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12
Aug

Full specs and hands-on photo leak for the BlackBerry KEY2 LE


Like the BlackBerry KEYone? You’re going to love the KEY2 😍

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Following a heap of rumors and leaks, BlackBerry finally unveiled the highly-anticipated KEY2 on June 7, 2018. The KEY2 is a direct successor to last year’s KEYone and retains the same general design while offering upgraded specs across the board.

There’s a lot to unpack with the KEY2, so let’s go ahead and get into it.

The latest BlackBerry KEY2 news

August 10, 2018 β€” BlackBerry KEY2 LE design and specs revealed in new leak

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Looks like the KEY2 LE is the real deal!

Our friends at Android Police recently shared a heap of info regarding the phone, including the above picture and a list of its official specifications. As expected, the KEY2 LE looks a lot like the regular KEY2 but trims back some of its internals to allow for a (hopefully) more reasonable price.

The current spec sheet for the KEY2 LE compared to the KEY2 is as follows:

Display 4.5-inch 1080 x 1620 LCD 4.5-inch 1080 x 1620 LCD
Processor Snapdragon 636 Snapdragon 660
Storage 32GB or 64GB 64GB
RAM 4GB 6GB
Rear Cameras 13MP + 5MP 12MP + 12MP
Battery 3000mAh 3500mAh
Dimensions 151.4 x 71.8 x 8.5 mm 151.4 x 71.8 x 8.5 mm
Weight 168 g 168 g

In addition to the difference in specs, it’s also reported that they keyboard will be slightly different. The style appears to be more in-line with that of the KEYone, and unfortunately, it looks like the awesome trackpad functionality won’t be available on the KEY2 LE, either.

July 30, 2018 β€” BlackBerry’s next phone will be the KEY2 LE

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Earlier this month, a hands-on photo appeared showcasing a new BlackBerry phone that’s expected to be a lite version of the recently released KEY2. Following that, an FCC document has now confirmed that this handset will go by the name of the BlackBerry KEY2 LE.

We were previously expecting this phone to be called the KEY2 Lite, but as the branding above shows, BlackBerry is going with KEY2 LE instead.

It’s not entirely clear what LE will stand for, but seeing as how we’re expecting it to be a more affordable version of the KEY2, Lite Edition is the most likely contender.

All the big details

Read our full review!

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The KEY2 doesn’t do too much that’s different to the KEYone, but it improves everything in either minor or major ways. Three areas, in particular, get focus: performance, keyboard quality, and design.

There’s no doubt that the KEY2 is a faster, better-looking version of its predecessor, but how do things like the camera, battery, and typing experience hold up in day-to-day use?

For the full lowdown on the KEY2, check out Daniel’s review! πŸ‘‡

BlackBerry KEY2 review: Just my type

See how it compares to the KEYone

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The BlackBerry KEYone was no slouch of a phone, but with the KEY2, BlackBerry made upgrades in just about every area imaginable.

Between higher-end specs, the addition of dual cameras, improved keyboard, and more, the KEY2 is a better gadget in just about every regard.

However, if you already shelled out $550 for the KEYone last year, is it really worth spending another $650 this year? Let Daniel help you out with that dilemma in the comparison below πŸ‘‡

BlackBerry KEY2 vs. BlackBerry KEYone: Should you upgrade?

The design is mostly the same

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One of the main reasons the KEYone stood out so much was thanks to its productivity-focused design. Instead of releasing a glass, all-screen slab like so many other companies, BlackBerry kicked out a chunky, physical keyboard-touting phone.

With the KEY2, that theme is present once again.

The KEY2 measures in at 151.4 mm x 71.8mm x 8.5mm, making it taller, yet thinner, than the KEYone. The screen is once again a 4.5-inch panel with a 1620 x 1080 resolution, and the 3:2 aspect ratio makes a return, too.

You’ve got access to 35 backlit keys on the physical keyboard, and similar to the KEYone, the spacebar doubles as an integrated fingerprint sensor.

It’s got more RAM and a faster processor, but the battery is slightly smaller

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Although the KEY2 may look similar to the KEYone on the outside, it’s got a lot of improvements under the hood.

Last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor and measly 3GB RAM have been replaced with a Snapdragon 660 and impressive 6GB RAM. You also have your choice between 64 or 128GB of internal storage, both of which can be upgraded to 256GB via a microSD card.

The battery is ever-so-slightly smaller at 3,500 mAh compared to the KEYone’s 3,505 mAh unit, but thanks to the power-sipping nature of the 660, the KEY2 should still be a battery champ.

BlackBerry KEY2 and 6GB of RAM: Why it’s a big deal

BlackBerry steps up to dual cameras

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The single 12MP rear camera on the KEYone was fine. It had the capacity to take decent photos, but often struggled in low-light and produced very shakey 4K video.

You don’t buy BlackBerry phones for their excellent cameras, but this is another area where the KEY2 should offer some serious improvements.

Around back, BlackBerry’s outfitted the KEY2 with dual 12MP sensors. The primary one features a large 1.28um pixel size with f/1.8 aperture while the secondary one touts a 1.0um pixel size and f/2.6 aperture. You can record video in 4K at 30 FPS, dual-tone flash helps to brighten dark scenes, and there’s Phase Detection Autofocus.

In regards to the selfie camera, you’re looking at an 8MP sensor that’s capable of recording 1080p video at 30 FPS.

You’ll need to cough up $650 to own one

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As you’d expect, the KEY2’s many enhancements have resulted in a steeper price tag compared to last year’s model.

While the KEYone started out at $550 in the U.S., the KEY2 is $100 more expensive at $650. Elsewhere, the KEY2 will cost €649 EU, Β£579 GB, and $829 CDN.

Specifics on the U.S. release are still up in the air, but BlackBerry’s since confirmed that the KEY2 is coming to Canadian retailers and carriers in July.

Where to buy the BlackBerry KEY2

BlackBerry KEY2

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

Buy the BlackBerry KEY2

Updated June 27, 2018: Added our full review of the KEY2.

12
Aug

The best replacement bands for your Samsung Gear Fit 2


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Update the look of your Gear Fit 2 with these stylish band options!

The Samsung Gear Fit 2 is a pretty good fitness band that includes a feature typically found on smartwatches: the ability to swap out the 22mm bands for other colors or styles.

If you prefer to wear yours 24/7, having a couple extra bands can help you accessorize your Gear Fit 2, whether you’re attending a formal affair or just like to spice things up with a fresh splash of color. There’s a number of great, affordable options out there, so let’s dive in!

  • MoKo Soft Silicone Replacement Sport Bands
  • Moretek Fit 2 Wrist Straps
  • V-Moro Metal Replacement bands
  • Maxjoy Metal Replacement Straps
  • MDW Security Clasps

MoKo Soft Silicone Replacement Sports Bands

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MoKo offers a wide range of color options for their silicone straps for the Gear Fit 2. Each strap is adjustable to fit small or large wrists (4.96″ – 8.38″) via the same style of metal plug used on the strap that came with the Gear Fit 2. Bands can be swapped in and out quickly with the one-button quick release for locking the watch band, making it convenient to have a fresh strap to swap out after a sweaty workout.

With a price of only $10 compared to Samsung’s stock replacement for the black, you can economically afford to get a couple of these in your favorite colors, then keep them in a bit of a rotation so your wrist always feeling fresh and looking fine.

See styles at Amazon

Moretek Fit 2 Wrist Straps

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Moretek offers two different styles of wristbands for the Gear Fit 2: a more traditional strap available in 12 different color and pattern options and a rugged strap (pictured) that offers impact protection for your tracker’s watch face. Everything is made of a skin-friendly silicone material and held on your wrist with a traditional watch strap buckle. The rugged bands are definitely going to add some bulk to your wrist, but whether you’re playing a high-impact sport or simply prone to banging it against doorways, that extra protection might save you from incidental damage. Get yours in a funky style for just $10.

See at Amazon

V-Moro Metal Replacement bands

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If you’re after a metal strap option for a more stylish look, V-Moro has you covered with two distinct styles β€” a classic metal link band and a Milanese loop band featuring a magnetic clasp. Both styles are available in silver or black, with the Milanese band (pictured) sold in small and large sizes, so choose accordingly.

The metal band includes a tool for adding and removing links for adjusting sizes. Both are great for incorporating your Gear Fit 2 as an accessory in a professional wardrobe. V-Moro also offers a medium-sized silicone strap on the same Amazon listing. In stark contrast to the stylish metal offerings, these are extremely utilitarian and offer that “classic” fitness tracker look, with five color options to choose from. Get yours for under $20.

See styles at Amazon

Maxjoy Metal Replacement Straps

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Not everyone digs the rubber strap look. While it might be ideal for getting sweaty at the gym if you’re planning to wear your Gear Fit 2 out on the town you might be after a classier look.

Maxjoy has a line of stylish metal replacement straps for your Gear Fit 2 that includes Milanese loop bands as well as metal link bands made of high-quality stainless steel. The Milanese bands are available in black, silver, and rose gold for just $17, or you can choose between a black or silver metal link band for just $20. All bands are backed by a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee and a 12-month warranty which means you can buy with confidence.

See at Amazon

MDW Security Clasps

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Not digging the band recommendations above? We get it. Frankly, it’s quite alright to love the band that came with your Gear Fit 2. However, there have been reports of bands coming unclasped or otherwise falling off people’s wrists. Maybe this has happened to you.

Allow us to share this recommendation from the comments. You can get a 7-pack of these colorful security clasps for just $6 that fit over the band and ensures your band never pops off. They should offer the extra protection from your Fit 2 falling off your wrist while also letting you add a splash of color.

See at Amazon

How do you accessorize your Gear Fit 2?

Are you a band swapper? What’s your favorite style for your Gear Fit 2? Let us know in the comments!

Updated August 2018: Updated pricing and buy links for our selections. These are still your best options for accessorizing your Gear Fit 2!

12
Aug

Palm is coming back in the most disappointing way possible


This… this was not what I had in mind.

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There was a phrase that exemplified Palm devices back in the day: the Zen of Palm. Get the hardware and software out of the way to make everyday tasks quick and simple. I think about it every time I get frustrated trying to edit an alarm on an iPhone.

TCL’s held the defunct Palm brand for several years, but to what end? The leak of a new Palm phone was a surprise in more ways than one.

First, some history…

Palm holds a special place in my heart, and for many old mobile tech nerds. Palm OS was the basis on which Mobile Nations was founded nearly two decades ago.

My introduction to Palm came in 1999 when my father got a Palm Vx PDA. I had Palm Treo smartphones years before the iPhone or Android and immediately hopped on the Palm webOS bandwagon in 2009. It was a graceful and intuitive interpretation of the modern smartphone that made early iPhones and Android seem clunky.

Multitasking app cards? Gesture interface navigation? Web-based apps? webOS, all of it.

The multitasking cards and swipe gestures of Android 9.0 Pie and the iPhone X were established a decade ago by webOS. Web tech app platforms like Proton and PWA are a concept that webOS pioneered. I’m delighted that the spirit of webOS lives on across mobile tech.

Palm and BlackBerry were overwhelmed by iOS and Android. BlackBerry made some tremendously bad bets, but survives today making security software and services, and licenses their brand (today’s BlackBerry phones are made by TCL and Optiemus), Palm’s story is sadder. webOS was a tech media darling, even though the Pre hardware was fragile and anemic. It launched on 3rd-place Sprint and people still lined up to buy it on day one.

Drowning in unsold inventory after Verizon scuttled a marketing deal in favor of Motorola’s Droid, Palm was saved by a $1.2 billion acquisition by HP. A promise of heavy investment bore fruit a year later with the TouchPad tablet, the tiny Veer smartphone, and the Pre3 β€” the phone fans were waiting for. There were even plans to integrate webOS onto millions of HP PCs.

pre3-hero.jpg?itok=dwyj_77j The HP Pre3 β€” the short-lived phone that gave webOS the hardware it deserved.

But… a change in HP’s leadership sapped support for webOS. The new CEO, LΓ©o Apotheker, wasn’t wrong that building webOS into a competitive and profitable platform would take much more investment than the already profitable HP Enterprise business. The TouchPad wasn’t a huge seller at launch and Apotheker quickly shuttered the webOS operation.

tl;dr: webOS was great, Verizon screwed Palm, HP saved Palm, HP screwed Palm and sold it for scrap.

It was one of the dumbest moves in tech history, right up there with Yahoo’s failure to buy Google, or Kodak burying their digital photography tech to protect their film business. The young smartphone market could’ve supported a third ecosystem, but HP cared more about IT services.

HP worked to open source webOS, and LG bought the remaining webOS engineers and assets. webOS lives on today as excellent LG smart TV software.

HP’s surprise 2014 sale of the Palm brand to TCL was a hint of what was to come. TCL was contracted to build BlackBerry’s Android phones, then flipped the arrangement and licensed the BlackBerry brand.

Resurrection

TCL’s teased Palm occasionally through the years, and in early 2018 committed to new Palm devices. It was welcome news for Palm fans β€” TCL has manufacturing expertise and scale, global carrier partnerships, and has made excellent phones like the Alcatel Idol 4 and BlackBerry Key2.

Good brands are hard. Established brands with positive history are harder. There’s a reason TCL spent millions for rights to the BlackBerry name; same with HMD Global for the Nokia name. Even trusted old Kodak is still licensed and slapped on all manner of garbage.

BlackBerry and Nokia got well-deserved second acts. According to the latest leaks, TCL is giving Palm the opposite. A new Palm phone is coming to Verizon β€” it’s a tiny thing running customized Android on bare-bones specs. Very little about it evokes the Palm that I knew and loved. It looks like a shrunken iPhone X running Apple Watch software.

palm-pepito-ap-render.jpeg?itok=u1LIEsm8 What in the…

There’s a market for small phones, for simple phones, and for cheap phones. None of that’s offensive; today you can make a phone that is all those things and doesn’t suck.

Palm’s phones packed state-of-the-art software and hardware. This “Pepito” has a pitiful processor and memory with barely adequate storage behind a tiny display. Android 8.1 Oreo isn’t bad, but the glimpse of the Pepito’s simplified Android interface is disappointing. Google and Apple have finally caught up to and surpassed most webOS features with Android 9 and iOS 12. I’m fine with that β€” webOS doesn’t need to return.

What TCL is doing with the Palm brand is the opposite of what most fans would want. An underpowered mini-phone is on few wishlists. Are today’s phones big β€” perhaps too big? Sure. But a 3.3-inch 720p LCD display with a pathetic 800mAh battery is not the answer.

The window for a high-end Palm resurrection may have passed, as crushing as that realization may be.

All of Palm’s webOS phones were compact, but they didn’t lack oomph. TCL’s Pepito offers a screen that’s barely bigger (3.3 inches) than the decade-old Pre (3.1 inches) β€” but the Pre at least had a slide-out physical keyboard.

I’ll give TCL credit: they’re doing something different. The Pepito isn’t yet another big-screen slab Android phone. Anybody can do that β€” TCL does that with their Alcatel brand, so does Samsung, LG, OnePlus, Google, and everybody else. The market for keyboard phones is small and TCL’s BlackBerry will sell you one if that’s your thing. There’s even precedent for small Palm phones β€” the HP Veer was adorably tiny in 2011 and is even more so today.

From daydream to nightmare

During the launch of another enormous Samsung Galaxy Note, I thought about TCL and Palm. They could use their BlackBerry keyboard expertise to make a modern slider with the comfortable organic curves of a Palm phone. Running Android Pie, it’d be basically a modern descendent of the Pre. Throw in a high-end processor and quality cameras and you’d have one heck of a phone.

The Pepito crushed that dream. Hard.

I know the market for my dream phone is small, as is the cadre of loyal Palm fans. The window for a high-end Palm resurrection may have passed β€” OnePlus filled that void with smartly-designed phones with top-shelf specs and a minimalist approach to Android.

TCL’s new Palm is not for Palm’s old fans. It’s not trying in vain for a sliver of the high-end market. It’s not even an attempt to recapture the Zen of Palm. It’s a brand that TCL bought without a plan, so they’re putting it on a phone for Verizon customers that have complained that today’s phones are too expensive, too big, and too complicated. It’s an Android-powered Jitterbug.

The Palm I loved is gone. The Palm I want will never be. The Palm we’re getting is a massive disappointment.

12
Aug

Find out more about your heritage with the $59 AncestryDNA Genetic Test kit


Explore your roots.

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AncestryDNA’s genetic testing kit is a fantastic way to learn more your family and where you come from, and it’s currently on sale with a $40 discount at Amazon. The kit regularly sells for $99 when it’s not discounted, which is still really a worthwhile fee when you consider what the service is offering. AncestryDNA’s website is also offering this discount.

This genetic testing kit uses your saliva to collect and analyze your DNA. After you send in your sample, the AncestryDNA people will analyze it and uncover your ethnic mix. It’s based on a DNA network that is six million strong and growing and covers more than 165 regions worldwide. This is one of the more popular testing kits out there and has 3.8 stars based on 3,457 user reviews on Amazon.

See at Amazon

12
Aug

Google now warns players that Fortnite isn’t available on the Play Store


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The hottest game of 2018 has finally arrived on Android.

Fortnite has been blowing up lately. Millions of people have become obsessed with the game, both as players and just watching popular Twitch streamers play the game.

Interested to learn more about what the heck Fortnite is all about? Just keep reading.

What’s new with Fortnite?

August 10, 2018 β€” Google now warns players that Fortnite isn’t available on the Play Store

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Epic’s decision to not release Fortnite on the Play Store is a controversial one for a lot of reasons β€” mainly because it gives crooks a field day with tricking people into downloading fake versions that serve to do nothing but cause trouble.

In an effort to combat this, searching for “Fortnite” on the Play Store now returns a message that reads, “Fortnite Battle Royale by Epic Games, Inc is not available on Google Play.”

It’s a small heads-up to let people know the legit version of Fortnite isn’t anywhere to be found, and hopefully, it’ll be enough to stop people from downloading bad actors.

Users will also see the warning pop up when searching for “Fortnite Battle Royale”, “Fortnite Mobile”, etc.

August 9, 2018 β€” Fortnite Beta for Android is officially live, exclusive to Samsung Galaxy devices until August 12

In spite of all of those clickbait ads you’ve probably seen over the past several months, the Fortnite Beta was officially announced today at the Samsung Unpacked event alongside the Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

Samsung and Epic Games have teamed up to make Fortnite exclusive to Samsung Galaxy phones until August 12, at which point the beta will be opened up to other Android devices. If you’ve got a Samsung Galaxy S7 or better, you can download and start playing Fortnite on your phone right now!

All the big details

What is Fortnite?

Fortnite is what would happen if you combined two of the most addictive games out there β€” Minecraft and PUBG.

Fortnite offers a free 100-player Player Vs Player (PvP) Battle Royale game mode. Just like PUBG, you’re dropped onto the large island map and must arm yourself and outlive your competition. But in Fortnite, you always start out armed with a pickaxe which can be used as a melee weapon or to harvest raw supplies for building walls, ramps, and shelters.

It certainly adds extra layers of strategy to the format, creating essentially a perfect storm of addictive gaming action that’s as fun to watch as it is to play. Oh, speaking of storms all the action takes place in the eye of a deadly electrical storm meaning you can’t just hunker down and hide out the whole game. You got to keep moving.

How do you play the game?

Just like PUBG, your goal is to be the last man standing β€” with up to 100 players involved in each match, that’s no small task.

Each game starts with the players jumping out of the flying “Battle Bus” and parachuting down onto a giant island. Once landed, you must loot nearby buildings for items, guns, and ammo to defend yourself and attack other players.

You also need to keep an eye on the map, as every few minutes the storm closes in on the play area. If you’re caught in the storm, you slowly die so you do not want to forget to regularly check where you are on the map. Eventually, the play constricts to a tiny area for the final showdown between the remaining players β€” there can only be one winner!

Unlike PUBG, you’re able to carry more than two guns. Instead, you’re limited to the number of weapons and items you can carry at one time. Also, guns are color-coded to denote their rarity β€” from grey (common) to orange (legendary) β€” and the rarer the gun, the deadlier it is.

Then there’s the crafting element. Every player starts out with a pickaxe which can be used as a melee weapon or used to break down trees and buildings to harvest the raw resources. You can then use these raw resources to build your own structures, whether it be a defensive wall to provide cover from an advancing enemy, a set of stairs to reach the second floor of a building or your own watchtower to snipe players from across the map. The resources you mine will determine the strength. Steel is stronger than brick, which is stronger than wood.

The latest update to the game for the Season 5 Battle Pass has introduced a slew of new map areas and gameplay features including the All-Terrain Kart (ATK) which let you and your squad move around the map faster than ever before. You can read more about the latest tweaks in the full release notes.

Where can I download the game?

Since Epic Games has decided to release Fortnite for Android outside the confines of the Google Play Store, you’ll need to download the Fortnite Installer APK to get the game on your phone.

As of August 9, the Android beta is only available on Samsung Galaxy devices (S7 or better, but you’ll want to be playing this game in the newest and biggest Galaxy phone β€” S8+, S9+, or Note 8 β€” if possible. If you sign up for the Android beta with Epic Games you’ll be emailed a link to the installer as soon as the beta is made available to non-Samsung devices.

How to download the Fortnite Beta on your phone

Is it free to play?

Fortnite for mobile includes the PvP Battle Royale game that’s free to play across all platforms. The console versions have a paid game mode called Save The World that’s Player vs Environment (PvE). Save The World plays more like Minecraft, where you’re harvesting more resources and stocking up on loot to survive waves of AI enemies in a sort of tower defense-style of gameplay.

The PvE mode will not be available in Fortnite Mobile due to CPU limitations and, frankly, it’s the PvP mode that everyone is crazy for so that’s quite alright with us.

Having said that, there are some reasons to spend money in Fortnite. The best way to spend money is to buy a Battle Pass which gives you daily challenges over the span of a Fortnite Season (typically lasts 10 weeks) which let you unlock a ton of cool outfits, dance emotes, and other goodies to customize your character. You can also spend V-Bucks, the in-game currency, to buy cosmetic items for your player and people sure have been buying stuff. According to this report from Sensor Tower analtyics, Fortnite Mobile players spent more than $1 million during the first 72 hours of its release on iOS. Fortunately, nothing you can buy will give you an actual advantage in the game to prevent people from paying to win. In this case, its a matter of playing to look cool

So, to answer the question, you have the option to spend money on Fortnite if you want a cool looking character, but the game is free to play and you won’t need to pay to win.

Where’s the support for Bluetooth controls?

Epic Games has confirmed that Bluetooth controller support is coming, but as of right now only touchscreen controls are available.

Is it cross-platform?

Epic Games have indicated that you will be able to play Fortnite across all platforms. Your Fortnite profile can be connected to all the platforms you play on so you can add to your stats however you connect to the game.

Don’t be worried about getting mismatched as the one mobile player in a server of PC and console players. If you’re playing solo on mobile, you will only be matched up against other mobile players. If you join a squad with friends playing on another platform, then that squad will be matched against a multi-platform population, essentially making cross-platform play opt-in.

  • Learn more about Fortnite Mobile

How does it compare to the PC or console version?

If the iOS version of Fortnite is anything to go by, the Android version will enjoy feature parity with all other platforms, including PS4, PC, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. There will be minor differences to account for the form factor, such as (hopefully) support for Bluetooth controls, on-screen controls for those not using a controller, and certainly toned down graphics capability. But if you want to jump in for a quick game of Battle Royale, you won’t need to worry about playing a vastly different game. Fortnite on Android is still Fortnite.

Are you hyped for Fortnite?

We’ll be sure to let you know when the game launches for Android. Until then, you can create your Epic Games account and start playing on one of the other platforms to start getting a handle on the game

Android Gaming

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

12
Aug

The best streaming music apps for Android


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Music is one of the most-used functions of Android phones, so use a music service that fits your music and your life.

Music is the heartbeat of our lives. It amps us up before a big test or a cardio workout. It soothes us through grief and loss. It lulls us to sleep at night, and it wakes us back up in the morning. Music is fundamental, and it is still one of the core functions of our phones, our smart speakers like Google Home, and our computers. And because we expect our music to follow us from device to device, from home to car to work to cafe, having a music streaming service that fits your life and your lifestyle is important.

We’re here to help you make sure that the music service you give your money to is the best one for you.

There are several music streaming services out there, but we’re going to focus on the five music streaming services that are available to much of the world. Because YouTube Music may replace Google Play Music down the line, it has been included so that we can measure the service and its features against the rest of the pack as it continues to develop and roll out to more regions, even though it’s only available in 17 countries right now.

Deezer and Apple Music may be the only choices in your country, as they are available in over 100 countries while Spotify, Google Play Music, and Tidal are available in less than 70 countries. This is why even though Apple Music offers a substandard experience on Android compared to Apple devices, it is being included here.

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Best overall: Spotify

Spotify has been offering up its streaming music magic for almost a decade now, and it’s without a doubt the most popular subscription on the market today, and rightfully so. Its selection is vast, its settings are easy to understand, and its algorithms ensure that users keep finding new and awesome music to add to their libraries. Spotify’s Discover Weekly and Made for You mixes are often imitated, but the only platform to even come close to its prowess is the buggy, beta-stage YouTube Music. Thanks to Spotify Connect and the many, many platforms Spotify makes dedicated apps for β€” from Android TV to Wear OS and everywhere in between β€” you’ll be able to listen to your library just about anywhere.

Spotify has grown a loyal user base out of its Student subscription, which was the first of its kind among music streaming subscriptions and remains one of the best deals in streaming today. It also offers family plans, as well as subscription bundles through some wireless carriers and with Hulu. The service isn’t without a few thorns, but they shouldn’t be a problem for most users: you can only add 10,000 songs to My Library, there’s a limit of three devices, 3,333 songs for offline content, and queue management on Spotify is a bit of an oddity. Playlist management is also a bit lackluster on Android and Chromebooks, but it’s good enough to get by.

See at Spotify

Read more: Everything you need to know about Spotify

Android app x x x x x x
Wear OS app x x x
Android TV app x x YouTube app x x
Android Auto compatibility x x Coming soon x x
Web client x x x x x
Desktop client x Download/Upload only x x x
Chromecast compatibility x x Varies by plan Varies by plan x
Google Assistant compatibility x x x x
Max audio quality 320 kbps 320 kbps 128 kbps 320 kbps (Premium), 1411 kbps (Hi-Fi) 1411 kbps 256 kbps
Device limit Offline only: 3 devices 10 devices Unlimited 3 devices Unlimited 10 devices
Songs available 40 million+ 40 million+ Unknown 53 million+ (Premium), 36 million+ (Hi-Fi) 50 million+ 40 million+
Library limit 10,000 songs Unlimited subscription music, 50,000 song uploads Unknown 2,000 songs on desktop, 1,000 on mobile apps 10,000 songs, 10,000 albums 100,000 songs
Playlist size limit 10,000 songs (3,333 songs for offline playlists) 1,000 songs 5,000 songs 2,000 songs on desktop, 1,000 on mobile apps Unknown varies by platform
Offline limits 3 devices, 3,333 songs 10 devices (4 de-authorization limit/year) 10 devices (4 de-authorization limit/year) 1,000 songs 3 devices, 10,000 songs 10 devices
Algorithm-based mixes and radio stations x x x x x x
Podcasts x x x x
Music videos x (via YouTube) x x x
Music documentaries / behind the scenes / Original Video series x x x x x
Gapless playback Crossfade only (not available when using Spotify Connect) Device-dependent Crossfade only (not available on Android) Device-dependent Device-dependent
Song lyrics Limited (via Genius) Limited, only accessible via Google Search Limited (via YouTube lyric videos) Limited
Stable performance on Android x x x x
Free services x x x x
Ad-supported Audio ads Banner ads on Free radio Audio ads Audio ads
Skip limit 6/hour 6/hour on Free radio, no limit on uploaded music Unlimited 6/hour
Forced shuffle x Shuffle on Free radio, no restrictions on uploaded music Unrestricted x
Repeat/repeat one available x x Limited (get replays via ad engagement)
Offline listening Uploaded music only
Paid subscriptions Spotify Google Play Music YouTube Music Deezer Tidal Apple Music
Individual Subscription $9.99 $9.99 (includes YouTube Music) $9.99 (does not include Google Play Music) $9.99 $9.99 (Premium), $19.99 (Hi-Fi Premium) $9.99
Family Subscription $14.99 $14.99 (includes YouTube Music) $14.99 (does not include Google Play Music) $14.99 $14.99 (Family Premium), $29.99 (Family Hi-Fi) $14.99
Student pricing $4.99 (includes basic Hulu) $4.99 (Student Premium), $9.99 (Student Hi-Fi) $4.99
Other bundles/discounts) $12.99 (Spotify & basic Hulu) $11.99 (YouTube Premium), $17.99 (YouTube Premium family) $11.99 (YouTube Premium), $17.99 (YouTube Premium family) $5.99 (Military Premium), $11.99 (Military Hi-Fi) $99.99 annual subscription ($20 discount)
Available Countries 65 63 17 189 67 115

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Best for Students: Spotify

If you’re a college student looking to make your dollar go further for streaming, it’s damn near impossible to beat the $4.99/month bundle of Spotify Premium for Students and basic (commercial-supported) Hulu. Spotify is also easy to pull up on school computers via its web client, so that you can listen while you’re coding in the lab or pretending to get an essay done in the library.

See at Spotify

Read more: Everything you need to know about Spotify

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Best for music hoarders: Google Play Music

Google Play Music’s subscription library might not be quite as big as Deezer or Tidal, but Google Play Music doesn’t have a limit on how many songs from the subscription library you can add to your library. It also has a pocket ace in its music locker service: Google Play Music allows users to upload up to 50,000 songs β€” or 100,000 if you purchased a Samsung Galaxy S8 last year β€” and stream their songs back anywhere they can access their Google account for free.

Whether you’ve ripped that out-of-print, impossible-to-find concert album that beats the pants off the pale studio version offered in the subscription catalogs, remixed your own music, or gotten ahold of music that’s not available commercially, the music locker on Google Play Music is invaluable. This is especially true for subscription users that can mix that uploaded music with subscription catalog songs and albums.

See at Google Play Music

Read more: Everything you need to know about Google Play Music

Google Play Music comes with YouTube Music for $9.99/month, but do yourself a favor and upgrade to YouTube Premium. For $11.99/month, you get Google Play Music, and premium features on YouTube Music, YouTube, YouTube Kids, YouTube Gaming, and YouTube VR.

See at YouTube

YouTube Premium is Google’s bundle future β€” and its only great streaming deal

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Best audio quality: Tidal

Tidal may seem a bit pretentious or downright snobby at times, but when it comes to quality music in a quality experience, Tidal’s the service for you. It doesn’t try to overload its service with bells and whistles, but that means the app is slimmer, smoother, and simpler.

Tidal having two tiers of premium service can be a little confusing for a service based around extreme audio quality, but it also offers the largest selection of discounts and is the only service to offer a military discount.

Tidal ($19.99/month Hi-Fi Premium)

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Best for device-hoppers: Spotify

Spotify Connect may have a more clean handoff system between devices so that you can keep and manage a single queue while hopping from platform to platform, and it also allows you to easily play Spotify back on thousands of different connected devices and platforms using the same simple UI.

Spotify offers an easy-to-use web client that doesn’t require any downloads or installations for you to easily use on a managed computer at work or school, but there’s also a desktop client available for more intense library management and offline playback. While Spotify also doesn’t have a device limit for streaming, its 3-device, 3,333-song limit on offline content can spell trouble for those who download larger sections of their library for long trips or mobile data saving.

See at Spotify

Read more: Everything you need to know about Spotify

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Best value: YouTube Premium

Twelve bucks a month for a robust, stable music player with a built-in music locker service (Google Play Music), the best experience on the most popular video platform in the world (YouTube), and a brand-new but little bit buggy music service built atop the biggest music catalog in the world, including fan content and non-commercially-available music (YouTube Music)? Yeah, sign me up. YouTube Premium is a video subscription that removes ads and unlocks premium features on six apps: Google Play Music, YouTube, YouTube Music, YouTube Kids, YouTube Gaming, And YouTube VR. Name another subscription with that kind of value. No, really, I’ll wait.

Once upon a time, you could subscribe to YouTube, YouTube Music, or Google Play Music and get access to premium service on all of them, but recent changes to Google’s pricing policies have changed things. Pay for YouTube Music, and you just get YouTube Music. Pay for Google Play Music, you get Google Play Music and YouTube Music. Pay for YouTube Premium, and you still get everything.

See at YouTube

Read more: Buy YouTube Premium instead of YouTube Music Premium

What’s your favorite?

Let us know what your favorite streaming music service is, and why!

Updated August 2018: This guide has been updated with the newest policy and pricing updates from YouTube Music.

12
Aug

Get Google’s Digital Wellbeing in your app drawer with Pixel Shortcuts


No, this won’t magically let you get Digital Wellbeing on a non-Pie phone.

Without a doubt, one of our most beloved features of Android Pie is Google’s new Digital Wellbeing platform. The data and tools it provides really do help to make a difference in the way you use your phone, but as well as it works, its current implementation is a bit wonky.

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After signing up for the beta on your Pie-powered phone and downloading Digital Wellbeing from the Play Store, it doesn’t actually show up in your app drawer. Instead, you have to hop into your phone’s settings to access it. Thankfully, developer Chris Lacy (creator of the fantastic Action Launcher) has created a new app called Pixel Shortcuts that fixes this.

After downloading Pixel Shortcuts, you’ll see a list of system apps that are installed on your phone but don’t appear in your app drawer. You can toggle these apps on to permanently stay in your app drawer or just add a simple home screen shortcut.

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Pixel Shortcuts is 100% free to download, and just to be clear, this will not let you get Digital Wellbeing on a phone running Oreo or later. You still need Digital Wellbeing installed on a Pixel phone running Pie for this to work.

Assuming you’ve got a compatible phone that’s running Digital Wellbeing, feel free to download the app now so you don’t have to keep jumping into your settings just to see your phone usage.

Download: Pixel Shortcuts (free)

Android 9 Pie

  • Android 9 Pie review: Greater than the sum of its slices
  • Everything you need to know about Android 9 Pie!
  • Will my phone get Android Pie?
  • How to get Android 9 Pie on your Pixel right now
  • Join the Discussion

12
Aug

We Happy Few is a dark and twisted world of secrets and intrigue


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We Happy Few offers compelling survival gameplay, quality world-building, and great presentation.

Open world survival games have become a common sight in recent years, but none of them are anywhere near as interesting and unique as We Happy Few. Featuring compelling survival gameplay, an intriguing and dark world, and exemplary presentation, it’s only held back from perfection by performance problems.

(Editor’s note: This review is based on the author’s experience with the game on a PC. Your mileage may vary based on your platform of choice.)

We Happy Few



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Price: $49.99

Bottom line: It’s a must-play for fans of quality world-building and open-world games, even if has some performance issues.

Pros:

  • Excellent survival gameplay.
  • Dark, disturbing world.
  • Gorgeous visual presentation.

Cons:

  • Framerate issues are fairly frequent.

See at Amazon

Stay alive, discover the past

We Happy Few takes place in a fictional city within the United Kingdom called Wellington Wells. At some point, the citizens of the city had to do something unspeakably terrible, and in order to forget it, they invented a hallucinogenic drug called Joy. Joy quickly became popular with the citizens (dubbed “Wellies”) and soon afterward, taking it was made mandatory by law. Those who refuse (Wastrels) are beaten to death by Wellies and the police.

You play as one of three characters who refuse to take their Joy. I played as Arthur Hastings, a man who worked in an office censoring parts of the newspaper for the government prior to not taking his Joy. Once his co-workers realized this, he was labeled a “Downer” and was exiled from society.

After your character is thrown out of their previous life, you are tasked with surviving and learning more about the past that everyone else is desperate to forget. Food, water, and sleep are all things you need to stay on top of, as well as avoiding disease and injury. This is done by searching the world and using resources that you find in it to craft things, like bandages, weapons, clothes, and more.

We Happy Few strikes a perfect balance on difficulty. In order to ensure your survival, you need to be thorough in your searching and mindful of your surroundings, but doing so will always reward you with useful items. This means the game is challenging, but not frustratingly so, and the result is a compelling and addicting gameplay experience.

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Gorgeous, but glitchy

Visually, We Happy Few is stunning. Everything from plants to city streets to stacks of paper all look incredible thanks to the title’s stylistic art direction. This is further enhanced when paired with the powerful lighting engine. We Happy Few also makes use of a broad range of colors, tones, and saturation; this lets the game successfully create several types of atmospheres during the dark, dreary nights or vibrant, sun-soaked days.

The one area We Happy Few struggles in is with performance. Generally, the game runs well, but the framerate will start to significantly drop whenever you do something that requires more hardware horsepower, such as fighting several NPCs or walking through fields of highly detailed plants. This can have a very harmful effect on the gameplay experience, especially if it starts occurring during melee fights since a stable framerate is crucial when timing attacks and blocks.

I reviewed the game on my high-end PC (i7-8700k processor, GTX 1050Ti graphics card, 16 GB RAM) so it’s likely that the Xbox version, and possibly the PlayStation version, will struggle in the same way and that this is an optimization problem.

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Should you buy We Happy Few?

4.5
out of 5


Despite the performance issues, We Happy Few is a must-own title for any gamer who loves survival open-world titles and quality world building. Unless your PC doesn’t meet the minimum specifications (visible on the Steam page) there’s no reason not to pick this fantastic game up as soon as possible.

We Happy Few should be available for PlayStation on August 10 for $49.99.

See at Amazon

PlayStation 4

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

Amazon

12
Aug

Jump headfirst into Madden NFL 19 Ultimate Team with this beginner’s guide


Get off to a fast start in Madden 19’s most exciting mode.

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Madden NFL 19 offers a comprehensive football game for any fan of the pigskin. Whether you’re new to the series or a returning veteran, and whether you’re a casual viewer of the NFL or you’re knee deep in player research to keep your fantasy team stacked each and every week, you can have fun in any of Madden 19’s various modes.

One of those modes is Madden Ultimate Team. MUT, as we like to call it, gives you the ability to build your dream team comprised of your favorite NFL superstars. If you’re new and in need of a little guidance, fret not. We’re here to show you how to go from nothing to competing for a Super Bowl.

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How to earn coins fast in Madden Ultimate Team

Making money in Madden Ultimate Team is one of the first things you need to learn. The game uses coins as its standard free-to-play digital currency which, yes, means you can earn it without paying a dime.

Coins are mostly useful for player acquisition, but you can also use them to buy packs, work the auction house, and purchase new team items such as stadiums, uniforms, and playbooks.

You can also use them to purchase the tickets you need to play the game’s premium events. Here are some of the things you can do to earn coins fast.

Complete your daily objectives

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The first thing you’ll see upon entering MUT is your objectives list. This list has an ever-revolving list of challenges, milestones, and goals to complete that’ll reward you with a decent amount of coins.

One of the things you can count on to be there every single day is the list of daily objectives. It’s always the same: complete two solo challenges, buy a pack and complete a set.

We’ll talk about some of these things more in a bit, but completing that simple list takes no more than five minutes and will net you with a random “quicksell” item. These items serve no purpose other than turning them in for a modest coin reward. You can earn anywhere from 1,000 to 50,000 coins in the first tier, and the rewards get better as you level up. Do these every single day, and you’ll be surprised how often you can cash out big time on them.

There are other objectives you can complete, such as weekly lists, promotional lists, and other categories. No matter which objectives you decide to tackle, you’ll be rewarded every step of the way.

Complete solo challenges

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Solo challenges are often bite-sized “NFL Moments” that have you completing a scenario such as stopping your opponent for a certain amount of yards or scoring a touchdown as time expires. These challenges provide the most reliable way to make coins in Madden Ultimate Team.

There’s a base coin reward for every solo challenge you do based on difficulty, and some of them will even hook you up with as much as quadruple the reward for completing an optional bonus objective. They’re a grind, but unless you’re willing to spend extra money to buy your way to the top, it’s a necessary evil.

Some of them can be fun, but some can also make you want to rip your hair out. Either way, stick with it. You’ll find yourself swimming in coins before too long, as well as making out with a bunch of cool team and player items along the way.

Work the auction house

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Once you have a bit of coin and some excess players, you can take a trip to the auction house and put that money to work. It’s natural to want to go into the auction house and buy up all the players you need, but you can also take advantage of the Madden economy to help keep your coffers full.

Deploy a simple “buy low, sell high” strategy here. It’s easier said than done, but all you’re doing is buying a player below the market value and selling it at or above what you paid.

The reason it isn’t as simple as going in and buying the cheapest card you can find is due to the way the auction house shows its contents. Any given filter will only show 100 cards based on whichever sorting criteria you choose (cheapest buy it now price, time ending soonest, newest, or what have you). This creates a situation where if I go into the auction house without applying enough (or any) filters, I see the cheapest card out of the 100 cards showing, but not necessarily the cheapest card available overall.

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The idea is to whittle that list down to ensure no more than 100 items are showing. Once you’ve done that, it’ll be easy to glance at the list of players you’re targeting and see if anything is being listed well below its market value. Here’s how to do it.

Enter the Auction House.
Set your criteria for finding players. As an example, let’s say we’re looking at all Elite-level Green Bay Packers players per position.
Take those criteria and apply them using the filters on the left side of the screen. We’ll set the “Quality” filter to “Elite,” and the “Team Filter” to “Green Bay Packers.”
You can try to look at all players, all players on offense, or all players on defense, but you’re probably still not drilling down enough. Instead, cycle through each position β€” such as QB, WR, and RB β€” to get a more granular picture of the market for these players.

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This method is typically known as “sniping,” but you could just as well call it football’s stock market. No matter your preferred term of endearment, this is one of the most reliable ways to make coins in Madden Ultimate Team. It won’t be as quick as solo challenges, but solo challenges are finite, and they also don’t scale. With the auction house, you can hedge bigger bets as you make more coin, and your nest egg will begin to balloon before your eyes.

We’ve only just scratched the surface of possibilities for using the auction house in this manner. You could easily do simple buy low, sell high snipes or put your unneeded players up for sale and come out nicely, but the more work you put into it and the more creative you are, the more coins you’ll make.

How to get better players in Madden Ultimate Team

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Now that your coin base is better, it’s time to put it to good use. Ultimately, the goal is to make the best team you can, and you can only do that by acquiring players. Here are all the different ways you can get those players and build your roster up.

Buy them from the auction house

All that coin you made in the auction house will likely be dumped right back into the auction house. This is the best place to go if you’re looking for a specific player.

Bronze, Silver, and even Gold-level players are the most affordable. Gold players should be your priority to get a good team onto the field, especially if you’re planning on competing against other players. You’ll pay handsome sums for the Elite of the bunch. Just know that the better the player, the more coins you’ll be spending. You won’t be getting a 90 overall Aaron Rodgers, for example, unless you’re willing to part ways with the lion’s share of your fortune.

Earn them from solo challenge rewards

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Next, hit those solo challenges up. These quick challenges will let you earn a few players along the way, as well as being the preferred coin-making method we mentioned before. And typically, completing an entire list of solos will get you an Elite non-auctionable player.

In the case of Madden 19, we’d start by going through the Campaign solos. You’ll get a bunch of Silver and Gold players along the way, and by the end of it all, you’ll have two 87 OVR cards β€” one each for offense and defense β€” to help get your team going.

Next, do the Diamond solo challenges to gain several player fantasy packs. These packs let you choose one of five players to add to your team, all of which are guaranteed to be at least Gold. There’s a good chance some of these will come up as Elite players, too. In the end, you’ll get an Elite fantasy pack that guarantees you one Elite player from any team of your choosing.

You should do the Rookie Gauntlet next. These solos are notoriously tricky, but they offer the greatest rewards for both coins and player cards. Finally, finish off by going through the massive set of Journey solos once you reach level 30. It’ll be your single biggest source of coins in the early going, and will hook you up with an 89 OVR Carson Wentz player card upon completion.

There are other solo challenge lists which give you varying types of rewards, such as Training (a new currency used to upgrade Power-Up players), legends, or new uniforms. Do these as you see fit, and be on the lookout for weekly solos so you can complete them before they’re cycled out. EA regularly releases new solo challenges throughout the year, so don’t be afraid to run through all of these as fast as you can. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Find them in player packs

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While we wouldn’t recommend packs as a beginner option, it’s worth mentioning just for the sake of thoroughness. You can buy player packs of varying quality. Some will only guarantee one Gold player and a bunch of Silver ones, and there’s a chance for Elite players in any of these packs. There are also some packs which guarantee Elite players and other items.

There are lots of packs that you can buy with coins, but this route generally isn’t economically sound. Instead, if you want to rip open player packs, then the best way to do that is by paying money. Yes, real cold hard cash. Again, not an option we’d recommend for any newcomers unless you absolutely can’t grind solo challenges.

Power-Up players

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We want to give a special shout out to the Power-Up player cards in Madden 19’s Ultimate Team. These players are deceptive in that they first appear as lowly 68 OVR Silver cards, but you can upgrade those using Training points. This gives you a relatively cheap option to acquire players who can be built into powerhouses over time.

Some players can get as high as 88 or 89 OVR if you pour enough Training points into them. It’s a big investment, but it can be one of the easiest ways to get serious players on your team if you aren’t getting lucky on your pack pulls.

Complete a set

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Have a crap ton of players and you’re not sure what to do with them? If the allure of coins from the auction house isn’t doing it for you, see what you can do with Sets.

Sets in Madden 19 let you exchange several player cards for some sort of reward. You’ll typically be doing this to get access to high-level players or tokens needed for other sets.

Like opening packs, completing sets is an option that is most unfriendly to newcomers or those who don’t want to spend a lot of money on the mode. That’s because you’ll often need dozens of specific player cards and tokens to complete them, and not all of those cards will be cheap or easy to acquire. But by all means, if in a few months you find yourself with a binder of 1,500 player items or have hundreds of thousands of coins to fill in the blanks you have, go nuts.

How to build your Ultimate Team roster

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With a bunch of cards under your belt, you can start to put together a pretty solid team. I’m going to stress one thing when it comes to your approach β€” there is no right or wrong way to do this. Make the team you want to make. Want to make a team of all Patriots players? Perhaps all players who graduated from Alabama? Maybe even a team full of players who have never started a single football game? The fun in MUT is that you get to do what you want.

That said, if you want to make the best team you can, there are a couple of things to note. For one, using the “Generate Best Team” option in the player lineup screen is an excellent way to get your highest rated players at each position slotted into your lineup. This is a nice time-saving tool to use in the early going when your team doesn’t have any specific composition.

As you progress, however, you’ll start to notice that you can squeeze even more out of your players by way of something called Chemistry. Each player’s Chemistry rating will have some sort of impact on your team as long as you meet certain thresholds.

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For instance, a Chemistry called Go Deep can increase the throwing power on all quarterbacks with that chemistry, and the catching ability of all receivers with it, but only if you have enough of those players on the team. You can reach up to tier 4 of a single Chemistry, but with a limited amount of player slots in your lineup, you’ll have to prioritize based on your play style.

This concept in past editions of Madden effectively limited you to a shorter pool of players if you wanted to maximize their potential, but Madden 19 introduced the ability to customize the Chemistry slot on any given player. You don’t have to give up Tom Brady if you don’t want to just because he doesn’t have the Chemistry you want β€” just spend Training to get him exactly the way you like him!

Compete

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What to do with your new team full of studs? Why, compete, of course! There’s no shortage of modes to play if you want to put your team to the test.

Salary Cap is the game’s de-facto ranked mode and is perhaps the best mode for a beginner to check out. The schtick with this mode is that you have to adhere to a salary cap when selecting your players. Each player will have a salary cap rating that increases the better they are, and you can’t start playing until you’ve created a full roster of players without exceeding the salary cap number. This means you can’t stack your teams full of 99 OVR players, which effectively evens the playing field for those not fortunate enough to be sitting on a pile of football gods.

Here are some of the other cool modes to compete in, all of which will let you earn rewards the better you do:

  • Head-to-Head Seasons: Play a 7-game regular season and make the playoffs to try and win the Super Bowl.
  • MUT Squads: You and up to 2 other friends take on another team of 3. One player controls offense, one player controls defense, and the third player is the coach.
  • MUT Draft: Start with a random team and pick up to 15 more players at random to see how far you can go.
  • Weekend League: Qualify for a weekend tournament by completing a Head-to-Head season. This mode is not for the weak at heart but offers the absolute best rewards.

We should note that MUT Draft and Salary Cap require tickets for their ranked modes. You can acquire these tickets by buying them with coins or with premium points. We wouldn’t go dumping coins into tickets right away, but once you have a solid team to compete with these ranked modes offer the best rewards.

See you on the gridiron!

By now, you have all the tools and information you need to get off to a fast start in Madden 19’s Ultimate Team mode. Madden NFL 19 is now available worldwide. Get your squad together and see how far you can go!

See at Amazon

PlayStation 4

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

Amazon

12
Aug

Elevate your game with these Madden NFL 19 tips and tricks


Master the sticks to become the best Madden player you can be.

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Just cracked open Madden 19? If you’ve been slaying the competition, congratulations β€” you’re a regular ol’ savant! But Madden is an incredibly deep game, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed when you can’t quite run the rock or throw the ball like your opponents can.

We’re going to help you step your game up by outlining some general gameplay tips to ensure you’re getting the most out of your players out there on the gridiron. Take heed to these Madden 19 tips and tricks and you’ll be on your way to glory in no time.

Hit the Skills Trainer

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For the absolute beginner, we’d first recommend heading to the game’s Skills Trainer. Madden 19’s Skill Trainer provides an excellent tutorial not just for figuring out the controls, but also for learning fundamental football concepts. It’s not enough to know how to throw the ball to a receiver (press the button that appears over their head).

Knowing the difference between cover 2, cover 3, and cover 4, knowing how to identify when the defense is in those coverages, and knowing how to attack it are all important things to know if you’re going to be successful. So, before you play a single game in Madden 19, complete the Skills Trainer.

Offensive tips

Once you’ve figured out the basics, you’ll need to figure out how to apply that knowledge in a game of football. While it’d be impossible to cover every situation that’ll be thrown at you, the following tips and tricks will help you sustain drives on offense, which means more touchdowns and more points.

How to figure out what coverage the defense is in

On nearly every single play, the first thing you want to do is figure out what the defense in, as this will inform how you’ll execute the play. The skills trainer should have given you a good idea of how to read a defense.

Almost every play should begin with you checking to see how the defense lines up. This is made easier by holding R2 as it will force the camera to zoom out to give you a better look at the field.

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If there are two deep safeties, expect cover 2. Three deep safeties? Cover 3. Motion a man to see if anyone follows him, and that means they’re in man coverage. And if you see any of the linebackers or safeties move toward the line of scrimmage, there’s a good chance they’re sending an extra player on a blitz.

Use the information you gather to see if the play you’ve called is appropriate for the situation. For instance, if your opponent is bringing a lot of pressure with a blitz, it may not be a good idea to run the football. This is where you want to use the audible mechanic to change the play at the line of scrimmage.

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As you get more experienced, you’ll find yourself going as far as motioning receivers and blockers into new positions and completely changing their routes. Your adjustments could also be as simple as flipping a run to the other side. Whatever you have to do to get yourself into a better play, do it with no fear.

Mix it up with run and pass

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Offensive balance is one of the most important things to practice in football. If your opponent knows for certain you’re going to run the ball every play, then it’ll be much easier for them to stop you. Try to keep a healthy balance of run and pass plays.

To that same point, don’t run the same few plays over and over again. Experiment with different formations and different plays within those formations. Eventually, you’ll find yourself coming up with mini schemes by conditioning your opponent to expect one thing while you throw something entirely different at them.

Don’t abuse the sprint button

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In previous years, holding R2 to keep your players going full speed at all times was a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t want to run as fast as they can at all times? We’re here to tell you that isn’t going to fly in Madden 19.

This is thanks to the game’s new Real Player Motion system, which makes it harder to maneuver the gridiron the faster you’re going. Just as in real life, you’re going to need to pump the brakes a bit when you want to make a fast cut up the hole or turn the edge on a run play.

Looking to juke someone out of their shoes? Let go of the sprint button and see just how much more precise you can be. The trick is to throttle the sprint button like you would in a racing game. Let off the gas when you need to make your move, and then step on it when there’s no one else in front of you!

Lead your receivers

When you’re throwing the football, use passing modifiers to keep the ball out of the reach of defenders. Pushing the left analog stick in any given direction will let you place the ball in a place where only your player can make a play on it.

As an example, if you have a receiver streaking to the right of the sideline and a defender is trailing a couple of steps behind him, push the left analog stick to the right in order to throw the ball ahead of the receiver toward the sidelines. Where the defender might otherwise have a good chance to make a play on the ball, your receiver gets to attempt a catch and you get to save yourself the embarrassment of throwing an interception. You can also hold L1 to throw a pass high and L2 to throw a pass short.

These mechanics are paramount to a lethal passing attack. Be careful using these tools with less accurate quarterbacks, however, as the ball can sail in very unintended and unfun ways every now and then.

Go through your reads when throwing the ball

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It can be tempting to quickly fire the ball to your first read on any given play, but patience is key. Looks can be deceiving in Madden 19, and what may not be there one second might show up in full force the next β€” that is, some freakishly athletic defenders can close the distance in a hurry and pick the ball off if you haven’t properly assessed the coverage.

Take your time and go through your reads. Start with your hot read, which is the receiver who is most likely to be open in the event that the defense is blitzing, and then look at each receiver before considering whether to throw them the ball. As you gain more experience, you’ll start noticing those moments when you can break the rules and throw an Aaron Rodgers-like zip to the slot receiver the moment you receive the ball.

Make key adjustments

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Get yourself familiar with the adjustments menu on your playcall screen. This menu allows you to change the way your players play. You can direct them to be more aggressive and get extra yardage, or play the conservative game to protect the football more.

It’s up to you to decide which adjustments are necessary based on the action unfolding. If your opponent is going for a big hit on every play to try and force a fumble, tell your players to wrap the football up and go down to the ground safely instead of trying to spin out for a first down.

There are pros and cons to each adjustment you can make, so be sure to weigh those options before applying them. (But know that you can make as many adjustments as you want over the course of the game, so be liberal in your experimentation!)

Go for the safe catch

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Everyone wants to rip off the big catch and run for a touchdown, but don’t go for broke every play. Take what the defense gives you. If your deep routes are covered, look for something underneath. A 6-yard completion might not be as flashy as a 40-yard bomb, but it’s easy positive yardage and that might be all you need in some scenarios.

And when you’re going to make the catch, it’s not always wise to turn upfield immediately. If a defender is nearby and getting ready to hit your receiver in the mouth, hold the possession catch button to secure the ball and fall to the ground. You’ll surrender a few potential yards, but you’ll see a lot fewer fumbles and incompletions.

Defensive tips

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Sometimes, the best offense is a great defense. You won’t win many football games if you’re giving up touchdowns and field goals like candy. Use these tips on the other side of the ball to stop your opponent from scoring.

Match personnel based on the offense’s players

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Before every play, you’re given a chance to see the personnel your opponent is coming out in. You won’t know which exact formation they’ll be in, but you’ll know exactly how many wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends that’ll line up. This information is useful because it can help you determine what sort of defense to call. You typically want to match personnel in this regard.

The easiest way to do this is going by receiver headcount. You should match two receivers with a base 4-3 or 3-4 formation. If they dole out three receivers, come out in nickel. Four wide receivers can be met with nickel, dollar, or dime defense. And for five receivers, you’ll want to use a quarters formation.

You should have a basic idea of what these formations are typically used for if you went through the Skills Trainer, but the main thing to know is that they’ll have enough defensive backs to cover the number of receivers your opponent has on the field. Deviate from this plan and you’ll be forced to cover your opponent’s receivers with linebackers (and trust me, you don’t want to do that).

Control the middle linebacker

While the easiest thing for a beginner to do is to plop their cursor down on a defensive linebacker and rush the passer every play, it’s not going to do you any good in your quest to improve your defense. Instead, we’d suggest starting by controlling the middle linebacker.

It can be scary at first, but by taking control of the middle linebacker you can affect the play in far numerous ways than with any other position. Against runs, you can hit the whole or deny the edge. Against the pass, you can cover the running back or tight end (man coverage) or patrol the middle of the field (zone coverage). Believe me, you don’t want your AI teammates to be doing that themselves. It’ll take some getting used to, but it’s worth getting into this habit early.

Swat the ball

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There’s no more satisfying play on defense than intercepting the ball, but more often than not it’s not the correct play to make. That’s because it’s extremely risky, and if you don’t come up with the ball on an interception attempt then you’re giving your opponent a higher chance to not only catch the ball but also take it the distance.

Instead, go for the swat by pressing the Square button. You’ll find that it’s much easier to defend passes this way and you won’t be giving up massive chunks of yardage, as even if the receiver catches it you can quickly recover from the swat animation to make the tackle.

Try not to commit to the run or pass

In Madden, a feature called “commit” lets you go all out to stop either a run play or a passing play. A run commit tells everyone to rush the line of scrimmage as soon as the ball is hiked, while a pass commit ensures your linebackers and defensive backs start backpedaling instead of getting fooled by a play action.

I can’t stress this enough β€” do not run or pass commit unless you’re 100% certain you know what the play is. And because it’s almost impossible to have that certainty, just don’t do it.

Run committing against a pass play will leave your opponent’s receivers wide open, and pass committing against the run opens up running lanes so wide that even the Red Sea would get jealous. Nine times out of ten, you can trust that your players will recognize the play shortly after the ball is snapped and use the proper techniques accordingly.

Don’t be afraid to bring pressure

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Blitzing the quarterback is risky, but it’s also one of the best ways to force your opponents to make bad decisions. By bringing pressure, you’re forcing them to pass the ball before they’re ready. Best case scenario, you get a sack or force a turnover. At worst, you give up an easy underneath pass while denying a more damning fate.

Don’t switch defenders immediately after the ball is thrown

When the ball is in the air and you need to make a play, don’t switch to the closest defender right away. You’re liable to mess up his pursuit and give the receiver wide-open range to make a play.

Let the pursuing defender run until the point just before the ball is coming down, and then go for the swat or pick. The game gives you a couple of seconds of grace before you can move the defender with the left stick, so let it help you out.

Kickers are people, too!

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No, seriously, don’t mess up kicking. In the case of field goals, those are prime points that could come back to bite you if you miss. And on kickoffs and punt returns, losing excess field position makes it that much easier for your opponent to score on the ensuing drive. The only way to get better at this is by practicing. Here are a few quick tips that you can use along the way:

  • Check the wind before every kick. You may need to adjust your angle and arc by using the left analog stick to make sure the ball lines up right.
  • You don’t always need full power or perfect accuracy to make the kick. Try not to stress out over the exact placement of the kicking meter. As long as it’s close to the center, the kick should be good.
  • Fake punts and field goals are kind of difficult to pull off, especially if you have more than a couple of yards to pick up. Save these plays for the most desperate of times.
  • Likewise, onside kicks also favor the receiving team. When in doubt, kick the ball deep.
  • If you’re winning, or if you’re only down one score with ample time on the clock, punt on 4th down. Don’t argue. Just do it.

Go win some football games

These tips should get you well on your way to more victories. The joy of Madden is that there’s always something new to learn, and the more you do, the more you’ll start to notice just how much control you have. Above all else, get on Madden, play, and have fun, because if you’re not at least doing that then there’s definitely no chance to win.

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