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1 week ago

Google I/O 2017: In pictures

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Take a photo tour with us through Google's spectacular, outdoor developer conference.

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Google I/O isn't all developer talks and coding sessions. Well, the majority of it certainly is, but it's also a festival speckled with things to see and photograph-worthy shrubbery.

The conference takes place at an outdoor venue in the heart of the Silicon Valley, where it's cool in the mornings and blazing hot in the afternoon. But this year, Google moved most of what's worth seeing inside into air conditioned tents. The result makes it a tiny bit harder to find some of the technologies on display, but the pay off is a cooled room where you can easily relax while bonding over what's new with Google.

Welcome to Google I/O 2017.

The Shoreline Amphitheater, where Google I/O is now held annually, is next-door to Google headquarters and a wildlife reserve. Typically just barren festival grounds, this year Google seems to have added more common areas for people to sit and congregate.

Google is offering a fun scavenger hunt around the I/O fairgrounds. Tap your phone to an NFC terminal four times throughout the week and you can take home one of these Android Pay figurines.

There are two tents devoted just to Android Experiments. The one on the right is called Home Screen Arcade, which lets you play a game of Space Invaders (left) on your Home screen. The one on the right is called Giorgio Cam, and it lets you make a melody by snapping different pictures. It uses Machine Learning to figure out what the object it and then turns those labels into lyrics of a song.

Feel like sending a postcard? You can from Google I/O! Grab one of these and drop it in the mailbox to send to a friend.

There are plenty of areas to sit and relax and grab a beverage — water, Coke, or other — under the shade of a tree or an awning in between sessions or just to escape the oppressive mid-afternoon sun. In case you didn't realize, it's very hot in Mountain View.

And then when you're about to go back to work, you can grab a beverage at the Google Assistant-powered Mocktail kiosk, which will whip up a flavorful fruit drink for you.

I'll never stop taking time out of the day to take selfies with the Android statues.

The sad story behind this photo is that these kiosks are now completely barren. If you didn't buy your souvenirs the first time around, you'll now have to go on the Google campus to the official merchandise store to bring something else home.

The Asus ZenFone AR was subtly on display inside the Daydream and Tango tent. Each demonstration was running on these devices, and I even had a chance to use it for the Expeditions AR demonstration. The ZenFone AR will be on sale at Verizon later this summer.

TensorFlow is one of the quieter, sleeper hits of Google I/O. It's an open-source software library for Google's Machine Intelligence and now it's Lite form will make it easier to integrate into any Android smartphone. This photo shows TensorFlow being utilized in a candy-grabbing robot, which you can command to hand you a sweet treat.

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1 week ago

Google I/O 2017: Assistant and its AI is what's next for all the things

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Android O and 2 Billion users is big news, but the real story from I/O 2017 is how everything will become a vessel for Google Assistant and the artificial intelligence that powers it.

Google Assistant looks and feels like the natural successor to Google Now. In a way it is, but it's also so much more. At Google I/O 2017 we saw that Google Assistant is it's own platform, and one that might be bigger than anything else Google has built.

The front end for Assistant can be in your phone, or your TV or and appliance on your coffee table or in a cardboard box from an electronic hobbyist magazine. While that might be the way to interact with Assistant, the service itself lives and breathes in the cloud running on Google's crazy new TensorFlow-powered Google Cloud TPUs.

Photo courtesy Google

Assistant first came to our phones inside the Allo app. We had seen the demo ot Google I/O 2016, but at first it was a little disappointing. That's changed, and here we are a year later with a very smart Assistant that can run anywhere with an internet connection and a Python (development language) interpreter. It's also branched out into Google Lens, Google Photos, Google Job Search and Tango and Google Play Protect and just about anywhere that a computer's special blend of logic can work out how, why or where. All of this is tied together into an AI, and it's Google's newest platform.

It also has the chance to be Google's most important and biggest platform, and eventually encompass and devour everything else the company has to offer. We already heard how Google's neural network was programmed so that it could build it's own and better neural network, so the functions and features are all there. Everything Google does could benefit from some smarter machinery, and the machinery is ready. Soon we'll have assistant in our Gmail.

The most visual, and therefore most exciting, news is in Google Lens. It's definitely the sleeper hit from I/O 2017, and something that will continue to develop until it becomes part of the everyday experience. The service that can use the power of the cloud to log you onto a Wi-Fi network or tell you about the flower that you're seeing. We're looking forwards to seeing Google Lens, but we're also looking forwards to what Google Lens learns for the next thing.

And that's what we really saw at I/O 17; the future. Google I/O has slowly moved away from announcements of shiny things and become more about what those things can do, and how it makes a difference. The things we buy that use it will come and go, but what we saw at Google I/O is the start of what's next.

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1 week ago

VR and AR experiences are coming soon to Chrome for Android

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Developers can now enable virtual and augmented reality experiences to run inside your mobile browser.

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It's an issue I face constantly: the inability to download an app because there isn't enough room on my 32GB Pixel XL. Thankfully, Google's announced that developers can now run web-based virtual and augmented-reality experiences inside the Chrome browser, though it's not clear if this includes full-size apps.

The announcement was made at Google I/O 2017 during the virtual and augmented reality session. It isn't particularly new, as you've already been able to access Daydream experiences through Chrome. But now all developers who are interested can build WebVR-enabled experiences that others can view inside Daydream and Cardboard. You'll be able to launch it simply by navigating to the page and then popping your smartphone inside the virtual reality viewer. Developers can add in Daydream Remote compatibility, too. The experience is built with Javascript.

Google's Andrey Doronichev shows off AR experiences in the Chrome browser.

Phones that support Tango will also be able to take advantage of web-based augmented reality features, which requires multiple . The AR browser options are available in an experimental Chrome build right now. If you're a developer, you can check it out on Github. The VR browser experience will hit Daydream later this summer.

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1 week ago

Google Assistant's new features transform it from product to platform

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Google Assistant

Google's next platform is all about machine learning and natural language processing.

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A full year on from its launch at Google I/O 2016, Google Assistant has both expanded to new devices and added dozens of features that truly reposition it as a platform rather than a product. With everything announced at this year's Google I/O conference, Google Assistant is a common backend of knowledge and capabilities that can be accessed through multiple interfaces on multiple devices with limitless third-party extensibility options.

It's no longer just Google Home and an app on Android phones — Assistant is going to be everywhere you use Google.

Google Home getting smarter every day

Google Home

Assistant can do more than just answer your questions and tell you jokes.

Google Home was originally the physical embodiment of the Google Assistant technology, but Assistant has since expanded to be so much more with Home leading the charge. Not only has the number of app and service integrations hit a "larger than you can recall" number, but Google is leading the charge by giving the Assistant control over an increasing number of Google's own products and services.

You no longer just talk to Google Home to have the speaker itself do something, but instead to invoke Google Assistant to do all sorts of things that can then manifest themselves on other devices — all powered by the same cross-device backend. Google Assistant processing and smarts let you ask your Home to send driving directions to your phone, shoot a YouTube video to your TV or control an increasing number of smart home devices.

More: Google Home just leapfrogged Amazon Echo at I/O 2017

Assistant on phones finally makes sense

Google Assistant

Google Assistant is a couple of months into its expansion to just about any modern Android phone, but Google I/O 2017 marked an important change to its functionality to make it truly viable and useful to a wide number of people. The biggest change is the interaction model: you can now just type to Assistant. With this being a feature of Allo it was only a matter of time before it rolled out to the Assistant on every phone. Adding text input increases the chances of interacting with Assistant on a more regular basis, lowering the barrier to accessing its wealth of information.

Assistant on the phone is getting feature parity with Google Home.

Another massive barrier destroyed is the Assistant's move to the iPhone. Argue all you want about Assistant's seamless integration into Android and how much more powerful it is, but if you want a platform to succeed today it has to be on the iPhone in addition to everything else. Just as importantly, Google Assistant on the iPhone has the same backend powering it as on Android, and within reason it has the same capabilities. Millions more people will soon have access to Google Assistant, completing the loop of using the platform across all of their devices.

The future is bright as well, with the new Google Lens system promising image recognition technology to make Assistant even more powerful. You'll soon be able to leverage Google's image recognition and machine learning in a single place — inside Assistant — rather than having the feature spread out across disparate platforms like Google Now on Tap and Google Goggles. Even more important is Google's expansion of proper "Assistant actions" support on phones — letting you control devices and make device-specific queries of Assistant on your phone the exact same way you can on Google Home.

A platform, not a product

It's becoming increasingly apparent that Google Assistant is being positioned as the glue that holds together all of Google's devices. Whether you're using a connected speaker, phone, smartwatch, car, or TV device, the goal is to have you interacting with Google Assistant in a consistent way with seamless transition between those experiences.

Functionally there are some hurdles to overcome and features yet to hit critical mass, but it's clear that Assistant is the future of consumer interaction with Google.

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1 week ago

Best microSD Cards for Galaxy S8

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What are the best microSD cards for the Galaxy S8?

Following in the footsteps of the Galaxy S7, the Galaxy S8 offers support for microSD cards so you can increase the storage of the phone. This time around, however, Samsung has increased the onboard storage from 32GB up to 64GB, so many people may find that more than enough. But if you're worried about filling that 64GB up with music, video or pictures, you should grab a microSD card and put it all there so you can easily access it.

Here are some of the best options to put in your new Galaxy S8.

Update May 18, 2017: Replaced some older cards with newer, U3 options. These cards are better for handling 4K video and often have faster read / write speeds.

SanDisk Extreme 32GB

If the 64GB that Samsung gives you inside the Galaxy S8 isn't enough for your daily needs, adding a bit more doesn't have to cost a ton. SanDisk's high-performance card offers transfer speeds of up to 80MB/s and with its U3 rating it is capable of handling 4K video. To make syncing files to and from your computer easy, Lexar includes a USB 3.0 reader in the packaging.

Adding 32GB of storage to a 64GB phone may seem a bit weird, but if you aren't looking to spend a lot this may be the way to go at under $20 for the card.

See at Amazon

SanDisk Ultra 128GB microSD

SanDisk is a well-known company when it comes to memory cards and storage products, and cards like this show you why. It comes with a 10-year warranty and has quick transfer speeds (up to 80MB/s), so it should check many of the boxes that you look for in a microSD card. The price is great as well at just over $40 most of the time.

See at Amazon

Samsung EVO 128GB microSD

This is not Samsung's top-end offering but it comes with decent speeds and a price tag to match. With up to 48MB/s for read and write you can keep the card updated easily, and it can handle 1080p video without a problem. If you want a Samsung-branded card that doesn't break the bank, this is the one to go with.

See at Amazon

PNY PRO Elite 128GB microSD

If you're planning to do a lot of 4K video recording, you'll want a fast and reliable card in your phone. PNY's PRO Elite 128GB card adds plenty of storage, and the speeds you need. Being U3 it is great for video, and it is capable of up to 95MB/s on the read, and 90MB/s on write. At around $70, this isn't a cheap option but it is a highly-rated, reliable one.

See at Amazon

SanDisk Ultra 200GB microSD

If you're looking to add a ton of extra storage at a relatively low cost, SanDisk's 200GB microSD card is the way to go. This card from SanDisk provides transfer speeds of up to 90MB/s and can record Full HD video. If you like to keep your digital library with you at all times, you'll want one of these.

We've seen the price drop significantly over the past year, and most of the times you can find it for under $80.

See at Amazon

Samsung 256GB EVO+ microSD

Samsung's own 256GB option is one of the best to go for if you are ready to just go all out on storage. With read speeds of up to 95MB/s and write speeds of up to 90MB/s you can quickly and easily transfer files to and from the phone. With the speed and storage capacity comes a larger price tag on this card, but if you want the biggest on the market this is the way to go.

See at Amazon

Your favorite?

Do you have a favorite microSD card that isn't listed here? Be sure to drop a comment below and let us know which card it is, and why you like it!

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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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 week ago

Daydream's next update is bringing Cast, Notifications, and Social

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There's a huge update coming to Google Daydream, and it's going to be great for everyone.

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Separate from all of the awesome things coming to Android in the O update, Google has some big things coming to Daydream. While the overall purpose of this update is preparing the platform for the upcoming Standalone Daydream launch, existing Daydream-ready phones are going to benefit in several huge ways.

This new version of Daydream is codenamed Euphrates, and this is what we know so far!

New UI, New Dashboard

The big visual changes coming to Daydream will be immediately obvious. The starting launcher screen is being adjusted with more visual backgrounds that move with you and a new system for making your apps front and center. From here, you'll be able to access a dashboard by pressing the Home button.

This dashboard will give you quick access to settings and friends, but also offer a look at notifications on your phone. It's the first time notifications have been available through daydream, but currently its not clear what kinds of actions users will have within Daydream when interacting with a notification.

Casting and Sharing

This new Euphrates dashboard will also make it easier for you to capture screenshots and record video. The core function looks similar to what is currently available on the Gear VR, where you get a notification letting you know video is being recorded and you can share to your connected social networks. Screenshots will happen on a timer, so you ask for a screenshot and take a moment to frame your shot before the capture happens.

The big thing happening here is sharing through Google Cast. This will let you share what is happening in your headset to a nearby Android TV or Chromecast, making it so people in the same physical space as you can see what is happening on the screen. This sounds an awful lot like cheating for games like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, but lets just say you're all on the honor system from here on out.

YouTube VR Reimagined

The final change coming with Euphrates isn't within Daydream core, but instead within the unique YouTube VR app available only in Daydream. YouTube VR will make it possible to share VR videos with friends in a way that allows everyone to watch something together at the same time. It's part of a significant UI overhaul for the already impressive YouTube VR experience, and it's also the first real attempt at social VR we've seen from Google directly.

Google isn't saying when exactly Euphrates can be expected, but we know the new standalone headsets are coming this holiday season so it's likely we'll see this huge shift around the same time. Are you excited about the Euphrates update? Share your thoughts below!

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1 week ago

Verizon will be the first U.S. carrier to sell a Tango phone

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Verizon will sell the ASUS ZenFone AR later this summer, and that's a great thing for AR.

Later this summer, Verizon will be the first U.S. carrier to sell a Tango-enabled device, which also happens to be the second ever phone to support Google's nascent augmented reality platform.

During a VR keynote at Google I/O, Johnny Lee, program lead for Tango, confirmed that the ASUS ZenFone AR will be coming to Verizon later in the summer, and will likely be sold alongside an unlocked model for other users who want to pay full price for the AR experience.

The ZenFone AR is much smaller than the first Tango phone, Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro, that debuted last summer. In his hands-on, Russell Holly said that the phone is nicely-designed and well built, and will work really well with Tango when it's available at launch.

The things that are most interesting about this phone, as the name suggests, are on the inside. This is the first phone with a Snapdragon 821 processor that has been optimized to handle Google Tango, complete with a camera array that differs wildly from Google's first Tango partner, Lenovo. As the first phone that can handle both Daydream and Tango, there's a lot of testing to be done to see how well all of this comes together.

That testing is coming to a close as we near the phone's launch, and while we don't know how much it will cost, it's likely to be a little more expensive than the $499 list price of the underpowered and oversized Phab 2 Pro. And given that the ZenFone AR will also be Daydream-compatible, it will be far more of a consumer-focused phone than its spiritual predecessor.

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1 week ago

MetroPCS Buyer's Guide: Everything you need to know

 Everything you need to know

Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile MVNO.

MetroPCS is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) or "alternative carrier". MVNOs lease coverage from the Big Four networks (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon) and sell it to customers for less. The benefit of an MVNO is that you experience the same level of service as a customer on one of the larger networks, but you can often find talk, text, and data plans for a fraction of the cost.

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MetroPCS is owned by and leases coverage from T-Mobile. If you go with MetroPCS, that means you get T-Mobile's fast 4G LTE service, as well as unlimited data plans.

If you like T-Mobile's coverage, but you'd love a cheaper cell phone bill every month, then consider an MVNO. Here's what you need to know about MetroPCS.

Individual plans

MetroPCS offers simple talk, text, and data plans in four tiers. There are no annual contracts required and all plan pricing includes taxes and regulatory fees. Every plan comes with unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, as well as tethering (at 3G speeds), voicemail, Wi-Fi calling, and caller ID. Prices differ based on the amount of 4G LTE that comes with each plan.

Its base plan is $30 per month, which includes 2GB of 4G LTE. For $40/month, you get 3GB of 4G LTE data, and $50/month gets you "unlimited" 4G (up to 30GB). For $60/month, you get unlimited data and you get tethering at 4G LTE speeds.

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Family plans

MetroPCS offers discounts on multiple lines depending on your monthly data allotment for up to 5 lines.

If you go with the $30/month 2GB plan or $40/month 3GB plan, you get $5 off per line, so you can get 2 lines for $50/month, 3 lines for $75, and so on. If you mix any of the four plans, you can get a $5 discount on all of them.

If you go with the $50 or $60 plans, you get a $10/month discount per line, so long as all lines are on an unlimited plan.

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Best MetroPCS phones

Since MetroPCS is on T-Mobile's network, you can bring just about any smartphone over, but if you'd rather buy from MetroPCS, pickin's are somewhat slim for top-notch devices, though they do have Samsung's latest and greatest, as well as Apple's.

Samsung Galaxy S8

Samsung's latest flagship is the best Android phone around, with it's awesome camera (front and back!), smooth software experience, gorgeous infinity display, and lightning-fast fingerprint sensor, as well as an updated iris scanner and its Snapdragon 835 processor.

If you love Android and want to stick with it, then the Galaxy S8 should definitely be on your list. It's $729 from MetroPCS.

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iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

The latest iPhones bear Apple's fastest processors and some of the best smartphone cameras available. MetroPCS offers the iPhone 7 in 32GB and 128GB and the 7 Plus in 128GB. If you're a fan of Apple, then the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus are the best of the bunch. If you're into photography, you'll love the iPhone 7 Plus' dual camera setup, which makes for some cool effects with Portrait Mode.

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How to cancel MetroPCS

Since there are no annual contracts, you can just cancel whenever you want. Know that if you cancel in the middle of your month, you'll have to pay off the rest of the month and anything you might owe on any devices.

Call 1-888-863-8768 or *611 on your MetroPCS phone or head into the nearest MetroPCS store to talk to a customer service rep.

How to unlock a MetroPCS phone

To unlock your MetroPCS phone, the phone must have had active MetroPCS service for a minimum of 90 consecutive days from the phone's activation date. Most MetroPCS phones come with a Device Unlock app that lets you simply request a code. For all other phones from MetroPCS phones, you'll have to contact MetroPCS customer service either by phone (1-888-863-8768) or at a MetroPCS store.

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Finding another MVNO

If you like T-Mobile's service and are considering MetroPCS but want other options, then you might want to consider another MVNO that uses T-Mobile's network or one that uses multiple networks.

There are over 20 MVNOs that piggyback on T-Mobile's network, so you have your pick of the litter. Major players include Mint SIM, Straight Talk, and TracFone.

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1 week ago

LG 'V30' will support Google's Daydream VR: One big, important clue

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For starters, LG's next flagship will probably use an OLED screen.

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At the Google I/O 2017 keynote presentation, Google let slip (well, it was surely intentional) an important clue about an unannounced Android phone. In addition to confirming that the Galaxy S8 and S8+ will get Daydream support via a software update later this year, Google's Clay Bavor told attendees that LG's next flagship phone would also be Daydream ready.

Since we've already seen the flagship LG G6 this year, that sure sounds a lot like the LG V20's successor.

LG V30 rumors

What's interesting about this proclamation about Daydream support is that the spec currently requires an AMOLED display, because LCDs have so far lacked the super-low latency required for a smooth, comfortable VR experience. This would be a first for LG, which has in the past relied exclusively on IPS LCD panels in its top-end devices. So either there's been some breakthrough in LCD panel latency we don't yet know about, or (more likely) the LG V30 will go with OLED, which has a proven track record in both VR headsets and VR-enabled phones.

AMOLED has a proven track record in both VR headsets and VR-enabled phones.

LG has invested billions in OLED production over the past year, and has previously dabbled in using flexible OLED with the G Flex series. LG Display division has also been rumored to be supplying panels for both the next-gen iPhone and Google's upcoming Pixel 2 phones. The time might be right, then, for LG's mobile division to consider OLED for its next big-screened handset — a phone which would likely go up against Samsung's Galaxy Note 8.

As for other LG V30 features, all we have to go on at this point is (somewhat) informed speculation. A large screen size is a good bet, as is a G6-like 18:9 aspect ratio. It's also likely LG would launch its own Daydream headset with the V30, whichever display technology it ends up using, rather than send potential sales to Google or some other headset maker. We'd also bet on a Snapdragon 835 and a significant RAM upgrade, giving the V30 an edge on the G6, and bringing LG's top-end handset in line with Samsung, HTC, OnePlus and others.

Whatever form the V30 takes when it eventually materializes, Google's announcement offers a rare early clue as to what's coming. Stay tuned in the months ahead for more V30 info as it lands.

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1 week ago

Daydream works in the Android O Beta, so be careful

The Android O Beta isn't going to kill your Daydream sessions.

Good news, developers and bleeding edge enthusiasts! If you're planning to enroll your Google Pixel to the Beta Program for Android O, the Daydream app and its connected experiences are still available to you. There have been similar previews in the past that disabled access to VR services out of concern for performance issues, but clearly Google feels confident Daydream performance hasn't been negatively impacted which is great.

That having been said, be careful. Betas are often very unfinished, and there are a lot of things that could negatively impact Daydream as you explore this new version of Android.

Read more at VR Heads!

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1 week ago

What's new in Android O?

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See what the latest and greatest version of Android has in store for you!

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Android O brings several changes to existing features as well as all new features. Since it first arrived in 2008, Android has been a very fluid bit of software. The mobile space is always evolving and Android has evolved along with it so it could meet the needs of people like us who use it every day.

Updated, May 2017: The second Android O Developer Preview introduces some new features and some refinements. Here's what you need to know.

With the first developer preview of Android O, we got a glimpse of some of the new features. With the beta release we get a clearer picture of what can expect when it's released later this year. Google also tells us that this is just a few of the things we can expect with the next version of Android.

How to get Android O on your Pixel or Nexus (and how to roll back to Nougat)

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1 week ago

How to make a custom icon for Android

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Theming icons with a pack is pretty awesome. But they can't do everything.

Icon packs have holes. Icon packs sometimes miss. And when you're theming your phone, maybe what you need isn't in an icon pack at all. That's OK. We don't need no stinkin' icon packs. We can edit together our own custom icons! It's easy. All you need is some kind of photo editor — be it the latest Photoshop or free cloud-based editors like Pixlr — and a little creativity.

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1 week ago

Android Pay coming to Canada, Spain, Brazil and others, debuts peer-to-peer payments

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Android Pay is expanding to new markets, and expanding its U.S. capabilities.

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Even though Android Pay is available in 10 markets right now, it's been a relatively slow, plodding expansion for Google's mobile payment platform. At Google I/O 2017, the company announced that it is expanding to a further five markets in the coming months, launching in Canada, Brazil, Russia, Spain and Taiwan. There have been numerous hints that Android Pay was imminently launching in Canada and Russia, so it's nice to finally see the plan put on paper.

At the same Google I/O session, Google also detailed some interesting new ways that people will be able to make payments, both to vendors and retailers, and to one another through its first peer-to-peer operation.

  • There's the Google Payment API, which saves verified credit and debit cards to a Google account and allows users to quickly make payments in-app or on the mobile web. This is different to Android Pay because it's not platform-specific — you can likely use it on iOS in addition to Android — and is not tied into Android Pay, so it can be used in all countries Google operates.
  • There's peer-to-peer payments using Google Assistant. You'll be able to say things like "Ok Google, send $10 to Jane for pizza," and a connected debit card will send the payment through. Pretty easy.
  • A Card Linked Offers API will allow customers to see targeted offers based on location. Panera Bread is the first company on board with the enterprise, and users will see marketing offers when in store, often tied to a loyalty program like MyPanera. Pretty neat.
  • Finally, Google is making it easier for loyalty cards to be added to its various marketing partners. If a customer is making a payment at a particular store that has hooked its loyalty program into Android Pay, users will get a notification asking whether they want to add their card and, once added, will begin collecting points with every transaction.

While personally I'm most excited about Android Pay coming to Canada, there are a lot of small improvements to the way users can send payments and use their loyalty that should make the experience better for everyone. That's not to say all markets will get the above features — it's likely the loyalty and peer-to-peer options will remain U.S.-only for a while yet — but it's a good foundation.

What are you most excited about for Android Pay? Let us know in the comments!

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1 week ago

Popular MVNO US Mobile adds Verizon as a network partner

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A new provider for an up-and-coming alternative carrier.

US Mobile, an alternative carrier that uses granular plan customization as its differentiator, has announced that it is adding "service on the biggest, and most dependable 4G LTE network in America," which is likely Verizon, to augment its existing nationwide coverage with T-Mobile.

US Mobile is interesting because it allows users to customize their plans to meet their exact voice, text and data needs; if you only want a little bit of talk and text, you can spend $3 for 100 voice minutes and another $2 for 100 texts — more than enough for basic coverage — and add as much data as you want, from $2 for 100MB to $30 for 10GB.

When the new provider comes online later this summer, users will be able to connect a la carte as they did previously with T-Mobile, and the network will dynamically choose between the two services. And while US Mobile isn't explicitly saying that Verizon is the partner, Big Red often goes by "the most dependable network in America," and typically is quoted as having the largest LTE network in the States. Thankfully, US Mobile doesn't plan to change its prices, and claims that when the service launches it will be the first alternative carrier to offer such an a la carte plan with Verizon.

See at US Mobile

Alternative carriers (MVNOS)

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1 week ago

Five reasons why I pre-ordered the Amazon Echo Show

16

Sometimes I really need my Echo to show, not tell.

I'm fairly embedded in the Alexa ecosystem. There's a full-sized Echo in my living room, an Echo Dot in my bedroom, and the Alexa-enabled Triby sits on my fridge in the kitchen. I don't use Alexa for anything particularly special, mostly just music/podcasts and smart light control and the occasional timer. There's a lot more I could do with Alexa, but I often find the experience limiting without a display to accompany the sound.

I currently have a tablet mounted in my kitchen to resolve this issue, but I'm hoping the new Echo Show from Amazon will replace that separate piece of hardware. Here's what really pushed me to pre-order as soon as it was announced.

See on Amazon

I want voice-controlled recipes

I do most of the cooking in my house, and frequently rely on recipe apps when trying something new. Alexa already has a bunch of different recipe skills, but they're all voice-based and I need something visual. I need to be able to glance at an ingredient list, and I'd prefer to be able to do this with just my voice because sometimes a recipe involves me getting my hands covered in whatever I'm cooking.

Amazon and its partners being able to deliver a totally voice driven recipe experience with results and details on a display so I can quickly glance would be a big deal for me. It seems like all of the pieces are there for this to work, so I'm hoping this becomes a game changer for me in the kitchen.

I can see my connected cameras

If the FedEx guy is dropping something off and I don't need to sign for it, or if there's a marketer at the door trying to sell me something, I can check the Ring app from my phone and never actually need to leave my office. The only way that experience could be improved is by not needing to interrupt my current task by grabbing my phone and touching the display.

Being able to glance at the Echo Show, see who is at the door, and react without my fingers leaving the keyboard is going to be amazing. Knowing Amazon supports Ring, Arlo, and other connected cameras out of the box is a big selling point for me.

I want Echo-level audio quality in a tablet

One of the big things I do with my kitchen tablet when I'm not using it for a recipe is streaming video. I like being able to catch up on the shows no one else in the house watches while I cook, but even the loudest tablet speakers struggle to keep up with the roar of a frying pan and a blender and a microwave all at once.

Amazon has proven itself capable of designing room-filling speakers with the Echo, and the Echo Show is promising the same kind of experience. Echo Show currently only supports YouTube streaming, but as more apps become available it's likely this will become a critical streaming accessory in my house.

Simplified video chat could be cool

I have no shortage of video chat apps, but my kids usually need to come to me in order to call the grandparents or my sister in Hawaii. If I can convince my sister to pick up one of these as well, the kids will be able to video chat whenever they want (within reason) and I won't need to stop what I'm doing or hand over my phone to facilitate this conversation.

My kids are already big Echo users, so I see this being a feature frequently used by the younger members of my household. Who knows, I may decide it's a better video chat solution and use it occasionally as well.

The price is more than reasonable

I was happy to pay $200 for the original Amazon Echo, so I have zero problems paying $30 more for a significant boost in features. The $230 price tag is cheaper than any tablet I'd want to use around the house for these same things, offers way better audio, and because I'm already an Echo user will require very little setup on my end.

I probably would have purchased another Echo Dot had I really been looking to expand my Alexa connectivity throughout the house, but streamlining my kitchen tech and offering some new features along the way is enough to push me to ensure I'll be opening my own Echo Show on launch day.

See on Amazon

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