Skip to content

Archive for

24
Jan

Jigsaw Story: A good puzzle simulator that works best on bigger screens (review)


In all the game genres available in the Play Store, sometimes you may want to game in a much more chill, passive way. No quick reflexes. No bells, whistles, and music blaring at you. No multi-level story line or myriad of villains and their evil armies to survive.

Something like, say a puzzle. A jigsaw puzzle. But the real ones can be a pain to even get started, with trying to find space. And once you start, you’ve kinda committed that space until you’ve either solved the puzzle, or gave up and just put it all back in the box. In any case it’s not an easy start, and the commitment level is high.

How about a jigsaw puzzle on your device? How about multiple ones? With an intertwining story? Where you can decide the size and complexity before beginning, and where you can leave off without any ridiculous mess on your dining table?

There is a free option in the Play Store, called Jigsaw Story (download from the Play Store here). Jigsaw Story gives you multiple puzzles at a difficulty of your choosing, all while trying to put some semblance of a story between puzzles to pull you along. Let’s take a quick tour of this game and see if it’s a fit for you. It’s a family-friendly offering by the developer Happy Square Studio.

Setup

Setup is easy, but this is where you do have some choices to make. After downloading from the Play Store, you simply open the game, and you’re brought right to the tutorial screen.

Here’s where you can establish just the kind of experience you want. You can choose the first of seven different series of puzzles (each series comprises 10 puzzles in total), each with a different theme. You can adjust how many pieces (40, 80, or more), and whether the pieces can be rotated or fixed (please start with fixed; you’ll get overwhelmed fast otherwise).

Gameplay

From there you’re off into your puzzle! On the right is a sliding tray of all your loose pieces. Start taking some off and putting the on the board (edge and corner pieces first, right?). You can move these pieces as you wish throughout the puzzle. As you find your first match, drop it next to it’s mate and you will get a chime and glow-flare indicating they are now locked. Once locked you can still move them, but the locked pieces will now move as one unit.

Starting out.

Peeking at the final image.

On the lower-right you have several settings and tools at your disposal. Settings include turning audio on or off (background music is a pretty generic ding-a-ling tune). Tools are way more interesting; here you can preview the finished image as many times as you want (though only as a thumbnail; not allowing you to “cheat” too easily). You can also click a button that “filters” the available pieces in your tray to edge & corner pieces first (if you’re like me, this is your first move in the game!). Also, if your screen gets too busy, there is a ‘recall’ button that pulls all the individual pieces off the screen and back into the tray on the right side.

Once you complete a puzzle (hooray!) you gain points that you can use to chose which puzzle you want to tackle next. While there is a series of 10, you can choose the sequence that you solve them. Also, between puzzles, the game gives you a short story based on the character(s) and backgrounds within the puzzle theme. Granted, these seem a bit forced at times, but they do offer another level of interaction with the game.

Completed!

Visuals

The puzzles themselves are very aesthetically-pleasing; with each of the seven themes providing a wide array of visuals both within an individual puzzle, and going into deeper puzzles. And the graphics of picking, moving, and placing pieces is rather satisfying, relatively-speaking.

The stories leave a little to be desired.

The big complaint (literally relatively-speaking) is that you need a bigger device screen to truly enjoy this game; 6″ minimum, in my opinion. I played on an LG G6 (5.7″ diagonal) and I found myself squinting more than I’d like. This game is most at home on a tablet or similar-sized device. Otherwise the pieces are just too small. You solve a puzzle by finding small visual clues within each piece, and on a phone-sized screen it’s just too difficult. On a tablet this would be a truly enjoyable experience.

Conclusion

Overall I was very impressed with Jigsaw Story. If you want to just chill out with an Android game, and be able to pick-up/put-down at your leisure, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more enjoyable and relaxing alternative.

24
Jan

iOS 11.3 update includes more AR features, new Animojis, and Business Chat


Apple announced its forthcoming iOS update, version 11.3. The update, expected in the spring, brings a number of exciting and essential updates for iPhone and iPad users, including new features to address battery life and throttling issues.

Battery and performance management

In January, Apple CEO Tim Cook told ABC News that a future iOS update would address battery health and throttling issues. With iOS 11.3, you can easily access battery health information in the settings. You can also disable the power management feature that can slow down devices with older batteries.

Animoji and augmented reality updates

Apple’s iOS 11.3 update also brings a few awesome updates for iPhone X owners. The update will include four new Animojis for iPhone X users.  A lion, bear, skull, and dragon will join the existing Animojis, bringing the total count to 16.

Improved augmented reality features are coming in iOS 11.3 as well. You can expect to see improvements when mapping irregularly shaped objects as well as the ability to place virtual objects on vertical surfaces.

In addition to overall improvements in mapping and placement, iOS 11.3 will include a feature that allows users to interact with 2D images such as signs and posters. While the details are still a little sketchy on this, it sounds similar to Google Lens.

Business Chat

If you dread making customer service phone calls, iOS 11.3 has a feature you will love. The next iOS update will now include a feature called Business Chat, where users can communicate directly with businesses via the Messages app. The feature will initially launch in beta and will include a handful of businesses including Lowes, Discover, Hilton, and Wells Fargo.

Health records

The Health app on iOS 11.3 will see some pretty big improvements as well. Apple announced iOS 11.3 will allow users to access their medical records. CNBC reports the feature will initially roll out to about a dozen hospitals across the country including Cedars-Sinai, John Hopkins Medicine, Penn Medicine, and the University of California, San Diego.

Other features

While there are quite a few big changes coming to iOS 11.3, there are a few smaller ones that are nice as well.  The News app will be updated with a section of curated videos called For You. You will also see some improvements in the Top Stories section.

Apple Music will get an update as well. In iOS 11.3, you will be able to watch music videos without ads and create music video playlists.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • ‘Pokémon Go’ levels up its augmented reality abilities with Apple’s ARKit
  • 9 ARKit apps to try on your iPhone or iPad using iOS 11
  • Apple iOS 11.2.2 update offers a fix to the Spectre security vulnerability
  • Apple releases iOS 11.1 with new emojis, bug fixes, and more
  • Sorry iPhone X fans, Face ID won’t work for approving family purchases


24
Jan

Stripe bids farewell to bitcoin, says it will stop supporting the currency


It’s been a roller coaster few weeks for bitcoin and its loyal followers. After reaching a fever pitch in value near $20,000 in late 2017, the cryptocurrency has had a rough 2018, plummeting to just over $11,000 at the time of writing. And now, it’s not only losing value, but it’s losing support from payment companies, too. This week, payment processing service Stripe announced that it would no longer process bitcoin transactions. The change will take effect in its entirety on April 23, 2018, and in the meantime, Stripe will be “winding down support” and working with affected Stripe users to ensure a smooth transition.

The decision, while not altogether surprising, comes as something of a blow to the ailing bitcoin. Stripe was one of the first payment companies to accept bitcoin, beginning its support in 2014. “At Stripe, we’ve long been excited about the possibilities of cryptocurrencies and the experimentation and innovation that’s come with them,” the company noted. “Our hope was that bitcoin could become a universal, decentralized substrate for online transactions and help our customers enable buyers in places that had less credit card penetration or use cases where credit card fees were prohibitive.”

Unfortunately, it’s become increasingly clear that bitcoin, at least in its current state, has not lived up to those expectations, and as such, a growing number of companies indicated they will not allow for the cryptocurrency to be used on their platforms. Steam, for example, ended support late last year.

Much of the problem with bitcoin is associated with its increased value as an asset. Paradoxically, as the currency has become more valuable, it has become less suited for payments. As Stripe noted, “Transaction confirmation times have risen substantially [and] fees have risen a great deal,” which has made customers increasingly wary about accepting bitcoin. Indeed, Stripe continued, “Empirically, there are fewer and fewer use cases for which accepting or paying with Bitcoin makes sense.”

That said, Stripe certainly isn’t bearish on cryptocurrency as a whole. In fact, the payment platform recently suggested that it could consider adding support for the coin Stellar (ironically, causing Stellar’s value to jump 20 percent). As the company concluded, “We will continue to pay close attention to the ecosystem and to look for opportunities to help our customers by adding support for cryptocurrencies and new distributed protocols in the future.”

Editors’ Recommendations

  • You’ll need to sell your Bitcoin if you want to buy games with it on Steam
  • What’s the true value of bitcoin? A Morgan Stanley analyst says it may be zero
  • Bitcoin is still soaring. What’s the limit?
  • How to buy bitcoin
  • Ethereum vs. bitcoin: What’s the difference?


24
Jan

Control this robot kit with your voice using Alexa or Google Assistant


Who wouldn’t want their very own voice-controlled personal robot? Certainly not anyone that we would care to associate with or have on our Rolodexes, that’s for sure! Thanks to the kids’ programmable robotics kit Ziro, however, such a childhood dream is now a reality, courtesy of manufacturer ZeroUI’s newly announced smart assistant integration.

We first covered Ziro in 2016 when it first launched on Indiegogo. The modular kit allowed users, predominantly younger folks learning about robotics, to build a range of robot creations, spanning everything from simple trikes to fearsome robot dragons. These were controlled via gestures, thanks to a smart sensor-equipped glove. Gestures could be mapped to different robot movements using a mobile app.

Jump forward a couple years and the big new exciting way of interacting with technology is, of course, voice control, using smart artificial intelligence assistants like Amazon Echo or Google Home. That is what Ziro now offers, thereby allowing builders to create bots they can move with little more than a few spoken words. What could be better than that?

“Ziro’s hardware voice module is integrated with the Amazon’s Alexa Skills Kit and Amazon Web Services,” Raja Jasti, CEO of ZeroUI, told Digital Trends. “The system captures and converts the users’ spoken words to machine commands for Ziro robots that perform the actions. For example, you can say to your Alexa device, ‘Alexa, ask Zoe to move forward’ and Zoe — Ziro’s robot — will move forward. The intent detection from Alexa device happens on the cloud, whereas the relaying of the robot commands to Ziro motor modules happens on Ziro’s voice module.”

The new voice integration was shown off by the team at the recent CES 2018. At the show, Jasti and team used Alexa for their demonstration, although he says that they will also “support all the popular voice assistants on the market,” in addition to a stand-alone voice module for users without a voice assistant.

“We will make this available as part of Ziro 2.0, which will likely be released later this year,” he said. “We will provide all the information to the public on our website at the time of release.”

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Gomer is a soft-robotics A.I. hoping to bring some cheer to your life
  • Like a mechanical shadow, Toyota’s new robot mimics your movements in real time
  • Want your child to learn STEM skills? Check out these robot kits for kids
  • Assistive tech is progressing faster than ever, and these 7 devices prove it
  • Rise of the machines: Here are the best robots we saw at CES 2018


24
Jan

Control this robot kit with your voice using Alexa or Google Assistant


Who wouldn’t want their very own voice-controlled personal robot? Certainly not anyone that we would care to associate with or have on our Rolodexes, that’s for sure! Thanks to the kids’ programmable robotics kit Ziro, however, such a childhood dream is now a reality, courtesy of manufacturer ZeroUI’s newly announced smart assistant integration.

We first covered Ziro in 2016 when it first launched on Indiegogo. The modular kit allowed users, predominantly younger folks learning about robotics, to build a range of robot creations, spanning everything from simple trikes to fearsome robot dragons. These were controlled via gestures, thanks to a smart sensor-equipped glove. Gestures could be mapped to different robot movements using a mobile app.

Jump forward a couple years and the big new exciting way of interacting with technology is, of course, voice control, using smart artificial intelligence assistants like Amazon Echo or Google Home. That is what Ziro now offers, thereby allowing builders to create bots they can move with little more than a few spoken words. What could be better than that?

“Ziro’s hardware voice module is integrated with the Amazon’s Alexa Skills Kit and Amazon Web Services,” Raja Jasti, CEO of ZeroUI, told Digital Trends. “The system captures and converts the users’ spoken words to machine commands for Ziro robots that perform the actions. For example, you can say to your Alexa device, ‘Alexa, ask Zoe to move forward’ and Zoe — Ziro’s robot — will move forward. The intent detection from Alexa device happens on the cloud, whereas the relaying of the robot commands to Ziro motor modules happens on Ziro’s voice module.”

The new voice integration was shown off by the team at the recent CES 2018. At the show, Jasti and team used Alexa for their demonstration, although he says that they will also “support all the popular voice assistants on the market,” in addition to a stand-alone voice module for users without a voice assistant.

“We will make this available as part of Ziro 2.0, which will likely be released later this year,” he said. “We will provide all the information to the public on our website at the time of release.”

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Gomer is a soft-robotics A.I. hoping to bring some cheer to your life
  • Like a mechanical shadow, Toyota’s new robot mimics your movements in real time
  • Want your child to learn STEM skills? Check out these robot kits for kids
  • Assistive tech is progressing faster than ever, and these 7 devices prove it
  • Rise of the machines: Here are the best robots we saw at CES 2018


24
Jan

Onward to Mars! SpaceX completes Falcon Heavy static fire test in Florida


After a long series of delays and unexpected setbacks, SpaceX successfully completed a static fire engine test for its Falcon Heavy rocket today at Pad 39A of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At around 12:30 PM local time, the rocket’s massive engines roared to life, sending huge plumes of smoke into the air surrounding it, and sending spaceflight enthusiasts into a frenzy on social media.

This static fire test (in which the engines are fired but the rocket does not lift off), is a critical step toward the Falcon Heavy’s maiden launch — a much-anticipated event in which the rocket will — no joke — attempt to put SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster into orbit around Mars. While SpaceX has not set a date for the full launch, a successful static fire test suggests it could happen very soon.

The Falcon Heavy is a product of SpaceX’s reusable rocket program, designed as three Falcon 9 rockets together with a single upper stage. At 230-feet tall, the massive rocket is equipped with 27 Merlin engines, which are capable of generating 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. This is equal to that of 18 Boeing 747s, according to SpaceX.

If the rocket’s Maiden voyage goes according to plan, it will likely be quite a spectacle. After sending its payload into orbit, the rocket’s boosters will detach, fall back to  and (hopefully) land safely back on Earth — a feat that SpaceX has achieved multiple times in the past with its Falcon 9 rockets. The mission itself is far from a guaranteed success, however; Musk is aware that the launch may fail, and even if it succeeds, the rocket might never make it into orbit.

More fun facts: Apparently, the Tesla will (hilariously) be playing a recording of David Bowie’s legendary song, Space Oddity, which was released five days before the launch of Apollo 11 and 10 days before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the surface of Earth’s moon. Fingers crossed that there’s some sort of stream available.

If you’re wondering what an actual launch might look like, the video above — a rendering published by SpaceX in 2015 — should give you an idea.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The SpaceX Falcon Heavy test could now take place on January 24
  • SpaceX could launch ‘world’s most powerful rocket’ by year’s end
  • Everything you need to know about the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket
  • Prepare for liftoff! Here’s 7 crazy facts about the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket
  • Elon Musk posts pics of huge Falcon Heavy rocket ahead of debut launch


24
Jan

Apple prevents MacOS Sierra, El Capitan from Meltdown, lists mystery Google bugs


Apple recently distributed updates for its Mac-based devices across three specific versions of MacOS: High Sierra (10.13), Sierra (10.12), and El Capitan (10.11). The updates for the two older MacOS versions specifically address CVE-2017-5754, otherwise known as Meltdown, which is a security issue recently discovered in Intel-based processors. The most recent update to High Sierra (10.13.3) does not address the Meltdown issue.

As previously reported, Meltdown is one of two issues discovered in all modern x86-based processors from Intel and AMD, and ARM-based mobile processors manufactured by Qualcomm, Samsung, and more. Part of a CPU’s “speed” stems from its “thinking ahead” while processing multiple tasks. These predictions are based on data CPUs store in local memory, but Google Project Zero researchers found a way to access that information.  

For example, if the system memory were a bank vault, hackers could slip in using a CPU’s key. In a Meltdown attack, hackers can break down the wall that separates each deposit box in the memory vault. After that, they can use a program to access all that information, even data used by the operating system. 

Given this is a hardware issue, all processor companies are frantically working to patch this crack in the design foundation. Meltdown is the easiest to patch through updates to motherboards, operating systems, and software drivers. Spectre, listed as CVE-2017-5753 and CVE-2017-5715, is harder to exploit, but harder to fix as well. This attack breaks down the wall separating programs too, but instead tricks these “error-free” programs into releasing their data. Apple addressed Spectre with its 10.13.2 supplemental update for High Sierra.

The Meltdown patch for MacOS 10.12 Sierra and MacOS 10.11 El Capitan arrives after Intel requested that manufacturers halt in distributing Meltdown updates. The company acknowledged an unusually high number of system reboots stemming from the updates, and currently has a new fix in the works for fourth- and fifth-generation Intel processors. The reboot issue remains unaddressed for all other Intel-based CPUs. 

What is interesting about Apple’s trio of updates outside the Meltdown fix is that the company mentions Google Project Zero researcher Jann Horn three times, who is one of the individuals responsible for discovering the Meltdown and Spectre issues. Apple ties Horn to the Meltdown patch for Sierra and El Capitan but also references Horn to a pair of security issues patched in High Sierra: CVE-2018-4090 and CVE-2018-4093. 

A search in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures database shows both security issues are listed as “reserved.” That means the problems have yet to be officially announced but are fixed nonetheless despite a lack of public disclosure. The same holds true for CVE-2018-4082 patched in all three versions of MacOS: a “reserved” security issue discovered by Russ Cox at Google. 

In addition to all the kernel-based issues, Apple fixed a problem in High Sierra and Sierra related to audio, which allowed hackers to execute malicious code using an audio file. The company also addressed a memory corruption issue that enabled an application to execute arbitrary code using “deep” operating system privileges. 

Editors’ Recommendations

  • CPU and OS makers go on red alert over Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities
  • Updates addressing Meltdown security issue are causing a number of PC reboots
  • Intel requests hardware partners to halt Meltdown patches due to reboot issue
  • Google Arts app goes viral with new match-me-to-a-classic-painting feature
  • Apple iOS 11.2.2 update offers a fix to the Spectre security vulnerability


24
Jan

Honor View 10 vs. OnePlus 5T: Budget flagship face-off


honor-view-10-vs-oneplus-5t.jpg?itok=AnU

Honor and OnePlus are battling for the top spot in the affordable flagship market.

Ever since its release, the OnePlus 5T has enjoyed plenty of time in the spotlight as the go-to “budget flagship,” offering top-tier performance and specs at a much lower price than competing options from top brands like Samsung. In fact, the 5T has been such a solid recommendation that it’s been easy to forget about the competition — but Honor aims to change that with its new View 10, a heavy-hitting phone in its own regard at roughly the same cost.

Though both phones look similar on paper and come in at about $500 each, they’re very different in operation — so which one should you buy?

What the OnePlus 5T does better

oneplus-5t-lava-red-6.jpg?itok=XDKApeJq

As the longstanding champion, the OnePlus 5T gets a lot right. Its aluminum unibody design builds upon that of the OnePlus 5, with a rounded back that fits more comfortably in the hand than the flatter Honor View 10 (though it’s just as slippery). While both phones feature the modern 18:9 aspect ratio, the 5T uses an AMOLED panel that many users will likely prefer, with punchier colors and power-saving features like the ambient display.

The 5T features clean software, fast face unlocking, and a convenient alert slider.

Any OnePlus user will be able to attest that one of the company’s best hardware features is the alert slider above the volume buttons, which allows users to quickly jump between audio profiles without having to turn on the display. It’s incredibly convenient, and the View 10 has no comparable feature.

Software is likely where most people will tend to favor the OnePlus 5T. Despite running the older Android Nougat software (an update to Oreo is coming soon), the company’s OxygenOS firmware is much closer to stock Android than Huawei’s EMUI, with added options for customizability, and incredibly fast facial recognition for lock screen security.

See at OnePlus

What the Honor View 10 does better

honor-view-10-review-hero.jpg?itok=hJXlm

Don’t count Honor out just yet. Though not as rounded, the View 10’s hardware is incredibly well-built, and the flatter sides make it a bit easier to grip onto. In addition, while both phones are dual-SIM compatible, only the View 10 allows for microSD expandability — with the OnePlus 5T, you’re stuck with the storage you pay for up front.

Inside of the View 10 is Huawei’s dedicated neural processing unit (NPU) for AI, which processes imaging data to improve photography and instant text translation. Huawei also says that the NPU will help keep its devices from slowing down over time.

The View 10 benefits from newer software, better dual cameras, and Huawei’s NPU.

The Honor View 10 also makes much better use of its dual cameras than the OnePlus 5T. Both phones pair a 16MP and a 20MP lens, but the 5T’s secondary sensor only activates in extremely dark conditions, making it largely useless. On the other hand, the View 10’s monochrome sensor is constantly pulling in more detail for sharper and more balanced images.

While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, the EMUI software running on the View 10 is more mature than ever, and it’s full of useful tools like lock screen apps and an optional floating navigation dock. It’s also based on the newer Android Oreo software, bringing conveniences like PIP video and notification dots.

See at Honor

Where both are evenly matched

Both phones features incredibly powerful specifications; the OnePlus 5T features Qualcomm’s popular Snapdragon 835 chipset, while the Honor View 10 utilizes Huawei’s own Kirin 970. Suffice to say, neither struggles at all with performance, though the View 10’s NPU could give it the advantage in the long term. It’s also great to see such a modern design on each phone, with 18:9 displays, USB-C, and fast fingerprint sensors.

Amusingly, both phones are also lacking in a lot of the same ways. With matching aluminum constructions, neither phone is capable of wireless charging. Neither features any kind of protection from water and dust, either, and you won’t find a user-replaceable battery here.

Which one’s right for you?

The best option for you will largely come down to your preference in software, which will have the most impact on how you use your phone. If you’re a stock Android purist who doesn’t have the funds for a Pixel 2, it’s a no-brainer — buy the OnePlus 5T. If, on the other hand, you’re more software agnostic or even tend to prefer EMUI, the Honor View 10 could be a great option — especially with Android Oreo already pre-installed.

At the end of the day, both phones are terrific options for shoppers who want flagship-tier performance without having to spend upwards of a thousand dollars. No matter which phone you buy, chances are you’re making a good choice.

Are you planning on picking one of these phones up soon? Have you already ordered one? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

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

OnePlus
Amazon

24
Jan

Honor Band 3 giveaway! Enter now at Android Central!


honor-band-3.jpg?itok=V2JCCsol

There’s something really satisfying about tracking your progress while you’re working out, and the Honor Band 3 is perfect for doing just that. Whether you prefer to swim, run, or participate in a different form of exercise, the Band 3 has you covered. It even tracks your sleep, has Caller ID and call rejection features, as well as notification vibrations for Facebook, Twitter, messages, emails, calendar alerts, and more. You can even set the smart alarm clock’s vibrations to wake you up without disturbing others.

If you’re like a lot of people the new year brings new resolutions to up your fitness game and hit some big goals, and we’re here to help you do just that when you win an Honor Band 3 in this giveaway! Keep reading for the details and to get entered.

THE PRIZE: One Android Central reader will receive an Honor Band 3 in black!

THE GIVEAWAY: Use the widget at the bottom of this page. There are multiple ways to enter, each with varying point values. Complete all of the tasks for maximum entries and your best shot at winning! Keep in mind that all winning entries are verified and if the task was not completed or cannot be verified, a new winner will be chosen. International winners will be responsible for any customs fees incurred during shipping.

The giveaway is open until January 31, 2018, and the winner will be announced right here shortly after the closing date. Good luck!

Enter to win an Honor Band 3 at Android Central!

24
Jan

Jaybird Run review: Going truly wireless the right way


jaybird-run-5.jpg?itok=uwUCTnxc

They fit well enough, they sound good enough, and I don’t have a wire dragging across my neck.

You wouldn’t think a little wire connecting one earbud to another would bother you that much. And, OK, it didn’t bother me that much. But it’s also the sort of thing that you definitely notice once it’s gone.

That’s my big takeaway from a few weeks wearing the Jaybird Run wireless earbuds. Truly wireless, as in one bud goes in one ear, and the other bud goes in the other. And there’s nothing connecting the two together. Just the faint hum and the slightly stale stench of Bluetooth going from the side of your head to your phone, and back.

OK, that last part may just be my heavy metal-abused ears trying to tell me something. But the simple fact is I’ve gone totally wireless with my workout buds, and I’m damned glad I did.

Let’s take slightly closer look.

See at Amazon

jaybird-run-2.jpg?itok=JvQD2ADZ The Jaybird Run earbuds in their charging case. ($179 at Amazon)

First, an admission: The Jaybird Run buds weren’t the first I went to. For that, I snagged a $99 kickstarter special on the (regularly $150) Zolo Liberty+. But Jaybird has something Zolo doesn’t — replacement parts. I mention this up front because it (tragically) should be an important consideration when buying little earbuds like these. More on that in a minute.

If you’re looking for new earbuds, it’s worth going truly wireless.

If you’ve looked at Bluetooth earbuds of this ilk, you’ll know what to expect. Individual buds that aren’t much bigger than, say, oh, an earbud. They’ll be a little larger than something wired, that’s for sure. Because each one needs its own battery and radio and whatever other electronics they can add in there. And that means they’ll stick out of your ears a little more than maybe you’re used to.

  • Price: $179 (retail)
  • Tech: Bluetooth 4.1, A2DP, AVCRP, SPP
  • Drivers: 2x 6mm
  • Battery life: 4 hours before recharge, 8+ with charging case (microUSB)
  • Apps: Jaybird MySound on Android, iOS

But that’s the tradeoff. And I’ve found that it’s not one that’s bothered me in the slightest.

These are decently comfortable earbuds. Your ear canals will be different than mine, though — and it took me a little mucking about to find the best fit. I ended up swapping the tips for the smaller option, and I went with a different size (and style) fins — the little rubber spring-type things that help hold the buds in your ears. It still takes a little finagling to make sure they’re securely stuck in my ears. But once in they held up fine for light running, and hours on the elliptical. This part is key: Try the different sizes of tips and fins to find which works best for you.

Jaybird includes two sets of oval tips and two sets of round, and you’ve got four size options for fins — and a cool little pouch to hold everything. That’s a very nice touch.

As you’d expect, these aren’t all-day earbuds. I’ve been burning through about 30 percentage points of battery every 75-minute workout. That’s with only listening to music, and not messing around with the earbud controls at all.

The buds come in a little pill-shaped charging case. When you’re not using them, you’ll want to put them in there. First, it’s how you’ll charge them. The Jaybirds go in and come out easily enough, so no worries there. They also turn on and turn off automatically when removed and placed back in the charger. That’s a nice, simple way to handle that. But it also means that if I take them out of my ears for a few minutes — say, when walking through the gym after a workout — I have to remember that there’s still an active Bluetooth connection, and my phone won’t be making any noises or anything. That’s a small concern, though.

The official battery numbers are 4 hours of use at a clip, and the charging case can give two full charges. (It takes 3 hours to fully charge the earbuds.) If the buds are dead, a mere 5 minutes of charging will give you an hour of playback time. The one quirk to all this is that the charger — which (ugh) uses microUSB — doesn’t like charging from anything over 1 Amp, and that means basically any modern phone charger. (For instance, it won’t charge from my car charger.) Jaybird recommends something more low-power, like from a computer. The lights on the front of the charger — there are individual LEDs for each bud — turn red when things are running low.

jaybird-run.gifIn any event, I return the buds to the charging case when I’m done using them, every single time I use them. That’s as much to ensure that I don’t lose them as it is to make sure they’re charged. I’ve had to charge the case every few days. This will all depend on how much you’re using them, of course — this is just how I’ve been doing it.

That’s all fine and dandy. But how do they sound? Not horrible. I mean, they’re small, wireless earbuds. I’m not expecting perfection here — just enough to comfortably get me through a workout. And changing the tips and fins definitely affected the sound for me. It went from extremely compressed to something more-than acceptable from this sort of earbud. They block out a little more outside sound than I’d like, and there’s no option for any sort of “transparency” mode. If you need to hear what’s going on around you, Jaybird recommends just wearing the right (as in not-left) earbud only.

And you can customize the EQ through the Jaybird MySound app, available on Android or on iOS. You also can use custom EQ presets from various athletes and other folks. But I don’t know why you would.

I haven’t had any issues with interference. Jaybird recommends keeping your phone on the right side of your body — the right-side bud does the real work here. But I keep my phone on the left, and I’m too old to change such habits. I also don’t really mess around with the touch controls. You long press to turn the buds on or off (but I just stick ’em back in the case to do that). A single press on the left fires up your phone’s assistant, and a single press on the right is play/pause.

jaybird-run-6.jpg?itok=OIALJNmt

The big deal for me here are the fit, and the sound. And the Jaybird Run earbuds work pretty darn well, and for under $200. (That’s my sort of self-imposed limit for this sort of thing, which I use at least four times a week, but only for an hour or two at a time.) Again, if you get these, you’ll want to take a few minutes to try the other tips and fins to get the best fit. And then mess with the EQ to get the best sound.

But the other big deal for me is that Jaybird sells replacement parts. You can get a spare (or replacement) charger for $69. Or new tips and fins for a mere $9. Or a replacement earbud for $59. That’s some nice insurance for an $180 investment. (If you didn’t bother clicking through, my Zolo Liberty+ experiment came to a crashing halt when someone stole my empty charging case, and I can’t buy a replacement charger without paying the full $150 for new buds.)

Maybe that’s a small thing. But I found out the hard way just how important it can be, and it’s what led me back to Jaybird.

See at Amazon

%d bloggers like this: