even have to use a fancy theming launcher. You just need Awesome Icons.
Awesome Icons is a simple app with a simple premise: it’s a shortcut creator. You pick an app, an icon, and a label, and Awesome Icons creates a new app shortcut on your home screen to use instead of the one you’d find in your app drawer. The shortcuts can then be moved around to your intended place on the home screen, even folders and docks.
When you open the app, you’ll see a list of your installed apps, and under each app will be a carousel of different icons available for that app from installed icon packs. If you tap on one, it’ll bring up the shortcut creation screen, where you can see what app you’re linking to, the icon you selected, and you can change the label to read something other than the default app name. Once you hit OK and go back to the home screen, there’s a shiny new shortcut waiting for you.
For your theming convenience, you can dim the rest of the screen except the icon, which can be useful in selecting icons for a dark theme or for weeding out icons with a lot of white in them that may not be as visible in the normal view. If you want to create a shortcut with a different icon than the ones in the carousels, you can tap the + in the top bar to open a blank custom shortcut.
Select any app and icon you like, change your label as needed, and then it’s ready to for your home screen. This is also a good tool for hiding apps that you may not want other people seeing on your home screen, like a banking app or your adult apps.
While you can use this to theme every icon on your home screen in launchers that don’t work with icon packs — or don’t work with icon packs from the Google Play, like Samsung TouchWiz and HTC Sense — it can get time-consuming. I still recommend using a launcher that supports icon packs before using Awesome Icons to replace them all. Also, these shortcuts won’t change the icon in your app drawer, but at least you can have beautiful icons on your home screen. And if you have beautiful icons on your home screen, you won’t need to seek out the ugly icon in your app drawer as much. What app icons do you want to hide?
Download: Awesome Icons(Free)
Enter the bot matrix.
Microsoft made waves with their annual Build developer conference, unveiling their big new take on computing: ‘conversations as a platform’. This idea leverages bots and virtual assistants like Cortana to make computing more natural and predictive, and it’s all coming sooner than you might think across the entire Microsoft ecosystem. Microsoft is also planning to make things even easier for developers with two big changes: their Xamarin tools are now free and Bash is being integrated right into Windows 10. Oh, and we got to spend more face time with the production version of HoloLens, and it’s just as cool as ever!
You can expect a review for the new LG G5 to come later in the week, but in the meantime: let’s unbox this insane phone and all its, uh, friends. And this is coming right before the anticipated unveiling of the HTC 10. BlackBerry, for their part, is prepping Android 6.0 Marshmallow for the Priv, with the possibility of a public beta test.
If you’re thinking about getting a newer and smaller iPhone SE or 9.7-inch iPad Pro review, not only do we have our reviews ready for your reading, we’ve also got comprehensive guides on how to get started for both the iPhone SE and the iPad Pro.
Android Central — We’re all fools for phones
We’re well into the flow of the LG G5, and you can buy one in the U.S. now. To get you interested, we have a pretty sweet unboxing of the whole thing, accessories included. Unfortunately, AT&T’s bloatware is pretty out of control on the G5.
On the other side, the HTC 10 teasers just keep coming. As we get ready for the new flagship, we did a roundtable asking the Android Central editors what they want to see this year.
If you’re looking to get a little more “Google” experience on your non-Nexus phone, check out Google’s Calculator app, now in the Play Store. And while you’re installing apps, why not check out Pokemon Go? And yes, April Fools’ Day happened
- Samsung’s ‘Good Lock’ UI is your Galaxy S7, as seen through a fever dream
- USB Type-C FAQ: Everything you need to know
- Verizon Samsung Galaxy S7 review
- Android Wear could learn a thing or two from the Gear S2
- Best gamepads for the Samsung Gear VR
- A deeper look at themes on the Galaxy S7
CrackBerry — Buckle up
Following BlackBerry this week was a little bit of emotional roller-coaster. The BlackBerry earnings report took place, we saw multiple signs of Android Marshmallow coming to the Priv and the BlackBerry 10.3.3 OS update release date got moved around. All in all, pretty crazy. Oh, and BlackBerry has unveiled Radar, a new end-to-end tracking system for trucking companies.
- BlackBerry announces Year-End and Q4 Fiscal 2016 results
- BlackBerry exec hints at an upcoming Marshmallow beta test for Priv
- BlackBerry OS 10.3.3 release date moves to mid-June
- BlackBerry Radar will help trucking companies track and monitor shipments
iMore — Go for launch!
Last week was all about our iPhone SE review and 9.7-inch iPad Pro review. This week Apple launched both new, tiny devices and many of you finally got your hands on them. And that means iMore was there — and here! — to help!
Also, it’s also World Autism Awareness Month, so please make sure you meet Dillan and share these amazing autism apps for iPhone and iPad
- How to get started with iPhone SE
- How to get started with iPad Pro
- Best iPhone apps, best iPhone games, best iPad apps for new owners!
Windows Central — Build up
Microsoft this week held their annual Build developer 3-day conference in San Francisco. The event forgoes any hardware announcement and instead focuses on new developer tools and outlines the future of Microsoft, Windows 10, Azure, and all of their various services.
Some of the big announcements at Build included Xbox controller support for phone, Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app development is open for the Xbox One, chaseable Live Tiles, Notification mirroring and Universal Dismiss.
Perhaps the biggest news was Microsoft making Xamarin entirely free for developers and the inclusion of Bash into Windows 10.
You can see all our Build coverage right here.
- Hands on with the latest version of HoloLens
- Microsoft talks up ‘conversations as a platform’ at Build 2016
- Hands-on with NexDock and Continuum with Windows 10 Mobile
April Fools Day was Friday, capping off a week of news that seemed too good to be true — or, at least too ridiculous to be taken seriously. From drink-delivering drone caddies and off-road rollerblades to movie theater gimmicks and hilariously overpriced juice boxes, this week had it all.
By Cat DiStasio
There are 1.2 billion people around the world do not have reliable access to fresh, potable water. That’s why advancements in water purification technology are so important. Fortunately, there are a lot of innovative folks working on creative ways to solve water-scarcity issues by developing new techniques, maximizing efficiency and sometimes even producing drinking water from thin air. Read on for six of the world’s most innovative water generators, from machines that collect H2O in the middle of the desert to a bike-mounted contraption that harnesses solar energy to collect water from the air as you ride.
I finally realized that Google Docs isn’t the best note-taking app. It’s too clunky for quickly jotting down notes about a project or interesting things I come across throughout the day.
So, I went to the Chrome Web Store and searched for a solution that was simple, easy to access, and had only the features I needed (syncing and sign-in were not important). Skeuomorphic designs were immediately disqualified.
If you need a fast, easy way to take notes in Chrome, here are the four apps and extensions worth considering.
With Google Keep, you can create color-coded notes that sync from Chrome to the Google Keep app for Android or for iOS. It’s a Chrome app — not an extension — that runs in a separate window. For the Type-As with an affinity for color-coding, Keep lets you set background colors for your notes and add labels for easy sorting.
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET
Google Keep also supports checklists, but the feature is all-or-nothing — you can’t highlight, say, a few items under the header “Things to do today” and have only those items get the checkbox treatment. Instead, the header and all other lines of the note get checkboxes.
Other features include:
- Sharing notes via email.
- Adding images to notes.
- Setting reminders.
- Copy notes to Google Docs. (For the curious, a checkbox list on Google Keep becomes a bulleted list in Google Docs.)
The bottom line: Google Keep has a slick design, but might have too many features for minimalists. But if you aren’t afraid of color and want your notes synced with an iOS or Android app, it’s a good choice.
Papier is for very minimalist types. No account required. No mobile sync. No sharing. No lists. In fact, it’s just one long note.
Once you have the extension installed, just open a new tab in Chrome and there’s Papier. Formatting options are minimal: bold, italics, underline and strikethrough. And there’s a night mode that puts white text on a black background so that it’s easier on the eyes.
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET
Your notes are autosaved. Just close the Papier tab and when you open another new tab, your notes reappear, just as you left them.
The bottom line: For my purposes, Papier is about as close to perfection as it gets. Really, the only thing I’d ask for is the ability to create checklists. For those who need note-syncing, Papier falls short.
Sticky Notes is a Chrome extension similar to Papier. It offers only one note and no syncing, no sharing, no lists and no need to create an account.
Instead of using a new tab, Sticky Notes installs a button to the right of Chrome’s URL bar. Click on it to bring up your note. You can choose between six sizes for the note page. There are also six background color choices, the least attractive of which is the default beige color.
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET
The only formatting options are font and font size, but they are universal. That is, you can’t have a header in a larger font size and text below it in a smaller font size or in a different font style.
The bottom line: I applaud Sticky Notes for its simplicity, but the bright yellow button it installs is so garish that the extension takes a backseat to Papier. And like Papier, the lack of syncing might be a deal-breaker.
WorkFlowy takes hierarchical structure seriously. This Chrome app present a blank canvas where you can create seemingly simple bulleted lists. But when you start clicking around (or watch a few of WorkFlowy’s intro videos) you’ll realize that these are no ordinary bulleted lists. By clicking on a bullet, you can “zoom” in on an item to add even more detail.
Like Papier, WorkFlowy is just one long note, but the structuring options makes it more useful for managing multiple projects.
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET
To use the app, you’ll need an account. Once you’re signed up, you can sync notes with the WorkFlowy Android or iOS app. You can also share notes, add tags, mark items as complete and search by keyword.
There is no reminder tool, but you can use tags such as #today or #tomorrow, for example, to keep track of when items are due.
The bottom line: WorkFlowy features a creative arrangement where you need to manage only a single note but also have the space to track different projects and tasks separately. For my simple note-taking needs, its flexibility and hierarchical power are overkill.
I’m sticking with Papier for now, but should I ever need to map out a complex project, WorkFlowy is where I’ll turn.
The Good The Klipsch Reference Premiere HD Wireless 5.1 Speaker System doesn’t require an AV receiver or any speaker wires. Setup is dead simple setup, and it has an attractive design. The sound is well-integrated, offering deep bass and sparkling dialogue. The system is modular and can be built up over time.
The Bad Wired systems for less than half the price offer superior sound. The system lacks some standard features including Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio processing.
The Bottom Line For surround seekers who prioritize ease of setup, Klipsch’s wireless 5.1 system is an intriguing option, but for the money we expected better sound quality.
One of the biggest complaints about 5.1-channel speaker systems, beyond, you know, all those speakers, is the necessity of running speaker wire everywhere. With Klipsch’s latest system, no speaker wires are required.
The RP-440WF surround set — or to give its official name of the Klipsch Reference Premiere HD Wireless 5.1 Speaker System — is a tidy all-in-one which offers ridiculously easy setup, and the cohesive home-theater surround sound only a matched multispeaker system can provide. No, it’s not completely wireless, because you’ll still have to plug in the individual speakers and connect your gear to the base station, but it’s a heck of a lot closer.
The biggest drawback? The price. For five grand, you can assemble a much better-sounding system from Klipsch or ELAC or any of a dozen other speaker brands, and get a full-featured AV receiver to boot. Until the price of the HD Wireless 5.1 Speaker System comes down and the feature count goes up, it’s not the first wireless “cinema in a box” we’d recommend.
Design and features
Klipsch’s new 5.1 system. the RP440WF.
While “WiSA” sounds like it could be a Jar Jar Binks’ catchphrase, it’s actually short for “Wireless Speaker & Audio.” It’s designed to simplify setting up a new multi-speaker home theater by ditching the wires.
In Klipsch’s system, it means you don’t have to run wires from an AV receiver or amplifier to each speaker. Instead, each speaker has its own built-in amplifier and must be plugged into a power outlet. Sound is transmitted wirelessly from a small box Klipsch calls the HD Control Center ($499), into which you plug your components. It has four HDMI inputs (one with 4K compatibility), optical and coaxial digital, analog and Bluetooth.
The system enables you to select the position of your speakers from the back of each speaker itself.
The speakers we received consisted of the slim, statuesque Klipsch RP-440WF towers ($1,999), largish RP-440WC center-channel speaker ($799), RP-140WM bookshelf/surround speakers ($999), and substantial RP-110WSW subwoofer. Based on looks alone, the Klipsch HD Control Center was a bit of a letdown — it’s a no-frills plastic slab. In addition, we had no love for the slender remote’s nearly impossible-to-read control buttons.
Nest and Sonos are still excellent products, even with their futures very much in question.
Two of my favorite connected home devices (that’s a really unsexy description) haven’t changed much since I bought them, though they remain just as useful as the day they were first turned on. My second-gen Nest Thermostat and a couple of Sonos speakers (a Play 1 and a Play 5) get used every single day, are 100 percent reliable — and, darn it, both are beautifully designed products.
And, of course, I want more from them.
OK, maybe I don’t necessarily want more from each of these devices. Sonos gets new functionality every now and then through software updates, as does Nest. And generally speaking they haven’t broken anything in the process. (And that Nest updates in the background without me having to do anything is certainly a plus.)
But recent stories about unrest at both of those companies — Sonos with layoffs and the damning pice on the turmoil inside Nest — is cause for concern. These are high-quality products from companies that aren’t in the midst of a race to the bottom. But we haven’t seen anything truly new from either of them in a long, long time. Sure, Nest has tweaked its thermostat and smoke detector, and it bought (and repackaged) Dropcam. But that’s it. When Google bought Nest virtually everyone who cares about such things went to work trying to guess what the Next Big Thing would be.
Instead, we’ve seen nothing.
Sonos has some great speakers and the easiest wireless integration I’ve ever seen. Cast-enabled speakers (like the LG Music Flow I reviewed) come close, but Sonos speakers generally look better, have more reliable connections and the easiest setup I’ve come across.
I’m certainly not looking down on reliability. And buried at the bottom of the Sonos CEO’s blog post announcing the layoffs was the realization that the Amazon Echo is exactly as good as we’ve all been saying, and that it caught everyone in this space with their pants down.
Alexa/Echo is the first product to really showcase the power of voice control in the home. Its popularity with consumers will accelerate innovation across the entire industry. What is novel today will become standard tomorrow. Here again, Sonos is taking the long view in how best to bring voice-enabled music experiences into the home. Voice is a big change for us, so we’ll invest what’s required to bring it to market in a wonderful way.
Sonos almost certainly won’t be able to do that without partnering with someone. Nest won’t be long for the Google (ahem, Alphabet) world if it doesn’t start making new things — we know all too well what happens to beloved products that aren’t making any money for Mountain View.
For now, I’m enjoying the stagnation. But we need to see some signs of life sometime soon.
A few other thoughts on things …
- I’m in agreement with CNET’s Tim Stevens on the Tesla Model 3 event. I don’t think we’re seeing the birth of the next Apple — but rather some sort of proto-Apple. Something far different, but as important.
- If you haven’t watched the event yet, you should. It’s crazy how short it was, how the journalists there only got a brief ride, and weren’t even allowed to use real cameras.
- Yeah, a plopped down $1,000 I don’t actually have to get on the registration list. Assuming my number comes up sometime in 2018, that’ll be right around the time my 2005 Civic is due for retirement anyway. (I don’t drive a whole lot, though, so I might still be able to get a few bucks for it.)
- And, yeah, getting that excited and spending money on something that doesn’t actually exist yet and has a somewhat unknown price is somewhat foolish. But that’s also the point. You invest in the future. Does anyone disagree that getting off fossil fuels isn’t the future?
- And I love the idea of doing things outside the traditional car deal system.
- By the way: TeslaCentral.com.
- Here’s what’s up with the “ZOMG the LG G5 isn’t really metal!!!” noise that’s going around. Short version is LG’s marketing toed the line more than usual, and PR was too secretive about what this “advanced micro anodizing” stuff was all about. We’d asked for a better definition of that way back at our MWC briefing before the phone was even announced — and no one was talking.
- That said, if you’re going to go through the trouble of scratching stuff off the back of the phone and making a ZOMG video about it, you also need to actually talk to the company before hitting “publish.” That’s not being a company shill — it’s responsible journalism. And very basic journalism at that.
- In any event, it doesn’t change what the G5 feels like. And it doesn’t feel like metal. Our full review will come later this week.
- This 14-inch Acer Chromebook looks very, very interesting. I’ve been looking for something decent for my kids.
- Goodbye, Internet. Hello, internet.
- I suppose my tune would changed if I got bit by Google’s “Drop the Mic” April Fools’ thing (and I never actually saw the real implementation, nor did I think it was particularly funny), but I can’t help but think folks are getting their panties in a bunch. I mean, it’s not like they force-fed us a mediocre U2 album. Good humans do dumb things sometimes. It’ll be OK.
- Some really thoughtful questions sent in for our recent all-Q&A podcast. That was fun. Will definitely do it again sometime.
That’s it for this week. See y’all Monday.
After years of anticipation, Tesla just unveiled its most affordable electric car to date. The Model 3 is a svelte EV for the masses that starts at $35,000, and it can drive 215 miles on a single charge. Meanwhile, Hyundai set a world record by driving a hydrogen-powered car for 6,096 continuous miles. In other transportation news, India announced ambitious plans to become a 100 percent electric vehicle nation by the year 2030. A Colorado startup unveiled a supersonic jet that can travel from New York to London in three hours flat. And we rounded up nine of the best cargo bikes for carting around kids and goods in style.
What will the skyscrapers of the future look like? This week architects unveiled plans for a soaring spire that can transform barren deserts into life-giving oases. Paolo Venturella proposed a massive wind-powered tower that could cool the planet. But the wildest proposal has to be this “sidescraper” plan to sink Central Park and surround it with 1,000-foot-tall glass walls. In other news, prefab home startup Acre Designs teamed up with Y Combinator to launch a new line of net-zero homes that could revolutionize the building industry. Airbnb is offering a night in an underwater bedroom surrounded by 35 sharks. And the architecture community was shocked this week by the sudden death of Zaha Hadid, whose futuristic, boundary-pushing architecture earned her the Pritzker Prize and a Royal Gold Medal.
Renewable energy is hot in the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic just flipped the switch on the region’s largest solar plant, and Nevis is on track to become the world’s first carbon-neutral island. We also spotted a sun-powered mobile home that can pop-up practically anywhere in the world. In other design and technology news, Morocco has installed the world’s largest fog harvester, and it can produce 17 gallons of water per square yard of net every day. A mind-boggling gadget uses fungi to transform plastic waste into food, and a designer unveiled a biodegradable dress made from mushrooms. And if you hate doing laundry, you’ll be pleased to know that a new textile can create clothes that clean themselves with sunlight.
We finally take our turn behind the wheel of the highly anticipated Tesla Model X. The all-electric SUV from Silicon Valley automaker Tesla Motors shares plenty of technology with the Model S sedan, but offers its own unique features, like falcon wing doors, a bioweapon defense mode, and seating for seven. Of course, the plug-in powertrain doesn’t use a drop of gas. Some might even call it ludicrous.
“I don’t think there’s any argument, right now, that Tesla is king of the EV,” said Translogic host Jonathon Buckley. “But, can they keep that track record going with their latest offering: the Model X?”
Watch as Jonathon shares his impressions of the feature-packed electric SUV.
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- Click here to learn more about our host, Jonathon Buckley.
DARPA’s 130-foot unmanned ship is almost ready to take on rogue submarines. Its christening isn’t slated to take place until April 7th, but it’s now in the water near its construction site in Portland, Oregon — the agency has even begun conducting speed tests. The drone called ACTUV or Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel has successfully reached the top speed its creators were expecting (31mph) during the preliminary tests. It was, however, designed to do much more than traverse the oceans at 31mph. ACTUV has the capability to use long/short-range sonar to detect foreign submarines, even stealthy diesel electric ones that don’t make noise.
It can then follow those submarines around in an effort to spook out their operators and drive them out. If needed, the vessel can also deliver supplies and be sent on reconnaissance missions with absolutely no human on board. Before it can do the tasks it was made for, though, it still has to undergo open-water testing in California sometime this summer.
You can watch ACTUV’s launch and first tests in Portland below:
Source: DARPA (YouTube)