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2 days ago

A friendly reminder that Android TV is getting a much-needed overhaul

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A better home screen and Google Assistant are coming to Android TV — all things announced at I/O in an effort to persuade you to adopt the platform.

There was a bevy of exciting announcements revealed during the keynote at Google I/O 2017, but one of the quieter sleeper hits was the news that Android TV would receive a much-anticipated makeover. In a lengthy blogpost, Google expanded on some of the enhancements and how it plans to make its Android-based living room platform worth adopting into the home:

The new Android TV home screen organizes video content into channels and programs in a way that's familiar to TV viewers. Each Android TV app can publish multiple channels, which are represented as rows of programs on the home screen. Apps add relevant programs on each channel, and update these programs and channels as users access content or when new content is available. To help engage users, programs can include a video preview, which is automatically played when a user focuses on a program. Users can configure which channels they wish to see on the home screen, and the ordering of channels, so the themes and shows they're interested in are quick and easy to access.

The top of the new Android TV home screen interface will also include a quick launch bar with your favorite apps, as well as a Watch Next channel, which exists to help you find just that. The latter will feature programs and shows that are based on your own viewing habits, so it should theoretically become more accurate in its suggestions overtime.

Your new Home screen on Android TV.

Google Assistant is also making its way over to Android TV later this year. You'll be able to use it in the same manner that you do with a smartphone or Google Home when it arrives and it will launch first in the U.S. on Android devices running Marshmallow, Nougat, and Android O.

If you're a developer curious to get into the trenches, Google's set up an entire Android TV Developer page on Google+ for your edification.

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2 days ago

How to deal with Gear VR overheating

These tips ought to help if your phone overheats while playing Gear VR.

There are few things quite as frustrating as being in the middle of an awesome VR game and having your phone overheat and shut everything down. Gear VR can overheat, and when it does, it's never at an opportune time. Thankfully there are a fair few ways that you can get around this problem, and we've got the details on them.

Read more at VRHeads.com

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2 days ago

Best Ultra Thin Cases for Google Pixel

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What are the best ultra-thin cases for the Google Pixel?

Updated May, 2017: Added new super-thin case options!

The Google Pixel is a brand new, sleek and stylish phone, so having a big bulky case on it might not be the most ideal thing for those who want to keep the minimalist beauty of the device while still showing it off (and keeping it protected!)

There are plenty of cases to pick from when it come to customizing your Pixel, but with so many options available, which one should you go with? Here are our choices we think you should consider while picking out the best ultra-thin case for your Google Pixel!

Maxboost mSnap Thin case

If you're looking for a Google Pixel case that's thin and out of the way, but that still adds a little bit of protection and security to your phone, then take a peek at the highly-rated and recommended Maxboost mSnap Thin case!

Designed to precisely snap to fit your Google Pixel and built with durable 4-side protection that covers your phone's corners, along with a raised bezel to protect your Pixel's screen, the Maxboost mSnap Thin case may be thin, but it will also protect your phone from day-to-day wear and tear.

You won't have to worry about pulling your Pixel in and out of the case to charge it, either: the Maxboost mSnap Thin case comes with cutouts for your speakers, charging ports, and buttons. You can pick up the mSnap in vibrant colors like turquoise or rose gold, or in a standard color like black.

The best part? The case is less that $15, so you won't have to break the bank to find a case that works for you!

See at Amazon

Pixel Case by Google

Keep your Pixel protected and secure without the weight and inconvenience with the Pixel Case by Google.

Designed and built with a silicone exterior to provide extra shock absorption from high falls, the Pixel Case by Google comes finished with a high-quality microfibre interior for additional protection. Simply slide on the flexible, yet perfectly-fitting case, and your Pixel is ready to go!

Unlike some minimalist cases that only come clear or in basic colors, Google's case comes in a number of bright, fun shades to match your sense of style, including grey, blue, green, coral, and peach.

See at the Google Store

DGtle Anti-Scratch case

With an anti-scratch guarantee and a sleek, ultra-thin design, the DGtle case is another ideal partner for your Pixel if you're looking for a case that isn't bulky or cumbersome!

Made from a durable TPU material to protect your Pixel against any outside trauma or force, and designed to be firm, yet flexible, this non-slip DGtle case is a smart minimalist option to consider as you hunt for the perfect case.

The case fits snugly to your Pixel to protect it, and comes in a clear style, or you can also pick and choose from frosted purple, pink, mint, blue, gray, and so many others!

See at Amazon

Spigen Liquid Crystal case

Protect your Pixel in true minimalist style with the Liquid Crystal case from Spigen.

If you're looking for a truly ultra-thin case, Spigen has you covered with the Liquid Crystal. The case is made from a clear TPU material and is extremely flexible and lightweight. With some clear cases, smudges and dirt can easily gather on the back of your phone, but Spigen's inner-dot pattern prevents any grime from muddying up the look of your Pixel.

While the Liquid Crystal only comes in one color (clear), and might look like a bit of a flimsy case, it's actually voted one of the best Pixel ultra-thin cases out there, so check it out if you're looking for a reliable option!

See at Amazon

Bear Motion Ultra Slim case

Snap, secure, and go with the Bear Motion Ultra Slim case for your Pixel!

With full-access to all ports and buttons, the Bear Motion case is a great accessory to partner with your Pixel. While it's not as protective as other cases on this list, it's super-slim design is perfect for minimalists who are looking for a simple, stylish look and feel.

This lightweight case will protect your Pixel from small scratches and bumps and comes in five different color choices, including bright red, black, navy blue, gray, and forest green.

See at Amazon

Maxboost Liquid Skin case

Designed with a durable, flexible material to protect your Pixel from drops and scratches, the Maxboost Liquid Skin case is an ultra-thin option that only adds a mere 1.2mm to the bulk of your phone!

Paired with an anti-scratch coating, full-access to all buttons and ports, and a snug fit, the MaxBoost Liquid Skin case is a great choice to consider for your Pixel. The case is designed from a strengthened material to add additional protection to your phone, too.

The Liquid Skin case also comes with a lifetime warranty, just in case.

See at Amazon

What's your pick?

Is there a minimalist, ultra-thin Pixel case that you simply cannot get enough of? Have you found the perfect combination of simplicity and protection? Style and functionality?

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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2 days ago

Andy Rubin expected to show off Essential's first phone on May 30

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A fresh player in the Android smartphone game.

Essential, the phone brand founded by Andy Rubin, is building up the hype to making an announcement next week. Essential has launched a new Twitter account and is teasing some sort of announcement for May 30

That conveniently overlaps with Andy Rubin's appearance at Recode's Code Conference, which starts on May 30. It's expected we'll get some sort of details on the device — and the company itself — and could even see the hardware.

Aside from a single teaser image showing a tiny corner of the phone, we don't really have any details on what's in store. We expect a futuristic phone that's running Android and has some value-added features based on artificial intelligence, but then again, that's sounding a lot like every other top-end phone launched in 2017.

We'll have to wait a week and see how much Rubin has to show off.

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2 days ago

Reminder! Play the sci-fi game, complete the survey, and see how you compare to other developers!

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The Developer Economics survey is the most entertaining global developer survey, providing the dev community with knowledge, insights, and fun!

We are excited to announce that the Developer Economics Q3 2017 survey, run by our friends at VisionMobile, is currently underway! This is the thirteenth developer survey, focusing on tools, training and career development. Every year, more than 40,000 developers around the world participate in the survey, so it is a chance to be part of something big and make your own contribution to the developer community.

The survey features questions on topics like development resources and where to find them, tutorials and courses, distribution channels, developer tools and SDKs, as well as languages, platforms, app categories, new technologies, and revenue models.

Developer feedback speaks for itself

Feedback from developers already taking the survey is more than positive. Have a look at what they have been sharing so far:

  • "You somehow always make these surveys really interesting and entertaining"

  • "I thought the theme was pretty interesting, I like the ability to opt into doing parts of the survey that interest me. Quite a large breadth of questions that I thought were well thought out and worth asking."

  • "Developer economics surveys are significantly better planned and implemented than most online surveys. I love the gamification :)"

What makes the Developer Economics survey so special?

It's set in outer space

Interesting how everyone mentions the sci-fi theme, right? The survey is not just simply sci-fi themed but it also includes a sci-fi game designed to offer an extra fun factor. While taking it, your answers are gradually forming a profile, showing you what kind of character you'd be in a sci-fi developer universe. When you finish, you'll get to read your full profile in your Developer Scorecard. What's your character going to be? A cyborg trooper, a technomancer, a bounty hunter? Your profile will also include graphs showing how your responses compare to other developers' answers in your country, so you'll get a sense of how you compare to other devs.

So many tools so little time: find out about new ones!

While taking the survey you will be asked about a big range of tools platforms and technologies. You may be surprised to see that some of them are new to you! And don't forget that you will receive the Developer Economics Q3 2017 report (due August 2017) based on key survey findings.

If you really like it you can share your enthusiasm and win cash.

The process is very simple, once you complete the survey you will be asked to join the referral program. Sign-up and start promoting! It is very important to promote the referral exclusively to your fellow developers and not other acquaintances of yours. The top 50 win up to $700 in cash.

There are some mega prizes too.

Participants can win one of the many prizes available including an iPhone 7, a Pixel phone 32GB, an Oculus Rift, a Surface Pro 3, a 12-month Xbox Live Gold Membership, and more.

It's fun - we promise!

There are jokes in this survey. Developer jokes. You know - the ones everybody else usually doesn't get.

Take the survey

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2 days ago

Magikarp Jump is a decidedly more casual Pokemon game, now available in Google Play

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The Pokémon you want, but without leaving the house.

Maybe you're tired of walking playing Pokémon Go but still need to get a Pokémon fix — well, why not give the new Magikarp Jump game a try? This casual Pokémon-themed game is far less involved than Go but still kicks in with the nostalgia we crave. Announced earlier this week with a limited release, Magikarp Jump is now available in the U.S. and most other countries.

Everything you need to know about Magikarp Jump is right in the title: the objective of the game is to train your Magikarp to jump higher than the other Magikarp. Yes, that's rather simple and somewhat pathetic, but, y'know, so is Magikarp itself. You'll train your Magikarp to gain jumping skills, feed it so it grows stronger, and then head into competition where you see just how high your Magikarp can jump.

There's little more to try and sell someone on this: you'll just need to download it and play. If you're a Pokémon fan, you're going to enjoy playing this casual title (it's already picking up tons of five-star reviews). It's free but has in-app ads by default, so expect to drop a little money to clean up the experience.

Pokémon Go

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2 days ago

Cloak & Dagger exploit: What you need to know

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Should you be concerned about this new Android exploit called Cloak & Dagger? Here's what you need to know!

A new Android exploit has been unveiled called Cloak & Dagger and, true to its name, it describes ways in which ill-intentioned apps can take advantage of two Android permissions to steal keystrokes and trick users into divulging personal information.

But is it dangerous? Let's break it down quickly.

What is Cloak & Dagger?

Cloak & Dagger is the name for a combination of two exploitable Android permissions that, when used independently or separately through an ill-intentioned app, can have dire consequences.

It was published as a proof-of-concept by a four-person team at Georgia Institute of Technology and University of California, Santa Barbara.

It is not an active exploit, and to date there have been no known public uses of it.

How does it work?

According to the team, Cloak & Dagger takes advantage of two Android permissions — SYSTEM_ALERT_WINDOW ("draw on top") and BIND_ACCESSIBILITY_SERVICE ("a11y") — that, when working together or separately, make it possible for an app to "listen in" and either steal text input such as passwords, two-factor authentication numbers, or personal data.

Cloak & Dagger is a new class of potential attacks affecting Android devices. These attacks allow a malicious app to completely control the UI feedback loop and take over the device — without giving the user a chance to notice the malicious activity. These attacks only require two permissions that, in case the app is installed from the Play Store, the user does not need to explicitly grant and for which she is not even notified. Our user study indicates that these attacks are practical.

The "draw on top" permission is known as the Android overlay feature and is used by many apps like Facebook Messenger and Samsung's own Multi Window feature to enable "windows" that can be minimized and moved around on top of other apps.

How does the exploit work?

Because both the permissions are not part of Android's explicit permission granting system that began in Android 6.0 Marshmallow, when a malicious app is downloaded, the app can automatically grant the "draw on top" permission.

Once that happens, the app, once opened, can create an overlay on top of a well-known app, like Facebook, to "phish" input like passwords. It can also overlay on top of the Android keyboard, picking up all inputted text.

The accessibility permission is a little bit harder to force a user to enable, but the team says that its proof of concept used the overlay permission to trick users into activating it. Once both are enabled, a "god mode" app can potentially steal data from any app used on the phone.

Everyone is affected

Cloak & Dagger affects all versions of Android, according to the team, including Android 5.0, 6.0 and 7.0, up to the latest release of Android 7.1.2.

Android 7.0 and above makes it a bit more difficult for some of the overlay exploits to work, but some ingenuity can still get around it.

Should you worry?

Right now, there are no known apps that take advantage of these permissions for malicious purposes, though now that they are public, that may change. The team published the research to force Google's hand to improve the experience, since, unlike other Android vulnerabilities, these exploits take advantage of design flaws in the permissions themselves, not holes or bugs in the software.

What can you do to protect yourself?

This will not be a problem for you if you are careful with the apps you use.

Much is often made of Android's security flaws, but Cloak & Dagger is not something you need to worry about as long as you're careful about granting overlay permissions.

In order to mitigate the potential effects of Cloak & Dagger, it's a good idea to review which apps can create overlays on top of your Android system. On most versions of Android, here's how to do it:

  1. Open Android Settings.
  2. Scroll down and tap on Apps.
  3. Tap on the Menu or Cog icon.
  4. Find and tap on Special access. It's usually under the "Advanced" heading.
  5. Tap on Draw over other apps. These are the apps that can create overlays using the above permission.
  6. Disable any apps you don't recognize.

More: How to turn off screen overlay on the Galaxy S8

Don't panic!

Seriously, this is not a big deal if you're careful about the apps you download, especially since Google now scans 50 billion apps for malware every day using its Play Protect system.

Hopefully, Google will address this issue publicly or at least provide some clarification about what it intends to do with app overlays. Android O should eliminate this problem altogether by refactoring the overlay problem with a new API, but it's unclear how or if Google plans to address the concern on earlier versions.

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2 days ago

Deal: Score 10GB of Data with unlimited text and calling from $27 Per Month

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Looking for a killer deal on a new cell phone plan for yourself? Don't miss this awesome offer from Mint SIM!

In the recent years, we've seen a whole lot happen to cell phone plans. First unlimited data, then price hikes, then tiered data, cheaper plans, the return of unlimited data and so much more. Competition continues to grow in this field, and Mint SIM is getting in on the action with some extremely aggressive pricing for its plans. Mint SIM is an alternative carrier that offers you an extremely affordable way to have the data you need on your phone, and right now you can save an additional 20% off any 6- or 12-month plan using the coupon ACMINTSIM20.

Mint SIM utilizes T-Mobile's growing 4G LTE network to ensure you have great coverage and fast speeds across most of the United States. The way it works is Mint SIM buys access to networks and packages and then is able to resell them to its customers for better rates than the major carriers are charging.

Save 20% with coupon ACMINTSIM20 Learn More

With Mint SIM you can port your existing number over, or start service with a new one if you wish. You can pay monthly, or buy in 3, 6, or 12-month bundles, which help you save even more.

The additional 20% off comes when you buy either 6 or 12-months, but the savings is pretty big. The Big Four carriers charge upwards of $90 a month to gain access to a reasonable amount of data, meaning you are paying nearly $1,100 a year for service. With Mint SIM you can get 10GB of data per month with unlimited talk and text for just $323 for the year.

You can't afford to miss out on this deal Learn More

There are a ton of deals out there, but none of them are quite this good. You can use the unlocked phone of your choice with any of these plans, so pick one you like, order a new SIM card and give it a shot today!

10GB per month at $27 based on one year plan using coupon code. Does not include regulatory fees of $4.

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2 days ago

Drink up me hearty pirate wallpapers!

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Yo ho, yo ho... It's a pirate's life for me!

Pirate has been a loaded word for centuries, and now in the digital age, that name is even more loaded. In the old days, pirates actually had to go out and steal something physical, something tangible. Today, everyone's been a pirate at one point or another — don't tell me you haven't! — and pirates are harder to spot because we can plunder digital goods from the privacy of our homes. Fear of pirates has kept services from Android for years, the thought of piracy drives companies to extremes and extreme annoyance for the customers as they have to navigate the chaos of DRM and other anti-piracy features.

But there's still a romantic air to pirates. The hats, the swords, the freedom of the oceans… So raise a bottle of rum and break out the Jolly Roger!

ARRRRRRGH!

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2 days ago

Crazy Taxi Classic is currently free in the Google Play Store

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Get the Dreamcast classic remastered for mobile — for free!

Sega wants you to get hyped for its latest entry in the Crazy Taxi franchise by reliving the glory of the original game for free. Save yourself $5 and snag this classic game today!

If you're wondering what the catch is, Sega has loaded the free version of the game with ads. We're talking a bunch of ads in all the menus. Fortunately, once you're into the game, it's a really solid port of the classic game from 2000, complete with The Offspring blaring over the radio.

The new Crazy Taxi game is Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire, a new idle clicker game that also features songs from The Offspring and familiar art style and characters — but lacks the frantic driving action of Crazy Taxi Classic. If we had to choose between the two, we'd certainly choose Crazy Taxi Classic, but with both currently free, you may as well check out both!

Download: Crazy Taxi Classic (Free)

Android Gaming

Best action games for Android

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2 days ago

Amazon Fire 7 vs Fire HD 8: Which should you buy?

10

In the battle of Amazon's all new tablets, which is the right one for you?

Amazon's latest revisions to its 7 and 8-inch Fire tablets will go on sale in early June 2017. They will completely replace the older models, and while both are modest upgrades, they're upgrades nonetheless.

And better still, while the hardware gets a little bit better, the price stays the same. So, once again Amazon has two affordable tablets that are actually worth buying. But which should you go for?

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3 days ago

T-Mobile Digits is coming May 31: What is it, and should you use it?

61

T-Mobile's Digits brings phone calls and texts into the 21st century, but at a time when people care little about those things, will it make a difference?

Back in December, T-Mobile unveiled a new service called Digits, making phone numbers less reliant on a SIM card, and expanding the simple phone number into the smartphone age.

Now that service is live and available to all T-Mobile customers for free on May 31. It's a re-imagining of the phone number, but it's also a way to entice more people to sign up to more expensive T-Mobile One plans.

And for all of its big talk, Digits is a bit confusing, so let's break it down.

What is Digits?

At its core, Digits is T-Mobile's way of utilizing its new IMS (IP Media Subsystem) backend to dynamically direct calls to any device, or store multiple numbers on a single device.

Basically, without the technical mumbo jumbo, it's a way to free the phone number from its legacy place, and to utilize the flexibility data-based nature of Voice over LTE and Voice of Wi-Fi to allow a call to take place, or to be received, in the most convenient place. This is very similar to Google Voice, and to many other Voice over IP services like Viber and Skype, but T-Mobile has one major advantage: it owns the network, and it distributes the phones.

So what can Digits really do for me?

Provided you're on one of T-Mobile's compatible postpaid plans (yes, this is yet another way for T-Mobile to upsell you), Digits can make it easier to manage phone calls in the increasingly inevitable situation you have multiple devices.

The basic idea is that if you receive a call on your traditional T-Mobile number, your phone should ring, along with any device — another phone, a computer, a tablet, even a connected smartwatch — at the same time. You can also make calls from any of those same devices without your phone nearby, and without the need to have a SIM card.

A secondary but for many people equally important feature is the ability to have more than one number available on a single device. So instead of having separate personal and work phones, you can have a single smartphone make and receive calls from two or more numbers.

This sounds a lot like Google Voice

Yes, it does. The major difference here is that T-Mobile is committing to a couple of things that even Google, which creates both Android and Google Voice, can't do:

  • It is integrating Digits directly into the Android phones it sells, working with manufacturers like Samsung to seamlessly add Digits support into devices like the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S7 and Gear S3.
  • It is making it easy to do so-called "SIM replication," which allows you to duplicate a phone number onto a second device, such as another smartphone or a connected smartwatch.

This is in addition to the Google Voice-like Digits app that's available for Android and iOS, to make and receive calls and texts from any device, anywhere. There's also a Digits portal on the web for people who sit in front of a computer all day and want to be able to initiate communications that way. And because the app is available natively and through an app, devices with SIM cards from AT&T, Verizon or Sprint — any carrier, really — can access Digits messages. If you lose your phone, for instance, you can download the Digits app onto a friend's device and make and receive calls and texts from there, too.

Like many cross-platform messaging services, call logs and messages also sync in real-time between devices, which is a huge boon to productivity if you don't always have your phone in front of you.

It's tailor-made for Android

Android is the only platform on which T-Mobile can rely to help Digits grow.

Digits is a cross-platform play, sure, but it is tailor-made for Android. Not only does iOS have its own cross-device communications protocol in iMessage, which may mess with Digits' ability to route texts, but Apple doesn't allow for any system-level alterations, rendering one of Digits' primary use cases moot.

Indeed, Android is the only platform on which T-Mobile can rely to help Digits proliferate, but by potentially limiting half of the population to merely an app-based experience, it is almost immediately cut off at the proverbial knees. Still, Digits has a five-device limit, and can easily be tuned to be used on an iPhone or iPad, especially since as of iOS 10 VoIP apps can take over the lock screen like a regular dialer.

The best Digits experience will always be on Android, and initially is only natively available on the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy Note 5, or LG G5 purchased through T-Mobile.

Unlike using the app, which will enable T-Mobile Digits when you log in for the first time, users of the native Digits experience on the above phones need to explicitly enable it in the T-Mobile account app by.

  1. Open the T-Mobile app.
  2. Tap Menu.
  3. Tap on Usage & Plans.
  4. Tap View line details.
  5. Scroll down to the DIGITS tile.
  6. Tap Unlock.
  7. On the unlock page, tap the Unlock button.

Does it cost anything?

All postpaid T-Mobile numbers can now access Digits for free. There is no additional fee at all, which is nice. That means that you'll be able to use Digits on a T-Mobile number and, through the app, any non-TMobile phone over Wi-Fi or cellular.

T-Mobile is also running a pretty nice promotion starting May 31 for those who want a second Digits line for, say, giving to online account signups or Craigslist ads. As long as you start the process with a T-Mobile One plan, upgrading to a T-Mobile One Plus or One Plus International line ($5/mo and $25/mo respectively) gets a second Digits line for free as long as that account type is active.

If you don't want to upgrade to a T-Mobile One Plus plan, an extra Digits line costs $10/mo when AutoPay is enabled.

Learn more

Where do I download the app?

Right here!

On May 31, you'll be able to log into the Digits app and begin using it on any device you want, receiving phone calls and text messages like you would on your main line.

So should I sign up?

Digits is an intriguing product, and an example of what it looks like when a carrier turns next-generation core technology like IMS and HLR (which works to virtualize SIM data on the core network) into something that is truly compelling to consumers.

At its core, Digits is about making the phone number more flexible by putting it — phone calls and text messages — on practically any device regardless of screen size or type. Tablet? Sure. Smartwatch? Absolutely.

The use cases for Digits are plentiful, and that may be its downfall; unless you know exactly why you should use such a service, I feel many people will be intimidated by the prospect of juggling one number across multiple devices or, even more so, multiple numbers on one device. The service's bugs have certainly been ironed out during the beta period, and there's no cost to try Digits once it launches May 31.

See Digits at T-Mobile

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3 days ago

Google needs to start selling the Daydream Controller by itself

5

It's time to sell the Daydream Controller without its plushy headset.

If you want the Daydream experience, at least right now, you need to buy a Daydream View headset. With Daydream support coming to the Galaxy S8 this summer, that's not going to be an ideal solution for some. Many Galaxy S8 owners already have a great VR headset that could easily be used for Daydream, and it came free with the phone. The only thing that headset is missing in order to complete the Daydream experience is Google's motion controller.

The only way to get that controller right now is to buy a complete VR kit from Google, and with the volume of Gear VR headsets out in the world right now that needs to change.

There's something of an unspoken secret with Google Daydream — the headset is actually just a plushie version of Google Cardboard. There's no additional hardware in the headset, all of the Daydream magic is done in software thanks to Google's rigid hardware requirements. The only piece of hardware that is actually mandatory for Daydream to function is the Bluetooth wand you get with Daydream View, the Daydream Controller. Google has made this controller a standard, and said any company can make Daydream headsets if this controller is included.

But with the Galaxy S8 adding support soon, the script needs to be flipped a little. While Google gets lots of points for making Daydream View ultra comfortable and crush-proof, Samsung's Gear VR headset is a more immersive experience and it's actually built for the Galaxy S8. It's going to be a lot easier to convert Galaxy S8 owners to Daydream if it's possible for those who already own a Gear VR to just add a Daydream Controller. If you offer a more compelling user experience with deeper integration with Google services, which Daydream absolutely does, this will be a win-win for a lot of would-be VR fans. It's already possible to use the Gear VR to run Cardboard apps, so this really isn't a leap.

This extends well beyond the existing Gear VR owners. Google Cardboard headsets are everywhere, in every kind of configuration and made out of every kind of material. Offering those people, even the ones with simple pieces of cardboard, a way to upgrade the experience with the right phone is a great way to continue growth.

Daydream View is still the best overall way to enjoy Daydream, and will likely continue to be the most common way users jump into this platform, but it shouldn't be the only way. There are great alternatives, and Google's support would go a long way towards fringe user adoption.

So come on, Google. Do the thing.

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3 days ago

Samsung DeX review: This isn't a replacement for your laptop

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It's useful, but it isn't practical, and you should only consider one if you're into the novelty.

Admittedly, I'm in a bit of disbelief that I'm writing a review for a desktop operating system that's running off of the Galaxy S8+. Who knew this would be our future? I certainly didn't. I knew computers were getting smaller, particularly when netbooks and tiny little Chromebits were introduced to the market, but I never imagined it would be the smartphone doing the heavy lifting.

Alas, here we are, and I'm typing this to you via a keyboard connected to the Galaxy S8+. There's no doubt that if any other company had put out a product akin to this, it would have been considered nothing more than a gimmick. (Microsoft actually did and we saw how that went.) Granted, I initially thought the same about the DeX when I was first introduced to the concept, but now that I've been using it for some time, I appreciate the alternative way to use the Galaxy S8+.

Meet the Samsung DeX

I already gave a quick rundown of my first few hours with the Samsung DeX, but it's after a few weeks with it that I've finally landed on the idea that it's more of a additional gadget rather than a replacement for a full desktop workstation. But let's talk about the hardware first.

The $150 DeX is merely a dock that props up the Galaxy S8 or S8+ and hooks it up to a variety of peripherals. It offers no additional internal components unless you count the pop-up fan that's meant to keep the GS8 cradled by cool air while it's in its desktop mode. The DeX offers an HDMI-out port, an ethernet jack, and two full-size USB ports. USB-connected mice and keyboards work almost instantly once you plug them in, though I preferred Bluetooth peripherals since it requires fewer wires. Note that it's best to pair everything to the Galaxy S8 before it's plugged into DeX.

Meet the Samsung DeX, posed here for your imagination.

To that end, DeX doesn't always play nice with all USB-connected things. For instance, I tried plugging in a separate Logitech webcam to use inside a group Hangouts meeting, but it didn't register. I even tried employing my fancy microphone for recording some real deep thoughts, but the DeX didn't work with that either. It's fine with USB-connected card readers and flash drives, however, so if picking off files from antiquated hardware is in your realm, you'll be covered by that here.

It's important to note that the DeX is not a traditional standalone computer. If you're planning to use this thing on the road, for example, you'll have to remember to pack the necessary add-ons and enhancements. You won't have to worry about the monitor, however, as DeX works just fine with hotel room TVs. While on the road for Google I/O, I also discovered that leaving the included charger at home meant I couldn't use the DeX dock at all. DeX requires a lot of power, and you can't get away with packing light if you plan on packing it, too.

All set up to work with Samsung DeX.

Perhaps the biggest inconvenience of the DeX is that there is no additional headphone jack. The Galaxy S8+'s headphone jack is on the bottom, so it's obstructed when the phone is docked. You could use a set of Bluetooth-enabled speakers, or perhaps the headphone jack through an external monitor, but otherwise, you're relegated to listen to music and conduct interviews through the Galaxy S8's built-in microphone and speakers.

A different kind of desktop

DeX's desktop interface looks like something you'd use on a full-size Mac and PC.

DeX's desktop interface looks like something you'd use on a full-size Mac and PC, save for the instances when it's not. Like Windows, it has a start menu of sorts — the app drawer, essentially — in addition to a taskbar (or the status bar on Android). Individual windows are maneuverable in every which way unless the apps were specifically coded for use on a smartphone. In some instances, you'll even get a marker to let you know that an app can be used in landscape mode if you require.

I was pleased with how compatible the DeX operating system was. I'm new to the Chromebook world, and I've had my fair share of issues since adopting Chrome OS a mere four months ago. But I've hardly had as many headaches with DeX, and even managed to fulfill an entire news shift with it. Our CMS worked just fine — as it does on the Chrome browser — and I was able to easily edit RAW photos taken with my DSLR with the Samsung Gallery's built-in photo app. If anything, the DeX's app capabilities seem to be more of a statement of what's capable with the Galaxy S8. After all, the apps and services that are running here are all installed on the phone.

The Samsung DeX desktop interface.

Of course, not everything is perfect. Eventually, I ran into reminders of DeX's limitations as a desktop experience fueled by a smartphone. For example, any games that rely heavily on touch input won't work at all, while web apps like Spotify won't even launch. And if you've too many tabs or apps open at any given time, DeX will give you a memory warning — don't even think about having more than two instances of Chrome running at any given time. There's also no drag-and-drop between folders like there is on a regular desktop operating system, either, and some apps won't even know how to register a mouse pointer. Overall, it will require a bit of a learning before you're truly in a meditative state of use with Samsung DeX's interface.

At present, there are 16 different applications optimized for use with Samsung DeX sprinkled throughout the Play Store and Galaxy Apps store. If you use Microsoft and Adobe's products, take heed knowing you're covered for the most part, even with Skype. There are even a number of remote desktop apps and VPN clients available from the like of Amazon and Cisco to use for more productive functionality. But any apps that aren't optimized for this sort of experience will have some relative dreadfulness in using them, in the sense that they clearly weren't made to run on a smartphone disguising itself as a desktop operating system.

Just buy a laptop, people

Don't forget to bring a mouse!

I'm not saying you shouldn't purchase the Samsung DeX dock if you're interested in the experience. Quite the contrary: I'm suggesting you weigh the pros of cons of this sort of desktop interface and whether it will suit your needs. For instance, if I were still in college and traversing the world with my best friend in tow, both of us with reckless abandon, it would have been more convenient to carry this little puck than the oddly-shaped netbook I carried around, wedged in between piles of dirty clothes. Not every computer situation requires a desktop computer; it simply requires a desktop interface, and with how powerful smartphones are in this day and age, it makes sense to run it off of one.

Conversely, if you're looking for a desktop experience but don't want to spend that kind of money, the DeX won't do it for you. It's still too nascent to be considered as such, and you'll find yourself missing out on some things with the DeX operating system in its current implementation. You simply need more power and app compatibility than the Galaxy S8 or S8+ can offer, especially at its current stages.

For the most part, I see the Samsung DeX as an extension of what Samsung's flagship can already do. It's not the most efficient way to travel with the Galaxy S8 in tow, but it is an impressive feat managed by one smartphone alone. If you're dying to try life with this souped-up little hockey puck, the $150 price tag isn't too bad as long as you've already got all the cords and peripherals lying around.

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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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3 days ago

Xiaomi unveils the Mi Max 2 with a massive 5300mAh battery

35

The Mi Max 2 delivers two-day battery life, will be able to charge other phones.

At a media event in Beijing, Xiaomi unveiled the Mi Max 2. The phone retains the 6.44-inch Full HD display, and the highlight this time around is the 5300mAh battery, 450mAh more than what was included in its predecessor. Xiaomi is claiming a battery life of two days, touting over 18 hours of video playback, 21 hours of GPS navigation, and 57 hours of talktime. More importantly, the phone offers Quick Charge 3.0, allowing you to charge up to 68% in just an hour.

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