1 week ago

Lead Google Duo engineer teases group calls, web app, and more


Group calls in Duo might finally be a thing.

Although it still isn't quite as popular as Apple FaceTime, Google Duo has quickly become one of the best video/audio calling apps around. Google's pushed out regular updates to the app since its debut less than two years ago, and Duo's lead engineer recently teased a few upcoming features we could see later in the year.

On January 9, Justin Uberti posted a Tweet promoting Duo video calls on Google's new Smart Displays and said it was "time to kick off our 2018 Google Duo roadmap." One user then replied asking Uberti if there was a chance Duo would get a web app, support for Chrome OS, group calls, and improved audio quality.

Uberti's response?

It's possible that all of these are things in the works for Duo, but then again, there's a chance that Uberti and his team are only working on one or two of these things. Support for group calls is what I'd like to see the most, but you won't find me complaining if all these things are added throughout 2018.

Of these features, which one would you like to see added to Duo?

Allo and Duo Head of Product leaves Google for Facebook

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1 week ago

How to Enable 2-Step Verification in Gmail

Google Authenticator

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

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

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

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

What is two-step verification?

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

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

Use Google's simple two-step authentication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Type in your password. Click on Sign In.

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

    Click on Off. Click on Turn On.

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

    Type in your password. Click on Sign In.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  15. Click Turn On.

    Click on Turn On.

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

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

Click on this link from your computer to get started.

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

    Click on Next. Click on Switch to app.

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

    Click on Android. Click on Continue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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1 week ago

Allo and Duo Head of Product leaves Google for Facebook


Amit Fulay is no longer leading the Allo and Duo charge.

If you're a frequent user of Google's Allo and/or Duo, there's a good chance you're familiar with Amit Fulay. Fulay has been serving as the Head of Product for Real-Time Communications at Google since back in 2010, and along with the more recent Allo and Duo, Fulay also played a big part in creating Hangouts.

However, Fulay's time at Google has come to an end. On his Twitter account, Fulay said that today, January 8, 2018, is his first official day working at Facebook. His Twitter bio has been changed to indicate that he's now "Product @ Facebook", but it's unclear what his exact position within the company is.

Here's Fulay's full message:

Although they may not be Google's most popular services, I personally love using Allo and Duo. Google's yet to say who will be filling Amit Fulay's shoes, and it'll be interesting to see how these two platforms grow and possibly change throughout the year.

Facebook's M virtual assistant is being shut down on January 19

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1 week ago

Meltdown Hack and Spectre Bug: How it affects Android & Chrome Users


The information you need to know so you can stay safe.

You might have heard that the sky has fallen and the security apocalypse has happened because of two new attacks named Meltdown and Spectre. If you work in IT or any other area of large-scale computer infrastructure, you probably feel like it has, too, and are already looking forward to your 2018 vacation days.

Media outlets first heard rumors of this mother-of-all-exploits in late 2017, and recent reports were wildly speculative and finally forced companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google (whose Project Zero team discovered the whole thing) to respond with details. Those details have made for an interesting read if you're interested in this sort of thing.

But for everyone else, no matter what phone or computer you use, a lot of what you're reading or hearing might sound like it's in a different language. That's because it is, and unless you're fluent in cyber-geek-security-techno-speak you might have to run it through a translator of some sort.

Good news! You found that translator, and here's what you need to know about Meltdown and Spectre, and what you need to do about it.

What they are

Meltdown and Spectre are two different things, but since they were revealed at the same time and both deal with microprocessor architecture at the hardware level, they are being talked about together. The phone you're using right now is almost certainly affected by the Spectre exploit, but nobody has found a way to use it — yet.

The processor inside your phone determines how vulnerable it is to these types of exploits, but it's safer to assume that they all affect you if you're unsure. And since they aren't exploiting a bug and instead are using a process that's supposed to happen, there's no easy fix without a software update.

Look at the phone in your hands; it's vulnerable to some of these attacks.

Computers (this includes phones and other tiny computers, too) rely on what's called memory isolation for security between applications. Not the memory that is used to store data over the long term, but the memory used by hardware and software while everything is working in real time. Processes store data separately from other processes, so no other process knows where or when it gets written or read.

The apps and services running on your phone all want the processor to do some work and are constantly giving it a list of things they need to be computed. The processor doesn't do these tasks in the order they are received — that would mean some parts of the CPU are idle and waiting for other parts to finish, so step two could be done after step one is finished. Instead, the processor can move ahead to step three or step four and do them ahead of time. This is called out-of-order-execution and all modern CPUs work this way.

Meltdown and Spectre aren't exploiting a bug — they attack the way a processor computes data.

Because a CPU is faster than any software could be, it also does a bit of guessing. Speculative execution is when the CPU performs a calculation it wasn't yet asked to do based on previous calculations it was asked to perform. Part of optimizing software for better CPU performance is following a few rules and instructions. This means most of the time there is a normal workflow that will be followed and a CPU can skip ahead to have data ready when software asks for it. And because they are so fast, if the data wasn't needed after all, it gets tossed aside. This is still faster than waiting for the request to perform a calculation.

This speculative execution is what allows both Meltdown and Spectre to access data they would otherwise not be able to get at, though they do it in different ways.


Intel processors, Apple's newer A series processors, and other ARM SoCs using the new A75 core (for now that's just the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845) are vulnerable to the Meltdown exploit.

Meltdown leverages what's called a "privilege escalation flaw" that gives an application access to kernel memory. This means any code that can get access to this area of memory — where the communication between the kernel and the CPU happens — essentially has access to everything it needs to execute any code on the system. When you can run any code, you have access to all data.


Spectre affects almost every modern processor, including the one on your phone.

Spectre doesn't need to find a way to execute code on your computer because it can "trick" the processor into executing instructions for it, then granting access to the data from other applications. This means an exploit could see what other apps are doing and read the data they have stored. The way a CPU processes instructions out of order in branches are where Spectre attacks.

Both Meltdown and Spectre are able to expose data that should be sandboxed. They do this at the hardware level, so your operating system doesn't make you immune — Apple, Google, Microsoft, and all sorts of open-source Unix and Linux operating systems are equally affected.

Because of a technique that is known as dynamic scheduling that allows data to be read as it's computing instead of it needing to be stored first, there is plenty of sensitive information in RAM for an attack to read. If you're interested in this sort of thing, the whitepapers published by the Graz University of Technology are fascinating reads. But you don't need to read or understand them to protect yourself.

Am I affected?

Yes. At least, you were. Basically, everyone was affected until companies started patching their software against these attacks.

The software that needs updating is in the operating system, so that means you need a patch from Apple, Google, or Microsoft. (If you use a computer that runs Linux and aren't into infosec, you've got the patch already, too. Use your software updater to install it or ask a friend who is into infosec to walk you through updating your kernel). The awesome news is that Apple, Google, and Microsoft have patches either already deployed or on their way in the immediate future for supported versions.

The specifics

  • Intel processors since 1995 except for the Itanium and pre-2013 ATOM platform are affected by both Meltdown and Spectre.
  • All modern AMD processors are affected by the Spectre attack. AMD PRO and AMD FX (the AMD 9600 R7 and AMD FX-8320 were used as proof-of-concept) CPUs in a non-standard configuration (kernel BPF JIT enabled) are affected by Meltdown. It's expected that a similar attack against side-channel memory reading is possible against all 64-bit CPUs including AMD processors.
  • ARM processors with Cortex R7, R8, A8, A9, A15, A17, A57, A72, A73, and A75 cores are suspectable to Spectre attacks. Processors with Cortex A75 (the Snapdragon 845) cores are vulnerable to Meltdown attacks. It's expected that chips using variants of these cores, like Qualcomm's Snapdragon line or Samsung's Exynos line, will also have similar or the same vulnerabilities. Qualcomm is working directly with ARM, and has this statement on the issues:

Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. is aware of the security research on industry-wide processor vulnerabilities that have been reported. Providing technologies that support robust security and privacy is a priority for Qualcomm, and as such, we have been working with Arm and others to assess impact and develop mitigations for our customers. We are actively incorporating and deploying mitigations against the vulnerabilities for our impacted products, and we continue to work to strengthen them as possible. We are in the process of deploying these mitigations to our customers and encourage people to update their devices when patches become available.

  • NVIDIA has determined that these exploits (or other similar exploits that may arise) do not affect GPU computing, so their hardware is mostly immune. They will be working with other companies to update device drivers to help mitigate any CPU performance issues, and they are evaluating their ARM-based SoCs (Tegra).

  • Webkit, the people behind the browser rendering engine of Safari and the forerunner to Google's Blink engine, have an excellent breakdown of exactly how these attacks can affect their code. Much of it would apply to any interpreter or compiler and it's an amazing read. See how they are working to fix it and keep it from happening the next time.

In plain English, this means that unless you're still using a very old phone, tablet, or computer, you should consider yourself vulnerable without an update to the operating system. Here's what we know so far on that front:

  • Google has patched Android against both Spectre and Meltdown attacks with the December 2017 and January 2018 patches.
  • Google has patched Chromebooks using the 3.18 and 4.4 versions of the kernel in December 2017 with OS 63. Devices with other versions of the kernel (look here to find yours) will be patched soon. In plain English: The Toshiba Chromebook, the Acer C720, Dell Chromebook 13, and the Chromebook Pixels from 2013 and 2015 (and some names you've probably never heard of) aren't patched yet but will be soon. Most Chromeboxes, Chromebases, and Chromebits are not patched but will be soon.
  • For Chrome OS devices that aren't patched, a new security feature called Site Isolation will mitigate any issues from these attacks.
  • Microsoft has patched both exploits as of January 2018.
  • Apple has patched macOS and iOS against Meltdown starting with the December update. The first round of Spectre updates were pushed out in early January. Check out iMore for everything you need to know about these CPU flaws and how they affect your Mac, iPad, and iPhone.
  • Patches have been sent to all supported versions of the Linux kernel, and Operating Systems like Ubuntu or Red Hat can be updated through the software update application.

For Android specifics, the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL have been patched and you should see an update soon if you haven't already received it. You can also manually update these devices if you like. The Android Open Source project (the code used to build the OS for every Android phone) has also been patched and third-party distributions like LineageOS can be updated.

How to manually update your Pixel or Nexus

Samsung, LG, Motorola, and other Android vendors (companies who make phones and tablets and TVs) will patch their products with the January 2018 update. Some, like the Note 8 or Galaxy S8, will see that before others, but Google has made the patch available for all devices. We expect to see more news from all partners to let us know what to expect and when.

What can I do?

If you have a product that's vulnerable, it's easy to get caught up in the hype, but you shouldn't. Both Spectre and Meltdown don't "just happen" and depend on you installing malware of some sort that leverages them. Following a few safe practices will keep you immune to either exploit on any computer hardware.

  • Only install software that you trust from a place you trust. This is a good idea always, but especially if you're waiting for a patch.
  • Secure your devices with a good lock screen and encryption. This does more than just keep another person out, as applications can't do anything while your phone is locked without your permission.
  • Read and understand the permissions on everything you run or install on your phone. Don't be afraid to ask for help here!
  • Use a web browser that blocks malware. We can recommend Chrome or Firefox, and other browsers may also protect you against web-based malware. Ask the people who make and distribute them if you're unsure. The web browser that came with your phone may not be the best option here, especially if you have an older model. Edge and Safari are also trusted for Windows or MacOS and iOS devices.
  • Do not open links on social media, in an email, or in any message from someone you do not know. Even if they are from people you know, make sure you trust your web browser before you click or tap. This goes double for redirect links that mask a site URL. We use those sort of links pretty often and chances are a lot of online media you read does, too. Be careful.
  • Don't be stupid. You know what this means to you. Trust your judgment and err on the side of caution.

The good news is that the way these side channel exploits are patched is not going to bring the huge slowdowns that were hyped before any updates were released. That's just how the web works, and if you read about how your phone or computer was going to be 30% slower after any fix was applied, it was because sensationalism sells. Users who are running updated software (and have been during testing) just aren't seeing it.

The patch doesn't have the performance impact some claimed it would bring, and that's a great thing.

This all came about because these attacks measure precise time intervals and the initial patches change or disable the precision of some timing sources through software. Less precise means slower when you're computing and the impact was exaggerated to be a lot bigger than it is. Even the slight performance decreases that are a result of the patches are being mitigated by other companies and we see NVIDIA updating the way their GPUs crunch numbers or Mozilla working on the way they calculate data to make it even faster. Your phone won't be any slower on the January 2018 patch and neither will your computer unless it's very old, at least not in any noticeable way.

Stop worrying about it and instead make sure to do everything you can to keep your data safe.

What to take away from it all

Security scares always have some sort of real impact. Nobody has seen any instances of Meltdown or Spectre being used in the wild, and because most devices that we use every day are updated or will be very soon, reports will probably stay this way. But this doesn't mean they should be ignored.

Take security threats like this seriously but don't fall for all the hype; be informed!

These side channel exploits had the potential to be that big, serious game-changing event people worry about when it comes to cybersecurity. Any exploit that affects hardware is serious, and when it attacks something done on purpose instead of a bug it becomes even more serious. Thankfully, researchers and developers were able to catch, contain, and patch Meltdown and Spectre before any widespread use happened.

What's really important here is that you get the right information so you know what to do every time you hear about a new cyberthreat that wants all of your digital stuff. There's usually a rational way to mitigate any serious effects once you dig past all the headlines.

Stay safe!

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1 week ago

Facebook's M virtual assistant is being shut down on January 19


Two years later, Facebook's pulling the plug on M.

Back in 2015, Facebook announced its own virtual assistant by the name of "M." M was different from the likes of Siri and Alexa due to the fact that it was regularly monitored by a group of humans to help grow the platform, and because of this, M could do things book reservations, order gifts, and more. The assistant was only ever made available to a small group of people in California, and on January 19, 2018, Facebook will be shutting it down.

In a statement that the company issued, Facebook said:

We launched this project to learn what people needed and expected of an assistant, and we learned a lot. We're taking these useful insights to power other AI projects at Facebook. We continue to be very pleased with the performance of M suggestions in Messenger, powered by our learnings from this experiment.

As mentioned above, M Suggestions that was released for all users in the United States last April will live on. M Suggestions isn't as powerful as the full M assistant, but it can be used in Messenger conversations to suggest stickers that you can use, create calendar appointments, etc.

M showed signs of real potential, and while it might be disappointing to some users to see it die, we're anxiously awaiting to see how Facebook uses this tech with future products and services.

Until then, rest in peace, M.

The first baby monitor with Alexa is coming in February for $229

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1 week ago

Watch your neighbors' security camera feed with Streety


A modern take on the neighborhood watch.

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Over the past couple years, there's been a surge in smart home security systems. The likes of Nest and Ring have been leading this charge, and now Vivint is releasing something unique (and possibly unsettling) with Streety.

Streety is a free mobile app that you'll be able to download to your phone this spring, and it'll allow you to view live feeds and video clips of smart security cameras throughout your entire neighborhood. Anyone in the United States and Canada will be able to use the app to view video feeds that are being shared to Streety, and whether or not you own a smart camera made by Vivint or another company, you'll have to choose if you want your video clips shared to your Streety network before people can view them.

With Streety, Vivint is hoping that people will use the app for monitoring activity in neighborhoods, sharing video clips to solve any incidents that happen, and even watching a neighbor's home while they're away on vacation.

To help ensure that Streety is being used legitimately, Streety neighborhood boundaries are limited to a radius of 300 yards and a verification process from a third party will confirm that user identities match addresses they're paired with.

Speaking about Streety, Vivint Vice President and General Manager of Cameras said:

As cameras are one of the fastest-growing product segments in the smart home industry, neighbors often ask each other if cameras captured something around their home or on the street. Streety makes it easy for neighbors to request and share video so they can take better action, faster.

If you own a smart camera, does Streety sound like something you'd be interested in using?

Ring adds Beams to its 'Ring of Security' as Ring Alarm set to ship this spring

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1 week ago

Best music widgets for Android


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

How to make a fitness app part of your daily routine


Technology is transforming fitness.

It used to be that fitness apps were primarily used to count calories, and check in after workouts. That's no longer the case. There are dozens of fantastic apps out there, and they cater to what you are specifically looking for. Whether you're always looking for a new fun app to help motivate you along, or you've never been inclined to look into them at all, fitness apps can help make your average day healthier.

Keeping fit is easier than ever

Most of us get some amount of exercise every day, just by living our lives. We walk around, in some cases all day long. Plenty of fitness apps will track this and let you know what your activity level is like each day, including the number of steps taken and calories burned based off of your height and weight. There are apps which do this without ever even needing to be opened after you initially set them up.

Fitness doesn't have to be a chore, at least not with these apps.

If you're just starting a fitness routine, there are apps that can help build workout plans, count calories, give you videos so you can workout at home and much more. It might seem a little strange at first to have an app tracking your fitness level. By integrating these apps into your day you can see how active you already are, without ever having to hit the gym. That isn't to say that all fitness apps are made for that purpose. They've branched out, and the abundance of choice lets you determine what you need out of a fitness app.

More: 4 interactive apps that will keep you entertained

If you're looking for something that turns fitness into a game there is Zombies, Run! The Walk, or even Pokémon Go. Charity Miles donates money to a charity of your choice for the distance you run. Fitness doesn't have to be a chore, at least not with these apps. They take what you're already doing, and put a spin on it to make it fun and encourage you to do more.

Assistants can help

When it comes to working out, maybe you need to fit things in right in the middle of a busy day. If you have a Google Home, a Samsung phone with Bixby and Samsung Health, or an Amazon Alexa your digital assistants can be of help.

That's because each different Assistant can launch a workout for you. With Samsung devices, you can build a workout plan right from inside of Samsung Health, whether that be drinking more water or training for a 5K program. Alexa has workout based skills that you can enable, and Google Home can talk to several workout programs. This means that you can trigger a quick workout just by talking to your connected device, making it easy to fit in some activity even when you only have a few short minutes to spare.

One size fits all fitness is a thing of the past

Even if you aren't particularly fitness-minded, integrating an app into your life can be a benefit. With unobtrusive tracking apps, you can see your daily activity levels. While that might not seem like much if you're a city dweller you could be walking miles every day without ever realizing it. These apps can help with your health as well, outlining when you have more energy for activity, or what your stamina is like. Some games even have fitness benefits that are purely accidental, like Ingress where walking around to capture portals is a game mechanic. Apps like Aqualert can even help to make sure you're drinking enough water. Fitness apps are no longer just for the people who live and breathe getting and staying in shape. They're built now to be friendly to everyone no matter what your level of motivation might be.

With the ways that fitness apps have diversified, there really is something out there for absolutely everyone.

These aren't the apps from years ago which were tailored for a specific type of person to use. Rather, they have spread their influence and tried to find new niches for people who might not usually use a fitness app. The analytics and data can be fantastic if you're a fan of graphs and charts, but even better is the fact that using these apps can actually help you to live a healthier life. We only get one body, so why not treat it right with the help of technology?


It doesn't matter what your activity level is like on a day to day basis. Everyone can benefit from having a fitness app in their life. It can be something small like simply tracking your activity levels, or detailed down to your caloric intake and workout intensity. No matter where you sit on the fitness spectrum, there is an app for you. So are you using any of these apps, or is there a fitness app that you stand by already? Tell us all about it in the comments!

January 2018: We've updated this post with information about using the Assistant on your phone to help make fitness a part of your daily routine!

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2 weeks ago

HTC Edge Launcher can now be triggered from the lock screen


HTC's making your squeezes more productive.

After launching Edge Sense on the U11, HTC followed this up with Edge Launcher on the U11+. Edge Launcher allows you to squeeze the sides of your U11 handset to get a calendar and array of apps, contacts, and quick settings right at your fingertips, and it's a nice alternative to squeezing your phone for one particular application.

HTC recently updated its Edge Launcher app on the Play Store, and there are a couple big improvements that make Edge Launcher even more useful.

For starters, Edge Launcher can now be triggered from the lock screen. You've previously had to unlock your phone before you could use Edge Launcher, but now you can squeeze at any time to bring it up.

Along with this, HTC has also added new shortcuts for Battery Saver, Auto Rotate, and Wi-Fi Hotspot, in addition to now letting you customize the order of which these appear on Edge Launcher.

This new version of Edge Launcher is available on the Play Store now, and you can grab it by tapping the button at the top of this article.


Amazon Sprint HTC

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2 weeks ago

Best VPN Services in 2018

The Best VPN Services of 2017

What are the best Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)?

A VPN can be described as an encrypted tunnel that shuttles your internet activity between your PC, Mac, or phone and a host server. While the internet is a public space, a VPN works by extending an invisibility cloak across the user's activity and allows people to send and receive data in a mostly-anonymous manner. In the simplest terms, a VPN makes it hard for someone to track your activity.

There are many different reasons people would want to use a VPN. In some countries, VPNs become a journalist's main tool to get around government censorship and geo-blocks.

It's true, there are plenty of free VPN services out there, but paid services are almost always a better option. You need a service that has fast speeds even when streaming video, and you want a service that doesn't keep logs of its users' activities. To help you decide which VPN is best, here are some great options that are available now.

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2 weeks ago

Most entertaining running and walking apps for Android in 2018

The Walk

Get fit and have fun at the same time with these interactive fitness apps!

Fitness apps are nothing new, but getting motivated to work out can often be the difficult part. That's where the emerging genre of interactive fitness apps comes in. These apps use your activity to tell you a story, motivate you, and make your workout seem more like a game. There are plenty of them out there, but we went ahead and weeded through them to find the apps you definitely don't want to miss.

Runtastic Story Running

Runtastic stories

We've talked before about how Runtastic is a great fitness app, particularly for runners. It's filled with enough features that you may have missed Runtastic Story Running, which lives in the app itself.

Story runs are considered a premium feature, with varying run times usually totalling 30 to 40 minutes. Topics range from various fiction genres to more ambient meditative breaks. During your run, you will see how long you've been moving, the distance traveled, and your average pace. Since it's part of a larger app, it isn't quite as interactive, but you can post your workout to Facebook and integrate a heart rate monitor.

With over a dozen stories spanning several genres, you've got plenty to listen to on your run. While there are a few free stories to run to, most of them cost $0.99 unless you buy into the premium Runtastic membership for $4.99 a month.

Download: Runtastic (Free, subscription)

The Walk

The Walk

The Walk is far more of a game than a fitness app. You are an agent who has been tasked with helping to save the world. As you walk— and all you ever need to do is walk — you will unlock sound clips, which expand the story. Each episode has checkpoints, collectible items, the ability to choose a route, and even achievements. If you've had your phone closed and you reopen the app, you'll be notified of how many steps you've taken and how long you would need to keep walking to finish the current mission.

The story is seriously engaging, and when you get caught up in it, it's easy to let time slip by so you can finish the entire mission in a single go. The Walk is $2.99 and entirely worth it.

Download: The Walk ($2.99)

Zombies, Run!

Zombies, Run!

Zombies, Run! is probably the most popular app on this list, and for good reason. There are a bunch of free missions, as well as a paid version of Zombies, Run! for 5k training. The app will hit you with chunks of the story as you move, each piece coming every few minutes. At times, you'll be told to run and you'll hear the zombies chasing you — definitely a motivator. As you travel along, you'll automatically pick up items, which can be used to improve your town after each mission. While you're running, you have a counter that tells you how far you've gone, your pace, a counter for in-game items, and a status bar for how far you've traveled.

Zombies, Run! is fantastically fun and captivating. It makes you want to keep going, and because there is so much content, it's very easy to do just that. You don't even need to run; you can take the game at your own pace, since missions are timed and not based on how fast you move. Early missions are free, but you'll have to pay to unlock more.

Download: Zombies, Run! (Free, in-app purchases)

Pokémon Go

Pokemon Go

You might not think that walking around the neighborhood in search of pocket monsters is a workout, but thousands of miles walked by Trainers worldwide would prove you wrong. Released by Niantic, Pokémon Go is a game that is made to have you up and walking around while you play. You'll be able to find and catch over 200 different Pokémon, check in at local PokéStops to get items, and even challenge Gyms to aid your team within the game.

Pokémon Go is a ton of fun with plenty to keep you engaged. The game runs regular events, along with rewarding you for how far you've walked. That's because you'll pick up Eggs that need to be incubated. You'll need to walk a specific distance in order to fully hatch the eggs and add an awesome new Pokémon to your repertoire. The game is evolving all the time, having added Raid battles, legendary Pokémon, and more.

Download: Pokémon Go (Free, in-app purchases)

Are you ready to get moving?

There you go, four of the best interactive fitness apps on the market today. Whether you're looking to just amble along, or you're training for a run, these apps can definitely make fitness more like a game than work. So which interactive fitness apps are up your alley, or which ones did we miss out on? Let us know in the comments!

Updated January 2018: We've updated this list with Pokémon Go!

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2 weeks ago

Instagram is letting some users share their Stories on WhatsApp Status


The feature that Stories deserves.

Over the past couple years, it seems like everyone is trying their hand at their own 'Stories' feature. After Snapchat launched Stories in 2013, we've seen Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and even Skype try to get in on the action as well. Now, Instagram has confirmed to be testing a new feature with users in Brazil that allows them to share their Instagram Stories on WhatsApp with just a couple taps.

Instagram confirmed to TechCrunch that it's testing this feature out with select users, and the implementation looks very sleek. According to screenshots that were shared by a local blog in Brazil, tapping the "Your Story" button in Instagram will show the WhatsApp icon with an option to add your account details so you can share any Instagram Stories posts directly to WhatsApp Status. When this is done, any posts you share from Instagram to WhatsApp will show a small Instagram logo in the bottom right corner.

Speaking to TechCrunch, a spokesperson for Instagram said:

We are always testing ways to improve the experience on Instagram and make it easier to share any moment with the people who matter to you.

A post on Instagram Stories (left) shared directly to WhatsApp Status (right).

Stories on social networking apps have proven to be extremely popular, but one of the issues that I've always had with them is the fact that you need to pick and choose which app you'd like to share your moments on. We definitely won't see any option of sharing Instagram Stories to Snapchat anytime soon, but if Instagram chooses to keep developing this new feature, we could one day have the option of sharing stories on Instagram to WhatsApp, Facebook, and Messenger at the same time.

Instagram is testing a standalone messaging app because why not

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2 weeks ago

Best Android weather apps in 2018

Today Weather

Keep an eye on the weather with these apps!

In today's world, we've gotten used to seeing the weather change with little or no notice. From flash floods and hurricanes to knowing precisely how hot — or cold — it is outside, having an app on your side can make all the difference. There are plenty of weather apps available from Google Play, but we've got the best of the bunch for you here!

Today Weather

Main pageConditionsSettings

TodayWeather is a relative newcomer to the weather app scene, but it has made quite the impression on users and Google alike, who picked it as a Best of 2017. The app's UI is simple, easy-to-understand, and a black as an abyss. In short: it's wonderful.

The app will greet you by name and then display weather information for our given locations from one of five user-selectable sources including Weather Underground, AccuWeather, and Yr.no, a Norwegian forecasting service that can produce more accurate forecasts for many parts of the world that aren't America. If you're looking for a weather app that's black as night and will help you see what's coming on a dark and stormy night, then Today Weather is for you.

Download: Today Weather (free, in-app purchases)

Yahoo Weather

Pretty golf ballconditionssettings

Yahoo takes the honor in this humble writer's eyes for being the prettiest weather app, but when it comes to weather apps, pretty can't be all it has. Yahoo Weather is powered by Weather Underground, so its forecasts and data have the accuracy of its nationwide network of personal weather stations.

The background images for the app are pulled from Flickr, Yahoo's picture service, so if you're looking at picturesque locations like New York City or Walt Disney World, you're likely to get a new and beautiful image every time to go into the app. If you're in a more remote location, those pictures will be more generic. The layout for Yahoo Weather is nice if you like to check multiple locations quickly, as you scroll up and down for the data about one location, then scroll side to side to switch between locations.

Download: Yahoo Weather (free)

Dark Sky

timelineweekly outlookThat's an interesting radar

Dark Sky is one of the most popular weather apps available, its claim to fame is that its "hyperlocal" accuracy can tell you within minutes of when it's actually going to rain. In addition to that, it's got your basic weather information — current temperature, highs, and lows, what it actually feels like, etc. You also get precipitation information, wind speed, humidity, and UV index.

You can get detailed information on the week ahead, hour by hour. A handy map feature shows you where the rain (and snow) is worldwide, at any given time. And you've got a wealth of notification options, including a daily summary, next-hour precipitation, severe weather alerts, and custom alerts based on your own variables. Dark Sky also features a dedicated do not disturb mode so you won't be bothered in the middle of the night (but as someone living in Tornado Alley, I highly advise against it).

Download: Dark Sky (free)


main screenWeekly forecastRadar

1Weather has always been a beautiful weather app, featuring one of the best dark themes we have encountered… but that dark theme is now broken up with Material Design's bland white cards. These cards aren't quite as themeable as the rest of the app, but you can change the background theme, you can change the icon set from white to black, and you can theme the widgets a multitude of ways… but we can't switch the cards from white back to that beautiful black.

Functionally, there are very few flaws we've found in our extended use of 1Weather, and most of them can be attributed to the horizontal, tabbed layout 1Weather uses, such as the disconnect between reaching the map and interacting with it, as you have to tap an expand button before you can zoom or move the map. There are ads in 1Weather that can be removed with a one-time in-app purchase. It even has Android Wear support, though rather than an app it comes in the form of three-card notifications for current conditions and immediate forecast and one-card notifications for alerts, each with customized background images.

Download: 1Weather (free, in-app purchases)


Main screenHourly conditionsWeekly conditions

You might be using Accuweather right now on your Android, whether you know it or not. The longtime weather service powers the weather data on many apps and widgets, including those pre-loaded on many handsets by manufacturers. They use Accuweather for a reason: it's dependable and damn accurate.

And why should you use Accuweather? That accuracy here is combined with a clean, concise app that is easy to navigate and easy to understand. The Minutecast is scarily accurate and it's hard to leave Accuweather for a weather app without it. Whether you just want to know when the rain is coming or when the temperatures will change to something a little more manageable to run errands and walk your dog, Accuweather's got your back.

Download: AccuWeather (Free, in-app purchases)

What's your favorite?

Do you have a favorite app for making sure you've got an accurate read on the weather? Is there an excellent app we should have included on this list? Let us know about it in the comments below!

Updated January 2018: We've updated this list to add Today Weather.

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2 weeks ago

Spotify discovered to have filed for IPO shortly after $1.6 billion lawsuit


Big things are happening with Spotify.

Among all the music streaming services that are on the market right now, there's no denying that Spotify is one of the biggest. Fortune estimated that the company was worth anywhere from $16 to $20 billion in September, and it looks like that number could grow substantially larger seeing as how Spotify has apparently filed for an IPO.

Axios has spoken with sources that confirm Spotify filed for the IPO in December, and this suggests that the company will be aiming to go public at some point in Q1 of 2018. Unfortunately, since the filing was done confidentially, there aren't any specifics that we can dive into.

Spotify is choosing to forgo the traditional float.

What's interesting about this is that Spotify is choosing to go public right away rather than start out with a float in which shares are created and sold in large quantities to the likes of banks and investment funds before the general public can start buying and selling. This is a more traditional way of going public for companies like Spotify, so it'll be interesting to see how this immediate IPO pays off.

Going public could be the next big step that Spotify needs to take, but it remains to be seen if the company can stay on track for its launch of Q1 for it. Wixen Music Publishing recently slammed the streaming service with a lawsuit of $1.6 billion for using certain songs "without a license and without compensation."

Spotify has yet to address the suit, and while it may not have any impact on the IPO at all, it'll be interesting to see how Spotify chooses to handle this over the next few weeks.

Spotify is testing a sleeker and less cluttered UI for its Android app

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2 weeks ago

Google Keep: Everything you need to know

Google Keep

Create lists, transcribe recordings, doodle, collaborate on to-do lists, and much more with Google Keep.

Google Keep isn't your average note-taking client. While the app sports a minimal interface and is easy to pick up and use, it offers a set of powerful tools that make it an effective task management utility. From creating collaborative to-do lists to transcribing voice notes and saving bookmarks, the app does it all.

The best part about Keep is that all changes are synced automatically, giving you quick access to your notes across all your devices, and on the web. Here's what you need to know to get started with Google Keep.

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