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6 days ago

Amazon Tap gets hotword support, XHamster schools Utah, and other things you need to know

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Plus: Pink BlackBerry is Best BlackBerry, and a USB-C drive you have got to have in your gear bag.

Let's kick off Monday with the start of a recurring series — Five Things I want you to know going into your week. Maybe they're newsy. Maybe they're just cool. Maybe they'll fill that hole in your Android-loving soul. Or maybe they'll tempt you with the fruits of Apple's labor. Or maybe they'll just be full of forced tech puns. ... Who knows ...

Subscribe to Modern Dad!

Kicking things off this week: It's pretty awesome to see CrackBerry turn 10, especially since it also means ol' CrackBerry Kevin is returning to writing, and he's even busting out a little video goodness. And it just so happens that my youngest daughter brought home a sort of BlackBerry of her own this week. Not sure which OS it's running, though.

Thing 2 is one of those awesome little gadgets that I forgot I have, and that I also can't live without. Now that Android phones have made the leap to USB-C, it makes sense to have a USB-C flash drive laying around. And I've had one from SanDisk that goes one further, with a USB-A plug on the other end. So it'll work just fine in my Pixel XL, and plug in to my computer with ease. It's the best of both worlds, really.

As for Thing 3, well ... I don't even know who that guy is. And Thing 4, as the title tells, is all about the portable Amazon Tap updating with the ability to use it hands-free. Now I just have to say "Alexa," instead of hitting a button first. Excellent.

And thing 5? I love this one. Utah doesn't want XHamster's porn — or sex education in general — so XHamster sends all of its traffic from Utah to sex ed content instead. How brilliant is that!

Modern Dad

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6 days ago

Enter this sweet giveaway and you could win an HTC 10 or HTC One A9!

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This is the perfect week to save BIG on something new for you or your sweetheart! You might just win a new phone while you're at it!

Check out HTC's 7 Days of Sappiness for some sickeningly sweet deals on select phones and accessories! Through the 17th of February, you can score up to $250 off the HTC 10, A9, or M9! Also, every phone order will receive FREE shipping, FREE Uh Oh protection and a special Valentine's Day gift (everyone will get a notepad or travel water mug PLUS a few lucky people will get power chargers and free phones) from HTC to show their love. On top of all the great deals, we've teamed up with HTC this week to give two Android Central readers a new phone! Read on for all the details and to get yourself entered.

The Contest

Two lucky Android Central readers will each be taking home a brand new phone from HTC. We have a red HTC 10 and a red HTC One A9 (both US unlocked versions, best for AT&T and T-Mobile) to give away! To enter, head down to the widget below (or the big blue button if you're using the Android Central app). There are multiple ways to enter; complete all of the tasks for maximum entries and your best shot at winning! Keep in mind that all winning entries are verified and if the task was not completed or cannot be verified, a new winner will be chosen. The giveaway is open until February 20th, and winners will be announced right here shortly after the close date. Please note: while the phones are unlocked, we cannot guarantee they will work with your service provider. Good luck to everyone that enters!

Enter this sweet giveaway and you could win an HTC 10 or HTC One A9!

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6 days ago

LG G6 teaser suggests an end to bootloops and cracked screens

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The G6 will be more reliable than any LG phone to date, promising multiple checks on both the hardware and software.

The LG G6 will be reliable. That's the message the company wants to convey in a teaser provided to Android Central this week. The placard, similar in style to others released to various publications, asks, "Reliability. Check, Check Check."

An exclusive teaser provided to AC.

The message comes at a time when LG — and all other manufacturers — are under increased scrutiny for quality on both the hardware and software side after Samsung's brush with phone death in the Note 7. The company has also had its own share of issues in recent years, with a small but vocal group frustrated with what it calls a "bootloop epidemic" on devices like the G4, G5, V10, and V20 that LG has failed to address.

More: Everything we know about the LG G6

The G6 provides an opportunity for LG to wipe the slate clean and start again, both in the eyes of loyal early adopters, many of whom still covet the company's unique flagships, and more casual customers who look at LG's mid-range devices as a viable alternative to Samsung's popular Galaxy A and J series.

While the teaser doesn't provide much in the way of detail, LG has hinted again and again that it is taking every possible precaution with its new product to ensure quality and longevity; a video released in January showcased people who wanted a "more reliable" phone who didn't want to "keep paying for a cracked screen," which suggests LG may incorporate a free or low-cost screen replacement program in addition to outfitting the phone with Gorilla Glass 5.

Reliability is going to be a spec in 2017, emphasized alongside speeds and feeds.

Of course, such campaigns are not new for any phone maker, especially those whose marketing budgets are not as sky-high as its main competition, but LG feels like it has a few distinct advantages this time around. First, the G6 is the first major Android flagship of 2017, and comes after a very publicized mea culpa from its biggest rival, Samsung. It will also have a significant time-to-market advantage over the next big release, the Galaxy S8 — even if it means not sporting the latest Qualcomm processor. That lead time, even if it is only a month or so, is potentially significant for LG, as it hasn't had a major worldwide flagship success in a couple of years given the questionable decisions of the G5 and the limited release of the admittedly excellent V20.

By now we know a lot about what the G6 will look like and what it will do — it will have a tall QHD display with slim bezels, an improved 32-bit Quad DAC, dual cameras, waterproofing, Google Assistant, and a Snapdragon 821 instead of the newer 835 — but now we're getting a better sense of the more holistic way LG will approach selling it.

Reliability is going to be a spec in 2017, emphasized alongside speeds and feeds. It's going to be one of the major selling points for Samsung's upcoming flagships and every other Android manufacturer stuffing a high-capacity Lithium Ion battery inside its metal phones. LG is no exception, but it has a lot more to lose if, after all the work it has done to revamp the G series' aesthetics, it still gets accused of failing to prevent bootloops or hardware malfunctions.

So given all that, LG's emphasis on reliability — and why it shared this exclusive teaser with Android Central — is not surprising. Check, Check, Check it says. You can be sure that, when the G6 is revealed on February 26, everyone will know exactly what the company is doing to keep its phones from failing.

LG G6

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6 days ago

Top five things you need to know about Android Wear 2.0

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Things are very different in Android Wear 2.0.

It doesn't matter if you've been using Google's watches from day one or you're just now thinking about adding a computer to your wrist, Android Wear 2.0 is a big deal. It's a massive shift in how Google views wearable computers, and this software update is paired with several timely hardware releases over the next couple of months. While some remain skeptical this OS reboot is going to push Google into dominance of the smartwatch world, there's still plenty to be excited about.

Here are five big things you need to know about this new Android Wear OS, to prepare you for its arrival on wrists everywhere.

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6 days ago

Top 5 ways to manage messy charging and power cables

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Drowning in cords, cables, and wires? We're here to help!

Getting a new desk, computer monitor, TV, or other device is exciting, but dealing with the power cords, charging cables, and all the other wires that come with those devices is a different story.

While it's impossible to do away with every cable or cord needed to run all your tech, there are a lot of ways to manage your cables more efficiently, which can help you eliminate the stress of a disorganized space.

1. Move closer to outlets

I live in an old house, and I know power outlets can sometimes be in some inconvenient spots, but if you can, moving closer to wall outlets will prevent power cables from needing to stretch across the room. This small change can help minimize the look of clutter, and prevent tripping over cables.

2. Go wireless where you can

Almost anytime you can go wireless; you will feel a bit of relief from your cable madness,

Wireless Bluetooth headphones and speakers are prime examples of gadgets that can reduce cable fatigue. Yes, I know, they both have charging cables, and I'll get to that in a second, but the freedom and mobility devices such as these offer is outstanding and truly make spaces cleaner.

While those are common examples of going wireless, less common but super helpful is using wireless HDMI.

It's not the cheapest solution or even the most practical for everybody, but if you have multiple TVs and dislike having to get an HDMI cord (or several) for each TV, you can always pick up a product like the IOGear Wireless HD Digital Kit.

Rated as The Wirecutter's best wireless HDMI transmitter, it's easy to see how this just how useful the IOGear can be.

"The IOGear transmitter base unit has two HDMI inputs and an HDMI output. This means you can have a TV, transmitter, and sources (Blu-ray, cable/satellite box, etc.) wired up in one room while wirelessly sending the same signal to another TV elsewhere in the house."

See at Amazon

3.Store small cables and adapters

Charging cables, dongles, and small power adapters add up over time, and I often find they are about 90% of my clutter — especially at my desk. It's good to having a place to store said small items is crucial to getting your cable chaos under control; invest in a cable organizer.

The BAGSMART travel organizer is the perfect way to store cables and adapter you're not using. I know, it's meant for travel, but there is no reason you could store this in a drawer or on a shelf by your desk.

With one zipper pouch — big enough to hold a large mobile phone — BAGSMART also includes some stretchy straps, which are ideal for keeping in oddly shaped or bulkier items.

Plus, if you ever do want to travel with it, the outside of the case is padded and has a slight rigidness to prevent your items on the inside from being damaged by scrapes and minor falls.

See at Amazon

4. Keep essential cords neatly arranged

You probably charge items like your phone and your tablet every day, which means you're going to want access to those cords often and with ease.

An item like the YOCOU 5-Channel Cable Management System can tidy up your workspace and keep your most important cables readily available.

The small grooves will hold in pace almost any wire or cord that's ¼-inch or less in diameter, and It has an adhesive back that sticks to any flat surface so you can mount it wherever works best for you.

See at Amazon

5. Tie together excess cords

Some cords and cables are comically long, leaving you to deal with several feet of cord that inevitably ends up in a tangled mess behind your TV, computer, desk, etc. If you're going to have an excess amount of cord hanging around, why not make it look neat?

Wrapping your excess cord together with a velcro strap is an excellent way to eliminate some clutter. It's especially useful for cords and cables that you don't need to move often.

For example, The HDMI cable from your gaming console to your TV or the power cord for your computer speakers. If you don't regularly need to move the position of the item you're plugging in, strap that sucker down!

How to you keep your cables organized?

Have any other tips for keeping your cords and cable tidy? Share them in the comments below.

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6 days ago

Best Android games with Bluetooth controller support

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Gaming is simply better with a controller in your hands.

Gaming on Android typically requires you to settle for using touchscreen controls. However, some gracious game developers do take the time and effort to include support for Bluetooth gamepad.

If you're constantly on the lookout for games that support Bluetooth controller, you can check out Gamepad Games, which is an app that's compiled a fairly comprehensive list of games with gamepad support. Unfortunately, when you actually start browsing through the apps you quickly discover that many are… not so good.

So, to save you some time, we've compiled some of the best games that support Bluetooth controllers. And if you're looking for a quality Bluetooth controller recommendation, consider the SteelSeries Stratus XL, which is the controller I used to vet these selections.

See at Amazon

Modern Combat 5 Blackout

Years after its initial release, Modern Combat 5 Blackout remains one of the best first-person shooters available for Android. With dazzling graphics and options to play through the solo campaign or take it online, you can get an edge on your competition with a proper controller in your hand.

If the name doesn't already give it away, this is very similar to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, so if you're a fan of that series and looking for a fun option to play on the go, you'll definitely want to give this a look if you haven't yet.

Download: Modern Combat 5 Blackout (Free)

Unkilled

Unkilled is another very polished first-person shooter that fully supports Bluetooth controllers and offers over 150 missions in the single player campaign, along with multiple online multiplayer modes to choose from. As you play online, you're able to choose a preferred character class, and then upgrade your skills and weapon load-outs.

And again, using the Bluetooth controller should give you a distinct advantage against the AI zombies as well as your online opponents. Simply sync your controller with your phone and it'll automatically work when you load up Unkilled.

Download: Unkilled (Free)

Sonic the Hedgehog

Boy, do we wish there were more awesome ports of classics like Sonic on Android. Both Sonic the Hedgehog as well as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 are fantastic on Android, and are compatible with Bluetooth controllers.

Now, I'm not sure what needs to be said about these games — they're absolute classics from the 16-bit era of gaming. All the speed and action you remember form the original Sega Genesis games are perfectly preserved, with Tails and Knuckles available as playable characters once you've beaten the game. If you've never played the original Sonic games, you'll get a fantastic experience playing them on Android.

There are several free Sonic games available in the Google Play Store, but in our opinion you're better off spending some coin for the real deal rather than the other buggy and lame Sonic adaptations.

Download: Sonic The Hedgehog ($2.99)

Skate Party 3

Do you find yourself staring longingly out the window thinking about how great Tony Hawk Pro Skater was back in the day? Me too.

While it's almost criminal that no one has ported any of those classic games to Android, Skate Party 3 offers a comparable experience that's also compatible with Bluetooth controllers. It's a little finicky and takes some time to get used to, but if you've been jonesing for a great skateboarding game to play on the go, Skate Party 3 is it. The full version is available for $1.99, but if you'd prefer to try before you buy, you can try out the lite version to see if it's worth investing in the full game.

Download: Skate Party 3 ($1.99)

Only One

Do you remember the final scene in the 2001 Jet Li movie The One? Something tells me the developers of Only One did, as the game basically plays like the final scene in that mostly forgettable action flick.

The premise is pretty simple: you stand alone on the top of a tall column with a magical sword as you fight off wave after wave after wave of enemies. The graphics are delightfully retro and the difficulty progressively as you progress through the levels. Best of all, you can connect your Bluetooth gamepad and play with more precise control. It's a free game, but you will be pestered to cheat upgrade via in-app purchases.

Download: Only One (Free w/IAPs)

Pew Pew

Keeping with the retro theme, Pew Pew is a classic-looking top-down multidirectional shoot 'em up that's a great pick up and play option. There are five unique game modes to play: Pandemonium, Dodge This, Assault, Chromatic Conflict, and Asteroids.

The game plays well enough with touch screen controls, but playing with two physical thumbsticks really makes a big difference for a game like this that demands precise controls to dodge and destroy wave after wave of enemies.

Download: Pew Pew (Free)

BombSquad

Gaming is always more fun with friends, and BombSquad is an action-packed collection of mini games with multiple ways to join the game. With fun and cartoony graphics, you'll be able to choose from eight different game modes.

Bluetooth controllers are supported, or you can get your friends to download the BombSquad Remote app and use their phones to control their character. This game is available for most Android devices, including Android TV, which means you and your friends won't need to crowd around a tablet or — even worse — smartphone to play.

Download: BombSquad (Free)

Got any great game recommendations that we missed?

Sadly, support for Bluetooth controllers is not as widespread as it could be, but there are some gems that we may have missed. Let us know in the comments!

Android Gaming

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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6 days ago

Google Maps now lets you create lists of your favorite places

14

Easily create lists on Google Maps and share them with friends and family.

Google Maps is introducing a new feature that lets you create lists of your places and share them with your friends and family via text message, email, or social media. You'll be able to view and edit your lists even when you're offline, and there's also the option to create a public list that everyone will be able to follow.

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6 days ago

How to deal with severe battery drain on Gear VR

Severe battery drain means you can't spend nearly enough time in VR, but there is a quick fix to get you back on track.

After charging up your phone, you probably expect to be able to enjoy a solid hour or more playing your Gear VR. However, a pretty seriously irritating process has been cropping up for a lot of people. After you plug your phone into Gear VR, the headset is causing serious, and severe battery drain. This means that even with a full charge, you may not have long in to spend shooting at space pirates. Thankfully, there is an easy fix that won't take more than a few minutes.

Read more at VRHeads.com

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6 days ago

Best Horror Games for PlayStation VR

Best Horror Games for PlayStation VR

What are the scariest games for PSVR?

An important question was recently asked in the VR Heads forums: Are there any good horror titles for PlayStation VR? If you haven't yet tried a scary game in virtual reality but love horror games on normal 2D screen, you're in for a treat. Being cut off from the real world around you coupled with binaural audio is crazy immersive. If you're in the market for some horror games for PSVR, here are the best currently on offer.

Read more at VR Heads!

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6 days ago

Save over 90% on this Complete Java Programming Bundle

In today's modern age, understanding coding is becoming more and more essential. So much so that some school districts are adding coding classes to their curriculum. Those who dove into the world of Java and other coding languages via a Computer Science degree or by self-taught methods a decade ago are well-positioned for a sustaining career.

Take your coding to the next level for less! Learn More

Are you second guessing your own career path, or simply interested in learning the basics of coding? Maybe you're considering heading back to school to study Computer Science, but really who can afford to put their life on hold for more schooling? Even if you're knowledge of computer programming could fit on the back of a postage stamp, you can still learn everything you need to know to get started coding with Java.

That's where this great deal from Android Central Digital Offers comes in. You can get lifetime online access to the Complete Java Programming Bootcamp for just $39. This package includes 10 courses taught over the course of 561 lessons.

The first course offers up the core understanding of how any computer program works, including how data structures organize information so it can be used efficiently and how algorithms work to manipulate this data — basically Computer Science 101. But that's just the starting point. Throughout the remaining 70 hours of course material, you'll go from a beginner to a pro.

Each course is curated and instructed by folks with years of experience and knowledge under their belts. The first seven courses were created by Loonycorn, a team of four experienced coders who have worked Google and Flipkart, and tries to distil complicated tech concepts into funny, practical, engaging courses. Because let's face it – if you're just dipping your toes into coding for the first time it's going to be pretty dry if not taught in an engaging and humorous manner.

Save more than 90% right now! Learn More

An online course load like this would typically cost over $700, but for a limited time you can get the whole package at a steep 94% discount — you'll pay only $39!

Buy now and you'll be on your way to being a coding pro in no time.

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6 days ago

'Really Blue' Google Pixel coming to Canada as a Rogers exclusive

10

A blue exclusive for the red carrier in Canada.

Google and Rogers have co-announced that they are bringing the 'Really Blue' Google Pixel — the one that everyone wants and hasn't been able to buy due to its limited inventory — to Canada as a carrier exclusive.

The limited edition version was released alongside the black and white variants in October, but it's been difficult to find — more so than the regular Pixels, which have also been elusive — on the Play Store. Canadians have complained about not having access to the blue version since its launch, but whether a Rogers exclusive is the best way to satiate that demand remains to be seen.

We'll have more information on price and on-sale date in the coming days.

Which color Google Pixel should you get?

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Google Store Verizon

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6 days ago

Where to buy the Samsung Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro

29
Samsung Chromebook Pro

Samsung's latest Chromebooks are here, and you have plenty of places to buy them.

With the two new laptops, Samsung has tossed its hat into the ring to be considered for the best mid-range Chromebooks available today. With a thin-and-light metal frame, brilliant QHD display and a stylus, it's worth taking a look at these machines. Your only decision is whether to buy the $550 "Pro" model with an Intel Core m3 processor, or the $450 "Plus" version with a lower-powered ARM processor.

The more mainstream Chromebook Plus is hitting stores first, with the Chromebook Pro to follow at the end of April. This is everywhere you can pick up the latest Chromebooks from Samsung.

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6 days ago

The LG G6 will feature an upgraded 32-bit Quad DAC

27

The LG G6 will offer the best audio experience on a mobile device.

We already know a lot about the upcoming LG G6 thanks to numerous leaks and teasers, and today the company has confirmed that the phone will feature an upgraded 32-bit Quad DAC. LG rolled out a Quad DAC in the V20 last year, and this year's flagship will similarly offer audiophile-grade sound thanks to the South Korean company's continuining partnership with ESS Technologies.

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6 days ago

When it comes to Wi-Fi mesh networks, more isn't always better

18

Are a handful of Plume Pods better than 3 Google Wifi pucks? Maybe.

There are a lot of ways to get a radio signal from one place to another. This is as true for your home Wi-Fi setup as it is for any other radio equipment. When it comes to mesh networking, there are two distinct types of setup being offered by a growing handful of companies. Trying to sort out what's best for you and your house can be tough.

More: Do I really need a mesh network?

If you decide that a mesh network is what you need to get good Wi-Fi everywhere you need it, you have quite a few choices. They all are a little different but are designed to be placed around your house so you're always in range of a good, strong Wi-Fi signal. While the concept is the same — several small "stations" close to the places you need them — the number of stations (nodes) you need depends on how your house is laid out.

The wireless signal coming from a mesh access point is like a sphere or a bubble.

Inside this bubble, you have a strong connection to the network. This works great if you can get a network mesh node in a spot to spread that bubble around where you need it. Then you put another bubble in another spot to cover more places. It's a great way to spread the Wi-Fi around your house, but not be blasting it to the neighbor's house where it can interfere with his Wi-Fi. Anyone who lives in a crowded building with a lot of Wi-Fi networks can tell you how difficult it can be to have a good signal because all the channels we use for Wi-Fi are crowded.

More: How Wi-Fi mesh networks work

A setup like Google Wifi has a small number of network nodes. They transmit a strong signal in all directions and two or three nodes (plus the one attached to your router) will cover most houses. They are excellent products that work better than advertised and most anyone who buys into them will be happy with the results. Other products like Netgear's Orbi or eero are similar — fewer units with each having a (relatively) large range of coverage.

An alternative way of doing things is with a product like Plume's Pod system. Plume Pods are tiny. They plug directly into an outlet and have a small signal bubble. You put a Pod everywhere you need one instead of placing one in a spot that can cover multiple rooms. The result is the same — when you're in range of a network node you have a good Wi-Fi signal.

Your house will decide for you

You want Wi-Fi where you need it. Maybe you want it in the bedroom, the living room and the kitchen. You're not concerned about blanketing the garage or storage closet or anywhere else with Wi-Fi. Plume's Pods could be great for you.

Small, short-range Wi-Fi nodes are like a light bulb. One for every room.

The Pods are small, use very little power and have a completely separate channel they use to talk to each other so they aren't using the bandwidth you are for watching a movie or getting online. That means you can use as many Pods as you want. I'm sure there is a limit somewhere, but it's not going to be reached in your home.

They also have a very small range. They are designed to be dropped in the room you need Wi-Fi in. Plume compares them to a light bulb — one in every room. That's a perfect analogy. It's a good thing and a bad thing.

Google Wifi's much larger range per node can be a problem if you have to place them too close together.

Ideally, your phone or TV or whatever you're connecting to Wi-Fi will pick the strongest signal it can attach to. You tell it to connect to MYNETWORK and give it a password, and it connects to MYNETWORK when it finds it. With two powerful satellite nodes in close proximity, it might not connect to the closest one.

Google Wifi's more powerful signal means it needs more room.

This isn't a big deal for something stationary like your TV or a game console. You're not moving either end of the connection. But the phone in your pocket can move from one end of the house to another, and it can get confused about when it's time to grab the stronger signal because it's already connected to a strong signal. As you move around it can get better or worse, and you can end up scanning and hop from one node to another which can affect your network speed.

None of that happens with Plume's Pod system.When you leave the living room, a light bulb doesn't shine through the walls to the bedroom, and a Plume Pod is like a light bulb.

If you have a big house but it's laid out in a way where mesh satellite nodes are too close together (the Google Wifi app does a great job making sure you place them far enough apart, but it's not perfect by any means) you could see problems. You fix those problems by moving the nodes further apart, or by using more access points with a smaller range.

This can be tough in something like a tall, narrow townhouse or row house where a mesh point on each floor will get crowded, but one on the top floor and one on the lowest floor might not cover everywhere. Long, narrow homes can pose the same problem. Think about where a 40-foot bubble will fit without the centers of two of them being too close together.

Either method can give you awesome Wi-Fi throughout your home. If you're not in a situation where you would have two powerful mesh points close to each other, look to things like features and price to help you decide.

See at Plume

Google Hardware

Google Wifi:

Google Amazon

Google Home:

Google Best Buy

Chromecast Ultra:

Google Best Buy

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6 days ago

Verizon's trade-in offer for its unlimited plan includes a free Pixel, LG V20, or S7 edge

116

Get the latest flagship phones for free when you trade in your older device and switch to Verizon's unlimited plan.

Verizon is bringing back its unlimited plan for $80, or $45 per line for four lines on a family plan. You'll be able to use high-speed LTE until 22GB, following which your data speeds will be de-prioritised in the case of network congestion. The plan also includes hotspot tethering up to 10GB, and comes with free calling to Canada and Mexico.

To incentivize its unlimited plan, Verizon is offering a new trade-in plan through which you can pick up a Pixel, LG V20, Galaxy S7, S7 edge, Moto Z Droid or Moto Z Force Droid, or the latest iPhones for free.

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