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9
Mar

Yummly: Unleash the cook inside you (Review)


Some people were born to cook. I’ve seen people that start with a couple of ingredients and end up making culinary masterpieces, after being under total control all the time. Then there’s people like me, who even with recipes, mom’s instructions and recommendations from friends, fail miserably at kitchen-related stuff. For all of those in between (lucky you), there’s Yummly, an app that provides detailed recipes under an attractive interface to spice up your evenings.

Developer: Yummly
Price: Free

Setup

The setup process asks you to create an account for personalization purposes.

When opening the app, it will ask to connect the app to either Google, Facebook or email. Fortunately, for those of us who prefer to not have an account on every app in the Play Store, you can try Yummly without any account or social media integration. However, this won’t let you record your preferences and other personalization aspects.

Yummly uses your social media information to offer you personalized recommendations. If you prefer to do this manually, every recipe has a Yum button, which is just a like button. Based on the things you “Yum,” the app will start to offer you new recommendations.

Finally, to complete the setup, Yummly kindly asks you for the Storage permission, in order to cache pictures displayed in recipes. You can say no if you want, though. I must say that, in an environment notorious for asking permissions that go beyond the app’s purpose, this is a neat approach that should be replicated by other developers.

Overview

The app is divided into three sections: Just for you, Explore and Store. You can probably guess what each section is, but I’ll explain anyways. Yummly puts a lot of focus on personalization and making it yours, so the Just for you section is completely tailored for you. Based on your Yums and the restrictions you can put in place in the options (more on that later), Yummly will personalize this for you.

The Explore tab groups different recipes under categories. For example, there is a popular category that (you guessed it) shows recipes that have caught the attention of Yummly users. Other categories include Trending Now, Seasonal and Kid Friendly.

yummly-6.pngI am truly sorry if you’re reading this review while hungry.

There’s also a videos section in which very detailed videos are posted so that you can visually examine how difficult or easy a recipe is and what the final result looks like. This is done through a built-in YouTube player that works seamlessly.

Finally, the Shop tab doesn’t let you actually buy stuff within the app, but gives useful recommendations about what tools you can buy to make your life easier in the kitchen. Clicking on these recommendations will take you to Amazon, where you can order said tools.

As you might expect it, Yummly puts recipes front and center. Every recipe is accompanied with a very nice picture of how the end result is supposed to look like (expectation vs reality memes incoming). The details screen will also include information about ingredients, calories and the time it takes to do the recipe.

There are three different tabs: Just for you, Explore and Store.

The list of ingredients can be added to a built-in shopping list at the tap of a button. You can also see the reviews other people are giving to the recipe, so that you can decide on if it is worth it or not. Finally, the app suggests similar dishes and categories so that you can continue your search further if you are not satisfied.

However, where are the directions for making the dish itself? Unfortunately, you have to click an additional button that will take you to an embedded web view.

This weird design choice is completely disruptive to the awesome experience the app provides elsewhere. I am not sure of the technical reason behind this but adding a button to see directions seems like a half-baked approach and something that, hopefully, will change in the future.

On the top left, you will see a search button, which lets you search through the whole database of recipes. There’s also a button to access the shopping list.

Digging further into it, we can see that the shopping list is very simple but effective. You can add the ingredients from any recipe and sort them by aisle or by recipes. In case you need something else, you can also add it manually. It is nothing ground-breaking but it gets the job done in a nice way.

User Interface

The recipe detail screen is beautiful.

Yummly’s UI is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in an Android app. I know it is not straightforward to make a good-looking app on Android, especially if you compare it to iOS, but the Yummly team has done an amazing job at it.

Even though I know some people would complain that the app displays way too little information at a time, I believe that the approach used by Yummly works. It is imperative to show a picture of the recipe as early as possible, and the combination of beautiful pictures and smooth performance makes for an awesome user experience.

The recipe screen is also a highlight of the user interface, with the picture taking the limelight here with a beautiful Material Design-inspired animation. The nutrition facts, for example, are very well presented and they even have a slick animation. At least you’re killing your diet in a beautiful way.

Options

I have good news for our distinguished vegetarian/vegan readers. The app supports four different variations (lacto vegetarian, vegetarian, ovo vegetarian and vegan) so that the results you get are tailored to your preferences. Plus, it also caters to pescetarian and paleo diets.

If you’re allergic to specific stuff, such as dairy or peanuts, then there’s the option of hiding these recipes as well. Gluten-free options are also available. If you are absolutely disgusted with a specific ingredient (sorry, I can’t stand shrimps), there’s a huge database of ingredients you can search from.

Conclusion

Through a gorgeous interface, snappy performance and plethora of filters, Yummly provides thousands of recipes for those who love cooking. Aside from some inconveniences, such as the fact that you need to open a web view to see directions, or some loading issues when first starting the app, Yummly is a superb choice if you are looking to improve your culinary prowess.

Download and install Yummly from the Google Play Store.

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9
Mar

These are the best Amazon Warehouse technology deals of the week


Purchasing pre-owned and refurbished electronics is one of the easiest way to score big savings on name-brand products like TVs, gaming consoles, and tablets, especially when you can buy them from trusted outlets like Amazon. We’ve rounded up some of the best ongoing deals from Amazon Warehouse available at the moment, saving you not only some money, but also potentially sparing you the headache of dealing with less reputable sellers.

Although these items do not come with the original warranties, all Warehouse products are inspected, tested, and graded by Amazon and are backed by its solid return policy. You can purchase a warranty separately through Square Trade as well. Be sure to check out this page for more detailed information. Also note that Amazon Warehouse items generally have limited quantities of stock and prices fluctuate regularly based on inventory, so we don’t know how long these deals will last. If you see something you like, consider jumping on it before it’s gone.

Fire HD 8 tablet

Amazon Warehouse deal roundup

Amazon has a popular lineup of low-cost tablets, with the 7-inch Fire being the cheapest offering at around $50. If you’d like a bigger screen in an HD resolution, though, the Fire HD 8 might be a better option. You can score the 16GB model in “good” condition for just $65 on Amazon Warehouse – only slightly more expensive than the 7-inch Fire and a nice discount off of the $90 price tag for a new unit.

The Fire HD 8 runs on a 1.3GHz quad-core processor and the 8-inch IPS display boasts a 1,200 x 800 resolution. Amazon Underground provides access to thousands of free apps and games, and Prime members can enjoy millions of free shows, books, movies, and songs. If you prefer more built-in storage, the 32GB model can be had for $86 in “good” condition. A MicroSD slot allows you to expand the storage to up to 200GB as well.

Buy it for $65 from Amazon Warehouse

Sennheiser RS120 wireless headphones with charging dock

Amazon Warehouse deal roundup

Sennheiser is a household name in the headphone market — and for good reason –but you don’t need to pay through the nose for a pair. The Sennheiser RS120 headphones are one of the most popular models — they currently have a 4.1-star review from more than 13,000 Amazon customers — and are very affordable.

The RS120 wireless headphones run on two rechargeable AAA batteries and come with a charging dock that doubles as a convenient stand for your cans when they’re not in use. Radio frequency wireless connectivity gets rid of any annoying cables that might trip you up and offers a range of up to 300 feet. If you need a good pair of wireless on-ear headphones, the Sennheiser RS120 with charging dock in “very good” condition can be yours from Amazon Warehouse for just $35.

Buy it for $35 from Amazon Warehouse

Amazon Tap Bluetooth speaker

Amazon Warehouse deal roundup

In recent years, Amazon has expanded its lineup of Alexa-enabled devices with products like the Echo series and the Tap Bluetooth speaker. The Tap is an attractive and portable wireless speaker that streams audio from services like Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, and more when synced with your phone or tablet. Amazon Alexa allows for hands-free control via voice command, and the Tap offers some added Echo-like functionality as well: You can use Alexa to check the news, perform internet searches, or even do some online shopping.

Dual wraparound speakers deliver 360-degree stereo sound, the internal battery provides up to nine hours of continuous playback, and a charging stand is included. The Amazon Tap Bluetooth speaker normally costs $130 new, but Amazon Warehouse currently has units in “good” condition available for just $95.

Buy it for $95 from Amazon Warehouse

Netgear Nighthawk R700 Wi-Fi router

Amazon Warehouse deal roundup

A good wireless router makes all the difference in your local network’s performance, and is a good investment for anyone who wants to get the most out of their Wi-Fi. Netgear is one of the most well-known makers of networking hardware, and its Nighthawk series remains very popular with gamers and others who require faster Wi-Fi than most cheap routers can provide. The Nighthawk R700 offers dual-band AC1900 connectivity for a throughput of up to 1,900 Mbps, making it a great all-around option for streaming, gaming, and networks with multiple active clients.

The Netgear Nighthawk R700 is also compatible with Amazon Alexa devices, letting you easily manage your network using simple voice commands. The R700 costs $159 new but you can snag a “like-new” model for just $114 from Amazon Warehouse. If your wireless network has been struggling lately, or if you just want a fast and feature-laden Wi-Fi router for a good price, the Nighthawk R700 is a solid bargain.

Buy it for $114 from Amazon Warehouse

Asus C202SA-YS02 Chromebook

Amazon Warehouse deal roundup

Chromebooks have become popular in recent years as efficient low-cost work machines that represent a solid value for the money. If you’ve been eyeing one, or if you just need a small laptop and don’t want to spend a fortune, consider the Asus C202SA-YS02. This compact no-frills computer features an Intel Celeron N3060 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 16GB of flash storage, along with the lightweight Chrome operating system.

The Asus C202SA-YS02 is purpose-built for portability and on-the-go use, with its durable rubber housing and spill-resistant keyboard. Preinstalled QuickOffice and Google Docs allow you to work with Microsoft Office documents, and you can also enjoy free access to Microsoft Office Online software. The 11.6-inch anti-glare screen provides an HD resolution of 1,366 x 768. Normally $199 for a new unit, Amazon Warehouse offers this Asus Chromebook in “very good” condition for $165.

Buy it for $165 from Amazon Warehouse

PlayStation 4 Slim Uncharted 4 bundle

Amazon Warehouse deal roundup

If you haven’t yet jumped on the next-gen console wagon, then now is a great time, with prices dropping across the board and the release of updated designs like the PlayStation 4 Slim. PlayStation has some great exclusive titles such as the popular Uncharted series, and this PS4 bundle comes packaged with the 500GB Slim console, a wireless DualShock 4 controller, and a physical copy of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.

At $219 on Amazon Warehouse for a unit in “very good” condition, this is one of the cheapest ways to get a PlayStation 4 right now if you’ve been eyeing one – along with a free, highly rated game to sweeten the deal. Note that the prices and inventory on this item seem to fluctuate the most of any on this list, so we do not know how long this bundle will be available at this price.

Buy it for $219 from Amazon Warehouse

Samsung UN65J6300 65-inch smart TV

Amazon Warehouse deal roundup

The biggest item on our roundup, and also the best Amazon Warehouse deal on this list by far, is the Samsung UN65J6300 smart TV. This 65-inch, 1080p television offers built-in Wi-Fi and smart functionality, letting you stream your favorite shows and movies from your entertainment libraries. A quad-core processor enhances output performance for a smooth picture with less buffering, and app support makes it easy to sync the TV with a wide variety of devices from which to stream video.

The Samsung UN65J6300 smart TV goes for $2,800 new on Amazon, but Amazon Warehouse currently has it in stock for $727 in “very good” condition. If you want a big 65-inch HDTV for your home entertainment center and aren’t fussy about getting 4K Ultra HD, this is a great deal that will save you a lot of money.

Buy it from Amazon Warehouse for $727

9
Mar

Will the Galaxy S8 be safe? This is Samsung’s new 8-point battery safety check


On August 2016, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone to the world at a press conference in New York City. Initially, the device received rave reviews, but soon after, as you probably know by now, those devices started bursting into flames. It was a terrible blow to Samsung’s bottom line, and the company knew it needed to act swiftly if the company had any hopes of stopping the potential damage this would cause to its reputation.

More: Everything we know about Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 recall

2017 brings a new batch of Samsung flagship devices, including the Galaxy S8, which according to the latest rumors, will make its debut on March 29. Recently, Samsung explained the cause of the Galaxy Note 7 fires and the new testing it has put in place to prevent it from ever happening again.

Samsung published its new 8-Point Battery Safety Check online, so customers can see the new protocols. We break them down one by one below.

Durability Test

samsung battery durability test 2
Samsung

This test expands and enhances battery testing by putting the batteries through overcharging tests, extreme temperature stress tests, and even puncture tests.

Why it matters

Samsung enhanced its durability tests, and it will perform these tests with increased frequency.

Companies have used nail penetration tests before to assess the safety of lithium-ion batteries.  Nail penetration tests simulate an internal short that involves puncturing a battery at a certain speed. If the battery does not smoke or catch fire, then the battery passes the test.  This test is useful to gather data about thermal runaway under controlled conditions. It does not necessarily represent real world internal shorts.

Visual Inspection


Samsung

You cannot leave everything to machines, and in this test, Samsung will visually inspect and compare the new batteries with good samples that meet a set of standardized guidelines and criteria.

Why it matters

Samsung has done visual inspections before. It has enhanced these inspections by increasing the standard, and by making sure that it performs the inspections at every stage, starting with the components, and all throughout the production.

We do not have any specific information regarding which are the guidelines that Samsung is following for their visual inspections. Samsung enhanced these established guidelines that may include inspection of the positive and negative terminals, weight, and size of the battery.

X-Ray

samsung battery inspection x-ray
Samsung

This test will allow Samsung to see any of the abnormalities, including those found in the Note 7 batteries. Samsung will use X-Ray machines to see inside the battery. This will be very important in detecting problems like electrodes touching the phone’s housing, which was one of the issues found to cause fires on the Galaxy Note 7.

Why it matters

Samsung has increased the standard of the X-Ray tests. Both Samsung and the supplier will conduct X-Ray tests on the batteries, and it will conduct the tests on samples of the batteries themselves as well as on the assembled device.

One of the worst issues found in the Note 7’s battery was a pouch in the battery that the supplier had created. This pouch did not allow enough space for the battery to contract and expand as it went through its charging and discharging cycles. In order for Samsung to find these sorts of issues, it would have to perform an X-Ray test.

Charge and Discharge Test

samsung battery stress test
Samsung

All batteries will undergo a large-scale charging and discharging test. Samsung started conducting this test with the original Note 7 fire investigation.

Why it matters

Samsung added this new test to the manufacturing process, and it will perform the test on the fully assembled unit. The number of units Samsung will put through these charge/discharge tests will be up to 100,000 units, which is a massive amount of devices.

Samsung found that because some of the batteries did not have enough room to expand and contract, they could not go through a normal charge and discharge cycle. All of these issues together caused the negative and positive electrodes to touch thereby causing a short circuit. Charging and discharging a large sample of smartphones will definitely help catch any problems.

TVOC Test

samsung battery charge and discharge
Samsung

This test detects any leakage of TVOC, which stands for Total Volatile Organic Compound.

Why it matters

Battery manufacturers use Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) throughout their manufacturing process. The TVOC test is another brand new test. Samsung is testing every single device throughout the entire production process. These Volatile Organic Compounds used to manufacture batteries are often toxic, and a constant check of any sort of leakage from the manufacturing of the battery to the completed device is certainly a welcomed change.

Disassembling Test

samsung visual battery test
Samsung

Samsung and the supplier are committed to check the quality of components like the battery tab welding and the insulation tape.

Why it matters

The insulation tape within the battery was missing in some Galaxy Note 7 samples. The missing insulation tape was a major factor that contributed to the Note 7 fires. Samsung disassembled their batteries for inspection before so this is not entirely new. What is different now is that it is enhancing the test for itself and for the supplier. Samsung performs the disassembly test on a number of samples before it uses the batteries in the production of the devices.

Accelerated Usage Test

samsung battery safety test
Samsung

Samsung describes this as an intensive test simulating accelerated consumer usage scenarios. Furthermore, Samsung explained that it is able to simulate 2-week real-life usage scenarios by a typical customer, but go through those 2 weeks of use in 5 days.

Why it matters

Very similar to the Charge/Discharge test, Samsung performs this test with the fully assembled devices. We are happy to see that the sample size is quite large at up to 100,000 devices. These accelerated tests not only simulate real life usage, but it will show any abnormalities in the cathodes and anodes. If you remember, the overheating inside the Galaxy Note 7 occurred because of an anode-to-cathode contact. The rapid Charge/Discharge test combined with the Accelerated Usage test will stress both the cathode and anode so that Samsung can catch any issues in time.

△OCV Test

samsung battery charge and dischargeSamsung

This strange looking acronym stands for Delta Open Circuit Voltage.

Why it matters

Samsung will check any changes in voltage throughout the manufacturing of the device, from components all the way to the finished assembled device. Samsung and the supplier will perform this test on each device. The Open Circuit Voltage test is very important, and it will allow Samsung and the supplier to monitor the voltage of a battery when it does not form a complete circuit. A voltage reading will be consistent throughout the manufacturing process, as the battery is not connected. The supplier and Samsung will flag any battery that is unable to hold its charge as a faulty battery. Samsung will conduct this test with every battery instead of choosing a number of samples.

9
Mar

Some Google Pixel phones are suffering from a broken microphone


Why it matters to you

If your Google Pixel smartphones is suffering from a broken microphone, Google is offering replacements to affected owners.

Google’s Pixel is an exceptional phone — and that’s putting it mildly. In our review, we found the Google-branded Pixel’s hardware speedy, its battery life better than average, and its camera among the best we’ve ever tested. But no phone’s perfect, and if Google’s support forum is to be believed, its Achilles heel is its microphone.

It’s not a new issue. Last year, in October, Pixel owners began reporting broken microphones on brand new units in a thread on Google’s support webpage that generated hundreds of responses. Some users reported that the mics fixed themselves after a few hours for no apparent reason, but less fortunate users weren’t able to get them working again.

More: What just happened? The best of #Bendgate

Google began investigating Pixel mic complaints in January, and by late February settled on an explanation: A hairline crack in the solder connection on the audio codec. “This problem tends to be transient because of the nature of the crack,” Google employee Brian Radowski wrote.

“Based on the temperature changes or the way you hold the phone, the connection may be temporarily restored and the problems may go away. This is especially frustrating as a user because, just when you think you’ve got it fixed, the problem randomly comes back.”

More: No recall for you: Apple quells Antennagate with free cases

Google began shipping new Pixel units to affected owners, but some of the replacements exhibited the same problem. The company acknowledged the issue, and said that it made changes to the manufacturing process in February to ensure that future replacements don’t experience the same problem.

Google estimates that the problem occurred on less than one percent of Pixel phones made before February, and said that it usually arises after the phone has been dropped in such a way that it severs the connection between the mic and the motherboard.

Google is instructing owners affected by the mic issue to return their phones.

More: The Google Pixel audio bug has been fixed with the February security patch

Manufacturing defects aren’t all that uncommon when it comes to smartphones, and the Pixel is far from the first to suffer one. Apple’s iPhone 4 experienced issues with cellular reception when held in a certain orientation — the controversy, dubbed “antennagate,” saw then-CEO Steve Jobs extend affected customers a free plastic bumper and a 30-day refund offer. A subsequent iPhone debacle, “bendgate,” arose when iPhone 6 owners found that the phone’s metal bezel bent relatively easily when that iPhone was placed in a back pocket.

9
Mar

Newest BlackBerry-branded phone — the Aurora — arrives from Indonesia


Why it matters to you

Just because BlackBerry isn’t making its own phones anymore doesn’t mean there aren’t more BlackBerrys coming to market. The latest is the Aurora.

BlackBerry isn’t making its trademark handsets anymore, but that certainly doesn’t mean the end of BlackBerry phones. When the device manufacturer announced last year that it would no longer be producing its own hardware, it also began licensing the BlackBerry brand to other companies, including BB Merah Putih, an Indonesian manufacturer that has just debuted its very first BlackBerry — the Aurora.

Available only in Indonesia (it’s said to be “made in Indonesia, for Indonesians”), the Aurora is one of the first new BlackBerry phones to hit the market. It’s not quite the first, however — TCL unveiled the KEYone last month at Mobile World Congress to great fanfare.

More: BlackBerry BBC-100-1 news and rumors

But regardless of bragging rights, the Aurora comes with some pretty decent specs that certainly ought to please the Indonesian market. The 5.5-inch screen boasts a 1,280 x 720 resolution and scratch-resistant glass, and the phone is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor with Adreno 308 GPU. Memory-wise, the phone comes with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage, plus a MicroSD card that supports up to 2TB.

The Aurora has a 13MP rear camera with phase detection autofocus, LED flash, dual-tone CMOS sensor, and 1080p video recording, and an 8MP front-facing camera with LED flash. The 3000mAh Li-ion battery should keep the handset charged for a fair amount of time, and of course, the phone comes with all your other standard features like 4G LTE connectivity, dual-SIM cards support, a MicroUSB 2.0 port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The phone will ship with Android 7.0 Nougat, and you can choose from black, silver, or gold color variants. Indonesians will be asked to pay 3,499,000 rupees, the equivalent of about $260.

You can pre-order the phone from the company’s website, and those early adopters will also receive a free JBL Go speaker and a smart flip case.

9
Mar

Windows 10 users will reportedly receive the Creators Update on April 11


Why it matters to you

The Creators Update has long been rumored to launch in April, but Microsoft has yet to announce an official release date.

When Microsoft announced the Windows 10 Creators Update in October 2016, the only release date that was given was a vague window of early 2017. Since then, rumors have circulated that the update was set to drop in April 2017, and now there’s unofficial word from third parties of the exact date.

The Windows 10 Creators Update will apparently launch on April 11, 2017, according to a report from MS Power User. The site has corroborated this information with three separate sources that are familiar with Microsoft’s plans.

While plans could change, it seems likely that the Creators Update will indeed make its debut early next month. Microsoft recently held a bug bash to iron out any remaining issues with the new version of Windows 10, so it’s clear that the company has begun the final stages of preparation ahead of its official release.

More: Windows 10 Insider Program: Latest Windows Builds, Updates, and News

Before the Creators Update is distributed to the masses, members of the Windows Insider program will get their chance to check out its new features and functionality. It’s expected that Microsoft will sign off on the final version of the update sometime next week, at which point it will be rolled out for Insiders, so they can contribute to some last-minute testing.

If the Creators Update is indeed set to launch on April 11, we can expect an official announcement from Microsoft very soon. The company has been publicizing this update for months, so it’s reasonable to assume that a final push will be on its way before release day.

Once the Creators Update is out in the wild, however, we’ll soon see Microsoft pivot to the year’s second major update to Windows 10, which is currently in development under the code name Redstone 3. That update will apparently be much bigger than the Creators Update, so it’s sure to be a major priority through spring and summer.

9
Mar

Meet Braeön: A new material that’s stronger than steel, more versatile than duct tape


Why it matters to you

If Braeön’s claims hold up, it could become an essential part of your toolbox.

We may have found one of the world’s strongest materials hidden in plain site in a Kickstarter campaign for a thin polymer ribbon called Braeön.

Even if it’s hard to confirm claims that Braeön (pronounced like “brawn”) is the lightest, strongest, and most adaptable material that’s ever been invented, it still seems pretty damn durable, capable of withstanding over 2,000 pounds of pull strength.

Here’s how it works. First, heat the strand of ribbon with hot air or water, which enables it to take to its desired shape. Adhere the strand around an object and to itself to form a bond, kind of like tape. Finally, let the shape cool and set for a few minutes until its molecules fuse. To reshape, simply heat it up again and repeat.

“The inspiration for Braeön is the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of experience in material and composite sciences combined with the little frustrations that we all encounter daily as outdoorsmen, homeowners, parents, etcetera,” Braeön representative Dustin McWilliams told Digital Trends. “We wanted to create a material that was strong but lightweight, industrial quality without requiring industrial equipment to use and took advantage of the inherent characteristics of thermoplastics.”

More: Do you live in a snowpocalypse? The Alpha Shovel makes life a bit easier

McWilliams said high strength polymeric fibers that make Braeön so special but didn’t go into more detail about it’s mechanical composition.

Braeön suggests their are thousands of uses for its material — from towing to repairs and constructing custom-fit handles. In fact, the company encourages customers to find their own use and let them know.

“The most exciting thing is going to see how people are going to use it,” McWilliams said. “Seemingly every time we show the material to someone new, they have ideas for its use that we never considered.”

In the final day of its Kickstarter campaign, Braeön has raised over $74,500 from over 1,800 backers. Kickstarter rates include $20 for a 20-foot roll, $100 for a 152-foot roll, and $340 for 20 x 20-foot rolls.

9
Mar

Sprint shows off its Gigabit LTE network at an NBA game in New Orleans


Why it matters to you

We’re not quite ready for 5G yet, but Gigabit LTE is here — at least, it’s starting to get really close for Sprint customers.

Here it comes, friends: Gigabit Class LTE.

On Wednesday, Sprint and Qualcomm showed off the “first U.S. deployment of Gigabit Class LTE live on a commercial network with a forthcoming flagship premium tier smartphone.” That is to say, Sprint demonstrated its gigabit capabilities in the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans using 4×4 MIMO, 256-QAM, and three-carrier aggregation in order to reach speeds of 600 Mbps on a Motorola prototype device during an NBA game.

“The lightning speeds of Gigabit Class LTE in the Snapdragon 835 mobile platform with X16 LTE can open up new applications and deliver new experiences to your mobile devices,” said Mike Finley, senior vice president and president of Qualcomm North America. “We are proud to work together with Sprint to bring Gigabit Class LTE to the United States on a live commercial network for the first time, helping to ensure consumers have a superior connectivity experience. This is yet another step in accelerating global adoption of Gigabit Class LTE, enabling us to see a glimpse of our 5G future.”

More: T-Mobile and Ericsson hope to ditch 2G/3G, switch to gigabit LTE by 2019

There has been plenty of talk about Gigabit Class LTE already, with other major carriers also looking to make the switch to this newfangled network in the near future. But it looks as though Sprint is getting ahead of the game, noting that it has plans to employ its 2.5 GHz spectrum to offer up the faster service in high-traffic locations across the U.S. This, the company says, will aid in its strategy of building a solid 5G foundation.

“Only Sprint has enough licensed spectrum to deliver this level of capacity and performance in major markets across the country,” Sprint Chief Technical Officer John Saw said. “Our high-band 2.5 GHz TDD LTE spectrum is uniquely suited for Gigabit Class LTE, and we fully intend to maximize our deep spectrum holdings to provide customers with more immersive and connected mobile experiences.”

So look out, Sprint customers. You could soon be getting fast, and we mean really fast, network speeds.

9
Mar

Facebook Messenger brings its Snapchat-style Stories feature to Australia


Why it matters to you

Following Snap’s very successful IPO, it looks like Facebook is doing all it can to emulate Snapchat, starting with the global launch of Messenger Day.

After testing its ephemeral Stories-like feature for Messenger in countries like Poland and Australia, Facebook is finally ready for the biggest stage of all. “Today, we are starting to roll out Messenger Day globally on Android and iOS,” Facebook said in an announcement on Thursday.

Facebook’s Messenger Day works much the same way it did when it launched in Australia late last year — the most prominent feature is the ability to create and share stories (images and videos that autoplay in a slideshow format) that are displayed for 24 hours before disappearing. If your first reaction to the update is “that sounds just like Snapchat and Instagram,” that’s because it is. Users can doodle on the Messenger Day posts, and overlay them with graphics such as filters, Facebook stickers, and text.

More: Facebook’s Lifestage app connects classmates, resurrecting its 2004 model

The only major difference noted by users is the filter suggestion function, which basically prompts you to share different types of posts, such as “I’m Feeling,” “Who’s Up For?” and “I’m Doing.” Clicking on these options reveals associated filters related to events and emotions like “blessed,” “let’s grab drinks,” and “study time.”

Unlike Snapchat (and its buzzing South Korean clone Snow), Messenger Day forgoes selfie filters — arguably the most fun Snapchat feature — in favor of graphics and stickers.

facebook messenger day

Messenger Day inteface

facebook messenger day

Conversation thread

facebook messenger day

Screenshots via Spider’s Web

“Billions of photos and videos have been sent capturing all those heartfelt, funny, and serious messages that make the Messenger community so powerful,” Facebook said about its global launch, “We love seeing how much fun people are having with Messenger’s new visual tools, especially our most popular art and effects like floating hearts and, recently, Mardi Gras frames.”

Facebook quietly borrowed from another popular messaging app as part of Messenger Day. Tucked away among the new features are additional stickers from local designers — which sounds suspiciously similar to Line and WeChat’s respective stickers marketplace tools, both of which opened up the popular graphics to creators. We already know that Facebook is actively trying to emulate those apps, courtesy of its recent hire of a WeChat product manager and the launch of Messenger bots. An added emphasis on stickers only brings it closer to its Asian rivals.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has borrowed from Snapchat. In August, users began spotting a disappearing messages feature on Messenger. A similar group messaging function has also appeared for select users on Facebook itself. And who can forget its Poke and Slingshot apps (aside from everyone who ignored them in the first place)? Products of Facebook’s now-defunct Creative Labs department, dedicated to standalone apps, the two offerings failed to attract an audience and were hardly updated as a result.

Seeing as Instagram Stories is apparently thriving, it begs the question: why is Facebook still determined to copy Snapchat despite the backlash such plagiarism inevitably attracts? The answer is that the social network craves the type of personal (if disposable) posts Snapchat users share on a daily basis. Facebook simply doesn’t command that type of activity, at least not anymore.

For more information on Messenger Day, check out Facebook’s full announcement here.

Updated on 3-9-2017 by Saqib Shah: Added news of Messenger Day’s global rollout.

9
Mar

Businesses may soon be able to chat with you over WhatsApp, according to report


Why it matters to you

WhatsApp is hoping the new initiative will make the service more convenient as well as profitable — but it could also open the door for spam.

WhatsApp may soon allow businesses to chat directly with users. The popular messaging service is reportedly testing the new feature with companies affiliated with startup incubator Y Combinator, according to Reuters.

If successful, courting businesses could provide WhatsApp with a sorely needed revenue stream. Since being acquired by Facebook in 2014, the service has eliminated its one, dependable source of income — an annual $1 subscription fee for all users — and failed to introduce any alternatives.

More: Messaging Showdown: WhatsApp vs. iMessage vs. Facebook Messenger vs. Allo

Shortly after retiring the fee, WhatsApp expressed interest in leveraging its billion users to attract corporate clients to the service. Facebook Messenger provides a good example of the direction WhatsApp appears to be heading. The competing communications app has long been promoted as a way to connect businesses with people for purposes beyond advertising, citing customer service as a primary goal. WhatsApp hopes to follow suit in this regard, and make the feature as beneficial to users as it would be to businesses. For example, retailers could use the app to relay a shipment tracking updates, and banks could use it to notify customers about fraudulent charges.

The company doesn’t expect to get there overnight, however. WhatsApp is wary of the new business-focused tools being abused as a conduit for spam. According to the report, the company is distributing surveys to its users, asking them if they’ve spoken with businesses yet and whether or not the quality of their experience on the service has suffered because of it.

Businesses, however, appear far more optimistic. Umer Ilyas, the founder of Cowlar Inc., one of the startups involved in the testing phase, told Reuters that communication over WhatsApp could be a huge boon to his company. Cowlar makes smart collars for cows that monitor their behavior, offering actionable data to dairy farmers.

“It represents a huge opportunity,” Ilyas said, “because in all the big dairy markets — India, Brazil, Pakistan — a lot of farmers have access to the app.

India and Brazil are two territories in which WhatsApp is most successful, so it’s no coincidence the company is angling toward a plan that could be particularly effective in the regions in which it already dominates market share among communication apps.

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