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4
Jan

Inspired by Segway, this robotic suitcase follows you around the airport


Want to bring a carry-on, but still walk through the airport hands-free? A China-based company is launching a new suitcase that followers travelers around, well, as the name implies, like a puppy. The 90Fun Puppy 1 (say that five times fast) is slated to launch in the U.S. at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show.

Puppy 1 may not be the first smart suitcase with auto-follow features, but the company says that its following suitcase is the first to use self-balance technology, thanks to a partnership with Segway. Despite having two wheels rather than four, the suitcase will self-balance as it follows you around the airport.

The follow feature is set up using an auto-follow chip and a positioning system, 90Fun says. The follow mode is adjusted through a remote control, which also allows travelers to “summon” the suitcase, according to the company.

The suitcase offers 20 inches of packing space and, despite the auto-follow, still includes a rolling handle.

Puppy 1 may be the company’s first launch in the U.S., but the brand has had success in China, where 90Fun recently took the top sales in luggage on a popular shopping day with 160,000 suitcases sold in 24 hours.

“Targeting the U.S. market is the first step in 90Fun’s international branding strategy because this is where first adopters of new technology gather and the strong curiosity inherent in this region makes it a perfect place to launch our smart suitcase,” Miao Liu, 90Fun CEO, said in a press release.

The idea of a suitcase that follows you around isn’t entirely new — the Cowarobot R1, which launched last year, also boasts auto follow and sensors to preventing it from running into other travelers or down a flight of stairs. Unlike the Puppy 1, the Cowarobot balances on four wheels rather than the Segway-inspired two wheels.

The Puppy 1 joins a growing line of smart luggage, from the autofollow and the ride-on types to the suitcases that convert to other items, like a desk or high chair.

The 90Fun brand is part of Shanghai Runmi Technology Co. Ltd., a company that launched in 2015. Details on the smart suitcase’s availability and price have not yet been released, but that information could be coming at CES.

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4
Jan

It won’t power the Matrix but these suits use humans to mine cryptocurrencies


Compared to the obvious toll of industrialization, it’s far too easy to forget about the environmental and human impact of the digital age. Whether it is the energy usage of a data center helping power the internet or the cognitive capitalism of a company like Google that asks us to exchange our data instead of our cash, there is a weird temptation to view the world of zeros and ones as substantially different to the one that preceded it. Much the same is true for cryptocurrencies, the not-so-filthy-lucre which greases the virtual wheels of the digital economy. Not only does it carry its own environmental toll (the bitcoin network consumes more energy than the country of Bulgaria), but its associated areas — algorithms, artificial intelligence, and machines — alter how humans relate to labor.

An innovative new project carried out by a Dutch organization called the Institute of Human Obsolescence (IoHO) explores this idea in an intriguing way by creating a more sustainable approach to mining cryptocurrencies — by harvesting human body heat.

“We [hired] human workers to lay down on workstations, wearing a body suit that harvests their residual body heat, with which we produce electricity that then is used to mine cryptocurrency,” creator Manuel Beltrán told Digital Trends. “With this project, we aim at sparking a discussion about the way humans relate to technology and the socio-political implications of the accelerated pace of undiscriminated technological assimilation. In a future with a labor market dominated by machines, would you rather work laying down and producing cryptocurrency with your body heat?”

Biological Labour – IoHO – Elevate Festival at esc medien kunst labor

On one level, the concept is some kind of utopian take on universal basic income (who wouldn’t want to earn cash by doing nothing more taxing than lying in bed?) mixed with the nightmare human energy harvesting of The Matrix. It’s no sci-fi fantasy, though. The project has already carried out trial runs in Europe involving 37 different workers and 212 hours of “work.” A follow-up operation is planned for 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The initiative currently involves mining vertcoin and startcoin cryptocurrencies, since these require less energy to mine than bitcoin. At present success rates, it would take one month of heat mining of 44,000 people at present success rates to afford a single bitcoin. Volunteers in the project kept 80 percent of the cryptocurrencies they generated, while the rest was given to IoHO.

In terms of efficiency, it’s nowhere close to getting a regular job and working to buy cryptocurrency. However, its creators hope the project’s conceptual nature means that it is about more than just making its participants a quick buck.

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4
Jan

The OnePlus 5T in Sandstone White is gorgeous, and probably won’t stay that way for long


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Another limited edition OnePlus phone to drool over.

When OnePlus announced the Star Wars Limited Edition version of the OnePlus 5T, it was inevitable that it’d parlay the intrigue in this new model to a more widely available version without the movie branding. So here we are, with the “Sandstone White” OnePlus 5T — that’s significant because it’s white, dramatically different from the “Midnight Black” launch color, but also because it reintroduces the “Sandstone” moniker that was popularized with the OnePlus 2.

It only takes a few moments to realize that this is, indeed, “just” the Star Wars version without the branding and the exclusive software skinning. The white finish is identical, as are the contrasting buttons: red for the Alert Slider, and the black for the others. The idea of contrasting colors is found all over, with the camera lenses shrouded in black, and a shiny chrome accent line running all around the edge where the white sides meet the black front.

Yes, the black front maybe takes away from the “all white” look you get from the back, but keeping black on the front bezels is far better for glare and actual usability of the phone. I’m cool with it.

This is ‘Sandstone’ by name, but it isn’t the rough-textured finish you know.

Yes this has “Sandstone” in the name, but it isn’t really the same Sandstone we know from the OnePlus 2 and subsequent Sandstone cases for newer OnePlus models. The white version of this texture is far lighter, closer to some of the coatings we’ve seen on metal phones from other companies over the years than the ultra-grippy Sandstone of the latest OnePlus cases. Regardless of that detail, the exterior finish is extremely well executed both in look and feel. OnePlus says the coating on each phone takes 75 minutes to complete, using low yield processes that make it the most expensive metal case it’s ever produced.

In looking at the Star Wars Limited Edition phone, our own Harish Jonnalagadda said “the textured coating makes the device incredibly grippy, and is generally a huge improvement over the standard 5T,” and I have to agree. The super smooth and lightly rounded shape of the OnePlus 5T, when added to its bit of extra height beyond the OnePlus 5, can make it a bit of a slippery fish. It’s for this reason that I’ve been using a case on my OnePlus 5T … but I don’t feel like I need a case for grip on the Sandstone White model. It’s far easier to snag out of a pocket or pick up off of a flat table by just getting your fingertips onto the textured surface on the sides. Generally, a big usability improvement.

I have to wonder how this pristine white finish will look after months of life in the wild.

But let’s stop the gawking at this beautiful exterior for a second and note one downside with having a white textured exterior: it gets dirty. Very easily. I haven’t even been using this phone as my primary device the few days I’ve had it, and just in moving it around on my desk and in my pocket a few times, it has little bits of black and blue scuffs on it. Our own Alex Dobie, who has been using his Sandstone White model longer, says it regularly gets blue discoloration from his jeans. Thankfully these scuffs and discolorations rub out quickly with a damp cloth, but you have to wonder if over time they’ll add up to a permanent change of hue on the white body.

There’s a reason why very few companies do white phones, and even fewer do white phones with texture. It’s extremely hard to walk that balance between having a texture that’s nice to hold, and having one that picks up scuffs from daily use. OnePlus obviously could avoid the discoloration concerns but still have the grip by doing a black Sandstone finish, and I sure wish it would, but for now these are the two options we have to go with.

Just like previous limited edition OnePlus phones, there are limitations when it comes to picking one up. The Sandstone White 5T only comes in the higher-spec 8GB of RAM and 128GB model, and therefore carries a higher price: £499 in the UK, €559 in Europe and $559 in the U.S. It goes on sale from OnePlus.net January 9 at 10 a.m. ET, and will be available “while supplies last” — though we have no indication of how many are being made available. But if this is the phone you want to be able to stand out a bit, you’ll want to order early.

OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5

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  • All of the latest OnePlus 5T news
  • Join the discussion in the forums

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4
Jan

Galaxy S8 in Rose Pink officially launches in the UK


More choice never hurt anyone.

The Galaxy S8 is still one of the best-looking phones on the market, and along with its slim bezels and solid construction, one of the things that helps it stand out is all of the colors that Samsung released for it. The S8 initially launched in Midnight Black, Arctic Silver, Maple Gold, Coral Blue, and Orchid Gray, and following this, Samsung announced additional Rose Pink and Burgundy Red options.

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Rose Pink was first released as an exclusive to Taiwan, but now Samsung has confirmed that it’ll be expanding this color to customers in the United Kingdom. This shade of pink isn’t something I’d personally buy, but it still looks great and is a lot more exciting than your typical black and silver choices.

There’s still no word if/when Samsung will launch Burgundy Red (my personal favorite color) in the U.S., UK, or Canada, and if it this never ends up happening, I’ll be crossing my fingers it makes its way to the S9 at some point.

LG V30 is getting a stunning Raspberry Rose color

4
Jan

Android Security Director Adrian Ludwig is now working for Nest


He’ll be succeeded by Dave Kleidermacher.

There are a seemingly endless number of things that go into creating the Android we know and love, and one of the most important is security. Adrian Ludwig has been serving as the Director of Android Security since as far back as 2011, but six years later, Ludwig has announced that he’s moving to a new position.

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On Google+, Ludwig said that he’s now working as the Directory of Security and Privacy for Nest. Ludwig is still working within Alphabet since it also owns Nest in addition to Google, but his departure from his previous position is still big news.

Towards the end of his post, Ludwig says:

This is a big change for me — Android Security has been one of the most amazing journeys of my life. I have an incredibly long list of people to thank for your effort, commitment, support and investment in Android security over the last 6+ years. I’m looking forward to seeing the advances in Android (and Nest) Security in 2018 and beyond!

Thankfully, Ludwig will be leaving Android’s security in good hands as Dave Kleidermacher will be the new Android Security Director. Kleidermacher was the Chief Security Officer at BlackBerry, but he left the company in 2017 to work for Google.

Google reported to absorb Nest into its own hardware division

4
Jan

Best Smartwatches for Fitness in 2018


  • Best overall
  • Best Android Wear
  • Best alternate
  • Best for less

Best overall

Samsung Gear Sport

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See at Amazon
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The best smartwatch to pull double duty for daily use and activity tracking is the Samsung Gear Sport. It’s built to take a beating or a plunge with 5ATM waterproofing, and has all of the necessary sensors and radios to make sure you can track everything. Samsung Health has gotten surprisingly good for following each workout but also long-term goals, and partnerships with bigger names like Under Armour and MapMyFitness mean you can also send all of your data to a different system if you need.

One of the best features of the Gear Sport is that it doesn’t look that sporty. It can easily be worn every day with a variety of clothing and not stand out, which you can’t really say about most smartwatches that are aimed at fitness. The rotating bezel is fantastic, the screen is great and while the software is a tad clunky it’s super powerful. Battery life is surprisingly good as well, about 2-3 days depending on usage.

Bottom line: The Gear Sport gets all of the typical smartwatch stuff handled, and is also a super-capable fitness tracker.

One more thing: For the sportiest look and robust design, stick with one of the rubber bands rather than a nylon or leather one.

Best Android Wear

LG Watch Sport

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See at Amazon
See at Best Buy

Throughout 2017 Android Wear went further away from “fitness” models and instead focused on fashion, but the LG Watch Sport is one of the few that leans toward the active crowd. It has a robust case, waterproofing and rubber bands that will feel at home in the gym or out on a run. It also has the benefit of a rotating crown, that like the Gear Sport gives you an option to quickly move through menus and apps without touching or swiping on the screen.

If you’re an Android purist, you’ll be interested in the Android Wear operating system because of its seamless integration into your Android phone when it comes to companion apps, notifications and data sync. But when it comes to dedicated fitness tracking, Android Wear comes up short of the Gear Sport and Fitbit Ionic. The LG Watch Sport straddles the middle ground between “general purpose” and “fitness focused” smartwatches in many ways, but the software is the best indication.

Bottom line: If you need to have Android Wear, the LG Watch Sport is your best choice for fitness.

One more thing: Keep an eye out for discounted, refurbished or open-box units, as the LG Watch Sport is several months old at this point.

Best alternate

Fitbit Ionic

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See at Amazon
See at Best Buy

Fitbit comes at smartwatches from the direction of its successful fitness band lineup. This makes the Ionic a perfect smartwatch for someone who really wants to focus on activity tracking first, and the other “smartwatch” stuff secondarily. Though it may be a bit big and blocky, the Fitbit Ionic has a bright display, GPS tracking, optical heart rate sensor, SpO2 sensor, 50-meter waterproofing and all of the other cool stuff like NFC and 2.5GB of storage space. It’s also rated at four days of battery life, which goes beyond the competition.

Tons of people have trusted Fitbit with their fitness tracking of all kinds for years, and that’s really what you’re getting in the ~$300 Ionic. The smartwatch side of things isn’t as deeply integrated to your Android phone as an Android Wear or even Samsung watch is, but you can’t argue it’s just as good or better for fitness.

Bottom line: If fitness is your primary goal, and you’ve had previous Fitbits, the Ionic should be at the top of your list.

One more thing: Don’t expect deep smartwatch integration to your phone on the same level as Android Wear.

Best for less

Samsung Gear S2

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See at Best Buy

Take almost everything that makes the Gear Sport great, and knock about $100 off of it — now you have the Gear S2. This previous-generation model has all of the basic fitness tracking capabilities as the new Gear Sport, minus the swim tracking, but for less money. That means it actually has a chance to compete with “fitness bands” that have no smartwatch capabilities at all, which the Gear S2 does have.

Bottom line: For a similar experience to the Gear Sport at a lower price, the Gear S2 is a good choice.

One more thing: If you’re focused on fitness, make sure to get the regular Gear S2 and not the “Classic” version.

Conclusion

For a smartwatch that pulls double duty as a daily watch but also a capable fitness tracker, the Gear Sport is a fantastic decision. Anyone who’s tied to Android Wear should use the LG Watch Sport, and those who just want fitness in a smartwatch form factor should consider the Fitbit Ionic.

Best overall

Samsung Gear Sport

samsung-gear-sport-step-tracker.jpg?itok

See at Amazon
See at Best Buy

The best smartwatch to pull double duty for daily use and activity tracking is the Samsung Gear Sport. It’s built to take a beating or a plunge with 5ATM waterproofing, and has all of the necessary sensors and radios to make sure you can track everything. Samsung Health has gotten surprisingly good for following each workout but also long-term goals, and partnerships with bigger names like Under Armour and MapMyFitness mean you can also send all of your data to a different system if you need.

One of the best features of the Gear Sport is that it doesn’t look that sporty. It can easily be worn every day with a variety of clothing and not stand out, which you can’t really say about most smartwatches that are aimed at fitness. The rotating bezel is fantastic, the screen is great and while the software is a tad clunky it’s super powerful. Battery life is surprisingly good as well, about 2-3 days depending on usage.

Bottom line: The Gear Sport gets all of the typical smartwatch stuff handled, and is also a super-capable fitness tracker.

One more thing: For the sportiest look and robust design, stick with one of the rubber bands rather than a nylon or leather one.

4
Jan

Sprint replaces its current President and CFO with Michel Combes


A new face for the new year.

There were seemingly endless rumors throughout 2017 about T-Mobile and Sprint finally following through with a merger that’d been talked about for years, but in early November, these were finally laid to rest. Sprint needs to hit 2018 with full force now that the possibility of a merger is dead, and to start these efforts, the carrier is replacing its President and CFO.

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Current President and CFO Tarek Robbiati will stay on through the end of January, but starting first thing in February, they’ll be replaced by Michel Combes. Sprint shares actually stopped leading up to this announcement, and when trading was once again resumed, they fell by more than 5 percent.

Speaking of Combes, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said:

He is a visionary executive with a proven track record of successfully transforming leading telecom and media companies and will help us to execute our strategic plan and strengthen our team.

Looking at that “proven track record”, Combes was previously involved with the sale of Alcatel-Lucent to Nokia when the company was nearing bankruptcy, and he also came aboard France Telecom to bring the company out of debt and rebrand it to Orange.

Sprint’s definitely seen better days compared to where it’s at right now, so the talent of Combes just might be what the company needs going into the new year.

Unpacking the doomed T-Mobile / Sprint merger

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4
Jan

Keep your browsing ad- and tracker-free with X-VPN


It’s 2018 — if you aren’t using a VPN already it should definitely be on your list of goals for the New Year. Whether you’re annoyed with the proliferation of ads online or are concerned with how websites, ISPs, or other entities might be tracking your browsing habits, setting up and using a VPN has never been easier.

There are a ton of VPN options out there, but the best offer a wide range of virtual servers to choose from, offer unlimited bandwidth, and work across all your devices without logging any of your private browsing habits. Right now, Android Central Digital Offers has a great deal on subscriptions for X-VPN. You may have seen X-VPN as one of the top-rated VPN apps in the Google Play Store. It’s been tried and tested in countries around the world (excluding China) and celebrated for it’s ease of use and ad-free mobile interface.

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X-VPN has over 1000 servers located around the world allowing you to bypass geo-restrictions and browse ad-free in a secure environment. It works on both Android and iOS as well as recent versions of Windows and MacOS. With unlimited bandwidth available across an unlimited number of devices at one time backed by live chat support available 24/7 and a strict no logging policy for your personal data, this all sounds great — but what about the price?

Typically, X-VPN sells a lifetime subscription to its service for $720 but thanks to Android Central Digital Offers you can save 93% off the regular price and pay just $45. It’s the best deal with the best value for your dollar, but there are shorter term subscriptions available if you only want a one or three-year subscription.

Getting all these great features in a VPN service for life for just $45 is a great way to start off better browsing habits for 2018 and beyond. Don’t miss out on this great offer!

See at Android Central Digital Offers

4
Jan

The 3rd-gen Nest Thermostat is back down to $199 in White


Control this smart thermostat with your voice using Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa.

The white Nest Thermostat 3rd generation is down to $199 at Amazon. This smart thermostat usually sells for $250, though it’s receiving this $50 discount thanks to a price-match of a sale from Home Depot where you can also grab this deal. This is close to the best price the product saw during Black Friday, which was $189.

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The Nest is one of the most thorough smart systems you can buy. Just look at all these features:

  • The Nest Learning Thermostat is the first thermostat to get ENERGY STAR Certified by the EPA.
  • System Match activates features that work with your specific heating and cooling systems, and connects to most 24-volt forced-air, heat pump with AUX, dual fuel and radiant systems.
  • Convenient Wi-Fi capabilities offer a secure and reliable connection.
  • Download the free app from iTunes or GooglePlay and adjust your thermostat from your smartphone, tablet or laptop, even when you’re miles away.
  • Farsight illuminates the thermostat’s display when it spots you across the room.
  • Monitors your equipment, sends service reminders and tells you if anything is not working correctly. You can also be alerted if your home’s temperature gets dangerously hot or cold.
  • Within a week the Nest thermostat starts programming itself to the temperatures you like. Away mode automatically switches to an energy-efficient temperature when you’re not home.
  • Different features follow your activity, manage humidity, and keep an eye on the weather to provide a custom climate for your home.
  • Track how much energy you’ve used and follow tips that will help you conserve.

You can also pair the Nest Thermostat with other products like the Nest Protect and it will automatically turn off your gas furnace if carbon monoxide is present.

See at Amazon

4
Jan

Grab two Amazon Fire HD 8 tablets for only $100


Grabbing a decent tablet doesn’t have to break the bank.

Some people tend to think the only way to get a good tablet is to spend at least a couple hundred bucks on one. If that idea is still in your head too, you haven’t tried Amazon’s Fire HD 8 tablet yet. Not only is it a great device that’s totally capable of watching your favorite shows, checking up on the latest news and playing games, but Amazon’s offering a two-pack for just $99.98 currently. Two awesome tablets at under $100 is a deal worth considering if you need two. Just one Fire HD 8 tablet generally costs $80, which is a nice price point too in comparison to how costly tablets can become.

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The Fire HD 8 tablet has an 8-inch HD display and can last for up to 12 hours on a single charge. It has 16GB of storage space with the opportunity to a micro SD card for more space (up to 256GB). It also features 1.5GB RAM and Dolby Audio. Amazon’s product page also boasts that the Fire HD 8 is more durable than the latest iPad. It comes in Black, Blue, Red and Yellow.

This tablet also comes powered with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant which can answer your questions, play music, tell you the news, control your smart home products and more.

If you have Amazon Prime, Netflix or Showtime, the Fire HD 8 tablet is also a great way to take advantage of those sites’ download features. Netflix and those other sites actually allow you to download videos so you can play them while offline, and you can download them straight to the tablet (though if you do that a lot you definitely want a micro SD card too to hold it all).

See at Amazon

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