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1 month ago

RaveVR lets you watch YouTube with friends in virtual reality

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Can't join your friends for the feature presentation? This Daydream- and Gear VR-compatible app lets you hop into a virtual room and view videos in tandem in real time.

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Scoff if you will, but I'm a big believer that the propagation of virtual reality will eventually enhance the way we socialize online. I was first impressed by the concept when Mark Zuckerberg waxed poetic on the subject at Oculus Connect. I've since been yearning for those same people-on-people connections in virtual reality but haven't found an app that could get my friends on board. Until I learned about RaveVR.

Rave (or WeMesh, as it was currently known) is actually a social video viewing platform — the Twitch of social viewing, if you will, though without the audience. It originated as a social viewing app for Android and iOS, and now there's a separate virtual reality component for those who are equipped with a Daydream View or Gear VR. RaveVR enables you to watch video in tandem with people you know and with complete strangers. The only bummer with RaveVR is that when it comes to the actual social part, it's a little lacking.

Real-time reality

Part of the appeal of RaveVR is that it works interchangeably across a variety of platforms.

Part of the appeal of RaveVR is that it works interchangeably across a variety of platforms, though there is more compatibility on the horizon. At present, you can sync up with your friends to watch content, even if you aren't using the same mobile phones, though the video library that's currently available might leave you wanting more. RaveVR currently pulls in content from YouTube, Vimeo, Reddit, and Viki, which is an overseas streaming network that offers a variety of Korean and Taiwanese shows, as well as Bollywood and anime. You can also pull in content from your personal Google Drive account, though I had quite a bit of trouble actually playing any of the video files I had stored there, including MP4s. It's unfortunate, too, because Rave is the kind of app I could see using with my family to cycle through a bunch of vacation videos and whatnot.

This screenshot was taken in RaveVR...

And this screenshot was taken on a tablet running the stream at the same time.

One particular gem I discovered inside RaveVR is the ability to start a virtual karaoke room. Granted, a majority of the karaoke video links lead to the cheesiest third-party covers of popular songs, and not all of the videos offer lyrics or the full song, but the ability is there. I'd imagine this feature is even better with a microphone plugged in so that your friends can more clearly hear you.

The RaveVR app itself is easy to use with Daydream View and newcomers shouldn't have an issue navigating around its interface. You start out on a launcher screen, like you would in the Daydream app, and then you choose whether to start a new rave or join in an existing one. To the left, there is a feed of content, including any public raves or local ones your friends might be hosting. Once you start or jump into a rave, a chat window will appear to the right, with the content set front and center. In my experience, I found RaveVR is best used while laying down in bed, because you'll want to be comfortable.

A screenshot of what you see when you're inside the RaveVR app.

If you're the leader of the rave, you'll be able to choose whether the session goes to auto play when the video is finished or whether the audience can vote on the next production. If you choose the latter, each participant can double tap on the video they want to watch next while the current video is playing. At the end of the show, you'll be able to see what people voted for and choose what's next on the list from there.

If you're an attendee of someone else's rave, you can't skip forward or pause the production. However, you can chat at will, with the microphone built into the device. I was pleased at the lack of lag between when I spoke and when my voice was broadcasted. I sounded clear enough that the person on the other line could understand what it was I was ranting about, and I was impressed that this was all happening on my Wi-Fi network. All this took place in real time as the video was streaming ahead for me and another friend.

Where the people at?

RaveVR has a content problem.

The true test of RaveVR's social aspect relies on how well it performs when there are more than just a few people watching the stream at a time, but there was hardly anyone to have a rave with. I was surprised at the relative lack of people to hang with. Part of the issue could be Rave's content problem, however. There is no Hulu or Netflix, for instance, which is something I'd more likely use in my personal life; just imagine being in a giant virtual room of your closest pals for the season finale of one of your favorite shows — that's the kind of interaction I yearn for from a social viewing app.

The RaveVR app on Daydream also isn't completely devoid of bugs. There were several instances where RaveVR crashed and I'd have to kill the task and then relaunch the app again. There was also another instance where I couldn't log in with my Twitter account, no matter how many times I authenticated it. But despite the minor hiccups, the concept is there. Rave just needs better content partners that would make it easy for early adopters like me to get their friends to participate.

With apps like RaveVR making their way into the Play Store, it feels like social virtual reality is right around the corner. I see Rave's offerings as the beginning of something greater, at least in the sense of how we interact online. As lives become busier and loved ones have to move farther apart from one another, these virtual interactions will become precious social currency.

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1 month ago

Best GPS trackers for kids

Best GPS trackers for kids

What are the best GPS trackers for kids?

Updated May 2017: We've removed the KOREX Waterproof Babysitter Smartwatch from our list because it has been discontinued.

It can be difficult to keep track of your children, and it can also be hard to gauge when it's appropriate to get them a cell phone or something a bit more mature in order to keep in contact with them.

GPS trackers are fantastic, potentially life-saving tools that help keep track of your little ones, so you won't have to worry about where they are. Just have them wear their GPS tracker like a watch, and the rest is up to your watchful eyes.

Here are a few great options to check out if you're looking for the best GPS trackers for your kids!

Tinitell

Tinitell

Stylish looking with a simple, modern design, the Tinitell GPS tracker is an innovative new smartband that worked effortlessly with an app from your smartphone.

Tinitell isn't only an interesting-looking, modern device, it's also an incredibly durable and resilient GPS tracker. Tinitell is designed to take some abuse, including splashing water and dirt (although the device itself isn't 100% waterproof by any means).

With your smartphone, you can connect and monitor your child with a precise GPS tracker, and you can even call your child using the Tinitell app. The smartband can have up to 12 contacts listed, so they never have to worry about being stranded without anyone to reach out to if they're in trouble. To make a call, all they have to do is press the front of the band, say the name of the person they'd like to contact, and that's it!

The Tinitell comes in four different, vibrant colors, including aqua, coral, charcoal, and indigo. You can use a Ting SIM card with your Tinitell for around $12 a month.

See at Tinitell

GBD-GPS Tracker Kids Smartwatch

GBD-GPS Tracker Kids Smartwatch

With all-day tracking, three-way positioning, and even an additional fitness tracker element, the GBD-GPS Tracker Kids Smartwatch aims to make monitoring your children as effortless (and as accurate!) as possible.

Using a micro-SIM card, the GBD-GPS tracker is not only able to make two-way calls, but also immediate SOS emergency calls if your child comes in contact with unexpected danger. While some GPS tracking devices use one or two ways of triangulating your child's location, the GBD-GPS uses GPS, AGPS, and LBS positioning to paint a more accurate picture of where your child may be.

The GBD tracker allows parents to erect an Electric Fence, giving your child boundaries that will set off an alarm on your smartphone if crossed. If need be, parents can also call their child on their smartwatch for easy two-way talking, and can even use the app to set remote alarms and reminders for their children.

The GBD-GPS comes in three neon colors, including blue, green, and bright pink, so there's a color option to match almost every child's favorites.

See at Amazon

LG GizmoGadget

If you're a Verizon Wireless customer and are looking for a tracker that will allow your child to use text and voice to check in with you, then the LG GizmoGadget is an excellent option.

The GizmoGadget sports a 1.3-inch touch screen display, but in order for your child to make a call, they will have to press the physical button, and then use the touch screen to choose a contact. The GizmoGadget also allows you to pre-program up to 9 different texts messages that your child can send to 10 whitelisted numbers.

PC Mag rated the LG GizmoGadget 4.5 out of 5 stars.

"The LG GizmoGadget is an excellent smartwatch for primary schoolers who need to stay in touch with their caregivers via voice and text."

The wearable also has a handful of other useful functions, including an activity tracker, a stopwatch, and a timer.

See at Verizon

dokiWatch

dokiWatch

Though the dokiWatch is designed for children 6 to 12, its sleek and modern looking design, high-quality, reliability, and wide range of color options make it a stylish (and incredibly practical) GPS tracker for people of all ages.

The dokiWatch claims that it's the world's most advanced 3G smartwatch for kids, and there's a lot to support that statement. The dokiWatch combines precise GPS, GSM, and Wi-Fi tracking technology with video call capabilities, voice calling, one-way text messages, fitness tracking, and so much more.

The smartwatch automatically uploads location data directly to your smartphone, meaning you'll never have to guess where your child is. Video and voice calling is almost instantaneous, while parents can remotely schedule their child's appointments and reminders from the dokiWatch's compatible app.

With the dokiWatch, children can send out SOS alerts if they're in immediate danger to their preset contacts, including their location and a recording of their surroundings. Parents can even enable Class Mode which will remove the distraction of the device while their child is in class by deactivating it at specific times.

See at Doki

What's your favorite?

Is there a GPS tracker you've been using that you're extremely happy with? Please let us know which model is your favorite in the comments and we'll be sure to check it out!

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1 month ago

New Google Play Music subscribers now get a four-month trial

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New customers can try out Google Play Music for free for 120 days.

Google typically offers a 90-day trial for customers looking to evaluate Google Play Music, but the company is now rolling out a four-month free trial for new subscribers. If you're using another streaming service and are looking to make the switch to Play Music, you now have an addition 30 days to decide if you want to continue. Once the trial ends, you'll have to shell out $9.99 per month.

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1 month ago

Aviate Launcher review: Smart, but not better

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Aviate Launcher

How's Aviate Launcher these days? Let's take a look!

Updated May 2017: Review updated to reflect the stability of the launcher and how it's aged over the last two years.

Aviate Launcher has garnered hype since it first debuted on Android, and after being acquired by Yahoo has actually seen steady improvement through updates. It's been awhile since we last examined it, and now it's time to take a fresh look and see how it works today.

Aviate aims to analyze how you use your phone to better surface information and apps that are relevant based on a variety of factors, taking the burden of customization away from you. But does it work? We're going to find out.

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2 months ago

What's on MrMobile's phone?

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As we approach the one-year anniversary of MrMobile's launch, it seems only right to fulfill one of the most common viewer requests. You see a variation of the question in the comment section of nearly every video: "what's on your phone, MrMobile?" And while I personally find my app selection really predictable, I figure there's probably a gem or two in here that some of y'all haven't heard of yet. So dive on in to the How MrMobile Works catalog to take in my Top 40 Apps video – and if you agree with me that this collection could use some spicing up, drop a comment down below with your top app alternatives!

Stay social, my friends

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2 months ago

Instagram is hedging its bets on becoming your go-to messaging platform

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The latest additions to the image sharing platform add landscape and portrait photos to Direct messages, in addition to link sharing.

If you would have told me that Instagram would be the go-to social network five years ago, I would have scoffed. But things have really evolved for the app since then, and lately it seems to be undergoing a bit of a renaissance due in part to the multitude of updates.

Today's update brings with it landscape and portrait photos to Instagram Direct. On the surface, this is a fairly boring, yawn-worthy update, and though it will make direct messages between you and your friends a bit more dynamic, it's not exactly meant to overhaul your Instagram experience in a meaningful way. But if you use Instagram now and already have a bustling network of friends you chat with on a daily basis, you may find you'll use it more often, especially now that you have the knowledge of its ability to share links and one-off photos without all the noise of the perpetual feed and the fake news that often floods social networks like Facebook.

Instagram has added direct links in Direct messages.

Instagram has also added support for links in its Direct messages so that you can easily send a link you're perusing in the Twitter app, for instance. The link functionality will extend to phone numbers and addresses, too, so if the app is your primary method of socializing, you can rest easy knowing it's possible to have everyday correspondence without having to hop into another chat app. Granted, these aren't major features that will make or break your daily Instagram routine, but they are a valid reminder that in the social network race, it's anyone's game. Instagram is ensuring it stays ahead by offering what its users want, even if it is evolving away from its original objective.

The update is hitting iPhones right now and Android phones later, though links in Direct messages are already available with the latest Android app update.

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2 months ago

Magikarp Jump is a decidedly more casual Pokemon game, now available in Google Play

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The Pokémon you want, but without leaving the house.

Maybe you're tired of walking playing Pokémon Go but still need to get a Pokémon fix — well, why not give the new Magikarp Jump game a try? This casual Pokémon-themed game is far less involved than Go but still kicks in with the nostalgia we crave. Announced earlier this week with a limited release, Magikarp Jump is now available in the U.S. and most other countries.

Everything you need to know about Magikarp Jump is right in the title: the objective of the game is to train your Magikarp to jump higher than the other Magikarp. Yes, that's rather simple and somewhat pathetic, but, y'know, so is Magikarp itself. You'll train your Magikarp to gain jumping skills, feed it so it grows stronger, and then head into competition where you see just how high your Magikarp can jump.

There's little more to try and sell someone on this: you'll just need to download it and play. If you're a Pokémon fan, you're going to enjoy playing this casual title (it's already picking up tons of five-star reviews). It's free but has in-app ads by default, so expect to drop a little money to clean up the experience.

Pokémon Go

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2 months ago

Google Photos for Android now offers easy archiving

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Help eliminate the embarrassment of bad angles by archiving what you don't care for others to see.

Launching Google Photos can become a practice in vulnerability. The app tends to showcase the last batch of pictures you took, and if any are just plain bad or unflattering, it can leave you feeling exposed.

The latest update to Google Photos helps eliminate this kind of embarrassment. Discovered by 9to5Google, now you can archive photos from appearing on the main screen. Simply tap on the ability in the overflow menu, or select the ability from the navigation drawer. Archived photos will remain in your albums and search results, as well as on the Archive page — just as you would archive a batch of notes in Google Keep, for example.

Easily archive any or all selfies in Google Photos.

Granted, there are even more features coming to Google Photos in the near future — a majority of which were teased at Google I/O — but this will certainly help anyone looking to get their photo albums in order for when those machine learning tricks do make it to the photo-sharing suite. The feature is currently rolling out for Android; iOS users and web app users might have to hang tight for the moment.

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2 months ago

Android Pay now lets you pay with a PayPal account

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The latest software update adds PayPal integration so that you can tap and swipe with your account as if it were cold, hard cash.

A month after it was initially announced, Android Pay finally offers official support for PayPal integration. With the latest app update, you can now file in your PayPal account with the rest of your debit, credit, and loyalty cards to use wherever NFC-enabled wireless payments are accepted.

The setup process is easy. When you're adding a new card to your virtual wallet inside the Android Pay app, tap Add other payment methods to select the PayPal option. Once it's logged in there, you'll be able to choose it as your payment method every time you fire up the app. PayPal will require that you input a "top up" amount, however, so be ready to put away about $10. You'll need your in-store PIN to set up the payment method, too.

Why would you want to use PayPal to pay for things? Well, let's say you run a business, for instance, and that's where all of your earnings go before they make it into your bank account. If you have Android Pay with your PayPal account, you can use that cash flow instantly without waiting for the other-bank transaction.

PayPal is also useful if you're traveling overseas with the family; it's great for setting up a budget pool of sorts, and with Android Pay launching in more countries, you'll be able to use that account on the fly. It's unclear if that's available at the moment, however, considering PayPal integration with Android Pay is currently limited to the U.S. If that applies to you, check out the Play Store to see if your app has been updated.

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2 months ago

How to set up Samsung's Secure Folder on the Galaxy S8

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Secure Folder makes it easy to keep your stuff where only you can get to it.

Secure Folder is a component of Samsung Knox that gives you a "compartment" to hold apps and files that is separate from the rest of the phone. You don't need to create a new user or go through any hoops to get it up and running, and once you're all set up you can not only keep private files private but you can also use apps with a separate user login, or add apps that you only use through your secured profile.

Secure Folder is one of those awesome things Samsung offers on every Galaxy S8 or (Galaxy S7 with Android 7.0) so you don't have to go looking for an app that tries to do the same thing.

As mentioned, it's easy to get started.

Set up Secure Folder

Secure Folder uses your Samsung account, so you'll need to have that setup and running. If you downloaded anything from Samsung Apps you're already set up. If not, the easiest way to do it is to open Samsung Apps and check out some icon themes. You'll be walked through the setup process. Don't worry, it's easy. Once that's done, here's how to set up Secure Folder.

  1. Open the device settings by tapping the gear icon in the upper right corner of your notification shade.
  2. Scroll down until you see the Lock screen and security section. Tap to open it.
  3. Scroll down until you see the Secure Folder entry and tap it to open the setup process.
  4. Log in with your Samsung account.

A few apps are part of Secure Folder by default, but you can add or remove most any app you like.

You'll see a short tutorial about what Secure Folder is and what it can do that you should look at. The setup process itself is simple. You sign in, agree to the terms and conditions, and set an unlocking method. you can use the same options you use to unlock your phone: Pattern, PIN, Password, Fingerprint or Iris. This sets up Secure Folder with a few apps already there (Gallery, Calendar, Contacts, Email, Camera, Internet and My Files) ready for use. You can also add more, and any app you have installed on your phone can be copied to Secure Folder. You can also copy any file to Secure Folder's storage.

This adds a Secure Folder icon in your apps list. To get inside, you tap the icon and you're prompted to sign in with whatever method you used during the setup. You can customize the icon and name of the Secure Folder app, and if you go back to the Secure Folder section in your device settings you'll now find other options. Be sure to take a look at them and set things up the way you like them.

Using Secure Folder

This is the cool part. When an app is copied to Secure Folder, it's a completely separate installation. That means it doesn't share any data with the "regular" version of the app and you can log in with a different username. Things you download or save while using an app from Secure Folder aren't available through the regular version of an app, and you can even manually move files like photos or documents to Secure Folder to keep them private.

To install an app to Secure Folder

  1. Open the Secure Folder app from your app drawer by tapping the icon.
  2. Log in with the method you chose when you set things up.
  3. Look for the Add apps button and tap it.
  4. Choose an app from your phone or download an app through Google Play or Samsung Apps.

Data you save from an app in Secure Folder isn't available to a 'regular' version of the same app.

Now your new app will be inside the Secure Folder app, ready to use and completely private. You use the apps the same way you would have before, but remember that you can't share data between the secure version and the regular version. That means if you do something like add a calendar appointment through Secure Folder it won't show in the normal calendar.

You can also edit the apps you have put in Secure Folder by tapping the Edit apps button instead of the Add apps button. Choose any apps you want to remove from Secure Folder or apps you want to place a direct shortcut to the secure version of on your home screen and make the corresponding choice.

To manually move files to Secure Folder

  1. Open the Secure Folder app from your app drawer by tapping the icon.
  2. Log in with the method you chose when you set things up.
  3. Look for the Add files button and tap it.
  4. Choose the file you want to be placed in the Secure Folder storage area.

You can copy files to Secure Folder or move the originals. Remember that they will still be visible outside of Secure Folder if you copy them.

You can add any file to Secure Folder by choosing the My Files button when you add a file. This opens the file browser, and from there you just choose it like you normally would. You can also filter for just pictures, music, documents and videos by using the shortcuts when you tap the Add files button.

You have a choice to move or copy files from the regular storage to the Secure Folder. If you choose to copy them you'll still have the original that is available through any app. If you choose to move them, you'll only be able to access them through Secure Folder.

This is awesome

Privacy is pretty important. Secure Folder gives us an option to hide files and apps from view even if we lose or phones without having to encrypt the entire SD card. The concept isn't exactly new, but Samsung native implementation is great and it's something you should have a look at!

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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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 months ago

Icon Pack Studio is a neat icon mask maker with a bad name

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Smart Launcher makes one hell of a launcher, and it just stepped up its theming game in a big, big way.

Smart Launcher released Icon Pack Studio last week, giving ordinary users with zero experience the ability to create icon masks that will evenly and beautifully apply to all of the apps on their home screen and app drawer. Even better, the way Smart Launcher made this move lets its victory come to other launchers as well, giving users a win and giving Smart Launcher a new way to try and coax users away from their long-time launcher.

I just wish they'd given it a name that wasn't a lie.

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2 months ago

You can now use Google Opinion Rewards to score Play Store credit in India, Singapore, and Turkey

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Get Play Store credit by taking part in surveys.

Google Opinion Rewards is now live in India, Singapore, and Turkey, allowing customers from these markets to participate in surveys to get Play Store credit.

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2 months ago

Give your friends a reason to snap with Snapchat's custom stories

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Snapchat's new feature isn't a killer one, but it will certainly give its existing users another reason to keep using it.

A new Snapchat feature could help you when encouraging your friends to at least install the Snapchat app for the weekend. Snap has introduced custom Stories, which are designed to help friends and family groups collectively snap even the most mundane of events on the fly.

Custom Stories are easy to set up and don't require that much planning beforehand. Tap the new Create Story icon in the top-right corner of the main Stories screen. Type in a name for the event, and then invite your friends. You can extend the invitation to anyone you'd like to participate in the as-it-happens festivities, regardless of their location. The new feature isn't geofenced. You can also invite nearby Snapchat users to participate if it's, say, a public event, like a high school prom or college graduation. Snapchat will create a one-block geofence around your current location.

Custom Stories will stay up on the main Stories page for as long as they are live, or until no one contributes for 24 hours. Each user is limited to three custom Stories at a time.

Is this a killer feature that will bring back hoards of budding Snapchat users? Not likely. It's hard to ignore Snapchat's declining numbers, especially when Instagram has all but run rampant with its own story-making features. But in the realm of mobile-first apps, it's encouraging to see social networks attempting to become more of an extension of our social lives rather than a replacement.

The update is slowly rolling out to Snapchat users right now. If you don't see it in the Google Play Store just yet, hang tight.

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2 months ago

Google announces the fourth class of its Launchpad Accelerator program

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Startups from a variety of regions will convene later this summer at Google's headquarters in San Francisco.

Google's Launchpad Accelerator program is a boon for those smaller startups and development teams in parts of the world where Silicon Valley doesn't have as much reach. The company has announced that it's officially solidified its fourth-round roster to learn and work alongside a bevy of Google mentors in its San Francisco offices later this summer. Beginning July 17, Google will assist the Launchpad Accelerator participants from various parts of the world — including Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America — in learning about its products and how to best integrate them into their respective applications.

If you're curious about who will be in the trenches, there's a full list of participating startups on display in the official blogpost and you can download some of their apps from the Play Store right now. Some of the Launchpad Accelerator apps include Piggipo, an app that helps people in Thailand manage and monitor their credit spending; GAMEE, a social gaming app from the Czech Republic; and Paystack, which helps set up businesses in Africa to accept digital payments.

After the two-week period, participants will receive equity-free support and credits for Google's various products. They'll also continue to work closely with the company once they return back to their home country for six months.

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2 months ago

Google Allo is the best way to send love notes without even trying

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This one quick trick made possible by Assistant is a great reminder of the inherent power that exists in Google's little messaging app.

Admittedly, it was a bummer that Google failed to make any mention in the I/O keynote of what else Allo might have in store for it. There wasn't even a tease for the much anticipated desktop app coming to fruition, nor was there much hope that SMS integration would come and take the chat app out of its rut.

Overall, the lack of a unified messaging strategy remains one of the bigger frustrations of being a faithful user of the Google ecosystem. And it's particularly excruciating when you consider how much of Assistant's abilities are going to waste as Allo struggles to proliferate.

Google Assistant's abilities are going to waste as Allo struggles to proliferate.

Google I/O offered a tiny glimpse at what's coming to Allo's future, though, at least with regards to its announcements for Assistant. With the news that the Machine Learning platform will be certifiable in French, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and Japanese this summer, and that it's officially coming to the iPhone, there is a bit of hope that this translates to more people discovering the usefulness of a chat app with Assistant's abilities baked in. Who wouldn't want a future where you could remotely turn off the Nest thermostat inside a group chat with the other members of your household, for example? Or where you could simultaneously make last minute dinner arrangements?

I've recently learned a new trick that became a helpful remind of why Assistant is worth bundling into a messaging app. You can program Assistant to actually assist in scheduling daily interactions with another person. It's fun to set up if you're using Allo to communicate with your spouse, your roommates, or a few of your closest friends, for instance. And though it's such a simple gimmick, the fact that it was so easy to do makes me yearn for Allo's ubiquity even more.

How to set up Allo to send daily love notes

Whether you want to send your loved ones a daily affirmation, or you're simply into Nicolas Cage's most famous movie lines, you can effectively subscribe so that these things show up at the same time every day in a preferred Allo chat window.

In the Allo conversation of your choice — in this case, I chose the thread between me and my husband — activate the Assistant and type in Send me daily love quotes. Assistant will offer up a few different time slots for your choosing. You can even edit the subscription time later if you like.

You can set up daily love quotes with your loved one (left) or jump straight into the daily Oprah affirmations with Allo.

What you program doesn't have to be a love quote — it can be utterings form anyone or anything, as long as Google can pinpoint it. In a separate chat with just the Assistant in Allo, I looked up Oprah quotes and then typed in Send me daily. Every day at 11 a.m., I get a message from Allo with inspiring messages from Oprah, like, "My idea of heaven is a great big baked potato and someone to share it with." This is the future, people. Embrace it.

In all seriousness, this silly little trick to keep love quotes going between my husband and I is enough of a reminder of the kind of untapped power that lives inside Google's wannabe messaging app. It has quite a bit of work ahead of it before it's as robust as Facebook Messenger or Apple's iMessages, but let what it does now be a reminder of what will make it worth using once SMS integration or a desktop client finally come to.

Allo: Everything you need to know

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