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22
Jun

Supreme Court Rules Police Need Warrants to Obtain a User’s Smartphone Location Data


The United States Supreme Court today ruled that the government “is required” to obtain a warrant if it wants to gain access to data found on a civilian’s smartphone, but only when it’s related to the user’s location data (via The New York Times).

Image via Wikimedia Commons
The decision is expected to have major implications for digital privacy moving forward as it pertains to legal cases, and could cause ripples in unlawful search and seizure cases that involve personal information held by companies like emails, texts, internet searches, bank records, and more.

In a major statement on privacy in the digital age, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the government generally needs a warrant to collect troves of location data about the customers of cellphone companies.

But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, said the decision was limited. “We hold only that a warrant is required in the rare case where the suspect has a legitimate privacy interest in records held by a third party,” the chief justice wrote. The court’s four more liberal justices joined his opinion.

Today’s vote in the case Carpenter v. United States came down to a 5-4 ruling, and originally emerged from armed robberies of Radio Shacks and other stores in Detroit dating back to 2010.

In the case, prosecutors relied on “months of records” obtained from smartphone makers to help prove their case, ultimately showing communication between Timothy Ivory Carpenter outside of a robbery location — with his smartphone nearby — and his accomplices inside of the location. The companies reportedly turned over 127 days’ worth of Carpenter’s records, with information as specific as whether or not he slept at home on any given night or if he went to church on Sunday mornings.

This led to the question by the Supreme Court justices as to whether the prosecutors violated the Fourth Amendment in discovering so much data on Carpenter’s movements. Now, police will have to receive a warrant issued by the court in order to obtain any smartphone data as it relates to the owner’s location data.

As the case continued, Apple and other technology companies filed a brief in August 2017 arguing against “rigid analog-era” Fourth Amendment rules. The brief deliberately stayed neutral on the topic of choosing sides, but urged the Supreme Court to continue bringing the Fourth Amendment law into the modern era. The companies stated that customers should not be “forced to relinquish Fourth Amendment protections” against intrusion by the government, simply because they choose to use modern technology.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tags: privacy, Supreme Court
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22
Jun

MacRumors Giveaway: Win a ‘Side Winder’ Cable Wrangler for MacBook Pro or MacBook Air From Fuse


For this week’s giveaway, we’ve teamed up with Fuse to offer MacRumors readers a chance to win a Side Winder, which is an accessory that’s designed to let you quickly and easily wind up your MacBook charger’s cord.

The reel design of the Side Winder lets you carry a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air Power Adapter, cord, and extension cable in a neat, compact package with no tangles and no hassle, making it ideal for use at home, when traveling, at work, and everywhere else in between.


With a traditional Power Adapter and cable setup, you may try winding the cord and the extension cable up around the adapter itself, but it’s unwieldy and the cable never stays in place, which is the problem that the Side Winder aims to solve.

Side Winder is compatible with all 45W, 60W, 61W, 85W, and 87W MacBook Pro and Air chargers, with both MagSafe 1 and 2 and USB-C versions available. The MagSafe versions are available for $29.99, while the USB-C version is $33.99. The USB-C model includes a USB-C cord, but neither model includes a power adapter or extension cable.


Once the Side Winder is in place with the Power Adapter in the center and the cables positioned properly, winding up a cable is done with a simple twist of the top piece. When needed, you can pull as much cable out as you need to reach a power outlet, and then later, wind it back up again.


According to Fuse, it takes less than six seconds to fully wind a cable using the Side Winder, and it offers protection against cable damage and fraying by preventing stress at weak points.


In addition to this week’s giveaway, Fuse is also offering a 10 percent off discount code and free shipping on the Side Winder for MacRumors readers. Just use this link to make a purchase.

We have 15 Side Winders to give away to MacRumors readers. To enter to win the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter widget below and enter an email address. Email addresses will be used solely for contact purposes to reach the winners and send the prizes. You can earn additional entries by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, subscribing to our YouTube channel, following us on Twitter, or visiting the MacRumors Facebook page.

Due to the complexities of international laws regarding giveaways, only U.S. residents who are 18 years or older and Canadian residents (excluding Quebec) who have reached the age of majority in their province or territory are eligible to enter. To offer feedback or get more information on the giveaway restrictions, please refer to our Site Feedback section, as that is where discussion of the rules will be redirected.

a Rafflecopter giveawayThe contest will run from today (June 22) at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time through 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time on June 29. The winners will be chosen randomly on June 29 and will be contacted by email. The winners will have 48 hours to respond and provide a shipping address before new winners are chosen.

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22
Jun

Steam Link Android app review: PC gaming goes mobile


The beta version of Valve’s Steam Link app for Android hit the Play Store about a month ago, allowing gamers to stream their favorite PC games to their smartphone or Android TV. I’m very well acquainted with Valve’s TV hardware version of the technology, so let’s dust off a Bluetooth controller and see how it works on a phone.

If you want to give the app a try for yourself, you can grab it for free from the link below.

install the steam link app (beta)

Simple to setup

Credit where it’s due, Valve makes in-home streaming easy to set up and use. Just install the app while Stream is running on your PC, connect up a Bluetooth controller, and you’re good to go.

The Steam Link app will test your network capability upon first connection, giving you an indication of whether your system will provide a stable frame rate. The default is set to Balanced quality at 15Mbps, but you can improve or downgrade this quality depending on the app’s test result (more on that in a bit).

steam link app review steam link app review

The app interface is simple enough, presenting a quick button to start playing or some additional settings if you’re looking to optimize streaming performance. Once you’re connected, your PC will automatically enter “Big Picture Mode,” providing simplified navigation to your favorite games and other Steam features using a controller.

I experienced occasional connection issues launching the app. Even though Steam was running on my PC, the app sometimes couldn’t detect my computer. This happened sometimes on the Steam Link hardware too. Turning my phone’s Wi-Fi off and on again fixed the problem.

Performance and networking

Achieving a solid connection is the key to a good Steam Link experience and the rules are the same for the app as they were for the hardware version. For best results, you’ll want to connect your PC to your router via an ethernet cable to reduce the round trip latency significantly.

My setup is nothing special. I have a basic hub provided by my ISP at the other end of a long room from my TV which has a Steam Link plugged in, although it offers a fast 5GHz channel which comes in handy. I don’t use extenders or mesh networking. Around my reasonably sized two-bedroom flat, there’s only one major Wi-Fi dead zone and that’s the only place I witnessed any connection drops.

The Steam Link app offers the same three quality presets as the TV hardware. Beautiful provides the best quality video compression but requires a steady 30Mbps connection. Fast compresses the stream more heavily but only needs a 10Mbps link, making it ideal if you suffer from patchy connectivity across your home. Balanced sits nicely in between, at 15Mbps.

Fast Quality
Fast Quality
Beautiful Quality

Beautiful Quality

Using the built-in network diagnostic tools, I clocked around 1ms network latency virtually everywhere and packet losses under one percent, even on the Beautiful preset. Your mileage will obviously vary depending on your distance from your router and home layout.

I didn’t run into any network problems, but the app struggled with video decoding performance, something that wasn’t a concern for the Steam Link TV hardware. The flagship phones I tested couldn’t keep up with the 60fps output with my PC using the Beautiful preset, producing results that dipped into headache-inducing low 20s. The situation is slightly better with the Balanced option, but you’ll want to go for Fast to really lock in high frame rates. Dropping the resolution down to 720p, or even down to 480p for lower end hardware, worked too.

Phones with HEVC can boost network throughput, but I still recommend Fast streaming quality or a 720p resolution for best performance.

Fortunately, Fast rendering video artifacts usually easy to spot on a large TV are undetectable on a small smartphone display, and dropping to 720p barely touches the image quality either. You might be able to boost performance and bandwidth a bit more if your phone supports HEVC hardware decoding, but it’s not enabled by default.

This option is located in the app under Settings > Streaming > Advanced > HEVC Video, and toggle it to enabled. Results varied for me with HEVC enabled, so its usefulness will depend heavily on your setup. This setting didn’t make a meaningful difference on the hardware I tested — it’s really designed to eek out extra performance in lower bandwidth situations like on a 2.4GHz network. Enabling this on phones that don’t support hardware decode decreased performance. One final note, a lot of phones default to strange resolutions, like 1,808 x 1,024 with the Note 8, which heavily impacts encode and decode performance compared to a standard resolution like 1080p or 720p, so definitely change this right away if performance is sluggish.

Ultimately, using a combination of Fast quality and 720p is a worthwhile compromise when streaming to a phone. There’s no noticeable loss in quality on a small screen, encode and decode frame rates go up, latency goes down, you’re more free to roam around without connection drops, and the lighter load means better battery life for your phone. I’d even go so far as to recommend this setup if your phone supports HEVC decoding too.

steam link app review

Big Picture could be better

Steam’s Big Picture UI, which runs on your PC when using both the Steam Link app or TV hardware, is built to improve large screen and controller navigation over a PC keyboard and mouse setup. Navigating through with a Bluetooth controller on your smartphone will feel very familiar to Steam Link hardware users.

Some options aren’t always the easiest to find, but on the whole navigating through menus, picking games, and configuring your setup is straightforward enough. The UI prompts don’t necessarily match your controller interface, but that’s an inevitable trade-off when supporting a wide range of third-party products.

Valve has missed an opportunity to improve the experience for Steam Link app users though. Your smartphone’s touch screen continues to work when running the app, meaning navigating via touch is often a lot faster than scrolling through menus with D-Pad buttons. Unfortunately, the UI isn’t tweaked at all for smartphone interfaces, and many options are a little on the small side for pressing with a finger.

Some quality-of-life software improvements for smartphone users would be welcome.

Steam Link app keyboard

You can’t really expect smartphone users to type on this cramped keyboard.

While it’s easy enough to launch your favorite game with a tap on the large icon, scrolling through the majority of the smaller menu options is a pain. There’s no support for Android keyboards in chat yet, and touches don’t always register when you press on the cramped Steam software keyboard, making typing an inconsistent experience. I’d also like to see swipe support introduced for moving through some of the menus rather than having to press the shoulder buttons.

A more mobile-optimized experience is going to be needed to iron out these bugbears. Tailored features will hopefully be implemented by the time the Steam Link app exits beta.

A replacement for a TV Steam Link?

As well as portable game streaming you can, of course, connect your phone up to a TV via HDMI to play on your big living room screen. This could cut out the need for a Steam Link hardware box entirely — at least if didn’t have so many issues.

Given that streaming is rather demanding on the battery, you’ll want some form of HDMI dock with a charging port. I tried the idea out using both the Samsung Dex Station and an OTG adapter hub. Both worked, but remember the Dex Station costs $150 and the Dex Pad is $70. An OTG hub with charging costs just $20 —sometimes less — making it by far the most affordable option.

Valve’s Steam Link retails for $50, but is often on sale for $20. In my experience, you are better off just getting that, for a few reasons.

Steam Link dock options samsung dex

The original Steam Link is better than using phone/HDMI, but the app is a great proposition for Android TV owners

The first is performance. I tried streaming to the TV on a variety of hardware configurations and had mixed results, most likely due to the extra computational power required to encode the HDMI output in conjunction with decoding the stream input. The Huawei P20 Pro didn’t like the situation at all, producing a much lower frame rate than before. The app also crashes in EMUI desktop mode. Performance was also sluggish on the Galaxy Note 8 when streaming in Dex desktop mode.

Editor’s Pickrelated article

Streaming games might be coming to Netflix (Update: Netflix responds)

NME

Update (06/13) at 3:26 p.m. CT: Netflix has reached out to Android Authority to clarify a few points on the story. The streaming service confirmed that Minecraft: Story Mode, a licensed five-episode interactive narrative …

Screen mirroring produces the best results. The Note 8 and LG V30 produced smooth frame rates in this mode. However, you’ll have to endure a duplicate screen in your field of view, which you don’t get with Dex mode. The odd aspect ratio of these devices also means you’ll end up with black bars on your TV stream, even after messing with the Full-Screen optimized app settings. It’s a less than premium experience that I wouldn’t recommend paying for.

Ultimately I think streaming with a phone using HDMI is a fair way to test out if you’ll use TV streaming, providing you have the necessary components already at hand. However, the so-so performance and screen mirroring bugs mean smartphones definitely aren’t a replacement for Valve’s dedicated TV hardware.

If you have an Android TV and can install the app, these same niggles won’t apply.

steam link app review

Final thoughts

Valve’s streaming solution is pretty great in my experience. The Steam Link app version showcases that the technology works just as well for portable devices as it does for your living room set. On both, your home network configuration will make or break the experience. Valve recommends an ethernet connection between your PC and router. That’s certainly been the only workable solution my experience.

Unfortunately, the smartphone use case adds a few complications. The wide variety of video decoding and encoding hardware out there makes predicting streaming performance very difficult. You’ll certainly want to make some quality compromises compared to the hardware version to ensure a smooth frame rate.

Valve’s technology works great, but the variety of smartphone hardware make the experience inconsistent.

I cannot recommend using your phone and Steam Link app as a replacement for Valve’s TV hardware. The performance is notably worse, even if you accept the necessary hit to video quality and the questionable compatibility of devices with non-16:9 aspect ratios with TV sets. Picking up a Link for $20 during a sale (which happens very often) is by far the best bet for TV streaming at this point, unless you have an Android TV.

Editor’s Pickrelated article

15 best Android games of 2018!

Gaming on mobile has been improving at a far greater rate than any technology that came before it. Android games seems to hit new heights every year. With the release of Android Nougat and Vulkan …

Overall I’m impressed by the technical capabilities of the beta version of the Steam Link app. A few mobile-centric quality of life improvements to the software are probably needed, and will hopefully be implemented come the full release.

Now I just have to figure out what PC games I actually want to play on a small screen with a controller.

22
Jun

Valve VR knuckle controllers can squish, track fingers, navigate with thumbstick


Valve’s prototype controllers for future interaction in virtual reality have a much more nuanced and varied approach to VR inputs thanks to some neat design choices. Alongside finger tracking and trackable squeezing, the thumbstick allows for intuitive navigation options. To help test out these new features, Valve has rolled out a new tech demo called Moondust to its developer base, giving them a chance to try out these new input options themselves.

Although Oculus’ Touch controllers came out a few months later than the original HTC Vive controllers, they offered a few unique features which suggested that the extra development time was worth it. While the Vive controllers still don’t support some of those features, Valve’s “Knuckle” controller design appears to be an attempt to change that. Although not officially affiliated with HTC, the controllers could well end up as an optional upgrade for owners of the Vive and Vive Pro headsets in the future.

The new knuckle design features better ergonomics, a new layout of buttons — including a thumbstick — and a strap system that allows the users to let go of the controller while keeping it within reach. They also have new sensors which add support for SteamVR tracking 2.0 and enable finger tracking and the ability to squeeze and grip virtual items, as per UploadVR. Battery life is said to be improved, too, with charging now handled via a USB-C connection, rather than the MicroUSB found on the standard Vive controllers.

Finger and palm tracking sensors mean that developers will be able to detect the entire range of hand positions, from a tightly closed fist to an entirely open palm. That is designed to enable much more nuanced interactions with objects in virtual reality, letting users squeeze things, pick them up gently to avoid ‘breaking them, or even throw them by physically letting go of the controller at the opportune moment.

To help test out these new abilities, Valve has shipped out a tech demo called Moondust to knuckle controller developers. Set in the Portal universe, players are tasked with spearheading a new initiative to manufacturer increased supplies of “conversion gel” using all of the new interactive potential of the knuckle controllers.

Valve remains tight-lipped on when the general public will be able to buy the new controllers, but as designs are solidified, we should be getting closer to a general release.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • HTC brings AR to VR with new Vive Pro tools for dual cameras
  • Pimax takes notes from Valve for its prototype ‘knuckles’ VR controller
  • Oculus Rift review
  • 8 Amazing accessories that could make virtual reality even more immersive
  • How gaming company Unity is driving automakers toward virtual reality



22
Jun

Pop-up cameras are just the evolution of the slider phone


vivo-nex-1.jpg?itok=9To2i3Py

A necessary evil before getting everything we want.

Phone companies make a lot of design decisions that, in retrospect, are very bad. We’ve seen some poor smartphone designs over the last decade, and most of them can be boiled down to an attempt to be exciting, innovative and interesting, only to backfire spectacularly because they led to massive compromises or didn’t work as intended.

So I don’t blame anyone for being skeptical when the last week brought about the latest trend in hardware innovation: pop-up cameras. First with the Vivo NEX, with its periscope-like front-facing camera, and later with the Oppo Find X, making use of a large sliding mechanism to reveal both front- and rear-facing cameras.

Some have dismissed these movable structures for hiding cameras as a fad and poor attempt at being innovative with no real benefit. I see it somewhat more pragmatically — this is a necessary development, given today’s available technology, to offer consumers all of the things they want. Not unlike the early 2000’s, when flip phones and sliders dominated the landscape of feature phones and smartphones alike.

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Look deep into history, back to the early 2000’s, when feature phones we evolving at a rapid pace. Early on, just about every feature phone had a “candy bar” form factor with a small screen and a majority of the face of the phone dominated by a keypad. The phones were pretty simple.

Movable components were integral to new feature phone developments, and they’ll rise again.

As our demands for phone features changed, so did the priorities of the hardware. We wanted large color screens and better cameras, so phones got a little bigger. But small phones were still a priority, so flip phones arrived that incorporated both a larger screen and a keypad. Soon we wanted an even larger display, and were willing to accept a keypad that took a backseat, so we got vertical slider phones. In the latest stages of feature phones as we transitioned to smartphones, we got landscape slider or hinged phones with full QWERTY keyboards.

Throughout this expansion of feature phone and early smartphone hardware development, we saw all sorts of retractable antennas, various screen swivel mechanisms and new keyboard designs. Phones back in those days were still highly mechanical. They were heavily reliant on physical buttons and many moving parts for basic operation of the phone. Most of it came out of necessity — components just weren’t small enough and technology wasn’t good enough to have a fully solid-state device that did everything we wanted.

vivo-nex-12.jpg?itok=YxGOiFDR

Today, we face a very similar dilemma — this time with smartphones, coming from the other direction. Modern phones are now entirely solid state and permanently fused together, eschewing as many ports and movable parts as possible in the name of cramming as much technology into a single slab as possible. Sliders and flip-style phones are all but dead. Back panels and batteries are no longer removable. Buttons have been reduced to a bare minimum. SD card slots are very rare. With eSIM on the horizon, there won’t be a single opening on a phone bigger than a USB-C port. On the new HTC U12+, the only thing that actually physically moves in the phone is the OIS module of the camera. But this trend is at odds with consumers’ other demand: to not give up core hardware features like conveniently placed cameras.

People want smartphones that have a larger display, but in a proportionally smaller device. They don’t want bezels, apparently, and have a disdain for display notches. Yet they don’t want the compromises of an oddly-positioned camera, small speakers or missing sensors. What’s the result? We return to movable components on phones. A feature that used to be a core tenet of “advanced” feature phones circa 2004, now modernized and automated to bring us the hardware features we both don’t want to see but also can’t live without.

find-x.jpg?itok=PlPPbJ3M

Image credit: The Verge

Engineering a little module or even a whole segment of the top of the phone to rise up and show your cameras is not something to be taken lightly. It’s a seriously impressive feat, both on the tiny scale of the Vivo NEX and the larger side with the Oppo Find X. And to be clear, these two phones have other small compromises, like the NEX’s relatively large size and slower fingerprint sensor, and the Find X’s lack of a fingerprint sensor altogether.

But when people say they want huge screens, small bodies and no bezels, companies answer the only way they know they can: with these new movable parts. While they may not be a permanent fixture of smartphone designs going on in perpetuity, they’re more than a fad — this is what we’re going to have to get used to from at least some smartphone companies that want to offer it all.

22
Jun

HTC’s already having shipping problems with the U12+


Amazon orders might not go out until August 3.

The HTC U12+ is an — interesting — phone. The design is striking and the cameras are top-notch, but the buggy, fake power/volume buttons create for an often frustrating experience.

htc_u12%2B_hands_on_5.jpg?itok=vvf334KE

Even so, that hasn’t stopped a few die-hard HTC fans from picking up the phone for themselves. Some members of the AC forums reported that their pre-orders are now shipping, but for those that purchased the U12+ through Amazon, things aren’t looking too hot.

avatar734455_5.gifholz75
06-21-2018 12:31 PM

I know it’s hard to trust anything the Amazon customer service people say, but the one I just spoke to said the phone was never in stock to begin with! No idea why they’d say it would be released on June 21. I do know people on XDA who ordered the phone direct from HTC without financing are starting to receive theirs.

Reply

avatar2780366_28.gifX1tymez
06-21-2018 03:46 PM

Wow! They told me nothing is in stock. If I cancel my order then I might lose my spot lol.

So they us to go with HTC.com? I get cheaper deal on shipping cost with Amazon.

Reply

default.jpgzwagni
06-21-2018 03:52 PM

that’s where I’m at aswell this is a big fumble on there part right now I hate Samsung but it may be a must to switch my htc10 is on its last leg and I need a new phone for work asap.

Reply

avatar2395568_4.gifmsm0511
06-21-2018 04:24 PM

I spoke with an HTC rep through chat and he kept reiterating something about an investigation into all the cancelled orders, and apologized. When I told him the previous rep I spoke to said if I reordered I wouldn’t lose my place, but the chat rep told me if I reordered today it would be July before it ships. When I mentioned not losing my place in line all he would say is that there is an…

Reply

Basically, people that pre-ordered a U12+ through Amazon are now being told that the phone was on backorder the whole time. So, instead of the phone shipping on June 21 like it was expected, it’s now looking like shipments won’t go out until August 3.

With that said, we’d love to hear from you. If you pre-ordered a U12+, what’s your shipment status looking like?

Join the conversation in the forums!

22
Jun

Anker’s popular Bluetooth speakers are on sale today for as little as $17


Get that boom boom pow!

anker-bt-speakers-29i6.jpg?itok=yaHl18Yc

As part of its Gold Box deals of the day, Amazon has a pair of Anker’s Bluetooth speakers on sale for as low as $16.88. The most affordable option is the Anker SoundCore Mini, which has 15 hours of battery life, and this price is the lowest it’s ever gone. This option is super portable thanks to its cylindrical design but still offers a great sound.

If you want something a little bigger and more powerful, the Anker Premium Portable Bluetooth Speaker is the option for you. It has two passive subwoofers, dual 10W drivers, and 6 hours of playback per charge, all for $33.99. Both of these discounts only apply to the black versions of each speaker, though there are other colors available for more money.

Anker backs both with an 18-month warranty.

See at Amazon

22
Jun

Alcatel 1X review: It’s Android Go time


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You can have everything Android has to offer for just $100.

Smartphones are expensive. They have always been expensive, but as they approach the $1,000 mark it becomes more obvious. In the long-term, maybe $1,000 isn’t too much to pay for a year or more of the convenience and helpfulness that a smartphone has to offer, but not everyone has that kind of money to spend. The good news is that several companies are trying to fix that by making affordable smartphones that are worth buying.

Google and Alcatel are two of them. Together, Android Go and the Alcatel 1X become one of those inexpensive smartphones that are worth taking a closer look at, and that’s what I’ve been doing for a week or so. Here’s my take on what a modern $100 smartphone has to offer.

Alcatel 1X (Go Edition)



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Price: $100

Bottom line: This is the first $100 smartphone that’s worth buying.

The Good

  • Oreo Go as the operating system
  • Solid and comfortable construction
  • Delivers all the smartphone basics at reasonable performance levels
  • All-day battery life

The Bad

  • 1 GB of RAM can be a problem for some tasks
  • Not able to effectively run all apps from Google Play
  • Touch input is less than spectacular
  • The camera is a potato

See at Amazon

img_20180621_142608.jpg?itok=BAE3IydV

Alcatel 1X Build and construction

Processor Mediatek MT6739Quad-core 1.3 GHz Cortex-A53PowerVR GE8100 GPU
Display 5.3-inches16:9 aspect ratio480 x 960 resolution (204 ppi)
Battery Li-Ion 2460 mAh battery
Camera 8 MP, (f/2.0, 1/4″, 1.12µm)5MP 720p front-facing camera
RAM 1 GB
Storage 16 GB
Ports microUSB (no fast charging)
Connectivity GSM / HSPA / LTE802.11 b/g/n Wi-FiWi-Fi DirectBluetooth 4.2 LEGPS ? A-GPS FM radio
Dimensions 147.5 x 70.6 x 9.1 mm (5.81 x 2.78 x 0.36 in)
Weight 151 g (5.33 oz)

Remember the Nexus 5X? It was a great cheap smartphone that was built like a great cheap smartphone. The Alcatel 1X is very similar to the Nexus 5X in almost every way when it comes to how it’s made and what it’s made of.

It’s not covered in suede, unfortunately. The photos make it look that way and several people have mentioned that it looks and feels a bit like suede, but it’s the same soft-touch plastic we’ve seen before. The back of the phone is pleasantly round and wraps the sides to the edge of the display, making it comfortable to hold and use.

The fingerprint sensor is placed on the rear where we’ve seen many times before, and it works surprisingly well — it’s every bit as fast to activate as a phone like the Nexus 5X or LG V30. You’ll find a decent camera above the sensor that protrudes ever so slightly, and not much else. Volume and power switches are on the right side, a 3.5mm headphone jack is up top with a noise-canceling microphone, and a Micro-USB port sits alone at the bottom. The sole external speaker is the earpiece on the front of the phone, but it’s constructed in a way that you can hear sounds fairly well through the front of the phone and not just the tiny slit across the top.

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Overall the phone is built well, with no unsightly seams or sharp edges. The gap where the glass meets the body is super tight, so you won’t get it filled with lint or whatever else lives in your pocket or at the bottom of your purse. Just because the phone only cost $100 doesn’t mean it has to feel that way.

What you won’t find are extra and expensive options like aluminum alloy or glass. It’s all plastic with the same soft coating except for the 5.3—inch display. There’s nothing to get hyped up about here, but more importantly, there’s nothing to dislike. It’s a solid and unassuming phone that’s comfortable to hold and use.

Notice the Alcatel 1X isn’t exactly a barn-burner when it comes to the components. In fact, on paper it looks pretty weak; there is less power here than you would find in a good calculator. That’s why the phone is so inexpensive, and also why I wanted to have a closer look at how this level of hardware can run Google’s Android Go Oreo operating system.

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Alcatel 1X Software

The phone runs what’s known as Oreo Go. It’s part of the Android Go program from Google that was designed to make a smartphone that’s inexpensive and affordable for everyone on the planet still be able to do the things we want a smartphone to do. Since this version is Oreo Go, it’s built on Android 8.1.

Android Go tries to fix the experience of a cheap smartphone. It does a good job.

Android Go is a novel approach to a big problem. I’ve touched on that a bit, but a quick version is in order. Google wants to build a smartphone (technically it wants another company to build it and it will supply the software) that will sell at or around $30. Much of the company’s attention is on India at the moment, but Google knows that the 1.5 billion current Android users represent just the beginning, and there are parts of the world with almost zero smartphone penetration, like Africa and South America as well as rural India.

One thing these places have in common is that the economy isn’t the same as we would see in a more industrialized nation like the U.S. That means, essentially, that a lot of people are “poor” by U.S. standards and will never be able to afford a $1,000 smartphone. Yes, that’s a bit of a predatory way to look at things, but that’s how companies strategize growth in the third world.

Instead, I can focus on the great thing that may happen through this initiative: someone will build a phone so inexpensive that people in Ghana or rural Ecuador or India can afford it, and it will offer the same help and convenience that more expensive phones in the west can offer. That’s a win for everyone.

Everyone can benefit from having a smartphone. But not everyone can afford one, until now.

How Google is doing it is the fascinating part. Android is still Android, but everything you can see has been trimmed down. Android Go comes with a complete set of Go apps that have the same treatment, and together the package works on the Alcatel 1X’s anemic hardware. And it works a lot better than you would think even if it’s not perfect or up to the standard of a Pixel 2 or Galaxy S9.

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Go Apps

Oreo Go comes standard with a handful of Go apps designed to run on slim and cheap hardware. The list of what you’ll find on the 1X:

  • Google Go is a lighter version of the standard Google search app that also steers you towards light mobile-friendly web apps when available.
  • YouTube Go is a YouTube client that focuses on the content rather than a fancy interface or features most users never touch.
  • Gmail Go delivers your Gmail without the extras like themes or labs yet retains the familiar look and feel of its more bloated standard version.
  • Assistant Go brings the familiar Google Assistant to life with most of the same features you see in a fuller version.
  • Maps Go brings Google Maps to a phone like the 1X without bringing the system to a screeching halt or eating all of the battery.
  • Files Go is the ultra-light file browser that so many with phones like the Galaxy S9 love and use, and it runs great on the 1X.

HTML5 apps are a great way to bring a service to a phone without the guts to run a bloated app.

Of all the apps that have been tailored for Android Go on the Alcatel 1X, the Google Go app is the most intriguing. It’s a standard Google search — you type in whatever it is you’re looking for and it finds you web links to content based on it. A secondary feature is a little cooler, though. It has a listing tab for apps and should you choose one from the list you’ll be taken to a mobile-optimized web app from the company in question. If you use the Chrome browser (it’s enabled by default here) you can keep login and payment information saved and anytime you return you’ll be signed in and ready to go, just as if it were an app on the phone itself.

Google has been interested in HTML5 apps for years. So have companies like Apple and Microsoft. While we’re holding a phone like the OnePlus 6 that sports better hardware than my first MacBook Air, it’s hard to understand why anyone would care about a browser app when there is a better looking and fuller featured option in Google Play. But when you’re holding an Alcatel 1X in your hand, you get it.

You can’t help but get it because it leaps out at you and you suddenly realize that the web is more than Imgur and Reddit (which also have great Android apps, by the way) and banking, shopping, news, socializing and everything else can be done right through the browser. And it can be good.

img_20180621_142431.jpg?itok=B_nD2G0F The suede-like finish shows greasy spots. Don’t touch your nose!

Alcatel 1X Daily Use

Not everything here is perfect. I’ll start by saying the Alcatel 1X is a lot better at being a smartphone than I thought it would be, and if you only had $100 to spend and needed a smartphone I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. Ditto if you only want to spend $100 on a smartphone.

Most everything is “good enough”. Calls sounded passable, battery life gives about a full day on average, the apps designed for the Oreo Go platform perform really well and apps from Google Play that are not uber-demanding also perform reasonably well. With these things, there is nothing to complain about and several areas where I am delighted by how well they work on this level of hardware. Gmail Go and Assistant Go are two highlights; the apps offer everything I have ever used in either and are responsive. Whatever extras and options that were trimmed are things I never wanted to begin with.

You simply can’t overlook the price; this is a $100 phone.

Some things are borderline acceptable, though, and if this was not a $100 phone they would have been reason enough for me to just say no and put the phone back in the box without spending the time to review it.

Touch response is not as user-friendly as I would like to see. There is a slight visible delay between the time I tap or press a thing and the system doing whatever should happen when I tap or press it. It’s not a real problem most of the time, but it’s also evident in the keyboard, and that’s a little rough to use if you like to type fast and furious like I do.

Tactile feedback for touches suffers, too. The vibration motor is weak, and coupled with a delay (it fires when the phone does its thing, not when you touch) means it’s best turned off from the start.

It’s also not difficult to lag the phone down until it crawls. You probably can’t do it with the included apps (and that’s counting Chrome the memory hog), but it doesn’t take much to jam traffic up when you start using apps from Google Play designed for fancy and more expensive phones. And I’m not talking about apps that are known to run poorly like the Facebook app. I mean apps that don’t appear to have much impact on a phone like the BlackBerry KEYone, which has mid-range specs itself. Thankfully, clearing the apps from memory can fix everything, but clearing apps from memory in any Unix-like operating system means something is broken.

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The camera is about what you would expect from a budget Android phone. It’s completely passable if you want to snap a quick picture to post on Facebook or Twitter, but you won’t get a once-in-a-lifetime memory that you want to print and hang on the wall. Here are a few samples.

Alcatel 1X Should you buy it?

That’s going to be both a Heck Yeah! and a probably not at the same time. It depends on what you’re looking for from a phone.

If you’re the type of person who lives on their phone, the kind that PSAs about texting while walking are made for, you won’t like what you find here. No beating around the bush — you would drive this phone to its knees with Facebook and Snapchat and Instagram and Twitter all running while it’s also trying to do the regular phone things. You would end up hating the Alcatel 1X and wishing you had bought something else that cost a lot more.

The Alcatel 1X does exactly what it was supposed to do: offer a usable and enjoyable experience on a smartphone that only costs $100.

On the other hand, if you want a phone that can also check your mail, text or chat with friends and family, grab a photo when it needs to, or even Facebook once in a while the Alcatel 1X is perfect. A step further and playing light games or watching a video and the like, the Alcatel 1X is still a decent phone, regardless of the price. I could get by with the Alcatel 1X as my everyday phone because that’s the type of user I am when I’m not trying to push things with something for work.

Finally, if $100 is the price you can afford to pay and you want a phone that can do more than calls and SMS from that T9 keyboard, the 1X is a godsend. Literally. Android Go may be designed for that emerging market that companies like to talk about condescendingly from a stage, but it’s also a boon for plenty of people in the west as a phone they can afford or as a backup to keep around in case that expensive model meets the pavement and cracks.

3
out of 5


I love that a phone like this is made and available and can’t wait to see what’s next from both Alcatel and Google in this market segment.

See at Amazon

22
Jun

What’s new on Hulu for July 2018


And what’s leaving, too.

Tucked inside the monster that is Hulu’s July schedule is Ballet Now, a documentary about Tiler Peck, principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. That title hardly does her justice, though, as you’ll see in the trailer.

That’s beyond impressive, right? Ballet Now lands July 20.

What else to look forward to on Hulu in July? Well, it’s a long list.

Sign up for Hulu

Coming to Hulu on July 1

  • Alone (Complete Season 3)
  • American Pickers (Complete Season 17)
  • American Ripper (Complete Season 1)
  • Ancient Top 10 (Complete Season 1)
  • The Curse of Oak Island (Complete Season 4)
  • Doomsday Preppers (Complete Season 2)
  • Forged in Fire (Complete Season 4)
  • Gangland Undercover (Complete Season 2)
  • Hoarders (Complete Season 8)
  • The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer (Complete Season 1)
  • Intervention (Complete Season 17)
  • The Librarians (Complete Season 4)
  • Little Women: Atlanta (Complete Season 3)
  • Little Women: Dallas (Complete Season 1 & 2)
  • The Murder of Laci Peterson (Complete Season 1)
  • Pawn Stars (Complete Seasons 13 & 14)
  • Project Runway (Complete Season 16)
  • When Sharks Attack (Complete Seasons 1-3)
  • Who Killed Tupac? (Complete Season 1)
  • Wicked Tuna (Complete Season 5)
  • 20 Weeks (2017)
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across the 8th Dimension (1984)
  • All Is Lost (2013)
  • Alpha and Omega (2010)
  • Alpha and Omega: Dino Dogs (2016)
  • Alpha and Omega: The Big Fuhreeze (2016)
  • Alpha and Omega: The Great World Games (2014)
  • American Psycho (2000)
  • American Psycho 2 (2002)
  • An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (2017)
  • Analyze That (2002)
  • Analyze This (1999)
  • And God Created Woman (1988)
  • Angel Heart (1987)
  • Assassination (1987)
  • At Middleton (2013)
  • Avenging Force (1986)
  • Bad News Bears (2005)
  • Barbie and the Three Musketeers (2009)
  • Barbie in a Mermaid Tale 2 (2012)
  • Barfly (1987)
  • Beautiful Boy (2018)
  • Before Midnight (2013)
  • Beyond Borders (2003)
  • Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
  • Billy Madison (1995)
  • Bloodsport (1988)
  • Body Count (1997)
  • Bound (1996)
  • Braveheart (1995)
  • The Brothers Bloom (2009)
  • Cadillac Man (1990)
  • Chasing Amy (1997)
  • Clear and Present Danger (1994)
  • Closing Gambit (2018)
  • Clue (1985)
  • Cyborg (1989)
  • Dead Man Walking (1995)
  • Delta Force (1986)
  • Disaster Movie (2008)
  • Double Jeopardy (1999)
  • Dr. T and the Women (2000)
  • Election (1999)
  • The Eternal (1998)
  • Everybody?s Fine (2009)
  • Evolution (2001)
  • The Fourth War (1990)
  • Get Real (1999)
  • Go (1999)
  • The Honeymooners (2005)
  • House Arrest (1996)
  • Hustle & Flow (2005)
  • Incident at Loch Ness (2004)
  • The Indian in the Cupboard (1995)
  • Invaders from Mars (1986)
  • Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)
  • Jeepers Creepers (2001)
  • John Grisham’s The Rainmaker (1997)
  • Just Before I Go (2014)
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
  • The Ladies Man (2000)
  • Ladybugs (1992)
  • Last Castle (2001)
  • The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
  • Le Ride (2016)
  • The Lost Wife of Robert Durst (2017)
  • The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
  • Masters of the Universe (1987)
  • Maximum Overdrive (1986)
  • The Mechanic (1972)
  • Midnight in Paris (2011)
  • Mimic (1997)
  • Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear (1988)
  • The Monster Squad (1987)
  • Murphy’s Law (1986)
  • Next (2007)
  • Number One with a Bullet (1987)
  • One Direction: This is Us (2013)
  • Oscar Pistorius: Blade Runner Killer (2017)
  • The Phantom (1996)
  • P.O.W. the Escape (1986)
  • Patriot Games (1992)
  • Pawn (2013)
  • Pretty in Pink (1986)
  • Rabbit Hole (2011)
  • The Rundown (2003)
  • Sahara (2005)
  • Sex Drive (2008)
  • Six Shooter (2013)
  • Sleepers (1996)
  • Snake Eyes (1998)
  • Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift (1990)
  • Stephen King’s Silver Bullet (1985)
  • Street Smart (1987)
  • Superstar (1999)
  • This is Spinal Tap (1984)
  • Trade (2007)
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) (*Showtime)
  • War Horse (2011) (*Showtime)
  • Witness (1985)
  • Wooly Boys (2004)

Coming to Hulu on July 2

  • “UnREAL (Complete Season 3)

Coming to Hulu on July 3

  • Borg Vs. McEnroe (2018)

Coming to Hulu on July 6

  • Beat Bobby Flay (Complete Seasons 4 & 5)
  • Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction (Complete Season 4)
  • Burgers, Brew & Que (Complete Seasons 1 & 2)
  • Chopped Junior (Complete Seasons 2 & 3)
  • Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (Complete Season 24 & 25)
  • Food Network Star Kids (Complete Season 10)
  • Keeping up with the Kardashians (Complete Season 14)
  • Kids Baking Championship (Complete Season 3)
  • Kids BBQ Championship (Complete Season 1)
  • The League of Gentlemen (Complete Seasons 1-4)
  • Man Finds Food (Complete Season 1)
  • Man Fire Food (Complete Seasons 4 & 5)
  • Teen Titans Go! (Complete Season 4B)
  • You’re the Worst (Complete Season 4)
  • Heart of Nuba (2016)

Coming to Hulu on July 7

  • Justice League (2017) (*HBO)

Coming to Hulu on July 8

  • Mary Kills People (Complete Season 2)
  • Sharp Objects (Series Premiere)
  • Alpha and Omega: Journey to Dog Kingdom (2017)

Coming to Hulu on July 9

  • In a World (2013)
  • Serena (2014)

Coming to Hulu on July 10

  • Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (2017)
  • Cover Versions (2017)
  • Zombie Spring Breakers (2016)

Coming to Hulu on July 11

  • Harlots (Season 2 Premiere)

Coming to Hulu on July 13

  • Build Small, Live Anywhere (Complete Season 1)
  • Chopped (Complete Seasons 18 & 29)
  • Cutthroat Kitchen (Complete Season 10)
  • Flea Market Flip (Complete Season 5)
  • Ghost Adventures (Complete Season 7)
  • Home Town (Complete Season 1)
  • House Hunters (Complete Season 109)
  • Iron Chef Gauntlet (Complete Season 1)
  • Letterkenny (Complete Seasons 1 & 2)
  • Love It or List It, Too (Complete Seasons 6 & 7)
  • Property Brothers: Buying & Selling (Complete Season 5)
  • Restaurant: Impossible (Complete Seasons 12 & 13)

Coming to Hulu on July 14

  • Better Things (Complete Season 2)
  • Battle of the Sexes (2017) (*HBO)
  • Home Again (2017) (*Showtime)

Coming to Hulu on July 17

  • Sharp Edges (2018)

Coming to Hulu on July 20

  • Ballet Now (Hulu original documentary)
  • The Last Ship (Complete Season 4)
  • Outkast (Season 2 Premiere)
  • This Country (Complete Seasons 1 & 2)
  • Trial & Error (Season 2 Premiere)
  • Embrace of the Serpent (2015)

Coming to Hulu on July 22

  • Leaning into the Wind (2018)

Coming to Hulu on July 24

  • The Thundermans (Complete Season 4)

Coming to Hulu on July 25

  • Alone Together (Season 2 Premiere)
  • Castle Rock (Series Premiere)
  • Real Humans (Complete Season 2)
  • Black Cop (2017)

Coming to Hulu on July 27

  • The Glass Castle (2017)

Coming to Hulu on July 28

  • Friends with Kids (2012)
  • Victoria & Abdul (2017)

Coming to Hulu on July 30

  • Before We Vanish (2018)
  • The Wrecking Crew (2008)

Coming to Hulu on July 31

  • Casual (Complete Season 4 Premiere)
  • Into the Blue (2004)

What’s leaving Hulu on July 31

  • 3 Ways to Get a Husband (2009)
  • A Very Brady Sequel (1996)
  • Baby Boom (1997)
  • Barefoot (2014)
  • Body of Evidence (1993)
  • Bride and Prejudice (2004)
  • Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004)
  • Cheech & Chong?s Next Movie (1980)
  • Dirty Pretty Things (2002)
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
  • Eight Millimeter (1999)
  • Emperor (2012)
  • Felony (2014)
  • Flashback (1990)
  • Foxfire (1996)
  • Funny about Love (1990)
  • Hackers (1995)
  • Hellbenders 3D (2012)
  • Love is a Gun (1994)
  • Malena (2000)
  • Man of the House (2005)
  • Mansfield Park (1999)
  • Never Back Down (2008)
  • New Guy (2002)
  • Ninja Masters (2009)
  • Planet of the Apes (1968)
  • Race for your Life, Charlie Brown (1977)
  • Rustlers’ Rhapsody (1985)
  • School Ties (2003)
  • Starting out in the Evening (2007)
  • Steel Magnolias (1989)
  • Strategic Air Command (1955)
  • Swan Princess: Royally Undercover (2017)
  • Throw Momma from the Train (1987)
  • To Rome with Love (2012)
  • Traffic (2000)
  • Ultimate Avengers 2 (2006)
  • Untamed Heart (1993)
  • Wayne’s World 2 (1993)
  • Windwalker (1980)
  • Xxx (2002)
  • Xxx: State of the Union (2005)
  • Z for Zachariah (2015)

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22
Jun

Evoland 2 is another nostalgic gaming masterpiece, now available for Android! [GotW]


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Update June 22, 2018: Evoland 2 is a brilliant game that will keep you entertained and engaged for hours. Get it on sale right now from the Google Play Store!

Evoland 2

Evoland 2 is one of those premium games for Android that you won’t want to miss out on. Initially released in 2015 on Steam, Evoland 2 is a sprawling RPG that features graphics and gameplay that evolves as you progress through the world.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first Evoland game for Android and one of my few criticisms of the game was that the story was a bit short. That won’t be the case with Evoland 2, which the developers say features over 20 hours of gameplay. I’m just over four hours into the game and it barely feels like I’ve scratched the surface.

While the first game in the series explored the evolution of RPGs, Evoland 2 has expanded its nostalgic scope by playing with even more gaming genres. It starts out as a pretty typical action RPG, but as you progress through the story both the graphics and gameplay take dramatic shifts which always keep the game feeling fresh and engaging.

The game will have you laughing as it constantly breaks the fourth wall and there are more gaming and pop culture references than you can shake a stick at. The game is currently on sale to celebrate its launch and there are no ads or in-app purchases to deal with — only nostalgic gaming bliss.

Download: Evoland 2 ($6.99)

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