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1 month ago

How to view your location history in Google Maps

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See where you've traveled with Google Maps.

Google Maps has a nifty Timeline feature that lets you browse the places you've visited along with the routes traveled. The feature was overhauled in 2015, and Google has added the ability to collate images you've taken at a particular location, allowing you to get a better overview of your travels.

It certainly comes in handy if you're looking to see all the images you took at a particular location, or if you're trying to get a highlight of your weekly or monthly activity.

How to view your location history in Google Maps

  1. Launch Google Maps.
  2. Tap the more button (three horizontal lines) on the top left corner.
  3. Tap your timeline.
  4. Tap the calendar icon to view a particular day.

  5. Swipe left or right to switch months.
  6. Tap a date to view your location history. You'll see the route traveled, along with the duration and length of the overall journey.

How to disable location tracking

Timeline is certainly a useful feature if you're interested in looking at your previous travel data, but it also comes off as creepy (Google tracks everything). Fortunately, you can easily turn off location tracking in Maps.

  1. Tap the more button (three horizontal lines) on the top left corner.
  2. Tap Settings.
  3. Tap Personal content.

  4. Tap the field that says Location History is on under Location Settings.
  5. Tap the switch next to each device for which you'd like to disable location tracking.

There's also the option to pause tracking for your account as a whole. To do so, toggle Location History to off, and select OK in the dialog box that follows.

That's all there is to it! I like the feature a lot as it gives me a detailed look at where I've been over the course of the month (and how much time I wasted being stuck in traffic). What are your thoughts on the location history feature? Like it? Feel like it's an intrusion of your privacy? Sound off in the comments below.

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1 month ago

How to download and install Android 7.1.2 Nougat on your Nexus or Pixel right now

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How do I get Android 7.1.2 Nougat on your Nexus phone right now?

Android 7.1.2 Nougat is officially available for the Pixel, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player and Pixel C, but your phone may not get the OTA (over-the-air) update for another couple of days.

If you know your way around a command line, you can skip the waiting game by downloading the factory image for your particular device and flashing it on top of your software. But there are some caveats you need to know about when flashing a factory image, so read on to find out what you need to know.

Updated, April 3: Android 7.1.2 is officially available.

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1 month ago

The Galaxy S8 has face recognition and iris scanning, and you have to choose one

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There are two ways to unlock the Galaxy S8 with your face. Here are the differences.

The Galaxy S8 contains more ways than ever to keep your content safely locked behind a password: in addition to the traditional PIN, pattern or password option (cumulatively the most secure), there's fingerprint recognition, iris scanning (which debuted on the Galaxy Note 7) and, oldie-but-goodie, face recognition.

In the beginning...

Back in 2011, Google debuted support for face recognition as an unlock option on select devices. It was available on phones like the Galaxy Nexus, HTC EVO 4G LTE and HTC One X, but eventually manufacturers stopped supporting it because it didn't work very well.

The idea of face recognition is a good one: all phones have a front-facing camera, and all (most) people have unique faces, and phones are computers that can figure out that the person stored in the phone is the same one holding his or her phone in front of the camera. But two things stopped it from gaining popularity: for a long time, front-facing cameras had small, low-quality sensors, making them slow and generally terrible in poor lighting. You need your unlock method to work all the time, not just in particular lighting. The second reason is less obvious: the proliferation of fingerprint sensors made alternative forms of fast-but-relatively-safe unlock methods less necessary.

Then came Smart Lock

When Lollipop debuted in 2015, Google created something called Smart Lock, a service across its major platforms (Android, Chromebooks, and Chrome OS) to make it easier for people to unlock their devices without passwords. On Android, that early and little-used face recognition feature that debuted in 2011 eventually became just another part of Google Play Services alongside on-body detection, trusted voice, trusted places, and trusted devices. But still, even today, very few people use it.

Fingerprint sensors made face unlock less necessary — and way less popular. Until now.

To be fair, Google's implementation hasn't always been very good — in fact, it's still pretty unreliable on most phones — but most people don't even know it's there, buried as it is within Google's Play Services. It's also not included on every device, which makes advertising the feature a hit-and-miss affair. Trusted places — your house, or workplace — uses location, which is more easily detectable, and trusted devices allows a smartwatch or other Bluetooth device to act as a nearby authenticator. Again, super simple. With fingerprint sensors being integrated on most devices, facial recognition just isn't that necessary.

What's old is new(s) again

When the Galaxy Note 7 was released last year, it arrived with a fair amount of buzz surrounding its iris scanner. But because the scanner actually matched the details from the inside of your eye against a stored copy — which is nearly impossible to duplicate or imitate — it worked slowly, and often failed. So Samsung decided to bring back the face scanner in the Galaxy S8, and improve upon Google's implementation in a number of ways.

The Galaxy Note 7's iris scanner failed a lot. But it was still a great idea worth pursuing.

Face scanning works by taking a photo of your whole face, and using the front-facing camera to match specific details to the live photo in front of it. On the Galaxy S8, this works incredibly quickly — far quicker than any other face unlock method, and often more quickly than the fingerprint sensor — for a couple of reasons. First, the Galaxy S8 is just plain fast — its Snapdragon 835 or Exynos 8895 chips have incredibly advanced image signal processors that perform the work in a fraction of the time it took just a few years ago. And the 8MP front-facing camera inside the Galaxy S8, which has autofocus and is therefore much more likely to find a subject lock.

But as you may have seen plastered around the internet, face recognition is not foolproof. Indeed, it's fairly easy to spoof if you have a high-resolution photo of the subject, and some persistence. This isn't to say that opening Facebook and showing a photo of your friend to his phone while he's in the bathroom will unlock it (let's be honest, too, he's bringing that phone with him to the bathroom) but Samsung doesn't recommend you use face unlock if you have sensitive material on the phone.

That said, it's so fast, and much more likely to find a match in low-light situations, a common scenario that Note 7 owners found themselves frustrated by with the iris scanner last year.

Focusing on the iris

Iris scanning is a more secure form of biometric authentication, and is likely more secure than a fingerprint since it is basically impossible to recreate, even using the most advanced methods.

The iris scanner has made a return to the Galaxy S8 after it ignominiously disappeared in the Note 7 last fall. It's also much, much faster than before — which is good, because the damn thing needed it.

Iris scanning on the Galaxy S8 is at least twice as fast as the Note 7, and fails less in low light. In other words, you'll want to use it.

On the Galaxy S8, I've found iris scanning to be very reliable and quite fast most of the time, though not as instantaneous as a fingerprint sensor or face unlock. That said, I've been impressed with its ability to unlock in low light — the iris scanner likely uses a combination of the dedicated infrared sensor and front-facing camera to get a match — which had led to considerably fewer moments of frustration.

I've also noticed that the iris scanner, while it still needs to have your eyes in its sights, doesn't need to be perfectly aligned the way the Note 7's did; I can have my hands close to my chest and tilt the phone up towards me, and as long as my eyes are in the viewfinder it unlocks most of the time. It's still not perfect, and I occasionally find myself having to find the fingerprint sensor to finish the job, but it's rare.

You can only choose one

For safety reasons, you can only choose one method of facial unlocking on the Galaxy S8: face recognition or iris scanning.

  • If you're concerned with security above all else, use the iris scanner.
  • if you're concerned with speed above all else, use the face recognition.

Of course, either of these methods can be combined with the existing fingerprint unlock, which despite being on the back is fairly easy to reach and may end up being faster than either. The main upside to the visage-based methods is that you don't have to poke around on the back of the phone for the fingerprint sensor; you can merely turn on your phone, look at the camera, and go.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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About

The Galaxy S8, and its larger sibling the S8+, are Samsung's top-end devices for 2017 meant to appeal to the general consumer and power user alike. The two phones are only differentiated by screen and battery size: 5.8 inches and 3000mAh, and 6.2 inches and 3500mAh.

The displays have a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio with a QHD+ resolution, meaning they're extra tall and narrow. Samsung moved to on-screen buttons and reduced bezel size dramatically in order to fit as much screen into the body as possible. That moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phones, where it sits somewhat-awkwardly next to the camera lens. Iris scanning makes its return in a new-and-improved version from the Note 7.

Though the batteries haven't increased in size from the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, the hope is that the improved efficiency of the new 10 nm processor inside will provide some help. The processor is backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Waterproofing and wireless charging are still here as well, plus a new USB-C port on the bottom. The rear camera is unchanged in terms of its 12MP sensor and f/1.7 lens, but has improved processing thanks to a new ISP and software.

Specs

Width Height Thickness 5.86 in
148.9 mm
2.68 in
68.1 mm
0.31 in
8 mm
5.47 oz
155g grams
  • Display:
    • 5.8-inch AMOLED display
    • 2960x1440 resolution
    • 18.5:9 aspect ratio
    • Dual-curve infinity display
  • Cameras:
    • 12MP ƒ/1.7 rear camera
    • Dual-pixel phase detection autofocus
    • 1.4-micron pixels
    • 8MP ƒ/1.7 front camera
  • Battery:
    • 3000 mAh battery
    • Non-removable
    • USB-C fast Charging
    • Qi + PMA wireless charging
  • Chips:
    • Snapdragon 835 processor
    • Samsung Exynos 8896 processor
      (varies by region)
    • 4GB RAM
    • 64GB internal storage
    • microSD card slot
    • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • GS8+
    • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    • 6.2-inch AMOLED display
    • 3500mAh battery
    • 6.28 in x 2.89 in x 0.32 in
      159.5mm x 73.4mm x 8.1mm
    • 6.10 oz / 73g

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1 month ago

Understanding 'Assistant' in Google Photos and what it can do for you

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Understanding Assistant in Google Photos

There's lots to wrap your head around in Google Photos, but the new Assistant feature is here to help.

Whether you want to check up on the status of your photo backups, see the Creations that Google Photos has made for you, or be alerted of space to be freed up on your device, Assistant is the place to go. It's just a tap, swipe, or click away from your photo library, and it'll keep you in the loop with what's going on in the Google Photos world.

It's like an all-in-one notification center for everything that's happening with your photos, and it's quite useful. Here's how you use it.

What's Google Photos Assistant?

Google Photos Assistant

If you just opened up Google Photos for the first time and got straight into viewing photos, you may have missed the Assistant area. You'll find the menu in the slide-in left panel of the Google Photos app or website or by simply swiping to the right across the main gallery view.

The Assistant is appropriately named, as it's the one place where you'll get updates about what's happening with your Google Photos library. You'll get Google Now-like cards that show when photos are being backed up, whether the phone is waiting to charge before uploading, and when new "Creations" (formerly known as Auto Awesomes) are available to view and act on. You can even get notified when your device is running low on internal storage and with a single tap clear out local versions of photos that have already been backed up to Google Photos.

Cards will each offer you different actions, but in general they'll be pretty basic — either act on the item with a tap on the function at the bottom, or swipe away the card to dismiss it. Some notifications in Assistant such as a battery upload warning can't be swiped away but will clear on their own once the function has been completed.

Google Photos Assistant

How to view Assistant notifications

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap on the plus icon at the bottom left of your screen to open Assistant. Here you will see cards with new creations, and other notifications.

How to enable Google Photos notifications

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap the overflow button in the upper left corner of your screen. It looks like three stacked lines.
  3. Tap on the gear icon to open settings.
  4. Scroll down and tap on the toggle to turn notifications on or off.

How to disable Assistant cards

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap the overflow button in the upper left corner of your screen. It looks like three stacked lines.
  3. Tap on the gear icon to open settings.

  4. Tap on Assistant cards.
  5. Tap on the toggle to disable the type of Assistant card you don't want to see anymore.

With Assistant at the ready, you'll never be left out of what's happening in your Google Photos library.

Questions?

Let us know in the comments below.

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1 month ago

How to fix Google Pixel battery life problems

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How to fix Google Pixel battery life problems

How do I extend battery life on my Google Pixel?

Google's Pixel XL offers impressive battery life for a phone of its size, but determined users can definitely drain it over the course of a hectic day. The smaller 5-inch Pixel with its 2770 mAh battery doesn't always offer the same longevity, giving you less wiggle room if you have heavier-than-usual use or forget to charge overnight.

Though both should be able to make it through an average day for most people, if you're finding your Pixel's battery coming up short sometimes, you'll want to follow a few of these handy tips to make the most of what you have.

Check for battery-draining apps

Google Pixel

The Pixel really uses its systemwide battery-saving function called Doze, which puts the system and apps into a low-power state to help save battery when the phone isn't in use. A vast majority of the time the system can handle all sorts of apps and manage them so you still get notifications even while other apps are "sleeping," but in some cases a poorly coded app can keep the system awake when it's not supposed to, draining your battery in the process.

Doze does a great job, but you can always check on individual apps.

To find if there are any apps causing issues, head into your Settings, tap on Battery and look at the list of apps under "Use since last charge." You'll see most of the usual suspects like the screen, Android OS and Bluetooth or Voice calls, but if you see a seldom-used app taking up more than a couple percent of your battery drain, you should investigate to see if it's doing things it shouldn't be.

Use Battery optimization features

The "Battery optimization" feature in Android is a tad bit complicated, and in most cases will simply work as intended without your management, but if you're having battery life troubles it's worth checking out. Battery optimization builds on the battery-saving features of Doze to identify how and when you use apps to put forcibly them to sleep when they shouldn't be awake draining your battery. Go into Settings, tap on Battery and then tap the Menu button and tap Battery optimization to get started with this.

The system does a great job on its own, but you can still check in on it.

By default, the system has been analyzing how you use your phone since the minute you started installing apps, optimizing usage on the apps to get the most battery out of the phone while keeping your most-used apps available when you need them. In the main screen of the Battery optimization settings you'll see the "Not optimized" list, which you can see will include some apps that can't be optimized, along with some stragglers that may not be optimized yet.

If you see an app that you want to be optimized, tap it and switch to "Optimize." If you want to switch to a full apps list, tap the top bar and you'll see the option to view "All apps." Here you can tap on individual apps and switch them to "Don't optimize" if you wish to let the app have free reign to run as it pleases. You may choose to do this for critically important apps like those for travel or banking — just know that most of the time, the system will handle these functions exactly as you want, with the added benefit of optimizing them for battery savings.

Use Battery saver

Google Pixel battery saver

Though it isn't nearly as comprehensive as similar features on other phones, the Pixel includes a Battery saver mode that can help extend your battery life with the flip of a switch. With Battery saver turned on, your phone will have reduced performance, limited vibration, limited location services and reduced background data. Together the limitations don't have a huge effect on the usability of the phone, but they do save precious battery drain.

Battery saver can add a couple hours of life in a pinch.

Pull down the notification shade, tap on your battery icon and you'll see a "Battery saver" toggle you can turn on and off as you please when you know you need a bit more longevity. If you prefer, you can also have it come on automatically at 15 or 5% battery, which is what most people will be more comfortable with. Battery saver automatically turns off when you start charging your Pixel.

Battery saver isn't something you'll want to leave on all the time, but in a pinch it can help you get through the end of the day or a tough time away from the charger — it's just another tool to make the most of the Pixel's battery.

Uninstall unused apps

Of course you can mitigate the issues from the prior situations by simply uninstalling apps that you're not using that often (or at all). When you have a little free time, sit down and open up your app drawer — check out your apps and see which ones you've honestly opened in the past couple weeks. Chances are you're going to find more than a few you haven't even touched since you got your Pixel.

Going forward, when you're setting up a new phone a good rule to follow is to just install the basic apps you need from the start, and only install additional apps when you find you need them. After using several different phones we often fall into the trap of installing dozens of apps we think we'll need, but in reality never touch — and in the end we have to end up uninstalling them later.

Last resort: A mobile battery pack

Google Pixel with battery

Yes, we know, a portable battery pack doesn't fix the root problem of bad battery life on a phone, but it does fix the issue of a low battery. If you can't manage making it through a heavy day without needing a charge, and can't spend time plugged in at any point, you'll want to invest in a mobile battery pack.

There are plenty out there that will charge up your Pixel super quickly, and top up your friends' phones as well, like the Anker PowerCore 10,000 mAh battery, or this 20,100 mAh battery from Jackery that has USB-C. For a relatively inexpensive purchase, these batteries can be a great backup solution when you can't spend time at a power outlet.

How have you been finding battery life on the Pixel and Pixel XL? Did any of these tips help extend its life? Let us know in the comments!

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

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1 month ago

How to make your phone look like a Galaxy S8

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Say what you will about Samsung's software — and I can say plenty — it's a very distinctive look.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 is here, and with it comes another update of Samsung's software UI. This year, we're seeing more of an overhaul than the usual spit-and-polish Samsung gives its flagship's UI, from the nifty new animated wallpapers to the wireframe nav buttons and system icons to a new color scheme that ditches that long-stale blue from previous versions.

Even if you pre-ordered a Galaxy S8, it's not showing up for three weeks, meaning you've got a while to wait. While you're waiting, why not get some of that modern sleekness on your own phone with our very own Samsung-inspired theme?

Launcher magic

Now, we can't get the Samsung launcher on non-Samsung phones the way that we can get the BlackBerry Launcher or the ZenUI Launcher from ASUS, but that doesn't mean we can't get what we desire from other, more customization-friendly launchers. There are a few things we're looking for here.

Gesture controls, Page indicator styles, and Icon layout settings in Nova Launcher

  • Swipe for app drawer: The Samsung Galaxy S8 ditches that hideous nine-dot app drawer icon for a swipe gesture, just as the Google Pixel did last fall. Rather than having it be a dock gesture, though, Samsung lets you open the app drawer by swiping up or down anywhere on the home screen itself. Gesture commands are available in several launchers, and for Nova Launcher Prime, you can find them in Nova Settings > Gestures. In Action Launcher, they're in Action 3 Settings > Shortcuts.
  • Page indicator style: The number of home screens on Samsung launcher are indicated by dots between the main screen and the dock. The default screen is indicated by a tiny, tiny house icon, and the rest of the pages are marked by white dots next to that home icon. You can find page indicators in Nova Launcher under Nova Settings > Desktop > Page indicator > Small dots. In Action Launcher, they'll be in Action 3 Settings > Dock > Dock separator > Style > Dots.
  • App labels: Samsung keeps apps labeled on both the home screen and dock. To turn that on in Nova Launcher, you'll turn on home screen labels under Nova Settings > Desktop > Icon layout > Label. You can turn on dock labels under Nova Settings > Dock > Icon layout > Label. In Action Launcher, you can turn it on for the home screen under Action 3 Settings > Desktop > Text Labels. You cannot turn on app labels for the dock in Action Launcher 3 at this time.

The other launcher requirement we have is that it supports third-party icon packs so we get some lover squircles on our home screens.

Icons

No one icon pack quite gets down the S8's blend of squircles and wireframe icons, so I am going to offer you a few options and let you decide which one is the most Samsung-like in your eyes.

Grace UX Icon Pack, left, and Lines Icon Pack, right

  • Grace UX Icon Pack ($1.49) is a pack based on the ill-fated Note 7. While the device may not have lasted, these icon sure have, and they're pastel, flat, and quite frankly beautiful. If you absolutely must have Samsung-inspired squircles, this is the pack for you. This developer also sports icon packs based on older versions of TouchWiz, too, if you're looking for a more nostalgic take on Samsung's UI, and has just published a beta pack based on the Galaxy S8, but there aren't too many icons in the pack yet that use the wireframe so it's a bit inconsistent.
  • Lines Icon Pack (Free, $1.99) is a wireframe icon pack that keeps things simple, elegant, and allows the true beauty of your wallpaper to shine through. It's a pack I've employed many times before because it is consistently beautiful and consistently plays well with modern and abstract wallpapers.

Wallpapers

The Samsung Galaxy S8 now boasts some awesome animated wallpapers that take on different angles and layers between the various stages of waking and unlocking your phones. While there are a lot of cool, fun, and even functional live wallpapers in Google Play, that kind of co-ordination and wallpaper wizardry can only be done by the manufacturer itself.

That said, this doesn't mean we can't get some of that magic on our home screen with some Samsung-esque wallpapers.

I present new wallpapers weekly to our readers so that you can replace that boring, old, basic wallpaper with something that speaks to you and shows your style.

But if you are dead set on having that Samsung sparkle on your phone, there are a few things you can do:

  • DroidViews put out a couple of the stock wallpapers before the Unpacked event, but they're not quite those awesome star fields or gradient glories that we've seen on the actual devices. If you like the ones offered here, great. If not, keep reading.
  • Tint Make Gradient Wallpaper lets you make a simple two-color gradient wallpaper with whatever colors you damn well feel like using, allowing you to customize your gradient to match your case, icons, wardrobe, team colors, or whatever other hues you'd like you use. It's a simple app, and you can save gradients you like and come back to them over and over again.
  • It's not quite the pitch nothingness of Samsung's star field always-on wallpaper, but we've got some out-of-this-world wallpapers that are out of this world and might encourage you to reach for the stars.

Ringtone

There's a new version of Samsung's Over the Horizon ringtone out with the Galaxy S8. As in previous years, Samsung has partnered with a top-notch artist to redo the ditty, and this year it's Jacob Collier, who has done just a bang-up job with the tone.

Stock ringtones tend to get confusing in the office if everyone's using them, so you might want to grab the new ringtone now and switch to it before any of your friends get their S8s in a few weeks. Make it yours.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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About

The Galaxy S8, and its larger sibling the S8+, are Samsung's top-end devices for 2017 meant to appeal to the general consumer and power user alike. The two phones are only differentiated by screen and battery size: 5.8 inches and 3000mAh, and 6.2 inches and 3500mAh.

The displays have a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio with a QHD+ resolution, meaning they're extra tall and narrow. Samsung moved to on-screen buttons and reduced bezel size dramatically in order to fit as much screen into the body as possible. That moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phones, where it sits somewhat-awkwardly next to the camera lens. Iris scanning makes its return in a new-and-improved version from the Note 7.

Though the batteries haven't increased in size from the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, the hope is that the improved efficiency of the new 10 nm processor inside will provide some help. The processor is backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Waterproofing and wireless charging are still here as well, plus a new USB-C port on the bottom. The rear camera is unchanged in terms of its 12MP sensor and f/1.7 lens, but has improved processing thanks to a new ISP and software.

Specs

Width Height Thickness 5.86 in
148.9 mm
2.68 in
68.1 mm
0.31 in
8 mm
5.47 oz
155g grams
  • Display:
    • 5.8-inch AMOLED display
    • 2960x1440 resolution
    • 18.5:9 aspect ratio
    • Dual-curve infinity display
  • Cameras:
    • 12MP ƒ/1.7 rear camera
    • Dual-pixel phase detection autofocus
    • 1.4-micron pixels
    • 8MP ƒ/1.7 front camera
  • Battery:
    • 3000 mAh battery
    • Non-removable
    • USB-C fast Charging
    • Qi + PMA wireless charging
  • Chips:
    • Snapdragon 835 processor
    • Samsung Exynos 8896 processor
      (varies by region)
    • 4GB RAM
    • 64GB internal storage
    • microSD card slot
    • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • GS8+
    • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    • 6.2-inch AMOLED display
    • 3500mAh battery
    • 6.28 in x 2.89 in x 0.32 in
      159.5mm x 73.4mm x 8.1mm
    • 6.10 oz / 73g

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1 month ago

How can I protect my browsing history from my ISP?

110

There's no foolproof way to be 100% anonymous, but you don't have to just give away your data without a fight.

You ISP has been given free reign to record 100% of what you do online and sell that information to the highest bidder. An FCC rule designed to at least get your permission was voted away by the people elected to represent us, and an existing FTC suggestion to allow us all to opt out will continue to be ignored.

Your personal information and data is no longer yours or personal once your ISP gets ahold of it.

There just isn't anything you or I can do to change the fact that we pay for a service and the people who collect our money every month can sell everything they know about us and they have no obligation to anonymize any of it. To the companies that provide internet access, we are cattle. Moo moo buckaroo.

We don't have to give them any useful information, though, and there are a few things you can do to make some of the data about where, when and how you use the internet nothing more than wasted hard drive space if you'd rather decide for yourself how it gets spread around.

Not all data collection is terrible

First, let's be clear on a couple things. Your ISP, whether it's Comcast or Time Warner or AT&T or whoever (including the people you pay for data on your phone every month) collecting data isn't always a bad thing and that's not what has a lot of people upset about the recent changes. Any company that provides a service can provide a better service when they know how people are using it, and there's probably not someone in a basement office watching you use the internet. Trading data for a better service is something most of us do all the time, even if we don't know it.

A service can become a better service if the people offering it know how we use it, but selling it off is a different matter.

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and plenty of other companies also offer services that use your data as currency instead of charging actual cash. What they collect is every bit as intrusive as what your ISP is collecting and we all need to remember that. The difference is that we aren't paying every month and we can say no and not use their services. We're also told up front what is being collected and what is being done with it all and even your Android phone gives you the option to just say nope and not use anything from one of these data-thirsty companies. Incidentally, the companies who make the phones we love to buy don't have a similar opt-out. You either say yes to letting Samsung or HTC or whoever collect your data or you put your brand new phone back in the box and sell it on Swappa because it's now used. Another post for another time.

So if you need internet service — and we think internet service is now a need the same way electricity and potable water are — you have no option other than paying someone who will handle your personal information with zero regards to your privacy.

Your best protection

We can't stop them from harvesting our data then using it in a way that raises security and privacy concerns, but we can try and make the data worthless as possible by changing how you use the internet. There are two ways to go about this, and luckily both are pretty easy to use with our Androids. Both involve intercepting the web traffic to and from your phone.

Use a VPN

Most people are familiar with the term VPN, but not everyone knows what exactly a VPN is. Think of it as a computer on the internet that lets you connect and use its connection to send and receive web traffic. It's more complicated than that, and if you're curious how they work and why Cisco's Internet Protocol Journal will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about them and then some.

Using a VPN means a look at the data collected by your ISP will show when you connected to your VPN, what VPN you used and where you were when you used it. That sounds like the easy fix, right? Not really. There are some issues with relying on a VPN to keep you completely anonymous, and they can't be ignored.

  • Using a VPN only changes the "area of attack." You need to make sure the VPN you are using doesn't keep any records and is in a location where they aren't required to do anything extra to fulfill a request for user data. There is nothing keeping a VPN company from selling your data back to your ISP other than their own policies.
  • A VPN won't block data collection from apps and services that are probably already installed on your phone. If you bought your phone from a carrier, they probably have something in the software to tell them exactly how you are using it. They can now sell that data.
  • Not everything can use a VPN and those fancy internet-of-things gadgets can create a nice little profile about you for your ISP to sell to someone with enough cash to afford it. Many of those gadgets have an app that can collect extra data from your phone itself.
  • A VPN can't stop an evil company from injecting evil data packets to track your every move while you're online. Yes, this is what Verizon got caught doing. But don't think Verizon is any eviler than anyone else.

You can find companies who sell VPN service and provide an Android app to make using it on your phone easy. I hesitate to list the best of them because that depends on your needs. Look for a company that doesn't collect data, is in a country that doesn't require them to enable collection when asked, and has no censor in place. Right now I'm using Privateinternetaccess' VPN Tunnel service and have also had great results with BlackVPN. But am always on the lookout for something better.

You can also get super hardcore and set up your own VPN on a remote server as well as run a tunnel through your router. Those are outside of the scope of this "easy" talk, though.

Use TOR

The TOR project is a volunteer-based group of people and companies who maintain servers that route encrypted internet traffic through a randomized and complex path of tunnels. From a user perspective, it's a proxy that we point our network traffic at, and the software used by folks who keep it up and running handles the rest.

TOR is recommended by organizations like Indymedia and the EFF to help keep anonymous and safe while online. U.S. Naval intelligence, as well as hundreds of law enforcement offices, use it when they need to hide their tracks online and so do millions of people like you and me. Using TOR means your ISP will see a connection to one of a pool of random servers instead of a connection to a particular website. But it also has some drawbacks that keep it from being the perfect solution.

  • TOR won't block data collection from apps and services that are probably already installed on your phone. If you bought your phone from a carrier, they probably have something in the software to tell them exactly how you are using it. They can now sell that data.
  • Not everything can use a TOR client and those fancy internet-of-things gadgets can create a nice little profile about you for your ISP to sell to someone with enough cash to afford it. Many of those gadgets have an app that can collect extra data from your phone itself.
  • Your ISP will see a connection to a random TOR node and know you're connected to a TOR node. Unfortunately, that can be a red flag. The U.S. Government is highly suspicious of everyone who uses TOR and considers users as a foreign national and a "cause of concern" by default. People and companies hosting exit relays are always at risk of being shut down and having equipment seized. Feel that freedom wash over you.
  • TOR can be slow. As in very slow.

On the plus side, TOR is easy to set up on Android. FireOnion is a preconfigured TOR proxy and browser you can get from Google Play that just works. OrBot is a preconfigured TOR proxy for Android that can be used with any app that allows you to use a proxy service. The OrFox Browser pairs well with OrBot, and both are official products from the TOR project themselves. They too are available from Google Play.

Every little bit counts

Neither of these options is foolproof. Outside of leeching from someone else's Wi-Fi and having your browser history connected to them (don't you dare) nothing is a 100% way to hide from a greedy ISP. But every little bit counts and this is what can be done in the now while people work on better ways to protect yourself in the future.

Stay safe.

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1 month ago

Use Android to trick your friends this April Fool's Day

4

APRIL FOOLS!!

Yeah, it's coming. That holiday we love to hate and hate to love, full of pie-in-the-sky pitches, deep, deep teasing of eventual products, and things that we desperately, desperately wish were real.

It's almost April Fool's Day, and what was once a purely homemade day full of pranking friends and family and avoiding revenge has now been commercialized, not only by marketers looking to sell something, but by major corporations of all kinds putting out their own April Fool's goofs in a bid to have some fun with consumers while reminding consumers of what they can buy from them.

This year, though, I implore you to put the fake barf and whoopie cushions away. We have better ways of pranking our friends with our handy-dandy Android phones!

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1 month ago

How to use Google Maps offline

4

Download maps so you can access them even when you're offline.

Google Maps has an offline mode that lets you download maps and get directions even when you're not connected to the internet. If you're traveling abroad or heading to a location with limited internet connectivity, a good option is to save that particular area offline so you can get driving directions and view points of interest and routes.

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1 month ago

How to edit the Air Command menu on the Galaxy Tab S3

0

The S Pen is already pretty great. You can make it even better by customizing its companion Air Command dock.

The S Pen is the Galaxy Tab S3's most powerful trait. It features a clickable button that, when pressed while hovering the S Pen above the Tab S3's display, brings up the Air Command dock. You can program this pop-up menu window with oft-used S Pen actions or shortcuts to your favorite stylus-compatible apps.

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1 month ago

The Galaxy S8's new 'Infinity Wallpapers' are awesome — here's how they work

29

On the Galaxy S8, your Always-On Display, lock screen and home screen seamlessly flow into each other.

In the various online leaks leading up to the Samsung Galaxy S8 announcement, we got to see glimpses of the phone's new lock screen, home screen and always-on display, and it always seemed like there was something new going on with the way the GS8 handled the interaction between these three screens. Android has had animated home screens and lock screens for years, thanks to the Live Wallpapers feature, but the GS8 takes this a step further with its new Infinity Wallpapers.

And they're actually pretty neat.

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1 month ago

Super Mario Run Tips and Tricks

2

Best your friends in Toad Rally races with these tips and tricks for Super Mario Run.

As expected, Super Mario Run has quickly jumped up to the top of the Google Play Store app charts, as millions of Android users finally get a chance to check in with Mario's latest adventure.

Once you've completed the main story mode, Toad Rally emerges as the core mode in which you'll spend most of your time playing. Racing against other players from around the world, your goal is to collect as many coins and pull off as many epic jumps as possible. You can learn more about the basic controls in our Super Mario Run FAQ, but if you really want an edge on the competition, look no further than these seven great tips and tricks to get the most out of Super Mario Run.

Let coins and arrows to guide you to more coins

This one's pretty simple, but it's worth stating: when you see an arrow, take note and try to follow it's path. It will often lead you to new heights, more coins... and maybe even a hidden Challenge Coin.

Coins also double when you're enjoying a Coin Rush, so all the more reason to follow those arrows for maximum scoring!


Mastering the mid-air stall is key

Controls are incredibly limited in Super Mario Run, but there are a few ways you can tweak Mario's jump. Perhaps the most useful and trickiest to pull off is the mid-air stall. This special move will pause Mario's forward progress in mid-air and move you backward just a step.To perform it, touch the screen to high-jump, and then swipe to the left while in mid-air. This move is especially useful while playing as Yoshi and Princess Peach, as you can couple it with their floaty jumps to actually float a significant distance backwards. A great trick to pull in a Toad Rally if you just missed out on a treasure trove of coins.

Dying isn't necessarily a bad thing

This kinda goes against all video game logic, but dying in Super Mario Run can actually be helpful. Sure, you lose a couple of coins when you die, but it can also put you back at the very beginning of the level without resetting the content or killing clock. So, if you want to go back and get that challenge coin you missed or want to check an alternate path, you can do so with little repercussion. Just remember the further you go back, the more likely you are to run out of time, so don't dilly-dally.

Don't forget that you can tap a bubble to rewind

Instead of letting Mario fall off a ledge, you can also tap the Bubble button at the top of the screen at any time to rewind the level. Miss out on a Challenge Coin? You can bubble back and make the magic happen. Just remember that you won't get any extra time on the clock, so hurry!


Go into a boss battle powered up

Fact: It's incredibly easy to defeat Bowser with a mushroom-powered Mario. To beat him as small Mario, you have to jump over his massive shell (or time a run when he jumps into the air) and grab the axe, which falls and busts up the bridge he is standing on. It's really hard to jump over him as is, but especially when you're small mario. But if you're powered up with a mushroom, you can take a hit from Bowser and still make it to the axe. If you're playing as one of the optional characters such as Toad or Yoshi, take a minute to study Bowsers attack and jump patterns, then take advantage of their unique jump skills to coast right past him.

Play longer by turning down the graphics settings

You can lower the amount of battery power Super Mario Bros needs by lowering the rendering and graphics settings in the game. To do so tap Menu > Settings > Options. From there, you can tap the rendering and graphics settings to toggle each from high to low. We only recommend toggling the graphics setting though, since lowering the rendering is super noticeable and might throw you off while playing.

Sign up for, or log into My Nintendo

You receive extra rewards for connecting your My Nintendo account. If you played Miitomo you likely signed up then, and you can use the same account for Super Mario Run. Rewards include extra coins, Toad Rally tickets, decorations for your kingdom, and you also unlock Toad as a playable character.

Got any tips of your own to share?

Have you figured out some great strategies or discovered any easter eggs? Let us know in the comments!

Android Gaming

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1 month ago

How to take a screenshot on the Galaxy S8

You've got two simple ways to grab a screenshot on the Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8 Plus.

Your Galaxy S8 (or Galaxy S8 Plus, no judgement here) can do a lot of things no other Samsung phone has been able to do, but it's also missing the big friendly button that has always been on the front of the phone. While Samsung has replaced nearly all of the features offered in that button with other tools across the phone, taking a screenshot didn't make the cut.

Whether you're new to Samsung phones or you've only ever used Samsung phones, knowing how to take a screenshot on the Galaxy S8 will making life just a little bit easier for you later on. Lets take a quick look at the different ways you can take a screenshot on the Galaxy S8, now that there's no big friendly button on the front.

Method 1: How to take a screenshot using the button shortcut

This method works on just about every Android phone out there, but there are a few extra options on a Samsung phone.

  1. Get the app or screen that you want to capture ready to go.
  2. Press and hold the volume down button and the power button at the same time. You'll hear the camera shutter sound, along with a short flashing animation, and that's how you know you're good to go.
  3. You'll now be able to see the screenshot in the Gallery app, or in Samsung's built-in My Files file browser, or in Google Photos, if you use that instead.
  4. If you need to find the screenshots from a command line or through the Android File Transfer tool, they'll be in /pictures/screenshots.

Method 2: How to take a screenshot by swiping the screen

Samsung's got another cool feature in its smartphones for taking screenshots. And some of us think it's actually the easier way to take a screenshot when compared to the button method. (Though it does get a little more tricky if you're using the larger Galaxy S8 Plus.)

  1. Tilt your hand to the side a little, so your thumb is pointing away from the screen.
  2. Swipe your entire hand across the screen from left to right.

Just like in the other method you'll hear the shutter sound and see a short on-screen animation.

This method is enabled by default, but you can turn it off in the settings if you prefer, or if you find you're accidentally taking screenshots.

  1. Go into the settings menu.
  2. Scroll down to Motion and choose Motions and gestures.
  3. Tap Palm swipe to capture.
  4. Hit the toggle button from on to off.

Extra Credit: How to take a scrolling screenshot on the Galaxy S8

Sometimes you need to capture more than just what you see on the screen. The good news is you don't need to take multiple screenshots with the Galaxy S8. You can just take a scrolling screenshot instead and capture one giant long screenshot!

It's a feature that has been around on Samsung phones since the Note 5, but here's how it works on the Galaxy S8.

  1. Take a screenshot, as before.
  2. Tap the Capture more option to scroll down and grab more of the screen.
  3. Keep on tapping until you've captured what you need or reach the bottom of the page.

Fair warning: Scrolling screenshots can get very large. Samsung helps with this somewhat. Single-screen grabs are output at full resolution — 1440x2690. But once you start adding them, the width is downscaled to 1080 pixels wide, and the whole screenshot is saved as a JPEG and instead of a PNG. Still, be careful. It's not uncommon for these screenshots to get up to 6-7mb.

Now that you have a screenshot

You did it! Not as strange as it seems, right? Now that you have your screenshot, you can keep it for later or share it immediately.

If you want to share the screenshot immediately, tap the Share button that shows up after you capture the screenshot and choose from the list of apps that shows up how you want to deliver your photo. If you want to share it later, the Attach function in any app will be able to find your screenshot so you can add it to a social post or an email.

Once you take the screenshot it is treated like any other photo, which means it takes up space on your phone and will be added to your cloud backup through most photo apps. If you find yourself taking a lot of screenshots and don't feel the need to keep them around forever, it may be worth occasionally going through your photo gallery and cleaning them out to save yourself some storage for later. Enjoy!

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Main

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint

About

The Galaxy S8, and its larger sibling the S8+, are Samsung's top-end devices for 2017 meant to appeal to the general consumer and power user alike. The two phones are only differentiated by screen and battery size: 5.8 inches and 3000mAh, and 6.2 inches and 3500mAh.

The displays have a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio with a QHD+ resolution, meaning they're extra tall and narrow. Samsung moved to on-screen buttons and reduced bezel size dramatically in order to fit as much screen into the body as possible. That moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phones, where it sits somewhat-awkwardly next to the camera lens. Iris scanning makes its return in a new-and-improved version from the Note 7.

Though the batteries haven't increased in size from the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, the hope is that the improved efficiency of the new 10 nm processor inside will provide some help. The processor is backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Waterproofing and wireless charging are still here as well, plus a new USB-C port on the bottom. The rear camera is unchanged in terms of its 12MP sensor and f/1.7 lens, but has improved processing thanks to a new ISP and software.

Specs

Width Height Thickness 5.86 in
148.9 mm
2.68 in
68.1 mm
0.31 in
8 mm
5.47 oz
155g grams
  • Display:
    • 5.8-inch AMOLED display
    • 2960x1440 resolution
    • 18.5:9 aspect ratio
    • Dual-curve infinity display
  • Cameras:
    • 12MP ƒ/1.7 rear camera
    • Dual-pixel phase detection autofocus
    • 1.4-micron pixels
    • 8MP ƒ/1.7 front camera
  • Battery:
    • 3000 mAh battery
    • Non-removable
    • USB-C fast Charging
    • Qi + PMA wireless charging
  • Chips:
    • Snapdragon 835 processor
    • Samsung Exynos 8896 processor
      (varies by region)
    • 4GB RAM
    • 64GB internal storage
    • microSD card slot
    • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • GS8+
    • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    • 6.2-inch AMOLED display
    • 3500mAh battery
    • 6.28 in x 2.89 in x 0.32 in
      159.5mm x 73.4mm x 8.1mm
    • 6.10 oz / 73g

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1 month ago

How to use public transit directions in Google Maps

6

Google Maps is an amazing resource for finding public transit information.

In addition to driving directions, Google Maps offers a wealth of options if you rely on public transit for your daily commute. The service gives you a list of the various forms of public transportation for your journey, and it also offers the ability to set a departure time and see the options available at that particular time.

Google Maps catalogs public transit information — including bus, train, ferry, and tram schedules — from over 100 countries and 25,000 towns. Along with finding the optimal transport mode for your daily commute, Maps makes it easy for you to find transit information when visiting a new city.

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1 month ago

Selling your Android phone or tablet: The ultimate guide

113

How do I sell my Android phone or tablet for the most amount of money? With these tips and tricks, you'll get the best return!

So a new Android phone has caught your eye — maybe the new Samsung Galaxy S8 — and you want to get on the boat as soon as possible. You'll need to sell your old phone in order to make up some of the money you're spending on that new device, but luckily there are a wealth of options available. We're going to get you through some of the best practices out there for preparing your Android phone or tablet for sending off, and some places for sale that would best suit your needs.

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