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1 week ago

Verizon Wireless is making international roaming free for Winter Olympics attendees

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Verizon Up members headed to the Winter Olympics just got good news.

Travelling internationally comes with all kinds of expenses you don't usually associate with travel, and your phone is one of the big ones. International roaming is never not expensive, but it looks like Verizon Wireless is giving all of their customers headed to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang a break by making it free for all of February. Well, mostly. There's a catch — you have to be a part of Verizon's rewards program before January 28th.

Verizon's rewards program, called Verizon Up, offers free movie rentals and gift cards to various places for every $300 you spend with Verizon. The good news is this includes anything you spend at Verizon, which means those of us with big family plans see the results of those rewards frequently. This special Winter Olympics bonus makes the TravelPass service you would usually pay extra for cost nothing for the month of February, but only for qualifying plans.

TravelPass pricing, and the free Winter Olympics offer along with it, are available to any Verizon Wireless subscriber with More Everything Verizon plans and any Unlimited plans. That covers a healthy number of users, but it's also important that your phone be a WorldPhone. Fortunately all modern phones are considered WorldPhones by Verizon, but if you haven't upgraded in a while you're going to want to check with Verizon before you leave the country.

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1 week ago

Android Pay and Google Wallet are consolidating under Google Pay brand

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Google is taking the first step to unifying its disparate payment brands.

Since it was announced back in 2015, Android Pay has overshadowed another legacy Google payment brand, Google Wallet, which, though it once offered in-store payments, has since been relegated to a cross-platform peer-to-peer money exchange system.

Today, that all changes as Android Pay and Google Wallet are combining to form a single payment brand under the Big G: Google Pay. For existing users of both services, the move is mainly just a logo refresh, but down the line Google says it will take considerable advantage of these new synergies. The branding will also encompass other ways users pay for, and with, Google services, such as on the Play Store and when automatically filling out credit card details in Chrome.

With Google Pay, it'll be easier for you to use the payment information saved to your Google Account, so you can speed through checkout with peace of mind. Over the coming weeks, you'll see Google Pay online, in store, and across Google products, as well as when you're paying friends.

To entice people to sign up, Google is working with a number of retailers on promotional items, such as $10 off any $50+ order at B&H or $5 off a Fandango ticket. Google also says that some apps, such as Airbnb, Dice, and Fandango, have already updated their branding, while more will come in the next little while.

So no new features or countries supported with this announcement, but it's nice to know that Wallet is sunsetting properly and Google is taking payments more seriously than ever.

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1 week ago

Every Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Case We Could Find

A roundup of all the best Note 8 cases we could find!

As is the case with every major phone released like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, there are a crazy abundance of cases available. Whether you're looking for something slim and stylish, thick and rugged, or crystal clear, we've got you covered.

We've rounded up the best cases across all of these categories and more and combined them into a sort of master list for finding the right case for your Note 8.

Samsung LED Wallet Cover case

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

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

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

See at Samsung

OtterBox Commuter case

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

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

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

See at OtterBox

Spigen Rugged Armor case

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

This sleek, one-piece case is rugged and sleek with carbon fiber accents that looks really nice on taller devices like the Note 8. It's made of rugged TPU material so it's easy to install and features a matte finish for a great look and feel. It's a really slim case, too, so you won't be adding a ton of bulk in exchange for a case that will provide rugged protection. Best of all is the price — you can get this reliable case for just $11 on Amazon.

See at Amazon

RhinoShield CrashGuard Bumper case

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

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

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

See at Rhinoshield

More: The Best Cases for the Galaxy Note 8

Caseology Skyfall Series Slim Case

Caseology's Skyfall Series of cases are always stylish and popular, mixing a clear acrylic back plate with colorful accents provided by the polycarbonate bumper.

The slim build of this case compliments the Note 8 well, while the two-layered design is capable of absorbing any drops that may occur. There's a raised lip around the front of the phone as well around the camera and fingerprint sensor, so all the features of your phone will be protected and functional.

There are four color options to choose from designed to match the different colors of the Note 8 itself, starting at just $12.99.

See at Amazon

Ringke Slim Case w/ slot card holder

Ringke's slim case for the Note 8 is pretty basic as you'd expect, but it has included a pretty nice accessory for cutting down your daily carry.

Along with this ultra-thin case that only adds about 2mm of bulk to your phone, Ringke includes an adhesive card slot holder that's capable of holding two cards — say your photo ID and a credit card. It's the perfect accessory for traveling or going out to the bar if you want to keep your carry light.

This one-piece case is made of rugged polycarbonate will keep your phone safe from bumps and scuffs while keeping the sleek design intact. You can get it in classic black for just $8, or opt for a powder blue or salmon pink option for $10.

See at Amazon

More Ultra-Thin Cases for the Galaxy Note 8

DAVIS CASE Genuine Leather Case

We'll start out with some cases made from genuine leather. This option from DAVIS CASE has some great aesthetics especially if you love the look of old leather-bound books.

These cases are handmade with genuine leather that's got a nice weathered finish to it. On the inside, there's a pocket that will accommodate some folded bills, along with five card slots including a clear one for IDs. It also supports wireless charging and like most folio-style cases it can be folded into a kickstand for hands-free viewing.

At $34.99 it's certainly on the pricier side, but you should get your money's worth with the genuine leather and hand-crafted quality.

See at Amazon

Spigen Wallet S

Back to folio-style cases, Spigen has offered its Wallet S case for the Note 8.

The Wallet S was one of my favorite cases for the short-lived Note 7 last year, so it should be a reliable option for the Note 8 as well. While it shares many of the same features as the other folio wallet cases on this list, one feature you might appreciate is the cutout around the ear speaker on the front flap, which allows you to talk on the phone with the cover closed.

It's only available in classic black and features a magnetic strap to keep it closed. Get this premium-looking wallet case for just $17.99.

See at Amazon

More Leather Cases for the Galaxy Note 8

Supcase Unicorn Beetle Shield Series Case

Are you the type that can't be trusted with nice things? Needs to keep your phone fully encased in plastic to protect it from yourself? No judgments here — the first step is admitting you have a problem.

The next step is finding the right solution, which just might be the mighty rugged Supcase Unicorn Beetle Shield Series case. Combining a polycarbonate outer shell with a flexible and shock-absorbing TPU sleeve, this case goes an extra step further by including a built-in screen protector around front to prevent scratches from ruining your Note 8's display.

It's otherwise a pretty standard design for a rugged case — beefy in the corners where it needs to be yet slim and sporty enough as to not turn your phone into a thick brick of plastic. You can get yours from Amazon for just $20.

See at Amazon

UAG Plasma Rugged Case

The go-to rugged case for many smartphone users, the UAG Plasma is a rugged and lightweight case that's arguably the coolest looking case on this list — although that's always a matter of personal opinion.

It's a remarkably slim case with a great amount of texture and ridges along the side edges and back to assist with in-hand grip. With reinforced corners to take the brunt of any falls that also provides relief from your screen when you put your phone face down, this is a case style that's been perfected over the years to offer maximum protection for premium devices such as the Note 8. It's also thin enough to remain compatible for NFC and Qi wireless charging functionality.

But you will pay a somewhat steep price for all that premium design and build quality — $30 for some color options and up to $55 for the all-black model. Completely justifiable for smartphone peace of mind.

See at Amazon

More: Best Heavy Duty Cases for the Galaxy Note 8

Spigen Liquid Crystal

A great clear case is going to offer protection for your phone without drawing attention to the fact that you've got a case on your phone. In that regard, the Spigen Liquid Crystal is an outstanding choice.

Made of lightweight and flexible TPU material, this single-layer case is easy to pop onto your phone while adding next to no bulk to the phone. Precise cutouts and buttons means that your phone's functionality is never affected, and it's thin enough to allow for wireless charging, too.

Spigen has a couple other clear case options you might be interested in — the Rugged Crystal ($12) features reinforced corners to help with drops, and the Ultra Hybrid S ($15) features a built-in magnetic kickstand for hands-free media viewing. But if you're just looking for a reliable and slim clear case, the Liquid Crystal is your best value at just $11.

See at Amazon

Ringke Fusion

The Ringke Fusion case is one of those case styles that's offered for nearly every major phone release, and it's a reliable option if you want to keep your phone protected without impeding the look and design of your new phone.

This is a two-layer case with a soft, shock-absorbing TPU bumper paired with a hard plastic back plate that offers serious protection against drops and scratches. There's tapered lips around the corners to ensure the screen isn't in direct contact with surfaces if you put your phone screen down on a table, and it's been precisely designed so that all the ports and buttons are functional.

You can get the standard all-clear version for just $7.99, or opt to add some character to the bumper — Rose Gold or Smoke Black — for just $9.99.

See at Amazon

More: Best Clear Cases for the Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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1 week ago

Best music widgets for Android

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A good widget can make or break a home screen.

Widgets at their best should feel like they've always been a part of your home screen. They mesh with your wallpaper, they pop amongst your app icons, and the controls are easy to see and use. The problem with this idea is that, well, most music widgets suck. They're either a harsh white that cover up wallpapers, or they're too tiny to see your music information easily, or they're just ugly. Thankfully, third-party apps are here to pick up the slack and turn it into a beautiful banner of musical magic.

Here are the best ones.

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1 week ago

The Nebula Capsule projector is now available on Amazon for $349

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It's a projector that runs Android and is the size of a soda can.

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CES 2018 is all about weird and funky gadgets, and that's exactly what the Nebula Capsule is. Anker launched the Capsule through its Nebula sub-brand on IndieGoGo last September, and just in time for this year's Consumer Electronics Show, the Capsule is making its official debut on Amazon.

The Nebula Capsule is the size of a 12-ounce soda can, and while you might not expect much from something so small, don't let the miniature body fool you. Not only does the Capsule project an image up to 100-inches, it also runs Android 7.1 Nougat, can be used as a 360-degree Bluetooth speaker, and offers up to four hours of video playback or 30 hours of music listening on just one charge.

You will find some shortcomings, such as a max resolution of 854 x 480 and just 100 lumens for the brightness, but for a projector that's this portable, these specs are mostly understandable.

The Nebula Capsule's price of $349 isn't cheap, but if you're in the market for a unique gadget that'll be the perfect party companion, it's definitely worth checking out.

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

MrMobile's frugal phone favorites

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A thought occurred to me as I was reviewing the Galaxy Note 8 last year, and then it popped up again when I took a look at the iPhone X. A lot of people think you need to pay almost a thousand dollars for a good smartphone these days. And while you, the astute Android Central reader, might know this already, it bears repeating: you don't.

For the past few weeks I've been using the Honor 7X, HTC U11 Life, and Motorola Moto X4, three midrange smartphones that bring a slew of special features not seen before in this price bracket (which runs from $200 to $400 unlocked). That's not the most affordable collection of smartphones you can get, nor is this roundup at all exclusive – but at the top of 2018, I believe it to be the sweet spot between frugality and a solid Android experience.

Join me for my take on the Best Midrange Smartphones at the top of 2018 – and be sure to check out the full Android Central reviews of the Honor 7X, HTC U11 Life and Moto X4 for the full story on these phones.

Stay social, my friends

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1 week ago

JBL announces three headphones with Google Assistant built-in

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Available this spring.

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Bose was one of the first companies to release Google Assistant-powered headphones last year with the QuietComfort 35 II, and now JBL is trying its own hand at this with three new headphone options coming in at prices for just about everyone.

At the lowest end is the Everest 110GA. These are in-ear headphones that promise eight hours of battery life, and they come with small, medium, and large ear-tips to help give you the best fit possible. The price of $99.95 isn't necessarily cheap, but it's considerably more affordable than Google's own Pixel Buds.

Stepping up to $199.95 will get you the Everest 310GA. The biggest difference here is that these are on-ear headphones as opposed to the in-ear style of the 110GA, and you'll also find much more battery life at 20 hours. The Everest 710GA (pictured above) is the most expensive of the bunch at $249.95, and it offers the best sound quality and battery life with a rating of 25 hours.

All three of the headphones come with Google Assistant built-in, Bluetooth 4.1, JBL Pro Audio Sound, and ShareMe 2.0 (minus the 110GA).

You'll be able to buy the headphones this spring from both JBL's website and select retailers.

iHome Voice is a Google Assistant-powered alarm clock that adds a dot-matrix display and buttons

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1 week ago

Build-your-own-computer maker Kano now lets kids build their own cameras

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Kano wants to teach kids how cameras work next!

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My favorite pieces of kid tech over the last two years have come from the folks at Kano. This team is dedicated to teaching kids how electronics work through a combined hardware and software approach, and the results in my household are undeniable.

This week at CES the Kano team is showing off their next big kid, the Camera Kit. Like the computer kits, this new setup is all about giving kids the ability to explore and create once they understand how everything works.

Kano's early prototypes for the upcoming Camera Kit are on display at CES, and it's easy to see how this is going to work. Kids will assemble a basic kit with a sensor, microphone, flash, and of course a durable casing with big, friendly buttons. The sensor is surrounded by the same LED ring you can find on the classic Kano computer kits, which means kids will be able to choose how the colors are displayed and learn how to use software to choose which lighting is best. This kit includes software to teach kids how to build their own photo filters and GIFs as well. The USB port on the side of the kit makes it easy to transfer photos back to your PC when picture time is over, making it easy for kids to see their creations.

There's no launch date or pricing for this Camera Kit just yet, but Kano has a registration page open for anyone who wants to get their hands on this kit as soon as it is available. After that launch, it's likely this kit will join the other Kano kits on shelves at stores all over the world.

See at Kano

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1 week ago

Asus ZenFone Max Plus launching in North America for $229

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And I cannot lie.

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We saw a load of mid-range phones released in 2017, and unless there's a big shift in the market, we'll likely see a lot in 2018, too. The Asus ZenFone Max Plus was a mid-ranger that first announced in late November, but now during CES 2018, Asus has announced that it's bringing the phone to North America.

Asus's 'Max' series of smartphones is best-known for having large batteries, and the ZenFone Max Plus is no exception to this rule. There's a 4,130 mAh battery that's promised to offer 26 days of standby time, and while that is smaller than the 5,000 mAh unit included on the ZenFone Max that came out in 2016, the Plus appears to be a much nicer all-around phone.

In addition to a metal body that comes in three colors, the ZenFone Max Plus has a 5.7-inch 'Full View Display' with an 18:9 aspect ratio. The bezels aren't the slimmest we've ever seen, but they're also far from obnoxious.

A fingerprint sensor is on the back of the phone for quickly unlocking it, but of course, Asus is also including its new Face Unlock feature just a few months after the iPhone X's launch. It remains to be seen how well this actually works, but phones like the OnePlus 5T have proven you don't need to be Apple to create a genuinely good facial recognition system.

The Asus ZenFone Max Plus will launch in North America in February for $229 with 3GB RAM and 32GB of internal storage.

See at Asus

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1 week ago

International Huawei P10 and P10 Plus get Android Oreo beta

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Here's how to join.

Save for the strangely absent oleophobic coating underneath the pre-installed screen protector, the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus proved to be excellent phones in early 2017 with great cameras, long battery life, and strong hardware design. Both phones shipped with Android 7.0 Nougat, but now in January 2018, Huawei is rolling out an official Oreo beta.

Android Oreo's already arrived in a stable form to the P10 and P10 Plus in China, so this beta is for the international variant of the phones. Supported units must have software versions VTR-L09C432B180, VTR-L29C432B180, VKY-L09C432B181, or VKY-L29C432B181, and assuming you have one of the following, enrolling in the beta is quite simple.

With your P10 or P10 Plus, install the Huawei Beta app, open it and log into your account, and then go to Personal -> Join project -> Available projects. Once you do this, you'll receive an OTA update for the Oreo beta to immediately download and install onto your phone.

Huawei hasn't said when a stable version of Oreo will launch for the international P10 and P10 Plus, but seeing as how there's already a beta, our guess is that it should be here within the next few weeks.

Huawei P10 + P10 Plus review: Great phones, with one fatal flaw

Android Oreo

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1 week ago

What Pixel 2 color do you like the best?

18

Just Black and Black & White take the cake for most buyers.

Similar to the first Pixel, the Pixel 2's design has proven to be a bit polarizing. Some people love the look of the phone, but others aren't so keen on it.

The use of glass and metal on the back certainly is unique, and one of the things that help to keep the phone looking as good as can be are the different colors that you can choose from. Between the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, available colors include Just Black, Clearly White, Kinda Blue, and Black & White.

Some of our forum users recently got to talking about which color they preferred and why, and this is what they had to say:

*/
hallux 01-07-2018 10:15 PM “

I have a "Panda" with a clear Spigen Liquid Crystal case on it. Liking it. I haven't been a fan of white phones before because of the white bezel on the front, with this now having a black bezel I decided to take a leap...

Reply
*/
EMGSM 01-07-2018 05:49 PM “

I got the black one and love it. If I want a different look, I'll just put a skin on it. It's your money and your choice.

Reply
*/
Prath09 01-07-2018 06:55 PM “

I like the Black look actually. Although I have had the cement fabric case on it since I got it. The colour plus the mint button is nice ;), although id prefer it naked but i'm not risking it :p

Reply
*/
oks10 01-07-2018 07:33 PM “

I have the panda bc I just don't like black phones. My last phone was an S7 Edge. Had to get black in order to meet a promo deadline so I ended up putting a skin on it. I got a skin for my Panda one too but just for the back glass piece to keep dust/dirt from scratching it if it happened to get in the case. Like others said though, get what you like and if you don't want to trade phones then...

Reply

What about you – Which Pixel 2/2 XL color is your favorite?

Join the conversation in the forums!

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Best Buy Verizon Google Store Project Fi

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1 week ago

iHome Voice is a Google Assistant-powered alarm clock that adds a dot-matrix display and buttons

8

This feels like a natural expansion.

*/ /*-->*/

Google Assistant is poised to be a major talking point at CES 2018, and iHome is taking a swing at its own device running Google's AI experience. The iHome Voice is basically a wide-looking Google Home with a few extra buttons and a dot-matrix style display on the front that makes it perfectly positioned to be an alarm clock.

Just like the old iHome docks we all know, it has a set of buttons on the top to perform basic functions, but it also has this simple display on the front showing the time, upcoming alarm and volume level. This immediately makes it more appealing as an alarm clock than the all-voice Google Home and Home Mini. It also has a USB port on the back to charge your phone at night, and since it's only a 1A output it won't be useful for more than overnight charges anyway.

The rest of the experience rounds out basically like a regular Google Home. It has far-field array mics for voice commands, and a big speaker in the base for music, podcasts or news reports in the morning while you get your day started.

Pricing is set at $139, a $10 premium over the standard Google Home. That may be a slightly steep price to pay for something that's not as sleek and versatile as the Home in terms of placement, but getting an actual display and some physical buttons that make it far better as an alarm clock is probably worth the extra money if that's your plan for this kind of device.

See at iHome

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1 week ago

What's in Hayato Huseman's gear bag?

2

It takes a lot of gear to be a versatile and efficient tech blogger.

I do a decent amount of moving around for my job here at Android Central. When I'm writing or editing video, I usually stay home, but it can be hard to stay on task with my games and guitars sitting just a few feet away — so when I get stir-crazy, it's time to pack up and migrate to the local coffee shop. Then there's the trade shows and press events that pull me away from Indianapolis entirely for days at a time.

No matter where I am, I need to be able to carry all of my gear with me. You never know when a photo or video opportunity might arise, and there's never a bad time to write or listen to music. Here are the things I carry whenever I travel for work.

The bag: Peak Design Everyday Backpack

I've been searching for the perfect backpack for years, and I think I've finally found the one from Peak Design. The Everyday Backpack comes in two sizes — 20 liters or 30 liters — and boasts one of the cleverest designs I've ever seen in a bag.

The Everyday Backpack is clever, convenient, and weather-sealed.

The Everyday Backpack features three adjustable dividers for organizing your things, with foldable subdividers that help keep smaller items from moving around. They attach with velcro, meaning you can move the dividers around to best fit the contents of the bag. You can unzip the Everyday Backpack from the sides, making it easier to access your things at the bottom without having to take everything else out first. The top of the bag is attached by a large magnet, making it easy to attach but locking it in place to prevent unwanted access.

If backpacks aren't your style, Peak Design makes a few other bag styles, too. Andrew Martonik uses the Everyday Sling, and the company offers a number of messenger bags, totes, and pouches.

See at Amazon

The laptop: MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (Late 2016)

Around this time last year, Apple released the first iteration of its new lineup of MacBook Pros ... yep, the ones with the weird Touch Bar that replaces the function row. It's usually not recommended to buy first-gen products, but my previous laptop was on its last leg, so against popular advice I ordered one as soon as it was available. While it's certainly not perfect, I'm glad I bought it — especially now that I'm regularly editing 4K video.

I've gone all-in on USB-C, so the lack of Type-A ports doesn't bother me, but a year later I'm still constantly frustrated at the omission of an SD card reader on an otherwise professional-grade laptop. Still, the specs inside are plenty capable for my workflow; a 2.6GHz Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and an Intel HD 530 GPU.

Despite what you might've heard about the Touch Bar MacBook Pro's battery life, I've actually been really happy with how long mine lasts. When it does finally run down, I absolutely love that I can charge it with a USB-C cable, since that allows me to carry just one charger for my laptop, my phone, and pretty much everything else I use. Touch ID is super convenient as well, though it doesn't always work as well as I'd like.

The Touch Bar MacBook Pro is unconventional and often inconvenient, and if Final Cut Pro X worked on Windows I might've opted for something like a Dell XPS 15 instead, but overall I'm happy with my purchase. It handles large 4K videos seamlessly, and it's light enough that I hardly notice it in my bag.

See at Amazon

The phone: OnePlus 5T

It doesn't have the glitz of the Galaxy Note 8 or the insane camera of the Pixel 2, but the OnePlus 5T has been my phone of choice for the last few months. Before it, I carried the OnePlus 5, so I've been spending a lot of time with OxygenOS this past year. It's almost identical to stock Android, but a bit more customizable without having to go as far as flashing a custom ROM.

Face Unlock has been great for the winter.

I love the 5T's 2:1 aspect ratio, and I'm surprised at how much I've really been enjoying the new face unlock software — especially now that we're regularly dipping into subzero temperatures here in Indianapolis, and fingerprint sensors aren't exactly known to work through gloves.

The rest of the phone is stellar, too; the Snapdragon 835 and 8GB of RAM mean that it's going to take a lot to slow the 5T down, and its upcoming Oreo update will bring some nice features over from the Pixel, like picture-in-picture Google Maps and YouTube. If you're shopping for a new phone and you're sitting around a $500 budget, it's really hard to go wrong with the OnePlus 5T.

See at OnePlus

The carrier: T-Mobile

As far as the SIM card that goes into my phone, that duty belongs to the Un-carrier. Full disclaimer: I worked for T-Mobile off and on for nearly four years. While I don't get the employee pricing anymore, I do still appreciate features like free WiFi on airplanes and free international data roaming (though the speeds you'll get overseas are abysmal).

It also helps that I have a GSM carrier handy for this job, since most of the review units we handle won't work with CDMA carriers like Verizon or Sprint. Luckily, T-Mobile works great in most of the parts of Indianapolis and Chicago that you'll normally find me ... but I'd be lying if I said it's good everywhere. My last few visits to Manhattan and Brooklyn were full of 3G speeds. I don't want to talk about it.

The camera: Panasonic GH5

I spent every day of 2017 going back and forth between sticking with Panasonic or moving to Sony for my next camera upgrade. My Panasonic GH3 was still a great workhorse video camera, but it didn't shoot in 4K — an increasingly desirable feature these days, even if you export in 1080p. It also didn't have a lot of the software features many filmmakers today would consider essential, like focus peaking or histograms.

The GH5 is one of the most versatile cameras I've ever used.

When I started at Mobile Nations, one of my first assignments was pretty video-centric, which meant it was time to finally upgrade. It made the most financial sense for me to stick with Panasonic since I already had a fairly expensive lens for my GH3, so I finally decided on the GH5, and I'm really, really glad I did.

The GH5 has just about everything you could want on a prosumer level; 4K video at 60 frames per second, a flat color profile for more flexible grading in post, dual SD card slots for redundancy, and even USB-C so I can copy my footage to my computer without a stupid dongle. The image quality looks incredible, and with a fast enough lens, it's even pretty decent in low light.

Most of the time, I carry my GH5 with a Peak Design Slide Pro strap. It connects with small quick-release anchors attached to the camera, and the adjustment system is designed for one-handed use, which is super convenient.

See at Amazon

The lens: Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8

Yep, just one lens. I've been using Panasonic's popular 12-35 exclusively for the last couple of years now, and it's been an incredibly versatile piece of glass. With an f/2.8 aperture, it's bright and sharp, and you can really pull some great bokeh out of it under the right conditions. On top of that, it's relatively compact, and I absolutely love the built-in stabilization.

I won't lie, though — I've been eyeing Sigma's new native 16mm f/1.4 lately. Maybe it'll show up in my next bag post.

See at Amazon

The mic: RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker Kit

It's hard to beat the convenience of wireless audio. When I was with Daniel Bader and Andrew Martonik for the OnePlus 5T event a few months ago, we used Daniel's wireless lav kit from Rode for all of our audio, and it worked out great. The sound quality was excellent, and to my surprise, the wireless signal had no discernible latency, so I was still able to monitor audio directly from my GH5's onboard headphone jack.

The RodeLink lav kit comes in three parts: a receiver that attaches to the hot shoe mount on your camera, a transmitter that clips onto the talent, and of course the lavalier microphone itself. All three pieces fit pretty easily into my bag, so I never have to go anywhere without a way of capturing high-quality audio.

See at Amazon

Everything else

For the sake of versatility, I like to carry as much video gear as I can without weighing my bag down too much, and the Edelkrone SliderOne is a perfect example. It's a 6" video slider that I can use either on a table or on my tripod to get smooth movement in my shots.

Attached to the bottom is the Motion Module, which adds a bit of heft to the SliderOne but allows me to automate its movements with an app on my phone. It's a bit finicky, but this combo has helped me get some nice-looking shots in my videos, and being able to carry a slider around with me is just so damn cool.

If you have a USB-C laptop, you owe it to yourself to get a portable battery bank like this.

I also don't go anywhere without my Tylt Portable Battery 10X, which carries a whopping 20,100mAh and charges in and out with USB-C. It's a hefty battery and takes up more space in my bag than I'd sometimes like, but the massive capacity means I'm never worried about running out of juice on any of my gadgets — it even charges my 15" MacBook Pro, which has been a lifesaver for mobile video editing.

Speaking of lifesavers, Sony's newest noise-canceling headphones, the WH1000XM2, have become an essential part of my everyday life — backpack or not. Like the Bose QC35, these cans have incredible active noise-canceling, which is especially handy for working in loud coffee shops or blocking out engine noise on a plane. On top of that, they sound great, too, and the battery lasts for days at a time.

Once you try the Samsung T5, it's hard to go back to slower storage.

For storage, I carry around a 1TB Samsung T5 SSD. It's lighting fast, well-built, and it's about as small as a credit card. I was hesitant to pick one of these up because of the hefty price, but the first time I transfered a 20GB file in less than a minute ... well, it's pretty hard to go back to anything else after that. The T5 plugs in through USB-C, and comes with both a double-sided Type-C cable and an A-to-C cable.

Finally, let's touch on the loose ends. I carry a few cables around; the two cables included with the T5 SSD, and a longer USB-C cable to charge my laptop or phone with the Tylt battery bank. I also use that longer cable to plug the GH5 into my laptop for file transfers, but I also carry a Hootoo Shuttle USB-C hub with a built-in SD card reader just in case.

There are always a few spare batteries in the side compartment of my bag — two Canon LP-E6 batteries for my slider, and a Panasonic BLF19 battery for my GH5. I also carry a variable ND filter from Platinum in case I need to shoot in direct sunlight.

That's everything I carry when I'm traveling for work! Have any recommendations for new gear I should try, or how your carry might differ from mine? Spill it in the comments!

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1 week ago

Sony is finally selling phones in the U.S. with fingerprint sensors, starting with the XA2, XA2 Ultra and L2

38

Hey look, Sony's taking things seriously in the U.S.

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Sony's taking to CES 2018 to launch three new mid-range phones: the Xperia XA2, XA2 Ultra and L2. They look like fine phones. They have solid specs for mid-range devices and a few neat features.

But let me tell you the important part up front: all three have fingerprint sensors in the U.S. They're interestingly rear-mounted fingerprint sensors, rather than the side-mounted power button variety Sony has used for years. And yes, they're actually enabled right out of the box here in the States. No importing, no hacking, nothing. Finally, our long national nightmare is over.

Left to right: Xperia XA2 Ultra, XA2 and L2

Okay, breathe. It's really happening. We have a Sony phone in the U.S. with a working fingerprint sensor. It's not a dream. Let's move on to the phones themselves.

These are totally expected and standard mid-range phones. The fingerprint sensor is what really matters here.

These three phones are refreshes of the existing Sony mid-range lineup. The XA2 and super-sized XA2 Ultra are understandably built on a similar platform — they run on a Snapdragon 630 processor with a 1920x1080 display, the same 23MP rear camera and supporting specs. The XA2 Ultra is larger, with a 6-inch display and corresponding 3580mAh battery compared to the 5.2-inch and 3300mAh of the XA2. For its extra size the XA2 Ultra adds a secondary front-facing camera with OIS, above and beyond the 8MP 120-degree wide-angle camera found on both, and also bumps up to 4GB of RAM from 3GB.

That's right, the XA2 Ultra has two front-facing cameras, and one even has OIS. Despite the fact that the rear camera doesn't have OIS. Who knows.

Sitting well below those two is the Xperia L2, with its 5.5-inch 1280x720 display, quad-core processor (the brand is unknown, but likely MediaTek), 3GB of RAM and sizable 3300mAh battery. It takes a big step down in terms of camera, with a basic 13MP shooter on the back and 8MP wide-angle on the front. The goal here, as is the case with Sony's low-end range, is to bring that unmistakeable Sony design language down to an affordable price by skimping on the specs — for a point of reference, the current Xperia L1 is just $180. The downside? You're getting Android 7.1.1 Nougat on board, whereas the others launch on Oreo as you'd expect in early 2018.

All three phones will come to the U.S. as single-SIM models in February, but pricing hasn't been announced just yet. The XA2 Ultra in particular has a shot at being pretty popular if the pricing is right, as Sony has seen surprisingly good sales of its large mid-range phones — like the XA1 Ultra at $379 — in the U.S. previously. But what really matters here is that we can expect Sony's upcoming flagships for 2018 to also have fingerprint sensors, which will finally remove the longstanding caveat that has applied every time we talk about its phones here.

Press release:

Sony unveils three new smartphones: Xperia XA2, Xperia XA2 Ultra, and Xperia L2

  • Xperia XA2 and large-screen Xperia XA2 Ultra feature 23MP main camera, 8MP 120-degree super-wide-angle front-facing camera (plus second 16 MP front camera on Xperia XA2 Ultra), and a range of upgrades in a sleek, borderless design
  • Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra come equipped with Qualcomm® SnapdragonTM 630 processor platform
  • Xperia L2 also announced, with a 5.5" HD display, high- capacity battery and 8MP 120-degree super-wide-angle front camera
  • All three devices feature new, always-on fingerprint sensor

Las Vegas, 8th January 2018, Sony Mobile Communications ("Sony Mobile") today unveiled Xperia XA2 and Xperia XA2 Ultra – the latest additions to its popular super mid-range line, with Sony camera technology, elegant designs, and powerful performance.

"Our super mid-range product strategy started out as an exciting new idea based on bringing bold technologies to this section of the market in the most accessible way possible," said Hideyuki Furumi, EVP, Global Sales & Marketing, at Sony Mobile Communications. "Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra are no different, with leading front camera technology first seen in our flagship XZ line. We're targeting 2018 as a breakthrough year, and look forward to showcasing further innovations across the entire Xperia portfolio over the coming months."

Xperia XA2 and large-screen Xperia XA2 Ultra – Sony's renowned borderless display smartphones – add 120-degree super-wide-angle lens front camera and a broad range of performance upgrades to deliver more ways to capture and share life moments with ease.

Xperia XA2 and Xperia XA2 Ultra take the Sony borderless smartphone series to new heights by adding a host of enhancements that make these Full HD screen devices stand out even further from the competition.

Both smartphones feature a high-resolution 23MP main camera upgraded with 4K video recording and 120fps slow-motion video capture (for high- resolution and creative video shots) and much improved low-light sensitivity at ISO 12800 for capturing higher quality photos in dark or indoor conditions.

When it comes to the front-facing camera, Xperia XA2 takes a big step up with an all-new 8MP front camera with 120-degree super-wide-angle lens for fitting more scenery and people into your shots. The Xperia XA2 Ultra ups the ante even further with dual front cameras: a 16MP camera with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and display flash for blur-free night-time selfies and an all-new secondary 8MP front camera with 120-degree super-wide- angle lens.

Xperia XA2 and the large-screen Xperia XA2 Ultra deliver an extraordinary mobile viewing experience, with both smartphones featuring a stunning edge-to-edge display and reduced top and bottom bezels. Whether you're watching videos, browsing the internet, or playing the latest mobile games, the Full HD 1080p screen (5.2" on Xperia XA2; 6" on Xperia XA2 Ultra) is designed to exceed expectations for how content is viewed on a smartphone while still fitting comfortably in your hand.

Entertainment experiences on the Xperia XA2 and Xperia XA2 Ultra will not only look great on the screen, but they'll also sound fantastic with SmartAmp, a feature that significantly enhances the sound quality of music, videos, and games. A perfect complement to the beauty of the bezel-less display, this improved audio feature ensures you'll be more deeply immersed in your entertainment.

Narrow and stylishly sleek, Xperia XA2 and Xperia XA2 Ultra feature a premium look and feel with an all-new aluminum back panel, precision-edge detailing, and 2.5D curved glass, all of which give these devices a more polished look.

Xperia XA2 and Xperia XA2 Ultra are powered by the Qualcomm® SnapdragonTM 630 processor platform, which delivers 3X the upload and 2X the download speeds compared to their predecessors (i.e., Xperia XA1 and Xperia XA1 Ultra), at 150Mbps and 600Mbps respectively. These devices also come with a new, always-on fingerprint sensor* for greater peace of mind. Xperia XA2 is backed by a high-capacity 3,300 mAh battery, almost 40% larger than its predecessor, while Xperia XA2 Ultra comes with a 3,580 mAh battery, which is more than 32% larger than its predecessor. Both phones will launch on Android 8.0 OreoTM.

Xperia XA2 and Xperia XA2 Ultra feature Sony smart charging technologies. Smart Stamina delivers extended usage during the day and night, while Battery Care and Qnovo Adaptive Charging ensure the battery stays healthy over time. Quick charging is also supported to give you hours of power with just minutes of charging (requires Quick Charger).

Xperia XA2 and Xperia XA2 Ultra will be available in Single SIM in the U.S. Xperia XA2 comes in four colors: Silver, Black, Blue, and Pink, while Xperia XA2 Ultra will be available in Silver, Black, Blue, and Gold.

Xperia L2 is a 5.5-inch borderless display smartphone with 120- degree super-wide-angle lens front camera, all-new metallic design, and always-on fingerprint sensor.

The Xperia L2 smartphone combines a premium camera, sophisticated design, superior performance, and long-lasting battery life in a 5.5-inch borderless HD display – all at an affordable price. Xperia L2's high-quality 13MP main camera features a fast autofocus to quickly capture sharp photos and a 3X clear image zoom to hone in on your subject from afar. The device takes a big step up with an all-new 8MP front camera with 120-degree super- wide-angle lens for fitting more scenery and people into your shots.

Xperia L2 also comes with a new, always-on fingerprint sensor for greater peace of mind and is backed by a larger capacity 3,300 mAh battery, which is more than 25% larger than its predecessor. The device is designed to last throughout the day and night thanks to its smart battery management functions, including Stamina Mode and Smart Cleaner. These battery-saving features optimize app use and activate the device's power-saving capability.

This smartphone is equipped with the Android 7.1.1 Nougat operating system and increased memory at 3GB RAM and 32GB internal memory storage, with an external microSD memory card slot to allow up to 256GB of additional storage. Xperia L2 is crafted in a loop-like surface with a curved back panel and metallic design that fits comfortably in your hand as you enjoy watching your videos or posting on social media.

With the all-new Xperia L2, Sony's trademark excellence in audio and visual technology and smartphone craftsmanship are all packed into a reasonably priced high-performance smartphone that's perfect for capturing and sharing a wider variety of your life moments with ease and style.

Xperia L2 will launch in Single SIM in the U.S. and come in three colors: Black, Gold, and Pink.

Xperia XA2, Xperia XA2 Ultra, and Xperia L2 will all roll out in early February.

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1 week ago

Honor View 10 goes international Jan 8, Honor 7X announced in limited-edition red

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The first AI-centric smartphone from Huawei's more affordable brand will cost about $460 U.S.

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Honor — the affordable offshoot of Chinese manufacturer Huawei — tonight at CES announced that the new Honor View 10 will see international release starting January 8 in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Honor previously announced U.S. availability back in December, but we don't have details just yet.

The View 10, as you'll recall, is the global version of the Honor V10 that launched in China. It's Honor's first phone to launch with Android 8.0 Oreo and is powered by Huawei's Kirin 970 processor — the first with built-in AI via a Neural Processing Unit. On top of that, it's got 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, all pushing a 5.99-inch display at 2160x1080 resolution.

Read our full Honor View 10 preview

Honor also announced that the venerable Honor 7X will get a limited edition launch in red. Only 20,000 units will be available, and you'll have to snag them in either United States, Russia, India, or Western Europe (United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain). Honor also says the first 100 people to purchase the red model in each of those countries will get red co-branded Honor-Monster AM15 headphones as a special gift.

HONOR DELIVERS THE FUTURE OF MOBILE TECHNOLOGY WITH THE AI-POWERED HONOR VIEW10

Las Vegas, United States, January 7th, 2018 – Honor, a leading smartphone e-brand, today announced, on the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), that the AI-powered Honor View10 will go on sale in overseas markets from January 8th, 2018 and released a limited edition Honor 7X Red. This follows the successful launch of the Honor 7X and Honor View10 in London last month.

In 2017, Honor was the number one smartphone e-brand in China by sales, and its sales grew significantly on Black Friday in the United States and Europe.

"As a leading e-brand, Honor aims to become the most loved smartphone brand for people young and the young at heart," said Mr. George Zhao, President of Honor. "With a unique Internet-powered business model, unrivaled product and unbeatable value, we are taking our successful business model from China to the global market. Our aim is to become a top-five smartphone brand by 2020."

As part of the strategy to bring a better experience to users, Honor works with partners such as Microsoft, Monster and Snapchat to optimize applications and services for its smartphones.

Honor View10: Revolutionary AI and ultimate performance appeal to consumers worldwide

As part of a drive to make AI technology accessible to consumers worldwide, Honor is among the first to power a smartphone with a Neural-Network Processing Unit (NPU) to deliver AI features and performance that far surpasses any CPU/GPU powered architecture. Integrating with the dedicated NPU, Kirin 970 chipset enables Honor View10 to deliver up to 25 times better performance and 50 times greater efficiency.

For the Honor View10, Honor worked closely with Microsoft to optimize Microsoft Translator. The AI Accelerated Translator software in Honor View10 delivers instantaneous translation without the need for an internet connection. The new Kirin 970's powerful NPU makes the translation 500 percent faster than other smartphones running the same app. Mr. Xuedong Huang, Microsoft Technical Fellow in AI and Research said, "Microsoft is thrilled to be collaborating with Honor to bring the benefits of AI, through Microsoft Translator, to more users through the Honor View10. Together, we will continue to work towards building a more integrated and connected world."

During China's "Double 12" Shopping Festival after its launch in China for a week, the Honor View10 became the top selling smartphone product priced over RMB 3,000 (US$ 460). Consumers in India and Western Europe (United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain) can purchase Honor View10 starting from January 8th online at: http://www.hihonor.com/global/products/mobile-phones/honorview10/index.html. The new smartphone will also be available in Malaysia and Russia later this month.

Honor 7X: Unmatched price-performance makes it the ideal gift for the loved one

As the first smartphone to feature the Honor FullView Display, the Honor 7X 18:9 screen delivers an impressive visual experience, especially to the gamers in the midst of the action. The smartphone also doubles the efficiency and fun with its Screen Split function. The dual-lens 16MP + 2MP rear camera with large aperture (F/0.95 – F/16) and Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF) ensures professional photo quality and a professional shooting experience. Users in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and India have given the Honor 7X a 4.2+ star review on Amazon.com since its global launch in London on December 5th, 2017. In addition to black, blue and gold phones, a new limited edition Honor 7X Red of 20,000 units will be available for Valentine's Day in the United States, Russia, India and Western Europe (United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain). Honor 7X Red can be ordered soon at the Honor online store: http://www.hihonor.com/global/products/mobile-phones/honor7x/index.html.

Honor 7X Red with Honor-Monster AM15

Honor is partnering with Monster, one of the world's largest headphone manufacturers, to give the first 100 purchasers of Honor 7X Red in each country/region the red co-branded Honor-Monster AM15 headphones as a special gift. In addition, from this year, Honor is bringing the partnership with Monster to a new strategic level. More details will be announced later.

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