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1 week ago

ZTE's leaked Android Wear watch looks metal and cheap

23

ZTE is coming out with an Android Wear watch, and it's not looking great.

ZTE hasn't commented on its upcoming Android Wear device, but signs point to the wearable being unveiled in the next few weeks. Not only has it already passed through the U.S. regulator for certification of its internal 3G radio, but we're seeing more and more proof of its real-world existence.

Android Police has the latest round of information, detailing its metal chassis and rounded face. According to the leak, the watch will be called Quartz (or at least that's what it's being referred to) and will have notches around the bezel to denote every hour — a thoroughly analog consideration for a digital product.

Charging via a cheap-looking plastic dock, the Quartz looks to be running Android Wear 2.0, and will ship with neither NFC capabilities for Android Pay, nor a heart rate monitor. The watch also looks like it was designed in the pre-2.0 era, since it lacks a rotating crown or bezel to aid with scrolling.

So this is definitely falling into the LG Watch Style category over the LG Watch Sport, which should be fine as long as the price reflects those decisions.

Android Wear

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1 week ago

Best Keyboard for Android

250

Update, March 2017: We've kept the listings the same — Gboard is still tops — but we've updated the layout and photos.

Best overall

Gboard

Free

See on Google Play

Google originally designed the Gboard for the iPhone, and they took their time making it available for Android. The wait was worth it, as Google Keyboard has been rebranded and updated with great new features including integrated web search, Google Translate and GIF search. Gboard is completely free, supports gesture typing for both individual words and entire sentences, a bounty of languages, and a modest choice of themes.

The Gboard employs Google's own speech-to-text engine for voice dictation, and while it might not be the best at predictive text, it does learn from your typed data across Google's apps and services. If you've been using the Google Keyboard, you should check the Google Play store to update your phone to the Gboard.

Bottom-line: Gboard has pretty much every feature you'd want from a touch keyboard, including the ability to quickly search Google from virtually anywhere in your phone. It's fast, reliable, and minimalist, with theme options to tweak in the settings.

One more thing: Go into the keyboard settings and turn on the G button for quick access to Google search. You won't regret it!

Why Gboard is the best

The Google Keyboard was already our favorite keyboard for Android, but the new features added with the Gboard update simply makes the best even better. They just keep adding all the smart features that Android users have enjoyed from other keyboards and wrap it all in a quick and responsive (and free!) package.

You have the option of tap-typing or swiping around for words, one-handed or two. It features built-in search powered by Google, and also employs Google's speech-to-text technology, which will only get better fine-tuned as it's built out. And it even incorporates GIFs, which can be found alongside the full suite of Android emojis. If your phone doesn't already come with the Google Keyboard pre-installed, do your thumbs a favor and check it out.

Best for predictions

Swiftkey

Free

See on Google Play

For years, SwiftKey soared above Google's included keyboard, and it did — and still does — come pre-installed on many a phone and tablet. SwiftKey's prediction methods, called the "fluency engine," has made it the keyboard that many users and editors alike keep coming back to. SwiftKey has been pre-loaded on millions of devices over the years, including on Samsung's flagship phones.

While SwiftKey used to be a paid app, the keyboard itself went free in 2014, instead having its users pay for themes. SwiftKey has led the keyboard pack for a while, and was our readers' top response when we asked which keyboard they used. And it's still a great option in 2016.

Bottom-line: SwiftKey is a great option for those looking for an alternative to the stock Google keyboard.

One more thing: On the topic of themes, there are over 80 of them to choose from in all sorts of colors and styles to fit your personality.

Best for gesture typing

Swype

$0.99

See on Google Play

Swype is to SwiftKey as GM is to Ford. Both are established, respected, feature-rich keyboards. Swype allows you to swipe out words or whole sentences, and also supports typing in two languages at once, for bilingual users. Swype offers a free trial version, but the full version is only a dollar, and themes are an additional two dollars apiece.

Swype ties into Android's Accessibility features for TalkBack and Explore By Touch, which make Swype a keyboard vision-impaired users can learn more easily on their own. Copy/Cut/Paste functions are embedded as gestures in Swype's keyboard, too. Swype all the things!

Bottom-line: Swype originally introduced the world to fluid, swipe-based typing, and is still a quality keyboard for Android.

One more thing: Swype is great for sports fans, offering offers themes, including Major League Soccer themes.

Conclusion

There are a lot of great keyboards on Android, and that's part of the platform's charm. But there are only three that you need to keep in the back of your mind, and can reliably switch between and feel satisfied. Gboard improves with every update, and SwiftKey is in active development, superseding our wildest prediction... predictions.

Best overall

Gboard

Free

See on Google Play

Google originally designed the Gboard for the iPhone, and they took their time making it available for Android. The wait was worth it, as Google Keyboard has been rebranded and updated with great new features including integrated web search, Google Translate and GIF search. Gboard is completely free, supports gesture typing for both individual words and entire sentences, a bounty of languages, and a modest choice of themes.

The Gboard employs Google's own speech-to-text engine for voice dictation, and while it might not be the best at predictive text, it does learn from your typed data across Google's apps and services. If you've been using the Google Keyboard, you should check the Google Play store to update your phone to the Gboard.

Bottom-line: Gboard has pretty much every feature you'd want from a touch keyboard, including the ability to quickly search Google from virtually anywhere in your phone. It's fast, reliable, and minimalist, with theme options to tweak in the settings.

One more thing: Go into the keyboard settings and turn on the G button for quick access to Google search. You won't regret it!

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1 week ago

Digital Offers: Learn to Code in Every Language you Need for $39!

"Computer programming is the future the industry of the future." If you have heard someone say that, it's time to look at a calendar and realize that future is here. Computer Science is a growing industry that is constantly involving and because of that, computer programmers always have to learn new things. If you're looking to get a start in the industry, or you're even looking to just switch jobs, you may notice a lot of employers asking for qualified coders in multiple languages meaning you have a lot of learning to do.

Learn how to code in C++, Java, Python and more! Learn more

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Stop waiting for that job promotion or career change to fall into your lap and start learning everything you need to be a programming genius!

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1 week ago

Samsung announces Bixby AI for the Galaxy S8, says thousands of engineers are working on it

78

Samsung has announced Bixby, its upcoming AI assistant for the Galaxy S8. But Samsung has much bigger plans for the cloud platform.

We've known about Samsung's Bixby AI assistant for months now, though the company has kept a pretty tight lid on exactly what it will end up being. We've considered that it will, for the most part, be designed to take on Google Assistant, Amazon's Alexa, and Apple's Siri, but Samsung has much bigger plans for its artificial intelligence.

Samsung has pre-announced Bixby in a detailed blog post that is half product announcement, half manifesto.

Samsung has a conceptually new philosophy to the problem [of virtual interaction]: instead of humans learning how the machine interacts with the world (a reflection of the abilities of designers), it is the machine that needs to learn and adapt to us.

The company notes three distinct ways that Bixby will surpass its competition:

  • Completeness
  • Context awareness
  • Cognitive tolerance

The first is about being able to use Bixby for anything, in any situation. "[It should] support almost every task that the application is capable of performing using the conventional interface (ie. touch commands)," says the post.

Next is being able to understand what you're doing as a user and adapt accordingly. "Bixby will allow users to weave various modes of interactions including touch or voice at any context of the application, whichever they feel is most comfortable and intuitive."

Finally, Bixby will be able to complete tasks from incomplete sentences: "Bixby will be smart enough to understand commands with incomplete information and execute the commanded task to the best of its knowledge, and then will prompt users to provide more information and take the execution of the task in piecemeal."

Samsung confirms that Bixby will have a permanent place on "the next device," the Galaxy S8, with a "dedicated Bixby button that will be located on the side" of the phone.

For example, instead of taking multiple steps to make a call – turning on and unlocking the phone, looking for the phone application, clicking on the contact bar to search for the person that you're trying to call and pressing the phone icon to start dialing – you will be able to do all these steps with one push of the Bixby button and a simple command.

The company also points out that this is a long-term vision for the platform, and that the Galaxy S8 will only have "a subset of preinstalled applications [that] will be Bixby-enabled."

But Samsung says there are thousands of engineers working on bringing the platform to other devices and applications, including the company's wide range of appliances. "In the future you would be able to control your air conditioner or TV through Bixby. Since Bixby will be implemented in the cloud, as long as a device has an internet connection and simple circuitry to receive voice inputs, it will be able to connect with Bixby. As the Bixby ecosystem grows, we believe Bixby will evolve from a smartphone interface to an interface for your life. Our investment in engineering resources speaks for itself – we have thousands of software developers supporting this effort."

It seems like Bixby is one of the most ambitious software projects Samsung has ever participated in, and we're excited to see what comes from it.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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1 week ago

Lofelt Basslet review: An expensive and fun way to feel the music

4

The stylish little subwoofer works impeccably in its small form, but its price point is a bit prohibitive.

Years ago, Madonna sang that it's music that makes the people come together. But what if you don't want to get together with other people? What if you'd rather just immerse yourself in a dance party of one?

If you have $200 to spend, you can buy yourself the Lofelt Basslet. It's a seriously cool, stylish black band that houses a mini subwoofer. If you're a club kid, it will blend in with all the other bright-colored flair you have on, and if you're into moody music, the Basslet's modern styling will pair nicely with the rest of your noir attire.

The real trick to the Basslet, however, is that it hums along to your music. It's especially effective if you like bass guitar, or drum and bass. Any genre with a bit of a bump to it will essentially enhance its effects. I've been using one for the last month and, quite frankly, it's something you'd likely blow your money on for the sheer novelty of it all.

See at Amazon

How does it work?

The side view of the Lofelt Basslet.

The Lofelt Basslet features two magnetic buttons that adjust the intensity of the miniature subwoofer.

Lofelt turned this square little wearable into a subwoofer by stuffing it with its proprietary vibrotactile LoSound engine. The little engine that can produces frequencies up to 250Hz that really are silent to the outside world, just like Lofelt claims. In fact, the only time anyone else could tell it was vibrating was when I placed it down on a table while it was buzzing. My smartphone mic couldn't even pick it up.

This is something you'd likely blow your money on for the sheer novelty of it all.

All that's required for the Basslet to work is a headphone jack — and a Micro-USB cable at times to recharge the device. The music you're listening to is transmitted to the Basslet through a separate wireless connector, which plugs into the device you want to connect it to. You can then charge the Basslet by connecting it to its headphone adapter and plugging it into an external power source. In my month of testing the device off and on, I've only charged the Basslet a few times, though I was merely using it two or three times a week for an hour at a time. And it's surprisingly quick to charge.

How does it feel?

The Basslet charges will attached to its dongle.

The Basslet charges with the help of the dongle.

Using the Lofelt Basslet is, to put it bluntly, a bit of a trip. I used it with my MacBook, my Chromebook, and several Android devices, and I was impressed by its vibration accuracy and its ability to react to even the subtlest bass line. It worked with Spotify, Google Play Music, and SoundCloud through Google Chrome, as well as other apps that produced sound. The Basslet produces a softer hum when you turn down the volume on your device, though you can also increase the intensity by using the two buttons on the side of the wristlet.

I loved, too, that I could use the Basslet with games if I wanted.

I loved, too, that I could use the Basslet with games if I wanted. At one point, I hooked it up to my tablet to play Pokemon: The Card Game Online. Whenever there was a move against my hand, I'd get a little movement on my wrist to reinforce the penalty of being hit. It reminded me of the tangible thrill of the Nintendo 64 controller's rumble pack back in the day.

To that end, the Basslet has made even casual music listening sessions more immersive and morning walks more active. It's effectively a wearable peripheral, and though it's a bit clunky to plug in both the dongle and a pair of headphones into your smartphone, the added effect can really help liven the mood.

Should you buy it?

The Lofelt Basslet.

The Lofelt Basslet is modern and utilitarian.

It's good to see this kind of innovation making its way into wearable technology, especially considering the industries that would benefit from vibrotactile feedback, but is that positive mood swing worth $200? Only if you already have all the ingredients for a worthy entertainment setup — that includes a comfortable place to listen to music (whatever that means for you), or a virtual reality headset.

If you're not aching to feel your music, and if you don't care about the extra effect for virtual reality, then the Lofelt Basslet may not be worth the investment. If it's between this and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones you don't already have, the latter might end up seeing more utilization down the line.

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

Your LG G6 will scratch, just like every other glass phone

49
LG G6

Despite 'reliability' claims, the LG G6's glass will indeed scratch like any other.

In a very common move in today's phones, LG chose to go with glass on the back of its new G6 for the first time since the introduction of the G series back in 2012. Using glass on the back of a phone has a whole host of benefits, including allowing radios to pass through it and enable wireless charging — all the while, the glass manufactured for phones today is dramatically tougher than the panes we saw just a few years ago.

But glass isn't perfect. It can break (with a higher propensity than metal, which is softer), but the bigger concern for most people is that the glass will indeed scratch — just like every other phone that has glass on the back.

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1 week ago

HTC's 'unexpected surprise' is a U Ultra with a sapphire panel and 128GB storage

43

HTC's limited edition U Ultra picks up 128GB storage and a sapphire-coated display for an additional $150.

HTC Taiwan said last week that it would share an "unexpected surprise" on March 20, and like the company's recent launches, the reveal itself was rather underwhelming. Instead of a successor to the HTC 10, we're being treated to a limited edition variant of the HTC U Ultra with 128GB internal memory and a sapphire screen, a product HTC referenced back in January.

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1 week ago

Huawei P10 vs. P10 Plus camera comparison: Tiny improvements

6
Huawei P10 + P10 Plus

Just how much difference does the P10 Plus's f/1.8 lens make?

In addition to a bigger, higher-res screen and the ability to max out your RAM and storage, the jump from the Huawei P10 to P10 Plus gets you Huawei's most advanced Leica camera to date. The trusty f/2.2 Summarit-branded lens, used in the past a generation of Huawei flagships, makes way for a brighter f/1.8 Summilux aperture.

On paper that should allow for a modest improvement in photo quality across the board. A wider aperture lets you capture more quickly, resulting in less motion blur, or keep the shutter open for longer at lower ISO levels, reducing the appearance of noise.

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1 week ago

Galaxy S8 breaks cover in blue, white and silver

25

Some GS8 models may have colored front panels, if latest leak is to be believed.

The most recent Galaxy S8 render leaks may have given us the impression that Samsung's next major phone will use black front panels, even if the rest of the phone is silver, grey or some other color. However fresh live photos of the phone, scooped up from Chinese social network Weibo by Dutch outlet Techtastic, suggests that at the very least some GS8 models may feature colored front panels as well.

Behold, the Galaxy S8 in blue, white (we think — though it may be gold) and silver:

The shots appear to show legitimate, functioning Galaxy S8 models — though it's tough to get a feel for which of these might be the larger GS8 Plus. At the very least, it shows that Samsung is considering colored bezels for some GS8s, even as it reduces the screen borders to almost nothing.

So if you'd like a little more color in your, it appears that may well be an option. And if you'd prefer to not be looking at seven very obvious cut-outs in the top bezel (for various cameras and sensors), it seems that'll be an option too.

Multiple color options for the GS8 would be in line with the past few release cycles for Samsung flagships — even if they don't reach all regions. A purple hue has also been rumored in recent days.

We'll know more when the Galaxy S8 officially launches in New York on March 29.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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1 week ago

Xiaomi Redmi 4A goes live in India with 720p display, Snapdragon 425 for just $90

2

The Redmi 4A shows that sub-$100 phones don't have to be boring.

At a media event in New Delhi, Xiaomi rolled out the latest product in the Redmi series, the Redmi 4A. The phone will be sold exclusively on Amazon India for ₹5,999 ($90), making it the most affordable phone launched by the Chinese manufacturer in the country.

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1 week ago

Qualcomm's 205 Mobile Platform brings 4G connectivity to feature phones

4

Qualcomm will roll out sub-$50 feature phones with Category 4 LTE.

Qualcomm announced last week that it would move away from the Snapdragon branding for its lower-end platforms, and we're now getting a first look at what that entails.

At an event in New Delhi, Qualcomm has introduced its latest product, an entry-level SoC aimed at the feature phone segment in emerging markets. The Qualcomm 205 Mobile Platform is designed primarily to bring 4G connectivity to feature phones, with the SoC featuring the X5 Category 4 LTE modem with a download speed of 150Mbps.

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1 week ago

Rogers and Telus now rolling out Nougat update to the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge

6

Nougat update is now live for most Galaxy S7 and S7 edge variants in Canada.

The Android 7.0 Nougat update for the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge made its way to Canadian carriers SaskTel, Bell, Virgin Mobile, Eastlink, Videotron and Freedom Mobile last week, and the 1.2GB OTA update is now rolling out to Rogers and Telus subscribers.

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1 week ago

The beauty of having a good camera in every pocket

129

Cheaper smartphones that don't suck mean better cameras, and better photos.

While the rest of the team has been playing with phones that border (or safely fall into) the designation of 'expensive,' I've been erring on the side of budget, switching between four devices that are, to me, just as interesting, as much for what they lack as what they offer.

One of those phones is the ZTE Blade V8 Pro, a phone that barely got any attention when it was announced for the U.S. unlocked market back in January. I don't even think we wrote about it. But ZTE offered me a review unit, and after spending some time with it I'm glad I accepted. This $230 phone has pretty much everything you need from a handset these days: a great screen, excellent performance, awesome battery life, and software that doesn't make me want to poke my eyes out (though it ships with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, which is decidedly 😕).

Increasingly, we carry cameras that make phone calls, not the other way around.

But more than anything else on its spec sheet, it's the impressive camera that really surprises me. The phone lacks all the buzzwords you'd expect from a device three times its price — stabilization, phase-detection autofocus, laser autofocus — but it does have two 13MP sensors that act in unison to improve photo quality in daylight, impart some intelligence in low light (though less than I would like), and provide some impressive features that feel less gimmicky the more time I spend using them.

More than anything, though, its excellent camera credentials reinforce the thing I find myself repeating every year: we no longer carry smart phones that take photos but smart cameras that occasionally make calls (and connect to the internet, but don't kill my symmetry).

As impressive as it is to see the $649 Google Pixel and LG G6 increasingly offer "real camera" performance from tiny sensors, I love that I can recommend a $230 ZTE Blade V8 Pro to someone and ensure him or her a reliable experience that takes good photos in most situations. When I started reviewing phones, that's really all I wanted: to be able to trust the camera in my pocket the way I could the Auto mode on my Canon or Sony point-and-shoot, the diminutive single-purpose gadgets that I, along with millions of other people, began stuffing in drawers and forgetting about around the turn of the decade.

It's been six years since I brought a camera camera with me on vacation, and though the quality dipped for a time, I've reached the point of comfort (though maybe that's just what comes with age and acceptance of the things one can't control) with the relationship between convenience and quality.

When I started reviewing phones, all I wanted was a camera that took photos reliably. It took until now to make that happen.

Using the Blade V8 Pro (what a name) also reinforces, to me at least, that cameras are really the last true area of competition in the smartphone space. You can get a $100 phone that performs well, has decent battery life, and ships with a version of Android that doesn't make you want to saw off your fingers with a blunt object, but it's still pretty easy to tell the difference between a photo (or video) taken from an LG Stylo 2 and an LG G6. But you just said the $230 Blade V8 Pro takes awesome photos! Yes, but it's still a clear area of research, development, and cultural fascination for those who create, market and buy phones. That Blade V8 Pro, or any $200 phone, takes photos as good as the ones it outputs, is incredible; that the LG G6 takes photos as consistently beautiful as it does — perhaps not three times as good, but close — is also incredible.

That we get to benefit from the fierce competition around which company can outfit its pocket computer with the best camera — that's pretty incredible, too.

Elsewhere in the news:

Have a great week!

-Daniel

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1 week ago

All LG Watch Style colors are down to $180 at Best Buy

22

Excellent Style at a stylish price.

The LG Watch Style has seen its first major price cut, not even two months into its retail life. The watch isn't even available in Canada yet, and already Best buy is cutting the price down to $179.99 for all three colors.

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1 week ago

New Galaxy S8 leak reveals colors and pricing

165
GS8 colors

Three colors shown by veteran leaker, alongside euro pricing for phones, desktop dock, 360 camera and new Gear VR.

Veteran leaker Evan Blass has kicked off what might otherwise have been a lazy Sunday with fresh revelations surrounding Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. First, Blass gives us a closer look at three of the GS8's color options — "black sky, orchid grey and arctic silver."

Notably, all three of these colors feature the same black front face, an understandable move given the sheer number of sensors and other cutouts up top. (As we've previously seen in this leak of the gold version.) The "black sky" variant is the murdered-out black model we've seen in many other leaks, with its pitch-black anodized metal frame. Meanwhile the "arctic silver" model seems to be the version shown in one of the first live leaks back in January. And the grey model, as far as we can tell, is somewhere in between.

It's unclear how these colors — and others which have been rumored — will be split between various carriers and regions. Samsung has fielded a broad palette of colors in the past, but not all of them have had widespread availability.

Blass has also given us European pricing details for the two phones, along with the DeX desktop dock, the new Gear VR with motion controller and what will presumably be a new Gear 360 camera.

The prices for the phones are in line with earlier leaks, and pre-order listings (since pulled) from UK retailer MobileFun. As for U.S. prices, expect them to line up right around those same numbers (after tax), on account of the current near parity between the dollar and the euro.

Between the two new phones, rumored new facial recognition features, a new Gear VR and Gear 360, and that intriguing new desktop dock, the March 29 press conference in New York is shaping up to be a bumper event.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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