Skip to content

Archive for

21
Aug

Apple Removes 14 Apple Watch Bands From Website, Many Others ‘Sold Out’ Ahead of September Event


We’re just under one month from Apple’s annual September iPhone event, which should also see the debut of the Apple Watch Series 4. Alongside each new edition of the Apple Watch, Apple typically updates its array of band accessories with new colors and styles. Echoing shortages from previous years, it appears that numerous Apple Watch bands have either been removed or are currently unavailable to purchase on Apple.com ahead of next month’s event, as spotted by Reddit user ScaniaCB80.

Apple has long been upfront about its plan to offer seasonal availability of many new Apple Watch bands, with various styles and colors available only for a few weeks before disappearing from its official website. Still, massive removals and shortages like this week’s have been a consistent indicator for new band refreshes, as the same events in June 2016, February 2017, and May 2018 have preceded fresh band colors and styles in September 2016, March 2017, and June 2018, respectively.

As of this morning, 14 bands across the Sport Loop and Sport Band families have been removed from Apple.com in the United States:

Sport Loop
– Marine Green
– Hot Pink
– Flashlight
– Tahoe Blue
– Midnight Fog (Nike)
– Cargo Khaki (Nike)
Sport Band
– Marine Green
– Sky Blue
– Denim Blue
– Red Raspberry
– Lemonade
– Cargo Khaki/Black (Nike)
– Barely Rose/Pearl Pink (Nike)
– Black/White (Nike)
It appears that no other band types have seen removals, but many are sold out:

Sport Loop
– Dark Olive
– Spicy Orange
– Pearl Pink (Nike)
– Bright Crimson/Black (Nike, 38mm)

Sport Band
– Peach
– Dark Teal
– Spicy Orange
– Pure Platinum/White (Nike)

Classic Buckle
– Spring Yellow (42mm)
– Electric Blue
– Soft Pink (42mm)

Woven Nylon
– Pride (42mm)
– Pink Stripe
– Blue Stripe (38mm)
– Gray Stripe (42mm)
– Black Stripe (38mm)
– Spicy Orange Check
– Berry Check (38mm)
– Dark Olive Check
– Midnight Blue Check A large portion of the sold-separately Hermès bands are also unavailable to purchase at this time. As in previous years, the wording for each unavailable model isn’t Apple’s usual “Currently Unavailable” that typically appears when an item is temporarily out of stock for an undetermined period of time, but a more definitive “Sold Out.”

The Sport Loop now has one of the lowest available stock on Apple.com, with just four colors up for purchase in both 38mm and 42mm sizes. There are still eight colors of the Sport Band available to buy with the usual 2-day shipping estimate, although the Midnight Blue 38mm model is currently seeing a delivery estimate as far back as September 14 – 21 for free shipping.

In contrast, it appears that all of the Apple Watch Series 3 collections are still available to purchase on Apple.com in the U.S., in both GPS or GPS + Cellular, with the exception of many Hermès collections. This is a bit less common, as the collections (which bundle an Apple Watch case with a pre-determined band) have routinely seen shortages alongside the individual band shortages over the past few years.

Bands still available to purchase include every version of the Milanese Loop and Link Bracelets, which now date back to the launch of the original Apple Watch in 2015. Apple’s more recent band refreshes have shied away from the expensive fashion side of the Apple Watch (which was a selling point of the original), now focusing on fitness and low-cost bands that can survive workouts and other external conditions.

As usual, stock shortages on Apple.com are far from a definitive confirmation of incoming hardware, but the timing does line up if Apple refreshes the bands next month alongside the Apple Watch Series 4. The new Apple Watch is expected to have a slightly new design with a 15 percent larger display, likely due to minimized bezels.

Just yesterday, six new Apple Watch model numbers were filed with the Eurasian Economic Commission, further confirming an incoming launch of the Apple Watch Series 4. Although specific hardware details will have to wait for Apple’s keynote, as of now it’s expected for Apple to continue supporting legacy Apple Watch bands on the Apple Watch Series 4.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4, watchOS 5Tag: Apple Watch bandsBuyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Caution)
Discuss this article in our forums

MacRumors-All?d=6W8y8wAjSf4 MacRumors-All?d=qj6IDK7rITs

21
Aug

Smart Money Management With These Finance Apps


About 49% of Americans are concerned and anxious about their current financial situation, with 19% having no savings at all to cover emergency expenses, according to a 2017 report in MarketWatch. Many people have trouble tracking their expenses and how much they’re actually saving, resulting in debt, which is a significant contributor to the current financial situation facing many American households. To live a more financially stable lifestyle, you need to take the hassle out of your day-to-day money management strategy

As a practical solution to your financial troubles, mobile apps are a simple and convenient tool to help you understand the money that’s coming in and out at all times. Check out these three fool-proof personal finance apps.

Venmo E-Wallet App 

With the average household spending roughly 56% of their budget on groceries and 44% in dining out, it’s easy to see why so many people struggle with overspending. To ensure savings in your shopping routines and better handling of transactions, consider a free e-wallet app like Venmo that allows you to make and share payments with friends and shop online. Easily pay on the go whenever you do shopping and handle all your transactions digitally from a single point on your mobile with some of the top-rated free digital wallets like Venmo.

Get a Clear Picture of Your Financial Health with Dollarbird

A collaborative smart calendar and budgeting app for your finances, Dollarbird is driven by artificial intelligence to help you make smarter financial decisions. Add your current account balances to the app and capture critical data in color-coded spending categories. Get a snapshot of your financial health over the week, month or year, and keep track of any recurring or discretionary spending. Collaborate on joint budgets, quickly adjust your budget and track your expenses with ease. With Americans anticipating to spend up to 40% of their expenses on clearing debts, getting back to financial health requires an understanding of what’s behind your financial decisions.

Save for a Rainy Day with Digit

With more people struggling with saving, (31% have less than $500 in savings), it’s high time people took more seriously the need to put aside something for a rainy day. Digit, a mobile app simply analyzes your daily spending and automatically moves money from your personal checking account to your Digit app account. This is one example of a new breed of personal finance apps that are playing a bigger role in tracking income and spending habits. The app quietly pushes left over cash to another specified account. If you’re undisciplined when it comes to savings, Digit is an effortless platform to help you save when you’re not even looking.

Mobile apps can be a great way to build a stable financial future. Being armed with the right finance apps and knowledge about how you use your money is a critical step. Save yourself unnecessary stress over managing your money with these smart finance apps.

21
Aug

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: In praise of incrementalism


Samsung has a habit of refining designs at least once before switching to something entirely new. This was the case for the Galaxy S4 and S5, Galaxy S6 and S7, S8 and S9, and now the Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy Note 9.

Most of these revisions have been sensible updates. Samsung has a track record of listening closely to consumers and tweaking things ever so slightly to keep these updates worth buying. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is one of the most sensible revisions I’ve seen to date, and presents a lot of value for the consumer that wants it all.

This is our full Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review notes: I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 on Project Fi’s network in the U.S. for 12 days. Our Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is running Android 8.1 Oreo and Samsung Experience version 9.5 on the July 1, 2018 security patch. We’ll refrain from adding review scores until we can put the device through our full suite of tests.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 used in this review were provided to Android Authority by Samsung.

Show More

Galaxy Note 9 Review

Design

Aesthetically, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is extremely similar to the Note 8. The untrained eye probably wouldn’t notice much difference, but small tweaks help the Note 9 function and feel much better than the Note 8 during daily use.

The sides of the Note 9 are much flatter than the Note 8, making it easier to hold without a case. I was never a huge fan of the rounded edges of the Galaxy line, so this is a welcome change for me. A slight chamfer where the metal meets the rounded glass accompanies the flatter edges and makes the phone feel much grippier as well. I felt a lot more comfortable touting this device around without a case than the Note 8, though it got two decently-sized dents in the metal after the device fell while I was taking photos (it was propped up on the table and buzzed). Regardless of durability, tread carefully if you use the phone without protection.

Galaxy Note 9 Review

Relatedrelated article

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus review: Top-notch notch-less

cameSamsung doesn’t need to revolutionize the smartphone industry in 2018 — it needs to iterate on all the hard work it did with the Galaxy S8 line last year. But with the added pressure of …

The device has slightly smaller bezels than the Note 8, increasing the size of the display to 6.4-inches from 6.3 inches. This means some apps need to be resized to fill the whole display area, but you’re only really adding about .1-inches of real estate. Regardless, it’s nice to see Samsung bumping the screen by a measurable amount, especially since the 6.2-inch display of the Galaxy S9 Plus blurred the lines between the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series of devices. Those smaller bezels make the phone look a bit more modern, and Samsung has once again opted to avoid the notch design in their products — further evidence that they are listening closely to what consumers want in a device.

On the back of the phone, you’ll notice three distinct changes — a smaller camera visor, a secondary dual-aperture lens, and a fingerprint reader that has been shifted below the camera visor.

Just like the slightly smaller bezels, the compacted camera visor helps the phone look much more premium. This feels like a purposeful addition to the Note 9’s relatively boxy design, blending into the aesthetic of the device instead of loudly announcing its presence. It’s also more centered than last year, which gives it a slightly more uniform design than the previous Note.

Galaxy Note 9

The fingerprint reader looks and feels much better this year. The Note 8’s fingerprint reader positioning led to users resting their finger on the camera lens by accident, due to it being just to the right of the camera visor. Shifting it below the camera visor and rotating it 90 degrees lets users unlock their phones much easier, and my index finger lands directly where it should when holding the phone in my palm. However, I would have liked for the sensor to be just a bit bigger — it registered a lot of false negatives because the sensor only reads a portion of your finger.

On the right side of the device, you’ll find the power button, but it’s just a bit too high up in my opinion. I would have liked to see this button more centered on the side of the device because I have to shift my hand in order to press it. This placement shouldn’t be an issue if you’ve got the fingerprint sensor enabled, but it can be frustrating to lock the device when you’re done using it.

The best screen of any Android phone ever.

The left side of the phone houses the volume rockers, and just underneath them you’ll find a dedicated Bixby button. I really, really wish this button was remappable to something like Google Assistant, but either way, its positioning gets in the way more often than not. I’ve accidentally pressed it plenty of times while trying to take a screenshot, but I suppose I don’t know where they would have put it otherwise. It’s essentially in the same spot as the Google Assistant button the LG G7, and placing it any lower would get in the way of your other fingers.

The bottom of the device features a headphone jack, speaker grill, and S-Pen, further proving “we didn’t have room for a headphone jack” is a totally baseless claim from other manufacturers. The bottom bezel on the Galaxy Note 9 is still smaller than most other flagships on the market right now, and the S-Pen is nearly three quarters the height of the device itself. If Samsung can take up that much space with “unnecessary accessories,” other manufacturers can engineer their way back into the past.

Google, Huawei, Apple, HTC and others, if you’re reading this, do better.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Display

This display. Oh god, this display.

To put it bluntly, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has the best screen of any Android phone ever. This isn’t just my opinion — there are numbers and graphs to back this stuff up.

Just recently, distinguished screen calibration company DisplayMate conducted a number of tests on the Galaxy Note 9, crowning it the best display of any mobile device in history. Not only did it break records for brightness and contrast, DisplayMate also described the Note 9’s color profile as “visually indistinguishable from perfect.”

This benchmark isn’t exactly surprising. Samsung has been a leader in the AMOLED space for years now, each year receiving a record-breaking score from DisplayMate. Still, it’s nice to see the company using the best materials in its phones first, instead of just selling them all to Apple.

This display is apparently so good, YouTube crowned it a “YouTube signature device,” — a new certification from the streaming giant, given to devices like the Galaxy S9 and LG G7. Curiously, it was also given to the Pixel 2 XL. It seems the technical capability of devices is more important than actual screen quality because, well, the Pixel 2 XL has a terrible display.

The Galaxy Note 9 offers four different display color modes: basic, AMOLED photo, AMOLED cinema, and adaptive display. Adaptive switches between modes depending on the app you’re using and is probably the best for most users.

You can also use a number of different resolutions on this device. By default, the phone runs at 1080p, but you can change it to 1440p and even 720p if you really want to save battery life.

I kept the device in its default 1080p state for the majority of this review, switching to 1440p later down the line. Surprisingly, there really wasn’t much of a difference in battery life. I got just under seven hours at 1080p resolution, while 1440p landed me at just a bit less. If you really want to milk the battery life out of this phone, stick with 1080p or even try 720p, but that 1440p looks pretty damn crisp on this thing.

This 6.4-inch display has an 18.5:9 aspect ratio and a pixel density of 516ppi — it’s big, bright, and sharp. Looking at it up close, I literally couldn’t see a pixel, further driving home the “indistinguishable from perfect” point I mentioned.

Performance

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has one of the smoothest Android experiences you’ll find today, but it doesn’t quite hit that level of touch latency the Pixel 2 charmed us with when it first launched. Most of this speed is almost certainly due to its impressive specs, though I think Samsung Experience could be a little less bloated.

We put the Galaxy Note 9 through Geekbench 4, AnTuTu, and 3DMark benchmark tests. You can see the results below.

Galaxy Note 9
Galaxy Note 9
Galaxy Note 9

Geekbench 4 gave the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 a single-core score of 2,311. In comparison, the OnePlus 6 scored 2,454, while the Galaxy S9 scored 2,144. The Note 9 achieved a multi-core score of 7,642, while the OnePlus 6 scored 8,967, and the Galaxy S9 scored 8,116.

Galaxy Note 9
Galaxy Note 9

AnTuTu gave the Note 9 a score of 272,168, compared to the OnePlus 6’s 262,614 and the S9’s 266,559.

Galaxy Note 9
Galaxy Note 9
Galaxy Note 9

Finally, the Note 9 scored 4,294 in 3D Mark, while the OnePlus 6 and Galaxy S9 scored 4,680 and 4,672, respectively.

Galaxy Note 9

Hardware

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has been upgraded internally in almost every department, but the big two updates everyone seems to be talking about are the storage and battery capacity.

The baseline Galaxy Note 9 comes in a 128GB variant, but the next step up for this phone is a whopping 512GB. This phone supports microSD expansion, too, so you can get a Galaxy Note 9 with up to 1TB of storage. Most users won’t even get close to using the 128GB of storage offered in the baseline model, but the Galaxy Note series has always been for a hardcore audience. If you want to store your entire media library on this phone, it’s probably possible, assuming you don’t have more than a terabyte of movies, music, and other files.

Galaxy Note 9
Galaxy Note 9

The other big change to this device comes in the form of a much-improved 4,000mAh battery. This is a pretty huge upgrade, especially considering the Note 8 had a reduced battery size after the whole exploding Note 7 fiasco. This battery lasted me a solid day and then some, topping off at just under seven hours of screen-on time.

If you’re wondering how I managed to use my screen for seven hours in a single day I wouldn’t blame you. My only defense is this is my day job.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

Our last poll of the week asked what your favorite new feature of the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 was, and an overwhelming number of you said it was the battery. I find it hard to argue with that, and so does Samsung, considering how it’s been marketing the phone. A dead phone is only as good as a paperweight.

The device’s new stereo speakers are worth noting, too. They’re tuned by AKG, and sound really clean, even at maximum volume. These definitely aren’t the loudest speakers we’ve seen on a phone (*cough* Razer Phone *cough*), but they sound pretty great for general listening and media consumption.

See also:related article

A guide to Samsung’s Exynos processors

Samsung doesn’t kick up much fuss when it launches a new mobile processor, but chip development is a major part of the company’s business — especially  given the number of smartphones it sells every year. …

The Galaxy Note 9 also features SoC and optional RAM upgrades. Sporting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 in the U.S. and an Exynos 9810 in the international variant, this thing chugs along just as well as most any other flagship on the market right now. Samsung Experience (formerly TouchWiz) used to cripple processors, but the combination of improved hardware and software helps the Note 9 run buttery smooth. That said, Samsung phones have been known to slow down significantly over time, so we’ll have to see how the Note 9 performs in the future.

The base model Samsung Galaxy Note 9 will get you 6GB of RAM, while the upgraded 512GB storage variant will give you an additional 2GB. Considering the beefed-up version is $250 more, it’s nice Samsung included a little more than just extra storage, and more RAM is never a bad thing. Apps seem to take more memory every year, so 8GB should last you for the next few years at the very least.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a Samsung flagship without top-of-the-line water resistance and wireless charging. The phone is rated IP68 for water and dust resistance, so you can use this in the rain or even the shower. Samsung’s fast wireless charging technology still tops off your battery faster than most other wireless charging options. It’s the small things that make flagships truly worthy of the term “flagship,” and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has.. all the small things.

Galaxy Note 9

S-Pen

Of course, we can’t review a Galaxy Note device without talking about the S-Pen. This retractable stylus has been the most obvious differentiating factor between the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S series since the beginning, and Samsung has been working to increase the value and convenience of the pen year over year.

The biggest addition to the S-Pen this year comes in the form of low-power Bluetooth functionality. The pen now works as a remote shutter for the phone’s camera, a song remote for apps like Spotify and Google Play Music, and even a slide remote while giving Powerpoint presentations. This feature is very subtle and relatively niche, but it’s the small incremental updates like this that keep the Note worth buying. Developers will also be able to set their own actions for the pen, and apps like Snapchat already have S-Pen functionality at launch. I didn’t think I would use the remote shutter that often, but it’s nice to be able to take a group photo without awkwardly trying to press the volume down button or virtual shutter button on the display.

#GalaxyNote9 S Pen selfie coming in more handy than anticipated. Low light is pretty good for the front facing camera too pic.twitter.com/FcKrSvweDj

— David Imel (@DurvidImel) August 12, 2018

I have to be honest with you, I was never a fan of the S-Pen. Having a stylus has just never been a killer feature for me, and I was pretty much always content doing things with my fingers instead. With the Galaxy Note 9, the S-Pen hasn’t become a necessity in my life, but rather a convenient delight.

I send screenshots and highlight things on my phone pretty often, and the “Smart select” and “Screen write” functions have turned out to be really fun and useful features. A stylus is almost always going to be quite a bit cleaner and more accurately than your finger, and for relaying important information quickly, it’s hard to beat the S-Pen.

Related readingrelated article

7 things you can do with the Galaxy Note 9’s Bluetooth S Pen

When the original Samsung Galaxy Note launched, it included the first iteration of the S Pen: a stylus that could dock into the body of the phone. It was a new approach to the retro stylings …

The S-Pen also lets you write memos and lock screen messages on your phone, and the color of the ink is exclusive to the color of the pen you’re using. Curiously, Samsung decided to include a yellow S-Pen with the 0cean blue color of this phone, which is purely a marketing move. Including slight tweaks in trivial things like color are a great way to sell more devices, especially when these colors aren’t uniform. We saw Google do this with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, tweaking the color of the power button to jumpstart sales. This worked wonders then, and it probably will now, considering everyone will probably want to get their hands on that sweet yellow S-Pen.

You can also buy the S-Pens separately, in case you want to mix and match color tones. One of my friends loves the combination of black and yellow, so he’s antsy to get a black device and yellow S-Pen to compliment his style. The new Bluetooth S-Pen also comes in midnight black, lavender purple, and metallic copper.

Camera

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 uses the exact same set of dual 12MP sensors from the Galaxy S9 Plus, including the dual-aperture secondary lens that was debuted in that device. Because of this, images are nearly identical to those from the Galaxy S9 Plus, though Samsung threw in a couple of software tricks to give the Galaxy Note 9 the upper hand.

Don’t miss: Camera shootout: Galaxy S9 Plus vs iPhone X, Galaxy S8, Pixel 2 XL

The biggest change to the camera software is the addition of a new scene recognition mode on the Galaxy Note 9. This mode can identify whether you’re shooting photos of plants, food, pets, and more, and will automatically adjust the scene’s colors to produce a more pleasing image. While the object recognition worked fairly well during my testing, I wasn’t very happy with the changes the software decided to make. The new image was just a hint more saturated when taking pictures of food, but otherwise, you won’t really notice a difference.



The other software trick baked into the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a new “flaw detection” feature. The phone will show a little popup if it thinks someone in your image blinked, I could only trigger the warning a few times while attempting to get screenshots.

Both of these features are powered by classification-based machine learning, so assuming Samsung is hoarding all this data you can expect the features to improve over time. While I would like to see some more advanced computational photography features come to Samsung’s devices in the future, I’m glad to see the company finally stepping into AI-based imaging.



In terms of overall image quality, these cameras exceeded my expectations. Samsung’s 12MP lenses do a great job keeping images sharp without too much contrast, and colors are fairly accurate unless you use the scene recognition modes to boost certain tones. The 8MP front-facing camera is a little soft in most circumstances, but it performed very well in low light situations.


I really want to highlight just how incredible the video quality is on the Galaxy Note 9. Both rear lenses are optically stabilized, which is paired with electronic image stabilization to produce sharp, steady footage. You can even shoot 4k video in 60fps — something only available in a select number of high-end cameras. Just note, shooting in this format will disable software stabilization.

You can check out a 4k video sample I took here and decide for yourself how good it really is. I think this is perfectly suitable for things like personal VLOGs. You’re definitely not going to get the out of focus areas of a normal camera, but for general walk-and-talk style videography, this is quite good.

The microphones and noise limiters in this phone are also incredibly good. I was reminded of the importance of this a couple of weeks ago when I visited my dad and he complained about the muddy audio of concert footage he shot on his phone. After shooting a clip of a live concert with this phone in New York City, I came away very impressed. The music sounds full and rich without sounding blown out, and it should work great if you want to record this kind of thing with your phone. You can find my clip here.

You can check out a sample image gallery below, resized to keep this page’s loading time adequate. If you want to see the full-sized images, I created an open Google Drive gallery here.

 

Galaxy Note 9

Software

Ah, TouchWiz Samsung Experience. This skin has been the bane of my existence ever since I started using Samsung’s smartphones, but I have to say, Samsung Experience 9.5 is better than it’s ever been. Almost every manufacturer skin on the market is moving towards a more subtle and stock-like user experience, and Samsung Experience isn’t excluded from this list.

Samsung has made a proprietary app for nearly every Google app out there, which makes sense considering its endgame is to make Tizen a real contender to Android. Fortunately, most of these apps are all tucked into the Samsung folder in the app drawer, so you won’t have to interact with them if you don’t want to.

Samsung Experience 9.5 is better than it’s ever been.

Unfortunately, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 comes with the Facebook app pre-installed, and you can’t actually uninstall it — only disable it. I’ve always considered this kind of thing unacceptable, especially since the point of Android is having complete control of your experience. I haven’t had the Facebook app installed on my phone for years, and it’s frustrating that it takes up storage space even though I don’t use it.

Samsung Experience 9.5 still comes with the same “Apps edge” and “People edge” features first introduced in the Galaxy S6 Edge, and pulling up Samsung Pay is as easy as swiping up from the bottom of the device. Besides these basic experience tweaks, the bulk of the new software experience rests almost solely on Bixby 2.o which — spoilers — is still trash.

Bixby 2.0

Bixby 2.0 is debuting on the Galaxy Note 9, and it’s evident that Samsung still has a ton of work to do before the personal assistant has any chance of competing with Google and Amazon’s own offerings.

See alsorelated article

Bixby guide: Features, compatible devices, best commands

The Samsung Bixby digital assistant lets you control your smartphone with voice commands. You can open apps, check the weather, play music, turn on Bluetooth, and much more. You’ll find everything you need to know …

Bixby 2.0 brings a few new updates users will likely find useful, but the Bixby home software section of the phone provides a much more enticing experience than the actual assistant. Bixby can now do things like suggesting restaurant reservations based on where you’ve eaten before and even answer follow-up questions. However, past these small improvements, its hard to see much functionality.

One of the more important updates comes in the form of context awareness. Samsung says Bixby should be able to remember what you ask it so the follow-up question can be more seamless. I found this to be anything but the case in my testing. During the Unpacked 2018 keynote Samsung showed Bixby displaying concerts around labor day weekend, then in October in a follow-up question. This functionality is great in theory, but I tested a number of other scenarios where context was necessary and the assistant couldn’t help me at all.

Galaxy Note 9
Galaxy Note 9
Galaxy Note 9
Galaxy Note 9
Galaxy Note 9

As you can see from the screenshots above, Bixby’s new contextual awareness only works for very specific applications. It actually seems like Samsung cherry-picked the few that actually work for the Unpacked 2018 keynote. Even then, Bixby took so long to respond at the actual event that the presenter had to remind the audience they could clap.

Required reading: Bixby isn’t all bad, but it’s not good

Unless you’re fully invested in the Samsung app ecosystem, Bixby probably won’t be very useful to you. Nearly all its functions are tied directly to a Samsung-specific app. While a couple of apps like Yelp and Spotify (whom Samsung has a very close relationship with) work with the virtual assistant, its hard to find a situation where Samsung’s assistant would be more useful than Google’s, which is available to all Android phones from the Google Play Store.

If Samsung is going to include a physical button that gets in the way more often than not, I would prefer it allowed users to remap the button to other apps or even trigger Google Assistant. While I understand trying to keep users on its own platform, I’ve had multiple people ask me how to disable the Bixby button on their Galaxy S9 because of how utterly useless it is. Unfortunately, they’ve even removed the ability to disable the button on the Galaxy Note 9, making this button worse than not existing at all.

Specs

Display 6.4-inch Super AMOLED
2,960 x 1,440 resolution (Quad HD+)
516ppi
18.5:9 screen ratio
SoC Global: 10nm, 64-bit, octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 (2.8 GHz quad + 1.7 GHz quad)

U.S.: 10nm, 64-bit, octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845

GPU ARM Mali-G72 MP18 (Exynos)
Adreno 630 (Snapdragon)
RAM 6 or 8GB RAM
LPDDR4
Storage 128 or 512GB
microSD expansion up to 512GB
Cameras Rear: Dual camera with dual OIS
Wide-angle: Super Speed Dual Pixel 12MP AF sensor with OIS, f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures
Telephoto: 12MP AF sensor, f/2.4 aperture, 2x zoom

Front: 8MP AF sensor, f/1.7 aperture

Audio Stereo speakers tuned by AKG, surround sound with Dolby Atmos technology

Audio formats: MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA, DSF, DFF, APE

Video MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM
Battery 4,000mAh battery
Non-removable
Fast wired charging compatible with QC 2.0
Fast wireless charging compatible with WPC and PMA
IP rating IP68
Sensors Iris
Pressure
Accelerometer
Barometer
Fingerprint
Gyro
Geomagnetic
Hall
HR
Proximity
RGB Light
Network Enhanced 4X4 MIMO/CA, LAA, LTE Cat. 18
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz)
VHT80 MU-MIMO
1024QAM
Bluetooth v5.0 (LE up to 2 Mbps)
ANT+
USB Type-C
NFC
Location: GPS, Galileo, Glonass, BeiDou
SIM Single nano-SIM
Authentication Lock type: pattern, PIN, password

Biometric lock type: iris scanner, fingerprint scanner, face recognition, Intelligent Scan

Software Android 8.1 with Samsung Experience
Dimensions and weight 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mm
201g
Colors lavender purple, ocean blue, midnight black, metallic copper

Gallery

Podcast

Pricing and availability

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 will be available for $999 and $1,250 for the 128 and 512GB models, respectively. Pre-orders will ship on Aug. 24.

In the U.S., you’ll be able to pick up the 128GB variant through AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, Xfinity, Amazon, Best Buy, Costco, Sam’s Club, Straight Talk Wireless, Target, Walmart, Samsung.com, and Amazon.com. If you want the 512GB model, it’ll be at AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, U.S. Cellular, Samsung.com, and select retail locations.

If you pre-order the device before Aug. 23, you’ll be able to select one of these extras:

  • A free pair of AKG noise canceling headphones valued at $299
  • A free pack of 15,000 Fortnite V-bucks
  • Both the AKG headphones and the V-bucks pack for $99

If you pre-order the device from Amazon, you’ll receive both the Samsung Dex Pad and Samsung Wireless Charger Duo for free. These items are valued at a total of $220.

The phone comes in ocean blue and lavender purple in the U.S., with metallic copper and midnight black being the international variants.

Galaxy Note 9

Final thoughts

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is effectively a Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus… Plus. It has nearly the exact same internals with some bumps in the higher-end model, and the famous S-Pen helps to round out the separation between the S and Note series. You’ll find a couple extra software features, a slightly better screen and body, and a tenth of an inch more screen. Other than that, think of this as the big brother to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus.

Look, I don’t want to tell you not to buy this phone. I like this phone. A lot. In fact, it’s probably in my top five list for the best phones of 2018 so far. But we’ve already seen S9 Plus deals dip down as far as $559 unlocked, and at almost half the price, you might be better off grabbing the phone with 90 percent of this phone’s functionality for 55 percent of the cost.

If you’re a power user who wants a ton of storage, the best display on the market, and the S-Pen, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 might be for you. Those pre-order deals are feeling tempting already, and all that storage means you could probably fit most of your media on your phone.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is defined by incrementalism — a design philosophy Samsung has clearly adopted in the pursuit of perfection.

Next: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs Galaxy Note 8

21
Aug

These are the best Android phones for playing Fortnite


fortnite-beta-launch-scree-galaxy-note-8

Fortnite is a graphics-intensive game that demands a powerful phone, and the Galaxy Note 8 is your best option.

Our Pick

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

galaxy-note-8-render-official.jpg?itok=f

$750 at Amazon
$699 at Samsung

Best phone for Fortnite.

The Galaxy Note 8 may soon be usurped by the Note 9, but until the sequel hits shelves the Note 8 is tops for Fortnite gamers. It’s got the most RAM out of the Samsung devices, which may just give you a performance advantage over your opponents, and the big display and battery mean you can see more and play longer. At $699, it’s also your best value for a phone of this quality.

Why you should buy the Note 8

Given that the Fortnite developers are still slowly rolling out invites to non-Samsung phones, it should be no surprise to see the biggest Samsung phone at the top of this list.

With it’s 6GB of RAM, brilliant 6.3-inch Infinity Display, and all-day battery life, the Note 8 has all the specs you need to get the most out of Fortnite. You won’t get much use out of the S-pen or the excellent dual-camera set up playing the game, but those uniquely awesome features simply make the Note 8 a great phone to use when you’re not gaming.

Of course, the reason the Note 8 is deeply discounted is that its successor is just around the corner. If you want the latest and greatest phone for Fortnite, you should pre-order the Note 9, which not only offers upgraded specs across the board along with new functionality built into the redesigned S-pen, but if you pre-order before August 23, you can snag 15,000 V-Bucks for your Fortnite account as a free gift.

Is it a good time to buy a Note 8?

Unless you’re keen to spend a bit more money on the Note 9, it’s a great time to buy the Note 8. Samsung has the unlocked variant on sale for just $699 with deeper discounts available on the Verizon and T-Mobile editions.

Reasons to buy

  • Big, bright display is beautiful
  • Top-notch performance specs
  • 8GB of RAM is ample for Fortnite
  • Cheaper than Note 9
  • Still has a headphone jack

Reasons not to buy

  • Underwhelming speakers
  • Disappointing battery life for size

Advertisement

The Gaming Phone

Samsung Galaxy S9+

samsung-galaxy-s9-plus-render.jpg?itok=G

$820 at Amazon

The second-best from Samsung.

The Galaxy S9+ gets the nod on this list because it’s a Samsung Galaxy phone, so you can download Fortnite right from the Galaxy Apps Store. But it’s also a great phone overall, too, and when it comes to playing a game like Fortnite you’re going to want a nice big display and the Galaxy S9+ definitely has going for it with its brilliant Infinity Display.

Samsung has refined its top flagship to make the performance slightly faster and the display slightly brighter for an all-around better experience for mobile gamers.

This phone has the top-end specs you’d expect that makes it a great candidate for playing Fortnite, but it also includes some other great hardware features like a headphone jack, a microSD card slot, water resistance, and support for wireless charging that just make it a better phone overall.

I personally think Samsung Galaxy phones are a bit too thin and slippery to hold for lengthy gaming sessions without a case, but it’s still a great option especially if you can get it on discount through a carrier.

Value Pick

Razer Phone

razer-phone-render.jpg?itok=0CMH-Yf1

$599 at Amazon

The best gamer phone.

The Razer Phone is on the shortlist of non-Samsung devices compatible with Fortnite, but since the game is still an invite-only beta for Android it’s not a guarantee that you’ll get to play it right away.

But if you do get that invite, you’ll get to play the game on arguably the best “gamer phone” available. The epic front-facing speakers are the best I’ve seen, and the higher refresh rate on the display delivers buttery-smooth gameplay that makes up for some of the Razer Phone’s other shortcomings.

The Razer Phone is a powerful device with a Snapdragon 835 processor and 8GB of RAM. It also has good software features such as Game Booster which blocks notifications and lets you prioritize game performance or battery life when you’re gaming.

Bottom line

Fortnite is arguably the biggest Android release of 2018 and is not designed to work on phones with less than 4GB of RAM. If that means it’s time to upgrade to a new phone, your best bets for Fortnite gaming are phones that have been released in the last year. While you could get the ultra-expensive Note 9, we’d be more inclined to go with the Samsung Galaxy S9+ or the Razer Phone.

But if you want the best of all worlds, the Galaxy Note 8 has everything you need to play Fortnite at its absolute best.

Android Gaming

best-action-games.jpg?itok=XIT8sDVg

  • 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!

21
Aug

Keep your devices protected with two Anker waterproof bags for $7


No more bags of rice.

anker-dry-bags-29o2.jpg?itok=xFAEAxbr

Amazon has a two-pack of these Anker Universal Dry Bag Waterproof Cases on sale for $6.99 right now. Usually, these sell for between $9 and $10. Today’s discount matches the best we’ve ever seen on this bundle.

These bags come in handy for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, or tubing, but they can also make a big difference on beach days or trips to the waterpark. I firmly believe that everyone should have at least one.

These dry bags have an IPX8 rating, meaning your device will be protected from water, rain, snow, mud, and whatever else you’re throwing at it. You won’t lose functionality either. Your camera and touchscreen will still be perfectly usable while your device is in the case. The simple snap and lock mechanism is easy to use but it securely seals your device inside, and there’s a neck strap so you can look ~~super cool~~ too.

These are compatible with phones up to 6 inches. For a better fit, you may have to remove your phone case, which shouldn’t be an issue since your device will be protected anyway. Your purchase is backed by an 18-month warranty and lots of positive customer feedback.

See at Amazon

21
Aug

A new Google Assistant command in the U.S. helps you find good news


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

google-pixel-2-xl-google-assistant-voice

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

August 21, 2018 — “Hey Google, tell me something good” now dishes out “good news”

Staying up to date on all of the current news is important no matter who you are, but with everything going on in our world, sometimes it’s easy to feel like nothing good is happening. In an effort to bring “good news” to light, Google’s launching a new Assistant command in the U.S.

When talking to the Assistant on your phone, Google Home, or Smart Display, you can now say “Hey Google, tell me something good” to hear about how people are solving real issues all around us.

Google partnered with Solutions Journalism Network for this feature, and per Google, solutions journalism, “highlights how problems are solvable and that doing better is possible.”

If you’re in the U.S., you can try out this command starting today.

August 14, 2018 — Pandora Premium now supported by Google Home and Smart Displays

Users have been able to stream Pandora through Google Home speakers for quite some time now, but starting today, you’ll be able to link your Pandora Premium account so you can listen to specific, on-demand songs/playlists in addition to the service’s popular radio stations.

Pandora Premium costs $9.99/month like the majority of its competitors, but if you own a Google Home, you can get a free 90-day trial to test out the service before handing over any of your hard-earned cash.

You can start listening to Pandora Premium on the Google Home, Home Mini, Home Max, Lenovo Smart Display, and other Google Assistant speakers right now.

August 9, 2018 — Deeper, more specific news coverage is now rolling out

Pretty much since the Assistant’s inception, you’ve been able to say “Hey, Google, what’s the news?” to get a quick overview of all the big headlines for any given day.

Starting today and rolling out to users across the U.S., you can now ask the Assistant about news for specific topics, such as “What’s the latest on NASA?” or “What’s the news on the women’s national soccer team?”. Asking these questions on a Smart Display will pull up related YouTube videos while audio-only speakers such as Google Home will read out excerpts from news articles.

Additionally, this command will also be available for Android Auto, Android phones, and Assistant-powered headphones like the Bose QC35 II.

August 3, 2018 — Google Home can now understand what room it’s in for contextual light controls

That title might make this not sound all that exciting, but this is actually pretty cool.

Up until now, asking your Google Home to “turn on the lights” or “tune off the lights” without specifying a certain room would result in every single connected light being turned on/off. However, a new update now allows the Google Home to only control the lights in the same room as it when this command is issued.

For example, if you have a Google Home assigned to the same room as the smart lights in your living room, asking that Google Home to turn on the lights will only activate the bulbs in the living room. You can still specify rooms with your voice, but this update should make these interactions a lot more natural.

Following numerous Redditors discovering this feature, Google confirmed to Android Police that this is indeed rolling out to users and will be making its way to everyone over the coming days.

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.

July 17, 2018 — New Google Assistant page shows commute times, packages, upcoming flights, and more

google-assistant-visual-snapshot-update.

Starting today, the Assistant on your phone is getting a big visual overhaul. After prompting the Assistant, tap the icon near the top right that previously opened up the Explore page for finding new Assistant actions and it’ll now show a visual overview of your day.

Similar to old Google Now cards, this page shows things like your commute to work, the current weather, upcoming flights, packages that are on their way from recent online orders, calendar appointments, and much more.

In the near future, Google says it’ll let you see a quick overview of notes/lists from Google Keep, Todoist, Bring!, and more, a discovery page that’ll help you find nearby events/activities, reminders of where you last parked your car, and recommendations for songs and podcasts the Assistant thinks you’ll like.

This new interface is rolling out today and is available on Android and iOS for all languages the Assistant supports.

July 10, 2018 — Google updates the UX for selecting the Assistant’s voice

new_voices.gif?itok=mNE1rxBy

During Google I/O this past May, four new voices were added to the Assistant’s existing male and female voices to help give it some more personality. Starting today, English users in the United States will see a new user interface when changing the voice.

With the new UX, users will now see a horizontal row of colors that denotes each voice rather than a vertical list of Voice 1, Voice 2, etc. The colors are entirely random and consist of Red, Orange, Amber, Green, Cyan, Blue, Purple, and Pink.

Google says the new look should be live for everyone by the end of the week!

July 10, 2018 — Deezer Premium is now supported on Google Homes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Italy

Deezer may not be as popular as rivals like Spotify and Pandora, but for subscribers of the paid Deezer Premium service, you’ll be happy to know that you can now listen to all of your Deezer songs and playlists through your Google Home.

Deezer Premium streaming has been available through Google Home since August 2017, but it was initially only live in France and Germany. This was later expanded to the United Kingdom in April of this year, and with this latest rollout, Deezer Premium now works on Google Homes that are in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Italy.

To link Deezer Premium to your Google Home, open the Home app, go to Music, and link your Deezer account.

The service regularly costs $9.99/month, but if you’re a new member, Google’s offering three months for just $0.99. If you want to take advantage of this offer, it’s good until September 20.

June 26, 2018 — All Google Home speakers now support Spanish

While users have been able to talk to Assistant in Spanish on their phones, we’re just now getting the ability to do the same on Google Home speakers.

Now, users in the United States, Spain, Mexico and other countries can choose to speak to Google Assistant in Spanish. If you want to change what language Google Home uses, open the Home app on your phone. The tap Settings -> Preferences -> Español.

All Google Home Speakers now support Spanish

June 12, 2018 — Google Home can now handle up to three commands at once

It can get old trying to ask multiple questions to our smart speakers — “What’s the weather” and “How’s my schedule” — but nowGoogle Home can understand up to three commands. Now, you can get your calendar, find out the weather and start playing music by only saying “Okay Google” once.

Another new feature is support for Multiple Actions. So now, instead of asking, “What’s the weather in New York and the weather in San Francisco?”, you can ask, “What’s the weather in New York and San Francisco?” This is a subtle change, but it makes conversing with Google Assistant much more like conversing with a human.

Google Home can now handle up to three commands at once

May 9, 2018 — Google announced a heap of new features at I/O

google-io-2018-google-home-continued-con

To little surprise, the Google Assistant was the star of the show for a good chunk of I/O’s opening keynote this year.

A lot of new features were announced for the Assistant, including new voices, the ability to ask follow-up questions without having to say “Hey, Google” each time, and an option for making your own custom Routines.

However, the most exciting thing was a system called Google Duplex. With this, the Assistant can call businesses and make appointments/reservations on your behalf. It’s wickedly cool and definitely one of the wildest things to come out of this year’s conference.

What’s new in Google Home and Assistant at Google I/O 2018

All the important details

Google Now paved the way for Google Assistant

Google-Now-Weather-Generic.jpg?itok=bWbYpixel-2-xl-google-now-feed-news-stories.

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)

google-home-max-14.jpg?itok=fbfmaG8H

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

wear-os-assistant-suggestions.jpg?itok=xwear-os-assistant-actions.jpg?itok=qWL0J

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

google-home-iftt-2.jpg?itok=2fpacj8o

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

google-io-2018-assistant-calling-custome

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.

21
Aug

Google Fit Updates With Apple Watch-Like Rings That Track ‘Move Minutes’ and ‘Heart Points’


Google today updated its Wear OS iPhone app [Direct Link] and Google Fit Android app with a new redesign that emphasizes closing a set of rings, similar to Apple’s Activity app. Every day, Google Fit will task users to close one ring based on “move minutes” and another ring based on “heart points” (via The Verge).

“Move minutes” is a metric that is intended to be better than measuring daily steps because it can capture multiple activities, and walking “might not be a great option” for some users, Google Fit senior product manager Margaret Hollendoner explains. “Heart points” differs from “move minutes” by requiring users to engage in activities that will get their heart rate up but not require heavy physical activity (although it will reward more points for intense workouts).

Hollendoner says that it can be “as simple as picking up the pace when you’re walking.” Both of these metrics are measured when wearing one of Google’s Wear OS watches, but there are other options available as well. You can import health data from other devices compatible with Google Fit, although the company points out that the metrics might not be as accurate.

Similar to the Apple Watch, once personal data is input in Wear OS and Google Fit, the apps can offer up goals that it believes are appropriate for each individual user. The apps can also suggest that you might need another 20 minutes of exercise to hit a weekly goal, even if you slacked off earlier in the week.

Google collaborated with the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization to build the new rings and activity tracking. In the apps, users will be able to read more details about heart points, which AHA senior vice president Patrick Wayte sees as an “opportunity to get people oriented around the science,” and eventually “align them to the guidelines” the AHA recommends for daily physical activity.

As a comparison, Apple Watch’s Activity rings measure Move, Exercise, and Stand metrics, related to calories burned, high-intensity workout time, and time spent standing throughout a single day. For Google Fit, the company notes that it will still measure all of the basic stats as well, including daily steps and miles completed, and calories burned.

Tag: Google
Discuss this article in our forums

MacRumors-All?d=6W8y8wAjSf4 MacRumors-All?d=qj6IDK7rITs

21
Aug

Netflix Tests Disabling In-App Subscriptions on iOS in Some Countries


Netflix is already one of the highest grossing apps on the App Store, as many iPhone and iPad users pay for their subscriptions via iTunes/Apple ID billing, but the streaming video platform wants an even bigger piece of the pie.

TechCrunch today reported that, until September 30, new or lapsed subscribers in some 33 countries will be unable to pay using iTunes.

The countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, and the UK.

A customer service representative for Netflix confirmed the test with TechCrunch:

During this time, customers in these countries may experience any of the following when launching the Netflix app on an iOS (mobile or tablet) device:

1. Ability to sign up in app with only iTunes Mode Of Payment.
2. Ability to log into Netflix but not sign up (sign up only via mobile browser).

We are constantly innovating and testing new signup approaches on different platforms to better understand what our members like. Based on what we learn, we work to improve the Netflix experience for members everywhere.

This means that some iPhone and iPad users who open the Netflix app will only be able to sign into an existing, active account, with no option to create a new account. By the sound of it, Netflix is hoping that these users will close the app, and sign up through its mobile website or elsewhere with a credit card.

Apple collects a 30 percent commission—15 percent after the first year—from users who subscribe via its in-app purchase mechanism, so it’s pretty clear that Netflix is trying to avoid padding the pockets of one of its biggest competitors, which just so happens to be working on a Netflix-like service itself.

Of note, Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines state that developers are not permitted to “directly or indirectly target iOS users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase,” but it appears that Netflix has worked around this rule by simply not offering new users the option to sign up in-app whatsoever.

We’ve reached out to Apple for comment.

Tag: Netflix
Discuss this article in our forums

MacRumors-All?d=6W8y8wAjSf4 MacRumors-All?d=qj6IDK7rITs

21
Aug

Fortnite Code Suggests Popular Game Could Launch on Apple TV in the Future


Fortnite could launch on Apple TV at one point in the future, according to a new discovery by the @StormLeaks Twitter account late yesterday. As reported by esports and gaming website Dexerto, @StormLeaks found a single line within Fortnite’s code that references “tvOS,” suggesting that Epic Games may be planning to launch the popular game on Apple’s fourth- and fifth-generation set-top boxes down the line.

Still, this is just a single mention of tvOS in Fortnite’s code and shouldn’t be taken as a guarantee that the game will be available to play on Apple TV soon. If it does, the game would likely require a compatible wireless gaming controller, two of which Apple sells for $49.95 on its website.

#fortnite Fortnite is coming to Apple tvs. tvOS a Apple tv operating system has been found in the files. pic.twitter.com/QBBojQI0SX

— Storm – Fortnite Leaks (@StormLeaks) August 21, 2018

As it stands, Fortnite is currently available on iOS, macOS, Android, PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. Fortnite initially launched as a beta on iOS in March and then expanded wide in April. The smartphone apps are focused entirely on Fortnite’s PvP Battle Royale mode, but the console and desktop versions of the game also include a PvE mode called Save the World.

Fortnite Battle Royale on iOS is free-to-play (like it is on all platforms), but due to in-game content purchases the app in June reached $100 million in revenue 90 days after launch. Fortnite initially launched wide in summer 2017 on consoles, macOS, and PC, focusing only on the Save the World mode, with Battle Royale releasing a few months later in September 2017.

We’ve reached out to Epic Games for a comment and will update this post if we hear back.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 12Tag: FortniteBuyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Neutral)
Discuss this article in our forums

MacRumors-All?d=6W8y8wAjSf4 MacRumors-All?d=qj6IDK7rITs

21
Aug

Apple’s Revamped India Strategy Includes 5-6 ‘Flagship Premium Reseller’ Outlets in Major Cities


In an ongoing effort to boost sales in India, Apple is reportedly planning to upgrade its authorized reseller locations in five to six
“extremely prominent locations” in India’s metropolitan cities. The stores are being referred to as “Flagship Apple Premium Reseller” outlets.

While not official Apple stores, the locations will each be “at least three times larger” than the current reseller stores, which average about 1,000-1,500 square feet (via The Economic Times).

According to three senior industry executives, Apple may go up to as much as 5,000 square feet for the improved reseller locations in an effort to build them as “anchor shops” in malls and high-traffic outdoor shopping areas.

Apple will reportedly start construction on the flagship outlets first in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai. Sometime after those locations, the company will then open outlets in Hyderabad and Pune. A specific grand opening window for these outlets was not given.

“With company-owned Apple Stores yet to take shape in the country, Apple wants some of the franchisee run outlets to up the experience game through this new format. This is part of Apple’s new India strategy to focus on selling on experience rather than discount,” he said.

Apple is even open to the idea of a couple of these flagship stores being as large as 5,000 square feet if a suitable location is available. “The key is getting the right location, which is not easy. A team from the company is identifying locations,” an executive said.

The outlets are part of Apple’s revamped India strategy, which includes overhauling its relationship with independent retailers, long-lasting retail deals, and opening official Apple retail stores in the country. These official stores are said to open beginning in 2019 and eventually include locations in New Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai.

Apple’s new strategy began when Michel Coulomb was hired to oversee the company’s India growth at the end of 2017. Apple routinely struggles in the Indian market due to the higher prices of its smartphones in comparison to other manufacturers like Xiaomi, and other factors.

The other major aspect of the revamped strategy is Apple’s services, which will be “aimed more closely at Indians” thanks to certain apps that will get major updates in the country, like a new Apple Maps coming by 2020. Earlier this year, Indian iPhone users discussed Apple’s poor performance in this area and one user specifically called Apple Maps “a joke” in India.

While some services like Apple Music were favorably received, others like Siri were identified as low points for Indian customers, as the assistant “often struggles” with local accents and does not understand “many words of Indian origination” — all pain points that Apple is hoping to address.

Tag: India
Discuss this article in our forums

MacRumors-All?d=6W8y8wAjSf4 MacRumors-All?d=qj6IDK7rITs

%d bloggers like this: