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1 week ago

Get animated with these wallpapers

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Add a touch of non-Disney animated magic to your home screen.

Animated films allow us to bring any story, any concept to life. Fairytales and fantasies, romances and revenges, animation enables them all! And while Disney will always be tops in my heart (and in my collection), there's more to animation than Disney, and they don't deserve to be forgotten just because they didn't all start with a mouse.

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1 week ago

Android Central Best of CES 2017 Awards!

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AC's CES 2017 award winners are in!

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At this year's CES in Las Vegas, instead of one particular category standing out, we were impressed by a number of existing ones — and updates to old ideas.

But trends did emerge: the Internet of Things is, while still a meaningless generalization, filtering down to consumer products in meaningful ways, like with the NVIDIA Spot. And new takes on a wrist wearable, like the the Lofelt Basslet, feel designed for more specific, and invested audiences.

Still, it was the old form factors that won our hearts this year: the BlackBerry 'Mercury', in its late aughts glory, impressed us, as did the Samsung Chromebook Pro and ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom. All updates to tried-and-true designs, but great products nonetheless.

So without further ado, here are our awards for the best of CES 2017.

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1 week ago

These products and services work with Google Home

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Which products and services work with Google Home?

Google first introduced Google Home to the world back in May at Google I/O 2016, later revealing the final product alongside the Pixel in October. From everything we've seen, Google Home seems primed to eventually link up with any smart device in your home and allow you to control everything with just the sound of your voice.

Google has announced which products and services will be supported at launch, but there's sure to be plenty more to come in the future. Continue to check back to this article in the coming months, as we'll surely be updating this list as more products and services are added. We've broken things down into two categories — home automation products and supported services.

Home automation

Chromecast

It should come as little surprise that Google Home works with Chromecast. Google hit it out of the park with their compact, Wi-Fi enabled dongles for video or audio that you simply hook up to your TV or stereo and allow you to stream media straight from your phone, tablet, or laptop.

Google Home takes things to the next level by allowing you cast video and audio from its supported services using only your voice. As if Chromecast wasn't convenient enough already. I can think of many scenarios where I might want to pull up something from YouTube or change a playlist while I'm busy in the kitchen or otherwise preoccupied. Currently only YouTube is supported for video, but expect more services to be added — Netflix, Hulu and the like — as time goes on. We've linked to the 2015 model below, which remains a fantastic value at only $35... but it only displays at 1080p. If you're interested in some higher definition, Google is set to start shipping a new Chromecast for 2016 — the Chromecast Ultra — which costs twice as much but supports 4K video.

See at Google

Chromecast-enabled TVs and Speakers

If you're looking to upgrade your home theatre setup and would like streamline things with less dongles, there's a growling selection of Smart TVs with Chromecast built right, with 4K sets available from the following brands:


For streaming audio, the biggest gap currently is a lack of support for Sonos. There doesn't appear to be any timetable for adding Sonos into the Google Home ecosystem which is frustrating for anyone who's invested in — or looking to start building out — a Sonos system throughout their home.

But you still have options. Nine brands currently offer Chromecast-enabled speakers, soundbars and subwoofers:

Nest

Nest is one of the best known manufacturers of smart home automation products, which include self-learning, Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats, smoke detectors and security cameras.

With Google Home and a Nest thermostat, you'll be able to effortlessly control the temperature of your home using only your voice. Nest also works well with other smart products, such as lights, doorbells, and smart locks.

See at Amazon


SmartThings

Samsung's SmartThings is a very capable and customizable home automation system that features five different smart sensors for home monitoring, all linked together wirelessly via the Hub. The SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit comes with a Hub, two Multipurpose Sensors, a Motion Sensor and an Outlet. You can configure them however you like in your home, then get instant notifications if anything is out of the normal. You can also buy additional sensors, including an Arrival Sensor and a Water Leak Sensor.

SmartThings is incredibly versatile as it is, but we're super excited to see what integration with Google Home will look like.

See at Amazon

Phillips Hue

Phillips is one of the leading manufacturers of wireless LED smart bulbs. The Phillips Hue lineup features a multitude of different lighting options for around your home, which must be configured through the Phillips Hue Bridge via. You're able to connect up to 50 lights to one Bridge and then configure and control them in so many different ways.

We should expect Google Home to work just as well with Phillips Hue lights as it does with Apple Home Kit, meaning you'll be able to set and adjust your Phillips Hue lights throughout your house without leaving the couch, or easily turn off all the lights when you're leaving the house or it's time for bed.

See at Amazon

IFTTT

IFTTT is a free web service that lets you create chains of conditional commands, called "recipes," to automate processes between apps and smart home devices. IFTTT is an abbreviation of "If This Then That", and that's exactly how the recipes function. For example, say you're concerned about your teenager getting into the liquor cabinet when you're away. If you have a SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor on the liquor cabinet door, you can create an IFTTT recipe that goes "if the liquor cabinet door is opened, call my phone," so you'll know instantly if something's up.

IFTTT is compatible with a ridiculous number of IoT devices, applications, and online services — including Google's OnHub router — and is something you should definitely check out with or without Google Home.

Check out IFTTT recipes created for Google Assistant

Supported services

Spotify

Over 100 million people use Spotify for all their music streaming needs. Of those, 40 million are paid subscribers. The point here is that Spotify is massively popular and if you aren't already using it, you probably know a bunch of people who do.

With Google Home, simply say "OK Google", followed by your favourite artist, album, song, or playlist, and your music will almost instantly start playing through the Google Home speaker. This is absolutely perfect for playing music in the kitchen when your hands are too messy to be handling a phone, or for setting the right mood for a party or intimate evening. We're also eager to see how smooth it is to use Google Home to cast your Spotify music to your Chromecast Audio-enabled speakers for an even better audio experience.

Pandora

Pandora is a fantastic music recommendation platform which is used by over 200 million people in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. It's a customizable internet radio streaming service that allows you to curate your own streams using algorithms that recommends new music it knows you'll love based on your musical tastes and how you've rated other music.

With Google Home, you'll be able to throw on your favorite Pandora station using just your voice. In its current iteration, Google Assistant is unable to identify songs like Shazam or other apps of that sort, but we'd hope to see your Google Assistant give you the information about a song you've just discovered on Pandora, just by asking "what song is playing?" as well as an option to rate songs and skip if necessary.

Google Play Music

Kind of a no brainer, but Google Home will obviously play well with Google Play Music. And that's great news, since Google has slowly build its core music app to encompass a full-fledged streaming service featuring 35 million songs available on-demand (with a subscription) along with mood- and activity-based stations (you may have known it as Songza), along with being a great option for podcasts. A natural fit with Google Home, you'll definitely want to get a Google Play Music subscription if you don't already have one.

TuneIn

Believe it or not, but some people actually prefer to listen to the radio. TuneIn is absolutely the go-to app for accessing online radio, music, and talk stations. Even with the free version, you get access to over 100,000 radio stations from around the world, along with over five million podcasts as well. If you decide to upgrade to the premium subscription, you'll also get access to live NFL and MLB play-by-play, along with a large library of audiobooks.

It will be really interesting to see how third-party streaming services such as TuneIn are integrated into the Google Home experience via the Google Assistant, whether you'll be able to make a broad request ("Play a top-40 radio station from the UK in TuneIn") or stick to more specific requests based on your app usage ("Play my favorite local radio station in TuneIn").

YouTube

YouTube is another obvious starting point for Google to incorporating video search and playback controls with Google Home. Some might be disappointed with a lack of support at launch for Netflix, Hulu and other video services, but with so much content available on YouTube and natural alignment within Google's existing ecosystem (hello, Chromecast), it's a great place for Google to fine tune their voice searching capabilities before opening things up for other video services.

Google Assistant on the Pixel currently only works well with YouTube for video — you can ask to open up Netflix or other apps, but have to navigate the rest of the way from there. But we're likely not too far off from being able to come home, say "OK Google, cast The Office on Netflix to the living room" and binge watch the night away, for better or for worse.

YouTube is also the world's largest music streaming service, becoming such a primary destination for lovers of music that they came out with the YouTube Music app. A subscription to YouTube Red is required.

The YouTube Music app isn't available for everyone just yet, but it too is listed as being compatible with Google Home. The Pixel's Google Assistant frequently completes music requests using YouTube, so we'd imagine it to be just as smooth an experience with Google Home.

What do you think?

Are there any services or products you're hoping to connect and control via Google Home? Let us know in the comments!

This article was originally published in October 2016. It was updated in January 2017 with list of Smart TVs and speakers with Chromecast built in.

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1 week ago

Spectacles review: 5 things to know about Snapchat's glasses

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MrMobile loves his tech wearable and his social media sociable, and the Snapchat Spectacles are the perfect confluence of those ideals. He ambled around all of CES with the spectacles on his face, getting stopped with questions about them. Since he's been asked about them many times already, he's put together this great list of information you should know about Spectacles.

Michael Fisher lays down some great tips, tricks, info and things you should know about the Snapchat Spectacles. If you're the kind of person who just can't help documenting everything and anything, you're probably already intrigued. Watch this video, and follow mrmobilesnaps on Snapchat!

Stay social, my friends

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1 week ago

Brag about your Chromecast Ultra with this 4K YouTube playlist

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You don't have to look any further than YouTube for some great 4K.

The Chromecast Ultra can handle 4K streaming like a champ, and if you have a 4K TV you'll be looking to get as much 4K content as possible. The problem is most of what you'll find today is still 1080p. The @Chromecast account has your back, though, pointing out that there's a great 4K-only YouTube playlist available that'll show off your great Chromecast Ultra and 4K TV.

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1 week ago

How to use Bluetooth headphones with Google Daydream

Audio is an integral part of enjoying Google Daydream, make sure you get the best experience possible.

Being able to clearly hear what is going on around you when you are enjoying yourself in VR is key to really falling into the experience. So it's pretty common to want to invest in an awesome pair of bluetooth headphones so that you don't have to worry about wires getting in your way while you are playing. Unfortunately, bluetooth headphones don't tend to work particularly well in VR. It isn't impossible, and we've got the details for you on how to get the best audio experience.

Read more at VRHeads.com

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1 week ago

The Android launcher experience on tablets is still terrible

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It's not quite a desktop, but it's not quite a normal home screen.

The Android tablet experience is often awkward and awful, and that goes double for the launchers, which are inconsistent, inconvenient, and often times ugly. From third-party launchers to manufacturer versions of tablet layouts, there's a lot to be desired, and while part of that blame falls on developers, it also falls to Google, which has still not quite figured out how tablets should behave.

And it falls on us. Because we just don't know what we want.

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1 week ago

Huawei's next flagship is coming at MWC 2017

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Huawei logo

Huawei P10 likely to break cover in Barcelona.

Huawei has begun sending out "save the date" invites for its Mobile World Congress 2017 press conference, which kicks off on the afternoon of Sunday, February 26 in Barcelona, Spain. The invite promises "the global unveiling of a new flagship device" -- a surprising development perhaps, just a couple of months after the Mate 9's arrival.

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1 week ago

What size microSD card should you buy for your Amazon Fire Tablet?

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It's not always as easy as just buying whatever you see on Amazon.

Sure, it sounds silly. But with the super-cheap Amazon Fire Tablet also comes an important decision on how best to expand the storage capacity. You can slot in a microSD card and make a small, cheap tablet have a lot more space to keep your apps and media.

So, let's try and help you make the buying process a little easier by covering some key points to consider.

READ: Best microSD Cards for Amazon Fire Tablet

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1 week ago

Facebook says new battery issues can be fixed with an app reset, no update on old battery issues

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If your Facebook battery usage has been especially bad recently, it has apparently been fixed server-side.

You don't use Facebook and also get surprised by battery drain issues, especially with the ocean of data to support just how hungry both Facebook and Messenger can be, but recently several users noticed a dramatic spike in power consumption. Some users reported as much a 1% every minute when Facebook Messenger was open, and it turns out that's not the intended battery consumption rate for that app.

Facebook's Messenger lead David Marcus responded to a recent complaint about power consumption on Twitter recently with an explanation and an apology, and it looks like whatever was going wrong has been fixed.

Facebook itself is still a significant battery hog, but even when you're playing games with friends Messenger is usually not too bad. As the tweet suggests, if you're still experiencing higher than usual drain from Messenger, force close the app and restart it so the new connection is no longer affected by the server-side issue that has been addressed recently.

If you feel compelled to do this more than once because of continued battery drain, chances are you're experiencing something entirely different from this problem. Fortunately for you, it looks like the guy in charge is pretty responsive.

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1 week ago

ZTE will launch an Android Wear smartwatch in 2017

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Bucking the trend of other Android manufacturers, ZTE thinks the time is right to launch an Android Wear smartwatch.

With the impending release of Android Wear 2.0, and two accompanying wearables from Google itself, ZTE says that it plans to enter the market, according to CNET. "[ZTE] already has a US carrier partner lined up to sell the watch, which has its own LTE connection and can run independent of a phone," the story says, and that battery life, a primary issue with the last generation of smartwatches, has been improved tremendously.

Whether independent LTE connectivity will be enough to get people to replace their current smartwatches, or buy into the ecosystem in the first place, remains to be seen, but despite the tepid recent response it's clear some phone makers still believe there is always money in the smartwatch banana stand.

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1 week ago

Using VR on an airplane is surprisingly enjoyable with the right apps!

Your next flight should include a VR headset.

I find myself in an airplane a couple of times a year, and every time the experience is the same. I'm in a small space in a seat that isn't uncomfortable but but still a little awkward, and I usually either grab a book or watch a movie I've downloaded to my tablet. This last trip, I decided to download movies to my phone and watch them through my VR headset. There were no expectations, I mostly wanted to see if watching in VR was any different from watching on my tablet.

It was the best pair of flights I've ever had, I can't recommend it enough! Here's a few tips for getting the best possible experience out of adding VR to your next flight.

Read more at VRHeads.com

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1 week ago

Grab a 64GB microSD card for just $16 at Amazon right now!

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Need some more storage space in your phone, tablet, camera, or computer? If so, why not grab a 64GB microSD card for just $16 so that you don't have to worry about how much storage you have left? With 64GB of extra space you can hold a bunch more movies, tons more music and pictures, and plenty of files that you may need at some point. The card also comes with a SD card adapter, so you can easily put it in your computer or card reader to transfer information to and from it.

If 64GB isn't quite enough storage space for you, Amazon is also currently selling the 200GB card for just $65, which is also a great deal. Don't get stuck deleting old pictures to make room for new ones, and instead, be prepared with an SD card to hold them all.

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

Best apps to help you make habits and stick to them

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Make a habit of making habits with these helpful tracking apps.

You're probably sick of hearing the same old clichés about getting a handle back on life. Well, I'm not here to give you that rah-rah speech. Whether you get back on the saddle is ultimately up to you, but I can help you on a journey by suggesting a few apps that are effective at helping implement healthier habits into your daily life.

Whether your goal for the year is to simply text your friends more often or to get into shape, here are a few Android apps worth trying out for yourself.

Habitica

If the standard check-it-off list of things to doesn't work for you, try to gamify your goals with Habitica. This app turns your everyday tasks and weekly goals into a riveting role-playing game. You can sign up with your Google or Facebook account and then create an avatar that looks like you. Every task, habit, and to-do that you cross off rewards you money and experience points that you can redeem for items and upgrades.

Be forewarned that there are quite a few nuances to Habitica. If you're serious about truly turning your daily life into a game, you'll have to stick with the program. There are penalties for not completing daily tasks. If you need help staying on track, you can join a guild with several others to ensure that your character is leveled up with completed tasks before the next boss fight.

Download Habitica (Free, IAP)

Todoist

Having trouble getting the day-to-day in order? Todoist can be a particularly effective aid in managing those daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, whether it's at work or in your personal life. The app is built using the standard Material Design layout, complete with a hamburger menu and floating action buttons. It's also cross-platform, so you can use it on your smartphone, computer, or smartwatch. You can also add tasks with Google Home or by forwarding an email.

Be aware that you'll have to pay an annual membership fee — around $30 a year — to unlock Todoist's full set of features, which also includes themes, push notifications, and the ability to sync up with Dropbox or Google Drive.

Download Todoist (Free, IAP)

Loop Habit Tracker

Loop Habit Tracker is merely a "simple" tracking app because it isn't bogged down by all the extra elements that tracking apps typically require of you. There are no due dates or sprint goals, nor do you have to log in to have others hold you accountable. All you have to do is press and hold when you've completely a task and move on with your day.

As you get through completing tasks, Loop Habit Tracker will aggregate all of that data for you into an easy-to-read detailed graph. The app lets you backup that data to take it with you, and it supports imports from other applications, including the popular app Habitbull, which did not make this roundup because of its confusing multi-tier payment options.

Download Loop Habit Tracker (Free)

Nomie

If you have trouble remembering to complete the minutiae of the day-to-day, Nomie might be your answer for getting it done. You can use Nomie to track anything. If you can assign it an icon and a name, you can track it. For every item you create, you can choose whether ticking the items has a positive or negative impact on your overall score. Best of all, Nomie is completely private. You don't need an account to keep track of your data. When you're ready to switch smartphones, simply carry over that data by exporting and backing it up to Dropbox.

Download Nomie (Free)

What about you?

Trying to implement a new habit this year? Found an app that you like? Share it in the comments!

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1 week ago

The rise and fall of Ara, Google's cancelled modular smartphone

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The story of how one of the most ambitious technology projects in history almost came to be.

Project Ara will always be one of the most fascinating and tragic stories in the history of smartphones. From its strange rise in 2013, boosted by its proximity (and similarity) to competitor Phonebloks, to its eventual goal of being released as a barebones $50 kit to enable low-income families in developing nations access to the internet, its ambition was always evident.

But in September 2016, after Regina Dugan left ATAP, the Google division in charge of Ara, for a job at Facebook, then-new head of hardware at Google, Rick Osterloh, suspended the project.

In the intervening three years, though, Ara developed a loyal and vocal group of supporters, many of whom mourned the project's passing with considerable emotion.

Harrison Weber of Venturebeat has the full story of how Ara came to be and what, with a few different decisions along the way, it might have been.

The sheer audacity that brought Ara to life — a phone you could create, block by block — made it impossible for [it] to succeed.

The dream of Ara: Inside the rise and fall of the world's most revolutionary phone

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