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4
May

Everything you need to know about BlackBerry’s apps on the KEYone


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How to make the most out of the BlackBerry apps pre-installed on the KEYone.

The BlackBerry KEYone comes with a full set of productivity apps preinstalled. If you’re coming from an Android phone you’ll recognize most of them from Google Play, and from an end user perspective, they are identical. If you’re coming from a BlackBerry OS phone you might recognize the names but the apps will be a little different. Either way, most anything you need to keep track of the things life throws at you is there waiting. Let’s take a look at what’s available and what you can do with these apps.

BlackBerry Launcher

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Your launcher is where you interact with everything else, and BlackBerry has tightly integrated with its other apps and services. It also offers a lot of customization and has become popular for people using any Android phone, not just one from BlackBerry.

Besides a home screen and app drawer, the launcher also controls your wallpaper and widgets. With the BlackBerry launcher, you can use most any widget you find in Google Play as well as BlackBerry’s own, which include Pop-Up Widgets. Pop-Up Widgets let you see an apps widget from the icon by swiping up, down or across it. It’s a great way to keep things clean and still have quick access to an app’s features.

BlackBerry also adds a lot when it comes to shortcuts. There is a long list of custom shortcuts you can place on your home screen. Here are some highlights:

  • Add a contact
  • Add a task
  • Add a calendar event
  • Take a note
  • Speed dial a contact
  • Get directions using Google Maps

BlackBerry launcher also supports icon packs from Google Play to customize the look and Android for Work to keep your corporate data safe. You’ll find all the settings and features by tapping the settings icon while in the app drawer or long pressing on the home screen.

BlackBerry Keyboard

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While the KEYone has a physical keyboard, it still depends on software to enhance things. One of the most important of these enhancements is that they physical keys are also touch-sensitive. This provides greater accuracy when typing as well as gestures like the BlackBerry trackpad you might be used to using.

When it comes to keyboards, BlackBerry knows a thing or two.

For faster and easier typing the input engine has its own auto-correct and suggestion feature. These will appear on the screen when you’re using the keyboard and can be selected by tapping the word or phrase. In addition to the existing dictionary, you can add your own custom words and create shortcuts for things you’ll type frequently like your address. Even with the best keyboard, typing @home to insert your full address is a better experience than spelling it all out!

Other highlights that make BlackBerry’s keyboard a standout app are simultaneous input that allows for predictions and corrections in up to three languages at the same time, text selection and cursor control through the touch-sensitive keys, a customizable symbol page and enterprise features that let you secure specific words and phrases.

On top of all this, the BlackBerry Keyboard and BlackBerry Home synergy let you make up to 52 shortcuts to do things like launch an app, make a call or open a web page. You’ll find all the features in your KEYone settings under Languages & Input.

BlackBerry Calendar and Contacts

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BlackBerry provides its own front-end for your address book and calendar. Whether you use Google or Exchange to manage it all online or just keep everything locally on your phone or SIM card, you’ll find both are simple yet packed with features.

Most importantly, no matter what contacts or calendar app you’re used to you’ll be right at home here. The interface is intuitive and easy to navigate with a central point for all of your settings. And because everything is integrated through BlackBerry’s software you can do some pretty awesome stuff using them such as:

  • See adjacent or conflicting appointments and time zone previews
  • Join conference calls directly from event reminders using “Join Now”
  • Get suggestions on who to invite to an event based on your existing events and who you invited last time
  • Directly respond to appointment notifications with quick messages

BlackBerry Tasks and Notes

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Fully featured apps for your task list and note taking come installed on your KEYone, and like the calendar and contacts, they are designed to be easy to use while still having a set of features to make them stand out.

Tasks and Notes apps are must-have productivity tools and BlackBerry’s included them.

The Notes app adds sync with Microsoft Exchange, automatic setup and connection with Outlook or Exchange and has full support for Android at work accounts. Entering a new note is easy whether you’re inside the app or using a keyboard shortcut and the minimal interface lets you focus on the note, not the app. If you want to use a photo or screenshot as a note, the Notable app can grab either and allow for instant editing and sharing.

BlackBerry Tasks syncs with your Exchange notes and entries are fully encrypted during transport. The interface lets you add tags or assign a task to a specific category, then search for tasks using those categories and tags. Best of all, recurring tasks are easy to setup complete with their own reminder system.

Productivity Tab

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The Productivity Tab gives you a great agenda view and a quick look at what’s happening today, all from your home screen.

Slide the tab out from the edge of the screen — the tab itself is resizable and can be moved to the spot that works best — and you have a mini home page complete with a calendar, contact list, message widget and to-do list. The entries are tied into the rest of BlackBerry’s app suite so there is no manual entry or setup and anything you do through the Productivity Tab is synchronized with all the other apps and widgets BlackBerry offers.

Long-time BlackBerry users will especially appreciate this agenda view, and settings to control what you see and how you see it means it’s something everyone should have a look at.

The BlackBerry Hub

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Like Mr. Lebowski’s rug, the BlackBerry Hub ties everything together.

The Hub is a central place where you’ll find all your messages in one place. It’s super-customizable and works with email. calendar, social apps, and even phone calls giving you a quick preview of each so you can tap to read what’s important right away or come back to anything later.

BlackBerry brings all their services and interoperability in the Hub. It’s more than a catch-all inbox.

When you open BlackBerry Hub you’ll see an ordered list of notifications, with the newest ones at the top. Unread entries are in bold and everything is infinitely scrollable if you’re the type who keeps a full inbox. Each is sorted and identified by the application icon and messages from people in your address book have their name in the preview.

The Hub is a great catch-all for anyone who wants all their notifications in one place, but the real power comes with using BlackBerry Hub for email. Not only can you open a message inside the Hub itself (and see any attachments) but you can reply or forward the message as well as compose a new message. All without ever opening your “regular” email app.

BlackBerry Hub is also very configurable, and you’ll find visual tweaks and settings galore. BlackBerry has always been keen on a great unified inbox, and they carry on that tradition for Android in the BlackBerry Hub.

DTEK

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BlackBerry’s DTEK app is a security dashboard for your phone. Besides monitoring the integrity of your software the DTEK app lets you see and change privacy settings for apps that access your camera, microphone, location and personal information like photos and accounts.

Using a meter and universal green/yellow/red safety level colors you’ll know at a glance if anything needs your attention.

The DTEK app focuses on four key features to help guard your privacy:

  • Monitor: Know at a glance the overall security rating for your device, as well as for specific security features. You can identify whether you need to take any action to improve the security of your device.
  • Control: Easily change your security settings to improve the security rating for your device and specific security features.
  • Track: Turn on event logging to track what your apps are doing. Advanced tools help you track what info your apps have accessed, how it’s being used, and the duration of use. This includes which apps are accessing your camera, microphone, location, and personal information.
  • Alert: Be notified of specific application activities when you set up notifications.

While the DTEK app is no substitute for being diligent when using the internet or installing software, it does give you information about your phone at a glance.

Just the beginning

Along with all these great apps from BlackBerry, you’ll find the [Google Play Store]{/google-play) app. It’s your gateway to over a million apps that have been monitored and screened to be safe and are ready to install on your KEYone. Once you get the essentials setup, we recommend it be your next stop!

BlackBerry KEYone

  • BlackBerry KEYone hands-on
  • BlackBerry KEYone specs
  • The latest KEYone news
  • KEYone vs. Priv: Battle of the BlackBerry keyboards
  • Join the discussion in the forums

BlackBerry Mobile

4
May

BlackBerry KEYone review: Coming home


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Come for the keyboard, stay for the battery life. You probably already know if this is your next phone.

There’s nothing like coming home. Even after months — years — the sounds, the smells, the feelings, are unavoidable.

The BlackBerry KEYone is home. Even more so than the Priv, which was released 18 months ago, the KEYone is BlackBerry’s attempt to appeal to its core audience, as small as it may be, with the best hardware keyboard on the market. With that it succeeds, but falls down in a couple notable areas along the way.

The quick take

The KEYone is the best phone for those upgrading from BlackBerry 10, or are holding onto a Priv. For everyone else, it’s probably not going to move the needle.

The good

  • Great build quality
  • Android 7.1.1 on board at launch
  • Excellent security features
  • Best hardware keyboard on the market
  • Great battery life
  • Best security update pedigree outside of Google

The bad

  • Software is buggy
  • Performance is inconsistent (likely from buggy software)
  • Camera has potential but suffers in low light

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To have and to hold

BlackBerry KEYone Full review

BlackBerry Mobile, which is actually TCL Communications, which makes Alcatel phones, has done an admirable job furthering the legacy of BlackBerry’s transition from BB10 to Android. Not only does the KEYone sport the same security enhancements, including Hardware Root of Trust and Verified Boot as all BlackBerry phones released in the past couple of years, but it runs Android 7.1.1 out of the box, and promises to receive monthly security updates. To say that the KEYone is one of the most secure phones on the market right now would probably not be an overstatement.

But the KEYone is also inherently divisive, willfully limiting its potential customer base with a hardware keyboard that harkens back to a time, between six and 10 years ago, when not only were BlackBerrys essential tools for millions of people, but few could envision typing on anything but that miniaturized version of the desktop keyboard.

Times have changed, and people have adjusted. Well, most people. This phone is for the others, and for them it’s almost perfect.

Those pesky numbers

First, the specs

Operating System Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Display 4.5-inch, 1620×1080 IPS LCD434ppi
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 625Octa-core 2.0GHzAdreno 506 GPU
RAM 3GB
Storage 32GB
Expandable microSD up to 2TB
Rear Camera 12MP (1.55 micron) f/2.0, PDAFdual-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 mm x 72.39 mm x 9.4 mm
Weight 180 grams

I tap, therefore I am

About this review

I (Daniel Bader) am writing this review after spending 10 days with a pre-production version of the BlackBerry KEYone. BB Mobile says that the hardware is near-final but the software is not, meaning that some of the software issues could be fixed in an update. If so, we’ll update this review.

The phone was running Android 7.1.1 Nougat on Build AAK831 with the April 5, 2017 security patch. It received an update to Build AAL093, which fixed a number of early bugs and performance problems, on May 3, just a few hours before publishing this review. The phone stayed on the Bell network in Canada throughout its testing.

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Solid, like the Canadian Shield

BlackBerry KEYone Hardware

Let’s start with the hardware. This is a solid device, as all high-end BlackBerry devices have been over the past few years. Most notably, the aluminum frame joins with the metal frets of the keyboard seamlessly, and while I’m not an enormous fan of the flat top with rounded corners, the phone certainly paints a unique picture.

That fingerprint sensor in the space bar: my goodness, is it awesome.

Indeed, the matte silver finish of the frame honors early BlackBerry models without going too retro, though the black-and-silver color palette definitely gives me the feels. There are modern touches here, though: the symmetrical speaker and microphone grills on the bottom are flanked by a USB-C port, while the sizeable (and distracting, to be honest) front-facing camera sits next to etched holes and a duo of sensors brace against a large 4.5-inch LCD screen.

Back in 2014, when the Passport was released, I remember wondering how BlackBerry would eventually release an Android phone given that its keyboard takes up so much vertical space. Well, here you go. The screen is really good — surprisingly good — though not quite as bright as I’d like (though, really, coming from a Galaxy S8, it’s not really a fair comparison). More importantly, though, its 3:2 aspect ratio makes sense: most Android apps can adapt to the reduced vertical real estate, just as they can for the taller counterparts on the Galaxy S8 and LG G6.

What’s irritating, and something I don’t quite understand, is BlackBerry Mobile’s use of capacitive navigation buttons below the screen; for a phone that insists its keyboard is smart, and encourages swiping vertically to scroll through web pages and feeds, it’s far too easy to accidentally hit one of the three buttons.

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My only other hardware gripe is the placement of the power button, which mirrors BB Mobile’s Alcatel counterparts by placing it on the left side of the phone. I’m all for catering to lefties, but I don’t think this is the solution. The right side houses a volume rocker and, below it, a programmable convenience key that can be assigned to anything except turning on and off the phone. I think the convenience key is a great idea, but justifying the power button’s placement by saying that people will use the fingerprint sensor to turn on the phone and double-tap the display to turn it off again goes against the years of muscle memory most smartphone users have built up.

Speaking of that fingerprint sensor, it’s seamlessly integrated into the keyboard’s space bar, and my goodness is it awesome. The DTEK60, a repackaged TCL 950, has its fingerprint sensor on the back, but this one is just perfect: fast, accurate, and well-placed.

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The keyboard

Let’s talk about the keyboard, because in all likelihood it’s a big reason you’re considering the phone at all. It’s good, probably 90% as good as the one on the BlackBerry Classic, and certainly the best on any modern phone.

The keys are wide and responsive, with excellent travel that return to position instantly. If you’re a current BlackBerry user, you’re quickly going to feel at ease here, and if you’re a lapsed CrackBerry addict, the adjustment period will likely be brief.

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While the familiar BlackBerry frets are here, the keys are not quite as contoured and angled as they used to be, which BlackBerry Mobile says comes from a need to optimize for the gestures that were popularized by the Passport and, later, the Priv. It’s a fine compromise, and not one I mind, but it doesn’t do anything to assuage the cognitive dissonance I feel returning to typing on a physical keyboard.

You won’t convince me that physical keys are the future, but this one is damn good.

Yes, like I mentioned before, typing on the KEYone is like coming home. But the home feels smaller, more cramped, and rife with compromise. I’ll try my best not to brutalize the metaphor too much, but even after using the KEYone all day, every day, for nearly two weeks, I haven’t fallen back in love with the process. Typing on this phone is a chore. It’s the reason I kept the slider closed on the Priv for much of its life.

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I strongly believe that virtual keyboards in their current form provide a superior and more accurate typing experience than a physical one — but that’s just me. Google Keyboard; SwiftKey; even BlackBerry’s own superb virtual keyboard: they’re all very good at figuring out what you’re trying to say, and correcting your mistakes as you type. And while BlackBerry’s keyboard does that, too, the satisfying feedback of physical keys doesn’t always lead to a better experience.

(Those dismissing my pedigree right now should take into account my history with BlackBerrys. My first smartphone was a BlackBerry Pearl 8100, which a few months later was replaced by a Bold 9000. I used that 9000 for years, eventually replacing it with a Bold 9700 and Bold 9900.

In between, I held onto almost every BlackBerry imaginable, from the chiclet keys of the Curve 8300 to, later, the Tour 9630 and Torch 9800. I loved those phones. When BlackBerry 10 was released, I upgraded not to the Z10 but the Q10. I used the Passport; I gave the Classic a try. Even when I had an Android phone in one pocket, I always had a keyboarded BlackBerry in the other.

I feel I’ve earned the right to look at the state of BlackBerry, and the need for keyboarded phones, objectively.)

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Let’s remove personal preference for a moment, then. The keyboard, uniformly backlit, is excellent. Once you get the hang of it, the combination of touch typing and on-screen autocorrect works well. There are also a number of gestures that can be utilized to improve the typing experience, though I found myself more concerned with finishing a word than stopping to swipe up in one of three quadrants to extract an autocorrect suggestion.

As on the Priv, swiping to the left over the keys deletes the last word, while double-tapping on it introduces a cursor that can be used to quickly navigate through and edit text. I really like these gestures, and found myself not just using but relying on them as I spent more time with the KEYone.

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When you’re on the home screen, those keys double as shortcuts to basically anything, too: you can hold down the ‘C’ button to quickly launch the camera, or short-press the ‘M’ key to instantly call Mom (hey, it’s Mother’s Day soon — don’t forget!). And when you’re typing away, the physical Shift and Alt buttons mean you can quickly cut, copy and paste without digging around for that on-screen cursor. These are all great features, and add tremendous value to the hardware keyboard, especially once you grow used to the keys’ nuances.

Typing on the KEYone takes some getting used to, even compared to older BlackBerry keyboards, and that’s because BlackBerry Mobile decided to go glossy instead of matte on the buttons themselves. You’ll want to make sure there’s no oil or sweat on your fingertips, too, because once gunked the keys have a tendency to lose friction, and accuracy, in a hurry. A quick wipe with a microfiber cloth will do the trick, but like any physical keyboard, keep it clean lest you want to clean crumbs from under the frets in a few months’ time.

After a few days with the keyboard, using it became second nature, and I returned to the rhythm I’d developed years before. But it’s kind of like writing with a pen: you have to rebuild those muscles, physically and mentally.

With the current pre-production software, there is often a tiny but perceptible delay before both the first letter appears in the text box and the first autocorrect option appears at the bottom of the screen. It’s almost like the keyboard is waiting for the software to figure out it’s typing and, when it does, it snaps to attention and no longer lags. I’m hoping this is a pre-production gremlin and not something endemic to the phone, but software gremlins abound on the KEYone.

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Less is more

BlackBerry KEYone Software

Running Android 7.1.1 Nougat is a good thing; promises of monthly security updates are even better. While the Priv is still stuck on Marshmallow, the two phones have remarkably similar software experiences, since BlackBerry has created a consistent aesthetic that leans closely on Google’s Nexus and Pixel phones for art direction.

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Here’s what you get: a custom launcher that does most things right, including giving BlackBerry loyalists notification badges over icons and Android faithful the option of swapping in icon packs and swiping up to quickly access widgets. Practically everything else feels “stock” Android, from Nougat’s unmatched notification experience — in-line replies for the win — to the host of pre-installed Google apps.

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But BlackBerry (the Canadian company, not BlackBerry Mobile the hardware vendor — with me?) being BlackBerry, it has filled the KEYone with an armada of its own apps and services, punctuated by the Hub, a single place to consolidate all of your emails, texts, calls and social feeds, from Slack to WhatsApp to Twitter.

Hub would be close to perfect if it supported aliases. But it’s still damn good.

I can’t use Hub as my main email client because it doesn’t support aliases (the ability to send or reply to someone from an email different, but associated with, the primary address). It’s otherwise so good at what it does, and addresses so many other pain points I have with many email clients today, including my service of choice, Newton. It supports rich formatting, customizable gestures, and has quick access to my calendar.

Everything you need to know about the KEYone’s software features

BlackBerry’s other apps do a damn fine job replacing Google’s own versions, too; from the calendar to an excellent task manager, they’re simple and well-designed, and leave no glaring holes compared to what you’d get on a Pixel or a Galaxy. And they sync with Exchange, so they’ll work with your existing office setup. You do have to contend with BBM being pre-installed, but if you’re going out of your way to buy a KEYone, you may also be one of the people maintaining a presence on BlackBerry’s once-ubiquitous messaging service.

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Notes and Notable, two similar-sounding apps that do vastly different things — the former is self-explanatory and the latter lets you annotate screenshots and photos — are examples of other value-adds that come pre-loaded on the device, and BlackBerry’s DTEK software still keeps you apprised of your phone’s security.

BlackBerry’s apps are pretty great Google replacements

By default, BlackBerry still shows its so-called Productivity tab, a holdover from the curved edges of the Priv and a welcome addition to the software retinue. It’s received a nice makeover here, though, with a full-screen overlay that offers a quick glance at unread emails, upcoming meetings and unfinished tasks.

From the very beginning, BlackBerry’s take on Android won me over. Like OnePlus’s Oxygen OS, there are just enough useful changes to Android to justify their existence, but they don’t get in the way and never bog.

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A note on security

That BlackBerry is able to seamlessly blend its security and enterprise assets into a phone like this is admirable. The company boasts a number of security advantages over its rivals, like a constant check for hardware changes and a verified boot that ensures the software has not been tampered with.

Once booted, the phone is constantly scanning installed apps for traces of malware, and a fast rollout of Google’s monthly security updates put it on the same footing as the Nexus and Pixel line.

To say that BlackBerry’s phones are the most secure devices on the market may be a stretch — the Pixel will almost certainly benefit from having a newer version of Android, plus monthly security patches, while the KEYone languishes on Nougat for some time — but they are certainly among the most secure, and that counts for a lot in this day and age.

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Good and really good

BlackBerry KEYone Performance and Battery

Running on the Snapdragon 625 platform with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, BlackBerry Mobile spent a lot of time at the phone’s inception justifying the use of an older mid-range chip on a phone that, at $549, approaches flagship prices.

I’ve had great experiences with Android phones of similar pedigrees, in particular the excellent Moto Z Play. But when I first received the KEYone, I was shocked to see how much slower it seemed than that highly-optimized Motorola device. Indeed, not only was it occasionally difficult to type without lag, but apps would load slowly, menus would crawl as I scrolled, and the keyboard’s smart scrolling would intermittently fail.

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The good news is that after an update (the day before the review embargo lifted, natch), much of the grime disappeared, and the phone began running the way I hope it will when it reaches retail. Even on this new software build I’m going to save my definitive thoughts on performance until I received a retail unit with final software, since there are still areas where BlackBerry can tighten things. Still, the Snapdragon 625 chip inside seems to provide sufficient horsepower for the meandering tasks I submitted to it, including the occasional game of PinOut and Super Mario Run (my two mobile game addictions of the moment).

Even better is the battery life which, like the aforementioned Moto Z Play, spans days, not hours. The 3,505mAh battery is half of the equation, the other half being the power-sipping Snapdragon 625 and relatively low-resolution LCD screen. This is a great combination, and is sure to win power users over. Whereas a phone like the Galaxy S8 left with 10-20% at the end of a long work day, the KEYone often leaves me with close to 50%.

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BlackBerry KEYone Cameras

Much ado was made about the fact that the KEYone boasts the same 12 megapixel IMX378 rear camera sensor as the Google Pixel. But as we’ve learned countless times throughout the past couple of years, a smartphone camera is far more than its choice of sensor.

The KEYone can take great photos, and does a good job outdoors and in situations with moderate light. The combination of a sensor with large 1.55 micron pixels and a relatively wide f/2.0 aperture provide the right ingredients, and even on Auto mode I took some remarkable shots, including some photos at dusk that I’ll treasure. Same with macros, even though the minimum focus distance is a little far for my liking.

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It’s indoors, in artificial light, where the Snapdragon 625’s aging image signal processor, and the phone’s lack of optical image stabilization, rear their combined Hydra heads. A surfeit of grain and poor white balance make barely-usable photos, especially when a moving subject is involved. This isn’t unique to the KEYone, but given that the phone has, on paper, the same camera potential as the Google Pixel, it shows just how far the right software tuning goes.

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BlackBerry does have a pretty great camera-taking experience on its hands, though, with one of my favorite manual modes of any phone camera I’ve used. It’s also really nice to have the space bar, which is always in reach of the thumb, double up as a shutter button.

The phone takes decent-yet-shaky 4K video at 30fps, too, and the 8MP front camera gets the job done.

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BlackBerry KEYone As a phone

BlackBerrys were always known as stellar phones to, you know, make calls, and the KEYone is no exception. Not only is it easy to hold in one hand, the textured plastic back is exceptionally comfortable and grippy. Sound quality from the earpiece is superb, and calls made over Bell’s network tended to be clear, sharp and agreeable to the other person.

Agreeable to me was the single downward-facing mono speaker, which to BlackBerry Mobile’s credit continues a long line of superior audio experiences on smartphones bearing the brand.

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Similarly, network speeds were blazing fast over Bell’s network (the carrier will sell the KEYone when it’s launched May 31 in Canada), reaching speeds of up to 150Mbps using carrier aggregation.

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BlackBerry KEYone Final thoughts

One of my favorite things about the KEYone is the ability to use the keyboard as a trackpad, to scroll through articles without having to touch the display. This was true of the Passport and Priv and it’s true here, too. But the phone isn’t otherwise usable in one hand, especially not for typing; my thumb doesn’t reach the ‘Q’, ‘A’ and ‘ALT’ buttons when gripping the phone in my right hand, and because the keyboard is permanent there’s no shrinking it down as on a virtual keyboard.

Want a keyboard? Buy this phone!

This illustrates a fundamental frustration I have with the KEYone. To some, its inflexibility is a selling point — the selling point — for a phone they’ve ostensibly waited years for. The long-awaited Android phone with a proper BlackBerry keyboard that yields no real compromises.

If you’re that person, this is your phone. Buy it. Don’t think twice. You will be happy.

If you’re curious about the KEYone and want to put aside your big-screen phone for one with a keyboard — to return home for a time — the privilege will cost you $549 and some retraining.

But cast aside the keyboard for a moment and look at the KEYone’s other traits: it’s not too dissimilar to a phone like the Moto G5 Plus, which in its most powerful configuration is just over half the cost of the KEYone.

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Should you buy it? Only if you need a keyboard

On its own, the KEYone is a pretty good phone. It’s also the best phone with a keyboard you can buy. The gulf comes from the fact that no one else is doing what BlackBerry Mobile is doing, and no company comes close to offering the combination of features, performance, battery life and a physical keyboard.

If the keyboard is important, you’ve probably already made up your mind. Buy the KEYone and live a happy life.

If you can live without a physical keyboard but still want that BlackBerry pedigree, skip the DTEK line and go find a Google Pixel. Then go download all of BlackBerry’s excellent apps, including the Hub and Launcher, and enjoy your newly-redecorated home.

See at BlackBerry Mobile

How does KEYone compare to the Priv?

BlackBerry has two Android phones with physical keyboards, and they’re both great. But how does the new KEYone compare to the older Priv slider? Jerry Hildenbrand pits key against key.

Read BlackBerry KEYone vs. Priv: No contest!

4
May

BlackBerry KEYone vs. BlackBerry Priv: No contest


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There is only one real choice for an Android with a keyboard.

An Android phone with a keyboard is a niche product. I think everyone knows it, including the company that makes them. But because the choice is so small (as in just one) it’s important you make sure what you’re buying is good enough to replace what you already have.

We’ll tell you up front that the BlackBerry KEYone is a much better phone than the BlackBerry Priv, and we’ll explain why we think that way if you need more convincing.

Hardware, specs and features

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The KEYone is a really well-built phone. Not just a well built phone among phones with a physical keyboard but well-built in general. It’s hefty and thick by today’s standards and is a glorious mix of metal, rubber, and glass. And keys. It’s solid, and when you compare it to most other phones on the market you get the impression that it will last forever.

The KEYone is a solid phone and you know it as soon as you pick it up.

This is a stark contrast to the Priv, which came in two flavors: Built fine, or really wobbly and creaky. I got lucky and mine doesn’t suffer from a clicky back cover or a loose keyboard slide, but even then it’s easy to see that the KEYone is using better and thicker metal and it’s put together more solidly.

A big part of the reason is that the Priv was a slider. You had the full-screen experience and a flick of the thumb revealed a BlackBerry keyboard. The KEYone has none of the inherent problems a slider has because it follows the typical BlackBerry look with a screen that only covers three-quarters of the face, with the keyboard itself taking the remainder. I’m a fan of the slider, in theory anyway. But I’m more of a fan of how well built the KEYone is.

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Everything inside the KEYone is also a huge improvement over the Priv. And it shows, especially when you’re doing all the BlackBerry things this BlackBerry was designed to do.

The KEYone’s hardware is just enough, which is something the Priv wasn’t able to say.

Where the Priv would slow down when you started to do several things on at once, the KEYone will keep on truckin’. Don’t assume the KEYone is infallible and will run as well as a Google Pixel because it doesn’t. BlackBerry didn’t put the very latest and fastest processor or memory modules in the KEYone so you’ll still hit a wall if you try to hit one with all the BlackBerry services and any other app you can think of running. But that wall is far beyond the capabilities of the Priv.

While the KEYone would not be my first choice for playing 3D games or using any other really processor-intensive application, you won’t have the problems watching HD video or web browsing that many Priv owners complained of. Temper your expectations, or just buy a Galaxy S8 if that’s what you like to do with your phone.

  • BlackBerry KEYone full specs
  • BlackBerry Priv full specs

The keyboards

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Chances are this is why you’re here. If you’re using a Priv in 2017, you’re doing so because of the keyboard. The good news is that you’ll like the KEYone’s a lot more.

The keyboard on the Priv was flat. A textured corner on each key was all that let your thumb find them and the only reference was a raised dot on the D key. The only thing that made the Priv keyboard great was that it was the only Android phone to have one. It took a long time to get used to it and become thumb-typing proficient.

The BlackBerry keyboard of legend still hasn’t returned with the KEYone, but it’s close. And for this keyboard lover, it’s almost better.

You won’t find a better physical keyboard on a phone in 2017 if that’s what you’re looking for.

The Keyboard is made of flat keys with a slick coating, but each key is raised out of the body and has a distinctive beveled edge. Even the hardest thumb can find them, and because they are nice and flat the gesture and swipe typing on the keys is great. It’s clear that the Priv keyboard was studied so someone knew what mistakes not to make.

If you want a phone with the best physical keyboard possible, you can stop reading and order a KEYone.

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Much of what can be said about the keyboard can be said about the small details. The KEYone has better buttons (no more three-button silliness like we saw on the Priv) a better screen and a better camera. Even the rubberized back is better on the KEYone and feels like rubber instead of a pool liner. Add better speakers and a USB-C port (complete with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0) and this becomes an easy choice. Mostly.

The Priv does hold its own in the call quality department.

There is one thing the Priv does better, and it may matter to you. The Priv has better reception than the KEYone in every test I’ve tried. The Priv is better on T-Mobile and AT&T, as well as MVNO carriers that use either network. In the same place at the same time, noticeably better. Where I live, work and play the KEYone is acceptable when it comes to connection strength and not the worst phone I have here. But it doesn’t see the downright awesome signal strength you might have noticed from your Priv. If you need a phone that works well as a phone (the difference in data speeds was negligible at best) and you live on the fringe of coverage, you may have issues you didn’t have with your Priv.

That aside, and for most users with good coverage I don’t see it being a show-stopping issue, the KEYone beats the Priv in every possible way when it comes to the hardware.

Software and experience

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The KEYone ships with Android 7.1.1 while the Priv runs Android Marshmallow (6.0) with no confirmation that it will receive an update to Nougat. For the most part, this means less for BlackBerry’s phones than it does for some other brands because all models are updated monthly with the latest security patches, and unlike phones direct from Google, the software experience doesn’t depend directly on the version number.

Android on the KEYone is very much like Android on the Priv. BlackBerry has both phones full of their own apps and services so application updates for things like BlackBerry Launcher mean the user-facing differences are hard to find. They are there, and from a security perspective one can say that the KEYone is superior, but most users won’t find any big differences when it comes to the software.

The Priv and the KEYone run different versions of Android, but most people would never know it.

But you will find those differences when using the software. And we don’t mean the small extras like better battery statistics that are a result of having Android 7; we mean that the BlackBerry suite of apps is a lot more usable on the newer, faster hardware.

BlackBerry Hub is a good example here. It looks the same on both phones and offers the same features, but the strain on the processor could make the Priv stop for seconds at a time. You won’t find that with the KEYone. While you can tell the difference between running the Hub and not running the Hub, it’s not a deal breaker. And since BlackBerry loves to update its software, chances are things will get better as time goes by and the “microstutters” may disappear altogether. A lot of Priv owners accepted the tradeoffs that using the Hub and the rest of the BlackBerry apps brought with the Priv, and the good news is that all of them are far less obvious with the KEYone.

Users who forgo the BlackBerry apps may not notice any software stutters with the KEYone, depending on what other apps they might be using. The same could not be said for the Priv.

Besides the improvement in responsiveness new processors and faster memory bring, the improved keyboard makes using BlackBerry’s apps more enjoyable. Tapping a key shortcut to launch an app or entering a text shortcut so you don’t have to type your address is a better experience when it happens almost instantly. BlackBerry has baked the keyboard into the entire experience, and improvements mean all the software benefits.

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Photographers will love the improved camera in the KEYone. There are phones you can buy that take better pictures, but the jump in quality from the Priv is instantly noticeable. Photos that were marginal with the Priv’s 18MP camera can be great using the KEYone’s 12MP camera. And if you take your time and work at it, you can take some stunning photos with the KEYone.

Battery life on the KEYone has been better than anyone expected.

Possibly the biggest improvement that comes with the KEYone is the battery life. The Priv was acceptable at best when it originally launched and did not age well. We’re not sure if the software was at fault or the hardware (likely a combination of both) but, regardless, the battery life on the KEYone is much, much better. And that’s not just me talking, either. A quick with everyone here at Mobile Nations with a KEYone about every possible thing we didn’t like (that’s how reviews get made, we look for the bad things, too) and nobody had anything bad to say about the battery life.

With light use — phone calls, messaging, a little social media and looking at pictures of a new baby — the KEYone is almost a two-day phone. That’s with all the things happening and not managing the battery at all. A cautious user who will mind how the battery gets used might stretch that out even further. As expected, you can kill the battery if you try, and I recommend you find your favorite Brick Breaker clone and do so every now and then.

Bottom line

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Sometimes it’s hard to decide if you should ditch a phone you’ve already paid for and buy a replacement. This isn’t one of those times. Not even close.

If you have a Priv, or had one and liked Android with a keyboard, the KEYone is for you. We can’t think of any reason not to upgrade if you’re considering it and think you’ll like what you see.

BlackBerry KEYone

  • BlackBerry KEYone hands-on
  • BlackBerry KEYone specs
  • The latest KEYone news
  • KEYone vs. Priv: Battle of the BlackBerry keyboards
  • Join the discussion in the forums

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4
May

Should you use a tempered glass screen protector for your Galaxy S8?


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Choosing the right screen protector for you can be a difficult call.

At this point, just about everyone has done some kind of damage to their phone screen inadvertently, whether by dropping your phone and cracking the screen or dropping something onto your phone that caused issues from the impact. This problem becomes larger with the Samsung Galaxy S8 because you have a much larger screen. That’s why we’re taking a hands-on look at a tempered glass screen protector to see whether it’s worth it!

Getting started with a tempered glass screen protector

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For plenty of folks, a screen protector is one of those accessories you buy right after picking up a new smartphone. However, the days of flimsy plastic screen protectors are going the way of the Dodo, with tempered glass emerging as the new standard for top-end screen protection.

We tested out an LK Tempered Glass screen protector for the Samsung Galaxy S8+. Before you get started with the installation, you’ll need to thoroughly wipe and clean your screen so that no dust or oils affect its ability to adhere to your Galaxy S8’s screen. Next, you’ll need to line up the protector onto your screen. This is a pretty easy process if you use the cutouts around the top as a guide for placement, although it might take a few tries to get it lined up correctly if your hands tend towards shaking.

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Once you’ve got that screen protector on, you’ll get a sense of how it feels on your phone and in your hand. The first thing you’ll realize is that unlike plastic screen protectors, tempered glass does add a bit of heft — it is tempered glass after all. Once it’s adhered, you’ll notice that the protector actually creates a small lip on the top of your screen.

For the most part, the tempered glass feels pretty decent on top of your screen. There are no issues using capacitative buttons on your screen through the tempered glass. It does take a few minutes to get used to but it doesn’t feel terrible against your hand. For some folks, the feel of the screen can be a bit off-putting though.

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There is one other big thing to remember with a tempered glass screen protector — it’s likely to add some serious glare once you’ve got it on there. While this may not be a huge problem in most scenario, if you spend a lot of time outdoors the glare from the sun may cause some issues. You can definitely help this by upping the brightness of the screen, but in some cases you’ll probably still end up with some reflective glare.

See the best accessories for the Samsung Galaxy S8!

How well does it fit the screen?

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One of the biggest questions for anyone using a tempered glass screen protector is how well it’s going to work for a Samsung Galaxy S8. That’s because this phone has a curved screen, making it more difficult for a screen protector to stay adhered over time.

The screen of the Galaxy S8 curves slightly over the sides of the phone, which is where issues tend to crop up with oh so many screen protectors. However, manufacturers have begun to address this issue by making tempered glass screen protectors with curved sides, which greatly enhances your ability for their products to adhering solidly, and staying there.

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This is provided that when you put it on the first time you’ve lined up the tempered glass screen protector properly. Lining up the screen protector so that it sits perfectly over your phone’s display may take more than one try but it’s integral to keeping the protector in place as you use your phone.

Over time the adhesive that attaches your screen may start to wear, especially along the curved edges of the screen. The best thing that you can do is keep an eye on the edges of your screen protector for any signs of loosening. Likewise, you’ll want to avoid cracking the lip of the tempered glass against corners, which may end up causing the screen protector to shift.

Does the tempered glass screen protector work with Gear VR?

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For many users of the Samsung Galaxy S8 one of the big questions about whether this screen protector is the right fit for them. Specifically, whether this screen protector with cause issues if you want to spend some time in VR.

Well, we have some bad news to report. Due to the thickness the tempered glass screen protector adds to the device these screen protectors arent usable with Gear VR. While it’s very close, it just isn’t quite thin enough to be seated within your Gear VR headset. This, of course, means that if you do decide to run with the tempered glass screen protector, you won’t be able to use the phone for VR adventures.

Are you thinking of a tempered glass screen protector?

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Tempered glass screen protectors offers a great deal of protection, but there is a trade-off in terms of feel, glare, as well as an inability to use your Galaxy S8 with Gear VR when it is on. On the other hand, if you’re notorious for dropping your phone and damaging screens, then this screen protector may well be the best option for you.

See LK Tempered Glass Screen Protector at Amazon

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

  • Galaxy S8 and S8+ review!
  • Galaxy S8 and S8+ specs
  • Everything you need to know about the Galaxy S8’s cameras
  • Get to know Samsung Bixby
  • Join our Galaxy S8 forums

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4
May

MrMobile’s BlackBerry KEYone review


The BlackBerry KEYone is more than just another anachronistic appeal to nostalgia. It’s the best BlackBerry on shelves today, bearing the best keyboard you can find on an Android phone in 2017. Lest you think I’m damning it with faint praise, remember that MrMobile values smartphones that stand out from the crowd – sometimes even more than he values phones with great battery life and outstanding build quality. The BlackBerry KEYone has all three of those assets in abundance … but is it enough to make up for its slight software stumbles? Can a physical keyboard really fit into your modern life? Is BlackBerry really back? Find out in MrMobile’s BlackBerry KEYone Review, then check out the in-depth KEYone coverage at CrackBerry and Android Central!

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4
May

May the Fourth be with you always with these great Star Wars gifts!


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Celebrate Star Wars Day by picking up some great new Star Wars swag!

It’s arguably never been a better time to be a Star Wars fan. With Disney now at the helm of the venerable sci-fi franchise, we’re in for a brand new trilogy alongside a slew of additional movies to continue to flesh out the expanded Star Wars Universe.

In honor of Star Wars Day, we’ve compiled some of our favorite Star Wars gift ideas that you can buy for your friends and family — or yourself. If you want to show off your fandom without spending any money, you should check out our great Star Wars theming content, which includes themes from the latest Star Wars film Rogue One.

  • Star Wars: Six Movie Collection
  • R2-D2 USB Car Charger
  • Sphero Star Wars BB-8
  • Chewbacca Electronic Mask
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens Vinyl Soundtrack
  • Pre-order Star Wars: Battlefront II
  • Star Wars Drones
  • Lightsabers
  • Nixon Star Wars Watches
  • Funko Pop! Vinyl Star Wars Figures

Star Wars: Six Movie Collection

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Yea, we’re sure you already own multiple copies of each Star Wars film across all the different formats that have come and gone over the years (including your prized non-Special Edition VHS where Han shoots first), but there’s something to be said about owning digital copies of all the original movies so you can revisit them wherever you go.

This bundle includes all your favorites, including:

  • Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Star Wars, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  • …And more!

You can get this six movie collection from Google Play for a discounted price of $99.

See at Google Play

R2-D2 USB Car Charger

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Every Star Wars fan knows that R2-D2 makes the best droid co-pilot (sorry BB-8), and you can have your very own R2 unit in your car to ensure your phone stays charged when you’re on the go with the R2-D2 USB Car Charger.

Available from the fine folks at ThinkGeek, this officially licensed product is pretty spectacular, featuring sounds and animations from the movie that coincide with powering up R2 and plugging in your devices into one of the two available USB ports. R2 draws its power from your car’s 12V power adapter/cigarette lighter and fits snuggly in an available cup hold just like it’s his spot on the back of Luke’s X-Wing. Combining functional accessories with our geeky favorites is what ThinkGeek is all about, and its got a bunch of other great Star Wars stuff for sale. Definitely worth checking out its full Star Wars collection which is on sale to commemorate the day.

See at ThinkGeek

Sphero Star Wars BB-8

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Double down on your droid fun by picking up the Sphero BB-8 robot. This little buddy is much more than a desk decoration — powered by Sphero’s spherical robotic technology, you’re able to control and drive BB-8 around your home via the smartphone app or the optional Force Band accessory or set it off to explore the your home galaxy on his own.

There are a bunch of really cool features built into the accompanying app that let you interact with BB-8 with your voice or record and view virtual holographic videos like you’re Princess Leia sending out a desperate plea for help — or for more snacks. And you’ll need them because another feature lets BB-8 watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens along with you, reacting to the action on screen with animations and sound effects.

This is an absolute must-have for any Star Wars collector, and one of the coolest Star Wars toys you’ll find.

See at Amazon

Chewbacca Electronic Mask

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As made famous by Chewbacca Mask Lady, this electronic mask is a pretty fun costume accessory that makes those iconic Wookie roars every time you open your mouth. Released alongside Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this plastic mask features adjustable straps so you can find a comfortable fit.

This mask is powered by two AA batteries (included) and, if Chewbacca Mask Lady is any indication, it’s a pretty great toy for kids and adults alike.

Become everyone’s favorite Wookie with your own Chewie mask!

See at Amazon

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Vinyl Soundtrack

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One of the best parts of Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens was that original soundtrack composed by the legend himself, John Williams. It’s as iconic as any of the previous scores he has penned for the franchise and the 2-LP vinyl collector’s edition makes a great gift for any Star Wars fans in your life.

This double LP features a 16-page booklet featuring artwork from the film, but most impressive of all is the super cool holograms hand-etched into Side B of both records which can be simply viewed by holding a direct light source (such as a mobile phone flashlight) above the vinyl. It’s a super cool effect that adds value to this awesome collector’s piece.

See at Amazon

Preorder Star Wars Battlefront II

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Star Wars: Battlefront offered gamers the most authentic Star Wars experience we’ve ever seen — though it was admittedly super shallow when it came to single-player content.

The sequel, Star Wars: Battlefront II, looks to address that issue with a brand new solo campaign that spans 30 years of Star Wars history. While the first Battlefront game for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One was far from perfect, the general consensus was that EA did a pretty great job capturing the look and feel of an epic Star Wars battle with it’s online multiplayer despite how thin the gameplay was at time. The new hope is that they’ll spend the time to flesh out all the details this second go around when the game is released on PS4, Xbox One and PC in November.

You can pre-order your copy right now for either console from Amazon and receive discounts if you’re an Amazon Prime member.

See at Amazon

Star Wars Drones

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Propel launched these battling Star Wars drones earlier this year and they are arguably the coolest drones you can buy this side of the galaxy. Available in three styles — Speeder Bike, X-Wing Starfighter, and Tie Advanced X1 — you’ll want to buy more than one because the key feature here is the ability to reenact your favorite space battles with exciting multiplayer laser battles. Each drone fires lasers which are detected by other drones. Get a direct hit and your opponent will fall from the sky.

Even if you only get one of these bad boys, you’ll still enjoy flying your own Star Wars ship around your home or outdoors reaching max speeds of up to 35mph. The package comes with the drone and a hobby-grade controller that lights up, vibrates, and plays music to enhance the battle experience. You get two batteries for the drone, a rapid battery charger, and spare parts, with everything packaged in a super-cool collector’s box. If you’re new to drones, there’s a training mode that will teach you the basics so you can keep your drone in the air and stay on target.

See at Propel

Build your own Lightsaber

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Every Jedi needs their own lightsaber, but those expandable laser swords that you may remember from your childhood just won’t cut it in 2017.

No, what you need is a legit, handcrafted lightsaber that’s custom designed to your specifications. That’s where the fine folks at Ultra Sabers come in. They offer a wide range of lightsaber options for cosplayers or LARPers looking for the most authentic lightsabers on the internet.

There’s just a ton of features and options to choose from here, including ones that make the iconic sounds from the films. Yes, double-sided sabers and Kylo Ren’s cross guard models are available, making this the ultimate one-stop shop for Star Wars fans.

See at Ultra Sabers

Nixon Star Wars Watches

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If you’re looking for a more subtle and stylish way to show off your Star Wars fandom, Nixon sells a whole line of Star Wars-inspired watches that range in prices from $150 to $550.

Instead of just slapping a character’s face on the watch face, Nixon has thoughtfully designed this line to reflect different characters from The Force Awakens with subtle design features that will immediately stand out to true Star Wars fans, and just look like a stylin’ wrist piece for everyone else. My favorite is the Kylo Ren-inspired watch, pictured here, but there are nearly 40 different styles to choose from on the Nixon site. These would make a great gift for the diehard Star Wars fan in your life.

See at Nixon

Funko Pop! Vinyl Star Wars Figures

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You’re not a true fan of something until you’ve got the Funko Pop! figures to prove it.

Its Star Wars line up includes figures from the Original Trilogy, The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and even the Star Wars: Rebels animated series! These make great gifts and are the ultimate collectibles — just fair warning that once you start collecting them it can be hard to stop. They’re just too damn cute!

See at Funko

These are the gifts you’re looking for

Is there any cool Star Wars stuff we missed on our list that you think fans should know about? Let us know in the comments!

4
May

Feast your eyes on Microsoft’s ‘Phantom Dust’ remaster


After three long years, Microsoft has finally released more details about Phantom Dust HD. While the publisher announced a remaster of the 2004 cult-classic during E3 2014, it has been quiet about the up-rezzed card battler ever since. With its unique mix of addictive deck building and tactical third-person combat, the little-known game earned itself a devoted fanbase — and they’ve been waiting patiently to play it in high definition.

Producer Adam Isgreen broke the silence during an interview with Polygon, confirming that it will run at 1080p on Xbox One and support 4K on PC. Thankfully he brought evidence with him too, allowing us all to finally see the remaster in action in the video below.

While it looks serviceable, Isgreen’s interview shed some light on what held up this seemingly simple project for so long. When the team recovered the original game archives from Japan, Isgreen revealed that Phantom Dust’s source code was nowhere to be found. In order to start making improvements, the team had to hack into the original code and reverse engineer it, making their job that bit harder. Impressively, the studio found its way in, implementing achievement support, adding in options to skip story sections and even modernizing its online multiplayer.

Through these hacks, the team were able to upload every one of Phantom Dust’s cards to Microsoft’s cloud, allowing them to re-balance the game as they please. Controversially though, Phantom Dust HD will also feature a mix of free and paid DLC, with a free deck allowing players to bypass the story and jump right into the multiplayer. Depending on the game’s price, however, these paid microtransactions may not sit well with fans, with paid decks potentially giving other players an edge online.

Interestingly, Isgreen revealed that a pricing model hadn’t been set — hinting that the remaster might even be part of Xbox’s Games With Gold program. With Microsoft’s Phil Spencer stating that it will be out before E3 this year, fans could potentially see the long-awaited remaster arrive sometime over the next few weeks.

It’s been a bit of an ordeal, but it looks like Phantom Dust devotees might finally be through the worst. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to obsessively check that Xbox One Dashboard.

Source: Polygon

4
May

The Alta Redshift MX brings electricity to the dirt track


It’s been a long time since I’ve ridden anything motorized on dirt, but I do remember the noise. The growl of the ATC I rode as a kid, the dirt bikes that sounded like lawnmowers with the muffler replaced with a megaphone. That racket is such a fundamental part of the off-road experience that children put playing cards in their spokes to recreate the sound. But that might change, thanks to the Alta Motors’ Redshift MX. The Bay Area-based company is electrifying the race track, and if you can handle the $15,000 price tag, the results are tremendous.

Across the street from Alta Motors’ factory, on a dirt trail, through a tunnel and along the Caltrain tracks of Northern California, the company let me ride the Redshift MX motorcycle. The bike is meant to be the equivalent of a 250cc petroleum-powered engine. With 40 horsepower it’s right on the mark with offerings from all the major bike makers. But then there’s that electric torque. The Redshift MX delivers 120 foot-pounds (about 100 pounds more than gas-guzzling competitors) that you feel right away when you get on the bike and twist the throttle.

At least, I did. Again, I haven’t been on a dirt bike in decades (I ride on the street nearly every day, so I’m not a total noob). But like electric cars, the Redshift MX doesn’t have a transmission, which lowered the time I needed to acclimate to the bike. The expectation that the lack of a clutch would lead to slow take-offs or other performance-issues hits never materialized. Down the straights, coming out of corners, no matter how fast I was already going, if I twisted the grip, the power just appeared.

That power is controlled by the bike’s four power settings, which Alta calls “maps.” Map 1 has the most grip and is for low-speed trail riding. Maps 2 and 3 are for recreational track rides, and Map 4 is for all-out pro racing. I stuck with Maps 1 and 2.

What’s nice is that you can switch between Maps on the fly. For example, coming out of a corner, if you want a little extra juice, you can switch up to the next power level via the up and down buttons next to the left-hand grip. During my tests, it was seamless as I switched up to Map 2 and then tumbled over the handlebars after approaching a corner too quickly and locking up the front tire in the mud.

When you ride in the dirt, you fall; that’s what happens. But while I was (and still am) a bit sore, the bike was no worse the wear. That might seem like a no-brainer, but for a company that’s new and producing four to five bikes a day, it’s important to know that if you throw down your cash on its vision of the motocross future, your investment can handle the crashes you’ll encounter. Because it’s not if you crash your bike, it’s when.

As for ways to minimize those accidents, the bike is outfitted with Brembo brakes and WP suspension. Both are names that most riders should recognize. Because the Redshift MX is silent when on, Alta added a pulsing green light around the dash cluster to let the rider know the accelerator is active. My ride was during the morning and afternoon on a sunny day and the display and throttle indicator were both easy to see.

One issue I did have was the rear-brake pedal, which could have used a bit more traction. A few times my foot slipped off it ahead of corners. It’s a small quibble, and after a few days on the bike, I’m sure I would have acclimated. Needless to say, it’s always nicer to be brake-ready as soon as you get a bike.

While the bike was outstanding, it’s important to remember it’s electric and built in the US, which explains its high price tag. Alta says it can’t yet compete on price with other MX bikes on the market, so it made sure that performance-wise the bike is on par with what you’d usually see ripping around tracks.

Even with a premium price tag, there are upsides of having an electric bike — like never having to deal with oil changes and exhaust or fuel-system issues. But the trade-off is a bike that takes about two-and-half hours to recharge via 240 volt outlet. Alta rates ride time at about four hours in Map 1 mode and 20 minutes in Map 4.

Before you write off the Alta Redshift MX because it’s a few grand more than a comparable bike from Honda, Kawasaki and KTM, find a local dealer and give it a ride. The bike is in 13 showrooms out West, but the company expects to be in 55 to 60 throughout the nation by the end of the year. Schedule a demo ride and whip it around the corners and over the whoop-dee-doos. You might be surprised how much you don’t miss the clutch and, of course, the noise. I know I didn’t.

Source: Alta Motors

4
May

Workhorse W-15 revealed: PHEV pickup with 80-mile range


Not even a year after releasing renderings of its new range-extended electric truck, Workhorse has unveiled the real thing. As promised, the new Workhorse W-15 uses a pair of electric motors, one in the front and one in the back, for propulsion, along with a BMW gas engine and Panasonic batteries to supply power. Impressively, the truck is rated to go 80 miles on a full charge, and it will manage 32 mpg highway and 28 mpg city with the gas engine in use.

While delivering these environmentally friendly numbers, the W-15 won’t be lacking in performance and usability. The dual motors produce 460 horsepower and deliver that power to all four wheels. As a result, Workhorse says it will go 0-60 mph in just 5.5 seconds. The W-15 can also carry up to 2,200 pounds of cargo in its bed, and it has a 7.2kW, 30-amp power outlet on the side suitable for running power tools. The only weak point in the truck’s capability is towing, which is rated at 5,000 pounds. For comparison, a base, V6-powered Chevrolet Silverado will tow 7,600 pounds, and a Ford F-150 with the smallest EcoBoost V6 can tow up to 8,500 pounds. Of course neither is as economical nor as powerful.

The W-15’s performance isn’t let down by the exterior, either. The exterior is chiseled and chunky, with no shortage of flat planes and sharp angles. It screams tough commercial truck. The look is carried inside to the custom dashboard, too, with lots of tough plastic in gray, white, and orange. The interior is quite spartan, with hardly any controls except a simple dial for shifting in the center. Instruments and infotainment are displayed on two LCD screens, with the infotainment one controlled via touch. Even though the truck is fairly barebones, Workhorse has included dual airbags, automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warning.

The Workhorse W-15 is aimed primarily at the commercial market, and demand appears to be high. The company says it currently has 4,650 pre-orders. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but Workhorse intends to deliver trucks next year. We think this truck could have some strong appeal to private consumers as well, however the company hasn’t announced plans for personal-use sales.

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Source: Workhorse

4
May

Google turns Raspberry Pi into a dirt cheap Home competitor


If you’ve ever wanted to have a conversation with your own tiny home-made computer, then your prayers have just been answered. Raspberry Pi has teamed up with Google, bringing voice integration to the Pi with a clever combination of hardware and software. Packed with the same tech that powers Google Home, the companies have released a kit that transforms a regular Raspberry Pi 3 into your very own virtual assistant. The pack contains a Voice HAT (Hardware Accessory on Top) board with a speaker and a microphone, giving Pi owners everything they need to add-in voice integration. (For the uninitiated, a HAT refers to any physical hardware that needs to be added on top of a Pi.)

Interestingly, this collaboration marks the first time that Google has produced something for hobbyists. The initiative is called “Artificial Intelligence Yourself’” (AIY), and Google’s director on the project, Billy Rutledge, told Wired that he wants to create more hobbyist uses for Google software.

For those who want to build a new friend, the only way to get the board is to buy the latest issue of the company’s official magazine The MagPi, where it comes as a freebie. As well as being used to lovingly make your own Alexa alternative, Raspberry Pi state that the tech can also be programmed with your own spoken commands, adding voice integration to other Pi projects.

With over 10 million Raspberry Pi’s sold, it’s easy to see why Google chose to partner with the company. The DIY computer manufacturer’s latest release, Raspberry Pi Zero W, impressed us, offering built-in Wi-FI, Bluetooth and a ton of programming possibilities for only $10. With products like that making coding and innovation more accessible than ever, it’s clear that Google wants to infiltrate the hobbyist movement before it becomes even bigger.

Via: WIRED

Source: Raspberry Pi

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