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13
Jun

Apple Watch Series 3 LTE Now Supported by Regional Carriers C Spire and US Cellular for as Low as $5/Month


When the Apple Watch Series 3 launched last fall, United States customers were able to add the cellular model onto a plan offered by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Over the last few days, supported carriers have expanded to include regional companies C Spire and US Cellular.

C Spire shared the news in a press release today, confirming it has begun selling the Apple Watch Series 3 in both GPS and LTE, available both online and through a call to customer telesales. Orders placed can be sent to the user’s home or picked up at any C Spire retail store, and for a limited time the carrier is marking Series 3 models down by 50 percent when purchased with eligible iPhones on a device payment plan.

Additionally, C Spire offers Apple Watch Series 3 customers a free three-month introductory cellular trial on the carrier’s 4G LTE network, allowing them to use the Apple Watch without an extra cost on their monthly plan. After the three months end, the Apple Watch Series 3 plan will run for $10/month — the average price of Apple Watch cellular plans at most carriers.

On its device and support information page, US Cellular also offers three free months for Apple Watch Series 3 LTE coverage, and afterwards the plan will cost $4.99/month. At this price, US Cellular has one of the cheapest monthly plans for a Series 3 LTE model, and like C Spire it must be paired with an iPhone 6 or later running iOS 11 or later.

– If you are on one of U.S. Cellular’s Total Plans, there is no charge to connect your Apple Watch to the Cellular network.

– If you are on any other U.S. Cellular plan, you will get 3 months for free trial and after that there is a $4.99 monthly charge to connect your Apple Watch to the Cellular network.

In terms of coverage areas, US Cellular offers coverage in as many as 23 states and 426 markets with 5 million customers. Comparatively, C Spire is more focused on the southern area of the country, including Mississippi, Alabama, the Florida Panhandle, and the Memphis Metropolitan Area.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4, watchOS 5Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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13
Jun

Plex Announces Live TV Grid View Coming Soon to tvOS and iOS Apps


Media hub company Plex this week revealed a new way for its customers to navigate Plex’s Live TV service, through a more traditional grid-based user interface. Launching first in Plex’s web browser, the new grid view organizes live TV programs by channels and the time of day, much like classic cable TV guides.

While the program guide is only available on the web for now, Plex confirmed in a support article that the guide will launch for Apple TV and iOS apps in the near future. The article also shows off other features of the guide, like the ability to record shows on the list, filter the schedule by day of the week, only view HD channels, and more.

While we think that searching and our Discover view (see below) are often a faster way to access DVR-related content for users, many users are familiar with a traditional “TV grid” style schedule and may wish to use that. Displayed in a scrollable timeline format, the Channels view of the Guide gives you an overview of what’s on every channel you receive. From here, you can see program details, schedule a recording, filter the timeline view to only show a certain day, and also scroll forward and backward in time.

To access the program guide users will need a Plex Pass, which includes live TV and DVR features. Other apps soon to get the guide include Plex for Amazon Fire TV, Android, Android TV, and Xbox One. According to Plex, the update came after it received numerous requests from its users asking for a grid view. Hulu with Live TV also recently updated its apps with a traditional guide interface for users.

Plex originally rolled out live TV support for its Apple TV app last August, two months after it did the same for iOS devices. With live TV, Plex Pass subscribers can watch live HD content on channels available over-the-air, including major US networks like ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and CW, as well as local programming, news, and sports. For apps that support DVR, Plex also brought the feature out of beta around the same time.

Tag: Plex
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13
Jun

Apple Gives Straight-to-Series Order for Drama on Child Journalist Hilde Lysiak


Apple has placed a straight-to-series order for a drama series about Hilde Lysiak, a child journalist who publishes a newspaper called the Orange Street News in her hometown of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.

According to Variety, the series will follow a young girl who moves from Brooklyn to the small lakeside town her father is from, where she unearths a cold case that everyone in town had attempted to bury.

Image of Hilde Lysiak via NY Daily News
The story is based on Lysiak’s own efforts to report on a murder in Selinsgrove, where she was the first person to expose it. Lysiak’s Orange Street News has earned her national and international media attention.

Apple has ordered 10 episodes of the series, which was created and executive produced by Dana Fox and Dara Resnik. Fox is known for her work on “Ben and Kate,” “How to Be Single,” and “Couples Retreat,” while Resnik has worked on “Castle,” “Shooter,” and Mistresses.”

Apple has well over a dozen original television shows in the works now, which, according to rumors, could begin premiering in 2019. Recent announcements include “Little Voices” from J.J Abrams and Sara Bareilles, “Dickinson” starring Hailee Steinfeld, and a television adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” series.

Related Roundup: Apple TVTag: Apple’s Hollywood ambitionsBuyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Neutral)
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13
Jun

Apple Seeds Second Beta of watchOS 4.3.2 to Developers


Apple today seeded the second beta of an upcoming watchOS 4.3.2 update to developers, two weeks after seeding the first watchOS 4.3.2 beta and two weeks after releasing watchOS 4.3.1, a minor bug fix update that addressed a startup issue.

Once the proper configuration profile has been installed from the Apple Developer Center, the new watchOS beta can be downloaded through the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General –> Software update.

To install the update, the Apple Watch needs to have at least 50 percent battery, it must be placed on the charger, and it has to be in range of the iPhone.

No new features were discovered in the first watch watchOS 4.3.2 update, but as a 4.3.x update, it’s likely to be minor in scale, addressing bug fixes discovered since the release of watchOS 4.3.1 and making other small improvements to the operating system.

watchOS 4.3.2 is likely to be one of the final updates to the watchOS 4 operating system. Apple has begun work on watchOS 5, which was provided to developers at the 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4, watchOS 5Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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13
Jun

Probiotics for the brain? Study could pave the way for anti-stress injections


There’s a layer of living creatures covering each of our bodies, inside and out, from the tips of our fingers to the linings of our intestines. These microbes — many of them good, some of them bad, most of them benign — help us digest food, fend of disease, and contribute to our unique stench when we sweat.

Some promising studies have shown that certain microbes in the gut can have an effect on mental health, making people more or less anxious. So what if scientists could design an injection packed with beneficial microbes aimed at treating mental health disorders?

That’s the question that came to mind for Matt Frank, a psychology and neuroscience researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder, after he and his colleagues injected rodents with probiotics in a recent study. In a paper published this week in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, Frank and his team show that a particular bacterium can encourage a rodent’s brain into a state that resists inflammation, potentially paving the way for probiotic immunizations to treat stress-related mental disorders like PSTD and anxiety. More immediately, it might help treat inflammation-induced memory loss as a result of brain trauma.

“We have demonstrated for the first time that probiotic treatment induces an anti-inflammatory environment in the brain,” Frank told Digital Trends. “This effect of probiotic treatment was robust and long-lasting suggesting that this strain…of probiotic holds great promise to quell the neuro-inflammation associated with a number of disease conditions and disorders.”

The strain used by Frank and his team was Mycobacterium vaccae, an immune-improving microbe, which they injected into male rats. Rats that were injected on three occasions over the course of three weeks showed significantly higher levels of an anti-inflammatory protein in the area of the brain that moderates anxiety and fear.

“These findings suggest that some probiotics are capable of dampening inflammation in the brain,” Frank said. “Inflammation in the brain has profound negative effects on learning and memory as well as mood, thus some probiotics hold the promise of restoring immune balance in the brain and treating brain disorders involving inflammation.”

Frank noted that it’s not yet clear whether the benefits associated with Mycobacterium vaccae also exist for other probiotics, but said researchers are on the case. Frank and his team are now investigating how probiotic immunization encourages this anti-inflammatory brain environment in the hope of unlocking the secrets of how the immune system and brain communicate.

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13
Jun

5.9 million payment cards exposed in massive data breach at mobile retailer


Prominent U.K. mobile technology retailer Dixons Carphone has been the victim of a massive data hack, in which payment details stored by 5.9 million customers were accessed illegally. The payment data was stored in the processing system of Currys PC World and Dixons Travel stores, the latter of which operates in airports.

Dixons Carphone said 5.8 million cards accessed were protected by chip-and-PIN payment protection, and the important card verification value number (CVV) printed on the back of payment cards was not stored, leaving the majority of customers free from immediate worry. However, the remaining 105,000 cards accessed in the hack were cards not issued in Europe and did not have chip-and-PIN protection. These cards were likely used at Dixons Travel stores by airport visitors, but Dixons Carphone says it hasn’t found evidence of fraud in these either.

Steps to avoid any payment fraud have already been taken by the group, and relevant card companies have been informed of the breach, helping to minimize the chances of further problems. In addition to the payment details, the names, addresses, and email addresses of 1.2 million people in the firm’s database had been accessed. The company says this information has not been used fraudulently, but is contacting affected customers nonetheless.

The company has been investigating the breach since July 2017, according to the BBC, indicating a considerable gap between discovering the security problem and the subsequent public announcement. The hack was discovered during a review of its systems and data, according to the firm’s statement on the matter, and it reassures customers the security holes have been closed and there has been no evidence of further snooping.

It’s not the first time the group has had security problems. In 2015 an attack on Carphone Warehouse left the details of 2.4 million customers exposed, along with the payment data of 90,000 people. It was subsequently fined 400,000 British pounds/$533,000 by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) in 2018 — one of the largest fines it has issued. Retailer Dixons merged with Carphone Warehouse in 2014.

At the time, ICO commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “A company as large, well-resourced, and established as Carphone Warehouse, should have been actively assessing its data security systems, and ensuring systems were robust and not vulnerable to such attacks.” We’d expect it to pay considerable attention to this second, more serious breakdown in security at the company.

Editors’ Recommendations

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  • Verizon agrees, ransomware is the most popular form of malware



13
Jun

New Steam chat system adds group chats, video, and GIF support


The latest beta release of Steam has a brand-new chat system in place and it modernizes the communication side of Steam as never before. Clearly inspired by some of its contemporaries in the gaming messenger space, the new Steam chat system adds group chats, overhauls friends lists, adds support for videos and GIFs, as well as encrypting its new and improved voice chat system.

Although Steam has had text and voice chat functions for years, as other services have grown and evolved, its feature set, look, and feel have begun to feel quite antiquated. That’s all set to change with the “all-new Steam Chat,” which is not only prettier to look at, but more intuitive to use, and comes with a host of competitive features.

Describing its new chat experience as far “richer,” Valve has introduced new support for pictures, videos, GIFs, tweets, and more within its text chat windows. Users can build up group chats (for gaming or trading) and invite people to them with a quick link. That group can then be saved for later, so every time you login you can connect with whichever friends of yours are online at the time.

When you want to take things further, you can open up the new voice chat system. It’s been rebuilt to be secure and private, with a WebRTC-based backend and encryption, with all voice traffic going through Steam servers, so everyone’s IP address is hidden from one another. Valve also promises much crisper and cleaner audio than before and the ability to quickly launch voice chats from within its new chat groups.

If you’d like to get in touch with friends the slightly more old-fashioned way, you can always tap on them in your friends list. That too has been overhauled though, adding drag-and-drop functionality for easy organizing, a new favorites bar to keep your best pals close at hand, and new information about each player. They’re now automatically grouped by the games they’re playing, and also give you an insight into where in the game they are; No longer do you need to wonder whether your friends are engrossed in single player action, or waiting for you to join them in the next multiplayer match.

If much of this seems familiar, it’s because other chat services like Discord have offered similar features for a while. With this big overhaul though, Steam does at least bring itself some parity with the competition and make its own communication tools a viable option for its millions of gamers. Just in time for the upcoming Summer Sale, too.

If you want to try out the new chat functions yourself, sign up to the Steam beta by going into your account and clicking “Settings,” followed by “Accounts” and then choosing to opt-in to the beta.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Everything you need to know about Discord, the chat app for gamers
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  • DT Daily: Google upgrades Android texting with RCS Chat



13
Jun

A cure for phone fatigue? Apple’s Screen Time vs. Google’s Digital Wellbeing


As a part of its initiative to help reduce the amount of time we spend on our phones, Apple is introducing a new feature called Screen Time in iOS 12. A month earlier, Google announced a similar feature called Digital Wellbeing that will be baked into its next version of the Android P operating system.

How do the two compare? We break down the features, differences, and benefits of Apple’s Screen Time and Google’s Digital Wellbeing.

Apple’s Screen Time

Your digital report card

To access Screen Time on iOS 12, you’ll have to go to your Settings and then tap on Screen Time. At the top, there’s a brief summary of how much time you have spent using your phone for the day. Below that number are the apps you’re spending the most time on, and for how long.

If you tap on your name at the top, it’ll bring you to a more detailed report. This is where you can see a full graph of your phone usage depending on the time, the amount of time your longest session was, and your screen time during Downtime (which we’ll get to later). You’ll also see a complete list of all the apps you’ve been using and for how long. You can also take a look at your usage for the last seven days as well.

For those who tend to check their phone often, Screen Time has a section dedicated to letting you know how many times you’ve picked up your phone. You can see the total number of pickups and the average amount of times you pick up your phone per hour. It’ll also tell you between what times you picked up your phone the most. For example, our most pickups at one point was 33 times between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Another insight Apple gives you is how many notifications you receive per hour. In the left-hand corner, you’ll see the total number and, on the opposite side, you’re provided with the amount per hour. There’s also a graph that displays the times you receive the least and most amount of alerts. For more detailed information, you can also see how many notifications you’ve received from specific apps.

Setting App Limits

To help decrease the amount of time spent on specific apps, the App Limits feature allows people to set daily time limits. Go to Settings > Screen Time > App Limits and tap Add Limit. There’s a list of different categories, such as Social Networking, Games, Entertainment, and more. Check off a preferred category or two, and then you can set a limit for a period of time.

When you near the limit for an app, you’ll see a banner notification stating that time is almost up. Once the limit hits the end, you’ll be locked out of the app and a page will appear saying you’ve reached the limit. At the bottom, there will be an option to ignore the limit, which then offers two choices: “Remind Me in 15 Minutes,” which grants a bit more time in the app, and “Ignore Limit For Today.”

When a limit is up, there will be an hourglass icon next to the app on the home screen and the tile will also be darkened. That way, it’s easy to identify which app limits have run out. Tap on each one and the same notification saying you’ve reached your limit will pop up.

Downtime and Always Allowed

With Downtime, it’s easy to set a schedule for time away from the screen. To enable it, go to Settings > Screen Time > Downtime and toggle it on. There’s also the ability to set the exact hours for Downtime, which will be applied to all devices signed into iCloud. During Downtime, the only notifications that pop up will be ones you choose under “Always Allowed.” The only app that can’t be turned off is the ability to receive incoming phone calls and make outgoing ones.

When Downtime starts, there will be a notification on your lock screen that states it is in effect. Log into your device and you’ll see the same hourglass icon and notification as you do with App Limits, next to all the apps that weren’t added to your Always Allowed list.

Android P’s Digital Wellbeing

Since Android P is still in beta until later this summer, Digital Wellbeing isn’t completely available for use, but we can still take a look at what it will offer. There are four main components: Do Not Disturb, App Timer, Dashboard, and Wind Down. Here’s what we know about each of the different tools so far.

Do Not Disturb

With Do Not Disturb (which is the only feature currently available), you can block out all alerts. Under the Do Not Disturb settings, you can alter the feature a bit more. This includes muting sound and vibrations, how long you want the feature to be turned on for, exceptions to which notifications you can receive, and more. Do Not Disturb is already available in Android, but the latest version makes it super simple to activate, and it blocks almost everything as soon as it’s turned on.

Dashboard

The Dashboard will most likely be available within the device’s Settings app. Whether you’re sending emails or watching Netflix, your Dashboard will allow you to pinpoint exactly where time is being spent. It can also show how many notifications you received, and how many times you unlocked your phone.

App Timer

App Timer will allow you to set a time limit for how long you want to spend in each app. For example, if you want to use Gmail for about two hours, you can set the limit through this feature. The Gmail icon will becom grayscale, indicating that your time in the app for the day is up. To reverse the limit, you’ll have to go back into your Dashboard and manually remove it yourself.

As of right now, there’s a similar feature available in YouTube while watching videos, which is also present on iOS. If you tap on your account icon and then go to Settings > General > Remind me to take a break, you’ll then be able to select your reminder frequency. When the reminder shows up, you can either dismiss it and resume watching or turn the reminder off via your Settings.

Wind Down

This feature works in tandem with Google Assistant. When you let your Assistant know you’re ready to “wind down,” your phone screen will go grayscale and Do Not Disturb will turn on. Google said this will help curb your desire to tap on icons and use your phone when it’s the end of the day and you’re about to go to sleep. It will return to normal depending on a time you set.

How do the two compare?

Since Google’s Digital Wellbeing isn’t entirely available to test, we could see some more customization options and features once the final version is out. For now, it’s very similar to Apple’s Screen Time. Both provide you with the ability to check on how much time you’re spending on your device, set app limits, and also allow you to set boundaries of the notifications you want depending on the hour.

They also provide visuals for users to see — with graphs that show you the exact times you’re on a specific app. For even more insight, both Google and Apple show the number of times you unlock your device as well. Regardless of which OS you use, you’re given a detailed report of your usage that allows you to evaluate how much time you spend on your phone on a daily basis.

But Apple’s Screen Time (for now) provides a bit more customization. In Apple’s Downtime, for example, you’re able to choose exactly which apps are still allowed to send you notifications and which you can still access. Google’s Wind Down feature relies more on removing color to keep you from wanting to constantly be on your phone, as well as turning a blanket Do Not Disturb on.

At the moment, Digital Wellbeing doesn’t mention any specific features for parents.

One differentiating factor between the two are parental controls. At the moment, Digital Wellbeing doesn’t mention any specific features for parents. With Apple’s Screen Time, parents are able to set up “Screen Time for Family” and can use Family Sharing to get weekly reports as well as set limits on children’s devices remotely. There’s also a Content & Privacy Restrictions section that allows parents to block inappropriate content.

Google does have Family Link, which is a separate app designed for parents to approve and block apps their kids attempt to download from the Google Play Store, see how much time their kids are spending on apps, and give them the ability to lock devices remotely. It’s unclear if this app will be baked into the OS, but until then you’ll need to nab it from the Play Store.

Google’s Digital Wellbeing could have more options when it rolls out, but from what we’ve seen, it seems a tad bare. There’s not much leeway to alter the experience or quickly bypass set limits, which may be the point. Perhaps, Google is keeping it more restrictive to be more effective.

You don’t need to use either of these two services as they are completely optional. We’ll update this story when we get our hands on Digital Wellbeing in Android P.

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13
Jun

BlackBerry KEY2 vs. BlackBerry KEYone: Should you upgrade?


blackberry-key2-vs-keyone-2.jpg?itok=GTY

The price you pay for loving KEY.

The BlackBerry KEY2 didn’t have to overdeliver — it just had to deliver. Instead, BlackBerry Mobile listened to the complaints leveled against the first-generation KEYone and managed to address nearly every one of them. There’s something to be said about that.

The KEY2’s improvements are subtle but significant, and are uniformly applied — there isn’t a single area of the phone that hasn’t been affected in some way. At the same time, it’s very much the physical and spiritual successor to the KEYone, and will likely attract a similarly-sized audience; when BlackBerry Mobile says it intends to grow the keyboard phone market with the KEY2, it’s through evolution, not revolution.

blackberry-key2-vs-keyone-7.jpg?itok=4ze

KEY2 vs. KEYone What’s the same?

The KEY2 maintains the original’s 4.5-inch 1620×1080 pixel IPS display — and I’m not talking the same specs, I’m talking about the same exact display — which limits the phone to letterboxing while watching wide-angle content in landscape.

But that’s part of the value proposition of a phone like this: it does things differently. BlackBerry Mobile says that no one, including its most hardcore fan base, complained about the screen, and lengthening it to 16:9, or trying to reduce bezel size, would have been problematic for both aesthetics and usability.

Some of the things that stayed the same were good. The capacitive buttons weren’t.

What also hasn’t changed over last year is the implementation of capacitive buttons. Again, BlackBerry doubled down on a set of conventions and stuck to them, saying that virtual keys would have forced them to rethink the display or chassis size, and it wanted the phone to be evenly weighted.

The use of capacitive keys isn’t fundamentally problematic since Google isn’t going to enforce a navigation change to gestures when upgrading to Android P, but it does somewhat limit the KEY2’s upgradeability.

Both the KEYone and KEY2 share a textured back, making the phone easy to grip, and both sport headphone jacks, single downward-facing speakers, and USB-C fast charging.

blackberry-key2-vs-keyone-6.jpg?itok=VPx

Operating System Android 8.1 Oreo Android 7.1 Nougat
Display 4.5-inch, 1620×1080 IPS LCD434 ppi 4.5-inch, 1620x1080IPS LCD434 ppi
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 6604x Kryo 2.2GHz, 4x Kryo 1.8GHzAdreno 512 GPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 625Octa-core 2GHzAdreno 506 GPU
RAM 6GB 3GB
Storage 64GB / 128GB 32GB
Expandable microSD up to 2TB microSD up to 2TB
Rear Camera 1 12MP (1.3 micron) ƒ/1.8 laser+phase autofocusdual-tone LED flash 12MP (1.55 micron) ƒ/2phase autofocusdual-tone LED flash
Rear Camera 2 12MP (1 micron) ƒ/2.6 2x optical zoom portrait mode n/a
Video 4K @ 30fps, 1080p @ 60fps HDR 4K @ 30fps, 1080p @ 60fpsHDR
Front Camera 8MP Selfie flash1080p/30 video 8MPSelfie flash1080p/30 video
Battery 3500 mAh Non-removable 3505 mAhNon-removable
Charging Quick Charge 3.0 USB-C Quick Charge 3.0USB-C
Water resistance No No
Headphone jack Yes Yes
Security Front-facing fingerprint sensor (in keyboard) DTEK security suiteFIPS 140-2 Full Disk EncryptionAndroid For Work, Google Play for Work Front-facing fingerprint sensor (in keyboard) DTEK security suiteFIPS 140-2 Full Disk EncryptionAndroid For Work, Google Play for Work
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, 5GHz, Bluetooth 5 + LE, NFCGPS, GLONASS Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, 5GHz, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, NFCGPS, GLONASS
Network (NA GSM) LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/14/17/20/28/29/30/66 TD-LTE Band 38/39/40/41 LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/19/20/28/29/30 TD-LTE Band 38/39/40/41
Dimensions 151.4 x 71.8 x 8.5 mm 149.1 x 72.39 x 9.4 mm
Weight 168 180g

Both phones have roughly the same sized battery, too — 3,500mAh on the KEY2 and 3,505mAh on the KEYone — which should translate into more than a full day on both phones. We’ve already recounted the epic longevity of the original KEYone, with its battery-sipping Snapdragon 625 platform, and there’s no doubt the sequel will pull in similar, if not better, results.

BlackBerry KEY2 specs

blackberry-key2-vs-keyone-1.jpg?itok=9v8

KEY2 vs. KEYone What’s different?

Despite sharing much of the same core design, the BlackBerry KEY2 changes up a significant amount, both internally and externally, from the size of the keys on the eponymous keyboard to the heftier components that adorn the specifications sheet.

For starters, the Snapdragon 660 that powers the phone is more than double the speed, both in single- and multi-core tests, of the KEYone’s Snapdragon 625. That phone was notorious for unwelcome slowdowns and stutters, and despite a fairly good reputation with other phones, the Snapdragon 625 is aging itself out these days.

The processor in the KEY2 is more than twice as fast as the KEYone, and it’s going to be a big deal for performance.

Conversely, the S660 is newer, faster, and better-equipped to handle the considerable multitasking allotment that KEY2 owners are likely to ask of the phone, and though we haven’t used it extensively, will be far less prone to inconsistent performance.

Add to that the 6GB of RAM that comes standard in the KEY2 — double that of most KEYone models — and the newer phone has the potential to rival many flagships for overall peppiness. (It also does somewhat justify the $100 price bump over the original, but we’ll get to that.)

The faster processor and RAM also support the new camera system, and here’s where I’m a bit skeptical (though I’ll defer judgment until I get a review unit in the labs). To accommodate a second camera — a 12MP sensor with an ƒ2.6 lens at twice the focal length of the main one — BlackBerry Mobile had to change out the primary sensor for a smaller one than was in the KEYone.

That particular camera, though not best-in-class by any means, boasted the same module as the first Google Pixel, which had the best camera of 2016. That sensor, an IMX368, boasts 1.55-micron pixels, which affords better low-light photography, has been replaced by one of identical resolution and unknown provenance, with smaller 1.28-micron pixels. It’s not a huge difference, but I’ll be scrutinizing the KEY2’s photography, especially in challenging lighting conditions, to assess any regression.

Of course, having a second sensor means the KEY2 can perform tricks the KEYone couldn’t dream of, like portrait mode and, more useful, telephotography. The rear camera also boasts the ability to capture 1080p video footage at 60fps, an ability earned by the more powerful Snapdragon 660 processor.

There’s something to be said for subtle improvements, like the size of the keyboard buttons.

The KEY2’s design is considerably more modern-looking than the KEYone’s, with angular brushed aluminum sides, a front boasting more integrated sensors, and less frustrating button placement, with the power button now located on the phone’s right side nestled between the volume rocker and Convenience Key.

Looking at the two side-by-side reveals a number of small tweaks, too: the phone is ever-so-slightly taller and narrower, making it easier to paw one-handed, and it’s around 8% lighter, too.

The keyboard keys, now matte instead of glossy, are 20% taller than those in last year’s phone. The keys’ size, and improved clickiness, are among the most important upgrades to the KEY2, and I can’t wait to begin using them. The newer phone also sports a Speed Key, which operates as a de facto shortcut key to anything the phone can do. It’s located where the right-side Shift button is on the KEYone, and I can’t say I’m going to miss the old design much.

KEY2 vs. KEYone Should you upgrade?

The KEY2 will cost $649 USD when it’s released in late June, which is $100 more than the KEYone demanded when it went on sale in mid-2017. Given the slow creep of phone costs in general, some price bump was expected, but $100 seems pretty sizeable. At the same time, the internal specs align much more with flagships we’re seeing from Samsung, Huawei, LG, and others, and BlackBerry Mobile understands its demographic well enough to know that those willing to spend $550 on a KEYone will easily spend $650 on its successor.

Whether that successor is worth upgrading to, though, is not my decision to make. While we won’t know for a while yet whether the KEY2 will be sold directly at U.S. carriers, we do know that there will be a version that supports both AT&T and T-Mobile; it doesn’t seem like BlackBerry will be releasing a CDMA-compatible model at the moment. (There is a Verizon/Sprint-compatible KEYone, if you’re interested in picking one up at a discount.)

If you love BlackBerry phones and were holding off buying a KEYone, the KEY2 will sate your hunger for a keyboard phone running Android. If you have a KEYone, you should probably wait until the company rolls out Android Oreo before deciding whether the KEY2 is a worthy upgrade, since there will be some inevitable software improvements coming to the older model. If you’re in the larger camp that’s loudly scoffed at BlackBerry’s return — are you hate-reading this? — the KEY2 may not convince you to change your mind, but picking one up will offer a much better first impression either way.

See at BlackBerry Mobile

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13
Jun

Are you excited for a manual dark mode in the Pixel Launcher?


Android will soon get a dark mode — if you have a Pixel phone, that is.

Users have long been nagging at Google to add a system-wide dark mode to Android. It’s still unclear if/when that’ll happen, but at least for owners of the Pixel phones, Google will soon add an option for manually turning on the dark theme for the Pixel Launcher that’s currently featured when using certain wallpapers.

google-pixel-2-and-2-xl-black-3.jpg?itok

As you might expect, this confirmation from Google resulted in something of a mixed bag.

While it’s great that Google’s giving Pixel users more control over how the UI looks, the fact that this is being limited to the Pixel Launcher (which is exclusive to Google Pixel phones) has left some folks a bit disgruntled.

There’s a lot of back and forth going on in the AC forums over this right now, and this is what the conversation looks like so far.

avatar752687_8.gifTraderGary
06-12-2018 05:27 PM

And it saves on battery life as there isn’t a need to light up all those white pixels anymore!

Reply

avatar2997472_1.gifNauga
06-12-2018 06:30 PM

If this dark theme weren’t restricted to the Pixel launcher, I’d be all for it. When Google comes up with a dark theme that I can apply to Settings pages and to Android System & the System UI in order to get black notifications, then I’ll get excited.

My guess on an ETA for that excitement: the 12th of Never.

Reply

avatar339830_4.gifcbreze
06-12-2018 06:52 PM

Bring it on, more choices are always a good thing

Reply

avatar1398539_1.gifBilly Bob Jimmy Joe
06-13-2018 04:15 AM

Systemwide dark theme or bust!

Reply

What do you think? Are you excited for the Pixel Launcher’s manual dark mode?

Join the conversation in the forums!

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

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