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2 weeks ago

Best Cases for Galaxy Note 8

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Kep your Note 8 protected from day one on with a quality case.

The Galaxy Note 8 is shaping up to be a contender for phone of the year. Now that the phone is shipping, it's the perfect time to pick up one of the best cases to keep your new phone protected.

We've broken things down by the manufacturer and offered direct links to some of our favorite styles. But ultimately the choice is yours, and there's a ton of cases to choose from. Here's some of our favorites!

Samsung LED Wallet Cover case

Samsung is always good for creating cases that feature some awesomely unique features for its phones, and few are as cool as the LED Wallet Cover.

This brilliantly-designed case blends screen protection with functionality, allowing you to see the current time and view notifications via LEDs without exposing the screen — all you do is press the power button and presto! This case also features an interior pocket for storing your cash or cards, which can help you cut down on your pocket carry.

You can get yours for $60, or check out Samsung's website to learn about the other cases they offer, too.

See at Samsung

OtterBox cases

OtterBox Commuter Series for Samsung Galaxy Note 8

The Note 8 might be the most expensive flagship phones released in 2017, so you're going to want to keep it protected. When it comes to the best cases, many people instantly think of OtterBox. It has built a solid reputation of making great cases backed by outstanding customer service.

We'll recommend the Commuter Series case since it's a great combination of the rugged protection that OtterBox is known for and a slimmer design so it's easier to slip into a pocket or purse. The Note 8 is already a massive phone

However, you really get what you pay for from OtterBox, which includes the aforementioned customer service that's there to help if any issues pop up.

See at OtterBox

Speck Presido Grip

Speck cases for the Galaxy Note 8

Speck cases offer cases that stylish-yet-functional design options for those who want to add a bit of glitz and glamor to their phone.

Consider the Speck Presido Grip, a case that's designed to prevent phone drops by giving you a case with a stylish and grippy exterior. On the inside, Speck says this case is made with Impactium polycarbonate material, which was specifically designed to absorb impacts from drops. But the main reason you'll love this case is for those stylish angled ridges on the back. Combined with the matte finish of this case, your fingers are sure to love the feel of this case. It can be yours for $44.

See at Amazon

Ringke cases

Ringke Coastal Blue Wave case for Galaxy Note 8

Ringke is known for making more flashy cases with interesting designs and patterns to help make your phone stand out from the rest of the pack.

Just check out the Wave case in Coastal Blue, pictured on the right. It's a stylish two-piece case that combines a soft TPU layer with a hard PC shell that's designed brilliantly. The exposed TPU on the back features waves that will feel great in your hands. You can get this case in a number of color combinations, but the best value is the Coastal Blue version which you can get for just $8.99 on Amazon. The other versions are $12, so you can save a few bucks and get arguably the best-looking version of this case from Ringke.

See at Amazon

Spigen Rugged Armor case

Spigen Rugged Armor case for Samsung Galaxy Note 8

For those who don't want to sacrifice pocket space for protection, Spigen's Rugged Armor case is a great option.

This sleek, one-piece case is rugged and sleek with carbon fiber accents that looks really nice on taller devices like the Note 8. It's made of rugged TPU material so it's easy to install and features a matte finish for a great look and feel. It's a really slim case, too, so you won't be adding a ton of bulk in exchange for a case that will provide rugged protection. Best of all is the price — you can get this reliable case for just $12 on Amazon.

See at Amazon

Incipio Carnaby Esquire Series case

Incipio has a number of cases available for the Note 8, but we're inclined to recommend the exceptionally stylish Incipio Carnaby Esquire Series case.

The Carnaby Esquire Series case is just $35 and stands out from all other cases on this list with its unique cotton-based outer layer. It features a TPU frame that helps disperse the shock from drops and the button covers and port cutouts are precise. It's an elegant solution to keeping your Note 8 protected and available in three subtle shades of grey on Amazon.

See at Amazon

RhinoShield CrashGuard Bumper case

Alright, I know what a lot of you are thinking: I need a case that's going to provide maximum protection for my Note 8; a bumper case just won't cut it!

But as I learned from reviewing the RhinoShield CrashGuard for the Galaxy S8, this isn't your average bumper. RhinoShield has developed a bumper case that offers truly rugged protection where your phone needs it most — in the corners, around the edges, and lips that come up around the front and back panels of glass.

It might be one of those instances where you need to actually try it before you're fully convinced, but if you love being able to show off your brilliant new phone but also want to keep it protected from drop damage, you really can't beat the RhinoShield CrashGuard. You can get yours for just $25.

See at Rhinoshield

UAG Monarch

Urban Armor Gear is one of those ubiquitous brands for smartphone cases that delivers rugged protection while remaining relatively slim and lightweight. The UAG Monarch for the Note 8 is a great option, featuring a really grippy back panel that feels great in you hand.

There are some really smart design decisions here, including a soft rubber screen lip around the display and skid pads on the back, so your phone won't be prone to slip and slide off any surfaces. These are also slim enough to not impede Samsung or Android Pay functionality and also allow you to wirelessly charge your phone without removing the case.

These cases start at $30 and are available in a selection of colors and styles, although if you want it in classic black, it'll set you back $55.

See at Amazon

Which cases are you going to buy?

There's going to be a ton of accessories released for the Galaxy Note 8, but we want to know which are your favorites. Let us know in the comments!

Updated November 2017: Added the UAG Monarch to our list!

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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2 weeks ago

Google Home: What you need to know about Assistant, Skills, Music and more!

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Get to know your Google Home!

Google Home works as a hub for making your life easier. From listening to music to getting the news, to using Google Home to stream videos through Chromecast, there is plenty that it can do. With so much going on it can be intimidating at first, so we've put together this handy guide to help you get acquainted.

Keep reading for all the details!

What is it?

Announced at Google's hardware event in October 2016, Google Home is a smart speaker that hooks into Google Assistant. You're able to ask Home to do pretty much anything, from answering questions about sports and news, to finding a song from Play Music or Spotify.

The speaker sounds good -- better than the Amazon Echo -- and thanks to a growing ecosystem of skills, it's getting smarter all the time!

Google Home review

How to adjust the default apps on Google Home

Google Home makes it easy to keep track of your busy life and enjoy some music when you're relaxing at home. When you're ready for some music or you want to check up on the news, though, you'll want to be sure that the default apps are the ones that you want to use.

How to change the default apps on Google Home

Do I need more than one Google Home?

Google Home makes it easy to control your connected home. So what do you do when multiple people in the house all want to use your Google Home at the same time? Well, you pick up a second — or third! Even better, the Google Home Mini can be used to expand your Google Home network for much less money! Having multiple Google Homes only increases your benefits, and we have the details for you here!

Do I need more than one Google Home?

How to take advantage of Google Home offers

Google Home brings you a hub that lets you control your connected home, listen to music, and plenty more. Hidden inside of the menu in the Google Home app, you'll also find a tab called "Offers" filled with special deals that can let you enjoy everything this accessory has to offer at a discount. These include Play Movie rentals for just $0.99 or discounts on a SmartThings lighting kit and more.

How to take advantage of Google Home offers

What countries support Google Home?

Google Home has been helping out Americans with scheduling, playing music, and bringing their connected home together since November of 2016. While this accessory started out in the States, it's been slowly rolling out across the world. The United Kingdom and Canada are the two newest additions, but there are definitely more to come.

What countries support Google Home?

What you need to use Google Home

Google Home aims to make your life easier, but you will need a few things in order to use it. Don't worry though, chances are you already have access to the three integral parts of using Google Home.

What you need to use Google Home

How to buy things with Google Home

It seems as though every year our lives get even busier than they were the year before. Between your commute, working, hitting doctor's appointments, making it to the gym, and ensuring everything gets done on time, it can be hard to figure out the best time to run out to the store. That's where Google Home wants to make things a bit easier for you.

You can set up voice purchasing and even reorder items that you've ordered previously. It only takes a few minutes to set up voice purchasing, and we have the details on how to do it right here!

How to buy things with Google Home

How to set up Google Home with multiple users

Google Home works by recognizing your voice, letting you listen to music, add items to your shopping list and even check the day's news. With multi-user support, that goes a step further allowing up to six different accounts to link to a single Google Home. This means that every account can receive personalized responses from Google Home to help them on their day.

How to set up Google Home with multiple users

How to manage users on Google Home

Google Home makes it easy to control your connected home and linked accounts all with the power of your voice. While multiple accounts can use Google Home at the same time, the time may come when a roommate moves out and you need to remove their access. Have no fear.

We've got the details on how to add or remove a linked account from Google Home, and it only takes a few short minutes!

How to manage users on Google Home

How to listen to music with Google Home

Google Home has a great set of speakers, making it fully capable of filling the room with music. The speakers on the Google Home Mini aren't quite as good, but still sufficient. All you need to do is link up a music account, and you'll be good to go. With options like Pandora, Spotify, YouTube Music and Google Play Music, you'll always be able to listen to the music you're craving, and all you have to do is ask Google Home to play what you want to hear.

How to listen to music with Google Home

How to get Google Home to lull you to sleep

Finding it hard to fall asleep with the blaring summer heat? Google Home is good for more than turning off the lights or playing back your favorite podcast. You can use it as a noise machine of sorts for when the current environment just isn't your vibe. If you're in the U.S., you can use these quick tricks to get the Assistant-enabled speaker to drown out the noise of the trains, planes, and automobiles outside your window and instead transport you to a serene nature scene — or whatever else you need to be to fall asleep.

How to get Google Home to lull you to sleep

These products and services work with Google Home

Google first introduced Google Home to the world back in May at Google I/O 2016, later revealing the final product alongside the Pixel in October. From everything we've seen, Google Home seems primed to eventually link up with any smart device in your home and allow you to control everything with just the sound of your voice.

Google Home works with many smart home devices, including Nest, Phillips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Honeywell, Logitech Harmony and more. Of course, Google Home also works with Google's Cast ecosystem. Continue to check back to this article in the coming months, as we'll surely be updating this list as more products and services are added. We've broken things down into two categories — home automation products and supported services.

These products and services work with Google Home

6 Awesome Google Home commands you may not know about

Google Home has tons of great features that allow you to keep better track of things. If you aren't sure what it's really capable of, or how to use it, then it can be hard to get started. That's why we collected the six great commands you may not know about. These include listening to music, checking your schedule, controlling your home, and more.

6 Awesome Google Home commands you may not know about

Top 8 things to know about Google Home in Canada

Google Home is now available in Canada, and it's the first voice assistant-powered speaker to make the trip north (despite years of secret Amazon Echo smuggling). Available for $179, the diminutive speaker is terrifically cute and extremely useful, but there are a few differences between it and the U.S. or international versions that you'll want to know about. Additionally, Google Home Mini is also available in Canada for $80.

Top 8 things to know about Google Home in Canada

Top ten tips and tricks for Google Home

Using Google Home is fun. That's not unique to just Google Home — telling any computer, no matter what size or shape, to do stuff by talking is fun. And the more you talk to your Google Home the more things you'll find out about what it does and what it doesn't do.

Top 10 tips and tricks for Google Home

There's a mini version!

A year after announcing the standard size, Google unveiled the Google Home Mini. Everything you love about the Google Home is now available in a smaller, less expensive size. The only real downgrade is in speaker quality, since the Mini doesn't have as much room to push sound. But all voice commands work the same and all smart home accessories are also compatible with the Mini.

More: Google Home vs. Google Home Mini: Which should you buy?

Updated November 2017: Added references to the Google Home Mini and additional products and services that work with the Google Home ecosystem.

Google Home

Google Store Best Buy Target

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2 weeks ago

Can Mophie make an argument for the $150 battery pack?

9

The Mophie Powerstation USB-C XXL is a big, reliable battery that gets the job done.

Search "battery pack" on Amazon and there's no shortage of high-quality options at reasonable prices. Once-unknown brands like Aukey, Anker, and RAVPower seem to have maneuvered their way to the tops of the search results, and hundreds of thousands of happy customers regale the user reviews sections with tales of successful deals on top-notch componentry.

When a battery pack that can charge a phone, a tablet, and a laptop at the same time costs a hair under $40, can Mophie convince people that it's worth spending nearly four times that amount on a portable charger that has less capacity and fewer ports? That's what we're aiming to answer here.

See at Mophie

This is definitely the nicest-looking battery pack I've used, but that doesn't mean much in the long run.

The Mophie Powerstation USB-C XXL is a two-port charger with a USB-C port and a USB-A port splitting the responsibilities. Its 19500mAh capacity is, while capacious — especially for its relatively small size — not the biggest we've seen, but the Mophie is programmed to release that capacity as quickly as possible right now.

That's because, in addition to the USB-A port that supports standard 2.4 amp output, the USB-C port uses the Power Delivery standard, allowing for up to 30W of output with a compatible device and proper cable. As we learned from the Pixel 2, most phones don't support such wattage — it technically supports a 27W charger, but will only accept 18 watts, likely due to heat concerns. Still, the Mophie can charge a phone and tablet at the same time, or a phone and USB C-capable laptop (say, a Pixelbook), which is pretty great.

For most products on the market today, the USB-C port will output 3A, which is roughly equivalent to Quick Charge 3.0 speeds.

The battery itself is hefty and solid, wrapped in a fabric outer layer that, after a few weeks tossed into the bottom of my bag, has worn incredibly well. The single button uses four white LED buttons to indicate battery levels, and unlike many other chargers, the Powerstation is intelligent enough not to need an "on" button to start charging something that's plugged in.

So why spend $150 on a battery when larger capacities are available at a third of the cost? Well, USB-PD is a burgeoning standard not supported by most battery chargers yet, and its licensing fees are reportedly higher than Quick Charge and other fast charging standards. Mophie is also well known for its high-quality components, and the Powerstation's two-year warranty should be reassuring for those willing to take the plunge.

I can say that the Powerstation USB-C XXL is not three times better than the average battery pack from RAVPower, Anker, Aukey, and others, but in my time with it, it's been incredibly reliable, useful, and hardy.

See at Mophie

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2 weeks ago

7 Unique Amazon Echo Dot Cases and Stands to Amp up Your Home Decor

1

Personalize your Echo Dot with these unique cases and stands!

For all its great features and portability, the Amazon Echo Dot is rather uninspired when it comes to looks. The $50 smart speaker comes in two colors: black and white. It's a short, relatively small puck with four buttons, a tiny speaker system, microphones, and an LED light ring. Depending on your decor (and where you choose to place it), the Echo Dot may blend in… or it may stick out like a sore thumb (I'm still not entirely certain sore thumbs stick out, but please pardon the digression). Whether you want to turn your Echo Dot into more of a statement piece or have it blend in seamlessly with your particular style, you're going to need a case or stand to provide the proper camouflage. Without further ado, here are 7 unique Echo Dot cases and stands that'll help you achieve your interior design goals!

Amazon Echo Dot Cases

Amazon Echo Dot Cases

Amazon's Echo Dot cases don't necessarily fit the "unique" criteria because there's a chance many, many other people have picked up a few of these. That said, the $10 to $20 sleeve comes in six varieties — odds are you're going to find something that matches your style.

Designed and sold by Amazon, the case is a perfect fit for your Dot. You simply slide your Dot down into the sleeve, plug it in, and you're ready to go. The sleeve comes in three fabric styles ($10 apiece) — sandstone (a grayish white), charcoal (a dark gray), and indigo (a denim blue) — and three leather styles ($20 apiece) — merlot (a deep red), midnight (a deep black), and saddle tan (a medium brown).

With so many options to choose from, you could have a perfectly matching Echo Dot for every room of your house!

See at Amazon

Bamboo Echo Dot Case

Bamboo Echo Dot Case

This bamboo Echo Dot case is not only a nice, natural look for your home, but it also serves as a light feature of sorts. Thanks to the fact that the Echo Dot sits down inside of the case, the Dot's light ring beautifully lights up the edges of the bamboo.

You can get this bamboo Echo Dot case for the same price as Amazon's fabric cases: $10. It's lightweight, it's simple, and it's shaped perfectly to hold your Echo in place — it's even got a hole in the back for plugging everything in.

If you want a splash of light brown, textured bamboo to accompany your Echo Dot, this case is the perfect choice!

See at Amazon

Bamboo Echo Dot Stand

Bamboo Echo Dot Stand

You can step things up a notch from a simple bamboo case to this cleverly crafted, bamboo Echo Dot stand!

The unique design lets you nestle your Dot in the top of the stand, leaving loads of space inside for the Dot's small speaker system to resonate and grow louder. You can even position the hole on the front of the stand to direct the sound depending on where you are in your home. It's designed to precisely hold your Dot in the top portion of the stand — you can route your cables through a hole in the back.

If you're looking to pump up the power of your Echo Dot's small speaker system while adding the natural, beautiful look of bamboo to your home, this $16 stand is for you!

See at Amazon

Dot Genie Flush Mount

Dot Genie Flush Mount

I must confess: I am absolutely in love with this contraption. The $20 Dot Genie Flush Mount won't add to your home decor, instead it serves to hide your Amazon Echo away while still giving you easy access to Alexa's voice commands.

So how does it work? Well, it's a rounded puck that's meant to sit flush against a wall or ceiling. You cut out a hole in your drywall, stick the mount into the hole, feed in the Amazon Echo Dot, and wire everything up (it comes with wiring, too). After it's installed, you can use your Dot the same way you normally would. This is a great way to get your Dot up off the counter or table and into a place that's free from furniture and other objects that might obstruct your voice. Plus, if you're a little self conscious about having a bunch of fu7ur3 73ch in your home, this'll hide it away!

If your idea of a smart speaker and in-home assistant is a disembodied voice that seems to communicate from the heavens (mine sure is), then you've got to pick up this flush mount. Oh, I should also mention it won't muffle your Dot's built in speakers — the mount features a unique design that channels the audio out into the room.

See at Amazon

Fintie Echo Dot Sleeves

Fintie Echo Dot Sleeves

If you struggled with the numerous case options from Amazon, you're going to be stuck clicking between these sleeves from Fintie for the next couple hours. For about $12, Fintie offers a protective case that's made with a synthetic leather exterior and microfiber interior.

To put on the sleeve, you slide your Echo Dot into the pocket of the sleeve and fasten it with a small metal snap on the side. The case has cutouts for the ports on the back of your Echo, cutouts for the four buttons atop the device, and space for your speakers and mics to output sound and listen for your commands. The best part (or worst part if you have trouble making decisions) is the wide variety of colors and patterns available. From simple colors like black and blue to complex patterns like illustrated trees and stained glass, you're likely to find something that works for your home decor.

Whether you'd like to really make your Echo Dot stand out or just need something to add a bit of you to your Dot, Fintie's sleeves are a great choice!

See at Amazon

NewRice Echo Dot Statues

NewRice Echo Dot Statues

Talk. About. Adorable! These Echo Dot statues from NewRice would look right at home in just about any home. Instead of buying a glass vase and filling it with those little wicker and twine balls or fake cherries, buy one of these statues! You'll be getting an interesting bit of home decor and a place to tuck away your Dot.

NewRice is offering both an owl and an elephant statue that retail for about $20 and $24, respectively. Much like the bamboo stand we mentioned before, these statues let you nestle your Dot into the top of the vessel. There's a hole on the back for routing your cables. It even features a non-slip coating on the bottom of the statue to keep you from knocking over your new decoration.

If you'd like to add a little statement piece to your home and hide away your Echo Dot, you've got to take a look at these NewRice statues. If you look closely, you can see the owl staring longingly at you, asking you to let it come hang out.

See at Amazon

This Dottie Echo Dot Mount

This Dottie Echo Dot Mount

Like the flush mount, the "This Dottie" mount is for those who feel the Dot is incompatible with their home decor. For about $20, you can get this mount in either white or black — whichever works better for your home and the color of your Dot.

The all-in-one design of the "This Dottie" mount makes it simple to keep your Echo Dot — and its cord — up and out of the way of your counters and tables. You connect your Dot, slide it into the mount, and plug it in! The mount works in two configurations: up and down, meaning you'll be able to choose the best option based on where your wall outlets are positioned.

If you want to get your Echo Dot out of the way and more out of sight, the "This Dottie" will help with that. I love the all-in-one design that eliminates the need for an unsightly wire hanging down and snaking across your countertops.

See at Amazon

Thoughts? Ideas?

What do you think, are any of our choices calling out to you? Do you have a different case or stand that you absolutely adore? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments and over on Twitter!

Amazon Echo

See at Amazon

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3 weeks ago

Best Wireless Charging Pads for Galaxy S8

59

Your new Samsung Galaxy S8 supports wireless charging, so take full advantage of the convenience!

The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a beautifully designed phone packed with convenient features. That includes wireless charging, which allows you to forgo dealing with cables and elegantly have your phone charging on your desk at work or nightstand at home and simply grab it when it's time to get up and go.

There are a variety of wireless charging stands and pad options compatible with the Galaxy S8, from chargers designed by Samsung to third-party products. Here are your best available options for the Samsung Galaxy S8.

Samsung Fast Charge Convertible Wireless Charging Pad

Samsung has come out with a completely redesigned wireless charging pad/stand, which launched alongside the Galaxy S8. Besides the premium leather-like appearance and ingenious design which allows you to easily convert this pad into an angled charging stand, you can be sure that this charging pad was created with your Galaxy S8 in mind.

The charger comes with a spare Samsung Fast Charge wall charger — because let's be honest, you can never have too many Samsung wall chargers — and allows you to fast charge your Galaxy S8 wirelessly at your home or office. At over $60, this is the most expensive option on the list, but if premium quality and functionality are your top priorities, this is the one you want.

See at Amazon

Samsung Wireless Charging Pad w/ 2A wall adapter

If functionality and cost are your two biggest buying factors, you'll want to consider Samsung's older wireless charging pad, which has been deeply discounted on Amazon.

These UFO-like charging pads can charge Qi-compatible devices and are Fast Charge-compatible with your Galaxy S8. It also comes with a Samsung 2A wall charger — always great — and also has a standard one-year warranty. This is a great option if you're looking to set up wireless charging at your home and at work because they're so damn cheap right now. You can also get the older style as a charging stand if you prefer that look instead.

See at Amazon

Spigen Qi Wireless Charging Stand

Spigen is one of the best accessory makers, and its Qi Charging Stand is a fine example to back that claim. This charging stand is angled so you are still able to see your display easily while your phone is charging. If you need a way to quickly top off your phone on your desk or a new place to keep it safe on your nightstand, this may be the choice for you. Pick yours up for $30 at Amazon.

See at Amazon

TYLT Qi Wireless Charging Stand

TYLT has been in the wireless charging game for years, proving itself to be one on of the most trusted third-party manufacturers. This is another angled wireless charging stand that lets you keep your phone accessible while it charges at your desk. What separates TYLT from Spigen's stand is the color options — you can get this charging stand in black, red, blue and yellow.

See at Amazon

iOttie iON Wireless Qi Charging Pad

This wireless charger from iOttie might seem like the bulkier option based on pictures, but it's actually very intelligently designed. It's Qi-compatible with a triple-coil charging zone that's capable of 5V/1A output with a non-slip ring to hold your phone in place on top while it charges. And that hollow opening in the middle isn't just for the stylish look — it's also a docking bay for the iOttie PowerPack 3400mAh External Portable Charger which is super convenient and cool.

You can even get a bundle pack that includes the iOttie PowerPack 3400mAh External Battery for just $50, so you can have a fully charged battery pack to take along with you if you think you'll need it. Otherwise, you can get the wireless charging pad for just $29.95.

See at Amazon

PASONOMI Fast Wireless Charger

This wireless charging stand from PASONOMI is a great option for the Galaxy S8 or any Samsung Galaxy phone with wireless charging as it supports fast charging. That means you'll be able to fully charge your phone in under 2 hours!

It's an intelligently designed charger with two charging coils positioned so that you're even able to charge your phone while watching videos in landscape mode. There's also a nice LED strip that will indicate the charging status, and the whole thing has a sleek and futuristic vibe to it.

The stand is available in your choice of black or silver and is only $20!

See at Amazon

Do you charge wirelessly?

Have you owned any of the wireless chargers we've featured here? What has been your experience? Let us know in the comments below!

Update October 2017: All pricing information up to date and added the PASONOMI stand!

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked

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3 weeks ago

Here's how to (soon) charge the Pixel 2 while using wired headphones

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A 2-in-1 adapter will let you listen while you charge.

The Pixel 2 delivers a great user experience, but the lack of a headphone jack has also incited panic in plenty of aux cord-using drivers and those of us who've grown attached to a specific pair of headphones. While the Pixel 2 comes with a 3.5mm adapter, this still causes issues for those who like to charge their phone and listen to music at the same time.

Thankfully, you can snag a 2-in-1 adapter that will let you charge up and plug in your headphones at the same time. We took a look at a few different adapters to get you the details you need!

A dearth of solid options

If you go hunting on Amazon or the like for a 2-in-1 adapter, then you're probably not going to have a good time. That's because unlike many other accessories you can easily find, snagging a 2-in-1 adapter is not an easy task. There aren't many options, and of them, only a handful are available through Amazon Prime.

The other issue is that of the few adapters available, many have fewer than 20 reviews, and of those reviews, there are a number of complaints about shoddy craftsmanship or adapters that just out and out don't work. We tried ordering two different adapters, one of which had a constant static-y noise, and the other refused to charge.

So trusting what you find on Amazon is a bit of a mixed bag, and you're as lucky to have good luck as you are to have bad. For the time being, the Google Store doesn't do much better. They have a Moshi USB-C adapter listed on the website, but it's not yet available for purchase. It is coming soon, though, so keeping an eye out for when it becomes available isn't a bad call.

Coming Soon: Moshi USB Type-C adapter

The Moshi USB Type-C adapter is the only 2-in-1 adapter that is available on the Google Store. It's also a bit pricey for an adapter, running at $44.95. That being said, it's got a solid titanium body, which means it'll take bumps if you use it while driving, without breaking or falling apart.

While it isn't available yet, you can check out the specs on the Google Store and see if it's something you'll want to grab once it becomes available.

See at Google

Questions?

While it's unfortunate that there's only not a solid option for being able to charge and listen to music through wired headphones, hopefully the Moshi adapter will be available for purchase soon. Is there an adapter that you've come to love? Will you be picking up a Moshi adapter when you can? Let us know about it in the comments below.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Google Store Project Fi Verizon Best Buy

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3 weeks ago

Diagnose your Car Troubles with These OBD II Scanners

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Best OBD2 car readers for Android

What's the best OBD II reader for Android? Here's a few to get you started!

Car repair can be costly (duh!) and that Check Engine light could mean myriad issues with your car. Or, it could be a simple fix that you could do yourself — so why take it to your dealer or mechanic without knowing the problem first? Some places will charge you $100 or more just for the scan.

Don't get swindled again. Get yourself your very own Bluetooth OBD II reader/scanner and figure out what's wrong with your car, right on your phone or tablet!

BAFX Products 34t5

BAFX Product 34t5

The BAFX Products 34t5 claims to work on all vehicles in the U.S. from 1996 or later, so chances are that if you're driving, this will work with your vehicle. All you need is a third-party app (which range from free to rather expensive paid apps), and you can connect the 34t5 to your Android phone or tablet to read out diagnostic information.

While reading out diagnostic codes, you can even clear them out at will, thus turning off your check engine light – even for manufacturer-specific codes!

Depending on the third-party app your choose, you can get real-time sensor information right on your phone, life speed, balance rates, RPM, O2 readings, and lots more.

If you feel the need for speed, this reader will even send you ⅛, ¼, ½, and 1 mile times.

Don't spend $100 just for someone to scan your car; spend about $22, read it yourself, and maybe you'll even be able to fix it on your own!

See at Amazon

Panlong Car Diagnostic scanner

Panlong

Panlong's small OBD II scanner is perfect for the do-it-yourselfer on a budget – you can find it on Amazon for around $13.

This reader will work on any car sold in the U.S. from 1996 or later – it just might not work with some hybrids. All you need is a third-party app, like Torque or DashCommand and you'll be able to read and clear trouble codes, while receiving real-time data readings – and you'll be able to turn off that damn Check Engine light!

If inexpensively is the way you like to maintain your vehicle (who doesn't?), then opt for the Panlong scanner.

See at Amazon

ScanTool OBDLink LX

OBDLink LX

The ScanTool OBDLink LX is a professional-grade OBD II reader that features its own app, which allows you to scan, read, and clear trouble codes in all cars sold in the U.S. since 1996 (except hybrid or electric vehicles).

All you have to do is plug it in, pair it with your phone, open the app, and you'll see real-time diagnostic data, as well as information about performance.

You can even use your Windows PC to access and compile your information without ever having to see a mechanic. Fix the stuff you can fix yourself and only take it in when absolutely necessary.

Being a professional tool, the OBDLink LX claims to service a wider range of vehicles, given more complex algorithms, and the Amazon reviews seem to agree.

It may be about $50, but if you love your car and worry that the cheaper readers might not actually do the trick, then check out the OBDLink LX. $50 is better than the $100 the dealers will charge you!

See at Amazon

iSaddle Super Mini

iSaddle

The iSaddle Super Mini supports all OBD II protocols and works on just about every car sold in the U.S. since 1996 (except hybrid and electric), allowing you to diagnose what ails your vehicle to help determine whether or not it really needs a trip to the shop.

For Android users, iSaddle works exclusively with the Torque app feeding you diagnostics and performance data via Bluetooth.

If you're unsure about the DYI approach to car repair, the iSaddle's only about $12, so you really have nothing to lose if you want to try it out yourself. If you can fix the problem yourself, go for it, but you still have the option of taking it to your dealer or mechanic if you're out of your element.

See at Amazon

What do you use?

Do you read your car or truck's trouble codes with another scanner that we didn't mention? Do you read your own codes or just take your car to the shop whenever the Check Engine light comes on?

Let us know in the comments below!

Updated October 2017: These are still the best options for OBD2 card readers that work via Bluetooth.

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3 weeks ago

Gear Sport / IconX review by MrMobile

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Smartwatches are in a strange place right now. Android Wear is on more wrists than ever, but the software isn't the best; the Apple Watch is basically useless if you don't carry an iPhone; and old stalwarts like Pebble have been swallowed up by bigger fish to produce … well, whatever the Fitbit Ionic is. So when Samsung launched its newest smartwatch in September, I was excited for another contender from the company that brought us the excellent Gear S3 – and it turns out you don't even need to be a fitness fanatic to appreciate it.

The Gear Sport is a smaller, sleeker, and (yes) sportier revision of Samsung's previous-generation smartwatches, with heightened durability and a boatload of new fitness features that help counter its slimmer spec sheet. My favorite feature so far: pairing Samsung's new IconX earbuds directly to the watch so I can stream music from the Spotify app with nary a network connection in sight. Join me for a look at both products in my Gear Sport / IconX review, and then check out Android Central's take on Samsung's latest wearables. Spoiler alert: at least half of this gadget cocktail is worth checking out.

Stay social, my friends

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3 weeks ago

Samsung Gear IconX 2018 headphones review: Now they're worth the price

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Samsung Gear IconX 2018 headphones

Samsung's second attempt at wireless earbuds gets far closer to the mark, and finally justifies its $199 price.

The quick take

The IconX 2018 headphones don't change in core features or sound quality from the originals, but dramatically improve on battery life and software consistency. So now you get wireless earbuds that sound pretty good and last a long time, without annoying connectivity issues or the requirement that you plug them into a computer for software updates or media transfers. The fitness-focused exercise tracking, heart rate monitoring and workout coaching won't appeal to everyone, but the IconX 2018 are far closer to ideal wireless earbuds than the previous model.

The Good

  • Battery life and charging process improved
  • Pairing and connections work well
  • Media transfers and updates now handled by phone

The Bad

  • Still expensive for "secondary" headphones
  • Not everyone will value the fitness features
  • Battery life less than typical neckbud-style headphones
  • Sound quality isn't great

See at Amazon See at Samsung

Samsung Gear IconX 2018 headphones

Big fixes

Samsung Gear IconX 2018 Things you'll love

The Gear IconX headphones released in 2016 were a great first attempt, but ultimately a flop. They were expensive, and riddled with "gen 1" issues including (but not limited to) bad battery life and questionable software. It took over a year, but Samsung has a refreshed version that fixes the glaring problems and lets you focus on what's great about the design.

This release is primarily focused on fixing problems with the original.

First and most importantly, battery life is dramatically better. Samsung rates the new Gear IconX at 7 hours of standalone music playback (from 4GB of internal storage), or a full 5 hours of playback over Bluetooth. They can handle 4 hours of calls over Bluetooth as well. The charging case, which is now smaller and has USB-C, adds one full charge to the earbuds or can give you an hour of use in just 10 minutes. Unlike the original model, I rarely thought about battery life on the IconX 2018 — I just used them, and when I got a low battery warning I used 'em a while longer then tossed them in the case for a bit. I'm not going to say that nobody will need more than 5 hours of continuous Bluetooth listening, but I think that benchmark is plenty high for the majority of people.

Samsung has also made important improvements to the software. Music transfers and software updates can be handled over Bluetooth using the Samsung Gear app now, rather than the super-clunky method from before that required using PC software and a USB cable. That app also lets you monitor battery percentage, manage notifications and more. It's not the prettiest experience, but it works.

The freedom of truly wireless earbuds is wonderful — and not just for hitting the gym.

Now that those issues have been fixed for this new version, you can focus on the great inherent features of this style of headphones. Not having a cord dangling around, or a big chunk of plastic resting around your neck, is a fantastic bit of freedom. That's especially true if you're running or hitting the gym, but even if you're just working around the house or doing some yard work. If the earbuds were a bit more comfortable — which is tough considering their relatively large size and weight for earbuds — you'd be able to forget they were there at all because of the lack of a cable weighing you down.

The workout detection and guidance actually work as well. So if you really want to be that person that's untethered when they exercise but still want music or a podcast to listen to, these headphones can get the job done. It's nowhere near as accurate as a wrist-worn wearable — like, say, the Gear Sport — but it's more than most headphones will give you. The touch controls can be finicky until you get used to manipulating such a small surface, but the set of controls is surprisingly robust and the spoken menus get the job done.

The Gear IconX 2018s had no issues staying connected to my phone, or to each other, even as I removed one bud or the other. With the latest software release, I didn't have any issues connecting or disconnecting from my phone upon opening or closing the charging case. And this wasn't just the case with a Samsung phone — this was with the Pixel 2.

Samsung Gear IconX 2018 headphones

Inherent shortcomings

Samsung Gear IconX 2018 Things you'll hate

Being that Samsung has fixed the inherent flaws with is original IconX headphones, the only things left in the negative column on the 2018 version are just inherent problems with truly wireless earbuds.

The earbuds still don't sound great, and they aren't particularly comfortable for hours of listening.

The biggest weakness of these tiny earbuds is sound quality. It's quite amazing that you can get all of these features in fully independent wireless earbuds, but the one thing you lost in the process is just raw sound quality. The IconX 2018s certainly don't sound as good as $200 wired earbuds (or $100 ones), or even as good as other Bluetooth in-ear headphones that connect with a cord. You give up quality to get these advanced features.

Even though the battery life is much-improved on the IconX 2018, it certainly isn't long enough for these headphones to be your all-day, every-day wear. 5 hours of Bluetooth listening is good, but having to carry around the case to pop them in when you're done to make sure you have another 5 hours waiting for you next time is a bit of a pain if you're going to be doing it every day. Larger headphones will offer you multiple times that, meaning you only have to charge every few days or so.

And that's probably alright, because I didn't find the IconX 2018 earbuds to be comfortable enough to wear for 5 hour straight. The rubber tips are decent and the ear hooks to hold them in place are good once you select the right size, but these are still bigger and more imposing than typical earbuds. There's more weight in there and more pressure points on your ear than you'd ideally want — again, a trade-off for having the freedom of truly wireless earbuds.

Some people won't pay $199 for a secondary pair of headphones.

The only other significant downside to the IconX 2018s is the price. If you plan to use the fitness features and local storage for music, they're absolutely worth the money now. But if you're looking at your headphones simply as a Bluetooth conduit to whatever's playing on your phone, you'll feel like the $199 price is too much for that function alone.

Samsung Gear IconX 2018 headphones

Worth the money now

Samsung Gear IconX 2018 Should you buy it?

With the second generation IconX headphones, Samsung has fixed two of the biggest issues with the buds: they now last longer (and charge faster), and the software experience has improved markedly. That means you don't have anxiety about battery life every time you wear them for more than an hour, and you don't have to think about connecting them to a computer for updates or music transfers any longer.

They're finally worth the money — but that doesn't mean everyone will pay $200 for secondary headphones.

With these core functional problems fixed, you're left with a solid experience. The IconX 2018 headphones handle pairing and connections well, swap between using one or both buds seamlessly, and include useful (if tough to get acquainted with) fitness functions for certain types of users. The earbuds don't sound fantastic, but nobody's buying this style of headphones for top-notch sound quality — they want all of the associated features and freedom that wireless headphones provide.

Choosing whether the IconX 2018 headphones are the ones for you is a pretty simple decision. First, you need to be in the market for ~$200 headphones. Next, you need to be willing to spend that kind of money on headphones that aren't designed for daily listening, but for more specialized times when you need the benefits of truly wireless headphones that don't have clunky cables, straps or attachments. As a second set of headphones for working out or times when you need music or podcasts without any encumbrances, the IconX 2018s deliver.

Still, these headphones feel like a bit of a missed opportunity. By offering fitness-focused features like local music storage, heart rate detection and workout guidance, the IconX 2018 headphones kind of stand alone in their own niche segment. I can't help but think that a "standard" version without these advanced features, and an associated price drop to around $129, would compare quite favorably to the Apple AirPods and even other Bluetooth headphone segments.

See at Amazon See at Samsung

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3 weeks ago

Best Screen Protectors for the Galaxy Note 8

What are the best screen protectors for keeping my Galaxy Note 8 scratch-free?

The Galaxy Note 8 is a pretty marvelous phone. With a slightly larger screen than the Galaxy S8 Plus, it's the largest Samsung phone of 2017... and also the most expensive. You're definitely going to want to keep that screen in pristine condition.

More often than not your best choice for a screen protector is a tempered glass option, but phones with curved edges like the Note 8 can cause issues. Several users in the Galaxy Note 8 forum have reported adhesion issues with some of the tempered screen protectors here. Others have complained that both tempered glass and film screen protectors drastically change the feel of using the S-Pen.

It's all a matter of trying out a few different styles and seeing what works best for you and the other accessories you may have. Lets dive in!

Whitestone Dome Glass Tempered Glass Screen Protector

This one was recommended by a contingent in the Note 8 forums and was a popular option for the Galaxy S8. The Whitestone Dome Glass uses a special UV machine (included) and a liquid adhesive during installation that manages to achieve full-screen adhesion where other screen protectors might only adhere around the edges.

It's a premium option all around that's compatible with more rigid cases or ones that don't touch the front glass at all. It goes on crystal clear and shouldn't affect your touch sensitivity at all. Most importantly it's tough enough to take the abuse of a drop so your phone's screen doesn't.

It's a $45 accessory, but it comes with that little UV machine for installing it and is arguably your best bet if you're serious about protecting your Note 8 above all else.

See at Amazon

BodyGuardz Pure Arc Tempered Glass Screen Protector

Another quality tempered glass option comes from BodyGuardz. This one was recommended in the forums as the brand has a solid track record for making tempered glass screen protectors for curved screens.

The adhesive is around the edges of the screen protector, so you'll need to make sure to apply pressure around the edges and not the center. The kit comes with a cleaning cloth for the screen and installation instructions. It'll work with BodyGuardz cases and OtterBoxes, but you'll want to be careful testing other makes.

This is a premium $40 product that's backed by a lifetime replacement guarantee along with a 30-day money back guarantee, so it's a great option if you're on the fence about tempered glass screen protectors.

See at BodyGuardz

amFilm Tempered Glass Screen Protector for Galaxy Note 8

Tempered glass is typically your best bet for a screen protector, but the curved edges of most new phones make it difficult for accessory makers to deliver full edge-to-edge protection. amFilm has a tempered glass solution which uses slightly curved slabs to achieve the perfect fit for the Note 8.

You receive everything you need for a clean and accurate installation, including an installation guide tray along with the prerequisite wet/dry wipes and dust removal stickers. The adhesive portion of the screen protector is around the edges with a dot matrix on the display itself which helps maintain the touch sensitivity so you can use your finger or S-Pen flawlessly.

You can order this kit for just $14 and be one of the first to get this screen protector kit when it starts shipping on Sept. 6.

See at Amazon

Spigen NeoFlex Screen Protector for the Galaxy Note 8 [2-pack]

Spigen typically offers a quality line of tempered glass screen protectors for the latest flagship phones, but for the Note 8 they've opted for a flexible screen protector made of TPU.

It's a wet installation here, which typically guarantees reliable adhesion without any bubbles or that dreaded halo or rainbow effect. Spigen gives you everything you need for a perfect installation — a dust removal sticker, the solution spray, a silicone squeeze card. You also get two screen protectors which is especially important with non-tempered glass screen protectors that are more prone to collecting scratches. Let the NeoFlex take the daily abuse and wear and tear so your Note 8 screen does not, then replace it with the back up when it's time for a fresh one.

If you have any issues with the installation process or the quality of the screen, Spigen offers a lifetime warranty on its products so reach out to them and they'll gladly send out a new one. As you'd expect, these $9 screen protectors are case friendly, and Spigen actually recommends installing them with your case on the phone for the best fit.

See at Amazon

LK Flexible TPU Screen Protectors for Galaxy Note 8 [3-pack]

LK offers the best value with a 3-pack of screen protectors made of TPU and PET materials for just $9. It's a dry installation here, so there's no need to mess with messy spray. They are case-compatible and easy to install if you follow the included instructions. LK (which stands for Lightning Knight) backs their products with a lifetime warranty and no-hassle replacements which is super rad.

While other screen protectors have a big cutout around the top for the front-facing camera and ear speaker, LK has opted for precise cutouts around each which should help you when lining things up. If you mess up, simply try again with one of the included spares — that's the benefit of buying your screen protectors in bulk.

See at Amazon

Do you go naked?

Protecting an expensive new phone makes sense to us, but we always hear from those who swear they don't need a screen protector. Got any near-miss stories? Ever had a screen protector saved the day on a nasty drop? We want know in the comments!

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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3 weeks ago

How to Mount your Amazon Echo Dot on the Wall, Ceiling, or Under the Counter

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Mounting Amazon Echo Dots around your home is easier than you think!

If you're looking to turn your house into an Alexa-enabled Smart Home, there's no better way than with the Amazon Echo Dot. It's plenty powerful, but most importantly it's small, allowing it to blend in with the decor of your home.

Out of the box, the Dot is designed to sit on a countertop or end table and that's pretty good, but there are plenty of options for mounting your Amazon Echo Dot in clever ways around your home. That way, Alexa is always there to answer your questions or control the lighting around your home without being right there on the table.

We've rounded up some of the best options for mounting an Echo Dot (2nd Gen.) around the house, and the best news is they're just as affordable as the Dot itself.

The Flush Mount by Mount Genie

If you own your home and are looking to permanently install some Echo speakers throughout your house as part of a smart home renovation, you need to consider The Flush Mount by Mount Genie. It lets you mount an Amazon Echo Dot right into a drywall wall or ceiling.

It will take some handy work to complete, but once you've cut the hole with the accompanying template and run your cables to a power source and optional speakers the mount and the Echo Dot are held in place by a combination of pressure fit and wire placement.

Since the speaker on the Echo Dot is at the bottom of the device, Mount Genie designed the mount with a channel that effectively provides an unmuffled result. The Flush Mount sells for $19.99 each or as a 5-pack for $89.99. This is certainly the most elegant solution to mounting Echo speakers around a home, although it's also the most intensive installation.

See at Amazon

CloverTale Home Outlet Wall Mount Holder

So you've got an Echo Dot in your kitchen, but you'd rather not have it right there on the countertop or deal with that cable running to the outlet. You need this clever outlet mount from CloverTale, which solves both problems by allowing the Echo Dot to take up about as much space as a nightlight.

The mount comes with 3M adhesive tape for extra security but essentially hangs from the plugged connection to the outlet. It works no matter the orientation of the outlets and could actually greatly improve the microphone's reception depending on where you're able to better place it in the room.

There's no installation or tools required here — simply pop the Dot into the cradle and plug it in with the included USB cable. It's a quick and easy way to mount an Echo speaker in any room in your house and can be easily moved without much fuss. Get yours for just $9.50 from Amazon!

See at Amaozon

CUVR Silicone Case and Mounting Pad

The CUVR is an Echo Dot case that doubles as a way of mounting your Echo Dot to a wall, on the ceiling, or even on the underside of a table.

The case is made of soft silicone and precisely designed to fit the form of the Dot Echo with cutouts for the cables and speaker. It looks stylish being used normally on a coffee table, or you can use the included 3M mounting pad to stick your Echo onto nearly any flat surface. Walls, plastics, woods, metals, tiles, glass — you're really only limited by the cable.

With six colors to choose from, this is a great accessory for dorm rooms and bachelor apartments. Available for just $10, so get one for each of your Dots!

See at Amazon

Cozysmart Magnetic Wall Mount

The Cozysmart Magnetic Wall Mount is another versatile mounting solution that lets you place your Echo Dot on the wall without too much fuss or installation. The mount uses magnets and a metal plate adhered to the bottom of the Echo to keep the speaker firmly in place. The suction cup lets you mount this on a wide range of surfaces and materials.

But you can use this wall mount for more than just mounting an Echo Dot speaker. The metal plate can also be attached to a tablet or phone so you can watch your favorite show or follow along with a recipe with your device up and out of the way as you cook.

Priced at just $12, you might be tempted to get one for all of your Echo Dots along with an extra one for your phone or tablet.

(Also be sure not to miss the Skull Statue speaker holder that's apparently been linked to the same Amazon listing)

See at Amazon

Fintie Wall Mount with Hanger Loop

If you're not looking to fuss around with adhesive pads, cutting drywall, or any of that business, you might just be looking for this simple and elegant wall mount by Fintie.

Made of sturdy metal with a nice little hanging loop, all you need to do is hammer a nail or use a 3M hook and boom! You've cleared a bit more valuable counter space for yourself.

This is a great option for anyone who just needs to get the Echo Dot and its cables up and away from children or pets. Its also quick and easy to install or move. They're available in black, rose gold, or white to match your decor and start at $13.

See at Amazon

Where would you place an Amazon Echo Dot?

Have you tested different placements for your Amazon Echo Dot? Let us know your best locations in the comments!

Amazon Echo

See at Amazon

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3 weeks ago

These are the best smart home products to use with Google Home Mini

7
Google Home Mini

Now that you've got a Google Home Mini, it's time to connected it to some things. Need some things? Here's where to start.

So you've got a new Google Home Mini. Good for you. That's a good call. It's like a Google Home, only less expensive and smaller, without the emphasis on the speaker. It's like an Amazon Echo, only, erm, not and Echo, and with Google Assistant instead of Alexa.

It is, in brief, a perfectly good purchase. But now you need to do something with it. If you're already a user of such a product, you're probably in the know. You've got your stuff, it's connected and working.

If today's your first day with a Google Mini, though, there's a little more setup to do.

Here are a few prime choices when it comes to connected products to use with your Google Home Mini.

Philips Hue — or other connected lights

Philips Hue

Philips Hue is the top name in connected bulbs, but they're by no means the only ones available today. If you've got connected bulbs of any sort (or if you have some connected through another hub like Samsung Smart Things), you'll definitely want to tie them in to Google Home Mini. Start with a $70 starter pack.

Attach the bulbs, assign them rooms, then just control them with your voice.

And remember that once you can control something in Google Assistant, you can control it form Google Home, or Android Auto, or your phone — wherever.

See Philips Hue at Amazon

Connected thermostat

Nest E

If you have a connected thermostat — I'm a big fan of Nest — especially the new $190 Nest E — and secondarily Ecobee — then you have got to hook it up to Google Home. There's literally nothing in the world better than turning the heat up without having to get out of bed.

OK, there are lots of things better than that. But being able to control the temperature with your voice is a killer feature. Don't think. Just do it.

See Nest at Amazon

Logitech Harmony

I've long recommended a Logitech Harmony remote over pretty much anything else. What comes with your TV probably is bad. What comes with your cable box probably isn't great. What comes with the Apple TV is awful.

Logitech Harmony is much, much better, and it has the added bonus of being able to control lots of connected things.

And Google Assistant is able to control Logitech Harmony. So you can tell your new Google Home Mini to turn the TV off or on. (I usually default to the former as I'm headed out the door, or when my kids just aren't listening.) Start with a $144 Harmony Companion, and eye the $250+ Harmony Elite for an upgrade.

It's a great time-save — and a way to be so lazy that you don't even have to look for the remote control.

See Harmony Companion at Amazon

Connected sprinklers

Here's a great one if you've got a lawn you need to water. I've been using the Rachio connected sprinkler system for a long time. It works with my phone, and it works with Google Assistant.

If you're using a $199 Rachio right, you probably won't need to turn the sprinklers on or off manually too often.

But ... this is just a great option to have. And it's one of those things that really is easier to do with your voice than having to pull our your phone.

Your kids wanna run through the sprinklers? "OK, Google — tell Rachio to water the front yard."

Neighborhood hooligans hanging out on your property? "OK, Google — tell Rachio to water the front yard."

See Rachio at Amazon

Wemo Plugs

Don't wanna do connected lights? Give a plug a shot instead. Wemo makes it really easy to turn just a dumb plug into something a good bit smarter for just $35. And it's flexible. Anything you plug into one of the Wemo plugs becomes smart — not just a lamp.

This is one of those things that's perfect for, say, a Christmas tree or outdoor decorations and lights.

You can set timers, and you can control via your voice.

And trust me (I know from experience) that'll save you a few cold trips onto the front porch in your underwear.

See Wemo at Amazon

Google Hardware

Google Home family

Google Wifi:

Google Amazon

Google Home:

Google Best Buy

Chromecast Ultra:

Google Best Buy

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4 weeks ago

Best Google Pixel 2 Accessories

28

What are the best accessories for the Google Pixel 2?

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL is Google's second go at making a premium smartphone for the masses, and it's earning high praise based on first impressions. But the true value of a phone is proven by its longevity and adaptability.

Google has launched a 'Made for Google' certification partnership with a wide range of accessory manufacturers to ensure there's a good selection of accessories for the Pixel 2.

The best place to find certified Pixel 2 accessories is straight from the source — the Google Store. They offer proprietary accessories along with some third-party products, but there are also deals to be found on Amazon.

Google-designed cases

Google has partnered with a number of different case manufacturers to get accessories certified as 'Made for Google', just another way for Pixel 2 owners to be confident in their accessory purchases.

Right now, there's a limited number of third-party accessories available, but If you're planning to order your phone straight from the source you should check out the cases designed in-house by Google.

Best Cases for the Google Pixel 2

For the Google Live cases there are two case types to choose between — a slim one-piece shell or a more rugged dual-layer case. No matter which you go with, you get to customize the back of your Pixel 2 with a stunning shot from your own photo roll, from Google Earth, or sample a work of art.

Each Google Earth case can be paired with a matching live wallpaper for a cohesive look around your device that just looks gorgeous. And if you opt for the dual-layer case, you'll be getting enhanced drop protection when compared to a single-layer case. Find yours starting at $50.

Another compelling option is the Google Fabric Cases which brings the look and most importantly the feel of that fabric finish found on other Google products, like the Home Mini and Daydream View. These cases offer a premium microfiber liner and will keep your Pixel 2 looking like a standout device no matter which color combination you decide on. They're also available for $50.

See at Google Store

Moment Photo Case & Wide Lens Kit

Photography is a big feature on the Pixel line, and the Pixel 2's camera is positioned to be the best on the market. If you're #teampixel, get ready to take your photos to the next level with the Moment Photo case, which lets you quickly and securely attach peripheral lenses to enhance the Pixel 2's already outstanding camera setup.

Google is selling the Moment Photo case which includes a 18mm wide-angle lens made from premium materials that let the Pixel 2 camera capture more in crystal clarity. The case itself is pretty basic as a phone protector, but the lens is top-notch and accounts for the majority of the $130 price tag you can bet that this case is mostly a vessel for the high-quality camera lenses that Moment makes for mobile.

Check out Moment for more fancy camera lenses for your fancy new phone — Macro, Telephoto, and Super Fisheye. Quite the investment, but might be worth it if you want to add some uniqueness to your 'Gram game.

See at Google Store

Google Pixel Buds

With the Pixel 2 ditching the headphone jack, it came as little surprise that Google would unveil its own wireless headphones alongside its new phones. And the Pixel Buds look like a compelling option for anyone in need of a fresh new pair of Bluetooth headphones — with advanced smarts built in!

If you watched the event, you were likely just as blown away by the Pixel Buds demo where they showed how you can trigger the Google Assistant with a quick tap, and how the buds can be used with Google's translation abilities that allow you to instantly start translating up to 40 supported language into English which sounds like an earbud version of the Babel Fish from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

In other words, these are the coolest earbuds for Pixel 2 owners to match the look and feel of your phone, along with a stylish carrying case that also intelligently pairs your earbuds with you open the case. They're not yet available for purchase but if you're interested in them you can join the waitlist.

See at Google Store

USB-C Digital to 3.5mm headphone adapter

You may notice that a number of these accessory recommendations are centralized around coping with the loss of the headphone jack, a feature which many still consider an essential smartphone feature. Google will be including a headphone adapter with the new phones, but look at that thing — assuming you're not going to keep it plugged in all the time, there's a good chance of this thing getting lost.

If that happens, you may need to bite the bullet and get a new one — for $20. Might be a good idea to buy a spare from the get-go and keep it in a safe place.

See at Google Store

Moshi USB-C to 3.5mm Adapter/Charger

So it happened — Google has ditched the headphone jack. Everyone gets a headphone jack adapter with the phone, but maybe you need both ports. That makes an accessory like the Moshi USB-C to 3.5mm a necessary purchase for anyone who requires or prefers a wired connection.

This is another one of those accessories that's only listed on the Google Store as "Coming Soon". If you're for sure getting a Google Pixel 2 and you enjoy wearing headphones while your phone is charging at your desk this is going to be an accessory to keep an eye on — but it's also $45, so… I guess we can officially stop with the Apple dongle jokes.

See at Google Store

18W USB-C Power Adapter

It's always a good idea to stick with the charging accessories that came with your phone, and especially so with the claims Google has made regarding the Pixel 2 — seven hours of battery life after just 15 minutes on the juice.

Since you're probably gonna need some extra charging accessories anyways, you can't go wrong doubling up on the 18W USB-C Power Adapter. Of course, we'll be keeping an eye out for any certified 27W chargers that might offer even quicker charging speeds.

See at Google Store

Anker PowerLine USB-C cables [3-pack]

So you're at a party and your phone is dying, and you ask around to see if anyone has a charging cable. If you're lucky, someone may have a USB-C cable, but its not a guarantee.

That's why you ought to grab this three pack of USB-A to USB-C cables from Anker. Beyond the cables that came with your phone, Anker is one third-party accessory maker that you can trust. The pack includes three 3-foot cables that offer transfer speeds of up to 5 Gbps, and they're also backed by Anker's worry-free lifetime warranty.

Available for just $14, it breaks down to under $5 per cable. Keep one at work, one in your car, and one in your laptop bag so you'll always have a spare charging cable nearby wherever you are!

See at Amazon

Belkin USB-C Car Charger

Keeping your phone charged while you're on the go is important. Everyone hates when you realize you forgot to charge your phone and it's time to go.

The Belkin USB-C Car Charger is a great option for the Pixel 2 that's been promoted on the Google Store. It plugs right into the 12V port your car and offers two charging ports — a hardwired USB-C cable and a USB-A port for charging a second device.

You'll be able to maximize your charging speeds thanks to Belkin's 15W universal charging system that automatically detects and delivers the optimal charging speed for your Pixel 2. Get yours from Amazon for just $17 — a great price compared to what Google is selling this accessory for.

See at Amazon

JUMBL Bluetooth 4.0 headphone adapter

So despite poking fun at Apple removing the headphone jack last year, Google followed suit with its follow up Pixel devices. That means you're going to need to use that silly USB-C dongle, buy a new pair of Bluetooth headphones, or find another solution for using your favorite wired headphones.

This JUMBL headphone adapter is a great option. It's a coin-sized Bluetooth transmitter that lets you connect a wired pair of headphones to your phone. Simply pair the JUMBL with your phone, plug your headphones in and you're good to go. You can clip the JUMBL to your shirt or backpack, which also offers playback and volume controls and also lets you answer phone calls without reaching for your phone/

The JUMBL is available in five colors for just $20.

See at Amazon

What sorts of accessories are you looking for?

Did you get a Pixel 2? What are the go-to accessories you buy alongside a new phone? Let us know in the comments!

Update October 24: Added the Anker PowerLine charging cables, Belkin car charger, and JUMBLE Bluetooth adapter to our list!

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Google Store Project Fi Verizon Best Buy

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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4 weeks ago

Best Google Pixel 2 XL Cases

What are the best cases for the Google Pixel 2 XL?

The Google Pixel 2 XL is a beautifully designed phone — especially if you snagged the panda/Stormtrooper Black and White edition. But as much as you'll want to show it off, you're also going to want to protect a phone that cost you close to $1000.

We've rounded up the best case options specifically for the Pixel 2 XL.

Google Live Cases

Just like the smaller Pixel 2, Google offers its customizable Google Live Cases for the Pixel 2 XL with a personal photo or a wide range of styles curated by Google.

Maybe you'll decide on a gorgeous satellite photo from Google Earth which also pairs with a matching live wallpaper for a cohesive look around your device. Looking to add a bit more of an artistic flair to your case? Check out the Artworks Live Case and find something that matches your style.

Google has curated a great selection of cases that feature artwork, photos from space, and naturally beautiful images that are really quite stunning. Prices range from $40 to $50 depending on whether you choose a minimalist shell or a more rugged dual-layer case. Create and customize your own case via the Google Store.

See at Google Store

Google Fabric Cases

If you prefer your phone case to have some texture for grip, you're probably going to love the Google Fabric Case. It features the same fabric finish look found on other recent Google products such as the Google Home Mini.

Designed in-house by Google, you can be sure of the build quality and fit for your Pixel 2 XL. These cases offer a premium microfiber liner to ensure your device stays scuff-free and your choice of four color combinations for $40.

See at Google Store

Incipio Esquire Series

Like the concept of the Google Fabric Case but don't like the idea of spending $50 for it? You'll definitely want to check out the Incipio Esquire series case.

This case is made of an impact-resistant TPU frame that will keep your phone protected, but the real eye-catching feature here is the ultra-soft fabric finish on the exterior of the case. There is a nice-sized cutout around the fingerprint sensor and camera on the back but it's otherwise a very sleek and minimalist design.

You can get yours straight from Incipio or from Amazon for just $35.

See at Amazon

Spigen Thin Fit

It can be an issue finding a case for larger phones like the Google Pixel 2 XL that doesn't add too much bulk to your phone. The Spigen Thin Fit case is about as minimalist as phone cases get.

Available in black, this case will match the look of the Pixel 2 XL and features precise cutouts around the fingerprint scanner and camera on the back. It's thin enough to keep the Active Edge compatibility fully intact and yet still features Spigen's Air Cushion technology in the corners for added drop protection.

Keep your Pixel 2 XL safe from scuffs and scratches without sacrificing the slim design with the Thin Fit case for just $12.

See at Amazon

Ringke Fusion

Looking for a reliable clear case for the Pixel 2 XL at a very reasonable price? Check out the Ringke Fusion case.

Starting at just $9 for a crystal clear version, these cases offer two layers of protection for your phone — a rugged and shock-resistant TPU bumper combined with a ridged PC panel covering the back. There's a protective lip around the front to save the display glass from harm, and there are precise cutouts around the fingerprint sensor, camera, and USB-C charging port.

Get the clear version if you want to preserve the original look of the Pixel 2 XL, or opt to spend $11 on the Rose Gold or Smoke Black versions.

See at Amazon

Caseology Vault Series

Caseology has a couple different cases available for the Pixel 2 XL. We recommend the Vault Series ($13) because it's got a classic design. Made of flexible TPU, it features a sleek finish along the back and textured grip around the edges. It's available in black and should look great whether you went with the Just Black or Black and White Pixel 2 XL.

If you're looking for something a bit more substantial, check out the Parallax Series ($16) which offers a slim, two-piece design to keep your Pixel well-protected. It's also available in some really cool color combinations. Or consider the Legion Series ($17), which offers a more rugged matte shell around the back of the case.

See at Amazon

How will you keep your phone protected?

Are you going to be picking up a case for your Pixel 2 XL? Let us know if you're getting one off our list or opting for a different option in the comments below!

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Google Store Project Fi Verizon Best Buy

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4 weeks ago

The state of smartphone audio: DAC, codecs, and other terms you need to know

39

What you need to know when all the audio chatter starts.

It's awesome to see smartphone audio starting to get some attention. Companies like LG and HTC are stepping up and putting specialized audio components into their phones, Sony is still pushing things forward with software optimizations, and new high-resolution Bluetooth codecs have even stubborn audiophiles like me interested in what they can do. This is also important stuff because the way we listen to our music will eventually be changing, as the trusty 3.5 mm headphone jack slowly but surely becomes a thing of the past.

But not everyone is into audio, and there are so many odd-sounding words and abbreviations and secret codes getting thrown around. You don't have to know what any of them mean to enjoy the music, but we all want to know what we're reading or hearing. So let's dig in and check out what some of the most common things you'll hear actually mean!

General terms you need to know

There are a few terms you'll see in every audio discussion. And like every other audio term, they really don't mean what it seems like they should mean sometimes. Here are the basics to get you started so you can keep up with just about any audio talk.

  • Bitrate is the number of bits of data that are processed per unit of time. When talking about audio, that rate of time is usually measured in seconds as bps (bits per second). Standard SI prefixes apply (not Binary Prefixes), so kbps (kilobits per second) = 1,000 bps, Mbps (megabits per second) = 1,000 kbps and Gbps (gigabits per second) = 1,000 Mbps. A higher number means more data is being processed so audio will sound better.
  • -bit is the way audio bit depth is written. Bit depth is the number of bits of information included in each individual sample (see Hz below). CD audio uses 16-bits per sample while DVD audio uses 24-bits per sample. Hi-resolution audio players will also be able to play 32-bit audio, and this includes some phones like the LG V30.
  • Container A container is a metafile format that controls and describes how multiple types of data exists inside a single computer file. A good example of this difficult idea is an MP4 file. An MP4 file can hold encoded audio, encoded video, metadata like subtitles or lyrics and album art in any combination. A container doesn't decide how its data is encoded, so you might be able to open an MP4 file and not be able to playback any of the data without the proper codecs. Yeah, it's kind of a mess and impossible to describe without using computer-speak. All you need to know is that audio containers hold encoded files and you'll need the proper codec installed to play any of them.
  • Codec A codec is software (we'll leave hardware codecs for another day) used to encode and decode digital data. Codec is short for coder-decoder. The coder encodes data and gets it ready for some sort of transmission, and at the other end, the decoder reverses the encoding. MP3 is a popular audio codec. Applications like Audacity can use an MP3 coder to encode music into a .mp3 file and your favorite audio player uses an MP3 decoder to turn it back the way it was and play it.
  • Compression Popular codecs compress an audio file while encoding it to make it smaller and easier to transmit. This is the same concept a .zip file uses to crunch down the contents of a folder. Ideally, you want an uncompressed file to be a bit-by-bit copy of the original, but most compression algorithms discard data that won't drastically change the way the audio sounds. Or at least they try to.
  • DAC A DAC is a Digital to Analog Converter that turns computer bits (the digital) into sounds (the analog) that can come through a pair of headphones. Every device that can play digital music has a DAC, as does every pair of Bluetooth headphones. Some just have a better DAC than others and are able to create cleaner analog audio from the digital source.

More: What is a DAC and why should I care about having a good one?

  • Dolby A company that specializes in noise reduction and audio encoding. Dolby licenses its tech to several phone manufacturers.
  • Hz or kHz Hz is the abbreviation for Hertz. When talking about digital audio you'll usually see it measured in kHz (kilohertz) and it designates the sampling frequency — the number of times the audio is sampled (analyzed and recorded) per second. Landline phone audio is 8kHz. VoIP telephones are 16kHz. Audio CDs are 44.1kHz. This continues all the way up to 5,644.8kHz which is Philips and Sony's Double-Rate DSD (Direct Stream Digital) format and absolutely insane. Generally, the higher the sample rate the better the audio will sound, but there are diminishing returns once you pass 192kHz that many people aren't going to be able to hear.
  • Lossless Lossless is a type of audio compression that can create an exact copy of the original when a file is uncompressed. FLAC and ALAC files are lossless.
  • Lossy Lossy is a type of audio compression that rebuilds an "approximation of the original data" but compresses the data into a smaller file. MP3 files are lossy.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth has its own slew of audio-related terms and they will be more important as we see more and more phones without a headphone jack. It gets its own section so we can break a few things down.

Bluetooth Profiles

Bluetooth profiles are a set of specifications that both the source (the device sending the audio like your phone) and the destination (the device that receives the audio like your favorite headphones) know what each other can do and how to work together and stream audio to your ears. Even the Bluetooth earbud of old needs a Bluetooth profile to connect, and this is the only way to make everything work.

  • HSP (Headset Profile) The HSP profile is required for basic headset operation. It has very limited remote control capabilities and the audio quality is 64 kbps (mono) maximum.
  • HFP (Handsfree Profile) HFP is an advanced version of HSP that's also designed for headsets (not headphones). It provides redialing and voice dialing through remote control. HFP version 1.6 uses a mono configuration of the standard SBC codec. See the codecs section below for details.
  • A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) This profile was designed for stereo audio for things like multimedia. This is the profile your headphones (not a headset) need to use.
  • AVRCP (Audio/Video Remote Control Profile) AVRCP is used with A2DP to provide remote control for things like play/pause or track skipping. Versions 1.4 allow for full volume control of both devices, while lower versions control the volume of the headset only and not the source.

If you want to use a Bluetooth earbud or the like to take calls and don't care about other audio, you need a device that uses HSP, but you want a device that uses HFP so you have more control.

If you want to also listen to music through a stereo Bluetooth device — headset, headphones, portable speaker, etc. — you want both A2DP and AVRCP for the best experience.

Bluetooth audio codecs

Bluetooth audio codecs don't have to be Bluetooth only. They are encoding and decoding instructions that the right coder and decoder use to take raw audio, turn it into something better for transmission, then turn it back into raw audio once it reaches your headphones. You can't play any audio without the right coder and decoder, so support for audio codecs is pretty important.

You'll usually find information about what codecs a pair of headphones can use in the box they came in, and you'll find information about the codecs your phone can use in the manual or on the manufacturer's website.

  • SBC (Subband Coding) This is the default A2DP codec and the minimum required for stereo audio. Every stereo Bluetooth device must support SBC because it's the failsafe fallback if no other codec matches both the source and destination hardware. It provides an uncompressed stereo audio stream up to 328kpbs at 44.1 kHz. Because it's not compressed there is no need for the target (your headphones) to decompress it. It does tax Bluetooth's limited bandwidth and is subject to skipping or buffering (depending on your source) when conditions aren't ideal. There are several "levels" of SBC (low, medium, and high) and the quality is determined by the source device.
  • AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) This is the same AAC encoding you'll find for music that's not streamed wirelessly, and is what iTunes uses. It provides better audio than MP3 compression at the same bitrates and can rival lossless files in quality. Most headphones don't include AAC, but high-end models designed for use with the iPhone or iPod will, and they transfer data at 250 kbps.
  • aptX aptX is a proprietary audio codec developed in 2010 by APT (hence the name) to provide higher quality audio than SBC can deliver. It encodes a CD-like quality (16-bit / 44.1kHz) audio stream using more efficient audio encoding (compression, much like the .mp3 codec) and a higher data transfer rates of 352kbps. aptX is not required for stereo audio, and you'll find a lot of equipment doesn't include it.
  • aptX LL This is a version of the aptX codec designed for especially low latency. It's used in devices like gaming headsets that value low latency over quality, but still provides audio comparable to SBC. aptX LL can transmit stereo audio with latency as low as 32 milliseconds, which is faster than we can process so it appears to be latency-free.
  • aptX HD This is a version of the aptX codec that uses newer and better compression methods and higher data transfer rates (576kbps) to deliver 24-bit / 48kHz stereo audio. the compression algorithms have been designed to inject very little noise, and aptX HD streams approach lossless hi-resolution audio in quality. aptX HD is fairly new and not very many devices support it, though this will most certainly change.

More: aptX versus aptX HD: What's the difference?

  • LDAC LDAC is an audio codec designed by Sony to deliver "true hi-resolution" audio over Bluetooth. It can transmit audio at a maximum of 24-bit / 96kHz at speeds up to 990kbps. Like SBC, it has three settings: low (330kbps transfer speeds), medium (660kbps transfer speeds), and high (990kbps transfer speeds). Sony claims LDAC can transmit audio playback up to 24-bit / 96kHz without any downsampling (lowering the sample rate in Hertz) at the source. LDAC is very new, and while Android Oreo supports the codec very few peripherals do right now.

Audio file types

There are hundreds of audio coding formats. Some are specialized, like aptX for Bluetooth or ATRAC for the PlayStation or Walkman, but there are a handful of standards you'll find on portable devices like your phone. Most of the time the format defines the file type — MP3 format audio uses a .mp3 file extension, AAC audio uses a .m4a file extension and so on. Audio coding formats need to be supported by the player software, not your device itself, but for many your device must have a license to use them.

  • AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) This format is also a standard Bluetooth audio codec, though not very popularly supported. It supports audio compression with little data loss so audio sounds clearer than MP3 but still has comparable bitrates. This is the native format your old iPod uses and some audio players can play it through an MP4 container with the .m4a file extension.
  • ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) Developed by Apple as a lossless audio compression format, ALAC is now open source and royalty free. It delivers 8 channels of audio at 16, 20, 24 and 32-bit depth, with a maximum 384kHz sample rate. ALAC is also stored in an MP4 container with a .m4a file extension, but it's not the same lossy compression used with AAC.
  • FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) FLAC is an open and royalty free audio codec that supports 4 to 24-bit audio at any sampling rate between 1 Hz to 655.35kHz on 8 channels. FLAC is capable of compression an audio file by 60% and still have an exact copy when uncompressed. Files using the FLAC coding format have a .flac extension.
  • MP3 (MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 Audio Layer III) MP3 is a lossy codec that can shrink CD quality (1411.2kbps) audio by up to 95% and provide comparable quality when uncompressed at playback. There are various sampling and playback rates and the higher the number the better it will sound. The MP3 codec intelligently reads audio files and discards data that we won't be able to hear during compression and encoding. You'll find .mp3 files just about everywhere and most any player can play them back.
  • Vorbis/Ogg Ogg is an open source container format that can multiplex independent streams for audio, video, text (subtitles and lyrics), and metadata. It can house numerous audio coding formats, but the most popular one you'll see on your phone is Vorbis. Vorbis is an open source audio format that can encode source material from 8kHz to 192kHz with a maximum of 255 channels and create output files between 45 and 500kbps. Files with the extension .ogg are native to Android and play through the systems default player or any number of third-party players.
  • WMA (Windows Media Audio) WMA is an audio codec that's actually four separate audio codecs: WMA, WMA Pro, WMA Lossless, and WMA Voice. WMA was developed by Microsoft to compete with MP3 and covers the spectrum from single-channel mono audio with WMA Voice (it's actually important to handle this type of audio in a special way) to 24-bit / 96kHz using 6 discrete channels. The compression ratio for music varies between 1.7:1 and 3:1. All WMA-encoded files carry the .wma extension and are supported by third-party players.

The most important part

You don't need to know any of this to enjoy listening to your music through your favorite headphones, and that's what really matters. Like everything else, some people will care and will debate about individual products until the end of time, and that's because they enjoy the underlying tech and how it works. Neither group is right or wrong, so don't feel left out if this just isn't your thing.

Just know that audio from our phones is getting better, the companies who make headphones are making better ones, and the music you love today will sound just as good, if not better tomorrow.

Rock on!

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