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1 year ago

Light up your party with the MiPow PLAYBULB Rainbow Bluetooth LED Light Bulb

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Interested in adding some custom lighting to your home for those special occasions? The PLAYBULB Rainbow is definitely one to consider.

Aside from typical smart lighting that kicks on when I'm hitting the loo in the middle of the night, I haven't experimented with a smart bulb like the MiPow PLAYBULB Rainbow that has the ability to switch to dozens of custom colors and effects from my Android. It seems I've been missing out on a world of intelligent lighting that's perfect for parties, movies, or even bedside use.

The entire light measures about 4.6-inches in length and fits any standard E26/E27 light socket. Inside is an LED bulb that puts out 280 lumens and is capable of a RGB lighting scheme. The PLAYBULB Rainbow utilizes Bluetooth v4.0 and has a wireless range of around 30 feet, given there aren't many walls between your device and the light. At only 5W per bulb, your electric bill certainly won't have much to say about your new lighting setup.

After screwing in the smart bulb, you'll need to jump on the Play Store and download the PLAYBULB X app (also available for iOS if it's a divided household). Once installed, make sure your PLAYBULB is turned on and you should see it listed under "Devices". Tap Connect and you're ready to start experimenting with colors, effects and more.

You'll definitely want to go into the app preferences and switch on "Auto reconnect" to keep things quick and simple each time. The main light control screen features a color wheel that you can select from, also providing a color saturation adjustment if you want to keep things a bit dimmer than normal. If you really want to shake things up, toggle the Shake switch and go nuts with your device, whether it's to match the beat of a tune or to irritate your significant other. Pop into the Effects window to get even more customization options including flashing, pulse, candle effect, and a rainbow fade. Most of these effects have specific colors to choose from as well as speed settings.

Also available is a built-in music player which doesn't seem to serve much of a purpose as far as the lighting goes, but rather a quick way to select songs you've downloaded onto your device. There are options for beats and EQ here, but neither are active nor allow access — at least on my Galaxy S6 edge. Finally, the Scenes window gives you the ability to add a photo from your device and use an eye dropper tool to select a specific color from the image. Don't expect very accurate results here, though.

If you have more than one PLAYBULB you can easily set up a group, and control them simultaneously for a more impressive light show. Additional settings allow you to setup elaborate timers for a switch of colors, and when to put the PLAYBULB to sleep. The security settings feature options for start and end times, too.

Our take

Having just one of these LED smart bulbs around the house is a pretty cool addition and worth using for a variety of occasions. To really make an impression, you could add a handful to your screened porch or lanai and mix it up with some drinks and good friends. Their app leaves a lot to be desired with certain features that simply don't work, but the basics are still there. You can grab a single PLAYBULB Rainbow for around $37, or go all-in with a 3 pack which runs $87.

Buy now

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1 year ago

Sonos PLAY:1 Tone Limited Edition speakers going on sale July 21 for $250

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The Sonos PLAY:1 wireless speaker family will soon get two new additions. The Sonos PLAY:1 Tone Limited Edition will be sold in black and white matte finishes but only 5,000 speakers of each color will be made available for sale on July 21 for $250.

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1 year ago

How smartphone-based VR works

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Mobile VR

There are many kinds of virtual reality technology in the world today, and thanks to the current level of excitement surrounding the technology there are more and more companies developing solutions that immerse users in a whole new kind of interactive experience. The two primary challenges VR tech face right now lie in demonstrating useful content to justify the experience, and creating accessible solutions that are either inexpensive enough that anyone can try it or complex enough that users want to make VR a fundamental part of their regular entertainment.

Today we're going to talk about accessibility, specifically the push to make your smartphone the key component in the VR experience. We've seen several companies release accessories that you can slide your phone into, and in doing so gain a fairly inexpensive VR experience that can be appreciated anywhere. To accomplish this level of functionality, a lot of things have to be happening in your phone all at once. Here's how it works.

The display and the lenses

Vanguard V

The first thing you'll notice if you've ever peeking inside Google Cardboard when a VR app is running is the curious way everything looks on the display. There's a pair of images, showing what appears to be the exact same thing, but the images don't always fill the screen. Usually what you'll see is something that looks almost like the image you'd see on an old tube television flattened out on your smartphone, and the rest of the screen is black. Occasionally you'll see a white dividing line separating the two images, but not always.

The images you see here are designed specifically to work with the lenses that came with your VR accessory, and are by far the most common form of VR right now. It's the same basic idea we see in larger units like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Inside your VR accessory you'll find a pair of Biconvex lenses, which is what takes the images on the display and warps them to fill your field of view. Your eyes perceive these individual images as a single image, which creates the illusion of depth through stereoscopy.

VR Lenses

Most forms of smartphone-based VR rely on these lenses existing in a fixed position. This means anyone can pick up something like Google Cardboard and immediately start using it without adjusting anything, but if you rely on glasses to see you'll need to keep those glasses on your face to enjoy what you are seeing. As anyone with glasses can attest, holding something to your glasses for any length of time is less than comfortable and usually means you have to clean your glasses afterwards.

The alternative, as seen in the Samsung Gear VR, is a knob that adjusts the focal length while the headset is resting on your face. It means you've got to tweak the focal length to get it to where you want it, but it also means most folks who wear glasses can wear the Gear VR without them.

Moving around in a virtual world

We've had video games on our smartphones for quite a while where movement was a critical part of interactive experiences. Some of these apps let you tilt the phone to turn a vehicle, while others rely on standing up and physically panning the phone in one direction or the other to reveal more of an image. Photospheres and Spotlight Stories are two of the more impressive examples that come to mind when thinking about an experience where your phone is a window to this larger world, and you have to move around to see all of it. This same basic concept drives a lot of the VR content, and as a result a lot of the same technology is used.

Windy Day

The accelerometer and gyroscope in your smartphone give your VR app a sense of motion and position, allowing you to tilt your head and even spin around completely to see more of the virtual world being drawn for you. This experience is fixed, meaning you can't just get up and walk around to see more of the world around you. We've seen developers working on mobile versions of this experience through the Epson Moverio headset, but your smartphone will keep you sitting or standing in one place while you pan around and experience the game or video. That doesn't mean the video itself can't move — in fact we've seen many examples where things like roller coasters and space simulation relies heavily on making it feel like you are moving around, when in fact you aren't moving at all.

Not all mobile VR experiences are created equally when it comes to the use of this technology. Samsung's Gear VR, for example, includes an extra accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer to offer a smoother VR experience. More data points in this experience means head tracking can be more precise, which leads to a more polished experience. This is why the larger VR experiences rely on things like fixed-point sensors for your desk and a massive array of external sensors to track movement and position. It's impractical to expect that kind of experience on mobile, but it's nice to know the experience you have with your smartphone improves dramatically with these increased price tags.

Controllers for your VR experience

Pinc vr

Most of the VR experiences you will have through Google Cardboard right now aren't much more than moving your head around with a box held to your face, but there are several great mobile VR experiences that demand a little more. Just like the accessories we've seen with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, there are accessories that will take your mobile VR experience somewhere unique.

The folks at Pinć VR plan to include a pair of rings that rest on your index fingers with a pair of buttons on the inside. These buttons, and the lights that help guide the rings, allow you to reach into your VR experience and interact. This depth addition feels a lot more natural than the button on the side of Google Cardboard, but also requires you have your VR set strapped to your head with your arms stretched out in front of you.

Meanwhile, Samsung has several apps in the Oculus store now that rely on a controller to use with your Gear VR. This experience puts your inside the game you are playing, without forcing you to hold something to your face. It's a control mechanic most folks are already used to, allowing you to play without looking down at the controller, and ultimately provides the most familiar experience for gameplay.

Virtual Reality

The most interesting thing about mobile VR right now is how relatively young the experience is. So many companies in every part of the ecosystem are working to make this experience special, and the core of the platform lives in your pocket at all times. With every iteration in the smartphone world — including screen resolution, motion sensing, and video rendering — mobile VR tech will continue to improve. Even if you're not ready to make the dive into VR just yet, it's an impressive ecosystem to be paying attention to right now.

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1 year ago

Samsung Level U Wireless Headphones review

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The flexibility and lightweight design of the Level U Wireless Headphones make their audio quality that much more enjoyable.

These past few weeks we've been testing the waters with Samsung's Level line-up, jamming with the Level On headphones and bringing Bluetooth to our more dated gadgets with the Level Link wireless adapter. Now we've had a chance to spend some quality time with the new Level U Wireless Headphones during long gaming sessions, occasional phone calls and even utilizing S Voice in between.

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1 year ago

Seidio DILEX Pro kickstand case for LG G4

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Seidio DILEX Pro kickstand case for LG G4

It's not the most rugged case available, but the Seidio DILEX Pro can certainly take a beating if and when it needs to.

What was once called the ACTIVE Case, the DILEX Pro has come a long way in design since it was first introduced. Seidio's refined both layers and managed to make a fairly slim cover that has many users coming back as they upgrade their devices. We took this hybrid kickstand case for a spin with the LG G4, getting a closer look at its build quality.

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1 year ago

This week's best Android gadgets: GoPro HERO4 Session, Spro 2, and more

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It's another week of new Android gadgets and we're bringing you some hot picks that are available now, up for pre-order, and on Kickstarter including the GoPro HERO4 Session, Spro 2 Smart Projector, Grandstream GVC3200 Video Conferencing System, Micro-Flip reversible Micro USB, and the WearWise camera. Dive in as we visit each gadget in more detail.

READ NOW: Best Android gadgets of the week

GoPro HERO4 Session

If the full line of GoPro cameras weren't quite small enough to fit your needs, fear not because the answer is here. GoPro's Hero4 Session is their smallest device to date, but still packs quite a punch. The $399 camera captures 1080p video, along with 8MP still photos (complete with time lapse) through various short and long button press combinations. There's no display on the camera itself, but you can use the GoPro App or Smart Remote to take control as well. Plus it's waterproof and can connect to nearly anything you want, letting you grab some awesome action shots.

Buy the GoPro HERO4 Session

ZTE Spro 2 Smart Projector

The Verizon-connected Spro 2 Smart Projector from ZTE is multi-purpose Android-powered accessory that is not only a mobile projector, but a high-speed hotspot as well. Priced at $599, the Spro 2 is running Android 4.4 and features a 5-inch HD touch display, with 16GB of storage that can be expanded with the use of a microSD card. It projects up to 120" in size at 200 lumens of brightness with auto focus and auto keystone up to 720p. For all of your mobile hotspot needs, the Spro 2 lets you connect up to 10 devices on Verizon's 4G LTE network.

Buy the Spro 2 Smart Projector

Micro-Flip Reversible Micro USB

It's the plug we all wished was implemented years ago. The Micro-Flip is a reversible Micro USB cable that works with all our current devices, eliminating the first-time-fail aggravation we've all come to accept. Of course, with USB Type-C being added to future devices this cable may be a little late to the game. Still, it will be some time before we see Micro USB become as obsolete as Mini USB is now. The cable is made of a braided nylon that's tangle-free and will be available in 1 and 2-meter lengths. Unfortunately, it's not Quick Charge 2.0 compliant, since the Micro-Flip utilizes a 5-pin design. With a minimum $12 pledge you can score a 1M Micro-Flip cable if you're ready to make the switch.

Pledge Micro-Flip

WearWise Camera

If GoPro's newest camera isn't quite small enough to fit your needs, there's a new wearable camera on the way that may be better suited for you. Recently launched on Kickstarter is WearWise, a small 1.6 inch x1.6 inch x0.8 inch camera that you can wear nearly anywhere to capture video and photos. WearWise features an 8MP camera with 120-degree wide-angle lens, and takes 1080p videos at 30fps. The "multi-purpose" back lets you stick it do damn near anything, and it's all controlled over Bluetooth from your phone.

Buy the WearWise Camera

Grandstream GVC3200 Full HD Video Conferencing System

Ready to take your video conferences to the next level? Grandstream's GVC3200 is an Android-based video conferencing system that provides 1080p Full-HD video that works with popular Android apps including Skype and Google Hangouts. With the unit's powerful hardware you can have up to 9-way video conferences with support for 3 monitors through 3 HDMI outputs on the back. The PTZ camera features a 12X zoom that can be controlled along with the GVC3200's other features using the included Bluetooth remote. There's also a remote app for Android devices that can be used via Bluetooth, great for sharing control with more than one person. It's easy to install using Grandstream's IPVideo Talk Pro video conferencing service for a quick plug and play setup. You can pre-order the GVC3200 right now for a hefty $3,995.

Pre-order the GVC3200 Video Conferencing System

Your favorite gadgets this week

Do any of the gadgets we've selected this week interest you? Or, maybe there are others you have in mind for your Android device. Either way, drop a line in the comments below and let us know!

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1 year ago

A quick look at Amzer's Qi Wireless Charging Pad

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Small in size and easily portable, this new charging pad from Amzer keeps your Qi-compatible devices juiced up at the typical 1A rate.

Measuring 3.5-inches in diameter, it provides enough surface area to enable wireless charging for most smartphones and tablets without constantly adjusting for the perfect placement. Its 1/4-inch thickness makes it a slim sidekick to any desk or nightstand, too. The entire charging pad is made of a glossy plastic, featuring a silver Amzer logo slapped dead center on the surface. Along the edge, you'll find a small charging LED that stays green while plugged in, flashing blue/green while charging.

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1 year ago

Ethernet adapter for Chromecast makes its way to the Google Store for $15

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If you are looking to use a Chromecast in an area that doesn't get a great wireless signal, or you want to avoid using wireless all together, Google's latest accessory for the device is a must have. Now available in the Google Store is an Ethernet adapter for the Chromecast, that lets users plug their Ethernet cable right into the wall wart.

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1 year ago

Logitech wants to transform itself with its new Logi brand and revamped logo

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Logitech is on a mission to reinvent itself to consumers with a new version of its company logo and an all-new brand called Logi. The PC and mobile accessory maker says the changes are part of its "transformation" into a company that has a bigger emphasis on design.

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1 year ago

Hands-on with the Samsung Level Link wireless adapter

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We're no stranger to Bluetooth adapters, but the new Level Link adds a certain style and easy functionality that's refreshing to use with our non-Bluetooth devices.

Most folks have at least one gadget that doesn't come packed with Bluetooth, relying on a direct connection to get their audio from one end to the other. Where the Level Link shines is its ability to plug into any 3.5mm audio port and send or receive audio straight through to your favorite pair of wireless headphones or car stereo. Its intuitive design helps get the ball rolling from unboxing, too.

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1 year ago

Kirk to smartphone: The Star Trek Bluetooth Communicator is coming for $149 in January

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Remember how all those "flip" mobile phones were reportedly inspired by the communicator used by Kirk, Spock and the other members of the original Star Trek TV cast? Well, there will soon be a way to make and receive smartphone calls using a exact replica of that fictional device. The Wand Company has just announced plans to release its Star Trek Bluetooth Communicator in January.

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1 year ago

This week's best Android gadgets: Olympus A01, iStabilizer Gimbal, and more!

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Deck out your Android device with these awesome new accessories!

Once more we're putting together the latest releases of Android-friendly connected devices. We'll dive into audio, video, protection, photography, and any other niche where there might be a cool accessory lurking. This week we're showing off a few things that will fit nicely into your summer regimen. Take a look!

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1 year ago

Amzer Pudding TPU Case for Nexus 6

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As much as we all love the way our phone feels "naked," sometimes we just need to protect our investment with a case. While the metal edges on the Nexus 6 make it easier to hold onto, it is obvious that the plastic on the back of the phone paired with the large physical footprint makes the handset incredibly easy to drop.

This means that you will want something to protect your device from accidental bumps and bruises. Thankfully there is the Amzer Pudding TPU Case for the Nexus 6 that provides an element of protection to your phone without increasing the size of the handset.

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1 year ago

4th of July Sale: 20% off all accessories at ShopAndroid

4th of July Sale

Before you fire up the grill and fireworks this 4th of July, swing by ShopAndroid to save 20% on your favorite accessories.

Starting today, everything in store including the most popular wireless chargers, cases and covers, screen protectors, and quick chargers are all up for grabs at a boomin' 20% discount! There's plenty to check out for popular devices like the LG G4, Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy Note 4, and many more. After you've filled your cart, use coupon code: 7415 to enjoy instant savings on everything. If that's not enough to spark your interest, we even offer free shipping on all orders over $50 within the continental US, along with reasonable rates on expedited options. Don't miss out this holiday week, because the gettin's only good until midnight, July 7.

Light'em up and let's shop!

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1 year ago

Nest Aware, and why the Nest Cam subscription makes sense

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Nest Aware Subscription

You'd be hard-pressed to find a conversation about the new Nest Cam this week that doesn't include some form of unrest about the subscription portion of the product. Aside from the additional monthly cost, there's a significant chunk of users out there that don't understand why it is Nest doesn't offer the ability to manage Nest Cam locally, including storage the user might already own.

The answer to this question can be found in the features baked into Nest Aware, the not-quite-obligatory subscription service so many are unhappy with. A quick look at the features offers a lot of insight into why Nest Cam, and the Dropcams that came before it, is a cloud-only platform.

It's easy to get lost in "why can't they just" when talking about a product.

As users, we frequently mistake "cloud services" as code words for online storage and easy access. It's not entirely our fault, cloud storage is the service most commonly talked about in the consumer space. Cloud computing, where multiple servers in a data center somewhere process local data so your single local machine doesn't have to, is an entirely different set of technologies. Nest works hard to make it look like their services happen effortlessly, with a user interface that lets the user feel in control. At their core, however, Nest services need some help from the Internet in order to be useful, and relying on third-party services isn't always an option. In the case of Nest Cam, more specifically the Nest Aware service powering the camera, relying on a third party would be disastrous.

Nest Zone

Any web connected camera can grab video and store it to a NAS. Nest Cam offers a ton more than that. You can set up motion detection for specific areas the camera can see, zoom in and enhance a portion of the video for better facial recognition, and quickly assemble timelapse videos. All of this happens through Nest Aware, and it happens because Nest servers are processing your video in real time to offer these features. The physical Nest camera and your local software aren't doing any of this, and they can't. Your mobile device can't handle the kind of video processing necessary to do this sort of thing immediately, and making a local client for Nest to run on Windows/Mac/Linux would be a tremendous undertaking that would never result in a service that ran as smoothly as the current implementation of the Nest experience. The cost of Nest products would go up significantly, the Nest software would iterate at a significantly slower rate, and as a user you didn't actually gain anything.

Like the Nest Thermostat, this camera is designed to be something everyone can set up in seconds and use easily. There's no concern for existing hardware or software, it quite literally just works once you connect it to a wireless network. Where more technical folks seem to get hung up is the storage. As a part of Nest Aware, you can have either a 10-day backup for $100/year or a 30-day backup for $300/year, but there's no way to pull a local copy of that backup. Even the Nest Aware clip creator only lets you pull an hour of video at a time, any longer and the service switches to a timelapse mode. The lack of a functional long-term local backup means you have to trust the folks at Nest with your data, and when it comes to the security of your home that can be a big ask for some. When you factor in the additional image enhancement and total lack of user-side effort offered through Nest Aware, it's a system that makes a lot of sense if you let it.

Nest History

It's easy to get lost in "why can't they just" when talking about a product, but after a few days of using Nest Cam it's clear the folks at Nest are on the right path here. There's also nothing wrong with knowing Nest Cam isn't for you, and with an ever-growing list of Works with Nest products out there it's unlikely we'll go too long before seeing a competing product that plays well with other connected home tech. For its intended purpose, Nest gets the job done better than most. That happens because of services like Nest Aware, and it's important to keep that in mind when planning your next purchase.

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