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1 week ago

T-Mobile's LTE Advanced network now live in over 920 markets

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Gigabit Class LTE also available in 430 markets.

Although the technology for a 5G future isn't quite ready for primetime, carriers all across the country are working on building up their networks to offer as fast of speeds as possible using LTE. At an event in San Jose, T-Mobile recently announced that its lightning-fast LTE Advanced network is now available in more than 920 different markets.

T-Mobile's LTE Advanced network is being built in partnership with Qualcomm's Gigabit LTE modems that are slowly making their way into more and more smartphones. LTE Advanced also uses 4X4 MIMO and 256 QAM technology, and this allows for data speeds that are twice as fast as what's capable with traditional 4G LTE.

Phones that can take advantage of LTE Advanced include the Samsung Galaxy S8, Note 8, Moto Z2 Force Edition, and LG V30. Of those 920 markets where these devices can use T-Mobile's LTE Advanced, 430 of them currently have access to Gigabit Class LTE speeds.

Gigabit Class LTE is important because although it may not be as fast as speeds we'll see a few years down the road, it's the foundation T-Mobile is using for its future 5G network.

Per Mike Finley, the Senior VP and President of Qualcomm North America and Australia:

Global momentum for Gigabit Class LTE is continuing to pick up around the world, and we're delighted that T-Mobile is planning to deliver gigabit connectivity to millions of consumers in the United States. In addition to providing blazing fast mobile connectivity, Gigabit Class LTE enables operators to expand network capacity to accommodate increasing demands by unlimited data plans, and increases overall spectral efficiency, enabling faster speeds for all users in the network.

This latest announcement places T-Mobile well ahead of other U.S. carriers when it comes to LTE Advanced, and seeing as how the Un-Carrier hasn't shown any signs of slowing down since it first started testing this network in 2014, we don't expect that to change anytime soon.

Unpacking the doomed T-Mobile / Sprint merger

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1 week ago

Amazon Echo and Echo Plus review (2017)

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Amazon Echo Review 2017

Amazon now has a full family of Echo speakers — the only hard part is choosing which one to get.

Think about Amazon and where it started. First, shipping books to your home. Later, shipping everything to your home. Maybe Amazon Echo — and Alexa along with it — won't be the most important legacy of the Seattle-based company, but you certainly could make the argument.

Because think about another product that lasted as long as the first-generation Echo. The tube-speaker was introduced in late 2014 and became widely available the following summer. Now, toward the end of 2017, we get not one but two new takes on the original.

The OG Amazon Echo has a new look. And the upscale — and pricier — Echo Plus crams more sound into the old design.

Which one's right for you? And where do these fit in the family that's quickly become one of the quickest invites into any home?

Let's do this thing. This is the Amazon Echo and Echo Plus review.

See all the Echoes at Amazon

Watch this

Amazon Echo Video Review

Just the same, only different

Amazon Echo and Echo Plus Full Review

Connected speakers are a dime a dozen these days — and that includes speakers with Alexa — Amazon's digital assistant — baked in. But so far no third party has done an Alexa speaker as good as Amazon. (Sonos is the lone exception there, but it's pretty early days and they've still got some bugs to work out.)

That brings us to the new generation of Amazon Echo, which builds on the past without totally rebooting it.

Just the specs ...

Amazon Echo Specs

Category Amazon Echo Echo Plus Price $99/$119 $149 Speaker 2.5-in. woofer/0.6 tweeter 2.5-in. woofer/.8 tweeter Line out Yes Yes Smart home hub No Yes Size 5.9 x 3.5 inches 9.3 x 3.3 inches See at Amazon See at Amazon

Which Amazon Echo is right for you?

Let's look at the family, shall we?

There's still the $49 Echo Dot, of course, which is the gateway drug. Plastic, inexpensive and meant to sell. If you don't know where to start, start here.

Two new choices: One that sounds decent, and one that sounds better and is a smart home hub.

The redesigned Echo comes in at $99 and is less of an impulse buy. But it looks much better than the original Echo. The top face is just like the Echo Dot, plastic with physical buttons for volume up and down, microphone mute, and an action button, with an LED light ring all around. The sides of the cylinder come in a fabric, or a wood or plastic veneer for $20 more. And the whole thing is shorter and wider than the OG Echo. It's more along the lines of Google Home, actually, though it hits $30 cheaper.

And then there's the $149 Echo Plus. It shares the design of the original Echo nearly identically. (If there's a visual difference, I haven't noticed it yet.) Just two buttons up top — mic and action — with the top centimeter or so rotatable to control volume. Echo Plus also can serve as a smart home hub, if you wish.

The new Echo speakers share a power plug on the back, along with what may actually be the most important new feature — a 3.5mm external audio jack. So if you're unhappy with the way these things sound and want to plug them into something else — a full stereo system, even — have at it. That's a feature that's been left for the Echo Dot (and the don't-call-it-an-Echo portable Amazon Tap) until now.

And, well, that's it. Save for the smart home hub thing on the Echo Plus, these all do exactly the same things. You can ask them questions. Make lists. Set reminders. Control things. Play music. Make calls — to other Echo devices as well as to actual phone numbers.

The differences between them are physical design, of course, audio quality, and then price.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo The 2017 version of the Amazon Echo. ($99 at Amazon)

The redesigned Amazon Echo, however, is a looker — and in more ways than one. Start with the price; $99 is a pretty sweet spot for a decent connected speaker. Not so much as to cause regret down the road, and nearly low enough to be an impulse buy.

Amazon Echo 2017 The Echo (and Echo Plus) now sports an audio-out port!

Plus, it just looks the best of the three. Even the base-model fabric looks better than the matte plastic of the larger Echo and Echo Plus, with its long body and scores of holes in the grille. If you do love that design, though, there's a matte silver option for an addition $20, including speaker grille. And you have options for an oak or walnut finish for that same $20 more. In any event, the more squat stance and external options make this a speaker I don't mind someone seeing. It's less industrial-looking. (Or, maybe to me it's just new.)

How's it sound? Pretty darn good, actually. Leaps and bounds over the Echo Dot, of course. And I think it sounds better than the original Echo despite having a smaller tweeter inside. You get a decent amount of bass. Nothing earth- (or ear-) shattering, but it's not bad at all. The highs come through as they should, too.

See at Amazon

Amazon Echo Plus

OG Amazon Echo and Echo PlusAmazon Echo Plus ($149 on Amazon), left, and the original Amazon Echo.

Everything old is new again. For $149 you can enjoy the look of the original Amazon Echo with the best sound quality of any of them. You get richer bass notes out of the Echo Plus, crisper highs, and the whole thing just sounds better than the Echo.

I still think the Echo and its redesign look better than the Echo Plus, but that's certainly subjective.

I don't think any of that is a reason to pay the $50 premium over the Echo. Sure, it sounds better. But not that much better.

Amazon Echo Plus Echo Plus still has the old two-button design.

However. ... I do think it might be worth it if you're starting to get into the smart home game, because the Plus will serve as a hub.

This is where we venture into some dangerous territory. All of this connected stuff can be a little wonky. Some things work great out of the box and talk to the internet on their own. Take the Ring doorbell as an example of this. You set it up, and it just works. But things like Philips Hue lights have required a separate hub to be physically connected to your router before anything will work. Amazon Echo Plus takes care of this, and that's a big deal because it's a single place for all the things — erm, most of the things — to connect. (Much like Samsung's Smart Things Hub, for example.)

Back to that caveat. You won't be able to actually control all the things, though. There are a couple competing standards when it comes to smart home tech — Zigbee and Z-Wave. Those are two things you should never have to know about as an end user, and the Echo Plus only does one of them. (Fine, I'll tell you. It's Zigbee.)

And that's a big deal because as you collect more and more things, you can end up with more and more hubs. Will Echo Plus solve them all? That's doubtful, because there are too many things out there, and not everyone's on the same page.

But it'll help, and that alone might be worth the $149 asking price.

See at Amazon

Don't forget the Echo Dot

As you'd expect, the $49 Echo Dot has the least quality of the trio. It's tinny. It's not all that loud. It won't get anywhere close to filling a room. I wouldn't give it to someone and expect them to enjoy listening to it at length. (For that price, I'd recommend a Google Home Mini.)

The Dot also is now my least favorite-looking Echo. But if you're dead set on trying out the Amazon assistant universe and don't want to spend a lot of money doing it, try an Echo Dot.

See at Amazon

The bottom line

Should you buy one? Yes

A couple years past the launch of the original Amazon Echo and the novelty certainly has worn off. Smart speakers with their own digital assistants aren't anything new anymore, and they're no longer expensive. Google and Amazon each have a $49 offering. You can get Alexa-compatible fare for even cheaper.

You can't go wrong with either the new Echo or the Echo Plus. Both are capable smart speakers that perform within their price range. But you still have to make a choice here, right?

If you don't need a smart home hub — and for all the stuff I have rigged up in my house, I don't have it all going through a single hub — I'd just go for the $99 Amazon Echo. It's a decent speaker that sounds better than the original Echo and does so at a good price.

If you do want to get into the smart home thing, spend the extra $50 for the Echo Plus. It'll likely make things easier for you down the road when it comes to connected accessories.

Amazon Echo and Echo Plus

Amazon Echo

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

OnePlus 5: Top things you need to know

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OnePlus 5

It's hard to ignore the importance of this phone in the Android world.

The OnePlus 5 is the most expensive phone the company has ever made, and subsequently has the highest expectations. The base plan to meet those expectations is to double down on the formula that has at least got OnePlus this far: high-end specs, solid hardware and super-fast software. Then there's the extra bit of marketing thrown behind its camera setup, which is the first substantial change to the formula of previous OnePlus phones.

The best place to get up to speed with the OnePlus 5 is right here — here are the top things you need to know about this phone.

The OnePlus 5T is on its way

Around the middle of October, OnePlus stopped selling the OnePlus 5. The prevailing wisdom is that OnePlus is making room to begin selling the OnePlus 5T when that is officially announced.

More: OnePlus 5T could be unveiled on November 16

A whole heap of top-notch specs

OnePlus 5 storage and RAM

For another generation, OnePlus is giving us just about all of the top-end specs we want to see in a high-end phone today. It starts with the latest Snapdragon 835 processor, and continues on with a standard 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. There's also an optional 8GB RAM and 128GB storage model for just $60 extra.

You'll also see an above-average 3300mAh battery inside despite the phone's 7.25 mm thickness, and it offers quick charging that can match or exceed how quickly other phones charge up with their Quick Charge 3.0 tech. You get USB-C connectivity, of course, and a 3.5 mm headphone jack — unfortunately, an increasingly rare item these days.

More: Spec comparison: OnePlus 5 vs. OnePlus 3

We're missing waterproofing, though

But of course, a phone that starts at $479 can't do it all. There are still a few specs and features "missing" here that you could find on other phones ... but the biggest one is waterproofing.

Yup, you won't find an IP rating at all on the OnePlus 5, and that's something you find in just about all of the flagship competition. No matter that those phones are $150-250 more than the OnePlus 5, because OnePlus is definitely framing its latest phone as a competitor to those flagships.

Some things remain unchanged from the OnePlus 3 and 3T

OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 3

For all of the advancements in the OnePlus 5, some parts of its experience have remain unchanged — or imperceptibly changed — from its predecessor, the OnePlus 3.

Much of what you find on the OnePlus 5 was introduced in 2016's OnePlus 3.

Some key parts of the hardware experience are the same now as they were before, including the 5.5-inch 1080p display, the one-touch fingerprint sensor below the screen, the great "Alert Slider" on the left edge, and the Dash Charge fast charging system. The phone's dimensions are also near-identical, with the OnePlus 5 being marginally thinner and narrower, and just shy of 2 mm taller.

The Android 7.1 Nougat software on the OnePlus 5 is also very similar in features to the OnePlus 3, particularly if you've dabbled in any of the beta builds for the older phone where the new software has been in testing. The experience of using the phones side-by-side today is hardly different, and the small differences can (and should) be brought to the OnePlus 3 in due time.

In many cases the stagnation isn't a bad thing, but it is worth noting that the OnePlus 5 has strong continuity with the phone that came before it.

OxygenOS is one of the best software experiences today

After a few early stumbles with its execution, OnePlus has created one of the best software experiences available on an Android phone today. OxygenOS, as OnePlus calls it, is based on the latest Android Nougat build from Google but also integrates several super-useful features that so many people desire in their phone.

You can tweak all sorts of little things like the status bar, launcher, theme, icon packs and the notification LED. But you can also change larger areas like choosing between on-screen or capacitive navigation keys, and adding screen-off gestures to launch specific functions and apps.

More: The OnePlus 5 is filled with great little software customizations

The best part about all of these changes is that they don't get in your way if you don't want them, and don't detract from the overall clean experience offered by Android the way it comes from Google. Performance on the OnePlus 5 doesn't suffer, either, which we can all be happy about.

You now have two rear cameras

A substantial area of change when compared to the OnePlus 3 is the OnePlus 5's camera setup. The new phone has a new 16MP camera, a faster f/1.7 lens and new image processing techniques, but has lost OIS (optical image stabilization) in the process. The main camera feels like an overall upgrade from the OnePlus 3, and it's capable of taking some great photos. But its lack of physical stabilization hamstrings it in scenes with mixed or little light, and the results end up being a bit grainy or blurry if you're not careful with stabilizing your hands.

Dual cameras give you new options — and one important omission.

Sitting right next to the "main" camera is another camera as well: a 20MP sensor with an f/2.6 lens that has a longer focal length — around 40 mm equivalent to the main's 24 mm. You can tap the "2x" button in the camera app to quickly switch to this lens and take photos with a unique perspective — and because it has 20MP of resolution you can even digitally zoom in a tad without losing much fidelity.

More: The OnePlus 5 has a DxOMark Mobile score of 87

The big reason for including the second camera is "Portrait Mode," which is a way to use both lenses at once to create a faux background blurring effect to try and mimic what you'd see in a DSLR. It can be hit or miss (this software is really hard to do right), but when it works you get a cool-looking photo that's different from what you'd see from either camera on its own.

It works just about anywhere in the world ... but not Verizon

OnePlus 5 SIM tray

OnePlus surpassed a pretty big technological hurdle to be able to ship one model of the phone with radio support for 30+ countries — particularly in facing the Chinese market that uses many bands you don't find anywhere else. That means you can take your phone to most places in the world and have it work on the local carrier, which is great for international travelers. There are also two SIM slots, giving you even more possibilities.

More: There's one OnePlus 5 version for the whole world

The one shortcoming, speaking purely from a U.S. perspective, is its lack of support for Verizon and Sprint. Even though the OnePlus 5 technically supports some of the necessary LTE bands for the carriers, OnePlus is making no claim of testing or certification for those networks. It's annoying and frustrating, but you shouldn't buy the OnePlus 5 expecting to use it on Verizon or Sprint.

If you bring the OnePlus 5 to T-Mobile you'll find it works great, including support for both VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling. Unfortunately those advanced calling features aren't available on AT&T — you'll get the basic voice and data services there.

Dash Charge is awesome, but has some requirements

The in-house developed Dash Charge charging system helps your OnePlus 5's battery charge up incredibly fast. But because of the way the charger has to interact with the phone to perform the fast charging without generating much heat, it requires a special charger and cable. You must use a OnePlus-made Dash Charge charger and cable, or it just won't work. OnePlus includes the correct charger and cable in the OnePlus 5's box, and also offers extra wall chargers and car chargers on its website.

The only frustrating part about Dash Charge is that it isn't cross-compatible with other fast charging systems, like the widely used Qualcomm Quick Charge or the more generic USB-C Power Delivery spec. That means if you plug into another charger (or use another cable) it will likely top out at about 5V/2.4A — which is pretty fast, but not nearly as fast as Dash Charge is.

Read our review and other coverage

Get to know the OnePlus 5 in detail by reading our comprehensive review, as well as our second take review. You can see how the OnePlus 5 compares to the Galaxy S8 and then how their cameras compare, too.

Updated November 2017: Made sure everything is up to date and fresh! Plus, we now have reviews and more!

OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5

OnePlus Amazon

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1 week ago

OnePlus will let 10 people test drive the OnePlus 5T

5

You could be among the first ten people to get their hands on the OnePlus 5T.

After more than enough leaks and rumors, OnePlus will finally be taking the stage in New York City on November 16 to officially unveil the OnePlus 5T. We've seen plenty of promotion from the company in an attempt to hype up the device as much as possible, and in this latest move, OnePlus is now looking for ten people to review the 5T ahead of its official launch.

OnePlus is running this promotion through its "The Lab" program, and eager participants can fill out a forum to tell OnePlus why they should be considered as one of the lucky ten.

Submissions can be sent in starting now, and OnePlus says it'll select its ten reviewers on November 15 by 10:00 PM EST – just a day before the 5T is announced.

Those that are selected will be among the first ten people in the world to own a OnePlus 5T, and once they get their hands on the phone, they'll be tasked with putting it through its paces to let other users know just what they think about it.

If you're interested and think you're up for the task, you can fill out the submission form here.

OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5

OnePlus Amazon

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1 week ago

Snapchat on Android: Everything you need to know

0

Whether you're new to the ephemeral social network or an advanced user, you can probably still learn a few tricks.

Snapchat is one of the largest social networks around, and it's probably the most polarizing one to boot. There's a ton of people, young and old, who just can't wrap their heads around why anyone would want to send pictures and messages that just disappear as soon as you look away (well, aside from a certain purpose that everyone seems to understand).

I've been an avid Snapchat user since the day it landed on the Play Store, and admittedly even I have a hard time expressing to skeptics why I and many of my friends find it so addictive. Despite the quip in the last paragraph, I've never used the platform to send (or receive) nude photos, and it's no secret that Snapchat for Android has lower quality images and slower feature rollouts than its iOS counterpart.

But none of that is enough to deter me and millions of others from exchanging countless self-destructing photos, videos, and messages every single day. It's a great way to keep up with the personal lives of your friends, get a peek at what happens behind the scenes with your idols, and quickly share photos and videos that just don't have enough mass appeal to be immortalized on Instagram or Twitter.

So maybe it's time to stop questioning why Snapchat is so popular, and instead start to figure out ... how the hell do you use it?

How to use Snapchat

Cella already extensively covered the basics of Snapchat last year, from its formative history to navigating its convoluted UI and, of course, the lenses and filters. It's still a great read with loads of information, so let's not dwell too much on the basics here — just know that the three-panel layout is largely unchanged, lenses are still one of the most fun parts of Snapchat, and disappearing messages are still as finicky and frustrating as ever.

Not now, Snapchat, the grownups are talking ... on Slack.

But here's the thing: even though Cella's article is still relevant, Snapchat has added a lot of new features over the last year, and it's become significantly more complicated as a result. A few gestures have been remapped to make room for new functions, so even if you've used Snapchat before, you might have to relearn a few shortcuts if you haven't been active in a while.

Download: Snapchat (free)

Getting familiar with Snapchat

What does my score mean?

You used to be able to swipe down from anywhere in the viewfinder to access your Snapchat profile, but that's been reallocated to a button in the top left corner (represented by your avatar) to make room for Snapchat's jumbled search feed.

Once you've made your way to your profile view, you'll notice a seemingly arbitrary number next to your username. This number is your Snapchat "score," but what does that mean exactly? The answer's actually pretty simple — it's just the number of snaps you've sent and received through your account's history.

For extra credit, tap the trophy icon underneath your username to jump into your Trophy Case. This works a lot like achievements on Xbox Live; Snapchat gives you small awards for the various ways you send snaps and otherwise use the app (i.e. zooming during a video snap, snapping in certain weather conditions, saving stories to your Memories, and so on). These trophies offer little more than bragging rights amongst your friends, but they're a fun way to gamify Snapchat and keep fans of collectibles coming back.

How do I use Snapcodes?

While you're in your profile view, it's impossible not to notice the giant speckled yellow block above all of your info. This block, called your Snapcode, works a lot like a QR code; position one in your Snapchat viewfinder, then long-press on the screen to instantly add the Snapcode's owner as a friend. Everybody's Snapcode looks a little different, with the black dots arranged in various patterns, and you can further personalize your own code by creating a Bitmoji, then choosing a Bitmoji Selfie — essentially emoticons based on your face.

Read more: Creating a Snapcode

This search panel is a mess.

Yes, it is. But let's make some sense of it. You can use the search bar to find anything from friends to related stories and search tags. Just below that are some of the current most relevant tags, and a long scrollable list of the top stories that people have contributed to. If you're on the hunt for a particular type of content, you can flip through different categories beneath the top stories, ranging from nightclubs and bars around you to concerts, animals, and travel.

At the very bottom of the search panel is a three-column section that lists your most recently added friends, suggests new people to add, and connects with your phone's address book to find contacts who are on Snapchat.

Read more: Snapchat's Universal Search

What are Bitmoji?

Bitmoji are those little animated characters you've probably seen your friends using in their stories. You can download the Bitmoji app from the Play Store, then create a cartoon caricature of yourself that integrates with your Snapchat account for a handful of personalized effects to use in your snaps. From there, you can put your Bitmoji into your Snapcode, use it with stickers, or choose from a handful of 3D animations in the lens selector to add to your snaps.

Read more: Setting Bitmoji shortcuts to your Snapchat contacts

Shazam integration

Music recognition seems like a bit of an oddball feature for a photo-sharing platform, but it's convenient nonetheless. Snap Inc. and Shazam partnered up back in December of last year, and since then you've been able to press and hold on the camera screen (the same way you access lenses) and have Shazam start listening and tell you what song is playing in the background.

Once you've identified a song, you can send it to your friends, post it to your story, or just dismiss it and come back to it later — every song you identify is saved under the Shazam tab in the settings, where you can find links to play the song on Google Play Music or Spotify, pull up lyrics and music videos, or delete any guilty pleasures you might've identified.

Read more: Shazam in Snapchat

Snap Map?

If you pinch in from the camera viewfinder, you'll be taken into Snap Map, where you'll see your Bitmoji standing in your exact location on a map powered by the open-source Mapbox platform. As you scroll around the map, you'll start to find your friends' Bitmoji as well, along with some location-based stories. You can tap a friend's Bitmoji to see when their location was last updated — which is basically just the last time they opened Snapchat.

This is a cool feature to enable when you're out in a social setting and want your friends to find you, but it can feel way too invasive and even dangerous to broadcast your location when you're home. Luckily, you can choose who's able to see your location in the settings, or opt out of the feature entirely by enabling Ghost Mode.

Read more: Snap Map does exactly what you'd think

About the dancing hotdog man...

You've undoubtedly seen the anthropomorphic dancing hotdog somewhere on the internet, either in your friends' snaps or as the subject of a meme on Twitter. That fun-loving frank has inadvertently become Snapchat's unofficial second mascot (the first being Ghostface Chillah, the white ghost in the company's logo), and the most prominent of its augmented reality lenses.

To make use of Snapchat's AR features, press and hold anywhere in the camera screen until a scrolling list of circular icons populates the bottom of the screen, near the shutter button. As always, you'll find various face filters, but thrown into the mix are a rotation of 3D characters (including your Bitmoji, the hotdog man, and others) that attach to surfaces in the room around you. If you're unhappy with their placement, you can move these characters around, resize them, and even move around them to see different angles.

To be honest, this is the feature that finally sold me on Bitmoji. It's silly, sure, but so is the rest of Snapchat, and it's fun to see a rendition of yourself animated in different ways all the time.

Read more: Update brings AR effects to your everyday life

When 10-second snaps aren't enough

Snapchat recently added support for its Multi-Snap feature on Android, which lets users bypass the built-in 10-second recording limit. Just keep holding the camera button after the red ring fills up to record up to six consecutive snaps that can all be shared to your story or sent to a friend simultaneously.

Each clip is displayed as a card that can be individually deleted, though you can't edit each card separately; any filters, text, or stickers added are applied to the collective Multi-Snap.

Read more: Snapchat lets you record 60-second Snaps ... sort of

Sending money in Snapchat

One of the features I find myself using most often in Snapchat is Snapcash, which lets you send money to your friends (and vice versa) just by typing the amount in the chat window. Both the sender and recipient will need to enable Snapcash, which is as easy as linking your debit card information in the settings.

There's an argument to be made that almost every banking app these days already has direct transfer options available, but Snapcash comes in handy when the two parties don't go through the same bank. Receipts are available in the settings, and all exchanges are processed by Square, rather than by Snapchat directly.

Read more: Snapcash

Adding URLs to your snaps

One of the best marketing features on Instagram Stories, Snapchat's biggest competition, is the ability to add links in posts, but it's unfortunately only available for business accounts with at least 10,000 followers. Snapchat took notice and brought the same feature to its own platform, without the annoying business account limitation.

To add a link to a snap, just hit the paperclip icon in the editor and type or paste the desired URL. Snapchat will open the link using an in-app browser, load the mobile version if possible, and confirm that you've input the correct link. Once added, you can make whatever other adjustments you want, then send the snap as usual. Recipients will be able to swipe up to visit the linked page, and you can share the snap to your story for maximum exposure.

Read more: Instagram Stories lets you share your day's best moments

Memories is like Snapchat's own Google Photos

Snapchat is ephemeral by nature, but sometimes you take a snap that you just don't want to forget. Luckily, swiping up from the camera feed reveals Memories, which backs up any snaps you've chosen to save to the cloud using Snapchat's servers. Much like Google Photos, this is a completely free service with unlimited storage for your photos and videos captured with Snapchat, and you can set any stories you post to automatically save to your Memories in the settings.

Read more: How to access and use Snapchat Memories

While perusing your Memories, you can tap an old snap to view the full-size image, and long press the preview to export it to your phone's gallery, delete the snap from Memories, or even edit and send the snap all over again. Snapchat used to place a large white border around older images, but it now simply denotes the post's age in the upper lefthand corner.

Read more: How to manage Snapchat Memories

Okay, I've got the hang of Snapchat. Now what about Spectacles?

Perhaps the most ambitious move Snapchat has made since its inception is the release of its Spectacles sunglasses. With an unmistakably quirky design, a constantly moving vending machine pop-up store, and a built-in camera that raised numerous privacy concerns, Spectacles have garnered a lot of attention over the last year or so.

But what do Spectacles do, exactly? Once you pair them to your phone through Bluetooth, all you have to do is press the button on the top of the left frame (right above the camera) and the Spectacles will begin capturing an eight-second video. There's a ring of LEDs by the right lens that lights up to alert those around you that you're recording, and once the video is finished it'll sync to your phone the next time you open Snapchat with the Spectacles on.

Point-of-view videos are neat, but the unique part of Spectacles is that they record circular video, which work natively with Snapchat for a much more immersive experience. The video punches in to fill your phone's entire screen, giving the illusion of a standard rectangular capture, but works with the accelerometer to follow your phone's orientation, changing the displayed content as you rotate your phone around. It works extremely smoothly, and once you start playing with videos from the Spectacles it becomes flat-out addictive.

Still have more questions about Spectacles? You're in luck — there's a Mr. Mobile video for that.

Having trouble?

Snapchat isn't perfect, and every once in a while you might run into some trouble with logging in, sending snaps, or otherwise malfunctioning features. Luckily, there's usually an easy fix.

How to fix Snapchat login errors

Got any other tips or tricks?

Let us know your favorite ways to use Snapchat in the comments below, and we'll update the article as new features for Snapchat on Android roll out.

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1 week ago

Five home automation accessories under $35 that work with Google Home Mini

17

Now that you've got the cheap controller, it's time to get some things to control.

So you've got yourself a shiny new Google Home Mini. Good for you. It's a great inexpensive way to get into the smart home game for less than $50.

But now that you've got the controller, you need some things to actually control. And it's real easy for things to get expensive real quick. We're talking hundreds and hundreds of dollars of connected ... stuff.

Or, you can dig deep and find the cheap stuff. And so we've dug deep. Really deep. Here's the best connected stuff we've found for Google Home Mini — all for less than $35(ish) each.

Belkin WeMo Mini

This is a great little connected outlet for about $35. (I know because I have one.) And it's great because it doesn't take up much space, leaving plenty of room left over for the second plug of a two-gang box.

What's it do? It turns your dumb plug into a smart plug. You can control it remotely and set timers, or other schemes.

And with the holidays coming up, it's the perfect little gizmo to control lights. Because nobody wants to hit the front porch in the their underwear when it's 30 degrees out.

See at Amazon

SwitchMate Bright

SwitchmateThis is great for those who don't want to do any rewiring. You just pop the $35 SwitchMate on top of an existing switch or plug, and it does all the work for you.

You can set timers for whenever — a fun one is to have the lights kick on in the morning so you're not stumbling through the house any more than necessary. And you an also set it to turn things on so the house is lit up when you arrive home in the evening.

Is it any easier than this? Probably not.

See at Amazon

APower SmartPlug

APower

Here's another smart plug that plugs into your existing dumb outlets (because, yo, dawg, I heard your outlets like outlets) and smartens things up a bit.

I'm cheating a tad because you'll have to hit Amazon's "Other Sellars" to find this one under the $35 limit, but it's definitely doable.

The plug itself is a little clunky. But if you're looking to save a few bucks, sometimes you have to go that route.

See at Amazon

TP Link Smart LED

TPLinkA basic smart bulb isn't nearly as expensive as it used to be. Sure, you can get white bulbs that can change their color temperature — more orange or yellow than white or blueish-white, or vice-versa. But those dollars start to add up pretty fast.

If you just want something basic, look for a dimmable light. This one from TP Link is just $20 and gives you basic functionality. You can turn it off and on from Google Home Mini. (Or, yes, from anything else.) You can dim it so it's not BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN all the time.

Is $20 a lot of money for a light bulb? Yes, it is. But it's not all that much for something connected.

See at Amazon

Philips Hue A19 dimmable

Philips HueSpeaking of relatively inexpensive smart lights, this is another dimmable A19 bulb — this time from Philips Hue. It runs $30 — for two bulbs this time — and works through Philips' excellent connected system. (At some point I'd spring for the hub, too, though that's another $60 and thus outside the scope of this post.)

Philips Hue bulbs really are a bit of a rabbit hole. Once you start down it, you're going to find it hard to stop.

So if you're going to do it, start with this inexpensive option.

See at Amazon

Any others?

Let us know in the comments below!

Google Home

Google Store Best Buy Target

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1 week ago

Defective microphones on Pixel 2, Galaxy S8, Note 8 can be fixed by blowing in them

32

To blow or not to blow

Whether you're making a phone call, doing speech-to-text, or talking to Google Assistant, you use the microphones on your phone more than you probably realize. As such, the fact that mics on the Pixel 2, Galaxy S8, and Note 8 mysteriously aren't working has got a lot of customers quite irritated – and rightly so.

Google's Product Forums and the Samsung Community feature numerous users complaining that the microphones on their devices aren't responsive, and for a lot of people, it's said that blowing into the microphone ports actually gets the mics working again.

Blowing into the microphones appears to only be a temporary fix, however, as users report they eventually stop working and you'll need to blow into your device once again.

Stop the blowing and start an RMA.

Although this is a possible way to get your mic working again, we'd advise being careful about doing so. A microphone on a phone can stop working for a number of reasons, and one of those is if something gets in the way of the mic. If this is the case, blowing can move the obstacle out of the way and things can be hunky-dory once again.

On the flip side, if the microphone itself is damaged, blowing and blowing into it will do nothing but add moisture – something you definitely don't want to do.

You can certainly try the blowing technique if you're noticing this issue on your handset, but we'd suggest going the more proper route by starting an RMA process with either Google or Samsung depending on which phone you have.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Google Store Project Fi Verizon Best Buy

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1 week ago

Best Multiplayer Games for PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR's library of games grows every week, and it continues to attract some gems. One thing about virtual reality, mostly due to the physical nature of the headset, is that it can be a bit of a solitary experience. If you'd like your gaming experience to entail meeting some new friends or duking it out against human intelligence, we've rounded up the best multiplayer games for PlayStation VR.

Read more at VR Heads!

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1 week ago

Skype Lite for Android is a throwback to a simpler (better?) Skype

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Skype got a major overhaul on Android earlier this year, but the unreleased Skype Lite harkens back to the old school design of the video and messaging service.

Skype Lite is aimed at the mobile market in India, and in this case, "unreleased" means possibly unstable. But depending on your Android device and region, you may still be able to install it. The design is much simpler than the new Skype, and it would be great to see a version of this app make its way to a wider audience.

Quite a few Skype users have pushed back against the latest design changes to the main Skype app on Android. The added bells and whistles, Snapchat-esque features, and new design are certainly different and haven't been well received by many. In contrast, Skype Lite has very few extra features and focuses on being a basic video and messaging app. And that's a good thing.

Skype without Snapchat

Skype Lite is split into three main headers: calls, chats, and discover, which is for bots. You can easily jump between these and message or call people or bots just like you would on normal Skype.

Skype Lite is purposefully made to be basic. There's no following people on yet another social network, and there's no capture feature. The app is just easier to use than the new version of Skype.

Skype Lite has a handy hamburger menu, rather than a plus icon that doesn't help that much. And it still lets you send photos within message threads just by tapping on a camera icon. Navigating the app is easy and familiar.

One design choice that adds extra steps is that to open your SMS messages you have to tap SMS insights to switch over to your texts. But overall, the app is very fluid.

Lite but usable

Design doesn't mean much without function, and Skype Lite doesn't disappoint. Messaging is quick, and video calls work well. It does precisely what a Lite version of an app is supposed to: deliver the basics of a service while being easier on your phone and data.

The features that are available are very basic. But for most users on mobile devices, Skype Lite is completely fine. It lets you talk to your friends, family, and colleagues without any fuss.

The app also supports SMS messaging, but it does not support the SMS relay that is seen on the Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform (UWP) versions of Skype. The app supposedly also has SMS insights that automatically categorize messages for you, but in our testing, we couldn't get this feature to work.

Summing things up

Using Skype Lite makes it frustrating to use the new version of Skype on Android. Skype Lite is easy to navigate, does what you need it to do, and doesn't try to be something it isn't.

When you throw in support for SMS messaging, and the fact that it's designed to be lightweight, it can be argued that Skype Lite is the best version of Skype on Android, though at the moment it is still an unreleased app. Hopefully, in the future, Skype Lite goes mainstream and is available in all regions.

This app isn't generally available, and it's still rough around the edges, so we're not giving it a rating quite yet. But it shows a lot of promise and is great to use if it's available to you. You just might like it better than the full version of the app.

Download: Skype Lite (free)

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1 week ago

Amazon adds offline video downloads to FreeTime on Fire tablets

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If you have a child and own a Fire tablet, chances are you're subscribed to Amazon FreeTime. FreeTime already offers access to a load of kid-friendly apps, games, and video content, and the introduction of a new Offline Mode aims to make FreeTime just as enjoyable even when your son or daughter is away from an Internet connection.

Offline Mode will automatically be enabled whenever your Fire tablet is disconnected from a Wi-Fi connection or if Airplane Mode is turned on, and when this happens, your kid will only see content on FreeTime that's been downloaded to the tablet.

Apps, games, and books can already be downloaded for offline use, but starting this week, Fire tablets will soon be able to download movies and TV shows from FreeTime as well. This can be done by simply holding down on the video title you'd like to download to the Fire tablet, and holding down on it again will delete it from your local storage.

Also, just in time for the holiday season, Amazon is adding new books, videos, and apps/games to FreeTime so your little ones have access to even more content that's okay for their eyes to see.

Some of the new additions include The Hobbit, Curious George in the Snow, Charlie Brown: Mayflower Voyagers, Team Umizoomi (Season 2), Angry Birds Space, Sonic Dash 2: Sonic Boom, Beach Buggy Racing, and plenty more.

Amazon Fire tablets

See more at Amazon

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1 week ago

Google's new Files Go app offers easy storage management and file transfers

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Free up space and easily send files without an Internet connection.

Update 11/9/2017 – Google's Ceasar Sengupta announced that Files Go is back on the Play Store! Check it out at the link below 👀

Google's no stranger when it comes to creating apps to try new things and test out unexplored waters, and in this latest move from the company, a new application called "Files Go" recently made its way to the Play Store as part of an early access program before quickly being removed.

Files Go is being marketed as a "smart storage manager, and its main purpose is to help you easily see which files/apps are on your device and what ones you can delete so you can quickly free up precious storage.

Upon opening the app, you'll be met with two main home screens – Storage and Files. The Storage page is where you'll go to see how much storage is being used of the available space on your device, and you'll also have quick links for cleaning application caches and deleting any photos, videos, or applications that Files Go thinks you should remove.

On the Files page, you can browse through all of your phone's content by downloads, received files, images, videos, audio, and documents. Below these tabs, you'll be able to send and receive files via Bluetooth to other people that also have the Files Go app – no Internet connection required.

Although anyone can technically download and use Files Go, the app is part of Google's "Go" series of services. As such, it's targeted specifically at users in developing markets with slower internet speeds and smaller allowances of bandwidth.

You can download the Files Go APK here, and as long as you're running Android 5.0 Lollipop or later, you should be good to go. However, seeing as how the app's release notes mention that this is an "early dev build", you should expect a fair amount of bugs.

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1 week ago

Best Alexa-enabled speakers

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Not everything Alexa has to be an Echo. There are some great options out there for smart speakers without Amazon's logo on the box.

If you want everything that Amazon Alexa has to offer — but don't actually want an Amazon Echo, well, you're going about things the hard way.

But you're also in luck. Because Amazon Alexa can be baked into just about anything these days, and that also means other speakers.

Here's a quick look at some of the best Amazon Echo alternatives you can find.

Sonos One

Sonos One

This will be one of the more expensive entries on this list at $199, but for good reason. Sonos is the No. 1 name in wireless home audio, with great sound and ridiculously easy setup. And Sonos One is the first of its speakers to have Alexa built in. (And be sure to check out our full Sonos One review.)

The multiple microphones means Sonos One will hear you wherever you are. And it's able to control anything that Alexa can control — and that means additional Sonos speakers as well. Looks great, sounds great. It's still in its infancy, so Sonos is still working out a few software kinks, but this one should be high up on anyone's wish list.

See at Sonos

Vaux cordless home speaker

Vaux Cordless Home Speaker

OK, I'm going to cheat a little here, but for good reason. The VAUX cordless home speaker is, in fact, a cordless home speaker with Alexa inside. Literally. It's a speaker that you put an Amazon Echo Dot inside, connected via the 3.5mm audio port. It's an ingenious little thing.

Why get this over something that takes advantage of Alexa via software? For one, it's only $49. And because it uses an actual Echo Dot, you've always got the option to remove the Dot to use it in the more traditional way.

It's a clever little option, actually, and one that you should definitely check out. Check out our full review.

See at Amazon

Sugr Cube Minimalist

Sugr CubeYou can't troll around on Amazon without running into this speaker. The Sugr Cub Minimalist has mixed reviews, but there's no denying that it's one of the more intriguing-looking speakers of the bunch. And for a lot of folks that's going to be a big selling point.

It's also on the more expensive side, at $169 for the darker cherry, or $159 for the lighter maple model. But with it you can full Wifi and Alexa support, touch motion controls, and the knowledge that visitors are going ask about that cool-looking speaker on the shelf.

And all you have to do is have them ask Alexa. She'll be happy to explain.

See at Amazon



Eufy Genie

Eufy Genie

If you want something that's more like an Amazon Echo Dot but comes in even less expensive, then you need to check out the Eufy Genie. (I have, and you can read that whole experience here.)

It's currently listed at a mere $25 — or about half the cost of an actual Echo Dot. And you get a pretty good experience from it. I still think I looks better than the Dot, and it performs reasonably well despite having fewer microphones with which to listen for you.

It's a really inexpensive way to get into the whole Alexa thing, and it's worth checking out.

See at Amazon

Invoxia smart portable speaker

InvoxiaIf you want something a little different, Invoxia's got an intriguing offering. This speaker has Alexa built in, of course, and it's also got some other tricks up its sleeve. It's got a small display on the front, a few physical buttons for things like internet radio stations and Spotify playlists, and you can make VOIP calls with a paired smartphone.

But maybe the coolest part? This rechargeable speaker has a magnet on the back so you can stick it to the fridge. Very cool. The basic gray model starts at $119.

See at Amazon

Amazon Echo

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

Kick off your Philips Hue obsession with this 4-bulb Starter Kit for $60

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It's time to make your lights smarter without going broke!

Is this deal for me?

If you've been looking to get into the whole smart home lighting game, and have yet to make the move because of price, this offer may be the best one out there. This Starter Kit comes with four white bulbs and the hub that's required for them to work all for just $59.98. This price is available at both Amazon and Best Buy right now. Normally, this kit runs $99.99, and at this price it's only $1 more than the 2-bulb Starter Kit is right now.

Amazon has also dropped the price of the Philips Hue LightStrip Plus down to $49.98, which is a match of Best Buy's price drop for its Early Black Friday deals. This is a savings of $40 from the normal selling price of the LightStrip Plus, so you won't want to pass it up.

TL;DR

  • What makes this deal worth considering? - Smart lights are incredibly awesome, but also a pretty expensive thing to get into. With Philips Hue bulbs, you need a Hub to be able to use them, and this discounted kit includes all of that. Normally, a 4-pack of bulbs runs $49.99, and the Hub is $59.99 on its own.
  • Things to know before you buy! - This deal is part of Best Buy's Early Black Friday discounts, and the prices are set to last through Saturday, or until they sell out. These are going in and out of stock at Amazon.

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

How are you liking the Pixel 2 XL's display after the November update?

77

Here's what you had to say about the Pixel 2 XL's new display modes.

With the recent November security patch update that Google just started to push out, the Pixel 2 XL is gaining new display profiles to silence the complaints that many users have voiced regarding the dull and washed-out nature of the phone's screen.

The Pixel 2 XL previously featured a Vivid toggle that increased saturation by around 10-percent, but this has now been replaced with Normal, Boosted, and Saturated.

Some users are still waiting to get their hands on the November update, but for those that have already downloaded it, here's what they've had to say for their initial impressions.

*/
Csquared 11-08-2017 10:42 AM “

After the Nov update on Pixel 2 XL what are your thoughts on the Saturation Settings. I have found that the Boosted works best for me. I like the Saturated setting except I think it makes white backgrounds look to red.

Reply
*/
nelamvr6 11-08-2017 11:03 AM “

I settled on Boosted also. It may be my imagination, but it appears to me to be a little more saturated than the previous "Vivid" setting. Has anyone seen figures from Google on the levels of saturation for the 3 new levels? I tried Saturated for a while, and it some situations it was more fun. But in the end most things just seemed too cartoonish. The thing that made me switch back to...

Reply
*/
Ca_lvn 11-08-2017 04:50 PM “

Everything's different, boosted has a little increase to it, I miss the stock one

Reply
*/
rich250 11-08-2017 07:31 PM “

normal boosted ( and should be ) oversaturated

Reply

Thoughts about the new display modes seem to be all across the board, so we'd like to hear from you – If you have the November update on your Pixel 2 XL, has your opinion about the display changed?

Join the conversation in the forums!

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Google Store Project Fi Verizon Best Buy

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1 week ago

How has your Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL battery life been?

42
Google Pixel 2 battery life

It's the most important spec for many people.

Battery life makes or breaks the smartphone experience. No, not just battery size but the combination of factors that lead to how long a phone will last on an average day before you start looking for a battery or a wall outlet. Battery life differs pretty widely among phones, but the biggest differences you see in reported battery life come down to the vast differences in how we use our phones. Ask two people with the same exact phone how their battery life is on a normal day, and you can get two very different numbers — one reassuring, and another unsettling.

Whether you have the Pixel 2, with its relatively small 2700mAh battery, or the bigger Pixel 2 XL with far better longevity prospects, we want to know how your battery life has been.

Despite its small battery capacity, some people are seeing great battery life on the Pixel 2.

*/
openwheelracing 10-21-2017 11:20 PM “

Yep, 3 straight days with 6+ hours of SOT with Pixel 2. This includes GPS, YouTube and camera. Not babying the battery at all. Going out of my way to use the phone. Im amazed how efficient this phone is. If I go easy, I can probably get 8+ hours SOT.

Reply

Seeing a whole bunch of reports like this. Impressive.

*/
Cakefish 10-23-2017 05:35 PM “

Over 4 hours of SOT with 50% still to go. Regular Pixel 2. Mixed 4G and WiFi usage. Adaptive brightness on. GPS on. Bluetooth off. AOD off.https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/20171023/92dbbb4e26bf2c49ce3e0bd1c5d59108.jpg

Reply

It's tough to find someone with a Pixel 2 XL who isn't very happy with their battery life.

*/
JHBThree 10-22-2017 05:37 PM “

Yesterday I had over 5 hours SOT and still had 40% in the tank when I went to bed. So far the battery life on the 2XL has been fantastic.

Reply

And the 2 XL is outperforming its predecessor as well, which is always a good sign.

*/
svenEDGE 10-21-2017 04:50 PM “

2 XL here... The battery life is incredible. I pulled it off the charger 6 hours ago. Since then I used my phone to navigate to work (25 minute commute), streamed music the whole way here, I've watched YouTube, used Instagram, I screenshared with support while I was troubleshooting an issue, plus other random stuff. I've currently had the screen on for 2 hrs and 20min and have my brightness maxed...

Reply

So where does your Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL battery life land on the spectrum? Is it more than enough, coming up short, or landing right in the middle? Jump into the forums and get in on the discussion!

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Google Store Project Fi Verizon Best Buy

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