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1 day ago

The best tech deals that you don't want to miss out on

Our friends at Thrifter post some great deals every day, and here are the best ones available right now!

From mobile phones to general tech, home goods and much more, the team at Thrifter is scouring the web every single day to find the best deals. Whether something hits a new all-time low, gets discounted for just a limited time, or has a new coupon code available for it, you won't want to miss out any of them. If you want to know about the deals as soon as they are happening, you'll want to follow Thrifter on Twitter, and sign up for the newsletter, because missing out on a great deal stinks!

So, what are the best deals that you should be looking at right now? Well, let's take a look at them so you can see which ones are best for you!

UE Wonderboom - $109.99 (Normally $198.98)

The Wonderboom is sitting at one of its lowest prices ever right now at $81.99. That's almost a deal in itself, but right now you can add another one to your cart and get both speakers discounted for $109.99 total. You can pair these two speakers together to get stereo sound in a portable device.

See at Amazon

4K Roku Streaming Stick+ - $48 ($69.99)

Whether you're looking for a gift for yourself to take your holiday gifts to the next level or want a great gift for someone crafty in your life, this X-ACTO set is a great purchase.

See at Amazon

Nest Thermostat Friday Deals - Starting at $26.99

If you're tired of the crazy weather patterns and walking into a house that is the wrong temperature, you need to get a smart thermostat now. The ability to control the temperature in your home from anywhere using your smartphone is amazing, and right now Nest's Smart Thermostats are on sale at both Amazon and B&H. The indoor and outdoor cameras are also discounted, so be sure to check them all out.

See at Amazon

PlayStation Plus - $39.99 (Normally $59.99)

Amazon currently has the PlayStation Plus 1-year subscription card on sale for $39.99. This item usually sells for $59.99. You can grab this deal from GameStop as well.

PlayStation Plus is Sony's online service for its gaming consoles. With your subscription, you can begin to team up and talk with thousands of other gamers via the multi-player modes within PlayStation games. PlayStation Plus also provides its subscribers with two free games (per console, so 6 total) each month, with titles coming from both unknown studios and major ones.

See at Amazon

Anker Black Friday deals - Starting at $8

Anker is dropping prices on... well, everything. Today includes deals on chargers, cables, speakers, and a whole bunch of other things. Whatever gear you need, pretty sure you can get a nice chunk off the price today.

See at Amazon

More great deals!

For even more great deals, and to see these discounts as they become available, be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!

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1 day ago

Samsung Galaxy S9: Rumors, Specs, Release Date, and More!

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Samsung Galaxy S8+

The Galaxy S9 is on its way, and this is everything we know so far about Samsung's next flagship.

Even today, there's no denying that the Galaxy S8 is still one of the best-looking phones on the market. Its Quad HD AMOLED Infinity Display is a thing of beauty, its camera takes excellent photos, and even Samsung's software is finally enjoyable for once. All of the greatness found with the S8 has put a lot of pressure and expectations on the S9, and although it probably won't be as big of an upgrade as the S8 was from the S7, it'll still likely be one of the best phones of 2018. Here's everything we know!

The Galaxy S9 will look a lot like the S8

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

See this design? Hope you're okay with it for another year.

If you were hoping for a big design upgrade with the S9, you better stop now before you get your hopes up too much. According to a source that spoke with Venture Beat, the S9 will share a very similar look compared to the S8. There will still be two models to choose from with the same screen sizes of 5.8 and 6.2-inches, the curved Infinity Display isn't going anywhere, and we'll also likely see the same use of a metal frame with a glass back.

Only the S9+ will get dual rear-cameras

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Only the larger S9 will get dual-camera love, but each will have a much more accessible fingerprint scanner.

Samsung's first phone to ship with dual cameras was the Note 8, and as expected, this is a feature that'll trickle over to the S9. However, only the larger Galaxy S9+ is reported to receive this treatment. The smaller S9 will retain a single camera, and while we don't expect it to take bad photos, this disparity between the smaller and larger variants is new for Samsung. On that same note, the S9+ will also receive a small performance boost with an upgraded 6GB of RAM compared to the S9's 4GB count.

Thankfully, no matter which variant of the S9 you choose, the fingerprint sensor will be moved below the camera and no longer horrible to use.

Don't worry – the 3.5mm headphone jack will remain (probably)

Samsung Galaxy S8

The 3.5mm headphone jack should be here to stay 🙏

One trend we've seen throughout 2017 is the rapid removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack. This is something that the likes of Apple, Google, Motorola, and HTC have all been more than willing to follow suit with, but we shouldn't have to worry about this with the S9.

Venture Beat's same source supposedly confirmed that the Galaxy S9 will keep the headphone jack, and this lines up with a leaked case render for the phone that shows a covered section for the coveted port.

We could see the phones as early as January at CES

The Galaxy S phones are some of the first flagships that we see each year, but the S9 could make an appearance earlier than any of its older siblings. Although the S9 still won't launch until some point in March, Samsung will reportedly be at CES in January for an early showing of its new hardware.

We more than likely won't get any official spec, pricing, or availability info if this turns out to be true, but at the very least, we'll get a quick preview of the phone to get an idea for what to expect later in the year.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked

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1 day ago

The best hand-picked Black Friday deals are right here!

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Stay with Thrifter over Black Friday and beyond for the best hand-picked deals, promos, and contests!

There's a saying around these parts: if you're not watching Thrifter's Black Friday live blog, you're not living.

OK, that's a thing I just made up, but the sentiment is real. You've been seeing the Thrifter name around Android Central for a while now, and that's because we have partnered with them to curate the best hand-picked deals around. We thought we were pretty good at scouting deals, but Thrifter brings it to a level of artistry that's not seen anywhere else on the internet.

Black Friday is probably the best time to pick up the gadgets and gifts you've been eyeing for months, and if you want to find those items for less, you'd better be looking at Thrifter.

Thrifter is the only source for the best deals, Black Friday and beyond.

Here's the deal: Thrifter isn't here to get you to spend your hard-earned money on stuff you don't need. It's here to find you the lowest prices on the stuff you actually want.

So that's why Black Friday is such a good time to start paying attention. Thrifter is going all-in on Black Friday — the hard-working folks are holed up in a Miami hotel (which doesn't sound so bad) preparing to live blog the entire thing, starting at 7pm PT / 10pm ET tonight, November 22. It's wild and crazy and kind of intimidating, and I'm a little jealous they didn't invite me. But you can be damn sure I'm bookmarking that page.

Oh, and you can win a $1500 home theater system. Seriously, it's amazing — there's a 55-inch Samsung 4K TV, a Samsung soundbar, an Xbox One X, and a $50 gift card to B&H Photo Video.

Go ahead, leave this page and hit up Thrifter. I've already stopped paying attention to what I'm writing because these deals ... what was I saying?

See at Thrifter

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1 day ago

Net neutrality, consolidation, monopolies, and you

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Net neutrality is still worth fighting for.

Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission, has proposed a complete repeal of Obama-era "net neutrality" regulations. He frames it as a return to free markets, but it is willfully ignorant of the founding nature and changing reality of the internet and what it will take to ensure its free and open future.

A fair and open internet is vital to the national and global interest. It promotes our democracy and economy. The 2015 net neutrality rules are increasingly necessary as the companies that run the infrastructure of the internet consolidate into media conglomerates and exercise monopoly powers.

Net neutrality is still worth fighting for — now more than ever.

This playing field is level and fence-free

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is a basic principle: internet service providers (ISPs) cannot slow down, speed up, or block any service, app, or website. It is a level playing field for the content provider and consumer, with the ISP playing the role of 'dumb pipe'.

Net neutrality is a basic principle: ISPs cannot slow down, speed up, or block any service, app, or website.

It is how the internet has operated, more or less, for the past twenty years. If it worked for that long without what Pai calls "onerous rules", why do we need them now?

Simply put, ISPs are no longer satisfied with being dumb pipes. A pair of trends have converged that are pushing ISPs to look for new profit opportunities.

The United States is approaching saturation for wired and wireless internet connections. There are few new customers left to sign up for service (the easiest way to increase profits) and poaching customers from competitors is expensive. Wireless providers are trying to convince us that we need more lines for cellular tablets, smartwatches, vehicle dongles, and more.

Evolutions in technology for wired internet (the move to fiber) and wireless internet (LTE is nearly complete, just in time to start 5G upgrades) mean major ongoing capital expenditures for ISPs. This isn't new — ISPs have been spending massively on infrastructure since the first days, but for a business that must replace its infrastructure every decade is a relatively new concept.

With increased customer and infrastructure costs in a slowly growing market, ISPs are looking for new profit opportunities. There's nothing wrong that — profit is what businesses are meant to do.

ISPs have been getting into the content business through new ventures, partnerships, and acquisitions. Verizon bought AOL and Yahoo and is trying video with go90. Comcast purchased NBC Universal. AT&T bought DirecTV and wants Time Warner. These are aggressive moves, but done right they don't have to violate the principles of net neutrality.

It'd be a shame if something bad happened to this nice video streaming service you're running here

When the wheels start coming off the bus

It becomes troubling when the service provider side of the business is used to provide an advantage to the content side. Again, I don't fault an ISP for wanting to maximize profits and promote its products over a competitor's.

This can take a few different forms, from prioritizing the speed and reliability for one web service over another, to exemptions from data caps, to the most extreme but frighteningly plausible reality: breaking popular websites into different service tiers that you must pay to access (just look at cable channel offerings if you doubt this possibility).

ISPs don't want to play the dumb pipe anymore. They want to be the gatekeeper. This isn't conjecture — ISPs are actively promoting such ideas, and even implementing some of them.

ISPs don't want to play the dumb pipe anymore. They want to be the gatekeeper.

If you're a Verizon subscriber, its go90 video service is both included with your Verizon plan and exempted from any data cap on your plan. "Here's a free thing" is fine by net neutrality principles, but exempting go90 from data caps gives it an artificial advantage over competitors like Netflix or Hulu.

T-Mobile's Binge On music and video program is a huge step in data plan exemptions. T-Mobile claims that it supports net neutrality and that both programs are open to any streaming service, but the list of cap-free streaming services is impossible to make exhaustive and has some very notable absences. YouTube Gaming is present, but game streaming leader Twitch is not, nor is Microsoft's upstart Beam. Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music stream without hitting your data caps, but your local radio station likely won't.

In 2013, Comcast demanded that Netflix pay for access to their network and customers. Netflix refused, so Comcast downgraded the speed of Netflix and hurt video quality. Netflix eventually capitulated and paid up; the quality of Netflix on Comcast improved overnight. NBC video streams will never be restricted on Comcast, but the precedent has been set for Spectrum or AT&T to throttle NBC unless Comcast pays.

Sure, Netflix and Comcast are large and profitable businesses that can afford such fees. If it's okay for Comcast to demand a fee from Netflix, then what's to stop Sprint from demanding a fee from anybody that wants to stream video over its network? That's one way to put a damper on any upstart content competitor that doesn't have the cash to pay the toll. Then couple this with an ISP exempting their own services from such restrictions and you have a highly uncompetitive atmostphere.

If throttling traffic leaves a bad taste in your both, the ISPs have an alternative suggestion: fast lanes. Instead of restricting speeds they'll let companies pay for faster and unobstructed access. Instead of disadvantaging a smaller company that can't afford these fees, it's offering an advantage to larger companies that are willing to pay. And if Amazon Prime video streams are markedly better because they paid the toll, you can bet Netflix and Apple will also pay to remain competitive. The little guy that can't pay is still left out.

Oh, that's part of our Social Media Bundle™

The Nightmare Scenario

The real dream of an ISP is to ape the tiered business model of cable television. Almost every cable TV plan is sold in tiers, with a selection of local broadcast and shopping channels in the base tier, but if you want more (say, AMC, Disney, ESPN, or HGTV) then you'll have to pay for an upgraded tier with a hundred other channels you'll never watch.

Imagine a world where website access is treated like cable channel bundles.

Imagine that same business model applied to the internet access. A basic plan with email, social media, Wikipedia, Google Search, and the ISP's video, music, and news services. Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu are in the Video Package — after all, they use more bandwidth. News from Fox or Vice or TechCrunch is a different upgrade. So are popular recipe and DIY websites. Need to use a VPN for work? Better subscribe to the business class package. Want access to everything the internet has to offer? That's the top-tier unlimited plan.

Prioritizing or exempting traffic hacks away at the neutrality principles upon which the internet was built. Allowed to go wild, ISPs will become a wrecking ball to the very foundation of the internet.

Where else are you going to go?

Consolidation

Net neutrality opponents say the Telecommunications Act of 1996 is adequate to protect the an open internet. Pai said that instead "the FCC simply would require internet service providers to be transparent so that consumers can buy the plan that's best for them."

There's one huge problem there: most consumers have extremely limited ISP options. In some large markets you might find multiple broadband competitors, but the vast majority of Americans have few options. According to the FCC, nearly 60% of US households are served by only one ISP offering 25mbps or better broadband download speeds — or have no broadband access at all. Only 13% have more than two broadband options. What does it matter if the ISP is "transparent" about throttling practices if it's your only choice?

The wired internet market in the United States is hilariously uncompetitive already, and claiming that customers will have the option to pick a plan that's best for them is uniformed at best and willfully malicious at worst.

The traditional wired internet providers have unspoken agreements to stay in their own established local monopoly markets. As the only option, they don't have to compete on price and quality and can charge whatever the market will bear.

Nearly 60% of Americans only have one choice for broadband internet — or no broadband access at all.

Take Comcast's Xfinity internet service as an example. In Atlanta there's robust ISP competition and Comcast will sell you 75mbps service for $40/month. In Houston there's little competition and Comcast charges $50/month for 55mbps internet service. Competition breeds better service and prices, but wired ISPs go out of their way to avoid it.

Not only is competition rare, it's decreasing through consolidation. Charter and Time Warner Cable merged to create Spectrum. The will-they-won't-they merger of T-Mobile and Sprint fell apart not due to regulatory concerns but because of disagreements over the post-merger power structure. Verizon purchased AOL and Yahoo, AT&T purchased DirecTV and is now trying to buy Time Warner (the media company that owns CNN, TNT, HBO, Warner Bros, etc).

The market is primed for ISPs to exploit customers on both ends of the network. Content providers are being opened up to extortion to ensure the fair delivery of their product to customers. Customers face lesser products being foisted upon them with the promise that it won't hurt their wallet. Meanwhile, ISPs register record profits year after year.

Be heard

What now?

The Communications Act created two classes of web-centric companies. Title I is for "information services" and Title II is for "common carriers". The names alone make it clear how to classify companies like Google or Netflix versus companies like Verizon and Comcast.

Two decades ago, in the early days of the internet, the FCC opted to classify ISPs under Title I. Nobody then imagined what the internet would explode into today or the consequences of that decision. And it wasn't a concern, until Comcast started strong-arming Netflix or AT&T and Verizon started getting into the content business.

In 2015 the FCC voted to move ISPs under the Title II "common carrier" classification. This set new net neutrality rules for ISPs, requiring them to interconnect with each other to ensure all end users get fair and unfettered access, to ensure that physical rights of way are open to competitors, and to protect the privacy of users.

This is not a partisan issue. This is not a matter of the government deciding who wins or loses — it's ground rules to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to win. Repealing the net neutrality regulations would mean that an ISP could block traffic from Fox News just as easily as they could from Vice.

If you believe, as we do, that sensible net neutrality regulations are necessary to ensure the thriving, unfettered future of the internet for all who use it for business or pleasure, then you must speak up. Here's how to comment on the draft FCC order:

  1. Click this link to open the FCC's search results for Docket 17-108, Restoring Internet Freedom.
  2. Click on + Express on the far right of the search result. This will open the comment submission form with 17-108 automatically entered in the "Proceeding(s)" field.
  3. Enter your name and contact information. It is important that this is true and accurate; comments that cannot be attributed to a real person are ignored.
  4. Enter your comment to the FCC on the importance of net neutrality into the "Brief Comments" field. Be courteous, concise, and calm.
  5. Click Continue to review screen. This will load a review page to double check your submission. If you need to make any alterations, you can click Back in your browser or click the (1) Comment step at the top right of the screen.
  6. Click Submit. This will send your comment to the FCC and load a confirmation page.

You can also express you concerns directly to each to the FCC's Commissioners:

This issue can only be definitively solved via an act of Congress. The FCC is interpreting the 1996 Communications Act; only Congress can permanently clear up confusion in the law. Of course, we're going up against massive lobbying costs and political donations — Comcast alone spent $14 million on government lobbying in 2016, and millions more in the years they were fighting Title II classification.

I won't lie, the odds are stacked against net neutrality supporters. Politicians who support overturning the rules are in the White House, both houses of Congress, and three of the five seats on the FCC Board of Commissioners. But the democratic republic structure of the United States is designed so that these elected representatives are responsive to our demands.

So let them know. Send an email, or better yet pick up the phone and make a call:

Even if it's a losing battle, it's one we would regret not fighting.

*/

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1 day ago

Enjoy Fios Gigabit Connection w/ phone & TV for $79.99 a month

Verizon is offering Fios Gigabit Connection, a Triple Play bundle with Internet, Phone and TV for just $79.99/mo. online with a new 2-year agreement.

Fios by Verizon gives you the best experience there is when it comes to internet, phone, and TV. The 100% fiber-optic Fios network delivers crystal-clear phone calls, beautiful HD TV with Custom TV channel packages, and blazing-fast internet with speeds up to 940 Mbps download and 880 Mbps upload.

Verizon is offering Fios Gigabit Connection, a Triple Play bundle with Internet, Phone and TV for just $79.99/mo. online with a new 2-year agreement.

With this offer, you'll get internet with speeds of up to 940/880 Mbps, along with crystal-clear HDTV and home phone service. And to help sweeten the deal, you'll also get multi-room DVR service and SHOWTIME® at no extra charge included for two years. SHOWTIME offers great original programming that includes shows like Ray Donovan, Shameless, Homeland and more.

Stuck in a contract with another provider? There's no need to worry. Verizon is offering up to a $500 credit to help cover your early termination fee, to make switching to Fios that much easier.

What's Included

  • 100% fiber-optic network with Fios Gigabit Connection with speeds up to 940/880 Mbps.
  • Custom TV plans powered by advanced fiber-optic network technology for incredible picture quality.
  • Fios Digital Voice home phone service that delivers the voice quality of a 100% fiber-optic network and includes calling to the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico.
  • 2 years of Fios Multi-Room DVR service
  • 2 years of SHOWTIME at no extra charge.

Don't want to go all-in with a Triple Play? You can still get amazing standalone Internet from Fios. For just $39.99/month online plus taxes, equipment charges and other fees, experience Fios 100/100 Mbps Internet and stream to your favorite devices, binge your favorite shows and video chat with friends across the globe — without missing a beat.

Learn more

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1 day ago

OnePlus phones won't support Project Treble, but that's not a big deal

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This is certainly annoying, but it's not the end of the world.

Following the launch of its latest phone – the OnePlus 5TOnePlus held an AMA on its official forums to answer any questions that its fans/customers had about the new tech. A lot of questions were answered, and one of the more interesting tidbits to come out of this was the fact that none of OnePlus's phones will support Project Treble.

Quick refresher – what in the world is Project Treble?

This is a system that Google announced in May to help speed up the infamously slow update process for new versions of Android when they're released, and although phones that ship with Android 8.0 Oreo or later have Treble turned on by default, ones that later upgrade to Oreo from previous versions of Android aren't required to do so.

As a result of this, the OnePlus 3, 3T, 5, and even the 5T won't support Treble. This could theoretically mean slower updates compared to other manufacturers, but we wouldn't get too worried just yet.

The lack of Treble on the 5T is far from a dealbreaker.

First of all, we still haven't seen any real benefit from Treble. This will hopefully change beginning next year as phones actually start shipping with Oreo out of the box, but there's still no guarantee that we'll see a noticeable difference in update turnaround times.

Secondly, OnePlus is already damn good at updating its hardware to new versions of Android in a timely manner. An open beta of Oreo will be released to the 5 and 5T in late December, and last year's 3 and 3T recently received an update to a stable build of it.

Is it peculiar and potentially irritating that OnePlus won't be supporting Treble on its phones? Yes. Is it reason enough to not buy the 5T? Not at all.

OnePlus 5T review: Come for the value, not the excitement

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1 day ago

Black Friday deal: Get two years of IPVanish VPN for just $69

Jump on our Black Friday deal and get two years of IPVanish VPN for $69

Looking to invest in a VPN? This Black Friday deal might be too attractive to turn down.

Virtual Private Networks (VPN) have been gaining traction lately due to the eroding nature of our privacy while online. A VPN acts as an encrypted tunnel that shuttles data from your PC to a special server before hitting the open internet. This special server features a shared IP, also providing a bit of extra anonymity.

There are plenty of VPN services to choose from, but they aren't all created equally. Paid VPNs are generally preferred due to increased performance, extra features, and a clearer agreement as to the logging of your data. One paid VPN service that we reviewed warmly is IPVanish, a leading provider in the arena.

See our IPVanish VPN review

IPVanish has strong encryption, works on a wide variety of devices (including some routers), has a long list of servers in plenty of countries, promises to not keep user logs, and offers solid speed and performance across the board.

When it comes to subscriptions, IPVanish usually offers three different options. You can get one month for $10, you can get three months for about $9 per month (total of about $27), or you can get one year for about $6.50 per month (total of about $78).

If those prices seem a bit steep, Android Central has a Black Friday/Cyber Week deal running from November 22-29 that makes a special two-year deal come in at just $69. That's a monthly cost of just $2.87. Compared to the regular yearly subscription offer, you're getting two years for less than half the price.

If you've been thinking about a VPN service to help protect your privacy online, this two-year deal for IPVanish might be the push you need.

See at IPVanish

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1 day ago

4 important things PlayStation could learn from Xbox

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Sony has a pretty good thing going with PlayStation, but it could always learn a few things from the competition.

Differences between competing companies aren't bad, but learning from the same companies could help improve those products. In the case of Sony and Microsoft — PlayStation and Xbox — the two platforms go about their business in fairly different ways.

But what if they didn't? What if both companies learned from the other? Obviously there's a bit of that going on already, but here's how we think Sony could learn a bit from Microsoft's Xbox successes.

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1 day ago

Deal: Get 3 months of unlimited data for $99 from Rok Mobile

0

One of the cheapest unlimited data plans on the market just got cheaper.

ROK Mobile is offering new customers three months of unlimited data on Verizon's network for just $99. Save $50 on this sweet Black Friday deal when you pay for three months upfront (regular monthly price marked down from $50 to $33).

ROK Mobile Black Friday Deal

  • Deal is available for a limited time for new customers
  • You can bring an unlocked phone which runs on CDMA and is 4G compatible. Check eligibility on carrier website.
  • After the promotional 3-month service period, plans will move to standard monthly service and pricing
  • Service must be activated on or before 1/15/18

ROK Mobile Unlimited data plan features

  • Unlimited talk & text & high-speed LTE data, speeds may temporarily slow down at 20GB during times of high network traffic: this soft speed limit known as data deprioritization
  • Video streaming in SD (standard def) 480p with the option of turning 'data stretcher' feature off for higher streaming speeds
  • Access to 30 million WiFi hotspots via MyROK App this is not tethering (the ability to share your cellular data with other devices, laptops, and tablets) but the option to use more WiFi access points. ROK does not offer tethering aka mobile hotspots
  • ROK Rewards, save on local deals (in-store and online shops, restaurants, ...) Find out more here
  • No contracts or credit checks required
  • Roadside assistance

See at Rok

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1 day ago

Sharing your Gear VR with friends

Sharing a Gear VR with friends is fantastic and fun!

Playing in VR is a great way to experience things in a completely new way. You enjoy games and experiences you might never have gotten to otherwise. Of course, when you have an awesome new toy, you're going to want to share it with your friends. If you're wondering how you can best share your Gear VR, or how to play with friends, we've got you covered.

Read more at VR Heads!

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1 day ago

12 Great Star Wars Gifts 2017

1

These are the Star Wars gifts that are actually worth buying.

It's a glorious time to be a Star Wars fan! We get a new movie every year, new books spanning so many different aspects of the universe, and an actual mountain of themed swag around every corner. So much Star Wars swag. In fact, it's a little too much if you're trying to buy something good for the Star Wars fan in your life. You can reach out in just about any direction of every store right now and find something with the Star Wars logo stamped on it — including, weirdly enough, oranges — but if you're looking for the good stuff it can be a little intimidating.

This list should get you started down the right path. Everything here is stuff I've found worthy of the Force-sensitive people in your life, and there's a little something in here for everyone.

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar

If you've got someone younger in your life who enjoys counting down the days until Christmas, you can't do better than this Lego Star Wars setup. It's a new Lego Star Wars bit every day, including popular minifigs like BB-8.

It's a cute way to get kids ready for the holiday, and at $50 you know you're getting lots of Legos.

See at Amazon

R2-D2 Measuring Cup Set

Who says an Astreomech Droid can't be helpful around the kitchen? This kit is meant to sit out on the counter and look exactly like everyone's favorite helper, right until you need a cup of sugar. When that happens, you can disassemble this Droid into a whole bunch of different measuring utensils.

Aside from being a very reasonably priced $18 when you consider how many measuring cups and spoons you get, it's a practical way to show off your Star Wars love in the kitchen.

Oh, and for those who prefer the shiny newness of BB-8, there's a kit for you too.

See at Amazon

Jedi Challenges AR

Start your Jedi training virtually! Only, unlike a VR headset, this AR headset lets you see the real world while you interact with a training hologram. This program splits your training up into multiple games, including lightsaber battles with famous Star Wars villains and actually HoloChess!

Check out the Jedi Challenges review to learn more!

This $200 kit comes with an incredibly detailed replica of Rey's lightsaber as the controller, and is hands down the best Star Wars game you can guy this year.

See at Best Buy

Propel Drones

Remote control toys that look like Star Wars vehicles aren't a new thing by any stretch, and that includes flying toys that look like popular ships. Drones that can actually engage in combat with one another? That's new, and Propel brought them to life in spectacular fashion this year.

Check out the review for more details!

For $99 you can choose between Vader's Tie Advanced or the classic X-Wing, and these ships can actually play laser tag that ends in the loser "crashing" to the ground when it has taken the right number of hits. If you'd rather something a little closer to the ground, you can also grab one that looks like a Speeder Bike.

See at Amazon

Sphero Droids

Sphero took the world be storm last year with its BB-8 droid that could putter around your room on its own when you weren't remote controlling it. This year, there are several more to choose from and a lot of new features. BB-9E, a droid from The Last Jedi, is available alongside R2-D2 and R2-Q5. Among the new features, all of these droids will sit with you and watch the Star Wars movies, reacting to everything exciting or scary in the movies.

For $130, these droids offer a ton of fun and the designs are just plain great.

See at Amazon

littleBits Inventor Kit

Toys are great, but creating something is an amazing feeling for any age. The littleBits Star Wars kit is designed to teach you how to make your own R2-D2, by helping you understand the tech inside and what it all does. When the kit is all assembed, you can use the littleBits app to teach R2-D2 new skills and send it out on missions.

There's a lot of tech in here for $99, and it's a fantastic start into the educational world of littleBits tech.

See at Amazon

Boba Fett Laptop Backpack

There are a ton of Star Wars backpacks out there, and unfortunately a lot of them are not very good at being a durable backpack. This Bioworld backpack has plenty of pockets, includes a nice padded section for keeping a laptop safe, and is rocking an amazing Boba Fett theme.

This is a decent backpack for $50 and looks nice enough to hand one out to each of your Dad's clones.

See at Amazon

BB-8 Car Charger

If you're ok with a car charger taking up a cupholder in your front console, this $30 kit will give you two USB ports providing 2.1a each and features an adorably animated BB-8.

The little Droid will twist and turn around as you drive, clearly keeping an eye out for anything that may be in need of repairs. You couldn't ask for a better co-pilot.

See at Amazon

Lego Death Star

It doesn't matter what age you are, the Lego Death Star is one of those things every geek covets. This $500 kit is massive, even by Lego standards, and is absolutely the kind of thing you will spend weeks working on.

It's clearly only for the most hardcore of Lego Star Wars fans, but the grin on their face when they open this gift from you will stretch from ear to ear.

See at Amazon

Star Wars From a Certain Point of View

There are a lot of great Star Wars books out there, but this one is unlike all the others. If you've never read any of the From a Certain Point of View books, you should make this the first one. This is a collection of short stories from the Star Wars universe where the main themes we all know and remember are retold from the perspective of someone who is not the main character.

The paperback is only going to set you back $20, and this really should be on every Star Wars fans bookshelf.

See at Amazon

Star Wars Battlefront II PlayStation 4 Pro

You don't have to be a hardcore Star Wars fan to enjoy the new Battlefront II game, but if you know a fan who has been looking to upgrade their PlayStation 4 you might consider this as a gift. It's a standard PlayStation 4 Pro on the inside, but the outside includes three beautiful graphics on the top of the console and matching symbols on the included controller.

This $450 bundle is already a decent price for the nice theme, and getting the copy of Battlefront II in the box with it is a nice addition. Just, you know, keep an eye out for loot boxes.

See at Amazon

Millennium Falcon Multi-Tool

While not actually practical as a multi-tool you carry around and use every day — nothing replaces my Leatherman, sorry — this $30 kit will put a smile on the face of any Star Wars fan that is even the least bit handy.

The Falcon comes out the box looking like it has seen better days, and all of the included tools are actually functional. It's cute, and you'll probably try to use it a few times, but really this is something you'd rather have sitting on your workbench to bring a little geek into the shop.

See at Amazon

Did we miss something? Shout out in the comments!

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1 day ago

OnePlus 5T: Do you really need 8GB of RAM in a phone?

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Nope. But it opens a lot of possibilities.

You can buy a OnePlus 5T that has 8GB of RAM on board. That's 4GB more than most other high-end Android phones (and Chromebooks and cheap Windows Laptops) have and about 6GB more than the absolute bare minimum you can get away with. We'll answer the question right here in the first paragraph: no, you do not need 8GB of RAM in a phone.

But it does mean some really cool stuff could happen.

Read our OnePlus 5T review

What your phone does with RAM

We all know that more RAM means more apps can be kept running at the same time (sort of at the same time, anyways) but that's just one thing your phone does with the RAM inside of it. In fact, a portion of that RAM gets used before Android even starts running.

Without getting too nerdy and injecting ideas like compcache into the mix, your phone uses RAM like this:

  • The kernel-space: Your Android phone runs on top of the Linux kernel. The kernel is stored in a special type of compressed file that's extracted directly into RAM during the device power-on sequence. This reserved memory holds the kernel, drivers and kernel modules that control the hardware and room to cache data in and out of the kernel.
  • A RAMdisk for virtual files: There are some folders and files in the system tree that aren't "real." They are pseudofiles written at boot and hold things like battery levels and CPU speed data. With Android, the whole /proc directory is one of these psuedofile systems. RAM is reserved so they have a place to live.
  • Network radios: Data about your IMEI and radio settings are stored in NVRAM (Non-Volatile memory that's not erased when you power off your phone), but get transferred to RAM along with the software needed to support the modem when you first turn on your phone. Space is reserved to keep this all in memory.
  • The GPU: The graphics adapter in your phone needs memory to operate. That's called VRAM, and our phones use integrated GPUs that have no stand-alone VRAM. System RAM is reserved for this.
  • Available RAM: This is what's left over, minus any extra reserved for file-system cache and minfree settings. This is what the apps you run can use.

Having 8GB of RAM means any or all of these different ways RAM is used can use a lot more of it if it needs to. Or if a person writing the operating system wants to try something new and different.

What can you do with extra RAM?

I'll start by saying we're not yet sure what OnePlus is doing with the extra RAM or what plans it has for the future. We'll know more when the phones get in the right hands. At first glance, it appears that it's not doing anything different at all.

But there is one thing that OnePlus (or any custom ROM developers) can do that would be a great way to use an extra 2GB of RAM: store the entire system home launcher in it.

8GB of RAM means more could be set aside for the user interface or a game mode.

Think back to the HTC M7 if you've been around Android that long. It was the first phone that used Android and was super-responsive when you were zipping around the OS. It was because a good portion of the system RAM was "reserved" for HTC Sense and wouldn't be freed when another app asked for more memory. In the M7's case, that meant it couldn't hold as many apps open as other phones. Most companies making Android phones do something similar now and set things up so that parts of the launcher are never removed from RAM, and Android feels much better to use because of it. With 4GB of RAM, getting a balance that offers good performance without upsetting users who want to keep apps open in the background can be tough.

With 8GB of RAM, the whole user interface can not only be kept in RAM, but done with a real reserved block outside of the system memory parameters.

Writing a device driver that enables DMA (Direct Memory Access) for the user interface means RAM can be set aside for use by only the user interface. The operating system still controls the i/o, but no other application can overwrite any part of it so everything needed for "instant" scrolling and swiping is held in RAM where it's fast and ready at all times.

OnePlus may not have anything planned for the extra RAM, but I'm sure developers at XDA will.

This is a little different than the memmap kernel parameter that reserves space outside the operating system for the radios and VRAM, but it lets the OS manage the RAM so data can move in and out and a buffer can be written when you shut the phone down to prevent data loss. It's a more robust solution than using the standard Linux LMK (Low Memory Killer) system to keep important processes running. The end result is a user interface that's fluid and responsive all the time, without affecting the way other apps run or stay alive in the background.

And that's just one example I thought of without digging too deep into it all. Imagine a "game mode" that reserves more RAM for the GPU or can keep more of a 3D game in memory while you're playing it. Or even tweaked minfree settings so we can leave every app we love open in the background all of the time.

Don't forget the cool factor

The OnePlus 5T can have 8GB of RAM to do crazy stuff with the OS for better performance, but it likely has it simply because it can.

RAM isn't expensive. At least not component RAM used on a phone mainboard. Spending a few dollars more per unit (which can be a lot if you sell millions of units) to give the OnePlus 5T something the Galaxy S8 or iPhone doesn't have is a real selling point in parts of Asia and for a lot of enthusiasts. Plenty of people are obsessed about the specs of a phone because they understand how they could be used, or simply because more is always better. Double the RAM of other flagship phones makes the OnePlus 5T more futureproof.

I'm sure someone at OnePlus did the math and figured that through a combination of all these factors, it was beneficial to sell an 8GB RAM model.

We'll end this the same way we started: by saying no, you don't need 8GB of RAM in a phone. But it doesn't hurt anything, and the creative freedom it gives to Android developers, both at OnePlus and third-party devs, could very mean some cool things will be coming.

OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5

OnePlus Amazon

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1 day ago

Everything we know so far about Fallout 4 VR

What do I need to know about Fallout 4 VR?

Fallout 4 VR is expected to release for HTC Vive December 12, 2017. Are you getting excited? Here's everything we know so far.

Read more at VRHeads!

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1 day ago

Verizon outage? Here's what you need to do!

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Calls not going through? Texts not sending? Here's what to do in the event of a Verizon outage.

If you're with Verizon in the U.S., then you know it's one of the nation's largest networks, so when there's an outage, for whatever reason, it affects a lot of people in a given area.

If your Verizon service isn't working as it should, whether it's LTE, phone calls, texts, or whatever, then here's what you can do to relieve it or at least figure out what's going on.

First off, sign up for outage alerts

By signing into your Verizon account you can change preferences for various notifications, including service outage alerts for your area. Depending on what the outage is, you'll receive SMS notifications or email notifications.

Have your tried turning it off and on again?

Always check the device that's acting up first. Whatever it happens to be, power it down, wait a few seconds, and turn it back on again. If you're experience outage issues on multiple devices, then you know something's up with your network (though it could still be isolated to your home's connection).

Check Verizon's 'Help with a Service Outage' page

Verizon's own resource for service outages is one of the first stops your should make in your research, since it can also help with potential troubleshooting tips, just in case it's not a service outage for your area and it's actually an issue that's affecting your specific device or connection.

There are then links to resources that can help you diagnose your problem and then decide whether you need an in-home technician's help or if simple online troubleshooting can help you out (if your area isn't actually experiencing an outage).

Verizon also has an FAQ page that can help you with various troubleshooting tips and any questions you might have.

Get help with a Verizon service outage

Check out an outage website

There are many websites that will report carrier outages and where you can report an outage if you think you're facing one in your area. Outage.Report is a great service because it shows you an outage map for the entire U.S., so you can see where the outage hotspots might be and whether or not a reported outage is affecting your area.

You can also check out downdetector.com, which will show you instances of outages over the last 24 hours, so you can see if problems you're having have been reported or are residual from an earlier outage.

Contact Verizon

If you can't figure out what's going on and your service outage persists, contact Verizon directly.

Call 1-800-922-0204 or dial *611 from your Verizon phone (unless of course calls aren't working on your mobile network).

Contact Verizon online

Carriers

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1 day ago

Take to the skies with this sweet mini drone for just $64

Drones are some of the coolest gadget toys to come out over the last couple years, and their applications are wonderful. You can shoot stellar aerial footage, race them, train up on them, and even deliver packages. But high-end drones can be incredibly expensive and it's a hobby where price is certainly the biggest barrier to entry. So you start off small with a smaller drone, but you don't want to buy cheap crap.

That's where the SKEYE Nano 2 FPV Drone comes in. It's a compact drone that comes with its own controller and a built-in camera. The SKEYE Nano 2 regularly retails for $99, but Android Central Digital Offers lets you save 35% and grab yours for only $64.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! With Black Friday upon us, you can save an additional 20% using coupon code BFRIDAY20 and pay just $51.20!

One of the coolest features of the SKEYE Nano 2 is that your phone sits in the controller and you get to control your drone from a first-person view. You're in full control, with 6-axis stability and adjustable gyro sensitivity, so you can get the feel that's just right for you.

You can even pull off flips and other stunts, and thanks to SKEYE's "Ready to Fly" technology, you can turn everything on and fly immediately. Record all of the videos you take in HD and control everything via Wi-Fi. If you're a bit of a novice, the Nano 2 also has built-in automatic functions so that you can take off, land, and hover easily.

If you're looking to get into drones, don't want to spend a fortune, and want to try your hand at shooting some aerial HD footage, then check out the SKEYE Nano 2 and Android Central Digital Offers and Save 35% off retail.

See at Android Central Digital Offers

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