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7 hours ago

Samsung Pay's rewards program just got a lot less awesome

37

Samsung Pay's rewards program just got a lot less awesome

Now it takes twice as long to get the goodies you want.

Along with supporting older MST terminals, another area where Samsung Pay has an advantage over Android Pay (well, now Google Pay) is with its rewards program. Samsung Pay gives its users points they can redeem for gift cards, raffles, and more as they continually use the app, but in an unexpected move, Samsung's making this rewards system not nearly as fun.

According to multiple users, Samsung Pay is taking the points you earn with its multiple tiers and cutting them in half. Because of this, the rewards system now looks like the following:

  • Member users earn 5 points per purchase instead of 10
  • Silver users earn 10 points per purchase instead of 20
  • Gold users earn 15 points per purchase instead of 30
  • Platinum users earn 20 points per purchase instead of 40

This move wouldn't be so crummy if Samsung adjusted the cost for prizes to go along with the reduction in points that are earned, but this doesn't seem to be the case. In other words, you'll now have to make twice as many purchases as you used to in order to accumulate enough points for the things you love. Yay 🙃.

Samsung Pay updated with a cleaner and more traditional UI

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8 hours ago

The best tech deals that you don't want to miss out on

The best tech deals that you don't want to miss out on

Our friends at Thrifter post some great deals every day, and here are the best ones available right now!

From mobile phones to general tech, home goods and much more, the team at Thrifter is scouring the web every single day to find the best deals. Whether something hits a new all-time low, gets discounted for just a limited time, or has a new coupon code available for it, you won't want to miss out any of them. If you want to know about the deals as soon as they are happening, you'll want to follow Thrifter on Twitter, and sign up for the newsletter, because missing out on a great deal stinks!

So, what are the best deals that you should be looking at right now? Well, let's take a look at them so you can see which ones are best for you!

Moto X4 Prime Exclusive 32GB unlocked Android smartphone - $249.99 (Was $400)

You can grab an unlocked version from several retailers for $299.99 right now, but this is a great way to save even more. Amazon no longer uses your phone's lock screen to display ads, and instead, the company just preloads a few of its apps on the phone including the Amazon widget, Prime Movies, Prime Photos Storage and more. The phone is IP68 water resistant and features a 5.2-inch display, Snapdragon 630 processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.

Alexa is only a voice command away as well. Simply say "Alexa" and you can begin playing music, check the news, and much more. This is also an unlocked version which will work on all major U.S. carriers, and this discount is available on both the silver and black versions of this phone. Remember, this price is only good for today, so don't miss out.

See on Amazon

Philips Hue A19 white smart 60W LED bulbs - $9.99 (Was $15)

This single white bulb does require a Hue Hub so if you don't already have one, you'll need to invest in one. It is a 60W equivalent, but this bulb only does white shades, no colors.

If you're looking for the color bulb, Amazon has them for $48.72 each.

See at Walmart

IntoAM amplified indoor 50-mile HDTV antenna - $10.99 with code (Was $25)

Use code L5GL38ID to get this discount. Antennas have gone from being big bulky things that you had to have on your roof to paper-thin pieces of tech that you can mount on the wall behind your TV. This Intoam indoor antenna has a 50-mile range to help you pick up your local news channels, even if the broadcast isn't super local to you. It features a 10-foot coax cable to help you find optimal positioning in your room and comes with an optional amplifier to help reach those further signals.

See on Amazon

More great deals!

For even more great deals, and to see these discounts as they become available, be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!

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8 hours ago

Qualcomm increases NXP offer to $44 billion amidst Broadcom drama

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Qualcomm increases NXP offer to $44 billion amidst Broadcom drama

Qualcomm's increasing its original bid by 16%.

Earlier this month, Qualcomm remained resilient against Broadcom by declining the company's second buyout offer of $121 million. Shortly after this, Qualcomm has increased its offer to NXP by 16% in an attempt to get Broadcom off of its back.

NXP is a Dutch semiconductor business that's primarily involved with the creation of infotainment systems in automobiles, and this bid increase would see Qualcomm pay $127.50 per each share of NXP — resulting in a total purchase of $44 billion.

With this move, Qualcomm is hoping that the larger offer to NXP will make it easier for shareholders to see the value of Qualcomm as an independent company and reduce their eagerness to sell to Broadcom.

Speaking to Reuters about the revised offer to NXP, Qualcomm's Board Director Tom Horton said:

It makes Qualcomm stronger and more profitable and diversified if there is no deal with Broadcom, and if we do decide to pursue a sale the same is true, more value would accrue to the Qualcomm shareholders.

Broadcom is reportedly evaluating its next moves following Qualcomm's revised deal with NXP, so we'll be sure to keep an eye on things and see what happens from here.

Qualcomm remains open to Broadcom buyout if offered more cash

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9 hours ago

The best custom rooms in Rec Room

0

The best custom rooms in Rec Room

Rec Rooms newest update, Custom Rooms is amazing. You should try it!

Since Rec Room was first released for the PlayStation VR I have loved it. Based on the Recreation centers you used to go to as a kid, mainly to keep you from being underfoot, or from hanging around on street corners, Rec Room has a huge amount of pre-made content for you to play around with.

From games like Dodgeball and Paintball to full quests like the Rise of Jumbotron and even Laser Tag, Rec Rooms stock game is enough to keep you busy for hours. Then, because the guys at Against Gravity are crazy, they gave us Custom Rooms.

Custom Rooms Give users the ability to create and save huge rooms or parks for other people to play in. Using the maker pen, a 3D design tool that's far more powerful than I gave it credit for, and the sandbox tools available, you can make almost anything you want to interact with. There are some limitations, the things you make with the maker pen can't move or interact with you for example, but there is still plenty to do to make awesome fun happen!

Each week Against gravity posts a list of Featured Rooms, rooms they feel show off the best of the Custom Rooms and then allow you easy access to them in-game. All you need to do is, from your dorm look out over to your pinboard and you will see the featured rooms you can select or you can select custom rooms from your watch and you will see the featured rooms there. Ok enough talk lets dive in!

More: How tall should your PlayStation Camera be for VR?

PokePark

This first room shows off how skilled some people are with the Maker Pen. PokePark is what it says it is, a park full of Pokemon. Some Pokemon are hidden, some are in plain sight, but all have them have been created in loving detail as best they can using just one device. Although you can't really interact with anything here, it's not like you can catch them or anything, it is fun to wonder all around this open park finding different Pokemon in different habitats, you can even look out for Team Rocket lurking somewhere near!

While PokePark is a passive Custom Room it is one that will make any Poke Fan smile in delight, and the park keeps getting new Pokemon all the time so it's well worth a revisit.

TheTunnelRCPark

This was the first Custom Room I played that actually had an interactive element to it other than just walking around, admiring the scenery. In TheTunnelRCpark you actually get to race little RC cars around an awesome race track with loops and jumps and all-terrain obstacles, it's so much fun, at least once you get the hang of it.

The driving is a little janky in the RC park and it takes a little getting used too. You hold a virtual controller in your virtual hand while you look at a virtual screen in your virtual world, it's so meta it's almost mind-blowing. To control the car you pull the trigger to make it go forward and press and hold the Move button to steer. You also have to physically turn the controller while holding both the trigger and the move to actually make your RC car go round corners, so like I say, complicated, but very satisfying when you do get it right.

FunGamesatPark

Although not a featured room this Custom Room came up in my feed as I was wandering about. Fun Games at Park has lots of fun games you might find at a pier or fairground, games like skeeball, tin can alley, and basketball hoops, are all available to play. Now some of the games don't work very well. They can be a little temperamental but overall it's a fun little room to kill some time.

That's it for this one, there isn't a lot to say, just that I enjoyed it the same way I enjoy these games at the pier when I go.

TheGiantRoom

Like the PokePark, The Giant Room isn't really interactive, it's more a place of delight and wonder. Being a little person in a huge area is really great fun especially with all the people pretending to be Ant-Man and climbing all over the furniture.

The time and effort put into this must have been huge as making even the simplest of shapes with the Maker pen makes me want to scream! So well done to the guy who managed to not only make a giant PS4 but also an entire PlayStation VR system to go with it. Very Cool.

New Features

So there we have it, 4 fun rooms to check out from the new update to Rec Room. I have spoken to the head of the FeaturedRoom section and she is going to be showing me a lot more in the coming weeks so watch out for more interesting Rooms. With the latest update of adding circuits to the mix the custom rooms are going to take a turn for the awesome and I can't wait.

We are also creating our Custom Room called MoNaClub! It isn't quite ready but you can go visit it anytime you like, you might even see some of us there so say hi and be nice!

PlayStation 4

Amazon

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9 hours ago

Best Speakers To Use With Your Amazon Echo Dot

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Best Speakers To Use With Your Amazon Echo Dot

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 $180 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

VAUX speaker for Echo Dot

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? VAUX is one of several speaker designers clever enough to make the body of the speaker something that can actually hold the Echo Dot while in use, so it not only powers the brains of the operation but makes the whole system a single portable unit.

This $50 speaker promises six hours of portable runtime, and the dual 52mm drivers will certainly make this little Echo Dot fill a room with sound. Best of all, you don't need a different power cord to charge this combined unit. The charger you used to power the Echo Dot is also capable of charging this speaker.

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

Best Audio Quality

B&O Play Beoplay A6

See on Amazon

The speaker on a taller Amazon Echo is fine, but in larger rooms it 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 Beoplay A6.

Bang & Olufsen is the champion of high-quality audio in portable form, 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 the Beoplay series does come in other, smaller formats that do a good job filling a room with sound, the $799 Beoplay A6 speakers are built for style and room-filling audio. It's a strange looking speaker for sure, but one of those experiences where you don't know you can listen to anything else after listening to this.

One more thing: These speakers are available in a bunch of different color fabric options, but tracking something down outside of the standard off-white or textured grey (sorry, Light Gray and Oxidized Brass) isn't easy.

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 VAUX is your speaker. And if audio quality is the most important thing to you, grab a B&O Play Beoplay A6 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.

Updated February 2018: We have updated our best picks for speakers to use with your Echo Dot!

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10 hours ago

How to add custom ringtones and sounds to your Android phone

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How to add custom ringtones and sounds to your Android phone

Android is all about customization.

Don't like your launcher? Get a new one. Don't like your gray keyboard? Change it up! Got the same ringtone as that annoying co-worker at the other end of the room? Just don't like the lame, old sounds that came with your sweet, new phone? No problem — we have options. Once you get the hang of it, the world is your ringtone.

Let awesome ring.

How to find and set ringtones through the Zedge app

There's a lot of places to find ringtones, but far and away the easiest is Zedge. Zedge is a customization app that looks to personalize two of the most basic aspects of your phone: your sounds and wallpapers. Zedge even streamlines the process, letting you download and set your ringtone from the same screen!

Once you find a ringtone in the app you like (browsing or searching), here's how to set it:

  1. Tap the white download button in the middle of the screen.
  2. Tap Set ringtone.
  3. Tap Allow to allow Zedge to download the ringtone.

  4. Tap Settings to be taken to the page where you can allow Zedge to modify system settings, like your ringtone.
  5. Tap Allow modify system settings.
  6. Tap the back button to return to Zedge. You'll see a toast notification at the bottom of the screen telling you the ringtone has been applied.

How to add your own ringtone to Android

If you find your ringtones other places — or have one you just need to add to the phone — then you'll need to get it into the proper folder in the Android file system, and that requires a file manager app. Now, some phones have file managers on them out of the box, but if not, you'll need to download one from the Google Play Store, like Solid Explorer. Once you've installed a file manager and downloaded the ringtone you want to your device, we need to move it to the proper folder:

  1. Find and long-press your desired ringtone in the Downloads folder. After long-pressing the first ringtone, you can tap more ringtones if you wish to copy multiple sounds at once.
  2. Tap Copy. The icon may vary from file explorer to file explorer, but on Solid Explorer, it's the icon with two documents stacked on top of each other.
  3. Swipe in the menu from the left side of the screen.
  4. Tap Internal Memory.

  5. Tap the Ringtones folder. If you want to set the sound you're moving as a text tone or an alarm, you would tap the Notifications folder or Alarms folder.
  6. Tap Paste.

Some phones' Settings app will see the new ringtones immediately, but just in case yours doesn't go ahead and reboot the phone. Upon reboot, the new ringtones will appear in the list of available ringtones. Now all that's left to do is set the ringtone.

How to apply your custom ringtone in Settings

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap Sound. This menu may be named differently depending on your phone, with possible names being Sound and Display, Personalization, etc.
  3. Tap Phone ringtone.

  4. Tap the custom ringtone you added to the ringtones folder.
  5. Tap Save or OK.

How to apply a custom ringtone to a contact

  1. Open Contacts.
  2. Tap the contact you wish to set a custom ringtone for.
  3. Tap the three-dot menu icon in the top right corner.

  4. Tap Set ringtone.
  5. Select the custom ringtone you added to the ringtones folder.
  6. Tap Save or OK.

How to set a custom notification sound in Settings

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap Sound. This menu may be named differently depending on your phone, with possible names being Sound and Display, Personalization, etc.
  3. Tap Default notification sound.

  4. Select the custom notification sound you added to the Notifications folder.
  5. Tap Save or OK.

Your turn

So what awesome ringtones are you setting on your phone? Share your most outrageous and hilarious ringtones in the comments below!

Updated February 2018: This article has been rewritten and condensed for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

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11 hours ago

If you're not using night mode on Google Home, you're doing it wrong

10

If you're not using night mode on Google Home, you're doing it wrong

Don't let dumb AI kill the mood.

When you think of "night mode" on a device, you think of a dimmed screen and muted notifications. I'd never really thought about it on something that doesn't have a display.

That is, until I stashed the Google Home Max in my bedroom.

Because there's nothing quite like enjoying a day full of Norwegian death metal in the comfort of one's own chambers, only to retire to bed in the evening and command Google Assistant to turn off all the lights and OK TURNING OFF NINE LIGHTS — IT LOOKS LIKE FOUR LIGHTS AREN'T AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW GOODNIGHT PHIL SORRY ABOUT WAKING THE KIDS AND FOR TOTALLY KILLING THE MOOD BUT DON'T WORRY I'M SURE THIS SORT OF THING HAPPENS ALL THE TIME.

Google Home — and especially Google Home Max when kept where the magic happens — badly need a night mode.

Turns out Google Home has a night mode.

Head into the Google Home app and hit that awful little devices icon to get to the list of all your Googles Home. (Or is it Google Homes? Whatever.) Then find the device you want to enable night mode on. Hit the three-button overflow menu and choose settings. Then choose Night Mode.

From there, you can set the Night Mode schedule (mine is now at a depressingly early 9 p.m.), adjust the LED brightness (less of a big deal) and maximum volume (a very big deal).

What you can't do is set this from the Google Home itself — you'll have to go into the app to do the deed. So much for smart assistants, eh?

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12 hours ago

Best AT&T Deals of February 2018

18

Best AT&T Deals of February 2018

If you're on AT&T, these are the hottest deals to keep an eye out for.

AT&T is one of the largest and most well-known carries in the United States, and as a result of this, you can often find some pretty sweet deals being offered. Whether you're in the market for new phones or television service, AT&T has something for just about everyone. Here are the top deals we recommend the most.

Get a new Samsung phone, get another one for free

Between the Galaxy S8/S8+, S8 Active, and Note 8, Samsung had a pretty incredible year for its smartphones in 2017. Samsung's handsets are never cheap, so to help out with this, AT&T is letting you get two of Samsung's latest for the price of one.

This deal is available for all of the phones mentioned above, and it means that if you buy one Galaxy Note 8, you can get another one at absolutely no extra cost. You'll need to purchase both phones through AT&T Next on monthly installment plans, but you'll receive a bill credit for one of the phones for a total of 30 months.

See at AT&T

Buy one get one free for the LG V30

The LG V30 might not have gotten as much hype or attention as the Note 8 last year, but that doesn't mean it's a bad phone by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the V30 is pretty darn great. The phone has a gorgeous design, features excellent dual rear cameras, and performance is top-notch.

Similar to the above Samsung deal, AT&T is letting customers order two LG V30s and then get a monthly bill credit to essentially make one of them free.

See at AT&T


Save 25% on Belkin wireless charging pad

If you decide to get a phone like the Galaxy S8 or LG V30, you'll be able to take advantage of wireless charging pads so you can top up your new phone without having to worry about pesky cables. Lucky for you, AT&T is also running a sale that lets you get 25% off Belkin's Boost Up Wireless Charging Pad.

You'll pay just $44 instead of the regular $59 MSRP, and support for 15W charging means you'll be able to wirelessly charge your new phone in the blink of an eye. Even better, you can still use the Boost Up pad to charge your phone even if it has a lightweight case on it.

See at AT&T

Buy three accessories and get 20% off

Getting a new phone is great, but what's even better is outfitting it with a pile of awesome accessories. Right now at AT&T, buying three accessories in one transaction will score you a discount of 20% off your entire order.

This deal applies to cases, screen protectors, and car chargers, but you can also use it to save on wireless charging stations, Apple's AirPods, Bluetooth speakers, the Google Home, Amazon Echo, Nest Security Camera, and more. This deal is available even if you're not an AT&T customer, and if you were already planning to pick up a few new gadgets, you might as well do it this way and get 20% off all your new tech.

See at AT&T

Updated 2/20/2018 – Replaced Axon M deal with 25% off Belkin chargers.

Carriers

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12 hours ago

Best Cases for the Honor 7X

4

Best Cases for the Honor 7X

The Honor 7X is a great phone, so why not protect it with a great case?

The Honor 7X is one of the latest phones in the Huawei subsidiary's lineup, and we've called it one of the best budget phones you can buy. It's fast, it's long-lasting, and its display and cameras both outperform most similarly priced options.

If you're the proud owner of a 7X, you probably want to keep it safe. That's why we've rounded up some of the best cases we could find.

Spigen Rugged Armor

Spigen is one of the most recognizable and reputable case brands around, so naturally it's the first choice on our list. The Rugged Armor provides full coverage protection for the Honor 7X without adding much bulk.

Its TPU material is flexible and easy to apply, and uses a webbed inner lining to absorb shock from drops. The cutouts give full access to all of the Honor 7X's ports, and the carbon fiber styling up top and bottom adds a nice aesthetic touch.

The Spigen Rugged Armor case is available on Amazon for just $11.99.

See at Amazon

KuGi Flexible Soft

If you prefer the look of leather to carbon fiber, KuGi's case may be more to your liking. This case offers similar protection to the Spigen Rugged Armor, wrapping around the Honor 7X to protect the sides and back from damage.

This case is made of TPU, with a ribbed texture along the sides to make it easier to grip. Though the leather on the back isn't real, it adds some nice texture of its own, and maintains a clean look that's mostly free of branding, with just a small logo in the upper right corner.

The KuGi Flexible Soft case is even cheaper than the Spigen case, at just $8.50 on Amazon.

See at Amazon

TopACE Silicone Cover

This clear silicone cover from TopACE is perfect for shoppers who still want to be able to see the premium design of the Honor 7X through a case. Like the others before it, this case is made of a flexible TPU, offering enough protection to save the phone from most drops.

The TopACE case offers large cutouts for its ports — unlike the clear case included in the box with the Honor 7X — as well as for the cameras, ports, and fingerprint sensor.

You can snag one a TopACE case for just $7.55 at Amazon.

See at Amazon

Nillkin Slim Thin

Though full coverage cases offer the most protection, some users simply want the lightest case possible to keep the back from getting scratched up. The Nillkin Slim Thin is a simple shell-style case that clips onto the sides of the Honor 7X while leaving the top and bottom of the phone exposed.

This case's polycarbonate material is harder and more durable than TPU, and comes with a grippy non-slip finish. The open bottom makes it easy to plug in cables of all sizes, and the buttons are exposed for easy access as well.

The Nillkin Slim Thin is just $9.99 on Amazon.

See at Amazon

Yiakeng Dual Layer

Slim cases are great, but sometimes you need a bit more protection — that's where Yiakeng comes in with its dual layer case. This case combines soft TPU with a hard polycarbonate outer shell, offering superior drop protection.

In addition, the textured backing adds some grip to the phone, and the case even features a pop-out kickstand for watching movies.

The Yiakeng dual layer case is available on Amazon for $7.98.

See at Amazon

Which one should you buy?

There are plenty of good cases to choose from, but no matter which you use, the important thing is that you're protecting your phone. Let us know what case you're using (or thinking about ordering) in the comments below!

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13 hours ago

Apex Construct review: A great experience held back by PlayStation VR

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Apex Construct review: A great experience held back by PlayStation VR

Interesting puzzles and beautiful world interspersed with moments of screaming frustration.

The PlayStation VR community has been spending a lot of time in Sprint Vector lately, and while it isn't a new virtual sport, Apex Construct will no doubt soon be hogging some of the spotlight.

Developed by Fast Travel Games, it has been created from the start with story-driven VR content in mind. You play as someone called into a dystopian future world by Fathr, an AI created before "The Shift." It seems that — no surprise — humans turned everything upside down with their experiments, and the world is now stalked by robotic spiders, dogs, and more.

A narrator fills you in on what's going on here, and you soon learn that the voice is that of Fathr. There's another AI on the loose here named Mothr, created by a competing tech company before the world was rearranged. They seem to be at odds, and you immediately feel like you're caught between the two, used as some sort of tool. Whoever came up with the plot might have had a rough childhood.

After a quick tutorial, you're let into your safehouse, where you can buy upgrades for your bow, shield, and arrows, as well as choose which section of the city to venture out into to either progress the storyline or repeat to find all the secrets. As soon as you get into a real mission, it's evident that the game is going to be a treat.

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13 hours ago

Best theming widgets for Android

2

Best theming widgets for Android

Finding widgets that work with one theme can be hard. Finding widgets that work with many is like a diamond in the rough, and here they are, ready to shine.

Android has hundreds of thousands of home screen widgets out there for you to try out, from advanced widget creators to those that come with your favorite apps. Some are beautiful, some are extravagant, and some are refined, but above all, they have to work. Widgets have to earn their keep on my home screen, or they'll be deleted and replaced with something I actually use.

Not all apps have customizable widgets, and no matter how good some of those widgets are — like Google Keep — if they don't play well with themes, then I can't count on them when I'm building my home screen.

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14 hours ago

Job listings suggest that Spotify is working on its own smart speaker

2

Job listings suggest that Spotify is working on its own smart speaker

"Spotify is on its way to creating its first physical products."

Ever since Amazon came out with the Echo in 2014, the market for smart speakers has exploded into something that Google, Apple, and countless other companies are trying to dip their toes into. According to a new job listing, one of the next smart speakers could come from none other than Spotify.

A new job listing was recently added to Spotify's website for an "Operations Manager – Hardware Product." Under the title for this position, it says "Spotify is on its way to creating its first physical products and setting up an operational organization for manufacturing, supply chain, sales & marketing."

Could a Spotify speaker stand against the Google Home and Apple HomePod?

The Operations Manager will be in charge of Spotify's distribution, supply, logistics, etc., and the streaming service notes that this person will also "contribute in the creation of innovative Spotify experiences via connected hardware." In addition to this, Spotify has other listings for a Senior Project Manager: Hardware Production and a Project Manager: Hardware Production & Engineering.

Although the job listing doesn't directly mention that Spotify is working on a smart speaker, this seems like the first logical step for the company if it wants to dive into the world of hardware. A Spotify-made speaker could be tremendously successful considering the service's 70 million+ subscribers, but it'll be interesting to see how the company approaches this market.

Will Spotify create its own smart assistant or use something like the Google Assistant? Will you be able to listen to any music service you want or just Spotify? There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered, but we'll be keeping an eye out to see what comes of this over the following months.

Assuming we do get a smart speaker from Spotify, what features would it need to have for you to consider buying it?

Stations by Spotify beats Pandora at its own game

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14 hours ago

Add a HDMI port to your new Chromebook with this $17 Anker adapter

1

Add a HDMI port to your new Chromebook with this $17 Anker adapter

Anker's USB-C to HDMI adapter is only $16.79 with code ANKER836. It's $24 without the code and has not had a direct price drop from that price in many, many months.

In The Wirecutter's roundup of the best USB-C adapters, they consider this one the best for anyone who wants to hook up a modern USB-C only laptop to an HDMI monitor or high-definition TV. Not only does this tiny adapter have a solid build quality and support 4K video and 60Hz refresh rates, it's also designed to work with the newer Chromebooks. Users give this adapter 3.8 stars based on 192 reviews.

See on Amazon

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14 hours ago

Google Pay launches to replace Android Pay and Google Wallet

37

Google Pay launches to replace Android Pay and Google Wallet

The rebrand to end them all.

At the beginning of the year, Google announced that it'd be merging its Android Pay and Google Wallet services under one new umbrella called "Google Pay." A little more than a month since that announcement, the Google Pay app is now rolling out to users via an update on the Play Store.

What does this change mean? Admittedly, not a whole lot. The Android Pay app on the Play Store is being changed to Google Pay, and while there's a new logo and tweaked UI, all of Android Pay's core functionality is still here. You can view all of your linked cards, pay for things in stores without having to first open the Google Pay app, and make payments online when you see a "Buy with G Pay" button.

Google says that users in the United States and the United Kingdom will be able to use the main Google Pay app to send and receive money from friends and family members in "the next few months", but until then, the Google Wallet app is being changed to Google Pay Send with an updated UI and branding, too.

The Google Pay branding is showing up in the Play Store on my end, but I've still got the old Android Pay interface on my Pixel 2. It'll likely take a couple days for the changes to be rolled out to everyone, so don't fret if you aren't seeing the new look right away.

If you do already have the new Google Pay app, what do you think about it so far?

Download: Google Pay (free)

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14 hours ago

Mega Man Mobile series for Android review: Malfunctioning robots

1

Mega Man Mobile series for Android review: Malfunctioning robots

What should be a celebration of an iconic video game series is dragged down by development issues.

Nostalgia plays a huge role in gaming these days. As cool as games with jaw-dropping graphics are, more and more you're seeing retro-styled titles or ports of 8-bit video game classics making their way to the Google Play Store.

Play Mega Man Mobile 1-6 for Free
GAMESTASH

Sega set the standard for how companies ought to go about re-releasing legacy titles to nostalgia-hungry smartphone gamer with its Sega Forever series. Another classic company, Capcom, also tried to cash in on this 8-bit retro phase in grand fashion last year, releasing the first six Mega Man games as mobile releases onto the Google Play Store:

Mega Man, AKA Rockman in Japan, AKA The Blue Bomber, is a plucky young lad in a blue armor suit who must defeat Dr. Wily and his army of robots to save the earth and achieve everlasting peace. Originally released for the Famicom in Japan and NES in the U.S., there's a lot of video game history in those first six titles, establishing Mega Man as one of the more recognizable video game characters and winning over legions of fans over the past 30 years.

Unfortunately, the Mega Man Mobile games aren't quite what they should be, and hardcore Mega Man fans will undoubtedly be disappointed by them. There are a few overarching issues I need to address with these games to start:

Not direct ports

The first and most glaringly obvious point is that these are not direct ports of the original NES games — instead, these are "mobile" versions of Mega Man that have been optimized for newer Android devices.

What changes have been made? In each game description, Capcom makes it clear that both the gameplay and difficulty have been "optimized for smartphones" and that there are certain elements that differ from the original games. What they mean by that is they had to drastically lower the difficulty level to accommodate for the touchscreen controls.

They also included the erroneously named "Normal Mode" which gives you unlimited lives and continues, along with "Hard Mode", which limits your number of continues and ups the enemy's attack. Truth be told, Hard Mode should be called Normal because it more closely matches the challenge of playing the original — and Normal Mode should be called Easy Mode because it removes all the consequences of dying. Any time Mega Man dies, he simply respawns at the last checkpoint. I found the forgiving nature of "Normal Mode" to be the only way to make progress in any of these games. These old NES games are notorious for being tough as nails, but prepare to die 1,000 cheap deaths playing them. Sometimes it will be your fault, but more often than not it will be the game controls or mechanics slipping you up.

I found the forgiving nature of "Normal Mode" to be the only way to make progress in any of these games.

When these games were first released for Android in January of 2017, other sites ripped Capcom to shreds for not simply emulating these 30-year-old games on Android to be enjoyed in their former glory, and for the shoddy touch controls and abysmal frame rate. Capcom addressed the framerate issue with a February 2017 update that added the option of selecting the game speed, and of the three options included, Turbo Mode is the one you'll want to go with if you can't handle sluggish framerate. I found it to be the only way to enjoy these games — the lowest game speed option shouldn't even be there because it makes the game essentially unplayable.

No support game controllers

The other indefensible exclusion from these games is the lack of Bluetooth controller support. Not all touchscreen controls are awful, but touchscreen controls in an action platformer game that requires run-and-gun gameplay and pinpoint jumps are just asking for problems.

I mean, it's one thing if you're developing a brand new game and you don't want to go through the extra hassle of including controller support. That's fine. But if you're a big company like Capcom and you're re-releasing some of your console classics onto mobile, you damn well better include controller support.

Games like Mega Man Mobile are the perfect candidate for Bluetooth controller support.


The hardcore fans that are going to be your core market for game releases like these and those gamers may well retain the muscle memory from mashing physical buttons for hours on end playing these games as a kid. But you lose all of that with touchscreen controls. There's no tactile feedback when you go to jump or shoot, the virtual d-pad removes your ability to correct yourself on tricky jumps in platforming sections, and jumping and firing — a very important skill in Mega Man games to master — become a random guessing game of whether you timed your jump and shoot presses properly.

Putting the frame rate issues and lower difficulty aside, the lack of control options is my biggest gripe with these games. The fact that it's been over a full year since release and nothing has been done in spite of so many user reviews asking for them seems to point to indifference on Capcom's part. It's annoying and it certainly deserves to addressed.

Which are worth playing?

Beyond these broad issues that needed to be addressed up front, the question then becomes which individual games are worth playing. Based on your own history playing the Mega Man series, you might have a particular connection with a specific title but if you're coming in fresh and just want the best Mega Man experience on your phone here are my thoughts:

  • You can probably skip right over Mega Man 1: It sort of pains me to say it considering these are the OG Mega Man titles, but the first Mega Man plays the worst on Android. It lacks the added abilities and controls of later releases and shows its age more so than its sequels.
  • Mega Man 2 has the best bosses: This one's subjective, but for a series that has stuck with the generic "Blank" Man naming convention, Mega Man 2 offers the best variety in my opinion — even with the likes of "Air Man" and "Wood Man" on the roster.
  • Stick to the 4, 5, and 6 for the most fun: Things start to really improve with Mega Man Mobile 3 which introduces Mega Man's robot dog, Rush, and also adds power slides to the gameplay. But it's the fourth title that adds the Mega Blaster which allows you to charge up blasts to deliver extra damage and really fleshes out Mega Man's abilities. If you've never played Mega Man before, you're best off starting with Mega Man Mobile 4 and working up from there (or tracking down an old NES console and doing it up right).

Final Thoughts

There's no denying that Capcom sort of dropped the ball here, which is all the more disappointing when you consider that Mega Man is one of their most iconic franchise. Charging $2 a pop for each of these games that have had frame rate and control issues since day one feels like a scummy cash grab.

All six games are available in the GameStash library for free, and that's probably the best way to play through each of these games and find the ones you enjoy the most. The games themselves are definitely worth playing and they're well suited for younger audiences. It's just a shame that Capcom didn't spend the extra effort to get it right.

GameStash

GameStash is an all-you-can-play subscription service for Android games featuring unlimited access to over 300 chart-topping titles in all categories, fully unlocked - no ads and no in-app purchases - for one low monthly price. It has a 14 day free trial with several games added every month.

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