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8
Feb

Roblox is waaayy more than a game (Review)






Intro

Normally in this space you can count on me bringing you a review of a new or unique game or app experience. I say ‘normally’ as this experience is regarding a single game or app, capable of a single portal into a world, a sport, and utility. One; single.

roblox-bannerAnd I thought I was going to have this normal assignment when downloading Roblox, a ‘game’ available for download in the Play Store. I use the quotes as Roblox isn’t just a single game; it’s actually an entire gaming universe, consisting of dozens of titles….a lot of them user-generated. It’s intended, built, and maintained for children; though everyone age 8 to 18 is welcome to play, the majority of their user base is age 8-12.

Setup

Roblox is free to download from the Play Store. Upon download, you sign up and create an account. After that you create your avatar, and off you go- you’re provided a small piece of real estate in the Roblox universe and a tool box in which to hold the items you acquire.
And once you’re in, you’re offered all kinds of options. And that’s exactly the point of Roblox. It’s built to be a comprehensive and safe place for children to congregate, play, and communicate with each other.

roblox_robot-danceWhile the app is free, there are subscription offerings (dubbed the “Builders Club”) to upgrade your experience. This includes premium avatar upgrades, managing multiple locations, and removing on-screen ads. There is also an in-app currency called “Robux”, that are mainly acquired through U.S. currency. Robux allow you to further customize avatars, acquire assorted building materials & tools, and attain special abilities throughout the games.

roblox_pizza-deliveryGameplay

The basis of Roblox is focused on creativity and building, while encouraging community among its players. Inside the app are lots (and I mean lots) of game/world/environment options to enter.

Security

A natural worry about an app that openly solicits to children would be security of said children with in the app. Roblox offers a a couple of levels of security: for all players, Roblox actively monitors all chats for inappropriate content or behavior. For players under the age of 13, there are further restrictions on who can communicate with them.

They also offer a web page to parents to help answer any questions that may remain, as well as a fairly open contact policy for parents who still may have concerns
(https://corp.roblox.com/parents/).

Visuals and Audio

For as expansive as the game options are, and for how pretty the screenshots are in the first half of this article, the fact that the individual games are community-generated can be evident a lot of times. Overall, most games come off as looking amateur-ish, with washed-out colors and blocky visuals. It needs to be said that this seems to be by intent, as you can easily tell a Roblox game with just a glance.

The audio on the game is also hit-or-miss, again due to leaving the game development to its users. Similar to the visual quality, while there are some true gems within this universe, for the most part the games can and do sound the same. That’s not to say they sound bad, but for the most part these definitely aren’t big-studio productions your playing here.

Overall

As an adult being asked to review Roblox, and even given expansive game selection within the app, I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed. While you can be just about anything you want in the app (and build it yourself if it isn’t available), a lost of the games come of as a bit watered-down versions of similar high-end genres and individual titles.

But, again, I’m an adult. After downloading and playing for a bit, I handed the tablet to my 10-year-old (and an admitted Minecraft addict), and said, “Try this and tell me what you think”.

Three hours later I found him on his bed, eyes welded to the 8″ screen. My natural question was, “Are you back on Minecraft?”. The response I got was “No, still on Roblox. This game is awesome!”. And investigating further, I found that he was still on the first game he jumped into (a Minecraft emulator, but whatever). He was completely locked in, and kept going on about how cool the world was, and what he could do with his avatar, materials, tools, and weapons. I did not know what would ever wean him from the Minecraft choke-hold…..I may have found it.

Download Roblox from the Play Store here.

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8
Feb

Public relations nightmare: Samsung battery factory in China catches fire


Why it matters to you

A Samsung factory responsible for manufacturing batteries caught fire, suggesting the company’s explosive phone woes may not be behind it.

Samsung may have tried to put its explosive Note 7 debacle to bed with a thorough investigation, press conference, and implementation of new safety procedures earlier this month, but it appears the South Korean firm’s battery woes aren’t behind it. This morning, a factory that is a part of Samsung SDI, the company’s division responsible for designing and manufacturing power packs for the company’s mobile devices, caught fire in dramatic fashion.

Photos on Chinese social media site Weibo showed plumes of black smoke emerging from the roof of the northern Tianjin waste deposit factory. But it apparently looks worse than it was: A Samsung spokesperson told local media that it experienced only “minor damage,” and that battery production wouldn’t be affected.

More: Samsung factory catches fire, could affect Galaxy S5 production

Factory fires aren’t an uncommon occurrence in East Asia. In 2014, a fire broke out at a printed circuit board manufacturer in Anseong, South Korea; in 2011, a faulty ventilation system caused a large explosion at Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn’s iPad 2 production hub in Chengdu, China; and in January 2016, a multi-floor blaze broke out at Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn’s main iPhone assembly plant in Zhengzhou, China.

Still, it’s another black mark for a company that’s been the subject of a months-long controversy. In early September 2016, reports of exploding Note 7 devices emerged online. Samsung issued a worldwide recall in the weeks following, blaming the problem on a “battery cell issue” and pledging to conduct a “thorough inspection with […] suppliers to identify possible affected batteries on the market.”

The company subsequently began replacing customers’ units with newer, “safer” devices, but several of those caught fire, too.

More: South Korea may require smartphone makers to report phone fires “immediately”

The controversy reached a fever pitch in late 2016, when the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) banned Note 7 devices from public transit and commercial flights in the U.S. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) followed suit, issuing a mandatory recall of all Note 7 devices.

In response, the South Korean government implemented a new series of regulations that required smartphone makers to notify regulators immediately when they receive receive reports of handsets exploding or bursting into flames.

DJ Koh, president of Samsung’s mobile communications business, told reporters that the company would institute preventative measures going forward. These will include an eight-point visual inspection process, added staff dedicated to overseeing each battery’s safe installation, and the publication of its intellectual property around battery safety standards.

8
Feb

Facebook’s Community Help is a forum for survivors to mount rescue efforts


Why it matters to you

Facebook’s new Community Help feature will make it easier for disaster survivors to find and offer relief.

Facebook’s Safety Check tool makes it easy to check up on loved ones after a terrorist attack, earthquake, hurricane, or other disaster, but there isn’t much more to it. Survivors can notify friends that they’re alive and well, but aren’t pointed in the direction of resources that might be able to help in an emergency. That’s about to change, though. On Wednesday, Facebook added a new component to Safety Check, Community Help, that provides a semi-public message board for survivors.

It’s a lot like an internet forum. Community Help, which Facebook previewed during its Community Help expansion during its Social Good Forum in November, lets users to post by location. It provides categories for food, water, shelter, transportation, baby supplies, and equipment, and a dedicated messaging function through which users can exchange information.

More: Fake news stories lead to Facebook Safety Check alert for an incident that never occurred

“It becomes really easy to get in touch with people in your community who you may not be friends with,” Preethi Cheetan, Safety Check’s product designer, told CNET.

Facbebook says Community Help was inspired by how users banded to help one another in times of need, but it’s also aimed at addressing “missed connections.”

Facebook cited last year’s Alberta wildfire as an example: Users affected by the fire made their own support groups with posts offering shelter, including one — “Help Together, Fort McMurray Fire” — in which a man offered four bedrooms in his home for everyone displaced. But posts and groups tended to be disorganized, Chetan said, and members found it difficult to coordinate rescue efforts across multiple pages. And users had trouble contacting those in need because of their privacy settings.

More: Now you can take control of Facebook’s Safety Check during a disaster

Facebook described Community Check as the next logical step for Safety Check. Since Safety Check’s introduction in 2014, it’s been activated 335 times, notably during the devastating 2015 earthquake in Nepal, the November 2015 Paris attacks, and the 2016 Berlin attack. But Facebook’s been criticized for its decisions on when to use the feature. In response last year, it announced that it would begin relying on user activity — namely keywords indicating danger like “shooting” or “explosion,” and spikes in posts — to trigger alerts automatically.

Community Check will launch in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Saudi Arabia before rolling out to Facebook’s wider 1.8 billion-member audience.

More: Alert! You may soon be able to activate Facebook’s ‘Safety Check’ feature yourself

Facebook’s not the only company doing more to connect friends and family in the aftermath of a disaster. Google’s Person finder, which the company deployed in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, is a message board and registry for survivors, family, and loved ones affected by a natural disaster to post and search for information about each other’s status and whereabouts. And in December 2016, Google launched Trusted Contacts, an app that alerts select groups of people about users’ status and exact location.

8
Feb

Flipboard’s redesign makes it easier to keep up with your favorite topics


Why it matters to you

One of the world’s most popular news apps just got a whole lot easier to navigate and better at bringing you content you care about.

Flipboard is rolling out a major redesign today for version 4.0 of its popular news aggregation app, and at the center of it is a new feature that promises a more personalized, curated experience for its tens of millions of active users across iOS and Android.

It’s called “Smart Magazines,” and Flipboard is saying it fundamentally reorganizes and streamlines the experience so people can keep up with whatever it is they are passionate about more quickly. Think of Smart Magazines as collections of articles with unique layouts, tailored not just to your favorite categories, but to more specific tastes as well.

Flipboard always allowed users to choose topics and filter them out individually, but the default view was a mishmash of every category, and every user who tuned in to the same topics would receive the same content. Now, the app encourages readers to dig deeper after they’ve selected a basic area of interest.

For example, selecting the “Photography” topic brings up a list of selectable tags, like “Leica” and “Nature Photography,” that provide more granular control over the kind of photography content you’ll see.

More: Look out, Amazon Kindle Unlimited! Scribd adds magazines to ebook service

As a result, each person’s Flipboard — even if they subscribe to the same general topics — is now guaranteed to be unique. And separating those topics out into individual magazines should make the daily swarm of content much less overwhelming to digest. By default, Flipboard’s home screen will house up to nine smart magazines, which can be navigated by swiping from left to right. More can be created, but they’re stored away in a menu.

For longtime users, the option still exists to subscribe to specific people, news sources, and hashtags, as well as magazines created by other users. Groups can even make their own custom magazines to share stories back and forth.

Rather than just listing new content in a chronologically flowing feed, Flipboard says stories that are liked, added, and shared have a greater chance of surfacing for other readers. What’s more, the app’s algorithms learn from use, and Flipboard reportedly gets better at predicting the content you want to see as you continue to use it.

Many news aggregation services, like Apple News, Google Play Newsstand, and Feedly, operate in a uniform fashion — a general feed of top stories, followed by the highlights of each category, and then an alternate view for topics and sources. Flipboard also features a top stories tab, but places content neatly filtered by topic immediately within reach, and aims to feed users more of what they like based on a deeper understanding of their passions.

In practice, the experience really does resemble that of a curated magazine, rather than a wire of information — that is, if a magazine could show video, and be instantly shared with your friends. The update releases today for iPhones and Android smartphones, with a tablet version to come at a later date.

8
Feb

T-Mobile is gaining on Verizon when it comes to 4G availability, study finds


Why it matters to you

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate among the Big Four wireless operators, especially now that T-Mobile and Verizon and closer than ever in their offerings.

The war between T-Mobile and Verizon for fastest network rages on, and the latest battle has ended in a draw. According to a new report from Open Signal, the two are now neck and neck when it comes to 4G speed rankings, with the two competitors tied for first place in both 4G and overall speed metrics. Open Signal’s survey, which aggregates billions of customer experiences, noted that T-Mobile either won or tied for first in all speed rankings, including overall download speed, 3G speed, and 4G speed, and won 3G latency,

Of course, we should note that while T-Mobile edged ahead of Verizon in 4G speed rankings just six months ago, it looks as though Big Red has since made up that ground. All the same, T-Mobile doesn’t seem to have gotten any worse, a point that chief technology officer Neville Ray drove home in a statement.

“Just like T-Mobile’s Un-carrier moves have pushed the industry to change, our consistent, relentless, and proven LTE speed leadership has pushed the industry to try to catch up,” he said. “When you combine T-Mobile’s value with great speeds and a coverage map that’s virtually indistinguishable from the big guys, well, let’s just say ‘It’s on.’”

More: Best T-Mobile phones

While Verizon won first place when it came to 4G availability, T-Mobile is certainly gaining on its rival. While Open Signal testers found a Verizon LTE signal just over 88 percent of the time, they also noted that “T-Mobile has been systematically closing the gap. In the fourth quarter its 4G availability was less than two percentage points below Verizon’s, the closest we’ve seen that difference.”

And as the Un-carrier pointed out, this fact highlights the breadth of their own LTE network, which now boasts coverage of 313 million people — 99 percent as many people as Verizon.

Happily, regardless of which cellphone service provider you’re using, it looks as though all four of the big guys (T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint) extended their LTE reach. So all in all, it looks like things are looking up for smartphone users in the United States.

8
Feb

Hot idea: NASA is close to making a computer that can survive on Venus


Why it matters to you

We’ll never explore the universe if our computers can’t handle what’s out there. NASA is close to making computers that can.

One day, mankind will jump into spaceships and explore the solar system, and eventually the galaxy and beyond. All that stands in our way so far is a deficit in technology. Until that’s licked, however, we’ll be sending machines in our place. And most of the places we want to explore are rather hard on the computers that enable those machines to function.

High temperatures, caustic environments, and extreme pressures tend to cause problems for computers, and that’s something that NASA is close to solving for one of our solar system’s harshest environments, Venus.

More: NASA already described its plan for reaching Mars. Now it showed us the hardware

As researchers at NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center point out in a new paper, Venus has made it impossible for computers to survive for long on its surface due to temperatures exceeding 460 degrees C and pressures exceeding 9.4 MPa. Such an environment is particularly hard on integrated circuits (ICs), limiting the time that a Venus lander can function on the surface to only a few hours even with relatively massive cooling and pressure solutions.

In order to make a trip to Venus valuable, however, landers need to be able to survive for a prolonged period. Long-term atmospheric and seismic activity data is what’s needed on such a trip, to answer a variety of questions about how Earth and other planets in the solar system were formed, and that kind of data takes weeks and months, not hours, to gather.

And it’s not just pressure and high temperatures that are the problem. There’s also the sulfuric acid in the clouds and on the surface that are of concern. Simply put, today’s interconnections between chips simply can’t handle the environment, and of course today’s computers are multi-chip affairs.


NASA Glenn

In response, the NASA Glenn researchers have created ICs with ceramic packaging that have lasted for more than 40 days at 500 degrees C. After further tests intended to simulate the Venus environment were conducted, it was confirmed that the new designs and materials were able to survive for far longer than previous versions — indicating that it’s possible to make computers that can last for multiple days and weeks even in such a harsh environment.

The paper is full of the kinds of technical details only a rocket scientist would appreciate, and if that’s you then by all means delve into its fascinating facts and figures. For the rest of us, it’s enough to know that NASA is succeeding in creating computers that can survive on Venus, making a long-term mission on that planet a less remote possibility.

8
Feb

For a limited time you can grab the Fire Tablet for just $39


Right now you can pick up Amazon’s Fire Tablet for just $39, a savings of $10 from its regular price. Even at $49 this thing is an incredible value, so being able to save an additional $10 on it makes it an even easier purchase. The tablet features a 7-inch IPS display, a 1.3GHz processor and now works with Amazon’s Alexa cloud-based voice service. There are tons of great apps, games and more that are completely free through Amazon Underground, so you won’t have any shortage of content here.

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Storage in these tends to fill up fast, so you may want to check out some of the best microSD cards to add so you don’t find yourself running low. This pricing won’t last long, so be sure to pick one up before it is too late!

See at Amazon

For more great deals on tech, gadgets, home goods and more be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!

8
Feb

Android Wear 2.0 review: A massive upgrade for the wrist


android-wear-2-watch-face-lg-watch-sport

Everything you know about Android Wear has changed, and what happens next is up to you.

Are smartwatches dead? Are smartwatches the future? Is my sock drawer full of smartwatches? Over the last year, we’ve seen a lot of hand wringing and hot takes about the future of wrist computers. It doesn’t really matter who the manufacturer is or what operating system is running on it, you can find opposing opinions on the future of this tech category. For Google’s part, smartwatches started out as an extension of a larger wearables strategy. Android Wear wasn’t going to just be for watches, it was going to be on anything connected that you wore. Why, Google Glass may one day be considered part of Android Wear.

For Google’s part, smartwatches started out as an extension of a larger wearables strategy.

Plans change, and Android Wear has since become an OS for many different manufacturers to explore what people want in a wrist computer. It turns out there isn’t one answer. Some of us want a thin, svelte notification portal to occasionally glance at. Some of us want a standalone phone on our wrist with Android Pay, storage for music, and a full fitness tracking experience. Some of us want to leave our phones in the water-tight box and use our watch as a fish finder. The point is, it became clear there was never going to be a single hardware design and feature set for everyone, and while Android Wear had made this diversity clear over the last two years in terms hardware, the software hasn’t kept up.

Welcome to Android Wear 2.0, an almost-modular watch operating system built to make it easier to build a unique software experience on top of the hardware of your choice. But does that make this the watch OS for everyone… or for no one?

Hungry for more?

Android Wear 2.0 is a complete overhaul of Google’s wearable platform, but the hardware is just as important. Check out what LG and Google have done together with two new watches built specifically for Android Wear 2.0!

Read our complete LG Watch Sport review here!

Read our complete LG Watch Style review here!

About this review

I’m writing this review after months of using Android Wear 2.0 in its Developer Preview form, with particular focus on the final build of the preview for two weeks. This review was written alongside the release of the LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style, the first watches made with Google specifically for Wear 2.0.

Read more: These are the watches being updated to Android Wear 2.0

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Assistant and Passwords and Play Store and More

Android Wear 2.0 Initial setup

In most situations, Android Wear is still very much a tethered platform. You connect it to your phone via Bluetooth, and through that connection the phone serves information to and receives instructions from the watch. In previous versions of Android Wear this relationship was always primary-secondary; the watch did nothing without information from the phone. Android Wear 2.0 changes this relationship quite a bit, turning the watch into a largely standalone platform that relies on the phone for a data connection to process instructions entirely on its own.

The initial pairing process for Android Wear hasn’t changed much, but it is now step one in a much larger process. Your phone pairs to the watch, checks for software updates, and now asks you for your Google Account as though you were logging in to a new phone. You can move multiple accounts to the watch if you have more than one on your phone, allowing you to switch between work and personal if desired, and when the data is transferred you get a resting notification on your phone letting you know that a Google account was sent over. You know, just in case someone moved your account to a watch in order to steal your data.

wear-setup.jpg?itok=yy0Jar8f

Unlike previous versions of Android Wear, you’re far from done. No app icons have been moved from your phone to the watch, because apps don’t exist simply as secondary access terminals to the app on your phone anymore. Android Wear apps are separate from Android phone apps, installed and in many cases used independently of the phone. This is great for keeping your watch free of a long list of icons you may never use, but it also means Google’s staple apps aren’t yet on your watch. If you want Hangouts or Google Maps, for example, you need to install them from the Play Store on the watch, or from the web straight to your watch.

If you want Hangouts or Google Maps, you need to install them from the Play Store on the watch.

Activating the Play Store and installing apps is simple enough, but now you need to enable any other features you may want to use on your watch before you’re fully set up. Want to use Google Assistant from your wrist? You need to enable the feature on the watch, then go back to your phone and confirm on your phone you want Google Assistant on your watch. Android Pay, if your watch supports it, has a similar setup. You can only enable it on the watch if you have a lock screen set up on your wrist — yeah, you read that right — and then you can confirm on your phone you want Android Pay.

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Android Wear security is just like Android security now. You can use pin unlock, password unlock, or pattern unlock. When this security measure is in place, you’re asked to “unlock” your watch any time it leaves your wrist thanks to the heart rate monitor. Neither of these unlock mechanisms on your wrist is particularly convenient, but the pattern lock allows you to unlock your phone without using a keyboard on a 1.3-inch display. If you aren’t using Android Pay, it’s not a requirement to have the feature enabled.

The one great part about this setup process is the lack of prompts. After the setup tutorial to show you how to swipe notifications and choose watch faces, you don’t have to to enable any of this. If all you want is a way to see notifications on your wrist and respond with your voice when you can, you never have to worry. If you do want these features, it means setting up an Android Wear 2.0 watch is considerably more complicated than it has been in the past. But it can also do much more.

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Hope you like buttons and knobs

Android Wear 2.0 Interface

By the time you get to the end of setting up Android Wear 2.0, something about the user interface becomes abundantly clear — you’re going to be doing a lot of scrolling. Previous iterations of Android Wear avoided interfaces that were more than a single swipe, unless it was an email or some other form of message. The interface itself was largely contained to single “cards”, and that experience is now almost entirely gone.

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Every app scrolls; the app launcher scrolls; and of course your messages still scroll. The amount of swiping in Android Wear is significant, unless of course your watch has a rotating button on the side to scroll as you turn. It’s clear from this design change Google anticipates a lot of future watches to include Gear S3-style rotating bezels or LG Watch Sport and Style rotating side buttons.

In an attempt to prepare for the future of Android Wear, there’s some weirdness in using a hardware scrolling mechanism right now. As far as the OS is concerned, this rotating piece of hardware can be programmed to do multiple things. In most menus it scrolls up and down. In Google Maps it zooms in and out. Developers have the freedom to make this piece of hardware do whatever they want, and because not every app has been updated to support Android Wear 2.0 sometimes the thing you can do with the rotating hardware is nothing at all. It’s a little confusing to spin the crown on the LG Watch Sport and, in some apps, have nothing at all happen, but this is likely to be a temporary frustration.

Developers have the freedom to make the rotating piece of hardware do whatever they want.

Perhaps more important than directly encouraging users to turn a button on the side of the watch is how much more frequently you’ll be pressing them. In the past, the button on the side of your Android Wear watch was used to return you to the watch face or back out of a menu. The interface was a single large cascading menu for you to interact with, but with Google Assistant replacing Google Now, and your App Drawer living behind a button press, the physical button on the watch is now the primary interaction mechanism, which is significant.

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From the watch face, you can swipe down for quick settings, swipe up to see unread notifications, and swipe left and right to swap watch faces to whatever is stored on the watch. The button on the side accesses your app drawer, an alphabetical list of apps you have installed with the most recently used app at the top. Each app is standalone now, so you navigate to the app you want just like you would on your phone. If your Android Wear watch has multiple buttons on the body, these buttons can be programmed to launch specific apps so you’re not stuck frequently swiping through the app drawer to get to them.

Notifications for Android Wear 2.0 are one of the best reflections of how Google’s visual design has changed over the last two years. As a user, you are no longer sorting through a stack of digital cards as you triage notifications from your phone. Instead you have flat panels with muted colors and bright text filling the display. This new design increases information density, ensures the cards are easier to read in just about every environment, and there’s some improved control over notification priority that has been desperately needed for a long time. Status notifications, like uploading something to Facebook, are sent to the bottom of the stack to disappear instead of placed on top to show you the thing you’re already doing on your phone.

Overall, Android Wear 2.0 is a great deal simpler to navigate than its predecessors.

Quick Settings exists mostly to replace the features you lose on the watch button by moving the App Drawer and Google Assistant there. You can no longer double-click the button in order to activate Theater Mode, so instead you swipe down and tap on the sun in your Quick Settings. You can no longer triple-click to access the brightest mode the screen has to offer, so you swipe sown and tap the sun icon again. This section is a little more useful if you’re able to turn cellular on and off on watches with LTE support, or if you regularly use the watch to control notifications in Do Not Disturb, but that’s about it. It’s a quick alternative, not really any better or worse than what was there before.

Overall, Android Wear 2.0 is a great deal simpler to navigate than its predecessors. You’re unlikely to ever get lost in this interface, because everything is a direct action. If you’re using apps, you press the button and go there. If you’re checking notifications, they’re always right in front of you. Gesture controls still work exactly the same as they always have, and the number of actions you take to complete most tasks is limited to one or two taps. This design can become as complicated as you choose depending on how many apps you use on a daily basis, but the overall design approaches simplicity from a new position and it works well.

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Okay, so we’re doing this

Android Wear 2.0 Features

Visually, the face of Android Wear is going to appear very similar. Watch faces are available by the truckload in the Play Store, and that’s not going to go away anytime soon. What you will start to see is an effort to make those watch faces a great deal more customizable, and useful, than we’ve seen in the past, thanks to Google’s new Complications API.

This setup has been cribbed right from the Moto 360, and it’s fantastic. Watch face creators can now designate areas on the face for users to plug in information from all over the watch. Any app that supports complications can feed data to the face, and users get to choose how that information fits. We’re already seeing several watch face creators moving to implement this API in the Developer Preview, which means tons of new options for the already massive list of watch faces.

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The biggest feature changes in Android Wear 2.0 fall into place when you go to use the watch as though your phone is just there to serve data. Some of this sounds downright silly when you say it out loud — replying to emoji by drawing on the screen, swiping on a teeny tiny virtual keyboard when voice alone is insufficient, or scrolling through the Play Store on your wrist in search of new apps.

Existing Android Wear owners may frown on these kinds of interactions, due to the size of the display and the kind of latency expected with these experience, and in some cases they’ll probably be right. But Android Wear 2.0 does not exist for a single kind of user. If you’re someone who has no interest in keyboards and emoji, there’s never a situation where you’re forced to use it. Everywhere you find handwriting and emoji writing, you’ll also find voice and quick replies.

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The same can be said for Google Assistant. You can choose to have your watch always listening for the Assistant launch phrase, but it’s frequently not as fast to launch as your phone or Google Home. Being able to say “OK Google” while your phone sits on the table or in the cupholder of your car is not the same as pressing and holding the button on your watch until the four colorful orbs show up, either. The important thing about Assistant being on your wrist is that it’s there just in case. It’s a way to fill the gap for some interactions, and for others it could very well become the default way to use the service.

Android Wear 2.0 does not exist for a single kind of user.

In the quest to create individual Googles for everyone, Assistant needs to be everywhere and work identically. The biggest challenge associated with Assistant on the wrist right now is lag. If Assistant isn’t immediately available, like it is elsewhere, it’s simply less useful on the wrist. It’s likely this will be where we see older Android Wear watches running the 2.0 update appear less optimized.

Google’s big shift in Android Wear with the 2.0 update is apps. Being able to install apps on your watch and have them run entirely independently of your phone is significant. People who almost never use Google Keep on their phone but love having lists on their wrists can accomplish this without cluttering up the primary app drawer. Fitness apps can be built specifically for Wear that require no phone at all. This is how Google creates the same Android Wear experience regardless of the phone platform you’re using. If the app is on the Play Store, and the Play Store is on the wrist, it won’t matter that you have an iPhone connected.

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But there are things missing from this isolated experience that complicates Wear in ways that aren’t entirely necessary. Play on Android Wear is slow, often taking anywhere from 3-5 seconds to fully load. The auto-update feature that is enabled by default doesn’t tell you when an app has been updated or why, and choosing to do so manually is tedious. You also can’t really tell from the watch how much data you’re using in any meaningful way, which means you have to check with your phone.

This is by far the most complete feeling version of Android Wear to date.

An important part of any OS that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserved most of the time is the Accessibility section, and the biggest addition to Android Wear in this particular category is that it now actually has an Accessibility section. Magnification gestures allow you to triple tap on the screen and zoom in, text-to-speech and TalkBack modes use the speaker to read content to you, Select to Speak will call out menu options, and you can even set the power button to end a call.

These features combined make it clear Google is thinking about watches as more than just luxury items. This now becomes an emergency communication tool for the elderly, an assistive device for the blind, and a functional alternative to a large phone when that simply isn’t an option for someone.

We know that Google is still working with developers to do more with Wear as 2.0 is adopted by more manufacturers as well. The ability to launch apps based on behavior — fitness apps launching when the watch detects a significant amount of movement — is something we’ll see a lot more of in the coming year. In previous versions of Android Wear it felt like Google had created a lot of options and then waited for developers to wander in and create things for users. Android Wear 2.0 is a lot more focused on letting users build their own experience, which allows developers to help users adjust that experience as the need arises. It’s a big shift, and it requires a little more work on behalf of the user than previous attempts at wearables, but this is by far the most complete feeling version of Android Wear to date as a result.

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Go make it your own

Android Wear 2.0 Bottom line

So what is this new version of Android Wear, exactly? Is it an attempt to put a phone on your wrist? Could this be a way to sneak the Play Store onto the wrists of iPhone users? Is this an attempt to fight off stagnation by stuffing in every feature your relatively small user base demands? In a way, it’s probably all of these things. But in the process, it’s actually none of these things.

Android Wear 2.0 is the perfect encapsulation of “Be Together, Not the Same” in hardware form. Google was already ahead of the pack with personalization in the form of watch faces, and by enabling hardware manufacturers to offer more unique watches there’s a lot of potential for this platform moving forward. No two people are going to have the exact same experience, but at the same time there’s a consistency that can be appreciated by anyone interested in having a computer on their wrist that also tells time.

8
Feb

LG Watch Sport specs: 1.4-inch display, LTE and Android Pay


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If you like bells and whistles, you get them on the LG Watch Sport.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the LG Watch Style, we also have the big and brawny LG Watch Sport. The name gives it away — this is a sport-focused watch that includes some nice features. Its big circular display offers ambient brightness sensing, and the thick case gives you a speaker, LTE, a top-notch heart rate sensor and standalone GPS for fitness tracking.

There’s a lot going on in this watch — here’s the full LG Watch Sport spec sheet.

Software Android Wear 2.0
Display 1.38-inch 480×480 P-OLEDAuto-brightnessGorilla Glass 3
Processor Snapdragon Wear 2100 1.1GHz
Memory 768MB
Storage 4GB
Battery 430 mAhWireless charging
Connectivity LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFCAccelerometer, gyroscope, barometerPPG heart rate sensor
Resistance IP68
Straps TPUNon-removable
Dimensions 45.4 x 51.21 x 14.2 mm
Colors Titanium, Dark Blue (Google Store only)
Price $349

8
Feb

Google announces LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style with Android Wear 2.0, on sale Feb 10


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Welcome to a new era of Android Wear smartwatches.

Google is ready to launch its newest revision of Android Wear, version 2.0, and it has paired up with LG for two new smartwatches to showcase the latest software. The LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style are launching in tandem to show both sides of what Android Wear can be — big and powerful, but also slim and beautiful.

Both watches are cut from 316L stainless steel, and have resistance from the elements (IP68 for the Sport, IP67 for the Style). They have Gorilla Glass 3-covered circular P-OLED displays with ambient brightness sensors (even without a “flat tire”), as well as new Snapdragon Wear 2100 processors and rotating crowns for a new form of input. Beyond those shared basics, they couldn’t be more different.

The LG Watch Sport picks up where the last-gen Android Wear watches left off. With a 1.38-inch display it’s large and full of features, including LTE, GPS, NFC for Android Pay, a PPG heart rate sensor and a large 430 mAh battery to handle the extra workload. Of course that all has to fit somewhere, and the Watch Sport is over 14 mm thick, with a case size of 45.4 x 51.2 mm and integrated straps to hold necessary radios. You can choose between a deep silver case with a dark grey band, or a dark blue case with a black band (exclusive to the Google Store).

You get the same core experience, but the designs couldn’t be further apart.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the LG Watch Style, which is the most compact Android Wear watch to date. It has a smaller 1.2-inch display and a 10.8 mm thick case that is finely sculpted to fit on even small wrists. Of course that means it has a smaller battery, 240 mAh, as well as a lack of a heart rate sensor, GPS, NFC, LTE and the two extra side buttons. It comes in three colors — silver, titanium and rose gold — with genuine leather straps, which can also be swapped out for any 18 mm strap of your choosing.

Read our LG Watch Sport review!Read our LG Watch Style review!

Aside from the handful of hardware-dependent features, both watches run the same new software: Android Wear 2.0. The latest revision includes a redesign watch face design that integrates complications from apps, a fresh take on notifications that are easier to act on, and standalone apps that can do even more without the need for a connection. Android Wear 2.0 also introduces Google Assistant on your wrist, and new methods of input like gesture typing and emoji drawing.

Both watches will go on sale starting Friday, February 10, through a variety of retail channels. The simpler and sleeker LG Watch Style comes in at just $249 and will be available from Best Buy and the Google Store. The powerful LG Watch Sport will set you back $349 at the Google Store, AT&T and Verizon — data plans, which are not required, will run $5-10 per month from the carriers.

Internationally, the LG Watch Sport and Watch Style will come to various carriers and retailers across Canada, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, UAE and the UK in the coming weeks.

More: What’s new in Android Wear 2.0

Press release:

Android Wear 2.0: Make the most of every minute

While traditional watches tell the time, Android Wear watches make the most of your time. In an instant, you can check when and where you’re meeting a friend, whether you’ll need an umbrella tonight, or how many minutes you’ve been active today—all without reaching for your phone. Today, we’re announcing Android Wear 2.0 to give you more informative watch faces, better work outs, new ways to use apps, more ways to stay in touch, and on-the-go help from Google Assistant. We’re also introducing two new watches that run Android Wear 2.0.

More personalized, helpful watch faces

You can now personalize your Android Wear always-on watch face with information and actions from your favorite apps. Simply glance at your wrist to check your next appointment, stock performance, progress on fitness goals, or whatever is important to you. A quick tap on your watch face lets you instantly order an Uber ride, start a workout, or get in touch with your significant other. Interested in different info throughout the day? Just swipe to switch your watch face as you go from the office to the gym to dinner with friends and home again.

Better ways to work out

Google Fit, the pre-installed fitness app on most Android Wear watches, now lets you track your pace, distance, calories burned and heart rate* as you’re walking, running or cycling. You can also measure weight-lifting reps, in addition to push-ups, sit-ups and squats. When you work out with a cellular-connected Android Wear watch, you can stay in touch with calls and messages, stream tunes from Google Play Music and still use your favorite apps right on your watch.

New ways to use apps

With Android Wear 2.0, you can choose which apps you want on your watch and download them directly from the new on-watch Google Play Store. If your watch has a cellular connection, you can make calls and use your watch apps no matter where your phone is. Whether you use an Android phone or iPhone, you’ll be able to use apps built for Android Wear 2.0, like AccuWeather, Android Pay*, Foursquare, Google Fit, Google Messenger, Google Play Music, Lifesum, Robin Hood, Runkeeper, Runtastic, Strava, Telegram, Uber and many more.

More ways to respond to messages

Now it’s easier than ever to read and respond to a message right from your watch. When you receive a message, you can expand the notification and tap to respond by dictating, typing or handwriting your answer, or drawing an emoji. Try it out on apps like Facebook Messenger, Glide, Google Messenger, Hangouts, Telegram or WhatsApp., Need to respond quickly? Use Smart Reply, which instantly and intelligently suggests different responses based on the message you received.

The Google Assistant on your wrist

Android Wear 2.0 brings the Google Assistant to your wrist, so you can find answers and get things done—hands free. Ask your Google Assistant about the weather or remind yourself to bring an umbrella. Make a restaurant reservation or navigate to work. You can even update your shopping list right from your wrist. To ask for help, just hold down the power button on your watch or say “Ok Google.” The Google Assistant is available in English and German on Android Wear and will be available in other languages in the coming months.

Introducing LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport

The first watches with Android Wear 2.0 are the LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport—both designed in collaboration with Google.

The LG Watch Style is thin, light, beautiful to look at and comfortable to wear. It’s available in three classic designs and finishes—silver, rose gold and titanium—and compatible with snap-and-swap 18mm leather and silicone bands out of the box, so you can quickly switch bands to match your look or the occasion. The rotating power button lets you easily scroll through your stream, bring up the app launcher, or access your Google Assistant.

The LG Watch Sport is Android Wear’s most powerful watch yet. Available in titanium and dark blue, the LG Watch Sport comes with a high performance elastomer strap, NFC for payments, GPS for tracking exercise and navigation, a heart rate sensor for your workouts, and cellular connectivity. With dedicated buttons for Google Fit and Android Pay, plus a rotating power button, it lets you instantly launch your favorite apps. From phone calls to payments, LG Watch Sport is pretty much everything you need whether you’re running the trails or just running some errands.

Starting February 10, you can find LG Watch Style at Best Buy and the Google Store and the LG Watch Sport at AT&T and Verizon. These watches will be available at carriers and retailers across Canada, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, UAE and U.K. in the coming weeks.

Android Wear 2.0 will be available for all supported Android Wear watches in the coming weeks. We hope Android Wear 2.0 lets you stay more informed, organized, healthy and connected to what matters most.

* Some functionality require hardware sensors which are not available on all Android Wear watches.

Android Wear

  • Everything you need to know about Android Wear 2.0
  • LG Watch Sport review
  • LG Watch Style review
  • These watches will get Android Wear 2.0
  • Discuss Android Wear in the forums!

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