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19
Oct

Jony Ive Says Apple’s New Flagship Chicago Store is About ‘Reviving Important Urban Connections’


Apple today previewed its new Michigan Avenue store along the Chicago River ahead of its grand opening on Friday.

Apple shared new pictures that provide a look at the store’s 32-foot glass facades and 111-by-98 foot carbon-fiber roof. Two staircases lead to the store’s lower level, featuring indoor trees and a seating area for Today at Apple sessions.

The flagship store is designed to create a new connection between North Michigan Avenue, Pioneer Court, and the Chicago River.

“Apple Michigan Avenue is about removing boundaries between inside and outside, reviving important urban connections within the city,” said Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer. “It unites a historic city plaza that had been cut off from the water, giving Chicago a dynamic new arena that flows effortlessly down to the river.”


The store was designed by Apple’s longtime architectural partner Foster + Partners, and pays homage to architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style homes in Chicago. Based on plans from 2015, the building spans 20,000 square feet and replaces a vacant food court. The store took over one year to construct.

A lengthy staircase leads from street level to a walkway in front of the store. The building will also be accessible via elevator.


On Monday, the store will also launch “The Chicago Series,” a set of five programs, each with a different area of focus at the intersection of technology and liberal arts, hosted over the course of four weeks. Apple said each program is co-created with local non-profits and creative organizations.

Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts is in Chicago today and tweeted a picture of herself alongside some of the store’s employees.

Thank you to this wonderful team and the many more who are bringing #AppleMichiganAve to life for our customers this week! pic.twitter.com/pZs08QMo4R

— Angela Ahrendts (@AngelaAhrendts) October 19, 2017

“Apple Michigan Avenue exemplifies our new vision where everyone is welcome to experience all of our incredible products, services and inspiring educational programs in the heart of their city,” said Ahrendts.

Apple Michigan Avenue opens Friday, October 20 at 5:00 p.m. local time. The store is located in Pioneer Court at 401 North Michigan Avenue, next to the Michigan Avenue Bridge in Downtown Chicago.

Apple said its original North Michigan Avenue store, which was its first flagship location, welcomed more than 23 million visitors since opening in 2003. The store, just down the street from the new one, permanently closed today.

Apple has nearly 500 retail stores around the world that collectively welcome over 500 million visitors per year.

Related Roundup: Apple Stores
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19
Oct

Canada’s Largest Carrier Says iPhone 8 Demand Has Been ‘Anemic’


Rogers, the largest wireless carrier in Canada, has admitted that it has seen lackluster demand for the iPhone 8 so far.

“What we’re seeing is sort of […] anemic appetite for the iPhone 8,” said Rogers CEO Joe Natale, during an earnings call today, according to Reuters.

iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus pre-orders began on September 15, and the devices launched on September 22, including at Rogers.

Earlier today, China’s Economic Daily News claimed Apple has asked its suppliers to reduce iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus production by nearly 50 percent in November and December, just days after iPhone X pre-orders begin.

The report cited an unnamed source who claimed it is the first time in the iPhone’s ten-year history that new models will face a major cutback less than three months after Apple suppliers began mass production in China. Given the staggered release of the iPhone X, however, this isn’t a typical launch to begin with.

Apple shares declined around 1.5 percent in pre-market trading today as investors reacted to the news, dragging down the Dow Jones.

While many industry observers believe any negative sentiment surrounding the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus spells good news for iPhone X demand, Natale warned about the device’s higher price and potential supply constraints.

“The iPhone X price point is about 75 percent higher than the iPhone 7. So it’s a very expensive device,” he said, referring to the device’s $1319 starting price in Canada. “Inventory is a question mark in terms of what we will get.”

iPhone X pre-orders begin next Friday, October 27 in several countries, including the United States and Canada. The device launches November 3.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8Tag: RogersBuyer’s Guide: iPhone (Buy Now)
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19
Oct

These tips on how to get followers on Tumblr will leave you feeling popular


Tumblr, like Twitter, is a social network that allows you to build a brand around yourself. Unlike Twitter though, where the words are your brand, Tumblr focuses on content in a similar fashion to Pinterest. This allows for a more visual approach to whatever you might feel like talking about. But Tumblr does have some key differences, which might make it a little more difficult for you to stand out. Once you’ve taken a crash course in Tumblr though, you can use the blogging platform as an outlet for anything, whether you want to post beautiful photos from your last trip to the beach or more heady things, like debating the finer points of United States’ relationship with Russia. But if nobody’s seeing what you write, you’re just talking to yourself, no?

Below is our quick-hit guide on how to get followers on Tumblr, so you can amass a legion of fans and extend your digital reach. It’s not foolproof, but a little fine tuning, engagement and digital word of mouth is sometimes all you need. Good luck!

Step 1: Focus, man, focus!

Sure, your Tumblr blog reflects you, and it might be fantastic in your eyes, but does it really need to be as eclectic as you are? Probably not, and your personal Facebook profile would probably be better suited for that. Giving your Tumblr a focus and assembling content around a central theme makes it more interesting for strangers. Also, spending a little time on a design that complements the content within will keep people coming back for more.

Find your niche

The best Tumblrs are those that avoid meandering across the board when it comes to topics. Choose something that interests you, something you can write or post about at length, and one that you think others will find interesting as well. Refrain from making it too specific — unless you desire the short-lived viral approach — but don’t make it all-encompassing either. Cooking, photography, and fashion blogs are perfect examples of topics that provide focus without being overly restrictive. Think about what you want to share with your readers, what they might like to see, and if you can actually produce enough content to keep them coming back for more. Take for example this Grey’s Anatomy Tumblog — it consistently posts still photos, quotes, GIFs, and video clips for fans of one of the longest-running dramas in TV history.

Spruce it up

Although Tumblr’s default themes are a perfectly suitable for a melange of blogs and casual users, consider opting for a premium theme, as it likely give you a visual leg up on the competition and opens the the door to greater creativity. Try not to pick something too staggering in terms of color and design, but don’t select a theme with absolutely no visual hook or appeal — or one that seems to contradict the content inside (like a photo-centric theme for a blog with a lot of written word, for example). Most themes allow for customization without coding, so you can alter textures and background elements using drag-and-drop interfaces and simple color palettes without knowing how to code. Additionally, think about your chosen username and how it reflects on your blog. Is it catchy, professional, or relevant to your blog’s focus? You might also want to consider a domain name, too. Tumblr allows you to link your own domain to your blog.

Be original

We’re not suggesting you reinvent the wheel, but giving your blog its own distinct voice is the best way to go. While recycled content is indeed worthy of reposting from time to time, try not to spend your time reblogging each and every meme on the internet. Post what you truly think is worthy, and if you do post something that’s already saturating the internet, add some commentary or personal insight. Your blog should be reflect you, even if it isn’t composed entirely of your own content.

Hashtag, #but #don’t #hashtag #everything

Hashtags are a great way of getting your targeted content out to other Tumblr users. Like the way they’re used on Twitter, they’re best used when your content has a theme. Like most social platforms, followers that you have no real-life connection to tend to find you via the appropriate tags. That said, keep your tags broad, so that the biggest number of people can find them, but not too broad that they’re lost in a sea of other posts. At the same time, tagging everything is a faux pas you want to avoid. Your content should be able to stand on its own without needing a 1,000 tags just to get exposure. Remember, reblogs are the name of the game on Tumblr when you’re trying to build notoriety, so content is still king. Think of tags as just an extension of your content.

It’s also a good idea to use tags to organize your own content. Followers and onlookers will likely want to look through old posts. The best way to organize past posts is to use tags to create a customized web of past posts for people to look at and reblog. It’s also good for personal needs, such as when you’re going back and looking for a past post to make relevant once again or elaborate on more.

To tag a post, simply enter the relevant tag in the text field at the bottom of the post editor and click the blue Post button when finished. Suggestions of some of the more popular and common tags will automatically appear when you begin typing, if you want to use terms already in existence. Users can then use the search bar in the upper-right corner of the dashboard to peruse postings that are affixed with said tag.

Quality, not quantity

Just getting people to view your Tumblr blog sometimes seems like enough, but if you want to maintain their interest and loyalty, you need to ensure your posts have an air of quality and consistency synonymous with your blog’s direction. Different blogs are going to revel in different aesthetics and motives, but you want to provide varied content that falls in line with your blog. Proofread your work for misspellings and grammatical errors when posting text, ensure hyperlinks aren’t broken, and make sure images load properly.

Also, make sure you’re posting a variety of content types — i.e. text, photos, quotes, links, audio, and video — whenever possible. While text does well, studies tend to show that people seem to share and engage more with multimedia content. I hate to beat a dead horse here, but reblogs are what you want, and more engagements often equates to more reblogs and, in turn, more followers.

That said, keep in mind the aforementioned tip about themes. If your theme is more text-centric, try to stick to written posts, quotes, chats, and the like. If your theme is more media-centric, a consistent stream of high-quality photos and/or videos might be the better route.

19
Oct

Android One Motorola Moto X4 review


We’re celebrating ten years of AndroidGuys with a ton of giveaways!

Remember how awesome it was just a few years back when you could look forward to a stock Android phone that didn’t cost an arm and a leg? We anticipated the annual Nexus release because it brought about a benchmark experience that ran the latest in Android.

While the Nexus phones never really sold themselves as a best-in-class device, it signaled to consumers what Google expected from phone makers. It was almost like a pacesetter for the industry, giving us an idea as to what handsets should have under the hood.

When the Pixel launched in late 2016 one of the loudest complaints we heard was that it was far too expensive. Not that it didn’t justify its price tag, mind you, but that it was a few hundred dollars higher than what we had become conditioned to spending. Gone were the days of $400 phones in favor of models that run $650 or higher.

This year was the same; the Pixel 2 starts at $650 with the larger Pixel XL 2 coming in at $850 or more. In short, you had to spend flagship money if you wanted a solid stock Android phone with the release.

Somewhere over the last few years Motorola began offering its own higher end phones with a nearly pure and untouched version of Android. The only touches we saw to the experience were in the name of user delight and actually added to its features. The best part? These phones were around $400.

Sadly, Motorola’s flagship phones began to inch up higher and higher in the last couple of generations. Indeed, the Moto Z line replaced the Moto X line, bringing with it a more premium experience with modular capabilities. Oh, and a price tag that was inflated by a few hundred bucks.

This year saw Motorola return to its X line with the Moto X4. It’s a solid package of hardware and performance that doesn’t pretend to be more than it is. Not only that, but it’s right back in the price range that we were starting to appreciate.

Google announced this fall that it was going to offer Android One devices in the United States. The lucky first model? The Moto X4. Yes, this is a stock, and current Android experience with the right pacesetting hardware. In other words, this could be the start of the Nexus line all over again.

“The Android One Moto X4 is everything we miss in the Nexus family of phones.”

We’ve had a chance to review the Android One Moto X4; Google supplied us with a sample unit that we’ve used over the last few weeks. How does it stack up? Well, if you don’t want to read on, I’ll spoil it for you. The Android One Moto X4 is everything we miss in the Nexus family of phones.

If you’re looking to get into the Android ecosystem and want a great jumping off point, it makes all the sense in the world to start here. This goes double if you’re open to switching mobile operators. See, this version of the Moto X4 is sold through Google’s Project Fi. That means you’re not only getting (almost) the best of Android, but also a great hardware experience backed by a revolutionary and inexpensive wireless provider.

Specifications

The X4 is somewhat of a perfect device for someone looking to purchase a “Goldilocks” phone. In other words, it’s not too big, not too small, not too cheap, and not too expensive. The hardware borders on the upper end and it features details that we come to expect in a quality phone. Available in Sterling Blue or Super Black, the handset retails for $400.

Running Android 7.1.1 Nougat, the Moto X4 offers up a 5.2-inch display with a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution. The 2.2GHz octa-core (Snapdragon 630) processor is strong and complimented nicely by the 3GB RAM and 32GB of storage space. All of these are a shade or two below what the top of line devices deliver but that somewhat echoes the Nexus family.

Display

To me, the 5.2-inch display is the perfect size of for a smartphone, especially when you don’t have edge-to-edge screens. Even with a slight bezel, this is enough to feel substantial in hand, with a picture plenty big enough for all needs.

To be clear, the resolution isn’t as sharp as what you’ll find in some other mid-range and upper tier models. Text and images look fine; the color is vibrant and accurate. Where it does fall short, though, would be in the area of virtual reality. If that’s a key factor or field that interests you, a phone with 2,560 x 1,440 resolution is where you should look.

Other noteworthy specifications include a pair of cameras on the back (12-megapixel/8-megapixel), a front-facing 16-megapixel shooter, and a 3,000mAh battery. The
phone is water-resistant, includes a microSD card (up to 2TB), fingerprint reader, NFC (Android Pay), and built-in support for Amazon Alexa.

Custom Enhancements

The last detail is an interesting distinction as it’s Motorola’s first phone to get the smarts. In short, it turns the X4 into a voice-activated or voice-triggered device that handles Amazon’s increasing list of skills. It’s not every single thing that comes in an Echo, but you can wake the phone up with a command or launch it from the lock screen.

Fear not, Google lovers, you still have access to the Google Assistant and its ever-smarter AI tools. It’s the best of both worlds so, if you have a preference or rely on one particular ecosystem, you’re covered.

Much like it does for its portfolio of phones, Motorola also sprinkles its own custom enhancements here, too. Users can open apps using particular phrases (Show me…), save passwords with the fingerprint (Moto Key), and unlock a PC using the Bluetooth connection.

All of these extra features are done in the name of user experience but should not impact a timely software Android update. Aside from those options, the X4 is stock Android through and through.

Build

We were immediately taken in by the look and feel of the Moto X4. The solid metal unibody design is something that is much sexier than it needs be. It’s great to hold in the hand with the right amount of curves and sharp lines.

The phone wants to be looked over and appreciated. Even the camera bump on the back, which is prominent, has fine details which draw in the eye. It feels like a much more expensive, or even powerful, phone on the outside.

The glass is slick, though, and it picks up fingerprints and smudges much easier than we’d like. With that said, a quick wipe against the shirt or pants cleans it up.

Camera

Playing with the camera and utilizing the dual-sensor setup on the back is a fun experience. You’ll want to spend some time learning the features as well as its limitations. Toggling from the standard angle to the wide angle lens delivers sometimes vastly different results and I suspect you’ll figure out which you’ll want or need for various situations.

The default settings work well in most instances and is where we spent most of our time. If you like to break out a phone to capture selfies or a few key moments, the auto settings in the Moto X4 camera will do the trick. But, we invite you to familiarize yourself with the different modes and options. A couple minutes here and there could take your portrait shots to new levels.

Embedded Samples (Flickr Gallery)
Moto X4 (Android One)

As you’ll see in the gallery here, sometimes the tools worked to our advantage while other times it delivered messy results. Again, it’s a matter of figuring out what you can and cannot do with it. Autofocus, color select, and a few other details like switching between standard and wide angle, need some of your time before you get the best results. Generally speaking, however, we liked what Motorola gives us in terms of settings and final product.

Performance

As a daily driver, the Moto X4 performs quite well. The 3GB RAM and mid-range processor won’t hold a candle to the $800 phones on the market, but you have to ask yourself whether that’s what you’re buying. Do you want a device that handles your emails, tasks, messaging, and basic gaming? Or, do you want something that chews through benchmarks and devours first-person shooters?

Performance is aided by the fact that it’s running clean Android 7.1. On one side of this coin we find there’s optimization and battery enhancement at a platform level. On the other side we see there’s no extra skinning or UI junk that stays running in the background. This not only leads to a smooth and generally problem-free experience, but one that also treats the battery with care.

Battery

Speaking of batteries, the X4 comes with a non-removable 3,000mAh power supply. A basic smartphone user can expect a single day of use without batting an eye. Those with jobs or lifestyles that necessitate keeping phones tucked away, or people who aren’t always on social media and Reddit might look to get two days. Motorola touts six hours of use from only 15 minutes of charging.

Wireless Sound System

Another cool feature that comes in the phone, but one which may not apply to everyone, is the Wireless Sound System. Powered by French outfit Tempow, it lets you listen to music on up to four Bluetooth-powered devices at once. Built in at the system level, it connects and streams to any Bluetooth device just so long as it offers A2DP music profile or equivalent support.

This is somewhat of a stop-gap measure for those of you who might want a connected home stereo. Whether its SONOS, Google, or somebody else, the idea of playing music through multiple rooms and speakers (or headphones) is alluring. We liked that the X4 allowed for us to utilize some of the Bluetooth speakers we had sitting around going unused.

Project Fi

There’s nothing in the Android One Moto X4 that’s any different from what you’d find in other Project Fi devices. It is noteworthy, though, in that it gives buyers a lower price point to choose from. Up until now the selection was relegated to a pretty select, and somewhat expensive, list of phones.

Conclusion

We love the package that is the Android One Moto X4 (with Project Fi). As a longtime and heavy Google user we’ve come to appreciate it when things mesh together. That’s exactly what happens with this phone.

The specs are just right for nearly all users and should be strong enough to last a year or two. Further, the price is justifiable here. In fact, when you look and feel this phone, and browse the list of features, you almost feel like you’re getting away with something.

It’s not a step up from the Pixel or Pixel XL so you’re likely not replacing your Project Fi phone. But, if you were on the fence about signing up for the service, this should help sway you in that direction.

It’s hard to tell whether Google plans to release more Android One models in the US throughout the year or if they will just stick to annual models. Regardless of the future, we like where things are today and think this is an excellent stepping off point. Six months from now we might recommend a different phone for Project Fi (or Android One) over this but it will have to be a very compelling device.

“In fact… you almost feel like you’re getting away with something.”

Sure, you can get away with more hardware for less money when dealing with different, or lesser known phone makers. The rub, though, is that you’ll give up Project Fi support, Wireless Sound System, and probably IP68 water resistance.

Motorola no longer considers the Moto X its premium phone series but you’d have a hard time convincing us otherwise. The MotoMod stuff is really cool, and downright compelling in some cases, but it’s not for everyone. If you would have asked us to forecast what the Moto X (Third Gen) successor would have looked like a year back, this is definitely not it. It’s much classier and more feature rich than its predecessors.

If you left the Nexus line for pricier pastures, we invite you to consider the Android One Moto X4. It’s somewhat of a perfect storm for the mid-range. Reflecting for a moment, it’s bittersweet — as much as we love what Lenovo has done here, it makes us curious for what Google might have done if it kept Motorola in house.

19
Oct

Fitness app Studio will bring a group running class to your living room


Why it matters to you

Need a bit of extra motivation to get on your treadmill? Studio might be able to help.

We’ve mastered the art of running just about every aspect of our lives from our homes. We’re telecommuting masters, online shopping gurus, and even patients of telemedicine. But for some reason, we’re still leaving the comfort of our living rooms for a good workout. Sure, no one really wants to run on a treadmill, even with a good show blaring in the background? But that could change with a new iOS app. Meet Studio, the fitness app that hopes to bring the benefit of group classes focused on running into your home. All you need is a treadmill and the motivation, and Studio provides the rest.

Using the Studio app, subscribers (it’s $15 a month or $100 a year) can choose among hundreds of classes taught by fitness instructors with resumes that include boutique studios like SoulCycle and Orange Theory. Classes vary by difficulty level and length, so you can decide if you’re a beginner who wants 45 minutes of exercise, or an advanced workout addict who just needs a 20-minute session. There are also class sets, like a zero to 5K course for folks who are just finding their stride.

Classes can also be chosen based on whether they emphasize instruction or music. So regardless of whether you’d rather have an instructor who talks you through everything, or one who lets the music do the talking, you ought to be able to find a class that suits your mood. Studio has full music licenses, which means they have a pretty wide selection of songs to choose from. Indeed, music is said to be at the core of all of Studio’s classes, because who can move without a beat?

The app will measure your performance based on a variety of statistics, including distance run, time elapsed, and heart rate. That way, you’re being given a more holistic picture of your progress. Of course, plenty of runners would rather go at things solo, but if you just so happen to be someone who needs the energy of a group class when you’re out on a jog, Studio may be the app for you.




19
Oct

Moto X4 Android One review


Research Center:
Moto X4 Android One

Once Motorola’s premier smartphone, the Moto X lineup has been neglected for the better part of two years. The Moto X was the first phone Motorola produced after being acquired by Google, and we gave it a glowing review. But under Lenovo’s leadership, the company focused more on the modular Moto Z series, as well as the Moto E and Moto G budget smartphones. Now, after all those ups and downs, the Moto X is finally back — and it’s certainly worth a look if you don’t want to shell out $600 or more for a smartphone.

In our review, we found the new Moto X4 offers a lot of phone for an affordable price. But know that there are two versions: A Moto X4 Android One on Google’s Project Fi wireless carrier and the regular Moto X4 sold by Motorola and other retailers. We’ve been testing the Moto X4 Android One, and there are a few differences between the two. We just received the official Motorola model, and we’ll add our thoughts about it in the coming days.

All-glass design, IP68 water-resistance

If you remember the well-received and popular design of the Moto X (and its 2014 and 2015 successors), you may be a little disappointed with the new Moto X4. Its metal frame is sandwiched by fingerprint-attracting glass, and there’s an unnecessarily-large circular bump on the back of the top center that holds two cameras and the flash. A Motorola logo sits in the center, and an “Android One” label is at the bottom if that’s the model you opt for (we’ll get to that later).

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

We like the minimal rear design, and light reflecting off the glass makes it look like the X4 is shifting colors. No matter what, you really do need a micro fiber cloth on you at all times to get rid of the fingerprints and keep the phone looking sleek. We almost always prefer no camera bumps on phones, and we were continuously worried about scratching the camera glass when putting the X4 on a flat surface, or even just sliding it around on a desk. The phone will rock side-to-side if you push down on one of the edges because of the camera bump, which can be frustrating for those of you who like to use phones flat on a desk. To be fair, a good case would solve both of these issues.

The Moto X4 will survive underwater up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes; that’s seriously impressive for the price.

But what we miss the most is the original Moto X’s ergonomic design. The 2013 phone curves to fit the palm comfortably, and almost perfectly. Unfortunately, that’s not the case anymore, even if the sides of the X4’s rear slightly curve into the front. That’s not to say the X4 is uncomfortable to use; the 5.2-inch screen is small enough to make the phone easy to hold, and all of its parts are accessible.

Speaking of the LCD screen, you get a 1,920 × 1,080 pixel resolution that’s sharp and vibrant. It’s colorful and not too oversaturated, and it gets bright enough to see in broad daylight.

The volume buttons are on the right edge, and there’s a textured power button below them, making it easy to identify without looking. The SIM card tray is at the top with an embedded MicroSD card slot, meaning you’re not stuck with the included 32GB of internal storage if you need more space. It charges via the USB Type-C port on the bottom, and you’ll (thankfully) find a headphone jack next to it.

The front is largely uninteresting. The Moto X4 doesn’t jump on board the “bezel-less” design we’re seeing most other smartphones adopt, including Apple with the iPhone X. The edges around the screen are large, and it makes the phone look a tad dated. On the top is the Moto branding, with the selfie camera on the right and a flash on the left.

The fingerprint sensor is slightly indented on the bottom chin, and we didn’t have any issues with it. It recognized our prints and unlocked the phone quickly.

Moto X4 Android One Compared To

Sony Xperia XZ1

Google Pixel 2

LG X Venture

Moto X4

Alcatel Idol 5S

Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom

Moto Z2 Play

Motorola Moto E4

Lenovo Moto G5 Plus

ZTE Axon 7 mini

Meizu Pro 6

Nextbit Robin

Motorola Droid Turbo

Sony Xperia Z3

LG G2

Overall, the Moto X4 is stylish and smooth. It feels like an expensive phone despite its low price, largely due to the all-glass design. We’d love if this glass served a purpose other than making the phone more fragile, such as support for wireless charging, but it doesn’t.

But there’s one part of the design that makes up for everything: An IP68 water-resistant rating. That’s a slightly better rating than the iPhone 8 and the Google Pixel 2. It means, like the Samsung Galaxy S8, that the Moto X4 will survive underwater up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. That’s seriously impressive for the price of this phone, as IP67 and IP68 water-resistance is typically reserved for expensive flagship phones, or overtly rugged devices. Hopefully its inclusion in the Moto X4 means that we’ll see it becoming a standard in more mid- and budget-range phones next year.

Solid performance

Swiping through the interface was quick, though apps often took a few extra seconds to fully load.

The X4 doesn’t have the snazziest design, which probably goes to the Essential Phone, nor does it pack a fancy high-end processor. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 powers Motorola’s Moto Z2 Force and several other flagship 2017 Android phones, but the Moto X4 utilizes Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 630 chipset with 3GB of RAM (there’s a 4GB RAM variant available in other international markets).

We didn’t run into major issues with performance. Swiping through the interface was quick, though apps often took a few extra seconds to fully load. We did notice some sluggishness when we were downloading and updating a lot of apps at the same time, and the occasional stutter wasn’t uncommon.

The phone stuttered a little more when scrolling through apps like Twitter or on webpages on Chrome, and sometimes with multitasking. There were no glaring problems using split-screen mode, but as we mentioned earlier, apps took two to three seconds to fully load up.

Take a look at some of the Moto X4’s benchmark scores:

  • Antutu: 70,217
  • 3DMark Sling Shot: 840
  • Geekbench 4 CPU: 867 single-core, 4,127 multi-core

The OnePlus 5 received an AnTuTu score of 181,599, and the Moto G5 Plus scored 63,190. You’re not going to see an impressive jump in performance from the $280 G5 Plus, but you will if you spend $80 more for the OnePlus 5.

Still, games like Maximum Car and Tiny Archers played smoothly without any issues, and the Moto X4 also handled the graphically intensive Transformers: Forged to Fight well. It wasn’t as smooth as we’ve seen the game on Snapdragon 835 devices, but it was perfectly playable.

Overall, the Moto X4 offers solid performance that should satisfy most people. As heavy mobile users, we acceptably got by with the X4, but avid mobile gamers may want to look at Snapdragon 835 devices.

So what’s Android One?

Android One is Google’s software platform to bring the pure, stock Android experience to budget phones. That means you get stock Android without any “theme” or “skin” from the manufacturer. There’s no bloatware — only Google apps are pre-installed — and you’ll get Android and security updates as soon as they are released, as with the Google Pixel smartphones.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Google has largely pushed Android One phones internationally in developing countries; the Moto X4 is the first Android One smartphone available in the U.S. Sadly, you can purchase this specific version only from Google’s Project Fi, a mobile virtual network operator. Fi uses the Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular networks to give you the best coverage wherever you are, and it offers plenty of other perks you can read about in our Project Fi guide.

The Moto X4’s software is uncluttered, simple, and a pleasure to use. Swipe up to access apps and right to find the Google feed. Only Google apps are on-board, as well as the Project Fi app to manage your service. It runs Android 7.1.1, but Google said an update to the more recent Android 8.0 Oreo will arrive before the end of the year. Interestingly, that update will also improve Bluetooth from version 4.2 to version 5.

There are some small, Motorola-specific features that are genuinely useful, namely Moto Actions and Moto Display. Moto Actions offers up gestures you can make to trigger certain actions, such as a chop gesture twice to turn on the flashlight; or twisting the phone back and forth twice to launch the camera. Moto Display adds a blue-light filter at night so you get a better night’s rest, and notifications will fade on and off the screen in standby mode.

We’ve loved these Moto Actions since they debuted on the first Moto X, and Moto Display continues to be helpful. We’re happy to see them here in tandem with stock Android.

Google confirmed to Digital Trends that if you purchase the Android One Moto X4 on Project Fi and then cancel Fi service, the X4 will still work on any other major U.S. carrier.

What’s different between the Moto X4 Android One and the other Moto X4?

While we generally prefer stock Android to many other manufacturer’s skins, there are plenty of great reasons to opt for the regular X4 over the Android One model.

First, you can purchase it without a Project Fi subscription. The regular Moto X4 will cost the same amount, and you can buy one from Amazon (with a Prime account) for as low as $330 with lockscreen ads and offers.

There are plenty of great reasons to opt for the regular X4 over the Android One model.

Software-wise, you get a similar, near-stock Android experience with more Motorola and third-party apps installed. There are more Moto-specific functions available, such as one-button navigation, where you can hide the Android navigation bar and use the fingerprint sensor to navigate; Moto Voice, which lets you see the weather, calendar appointments, or launch apps just by using the “Show me” trigger phrase; and Moto Key, which allows you to log into password-secured websites on your laptop or desktop with the X4’s fingerprint sensor.

The regular Moto X4 will also have Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant built in, which gives you an additional option in case you don’t use the Google Assistant that’s already available.

One of the cooler features not available on the Android One model is the Tempow Bluetooth Audio Profile. It’s a technology that for the first time lets you connect to up to four Bluetooth headphones or speakers to play music simultaneously with no loss of audio quality. We tried it out a few months ago and liked it a lot, and it’s definitely a feature that makes the Moto X4 unique.

Capable camera

Like most new smartphones, the Moto X4 comes with a dual-camera setup. Rather than simply using it for a Portrait Mode-like function, where the background of a subject is blurred for a cool DSLR effect, Motorola is also offering a wide-angle mode, like LG’s V30 and G6, and a few other neat tricks.

The primary shooter is packed with 12-megapixels with an f/2.0 aperture, and the second wide-angle camera has 8-megapixels with an f/2.2 aperture. The camera interface is simple to use, and there’s even a pro mode if you want to fine-tune the settings.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Before talking about the camera’s output, our biggest complaint about the Moto X4’s camera is a flaw we’ve seen before in Motorola phones. When you tap the shutter icon, the photo is supposed to be captured immediately. On the X4, there’s a visible delay when you press the shutter icon to when the captured animation occurs. This shutter lag sometimes causes some photos to be a little blurry unless you stand incredibly still, but sometimes it’s just the animation that’s slow. It can be especially frustrating when you’re trying to get a photograph involving movement.

Barring this issue, the Moto X4 captures excellent photos, as do many of today’s best smartphone cameras. Colors are neither over- nor under-saturated, and there’s surprisingly great detail in the phone’s captured images. The problem? You need good lighting. It can do a solid job in average lighting, but the Moto X4 shines with good, outdoor lighting. Many of the low-light photos we took were blurry, far too grainy, and were largely unusable — but it’s somewhat hit or miss. There were a few of our shots that came out pretty well, but at the end of the day, the X4’s camera simply wasn’t consistent, and that’s a problem.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Depth Enabled mode is like Portrait Mode on the iPhone 8 Plus. It adds a blur effect behind a subject and it’s pretty good, though not as good as the Google Pixel 2, which doesn’t need two cameras to do the trick. The Moto X4 did sometimes have trouble figuring out the edges of a subject and where it needed to blur.

The wide-angle mode is acceptable, but it’s not our preferred mode of photography with the Moto X4. It’s largely because there’s a slight drop in image quality, especially in low-light. There’s also a mode called Spot Color, which lets you choose a single color to pop with everything else in monochrome. It worked relatively well during our tests, and it’s a lot of fun to play around with — barring the occasional errors.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Wide-angle mode (left), Spot Color mode (middle) and Depth Enabled (right) in the Moto X4’s camera. Photo: Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

If you’re unsure what landmark you’re photographing, the Moto X4 can sometimes detect it — tap the GPS logo that pops up when you point the camera at a landmark. We tried it in front of the Empire State Building and it couldn’t recognize it, but it did accurately identify New York City’s Flatiron building. That said, this is definitely a gimmicky feature few people will likely use.

Despite the selfie camera’s unusual 16-megapixel lens, we didn’t think it was anything to write home about. Photos looked average in good and decent lighting, and mediocre in poor low-light. The flash is handy, however, if you’re in a super dark place.

Overall, the Moto X4’s camera is promising, but Motorola needs to fix the shutter delay in the camera because it makes the experience far more frustrating.

Battery

We went from zero to 85 percent within 40 minutes.

The Moto X4 will last you a full day of use on a single charge. With heavy use starting at 8 AM, we saw the battery drop to 23 percent by 11 PM. That’s great, and you can certainly expect it to last longer than a day with medium to light use. Our heavy use involved playing music, watching videos, browsing social media and the web, and taking photos.

Motorola’s TurboPower technology charges the phone extremely fast. We went from zero to 85 percent within 40 minutes, though you need to use the included cable and power adapter to achieve those speeds.

Price, availability, and warranty

The Moto X4 Android One costs $400 on Project Fi, and it’s the only place you can buy this model. You can always cancel Fi service later, and the phone will still be compatible with all the major U.S. carriers.

The regular Moto X4 is priced at $400 as well. It’s available for pre-order today and it will be in retail stores on October 26. You can grab one from Best Buy, B&H, Fry’s, Jet, Motorola’s website, Newegg, Republic Wireless, and Ting. It’s also on Amazon, and Prime Exclusive members can get the lower-priced $330 model, but you’ll have to put up with lockscreen ads and offers.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Motorola offers a standard warranty on its products, which means the phone is covered from manufacturing defects for one year from the date of purchase.

Our Take

The Moto X4 offers solid performance, a promising but frustrating camera, daylong battery life, and an uncluttered Android experience in an attractive, water-resistant body. For $400, it’s a good option over most of the budget options below it.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes, if you can spare an extra $80, we highly recommend taking a look at the OnePlus 5. It has the Snapdragon 835, which is a superior processor, and a great dual-camera setup. It’s not as stylish as the X4, though, and it is not water-resistant.

Motorola’s own Moto G5 Plus is a solid alternative as well for $230. It looks boring and it feels cheap, but you get similar performance and just a slightly worse camera experience.

The Moto X4 is smack dab between two of our favorite budget phones. If you’re looking at the Amazon Prime Exclusive Moto X4 that costs $330, you should pick it over the $230 or $280 model Moto G5 Plus. But if you have a little more to spend and are considering the $400-priced model, consider the OnePlus 5.

How long will it last?

Considering the Moto X4 is all glass, we recommend a case to protect it from drops. It’s water resistant, so it can handle drops in the pool or splashes.

The Android One model promises fast version and security updates, and we expect it to least two to three years or longer. We can’t say the same for the regular model, and we expect it to get updates for one to two years.

Should you buy it?

Yes. There aren’t a lot of smartphones at this price range that offer IP68 water-resistance. If you’re prone to accidents, this is a solid option that’s affordable. Regardless of what model you choose, you’re getting a stock or near stock Android experience with solid performance.

Still, we can’t recommend the OnePlus 5 enough. It will perform far better and only costs $80 more. We’ll continue to test the non-Android One model to see how it fares.

19
Oct

The Sensel Morph giant touchpad is now available starting at $299


Why it matters to you

The Sensel Morph’s touchpad overlay system has the potential to provide a familiar, but deeper and much more customizable way to interact with all sorts of programs and applications.

As much as companies like Microsoft and Oculus VR might be looking to take us down the road of gesture controls in virtual and augmented spaces, not everyone thinks that the next evolution of input devices will be three-dimensional. Take the team behind the Sensel Morph, who believe that their touchpad overlay system has the potential to provide a familiar, but deeper and more customizable way to interact with all sorts of programs and applications. And now, after a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised more than $500,000 and a partnership with design and strategy firm Frog, the Sensel Morph can be purchased starting at $299.

The Morph itself is a touchpad, but not as we know it. This one packs more than 20,000 sensors onboard, which track everything from multiple touch points to the pressure of each of those presses. This allows for the use of a standard paintbrush and “paint” in Photoshop, with each bristle being detected. Users can also control 3D objects with pressure from different fingers all at the same time.

It’s the overlays that have Sensel backers particularly excited. Adding a piano layout, or a synthesizer pad, or even a traditional keyboard makes it possible to use the morph in more intuitive ways. It can play tunes as a piano, it can produce sounds that respond to pressure and touch as a synthesizer, and as a keyboard, you can type much more naturally than on membrane boards, as the pressure on each key is tracked. Sensel brought in experts to help develop its Music Production Overlay, including sound designer and Ableton certified trainer Adriano Clemente, to bring the overlay to life. 

The device’s pressure grid promises to detect multiple contact touch points from a variety of sources — be they fingers, paintbrushes, or drumsticks — and the Morph’s function will change immediately to adjust to nput. After all, it’s called the “morph” for a reason — customers can add any one of Sensel’s 10 overlays, which are available online, starting at $35 each. Even as a stand-alone, the Morph can be used as a large multitouch trackpad, painting surface, or a custom interface by leveraging Sensel’s open source API.

“We’re so excited to introduce the Morph to the creative community at large,” said Ilya Rosenberg, co-founder and CEO of Sensel. “Sensel’s mission is to enable people to express their creativity through more natural user interfaces. We’re constantly working to innovate and to enhance the Morph and its overlays. The launch of our new website and online store is a major step in making our technology more widely available to better reach musicians, artists, innovators, and hobbyists of all kinds.”

Update: The Sensel Morph is now available for purchase online for $299. 




19
Oct

The Sensel Morph giant touchpad is now available starting at $299


Why it matters to you

The Sensel Morph’s touchpad overlay system has the potential to provide a familiar, but deeper and much more customizable way to interact with all sorts of programs and applications.

As much as companies like Microsoft and Oculus VR might be looking to take us down the road of gesture controls in virtual and augmented spaces, not everyone thinks that the next evolution of input devices will be three-dimensional. Take the team behind the Sensel Morph, who believe that their touchpad overlay system has the potential to provide a familiar, but deeper and more customizable way to interact with all sorts of programs and applications. And now, after a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised more than $500,000 and a partnership with design and strategy firm Frog, the Sensel Morph can be purchased starting at $299.

The Morph itself is a touchpad, but not as we know it. This one packs more than 20,000 sensors onboard, which track everything from multiple touch points to the pressure of each of those presses. This allows for the use of a standard paintbrush and “paint” in Photoshop, with each bristle being detected. Users can also control 3D objects with pressure from different fingers all at the same time.

It’s the overlays that have Sensel backers particularly excited. Adding a piano layout, or a synthesizer pad, or even a traditional keyboard makes it possible to use the morph in more intuitive ways. It can play tunes as a piano, it can produce sounds that respond to pressure and touch as a synthesizer, and as a keyboard, you can type much more naturally than on membrane boards, as the pressure on each key is tracked. Sensel brought in experts to help develop its Music Production Overlay, including sound designer and Ableton certified trainer Adriano Clemente, to bring the overlay to life. 

The device’s pressure grid promises to detect multiple contact touch points from a variety of sources — be they fingers, paintbrushes, or drumsticks — and the Morph’s function will change immediately to adjust to nput. After all, it’s called the “morph” for a reason — customers can add any one of Sensel’s 10 overlays, which are available online, starting at $35 each. Even as a stand-alone, the Morph can be used as a large multitouch trackpad, painting surface, or a custom interface by leveraging Sensel’s open source API.

“We’re so excited to introduce the Morph to the creative community at large,” said Ilya Rosenberg, co-founder and CEO of Sensel. “Sensel’s mission is to enable people to express their creativity through more natural user interfaces. We’re constantly working to innovate and to enhance the Morph and its overlays. The launch of our new website and online store is a major step in making our technology more widely available to better reach musicians, artists, innovators, and hobbyists of all kinds.”

Update: The Sensel Morph is now available for purchase online for $299. 




19
Oct

Streem’s augmented reality app gets you a quote for your home project


Why it matters to you

Your home improvement professional doesn’t have to come to your home to give you a quote.

Your doctor appointments don’t have to be done in person in the 21st century, and now, neither do your home improvement appointments. On Thursday, October 19, Streem debuted a new mobile product that promises to “radically improve convenience and efficiency for home service professionals and their customers.” Its grand plan involves augmented reality (thanks to Apple’s ARKit) and intelligent video, which will “beam” a service provider directly to the job site (which is to say, your home) no matter where in the world that site may be.

This will allow for home improvement professionals to provide customers with quotes more efficiently than before. Not only will this benefit customers, who no longer have to be at home for a four-hour time window to accommodate a 30-minute visit, but it will also help experts conduct more business during a day. With the Streem app, pros will be equipped with a Digital Toolbox, which is said to make use of advanced computer vision and machine learning to take measurements, find angles, and capture images and video effectively and efficiently. And because a customer can walk a service provider through his or her home with this app, everyone is more prepared when it comes time for the real work to be done.

“Streem is consistently saving pros countless wasted man-hours unnecessarily traveling on-site unprepared and offers pros tools for a whole new level of efficiency and collaboration,” Streem CEO Ryan Fink said in a statement. “For the consumer that means not having to wait days, or sometimes weeks, for a professional to go on-site for an in-person quote or support. We’re bringing home services into the on-demand economy.”

The Streem app claims to be able to recognize logos, product types, model numbers, serial numbers, and dimensions, capturing the data and AR annotations a user makes and saving them as “contextual notes.” These notes can be used as a reference throughout the home improvement process.

“After countless in-depth interviews with home service pros, and learning about their pain points, we saw an opportunity to create an intelligent system that can enhance the communication and collaboration process — while automating the monotonous task of data collection for the pros,” Fink added.

Streem is also partnering with HomeAdvisor to provide customers with a large selection of experienced professionals, streamlining the entire process of remodeling your home.




19
Oct

How to save Instagram videos with these six free apps and tools


For many, Instagram has become a regular pastime. The app allows us to creep on and apathetically “like” photos and videos that define our circle of digital friends, acquaintances, frienemies, and even complete strangers.

While it’s easy enough to take a screenshot or save a single photo, saving iconic videos from the platform is a bit more difficult – but not impossible. We’ve rounded up six different ways to download and organize all of your favorite Instagram videos and shared how to save Instagram videos for resharing or archiving content. If you’re looking for more tips and tricks, check out our more comprehensive roundup.

PostGraber (Web)

PostGraber is unique in the fact that it’s not limited to downloading only one item from a post. This is extremely useful if you intend to download multiple photos or videos from a single Instagram post — something that’s now possible thanks to Instagram’s slideshow feature. In terms of how it works, not much is different. Simply copy the link of the public Instagram post into PostGraber, click the “Go” button, and the media will start downloading.

InstantSave by Gramblast (Web)

In the event PostGraber goes down (or you simply don’t like the service), don’t fret. InstantSave by Gramblast is another option for downloading media in the browser. As you’ve probably come to expect, the process is fairly straightforward. Copy the link to the public Instagram post, click “Download,” and you’ll have an MP4 file downloading shortly. As with the other services mentioned, you can’t download media from private links, even if you’re following that account.

IFTTT (Web)

IFTTT automates the entire archiving process. First, however, you’ll need to set up both Dropbox and IFTTT accounts. Once you’re signed up for both, select the Save your Instagram videos to a Dropbox folder option on the IFTTT website. After that, you’ll need to grant permission to IFTTT to access your Instagram and Dropbox accounts.

You will have the ability to choose which videos are saved to the associated Dropbox account. You can create specific triggers to save videos you’ve specifically “liked,” too, or videos you’ve uploaded to Instagram. The videos will be backed up toDropbox as MP4s files.

DreDown (Web)

The DreDown website isn’t going to win any awards for aesthetic, nor will it allow you to download Instagram videos from private users (even if you’re “following” them). But, within just a few clicks, you’ll be able to save your videos. First, click the Instagram link on the left-hand side of the screen. Afterward, copy the URL for the video you want to save and paste it into the video link. Hit DreDown! to the right of the text field, and click the blue MP4 Video link on the following page before choosing a save location for your resulting MP4. That’s it!

InstaSave (Android)

InstaSave is a great mobile option for Android users. When browsing Instagram, tap the three dots in the upper-right corner of the video you’d like to save. Then, select the Copy Share URL from the resulting menu and open InstaSave. The video will then be listed in your feed. Tap the down arrow below the latest video and select Save — all of your saved videos and photos will appear in this InstaSave feed. You can also easily delete videos that have since lost their luster directly from InstaSave.

Download now from:

Google Play

InstaSave Repost for Instagram (iOS)

There are several apps in iTunes that are designed for saving Instagram videos and photos, but, sadly, many of these apps don’t come free of charge. InstaSave (unrelated to the Android version of the same name), however, is, and it’s easy to use. Simply download the app, connect your account, and grant the app permission to access your Instagram feed. Once you’re signed into Instagram, anything you “like” — whether it be a photo or video — will be saved in a clean, chronological feed. Here, you can also see your likes in the classic grid format with which we’re all accustomed. If you’re in need of people to follow to fill up your feed, check out our curated list of the best Instagram accounts to follow.

Download now from:

iTunes

Update: We removed Savedeo, as it is no longer in operation, and added PostGraber and InstantSave by Gramblast.




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