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1 week ago

Do I need more than one Google Home?

25

Having more than one Google Home just adds benefits.

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! Having multiple Google Homes only increases your benefits, and we have the details for you here!

Do I really need more than one Google Home?

The first question that you might have is whether investing in more than one Google Home is actually worth it. Depending on the size of your living space (and how many people inhabit it) one Google Home may be more than sufficient. This is especially true if you don't really have much by way of connected home hardware.

However, if you've got a decent-sized house, then having a different Google Home in your living room, kitchen, and bedroom can seriously pay off. That's because connecting your smart home devices and using an app like IFTTT means that you can pull some added capabilities off of your accessory.

So if you have Hue lights in your bedroom, you want Google Home to read you a recipe while you're making dinner, and your partner wants to jam out to Spotify in the living room, all of those things are possible at the same time. The need for more than one Google Home is definitely personal, but if you want to get the most out of your technology, then having more than one is definitely a solid option.

What are the benefits of having multiple Google Homes?

If having more than one Google Home seems like the answer to your prayers, then you aren't on your own. Being able to play music in one room, while doing something entirely different in another room can make a pretty big difference. Especially if you are one of the people who get used to asking Google about the weather, your commute, and other information before you even leave the house.

Being able to have a different Google Home in each major room of your house means that no matter where you are, you have access to the information you need with just a question. This also means that if one person is listening to Spotify or an audiobook, they don't need to be interrupted if you need to know just how hot it actually is outside.

What if I only want one Google Home?

If you're really happy with your single Google Home, then strictly speaking there isn't any necessary reason to pick up another one. While you can only really do one thing at a time with Google Home, you should be pretty solid. Thanks to multi-user support, you can have several people connected to Google Home, and it will recognize their voices separately.

Google Home can support up to 6 users at a time and is able to tell who is speaking to it. This means it can also access specific accounts linked to a user without needing a separate accessory. While you can't play music and get a recipe for dinner at the same time, Google Home will remember background tasks you asked it for. This means you can set a timer while your partner listens to Spotify, and Google Home will pause the music when your alarm goes off.

For folks who live in smaller residences, live by themselves, or lack Smar thome hardware, then a single Google Home ought to be more than enough to help you keep track of everything going on in your life.

Questions?

Do you still have questions about whether or not more than one Google Home is a solid idea? Have you picked up a second Google Home? Let us know about it in the comments below!

Google Home

Google Store Best Buy Target

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1 week ago

Should I run a VPN on my Android phone?

74

If you want or need to use a VPN, the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to using one on your phone, too.

With recent news of privacy-eroding deregulation and the ever-present threat of online data theft, VPNs are in the news more than ever. While the merits of which one is the best and why is a hot subject, little attention is paid to the obvious question — should I use one on my phone?

We're here to talk about if you should and the reasons why!

More: The best VPN services of 2017

What is a VPN?

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. That's a technical term for what's essentially a welcome middleman between you and the internet at large.

A VPN is a service you connect to that sends and receives data across the internet on your behalf. When you set up and enable a VPN, all of your internet traffic goes through it, both ways. Ideally, this traffic is encrypted and only the two parties who should have access to the information are able to use it.

A VPN is a gateway that sends and receives data on your behalf.

There are a lot of different ways to set up a VPN and some are used for specific reasons. VPNs make excellent ad-blockers and companies like AdGuard offer a free VPN service that filters out ads from a known list of servers. Your work may use a VPN that can encrypt data on your machine before you send it and it can only be decrypted by the server at work while leaving other traffic untouched. Or you might want a U.S. based VPN to try all the services Google hasn't rolled out the rest of the world yet.

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But mostly what people are talking about when we mention a VPN is a service that is designed to protect your identity on the internet by intercepting all the traffic so that it looks like it's not coming from or going back to you or your location.

What advantages does a VPN offer?

In the broad sense, a VPN only does one thing: direct internet traffic. But directing internet traffic has a lot of advantages!

As mentioned above, you can block ads or create a private session between you and your work network or you can even have a VPN that directs traffic to a different server depending on your login: Paid users of a service can have more perks and a faster connection than non-paid. But there are two reasons most people use a VPN:

  • Access to an otherwise restricted source. There are a plenty of things like media streaming services that can't or won't let you use them if you're not in the right place. We see this a lot with professional sports streams. Depending on distribution rights, you might not be able to stream a Tigers game if you live in the greater Detroit area. You can use a VPN that's hosted somewhere with geographic access and the service will work because that's where it thinks you are.

  • Security and privacy. A VPN is not foolproof, but using one with wholly encrypted connections from a reputable company creates what's called a tunnel that acts as a one-stop connection between you and whatever you're doing on the internet. This makes the data difficult to intercept by anyone or any service (except the VPN company itself) and if it were grabbed, almost impossible to decipher. While a lot of people think of this as a way to hide who you are, it can also be used to verify who you are. Both are strong reasons to use a VPN, and people like journalists and investigators can see or say things in private. And so can everyone else. Privacy is not just for the select few.

Of course, people with bad intentions can use a VPN to have the same privacy and security. Like encryption, we shouldn't let this fact make us think that they are a bad thing overall.

The downsides of using a VPN

Like everything else, there are downsides to using a VPN. And we shouldn't gloss over them because we want to tout the privacy factor.

Operating a VPN is difficult so make sure you choose a good company.

The biggest is the technical hurdle. Effectively operating a VPN requires an understanding of network security issues and a way to make sure it is effective against them. All the privacy and security of using a VPN goes out the window if the administrator doesn't know exactly how things like the Same Origin Policy or CORS work and what they need to do to work around the issues they present where cookies (small files a website uses to "remember" you) are involved. This stuff is pretty complicated.

VPN service for as little as $6.49 per month! Learn more

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That's why you have to know you are using a VPN service you trust. The company must be honest and open with their policies in relation to privacy and be fully competent and up-to-date on how computer networking is constantly evolving. Don't try to rent an online server and run your own VPN if you don't know what you're doing and don't jump on a friends home-brewed VPN unless they know what they are doing. Stick to recommend companies that have been scrutinized and audited by the pros.

A couple of other things that might not be great about using a VPN:

  • The connection can be terrible. You might have great internet service and all the things you like are fast, but when you place a VPN in the mix you probably will see things get slower. Sometimes, too slow. The good news is that another VPN may not be too slow.
  • You share an internet address with others. A VPN masks your internet address (I.P.) and replaces it with their own. That means if I get blocked from a service while using that address and you get it the next time, you're blocked, too. An otherwise excellent VPN company may end up being blocked at your favorite website, or your bank, or the IRS site you file your taxes through. This can also add extra scrutiny by law enforcement when you've done nothing wrong: The person using that address before you may have been doing something sketchy.

So, should I or shouldn't I?

Sure!

While not everyone wants or needs to use a VPN if you do there's no reason not to use it with your phone. Most VPN companies have an easy to setup app you can install that gets you connected and has an easy way to turn things on and off. Some even have extras for things like bandwidth monitoring so you know how close you are to any data limits. And a properly configured VPN (we go back to those technical hurdles) should work for all data that moves in and out of your phone, whether you're on Wi-Fi or using your data connection.

A VPN works with your web browser and every app on your phone.

You will have a little bit of extra overhead, as an app that encrypts and decrypts the data and properly routes it through the VPN is running in the background, but the impact is minimal with a properly coded VPN app or a manual setup. You won't notice a proper VPN app when it's running unless you look for it. Google themselves use a VPN for Project Fi users who connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots. You'll literally not know anything extra is happening.

The downsides still remain, but as long as you're using a recommended company who has a safe and secure VPN service, you'll probably never run into any of them. We hate to say "probably" as much as you hate hearing it, but it's true. Customers who would cause themselves to be blacklisted from a service or draw the attention of law enforcement usually aren't using consumer VPN services.

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Look for a company that's recommended by other people who share similar interests, has a great app for your phone, and has a clear and concise set of policies (and read them). If you want or need a VPN, there's no reason not to use it on your phone!

Updated July 2017 with the latest information and compatibility with newer phones.

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1 week ago

Android Wear goes extra-high-end with the Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon

7

Luxury continues to be a big focus.

Google is continuing its strategy of partnering with well-established fashion brands to make unique Android Wear watches, and now one of the most recognizable names, Louis Vuitton, is on board with its new Tambour Horizon. An exquisite combination of metal, leather and sapphire made in Switzerland and wrapped around the same core specs as every other Android Wear 2.0 watch.

This is a 42 mm case that Louis Vuitton says is "exceptionally compact for a connected watch" (though it's 12.55 mm thick) and combines with your choice of 60 different detachable straps. The screen and back are both covered in sapphire, as you'd expect, but that back plate is just for looks — there isn't a heart rate sensor there.

A relative bargain compared to other Louis Vuitton watches.

The rest of the specs are roughly standard, with a 1.2-inch 390x390 AMOLED display (no flat tire!), a Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, 300mAh battery, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. Louis Vuitton does claim 30 meters of water resistance, though, which is great.

Outside of the core Android Wear 2.0 experience, Louis Vuitton also includes a "my flight" function for following your travel details, a "city guide" for accessing LV-curated guides and of course plenty of "iconic Louis Vuitton watch dials" to complement the hardware and make sure everyone knows you have a Louis Vuitton smartwatch.

And yes, the Tambour Horizon is quite expensive: $2450 for the stainless steel model, and a cool $2900 for the black variant. Massively expensive by Android Wear smartwatch standards, but a great deal if you're comparing to other Louis Vuitton watches that can approach $10,000. We actually wouldn't be surprised if this was a decent seller in some markets — that Louis Vuitton brand is strong.

Android Wear

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1 week ago

How to save videos in YouTube for Android

7
Saved offline

There's so much to watch on YouTube, you can't possibly watch it all.

And it's always the same story: you've spent twice as long as you intended to sitting there watch mindless YouTube videos when you find one you know you're gonna love, but if you don't get moving now, you're gonna be late and get fired. But when you come back later you can't remember what that video was! Then the only time you can watch it is on this stupid Wi-Fi-less flight. And thus a video you could've loved is lost to time...

Never again. We can save them! We have the technology.

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1 week ago

Prime Day brings rare discounts on Philips Hue smart lighting

6

Amazon recently discounted a selection of Philips Hue products during its Prime Day sale. Philips Hue is a line of smart bulbs which can be automated via the Philips Hue app to turn on or off even when you're not home.

The following deals are available for Philips Hue products during Amazon's Prime Day:

  • White and Color Ambiance LED Bulb - $39.99 (was $49.99)
  • White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit - $138.95 (was ~$175)
  • Hue Go Portable LED Smart Light - $50.81 (was $79.99)

If you're looking for more ways to make your home a smart home, we also just posted a guide on the best smart home accessory discounts available for Prime Day featuring items such as a garage door opener that works via app and a ceiling fan you can talk to.

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

Amazon Echo Show review: Alexa gets fancy

6
Amazon Echo Show

The quick take

Amazon adds a touchscreen and camera to a couple of decent speakers, giving us the best Echo yet for only $50 more than what the original Alexa device is selling for. Video calling is an easy-to-use (if still novel) feature, and Amazon's paving the way for developers to make use of the 7-inch display. Now it just has to get them to update those thousands of skills to take advantage of it.

The Good

  • Alexa as you've come to know and love
  • Not prohibitively expensive
  • Good sound and video quality
  • A reasonably attractive design

The Bad

  • Third-party skills taking advantage of the touchscreen
  • Amazon's Alexa app is still a little clunky
  • Video "drop-ins" are fraught with danger
  • Alexa calls and messaging are still a walled garden

Watch this

Amazon Echo Show Video Review

Two round speakers and a microphone (and a display and a camera)

Amazon Echo Show Full review

The Echo Show is the best Alexa-enabled device Amazon has made yet. Let's just get that out of the way. If you're considering between the original Echo and the Echo Show, find the extra $50 and get the newer one with the display.

Yes, there's still reason to keep reading. Because while the Echo Show is the best Amazon has done so far, it's not perfect. Far from it. In fact, it's entirely possible to have an Echo Show — with its 7-inch display and camera and integrated speakers — and very quickly realize its shortcomings. It is an imperfect device that simultaneously excites and occasionally infuriates. It's yet another example of Amazon beating everyone else to market, but with a product that in a number of ways still feels incomplete.

And that, I think, actually is a good thing.

This is the Amazon Echo Show.

See at Amazon

Amazon Echo Show

About this review

I've been using the Amazon Echo Show (as purchased from Amazon for the two-for-$500 deal) for nearly two weeks as of the time of this review. They've been on software 581231520, for what that's worth, and have lived in my kitchen, living room, bedroom, and office during that time.

Echo meets tablet

Amazon Echo Show Hardware and setup

At its simplest, the Echo Show is this: a 7-inch touchscreen at 1024x600 resolution, with a 5-megapixel camera and a pair of 2-inch speakers at the bottom. On top you'll find a trio of buttons — from left, there's a kill switch for the microphones and camera, then volume down and volume up. (I'd have put the mute button in the middle, but no one asked me.) And there's a round hole on the back of the Echo Show for the proprietary power plug. Eight microphones are hidden within the device.

And that's it. It's a very nicely designed, if cleverly simple Echo. It's just big enough — about 7.5 inches tall and wide — to be conspicuous without being so large that it gets in the way. It fits on a nightstand or into a kitchen nook or alongside living room knickknacks. And that's a key feature, because as the name implies the Echo Show will show you things as well as talk to you in the traditional sense of Alexa.

The matte plastic body comes in any color you want, so long as it's either murdered-out black or a white body with a black face for the display and speaker grille. I've leaned toward liking the black-and-white model a little more — I think it blends in to the background a little better — but I've also liked having the darker model on my nightstand in the bedroom. The white one definitely hides dust a little better, though.

The resolution of the display isn't exactly anything to write home about. But then again, you shouldn't expect it to be. A mere 600 vertical pixels might not seem like a lot in this age of 4K and "retina" and all that. But remember that you're not going to have your nose up against the Echo Show like you would a phone or tablet. Most of the time I'm barking orders at the Echo Show from a good 6 or 8 feet away in the kitchen. So the display is just fine. It's bright enough and the colors are accurate enough for this sort of use.

I love that you can use your own pictures for the background on the Echo Show and have it display your own albums. But I'm not sure I love it enough to start using Amazon Prime Photos as my photo storage system.

Echo Show is Alexa with a display and a camera. Don't overthink it.

The speakers also are just fine for what I'd expect in a $229 device. No, it's not as good as the more expensive Sonos Play:1. This is decent directional sound, but it won't be filling a room like a Sonos can. There's enough bass to keep things interesting but not so much as to make this a primary entertainment device. Music sounds fine, as do podcasts and other spoken-word events. This is another one of those times when "good enough" is good enough, particularly in the kitchen, which tends to get noisy.

Setup is excellent. Chances are you ordered directly from Amazon, and so your Amazon account will be preloaded. Just enter your Wi-Fi and confirm your Amazon password and you're up and running. The initial boot may take a few minutes, though, depending on whether a Day 1 software update is in order. (If you had any lingering doubts whether this was an Android-based OS, the post-update boot time should confirm that suspicion.)

From there you're run through a couple of instructional videos of what to do and how to do it — tl;dr: You talk to the Echo Show most of the time and tap the screen some of the time — and through the new video calling features.

Amazon Echo Show

Plug-in baby

Using the Echo Show Eyes, ears and now a screen

Echo Show is, above all else, an Alexa device. So you can talk to it just like you can the OG Echo or Echo Dot or Tap or even the strange little Echo Look. And Alexa will talk right back to you. There's really nothing new here, except to say the eight microphones generally pick out my voice just fine, even when I've got music playing through the Show. (That's an important thing to be able to do, of course.)

The game-changer here is the display. Now Alexa can, as the name implies, show you information and content. That's maybe not as easy as you might expect. It's easy to clunk up a display with too much or too little information or with horrible fonts or an otherwise unusable user interface. (Look at pretty much any car stereo interface and you'll know exactly what I mean by that.) But Amazon has adopted an excellent design aesthetic here.

Amazon Echo Show

Nobody likes to read about fonts and UX (except for those of us who have to deal with such things for a living), so I'll just say that there's nothing haphazard here. The mix of serifs and san-serifs and italics help the time and weather stand out from headlines, and headlines (and their keywords) stand out from the prompts for how to get more information out of the Echo Show. It's all understated, easy to read, and ultimately very well-done. The transitions between cards and fade in/out times are damn near perfect.

My only real complaint here is that a lot of the time I just don't find what's on the screen to be all that informative. Time and weather? OK. Actual news? Fine, I guess. (Though I'd argue that "news" and "what's actually important" are two very different things these days.) Upcoming calendar events? Definitely helpful (assuming you've connected your calendar to Alexa).

Echo Show's home screen looks great. The problem is it's wasted real estate so far.

Dive in and turn off ...

I'd recommend turning off a couple things. First is the "Trending Topics" content. I rot my brain plenty of other ways, thanks. I'd also turn off the option to have cards continuously repeat. (At least until they time out and are replaced by something else.) Those two sort of go hand in hand, though. I guess maybe it's fine to see the fluff once. But not over and over again.

How do you change settings like this on Echo Show? Pull down from the top of the screen like you would a phone or tablet. This is where you'll find options for the display settings — including the all-important do-not-disturb mode — and themes, as well as for what you see on the cards themselves. Most of these settings can be changed in the Alexa app on your phone, too, save for what you see on the screen. (Which is sort of a weird thing to leave out.) In any event, it's worth taking a few minutes to look around these parts, though it shouldn't be something you have to come back to very often.

The exception to that would be the "Home" icon. If you have Alexa read you news or stories or get into one of the thousands of "Skills" available (more on that in a minute), you'll want a way to get back to the main home screen. For that, just say "Alexa, go home." Or you can pull down from the top of the screen and use the on-screen button. I think I might prefer a hardware button for this, though — say, short press for Home, long press for mute. That's not a huge deal, though.

Those really are the basics. A lot of this is self-explanatory. And I'm not going to spend and real time here on playing music and videos. Echo Show plays music — though Amazon Music or Spotify or Pandora or iHeartRadio — just fine over Wi-Fi. For anything else you can connect via Bluetooth. (I still greatly prefer Google's Chromecast or Apple's AirPlay, but Bluetooth is simple enough.) And Amazon Prime Video is front and center, and you can tell Alexa to show you videos from YouTube, with the touchscreen serving as a decent way to let you pick exactly what it is you were hoping to see.

Amazon Echo Show

That's table stakes, though, and it's actually pretty limited by design. You're relying on Alexa to understand you — there's no on-screen way to launch music or video, you have to use your voice — and return the right result, and then you chose what you actually want. It's like you're using a tablet, with a couple of extra steps thrown in, including voice commands. (Want some bedtime music? You'll need to tell Alexa first. Just try not to wake anyone who's sleeping next to you while you and Alexa are chatting away.)

There aren't really any rough edges on Echo Show in terms of software. Things tend to work really well, and it's obvious there was a lot of time spent on getting them right. But what we have is a tablet-like interface without the usual tablet-like paradigms.

We had a saying in the newsroom of my newspaper when I was younger. "Less yapping, more tapping." The opposite often is true of the Echo Show. You'll talk to it more than you will tap to get to where you want to be. That's not necessarily a bad thing — it's quicker to say "Show albums by Muse" than it is to tap into an app, and then either type out "M-u-s-e" or drill through a menu system.

But it's a bit like going to a restaurant and needing to have some idea of what's available, instead of being handed a menu. I might know I want the grilled salmon. But then again the blackened snapper looks pretty good, too. You lose that sort of discovery this way, and the interaction is much slower than if you see another option.

And you have to remember to be specific. If I say "Show me Tesla Model 3 videos," Echo Show will return results from Amazon Prime Video, which isn't actually what I want. User error? Maybe. But better might be to show results from multiple sources and then let me choose which one is best.

Skills start to fall short pretty fast

Then there's the issue of Alexa's "skills." Think of these as apps for Alexa that bridge gap between traditional apps and the voice-only interface of the previous Echo devices. But now we have a display. And a touchscreen, at that.

The good news is that all the skills pretty much still work. (At least in my testing.) The bad news is that as I write this in early July 2017 (a week after the Echo Show shipped) there's very little that actually takes advantage of the display. And that goes for some of Alexa's native features, too.

A few examples that I've run up against:

  • Flash Briefing: One of my favorite early features of Alexa, this news roundup reads you content from any number of sources. Seems like a perfect opportunity for video. Only there isn't any yet. Not even a basic slideshow.
  • Audio books: Echo Show hooks into Amazon's Kindle and Audible services just fine. (Alexa is still a lousy narrater, though.) ... The screen is wasted here, too. Or at least it was on the examples I used. Music — some of it, anyway — gets the lyric treatment. Why not books?
  • Dominos Pizza: Ordering a pizza by voice is easy and doable. Better would be to be able to actually see what it is you're ordering. Amazon's done it with its own listings. Third parties need to as well.
  • Recipes: An Echo Show in the kitchen is a very good thing, and being able to view recipes is key. But you immediately get kicked into the Allrecipes skill. And if the specific recipe you want isn't available, there's no way to get to it. No web browser. Just frustration.
  • Security: I was extremely excited to see the Ring doorbell as a launch partner for Echo Show. Turns out all you can do is tell the Echo Show to show you the live view from the camera. It doesn't pop up the feed when someone triggers the motion sensor or hits the doorbell. Ring says they're working on it.

And that's just for starters. The point is that in these very early days, the Echo Show is still a very long way from being the sort of whole-home digital hub that I so badly want it to be. Nobody else has come close yet. Especially not in an affordable package like this.

Should skills on the Echo Show actually be full-fledged Android apps? Maybe. And there's really no reason they couldn't be. It's just that it's disappointing there's not more available at launch that takes advantage of the hardware. Amazon's skills are pretty robust, and I've no doubt that developers will improve on what we have now.

And they'll need to.

Echo Show video call

Drop in any time. Or don't.

Echo Show Camera, calls, drop-ins and privacy

Another area of great potential — OK, a really big deal I've said previously — on the Echo Show is video calling. Amazon sort of eased us into this with messaging and voice calling a couple months ahead of the Echo Show's release. And all that still stands today. You can call another Echo device — or a phone with the Alexa app — exactly the same way as we could previously.

Now? We have video. In its simplest form, it's video calling just as we've come to know with Skype and FaceTime and Google Hangouts.

Do you really want someone to be able to turn on your camera?

Where things get interesting is with Drop-in.

This feature lets you literally "drop in" on someone who has an Echo device. As in, you call them, they don't touch anything, and then you can talk at them. Sort of like an intercom.

This works from one Echo device to another or from a phone (via the Alexa app) to an Echo device, video or no video. It works for any devices that are on a single account — so I or my family can drop in on any of my devices wherever they may be located. This turns all your Echo devices into an intercom. And that's kind of cool, actually.

The drop-in

Drop-in also works for any contact in your Alexa app — but only after you give that person permission to drop in on you in the individual contact listing. So while it's still very bad that Amazon doesn't give you better control over who can contact you on your Echo, it does keep random folks from dropping in.

This all might seem a little unnerving at first. In reality, it's not that bad.

Drop-in video on Echo Show

Back to dropping in on an Echo Show, though, which is where things get a little interesting. Because the Echo Show has a video camera, it's much more intrusive — particularly if you decide to keep an Echo Show in the bedroom. But this really is true for any camera anywhere in your home.

So when you drop in on someone else, you won't see them at first. Instead, you'll get a mostly opaque view of what's going on. After 10 seconds or so the pictures clears up. In that time, anyone on the other end can choose to nuke the connection. Of course, that's assuming they're paying attention and weren't doing something more fun than answering their Echo Show.

So drop in on someone at your own risk. Conversely, teach your kids to drop in on your Echo Show at their own risk.

Alexa Messaging: Neat, but not very useful yet

In any event, video calling on Echo Show is very cool. Voice calling on any Echo is still very cool. The ability for a youngster or an aging parent to get ahold of me anywhere without the complication of a phone or tablet is a big deal — especially when you consider all you need is a $50 Echo Dot.

Messaging and video calls are great. Now Amazon just has to get you to use them.

What Alexa messaging is not, thus far, is ubiquitous. At this point it's still just one more means of messaging in an era in which we already have too many ways to do it. Phone calls. SMS. MMS. Facebook Messenger. iMessage. FaceTime. Whatsapp. WeChat. Telegram. Signal. Skype. Slack. Duo. ... The list goes on. Right now the only differentiator for Amazon is that it's easy to use on a $50 Echo Dot.

What I'd really love to see happen is for Amazon to get one of the big players to come on board. But everyone has their own interests, and this isn't something I'd expect to see anytime soon.

So for now, Echo Show-to-Echo Show video calling is a novelty, not a necessity, even if it's done very well.

Amazon Echo Show

Oh, Alexa ...

Amazon Echo Show The bottom line

Almost 3,000 words ago I said that the Amazon Echo Show is the best Alexa you can get today. That hasn't changed. First, it looks cooler than the original obelisk Echo. It also does all the things that the OG Echo does. The addition of the touchscreen is what really opens it up.

Or, rather, I think it will. Like I first said about the OG Echo, there's a ton of potential here. Back then it was needing skills to be built out. That's true again, but for different reasons. Now skills need to be refined for the touchscreen.

This is the best Alexa yet — and makes headless speakers seem tired.

The simple act of adding lyrics to music is good. Being able to see what Alexa is ordering from Amazon is a great improvement. Rudimentary integration with smart home tech is a nice start, though it needs to go much further. And video calling is a vast (if natural) improvement — now Amazon needs to get it to more people.

But you can see how Amazon is sort of coming in through the back door. A $50 Echo Dot gets the Alexa app onto your phone. And now you're on your way to messaging and video calling with anyone else via Alexa. It's not WhatsApp, but you can tell there's a strategy in there.

What the Echo Show is now, however, is inexpensive at $229. But it's easily the best, and it looks like it will be for some time.

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

The best Prime Day discounts on Alexa-powered devices

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Amazon's Alexa-powered products, like the Echo, Tap, and Echo Dot continue to get smarter each week, and if you haven't already picked one up, right now the time to do it. If you already have an Echo in one room, these prices may convince you to put it in another, or pick one up for the office, your friends, or just because. The ease of being able to issue voice commands to remind yourself of things in the future, turn off the lights, or have music played for you is seriously awesome.

These deals are only scheduled to last for a few hours, while supplies last. If you are looking to pick one up, you'll want to be quick about it!

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

The best Prime Day discounts on Amazon's Fire tablets

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Amazon's Fire tablets continue to improve each year, and the prices allow for them to be an excellent purchase option for many people. Amazon has dropped the prices on these already-affordable tablets, so don't miss out. Whether you prefer the 7 or 8-inch display or even want the Kids Edition for your children, they are almost all discounted right now. With access to tons of apps, media, and more, you can't go wrong with having one of these around.

The internal storage on these is a bit low and fills up pretty quickly, but luckily you can easily add a microSD card and gain additional storage in just a few seconds.

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1 week ago

Huawei Watch 2 with 4G now on sale in the UK for £259

1

This Android 2.0-powered smartwatch is currently on sale at Amazon UK for Prime Day.

The Huawei Watch 2 is the company's second-gen smartwatch and to get in on the Prime Day action, Huawei has discounted the wearable in the UK. What makes this promotion interesting is how the Bluetooth and 4G model, which is usually the more expensive option over the Bluetooth-only variant, is currently the cheapest option by £10. That means you can bag a watch with 4G connectivity for even less at £259.

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1 week ago

This is (probably) the LG V30

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Surprise: On the outside, it's pretty much a bigger, curvier G6.

LG looks set to follow up the well-received G6 with a new member of the big-screened V series, and noted leaker Steve Hemmerstoffer (aka @onleaks on Twitter) has teamed up with MySmartprice to reveal a full 3D render of the device, based on CAD specs given to accessory manufacturers.

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1 week ago

Best Cases for the HTC U11

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HTC U11 case

Keep your HTC U11's lustrous chassis in perfect condition with these cases.

With a beautiful mirrored glass finish, the HTC U11 is one of the most striking Android flagships available today. But exposed glass isn't the most sturdy of materials, and if you use the U11 for long enough, it's inevitable that you'll start to pick up a few scrapes and scratches.

That's why we've rounded up the top few U11 cases for your perusal. Read on to find out more.

HTC Clear Shield case

ClearShield case

This is the same case that comes with the HTC U11 in many markets, protecting the back and corners of the phone, while keeping the side walls exposed for easy squeezability.

Plastic inner corners keep the U11 securely in place, while the clear plastic design lets you show off the phone from its most impressive angle.

At $19.99, it's not super cheap, but it's a pretty small price to pay to guarantee the back of your phone will stay free from wear and tear.

See at HTC

Spigen Liquid Crystal HTC U11 case

Spigen TPU Case

If TPU is your thing, this Spigen case gives you all-around protection, including cover for the buttons and side walls.

Meanwhile, a raised lip around the camera cutout and front bezel keeps the lens protected when the phone is laying flat, and the screen out of contact with surfaces when it's face-down.

Being a flexible TPU case, it's also fully compatible with HTC's squeezy Edge Sense features. And there's even a glittery version if you want to add a bit of extra glamor to the HTC U11's already shiny derrière. Check it out for around $11.

See at Amazon

Incipio Octane UTC U11 case

Incipio hard case

For more heavy duty protection, you might want to consider this Incipio offering, featuring a textured bumper and hard shell back. Despite the added heft of this case, it still works with Edge Sense, and the textured side walls provide a much more secure grip than the U11's metal trim.

Sure, you'll need to cover up much of the U11's eye-catching design if you go for this model, but you can rest assured the entire body of the phone will be protected from drops, knocks and scrapes.

For less than $25, that's not a bad deal at all.

See at Amazon

Olixar Genuine Leather HTC U11 wallet case

Olixar leather case

For many people, nothing beats the convenience of a wallet case, and Olixar has an affordable leather option that provides space for credit cards, while also folding out into a stand.

Olixar's "Executive Wallet Case" keeps the vulnerable areas of the U11 protected and the plastic side walls mean it's still possible to use Edge Sense without too much hassle.

This leather offering, complete with stand, adds a bit more bulk to the body of the phone, but you can't argue with the extra functionality it brings — particularly for $26.

See at MobileFun

Official HTC U11 leather-style flip case

Official flip case

HTC's official U11 flip case for the U11 is clad in a soft-touch exterior, with space for a single credit card, and the option to fold it out into a stand -- though unlike Olixar's offering, this one's not magnetic.

The U11's shiny back panel is secured in place with plastic corners, keeping these areas protected from drops, and the exposed side walls allow you to use Edge Sense with ease.

This model is also a good deal slimmer than most wallet cases, though it'll set you back a bit more too, with prices starting at $46.

See at MobileFun

Your favorite?

Let us know in the comments below.

HTC U11

Amazon Sprint HTC

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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1 week ago

Grab a Google WiFi 3-pack for just $240 right now!

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Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time with a discount on Google WiFi you won't want to pass up!

Google WiFi, the company's first mesh internet setup, has been quite popular since its release. At first, it was pretty hard to find, and we've never really seen any great deals on it, until now. You can pick up a 3-pack from Amazon for just $239.99. This is a savings of $60 on the system, making it the same costs as buying only two of them on their own.

With Google WiFi you can easily set up and manage your network right from your phone. The mesh system allows you to bring the internet to parts of your home or office that didn't get a good signal before. If your current system is struggling, or you are looking for something new, be sure to pick up the 3-pack now!

See at Amazon

For more great deals be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!

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1 week ago

The HTC Vive is a life-changing product for people with mobility issues

The HTC Vive lets you see the world when you're unable to go out and be there.

When I first heard about products like the HTC Vive becoming real things you could actually buy, some of my first thoughts were about using one to virtually visit the places and see the sights I'd otherwise be unable to. Mobility issues and white water rafting through the Grand Canyon don't mix very well, for example.

Fast forward a few years, and while I've been unable to find that virtual trip down the Colorado River, I have seen enough to say that good VR does bring the world to people who aren't able to enjoy all of it, and think everyone who has a bit of trouble getting around would love the HTC Vive as much as I do.

Read more at VRHeads

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1 week ago

Don't go to a carrier just to get smartphone financing — there are better ways

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AT&T

There are better ways to buy a phone affordably than running to the nearest carrier stores.

Ever since traditional two-year phone contracts fell out of vogue, carriers have come up with new and inventive ways of locking you in. One of the best examples of this is a monthly installment payment plan for a new device. It's so simple to walk into a carrier store and walk out with a phone for $0 down, paying that total over the course of the next 12, 18, or 24 months. It just gets baked right into your monthly phone bill — super easy.

But it's also super restrictive, because just like a two-year contract, your phone's cost is once again tied to the carrier. What if you want to take your phone elsewhere? You have to pay it off at the carrier, cancel your service, and move. And if you're financing a $700+ phone (or four), that could be tough — so now you're staying with a carrier you don't want to be with, just because you need longer to pay off the phone.

At the same time, people keep going to their carrier because they often think that's the only way they can get long-term, interest-free financing on what are increasingly expensive phones. But actually, you can get financing with identical terms from all of the major phone companies today, as well as from many retailers that sell phones — even phones that are exclusive to your carrier.

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Financing from the phone companies themselves

Samsung financing page

Phones are expensive, and the top-end models are seemingly increasing in price over time. More and more companies are also offering unlocked models that don't have the option of carrier financing. To help keep the phones accessible, they're offering no-interest financing for these phones.

HTC offers financing through PayPal Credit, which offers 18-month no-interest financing for purchases over $540. That means a new HTC U11 at $649 will set you back $36.05 per month. Pay it off in full on time and you won't pay a penny over that price.

Samsung's financing offers a no-interest term for everything it sells over $250. It typically reserves 24-month financing for $1499+ purchases but also offers it for its top-end phones; that would price out a new $725 Galaxy S8 at $30.21 per month over two years, again with no extra financing charges. The nice thing here is you can buy carrier-branded versions of the Galaxy S8 and S8+ with Samsung's financing, meaning you can get the exact model you want, without having its financing tied to the carrier.

Motorola will let you finance its phones using the third-party service Affirm, and its terms are very similar to the others. 6-, 12-, or 18-month financing terms are available depending on the purchase price, and there's no interest or additional fees. The financing offers are available through Motorola's website, whether you're buying an unlocked phone or carrier-exclusive model.

Google has 24-month no-interest financing on phone purchases from the Google Store. So you can pick up that Google Pixel XL directly from Google for $32.04 per month, rather than going to Verizon just to pay over time.

OnePlus has one of the weakest financing options, but then again, it also has some of the cheapest top-end phone models. When shopping on the OnePlus store, all purchases over $99 are able to be financed with PayPal Credit over 6 months with no interest if paid in full in that term.

Financing from retailers

Amazon financing page

If the phone you're looking at doesn't have manufacturer-backed financing, there's a chance you could finance it with similar terms from a third-party retailer instead.

Amazon, where we all buy so many small things, offers convenient financing for larger purchases, like phones. The financing is no-interest like the others, and the length of financing offered depends on the purchase price. A $149+ phone can be paid off over 6 months, but a $599+ purchase gives you 12 months to pay it off.

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Best Buy will let you buy anything in its store with monthly payments if you sign up for its own-branded credit card. Purchases over $199 can get 6-month no-interest financing, and purchases over $399 get 12-month no-interest financing. This goes for unlocked phones but also carrier-branded phones, which is a great piece of flexibility — just be sure not to confuse it with the carrier-backed financing Best Buy also offers.

Seriously, consider financing outside of the carrier

As you can see, there are several different ways to buy the latest devices on a monthly installment plan while keeping that bill separate from your commitment to the phone carrier itself. It also gives you the ability to shop around and potentially find better deals at the manufacturer or retailer of your choice without giving up monthly financing. While it's a slightly bigger hassle to deal with two bills instead of one, the freedom of having your long-term phone financing separated from the carrier is worth it. Get the phone you want, the way you want.

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1 week ago

Xiaomi's supersized Mi Max 2 is launching in India on July 18

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Xiaomi's largest phone will be debuting in India next week.

Xiaomi will launch the Mi Max 2 in India on July 18. The first-generation Mi Max turned out to be one of the manufacturer's best devices last year, and its successor has a larger 5300mAh battery while retaining the 6.44-inch screen size.

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