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3
Jun

Recommended Reading: ‘Wonder Woman’ is timely superhero movie


Wonder Woman,
Heroine of the
Post-Truth Age

Megan Garber,
The Atlantic

Wonder Woman may be set in the time of World War I, but the movie’s themes are particularly relevant right now. The Atlantic analyzes how a female superhero rescues a solider on the run before taking on a much bigger foe — and what all of that means for in the present day. That Lasso of Truth sure would come in handy for us in 2017.

The Complete, Untold History of Halo
Steve Haske, Waypoint

A behind-the-scenes look at Halo, including new accounts from the folks who made it.

If We Want Bionic Limbs That Actually Work, We Might Need Smarter Amputations
Sarah Fecht, Popular Science

The key to further advancement in bionic limbs may require an update to how doctors perform amputation procedures.

How Mad Catz Used up Its Last Life
Alex Calvin, Eurogamer

Gaming accessory company Mad Catz filed for bankruptcy back in March, but the company showed signs of struggle long before that paperwork was signed.

The Algorithms Behind ‘Moana’s’ Gorgeously Animated Ocean
Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic

When your animated film takes place on the open ocean, you better make sure the water looks good.

3
Jun

We flew to Taipei to see how HTC made the U11


HTC just turned 20 years old and the company celebrated its birthday with the U11, it’s latest, and shiniest phone ever.

From humble beginnings with Windows Mobile, HTC built a reputation as an innovator and then seized the opportunity to truly evolve from white label manufacturer to global brand as an Android pioneer.

By 2011, the company was riding high, and closing in on market leaders Samsung and Apple, combining quality and innovation with a cool, underdog image. Things have taken a downward spiral since then. It has been a few years now since HTC released a hit smartphone, and it has been even longer since the Taiwanese company’s smartphone division turned a profit. Still, HTC is determined to prove that it’s still a force to be reckoned with on the smartphone scene. We flew around the world to find out what it has planned.

Flying into Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, means you’re actually landing in Taoyuan City. It’s part of a bustling urban sprawl that also includes New Taipei and the old city. More than 7 million people live here, and it’s also home to HTC.

We’re here for the launch of HTC’s latest flagship smartphone: the U11. It’s a successor to the HTC 10, but it’s a part of the company’s new U series. Earlier this year, HTC launched the U Ultra, the first entry in the new series, to mixed reviews. Following in LG’s and Samsung’s footsteps, HTC is giving us a behind-the-scenes look at its headquarters, design laboratory, and a factory where its smartphones are made. This is the first time these doors have opened for the press.

On the factory floor

Our tour begins in Taoyuan City at HTC’s factory. It’s an unassuming building that looks an office block. A sea of mopeds stretches as far as the eye can see in the large parking lot out front. There’s no billboard, or even a big shiny sign to mark out the birthplace of HTC’s smartphones — just a subtle logo on the main doors to the factory. We’re stripped of cameras in the big, airy lobby, before ascending to the production line. After donning a white coat, some shoe covers, and a fetching hairnet, it’s time to hit the factory floor.

Anything less than perfection is rejected.

We’re guided in small groups by a taciturn foreman who points out each stage in the journey of an HTC U11, from simple metal frame to shiny, packaged smartphone. The assembly line starts with stacks of components and chips, which are organized into trays. A series of protective glass cases houses robot arms busily slotting components into place and drilling or soldering them together. Every so often, there’s an inspection station with an HTC employee sitting behind a huge magnifying glass. Diagrams and charts indicate what each set of components should look like — anything less than perfection is rejected. It’s a noisy, robotic environment, but the automated precision is mesmeric.

The next step involves 12 human workers sitting before a conveyor belt, diligently fitting more components into what is starting to vaguely resemble a smartphone. Each worker has a few seconds to complete the unit in front of them before it passes along to the next. It doesn’t look like a very fun job, but someone has to do it. There’s no time to chat, or even glance at the press invasion, as we shuffle along. At the end of this section, the HTC U11 is nearly complete — it’s only missing its liquid glass back.

how htc builds its smartphones a tour in taiwan factoryHTC

how htc builds its smartphones a tour in taiwan factoryHTC

how htc builds its smartphones a tour in taiwan factoryHTC

how htc builds its smartphones a tour in taiwan factoryHTC

Another army of robot arms put the new phones through their paces. The displays show a QR code, which is scanned, before the screens are calibrated and other functions like the Optical Image Stabilization are tested out. All the phones are connected to a central server via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth during this stage, so they can send diagnostic data back from each test and any problems can be quickly flagged. They appear to be running stock Android. It’s hard to see how defects can slip through a stringent system like this, but smartphones are complex beasts, and problems with early production runs are all too common across the industry.

The handsets are then plugged in, so the appropriate software (and carrier bloatware) can be installed for each market. Packaging is next, as workers wearing microfiber gloves apply the appropriate logos to the incredibly shiny liquid glass backs and polish them to a sheen. The workers apply a protective sheet of plastic to the display — the one that’s so fun to peel off — and then accessories join the finished handset in a curved white box that bears the HTC U11 legend.

Palettes of brand new U11’s are rolled away, but a random sampling of 15 percent are set aside to be tested. Rows and rows of newly boxed phones are piled up outside the test lab, which is tucked away in a side room at the end of the line. A grinning supervisor proudly explains the testing procedure. Workers unbox the new phones and put them through a variety of tests, connecting to Wi-Fi, testing apps, charging them up, and then factory resetting the phones that pass. Each one is then carefully polished, and repackaged for shipping. We ask how many fail and the supervisor laughs, shakes his head, and, after a pregnant pause, says less than 0.01 percent.

HTC’s high-tech headquarters

The next part of the tour involves grabbing a bus to HTC’s gleaming headquarters. It takes around an hour to get there, passing out of Taoyuan through a valley flanked by imposing, lush green, mountains, and into the vibrant metropolis of New Taipei.

The shining, white building is in the Xindian district nearer to old Taipei city. You can see it from quite a distance, and this time the familiar, green HTC logo is proudly displayed at the top.

how htc builds its smartphones a tour in taiwan factoryHTC

how htc builds its smartphones a tour in taiwan designstuHTC

The lobby is vast and clad in white marble, with an open space above that spans seven stories, with internal walkways criss-crossed in either direction and the company canteen at the top. There’s deliberately no air conditioning in the lobby of this eco-friendly building, but the marble and the space combine to reduce the 104-degree Fahrenheit heat from outside to a comfortable level.

We take a glass elevator up to the 16th floor, where HTC’s main design department is situated. It’s a funky, open space with glass everywhere, and a lot of shiny, white furniture. Casually dressed youngsters mill around. HTC relies mainly on this facility to come up with new phones, but there’s also a San Francisco design department to ensure a mix of cultural sensibilities.

We can only wonder what potential smash hits or disastrous flops lie forgotten in these drawers.

Beneath the phones laid out for our inspection, there’s an intriguing bank of mysterious drawers. They contain previous prototypes, and abandoned research directions. HTC’s design head opens one up to show us a prototype of a gaming smartphone with a D-pad at one end and a screen that slides up to reveal buttons. It was a concept for hardcore gamers that never got past the mock-up phase, which is probably for the best.

Everyone is keen to explore, but we’re not allowed to look in any other drawers. Instead, we learn how the U11 was developed and get a look at the finished handset next to 15 alternative prototypes with slight differences, like bigger camera modules, alternate button placements, or highlights in the frame. One of the designers tells me it’s a very small sample of all the prototypes they went through before arriving at the final design. When asked for a number, he just exhales loudly and rolls his eyes.

It’s clearly a stringent, pain-staking process to narrow down the winning design. Everything from the original Desire to the Evo 4G LTE to the HTC 10 passed through here, but then again, so did the Rhyme and Evo 3D. We can only wonder what potential smash hits or disastrous flops lie forgotten in these drawers.

Research and development

The final space is an unremarkable office block where HTC rents a few floors. After passing through a lobby where some men have set up a folding table to sell children’s toys, we take the elevator to a cubicle-filled office to find the sound department, where we are handed the tiny metal speaker that you’ll find inside each U11. A sound engineer admits that each department has to negotiate over the amount of space they have to work with. A bigger speaker might mean a smaller battery, so things can get heated.

The sound department is pleased with the speaker space it secured in the U11. At the launch event the next day, HTC has demo areas set up to show off the quality and volume of the BoomSound speakers and the active noise-cancelling capabilities of the USonic earphones that ship in the box.

Back at the R&D department, we are ushered into an echo-less, sound-proofed chamber. You can feel the sound disappear the moment it comes from your mouth. Thick corrugations remove every hint of echo and even extend into the floor beneath a metal grate. It’s an eerie vault and contains a single, talking mannequin with a realistic model of a human ear. She introduces herself to us and explains that the phone’s speaker is tested here, held to the mouth in a few typical user positions, to ensure call quality is high.

how htc builds its smartphones a tour in taiwan randdHTC

how htc builds its smartphones a tour in taiwan randdHTC

how htc builds its smartphones a tour in taiwan randdHTC

how htc builds its smartphones a tour in taiwan designstuHTC

The next chamber is angled, with another mannequin in the middle. This one is male, and our guide jokes that he’s dating the girl next door. There’s a surround sound system in here that plays traffic noises, background conversations, the clank and clatter of plates in a restaurant amongst other sounds, to test the noise cancellation technology in the U11.

Our tour ends in a completely black room, where a serious group of camera designers test various aspects of the U11’s camera technology. They have a DxO Mark light box, and some other machines to test things like white balance. While our eyes can see white as white, even when bathed in different color temperatures, but a camera sensor can’t. It has to be programmed and adjusted. The U11 has a Sony camera sensor in an LG module, but HTC’s designers hone the performance to their liking, aiming for a realistic color representation. The hard work obviously paid off, because we later learn that DxO Mark scored the U11 camera at 90 — the highest score a smartphone camera has received so far.

A fresh start

So ends our tour of the U11’s design and construction process. It’s been an enlightening peek behind the curtain of an innovative company that rarely explains itself. We’re left with the feeling that the U11 has real potential, but HTC will have to convince the public as well as the press. After all, last year’s rave reviews for the HTC 10 didn’t translate into stellar sales.

HTC U11

As a bus pulls up outside, the sky opens with an impressive downpour, and HTC staff are lined up to hand us umbrellas. It seems fitting. It’s been a stormy few years for the company, but perhaps the impossibly shiny U11 can break through the clouds and offer a glimmer of sunshine for HTC’s fortunes.




3
Jun

Transform your Surface Pro into the ultimate mobile workstation with these accessories


Microsoft’s new Surface Pro straddles the line between laptop and tablet by offering users a full-featured computing experience in a compact package. It’s a powerful device, but right out of the box it can seem a little barebones; without a keyboard or Surface Pen, it’s just a Windows-based tablet. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of everything you’ll need to get the most out of your new Surface Pro.

Surface Pen ($60)

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017

The Surface Pen is such an essential part of the Surface Pro experience that previous versions just included it in the box. Unfortunately, Microsoft opted to include it only as an add-on to the most recent Surface Pro, but it’s such a killer creative tool that it’s definitely worth the price of entry. Without it, the Surface Pro is a powerful Windows-based tablet, but with the Surface Pen, it’s a mobile sketchpad, notebook, and professional-grade artistic suite.

Buy one now from:

Microsoft

Surface Pen Tip Kit ($20)

Surface Pen Tip Kit

On its own, the Surface Pen is a versatile tool for note-taking or artistic endeavors, but it’s still not quite as tactile as a real pen or pencil. With the optional tip kit, however, it comes remarkably close to the real thing. These optional tips allow users to customize the friction and drag of their Surface Pens, based on use or just personal preference. One emulates the frictionless glide of a ballpoint pen, while another provides the crisp and slightly-resistant drag of a number two pencil. Plus, it’s a handy kit to keep around just in case you lose your Surface Pen’s tip.

Buy one now from:

Microsoft

Surface Dial ($100)

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017

Surface Dial! This thing’s weird, and it might not be for everyone, but it’s really cool. Have you ever adjusted the volume on a high-end stereo system and experienced that ever-so-slight resistance and smooth scrolling action? Well, Microsoft had the crazy idea to put that kind of user experience into a unique peripheral designed for use with its high-end desktop, the Surface Studio. The Surface Pro doesn’t have quite the screen real-estate as the Studio, but the Dial is still a worthy companion. On its own, it can be used to adjust system volume, rotate images, and scroll seamlessly through options in professional creative suites like Adobe Photoshop.

Buy one now from:

Microsoft

Surface Arc Mouse ($80)

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017

Even if you spend most of your time using the Surface Pro as an artistic tool, now and then you might need to use it as a standard laptop — that’s where the Surface Arc mouse comes in. Sometimes you just need a mouse to easily navigate browser tabs, or all those fiddly little options in Microsoft Word. To make sure it’s always with you on-the-go, the Surface Arc actually bends to a flat position, so it’s easier to toss into a messenger bag pocket than a typical wireless mouse. When it’s time to get some work done, just snap it into mouse-mode, with a comfy little curve for your hand. From there, just pair it up with Bluetooth and start clicking through those browser tabs that are definitely not just Reddit posts debating the finer points of Overwatch lore.

Read our full review.

Buy one now from:

Microsoft

Surface Type Cover Signature Edition ($160)

What use is a mouse without a keyboard? Well, a lot of use actually, but that’s beside the point. The Surface Pro can be used with just the on-screen keyboard, but try typing your way through anything longer than a quick email and you’ll start to feel the limitations of the touchscreen keyboard. Naturally, Microsoft developed its own ultra-fancy keyboard cover for the Surface Pro that turns an ordinary tablet into a portable — and super-soft — workstation. Clad in luxurious Alcantara material, the Surface Type Cover will set you back about $160, but for usability’s sake, it’s definitely worth it. The Surface Pro is marketed as an alternative to a standard laptop, but without an external keyboard like the Type Cover, it just doesn’t get the job done.

Buy one now from:

Microsoft

Brydge 12.3 Keyboard Cover ($150)

Brydge Microsoft Surface keyboard

Assuming the Surface Pro has you firmly in its grasp, and a laptop isn’t an option but you still need some features missing from the Surface Book or Surface Laptop, you might want to consider the Brydge 12.3 keyboard cover. This thing turns your Surface Pro into a legit laptop, complete with keyboard, trackpad, durable hinge and rock-solid aluminum build. It’s nearly as expensive as the Type Cover but it can be kitted out with 128GB of onboard SSD storage, to further expand your Surface Pro’s utility as a mobile workstation.

Buy one now from:

Brydge

Outback Solo 2.0 Case for Surface Pro ($160)

Outback Solo 2 Surface Pro Bag

Now that you have all this extra stuff to turn your Surface Pro into a mobile workstation, you probably need something to carry it in, right? Well, San Francisco’s own Waterfield has you covered. With the Outback Solo 2.0, you can easily carry around your Surface Pro (with or without Type Cover), an external mouse, and a few other everyday carry items. The nice thing about this particular messenger bag — compared to the thousands of other messenger bags out there which would easily fit your Surface Pro — is that you can just remove the strap entirely for easy carrying as a particularly luxurious Surface Pro sleeve.

Buy one now from:

Waterfield

Jack Spade Zip Sleeve ($80)

Jack Spade Zip Sleeve

Tempting as it is to go out and buy brand-new accessories for every new device in your life, sometimes the ones you have get the job done just fine. The Surface Pro will probably fit in your existing messenger bag or backpack without any trouble, but even with a cover on it, you’ll want to make sure that big glass display is kept safe from any hazards floating around in there — like Chapstick, stain-remover pens, and paperclips. The Jack Spade Surface Sleeve is an excellent companion to an existing messenger bag or backpack, and does just that. By enclosing your Surface Pro — and a few small accessories — inside, it’ll be safe from anything else in your bag.

Buy one now from:

Microsoft

Surface Dock ($200)

Surface Pro Dock

The Surface Pro is marketed as a potential laptop replacement, and it can definitely get the job done, but not without a little help. It’s lightweight and easy to carry around, but it has a notable lack of ports. This device aims to remedy that, but don’t judge it by its high price — $200 is a lot for what amounts to a USB hub, but this thing is more than that. The Surface Dock sits on a desk and plugs directly into the Surface Pro, charging it while offering extra USB ports, two Mini-DisplayPort plugs, and an ethernet jack. Paired with an external monitor, mouse, and keyboard and this thing turns your Surface Pro into a portable desktop workstation.

Buy one now from:

Microsoft




3
Jun

Transform your Surface Pro into the ultimate mobile workstation with these accessories


Microsoft’s new Surface Pro straddles the line between laptop and tablet by offering users a full-featured computing experience in a compact package. It’s a powerful device, but right out of the box it can seem a little barebones; without a keyboard or Surface Pen, it’s just a Windows-based tablet. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of everything you’ll need to get the most out of your new Surface Pro.

Surface Pen ($60)

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017

The Surface Pen is such an essential part of the Surface Pro experience that previous versions just included it in the box. Unfortunately, Microsoft opted to include it only as an add-on to the most recent Surface Pro, but it’s such a killer creative tool that it’s definitely worth the price of entry. Without it, the Surface Pro is a powerful Windows-based tablet, but with the Surface Pen, it’s a mobile sketchpad, notebook, and professional-grade artistic suite.

Buy one now from:

Microsoft

Surface Pen Tip Kit ($20)

Surface Pen Tip Kit

On its own, the Surface Pen is a versatile tool for note-taking or artistic endeavors, but it’s still not quite as tactile as a real pen or pencil. With the optional tip kit, however, it comes remarkably close to the real thing. These optional tips allow users to customize the friction and drag of their Surface Pens, based on use or just personal preference. One emulates the frictionless glide of a ballpoint pen, while another provides the crisp and slightly-resistant drag of a number two pencil. Plus, it’s a handy kit to keep around just in case you lose your Surface Pen’s tip.

Buy one now from:

Microsoft

Surface Dial ($100)

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017

Surface Dial! This thing’s weird, and it might not be for everyone, but it’s really cool. Have you ever adjusted the volume on a high-end stereo system and experienced that ever-so-slight resistance and smooth scrolling action? Well, Microsoft had the crazy idea to put that kind of user experience into a unique peripheral designed for use with its high-end desktop, the Surface Studio. The Surface Pro doesn’t have quite the screen real-estate as the Studio, but the Dial is still a worthy companion. On its own, it can be used to adjust system volume, rotate images, and scroll seamlessly through options in professional creative suites like Adobe Photoshop.

Buy one now from:

Microsoft

Surface Arc Mouse ($80)

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017

Even if you spend most of your time using the Surface Pro as an artistic tool, now and then you might need to use it as a standard laptop — that’s where the Surface Arc mouse comes in. Sometimes you just need a mouse to easily navigate browser tabs, or all those fiddly little options in Microsoft Word. To make sure it’s always with you on-the-go, the Surface Arc actually bends to a flat position, so it’s easier to toss into a messenger bag pocket than a typical wireless mouse. When it’s time to get some work done, just snap it into mouse-mode, with a comfy little curve for your hand. From there, just pair it up with Bluetooth and start clicking through those browser tabs that are definitely not just Reddit posts debating the finer points of Overwatch lore.

Read our full review.

Buy one now from:

Microsoft

Surface Type Cover Signature Edition ($160)

What use is a mouse without a keyboard? Well, a lot of use actually, but that’s beside the point. The Surface Pro can be used with just the on-screen keyboard, but try typing your way through anything longer than a quick email and you’ll start to feel the limitations of the touchscreen keyboard. Naturally, Microsoft developed its own ultra-fancy keyboard cover for the Surface Pro that turns an ordinary tablet into a portable — and super-soft — workstation. Clad in luxurious Alcantara material, the Surface Type Cover will set you back about $160, but for usability’s sake, it’s definitely worth it. The Surface Pro is marketed as an alternative to a standard laptop, but without an external keyboard like the Type Cover, it just doesn’t get the job done.

Buy one now from:

Microsoft

Brydge 12.3 Keyboard Cover ($150)

Brydge Microsoft Surface keyboard

Assuming the Surface Pro has you firmly in its grasp, and a laptop isn’t an option but you still need some features missing from the Surface Book or Surface Laptop, you might want to consider the Brydge 12.3 keyboard cover. This thing turns your Surface Pro into a legit laptop, complete with keyboard, trackpad, durable hinge and rock-solid aluminum build. It’s nearly as expensive as the Type Cover but it can be kitted out with 128GB of onboard SSD storage, to further expand your Surface Pro’s utility as a mobile workstation.

Buy one now from:

Brydge

Outback Solo 2.0 Case for Surface Pro ($160)

Outback Solo 2 Surface Pro Bag

Now that you have all this extra stuff to turn your Surface Pro into a mobile workstation, you probably need something to carry it in, right? Well, San Francisco’s own Waterfield has you covered. With the Outback Solo 2.0, you can easily carry around your Surface Pro (with or without Type Cover), an external mouse, and a few other everyday carry items. The nice thing about this particular messenger bag — compared to the thousands of other messenger bags out there which would easily fit your Surface Pro — is that you can just remove the strap entirely for easy carrying as a particularly luxurious Surface Pro sleeve.

Buy one now from:

Waterfield

Jack Spade Zip Sleeve ($80)

Jack Spade Zip Sleeve

Tempting as it is to go out and buy brand-new accessories for every new device in your life, sometimes the ones you have get the job done just fine. The Surface Pro will probably fit in your existing messenger bag or backpack without any trouble, but even with a cover on it, you’ll want to make sure that big glass display is kept safe from any hazards floating around in there — like Chapstick, stain-remover pens, and paperclips. The Jack Spade Surface Sleeve is an excellent companion to an existing messenger bag or backpack, and does just that. By enclosing your Surface Pro — and a few small accessories — inside, it’ll be safe from anything else in your bag.

Buy one now from:

Microsoft

Surface Dock ($200)

Surface Pro Dock

The Surface Pro is marketed as a potential laptop replacement, and it can definitely get the job done, but not without a little help. It’s lightweight and easy to carry around, but it has a notable lack of ports. This device aims to remedy that, but don’t judge it by its high price — $200 is a lot for what amounts to a USB hub, but this thing is more than that. The Surface Dock sits on a desk and plugs directly into the Surface Pro, charging it while offering extra USB ports, two Mini-DisplayPort plugs, and an ethernet jack. Paired with an external monitor, mouse, and keyboard and this thing turns your Surface Pro into a portable desktop workstation.

Buy one now from:

Microsoft




3
Jun

Best iPhone 7 battery cases to keep your phone above 20 percent


Depending on how much you use your iPhone 7, a full charge is either enough to get you through the day, or not nearly enough to keep up with you. Sometimes you simply need some music, but when you’ve got Bluetooth turned on, music streaming, and cellular data running, your battery isn’t likely to last long. This is where battery cases come in handy.

There’s a general lack of battery cases out there for the iPhone 7 that take advantage of its capabilities, and there are even fewer that won’t interfere with the lightning port, which now doubles as the headphone port. However, there are enough available to give you exactly what you need from a battery case. Check them out below.

Apple Smart Battery Case ($85+)

iphone-7-smart-battery-case

  • Capacity – 2,365mAh
  • Output – N/A
  • Size – 5.45 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
  • Weight – N/A

Apple’s own Smart Battery Case is the go-to accessory if you want seamless integration with your iPhone 7. If you have any experience with the iPhone 6S’ Smart Battery Case, you’re in for much of the same with the one made for the iPhone 7, save for a different cut-out around the camera and none for the headphone jack (because the iPhone 7 doesn’t have one). The case will increase your call, internet, and video time by 26, 22, and 24 hours, respectively, meaning even heavy smartphone users should be able to use their devices without worrying about a full recharge.

Moreover, you can use the case with Lightning-supported accessories without removing it, including the Lighting to USB cable and the charging dock. As far as protection goes, this case is pretty basic. The interior is lined with a microfiber material, while the outside is made of silicone.

Buy one now from:

Apple Amazon

Mophie Juice Pack Air ($100)

mophie juice pack air for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

  • Capacity – 2,525mAh
  • Output – N/A
  • Size – 5.90 x 2.80 x 0.65 inches
  • Weight – 99.5g (3.51 oz)

Mophie’s Juice Pack Air battery case is very similar to the battery cases the company has made for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S. The case will last for 500 recharges, and during use, can provide an estimated 27 hours of battery life to your iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Just press and hold the button on the back for two seconds to begin charging your phone. The Juice Pack Air has LEDs on the back to show how much power is left, can be charged without removing the iPhone, and doesn’t block the speaker, microphone, camera, or any other important components of the phone. In fact, the case is designed to enhance the speaker’s audio quality, as it redirects sound from the bottom of the phone to the front. It’s also compatible with Mophie’s Charge Force wireless mount, so you can easily charge it while driving.

Buy one now from:

Mophie

Foxin Battery Case ($20)

foxin-battery-case

  • Capacity – 6,800mAh
  • Output – 1.0A
  • Size – 7.2 x 4 x 1.1 inches
  • Weight – 181g (6.4 oz)

If you power through your iPhone 7’s battery multiple times a day, Foxin’s battery case will be able to support you, as it’s capable of fully charging your phone two times a day, thanks to its own 6,800mAh battery. To complement that, you can charge your phone while it’s in the case, and once the iPhone battery is full, the charge will continue on to the battery case itself. There’s also a USB port on the side, allowing you to charge another device.

There is a flaw with this particular case, however, and it lies with the iPhone 7’s own Lightning port. Even though the port can be used to attach the phone to the case and to charge it, you’re unable to use the Apple earpods that come packed in with every iPhone. If that’s not a huge deal breaker, you can buy this case with confidence. Smartphone protection is standard with this case, so expect some defense against falls and shocks, but avoid bigger drops if you can.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Maxdara Charging Case ($16)

maxdara-charging-case

  • Capacity: 5,200mAh
  • Output: 1.5A
  • Size – 5.6 x 2.7 x 0.6 inches
  • Weight – 82.2g (2.9 oz)

Maxdara’s battery case will keep your iPhone 7 charged and ready, and it’ll let you know just how much power your case has left, thanks to the battery indicator located on the back — White: 100 percent, Green: 75 percent, Blue: 50 percent, Red: 25 percent. When the time comes to charge your phone using the case, you use the On/Off switch (also located on the back) to start and stop the process. The case has precise cutouts for your phone’s microphone, buttons, and camera. It’ll also protect your phone from scratches and shocks. It’s made with a dull polished material that results in a comfortable case you can hold for all the hours you’ll be using your phone.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Trianium Atomic Pro Battery Case ($40+)

trianium-atomic-pro-battery-case-thumb

  • Capacity – 3,200mAh
  • Output – N/A
  • Size – 5.9 x 2.7 x 0.4 inches
  • Weight – 158.7g (5.6 oz)

While Trianium’s battery case has one of the lower capacities on this list, it’ll still get the job done when it comes to keeping your phone alive. It can provide another full battery charge, or, as Trianium breaks it down: 14+ hours of talk time or 10 additional hours to browse the internet. The LED indicator on the back will keep you up to date on how much power remains.

Unfortunately, like other battery cases for the iPhone 7 so far, it doesn’t support Apple’s lightning headphones, or other headphones that use the lightning port. If you’re concerned about overall protection, the case ensures your phone’s safety by utilizing a hard back plate and a protective dual-layer bumper, resulting in protection against drops, shocks, and scratches. While it adds a bit of bulk, it does offer good protection.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Alpatronix BX170 Charging Case ($30+)

iPhone 7 battery case from Alphatronix

  • Capacity – 3,200mAh
  • Output – 1A
  • Size – 6.05 x 2.87 x 0.63 inches
  • Weight – 107.7g (3.8 oz)

Alphatronix’s case will get the job done when the time comes to recharge your phone, but like some other charging cases, it is not compatible with the packed in headphones Apple provides. Furthermore, the case isn’t charged using the Lightning connector, but instead requires a Micro USB cable — thankfully, there is one included. You can still charge the case without removing the phone, but it means keeping another cable nearby.

Aside from those minor setbacks, this is a great iPhone 7 battery case, and a decent protective case. The dual layer design combines a hard outer shell with a shock absorbing bumper, there’s a scratch-resistant finish, and the raised bezel will keep the screen away from surfaces when face down. All ports are accessible, there are LED indicators on the back, and it’s covered by a 1-year warranty when bought directly from Alphatronix.

Buy one now one:

Amazon Alphatronix

Anker PowerCore Battery Case ($50)

  • Capacity – 2,200 mAh
  • Output – N/A
  • Size – 5.55 x 2.76 x 0.6 inches
  • Weight – 68.03g (2.4 oz)

While the Anker PowerCore is made to work with the iPhone 7, it will also easily work with the iPhone 6 and 6S given the phones have similar exterior designs. The PowerCore employs the iPhone’s lightning port to charge your phone, and can give it an almost 100-percent charge, providing between 11 and 13 hours of extra battery life. To charge the battery case for future use, you need to use the included Micro USB cable with the case’s Micro USB port. When not in use, the PowerCore doesn’t need to be constantly connected via the Lightning port — meaning you’re free to use your headphones — and can instead act as a protective case that will help keep your phone secure. That said, since it’s not a dedicated iPhone case, or one that’s meant to prevent dents and scratches, Anker recommends not dropping it.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

ThinCase ($60)

  • Capacity – 3,000 mAh
  • Output – N/A
  • Size – N/A
  • Weight – N/A

We’ve written about the ThinCase before, and now that it’s just on the horizon, we’re going to talk about it again. This is an impressive battery case, not just because of how well it charges your iPhone 7, but because it manages to bring back the headphone jack the current iPhone model left behind. The ThinCase also offers pretty decent protection, thanks to raised edges that keep the display away from surfaces when placed face down, as well as a durable design that prevents bumps, dents, and scratching. A kickstand feature is also built directly into the case, and can be used simply by opening the front cover and flipping it over.

The ThinCase doubles your iPhone battery life, providing an additional 14 hours of use, and doesn’t need to be removed in order to be charged again. In fact, both the case and the phone can be charged simultaneously due to its pass-through charging feature. According to its creators, you can charge the ThinCase in less than two hours, though charging the case and phone together will take about 3.5 hours. Few other iPhone 7 battery cases match the feature set the ThinCase provides, so it may prove hard to pass up.

Buy one now from:

Indiegogo

ZeroLemon Battery Case ($35)

  • Capacity – 3,100 mAh
  • Output – 1.0A
  • Size – 6 x 2.87 x 0.63 inches
  • Weight – 108g (3.8 oz)

ZeroLemon’s battery case isn’t drastically different from other offerings on our list, but it’s another quality option if you’re searching for a way to keep your phone charged up and somewhat protected. You get about 12 hours of additional battery life using this particular case, and the four LEDs on the back will keep you updated regarding the case’s battery levels and charging status. Both the case and iPhone can also be charged at the same time using the included Micro USB cable, and your phone can be connected to your PC without removing it from the case.

As a protective case, it’s on the slimmer side, adds minimal bulk to the iPhone, and is sure to defend against everyday scratches and bumps. As for drop damage, it can handle a small drop from your coffee table, but maybe not a drop from the roof of your car. Also, keep in mind that you can’t use your wired headphones with this — just Bluetooth-equipped models.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

PhoneSuit Elite 7 Pro Battery Case ($80+)

  • Capacity – 3,000 mAh
  • Output – 1.5A
  • Size – 6.02 x 2.79 x 0.55 in
  • Weight – 90g (3.17 oz)

The PhoneSuit battery case is definitely one of the more expensive cases on our list, alongside the offerings from Apple and Mophie, but you can see where the money went. At first glance, it looks a lot like other battery cases we’ve written about, but there are some small differences in how you interact with the case — namely how you activate the case to charge your phone. Typically, you press a button, but the PhoneSuit incorporates touch controls for a more modern feel. Touch the left side for a second to check battery status, or both the left and right sides for three seconds to start or stop charging.

The PhoneSuit also supports pass-through charging, PC sync, and will automatically turn off when it has charged your phone. It uses polycarbonate composite materials and a scratch-resistant coating, helping to keep your iPhone in perfect condition when out and about. The exterior design uses a rubber, soft-touch coating to provide additional grip, and though it’s expensive, it has everything you’re looking for in a quality battery case.

Buy one now from:

PhoneSuit Amazon




3
Jun

Keep the zombie hordes at bay in Dead Plague [Best New Games for Android]


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What are the latest games worth checking out in the Google Play Store?

Updated June 3, 2017: Try out the early release of the top-down zombie shooter Dead Plague, check out the new take on the King of Fighters franchise, and then play the casual basketball game Bouncy Hoops!

There are thousands and thousands of games available in the Google Play Store, with more being added every month. With so much content hitting the app store, it can be damn near impossible to keep up with all the latest releases and determine which games are worth your time.

Here at Android Central, we want to help. We’ll be using this space to let you know about the latest gaming releases for Android that we think deserve your attention. We’ll be checking in and updating this page weekly as new games are released, so refresh often!

Dead Plague (Beta)

Dead Plague is in only in beta but it looks really promising. It’s a top-down twin-stick shooter where you must blast your way through wave after wave of zombies — imagine if they made a mobile-optimized version of Left 4 Dead.

That’s essentially Dead Plague, which at this point in production offers a basic storyline that drenched in zombie blood as explore an island that’s infested with the living dead. You’ve got a full arsenal of weapons to fight back with, and the game strategically provides ammo deposits throughout each level which is a nice touch and prevents you from becoming too trigger happy. Enemies will also be alerted to your location if you make noise near them, so if you’re too careless you’ll soon find yourself overrun by the horde.

The graphics are good and the touch controls are decent as well, but it’s not fair to judge this game too much considering it’s still in development. Either way, it’s free to check out in the Google Play Store and we think it’s worth your time to do so.

Download: Dead Plague (Beta)

KOF’98 Ultimate Match Online

King of Fighters has legions of fans, and KOF’98 Ultimate Match Online (shortened to KOF98 UM OL because that’s how you title, apparently) is an ode from SNK to those fans. But instead of offering more of the same arcade fighter gameplay, they’ve teamed with Hong Kong-based developers FingerFun Limited and mixed things up with this mashup beat’em up RPG that exists within the KOF universe and features all your favorite characters

If you’re a KOF fan looking for a fresh take on the franchise, you’re in for a treat. As you play you build out a team of eight fighters, each with their own unique skills and ultimate attacks. There’s a deep character upgrade system here, the character design is pretty great, and there’s a good variety of enemies.

The first chapter and a half of the campaign act as a tutorial of sorts to teach you the ropes, but from there you’re on your own to build your team, upgrade their skills and head into battle. It’s a free game, with the downsides of in-app purchases and the occasional add.

Download: KOF’98 Ultimate Match Online (Free w/IAPs

Bouncy Hoops

Bouncy Hoops is the latest game published by NoodleCake Studios which is reason alone to check this game out. The best way to describe this game is basketball-meets-Flappy Bird.

It’s a light, casual game with a simple goal: sink as many baskets as you can. You control the basketball by tapping to pop it in the air. If you shoot the ball over the net, it’ll reappear on the other side of the screen. There are two game modes to choose between: Arcade and Time. Arcade is the endless mode where you only have about five seconds to get the ball through the next hoop, which generates on either side of the court at different heights. You can link clean shots for combo bonuses and even earn a buzzer beater bonus if you time things right. Time mode works basically the same way, except you’re a minute to sink as many baskets as you can.

You collect coins as you play which can be used to unlock different ball styles, and there is the occasional ad to deal with. Bouncy Hoops is one of those fun and simple games that’s quick to pick up but hard to master, and a great game for competing against your friends in the Google Play Leaderboards.

Download: Bouncy Hoops (Free w/IAPs)

3
Jun

Get an NVIDIA Shield with a free Plex Pass subscription right now!


If you’ve been eyeing up an NVIDIA Shield TV for a while, now might be as good a time as any to pull the trigger. For a limited time you’ll also get a free Plex Pass subscription thrown in that’ll give you plenty of time to get to grips with what it can offer you.

nvidia-shield-android-tv-in-box.jpg?itok

With every purchase of both the 16GB Shield TV and the 500GB Pro model right now you’ll get yourself a free 6-month subscription to Plex Pass. Plex itself is free to use, but to access its best features you need Plex Pass. And the NVIDIA Shield is one of, if not the best Plex device around.

Plex is an easy to use home media center that allows you to catalog and access all your home music, movies, TV shows and photos, along with newer features like live TV and DVR capabilities. The NVIDIA Shield can even act as the Plex Media Server, serving media up to all your other Plex connected devices.

How to setup Plex Media Server on NVIDIA Shield TV

The offer doesn’t seem limited to the U.S. as well, being available on the European side of the Atlantic, too. Grab it while it’s hot.

See at Amazon

NVIDIA Shield Android TV

  • Read our Shield Android TV review
  • The latest Shield Android TV news
  • Shield vs. Shield Pro: Which should I buy?
  • Join the forum discussion
  • Complete Shield Android TV specs

Amazon

3
Jun

Best Cheap Android Phones of 2017


Update, June 2017: The $229 Moto G5 Plus is now our go-to budget pick, and we’ve added the ZTE Blade V8 Pro as a great option for dual-camera fans. The Moto E 2015 has also been replaced with the Moto G4 Plus.

  • Best overall
  • Best for dual cameras
  • Best for all-metal
  • Best under $100
  • Best for Europe

Best overall

Moto G5 Plus

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See at Amazon

Motorola performed yet another pricing miracle with the Moto G5 Plus, the successor to last year’s excellent Moto G4 series and a contender for the best affordable smartphone today.

It starts with the excellent 5.2-inch Full HD display, but the real benefit to the G5 Plus this year is the excellent performance and battery life from the combination of a Snapdragon 625 platform and a 3000mAh battery.

Also of note is the improved low-light performance from the 12MP camera, which boasts the same hardware as (and similar results to) the Galaxy S7.

Bottom line: This is the best sub-$250 phone you can buy today, and it’s still a great device even if price isn’t a factor.

One more thing: Motorola.com is offering the Moto G5 Plus with inexpensive financing if you don’t want to pay up front.

Why the Moto G5 Plus is the best

Last year, we recommended the $199.99 Moto G4 over its $249.99 Plus variant, but this year the only distinction is between memory and storage amounts: the Moto G5 Plus comes in either a $229.99 2GB RAM / 32GB storage version, or a $299.99 4GB RAM / 64GB storage version — they are otherwise identical.

With either decision, you’ll be happy with your purchase. Motorola has changed up the phone’s design this year, adding a metal back and a more compact, mature look that complements the Moto Z series, and the excellent 5.2-inch IPS display is much more manageable in one hand. Also more manageable is the improved shape of the front fingerprint sensor, which is turned oblong and considerably easier to activate.

Motorola has also bestowed a fantastic camera on the Moto G5 Plus this year, giving it the same 12MP sensor and lens combination that’s in the Galaxy S7 — though the results aren’t quite as good. The phone isn’t perfect — there’s no NFC on the U.S. model, and it still uses the older Micro-USB charging port — but it’s close.

And if you buy it through Amazon, you can save $45 on the base model, bringing it down to $184.99!

Best for dual camera

ZTE Blade V8 Pro

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See at Amazon

Who would have thought that a device with an absurd name like the Blade V8 Pro (it sounds like a weaponized drink) would end up on this list, but here we are. ZTE has done an amazing thing: make a big, plastic phone that adds up to far greater than the sum of its parts. The 5.5-inch 1080p display is fantastic, and it runs like a dream on the Snapdragon 625. There’s a massive 3,100mAh battery inside, too, to go along with the dual-13MP cameras, something you don’t see from this class of phone.

Bottom line: The ZTE Blade V8 Pro has everything going for it, including great hardware, endless battery life and competent cameras.

One more thing: The phone runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, with no timeline for an upgrade to Nougat.

Best all-metal

Honor 6X

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See at Amazon

For the new year the Honor 6X replaces its predecessor the 5X on this list. While you won’t be blown away by magnificent design or all of the top-end features, the Honor 6X is an exercise in what you can get for about $250. You get a good enough screen, expandable storage and a fingerprint sensor, wrapped in a metal body that’s better than the plastic offerings out there. There’s also a neat dual camera setup around back that can take interesting-looking shots.

Sure it’s stuck on Micro-USB and the software has yet to make the jump to Huawei’s new EMUI 5.0 (and we can’t wait for that to come), but you can’t get that complete of a package in a phone this inexpensive.

Bottom-line: It doesn’t offer everything, but it’s a solid package for the money.

One more thing: Keep an eye out for discounts and promotional “flash sales” at lower prices.

Best under $100

Moto G4 Play

moto-g4-display.jpg?itok=5hRmT0oz

See at Amazon

Though it’s the lower-end model of the last-generation Moto G, the G4 Play still has a place in this list considering its price — it’s just $149 now, or $99 if you’re willing to take Amazon’s “Prime Exclusive” version with lock screen ads. It doesn’t seem like a big difference from the Moto G5, but at these prices every dollar counts.

Looking at the phone itself, this is a very well-rounded product for the price. You get a 5-inch 720p display, a quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor at 1.2Ghz, 2GB of RAM, 16GB storage, and an 8MP rear camera, with all-day battery life from the 2800mAh cell, running Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

Bottom-line: The Moto G4 Play is the spiritual successor to the Moto E, but it has a bigger and better screen, more power, and a much nicer design.

One more thing: Don’t expect an update to Android 7.0 Nougat on the Moto G4 Play — that’s its one true shortcoming.

Best in Europe

Wileyfox Swift 2

wf-swift2-4.jpg?itok=Jv7LFD79

See at Amazon

The Wileyfox Swift 2 is the British company’s latest Android phone and has every right to be taken notice of. It costs a ridiculously cheap £139 and packs Moto G-matching hardware with a bit different style and software approach.

The display is nice, the battery life is pretty good, the overall appearance is on point and the software provided by Cyanogen is slick, speedy and bloat-free. It’s not available officially outside Europe right now, but it’s absolutely one of the best cheap phones money can buy. And if you’re lucky, you can even snag it on special for as low as £99.

Bottom-line: For those in Europe looking something a little nicer than a Moto G4 Play, with a fresh software experience, the Swift 2 is a good choice.

One more thing: Don’t be tempted by the lower-end Spark or Storm. The Swift is the only one we recommend.

Conclusion

If you don’t want to spend over $250 and still want a great Android phone, the Moto G5 Plus is the best choice. You don’t get the best looking or feeling phone, but it offers a top-notch experience, especially for the price.

Best overall

Moto G5 Plus

moto-g5-plus-review-7.jpg?itok=0qJNi_hG

See at Amazon

Motorola performed yet another pricing miracle with the Moto G5 Plus, the successor to last year’s excellent Moto G4 series and a contender for the best affordable smartphone today.

It starts with the excellent 5.2-inch Full HD display, but the real benefit to the G5 Plus this year is the excellent performance and battery life from the combination of a Snapdragon 625 platform and a 30000mAh battery.

Also of note is the improved low-light performance from the 12MP camera, which boasts the same hardware as (and similar results to) the Galaxy S7.

Bottom line: This is the best sub-$250 phone you can buy today, and it’s still a great device even if price isn’t a factor.

One more thing: Motorola.com is offering the Moto G5 Plus with inexpensive financing if you don’t want to pay up front.

Best Android phones under $400
Best Android phones under $100

3
Jun

Living a digital dream with Alex Andreev’s VR landscapes


“A lucid dream is a dream during which the dreamer is aware of dreaming,” says Wikipedia. Artist Alex Andreev offers that experience with his VR dreamscape paintings by messing with the part of your brain that distinguishes reality from fantasy. “Never did I take creation as a product of man’s intellect,” he says. “Our conscious awareness is only a thin film in the ocean of unconsciousness.”

His digital 360-degree VR artworks are full of fantastical imagery like floating islands and cargo freighters, dinosaurs and dystopic landscapes, all populated by people doing ordinary things like fishing or playing tennis.

The works are made possible by the digital tools at his fingertips. “It sounds paradoxical but digital art attracts me because it is free of technological influence,” Andreev explains. “In traditional arts, technologies dramatically limit the artist.”

It sounds paradoxical but digital art attracts me because it is free of technological influence. In traditional arts, technologies dramatically limit the artist.

A Russian who lives in France, Andreev has worked in game and film production, and uses tools like Photoshop and Blender to create his works. He adds that new 3D rendering technology has improved his creation methods: “[It] has become much friendlier for artists who want to see results immediately,” he told 2D Artist magazine.

Despite the fantastical aspects of his work, Andreev uses authentic visuals to ground the user in the acid-trip landscapes. “When the viewer interacts with an image, he compares what he sees now with his past experience,” Andreev said. “The more [it] relates to their experience, the greater the effect the artwork will have.”

Each piece places the viewer in the center a scene with multiple stories happening at once. Andreev says he tries to pry visuals from his unconsciousness mind by revisiting childhood memories or dreams, for instance. From there, the viewer is free to fill in their own narrative or meaning for the piece, as if it was there own dream.

Working with graphic designer Mikhail Ershov, Andreev developed an app for the VR paintings called “A separate reality,” on iOS and Android. Accompanied by music by Gumar Zaynullin, it gives VR headset owners the best way to view the paintings.

Via: Design Boom

Source: Alex Andreev (Behance)

3
Jun

The Morning After: Weekend Edition


Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Welcome to the weekend. It’s time to prep for Apple’s next big event and carefully consider what could happen if the government legalizes “hacking back.”

Tune in Monday.What to expect from Apple at WWDC 2017

attendees-wait-for-the-start-of-the-appl

This week Apple will put on a big show for developers but, as usual, we’re also listening. That’s because we could get news about everything from an Echo-fighting Siri speaker to refreshed MacBooks and iPads. On the software side, we’re expecting to find out how Siri will keep up with its AI assistant competition, and what’s next for both iOS and MacOS.

It begins.‘Need for Speed Payback’ adds higher stakes and familiar ideas

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E3 is still more than a week away, but EA has already dropped off one big game announcement: a name, release date and trailer for the next Need for Speed. Payback is an open world game that seems to take a lot of hints from the Fast and Furious franchise. Ultimately, it’s about “building the perfect ride, getting behind the wheel and playing out an action driving fantasy.”

A new challenger entersThe Eve V came from nowhere to challenge the Surface Pro

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Could a crowdfunded convertible really take on Microsoft’s pro mobile PC? Now that we’ve spent time with the Eve V at Computex, that seems realistic. There are still reasons to be skeptical, but its sturdy aluminum frame is coming together nicely.

That was fast‘Rime’ goes DRM-free after hackers crack the game in days

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Publishers for the adventure/puzzle game Rime were worried that piracy could cut into first-week sales, so they applied Denuvo DRM technology to the PC version. Unfortunately, gamers report the DRM caused performance issues. The publishers promised that if the DRM were cracked, then they would release a version of the game without it, and within just a few days of its launch, that’s what happened.

Real life isn’t always like ‘Mr. Robot’Bad Password: If hacking back becomes law, what could possibly go wrong?

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The Active Cyber Defense Certainty (ACDC) Act is getting closer to being put before lawmakers, but as columnist Violet Blue explains, they should think carefully before making it a law. That’s because as awesome as “hacking back” sounds, it could very easily send attacks flying both ways, with an impossible to enforce maxim that victims only mess with their stolen data. As-is, it’s like
trying to make gang warfare productive.”

Take that for data.Trump withdraws the US from Paris climate change agreement

president-donald-trump-announces-his-dec

By now you’ve heard that the President plans to initiate a withdrawal from the Paris Accords, an agreement reached to try and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What you may not have heard, however, is the response of MIT scientists to data the president cited in his statement to claim the agreement would accomplish little. In a statement, researchers from the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change said they “find this statement to be misleading,” and that “the Paris Agreement is an unprecedented and vital effort by nearly 200 countries to respond to the urgent threat of global climate change.”

But wait, there’s more…

  • A 3D printer gave my Nintendo Switch a real D-pad
  • Intel’s Core i9 Extreme Edition CPU is an 18-core beast
  • Silk Road founder loses appeal and will serve life in prison
  • North Korea has created its own ‘iPad’
  • Computer Love: The semi-nude lives of webcam stars

The Morning After is a new daily newsletter from Engadget designed to help you fight off FOMO. Who knows what you’ll miss if you don’t subscribe.

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