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3
Sep

Six futuristic phone designs


By Cat DiStasio

Cell phone technology continues moving forward year after year, but many of the developments are incremental—a better camera, more storage space, or a faster processor. Those are just the improvements that make it to the mass market, though. There’s is a whole world of innovative developments in cellular phone design and technology that most people have never heard a word about, and some of them even come from leading cell phone manufacturers. Nokia, for instance, has developed a cell phone that can recharge in your pocket and other models made from largely recycled materials. Other companies are working hard to develop modular phones that are easier to repair and upgrade, thereby cutting down on electronic waste. It’s impossible to know which of these futuristic technologies we’ll actually be able to get our hands on, but it’s fun to dream about what kind of features your cell phone might have in another five years.

Nokia’s E-Cu phone charges in your pocket

Long-time leader in cellular phone technology Nokia developed an amazing concept phone that uses body heat to recharge its battery. Although we haven’t seen this technology hit the consumer market, the Nokia E-Cu’s unique charging ability would afford cell phone owners some major freedom if it ever came to fruition. The phone’s copper exterior and its internal integrated thermogenerator converts heat from the body into electricity, making it super easy to ditch the plug-in charger and portable battery packs without any concerns of the dreaded low battery indicator.

PhoneBloks modular reparable cell phone

PhoneBloks developed a concept phone a few years ago that many others have emulated since. A series of modular components snaps together like LEGO bricks, making it simple to replace a broken part or upgrade the phone. With a modular phone, you wouldn’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a brand new phone just because one component of your current phone stops working. PhoneBloks could save enormous amounts of electronic waste from ending up in landfills, also, since they allow people to get maximum use out of their initial phone purchase.

Kyocera’s waterproof, washable cell phone

Countless cell phones have been rendered useless bricks after being dropped in toilets, tubs, pools, and lakes – and everyone knows at least a few people who have desperately buried their damp phone in a bucket of rice in hopes of reviving it. Kyocera and Japanese telecom firm KDDI partnered to solve this modern-day problem by creating a waterproof, soap-proof phone called Digno Rafre. If washable cell phone technology becomes the norm, it would become even easier to keep up with your Twitter feed while soaking in a bubble bath, and could even lead to cell phones that could be used underwater, which would really make for some awesome Instagram pics.

O2 Recycle phone made from freshly cut grass

Created for the Rugby Football Union’s social responsibility campaign last year, the O2 Recycle phone is composed of reclaimed cell phone parts and grass clippings collected from southwest London’s Twickenham Stadium. Designer Sean Miles of DesignWorks made just one of the ultra-green phones, putting in over 240 hours building the phone case from glass clippings which were freeze-dried within two hours of being cut from the stadium, and then pulped, molded into the casing, and coated in an eco-friendly resin. The result is a crisp green phone that blends in completely with any stadium grounds or field, and has a much smaller environmental footprint than typical plastic phone bodies.

Samsung’s flexible phone

Ever the leader in consumer electronics, Samsung released a concept in 2011 for a truly futuristic cell phone design. The flexible, bendable, OLED phone can practically be folded in half without any risk of cracking the screen or damaging the components within. At the time, Samsung promised to release the flexible phones the following year, but the project has met a number of delays and is currently expected to roll out some time in 2017. The design has evolved over the years, and some of the images Samsung has released suggest a phone that could be curled around your wrist, reminiscent of slap bracelets from the 1980s.

Nokia Remade recycled phone

Finding new ways to incorporate recycled materials into new technology is a goal many companies share. Nokia was an early adopter of the eco-friendly trend, and in 2008 they unveiled a concept phone made from aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and old car tires. The recycled components primarily went into the phone’s casing, but Nokia didn’t overlook the inner workings. The company sought to employ more environmentally sensitive technologies like printed electronics (which reduce waste and CO2 emissions during manufacturing) and a backlit display which saves energy and increases the life of the battery.

3
Sep

IFA 2016 day one: Battle-worn BB-8 and Acer’s new Chromebook


Even though we’ve been in Berlin for a few days, Friday was actually the first official day of IFA 2016. And, as expected, there’s a lot to see on the show floor. Yesterday, we checked out Sphero’s “Battle-worn” BB-8 and its companion Force Band, a wearable that lets you control the droid with hand gestures. We also took a look at Acer’s new Chromebook R13, a sleek $400 laptop, as well as Withings’ first smartwatch with a heart rate monitor. Much more to come from the event, but for now enjoy our recap of day one.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

3
Sep

Recommended Reading: Gaming’s gender problems continue in VR


With VR mode,
‘Dead or Alive’
goes from creepy
to harassment

Allegra Frank,
Polygon

Earlier this week, we caught a glimpse of Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 in virtual reality that’s set to launch the same day as PlayStation VR. The game allows the user to continually touch a female character in a bikini even after she repeatedly asks them to stop. Dead of Alive has already garnered its share of attention for how it depicts and treats women, but now it rekindled the debate about what is and isn’t okay when it comes to these virtual worlds.

The twilight of Fox News
Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

Fox News is in the midst of an internal battle with the departure of Roger Ailes, but it also faces a huge hurdle with the cord-cutting pay TV downswing. The Atlantic asks: Does it try to attract new viewers or double down on its “hyperpartisan infotainment?”

The man who lit the dark web
Charles Graeber, Popular Science

Popular Science tells the story of Chris White, a data miner who helped battle terrorism, weapons sales and human trafficking by trolling the dark web.

3
Sep

Apple Music Users on iOS 10 Beta Gain Access to Personally Curated Playlists


At WWDC this year, Apple announced a new “Discovery Mix” playlist that would recommend music and artists to each Apple Music subscriber based on their listening habits and favorite songs. Yesterday, the feature became available to users on the iOS 10 beta, now under a different name: one playlist called “My New Music Mix” and another called “My Favorites Mix” (via AppleInsider).

My New Music Mix introduces users to new songs
The update can be found in the For You section of Apple Music, with each playlist housing 25 songs. My New Music Mix contains all-new music from artists that the Apple Music curators have picked based on each user’s listening habits, and updates with new options every Friday. My Favorites Mix is full of “the songs you love and more,” meaning it’s focused on music users have already listened to rather than introducing them to new content. That playlist is updated every Wednesday.

Similar to other personally curated playlists in the For You tab, both My New Music Mix and My Favorites Mix can be subscribed to, placing them in the Library tab to become more easily accessible. On a smaller scale, each individual song can be added to the Library, and then downloaded to listen to offline.

apple music update 1My Favorites Mix curates each user’s favorite artists and songs into one place
Apple Music’s new curation feature is akin to Spotify’s Discover Weekly and Release Radar playlists, which recommends music from new artists and current favorite artists, respectively. Spotify updates Discover Weekly every Monday and Release Radar every Friday.

New iOS updates, like Apple Music’s personally-tailored music curation playlists, are expected to be topics of discussion at Apple’s September 7 event next week. Otherwise, it’s expected that focus will be on the debut of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus and Apple Watch 2.

Tag: Apple Music
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3
Sep

Home networking explained, part 4: Wi-Fi vs. internet – CNET


Editors’ note: This post is part of a series and is regularly updated. For the other parts, check out the related stories below.

Wi-Fi and internet are two different things. Let me say it again: they are two different things.

For years now, the term Wi-Fi has often been synonymous with access to the internet. Most of us use “Wi-Fi” as a shortcut to mean our home broadband internet connection. And when you’re traveling, free Wi-Fi is understood as free internet since that’s the only reason you use Wi-Fi when out and about.

In this post, I’ll clarify the difference between the two often-confused terms and provide answers to other connection-related questions. Among other things, knowing the difference between Wi-Fi and internet connections can help you troubleshoot problems at home, purchase the right equipment for your network, and most importantly, understand the risk of using a free Wi-Fi network.

This is the Internet as it should be known. In a typical home network, Wi-Fi bridges Internet to wireless devices. (Click to enlarge.)Enlarge Image

This is the internet as it should be known. In a typical home network, Wi-Fi bridges the internet to wireless devices. (Click to enlarge.)

Dong Ngo/CNET

Wi-Fi

As mentioned in the first part of this series, Wi-Fi is simply an alternative to network cables as a way to connect devices of a local area network (LAN). Prior to Wi-Fi the only way to connect devices together was to run physical network cables between them, which can be inconvenient. Wi-Fi allows devices to connect to one another the same way as when network cables are used, just without the actual cables. A Wi-Fi network is basically a wireless local network.

Home networking explained
  • Part 1: Here’s the URL for you
  • Part 2: Optimizing your Wi-Fi network
  • Part 3: Taking control of your wires
  • Part 5: Setting up a home router
  • Part 6: Keep your network secure
  • Part 7: Power line connections explained
  • Part 8: Cable modem shopping tips
  • Part 9: Access your home computer remotely

The owner of the Wi-Fi network is in total control. She can change the name of the network, the password, the number of connected clients, allowing them to exchange data with one another or not, and so on. Even the Wi-Fi router or access point itself can be changed or turned on or off any time.

A home Wi-Fi network, which is almost always hosted by a router, is independent from the internet. Meaning that any devices on the network can always work with one another to share and back up data, print, stream local media and so on. A connection to the internet, however, enables them to also access internet-based services, such as Skype, Netflix, news, Facebook, Twitter and other services.

To connect a home Wi-Fi network to the internet, the router needs to be connected to an internet source, such as a broadband modem, via its WAN port. When this link is complete, the Wi-Fi signal of the local network will also provide a connection to the internet for any device connected to the network. So Wi-Fi is just one way to bring the internet to a device. And this also explains why sometimes your Wi-Fi signal is at full strength, yet you still can’t access the internet.

Internet

Generally known as the wide area network (WAN), the internet connects computers from around the world. In reality, the internet actually connects many local networks together, via a ton of routers. With the internet, your home local network is no longer secluded but becomes part of one giant worldwide network.

The internet connection is generally beyond the control of the users. Other than turning it on or off, the only other thing you can do is pay for the desired connection speed and hope you get what you pay for. Internet speed has progressively increased in the last decade. Ten years ago, a fast residential broadband connection generally capped somewhere between 1.5Mbps to 20Mbps; now it’s between about 50Mbps to 150Mbps and even faster.

That said, most of the time, the speed of the internet is still slower than that of a wired local network, which is either 100Mbps or 1,000Mbps. For a Wi-Fi network, the speed of the local network depends on the standards used by the Wi-Fi router (or access point) and the connected clients, and can sometimes be slower than a fast broadband wired internet connection.

What does this imply?

Now that you know the difference between Wi-Fi and internet, here are a couple of takeaways:

Just because you have Wi-Fi doesn’t necessarily mean you have internet access. Also, having a strong Wi-Fi signal doesn’t always translate into fast internet speed. In fact, to know how fast your internet speed is, in most cases, you need to test it independently from Wi-Fi.

That said, keep in mind that if you use Wi-Fi to share the internet, then it’s the internet speed that you want. In this case, Wi-Fi is just the vehicle that carries internet to your device. This means if all you care about is a full Wi-Fi signal, then you’re missing the point. Take Wi-Fi extenders, for example. These devices wirelessly extend the coverage of an existing Wi-Fi network. Each time the Wi-Fi signal is extended, there’s a 50 percent signal loss. This means if you have a few Wi-Fi extenders, by the time the signal gets to the device you’re using, there’s not much “internet” left for a fast, stable connection. The best way to extend your Wi-Fi network is use multiple access points that connect to the main routers via network cables. If running cables is not an option, then be sure to have no more than one Wi-Fi extender in a network.

Most importantly, when you’re connected to an unknown Wi-Fi network (such as one you see popping up on your phone or laptop when you travel), keep in mind that because you need to access their router to get on the internet, the owner of that Wi-Fi network can potentially see all the information you’re sending and receiving, including usernames and passwords. That said, when using free Wi-Fi, unless you’re accessing a secure website (one in which the address, or url starts with https) don’t type in any sensitive information. Better yet, refrain from doing any online banking using free Wi-Fi. Also keep in mind that public Wi-Fi from known entities, such as an airport or an office, is generally more secure than a Wi-Fi network at a random cafe. An open Wi-Fi network, one that requires no password or agreement of terms of service to use, is the most risky.

Types of broadband internet connections

Wired internet (aka residential broadband): This is when you connect to the internet using a physical cable, be it a telephone line (DSL) or a cable line (cable), or a fiber optic line (FIOS). This type of internet connection is fast (especially cable and FIOS), affordable, and is the most popular. A wired internet connection generally comes with no data caps or at least very high caps, so users don’t need to worry about how much they download or upload.

Satellite internet (aka satellite broadband): This is similar to the wired internet but instead of connecting to the service provide via a cable, the home network connects to a satellite dish on the roof. The dish then communicates with satellites to provide the internet access. Satellite internet tends to be slightly more expensive and slightly slower than wired internet but is still an affordable option for remote areas with no cable, DSL or FIOS services.

hotspot.pnghotspot.png
Enlarge Image

Most cellular mobile devices can also work as a hot spot.

Dong Ngo/CNET

Cellular internet is generally expensive because it tends to come with monthly data caps and customers have to pay more than the fixed monthly cost when they go over the allowance. This type of internet access is very popular with mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. There’s also another popular type of this connection, called mobile hot spot, which is a mini Wi-Fi router that connects to a cellular network and broadcasts a Wi-Fi signal to let more than one Wi-Fi-enabled device share a single cellular connection. Many smartphones can also work as mobile hot spots; on the iPhone for example, this is called Personal Hotspot and can be turned on in the phone’s settings.

FAQs

Question: My Wi-Fi connection is very strong (full bars) but I still can’t stream YouTube video without long delays. I often even have to wait for a long time for a website to load. Why?

Answer: This is because the Wi-Fi signal is different from the internet speed, which is what decides the quality of your internet experience. It’s likely that you either have a slow broadband connection, or your Wi-Fi network is ineffective in carrying internet (i.e. there are too many Wi-Fi extenders being used.) You should check your internet connection, and then make sure your Wi-Fi network is optimally set up.

fast.pngfast.png

Netflix’s Fast.com is a good service to test your internet connection.

Dong Ngo/CNET

Q: My broadband internet connection is at least 50Mbps when I connect via a network cable, but via Wi-Fi it’s only about 20Mbps at most. Why?

A: This is normal, since the real-world sustained speed of all Wi-Fi standards is much slower than the ceiling speeds. The Wi-Fi speed also changes depending on how far you are from the router. On top of that, you might have a legacy Wi-Fi router or your device uses a legacy Wi-Fi adapter. However, 20Mbps is fast enough for almost any internet-based applications.

Q: If I plug my PC directly in to my cable modem, I get the full 150Mbps download speed that I pay for, but when I connect via my router, still via a network cable, I get only 40Mbps. What’s wrong?

A: This is likely because you use a router that has a Fast Ethernet (10/100) WAN port. Try a a Gigabit router.

Q: I use Speedtest.net to test my internet connection and the results change dramatically between different test servers. How do I know what the speed of my internet connection really is?

A: Take the best result as your official internet speed. This happens because the connection speed depends on how far the test server is, how busy the server is at the time of testing, and how many bridges the test data has to cross to get to your computer. Generally, the test result changes based on the ping time (how long it takes for information to do a round trip between the server and your computer), with the shorter ping yielding faster connection. Your connection, however, should be measured by the speed at which it connects to the server that yields the highest result.

Q: My internet speed is very fast, both via wired and Wi-Fi connections, but sometimes it still takes a long time for me to download a relatively small file. What’s the problem?

A: Having a fast internet connection doesn’t guarantee an all-around good internet experience. This is because the internet is a community, and the interaction between any two parties depends on both. If you download a file from a party with a slow connection to the internet, the downloading process still takes a long time, and unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about it.

Q: I have cable internet with 30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload. Things are going well generally but sometimes when I upload a large file, my download speed also becomes very slow. Is this normal?

A: Yes, downloading and uploading work together. Information is transferred via the internet in packets. Each time a packet is received, the receiving end needs to send back a confirmation before it can receive the next packet. When you upload a large amount of data, there’s not much bandwidth left for the computer to send the confirmation back to the server, which in turn slows the download speed.

3
Sep

16 Chromecast tips and tricks – CNET


Sarah Tew

Google’s Chromecast is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to wirelessly throw content from your phone, tablet or computer onto your television. While it may not seem feature-packed on the surface, there are a lot of things Chromecast can do that aren’t immediately apparent.

Below you will find 16 tips and tricks to help you get a better understanding of Chromecast.

Use your photos as wallpapers

When you’re not using your Chromecast, it basically turns your television into a giant digital photo frame, displaying hand selected photographs of beautiful scenery.

If you want to use your own photos, download the Google Cast application to your Android or iOS device, open the Devices tab and select Edit Backdrop. There you can enable Google Photos, Facebook and Flickr. If you no longer want to see the photos Google has selected, you can disable Featured photos, Earth and space and Art.

You also have the ability to tweak the speed at which new photos show — Slow (0.5x), Normal (1.0x) or Fast (2.0x) — and you can toggle weather.

Get headlines instead of wallpapers

Within this same Edit Backdrops screen, you can also opt to get news headlines. For this, there are two options: Curated News, which is hand picked by Google, and your own news via Play Newsstand. To control which feeds appear in your personal news feed, you will need to open the Play Newsstand application and edit which sites you want to follow there. Changes made within the app will automatically appear on Chromecast.

Browse Chromecast-compatible apps

You know the standard apps that support Chromecast — YouTube, Netflix, Pandora, etc. But what else can you stream to your TV? To find out, all you have to do is open the Google Cast app on your phone and select the Get Apps tab.

All the apps that support Chromecast can be found here, as well as in the Google Play Store itself under the Google Cast category.

Mirror Android devices

Chromecast’s highlight feature is streaming video from YouTube, Netflix and any other application that supports it. However, if you’re an Android user, you can mirror your device display to any TV. Just pull down the notification shade and tap Cast. Select which Chromecast you want to mirror to and your entire screen will be streamed to the television.

Sadly, this doesn’t work well for streaming local videos, as the framerate is typically pretty low and audio gets out of sync very easily. What it does work well for is showing your locally stored photos to multiple people in the room at once or browsing the web on a larger screen and using the phone as more of a controller.

Mirror your desktop

If you want to do the same with your desktop, you only need Chrome installed. Casting features are now baked into Chrome itself, so you no longer need the Chromecast extension.

To mirror your entire computer desktop to Chromecast, open Chrome and click the action overflow button in the top right corner. Click Cast and click the downward arrow next to Cast to. Select Cast desktop, choose the Chromecast you want to mirror to and, finally, click Cast to begin mirroring.

Keep in mind, this will not play the audio from your computer through the TV. Audio will still come out of your computer’s speakers.

Stream local content

Since mirroring your desktop doesn’t support audio and generally has a pretty terrible framerate, you will need to use a different method to stream local videos and content to your Chromecast from a desktop.

On a Mac, just drag a video file into a Chrome tab or press Command + O and locate a video. From within Chrome on Windows, go to File > Open or press Ctrl + O and locate a video file to open it in Chrome. From there, enable the Cast feature as usual. This does tend to drop frames from time to time and audio can sometimes get out of sync with the video, but shy of using a third-party solution that costs money or uploading everything to a private YouTube channel, this is the easiest way to stream your local videos or pictures to Chromecast.

Stream owned content

The other option for streaming videos or movies that you own to Chromecast is using a service like Plex. Basically, you sign up for free account, add your media to that account using the Plex Media Server app and download the Plex apps.

Once everything is setup, you can stream the digital movies you own to Chromecast using a computer for free or via the mobile apps, which will require an in-app purchase of $4.99 (£3.99 or AU$7.99) or a monthly subscription of $4.99 (£3.99 or AU$7.99).

Power it using your TV … maybe

If you have a TV made in the last 8 years or so, it likely has a USB port around back. Since the Chromecast is powered via USB, you can simply plug this cable into the open USB port on your television. In most cases, this USB port will be sufficient for powering your Chromecast.

Turn on your TV

You can use Chromecast to power on your television, so long as it has support for HDMI-CEC. Just enable this in your television’s settings menu. Then, if you use your phone or computer to cast something and your television is off, Chromecast will power it on before starting to stream.

The confusing part with this is that each manufacturer calls HDMI-CEC something different. You can find all the different names for it and more about how to get it running here.

If you want to use this, the above tip is probably not the best route for you. With most TVs, power to the USB port is cut when the television is off. To use HDMI-CEC, you will most likely need to power the Chromecast independently of the TV.

Get an Ethernet adapter

If you’re not having much luck with Chromecast over Wi-Fi, you can opt to use Ethernet. Google offers an Ethernet adapter for the Chromecast for $15 (£11.28 or AU$19.83). It replaces the original power supply with an AC adapter with an Ethernet port. Plug the microUSB end into the Chromecast and connect an Ethernet cable to the power supply and an empty port on a nearby router. Your Chromecast will then be hardwired into the network.

Guest mode

If you have friends or family over and they want to cast something to your television, you can make it very easy for them. Just enable Guest Mode by opening the Google Cast app, switching to the Devices tab and hitting the action overflow button on the Chromecast you want to use. In that menu, tap Guest Mode. Any nearby devices should connect to the Chromecast without being on the same network.

The way this works is Chromecast emits the 4-digit PIN to nearby devices by using an audio tone that you can’t hear. If the guest’s phone does not detect the audio tone, they can simply enter the PIN manually.

Play/Pause control with a TV remote

The worst part about streaming a video or movie to your television from your phone is having to unlock your phone just to pause the video. However, if your television remote has play and pause controls, you can simply use those to control the Chromecast without having to reach for your phone.

Factory Reset or reboot

After the initial setup of Chromecast, you typically don’t need to mess with the settings or the hardware. If something goes awry, however, you might need to factory data reset (FDR) the device. This can be done in one of two ways:

  • Press the button along the edge of the Chromecast and hold it for approximately 25 seconds. Release when indicator light on the first-generation Chromecast switches from solid to flashing. The second-generation Chromecast’s LED indicator will begin flashing orange. Release the button when the LED turns solid white.
  • In the Google Cast app, go to Devices, hit the action overflow button and select Device settings. Tap the next action overflow button and select Factory reset

Within the app, in the same location as the FDR option, you can also reboot the Chromecast if it’s acting up. You might want to try this before a FDR to see if it fixes any issues you’re having.

Cast on the go

If you’re leaving on vacation and don’t want to be stuck to the underwhelming hotel cable selection, you can take your Chromecast with you. Just take a travel router or your laptop with you and an Ethernet cable, as well.

Once in the hotel room, plug your router or computer into the Ethernet jack in the room, setup a wireless network and connect your Chromecast. Then you can watch YouTube, Netflix or anything else you typically watch with your Chromecast while on vacation.

Presentations

You’ve always been able to use Chrome to stream your Google Slides presentations to Chromecast from a computer. But now the Google Slides app has Chromecast support, as well. This means if you create a presentation with Slides, you can quickly and easily use your phone to present a slideshow or presentation.

Games

You can also play mobile games with your Chromecast, as long as they support the feature. To find games that support Chromecast, open the Google Cast app and look for games under the Find apps tab or open the Google Play Store, go to Apps & games > Categories > Google Cast > Games and tap More.

Once you install and open a game compatible with Chromecast, look for and tap the Cast logo to stream it to your TV. You can then use an Android or iOS device as the controller. For multiplayer games, you can use multiple phones as gamepads.

3
Sep

Kenmore 41393 review – CNET


The Good Kenmore’s $1,000 41393 washing machine has an Express Wash setting that runs a cycle in 15 minutes flat.

The Bad The 41393 doesn’t remove stains as well as the Electrolux EFLS617S or the Whirlpool WFW87HEDW.

The Bottom Line Don’t waste your money — you can find better washers for roughly the same price.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

Modeled after LG’s disappointing $1,100 WM3575CV washing machine, the $1,000 Kenmore 41393 is similarly uninspired.

With a cluttered display panel, poor stain-fighting power, and a confusing “Kenmore Connect” troubleshooting feature, I’d leave the 41393 off your shopping list. Take a look instead at the Electrolux EFLS617S and the Whirlpool WFW87HEDW — both of these midrange front-loaders look and perform better.

A closer look at Kenmore’s 41393 washing…
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Kenmore is an appliance brand exclusive to Sears. Rather than manufacturing and selling original designs, Sears relies on refining and rebranding appliance models from other manufacturers. In this case, Kenmore used LG’s WM3575CV as the blueprint for its 41393 washer.

The 41393 is a fine-looking appliance. Its gray finish feels premium, but you can also snag one in white for $100 less (that’s model number 41392). And it offers 10 cycles and a 4.5-cubic-foot capacity — that’s plenty of cleaning options and space for most folks.

Take a peek at the 41393’s main specs versus some competing washers:

Comparing washing machines

Kenmore 41393 LG WM3575CV Whirlpool WFW87HEDW Electrolux EFLS617S
$1,000 $1,100 $1,199 $1,099
Metallic, White (model #41392 for $900) Graphite Steel, White (for $1,000) Chrome Shadow, White (for $1,099) White, Titanium (for $1,199)
4.5 cubic feet 4.5 cubic feet 4.3 cubic feet 4.4 cubic feet
10 12 10 9
90kWh/year 90 kWh/year 109 kWh/year 85 kWh/year
27 x 38.69 x 29.75 inches 27 x 38.69 x 29.75 inches 27 x 38.75 x 33.13 inches 27 x 38 x 31.5 inches
1 year, limited 1 year, limited 1 year, limited 1 year, limited
120V; 60Hz 120V; 60Hz 120V; 60Hz 120V; 60Hz
No Yes, Android and iPhone No No

After a closer comparison, the 41393 has fewer cleaning cycles than the WM3575CV; it also doesn’t come with a related app like its LG counterpart. You can use the LG washer app to listen to audio frequencies from the washer that sound like old-school dial-up internet. These sounds communicate troubleshooting information so you can try to pinpoint a specific issue without calling customer service.

No, the LG washer app isn’t the easiest to navigate, but at least I figured it out after a little effort.

In other washer news:
  • This simple washing machine nails the basics
  • This cool, uncomplicated washer performs well under pressure
  • How to buy a washing machine
  • How we test washing machines

Kenmore offers a similar feature called Kenmore Connect that has no discernible mobile software component. KenmoreConnect.com doesn’t help much, either. I tried the “Add an appliance” option on the site first, thinking that you could add a Kenmore-Connect-enabled model to your online account and then access instructions for the Kenmore Connect troubleshooting feature from there.

After selecting “Add an appliance,” I was directed to a search engine that prompted me to enter the washer’s model number. Unfortunately, the search tool never located the Kenmore-Connect-enabled 41393 washer I was testing. I even searched by keyword “washing machine” and scrolled through the entire list, but never found the 41393.

3
Sep

Hasselblad True Zoom Review


IMThe cameras in our smartphones are extremely versatile, to the point that many have ditched point and shoot cameras altogether, just because the performance and robust features set in smartphone cameras have exceeded their dedicated counterparts. Ironically, camera makers have been fighting back and have attempted on many occasions to encroach on the smartphone’s territory by coming out with eccentric accessories that try to deliver those DSLR-like qualities to smartphone cameras – like wide angle lens attachments, and even those dedicated lens modules that connect via Wi-Fi Direct. The problem with many of them is that they don’t necessarily attach seamlessly, often requiring unsightly tethers of some sort.

And then came the modular phone, which we’re inclined to say that Lenovo has perfected with its latest line of Moto Z smartphones.

The concept is brilliant with Moto Mods, as these accessories provide expanded functionality to smartphones. In fact, the latest one is a prime of example of how a renowned camera maker is once again fighting back for recognition by fashioning on a feature that’s not widely available to smartphone cameras – the optical zoom, for added range to get closer to shots.

The Hasselblad True Zoom is an attachment that adds a 10x optical zoom range for any of Lenovo’s Moto Z line of smartphones that are Moto Mods compatible, so think the Moto Z, Moto Z Force, and Moto Z Play.

Camera ergonomics in a smartphone

Attaching the Hasselblad True Zoom is a cinch, seeing that all that’s needed is to align the corresponding pins on the Moto Mod to those that are on the phone. Once that’s done, the magnetic connection ensures a tight grip, so that it can’t be easily removed by accident. When it’s attached to a phone, a Moto Z Play Droid in this instance, there’s no hiding the girth that’s tacked onto the phone in the process. It’s a beastly looking thing, making the phone’s overall thickness triple in size!

The beauty in Moto Mods, though, is that they don’t always need to be attached – only when a particular situation arises. Aesthetically, the Hasselblad True Zoom follows the styling of a traditional camera with its rubbery textured grip, Xenon flash, zoom controls, dedicated shutter key, and focus light assist. When it’s attached, it can be mistaken for a camera – not a smartphone with an accessory connected to it. The hefty size makes it impractical to discretely hide away in our pockets, but again we can’t stress enough about how Moto Mods are here for the convenience of the situation.

Our only qualms with the design is that it still lacks some controls and other conveniences we find in traditional cameras – like a tripod mount, a spot for a lanyard or something, and a ring control of sorts for manual focusing. These omissions indicate that the Hasselblad True Zoom isn’t necessarily targeting enthusiasts. Don’t get us wrong, the design is solid and super sturdy, but we would’ve liked to see more from a photo-centric accessory.

Hasselblad True Zoom Review 5

The specs are camera-phone caliber

Okay, we know what’s most outstanding about the Hasselblad True Zoom – its 10x optical zoom, which is something that few phones can attest to offer. Beyond that, and as we uncover its specs, it becomes more evident that we’re still dealing with specifications that are camera-phone caliber. Sorry folks, don’t think that it comes with a large sensor to match those found in today’s mirrorless or DSLR cameras.

Specifically, it features a 12MP 1/2.3″ BSI CMOS sensor with 1.55um sized pixels, f/3.5-6.5 aperture lens, OIS for still shots, EIS for video, 2 microphones, Xenon flash, and up to 1080p video recording. The sensor size alone isn’t something worth bragging about, since there are phones out there, like the Panasonic CM1, that have even larger ones. And another glaring thing about the specs is how it tops out at 1080p resolution for video, which is a shame given that 4K is increasingly being adopted into mid-range phones, not just high-end or flagship ones.

Needless to say, the star of the show for the Hasselblad True Zoom is its 10x optical zoom. That’s better than some recent zoom-centric phones like the Asus Zenfone Zoom (3x zoom), so in that respect, there’s a level of versatility in being able to get close to the action – without having to be up close like that, of course.

Hasselblad True Zoom Review 17

The shooting experience

Activating the Hasselblad True Zoom is done by pressing on the dedicated button on its chassis, wherein it proceeds to launch the camera app. Our anticipation about using the Moto Mod is somewhat dashed when we realize that there’s not a whole lot to the camera app that we don’t already have in most phones. Yes, you can snap standard photos, adjust some controls using the manual setting, and even compose a panoramic, but we were expecting more. Instead, it’s lacking on some much-needed “fun” modes.

For photos, it’s nice to see that the OIS kicks in when the shutter key is pressed halfway, ensuring that the scene is as steady as possible to snap the shot. OIS really shows its worth the most when the zoom is at its maximum, mainly because even the slightest of movement can cause other cameras to become jittery. With this, however, there’s no concern because the OIS helps to compensate things for a steadier shot.

When it comes to videos, the EIS system in place desperately tries to adjust for the shake and jitter, but we find its approach to be delayed. You can easily see how it’s slower to react to the movements of us panning while walking with some of the footage. Now, this can possibly be attributed to the phone we’re using, a Moto Z Play Droid, since it doesn’t have what many would agree to be the most cutting-edge processor, but we’d be curious to see how it works with the Moto Z or Moto Z Force. That, of course, will depend on whether or not the processing is done by the phone, or locally by the Hasselblad True Zoom.

Zooming, that’s the one most defining perk of the Hasselblad True Zoom. This is useful if you’re trying to capture something in the distance, but not so much if you’re trying for a macro shot. The closest that the Hasselblad True Zoom can focus properely is about 1 meter in our experience, anythig less than that it won’t do.

Hasselblad True Zoom Review 3

How about the quality?

As we’ve mentioned already, there’s a 12MP camera in the Hasselblad True Zoom – while the Moto Z Play Droid we’re using it with has a 16MP one. Honestly, when it comes to standard shots when the zoom isn’t required, we find the quality of the Moto Z Play Droid’s camera to be superior. You can see for yourself in many instances how there’s more detail in its shots, while the Hasselblad True Zoom has a tendancy to be softer with washed out colors.

This is concerning right from the get-go, given that you’d expect better results from a photo-centric accessory like this. But then again, we’re not too shocked by this revelation because the specs of the Hasselblad True Zoom are very much on par to what we get in smartphone cameras. Obviously, its distinct advantage is its 10x optical zoom, which by itself is the only meaningful difference.

10x optical zoom with a hefty price

At the end of the day, we can say that the Hasselblad True Zoom is there for the convenience of zooming. Beyond that, however, we really can’t recommend it to replace the cameras in the Moto Z line – just because for standard shots, you get superior ones from the phones. And on top of that, it’s mind-boggling for us to believe that the Hasselblad True Zoom tops out at 1080p video recording.

Given the steep cost of the accessory, $250 if you’re buying through Verizon or a crazier $300 from Motorola directly, it faces an uphill battle in validating a purchase for it. Again, its only meaningful advantage is its 10x optical zoom, which few phones offer. The expense is really steep, making it hard for the average Joe to even fathom buying just to achieve such a lengthy zoom, but even worse is that it lacks the necessary tools and enhancements that could potentially entice enthusiasts to buy at that price.

3
Sep

Galaxy Note 7 benchmarks and the nerds who love to hate them


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Does the Note 7 have a performance problem?

Despite going through a massive recall at the moment, the Galaxy Note 7 is still one of the top phones on the market. And there’s something deep in the heart of every smartphone nerd that twinkles every time they own a phone that someone with any measure of authority calls “the best” and defends that statement in a way they agree with.

Note 7 fans had that feeling taken away from them recently by the smart folks at XDA-Developers. Through a combination of “real world” tests, benchmarks, and system monitoring tools the XDA writers told a tale of stuttering performance that seemed to demonstrate this shiny new phone was, in some ways, not deserving the space at the top of the heap so many tech reviewers has placed it.

It’s a fun read, especially if you only kind of understand what you’re reading. Before you consider flinging your Note 7 back into the store it came from with that homemade catapult, there’s a few things you should know about benchmarks and “real world” tests.

Benchmark apps are pointless

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If you use a benchmark app to tell you how great or terrible your phone performs, you’re not getting anything anywhere near a complete picture. Benchmark apps used to be great for troubleshooting, existing so you could see if there had been some kind of performance loss over time or damage to your equipment. Today, many manufacturers implement special code that forces that hardware to perform above the typical thresholds when a benchmark app is being used, which irreparably alters the results. You’re measuring a version of the hardware your phone otherwise never lets you have access to, so you gain nothing but an attempt at the highest score when you run benchmark apps today.

If you see a Note 7 performing anywhere near as smoothly as a Nexus 6P, consider how many more things that Note 7 is doing.

Those performance altering software changes lead to a much bigger issue. When you are comparing a Galaxy Note 7 to a Moto Z Droid Edition and a Nexus 6P, you’re comparing three different experiences that will never be doing the same thing at the same time. Samsung and Lenovo both have background tasks that can’t be replicated on the Nexus 6P. Features that can’t be disabled to get a 1:1 compare of the software performance. If you see a Note 7 performing anywhere near as smoothly as a Nexus 6P, consider how many more things that Note 7 is doing. Better yet, take a look at the immeasurably more thorough Anandtech review of the Note 7 performance as it compares to all other high performing phones, and see how it regularly outpaces the Nexus 6P.

There’s value in testing for things like dropped frames, and reporting on those dropped frames in context is an important thing to do when your goal is to educate and inform potential buyers. It’s hard to say that’s what happened with the presentation from XDA, given the lack of context or proper comparison. Does the Note 7 drop more or less frames than the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge? Could this be an issue exclusive to the Snapdragon variant of this model? Is this happening because Samsung’s new Grace UI was rushed out and could be fixed in a future update? None of these questions are answered, because the goal wasn’t to inform.

Cherry picking in the “real world”

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Not long after XDA published their findings, a post from The Verge’s Vlad Savov attempted to apply some reality to the initial Internet explosion. In this Vladitorial, it was pointed out that some of the findings on XDA weren’t really findings. Specifically, claiming that a 200ms difference in launching apps was an example of “embarrassing performance” is silly and not representative of how people actually use smartphones. XDA fired back with more data, trying to fortify their position. The counter argument, that a 200ms delay would add up over time to a phone in such a way that a Note 7 user would grab a Nexus 6P and be amazed at how much faster it “feels” is enforced by GIFs demonstrating those performance differences.

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What’s fascinating about this demonstration is the cherry picking. Samsung’s software is far from perfect; in fact, after uninstalling 13 apps from my shiny new Verizon Note 7 and finding eight more that I can’t disable I kind of want to smash mine with a hammer right now. Sitting that phone next to my freshly Nougat-filled Nexus 6P, there are absolutely aspects of this Note 7 that are demonstrably faster. The camera, for example, routinely launches a full second faster. It wouldn’t be difficult to cherry pick half a dozen examples, GIF them up, and write something that looks like evidence of how superior the Note 7 is to the Nexus 6P.

The thing is, that’s not how real world testing works. The point of real world testing, as the name suggests, is to offer performance examples of how the whole phone functions as though an “average” user is going to use the phone. Using that data to compare one experience to another is tricky, instead of offering a 1:1 compare of software as it functions you’re offering a 1:1 compare of the experience, what using the phones feels like. Showing how a share menu loads, especially when those phones are clearly not set up the same way with the same apps, doesn’t really fit that description. Unless, of course, you’re pushing a different narrative.

Better tools and actual analysis

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The real flaw in all of this is a mistaken assumption that Samsung’s Note 7 and Google’s Nexus 6P are built for the same purpose. Plain and simple, they aren’t. Google’s Nexus experience has evolved from clean Developer Kit to a demonstration of the Android Open Source Project with a handful of extras. Samsung’s phones haven’t started with AOSP in a long time, and there’s no reason for the company to consider another path right now.

Samsung phones are Android-based, not Android.

Samsung phones are Android-based, not Android. As a result, Samsung phones are optimized in whatever way they deem most important. Right now those optimizations are for delivering unique Samsung features, like Samsung’s camera, Samsung Pay and the unique S Pen functions. Android, by which I mean the OS, doesn’t place priority on those things. In recent releases there’s been a focus on things like battery consumption when you aren’t using the phone, security at all times, and a consistent 60FPS user interface. It’s difficult to argue that any of these things aren’t important, but neither Samsung’s Android nor Google’s Android places a priority on all of these things.

Really, what this comes down to is what you as the user place priority. If you want the most secure phone with a slick, unburdened interface, you probably want the thing Google and HTC are going to be announcing soon. If you care about a great camera and software built to offer you a ton of feature you may or may not use, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 is tough to beat right now. Trying to claim the Note 7 is somehow underperforming because it doesn’t behave like a phone it wasn’t built to behave like is ridiculous, no matter how you tightly you try to wrap that narrative in benchmarks.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

  • Galaxy Note 7 recall: Everything you need to know
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review
  • The latest Galaxy Note 7 news!
  • Here are all four Note 7 colors
  • Complete Galaxy Note 7 specs
  • Join the Note 7 discussion in the forums!

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3
Sep

Rugged phone ratings: Everything you need to know


Ever wonder exactly what the IP rating on your phone means? This reference has your answers.

IP ratings are a way to describe the ingress protection of your phone. IP itself stands for International Protection Marking, but you might see it called ingress protection because it fits and describes exactly what it is. Phones like the Galaxy Note 7 are rated with an IP specification (IP68) to tell you how resistant to dust and water they are.

IP ratings are broken into two numbers. The first number is the level of protection against solid objects — things like fingers, tools, wires, and dust. The second number is the liquid protection rating and is tested using water (no water specifications for things like salinity or TDS are referenced) and not other liquids unless specifically mentioned.

Because there are so many different combinations in use, a set of charts will help explain it all.

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Solid particle protection

IP number How effective is it?
0 Not protected at all against any size particle.
1 Particles larger than 50 mm can not enter in enough quantity to affect the normal operation.
2 Particles larger than 12.5 mmThis is the minimum rating to protect against putting your finger(s) into a thing.
3 Particles larger than 2.5 mm can not enter in enough quantity to affect the normal operation.
4 Particles larger than 1 mm can not enter in enough quantity to affect the normal operation.
5 Dust ProtectedDust must not enter in enough quantity to affect the normal operation.
6 Dust TightDust can’t enter, even in a vacuum.

The type of dust used for the last two tests could matter and no specifications or particle sizes are given like they are in the first five tests. If you’re working with something like a dry stone saw that creates really fine particles, you might want to assume you’re not protected. For everyday use, though, dust is dust.

Liquid ingress protection

IP number How effective is it?
0 Not protected at all.
1 Protected against dripping water.
2 Protected against dripping water when tilted up to a 15-degree angle from its normal position.
3 Protected against spraying water when tilted up to a 60-degree angle from its normal position.
4 Protected against splashing water at any angle.
5 Protected against water sprayed from a 6.3 mm nozzle at 12.5 Liters/minute and 30 kPa (pressure) from three meters away for three minutes.
6 Protected against water sprayed from a 12.5 mm nozzle at 100 Liters/minute and 100 kPa (pressure) from three meters away for three minutes.
6K Protected against water sprayed from a 6.3 mm nozzle at 75 Liters/minute and 1,000 kPa (pressure) from three meters away for three minutes.
7 Protected against immersion in water up to one meter at normal pressure for 30 minutes.
8 Protected against immersion in water one meter or deeper at specifications detailed by the manufacturer.
9K Protection against water sprayed from high-flow and high-pressure jets at high-temperatureWater volume of 14 to 16 Liters/minuteWater pressure of 80 to 100 barWater temperature of 80-degrees Celsius Distance of 0.10 to 0.15 meters

Ratings of 5, 6, 6K and 9K are pretty extreme protection and something we’ll never see on a phone or watch or tablet. I’m pretty sure 6K testing would damage your skin, and 80-degree Celsius liquids are a bit above the comfort level of most of us. For phones and other electronics, the 7 and 8 ratings are more important.

In addition, the IP Code has letter designations for additional protection. Like any K rating, you’ll never see these on a cell phone.

Additional protection designation

Letter code What it means
f Oil resistant
H High voltage protection
M Motion during any testing
S No motion during any testing
W Weather resistant

Note that these additional ratings aren’t mandatory. Their absence doesn’t mean your phone (or any other IP rated product) will not survive exposure. It just says that nobody is certifying it.

Most importantly, having an IP rating doesn’t mean you can do anything you like with your phone. Phones aren’t tested individually and they are mass produced. Your phone might fail if you take it into the pool, even if rated for water resistance. Having the IP rating does mean that the people who made it should be willing to stand behind it for any warranty issues.

We wouldn’t use an IP certification as the only reason to buy a phone, but having it certainly can be an added bonus!

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