Welcome to the post-merger world.
AT&T — the newly minted owner of Time Warner — today unveiled new wireless plans that include its new “WatchTV” skinny bundle. Customers who choose two new unlimited plans, called “AT&T Unlimited & More” and “AT&T Unlimited & More Premium” will be available next week and come with access to the WatchTV app, which includes 31 live channels.
Unlimited & More is $70 per line. (Or $160 for a four-line bundle.) Premium runs $80 a line (or $190 for four lines) and also includes the option to add either HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Start, VRV or Pandora Premium or Amazon Music Unlimited to the mix. A standalone version of WatchTV will be available at some point for $15 a month.
The Premium plan also include 15GB of tethering from your phone, and a $15 monthly credit that can be applied to a subscription to DirecTV, DirecTV Now or U-Verse (all of which, of course, are owned by AT&T). The regular “Unlimited & More” plan offers a $15 credit for DirecTV Now only.
The channels included in the new WatchTV skinny bundle are:
- Animal Planet
- BBC America
- BBC World News
- Cartoon Network
- Food Network
- Hallmark Channel
- Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
- Investigation Discovery
- Lifetime Movies
- Sundance TV
- Tru TV
And coming “soon” after launch, AT&T says, will be BET, Comedy Central, MTV2, Nicktoons, Teen Nick and VH1.
Best AT&T Phones in 2018
Waiting, and waiting, and waiting…
This past Monday, Google announced one of Android Messages’ most long-awaited features — an official web client that allows you to send and receive texts right from your computer.
The interface Google showed off looks incredibly sleek, but unfortunately for a lot of users, they’ve been left waiting for the update to drop without any clear indication as to when that’ll happen. Google’s rolling this out as a server-side update, meaning that it’s being expanded to more and more handsets over this week.
Taking a quick look through the AC forums, we can see that some folks have already been graced with Google’s goodwill —
06-19-2018 10:04 PM
Got it. Looks alright, a bit delay in updating, but otherwise fine. If it works as I hope, it might replace Pulse on my phone.
06-20-2018 06:19 PM
The app update with Web Messages support is rolling out slowly. My wife’s Z2 Play just received the app update. But nothing for my Z Force yet. It takes time to hit all phones, I guess.
Then again, there are plenty of users that are still waiting.
06-20-2018 08:39 PM
I feel like Charlie Brown collecting rocks at Halloween. My Messages app got updated to 3.3.044, but I still don’t have a “Messages for web” option.
06-19-2018 11:16 PM
You must be on a beta. I’ve got 3.3.043 but I don’t see that 3 dot menu.
What about you? Do you have access to Android Messages’ web client yet?
Join the conversation in the forums!
Samurai sword-fighting has never been prettier.
What is Ghost of Tsushima?
We didn’t know much about Ghost of Tsushima when Sucker Punch (makers of Infamous) originally announced it at 2017’s Paris Games Week. That changed as of E3 2018, with the company giving us more details and even a first look at gameplay for the upcoming game.
What we can say for certain is that it’s an open world samurai game. As you’d expect from that description, you’ll be spending a lot of time with a katana, but there are also elements of stealth involved. This makes it feel like a nice swirl of Way of the Samurai mixed with a little bit of Tenchu.
Experience Feudal Japan
Details on the game are still scarce, but the picture is starting to come into focus. You play as Jin Sakai, one of the last true remaining samurais back in the year 1274. This puts the game squarely in the middle of Feudal Japan, one of gaming’s most interesting settings.
Unfortunately, a rising force threatens the state of things. The Mongols are riding all over the island of Tsushima, raiding towns for the purposes of killing, pillaging, and raping.
As the last of his kind, Jin Sakai is one of the only ones equipped to deal with the invasion, though he can’t do it alone. That is, he can’t do it with his more traditional Way of the Samurai. He has to adopt a new way: Way of the Ghost.
It’s not yet apparent what this new way of fighting will mean for Jin and how it might compare to the ways of old. We do know that he might not be going it alone, though. He’ll eventually meet an archer ally named Masako, though the two will find themselves butting heads in the future over questions of morality and revenge.
As seen in the trailer above, Masako’s issue with Jin erupts when she finds out he wants to enlist the help of a monk who somehow betrayed her family. Thus, there may be tough choices to make in the game that the character will have to make. Whether the player will get to influence those choices is up in the air. In any case, the action was enough to incite a fight between the two, one which Jin wins before gracefully sparing her life and reminding her who the true enemy is.
Jin’s legend will grow bigger as the game goes on. Characters in the world will begin to murmur and whisper about the Ghost of Tsushima and the immense power he has. It almost sounds as if he’ll be regarded as an urban legend, if not an outright god amongst men. And you had better believe his enemies are starting to hear about him, too.
To get an idea of the game’s scope, Sucker Punch says Ghost of Tsushima completely trounces Infamous Second Son. They’re referring not only to the game world, but also the story, side missions, characters, and everything in between. Mind you, Infamous Second Son was a pretty big game all on its own.
And we can already see evidence of those expectations in the gameplay reveal when Jin comes up on a horizon to see several fires raging in distant areas. Presumably, he could go right to those fires if he wanted. The developers really want you to be able to “lose yourself” on the island of Tsushima, so we’re hopeful that there will be lots of little things like collectibles, lore, and more to sink our teeth into.
Authentic to the core
For Sucker Punch, getting Feudal Japan “right” was very important for them. Their developers did a lot of research into the country and the era, their beliefs, their customs, and all the relevant tales of old.
They went as far as working with cultural guides and Kendo experts. They even sent an audio scout to Japan to record sounds, such as native birdsong and other things you may only hear when visiting Japan.
The end result should be a degree of authenticity that will make you feel as if you’re in the middle of something very real. Adding to that authenticity is the inclusion of a Japanese audio track for every region the game is launching in.
This should also translate to the game world at large. There will be many towns and places in the game based on real places in Japan, and the people in them will hopefully represent the culture as closely as possible.
In the E3 gameplay video, we saw a few different gameplay systems at play, though nothing that was so intensely new that it took us by surprise. It began with a multi-man battle, with Jin having to go up against a group of Mongolian raiders caught in the act of murdering innocents.
The sequence began with Jin opting to forego aggression to instead play the counter game. As the first enemy lunged toward him, he unsheathed his sword and cut his throat in one smooth, swift motion. He then dispatched of the other enemies with more traditional swipes of his sword. There appears to be some sort of counter mechanic not unlike those featured in Assassin’s Creed or Batman Arkham games.
Another option for fighting multiple foes was revealed later in the trailer. Some sort of slow down mechanic was engaged which allowed jin to quickly switch between and kill 4 different targets with ease. This may be an element of his Way of the Ghost fighting style we’ve been hearing about.
Beyond that, stealth kills look to be an important part of survival. There’s the typical approach of sneaking behind your target and quickly cutting his throat, but there was also a stalkerish mechanic that lets you wait from an elevated position and jump down for an air attack. Again, not all that dissimilar to Batman and Assassin’s Creed.
Even early on, the animations and overall gameplay seem to have a great level of polish. Combat flows fluidly, and the world around you reacts to your movement. We can’t help but think about the tall grass swaying side to side as your horse trots through the planes, or how the autumn leaves are swept away as you slash and dodge during fights.
The gameplay didn’t seem overly involved, however, we do know there will be varying levels of difficulty. Sucker Punch says the “tourist” types of players can get just as much out of Ghost of Tsushima as the “hardcore” types. The game will still provide a challenge no matter your level of skill, but it just won’t be unforgivingly hard if you don’t want it to be.
When can you play it?
Sony still has no solid release date to offer for Ghost of Tsushima. We didn’t even get a conservative “2019” window, so there’s no telling when this game will be ready (especially considering how long we’ve waited between announcement and launch for other Sony exclusives in the past).
We promise to keep you updated when new information is available, though, so be sure to check back often for the latest!
- PS4 vs. PS4 Slim vs. PS4 Pro: Which should you buy?
- PlayStation VR Review
- Playing PS4 games through your phone is awesome
The best headphones for your new phone and its new connector.
The slow death of the headphone jack means that USB-C audio is now a thing. It’s not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing, but it is a (mostly) new thing. If you would rather not try and keep a set of wireless headphones charged, it’s also a thing that means you’ll need to buy new headphones. And that’s a little tough right now.
We’ve looked at what’s out there and picked the ones we like the best so you have somewhere to start. If you don’t see your favorite brand on this list, it’s probably because pickings are still a little slim.
More: USB-C audio: Everything you need to know
- Libratone Q Adapt
- Essential Earphones HD
- Razer Hammerhead
- Xiaomi Mi ANC Earphones
Libratone Q Adapt
Libratone’s Q Adapt USB-C headphones are part of the “Made for Google” program announced with the release of the Pixel 2, and that means the inline remote is going to work with your Android phone — always a plus.
You’ll also enjoy Libratone’s “CityMix” noise cancelation and the unique “Hush” mode that stops the Active Noise Cancelation, then mutes any music when you receive a phone call. The Libratone Q Adapt headphones come with various tips to ensure a good fit and are available in black or white for $149.
See at Google
Essential Earphones HD
Essential’s Earphones HD are a great basic pair of headphones for any USB-C device. They sound great, they come in an unassuming dark gray, and have a silicone coated cable to keep them from getting all fouled up should you forget to put them back in the case.
There are no inline controls, which is kind of a bummer, but the important thing is there — these headphones sound as good or better than any other pair in the same price range and will work with the USB-C port on your phone — they aren’t just made for Essential phones. You can pick up a pair for $99.
See at Essential
Want something a little more bold? Razer’s Hammerhead USB-C earbuds use 10mm drivers, have a 20Hx to 20kHz frequency response, and a 32ohm impedance to give you a little more kick. And they come in bright neon green.
These really do bring a little more volume to the very high and very low ends of your music, and they come with several tips for the right fit and inline music controls. They’re also surprisingly cheap at $75!
See at Amazon
Xiaomi Mi ANC Earphones
Xiaomi isn’t well-known in the west, but their phones all have one thing in common — they all support Hi-Res audio through a great set of onboard components. Of course, the company also needs to make a great set of headphones!!
The Mi Noise Canceling USB Type-C Earphones are a great set. They’re certified for Hi-Res audio with 50 – 2000Hz active noise cancelation set to kill all ambient noise above 25dB. Xiaomi uses micro-electromechanical microphones (MEMS) in each earpiece to make sure all sounds are cut.
With titanium earpieces and a Kevlar cable, these should last a good while, too. They’re a steal at $70!
See at Amazon
Your guide for picking up the KEY2 in the U.S. and Canada.
The BlackBerry KEY2 isn’t a smartphone for everyone, but for fans of the BlackBerry brand or those that just want to have their physical keyboard back, it’s the go-to choice if you’re buying a new phone in 2018.
If you live in the U.S. or Canada and are interested in getting a KEY2 for yourself, we’ve put together a guide of where exactly you can pick up the phone. We’ll continuously update this as more info becomes available, but for now, let’s jump right into it.
The KEY2 hasn’t been announced for any carriers, but BlackBerry is making it available unlocked through multiple channels. It’s going up for pre-order on June 29, followed by full sales on July 13. The U.S. unlocked KEY2 is designed for use on T-Mobile and AT&T, as well as their prepaid subsidiaries — so no, there isn’t support for Verizon or Sprint here.
Amazon is charging $649 for the unlocked KEY2, in either silver or black. If you’d like to finance your purchase, Amazon offers 12-month no-interest payments for purchases over $599.
See at Amazon
If you prefer to buy from Best Buy, you’ll be able to get either color of the KEY2 from BestBuy.com for the same $649 price. Best Buy hasn’t committed to having the KEY2 in stores, at least at the start, but there is 12-month no-interest financing for purchases of $399 or more.
See at Best Buy
The first Canadian carrier on our list, Bell, will begin sales of the KEY2 on July 6.
When purchased with a two-year contract, the phone will set you back $99 CAD.
See at Bell
Rogers will also open sales for the BlackBerry KEY2 on July 6, but you’ll pay ever-so-slightly less at $95 on a two-year term.
If you absolutely can’t wait until July 6 comes around, Rogers will open pre-orders starting June 21.
See at Rogers
For customers of SaskTel, you can expect to pay $99 for the KEY2 when you purchase it on a two-year term.
Similar to every other Canadian carrier, you can get your order placed beginning July 6.
See at SaskTel
In regards to TELUS, this is where you’ll spend the most on a KEY2 when buying it on a two-year contract.
TELUS is charging $100 for the KEY2, and while that’s not a whole lot more than its competitors, it is worth looking elsewhere if you have the option.
As expected, you’ll be able to purchase the KEY2 on July 6.
See at TELUS
If you’re not about that carrier life and prefer buying your phones unlocked, you have several good options in Canada
Starting in July, BlackBerry says you’ll be able to purchase a carrier unlocked version of the KEY2 from Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Staples, Blueshop, and Visions.
No matter which retailer you decide to buy from, the unlocked KEY2 is going to cost you $829 CAD.
See at Amazon
- BlackBerry KEY2 hands-on preview
- BlackBerry KEY2: Everything you need to know!
- BlackBerry KEY2 specs
- BlackBerry KEYone review: Coming home
- Join our BlackBerry KEY2 forums!
Updated June 21, 2018: Added availability info for the United States!
Fun, fancy lights deserve a fun, fancy remote,
Broadly speaking, the appeal of smart lights has always been the ability to control them intelligently. Whether from an app on your phone or a command delivered to your digital assistant of choice, smart lights are able to offer a massive array of options. And while these lights do a great job walking the line between practical and fun, simple acts like turning the lights on and off aren’t really any faster than a lightswitch most of the time.
Sometimes a physical remote is a good thing, but the Nanoleaf team wanted something more than a simple light switch for its impressive Aurora lights. Instead, this remote is something you actually want to show off on the coffee table for everyone to see, and it does a whole lot more than turn the lights on and off.
At first glance, the Nanoleaf remote looks like a large, plain white 12-sided die. It’s not the kind of thing you’d expect to see anywhere but the game night table, but at the same time isn’t going to stand out unless you reach for it to do something. There are no buttons on this remote — instead, the entire system is based on playing with this die. As you play with the die, it communicates with the Nanoleaf Rhythm connected to the Aurora panel instead of over WiFi like the Aurora app. This helps the light control happen a little faster than pulling out the phone, and doesn’t use a lot of power, which is why the remote itself runs on AA batteries.
If you’re showing off to friends it’s nothing short of magic, but it’s also practical when compared to reaching for your phone every time.
Turning the die to the left or right like you’re rotating a dial increases or decreases the brightness of the entire Aurora panel, while flipping the die onto any of the 12 sides starts up a color program. It can be a light animation, a rhythm program to jam with music, or just turning everything off. The Nanoleaf app lets you program each of the 12 sides to do exactly what you want, and because each side is labeled you can easily remember which side does what. Best of all, when you pick up the Nanoleaf Remote it starts to glow. If you’re showing off to friends it’s nothing short of magic, but it’s also practical when compared to reaching for your phone every time.
While gloriously uncomplicated and reasonably stylish in just about every environment, Nanaloeaf Remote isn’t cheap. This remote will run you $50 if you already have the Rhythm adapter, but if you don’t you’ll be shelling out another $50 for that adaptor. Given the cost of Nanoleaf light panels is already higher than most, these accessories really jack up the initial price of the lights when trying to buy it all at once. But it works well, and looks way nicer than any of the other smart light remotes available today. If you’re already a fan of Nanoleaf lights and want an everyday remote anyone in the house can use, this glossy 12-sided die is a great addition. If you’re just getting started with Nanoleaf lights, you may not feel the need to upgrade just yet.
See at Nanoleaf
Apple has partnered with Adidas for this week’s Apple Pay promotion, allowing customers to save 15 percent on items purchased in the iOS Adidas app until June 28. There’s no promo code this time around, and some exclusions apply in regards to the products that can be discounted, but the companies didn’t provide specifics.
To take advantage of the promotion, download the Adidas app for iOS [Direct Link], add items to your cart, and when checking out choose Apple Pay as the payment method and the 15 percent savings will be automatically applied.
Other retailers mentioned in the summer workout-themed promotional email include The North Face, Oakley, and Reef, which Apple says offer faster checkout thanks to Apple Pay. Apple’s last promotion also encouraged Apple Pay users to get active outside with two free bike rides through the ofo app.
Prior to ofo, promotions have often included partnerships with Postmates, Instacart, Fandango, and more.
Related Roundup: Apple PayTag: Apple Pay promo
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In the latest piece of news surrounding Apple’s original television content plans, the company has given a series order to an adaptation of the French series “Calls,” which aired in France beginning in 2017 (via Variety).
Created by Timothée Hochet, “Calls” is described as a short-form series that tells stories via snippets of audio taken from real-life situations, as well as through the use of minimal visuals. The show’s IMDb and official Facebook pages suggest that many of the episodes lean towards the horror/mystery genre as well.
Image via @callscanalplus on Facebook
It’s believed that the company will keep this format alive in the transition, but the content of the episodes remains unclear. Reports have suggested that Apple intends for most of its shows to eschew mature content in favor of a stable of shows that the entire family can watch — a decision that led to Bryan Fuller leaving as showrunner on Apple’s other series with horror elements, “Amazing Stories.”
For “Calls,” Apple has also acquired the rights to the first season of the French original, suggesting that the company also plans to offer the season as a streaming option on its upcoming service. The amount of episodes and cast members have not yet been revealed for the American version of “Calls.”
It’s been a busy month for news surrounding Apple’s TV content plans, as in the past few days alone reports broke about the company officially ordering Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s “Little America” to series, giving a straight-to-series order for a drama about child journalist Hilde Lysiak, partnering with Sesame Workshop on multiple kid TV shows, and even revealing a multi-year production partnership with Oprah Winfrey. Despite the ramp up of show announcements, Apple has yet to explain how users will watch its new TV shows, which are expected to appear sometime before March 2019.
Tag: Apple’s Hollywood ambitions
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As a side note in his report about technical challenges facing the AirPower, expected to be released by September, well-connected reporter Mark Gurman also noted that Apple considered removing wired charging from the iPhone X.
From his Bloomberg News story:
During the development of the iPhone X, Apple weighed removing the wired charging system entirely. That wasn’t feasible at the time because wireless charging was still slower than traditional methods. Including a wireless charger with new iPhones would also significantly raise the price of the phones.
Just to be absolutely clear, Gurman confirmed to me that this would have included removing the Lightning connector from the device. In fact, his report notes that Apple designers eventually hope to “remove most of the external ports and buttons on the iPhone,” although this is likely multiple years away.
A few years ago, it was reported that Apple’s design chief Jony Ive’s end goal is for the iPhone to resemble a “single sheet of glass,” while Apple has repeatedly expressed its ambitions to “create a wireless future,” so the eventual removal of the Lightning connector should perhaps come as no surprise.
Apple is already well on its way towards that wireless future, with products and technologies ranging from AirPods and AirPower to its W1 and W2 wireless chips. Apple also made the controversial decision to remove the headphone jack from iPhone 7 models a few years ago, pushing users towards wireless earphones.
Still, removing the Lightning connector would certainly be another controversial decision, given it is not only used for wired charging, but also for audio and data transfer, such as syncing an iPhone with iTunes on a Mac or PC.
Removing the Lightning connector would also prevent an iPhone from directly connecting to a wide range of peripherals, including many adapters, docks, battery cases, power banks, keyboards, game controllers, audio cables, wired headphones, and other accessories authorized under Apple’s MFi Program.
In many cases, however, wireless alternatives would be available. It’s possible to sync an iPhone with iTunes over Wi-Fi, for example, while wired headphone users can go wireless, Bluetooth-enabled game controllers are available, and upright-positioned wireless chargers can double as a docking station.
Of course, there would be some friction with this transition, just like when Apple switched from its 30-pin dock connector to Lightning in 2012, and removed the headphone jack on the iPhone 7. In both of those cases, however, the controversy eventually died down as many users came to accept the new reality.
It’s also worth noting that Apple considers a lot of different ideas internally that might never materialize in a public-facing product.
At this point, it appears like the Lightning connector on iPhones should live on for at least a few years. Rumors suggest Apple will bundle a faster 18W charger with a USB-C port with iPhones released in 2018, which would connect to the devices with a Lightning to USB-C cable included in the box.
Tags: bloomberg.com, Lightning, Mark Gurman
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Apple aims to release its multi-device AirPower charging mat “before or in September,” after facing a handful of technical challenges with its hardware and software, according to well-connected reporter Mark Gurman.
An excerpt from his Bloomberg News story:
Apple didn’t say when in 2018 it would release AirPower, but engineers hoped to launch the charger by June. The aim now is to put it on sale before or in September, according to one of the people. In recent months, some Apple engineers have ramped up testing of the device by using it as their charger at the office, another person said.
Apple first previewed the AirPower alongside the iPhone X in September 2017. At the time, the company’s marketing chief Phil Schiller said it would be available in 2018, as reflected on Apple’s website. Pricing has not been disclosed.
Gurman says Apple engineers initially hoped for a June launch, presumably at WWDC 2018, but noted the AirPower has been delayed due to technical challenges, including the potential for overheating, complex multi-device charging circuitry, and software bugs with the accessory’s on-board firmware.
AirPower is said to include a custom Apple chip running “a stripped down version of iOS” for power management and pairing with devices:
The AirPower charger is also more advanced than the current competition because it includes a custom Apple chip running a stripped down version of the iOS mobile operating system to conduct on-device power management and pairing with devices. Apple engineers have also been working to squash bugs related to the on-board firmware, according to the people familiar.
AirPower is an oval-shaped mat that can inductively charge multiple Apple devices at once, including the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, and Apple Watch Series 3 models. It will also be able to charge AirPods when they are placed in a new, optional charging case set to launch alongside AirPower.
AirPower’s ability to charge multiple devices is derived from propriety technology developed by Apple. Apple said it will work to have its technology become part of the universal Qi standard, supported by the latest iPhones, so that other third-party manufacturers can release multi-device charging mats.
AirPower is another step towards Apple’s goal of a wireless future. Gurman says Apple designers eventually hope to “remove most of the external ports and buttons on the iPhone,” noting Apple even considered removing wired charging from the iPhone X, but decided wireless charging was not yet fast enough.
Of course, the AirPower is not truly wireless, as power is supplied to the mat with a charger connected via Lightning cable.
Related Roundups: iPhone 8, iPhone XTag: AirPowerBuyer’s Guide: iPhone 8 (Caution), iPhone X (Neutral)
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