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Samsung Galaxy A6+ review: One step forward, two steps back

The Galaxy A6+ is a phone without an identity.


Samsung launched the Galaxy A series back in 2014 as a way of bridging the gap between the flagship Galaxy S line and the budget-focused Galaxy J series. From the onset, the Galaxy A series was targeted at a younger audience, with Samsung focusing on design and camera as the two main differentiators.

Over the last two years, Samsung introduced water resistance as well as Samsung Pay to the Galaxy A series in a bid to bring its marquee features to a more affordable price point. And while there have been a few underwhelming devices, overall the Galaxy A series managed to deliver decent value for those looking to pick up a phone with a similar design aesthetic and features as the Galaxy S flagships for half the cost.

That’s the backdrop for the Galaxy A6+, the latest entrant in this series. The Galaxy A6+ follows on the heels of the Galaxy A8+, Samsung’s most robust device yet in this price point. However, as we shall see, the A6+ doesn’t do much to build on the improvements introduced with the A8+.

Samsung Galaxy A6+


Price: ₹23,990 ($350)

Bottom line: The Galaxy A6+ misses out on core features that define a mid-range Samsung phone in 2018. There really isn’t any reason to consider the device when there are much better alternatives available at the same price point.


  • Full HD Super AMOLED screen
  • Metal chassis
  • Decent front camera


  • Underwhelming chipset
  • No NFC/Samsung Pay
  • Micro-USB port
  • No fast charging
  • Sluggish fingerprint sensor
  • Facial recognition doesn’t work

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Samsung Galaxy A6+ What I like

The highlight of the Galaxy A6+ is the 18.5:9 Infinity Display. Samsung has done a great job introducing the newer display form factor across its portfolio, and the Galaxy A6+ features a 6.0-inch FHD+ (2220 x 1080) Super AMOLED display with excellent colors and unmatched contrast. The panel is one area where the A6+ holds its own in this category, and that’s all down to Samsung’s investments over the years perfecting its AMOLED tech.

The A6+ doesn’t have a dual curved screen unlike the Galaxy S9, and it makes it easier to hold the phone in day-to-day usage. The phone also has a metal unibody design that gives it rigidity. We’ve seen a lot of evocative designs in recent months on the likes of the Honor 10 and the Nokia 7 Plus, and in comparison the Galaxy A6+ looks plain.



Elsewhere, the dual 16MP + 5MP camera at the back does a decent job taking photos in daylight conditions. The resultant images offer a good amount of detail, but aren’t overly saturated. What could be better though is the dynamic range, and the quality of images taken in low-light conditions. If you take a lot of selfies, the 24MP shooter up front is one of the better options available in this category. On the video front, the Galaxy A6+ misses out on 4K recording.

The 3500mAh battery is good for a full day’s worth of usage consistently, so it’s very rare that you’ll have to reach for the charger before the end of the day.


Samsung Galaxy A6+ What needs a lot of work

There are so many fundamental areas where the Galaxy A6+ is found to be lacking that it would’ve had a tough time going up against the likes of the Redmi Note 5 Pro in the budget segment. But the phone instead costs nearly double that of the Redmi Note 5 Pro, and is in the same price bracket as the Nokia 7 Plus and the Moto X4.

For a device in this category, the Galaxy A6+ offers astonishingly little in the way of features. The phone is powered by the Snapdragon 450, often seen on devices that retail for under ₹10,000 ($130). Combine that, a Full HD panel, and Samsung’s user interface and you get a phone that teaches you the value of patience. Everything takes time on the Galaxy A6+ — push it even a little bit and you’ll notice a considerable amount of lag, and this is in everyday tasks.

The Galaxy A6+ loses out to $200 phones in a lot of areas.

In Samsung’s convoluted portfolio, the Galaxy J series is the entry-level tier, with the Galaxy A forming the mid-range series, and the Galaxy S and Note lines forming the flagship tier. Currently, the most affordable phone to offer Samsung Pay is the Galaxy J7 Pro, which retails for the equivalent of $250 (₹16,900).

So it stands to reason that any Samsung device that costs more than the J7 Pro would get the mobile payments service, but that isn’t the case on the Galaxy A6+. The phone instead gets Samsung Pay Mini, a lightweight utility that lets users undertake UPI transactions. Samsung Pay is a differentiator for Samsung — particularly in this category — and its omission is perplexing when you consider the fact that the manufacturer deemed it worthy of inclusion on the J7 Pro last year.

That isn’t the only decision that doesn’t make sense — the Galaxy A6+ comes with a MicroUSB port, and it doesn’t have fast charging. I’ve excused budget devices that offered the MicroUSB port in the past, but for a phone in this category to not have USB-C as standard is inexcusable. To add to the list of things wrong with the Galaxy A6+, the fingerprint reader is slow and unreliable, and the facial recognition just doesn’t work in low-light scenarios.

It’s clear that the Galaxy A6+ was initially conceived as a budget device, but somewhere along the way Samsung decided to launch it in the mid-range segment. The design aesthetic — with the antenna lines at the back and the metal finish — is very similar to that of the J7 Pro, and isn’t in line with other launches in the Galaxy A series of late, which offered glass backs.

Another area of worry is software updates: while Samsung is doing a much better job with updates overall, that isn’t the case for its budget and mid-range phones,


Samsung Galaxy A6+ Review

Samsung could have pulled off launching a $350 device powered by the Snapdragon 450 in other markets, but in India there’s no lack of choice in this segment, and as such there’s no reason to buy the Galaxy A6+. For every single metric, you can pick up a device that does a better job than the A6+ — the Nokia 7 Plus has a significantly faster chipset, much better camera, and gets updates on time; the Moto X4 has an evocative design, and the ZenFone 5Z with the Snapdragon 845 costs just $90 more.

Heck, even the Redmi Note 5 Pro is a much better alternative than the Galaxy A6+, and it costs significantly less. It’s baffling to see Samsung launch a Galaxy A device with such a poor set of features considering the Galaxy A8+ turned out to be one of the better mid-range phones the company has released in recent times.

out of 5

The Galaxy A6+ misses out on key features that made the Galaxy A series interesting in the first place. If you’ve set your mind on a Samsung device, then the Galaxy A8+ is a much better alternative in this segment. It has water resistance, Samsung Pay, more robust hardware, USB-C, fast charging, and a better camera to boot, and at ₹29,990 ($440) you’re not paying too hefty a premium to get the added features.

If you want the absolute best in this segment, look no further than the Nokia 7 Plus. The Snapdragon 660 is a cut above anything you’ll find in this category, and HMD’s commitment to fast updates combined with the sturdy build quality make the Nokia 7 Plus the phone to beat.

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Last Siri Co-Founder, Tom Gruber, Retires From Apple

Tom Gruber, who served as head of Siri’s Advanced Development group and was one of Siri’s original cofounders, has left Apple, reports The Information. His departure from the company was confirmed by an Apple spokesperson, who told The Information that he was retiring to pursue “personal interests in photography and ocean conservation.”

Gruber created Siri alongside Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyer, releasing the original Siri as an app on the iOS App Store in 2010. Apple acquired Siri two months later, and Cheyer, Kittlaus, and Gruber all joined the company at that time.

Kittlaus left Apple in 2011 and Cheyer left in 2012, and the duo teamed up again to create Viv, a new artificial intelligence project that was acquired by Samsung in 2016. Samsung used Viv to create Bixby, its current AI assistant platform.

Gruber stayed on at Apple for several years after the other two Siri co-founders departed, but with his retirement, none of the original Siri creators are left at Apple.

Apple’s Siri team is going through a leadership change at the moment with the May hiring of John Giannandrea, former head of Google’s search and artificial intelligence unit.

Apple just last week updated its leadership page to add Giannandrea, who is now serving as Apple’s chief of machine learning and AI strategy. Giannandrea is leading Apple’s AI and machine learning teams, and Apple has combined its Core ML and Siri teams under him.

Prior to Giannandrea’s hiring, Siri development was overseen by software engineering chief Craig Federighi, who took over from Eddy Cue in 2017. Apple has been facing increasing criticism over Siri’s capabilities compared to other AI-based personal assistants in recent years, with many suggesting Siri has serious shortcomings compared to options from Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

Apple in iOS 12 introduced major improvements to Siri through a new Siri Shortcuts feature that’s coming in iOS 12, which is designed to let users create multi-step tasks using both first and third-party apps that can be activated through Siri.

Along with Gruber, Apple’s head of search, Vipul Ved Prakash, has also left the company, according to The Information. Prakash joined Apple when his company, Topsy, was acquired in 2013. His search team was also within the Siri group.

Tag: Siri
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Moving around in zero gravity is hard. MIT’s solution? Spider-Man’s web shooter

In the mid-1980s, Spider-Man was removed from his usual New York environment and sent into space as part of Marvel Comics’ “Secret Wars” storyline. Jump forward to 2018 and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been researching optimal ways for astronauts to more easily move around in zero or microgravity conditions such as on board the International Space Station. One of their suggestions? That astronauts use spider-inspired web shooters to pull themselves from location to location. See kids, this is why you need to listen in comics class!

“The mechanism is, in fact, quite similar to Spider-Man,” Xin Liu, the arts curator at the MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative, told Digital Trends. “The device shoots a string out with a magnetic tip. Once the tip is in contact with a steel panel, it secures the attachment due to magnetic forces. Then the device will rewind, like a fishing spoil but reversed, and drag the wearer. Because you are technically weightless, it doesn’t need much torque to pull a person around with such a small device.”

With the promise of more and more astronauts spending extended periods of time in space, solutions like this will become increasingly important. While astronauts like Tim Peake were able to adjust to life in microgravity by finding the best way to push off walls, or crawl using handrails, a device that makes this easier would certainly be welcome.

Xin Liu

At present, MIT’s so-called Orbit Weaver device hasn’t been put through its paces in actual orbit. However, Liu had the opportunity to test it out on a parabolic flight, which uses freefall to create the feeling of weightlessness for a fraction of a minute.

“It was effective; I was able to shoot the string and navigate with it,” Liu explained. “But I have to say it was tremendously hard to do just about anything there. It was my first time in zero-G. The weightlessness only lasted around 10 seconds. It gets dizzy fast. I also couldn’t move too fast due to safety protocols in the airplane. Everything we did had to follow federal regulations.”

Liu said that there are no plans to commercialize the technology (which, to be fair, is kind of useless without your own space station). However, she plans to work with others who want to push the technology forward.

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Only Google should be mad about having to change Android

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

If you or I got slapped with a $5.1 billion dollar fine, it would likely be a bit of a problem. That’s the number handed down to Google from the European Commission (EC) for what it calls illegal practices used to strengthen its internet search dominance through the Android mobile operating system. For Google, it’ll smart a bit having to hand it over, but with its cash reserves, it could pay up and forget all about it.

However, while the fine — the largest the European Commission has ever given — captures headlines, it’s the changes to Google’s practices the Commission is forcing that will have a far longer lasting impact, and may seriously change Android and the way it’s used around the globe. While Google will be anxious, rivals are pleased with the decision because it presents them with an opportunity that hasn’t been forthcoming. Which is actually the Commission’s point.

What does it all mean for you? Your next Android phone may not be the quite the same as it was before, and that’s a good thing.

The end of an era

What happened? The EC found three areas where Google broke antitrust rules in Europe. The first is forcing companies that want to use Android and pre-install the Google Play Store to include its Chrome browser and Google Search apps, and not install alternatives. The second is illegally paying device makers to exclusively pre-install Google Search. Finally, preventing companies from using other, competing forked versions of Android if they are also selling Google’s Android on other devices. It’s Google’s way, and that’s it.

All this “cemented the dominance of its search engine,” said EC Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, and “denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits.” Google makes its money through ads, and a lot of crucial data comes from search. Google has 90 days to stop these practices deemed illegal by the EC, or face a daily fine of five percent of Alphabet’s annual turnover. Alphabet is Google’s parent company.

Google’s dilemma

If you’re Google, then it’s a serious blow. CEO Sundar Pichai has written a lengthy defense of Android and its business model, saying it actually promotes choice, and that the decision will upset the “balance of the Android ecosystem.” Pichai warns that it’s this business model that has stopped Google charging fees to use Android, or tightening controls over the distribution model.

Google CEO Sundar-Pichai Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While Android is technically open source and anyone can use it, it’s only the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) that’s truly free. To install Android with Google Play and other Google apps, there are rules to be followed, and acceptance by Google.

The EC’s plan is to put an end to this, but it’s leaving it in Google’s hands to work out how. “It’s Google’s sole responsibility to ensure compliance,” it writes, and adds the decision is not made to, “prevent Google from putting in place a reasonable, fair, and objective system,” that stops Android from functioning, or Google services from operating. Like Braveheart, the EC has painted itself blue and is shouting, “freedom!” At Google, the doors to Android have got to open a little wider.

Rivals rejoice

Poor Google, right? Told what to do by the evil commissioner. Turn to the reaction from competitors, and you’ll begin to understand why it’s Google and Google alone that will be most upset by the decision.

“We welcome the EU cracking down on Google’s anti-competitive search behavior. “

Public policy head for Yelp, Kostas Rossoglou, tweeted, “Competitors, phone manufacturers, consumer groups, SMEs all applaud EU Android decision.” Oracle Vice President Ken Glueck’s quoted as saying it will, “undoubtedly unleash more choice for mobile customers … more opportunities … and more robust competition.”

However, both Oracle and Yelp are known Google detractors, so such a response is to be expected.

Similarly, the privacy-focused search engine company, DuckDuckGo, tweeted:

“We welcome the EU cracking down on Google’s anti-competitive search behavior. We have felt its effects first hand for many years and has led directly to us having less market share on Android vs iOS and in general mobile vs desktop.”

Firefox Quantum

And Mozilla’s Chief Operating Officer, Denelle Dixon, emailed Digital Trends a statement.

“We are hopeful the result will help level the playing field for mobile browsers like Firefox, and to foster openness that creates and sustains competition and innovation.”

We won’t suddenly lose the ability to use Google apps, access the Play Store, or enjoy Android.

It’s these firms and many more that sense a considerable opportunity here. European consumer organisation BEUC tweeted that it agrees with the assessment that Google abuses its power, and this, “restriction of competition hurts European consumers.”

Not everyone is on the side of choice, with many of the hundreds responding to Vestager on Twitter questioning the decision. This professor and former European Union think tank member argues, like Pichai, that Android promotes competition, lowers prices, and avoids the Apple walled-garden scenario. Are they wrong? Yes. When has competition been a bad thing?

What’s the worst that could happen?

We don’t know what Google is planning yet. However, we won’t suddenly lose the ability to use Google apps, access the Play Store, or enjoy Android. When Microsoft was put in a similar situation with Internet Explorer on Windows, it offered a “browser ballot,” at startup, allowing you to choose which browser you wanted to install and use. Google could potentially do the same with Chrome and its Search app. Perhaps the familiar Search bar will be a widget only, rather than being automatically placed on the home screen, and be flanked by other search widgets.

Perhaps Samsung, HTC, Sony, LG, or any other companies may decide to release a phone with Amazon’s Fire OS, or even produce and release a device with their own Android alternative. Like Tizen once was for Samsung. All of the above will still also carry on using Android — because why wouldn’t they — but we could see the scourge of bloatware increase with such freedom. But that’s what the uninstall option is for, and they’re going to get hammered for doing it in reviews too.

Change is coming

Ultimately, at this time, we will probably just get more choice of software and potentially hardware too. The great thing is, if the alternatives are rubbish, we don’t have to use or buy them. Google will still be there, just in a slightly more open way. In all this is the chance we’ll try something new, and perhaps discover a decent alternative, for example. How can that be bad? It’s not, unless you’re Google being forced to change something that has made it a lot of money, and given it a massive amount of power and influence.

Some alterations are coming to Android devices in the EU over the next 90 days.

Nightmare scenario? That Google starts charging device makers for Android, they refuse to pay, and we end up with operating systems designed by manufacturers, which have always been universally awful. This is incredibly unlikely, because everyone will simply buy an iPhone instead. Remember, Google will almost certainly be looking over its shoulder at Apple whilst deciding a course of action here.

Pichai said Google will appeal the EC decision, which may change everything again, depending on the outcome. However, what we can be certain of is some alterations are coming to Android, at least those devices sold in the European Union, over the next 90 days. What we shouldn’t be is mad about it. Google’s getting the bad end of the deal, not us.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Google’s $5.1 billion anti-trust fine could mean the end of free Android
  • European Commission may slap Google with a game-changing fine over Android
  • Oracle persuades Australia to examine Google’s data-tracking practices
  • What is a Smart TV? Everything You Need to Know
  • Who’s to blame for the GPU pricing crisis? Everyone


Brother’s new INKvestment Tank printer is made for people who hate buying ink cartridges

What if you didn’t have to change your printer’s ink cartridges for a year? That’s the proposition from Brother’s new MFC-J995DW multifunction inkjet printer, which is the first model to use the company’s new INKvestment Tank system that provides a year’s worth of ink before needing replacement. Priced at $200, the J995DW is available now.

The INKvestment Tank is the successor to the INKvestment series, which was developed based on how people were using printers, Phil Lubell, senior director of B2C product marketing at Brother, told Digital Trends. The problem isn’t that people don’t like to print (the industry is declining, but it’s still massive, Lubell said), it’s the inconvenience and expense that they dislike.

“It came down to a couple things we honed in on: providing more ink in cartridge and affordability,” Lubell said. “Those are two foundational things that were pain points for consumers — replacing ink, and frequency and cost of doing it.” While the previous INKvestment printers addressed those pain points, Lubell said INKvestment Tank takes it to another level.

With a white colored exterior instead of the traditional black, the J995DW looks like a typical all-in-one inkjet printer, until you notice the protrusion on the right side of the machine. The design is to accommodate four, newly developed high-yield ink cartridges (black, cyan, magenta, and yellow) that don’t have traditional mechanisms, like levers and springs.

“We re-engineered the ink cartridge, removing a lot of the components from the cartridge and [moving them] to the printer, which allowed it to get significant amount of ink,” Lubell said. And unlike printers that offer high yields through refillable ink tanks, the J995DW uses familiar cartridges that are easy to replace.

How significant? The four cartridges offer up to a year of ink. For high-volume users, Brother is offering the J995DW in an XL model (J995DWXL, $299) that supports even larger-capacity INKvestment Tank cartridges that provide two years of ink. In comparison, the J985DWXL also had a two-year claim, but that was achieved through Brother throwing in three sets of four ink cartridges into the box — you would have to replace the cartridges twice, and then buy three new sets to reach another two years. With the new INKvestment Tank system, customers have the option of one-year and two-year models, with just one set of ink.

Sure, the printer takes up slightly more desktop space, but in return you won’t need to replace ink for some time — depending on your usage, of course. The one-year claim is based on average monthly print volumes of 150 pages, at 60-percent black and 40-percent color. If you print occasionally or you print mostly in draft mode, you’re likely to hit the one-year mark or possibly longer, But if you print a lot of colorful documents, chances are you’ll have to replace the ink before the year is up. (For convenience, you can easily reorder ink through a subscription service that automatically sends you new ink when the printer notifies Brother it’s running low

As for operating costs, Brother says the cartridges translate to $0.01 per page in black and $0.05 per page in color. When it comes time to replace those cartridges, it costs approximately $25 for each of the three colors and $35 for black (approximate yield of 1,500 pages in color, 3,000 pages in black), and $67 for each color and $60 for black in the XL version (5,000 pages in color, 6,000 pages in black). A useful feature is the Brother Intelligent Page Gauge, which tells you how many you can print with the remaining ink; other printers usually display an indicator that shows you just the remaining ink levels.

The J995DW adds new features to the INKvestment series, including fax; support for additional connectivity services; has a higher max monthly duty cycle; and a larger-capacity paper tray — all these benefits, while keeping the price at $200. Despite the larger dimensions, it’s still fairly compact and has a robust construction, particularly with the automatic document feeder. The white is a nice change from the predictable black, but we wonder if discoloration would be an issue down the road. But like its predecessors, there’s a 2.7-inch color touchscreen, support for popular cloud services (Google Drive, Dropbox, and Evernote) and mobile printing (AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, Mopria, NFC), duplex printing, and other features designed for small or home office use. The J995DW isn’t positioned as a photo printer, but we found with previous Brother all-in-one printers that they do a very good job with printing color on photo paper.

“There’s nothing on the market like this, with the feature package, for less than $200,” Lubell said.

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Some Samsung users can’t edit app permission alerts for Facebook apps

Affected apps include Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

In Android Oreo on Samsung’s Galaxy phones, one of the new features included with the update is something called “App Permission Monitor.” With this, you can choose to get a notification when applications in the background are using certain permissions (like your microphone, camera, etc.) that you may not be aware of otherwise.


It’s a great tool and can be genuinely useful at times, but for whatever reason, some users have been reporting that Facebook-developed apps aren’t showing up here at all.

I checked my Galaxy S9 running Oreo, and sure enough, Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram don’t show up in the App Permission Monitor list despite being installed on the phone. Daniel here at AC also isn’t seeing Facebook in his list but can control settings for Messenger Lite and Instagram. In addition to those, we’ve also been told that WhatsApp (another Facebook-owned app) doesn’t show up in some instances either.

That may not seem like a huge deal at first, but it essentially means that you have no way of knowing if any of these apps are using things like your camera, location, and microphone at any time in the background. If you’re at all concerned about your privacy, that’s far from ideal.


Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger are clearly installed but don’t show up anywhere on the list.

It’s unclear what exactly is causing this anomaly, but one suspicion is that it has something to do with Facebook being a pre-installed app on select Samsung phones and therefore being treated in a different manner.

We’ve reached out to Samsung for an official explanation, and if/when we receive one, we’ll update this article accordingly.

If you want to check this out for yourself to see if Facebook’s apps are showing up for you, grab a Galaxy phone running Oreo and go to Settings -> Lock screen and security -> App permission monitor.

Thanks, Sean!

5 changes that would make the Galaxy S9’s software dramatically better

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

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  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums



Apex Launcher’s latest update is your wake-up call to switch to something better

If you use Apex Launcher and are wondering “what the heck happened to my home screen?”, you’re not alone.

Apex Launcher restarted development last May, and since then, there hasn’t been much to say about the old, but well-liked launcher as it tried to update its interface, improve its feature set, and start competing again. Well, the 4.0 update Apex Launcher pushed out this week has undone all of that progress and then some, and what users Apex Launcher had left are not happy.

apex-launcher-2017-beta-htc-10.jpg?itok= Hey, where’d my widgets go?

Apex Launcher pushed out its 4.0 update on July 17th, and between the flood of users reviews and the redditors rioting, it’s pretty clear that something went horribly awry. A number of Apex’s settings have been dramatically changed or removed altogether with no warning: users had widgets deleted, home screen pages altered, app icons resized and their search providers switched to Yahoo overnight when the app auto-updated.

If I went to bed with my home screen laid out just the way I like it, then woke up to it being completely different, I’d be seeing red no matter what theme color I set before bed.

Apex Launcher’s update has forced a lot of users to make the following choice: set up everything the way you like it on Apex Launcher again or get a new launcher and start fresh. If any Apex Launcher users needed any help making that decision, a recent addition to the Apex Launcher site is helping push them towards the latter. Apex Launcher’s site is advertising an app recommendation partnership platform, asking developers to “Partner With Us” to promote their app through Apex Launcher.


Android launchers have access to an incredible amount of information like what apps we open the most, what times of day do we open apps the most, what times we’re most active with our phones, and how often we use their included search functions. Like a third-party keyboard, a third-party launcher needs to be trusted, and launchers with app promotion programs traditionally haven’t always been as transparent with their intentions as we’d like.

Apex Launcher is like any business; it needs to make money to survive, and app promotion programs can be done in a way that doesn’t betray the user or impede upon the user experience. But Apex Launcher’s last update just wiped out a ton of users’ settings and not only has there been no public communication from Apex Launcher since the update, there hasn’t been any public communication from Apex Launcher in the several months. So if you’re a longtime Apex Launcher wondering if now is the time to switch, my answer to you is going to be “You bet your Android it is”.

best-launchers-july-2018-nova-smart-patr Nova Launcher with our July 4th theme and Smart Launcher 5 with our Heart Canada theme

So, what should you use instead? Well, if you liked the granular customization of Apex, try Nova Launcher or Action Launcher. If you want a launcher that’s easy to use but still just customizable enough to keep things beautiful, try Smart Launcher 5 or the completely free Evie Launcher.

Read more: Our favorite launchers for Android


VLC for iOS Gains Chromecast Support

Popular media player VLC for iOS was today updated to version 3.1, introducing long-awaited support for Chromecast. Chromecast functionality has been a highly requested feature from VLC users.

With the update, the VLC app for iOS can stream content to Chromecast-enabled devices.

Today’s update also brings support for viewing 360-degree videos in VLC by moving the iPhone around, and it offers a number of bug fixes. Full release notes are below:

– We added a feature many of you waited for: Chromecast support
– We fixed a bug where files on your phone were not displayed in VLC
– 360 videos can be viewed by moving your phone now
– Stability and performance improvements when decoding H.264/H.265 in hardware
– Improved audio playback quality
– Fixed a regression preventing the download of certain media files via http
– Fixed a regression where downloaded files might disappear
– Fixed a regression where users couldn’t log into Google Drive

VLC for the iPhone and the iPad can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Tag: VLC
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Rolls-Royce is creating a fleet of robotic snakes and beetles to repair planes

Rolls-Royce, one of the world’s most famous engineering firms, has an unusual, but awesome idea for carrying out engine maintenance on future aircraft: using a pair of innovative robots inspired by the natural world. As part of its so-called IntelligentEngine project, researchers from Rolls-Royce have laid out their plans for snake and insect-swarm-inspired robots that will crawl inside engines to carry out inspections and perform maintenance.

“We are in the process of developing a number of miniature devices that enable us to get inside the jet engine to perform inspections or repairs,” Dr. James Kell, on wing technology specialist at Rolls-Royce, told Digital Trends. “Repairs can be in the form of removing damaged material or putting material back on. To allow us to perform these repairs, we are working with an extensive network of partners to develop mechatronic probes — similar in nature to keyhole surgery techniques.”

The project is a collaboration between Rolls-Royce, Harvard University, and the University of Nottingham. The idea is that the snake-inspired robot could gain access to an engine in the manner of an endoscope, the long, thin flexible tube inserted by doctors into a patient’s body to view it from the inside. It could then deliver a swarm of tiny, miniature robots, of around 10mm in diameter, which can crawl around inside the engine.



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rolls royce snake insect robots swarm robot 1

rolls royce snake insect robots swarm robot 2

“All of these developments — and others that we have not presented yet — are exciting achievements in their own right,” Kell continued. “For example, imagine a damaged compressor blade in an engine in Dubai, a deployed remote boreblending robot would allow a person in Derby [in the U.K.] to repair it to get the engine back in service days quicker than the current approach.”

Don’t go thinking that similar technology will be finding its way into Rolls-Royce luxury cars, though. The British company Rolls-Royce Plc. is a totally separate entity to the BMW-owned Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. It’s nice to dream, though!

“I imagine there could be some specific applications for these technologies in the auto industry if people were so inclined,” Kell said. “But the industry model is not quite as driven by long-term service agreements as yet. A lot of our technologies have their roots in the medical industry, and perhaps they may be able to be reapplied to healthcare [at some point in the future].”

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The results are in, these might be the best photos shot with an iPhone in 2018



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‘Displaced’ Jashim Salam

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‘Baiana in yellow and blue’ Alexandre Weber

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‘Eye to Eye’ Huapeng Zhao

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‘I want to play’ Zarni Myo Win

On Wednesday, July 18, iPhone Photography Awards (IPPAWARDS) announced its official winners of its 11th annual global competition. Each one was selected from thousands of entries spanning over 140 countries around the world.

Launched a little while after the first iPhone was released, the IPPAWARDS is the first and longest-running iPhone competition in the world. All submissions are taken using either an iPhone or iPad, but can’t be published anywhere other than personal social media accounts. While the photos can’t be altered using software like Photoshop, photographers are allow to use any iOS apps.

This year’s winner of the grand prize for the iPhone photographer of the year was Jashim Salam of Bangladesh. The photo, titled ‘Displaced,’ was taken on an iPhone 7 and shows a group of children watching a film on health and sanitation near a refugee camp in Ukhiya.

First place goes to Alexandre Weber of Switzerland, who snapped a shot of a woman in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. Taken on an iPhone 6S,Weber explains the bright and colorful shot was taken ‘spontaneously after a truck drove by.’ The woman in the photo wears the traditional clothes of a “baiana,” as she leans against a wall while on her work break.

Photographer Huapeng Zhao took second place for his photo titled ‘Eye to Eye,’ taken on an iPhone 6 in YanTai ShanDong province, China. The black and white photo shows a young boy in open water who, as Zhao explain, put a fish he caught in front of his eye right before the photo was taken.

Snagging the third place spot is Zarni Myo Win for his photo titled ‘I Want to Play’ — showcasing a young boy who lost his leg was watching his friends play soccer. The powerful shot was captured on an iPhone 7 in Yangon, Myanmar.

In addition to the winners of the iPhone photographer of the year, the contest also awarded top three photographers in 18 different categories. The winners represented a variety of countries around the world including Australia, Ecuador, Russia, the United States, and more.

“iPhone users have become very fluent in visual storytelling,” said Kenan Aktulun, founder of IPPAWARDS. “This year’s photos were technically impressive and many of them were very personal.”

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