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26
Jul

Google Pay: Everything you need to know


Here’s what you should know about Google’s big bet to take on Apple Pay.

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Gone are the days of messing with Android Pay and Google Wallet. Instead, the home of all things mobile payments on Android now rests on the shoulders of Google Pay.

Google Pay first started rolling out to handsets in early 2018, and while there’s still some work to be done, it’s clear that Google is finally ready to take on Apple Pay with everything it’s got.

From the latest news to all the important details, here’s everything you should know about Google Pay!

  • The latest Google Play news
  • Everything you need to know

The latest Google Pay news

July 20, 2018 — Revolut in the UK is now supported

Good news, UK readers that bank with Revolut! The bank’s been sending out emails to its customers confirming that it’s now starting to support Google Pay.

In am email Revolut’s been sending out to its 2 million+ users:

Test drive the convenience of paying with your phone by adding your Revolut card to Google Pay, to make quick and secure payments – instantly.

July 10, 2018 — The main Google Pay app finally supports peer-to-peer payments

It’s finally happening! After a few months of having to deal with the awkward Google Pay Send app, peer-to-peer payments are finally coming to the regular Google Pay. In other words, you can now make in-store payments and send/request money from friends under one single app.

Along with this, Google’s also announced that it’s officially supporting boarding passes/event tickets and has revamped the Google Pay website to be more in-line with the current Google Pay app.

All the big details

Google Pay has replaced Android Pay and Google Wallet

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Rather than maintaining two separate services for in-store payments and sending money to friends, Google decided to replace Android Pay and Google Wallet with one new app called Google Pay.

There was an awkward transition period at first in which you had to use a separate Google Pay Send app to send/receive money, but Google’s since brought that feature over to the main Google Pay app.

As such, Google Pay is now your one-stop-shop for all things mobile payments if you’ve got an Android phone.

How to get started with Google Pay

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That’s all fine and dandy, but how does one actually start using Google Pay?

Thankfully, Google’s made this fairly simple. After downloading the app, you’ll be able to quickly add credit/debit cards, gift cards, loyalty programs, and more.

Need a helping hand? Check out Marc’s how-to guide right here!

What countries are supported?

Google’s regularly adding support for more and more countries that can use Google Pay, and as it currently stands, the list of supported areas is as follows:

  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Czech Republic
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Poland
  • Russia
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Spain
  • Taiwan
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Make sure your bank/card is compatible, too

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Live in a country that supports Google Pay? Awesome! However, that’s just half the battle in ensuring you can use the service.

Even if you live in one of the above countries, you still need to have a bank and card that supports Google Pay before you can start making payments in stores with your phone. Thankfully, Google’s been building up this list for quite a few years meaning there’s a good chance you’re covered.

Major brands like AMEX, Capital One, Chase, Discover, and Wells Fargo are all on-board with Google Pay in the U.S. Along with this, you’ll also find a huge list of smaller banks/credit unions that are supported as well.

See the full list here

You can use the app to store boarding passes, event tickets, and more

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In addition to your credit/debit cards, you can also use Google Pay to store gift cards, loyalty programs, and most recently, boarding passes and event tickets.

You’ll find all of these items in the Passes section of the app, and if you’ve got a lot stored in there, you can hold down on an item and move it around to make sure everything’s as organized as can be.

Support for passes/tickets is still relatively new, with brands like Southwest Airlines, Ticketmaster, and the Las Vegas Monorail being among the only ones available at the moment. Similar to what iPhone users have been treated to for years with Apple Pay, you’ll now see an “Add to G Pay” button when ordering a ticket from these brands so you can easily store everything under one single app.

Track your payment activity on the web

While you’ll likely interact with Google Pay on your phone the majority of the time, you can access it from your computer, too, by going to pay.google.com.

Here, you can see all of your Google Pay activity, send or request money, edit/add/remove payment methods, manage any active subscription services you have, edit your addresses, and more.

Google Pay is present in Android Messages and the Google Assistant

Google occasionally fails to make its various services play nicely with one another, but thankfully, Google Pay has been an exception to that rule.

While sending money to people is pretty simple through the Google Pay app, you can also do this through Android Messages and by talking to the Google Assistant on your phone.

In Android Messages, just tap the + icon at the bottom left and you’ll see two G Pay buttons for sending or requesting money from the person in your conversation. Just enter the amount you want, tap attach money, and your payment/request will be sent off just like that.

Alternatively, you can simply open the Google Assistant and say something along the lines of “Send Tom $15 for Pizza.” After confirming your identity (e.g. fingerprint or PIN), the Google Assistant will send the money for you — all without having to ever open up the Google Pay app.

26
Jul

Lenovo Smart Display review: Google Assistant’s best face


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I’ve always wanted one of those digital photo frames, the kind you see in parents’ living rooms, cycling between photos of grandkids a couple years out of date. Like Bluetooth speakers, digital photo frames are largely dumb and passive — they wait until you give them something to show, or play, and once that sequence is over, they either just shut off or repeat what’s already there.

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When the Amazon Echo arrived up in 2014, we began to see the natural evolution of the Bluetooth speaker, giving it direct access to the growing power of the cloud. Alexa then wasn’t what it is today, but it was a good start. Three years later, Amazon introduced the Echo Show, giving Alexa a screen, and the “smart display” was born.

Meanwhile, Google introduced the Assistant and its companion Home speaker in 2016, then a year later the Home Mini and Max, and back in January of this year, gave us its own take on Assistant-plus-screen, aptly called smart displays. But here’s the thing: instead of building the hardware itself, Google went the Chromebook route, working with existing partners (for now) to build these pieces of hardware.

First up to bat is the Lenovo Smart Display, available in either an 8-inch model for $200, or a nicer 10-inch version for $250. But are these new and newfangled smart displays worth the extra money over the cheaper combination of a Google Home and a Chromecast? And where in the home are these new Google Assistant screens best suited?

Lenovo Smart Display 10″



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Price: $249.99

Bottom line: Lenovo’s Smart Display elegantly transitions the Google Assistant onto screens, but it’s the elegant design and great sound that make it a clear recommendation.

The Good

  • Lovely, elegant design
  • High-quality 10-inch display
  • Great sound overall
  • Assistant + screen can be very useful
  • Camera privacy slider should be everywhere

The Bad

  • Android Things isn’t fully baked just yet
  • Lacks Netflix and other big-name Cast target support
  • Better optimized for voice than touch
  • Speaker lacks bass impact

See at Lenovo

Lenovo Smart Display What it is and isn’t

Think of the Lenovo Smart Display, and Google’s lowercase “smart displays” in general, as Google Homes with screens. More broadly, they’re conduits for both Google Assistant to convey its Knowledge Graph (basically a more concise, curated form of Google Search) and its vast network of news, music, video, smart home, communication, and productivity features with visuals tacked on to the traditionally audio-focused interface.

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So everything you can do on the Google Home, from asking it about the weather or traffic to catching up on podcasts or turning on the lights, can be done here. But the smart display provides visual context to everything, allowing you to see the recipes you’re asking for or watch the news briefs you listen to every morning. It’s also a way to watch video in general, starting with YouTube and Google Play Movies but eventually acting as a Cast target — essentially a small TV or tablet with a built-in Chromecast.

Eventually, that could mean every video app you use, from Netflix to Hulu to HBO Now, will support these machines but right now, as with many aspects of the smart display ecosystem, you’re limited to Google’s apps and services.

For more on the Lenovo Smart Display for cordcutters, check out the review at CordCutters.com

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This particular smart display also is a couple other very useful things: it’s a speaker, and a pretty good one at that; and it’s a video-conferencing machine, with built-in Duo support that, in my testing, works perfectly.

This isn’t a tablet, nor is it a Chromecast. It’s something entirely new.

What the smart display isn’t can be summed up pretty succinctly, too: it’s not a tablet, despite looking like one. Despite running a variant of Android called Android Things, you’re not going to be running traditional Android apps on here, nor can you expect it to function like any Android product you currently own.

This is an entirely new beast, with its own set of advantages and drawbacks that come with any first-generation product. Google’s pretty good about improving its Assistant-powered products — the family of Home speakers is way more functional now than they were at launch — and thankfully, Lenovo is just making and selling the hardware here. Like Chromebooks, Wear OS watches, and Android TV, Google runs the software show here, and that bodes well for the Lenovo Smart Display’s longevity.

Why? Because this product kicks ass.

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Lenovo Smart Display What’s great

Let’s talk about the harwdare a little bit. The Lenovo Smart Display was my biggest surprise of CES, not just because we rarely see anything interesting at CES these days.

A high-quality, 10-inch screen positioned to the right of a couple nice-sounding speakers etched in attractive, high-quality plastic. A built-in stand covered in bamboo, swooping around like a post-modern roof. A built-in camera with optional physical privacy switch. There’s an attention to detail here that feels very much out of Google’s playbook.

Screen size 8″ / 10″
Price $199 / $249
Display resolution 1280×800 / 1920×1200
Operating system Android Things 1.0
Processor Snapdragon 624
Storage 4GB
RAM 2GB
Speakers 1.75-inch 10W / 2-inch 10W
Camera 5MP wide-angle
Wifi 802.11ac
Bluetooth BT 4.2 LE
Color White & gray / White & bamboo

The setup process is simple, especially if you already own a Google Home speaker. It’s all done through the Home app on Android or iOS. And once configured it’s treated the same as every other Google Assistant-powered product associated with your account. It even borrows Chromecast’s Ambient Mode, which lets you cycle through albums on Google Photos, or even various pieces of well-known art.

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Like any good screen these days, the Smart Display yearns to be touched (don’t be gross). If you configure Ambient Mode, it takes a single tap to bring up the home screen, which on Android Things is a horizontal list of low-density information, like the weather, upcoming calendar entries or reminders, and a list of relevant Spotify or YouTube playlists.

Thing is, this screen, like Google’s Feed on Android phones, is likely to evolve over time the more you use the machine, and when additional features get pushed to the platform. For example, right now there’s no way to read the news, only to listen to audio streams or view video clips from supported outlets like Reuters and CNN.

The list of what the Smart Display does well is quite long, but here’s what I’ve primarily been using it for over the last few days:

  • Listening to Spotify
  • Catching up on podcasts
  • Turning on and off my lights, adjusting my thermostat, etc.
  • Checking my Nest cameras
  • Looking up and following recipes step-by-step
  • Watching YouTube videos
  • Making the occasional Duo call
  • Looking at my favorite photos
  • Searching for fascinating tidbits of information

To provide some context, while I started my review with the Smart Display on my desk next to my laptop, once I got acquainted with it I moved it to the kitchen, where my Google Home has been for over a year. That’s where I think it will offer the greatest value in my home, but your mileage may vary.

As you can see from my list above, there are quite a few things that the Smart Display can do that a Google Home can’t, and it’s from that short list I feel the product derives much of its value.

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Let’s take a typical morning, for example. The first thing I do when I come downstairs is to say “Good morning” to my Google Home, which triggers a series of actions through Google Assistant’s routines, from reciting the weather and my calendar to cycling through my list of news sources. Right now, there’s very little advantage to using a smart display over a Google Home but for the playful illustrations that come with the weather and the few news sources that support video. But that will change as the platform matures.

Even better, I’ve started catching up on YouTube videos after the news briefs are over. Come dinner, it’s nice to be able to reference a recipe on a screen for which it was formatted rather than my grubby phone. Echo Show users will understand this advantage.

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The Smart Display’s speaker is pretty good, too, at least on the 10-inch model. There’s a 10-watt speaker and two passive tweeters with ample amplification — you wouldn’t expect such room-filling sound from this unit, but it delivers. It lacks the pleasing bass of a more dedicated spekaer — see below for some audio downsides — but it’s mostly good. The two microphones are impressively sensitive, too, though not quite as sensitive as those found on the Google Home itself.

You’re not going to be replacing a Sonos with this thing, but the Smart Display can hold its own in terms of sound quality.

Most of the time, adding visual context to what you already get on the Google Home is enough. At other times, the Smart Display is a more compact Chromecast, which is incredibly handy when the TV is in another room. And rarely, but most enchantingly, the Smart Display is wholly unique, a new thing unto itself that justifies the creation of this platform, and the proliferation of this nascent form factor, and it’s delightful.

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Lenovo Smart Display What’s not great

Being first out of the gate is usually good enough for some early adopter plaudits and some breathless reviews (hello!), but it also sets up a product for those typical first-gen foibles, too. The Smart Display’s software isn’t quite finished, and that shows up in a number of places, from incomplete service integration to flat-out buggy operation.

Let’s talk about the Netflix-sized elephant in the room: despite being a Cast target for audio, most video services don’t yet support the Smart Display. That means no Netflix, DirecTV Now, Sling TV, and many other video services. There’s no technical reason for the omission, and it’s possible the companies just need to whitelist the smart display ecosystem, but until then, the video casting experience is going to be hit or miss. Here’s what does support the Smart Display right now:

  • YouTube (also available directly via voice search)
  • YouTube TV
  • Facebook video
  • Google Play Movies & TV
  • HBO Go/Now
  • Hulu
  • PlayStation Vue
  • Spotify Connect
  • Tablo
  • Vimeo

That’s a fine list indeed, but given Google Cast’s ubiquity, it’s strange to see so many omissions.

Lenovo doesn’t have any control over the software the Smart Display runs on, and that’s a good thing because Google is invested in its future.

Similarly, there are other aspects of the experience that just don’t seem particularly well thought-out. My Nest Hello triggers Assistant’s announcement API, but doesn’t offer to show me the video feed from the actual doorbell.

You can ask Google Maps for directions, but there are no actual steps, just a crudely-rendered map with a line through it. You can’t listen to music while browsing YouTube — once you open the YouTube “app”, which is just a horizontal list of recommended videos based on your watching history, all the background processes stop. There’s no support for Continued Conversations, a tentpole of Google Assistant’s increasing sophistication, and a feature that lends itself incredibly well to the dynamism of a screen.

Basically, the depth and ambition of Google Assistant are hampered, not helped, by Android Things’ adolescence.

As for hardware, I need to bring up the speaker one more time. While my favorite tunes sound good through the Smart Display, it soon becomes apparent that the speaker is tuned more for voice — radio, YouTube, TV — than music. For all its punchy vibrance, there’s barely any low-end to speak of.

That’s certainly not a death knell — Lenovo isn’t comparing the Smart Display to a Sonos, after all — but it’s something to keep in mind. In my listening, I actually prefer the $130 Google Home to the Smart Display when it comes to music, but I prefer podcasts on the Lenovo unit, so overall it’s a wash.

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Lenovo Smart Display Should you buy it?

In my brief time with the Lenovo Smart Display, it’s spent most of its life cycling through thousands of my vacation and dog photos. And honestly, I’d pay $150 just for a high-quality cloud-connected photo frame.

But this unit does so much more, and does so much of it so well, that its few flaws are easily overlooked. Especially when you consider that the Android Things-based software is being updated directly from Google, likely dooming it to years of fruitful iteration. If Google Assistant on smart displays improves as quickly as it did on speakers, we’re in for an entertaining next couple of years.

There’s also a smaller, cheaper 8-inch Smart Display you may want to consider if your room is tight on space.

At $250, the Lenovo Smart Display will be rightfully compared to the $230 Amazon Echo Show, which was first out of the gate but hasn’t progressed much as a visual accompaniment to Alexa, mainly because Amazon hasn’t invested the resources in making Alexa a truly visual experience. Google has a bit of a headstart there because Assistant is already quite visual, and will grow more so with the release of Android P this fall. The two are evenly matched for sound quality and smart home features, but the Smart Display has two distinct advantages right now: Google’s Knowledge Graph, and YouTube.

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The former means it will likely answer your esoterica more accurately than an Echo would; and the latter provides access to billions of video hours that Amazon, in its continued war of attrition with Google, can’t reach.

Even at this early juncture, the Smart Display has proven an invaluable kitchen tool, and a significant improvement to the standard Google Home experience in almost every way. And it should: it’s a Google Home with a screen. But it’s also a Chromecast (except where it’s not) and a simplified version of an Android tablet. It’s all those things but it’s own thing, and that’s why it’s so compelling.

4
out of 5


But let’s not complicate things. The Lenovo Smart Display is an outstanding, thoughtful bit of hardware powered by what is quickly becoming the gold standard in audio assistants. While I wouldn’t call the visual aspects of the smart display ecosystem essential just yet, what’s present — cloud-connected picture frame, Google Duo video calling, YouTube, and Nest camera support — is enough to convince me to be thoroughly excited about what’s next.

The Lenovo Smart Display goes on sale July 27 in the U.S. at Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart, Costco, and Lenovo.com.

See at Lenovo

26
Jul

Spotify Now Has 83M Paid Subscribers and 180M Total Monthly Users


In its Q2 2018 earnings report shared today — the second since filing for an IPO — Spotify revealed that it has grown to 83 million paid subscribers globally and 180 million total monthly active users (including the free tier) as of the end of June 2018 (via TechCrunch). This is an increase from 75 million paid subscribers and 170 million total users that Spotify had in Q1 2018.

Spotify is in a heated battle for new subscribers with Apple Music, which has been growing fast over the last few quarters. While Spotify still has more than double Apple Music’s global paid subscriber count (Apple Music was last counted to have about 40 million), recent reports have suggested Apple’s streaming service could be beating Spotify in terms of paid subscribers in the United States.

Spotify didn’t specify U.S. paid subscriber numbers, but it says that 31 percent of its total 180 million monthly active users are located in North America. This places around 56 million paid and free tier Spotify users across regions including the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Spotify attributes its subscriber growth to strong performance and lower churn rate of its Family Plan, as well as partnerships like the Spotify + Hulu bundle.

While the company grew its revenue 26 percent year-over-year to €1.27 billion, it still isn’t making a profit and saw an operating loss of €91 million and net loss of €394 million this quarter. It’s believed that the company’s spending on marketing campaigns to stay ahead of Apple Music and the high royalty payments to record labels and artists continue to be a barrier to profitability for Spotify.

The company also pointed towards the new GDPR rules set in Europe this past May as a “disruptor” across its European markets during Q2. The rules were said to have slowed down subscriber growth where 37 percent of its total user base resides (its biggest region), but Spotify says it “seems to be largely past that now.”

Looking into Q3 2018, Spotify expects paid subscribers to rise to 85-88 million and total users to rise to 188-193 million.

Tag: Spotify
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26
Jul

eBay Announces Drag-And-Drop Visual Shopping Feature Coming to iOS This August


eBay this week announced a new feature coming to its iOS and Android apps, which will give customers the ability to discover more items by dragging and dropping images while they’re shopping. This drag-and-drop feature is one of the latest additions to eBay’s AI-powered initiative, beginning with last year’s “Image Search.”

Instead of searching using images of items in the real world, like Image Search, the new feature surfaces results based on existing digital images found in eBay. The feature works by first requiring customers to begin a normal search on eBay, and the company gives the example of searching for a purse. When you see an image of a purse you like, you can search for more listings that include products visually similar to it by dragging and dropping the image of the purse into the search bar.

This populates a new search of visually similar results for you to browse, and the company says it should make it easier to find the items you’re looking for. eBay’s last few iOS updates have been focused on this idea of streamlining the shopping experience and making it easier for customers to sort through the vast amount of items being sold, including a recent Apple Music-inspired “Interests” feature.

Our new visual shopping feature is powered by artificial intelligence. We use deep learning networks known as convolutional neural networks to process your images. Behind the scenes, when you submit your image in the search field, the neural network converts your image into a vector representation. Then, the vector representation of the image that you submit is compared against more than 1.1 billion live listings in eBay’s marketplace, using nearest neighbor search. Finally, we surface the best-matched items, ranked by visual similarity.

The company also just announced this week that it will begin accepting Apple Pay as a payment method later this year. The addition of Apple Pay will hit as eBay undergoes a major payments overhaul beginning in the second half of 2018, kicking off a “small scale” expansion of new payments company Adyen as its primary partner for global payments processing. Adyen will eventually replace PayPal in this role by 2021.

eBay’s new visual shopping feature will be available on iOS and Android this August in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Australia.

Tag: eBay
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26
Jul

No more Mr Glass: Samsung shows off its unbreakable screen’s strengths


A new type of smartphone display panel made by Samsung Display has passed a series of durability tests in the U.S., which saw it surpass standards set out by the Department of Defense. Samsung calls the panel, “unbreakable,” and has huge ambitions for it in the near future.

It’s made up of a flexible OLED screen with a plastic substrate window bonded to it, resulting in a far tougher combination than the glass-and-OLED screens we see on most devices today. While smartphones will be the primary use — because we’re all a bit clumsy — Samsung Display also expects to use the panel in educational environments, cars, and military situations.

What did the screen withstand? The tests were carried out by product safety experts at Underwriters Laboratories (UL), where it passed a 1.2 meter drop test 26 times in succession with no damage at all. It then went on to complete a 1.8 meter drop test, and passed through high and low temperature tests. The results mean Samsung Display’s panel easily passed the military standards the UL tests to.

In a video released by Samsung Display, the unbreakable panel also survives various hammer strikes, which isn’t something we’d recommend replicating on your own glass phone. Despite the obvious toughness, Samsung Display notes that the panel still has the same visibility offered by glass, along with the same light weight properties.

The benefits of a super tough plastic panel that still operates like glass are obvious. When we drop our phone, it won’t be the sound of a massive, impending bill we hear when it hits the ground. We can go out and buy tough phones that do this now, but they don’t look like the Galaxy S9, which is why we probably won’t. Remember though, the UL test is a lab test, rather than one carried out in everyday situations, meaning results may vary once we try one out on a phone.

While Samsung Display is justly proud of its unbreakable screen, it hasn’t offered any information on when it will go into production, or when it will be used on a device we can own. It’s possible the panel may be used on forthcoming phones like the Galaxy S10, or Samsung’s rumored Galaxy X flexible phone; but until Samsung announces it’ll be using Samsung Display’s special panel, we won’t know for sure.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The best Galaxy S8 Plus cases and covers
  • Here’s our comparison of the most bezel-less designs among smartphones
  • Samsung Galaxy X: Everything we know so far
  • Corning’s Gorilla Glass 6 will help your phone survive up to 15 drops before it shatters
  • Huawei hasn’t forgotten — expect a foldable phone from company in 2019



26
Jul

What the F? Samsung leak causes phone naming confusion


A codename has been leaked for what could turn out to be a new Galaxy smartphone. The name Galaxy F has been tweeted out by @MMDDJ_ as a future device from the manufacturer. We have seen comments on Samsung releases from the account ahead of time in the past. What’s intriguing is that a few days earlier, the same Twitter user said the phone known as the Galaxy X would not be named the Galaxy X, leading to subsequent 2+2 math equations equalling Galaxy F-for-foldable.

Samsung’s foldable, or flexible, phone has been rumored for years and has consistently been named the Galaxy X once the Project Valley prototype left the scene. Calling the phone F-for-foldable, or flexible, makes sense, especially after Apple bagged an X — in shape only — for the iPhone X. Samsung may wish to further separate its own technical showcase from Apple’s technical showcase by not using the same letter, in one form or another.

That’s it, the Galaxy X is the Galaxy F? No. Despite it sounding right, there is absolutely no actual evidence Samsung’s folding phone will be called the Galaxy X, the Galaxy F, or anything else. It’s possible Samsung has the Galaxy F name set aside though, as @MMDDJ_ indirectly says the tweet may have upset some people at Samsung; but we’re also hearing talk of a Samsung gaming phone, which would also need a name.

It’s not the first time we’ve heard about a Galaxy F either. The name was attached to a premium, metal smartphone in 2013, believed at the time to be another high-end smartphone to fit between the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note releases. Interestingly, this is a similar description of the Galaxy X, which would join Samsung’s established big-name phone releases of the year. That said, we should also remember Samsung launches many smartphones all round the world, often with special editions reserved for certain markets. The company’s need for cool-sounding names won’t run dry.

Whatever the Galaxy F turns out to be, we’ll keep you updated here. Unless the name disappears without a trace, just like the Galaxy F did in 2013.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • DT Daily: Samsung Galaxy X foldable phone could debut at MWC 2019
  • Samsung Galaxy X: Everything we know so far
  • Trends with Benefits podcast



26
Jul

YouTube VR gets bolder with the Gear headset and communal experiences


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Exploring the world through YouTube VR just got a little bit easier and a bit more inclusive. On Wednesday, July 25, the video platform announced that its VR experience is coming to Samsung Gear VR, building upon its existing availability on Daydream View, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR.

But given the popularity of the Gear headset, it’s likely that this latest expansion will help YouTube reach a wide new audience. Beginning this week, Gear VR users will be able to download the YouTube app from the Oculus Store for free.

In the spirit of bringing VR to more people, YouTube is also introducing a new feature in its app that allows folks to watch and discuss videos with other users in a virtual space. After all, what’s the use of exploring a cave in Antarctica if you have to do it alone? With the new Watch Together icon in the YouTube VR app, you can not only explore new worlds with others, but chat about them as well.

“We love VR at YouTube because it’s a powerful way to see and experience the world,” the company noted in a blog post. “Virtual Reality lets you experience these moments as if you’re actually there. When you have questions about the world, it can transport you to where the answers are.”

YouTube is also hoping to transport folks to more places than ever before with more exclusive experiences. As it stands, YouTube is home to more than 800,000 virtual realities, and over the course of this summer, this number will continue to grow. The platform will be bringing viewers backstage to concerts in Portugal, where they can interact with The Man and Hayley Kiyoko as they prepare to go on stage. Or, users can be inspired by female leaders across the globe, including spending time with activist, entrepreneur, and Olympic bronze medalist in fencing Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim-American woman to wear a hijab during competition for the U.S. team. And if you’re looking for a thrill, SoKrispyMedia will let you take centerstage in a video game.

“VR can take you anywhere, and YouTube VR can bring you to more places in the virtual world than anywhere else,” YouTube’s VR Product Lead Erin Teague wrote. “I’ve never been more excited about the next places VR storytellers, explorers, and the community will take us — letting us experience them as if we’re actually there.”

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Oculus confirms second-screen support is coming to Oculus Go
  • The best virtual reality apps of 2018
  • Best Gear VR apps and games
  • Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream review
  • VR is in a tailspin, and the sales numbers prove it



26
Jul

Alto’s Odyssey for Android: Everything you need to know


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Alto’s Odyssey is now available on Android — download it right away!

Alto’s Odyssey has been out on iOS since February, and it’s AMAZING. Developed by the same group of folks responsible for the masterpiece that is Alto’s Adventure, Team Alto has taken everything we loved from the first game — the gorgeous graphics, beautiful atmosphere and butter smooth gameplay — and stepped it all up a notch while giving us a brand new story and a beautiful and diverse new environment for us to endlessly explore.

If I sound excited, it’s because Alto’s Adventure is hands-down one of the best free-to-play games ever released for Android. Period. Seriously, if you’ve never played Alto’s Adventure go download it right now. and then come back.

July 26, 2018 — Alto’s Odyssey is now available on Android!

The wait is finally over: you can finally download Alto’s Odyssey on Android. The game has awesome new tricks, a Zen Mode, new characters, and is looking like a great sequel to one of the best games on Android to date.

Hit up the Play Store to start playing Alto’s Odyssey right away.

Download at Google Play

July 17, 2018 — Alto’s Odyssey Android release date confirmed for July 26!

Alto’s fans rejoice! We’re just over a week away from getting our hands on Alto’s Odyssey on Android with an official release date set for July 26.

The wait is almost over: Alto’s Odyssey is launching on @GooglePlay on July 26th 🎉 https://t.co/98uEkwJA3Y

— Alto’s Odyssey (@altosadventure) July 17, 2018

Follow the link below to be notified when Alto’s Odyssey is ready for download.

Download at Google Play

What new in Alto’s Odyssey?

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Alto and his pals have traded the snow-capped mountains of the original Adventure for the rolling sand dunes of a mystical desert complete with hot air balloons and other surprises to contend with.

Awesome features such as Zen Mode are included right out of the gate, and there are new tricks available and new ways to interact with the procedurally-generated areas. I mean, the developers drew specific inspiration from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (which explains the emphasis on intuitive controls) and that era in the THPS franchise is celebrated for adding subtle improvements to the gameplay that opened up a new way to link tricks and explore levels.

By all accounts, Alto’s Odyssey is the perfect sequel to an amazing game that, too, took its time coming over to Android in 2016 after becoming a smash hit on iOS in 2015.

How much will it cost?

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This is the other really interesting question that we don’t have an answer for yet.

Both Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey debuted as paid apps in the iTunes App Store, but when Snowman partnered with Noodlecake Studios to bring Alto’s Adventure to Android, they opted for a free-to-play model that included video ads to revive Alto and in-app purchases for premium upgrades. It was an experiment of sorts that offered a great game for free to Android users with minimal ads — and tens of millions of downloads from the Google Play Store.

That’s the same model being used with Alto’s Odyssey as well — the game itself is free to play, but you’ll have ads to contend with.

Download at Google Play

Are you excited about Alto’s Odyssey?

Let us know in the comments!

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26
Jul

How to upgrade and downgrade your Samsung Galaxy phone


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Know what you’re getting into before you flash firmware to your Samsung phone.

Android updates are all the rage it seems. Everyone wants one as soon as they hear about it, and waiting for a phone maker like Samsung and any carrier that has weaseled its way into the mix is never fun. Even when it finally comes out, a lot of people hate something about it and want to go back.

It’s frustrating when our phone doesn’t work how we want it to work; even if it works perfectly as-is we always want more. That’s why some people flash different versions of the OS to their phone — it gets the phone closer to what they want out of it.

Flashing firmware to a Samsung Android phone isn’t hard, but that doesn’t mean you can or should do it! Your model may not be able to accept newer or older versions of the software, especially if it’s a carrier-branded phone. There’s also a chance you can turn your beautiful and expensive phone into a beautiful and expensive paperweight that won’t turn on or boot up.

You need to understand these issues before you go and try anything. Seriously — flashing firmware to any Android phone that’s not a Nexus or Pixel means you need to spend more time reading than doing if you want to do it safely. Search Google for your model followed by the words ODIN flash (example: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge Odin flash) to find links about the process. Read them. Understand them. Then get ready.

  • What you’ll need
  • Before you begin
  • The software
  • The firmware
  • Now onto the flashing

What you’ll need:

  • Your phone and all the specific instructions about your model and the firmware version you’ll be flashing.
  • The firmware package you want to flash.
  • A good USB cable.
  • A computer running Windows, macOS, or Linux.
  • Odin — the software used to flash the OS.
  • The correct USB driver if you’re using Windows to flash your phone.
  • Patience and a willingness to follow instructions to the letter.

Before you begin

Flashing a new OS, whether upgrading or downgrading, usually means you erase everything. That means your photos, saved documents, text message history, call logs, and everything else. You’ll want to back up all the things that you can so you can transfer them back once you’re finished.

Some things, like photos and documents, are easy to back up: use Google’s services that are already built-in and put Google Photos or Google Drive to work. Other things like SMS threads, will need an app from the Play Store and a bit of luck. You also won’t be able to back up everything unless you’ve rooted your phone so be prepared to lose things like game progress or usernames and passwords for third-party services.

You’ll also want to make sure you have access to a primary USB port on the PC you’ll be using. That means one that is directly attached to the motherboard and not running through a hub inside the computer case. Usually, you’ll find these on the back of the computer. I know this part sounds crazy, but USB hubs and wonky cables have been the cause of many horror stories and have caused countless hours of troubleshooting. Make sure the cable is good — the one that came in the box with your phone is a good one — and that you take the time to find or create an empty USB port on the back of the computer.

The software

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If you’re using a Windows PC, you’re going to need a USB driver. You’ll see a lot of ways to get it, such as installing Kies or theAndroid SDK, but the easy way (read: the best way) is to just download it separately. You can get it from the Samsung Developer’s site right here. It’s a 15 MB file that you’ll need to extract and run the same way you would run any file. Once finished, reboot the computer even if it doesn’t advise you to do so.

Next, you’ll need a utility called Odin. Odin is a Windows tool that repair centers and the like use to flash firmware packages to Samsung phones. Because people are awesome, copies of the utility have made their way out of the repair center and onto the internet where all of us can use them. You’ll find a lot of places to get Odin if you do a Google search, but the easy way (again, the best way) is to download it from XDA Developer’s forum user anycallmongolia who happens to have every version and updates when a new one appears. Use the latest recommended version. This file is the right file, is free from viruses and other nonsense, and is a fast download.

Download Odin from XDA forums

Download it, then unzip it into its own folder. Include all the files in the zip package.

If you are using a computer running macOS or Linux, you’ll need a different utility — Jodin3. It’s not a normal .DMG file or package you install. It’s released as a web-based tool or a .Jar file instead and you’ll need to read the directions to get started. Don’t worry, it’s not difficult. You’ll also find it at the XDA Developer’s forum.

See Jodin3 at XDA forums

We’re going to assume you’re using Windows and Odin to flash your phone. If you need help with any Mac or Linux snags, you’ll find the answers at the Jodin3 forum post linked above. I warned you that there would be plenty of reading involved.

The firmware

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You’ll need firmware built for your model. For most users, that means firmware built by Samsung, but Odin can also flash custom firmware. In that case, you’ll want to refer to the place you downloaded the custom firmware from. We’re going to download our official firmware from Updato’s Samsung Firmware Repository.

See Updato’s Samsung Firmware Repository

You will find every official firmware file Samsung has ever released here. Simply fill in the details about your phone and hit the search icon. Be sure to pick the right firmware for your model. Look at not only the version but also the CSC (Customer Service Code) to make sure you have the right version for your carrier branded phone. You can flash firmware from one carrier onto another carrier’s device, but that’s a much more tedious process and often requires some engineering files and modifications to Odin. Just pick the right one and you’ll have no worries here.

Download and extract the firmware into its own folder. Include every file inside the archive or things can go very poorly here.

What those CSC letters mean

Here are the CSC abbreviations for all the U.S.-based firmware.

  • ACG — C Spire
  • ATT — ATT
  • BST — Boost
  • CCT — Xfinity Mobile
  • SPR — Sprint
  • TFN — Tracfone
  • TMB — T-Mobile
  • TMK — MetroPCS
  • USC — US Cellular
  • VMU — Virgin Mobile
  • VZW — Verizon
  • XAA — Unlocked US
  • XAS — Sprint

Flashing

This is the easy part. You’ll be booting your phone into its Download Mode, connecting it to Odin visa a USB port, and specifying the firmware you wish to flash. It only takes a few minutes!

  • Boot your phone into Download Mode.
    • Turn off your phone.
    • Press and hold the volume down, home, and power keys.
    • Wait for a warning message to appear on your screen.
    • Press the volume up key to continue booting into Download Mode.
  • Find the Odin file you downloaded and run the program.
  • Plug your USB cable into a primary USB port on your PC.
  • Wait for Odin to recognize the phone and tell you it is connected via a COM port in the far left white text box near the top, above the words ID:COM.
  • Check Auto Reboot and F.Reset Time in the Odin options.
    • Ensure there are no special instructions or options for your particular model. You would have found those while researching.
  • Click the PDA button in Odin and choose the .tar.md5 file from the extracted firmware package.
  • Wait for Odin to check the MD5 and initialize. You’ll see this in the Message window in the Odin program.
  • Hit the Start button.

In two or three minutes, you’ll see a big green label in Odin that says PASS!! to let you know everything has completed successfully. You can now sign into your phone and use it normally, but it will be running the firmware you chose and downloaded. Of course, it will check for updates and try to install them so keep an eye on the things you say “Yes” to.

If you didn’t get a PASS!! label, you’ll want to enter the response from Odin’s Message window into Google and see what happened. You’ll usually find the reason, and the fix, easily since so many people use Samsung phones.

Have you tried flashing firmware?

Do you have other opinions on it? Let us know in the comments below.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
  • Galaxy S9 review: A great phone for the masses
  • Complete Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs
  • Galaxy S9 vs. Galaxy S8: Should you upgrade?
  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums

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26
Jul

Deal: Get 50% off the LG G7 ThinQ or Samsung Galaxy S9 from Sprint!


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Get some sweet half-off action from Sprint.

Now’s your chance to get in on some sweet half-off action from Sprint. Currently, you can grab a new LG G7 ThinQ or a Samsung Galaxy S9 at 50 percent off.

LG G7 ThinQ

Get 50 percent off a new LG G7 ThinQ phone when you sign up for an 18-month Flex Lease with Sprint.

  • Pay just $16.50/month for the phone and receive $16.50/month in monthly bill credits (normal cost of phone is $33/month
  • Bill credit is applied within 2 billing cycles
  • Line must stay activated for entire leasing period (18 months) to receive full value
  • If you terminate your line early, the remaining balance on your phone and plan will be due
  • Offer valid to new customers (activating a new line) or for eligible customers wanting to upgrade
  • Hulu subscription included in Flex Lease plan
  • 500 MB of mobile hotspot included
  • Unlimited talk and text and 5GB of data included while in Mexico and Canada
  • Free activation on online orders for a limited time ($30 savings)

See at Sprint

Samsung Galaxy S9

50% off Samsung Galaxy S9 (and up to 50% off other models) when you sign up for a Flex Lease.

  • Pay just $16.50/month for a new Samsung Galaxy S9 phone on Sprint’s Flex Lease
  • You’ll receive $16.50/month in monthly bill credits (to pay for other half of phone) (full price of phone is usually $33/month)
  • Bill credits will be applied within 2 billing cycles
  • Valid for qualified customers starting a new line of service with Sprint
  • Must stay on Flex Lease for the full 18-month period to get full discount
  • If the line is deactivated before the 18-month lease period is up, the remaining balance will be due
  • Hulu subscription included in Flex Lease plan
  • 500 MB of mobile hotspot included
  • Unlimited talk and text and 5GB of data included while in Mexico and Canada
  • Free activation on online orders for a limited time ($30 savings)

See at Sprint

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
  • Galaxy S9 review: A great phone for the masses
  • Complete Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs
  • Galaxy S9 vs. Galaxy S8: Should you upgrade?
  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums

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AT&T
T-Mobile
Sprint

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