We’re going to let you in on a little secret: Your smartphone has an FM radio built right into it. Why wouldn’t you know that? Turns out that on many phones, despite having the radio built in, companies disable them or simply neglect to enable them — meaning that while the hardware is technically there to let you listen to the radio, you can’t actually take advantage of it.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has been asking mobile manufacturers to change this for years, NPR reported in 2015, and while tides do seem to be finally changing, there’s still a long way to go. It’s a serious issue: Apart from the simple fact that it’s nice to listen to music for free without using up data, FM radio can save lives, the advocacy group told Digital Trends.
“It makes sense from a public safety aspect alone.”
“From a public safety aspect alone, it makes sense to enable radio on smartphones. Broadcast radio plays an important role as ‘first informers’ in local communities, providing up-to-the-minute information when disaster strikes,” said Dennis Wharton, an executive vice president with the NAB. “By equipping mobile devices with radio capability, wireless carriers allow Americans to tap into that valuable public resource.”
So why aren’t there any laws about enabling the radio? Digital Trends reached out to the Federal Communications Commission, which promptly pointed us to a speech chairman Ajit Pai gave in February at a North American Broadcasters Association event. At the event, Pai largely agreed with the NAB’s position, noting how important the radio could be in emergencies. “You could make a case for activating chips on public safety grounds alone.”
“Most consumers would love to access some of their favorite content over-the-air, while using one-sixth of the battery life and less data,” continued Pai. Unfortunately, that’s exactly where the problem lies — less data. Carriers make more money from customers who use more data. After all, if you’re paying by the GB it’s pretty easy to use up a good portion of your data through music-streaming services.
You could argue that carriers should pressure manufacturers to enable the FM radios in their phones. You could, but carriers wouldn’t.
“The long and short of it is that this is totally controlled by device manufacturers, through both hardware and software. If our customers want to use FM radio on their phone and the device manufacturer has enabled it, we say rock out,” T-Mobile wrote in an emailed statement to Digital Trends.
This is a pretty big change from five years ago. It’s only in recent years that carriers have backed away from their stance against FM radios, likely related to the rise of unlimited data. After all, in the past, the more data customers used the more they paid the carrier. Now, if a customer has unlimited data, it doesn’t really matter whether they stream music or use the radio.
At least some carriers will still care about you not using the FM radio.
That’s assuming the carrier doesn’t have a stake in a streaming service, however. At the beginning of this year, news broke that Sprint had taken a whopping 33 percent stake in Tidal, a music streaming service founded by Jay-Z that’s aimed at providing subscribers with high-resolution music. More recently, news leaked that Verizon was mulling investing in Pandora. The deal ultimately fell through, yet some argue it’s only a matter of time before Big Red makes a similar investment in another platform.
The fact is that even after the era of limited data is over, at least some carriers will still care about you not using the FM radio. While some may be more concerned about it now than others, it’s likely that will change — especially since carriers clearly aim to offer their own content. (and that goes beyond just music: You’ve heard of Verizon’s streaming TV plans, right?)
But the carriers ultimately only have sway — it’s the manufacturers that really make the decision to enabled that FM radio chip.
Manufacturers have made some moves to include FM radio of late. LG recently sealed a deal with NextRadio that will see radio enabled on the majority of its phones.
But it’s important to note the difference between having FM radios disabled and simply not having an app. The Next Radio website actually has a good list of FM radio-capable phones, which shows that most Samsung phones, many HTC phones, Motorola phones, and more have a radio ready to go — if you download the NextRadio app.
But that leaves one pretty strong holdout — Apple. And Apple’s not going to change its mind anytime soon. Recently, the company was urged to enable the FM radio on the iPhone after a horrific hurricane and fire season. Turns out, the newest iPhones don’t even have an FM radio chip. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 are both chip-free when it comes to the FM radio, and we assume future models will continue that trend.
Again, things boil down to why Apple may not want consumers to use the radio, and again, a possible culprit is music streaming. Apple Music has become popular, and the company may not want to jeopardize subscriptions with free radio.
The tides seem to be changing. More manufacturers are adopting FM radio, and some carriers even encourage it. But there are holdouts — Apple being the biggest. And with the chip missing from the iPhone altogether, that’s unlikely to change in the near future. In other words, if you want an FM radio, you may need to make the switch to Android. As far as disasters are concerned, it certainly can’t hurt to have a battery-powered radio in your arsenal.
Black Friday is reliably chaotic, what with its status as the busiest shopping day in the U.S. But on Black Friday 2017, things were even more hectic than normal at Macy’s. The retail giant, hoping to bring in customers with low prices, certainly managed to attract business, but perhaps more than its credit card machines were able to handle. Apparently, Macy’s had significant trouble processing credit cards and gift cards, leading to frustrated customers and some lost revenue.
Buyers across the U.S. lit up the Twitterverse on Friday to voice their grievances with Macy’s, as the issue apparently affected both in-store credit card machines as well as online accounts. One Twitter user and would-be Macy’s shopper noted, “… just left $300 of items on counter because your credit card machines are down at State St Chicago. Can’t even look up Macy’s account. What. A. Joke.”
Another user noted that this wasn’t a localized problem, and that Macy’s stores across the country were suffering the same outages. Even customer service representatives attempting to help folks over the phone were unable to provide any assistance as a result of technical issues.
“We have added additional associates to the floor (and) are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible,” Macy’s spokeswoman Radina Russell told Reuters in an emailed statement, though for anxious shoppers, it’s likely it wasn’t quickly enough.
Ironically enough, the issue arose just a few hours after Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC that the company was faring better in 2017 than it had in 2016, noting “robust online demand” and being “in a good place for holiday promotions.” Alas, Gennette may have spoken just a bit too soon.
The issues were finally fully resolved, but only after hours of slowdowns (the outages began around 12 pm ET). “We have fully resolved today’s system issues,” a Macy’s spokesperson noted in the early evening on Friday. “We highly value our customers and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience today’s system slowdown may have caused during their shopping experience. The delays we experienced this afternoon were due to a capacity-related issue that caused some transactions to take longer to process. We do not anticipate any additional delays.”
Hopefully, this won’t be a situation that repeats itself next Black Friday.
More phones than ever support wireless charging these days as the tech industry does its best to reduce the number of wires and cords we need to connect to our phones. But wireless charging pads can also be a bit expensive, especially if you’re looking to keep one at work and maybe a couple conveniently located in your home for the entire family.
That’s where this slick deal from Android Central Digital Offers comes in! You can get a Qi Wireless Charging Pad by NevaTech for just $11. But, to celebrate Black Friday you can save an additional 20% with the coupon code BFRIDAY20 at checkout!
Unlike other wireless charging pads you may have seen before, this one is ultra-thin with a surface big enough to accommodate nearly any phone. They also come with specs you’d expect from any quality charging accessory including built-in charging sensors to prevent your devices from overheating or shorting out, and each comes with a wall charger and USB cable.
Typically these charging pads would cost you at least $22 but you’ll save 50% with this deal. So what are you waiting for? If you’ve got a Qi-compatible phone and have been waiting for a good deal on a wireless charging pad the time is now!
See at Android Central Digital Offers
Fancy giving Oreo a spin on your OnePlus 5?
If you’ve been waiting for an Android Oreo update on the OnePlus 5 you’re in luck — as long as you’re OK with installing beta software.
The OxygenOS team put together their latest update and made it available today as part of their Open Beta Program for everyone who wants to try it out before it gets a release tag. You’ll need to be able to manually download a full update and copy it to your phone’s file storage if you want to use the beta, but the instructions are simple and well documented on the OnePlus 5 Beta page.
Here’s what to expect:
- Updated to Android O (8.0) with November security patch
- Added Picture in Picture
- Added Auto-fill
- Added Smart text selection
- New Quick Settings design
- Added Parallel Apps
- Added notification dots
- New app folder design
- Now able to upload photos directly to Shot on OnePlus
Remember, this is beta software. OnePlus stresses that “These builds are sometimes NOT as stable as our official OTAs generally are. By installing this update, you accept the potential risks of data loss.” If you’re going to try out the new Oreo build, be sure to back up everything important and be ready for anything.
Are any OnePlus 5 owners out there going to give this a shot?
OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5
- OnePlus 5T review: Come for the value, not the excitement
- OnePlus 5T specs
- Should you upgrade from the OnePlus 3T?
- OnePlus 5T vs. Galaxy S8: Beast mode
- All of the latest OnePlus 5T news
- Join the discussion in the forums
These are the only smart plugs I use. They’re incredibly simple.
The Wemo mini smart plug is down to $20 on Amazon. This is the lowest direct price drop on Amazon for the Wemo plug ever. We’ve shared deals that saw it drop to $30 and $25 before, but $20 is an all new low. Linksys usually doesn’t go this low even with refurbished units.
The Wemo Mini Smart Plug fits into any electrical outlet without obstructing others, allowing for two smart plugs to be placed into the same socket. The smart plug can be scheduled to turn on or off via the free WeMo app, allowing you to automate anything you plug into the device.
The WeMo app also features an “Away Mode” which will turn the lights on and off at random to give the illusion of someone still being home. No matter where you are, as long as you have access to the app, you can control your home’s appliances and electronics straight from your phone. You’ll never have to worry again about whether you left the iron on or not.
Definitely add an Echo Dot to your setup if you haven’t already. They’re only $30 right now and paired with one of these smart plugs, lets you do stuff like say “Alexa, turn off the bedroom” so you don’t have to get out of bed once you’re already under the covers.
See at Amazon
Backstage at the concert venue Brooklyn Steel in New York, the artist Flying Lotus was discussing his persistent desire to create experiences so new that they were inconceivable to an audience before the show.
“I want people to be able to just be like, ‘Wow, that exists? Wow, this is happening? This is possible?’” said the producer and musician, whose name is Steven Ellison. “I want people to remember magical feelings, like being enchanted and being mesmerized and just having a new experience. That is what I’m always chasing after.”
In following this idea, the jazz, hip hop and electronic music artist has made a conceptual album about death, performed at a Hollywood cemetery and made a film about — literally — shit. His latest experiment, however, is in 3D: a 28-stop tour where audiences put on glasses to see an abstract technological spectacle surround them as he plays.
Dubbed the “electronic Jimi Hendrix,” Ellison has worked with Herbie Hancock as well as Kendrick Lamar, and is the great nephew of Alice and John Coltrane. But he is also a trained filmmaker and says that’s where his heart is. “I’ve always wanted my shows to feel more cinematic because that’s how I enjoy my music,” he said. “I love this idea that people, when I look out into the crowd, it looks like they’re going to the movies.”
The problem with 3D, however, is that eight years after the release of James Cameron’s Avatar, the technology falls squarely in the realm of gimmick. The 3D box office is down to its lowest point since 2009, and Greg Foster, the CEO of Imax Entertainment, has said that 2D film demand is beating 3D in North America. Most cinema 3D glasses create a darker, blurrier image, and require looking at a screen in a set position.
“3D has gotten a bit of a bad name due to a lot of really poor 3D movies that are not that great to look at,” said Ryan Pardeiro, chief operating officer at 3D Live, the company behind the hardware at Ellison’s show, and who is also a co-producer.
3D Live touts its technology as viewable from 120 to 140 degree angles, meaning the holographs looks good from around a concert hall. The display — a wall of screens behind Ellison on stage — are LEDs, not projection-based, meaning a brighter screen. Pardeiro speaks of the technology as a kind of shared augmented reality: combining virtual and physical elements within a venue to immerse the audience in an extension of Ellison’s vision.
However, even if you exceed your audience’s imagination — as Ellison wants to do — that “wow” moment then becomes the new normal. To keep people entertained, you have to raise the bar again and again.
At Flying Lotus in 3D, the job of the VJs and 3D artists is essentially to externalize Elliot’s avant-garde mind. Strangeloop (real name David Wexler) and Timeboy (aka John King) co-produced the show and operate the live visuals. Wexler described the overarching aesthetic as “dirty and vibey,” the feeling of entering “Lotus’ universe.” When asked what that meant, their responses oscillate between whimsical and terrifying.
“His universe? Oh man, that’s a really fun place to go to and sometimes very shocking,” said King.
“Sometimes shocking, sometimes fun, sometimes scary,” said Wexler. “Always very cinematic.”
“He has a very playful sense of humor,” said King.
“Filled with some humor, some horror, some irreverence,” said Wexler.
“Pushing the boundaries of comfortability sometimes,” concluded King. “It’s definitely one happy fucked up family, but in the artistic sense, I personally love to go there too and test the senses, test perceptions.”
About 60 feet in front of the stage, blending in with the sound and lighting technicians, the two VJs are set up with MacBook Pros. With 3D Live, they created a palette of some 400 3D animations, controlled through Resolume Arena software.
“I love the fact that it can go wrong at any moment. We’re all in danger, creatively.”
Wexler plays cinematic 3D clips, essentially steering the visual theme, with his laptop’s keyboard. King has the venue’s strobe lights mapped onto a Akai MPK MIDI keyboard. He uses the keyboard controller as well as a Novation Launchpad — a grid of illuminated buttons that electronic musicians typically use to play musical samples and construct beats– to trigger individual rhythmic elements within a 3D animation. King and Wexler are playing the lights and 3D animations as if they were instruments. There is no set list; the whole performance is improvised both musically and visually, making each show different. Ellison can’t even see what animations are going on behind him.
“I don’t like to rehearse, and I don’t like practicing because it never really translates,” said Ellison, showing his jazz roots. “I love the fact that it can go wrong at any moment. We’re all in danger, creatively.”
The one-hour show itself — few breaks for chitchat, no encore — is a jam session between audio and visual realms, with all three artists trying to communicate with each other through sound and light, anticipating where the other is going next.
The sheer spectacle of it is powerful at times, and the audience whoops with every piece of virtual detritus that appears to fly over them. Those moments, like in certain 3D movies, can feel like a breaking of the fourth wall, a holograph that bridges the physical space between performer and audience. Objects appear to surround Ellison: giant jellyfish, human heads that melt like pink modeling clay in a microwave, or a Star Destroyer-like ship that sails above the heads of the crowd. Plumes of virtual smoke meld with a real-life smoke machine, blending the audience’s idea of what’s real and fake.
“Having that extra layer of propulsion and depth really enhances that visceral feel,” said Tim Saccenti, a longtime photographer and music video director who’s collaborated with Ellison, and attended the show on a different night. “It’s so overwhelming that you’re almost depersonalized.”
Yet it’s the cohesion between the visuals, lights and music that keeps the audience engaged. Strobes might match a bass drum before going off on a rhythm of their own, while the 3D at times created an ethereal, infinite swirl of stars or fractal neon patterns, like a visualizer receding deep into what looks like a tunnel behind the DJing and rapping Ellison. Whether in hip hop or comedy, improvised performances make you trail artists as you hurtle through unfamiliar terrain together, not knowing whether they’ll sail or swoop next. The fact that this trip involves a holographic medium foreign to the crowd added to the mystery of where it would lead, keeping them in the moment.
“Halfway through the show, people forget that it’s 3D.”
When the show works, it’s because of this back-and-forth between 3D as a dazzling wave of an individual moment, and as a refined, responsive interplay between visuals and audio for the crowd’s attention to surf along.
“You need to have some of that spectacle, I think, just to get people into the headspace of what is possible and hopefully choose the right moments where it artistically makes sense to go there,” said Wexler.
“Halfway through the show, people forget that it’s 3D,” King said. “I think you have to remember to let that feeling come in and out. Get them immersed and then pull back a little bit, so that they’re not just adjusted to the fact that it’s 3D and then boom, okay, it’s a 3D gimmick.”
Dude, if you pay money to come see me, just let’s just turn that shit off for like a little bit. Let’s just zone out together for like an hour. How crazy is that?
In the middle of Ellison’s set, from a balcony, I saw the flicker of about a half dozen phones in the crowd — fewer than I’d seen at any concert in years. This was another way the concert’s technology kept people in the moment: a 3D concert doesn’t film well on smartphones.
“I just love any kind of possibility of being there, together,” Ellison said. “Dude, if you pay money to come see me, just let’s just turn that shit off for like a little bit. Let’s just zone out together for like an hour. How crazy is that? One hour without touching your utility belt, Batman. Let’s just fucking watch a show together and trip out, have some fun and then you can tweet about it all night.”
With the house lights up and beer cans being swept into small mounds, Ellison was in a gregarious mood, pouring shots of Patron in red solo cups for crew, performers and hangers-on.
“Usually, in this moment, if I had a shitty night or even a so-so night, I would probably be way more depressed,” he said. “But I actually feel like I did my part tonight. I don’t know what the 3D did. I did what I do and I felt content with that. If they don’t like it I’m sorry, but that’s what I got, you know what I mean? That’s my bag of tricks.”
Images: 3D Live / Flying Lotus
Wikipedia is a nigh-essential source of information, but it’s usually so accessible in Western countries that users forget when it isn’t. Take Turkey, which blocked its citizens from accessing the site in April and rejected an appeal when the Wikimedia Foundation refused to play ball with the government, part of its wider effort to silence online dissent. For citizens in similar countries that crack down on users accessing the free online encyclopedia, there’s a new version those governments hopefully can’t track — which operates on the dark web, naturally.
1/ As an experiment, I’ve set up a Wikipedia Onion Site at: https://t.co/NhGD8w3nSU – I’ll keep it running for a few days. pic.twitter.com/KMlF8k3snS
— Alec Muffett (@AlecMuffett) November 23, 2017
Former Facebook security engineer Alec Muffett created an experimental Wikipedia service on the dark net. It’s accessible through the Tor browser, which hides users by pinballing their connection around the world. It uses its own onion service to safely encrypt all traffic while users are surfing around the online encyclopedia.
Given that Muffett launched an onion service for Facebook in 2014, and then released the open source Enterprise Onion Toolkit (EOTK) that The New York Times eventually used to build their own encrypted service, he knows what he’s doing. But since the dark Wikipedia is completely unaffiliated with the Wikimedia foundation, Muffett’s creation is unofficial and rough to use; It uses self-signed certificates that might not play well with Tor’s security, so you’ll have to manually white-list addresses, Motherboard points out.
In any case, Muffett will only keep the Wikipedia onion service online for a few days as a proof of concept and foundation for Wikipedia to hopefully pick up and continue itself.
Tired of staring at the same old home screen? If you’ve got a smartphone running Google’s Android operating system, good news: You don’t have to put up with the monotony any longer. Android supports what are known as third-party launchers, custom apps that supercharge your home screen with new features, themes, and optimizations. There is a pretty large list of launchers to choose from, but few come close to the level of polish and customizability of Nova Launcher, a free (and optionally paid) Android launcher for all devices running Android 4.0 and newer.
Nova Launcher replaces your home screen and app drawer, the scrolling list of app icons normally accessible by swiping up on your phone’s home screen. But on the default settings, you won’t notice much in the way of change — that is because Nova Launcher sticks to a fairly vanilla take on Android’s home screen. But there is a lot Nova Launcher can do that is not immediately obvious. Don’t like the shape or style of app icons? It’s easy to swap them out. Bored of the transition animations between home screens and apps? Just pick different ones. How? We’re going to talk you through some of the main points right here.
Selecting Nova Launcher and getting started
Nova Launcher (free) vs. Nova Launcher Prime
First thing’s first: You have to download Nova Launcher in order to use it. Install it like you would any other app by heading to the Google Play Store, where you will face your first big decision: Whether to settle for the free version of Nova Launcher, or spring for the paid version — Nova Launcher Prime ($5).
What’s the difference between Nova Launcher and Nova Launcher Prime? It comes down to customization. Nova Launcher Prime lets you assign gestures (e.g., pinch, double tap) to apps on the home screen, and adds unread counts — little overlay badges that indicate unread messages — across the launcher. You also get custom drawer groups, which let you create new tabs or folders in the app drawer; an option to hide apps from the app drawer; custom per-folder and per-icon swipe gestures; and an expanded list of scroll effects.
It’s a lot to consider, but here is our recommendation: Unless there is a Nova Launcher Prime feature you don’t think you will be able to live without, try the free version first. Run it through its paces and see if you like it and if you find yourself bumping up against its limitations, consider making the purchase.
Alternatively, consider buying Nova Launcher Prime and trying it for a day. If you’re not convinced, ask for your money back — the Google Play Store lets you refund any app purchase made less than 48 hours ago.
Getting started with Nova Launcher
Now that Nova Launcher is installed, you have to set it as your default launcher. If your phone is running Android 7.0 Nougat or newer, find the Apps sub-menu (it will depend on your phone) and tap the Settings cog icon in the upper right-hand corner. From there, scroll down until you see Home app, tap it, and choose Nova Launcher from the list.
If your phone is on any version of Android between 4.4 KitKat and 6.0 Marshmallow, the process is slightly different. Once you’re in the Settings menu, find the Home sub-menu, tap Advanced, and select Nova Launcher from the available choices.
On phones running pre-Android 4.4 KitKat, there is no home screen selector in the Settings menu. You have to head to the Settings menu, tap Apps, swipe to the All tab, and scroll down until you find your current launcher. Tap on it, and then hit the Clear defaults button near the bottom of the selection screen. Then press your home key, and select Nova Launcher from the options presented.
Some Android manufacturers make it a bit more difficult to change your default launcher than others.
- On most Samsung devices, try heading to Settings and tapping the Applications option. Look for Default Applications, and select Home Screen from the list.
- Huawei phones with Emotion UI (EMUI) hide the setting in a sub-menu. Open the Settings menu, tap Apps, scroll down to the Advanced button, and tap the Default app settings. On the next screen, select Launcher and choose Nova Launcher from the list.
- On Oppo phones running ColorOS, you’ll find the launcher selector in the Additional Settings menu. Tap Default application, then tap Home.
- LG phones relegate the launcher options to a special Home Screen menu. Open Settings, tap Display, and scroll down to Home Screen, and select Nova Launcher from the list of choices.
Once you have switched your default launcher to Nova Launcher, you get a welcome message that will walk you through the basic theme set up.
Tweaking Nova Launcher’s Appearance
If you never used Nova Launcher before, you might be surprised by how similar it looks to Android’s stock home screen. The basic customization options aren’t all that different — tapping and long-pressing on the home screen pulls up a three-button menu that lets you change your home screen wallpaper, insert widgets, or launch the settings menu. One handy difference is a home screen selector button near the top of the screen; selecting it reassigns the default home screen to whichever one is currently in view.
Tapping on the Widgets button brings up a list of widgets from the apps you’ve installed, and tapping and holding on any of them lets you situate them on the home screen. But you will notice something different when you press and hold on a widget. As soon as you lift your finger, you get an accordion menu of four different menu options: Remove, Resize, App info, and Settings.
- Remove deletes said widget
- Resize increases the length and/or width of the widget
- Padding thickens or thins the widget’s borders
- App info pulls up the widget’s corresponding menu in Android’s Settings screen.
You can use these options to change your widgets to fit whatever designs you have for your home screen.
The Desktop menu lets you customize the layout, scroll, page indicator, and more. Within the Layout menu you can fine-tune the size of your home screen. Tap on Desktop grid and you get a pop-up diagram of your home screen’s layout. Sliders on the left and right add or subtract rows and columns. Want a super-dense 12-by-12 grid of app icons, or a comically small two-by-two one? The choice is yours. A checkbox near the bottom toggles off the home screen’s snap-to-grid feature, giving you greater freedom in placement.
Nova Launcher’s Icon layout menu dives into app icon design. You can adjust the overall size, but also toggle the appearance of the text labels beneath them. A progress slider lets you increase or decrease their size, and checkboxes let you add a drop shadow, a multi-line wraparound, and switch to a different font color and styling.
Once you’ve adjusted the Desktop and Icon layout settings to your liking, you’re ready to move to the next few settings. Width padding and Height padding tweak the distance of the home screen’s border from the screen border — the larger the padding, the further from the screen your shortcuts and widgets will be. Persistent search bar and Search bar style let you mess around with the Google search bar that is installed by default on some Android phone lock screens. You can toggle it off, of course, or jump into the Search bar style menu and choose between four different bar styles and six different Google logo styles.
Next up: Scroll. If you’ve grown bored of the transition animation you see between home screens, try one like Cube, which re-imagines your home screens as faces on a digital 3D cube, or Card stack, which slowly fades in the next home screen from the background as the previous one slides to the left or right. Alternatively, you can opt for wallpaper scrolling, which applies a parallax effect to your phone’s home screen. (If you’ve selected a suitably wide wallpaper, you’ll see it “move” as you transition between home screens.) Or there’s infinite scroll, which “teleports” you back to the left-most home screen when you swipe past the right-most home screen (and vice-versa).
Also, try messing with the Page Indicator and New apps settings. The former lets you change the design and color of the dots at the bottom of the screen, which indicate which home screen is in view. The latter allows you to disable the Play Store’s (sometimes annoying) habit of automatically adding app shortcuts to your home screen, albeit only partly — you have to disable the corresponding Play Store setting to avoid error messages.
Diving into the Desktop menu’s Advanced settings exposes even more options. You can allow resizing of widgets on top or underneath of app shortcuts (so that they overlap). You can lock the home screen to prevent changes (handy once you’ve got it how you like it), and toggle a shadow at the top and bottom of the screen.
There’s little in this world as important as a good night’s sleep, but even so, research suggests that one in three adults (in the United States) aren’t getting enough shuteye. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has long urged healthcare providers to “routinely assess patients’ sleep patterns and discuss sleep-related problems,” and to “educate patients about the importance of sleep to their health,” but try as they might, doctors can’t always do everything for everyone. Luckily, you can now monitor the quality and quantity of your sleep yourself with the Go2Sleep, a new “home sleep management device” that hopes to help the 33 percent of folks who simply aren’t sleeping enough.
The artificially intelligent device is worn as a ring, which you can don and forget right before bedtime. But while the Go2Sleep ring might not be on your mind, the little device is constantly working to monitor your sleep pattern and screen for sleep apnea. What exactly is sleep apnea, you ask? The breathing disorder is characterized by pauses in breathing during repose. This leads to reductions in blood-oxygen levels, and the brain jolting you awake with a loud gasp or a snort. Sleep apnea is commonly connected to snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Heralded as the world’s smallest sleep detection ring, the Go2Sleep monitors wearers’ heart rate, blood oxygen saturation levels, perfusion index (your pulse strength), and the amount that you’re tossing and turning during your sleep in order to provide you with a sleep report. This is particularly useful for folks who already know they suffer from a sleep disorder, and can be crucial in helping others discover potential medical conditions like sleep apnea (particularly as the ring measures your blood oxygen saturation, which varies drastically for sleep apnea patients).
Requiring just one charge for three nights’ monitoring, the Go2Sleep weighs in at only six grams, and can store up to a week’s worth of data locally. And if you’re a sweaty sleeper, fret not — the wearable has a waterproof rating of iP67. The ring comes with three band sizes, so it can fit anyone (or really, any finger). The Go2Sleep is currently available for backing on Indiegogo, where a pledge of $89 should get you one of these rings by May 2018.
If you’re looking to buy a Chromecast, here’s what you need to know.
Google unveiled the new Chromecast Ultra at its October 2016 event in San Francisco, and while it doubles the price of the original Chromecast at $69, it packs quite a punch when it comes to its capabilities. It’s still the small, easy to use, and affordable media streamer that people love, only designed for folks who want all the high-end features when they stream their media.
That means it might be one of those products that offer things you won’t need or can’t use, and the “regular” Chromecast may be a better fit. Here’s everything you need to know to pick the right Chromecast for you.
What exactly is a Chromecast?
A Chromecast is a small device that plugs into an open HDMI port on your TV, A/V receiver, or any other display that can playback video and audio. There is a Chromecast that’s built for audio only, too, if that’s what you’re looking for and it makes building a great whole-house audio system easy.
Once in place you use an app for your phone (Android and iOS only) or through Google Chrome to set it up, give it a name, and get it ready to receive a movie or TV show or anything else you want to see on a bigger screen. To send the media there, you first open it on your phone or in Google Chrome and “cast” it to the Chromecast receiver. Your stream will start playing on your TV and you’re free to do other things on your phone or in Chrome while it plays.
The features and price make a Chromecast the best way to stream your media.
A Chromecast can stream local content like pictures or video you took yourself, but when you’re streaming from an online source like Netflix, it doesn’t go through your phone. Instead, it makes a connection with the source and streams directly, saving battery and not using your phone’s network bandwidth. You can still use your phone or Chrome to control the stream and do things like pause playback or change volume, but the actual transmission from Netflix (in our example) goes to the Chromecast. Think of your phone as the remote.
There are hundreds of apps in Google Play or the App Store that are Chromecast-enabled, and we see more and more every day. The Chromecast is simple to set up and use, is very inexpensive, and does a great job, This is why it’s one of Google’s best selling products, and why we think it’s the best way to stream the media you enjoy watching.
The ‘regular’ Chromecast
This $35 HDMI puck (it’s often on sale, too) is the basic media streamer many of us want. It handles 1080p video streams really well, is very small and can be powered by your TV if you have a suitably powered USB port on the back. It supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz and is powered with a Micro-USB cable connected to a 5V/1A power source. If your TV can’t provide the power, there is an adapter included along with a 1.75-meter cable.
If you like, you can buy an ethernet adapter built for the Chromecast instead of using Wi-Fi. It replaces the power cord and has a standard RJ-45 socket (the one that looks like a great big telephone plug) where you plug in a 10/100 ethernet cable. The power cord on the ethernet adapter is 2-meters long to make sure you can position it where you need it. Everything else works the same — you cast from your phone or the Chrome browser and watch the streaming media on your TV — but you’re using a faster and more stable network connection.
- If you don’t have a 4K television or won’t be streaming any 4K content, the Chromecast is for you.
See Chromecast at Best Buy
See Chromecast Ethernet Adapter at Google Store
The Chromecast Ultra
The Chromecast Ultra offers a step up from the regular version. When provided with a suitable broadband connection, it can stream 4K Ultra HD and HDR content. The hardware inside the Chromecast Ultra is fast and powerful enough to do things on the fly without a lot of buffering or skipping. It’s more expensive at $69 but can stream the highest quality content with ease.
Of course, to stream UHD or HDR content you need a fast network. The Chromecast Ultra connects to 802.11ac 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi with a 1×2 SIMO (Single Input Multi Output) antenna for fast network speeds and low latency. It also comes standard with an ethernet port built into the power supply if you want to plug it into a wired network switch instead of using Wi-Fi.
- If you have a 4K or HDR TV (or plan to have one soon) and want to stream at a quality that can match its capabilities, the Chromecast Ultra is for you.
See Chromecast Ultra at Best Buy
Of course either Chromecast will work to stream 1080p media or with a 4K display. To stream UHD HDR media you need the Ultra, but if what you’re streaming isn’t in 4K or you just don’t have the network speed to stream at that quality, the “regular” Chromecast will still work and save you a few dollars. Also, if you plan on upgrading to a newer TV or monitor that will display UHD HDR content you can buy a Chromecast Ultra and use it for HD streaming on your current display.
No matter which Chromecast you choose you’ll enjoy great movies and shows from hundreds of apps, and you won’t have to figure out any cryptic software or network settings to get started.
- Chromecast vs. Chromecast Ultra: Which should you buy?
- Chromecast and Chromecast Audio review
- Chromecast Ultra vs. Roku
- Join the discussion in our forums