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27
Jul

Unknown Sources: Everything you need to know!


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The Unknown Sources setting isn’t the mystery — or the demon — it’s made out to be if you know a little bit about it.

To install apps that you downloaded from somewhere besides the “official” app store from Google or the company that made your phone, you need to enable the “allow unknown sources” setting. There has always been a bit of confusion about what it is exactly and how things work. We’re going to remedy that and talk through everything you need to know about unknown sources. Don’t worry, it’s gonna be fine.

What are ‘Unknown Sources’?

No, not people who leak government stuff to the press. The Android kind of unknown sources. It’s a scary label for a simple thing: a source for apps you want to install that is not trusted.

Unknown = not vetted directly by Google.

When we see the word “trusted” used this way, it means a little more than it usually would. In this case, trust means the same as it does for a web certificate and everyone involved on all sides will vouch for the source. Google says you can trust Google Play. Samsung goes one more step and says you can trust Samsung Apps or the Amazon App Store (for example). Because these sources are trusted, you don’t have to enable the installation of unknown (not in the circle of trust) sources to install apps from them. Someone who is in charge of making these kids of decisions is vouching for these app sources.

In short, a trusted source is one that the company you gave your money to, the company who built it, and the company who wrote the software all have vouched for.

Why is there even a setting for this?

Half the people reading this will think that no company should allow us to install apps they do not trust. The other half will think that nobody should be telling me what apps I can and can’t install. Having a setting in place is the only real solution.

It’s not really a good idea to just let any app from any place get installed on your phone. When you block app installs from places not in that trusted circle, random drive-by downloads can’t happen. Full stop. It’s insanely difficult to find an exploit that can force you to install an app you don’t want. It should be because that sort of trickery is never done for a good reason. Going one step further and just outright blocking the darn things is the type of over-the-top phone security Google loves.

And Google doesn’t claim that apps from other places are a bad thing. It has a whole page that tells app devs how to go about offering apps without putting them in the Play Store. All Google has to say about the Unknown Sources setting is:

User opt-in for apps from unknown sources

Android protects users from inadvertent download and install of apps from locations other than Google Play (which is trusted). It blocks such installs until the user opts in to Unknown sources in Settings > Security on their device. Users need to make this configuration change before they download your apps to their devices.

Note that some network providers don’t allow users to install applications from unknown sources.

Google is cool with developers doing it and cool with you downloading and installing them. But they make sure you opt-in for it before you do.

Are unknown sources a bad thing?

Nope. But enabling the setting for no good reason or leaving it on all the time is.

The internet is a big place. There are plenty of places to get apps that are as trustworthy as Google or Samsung or LG or any other company with their own on-device app store. You just need to do a tiny bit of poking around to make sure a place is trustworthy before you grab an app from it.

The Unknown Sources setting is like the stove: turn it off when you’re done using it.

Reading this article is a good start. Read other Android websites, too. We’re not afraid to tell you when you can trust something or someplace. Here are two places I trust as much as anything from Google: Amazon and F-Droid. I use them both and am not afraid to tell you to use them if they have something you want. And everyone else here would say the same thing.

In essence, Android Central trusts Amazon and F-Droid and thinks you can, too. But because of Google’s definition of trust, in this case, they can’t. Knowing that both Amazon and the folks running F-Droid scan all their files and are diligent about how they are distributing them isn’t enough for Google because they need to do those things themselves before they trust a source. Google has more at stake because they are Android, for better or for worse.

What is a bad habit is leaving the unknown sources box checked if you don’t need to. If an app you installed will run with the setting disabled, disable it until you need it again. If an app won’t run without it enabled, find out why before you install it.

You’re still protected

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Google wants to scan every single app you install right before you install it. It will ask you to let it do so and to let it do it in the future the first time you try. At Google I/O, we were told that Google scans 50 billion apps per day to ferret out any with malware, including the ones you are installing. And this doesn’t depend on having the latest version of Android. Every single phone with access to Google Play running Android 4 or higher has these protections built in through Google’s Play Services feature. While no type of scanning is going to be 100% foolproof, chances are someone else has installed that app before you and Google has looked at it, and they will look harder if it does anything fishy. Or has a hidden ability to do anything fishy.

Fifty. Billion. Every day. That’s a helluva lot of apps.

Google, Apple, Samsung, and every other company takes the integrity of their app store very seriously. Nothing makes them look worse than me telling you about bad apps that slipped through, so they do everything they can to keep it from happening. In this case, that benefit rolls over to apps you installed from elsewhere. Win all around!

Why don’t companies just put their apps in Google’s Play Store?

That’s a question with a big, convoluted answer that no two people will agree on. Let’s just say that Google places some restrictions on ways developers can make money. Not everyone is willing to accept those restrictions.

Of course, test apps and beta apps and project apps are better off being hosted locally and set to whoever needs them. But for big production ready apps, not everyone wants to use Google Play.

Android Oreo changes everything

Google has reworked how apps from places other than trusted stores are installed, and with Oreo, it’s a much better and safer experience.

If you have a phone running Oreo, you won’t see a setting to allow installation of apps from unknown sources. Instead, Google treats this as an app permission and you’re asked each and every time you want to install an app you got elsewhere.

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The new permission is tied to the app itself, not any user settings. Because it’s treated the same as every other runtime permission, like access to your camera, an app that would try to get you to install any other app is unable to trick you with a dialog or use false pretenses. You have to say yes each and every time.

You’ll also find a list of apps that use this permission in your settings. That means you can revoke the permission and the app is unable to function. Doing things this way makes it easier for developers to distribuite apps from places other than the Play Store because users won’t get confused by installation instructions or feel that the app isn’t safe because of the language used.

How do I turn Unknown Sources on?

Open the device settings. Look for a gear icon in the notification shade near the top left corner and tap on it.
Scroll down to the Security section and tap to open it.
Scroll down to the entry labeled Unknown sources and read the subtext because you should always read any and all subtext in a “security” section of settings.
Read the pop-up box that tells you Google isn’t responsible if you install apps from places they do not explicitly trust and click OK to enable the setting.

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You disable the setting the exact same way. Toggle the switch off and installation is once again blocked for apps downloaded outside of trusted app stores.

So should I enable the setting?

If you want to install an app that you trust — you know the source and are sure they aren’t pulling a fast one and that the app is exactly as the developers have written it, then you can enable it when you need it.

There are a lot of different ways to define trust, but we think that word of mouth is one of the best ones. Your friends, people in forums and comments, and your favorite Android blog can tell you whether or not they think you should trust a thing or place, and whoever is saying it should be willing to tell you why.

Most importantly, you don’t have to worry about temporarily enabling Unknown Sources if you trust a place that has an app you want to install.

I trust Amazon because it vets every app in its store and it is a popular source. That means if an app slips through, it will get caught quickly. I trust F-Droid because every app it offers has the full source code available and provides a checksum to make sure you’re downloading a verified copy that it compiled itself. Not everyone wants the source code. You don’t necessarily have to know either of these things because someone else has looked into it and the information is available. You should still do any personal vetting that you need to feel comfortable, but generally, a site that’s not trustworthy is going to be talked about even more.

Do a little bit of homework and you’re golden. Just be sure to turn the setting back off once you’re done installing your apps.

Wrapping it up

This is a simple breakdown to make sure everyone can understand what’s going on when asked to enable the Unknown Sources setting or when you see people warning against it. There are other more nerdy things like signing keys and heuristic scanning that could be talked about, but we feel that will muddy the water a little. If you’re the type of person interested in the minutiae, the Android Developers site has plenty of information about how Google Play works and what else Google does to make it safe. It’s great reading if you’re inclined.

For everyone else, just know that the Unknown Sources setting isn’t really a mystery or anything to be afraid of if you need it. And when you don’t make sure it’s turned off.

Stay safe!

Updated July 2018: With all the security worries lately, we’ve refreshed this piece to help you protect your devices and data.

27
Jul

Hit the sandy slopes in Alto’s Odyssey! [Game of the Week]


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Update July 27, 2018: Alto’s Odyssey is finally out and free to download and play for Android! Then, dive into the dark depths of a spooky tunnel in Deeper Waters!

Alto’s Odyssey

Alto’s Odyssey has finally arrived for Android and it was well worth the wait. The sequel to the wildly popular Alto’s Adventure, Odyssey takes everything you loved about the first one — the shifting landscapes, the gorgeous graphics, and the simple yet addictive gameplay — and layers on more depth and features.

Gone are the snow-capped mountains and runaway llamas. Instead, Odyssey takes us to more tropical locals with Alto swapping his snowboard for a wall-riding sand board. There’s more interaction with the environment here, too, with dust devils tossing Alto high in the air, mystical birds helping you collect out-of-reach coins, and much more to explore as you progress through the game.

There’s a ton of challenges to complete and multiple areas to unlock and explore. As with the previous game, levels are randomly generated so each playthrough is unique — which makes this a great game to play over and over again. I instantly fell in love with this game and you will too!

Best of all, the game is free to play for Android users with in-app purchases available to remove ads and buy upgrades. Alto’s Odyssey is a fantastic game that you won’t want to miss out on!

Download: Alto’s Odyssey (Free w/IAPs)

Deeper Waters

Because I love to highlight really interesting indie titles, I gotta throw out a nod to Deeper Waters. One of the developers from UnBased Studios reached out to me and asked me to check out their new game — so I did.

Apologies for the somewhat phallic icon aside, this is an oddly addictive game that has you dive deep down a watery cave filled with jellyfish. Your goal is to dodge the jellyfish, collect the rising air bubbles, and dive as deep as you can. The lighting effects are the best part — you cast a light as you continue to dive down and you’re light continues to dim until you collect an air bubble.

It’s hard to determine exactly what your character is — it certainly seems to not be from our world — but there are multiple character mods that affect your buoyancy, make you faster, or give you extra lives. It feels reminiscent of Flappy Bird in terms of being a quick game to play with

Download: Deeper Waters (Free w/IAPs)

Android Gaming

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  • Best Android games
  • Best free Android games
  • Best games with no in-app purchases
  • Best action games for Android
  • Best RPGs for Android
  • All the Android gaming news!

27
Jul

Google Assistant: Everything you need to know


There’s a lot going on with the Google Assistant — let’s break down the important stuff.

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In May 2016, we got our very first taste of the Google Assistant with the debut of Allo. The Assistant was a big draw to Allo at the time, with Google marketing it as a helpful bot that could make restaurant reservations, search the web, and more within your conversations.

Since then, the Assistant has gained heaps of new features and expanded to smartphones, tablets, speakers, and more. Google’s shown no interest in slowing down development for the Assistant, meaning that it’s likely here for the long-haul.

Whether this is your first encounter with it or you just need a quick refresher, here’s everything you need to know about the Google Assistant.

The latest Google Assistant news

July 27, 2018 — You can now schedule custom routines for specific times/days

Building upon Custom Routines that were added to Google Assistant earlier this year, users can now schedule these routines to go off at a certain time/day. Previously, custom routines you made could only be used after saying a specific command.

While creating a routine, you’ll now see a new “Set a time and day” option under the “When” section. Here, you can choose the time you want it to play and what day(s) it should repeat.

There are a lot of ways to take advantage of this, with one example being to have your coffee pot turn on, crank up the AC, and hear about the weather as you’re waking up without having to ever speak to your Google Home. Neat!

July 26, 2018 — Dutch is now an officially supported language

Good news, Dutch speakers! As of July 26, 2018, Google’s confirmed that the Google Assistant now speaks Dutch as one of its official languages.

Assuming you’ve got an Android phone running Marshmallow or later, you can now access the Assistant to ask it questions about the weather, create calendar appointments, control smart home devices, and more.

In addition to your phone, you’ll also be able to use Dutch on the Google Home later in the year once the smart speaker goes on sale in the Netherlands.

All the important details

Google Now paved the way for Google Assistant

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The Google Now page compared to the new Google Feed.

Before there was the Google Assistant, we had Google Now. Google Now was introduced to the world all the way back in 2012, offering contextual info through the Google Now page and helpful answers to random questions with an “OK Google” voice command.

A lot of what made Google Now so great can still be found in the Google Assistant today, with the exception of the Google Now page. The Google Now page used to be home to cards showcasing the weather, information on packages that had shipped from online orders, boarding passes, and more. It’s since been replaced by the Google Feed – a collection of news stories Google thinks you’ll be interested in – and it’s definitely the biggest departure between the two services.

The Google Assistant as a whole is still more powerful than Google Now ever was, but long-time Android users like myself are still mourning the loss of that Now page. RIP, old friend.

Read more: Google Now is being left to wither and die as Google Assistant takes the focus

It’s available on just about everything

In just a few short years, the Google Assistant’s gone from being exclusive to a now-failed chat app to being integrated into just about anything you can think of.

You’ll find Google Assistant built right into most Android phones, it’s the star of the show for the Google Home lineup, and it’s even making its way into sound bars.

Here’s the full list of devices with Google Assistant

Setting up the Google Assistant is as easy or complex as you want

When you set up a device for the first time that has the Assistant, getting started is pretty simple. Accessing it is just a voice command or tap away depending on what gadget you’re using, but if you want to really fine-tune your experience, Google’s got you covered.

Take a quick dive into your Assistant settings and you’ll find options for just about everything – including your weather preferences, changing the Assistant’s voice, retraining your voice model, picking out preferred news sources, and much more.

How to set up and customize Google Assistant

Google Assistant is available in multiple regions and languages

Of course, a smart voice assistant isn’t any good if you can’t actually use it. Fortunately, Google Assistant will be available in 52 countries —adding 38 countries this year — and 17 languages by the end of 2018.

More: Google Assistant will expand to 38 countries and 17 languages in 2018

Google Home’s the premier way to get the Assistant in your house (at least for now)

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It’s great to have the Google Assistant on your phone, but if you want to truly experience just how helpful it can be, you’ll want to consider picking up a Google Home.

Google Home is Google’s line of smart speakers that put the Assistant on full-display, allowing you to control smart devices, ask random questions, set timers, play music, and more by just using your voice.

You can spend as little as $49 for the Google Home Mini, $129 for the original Google Home, or a whopping $399 for the Google Home Max.

However, as great as the Home series is, don’t forget that Smart Displays are just on the horizon.

Announced at CES 2018, Smart Displays are essentially smart speakers with the Google Assistant and a touch screen display that can show you helpful visuals when talking to them. It’s basically Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo Show and Echo Spot, and we can’t wait to see more from them.

Everything you need to know about Google’s Home speakers

Then again, is an always-listening speaker the right fit for your home?

However, the convenience of a Google Home (or any smart speaker for that matter) does come at the cost of privacy. Speakers like the Google Home are “always listening”, meaning they’re constantly on the lookout for a hot word to know when you’re talking to it (such as “Ok, Google” and “Hey, Google”).

This means the microphone on a Google Home is always active, but it’s not necessarily storing all the audio it hears when it doesn’t detect its hot word.

Most all speakers allow you to restore some privacy by being able to mute the microphone, but if you want to start asking the Assistant questions, you’ll need to unmute it first.

To learn more about these “always listening” speakers, I’ll pass the mic over to Jerry

Big upgrades are coming to the Assistant on Wear OS

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Switching gears for a second, the Google Assistant on Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) is about to get a big upgrade.

In the near future, the Assistant on Wear OS will support Assistant Actions (basically apps for the Assistant) and give you the option to hear its responses through your watch’s speaker or a pair of connected Bluetooth headphones.

Along with this, Google will be adding something called “smart suggestions.” After asking the Assistant for the weather, for example, you’ll see little bubbles for “weather tonight”, “use celsius”, and more so you can continue the conversation with just the tap of your finger. Google Assistant on Android offers something similar, and it’s a great tool to have.

IFTTT supercharges the Assistant’s usefulness

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IFTTT (If This Then That) is a powerful online tool that allows you trigger something (that) if a certain event (this) happens. You can connect IFTTT to the Google Assistant to create your own recipes using this formula, and it can allow for some incredibly helpful combinations.

Some of our favorite uses for IFTTT and the Assistant include adding contacts to your Google account, setting your Google Calendar status to Busy for a certain period of time, and much, much more.

Getting started with IFTTT can take some time and patience if you’re new to it, but once you’re all set up and ready to go, it can prove to be a lifesaver.

How to connect Google Home and IFTTT to do amazing things with your connected tech

You’ll get the same experience no matter what devices you use

With so many devices capable of running the Assistant, it’d be easy to think that the experience you get on one gadget would be different from another. This is something that Google struggled with for a while at first, but we’re finally in a position where the Assistant experience you get on a smart speaker, for example, is the same you’ll get on your phone.

There are a handful of features here and there that still create for some discrepency, but for the most part, the Assistant you use on your Pixel 2 is the same one found on Google Home.

Google Home and Google Assistant finally offer the same experience

Google Duplex is actually going to be a thing

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Google showed off Duplex — Google Assistant making natural-sounding phone calls on your behalf — at I/O 2018, but quickly noted that it was just an experiment. Flash forward a couple months, and Google announced that certain users have started testing Duplex, and a public release will be here in the next few months. Before you know it, Google Assistant will be able to book hotels, dinner reservations, hair appointments and more without you lifting a finger.

More: What is Google Duplex?

Updated July 2018: Added the Google Duplex and language support sections, as well as links to recent Assistant news.

27
Jul

OneDrive for Android now sports fingerprint authentication to lock your files


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Now you can use biometrics to keep your OneDrive files a little more secure.

Microsoft is bolstering OneDrive’s security prowess on Android with the adoption of fingerprint authentication for locking down your files. The feature is now rolling out to everyone alongside a new grid view for photos (via MSPU).

Fingerprint authentication comes in addition to the PIN protection already offered by OneDrive. And as security features go, your fingerprint is the much more secure option. If you make a habit of keeping particularly sensitive files in OneDrive, this is a handy addition.

To get started with the new feature, you’ll have to navigate to the “Passcode” section of the Settings menu and make sure it’s enabled. From there, you can check the box next to “Use fingerprint to authenticate” to require verification whenever OneDrive is accessed from your Android device.

Additionally, the latest update includes a new grid view that’s available from the Photos section. Here’s a look at the official release notes:

  • In addition to a PIN Code, you’ll now be able to use your fingerprint to lock the OneDrive app.
  • We’ve improved our grid view to help your photos stand out and look their best as well as making it easier than ever to see what photos are getting backed up in the Photos tab.

If you’re a regular OneDrive user, you can grab these new features with the latest update available from Google Play now.

See at Google Play

27
Jul

Best Smart Locks that Support Amazon Alexa


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Smart locks don’t have to be a pain to install or use, or prohibitively expensive.

Making your home smarter seems to be all the rage these days. There are smart speakers, smart TVs and other accessories to let you control your life with your voice. One of the most noticeable improvements in a home can be from installing smart locks, so you never have to fish a key out again.

These are the best smart locks that support Amazon Alexa!

  • August Smart Lock, 3rd Generation
  • Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt
  • Yale Assure Lock
  • Kwikset SmartCode Deadbolt
  • Kevo Convert

August Smart Lock, 3rd Generation

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One of the highest rated choices comes courtesy of August. Its 3rd Generation Smart Lock looks the part of a standard deadbolt, provided you have a single-cylinder deadbolt; other designs unfortunately aren’t compatible. You can lock and unlock the door with an Alexa command, or the door will automatically unlock as your approach it with your smartphone. You can automatically create guest “keys” for friends’ phones, with a set expiration date. This makes the August Smart Lock an ideal choice for anyone who owns an Airbnb, or if you need to let a friend in so they can check on your pets. Installation is easy: you just need ten minutes and a screwdriver.

August’s 3rd Generation Smart Lock is available in silver for $129 or dark gray for $137.

See at Amazon

Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt

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If you leave your phone at home often — say, if you only take your smartwatch out for a jog — having a backup way to get back in your house is important. A physical key is always a good backup, but a PIN may be more convenient. If that sounds like something that’s important, Schlage has the perfect smart lock for you. You can lock and unlock your door with Alexa (with a hub, sold separately), or lock and unlock it from anywhere in the world with a smartphone app. The touchscreen is fingerprint resistant, so you won’t give away the PIN you use to unlock the door. The lock runs off of four AA batteries, so you don’t need to mess with the wiring in your home. Finally, you can set up alerts to tell if someone is trying to tamper with the lock or force their way inside.

Schlage’s Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt is available in aged bronze, bright chrome, matte black or satin nickel between $176 and $183.

See at Amazon

Yale Assure Lock

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Another great option for those that want to enter a PIN comes from Yale. Its Asure Lock works perfectly with Alexa — with an additional purchase of a hub — and you can manage the lock from anywhere in the world with a smartphone app. The lock can remember 250 unique PIN codes, so you can assign codes to guests without worrying that they have your master PIN. You can also lock every code out of the lock at once, in case something goes wrong. The lock operates on four AA batteries, and users note this was enough to power the lock for at least a year. There are two physical keys included if you need them as well, and installation just takes a few minutes and a screwdriver.

The Yale Assure Lock is available in bronze, brass and nickel between $175 and $200.

See at Amazon

Kwikset SmartCode Deadbolt

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A more traditional — read: non-touchscreen — option is the Kwikset SmartCode deadbolt. Because it uses regular buttons, there’s less of a chance of someone guessing your PIN because of leftover fingerprints. As with the other options, you can control this lock with your voice with Alexa, provided you purchase a hub. You can use up to 30 codes for the door, so you can give out guest codes without worrying about master access. If you forget to lock the door, it will automatically lock itself after thirty seconds. The lock operates on four AA batteries, though these are not included. Installation takes only a few minutes and a screwdriver.

Kwikset’s SmartCode Deadbolt is available in brass, nickel and bronze between $144 and $156.

See at Amazon

Kevo Convert

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If you can’t replace your entire lock because you’re renting your apartment or house, Kevo has the next best thing for you. The exterior lock stays the same, so your landlord can still access your space. But the interior lock can be switched out, so the whole system becomes smart. Pairing the lock with your smartphone will mean it will automatically unlock in Bluetooth range, and you can set it up to automatically lock after 30 seconds. If you purchase the Kevo Connected Hub, you’ll be able to operate the lock with Alexa, or control the lock from anywhere in the world. You can also send eKeys to your guests’ smartphones, or lock any guest out remotely.

The Kevo Convert is available in bronze or nickel for $120.

See at Amazon

What say you?

Which lock is the best for you? Let us know down below!

27
Jul

Amazon Testing Collaborative Shopping List Feature on iOS App and Website


Amazon has begun testing a small but useful new feature across its iOS app and mobile/desktop websites, allowing users to invite friends and family members to collaborate on a shopping list together. Amazon customers have long been asking for such a feature, and it seems like a small set of them have been selected to test it out ahead of a potential wider launch in the future (via Android Police).

On iOS, after you open the Amazon app and navigate to one of your wish lists, you’ll see a new prompt that says “Invite others to add or remove list items.” If you tap this, you’ll get the usual iOS sharing sheet with options like AirDrop, Message, E-Mail, and simply copying a URL to share with someone.

Once the recipient gets the list invite, Amazon will open up in a browser (both mobile and desktop appear to work), and your list will now effectively appear as one of their own in their Amazon account. They’ll be able to view it, add items to it, remove items, edit quantity, and edit comments. Collaborative lists will be designated as such at the top of the list near its name with two user icons and a “Shared” banner.


Once multiple members are sharing a list, a new conversation icon will appear on the right of the list’s page and act as a hub for users to send messages and discuss items on the list. Above this is an ellipsis icon that lets the list’s original owner manage members and remove any they don’t want to be able to access the list anymore. It appears that a few of these features are missing for some users at the time of writing, likely due to the feature still being in a testing phase.

The feature is in testing on iOS and Amazon.com on mobile and desktop websites, but Android Central reports that it does not appear to be on the native Android app yet. As with all feature tests, it’s unclear when — or if — collaborative shopping lists on Amazon will roll out to all users.

Tag: Amazon
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27
Jul

Apple Offers Free Repairs of Products Damaged in Japan Floods


Apple has announced that it will repair any Mac, iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, iPod, or Thunderbolt Display directly damaged by heavy rains in Japan in July, free of charge, so long as the product is actually repairable.

Affected customers can contact Apple by dialing 0120-27753-5 to arrange for pick up of any eligible products through the end of September, according to a notice on Apple’s website spotted by Japanese blog Mac Otakara.

Apple will service the damaged products free of charge and then return them to customers, although there may be delays, as delivery services by courier companies are suspended in some areas due to damage from the floodwaters.

Record rainfall in southwestern Japan in July resulted in widespread flooding, landslides, burst riverbanks, and collapsed buildings across the region.

Tag: Japan
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27
Jul

Moto E5 Play review


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Research Center:

Moto E5 Play

Motorola’s G- and E-series smartphones have been the bedrock of budget phones for the past few years. This year, there’s plenty more competition to choose from, but many of our favorites still come from Motorola — ranging from the Moto G6 to the Moto E5 Plus. The latest budget addition we’re looking at is the cheapest phone the Lenovo-owned company has to offer, the Moto E5 Play.

You can’t buy the Moto E5 Play unlocked, but it is available at a variety of carriers including Verizon, and Sprint. Each carrier is charging a different price, from as little as $70 to $192. If it’s available at your carrier for under $150, and you don’t want to pay much for a smartphone, you should buy the E5 Play.

There are compromises — the camera isn’t great, and this phone won’t receive the upcoming version of Android. But with a full day’s worth of battery (that’s also removeable), a solid display, decent performance, and a nice design, the Moto E5 Play is a real bargain.

Basic design, satisfactory display

There’s nothing impressive or special about the Moto E5 Play’s design. It’s about as basic as a phone can look, with chunky bezels surrounding the screen on the front, and a textured, cheap-feeling plastic back.

Sitting up top is the front-facing camera and a flash, with the earpiece right in between. This is the only speaker on the phone, and while it sounds decent indoors, it’s easily drowned outside. A volume rocker is situated on the right side, and the power button is underneath it.

moto e5 play clock widget

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There’s thankfully a headphone jack at the top, and you’ll find a MicroUSB charging port at the bottom. We do wish Motorola went with the universal and convenient USB Type-C charging port, but the company confirmed to Digital Trends that all its 2019 phones will have a Type-C port.

The slightly curved edges help with grip, and the phone is lightweight, which helps make it comfortable to hold. Flip it around, and the back feels minimal and organized. There’s a circular single-lens camera module at the top, which sticks out from the back ever-so-slightly, and it also houses the flash. Below it is an indented fingerprint sensor, complete with Motorola’s logo.

There’s nothing impressive or special about the Moto E5 Play’s design.

The fingerprint sensor is placed in a comfortable spot, and it’s fairly responsive. You should know the Virgin Mobile, Cricket Mobile (Moto E5 Cruise), and Boost Mobile variants of the E5 Play don’t include a fingerprint sensor, which is disappointing.

We like how simple the back of the phone looks — the textured black pattern also adds a nice touch, even if it does feel cheap. You can pop the back on and off to access the SIM slot, removable battery, and MicroSD slot. Removable batteries are a dying fad with smartphones, but there’s still strong interest in them because it’s more convenient to swap out batteries instead of lugging around a heavy portable battery charger. That being said, we’ve yet to find a place that sells the Moto E5 Play’s battery.

Moto E5 Play Compared To

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HTC U11 Life

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Sony Xperia XZ1

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Lenovo Moto G5 Plus

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ZTE Axon 7 mini

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Meizu Pro 6

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Huawei Honor 8

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Nextbit Robin

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Huawei Honor 7

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Huawei P8

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Motorola Droid Turbo

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Sony Xperia Z3

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LG G2

The 5.2-inch LCD display on the front has a 16:19 aspect ratio with a 1,280 x 720 pixel resolution. The screen looks sharp and colorful, but we did have trouble seeing it outdoors in direct sunlight. We found ourselves often keeping the brightness on the higher side to comfortably see and read what’s on the screen. Despite the lower HD resolution, we didn’t have any issues or problems with video quality when watching movies and shows on the Moto E5 Play.

As for durability, there’s no IP rating for the phone so you’ll want to keep it away from water. Motorola does say there is a water-repellent coating for slight water exposure to protect it in the rain or from accidental spills. We did drop the E5 Play once on concrete (at a height of around 1 and a half feet), and the phone only suffered a minor ding on the side. Just to be safe, you’ll probably want to grab a case.

Decent performance

The Moto E5 Play is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 425 or Snapdragon 427, depending on the carrier it’s sold from. For example, Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile, and Sprint sell the model with the Snapdragon 427, whereas the rest — including Verizon — sell the slightly-weaker Snapdragon 425 model. Ours has the Snapdragon 425, but all models come with 2GB of RAM.

Performance is average — apps will open slowly, and there’s a bit of stutter when scrolling in apps like Twitter or Facebook. But moving throughout the user interface, like the Settings menu and the home screen, didn’t pose any problems or lag.

Here are a few benchmark results:

  • AnTuTu 3DBench: 43,358
  • Geekbench CPU: single-core 651; multi-core 1,789
  • 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme: 53

The Moto E5 Play actually scored higher than the Moto G6 Play (41,158 on AnTuTu), which is more expensive. Benchmark scores aren’t the best measure of real-world performance, though, and we didn’t run into any problems that would categorize the Moto E5 Play as unusable. We were generally able to complete day-to-day tasks without much frustration. It’s when you want to do multiple things within a short time period that the phone starts to frustratingly slow down. If you’re not a power user, we think you’ll be satisfied here.

moto e5 play hdr auto Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

When it comes to gaming, we didn’t run into any major hiccups playing The Sims Mobile. The game did lag a little when swiping through different parts of the map, but the graphics look great and we were still able to enjoy the game.

There’s only 16GB of storage on the Moto E5 Play, which is easy to fill up in a short amount of time. Thankfully, a MicroSD card slot lets you add up to 128GB of additional storage if you need it.

No Android P

The Moto E5 Play ships with Android 8.0 Oreo, and the only updates you can expect to see are for security. Motorola confirmed to Digital Trends that the Moto E5 Play will not receive Android P, so that might be something to consider before purchasing the device. Android P is the next version of Android that’s set to release around the end of August.

Regardless, the software experience is almost stock Android — uncluttered and simple to use. There’s very little bloatware, with just your standard suite of Google apps pre-installed, and you can swipe right from the home screen to access the Google Feed. Press and hold the home button to activate Google Assistant.

Not all the features are available here. We’re sad to see some of our favorite gestures not included.

There is the Moto app that’s standard on all Motorola phones, but not all the features are available here. We’re sad to see some of our favorite gestures not included — such as making a chopping gesture twice to turn on the flashlight, or twisting the phone twice to open the camera. You can touch the screen with three fingertips to capture a screenshot, put your phone face down to activate do not disturb mode, pick up the phone to stop ringing, and swipe down to the left or right of the screen to shrink the screen for one-handed mode. That’s about it. We didn’t use any of these features.

Thankfully Moto Display is available, so you can see notifications fading in and out of the lockscreen. There’s also access to the blue-light filter, and Attentive Display, which keeps the screen on while you’re looking at it.

Decent camera, poor low-light shots

As with most budget smartphones, the camera on the Moto E5 Play struggles in low-light environments.  The 8-megapixel rear camera does take passable photos in broad daylight — they can look a little flat sometimes — but there are some surprisingly good photos that come through.


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But as soon as there isn’t enough light, the camera drops in quality. Even an overcast sky is enough to make the photos look dull, grainy, and lacking in detail. Things get worse indoors with low lighting, as the results can often look unrecognizable — adding flash only makes them look worse and washed out. The option to adjust the exposure in the viewfinder didn’t make much of a difference.


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The 5-megapixel front-facing camera isn’t too impressive for selfies either. Look close and every photo looks blurry and grainy. The built-in Face Beauty feature also made us look strange — it seemed to have airbrushed not only our skin (to make us look more pale) but also our eyebrows and pieces of our hair. Not very flattering.

While the camera app itself is quick to open, we saw some lag when snapping a photo, which we’ve often found to be a problem on Motorola phones.

Day-long battery

With a 2,800mAh battery powering the Moto E5 Play, we were able to get a full day out of the smartphone. This includes accessing email notifications, using social media and productivity apps, taking photos, along with text messaging. On average, we found that our device was at about 85 percent by noon (having taken it off the charger at around 8:30 a.m.), and by the end of the workday at 5 p.m., it was around 74 percent.

You don’t have to worry about it dying on you before the day is over.

By about 10 p.m., the phone hit 68 percent and that was after catching up on apps like Instagram, Twitter, and news on our commute home. With lighter phone usage, the phone could definitely last into the second day, so you don’t have to worry about it dying on you before the day is over.

It also comes with either 5-watt or 10-watt charger (depending on the carrier), which allows for better rapid charging capabilities.

Price, availability, and warranty information

The Moto E5 Play isn’t available unlocked yet, so you’ll have to purchase it through a carrier, where it varies in price. At Verizon, it’ll cost $70, whereas Boost Mobile sells it for $80. Under Cricket Wireless, it’s known as the Moto E5 Cruise, and it will only set you back $40, but you need to sign up for a new line or upgrade your existing device. By transferring your number, you could even get the device for free.

moto e5 play headphone jack Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

You can also purchase it from Best Buy — but it is a bit pricier — ranging from $95 to $130 depending on the carrier it’s locked in with. Xfinity Mobile sells it for $120, but it’s the most expensive on Sprint, which is carrying the phone for $192. Keep in mind that many of the more expensive versions have the Snapdragon 427 processor, which is slightly better. We don’t think the performance difference will be noticeable though.

Motorola offers a standard one-year warranty that protects against manufacturer defects. Accidental drops or water defects aren’t covered.

Our Take

For such a cheap price, the Moto E5 Play packs in all the basics you need for a solid smartphone experience.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes, if you’re eyeing a Moto E5 Play that’s more than $130, we recommend taking a look at the Moto E5 Plus. It has a massive 5,000mAh battery, more RAM, and a slightly better processor that should provide an overall better experience. It also comes with the useful Moto gestures.

Our favorite budget pick is the Nokia 6.1 for $270, with the standard Moto G6 following it swiftly behind. There’s also the Honor 7X worth considering, since it’s only $200. You can learn more in our best cheap phones guide.

How long will it last?

The Moto E5 Play should last you around two years. Since it’s made of plastic, you don’t have to worry about shattering it compared to all-glass phones.

It might receive a few security updates, but this is the only Android version you will get, so you will likely want to upgrade yourself by the two-year mark.

Should you buy it?

Yes, but it depends on the price from the carrier. We don’t think it’s worth purchasing if the carrier is selling a model without a fingerprint sensor, or if it costs more than $130. Otherwise, this phone is a really good bargain.

27
Jul

The MacBook Pro’s tight security comes with an annoying compromise


(in)Secure is a weekly column that dives into the rapidly escalating topic of cybersecurity.

The launch of the 2018 MacBook Pro has been rife with controversy, with issues ranging from the performance to the keyboard. While we’re at it, let’s throw one more log on the fire, shall we?

The new MacBook Pros come with what Apple calls the T2 coprocessor — a chip first featured in the iMac Pro. Although its main reason for inclusion is Siri voice activation, it also has important implications on security and storage. Better security is great, but unfortunately, the T2 coprocessor isn’t without problem.

The return of the T2

The T2 coprocessor brings all sorts of security features to the MacBook Pros. In its press release, Apple says it has “support for secure boot” and “on-the-fly encrypted storage,” two features that first came when the T2 showed up in last year’s iMac Pro. These security features might not sound like a big deal, but they’ll have a much larger effect on users than activating Siri with your voice.

As soon as the Apple logo appears, the T2 is in control, and acts as Apple’s “root of trust.”

Apple’s never been all that forthcoming about the exact processes these chips control, but there are a few things we know the T2 does handle. That includes Boot-up, storage, and the Touch Bar/Touch ID. Not only are these processes the Intel CPU and third-party controllers no longer must handle, it keeps them protected in Apple’s closed system of stopgaps.

A great example is the boot-up process, which is now partially handled by the T2. As detailed in initial reports about the coprocessor in the iMac Pro, the T2 verifies everything about the system before it’s allowed to move forward. As soon as the Apple logo appears, the T2 is in control, and acts as Apple’s “root of trust” to ensure that everything checks out.

Encrypted storage is equally important. Because the functions of the conventional disk controller have been replaced by the T2, the coprocessor now has direct control over the storage in your MacBook Pro.

Apple’s T2 coprocessor

That kind of access allows Apple to ensure every piece of data in the SSD is automatically protected and encrypted. That lets Apple to do things like secure your biometric data outside of the SSD. Right now, that’s just the TouchID sensor, but in the future that could include something like FaceID.

However, some reports were made to bring these new security features to the MacBook Pro.

The T2’s Achilles’ heel

While the MacBook Pro’s new storage is fast and safe, the technology has introduced a new problem as well.

In older models of the MacBook Pro, technicians had access to a data access recovery port on the logic board. Thanks to a special tool Apple developed, this port enabled the data of your SSD to be saved — even on a failed logic board. Because memory has been soldered on to the board of MacBooks since 2016, this was the only way to save the data if something went awry on your computer. It was as simple as bringing your dead laptop to a local Apple Store.

But now, thanks to a breakdown by iFixit, we know that data access recovery port is missing on new MacBook Pros. Apple may have another backup plan for recovering data, but none that it has shared so far.

Apple made it much harder to save your data from the system.

What does this have to do with security? Well, according to sources in contact with MacRumors, this data recovery port was “likely removed because 2018 MacBook Pro models feature Apple’s custom T2 chip, which provides hardware encryption for the SSD storage.”

In other words, to add this extra dose of security with its new processor, Apple’s made it much harder to save your data from the system. That’s great for security, but not great if your MacBook fails.

And, according to internal documents obtained by MacRumors, Apple technicians are advised to encourage users to back up their systems using Time Machine. So, while you can try to stay backed up or possibly send your whole system to a very expensive data recovery specialist, Apple’s ability to service its own products has dwindled. The reliability and service that set Apple’s products apart shrinks by the day.

As with many issues regarding Mac these days, it’s one step forward, two steps back.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The Apple T2 chip in the latest MacBook Pros offer a deeper level of security
  • If you own a 2018 MacBook Pro, you will want to maintain data backups
  • Apple’s T2 chip may be causing issues in iMac Pro and 2018 MacBook Pros
  • Apple’s MacBook Pro problem will make you want to backup your files ASAP
  • MacBook Pro 13-inch with Touch Bar review



27
Jul

Watch Virgin Galactic’s tourist spacecraft reach its highest altitude to date


Any of the hundreds of people who’ve already paid $250,000 for the ride of a lifetime with Virgin Galactic will be eyeing their ticket with growing excitement following another successful test flight by the team on Thursday, July 26.

For the third time in four months, Richard Branson’s private space company achieved a flawless rocket-powered supersonic test flight of VSS Unity, the two-crew, six-passenger spacecraft that will one day take paying space tourists some 62 miles (100 km) above the surface of the Earth.

Following a smooth release from carrier aircraft VMS Eve at 46,500 feet (14,175 meters) over California’s Mojave Desert, pilots Dave Mackay and Mike Masucci fired up the spacecraft’s rocket motor before embarking upon a near-vertical climb at 2.47 times the speed of sound to an altitude of 32 miles (50 km), Virgin Galactic said in a report on its website.

Notably, Thursday’s test flight took Unity to its highest altitude yet, and about halfway to its target altitude at the edge of space.

It also enabled the team to gather valuable data in a number of areas, including supersonic aerodynamics and thermal dynamics. Other sensors aboard Unity measured precise cabin conditions during powered flight.

After landing safely back at Mojave Air and Space Port, chief pilot Mackay described the experience as “a thrill from start to finish.”

He added: “Unity’s rocket motor performed magnificently again and Sooch pulled off a smooth landing. This was a new altitude record for both of us in the cockpit … and the views of Earth from the black sky were magnificent.”

Sooch was no less enthusiastic about the experience: “Having been a U2 pilot and done a lot of high altitude work, or what I thought was high altitude work, the view from 170,000 feet was just totally amazing.”

The pilot described the flight as “exciting and frankly beautiful,” adding, “We were able to complete a large number of test points which will give us good insight as we progress to our goal of commercial service.”

With the team’s confidence growing, Branson said this week that a commercial service for so-called “space tourists” could launch by the end of this year.

Branson, who’s already training for a place on the debut flight, said recently that Virgin Galactic is neck and neck with Blue Origin — owned by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos — in the race to launch the first commercial space tourism service.

But never far from the team’s mind is the disaster Virgin Galactic suffered in 2014 when one of its pilots died in a failed test flight.

“Ultimately, we have to do it safely,” Branson said recently. “It’s more a race with ourselves to make sure we have the craft that are safe to put people up there.”

Virgin Galactic suspended air operations for two years following the tragedy before embarking on a glide test of its then-new spaceplane, VSS Unity, in 2016.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Watch Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic test its tourist spaceplane
  • Virgin Galactic wants to launch space tourism flights from an Italian spaceport
  • Virgin Galactic ‘neck and neck’ with Blue Origin in space tourism race
  • Blue Origin sends New Shepard space capsule to its highest altitude yet
  • This crash-tastic video shows why rocket launches aren’t easy



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