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8
Mar

Gear Up: SōLIS intros line of Google Assistant-enabled home audio solutions


Solis product line

One of the increasingly common themes we’ve seen popping up in 2018 is that of connected home devices. Whether it’s a simple Bluetooth speaker or smart home device featuring Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri, the space is exploding. As these devices become more common, a new challenger has entered the arena: SōLIS. In short, the SōLIS speaker line is comprised of very high end audio devices featuring Google Assistant.

There are five models to choose from in its portfolio, each with different budgets and aesthetics in mind. We were lucky enough to get our hands on the product family. Here’s our impressions of each.

Solis Tubes

Before reading on, do note that all of the products in the SōLIS speaker family share these features:

  • Chromecast built-in – choose from millions of songs from popular music services like Spotify, Google Play Music, and Pandora, or catch up on current events with NPR podcasts. New apps are constantly being added so there’s no end to the music, online radio stations, and podcasts you can enjoy
  • Hi-res audio compatible – stream lossless audio from select streaming services that support hi-res audio
  • Multi-room streaming and wireless control from anywhere in your house with Chromecast built-in
  • Auxiliary input jack for connecting your iPod, MP3 or other sources with analog outputs

SO-3000

The first in the product line is the SO-3000. This entry level model features dual band wireless that is 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compliant and supports Bluetooth 2.0. It has an auxiliary 3.5mm input jack for wired connection with included cable in the box.

On the top of the unit are five buttons for power, play/pause, Bluetooth, and volume up/down. The sound on this toaster sized (6.3”H x 11.8”W x 3.7”D) unit is surprisingly powerful. It is powered by two 3″ Hi-Fi long throw, full range stereo speakers. The SO-3000 packs a surprising punch for $199.99.

SO-6000

The SO-6000 shares a lot of similarities to the SO-3000 having the same wireless and wired functionality as well as the top-mounted button controls. It also has the same 3″ full range, Hi-Fi stereo speakers enclosed in a wooden cabinet.

While the the SO-3000 is made to seemingly blend in with its surroundings, the SO-6000 stands out. This looks like something from a hip cat’s den or off the set of Mad Men. The 5.5″x9.5″x7.1″ speaker housing is oval with nice rounded spindle legs supporting. For $269.99, it’s sure to make a statement in anyone’s room design.

SO-7000

Next up, this one really starts to stand out in volume. The wood cabinet with high gloss accent is surprisingly small compared to the images on the box.

 

At 7.9″ square, the SO-7000 is a cubed speaker that looks way more interesting sitting in the office than what we thought it would. We expected a paper shredder-like design based on the image on the outside of the box. The sound of the four 2″ full range drivers and one 5.25″ subwoofer were more than enough to fill our office on about a third of the volume. At $299.99, the sound from this small cube is crystal clear and unobtrusive in the room.

SO-7500

Here is where it get’s serious. From the audiophile to the weekend listener, the next product in the SōLIS line is a quality ramp up.

The SO-7500 is the perfect mix between Bluetooth and high performance audio. It features a Vacuum Tube/Solid State hybrid amplifier powering two 6″ 2-way Hi-Fi bass reflexive stereo speakers. Also for wireless streaming, the device features Bluetooth v4.0 with aptX™ for high fidelity audio. Audiophiles will be pleased with the 2 RCA inputs for attaching any host of audio devices to this compact amplifier system. At $399.99, it’s now definitely much easier and affordable to step up your audio game.

SO-8000

The final voice in this chorus of offerings from SōLIS is the SO-8000. Featuring everything a music lover wants in a complex, high-end system in this relatively compact package.

The classic black gloss cabinet pairs a tube pre-amp with a solid state power stage to achieve the best of both worlds. What you get is clear, crisp highs paired with the warm, natural mids rounded out by deep, precise bass.

Solis Tubes

Also on the cabinet is the Magic Eye VU meter for visualizing amplifier output. The amplifier powers two 7″ 2-way Hi-Fi bass reflexive stereo speakers that fill room easily despite their relative small footprint.

The SO-8000 also features Bluetooth v4.0 with aptX™ for high fidelity audio streaming. As with the previous model you get 2 RCA inputs for attaching your own audio devices to the amplifier. The highest price of the bunch at $529.99 is still a fraction compared to other high-end audio devices for similar audio quality.

Conclusion

We’ve been pleasantly surprised by this SōLIS product line having tested these in our office and in our homes. While the Google Home integration featuring Google Assistant and multi-room play are fairly standard today, the game changer for us is richness and clarity in sound from the high-end build quality. When you add in the design aesthetic we have no doubt the offerings of the SōLIS speaker line can fit any style and budget and without sacrificing quality or features.

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8
Mar

How Echo Connect Lets You Make, Receive Calls Using Alexa


It’s Alexa Calling, though a landline.

Don’t overthink the Amazon Echo Connect. While the name is somewhat confusing given it lives alongside Amazon Alexa and Amazon Echo, the Connect really just another avenue for Alexa Calling. (OK, that’s one more name you need to know, and thus adding to the confusion.)

Here’s the real deal: Alexa Calling is the method by which an Amazon Echo device can make phone calls. It uses the internet to do so but uses your phone number and contacts as identifiers. (Though you can still have it show up as “Unknown” if you want.)

Echo Connect differs in that it ties into a landline instead. It’s a separate piece of hardware (it runs $35) that you’ll plug into an actual phone jack. And from there it’ll dial out and connect you to whomever you want.

You can use the Echo Connect itself as a speaker phone, and it’s completely separate from any other landline phones you have in your home. (That is, you don’t plug the phone into the Connect .)

Or, once it’s set up, you can use any other Echo device to play phone calls through the Connect.

Think of it like this, perhaps: It’s a way to bring smartphone-level contacts to a landline.

Here’s how Amazon puts things:

With Echo Connect and a compatible Echo device, you can ask Alexa to call anyone using your home phone service—all you have to do is ask. Because Echo Connect uses your home phone number, either landline or VoIP, friends and family recognize the call. Answer your home phone on your Echo from across the room, so you can easily talk to anyone hands-free when you’re busy making dinner or away from the phone.

None of that changes the fact that it’s still kind of a niche device. If you’re steeped in this stuff anyway, there’s a good chance you don’t actually have a landline laying around anymore. But some folks do. And for that, there’s Echo Connect.

See at Amazon

8
Mar

Substratum themes no longer work in Android P


Theming days are over.

Shortly after the public launch of Android 8.0 Oreo, it was discovered that there was built-in support for system-wide theming. With the help of the Andromeda desktop client, you could (fairly) easily start changing the look of your notification panel, apps, settings, and much more with a variety of Substratum themes. Unfortunately, this functionality is being neutered in Android P.

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As discovered by XDA Developers, trying to install one of these custom themes in Android P returns an error saying that the package can’t be installed. Android P changes things so that overlays (Substratum themes) can only be applied if they’re installed by the system.

In addition to breaking rootless theming with the Andromeda client, this also affects devices that have root access. Workarounds can be made with a custom ROM, but if you’re running stock Android P that’s rooted, you’ll be faced with the same issue.

Android P introduces a few visual updates compared to Oreo, and while this new aesthetic is nice to have, this is a disappointing change for users that like having more control over the way their phone looks.

I don’t foresee Google reverting its decision here by the time Android P is ready for the public, so be sure to enjoy your theming while you can.

I’m in love: A week with Substratum/Andromeda theming

8
Mar

Want a VPN for life? Get Ivacy for only $30!


We all value our privacy, and when he have so much of our lives online, that privacy and security is paramount. It’s far too often that people are the victims of identity theft, doxing, and worse, so having a quality VPN to protect the anonymity of your online browsing habits is a great idea.

Ivacy VPN is a highly reviewed service that offers person-to-person file sharing at blazing fast speeds, while completely protecting your identity, and right now you can get a lifetime subscription for only $29.99. With a regular retail price of $1,194, you save 94% through Android Central Digital Offers. The other wonderful benefit of a VPN is the ability to stream tens of thousands of movies, TV shows, sports events, and more from around the world. Having a quality VPN can help you completely bypass geo-restrictions, so you can get to the content you want now. You’ll even get a dedicated VPN add-on for Kodi.

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Ivacy VPN lets you connect to more than 450 servers in over 100 locations around the world, and its an official partner of the National Cyber Security Alliance, helping to promote privacy education and awareness. If you’re worried about the state of net neutrality and your internet speeds going forward, Ivacy VPN can help you overcome throttling and port blocking.

No more region-blocking the content you want to see; no more hacking, spyware, or government surveillance; no more worry that your privacy is at stake. Check out Ivacy VPN at Android Central Digital Offers and get a lifetime subscription for only $29.99!

See at Android Central Digital Offers

8
Mar

Will Galaxy S8 cases fit the Galaxy S9?


Unfortunately, no.

The Galaxy S9 and S9+ haven’t changed much from the Galaxy S8 and S8+ that preceded them, with an extremely similar design and materials. That’d lead you to a totally realistic expectation: that a Galaxy S8 case would fit on the Galaxy S9, and a Galaxy S8+ case would fit a Galaxy S9+. Right? Wrong.

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The Galaxy S8 measures in at 148.9 x 68.1 x 8mm. Compare that to the Galaxy S9 at 147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5mm. 1.2mm shorter, 0.6mm wider and 0.5mm thicker. The Galaxy S8+ is 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1mm, and Galaxy S9+ is 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5mm. 1.4 mm shorter, 0.4mm wider and 0.4mm thicker.

Samsung Galaxy S9 vs. Galaxy S8: Should you upgrade?

A Galaxy S8 case could tide you over for a few days, but you should buy a new Galaxy S9 case.

At first glance the size differences are so close that the Galaxy S9 or S9+ will actually “fit” in the old case, and the ports and buttons are all close enough to work with cutouts. But then you’d flip the phones over and notice that on the Galaxy S9+ the second camera was covered. On the Galaxy S9, the fingerprint sensor would be obscured.

Best Galaxy S9 cases

If you have a Galaxy S8 or S8+ and make the upgrade to an S9 or S9+ you could use your case on the new phone for a few days while you wait for a new purpose-made case to arrive for the new phone. But don’t do it for longer than that. An ill-fitting case is just about as bad as not having one at all — it’s not going to provide the protection you need.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+
  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
  • Complete Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs
  • Galaxy S9 vs. iPhone X: Metal and glass sandwiches
  • Galaxy S9 vs. Google Pixel 2: Which should you buy?
  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums

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8
Mar

Relieve your sore muscles with this $32 heated Shiatsu massager


Relax.

The Zyllion Shiatsu Pillow Massager is down to $31.95 on Amazon. This massager normally sells for $40 or higher. This price matches one it has only dropped to twice in more than a year, and it’s one of the lowest prices we’ve ever seen. This deal is part of an Amazon Gold Box deal of the day featuring several massage products, so it won’t last forever.

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Spend most of your day behind a desk or a wheel? Feeling that tension after a long time sitting in place? You should grab an automatic massager like this. It has three dimensional nodes that change direction every minute and an advanced heating function. It works well on the neck, the back, or even your calf or thigh. Handle straps allow you to secure it to your chair. It also has a one-year warranty. Almost 7,000 users give this 4.5 out of 5 stars.

See on Amazon

8
Mar

MrMobile Review: The Galaxy S9 is a clever camera in a classic casing


It’s never easy to quantify the latest flagship smartphone from a company like Samsung … because no matter how disappointing or dazzling it turns out to be, the latest Galaxy will always sell like gangbusters. Part of that is thanks to Samsung’s incredible marketing machine, but for the past few years it’s also been a result of the company churning out some truly impressive smartphones. Smartphones that, in the words of Andrew Martonik over in the full review, “just do everything.”

With the Galaxy S9 (and the model I reviewed, the S9+), Samsung has only added to that everything. Not making the cut for this video: thicker glass front and back, enhanced blood scanning via the heart-rate sensor, slightly reduced bezels top and bottom, and a host of other minor details. Filling their time: a lingering look at the Galaxy S9 camera with its variable physical aperture, and a trip through the warp zone to see how 960fps video can illuminate those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments.

Interested? Check out the review video above, and be sure to subscribe to MrMobile’s YouTube Channel so you don’t miss more Galaxy S9 coverage coming soon!

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8
Mar

Android Go: Everything you need to know


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Android Go lowers the barrier to entry for smartphones in emerging markets.

For a few years now, Google has been saying that its next billion users will come from countries like India. With a projected 500 million users estimated to make their way online for the first time over the next five years, Google sees a lot of potential in catering to this market.

The company even has a Next Billion Users team that designs products and solutions for the Indian market. Helmed by Caesar Sengupta, the unit has rolled out payment services like Tez, a minimalist app that hooks into the government’s UPI interface for seamless bank transfers, a lightweight storage manager in Files Go, free public Wi-Fi at thousands of train stations across the country, and much more.

Its most ambitious bet is Android Go — a lightweight version of Android optimized for entry-level devices. Google has tried its hand at the budget segment previously with the Android One initiative, but Android Go is a reimagination of the budget segment entirely. During a visit to the country last year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that budget phones need to cost in the vicinity of $30 to be viable for the millions of Indians to consider making their first smartphone purchase. The Android Go platform is the realization of those efforts.

Android Go isn’t all that different from the regular Android

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Android Go uses the same foundation as the standard version of Android, but with several stability and performance tweaks thrown in to ensure it works on devices with underpowered hardware. The first version of Android Go is built on Android 8.1 Oreo, and the OS also has data management features integrated at a system-wide level, giving you the ability to closely monitor data usage.

And like all devices certified by Google, Android Go phones will come with Google Play Protect out of the box. The security suite leverages machine learning to look for malicious apps on your phone. It also constantly scans your app installs — even those that haven’t been downloaded from the Play Store — to ensure your device is secure.

The platform comes with its own suite of apps

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As Android Go is designed primarily to run on phones with less than 1GB of RAM, Google has rolled out lightweight versions of its apps tailored for the platform.

Designed from the ground up, Google Go gives you the ability to query the web and find recommendations, delivering a similar experience as the full-fledged Google app for a fraction of the install size.

That’s the same story with Google Assistant Go, which brings Assistant to devices with less than 1GB of RAM for the first time. Assistant Go has been available in India for a few weeks, but it recently launched globally on the Play Store. There are certain things Assistant Go can’t do, such as set reminders and control smart home gadgets, but it does allow you to set alarms, send texts, open apps, ask questions, and a ton of other functions.

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Google Go, Google Maps Go, and YouTube Go.

As for Gboard Go, the lightweight keyboard retains the same feature-set as the standard version — autocorrect, voice typing, multilingual language support, emojis and GIFs — but in a smaller package. The same holds true for Maps Go and Gmail Go as well. Chrome in Android Go will have Data Saver enabled by default.

Files Go is Google’s new storage manager, and it is fantastic. It does a great job of removing old files and cleaning the device cache, and it also comes with a feature that lets you easily send and receive files.

Another entry in this series is YouTube Go. YouTube Go was previously only available as a beta, but it’s since launched in more than 130 countries. You can use the app for watching all your favorite YouTube clips, and Google even lets users download videos for offline use in Basic, Standard, and High quality without the need for a YouTube Red subscription. Better yet, these videos can be shared with other users without any sort of data connection.

The lightweight apps combined with fewer pre-installed apps means you’ll get double the amount of storage on a phone with 8GB of internal storage when seen against the standard version of Android. The Play Store on Android Go devices will highlight lightweight apps that are designed to work best on the platform.

The first wave of Android Go phones are here

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The first wave of Android Go phones made their debut at Mobile World Congress, and we now have a better idea of what Google is trying to achieve with the initiative. The highlight of the pack is HMD Global’s Nokia 1, which is set to go on sale next month for $85.

The Nokia 1 comes with a 4.5-inch FWVGA IPS display (854×480), and is powered by MediaTek’s MT6737M chipset with four Cortex A53 cores clocked at 1.1GHz. There’s 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage on offer, along with a microSD card that can extend storage up to 128GB, dual SIM card slot, a 5MP camera, 2MP camera at the front, and a 2150mAh removable battery.

The hardware is modest to say the least, but HMD Global is flexing its brand cachet and design prowess to differentiate the Nokia 1 from the rest of the devices in this category. For what it’s worth, the Nokia 1 features bright polycarbonate designs at the back, and the removable nature of the battery means you’ll be able to switch out the shells, à la earlier Lumias.

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Then there’s the Alcatel 1X, which offers a 5.3-inch 18:9 panel with a resolution of 960×480, 1GB or 2GB of RAM, 16GB internal storage, microSD slot up to 32GB, 13MP or 8MP camera based on the variant, 5MP front shooter, MediaTek MT6739 with 1.3GHz quad-core Cortex A53 cores, and a 2460mAh battery.

There’s also a fingerprint sensor at the back, and the phone comes with a soft plastic finish that resembles suede. The Alcatel 1X will retail for €99 ($122), or €109 ($135) for the dual-SIM model.

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ZTE’s offering in this segment is the Tempo Go, which is powered by the Snapdragon 210 platform. The device features four Cortex A7 cores clocked at 1.1GHz, and comes with 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, microSD slot up to 32GB, 5MP camera at the back, 2MP front shooter, and a 2200mAh battery.

The most notable thing about ZTE’s Android Go phone is that you’ll be able to pick one up in the U.S. once it goes on sale.

See at ZTE

We’ll likely see more region-specific models make their debut once the first wave of devices go on sale early April. India’s Micromax and Lava are set to roll out their devices — Bharat Go and Lava Z50 — as well, and it’ll be interesting to see what they bring to the table.

With Android Go phones tailored at the entry-level segment, the hardware itself isn’t particularly alluring. That said, Google is aiming to show that it’s possible to deliver a decent user experience on sub-$100 devices. By optimizing the software to run effectively on low-powered hardware and introducing lightweight versions of popular apps, Google is finally on track to provide a cost-effective solution for those looking to make the switch from feature phones.

Your thoughts?

What do you think of Android Go? Let us know in the comments!

Android Oreo

  • Android Oreo review!
  • Everything new in Android Oreo
  • How to get Android Oreo on your Pixel or Nexus
  • Oreo will make you love notifications again
  • Will my phone get Android Oreo?
  • Join the Discussion

8
Mar

It’s time to upgrade to a gaming chair with Amazon’s big one-day sale


Grab one of more than a dozen gaming chairs on sale today.

The Essentials by OFM racing-style leather gaming chair is down to $101.43 on Amazon. It normally sells for $136 and has never dropped from that price. All four available colors are down to a low price, although the Red version isn’t quite as low as the rest. These are all part of Amazon’s Gold Box deals of the day today, which features several different models on sale.

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The ESS-6066 is a fairly new chair. It’s very similar to a gaming chair deal we shared a few days ago on the ESS-6065, but that model is now selling around $130 or higher everywhere.

Here are some of the other models on sale including a more traditional-looking office chair:

  • Swivel Mid Back Mesh Task Chair – $37.50 (from $50)
  • ESS-3085 racing-style gaming chair – $59.20 (from $95)
  • Respawn 104 Gaming Chair – $127.49 (from $170)

OFM backs all these chairs with a limited lifetime warranty.

See the full sale on Amazon

8
Mar

What you need to know about buying a screen protector for the Galaxy S9


Curved glass is beautiful, but it makes shopping for screen protectors a little more complicated.

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The Galaxy S9 is looking to be an incredible new phone that, while not a huge redesign over the Galaxy S8, moves in the right direction with a number of small improvements. Namely, the fingerprint sensor has been moved to a reasonable location, and the camera has seen a substantial upgrade — the S9+ even gained an additional camera. Needless to say, Samsung is off to a good start for the year.

So you’ve already pre-ordered a Galaxy S9, and now you’re probably looking at some accessories to protect it. Maybe a case, and definitely a screen protector for that gorgeous curved glass, right? Before you place that order, there are a few things you might want to consider.

Ever since Samsung introduced curved glass displays starting with the Galaxy Note Edge, they’ve been one of the company’s mainstays with almost every new flagship. While at first it seemed to be more of an engineering marvel than an effort towards better ergonomics, things changed once Samsung started curving both the front and back glass with the Galaxy Note 7 — curves fit better into a hand than flat edges, after all, and Galaxy phones were becoming increasingly comfortable to hold.

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This new design did introduce a new problem, though … curved glass is fragile, and it’s hard to protect. In the past, you could just slap a screen protector onto your new device and be done, but things aren’t always that simple anymore.

If you’re like me, it’s glass or nothing when it comes to screen protectors. After all, the display itself is smooth glass, so why should it have to feel like anything else? The trouble with these curved displays is that they’re hard for glass screen protectors to adhere to; to avoid leaving a halo effect on the display, most accessory makers only put adhesive along the outer edges of the protector, which just isn’t enough to keep everything together.

Ultimately, the only glass screen protector that we’ve found actually works on curved glass has been Zagg’s InvisibleShield Glass Curve Elite. The name is a mouthful, but Zagg took an alternative approach by using a gel-based adhesive, and as it turns out, it actually works. This protector isn’t cheap at $49.99, but in the long run that’s a relatively small price to pay in exchange for giving your $720+ phone the protection and tactility it deserves.

See at Zagg

Now, if you’re not as particular about your screen protector and you don’t mind good old-fashioned plastic, there’s good news: nothing should be different for you. Plastic is obviously far more flexible than glass, and has no problems curving with your display to adhere properly, meaning your options are still wide open with the Galaxy S9.

Ultimately, a sceen protector is optional, especially with the Galaxy S9 being backed by Gorilla Glass 5. I rarely ever use screen protectors on my phones, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a scratch on the display. That doesn’t mean glass is impervious to scratches, of course, and that’s not all screen protectors are good for. A lot of them, particularly the ones made of glass, offer a fair amount of shock absorption too, meaning they could save the life of your display in the event of a drop.

Do you use a screen protector? And are you planning on getting one for the Galaxy S9? Let us know in the comments!

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