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25
Feb

Data disaster averted! How to back up your Android smartphone


Oh no! You dropped your phone in the street. Then it was run over. Twice. And then you were almost hit by a Subaru trying to rescue it from the middle of the crosswalk.

If this sad story sounds familiar — or at least plausible — chances are the first thought racing through your head, as an onslaught cars race over your phone, is of all the contacts, photos, text messages, and notes stored on your device. What’s an Android aficionado to do in a case like this? Like your mother once said, “Plan ahead.”

More: Everything you need to know about using a MicroSD card in Android

Planning ahead is the easiest way to make sure your data isn’t lost to the ether, even if your phone is destroyed. Luckily, Google automatically syncs your contacts, calendar appointments, docs, and even app purchases — as long as you give it permission to do so. While Google will preserve a lot of your data, there are other methods and backup programs that will allow you to save the same data. Read on to find out how to back up your Android phone’s content to your PC.

Stick with Google

Giving Google permission to back up your stuff will vary slightly from phone to phone. In general, you’ll want to go to Settings > Backup & reset then tap Backup my data and Automatic restore. That will cover the following:

  • Google Calendar settings
  • Wi-Fi networks & passwords
  • Home screen wallpapers
  • Gmail settings
  • Apps installed through Google Play (backed up on the Play Store app)
  • Display settings (Brightness & Sleep)
  • Language & Input settings
  • Date & Time
  • Third-party app settings & data (varies by app)

how to back up your android smartphone pc backup

how to back up your android smartphone pc backup

how to back up your android smartphone pc backup

You’re not done yet. While in Settings go to Accounts and click on your Google account. You’ll see a long list of sync icons covering App data, Calendar, Contacts, Docs, Gmail, Photos, and any other service you can virtually back up. Make sure there’s a check in the box next to everything you want backed up. That’s it.

But that’s not the only backup trick Google has up its sleeve. If you use Google’s Music service, all of your tunes will be preserved on Google’s servers, even if both your phone and your computer die at the same time. If you have a large music collection, like we do, the initial upload process will take a long time — we’re talking days. But once the first upload is done, subsequent albums will upload as they are added to your collection. Your music can then be streamed on up to ten Android devices or to other computers.

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25
Feb

Data disaster averted! How to back up your Android smartphone


Oh no! You dropped your phone in the street. Then it was run over. Twice. And then you were almost hit by a Subaru trying to rescue it from the middle of the crosswalk.

If this sad story sounds familiar — or at least plausible — chances are the first thought racing through your head, as an onslaught cars race over your phone, is of all the contacts, photos, text messages, and notes stored on your device. What’s an Android aficionado to do in a case like this? Like your mother once said, “Plan ahead.”

More: Everything you need to know about using a MicroSD card in Android

Planning ahead is the easiest way to make sure your data isn’t lost to the ether, even if your phone is destroyed. Luckily, Google automatically syncs your contacts, calendar appointments, docs, and even app purchases — as long as you give it permission to do so. While Google will preserve a lot of your data, there are other methods and backup programs that will allow you to save the same data. Read on to find out how to back up your Android phone’s content to your PC.

Stick with Google

Giving Google permission to back up your stuff will vary slightly from phone to phone. In general, you’ll want to go to Settings > Backup & reset then tap Backup my data and Automatic restore. That will cover the following:

  • Google Calendar settings
  • Wi-Fi networks & passwords
  • Home screen wallpapers
  • Gmail settings
  • Apps installed through Google Play (backed up on the Play Store app)
  • Display settings (Brightness & Sleep)
  • Language & Input settings
  • Date & Time
  • Third-party app settings & data (varies by app)

how to back up your android smartphone pc backup

how to back up your android smartphone pc backup

how to back up your android smartphone pc backup

You’re not done yet. While in Settings go to Accounts and click on your Google account. You’ll see a long list of sync icons covering App data, Calendar, Contacts, Docs, Gmail, Photos, and any other service you can virtually back up. Make sure there’s a check in the box next to everything you want backed up. That’s it.

But that’s not the only backup trick Google has up its sleeve. If you use Google’s Music service, all of your tunes will be preserved on Google’s servers, even if both your phone and your computer die at the same time. If you have a large music collection, like we do, the initial upload process will take a long time — we’re talking days. But once the first upload is done, subsequent albums will upload as they are added to your collection. Your music can then be streamed on up to ten Android devices or to other computers.

25
Feb

Imint’s Vidhance software stabilizes shaky smartphone video in real time


Why it matters to you

With a Vidhance-equipped smartphone, you never have to worry about shaky video again.

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Unsteady hands are the bane of every smartphone videographer’s existence. Optical image stabilization helps a bit, but unless your phone is secured to a gimbal or mount, capturing steady footage from your smartphone’s sensor is a Sisyphean task. To help address this problem, Imint AB, a Swedish video technology company that writes and sells image-stabilization and analysis software for military drones, has developed algorithms that can smooth out shaky footage from virtually any phone.

More: Smove gives smartphone videos a steady hand, auto-follow, and backup battery

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, Imint will demo the latest release of Premium Video Stabilization, which stabilizes phone footage in real time and is part of the Vidhance software suite. One of the firm’s side-by-side tests found that it scored 2.7 times better than the iPhone 7’s built-in stabilization features and 43 percent better than the Google Pixel’s electronic image stabilization (EIS). In “more challenging scenerios,” it outperformed the iPhone 7 Plus by a factor of four.

Even better, Vidhance’s real-time enhancements don’t impact the quality of the footage. In an interview with TechCrunch, Imit CEO Andreas Livendahl said that the stabilization algorithms can process images in a “single frame,” and that the bulk of processing happens silently in the background.

That’s a boon for stabilization. Most competing solutions, like Instagram’s Hyperlapse, don’t work in real time, or require that you crop out parts of the video. But with Vidhance, you get a sense of how the final result will look without having to wait for post-processing.

Imit’s software suite offers more than just enhanced stabilization. A new auto-zoom algorithm, the fruit of the company’s work on drone defense systems and surveillance software, can automatically track and zoom in on “the most interesting parts” of the video. Another automatically curates highlights from longer videos and stitches them together, like the Assistant feature in Google Photos.

More: This stabilizer gives smartphone cameras auto follow, physical controls

Imit’s stabilization software is already found in Huawei devices like the Huawei Mate 9, and the firm is teaming up with French smartphone maker Wiko and Spain-based BQ on future smartphones. And earlier this year, Init announced a venture with Samsung that’ll see Vidhance implemented in future “non-smartphone” devices.

“Getting our software into real phone products is an important milestone; it confirms that we have directed our skills and resources in the right direction,” Vidhance director Johan Svensson said. “We are devoted to making consumers’ precious moments truly cinematic, but we will not lose our engineering focus in achieving this vision. We will continue to add features to our video stabilization package to secure our long-term leadership.”

25
Feb

The FCC just rolled back some of its privacy rules, reversing previous positions


Why it matters to you

While previous FCC rules sought to protect consumers from ISPs, the new administration doesn’t seem to agree with these guidelines

The FCC is under new leadership, and it’s looking to scale back some of the privacy regulations of the previous administration. On Friday, the newly appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission asked the organization to delay a set of the privacy rules that was initially slated to take effect next week. These rules in particular were meant to protect customers’ personal information from internet service providers by regulating how ISPs could collect this data.

In a statement, the new chairman, Ajit Pai, noted “the best way to protect the online privacy of American consumers is through a comprehensive and uniform regulatory framework. All actors in the online space should be subject to the same rules, and the federal government shouldn’t favor one set of companies over another.”

These sentiments are likely welcomed by a number of telecommunications and cable companies that have argued that the more stringent privacy laws put forth by the FCC put them at a disadvantage when compared to other internet companies like Google and Netflix, which do collect data on their customers, but are not overseen by the FCC, but rather by the Federal Trade Commission. Indeed, companies like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, have already filed a petition asking the FCC to delay other privacy rules that were previously passed as part of the Commission’s “net neutrality” overhaul.

More: FCC filings reveal that Google is working on a 4K wireless Fiber TV box

On the other hand, privacy advocates have noted that ISPs are more capable of collecting data than websites and other companies, as ISPs are responsible for providing the connections to those websites and companies. Moreover, consumer groups note, ISPs could use this data for their own purposes, or worse yet, sell it off for marketing purposes.

So keep an eye out, friends. The FCC is changing course when it comes to your privacy, and we’ll just have to wait and see how this one plays out.

25
Feb

Everything you need to know about the magical magnetic goop known as ferrofluid


If you’ve seen those videos with fascinating ink-like fluid spiraling into thorns and prickling patterns, you’ve seen ferrofluid. But what exactly is this stuff, and why does it act that way? Is it really some type of liquid magnet? Perhaps more importantly, can you get some? Let’s dive in!

Ferrofluid: When magnets go nano

The typical ferrofluid you see in viral videos is made by mixing a bunch of very, very small bits of iron oxide with oil, and usually some kind of surfactant to prevent the pieces from clogging together. The most common kind of iron oxide used in ferrofluid is known as magnetite, because — you guessed it — it’s a ferromagnetic material that’s not only attracted to magnets, but that can also be magnetized and turned into a permanent magnet itself. Ferrofluid is basically little bits of this stuff suspended in goo; that’s the easy answer.

More: Channel your inner Magneto with these 7 captivating ferrofluid gadgets

The more complicated explanation is all about nanoparticles. Back in the 1960s, experiments in chemistry showed that ferrofluids could be created and stabilized — a discovery actually made by NASA while searching for ways to control liquid fuel in the weightlessness of space.

Improved techniques eventually yielded easy ways to splice iron oxide into nanoparticles around 10 nanometers wide. That’s so small that these particles rarely even settle to the bottom of the fluid — they just stay suspended, floating around. They are even subject to good old Brownian motion, which keeps the ferrofluid evenly distributed and slick for long periods of time.

Making those weird designs

Okay, but how does the ferrofluid magically transform into spikes and those crazy hedgehog shapes?

Think of it as a very careful chemical balancing act involving many different forces all hitting a sweet spot. Imagine that you apply a magnetic force to a ferrofluid, say, through a permanent magnet you have lying around. Here are several of the key interactions that happen:

The magnetite acts as magnetite does and is attracted/repelled based on the magnetic field – all those little nanoparticles respond to the force and start moving.
The surfactant (the same kind of chemical used in detergent to remove stains) remains ultra-slippery and refuses to let the nanoparticles attach to each other. They keep slipping away while they move, forming quick bonds with the surfactant instead to become a special type of ligand, or a coordinate bond with a metal atom.
At the same time, the surface of the ferrofluid experiences a lot of surface tension, which allows the fluid to maintain shapes for longer periods of time when it is drawn out.
Meanwhile, Van der Waals forces are having a similar effect on the molecules within the mixture, allowing them to maintain a surprising amount of cohesion as the ferrofluid moves.
On top of it all, as the ferrofluid is being pulled by the magnetic force, the heaviest parts are also being dragged back down by gravity at the same time.

Add it all together, and what do you get? A dazzling display of spikes, rivulets, and magical behavior. Additionally, the fluid is what is known as “superparamagnetic” which means that, unlike normal magnetite, it loses its charge every time and collapses back into a fluid, unable to hold a permanent, magnetically stabilized form.

Note that this mixture of reactions doesn’t happen with all ferrofluids, all the time. The ferrofluid demonstrations you see online or in a lab are made with particular ferrofluids that are known for having that kind of effect. Other ferrofluids can behave in different ways, although none are quite as visually striking.

Practical applications for ferrofluid

Remember, ferrofluids weren’t originally designed for fun: They can be created from iron, cobalt, nickel, and a variety of different oils and surfactants, giving them a variety of applications in the industrial world. The most important is probably their use in semiconductor manufacturing, where the fluid is used to seal powerful hydraulic machinery and other components to increase power while preventing contamination.

More: Unorthodox “ferrolic” clock displays the time with magnets and ferrofluid

For an example a little closer to home, consider large, fancy speakers. Sometimes these loudspeakers use a magnet surrounded by ferrofluid: This keeps the magnet cool and helps prevent unwanted vibrations. Likewise, customized SATA hard drives sometimes use ferrofluids for similar reasons.

In the future, scientists hope to successfully use ferrofluid as a transmitting material for chemical treatments in healthcare – for example, allowing doctors to control exactly where a drug is focused in the body.

Buying that cool ferrofluid

One of the useful things about ferrofluids (unlike other showy pieces of science) is that you can easily locate safe versions, which makes them great for showing off in the classroom or at home. Yes, you can absolutely buy your own ferrofluids, and you even have a couple different options:

  • Kits with bottled ferrofluid: These tend to be cheap and easy to play with. However, ferrofluids are notorious for staining anything they touch, so you’ll have to be very careful when using them. Some experience is preferred.
  • Glass display bottles: These are safer and prettier – you simply use magnets to move the ferrofluid around the bottle. However, there are two problems here. First, these bottles don’t last forever, because the ferrofluid eventually starts to settle or coats the bottle surface. Second, these bottles are tightly sealed, which means they often fare poorly in freezing temperatures.
  • Artistic display options: These are fancier bottles or lava lamp-like displays designed more for showing off than teaching. Always read reviews carefully for these to make sure the display doesn’t have any long-term issues.

Creating your own ferrofluid

If you’re more of a DIY-minded person, you can even create your own ferrofluids, although it’s significantly more dangerous than just buying a bottle. However, some hobbyists do create ferrofluid as a powerful acidic reagent, or even use it to make their own art. Just be prepared to use some tricky chemicals like ferric chloride and ammonia, as well as the necessary equipment to boil it (and all the risks that entails). A lab is often the best location for a project like this, and if you find the right class you may even be able to create it as part of a project.

25
Feb

Deck your phone out for your Oscars Party with these award-worthy wallpapers!


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It’s time for us all to pretend we care about movies as an art form for one night!

This weekend, millions will gather at Oscar parties and act like they knew Hidden Figures was going to win Best Picture. Or Moonlight. Or Arrival. As the proud holder of a Radio-Television-Film BA, I’m gonna ooh and aah over the fanfare, whine when Disney doesn’t sweep everything, and squee within an inch of my life when Lin Manuel-Miranda performs. And I’m gonna do it with a snazzy, wallpaper on my Android phone.

Who is your home screen wearing?

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Fences is a tale of family drama, racial divides, betrayal, and reconciliation. It’s about the fences we put up between each other and how we learn to tear them down. It’s a powerful film based on a powerful play, and may finally earn Viola Davis an Oscar. If you only go see one Oscar-nominated film, make it this one.

Fences poster

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La La Land is a love story about Hollywood made for Hollywood by Hollywood, featuring a bounty of movie and musical magic. Yes, another one. Feels like we just had the slightly meta Hollywood homage movie just a few years ago, but here we are again, and it’s just as intoxicating as ever. The problem for me with La La Land isn’t that I can’t get enough of it. It’s that once I watch it, I’m gonna want to curl up on the couch and watch Gene Kelly movies for the next month, and I can’t do that. I’ve got themes to make!

But this poster might live on my home screen a little while. Dancing in the darkness…

La La Land Poster by isadena (La La Land, because Hollywood loves homages to itself)

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I currently call Waco home, and I think the whole town is pulling for this movie for one simple reason: Jeff Bridges’s character is based on McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara. I want you to close your eyes for a moment and imagine a Texas lawman cliche. Now look at this man. He looks like he just stepped out of a movie, doesn’t he? That’s our sheriff.

Stereotypes aside, Hell or High Water was kind of a surprise as far as the Oscars went, and while I’m not dreaming of it becoming the next No Country for Old Men, it’s an interesting little Western with great casting, good cinematography, and is well worth a Google Play rental

Hell or High Water Poster

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Moana’s about to get robbed. Ironic, considering her whole movie centers on her taking a thief to return what he stole. It might get Best Original Song, because Lin Manuel-Miranda is a musical god, but Zootopia is going to take home the Best Animated film statue. It’s okay, though, because this movie was gold in my heart and it’s gold on my home screen with this beautiful, beautiful wallpaper.

I was a sequel. Or a TV show. If Tangled can get one, so can Moana!

Moana Poster by christon-clivef

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Need a wallpaper that hedges your bets and lets you keep that Oscars spirit? Well, this wallpaper is one you can use year after year after year, with a nice bright pattern and an understated elegance. It’s like your apps and widgets are right there on the red carpet, posing before they head into the Dolby Theater.

Oscars logo wallpaper

25
Feb

Samsung at MWC 2017: Galaxy Tab S3 liveblog at 1:00 p.m. ET Feb. 26!


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The latest from Samsung is set to be unveiled.

Even though we know the Galaxy S8 won’t arrive until April, Samsung is well overdue for a tablet lineup refresh and that’s what we’re expecting to see at its MWC 2017 press conference. In particular we’re looking at a Galaxy Tab S3 of some sort to replace the well-aged Galaxy Tab S2 series, and though we have a few details via leaks we don’t know the whole story just yet.

Samsung could surely drop some interesting unexpected announcements on us as well, as is often the case at these big shows.

So join us for a liveblog of the Samsung press conference at MWC 2017 — it all kicks off at 7:00 p.m. local time in Barcelona, which equates to 1 p.m. in New York and 10:00 a.m. in San Francisco.

25
Feb

BlackBerry KEYone is the Mercury’s official name, and it’s coming in April for $549


Mercury is no more, but in its place, the KEYone hopes to be the beginning of a beautiful QWERTY legacy for BlackBerry.

The Mercury has a name, and the phone that rode into 2017 without one hopes to be a catalyst for a series of devices released annually by the newly-formed BlackBerry Mobile.

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The phone we all know: it’s a long candybar design with a slightly stumped 3:2 aspect ratio IPS display and a permanent QWERTY keyboard that fills in the remaining space of a traditional widescreen smartphone. That’s the main selling feature on an otherwise mid-range phone that nonetheless sports some very nice design touches, a decent camera, and BlackBerry’s well-regarded Android build that — and this was reiterated a bunch of times to us — is signed by BlackBerry in Canada, maintaining the security legacy the beleaguered former software giant is known for.

With a 4.5-inch 1620×1080 pixel IPS display nested atop the QWERTY keyboard, this is the product that commands the attention of both BlackBerry Passport and Classic users — people who either stuck with BB10 — or have since moved on to other platforms but yearn for that hardware keyboard. And while the KEYone isn’t ideal for landscape use, BlackBerry Mobile is aiming for a very particular demographic with this device: Bureaucrats. Workaholics. Industry people.

This is reinforced by the phone’s 3505mAh battery which, coupled with a Snapdragon 625 processor, keeps it going for over a day and, for some light users, approach two days. With an excellent camera pedigree — it has a Sony IMX378 sensor inside, the same one as the award-winning Pixel — this is certainly a capable device, and one that, if you check out our hands-on, comes off as a well-rounded handset, especially given its niche market aspirations.

Available for $549 in the U.S. starting in early April, the BlackBerry KEYone isn’t going to sell millions of units, but this is fan service at its best, and one that its new overseers in BlackBerry Mobile hope sells enough to justify a KEYtwo, and three, and four.

See at BlackBerry Mobile

25
Feb

BlackBerry KEYone hands-on: Your dad’s favorite Android phone


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Mercury has a name, but there are still lots of questions remaining.

The BlackBerry ‘Mercury’ isn’t new — you saw it at CES — but the company behind the new phone, BlackBerry Mobile, has been trickle-announcing the hardware QWERTY flagship, teasing it to hardcore CrackBerry addicts who came of age tapping away on Bolds and Curves.

But this is a new BlackBerry — the phone itself is made by TCL, under the eponymous Waterloo company’s brand — and the first in a series of devices set to be released this year, next year, and if successful, well beyond. This is the BlackBerry KEYone.

Now that we know more about the phone, I’m happy to report that it’s actually quite nice. The aluminum frame is solid and the design is anything but pedestrian, with overtly curved sides meeting a flat-top frame and exposed antenna lines. There’s an old-school industrial feel to the whole thing that I really dig — the dual tones of black and silver work really well here, harkening back to some BlackBerrys of the past while updating the look for 2017.

This is a great phone, unless you use a lot of landscape apps.

In fact, if you stare at the KEYone long enough, you begin to see its direct influences bleed through: this is a BlackBerry Passport Silver Edition squeezed and elongated, melded with the keyboard of the BlackBerry Classic. Of course, both those phones ran BlackBerry 10, and had square displays, precluding those form factors from working properly with Android. (In fact, BlackBerry was reportedly working on turning the Passport into an Android handset, but could never optimize the OS at the time, Lollipop, for its 1:1 aspect ratio.)

So now we’re in 2017, with a brand new company, TCL Communication, overseeing the design and manufacturing of the largely-forgotten BlackBerry handset legacy, and after two nondescript metal-and-glass all-touch devices, BlackBerry is once again embracing its strangeness, its apartness, with the KEYone.

The spec sheet

Operating System Android 7.1.1 Marshmallow
Display 4.5-inch, 1620×1080 (434 ppi)IPS LCD
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 625Quad-core 2.00GHzAdreno 506 GPU
RAM 3GB
Storage 32GB
Expandable microSD up to 2TB
Rear Camera 12MP f/2.0, PDAF1.55-micron pixelsdual-tone LED flashHDR, 4K, 30fps
Front Camera 8MP f/2.21.12-micron pixelsSelfie flash1080p/30 video
Battery 3505 mAh non-removable
Charging Quick Charge 3.0 USB-C
Water resistance No
Security DTEK security suiteFIPS 140-2 Full Disk EncryptionAndroid For Work, Google Play for Work
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11ac, 5GHz, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, NFCGPS, GLONASS
Network (NA GSM) LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/19/20/28/29/30 TD-LTE Band 38/39/40/41
Network (NA CDMA) LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/12/13/20/25/26/28/29/30 TD-LTE Band 41 CDMA BC 0/1/10
Network (EMEA) LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/13/17/20/28 TD-LTE Band 38,40
Dimensions 149.1 x 72.39 x 9.4 mm
Weight 180 g

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The core of the issue

Aside from the name, the one major part of the story missing from the intiial announcement back at CES was the spec sheet. While much had been surmised based on leaks, we now have context for exactly the market at which BlackBerry Mobile is aiming with this phone: workaholics. This is a phone positioned squarely for people in government agencies, healthcare, finance — bureaucrats and weekenders, alike — just like the good old days. Steve Cistulli, BlackBerry Mobile’s GM, told me that every spec, including the Snapdragon 625, was chosen with one goal in mind: to prolong battery life.

I’m happy to say that the keyboard feels like a BlackBerry in the ways that count.

That is fueled by the non-removable 3505mAh battery, the largest ever found in a BlackBerry device. While we haven’t used the KEYone for more than a few hours, I can safely say, based on the chip’s impressive legacy inside devices like the Moto Z Play (which has a similar battery size), this thing will last well over a day, and perhaps close to two.

But that’s all well and good — phones with big batteries abound. What’s it like to actually use this thing, to straddle a permanent keyboard with a touchscreen interface that has, over the past few years, weened itself off any input method that isn’t a finger (or, I guess, a stylus)?

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The KEYboard

First, this is probably not the last phone from BlackBerry Mobile with an exposed QWERTY keyboard. You can tell from the name. The form factor may not be common in the Android space, but there is a small, loyal group of folks that have been clamoring for this exact device since the early part of this decade.

The whole experience lives and dies by the keyboard; if it didn’t properly translate over to the brand’s new overlord, the whole thing would be for nought, big battery and all. I’m happy to say that this feels like a BlackBerry in most ways. The contours you’re used to from previous Bolds and Classics are gone, but that’s on purpose: they reportedly got in the way of gesture navigation, which is a key part of the KEYone experience.

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But other than that minor change, this is nearly the same keyboard you’re used to from the Classic. It’s clickly and responsive, with excellent travel — for more than the shallow, disappointing Priv — with keys of correct proportion for my fat thumbs.

BlackBerry KEYone vs. BlackBerry Priv

And while it took me, my joints, and my brain to re-form an alliance with the notion of pushing on physical keys over the smooth glass of a touchscreen, having done it for years it felt like coming home. But it’s sort of like that childhood bedroom that hasn’t changed in over 20 years; it’s nostalgic and, at first, cozy, but after a while I get the impression it will feel suffocating and limiting.

If you stare at the phone long enough, you see that it looks like the love child of BlackBerry Passport Silver Edition and a BlackBerry Classic.

BlackBerry Mobile has augmented this keyboard with a few neat tricks, though none particularly innovative. As with with the Priv, the keyboard doubles as a trackpad for navigating between supported UI elements — swiping down a webpage, for instance, or flipping between photos — as well as 52 distinctive shortcut buttons that, either tapped or held, can launch apps or app shortcuts (though not, as I noted, the equivalent of the Pixel Launcher’s app shortcuts, which appear to be kept separate).

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One thing that was emphasized again and again about the KEYone is its one hand-friendliness, which it is. My human-sized thumb could reach the opposite end of the keyboard to peck out a response while holding a coffee (I tried it; it was good coffee!), aided by BlackBerry’s always-excellent gesture-based suggestion engine.

Though it’s not possible to use an on-screen keyboard with the KEYone (for obvious reasons), while typing a short row of three suggested words appear above the screen, easily chosen by swiping up in one of the three delineated sections of the keyboard.

And then there’s the fingerprint sensor built into the spacebar. This is, really, the substantive differentiator from previous keyboards, and it’s, well, great. While it’s not the first BlackBerry with said feature — that debuted on the back of the DTEK60 — it’s certainly the best implementation to date, and it saves time.

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A camera to remember

While I didn’t get a chance to sample too many of the KEYone’s photos, I know this: the sensor, Sony’s IMX378, is the same excellent one inside the Pixel, and while the phone lacks optical image stabilization, I was impressed by the results I saw. BlackBerry’s done some spit-shining to the overall interface, too, including the addition of a very decent Pro mode, which should make it easier to get those low-light photos that we loved on the Pixel.

But simply putting a quality sensor inside a phone isn’t a recipe for success — see practically every Sony phone released in the past four years — so it remains to be seen whether BlackBerry Mobile has managed to eke a win, but the IMX378 alone is a good start.

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BlackBerry legacy

BlackBerry Mobile may a subbrand of another company, but the software here — Android 7.1.1 Nougat — is made by BB proper. The two organizations are working closely on the software, with the Canadian firm issuing updates and signing final builds to ensure that security is maintained throughout the process. That part — that the software is signed in North America — was emphasized, too, perhaps as pretense to a carrot of sorts, to convince U.S. government agencies that the KEYone is the right tool for the job.

You also get all the improvements you’d expect in Nougat — which hasn’t been made available for the Priv, or any Android-based BlackBerry just yet — including multi window, display scaling, and improved notifications. These are core features one would expect on any modern Android phone, and they translate here to great success, largely because BlackBerry doesn’t spend much effort skinning the phone. Even the launcher is as barebones as manufacturer launchers get. Alas, though: no Google Assistant (but yay for display scaling and monthly security updates!).

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Apps like BlackBerry Hub, DTEK, and a plethora of productivity apps, are all pre-loaded, and if you’re already a fan, you’ll continue to be here. The launcher is still great, as are the various additions peppered through the OS — including the right-side convenience key, which continues the legacy of supplanting where you think a power button should be. (That particular button, little used with a fingerprint sensor and double-tap-to-wake, is on the side of the phone.)

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Here’s where things get tricky: with the keyboard in the way, and the screen an already-unusual 3:2 aspect ratio, landscape content — particularly apps and games that are optimized for 16:9, or, like some games, require a person to hold onto a device with two hands and gesticulate with thumbs — are not going to work so well.

Sure, BlackBerry Mobile isn’t aiming the phone at gamers, nor will it mind alienating a few Clash of Clans addicts, but it’s something to keep in mind. That keyboard, unlike then Priv’s that could disappear, or any modern metal-and-glass handset, isn’t going anywhere for the lifespan of the phone. You’re buying this thing for the keyboard.

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Buying it for the keyboard

Here’s the part where I tell you price and availability. I can do one of those things with surity: it will cost $549 USD / €599 / £499. In the U.S., it will be sold exclusively unlocked — even under new management, BlackBerry Mobile has no intentions of retreading old wounds with carriers. So, without subsidy or financing, that’s not a cheap phone, but for the money you buy into a very particular set of abilities, for better or worse. In Europe and the UK, there may be carrier partners, but BlackBerry Mobile isn’t divulging anything just yet.

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In Canada, there will be carrier partners, and it will actually launch first in its home and native land in early April, though a particular day has not been specified just yet.

For now, I can safely say I look forward to seeing how much trouble my thumbs can get into after using the device for a few weeks; it’s just too bad that I have to wait until April to do it.

And now we wait — again. 👎 👍

25
Feb

Everything you need to know about Verizon’s Unlimited plan


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A complete breakdown of Verizon’s new Unlimited plan and everything else you can get when you sign up for service.

In the United States, there are a lot of companies that can get you and your phone online, but most people use one of the four biggest: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. Choosing between them can be difficult. Your first priority should be what service works best in the places you spend your time. It’s not worth saving $10 a month if the service is bad. Once you have that sorted, you can look at what each company has to offer and the prices they charge for it.

More: Which unlimited plan should you buy?

Let’s take a look at Verizon to see what they can give you and what it will cost.

Note: The details of this plan are current as of February 20, 2017.

Verizon Unlimited plan details

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  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Unlimited HD streaming video (see Verizon’s Video Optimization Deployment page)
  • 10GB high-speed mobile hotspot
  • Add a tablet with unlimited data for $10 per month
  • Add a connected device for $5 per month
  • Unlimited calling and texting to and from Canada and Mexico

Verizon’s definition of Unlimited Data means that after you use 22 GB in a single month, your service can be slowed down if you’re in a congested area. You’ll hear the word throttled used here but you need to know that it’s only a temporary deprioritization of your data connection when you’re in a busy area. It may not happen at all depending on how many other customers are using the same towers.

Verizon gives you all the details and fine print on their website, though you might have to dig around to find them.

Verizon links you to all of the fine print right from your cart when you sign up for the unlimited plan. In that fine print you’ll see how Verizon takes steps to protect their network. Data services, both on-device and through tethering can not be used for illegal activities, anything that violates trade or economic sanctions, any type of server, email auto-responders or bots and sending malware. They also let you know that they can and will be monitoring your usage to make sure you comply. All service providers have the same restrictions, but Verizon takes the time to present them so well we wanted to give them a shout out.

Additional lines can be added to a Verizon Unlimited plan. Every line has the same benefits outlined above and requires an equipment purchase. Here is a pricing breakdown.

  • One line of service is $80
  • Two lines of service is $140
  • Three lines of service is $162
  • Four lines of service is $180

Verizon Unlimited plan add-ons

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Verizon’s Unlimited plan lets you call and text to Canada and Mexico, and lets you call and text from Canada and Mexico back to the states. If 50% or more of your usage over any 60-day period is from Canada or Mexico Verizon can cut you off. So be careful if you live on the border!

If you need other international services, Verizon has you covered.

  • The free International Messaging add-on lets you send text messages to over 200 countries and multimedia messages to over 100 countries
  • The Unlimited Together – North America add-on gives you discounted calling rates to over 230 locations for $5 per month
  • The Unlimited Together – world add-on gives you discounted calling rates to over 180 locations for $15 per month
  • A daily Travel Pass gives you unlimited data and calling when you’re in one of over 100 countries for $10 per day
  • A monthly Travel Pass gives you discounted calling and messaging rates as well as a data alotment based on your needs (prices vary, see Verizon’s International Travel page)
  • Cruise ship rates are $2.99 per minute for voice calls and $0.50 per message sent / $0.05 per message received for texting.

Verizon also has a program that gives you a prepaid card of up to $650 in value for a trade in if you switch from another network. The details are on the Switch to Verizon page of their website. They also have a referral program and a rewards program that can put money back in your pockets.

They also offer a wide range of their own services, including their own RCS messaging app, a personal cloud and an excellent account management app. You can find them in Google Play.

See at Verizon

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