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28
Oct

Microsoft Surface Buying Guide: Which is for you?


It’s been just over six years since Microsoft introduced its very first personal computer, the original Surface tablet. While that device wasn’t terribly well-received, the company persevered, releasing the Surface Pro and staying the course until the Surface Pro 3 finally broke through to commercial success. Flash forward to today, and Microsoft has a full range of Surface PCs that appeal to all kinds of buyers.

If you’re in the market for a new Windows 10 machine, especially if you’re willing to spend premium dollars, then you’re probably giving at least some thought to a Surface device. If so, then this guide is for you. We break down each of Microsoft’s offerings and provide an idea of who it’s good for.

What’s the best?

Before we go into the details, let’s get the obvious question out of the way. What’s the best device?

The Microsoft Surface Pro 6.

It’s a bit silly to pick just one, of course, because these devices all aim at different users. However, the Surface Pro 6 excels above all others because it’s undeniably the best device in its class. If you want a 2-in-1, you should look at the Surface Pro 6 first. The Surface Book 2 is a close second. It fits in a tighter niche, however, and is quite a bit more expensive.

Microsoft’s other devices are competitive, but not our first pick in their respective categories. The Surface Go and Surface Laptop 2 are weakest; both have numerous competitors that might be a better choice.

Best 2-in-1: Surface Pro 6

The Surface Pro has seniority in Microsoft’s hardware lineup, having been first introduced in 2013 as a follow-up to the poorly received original Surface. The latest and greatest iteration is the Surface Pro 6, recently announced, that updated to 8th-generation Intel Core processors and thus offers quad-core computing in one of the thinnest Windows 10 tablets available.

We already loved the Surface Pro’s design, and the latest version does nothing to diminish it. It’s made of magnesium and enjoys the kind of fit and finish that comes with years of refinement. Microsoft didn’t change the aesthetics or the build this time around, and that’s for a good reason — it’s already just about perfect, with great balance and the best fold-down kickstand in the business.

Performance should be significantly improved with the CPU upgrade, and battery life is better. Whereas the previous generations struggled to last an entire working day, the Surface Pro 6 might finally go the distance. Our full review praised the Surface Pro 6 for delivering a nice boost in battery life.

You’ll enjoy the excellent Signature Type Cover option, pricey at $160, but offering Alcantara fabric for a splash of color and with an excellent keyboard mechanism that’s quiet and precise. The touchpad is on the small side, but it’s comfortable when swiping and kicking off Windows 10’s full range of multitouch gestures.

Like its peers, the Surface Pro 6 also serves up a lovely display, coming in at 12.3-inches with a 2,736 x 1,824 (267 PPI) resolution and a 3:2 aspect ratio. You’ll get the same high contrast and brightness to go with good but not great colors, and some of the best touch and pen support on a modern tablet.

The Surface Pro 6 starts at $899 for a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD, but that doesn’t include the $160 Signature Type Cover or the $100 Surface Pen. You can spend as much as $2,299 for a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. Obviously, the Surface Pen 6 is a premium Windows 10 detachable tablet.

Who it’s good for? Anyone who wants a 2-in-1 device, either for tablet use, or as a laptop replacement.

What’s an alternative? Nothing.

Best Powerhouse Laptop That’s Also a 2-in-1: Surface Book 2

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Next up is the Surface Book 2, a 2-in-1 notebook that introduced a novel convertible mechanism: a tear-off display that plugs into a stable keyboard base weighed down by extra batteries and, in some configurations, a discrete GPU. The original Surface Book was the first of its kind, and the Surface Book 2 updated the internals for more power and better battery life while adding a new 15-inch version to go with the smaller 13.5-inch Surface Book 2.

View the Surface Book 2 from across a room, and you’re sure to notice the “fulcrum hinge” first of all. It’s what enables the 2-in-1s ability to morph from a traditional clamshell notebook that’s eminently stable in one’s lap to a remarkably thin and light tablet complete with Surface Pen support in all its precise, tilt-enabled goodness. The hinge folds out and leverages the heavy keyboard base to keep the display/tablet portion, which contains the main PC components, well-balanced.

The Surface Book 2 also received an update to 8th-generation Intel processors in October 2017, as well as a high-end 15-inch configuration packing an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 into the base. The 13.5-inch version can be equipped with a GTX 1050 or without a discrete GPU at all for a lower price. All versions enjoy one of the best keyboards around, with deep travel and a satisfying bottoming action, to go with a large and precise Microsoft Precision touchpad.

We mentioned the additional battery life that included in the keyboard base, and when combined with the portion in the tablet section provides some of the longest battery life in each version’s respective class. The Surface Book 2 lasts a long time on a charge, and will easily get you through more than a full working day. The tablet doesn’t last so long, though, and is best used for shorter bursts.

We would be remiss if we failed to highlight the Surface Book 2’s display. Not only does it tear off, but it is, of course, touch-enabled and provides full support for the latest and greatest Surface Pen. It can also match up with the Surface Dial for more precise controls. Regardless of size, you get a 3:2 PixelSense panel with high resolution (3,000 x 2,000 or 267 PPI on the 13.5-inch, 3,240 x 2,160 or 260 PPI on the 15-inch), some of the highest contrast in a notebook, and solid colors and brightness.

As with most of the Surface line, the Surface Book 2 falls in extreme premium territory. The 13.5-inch model starts at $1,199 for a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD, and that’s without a discrete GPU. You can spend as much as $2,999 for a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and the GTX 1050. The 15-inch version starts at $2,499 for a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD and tops out at $3,299 with a 1TB SSD.

Who it’s good for? Mobile geeks, professionals, and artists who want a powerful notebook paired that can be used as a tablet in a pinch.

What’s an alternative? The Surface Book 2 is the best large 2-in-1. If you just want a powerhouse laptop, though, the Dell XPS 15 is a better choice.

Best for Artists: Surface Studio 2

At the very top of Microsoft’s Surface line is its innovative all-in-one (AIO) desktop, the Surface Studio 2. With its seemingly magical “Zero Gravity” hinge that allows the display to adjust from upright to the perfect drawing angle with just a touch, the Surface Studio 2 is a standout among modern AIO PCs.

As the name implies, the Surface Studio 2 is in its second generation, which built on the original Surface Studio design with improved performance thanks to a 7th-generation Intel Core i7-7820HQ CPU that’s a real step up from the previous version. Graphics performance was also significantly improved, with a choice between Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 and 1070 GPUs that promise to drive its gorgeous display at a much faster clip.

Speaking of that display, it’s the real star of the show. It’s a 28-inch PixelSense touch- and pen-enabled display running at 4,500 x 3,200 (192 PPI) resolution in Microsoft’s favorite 3:2 aspect ratio. But specs only tell part of the story — the display is also individually calibrated for color accuracy, with profiles for the sRGB and DCI-P3 color spaces, and it’s been tweaked to provide even better colors, brightness, and contrast.

It’s a beautiful display for photographers and videographers for sure, but don’t leave out users whose artistic talents tend toward drawing. The Surface Studio 2 is an excellent platform for the a very precise active Surface Pen with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt control, along with the innovative Surface Dial input device that was literally designed for that expansive drawing surface. If you’re looking for a platform for digital artistry, then the Surface Studio 2 is designed for you.

You’ll pay for the privilege of using such an elegant AIO. With 16GB of RAM, a 1TB solid-state drive (SSD), another speed improvement, and a GTX 1060, the Surface Studio 2 starts at a whopping $3,495. Pick up the most potent configuration with 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a GTX 1070, and you’re looking at $4,799. That’s a lot of cash — though less expensive than an iMac Pro.

Who it’s good for? Artists with big budgets who want a reasonably fast, hugely innovative, and expansive digital drawing platform

What’s an alternative? The iMac and iMac Pro are stiff competitors and arguably better if you don’t want a touchscreen. A standard desktop is also far more powerful at the same price, though artists will need to pair such a PC with a third-party device to use it for digital art.

Best Budget Device: Surface Go

The Surface Go is the newest member of Microsoft’s Surface stable and it’s also the least expensive. In fact, it’s something of an outlier, competing as much on price as it does that iconic Surface industrial design.

Don’t get us wrong: the Surface Go is a nicely built detachable tablet. It’s made up of the same magnesium alloy as the rest of the Surface line (except the Surface Laptop, see below), and it enjoys the same kind of build quality. It’s also much less expensive, making it a bargain when you consider just how robust it is.

It suffers in the performance department, though, utilizing an Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y processor that keeps things running but won’t win any races. That’s particularly true if you opt for the entry-level 4GB of RAM, which won’t do Windows 10 any favors. You can choose up to 8GB of RAM to speed things up. Storage also matters, with a choice between 64GB of slow eMMC storage and a faster 128GB SSD.

Like the build quality, the display punches above its weight. It’s a 10-inch 3:2 PixelSense display at 1,800 x 1,200 (217 PPI) that offers high contrast, excellent brightness, and good colors and accuracy. The Surface Go might cut costs, but it doesn’t cut corners on display quality.

You’ll want to add a Signature Type Cover at $130, which has the same excellent feel as the Surface Pro’s version but is necessarily slightly more compact. The touchpad is good as well, and the display supports touch and the Surface Pen. Input on this low-cost tablet is competitive with anything on the market.

Most important, though, is the price. The Surface Go represents your one chance to get into a Surface device without breaking the bank, starting at just $399 for 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and jumping to $549 for 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. To be fully functional, you’ll want to add the $130 Signature Type Cover and $100 Surface Pen.

Who it’s good for? Anyone who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money but still wants a high-quality Windows 10 tablet.

What’s an alternative? An iPad or iPad Pro would work better if you want a tablet. The Lenovo Miix line can be a good alternative if you need to stick with Windows. You might even find an older model Surface Pro for a competitive price.

Best Boring (Yet Useful!) Laptop: Surface Laptop 2

Microsoft doesn’t just make 2-in-1s and AIOs that can serve as science fiction props. It also makes a traditional clamshell notebook, the Surface Laptop, that doesn’t fold, disconnect, or float. Instead, it makes do with a thin, light, and robust all-aluminum chassis, an excellent keyboard and touchpad, and a high-quality display — that, yes, does support touch and the Surface Pen (a dubious distinction in a clamshell) in a nod to Microsoft’s creative professional audience.

The Surface Laptop 2 was recently introduced, and its most important update was to Intel’s 8th-generation Core processors. The injection of speed and efficiency is important to keeping the Surface Laptop 2 in the running against a very competitive crop of 13-inch class notebooks.

But what makes the Surface Laptop 2 stand out most are its color schemes, which mate painted aluminum with the same Alcantara fabric that adorns the Surface Pro’s Type Cover. This fabric is matched with the chassis to create a unified aesthetic that adds a real splash of color to what’s otherwise a typical clamshell design. The combination of materials is all robust, fitting well into the Surface lineup in this regard, and the Alcantara does more than just improve aesthetics — it also makes for a comfortable place to rest your palms while typing.

The keyboard is also comfortable, offering copious travel and a precise and snappy mechanism. The bottoming action offers plenty of feedback without being harsh, making the Surface Laptop 2’s keyboard overall one of the best around. The touchpad is large and also precise, with good support for the full range of Windows 10 multitouch gestures.

Of course, the Surface Laptop 2 is a Surface device in spite of it’s more traditional form factor, and that means its display is also simply high-quality. It’s a 13.5-inch PixelSense display in the usual 3:2 aspect ratio at 2,256 x 1,504 (201 PPI) resolution. As usual, contrast is excellent, and its colors are good but not great. It’s a display that’s made for productivity workers, and if that’s you, then you’ll love it.

The Surface Laptop 2 is a bona fide premium notebook, starting at $999 for a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. Fully configured with a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD, the machine costs a hefty $2,699.

Who it’s good for? Anyone who wants a well-made notebook with a bit of panache, and isn’t afraid to pay for it

What’s an alternative? The Dell XPS 13 is always a fantastic pick.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Microsoft Surface Pro 6 vs. Surface Laptop 2
  • HP Envy x2 vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 6
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 vs. Dell XPS 13
  • Surface Pro 6 vs. Surface Book 2
  • Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) review



28
Oct

Google homepage updated with new Discover feed for U.S. users


The Google homepage has been updated for mobile devices and now features the new version of the Discover feed that was announced at the end of September. The rollout is just for the U.S. so far, but does apply to both Android and iOS devices.

If you head to google.com on your phone, you’ll see a set of cards below the search box that link you to stories relevant to your interests. Each card shows a cover image, a title, a brief excerpt of the page’s content, the name of the site, and the date the content was published. Typically you’ll see stories on topics like sports, entertainment, or news, personalized based on your search history and preferences. The cards will link to news articles, YouTube videos, recipe page, tip articles, photo galleries, and more. The aim is to provide you with a snapshot of content from across the web that might be of interest to you.

You can customize your Discover feed too. There is a small menu accessible from the top right corner of each card which you can use to dismiss the card, indicate that you are not interested in the topic, or block the site from being recommended in Discover entirely. These tools let you tweak your Discover experience so you can get rid of material that you don’t want to see. In the bottom right of each card, there is a menu which lets you determine whether you want to see more or less of the featured topic, so there is a good amount of customization available.The first time you see Discover, there will be a card at the top of the list that explains the new feature and how to use it.

Although the new homepage displays on any mobile browser, including iOS Safari as well as Chrome, it is only available for U.S. users for now. There hasn’t been any word yet on when the Discover feed will roll out to the rest of the world, but given Google’s international focus it likely won’t be long until the feature is available outside of the U.S. as well.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Google Feed is now known as ‘Discover,’ will be available on mobile browsers
  • Here’s how to mirror your smartphone or tablet onto your TV
  • Become a master caster with these Google Chromecast tips and tricks
  • Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus: Here’s everything you need to know
  • 8 easy ways for you to transfer photos from an Android phone to a PC



28
Oct

These cases are the best for traveling with the Oculus Go


Since it is named the Oculus Go, you’re going to want a way to travel around with it while also keeping it safe. The best way to ensure that you Oculus Go doesn’t get harmed while you’re on the go is to keep it safe in a traveling case. These are the best travel cases for your Oculus Go that will fit most needs.

Heavy duty

Hermitshell hard shell travel case

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This is another great option for a hard shell case, and this one can fit just about anything in it. You can fit in your headset, headphones, cables, and so much more inside of this case, and it will all be secure with the hard exterior. You will never have to worry about your headset getting bumps or bruises with the protection from this case.

$24 at Amazon

Extra large

BAGSMART case

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This traveling case is one of the largest traveling bags I’ve seen, it can hold almost anything. It’s TSA-approved as well, so the size is perfect for your carry-on for all your flights. Not only will it fit your headset, but you can fit every other necessity you need inside this bag.

$26 at Amazon

Custom fit

Zadii protective carrying case

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This case has customized compartments for the Oculus Go headset and the motion controller. The bag features two layer protection with the inside having padding to keep our device in place and the outside being a harder shell. The case also has enough room for your cables and straps so you can take your entire setup on the go.

$20 at Amazon

Water-resistant

Navitech water-resistant case

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The Navitech water-resistant case has some added protection to keep your Oculus Go in top condition. It has a rugged rucksack design that’s water-resistant. And while it’s not waterproof, it’s always nice to have some added protection. It’s a larger case that’s big enough for the Oculus Go, as well as cables and some accessories.

$25 at Amazon

These cases all provide protection for you Oculus Go, but they have different strengths and weaknesses. If you want a snug fit, you should look at the Zadii protective carrying case but if you want extra rugged protection you should look at the Hermitshell hard shell travel case.

28
Oct

What can the stylus do on the LG Stylo 4?


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Best answer: The LG Stylo 4’s stylus allows users to write a quick memo, capture and annotate the screen, capture GIFs, and magnify portions of the screen. You can also just use the stylus as a replacement for your finger for swipe typing and navigating the interface.

Amazon: LG Stylo 4 Prime Exclusive ($250)

What’s it like to use the stylus with the LG Stylo 4?

I’ll admit, when I hear about styli being used on phones, my mind goes to two places: the pre-iPhone smartphone that had resistive screens and basically had to be stabbed to register input and those $1 styli that you see sometimes at payment terminals that do little more than mimic the human finger.

Fortunately, the Stylo 4’s pen is neither. The pen is properly supported by the display’s digitizer, and while LG doesn’t state how many levels of pressure the screen and stylus support, you can have some fine control by holding the pen a certain way. It’s not as detailed as more advanced pens, but it works well enough for signing documents and for coloring book apps.

There’s no Bluetooth support like the Galaxy Note’s pen, but there are some other smarts. The phone knows if the stylus isn’t in its silo, so if it detects you’re walking but the stylus isn’t stowed inside, it’ll vibrate and notify you so you don’t need a replacement pen.

What can you do with the LG Stylo 4’s stylus?

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You get a few built-in tools for the stylus, but it works for the simplest of tasks. The stylus works well as a replacement for your fingertip: you can wake the screen with a double tap of the pen, just like you would your finger. Glide typing with your favorite keyboard is also wonderful, as is just navigating around the interface.

When you take the stylus out of its holster along the bottom of the phone, you’ll see a short menu of tools. You can change exactly which tools and shortcuts you see, and have up to five shortcuts set — I added a shortcut to Google Keep, since that’s my note app of choice, for example.

By default, the Pop Menu will show shortcuts for Pop Memo, Capture+, GIF Capture, and Pop Lens. Most of these do exactly what they say: Pop Memo lets you jot down a quick memo, while Capture+ lets you take a screenshot, then annotate said screenshot. GIF Capture captures GIFs, while Pop Lens gives you a virtual magnifying glass to zoom in further on hard-to-read text.

You can also jot down a memo when the screen is off or completely turn off the Pop Memo if you only want to use the stylus for basics like glide typing.

Stylish stylus

LG Stylo 4 Prime Exclusive

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$250 at Amazon

Good performance with a good pen

If you like using a stylus with your phone, the Stylo 4 is for you. You get quick access to a few different tools, and you can change what tools pop up when you take the stylus out. Beyond that, you’re also getting a capable phone, with good performance for not a lot of money.

28
Oct

The best Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL accessories so far


The Pixel 3 and 3 XL is finally here, and our review shows that it’s a hit. If you’re among those getting one, you might want to start thinking about the best accessories to pair with your new phone. Some of the best available accessories including the new Google Pixel Stand or USB-C Pixel earbuds available exclusively through the Google Store — convenient when you’re pre-ordering your phone — but the best cases and value can be found in the highlighted third-party accessories.

Wirelessly charge in style

Google Pixel Stand

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The Google Pixel Stand is more than a wireless charging stand — it’s designed by Google to turn your phone into a bedside alarm clock that does more thanks to Google Assistant. You’ll also be able to enjoy a slideshow of your best photos as your phone charges.

$79 at Google Store

More power!

Google 18W USB-C Power Adapter

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For the fastest wired charging times, you’re going to need Google’s 18W USB-C Power Adapter. You may already own a couple of these beauties if you’ve owned previous Pixel phones, but if not, it’s always great to have a spare kicking around.

$35 at Google Store

Backup buds

Google Pixel USB-C earbuds

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A less ambitious, wired version of the Pixel Buds, these USB-C earbuds let you control Google Assistant and access notifications and more without breaking your stride to look at your Pixel 3. You get a pair included with the phone, but for this price, you may want a backup pair!

$30 at Google Store

All-in for Google

Google Fabric Case

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Google introduced its fabric cases last year with the Pixel 2 series and it’s bringing it back for another round with the Pixel 3. There are multiple fabric designs to choose from, each with its one distinct look. These cases are on the pricey side, but they’re well, well worth it.

$40 at Google Store

Thin protector

Spigen Thin Fit

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The Spigen Thin Fit case is a perfect choice if you want to keep your Pixel 3 looking nice without adding too much bulk. This minimalist case offers good protection against regular wear and tear, and should defend against an accidental drop — but keep in mind the top and bottom front edges exposed. Also available for the Pixel 3 XL.

$12 at Amazon

Clearly a good choice

Spigen Liquid Crystal

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For those who love to show off their new phones without compromising on protection, the Spigen Liquid Crystal clear case is a go-to option. This case delivers added protection where it matters most — the edges and corners of the phone — without adding too much extra bulk. Also available for the Pixel 3 XL.

$12 at Amazon

Sleek and rugged

Ringke Onyx

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What’s not to love about this case’s design? Ringke offers this slim one-piece TPU case that looks great and includes a lanyard hole for those requiring extra peace of mind. Affordably priced and designed to protect your Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL.

$9 at Amazon

Carry less in your pockets

Bellroy Leather Phone Wallet

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Bellroy’s premium leather case features four card slots — two on the front cover, and two more hidden between the case and the back of your phone. Made from environmentally certified leather and available in five beautiful colors, this one is expensive but the best option for those who want a genuine leather case for the smaller Pixel 3. Also available for the Pixel 3 XL for $10 more.

$89 at Bellroy

Charge on the go

Belkin USB-C Car Charger

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Available in your choice of a hardwired USB-C cable that includes a second USB-A port or a single USB-C port. This car charger is offered in the Google Store for $35 — but you can get it for $10 less on Amazon. Trusted by Google and backed by a Belkin equipment warranty.

$27 at Amazon

Protect that screen

Mr Shield Tempered Glass Screen Protector 3-pack

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Google sells a $45 premium tempered glass screen protector through it’s store, but we’ll hedge our bets and also recommend this 3-pack of tempered glass screen protectors. With a lifetime replacement warranty and this price, how can you lose? Also available for the Pixel 3 XL.

$7 at Amazon

Made for Google

InvisibleShield glass+ visionguard

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This is that Google-approved premium screen protector — the InvisibleShield glass+ visionguard from Zagg. It’s designed to cover the entire display with cuts around the front-facing speakers at the top and bottom of the display, and is designed to filter out some blue light to protect your eyes. Zagg backs its products with a Worry-Free Warranty for as long as you own our phone. Also available for the Pixel 3 XL

$45 at Zagg

Pop it and watch it

PopSocket Collapsible Grip & Stand

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Pop a PopSocket on the back of your Pixel 3 and you’ll always have a sure grip when snapping a wide-angle selfie. Made with aluminum for durability, a pop socket folds down to just 6mm on the back of your phone and is quick to pop out as a stand to watch a video. Available in multiple colors and styles, but beware of knock-off products.

$15 at Amazon

We’ll be sure to update this list with more verified awesomeness as the weeks roll on and the phones start to get into more people’s hands. If protection is your main concern you should pick out a case and order a tempered glass screen protector now so that you’re ready for daily use and abuse from day one.

28
Oct

Anker brings Google Assistant to a Wi-Fi speaker and pocket projector


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Anker has a range of new products ready for the holiday season

Anker is known for its range of excellent mobile charging products, but the company has expanded beyond providing power in recent years with its Nebula, Eufy and SoundCore brands. At a launch event in New York, the company announced new products across its range of brands that it hopes will persuade you to part with your hard earned money this holiday season.

The new products include the Nebula Capsule II pocket projector, the SoundCore Model Zero+ wireless speaker, the Eufy home security solution which aims to tackle the biggest issues with current smart security systems, and Anker’s smallest 27W Power Delivery USB-C charger.

Anker’s smallest USB-C Power Delivery charger

The PowerPort Atom PD is a compact USB-C enabled wall charger supporting 27W Power Delivery. Compared to most other Power Delivery chargers, this is smaller than stock smartphone chargers, but is capable of delivering enough power to fast charge every smartphone and even keep some laptops powered. It’s sleek, stylish and works extremely well; at a cost of $29.99, it’s ideal for throwing in your bag when you head on vacation.

Total Output Wattage 27W
Input 100 – 240V ~ 1.2A 50 – 60Hz
Power Delivery Output 5V – 3A / 9V – 3A / 15V – 1.5A / 20V – 1.1A
Size 1.61 in x 1.37 in x 1.49 in
Weight 2.2 oz

The small size of the PowerPort Atom PD makes this stand out. It’s smaller than the stock charger included in the box of the Pixel 3, yet much more powerful and for most smartphone users – in particular, those who need more power than Apple includes by default with the iPhone – this will be the go-to wall charger.

$30 at Amazon

A good pico projector made better

The Nebula Capsule II is the follow-up to the company’s successful Nebula pico projector and brings a host of new features including Android TV, Google Assistant and Improved audio. The Nebula Capsule II features the same soda-can inspired design as the original Capsule with 720p HD output and runs on the latest version of Android TV. Other notable features include 1-second autofocus, 8W speakers and USB-C.

$349 at Kickstarter

Resolution 1280 x 720
Brightness 200 ANSI lumens
Operating System Android TV 9.0, supporting over 3600 applications, such as: Google Play, YouTube, and Hulu Plus.
Speaker 8W speakers with dual passive radiators
Improved connectivity Supports USB Type C, HDMI, USB, AUX-Out, WiFi, Bluetooth, and Chromecast
Other 1 second autofocus Google Assistant support

The soda-can inspired design results in a sleek pico projector that looks great and will be a tasteful addition to any home. There are just a few buttons, which blend into the stylish grill design. It’s small and sleek, yet powerful and has a range of features making it one of the most capable pico projectors on the market. The addition of Android TV especially means the Nebula Capsule II has access to all the apps you need.

Two new speakers, one with Google Assistant built-in

The SoundCore Model Zero and Model Zero+ are two new portable speakers for different price points. The Model Zero+ is the more capable of the two, bringing Google Assistant and Dolby Audio support. The Zero+ has been “designed by Scan-Speak”, which Anker says further increases audio output definition. The Zero+ has 5 hours of battery life, while the regular Model Zero – which is a simple Bluetooth speaker – offers 10 hours of battery life. The Model Zero is available now for $199.99, while the Model Zero+ will retail for $249.99 when it launches next month.

Dimensions 256 x 128 x 240mm 256 x 148 x 240 mm
Weight 1955g 1955g
Microphones None 2 Mics
Battery life 10 hours (BT mode) 5 hours (Wi-Fi mode)
Charge time 3 hours 3 hours
Wi-Fi None 802.11 b/g/n/ac
BT v5 v4.2 (with receiver, not transmitter)
Aux In No Yes
Smart features None Google Home supportChromeCast built-inStreaming services (Play Music, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, YouTube Music, iHeartRadio
Driver size 2 x 63mm Woofer2 x 19mm Tweeter2 passive Radiators 2 x 63mm Woofer2 x 19mm Tweeter2 passive Radiators
Water resistance IPX5 None
Battery capacity 6700 mAh 6700 mAh
Operational range (Bluetooth) 20m / 66ft 10m / 33ft
Price $199.99 $249.99

The Model Zero+ is the more capable of the two speakers but both feature a stylish design that reminds me of a handbag. They’re designed to be easy to pick-up and carry, and the key difference between them is in the style. The Model Zero+ comes in a range of colors and features a metal finish near the handle, with a slider used to change the volume. The Model Zero features actual buttons and this area is the only way to easily differentiate between the two speakers.

See at Amazon

What do you think of Anker’s new announcements? Let us know your views in the comments below!

28
Oct

Would you pay a subscription to access lots of paid Google Play apps?


Would you rather pay one monthly fee to avoid paying for apps individually?

Enterprising developers tear through every line of code in Google apps looking for hints and hidden treasure maps that lead them to the next great feature on the horizon; it’s a bit like shaking your presents while you wait for Christmas to arrive. Over the last few months, rumors have been growing as more and more references to a mysterious “Play Pass” in Google Play Store are unearthed, and now the rumors are starting to converge on a single prevailing theory: “Play Pass” could very well be an app store subscription that gives users access to hundreds, thousands or millions of paid apps and/or games for a flat monthly fee.

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Buying a single app every now and again is fine for most folks, but buying apps or games frequently — or buying in-app bonuses every campaign — can turn users off of buying more apps or playing Android games. This would be a problem for Google, as mobile gaming is a lucrative market that the Google Play team has spent a lot of time and effort on improving the experience in for both users and developers, such as the ability to play a game before your buy or install it and the continued improvements to game progress syncing through Google Play Games.

Many apps have switched over to the subscription model on their own. For instance, I’ve subscribed to AutoApps from João Dias, the new owner of Tasker and a longtime Tasker plugin master. It’s a $1.35/month subscription, but after three years, I’ve paid $48.60 for the AutoApps suite of plugins, and that’s not an insignificant number. Favored Android home screen replacement Action Launcher likewise has offered monthly and yearly “Supporter” subscription options for fans to continue supporting his work, and I’ve probably given that another $20-$30 over my life as a themer, too.

Apps aren’t cheap, and subscriptions could lead to more revenue for developers long-term.

The references to Play Pass as seen by XDA Developers had previously been more vague, but the newest mentions found by developer Kieron Quinn refer to “PLAYPASS_SUBSCRIPTION”, which is pretty straightforward, especially when combined with a Google Opinion Rewards survey screenshot sent to Quinn by a friend that asked respondents how they felt about an app store that offered a subscription with **”access to hundreds of dollars worth of paid apps and games for a monthly fee.”

google-play-pass-opinion-rewards-survey.

Media and entertainment subscriptions are nothing new, just look at Google’s “new” YouTube Music and YouTube Premium subscriptions. Spotify, Netflix, and Hulu are proof that a properly balances entertainment subscription can be a lucrative business, and paying a flat fee to unlock premium content in a catalog of apps and games is something Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited does with child-oriented games. Google getting in on the action with Game Pass wouldn’t be unprecedented, but there are still a lot of questions and details that would have to be sorted out, with developers and within the Google Play system, before the service could be available to users like you and me.

Would you pay for a Play Pass to kiss individual app purchases and micro-transactions goodbye? Android developers, would you support your apps being included in Play Pass for a proportional percentage of revenue based on how much time users spent in your app? Do you know how much you’ve paid for apps up until this point? Do you think a subscription like this could increase app revenue on Android or choke it down if Play Pass users stop buying apps that aren’t included?

28
Oct

Starbucks 5.0 app pushes out on Android after bug-fixing delay


Even Starbucks’ developers need some caffeine before they push out a major update.

Starbucks is probably one of the most-used apps on many a coffee-user’s phone. They use it to order coffee on their way to work, on their way back from lunch, on their way to afternoon cafe, and any other time the ever-insatiable itch for caffeine needs to be scratched, or whenever users need to check their status and points in the Starbucks Rewards program. An update gone awry for this important app could spell disaster for thousands of users, and when the Starbucks 5.0 update first began to roll out October 22 that was indeed what happened for some after a nasty little bug was uncovered. The update was pulled, fixed, and now, it is rolling out again.

🆕 Remember how I said an updated Android app was rolling out to customers? We had a hiccup and addressed a nasty bug, but it’s rolling out again — @Starbucks 5.0 for Android is in the Play store and coming to an update tab near you! pic.twitter.com/Dq0cq2ucwy

— Jason Stoff (@jstoff) October 26, 2018

The new update is rolling out to users through Google Play, and this update brings with it a refreshed navigation UI featuring Material Design’s bottom tab layout, which will make the app easier to navigate, especially on phones with taller screens. This is especially helpful for pulling up the barcode for paying for your drinks once you reach the store; a floating action Play button can bring it up in one tap!

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The new app also features a customized greeting each time you open the app’s Home tab, which welcomes you by name, with proper greetings based on the time of day. If such a heavily-used app is going to introduce a new look, this is about as close to Starbucks’ famously busy holiday season as you’d want to roll it out. This is the biggest revamp of the Starbucks app in over two years, since the addition of Starbucks Rewards. Head over to the Google Play app and see if the update has popped up for you!

Free at Google Play

28
Oct

Where’s my Pie: the latest Android distribution numbers


Your (usually) monthly fix on the current state of Android.

About once a month, Google releases distribution numbers that outline the various Android versions and the percentage of current devices they’re running on. This data is meant for developers so they can create and update their apps according to which Android versions are the most popular, but they also give enthusiasts like us a glimpse into how quickly OEMs are adopting the latest and greatest the platform has to offer.

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To source this data, Google tracks the Android versions of any devices accessing the Play Store over the course of a 7-day period. This ensures that only active Android gadgets are being accounted for and not your HTC Dream that’s been sitting untouched in a drawer for the past few years.

Any version that accounts for 0.1% or more is listed, but versions that have less than that are ignored.

Without further ado, here’s the current state of Android.

October 2018

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Two months on, and there’s still no Android Pie on the Android distribution numbers. Android Oreo is still steadily rising, and is now the second most used version of Android, behind its predecessor Android Nougat. The numbers for KitKat and below are still basically the same, with Gingerbread still hanging onto to the edge of the chart by its fingertips like a Ninja Warrior contestant, while we all sit on the sidelines screaming “Fall! FALL!! FALL!!!!”

Fruitcake is the holiday treat that’s supposed to last forever, not Gingerbread! And with the holiday season about to be upon us, can someone please pass the Pie??

September 2018

android-distribution-sept-2018-condensed

August saw the release of Android Pie, and September saw the new version start pushing out to more and more devices, but alas, Pie is not on a big enough percentage of devices to warrant a slice on the pie chart, pun intended. Last year’s Android version, Oreo is now available on 19.2% of Android devices, but over half of the Android devices that visited the Google Play Store this month were still running Nougat or Marshmallow.

While conventional wisdom says the holiday treat that lasts forever is fruitcake, Gingerbread is still hanging on at 0.3%, alongside Ice Cream Sandwich. Here’s to hoping that Google can replace one or both of them with Pie in their pie chart by Christmas.

July 2018

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It’s been a hot minute since we got our last batch of distribution numbers, but after skipping over June, Google’s back with an all-new set of data for July.

The biggest highlight for this month shows Android Oreo (8.0 and 8.1) now available on 12.1% of all devices — a huge step up from the 5.7% it saw just a couple months back. That’s still not a great adoption rate, but at least we’re getting somewhere.

The rest of the changes compared to May are as follows:

  • Gingerbread — 0.1% decrease
  • Ice Cream Sandwich — 0.1% decrease
  • Jelly Bean — 0.7% decrease
  • KitKat — 1.2% decrease
  • Lollipop — 2% decrease
  • Marshmallow — 2% decrease
  • Nougat —0.3 decrease
  • Oreo — 6.4% increase

May 2018

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The data for May corresponds to Play Store activity for the seven-day period ending on May 7. Oreo has picked up another percentage point over the course of the month, and is at 5.7% overall — 4.9% being 8.0 and the other 0.8% for 8.1.

Nougat also saw a slight increase from 30.8% to 31.1%, followed by Marshmallow by 25.5%. Here’s the breakdown of how things changed:

  • Gingerbread – No change
  • Ice Cream Sandwich – No change
  • Jelly Bean – 0.2% decrease
  • KitKat – 0.2% decrease
  • Lollipop – 0.5% decrease
  • Marshmallow – 0.5% decrease
  • Nougat – 0.3% increase
  • Oreo – 1.1% increase

April 2018

android-distribution-numbers-april-2018.

For April of 2018, Google tracked Android devices accessing the Play Store for 7 days with the collection period ending on April 16.

The last report from February showed Oreo just barely accounting for more than 1% of Android devices, but that number has since climbed to 4.6% (4.1% being 8.0 and the other 0.5% going to 8.1). Nougat also sees an increase with a jump to 30.8% compared to 28.5% (7.1 and 7.0 combined), and Marshmallow is still trailing in second place at 26%.

Comparing these numbers to February’s findings:

  • Gingerbread – No change
  • Ice Cream Sandwich – No change
  • Jelly Bean – 0.5% decrease
  • KitKat – 1.5% decrease
  • Lollipop – 1.7% decrease
  • Marshmallow – 2.1% decrease
  • Nougat – 2.3% increase
  • Oreo – 3.5% increase

February 2018

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February’s report was the first time Android Oreo crossed the 1% threshold despite that version of the OS being released back in August of last year.

Marshmallow continued with a tight grip at 28.1%, but this also marked the first time that Android Nougat jumped into first place with a combined total of 28.5% – that including versions 7.0 and 7.1.

Additionally, Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0.3 to 4.0.4) also finally dropped to 0.4% from last January’s 0.5%.

January 2018

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In January 2018, Android Marshmallow still reigned supreme as the most popular version of the OS at 29.7%. This also saw 8.1 Oreo make an appearance on the board for the first time with 0.2% adoption, and 8.0 remained at the same 0.5% it was at in December.

Jellybean and KitKat both decreased compared to last month’s check-in, but Ice Cream Sandwich and Gingerbread are still holding on at the same 0.5% and 0.4%, respectively.

What version of Android are you running?

What about the phone you’re using? What one is it and what version of Android is it rocking? Sound off in the comments below and let me know!

28
Oct

Take your Pixel 3’s protection to the next level


While there’s no denying that the Google Pixel 3 is a good-looking phone, it’s also safe to say that it’s far from the most durable. We love that the all-glass back finally allows for wireless charging, but it’s also prone to all sorts of unwanted scratches and cracks. If you want serious protection to keep the Pixel 3 safe, these are the best rugged cases we recommend buying.

Not too bulky

Spigen Rugged Armor

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The Spigen Rugged Armor case strikes a beautiful balance of offering great protection without being overly bulky or thick. There’s a shock-absorbant carbon fiber design, military-grade Air Cushion Technology, and tactile button covers that are easy to use.

$13 at Amazon

Built-in screen protector

Poetic Revolution

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If you want something a bit more rugged, Poetic’s Revolution case is another excellent choice. You get 360 degrees of full protection, a built-in screen protector, a dust flap for the USB-C port, and a rugged polycarbonte back. There are also three great colors to choose from!

$17 at Amazon

Comes with a kickstand

Spigen Tough Armor

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The other Spigen case on this list is the Tough Armor case. Outfitted with a two-layer design, this case keeps the Pixel 3 safe against all sorts of drops and falls. Add that together with a built-in kickstand on the back and two color options, and you’re all set.

$17 at Amazon

OtterBox’s finest

OtterBox Defender Series

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You can’t talk about rugged cases without mentioning OtterBox! The Defender Series features a multi-layer design with a solid inner shell and soft outer shell, a belt clip holster, and port covers to keep all sorts of unwanted debris away from your new phone.

$50 at Amazon

Stylish durability

OtterBox Symmetry Series

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OtterBox’s Symmetry Series does a great job at offering that same great OtterBox protection in a slimmer, more stylish profile. The case is easy to take on and off, is still plenty rugged, and the two-tone color design is simply gorgeous.

$40 at Amazon

Perfectly basic

Caseology Legion Series

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Caseology’s Legion Series case is another good choice for people that want ample protection without adding too much bulk. There’s a dual-layer design that’s secure and slim, a grippy texture on the back, and great button covers so you still get precise, tactile feedback.

$16 at Amazon

There you have it — six truly excellent cases that’ll keep your Pixel 3 protected against virtually anything you throw at it. My personal favorite is the Spigen Rugged Armor as I’m not one for overly bulky accessories, but if you want the absolute most durability you can find, the Poetic Revolution and OtterBox Defender Series will likely be more up your alley.

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