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18
Jun

Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Collaborative Album Launches on Apple Music After Two Days of Tidal Exclusivity


On Saturday, Beyoncé and Jay-Z launched a new collaborative album called “Everything is Love” exclusively to Tidal subscribers, the streaming service that Jay-Z owns. Just under two days later, Everything is Love has now launched on Apple Music, Spotify Premium, and Amazon Music Unlimited, making this a very short timed exclusive for Tidal (via Variety). In two weeks, the album will be available on Spotify’s free tier.

In relation to Apple Music, The Carters have had a somewhat rocky relationship with Apple’s streaming music service. Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” album never launched on Apple Music and remains available for Apple customers only as a $17.99 paid download in iTunes. Although Jay-Z quietly removed many of his albums from Apple Music in April 2017, most eventually came back, and his own album “4:44” had one week of Tidal exclusivity before appearing on Apple Music last summer.

Tidal has had a rough couple of months as well, beginning with a report last December that claimed the company was facing money problems due to “stalled” user growth, and could run out of working capital in six months. Nearly six months later, Norwegian news site Dagens Næringsliv reported that Tidal was months behind on its royalty payments to record labels.

Furthermore, Tidal last month confirmed to its customers that it was investigating a “potential data breach” on the platform. The company said it had gone so far as to hire an “independent, third party cyber-security firm” to find out what happened. It’s still unknown how widespread the potential breach was and what aspects of Tidal users’ data might have been compromised. Tidal CEO Richard Sanders said that the company would share the results of the security firm’s discoveries “once completed.”

Amid the turmoil, Tidal exclusives have grown short or ended completely, as with Kanye West’s latest album “ye,” which launched on Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal on the same day. In 2016, West launched “The Life of Pablo” as a Tidal exclusive, but eventually allowed the full album to stream on Apple Music and other services.

Years later, West reportedly sought to end Tidal’s exclusivity rights over his new music and break from the service. West claimed he was owed “more than $3 million” because his album “resulted in 1.5 million new subscribers to Tidal, for which he was supposed to get a bonus”, but Tidal never paid. At the time of those claims, sources close to West said the artist successfully ended exclusivity rights with Tidal and cited “Tidal’s failure to honor its financial obligations.”

Tidal’s subscriber base isn’t known, but it is believed to be much smaller than Apple Music (50 million including those on free trials) and Spotify Premium (75 million). Major exclusives like The Carters’ new album likely help increase the company’s paid subscriber count for both its $9.99/month standard sound quality tier and $19.99/month Hi-Fi tier, despite the short exclusivity window. Still, with a 30-day free trial and no confirmation of subscriber numbers, it’s unclear how many new users will stick around.

Tidal subscribers will have one advantage over other users, since the bonus track “Salud” remains a Tidal exclusive.

Tags: Apple Music, Tidal
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18
Jun

Apple Seeds Third Beta of iOS 11.4.1 to Developers


Apple today seeded the third beta of an upcoming iOS 11.4.1 update to developers, one week after seeding the second beta and three weeks after releasing iOS 11.4, an update that introduced AirPlay 2 and Messages in iCloud.

Registered developers can download the new iOS 11.4.1 beta from Apple’s Developer Center or over-the-air once the proper configuration profile has been installed from the Developer Center.

No new features were discovered in the first two iOS 11.4.1 betas, suggesting it focuses on bug fixes and performance improvements to address issues discovered since the release of iOS 11.4.

We’ll update this post should we discover any new features in the third iOS 11.4.1 beta, but we’re not expecting major changes now that Apple has shifted its focus to iOS 12, which is also available to developers for beta testing purposes.

Related Roundup: iOS 11
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18
Jun

Apple Seeds Third Beta of tvOS 11.4.1 to Developers


Apple today seeded the third beta of an upcoming tvOS 11.4.1 update to developers for testing purposes, one week after seeding the second tvOS 11.4.1 beta and three weeks after releasing tvOS 11.4, an update that introduced support for AirPlay 2.

Designed for the fourth and fifth-generation Apple TV models, the new tvOS 11.4.1 developer beta can be downloaded onto the Apple TV via a profile that’s installed using Xcode.

No new features or changes were discovered in the first two tvOS 11.4.1 betas, suggesting the update focus on fixes for bugs that have been discovered since the release of tvOS 11.4.

Apple’s tvOS updates have historically been minor in scale, and Apple does not often provide us with detailed notes outlining what’s new. We’ll update this post should anything be found in the third beta.

Apple’s work on tvOS 11 is winding down as the company is now focusing on tvOS 12, which was unveiled at the Worldwide Developers Conference in early June.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 12Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Neutral)
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18
Jun

Winnebago and Motiv Power Systems partner with all-electric outreach vehicles


San Francisco-based Motiv Power Systems introduced an all-electric mobile blood bank on June 15, following an electric bookmobile Motiv delivered to the Oakland Public Library in May. Developed in partnership with Winnebago Industries, the eBloodmobile will tour California this summer to demonstrate the vehicle’s ability to run on battery power alone, saving diesel fuel and reducing tailpipe emissions to zero.

The eBloodmobile has a similar layout to blood collection outreach vehicles powered by diesel fuel. The demonstration model has four patient beds, two interview rooms, and small waiting and recovery areas.

According to Motiv Power Systems, diesel-powered blood bank vehicles burn eight gallons of fuel per collection day while idling. The engines run on idle to provide power and climate control for the mobile collection site. In the course of an average 10-year daily usage life for such vehicles, using electric power instead of an internal combustion engine (ICE) would save about 34,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year and eliminate the ICE’s harmful emissions.

The eBloodmobile is the first example of Motiv’s partnership with Winnebago. The two companies intend to develop a range of specialty medical vehicles such as mobile asthma treatment centers, dental clinics, and methadone clinics. The partnership will also build community service outreach vehicles in various categories.

Traditionally, when mobile medical clinics and other outreach vehicles arrive at their points of service, they are set up in central locations convenient to walking traffic. And those locations highlight the problems.

“Diesel exhaust emissions while idling remains a pervasive problem for mobile outreach vehicles aimed at serving communities, especially for our most vulnerable populations like children and medical patients,” said Jim Castelaz, Motiv Power Systems founder and CEO. “It’s quite common for these vehicles to spend eight hours idling, in addition to running diesel generators, in order to provide the power needed to run electrical equipment and climate controls. An all-electric vehicle provides clean, silent, and vibration-free energy to power onboard equipment.”

The partnership will construct all-electric outreach vehicles by placing one of Winnebago’s three all-electric zero-emission commercial shell Superstructure Interlocking Design platforms on the appropriate Motiv EPIC Dearborn chassis.

In May, Motiv Power Systems delivered an all-electric multipurpose bookmobile, the Oakland MOVe, to the Oakland Public Libary. Designed to create the atmosphere of an outdoor living room, the pop-up bookmobile has side panels that open outward to expand the truck to 31 feet in length and 14.5 feet in width.

The Oakland MOVe provides access to books, areas to work on laptops and tablets, electronic charging stations, Wi-Fi hotspots, and more. The bookmobile also has shade umbrellas and portable seating. Bringing the library out into the street, the group hopes to interest and engage youth in the library’s materials and services while simultaneously modeling the environmental cleanliness of electric vehicles.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the MOVe, Oakland City Mayor Libby Schaff cast a wider perspective when she said, “This vehicle is part of how we will achieve our goal of how to be diesel free by 2033.”

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18
Jun

AMD will only release Ryzen APU graphics drivers every three months


Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

AMD has made its plans for Ryzen APU graphics driver releases a little more clear with a statement from an AMD representative. He suggested that updates to Ryzen APU graphics drivers would come every three months and will only come as WHQL certified releases, with no options for beta drivers in between.

One of the big changes AMD made in recent years to try and keep pace with its big graphics rival, Nvidia, is to release graphics drivers much more regularly. For the most part it’s stuck to that commitment and now AMD fans are treated to regular driver releases and feature improvements for its Radeon Software back end. But APU owners don’t get to enjoy quite as frequent updates.

In fact, since the release of the Ryzen 2200G and 2400G APUs earlier this year, they’ve only received one update — not counting the motherboard firmware fix for non-boot issues. It debuted in May and it seems like owners may need to wait until August to receive another.

According to “AMDMatt,” an AMD representative on the Overclockers UK forum, the plan is to give AMD Ryzen APU owners a new driver update at a quarterly frequency. When asked by another forum member why there has been no support for the APUs under the most recent two driver releases, AMDMatt said that, “APU drivers are updated every 3 months as WHQL releases only.”

Other forum members weren’t greatly pleased by this news, and highlighted how important hot fixes or optimizations for new games could take months to arrive, leaving those running the APU in the lurch when it comes to new releases. Considering APUs are underpowered graphically compared to the dedicated graphics cards of even a few years ago, those running the Ryzen with Vega chips don’t have much graphical muscle to counteract a lack of optimization.

This news raises questions over how AMD and Intel plan to update their “Kaby Lake G” processors, which combine an Intel CPU with an AMD Vega graphics core on a single die. While a recent update gave owners hope that more frequent updates would be released for the hardware in the future, it may be that that chip is forced to languish with irregular updates as well.

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18
Jun

Key settings you need to change on your brand-new iPhone X, 8, or 8 Plus


So you snagged yourself a shiny new iPhone X, or maybe you’ve gone for the more classic lines of the iPhone 8 — no matter which new Apple iPhone you picked, there are several settings you should immediately tweak to get the best out of it.

Turn on battery percentage

If you find yourself squinting at that little bar at the top right of the screen wondering just how much battery life you have left and whether you need to top up before you head out, then it’s time to turn the battery percentage on. It’s a little weird that this isn’t turned on by default, but it’s easily sorted. Go to Settings > Battery and toggle on Battery Percentage. Now you will see a clear percentage next to the battery bar.

Set Auto-Lock

Your screen is the biggest battery drain around and you don’t want people snooping people on your iPhone when you put it down — both good reasons to set your Auto-Lock as low as possible. On the other hand, it’s so frustrating when you’re using your iPhone, get momentarily distracted, and look back to find your screen locked. Whatever the sweet spot is for you, Auto-Lock can be found in Settings > Display & Brightness.

Hide unwanted apps

If you want to get rid of an app, then simply long-press on the icon for it until your app icons start wiggling and then tap the X in the top corner to uninstall. For some stock apps this will hide or disable them — they’re not really uninstalled — and you can always bring them back via the App Store.

If you have an app you don’t actually want to get rid of, but you don’t want it appearing as you scroll around, then we suggest creating a folder. Tap and hold on the app icon until they all start wiggling, then drop it on top of another app icon to create a folder. Name it whatever you want. If you add more apps to the folder, then you can move the app you want to hide to a later page in the folder, making it even less likely to be found.

Schedule Do Not Disturb

Don’t let your iPhone be the boss of you. We all need some downtime and that is why it’s important to schedule periods when your iPhone won’t alert you. At the very least you should set this up for the hours you usually sleep, but we recommend scheduling it to go quiet for a couple of hours at night when you usually wind down. Go to Settings > Do Not Disturb and toggle on Scheduled, then select your Quiet Hours.

If you’re worried about some important calls or messages not getting through, then scroll down on the Do Not Disturb page and you can set up Allow Calls From and toggle on Repeated Calls.

Set blue light filter

Apple calls this feature Night Shift and what it does is to filter out the blue light and make the screen warmer, which can help you fall asleep more easily after reading on your iPhone late at night. Go to Settings > Display & Brightness> Night Shift and you can toggle it on, but we recommend toggling on Scheduled and picking times that suit you or selecting Sunset to Sunrise.

Back up your photos

For many of us, our photos are the most precious things on our iPhones, so it’s worth making sure that yours are being backed up. You can do this by going to Settings > Photos and toggling on iCloud Photo Library.

Apple is a little stingy when it comes to storage space in the cloud, giving you just 5GB for free. You might find that your iCloud fills up fast and maybe you don’t want to pay for more space. Consider installing the free Google Photos app. You can toggle on Back up & sync during the setup process and Google gives you 15GB for free. You can also get another 5GB for free from Microsoft OneDrive or Amazon Prime Photos. Both apps are free and offer automatic photo backup.

Adjust 3D Touch sensitivity

With 3D Touch, you can press on the screen to peek at further options for some apps and jump to shortcut actions. It can be really useful once you get used to it, but it definitely takes a little practice. You will get a feel for it faster if you tweak it to suit you. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > 3D Touch and you can choose from Light, Medium, and Firm and practice on the test image below.

Set your email signature

Do you really want “Sent from my iPhone” as the signature on every email you send? Probably not. It’s easy to change, simply go to Settings > Mail > Signature and you can delete the message and switch it for something else or leave it blank.

Customize Control Center

You can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access the Control Center for shortcuts to things like the Torch and Wi-Fi. Some of these are fixed, but you can also customize a few by going to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls. Tap the green plus icon next to anything you want to add or the red minus icon next to anything you want to remove.

Set up Emergency SOS

No one wants to imagine that the worst will ever happen but if it does, you will be glad you set up Emergency SOS. Go to Settings > Emergency SOS and toggle on Auto Call. If you press and hold the side button and either volume button, your iPhone will call 911 or the appropriate emergency service in your region.

It’s worth setting up Emergency Contacts via the Health app, where you can also add details on any medical conditions you have and things like your blood type. If you add Emergency Contacts, then they will also receive a message automatically when you trigger Emergency SOS to let them know that you called the emergency services. You can add them by opening the Health app and tapping on the Medical ID tab at the bottom right.

If you’re hungry for more, then check out our iPhone X tips and tricks or read up on iPhone 8 tips.

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18
Jun

Sony Xperia XZ2 review: Too much phone, too little value


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A phone that’s more and less than the sum of its parts.

It started not with a whimper but a bang. My first Xperia XZ2 unit had issues. So did a second. They were pre-production models, as many review units were, but I held off reviewing the phone until I knew I was using the same hardware and software that would ship to consumers.

I may not insist on that same handicap for other models, but the Xperia XZ2, like all Sony phones, needs a booster. They’re at an inherent disadvantage — one of Sony’s own making, mind you — because of lean distribution and, until recently, hardware limitations.

So when the Xperia XZ2 went on sale in April for $799, I knew I had to wait. The early adopters would pick it up anyway, but the masses, unsure what to do in a market awash in competitive devices, would likely sit. And wait.

Wait for the early bugs to be fixed. Wait for the inevitable price drop.

And now, in mid-June, we have our first major price drop, to $699 USD, along with a couple important bug fixes. Do these things make the Xperia XZ2 worthy of your time? And does it stand out in a very crowded market?

Sony Xperia XZ2



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Price: $699 on promotion ($799 MSRP)

Bottom line: Sony has made a beautiful phone that fails to stand out in a very crowded smartphone market. Even at $699 unlocked, it doesn’t offer great value.

Pros:

  • Excellent performance
  • Sony’s software impresses
  • Lovely design and solid all-glass construction
  • Camera takes great photos, even in low light, and dedicated shutter button is so, so useful
  • Sony’s Dynamic Vibration Engine is super cool

Cons:

  • Sony’s camera app feels slow and dated
  • Lacks software niceties like face unlock and fingerprint gestures
  • Phone is incredibly, disastrously slippery
  • Not available at U.S. carriers & no Verizon/Sprint support
  • It’s very thick and heavy

See at Amazon

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Sony Xperia XZ2 What’s great

Operating System Android 8.0 Oreo
Display 5.7-inch LCD, 2160x1080Gorilla Glass 5 18:9 aspect ratio
Processor Snapdragon 845 64-bitAdreno 630
Expandable microSD up to 400GB
RAM 4GB
Rear Camera 19MP Exmor RS, hybrid AF960FPS FHD slow-mo, 4K HDR video
Front Camera 5MP f/2.2 23mm wide-angle
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0 + LE , NFC, USB 3.1, GPS
Battery 3180mAh
Charging USB-CQuick Charge 3.0Qnovo Adaptive Charging Qi wireless charging
Sound Stereo S-Force front speakers
Water resistance IP68
Security Rear fingerprint sensor
Dimensions 153 x 72 x 11.1mm
Weight 198 g
Network 1.2Gbps (Cat18 LTE)
Colors Liquid Black, Liquid Silver, Deep Green, Ash Pink
Price $699 (at publishing)

The Xperia XZ2, like the smaller XZ2 Compact (which I love), feels much more modern and inviting than its Z, X, or XZ predecessors (my goodness Sony has made a lot of phones in the past few years). The gentle curvature of the glass somewhat obscures a fairly stout frame, but it lends the phone an organic warmth that I really enjoy looking at.

Sony’s always emphasized symmetry, sometimes to its detriment, but in a sea of notched and off-kilter smartphones, this one stands out as being deliberately even.

The 1080p display is elongated to a 2:1 aspect ratio, and while the panel won’t win awards for fidelity, it hits the high marks of a flagship, including HDR10 support (on Netflix and Amazon Prime), and an array of color gamut tweaks to suit everyone’s tastes.

The screen is bordered by slight, but very present, bezels, affording Sony the opportunity to improve its already-great S-Force stereo speakers. These speakers are incredible; they’re loud and full for a smartphone, and don’t distort at high volumes. They’re exactly the kind of showcase one expects for a phone that promotes entertainment.

Sony’s audio prowess extends to the headphone-wearing crowd, too. Despite lacking a headphone jack, Sony’s audio settings are plentiful and diverse, with an array of manual equalizer options (including virtual surround sound options of dubious merit) that do make a difference.

While few are going to understand the differences between DSEE HX and ClearAudio+ — enabling one cancels out the other — anyone with a pair of wired or wireless headphones is going to get superb audio quality from this phone.

That Sony emphasizes marketing nonsense over actual hardware virtues — DSEE HX, which upconverts low-quality music streams to high-quality, is less enticing to me than a clean DAC and ultra-powerful amplifier, both of which are present here — is to its detriment, but the good news is that, absent headphone jack aside, this is an audiophile-friendly handset.

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I’m also a big fan — and I seem to be largely alone here — of Sony’s Dynamic Vibration Engine, the super-powerful haptic motor that pulses along to music, movies, and any other sound-producing content.

Sony’s figured out that people want vibration motors that aren’t just strong but accurate; this one is both.

It’s not something I use all the time, but I tend to leave it on, especially if I’m cupping the phone in my hand to watch a movie trailer or Netflix show. Sure, it’s less effective when paired with a low-key sitcom than a pulse-pounding episode of Luke Cage, but I’d rather have the option to turn it off than not have it at all.

Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly sensitive to poor, sloppy phone haptics, and I’m delighted companies like Sony and LG are pushing the market into Apple-like territory. But just because a vibration motor is powerful doesn’t necessarily mean it’s agile, and thankfully this one is both, offering light, accurate touches when typing or receiving a notification.

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The camera story is, like the phone’s design, all about evolution. We have the same 19MP 1/2.3″ IMX400 the company’s been using for two years now — 1.22-micron pixels, ƒ/2.0 wider-than-normal lens — but the output is dramatically different thanks to a few good decisions by Sony.

First, the phone no longer uses its own processing engine, deferring instead to Qualcomm’s excellent image signal processor inside the Snapdragon 845. Sony’s also making it easier to capture a great shot, using its dedicated camera memory and fast processor to capture a burst of photos every time the shutter is pressed. When movement is detected, the gallery will offer a selection of four photos to choose from, and I usually found at least one good one in the bunch.

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The change works, though it’s not a slam dunk. The robust manual mode tends to offer a better “auto” shooting experience than Sony’s well-worn Superior Auto, which identifies the dominant theme of a particular scene (Backlight, Macro, Landscape, Document, Action) and adjusts accordingly. The phone makes smart decisions most of the time, but not every time, particularly in scenes with blown-out areas that require HDR, something Superior Auto is reluctant to apply.

It’s not necessarily that the hardware is outmatched — the 1/2.3″ sensor is larger than every phone camera on the market save the Huawei P20 Pro, though the ƒ/2.0 lens is somewhat a limiting factor and there’s no OIS — but that Sony’s camera app makes poor exposure decisions. Resulting photos are punchy and colorful but often darker than they need to be.

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A couple low-light samples taken with the Sony Xperia XZ2.

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In low-light situations, the Xperia XZ2 fares well, but is again outclassed by competitors like the Pixel 2 and P20 Pro. So why is this in the “What I like” column? Because in previous years, Sony wouldn’t even be in the low-light conversation; now the XZ2 at least holds its own. I need to trust the camera in my pocket to give me a usable shot in almost any condition, and the Xperia XZ2 offers that.

Analyzing a low-light shot

Huawei P20 Pro (left) | Sony Xperia XZ2 (right) — Use your left/right keys to switch between photos.

In the direst and darkest of conditions, the XZ2 performs well against what is arguably the most capable low-light camera on the market, the Huawei P20 Pro. I took this photo in near pitch-dark, and the XZ2 ramped up ISO to 12,800 with a shutter speed of 1/8, eking a fair amount of color and quite a bit of detail. The P20 Pro, on the other hand, takes things to ISO 25,600, but at a shutter speed of 1/10.

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Huawei P20 Pro, 100% crop (left) | Xperia XZ2, 100% crop (right)

The P20 Pro is much less noisy despite an ISO twice as high, and it resolves considerably more detail, but the XZ2 excels, too. It also proves that, under the right conditions and with some patience, the Xperia XZ2 can be a consummate camera in low-light situations.

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That confidence extends to the photo- and video-taking process, too. I love Sony’s retention of the physical shutter button, and prefer it in almost every shooting scenario. Being able to quickly remove the XZ2 from my pocket with my finger already on the shutter key, camera app at the ready, is a user experience I miss dreadfully when I move on from Sony phones.

One of the smoothest Android phones out there, period. Sony knows its way around software optimization.

Similarly, I trust the speed and performance of the XZ2 in general. Other than a few blips, the Snapdragon 845 and 4GB RAM combo proved rock solid in my two weeks testing it, and the 64GB of storage proved ample. The 3,180mAh battery may seem small compared to others in its class, but Sony has always managed to pull off feats of pure magic when it comes to uptime, and that’s no different here.

I don’t recall a single day using the phone that it dropped below 30% before I went to sleep, and most days I managed to stay above 50%. Sony doesn’t seem to be doing anything too fancy here, either — no Huawei-style app shaming — but whatever it’s doing, it’s working.

Finally, in the plus column, call quality was excellent and cellular speeds were similarly delicious — Sony worked with Bell in Canada to optimize the XZ2 for gigabit speeds, and it shows. I was regularly able to hit speeds above 200Mbps on Bell’s network.

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Sony Xperia XZ2 What needs work

There isn’t a tremendous amount to complain about with the Xperia XZ2, but for all of the company’s design prowess, the Xperia lacks a couple of major amenities that I’ve grown accustomed to having on similarly-priced (and cheaper) hardware. Yes, there’s wireless charging and waterproofing, but the phone lacks face unlock, and the fingerprint sensor doesn’t support navigation gestures. That’s especially frustrating because the fingerprint sensor itself is way too low — in fact, the camera is where you’d expect the fingerprint sensor to be. Awkward.

It’s also quite bulky, at over 11mm thick and 198 grams, which is reassuring from a quality perspective but onerous from a usability standpoint.

A few other frustrations muck up the experience, like disastrous rotation detection, which puts the phone in the wrong orientation literally every time it’s placed on a surface. I’ve never wanted to throw my phone so often than when encountering this bug — I ended up turning off auto-rotate entirely.

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Worse is the camera’s complete inability to perform touch-exposure. This has a very obvious effect on photo output, as you have to “trust” the phone to pick the correct lighting values for a particular scene. Unfortunately, the phone is quite dumb, at least in this respect.

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Let me give you an example: I’m in a relatively dark room with a bright light source — a window, or a bright lamp — and want to take a photo of something in the room. On practically every other phone, you can tap in the darker area to force the scene to re-expose, blowing out the ultra-bright area (so they go white) and leaving the rest of the scene looking properly lit.

With the Xperia XZ2, that’s not possible, not even in manual mode (exasperatingly, there are five metering options, including touch metering, but none of them work at all). On a phone with aggressive HDR, this wouldn’t be a problem, but the XZ2’s HDR mode is too subtle when it’s on, and there’s no force-HDR mode in Superior Auto.

Finally, the phone is incredibly slippery. I have great reflexes, so I was able to catch it mid-air when, cradling it in my neck during a phone call, it vaseline-jumped from the crook of my neck. Disaster averted, but I immediately ordered a case, and it’s like using a different phone entirely.

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Sony Xperia XZ2 Should you buy it?

There are many, many good Android phones on the market right now. The Sony Xperia XZ2 is a very good phone, but it’s not even close to being the best one you can buy. It’s too thick and heavy, and despite a very attractive design, the minor distractions contribute to marring the whole experience.

Sony’s focus on entertainment continues to be its strength; from a superlative display to incredible sound and a unique, gratifying vibration motor, there’s plenty to like from a consumption perspective. Moreover, Sony’s come a long way with its camera, though it’s one or two software updates away from really competing with the Samsungs and Huaweis of the world.

There’s also the question of Stateside availability. Unlike its smaller XZ2 Compact counterpart, the XZ2 doesn’t work on Verizon, which significantly limits its attractiveness to the U.S. market. That means it’s just AT&T and T-Mobile — something OnePlus 6 owners have to contend with, but there’s a major price delta between the two phones. (In Canada, the phone is sold by Bell and Freedom Mobile, but thanks to Canada’s recent rule change, it’s unlocked out of the box and will work on every national carrier.)

Then it comes down to competitors: at $699 (which is a promotional price), the Xperia XZ2 offers a decent value proposition. At $799, it’s not worth your time, especially with devices like the Galaxy S9 and LG G7 in the same ballpark, and the OnePlus 6 eating its lunch at $529.

3.5
out of 5


The Xperia XZ2 is Sony’s best flagship ever, but as much effort as the company has spent catching up to the competition, it still feels a year behind.

See at Amazon

18
Jun

What do you use the S Pen for?


So many ways to Note.

There are a lot of reasons people buy Samsung’s Galaxy Note phones. The screens are big, batteries are long-lasting, and the cameras are usually top-notch. However, above-all-else, the main reason the Note continues to stand on its own is thanks to the S Pen.

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No other smartphone offers a stylus that’s as feature-rich and polished compared to the S Pen, and whether you need to jot down a quick note or are in a mood for doodling, the S Pen is up to just about whatever you throw at it.

Samsung adds new features to S Pen all the time, and so many functions readily at your disposal, we decided to check in with our AC forum users to see what S Pen features they use the most. Here’s what they had to say!

avatar1011456_4.giftatootie67
06-17-2018 10:58 AM

I work in construction and we use OneDrive alot for our blueprints.

One of my favorite uses is I am able to draw on blueprints, or choose a small section and send it to others to use out in the field.

Everyone carries smartphones these days. We can’t afford to get our paper copies dirty or have one for every worker. This way everyone has the info they need.

Or if I need to send…

Reply

default.jpgandytiedye
06-16-2018 11:16 AM

I use the S-Pen for everything, including text input via handwriting recognition.

Reply

avatar2948237_1.gifChromium 4
06-16-2018 10:42 PM

I use it for translating foreign text, scrolling, texting, animated GIFS and Live Messages, taking notes at meetings and trainings.

Reply

avatar656790_2.gifjsigmo
06-16-2018 11:20 AM

Along with the uses mentioned above, I sometimes use it to set the insertion point when trying to edit text because I just can’t get the cursor to go where I want it to be using my finger. Sometimes using a fingertip to position a cursor amongst tiny text is like performing brain surgery using a backhoe.

Reply

If you’ve got a Galaxy Note handset, we’d love to know — How do you use the S Pen?

Join the conversation in the forums!

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18
Jun

One of Amazon’s best e-readers, the Kindle Voyage, is $50 off today


Yay books.

Amazon’s Kindle Voyage e-reader is down to $149.99. We haven’t seen a deal on the Voyage since October, and we haven’t ever seen it discounted by as much as $50 like it is now.

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In the hierarchy of Kindles, the Voyage is near the top. Below the Oasis but above the Paperwhite. The Kindle Paperwhite is Amazon’s most popular e-reader and that thing’ll drop in price at the mention of its name. The Voyage, though, takes everything the Paperwhite does and does it a little better. It’s thinner, lighter, designed to automatically adjust brightness based on ambient light, and has a battery that will last you weeks. It also has physical buttons on the side. The original Kindle had that and it was fantastic, but now you have to pay a premium for a device like the Voyage or learn to swipe your screen like a pleb. Users give it 4.2 stars based on more than 13,000 reviews.

Get serious about reading if you’re getting serious with Voyage. Sign up for Kindle Unlimited and Amazon lets you read millions of books whenever you want.

See on Amazon

18
Jun

These are all the phones LG is releasing in 2018


From the V40 to the Q7, here’s what LG has in store for 2018.

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Although it may not be the most popular smartphone brand in the States, LG releases more Android phones than almost anyone else in the West.

Ranging from high-end flagships to budget phones that barely cost $100, LG kicks out a number of handsets throughout the year that are all catered to different demographics. Keeping up with these releases can be a challenge, so in an effort to keep you in the know, here’s a list of all the phones LG’s released in 2018 and what we’re still expecting later in the year.

The phones we’re still expecting

LG V40

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The LG V30

LG’s V series is always home to the company’s most powerful (and expensive) phones. We’ve already seen a couple entries this year in the form of the V30S and V35, but later in the fall, we’re expecting something big from LG with the V40.

The rumor mill for the V40 is slowly kicking into gear, but right now, we’re expecting the phone to come equipped with a Snapdragon 845, OLED display, and dual camera setup.

It’s expected that the V40 will be released between August and September, and like it or not, will probably come with a price tag around the $900 range.

LG V40: How LG’s next flagship can win me over and find success

LG X Power3

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The LG X Power2

Each year sees LG release a ton of throwaway mid- and low-range phones, and in 2017, one of the most interesting was the LG X Power2. The X Power2 had pretty forgettable specs, but there was one aspect that made it stand out — a huge 4500mAh battery.

We’d love to see a successor to the X Power2, and while it’s possible that one could still be announced, the chances are getting more and more unlikely with each day that passes. LG announced the X Power2 in February last year, and at the time of publishing this article, we’re well into June.

Changing up release cycles isn’t entirely unheard of for LG, so we’ll keep an eye out just in case the X Power3 does become a reality.

LG Q8+

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The LG Q8.

Following the already announced Q7 and Q Stylus, it looks like LG’s next entry in its Q series will be the Q8+.

On June 16, a certification for the phone was found with the KCC (Korea’s version of the FCC here in the U.S.) with the codenames of LM-Q815S and LM-Q815L. The first of those codenames was previously spotted as part of a certification with the Wi-Fi Alliance, and both of them are listed as phones that support Google Play.

It’s unclear what the spec loadout will look like, but seeing as how the Q8 from 2017 was a miniature version of the LG V20, the Q8+ will likely be a smaller, more affordable variant of the V30 or V40.

The phones that have been released

LG V30S ThinQ

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At CES in January, LG gave us our very first look at the V30S ThinQ. Of all the phones LG’s released this year, the V30S has to be one of the most forgettable.

Outfitted with the exact same specs as the V30 from 2017, the only new things the V30S introduced were two new colors, 2GB of extra RAM, and software improvements for the camera that boosted its low-light performance and added a few AI features.

The V30S isn’t a bad phone, but considering its fancy software tricks were eventually ported over to the regular V30 anyways, we’re still scratching our heads about why this thing exists.

LG V30S hands-on: A 2017 smartphone with 2018’s buzzwords

LG G7 ThinQ

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Following up on the highly-underrated G6, LG’s first big flagship for 2018 is the G7 ThinQ. The LG G7 ThinQ was announced in early May, and while its notch-donning display might lead you into believing it’s just another iPhone X clone, LG made a lot of smart decisions with the G7 that makes it hard to put down once you start playing around with it.

Similar to past LG releases, the G7’s secondary rear camera is a wide-angle lens that allows you to capture much more of a scene around you with just a tap of your screen. This is something few other OEMs offer, and it’s easily one of our favorite uses for a second camera.

Also found on the G7 is a feature called “Boombox.” By using part of the G7’s inside as a resonance chamber, the phone vibrates with power as music is kicked out by its external speaker. Not only does this result in much louder audio on its own, but the effect is amplified when you place the G7 on any hard surface.

Also, if you’re a stickler for good haptic feedback, this is something that LG is destroying all other Android OEMs at.

LG G7 ThinQ hands-on preview: All about that bass

LG V35 ThinQ

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The best way to think of the LG V35 is as a stepping stone between the V30 and V40. It’s got the exact same design and screen as the V30 and V30S, but its internals are completely upgraded. There’s a Snapdragon 845, 6GB RAM, 64GB of storage you can expand with a microSD card, and a 3300mAh battery.

The cameras found on the V35 are the same ones you’ll get on the G7, and if you’re anti-notch, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s no cutout at all on the V35’s screen.

As well-rounded of a package as the V35 is, its $900 asking price makes its appeal extremely limited — especially when phones like the OnePlus 6 offer most all of its specs/features for just $530.

LG V35 ThinQ coming to AT&T on June 8 for $900

LG Q7

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Looking for a generic mid-range Android phone touting the LG logo? Introducing the LG Q7 series!

Joking aside, the Q7 lineup actually looks pretty solid. There are three models available, and depending on where you live, the phone will be available as the Q7, Q7+, or Q7a.

The 5.5-inch FHD+ display has a tall 18:9 aspect ratio with slim bezels, and to ensure the phone keeps chugging no matter what comes into contact with it, it’s outfitted with IP68 and MIL-STD 810G ratings.

Pricing is still up in the air, but LG says it’s bringing the Q7 to Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

LG announces Q7 mid-range series with glass designs and slim bezels

LG Q Stylus

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LG’s getting rid of its G Stylo branding this year and replacing it with Q Stylus. To kick off the new naming scheme, we’ve got the LG Q Stylus, Q Stylus+, and Q Stylus A.

Similar to the Stylo 3 from last year, the Q Stylus comes with a stylus you can use for jotting down notes, editing screenshots, turning videos into GIFs, and more. When you’re not using the stylus, you can store it inside the phone for easy transportation.

To accompany all your doodles and notes, the Q Stylus has a large 6.2-inch Full HD+ screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio. The battery measures in at 3300mAh, there’s NFC for Google Pay, and IP68 dust/water resistance should keep it safe no matter the environment you’re in.

LG Q Stylus series announced with IP68 water resistance, Oreo, and more

LG K30 / K10 / K8

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For its K series this year, LG released the K30, K10, and K8.

All three of the phones are packed with your typical array of mid-range specs, including things like HD displays, plastic designs, single rear cameras, fingerprint sensors, etc.

The K10 isn’t sold in the U.S., but if you’re interested in picking up the K30 or K8, they’re available for $225 and $140, respectively.

See the K30 at T-Mobile See the K8 at B&H

LG Aristo 2 / Aristo 2 Plus

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In January this year, LG released the Aristo 2 in the U.S. A few months later in June, the phone received a minor rebranding as the Aristo 2 Plus and made its way to T-Mobile.

Both the Aristo 2 and Aristo 2 Plus come outfitted with a 5-inch 720p display, quad-core 1.4GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, 13MP rear camera, and a 2410mAh battery.

Despite being released in 2018, the phones run Android 7.1 Nougat, and based on LG’s track record for lower-end hardware, it’s incredibly unlikely they’ll ever be updated to Oreo, let alone Android P.

See at MetroPCS

LG Zone 4

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In late March, the LG Zone 4 was announced as a new budget option for Verizon Wireless. It’s got a 5-inch 720p HD display, 1.4GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of expandable storage.

Other specs include a 2400mAh battery, 8MP rear camera, and 6MP selfie cam.

The Zone 4 is sold through Verizon’s prepaid plan and costs $115.

See at Verizon

LG X4+

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Next up, we’ve got the LG X4+. The X4+ never made its way to the States, as it was created specifically for LG’s South Korean market, but the many similarities it shares to LG’s other budget phones means we didn’t miss out on much.

Some key specs for the X4+ include a 5.3-inch 720p display, Snapdragon 425 processor, 2GB RAM, and a 3000mAh battery.

The addition of NFC means the phone supports LG Pay, and the MIL-STD 810G is nice to see at this price range. In USD, the X4+ costs around $280.

LG X5 (2018)

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On June 18, LG announced the LG X5. This iteration of the X5 is a successor to the phone by the same name that was released way back in 2016, and similar to the X4+, it’s another entry in LG’s neverending lineup of budget Android phones.

With the X5, you’ll find a 5.5-inch 1280 x 720 HD display, MediaTek MT6750 octa-core processor, 2GB RAM, and 32GB of expandable storage.

Android 8.0 Oreo is present out of the box, the rear and front cameras come in at 13MP and 5MP, respectively, and there’s a huge 4,500 mAh battery.

LG’s only selling the X5 in South Korea for the time being, and it works out to about $300.

See at LG

Updated June 18, 2018: Added new listings for the LG Q8+ and LG X5.

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