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21
Mar

Sony’s new line of wireless earphones are athletic and affordable


Playing off the success of its WF-1000x wireless earphones, Sony is expanding its lineup of Bluetooth buds in its new WF (wireless freedom) line, which is aimed at athletes and anyone else with an active lifestyle.

The WF-SP700N, which come in at $180, feature Sony’s proprietary noise-canceling tech, which we have found to be very effective. This totally wireless earbud with IPX4 splash-proofing can get a little wet with no ill effect. The truly wireless earbuds also support Google Assistant, among a litany of other features designed to make them your new best friend during workouts and other outdoor adventures.

Getting a secure fit was a key design point, Sony told us — you don’t want headphones falling out or flailing about while you get your sweat on. To achieve this, Sony redesigned the earbuds’ silicone arch, or “wings,” if you will, by retooling them to feel more natural and provide a killer fit while attaining the excellent seal necessary for great sound quality.

The new Sony WF-SP700N are meant to have a slight down-angle when worn — these aren’t meant to be perfectly horizontal. Extra bass is also a feature here, so there’s going to be some added punch. This will come as welcome news for those who have found their active headphones lacking in bass.

While the Sony WF-SP700N are noise-canceling, they also have an ambient sound mode. Letting some sound in is critical for safety during workouts outdoors where oncoming traffic is a chief concern. The ambient sound mode is designed to let in either noises or voices, allowing the user to carry on a conversation without removing their buds. App control enhances onboard buttons for noise-canceling control while also providing custom EQ adjustments and other features.

The in-ear headphones’ case acts as the charging unit. The WF-SP700N offer three hours of battery life, and before you poo-poo that low number, consider they are providing noise canceling, which is a power-intensive technology. The charging case will give users three more hours of listening time with 1.5- hours of charging, and they can do that twice for a total of 9 hours of use in the field, with breaks for charging.  This makes the earphones suitable for moderate workouts, runs, and bike rides, but don’t plan on using these for a triathlon.

The WF-SP600N, at $150, is virtually the same headphone but with a wire connecting each earbud and an inline control microphone. Since it can store a bigger battery, this set offers six hours of listening per charge.

The WF-SP500N, at $80, does not offer noise canceling and fits more like an EarPod, so there isn’t much noise isolation either, but you get eight hours per full charge, and they are extremely affordable, especially considering their premium sound quality.

The 1000X Series is also getting updated to support Google Assistant, and will be carried over into 2018 as Sony’s premier true wireless earbud.

The new line is expected to be available in late April or early May.


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21
Mar

EyeQue Insight lets you test your vision at home with your smartphone


Originally starting out as a Kickstarter campaign, the EyeQue Insight visual acuity screener is now available for purchase. With the device, you can test your vision whether you’re at home, in school, or on the go.

In 2016, the company released the EyeQue Personal Vision Tracker, which also allows users to test their eyesight with an app and a tool. Rather than goggles, the Personal Vision Tracker consists of a small microscope that you attach to your smartphone.

Due to the global rise in myopia, the company felt it was important to make a device like the EyeQue Insight available to the public. By having access to it at home, parents are able to check their child’s eyesight on a more frequent basis.

“What’s happening is that people, especially kids, are spending a lot of time with their smartphones and it’s close-up. They’re also indoors, so when you have all those things together it’s actually making people more nearsighted,” EyeQue co-founder and Chief Technical Officer John Serri told Digital Trends.

By consulting with different eye doctors, Serri was motivated to find a convenient way for parents to test the visual acuity of their children. With the EyeQue Insight, parents can potentially detect the onset of Myopia from the comfort of their homes.

The device doesn’t tell you exactly what your prescription is, but gives you an estimate of how clearly you can see at 20 feet. Depending on your results, you can then decide whether or not you need to visit an optometrist for further testing. It’s especially useful for those who wear glasses or contacts and want to see if it’s time to update their lenses.

The 20/20 test only takes about a few minutes and requires little setup. You have to download the myEyeQueVA app — which is available for both iOS and Android — and create an account. You can choose between an adult test or kid’s test, and then specify whether or not you’re taking it while wearing glasses and contacts.

You then have to set your pupil distance measurement on the EyeQue Insight. The app will provide you with a way to accurately measure the distance, which you will then adjust on the dial on the bottom of the device. The last step is to attach your smartphone to the device, which stays on with micro-suction tape built into the base of the device. EyeQue provides an elastic band to securely fasten your phone as well.

Once the test begins, all you have to do is swipe whichever way the “E” is going on the bottom of the app. For example, if it’s facing the correct way, you swipe to the right and if it’s facing upside down, then you swipe down. It tests the right eye first, then the left, and both your eyes last — you can then save or discard the results. Your results are saved under your account in order to keep track over time or to share with a doctor.

For children, the test is a bit more fun and interactive. As they swipe through the letters, they see an animated character pop up to coach them through and keep them motivated. Once it’s complete, they also receive a sticker they can add to their collection within the app. To be honest, we thought it was even more fun than the adult version.

We tested out the device while wearing glasses and found we were seeing 20/20, which made sense since we had no trouble with them otherwise. We also felt the entire process was extremely easy and painless, requiring barely any time. While it’s important to go to the eye doctor once a year, we sometimes have trouble finding the time — a device like the EyeQue Insight can help us decide whether or not our lenses are extremely off.

But the device is extremely useful for adults who undergo Lasik eye surgery as well. While they have 20/20 vision after the surgery, some people can experience degradation if it doesn’t heal properly.

“If you can have the patient at home, working with the doctor and seeing if their vision is changing, it’s very effective and will save them from having to go to the eye doctor every week … this could eliminate the burden of having to schedule and taking exams,” Serri said.

The EyeQue will cost you $130 and can be purchased through the company’s website along with Amazon or Indiegogo. It comes with a one-year subscription to the myEyeQueVA app and any additional user is $5 annually.

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21
Mar

The best portable chargers for quickly juicing your device


We’ve all suffered the sudden, all-encompassing horror of a dead phone. The accusing looks and hushed criticism of family and friends. That blank screen on the commute home that leaves you at the mercy of your chatty fellow traveler. The sudden loss of Google Maps as you turn into an unfamiliar neighborhood. The sinking feeling as you realize your phone alarm didn’t go off because you forgot to plug it in last night. Why, oh why must our smartphones die?

We feel your pain, and that’s why we’ve been checking out some of the best portable chargers on the market. Until there’s a real breakthrough in battery technology, a portable charger might be the best solution. We’ve got something here for you, whatever your needs may be, from a bucketload of power for a camping trip to a pocket-friendly solution for your daily commute. These are 21 of the best portable chargers that money can buy. If you’re looking for charging cables, be sure to check out our picks for the best lightning cables and USB Type-C cables.

Anker PowerCore II 20,000

  • Capacity: 20,000mAh
  • Outputs: 2 ports (18W and 12W)
  • Weight: 369g (13oz)
  • Price: $50
  • Time to fully charge: Around 5 hours

We’re big fans of Anker’s understated and practical designs. The PowerCore II packs in a huge 20,000mAh capacity without being ridiculously big, though it is something you’ll want to sling in a bag rather than your pocket. It features two USB outputs. PowerIQ 2.0 can put out up to 18W, which breaks down to 3A at 5V, 2A at 9V, and 1.5A at 12V. PowerIQ 1.0 can put out 12W up to 2.4A at 5V. Regardless of your device, you should be able to get decent charging speeds from this portable battery. The only thing it lacks is a USB-C port.

Compared to previous Anker offerings, there are a couple of new features here. The power button is now round and it houses a ring of white LEDs, which are designed show you how much power remains. There’s also a textured surface on the outside, so it’s less likely to slip out of your hand or slide away from the back of your phone while you’re charging your device.

This battery’s robust capacity should also provide you with more than enough power to fully charge a Galaxy S9 four times, and it will charge an iPhone 8 more than six times. It’s also quick to charge, at just five hours, provided you have a decent wall charger (not included). All in all, this portable battery charger represents great value for the money.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Flux Portable Charger

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

  • Capacity: 4,000mAh
  • Output: 2 built-in cables (1A and 2.1A)
  • Weight: 92g (3.2oz)
  • Price: $26
  • Time to fully charge: 3 to 4 hours

This is one of the slimmest portable chargers we’ve ever come across. If you’re really looking for something pocket-sized, the Flux Charger is worth more than just a glance. It’s a mere 7.8-millimeters thick and measures 108 x 62.8 millimeters. It’s also incredibly light, but holds enough power to fully recharge your phone at least once, possibly twice. It’s finished with a durable black or white aluminum, and features two built-in cables, a Micro USB cable, and a MFi-certified Lightning cable. There’s also a Micro-USB port for charging, which comes with a short Micro USB to USB cable.

Tap the small button on the side, and the four tiny LEDs light up to show remaining power. It doesn’t support fast charging, though, and we found that it took a couple of hours to charge the large battery in the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Fortunately, it should fully charge an iPhone in around an hour. The input for charging it is 1.5A, so it takes a while to fully charge, but it does support pass-through charging, so you can plug it into the wall and your phone at the same time. If you like the design, but you need more power then check out the 10,000mAh Flux Charger Plus for $52.

Buy one now from:

Amazon Flux

EasyAcc MegaCharge D20

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

  • Capacity: 20,000mAh
  • Outputs: 4 ports (3A each)
  • Weight: 370g (13oz)
  • Price: $50
  • Time to fully charge: Around 4 hours

This chunky battery pack in black plastic has a distinctive orange stripe around it. We’re not in love with the look, but it contains a whopping 20,000mAh of power and an unusual array of input and output ports. The green USB port supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 or 3.0, and also Huawei’s fast charging standard, FCP. There are two black USB ports capable of up to 3A and there’s also a USB-C port that can deliver the same. Move round to the side and you’ll find a Micro USB port and another USB-C port for charging the battery up. Interestingly these inputs can be plugged in simultaneously to enable you to charge the battery up faster — bringing charging time down to around four hours, which is pretty impressive for this capacity.

You’ll find the standard four LED array on the top to show you remaining power in 25 percent chunks. There’s a power button on the side and you can double press it to fire up the LED flashlight, which is a handy extra that makes this a good choice for camping. EasyAcc includes a short, 24-inch USB to USB-C cable and a USB-to-Micro USB cable that’s the same length in the box. It does support pass-through charging, so you can plug it in to charge and plug your phone into it to charge at the same time.

We think you can expect at least four full charges for the majority of smartphones out there and probably more than that for phones with smaller batteries, like the iPhone 8. Weighing up the complete package we think this is good value for money and worth considering if you need a lot of power and want to be able recharge it in a hurry.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Tronsmart Presto Power Bank

  • Capacity: 10,000mAh
  • Outputs: 2 ports (3A/18W and 2.4A/15W)
  • Weight: 210g (7.4oz)
  • Price: $23
  • Time to fully charge: Around 4 hours

This compact portable charger is slim and light, but packs a big capacity of 10,000mAh. It has two USB ports for charging up your devices. The green one can put out 18W and supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 standard, as well as Huawei’s FCP, so it can juice up certain phones very quickly. You can expect two or three charges from this battery for most smartphones.

The design is an unobtrusive black and the outer shell is finished in soft-touch plastic, so it’s comfortable to handle. There’s a button on the side to turn it on, and you’ll find a typical four LED battery level indicator on the top. It can be charged up via the MicroUSB port and should juice up quickly, provided you use a decent cable and wall charger with it.

It comes with a USB-A to MicroUSB cable in the box and a travel pouch. Tronsmart also offers an 18-month warranty.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Belkin Pocket Power Charger

  • Capacity: 5,000mAh
  • Outputs: 1 port (2.4A)
  • Weight: 131g (4.6oz)
  • Price: $25-plus
  • Time to fully charge: Around 5 hours

Here’s a fairly small, lightweight option from Belkin that will charge up an iPhone around one-and-a-half times, and should provide at least one full charge for most other smartphones. There’s a single USB port that puts out up to 2.4A, and a MicroUSB port for charging it up that’s rated at 2A.

It’s durable, with a plastic casing that comes in your choice of pink, black, or silver. It’s small enough to slip into a pocket or handbag. There’s a power button on the side with four LEDs that light up green to show remaining power in 25 percent chunks. You get a 6-inch MicroUSB to USB cable in the box with it.

If you need more capacity, then Belkin does offer 10,000mAh ($40) and 15,000mAh ($50) models that sport two USB ports for charging. Belkin offers a special $2,500 Connected Equipment Warranty that guarantees a repair or replacement if your device is damaged by an electrical charge while properly connected to the charger.

Buy one now from:

Amazon Belkin

iQunix MiniPower Portable Charger

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

  • Capacity: 3,350mAh
  • Outputs: 1 port (1.5A)
  • Weight: 79g (2.8oz)
  • Price: $13
  • Time to fully charge: 3 to 4 hours

Possibly the most portable pick of the bunch, the MiniPower from iQuinix is ideal for slipping into your handbag and forgetting about until you need it. Finished in brushed aluminum that comes in your choice of black, gray, red, pink, or white, this diminutive charger packs a decent 3,350mAh capacity. There’s only one port, which can put out up to 1.5A, so there’s no fast charging here.

It comes with a felt pouch and a short, nylon-braided, USB-to-Micro USB cable. It is quite slow to charge phones and to charge up itself with that 1.5A limit, but it is also reasonably priced, durable, and very small. When you plug it in to charge a single LED will show red if it needs to be charged further or go green when fully charged, but that’s your only indication of remaining power. It will fully charge an iPhone, but for a lot of phones with bigger batteries, you’re just looking at a top-off.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

BlitzWolf Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 Power Bank

  • Capacity: 5,200mAh
  • Outputs: 1 port (18W QC 3.0)
  • Weight: 156.3g (5.51oz)
  • Price: $15
  • Time to fully charge: 3 to 4 hours

This power bank offers quality and a range of features at an attractive price point. It’s a chunky device that measures just under an inch thick, 4 inches long, and just under 2 inches across, so it will fit neatly in your pocket or bag.

It’s extremely simple to use, too. There’s a power button that brings the four LEDs to life, giving you a rough indication of the remaining power. There’s a single USB output and a Micro USB input for charging. The output supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 technology, which is fast and rare in a charger of this size.

The output is also smart enough to determine what you’ve plugged in, so it can cover everything in a 3.6V to 12V range. You also get a Micro USB charging cable in the box. You can expect around three charges for something like the iPhone 8 or a charge and a half for the Galaxy S9. There are also 9,000mAh ($30) and 15,600mAh ($40) versions of this charger.

Buy one now from:

Amazon Bang Good


21
Mar

Smart doorbells are way less invasive than smart cameras in the home


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They can’t help once intruders are inside, but they can still see them entering, along with delivery drivers and friends.

The Nest Hello is officially up for grabs, and as someone who never managed to get their hands on any of the Ring Doorbells, I totally want one. I already have a Nest Cam IQ sitting on a bookshelf in my living room, and I love the way Nest products can interact with Google Assistant.

See at Amazon

But the biggest reason I want a smart doorbell — regardless of brand — is because, as the title of this article says, they’re significantly less invasive to the user than a camera watching their every move.

Cameras like the Nest Cam IQ do a great job of catching intruders once they’re inside, but there’s a level of privacy sacrificed.

My Nest Cam IQ is positioned with a perfect viewpoint of both my living room and my front door, meaning that if anyone tries to break in, I’ll be able to see their face as soon as they open the door and follow along with what they’re doing. Of course, I can also use my camera as an intercom through the app, and warn them that they’re being watched so they (hopefully) leave without taking anything.

I can even set dead zones in the camera’s field of view so that if it detects motion from, say, my TV or the tree behind my kitchen casting shadows into the living room, it won’t send me false notifications. That’s all great (at least in theory; I still get false notifications all the time), but it’s also a little creepy to have a camera always watching, even if it’s one you set up and control.

Sure, you can set your camera to automatically turn on when you leave and back off when you come home, but that doesn’t always work perfectly in my experience, especially if you have more than one resident with this feature set up on their phone. I’m not particularly worried about anyone hacking into my Nest Cam, and even if they did, they’d mostly just see hours of footage of my fiancée and I working on our laptops or playing Spelunky on the Xbox, but it’s just nice to have a certain level of privacy in your home.

ring-update-1-4ncg.jpg?itok=7VGmVutg

That’s where smart doorbells come in. At the root level, they serve the same purpose as smart cameras in the home: notifying the owner of unwanted intrusions and capturing footage. But the biggest difference is that these doorbells obviously sit outside of your front door — leaving you to yourself inside.

I love the idea of smart doorbells. Just like with smart cameras, you’ll be notified of any unusual activity, and with the Nest Hello you can even set up a Google Home to alert you when someone’s at the door. This can be great when you’re out at work and expecting a package — as soon as the delivery driver comes to your door, you can use your doorbell to tell them to leave the package on your porch.

Smart doorbells and cameras provide different kinds of protection, and you might be better off buying both.

A smart doorbell could also potentially help you cover more entryways, depending on the layout of your living space. The window to my spare bedroom/office is directly to the left of the front door, and at the moment there’s nothing keeping watch on that room (don’t get any ideas now). With a Nest Hello or Ring Doorbell, I could keep watch on both entryways, and even get a decent view of the parking lot ahead.

Of course, smart doorbells aren’t perfect. If you live in an apartment like I do, your landlord might not let you install one — not a problem with smart cameras, which don’t require any installation and simply run off of a power outlet. There’s also the matter of not being able to see intruders once they’re inside. Once again, that comes back to having a smart camera in the house and deciding if a daily perceived lack of privacy is worth potentially catching a home invader.

I think in the end, the best solution is to have both a smart doorbell and a smart camera to cover the most ground and balance out each device’s setbacks. But if I had to choose just one, I think I’d go for the smart doorbell. Break-ins are always a possibility, but I feel safe in my neighborhood, and the practical applications of a doorbell for catching delivery drivers or telling friends to let themselves in seem far more useful to me than a surveillance camera watching my every move.

Do you have any smart home tech? And what would/did you choose between a smart doorbell and a camera? Let us know in the comments below!

See at Nest

21
Mar

OnePlus 6: News, Rumors, Release Date, Specs, and more!


This is everything you need to know about the OnePlus 6!

OnePlus has been on a cycle of releasing two smartphones per year: a major release in the spring, and a minor tweak of that previous phone in the fall. It’s nearly spring 2018, which means it’s nearly time for another OnePlus phone. Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming OnePlus 6!

The design

oneplus-6-back.jpg?itok=1TaeJ107

The OnePlus 5T was the first time the company increased the size of its displays, and it looks like there will be more refinements coming with the OnePlus 6. The 6 will keep the stretched out design, but will add a notch up top, similar to… some other phones you may have seen. In addition to a high-quality display, OnePlus is also expected to move to a glass back, hopefully including Qi wireless charging in the process.

According to the image, the fingerprint reader will still be mounted on the rear of the phone, though earlier rumors suggested there would be an in-display fingerprint sensor. The dual cameras are still present, though this time in the center instead of the upper left. Of course, this is a leaked image and should be taken with a grain of salt until the official announcement is made.

More: OnePlus 6 supposedly leaks with iPhone X notch and glass back

Specifications

oneplus-6-benchmarks-2.jpg?itok=xQLtuQqR

Of course, a phone isn’t just a pretty external design. The internal hardware needs to be up to snuff to push pixels and take all of our lovely Instagram photos. Fortunately, it seems the OnePlus 6 will be up to the task. Early benchmarks suggest the phone will ship with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845, the same chip that will likely be found in every other flagship device this year. Benchmarks have been gamed in the past — so take this all with the same grain of salt as before — but it’s a safe bet for OnePlus to include all the latest internal hardware with the OnePlus 6, just like they’ve done in previous generations.

A new image recently popped up revealing numerous specs for the OnePlus 6, and while we can’t confirm any of the information presented, it does allow us to build the following spec sheet:

Operating System Android 8.1 with Oxygen OS
Display 6.2-inch OLED with notch 2160x 1080 resolution, 18:9 aspect ratio
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Camera 12MP + 20MP rear combo
RAM 8GB
Storage As much as 256 GB
Battery 3300mAhNon-removableDash charging (assumed)
Rear cameras Dual cameras
Water resistance No
Colors Black

More: Exclusive: OnePlus 6 has 19:9 notched display, Snapdragon 845, top benchmarks

The software

oneplus-5t-vs-oneplus-5-screens.jpg?itok

We haven’t seen any leaks for specific software features coming with the OnePlus 6, but it’s safe to expect the same vanilla Android style that OnePlus has used since 2014. OxygenOS is a known quantity at this point, featuring a few key improvements over what ships in Google’s Pixel line. There will surely be an Open Beta for users who like to live on the bleeding edge and try new features at the cost of stability. Expect a true dark theme, expect gesture controls and a few other little niceties that add up to a great software experience.

Price and availability

This is still up in the air at this point, but we can make an educated guess based on OnePlus’ previous devices. The OnePlus 5 retailed for $479, while the OnePlus 5T goes for a cool $499. It’d be nice if the OnePlus 6 kept that same price, but another small price increase isn’t out of the question.

That same leaked image mentioned above suggests that the OnePlus 6 will cost as much as $749, but it’s unclear what currency this is representing. The same post compares the OnePlus 6 against the iPhone X and Galaxy S9+ with $1517 and $1200 price tags, respectively, so either way, we can probably expect OnePlus’s next flagship to cost a good deal less compared to most other OEMs.

As for availability, the OnePlus 3 was released in June of 2016, and the OnePlus 5 in June of 2017. Some early reports suggest we may see an earlier release this year, but June is a safe bet.

Stay tuned for more!

This is what we know — and a bit of what we’re guessing — about the OnePlus 6 for now. We’re expecting an earlier than normal release this year, so stay tuned for more coverage!

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

Updated 3/21/18 – Added new specs and pricing info.

21
Mar

Let these $10 Spigen Bluetooth headphones be your impulse buy of the day


Buy now, celebrate later.

spigen-bt-18uv.jpg?itok=GnCu8HyO

We’ve featured plenty of deals on affordable Bluetooth headphones, but most of the time they are from smaller brands. Right now, you can pick up a set of Spigen Bluetooth headphones for just $9.99, which is the absolute lowest price we’ve seen them hit. These headphones have been selling for $21.99 recently, and in the past have sold for as much as $26.99.

This price drop is only available for the black version of these Bluetooth 4.1 headphones. They are compact, lightweight and deliver high-quality audio. You can use them in the gym, while hiking, biking, and much more. Each charge will give you 4.5 hours of playback and 175 hours of standby, making them perfect to keep in your bag, at your desk, or anywhere else.

Whether you already have a good pair of Bluetooth headphones and need a backup pair, or you finally want to see what all the hype is about, you won’t want to miss out on this deal.

See at Amazon

21
Mar

How to customize the Galaxy S9’s Always On Display


Make the most of that beautiful AMOLED display.

Samsung was one of the first on the scene with an “always-on” display, leveraging its use of AMOLED displays to show you information when your screen is “off” while also preserving battery life. The Always On Display has picked up plenty of customization and configuration options over the generations, and now on the Galaxy S9 it’s worth looking at the settings to see how you can customize the look, and function, of yours.

To get started, go to your phone’s Settings, then Lock screen and security and scroll down to the subsection of Lock screen and Always On Display. This is where you’ll see four different actions. We’re going to break down all the ones that are important.

galaxy-s9-always-on-display-world-clock.

Always On Display

Tapping the “Always On Display” section, you get three separate options: Content to show, Auto brightness and Set schedule.

Content to show

“Home button and clock” is the default layout, which gives you a big clock widget (more on customizing this, below) and a virtual home button you can press to wake the phone from sleep. If you don’t find yourself hitting the home button to wake the screen, or you find yourself often hitting it on accident when picking up the phone, you can turn it off by going to the “Clock or information” option. To save battery life and simplify things totally, you can switch to just “Home button.”

Auto brightness

The whole idea of the Always On Display is that it’s subtle and not bothersome. Leaving it on Auto brightness will accomplish this goal, letting the phone measure ambient brightness levels and adjust the brightness of the Always On Display to strike a balance between readability and subtlety.

If you want to turn it off and set things manually, it’s probably because you want to keep it at a very low setting all the time for maximum subtlety. You can choose between four different brightness levels, and you can check how it works in the real world by letting Always On Display come on, then double-tapping the clock to get an adjustment slider.

Set schedule

This is primarily a battery-saving feature, letting you configure Always On Display to only come on when you feel you “need” it during the time of day when you’re probably out of the house and regularly have your phone right in front of you in standby. For example, you may not want to have Always On Display on until about 9:00 a.m., and then you’re happy to have it turned off by 9:00 p.m. when that information isn’t too critical. By keeping it off for the first couple and last couple hours of your day, you can save some battery life.

Clock and FaceWidgets

Backing out to the main lock screen settings, you can tap into “Clock and FaceWidgets” to configure the look of the Always On Display clock(s).

Clock style

You get over a dozen different clock styles to show on your Always On Display, and you can even download more from the Samsung Themes store. Scroll through and tap on one to see how it looks in full size. Some, like the multi-time zone clock, let you tap to customize them. Once you pick one, you can then tap “Color” down at the bottom to change the background color from white. There are several solid colors, then some soft rainbow-like options. Again, the changes show up live above.

Roaming clock

This is pretty simple. You can set your “Home” time zone, and then whenever you’re in a different time zone, your Always On Display will show both the local time and what time it is back at home. By default, the phone will set your “Home” time zone to wherever you are when you start up the phone for the first time.

FaceWidgets

These “FaceWidgets” are the big information-rich panels you find at the top of your lock screen and also your Always On Display if you enable them. You can have a music controller (for all media, actually), a schedule calendar, and an alarm information readout. They’re all moderately useful, and can give you little pieces of information on what’s going on with your phone without having to turn the screen on.

With FaceWidgets enabled for your Always On Display, you interact with them by first double-tapping on the clock, then swiping left or right to move through them one at a time. Any further interaction, beyond using play/pause on the music widget, will require the whole screen to turn on and show you more.

Contact information

Samsung envisions this setting as letting you provide contact information for someone if your phone is lost and has a lock screen so that it can’t be unlocked to be returned to you. You can put an alternate phone number or email address on there, and someone could contact you to get your phone back.

In reality, this is just a text field you can make say anything you want. If you just want it to say “Andrew’s Galaxy S9” you can do that and it’ll display permanently on your Always On Display.

Notifications

The only part of this settings are that pertains to the Always On Display is at the very bottom, with “Where to show.” Here you’ll be able to turn off notification icons on the Always On Display, if you want that screen to simply show the clock and/or FaceWidgets, and never show what notifications have recently piled up. Most people will want to leave this on its default state, which makes the Always On Display even more useful for getting information at a glance.

Now you have the power to take that Always On Display and make it your own! Go experiment with the settings and find the best combination for your phone.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Galaxy S9 review: A great phone for the masses
  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
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21
Mar

Hublot is launching a Wear OS smartwatch that costs $5,200


Meet the Big Bang Referee 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.

Although the Android Wear name might be dead, Google’s Wear OS smartwatch platform is still chugging along mostly as a result of fashion and luxury brands like Kate Spade, Tag Heuer, and others. Hublot is the latest such company to jump into the Wear OS game, and it’s doing so with a smartwatch that costs a whopping $5,200.

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Hublot is a Swiss watchmaker that’s been in business since 1980, and its parent company is LVMH — the same company that owns Tag Heuer. Hublot will only be making 2,018 units of its smartwatch, and should you be one of the lucky few to obtain one, you’ll get a watch with a titanium body, six H-shaped screws along the bezel, and a real Kevlar insert. All of this is packed into a 49mm body, and as the name of the watch suggests, it’s launching as part of a promotion with this year’s World Cup.

All referees during the 2018 World Cup will be given Big Bang Referee 2018 World Cup Russia watches to wear, with Hublot noting that —

The referees’ watches will be connected to goal-line technology, an electronic video assistance system for refereeing which follows all the trajectories of the ball and determines for certain if the ball did or did not entirely cross the goal line.

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Along with this, the watch will also notify wearers of any matches 15 minutes before kickoff, whenever goals are made, player changes, and red/yellow cards. During a match, a special watch face will show the current score, the number of cards/goals, player substitutions, and the match time.

You’ll be able to purchase the Big Bang Referee 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia starting May 1, 2018 from Hublot shops, but considering its $5,200 price tag, I imagine this is something that only die-hard FIFA fans and watch-collectors will be genuinely interested in.

While we’re on the subject, what’s the most you’d ever spend for a smartwatch?

Android Wear needs way more than just a Wear OS rebrand

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  • These watches will get Android Wear 2.0
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21
Mar

Best Google Pixel 2 XL Cases


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What are the best cases for the Google Pixel 2 XL?

The Google Pixel 2 XL is a beautifully designed phone — especially if you snagged the panda/Stormtrooper Black and White edition. But as much as you’ll want to show it off, you’re also going to want to protect a phone that cost you close to $1000.

We’ve rounded up the best case options specifically for the Pixel 2 XL.

  • Google Live Cases
  • Google Fabric Cases
  • Incipio Esquire Series
  • Spigen Tough Armor
  • Spigen Thin Fit
  • Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro
  • Ringke Fusion
  • Caseology Vault Series
  • i-Blason Ares
  • Vena vCommute wallet case

Google Live Cases

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Just like the smaller Pixel 2, Google offers its customizable Google Live Cases for the Pixel 2 XL with a personal photo or a wide range of styles curated by Google.

Maybe you’ll decide on a gorgeous satellite photo from Google Earth which also pairs with a matching live wallpaper for a cohesive look around your device. Looking to add a bit more of an artistic flair to your case? Check out the Artworks Live Case and find something that matches your style.

Google has curated a great selection of cases that feature artwork, photos from space, and naturally beautiful images that are really quite stunning. Prices start around $50 depending on whether you choose a minimalist shell or a more rugged dual-layer case. Create and customize your own case via the Google Store.

See at Google Store

Google Fabric Cases

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If you prefer your phone case to have some texture for grip, you’re probably going to love the Google Fabric Case. It features the same fabric finish look found on other recent Google products such as the Google Home Mini.

Designed in-house by Google, you can be sure of the build quality and fit for your Pixel 2 XL. These cases offer a premium microfiber liner to ensure your device stays scuff-free and your choice of four color combinations for $40.

See at Google Store

Incipio Esquire Series

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Like the concept of the Google Fabric Case but don’t like the idea of spending $50 for it? You’ll definitely want to check out the Incipio Esquire series case.

This case is made of an impact-resistant TPU frame that will keep your phone protected, but the real eye-catching feature here is the ultra-soft fabric finish on the exterior of the case. There is a nice-sized cutout around the fingerprint sensor and camera on the back but it’s otherwise a very sleek and minimalist design.

You can get yours straight from Incipio or from Amazon for roughly $18.

See at Amazon

Spigen Tough Armor case

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Spigen has a very solid lineup of cases for the Pixel 2 XL, but one of the more rugged and functional cases they sell is the Tough Armor style. The combination of a flexible TPU sleeve and a rugged outer shell provides great dual-layer protection for your phone, with Spigen’s air cushion technology offering support in the corners. Despite its rugged design, the Tough Armor case is still mightly slim adding just 2.5 mm of thickness.

Another great feature is the pop-out kickstand built into the shell. There are so many handy reasons to have your phone propped up, and having this feature built right into the case means you don’t need to add a pop socket or style ring. For all its durability and functionality, the Tough Armor case is just $17 on Amazon.

See at Amazon

Spigen Thin Fit

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It can be an issue finding a case for larger phones like the Google Pixel 2 XL that doesn’t add too much bulk to your phone. The Spigen Thin Fit case is about as minimalist as phone cases get.

Available in black, this case will match the look of the Pixel 2 XL and features precise cutouts around the fingerprint scanner and camera on the back. It’s thin enough to keep the Active Edge compatibility fully intact and yet still features Spigen’s Air Cushion technology in the corners for added drop protection.

Keep your Pixel 2 XL safe from scuffs and scratches without sacrificing the slim design with the Thin Fit case for just $12.

See at Amazon

Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro case

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When you name your phone case after the Unicorn Beetle — one of the gnarliest looking armored bugs in the natural world — you better back it up with a rugged case. Combining a polycarbonate outer shell with a flexible and shock-absorbing TPU sleeve around back, the Unicorn Beetle Pro goes an extra step further by including a built-in screen protector to provide maximum protection for your Pixel 2 XL. There’s also an optional belt clip holster if it’s convenient for you.

It’s otherwise a pretty standard design for a rugged case: beefy in the corners where it needs to be yet slim and sporty enough as to not turn your phone into a thick brick of plastic. You can get yours from Amazon starting at $18 for the black style, with three other styles available for $20.

See at Amazon

Ringke Fusion

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Looking for a reliable clear case for the Pixel 2 XL at a very reasonable price? Check out the Ringke Fusion case.

Starting at just $10 for a crystal clear version, these cases offer two layers of protection for your phone — a rugged and shock-resistant TPU bumper combined with a ridged PC panel covering the back. There’s a protective lip around the front to save the display glass from harm, and there are precise cutouts around the fingerprint sensor, camera, and USB-C charging port.

Get the clear version if you want to preserve the original look of the Pixel 2 XL, or opt to spend $11 on the Rose Gold or Smoke Black versions.

See at Amazon

Caseology Vault Series

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Caseology has a couple different cases available for the Pixel 2 XL. We recommend the Vault Series ($15) because it’s got a classic design. Made of flexible TPU, it features a sleek finish along the back and textured grip around the edges. It’s available in black and should look great whether you went with the Just Black or Black and White Pixel 2 XL.

If you’re looking for something a bit more substantial, check out the Parallax Series ($16) which offers a slim, two-piece design to keep your Pixel well-protected. It’s also available in some really cool color combinations. Or consider the Legion Series ($15), which offers a more rugged matte shell around the back of the case.

See at Amazon

i-Blason Ares

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If you’re looking for a solid case that provides optimum protection for your Pixel 2 XL, and you’re ok with adding a little bit of bulk to your already large phone, then i-Blason’s Ares case is the one you want. It has extra reinforcement in the corners to provide superior drop protection, has a built-in screen protector, and a transparent back so you can still enjoy the look of your phone.

Pricing starts around $18 for the black version, but you can also snag four other color combinations for around $20 apiece.

See at Amazon

Vena vCommute wallet case

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Vena’s sleek wallet case isn’t your typical folio-style wallet case, and it’s the perfect way to cut down on pocket carry with your Pixel 2 XL. This case features a magnetic flap on the back that covers a slot big enough for about three cards or a couple cards and some cash. There’s a raised lip in the card slot, so even if you only have on card, you can still slide it out easily.

The folding magnetic flap doubles as a kickstand so you can watch video hands-free, at starting at $16, it’s an excellent value.

See at Amazon

How will you keep your phone protected?

Are you going to be picking up a case for your Pixel 2 XL? Let us know if you’re getting one off our list or opting for a different option in the comments below!

Updated March 2018: Added the i-Blason Ares rugged case and the Vena vCommute wallet case to the list.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

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  • Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL review: The new standard
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21
Mar

‘Inside Oculus’ at GDC 2018: All the biggest news


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Here’s what Oculus had to say at GDC 2018.

Oculus had its “Inside Oculus” presentation today at GDC 2018, and alongside some stats on usage and a promise to invest more money in “AAA” content, there were a few major announcements that have the VR world atwitter, including new information about Oculus Go and the “Santa Cruz” project, as well as some improvements to Oculus Home.

Here’s what you need to know.

See Gear VR at Amazon

User-generated content coming to Oculus Home

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Oculus Home is set to expand, offering users a way to bring their own creations into their Rift hangouts. Using the .glb file format, users will be able to directly import models from Oculus Medium. This essentially means that if you can dream it up and create it with Medium’s powerful set of tools, it can live in your Home.

But what about showing off your creations? Inviting friends and leaving your own Oculus Home to visit others has always been an envisioned part of Rift Core 2.0, and it’s expected to become a reality this summer. Users will be able to hang out together in their Homes and will be able to launch together into any apps or experiences that support the Oculus Platform SDK.

Oculus Go further revealed

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Oculus Go, the forthcoming standalone headset, has garnered a lot of attention, and many have been asking for more details. It turns out that the hardware inside Oculus Go is similar to a phone, except unnecessary stuff like LTE radio and glass, have been removed to up battery life and reduce heat.

The eye buffer will not be limited to 1024 x 1024, like on the Gear VR. Instead, Oculus Go uses Fixed Foveated Rendering to create a clearer image. The amount of foveation can apparently be adjusted on the go, and the quality at the center (where you’re looking the most) can be upped while the outer edges remain lower-res.

The Snapdragon 821 processor (CPU) inside Oculus Go will likewise deliver better clock rates and a higher 72 frames-per-second (FPS) ceiling than the 60 FPS ceiling on the Gear VR. That 72Hz refresh rate means a brighter, more vibrant display, and a lot of existing Gear VR apps will be able to handle the transition without difficulty.

Finally, Oculus Go is intended to further the goal of turning VR into a daily activity, with social, replayability, and competition as main drivers. Three games will be at the forefront of this model:

  • Anshar Online
  • Catan VR
  • They Suspect Nothing

More on Oculus ‘Santa Cruz’

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The full-sized, wireless headset from Oculus, codenamed “Santa Cruz,” has likewise garnered a lot of attention, and now Oculus has revealed further details.

The Santa Cruz headset will have a display with a 72Hz refresh rate, four cameras on the front for controller and positional tracking, and six-degrees-of-freedom (6DoF) controllers. It seems to be positioned as a higher-end Oculus Go, sort of like a VR gaming console that focuses on heat management in order to up performance at all costs.

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As for the controllers, Oculus offered three images: prototype, current, and future. After seeing prototypes at Oculus Connect 4, developers asked for a button setup more similar to Oculus Touch. Current Santa Cruz controllers are still using a touchpad, but the future model looks like it will bring joysticks back into the equation.

Positional Timewarp is now a thing

Positional Timewarp (PTW) is expected to help remove lateral jutter when inside the headset, but it will only work if developers share compositor depth buffers with Oculus. If you aren’t a developer, you have less to worry about, but it should also be used to better integrate apps into the Rift Core 2.0 Dash.

What do you think?

Are you especially excited about any of the major Oculus announcements? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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