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13 min ago

Grammarly virtual keyboard is now available on Android

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Grammarly's virtual keyboard for Android is here to help make you a better writer.

If you find yourself doing any extensive amount of writing on your computer, chances are you've used Grammarly before. Grammarly is a tool that works with your web browser and word-processing app of choice to help catch any grammatical or spelling errors your built-in spell-checker might miss, and as the News Editor for Android Central, it's something that I use every single day to keep me from looking like a buffoon when quickly pounding away on my keyboard.

On December 13, Grammarly announced that it's officially bringing its virtual keyboard over to Android after having first launched it on iOS at the beginning of November. Grammarly's keyboard looks a lot like Gboard at first glance, but as you can see, there's something special happening near the top of it.

As you type, Grammarly will continually look at what you're writing and make suggestions for any spelling or grammatical errors that it finds. If you want to make the correction, just tap on the suggestion and it'll automatically be added. Once the correction has been added, you can tap on it to get an explanation of where you went wrong.

Grammarly encrypts what you type to ensure maximum protection, and any sensitive data that's inputted (such as credit card information or passwords) isn't saved by Grammarly at all – something that AI.type failed to do.

There's support from American and British English, and Grammarly says that it's working on adding swipe input in the near future.

Gboard's been my go-to Android keyboard of choice for a while now, but considering how much I use Grammarly on my laptop and desktop, you can be sure I'll be giving it a shot.

AI.type virtual keyboard leaks personal data for 31 million Android users

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57 min ago

Deck your phone with these ho-ho-holiday wallpapers

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A holiday poem, and some wallpapers, too!

'Tis two weeks before Christmas,

So time to deck the halls.

We've decked the tree and the car,

And the ceilings and the walls.

But we've missed something special,

For your desktop is bare.

Time to get a festive wallpaper,

For your Android phone to wear.

So enjoy these sweet walls,

Some cute and some merry.

And happy holidays from AC,

Time to steal some rum from Jerry!

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1 hour ago

Actor Theo Rossi shares his thoughts on VR!

Take a look at the other side of working around VR.

While the current excitement in the world of VR is gaming, especially with titles like Fallout and Doom hitting the shelves, the world of VR video continues to grow at an incredible pace. I was recently invited to attend an event on Samsung's journey so far with the Gear VR, and sat down with actor and philanthropist Theo Rossi to talk about his recent experiences on the other side of this new kind of camera.

Read more at VRHeads!

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1 hour ago

HDMI 2.1: Everything you need to know

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HDMI 2.1 promises to deliver 10K video, 120 Hz refresh rates and much more. Here's everything you should know about HDMI's next revision.

Earlier this year HDMI 2.1 was unveiled, the latest revision of the now-commonplace audio/video cable standard across consumer electronics. And while still in its early stages, the final specification provides a new spectrum of high-end features, designed to deliver premium home entertainment experiences. With improvements focusing on both video consumption and gaming, HDMI 2.1 lays the foundation for clearer and smoother future. But what does this mean to you?

What is HDMI 2.1?

HDMI 2.1 is the latest revised specification of the HDMI interface, which is used for transmitting both audio and video across modern devices. Having become the go-to solution across consumer electronics, you'll have undoubtedly encountered previous versions of the cable or port over the last decade. And while using a visually identical connector, HDMI 2.1 delivers hardware refinements that push improved video and audio quality.

After its first unveiling at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2017, HDMI Forum, the body managing the interface's development, has created a specification for HDMI 2.1 going forward. As of November 2017, the specification was finalized, allowing manufacturers to begin adopting the technology itself.

HDMI 2.1's new features

Improved bandwidth

One of the principal developments with HDMI 2.1 is a boost in available bandwidth, allowing for transfer rates up to 48 Gigabits per second (Gbps) – a significant step up from the 18 Gbps available with HDMI 2.0. In contrast to the leap from the 10.2 Gbps offered by its predecessor, HDMI 1.4, HDMI 2.1 represents a significant advancement in the potential throughput. Not only does this allow for improved visual clarity, but other video and audio upgrades have been detailed that take advantage of this overhead.

Higher resolutions and framerates

For general consumers, one of the alluring promises is a leap in both supported resolution and framerates when using an HDMI 2.1 connection. Topping out at 10K resolution and 120 Hz at lower pixel counts, the new revision should provide more than enough flexibility for any consumer display hitting the market for the years ahead.

While 10K video won't be among the mainstream anytime soon, HDMI 2.1 also leverages its improved bandwidth to target lower resolutions. On supported displays, 8K (7,680 pixels x 4,320 pixels) at 60 Hz will be possible, as well as 4K (3,840 × 2,160) at 120 Hz. These resolutions also see the full benefit of High Dynamic Range (HDR) across supported content, with a wider gamut of colors and improved contrast ratio. Stepping up from the limit of 4K at 60Hz imposed with HDMI 2.0, resolutions can now be pushed even further without comprising fluidity.

Dynamic HDR

HDMI 2.1 also ushers in "Dynamic HDR," which extends the potential of existing HDR technology with improved color tuning. When the feature is in use, dynamic metadata is processed on a frame-by-frame basis, allowing color settings and brightness to adapt on the fly. The result is an improvement to how colors are displayed, depending on the current scene. While dynamic metadata is already available over HDMI 2.0 with "Dolby Vision," HDMI 2.1 aims to deliver this to the open HDR10 standard.

More: The difference between HDR10 and Dolby Vision

eARC

In a move to continue simplifying household entertainment centers, HDMI 2.1 adopts support for enhanced audio return channel (eARC), which is used to deliver audio over an HDMI connection to soundbars and receivers. Building on the existing ARC implementation implemented in earlier HDMI specifications, this allows a single HDMI to send and receive audio, reducing the cabling between external devices.

eARC is an extension of this technology, making your TV the central hub for entertainment, rather than a traditional receiver. With support for integrated TV tuners, streaming apps and other devices connected to the TV via other HDMI ports, the TV can handoff essentially all audio to an external sound system. With support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, too, this delivers high-quality sound to audio-only receivers, soundbars, and amplifiers.

Other features of HDMI 2.1

While the most impressive features of HDMI 2.1 deliver improvements to visual clarity and color, several other additions are making an arrival with the specification. Tailored for video playback and gaming, these provide enhancements for more specific scenarios.

For gamers, one of the most promising features of HDMI 2.1 is support for Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) outputs. In essence, VRR adapts the refresh rate of your display to that out outputted content, reducing screen tearing and stuttering, without the input lag suffered when using a similar solution known as V-Sync. This makes for a much smoother overall experience for gamers on supported displays, although has few applications for other content types.

HDMI 2.1 also delivers support for a minor feature known as "Quick Media Switching" (QMS), which streamlines the process of changing media types on the fly. On traditional displays, changing framerate, resolution and other settings can result in a short blackout. If using a QMS-supported display, HDMI 2.1 will smoothen the process of changing source material, without dropping the signal.

Another welcome feature for gamers is support for "Quick Frame Transport" (QFS) – a relatively simple concept, which makes for a snappier experience. When using QFS, frame output latency is reduced, which delivers a much more responsive experience to displays and VR headsets.

To further enhance refresh rates comes "Auto Low Latency Mode" (ALLM), which automatically adjusts latency on the fly, to make for the smoothest, lag-free viewing experience.

Pushing more advanced visuals, "Display Stream Compression" (DSC) is also a part of the new specification, meaning devices can theoretically surpass the 48 Gbps limit on HDMI 2.1 displays. With this feature enhanced, video streams can be compressed on the fly, delivering improved visual quality to supported displays.

Getting started with HDMI 2.1

With the HDMI 2.1 specification only recently having been finalized, development of hardware utilizing the technology is still in the early stages. Despite using the same connector, the revised interface requires dedicated ports and cables designed for the latest specification, meaning there are no consumer setups available that offer its feature set.

To take advantage of all the new features offered by HDMI 2.1, a new "Ultra High-Speed HDMI Cable" will be required. Cables certified for use with the new standard will be built for 48 Gbps transfer rates and all the other features details with the revised specification. As of publication, manufacturers are yet to release cables that have passed the HDMI 2.1 Compliance Test Specification (CTS), however, they are expected to first hit the market sometime in 2018. But be warned – at first, these cables won't be cheap.

Some HDMI 2.1 features are accessible with older HDMI cables, but to get the complete range of features, you'll have to invest in an Ultra High-Speed variant. For example, eARC can be accessed using HDMI High-Speed Cables with Ethernet, while less intensive resolution and frame rate combinations can be output alongside Dynamic HDR using older HDMI cables. Ultra High-Speed cables are backward compatible with older ports, only with older features offered by the port.

The same concept applies to devices themselves, meaning both outputting and receiving devices must support HDMI 2.1 to take full advantage of the interface. Using the same connector means that implementing HDMI 2.1 shouldn't be too challenging for major manufacturers, but due to the infancy of the specification, it will once again be some time before these devices are in the home.

So, should you care about HDMI 2.1?

Not really — at least not yet. While HDMI 2.1 delivers some anticipated premium features, with the specification only recently having been finalized, the technology is still in early stages. It will still be some time before supported devices are available to consumers – and that's not even touching the fact that price will be a major barrier to entry.

4K displays are only just finding a place among the mainstream, meaning the technology showcasing the greatest benefits of HDMI 2.1 will come at a cost. Simply put, HDMI 2.1 is so future-proofed, displays simply haven't caught up to its capabilities. Once HDMI 2.1 is more accessible, there will be welcome improvements for both video and gaming experiences, but you'll have to wait for now.

What is HDR and why should you care?

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2 hours ago

You can finally play Spotify on multiple Amazon Echo speakers

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Available first in the U.S., UK, Canada, Germany, and Ireland.

Amazon's Echo smart speakers are truly awesome, and with fun hardware like the Echo Show and Echo Spot, they're only getting better. However, as many improvements as we've seen on both the hardware and software fronts, one feature that's been noticeably absent since multi-room audio was added in August is the ability to stream Spotify on multiple Echo speakers at the same time.

Thankfully, this changes today.

Multi-room audio on Echo speakers now officially supports Spotify, meaning you can finally listen to all your favorite tunes through the service on more than one Echo at once. Spotify will work with multi-room audio on Echos in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Ireland at first, but we should see it expanded to more countries in the near future.

In addition to Spotify, Amazon is also adding similar support for SiriusXM. However, SiriusXM is launching first in just the United States.

Amazon Echo

See at Amazon

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2 hours ago

T-Mobile is getting into the streaming television business with Layer3 TV acqusition

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T-Mobile will offer an over-the-top TV service in 2018.

T-Mobile has announced the acquisition of a small streaming television provider called Layer3 TV, which currently operates in five U.S. cities. Similar to services like YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue, Layer 3 carries the signals of most U.S. cable networks and pay channels like HBO, Showtime, and ESPN, but bundles them with a straightforward HD decoder and PVR set-top box that connects to a television in your living room. Think Tivo.

T-Mobile says that it will use Layer3's technology to launch its own over-the-top TV service sometime in 2018, positioning itself as a more customer-friendly and likely cheaper alternative to the cable companies, many of which, like AT&T DirecTV and Dish's SlingTV, have endeavored to pivot to over-the-top in recent years.

In a blog post and companion video, T-Mobile said that it "the Un-carrier will build TV for people who love TV but are tired of the multi-year service contracts, confusing sky-high bills, exploding bundles, clunky technologies, outdated UIs, closed systems and lousy customer service of today's traditional TV providers." According to a University of Michigan report quoted by T-Mobile, "8 of the 10 brands with the lowest customer satisfaction scores in America are cable and TV providers."

It's unclear at this time what T-Mobile's over-the-top TV service will look like, and whether, like the bundling schemes that the company is criticizing, it will be offered at a discount with wireless service. More likely, the service will be offered separately in various tiers depending on how many channels, with the data usage zero-rated for T-Mobile's own wireless customers.

While Layer3 TV is only available in five U.S. cities right now, T-Mobile promises to rapidly expand that presence post-acquisition. "The Un-carrier's new TV service will take full advantage of T-Mobile's nationwide retail presence, top-rated brand and award-winning sales and customer care organizations." There's no word on whether T-Mobile will be jumping into the potentially lucrative but enormously expensive content business a là Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and others, but it's unlikely to do so at first, especially since it's partnered with Netflix itself with its T-Mobile ONE Family bundle.

T-Mobile also claims that the time is right for the Layer3 acquisition because of its capable 4G LTE network and all of the work it is doing to prepare for 5G. Given that, unlike AT&T, Verizon, Dish, Comcast and others, T-Mobile doesn't offer home internet, whatever TV service T-Mobile offers will likely be heavily optimized for its T-Mobile ONE plan, which means plenty of downsampling to 480p over LTE connections.

What do you think of this move? Would you sign up for a T-Mobile TV service?

Carriers

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2 hours ago

Get two powerful military-grade flashlights for just $16!

What do you do when the lights go out? Sure, you could use the light on your phone, but if you can't charge your phone, then you'll want to conserve power. Maybe you're out camping or hiking, night falls, and you don't even have your phone on you. Then what?

Get two flashlights for just $16 with coupon code GREEN20! Learn more

If you're going to do things, do it up right. Don't bother with some dollar store flashlight that you'll have to toss because the plastic's dried out. Get yourself a flashlight with a metal casing that can stand up to the rough life so that you can take it with you wherever you go: camping, hunting, in the car, whatever.

The UltraBright 500-lumen Tactical Military Flashlight is made of an aircraft aluminum alloy and has a range of about a mile in ideal conditions with adjustable zoom. Right now, a two-pack of these flashlights is only $20 at Android Central Digital Offers. They regularly retail for $100 together, so you save 80% — but then you can use coupon code GREEN20 to save an additional 20% and bring that final cost down to just $16!

The UltraBright flashlights feature three modes to fit every situation: bright, lower bright, and SOS mode. They come with a convenient storage case, so you can toss them in the trunk of your card and never lose them. The handy and sturdy clip lets you slap one on your belt and have it stay put until you need it. UltraBrights are light and only take one AA battery.

Get two fantastic flashlights for $16 for a limited time! Learn more

If you're looking for a handy little flashlight that's perfect in any situation, check out the UltraBright 500-lumen Tactical Military Flashlight two-pack at Android Central Digital Offers and pay only $16 with that coupon code GREEN20.

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2 hours ago

Learn more about your dog's DNA with this $51 Wisdom Panel test kit

1

It's like 23andMe for your pupper.

The Wisdom Panel 3.0 dog DNA test kit is down to $50.99 on Amazon. This kit normally sells for around $80 and rarely ever goes below $70. It has only dropped as low as this deal once before and that was all the way back in May.

Curious where your dog comes from? Maybe you adopted one from a local shelter or took care of one you found on the street? Wondering about his intelligence or susceptibility to disease? Maybe this is just the answer to a question you've never bothered to ask about your dog! This kit uses a simple cheek swab to test your dog's pedigree history. Of course, giving your dog a cheek swab might be difficult, but it is painless... to the dog.

Features include:

  • The largest breed database of any DNA test in the world with more than 250 breeds, types and varieties covered.
  • The only officially licensed canine DNA test in the US to offer the potentially life-saving MDR1 drug sensitivity screening at no extra charge.
  • This single test allows you to test Mixed Breed, Purebred or Designer Dog breed ancestry back to great-grandparents.
  • Pre-paid shipping to the lab and results are ready in only 2-3 weeks after the sample arrives.
  • You can uncover DNA-based insights that may help you understand your dog's unique appearance, behaviors and wellness needs.

This kit has 4.2 stars based on more than 1.500 user reviews.

See at Amazon

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2 hours ago

Galaxy Note 8's Secure Wi-Fi VPN now powered by McAfee

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McAfee's now in charge of Secure Wi-Fi's backend.

Earlier this month, Samsung released a new app for the Galaxy Note 8 called "Secure Wi-Fi" that aimed to protect users when on public Wi-Fi networks from potential threats and attackers. This came as a result of the KRACK WPA2 Wi-Fi vulnerability that was discovered in October, and Samsung's now upgrading its Secure Wi-Fi service thanks to a new collaboration with McAfee.

With this collaboration, McAfee will now be in charge of the backend for the Secure Wi-Fi VPN so that those using the service can have enhanced protection when using the Note 8 on public Wi-Fi networks and hotspots.

McAfee says that a survey it conducted revealed 58% of individuals know how to check and see if the Wi-Fi network they're on is safe to use, but even so, less than half of that 58% actually does something to really make sure that the connection is truly secure. Secure Wi-Fi on the Note 8 acts like most other VPNs by encrypting all online activity and user data, and the new McAfee partnership should enhance the effectiveness of these features.

Per John Giamatteo, McAfee's Executive Vice President of the Consumer Business Group –

Increasingly consumers are using their mobile phones to connect to both public and private Wi-Fi. By encrypting Samsung users' sensitive data with Secure Wi-Fi, we're helping ensure they can connect with the confidence they need to feel secure.

Secure Wi-Fi is available for the Galaxy Note 8 in the United States for users on T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular, and it'll be launching in Europe later this year as part of a software update for the phone. All Note 8 users get 250MB of free data with Secure Wi-Fi per month, and if they want more, there's an option to purchase more bandwidth.

These are all the Android devices updated to fix KRACK Wi-Fi vulnerability

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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2 hours ago

Drone Gift Guide: What Gifts You Should Fly This Holiday Season

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What are the best drones to buy for everyone on your list this season?

Over the past decade, drones have gone from uber expensive toys for movie makers and rich kids, to something you can buy at a convenience store for $50.

As we fly right through the 2017 holiday season, drones are one of those trendy gifts that you're going to see in a lot of stores. But before you buy a disappointing drone that may not hold up past the first flight or overspend on a drone for advanced pilots only, check out this guide and find the right drone to buy for your loved one this season.

Best Camera Drones for 2017

Best Drone to Buy For Kids

There are two main considerations to make when buying a drone for a kid: should I buy something that's really cheap and easy to replace, or spend a bit more on something that'll hold up to abuse?

For better or worse, there are a staggering number of entry-level drones available that are great for kids! Here's our top pick that's both affordable, cool looking, and designed to survive some early crashes.

UFO 3000 LED Drone

When you're learning how to fly a drone, crashes will happen. The UFO 3000 LED Drone helps to mitigate that by keeping the blades fully protected. Any novice pilot can bump into walls and whatnot while they learn how to zip around on low and high-speed modes, as well as perform flips with the simple press of a button.

Oh, and then there's how cool this drone is, with its blue and green LEDs creating four brilliant rings of light — it'll really look out-of-this-world when you fly it at night. Two batteries ship with this drone, with flight time averaging around 7 minutes on a full charge.

See at Amazon

See more great options for kids

Best Drones for under $50

Maybe you're looking to buy a drone for the older kid in your family — dads like to play with toys, too. But if dad is a complete novice when it comes to piloting drones, you're still going to want to start him off with something that's easy and affordable to fix or replace.

Once he's earned his wings, maybe next year you can surprise him with something a bit more advanced. For now, this is our top pick for a drone that's really fun to learn on.

Holy Stone HS170 Predator Quadcopter

If you're looking for a cheap and reliable drone to practice with both indoors and outside, the Holy Stone Predator is a great option. It comes with its own controller that's simple enough for beginners to pick up and fly and is capable of pulling off stunts and withstanding light winds for outdoor flights.

The real bonus here is the size — it's small enough to allow for practice indoors if you've got the space, with blade guards built in for protection. A fully charged battery supplies 6 minutes of flight time; with replacement batteries really cheap and easy to swap in and out, this is a cheap drone with affordable accessories.

See at Amazon

See more great options under $50

Best Drones for under $300

If you're looking to gift a drone that's a bit more substantial than a stocking stuffer that's still more affordable than a $1,000 behemoth drone, there are a plethora of mid-range drones to choose from.

These are great options for intermediate skill level — this ain't their first time flying a drone, but they also aren't quite ready for a professional drone just yet.

Tokky MJX Bugs 3 Brushless Drone set

The Tokky MJX Bugs 3 offers great value to those who have practiced flying with cheaper drones and are ready to move onto something a bit more substantial but still affordable.

This drone has both beginner and advanced flight modes, but even the beginner mode is pretty fast. The base kit includes the drone, wireless transmitter, one 1800mAh LiPo battery, and eight spare blades. While this drone doesn't have a built-in camera, it does include a camera mount for a GoPro or other similar sized action cameras.

You'll get about 15-19 minutes of flight time on a fully-charged battery. You can get a two-pack of extra batteries for under $30 as well as extra sets of blades for under $15 — and you'll probably need those extra blades.

For $160, you can get a kit that includes a waterproof backpack for storing and transporting your drone, or just buy the drone itself and save $30.

See at Amazon

See more great options that are under $300

Best Drone for overall value

DJI Spark

It should be no surprise to see a DJI drone make an appearance as one of the best you can buy — they've been one of the leading innovators in the drone space for years and have consistently released some of the best drones on the market.

While it might seem odd to call the DJI Spark a budget pick at $539, but when you consider all the fantastic features packed into this drone and compare it against the other top-end drones out there you can't beat the value here. Weighing in at under one pound, this thing is compact and lightweight, but still packed with intelligent flight controls and an HD camera attached via a mechanical gimbal so you can keep flying and recording epic footage or take the best selfies ever!

With a max flight time of 16 minutes and motors capable of flying at up to 35 mph, the Spark is a ton of fun to fly. You can also test out some FPV flying with this drone, too, although you'll need the DJI Goggles.

This is a substantial drone with a ton of cool features that you're going to want to push to the max right out of the box… but as our own Mr. Mobile found out in his review you need to be cautious when you're just starting out because, for all the power and features packed in here, these things can quite literally get away from you sometimes. Fly safe!

See at Amazon

Best Drone of 2017

DJI Mavic Pro

If money is no option and you want to get the best drone money can buy, that's going to be the DJI Mavic Pro.

The Mavic Pro is the latest high-quality camera drone released by DJI, and it's a very compelling option.

For starters, it's extremely portable with arms that fold in to pack it down to the size of a bigger water bottle. The Mavic Pro offers up to 4.3 miles of transmission range and flight speeds of up to 40mph with average flight times of around 27 minutes. It's also packed with the latest smart features including Activetrack which uses advanced image recognition algorithms to track a moving object with the camera without using GPS. TapFly lets you control your drone with simple taps on the touchscreen. And it's also loaded with advanced sensors for obstacle avoidance, flight safety, and reliability.

Considering all the smart design that went into this drone, along with its portability, the DJI Mavic Pro offers great value at under $2000 for a state of the art drone.

See at Amazon

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3 hours ago

Google Lens will gain shopping features, AR component in the works

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There are some exciting features planned for Google Lens.

Google Lens wasn't much more than a party trick when it first launched on the Pixel 2 as a part of Google Photos, but now that Google's visual search service is integrated right within the Google Assistant, it's quickly become a truly functional tool for finding more information on objects around you in the real world. Artem Russakovskii from Android Police recently reached out to Lens' Engineering Lead, Rajan Patel, on Twitter asking about upcoming features, and Patel actually teased a handful of things to expect for the future of Lens.

Starting off with the least exciting of what Patel shared, Google is working on improving recognition of natural world objects, such as flora and fauna, so that Lens can more accurately identify these things and deliver the most precise results possible. This is possible thanks to a new optical character recognition (OCR) model that Patel's team is working on, and it should result in faster and better recognition of all the things Lens can currently identify.

Patel also announced that new shopping features are in the works for Lens. These will likely be introduced after the natural world recognition improvements, and although he didn't dive into too much detail about how they'll work, we do know that it'll support things like apparel, home goods, and more. We should hopefully get more information on Lens' shopping features in the coming weeks, but our guess is that it'll allow people to see online listing for items, user reviews, and options to buy them right from Lens.

Lastly, Patel shared that "experimental AR experiences coming as well." These AR experiences are likely the furthest out from a public release, and to be perfectly honest, we aren't sure what to expect from this. Google just launched AR Stickers for the Pixel and Pixel 2, but since Patel notes that the AR component for Lens is "experimental", it's probably quite a bit different from the fun and cutesie stickers.

Google Lens now available via Assistant on Pixel phones

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3 hours ago

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL: Tips, problems, specs and more!

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Everything you need to know about the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL!

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are finally here, and there's a lot to unpack.

While these devices resemble the original Pixel and Pixel XL, there are many changes both internally and externally that make them worth talking about.

Let's dive in.

Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL review!

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are incredible phones — probably the best Android phones out there right now. Despite their different sizes, they are nearly identical where it counts, in their cameras, their performance, their build quality, and their software experience. While the Pixel 2 XL has slimmer bezels and a slightly more washed-out pOLED display, the smaller Pixel 2 contends with a more dated-looking form factor and a smaller battery. Oh, and a smaller price tag to boot.

Which one should you buy? Read the full review below!

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL review: The new standard for Android

Pixel 2 second opinion: Close to perfect

Google Pixel 2 review, one month later: Still solid, still the best

Pixel 2 XL OLED problems

Before we dive into the phones themselves, it's worth pointing out that the Pixel 2 XL has a few display issues. The quality of the panel itself is fairly low compared to equivalent Samsung models, featuring discoloration when viewed off-center; graininess and muddiness, especially at low brightness; poor backlight uniformity (similar to the LG V30); and in some cases, burn-in.

Burn-in consists of a permanent marking on the screen after an unmoving image has been there for some time. It's a hallmark of OLED displays, and can be found on panels of both high and low quality. Generally, the higher the quality the longer burn-in takes to show.

In a post on its community forums, Google addressed the issue, saying that it found the burn-in, or "differential aging," characteristics of the OLED panel on the Pixel 2 XL to be no worse than other flagships using screens of the same technology.

Extensive testing of the Pixel 2 XL display show that its decay characteristics are comparable to OLED panels used in other premium smartphones. The differential aging should not affect the user experience of the phone, as it's not visible under normal use of your Pixel 2 XL.

An update issued in early November added a "Saturated" mode to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL's screens, and dramatically improved the color quality of the 2 XL. While blue shift is still a problem, washed-out colors are not, and Google now fades the navigation bar after a few seconds to mitigate burn-in. The official Android 8.1 update improved the Pixel 2 XL's colors even more, so we'd now venture to say most people won't notice an issue with the phone's screen.

More: Google Pixel 2 XL adds new display profiles, UI changes to address burn-in

Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL specs

These are two phones of different screen sizes, screen-to-body ratios and aspect ratios, but otherwise nearly identical internal components.

Without knowing beforehand, you wouldn't be able to tell that the Pixel 2 was made by HTC and the Pixel 2 XL by LG — they're that similar. But when you dig a little deeper, the lineages are clear: the Pixel 2's AMOLED display (which is actually made by Samsung) is clearly better than the washed-out, problematic LG-made pOLED display on the Pixel 2 XL.

Both phones have Snapdragon 835s, 4GB of RAM and between 64GB and 128GB storage standard, along with single rear 12MP cameras — this year with OIS. They're waterproof (yay!) but don't have headphone jacks (boo!). There'so no wireless charging, but the sides can be squeezed to activate Google Assistant. And though it ships with Android 8.0, not 8.1, there's a lot new here — including an embedded eSIM to connect to Project Fi even without a SIM card.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL specs

How do they compare to other phones?

Of course, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL don't exist in a vacuum; they are in an industry overwhelmed by choice. It's pretty hard to buy a bad phone at this point in time, so how do the Pixel 2s stand out? We investigate in a number of comparisons with the top-of-the-line phones on the market right now.

Google Pixel 2 vs. Samsung Galaxy S8: Let's argue about bezels

Google Pixel 2 XL vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 8: Big phones, big prices

Google Pixel 2 XL vs. LG V30: The perfect pair for right now

Google Pixel 2 vs. iPhone 8: Do these bezels make my phone look fat?

Which color should you buy?

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are available in three color options and two color options, respectively.

The Kinda Blue model is only on the smaller Pixel 2, but the Pixel 2 XL has the "chocolate-dipped" Black and White version, which we're excited about.

Oh, and about that orange power button...

Which color Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL should you buy?

Which storage size should you buy?

Last year, it was possible to buy the Pixel or Pixel XL in either 32GB or 128GB varieties; the former was too little for many people, the latter too much.

This year, the proposition seems a bit simpler because Google made it an easier choice: 64GB or 128GB.

Google Pixel 2: Which storage size should you buy?

Should you upgrade from the Pixel or Nexus lineup?

The Pixels, when they launched in October 2016, were no slouches. Featuring specs that still hold up today, including some of the best cameras on the market, it's interesting to see how far Google came with the Pixel 2 series — especially on the larger Pixel 2 XL.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL vs. Google Pixel and Pixel XL: Specs comparison

So the question is — should you upgrade from last year's models? That's a difficult question to answer, but it's one a lot of people will be considering.

Google Pixel 2 vs. Pixel: Should you upgrade?

Google Pixel 2 XL vs. Pixel XL: Should you upgrade?

Then there are the 2015 models, the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P. Those are a bit older, and definitely don't have the same quality of experience. It's easy enough to suggest upgrading from to the Pixel 2 from the Nexus 5X — the price jump is significant, though — but it's a less obvious move from the Nexus 6P to the Pixel 2 XL.

Is it worth upgrading to the Google Pixel 2 XL from the Nexus 6P?

Is it worth upgrading to the Google Pixel 2 from the Nexus 5X?

Google is doubling down on the single camera

Something amazing happened this year: Google didn't add a second camera to either the Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL. The move says something in an industry where practically every other major manufacturer, from Samsung to Apple to Huawei, has taken steps to differentiate themselves with an additional camera sensor, and lots of added functionality as a result.

But Google's image prowess allows it to do many things with one sensor that it takes other companies two to do. For instance, portrait photography. Portrait Mode is amazing on the Pixel 2 — better even than the iPhone X in many cases — and it applies to the front-facing camera, too.

With the Pixel 2, Google is doubling down on the single camera

Google built its own custom imaging chip to make the Pixel 2's camera even better

Google may only be using one camera in the Pixel 2, but it's got a trick up its sleeve — in the form of a new custom chip designed in-house called the Pixel Visual Core. Starting with the Android 8.1 update, it gives third-party developers a direct line to the immense amount of data captured by the Pixel 2's camera sensor.

At first, the Visual Core will allow developers to tap into Google's incredible HDR+ mode, which improves low-light performance while preserving detail in difficult lighting conditions. Then who knows — this is Google's first foray into custom silicon, and it has huge potential for the future of the Pixel lineup.

The Pixel 2 camera's secret weapon: A Google-designed SoC, the 'Pixel Visual Core'

Pixel 2 is water resistant

This is the first Pixel that's water resistant, with an IP67 rating, so you'll be able to dunk your phone in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes at a time without a worry.

🏊

It also has no headphone jack

Yeah, these are the first phones from Google not to ship with a headphone jack, but the company is including a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box (and is selling a $20 dongle if you want an extra) should you want to pair with traditional wired headphones.

If you want to go wireless, the Pixel 2 supports Bluetooth 5.0, and Google selling its own pair of wireless headphones called the Pixel Buds, and is partnering with companies like Libratone and others to market Google-certified headphones.

The best wireless headphones for the Pixel 2

It has an embedded eSIM

A what?

The Pixel 2 has this cool thing called an eSIM, or electronic SIM card, that allows you to connect to a network — in this case, Project Fi — with no physical SIM card.

Of course, the Pixel still supports that physical piece of plastic and bits, but you don't need it to connect to Project Fi, and that little detail heralds the future of mobile connectivity — whenever the carriers decide to catch up. In the meantime, if you're in the U.S., you can buy a Pixel 2 and activate Project Fi whenever you want, even if you didn't order it directly them from.

Google Pixel 2 doesn't need a SIM card, as long as you use Project Fi

Should you use the Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL on Project Fi?

So it has an embedded eSIM card in the phone, and you don't need to buy it from Project Fi to use it on the service. But should you use it with Google's MVNO, which cycles between T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular in the U.S.?

Should you use your Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL on Project Fi?

The Pixel 2 series will get Android R 😱

It's true — Google is giving the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL three years of guaranteed software updates, which means that when it launches with Android Oreo, it will get Android P in 2018, Android Q in 2019 and, miraculously, Android R in 2020.

Will people even use phones in 2020? We'll find out!

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL come with 3 years of guaranteed platform updates

Here's what you should do first

The Pixels are pretty easy to set up, but our experts know what you should dive into first. If you want the best out of your Pixel 2 experience, check out our list of the first six things you should do with your new phone.

The first 6 things to do with your Google Pixel 2 or 2 XL

Where to buy the Pixel 2

The Pixel 2 is now available to order at the Google Store in all launch markets — that's Australia, Canada, Germany, India, UK, and the U.S.

For carrier availability and a country-wide breakdown on pricing, hit up the link below.

Where to buy the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Which carriers can you buy it from in the U.S.?

Verizon. In addition to the Google Store and Project Fi, Verizon is once again the exclusive U.S. carrier for the 2017 Pixel lineup. While the Verizon model comes unlocked, and can be used on other carriers, it's updated through Verizon, not Google, and has carrier-specific optimizations.

See at Verizon

There have been some issues with trade-ins

Google offers up to $410 for users to trade in their previous Pixels or other high-end phones, but the system has been marred in delays and other problems that have kept people from receiving their credits for the new Pixel 2 phones.

Fortunately, the issues have been sorted (according to Google), and those who didn't receive a credit, or had their phone denied, should be fine now.

Google says it has fixed Pixel and Nexus trade-in issues

What about cases and accessories?

With the Pixel 2, Google has implemented a new 'Made for Google' program where accessory makers can build products that are guaranteed to work really well with the company's new phones. If you're looking for the right case, or maybe just a new pair of headphones, we've got you covered.

The best Pixel 2 accessories

The best Pixel 2 cases

The best Pixel 2 XL cases

Here's every Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL case we could find

The new Daydream VR headset is fantastic

Just because Google (and everyone else) is excited about its new phones, that doesn't mean the company has forgotten about its plans for VR. Alongside the Pixel 2 and 2 XL comes a new Daydream VR headset with improved materials, better lenses, and more comfortable straps that make using it for longer periods considerably easier.

Daydream View 2017 review: Mostly successful refinement

Should you worry about some of the issues you're hearing about?

From a problematic display on the Pixel 2 XL to clicking sounds from the top speaker to poor sound quality when capturing video, the Pixel 2 line hasn't been without its fair share of problems.

Oh, and some units are shipping with software that won't boot, while others are reporting Bluetooth issues when connecting to headphones and other music players.

The good news is that Google is working on fixing all of them, and some have already started rolling out with Android 8.1 update.

How to fix common Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL problems

Anything else?

There were lots of other things announced at Google's hardware event on October 4. Take a look at the video above to take a look, and read our other coverage on the Home Mini, Home Max, new Daydream VR headset, Google Buds headphones, and more!

Update, December 13: This article has been updated to reflect all of the latest Pixel 2 developments, including an official update to Android 8.1 and more!

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Best Buy Verizon Google Store Project Fi

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3 hours ago

Project Fi: What it's like switching between three networks?

3
Project Fi on the Pixel 2

Switching between networks isn't scary, and in fact it's quite useful.

Usually when you sign up for a phone carrier, you're just getting service from that one carrier. That's not the case with Project Fi, which lets your phone actively switch between T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular. It's a big selling point for the service, and when you add in Wi-Fi calling and texting it looks like quite the network juggling act.

After using Project Fi for some time, it turns out the regular switching between networks isn't all that confusing after all.

Switching between T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular

Project Fi network on the Pixel 2

Project Fi, when paired with a capable phone like the Google Pixel 2, is set up to intelligently choose between T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular's networks depending on which one is offering a better signal at the time. We don't really know how Google's deals have been worked out or how the phone determines when to choose one network over another — and with a Project Fi SIM in your phone, the "Cellular network settings" go blank except for a single toggle to toggle mobile data and data roaming (which you wouldn't ever worry about turning off anyway). That means you don't have any control over which network your phone uses, but it's not actually as scary as it first seems.

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In our time using the service all around the U.S., we've seen the phone latch onto T-Mobile primarily, typically only moving to Sprint in some rural areas where T-Mobile had weak or no LTE signal to offer. As Sprint has improved its average speeds and reliability over the past couple of years, we've started to see it used more and more as well. Typically, you're most likely to see T-Mobile in dense cities, and Sprint in more rural areas where T-Mobile may not have expansive LTE coverage. You're only likely to see US Cellular in the regions where it actually runs its own network.

Project Fi on Sprint and T-Mobile

The most interesting thing to note is how seamless the transition is between networks when the phone decides to switch. There actually isn't any indication on the phone when it switches, and no matter which network you're on the phone will always display "Fi Network" in the status bar. You can use an app to see which network you're on (SignalCheck is popular), and that's the only way to keep track of the network switching. Most importantly there isn't any change in the experience that indicated a switch had been made — no delay, no cutoff and no slow data.

The network switching is seamless, and simply expands your speeds and coverage.

While there are technically ways to explicitly choose just one network or the other, we wouldn't actually recommend that. Considering how smooth the transition is between networks, there's little reason to bother with manually switching or sticking with one — and it really defeats the purpose of paying what are still above-average per-gigabyte data rates to get access to all three networks.

The one clear downside of this network switching is the lack of simultaneous voice and data when your phone is on the Sprint network — meaning if you receive a call, you won't be able to use data at the same time if your phone happens to be connected to Sprint. This really is the only reason to try and "force" the phone to one network or another ... and the only annoyance of this opaque network switching.

In all, it's a win. Project Fi manages all three networks really well to the point where you can't perceive the changes, and the parts of the country where the networks don't overlap simply gives you more room with data than you'd get by going with a single network.

Then you add in Wi-Fi

Pixel 2 Project Fi Wi-Fi calling

Plain old carrier networks aren't the only story here — there's also a significant part of the Project Fi experience that leans on Wi-Fi (hence the name). The first part of this is built-in Wi-Fi calling and texting, which can utilize your current Wi-Fi connection instead of the cellular networks. This only works when your Wi-Fi connection is deemed fast enough for calls (it doesn't require much speed), but it'll seamlessly drop to the cellular network if necessary without any intervention. This works in the built-in Phone dialer and Google Messenger apps.

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This means you can call and text no matter where you are, even out of cellular range, but perhaps the nicest feature about this Wi-Fi calling and texting is that it doesn't require any intervention or settings manipulation on your part. Simply pick up the phone and call or text, and it'll go out over whatever network will handle it. And because your "Fi Basics" charge covers unlimited talk and texts, you don't have to worry about which way it's routed.

Project Fi Wifi Assistant

The other part of the Wi-Fi story with Project Fi is the so-called "Wi-Fi assistant" that automatically connects you to open Wi-Fi as you move about. This is one of the less-understood parts of the service, but it's pretty basic once you know what to expect. If you choose to keep your Wi-Fi turned on at all times and let the Wi-Fi assistant scan for networks (as is the case by default), your phone will automatically connect to any completely open Wi-Fi network that it finds and is "verified as fast and reliable."

It will only connect to networks that are completely open — that is, no password, splash page, "click here to connect" or "watch this advertisement to connect" getting in the way. While at first you may think there are plenty of open networks around you, many of them actually require this extra step of a splash page or some kind of authentication that'll keep your Project Fi phone from connecting. But because you don't have to actively manage it, it's always nice when you look down and see your phone has been saving mobile data by hopping on a coffee shop's free Wi-Fi.

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It'll connect to fewer networks than you'd think, but when it does connect it works well.

When your phone does find a completely open Wi-Fi network that it can connect to, it'll connect and you'll be using it for data instead of the cellular network. You'll also automatically be connected to a Google VPN service, which is completely free, and tunnels your connection past the inherently insecure Wi-Fi network and through Google's servers to hit the outside Internet. This is good for your own security, and also helps give you a consistent data connection. When the connection degrades or you start to leave its location, your phone will hand off back to the cellular network — including an ongoing call.

Living the multiple network life

So long as you don't try to tinker much and simply trust what the phone and service can do automatically, you'll be satisfied with the network switching and automatic Wi-Fi access in Project Fi. Having open access to T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular means there are fewer places where you'll be left without a mobile data connection. And in areas with bad speeds from one of the three carriers there's a good chance the other two can pick up the slack instead. Network redundancy is always a good thing.

And in places where you have access to Wi-Fi — be it a known network or an open one out in public — the built-in Wi-Fi calling and texting features, along with the help of the Wi-Fi assistant, will let you keep using your phone in areas with bad mobile networks or just to save you a few dollars a month in data usage. It's simple, and for the most part it works — it's a truly useful part of the Project Fi experience.

Google Project Fi

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4 hours ago

These are the top 10 most popular Google searches of 2017

7

Time to look back and see what was big in 2017.

Every year in December, Google announces the most popular searches over the past 365 days as a way for us to look back and see what major things and events had the biggest impact on our world. For 2017, Google says it saw a huge increase in searches that began with "how."

These searches include the likes of "how do wildfires start", "how far can north korean missiles go", "how to help flood victims", and much more. Searches like these are said to have seen an increase of ten times compared to any other year prior, and while many of them are a result of natural disasters, tensions between nations, and controversial world leaders, Google reminds us to look at these searches as a way of people wanting to better understand the world and help push things forward.

With that said, the top 10 global searches for 2017 are as follows:

  1. Hurricane Irma
  2. iPhone 8
  3. iPhone X
  4. Matt Lauer
  5. Meghan Markle
  6. 13 Reasons Why
  7. Tom Petty
  8. Fidget Spinners
  9. Chester Bennington
  10. India National Cricket Team

On the consumer technology side of things, the top 10 global searches include:

  1. iPhone 8
  2. iPhone X
  3. Nintendo Switch
  4. Samsung Galaxy S8
  5. Xbox One X
  6. Nokia 3310
  7. Razer Phone
  8. Oppo F5
  9. OnePlus 5
  10. Nokia 6

When looking at the top 10 searches for consumer technology in the United States, there are two other Android phones that make an appearance with the Pixel 2 coming in at eighth place and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 at tenth.

The evidence is here – people really, really want a Razer Phone.

It's pretty impressive to see the OnePlus 5 making such a big dent in the consumer tech market on a global scale this year, but what's even more shocking is the strong presence of the Razer Phone being the seventh most popular consumer tech item for all of 2017. The Razer Phone was fairly late to market with a release just this past November, and along with this, our own Alex Dobie found a couple game-breaking issues that prevented him from recommending the device in its current state. However, even with all of this being the case, it's clear that there is in fact a market for an Android phone made by Razer.

We aren't at all surprised that the iPhone 8 and X were to two most popular phones of the year, but the Galaxy S8 and it's ultra-futuristic design doesn't fall far behind them. Also, while Google still has quite a bit of work to do for expanding its hardware on a global scale, seeing the Pixel 2 come in at eighth place for the United States should still be considered a win for the company.

What are your thoughts on these top 10 searches? Do any of them surprise you? Let us know in the comments below, and check out all of the other categories on Google Trends here.

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4 hours ago

The LOFT portable battery case lets Google Home escape from the home

4

If you've always wanted your Google Home to be a little more portable, this'll take care of that.

Sure, pretty much everything that's baked into Google Home is already in your perfectly portable smartphone. Google Assistant. Music. Podcasts. Answers for all of the world's questions. But let's face it, even the best smartphone speakers suck compared to Google Home.

Wouldn't it be great if you could just take your Google Home outside, without needing an extension cord? Indeed, it would. And it is.

The LOFT portable battery case is a $50 accessory for Google Home that adds a 4200 mAh battery and unshackles it from an outlet.

It's super simple. Just pop off the old base (give it a tiny twist to break the magnetic connection, and it just slides right off) and then pop on the LOFT, making sure the little power post lines up to slip inside the Google Home. After that, just plug the Google Home power supply into the bottom of the LOFT, and let it charge up.

Once you're ready to take your Google Home outside, all you have to do is unplug the cord. The internal battery does the rest, for up to eight hours, LOFT says. The LED lights on the front let you know how much battery remains.

It's that easy. There are three colors from which to choose — black (which goes nicely with a Panda'd-out Pixel 2), copper, and silver. The grille pattern looks plenty nice and is easily of enough quality so that I'm not even going to think about putting the stock base back on, whether or not I'll be moving my Google Home around. And it only adds about an inch and a half of height to the whole smash, taking things up to about 7 inches at their highest point.

It's not quite a must-have. But if you've want to be able to take your Google Home somewhere cords just aren't going to work, it's a great and inexpensive option.

See at Amazon

Google Home

Google Store Best Buy Target

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