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14
May

Google and Android are still failing us on messaging and encryption


messaging-1.jpg?itok=4LJ0ykVR Using a half-dozen messaging services is hardly uncommon in 2018.

Refusing to offer default end-to-end encrypted messaging — nevermind across platforms — in 2018 is technological malpractice.

A new medical clinic has been built in your neighborhood. Just down the street. It’s in walking distance.

There’s no worry about insurance. There are no co-pays. If you need help, you get help. In fact, you have to work hard to ever see a bill. This new clinic has the best doctors and state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment. It doesn’t just diagnose a cold — it cures it on the spot.

It sounds great, but if anyone ever had to actually wait to be seen, if appointments took more than 30 minutes, there would be lines down the block.

There’s just one catch. Nobody there wears gloves. Sure, there’s not all that much of a chance that they’ll spread any sort of contagion — and certainly not on purpose. But gloves get in the way and keep the docs from working the way they want to.

You get get a clinic with gloves just down the street. Its lines are also short, and fees are minimal, and it cures the common cold pretty much just as quickly. … But no gloves.

The metaphor is admittedly a little stretched, but this is how I’m starting to see Google’s lack of a messaging service that includes encryption by default.

What messaging strategy?

Let’s rewind a bit. Google’s “messaging strategy,” insofar as it has one that isn’t just rebranding apps every few years, has never included any sort of real attempt at the sort of encryption we should demand in real-time messaging.

Google’s messaging strategy is as much a failure of focus as it is technological.

Hangouts chats were encrypted using HTTPS and TLS. But they weren’t end-to-end encrypted, meaning Google (and a demanding government) could break in, if it wanted. Allo had end-to-end encryption available in an optional “incognito mode,” but things otherwise were left open by default. (And that was by design.)

Today, Hangouts has been shunted off to business use, and Allo is being put out to pasture. Google instead has put its muscle behind RCS “Chat,” which essentially is a modern version of the old SMS text messaging system. That in and of itself is a worthy goal. SMS (and MMS) is a legacy mechanism that should have been put down years ago. And if anyone can wrangle carriers for a new standard, it’s Google.

RCS is a rich messaging system that allows for smarter (and more fun) messaging. But not every phone will have access to it at first — again, it’s up to individual carriers to implement — and so it’ll fall back to the legacy SMS system in that case.

But it’s not enough. And it doesn’t excuse Google from providing an encrypted out-of-box messaging experience for its users across Android and the web at large.

messaging-2.jpg?itok=32O1N38d Apple’s iMessage service does it right — encrypted messaging out of the box — even if its lock-in to Apple-only devices is very much wrong.

iMessage is right even as it’s wrong

I’d been loathe to accept Apple’s iMessage on principle. Some context here as well: iMessage is a service that works within Apple’s “Messages” app. Communications between two iMessage users are end-to-end encrypted. That is, only the people chatting with each other can decrypt the messages. Apple can’t read the messages, and it doesn’t want to. If you’re using the Messages app to chat with someone who’s not on iMessage — generally, that’ll be someone on Android — it falls back to unencrypted SMS.

Apple’s iMessage lock-in is still bad, even as it shows the standard for basic secure communications.

To the Apple user, it’s seamless. There’s absolutely no thought involved. To borrow the phrase, it just works.

But a modern messaging service must work across multiple platforms. It’s the right way to do it, and it’s the right thing to do. Apple’s gonna Apple, however, and so iMessage continues to be available on hardware that funnels money directly to Apple, and nowhere else. If an iMessage user messages someone on Android, it falls back to good ol’ SMS. (Presumably that’ll change to RCS at some point, but we don’t yet know.)

And then there’s the breakage that occurs if you try to get off of iMessage. You will miss important communications that get stuck in an iMessage loop, if the sender didn’t delete that thread and start a new one, or if you didn’t properly shut off iMessage or deregister your phone number. That’s not just poor user experience — it’s punitive lock-in, bordering on extortive. “Hey, sorry you missed out on some messages. Guess you should have stuck with us.”

But iMessage does the encryption part right. It starts with encryption — prefers it, really — and falls back to insecure SMS if it has to.

RCS is better, but it’s not enough

A better standard messaging service is a worthy endeavor. It’ll be slow to be adopted worldwide, for sure, but it clearly should be the new baseline for basic communications between phone users. And that RCS is unencrypted shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.

But that also underscores the company that sells the most smartphones in the world to provide something better, something safer, by default. Encrypted messages first — and for messages between Android and iPhone, too — with a fallback to RCS and SMS if necessary.

Google’s got the capability to do this, I’m sure. Why it’s not doing this is a head-scratcher.

If you’re not offering a secure, encrypted experience by default, you’re doing it wrong.

And that’s the conclusion I came to in the past few weeks as I started to move my family from the Facebook-owned WhatsApp to Signal. Only a couple of us in my immediate circle are Android users, and I wanted us to have a secure way to chat with everyone else. On principle.

And then I decided that maybe it shouldn’t just be about me. I shouldn’t force my family to jump through more hoops just because there’s no cross-platform encrypted messaging service from Google. (Though to be clear, still iMessage fails miserably on the “cross-platform part of that equation.)

I picked the wrong week to get serious about switching to an iPhone.

— Phil Nickinson (@mdrndad) May 8, 2018

So I am, for the first time, really switching to the iPhone. Maybe not quite whole-heartedly, maybe not quite willingly. But I also don’t have in the back of my head that I’ll fire up the Pixel again when all the little annoyances that make up the one big annoyance that is iOS start to drive me crazy. Because I want the people I communicate with most to have secure communications with me. By default.

If Google’s not going to give me encrypted messages by default, so be it. And I’ll still grumble (loudly) about Apple’s iMessage lock-in. If Apple really wants to make messaging more secure, it should do so for everyone. Not just those who buy its hardware. (Hell, charge me for off-iOS iMessage on Android, then. I’ll pay it.)

But making my family bounce between additional encrypted messaging apps — or making my friends fall back to insecure SMS — was starting to make me feel like I was forcing them to get an extra flu shot just because I didn’t like the proprietary gloves being worn by the docs they’d been seeing. At some point it’s not about me.

And at some point Google has to put on the damn gloves.

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14
May

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite for Android — Facts, rumors, and theories


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Niantic’s next augmented reality phenomenon is still shrouded in mystery.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is coming to an Android phone near you eventually. We know that it’s currently under development by Niantic and Portkey Games, so it’s going to be both an augmented reality game that remains faithful to J.K. Rowling’s source material and, most importantly, the Warner Bros. film franchise.

What do we know about the game so far?

To be honest, not much is currently know about Wizards Unite at this point, beyond the official website where you can sign up to be among the first to know the latest news and updates on the game’s release. Even there, not much info is given about the game itself beyond the following paragraph:

“Harry Potter: Wizards Unite uses state-of-the-art augmented reality technology to reveal the magic all around us. Explore real-world neighborhoods and cities to discover mysterious artifacts, learn to cast spells, and encounter legendary beasts and iconic characters along the way!”

The game is being developed in a partnership between Niantic (Ingress, Pokemon GO) and Portkey Games, a new gaming studio created by Warner Bros. tasked with creating mobile games based in the Harry Potter universe.

Portkey Games has already had a hand in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, which is a more traditional RPG co-developed with TinyCo set in the familiar halls of Hogwarts, and while we might be able to glean some info about the overall look and feel of how a Harry Potter game would look on mobile, Hogwarts Mystery and Wizards Unite will be vastly different experiences (apart from the inevitable in-app purchases).

The developers are working with a massive fictional world that’s been fleshed out with tons of history, characters, and legendary beasts.

For starters, with Wizards Unite being an AR-style game developed in the tradition of Ingress and Pokemon GO, we can expect the game to require players to travel around to real-life locations in our Muggle world to unlock and interact with the Wizarding world through our phones.

At this point, we’re only left to speculate what an augmented reality game based on the Harry Potter universe could look like. Whereas Ingress created its own alien backstory and the core Pokemon experience was a natural fit for an AR game, it isn’t immediately clear how AR would fit into a Harry Potter game — but there’s reason to be excited. The developers are working with a massive fictional world that’s been fleshed out with tons of history, characters, and legendary beasts.

At launch I think it’s safe to expect something pretty standard where you’re exploring locations, collecting items, and building up your wizard stats in whatever form that takes. But what has me most excited about Wizards Unite is the all the potential awesomeness that could be explored from within the Harry Potter universe and the places where the Potter phenomenon has crossed over into our world. Will it centralize around life at Hogwarts, or explore other aspects of the Wizarding world?

it will be interesting to see how real-life locations such as platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross and other iconic film locations around the UK — not to mention the Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios — might come into play. I could also daydream for hours about playing some form of Quidditch in AR, or at the very least getting an in-game bonus for attending a Quidditch tournament.

Like I said, there’s a wealth of material for Niantic and Portkey to draw upon so we can’t wait to see which direction they take this game.

When is the game coming out?

There’s been no word from Portkey or Niantic regarding a release date, but consider how Pokemon Go’s early summer release date certainly help drive its popularity to become the summer fad of 2016. If Warner Bros. is hoping to recreate that magical first summer against with Wizards Unite, an early Summer 2018 release date must be up on some whiteboard somewhere.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated when any firm dates are announced and be sure to sign up at the Harry Potter: Wizards Unite website.

Are you excited for Harry Potter: Wizards Unite?

Let us know in the comments and let us know what you’d love to see in an augmented reality game set in Harry Potter’s magical world.

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14
May

Some Google employees are resigning due to involvement with Project Maven


Around a dozen people have left so far.

In early March, it was announced that Google was working with the U.S. Defense Department on something called Project Maven – a system that uses artificial intelligence to review drone footage and quickly identify certain people, objects, etc. Following Google’s continued involvement with this, employees are now resigning from the company.

google-logo-black-white.jpg?itok=Q0oLKtw

According to Gizmodo, around 12 people have left Google and shared their reasoning for doing so in an internal memo.

The employees who are resigning in protest, several of whom discussed their decision to leave with Gizmodo, say that executives have become less transparent with their workforce about controversial business decisions and seem less interested in listening to workers’ objections than they once did.

Many Google employees have shared their resentment for the company’s involvement with Project Maven, with one internal petition asking Google to stop working with the Defense Department and not get involved with any future military contracts collecting 4,000 some signatures.

According to one of the employees that’s resigning –

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been less and less impressed with the response and the way people’s concerns are being treated and listened to.

Another person noted that –

At some point, I realized I could not in good faith recommend anyone join Google, knowing what I knew. I realized if I can’t recommend people join here, then why am I still here?

Google’s yet to respond to these employees’ actions, and it remains to be seen if it’ll address them at all.

What’s your take on Google working with the government to use AI for military purposes?

Google’s ‘digital wellbeing’ initiative feels incomplete and insincere

14
May

Ask Alexa to start this $180 RoboVac while you relax by the pool


This price is good for a limited time.

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Right now you can save $70 on the purchase of this Alexa-enabled Robovac at Amazon with the use of coupon code U43X35IY. This normally sells for $250 and has only dropped as low as $200 in the past. The price drop is temporary, though.

The vacuum can be scheduled to clean at certain times, monitored through the free smartphone app, and even activated using just your voice through an Alexa device, like the Echo Dot. It provides just under two hours of cleaning per charge, and it is good to use on both hard surface floors and thin carpets.

See at Amazon

14
May

Best Keyboards for Samsung Galaxy Tab S3


The Galaxy Tab S3 is one of the few high-end Android tablets left. Here’s how to turn it into a productivity machine!

High-end Android tablets may not be so common these days, but Samsung is one of the few manufacturers still offering a high-end option with its Galaxy Tab S3. But sometimes you need a tablet to be a bit more powerful, and that’s where a keyboard comes in handy.

Here are the best keyboards for your Samsung Galaxy Tab S3!

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Keyboard Cover
  • Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard
  • Logitech Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480
  • EC Technology Multi-Device Keyboard
  • DREVO Calibur 71-key keyboard

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 Keyboard Cover

samsung-galaxy-tab-s3-keyboard-case-pres

Usually, the best accessories are made by the same people that made the device. That’s true with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3 Keyboard Cover, which is the perfect companion for your tablet. The keyboard connects directly to pins on the keyboard, so you won’t have to worry about connection issues or Bluetooth interference. The keys are well spaced out and offer a comfortable amount of travel, with dedicated buttons for search and multi-tasking. The cover itself won’t be as rugged as other cases, but it’ll protect against short drops.

The suggested price for this keyboard is $130, but at the time of writing Amazon has it in grey for $72.

See at Amazon

Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard

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If you want a keyboard you can stick in the back of your pocket, Microsoft has you covered. The Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard can remember two Bluetooth devices, so you can switch back and forth between your tablet and your phone if need be. Turning the keyboard on and off is super easy; just open it to power it up, and close it again to shut it off. There are dedicated keys for Home, Back and Search, and the battery lasts up to three months on a single charge. When it is time to charge the keyboard, just use one of the dozens of Micro-USB cables you have lying around. One downside of this keyboard is there’s no way to mount the tablet, so you’ll need to pick up a tablet stand or a case with a stand built-in.

At the time of writing, the Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard is available in black for $82.

See at Amazon

Logitech Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480

logitech-k480.jpg?itok=y7Y0d26l

This keyboard from Logitech isn’t as compact as Microsoft’s, but has more features and a much lower price. The K480 pairs to up to three Bluetooth devices, so you can use one keyboard for your tablet, desktop, and phone. Better yet, there’s an integrated cradle to hold your phone and tablet. It may not be as stable as a laptop, but it’ll be much more portable. There are dedicated keys for home, multi-tasking, back, and search, as well as media control keys to keep you from blasting your mixtape for the whole coffee house. The K480 includes two AAA batteries, which should be better in the long term than an internal battery.

At the time of writing, Logitech’s K480 keyboard is available in black or white for $25, though retail price is $50.

See at Amazon

EC Technology Multi-Device keyboard

ec-technology-keyboard.jpg?itok=w59ONOV6

If you want something even less expensive, EC Technologies has the keyboard for you. Its keyboard also remembers up to three Bluetooth devices, and includes a fold-out stand for your tablet. The stand isn’t padded, so be wary of scratches. There are dedicated media keys, but no other controls for Android. The keyboard is powered by two AAA batteries, though there aren’t any included in the box. The keyboard should last for three months with two hours of use per day.

At the time of writing, EC Technology’s Bluetooth keyboard is available in black for $20.

See at Amazon

DREVO Calibur 71-key keyboard

drevo-calibur.jpg?itok=i0-vDfHq

A wise man once said to speak softly and carry a big stick. I say, type loudly and carry a small keyboard. The DREVO Calibur 71-key keyboard fits that bill nicely. This is a mechanical keyboard, and it offers your choice of black, blue, brown and red switches. Each switch type has its trade-offs, but I prefer the blue switches because they sound amazing and don’t require much force to press. The keyboard can remember three Bluetooth devices, but can also connect to a device through the keyboard’s Micro-USB port. You won’t have access to any of the Android navigation keys, which is unfortunate, but the keyboard has an internal battery that charges with its Micro-USB port, and two adjustable feet to make your loud typing that much more comfortable.

At the time of writing, the DREVO Calibur keyboard is available in black for $61. There is a white version, but it is currently out of stock.

See at Amazon

What say you?

Which keyboard do you use with your Galaxy Tab S3? Let us know down below!

14
May

Apple Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over ‘Defective’ Keyboards in Recent MacBook, MacBook Pro Models


Apple has been hit with a class action lawsuit over “defective” keyboards in recent MacBook and MacBook Pro models.

The lawsuit, filed in Northern California district court, alleges that the low-profile, butterfly-switch keyboards in 2015-and-later MacBook and 2016-and-later MacBook Pro models are “prone to fail,” resulting in “non-responsive keys” and other issues, according to court documents obtained by MacRumors.

The lawsuit was filed by law firm Girard Gibbs LLP on behalf of MacBook Pro owners Zixuan Rao and Kyle Barbaro, residents of San Diego, California and Melrose, Massachusetts respectively.

The proposed class:

All persons within the United States who purchased, other than for resale, a model year 2015 or later Apple MacBook, or a model year 2016 or later MacBook Pro laptop, equipped with a “butterfly” keyboard.

The complaint notes that keys can become unresponsive when small amounts of dust or debris accumulate under or around them:

Apple’s butterfly keyboard and MacBook are produced and assembled in such a way that when minimal amounts of dust or debris accumulate under or around a key, keystrokes fail to register. […] As a result of the defect, consumers who purchased a MacBook face a constant threat of non-responsive keys and accompanying keyboard failure. When one or more of the keys on the keyboard fail, the MacBook can no longer serve its core function: typing.

The lawsuit alleges that “thousands of consumers have experienced this defect,” and highlights over 20 complaints shared by users on the Apple Support Communities, MacRumors Forums, and Reddit. The complaint also cites a Change.org petition about this issue that currently has over 22,000 signatures.

One of the comments included from a MacRumors reader in May 2015:

The C key on my new MacBook has a subtle but noticeable problem. I noticed yesterday morning that typing C wasn’t always registering. I played around with the key and discovered that pressing the top of the key registered a normal click like the rest of the keys, but pressing at the bottom of the key was mushy with no click.

The lawsuit alleges that Apple is “aware of” the keyboard issues, either through “pre-release testing,” customer complaints, or a combination of the two, but has “failed and continues to fail to disclose” the defect to customers:

Apple knew that the MacBook is defective at or before the time it began selling the affected models to the public. Complaints of keyboard failures began to come in shortly after the 2015 MacBook was launched. Despite awareness of the keyboard defect, Apple equipped future model MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops with the butterfly keyboard, and continued selling these laptops to consumers at premium prices.

Apple is said to “continuously monitor” complaints on websites like MacRumors:

Apple has been aware of these serious keyboard problems through the discussion pages hosted on Apple’s website as early as May 2015, the month after the MacBook was released. Apple continuously monitors those web pages. Apple also regularly monitors other web pages, including MacRumors, on which consumers complained about keyboard problems beginning on April 15, 2015, just five days after the MacBook came to market.

MacRumors first highlighted keyboard issues with the 2016 MacBook Pro over a year ago, including non-functional keys, strange high-pitched sounds on some keys, and keys with a non-uniform feel. The issues are back in the spotlight again after AppleInsider shared data on failure rates of the keyboards a few weeks ago.


The lawsuit acknowledges that Apple provides a support document with instructions to clean the keyboard of a MacBook or MacBook Pro with “an unresponsive key or “a key that feels different than the other keys,” but notes that the steps “do not fix the keyboard defect or prevent the keyboard from failing.”

When a customer takes their MacBook or MacBook Pro to a Genius Bar, the complaint alleges that Apple “routinely refuses to honor its warranty obligations,” or is unable to permanently fix the problem when it does.

One of the two named plaintiffs in the lawsuit:

Mr. Barbaro took his laptop to the Genius Bar on September 11, 2017. A Genius Bar technician inspected the keyboard and confirmed that the space bar and caps lock keys were unresponsive. The technician offered to send the laptop to Apple’s service depot for repairs. Mr. Barbaro sent his computer in, and after about one week, Mr. Barbaro received the repaired MacBook. He continued to use the MacBook for ordinary tasks until December 2017, when the space bar again became unresponsive in the same way as the first time his MacBook manifested the keyboard defect.

Mr. Barbaro returned to the Genius Bar to seek assistance. At the Genius Bar, a technician examined the laptop and determined that it would cost over $700 to repair the problem. The technician informed Mr. Barbaro that his warranty had expired and that he would be responsible for the full cost of the repairs. Mr. Barbaro declined to pay for the repairs. He still has the MacBook. It remains defective.

Apple is accused of, among other things, violating California’s Unfair Competition Law and Consumer Legal Remedies Act, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, and fraudulent concealment.

The complaint requests that Apple pays punitive damages in an amount to be proven at trial, publicly discloses the defect, and reimburses customers for all costs attributable to remedying or replacing defective MacBook or MacBook Pro models. A jury trial has been demanded in Northern California district court.

Our Take: Apple has yet to launch a repair program for MacBook Pro keyboard issues, either publicly or internally, suggesting that the number of customers affected might not meet its threshold for doing so. But, given the increased attention and lawsuit, Apple may feel obligated to take action soon enough.

Related Roundups: MacBook Pro, MacBookTag: lawsuitBuyer’s Guide: MacBook Pro (Don’t Buy), MacBook (Don’t Buy)
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14
May

New ‘EasyMesh’ Program Will Let You Extend Your Wi-Fi Mesh System No Matter the Brand


Wi-Fi Alliance today announced a new certification program called “EasyMesh,” which will allow users who own mesh network products to choose from devices across different brands, while still ensuring reliable Wi-Fi coverage (via PCWorld). This way, customers will no longer need to stay within a single-vendor ecosystem dictated by the brand of the hub router, and can branch out to add on access points to their network that might have better performance, or other advantages.

So with EasyMesh certified products, if you own a Linksys Velop router then you can extend coverage across your home using a Netgear Orbi access point. Right now, users can only add products onto mesh networks that work with the main network gateway. For EasyMesh, the limitation as of now is company adoption, so users will have to wait for each mesh system maker to introduce EasyMesh compatibility into their devices.

According to Wi-Fi Alliance marketing vice president Kevin Robinson, EasyMesh is implemented in software, “so there should be no need for new hardware,” which could speed up adoption rates. Still, Robinson pointed out that it will be up to each company to decide about adding EasyMesh into existing products. He also stated that companies will also be able to “differentiate their products with unique features or performance” and went on to break down the main components of EasyMesh.

“Interoperability has been core to Wi-Fi’s success,” said Wi-Fi Alliance marketing VP Kevin Robinson in an embargoed interview last week. “A standardized approach enables great economies of scale.” Robinson explained that EasyMesh has two main components: The controller and the agent.

“The controller resides in one device on the network—in either a gateway or an access point—where it controls and manages all the devices on the network and how they connect to each other. Agents are in the mesh access points, and they organize with each other and provide information to the controller about how the network is operating.”

In the announcement, the Alliance described EasyMesh as a system that will be familiar to any mesh network user. The program monitors network conditions and “self-adapts as needed,” and it can guide internet-connected devices to the optimal access point in order for the user to have the best possible connection. Of course, the main advantage is that EasyMesh accomodates Wi-Fi extending access points across various brands, making the creation of an in-home Wi-Fi network far easier.

Wi-Fi EasyMesh networks accommodate a greater selection of devices across brands and are also extensible, making it easy for users to introduce new Wi-Fi EasyMesh access points into their network. Wi-Fi EasyMesh access points today will maintain interoperability with future Wi-Fi EasyMesh networks, providing an enhanced user experience for years to come.

“Wi-Fi EasyMesh offers both service providers and Wi-Fi users a consistent approach to multiple AP solutions,” said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance. “Wi-Fi Alliance is delivering a standardized solution to a market-leading product category enabling a strong ecosystem for interoperable, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED devices.”

Mesh networks have become increasingly popular over the last few years, thanks to their ability to easily extend Wi-Fi signals throughout a home. Some well-known brands include eero, Linksys Velop, Google Wi-Fi, Luma, and Netgear Orbi, which just announced a new 2-in-1 modem router system earlier this month.

Apple itself never offered a Wi-Fi mesh system, and the company officially got out of the router market completely in April with the discontinuation of the AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and AirPort Time Capsule. As an alternative Apple sells the tri-band Linksys Velop system on Apple.com, and the new dual-band system will be launching tomorrow, May 15, although it’s still unclear if it will also be up on Apple’s website.

Check out our full review of the dual-band Linksys Velop for more information on the company’s latest Wi-Fi product.

Tags: Linksys, eero, Orbi
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14
May

Apple’s Accessibility Efforts Highlighted in New Interviews Ahead of Global Accessibility Awareness Day


Thursday, May 17 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and ahead of the event CNET has spoken to individuals with disabilities, accessibility advocates, and Apple’s own director of global accessibility policy and initiatives, Sarah Herrlinger, to discuss the company’s efforts in this field.

Showing off the wheelchair workouts on Apple Watch, two-time U.S. Paralympian Austin Pruitt explained how he uses a racing wheelchair in a stationary workout routine to help him keep in shape. Pruitt has cerebral palsy from the knees down, but he continues to compete in the Paralympic Games by racing in a wheelchair, and the Apple Watch has replaced bulky trackers in his workout routines.

Photo taken by Sarah Tew via CNET

He said he used to set up a bunch of trackers on his chair to log his workouts, but now uses just an Apple Watch instead.

“This has everything,” he told me. “This has my wheelchair and my walking, all in one.”

Apple added a “Wheelchair” setting to the Apple Watch in watchOS 3, allowing the device’s activity options to be customized for wheelchair users. This means that controlling and pushing a wheelchair contributes to all-day calorie goals, “time to roll” notifications remind users when to be a bit more active, and new wheelchair-specific workouts provide customized sessions for users like Pruitt.

According to Herrlinger, accessibility updates (like the wheelchair setting in Apple Watch) are something the company tries to add into its devices every year.

“Every year we try to add in new things. We do look at how can we make it slightly better year over year,” Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s director of global accessibility policy and initiatives, said about the company’s work on its iOS and MacOS operating systems.

Other popular accessibility options on Apple products include VoiceOver on iPhone, which describes what’s on the device’s screen for visually impaired users. Apple’s home automation platform, HomeKit, is also featured on its accessibility web page since it can help a wide variety of users accomplish tasks like turning on lights, starting a coffee pot, or changing the temperature by speaking near an iOS device or HomePod.

Apple is expected to continue to celebrate and promote Global Accessibility Awareness Day throughout the week, if previous years are any indication. Around this time last year, the company highlighted the event with new “Designed for” videos, a series of interviews CEO Tim Cook gave with three accessibility activists, and a concert at One Infinite Loop where Stevie Wonder performed.

Tag: accessibility
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14
May

The Google News App fuels your interests, provides a balanced perspective


App Attack is a weekly series where we search the App Store and Google Play Store for the best apps of the week. Check out App Attack every Sunday for the latest.

At Google I/O 2018, the company announced a variety of new features to come for its Android P operating system, Google Assistant, Wear OS, and more. The tech titan also introduced its all-new Google News app, which uses artificial intelligence to bring you news from all different perspectives. Currently rolling out on Android, iOS and desktop, the Google News app replaces the Google Play Newsstand app. As for the Google News and Weather app, it has officially been removed from the Play Store, and those who have it already installed likely won’t receive any updates in the future.

With the Google News app, Google has set out to create a more informative and balanced experience for readers when consuming news. Rather than organizing news articles from various sources on the same topic, Google uses artificial intelligence algorithms to analyze news and then file it into storylines. While it provides you with a customized newsfeed based on your interests, there are also sections of the app that present an unfiltered view of current events.

As someone who uses an iPhone as my default smartphone, I rely on the Apple News app everyday to catch up on what’s going on. But I find myself scrolling past most stories because I’m not interested in reading them. Even though the app presents me with publications that I often read, they’re all based on ones I chose myself when I first downloaded the app, and have continued to add to since then. While it’s tailored to my interests, I’m only provided with stories Apple News thinks I want to read because they’re from sites that I favorited.

With Google’s news app, I found it useful that you don’t have to go through the process of having to customize it. This is especially appealing to me, since it took me a while to set up my Apple News app because I didn’t have time to sit there and think of every publication I normally read on a daily basis. The more you use Google News, the smarter it gets at curating content specifically for you.

“If you load it up out of the box with nothing in it you’ll get an experience which you can begin to customize. In terms of how it works out of the box for a logged in user, we use your activity from your Google account,” Trystan Upstill, Google News Engineering and Product Lead told Digital Trends.

As soon as I opened Google News, I found myself wanting to click on all the stories on my feed. Of course, since it’s linked to my Google account it makes sense that topics I’ve either read about in Chrome or typed into the Google search bar show up. But it makes the experience of keeping up with all of my interests that much easier, especially since I don’t track them on my own. You’re also able to customize your feed even further, by either hiding specific publications or “liking” and “disliking” stories that are similar to the ones the app is pulling up. Under the Favorites tab, you can add additional sources, topics, and also save stories to read later on.

Its interface is also clean and organized — I didn’t feel like there were tons of stories being thrown my direction. At the top, there’s a briefing of the top five stories chosen for you. As you continue to scroll, it provides you with a mix of stories based on your interests, whether it’s technology, pop culture, or sports. Some sections are also separated by topic and by publication. Scrolling through also felt fluid, with each story stacked on top of one another rather than cluttered right next to each other.

With its Newscasts format, each story has either an image or video playing above it to give you a better preview of what you’re going to read. But through your settings, you can also choose to toggle on “Mini cards,” which turns the format off and lists the stories with smaller sized images and videos to the right of the headline — making it look more minimalistic.

Under each story, you can tap on the “Full Coverage” icon — which allows you to gain an even deeper perspective if reading the article isn’t enough. This was one of my favorite features, since I often Google further details on a specific story to see what other people are saying about it. With Full Coverage, you don’t even have to leave the app — you’re able to see other sources reporting the story, what people are tweeting about it, videos from YouTube, opinion pieces, and even frequently asked questions on the topic.

But Google also pinpointed a problem most people might have when consuming news from social media or other apps: allowing us to fully tailor to our interests enables us to have one-sided views. With the Headlines tab, everyone using the app is exposed to the exact same stories regardless of whether it’s what you want to read about.

As someone who mainly sticks to pop culture and tech news, I’ll admit I tend to shy away from diving into current events that have to do with topics like business and politics, but that’s mainly because there’s so much news out there that I’m not sure where to start. But the Headlines feature does all the work for you, even separating it by a wide range of topics. Knowing I didn’t have to do much work, I found myself checking the tap often to make sure I was keeping up with what everyone else was reading too.

The Newsstands tab (which is where Google incorporated its original Google Play Newsstand app) also allows you to discover even more publications to favorite. For titles with a paywall, you can easily subscribe as long you’re signed into your Google account using Google Pay — which means you don’t have to fill out additional forms or credit card information. You’ll also be able to access paid content across all platforms, devices, and the publisher’s own site without having to enter any login information. While I don’t subscribe to any specific publications, this tab is useful for finding sources to follow that I otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to. It’s a great resource if you want to expand the list of titles you follow.

The redesigned Google News app is slowly rolling out, but it should be available to all by next week.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Google News receives a major overhaul, replaces Google Play Newsstand
  • A.I. and Google News: The push to broaden perspectives
  • Keep up-to-date with the best news apps on iPhone and Android
  • Google Tasks’ refreshing design will motivate you to complete your to-do lists
  • With developer program, Google Photos is about to become a lot more versatile


14
May

The best Moto G6 Play cases to keep your budget phone protected


Moto G6 Play Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

With a 5.7-inch screen, bezel-less design, and smooth performance, the Moto G6 Play is a great new option for anyone who wants a lot of phone without spending a lot of money. But just because a phone comes from the budget end of the market doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of protection. On the contrary, a protective case can make sure that your phone makes it all the way to your next upgrade, or even beyond.

Regardless of whether you’re after a simple gel case, or a rugged protective cover, we’ve scoured the market to find the best Moto G6 Play cases you can buy to keep your phone moto-ring on.

Avidet Shock-Absorbent Clear Case ($8)

Sometimes the simplest option is the best option, and a clear gel case is a great choice for anyone who wants a compromise between protection and still being able to show off their new phone’s design. Avidet’s clear case is made from the soft material TPU — since TPU is flexible and yielding, it’s great at absorbing shocks from drops and bumps, while also being resistant to other hazards. That soft surface also aids in grip on your phone, keeping it in your hand, and it should be durable enough to last for the entire lifetime of your G6 Play. Best of all, it’s completely clear, so you can show off the style of your new device.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Skinomi Brushed Aluminum Skin ($16)

Phone cases aren’t for everyone. But that doesn’t mean you have to leave your phone naked to the elements. While a skin won’t be as protective as a case, it will still provide some protection against scratches and other hazards that could mar the polymer glass of your G6 Play. Skinomi‘s skins are a great way to lend an extra layer of style to your phone, and also provide some protection that’s so thin you forget it’s there. We’ve chosen to highlight the Brushed Aluminum skin, but there’s a huge range of other skins available, including Carbon Fiber, Light Wood, and Brushed Steel. Best of all, Skinomi’s skins all come with a free film screen protector, so you can extend that scratch resistance all the way around your new phone.

Buy one now from:

Skinomi Amazon

Kqimi Ultrathin Hard Case ($12)

Looking for a more stylish statement from your case? This ultrathin hard case from Kqimi helps to provide a little extra style to complement your Moto G6 Play. You’ll find a wide variety of colors to match whichever model you bought — and even a couple of variants with a rough, sand-like texture for extra grip. But they’re not all style and no substance either, as they’re made from hard polycarbonate (PC) that’s resistant to scratches and bumps. Due to its rigid qualities, it won’t be as drop-resistant as a softer TPU case would be, but it still provides great protection against a variety of threats. Unfortunately, there are no button covers or coverage at the top and bottom of the phone, but this is still a great choice if the style appeals.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Dretal Rugged TPU Case ($8)

Finding a compromise between protection and good looks can be a struggle when looking to find a case that complements your phone, but we think the futuristic style of this Dretal case will appeal to many. Made from — you guessed it — TPU, you’ll find a good amount of durability and drop-resistance in this case. Each corner has its own “airbag” system to further increase drop protection, and it also has a slightly raised edge around the camera that elevates your phone from surfaces to guard against scratches from dirt and grit. Finally, it looks good, with a combination of a brushed metal texture and carbon fiber-style panels at either end of the case.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Olixar ArmourDillo Protective Case ($12)

Sometimes you just need as much protection as you can get, and Olixar‘s Armadillo provides that, along with a little extra utility. An inner core of TPU protects against shocks, drops, and bumps, while the outer shell of PC helps against more direct threats, as well as providing a solid backbone for the phone. A raised bezel helps to keep your phone elevated from surfaces, while the tough and rugged design aids grip. It doesn’t end there either — the back of the case also houses a handy horizontal kickstand, perfect for watching videos while on the move, or providing a stable platform for your phone.

Buy one now from:

Mobile Fun

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Moto G6 vs. Moto G6 Play: Is the G6 worth the extra cash?
  • The best Moto E5 Plus cases to keep your budget phone beautiful
  • The best Motorola Moto G6 cases to keep your Moto motoring on
  • Moto G6 vs. Moto G5: Is it time to crown a new budget king?
  • The best LG G7 ThinQ cases to keep your LG phone looking new


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