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2 weeks ago

The Best Speakers To Use With Your Amazon Echo Dot

5

You may want to add a speaker to that Echo Dot.

Amazon knows that Alexa is more useful when you don't really have to think about where an Echo cylinder is when you call out to ask a question, which is why the Echo Dot exists. It's considerably less expensive than the bigger Amazon Echo, due in no small part to the big speaker missing from the body.

It's a small sacrifice given the significant drop in cost, especially when you consider the addition of a 3.5mm jack on the back of the Echo Dot means you can connect a speaker and have great audio again. Depending on the speaker, possibly even better audio than the larger Amazon Echo.

Best Overall

Bose SoundLink II

See at Amazon

While it's designed to be a Bluetooth speaker to connect your phone, the design and audio quality from this speaker make it perfect for filling most rooms with sound.

You can connect your Amazon Echo Dot to this speaker and leave it forever as a better Amazon Echo, or you can take the Bose Soundlink II with you when leaving the house thanks to its internal battery. It's a great flexible option for just about every occasion, and looks nice enough that it can sit in a room without standing out or taking up too much space.

Bottom line: This speaker will turn your Amazon Echo Dot into something better than an Amazon Echo, and does a whole lot more.

One more thing: You can pick up the Bose SoundLink II in either black or white to match your Echo Dot.

Why the Bose SoundLink II is the best

Plain and simple, this one comes down to style and feature set. Bose made a nice looking speaker with colors that complement the Echo Dot well, offers a quality audio experience over both Bluetooth and through the 3.5mm jack, and can be portable if you want it to be. This can be a poolside speaker as well as a great Amazon Echo speaker, and it will look nice doing both.

This speaker does make your Amazon Echo Dot a little more expensive than a standalone Amazon Echo when you add the two costs together, but what you're getting in exchange is noticeably better audio quality and some features you won't get by just buying an Amazon Echo.

Best for portability

Bliiq Infinite X

See on Amazon

Why bother with buying multiple Amazon Echo Dots when you can buy a speaker that powers your single Echo Dot so it can come with you wherever you are in the house? The Bliiq Ininite X is a Bluetooth speaker designed for rugged outdoor use, but the inclusion of a USB port for charging other things with its internal battery means your Echo Dot is now able to go anywhere there's a WiFi connection.

This speaker will also add enough extra volume to your Echo Dot that you don't need to worry about needing to attach it to your hip. Just connect the Dot to the speaker, turn on the power, and you've got an Amazon Echo that can jump from room to room with no power outlet required.

Bottom line: If portability is your goal, this is a great place to start.

Best Audio Quality

Sonos Play:5

See on Amazon

The speaker on a taller Amazon Echo is ok, but in larger rooms frequently feels a little flat. If your goal is high audio quality so you can stream across an entire house and really rattle the windows, you either want a complete standalone stereo system or you want a Sonos Play:5.

Sonos is the champion of high quality streaming audio through an entire house, but you pay for the privilege. These speakers are not cheap, but the audio difference couldn't be more clear when compared to other standalone speakers. While Sonos does make other, smaller speakers that do a good job filling a room with sound, the Play:5 speakers include a Line In port on the back. This means you can connect an Echo Dot and bring all of your Amazon Echo features to these incredible speakers, sacrificing nothing in the process.

One more thing: At some point in the not-so-distant future, Amazon's Alexa service and Sonos will work together, so you'll be able to control all of your Sonos speakers just by speaking to your Echo.

Conclusion

There are a lot of great options for speakers to add to an Amazon Echo Dot, because just about every speaker has a 3.5mm jack right now. If you want the best for a single room, the Bose SoundLink II is where you want to be. If your goal is portability over all else, the Bliik Infinite X is your speaker. And if audio quality is the most important thing to you, grab a Sonos Play:5 and have a blast.

Best Overall

Bose SoundLink II

See at Amazon

While it's designed to be a Bluetooth speaker to connect your phone, the design and audio quality from this speaker make it perfect for filling most rooms with sound.

You can connect your Amazon Echo Dot to this speaker and leave it forever as a better Amazon Echo, or you can take the Bose Soundlink II with you when leaving the house thanks to its internal battery. It's a great flexible option for just about every occasion, and looks nice enough that it can sit in a room without standing out or taking up too much space.

Bottom line: This speaker will turn your Amazon Echo Dot into something better than an Amazon Echo, and does a whole lot more.

One more thing: You can pick up the Bose SoundLink II in either black or white to match your Echo Dot.

Amazon Echo

Amazon

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2 weeks ago

Here's what you need to know about wireless VR

Wireless VR looks to be the next big thing, and here's what you can expect!

Following the launch of two high-end desktop VR solutions, hardware firms are now investing in the next technology set to move virtual reality forward. With a number of improvements still to be made, tetherless VR systems are looking to be a key focus of upcoming headsets.

Read more at VRHeads

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2 weeks ago

Motorola is testing upcoming Moto Z 2017 flagship in plain sight

30

Motorola is showing off its Moto Z 2017 flagship, and Sprint is using it to show off its upcoming Gigabit LTE service.

Motorola isn't being particularly secretive about its upcoming Moto Z flagship, largely because, thanks to restrictions in its size and shape due to the company's commitment to Moto Mods, we basically know what it will look like.

The first clue was at the company's recent MWC press conference, where the phone was basically shown off during a tease of upcoming Moto Mods. Recall the following photo of the forthcoming Gamepad Moto Mod. That's no Moto G5, nor is it a mistake; it's the Moto Z 2017, newly-shaped fingerprint sensor and all.

And this week, Sprint and Motorola teamed up to show off the network's upcoming Gigabit LTE service in the New Orleans area. During a New Orleans Pelicans vs. Toronto Raptors basketball game (which my home team won, btw!), the carrier showed off the service to select analysts on a Motorola device running the upcoming Gigabit LTE-capable Snapdragon 835 chipset.

As you can tell, the Motorola phone has no particular shape in that photo, as its aesthetic is being constrained by a boxy cover and tapes around the edges. A Sprint release also acknowledges the collaboration:

Motorola showcased the blazing-fast, high-bandwidth capability of a forthcoming flagship smartphone based on the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 mobile platform with an integrated Snapdragon X16 LTE modem, supporting Gigabit Class LTE.

Sprint says that it used a combination of "three-channel carrier aggregation and 60 MHz of Sprint's 2.5 GHz spectrum in combination with 4X4 MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) and 256-QAM higher order modulation to achieve incredible Category 16 LTE download data speeds on a TDD network." In other words, the carrier is finally making good use of its extensive high-band spectrum — the same stuff is tried to make work on WiMAX a few years ago — for what is potentially the fastest live network performance in the U.S. right now.

Sprint says that by working with Qualcomm it plans to increase the capacity on its existing LTE network "to build a strong foundation for 5G by densifying its network with the addition of small cells and smart antennas." That's because 2.5Ghz spectrum doesn't penetrate through walls very well, and needs to be amplified using such small cells and beam-forming antennas to provide optimal performance in places like stadiums, parks and in dense urban areas.

The carrier rightly claims that it has the most spectrum of any big network in the U.S., though the vast majority is in that upper-tier area that's relatively difficult to utilize for high-speed mobility. In its press release, the company took a jab at T-Mobile's plan to augment its network capacity with unlicensed spectrum in the 5GHz space, claiming that "Sprint has more licensed spectrum capacity to deploy Gigabit Class LTE than any other U.S. carrier. Use of licensed spectrum offers Sprint LTE Plus customers a more reliable and sustainable quality experience by not relying on unlicensed resources that might be available at some times and not at others."

Whatever the case, one thing is relatively clear: this year's Moto Z flagship won't be a Verizon exclusive, and Sprint is racing to ensure that it stays competitive with T-Mobile, AT&T and Big Red in the network speed game.

Moto Z, Moto Z Force and Moto Z Play

Motorola Verizon

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2 weeks ago

Google Store finally lets you buy products from another country

8

Google Store gets a country picker.

The Google Store is finally easing geographic restrictions and allowing customers to purchase products from other countries. The store's country selector page lets you browse products and get them delivered to that specific country, provided you have a valid address. For instance, I can now browse the U.S. Google Store from India and pick up the Daydream View or Chromecast Ultra and get them delivered to my family in the U.S.

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2 weeks ago

Get 20% off high-speed 4G data service! [Best deal for LTE]

24

Android Central and Mint SIM have partnered to bring you an insanely good deal on high-speed 4G data in the United States.

That's why we're super excited about this awesome deal from Mint SIM, available exclusively to Android Central readers. For a limited time, use coupon code ACMINTSIM20 to receive 20% off any 6- or 12-month plan.

Mint SIM is an alternative carrier with one focus: offering the most consistent high-speed 4G LTE data (it runs off T-Mobile's growing network) at insanely low prices.

You'll receive unlimited talk and text, with insanely low prices on ultra-fast, reliable 4G LTE data. Here's how it breaks down after the coupon is applied:

  • 2GB of high-speed data just for $13.60 per month 1
  • 5GB of high-speed data just for $20.27 per month 1
  • 10GB of high-speed data for an insanely low $26.93 per month! Best deal! 1

Choose the plan that's best for you and start saving today, with no contract required. This is a limited time offer reserved just for Android Central readers. Remember, use coupon code ACMINTSIM20 to receive 20% off any 6- or 12-month plan. The deal expires March 31, so get going!

Learn more at MintSIM.com

1. Savings based on 12-month plan. Includes regulatory recovery fee. Plan requires compatible phone. Please see mintsim.com for details.

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2 weeks ago

How to book an Uber using Google Maps

8

You can now book an Uber without ever leaving Google Maps.

Previous versions of Google Maps showed tariff estimates and wait times for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, but an update rolled out earlier this year made it easier to book a ride without ever leaving Google Maps.

With the new ride services feature, you'll see a price breakdown between various tiers, as well as a visual representation of drivers in your area. As long as you're signed into your Uber account on your phone, you should be able to see your payment options from within Google Maps, as well as all available promotions and offers in your locale for the ride-sharing service.

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2 weeks ago

PSA: Don't remove the Huawei P10's factory-fitted screen protector

39
Fingerprint smudges

In a bizarre change from previous flagships, there's no oleophobic coating on the P10's display.

The Huawei P10, like many of the company's phones, comes with a factory-fitted screen protector out of the box. That's great if you were already planning on covering up the phone's screen to guard against scratches and other damage, and many other Chinese manufacturers like OnePlus and Oppo do the same. But the screen protector itself is made of plastic film, and that's exactly what it feels like — nowhere near as nice as the glass beneath it. So for that reason, peeling off the screen protector is usually one of the first things we do when unboxing a new Huawei phone.

In the case of the Huawei P10, however, that's a very, very bad idea.

That's because there's no oleophobic coating on the actual display of the P10 — at least on the review devices we were given in Barcelona last week. An oleophobic coating may sound obscure and technical, but it's a staple feature of all but the cheapest smartphone screens. This nanocoating, usually applied to the glass during manufacturing, repels oils — like the kind on your face and fingers — and stops the display from looking like it's been used as a pizza slice after you've been tapping, swiping and calling.

Without an oleophobic coating, a phone's display quickly starts to look like... well, the image you see above, with copious oily smudges and a generally unpleasant in-hand feel.

Usually it's only the cheapest phones which forego the oleophobic coating.

To say this is a bizarre omission in such an expensive series of phones is an understatement. Usually it's only bargain-bin models that don't use oleophobic coatings on the display, in order to save on their bill of materials. A Huawei spokesperson wasn't able to provide any further clarity on the oleophobic issue, but instead offered the following statement:

Huawei remains focused on delivering high-quality devices to provide the best consumer experience. The P10 is the world's first smartphone with capacitive under-glass fingerprint sensor for seamless navigation. For screen protection, we have used premium materials such as Gorilla Glass 5 and include a screen protector as part of the integrated product.

In the meantime, if you plan on buying a Huawei P10 (or P10 Plus), plan on using it with the preinstalled screen protector, or with an aftermarket replacement when they become available.

More: Huawei P10 hands-on

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2 weeks ago

How to add multiple destinations in Google Maps

5

Easily add multiple stops to your Google Maps route.

One of the best additions to Google Maps is the ability to add multiple stops to your route. If you're running an errand or picking up groceries on your way back home, the feature gives you a quick look at the overall time for the trip and any delays along the way. You can add up to nine stops, and there's also the option to rearrange the stops to figure out the most efficient route.

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2 weeks ago

Nougat update is finally rolling out to the Galaxy S6, S6 edge

19

Samsung's 2015 flagships are starting to receive the Nougat update.

Samsung was scheduled to roll out the Nougat update to the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge in the UK at the end of February, but the company said in a tweet that the update would be delayed as it encountered quality issues. While Samsung didn't provide a timeline for when the Nougat update will be kicking off, it looks like Vodafone customers in the UK — along with S6 and S6 edge customers in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy — are picking up the update right now.

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2 weeks ago

Size comparison: Galaxy S8 vs. Galaxy S7, S6 and iPhone 7 Plus

51

CAD renders show how Samsung's 2017 flagship may be both bigger and smaller than you were expecting.

With its super-slim bezels and the apparent shift to an extra-tall "18.5:9" aspect ratio, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is purported to pack a larger display than ever into a standard-sized body. Rumors put the display diagonal of the regular GS8 at 5.8 inches, and the larger GS8 Plus at a whopping 6.2 inches. Those are big, but the new aspect ratio makes it hard to visualize just how large they might be.

Thanks to French leaker Steve Hemmerstoffer, better known as @onleaks on Twitter, we have CAD mock-ups showing how the two Galaxy S8 models measure up against Samsung's previous two flagships, as well as Apple's iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Hemmerstoffer has made a name for himself rounding up accurate CAD visuals and measurements of unannounced phones, so there's a good chance what we see here is an accurate size comparison.

A few quick takeaways from these shots:

  • The regular GS8 is narrower but taller than both of its predecessors.
  • The GS8 Plus is almost the same width as the Note 7, but a good 5.5mm taller.
  • The regular GS8 is a good deal taller than the iPhone 7, but only slightly wider — a difference of less than 1mm.
  • The GS8 Plus is noticeably narrower than the iPhone 7 Plus, but around the same height — again, less than 1mm difference.

With the move to aspect ratios around 18:9 (or 2:1) in some of 2017's flagship Android phones (and perhaps even Apple's iPhone 8), and larger screen measurements, visual comparisons like this will become even more important in showing how new, taller phones measure up to their predecessors.

Perhaps the most striking contrast in today's set of images is the iPhone 7, using a three-year-old design, fits only a 5.5-inch display into a body of comparable size to Samsung's upcoming 6.2-incher. We can surely expect the Korean company to make a great deal of noise about that at the Galaxy S8's March 29 launch event.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus

img { width: 100%; height: auto; } .devicebox ul { display: table; margin: 0 0 10px; width: 100%; } .devicebox ul li { background: #f7f7f7; margin: 2px 0; padding: 4px 15px; } .devicebox ul li:hover { background: #fff; } .devicebox ul li:before { display: none; } .devicebox p ~ p { line-height: 1.25; } .devicebox p:first-of-type + p { padding: 15px; } .devicebox a.buy-link { border-radius: 5px; display: inline-block; font: 14px/31px "Proxima Nova Extrabld",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; text-align: center; } .devicebox a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:link, .devicebox a.buy-link:active, .devicebox a.buy-link:visited { background: #37B5D7; color: #FFF; } .devicebox a.buy-link:hover { background: #2694B2; text-decoration: none; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { content: "\e61e"; font: 40px/0 "ac_iconset" !important; margin: 0 3px 0 -8px; vertical-align: middle; } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { /* div:not(.columns-3) excludes help menu content */ .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p img, .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 660px) { .devicebox h3 { text-align: center; } .devicebox ul, .devicebox p { display: block; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox p img, .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 661px), all and (max-width: 500px) { /* 2x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(even) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:last-of-type:nth-of-type(odd) { width: 100%; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 659px) and (min-width: 501px) { /* 3x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(100%/3 - 10px/3); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(3n):not(:nth-last-of-type(2)) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:only-child { width: 100%; margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(odd) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 500px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } .page-admin .devicebox {max-width: 350px;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe {position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

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2 weeks ago

Samsung Galaxy S8 may feature super-fast face recognition

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Awkward fingerprint placement and slow iris scanner may not matter if Samsung can make facial recognition work.

One of the most common criticisms of the Galaxy S8 images we've seen so far has been the apparently awkward placement of its fingerprint scanner. It's located around the back, according to leaked photos, to the right of the main camera lens, where it's not exactly convenient to reach. At the same time, the Note 7's iris recognition system, an alternative way to unlock the phone, was widely panned in last year's phone. But Samsung could have a solution to both problems.

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2 weeks ago

How you can keep celebrating International Women's Day now that it's over

56

Android users, this is a great opportunity to take these resources and bookmark them for the next time you're showing off your high-powered device.

International Women's Day is almost over. The blog posts may have been written and the social media feeds filled to the brim, but that doesn't mean the self-edification needs to stop there.

Earlier on, Google posted in solidarity about its efforts to support women through its Women Techmakers summits, including highlighting how its machine learning technology is being used to combat gender inequality in film. The blog was sprinkled with resourceful links and ideas for subtly sharing women's accomplishments in the world, and I figured I'd round 'em up and share them with you so that you can get the dialogue started next time you're showing off an Android device. These links might also be useful in a classroom setting.

First up, Google reminds us that YouTube is compromised of carefully curated playlists, including this YouTube Kids playlist called Super Women of Our Past, which introduces little tykes to women like Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, and Grace Hopper. Other playlists include Celebrate Women's History Month and Celebrate International Women's Day, though you could find more through a quick search.

YouTube is also hosting a #HerVoiceIsMyVoice campaign, which encourages other ladies to share a video of who inspires them. The video I've embedded above offers more information if you're interested.

Google also announced its added 40 new Expeditions to its collection for classrooms, all of which are focused "on the careers, adventures, and contributions of women." These include a look at female astronauts, airplane pilots, engineers, and more, though I'm looking forward to the day where this sort of thing doesn't have to be highlighted. Until then, you can download the app yourself and pop your phone into a Cardboard headset to experience it.

Now, this wasn't in the Google blog post. But while I have you, I'd ask that in honor of March being Women's History Month, you to consider downloading the Historic Women Watch Faces for your Android Wear device. The app features a collection of illustrations highlighting women who have made a meaningful impact on technology, including Katherine Johnson (who is highlighted in the movie, Hidden Figures), Ada Lovelace, and the aforementioned Grace Hopper. Each watch face displays a quote from the woman tech maker when the watch is in ambient mode and it's an easy way to flip into something that's both stylish and subtly educational.

Google will be also celebrating the rest of Women's History Month on Instagram.

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2 weeks ago

Google Allo now works seamlessly with Android Auto

33

Now you can use one of Google's least popular messaging apps to send messages while driving.

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Go ahead — keep chuckling. Google's Allo messaging service may not be the messaging savior we were all hoping to come to Android, but it's currently serving its purpose in my life. I'm happy to see that it's now compatible with Android Auto.

Previously, when you'd receive an Allo message while in the Android Auto app, the notification would disappear behind the main interface so as to remove any desire you might have to check it while driving. You couldn't bring it up with a voice command, either, nor could you reply or compose an Allo message if you needed to while on the freeway. A recent Allo update, as pointed out by Phandroid's Derek Ross, seemed to have finally added the hands-free functionality.

The new Allo update also includes the ability to animate some emoji by sliding up on the send button, as well as various bug fixes.

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2 weeks ago

How to turn off the LG G6's 'squircle' icon frames

11
How to turn off the LG G6's squircle icon frames

There's a fix for that rounded square issue.

When it comes to squircle-shaped icons, there are two distinct groups: those who don't care at all and those who feel like they're nails on a chalkboard. If you land in the latter group, you'll be scrambling to turn off the LG G6's "rounded square" icon frames, which are turned on by default in order to normalize the size and shape of all icons on the phone.

It only takes a few taps to turn everything back to normal, though, and here's a quick step-by-step process to get it done.

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2 weeks ago

Cutting the cord: How Modern Dad ditched cable TV

173

How my family took the plunge and unplugged cable TV for good.

It's sort of a rite of passage for folks of a certain age — especially those of us who grew up in a time before cable TV. Our kids? They don't know the differences between networks and cable news. It all looks the same — who cares how it comes in, right? But for me, the time came when the $150 a month I was paying for cable TV just wasn't worth it.

It was time to unplug.

I'm hardly the first to cut the cord. And while it hasn't necessarily been painless, it's definitely been a bit easier than I expected. And the best part is that there's no single way to do it.

What works for me may work for you, or maybe it won't. But at the very least I think it'll get you moving in the right direction. Here's a breakdown of everything I'm using.

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Phil's living room

The hardware

Android TV

Le Eco sent me a Super4 X65 TV to check out. It's not the most high-end display out there, and there a number of nagging little software bugs. But it's pretty darn good for the price and looks great in my living room. (I'd wait for those bugs to be worked out before buying, though.)

Android TV built into the TV is glorious.

But the big difference for me is that it's got Android TV built in. I've been using Android TV since its inception, of course. (Hell, since before it was Android TV, really.) And while it's great in a box, it's even better when it's built in. You don't have to worry about switching inputs on a remote — you just scroll down through the UI to pick what you want. That's made things a good bit easier on the wife and kids.

A downside, though, is that if you want to use a separate Android TV box, you'll essentially be running Android TV on top of Android TV, which was a little crazy when I plugged in an NVIDIA Shield TV. (But that's also something most folks are unlikely to do.)

Why'd I even attempt that little bit of inception? The Shield TV is the only Android TV instance that has access to Amazon videos. (Damn exclusives strike again.) That's another thing to consider. If you just have to have Amazon Video, you'll need a separate piece of hardware to get it.

See at Amazon

Phil's bedroom

In the bedroom: Apple TV

In the bedroom I've got an aging dumb TV that I'm using with a latest-gen Apple TV. It's definitely got more of an app-launcher feel than an embedded OS. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, just different. And there are a ton of apps, and all the content you'd expect to find from Apple.

There's not a whole lot of fault to be found in Apple TV.

The screen savers are beautiful. Ridiculously so. I'm seriously considering upgrading the TV back there just so they look better. I could spend all day watching the aerials. For as good as the Chromecast backdrops are, these are even better. (And not clunked up by the optional on-screen chrome that Google goes for.) And Airplay is as easy as Chromecast when it comes to shooting things over from an iPhone, iPad or Mac. Maybe even easier. (And it's seamless when it comes to using one of those devices to input text.)

Apple TV has the added bonus of a proper ethernet port for better connectivity — again, that's a concern when it comes to streaming. (But even then you're still at the mercy of the stream itself.)

See at Apple

The only real down side to Apple TV is that the remote is awful. I'm not even talking about the weird touchpad — just the lack of ergonomics and ridiculous button scheme. Which leads me to ...

Logitech Harmony remotes

Investing in a couple good universal remotes has made a world of difference. This is especially true if you've got multiple boxes connected to a single TV. (I can't stand having to deal with more than one remote.)

Logitech HarmonyIn the living room I've been using a Logitech Harmony Pro system. The gist is that the remote doesn't actually control the TV — it fires commands to a little Wifi-connected hub, and that shoots commands to the TV. The advantage here is that the remote doesn't actually have to have line-of-sight access to what it's controlling. (And there's a little IR extender you can use on the Harmony hub, so you can tuck these things in fun, out-of-the-way locations.

It's a little overkill. The remotes can control a lot of things. Sonos. Nest. Philips Hue lights. Plus everything in your entertainment system. The Elite has a touchscreen to help out, but I haven't ever really wanted to change the thermostat on this thing. It's easier to just yell at Alexa or Google Home to do that.

In the bedroom I've got a Harmony Companion. It's basically the same thing, with a scaled down remote. No touchscreen, but damned if this isn't the most beautifully designed device I own. The curves on the back of the remote are to die for. (I desperately want this thing to be made into a phone.) It's also a lot less expensive, but it still lets me control the Hue lights in the bedroom. This is probably the remote I'd recommend for most folks.

Harmony Companion
Harmony Elite

Yeah, but what about ...

I know, I know. There are a million different ways to cut the cord. And I've tried a lot of hardware in the past few months. Some other serious contenders include:

  • OTA HD antenna: Not every service covers everything yet. I'm using a couple indoor over-the-air antennas for networks. These things are directional, though, so check first to see what'll work best for you.
  • Roku 4 Ultra: This is the best solution for most people, I think. It has access to more services than either Google or Apple alone. (And it includes Amazon video.) It's also a relatively inexpensive $99.
  • NVIDIA Shield TV: This is the only standalone Android TV box you should consider. It's way powerful, and needs to be because it's also a pretty good gaming console. Plus it's got access to Amazon video.
  • Xbox One S: It's a gaming console first, and a streaming box second. But also having a Blu-Ray player built-in makes it pretty compelling. Problem is it doesn't have access to two of the streaming services I use.
  • Streaming sticks: They're small. They're cheap. And I don't use them. They're just not very powerful, and streaming is prone to lag and freezes even on good hardware. Spend a little extra and get good hardware.

The streaming services

This is where you have to do a little homework if you want to save some money. First I looked at what we were spending on cable TV every month. Then I started comparing streaming plans. If we broke $150, then none of this would be worth it.

The really nice part here is that there aren't any contracts, and generally speaking there are free trials. So you can try things out, and come and go as you please.

Also, yes: You get live TV. And a good bit more.

We started out with Sling. It's not bad at all, and certainly worth a look. But ultimately we've ended up on PlayStation Vue. We're on the most expensive plan at $65 a month, which is what we had to do to get all the channels we wanted. (Some things — like bundles — may never change, I guess.) We probably have about as many channels as we did with cable (I never actually counted), including some we didn't have before.

The bottom line

So let's do some math.

Our previous cable TV bills were $152 a month, including taxes and fees and box rentals and lord knows what else.

We're now paying $65 a month for PSVue. I haven't even been counting the $10 a month for Netflix, and $7.99 for Hulu, for which we already were paying. (And if you break Amazon Prime costs down monthly, that's another $8.35 a month.)

You need to do a little homework (and math) if you want to save money. But I'm now saving hundreds of dollars a year.

So that all totals out to $91 a month for more channels and content than any of us at home can (or should) watch. For the math-impaired, we're saving about $732 a year, and not watching any less.

Is it as easy as cable TV? Nope. Menus are a little slower and not as simple. Picture quality isn't always 100 percent as good — but generally it's good enough.

And this one's going to be a thing going forward — my ISP gives us 1 terabyte of data before it starts charging us extra. That'll be something we have to watch as we consume more 4K content. (And is maybe a reason to deal with Blu-Ray disks.)

Again, your mileage will vary. There's no one way to do this. You need to do your homework to see if the available services will actually save your any money in the first place, and then whether it'll save enough to make the switch worth it.

For my family, though? We haven't looked back.

Modern Dad

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