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1 week ago

What you need to know when considering a smart lock for your home

15
Kwikset Kevo 2

Not all smart locks are created equal. In fact, many aren't even all that smart.

There are some incredible benefits to home automation, but when it comes to securing your home, it's important to not simply buy the cheapest thing on the shelf. There's a lot to these "smart" locks, and not all of them live up to the promises in the packaging.

Here's a quick look at what you can do to make sure your smart lock is both convenient and safe.

Understand how the lock you want works

Smart locks come in several different flavors. Some add a Wi-Fi connection to your lock and let you control the ability to lock and unlock from wherever you are. Some rely on Bluetooth and only give you the ability to automatically unlock when your phone is close by. Some rely on touch to unlock, while others offer a keypad for a security pin.

The point is, there isn't one kind of smart lock. It's important to understand how the lock you install works and understand how it keeps you safe when locked.

Make sure the lock itself is safe

Just because your smart lock is shinier and more expensive than a normal door lock does not mean it is more safe or secure. Many first-generation smart locks offered compromised, less expensive locks with all of the smart trimmings around it.

It's also important to make sure the smart tech you are buying actually works as advertised. That's not always the case, which is dangerous. Some early locks using Bluetooth Beacons couldn't actually tell which side of the door you were on, meaning if your phone was inside the house and near the door it could still be unlocked. Obviously, that's not great.

Beware of misbehaving apps

Assuming you have found a lock that is safe and works the way you want it to, it's important to keep an eye on how the app behaves on your phone. Early versions of the Kwikset Kevo app, for example, kept the phone awake when nearby a lock and constantly draining the power from your phone while doing largely nothing.

This isn't easy to test before bringing the lock home, so it's important to rely on hands-on reviews with testing on battery life over time. App power problems are less common now, especially with changes Google has made to recent versions of Android, but it's still something to keep an eye out for.

The good ones really are worth it

As disheartening as it can be to see stories about connected home tech going wrong and leaving people vulnerable when they think they are more secure, there's a lot to like about the good smart locks.

Being able to remotely lock your home if you forget, or being able to give someone a temporary virtual key if they're house sitting while you're away, or even using the locked state of the door to control the away modes of other connected home tech are all important. These features save you money over time by conserving energy, keep your home safe by using smart lights to make it look like people are here when you're away, and are generally more convenient than digging around for your keys.

The most important first step is making sure you're buying a quality lock from a reputable company with features you actually want. When that happens, you'll be much happier with how you use your front door.

Do you have a smart lock?

Which one? Has it worked out well for you? Share your success or horror story in the comments below!

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1 week ago

LG's Second Year Promise gives the G6 an extra year of warranty

52

LG is making a big move to win customer loyalty.

The LG G6 has consistently been heralded as one of the best smartphones of 2017, all but erasing the negative impression of the G5 before it. Now, LG wants to continue that goodwill with a new program called the Second Year Promise, which extends the G6's regular warranty from one year to two in the U.S.

While this isn't quite like HTC's Uh-Oh Protection, which acts more as a low-deductible insurance policy, the Second Year Promise, according to a report by The Verge, merely extends the G6's regular manufacturer's warranty an extra 12 months. This puts the phone's U.S. warranty on par with its European one, which tends to be two years for electronics goods.

Here's what you need to know:

  • This applies to all LG G6s sold in the U.S., both from carriers and unlocked through online retailers.
  • This doesn't apply to user-caused damage, so if you drop your phone on day one or day 401, it doesn't matter — this won't cover you.
  • Users need to register their G6 with LG 90 days after the announcement of the program in order to extend the warranty.
    • If you've already bought an LG G6, don't worry, you're still covered as long as you sign up within 90 days from June 15.
  • If a phone is found to be defective, it will be replaced within two business days of shipping it back to LG.

That's it! Easy peasy. What do you think of the new program? Is it going to entice you to buy a G6 if you haven't already, or a future LG product in the future?

See at LG

LG G6

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1 week ago

The case for a Material Dark culture on Android

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Dark and beautiful

I love hex black and a dark UI!

You Android-lovers can't deny,

That when an app installs in an itty-bitty space,

With a dark theme in your face,

You get sprung!

Google and Android are filled with white, white, white UIs. It wasn't always that way, but it is now. The only real dark system UIs available right now are downloadable TouchWiz themes and third-party apps and Google's apps are whiter than my jeans-365-days-a-year legs. Night modes have been toyed with in Developer Previews the last two years but have never amounted to much — and it's been left out of even the Developer Previews on Android O.

Really, even if they had stuck around, it wouldn't've been the dark theme we need — or want — anyway.

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1 week ago

Essential Phone coming to Canada as a Telus exclusive

13

Telus nabs Andy Rubin's Essential Phone for sole distribution up in Canada.

This was unexpected. Essential Phone, the titanium-and-ceramic wünderhandset from Android creator Andy Rubin's company of the same name, will debut in Canada later this summer on Telus.

The company said in a press release that the phone will be available for pre-order at the end of July, with availability later this summer. According to Rubin, Telus was chosen as the sole carrier "due to our strong alignment on the importance of continuous innovation and support for consumer choice."

Essential Phone Specs

Essential announced earlier this month that the Phone would be available for $699 when it goes on sale unlocked in the U.S. Sprint then came out as the sole U.S. carrier offering the phone. With Telus locked in for Canadian distribution, it would seem that Essential's strategy is in place.

Canadian pricing hasn't been confirmed just yet, but Telus said it will be available outright — likely for close to $1,000 given today's exchange rates — or on subsidy with select shared data plans. Telus also plans to sell Essential's 4K 360-degree camera accessory in its stores.

See at Telus

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1 week ago

How to shop on Amazon with Alexa

0
Amazon Echo

As an Amazon product, naturally you can buy things with Alexa. Here's how.

Everything Amazon ever does has some form of hook into buying things from its retail store. On its tablets, that extends to adverts on your lock screen, but on the Amazon Echo, it's pretty much the opposite.

You can use it to buy things from Amazon, but only if you want to. There're no ads, no up-sell. But instead of reaching for your phone or going on the computer, just ask Alexa to order things for you. Here's how.

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1 week ago

Sphero made a Spider-Man your kids can talk to like an Amazon Echo

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Sphero's contract with Disney now includes Marvel, which is great for all of us nerds. I guess kids will like it, too.

We've seen Sphero bring BB-8 and Lightning McQueen to life over the last year, but now is the time of superheroes. A little Spider-Man can now stand on a pedestal and interact with anyone who taps the logo on his chest, in a way that is not terribly unlike an Amazon Echo speaker without the wake command. What makes this little Spidey worth adding t your house? It's aimed at being a best friend for your kid.

Spider-Man by Sphero is a Wi-Fi enabled snark machine with eyes that animate with the audio from the speaker and lots of ways to play with kids. He will "guard" a bedroom, tell stores, and with the two hour battery inside can roam around the house with your kids to go on adventures. You know, standard friendly neighborhood hero stuff.

You can grab one of these little heroes starting today for $149. Will you be picking one up?

See on Amazon

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1 week ago

Using Alexa Scenes to control your home like magic

3
Amazon Alexa

How do I use Alexa Scenes?

Most connected home gadgets have a way to do things automatically or based on specific conditions. That's the whole appeal after all: being able to automate parts of your life. That might be changing the color temperature in your living room when it's time to watch a movie or maybe just making sure the cable box is set to a specific channel when you turn on your television. Either way, Amazon collects these little scripted behaviors and puts them in a voice-controlled system called Scenes. Here's how it works.

Discovering your Scenes

Amazon's Scene tab isn't for creating; it's for collecting. If you have a Logitech Harmony set up to control you TV, those instructions can be added to a collection. If you have a thermostat and lights working together to change your environment in specific conditions, that gets added to the collection.

It's basically anything that isn't automated but still part of the system. Instead of going to those individual apps to activate these scripts, Alexa gathers them up and lets you activate them with your voice.

How to discover Scenes

  1. Open your Alexa App.
  2. Tap on the Menu button.
  3. Tap Smart Home in the Menu.
  4. Tap Scenes.
  5. Tap Discover.

Alexa will now scan your local wireless network for any tech with a Scene to be collected. If you have a Philips Hue set, you'll need to press the sync button on the Hue Hub to give Alexa access to those scenes.

How to use Alexa Scenes

In your Scene list, you'll see everything you've set up for light bulbs, fans, thermostats, and other smart home things that can be on or off with a simple command. The Scene has a name, and if you say that name to Alexa, it will execute the series of commands in the Scene.

For example, if you have a Philips Hue Scene named "Bedtime" that slowly lowers the brightness when you give the command, you can say "Alexa, turn on Bedtime," and the Scene will start. If you have scenes that work in multiple rooms, adjust the command to include the name of the room after and it will work.

Questions or comments?

Do you have an Alexa Scene you rely on every day? Share your favorites in the comments!

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon

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1 week ago

Honor 9 is the sum of many incremental upgrades, and that's just fine

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Honor 9

The biggest upgrades in this year's Honor flagship will be software, camera, and audio.

The Honor 9 won't be announced in Europe for another couple of weeks — a launch event is scheduled for June 27 — but thanks to the standard early Chinese launch, we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the handset.

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1 week ago

The Moto Z2 Play is now up for sale on Flipkart for ₹27,999

4

Moto Z2 Play is available at an attractive price and comes with several launch day offers.

The Moto Z2 Play is now up for sale on Flipkart for ₹27,999 ($435). The phone made its debut in the country last week, and will be available at thousands of retail stores in addition to Flipkart.

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1 week ago

EU roaming fees are no more

12
UK EU roaming

Roaming fees between operators in EU member states have been abolished — but future for UK customers + visitors remains unclear.

European roaming fees, finally, are no more. The cost of roaming within Europe — using one EU country's SIM card in another — has been growing more affordable for the past three years. But now roaming charges have, for the most part, finally been abolished. "Roam Like at Home" applies to voice calls, texts and data for anyone subscribing to an EU operator and roaming in another member state.

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1 week ago

Make it stop! CrackBerry Kevin busts a Galaxy S8 on the way to KEYone durability redemption

44

The BlackBerry KEYone is stronger than you think.

The BlackBerry KEYone has been through the wringer over the past week or so, with claims that its screen, bereft of sufficient adhesive, easily detaches from the body with only a small amount of force. Popular YouTube channel JerryRigEverything entered the phone into its oh-so-sad Hall of Shame after Zack was easily able to break the phone with his bare hands. A small number of people had already reported the screen detaching through normal everyday use.

Shortly afterwards, BlackBerry Mobile released a statement saying it was looking into the problem — which has only affected a handful of units — and may alter the manufacturing process to include additional adhesive in future units.

Still, CrackBerry Kevin took the assertion that the KEYone was weak as a challenge, pitting the phone against the Galaxy S8+ and iPhone 7 Plus in a number of durability challenges. I won't spoil the surprise, but suffice it to say the KEYone did better than even I expected.

More: BlackBerry KEYone review

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1 week ago

Staying stationary with MrMobile: Home is where the tech is

5

"MrMobile" isn't just a name; it's a lifestyle. That means I normally only cover technology that takes you from your doorstep to distant destinations. But there's an awful lot of interesting tech made for the home that's cropped up over the past year that you've been asking about ... and frankly, I don't know much about any of it! So I hopped a plane to Pensacola, Florida to meet up with someone who does.

Join me as Modern Dad teaches us all about the coolest home tech of 2017, from Amazon Alexa to Google Home to something called "netatmo."

After the video, be sure to subscribe to Modern Dad on YouTube – because before you know it I'll be back on the road, and you're gonna wanna stay on top of all the stuff Modern Dad is filling his house with.

Featured Products

Stay social, my friends

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1 week ago

You can back up and sync everything to your Google account starting June 28

29

You're already backing up apps and documents with Google Drive, so why not backup everything else, too?

Beginning June 28, you'll be able to back up all of your files and folders from a Mac or PC to your Google Drive. It's called, very simply, Backup and Sync, and once installed, it will help you keep things in check even when you're not checking them.

From the official blog post:

On June 28th, 2017, we will launch Backup and Sync from Google, a tool intended to help everyday users back up files and photos from their computers, so they're safe and accessible from anywhere. Backup and Sync is the latest version of Google Drive for Mac/PC, which is now integrated with the Google Photos desktop uploader. As such, it will respect any current Drive for Mac/PC settings in the Admin console.

Since its inception, Google Drive has required that you manually sync any data stored on your main computer, or move files and folders so that they're saved directly to the cloud account. But once the new app goes live, you'll be able to choose which files and folders to stay synced. It'll also be integrated with the current Google Photos Backup tool for Mac and PC.

On the mobile side, this means you'll have access to those files and folders from any tablet or smartphone that has access to Google Drive. It also means you won't have to two different desktop apps installed to keep Photos and Drive synced at the same time.

Google suggests that if you're planning to use the backup feature for your work-related G Suite account, you should use the Drive File System instead because it allows for larger data uploads. Also, not all G Suite users will automatically be upgraded to the ability — managers of the G Suite account will need to turn on the option for employees to utilize the backup feature for them to get access to Backup and Sync.

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1 week ago

Deal: Switching to Sprint gets you free unlimited for a year!

68

This Sprint deal seems too good to be true, but it isn't.

We often tease Sprint for its desperate attempts at getting customers on other networks to switch over, but this latest deal is a doozy, and well worth investigating.


Until June 30, 2017, customers on T-Mobile, AT&T, or (especially) Verizon get up to five lines of free unlimited service by switching over to Sprint. There are a few caveats, which we'll get to in a moment, but as long as you're a new Sprint customer, the deal is very enticing. The service is not some limited version of Sprint's regular unlimited plan, either: up to five lines get Sprint's full unlimited package, which includes calls, texts and up to 23GB of high-speed 4G LTE (and unlimited data at slower speeds after that) just by switching over.

Sprint claims that customers bringing five lines over can save over $2000 in the first year if switching from Verizon.

Now here are the caveats:

  • The offer is open to new customers only.
  • After the first year, which technically ends July 31, 2018, service will cost $60 for the first line, $40 for the second, and $30 for each subsequent one.
  • The offer is only open to customers bringing their own unlocked, eligible phones.
    • These include devices like the Google Pixel, Nexus 6P, Moto G5 Plus, iPhone 7, and Galaxy S8. Check out the full list.
  • You will have to buy SIM cards through Sprint for $2.99 each and activate them on the company's online portal.

Along with the unlimited calls, text and data, users get 10GB of hotspot data per line and HD video streaming at 1080p.

So while there are a few hoops to jump through, it's definitely worth pursuing for the insane level of savings. If Sprint has even decent LTE service in your area, you can't beat this kind of deal.

See at Sprint

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1 week ago

Decal stickers can help hide the lightbar on your DualShock 4 controller!

6

You don't need to have a glowing controller with these hacks to hide the PS4's DualShock 4 lightbar.

Plenty of gamers prefer to play their games in a dim or darkened room so that they're more immersed in what is going on in front of them. However, PlayStation 4 players have been a bit aggravated by the lightbar on DualShock 4 controllers. Thankfully there are some neat and easy ways to hide this bar so it doesn't get in your way while playing.

Your DualShock 4 controller is going to glow

On every DualShock 4 controller, there is a lightbar that glows when the controller is powered on. It's located on the top of the controller, and depending on the game and battery level, it will either glow blue, green, yellow, or red.

While there isn't a way to turn off your light bar, you can hide it so that it isn't quite so aggravating. There are a few ways to do this, but the easiest — and the most fun — method involves finding yourself a sweet decal online. That's right, industrious gamers have created a variety of decals that can hide most or all of your lightbar.

Decal stickers from Flaming Toast

You can pick up a decal sticker that has a custom name on it, pick from a variety of geeky logos, or even completely block out the lightbar — although this last option might be a bad call since your lightbar will glow red when the battery is getting ready to die.

It's a simple vinyl sticker that just gets attached to the lightbar, and can be removed if you get tired of them. Best of all they are available for less than $5 each, which is a serious steal. With options like the Batman logo, Assassin's Creed symbol, Biohazard, and even an Arc reactor, the nerdier stickers have something for most of us.

Of course there are also total black out stickers, as well as ones you can get customized with your name or gamertag, and even patterns, photographs, and fonts that can be used. There are over 250 options, which gives you plenty of leeway to find the perfect sticker to cut down on the light emitting from your controller.

See at Flaming Toast

Have you covered the lightbar on your controller?

While the lightbar on DualShock 4 controllers isn't particularly bright in a well lit room, it can definitely become aggravating if you are playing in a dim or dark room. Thankfully there are a few things you can do to hide that light, and have a bit of fun while you're at it. Have you covered up the lightbar on your DualShock 4 controller? Be sure to drop us a comment and let us know about it!

PlayStation 4

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