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1
Oct

After Math: Fly me to the Moon (and then on to Mars)


This was a stellar week for space exploration. Elon Musk showed off a new rocket and announced plans to colonize Mars by 2022. Lockheed Martin showed of its prototype all-in-one rocket-spacecraft design. And the US and Russia agreed to go live on the moon together — because science, of course. Numbers because how else are you going to calculate gravitational exit velocity?

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1
Oct

The best foam mattresses you can buy online


By Kevin Purdy

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

We’ve researched more than 40 of the top online mattress companies, surveyed hundreds of Wirecutter readers about their mattresses, interviewed experts on sleeping and mattress design, and spent more than six months sleeping on and assessing foam mattresses. All of that leads us to recommend the Leesa as a mattress that will work well for most people who sleep on their side or stomach.

How we picked and tested

The mattresses for this guide’s first test, as they would arrive at your door. From left: Tuft & Needle, BedInABox, Casper, Leesa, Signature Sleep Contour 8, IKEA Matrand. Photo: Jeremy Pavia

We focused on an increasingly popular subset of mattresses: those that come in only one model, cost less than $1,000, arrive within a week in a vacuum-packed roll inside a box, and come with a free trial of at least 100 days.

To find the mattresses people wanted, we spoke to a number of experts, surveyed nearly 650 people about the last mattress they bought, and read a lot about how mattresses are made and sold. We sought mattresses that would work best for the primary sleep positions: side, stomach, and back, based on results from multiple surveys and our own quick Twitter poll, and eventually settled on six mattresses to test. We then spent a week sleeping on each model, and took notes on their performance. Since our first test, we’ve continued to test month by month by trying a number of mattresses readers have asked about, sleeping on each for a minimum of 30 days.

How you feel sleeping on each mattress is obviously the key feature, but we considered other points of comparison. Those factors, in order of importance:

  • How each mattress breathes as you sink into it
  • Support at the edges of the mattress
  • “Motion transfer,” or if someone on one side of a mattress can feel movement by someone on the other side
  • How well sheets fit
  • The ease of picking up and rotating the mattress

No mattress works for everybody

Unpacking a BedInABox mattress, from the initial roll to the mostly inflated state. Like our picks, it comes folded in half, rolled up, and placed inside a tall box. Video: Kyle Fitzgerald

Here is the core truth of the mattress market: You won’t find one mattress that works for everybody. The best any mattress can do, our experts told us, is work great for a small group of people, feel pretty good for some, and do okay for a majority of people. This might explain why single-model mattresses you can try out for about 100 days are gaining in market share: Finding the perfect mattress is tricky, but making a mistake shouldn’t be a 10-year disappointment.

Our pick: Leesa

The Leesa mattress, our top pick for how most people sleep. Photo: Jeremy Pavia

The Leesa is our top pick among online-purchase mattresses because for side- and stomach-sleepers in our tests, it feels the best overall. It breathes better than all but one of the mattresses we tested, allowing for a cooler sleep. The Leesa also handles better at its edges than most other picks, providing acceptable support for entering, exiting, or rolling over on the bed. Consumer Reports’s simulated wear-and-tear testing (subscription required) found the Leesa to be excellent. It has a surface that feels good under thin sheets, and it looks good in its gray and white stripes.

Compared with other foam beds, the Leesa allowed side-sleepers’ shoulders and hips to sink in more comfortably, but still maintains a proper spinal curve. The Leesa’s “hug”—the way it envelops your body as you lower into the memory-foam layer—did not create heat or a “muddy” feeling. Instead, the Leesa felt cooler than other mattresses we’ve slept on, possibly due to the egg-crate-style top layer of Avena foam (a type of synthetic latex), combined with a breathable cover.

Runner-up: Casper

The newest Casper mattress looks identical to the prior version (pictured) but has an additional foam layer inside. Photo: Jeremy Pavia

The newest mattress from Casper, released in mid-2017, feels softer for side-sleeping than previous versions, and yet has more support around the hips and head to make back-sleeping feel better than before. It’s not quite as ideal as the Leesa for the majority of side-sleeping adults, and it felt a bit more warm to our testers. But for those who switch a lot, or share a bed with a back-sleeper, it might be a better pick than the Leesa.

Casper’s mattress is made of four layers of foam consisting of 1½ inches of “open-cell” foam, 1½ inches of memory foam, 1½ inches of proprietary “transition” foam, and 5 inches of support foam. The result, according to Casper’s head of product, Jeff Chapin, should be a mattress that’s essentially medium-firm across most of your body but more supportive where your shoulders, butt, and other pressure points sink in.

Also great: Tuft & Needle

The Tuft & Needle mattress, with its two layers visible (3 inches of hybrid comfort/contour foam, 7 inches of support). Photo: Jeremy Pavia

The Tuft & Needle mattress is firm, about as firm as foam can get before it becomes uncomfortable. For back-sleepers, or for people who prefer floating on a firm mattress instead of sinking into a soft mattress, the Tuft & Needle works fine. It isn’t ideal for most side-sleepers or stomach-sleepers, though some of our side-sleeping survey respondents loved it. The two-layer Tuft & Needle mattress’ stated weight limit is also the most of any mattress we tested, at 1,000 pounds for couples.

The Tuft & Needle has some other drawbacks beyond its particular firmness. For example, we noticed that this mattress offers notably less edge support than the Leesa or the newest Casper, so some fitted sheets might slip off the corners.

Budget pick: Zinus 12 Inch Green Tea

The Zinus Green Tea Mattress has more of a squishy top and a stiff center, but overall we think it’s a surprisingly comfortable mattress for the price. Photo: Zinus

Although it’s around a third of the price—or less—of our other picks, we found the Zinus Memory Foam Green Tea Mattress (12-inch version) was far more comfortable than expected. It has a softer memory-foam-type feel on top, and it’s quite firm as you sink into it. In its smaller twin, twin XL, and full sizes, the price makes it a good bed for a growing child, for anyone on a tight budget, or for a guest bedroom.

The Green Tea Mattress doesn’t breathe as easily as our other picks, and it’s not as supportive as the Casper or Leesa (though it’s far more giving than the Tuft & Needle). That said, a handful of testers (including four Wirecutter writers) have told us that they or their child sleep well on this mattress. “More than I expected for the price” sums up the comments we received from staff and on social network posts.

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

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

1
Oct

Apple iPhone X vs. LG V30: Battle of the bezel-less beauties


Alongside Samsung, LG was one of the first major manufacturers to jump on the “bezel-less” bandwagon. Barring some minor niggles about audio quality and storage space, we loved the LG G6 (check out our full impressions in our LG G6 review), so we’re understandably excited about the impending U.S. release of the LG V30. There are plenty of reasons why we’re excited — the V30 is bringing improved audio, a stunning 6-inch bezel-less OLED screen, and the raw power of the Snapdragon 835.

But it’s not just Samsung and LG in the bezel-less game now. Other companies are starting to catch on, and bezel-less concepts are popping up left, right, and center. Apple recently threw its hat into the ring with the iPhone X — its vision of a bezel-free future. With Apple’s newest and most powerful A11 Bionic processor, a 5.8-inch Super Retina OLED screen, and all the usual iOS polish, the iPhone X is a serious contender looking to rule the roost for the Cupertino, California giant. But who has the edge in this battle of the titanic screens? Which phone should you put your money behind? We take a look at both the LG V30 and the iPhone X in this head-to-head, and see how they fare when trading blows.

Specs

iPhone X

LG V30
Size
143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm (5.65 x 2.79 x 0.30 inches)
151.7 x 75.4 x 7.4 mm (5.97 x 2.97 x 0.29 inches)
Weight
174 grams (6.14 ounces)
158 grams (5.57 ounces)
Screen
5.8-inch Super Retina OLED display
6-inch P-OLED display
Resolution
2,436 x 1,125 pixels (458 ppi)
2,880 x 1,440 pixels (537 ppi)
OS
iOS 11
Android 7.1.2
Storage
64GB, 256GB
64GB, 128GB (on the V30+)
MicroSD card slot
No
Yes, up to 256 GB
NFC support
Yes (Apple Pay only)
Yes
Processor
A11 Bionic with 64-bit architecture, M11 motion co-processor
Snapdragon 835, with Adreno 540
RAM
3GB
4GB
Connectivity
4G LTE, GSM, CDMA, HSPA+, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
GSM, CDMA, HSPA, EVDO, LTE, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Camera
Dual 12 MP rear, 7MP FaceTime HD front
Dual 16MP and 13MP wide angle rear, 5MP wide angle front
Video
Up to 4K at 60fps, 1080p at 240fps
Up to 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 30fps, 720p at 120fps
Bluetooth
Yes, version 5.0
Yes, version 5.0
Fingerprint sensor
No, has Face ID instead
Yes
Other sensors
Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
Gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, proximity sensor
Water resistant
Yes, IP67 rated
Yes, IP68 rated
Battery
2,716mAh

21 hours of talk time, 13 hours of internet, 14 hours of video playback, and up to 60 hours of audio playback

Fast charging – 50 percent charge in 30 minutes, wireless charging (Qi standard)

3,300mAh

QuickCharge 3.0 fast charging, wireless charging (Qi standard)

Charging port
Lightning
USB-C
Marketplace
Apple App Store
Google Play Store
Colors
Space Gray, Silver
Cloud Silver, Moroccan Blue
Availability

AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Apple

AT&T, LG

Price
$999
$750
DT review
Hands-on review
Hands-on review

Apple’s A10 Fusion processor, which powered the iPhone 7, was still capable of showing the door to the Galaxy S8’s Snapdragon 835, so it comes as no surprise that the upgraded A11 Bionic is capable of thoroughly wiping the floor with the competition. The Snapdragon 835 in the LG V30 is going to put up a good fight but, based on tests of the A11, the iPhone X is far superior to the V30 in terms of pure power. That doesn’t mean that the V30 is a slow phone. On the contrary — the Snapdragon 835 is a very respectable processor, packing tons of power and scoring highly on Geekbench’s tests. So, while the iPhone X is the more powerful handset, that should be seen as a salute to the power of the A11 Bionic chip, rather than a black mark against the Snapdragon 835 in the V30.

In terms of RAM, the V30 hosts a whole extra gigabyte of RAM compared to the iPhone X, which is currently rumored to have only 3GB of RAM. That being said, it’s hard to say whether you’ll actually be able to feel the difference between the two. Android and iOS deal with memory management differently, so pure numbers can’t dictate real-life performance when comparing iPhones to Androids.

It’s a similar story when it comes to hard drive capacity. Apple offers models with 64GB and 256GB hard drives, while LG only offers 64GB, with 128GB being available in certain markets with the LG V30+. But, while that’s all you’re ever going to get with the iPhone X, you can boost the LG V30’s available memory by up to 256GB, thanks to a MicroSD slot. While iPhone users may become annoyed with their eventual lack of storage, and be forced to invest in something like a Leef iBridge, or rely on the iCloud for storage, V30 owners will be able to swap out MicroSD cards whenever they run out of storage. That said, both models do offer a significant amount of space, and diligent users are likely to have plenty of storage for some time to come.

It’s a tough call between the two phones where pure specs are concerned. While the V30 offers slightly more RAM, and the option of expandable storage, it’s hard to beat the iPhone X in terms of raw power.

Winner: iPhone X

Display, design, and durability

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Here’s the big category for both of these smartphones; those who live by the screen, die by the screen. Neither phone has anything to be ashamed of in regards to display fidelity. The LG V30 has an always-on, 18:9, 6-inch P-OLED display with a 2,880 x 1,440-pixel resolution. OLED screens are able to display much deeper blacks than LCD or LED screens, because OLED screens can shut down individual pixels that aren’t needed. Thanks to this, media consumption on the V30 looks amazing, especially on videos that can handle the 18:9 aspect ratio — Daredevil on Netflix looks incredible. However, on videos that don’t support such a weird aspect ratio, you’re stuck with massive black bars on either side of your screen, and as of yet, LG has not included a Samsung-like crop to fit option on YouTube videos.

The iPhone X is also packing a massive screen. It’s 5.8-inches in size, with a resolution of 2,436 x 1,125 pixels. The display fills the whole front of the phone, save the distinctive “notch” at the top. This screen is an AMOLED display (don’t be fooled by the “Super Retina” name), and comes with all the same advantages that the V30’s screen offers, with the ability to show blacker-than-black blacks, and deep, vibrant colors. Apple’s new True Tone technology also shifts the color temperature of the display to match the light in your surrounding area — a plus for activities like reading from the screen, but a nice touch nonetheless. Because of the notch, you’re going to have bars at the sides or a section cut-out if you go full screen with videos and other content.

Long-time iPhone users may be put off by the lack of Apple’s iconic home button, and only time (and the efficiency of FaceID) will tell whether this decision was the right one — though one suspects this will be a minor issue. Perhaps Apple intends the top notch to become the iPhone’s new icon? This small design choice has made waves in the Apple community, with some decrying it as ugly and invasive. It’s hard to disagree — at the moment, the notch is a blight on the front of a very pretty phone, but a necessary one that packs a host of sensors, a speaker, microphone, and the front-facing camera. Will we get used to it? Maybe. But for now, it’s a design choice that certainly makes the iPhone X stand out from the rest of the bezel-less crowd.

It’s a different story in terms of build quality. Both phones are a blend of metal and glass, as expected of flagship phones in 2017. The iPhone X is part of Apple’s first range of glass-backed phones — so Apple can finally introduce wireless charging. It’s a welcome change. The iPhone X is weighty without being cumbersome. After the almost wraith-like weightlessness of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the addition of a little extra heft is welcome.

By contrast, the V30 suffers the opposite problem, feeling too lightweight for a phone in its price range. During our hands-on review of the V30, it also suffered significant damage from a low drop of three feet — not quite the durability you want, even for a glass-covered smartphone. That said, the V30 is also IP68-rated, compared to the iPhone’s IP67 rating. So the LG phone should stand up to more abuse from water and dust than the iPhone, but we wouldn’t recommend putting them to the test.

Otherwise, the V30 looks great, with a similar design to the LG G6 with slight borders at the top and the bottom of the phone, neatly framing the massive display. It has the fingerprint sensor on the back and also supports wireless charging.

As glass-covered phones, you’ll want to consider covering both the V30 and the iPhone X with a protective case (check out our favorite options for V30 cases and iPhone X cases), since neither are likely to fare well with drops. With that said, the iPhone X is significantly smaller, making it easier to use one-handed, yet it feels more substantial. While “hand-feel” isn’t really something to buy a phone for, it certainly helps make you feel better about a purchase. The iPhone X may not be perfect — the jury’s still out on that notch — but Apple has to take it over LG in this category.

Winner: iPhone X

Battery life and charging

In a time where flagship battery numbers always seem to start with a “3”, Apple’s insistence on the oddly numbered 2,716mAh battery on the iPhone X could put a few power users off. However, Apple has stated that the upgraded efficiency of the A11 Bionic core should mean that the 2,716mAh battery lasts for longer than the numbers would suggest — and given Apple’s record with batteries, this isn’t too hard to believe.

However, it’s hard to see how Apple’s iPhone X could stand up against the raw battery power of the LG V30. In our hands-on review, we noted that the V30 had serious staying power thanks to the 3,300mAh non-removable battery. After taking the phone off the charger at 8 a.m., the V30 made it to 7 p.m. with 50 percent battery, after medium usage. Further heavy usage saw that battery fall to 15 percent by around 11:30 p.m., but that still makes it one of the best performing flagships for battery life, by quite a big margin. Apple’s record on battery life is good (with some blips), but it’s hard to see how the Cupertino, California giant could top that performance.

Both smartphones come with fast charging and wireless charging capabilities, and boast some seriously good fast charging numbers (Apple claim that their new iPhones can charge from 0 – 50 percent in 30 minutes). However, you’ll have to pay extra to get the cable and adapter required to fast-charge the iPhone X, whereas LG provides them in the box with the V30. While more rigorous testing will be needed to validate which of the phones is truly better over time, our money is on the LG V30.

Winner: LG V30

Cameras

The ability to take good snaps has become an increasingly vital part of a flagship over the last few years. Gone are the days when fuzzy, blurred shots were the norm — we now expect so much more from our cameras, and they’re rising to meet the mark. The increase in the number of dual-camera phones is also on the rise, and it’s two of those we’re dealing with here. The LG V30 is packing two lenses on the rear of the phone; a 16-megapixel lens, coupled with a 13-megapixel wide angle lens.

While most manufacturers are now including a telephoto lens as the second in the set-up, LG have instead gone for a wide angle lens. Whether you’d prefer that or the telephoto lens is a purely personal choice, but you can get some stunning photos from the wide angle lens that are completely different from what other smartphone cameras can provide. The images are clear in good lighting, but are let down somewhat by the low light performance. But LG’s real focus isn’t on stills — it’s on video — and it shows. LG’s new Cine Video allows you to shoot in various colored filters, and the Point and Zoom function lets you zoom in on a specific point in the video — rather than always zooming into the center of the frame. It’s a handy little feature, and a nice touch.

The camera on the iPhone X is somewhat harder to grade since we haven’t had much time to play with it properly yet. But the camera on the iPhone X is likely to be a tweaked version of the twin-snappers on the iPhone 8 Plus — which in turn, is a slightly upgraded version of the iPhone 7 Plus’s camera. While it may sound as if Apple is resting on its laurels, it’s worth pointing out that the iPhone 7 Plus had one of the best cameras we’ve ever seen on a smartphone, and the 8 Plus’s camera was similarly impressive in our iPhone 8 Plus review, and won the top spot on our list of the best smartphone cameras. You don’t have to take our word on it, DxOMark has also given the iPhone 8 Plus the highest score ever for a smartphone camera, and since the iPhone X is Apple’s flagship, we think it’s safe to assume that it will be at least as good.

While we have to speculate a bit on the iPhone X’s part, we know that it shoots 4K video at 60 frames-per-second (compared to the V30’s 30fps), and can capture slow-motion 240fps video at 1080p. By comparison, the V30 can shoot slow-motion at 120fps, and only at 720p. Another plus is that the iPhone X also comes with Apple’s new Face ID recognition system, replacing Touch ID. While the LG V30 also comes with face recognition as a unlocking method, Apple’s Face ID takes that so much further with a system of infra-red 3D-sensing cameras that detect depth and can reportedly work in the dark. Add to this Apple’s new ARKit and Portrait Modes, and the iPhone X comes out on top by a country mile.

Winner: iPhone X

Software

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Comparing Android and iOS is like comparing apples and oranges — you likely know if you prefer one over the other by now, and swapping between the two isn’t generally something that happens on a whim, and without some major soul-searching. With that in mind, we’re going to take a quick look at the various elements of each smartphone that make them stand out from the usual in their crowd.

The V30 will be launching with Android Nougat 7.1.2 at launch, but LG has confirmed that they will be working on getting Android Oreo on the device shortly after launch. LG’s spin on Android is fairly light, and we enjoyed playing with the customization options. Of particular note is the Floating Bar — an expandable bar that sits on the edge of your screen and allows quick access to a few apps, screen capture, audio recording, and more. It’s somewhat similar to the Edge Bar on the Galaxy S8 and the Note 8, and it’s something we appreciated during our time with the V30, but it’s easily switched off if you don’t like it. Also added is the ability to choose a different color theme, and various Smart settings that turn off functions like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth when you leave your house. These are all things that were previously available via third-party apps, but it’s always nice to see a manufacturer embracing customizable options. And if you want more, you can always access third-party customization apps via the Google Play Store. The V30 also supports Google’s new VR standard, Daydream.

The iPhone X will ship with Apple’s new iOS 11, much like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Outside of some small changes to the way that various options are accessed, there isn’t much that the iPhone X does that isn’t also available on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. While this is good for parity, it really does mean that the iPhone X doesn’t have much special going for it outside of its physical changes. With that said, iOS 11 is as smooth and responsive as ever, and if you’re a fan (and even if you’re not), you’ll find a lot to love here regardless of a lack of individuality. One thing it does offer, that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus don’t, is support for Animoji — cute animal masks that can be animated with your facial expressions via the same camera system that enables FaceID.

As always, picking between the two operating systems is a matter of personal choice. If you’re a fan of one OS or the other, neither phone’s software is going to do much to sway you the other way. In the time we’ve had to play with these phones, both have been fast, responsive, and great to use.

Winner: Tie

Pricing and availability

Neither phone is currently available, but the LG V30 will be available from October 5 from AT&T, and will be available from T-Mobile from October 13, after pre-orders open on the 5th. We’re not likely to see the iPhone X until November at the earliest, with pre-orders from Apple opening at the end of October. With that sort of small difference between the two, it’s not really enough to insist that prospective upgraders should buy the V30 instead of wait for the iPhone X.

However, only AT&T and T-Mobile have currently confirmed that they will be stocking the LG V30, restricting buyers to those particular networks for LG’s latest. On the other hand, the iPhone X will be coming to every network, with everyone wanting a cut of the newest Apple pie. So if you’re stuck between these two phones, but aren’t on T-Mobile or AT&T (or don’t want to switch), then you’ve really only got one choice.

The iPhone X is likely to cost north of $1,000 for any model other than the base one — which will set you back $999. Not really much of a difference there. Pricing for the LG V30 hasn’t been confirmed, but if history is anything to go by, it’s likely to cost around $750 on launch. The V30 may also come with Google’s Daydream headset when purchased on AT&T. The difference in price between the two is pretty hefty, despite the V30 not exactly being a budget device, so LG’s phone has to win this round.

Winner: LG V30

Overall winner: iPhone X

While the LG V30 put up a great fight with improvements to the camera, video, battery life, and Google’s new VR system, the day could only ever be carried by Apple’s iPhone X. It’s big, it’s expensive, and it’s Apple finally catching up to the status quo, but it’s just that damn good. Despite the notch at the top of the screen, it looks incredible, too.

In this battle between these two titans, your personal answer may not be that simple. In a direct comparison between the two phones, it’s clear that the iPhone X is the superior smartphone. But what does having Android or iOS mean to you? Your personal thoughts and leanings matter a lot, and anyone wedded to the Android ecosystem shouldn’t be put off the LG V30 by this verdict. It’s still a fantastic phone, and looks to be well worth the investment. But if you’re torn between the two, and OS doesn’t really matter to you, then you should definitely hold out for the iPhone X.

If you want to know how the iPhone X holds up against the rest of Apple’s latest, check out our iPhone X vs. iPhone 8 vs. iPhone 8 Plus breakdown.




1
Oct

How to change your language in Google Chrome for easier international browsing


Just because Google’s Chrome browser thinks it knows what language you want to browse the web in, doesn’t mean it’s right. Fortunately, you don’t need to put up with its presumptions any longer, as this guide will take you through the quick and easy steps of how to change your language in Google Chrome.

The list of available options is quite extensive, too. While we can’t promise that every webpage will display correctly in your chosen language, making the web more personal has been a major driver of most browser makers in recent years. Google’s Chrome is no different. Read on to find out how to change its language to cater more to you.

How to change your language in Google Chrome

Step 1: Open a Chrome browser window and click the three dotted menu icon in the top right-hand corner.

Step 2: Click “Settings” from the drop-down menu.

Step 3: Scroll to the bottom of the list of menu items and click “Advanced”.

Step 4: Scroll about half-way down, or use the “Ctrl+F” find-on-page function to search for Languages. Under that heading, click the arrow on the right-hand side of the “Language” section.

Step 5: If the language you want to have as your default is already listed, continue to Step 7. If not, click “Add languages” and continue to Step 6.

Step 6: Either scroll to your preferred language or search for it using the search box. When you’ve found the one you want, tick the box next to it, and click the blue “Add” button.

Step 7: Click the three dots on the right-hand side of your chosen language and click “Display Google Chrome in this language.” Following a browser restart, your web browsing experience should now be displayed in your chosen language.

For web pages that don’t support your preferred language, you can try Google’s Input Tools extension, or have the browser automatically translate them. To do that, use the same three-dot menu on the side and tick the “Offer to translate pages in this language” box.

Another option is to have Chrome attempt to display pages in a second choice language. Do that, and click “Move up” in the three-dotted menu, so that your second language option is in second place on the list.

Now that Chrome reads just how you want it, make sure you’re not wasting your time reading adverts. Here’s our guide on the best way to block those annoying pop-ups.




1
Oct

Google secretly axed its NFC Smart Unlock — and Android users are fuming


Why it matters to you

NFC Smart Unlock was a quick, easy, and foolproof way to unlock your Android device.

Google has discontinued its NFC (near-field communication) Smart Unlock for Android, a cool little feature that allowed users to easily unlock their nearby Android phone. NFC devices can interact wirelessly with each other if they’re within a few inches, letting you easily unlock your smartphone or tablet with an item such as a stylish NFC ring.

But not anymore. The feature was killed without any official explanation or warning, and even Google doesn’t seem to know what’s going on. After several users complained that they were unable to use the feature, a Google spokesman finally clarified that that “Smart Unlock NFC Feature has been deprecated for new users. If you are not existing NFC users, the option will be hidden.”

Although the NFC Smart Unlock is not a major feature of Android devices, many users were unhappy with the news and how the situation had been handled, and some took to Reddit to voice their displeasure. Apparently, anyone who set up a new Google account after July or August will not be able to access the feature. In addition, anyone who still has access to it should avoid updating their device or signing out, or it will disappear for good.

In a post flagged by BetaNews, Google finally responded with an explanation of sorts: “In the case of NFC unlock, we’ve seen extremely low usage. At the same time, there are alternatives available now that are easy to use, are secure and have much wider adoption. Given this, we decided to disable NFC unlock.”

Google goes on to recommend that Android customers “use a different unlock method in Smart Lock, such as Trusted Bluetooth devices, Trusted Places, or On-body detection.” Many Android users (especially those who’ve had subdermal chips implanted in their bodies) are unsatisfied with the explanation, to say the least.

As Mashable notes, Google’s stealth elimination of the NFC feature is rather remarkable, considering that the technology is expanding to a number of different industries including transportation, banking, medicine, and jewelry.

Regardless of the outcry, it seems like we’ve seen the end of the NFC Smart Unlock feature for Android, as Google has said it will have no further comment on the matter.




1
Oct

Google secretly axed its NFC Smart Unlock and Android users are fuming


Why it matters to you

NFC Smart Unlock was a quick, easy, and foolproof way to unlock your Android device.

Google has discontinued its NFC (near-field communication) Smart Unlock for Android, a cool little feature that allowed users to easily unlock their nearby Android phone. NFC devices can interact wirelessly with each other if they’re within a few inches, letting you easily unlock your smartphone or tablet with an item such as a stylish NFC ring.

But not anymore. The feature was killed without any official explanation or warning, and even Google doesn’t seem to know what’s going on. After several users complained that they were unable to use the feature, a Google spokesman finally clarified that that “Smart Unlock NFC Feature has been deprecated for new users. If you are not existing NFC users, the option will be hidden.”

Although the NFC Smart Unlock is not a major feature of Android devices, many users were unhappy with the news and how the situation had been handled, and some took to Reddit to voice their displeasure. Apparently, anyone who set up a new Google account after July or August will not be able to access the feature. In addition, anyone who still has access to it should avoid updating their device or signing out, or it will disappear for good.

In a post flagged by BetaNews, Google finally responded with an explanation of sorts: “In the case of NFC unlock, we’ve seen extremely low usage. At the same time, there are alternatives available now that are easy to use, are secure and have much wider adoption. Given this, we decided to disable NFC unlock.”

Google goes on to recommend that Android customers “use a different unlock method in Smart Lock, such as Trusted Bluetooth devices, Trusted Places, or On-body detection.” Many Android users (especially those who’ve had subdermal chips implanted in their bodies) are unsatisfied with the explanation, to say the least.

As Mashable notes, Google’s stealth elimination of the NFC feature is rather remarkable, considering that the technology is expanding to a number of different industries including transportation, banking, medicine, and jewelry.

Regardless of the outcry, it seems like we’ve seen the end of the NFC Smart Unlock feature for Android, as Google has said it will have no further comment on the matter.




1
Oct

Is Apple planning its own ARM-based modem chips for future Macbooks?


Why it matters to you

Apple’s move to produce its own modem chips could weaken Intel’s grip on the industry.

Nikkei Asian Review has reported that Apple is looking into developing ARM modem chips for future versions of its MacBook line of notebook computers potentially cutting Intel and Qualcomm out of the process entirely.

Currently, chips produced by Intel and Qualcomm are used in the vast majority of desktop and notebook computers while ARM chips are used for about 95 percent of the mobile market. While the ARM architecture is owned by Arm Holdings, the technology is usually licensed to other companies who then develop chips for use in their devices.

Industry experts told Nikkei Asian Review that they believed that ARM chips could see an uptick in popularity due to smaller laptops becoming more and more popular.

“Notebooks are becoming thinner, while consumers are demanding better mobility and longer battery life,” an unnamed chip industry executive said. “That gives ARM’s architecture, which is known for its power efficiency, a very good opportunity.”

Apple has made no announcements regarding these rumors, but it does make sense, considering the company recently acquried one of Qualcomm’s top engineers, Esin Terzioglu. Beyond that, Apple is well-known for the in-house development of most of the hardware and software, so this fits in from that point of view as well.

Regardless, it is unlikely that Apple will have these chips ready for at least two more years. Modern chips take a lot of time and resources to develop, and Apple would need to ensure that they are compatible with all upcoming variants of the MacBook.

In terms of resources, most analysts believe that Apple would need to devote more than a thousand engineers to this project in order to develop the chips in a reasonable timeframe.

In the short-term, Intel and Qualcomm are probably safe, but some believe that this could be the beginning of an industry-wide trend towards in-house development of modem chips and other key components.

“We believe that more system houses will design their own chips,” Samuel Wang of the Gartner research firm told Nikkei. “The purposes are to develop and protect their proprietary technology information, to make more efficient chips for their unique need, to lower [costs] and to do inventory control better and keep all logistic operation confidentially.”




1
Oct

From the Editor’s Desk: Late-breaking Pixel predictions


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Hunches, predictions and gut feelings about what’s next from Google.

Pixel season is upon us, as Google prepares to show off next-gen hardware across several categories this coming Wednesday, October 4. It’ll also be the sixth Google fall hardware launch I’ve covered (either in person or remotely), the first being the venerable Samsung Galaxy Nexus back in 2011.

Usually that’d give you a fair bit of perspective — background knowledge to help you see what’s coming next from the company. But Google is also notoriously unpredictable when it comes to hardware, as evidenced by the sudden pivot towards Pixel and the “made by Google” brand in 2016.

Nevertheless, as we approach launch day, there’s just enough time for me to dedicate a Sunday column to what I’m expecting.

So here goes…

New Pixel phones and a new Android version

Because of course.

We’ll get an HTC-made miniature Pixel and an LG-built biggie Pixel, and you can read all about what’s rumoured for both over here. The short version: This year the Pixel 2 XL will be the more interesting of the two, as Google moves away from the design and internal hardware symmetry of the previous generation. The baby Pixel will be a second-class citizen, with a 16:9 screen and chunky bezels.

Google should also push out a new version of Android for the Pixels, and who this may even be exclusive to the new phones until sometime later in the year, a la Android 7.1 last year. A good predictor of future Android versions is traffic to Android Central and our forums, and right now in our analytics we’re seeing small spikes from Android 8.1.0, and nothing from 8.0.1.

In the Android world, a .1 version bump usually means a new API level, which means new stuff for developers to get to grips with. (Though last year the additions in 7.1 weren’t exactly groundbreaking compared to 7.0.)

The new phones will be kinda boring

Last year, there was ample novelty value associated with the new Google phones, the new Pixel UI, Google Assistant, and their surprisingly excellent cameras.

To put further wind in Google’s sales, the competition was relatively weak. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were pretty dull, Samsung had just shipped the smartphone equivalent of Dr. Zoidberg’s slinky, and the LG V20 — which didn’t even get a proper European launch — would fall flat.

This year, the competition is far stronger. Google’s going up against the iPhone X, Galaxy Note 8 and LG V30, all of which are formidable. That’s to say nothing of the few unannounced surprises from other manufacturers coming in the months ahead.

Google needs something amazing and unique, and from the leaks we’ve seen so far (and let’s be clear, an awful lot has leaked) the only truly different feature looks set to be Google Lens. Lens has the potential to be amazing, and there’s an above average chance it’ll be Pixel-exclusive for a while, as Assistant as in 2016. But is it a reason to buy a single-camera, headphone-jack-less, wireless-charging-less Pixel? I’m not so sure.

Google can always make up for this lack of pizazz with a huge marketing campaign, as it did in 2016. But it’ll need to follow up with solid retail availability of the kind that was sorely lacking for the first-gen Pixels.

There’ll be a new Pixel tablet

Nope, I’m not talking about the already-leaked Pixelbook laptop, which looks to be running Chrome OS (likely with Android app support working out of the box.) Google needs a reference tablet for Android, and the Pixel C is about to reach the end of its life cycle.

Google either stops developing Android for tablets, or releases an up-to-date Pixel slate.

If we don’t get a new Pixel tablet on October 4 (and it doesn’t arrive within the following six months), then maybe that means Google sees this category as being better served by Chrome OS or (eventually) whatever spawns out of the Fuchsia project.

If we do, you have to wonder who’ll be the ODM this time around, given the relatively few manufacturers currently selling high-end Android tablets.

Assistant is the new Chromecast

We’ve already seen the beginnings of this with the second-gen Bose QC35 cans, but expect one of the underlying themes of Google’s presentation on to be the growth of Assistant across a multitude of product categories. Just as Chromecast grew from a single TV dongle to a range of connected products, Google will want Assistant to be in anything with a speaker and microphone.

Another major theme will be AI, and I’ll be watching with interest to see how Google’s hardware division can implement some of the things Sundar Pichai introduced back at the Google I/O keynote in May.

Google Lens will surely exist as its own app. But imagine having some of the AI-based photo features, like the ability to remove an unwanted chain link fence grid from a sports photo, build right into the camera app.

The Google Search bar will be back

This one’s mostly just a gut feeling. RIP Pixel pill.

(Hello, new rounded Google search bar.)

That’s it for this weekend. As always, you can catch all our Pixel coverage right here this Wednesday morning PDT.

1
Oct

Amazon Fire TV can now show live video feeds, but the lag remains


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Live video from your connected cameras works on the Fire TV, but the experience still needs a lot of work.

Tucked amid all the new hardware announcements from Amazon this week was a little nugget about Amazon Fire TV. Specifically, that you can now view live video feeds from Alexa-enabled cameras. That’s the same sort of functionality we have on the Echo Show, of course. And as it turns out, it’s exactly the same functionality. Just on a much larger display.

Here’s how it works: You’ll need a second-generation Fire TV or Fire TV Stick. (The new Amazon Fire TV won’t be available until Oct. 25.) And you’ll need to be in either the United States, UK or Germany. And you’ll need to have a security camera that’s got an Alexa Video Skill enabled. In my case, that’s the Ring Pro Doorbell.

Just like with the Echo Show, all you have to do is say “Alexa, show me my front-door camera” to get things rolling. (Or whatever your camera’s named, I guess.)

Here’s the @ring doorbell on the @amazonfiretv update. … Still kinda slow, and still not push. (Needs push for motion/rings!) pic.twitter.com/6to0UsvLY6

— Phil Nickinson (@mdrndad) September 28, 2017

And this is where things start to fall apart. There’s still a ton of lag in the process. It takes a few seconds for the Skill to fire up on the Fire TV. Then it takes a few more seconds for feed to start streaming. (In the example above, I’m running out of the bedroom to the front door in real time — and it actually took me maybe half as long as it seems, because of the lag in the feed.)

Then there’s also the issue of showing mediocre 1080p footage on a 55-inch 4K display, but that’s another gripe for another time.

Just like with the Echo Show, this is a cool feature that works. It just needs to much work better before it’s something you’d actually want to use.

Amazon Fire TV

  • What’s new on Amazon Prime Video
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Buy at Amazon

1
Oct

It took six months for my Nintendo Switch to run out of space


When Nintendo announced that its next game console was going to come with just 32GB of internal storage, my heart sank. I’d been planning to go all digital for the Nintendo Switch — making it a portable console that always had my favorite games on tap at a moment’s notice. Instead, I found myself pre-ordering the console with a physical copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild. The compromise didn’t last long. Between the tedium of swapping game cards and my fear of losing them, I wound up going all digital anyway. Within six months, my Nintendo Switch ran out of space.

It’s my own fault, really. If I hadn’t insisted on playing every major release Nintendo put out since launch, I wouldn’t be in this mess. Still, can you blame me? Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was a masterful reissue of one of the Wii U’s best games, and Splatoon 2 was a strong follow up to multiplayer shooter that ruled my summer in 2015. On top of that, we had a brand new Nintendo IP in the guise of ARMS, a wacky telescoping boxing game, the delightful absurdity of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle and plenty of great download-only titles like Sonic Mania, Blaster Master Zero and Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment. Nintendo’s hybrid portable console has had a good first year.

When this steady stream of games filled my switch to capacity, however, I didn’t run out and buy a microSD card as I originally planned. Instead, I’ve spent the last few months using Nintendo’s built in data management tool — a pop-up menu prompt that helps you clear out space for a new game by automatically culling your unplayed library.

If you try to download a title you don’t have enough space for, a broken progress bar will appear on the bottom of the game’s icon. Click it, and the Switch will immediately tell you how much space you need to clear to install the game and recommended software to archive. Don’t like what the Switch chooses? No problem — the pop up window will happily take you to the console’s data management screen to sort through your unplayed game library yourself.

It’s a small feature, but it makes managing the Nintendo Switch’s lack of storage space ridiculously easy. When my PlayStation 4 runs out of space, it only notifies me passively — leaving me to drag myself to the system’s storage management menu and stumble through four different categories of data — but the Switch identifies a problem and immediately offers a solution. It takes the work out of juggling data and opens a path to just playing the game I want to launch. That’s nice.

This data management screen doesn’t forgive the Nintendo Switch’s lack of storage — 32GB is still far too little for any modern game console — but it made one of the console’s biggest flaws bearable. I’m still going to buy expanded storage for the Switch eventually, but I don’t feel like I need to right away. That’s a nice quality of life feature, and a small indication that Nintendo is getting better at designing console user interfaces that can rival the competition.

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