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1 week ago

Feeling depressed? These apps can help, or get you help

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Life is long and arduous, and some of us have to face it with a health condition in tow. But sometimes, an app can help.

Mental health is not the easiest topic of discussion considering the social stigma surrounding it, but that hasn't stopped the breadth of mobile therapy and mood diary apps available in the Google Play Store. Treatment can be cost-prohibitive if you're not insured or don't have access to the proper resources, however, and while we'd never suggest that a app is adequate treatment for a condition, their mere existence has inspired the idea that you can use a smartphone to help manage your day to day.

I've even found my own routine with some apps. I've used Daylio, for example, to keep a micro-diary so that I could track my moods and day-to-day neurosis to present to my doctor. I've used the Muse brain sensing headband to learn to meditate, which has helped me make better use of apps like Pacifica that offer relaxation and mindfulness tools. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has also developed a rating system for these particular apps, while Scientific American has come out warning users against phony apps:

According to the FDA, those psychiatric apps that provide coping techniques for people with diagnosed mental health conditions pose low risks to consumers. These apps will be regulated at the fda's discretion, and many will therefore escape the agency's safety and effectiveness assessments. Some experts, however, say that these apps can still be hazardous if they give out shoddy advice or otherwise mislead vulnerable consumers. 'Some of [these apps] are really good, and some of them are awful,' says Michael Van Ameringen, a psychiatry professor at McMaster University in Ontario. 'Clinicians and consumers need help sorting through them.'

So, while we can easily conclude that not all therapy apps are right for you, there are certainly plenty available that can at least help guide you on a path towards treatment that works. If you're suffering from depression, anxiety, or general dread for what tomorrow may bring, a talk therapy app or a micro-diary service could help at least organize those thoughts. Here are five apps we suggest you start with if you're considering it.

Headspace

Meditation is a thing that works for many people — and 8 percent of adults practice it regularly in the United States. It's about training your mind to focus attention, which — and I speak from experience – is much harder than merely thinking it.

Headspace is a great app for starting a practice of daily meditation. I've friends who use the service religiously. The service offers a basic meditation program, or you can upgrade to an annual subscription to unlock other programs and facets of the app. (There just so happens to be a 40 percent sale on annual subscriptions until July 24.)

Download Headspace (free)

BetterHelp

Need to talk to someone, but don't even know where to start? You can hire a counselor through the BetterHelp app, which offers access to 2000 counselors, accredited psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and clinical social workers from around the country.

After you sign up, you'll have to fill out a questionnaire so that the service can match you to an available counselor who might fit your criteria. Like other virtual talk therapy apps, BetterHealth offers a "virtual room" of sorts where you can walk in, take a seat, and wait for your session — just like you would in real life. You're not limited to the number of sessions you can have with your assigned counselor either, as long as both of you are available at the same time. Plans start at $65 a week for counseling.

Download BetterHelp (free)

TalkLife

Remember Secret? TalkLife app is sort of like that, but not at all as malicious, or dangerous to your mental health. If anything, Talk Life is a great place to go if you want to talk about what's going on, but you'd rather do so in a casual, candid manner. All you have to do is log on, tap out your thoughts, and share.

There are no therapists on this app, though. Anything you post can be seen by whoever is hanging around at the time, and they can like and comment on your posts at will. The most recent update even added stickers.

In my experience, most of the people lurking about are kind and generous with their positive affirmations; I didn't see one critical comment pop up in the three days I was using the app. However, I do have to offer a trigger warning, as there is ample talk of suicide and abuse in the main feed. When you start feeling alright, you can then log on to help others as they need, too. The point of Talk Life is that you're not alone.

Download TalkLife (free)

What's Up?

What's Up? is a relatively straightforward app with straightforward functionality, but I like it because getting into the habit of launching it when you start to spiral can help you get out of those unproductive patterns.

What's Up? is a free app that offers a few cognitive behavior tools (CBT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) methods to help you get through daily stressors. It offers advice on how to deal with the most common negative thinking patterns, as well as metaphors to help you snap out of your funk. There's also a positive and negative habit tracker, which you can password protect if you feel the need, as well as a catastrophe scale, which helps you determine the true weightiness of the situation at hand. There are even forums if you need a reality check from someone anonymous.

Download What's Up? (free)

Talkspace

Perhaps you've seen the commercials on television? Like BetterHelp, TalkSpace offers on-demand therapy and counseling from licensed professionals. The service gives you access to your therapist as you need, including the ability to message for help the minute you're feeling overwhelmed. The service starts at $32 a week.

Download Talkspace (free)

Your choices

Got any suggestions for apps to help with improving mental health? We're all ears!

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1 week ago

Save net neutrality and keep our mobile future awesome

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Do your part to keep the internet open and weird.

I love to tell people what I think of a particular thing, be it a product or brand or service provider. I'll freely tell someone to go with T-Mobile as a carrier, for example, because it offers the best compromise between speed, value, and coverage. Rarely, though, does it occur to me to judge a provider based on its stance towards net neutrality, a topic that has a direct impact on the American people.

Maybe I should.

Today, July 12, is the Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality, where thousands of companies are taking a stand to support the current state of the internet. We at Mobile Nations stand with larger entities like Google, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, and thousands of others in urging the FCC to uphold Title II regulations, which designate as telecommunication services, legally preventing them from changing the way internet traffic is sent, shaped, and received.

Net neutrality is a complicated topic — we have a small explainer if you want to learn a bit more about it — but the move to deregulate parts of the internet comes from a self-proclaimed libertarian FCC chair, Ajit Pai, whose desire is to see less government regulation around telecommunications services at all costs, regardless of whether they negatively impact consumers.

The onus shouldn't be on us, the consumer, to police bad actors. The FCC wants that to be the case.

In an interview he gave with NPR earlier this year, he said that instead of the arrangement we have now, which pre-emptively abrogates the preferential treatment of certain types of internet traffic over others, he wants to move to regulating on a case-by-case basis.

First and foremost, we want to make sure that all content that is lawful on the Internet can be accessed by consumers — that's a bedrock protection of the open Internet that I think everybody would agree with. ... But secondly, we want to make sure that we have the ability to allow all kinds of streaming companies, others who create content on the Internet, to be able to reach their endpoints, which is the consumers.

And so we can envision some pro-competitive arrangements that allow for video in particular to be delivered in an efficient way. And one could conceive anti-competitive arrangements. And the simple point I've made is that we can't predict in advance every single potential type of outcome — some might be good, some might be bad — and on a case-by-case basis let's figure out what types of conduct are anti-competitive or otherwise would harm consumers or innovators, and take action if we see something like that arise.

Pai's argument arises out of a firm belief that over-regulation leads to a decrease in investment and cites examples of how certain internet companies have limited wired broadband and fixed mobile expansion into rural areas over the last few years. He also believes in what he calls a "free and open internet" that is not shackled by the 1930's-era Title II classification that oversaw Ma Bell, a true telecom monopoly.

"If you act before the fact, then you're preemptively saying that we think the marketplace is forever going to be the same and we can take account of every particular kind of conduct," he said. "You could be prohibiting a number of pro-competitive business arrangements."

While Pai may be correct in an environment where meaningful competition didn't already exist, if we look at what's happened to the U.S. wireless market since Title II was implemented in 2015, we see a clear trend towards an internet that is more accessible, mobile, and competitive. We see companies like T-Mobile — a proponent itself of the end of net neutrality, mind you — undercutting Verizon and AT&T, pushing the former carrier duopoly to not only lower prices but to become much more transparent in how they treat their customers. An open, free internet also leads to savvier, more educated users, and the expansion of net neutrality laws brought the layperson into the conversation.

Perhaps the most vexing and frustrating thing about Pai's insistence that pre-emptive regulation needs to be removed in favor of a lighter regulatory touch is his placement of the onus on the consumers — you, me, us — to identify violators. "Especially in the Internet age," he said, "consumers are able to complain to the Federal Trade Commission authorities, the Justice Department, the FCC, other state agencies."

Right now, the FCC is forced to police the internet service providers on our behalf, to enforce regulations that prevent companies like AT&T and Verizon from silently and sneakily limiting their unlimited plans, as they once did, and not following through with broadband expansion contracts because they weren't guaranteed a big enough return.

Zero-rating may seem like a good thing, but it opens the door for a lot that's terrible.

The rollback of net neutrality isn't about making legal so-called consumer-friendly tactics such as zero-rating, which has become so pervasive in the U.S. that it's not clear whether people actually associate them with the movement anymore. But that pervasiveness denotes an insidiousness to how network providers approach regulation, always trying to find a legal maneuver around the problem. When T-Mobile stopped counting streaming music and video services against a user's monthly data cap, it did so knowing that the FCC would eventually hold it to account for its actions. It took a new administration and a libertarian, light-touch-regulation chair to drop all inquiries into whether zero-rating violated net neutrality.

While it may sound like programs like T-Mobile's Binge On and others like it benefit consumers — who doesn't want more data for free? — they have the potential to shut out smaller companies that lack the requisite size or influence to make a deal with a massive carrier. Recently, carriers in the UK began mimicking their U.S. counterparts. In Canada, such zero-rating programs were recently banned not just for their own sake, but to show the telecom regulator's commitment to reinforcing the rules of net neutrality.

Should Title II classification be stripped away from the service providers to whom we give thousands of dollars every year, such legal challenges will be more difficult to win, and carriers — even AT&T, which is reportedly joining the fight to uphold net neutrality — will be free to do more in the name of profit, at the expense of the internet we love.

If you want to do just that, you have until July 17 to submit your comments to the FCC about why a truly free and open internet deserves to be something Americans take for granted.

Join the fight to uphold Net Neutrality

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1 week ago

Now there's a KFC-branded Huawei smartphone

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KFC phone

Limited edition Colonel phone to celebrate 30th anniversary in China.

KFC is celebrating its 30th anniversary in China, and that means one thing: Limited edition promotional products. Like this bright red Huawei smartphone bearing the face of Colonel Sanders.

As AdAge, KFC was among the first Western brands to arrive in China, and the inaugural year of 1987 is emblazoned alongside the image of the Colonel on the back of the handset.

Specs and price are unclear at the moment, and the phone doesn't appear to directly match any Huawei phone we know. The nearest resemblance would perhaps be the Honor 8 Pro.

KFC phone

The phone was announced by both brands at an event in China; news reports didn't say how much it would cost or where it would be sold. KFC has a shop on e-commerce giant Alibaba Group's TMall platform, where it already sells food deals that you can pick up in-store, so that might be a possible sales channel.

No word on whether the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner works with greasy, chicken-soaked fingers.

Update: The Verge is reporting that the KFC phone will feature a 5-inch screen, a Snapdragon 425 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage plus microSD, and a 3,020mAh battery. Prices start at 1,099 RMB, a little under $162 at the current exchange rate.

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1 week ago

The 8bitdo Zero is an excellent Bluetooth controller that fits on a keychain

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Game controllers are pretty big. But not this one, oh no.

It's called the Zero and it's from a company called 8bitdo, which is based in China and produces a lot of modern takes on old, retro gaming hardware. If you want a Bluetooth version of an original SNES or N64 controller, or perhaps want to use a wireless controller with an original NES system, chances are 8bitdo can take care of you.

The Zero isn't a modern take on a classic, though. It's an insanely small game controller that you can carry on a keychain and doesn't suck.

And it's only $17.

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1 week ago

How to use YouTube for Android

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How do I use YouTube on Android?

Keyboard Cat. Muffins. Charlie Bit Me. Grape Lady Falls. Chocolate Rain. The list of classic YouTube videos goes on and on. And aren't we lucky that the YouTube app comes standard with just about every Android phone on the market?. So, how do you get to all these classic gems? How do you play them and subscribe to the channels you love?

Here's how!

How to search for videos

You can search for videos by keyword, topic, title, channel, whatever. Just type in what you want to find and away you go!

You can also find videos under the home (the little house button), trending (the fire button), and subscriptions (the play button with tabs behind it) tabs.

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Tap the search button in the upper right corner of your screen. It looks like a magnifying glass.
  3. Type in your search.
  4. Tap the search button on the bottom right of your keyboard. It's the magnifying glass.
  5. Tap on a video to view it.

Once you search for a video and tap on it, it'll play automatically.

Playback controls

  • Tap the video area to bring up the play controls. Don't tap the center if you don't want to pause.
  • Tap the center of the video to play or pause.
  • Tap and drag along the play bar to scrub through the video.
  • Tap the next button or previous button to skip to the next video in the list or to go back to the video you were watching before.
  • To minimize the video from full-screen, tap minimize at the far right end of the play bar.
  • If you're on a device with an extra-tall screen like a Galaxy S8, you can tap the crop to fit button located above the right side of the play bar.

How to change video quality

If you're trying to save on data or you prefer all of your video in as high definition as possible, you can raise or lower the video quality at will.

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Find the video you want to watch.
  3. Tap the more button on the top right of the video pane. It looks like three vertical dots. You may have to tap the video to bring up the playback controls.

  4. Tap Quality.
  5. Tap a resolution in the list.

Setting a lower resolution can help reduce the amount of data you use while streaming on a cellular signal. Some videos may not have certain resolutions available.

How to enable/disable captions

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Find the video you want to watch.
  3. Tap the more button on the top right of the video pane. It looks like three vertical dots. You may have to tap the video to bring up the playback controls.

  4. Tap Captions.
  5. Tap a language if there are more than one available or tap Turn off captions if you don't want them on.

How to sign in to YouTube

If you want to like, comment, or subscribe on YouTube, you'll need to sign in with a YouTube account if you haven't already. Good news: If you have a Google account, which owning an Android device you really should, you already have a YouTube account and need only sign in!

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Tap the Account on the top right of your screen. It's the circle with the silhouette of a person inside.
  3. Tap Sign In.
  4. Tap the account you want to sign in with.

You'll be signed in to YouTube with your new account.

How to subscribe to a YouTube channel

If you find a video you really like and want more from that YouTuber, you can subscribe to their channel. You'll need an account.

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Search the video or channel from the YouTuber to whom you'd like to subscribe.
  3. Tap the red subscribe button. It'll be the word "Subscribe" with a red play button next to it.
  4. If you want to be notified for every video that YouTuber releases, tap the bell icon.

How to share a YouTube video

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Find the video or channel you'd like to share.
  3. Tap the share button on the upper right of your screen. It's the curved arrow.
  4. Tap a sharing method. You can share via message, email, Facebook, and just about anything else you can share with.
  5. Share as you would normally in whatever method you choose.

How to create playlists

You can add videos to a playlist while watching a video or you can add them from their thumbnails.

How to add videos to a playlist from the thumbnail

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. Search for videos you'd like to add to your playlist.
  3. Tap the more button on the side of a video thumbnail. It's the three vertical dots.
  4. Tap Add to playlist.

  5. Tap Create new playlist.
  6. Type a title for your playlist.
  7. Tap OK.

The next time you add a video to that playlist, the name of the playlist will appear under **Add to watch later.

How to add the video you're watching to a playlist

  1. Tap the add to playlist button. It looks like a list with a + on it.
  2. Tap Create new playlist.
  3. Type a name for your new playlist.
  4. Tap OK.

When you add a new video to a playlist, the name of the playlist you've created will appear in the choices.

How to cast YouTube to your TV with Chromecast

  1. Launch YouTube from your home screen or the app drawer.
  2. From either the main screen or a video, tap the cast button. It looks like a box with the Wi-Fi symbol in the bottom left corner.
  3. Tap a device. It could be your television, and Android TV box, or some other media streaming device.

You'll know your phone or tablet is ready to cast when the case button turns white in the middle.

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1 week ago

Moto E4 Plus with 5000mAh battery launches in India for ₹9,999

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Get two-day battery life and a near-stock Android experience with the Moto E4 Plus.

Motorola is expanding its catalog in India, and the latest addition is the Moto E4 series. The Moto E4 Plus will go up for sale later today on Flipkart for ₹9,999, and the smaller Moto E4 will be available at thousands of retail stores across India for ₹8,999.

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1 week ago

Nokia 6 goes up for sale in the U.S. for $229; Prime variant for $179

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Nokia 6 is one of the best phones in the sub-$250 segment.

The Nokia 6 is now up for sale on Amazon for $229. The standard variant of the phone is unlocked for use on AT&T and T-Mobile, and Amazon is also offering a variant with lock screen ads that retails for $179, a $50 discount.

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1 week ago

The absolute best Prime Day deals you can buy right now

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Prime Day is here! The Thrifter team has been hard at work since 7 p.m. last night when the Prime-only deals began to go live. Not only have we been updating our site and Twitter feed with the best deals, but we've also been live blogging the entire thing. At this point, we want to make it a bit easier for you to find the overall best deals of Prime Day.

The following list compiles our favorite deals of Prime Day 2017 that are still live and will be updated throughout the remainder of the day.

Tech

  • Amazon Fire Tablet - $30 (previously $50)
  • Echo Dot - $35 (previously $50)
  • Echo - $90 (previously $180)
  • Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB External Hard Drive - $65 (previously $77)
  • SanDisk Ultra II 500 GB SSD - $137 (previously $175)
  • Philips Hue Smart Bulb - $40 (previously $50)
  • Sandisk Ultra 256 GB MicroSDXC - $105 (previously ~$150)
  • Blue Yeti USB Microphone: Blackout Edition - $90 (previously $130)
  • ARRIS SURFboard SB6141 Cable Modem - $41 (previously ~$95)
  • Acer Chromebook 11, 2GB Ram, 16GB storage - $130 (previously $170)
  • Samsung 128 GB Metal Flash Drive - $25 (previously $40)

Lifestyle

  • FitBit Blaze - $139 (previously $199)
  • Backpack for SLR/DSLR Cameras by AmazonBasics - $20 (previously $27)
  • Bright Multipurpose Copy Paper (3 reams / 1,500 sheets) - $10 (previously $14)
  • AmazonBasics Commercial Patio Heater - $99 (previously ~$120)
  • High-back Executive Desk Chair - $80 (previously $110)
  • Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker - $129 (previously ~$190)
  • Coleman Road Trip Propane Portable Grill - $100 (previously $135)
  • GreenWorks Battery Powered 3-in-1 Lawn Mower - $225 (previously $349)
  • 23andMe DNA Test: Ancestry Personal Genetic Service - $49 (previously $99)
  • Sennheiser HD 598 SR Open-Back Headphones - $110 (previously $170)
  • Crock-Pot Programmable Cook & Carry Slow Cooker - $32){.nofollow} (previously ~$50)
  • AmazonBasics Laptop Backpack - $12 {previously $25)
  • Free $5 credit when you purchase $25 or more in Amazon Gift Cards.

Gaming

  • Xbox One S 500 GB Bundle - $240 (previously $370)
  • Xbox One S 1 TB Bundle - $290 (previously $418)
  • Sony PS4 Dualshock 4 Controller - $40 (previously $48)
  • Sony PS4 Slim 500 GB Bundle - $229 (previously $300)
  • Nintendo New 3DS XL Console (Galaxy Style) - $175 (previously $200)

Be sure to keep refreshing this page and tune into the Thrifter live blog to stay up-to-date with all the best Prime Day deals!

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1 week ago

Here's what we can expect the Google Pixel XL 2 to look like

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Google's Pixel XL may be going bigger, and sleeker, in 2017

We now have a solid idea of what the Pixel XL's 2017 successor will look like. Android Police, which is generally good about these sorts of things, has published renders of its approximation of what the so-called "Pixel XL 2017" will look like, based on information it has from internal sources. For those keeping up with all of the Pixel rumors back at home, this is the phone known by the codename "Taimen." That's the largest of the three rumored upcoming Google devices, with both "Muskie" and "Walleye" also in some progression of development.

For what it's worth, the naming of the forthcoming device has yet to be finalized. We could be looking at simply "Pixel XL" with no further denomination, "Pixel XL 2" or something else entirely. Names can be finalized much later than the hardware, and often are — we'll stick to calling this the Pixel XL 2 for now.

Corroborating with previous reports, this confirms that LG is the manufacturer of this new Pixel XL 2, rather than HTC that built the original Pixel and Pixel XL (of course, without any branding indicating the fact). Some of that influence is immediately apparent in the phone — there's a tall and skinny 18:9 display with rounded corners like the LG G6, which is reportedly 6-inches diagonal, with much smaller bezels than the current Pixel XL. Curved glass on the front is very pronounced, though the screen itself is actually flat underneath.

Lots of LG G6 influence, but plenty to tie it back to the original HTC-built Pixel XL.

The large glass pane at the top of the back of the phone remains, though the fingerprint sensor is no longer inside that glass as the phone is taller than before. In addition to the the back glass panel, there's a clear familiarity in design from the current Pixel XL to the new Pixel XL 2. There's still a metal frame that's nicely brushed to a simple texture that's flat across the back and rounded on the edges and corners.

Though the manufacturing has changed hands from HTC to LG, the report says the Pixel XL 2 will have a squeezable frame not unlike the HTC U11, which is mildly interesting to see.

The question remains, though, what is to be done with the standard Pixel's successor in 2017. Will it be a smaller version of this design? Or perhaps a simpler refresh of last year's phone? And what about the expected third Google-branded phone to be released this year? We can expect to see more information leak as we get closer to the launch.

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Google Store Verizon

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1 week ago

Last chance to get this limited edition MrMobile tee!

8

Show the world that you appreciate informative, entertaining technology reviews by picking up the ultimate t-shirt for the discerning gadget enthusiast. This Next Level Tri-Blend premium tee is available in black, and will announce to the world that you're a tech genius on the move, sporting the best in both electronics and fashion.

Proceeds from sales help to support the Mr. Mobile YouTube Channel. The limited-edition official Mr. Mobile "Stay Mobile, My Friends" t-shirt is available right now from teespring.com. Grab one before this offer ends! …and Stay Mobile.

See at Teespring

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1 week ago

Do I need more than one Google Home?

25

Having more than one Google Home just adds benefits.

Google Home makes it easy to control your connected home. So what do you do when multiple people in the house all want to use your Google Home at the same time? Well, you pick up a second — or third! Having multiple Google Homes only increases your benefits, and we have the details for you here!

Do I really need more than one Google Home?

The first question that you might have is whether investing in more than one Google Home is actually worth it. Depending on the size of your living space (and how many people inhabit it) one Google Home may be more than sufficient. This is especially true if you don't really have much by way of connected home hardware.

However, if you've got a decent-sized house, then having a different Google Home in your living room, kitchen, and bedroom can seriously pay off. That's because connecting your smart home devices and using an app like IFTTT means that you can pull some added capabilities off of your accessory.

So if you have Hue lights in your bedroom, you want Google Home to read you a recipe while you're making dinner, and your partner wants to jam out to Spotify in the living room, all of those things are possible at the same time. The need for more than one Google Home is definitely personal, but if you want to get the most out of your technology, then having more than one is definitely a solid option.

What are the benefits of having multiple Google Homes?

If having more than one Google Home seems like the answer to your prayers, then you aren't on your own. Being able to play music in one room, while doing something entirely different in another room can make a pretty big difference. Especially if you are one of the people who get used to asking Google about the weather, your commute, and other information before you even leave the house.

Being able to have a different Google Home in each major room of your house means that no matter where you are, you have access to the information you need with just a question. This also means that if one person is listening to Spotify or an audiobook, they don't need to be interrupted if you need to know just how hot it actually is outside.

What if I only want one Google Home?

If you're really happy with your single Google Home, then strictly speaking there isn't any necessary reason to pick up another one. While you can only really do one thing at a time with Google Home, you should be pretty solid. Thanks to multi-user support, you can have several people connected to Google Home, and it will recognize their voices separately.

Google Home can support up to 6 users at a time and is able to tell who is speaking to it. This means it can also access specific accounts linked to a user without needing a separate accessory. While you can't play music and get a recipe for dinner at the same time, Google Home will remember background tasks you asked it for. This means you can set a timer while your partner listens to Spotify, and Google Home will pause the music when your alarm goes off.

For folks who live in smaller residences, live by themselves, or lack Smar thome hardware, then a single Google Home ought to be more than enough to help you keep track of everything going on in your life.

Questions?

Do you still have questions about whether or not more than one Google Home is a solid idea? Have you picked up a second Google Home? Let us know about it in the comments below!

Google Home

Google Store Best Buy Target

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1 week ago

Should I run a VPN on my Android phone?

74

If you want or need to use a VPN, the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to using one on your phone, too.

With recent news of privacy-eroding deregulation and the ever-present threat of online data theft, VPNs are in the news more than ever. While the merits of which one is the best and why is a hot subject, little attention is paid to the obvious question — should I use one on my phone?

We're here to talk about if you should and the reasons why!

More: The best VPN services of 2017

What is a VPN?

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. That's a technical term for what's essentially a welcome middleman between you and the internet at large.

A VPN is a service you connect to that sends and receives data across the internet on your behalf. When you set up and enable a VPN, all of your internet traffic goes through it, both ways. Ideally, this traffic is encrypted and only the two parties who should have access to the information are able to use it.

A VPN is a gateway that sends and receives data on your behalf.

There are a lot of different ways to set up a VPN and some are used for specific reasons. VPNs make excellent ad-blockers and companies like AdGuard offer a free VPN service that filters out ads from a known list of servers. Your work may use a VPN that can encrypt data on your machine before you send it and it can only be decrypted by the server at work while leaving other traffic untouched. Or you might want a U.S. based VPN to try all the services Google hasn't rolled out the rest of the world yet.

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But mostly what people are talking about when we mention a VPN is a service that is designed to protect your identity on the internet by intercepting all the traffic so that it looks like it's not coming from or going back to you or your location.

What advantages does a VPN offer?

In the broad sense, a VPN only does one thing: direct internet traffic. But directing internet traffic has a lot of advantages!

As mentioned above, you can block ads or create a private session between you and your work network or you can even have a VPN that directs traffic to a different server depending on your login: Paid users of a service can have more perks and a faster connection than non-paid. But there are two reasons most people use a VPN:

  • Access to an otherwise restricted source. There are a plenty of things like media streaming services that can't or won't let you use them if you're not in the right place. We see this a lot with professional sports streams. Depending on distribution rights, you might not be able to stream a Tigers game if you live in the greater Detroit area. You can use a VPN that's hosted somewhere with geographic access and the service will work because that's where it thinks you are.

  • Security and privacy. A VPN is not foolproof, but using one with wholly encrypted connections from a reputable company creates what's called a tunnel that acts as a one-stop connection between you and whatever you're doing on the internet. This makes the data difficult to intercept by anyone or any service (except the VPN company itself) and if it were grabbed, almost impossible to decipher. While a lot of people think of this as a way to hide who you are, it can also be used to verify who you are. Both are strong reasons to use a VPN, and people like journalists and investigators can see or say things in private. And so can everyone else. Privacy is not just for the select few.

Of course, people with bad intentions can use a VPN to have the same privacy and security. Like encryption, we shouldn't let this fact make us think that they are a bad thing overall.

The downsides of using a VPN

Like everything else, there are downsides to using a VPN. And we shouldn't gloss over them because we want to tout the privacy factor.

Operating a VPN is difficult so make sure you choose a good company.

The biggest is the technical hurdle. Effectively operating a VPN requires an understanding of network security issues and a way to make sure it is effective against them. All the privacy and security of using a VPN goes out the window if the administrator doesn't know exactly how things like the Same Origin Policy or CORS work and what they need to do to work around the issues they present where cookies (small files a website uses to "remember" you) are involved. This stuff is pretty complicated.

VPN service for as little as $6.49 per month! Learn more

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That's why you have to know you are using a VPN service you trust. The company must be honest and open with their policies in relation to privacy and be fully competent and up-to-date on how computer networking is constantly evolving. Don't try to rent an online server and run your own VPN if you don't know what you're doing and don't jump on a friends home-brewed VPN unless they know what they are doing. Stick to recommend companies that have been scrutinized and audited by the pros.

A couple of other things that might not be great about using a VPN:

  • The connection can be terrible. You might have great internet service and all the things you like are fast, but when you place a VPN in the mix you probably will see things get slower. Sometimes, too slow. The good news is that another VPN may not be too slow.
  • You share an internet address with others. A VPN masks your internet address (I.P.) and replaces it with their own. That means if I get blocked from a service while using that address and you get it the next time, you're blocked, too. An otherwise excellent VPN company may end up being blocked at your favorite website, or your bank, or the IRS site you file your taxes through. This can also add extra scrutiny by law enforcement when you've done nothing wrong: The person using that address before you may have been doing something sketchy.

So, should I or shouldn't I?

Sure!

While not everyone wants or needs to use a VPN if you do there's no reason not to use it with your phone. Most VPN companies have an easy to setup app you can install that gets you connected and has an easy way to turn things on and off. Some even have extras for things like bandwidth monitoring so you know how close you are to any data limits. And a properly configured VPN (we go back to those technical hurdles) should work for all data that moves in and out of your phone, whether you're on Wi-Fi or using your data connection.

A VPN works with your web browser and every app on your phone.

You will have a little bit of extra overhead, as an app that encrypts and decrypts the data and properly routes it through the VPN is running in the background, but the impact is minimal with a properly coded VPN app or a manual setup. You won't notice a proper VPN app when it's running unless you look for it. Google themselves use a VPN for Project Fi users who connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots. You'll literally not know anything extra is happening.

The downsides still remain, but as long as you're using a recommended company who has a safe and secure VPN service, you'll probably never run into any of them. We hate to say "probably" as much as you hate hearing it, but it's true. Customers who would cause themselves to be blacklisted from a service or draw the attention of law enforcement usually aren't using consumer VPN services.

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Look for a company that's recommended by other people who share similar interests, has a great app for your phone, and has a clear and concise set of policies (and read them). If you want or need a VPN, there's no reason not to use it on your phone!

Updated July 2017 with the latest information and compatibility with newer phones.

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1 week ago

Android Wear goes extra-high-end with the Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon

7

Luxury continues to be a big focus.

Google is continuing its strategy of partnering with well-established fashion brands to make unique Android Wear watches, and now one of the most recognizable names, Louis Vuitton, is on board with its new Tambour Horizon. An exquisite combination of metal, leather and sapphire made in Switzerland and wrapped around the same core specs as every other Android Wear 2.0 watch.

This is a 42 mm case that Louis Vuitton says is "exceptionally compact for a connected watch" (though it's 12.55 mm thick) and combines with your choice of 60 different detachable straps. The screen and back are both covered in sapphire, as you'd expect, but that back plate is just for looks — there isn't a heart rate sensor there.

A relative bargain compared to other Louis Vuitton watches.

The rest of the specs are roughly standard, with a 1.2-inch 390x390 AMOLED display (no flat tire!), a Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, 300mAh battery, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. Louis Vuitton does claim 30 meters of water resistance, though, which is great.

Outside of the core Android Wear 2.0 experience, Louis Vuitton also includes a "my flight" function for following your travel details, a "city guide" for accessing LV-curated guides and of course plenty of "iconic Louis Vuitton watch dials" to complement the hardware and make sure everyone knows you have a Louis Vuitton smartwatch.

And yes, the Tambour Horizon is quite expensive: $2450 for the stainless steel model, and a cool $2900 for the black variant. Massively expensive by Android Wear smartwatch standards, but a great deal if you're comparing to other Louis Vuitton watches that can approach $10,000. We actually wouldn't be surprised if this was a decent seller in some markets — that Louis Vuitton brand is strong.

Android Wear

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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1 week ago

How to save videos in YouTube for Android

7
Saved offline

There's so much to watch on YouTube, you can't possibly watch it all.

And it's always the same story: you've spent twice as long as you intended to sitting there watch mindless YouTube videos when you find one you know you're gonna love, but if you don't get moving now, you're gonna be late and get fired. But when you come back later you can't remember what that video was! Then the only time you can watch it is on this stupid Wi-Fi-less flight. And thus a video you could've loved is lost to time...

Never again. We can save them! We have the technology.

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1 week ago

Prime Day brings rare discounts on Philips Hue smart lighting

6

Amazon recently discounted a selection of Philips Hue products during its Prime Day sale. Philips Hue is a line of smart bulbs which can be automated via the Philips Hue app to turn on or off even when you're not home.

The following deals are available for Philips Hue products during Amazon's Prime Day:

  • White and Color Ambiance LED Bulb - $39.99 (was $49.99)
  • White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit - $138.95 (was ~$175)
  • Hue Go Portable LED Smart Light - $50.81 (was $79.99)

If you're looking for more ways to make your home a smart home, we also just posted a guide on the best smart home accessory discounts available for Prime Day featuring items such as a garage door opener that works via app and a ceiling fan you can talk to.

See at Amazon

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