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25
Jun

What do you do with your old phone after buying a new one?


Out with the old and in with the new.

Whether you buy phones outright or pay for them on monthly installment plans through your carrier, upgrading to the latest and greatest mobile tech is always an exciting time.

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However, after you finally take a break from playing around with your new toy, there comes a time when you need to figure out what to do with your old phone. Should you sell it? Keep it for old-times sake? Maybe find someplace you can recycle it at?

There are a lot of different ways to answer this question, and to help break it down, here’s how the AC forum community responded to it.

avatar1289749_8.gifNexusGirlX
06-21-2018 06:00 AM

Normally I keep all of them. I recently tried to sell two of my S7 Edge phones, my Note 8 and a few iPhones. All I got was lowball offers so I figured I would just keep the phones.

We have a guy at my job who was in prison for a while and has been doing some good things in his life and even got his monitor taken off and is proving he’s a good guy in everything he does. He didn’t even have a…

Reply

avatar18495_4.giftony bag o donuts
06-21-2018 10:41 AM

I keep my very first device.
I have a few low cost Android devices as a backup, but I typically sell them on swappa to help pay for a newer device.

Reply

avatar710602_5.gifMorty2264
06-21-2018 03:54 PM

Very interesting thread – love it! I keep my old one as a backup in case something happens to my new phone. Lately, however, my brother and boyfriend will make use of my backup phone (s) until they get new ones. 😃

Reply

avatar684514_6.gifRukbat
06-23-2018 02:44 PM

I go back to an old Motorola MicroTAC. The only phones I haven’t kept are mobiles (yes, we used to have a radio mounted in the trunk and a control head with a handset on the hump, under the dashboard) and my bag phones. But by the time I buy a new phone, the last one isn’t worth anything – it’s not worth the trouble of putting a phone on Letgo for $150, only to get offers of $50.

Reply

I’ve kept a few phones over the years that have some sort of sentimental value to them, but for the most part, I usually go the route of selling them to help lower the cost of whatever I’m upgrading to.

What about you? What do you do with your old phone after you buy a new one?

Join the conversation in the forums!

25
Jun

The $100 Samsung Connect combines mesh networking with a smart home hub


It also adds voice control to your home network.

The Samsung Connect home mesh Wi-Fi network extender is down to $99.99 on Amazon. This 3-pack was selling for $200 and before March was going for as much as $300. This is the best price we’ve ever seen and the first time it has gone this low.

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The Connect is a mesh networking system and a smart home hub. It has the functionality of a SmartThings Hub built into it so it can control sensors, lights like Philips Hue smart bulbs, video doorbells like Nest, and other smart appliances. It can also cover up to 4,500 square feet in wireless signal. The adaptive technology goes for the clearest and fastest channels. The free app allows you to see everything that’s connected, create guest access, set up parental controls, and more. It’s all very easy to setup, too, taking just minutes to install.

See on Amazon

25
Jun

These are all the phones Xiaomi is releasing in 2018


Do you know what phones Xiaomi’s coming out with this year?

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You may not be all that familiar with Xiaomi if you live in the U.S., but for folks in China, India, and other parts of the globe, Xiaomi is one of the most popular consumer technology brands in the business.

Xiaomi crafts a variety of gadgets and gizmos, ranging from laptops, smart vacuums, and even electric bicycles, but its bread and butter lies with smartphones.

Each year sees Xiaomi kick out a heap of phones, and because of this, keeping track of what’s available and what’s still down the pipeline can be a chore. To help keep you in the loop, here’s a list of everything the company’s coming out within 2018.

The phones we’re still expecting

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3

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The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2.

Ever since 2016, Xiaomi’s Mi Mix series has easily been the most interesting in its entire portfolio. The company kicked off the bezel-less trend in 2016 with the first Mi Mix, followed it up in 2017 with the Mi Mix 2, and this year, we’re expecting Xiaomi to keep the trend going with the Mi Mix 3.

We’re still waiting for the rumor mill to get going for the Mix 3, but based on past releases, we should see the phone come out between October and December. The price tag will be big, the bezels will be thin, and the specs will be overly powerful.

With so many other phones trying to shrink bezel sizes, it’ll be interesting to see if Xiaomi succumbs to the notch on the Mi Mix 3 or tries something a bit more experimental similar to the Vivo NEX.

Xiaomi Mi A2

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The Xiaomi Mi A1.

The Mi A2 is expected to be the global version of the already-released Mi 6X, so while there won’t be any real surprises here, there’s one big differentiator that’ll make the Mi A2 stand apart from its sibling — its software.

Similar to its predecessor, the Mi A2 is expected to ship with Android One. In addition to fast updates and regular security patches, this also means a completely stock build of Android instead of Xiaomi’s own MIUI interface.

Last year’s Mi A1 was announced in early September, so that’s likely when we’ll learn more about the Mi A2.

Xiaomi Mi Max 3

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The Xiaomi Mi Max 2.

If you wanted a phone with unrivaled battery life and a monstrous display last year, one of the go-to picks was the Xiaomi Mi Max 2. The Mi Max 2 impressed with a 5,300 mAh battery and 6.44-inch screen, and rumors are pointing to an even more stunning successor in 2018 with the Mi Max 3.

According to the rumor mill right now, the Mi Max 3 will sport a 6.99-inch Full HD+ IPS LCD panel along with an even bigger 5,500 mAh battery.

Other specs might include the powerful Snapdragon 710 processor, 4/6GB RAM, and dual 20MP + 5MP rear cameras.

The phones that have been released

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5

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One of the first phones Xiaomi released in 2018 was the Redmi Note 5, and it did a great job at setting the stage for the rest of the company’s portfolio for the rest of the year.

Launched in February, the Redmi Note 5 has an 18:9 display with slim bezels and a 2160 x 1080 resolution. It measures in at 5.99-inches and uses a pretty good LCD panel. The 12MP camera on the back is the same one found on the Mi A1 and it’s powered by the capable Snapdragon 625.

Add all that together with a beefy 4,000 mAh battery, and you end up with one well-rounded package.

In regards to price, the Redmi Note 5 retails for ₹9,999 (around $146) for the model with 3GB RAM, but you can step up to a 4GB RAM option that costs ₹11,999 ($176).

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5: Everything you need to know

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro

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Shortly after the Note 5 was released, the Note 5 Pro followed it up as a more powerful smartphone that still came in at a price point that’s manageable for most people.

The display is the exact same one found on the regular Note 5 but it swaps out the Snapdragon 625 for the more powerful 636. You also get more RAM with your choice between 4GB and a whopping 6GB!

As for the camera situation, Xiaomi keeps the 12MP rear camera from the Note 5 but pairs it with a second 5MP lens on the Note 5 Pro. The dual camera setup allows the Note 5 Pro to pull-off the famous portrait style shots that have been huge in 2018, and when you’re ready to take selfies, you’ll find an impressive 20MP camera up front.

The Note 5 Pro is a bit more expensive with a starting price of ₹13,999 / $205 with 4GB RAM (₹16,999 / $249 for 6GB RAM), but it still offers a tremendous amount of value considering all the tech packed inside.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro review: King of the hill

Xiaomi Redmi 5

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If you like what you’re seeing with the Note 5 and Note 5 Pro but still wish they were a bit cheaper, Xiaomi’s got a solution in the form of the Redmi 5.

The Redmi 5 costs just ₹7,999 (about $125) and punches way above its asking price.

Design-wise, the Redmi 5 is very similar to the Redmi Note 5. There’s an 18:9 5.7-inch 1440 x 720 IPS LCD display and very slim bezels. The rear camera is a single 12MP sensor and has a 5MP camera on the front for all your selfies.

Under the hood, the Redmi 5 offers the Snapdragon 450, 2, 3, or 4GB RAM, and a 3,300 mAh battery.

Xiaomi Redmi 5 launches in India: Everything you need to know

Xiaomi Black Shark

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Gaming phones have recently become a popular niche in the Android space, and trying to best the Razer Phone, Xiaomi released the Black Shark in mid-April.

Right off the bat, the Black Shark impresses with a totally unique design that helps it stand out from all of Xiaomi’s other phones. The black and green color combo is stunning to look at, and the X-style layout on the back is supposed to make the phone easier to grip and hold onto during an intense gaming session.

Some of the specs include a 5.99-inch Full HD+ display, Snapdragon 845 processor, up to 8GB RAM, and a 12MP + 20MP camera combo on the back. Oh, and did I mention the Black Shark even has its own liquid cooling system?

The starting price for the Xiaomi Black Shark is about $480, so while it’s not cheap, is a lot more affordable than Razer’s $800 competition.

Xiaomi’s $480 Black Shark gaming phone is designed to take on the Razer Phone

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S

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Before we (hopefully) get our hands on the Mi Mix 3 later in the year, Xiaomi decided to throw a bone to hold us over with the Mi Mix 2S. The Mi Mix 2S is nearly identical to the Mi Mix 2, but it offers a few key upgrades under the hood that make it a vastly better product.

First and foremost, the Mi Mix 2S has Qualcomm’s impressive Snapdragon 845 at the heart of it. The 845 is one of the best mobile processors on the market right now, and because of it and 6 or 8GB RAM, the Mi MIx 2S absolutely flies.

The 2S also comes with dual 12MP cameras on the back (the second of which is a 2x telephoto lens), 3,400 mAh battery, Android Oreo, and was the very first Xiaomi phone to ship with wireless charging.

Pricing starts out at $530, and considering the Mi Mix 2S’ futuristic design and bleeding-edge specs, that’s a steal.

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S preview: Great hardware backed by vastly improved software

Xiaomi Mi 6X

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The Xiaomi Mi 6X is yet another mid-range / budget phone from the company, but there’s one aspect that makes it particularly interesting. Later in the year, the Mi 6X will be re-released as the Mi A2 with Android One. Android One is an initiative Google’s been running for a couple years now, and all phones that are part of it ship with a stock build of Android and often get quick updates to new software versions and security patches.

All of the hardware from the 6X will carry over the A2, and boy is there some good stuff to talk about.

The Mi 6X comes equipped with a 5.99-inch Full HD+ display, Snapdragon 636 processor, up to 6GB RAM, and a 3,010 mAh battery. Other notable specs include 12MP + 20MP cameras on the back, Bluetooth 5.0, and an IR blaster.

Pricing starts out at around $250 for the model with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage and maxes out at $315 if you opt for 6GB RAM and 128GB storage.

Xiaomi Mi 6X offers upgraded cameras and Snapdragon 660 for just $250

Xiaomi Redmi S2 / Y2

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The next phone on our list goes by the Redmi S2 or Redmi Y2 depending on where you buy it, and it essentially takes the design of the Mi 6X, downgrades a few of the specs, and cuts the price to make it even more affordable.

You’ll still find a 5.99-inch 18:9 screen around front, but the resolution is dropped down to 1440 x 720. There are dual 12MP + 5MP cameras on the back, 16MP front-facing camera, Snapdragon 625, and your choice of 3 or 4GB RAM.

Pricing for the Redmi S2 / Y2 starts at just $146.

See at Xiaomi

Xiaomi Mi 8

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Xiaomi’s often been notorious for taking heavy inspiration from Apple for some of its products, and that theme is on full display with the Mi 8.

The Mi 8 was very clearly inspired by the iPhone X, featuring a wide notch at the top of the 6.21-inch 2248 x 1080 AMOLED screen and dual cameras on the back (12MP + 12MP) in a vertical setup with an LED flash separating them in the middle. It’s not subtle in the slightest, but then again, it’s not a bad look at all.

Internal specs for the Mi 8 include the Snapdragon 845, 6GB RAM, 20MP front-facing camera, and a 3,400 mAh battery. Xiaomi even included an infrared lens in the notch to mimic Apple’s FaceID.

The Xiaomi Mi 8 starts at $420, and along with it, you can pick up the Explorer Edition for $580 that comes with an in-screen fingerprint sensor and transparent glass back.

The Xiaomi Mi 8 is a blatant iPhone X ripoff with a full-sized notch

Xiaomi Mi 8 SE

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Alongside the Mi 8, Xiaomi also revealed the Mi 8 SE. The Mi 8 SE has a very similar design compared to the Mi 8, but as you might expect, comes with less-impressive specs and a more affordable price.

The Snapdragon 845 has been replaced by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710, and while that may sound like a downgrade, you really shouldn’t notice any difference in speed. The 710 is essentially a version of the 845 that’s been modified for mid-range smartphones, and it’s easily one of the most exciting processors Qualcomm’s come out in some time.

Other specs for the Mi 8 SE include a 5.8-inch AMOLED display, 12MP + 5MP rear cameras, 20MP selfie camera, 3,120 mAh battery, and a starting price of only $280.

The $280 Xiaomi Mi 8 SE is the world’s first phone with a Snapdragon 710

Xiaomi Redmi 6 / 6A

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Xiaomi announced the Redmi 6 and 6A on June 12, and to no surprise at all, these are two more budget phones that aim to offer a quality experience for folks that don’t want to spend a ton of cash.

The 6 and 6A are very similar phones, with both sharing a 3,000 mAh battery, 5MP selfie camera, and a 5.45-inch 1440 x 720 screen with an 18:9 ratio. The 6A is powered by the MediaTek Helio P22 processor and comes with your choice of 3 or 4GB RAM and 32 or 64GB of storage, whereas the 6A uses the Helio A22 and only comes in one configuration with 2GB RAM and 16GB of storage.

You can pick up the Redmi 6 between $125 and $155 while the 6A costs a measly $95.

Xiaomi Redmi 6/6A bring face unlock and 18:9 displays to the entry-level segment

Xiaomi Redmi 6 Pro

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Hot on the heels of the Redmi 6 and 6A, Xiaomi announced the Redmi 6 Pro in late June as a more powerful variant of the above two phones that still comes in at a very affordable price.

Starting first with the design, the Redmi 6 Pro offers an updated aesthetic with vertical rear cameras and a notch in its display. Those cameras come in at 12MP and 5MP for a nice dual lens setup, while the screen measures in at 5.84-inches with a resolution of 2280 x 1080.

Inside the Redmi 6 Pro is the Snapdragon 625, 3/4GB RAM, 32/64GB storage, MIUI 9.0, and a huge 4,000 mAh battery.

Pricing for the Redmi 6 Pro starts out at around $153 and it’s available to purchase in China right now.

See at Xiaomi

Updated June 25, 2018: Added the Xiaomi Redmi 6 Pro and Mi Max 3 to the list.

25
Jun

Android P features we love: Better, faster biometrics


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Biometrics have been around for a while, but Google is taking things to another level and distinguishing “strong” biometrics versus ‘weak” biometrics in Android P.

Android P will have a lot of small-sounding but very significant changes to Android’s core. We see that with every upgraded version of Android, and often these changes are surrounding security. Google has a vested interest in keeping Android secure enough that the average user doesn’t need to worry about the how or the why — the company needs you on the internet and using internet services to make money. In Android P we’ll see one big change to the most convenient thing that ever happened to keep your phone secure: biometrics.

Biometrics is letting part of you prove that it’s really you.

Biometrics is the “art” of using a unique-to-you body feature as a secure way to identify yourself. We’re most familiar with fingerprint scanners, but biometrics cover facial recognition and iris scanning and even voice printing. Anything that’s uniquely you can be used as your identity with the right equipment and algorithms looking at it. Fingerprint scanning makes it easy to put a lock on your phone’s screen, and from a user standpoint, it’s what got people to start doing it. The next step will be accurate facial recognition. We already see companies using it and calling it secure, and it’s been part of Android since Ice Cream Sandwich though Google will tell you it’s not a secure method to unlock your data.

That’s about to change. With Android P, Google is adding an entirely new security model for biometrics. Building on a feature-set introduced in Android 8.0, Google has a new way to verify the accuracy of biometric data, a new set of features that can use the idea to test the accuracy, a new model that splits biometric security into weak and strong, and finally a public API that developers can use to tap into this whenever they need to properly identify the user.

What makes biometrics “strong”?

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Google introduced what it calls SAR/IAR metrics (Spoof Acceptance Rate / Imposter Acceptance Rate) that measure how, and how easily, an attacker (that’s the common word security pros use for “person who wants in your phone”) can get around a properly built biometric security implementation. Think of someone using a good photo of your face to fool face unlock and that’s spoofing while changing the way you look to fool a face scanner as Imposter attempts.

Culling the weak is hard work. Thankfully, Google is doing it all.

These SAR/IAR scores are used to determine if a biometric security system is strong or weak. Using a score of 7% (that means 93% percent effective 100% of the time) because that’s the score given to a proper implementation of a fingerprint scanner in a modern Android phone as the baseline, strong biometrics will have access that weak biometrics won’t.

Both methods are OK to use to unlock your phone. But biometrics classified as weak won’t be able to authenticate for payments or access an auth-bound key (a special authentication key that an app has created only for its own use) for any type of monetary transactions. You’ll also be required to use a strong biometric feature or manually enter a password or pin after four hours of not using your phone if you use weak biometrics to sign in. Most importantly, weak biometrics won’t be able to use the new Android P BiometricPrompt API to say you are really you.

Let Google do the work and developers use an API

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The BiometricPrompt API depends on strong biometric features returning a value that says you are a match before it acts as successful. This means it will be more difficult to fool a face scanner with a photo, for example. By having a way for every developer to tap into a set of known strong authentication techniques, developers won’t have to implement their own or depend on weaker and less secure methods. This is a big deal to the IT security team at your bank. It’s also a big deal to anyone who wants to trust that an app or service is properly built to keep your identity and login safe.

Developers will be able to use the BiometricPrompt API with a support library to allow older versions of Android to benefit, too.

We won’t notice a difference other than not being able to use sub-standard ways of proving who we are to give access to sensitive data about ourselves. We don’t need to notice a difference, and something like this new API is best when we don’t — it was done correctly because it’s invisible to the user. It’s what marketing people like to call “magical,” because we don’t know or need to know how it works as long as it works all of the time.

We expect Google to make use of this new feature with the Pixel 3’s login prompt, and a support library allows a developer to use the new API on older devices. These are the kinds of changes Android needs to move forward and it’s great seeing them done. Here’s hoping its as successful in practice as it looks on paper.

Android P

  • Android P: Everything you need to know
  • Android P Beta hands-on: The best and worst features
  • All the big Android announcements from Google I/O 2018
  • Will my phone get Android P?
  • How to manually update your Pixel to Android P
  • Join the Discussion

25
Jun

Amazon’s Whole Foods Market discount for Prime members goes nationwide June 27


Shop and save.

In May, Amazon announced a new benefit for Prime members that would let them use it at Whole Foods Market stores to get a 10% discount on almost everything in the store. When it was first announced, it was only available in Florida. Then the service expanded to 12 more states. Now, starting June 27, the service expands to cover the entire country. You will soon be able to use your Prime membership at all regular Whole Foods Markets across the country and all of the Whole Foods Market 365 stores.

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All you’ll need to do is update your Whole Foods Market app and add your Prime account to it. When you check out in-store, you can scan the Prime Code on the app to get your discount. You’ll also be able to get deals exclusive to Prime members at each store.

Some Prime members live in a sweet spot that not only gets them the 10% savings benefit of Prime but also free two-hour delivery of Whole Foods groceries (as long as it’s over $35). The markets for that include Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Richmond, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and Virginia Beach.

You can try all of this out even if you’re not a Prime member yet. Just sign up for a 30-day free trial and see if the benefits work for you. For regular Whole Foods Market customers, it really seems like a no-brainer.

There are plenty of reasons to be a Prime member, not the least of which is the upcoming Prime Day. It’s a huge sales event exclusive to Prime members, and we’re certain there are going to be a lot more savings to see then.

See on Amazon

25
Jun

Add some color to your home with these $39 Philips Hue bulbs


16 million color options.

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Right now you can pick up the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance smart bulbs for just $38.99 each. This is a savings of $11 from the regular price on these bulbs, and outside of a brief Black Friday sale, the best price they’ve sold for in a year. Each bulb has more than 16 million color options that can be controlled by the app or even via Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, or Siri.

In order for the lights to work, you will need the Philips Hue Smart Bridge, which is down to $52 from $60 today. For $15 more, you can get the 2-bulb starter kit, which comes with the Bridge and two white bulbs that you can use in your home as well.

See at Amazon

25
Jun

Moto G6 Play vs. Moto E5 Plus: Which should you buy?


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They’re so evenly matched that it’s hard to go wrong either way.

If you’re starting to get confused by Motorola’s lineup, don’t worry — you’re not alone. The company’s two budget offerings, the Moto G series and the even-cheaper Moto E family, just got refreshed last month with three new models each. The Moto G6 and Moto E5 are the standard issues of each series, but there are also Play models, which prioritize battery life, and Plus models, which come with slightly better specs and designs.

Starting to make sense? Maybe, but let’s make this even more confusing. Because the Plus models are basically souped-up versions of their suffix-lacking counterparts, the Moto E5 Plus begins to spill into the range of the Moto G6 Play, both in price and performance. In fact, depending on where you buy it, the Moto E5 Plus could even cost more than the Moto G6 Play. So which one should you buy?

Specifications comparison

First, we start with the basics. Here’s how the spec sheets stack up:

Operating system Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo
Display 5.7-inch IPS LCD, 1440×720 (18:9)Gorilla Glass 3 6-inch IPS LCD, 1440×720 (18:9)Gorilla Glass 3
Processor Snapdragon 427 1.4GHz quad-coreAdreno 308 GPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 octa-coreAdreno 505 GPU
Storage 16/32GB 32GB
Expandable MicroSD up to 128GB MicroSD up to 128GB
RAM 2/3GB 3GB
Rear camera 13MP, f/2.0 12MP, 1.25-micron, f/2.0, laser AF
Front camera 5MP, LED flash 8MP, 1.12-micron, f/2.2, LED flash
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, FM radioGPS, GLONASS Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, FM radioGPS, GLONASS
Audio Single loudspeaker3.5 mm headphone jack Single loudspeaker3.5 mm headphone jack
Battery 4000mAhNon-removable 5000mAhNon-removable
Charging Micro-USBTurboPower 10W Micro-USBTurboPower 15W
Water resistance Water repellent coating Water repellent coating
Security Rear fingerprint sensor Rear fingerprint sensor
Dimensions 154.4 x 72.2 x 9 mm175 g 161.9 x 75.3 x 9.35 mm200 g

What the Moto G6 Play does best

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The Moto G6 Play would seem to be the better phone, at least on paper, than the Moto E5 Plus. That’s the way it’s worked for years with Motorola’s budget lineup — G aims for great but is really just good; E aims for good but is really just OK. But the formula is getting shaken up this year.

Yes, the Moto G6 Play is better is some respects than the Moto E5 Plus, but it’s not the trouncing you’d expect. The 5.7-inch 720p panel is slightly denser than the 6-inch screen on the E5 Plus, and the entire body — made of a shiny, grippy plastic — is a little more streamlined.

The 4,000mAh battery and 13MP rear camera are also very good for the price, and you can’t go wrong with Motorola’s incredible software, even if it’s unlikely to receive many updates over the course of its life.

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Moto G6 Play specs

Indeed, the major advantage the G6 Play has over the E5 Plus is one of design: it’s sold unlocked and will be available practically everywhere, from Motorola’s own e-commerce store to Amazon (though its Prime Exclusive program) and many other retailers. It’s also compatible with every major U.S. carrier, something the Moto E5 Plus can’t boast at this point in time. At $199 for the version with a Snapdragon 427 processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage ($189 from Amazon), the Moto G6 Play is a bargain.

See at Amazon

Where the Moto E5 Plus pulls ahead

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Despite getting unfairly overlooked because of its position in Motorola’s lowest tier of phones, the Moto E5 Plus is a formidable device. It’s a formidable device, featuring a larger 6-inch display with the same 18:9 aspect ratio and 720p resolution. But while its spec sheet almost perfectly matches the Moto G6 Play’s, there are some major advantages to buying a Moto E5 Plus — including the more powerful 15W TurboPower charger included in the box.

The E5 Plus also has a larger battery than the G6 Play — even though the Play moniker specifically represents long battery life. The 5000mAh battery inside the E5 Plus topples the G6 Play’s already-massive 4000mAh cell, and should lead to some of the best battery life in Motorola’s lineup. You might not love the persistence of Micro-USB on the Moto E5 Plus, but the same cost-saving measure affects the Moto G6 Play as well.

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Moto E5 Plus specs

Then there’s the faster processor: the Snapdragon 430 inside the Moto E5 Plus is an octa-core chip, not quad-core like the Snapdragon 427, and has a much more robust Adreno 505 GPU compared to the G6 Play’s Adreno 308. (On the flip side, the Snapdragon 427 is optimized for connectivity: it supports all four U.S. carriers, and can carry download speeds up to 300Mbps, double that of the E5 Plus’s modem.)

If you’re OK with a bigger phone, the Moto E5 Plus is a better option than the Moto G6 Play. As long as you can find it.

The cameras in the Moto E5 Plus are also better: the rear camera is a 12MP sensor with large 1.25-micron pixels and an f/2.0 lens. The front camera is an 8MP sensor with large pixels, too. The Moto E5 Plus is clearly optimized for camera performance, too.

If you’re accustomed to Motorola’s Moto Actions that allow you to quickly launch the camera or flashlight, rest easy — they’re all here. In fact, the Moto E5 Plus is almost identical to the G6 Play in software, running the same build of Android 8.0. Inside and out, you’re sacrificing very little with the E5 Plus, and even gaining a bit in graphical power, battery life, camera quality, and screen size.

The only issue is, if you’re in the U.S. at least, the Moto E5 Plus isn’t being sold unlocked — it’s only available through carrier channels.

See at Cricket
See at Sprint

Which is right for you?

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The E5 Plus almost sounds like an overall better phone than the G6 Play … so why would you buy the latter, unless you were that concerned with getting slightly better build quality? For starters, in the U.S. at least, the E5 Plus is only available through Sprint or Cricket (Cricket calls it the Moto E5 SUPRA for some reason, but it’s the same phone) — and if you’re buying from the former, the E5 Plus actually $88 costs more than the G6 Play. When the phones only cost around $200 to begin with, that’s a pretty substantial difference.

If you’re willing to put up with the carrier side of things, or are already a Sprint or Cricket customer, the Moto E5 Plus is a better phone overall. But if you want to keep your options open by purchasing an unlocked device to use on any U.S. or international carrier, go with the Moto G6 Plus. Either way, you won’t regret it.

Have you been using one of these phones? Are you thinking about picking one up? Let us know in the comments!

Moto G6, G6 Plus and G6 Play

  • Moto G6 Plus review: Mastering the art of the mid-range phone
  • Moto G6 review: Finding success in compromise
  • Moto G6, G6 Play, and G6 Plus specs
  • Join our Moto G6 forums

Amazon

25
Jun

Let these discounted Greenworks outdoor tools help you improve the look of your yard


The grass should be greener on your side.

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Amazon is running a one-day sale on a bunch of Greenworks outdoor power tools, including string trimmers, blowers, cultivators, and more. These are all battery-powered tools, some of which include the battery and others don’t. Spring may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean your lawn doesn’t still need some care for a few more months.

You can grab this 21-inch mower without a battery for $161.15, which is over $300 less than the kit with a battery costs. Be sure to keep your property edges looking fresh with a new string trimmer for $97.49, and clean up after yourself with a cordless jet blower for $180.83. There’s also hedge trimmers, pole saws, and extra batteries on sale today.

Be sure to check out the whole sale now, before it ends.

See at Amazon

25
Jun

Review: Lutron’s Caséta Lamp Dimmers and Serena Shades Bring HomeKit Convenience to Your Lights and Windows


Three years ago, Lutron was one of the first vendors to venture into the HomeKit ecosystem with its Caséta Wireless lighting controls, which include plug-in lamp dimmers, wall-mounted dimmer switches, and remotes, all coordinated through a wireless “Smart Bridge” that plugs into your internet router.

The Caséta system has been such a mainstay in the HomeKit world that Apple is still selling it in its stores, including a $100 starter kit with a smart bridge, an in-wall switch, and a Pico remote control. Additional sets of one in-wall dimmer and one remote are available for $60 each. A host of other lighting switches and Pico remotes are also available to satisfy a range of needs, and the entire system is very popular with our readers.

Lutron’s Caséta lamp dimmer starter kit and Serena shade
Beyond lighting, the Caséta system also integrates with other products, including several styles of automatic HomeKit window shades from Lutron, as well as a joint Lutron-Honeywell thermostat and even some ceiling fans from Hunter. In addition to HomeKit, Caséta also integrates with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, and Nest, as well as Sonos, Carrier, ecobee, Logitech, and Xfinity Home.

I’ve had the Caséta lamp dimmer system controlling the bedside lamps in my master bedroom for quite some time, and Lutron also sent along a demo setup of the company’s battery-operated Serena shades to see how the different products integrate both within the Lutron app and through HomeKit.

Serena shades are available in roller, single honeycomb, and double honeycomb styles in over 150 fabric and color options with a variety of opacities. Lutron’s higher-end Sivoia QS Triathlon shades intended more for professional home automation setups will also integrate with the Caséta system and HomeKit.

Each Caséta lamp dimmer plugs directly into an electrical outlet and has its own pair of outlets to control up to two lamps simultaneously. In order to control the lamps on either side of our bed independently, I needed to use both dimmer units included in the starter pack Lutron sent me.


There are large buttons on the face of each lamp dimmer to control brightness level or immediately turn connected lamps on or off. But given that the dimmer is frequently plugged into an outlet low on the wall or even tucked away in an inaccessible location such as behind or under a bed as in my situation, the Pico remote is key for manual control of lamps.

Installation and Setup

Setup of Caséta products is fairly simple, but it’s important to note that these devices utilize a separate Smart Bridge accessory to connect to each other, the Lutron app, and HomeKit. The Smart Bridge is a small white box that connects over an Ethernet cable to your router. It’s one more thing taking up space and an electrical outlet, but it’s not an uncommon move used by manufacturers to bring HomeKit support to connected products, particularly since Apple has only just recently started allowing for software HomeKit authentication.

Caséta Smart Bridge sitting on top of AirPort Time Capsule and next to Linksys Velop
Once your Smart Bridge is online, the Lutron app will walk you through the setup for each of your products. If you’re using a Pico remote, you’ll need to set that up separately, but it’s a simple process. For a lamp dimmer, just hold down on the bottom button until the LED flashes, and then the app will prompt you to assign it to a room and specify what kind of fixture it will be controlling. From there, you can easily rename the device and then go through a similar short setup process for the Pico remote associated with each dimmer.


If you’re using in-wall switches, setup is similar, although you’ll obviously have a bit more work to do on the installation side to swap out your existing switches for the Caséta ones.

I wasn’t able to experience the full installation process for the Serena shades considering I was using a prepackaged demo unit, but once they are mounted, it’s an easy process to install the six D batteries and walk through the usual setup in the app.


One interesting feature of the lamp dimmer kit is that one of the dimmers can be used as a range extender, increasing the range of the Smart Bridge network by up to 30 feet. It can come in handy if you have Caséta devices at the opposite end of your house from the Smart Bridge, with a Caséta dimmer somewhere in the middle helping boost the signal to make sure everything can communicate properly with the bridge.

Lutron App Control

While the Caséta ecosystem integrates with HomeKit, the Lutron app isn’t a full replacement for Apple’s Home app, so you can’t see all of your HomeKit devices in it. You can, however, manage all of the Caséta and Lutron shade products as well as thermostats from Honeywell, Carrier, ecobee, and Nest. Sonos speaker systems can also be integrated within the Lutron app.


The Lutron app offers quick access to all of your Caséta-compatible products, and tapping on individual devices in the app pops up a set of controls with buttons similar to those seen on the device itself or the Pico remote. For example, with the lamp dimmers, you’ll get options to turn the lights on or off, or adjust the brightness. Brightness can also be adjusted using a slider.

Both the lamp dimmer/shade and the Pico remotes that control them show up individually by default, which can be a bit confusing considering they really do the same thing, but there’s an option in settings to hide remotes from showing on the main screen.

Controls are a similar story with the shades, which you let you tap into the app to open or close them all the way, go to a preset “favorite” level, or manually adjust up or down with buttons or a slider.

More power comes in the form of scenes, which allow you to combine Caséta-compatible devices under a single command. For example, a “Good Night” scene could turn off all of the connected lamps and light switches around your house, lower the shades, and adjust the thermostat. These function essentially the same as scenes in HomeKit, but it’s important to note that these are not actually the same thing – a scene set up in the Lutron app will not appear in the Home app.

Setting up a “Good Night” scene in the Lutron app
Lutron scenes can be controlled not only from within the app itself but also through a Today widget. You can customize which scenes appear in the widget and then easily access the controls at a swipe. Lutron also includes an Apple Watch app that gives you quick access to scenes and individual devices right from your wrist.

Lutron app’s Today widget
There does appear to be some limited ability in the Lutron app to interact with HomeKit devices that aren’t officially supported, as my Emerson Sensi thermostat shows up on the main screen and I can adjust the temperature set point and heating/cooling modes within the Lutron app. Other HomeKit devices around my house do not, however, appear in the Lutron app.

In addition to manual control of Lutron-based scenes, you can also set up schedules for individual Caséta devices or combinations of them. Schedules can be customized by day of the week and set using either absolute times of the day or relative to sunrise or sunset.

Setting up a schedule in the Lutron app
Lutron also offers some geofencing features, allowing you to set a custom radius (1000 feet by default) that will trigger certain events when you are coming or going. The app can remind you if lights have been left on when you leave the radius, and you can set certain lights to turn on as you arrive home or turn off as you leave, for example. A toggle option lets you set whether or not the scenes activate only after sunset.

Geofencing setup
The geofencing also extends to a feature Lutron calls “Smart Away,” which can randomly turn certain lights on and off between 6 PM and 11 PM when you’re away from home in order to make your home appear occupied. The geofencing feature can activate Smart Away automatically when you leave home, or you can opt to turn Smart Away on manually as a scene from the app or Today widget.

Manual Control

Manual control for smart home accessories is a key feature, as not everyone coming into your home is going to be set up to control your lights and other accessories through their phones, and Lutron’s Pico remote does a great job at managing that aspect of operation.

The Pico remote can be held in the hand or slid onto a pedestal stand (included in some kits, otherwise sold separately) that looks fairly fashionable and makes it easy to wirelessly control your lamps. Like the dimmer itself, the Pico remote includes separate buttons for on, off, and brightness adjustments. A center button can be configured to quickly set a lamp to a preset brightness level with one touch. In addition to the included pedestal, Lutron sells other remote accessories separately, allowing you to mount a Pico remote to a wall like a standard switch or clip it to a car visor.


The Pico remotes for our bedside lamps typically sit on the nightstands next to the lamps, which allows for easy access to adjust the lighting level and turn the lamps on or off. But say you want to roll away from the lamp and you’re feeling sleepy, maybe to read a book at bedtime with the lamp lighting your pages from behind over your shoulder — you can take the remote with you into your bed and turn the light off right from there as you’re drifting off.


With app and HomeKit integration, you can of course also use your phone or Siri to turn off the lights, but that can be less convenient if you want to have your devices put away for the night and perhaps don’t want to wake a sleeping partner by speaking to your lamps.


The Serena shades also come with their own Pico remote, so you can similarly easily control the shades without needing to tap into any aspect of the smart home control. While they look very similar and can interchangeably slide onto pedestal accessories, Pico remotes are customized for each product so labeling and button functions on a shade remote are different than those on a lamp dimmer kit with no user configuration needed beyond the initial pairing.

HomeKit

In addition to controlling things manually or through the Lutron app, once your products are set up you can also control them via HomeKit, which means the Home app on iOS (and soon macOS with macOS Mojave) or via Siri. This opens up a host of other integrations, letting you add the Caséta dimmers and switches and Serena shades to rooms, scenes, and automations with other HomeKit products.


Siri is especially convenient, allowing you to turn the lights on or off and open or close the shades by voice. You can even use commands like “set the shades to halfway” or “turn on Eric’s lamp to 50 percent” and the devices will quickly respond appropriately. Siri control works great with HomePod, which can hear you from across a room even while speaking quietly.


As noted up top in the setup section, individual Caséta products are not directly compatible with HomeKit, as connectivity is managed through the Smart Bridge that attaches over a wired connection to your Internet router and then wirelessly to all of your Caséta devices.


In practice, it doesn’t alter the way these devices function with HomeKit, as they appear as separate devices in the Home and quickly respond to commands via the Home app and Siri. If you tap into the details on each Caséta product within the Home app, you’ll see the Smart Bridge show up as a subpage, where you can see its information and remove it from your HomeKit home if necessary.

Wrap-up

Lutron has assembled a nice ecosystem of switches, dimmers, and even shades that work nicely together and with Apple’s HomeKit system. The Caséta products are easy to set up and work consistently both through the Lutron app and through HomeKit.

The Smart Bridge requirement adds an additional piece of equipment into the equation and likely increases the overall cost, but once it’s up and running the bridge is essentially invisible in terms of operation and can be tucked away somewhat to minimize the visual aspect.

As with most HomeKit devices, and smart home products in general, it’s not cheap to completely outfit your home with the Caséta ecosystem. As noted up top, if you’re looking for some in-wall switches, the starter kit with a switch and a Smart Bridge will set you back $100, with additional switches priced at $60, although you may find an occasional deal at another retailer to bring the cost down.

Lutron offers a number of bundles in various combinations of accessories, so make sure to figure out what will work best for you. For example, the lamp dimmer bundle I’ve been using is priced at $190 and includes the Smart Bridge, two lamp dimmers, two Pico remotes, and two tabletop pedestals for the remotes. But you can also build a piecemeal system starting with a Smart Bridge for $80 and individual sets of dimmers or switches paired with Pico remotes (no pedestals included) for $50–$60 each, or omit the Pico remotes and save a few dollars. The full list of starter kits, individual products, and accessories is available on the Caséta Wireless website. Lutron also has an Amazon storefront for the Caséta ecosystem.

Serena shades are custom manufactured based on your specifications, and pricing varies considerably depending on shade style, size, mounting method, fabric, and more, but expect to pay more than $400 (significantly more in some cases) per shade. It adds up quickly, but quality standard shades aren’t necessarily cheap either, and many homeowners find the convenience of powered shades worth the cost, especially for window locations that are out of easy reach.

Note: Lutron provided the Caséta lamp dimmer starter kit to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. The Serena shade demo unit was also provided free of charge and returned to Lutron at the conclusion of the review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.

Tags: HomeKit, Lutron
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25
Jun

‘Monument Valley 2’ Nearly Doubled First-Year Revenue in Comparison to Original Game


Monument Valley 2 creators Ustwo Games today posted a new story on Medium (via The Verge) that highlights the first-year numbers and growth of the popular mobile sequel. Although there are numerous points of data to look at, one notable standout is that Monument Valley 2 earned $10.4 million in the one year period that began on June 5, 2017 (the game’s launch day) through June 4, 2018.

In comparison, the original game’s first-year revenue locked in at $5.8 million back in 2015, meaning that the sequel proved to be far more popular than the first Monument Valley and nearly doubled first-year revenue for Ustwo Games in the process. One major factor in the success of Monument Valley 2 was its surprise unveiling onstage at WWDC 2017, and its immediate availability later that day in the iOS App Store.

Once word got out about the game’s launch, it achieved its highest one-day revenue of $728,000 on June 6, 2017 — the day after Apple’s WWDC keynote. Continuing comparisons, in its first year the original game’s highest one-day revenue hit $145,530 on April 3, 2014, the day of its launch.

Infographics via Ustwo Games on Medium
China was a huge factor in Monument Valley 2’s success this past year, with the game offered as an initially free download on Android in the country. China accounted for 91.4 percent of the game’s unique installs, compared to 2.7 percent in the United States. China also made up for 62.3 percent of purchases for the game in its first year, followed by the U.S. at 16.3 percent, the United Kingdom at 2.7 percent, Germany at 1.9 percent, Japan at 1.8 percent, Canada at 1.5 percent, and France at 1.3 percent.

Ustwo Game’s new infographic also has a few “fun facts,” including that 53 percent of players who began Monument Valley 2 finished it, and that the player base took over 2.2 million screenshots while playing the sequel. In total, the developers had to keep work on their follow-up game a secret for 490 days before it was ultimately revealed at WWDC 2017. Over its entire development cycle, it took 16 core team members 70 weeks to finish the game at a development cost of $2.3 million.

Speaking to The Verge, Ustwo Games studio head Dan Gray talked about the company’s resistance to going the freemium route with its games and the opinion by some in the industry that premium mobile games have died. “I think it has kind of plateaued,” he explained. “It definitely hasn’t died, which is what everyone said every year for the past six years.”


In the Medium post, Gray explained that the company likes to share its data to help out other developers, who can “get a handle on what they might expect from a successful premium launch,” and further the resistance to games that focus on in-app purchase payment structures. Monument Valley has become such a success in this field that other teams reportedly use “an MV” as a unit of measurement when forecasting success of their own games to investors, saying their game could launch with “X percent of an MV.”

“It’s harder and harder to make successful, premium, paid mobile games,” says Gray. “So I would rather help people out.” He says that the community of premium mobile game developers is very communicative, sharing details like release dates ahead of time to avoid clashing with each other. “It’s kind of like this secret society of people trying to help each other out,” he says.

Monument Valley 2 launched with a price tag of $4.99 on the iOS App Store, and has seen a discount to $1.99 a few times over the last year. Thanks to the one-time purchase, players get access to the entire game, which spans 14 chapters of puzzles of increasing difficulty. Although he didn’t specify what Ustwo is working on next, Gray said that he wants to use Monument Valley 2’s success “to do some really risky projects that no one is taking risks on.”

Tags: Ustwo, Monument Valley 2
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