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13
Jul

BlackBerry KEY2, third opinion review: Keyboard at all costs


blackberry-key2-black-front-home-screen.

You better really love that hardware keyboard, because you’re giving up a lot to get it.

With our own Daniel Bader taking on the canonical KEY2 review for Android Central, and Jerry Hildenbrand following it up with his own thoughts, I’m in the privileged position of using the phone far longer before putting my conclusive thoughts down. I’ve been using the KEY2 for over three weeks now, which was essential for me to get over the stumbles of re-learning how to use a phone with a hardware keyboard on account of how little I used the KEYone and Priv — not to mention the half-decade since using any other device with keycaps.

It took about a week and a half to get into a comfortable mode of using the keyboard every single day for hours on end, rewiring my brain to naturally use it rather than reaching up for that touch screen for every interaction. After that point I could just start using the KEY2 like a normal phone, evaluating everything else it does — because we all do far more than just type on these things after all.

Weeks of relying on BlackBerry’s latest keyboard-packing flagship hasn’t been painful by any stretch, but it hasn’t been entirely fruitful either.

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Hardware and software

BlackBerry KEY2 Things I like

The BlackBerry KEY2’s keyboard undeniably lands up here in the positive column. It was frustrating at first. I was an extremely slow typist for the first couple of days. But once I got through that barrier, I feel like I’m up to the level where I’m nearly matching my typing speed on a virtual keyboard. And once I got there, I started to enjoy everything else the keyboard has to offer. Being able to swipe along the keyboard to scroll through apps without getting your thumb in front of the screen is awesome. Using the shortcuts to launch apps is a big time saver. Swiping along the keyboard for word prediction and text selection is intuitive. The fingerprint sensor in the space bar is conveniently located.

BlackBerry KEY2 specs

The keyboard is really good, and you can learn how to make it incredibly useful.

Aside from a couple hiccups here and there, the BlackBerry keyboard experience actually complements Android really well when it’s this thoughtfully designed. The keyboard feels like more than a text input device — I just started to use it as a core part of interfacing with the phone, which is key for justifying its existence.

There’s also praise to be had for the non-keyboard portions of the hardware. This all-black KEY2 I’ve been using has a stealthy, businesslike appeal that I’m proud of as I set it on a table in public. The metal frame is sturdy, and the textured back complements it nicely with enough grip to be helpful. The side keys are super clicky, and that convenience key is programmable — I set it to toggle between sound, vibrate and silent mode. There’s a headphone jack! What a concept. And phone calls sound excellent. The whole external hardware experience is befitting its price, there’s nothing to complain about here.

BlackBerry’s software is good and powerful, and leads to really great battery life.

BlackBerry’s take on Android is also filled with good ideas and above-average execution. This isn’t on the same level as what you get from OnePlus, Motorola or Google itself in terms of that final bit of fit-and-finish, but it’s darn good. Many of BlackBerry’s services and apps are a bit on the useless side, but they’re all simple to turn off and they don’t nag you after that. Its launcher is good, as are the changes in the settings and all of the keyboard integrations.

The overall emphasis on battery life with the KEY2 has come together nicely, as the phone has never left me stranded. 3500mAh is a really good capacity nowadays, particularly for a small-screened device and one that’s running a power-conserving Snapdragon 660. The KEY2’s software is proactive with warning you about apps that are running wild with your battery or usage patterns that may have the phone drained before you usually charge it. But I rarely needed to heed the warnings, because the KEY2 just made it through every day with battery to spare. This isn’t a two-day phone, but its battery life is strong enough that I don’t have to worry about it.

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Average isn’t good enough

BlackBerry KEY2 Things I don’t like

BlackBerry made a lot of improvements over the KEYone, but still feels like it followed its predecessor’s lead too much considering it also raised the price. The addition of 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, is fantastic, and makes the KEY2 futureproof for a couple years. But sticking with a Snapdragon 660 is a bit puzzling — the KEY2 performs pretty well, and rarely has stutters or hiccups, but it doesn’t have a fighting chance of matching the Snapdragon 800-series phones from even 2017. If you’ve used a modern flagship phone, you won’t be convinced that the KEY2 is on the same level; its performance reminds me more of a slick-running mid-range phone than a top-end competitor.

I expect a far better display, speaker and camera for this much money.

The theme continues throughout other parts of the hardware, where the KEY2 feels stuck in the past. I understand why the display is sized and shaped the way it is, and have no problem with it — but the quality of the display is shameful for this level of device in 2018. It’s practically unusable in direct sunlight, and is of just average quality in all other situations. The single down-firing speaker isn’t particularly loud or full sounding. There’s no water resistance to speak of. I expect far better in all of these areas from a phone of this asking price.

I’m going to make the same argument with the camera, which is a perfect example of “average” not being good enough. The KEY2 can take some really good shots, particularly in daylight and when using HDR. If you leave HDR on you get some great colors and the dynamic range is pretty good — without it, things are a bit hit or miss. Clarity and sharpness are acceptable in daylight shots, the only issue I found was inconsistent exposure — sometimes it was noticeably underexposed in bright scenes, but also way overexposed when you tap to meter on a dark subject. I took lots of photos I was proud to post on Instagram, and many more that were fine enough to keep for private use in Google Photos, but there were dozens I chose to just delete.

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The camera is acceptable in daylight, but way behind the pack in low light.

In low light, this just isn’t good enough at all. An f/1.8 lens is a great starting point, but BlackBerry moved to a sensor with smaller pixels than the KEYone and didn’t add OIS, so the deck is stacked against it getting good low-light photos. The KEY2 is capable of a good shot in dark scenes, but not particularly often. In any case, its clarity and sharpness are below the competition in these photos. The secondary camera is entirely useless in low-light shots given its f/2.6 aperture and 1-micron pixels, but the story isn’t all that much better in daylight. This is a perfect example of how the company could have benefited from using the money (and space inside the phone) dedicated to the useless secondary camera for improvements to the main camera and been far better off.

As I found in my camera comparison between the KEY2 and Galaxy S9, the KEY2’s cameras just isn’t ready to play with the top-end phones. That’s alright in itself, because I realize camera isn’t always the most important thing for people, but when you add it to all of the other uninspiring aspects of the KEY2 experience you start to wonder why you’re paying so much.

Lest I be chastised for being too critical on the KEY2, let’s all remember that BlackBerry is charging $649 for this phone. Everything here is plenty good for a $450-550 phone, but just isn’t good enough to justify that extra jump to the mid-$600 range. It feels bad to dig on this phone so much for just being “average” or “good enough,” but you have to realize that the KEY2 is trying to play in a world where that’s not acceptable when we’re talking about this price level.

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Keyboard at all costs

BlackBerry KEY2 Third opinion review

Evaluating the BlackBerry KEY2 comes down to one thing: how badly do you want that hardware keyboard?

How badly do you want that hardware keyboard? You give up a lot to get it.

For some people a hardware keyboard is essential. And after using the KEY2 for a few weeks I have even been convinced that there’s serious value in having those clicky keys and all of the extras that the touch-enabled caps offer. I could happily use this keyboard and form factor without issue, because I really don’t play games or watch much video on my phone. The KEY2’s hardware overall is very nice, too, and I like its powerful software and strong battery life. But I still don’t fall into the former camp of people who can’t live without a hardware keyboard.

As such, I’m not willing to give on so many of the other parts of the phone experience just to have the KEY2’s keyboard. For $650, if this phone didn’t have a keyboard I wouldn’t be able to recommend it to anyone. The screen, specs, performance, camera and hardware features simply don’t match the OnePlus 6, which I’ll remind you costs $120 less. On any given day the Galaxy S9 can be had on Amazon for $700, just $50 more. At their respective price points, both of those phone blow the KEY2 away in every way … aside from the keyboard.

When you must have a keyboard, the KEY2 is your best choice by a long shot — and the non-keyboard parts of the phone definitely get the job done. But if you’re fine typing on glass, there are better and less compromised choices out there for the same money.

BlackBerry KEY2

  • BlackBerry KEY2 review
  • BlackBerry KEY2: Everything you need to know!
  • BlackBerry KEY2 specs
  • BlackBerry KEYone review: Coming home
  • Join our BlackBerry KEY2 forums!

Buy the BlackBerry KEY2

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13
Jul

Should you buy the Google Pixelbook or Microsoft Surface Pro?


The battle of Chrome OS vs. Windows rages on.

f you’re in the market for a Chrome OS device, the Google Pixelbook is one of the best ones you can currently get. The Pixelbook is ultra-fast, has an incredible design, and comes with outstanding battery life.

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However, if you know how to shop around, you can find Microsoft’s latest version of the Surface Pro for quite a bit cheaper than Google’s offering.

The biggest difference here is that the Surface Pro runs Windows 10 instead of Chrome OS, and when faced with the choice between these two machines, one of our forum users reached out for feedback for opinions on what they should do.

avatar713920_10.gifB. Diddy
07-09-2018 11:10 AM

The question of a Chromebook being able to fully replace a conventional laptop really boils down to if you need something that’s only available as an installed program, and doesn’t have an online or Android app counterpart. If you subscribe to Office 365, then you should be fine with the online version or the Android app version (although I’m not sure if the installed Office suite might have…

Reply

avatar2313781_23.gifMike Dee
07-10-2018 06:29 PM

Well I’m one that asked the question, made the jump and never looked back. There are things a Chromebook can’t do but for those things I have other laptops. I mostly use the my Pixelbook now and you just can’t beat the speed that this thing opens with and cruises at. You also never wait hours while Microsoft takes over your machine to update. I might add that another great feature is that if…

Reply

avatar3001551_1.gifMits5139
07-10-2018 01:49 AM

Totally agree. I made the switch from Mac & IOS to chrome and android. I actually went all in with the chromebook.

My best advice is to see which programmes you use and see if they or their alternatives are available on chrome or goggle play store.

I went all out and bought the pixelbook as I fell in love with it but I agree the specs are overkill but in my eyes totally worth it. The…

Reply

avatar2681192_3.gifgernerttl
07-10-2018 05:56 PM

As an Surface Pro (2017) user I recommend the Surface Pro. It is the most flexible of the two. I use mine for work, school, travelling, and even photo editing using Photoshop and Lightroom.

I can work on homework while my daughter is in gymnastics. I’ve even taken camping with me, so I could do image editing of any photos I took while camping.

My daughter will use it while we’re stuck…

Reply

Now, we’d love to hear from you — Would you recommend getting a Pixelbook or Surface Pro?

Join the conversation in the forums!

Chromebooks

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  • Should you buy a Chromebook?
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  • Google Pixelbook review
  • Join our Chromebook forums

13
Jul

NBA Live ’19: Everything you need to know!


Get ready for another crazy NBA season.

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Basketball fans are getting ready for another exciting NBA season. Lebron James has moved to LA, and the whole league is about to get turned upside down.

There’s no better way to feel like you’re part of that action than with an annual sports game. NBA Live ’19 is EA’s pride and joy in that arena, and if you’re wondering what it’s all about we have you covered.

What is NBA Live ’19?

NBA Live is a long-running franchise, reaching its greatest heights in the mid-2000s on the PlayStation 2 and the original Xbox. EA had dominated the sports genre in those years, but stiff competition showed the company had become quite stagnant, so much so that they lost a ton of footing. They not only suffered financially but also fell behind on innovation.

The situation reached fever pitch in 2014 when EA released a laughable game marred with bugs, unrealistic gameplay, and a shallow feature set. The snafu forced them to take the year off to rebuild the game from the ground up, and it wasn’t until 2016 that the series returned.

NBA Live ’19 is set to be the third game since the big rebuild, and the company seems to be taking the solid foundation they have and building on it to make a basketball game that just might be able to steal some of NBA 2K’s thunder.

Build your career as The One

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EA’s goal for NBA Live ’19 is simple: to make you the center of it. And by you, we mean your in-game character, who you’ll make for the game’s marquee mode called The One. Your superstar will start from the bottom and rise through the ranks to go however far you want to take him.

The One will be pushed by an original rags-to-riches story, complete with both on-court and off-court progression paths. For the on-court stuff, EA is adding a wealth of new abilities and player archetypes, including ICON abilities which are based on real NBA superstars and legends. These will be the most powerful abilities in the game and will likely only be rewarded to those who grind for them.

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EA creative director Ryan Santos goes into a bit more detail about it here:

“As an example, if I’m a rim protector, I’d have a new defensive ICON Ability that, along the way, I can choose whether or not it will impact the shot percentage of a bigger radius of players around me or significantly boost a defensive impact rating for my player. That customization is going to be a gamechanger and, on top of that, you’ll be able to unlock multiple ICON Abilities for each Playstyle. And just like a Trait, I’ll be able to swap that special ICON Ability before every game.”

Once you’re happy with your character, you’ll be able to continue his legacy in other game modes, including The Streets and The League.

Hit The Streets with your squad

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The Streets is where you take your character to compete when you’re not actively chasing a ring. It’s an online mode where players can team up in ProAm games to earn rank and rewards.

You’ll play on a wide variety of real-world courts. There are legendary courts from all over the US featured in The Streets, and for the first time ever you’ll also see some international courts from Paris, Rio De Janeiro, and more. EA hasn’t revealed the full list just yet, but we’re in for a regular stream of new courts to be added over the course of the year.

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Similar to NBA 2K’s MyPark mode, The Streets is mainly focused on 3v3 gameplay, where you and two of your buddies can go up against another squad. But if you’re running solo, Live ’19 lets you take in a squad of CPU players whom you can earn as rewards as you play. These squadmates will be actual NBA superstars and legends, so you’ll want to collect as many as you can.

When you’re feeling more ambitious, you can choose to take your player back to The League at any time to compete for an NBA championship. You’ll practice and play in games to earn your scratch and help your team, and the rewards you get can be funneled back into your character with new abilities, attributes, and cosmetic upgrades to earn.

Off the court, your time will be spent building your social media presence to help keep your superstardom status. Sponsors will play air of your games, which will, in turn, help you gain more fans and get other NBA players to notice you. We’re not sure how deep this aspect of the game will go, but it sounds like you’ll be able to earn more rewards the more famous you get.

Gameplay keeps improving

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It was important for EA to keep improving on the gameplay foundation established in the previous two games, and they’re adding a few new things this year to keep the train rolling. Real player motion has finally arrived. It’s a system that takes into account things like player weight and physics to make movements seem more realistic. The goal is to have a fluid and natural-feeling player movement system to give you total control as opposed to systems where you can sometimes feel stuck in an animation.

It’s backed up by tons of new animations, as well as optimized player skeletons and player models. One of the benefits to real player motion will be your added ability to pull off moves with the left stick alone. The right analog stick is still used for pulling off advanced moves, but those who want to do basic stuff like left cuts, right cuts, and back steps will be able to do so on the same stick they use to control overall player movement.

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Next up, off-ball gameplay is seeing some significant upgrades, something EA found especially necessary considering you’ll spend a lot of time as a defender when you’re playing modes where you only control one character. Whether it’s squaring up to keep them from getting open or extending your arm into a passing lane, you’ll now have more impact on the game when you don’t have the ball.

Lastly, new “Dynamic Gameplay AI” will give players authentic on-court personalities. Each player will have a set of tendencies that can be triggered depending on how a game is going. A player with a hot hand may see his teammates passing him the ball more, and if he gets really hot, he’ll even start trash talking. EA will do their best to incorporate real player behavior, too, such as Draymond Green’s tendency to hard foul an opponent that is trash talking him or playing him too aggressively.

Where to pre-order

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Pre-order NBA Live 19 right now, and you’ll get access to The One edition for the standard $59.99 asking price. This comes with the base game, plus Joel Embiid as a squads player, his jersey, golden shoes, a golden basketball, his signature celebration, and a customized basketball court.

See at GameStop

When can you play it?

NBA Live ’19 lands September 7th, 2018 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You’ll be able to try out a free demo of the game starting August 24th.

PlayStation 4

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  • PS4 vs. PS4 Slim vs. PS4 Pro: Which should you buy?
  • PlayStation VR Review
  • Playing PS4 games through your phone is awesome

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13
Jul

The U.S. Justice Department is appealing the AT&T and Time Warner deal [Update]


Updated July 13, 2018: AT&T already has something to say about the DOJ’s appeal. Per the carrier: “The Court’s decision could hardly have been more thorough, fact-based, and well-reasoned. While the losing party in litigation always has the right to appeal if it wishes, we are surprised that the DOJ has chosen to do so under these circumstances. We are ready to defend the Court’s decision at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.”

Not even a month after AT&T purchased Time Warner for $85 billion, the U.S. Justice Department is now appealing the deal.

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A court document was filed on Thursday, July 12, confirming the news. The appeal is being led by District Court Judge Richard Leon.

Per CNBC, Leon noted in his 200-page appeal filing that “the government failed to meet its burden to establish that the deal would significantly decrease competition.”

On June 15, AT&T officially completed its purchase of Time Warner following months of debating the acquisition in court. Time Warner owns major brands such as HBO, DC, and Turner, and commenting on the completing of the deal, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said —

We’re going to bring a fresh approach to how the media and entertainment industry works for consumers, content creators, distributors, and advertisers.

The court’s decision to let AT&T and Time Warner go through this agreement was seen as a controversial move by many, so it’ll be fascinating to see where the next steps of the appeal process take us.

What do you think about this development?

AT&T has officially purchased Time Warner for $85 billion

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13
Jul

What makes a Chromebook so secure?


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Chromebooks were designed with security in mind — so what does that mean?

One of the things you’ll see written whenever there’s talk about Chromebooks is how secure the platform is. If you’re into computers or software design or any type of IT you know a good bit about why, but most of the time the talk just stops after saying that Chromebooks are secure.

I think it’s good for all of us to understand a bit about how the things we use everyday work. That includes things like security and why your Chromebook might be a little better at it. It’s worth knowing the basics even if you aren’t interested in knowing about all the nuts and bolts. So let’s take a few minutes and talk about why Chromebooks are secure instead of just saying it.

  • Chrome runs on the Linux kernel. Linux distributions like Ubuntu or SUSE can be a pain in the behind to configure and use, but they also can be configured to be incredibly secure. The Linux kernel was designed by a group of people who wanted an open alternative to Unix, and the open aspect — anyone can submit a change to the folks who maintain the kernel — means some really great ways to keep a user account or network traffic away from prying eyes have been implemented. Google tries to merge this sort of local security with a user-friendly interface to find a good balance, where one doesn’t need to have a Computer Science degree to keep their account properly secured.

  • Chromebooks update automatically whenever Google decides they need an update. If you have your Chromebook turned on and online, it will check to see if there is an update available. If there is, it will download it and the next time you turn your Chromebook on it will have been applied. This is great for new features like better Android support or emojis, but it’s also the best way to maintain a secure environment: let the professionals do it.

I’m not very keen about someone else having control over the software on my computer, even if that someone else can do a better job of it than I can. But I’ve come to realize that I would have downloaded and installed any updates that improve features and security as soon as they were available anyway, and have learned to embrace the Chrome update model.

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  • Chrome OS isn’t “virus-proof” but it’s close. There are no viruses or malware that targets Chrome OS. That doesn’t mean the platform is immune — every operating system has a long list of vulnerabilities — but right now nobody is targeting Chromebook users when it comes to malware attacks. That could change, and if it does, Google can quickly identify the problem and push a fix to every single user that will be installed the next time they log in. We always tend to think of how Google uses our data and how they can track so much of it, but it’s also important to remember that some of the best security professionals in the world work there and they have a real commitment to keeping every product secure.

Think your Chromebook is prone to viruses? Think again.

  • Everything has its own sandbox. The Linux kernel is very good at separating individual processes from each other when they are being computed. Chrome leverages this and keeps each and every application and individual tab in the browser inside its own secure sandbox. That means they can’t access any other app or the data from any other app directly and have to use the properly secured methods to share anything. This has proven over time (iOS and Android were built on this model) to be one of the best ways to prevent malware from getting a foothold on an account or system and older operating systems like Windows and macOS are in the process of doing the same.

  • Your Chromebook can’t boot an “infected” system. Chrome uses what’s known as Verified Boot to make sure the system files haven’t been tampered with. When it’s powering on, your Chromebook checks to make sure the system files are exactly the same as what Google originally sent to you the last time you updated. If they aren’t, a backup copy that is will be used to boot the system instead. This means that if someone does write malware that targets Chrome, you stumble across it and it somehow gets out of the sandbox it was contained in, it gets thrown out with the bathwater the next time you log in.

  • Chromebooks are simple to erase and recover. This layered approach means it’s very hard for anything to go wrong on your Chromebook when it comes to local security. But if somehow it were to happen, it can be easily fixed by wiping everything off your Chromebook and starting over. Everything in this case actually means everything, because the storage itself is erased and a fresh version of Chrome is downloaded and installed. The directions vary a little based on the hardware used, but generally a simple key combination will reboot into a recovery mode where simple instructions will tell you how to erase and restore everything.

Your account data is stored in the cloud, and after doing this you simply log in and pick up where you left off. Locally stored files will be erased, so it’s always a great idea to use Google Drive and its tight integration into Chrome to keep all your important files backed up, too.

Google’s work with the security of your account and cloud storage benefits you no matter which operating system or laptop you use. But when it comes to Chromebooks, the company goes the extra mile to keep others out of your stuff.

Windows-powered and Apple computers are also getting much better at security, and it’s nice to know that the companies who make the things we use want us to be safer from online attacks. But if you want the most secure operating system you can get without configuring it yourself, a Chromebook has your back.

Chromebooks

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  • Chromebooks in education: Everything you need to know
  • Should you buy a Chromebook?
  • Chromebook Buyers Guide
  • Google Pixelbook review
  • Join our Chromebook forums

13
Jul

Best Android Apps For Oculus Go


It’s not simple to get Android apps onto your Oculus Go, but these apps make it worth it.

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The Oculus Go and the Gear VR are very similar, with the main difference being that the Oculus Go doesn’t require you to put your phone inside of it. That’s usually a good thing as it makes the Oculus Go easy to share with friends and lets people use VR who don’t have Samsung’s flagship phones, but you lose the ability to easily view your Android apps inside your VR headset when you take away the phone.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use Android app on your Oculus Go. It’s not as straightforward as Samsung Phonecast but you can use our guide to walk you through sideloading Android apps onto your Oculus Go.

Once you’ve gone through that guide, you’ll want to install some apps. Here are the best Android apps to add to your Oculus Go. The ability to sideload apps is new so unfortunately not every app works. For example, I sideloaded Crunchyroll, the Android version of Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video and even though they were “successfully installed” according to my command prompt, none of them showed up on my device. Your success may vary.

You can view apps that you’ve sideloaded in either the Unknown Sources section of your library or through Oculus TV. Where they appear can vary on the app.

Kodi

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Kodi is the app that people first mentioned on the web when discussing sideloading apps onto Oculus Go. It is an open-source and free media app that lets you take in content from a variety of sources. Kodi alone makes the Oculus Go a much more powerful device and could bring it into your rotation of media device.

You can use Kodi to watch live televisoin as well as movies, podcasts, digital media files, and more.

The version of Kodi that you can get through SideloadVR is in alpha so you might run into some glitches and bugs.

Download Kodi (free)

Plex

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Plex already has an app available on the Oculus Go, but the sideloaded Android version works as well. Plex requires you to have a server setup but once you do, you can watch movies, tv shows, media content, and more. It’s a popular service among people who want control over the content they stream and its availability on Oculus Go is a big plus.

Download Plex (free)

A good YouTube client

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You can view YouTube through the Oculus Browser, but if you want an immersive experience you should sideload a client such as YTCinema VR. It places you inside a large cinema that you can view YouTube videos on. You control your searching and browsing on a virtual tablet and then can hide the tablet and watch videos on the big screen.

To get YT Cinema VR you’ll have to go through SideloadVR.

Download SideloadVR (free)

Which are your favorites?

Which apps have you sideloaded onto your Oculus Go? Which ones are you anxious to try? Let us know in the comments below.

13
Jul

The Best Non-Amazon Deals on Prime Day from Best Buy, Dell, eBay


Update: Google Express’s sale ended a bit early unfortunately. We’ve added news about Target’s huge one-day sale to make up for it.

Amazon’s Prime Day is right around the corner, but Amazon isn’t the only place to go for deals this summer. Retailers know they have to put in an effort if they want your attention over Amazon, so the deals are coming in fast and strong this year. As Amazon’s Prime Day grows, so does the competition, and that only means good things for you. If you are not a Prime member, are looking for deals that Amazon doesn’t cover (like Google devices), or just want some alternatives, we’ve got you covered with these sales from non-Amazon retailers.

Best Buy

In the online marketplace where electronics are concerned, Best Buy is probably Amazon’s biggest competitor. Not only does Best Buy do regular holiday sales and daily deals, it also has a huge eBay store, an advanced Rewards program, student discounts Amazon doesn’t offer, and more.

In recent years, Best Buy has competed toe-to-toe with Amazon’s July sales event by hosting one of their own called “Black Friday in July.” Few other retailers can compete with the deals Best Buy usually has on Apple products, including the iPad and MacBook lines, and you cannot get Google products like the Nest or Google Home on Amazon either. This will be the sales event for products like that, along with televisions, gaming consoles, smart home products, and more.

Dell

Of all the non-Amazon retailers, Dell seems to be going the most all-in on this “Black Friday in July” idea right now. The Dell website has deals all throughout the month, including daily doorbusters and a week for Cyber Monday in July. The theme is very reminiscent of the real Black Friday, and we’ve seen some great deals on the XPS lineup, Logitech speakers like the UE Boom 2, and more. If you’re strictly looking for electronics, especially if you’re in the market for a Windows laptop or pre-built desktop, Dell’s deals are a must-see.

eBay

We are no stranger to eBay sales. They have regular promo codes, daily deals, and huge sale events going on all the time. Since March we’ve seen a recurring pattern of one-day sales where eBay will offer 20% off with a code that’s site-wide, follow it up a week or two later with a 15% off code that’s also site-wide, and then do a few targeted promo codes on select items from select sellers. For Prime Day, you can expect to see at least one of these types of sales, and we’re banking on a 20% off code.

There are markets where eBay is generally a better place to go than Amazon, such as third-party sellers and even product categories like PC parts, so if you’re looking for something specific you could save more by shopping on eBay. Remember most major retailers have eBay storefronts, including Best Buy, Newegg, BuyDig, and others, which makes it a great place to shop when you can get a discount on everything.

While eBay hasn’t announced exactly what’s going to be on sale, there will be eBay exclusive deals available here the week of July 16, which is the same time as Prime Day. Plus, eBay has a Best Price Guarantee that will match a price found on a competing website for 110%, which means you could save money on items Amazon has discounted by going through eBay instead.

Newegg

Newegg is a huge competitor to Amazon for online tech, especially when it comes to laptops, desktops, and internal computer components like motherboards and graphics cards. Newegg plans to have a huge four-day sale on electronics starting July 16 (what a coincidence!), and there will be sales starting July 11 leading up to the big day. The early days will feature products from different brands (July 11 is Rosewill), but the big one is July 13 when you can get a $20 Newegg gift card when you buy a $150 gift card. If you’re planning to shop on Newegg when the giant sales drop July 16, get ready for that deal on July 13. The four-day sale will feature everything from Acer laptops to $50 off GTX 1080Ti graphics cards to sales on solid state drives.

Target

Target.com will feature a one-day sale the same time as Prime Day, July 17. The sale will include dozens of deals on furniture, kitchen appliances, electronics, toys, and more. Some of the big deals will include six-months of same-day delivery by Shipt when you spend $100 or more on the Target site, 30% off Target-exclusive home brands, 30% off baby gear, and more. Target also promises 30% off Google products, which is something we know Amazon can’t deliver on since they don’t sell most Google products.

You will also still be able to get free shipping and next-day delivery with Target Restock orders, and you can save 5% on everything with free two-day shipping if you use your Target REDcard.

Prime Day is a huge event not just for Amazon but for everyone on the Internet. Whether you stick to the Prime Day sales or shop at one of the above retailers, our team at Thrifter will have you covered on everything. Follow Thrifter on Twitter and sign-up for the Prime Day newsletter to stay on top of everything happening this July.

13
Jul

Twitter Android app is being updated with a bottom navigation bar


The swipe gesture between the four main pages is no more 😞

On Thursday evening this week, the Twitter Support account announced a new update for its Android app. There are a few things to take note of, but the biggest change reworks the app’s navigation we’ve had since June 2016.

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Rather than showing icons at the top for Home, Moments, Notifications, and Direct Messages, these are now moved to the very bottom of your screen. This repositioning does make it much easier to tap on the icons for moving between these four pages, but unfortunately, Twitter’s also removed the gesture that allows you to swipe back and forth through them.

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Old (left) vs. new (right).

Part of the reason for this likely lies with the new Notifications page. The update makes it easier to switch between all of your notifications and just your mentions, and one of the ways to go back and forth is with a swipe.

The removal of swiping between Twitter’s main pages is a bit annoying, but I greatly prefer both the look and functionality of the bottom nav bar compared to their previous positioning.

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Old (left) vs. new (right).

The new look is rolling out to all users now and comes as part of a server-side switch (meaning you don’t have to update the app from the Play Store as it’ll just happen automatically).

Download: Twitter (free)

13
Jul

Brawl Stars and Battlelands Royale both offer fun, cartoony action on Android!


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Update July 13, 2018: We’ve got a pair of top-down brawlers for you this week! Check out Supercell’s latest, Brawl Stars, and then try to outlast your opponents in Battlelands Royale!

Brawl Stars

Brawl Stars is a new game from Supercell that’s just been soft-launched for Android. It’s currently only available in a shortlist of countries, including Canada, so I’ve had a chance to check it out.

This game is a blast to play with over 21 unique characters to unlock, multiple game modes, and a frantic PvP gaming experience that will have you coming back for more. The controls are nice and basic with twin-stick controls for moving and shooting and a super attack button that’s unique to each character.

You start out with just one character and one game mode to play. Gem Grab is a 3 vs 3 battle mode where you fight for control of 10 gems. Win and you’ll collect trophies, keys, and experience which all help you unlock new game modes, characters, and unlock battle boxes.

The second game mode you unlock is Showdown, which is a Battle Royale survival mode where it’s every person for themselves. The third mode is Heist, which is unlocked when you collect 350 trophies. It’s another team mode where your team battles to unlock your opponents safe before time runs out.

This is a game that’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in one of the countries where it’s been soft launched, and a game to keep an eye on if you’re a fan of Supercell’s previous games like Clash Royale and love action-packed games like this.

Download: Brawl Stars (Free w/IAPs)

Battlelands Royale

If Brawl Stars is unavailable in your country at the moment, I suggest checking out Battlelands Royale instead for the time being.

Certainly inspired from other battle royale games (haven’t you heard? It’s the latest trend!), Battlelands Royale offers a fairly unique take on the formula that takes some getting used to but is pretty ideal for casual gaming sessions. Just like PUBG or Fortnite, you parachute down onto a map with, in this case, 29 other players, and must scavenge for weapons, ammo, and armor while staying in the safety circle and eliminating your enemies.

You’re limited to carrying one gun and ammo is very sparse, leading to some pretty intense moments where you need to decide whether to engage an enemy or try and sneak past them. There’s also a duo mode where you can team up with a friend or a random player. The art style and gameplay are bright and fun and this is a great little game for killing time.

Download: Battlelands Royale (Free w/IAPs)

Android Gaming

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13
Jul

Best Phone For Seniors, Hearing Impaired, and Vision Problems in 2018


  • Best overall
  • Best for hearing imparied
  • Best for less
  • Best for vision problems

Best overall: Samsung Galaxy S9

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The Galaxy S9 is one of the most well-rounded phones on the market, and it’s a great choice for power users and first-time smartphone owners alike.

From outstanding build quality and a gorgeous design to one of the best cameras on the market, the Galaxy S9 leaves little to be desired, but its long list of features can feel overwhelming to someone who’s new to smartphones entirely. Luckily, the Galaxy S9 has an Easy Mode that lowers the bar for people who are transitioning from an older feature phone, or who needs a bit of extra guidance. Samsung also has a number of intuitive accessibility features that go above and beyond the average Android device.

Bottom line: The Galaxy S9 packs everything and the kitchen sink, and includes Easy Mode to make its myriad of features more approachable.

One more thing: Samsung’s Easy Mode can be activated from anywhere, but once you get the hang of it, it’s also simple to turn off!

See at Amazon

Why the Samsung Galaxy S9 is best

The Galaxy S9 is the best phone for seniors because it’s the best phone for most people, and has plenty of options for those who need a bit of extra help.

Easy Mode doesn’t have to be a negative thing, and Samsung has done a great job making its Android software simple and intuitive. Even without it, the Galaxy S9 is one of the most accessible Android phones, with plenty of ways to make the software more user-friendly.

Features like Always-On display show you notifications even when the phone is off, while wireless charging support means you don’t have to fumble for a USB-C cable in the dark.

The Galaxy S9 is also one of the best-selling Android phones on the market, so it’s easy to find someone who can help if you can’t figure out a certain feature. Finally, even though it’s a relatively compact device, the Galaxy S9 manages excellent battery life.

Best for hearing impaired: LG G7

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Like the Galaxy S9, the LG G7 is very easy to pick up and begin using. It has a large display in a relatively small body, excellent performance, and great cameras. More importantly, its speaker is loud — like really loud — which makes it perfect for those with limited or impaired hearing.

Also like Samsung’s latest, the G7 has an intuitive Easy Mode, enlarging home screen icons and text while simplifying navigation. Its large display also leaves plenty of room for a large keyboard, and its dual cameras around back take fantastic photos. This is a quality phone from every angle, so whoever is using it will be happy.

Bottom-line: The LG G7 has the loudest, most impressive speaker on a smartphone today, and that’s great for those with limited hearing.

One more thing: The LG G7’s Accessibility Mode also works with most Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids.

See at Best Buy

Best for less: Moto G6

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You can’t do much better than a $250 phone that performs like a much more expensive phone. The Moto G6 combines fast and fluid performance with useful features like Moto Display, all while retaining the simplicity of near-stock Android.

No one makes cheap phones like Motorola, and the company improved every aspect of its Moto G line this year, from the camera to the battery life.

Bottom line: The Moto G6 is an outstanding value with simple software, and it comes unlocked out of the box so you can use it on most carriers around the world.

One more thing: This phone is splashproof, not waterproof, and that is an important distinction.

See at Amazon

Best for vision problems: Jitterbug Flip

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For those with vision issues, or anyone who just needs a cheap, simple phone, the Jitterbug Flip is the one to go with. For $70 outright, this flip phone features large buttons and a vibrant, sharp screen that’s easily seen in all lighting conditions.

Bottom line: For something a little simpler and easier to use, the Jitterbug Flip is one of the best options.

Important: You’ll need to activate the Jitterbug Flip with GreatCall, an easy-to-use service provider that starts at $15 per month.

See at Amazon

Conclusion

The Galaxy S9 is the best choice for seniors because it is the best choice for most people. Compact, affordable, and extremely easy to use, the phone’s Easy Mode is a great example of Samsung broadening the appeal of its phones as they grow more popular. But there are other great options, too, including the LG G7, the Moto G6, and the Jitterbug Flip for those who want something a little simpler.

Best overall: Samsung Galaxy S9

samsung-galaxy-s9-sunrise-gold-5_0.jpg?i

The Galaxy S9 is one of the most well-rounded phones on the market, and it’s a great choice for power users and first-time smartphone owners alike.

From outstanding build quality and a gorgeous design to one of the best cameras on the market, the Galaxy S9 leaves little to be desired, but its long list of features can feel overwhelming to someone who’s new to smartphones entirely. Luckily, the Galaxy S9 has an Easy Mode that lowers the bar for people who are transitioning from an older feature phone, or who needs a bit of extra guidance. Samsung also has a number of intuitive accessibility features that go above and beyond the average Android device.

Bottom line: The Galaxy S9 packs everything and the kitchen sink, and includes Easy Mode to make its myriad of features more approachable.

One more thing: Samsung’s Easy Mode can be activated from anywhere, but once you get the hang of it, it’s also simple to turn off!

See at Amazon

Update, July 2018: The Galaxy S9 is our new best overall recommendation, and the Moto G5 Plus was replaced with the Moto G6. We’ve also added the LG G7 for those with hearing difficulties, and the Jitterbug Flip for those with vision needs.

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