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23
Aug

LG Announces New Collection of Bluetooth Speakers Coming This Fall


LG recently unveiled a trio of new Bluetooth speaker collections ahead of the IFA 2016 tech conference taking place in Berlin September 2-7. The new speakers are called the PH2, PH3, and PH4 and “run the range from casual to audiophile grade” in order to suit the listening style of each LG customer.

The cheapest speaker starts with the small PH2, measuring 3.8 inches in diameter and just 1.5 in thickness, along with 2.5W of power inside. It also comes with a strap that can attach the speaker to “a variety of surfaces,” making it ideal for listening to music on the go. The PH3 offers an iterative improvement with 3W of power and a more robust frame measuring in at 3.5 by 4.9 inches. This middle tier also includes a candle-like top half that includes “five different multicolored light modes.”

“LG’s new line of Bluetooth speakers combine powerful sound performance with compact, portable design,” said Tim Alessi, senior director, product marketing for home entertainment at LG ElectronicsUSA. “Understanding the busy lifestyles of many of today’s consumers, we sought to create a diverse lineup of audio products that deliver a seamless listening experience in any situation or setting.”

Finally, the taller and cylindrical PH4 introduces the most features of LG’s new bluetooth speaker lineup: water resistance, 360-degree sound, and a longer battery life with 16W of power. Concerning battery, both the PH3 and PH4 will last up to ten hours, while the PH2 is said to get up to six hours of consistent music playback.

Each speaker uses LG’s 360-degree omni-directional output to deliver consistent audio to any room or outdoor space, with the single and dual passive radiators in the PH3 and PH4 “giving them audio abilities that far exceed most speakers their size.” All of the new speakers also come with the standard auxiliary input ports and include an “advanced multipoint connectivity” feature that lets them connect two different Bluetooth-enabled devices at once, so two users can control audio output to one speaker simultaneously.

Because the company revealed the speakers ahead of their official debut at IFA 2016, the price and release date for the new line wasn’t disclosed. LG did say that customers in the United States can expect a launch sometime this fall, however.

Tag: LG
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23
Aug

Apple The Oaks Reopens Next Weekend, CambridgeSide Next Up for Renovations


Apple has announced that its The Oaks retail location in Thousand Oaks, California reopens this Saturday, August 27 at 10:00 a.m. local time. The location, which first opened on October 29, 2005, has been closed for renovations since March. The renovated space is expected to have a Jony Ive-inspired next-generation design and double the square footage within the shopping mall.

Apple The Oaks, opened on October 29, 2005, prior to renovations
Meanwhile, Apple’s retail location at the CambridgeSide Galleria shopping mall in Cambridge, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, will close for renovations one day later on Sunday, August 28. During the closure, Apple recommends that customers visit the nearby Apple Boylston Street or Apple Chestnut Hill locations. The closure is presumably to allow for similar next-generation design updates.

apple_store_cambridgesideApple CambridgeSide, opened on December 15, 2001, prior to renovations
Apple is in the process of renovating several of its retail locations in the U.S. and around the world. The new layout includes a combination of The Avenue, Genius Grove, The Forum, The Plaza, and The Boardroom. All new locations since around mid 2015 have been based on the new design language, including the flagship Apple Union Square. Apple now has over 30 retail locations based on the new design language.

A list of next-generation Apple retail locations renovated or opened to date:

  • Infinite Loop in Cupertino, CA
  • Apple Union Square in San Francisco, CA
  • Apple Corte Madera in Corte Madera, CA
  • Apple Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY
  • Apple World Trade Center in New York, NY
  • Apple Walden Galleria in Buffalo, NY
  • Apple Crossgates in Albany, NY
  • Apple Aspen Grove in Littleton, CO
  • Apple Chestnut Hill in Newton, MA
  • Apple Derby Street in Hingham, MA
  • Apple Saddle Creek in Memphis, TN
  • Apple West County in St. Louis, MO
  • Apple Annapolis in Annapolis, MD
  • Apple Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, MO
  • Apple Sherman Oaks in Sherman Oaks, CA
  • Apple Brent Cross in London, England
  • Apple Brussels in Brussels, Belgium
  • Apple Marseille in Marseille, France
  • Apple Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi, UAE
  • Apple Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, UAE
  • Apple Chaoyang Joy in Beijing, China
  • Apple MixC Nanning in Nanning, China
  • Apple MixC Shenyang in Shenyang, China
  • Apple Xiamen Lifestyle Center in Xiamen, China
  • Apple Nanjing IST in Nanjing, China
  • Apple Parc Central in Guangzhou, China
  • Apple MixC Qingdao in Qingdao, China
  • Apple Olympia 66 in Dalian, China
  • Apple Riverside 66 in Tianjin, China
  • Apple Parc 66 in Jinan, China
  • Apple Thaihot Plaza in Fuzhou, China
  • Apple Global Harbor in Shanghai, China
  • Apple Hopson One in Shanghai, China
  • Apple Galaxy Mall in Tianjin, China
  • Apple Galaxy Macau in Macau, China
  • Apple New Town Plaza in Hong Kong, China

Keep track of new and renovated locations with our Apple Stores roundup.

Related Roundup: Apple Stores
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23
Aug

How to uninstall the Windows 10 Anniversary Update – CNET


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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

The highly anticipated Windows 10 Anniversary Update dropped earlier this month, but for some users it’s…not great. Specifically, many people found they can no longer use their webcams for things like Skype video chat or Open Broadcaster Software. Microsoft is currently working on a fix, but said fix may not drop until September.

If you’re having the webcam issue or a different issue after installing the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, there is some good news: You can uninstall it, at least temporarily. Windows 10 allows you to roll back to an earlier build of the OS. But be warned, you can’t put off updating forever (well…you can try).

In the meantime, here’s how to get back to the pre-Anniversary Update version of Windows 10, at least until Microsoft releases an update to the update.

Roll back

Windows 10 makes it fairly easy to go back to an earlier build if the most recent update isn’t working for you. Here’s how to do it:

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

  • Open the Settings menu and go to Update & security > Recovery.
  • Under Go back to an earlier build, click Get started.
  • A new window will pop up. Tell Windows 10 why you’re rolling back (there are four pre-written answers and a text box where you can write-in your own answer), and click Next to begin the roll-back process.

A few tips for making this a smooth transition:

  • Back up your data. In an ideal roll-back situation, all data, even data that was acquired after the most recent update, will be preserved. But accidents do happen. It’s always a good idea to back up your hard drive before embarking on any operating system-changing journey.
  • Plug in your laptop. Windows 10 won’t actually let you perform a roll-back unless your device is connected to a power source, so no worries.

Use the Advanced Startup menu

You can also perform the roll-back from the Windows 10 Advanced Startup menu.

  • Access the Advanced Startup menu. There are a few ways to do this. I suggest using the power options menu: Open the power menu, press Shift and click Restart. This will work even if you can’t sign into Windows because you can access the power menu from the login screen.
  • In the Advanced Startup menu, click Troubleshoot and go to Advanced options.
  • At the bottom of the Advanced options screen, you will see a text link that says See more recovery options. Click it.
  • You’ll now see an option to Go back to the previous build.
23
Aug

Samsung Gear VR (2016) review – CNET


The Good Affordable. Easy to attach. Great audio-visual quality for a phone-based VR accessory. A growing library of apps and games. This model is more comfortable than earlier versions, and you can charge the phone while using it.

The Bad Only works with a specific collection of Samsung phones. Oculus PC game and app library isn’t cross-compatible with Android or Google Cardboard VR ecosystems. Lacks the positional awareness of PC-based VR rigs. Limited inputs mean it’s less immersive VR than you can get with larger, more-expensive PC-connected systems like the Rift.

The Bottom Line The latest Gear VR adds compatibility with Samsung’s latest phones and cements its position as the best mobile VR product right now.

I remember putting the Samsung Gear VR on my face and being blown away by the experiences it created. It was my first take-home doorway into virtual reality. That was December, 2014.

VR has since become a commodity everywhere: in high-end PC-connected systems like Oculus Rift and Vive, in cheap disposable phone accessories like Google Cardboard. There will be game console-ready stuff in PSVR, soon, too. But in the meantime, the Gear VR abides, a veteran in this fast-moving landscape.

The newest version, which connects to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and a handful of older Galaxy phones, is really pretty much the same. The connectors and a few finishing touches are different. (To be clear: if you’re happy with any one of the earlier Gear VR models, you’re fine — the changes are tweaks, not overhauls.)

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A larger touchpad, and two buttons instead of one: small differences, but comfy ones.


Sarah Tew/CNET

I said “the same,” but that’s not really true at all. Oculus and Samsung — the headset is a joint venture — have steadily continued updating the software and app library in Gear VR. There are hundreds of apps and games, and so many types of streaming-video experiences via apps like Oculus Video, Within, Jaunt and others, that the amount of things to do seems inexhaustible.

There’s a small price to pay. Many apps cost anywhere from $1 to $10, and it’s hard to vet out the quality. Some games are well worth it (like Anshar Wars, Minecraft or Neverout); others feel buggy and low-quality. And your taste in VR games and apps might not be the same as mine. The aesthetics of virtual reality are still evolving and hard to figure out without trying some stuff. And — VR aficionados take note — just because Oculus helped design the Gear VR doesn’t mean that your PC-based Oculus Rift games will be playable here, and vice versa — there’s very little software crossover, although your Oculus account is the same and there are a growing set of intercommunicating functions…and a few apps like Minecraft that will play nicely together.

But, as a $100 accessory for your phone — provided you have a Samsung phone that works with it — Gear VR is still the best mobile way to dive into other worlds. And, for me, I still use it more than the obviously better, but harder to set up and share Vive or Oculus Rift.

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Old Gear VR (left), new Gear VR (right). The new one adds Note 7 support via USB-C.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The same, with a few tweaks

Gear VR comes in a new blue-black design that looks more like the higher-end PC-connected Rift, but it’s the same concept as the white-and-black accessory it’s replacing. You slot your phone (a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+ or Note 5,) in, strap it on your face, and put on headphones.

The new Gear VR has a slightly improved field of view: 101 degrees, versus 96 degrees. I couldn’t discern the difference. The focal wheel, which works with glasses or without, is easier to turn, and the headset fit more comfortably on my face. The side trackpad’s a bit larger, smoother, and is easier to find with your fingers. There’s also a new button above the trackpad that’s a direct Home button shortcut, sitting next to a “back” button that helps navigate the Gear VR menus and settings.

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USB-C and Micro-USB pop-out adapters included (don’t lose them).


Sarah Tew/CNET

23
Aug

Amped Wireless Ally Plus Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


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The Ally Plus Wi-Fi System includes the Ally router and one Wi-Fi extender.


Amped Wireless

Home mesh Wi-Fi systems are hot right now — we recently covered the Orbi Wi-Fi System from Netgear, for instance — but the new $380 Ally Plus Whole Home Smart Wi-Fi System from Amped Wireless has more than just easy setup to recommend it.

The Amped Wireless system promises to protect your entire home network from malware and online phishing scams in real time. This feature is based on Chime, a smart router platform developed by antivirus company AVG, which is designed to keep hackers out of your smart home gear. Amped also boasts a comprehensive parental control feature.

Essentially, the Ally Plus is a kit comprising one dual-band AC1900 router, called the Wireless Ally Whole Home Smart Wi-Fi Router, and one dual-band AC1900 wireless extender. They’re preconfigured to work together right out of the box. You connect the router to an internet source, such as a cable modem, and then place the extender unit a minimum distance away. The two will connect to each other and create a seamless Wi-Fi network, according to Amped Wireless, large enough to cover up to 15,000 square feet, and fast enough to deliver high-speed internet.

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The Ally router comes with four Gigabit LAN port, one Gigabit WAN port and one USB 3.0 port.


Amped Wireless

Amped Wireless says the new system can be managed via both a web interface and a free mobile app for Android and iOS devices. Unlike other Wi-Fi systems where you can add more extenders to further extend the Wi-Fi coverage, Amped Wireless says the Ally Plus will include just the two units for the price of $380. Your only other option is to get just the Ally router by itself, without the extender, for $200.

Both options will be available in early October. Check back then for the full CNET review.

23
Aug

Dyson Pure Hot+Cool Link Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


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Dyson

With app-enabled smarts, the ability to heat or cool the air, a bladeless design, and a powerful HEPA air filter, the Dyson Pure Hot+Cool Link has a lot going for it. Good thing, too, because it costs an eye-popping $600.

Apparently, the filter removes almost 100% of particles from the air — Dyson claims 99.97%. It has some built-in smarts and can adjust the airflow automatically depending on the air quality in the room. You can also use the Dyson Link app to monitor the air quality in your home from afar and activate the purifier.

Dyson’s bladeless lineup
  • Dyson Pure Cool Link
  • Dyson Pure Cool
  • Dyson AM009 Hot+Cool

Most of these tricks are the same on the $500 Dyson Pure Cool Link, which hit the market this spring. Dyson’s been incrementally adding more and more features to its bladeless fans for a couple of years now, and this newest version brings heat to its purifier just in time for fall. Dyson has a bladeless fan with the ability to heat and cool, but this is the first with smarts, heating, cooling, and air filtration.

You’ll be able to splurge on Dyson’s newest fan starting September 1 on Dyson.com if you’re in the US. On September 18, the $600 Pure Hot+Cool will roll out to major US appliance retailers. If you’re in the UK, the fan will cost £500 and goes on sale September 5. It’ll be on sale around the same time in Australia for AU$850.

23
Aug

Parrot Disco Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


It’s a drone! It’s a plane! It’s a Parrot!

At CES 2016, the Paris-based wireless technologies company revealed the Disco, a first-of-its-kind, ready-to-fly wing-shaped drone for consumers. Back in January, it was still a project. As of today, Parrot announced Disco is on its way for $1,300, which roughly converts to £990 or AU$1,700.

Like its Bebop quadcopters and line of Minidrones, Disco is designed to be something anyone can pick up and pilot. It’s a lightweight fixed-wing aircraft (it’s less than 700 grams or 1.6 pounds) made from flexible plastic foam with a single rear propeller strong enough to get the Disco up to about 50 mph (80 km) for flights up to 45 minutes.

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Joshua Goldman/CNET

A system of sensors inside — accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, barometer and GPS/GLONASS, plus a pitot tube for airspeed — help newbie pilots stay in the air. Parrot even gave the whole system a catchy name: CHUCK, which stands for Control Hub and Universal Computer Kit.

CHUCK makes it possible to simply toss the Disco into the air like a Frisbee and have it automatically ascend to 50 meters (164 feet), at which point it will fly in a circle until you give it a command. Once you’re up, turning left and right is as easy pushing a direction on the control stick, and the same goes for changing altitude.

For the Disco, Parrot shrank its supersized Skycontroller available for the Bebop drones. The new smaller design is closer to a controller you’d get with a toy drone, but the Wi-Fi MIMO remote control still has a theoretical range of 1.2 miles (1.9 km).

Part of the size reduction is because the smartphone/tablet mount is gone. Instead, the Disco comes with Parrot Cockpitglasses, a first-person-view (FPV) headset that, once you insert your smartphone, gives you a view from the full HD camera in the nose. If you need to see something on the ground while you’re flying, the Cockpitglasses can switch to the view from your smartphone’s rear camera.

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Parrot

You can still pair the controller with a smartphone or tablet (iOS or Android) and use the FreeFlight Pro app instead of flying by FPV. Along with a live view with telemetry, the app interface lets you set speed, altitude and distance limits and your wireless and photo/video settings. The drone also captures photos and video to 32GB of internal storage.

The biggest difference between piloting the Disco compared to the Bebop quadcopters is that it can’t hover in place or fly straight back or to the sides — the Disco is constantly moving forward. Because of this, Parrot lets you set a geofence to keep it from flying off. When it hits the set boundary, it will automatically return it to you.

There’s no sense-and-avoid system either, so if you’re headed straight for a wall or tree you’re on your own. Landing can be done automatically, with the drone coming down in a spiral the same way it goes up. Or you can manually land it, with the pressure sensors underneath helping to bring it in smoothly.

Also, if you want to skip the autopilot stuff, you can bind the Disco to a regular RC transmitter and pilot it in a full manual mode.

We’ll be taking it out to fly and I’ll be back with soon with some hands-on impressions. If there’s anything specific you’d like to know, though, drop it in the comments.

23
Aug

Motorola Moto Z / Force vs Samsung Galaxy S7 / Edge


When it comes to flagship smartphones, consumers certainly don’t suffer from a lack of choice, but on the flip side, with so many great options available, it is quite difficult to select which device is best suited for you. In today’s comparison, we pit two of the hottest smartphones in the market right now, and they couldn’t be more different from each other.

  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review
  • Moto Z review

On one hand is the Galaxy S7 Edge, with Samsung continuing to refine and improve what it started last year with its predecessors. On the other are the latest Motorola flagships, that are poles apart from anything we’ve seen from the company so far, and bring something unique to the table in the form of Moto Mods.

How does Motorola’s take on the Android flagship compare to one of the best and most well rounded smartphone offerings from Samsung? We find out, in this in-depth look at the Motorola Moto Z vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge!

Buy the Samsung Galaxy S7 / S7 Edge
Buy the Motorola Moto Z / Z Force

Design

Starting with design and build quality, both of these phones are made with some high quality materials, and not only look fantastic, but also feel extremely sturdy. The Moto Z features glass on the front and back, with a smooth metal frame holding it all together.

The corners have been rounded off to allow for a more comfortable feel in the hand, and there is a subtle curve to the glass panel up front. However, for the most part, the phone is completely flat on the front and back, save for the rather large protrusion of the rear camera.

The Galaxy S7 Edge also features a metal and glass unibody construction, but unlike the Moto Z, you get curves everywhere, including the tapers along the sides of the back, the rounded corners, and of course, the curved edge display up front.

Motorola Moto Z vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge-5

It’s not only of the most solid and comfortable feeling phones that Samsung has ever made, but comes with a sleek and eye-catching design. Samsung has done a good job with reigning in the camera protrusion with the Galaxy S7 Edge when compared to its predecessor, and is nowhere near as prominent as what is seen with the Moto Z.

The downside to any phone made predominantly with glass is that the device becomes a complete fingerprint magnet, so either have to clean it on a regular basis or use a case, to avoid this. Motorola offers a simple solution in this regard with the Style Shell covers, that gives the Moto Z some extra flair, while also adding enough thickness to cover that camera bulge.

Motorola Moto Z vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge-4

Without any covers or Moto Mods attached, the Moto Z is an extremely thin smartphone, with a thickness of just 5 mm, and it’s certainly very impressive how thin Motorola has managed to make it. The Moto Z Force is slightly thicker at 7 mm, which is still quite thin, and you really have to hold these phones in your hand to truly appreciate this design aspect.

That said, apart from the thickness, the Moto Z is actually larger than the Galaxy S7 Edge in every other dimension and has a much larger footprint, despite both smartphones coming with 5.5-inch displays. Samsung has managed to make the Galaxy S7 Edge the more compact phone by having a smaller top and bottom chin, thinner bezels, and adding curves to the glass on the left and right sides.

Display

Motorola Moto Z vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge-11

Both smartphones come with 5.5-inch AMOLED displays, or Super AMOLED in the case of the Galaxy S7 Edge, with Quad HD resolution. As expected, both displays are plenty sharp, and are very vibrant, saturated, and with deep, inky blacks. The display of the Galaxy S7 Edge is a touch brighter and offers slightly better viewing angles, but for the most part, these are very comparable displays, and things like gaming and watching videos are very enjoyable on either of these screens.

One benefit of the Samsung flagship is its Always On display feature, which lights up only the necessary pixels to let you see important information like the time, date, battery life, the calendar, and notifications, with a quick glance.

Motorola Moto Z vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge-9

While the Moto Z doesn’t come with this feature, it offers the next best thing with Moto Display, which remains one of the best features to ever grace Android. The display will periodically pulsate whenever you have any notifications, and you can manually wake it by either picking up the phone, or simply waving your hand over it.

Worth mentioning here is that the Moto Z Force comes with a shatterproof display, that makes it far more durable when compared to the standard Corning Gorilla glass 4 panels that are found with the regular Moto Z and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

Performance

Motorola Moto Z vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge-17

Under the hood, both smartphones feature identical specifications, including the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, Adreno 530 GPU, and 4 GB of RAM. This is the same processing package that is found with almost every current generation flagship smartphone, and it’s not surprising that both these devices are blazing fast, and can handle anything, including multi-tasking, web browsing, and playing high-end games, with ease. Despite offering two very different software experiences, the overall performance with both is very smooth, and you will be hard-pressed to find a noticeable difference between them.

Hardware

Motorola Moto Z vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge-8

Both smartphones are available with 32 GB or 64 GB of on-board storage, and both offer expandable storage capabilities via microSD card up to 256 GB, so storage will not be a concern with either device.

Sitting right below the display of both devices is a fingerprint scanner, with the difference being that while the fingerprint sensor of the Galaxy S7 Edge is embedded into the home button, that isn’t the case with the Moto Z, which uses on-screen navigation keys. This can certainly take some getting used to, especially if you are already comfortable with also using a front-facing scanner as a home button, and when using the Moto Z, you will find yourself occasionally reach for the fingerprint sensor for no reason.

As far as accuracy and reliability of the fingerprint sensors are concerned, both work extremely well, but you will find the one of the Moto Z to be a tad quicker, mainly because of the fact that is reads your fingerprint simply when you touch it, instead of needing to press down on the button as you have to do with the Galaxy S7 Edge. Even though the scanner of the Moto Z does not double as a home button, it does function as a lock key to put the phone back to sleep, which is a nice touch.

Motorola Moto Z vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge-2

A big difference in hardware between the two is that the Moto Z comes with a USB Type C port, while the Galaxy S7 Edge features a microUSB port. The latter also comes with a headphone jack while the Moto Z does not, which is one of the compromises that had to be made to keep the sleek profile of the device. Instead, you will have to use a Type C adapter to use your regular headphones with the Moto Z.

The Moto Z does offer a better sounding speaker, with its front-facing position better than the bottom-firing speaker of the Galaxy S7 Edge. That said, neither speaker is particularly impressive, but you do have the JBL speaker Moto Mod with the Moto Z to make up for this deficiency.

Speaking of Moto Mods, there are only a few that are currently available, including the JBL speaker, the projector, and the Incipio power pack case, but there should be more coming soon, as more third-party manufacturers jump on-board and create new Moto Mods. These Moto Mods are certainly a big selling point when it comes to the Moto Z, given how they work and the extra functionality that they offer. Just keep in mind that these Mods aren’t exactly cheap, and do add a significant amount of heft to the phone.

Motorola Moto Z vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge-15

The speaker of the Galaxy S7 Edge is also more muffled and distorted due to the built-in water and dust resistance, which many will agree is a small price to pay to keep your device protected from the elements. The Moto Z is also water resistant, but does not come with the IP68 rating that the Galaxy S7 Edge features, so while the former can survive a splash or a small spill, it certainly won’t work if submerged entirely.

When it comes to battery life, the Moto Z packs a rather small 2,600 mAh battery, compared to the 3,600 mAh unit of the Galaxy S7 Edge, but the playing field is a lot more even when considering the Moto Z Force and its 3,500 mAh battery. Battery life is obviously going to vary depending on your usage, and while the Moto Z does allow for a full day of use, you will be able to do that far more comfortably with the Moto Z Force and the Galaxy S7 Edge.

Both devices come with fast charging capabilities, so you will be up and running in no time, and in the case of the Galaxy S7 Edge, you also get fast wireless charging. If battery life is a concern, Motorola has a simple solution for the Moto Z with the Incipio power pack case, which to me, is currently the most useful and practical Moto Mod that is available.

Camera

Motorola Moto Z vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge-1

The Moto Z comes with a 13 MP rear camera with a f/1.8 aperture, OIS, and a dual tone LED flash, while the camera of the Moto Z Force is bumped up to 21 MP. On the other hand, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge come with a 12 MP rear shooter, f/1.7 aperture, OIS, and a blazing fast dual pixel auto focus system that allows it to focus much faster than any other smartphone camera currently available.

When it comes to the camera software, Motorola keeps things pretty simple by only offering the most basic of camera modes, while Samsung gives you a bevy of options with a slew of modes and camera effects to choose from. Both do offer fairly robust manual modes however.

Moto Z camera samples

If I had to pick either one of these cameras, the Galaxy S7 Edge would be my choice. The Moto Z can take some decent photos, but it really pales in comparison to the Samsung flagship. Photos taken with the latter are sharper and more detailed, and with better dynamic range, while the Moto Z has the tendency to overexpose and blow out highlights.

Galaxy S7 Edge camera samples

The Galaxy S7 Edge camera is also the much faster one overall. In low light situations, the Moto Z is quite slow to capture an image, especially if you are using HDR, while the Galaxy S7 Edge remains really fast when it comes to focusing and taking a shot. The Samsung smartphone camera does have some trouble with white balance in low light conditions, but the photos still come with a lot more detail when compared to shots taken with the Moto Z.

As far as the front cameras go, both phones are utilizing a 5 MP sensor, which work well enough for taking selfies, but the Moto Z has an advantage here with its front-facing flash, which can be extremely helpful when taking selfies in low light.

Software

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One of the best parts about Motorola is that they keep the software experience pretty close to stock Android, but with a few very useful additions built in. The Moto Z is running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and it is as close to stock Android as you are going to get without the device being a Nexus smartphone. Motorola’s customizations aren’t numerous, but they are some of the most useful features we’ve seen on an Android smartphone.

You have features like the Moto Display that we mentioned earlier, and there is also Moto Voice, that lets you call upon your Moto Z from across the room. Also available are a slew of gestures, such as the double chop to turn on the camera flash, and the double twist of your wrist to launch the camera.

Motorola Moto Z vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge-18

The only real down side now is that the Moto Z is a Verizon exclusive, so it comes with a lot of Verizon bloatware, and a host of pre-installed games and third-party applications. An unlocked version will be coming soon though, but if you are looking to get the Moto Z right away, the bloatware is something you will have to deal with.

The Galaxy S7 Edge is also running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but Samsung’s take on Android, with the TouchWiz UI, couldn’t be more different from stock Android. Samsung has been doing a better job with streamlining the software experience as much as possible, and what you get is a much cleaner and less bloated user interface than before.

With the Galaxy S7 Edge, you also get the Edge panels, that can give you quick access to apps, sports scores, the weather, your contacts, and a variety of other shortcuts, but just swiping in from the edge of the glass. These panels can be useful, but like any new smartphone feature, you will have to train yourself to get used to them.

Specs comparison

Display 5.5-inch AMOLED display
Quad HD resolution, 535 ppi
5.5-inch Super AMOLED display
Quad HD resolution, 535 ppi
Processor 2.15 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
Adreno 530 GPU
2.15 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
Adreno 530 GPU
RAM 4 GB 4 GB
Storage 32/64 GB
expandable via microSD card up to 256 GB
32/64 GB
expandable via microSD card up to 256 GB
Camera 13 MP rear camera, f/1.8 aperture, OIS, dual tone LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera, front-facing flash
12 MP rear camera, f/1.7 aperture, OIS, dual pixel autofocus, LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.1
NFC
FM Radio
GPS + GLONASS
USB Type-C 1.0
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.2
NFC
GPS + GLONASS
microUSB 2.0
Battery 2,600 mAh 3,600 mAh
Software Android 6.0 Marshmallow Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Dimensions 153.3 x 75.3 x 5.2 mm
136 grams
150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm
157 grams

Gallery

Final thoughts

So, there you have it for this in-depth look at the Motorola Moto Z and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge! Both of these devices are two really fantastic smartphones in their own right, but what it is really going to come down to is how much you value the Moto Mods, and how easily you can get your hands on one of them. The Galaxy S7 Edge is the easier phone to get right now, with it being available from all major network carriers, and while an unlocked version of the Moto Z will be arriving soon, Verizon is your only option currently.

Motorola Moto Z vs Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge-6

The Moto Z is a very solid option however, and the Moto Mods are just icing on the cake, providing a very elegant and simple way of modifying your smartphone. If you are willing to spend the extra money, you certainly won’t be disappointed. While the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge doesn’t have any crazy bells and whistles, or extra moving parts, it’s an all around great smartphone that ticks all the right boxes, and for most people, that is going to be more than enough to suit their needs.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy S7 / S7 Edge
Buy the Motorola Moto Z / Z Force

23
Aug

Opera rolls out a dedicated VPN app for your phone


After integrating a built-in VPN in its desktop browser and rolling out a dedicated VPN app for iOS, Opera is now bringing the service to Android users. While there are several VPN services available for Android, Opera is looking to differentiate its offering by providing free unlimited access.

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The VPN is powered by SurfEasy, a company Opera acquired last year. The app offers a quick way to mask your location, access content that’s locked to a specific region, and stave off tracking cookies (no Reebok, I don’t want to buy your CrossFit shoes).

While the service itself is free to use, you’ll find ads, and Opera will share anonymized data about your mobile usage habits with third parties:

This information is made available to third parties who are interested in better understanding the mobile ecosystem and how it’s evolving. It’s important to understand that this is not data about what you do with your phone, but rather this is data about how a large group of people use their phones.

The app is very straightforward to use: you can either connect to your closest region, or select from Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Singapore, or the United States. There’s also a Guardian service that logs details of all the threats it has blocked. As soon as you’re connected to a VPN server, you’ll see a key icon in the notification bar.

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Interested? Hit up the badge above or download Opera’s VPN app from the link below.

Download Opera VPN from the Play Store

23
Aug

The Big Android Dev Interview: Paul Lammertsma


From the Big Android BBQ Europe: Pixplicity CTO Paul Lammertsma on the importance of bouncing ideas off other developers, and Android’s future beyond apps.

The Big Android BBQ Europe, held in Amsterdam, Netherlands recently, brings together some of Europe’s top Android developers, enthusiasts and other community members in a celebration of Android, code and cooked meat. A spin-off from the U.S.-based Big Android BBQ, the European event is now in its second year.

In addition to the actual BBQ part, it’s also host to two days of talks from Android developers, and this year’s keynote was presented by Pixplicity’s Paul Lammertsma. We caught up with Paul during the event to talk social coding, how his company pivoted into app development, and what lies ahead for Android on the desktop and on your body.

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Who are you and what are you doing here at the Big Android BBQ Europe?

I am Paul Lammertsma, I’m CTO of a Dutch agency called Pixplicity, based out of Utrecht, which is smack dab in the middle of the country. I always go to community events, like I always go to DroidCons and Devfests and that sort of thing whenever I can. And Big Android BBQs as well! And I kinda like to be involved in the community. I’m also one of the leads of a GDG [Google Developer Group] in the Netherlands here.

So I like to be involved in the community because it’s sorta like something you have as a passion, and you share it with other people that have the same passion. So it’s an easy way to meet people and make friends, chat about things that interest you, stay up-to-date, that sorta thing…

Also, I like compelling myself to stand on stage and take a topic that I find interesting, or something that I found challenging for myself, and translate it in such a way that it’s presentable. Like, I can break it down into bite-size bits. Most of the time I take a topic, I think is a good tool to have in your toolbelt. So to have something that is useful knowledge, present when you would use it, how to approach it — not go too much into the details because most of the time you can find that in the docs — but that’s basically it.

Something I find challenging for myself is really taking the leap to stand on the stage — you know, public speaking. It’s something I think a lot of people are fearful of doing, but then once you do it it’s fun and rewarding. And I guess I just take pleasure in challenging myself that way.

How did you get started in the world of Android development?

That’s a really interesting question. I started in 2010, I think it was. I was actually in a molecular biology startup, and we were doing software for scientists, virologists, to basically plan experiments about cloning and genetic research and stuff like that. And a colleague of mine, he came into the office one day and he had bought an HTC Desire. He was really excited about it, and said “hey, over the weekend I made this app.”

We were like: ‘What?! How can you make an app over a weekend?’

And we were like: “What?! How can you make an app over a weekend? Do you know how long we’ve been working on this [other] software?”

He said: “You know, it’s so easy, and so fun, and so rewarding.” It’s mobile and you have to think in different ways. But a lot of the things that had been chosen for Android — not just the IDE being Eclipse at the time, the language being Java — a lot of the approaches in the language about thread pooling, lifecycles — [were] very similar to what we were doing at the time.

It was through a stroke of luck that we got a client that approached us in that same building that said: Are you guys familiar with Android? I remember my colleague who had just written his first app said: Apparently! So we tried that, we got into that, and we pivoted something like a year later and we’ve done it ever since.

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What are some of your favorite and least favorite things about working with Android?

That’s a tough topic. My least favorite thing — let’s start with that — is the sheer multitude of framework stuff there is out there. There’s a lot of stuff in the Android SDK itself [so] it’s really hard to keep an overview of what you need and what the right approach is — what’s good, what’s not so good.

When you go beyond that, the libraries. A lot of this stuff is kinda offloaded into open-source stuff, so what are you gonna do? Let’s take a random example like if you want to bring up an image on your phone. There are tons of libraries for that. You can write it yourself. You can [use] different libraries like Picasa or something like that or a Facebook library. What is the correct approach? There’s not necessarily one [correct choice], but making a choice has its implications.

So I think it would be nice to have an approach where you say this is the way to go; this is the only way to go. There’s something to be said for that.

But what I like about it is that it’s an open platform. You see that there’s lot of different approaches. Tons of different devices because you can basically take the Android open source platform.

I can’t put my finger on what really drives me. I think the reward factor is really quick. Most of the projects that we do are quite short-term. So they’re projects that are like a month up to several months, and each time you’re given the opportunity to take a new and fresh approach. Mobile moves very quickly, so you’re always compelled to try some bleeding-edge new tech. So that’s something I really like about the platform.

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to someone starting out in Android development today?

I think to me it’s really important to be involved in a community of people. I see a lot of freelancers, they work by themselves — like, single freelancers working in Android. I think having that kind of mentality, working in a group — not necessarily for Android, I think it goes for any kind of software engineering — you’re not constantly compelled to challenge yourself or re-think your approach. You’re very much more inclined to go on a particular direction and reinforce yourself that that direction is the right way to go.

I think to me it’s really important to be involved in a community of people.

Whereas if you’re in a community like this community here today, or like GDG communities around the world, if you just go over to an event like that once a month or once every few months, and you just chat with somebody over a beer about the things that you’re working on, some challenge that you have. Just bouncing an idea off somebody is invaluable, especially if you’re working alone as a freelancer.

So yeah, just the constant reinforcement, challenging your own ideas. I think that’s a really important aspect of being a good developer.

Where do you see Android development, or Android in general, headed in the next few years?

So Android has been around for like five years. (Laughs) So what are we gonna expect in the next five years? I have no clue. Even predicting a year ahead is a challenge.

Instant Apps is a great way to step into basically having a mix between a native app experience and a web experience.

We’re seeing this movement towards more wearables. I think we’re also seeing a movement of combining web and mobile more. I think the notion of apps is going to be gradually on a decline. The notion of heading over to an app store, to Google Play and installing apps is going to be on a decline.

Instant Apps, for instance, is a great way to step into the cross-platform world of having basically a mix between a native app experience and a web experience. I think we’ll see more of that. Of course we’re also going the direction of Android apps on Chromebooks. We’ll probably see that much more. Maybe Chrome altogether will start to run Android apps, kinda like in the style of ARC (Android Runtime for Chrome.) I think that ARC was a very premature first step, but we might see more of that. It’s hard to say; I’m not going to make speculations.

I think more concretely in terms of hardware and things, you’re going to see more wearables. I’ve always had this mentality of people walking around like this (Gestures looking down at phone)

This is not the future anymore. People don’t walk around with their eyes pointed down onto this little handheld device. It’s not gonna be Google Glass. Google Glass is wonky and weird too. But there’s something there that Google can fill in for us I suppose — or somebody else — to figure out what does work.

Paul Lammertsma is the CTO at Pixplicity. Follow the studio on Twitter at @dotpixplicity.

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