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28
Apr

Nintendo 2DS XL vs 2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL: What’s the difference?


Seemingly coming from nowhere, the Nintendo 2DS XL took everyone by surprise when it was announced. It was widely thought that Nintendo’s attention would be solely  on the Switch for the time being, with the existing handhelds more than capable of holding their own.

However, the Japanese gaming giant decided to shake things up, with a new version of its very popular portable console coming to stores on 28 July. And by all accounts it looks to be the model that gamers, hardcore and casual, would most like.

We put all the current versions of the Nintendo handheld system head-to-head to see which would suit you best.

  • Nintendo 2DS review
  • New Nintendo 3DS XL review

Nintendo 2DS XL vs 2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL: Design

Since the original Nintendo DS, the company has essentially kept with a clamshell design – meaning it folds to protect the two screens at the top and bottom.

However, it did deviate from that formula with the Nintendo 2DS. This version of the handheld was designed for younger children primarily and as such is cased in a solid body rather than a foldable shell. The two screens are present but the device feels more solid – presumably to protect it more from drops and scrapes.

All four of the consoles – the 2DS, new 3DS, new 3DS XL and new 2DS XL – come with a stylus and the ability to add storage through a microSD card. This enables users to download games from the Nintendo eShop and store them directly on the machine.

A microSD card is included with each of the devices, with the 2DS and 3DS coming with a 2GB card, the 2DS XL and 3DS XL with a 4GB card.

Nintendo 2DS XL vs 2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL: Screens

All of the handhelds come with two screens: a top, non-touch display and a lower touchscreen. The top screen is always larger, but varies in size depending on the model.

The top screens on the 2DS and 3DS measure 3.53-inches, while the 2DS XL and 3DS XL both feature larger 4.88-inch displays. The resolution for the top screens on all devices is 400 x 240.

The 3DS and 3DS XL have stereoscopic, glasses-free 3D screens while the 2DS and 2DS XL are in 2D – the clues are in their names. That’s the biggest difference between them.

The resolution of the lower touchscreens on all of the models is the same: 320 x 240. The XL models have 4.18-inch lower displays, the 2DS and 3DS gave 3.53-inch displays.

Nintendo 2DS XL vs 2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL: Hardware

The 2DS XL, most recent 3DS and 3DS XL models all feature the same internal tech. They run on an 804MHz quad-core + 134MHz single-core processing chipset, with 268MHz of graphics processing.

The 2DS has a 268MHz dual-core + 134MHz single-core processor – the same as the original 3DS and 3DS XL variants before Nintendo updated them.

The 2DS XL, 3DS and 3DS XL also have 256MB of storage built-in, while the 2DS has 128MB. All machines, as explained above, are capable of expansion through microSD.

All of the models have 0.3-megapixel cameras front and rear, with dual-lens 3D cameras on the back, even on the 2DS versions.

The 2DS is the only one of the four that doesn’t come with Amiibo support built into the device. The rest work with Amiibos by tapping the connected toys to the lower screen.

Nintendo 2DS XL vs 2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL: Games

All of the models are compatible with all 3DS and DS games available in stores and the online Nintendo eShop. They will also all play the Virtual Console retro game releases from Nintendo.

They each have the same style cartridge slot.

Nintendo 2DS XL vs 2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL: Availability

The 3DS has been around since 2011 and the original 3DS XL since 2012. However, they were both effectively replaced (you can still buy the latter from some retailers) by what Nintendo calls the new 3DS and new 3DS XL two years ago. They are the models we’ve been focusing on in this comparison.

The 2DS was released in 2013.

All of the versions are readily available from numerous online and high street shops.

The 2DS XL will be released on 28 July 2017.

Nintendo 2DS XL vs 2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL: Price

Almost all of the consoles come with a game included, with the exception of the 2DS XL. Some stores might include it in a bundle from launch day, but the initial indications are that you’ll need to buy a game separately.

Here are suggested prices and links where you can buy each of the consoles:

  • Nintendo 2DS (with New Super Mario Bros 2), £74.99 from Amazon.co.uk, (with no game) $116.17 from Amazon.com
  • New Nintendo 3DS (with Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer), £159.99 from Nintendo.co.uk
  • New Nintendo 3DS XL, £169 from Amazon.co.uk, $243.99 from Amazon.com
  • New Nintendo 2DS XL, $149.99 in the US, UK price yet to be revealed

Nintendo 2DS XL vs 2DS vs 3DS vs 3DS XL: Conclusion

The 2DS XL is a compelling option. Even though we don’t yet know the UK price point, it will clearly be cheaper than the currently available 3DS XL yet offers exactly the same experience save for the one feature many turn off anyway: 3D.

It also looks cool, in its black with turquoise trim or white with orange trim colour schemes. Younger children are still better off with the 2DS, thanks to its more robust build quality, but the 2DS XL breaths new life into the handheld family that we didn’t see coming.

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28
Apr

Vizio’s new M-series 4K TVs are its real 2017 highlight


Last year, Vizio wowed us with its P-series 4K TVs, which delivered premium picture quality at a price much lower than other companies. But Vizio’s mid-range M-series sets also gained a reputation for being more affordable while still looking pretty good. This year, things are a bit different. Surprisingly, the 2017 P-series TVs are exactly the same as last year’s model. But the newer M-series “XLED” sets received some useful upgrades that will make them even more compelling to shoppers looking for a good deal.

The 2017 M-series TVs, which start at $800 for the 50-inch model and go up to $3,000 for the 75-inch, still pack in 32 local dimming zones. That helps them deliver even backlighting and solid black levels. But this time around, they also have a wider color gamut and a higher peak brightness, reaching up to 600 nits. Both are features that previously required upgrading to the P-series line. The higher peak brightness means that light sources in some scenes pop a bit more, and the increased color range make images a bit more dynamic. Altogether, they make the M-series far better suited for showing off HDR (high-dynamic range) content, like the BBC’s luscious Planet Earth 2 4K Blu-ray. That’s ultimately a good thing, as HDR is a much more obvious visual upgrade than 4K alone.

Vizio brought all of its new sets to NYC for a brief demo, and the M-series was clearly the most intriguing option. When compared to Samsung’s Q7 QLED TV, one of its flagship models for this year, black levels on the 65-inch Vizio set were significantly better. You can thank the local dimming backlight for that. Samsung’s TV, on the other hand, features an edge-lit backlight that disrupts black levels with light gray streaks. It was particularly apparent in a clip from Batman vs. Superman, where very bright on-screen elements caused the backlight to wash out everything around them. Beyond the black levels, colors and brightness on Vizio’s set looked about as good as the Q7. That’s impressive, given that the M-series 65-inch model goes for $1,500, while the Samsung set costs $4,000.

If you’re looking for the best balance of value and picture quality, the M-series’ upgrades make the line significantly more compelling. It’s also an even better option if you’re in the market for an extra large TV. The 70-inch M-series will run you $2,000, while the 75-inch model goes for $3,000. The P-series, in comparison, costs $2,000 for the 65-inch and $3,500 for the 75-inch set. Technophiles will likely be fine shelling out the extra cash for the better picture quality of the P-series, but I also wouldn’t blame you for bumping up your screen size while saving a bit.

Vizio’s budget E-series line also received an upgrade this year with the addition of HDR 10 support. It has fewer local dimming backlight zones than the M and P series, but it still looked a lot better than a comparable entry-level TV from Samsung. In a clip from The Revenant, the E-series’ overall picture depth and black levels looked significantly better than the Samsung set. And at $899 for the 65-inch model, it remains an incredible bargain.

While Vizio is trying hard to push its “XLED” branding this year, it’s pretty meaningless. Basically, it’s just a way to describe all of its TV technology from 2016 that’s been upgraded with software updates. That’s a good thing if you bought a P-series set in 2016, since it means your TV got better over time. But it’s a bit confusing to general consumers, who might think “XLED” means a significant upgrade over last year’s technology. While Samsung has its own “QLED” branding, that at least describes some changes to its backlight and Quantum Dot tech. Both companies are chasing the hype behind OLED TVs, but their branding just feels clunky and confusing.

In some ways, Vizio’s new TV lineup is a step back. The P- and M-series sets used to come with a free Android tablet, which you’d use instead of a traditional remote. But, unfortunately, the company is no longer bundling them with the TV this year. Reps tell us that most customers were using their own phones to control their TV. Other customers, they noted, also wanted a more familiar remote experience.

Instead of the tiny barebones clicker from last year, the new TVs will come with a more complex remote that does everything you’d expect. The company will also release a software update this summer that will let you access streaming content directly from the TV, instead of being forced to do it from another device. That feels like a philosophical reversal for Vizio, but it will likely make the TVs easier to use for some consumers.

The upcoming built-in apps look similar to what you see on other TVs, but they’re actually casting content directly to the Vizio sets. It’s tough to wrap your head around, but basically it means the Vizio TVs are both the casting source and the casting receiver. You’ll still be able to control things from your phone, if you want, but you can also use the remote to browse content from Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services just like a regular smart TV.

When I asked about Amazon Video support, Vizio strongly hinted that we’ll be hearing more about that later this year. Given that NVIDIA managed to bring an Amazon app to its Android-powered Shield TV, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vizio finally convinced Amazon to support Google Cast.

When it comes to new audio gear, Vizio’s $199 Crave Go speaker sounds good, and it sports a solid metal case. But, unfortunately, it’s not waterproof and dust proof like Logitech’s latest UE Bluetooth speakers, which have been my go-to portable choice for years. Vizio’s $250 soundbar system, which includes Google Cast support and wireless surround sound capabilities, also impressed me. It’s clear you’re listening to small speakers, but it’s a serious upgrade over your TV’s built in sound. The system’s small footprint and wireless capability also make it a good choice if you’re in a small apartment, or you don’t want the clutter of a bigger surround sound setup.

Overall, it looks like Vizio has a strong year ahead. And despite LeEco’s acquisition offer falling apart, Vizio isn’t slowing down on the innovation front either. Sure, I’d like to see some P-series upgrades too, but the lack of updates is also a reminder of just how good that line was last year. It’d be nice to see some price drops eventually, though, especially since the company isn’t packing in Android slates anymore.

28
Apr

Xbox chief envisions a Netflix model for narrative games


Microsoft has just tipped its hand for what the company will show off at E3 in June. In a wide-ranging interview with The Guardian, Xbox chief Phil Spencer laid out his plans for the future of Xbox software. Since (mostly) fixing a majority of the problems the Xbox One hardware and system software has suffered through since 2013 with the Xbox One S and the Creator’s Update for Xbox firmware, Spencer is focusing on the other problem Microsoft faces: its dearth of unique and compelling reasons to buy into the improved Xbox platform.

Spencer told The Guardian that his company has crowed about the consumer-facing side of what its online infrastructure offers (Xbox Live’s new features like clans), but now we’re going to start hearing about what that back-end can do for developers. Which, in turn, trickles back down to consumers. Part of that is opening up its Azure cloud servers to smaller developers as a means of helping them build a service-based game that’d otherwise be impossible due to the monumental costs of setting up infrastructure. Basically, Microsoft wants to do smaller scale versions of what it did for developer Respawn Entertainment’s debut title, the multiplayer-only Xbox-and-PC game Titanfall.

He specifically cites Electronic Arts’ FIFA Ultimate Team as being a model for success in terms of service-based games. That might not be the best example, though. A card-trading game within FIFA proper, for quite awhile Ultimate Team was rife with folks exploiting the game, farming coins needed to buy high-skilled footballers.

But Spencer does realize that not every type of game will work as a service; locking areas of games behind microtransactions or paywalls isn’t a good fit for, say, huge single-player action-adventure games.

Regarding those, his comments were frank:

“The audience for those big story-driven games… I won’t say isn’t as large, but they’re not as consistent. You’ll have things like Zelda or Horizon Zero Dawn that’ll come out, and they’ll do really well, but they don’t have the same impact they used to have, because the big service-based games are capturing such a large amount of the audience.

“Sony’s first-party studios do a lot of these games, and they’re good at them, but outside of that, it’s difficult — they’re becoming more rare; it’s a difficult business decision for those teams, you’re fighting into more headwind.” Internally, Microsoft had Quantum Break last year, a big-budget narrative-driven game with no online multiplayer and zero post-launch add-ons. It was a unicorn for Microsoft if there ever was one.

“We’ve got to understand that if we enjoy those games, the business opportunity has to be there for them,” he said.

Quantum Break from developer Remedy Entertainment.

Looking at Microsoft’s usual software suspects, everything has multiplayer of some sort. The company’s predictable-to-a-fault release cadence of Forza, Gears of War and Halo all feature robust multiplayer components that last long beyond the dozen hours it takes to get through the latter pair’s story modes. Forza is basically an always-online racing game, regardless of which subtitle the annual release has. You race against opponents whose AI is based on the behavior of real players, and leaderboards keep you constantly in the loop of where your hot lap time sits in relation to friends.

The upcoming Sea of Thieves is a cartoony take on a pirate’s life, and you’re playing the open-world role-playing game with people around the globe. That’s the type of future that Spencer is hinting at.

How will it apply to the traditional single-player games that are a “difficult” business decision? He’s floated the idea of subscription-based games along the lines of what developer Telltale does with its Game of Thrones, Minecraft and The Walking Dead franchises: narrative-based games that release episodically versus giving players everything at once.

“I’ve looked at things like Netflix and HBO, where great content has been created because there’s this subscription model. Shannon Loftis and I are thinking a lot about, well, could we put story-based games into the Xbox Game Pass business model because you have a subscription going?” Game Pass is still in its infancy, but the pitch is that for $10 a month you’ll get access to over 100 games from the Xbox 360 and Xbox One back catalog. It’s supposed to launch sometime this year.

“The storytelling ability in TV today is really high, and I think that’s because of the business model. I hope as an industry we can think about the same,” he said. “[Subscription services] might spur new story-based games coming to market because there’s a new business model to help support their monetization.”

This sounds incredibly pie-in-the sky. Especially coming from a company whose interest in creating unique narrative experiences has waned in recent years. It’s an accusation Spencer has heard plenty of times. “I want to say to people: that same level of commitment you felt from myself and from the team as we’ve evolved platform over the last three years — as we’ve evolved service over the last three years, as we’ve evolved and innovated hardware over the last three years — is going on with our first party [development studios].”

Spencer has said that paying for third-party exclusives (like it did with Rise of the Tomb Raider in 2015) isn’t a smart long-term business move, and he isn’t wrong about the work Microsoft has done improving the Xbox, so maybe there’s reason to believe him. The Xbox One of today looks and feels nothing like the console that launched in 2013, both in terms of hardware and the system software running on it — in a very good way.

But Microsoft’s grand ambitions have failed before. Coming off the staggering success of the Xbox 360, Redmond’s cocksure original mission for the Xbox One was to take over your living room and control your entire TV experience. That never happened. The do-all Kinect sensor is effectively dead. The buzzards have long since left Xbox Entertainment Studios’ carcass behind, too. Now, Microsoft is just happy if you buy an Xbox and a few games. And it hopes that maybe you’ll pony up for an unproven service in addition to your subscription to Xbox Live for online multiplayer.

So, going into E3 this June, Microsoft has a few things to prove: The value of its high-powered Project Scorpio console, that it can make subscription-based games and that these aren’t just the same platitudes we’ve heard from the company before.

Source: The Guardian

28
Apr

Apple and Qualcomm’s license dispute is getting nasty


Qualcomm’s ongoing legal dispute with Apple today took a new turn after the chipmaker accused its device-making partner of further withholding patent royalties. According to a statement, Apple recently stopped paying licensing revenue to manufacturers of the iPhone because it believes it’s been overpaying for important 3G and 4G patents.

The legal battle started back in January when Apple sued Qualcomm for $1 billion for “abusing its clout” in the industry. Because the semiconductor giant enjoys a monopoly over important modem chips that connect devices to cellular or WiFi networks, it’s required to licence them under “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms. Apple argues it hasn’t done that, going as far as to claim that Qualcomm charges five times more than all of its other licensors combined.

Qualcomm hasn’t taken the issue lightly. Earlier this month, it responded to Apple’s lawsuits with one of its own, accusing the iPhone-maker of underutilizing its modem chips in the iPhone 7 and misrepresenting the performance disparity between Qualcomm basebands and those of its rivals.

Now, Apple is holding back money it owes to manufacturers of the iPhone. Qualcomm, for the most part, directly licenses its patents with partners, but Apple does things a little differently and pays partners like Foxconn that have their own agreements. It now expects to get no royalties during its current quarter.

“Apple is improperly interfering with Qualcomm’s long-standing agreements with Qualcomm’s licensees,” said Don Rosenberg, EVP and general counsel of Qualcomm. “These license agreements remain valid and enforceable. While Apple has acknowledged that payment is owed for the use of Qualcomm’s valuable intellectual property, it nevertheless continues to interfere with our contracts. Apple has now unilaterally declared the contract terms unacceptable; the same terms that have applied to iPhones and cellular-enabled iPads for a decade.”

The move has forced Qualcomm to amend financial estimates it published only last week. The company now sees third quarter revenue reaching between $4.8 billion and $5.6 billion, instead of $5.3 billion to $6.1 billion.

Source: Qualcomm (PDF)

28
Apr

The best 360-degree camera


By Jeff Carlson

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

A 360-degree camera is great if you want to capture the full view of the summit on Half Dome or take in all of the surrounding architecture in the Piazza San Marco in Venice and share that experience on Facebook or YouTube so friends can pan around a scene and fully be there in the moment. After researching 360-degree cameras for 30 hours and testing four top contenders, we think the Ricoh Theta S is the best affordable, user-friendly entry point into this rapidly developing new category of photography.

Who should buy this

The appeal of 360-degree cameras is the ability for the viewer to see (and often hear) not just what’s in front of you, but the entire visual sphere of that location. 360-degree images and videos enable the viewer to look around independently, whether that’s by dragging within the picture window in an app or on a computer screen, or by moving their body while holding a phone or tablet that can register its place in 3D space. When you wear an inexpensive pair of Google Cardboard goggles or more advanced VR gear, the experience you record becomes fairly immersive.

Ways to use 360-degree cameras are still evolving, but there are some scenarios that lend themselves to this kind of shooting. 360-degree cameras can function as an action camera, a POV camera, or a mounted camera. For more on these shooting styles, see our full guide.

How we picked and tested

The Ricoh, Nikon, 360Fly, and Samsung cameras. Photo: Jeff Carlson

We started by reading reviews and combing through specifications for nearly 30 cameras that offer 360-degree recording capabilities. Based on a reader survey of how much you’d be willing to pay for a 360-degree camera, we then limited our scope to models priced under $600. Working on the assumption that more megapixels would be beneficial, especially when shooting video, we looked closely at 4K-capable models. But because only a small number of them currently exist, we brought in a Ricoh Theta S for testing to see how its HD video differed from 4K footage in real-world usage. We dismissed solutions like the GoPro Omni that require strapping together two or more cameras using novel brackets or cages for 360-degree coverage due to complexity. Ultimately, we were able to limit our contenders to just a handful of models: the Ricoh Theta S, 360fly 4K, Samsung Gear 360, Insta360 Nano, and Nikon’s KeyMission 360. For more details on what we dismissed and why, please see the full guide’s competition section.

We took the cameras on vacation to Vancouver and Disneyland, and we also used them on everyday excursions in and around Seattle. In addition to testing ease of use and image quality, viewing results on computers, mobile devices, and cardboard VR viewers, we looked at the post-capture process: editing using dedicated apps and sharing to social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and other outlets that support 360-degree viewing.

Breaking out of that pipeline, however, introduces complications. Editing an image in an external application like Photoshop or cutting together multiple video clips into one movie can remove the metadata that identifies the media as 360 so it displays as a flat image rather than a sphere, necessitating an extra step to reintroduce it. And you can’t assume that every outlet knows what to do with the end result. Facebook displays the images correctly, for example, but as of this writing, Facebook-owned Instagram does not.

Our pick

The Ricoh Theta S (tripod not included). Photo: Jeff Carlson

We think the Ricoh Theta S is the best all-around choice for a 360-degree camera. Its two lenses capture a true 360-degree sphere of view with good color fidelity, sharp image quality in still photos, and pleasing video quality (even though it’s limited to 1080p resolution). The camera is comfortable in the hand and easy to use on its own, but it can also be controlled from a smartphone app. Editing and sharing clips and photos is an easy-to-understand process, something we couldn’t say for some of its rivals. The Theta S was the camera we reached for first when going out to shoot footage.

The Theta S uses two 12-megapixel sensors paired with ultrawide 240-degree lenses in order to create 360-degree footage along both horizontal and vertical axes. It grabs nearly all of that imagery—hiding only the camera itself—and splices the captures from each lens into one seamless 14-megapixel image or 1080p video. The result is technically still a flat image, but when viewed in the Theta S app, or in some outlets such as Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr, the effect can feel like you’re standing where the photographer stood. Why look out over just one vista when you can see every view from the top of a mountain?

A 4K upgrade

The 360fly 4K’s faceted design makes it stand out (tripod not included). Photo: Jeff Carlson

To avoid the need for stitching multiple images together, the makers of the 360fly 4K went with a different approach. The camera has just one lens, capturing a 240-degree vertical view and a 360-degree horizontal view. Because it captures that view in 4K resolution, it offers sharper footage with greater detail than our top pick. The images are still treated as full 360-degree scenes, and because it uses just the one lens, there’s no stitching where two images are joined together—but there’s a blind spot under the camera, replaced by a black or faux-reflected area. The practical effect, when viewing the footage, is feeling as if you’re being prevented from looking down (or up, depending on the camera’s orientation).

For Samsung owners

Photo: Jeff Carlson

The Samsung Gear 360 excels in all the areas we determined were important for 360-degree cameras. It has good image fidelity and shoots video at 4K. Its physical design is compact and feels good in hand (with its included mini tripod that doubles as a handle), with the best external controls of any of the cameras we tested. And working with the images after you’ve shot them in the Samsung Gear app is easy and straightforward. But it’s fully compatible with only a limited range of Samsung phones, which prevents us from making it a top pick. Samsung recently announced a second-generation Gear 360 that the company says will be compatible with a wider range of devices.

Like the Theta S, the Gear 360 captures a full 360-degree sphere around the camera using two lenses, and it does so at 4K resolution (up to 3840×1920 pixels). Still photos are shot at 7776×3888 pixels when both images are combined; you can also choose to shoot using just one lens. Image quality is very good, although the lens distortion appears exaggerated when viewing it within the Gear 360 app; it looks fine when shared to Facebook or YouTube, however.

Samsung has announced, but has yet to make available, the 2017 model of the Gear 360. The new version has a redesigned form factor, shoots 4K video, offers live streaming ability, and should work better with iOS devices. We’re looking forward to testing it when we can.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

28
Apr

Uber puts you in control of your user data


Uber is making removing the hurdles to deleting your account entirely. Like so many other services, simply uninstalling the app from your phone doesn’t wipe your data on the company’s servers. Not any more, according to The Verge. Rather than having to contact Uber support to eliminate your personal information, a forthcoming update adds the feature to the app itself. From the privacy settings you’ll apparently be able to start a 30-day countdown, and after the clock hits zero your customer data will go the way of the dodo.

This isn’t a response to the #deleteUber social media campaign, the company stressed, telling The Verge that the feature has been in the the works for “more than a year.”

Beyond that, the update will give you a little more control over how your location is used within the app. A new feature will let you drop a pin to show your friends where you are and it sounds like you’ll be able to disable GPS services entirely for more privacy.

You’ll have to enter an address for pickups by hand, versus the app automatically pinpointing where you are, however. You know, in case you think that sharing an intersection versus your home’s or destination’s address is a bit too open to Big Brother. Is it enough to get you to come back to the ride-hailing service? Let us know in the comments.

Via: The Verge

Source: Uber

28
Apr

The Galaxy S8’s home button shifts to prevent screen burn


Screensavers were originally a way to prevent burn-in on older CRT monitors. The now-classic moving images in early operating systems were created to keep any single pixel on the screen from remaining in place for too long, leaving behind a ghost on the display. Modern screens like the OLED ones on Samsung’s Galaxy S8 can also suffer from burn-in. Since the new flagship’s Home button is virtual now, the company had to do something to prevent it from getting burned in to your display. The solution? Moving the Home button image around a little bit.

A Galaxy S8's Home button is carefully measured to see it's subtle movement.

This subtle movement can only be seen with careful measurement but it’s definitely changing position by a pixel or two, notes Dutch site Galaxy Club. The feature was confirmed in an exchange between a Samsung superfan and the company’s official Dutch Twitter account, as well.

@Samsung_NL Ques: “verspringt” de “Home-button” ook als je S8+ AOD aan hebt staan (zoals de andere info WEL verspringt), of…?

— henklbr™ 🇳🇱 (@henklbr) April 24, 2017

Smartphone screens aren’t the only modern displays to deal with burn-in, either. LCD and Plasma screens can suffer from it, too. In fact, Android Wear devices that use OLED screens have a special anti-burn-in mode you can enable if you like to keep your smartwatch on all the time.

Via: The Verge

Source: Galaxy Club

28
Apr

Uber Will Make It Easier Than Ever to Delete Your Personal Information From Its App


Uber today announced that it will begin rolling out a simplified way for users to permanently delete their personal information from the app over the next few weeks (via The Verge). The news follows a few months of protests against the company that included Uber’s perceived opportunistic business tactics during the immigration airport protests in January, the questionable actions of CEO Travis Kalanick, and the app’s location sharing practices.

Prior to the update, users could delete the app from their phone, but any data Uber had obtained from its users would remain on its servers unless customers personally emailed or called the company’s support team. Now, users will be able to go through this process within the app itself thanks to a new “Delete Your Account” screen, which will immediately deactivate user accounts and then permanently delete everything after 30 days.

Uber said this protracted deletion period is a way for users to reverse their decision if they change their minds. Data deleted will also affect any information that was entered in Uber’s food-related spin-off app, UberEats.

Late last year and early in 2017, Uber faced a series of backlashes from the public related to the app’s tracking of user data up to five minutes after a trip ends, as well as multiple reports related to Kalanick and his relationship with President Donald Trump. Uber claims that the new account deletion update isn’t in response to any of those previous reports, and that it’s been in the works “for more than a year.”

Uber insists today’s changes aren’t a response to those campaigns. A spokesperson said today’s release has been scheduled for several months, and the changes have been in the works for even longer. “We’ve been working on improving this [account deletion] experience for more than a year,” said an Uber spokesperson.

The update will also include more customizable notification settings, as well as a few tweaks to location sharing settings when friends ask to hail a ride from where you’re located. The actual main location sharing feature is still a black and white choice, so users who opt-out will have to manually enter their location each time they want to request a ride.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

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28
Apr

Merriam-Webster Adds ‘Sheeple’ to Dictionary and Lists Apple Users as Example


Merriam-Webster recently announced that it has added “sheeple” to its dictionary, an informal word that it defines as “people who are docile, compliant, or easily influenced” and thereby “likened to sheep.”

The first example of the word in a sentence is pretty unremarkable…

James Nichols, who ran the family farm here, stamped dollar bills with red ink in protest against currency and told his neighbors that they were “sheeple” for obeying authority like livestock. — Sara Rimer and James Bennet

…but then there’s this:

Apple’s debuted a battery case for the juice-sucking iPhone—an ungainly lumpy case the sheeple will happily shell out $99 for. — Doug Criss

Merriam-Webster, which dates back to 1843, says the first usage of the word “sheeple” was in 1945, long before the advent of the Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Apple as a company altogether. For what it’s worth, the word’s popularity apparently falls within the bottom 10 percent of its dictionary.

Wake up!

‘Sheeple’ is in the dictionary now. https://t.co/pbXVADEoBm

— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 27, 2017

Sadly, this is not the Onion.
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28
Apr

Blu R1 Plus review: A refreshed approach to the budget handset


After having launched its “$50 phone”, the R1 HD last summer, Blu is back with a new take on its entry-level handset experience. Remember the unlocked one that was sold to Amazon Prime customers for the price of a decent steak dinner? Indeed, the R1 Plus is a slightly refreshed version of the device but with a little more where it counts.

Before diving into the review we should make a distinction. As Blu tells us, customers should not equate the R1 branding with Amazon or Amazon Prime. While they may be offered through the online retailer, they are not exclusive. Moreover, the company promises more models in the R1 family in due time. With that said, look for this particular phone to hit Amazon as soon as tomorrow, April 29.

This time around we’re looking at a price tag of around $159 without any incentives or Amazon deals. In other words, about $50 higher than the standard cost of its forebear. As a bonus for early adopters, Blu is selling the R1 Plus at a $50 discount through both Amazon and Best Buy. It’s a 24 hour deal, but you can get it for only $109.99 if you act fast!

As an unlocked handset, the R1 Plus works with either AT&T or T-Mobile’s networks as well as any of their respective MVNO brands. It’s a dual-SIM device which means you can actually pull service from two carriers at once. It’s also a bit of breathing room for when you might travel to another country and need a local SIM card for a short while.

General Impressions

As was the case with its predecessor, the R1 HD, Blu has trimmed things along the edges. You have to do something to keep prices ultra-low, right? Again we find things get started at the box itself; it feels like about half the quality of cardboard material as you’d find in a pricey flagship device. Does it matter in the end? Hardly, but you gotta start somewhere.

Getting into the box we find there are no headphones but there is a very simple microUSB charger. This time around we do get a silicon protective case as well as a screen protector. Both are probably worth about $15-$20 in total, but it’s a nice gesture and something most customers look to buy anyhow. You’ll also get a SIM card removal tool and what looks to be a guitar pick. This is the tool you will use to get into your phone to replace the SIM card or insert a microSD card. DO NOT LOSE IT. More on that later.

Hardware

Whereas the R1 HD might have included hardware that was two years behind the top tier of high-end phones, the R1 Plus closes the gap somewhat. Given the refresh comes less than one year, Blu has done a good job of squeezing better specs into the experience without increasing the price all that much.

First time smartphone users won’t realize it, but these are roughly the same specs that powered key phones from 2015. If you’re moving from an existing, non-flagship device, you might consider this a sidestep.

Those of you who have spent time with a flagship phone or one built with more premium materials, you will feel the difference in quality. It’s not a “cheap” experience, but it doesn’t have anything that comes across as remarkable. The R1 Plus, like its predecessor, errs on the side of inexpensive where it could have easily gone more generic. But, if you are the type who hopes other people take a second glance at your device, this is not the one for you.

Key Specifications

  • Android v6.0 Marshmallow
  • Mediatek 6737 | 1.3GHz Quad Core Processor with Mali-T720
  • 32GB Internal Storage with microSD (up to 64GB)
  • 3GB RAM Memory
  • 5.5-inch 720 x 1280 pixel display
  • 13-megapixel rear camera
  • 5-megapixel front-facing camera
  • 4,000mAh battery
  • Network:

    • 2G: 850/900/1800/1900
    • 3G: 850/1700/1900/2100
    • 4G LTE: 2/4/7/17 (12 will be available over-the-air)

Display

The R1 Plus offers up a 5.5-inch display with a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution. It’s technically HD, though not the same as 1080p and certainly nowhere near the 2K stuff in most higher end phones. This likely matters little in the overall scheme of things for the target demographic and works just fine for text, images, and games.

As often is the case with device like those from Blu and other low-cost unlocked phone makers, it’s only when you compare them to what else is on the market that you see shortcomings and key differences. While they are more than adequate for what they set out to do, there are certainly reasons why another, larger brand can ask for more.

In both indoors and outdoors settings, the R1 Plus works just fine. The 5.5-inch feels little thicker than others available today; the curved back and slightly wider bezels give it just enough to make it feel like a bulkier Google Pixel XL. The Gorilla Glass 3 carries over from the last model and gives it moderate protection against scuffs, scratches, and minor drops. With Corning now offering a 5th generation of its glass we might have like for Gorilla Glass 4, but, again… costs.

General Impressions

Holding the R1 Plus, one doesn’t immediately feel like they are holding a budget device of $100-$150. Generally speaking, the device is solid, constructed decently enough, and looks to hold up over the long haul.

Like the R1 HD, the phone is housed in a metal cover to protect the battery; a powder coat finish and chamfered decorative stripe give it a nice aesthetic touch. The phone allows for a decent grip and the texture doesn’t attract oils or fingerprints. The silver version reminds of darker HTC phones.

As for the configuration of the phone, the volume rocker and power buttons are on the right side of the display. The power button now has some knurling on it to help differentiate it from the volume. All three deliver feedback and response in line within our expectations. The headphone jack is found at the top side, toward the left of the phone while the microUSB port is at the bottom and further to the left.

The rear cover is removable, opening up access to the microSD card slot and dual microSIM card slots. It’s worth noting that the battery is not removable. At 4,000mAh it’s much improved over the R1 Plus and gave us far more than a day’s use. We tend to charge at night out of habit, but we imagine that more basic users could stretch two days out of a full battery.

Speaking of the rear cover, this was one the absolute hardest cases we’ve ever removed from a phone. Were it not for the “guitar pick” plastic piece we could not get into the phone. You’ll start with a small spot on the right side of the display and pull the entire back and sides. It looks much easier than it truly is and we worry about users in the wild who might want to drop in a SIM when traveling. Or, swapping a microSD card out. Be prepared for some aggravation.

Camera

The Blu R1 Plus features a 13-megapixel rear camera with a f/2.2 aperture and a 5-megapixel front-facing shooter. Both cameras offer up LED flashes to help users capture better shots in lower lighting conditions. On paper they’re right about the middle of the pack, edging toward the low end. In practice, though, we were surprised by the results.

Given the cost of the phone, we were happy with the pictures. And, when you consider that a lot of our photos are viewed on mobile devices or as status updates, it works even better. Even the default settings gave us images that we’d be happy sharing without any post-processing or editing.

HDR pictures took a little bit longer to snap and process than we might have liked, but that could be a result of coming directly from a much pricier phone. We found still life shots to work great, but don’t try to grab an HDR shot of your puppy or Junior’s home run swing. You’ll get blurred results where it counts.

Camera Samples (Flickr)

Blu R1 Plus

You can see from the embedded gallery that photos generally come out decently enough for casual users. Edit a few of them via Snapseed or another tool and you’ll end up with have photos that look great on social media.

To be sure, lower light scenarios will give you grainy results, especially when zoomed in; color could come out a bit over-saturated at times. But, there’s nothing here that alarmed us or gave us pause. It took us about 30 pictures before we realized the limitations of the R1 Plus’s camera. We’ve become fond of doing some tweaking with apps and the pics here can be adjusted to our liking.

As for the camera app itself, there are a number of options for shooting, including panoramic, night, face beauty, sports, and professional.  Each works well in their respective intended situations, but the auto is where we suspect you’ll play most often. There’s also a Scene Frame mode which basically puts your photo inside of a setting. Examples include a side rear view mirror of a car, a painter’s canvas, a window.

Software

If there’s one thing we’ve come to appreciate in Blu, it’s that it doesn’t spend time messing with a custom version of Android. Essentially a stock build, this doesn’t come across as having any particular agenda. To us, there’s few things worse in smartphones than a bunch of carrier-branded apps that we rarely use. The same goes for the R1 Plus.

While this one doesn’t come loaded with a host of random apps, games, or services, it does come with its share of Amazon titles. Our review unit had Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Amazon Music, Audible, Amazon Photos, Amazon Apps & Games, and Amazon Video. Other than that, we have Opera (and Chrome) for web browsing, and a standard video player.

There’s a full suite of Google apps and services present, too. Titles include Drive, Calendar, Gmail, Hangouts, Messenger, Maps, Photos, YouTube, Play Music, Play Movies & TV, and the Play Store.

The R1 Plus runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which is technically only one version behind what’s available today. Android 7.0 Nougat is offered on most new models and it’s not immediately clear when this phone will see it. Blu, in its press release for the phone, pledges the 7.0 update.

To us, if you’re looking to snag a phone for $100-$150, you might want to consider it an almost “as is” device. This doesn’t mean you have a burner, or a disposable phone, but you’ll want to know going in that official software support could end before you’re done with the phone. This isn’t exactly exclusive to Blu, of course, so don’t let that color your impression of this model.

The 6.0 means you’ve got some of the latest in protection from Google, plus all of the recent design principles. It also means you can conceivably run many of the apps and games on the market. Many, but not all; the hardware might place limitations on what you plan to do.

We wager that the target audience doesn’t even know what to expect in terms of software updates, version numbers, etc. First-time buyers and casual users aren’t going to concern themselves with the various releases.

For what it’s worth, we noticed that this had the Android security patch dated from October 5, 2016. That’s a little concerning to us and we hope to see something else pushed before long. Android, as a platform, doesn’t look and function all that different over the last few releases, but security, malware, and other threats could cause problems.

Performance

Using the R1 Plus as a daily driver proved somewhat challenging for us only because we’ve been toting around much pricier and more powerful phones. We did hand it off to more casual users, and those who are currently carrying phones that are a good 1-2 years old; they typically had no qualms or problems.

As we see it, 3GB memory is where things start. Sure, there are 2GB models on the market, and likely more to come, but we don’t recommend going that low. Processors have moved pretty quickly over the last few years and Android optimization helps, but there’s no such thing as too much memory.

The R1 Plus handles typical daily tasks without any problems. Be it browsing the web, pounding out emails and messages, social media, or games, the phone hopped in and out of apps with no major stutters.

Conclusion

It’s difficult to take issue with a smartphone that runs $100-$150, especially one that is unlocked and capable of Volte and HD Voice support (T-Mobile users only). And, when you get an unadulterated version of Android, support for two SIM cards, and a two-day battery, it’s even harder.

Blu does a great job of balancing low cost with “cheap” build materials. The R1 Plus is a solid “every man” phone for someone who is just getting into smartphones. Broke your expensive flagship? This one can replace that for the time being. Need a device that your kids can take to after school events or sleepovers? Mom tired of her old smartphone with the 3.5-inch or 4-inch screen? You get the point.

Blu has become one of our favorite unlocked smartphone makers, particularly because they’re US-based. But, the pressure is on, and there are dozens of companies fighting it out in this space. With some getting more popular in the US, it’s harder than ever to stand out. Does the Blu R1 Plus stand out? Not necessarily. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it, though.

We understand that going with microUSB was probably cheaper for Blu than opting for the new-emerging standard in the USB Type C. With that said, we expect that anything that arrives in the second half of 2017 should have that as the charging port. And, considering Blu has used it in some of its other models, we feel it’s time to draw the hard line.

Although Android 6.0 supports fingerprint scanners at the platform level, this phone does not have one. It took some getting used to for us as most of what we test or use on a daily basis has one. As we move into Android 0 and perhaps an 8.0 release, it’s time to make this standard, too. Blu employs them in most of their phones. It’s time for the whole industry to adopt it at all levels.

If you’re the type of person who is cost-conscious and/or doesn’t need much from your phone, we have no reservations with recommending Blu. We’d like to see some more current software (security patches, at least), but, as is, it’s worth $150.

You can purchase the R1 Plus through both Amazon and Best Buy starting immediately. As an incentive, you can save $50 with an early adopter discount. At $110 this is one hell of a package.

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