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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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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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2 months ago

Google I/O 2017: Developers share their highlights

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Google I/O is a developers conference, after all, so we asked developers to tell us about what excited them this year.

*/ /*-->*/

What would Google I/O be without the mass number of developers congregating together in honor of one of the world's biggest mobile operating systems? Well, it wouldn't be much. After all, this is a developer's conference.

I went around and asked a few Android developers what they loved most about the Google I/O keynote and the conference this year. And interestingly, many of those who were queried had something to say about the addition of Kotlin for Android.

Voltrack Poltrack, Fat Russell

AC: What was your favorite part of the Google I/O keynote?

I'm excited to work on stuff for the Google Home. Something for world domination.

AC: What are you most looking forward to from the conference?

I'm excited about the Android Wear talks, but I'm biased. [Poltrack is a developer of Android Wear apps.]

Mike, Developer at Speedify

AC: What was your favorite part of the Google I/O keynote?

I'm really excited about the changes to Android Studio 3.0. So many awesome features — the new profiling features really look good. I'm also really excited for the Fabric and Firebase merger. We use Fabric all the time at work and I think it will be awesome to have a single console.

AC: Will that make developing easier for you?

It'll make detecting bugs to deliver a good, stable product much easier.

Lucia, N26 - The Mobile Bank

AC: What was your favorite part of the Google I/O keynote?

Kotlin, obviously. Kotlin is a smarter, more advanced language. Now that Google is going to support it officially, it's going to push the community to do much more with it. I'm very excited to see how this goes.

AC: Will that make developing easier for you?

Migrating Java to Kotlin is easy in a way because you can have both, but there is a learning curve…so I don't know about that, but let's see.

Jerrell Mardis, Ride Metra

AC: What was your favorite part of the Google I/O keynote?

Kotlin. It's an awesome language and it's an upgrade over Java.

Erik Hellman, Freelancer

AC: What do you develop?

Android, mostly. Sometimes I'm unfortunate enough to do stuff that is less interesting, but mostly Android.

AC: What was your favorite part of the Google I/O keynote?

The lady from YouTube with the Red Blazer. That was amazing.

AC: Did Google announce anything that would make development easier for you?

Tons of stuff. I'll be out of work soon because they're going to put Machine Learning in everything, so.

AC: What about Kotlin?

I've been doing Kotlin for a couple of months already, so it's nice to see it get official support.

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2 months ago

Best apps for college graduates

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Your future has arrived, and these apps will help you make the most of it.

You did it: you earned your college degree and graduated with a diploma in-hand. Which of course begs the question, what comes next? After you've graduated, and you're ready to join the real world, it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out what precisely you are supposed to do next. There are resumes to be sent out, housing to acquire, and for many students, a leaning tower of School Loans that will need to be repaid over the next several years.

Have no fear though, these apps can help to ensure you hit the ground running!

Indeed

Once you've graduated and are figuring out what comes next, the first step ought to be starting to look for a position in your field. There are hundreds of different job search sites that you can post a resume to, but Indeed delivers a straightforward experience whether you are on a phone or computer.

Using Indeed you can upload your profile information, which is how prospective employers will find you. Once you've done that we suggest starting to look for the position that is right for you from the thousands of openings listed on Indeed. Since it automatically pulls from career boards, newspaper listings, and company career pages, you can even set up email alerts to notify you when a sweet new opening becomes available.

Download Indeed (free)

Hotpads

Along with finding gainful employment, you need to find a place to live. With dozens of different sites, there are plenty of ways to search for accommodation, but Hotpads makes it a better, easier experience to search for rental properties.

You can search a specific area, or look for your new home with specific parameters in mind. Once you've entered the criteria you are looking for, you will then be able to see properties in the area that fit your needs. You can also just click through properties, and get plenty of information on each one.

Download Hotpads (free)

Move Advisor

If you're planning to move away after graduation, Move Advisor is an absolutely free app that will help you to make sure that you are prepared for the big move.

Move Advisor acts as an in-pocket emissary to make sure your moves goes as smoothly as possible. To this end you can build a week-by-week moving schedule so that everything is packed and ready to go on the big day, as well as giving you a full inventory so that nothing gets accidentally left behind. It even helps to connect you to local moving services if you wind up needing a bit of extra muscle to get everything where it needs to go.

See on Google Play

Mint

One of the biggest challenges to leaving school entirely behind is learning to stand on your own two feet without (much) help or assistance. While you might still call your mom about how to make her prized meatloaf, or ring up your dad to ask the best way to clean out your gutters, your budget will be entirely in your own hands. Thankfully there are apps out there that exist to help you balance your checkbook before it goes diving into the red.

Mint is owned by Intuit, the same folks that run TurboTax, and they connect to help you file, too. With the app you can get bill pay reminders, build a budget, keep an eye on your credit score, and even keep track of your finances all in one place. If you're serious about building a budget and sticking to it, this is the best app you can find on Android.

Download Mint (free) {.cta .large}

Living Social

Whether you're back in your hometown after graduation or you've picked up and moved halfway across the country, you're going to need to occupy yourself with more than just your career. Finding fun, and affordable, ways to relax when you aren't really familiar with an area can be difficult at first.

That's where Living Social comes in. The app delivers tons of great deals on local food, entertainment, hotels, and more, all with some serious discounted rates. This means that by scanning the deals each day you might be able to snag a spa day, even when you are counting pennies on a budget. For anyone who likes to enjoy themselves without spending all of their extra income, this is a great one to check out.

Download Living Social (free)

Flipp

You may be broke, but you still need to eat. Flipp is a coupon app for the phone addict, parsing thousands of great grocery deals in one place. Not only does it save you money through virtual coupon clipping, but it does its own price-matching magic to ensure you get the lowest prices on the staples you buy every day.

Download Flipp (free)

What are your suggestions?

There are plenty of great apps out there that can turn your phone into a serious powerhouse for getting your life settled the way you want it. Whether you're trying to build a budget for the first time, looking for the perfect apartment to rent near your new office, or just trying to ensure that you can have a night out without feeling the hurt in the bank account the next day, there is most definitely an app for that.

Do you have a favorite set of apps that got you on track after graduation? Did we miss an excellent app for new graduates? Be sure to leave us a comment below and let us know about it!

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2 months ago

Android experiments bring out the weird side of Google I/O

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A co-operative virtual reality game, an easily trainable neural network, and multiplayer Quick Draw! — come take a peek at some of the experiments on display at Google I/O 2017.

*/ /*-->*/

What's the best way to show off Google's varying underlying technologies? Make them fun to use!

Every year at I/O, Google dedicates a portion of the show floor to experiments submitted by various developers from around the world. I managed to find some time to try a majority of them in the Experiments tent. Here are a few highlights, as well as links to where you can try out the Experiments for yourself.

OSP

Train your own neural network with this easy-to-program experiment.

Train your own neural network with this experiment, which utilizes Machine Learning and a Raspberry Pi. The wooden box shown here is actually a plug connected to a camera that you can use to program whatever is plugged into it. If it's a lightbulb, for instance, you can record gestures with the external camera that turns the light on and off. The MacBook Pro shown here was merely used to show how quick it is to program!

For more on this experiment, check it out here.

Konterball

Play Ping-Pong with a friend through the Chrome browser with Konterball.

All I've ever wanted to do in life is play Ping-Pong without the danger of losing the little plastic ball. Playing it in virtual reality is the next best thing. Konterball is a VR-enabled mini-game that lets you play Ping-Pong with a virtual wall, or a friend with another VR-enabled device. Best of all, this particular experiment showcases Chrome's new WebVR capabilities, which were officially announced this year at Google I/O.

For more on this experiment, check it out here.

Quick, Draw!

Draw — quickly! Or you'll lose the game.

Have you had a chance to play with Auto Draw? This experiment uses Machine Learning to identify what it is you're drawing on the screen. In this particular execution, you can play a multiplayer Pictionary-like game called Quick, Draw! with up to three people. Take heed: you really do have to draw quickly, or your score will suffer.

For more on this experiment, check it out here.

Giorgio Cam

Easily make music by taking pictures of objects.

This experiment is built with Machine Learning and it enables you to create a song by simply snapping a photo of an object. The app will then use image recognition to label what it sees, all while jamming out to a beat-laden Giorgio Moroder song in the background — hence the name Giorgio Cam. Giorgio Cam will give you lyrics, too, and it's surprisingly not that bad at piecing together words into thoughtful prose.

For more on this experiment, check it out here.

The Spirit

This gorgeous experiment was hard to snap a photo of, but it uses an Intel Edison board and Firebase to power it.

The unfortunate glare hitting the Experiments dome made this particular experiment a bit hard to parse, which is a bummer — but that was only because I couldn't see the full spectrum of color unfolding on screen. The Spirit enables you to use noise derivatives and Curl Noise to create weird, smokey shapes — think the smoke monster from LOST. It's powered by an Intel Edison board running Android Things and does a majority of its processing using the Firebase cloud.

For more on the experiment, check it out here.

Spot the Bot

I feel really bad — I could hardly manage to help this man effectively spot the robot.

Looking for your next cooperative game? Spot the Bot is fairly simple in terms of game mechanics, but I can see it immediately becoming a popular party game for anyone who has Daydream View in the house.

Spot the Bot ostensibly requires a friend with another device to help you spot the robot by describing its features and characteristics. But the onus is on you to locate it in the virtual reality world. I can imagine that this game is especially fun now that you can stream your Daydream VR experience to the big screen.

For more on the experiment, check it out here.

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2 months ago

Top 5 things you need to know about Kotlin, Android's new programming language

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What is Kotlin and why should I care about it?

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Google announced support for Kotlin in Android at Google I/O 2017, but many of us aren't sure what's going on or why we should care.

Let's take a look at the five things you need to know about Kotlin if you're not an Android developer.

What is Kotlin?

Kotlin is a programming and development language from JetBrains. They're the folks behind the IntelliJ Java IDE and Kotlin is really, really interoperable with Java. That means developers can use the Java Libraries they already use now, and the code they write with Kotlin can also be converted to Java and vice versa.

This is important because Java is one of the most-used programming languages in the world, and has been used for Android since the beginning. Throwing away that much work is silly.

Why are developers excited about Kotlin support?

You saw developers stand and cheer, too, huh?

Kotlin is fully supported in JetBrains' IntelliJ editing environment. A programming tool of any kind is only as good as its support. JetBrains provides simple but powerful Java to Kotlin converters and can generate Java and JavaScript from Kotlin code.

The code written with Kotlin is simpler than the Java equivalent, even when it references the same libraries or classes. It's more human-readable, which makes debugging a breeze and it's just better all around for writing Android apps with as little overhead as possible.

Is Java being phased out?

Nope!

If anything, Java is being made stronger and better with the newest versions of Android and Android Studio.

As mentioned above, Kotlin and Java are closely related at their base and adding support for Kotlin makes Java better. One day, Java will be forgotten about. That day won't be soon and it won't be becasue of Kotlin.

Will the apps be better or look different?

Nope again!

They could be better or even just look better because a developer has more time to work on the UI, but functionally Kotlin and Java are compatible and will look the very same.

You won't know anything is different.

Where can I learn more about Kotlin or get started using it?

Visit JetBrains' Kotlin website for everything you need to get started.

You can use Android Studio, Eclipse, IntelliJ IDEA or a standalone compiler to build Kotlin apps for Android or your web browser. There are even great tutorials to get you pointed in the right direction!

It's not difficult, and it's fun. Don't be afraid to try and learn as much as you can!

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2 months ago

Google announces 2017 Google Play Award winners

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Here are Google's picks for the best apps in the Google Play Store.

As part of the Google I/O festivities, Google held a ceremony to announce the winners of the 2nd annual Google Play Awards.

With over 85 billion downloads from the Google Play Store, it's always nice to see Google give some praise to the most innovative and interesting apps of the past year. Google has highlighted 12 apps this year, each chosen for its outstanding user experience or social impact.

Standout Indie: Mushroom 11

Mushroom 11 is a super interesting puzzle game in which you take control of a shapeshifting fungus as you make your way across an apocalyptic wasteland.

This game features challenging puzzles and fantastically fluid controls. Definitely worth checking out!

Download: Mushroom 11 ($4.99)

Standout Startup: HOOKED

HOOKED is a storytelling app that tells its story one text at a time. This app lives up to its name by drawing you into its library of mysterious stories, presented as a series of chat logs.

New stories are added daily, and there's even an option to upload your own stories for others to read. It's strangely addictive despite its occasionally cheesy storylines.

Download: HOOKED (Free)

Best Android Wear Experience: Runtastic Running & Fitness

It probably comes as little surprise that a fitness app would win the the award for Best Android Wear Experience.

Runtastic is one of the best fitness tracker apps you can use and is especially worth checking out if you've got a new Android Wear 2.0 watch or are planning to pick one up to revamp your summer fitness routine.

Download: Runtastic Running & Fitness (Free, or $4.99 for Pro version)

Best TV Experience: Red Bull TV

From the best in extreme sports to music festivals, Red Bull delivers endless entertainment — enough so that you may forget they also sell energy drinks!

Red Bull TV wins the award for its TV Experience, which will be worth keeping in mind the next time they have some guy free-fall from space.

Download: Red Bull TV (Free)

Best VR Experience: Virtual Virtual Reality

We imagine that this category is going to be getting very competitive over the next few years. This year's winner is Virtual Virtual Reality, which is built around a really fun concept of strapping on different VR headsets within a VR setting — similar to the dream within a dream scenario from Inception.

This Daydream VR app is currently on sale for half off, so there's no better time to check it out!

Download: Virtual Virtual Reality ($4.49)

Best AR Experience: WOORLD

We should be seeing more Tango-enabled phones to take advantage of Augmented Reality. When you finally get your hands on one, check out WOORLD.

It's a great showcase for the quirky side of AR, and is intuitive enough for anyone to pick up and play.

Download: WOORLD (Free)

Best Apps for Kids: Animal Jam - Play Wild!

For those looking for more kid-friendly apps to keep the young ones occupied in the back seat, Google gives the nod to Animal Jam.

Set in a fun and cartoony 3D world, your kid will learn about animals and their real-life habitats while playing fun games. There's also a social aspect for chatting in-game, with the developers committed to providing a safe online playground for kids.

Download: Animal Jam - Play Wild! (Free w/IAPs)

Best Multiplayer Game: Hearthstone

Hearthstone is still going strong three years on from its launch on Android. Developed by Blizzard, it's a social card game based in the same universe as World of Warcraft.

If you're brand new and interested in checking it out, there's great tutorial and single player modes to help teach you the basics and learn strategies before you move on to facing online opponents. Keep in mind that if you want to get serious here, you're going to need to buy some in-game expansion packs.

Download: Hearthstone (Free w/IAPs)

Best App: Memrise

The big prize of Best App went to Memrise, an intuitive app to assist you in learning a new language. Over 15 million people are using Memrise to learn a new language by playing games, watching videos from native speakers to offer social contexts, with more resources to help you along. It's free to try out, so what do you have to lose?

Also, check out the developer's "What's New" update for its reaction to winning the award for Best App. It's pretty swell!

Download: Memrise (Free)

Best Game: Transformers: Forged to Fight

Join Optimus Prime, Megatron, Bumblebee, Waspinator, Rhinox, Grimlock, Soundwave and many more of your favorite bots in Transformers: Forged to Fight. Personally, I'm kind of surprised to see this game pick up the top spot — It certainly wouldn't top my list.

Then again, who doesn't love a good ol' fashioned robot fight?

Download: Transformers: Forged to Fight (Free w/IAPs)

Best Accessibility Experience: IFTTT

If you've been looking into connecting all of your smart devices around your home into a fully automated system, you've probably already looked into IFTTT. Using custom Applets, IFTTT lets you connect hundreds of apps and devices in seemingly endless orientations — and of course there's support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can control everything with your voice.

Definitely an app you'll want to have on your phone in the years to come.

Download: IFTTT (Free)

Best Social Impact: ShareTheMeal

ShareTheMeal is a charity developed by the UN World Food Programme that lets you feed a child with a simple tap on your phone. It only takes about $.50 a day to feed a child for a day. There are 20 times as many smartphone users as there are hungry children. You do the math.

With several ongoing famines around the world, we should all do our small part to make a difference. Apps like this are a great showcase of how technology can be used to make a positive impact.

Download: ShareTheMeal

Android Gaming

Best action games for Android

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2 months ago

For as little as $3.29 a month you can use NordVPN to secure your browser's connection

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Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time with a VPN deal you won't want to pass up!

Have you ever stopped to think about how much of your day you spend connecting to networks that aren't your own? Whether you're working at a Starbucks, trying to finish something up at the airport before your flight, or sitting in the public library, odds are you're connected to a network that isn't the most secure without even thinking about it. Daily we do things like accessing our bank account, pay bills, send personal emails, and much more, all while not knowing if someone is tracking these moves and getting ready to steal your information.

Sounds a bit scary, huh? Well, personal information is something that should be kept personal, and luckily there are some easy ways to protect yourself. Odds are, by now you've heard of Virtual Proxy Networks, or VPNs, but you may be wondering why you would want to invest in one, right? Some of them can be a bit expensive, and others are unusually cheap, leaving you wondering which to end up with. NordVPN is one of the many great services out there, and right now you can save big on its plans.

Start protecting yourself right now Learn More

If you could protect yourself, and the information on your computer, from unprotected networks for just $4 a month, would you be interested? You should be! NordVPN offers double data encryption, which encrypts your data twice (and is the only company offering it), fast speeds, a strict no logs policy, automatic kill switch in case your VPN session drops off, and much more. The company has server locations in 57 different countries and covers every continent except for Antartica (because penguins don't browse the web!).

Signing up for one year of service scores you the discounted $4 a month rate, and signing up for two years can get you an even deeper discount. If you just want to give the one-year plan a try, you'll need to use coupon code NORD70 for the lower price, and for the two-year plan use code 2YSpecial2017. These offers from NordVPN won't last very long, so you'll want to act quick so you don't miss out!

Save up to 72% Learn More

You may be worried about investing in something you've never used before, but don't worry. NordVPN offers a 30-day money back guarantee, so there is no risk in trying its service. You won't know if a VPN works for you until you give it a shot. Here is a way to try it without worrying about losing a boatload of cash, and if you like it then you score a sweet deal on the next two years of protection!

For more great deals be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!

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2 months ago

Google Assistant's new features transform it from product to platform

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Google Assistant

Google's next platform is all about machine learning and natural language processing.

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A full year on from its launch at Google I/O 2016, Google Assistant has both expanded to new devices and added dozens of features that truly reposition it as a platform rather than a product. With everything announced at this year's Google I/O conference, Google Assistant is a common backend of knowledge and capabilities that can be accessed through multiple interfaces on multiple devices with limitless third-party extensibility options.

It's no longer just Google Home and an app on Android phones — Assistant is going to be everywhere you use Google.

Google Home getting smarter every day

Google Home

Assistant can do more than just answer your questions and tell you jokes.

Google Home was originally the physical embodiment of the Google Assistant technology, but Assistant has since expanded to be so much more with Home leading the charge. Not only has the number of app and service integrations hit a "larger than you can recall" number, but Google is leading the charge by giving the Assistant control over an increasing number of Google's own products and services.

You no longer just talk to Google Home to have the speaker itself do something, but instead to invoke Google Assistant to do all sorts of things that can then manifest themselves on other devices — all powered by the same cross-device backend. Google Assistant processing and smarts let you ask your Home to send driving directions to your phone, shoot a YouTube video to your TV or control an increasing number of smart home devices.

More: Google Home just leapfrogged Amazon Echo at I/O 2017

Assistant on phones finally makes sense

Google Assistant

Google Assistant is a couple of months into its expansion to just about any modern Android phone, but Google I/O 2017 marked an important change to its functionality to make it truly viable and useful to a wide number of people. The biggest change is the interaction model: you can now just type to Assistant. With this being a feature of Allo it was only a matter of time before it rolled out to the Assistant on every phone. Adding text input increases the chances of interacting with Assistant on a more regular basis, lowering the barrier to accessing its wealth of information.

Assistant on the phone is getting feature parity with Google Home.

Another massive barrier destroyed is the Assistant's move to the iPhone. Argue all you want about Assistant's seamless integration into Android and how much more powerful it is, but if you want a platform to succeed today it has to be on the iPhone in addition to everything else. Just as importantly, Google Assistant on the iPhone has the same backend powering it as on Android, and within reason it has the same capabilities. Millions more people will soon have access to Google Assistant, completing the loop of using the platform across all of their devices.

The future is bright as well, with the new Google Lens system promising image recognition technology to make Assistant even more powerful. You'll soon be able to leverage Google's image recognition and machine learning in a single place — inside Assistant — rather than having the feature spread out across disparate platforms like Google Now on Tap and Google Goggles. Even more important is Google's expansion of proper "Assistant actions" support on phones — letting you control devices and make device-specific queries of Assistant on your phone the exact same way you can on Google Home.

A platform, not a product

It's becoming increasingly apparent that Google Assistant is being positioned as the glue that holds together all of Google's devices. Whether you're using a connected speaker, phone, smartwatch, car, or TV device, the goal is to have you interacting with Google Assistant in a consistent way with seamless transition between those experiences.

Functionally there are some hurdles to overcome and features yet to hit critical mass, but it's clear that Assistant is the future of consumer interaction with Google.

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2 months ago

Google Photos gets smarter and more social: Top 4 announcements from Google I/O 2017

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The new features will certainly be helpful for loyal users, but they also exist to help you to spread the word on what Google Photos can do.

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Google has more than half a billion active users uploading over a billion image files to Google Photos daily, so it's no surprise that the company is doubling down on what's turning out to be a successful photo-sharing platform.

At Google I/O 2017, the company announced a host of new features coming to the feature-filled photo sharing service. Here's a quick jaunt through what's new with Google Photos, as well as some of the new features that are coming later this summer.

Watch Google's explainer on what's new with Google Photos.

Suggested sharing

You're using Google Photos to store your photos, so naturally Google wants you to share them with other people. Suggested sharing uses machine learning to actively suggestion who to share a picture with. If your friend Brad is in the photo, for instance, Google Photos will suggest that you send the photo to him so that he knows how silly he looked at the pool party last Saturday. Additionally, Google's machine learning will give Brad suggestions when he sees this photo, so that he can share it with anyone else who might be interested.

You can invite anyone to see a photo, even if they don't have the Google Photos app installed. iPhone users, for instance, will receive a notification with a link to the photo, and be invited to add others to share the photo with, too. It's a share-share situation!

Shared libraries

Google Photos' Anil Sabharwal shows the crowd at Google I/O 2017 what Shared Libraries are all about.

Got a giant extended family? That's fine; now you can share an entire photo library with them all so that anyone can share photos of each other whenever there's occasion to. Shared Libraries work akin to shared photo albums, though they'll stay integrated in your own camera roll. You'll be able to search through those pictures without having to navigate to a particular photo album, too, and with the machine learning engine working behind the scenes in Google Photos, any extra, non-interesting photos you snap won't be filed in there.

Google Lens

Google Lens is coming soon, and it's going to add more functionality to Google Photos.

The Google Lens features aren't ready for Google Photos yet, but the machine learning engine is coming later this summer. Google Lens will be able to understand what's in an image, identify what you're looking at, and help you edit photos on the fly. It'll even get rid of obstructions in an image — in the event you actually catch your finger ruining an an otherwise amazing photo, for example.

Photo Books

You can order a Photo Book now from Google Photos.

Photo books are a major thing for many families, and they're especially helpful if you just want to show a number of choices photos from your last trip, for example. Google Photos will be able to identify the best photos you've taken from any album and curate it into a worth-to-share picture book.

A 7-inch softcover will cost $9.99, while the hardcover version will cost $19.99. The books are 20 pages by defaults and features 40 of the best photos. Additional pages will cost $0.35 in the softcover, and $0.65 on hardcover. Photo Books are available now for Google Photos on the web and will come to iOS and Android soon.

The easiest-to-use photo app

The latest announcements for Google Photos should be no surprise if you've been utilizing the service since its major revamp two years back, particularly with regards to its machine learning capabilities. Shared Libraries are also merely evolutions of a sharing feature that's already existed — you've been able to share individual photos and albums before, but now it's more inviting to those who may not be privy to the Photos' existence.

It's obvious Google is committed to making its photo-storage service soar, which is why it's intent on getting the word out on its usefulness. These features have been added to encourage its veteran users to share photos while inspiring the uninitiated to switch to the service and take advantage of what it can do.

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2 months ago

Google Photos is getting a major — and smart — photo sharing boost

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Google Photos is getting a massive boost with new features announced at Google I/O 2017.

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