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2 weeks ago

Google's new Local Guides points system makes leaving reviews worth your time

29

Whether you're a traveler or a homebody, the Google-led app rewards handsomely for leaving recommendations.

Google Local Guides were introduced in 2014 to help foster a giant community of local reviewers who just know where all the best stuff is. When you sign up to be a Local Guide, every contribution helps you rack up points towards unlocking other elements of the service inside Google Maps. Over the next few days, Google will introduce a new points system to Local Guides to help unlock other types of goodies and hopefully encourage the proliferation of more reviews.

Certain kinds of contributions that have a higher impact for Google Maps users—like being the first to add a place to the map or leaving a review—earn you more points. In addition, Local Guides now earn points for rating places and checking facts from other community members. All points earned are shown immediately after each contribution, and are visible in the "contribute" tab.

Google has also added five new levels to Local Guides, in addition to adding badges for those who are heavy contributors.

We've added five new levels to Local Guides, bringing the total number from 5 to 10. For levels 4-10, we've designed unique badges, giving guides at higher levels a new way to be recognized for their contributions, and helping users quickly identify the Local Guides who contribute the most. These badges will appear next to each Local Guides' profile picture in Google Maps.

If you're a Level 2 Local Guide, you can enjoy early access to the new features. In select countries, Level 4-10 Local Guides can redeem a three-month Google Play Music subscription and 75% off digital rentals in the Play Movie store.

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2 weeks ago

How many Pixels has Google actually sold?

100

The sales numbers remain a mystery to all of us, though there are a few theories floating around.

With all the fervent rumormongering regarding the next batch of Pixel smartphones, it seems an appropriate time to take a look at several of the theories making the rounds about how many millions of Pixel and Pixel XL units Google has actually sold.

The phone launched eight months ago and has remained a strong seller at Verizon, where it was marketed as an exclusive (it's not; it's also sold unlocked in the Google Store). Regardless, that was certainly a winning strategy, as 7.5% of all phone activations on Verizon late last year (since the phones launched) were a Pixel or Pixel XL. (Sadly, thanks in part to a disjointed marketing strategy, other carriers only ranked in at 2% for the same end-of-2016 time period.)

So, we know the phone is selling relatively well with the help of the carrier that was heavily marketing it as an exclusive. But how well did it sell for Google? According to Ars Technica, it just barely hit a million units:

Unlike just about every hardware manufacturer on Earth, Google doesn't share official sales numbers for the Pixel phones, choosing to bundle the income under Alphabet's "Other Revenues" during earnings reports. We do have one very solid signal for Pixel sales, though: the Play Store, which shows install numbers for apps. If there was an app that was exclusive and install-by-default on the Pixel phones, like say, the Pixel Launcher, the install number would basically be the number of sold activated phones.

This calculation is complicated by the fact that Google Play doesn't show exact install numbers; it shows installs in "tiers" like "100,000-500,000." So most of the time, we won't have an exact Pixel sales number—except when the Pixel Launcher crosses from one download tier to another. So guess what just happened? The Pixel Launcher just crossed into the "1,000,000-5,000,000" install tier (you can see some third-party tracking sites, like AppBrain, still have it listed at 500,000). So for this one moment in history, eight months after launch, we can say Google finally sold a million Pixel phones.

Since there aren't any official sales numbers offered by Google (or Alphabet, as it were), the guesstimate is based on the number of downloads of the Pixel Launcher in the Play Store. The result paints a rather grim picture, however, which didn't seem to be the case when we initially pored over Verizon's Q3 2016 finance reports:

Let's look at Verizon's Q3 2016 earnings report, where we can see it activates roughly 8 million phones per quarter. If you assume Verizon activates a similar number in Q4, that'd average out to 600,000 Pixels activated at Verizon in the first three months...

Last year, the company had a record of activating roughly 8 million phones a quarter. If we assume Verizon maintained a consistent number of Pixels activated per quarter — 7.5% of 8 million, which makes it about 600,000 units — then that puts the number at close to 2 million units, on Verizon alone, since the initial debut. The result then gives less credence to the idea that only a measly million units were sold.

Overall, we don't know how Google actually calculates its Play Store install numbers, but based on what we know about Verizon's sales we certainly can't make the inference based solely on the number of installs displayed in the Play Store.

What we do know is that Google still has a long journey ahead of it before its branded smartphones sell as well as Apple's iPhones (or any of the dozens of companies surely above Google's sales currently). There sure are plenty of Android users in the world, but only a small fraction of them are on the Pixel or Pixel XL.

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Google Store Verizon

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2 weeks ago

Everything we know so far about Skyrim VR

Everything we know so far about Skyrim VR

What do I need to know about Skyrim VR?

A surprise trailer for Skyrim VR was shown during the Sony presentation at E3 2017. Arriving on the heels of the Fallout 4 VR trailer, many fans were left with a bunch of questions regarding Bethesda's move to take their beloved fantasy RPG into VR. To help spread the word, here's everything we know so far.

Read more at VR Heads!

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2 weeks ago

How to use a Google Play gift card

12
Play money is fun money

Google Play is not only the largest app store in the world but also a music subscription service, a bookstore, and a video store. Google Play gift cards make an excellent gift (hence the name), but that's not the limit of their use. Since Google restricts underage user accounts from Google Wallet, Google Play gift cards might be the only way for your munchkins to purchase content. Here's where to find them and how to use them.

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2 weeks ago

Using a heatsink can help with Daydream overheating

0

A heatsink can help with overheating problems.

Nobody wants to deal with problems when they are in the middle of an awesome VR game, but unfortunately from time to time they do occur. One of the most common issues for VR headsets that run off of a phone, is overheating. Your phone ends up working too hard and heating up too much, and when it hits a certain point, it will turn itself off, booting you out of VR in the process. Thankfully, there is something you can do to help this problem.

Read more at VRHeads.com

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2 weeks ago

Best Wireless Charging Pads for Galaxy S8

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Your new Samsung Galaxy S8 supports wireless charging, so take full advantage of the convenience!

Update June 2017: The Samsung Fast Charge Convertible Wireless Charging Pad is now for sale on Amazon!

The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a beautifully designed phone packed with convenient features. That includes wireless charging, which allows you to forgo dealing with cables and elegantly have your phone charging on your desk at work or nightstand at home and simply grab it when it's time to get up and go.

There are a variety of wireless charging stands and pad options compatible with the Galaxy S8, from chargers designed by Samsung to third-party products. Here are your best available options for the Samsung Galaxy S8.

Samsung Fast Charge Convertible Wireless Charging Pad

Samsung has come out with a completely redesigned wireless charging pad/stand, which launched alongside the Galaxy S8. Besides the premium leather-like appearance and ingenious design which allows you to easily convert this pad into an angled charging stand, you can be sure that this charging pad was created with your Galaxy S8 in mind.

The charger comes with a spare Samsung Fast Charge wall charger — because let's be honest, you can never have too many Samsung wall chargers — and allows you to fast charge your Galaxy S8 wirelessly at your home or office. At over $60, this is the most expensive option on the list, but if premium quality and functionality are your top priorities this is the one you want.

See at Amazon

Samsung Wireless Charging Pad w/ 2A wall adapter

If functionality and cost are your two biggest buying factors, you'll want to consider Samsung's older wireless charging pad, which has been deeply discounted on Amazon.

These UFO-like charging pads can charge Qi-compatible devices and are Fast Charge-compatible with your Galaxy S8. It also comes with a Samsung 2A wall charger — always great — and also has a standard one-year warranty. This is a great option if you're looking to set up wireless charging at your home and at work because they're so damn cheap right now. You can also get the older style as a charging stand if you prefer that look instead.

See at Amazon

Spigen Qi Wireless Charging Stand

Spigen is one of the best accessory makers, and its Qi Charging Stand is a fine example to back that claim. This charging stand is angled so you are still able to see your display easily while your phone is charging. If you need a way to quickly top off your phone on your desk or a new place to keep it safe on your nightstand, this may be the choice for you. Pick yours up for under $30 at Amazon.

See at Amazon

TYLT Qi Wireless Charging Stand

TYLT has been in the wireless charging game for years, proving itself to be one on of the most trusted third-party manufacturers. This is another angled wireless charging stand that lets you keep your phone accessible while it charges at your desk. What separates TYLT from Spigen's stand is the color options — you can get this charging stand in black, red, blue and yellow.

See at Amazon

Aukey Wireless Charging Pad

Aukey's wireless charging pad for Qi-enabled devices is sleek and minimalist, which might jibe well with your personal tastes. It's roughly the size of a coaster and available in both black and white, so it won't take up too much space on your desk or nightstand. The trade-off here is that the smooth charging surface may not be the best for the slick glass back of the Galaxy S8, but it should also charge through most cases.

See at Amazon

Do you charge wirelessly?

Have you owned any of the wireless chargers we've featured here? What has been your experience? Let us know in the comments below!

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked

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2 weeks ago

One (or five) reasons you'll love the OnePlus 5

2016 turned out to be a breakout year for OnePlus.

Last year, we saw the release of the OnePlus 3 and the revamped OnePlus 3T, with both phones living up to the company's #NeverSettle tagline. The OnePlus 3T stood out in particular, earning solid reviews and picking up accolades, including a mention on Android Central's list of the best phones you can buy.

For a company with the aim of creating the next "flagship killer," it certainly hit its stride by the end of last year and continued to surprise us — which gives us good reason to be excited for what's next. Its next flagship, the OnePlus 5, will be unveiled to the world on June 20, 12 PM EDT as part of a global event to be streamed live on the OnePlus website. So what does OnePlus have in store for us in 2017?

We've been hearing rumblings about the next OnePlus phone since April, and we're sure to learn more over the next few weeks. OnePlus always tries to include the best specs possible in its phone, and while we wait to learn more we know OnePlus is building its new phone around the Snapdragon 835, as announced by Qualcomm on Twitter:

This is pretty big news, as the Snapdragon 835 is Qualcomm's most advanced chipset, offering better efficiency for battery life without compromising on processing power. It's also optimized for photography, supporting zero shutter lag, smoother digital zoom, and true-to-life colors for improved image quality overall.

Photography is expected to be a main focus of the OnePlus 5. Back in May, OnePlus announced it was teaming up with DxO to enhance the photography on its new flagship. DxO is the de facto photography authority, offering extensive analysis of over 9,000 cameras, lenses and mobile phones. No specifics were given regarding the partnership, but the forum post teased at the possibility of smartphones capable of delivering DSLR-quality photos. The OnePlus will feature a dual-camera setup, so it should certainly offer the best photography experience on a OnePlus phone yet.

If you're excited to be one of the first to try it out, you're not alone. OnePlus has revved up the hype machine, announced the return of "Lab" which allows all you mobile photographers out there to enter for a chance to review the new OnePlus 5 camera simply by submitting some of your best shots from Instagram. It only takes a few minutes to enter, so join the thousands of fans who have signed up since the announcement.

OnePlus has also planned a series of pop-up events in major cities planned following the announcement. Details on when and where the pop-up events will be held will be shared at the keynote, though we do know that popular tech YouTuber MBKHD will be a special guest at the New York pop-up edition. People line up every year to try and be among the first to try out the latest OnePlus phone, so keep an eye out to see if there's a OnePlus pop-up event in your city!

All-in-all, it sure seems like OnePlus has figured things out, evolving from a scrappy upstart hoping to make waves in the smartphone market into a marquee brand with phones capable of going toe-to-toe with any other flagship on the market. Given the huge strides made in 2016, we're excited to see what they have in store for us and you should be too.

Make sure to check out the OnePlus 5 livestream on June 20 and be sure to keep an eye on Android Central for the latest OnePlus news and opinions in the run up to the OnePlus 5's official launch.

Excited about the OnePlus 5 launch? ⬇️

Continue the conversation in the forums!

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2 weeks ago

How to pause and clear your YouTube history

3
Clear this out

We all have videos we'd rather forget.

YouTube hosts a lot of fascinating, entertaining, and educational content. It also hosts a lot of trash, and we'd rather not have that trash in our search histories, our watch histories, or in the YouTube recommendations that are generated from those histories. Do you want Google to autocomplete to "red hot baby mommas" every time you start looking for a Red Hot Chili Peppers video? Did you forget to switch accounts before handing it off to your little ones and now your recommendations are littered with those mind-numbing toy demos?

Or worse. Much, much worse.

Never fear, we can scrub that data from YouTube and get you back to what you really want to see — more cat videos.

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2 weeks ago

'Android Excellence' highlights the Play Store's best apps and games

0

Google's new Android Excellence category tells you what you should download from the Play Store, and what developers should emulate.

Google has launched a new category within its longstanding Editor's Choice section of the Play Store: Android Excellence.

According to the company, "We've seen a significant increase in the level of polish and quality of apps and games on Google Play," and is taking a quarterly approach to recognizing those titles. For users, an app highlighted by an Android Excellence tag offers "incredible user experiences on Android, use[s] many of our best practices, [has] great design, technical performance, localization, and device optimization." In other words, the best of the best.

The section will be refreshed four times per year, says Google, and while it's not clear how Android Excellence will differ from the apps found in the Editor's Choice category, it's good to see Google taking time to highlight the apps and games that will work well on its platform's phones, tablets and, soon, Chromebooks. Perhaps more importantly, though, these apps show developers what to emulate when they create their own apps and games, since Google often stresses the numerous best practices that devs should follow.

Some of the highlighted titles include Citymapper, Memrise, Vivino, Pocket, B&H Photo Video, Hitman GO, After the End: Forsaken Destiny, Reigns, and CATS: Crash Arena Turbo Stars.

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2 weeks ago

How to add a second user and Google account to your Chromebook

6

You can add as many accounts to your Chromebook as you like, and there are even some handy ways to administer them all.

A great thing about Chromebooks is that whenever you sign into one, it syncs all your apps, extensions, and settings, so you always have the same experience. It's pretty cool knowing exactly what to expect and where everything is.

And Chrome is ready for multiple users on the same machine, each with their own private section of the storage. When you log in, you'll have your stuff and when someone else logs in they'll have their stuff. And the two never mix so you won't have to worry about who can see what.

All you need to do is add another user, and this is how you do it.

How to add a second user/Google account to your Chromebook

  1. Check the settings and make sure you don't have other users blocked. Open Settings and scroll down to Users. There are four checkboxes, and they are labeled with exactly what each does.

    • Enable Guest browsing allows anyone to use your Chromebook's browser. They can't save or install anything and no history is saved.
    • Enable supervised users lets you create a managed account. {here's everything you need to know about doing that](https://www.androidcentral.com/how-add-supervised-user-account-your-chromebook).
    • Show user names and photos on the sign-in screen is a privacy setting. you can uncheck this if you don't want to show who has an account. You'll need to enter your Gmail address to login instead of clicking your profile if you uncheck this one.
    • Restrict sign-in to the following users lets you choose who can log in from the list of active accounts. Choose which ones from the box below.

  2. Log off and go back to the start screen.
  3. In the bottom left you'll see Browse as Guest and Add person.

    • Click Browse as Guest to start up the guest account if you want to use your Chromebook without any personalized settings or save any history. You'll need to have enabled guest browsing in the settings from step one.
    • Click Add person to add a new account to your Chromebook.

The account creation is just like you saw the first time you logged in. You supply your Google account (usually a Gmail address), then provide the correct password and pass any two-factor authentication challenge you may have on the account. If you're adding a person who doesn't already have a Google account, you can create one in the wizard by checking More options.

When you're done, the account information will be saved and the new profile is there at the start screen. You can create as many accounts as you like and each will always have their own personalized settings and apps. This is pretty awesome for sharing with a friend or family member or even separating work and play.

Chromebooks

Android Marshmallow

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2 weeks ago

U.S. unlocked Galaxy S8 and S8+ currently $100 off at Samsung and Best Buy

16

A great deal on a brand new phone.

The U.S. unlocked Galaxy S8 and S8+ haven't even been out of pre-order status for more than a couple weeks, but already have their first notable sale. Both Best Buy and Samsung's own online store have knocked $100 off the unlocked models, dropping the Galaxy S8's price to $625 and the Galaxy S8+ to $725.

This is a really great deal, particularly as the carrier-branded versions from all of the major U.S. operators are still pegged at $750 and $850 for the GS8 and GS8+. These prices are even cheaper than Best Buy's "open box" phones that were on sale last week.

You may not be entirely sold on getting the U.S. unlocked model ... but big savings like this could sway your thinking. We have no idea how long the sales will last, so give 'em a look now.

See at Samsung
See at Best Buy

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked

img { width: 100%; height: auto; } .devicebox ul { display: table; margin: 0 0 10px; width: 100%; } .devicebox ul li { background: #f7f7f7; margin: 2px 0; padding: 4px 15px; } .devicebox ul li:hover { background: #fff; } .devicebox ul li:before { display: none; } .devicebox p ~ p { line-height: 1.25; } .devicebox p:first-of-type + p { padding: 15px; } .devicebox a.buy-link { border-radius: 5px; display: inline-block; font: 14px/31px "Proxima Nova Extrabld",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; text-align: center; } .devicebox a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:link, .devicebox a.buy-link:active, .devicebox a.buy-link:visited { background: #37B5D7; color: #FFF; } .devicebox a.buy-link:hover { background: #2694B2; text-decoration: none; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { content: "\e61e"; font: 40px/0 "ac_iconset" !important; margin: 0 3px 0 -8px; vertical-align: middle; } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { /* div:not(.columns-3) excludes help menu content */ .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p img, .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 660px) { .devicebox h3 { text-align: center; } .devicebox ul, .devicebox p { display: block; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox p img, .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 661px), all and (max-width: 500px) { /* 2x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(even) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:last-of-type:nth-of-type(odd) { width: 100%; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 659px) and (min-width: 501px) { /* 3x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(100%/3 - 10px/3); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(3n):not(:nth-last-of-type(2)) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:only-child { width: 100%; margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(odd) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 500px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } .page-admin .devicebox {max-width: 350px;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe {position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

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2 weeks ago

Modern Dad's Father's Day Favorites!

0

Don't think about it too hard. Any Dad (heck, any person) would love to have any of these great gift ideas.

I gotta be completely honest here: While this is an excellent Father's Day gift guide full of things that any dude would be thrilled to get any day of the week, the simple fact is not a single one of these products requires actually having sired any children. Consider having offspring a bonus, in that case. Or a drain on your bank account. Your call.

In any event, here are six things I'd love to get on Father's Day. Your Dad would, too.

KeySmart key organizer

KeySmartDoes your favorite Dad have a rat's nest of unlockers bulging from his pocket? KeySmart ($35) is a way-cool way to organize your keys. But that's not even the best part: accessories like a bottle opener (!), USB drive (!!) or golf divot tool (!!!) make it even cooler.

Plus, KeySmart has a new version coming that'll integrate the Tile Bluetooth tracker, making it virtually impossible to ever lose your keys!

See at Amazon

Sonos Play:1

Sonos Play1Look, I know people with Sonos won't shut up about it. But for good good reason, right? It's that good, and it's that simple. And getting one for Dad means everyone gets to use it.

Start with a Play:1. ($199) It's ridiculously great for its size, and it rarely goes on sale. They're great on their own, but you'll be amazed at what a pair of things things can do to a room. Plus, you you can snag two for a bit of a discount before Father's Day!

See at Amazon

Philips Hue starter set

The thing about smart lights is you look at 'em and just can't find an excuse to shell out the money. They're just lights, right? Wrong!

And Father's Day is the perfect excuse to upgrade to these little connected wonders. And a starter pack ($62) is a great way to get going. Careful, though: It's easy to get addicted. I'm getting close to switching out every single one of my lights, much to the chagrin of my wife. And once you get a feel for what you want where, you can give the colored lights a go!

See at Amazon

Ring Pro Doorbell

Ring ProI'm not going to stop talking about the Ring Pro ($199) until everyone who has a front door has one. It's that good. Ring Pro plugs into — and requires — existing low-voltage wiring, and from there you connect it to a Ring account and control things via a phone, tablet or computer.

Ring Pro means I don't have to worry about who's coming around, or whether my packages are still there, or when the kids get home. And right now you can get a good deal on it, or its battery-powered brother, too.

See at Amazon

Ember Mug

Ember MugThis is one of those things I don't think I'd buy just any day out of the week. But now that I have one, I use it as much as possible. Because coffee!!! Ember Mug ($150) takes your too-hot coffee and quickly lowers it to a more manageable temperature. And then it keeps it there thanks to a small battery and heater in the base.

This is definitely a luxury. But once you try it, you'll wonder how you ever drank coffee without it.

See at Amazon

HDHomerun Connect

HDHomerun ConnectIf you've got a Dad who's cut the cord but is still struggling to fill gaps in that TV content, then this is what you need. First, get a good antenna. The 60-mile Clearstream 2MAX is serving me very well. Then you'll want to pair that up with HDHomerun Connect. ($99)

This little wonder has two tuners and takes that over-the-air signal and spits it out to almost any device you can think of. Android. iOS. Windows. Linux. Xbox. Apple TV. Android TV. ... The list goes on. (Everything except Roku.) So you can watch on your phone, or a tablet, or a TV. And if you pair it up with something like Plex, you can record shows or even watch your live, OTA channels while you're not at home. It's been a game-changer for me.

See at Amazon

A REALLY GOOD waffle iron!

Mmmmmm. ... Waffles ...OK, this one isn't really techy. But it does beep.

If you love waffles and don't have a good waffle iron, you're really not living life. This one's nice and heavy and holds the heat well, and it's even gotten my kids to give up the frozen stuff on the weekends. Splurge a little at Amazon. ($99) It's worth it.

And, seriously: Real maple syrup. Don't short-change yourself with that cheap stuff. Your taste buds will thank you.

See at Amazon

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img { width: 100%; height: auto; } .devicebox ul { display: table; margin: 0 0 10px; width: 100%; } .devicebox ul li { background: #f7f7f7; margin: 2px 0; padding: 4px 15px; } .devicebox ul li:hover { background: #fff; } .devicebox ul li:before { display: none; } .devicebox p ~ p { line-height: 1.25; } .devicebox p:first-of-type + p { padding: 15px; } .devicebox a.buy-link { border-radius: 5px; display: inline-block; font: 14px/31px "Proxima Nova Extrabld",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; text-align: center; } .devicebox a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:link, .devicebox a.buy-link:active, .devicebox a.buy-link:visited { background: #37B5D7; color: #FFF; } .devicebox a.buy-link:hover { background: #2694B2; text-decoration: none; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { content: "\e61e"; font: 40px/0 "ac_iconset" !important; margin: 0 3px 0 -8px; vertical-align: middle; } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { /* div:not(.columns-3) excludes help menu content */ .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p img, .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 660px) { .devicebox h3 { text-align: center; } .devicebox ul, .devicebox p { display: block; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox p img, .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 661px), all and (max-width: 500px) { /* 2x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(even) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:last-of-type:nth-of-type(odd) { width: 100%; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 659px) and (min-width: 501px) { /* 3x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(100%/3 - 10px/3); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(3n):not(:nth-last-of-type(2)) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:only-child { width: 100%; margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(odd) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 500px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } .page-admin .devicebox {max-width: 350px;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe {position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/ */ /*-->*/

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2 weeks ago

Google hires former Apple chip architect to lead design on custom processors

23

The pieces are falling into place for Google to produce its own silicon for future Pixel devices.

Google has made a big move towards developing its own system-on-a-chip (SoC) for its own Pixel devices with the hiring of Manu Gulati, who has been helping develop chips for Apple since 2009. As first reported by Variety, Gulati has just recently updated his LinkedIn page with his new title — Lead SoC Architect at Google.

Google has reportedly been interested in developing its own chips for Android devices for some years now, likely seeking the same success that Apple has found since it started designing its own chips for iPhones and iPads. Poaching Gulati to lead their team is a big move — a quick search of patents linked to Gulati shows 15 patents assigned to Apple related to SoCs with Gulati listed as an inventor. On top of his work at Apple, Gulati has 27 years of experience in the chip design industry having previously working for AMD and Broadcom as well.

The Pixel and Pixel XL represented Google's attempt to design an Android phone that combined hardware with optimized software. Adding the ability to custom design the SoC as well onto future Pixel devices will allow Google to better integrate and leverage all the powerful machine learning capabilities highlighted at last month's Google I/O conference.

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Google Store Verizon

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2 weeks ago

Samsung's vision for the smart home is that it should be easy to set up

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Samsung's Connect Home isn't out yet, but you might want to consider stocking up on companion SmartThings when it's on sale.

The idea of the smart home isn't anything new. Technology companies have been attempting to sell us on the idea for quite a few years, though it's only recently that the idea of a souped-up home has become the norm. And even though the idea of converting your house into something less dumb can seem cost-prohibitive, Samsung hopes it can convince you that it's not.

Last week, I had the opportunity to take a glimpse inside Samsung's vision for the smart home. The company outfitted a three-story dwelling in San Francisco with the yet-to-be-release Connect Home Wi-Fi mesh networking system, in addition to various SmartThings sensors placed throughout. Obviously, its vision of the future is outfitted with Samsung-branded stuff, but that wasn't the point of the demonstration. Rather, it was to show that Samsung is positioning itself in the connected home sphere as the attractive, easy-to-use alternative to everything else.

Starting with routers that blend in

The Samsung Connect Home router as seen in the home.

If you ask almost anyone what they think about routers, the answer is typically meh. For the most part, home networking gadgets are designed in a utilitarian, almost brutalist matter, which is why they're often hidden away or tucked behind other things or walls. This contributes to bad connections, however, thus keeping the router from doing what it was intended for in the first place.

To avoid being behind placed behind a door, Samsung designed the Connect Home networking system so that each node blends in with your things, regardless of which design era they're destined for. Granted, the Connect Home isn't the first attractive Wi-Fi mesh network on the market — we already have Google WiFi and Eero. But those two mesh routing systems also don't have Samsung SmartThings compatibility baked in.

SmartThings compatibility

Samsung's SmartThings, as seen in the mail slot.

More Samsung SmartThings placed around the house.

Samsung is also hawking the Connect Home Wi-Fi system as the powerhouse behind its SmartThings ecosystem, essentially small sensors and plugs you can buy to convert things like the light fixtures or the TV into connected products.

The inclusion of SmartThings in the Connect Home router were obviously added in an effort to increase SmartThings adoption, but is that so bad? SmartThings aren't as well known in the mainstream as some other smart home gadgets, like the Philips Hue Lightbulbs or Ring Doorbell. But by baking it into the mesh routers, users might be more inclined to try them out. After all, who doesn't like the idea of making the light come on when you step into a room? The SmartThings sensors and plug-ins aren't too expensive either, as most retail between $20 to $50.

An easy app

galaxy s8 with Samsung connect

Once you've connected things to the SmartThings, you can automate them all with the Samsung Connect app. The app works right now with all of the available SmartThings sensors and plugs, but it will also help connect the Connect Home router to any respective sensors placed throughout the home — this also means you won't need a seperate SmartThings Hub to make things work. You'll be able to easily set up formulas as you see fit from the app and all they require is a bit of "if this then that" configuration.

We won't know the true range or performance of the Connect Home and Connect Home Pro (intended for larger setups) until they officially debut on July 2. But for now, we know Samsung has lofty goals for the smart home space. Perhaps the inclusion of SmartThings in its Wi-Fi mesh networking router could even help increase awareness of the fact that the "Internet of Things" exist in the first place.

See at BestBuy

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2 weeks ago

Router vs. Mesh Networking: What's best for your home Wi-Fi network?

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Don't just replace a working home Wi-Fi network because Google Wi-Fi is new, but if you need a change here are some tips to get you started.

Google Wifi isn't the first consumer-focused mesh networking product. Offerings from eero and Luma have been around for a while and offer a mesh networking solution very much the same as what Google is selling. The difference is that Google Wi-Fi is a good bit cheaper and comes from a company everyone knows. Google will do whatever it can so you know that their Wi-Fi product exists, and so that people interested in things like mesh networks know that it's an inexpensive way to get started.

That leads to the obvious question — should anyone switch to a mesh-based Wi-Fi network in their house?

Like most things, the answer isn't a simple yes or no. There are a couple things you should consider before you dust off your credit card.

Do you need to upgrade your Wi-Fi network?

This is the first thing you should ask yourself. Ideally, a Wi-Fi network is something you should set up once and then never have to think about it until it's time to replace it. When properly planned, a Wi-Fi router or a mesh client device should run unattended for several years — at least until it's time to upgrade to a newer wireless standard for increased speeds and bandwidth.

Ideally, a Wi-Fi network is something you should set up once and then never have to think about it until it's time to replace it.

Of course, that's often not the case and many of us know our router needs that weekly reboot or things will get wonky. Or even worse, we aren't particularly savvy when it comes to network issues and gear and have to call Comcast or AT&T for help. Waiting for a technician to arrive sometime between 8 am and 5 pm is never fun.

If you have a solid Wi-Fi network that doesn't demand you fiddle with it enough to become frustrating, you should probably hold off on doing anything until we see 802.11 ad technology become more mainstream. On the other hand, if you are tired of pulling plugs and counting to 10 or any of the other silly things we do to fix bad Wi-Fi , or if your home network is just too slow you shouldn't wait any longer than you have to. Don't try to fix what isn't broken!

Are you just trying to fix a dead spot?

This is a pretty common issue. You have great Wi-Fi in the kitchen or living room, but when you go downstairs or to the bedroom things are just slow or intermittent. If everything is working well in parts of your home that are close to the router or that aren't blocked by things not Wi-Fi friendly — the walls of your bathroom are notorious Wi-Fi signal blockers because of the special drywall used and all the copper pipes inside them — you could be the perfect candidate for a wireless repeater instead of setting up a whole new network.

A Wi-Fi Extender is a cheap way to fix a single dead spot in your Wi-Fi coverage, but there are drawbacks.

Also known as Wi-Fi Extenders, wireless repeaters do exactly what their name implies — they take your existing Wi-Fi signal and repeat the signal to extend the range. Usually very easy to setup using a network cable or an online settings page, Wi-Fi Extenders are also compact and only need a power connection. One thing to be aware of is that you usually can't connect a consumer-grade Wi-Fi Extender to an existing extender, so daisy-chaining them to reach your garage or the neighbor's house isn't very practical.

You also will have a new network name (known as an SSID) to use when connecting to the extender instead of the router itself. This can be a bit of a pain if you move in and out of a room that needs an extender very often. Quality Wi-Fi Extenders run between $30 and $150 dollars depending on the network type, so if you need multiple fast ac extenders it might be more practical to set up a mesh network using Google Wifi. These drawbacks aside, a simple Wi-Fi Extender is an easy way to fix a single dead spot and a great idea if the rest of your Wi-Fi network is working well. If you're in the market for one, we can recommend Netgear's simple extender that plugs directly into a wall socket for home use.

See at Amazon

When to choose a mesh network

If you've decided you need to get rid of the gear you have and set up a new network or are setting things up in a new place, the choice between a mesh network and a traditional linear router based network comes down to one thing — money.

For some, a simple Wi-Fi router and an extender is perfect.

A Wi-Fi router that will service a normal sized single floor home plus one extender for hard-to-reach spots can be had for around $100. You can also lease them from your internet service provider. While the more inexpensive models aren't quite as easy to install as something like a Google OnHub router, they're not too ornery, and as long as you have a phone you can use to Google the answers to any questions you have most of us can do it without any issues. And we understand that wireless networking equipment is something that doesn't have the appeal that other tech does. If you only want a Wi-Fi network so you can use the internet from your laptop or phone or tablet, don't have any special needs like a home office or a favorite online video game, there's nothing wrong with keeping things simple. We do recommend at least an 802.11 n or faster network, though. The internet is too media-rich to go any slower. Netgear also makes a simple and reliable router that pairs well with the extender above.

See at Amazon

If you need anything more robust than a simple router solution, mesh networking makes the most sense.

The cost of a high-speed router with the tools for quality of service scheduling or port forwarding starts at about $120 — about the same as a single Google Wifi unit. When you add extras like long range antennas or multiple access points it doesn't take very long to hit the $299 price for a three-pack of Google Wi-Fi units. Either method should last the lifetime of the technology they're using and offer trouble-free use during that time, but you'll miss out on some key advantages of having a mesh network, like not having any single point of failure and the better traffic handling mesh networks offer. If you need Wi-Fi in a multi-story home or one that's bigger than 1,500 square feet or so, mesh networking is simply a better choice most of the time. The only case I would hesitate to use wireless mesh network in favor of a linear router based setup would be if you have equipment that requires a physical wired network connection. Even then the addition of Google OnHub and a simple switch could be added to a Google Wifi powered mesh network. If you have those sort of networking needs, you're probably not looking for basic networking advice and you understand exactly what we're talking about here.

If you want or need a router-based solution that can handle more traffic or offers the power-user bells and whistles, you can't go wrong building it around a Netgear Nighthawk router. Sticker-shock trigger warnings apply.

See at Amazon

For the rest of us, Google Wifi seems to be exactly what we're looking for.

Two of the biggest drawbacks to wireless mesh networking are no longer an issue when using Google Wifi — needing an advanced networking education to set things up and maintain them, and a pocket full of money.

Google Wifi tackles the biggest problems with home mesh networking — administration and cost.

A wireless mesh network is designed to handle high volumes of traffic in a big area with no downtime due to equipment failures. A three pack of Google Wifi units will be easy to set up using the Google Home app and only cost $299. New stations are easy to add using the same app, and all traffic shaping and route handling are automatic so you'll have no need for QoS scheduling when you want to play Call of Duty without lag glitching or when you want to work while the kids are watching Netflix. They're small, don't look like leftover robot parts, and everything you need to connect to your modem is in the package. And anytime you need to expand your network, adding a station only makes the rest of the network better by offering another node to handle traffic from all points.

We're excited to see Wi-Fi mesh networking offered by a more mainstream company like Google. Based on the performance of their OnHub products, we expect things to be simple and robust as well. The easy administration and relatively low cost make adding a mesh network to your home (or place of business, where it can be even more important) something any of us can do. Whether you're upgrading your existing equipment or building a network in your new house, there are very few reason not to go with Google Wifi.

See at Google

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