Recent Articles | Android Central

Order Samsung Galaxy S8: AT&T | Verizon | T-Mobile | Sprint | Unlocked

Headlines

1 week ago

Save net neutrality and keep our mobile future awesome

72

Do your part to keep the internet open and weird.

I love to tell people what I think of a particular thing, be it a product or brand or service provider. I'll freely tell someone to go with T-Mobile as a carrier, for example, because it offers the best compromise between speed, value, and coverage. Rarely, though, does it occur to me to judge a provider based on its stance towards net neutrality, a topic that has a direct impact on the American people.

Maybe I should.

Today, July 12, is the Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality, where thousands of companies are taking a stand to support the current state of the internet. We at Mobile Nations stand with larger entities like Google, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, and thousands of others in urging the FCC to uphold Title II regulations, which designate as telecommunication services, legally preventing them from changing the way internet traffic is sent, shaped, and received.

Net neutrality is a complicated topic — we have a small explainer if you want to learn a bit more about it — but the move to deregulate parts of the internet comes from a self-proclaimed libertarian FCC chair, Ajit Pai, whose desire is to see less government regulation around telecommunications services at all costs, regardless of whether they negatively impact consumers.

The onus shouldn't be on us, the consumer, to police bad actors. The FCC wants that to be the case.

In an interview he gave with NPR earlier this year, he said that instead of the arrangement we have now, which pre-emptively abrogates the preferential treatment of certain types of internet traffic over others, he wants to move to regulating on a case-by-case basis.

First and foremost, we want to make sure that all content that is lawful on the Internet can be accessed by consumers — that's a bedrock protection of the open Internet that I think everybody would agree with. ... But secondly, we want to make sure that we have the ability to allow all kinds of streaming companies, others who create content on the Internet, to be able to reach their endpoints, which is the consumers.

And so we can envision some pro-competitive arrangements that allow for video in particular to be delivered in an efficient way. And one could conceive anti-competitive arrangements. And the simple point I've made is that we can't predict in advance every single potential type of outcome — some might be good, some might be bad — and on a case-by-case basis let's figure out what types of conduct are anti-competitive or otherwise would harm consumers or innovators, and take action if we see something like that arise.

Pai's argument arises out of a firm belief that over-regulation leads to a decrease in investment and cites examples of how certain internet companies have limited wired broadband and fixed mobile expansion into rural areas over the last few years. He also believes in what he calls a "free and open internet" that is not shackled by the 1930's-era Title II classification that oversaw Ma Bell, a true telecom monopoly.

"If you act before the fact, then you're preemptively saying that we think the marketplace is forever going to be the same and we can take account of every particular kind of conduct," he said. "You could be prohibiting a number of pro-competitive business arrangements."

While Pai may be correct in an environment where meaningful competition didn't already exist, if we look at what's happened to the U.S. wireless market since Title II was implemented in 2015, we see a clear trend towards an internet that is more accessible, mobile, and competitive. We see companies like T-Mobile — a proponent itself of the end of net neutrality, mind you — undercutting Verizon and AT&T, pushing the former carrier duopoly to not only lower prices but to become much more transparent in how they treat their customers. An open, free internet also leads to savvier, more educated users, and the expansion of net neutrality laws brought the layperson into the conversation.

Perhaps the most vexing and frustrating thing about Pai's insistence that pre-emptive regulation needs to be removed in favor of a lighter regulatory touch is his placement of the onus on the consumers — you, me, us — to identify violators. "Especially in the Internet age," he said, "consumers are able to complain to the Federal Trade Commission authorities, the Justice Department, the FCC, other state agencies."

Right now, the FCC is forced to police the internet service providers on our behalf, to enforce regulations that prevent companies like AT&T and Verizon from silently and sneakily limiting their unlimited plans, as they once did, and not following through with broadband expansion contracts because they weren't guaranteed a big enough return.

Zero-rating may seem like a good thing, but it opens the door for a lot that's terrible.

The rollback of net neutrality isn't about making legal so-called consumer-friendly tactics such as zero-rating, which has become so pervasive in the U.S. that it's not clear whether people actually associate them with the movement anymore. But that pervasiveness denotes an insidiousness to how network providers approach regulation, always trying to find a legal maneuver around the problem. When T-Mobile stopped counting streaming music and video services against a user's monthly data cap, it did so knowing that the FCC would eventually hold it to account for its actions. It took a new administration and a libertarian, light-touch-regulation chair to drop all inquiries into whether zero-rating violated net neutrality.

While it may sound like programs like T-Mobile's Binge On and others like it benefit consumers — who doesn't want more data for free? — they have the potential to shut out smaller companies that lack the requisite size or influence to make a deal with a massive carrier. Recently, carriers in the UK began mimicking their U.S. counterparts. In Canada, such zero-rating programs were recently banned not just for their own sake, but to show the telecom regulator's commitment to reinforcing the rules of net neutrality.

Should Title II classification be stripped away from the service providers to whom we give thousands of dollars every year, such legal challenges will be more difficult to win, and carriers — even AT&T, which is reportedly joining the fight to uphold net neutrality — will be free to do more in the name of profit, at the expense of the internet we love.

If you want to do just that, you have until July 17 to submit your comments to the FCC about why a truly free and open internet deserves to be something Americans take for granted.

Join the fight to uphold Net Neutrality

.container { padding: 0; max-width: 100%; } #ctBox .article-body { overflow: visible; } @media (max-width: 1350px) and (min-width: 768px) { #ctBoc .article-body-wrap { padding: 20px 20px 0 50px; } } @media (max-width: 767px) { #ctBoc .article-body-wrap { padding: 20px 20px 50px; } } /*-->*/

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

Now there's a KFC-branded Huawei smartphone

20
KFC phone

Limited edition Colonel phone to celebrate 30th anniversary in China.

KFC is celebrating its 30th anniversary in China, and that means one thing: Limited edition promotional products. Like this bright red Huawei smartphone bearing the face of Colonel Sanders.

As AdAge, KFC was among the first Western brands to arrive in China, and the inaugural year of 1987 is emblazoned alongside the image of the Colonel on the back of the handset.

Specs and price are unclear at the moment, and the phone doesn't appear to directly match any Huawei phone we know. The nearest resemblance would perhaps be the Honor 8 Pro.

KFC phone

The phone was announced by both brands at an event in China; news reports didn't say how much it would cost or where it would be sold. KFC has a shop on e-commerce giant Alibaba Group's TMall platform, where it already sells food deals that you can pick up in-store, so that might be a possible sales channel.

No word on whether the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner works with greasy, chicken-soaked fingers.

Update: The Verge is reporting that the KFC phone will feature a 5-inch screen, a Snapdragon 425 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage plus microSD, and a 3,020mAh battery. Prices start at 1,099 RMB, a little under $162 at the current exchange rate.

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

The 8bitdo Zero is an excellent Bluetooth controller that fits on a keychain

4

Game controllers are pretty big. But not this one, oh no.

It's called the Zero and it's from a company called 8bitdo, which is based in China and produces a lot of modern takes on old, retro gaming hardware. If you want a Bluetooth version of an original SNES or N64 controller, or perhaps want to use a wireless controller with an original NES system, chances are 8bitdo can take care of you.

The Zero isn't a modern take on a classic, though. It's an insanely small game controller that you can carry on a keychain and doesn't suck.

And it's only $17.

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

How to use YouTube for Android

8

How do I use YouTube on Android?

Keyboard Cat. Muffins. Charlie Bit Me. Grape Lady Falls. Chocolate Rain. The list of classic YouTube videos goes on and on. And aren't we lucky that the YouTube app comes standard with just about every Android phone on the market?. So, how do you get to all these classic gems? How do you play them and subscribe to the channels you love?

Here's how!

How to search for videos

You can search for videos by keyword, topic, title, channel, whatever. Just type in what you want to find and away you go!

You can also find videos under the home (the little house button), trending (the fire button), and subscriptions (the play button with tabs behind it) tabs.

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Tap the search button in the upper right corner of your screen. It looks like a magnifying glass.
  3. Type in your search.
  4. Tap the search button on the bottom right of your keyboard. It's the magnifying glass.
  5. Tap on a video to view it.

Once you search for a video and tap on it, it'll play automatically.

Playback controls

  • Tap the video area to bring up the play controls. Don't tap the center if you don't want to pause.
  • Tap the center of the video to play or pause.
  • Tap and drag along the play bar to scrub through the video.
  • Tap the next button or previous button to skip to the next video in the list or to go back to the video you were watching before.
  • To minimize the video from full-screen, tap minimize at the far right end of the play bar.
  • If you're on a device with an extra-tall screen like a Galaxy S8, you can tap the crop to fit button located above the right side of the play bar.

How to change video quality

If you're trying to save on data or you prefer all of your video in as high definition as possible, you can raise or lower the video quality at will.

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Find the video you want to watch.
  3. Tap the more button on the top right of the video pane. It looks like three vertical dots. You may have to tap the video to bring up the playback controls.

  4. Tap Quality.
  5. Tap a resolution in the list.

Setting a lower resolution can help reduce the amount of data you use while streaming on a cellular signal. Some videos may not have certain resolutions available.

How to enable/disable captions

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Find the video you want to watch.
  3. Tap the more button on the top right of the video pane. It looks like three vertical dots. You may have to tap the video to bring up the playback controls.

  4. Tap Captions.
  5. Tap a language if there are more than one available or tap Turn off captions if you don't want them on.

How to sign in to YouTube

If you want to like, comment, or subscribe on YouTube, you'll need to sign in with a YouTube account if you haven't already. Good news: If you have a Google account, which owning an Android device you really should, you already have a YouTube account and need only sign in!

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Tap the Account on the top right of your screen. It's the circle with the silhouette of a person inside.
  3. Tap Sign In.
  4. Tap the account you want to sign in with.

You'll be signed in to YouTube with your new account.

How to subscribe to a YouTube channel

If you find a video you really like and want more from that YouTuber, you can subscribe to their channel. You'll need an account.

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Search the video or channel from the YouTuber to whom you'd like to subscribe.
  3. Tap the red subscribe button. It'll be the word "Subscribe" with a red play button next to it.
  4. If you want to be notified for every video that YouTuber releases, tap the bell icon.

How to share a YouTube video

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Find the video or channel you'd like to share.
  3. Tap the share button on the upper right of your screen. It's the curved arrow.
  4. Tap a sharing method. You can share via message, email, Facebook, and just about anything else you can share with.
  5. Share as you would normally in whatever method you choose.

How to create playlists

You can add videos to a playlist while watching a video or you can add them from their thumbnails.

How to add videos to a playlist from the thumbnail

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Search for videos you'd like to add to your playlist.
  3. Tap the more button on the side of a video thumbnail. It's the three vertical dots.
  4. Tap Add to playlist.

  5. Tap Create new playlist.
  6. Type a title for your playlist.
  7. Tap OK.

The next time you add a video to that playlist, the name of the playlist will appear under **Add to watch later.

How to add the video you're watching to a playlist

  1. Tap the add to playlist button. It looks like a list with a + on it.
  2. Tap Create new playlist.
  3. Type a name for your new playlist.
  4. Tap OK.

When you add a new video to a playlist, the name of the playlist you've created will appear in the choices.

How to cast YouTube to your TV with Chromecast

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. From either the main screen or a video, tap the cast button. It looks like a box with the Wi-Fi symbol in the bottom left corner.
  3. Tap a device. It could be your television, and Android TV box, or some other media streaming device.

You'll know your phone or tablet is ready to cast when the case button turns white in the middle.

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

Moto E4 Plus with 5000mAh battery launches in India for ₹9,999

6

Get two-day battery life and a near-stock Android experience with the Moto E4 Plus.

Motorola is expanding its catalog in India, and the latest addition is the Moto E4 series. The Moto E4 Plus will go up for sale later today on Flipkart for ₹9,999, and the smaller Moto E4 will be available at thousands of retail stores across India for ₹8,999.

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

Nokia 6 goes up for sale in the U.S. for $229; Prime variant for $179

18

Nokia 6 is one of the best phones in the sub-$250 segment.

The Nokia 6 is now up for sale on Amazon for $229. The standard variant of the phone is unlocked for use on AT&T and T-Mobile, and Amazon is also offering a variant with lock screen ads that retails for $179, a $50 discount.

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

The absolute best Prime Day deals you can buy right now

19

Prime Day is here! The Thrifter team has been hard at work since 7 p.m. last night when the Prime-only deals began to go live. Not only have we been updating our site and Twitter feed with the best deals, but we've also been live blogging the entire thing. At this point, we want to make it a bit easier for you to find the overall best deals of Prime Day.

The following list compiles our favorite deals of Prime Day 2017 that are still live and will be updated throughout the remainder of the day.

Tech

  • Amazon Fire Tablet - $30 (previously $50)
  • Echo Dot - $35 (previously $50)
  • Echo - $90 (previously $180)
  • Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB External Hard Drive - $65 (previously $77)
  • SanDisk Ultra II 500 GB SSD - $137 (previously $175)
  • Philips Hue Smart Bulb - $40 (previously $50)
  • Sandisk Ultra 256 GB MicroSDXC - $105 (previously ~$150)
  • Blue Yeti USB Microphone: Blackout Edition - $90 (previously $130)
  • ARRIS SURFboard SB6141 Cable Modem - $41 (previously ~$95)
  • Acer Chromebook 11, 2GB Ram, 16GB storage - $130 (previously $170)
  • Samsung 128 GB Metal Flash Drive - $25 (previously $40)

Lifestyle

  • FitBit Blaze - $139 (previously $199)
  • Backpack for SLR/DSLR Cameras by AmazonBasics - $20 (previously $27)
  • Bright Multipurpose Copy Paper (3 reams / 1,500 sheets) - $10 (previously $14)
  • AmazonBasics Commercial Patio Heater - $99 (previously ~$120)
  • High-back Executive Desk Chair - $80 (previously $110)
  • Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker - $129 (previously ~$190)
  • Coleman Road Trip Propane Portable Grill - $100 (previously $135)
  • GreenWorks Battery Powered 3-in-1 Lawn Mower - $225 (previously $349)
  • 23andMe DNA Test: Ancestry Personal Genetic Service - $49 (previously $99)
  • Sennheiser HD 598 SR Open-Back Headphones - $110 (previously $170)
  • Crock-Pot Programmable Cook & Carry Slow Cooker - $32){.nofollow} (previously ~$50)
  • AmazonBasics Laptop Backpack - $12 {previously $25)
  • Free $5 credit when you purchase $25 or more in Amazon Gift Cards.

Gaming

  • Xbox One S 500 GB Bundle - $240 (previously $370)
  • Xbox One S 1 TB Bundle - $290 (previously $418)
  • Sony PS4 Dualshock 4 Controller - $40 (previously $48)
  • Sony PS4 Slim 500 GB Bundle - $229 (previously $300)
  • Nintendo New 3DS XL Console (Galaxy Style) - $175 (previously $200)

Be sure to keep refreshing this page and tune into the Thrifter live blog to stay up-to-date with all the best Prime Day deals!

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

Here's what we can expect the Google Pixel XL 2 to look like

156

Google's Pixel XL may be going bigger, and sleeker, in 2017

We now have a solid idea of what the Pixel XL's 2017 successor will look like. Android Police, which is generally good about these sorts of things, has published renders of its approximation of what the so-called "Pixel XL 2017" will look like, based on information it has from internal sources. For those keeping up with all of the Pixel rumors back at home, this is the phone known by the codename "Taimen." That's the largest of the three rumored upcoming Google devices, with both "Muskie" and "Walleye" also in some progression of development.

For what it's worth, the naming of the forthcoming device has yet to be finalized. We could be looking at simply "Pixel XL" with no further denomination, "Pixel XL 2" or something else entirely. Names can be finalized much later than the hardware, and often are — we'll stick to calling this the Pixel XL 2 for now.

Corroborating with previous reports, this confirms that LG is the manufacturer of this new Pixel XL 2, rather than HTC that built the original Pixel and Pixel XL (of course, without any branding indicating the fact). Some of that influence is immediately apparent in the phone — there's a tall and skinny 18:9 display with rounded corners like the LG G6, which is reportedly 6-inches diagonal, with much smaller bezels than the current Pixel XL. Curved glass on the front is very pronounced, though the screen itself is actually flat underneath.

Lots of LG G6 influence, but plenty to tie it back to the original HTC-built Pixel XL.

The large glass pane at the top of the back of the phone remains, though the fingerprint sensor is no longer inside that glass as the phone is taller than before. In addition to the the back glass panel, there's a clear familiarity in design from the current Pixel XL to the new Pixel XL 2. There's still a metal frame that's nicely brushed to a simple texture that's flat across the back and rounded on the edges and corners.

Though the manufacturing has changed hands from HTC to LG, the report says the Pixel XL 2 will have a squeezable frame not unlike the HTC U11, which is mildly interesting to see.

The question remains, though, what is to be done with the standard Pixel's successor in 2017. Will it be a smaller version of this design? Or perhaps a simpler refresh of last year's phone? And what about the expected third Google-branded phone to be released this year? We can expect to see more information leak as we get closer to the launch.

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Google Store Verizon

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;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

Last chance to get this limited edition MrMobile tee!

8

Show the world that you appreciate informative, entertaining technology reviews by picking up the ultimate t-shirt for the discerning gadget enthusiast. This Next Level Tri-Blend premium tee is available in black, and will announce to the world that you're a tech genius on the move, sporting the best in both electronics and fashion.

Proceeds from sales help to support the Mr. Mobile YouTube Channel. The limited-edition official Mr. Mobile "Stay Mobile, My Friends" t-shirt is available right now from teespring.com. Grab one before this offer ends! …and Stay Mobile.

See at Teespring

Read more and comment

 
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

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;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

Read more and comment

 
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.

Advertisement

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

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Read more and comment

 
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

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;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

Read more and comment

 
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.

Read more and comment

 
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

Read more and comment

 
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

Modern Dad

Subscribe to the Modern Dad newsletter!

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;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/ */ /*-->*/

Read more and comment

 
Show More Headlines

Pages