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1 week ago

Android Oreo now available for unlocked HTC 10

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HTC shows some love for a phone that's nearing two years of age.

Although we wouldn't recommend buying one in early 2018, the HTC 10 was an excellent handset during its time that flew under the radar for a lot of people. The phone shipped with 6.0.1 Marshmallow, was updated to Nougat in late 2016, and it's now getting to share in on the Oreo action.

Android 8.0 Oreo is now rolling out to the HTC 10 via an over-the-air update, and if it hasn't landed on your phone yet, it should arrive within the coming days. However, if you grow tired of waiting and want to get the new software on your phone this instant, you can download the RUU file directly from your phone. If you do choose to go this route, be warned that this will completely wipe everything on your phone and put you back to square one.

Prior to the 10, HTC also pushed Oreo updates to the U11 and U11 Life (both the unlocked model and the one on T-Mobile). HTC previously said that Oreo would also be coming to the U Ultra, so it should only be a matter of time before that rolls out as well.

HTC 10 review: Iconic, impressive, imperfect

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1 week ago

Amazon Alexa and Echo speakers in Canada: Everything you need to know!

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The Amazon Echo and Alexa is officially available to Canadians! Here's everything you need to know!

Now that the Amazon Echo is officially available in Canada, Amazon has some pretty good deals for Canadians looking to fill their home with smart speakers. While the Echo line of products continues to expand in the U.S., Amazon launched Alexa in Canada along with its three signature Echo Speakers: The Amazon Echo (2nd Gen.), Echo Plus, and Echo Dot (2nd Gen.).

Amazon Echo (2nd Gen.)

The new Echo speaker is shorter and more fashionable with fabric finish options to directly compete with the Google Home for a cozier-looking smart speaker that doesn't look so obelisk-like. Available for $130, this is the mid-range speaker that maintains the great sound of the original Echo speaker in a compact body. There are touch controls for volume and mute on top, and an Auxiliary Out port around back for connecting to a pair of speakers.

See at Amazon

Amazon Echo Plus

The Amazon Echo Plus looks almost identical to the first-generation Echo speaker, but there are a few significant upgrades included. Most notably is the built-in smart home hub by Zigbee, which lets you easily connect compatible smart home devices to Alexa. The sound is also a bit better on the bigger Echo speaker, and the dial for volume control around the ring light is still a brilliant bit of design.

If you're just getting into setting Alexa up in your home, I would definitely recommend the Amazon Echo Plus as your starting point. Available for $200, It's a little more expensive than the standard Echo speaker, but the included Zigbee hub allows for simple setup of smart home devices so you can easily connect and add Philips Hue lights or an Ecobee Smart WiFi Thermostat to Alexa without dealing with additional hubs or apps. The Echo Plus is available in black, silver.

See at Amazon

Amazon Echo Dot

The Echo Dot is the smallest and most affordable Echo speaker. These are best placed in bedrooms, on end tables, or in any parts of your house where you'd like to add Alexa support but don't require high-end sound. About the size of a hockey puck, the Dot features all the functionality of the other two speakers (excluding the hub built into the Echo Plus), most importantly the AUX-out port for connecting to a more substantial set of speakers. It's available for $70 and is your best bet for filling out your home with the power of Alexa.

See at Amazon

What about the old Echo speakers?

It's tough luck for any early adopters who imported a first generation Amazon Echo or Echo Dot speakers, as Amazon has announced that those along with the Echo Spot and Echo Tap accessories will not support Canadian English and Canadian Skills. In my experience, I was still able to use the first gen Echo speaker just fine but that's because I set my Alexa app up using Amazon.com. It still works as well as the other two speakers in my house.

If you did set up a first-generation Echo and switched your country to the United States to bypass the block in Canada, you'll need to go into your account settings and switch that back to Canadian English before setting up your new speakers.

How to set up an account with Alexa

If you've got an Amazon account, you're well on your way to setting up Alexa. The first thing you need to do is download the Alexa app which will guide you through the setup process.

To avoid headaches down the road, be sure to use your Amazon.ca account to set up and not Amazon.com. The majority of Canadian-specific content can only be found in the Amazon.ca Alexa Skills store, such as local news from CBC. Once you've logged into the app, it's time to plug in your speaker for the first time and continue with setup.

Amazon Echo connects to your WiFi network, but first, it needs to connect to your phone. You'll know your Echo is ready to connect when you see an orange ring light up. You'll then be asked to choose the WiFi network you want Alexa to connect to and then its a matter of further customizing your Alexa profile within the app.

What are the best skills for Canada?

Here's another point that early adopters know all too well — finding Skills that are actually worth using on a day-to-day basis is still a chore. Alexa in Canada is still a work in progress as many popular skills and functions are not yet available to Canadians. We've rounded up some of the best skills that are available for Canadians and worth checking out.

Canadian news skills:

  • CBC News: The World This Hour — The national broadcaster has probably the best news skill for Canadians. Updated hourly, you'll get a quick look at the national and international stories making headlines. CBC also offers local news reports, but only through Amazon.ca.
  • Global News — The Corus Network offers multiple regional skills that deliver local news coverage from its Global News brand, although the news reports seem to be sourced from the local Corus radio affiliate.
  • CTV News — Updated throughout the day, this Flash Briefing from CTV News brings you the latest breaking news and headlines from Canada and around the world.
  • National Post — Listen to a selection of the latest political commentary pieces from the Full Comment section of the National Post.
  • The Globe and Mail — Because you can never have too many news sources, you can add The Globe and Mail to your flash briefing for the latest Canadian national and political news, including the latest from the Canadian Press.
  • TSN Flash Briefing — A must-have for any sports fans. Stay up to date on all the most popular sports stories in Canada and around the world.
  • TheScore — It's kind of ironic that the format for TheScore's skill has changed from giving you the latest sports scores to a quick commentary on one of the biggest stories of the day. Still worth checking out but likely not a replacement for TSN.

Fun and games skills:

  • Would You Rather for Family — This classic game that you probably played as a kid is back as an Alexa skill. This family-friendly version is an absurd time-waster and party game.
  • The Magic Door — This Alexa-powered interactive game is filled with original stories. There are 11 specific storylines to discover and explore.
  • Escape The Room — If you're a fan of escape rooms, you're going to love this skill which offers up a series of increasingly difficult virtual escape rooms which you explore using your voice. A highly reviewed Skill worth checking out.
  • Bomb Diffuser — Which wire is it? Red or Blue?! This is a quick and fun game that showcases some of the creative ways you can have fun with Alexa.
  • Hot Potato — This classic children's game works pretty great for Alexa. Perfect for a bit of kid-friendly fun for all ages.
  • Categories Game — If you enjoy playing Scattegories, you might enjoy this knock-off version for Alexa. Reviews are mixed, and you can expect the game to be occasionally slowed down with bugs, but it's the best we got for now.
  • Party Game — This is a creative game for adult parties that requires a deck of cards. A great game to play with music once the party is already in full swing.

Relaxation skills:

  • Rain Sounds — The soothing sounds of rain will help you gently fall asleep, or calm your nerves when you can't get Alexa to play that trivia skill.
  • Guided Meditation: Meditation of the Day — Another nice skill for mindfulness, Guided Meditation delivers daily meditations for relaxation, falling asleep, or starting your day right. Each session is between 5-8 minutes.
  • IFTTT — Having Alexa do more for you should let you relax a bit easy IFTTT (If This, Then That) is a third-party skill that lets you automate all sorts of handy little gestures that work with other services and devices you already use. Fun to play around with and simplify your home life.

What products and services work with Alexa?

Music and Media

The number one reason you likely bought an Echo speaker is to use your voice to control the music around your home. Fortunately, that's Alexa's greatest strength right out of the box. Alexa in Canada supports Amazon Music, Spotify, TuneIn, and SiriusXM, as well as playback on Sonos speakers.

Amazon Prime Music was launched in Canada alongside the Echo and that might be a worthwhile service consider if you're already an Amazon Prime subscriber and aren't subscribed to another music streaming service. If Amazon Music doesn't excite you, you're best off using Spotify Premium. Spotify works seamlessly with Alexa for playing specific artists, albums, or tracks, and also does a great job picking music base on genres, moods, or activities. While it's frustrating that you cannot request podcasts from Alexa, she will play them just fine as long as you pre-load them up first in the Spotify app.

Incredibly, there is no support for Audible audiobooks for Alexa, but you can still get Alexa to read any compatible Kindle titles.

Video support is not yet available for Alexa in Canada.

Smart Home

Useful Alexa Skills are in short supply for Canadians — fortunately, there's an ever-growing list of smart home products that should work perfectly with Alexa. With an Amazon Echo Plus, you can start adding Philip Hue and other Zigbee-compatible smart home devices easily from within the Alexa app. Other smart home products might not yet be compatible with the Canadian Amazon Echo hardware, or might require a separate hub and the associated app to set up.

You're able to control multiple Echo speakers from within the Alexa app, including grouping them together as needed for your home.

Best Smart Lights for Amazon Alexa

Best Smart Switches for Amazon Alexa

Best Smart Plugs for Amazon Alexa

What can't it do yet?

Unfortunately, the list of what Alexa can't do is still quite long for Canadians. All those cool features like ordering pizzas using your voice, or getting Alexa to read step-by-step instructions for recipes just aren't available for those of us up north yet. If you use the Amazon.com account as opposed to Amazon.ca, you'll miss out on the shipment tracking features (and you'd think that Amazon would be able to bridge that gap between its two sites but nope).

Alexa is here in Canada, yes, but in many ways, it feels like we're lightyears behind where the U.S. version of Alexa is today. We're sure you're more than numb to the familiar experience of playing catch up with our neighbours to the south (and not just from the frostbite). We'll continue to update this guide as Canadian Alexa learns to do more cool skills that you need to know about.

Amazon Echo

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

Deal: Buy a Pixelbook, get the Pen for free ($99 value)

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Available now through February 1.

Thanks to its stunning design, fast performance, and so much more, the Pixelbook is easily the best Chromebook on the market. It's not necessarily cheap, but if you've got at $1000 to spend, it's awfully hard to be disappointed with the machine.

Towards the end of 2017, Google was running a promotion where you could get $100 off the retail price of the Pixelbook and a free Google Home. That deal is no more, but to kick off the new year, you can now score a free Pixelbook Pen with the purchase of the laptop itself.

The Pixelbook Pen usually costs $99 on its own, and while it can, of course, be used for all your drawing and doodling, holding the button on the Pen and circling any images or text will have the Google Assistant search it for more information.

This deal is available now through February 1 from Amazon, B&H, Best Buy, and the Google Store.

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

HTC U11 EYEs will reportedly launch January 15 with Android Nougat

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HTC's latest phone is right around the corner, but its software is already outdated.

CES 2018 is finally coming to a close, and now that we're done with all the announcements coming out of the show floor, it's time to dive right back into everyone's favorite topic – smartphone leaks. Evan Blass recently took to Twitter to shed some light on HTC's latest handset, the U11 EYEs, and for the most part, it seems like a fairly solid phone.

The front of the U11 EYEs is home to a 6-inch 1080 x 2160 Super LCD3 display, and above this is where you'll find its "eyes." Two front-facing cameras are found to the right of the earpiece for phone calls, and while specifics on these two sensors haven't been announced, they'll likely offer some sort of selfie portrait mode like we've seen on other devices.

There's a single camera on the back of the phone, USB Type-C should offer fast and easy charging, and the addition of IP67 dust/water resistance is always great to see. Edge Sense makes a return for all of you that love squeezing your phones, and packed inside is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652, 4GB RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, and a 3,930 mAh battery.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment with the U11 EYEs is that it'll ship with Android Nougat. We'd expect a fast update to Oreo from HTC shortly after the phone's release, but it just seems incredibly odd to release a phone in early 2018 that's still running Nougat.

The HTC U11 EYEs will be available in black, silver, and red on January 15 for a rumored price of around $510 USD.

HTC U11

Amazon Sprint HTC

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1 week ago

Does Google sell your personal data?

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The short answer: no. It's more valuable to them if they keep it for themselves.

This is a question (often posed as a fact, but it's not) we see almost daily. Someone in an article's comments or on social media will trot out the line about how Google sells your private data and it is evil and so on. That's usually followed by how another company is better because they don't collect user information (which is equally wrong, as they all do it) or a bit about you being the product. It might even happen in the comments on this article. Sometimes the "Information Age" is also the disinformation age.

To be clear, nobody outside of Google knows the exact details of how it processes your data, but we do have a bit of understanding of the ways it is collected, and why. It's an interesting — and profitable — business model and makes for a great conversation.

When you agree to the terms and privacy policy of any Google product, you're told from the start what data is being collected (it's a lot, to be sure) and exactly who Google will share it with and when. Basically, it only shares your data if:

  • You ask Google to share it.
  • A government forces Google to share it in court.
  • You have a Google Apps domain administrator managing your account(s).
  • Google needs a trusted third-party to help process it — using these same privacy standards.

Google can also share generalized data to "show trends about the general use" of its services. You get counted when Google tells the world how many people use Gmail or Chrome. Google also promises that if it is ever bought out by another company, we all will get a notice in advance of any privacy policy changes and a chance to remove our data from its servers.

The privacy policy is really easy to read, and written in plain language that anyone can understand. You should read it.

So, how do they make money this way?

This is the interesting part. Google does use your data to make money. A lot of money. Scrooge McDuck swimming in a pool filled with gold coins level money. But not by selling it off.

Instead, Google offers a tailored service to the people buying ad space. Let's say I make a product that appeals to people who like to go fishing. I want everyone to know about my product, but my research shows that people who like to go fishing are more likely to spend money and buy my product. Having the people who like to go fishing see my ads is really important to me.

Your personal data is valuable to Google because nobody else has at this level.

Google knows a lot about people that use its services. It knows what we search for online, what we buy from Amazon (and other places that use Google Analytics or send emails about purchases), where we have been and places we've investigated and even how we got to the places we've visited. That's some scary stuff, but we need to remember that Google disassociates it all from your personal identity as it's collected and processed. No human being is reading your stuff because there is too much stuff to read. These things are associated with what's called your "unique advertising ID" and Google keeps track of things that this ID searches and buys and gets directions for and everything else it thinks is important.

You have some control over all of this. Visit your Google My Account pages and see just what you're sharing, and how you can manage it all. Opting out of interest-based ads is easy, though it doesn't mean Google stops collecting the data — it just stops associating it with your advertising ID.

It's also important to note that there are some things that Google does not associate with your advertising ID. Anything about your race, religion, sexual orientation, or health or other sensitive categories is never associated with you, even anonymously.

After all this data is collected and cataloged, Google is able to tell me that if I pay it X amount of dollars for advertising, it will be able to show my ads to devices (your phone, your tablet, and your computer) being used by an account with an advertising ID which shows an interest in fishing. My ads will also show in a rotation for people who have opted out or aren't signed into Google and don't get interest-based ads. But the bulk of my product's exposure will be targeted to the screens of devices with an advertising ID that shows an extra interest in fishing — the exact people I want to see my ads.

If Google sold any of this information to anyone else, it wouldn't be able to offer this unique service to any company wanting to buy ad space. And in the end, Google is an advertisement company.

We should be concerned about the personal information we make available, and Google does collect a lot of data. It can be scary, and the ways it collects and processes it all is a bit confusing and technical (probably with robots), but it is not selling your data. It's too valuable to let it go.

Update January 2018: This article was previously published but the information is still relevant. Portions were updated with new information.

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1 week ago

How tall should your PlayStation Camera be for VR?

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Can you improve your tracking for the PlayStation VR by simply re-arranging the way your Eye Camera is set up?

Reddit user Tomathy101 battled the idea of finding better tracking for the PlayStation Eye Camera by changing the height in which it was set up. He argues that, as a man who is over 6 feet tall, that his tracking has improved since he has raised his camera well above his head level.

So we did some experiments to confirm or deny this based on the heights of different people. Here's what we found!

Your height makes a difference

While conducting this experiment I tested the tracking problems on the height range of three different people; An 8 year old child, a 5"0 adult and an 6"3 adult. This was to test the theory that maybe the camera doesn't need to be at a 7"0 height for everyone, and perhaps just a little above your head (whatever height that might be) in general.

This theory was proved right in this case. A person of 6"3 had the best tracking performance when the PlayStation Camera was at 7"0 of height, while the person of 5"0 suffered even worse tracking with the camera at the same height. To elaborate, this means that the set-up requirement for someone of a significantly different height than you will absolutely be different.

Recommendations

If you are in a home where the users of your PSVR vary in height I recommend purchasing a mic stand off of Amazon. This will help ease the constant readjustment you will need to do to accommodate the different heights, as well as giving you a sturdy base for your camera.

If all the users of your PlayStation VR are about the same height, do not worry about buying extra equipment unless you don't have a good base to hold your camera at the new height it will now require.

Setting up your PlayStation Eye Camera for better tracking

  1. For ease and peace of mind, purchase a mic stand. (Link below.)
  2. If there is room to set up the mic stand behind your TV so that it is centered in your play area, this is highly suggested. If not, there is not too much worry for it being slightly off-center. It will, however, effect your play space.
  3. Always ensure that whoever is playing has the PlayStation Camera above their head at a minimum of 6 inches and a maximum of 12 inches.
  4. Have the camera at a slight downward angle. You want to insure the Camera sees you from your head to your toes, but also have enough room to see all the inevitable movement of said head and toes.
  5. To ensure your safety and the function of your headset, follow the instructions below to re-calibrate your play space and see exactly what your camera is seeing.

See Mic Stand on Amazon

Checking to make sure your play space is still safe, and your Eye Camera can still see you

  1. Press and hold the PlayStation button.
  2. Select Adjust Playstation VR
  3. Select Confirm your position
  4. This will show you what your camera is seeing. Do a run through to ensure the new setup can visualize your entire play space.
  5. When you are confident the visual is okay, check the lighting. Bright lights will appear as dark circles. If this happens, you might need to adjust your lighting.

And viola! Go forth and play your favorite PlayStation VR games now that your tracking will stop giving you issues!

Thoughts?

Has this helped you? Maybe it made your experience worse? If you're having any other issues when it comes to enjoying your PlayStation VR check out our PSVR Troubleshooting Guide or let us know in the comments below!

PlayStation 4

Amazon

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1 week ago

Do you prefer small or large smartphone displays?

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A big part of this decision comes down to how good (or bad) your vision is.

Seeing as how we live in a world where 6-inch smartphone screens have quickly become the norm, it's hard to believe that the first Galaxy Note and its 5.3-inch display caused the entire industry to stop and stare at its "ginormous" size just a few years ago.

Since then, phones have become increasingly larger and larger. This is great if you're someone that consumes a lot of media or enjoy the larger canvas to more easily see whatever it is you're looking at, but there's still an argument to be made for the ease of use that comes with small phones.

One of our forum users recently exchanged their Galaxy S8 for a Pixel 2 and asked the community if they'd get used to the reduction in screen real-estate with their new handset, and these are some of the top answers:

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Almeuit 01-10-2018 05:57 PM “

You can eventually get used to anything if given time -- I would think the bigger bezels would be more annoying then anything else.

Reply
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ilimit 01-10-2018 06:19 PM “

I went from an iPhone 7+ to the Pixel 2's 5" screen and love it. Sure I'll like for it to use it's real estate more effectively, but it's a great form factor.

Reply
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paradroid 01-10-2018 08:35 PM “

If your eyes are good, a smaller phone screen is fine. I need to where readers to see my phone so the bigger the better so I can make out some things on the phone without fumbling for my reading glasses.

Reply
*/
sixty_four 01-10-2018 10:45 PM “

My near vision is much better than my distance vision so the small screen works for me. I have my display and font set to the smallest size and that gives me pretty good screen density. I have noticed a decline in my near vision so I might be a "big phone" guy sooner or later.

Reply
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Jeremy8000 01-11-2018 10:15 AM “

While not as dramatic a percentage drop in screen size, I had gone from the Nexus 6 (6") to the Pixel XL (5.5") and wasn't really bothered - though am now back to the 6" size with the 2 XL. Honestly, if I didn't consume so much video media on my phone I would have gone with the Pixel 2 in a heartbeat, as it is certainly more easily pocketable and a far better bang for the buck.

Reply

Now, we'd like to pass the question on to you – Do you prefer small or large smartphone displays?

Join the conversation in the forums!

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1 week ago

Android Central's Best of CES 2018 Awards!

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These are the best products we saw at CES 2018!

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Thousands of products debut each year at CES, but only a few of them are award-worthy.

And while Android isn't particularly well-represented at the world's biggest technology show anymore, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about the products and services that were shown off this year. From awesome phones to innovative VR headsets and a weird-and-wonderful prototype, here are our picks for the Best of CES 2018!

Best of CES / Design Huawei Mate 10 Pro

Huawei didn't have a great CES. The world's number-three handset maker had every intention of announcing a carrier deal with AT&T for its Mate 10 Pro flagship, but according to numerous reports, and confirmed by Huawei itself, pressure from the U.S. government put an end to those ambitions.

Still, the Mate 10 Pro is coming to the U.S., and it's being backed up by an enormous awareness campaign. That's great news, because the phone is stunning, with a curved glass back and racing-stripe overlay on the camera, a vivid 6-inch 18:9 OLED display, and one of the most powerful processors ever made in the Kirin 970.

When the Mate 10 Pro debuts on February 18 for $799, it may not be as accessible as it could have been on AT&T's store shelves, but that doesn't take away from the fact that this is one of the best-looking phones coming to market in early 2018.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro coming to the U.S. in Feb, but carrier deal is dead

Best of CES / Innovation Lenovo Vital Moto Mod

Lenovo's Vital Moto Mod came out of left field, to be honest, but we're glad it exists: the accessory pairs with any Moto Z phone and offers important health stats through the built-in finger insert, including heart rate, respiratory rate, Pulse Ox, core body temperature, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. These metrics usually require expensive arm cuffs, but the Vital Moto Mod gets it all done portably in under two minutes.

It's a remarkable piece of technology and a testament to the continued versatility of Motorola's Moto Mods ecosystem.

Fingers-on with the new and weird Vital and Keyboard Moto Mods

Best of CES Lenovo Smart Display

Let's talk about the evolution of Google Assistant, because Google's ubiquity was a big part of what made this year's CES so exciting. Assistant is seemingly in everything, from cars to thermostats to... screens. Google's smart display strategy gets going with Lenovo's Smart Display, which is coming later this summer starting at $199. The beauty is in the simplicity: the Smart Display runs Android Things, so it combines the intuitive voice actions of Assistant with the power of Chromecast.

Part of what makes this particular model so great — there are other smart displays coming later this year from JBL, Sony, and LG — is its design, which is both minimal and bold. On the 10-inch version, the bamboo back adds some extra design flair, which we like.

Lenovo's Smart Display is the Google Assistant-powered Echo Show we've been waiting for

Best of CES Razer Project Linda

To say we weren't expecting this is an understatement, but Project Linda is the latest in a long history of interesting and innovative projects from gaming company Razer. What is it? Think a laptop without most of the guts where you insert your Razer Phone into the area where a trackpad would be. Once installed, the Razer Phone's screen is mirrored on the laptop display and you can play games, browse Chrome, or do whatever else you feel like.

Right now, Project Linda is just a prototype with no release date

Razer's Project Linda turns your phone into a laptop

Best of CES Sony Xperia XA2 + XA2 Ultra

Sony is back with another pair of mid-range phones — wait, don't go anywhere! — and they're important for a few reasons. First, the Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra are the first Sony phones to be sold in the U.S. with working fingerprint sensors since 2014, and they're also rocking the battery-friendly and speedy Snapdragon 630. Second, the larger of the two devices has a second, optically-stabilized front-facing camera so your selfies will turn out better in any lighting condition, including near-pitch black. Third, these phones ship with Android 8.0 Oreo and have huge batteries and 23MP rear cameras.

Finally, they should ship later this quarter for under $400, putting them among the best deals in mid-range smartphones right now.

Sony Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra hands-on: No more quirks, these are just good phones

Best of CES LG 2018 OLED AI TVs

LG's new 4K OLED TVs are stunning, but they also have a Google trick up their sleeves: Google Assistant support built into LG's webOS platform, which is now mature and intuitive.

Even if you don't think you want Assistant on a TV, we've learned that having it nearby while watching Netflix or cable is enormously valuable for quickly checking stats or turning off smart home devices. LG's OLED TVs are becoming more like big phones every year, and 2018's models are closer to that idea than ever.

Of course, aside from the smart stuff you get what is arguably the best 4K OLED panel available on a TV right now — even Samsung can't compete with LG in the TV space, which is ironic — and that's what has us both excited as readying our wallets as these sets get nearer to launching.

LG's 2018 TVs include new 'Alpha 9' processor for natural language processing, Google Assistant

Best of CES Lenovo Mirage Solo

Although we already knew it was coming, nothing could have prepared us for the exhilaration of being able to freely move around Daydream's beautiful VR landscape powered by Lenovo's (and the world's) first phone-free Daydream headset.

The Mirage Solo has all the specs you expect from a high-end phone — Snapdragon 835 SoC, 4GB of RAM, and a Quad-HD LCD display — and some extra tricks. On the front are two WorldSense cameras that allow the wearer to freely move around, enhancing purpose-built games and other Daydream apps. Google says that a handful of WorldSense-specific experiences will be available when the headset debuts in the second quarter of 2018 for under $400. Until then, we'll just continue Daydreaming the old-fashioned way.

Lenovo Mirage Solo hands-on: The first Daydream headset that doesn't need a phone

Best of CES Lenovo Mirage 180 Camera

Lenovo's Mirage 180 Camera isn't going to be as popular as the Mirage Solo VR headset, but it also works in tandem with it. The idea is simple: instead of dealing with the onerous task of having to shoot accurately and carefully with a 360-degree camera, Lenovo envisions the Mirage 180 as a way to create VR photo experiences without all the headaches. Even better, the videographers among us can look forward to 4K video capture from the dual 13MP sensors, along with plenty of software upgrades down the line.

At under $300, the Mirage 180 Camera won't be cheap, but after playing with it we're excited to see what it can do.

Google is focusing on 180-degree video for VR headsets

Best of CES Vivo in-display fingerprint sensor phone

Can a phone have a fingerprint sensor if you can't see it? That's the idea behind Vivo's yet-unnamed phone, whose OLED display hides a pretty neat trick: an optical fingerprint sensor by Synaptics, allowing users to place one of their digits on the near-bezelless display and unlock the phone like any other sensor.

While there are no phones yet announced for the U.S. market with this remarkable tech inside, it's safe to assume that will change in the months to come.

Vivo's in-display fingerprint sensor shows the future of smartphone biometrics

Best of CES NVIDIA Big Format Gaming Displays

Wow, just wow. To say that we were surprised to see NVIDIA work with ASUS, Acer, and HP on specialized 65-inch 4K gaming monitors with 120Hz G-Sync and DCI-P3 color reproduction would be an understatement. When we learned that it also had a built-in Android TV-powered NVIDIA Shield blew us away. In person, these are basically televisions without the TV tuning capabilities, since they're meant to be used as massive gaming monitors. Sub-millisecond latency and support for GeForce NOW and Gamestream only make the prospect enticing for gamers, but we're a bit concerned with its inevitable high price.

NVIDIA partners with Acer, ASUS and HP for new 65-inch 4K HDR gaming displays that run Android TV

Best of CES Honor View 10

A Huawei Mate 10 with a slightly different design and a much lower price? You had us at hello. Alongside the limited-edition red 7X, Honor also talked up the View 10's impending U.S. release, and while we don't know specifics at the moment, we can safely say that it will come in under $500 and remain one of the best "affordable flagships" of 2018.

In the meantime, lucky souls in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain can pick up the Honor View 10 right now.

Honor View 10 goes international Jan 8, Honor 7X announced in limited-edition red

Best of CES BlackBerry KEYone Bronze Edition

It's a BlackBerry KEYone with a new color. Not exactly the most exciting pitch, but this BlackBerry is the first dual-SIM KEYone, and the bronze color goes great with a thumb of good whiskey, in our opinion.

New BlackBerry KEYone Bronze Edition goes really well with whiskey

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1 week ago

How to upgrade to a new Philips Hue Bridge

6

If you've been using Hue bulbs for a while, you should upgrade your Bridge.

Philips has been roilling out lots of exciting new updates to its Hue lights, including the recent integration with Razer's Chroma lighting platform for gamers. There's a lot more coming, but not all of those features are going to be compatible with the original round puck that came with your Hue lights. Fortunately, Philips includes a feature in the Hue app that makes transferring your lights and settings super easy.

See at Amazon

Here's how it works!

How to transfer lights and settings from your old Bridge to your new Bridge

  1. Leave the old Bridge plugged in and connected to your network.
  2. Connect your new Bridge to power and Ethernet.
  3. Open the Hue app.
  4. Tap the Settings gear.
  5. Tap Hue bridges.
  6. Tap the information icon next to your Bridge.

  7. Tap Transfer settings.
  8. Tap the orange Prepare Transfer button.
  9. Press the button on your old Bridge.
  10. Press the button on your new Bridge.
  11. Tap Start transfer

  12. Tap blink lights to confirm the transfer worked.
  13. Tap Next when everything works.
  14. Press the reset button on your old Bridge (you'll need a pen or paperclip or something) to wipe your old Bridge.
  15. Unplug your old Bridge.
  16. Tap Done.

Once you see the Congratulations screen, all of your lights have been successfully transferred to the new bridge and your app will behave exactly the same way it always has. Everything should work in the app as though nothing has changed. Outside of the stock Philips Hue app, you may run into some confusion. Here's how you deal with it.

Another phone on the network can't use the Hue Bulbs now

Sometimes the transfer doesn't register on other Hue apps, or the connection just isn't registered because the phone wasn't connected to the network when the change happened. Either way, the fastest way to address this problem is to re-connect to your Hue Bridge. To do this:

  1. Open the Hue App.
  2. Tap on the Settings gear.
  3. Tap Hue bridges.
  4. Tap the Plus icon to add a new Bridge.
  5. Press the button on your Bridge when prompted.

Once you have connected your Bridge to this app, it should no longer have any problems communicating.

A third-party Hue app won't talk to my Hue bulbs anymore

Not every Hue app is created the same way, and some misbehave after switching bridges. There are two ways to fix this, depending on the app.

  • Option 1: Find the Bridge feature in your app and re-connect to your Hue Bridge
  • Option 2: Uninstall and Reinstall the app

Your mileage may vary on this one due to how many third-party Hue apps there are, but so far these solutions have worked with everything we've tested.

Google Home no longer activates Hue commands

If upgrading caused Google Home or Google Assistant to no longer be connected to the Hue lights, all you need to do is re-add the lights to your Home app.

How to set up Philips Hue integration in Google Home

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1 week ago

Facebook Messenger Kids comes to Amazon Fire tablets

4

A new way to keep an eye on who your kids are talking to.

Last December, Facebook launched Messenger Kids as an app for youngsters to safely communicate with one another and family members. Following this, it's now expanded to Amazon's line of Fire tablets.

Messenger Kids is targeted at kiddos 13 years and younger, and it allows them to have access to a lot of Messenger's regular features in a more secure environment. They can send GIFs, use stickers to add to photos that they take, and even make group calls over Wi-Fi.

The UI's been tweaked to be brighter and more kid-friendly, and to help give parents/guardians some added peace of mind, messages can't be deleted or hidden and you have full control of contact lists to ensure your young ones aren't talking to people they shouldn't be.

Facebook Messenger Kids is available to download from Amazon now.

Amazon Fire tablets

See more at Amazon

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1 week ago

Yup, the LG V30 is beautiful in its new 'Raspberry Rose' color

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LG V30 Raspberry Rose red

I wish more manufacturers took risks with colorful phones like this.

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LG just announced it was making a new V30 color, dubbed "Raspberry Rose," a week ago — so naturally, we tracked it down at CES 2018 to see what it was all about. And yes, it's absolutely stunning in this new color.

Now most people would agree the V30's design is quite good, and the combination of shining glass and smooth lines suits it in just about any color. But this new Raspberry Rose is so different from the rest of the current crop of V30 colors that it's wonderful to see.

The only bad part about the Raspberry Rose V30 is that it won't be available worldwide.

Oddities with custom brand names for colors aside, "Raspberry Rose" is actually a pretty accurate description of what this color looks like. It definitely isn't just a plain red, nor is it light enough to be considered pink. In regular lighting at a glance it's more like a light raspberry color, but with less light it gets very deep into a nice red rose color. The color-shifting property comes mostly in the back glass, which actually sports a bit of texture underneath for a neat effect when it shines in the light.

Of course the metal frame is also a matching red shade, though without some of the color shifting properties it has a narrower range of color depending on lighting. It's just barely noticeable when you're holding the phone from the front, but from some angles you do get those little glimpses of the red, reminding you that your V30 is special.

The only sad part about the Raspberry Rose V30 is that it's seeing a limited release in only certain markets — a fate bestowed on so many of the best "special edition" colors. South Korea gets it first, of course, followed by a wider Asia expansion and then parts of Europe. No plans are being made for a North American release.

LG V30

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1 week ago

WhatsApp group chat security flaw: What you need to know

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Relax, nobody is going to be hacking your WhatsApp messages, at least not this way.

A lot of talk went down recently about a new way to exploit WhatsApp and bypass the end-to-end encryption the company likes to mention that it has whenever it can. I've seen tweets and comments that run the gamut from "it's FUD" to talking about some backdoor that Facebook had installed.

The good news is that it's neither. In fact, it's not really one of those things you need to be concerned about and instead is one of those things that make you wonder how it ever happened in the first place because it's pretty sloppy. But don't worry — it will be fixed long before anything happens.

What it is

Researchers Paul Rösler, Christian Mainka, and Jörg Schwenk at Ruhr-Universität in Bochum, Germany released a research paper (.pdf link) that found a peculiar flaw in WhatsApp's group chat administration. WhatsApp offers the same end-to-end encryption for group chats that it does for individual chats, and that usually means we should be able to feel safe in knowing that the things we say won't be read by anyone who shouldn't be reading it unless one of the group members lets it happen.

Apparently, it's theoretically possible for a stranger to add themselves to a group chat on WhatsApp. "Theoretically" and "possible" being the key words here. I'll explain.

WhatsApp offers group messaging that uses strong end-to-end encryption.

In a WhatsApp group chat one or more of the original members is an administrator. From the server's point of view, that means that these people are able to add and remove people from the group. Everything is good so far, even though the way it works — an administrator sends a signal to every member of the group with his or her signing keys and in return, each member sends a return message with their signing keys then the originator of the message notifies each member that there is now a new person in the group — is a bit of a kludge in order to create a good user interface. If you're not an administrator, the only thing you know is that you see a message that Jerry is now a member of the group. You can either accept that or leave the chat.

A similar flaw was found with group messaging through Signal.

The problem is that WhatsApp isn't properly authenticating these group management requests on its own servers. A WhatsApp server needs to properly ID the sender of a message that would add a person to a group chat. The person sends a message that IDs both the group and the member it wishes to add and the server checks to make sure the person who sent it is actually a chat administrator. These messages aren't end-to-end encrypted, and instead use standard transport encryption — the message coming from a chat administrator and going to a server that requests a user be added to a chat is not signed by the sender with their encryption key.

This means a WhatsApp server can add any user it wants to any group, at any time. The server can, not another user. That's important, and it means any privacy expected in a WhatsApp group chat depends solely on trusting the WhatsApp chat server. That defeats the entire purpose of end-to-end encryption, which is designed so that privacy is guaranteed even if a server is compromised because only the sender and recipient can decrypt a message.

And then the internet loses its collective mind because that's what the internet is really good at doing.

This won't happen but still needs fixing

The only way this flaw can be exploited is by someone with access to the server doing it. That means a server gets compromised, or an employee goes rogue, or a three-letter government agency files a warrant. Any of those things could happen, might have happened in the past, and could even be happening right now. But one other thing needs to be considered — you'll know if it happens to your chat.

You are notified whenever a person is added to a group chat, encrypted or not.

The first thing that a server does after a member is added is notify every other member of the group that "Jerry was added to the chat." You will see the message telling you someone was added, and so will everyone else. When Jerry arrives to the private chat party with his bad jokes and cheap beer, and nobody invited him, that's going to be a sign that something's wrong and nobody should consider anything they are about to type as private. Pack up and move to another chat without Jerry and maybe even a different service that won't let him crash.

So nobody is going to be able to secretly check out your encrypted group chat, but this still undermines end-to-end encryption in every possible way. It needs to be fixed right away, and maybe even the whole group management method needs to be revamped. At the bare minimum, we all need to scratch our heads and wonder how something like this slips by programmers and code auditors. It's a ridiculous premise that will never be exploited, but still.

What you need to do

Nothing, really. Appreciate the work done by Rösler, Mainka, and Schwenk in finding this flaw because security researching is a thankless and often mind-numbing job, but past that you don't really need to change your routine at all. A method of authenticating the request to add a member to an encrypted group chat will be sorted out by the folks who keep WhatsApp's wheels spinning shortly and this will change from a flaw that will never be exploited to a flaw that can no longer be exploited at all.

What's important is that you were paying attention, because the next flaw might very well be one that does need action on your part. And there will be another flaw, so make sure you keep paying attention.

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1 week ago

LG will stop releasing new phones every year

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A new strategy to cope with 11 quarters of consecutive losses.

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While Samsung and Apple dominate the global smartphone market, LG continues on its never-ending struggle.

The company's mobile division has been losing money for 11 consecutive quarters at this point, and in an attempt to try and fix this, LG's Vice Chairman, Jo Seong-jin said that the company will be shifting away from releasing new flagship phones every single year.

As a response to a question regarding the LG G7, Sung-jin said:

We will unveil new smartphones when it is needed. But we will not launch it just because other rivals do. We plan to retain existing models longer by, for instance, unveiling more variant models of the G series or V series.

A few days before this, a spokesperson for LG said that the company would be ditching its G-series branding in favor of something new for the G7 in an effort to help boost sales. Sung-jin's mention of the G-series has us uncertain what's going on with the name of the phone, but no matter what happens there, this is a big change for LG.

Yearly flagship releases have become a norm of the industry, and in some cases with companies like OnePlus, a bi-yearly thing. We aren't sure what to expect from "more variant models" of LG's phones, but supporting current models for longer than other companies is something that we're sure some our readers will be able to get behind.

LG G7 (2018 flagship) rumor roundup: Everything you need to know

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1 week ago

Best Touchscreen Gloves for Winter 2018

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Best Touchscreen Gloves for Winter

What are the best touchscreen gloves? The ones that keep your hands warm and actually work!

There are still a few weeks left in winter, and that means that using your phone outside is uncomfortable and makes for frigid digits. That is, unless you have some awesome touchscreen gloves that let you use your phone with toasty phalanges.

Not all gloves of this nature work very well, so here are the best of the best to keep you texting even when Jack Frost is nipping at your butt.

Mujjo double-layered touchscreen gloves

Mujjo

These dual-layer gloves are Mujjo's response to customers asking for something a bit thicker for colder climes. They added a layer of wool (just like grandma used to do!), so you can now have your phone and keep your hands warm too. For $35, that's not a bad deal at all.

Silicone grips all over the palms of these gloves make sure your phone doesn't slip out of your hands in slippery weather, and Mujjo has made it so that you can use any fingertip, knuckle, and even the palm or heel of your hand. It's almost like you're wearing nothing at all… Nothing at all… Nothing at all!

See at Amazon


Agloves

Agloves

These acrylic gloves have ten-finger functionality, meaning you can use any finger to use your phone, while keeping warm.

They come in black, red, brown, navy, or white and in a few different sizes depending on the color you choose, with pricing starting around $7. These aren't the thickest gloves around and probably won't do the trick when temps drop below zero, but what are you doing standing around long enough to use your phone when it's that cold anyway?

See at Amazon


The North Face Etip

North Face ThermoBall Etip

As a Canadian, I can attest to The North Face's quality. The Etips are a little on the bulky side for touchscreen gloves, so movement is somewhat difficult, but they work exceptionally well, even in colder weather.

They come in men's and women's sizes and styles, so there's an for everybody, with pricing starting around $40. Pricing starts around $40.

See at Amazon


Glove.ly Cozy Touch Screen Glove

Glove.ly

Glove.ly Cozy gloves (around $9 to start) let you use any part of your hand to control your phone. They're not for arctic temperatures, but they're warmer than most of the thinner touchscreen gloves you might find.

If your screen gets smudged and dirty, you can use the built-in microfiber label to keep it clean, and magnets hidden under the logo help to make sure you don't lose a glove.

They come in small or medium/large, so make sure you choose the right size.

See at Amazon


Moshi Digits

Moshi Digits

Moshi's gloves are nice and thick and woolly, making them perfect for places where the winter game is strong. The $30 Digits are the Wirecutter's top pick, since they work well while also keeping your hands toasty, and in their testing, they found that the raised rubber lines and dots provide such good grip that they could use their phone one handed.

If you're looking for the best in touchscreen gloves, these may be just that for you. Only available in light gray, but at least it goes with everything?

See at Moshi


Elma Italian leather gloves

If you love the luxurious feel of genuine Italian Nappa leather and wouldn't mind only paying $25 for that feeling, then have I got the gloves for you.

These gorgeous gloves come in a few different colors and come lined with either fleece or cashmere (for $10 more). Amazon reviews say that the touchscreen fingers work incredibly well, the gloves fit well, look awesome, and keep your hands nice and toasty. Hell, for $20-$30, you could grab a few pair. Just make sure you choose the right size before checking out.

See at Amazon

Women's Gloue gloves

These cashmere-lined gloves come in red and black are just for the ladies. They feature a touchscreen forefinger and thumb and come in red or black, starting at only $14 for the red pair.

The stylish button cuffs with a bit of the lining visible make these really stand out and the price is right to grab both!

See at Amazon

Nanotips

Nanotip

Don't feel like buying a brand new pair of gloves? Nanotips makes it so you don't have to. Just paint a coating onto the thumbs and fingertips of your favorite gloves and they become touchscreen gloves.

The efficacy of Nanotips really depends on the what material your gloves are made of, and you may see varying results with different pairs of gloves. Nanotips does make a leather formula and one for fabric/acrylic, so make sure you choose the correct formula. Pricing starts around $17.

See at Amazon


Got a favorite?

Do you have a favorite pair of touchscreen gloves? Do you even use them? Let us know in the comments below!

Updated January 2018: Added pricing for each item, removed the 180s Sustain, and added the Elma and Gloue gloves to the list.

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1 week ago

Google Play Music: Everything you need to know!

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There is more music than you can imagine right at your fingertips.

While there are many apps that stream music, and stream it well, Google Play Music is Google's music service, and as such is an app that comes on millions and millions of devices. While the app has gotten clunkier in recent years, the app is still undoubtedly one of the most useful on the Android scene, and with generous benefits to both paid and free users, it's an app worth getting to know.

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