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4 months ago

How to get Google Home to softly lull you to sleep

6

Google Home acts as a white noise machine for when you're having trouble drifting off into slumber.

Finding it hard to fall asleep with the blaring summer heat? Google Home is good for more than turning off the lights or playing back your favorite podcast. You can use it as a noise machine of sorts for when the current environment just isn't your vibe. If you're in the U.S., you can use these quick tricks to get the Assistant-enabled speaker to drown out the noise of the trains, planes, and automobiles outside your window and instead transport you to a serene nature scene — or whatever else you need to be to fall asleep.

Start by asking it nicely

It's straightforward: All you have to do is utter Ok Google and then ask it to play ambient noise. If you'd rather listen to a particular sound, ask it to play river sounds, for instance, or play white noise if you're simply in need of a little background ambiance. Google Home will play the audio for an hour if it isn't manually turned off, and since it typically takes 10-20 minutes for the average person to fall asleep, that should be plenty of time for you to get settled into slumberland.

Sometimes, if you shout out the command, Google Home doesn't seem to budge or understand where you're getting at, and it can become frustrating and thus keep you from working on getting to sleep. If you're finding yourself there, ask Google, What other ambient sounds do you know? Google Assistant will give you a rundown of what it can do. Or, you can peep this list from the official Google Home support page:

Relaxing sounds

Nature sounds

Water sounds

Running water sounds

Outdoor sounds

Babbling brook sounds

Country night sounds

Oscillating fan sounds

Fireplace sounds

Forest sounds

Ocean sounds

Rain sounds

River sounds

Thunderstorm sounds

White noise

What's your favorite sound?

What do you like to fall asleep to at night? Let us know in the comments below!

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4 months ago

Top 10 Chromebook tips and tricks

If you love Chromebooks like we do you'll want to see these tips and tricks to make the most of them.

Millions of people are using Chromebooks, but despite their simple and "for everyone" nature, not every powerful feature is easy to access. Every Chromebook (or Chromebox) is a powerful tool that's just waiting to be used to its full potential, and once you know a few tricks you'll feel like you're getting even more value out of your inexpensive computer.

We've rounded up the top ten tips and tricks for you to try on your own Chromebook so you can start making the most of your machine. Read along and learn a thing or two about the computer you're using.

Use third-party DNS servers

There are a lot of reasons to use third-party DNS (Domain Name Server, or the sort of "address book" for the Internet) when you're on the web. Some say they are faster, some claim they are more secure, and it's a great way to get around any silly content blocks that may be in place on the servers of the people who provide you your Internet.

Using them on your Chromebook is easy. Open the settings page, and click on the name of the network you want to change. In the window that comes up, choose the network tab. At the bottom, you can choose which name servers to use. You'll see automatic and Google options, or you can enter some manually if you know specifically what you want.

Use Chrome overview

There is a built-in overview mode on your Chromebook that lets you see every open window at a glance. If you've ever used a Mac, this is just like Expose. It's also just as useful!

On the top row of the keyboard, just press the []]] button (above the 6 key) or swipe down from the top with three fingers on your trackpad or touchscreen to go into the overview. Clicking any of the thumbnails will open that window, and clicking in a blank space will return you to the last window you were viewing. If you find yourself with a lot of windowed apps running all the time, this is a great time-saver.

As a bonus, while in overview mode you can type to filter what you're seeing. For example, typing "Google" will only show windows with the word Google in the title.

See all of your keyboard shortcuts

By now you know that Chrome OS is full of handy keyboard shortcuts for things like reloading a page or going to your home page in the browser. In fact, there are so many it's almost impossible to keep track of them all. Finding out just what you can do so you know which ones to remember is easy.

Press Ctrl + Alt + ? and you'll see an overlay of the keyboard with all the key functions and shortcuts. Soon you'll be a pro and Shift + Alt + L-ing and Alt + Shift + B-ing all over the place.

Take advantage of the 'Chrome goodies'

Part of the value of a Chromebook is in the extras you get along with your purchase. When you buy a computer running Chrome OS you don't just get a computer — Google throws some freebies your way as well. After buying your Chromebook and getting logged in, be sure to head to the Chrome Goodies Page to pick up these offers:

  • 60-day free trial to Google Play Music All Access
  • 100GB of Google Drive space for free for two years
  • 12 free passes for Gogo Inflight Internet

The offers expire 60 days after you first associate a Google account with your Chromebook, so make sure to use them before they run out. The Google Play Music All Access and Google Drive deals can only be used once on any given Google account, but the 12 free Gogo passes are on a per-device basis.

Use an SD card for extra storage

Most Chromebooks offer an SD card slot of some kind — be it MicroSD or standard. While the SD card slot is useful for transferring pictures off of your camera and getting them up to Google Drive or moving files between computers, for many people it may be most useful as semi-permanent external storage.

Because you'll often have no more than 32GB of internal storage (unless you feel like upgrading that yourself) on your Chromebook, you may find yourself wanting more. Pop a 64GB SD card into your Chromebook and use it just like you would the local or Google Drive storage. The SD card shows up in the Files app just like another folder, where you can use it any way you'd like.

Check out SD card deals on Amazon

Share your Chromebook — safely

When you first set up your Chromebook it feels like it's just locked to your own personal Google account, but one of the perks of Chrome OS is the ability for any machine to work with any Google account. When you're on the lock screen of your Chromebook, you can click "Sign out" in the bottom left corner and let someone else sign in with their own Google account. They'll have no access to your main account, and all of their previous activity on any other Chrome device will be set up on this new machine in its own profile.

If you just want to hand your Chromebook to someone else for a quick bit of research or something simple, use the guest mode from the lock screen. Nothing done in the guest mode will be tied to your Google account, and everything will be completely erased as soon as the guest account signs out.

If you'd prefer to lock down your Chromebook so only specific people (or just you) can sign in, head into the settings menu, and under the Users area, you can restrict sign-in on the device to only specific accounts.

Do a barrel roll

This one serves no purpose except to have fun. Open a window or two on your Chromebook and press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Reload.

All work and no play something something.

Take a screenshot

You can take a screenshot on a Chromebook just as easily as you can on any other computer. Whether you need to save a piece of information for reference or just need to help someone out by showing something visually, it's extremely simple. Hold the control key and hit the task switching key []]] to capture the screen.

You'll get a desktop notification to click and view the screenshot, or you can always find later it by opening the Files app.

More: How to take a screenshot on a Chromebook

See all of your nerdy system info

In the Omnibox type chrome://system to see a GUI filled with system information. You'll find everything there is to know about your CPU, your memory, your current X-session and more here. It's all laid out in an easy-to-read fashion, and you'll know everything there is to know about your Chromebook's insides.

We can't promise you'll understand everything you see in there, but whatever you need (or want) to know is given to you. Since it opens in a browser tab, searching Google for the parts you don't understand is easy!

Use Powerwash to clean up

If you want to completely remove your Google account and information from your Chromebook and reset it to a "like new" state, it only takes two clicks of the mouse in the settings to use a feature called "Powerwash." Go into your settings and search for Powerwash in the search bar, or go to advanced settings and find it at the bottom. Click the button, then confirm, and your Chromebook will reboot momentarily looking just as it did the day you took it out of the box.

Hopefully, after mastering these few tips and tricks you'll be using your Chromebook like a pro, and can maybe even help out another person or two who are getting acquainted with their own Chromebook!

Updated November 2017 with the latest information and fresh tips!

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4 months ago

Common Galaxy S8 problems and how to fix them

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Samsung Galaxy S8

If you're having trouble with your phone, we're here to help.

The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are great phones, but no device is perfect and there's a chance you may be having some issues with yours over time. Lower than expected battery life, performance issues, running out of storage, problems with radios and more can all affect the Galaxy S8 just as they do any other phone, but all of these issues have potential fixes.

While it's difficult to diagnose every problem you could be having with your Galaxy S8 or S8+, we've grouped together some of the most common issues and have some tips to help you fix them.

Bad battery life

Galaxy S8 power saving mode

No matter how good battery life is on a phone, people will always want more. Here are a handful of tips for making the most of the 3000 or 3500mAh battery you have to work with.

  • Use Power saving mode. Turning it on from the notification shade quick settings or the Device maintenance settings, the "mid" Power saving mode will reduce your screen resolution, lower brightness and stop apps from waking up in the background. You shouldn't use this mode all the time, but if you're low on charge it can be a life saver.
  • You can find battery-intensive apps by going to Device maintenance and tapping on Battery usage to see what's taken up the most power over the course of the day. If something's out of the ordinary, keep an eye on it and see if it continues to cause problems.
  • Uninstall unused apps, as they may be waking up in the background and using battery without your knowledge. If you haven't used an app in a while, there's no need to keep it around when it could be using up your battery.
  • It may look really cool, but you can save lots of battery by turning off Always On Display. Go to Settings, Lock screen and security and tap the toggle next to Always On Display. A compromise can be to limit the hours it runs (via these settings), rather than having it on the whole day.

More: How to fix Galaxy S8 battery life problems

Running out of storage

Samsung made a great move in putting 64GB of internal storage in the Galaxy S8 and S8+, meaning you have even more runway for using the phone without worrying about storage. Still, some people are going to hit that limit sooner or later. Here are some tips for cleaning up your internal storage:

  • Offload photos to a cloud management service like Google Photos. The service offers unlimited backup of slightly compressed high-quality uploads, plus 15GB of free full-quality backups. After the photos are uploaded, you can save space by removing them from your phone.
  • Use the Galaxy S8's built-in Device maintenance feature, found in the settings. Tap on Storage and see what it can offer to clean out — just be aware that it may clear some cached images and temporary files that will just have to be downloaded again when you use some apps.
  • Delete unused apps! You may have gone on a download spree when you first bought your phone, only to end up using 20 of the 200 apps you installed. Scroll through your apps and find a few that you don't use — long press the app icon and tap Uninstall to remove it from your phone. You can always download it again later.
  • Get an SD card, and start to store non-critical data like music, movies, photos and videos on the card. You can move some apps, but the best way to save on storage space is to move big media files first.

Problems unlocking the phone

Samsung Galaxy S8 iris scanner

One of the most contested changes about the Galaxy S8 and S8+ was moving the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phone next to the camera, and the cascading effect it created in making the phones difficult to reliably unlock. Here are a few tips for keeping your Galaxy S8 secure while also letting you quickly access it.

  • Re-train the fingerprint model. Chances are you hastily set up your Galaxy S8 at first, and maybe didn't spend enough time setting your finger on the sensor to get a proper read. Go into the fingerprint sensor settings and tap Edit to remove them, then tap Add fingerprint to start over.
  • Put a case on your phone. As weird as it sounds, putting a case on your Galaxy S8 gives definition and physical separation to the fingerprint sensor, making it easier to locate and more accurately place your finger on the sensor.
  • Turn on Iris scanning in the Lock screen and security settings. After registering your irises, be sure to turn on the "Iris unlock when screen turns on" setting to make sure the phone starts looking for your irises as soon as your screen is active. This can dramatically speed up the unlocking process.
  • Use Smart Lock, also found in the Lock screen and security settings. Smart Lock can keep your phone unlocked through a variety of methods, including when it detects you're at a trusted place or connected to a certain Bluetooth device (like a smartwatch). With these methods, so long as you unlock your phone every four hours it can stay unlocked via these methods.

More: Smart Lock on the S8: Everything you need to know

Home screen launcher isn't right for you

Samsung's launcher has really improved in the past few generations, but still may not be right for you. But fear not — you can change it, and there are many great launchers out there that are simpler, more feature packed, or just offer some customization options you can't get in the default launcher.

We have a list of the best Android launchers, but there are dozens out there that fill all sorts of needs. Start with our list, then head to the Play Store to search for "launcher" and find one you like. You can always switch launchers or go back to Samsung's at any time.

Read: The best Android launchers

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS problems

Dealing with wireless problems can be extremely frustrating, whether you're talking about Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or GPS. There are so many variables involved that it can be tough to tell whether the issue is on the phone's end or somewhere else. The basics of troubleshooting these issues are as follows:

  1. Make sure you turn off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, wait a few seconds and turn it back on. If that doesn't fix the problem, head to the next step.
  2. Restart your phone. Sometimes all that's needed a quick kick to the reset button and you're good to go.
  3. If Wi-Fi problems persist, try forgetting the network by long pressing on the network name and tapping Forget network. Then tap the network again to re-enter the password and re-connect.
  4. If Bluetooth problems persist, try unpairing the device from your phone and re-pairing. To do that, tap on the cog icon next to the product's name and hit Unpair. Put the device you're connecting to in pairing mode and connect again.
  5. If you're worried you may have tweaked settings inadvertently and want to start over, go to General management, Reset and then tap Reset network settings.

If the problems persist at this point, chances are they are related to something else in the chain, like the wireless router or Bluetooth accessory you're trying to use. Follow troubleshooting steps for those devices and start fresh.

Note: There appears to be a Bluetooth problem with some Galaxy S8 units that causes intermittent dropouts and skips on certain Bluetooth devices, particularly wireless headphones and car units. Samsung has said that it is looking into the issue but there is no known fix or scheduled software update at this time.

Wrong screen temperature/color

Galaxy S8 red tinted screen

Initial reports of Galaxy S8s having very warm or red-tinted displays were wildly overblown, but that doesn't mean you have to stick with the display exactly as it came out of the box. To tweak how the display looks so it's closer to what you want, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings.
  2. Tap on Display.
  3. Tap on Screen mode.
  4. First, consider the four presets — adaptive, AMOLED cinema, AMOLED photo or basic — to see if one pleases your eyes.
  5. If none of the presets work for you, tap on Color balance to adjust the screen manually.
    • Move the red, green and blue sliders until you see the right coloration of your display, and tap the back button to return.
    • You can also tap Restore in the top-right corner to go back to the defaults.

How to factory reset the Galaxy S8

Sometimes after lots of troubleshooting and work, you just can't find out what's causing your phone problems. When all else fails, it may be a good idea to just factory reset your phone and start fresh. Back up your important data, and perform these quick steps to reset your phone to the way it came out of the box:

  1. Open the Settings.
  2. Scroll down and tap General management.
  3. Tap on Reset.
  4. Tap on Factory data reset.
    • You'll also notice there are a few other options for just resetting settings or networking settings, which could be worth trying first.
  5. Scroll down and tap the Reset button, then wait for the process to complete.

Other issues

What are your main issues with the Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+? We'll keep this article updated as new information becomes available!

Update July 2017: Article refreshed with the latest information to keep your Galaxy S8 or S8+ in tip-top shape.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked

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4 months ago

OnePlus 5 camera tips and tricks

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OnePlus 5

The best camera is the one you have with you — but the photographer is important, too.

The OnePlus 5 has a capable camera, but as is the case with any other camera it can get better when you learn its quirks and features. Those possibilities are increased by its dual cameras that give you different resolutions, lens apertures and focal lengths — plus the software-enhanced Portrait Mode.

To get the most out of your OnePlus 5's camera, follow these tips and tricks.

Turn on the camera quick launch

This is the simplest tip and one that every can benefit from: turning on the camera quick launch shortcut. Under Settings then Buttons you'll see an option to press the power button twice to launch the camera. With that enabled, you'll always have the camera to hand without having to unlock the phone and launch the app manually.

It's hardly a new thing, but we're happy to see it here. You should use it to make sure the camera is available at a moment's notice.

Mix it up with both lenses

The simplest benefit of the OnePlus 5's dual cameras is that you have two different focal lengths to choose from with the tap of a button. But you shouldn't just think "am I shooting something near or far?" when choosing — both cameras have their benefits, and not just in terms of distance.

The main lens still takes the best overall photos, but the second lens gives a unique look.

Use the main lens when you want the highest-quality photo in general. The 16MP sensor has larger pixels and the lens has a faster aperture, letting in more light and giving you a crisper overall shot. This is particularly true for indoor or low-light shots, where the secondary camera just doesn't get the job done.

Use the long lens for a tighter field of view and unique perspective. The lens is about a 40mm equivalent, which is great for all sorts of shots because it's close to the human eye in terms of its field of view, without being so long that it feels like a telephoto lens. It's great for street scenes or shots where you want the focus more on an individual part of a photo rather than the whole view.

Portrait Mode isn't for every type of scene

With Portrait Mode just a swipe away in the camera app, it may be enticing to start using it for every photo you take. For as fun as it is to play with, Portrait Mode just doesn't work for every type of scene — it's best used in specific scenarios to get the strongest effect. Here are some tips:

  • Pick scenes with a clear, defined foreground object: Portrait Mode works best when there's a single object to focus on and blur the rest — like a person, or a flower, or a cup sitting on a table. It doesn't work well with a mixed scene with several potential primary focal points.
  • Get close to your subject: Portrait Mode just looks weird when you take a shot of an open, expansive area. Step closer to your subject, preferably 2 to 4 feet away from the camera. This way the subject fills a large portion of the scene, leaving less to be blurred in the background.
  • Try a few different shots: Portrait Mode is good, but it's not perfect. Try a few different shots with different focal points, and be sure to let the camera indicate "depth effect" in green in the viewfinder before shooting.

By choosing wisely when you use Portrait Mode, it'll give you the best effect and it won't feel forced or overused. Your Instagram followers will thank you.

The main lens is still good for macro

With both the long lens and Portrait Mode available, it may be enticing to use both of them to take those sharp, close macro-style shots. But oftentimes you'll find the primary camera is actually best for close-ups of delicate objects.

Don't just assume that Portrait Mode's faux bokeh is the best way to go.

With an f/1.7 aperture, the 16MP main camera can often provide the blurred background "bokeh" look common in macro shots better than Portrait Mode can do synthetically. And even though it has a 24mm equivalent focal length, its auto focus system is actually really good and capable of focusing even when you get in tight to an object — you can get within 4 or 5 inches.

The primary camera is also just downright sharper than the secondary lens, and that characteristic is even more on display when you're taking a macro photo that shows off the details of your subject. So next time you go to shoot a macro, consider trying the main camera first.

Resist the urge to digitally zoom

Having a roughly 40mm focal length on the secondary lens is nice because it gets you that much closer to a far-away subject than the main lens. But if you see something far away you need to reach out even further for, you may be enticed into thinking you should just digitally zoom. Even though the second camera has an ample 20 megapixels of resolution to work with, that's not that much runway for digitally zooming before things start to look bad.

1x zoom2x zoom4x zoom8x zoom

The same scene at 1x, 2x, 4x and 8x zoom.

Things start to get pretty grainy and unsightly at about the 4x zoom level, even though the camera will technically let you slide all the way to 8x. So yes, the long lens and 20MP resolution give you some wiggle room — but this is still a small sensor with limited capabilities, and you should respect that. You'll always get better results by zooming with your feet; just walk toward your subject whenever possible!

Dabble in Pro Mode

OnePlus 5 Pro Mode

Most of us will just shoot in auto mode and be happy with the results, but it's worth noting that the "Pro Mode" is just two taps away in the camera app. With Pro Mode turned on, you'll be able to tweak everything imaginable, not unlike the DSLR or mirrorless camera you may be familiar with. Even the interface changes, giving you more advanced options like a horizon line and histogram.

In Pro Mode you can manually set your exposure, focal point, shutter speed, white balance and ISO — and if you know how these work, you can get some great results. Once you lock in some settings that you expect to use often, you can save them as a preset to jump back to later. The camera app also saves RAW files if you choose, which can take things to another level when it comes to editing after the fact. Pair Pro Mode with a tripod, and you could get next-level photos out of this thing.

OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5

OnePlus Amazon

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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4 months ago

How to install the Android SDK on Windows, Mac and Linux

Android SDK

Everything you need to get started with the Android SDK, and everything you need to know about installing it.

Most of us will never need to install the Android SDK. The reason why is right in the name — Software Development Kit. It's built for people writing Android apps who need tools to work with Android from a computer.

But those tools can also be handy for folks wanting to do some more advanced stuff. Stuff like manually updating software or rooting their phone. Fastboot and ADB are vital if you're into "hacking" at the Android software. And Google provides it free for everyone.

What to choose?

There are two ways to get a working set of Android tools on your computer. The easy way is to just install Android Studio. Everything needed to run and use the Android command line tools is part of Android Studio, as well as a way to keep the tools updated. While it's designed for folks who want a complete development environment and includes a code editor, Android emulator, and compiler, you can use just the command line tools and never open the rest.

If you're not afraid to get your feet wet, you can install just the SDK components outside of Android Studio. Installing them is easy (they're inside a zip file) but setting up your computer to use them isn't a straightforward process.

Manually installing the Android SDK

SDK downloads

Download the SDK direct from Google by clicking here. Scroll down a bit and find the section marked "Get just the command line tools" and save it somewhere easy to get to, like your desktop. We'll be extracting it to a better location in the next step.

The file you downloaded is compressed. You'll need to be familiar with compressed files — and how to extract them — to go any further. If you're not, stop here and spend the time to learn about them.

Extract your compressed file into the following location:

  • Windows: The root of your C: drive
  • OS X: Your home folder
  • Linux: Your home folder

Rename the extracted folder to "Android". This will make the rest of this guide, and your time with the SDK, much easier.

Prerequisites

Java

You'll need a working version of Java to run the SDK components. For most things you'll be doing with the SDK both Open Java and Sun Java from Oracle (yes, that Oracle) will work.

  • On a Mac, it's pretty easy because you'll already have it installed unless you uninstalled it. If you did, install it again — you should know how.
  • On Windows, head to the Oracle website and download the correct version (32- or 64-bit) for your computer. Again, if this gives you any trouble stop what you're doing and learn a bit more about your computer. If you can't install Java, maybe you're not yet ready to use the Android SDK.
  • On a Linux computer, you'll also need to install Java. You can find x86 and x64 binaries for Sun Java from Oracle at their website. OpenJDK also works for most things you'll need to do with the SDK.(OpenJDK is now bundled with Android Studio which includes the SDK as well as a development environment) and you'll find complete instructions to get it installed at the OpenJDK website. If you need more assistance or want to use a package manager to install Sun Java, you'll need to refer to the documentation for your particular distro.

Linux users will also have to make sure they have some 32-bit libraries installed if they are running a 64-bit version of the operating system. If you're using Ubuntu or another Debian variant, install ncurses5 and stdc++6 through your terminal:

sudo apt-get install lib32ncurses5 lib32stdc++6

If you're using a different flavor of Linux, find the correct packages for ncurses5 and stdc++6 and install them.

Setting your PATH

Windows 8 PATH

The PATH variable in your computer's operating system tells it where to look when you want to run a command from a terminal or the command line. For example, to run the adb command you either need to type and provide the complete path — ie the folder adb is actually in, inside the SDK folder — or have the location set in the PATH variable itself. It's a bit confusing, but the good news is that doing it is easier than explaining it.

For these directions to work as written, you will have to have extracted and renamed the SDK download folder as mentioned above, and to the correct location for this tutorial.

On Windows

Unless you're still using an older version of Windows, you no longer can set the PATH in the autoexec.bat file or autoexec.nt file. You'll need to update the system Environment Variable settings instead. Here's how it's done on a Windows 10 machine:

  • Hit the Start key on your Keyboard.
  • Start typing the words Environment Variables.
  • As you type, you'll see the choice to Edit the system environment variables. Choose it.
  • In the Environment Variables window, select the PATH line item in the User variables for (your user name) section, then click the Edit button.

Add the full path to the Android SDK tools and Android SDK platform-tools folders in the edit box, separated by a semi-colon. It should look something like this:

C:\Android\tools;C:\Android\platform-tools

For older versions of Windows, refer to the documentation that came with your computer for assistance on setting the PATH. And, again: If you've installed your SDK somewhere other than \Android, you'll need to adjust accordingly.

On a Mac

OSX PATH

You can set your PATH variable on a machine running OS X in your bash profile. Doing so is easy, and is all done in one file.

In your Home folder is a file named .bash_profile. Open it with any text editor. Never touch the .bashrc or .bash_profile files you might find in the /etc directory!

You may see a blank file, or it may be full of other information. All we need to do is add a couple lines to the top of the file:

export PATH="$HOME/Android/tools:$PATH"

export PATH="$HOME/Android/platform-tools:$PATH"

(Did we mention that if your SDK is in another location, you'll need to adjust things accordingly? Good.)

Save the file, and reboot your computer so the new PATH is sourced properly.

On Linux

Setting the PATH on a Linux computer is almost the same as on a Mac, you just edit a different file.

Using your favorite text editor, open the ~/.bashrc file. It will probably exist and have multiple entries. If you get an error that the file does not exist, simply create a new file and save it as ~/.bashrc when finished.

You'll want to add the following two lines to the END of the .bashrc file:

export PATH="$HOME/Android/tools:$PATH"

export PATH="$HOME/Android/platform-tools:$PATH"

Save the file, and close the terminal window. Open a new instance of the terminal and type this command:

source ~/.bashrc

Your session will reference the changes you made and the SDK will be in your PATH.

Wrapping it up

Using adb

You should now have a working set of Android command line tools and be able to do things like flash the latest factory images or manually update your phone with a zip file. And because you did it yourself, you have what you need to fix it when things go wrong.

Good luck and have fun!

Updated July 2017: with the current methods and instructions, and new download locations.

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4 months ago

These are all the ways you can save data and monitor your data usage

Check how much data you're using and control how it's used with these simple tools.

Most people don't need an unlimited data plan. With contract data plans offering up to 10GB per month and off-contract plans from carriers both big and small, there is a data plan that works for almost everyone and chances are using one will save you money. Add in free hotspots from your carrier or even your cable TV company and the need for an expensive unlimited plan gets even less.

Don't pay for data that you aren't using!

There is a small adjustment you need to make if you go this route: watching how much data you use. Your carrier will either slow your data down to 3G speeds, let you run up large overage fees or just cut you off when you've out of data. None of these is a great experience, and neither is buying too much data every month because you're worried it will happen. Luckily monitoring how much data you use is pretty easy, and so is managing how you use it.

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Monitoring your data usage

Step one is finding a way to check how much data you have used during a billing period. There are several ways and they are all effective. Pick the one that suits you best.

Get the total from your carrier

This is the best solution for knowing how much data the carrier thinks you have used. It's important to realize that how much data your phone says you used might not match what your carrier says. And they are the ones who decide when you've used it all.

You can use the web browser on your phone to log into your account at the carrier's website and they might have an app you can install that tells you about your usage for the billing period. Not all carriers will have an app for your phone, and even if they do it might not keep track of your data usage, but it's worth checking for. Take a look at your carrier's website or in Google Play and see what's offered.

A word of warning: While great at giving you access to your account, carrier applications can do a lot more. Sometimes they can be a little intrusive, especially if they came pre-installed. Be sure to read everything you're agreeing to when you install or first use one.

From your phone settings

Android comes with a way to check how much data you've used during a billing period. Some features can vary from phone to phone, but every phone will have a way to see how much data has been used during a set time period. You'll usually find this in your settings menu under Wireless & networks. Look for an entry called Data usage.

For this to be useful you'll need to tell your phone when a new billing period starts. Since it's monitoring how much data moves through the phone itself it doesn't ask your carrier for the numbers. The way Megabytes and Gigabytes can be rounded and calculated mean it can be slightly different from what your carrier says, but usually not by very much. It's a good way to see if you're close to using your monthly allotment.

When you open the Data usage setting you'll see an entry to set up the billing cycle. Tap on it and enter the starting day of the month and it will reset on that day every month. Remember, it can't go back and check what you might have used before you set it up!

Now all you need to do to check how much data your phone has received is look in the settings.

Third party apps

Google Play has well over a Million apps and there are quite a few that can be used to check your data use. You can see a list of them all here. We're unable to recommend any particular app over the other but most of them work the same way and will give the same numbers. Remember that these measure data coming into your phone from your carrier and the numbers won't be exactly the same as what you'll see on your bill. But they'll be close, just like the number found in the settings.

As with any app, you need to look at feedback and permissions before you install an application that can look at the data coming in and out of your phone. While we like checking from the Android settings instead of another app, they can offer features like widgets and custom alarms so it's worth looking.

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Controlling data usage

If you find that you are using more data each month that you would like, there are ways to decide which apps can use data while not on a Wi-Fi connection, as well as settings in most apps that let you control how much data is being used.

Data Saver

Android 7 makes watching how data gets used easily with a super-functional tool called Data Saver.

On the Data Usage screen, you'll see Data Saver listed. Tapping on it allows you to toggle data saver on and off. When Data Saver is on you'll see a notification reminding you about it. You need to know it's on because unless you change the settings it will stop every app and service on your phone from using any data unless you have it open and are using it.

That's great, but to get the most from Data Saver you need to tell it about apps that are allowed to use data if you want them to. That's easy, too. Tap the entry that says Unrestricted data access and you'll get a list of everything on your phone that can use data. You'll know what some of the things are and others will be things Android does you might not have ever heard about. Beside each entry is a switch: Turning the switch on means that app or service is allowed to use data without you asking for it.

Once done, when Data Saver is turned on only the apps you selected can get data from the internet while they aren't open on your screen. This can make a dramatic difference when your phone is idle in your pocket. Remember, things like your email or Twitter apps aren't going to get any notifications if you didn't whitelist them because they aren't allowed to refresh and check for them. You'll still get text messages and phone calls, though.

App settings

Many apps that can use data in the background have a setting that controls how data is used in the background. If you aren't using a phone with Android 7 this can be a great way to get those data hog apps under control.

Every app will be different, but if an app lets you decide what and when it can refresh you'll find it in the settings of the app. Look for things like Background refresh or Automatically update and turn things down or off as needed.

If all else fails, you can still tell Android to cut off background data on a phone not yet running Android Nougat. Head back to the Data usage screen and tap on an app that's been using data. A screen for the app will open and you'll see an entry labeled Background data with a switch beside it. Turn this switch Off to not allow the app to use data unless you're on Wi-Fi. You'll need to do this for each app you want to check.

The kill switch and Airplane mode

In the settings of your phone, you'll also see a setting to turn off the cellular connection completely. you can do this to actually disable the cellular radios so your phone doesn't even try to connect.

You also have what's called Airplane mode. This shuts down your connection to everything, but you are able to turn Bluetooth and Wi-Fi back on after you enable Airplane mode.

While not a great long-term solution, these are easy ways to stop using data altogether with one switch.

Third party apps

Advanced users might want to look at third-party apps that try to restrict how apps can use data. Apps like Greenify can reduce your data usage significantly but aren't that easy to use. Most of the ones that actually work as advertised require you to root your phone as well.

Root apps can save your data but might be complicated to use.

Any time you manually control how apps can use background data, whether through Android N's tools or an app like Greenify, you need to remember that any app or service which requires a data connection isn't going to work if you break that connection. If you don't know what an app is or what it does, you're better off leaving the setting for it alone until you find out if it can be safely changed.

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Using these tools you'll be able to take charge of how much data you use each month. That's a great way to only pay for the data you're actually going to use versus paying your carrier for nothing!

Updated June 2017: We made sure all the information was correct for the latest phones.

Android Nougat

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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4 months ago

How to buy things with Google Home

11

Google makes it easy to shop using your voice.

It seems as though every year our lives get even busier than they were the year before. Between your commute, working, hitting doctor's appointments, making it to the gym, and ensuring everything gets done on time, it can be hard to figure out the best time to run out to the store. That's where Google Home wants to make things a bit easier for you.

You can set up voice purchasing and even reorder items that you've ordered previously. It only takes a few minutes to set up voice purchasing, and we have the details on how to do it right here!

How to set up purchasing on Google Home.

  1. Open the Google Home app.
  2. Tap the menu button(it looks like three horizontal lines in the upper left corner of the screen).
  3. Tap More Settings.

    Open the Google Home app, tap the menu button, tap more settings.

  4. Tap Payments.
  5. Tap Get Started.
  6. Tap accept after reading the Terms and Conditions.

    Tap payments, tap get started, tap accept after reading the terms and conditions.

  7. Tap to choose your default payment method.
  8. Tap Next.
  9. Tap to choose your delivery address.

    Tap to choose your default payment method, tap next, Tap to choose your delivery address

  10. Tap Next.
  11. Tap the toggle to choose the Google Home that can make payments.
  12. Tap Done.

    Tap next, tap the toggle to choose the Google Home that can make payments, tap done.

How to make a purchase using your voice.

  1. Say "Buy [product]", "Order [product]", or "Purchase [product]" to make a single order.
  2. Say "Buy [product] from [store]", "Purchase [product] from [store]", or "Order [product] from [store]" to order a specific product from a specific store.
  3. Say "Reorder [product]" to reorder a single item that you have purchased previously.

Questions?

Have you set up purchasing through Google Home? Do you have a question we didn't answer? Be sure to leave us a comment and let us know about it below!

Google Home

Google Store Best Buy Target

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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4 months ago

How to stop Facebook and Instagram notifications from driving you crazy

20

Before you delete Facebook for being annoying, take a dive into the notification settings.

Quick story time: A few weeks back I went camping out in the remote wilderness for the weekend. We were well out of my carrier's range and so I was unable to check on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for three whole days. When I got back into range of a cell tower, my phone exploded with notifications as expected.

I don't care that "so and so posted something for the first time in a while"!

But among the texts and emails, my Facebook and Instagram notifications stuck out to me. In my absence, no one had actually commented or liked anything on my profile — and yet I still received several notifications about "so and so posted something for the first time in a while" or "that old friend from high school who you barely ever talk to added new photos recently".

Social media notifications are supposed to be about letting you know when someone has commented on or reacted to something you've posted, but then there are all these other types of notifications that seem to serve another purpose — get you looking at your phone, opening up that timeline, and getting distracted in the never-ending stream of content.

The biggest culprits seem to be Facebook and Instagram (which Facebook owns). Naturally, I took to Facebook to vent about this issue, then dove into the app settings to see what could be tweaked. If you're getting fed up with these attention-stealing notifications but don't want to go the nuclear route and delete the apps from your phone, here's how to reel in social media notifications on the biggest culprits — Facebook and Instagram.

How to tweak your Facebook notifications

You're only able to tweak how mobile notifications are delivered via the Facebook app on Android, so tweak the notifications themselves, you need to log into Facebook on a web browser.

  1. Tap the down arrow in the top-right corner.
  2. Tap Settings
  3. Tap Notifications.
  4. Tap On Facebook.

This is where you can tweak the majority of things Facebook will send notifications for. By default, Facebook will notify you of all activity that involves you, whether that's someone tagging you in a photo or commenting on of your posts. If that's all you're after in terms of notifications, you can turn pretty much everything else off.

It seemed like the "Close Friends" notification was the biggest culprit for those random notifications about my friend's Facebook activity. Once you've gone through the Facebook notification settings on your computer, you can fine tune your mobile notifications in the Facebook app.

How to tweak your Instagram notifications

With Instagram, I only want to be sent a push notification if I'm tagged in the post of someone I follow, someone likes or comments on my stuff, someone follows me, or someone is trying to direct message me. That's it.

By default, Instagram will also send notifications if a Facebook friend has recently joined Instagram, the first time an account posts or adds to their Instagram story, any new feature integrations, and even reminders simply to check in on the app. Here's how to turn those ones off.

  1. From your Instagram profile, tap the menu button in the top-right corner.
  2. Swipe up to scroll down until you see Push Notifications
  3. Tap Push Notifications.

  4. Swipe up to scroll through the available notifications.
  5. Tap Off to turn off any notification you don't want to see

Instagram also gives you the option of only allowing push notifications from people you follow, which is good if you find yourself being harassed by spam bots. I'm still finding that Instagram is holding back notifying me on some likes for the sole purpose of getting me to check into the app. I'll check the app and see that three friends have liked a photo, then a half hour later I'll get a notification for one of those three friends. Hard to say if it's a bug or a sneaky way for Instagram to look at your phone but it's the one annoying notification quirk I haven't solved yet.

What notifications drive you crazy?

Is there an app that you use all the time that just spams you with notifications? Let us know and we'll look into helping you calm it down!

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4 months ago

Best alternatives to Project Fi

30

Project Fi is unique, but if for some reason you can't or don't want to subscribe to it, here are some awesome alternatives.

There is nothing else like Project Fi in the U.S. Google's alternative carrier is a unique combination of flexible, powerful and intuitive. With one SIM card, it dynamically switches between three carriers in the U.S. and provides effortless worldwide roaming while abroad. With its app, it's easy to top up on data or share the cost of a plan amongst a group of people.

Project Fi: Everything you need to know

But Project Fi isn't perfect, or at least not perfect for everyone. Case in point: It's a lock-in strategy for Google, since recent Nexus and Pixel devices are compatible with the service. And it's relatively expensive, with a flat rate of $10 per gigabyte of data.

So I thought it would be nice to try to find other carriers in the U.S. that offered at least approximations of Project Fi's service while ensuring compatibility with a wider range of phones. To do that, I made a set of criteria for the alternative providers:

  • It must have an intuitive and flexible payment schedule
  • It must have inexpensive talk and text in the U.S.
  • It must ensure data is relatively affordable
  • It must be compatible with most unlocked phones
  • It should have robust roaming capabilities
  • It should have data rollover or credits for unused data
  • It should offer service through more than one U.S. carrier (for redundancy)

As I said at the beginning, there is nothing else like Project Fi in the U.S., but some providers come relatively close to hitting all of the above criteria. Here's what I found.

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Ting

To many of its long-time users, alternative carrier Ting is a darling of flexibility and customer service. The main appeal for Project Fi admirers is the flexible, modular plans, which let you pay for exactly how much talk time and texting you need, along with simple, affordable data tiers.

Prices for a single line start at $32 for 100 minutes of talk and text and 2GB of data, but it's not much more to add considerably more from each category. It's also just $6 per additional line, which is pretty great.

Ting also has access to two networks, Sprint and T-Mobile, though unlike Project Fi you can't dynamically switch between them — your phone may be compatible with both services, but you'll need to choose whether you want GSM or CDMA service, and can switch SIM cards based on your location and coverage.

One thing I constantly hear about Ting, too, is that it offers fantastic customer service and flexibility. And while its roaming rates are not included in the base package like Project Fi, they're relatively inexpensive.

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Cricket Wireless

AT&T's discount brand, Cricket Wireless, doesn't tick every box for Project Fi wannabes, but it comes close on a few. For example, it offers excellent nationwide coverage, since it runs on AT&T's network, and as a result should be compatible with almost every unlocked phone sold in the U.S. today.

It also has simple, inexpensive and flexible plans that offer unlimited U.S. talk and text, plus the ability to roam in Canada and Mexico on two of the higher-tier (but at $50 and $60, still affordable) plans.

There are a couple of caveats, though: Cricket limits LTE download speeds to 8Mbps, and 4G speeds to 4Mbps, which is considerably slower than what AT&T's network is capable of. Mobile hotspot is only available on the 8GB plan, and additional data is $10 per gigabyte, which matches Project Fi.

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Consumer Cellular

Like Ting, Consumer Cellular operates on T-Mobile's GSM network, but it also has access to AT&T's coverage if you need it. It's got a reputation for amazing customer service, and its flexible plans are really quite generous: you start at $10 for pay-per-usage calls and add either a bucket or talk-and-text or just a healthy smattering of data. 5GB is $40, which isn't particularly cheap, but if you're just looking for data and a few phone calls, it should be fine. Consumer Cellular also charges a familiar $10/GB for additional data, up to 12GB per month.

Unlike the other choices, Consumer Cellular doesn't have any roaming capabilities, so if that's necessary then you're out of luck. But it does let you add a second line to your account for only $10 per month, and AARP members get a 5% monthly discount, which can add up over time.

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MetroPCS

Finally, MetroPCS is also a fairly good provider, since it now lives on T-Mobile's network but offers services that are considerably cheaper and more flexible. You can get unlimited talk, text and data, plus hotspot support, for $60 per month, while 2GB of data is just half that amount. MetroPCS doesn't offer international data roaming, but call and text adds-ons for Canada and Mexico are just $5 per month.

Because MetroPCS runs on T-Mobile's network, most unlocked phones are going to be compatible with it, which makes it an excellent option for bring-your-own-device enthusiasts.

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The reality

The reality is that nothing in the U.S. is like Project Fi. Google's carrier experiment may be a little more expensive on a per-gigabyte basis, and more restrictive from a phone choice perspective, but in many ways, and for many people, it's the ideal network provider.

Of course, not everyone has access to a Nexus or Pixel phone, so hopefully these offerings will come in handy when you're searching for your next alternative carrier.

Alternative carriers (MVNOS)

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4 months ago

How to take, edit and share a screenshot on the OnePlus 5

1

Save and share with just a couple of steps.

Every company does its screenshot interface a little different, and this is one area where OnePlus deviates from the stock Android experience. Instead of simply giving you a screenshot that you can share, it now includes options to do a scrolling screenshot, edit your screenshot before sharing and more.

Here are all the tricks you need to know to take, edit and share screenshots on your OnePlus 5.

How to take a screenshot on the OnePlus 5

  1. To take a screenshot, press and hold the volume down and power buttons at the same time.
    • Alternatively, you can turn on "three-finger screenshot" in the Gestures settings of your phone.
  2. When the screenshot is captured, you'll see a toolbar at the bottom of the screen with additional options.
  3. To instantly share the full screenshot, press the leftmost button that looks like three dots connected by two lines. Choose the app you want to share to, and it will be shared as an attachment.
  4. To edit (crop, filter, draw) before sharing, tap the next button to the right that looks like a pencil.
    • Make your crops or other edits, then tap save in the top-right corner of the screen.

How to take a scrolling screenshot on the OnePlus 5

The OnePlus 5 also offers a "scrolling" style screenshot that can capture one long, continuous screenshot that shows more content than can fit on the screen at one time. Here's how to capture one.

  1. To take a scrolling screenshot, press and hold the volume down and power buttons at the same time.
    • You'll then see a toolbar at the bottom of the screen with additional options.
  2. Tap the rectangular button right of center that looks like a phone screen.
    • This will only work if the app you're screenshotting is capable of scrolling vertically.
  3. Let the screen scroll vertically until it has captured as much as you want, then tap the screen to stop it.
    • If you don't stop it manually, the screenshot will eventually stop if it hits the "bottom" of the scrolling or hits a size limit.
  4. Once captured, you can use the buttons at the bottom of the screen to share or edit the screenshot the same way as any other screenshot.

No matter how you do it or where you share it, screenshots are a super useful tool!

OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5

OnePlus Amazon

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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4 months ago

Traveling to India? These are the apps you need to install

4

India has a thriving local app ecosystem, and you should take advantage of that.

India is now the second-largest smartphone market, only behind China. Mainstream availability of 4G and an influx of affordable handsets has led to a meteoric rise in smartphone adoption in the country, and for millions of users, their phone is the only gateway to the internet. As a result, there's a thriving app ecosystem in the country.

If you're traveling to India for the first time or are returning to the country, these are the apps you need to install on your phone.

Google Maps

Google Maps comes bundled with every Android phone, which is a good thing as the service is invaluable in India. Most cities in the country aren't well-planned, and a distinct lack of road signs makes getting to your destination harder than it should be. While you can ask around for directions — most of the country is English literate — a better option is to just use Google Maps.

Google has invested significant resources into its Maps program in India, and the service is as reliable as it is in Western markets. You get easy access to live traffic information, along with schedules for public transit, the ability to download areas offline, and turn-by-turn directions. If you're heading to a city like Bangalore, where the traffic situation is unpredictable at best and downright horrendous most days, you're going to need Maps.

Everything you need to know about Google Maps

Uber/Ola

Public transportation isn't the best way of getting around in India, but there's no dearth of ride-hailing services in the country. India is one of Uber's largest markets, and you're likely to find a cab at any hours of the day in most cities. In the odd instance that you cannot get a cab on Uber, you can rely on Ola, India's local ride-hailing service.

Both Uber and Ola let you book a ride in advance. With Uber, you can use the number and credit card account that's already associated with your account, but with Ola you'll have to use a local number. If you don't already have a local number, you can easily get your hands on one. When it comes to payment, you can add your credit card, or use cash.

Google Translate

English literacy is great in most sections of India, but there will be times when you'll run into locales where there's only Hindi or other regional languages. India has over 23 official languages, so a good bet is to have Translate installed. Because India is a major market for Google, the search giant has done a lot of the legwork in translating some of the more commonly used languages in the country. As such, you'll be able to get on-the-fly translation even if you're in remote sections of India.

Download Google Translate from the Play Store

Paytm

Paytm is one of the most useful services in India. The app lets you book local flights, trains, and buses, and offers the easiest way to pay for purchases at most local stores. The service started out as a digital wallet, and most merchants — including restaurants, retail stores, and street vendors — now accept Paytm as a valid form of payment.

To get started, you'll need to have a local SIM card as Paytm relies on a mobile number for sending a OTP (one-time password) during account creation. Once you set up, you can send money by scanning a QR code at an establishment, or via entering the recipient's mobile number.

Zomato

Zomato is India's version of Yelp. You can easily find a restaurant of your liking based on your cuisine or budget preferences, and it has a curated list that highlights prominent eateries in a particular city. Like Yelp, Zomato has an active community of users that rate restaurants.

Download Zomato from the Play Store

BookMyShow/Insider

If you're going to be in India for a while or are looking to explore local events — there are plenty of gigs every weekend in major cities — you should take a look at BookMyShow. The service is present in most major cities, and gives you a detailed selection of all the events in town.

BookMyShow's user experience has deteriorated over the course of the last year — you'll see ads everywhere — but the service is still great at highlighting events in your city. An alternative to BookMyShow is Insider, which is slowly gaining ground.

Hyperlocal delivery

If you're not looking to go out, there are several apps that you can use to get food delivered to your location. Swiggy and Zomato Order are two of the leading hyperlocal delivery services, with both apps serving up options around a five-kilometer radius from your location.

Need to get groceries delivered? No problem. BigBasket is the FreshDirect of India, and you'll be able to buy everything from fruits and vegetables to packaged goods and household essentials. The best part is that delivery only costs ₹20 (30 cents), and the service also offers a 90-minute delivery option if you're in a hurry that will set you back just ₹30 ($45 cents).

If you're traveling to Bangalore, you should try out Google's own solution, Aero. The app collates information from several hyperlocal services, giving you a variety of options from a single interface.

Find My Device

Finally, before you head off on your travels, make sure you have Find My Device installed and set up. Google recently overhauled the user interface, but the core functionality is still intact. Find My Device lets you remotely track, lock, and erase the data on a lost or stolen phone.

Got any questions? Let us know in the comments below.

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4 months ago

How to Fix Your PlayStation Aim Controller Not Charging

If your Aim controller won't charge, don't panic. It's easy to fix! .

We've all been there. We have plans for how to use our hot new piece of tech, yet when we try to go and use it, it's not working properly. One of the more common issues seen is the failure to charge, which can be one of the most frustrating because you don't have any error codes or flashing lights to aid you in your troubleshooting.

If this happens to your PlayStation Aim controller, though, there are some easy steps you can follow to get things straightened out.

Read more at VRHeads

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4 months ago

What are the advantages of going with an alternative carrier?

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Using an alternative to the big four wireless providers is a great idea for many of us, and here are some reasons why.

When we talk about phone companies most of us automatically think of the big four here in the U.S.: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. But they're not the only choices when it comes to who you get your service from and the popularity of alternative carriers is on the rise.

It's not difficult to understand why. Having a carrier that uses the same nationwide networks the big guys do without some of the baggage that comes along with those big guys is an attractive position for a lot of people. There is a lot to talk about, both good and bad, in any discussion about finding the right carrier and if a smaller alternative option is best for you. The advantages for you are especially important to consider.

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You can save a lot of money

Depending on how you use your phone (as always) you can save a nice chunk of money every month. Different companies use different ways to price out your data. Some will let you buy several months worth of data at significantly less compared to a monthly payment. Others let you buy an amount of data and use it until it's gone, and others charge a flat fee and bill or credit you based on how much data you used in a month.

Not everyone needs an unlimited data plan.

The things they all have in common as that you're not paying for data you didn't use. Combined with cheaper prices per block of data this can mean a smaller bill if you don't use a lot of data. Alternative carriers are not for people who need unlimited data, but not everyone needs unlimited data.

Take Mint SIM for example. The company doesn't sell unlimited packages, but uses T-Mobile's network to offer ultra-cheap 4G LTE data — as low as $2 per gigabyte — in bundles of 2GB, 5GB and 10GB. And by bundling service into multiple months, you pay less when averaged out over a 12-month period.

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This is the biggest reason people choose to move away from the big players in the industry and try something different. If you look at where you use your data and how much you use, you could be one of those people.

You might get a better coverage map

An alternative carrier doesn't own the cell towers and infrastructure they use to provide service. They lease it at a set price from the bigger carriers and resell service to you and me. Sometimes they lease from more than one carrier and can provide service in all the places from both.

No carrier is good everywhere, but unless you're in a very rural part of the country you'll have at least one company with good service. A company that can offer service using two coverage maps has an advantage for anyone who spends time where they are covered by at least one.

Not all carriers do this, so be sure to do your homework when you choose. Two notable examples are Net10 and Red Pocket that lease service from all four major carriers, or Project Fi which leases service from T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular.

No-frills service

You're paying for calls, texts, and data. That's usually all you're going to get.

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There's no denying that some of the perks phone carriers can offer are nice. Unlimited texting to Canada and Mexico is a good example. But some folks just don't need anything extra.

By not having extra services the price can be cheaper. If you don't need anything more than basic service and 4G data, an alternative carrier could be great for you. Some alternative carriers do offer perks for calling and texting internationally, so when you're shopping be sure to check on them.

No credit checks

Times can be tough and less than great credit can make getting a post-paid account with the big four carriers difficult. And a credit check leaves a record on you that can adversely affect something like a car loan or mortgage.

If you don't want to go through a credit check for any reason, you might choose an alternative carrier that doesn't require one. Most don't, and you simply pay up front for what you use.

Bring your own phone

As long as it's compatible with the network you choose, you can bring your existing phone and use it without any problems.

You can also buy any unlocked phone that works with the network from anywhere you like. This gives you a lot of choices from most all companies making phones today.

Best of all, you can change phones at any time. If you like the phone you have now you can use it until you like something else better. With the cost of the service being completely separate from the cost of your phone any decisions are yours to make.

While they aren't for everyone, you can see there are some really compelling reasons to give another carrier a try, even if they don't have the brand-power the bigger ones may.

Updated June 2017: We made sure the information here was great and still relevant!

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4 months ago

How to share your photo library in Google Photos

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Google Photos has a major new feature, and it makes it easier to share your whole library with someone you trust.

Google Photos is already one of the best places to upload, archive and share photos, videos and albums. But recently, at Google I/O 2017, the company announced a new feature that would allow people to share their library with someone close to them, such as a parent, partner, child or best friend.

Obvious with sharing an entire library, there are some privacy concerns, so here's what you need to know about the new feature.

How to share your library with someone

  1. Open Google Photos on your Android phone or tablet.
  2. Open up the left-side "hamburger" menu.
  3. Tap Share your library.
  4. Select person you want to share with from the list, or type in name.

  5. Select whether you want to share All photos or Photos of specific people.
    • If you select Photos of specific people, follow the instructions to choose the ones you want.
  6. Decide whether you want to share all photos or Only show photos since a specific day.
    • If you select Only show photos since this day, choose that day.
  7. Ensure all the details are correct and press Send invitation.
  8. Enter your phone's PIN, pattern or password.

After that, if the person you sent the invitation to chooses to accept it, the photos you shared will be available to them.

How to remove access to a shared library

So you gave away a bit too much of yourself and now you want to take it back. That's pretty easy, too!

A word of warning: People you give access to have the ability to save shared images, and automatically save future shared images, to their own library, so even if you retract access to your library, they may have a local copy.

  1. Open Google Photos on your Android phone or tablet.
  2. Open up the left-side "hamburger" menu.
  3. Tap on Shared with email address of the person you want to remove.
  4. Tap on three-dot menu button at the top right.
  5. Tap on Shared library settings.

  6. Tap on Remove partner.
  7. Confirm and tap on Remove.

Now that person will no longer have access to your library!

How to accept a shared library request from someone

If you're on the receiving end of a shared library request, you can easily accept it and start scrutinizing perusing the photos in your special someone's gallery.

  1. Open Google Photos on your phone or tablet.
    • If you received an email, open it and tap Accept invitation.
  2. Open up the left-side "hamburger" menu.
  3. Tap Invitation from person.
  4. Review photos in library and tap the ones you want to save.
    • If you want to save automatically, tap Start saving automatically.
    • Choose All photos to automatically save future photos to your library.

That's it! You can now go through the other person's library and choose the photos you want to save to yours. If you enable automatic saving, you'll be notified whenever new photos are added to the other person's library.

Questions?

This is a new feature and there are surely kinks to work out, so if you have any questions, feel free to leave them below!

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4 months ago

How much mobile data does streaming media use?

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Here's the breakdown on how much data streaming music and video use so you know how much to budget.

The things most of us love to do with our phones is also the thing that eats the most data: stream music and video.

Modern phones and streaming services were made for each other. Your phone is capable of delivering high-quality content through the screen or its audio components and streaming services like YouTube, Netflix and Spotify were made to deliver them. The first popular media-centric phone was the iPhone. Both Apple and Google owe a lot of their success to this because it was also the best way to watch YouTube in the palm of your hands.

Things have come a long way since then, but one thing hasn't changed. We love to watch and listen with our phones. But the advent of HD video streaming and high-bitrate audio streaming means that it also gobbles up the data like never before. Let's break it down to see just how much data you use when you fire up your favorite streaming app.

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Streaming audio

While some services offer super-HQ streaming music, most services use the same scale: Low, Normal and High. And most use the same bitrate (the number of bits per second that are transmitted digitally) to define each category. Here's how they look and how much data each will consume.

  • Low quality is typically 96kbps. On average, Low-quality audio streaming uses 0.72MB per minute or 43.2MB per hour.
  • Normal quality is 160kbps. Normal-quality music streaming uses 1.20MB per minute or 72MB per hour on average.
  • High quality music is 320kbps. High-quality streaming music uses 2.40MB per minute or 115.2MB per hour on average.

"Average" is the key word here. Most services offer streaming service that auto-adjusts based on your network conditions, and some (Apple Music and Beats Music are an example) use lower quality bitrates for all categories. But most any other service, including Google Play Music and Spotify, follow these guidelines when you don't have things set up to auto-adjust.

Streaming video

As you can imagine, streaming video uses a lot more data than audio does. There's just more information being transmitted. And your network conditions play a big part in how the media is streamed because nobody likes buffering. Thankfully, apps are smart enough to ask for a video stream that will work with the available network speeds and buffering is mostly a thing of the past. Mostly. Note that this hidden feature will usually override your settings when it has to, but if you ask for an HD or 4K video, you'll get it if it can be delivered.

Here's how the streams break down on average.

  • Low quality video is very low-quality. think 240p or 320p. Low-quality settings will use about 0.3GB (300MB) per hour.
  • SD quality video is standard 480p video. SD-quality video uses about 0.7GB (700MB) per hour.
  • HD quality video is between 720p and 2K (remember, the app adjusts the stream). HD-quality video uses about 0.9GB (720p), 1.5GB (1080p) and 3GB (2K) per hour.
  • UHD quality video uses a lot of data. A 4K stream uses about 7.2GB per hour.

Again, these are averages and Netflix has helped by telling us how much data their service uses. Compression, variable quality based on network conditions and your phone's cache will all factor in here, but these numbers are a pretty safe bet.

How much can I stream on my data plan?

A typical data plan that's not unlimited (and not from T-Mobile or other company who practices zero-rating) comes in 2GB, 5GB and 10GB flavors. If you wanted to stream media while using your data connection, here's what each tier will allow:

  • A 2GB plan will let you stream

    • 47 hours of low-quality music
    • 28 hours of normal-quality music
    • 17 hours of high-quality music
    • 6.5 hours of low-quality video
    • 2.8 hours of standard definition video
    • 2.2 hours of 720p video
    • 1.3 hours of 1080p video
    • 0.6 hours of 2K video
    • 0.25 hours of 4K video
  • A 5GB plan will let you stream

    • 117 hours of low-quality music
    • 70 hours of normal-quality music
    • 42.5 hours of high-quality music
    • 16.25 hours of low-quality video
    • 7 hours of standard definition video
    • 5.5 hours of 720p video
    • 3.25 hours of 1080p video
    • 1.5 hours of 2K video
    • 0.6 hours of 4K video
  • A 10GB plan will let you stream

    • 234 hours of low-quality music
    • 140 hours of normal-quality music
    • 85 hours of high-quality music
    • 32.5 hours of low-quality video
    • 14 hours of standard definition video
    • 11 hours of 720p video
    • 6.5 hours of 1080p video
    • 3 hours of 2K video
    • 1.2 hours of 4K video

We followed the industry standard 1,000MB = 1GB formula here and not the "real" calculation of 1,024MB in one GB. That's because your carrier might do the same. And remember — these are close estimations. Because of how data is compressed and bitrates changed based on every situation, my measurements may be a little different than yours. And none of this takes any rounding your carrier might do into account. To us, 1.7MB is 1.7MB, not 2MB.

Streaming HD media uses a lot of data. Know this before you decide how much you need.

One thing these figures show is that you're always better off using Wi-Fi to stream high-quality media. Besides the data savings, Wi-Fi also has a more robust signal that will mean less degradation or compression. Your internet company probably optimizes media traffic, but not nearly as much as your wireless carrier does. You can also use services that let you download or pin your media while you're on Wi-Fi and play it back later.

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Just be aware that if you watch 8-hours of HD video every day, you're going to need upwards of 300GB of data. That means you'll need an unlimited plan that doesn't have the fine-print telling you "unlimited" stops at 22 or 24GB then gets too slow to stream. Such an animal doesn't exist, and carriers that zero-rate aren't going to serve you 2K video (or even 1080p).

Uses these numbers to plan out how much data you need for streaming if you're shopping for service.

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