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1 week ago

Might Google Assistant and the Lenovo Smart Display be the whole-home hub the Echo Show isn't?

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The Amazon Echo Show has left plenty of room for Google and Lenovo to make a better product. The question is will they. ...

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The just-announced Lenovo Smart Display is better than the Amazon Echo Show, says our own Andrew Martonik. He's seen it. I haven't. But I'm inclined to believe him.

For as excited as I might have once been about the Echo Show, any luster wore off pretty quick. More than six months in, it's still pretty worthless as a way to glance and gather important information. It no longer can play videos from YouTube — pretty much the only video source that matters. And one of the other tentpole features — the ability to watch a security camera in real time — really is more of "Alexa, please show me my camera in hopes that something's actually going on in front of it, and take a few seconds to do so."

In other words, the Echo Show is still a pretty passive device. You have to tell it what you want and what to do, rather than it actually showing useful newsworthy headlines. Or popping open my Ring camera when it detects motion. (The latter is something that happens on all my phones, and all my computers, and all my tablets.)

The Echo Show is not the whole-home hub we've always wanted. ... So will the Lenovo Smart Display fill that gap? It could.

Take my biggest gripe — the lack of proactively displaying useful information. OK, the Echo Show gives the time and weather quite nicely. That's not even table stakes, though. That should be the equivalent of an LED showing that the device has power.

For a number of years now, the driving force behind what Google does has been to give you the information you want not just as quickly as possible, but to predict what it is you're going to need to know and show it to you that much sooner.

Or, as one reasonably smart person asked way back in 2012: "How long before Google Now becomes your home screen?"

Google has a pretty big trump card with YouTube and services built into millions of phones.

Then there are the hooks. The things that let the device talk to the services.

Sure, the Echo Show can display calendar information, but that requires the extra step of connecting Alexa to whatever calendar service you use. If you're getting a Google-powered thing like the Smart Display, chances are you're already using Google services like Calendar and Contacts. That takes care of calendar info, as well as finding folks to call through the included Duo service. (Of course, you'll have to have folks actually using Duo, but I have a feeling that'll be easier to do than getting them to use Alexa calling, as it's way more likely to be built into a phone.)

So that's another hurdle leaped.

Then there are the basic services. Don't discount Amazon's on principle — Prime Music is good. So is Prime Photos, and the Echo Show is a great digital picture frame. Alexa calling works very well. And Amazon's got a ton of video to watch. But it doesn't have YouTube, and Google's not letting it have YouTube. And they all require separate downloads — Google has the bonus of being preloaded on its Android phones.

So the Lenovo Smart Display will have services that are easier to get to, services that may be missing (OK, banned) from the Echo Show, and fewer steps to integrate everything in the first place.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Way ahead of myself.

We need to know about third-party services. We see Nest cameras working, which is great. But companies not own by Google need to have their services working with this sort of product. And they need to work better than they do with the Echo Show.

And, frankly, we just need to see what else happens here. Presumably, this new implementation of Android Things will be a big topic of conversation at this year's Google I/O developer conference. The two models of Smart Display — the $199 8-inch version, and the $249 10-incher — won't see the light of day until sometime toward the end of next summer. That gives Google tons of time (says the person not actually doing any of the work) to work on things on the software side. And will Google be doing its own hardware, as rumored, and end up competing with its partner Lenovo on this front? And what else might Amazon do in the meantime?

And then Google and Lenovo have to actually sell the thing.

So, yeah. There's a lot to get excited about here. Maybe Google will be the one to give us the whole-home hub we've been wanting. (I want it, so I presume the rest of y'all do, too.)

But we've got a while to wait. And Google's got work to do.

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1 week ago

Ranking the Best PlayStation VR add-on Experiences

PlayStation VR add-on experiences deliver new content in ways you might not expect.

There are already plenty of new games available on PlayStation VR, but what you might not expect are the new VR add-ons to PlayStation 4 games you're already playing. There aren't many of these floating around, but we've got the details on each PlayStation 4 add-on experience here today.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider is still a brand new game for PlayStation players, and it includes a VR add-on. You may already be acquainted with Lara Croft, and her family's gigantic home. If you aren't though, the Rise of the Tomb Raider allows you the ability to the shadowy, cobwebbed filled Croft Family Manor.

The entire experience is only about 10 minutes long from beginning to end. However, it's an interesting walk around the house. You can select it from the main menu to play, and it takes place partway through the main story. Named Blood Ties, it takes place after Lara's father dies. Since he left no written will, Lara is served an eviction notice and must find evidence to prove that the Manor rightfully belongs to her.

The manor is dilapidated and falling apart, but absolutely filled with old memories for Lara. From drawings to paintings, and plenty more there is a lot to explore here. You can choose between playing with a Dualshock 4 controller, or PlayStation Move controllers. Since this add-on occurs partially through the main story, you'll need to finish the Syria portion of the game before it unlocks for you to check out.

See on PlayStation Store

Star Wars Battlefront

Star Wars Battlefront lets you fight against rebels or the empire depending on the battle. With the add-on experience, you'll be able to pilot an X-wing through a mission in space. Between juking right, and dodging left, all the while firing at enemies and trying to avoid their weapon fire. Being able to feel like you are in an X-Wing fighting back against the empire has been a shared dream amongst plenty of fans, and with this content exclusive to PlayStation VR, you can live it out.

See at PlayStation Store

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

When it comes to First Person Shooters, the COD franchise has been dominating the genre for years. With Infinite Warfare's Jackal Assault, you can jump into VR and enjoy the game on an entirely new level. Now unlike many other add-on experiences, this is not a full level in the game, and you don't need to purchase the game in order to try it out. That's because this is just a demo level which can be downloaded directly from the PlayStation Store. Don't let that stop you though. If you've been curious about how a First Person Shooter acts in VR, this is an excellent chance. During a routine training mission, you are attacked and have to jump into a Jackal in order to defend yourself.

See at PlayStation Store

Hyper Void VR Levels

Hyper Void is a modern-day Galaga, where your goal is to kill all of your enemies in order to get through the wormholes you're stuck in. Now, you can experience the battling of enemies in VR, which is great for this game. Killing spaceships and aliens in the VR world is a great way to enjoy this game. This add on is completely free on the PlayStation Store so you can play to your hearts content!

See at the PlayStation Store

Super Stardust Ultra: VR Experience

Super Stardust Ultra is another alien shooter game, but this one takes place on your own planet. When you play this game in VR, you're sitting in the cockpit of your star fighter and taking on the invading aliens. This VR add-on will cost you $9.99, but it is definitely worth it!

See at the PlayStation Store

Do you have a favorite?

While there aren't many add-on experiences for games in PSVR, the ones we did find add a new experience to games you may already know and love. Have you tried out any of these add-on experiences? Is there an add-on we didn't mention here? Let us know about it in the comments!

Why are we talking about PlayStation VR games on Android Central? Let us explain.

PlayStation 4

Amazon

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1 week ago

Should you buy the Note 8 or wait for Note 9?

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There's always something better right around the corner.

Without a doubt, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 was one of the best large phones to come out in 2017. Samsung absolutely redeemed itself last year following the Note 7 debacle, and with a gorgeous display, excellent S Pen features, and stunning design, the Note 8 is still a joy to use.

However, because of the industry we're in, there really is always something better coming around the bend. One of our forum users reached out to the community to see if they should upgrade their Note 4 to the Note 8 or hold off for the Note 9 later in the year, and these are some of the top answers:

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j_hansen 01-08-2018 04:10 AM “

I came from note 4 and as much as I loved it, the 8 is just a completely different level of beast, I had planned to keep the 4 as a spare but sold it 2 weeks later as I wasn't even looking in it's direction after first day with the 8

Reply
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amyf27 01-08-2018 05:27 AM “

Really depends on your situation. Note 8 is a very, very good device. It isn't plagued with the issues from the Note 7 days. Note 9- not even out yet. If you're in no hurry, may as well wait. Or if cost is of any concern, wait a little while and when the Note 9 comes out the Note 8 will be discounted and too save some cash.

Reply
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strikeIII 01-08-2018 10:04 AM “

If you get the N8 it'll be a huge upgrade over the N4 then when you go for the N9 from the N8 it probably won't feel that much greater to you. Just a thought. Maybe wait for the N9 just to make it that much more of an experience.

Reply
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terobaje 01-08-2018 10:31 AM “

If you can use your Note 4 for another 8 months then wait for Note 9. If not, get a Note 8.

Reply

How about you – If you were in this situation, would you pick up the Note 8 or wait for the Note 9?

Join the conversation in the forums!

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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1 week ago

How to Enable 2-Step Verification in Gmail

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Google Authenticator

Using two-factor verification makes sure that you — and only you — have access to your Google account.

In light of the recent security issues surrounding Meltdown and Spectre, we refreshed this content in January 2018.

Security breaches happen. This one saw 273.3 million email accounts — including Gmail accounts — compromised. This is why we strongly recommend enabling two-step verification (or two-step authentication, as it's also known) for your Google account.

This process will put a stop to anyone's efforts to access anything — including Gmail and all other Google services — that uses your Google account credentials when logging in because you need more than a password to verify that you are the account owner.

What is two-step verification?

Two-step verification adds an extra layer of security to your account. Think in terms of withdrawing cash from an ATM — you must insert your card and enter a personal identification number. In the case of a Google account, with two-step verification enabled, you must enter a password and a code that is sent to your phone by call or text, or through an authenticator app on your phone.

Although it will now require extra steps to access your Google account, two-step verification is invaluable. Using two methods to authenticate who you effectively doubles your account security, and makes sure you're only able to log in if you have both the right password and a valid authentication token. It is still recommended to change your current Google password if you haven't already. Without further ado, let's enable two-step verification.

Use Google's simple two-step authentication

Google has it's own very simple two-step verification system. It's something the company debuted in mid-2017 and the setup is simple — Google will send a verification code to the phone number registered with your account, and once you reply with the code you're enrolled.

Then, whenever you need to sign into your Google account on a new device you'll get a notification on your phone. Tap it and you are good to go. it couldn't be more simple, and it's easy to switch phones or numbers in your Google account settings via any web browser if you lose your phone or change your number.

If you'd rather use the more traditional way, read on!

How to enable two-step verification in the Google Authenticator app

You can use "traditional" two-factor authentication with your Google account, where you get a code through a message or an authenticator app. Here's what you need to do.

  1. Launch your web browser from your computer desktop.
  2. Type g.co/2sv into the address bar.

    Double-click on your browser. Type g.co/2v into the address bar.

  3. Type in your password.
  4. Click on Sign In.

    Type in your password. Click on Sign In.

  5. Click Off under 2-Step Verification.
  6. Click Turn On.

    Click on Off. Click on Turn On.

  7. Type in your password.
  8. Click on Sign In.

    Type in your password. Click on Sign In.

  9. Click on the flag drop-down menu and select your country.
  10. Type in your phone number.

    Click on the flag menu and click on your country. Type in your phone number.

  11. Select either Text message or Phone call.
  12. Click on Try It. You will receive a text message or phone call containing your code.

    Select either text message or phone call. Click on Try It.

  13. Type in the code you received on your phone.
  14. Click on Next.

    Type in the code you received on your phone. Click on Next.

  15. Click Turn On.

    Click on Turn On.

Now you have two-factor verification enabled for your Google account. Next, let's have a look how to enable the Google Authenticator app on your phone to make things even more secure and convenient.

How to prepare your account for the Google Authenticator app on Android

Click on this link from your computer to get started.

  1. Click on Next
  2. Click on Switch to app.

    Click on Next. Click on Switch to app.

  3. Click on Android.
  4. Click Continue. You will now see a barcode on your computer screen. Keep this barcode on your screen and continue with the steps below.

    Click on Android. Click on Continue.

  5. Tap the Play Store on the Home screen of your Android phone.
  6. Type in Google Authenticator in the search bar.
  7. Tap the Search button.

    Tap the Play Store. Type in Google Authenticator. Tap the Search button.

  8. Tap the Google Authenticator app. It's the result by Google Inc.
  9. Tap the Install button.
  10. Tap the Accept button.

    Tap the Google Authenticator app. Tap the Install button. Tap the Accept button.

  11. Tap the Open button when the download is complete.
  12. Tap on Begin Setup.
  13. Tap on Scan a barcode.

    The the Open button. Tap Begin Setup. Tap on Scan a barcode.

  14. Scan the barcode visible on your computer screen.
  15. Tap on Open browser.
  16. Tap on OK.

    Scan the barcode. Tap on Open browser. Tap on OK.

Now, instead of getting a text or voice message with a verification code, you will use a unique code in the Google Authenticator app every time you log in to your Google account on any device. This code changes every 30 seconds, and when you use it, it has to match the current code that Google is expecting for that time window. Anyone attempting to access your account who doesn't have your phone in their hands will not receive the code and will thus be unable to log in. Safety first, everyone!

Conclusion

Even though your Google account might have been spared this time, there is no telling when another hack or leak can occur. Any service that offers two-step verification should be taken advantage of, as it essentially puts a firm stop to unverified access attempts. Stay safe!

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1 week ago

Sony packs Google Assistant into its new wireless earbuds

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Sony's new truly wireless sports earbuds will have Google Assistant. Eventually.

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Google Assistant headphones will be coming thick and fast throughout 2018 it seems and Sony is also jumping aboard with the WF-SP700N truly wireless earbuds.

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1 week ago

This $7 toolkit comes with 38 pieces to help repair your gadgets at home

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Complete small tech repairs at home!

Update: Unfortunately the coupon code has expired, though even at $10.99 this toolkit is still worth having around!

It's time to stop living with your broken tech and attempt to repair it on your own. This 38-piece Jackyled Precision Screwdriver Tool Kit comes with nearly all the tools you'll need to replace your screen, swap out a hard drive, and much more. Right now you can pick one up for just $6.59 when you use the coupon code 4VLEIPT6 during checkout at Amazon, saving you a little over $4 on the purchase.

  • 38-IN-1 TOOL KIT: Provide different kinds of screwdriver bits for you, Our bits are made from S2 alloy steel, red color. The magnetic of bits are stronger than traditional bits. No longer worry about the screws falling off when you repair your device.
  • PRACTICALLY PRODUCTION: The handle is made from stainless steel, cover with a non-skid rubber material. With rotatable end and anti-slip rubber cover, it helps you repair your device easier. 2x plastic pry open housings without damaging.
  • PROFESSIONAL PHONE REPAIR: This kit provides a professional tool for repairing mobile cell phones, PC, watch, and other computer electronic devices.
  • POCKET-SIZED CARRY CASE: All the kits are organized in a pocket-sized carry case so that you can take it anywhere you go. It is a plastic one. Lightweight and compact design.
  • 1 YEAR WARRANTY: 60 days changing or refunding without reasons. JACKYLED Products are sold and shipped by Jackybrand. If you purchase a product from another seller, please request a refund as it is a counterfeit. JACKYLED is the only Authorized Dealer of Jackybrand products.

Having a toolkit like this around has saved me many times and more than paid for itself after the first use. Whether you are looking to fix something now, or want to have one around for those just in case moments, you won't want to pass up this deal.

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

Pioneer gets into the wireless Android Auto game with 2 prototypes

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The longtime aftermarket audio giant shows off its first two wireless decks for Android Auto at CES.

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Pioneer Electronics at CES 2018 announced that it's got a couple entries into the new wireless Android Auto world. It's the same Android Auto we've come to know and love, only now without having to plug in. (And that should eliminate one of the major connection headaches enjoyed by many a Pioneer user, especially with the lower end models.)

The new decks are both double-DIN units, as you'd expect give the 7-inch touchscreen, and are AVIC-W8400NEX and AVHW4400NEX. Prices were not disclosed.

While not specifically slaved to the hardware (because software is software), the new units alway will support the upgraded version of Google Assistant on Android Auto, which adds increased functionality on the back end, Google says.

All About Android Auto

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PROTOTYPE PIONEER IN-DASH MULTIMEDIA RECEIVERS SHOWCASE ANDROID AUTO WIRELESS AND GOOGLE ASSISTANT ON ANDROID AUTO

Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. today debuts two prototype in-dash multimedia receivers, future additions to its popular NEX lineup, the double-DIN 7" LCD AVIC-W8400NEX and AVH-W4400NEX. Designed to showcase the future of wireless connectivity and smart home integration, Pioneer and a Google Brand Ambassador are teaming up to demonstrate Android Auto Wireless and Google Assistant, now available on Android Auto™ at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018.

"Our future NEX multimedia receivers represent our next major implementation of smartphone connectivity," said Ted Cardenas, vice president of Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. "Android Auto Wireless provides all the features and functionality of Android Auto with the added convenience and simplicity of a wireless connection. Google Assistant, now on Android Auto, lets drivers keep their hands on the wheel and use voice actions to manage tasks while staying focused on the road."

Android Auto is a simpler way to use the Android® platform in the car. With larger touch targets, a simplified interface, and easy-to-use voice actions, it's designed to minimize distraction with driver safety in mind. Android Auto Wireless eliminates the need for users to consciously plug in and connect, providing the additional convenience of simply leaving their phone in their pocket, bag or wherever they carry their Android device.

Google Assistant lets the user have a conversation with Google to get things done in his or her world. Google Assistant works with more than 1,000 smart devices from more than 150 popular brands, making it easy to control things around the user's house just by voice. Google Assistant meets users where they are, on the phone, at home and now in the car.

In 2015, Pioneer was the first aftermarket manufacturer to integrate Android Auto capability in its in-dash receivers. Pioneer's integration of Android Auto in both the currently available line-up and future products enhance the feature's functionality and improves the overall user experience:

  • For greater sound quality, each unit comes with a microphone that makes it easier to pick up the commands of the driver or passenger and all answers are pumped out of the car speakers.
  • In addition to saying "Hey Google" out loud, users also have the option to access Hey Google three more ways, hitting the hard home key of the unit, tapping on the microphone of the Android Auto user interface, or tapping on the voice assistance via the steering wheel controls.
  • Advanced sound reproduction options to enhance listening experience:
  • Built-in Auto EQ and Auto Time Alignment provide customized audio adjustments for the driver2 Multi-band Graphic Equalizer with touch panel swipe setting and built-in high/low pass crossover with expanded adjustable crossover points and slopes
  • Advanced Sound Retriever®
  • 7-inch LCD touchscreens makes accessing and controlling Android Auto icons simpler, and maps and navigation is easier to view

For more information on Pioneer's current line of Android Auto capable models please visit http://www.pioneerelectronics.com/PUSA/Car/NEX.

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1 week ago

Qualcomm's Bluetooth SoC aims to make truly wireless headphones a whole lot better

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Qualcomm's new Bluetooth SoC will bring Bluetooth 5.0, Active Noise Cancellation, and aptX HD to future truly wireless earbuds.

While Qualcomm is mostly known for its smartphone chips, it also makes components for PCs and headphones. The latter category is our focus today, as Qualcomm has announced its new QCC5100 Bluetooth SoC.

This component will go into truly wireless Bluetooth headphones, and will bring features that only larger headphones have had until this point. Most importantly, the new chip will be more power efficient than current solutions, allowing you to spend more time listening to music and less time with your earbuds in their charging case.

Qualcomm is also including support for "Hybrid" Active Noise Cancellation on the SoC itself, rather than requiring a dedicated component for the ANC. There will also be dedicated support for voice assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant. From Qualcomm:

At CES® 2018, Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) today announced that its subsidiary, Qualcomm Technologies International, Ltd., introduced the new Qualcomm® Low Power Bluetooth SoC QCC5100 series that is designed to help manufacturers develop a new generation of compact, feature-rich, wireless earbuds, hearables and headsets. To help meet consumer demand for superior audio quality as well as extended battery life and playback time in wireless audio devices, the breakthrough SoC series is engineered to reduce power consumption by up to 65 percent for both voice calls and music streaming, compared to previous single-chip Bluetooth audio solutions.

The SoC architecture supports low power performance and includes a Bluetooth 5 dual-mode radio, low power audio and application subsystems. Designed to serve various "on-the-go" consumer use cases requiring robust, high quality, truly wireless listening experiences, the platform supports advanced features including Qualcomm® TrueWireless™ Stereo, Qualcomm® aptX™ HD audio, Integrated Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and third-party voice assistant services.

"This breakthrough single-chip solution is designed to dramatically reduce power consumption and offers enhanced processing capabilities to help our customers build new life-enhancing, feature-rich devices. This will open new possibilities for extended-use hearable applications including virtual assistants, augmented hearing and enhanced listening," said Anthony Murray, senior vice president and general manager, voice & music, Qualcomm Technologies International, Ltd. "Without sacrificing our superior sound quality, we can now help to pack tremendous functionality into small, wireless hearable devices. Audio designers are looking for a platform solution that brings an ideal combination of power, size and functionality and user experience – and the QCC5100 series is designed to deliver exactly that."

The exact features will depend on exactly what OEMs want to enable, so your next pair of earbuds may not have all the features this SoC will bring. Are you in the market for a new pair of earbuds this year? Let us know in the comments!

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1 week ago

Oculus' first standalone VR headset is manufactured by Xiaomi

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Xiaomi is manufacturing the Oculus Go and a second standalone VR headset exclusively for China.

Hugo Barra, who now leads the VR efforts at Facebook, has announced at Qualcomm's CES press conference that Oculus' first standalone VR headset will be built by Xiaomi. Xiaomi is also rolling out a standalone VR headset of its own — dubbed the Mi VR Standalone — that will be launching exclusively in China later this year.

The $199 Oculus Go was first announced late last year, but details were light on the hardware powering the device. We now know that the device — as well as Xiaomi's VR headset — feature Qualcomm's Snapdragon 821 Mobile VR Platform.

The Oculus Go is notable because it doesn't need to be hooked up to a phone or PC to function. The Snapdragon 821 should provide plenty of juice for the headset to run visually-demanding titles. Oculus didn't announce availability details just yet, but with the headset making its way to the FCC recently, a launch is imminent.

Meanwhile, the Mi VR Standalone has the same core features as Oculus Go, and both headsets look similar too. Xiaomi's headset also supports Oculus' Mobile SDK, which allows Oculus developers the ability to port their content over to the Mi VR platform. Xiaomi has stated that it is working on bringing popular content from the Oculus store to its users in China.

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1 week ago

Qualcomm's high-res Bluetooth audio codec aptX HD is now on over 60 devices

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Qualcomm announced that more than 60 devices use its aptX HD codec, bringing more detailed music over a wireless connection.

As more and more manufacturers turn towards ditching the headphone jack, more and more users are turning to Bluetooth headphones and speakers to get their jam on. This used to mean compressed, horrible sounding music, but no so: with features like aptX, your songs sound much better than they used to with older headphones.

The latest version of the aptX codec family is aptX HD, and at CES 2018 Qualcomm shared that over 60 products were on the market with support for the codec. Manufacturers with devices with aptX HD include:

Wondering if your device supports aptX HD? Qualcomm has the full list on its site. From Qualcomm:

At CES® 2018, Qualcomm Technologies International, Ltd, a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM), today announced its high definition Bluetooth® wireless audio codec, Qualcomm® aptX™ HD, is now available on more than 60 products, meaning consumers and audiophiles now have more options than ever to access and enjoy premium HD sound with the support of our technology.

aptX HD is an enhanced codec that supports 24-bit music quality over Bluetooth and has been engineered to improve the signal-to-noise ratio, resulting in lower background noise. This improved technology helps listeners to hear even the smallest details in their music and is designed to provide realistic audio quality that is hard to distinguish from the actual live sound produced by the musician.

"We helped to revolutionize the Bluetooth stereo listening experience with aptX, which is designed to vastly improve the quality of music delivered over a Bluetooth connection and the aptX logo on a package represents this proven quality. Now with aptX HD we are helping to meet growing demand for high resolution audio from consumers looking for even higher levels of sound quality from their devices," said Jonny McClintock, director, product marketing, Qualcomm Technologies International, Ltd. "It's a very exciting time for both consumers and the audio industry because with aptX HD we're helping to make the Bluetooth wireless listening experience indistinguishable from wired and we're seeing growing traction commercially as a result."

Does your smartphone feature aptX HD? Let us know down below!

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1 week ago

Android Oreo is now on 0.7% of devices, but Marshmallow is still king

31

Android Oreo is very slowly but surely climbing in usage.

Google releases the Android Distribution numbers once per month to let developers know which OS versions to target, and January's numbers are now available. Not surprisingly, Marshmallow is still on top with 29.7% of the Android pie.

Oreo did make some gains, though. Android 8.1 is making its first appearance with 0.2% of the Android marketplace, while Android 8.0 stayed at the same 0.5% it was at last month. Nougat is still in second place with 26.3%, with Lollipop at 25.1%. KitKat and Jellybean lost marketshare, while Ice Cream Sandwich and Gingerbread are still somehow hanging on.

As we move through CES and into MWC, we'll see more phones announced running Oreo, with last year's devices like the Galaxy S8 and OnePlus 5T getting their updates to Oreo in the next few months. Once that starts happening, Oreo's marketshare will take off.

Which version of Android does your phone have? Let us know down below!

Android Oreo

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1 week ago

The Lenovo Smart Display is the first Google Home I might actually buy

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The Lenovo Smart Display is a Google Home with a built-in screen – and that makes it the very first Google Home I might consider buying. While you still control it primarily with your voice, the touchscreen lends much more versatility to the notion of a home assistant: you can check on the Nest Camera monitoring your baby room, start a Duo call with your Pixel-toting friends, or stream the latest video from your favorite YouTuber (ahem). Yes, those are all blatantly transparent house ads for Google's own products, but more importantly they're things that are difficult or impossible to do on the Smart Display's principal competition, Amazon's Echo Show.

The Lenovo Smart Display with Google Assistant will come in 8" and 10" sizes when it debuts this summer, with prices starting at $199 and topping out at $249. Check out the MrMobile hands-on and Android Central's own take, and let me know in the comments if you'd like to see my traditionally mobile-only coverage fleshed out with a Lenovo Smart Display review later in the year!

Stay social, my friends

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1 week ago

With expansion to screens and cars, Google Assistant is officially everywhere

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Google Assistant is moving into more places in and outside the home.

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When Google debuted the Assistant at I/O in 2016, it was this tiny little feature inside a little-used messaging app called Allo.

But by the time it expanded to Pixel phones and the Google Home speaker later that year, we knew that this wasn't some fly-by-night project the company would later abandon, but a line-in-the-sand statement on the future of computing. Or maybe it was just a way to get back at Amazon's not-so-slow encroachment into the smart home space. Either way, Google Assistant was a big deal.

At CES 2018, Google is taking even more steps towards Assistant ubiquity, both with its physical presence at the show and its multitudinous announcements surrounding the nascent smart home space.

Google not only sold six million Home speakers during the holiday sales period but it has positioned the cloud technology as the one-stop shop for Google's widely-used Knowledge Graph, which encompasses everything from search to maps to shopping.

The Lenovo Smart Display appears to be what the Amazon Echo Show wanted, but failed, to deliver.

Today, Assistant is debuting in two more important places: screens, and cars. On the screen side, the Lenovo Smart Display is the first of many Assistant-focused products that can show rather than tell. YouTube videos, recipes, maps, Duo video calls, and everything else one can do on a tablet can be recalled using voice on a stationary and attractive showpiece that also doubles as a speaker.

Though Google says it worked extensively with Lenovo on the industrial design of the Smart Display, which comes in two sizes and debuts this summer, other similar (and likely cheaper) products will be forthcoming in the months ahead from JBL, LG, and Sony.

Cars are also getting in on the Assistant through Android Auto support. While it's been possible up to this point to call on Google in the car using voice, Google has reworked the way Assistant communicates with Android Auto, both through the app and in-car displays. Some cars can even use Assistant on the phone or inside the home to lock and unlock doors, check fuel levels, and more. The future is here, and it's weird (and awesome).

Finally, Google is expanding Assistant further into existing categories, including TVs and headphones. Television makers like LG, Changhong, Funai, and Haier will integrate Assistant into their custom operating systems this year, while Android TV-powered sets from TCL, Skyworth, and Xiaomi will gain the same functionality through updates.

Ultimately, Google wants Assistant to be a consistent experience wherever possible and is leveraging its relationships with hardware companies all over the world to make it happen. If last year's CES was the year of Alexa, Google Assistant is dominating the conversation in 2018. While some of the products appear underwhelming or may not come to market at all, that Assistant is expanding to more form factors is a big deal, especially given that it is available in far more countries than Amazon's Alexa platform.

Get used to saying "Hey Google" a lot more often.

Google also appears to be doubling down on "Hey Google" as a call sign for the Assistant; in briefings given to Android Central throughout the week, representatives from Google and other companies demoing products didn't use "OK Google" at all, and actively encouraged us to start using the less formal greeting going forward. It's not quite as catchy as "Alexa", but it's an improvement.

Google says that Assistant is now running on 400 million devices around the world, and that number should reach a billion within a year. To make the platform more enticing, it is consolidating its disparate commands under the name "Actions". In a blog post, Google described the reasoning for the change:

Since the Assistant can do so many things, we're introducing a new way to talk about them. We're calling them Actions. Actions include features built by Google—like directions on Google Maps—and those that come from developers, publishers and other third parties.

A new directory makes it easy to check whether one's smart home products or apps work with Assistant, and should help drive sales of those products as well.

In the meantime, if you're in Las Vegas for CES this week, you can catch a glimpse of Google's Assistant ambitions while riding the monorail.

Actually, don't do that.

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1 week ago

Lenovo's Smart Display is the Google Assistant-powered Echo Show we've been waiting for

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Lenovo Smart Displays

It's time for Google Assistant to branch out, starting with displays in the home.

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Google Home and Amazon Echo match up in both the small and medium speaker segments, but the hardware offerings start to diverge from there.

Amazon has clearly taken the lead with screen-toting assistant speakers with its Echo Show and Echo Spot, with no response from Google in the category. That is, until now.

Leave it to Lenovo of all companies to make a direct competitor to the Echo Show running Google Assistant: it's called the Lenovo Smart Display, and it has just been announced at CES 2018. But this isn't just a Google Home with a screen — it's so much more.

At its most basic level, the Smart Display combines the experience of having a Google Home and a Chromecast-connected TV — but in a single device. It offers 100% feature parity with Google Home, but has the added benefit of being able to display information similar to the way it would show up on your TV if you asked your Google Home to send something visual to a Chromecast.

The Smart Display comes in two screen sizes, 10 and 8 inches, but the design and capabilities are the same in either aside from the larger version having a great bamboo back. From the front, it's very inviting with a soft white plastic frame surrounding the display and speaker. The unique wedge shape looks funky at first, but then you realize it lets the Smart Display stand vertically just as comfortably as horizontal it makes sense. A set of rubber feet and rather substantial weight — 2.2 or 2.6 pounds — keep it stable with touches, intentional or not.

So let's talk about how the Smart Display actually works, because it's quite clever. At its core, it's running Android Things, which is Google's Android build designed for these IoT type of products that don't need to run a full-fledged Android system (as some would have in the past) but still have lots of useful smart home hooks and a custom interface. It's clear that the Smart Display is just the first of many Assistant-powered devices that will use this interface, as Google will standardize it across devices just as it has done with Assistant on smartphones, tablets, speakers and TVs.

Think of a Google Home and a Cast-enabled screen linked together.

The always-on ambient screen is literally just the same "backdrop" experience as a Chromecast — it can pull from Google Photos or a variety of other sources, configured in the Google Home app. It's waiting for the "Hey Google" wake word, including personalized results based on your trained voice, but you can also tap the screen once to be taken to the main "home screen" of sorts. Here you'll see upcoming events and reminders, plus cards for ongoing tasks — whether that's a timer, current weather, directions to an appointment, ongoing media controls or just about anything else. This is the only place where you could actually launch experiences by touch — everything else is accomplished by voice.

And of course, you can just talk to the Smart Display just like a Google Home — but you get far more in response. Any regular search-style knowledge questions come back with responses in both text/images and voice. Ask for a video and it plays right away in YouTube. Ask for directions, get an interactive map (and directions sent to your phone). Set reminders, timers, appointments and more, and get confirmation both on the screen and audibly. There is, of course, the cliché demo showing step-by-step cooking instructions, and little games that you'll play once to impress your friends and never touch again.

Sound-wise, there's an array of microphones to listen to commands from a distance just like a Google Home, plus a big 10W speaker that'll sound just as good. A front-facing camera is designed to work with Duo right out of the box, calling both phones and other Smart Displays, and Google's open to the idea of having other applications — video calling or otherwise — be able to access the system just as they do now on Google Home. There are hardware volume keys along one side, and even a physical camera cover to squash privacy concerns.

The devices we were able to see and use were clearly not finished in either hardware or software, which isn't surprising considering the release is slated for mid-summer. Despite that, the hardware looks and feels fantastic. It's light, inviting and unassuming, particularly in the smaller 8-inch size. The screen isn't fantastically bright or clear, but for the distance you'll be using this at in a home with good lighting it'll do well. The pricing is right, at $199 for the 8-inch and $249 for the 10-inch, bookending the current Echo Show price.

For those who want the security and accessibility of having a display to work with, it'll be a small price bump over the $129 Google Home to get something that truly feels like more of a home hub to then be augmented by Google Home Minis elsewhere. This is absolutely a growth area for Google, and Lenovo is simply the first partner out the gate with it.

More: With expansion to screens and cars, Google Assistant is officially everywhere

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1 week ago

NVIDIA partners with Acer, ASUS and HP for new 65-inch 4K HDR gaming displays that run Android TV

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Well this is surprising.

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NVIDIA's stepping into the gaming display space, partnering with a bunch of companies — Acer, Asus and HP to start — to release their own version of a BFGD, or Big Format Gaming Display. These 65-inch gaming displays are aimed at hardcore PC and console gamers who want a huge screen, and they have impressive specs like 4K resolution, HDR, G-Sync, 1ms latency and a 120Hz refresh rate. The panels are identical between the manufacturers, but each one will bring its own physical design and extra features in terms of audio, HDMI inputs, etc.

Interestingly, they also have a full-on Android TV experience built in.

The pitch is that the hardcore gamers will come to the BFGD for the best experience when they hook up their PC and play, but then when they're done with that and want to take a break they flip over to a full NVIDIA Shield Android TV experience:

This critically-acclaimed device, that before now was only available as a separate box, runs at up to 4K, in HDR, and has a whole host of apps and features. For streaming there's support for Amazon, HBO, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and many other key channels; for home and remote playback there's best-in-class Plex and Kodi support; for extra gaming fun there are Android games and exclusive conversions of classic titles, such as Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3; for remote PC playing there's GeForce NOW and GameStream; for relaxed user control there's voice-powered Google Assistant; and for future household tech there's SHIELD's Smart Home technologies.

So not only do you get the benefit of having Android TV, but you get the NVIDIA version of that — that means Amazon Video (in 4K HDR to boot), GeForce Now streaming and GameStream streaming. This is rolling with the same specs as a standalone NVIDIA Shield Android TV box, which is easily still the industry leader for Android TV boxes. A few other TV manufacturers have gone with Android TV for their default interface, but this is interesting to see as a value-add for something that is primarily focused on having the right specs for optimal gaming performance.

NVIDIA says that the Shield Android TV portion of the BFGDs is on the exact same software track as the standalone Shield boxes, and they will be updated at the same time directly by NVIDIA. The companies will be able to update their portions of the display firmware on their own terms.

Because this is a partnership deal, NVIDIA is leaving it to Acer, Asus and HP to make their own announcements about BFGD releases. So we don't know details about availability or pricing — the best we know is the "second half of 2018" right now. ASUS has announced that its version will be the ROG Swift PG65, but has no details beyond that.

NVIDIA Shield Android TV

Amazon

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