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You can now grab the Daydream View VR headset from the Google Store

Back when Google announced the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, it also took the wraps off some other goodies as well. The recently released Google Home Mini was one, but another was the updated Daydream View VR headset. We weren’t given a release date at the time of the announcement, but it looks like the headset has just gone live. 

You can now head over to the Google Store (link below) and pick up the headset in either Fog, Charcoal, or Coral. If you want yours sooner rather than later, the Charcoal and Coral headsets are expected to ship by October 22, while the Fog headset is back ordered by two to three weeks. 

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The headsets all come with free shipping and will run you $ 99. That’s $ 20 more than the first generation model, but Google made some improvements on the headset so it obviously feels like it can charge a little more. Those improvements include an added head strap, a new heat sink to keep things cool, and controller storage. It also comes with a wider field of view to accommodate the trend of bezel-less phones and a game bundle that is valued at more than $ 40.

If you’re looking to get a free Daydream View VR headset, keep in mind that LG and Google have teamed up to give them away when you purchase an LG V30. The purchases must be made before November 6, 2017, and you have until November 20, 2017, to complete the registration form here

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Deal: Take $50 off the BlackBerry KEYone for a limited time

When it comes to smartphones, the BlackBerry KEYone is the epitome of the classic phrase, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” You can look at the keyboard, the processor, and the display as independent components and frown at them, but put together, they make the BlackBerry KEYone a productive device that has carved a niche with the Android faithful.

Starting tomorrow, October 18, that productive device will get quite a bit cheaper as the silver-colored KEYone will be offered for $ 500, $ 50 cheaper than what it usually goes for.

There are a few things to keep in mind regarding the discount, the biggest being that it will be in effect for only 24 hours. This means that you have from 1am EST on October 18 until 12:59am EST on October 19 to purchase the KEYone for $ 50 off. Also, both the GSM and CDMA unlocked versions are discounted, but not the Black Edition KEYone.

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As previously mentioned, the KEYone is certainly greater than the sum of its parts, which start with the keyboard that features touch-sensitive frets between rows of keys. The phone also features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625, which, when paired with the 3,505 mAh battery, means that battery life is among the best out of any current phone. The KEYone also gets by with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, the latter of which is augmented by the microSD card slot.

Finally, the phone currently runs a stock-ish version of Android Nougat, with an update to Android Oreo presumably incoming.

If you had your eye on the KEYone and were waiting on some sort of discount to pick it up, now is your chance to do so. The phone’s flash sale is through Amazon and Best Buy, and lucky for you, we have purchase links down below.

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Best media streaming devices for your TV

With so much on-demand content available these days, media streaming devices have become extremely popular, and for good reason. They allow you to transform your TV into a smart TV by bringing apps such as Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu to the big screen.

Thanks to high demand, there are many media streamers available on the market from companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple. Although most do the same thing, there are a number of differences between them, making it harder for consumers to choose which one to get.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best media streaming devices you can get your hands on. Keep in mind that for the first half of the article we are focusing on the very best options at any price, but in the second half we take a look at the best budget options as well. Without further ado, let’s get started. Here are the best media streaming devices for your TV.

Editor’s note: We will be updating this list regularly as new devices launch.

Amazon Fire TV

best media streaming devices

This is the latest and greatest media streaming device from Amazon, and it’s super easy to set up. All you have to do is plug it into the HDMI port of your TV and a wall outlet, connect it to a Wi-Fi network, and you’re good to go.

The device gives you access to a number of different video services including YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu and is capable of streaming videos in 4K resolution. It also supports loads of different music services such as Spotify, iHeartRadio, as well as Amazon’s Prime Music.

One of its biggest features is that it comes with a remote control that has Alexa on board. So instead of pushing buttons constantly to control the device, you can do so via voice commands. You can ask Amazon’s digital assistant to launch YouTube, play a specific show, find comedies, fast forward one minute, and much more.

Amazon’s Fire TV is already up for pre-order and will officially be released on October 25. It will set you back $ 69.99.

Apple TV

best media streaming devices

Apple TV gives you access to all the major services such as YouTube, Netflix, ESPN, and many others and can stream videos in 4K resolution. Just like Amazon’s Fire TV described above, this media streamer comes with a remote control included in the box and also has Apple’s digital assistant on board. Siri provides another way for you to interact with the device, as you can open apps, play and pause videos, and search for content using voice commands.

You can also stream videos and music from an iPhone or iPad to Apple TV, play games, and check out the photos and videos stored in your iCloud Photo Library. The setup process is easy and required you to plug the device into a power source as well as the HDMI port on your TV. However, the only problem is that the HDMI cable is not included in the retail box, so you’ll have to buy one in case you don’t already have it.

Apple TV comes in black and is available in two storage options: 32 GB and 64 GB. It’s one of the most expensive media streaming devices on this list, as it will set you back $ 179 or $ 199 depending on the model.

Roku Ultra

best media streaming devices

Roku has a number of media streaming devices on offer with the Ultra being the best one. Just plug it into your TV and browse through 450,000+ movies and TV episodes across 4,500+ paid or free channels.

The device can stream content in 4K quality and comes with a remote that sports gaming buttons. It also has voice support, allowing you to search for video content without having to press a bunch of buttons, and features a built-in headphone jack. This means you can listen to audio with the help of the headphones included in the retail box in order not to bother other people you may have around you.

Another cool feature of the Roku Ultra is the remote finder. Just press the button on the device and the remote will emit a sound, so you’ll be able to locate it more easily. Those of you interested can get in on Amazon for $ 87.70 via the button below.

Roku Streaming Stick+

best media streaming devices

Roku’s second device on this list is the Streaming Stick+, which is quite similar to the Ultra model described above. It gives you access to the exact same content and can stream videos in 4K. However, it’s smaller and plugs directly into the HDMI port of your TV, without the need for additional cables.

The media streaming device also comes with the remote with voice search support but doesn’t have a headphone jack or the gaming buttons. There’s also no remote finder feature, which would be nice to have but likely isn’t a deal breaker for most people.

If these things aren’t that important to you, the Streaming Stick+ is a great option. It will set you back $ 69.99 or around $ 20 less than the Roku Ultra.

Nvidia Shield TV

best media streaming devices

If you’re into gaming, this is the streaming device for you. It allows you to stream a number of popular games from Nvidia’s servers to your TV, but only if you sign up for the company’s GeForce Now service that will set you back $ 8 per month. You also have a chance to download and play a number of Android titles or stream games from your PC to the Shield TV.

Of course, Nvidia Shield TV isn’t all about gaming, as it also gives you access to all the major video services including YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and so on. An Assistant-powered remote control is included in the box, as is a Shield controller for playing games.

Due to its many features, Nvidia Shield TV is quite expensive. The gorgeous device currently retails for $ 199.99 on Amazon.

Google Chromecast Ultra

best media streaming devices

Google’s media streaming device works a little bit different than the rest of the products on this list. It doesn’t have a central hub on a TV that would allow you to browse through different services. Instead, you have to cast the content from apps like YouTube, Netflix, and others to your TV by opening them on your smartphone, tablet, or PC and pressing the dedicated button.

It works like a charm but can be a bit annoying to some who would prefer to control the device with a remote, which the Chromecast Ultra obviously doesn’t come with.

The device can stream videos in 4K quality and is equipped with an ethernet port for streaming over a wired connection. You can turn your TV into a digital picture frame with the help of Google Photos and connect the Chromecast Ultra with an Assistant-powered Home device, so you can search and play videos with various voice commands. To get it, you’ll have to dish out $ 69.

Best budget meida streaming devices

Roku Express HD

best media streaming devices

This is a great option for those on a budget, as it’s the most affordable of the media streaming devices on this list. Just plug it into the HDMI port on your TV, connect it to a Wi-Fi network, and enjoy movies and TV shows from Netflix and a bunch of other services in 1080p resolution.

A remote control is included in the box with dedicated buttons for launching Sling, Hulu, Netflix, and Vudu. Alternatively, you can also control the device using the free Roku app, which allows you to cast images, videos, and music from your smartphone to the big screen. It also supports voice search, making it easy to find your favorite shows quickly.

The Roku Express HD won’t cost you an arm and a leg, as it retails for just $ 29.99. You can get it from Walmart by clicking the button below.

Roku Express HD+

best media streaming devices

This one is more or less identical to the Roku Express HD — see above. It gives you access to the same content from services like YouTube and so on, comes with the same remote with voice support, and can be controlled via your smartphone with the help of the Roku app.

What makes it different is that it includes composite cables — in addition to an HDMI cable — making it compatible with older TVs as well.

This means that the device is also slightly more expensive, although it’s still very affordable. You can get your hands on it for just $ 39.99, which is $ 10 more when compared to the price of the Roku Express HD.

Roku Streaming Stick

best media streaming devices

The fifth and final Roku device on this list is the Streaming Stick. It plugs directly into the HDMI port on your TV without the need for any cables. As expected, it gives you access to the exact same content as the rest of Roku’s lineup including Netflix, YouTube, as well as various sports apps like NBA.

A remote is included in the box that sports voice search as well as dedicated buttons for launching popular video services. If that’s not really your thing, you can also control the device with the free app provided by Roku.

In terms of design and features, it’s basically the same as the Streaming Stick+ that’s also on this list, with one exception. It can only stream 1080p videos, whereas the + model supports 4K. That’s why it’s also $ 20 cheaper, meaning it can be yours for $ 49.99. A heck of a deal for one of the best budget media streaming devices on this list. 

Amazon Fire TV Stick

best media streaming devices

Amazon Fire TV Stick is extremely popular for a number of reasons. It’s small and plugs directly into your TV, so you won’t even notice that it’s there, and comes with an Alexa-powered remote control.

Just press the button on top and say things like, “Alexa, open YouTube” or, “Alexa, show me action movies” to save time you would otherwise spend pressing a bunch of buttons to get the job done. There are over 140 channels and apps available giving you access to all sorts of video content as well as music.

The Fire TV Stick is capable of streaming 1080p videos and can be paired with any of Amazon’s Echo devices. It definitely won’t break the bank, as the company is selling it for just $ 39.

Google Chromecast (2nd Generation)

best media streaming devices

Just like the Chromecast Ultra, this device doesn’t have an interface you could use to search for apps on your TV. You have to press the dedicated button in apps on your smartphone, tablet, or PC to stream videos to the big screen. That makes the Chromecast series one of the most simple to use of all media streaming devices on the market right now. 

Google’s Chromecast is small, hidden from sight, and can turn your TV into a digital picture frame with the help of Google Photos. It can also be paired with a Google Home device but doesn’t have an ethernet port like its bigger brother. The only major difference between this model and the more expensive one is that it lacks 4K support, which for those with 1080p TVs or limited Internet connections — it won’t really make any real difference. 

It comes in Black, Lemonade, or Coral, and will set you back $ 35. Get it from Google via the button below.

As you can see, there are a lot of different media streaming devices out there. In general, all of them do the same thing, with some also featuring a remote, a pair of headphones, and even a game controller. Therefore, which one to get really depends on what exactly it is you’re looking for and how much are you willing to spend. However, they are all great devices, and you really can’t go wrong with either one.

What’s the best media streaming device in your eyes? Let us know by posting a comment down below.

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Neither NVIDIA Shield tablet will get updated to Android Oreo

If you’re looking for an Android tablet, your choices are pretty limited. Besides Samsung, the only company to make a tablet that stands out in the last few years has been NVIDIA. The Shield Tablet and Shield Tablet K1 aren’t new by any means. The tablets came out in 2014 and 2015 respectively, but are still some of the better options on the market. Unfortunately, they won’t see Google’s newest version of Android.

Editor’s Pick

Manuel Guzman is a software quality assurance worker at NVIDIA. He recently took to Twitter to respond to a fan asking about updates for the tablets and confirmed that they won’t see Oreo. An update to the Android Nougat build currently on the Shield K1 is still coming, but that’s it. It’s sad that the tablets won’t be updated but two years of software updates are what’s generally accepted for Android devices these days.

As for NVIDIA’s other Android device, we’re still waiting to see when Shield TV will get Oreo. Back in August, NVIDIA’s General Manager, Ali Kani said that it was “looking forward to the exciting new features that Android O will bring to SHIELD TV.” Shield TV recently gained access to Google Assistant so it looks like the future is bright there.

What do you think? Are two years of software support enough for an Android tablet? Should NVIDIA be doing more? Let us know down in the comments.

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Google adds video calling through your Phone, Contacts, and Android Messages apps

As someone who uses an iPhone on a daily basis – no need for the torches and pitchforks – one of the things I appreciate is the ability to make video calls without leaving the Phone or Messages app. That is why I am happy to see Google integrate the same feature into the Phone, Contacts, and Android Messages apps.

Google accomplished this by incorporating its own Duo video calling service and the ViLTE standard, the latter of which is an extension of the existing VoLTE that focuses on increased video call quality over an LTE network. By default, video calls will be routed through ViLTE, but Duo is the fall-back if your carrier does not support the standard.

There are a few things to keep in mind, the first being that you and the person you’re calling must have Duo installed and activated if ViLTE isn’t used. Next up, you must also have the latest versions of the Phone, Contacts, Android Messages, and Duo apps installed.

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Google also mentioned that it will add the ability to upgrade a voice call to a video call later this year, a small, but appreciable, feature should you or the other person feel the need to have a video chat mid-conversation.

Duo integration

Finally, integrated video calling is rolling out to first-generation Pixel, Nexus, and Android One devices, with the Pixel 2 phones also including the feature out of the box. Google said it is working with carriers and device manufacturers to have integrated video calling across a wider variety of devices.

With the feature, it is clear that Google really wants to push video calling further, but the company might also benefit from sorting out its wide assortment of messaging, calling, and video services as well.

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The Essential team talks jittery touch issues, new colors, and Android Oreo in AMA

The Essential team will be hosting an AMA every two weeks, and here are some things that were discussed in the first session just few days ago.

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Touch issues

Will there be an update to address the laggy touch issues?

  • We are aware of the issue related to the display touch scrolling jitteriness and have a patch we are testing internally. I saw the fix in action literally yesterday and the improvement is night and day. I think you guys will be really happy with it. Our plan is to get this out in one of the next upcoming OTA updates releasing a few weeks.

Android Oreo and new features

Is there a timeline update on Android Oreo? 

  • Our QA team is in the process of testing Android Oreo as we speak to insure there are no regressions on the device. We are making great progress and target to have public beta available here within several weeks that you can try out before we release globally. We will make sure to publicly announce as soon as the Beta is available.

Blue light filter?

  • You’ll have it in Android Oreo!

Fingerprint reader gestures?

  • This is in progress. We’re targeting the next OTA.

Double tap to wake and vibration intensity?

  • We’re not working on these right now.

Will you add manual options in your camera app? 

  • Manual mode for camera is on the to-do list, but we’re not ready to put a timeline on it quite yet.

Essential Services app

What exactly is the Essential Services app? Can we see a more in-depth update log about it? What all does it do?

  • Lots of questions about the Essential Services app. This application collects high-level statistics about battery life, ANRs etc that we use to improve user experience. It allowed us to diagnose and resolve the UI freezes folks were seeing. Hopefully you’ll see how it pays dividends in the latest system update.

Modular accessories

When do you expect to support live streaming for the 360 camera?

  • Live streaming is under test right now starting with Facebook and Periscope and is part of our fall OTA release plan with Youtube and others coming shortly after. Working diligently with our partners to make sure this is rock solid for you guys!

Other colors

Can we expect the white version to be released soon?

  • The holiday in China is delaying us a few more days. Look out for news early next week.

What about the green one?

  • We are in testing now, but no release date has been set.

Dev support

Will you release kernal source and system images?

  • I’m hoping to get kernel source out asap. System images are going to take a little longer.

There you have it – to see the full discussion, you can visit the official Reddit thread. Again, following the successful AMA session with Andy Rubin four weeks ago, the company wants to keep the conversation going. That’s why it will be hosting an AMA in r/Essential every two weeks, so if you have any questions for the team, feel free to ask them directly during next week’s session!

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Why having no headphone jack is a bad idea

2002 was an interesting year, as it was the first time that DVDs outsold VHS tapes. While people didn’t want to purchase their video collection again on a new format, DVDs made a compelling case. Not only did the discs take up less space than VHS tapes, but the audio and video was of vastly higher quality. DVD players were smaller, they fit better in entertainment stands—there was virtually no downside to making the change. DVD was an objectively better technology. After another 14 years, VHS officially died when the last manufacturer of VCRs shut their doors.

That’s generally how these things go. DVDs were replaced by Blu-Ray. Blu-Ray gave way to 4K Blu-Ray. Streaming is still taking hold in a big way. It makes total sense: each new technology usurps the one before it because it’s better technology. It’s the same for TVs, medical technology, smartphones, computers, video game consoles, cars, sports gear, and even cloths. There’s a clear and concise pattern. Something objectively better comes along at some point, and it gets widespread adoption. When it comes to the audio experience, Bluetooth simply doesn’t follow that trend.

Only a relatively small number of mobile phones rock it without a headphone jack. The number is growing and now includes Android flagship devices. Some people are okay with removing the headphone jack, but us reasonable people know better. Let’s discuss why. We won’t be touching a few topics in this one, like popularity, money, and motive. We already did an excellent post about all of that here!

Bluetooth audio simply isn’t as good, yet

There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that Bluetooth audio has improved over the last few years. We’ve gone from only having SBC as an audio codec to having about half a dozen in total right now. aptX, AAC, aptX-HD, and LDAC all wildly improve Bluetooth audio quality over previous generations. With the release of Android Oreo, those codecs are available to any phone running the OS. I’ll give Google credit where credit is due: that does add a lot of standardization in an ecosystem that had literally none three months ago. At least they fixed the “does my phone support that?” problem before they took away the easier option entirely. Good job, Google!

Nobody is saying that companies aren’t trying to fix the whole Bluetooth audio thing. They are.

Admittedly, Bluetooth audio isn’t all bad. Higher end wireless headphones offer a sound that is only “imperceptibly worse” to wired audio. Of course, that assumes you have a pair of high end Bluetooth headphones with the proper Bluetooth codecs as well as a smartphone with the same proper codecs. Android Oreo is going to take some time to roll-out, after all. However, all these improvements don’t change the fact that your Bluetooth headphones are taking music encoded in lossy formats (MP3, etc) and even lossless formats (FLAC, etc) and encoding them a second time into a lossier format. Even if it’s not always obvious, the quality suffers.

Bluetooth handles audio the same way now as it did back in 2004.

Perhaps the worst part is that it won’t get better for a long, long time. Bluetooth still basically handles audio in 2017 how it handled it in the year 2004 when the first pair of stereo Bluetooth headphones came out. All sounds that need to be played are encoded and sent to the Bluetooth headphones. The headphones then decode and play each channel as a individual tracks. Bluetooth headphones are not capable of playing two sounds simultaneously (such as when a notification pops up during a song). There is one pipe in the Bluetooth pipeline and you can only shove one thing in it at a time.

It sounds complicated—and it is. Basically, if you’re playing 100 sounds on your phone, your Bluetooth connection mashes them into a single stream before shooting them to your headphones (with two channels, left and right). Thus, it’s impossible to have a Bluetooth headset that just plays the raw file without encoding it again because it would break other features like hearing your notification tone go off. We don’t know when or even if that will ever change. Until it does, the limitations of Bluetooth govern your audio quality experience… and nobody can fix that, yet.

Dongles are bad all the time

The natural response to the Bluetooth audio argument is using the dongle for music. After all, there are dongles available that let you charge your phone and listen to music at the same time now (they’re not very good yet). Some audiophile DACs even support USB Type-C. That should make the transition seamless, correct? Well, not really.

The first problem is that some USB Type-C tech is still somewhat proprietary. You can’t use the headphone jack dongle from an HTC U11 on a Samsung Galaxy S8, and some amp/DACs don’t work on USB Type-C, for example. The documentation on that is spotty as well, so there’s a level of trial-and-error. Admittedly, this isn’t a catastrophe, but it’s damned inconvenient. It’s also a problem that’s nonexistent with a headphone jack present.

Using one port for everything introduces unnecessary wear and tear.

Using a dongle is just plain sloppy. As it’s an external accessory, it adds new points of failure while simultaneously increasing wear on the USB-C port—not to mention it’s easier to lose. Spending eight hours at the office with your dongle at home is a bad day at work. They’re cheap to replace, but it’s still a new inconvenience that didn’t exist before. That’s a problem that only exists in phones without headphone jacks.

There are plenty of other insidious instances of dongles frustrating people. The charging port being the only usable physical connection on your device is inconvenient for plenty of niche use cases. How many people out there have those nifty little Square card readers that use the 3.5mm jack? Or that funny little Pressy thing from Kickstarter? Those devices—and devices like them—may not work even with a dongle.

Going all wireless requires lots of money and compromise.

All of these problems are fixable, but those fixes require money and compromise. How reasonable is it really to ask people to spend even more money to fix a problem introduced by the device they just bought? A Pixel 2 costs $ 649 while the XL version costs $ 849. The iPhones cost a king’s ransom, and the Moto Z devices are in that ballpark as well. Adding additional purchases on top of that over an arbitrary hardware change just isn’t good.

Wired headphones have more diversity

So let’s say that everything you’ve read up until now hasn’t convinced you. That’s fine. Let’s get to the philosophy of removing headphone jacks from phones. It is 100-year old technology. That’s practically paleolithic by technology standards. We’re due for something bold and new, right? The problem with that philosophy is that Bluetooth headphones are only barely on the forefront of their own industry. They also lack the diversity of wired cans.

Bluetooth headphones are only barely on the forefront of their own industry.

Those shopping for wired headphones have a ton of options. Do you need a decent set of open ear headphones for not a lot of money? Check. Portable headphones with travel case? Check. Active noise canceling? Check. Super cheap? Yep. Super light? Sure. Bass heavy? Got ’em. Treble heavy? That too. Studio headphones? Yes. You can even buy a pair of SHP9500 along with a ModMic. Then you have a good, versatile pair of open-ear headphones that are great for casual listening, gaming, talking to people on Skype, or whatever for just over $ 100. Bluetooth doesn’t have that kind of flexibility. There are wired headphones for literally whatever you could possibly want.

Bluetooth headphones tend to all be portable for active lifestyles. Most Bluetooth earbuds are sweatproof for joggers. Bluetooth headphones in general are collapsible and portable. They tend to have minimal builds, not a lot of padding, with small ear cups that don’t breathe well. They’re made to squeeze your head, make complete seals with the ear cups for better sound isolation, and have features like active noise canceling. There aren’t many Hi-Fi certified Bluetooth headphones. There is no such thing as a Sennheiser HD600, but with Bluetooth.

OEMs forget that headphone jacks have uses outside of mobile phones for both casual consumers and professionals.

That’s not inherently bad, but it’s a worrying. Shopping for a comfortable, casual listening pair of Bluetooth headphones is depressing. Bluetooth is a better solution to one problem in the headphone market (ultra-portability), but it’s incapable of addressing the needs of the whole headphone market. Bluetooth headphones simply aren’t that versatile compared to their wired brethren. OEMs need to remember that a world outside of mobile exists where headphone jacks are useful for other stuff too.

There’s a bunch of other, smaller considerations. Wired headphones has a massive community along with an entire industry of repair and replacement parts. Then you have different driver tech with planar, dynamic, and electrostatic. Most of that stuff doesn’t exist on Bluetooth. Never mind that a pair of Sony WH1000XM2 (one of the few Hi-Fi certified Bluetooth headphones) costs $ 349. The Sony MDR1A uses similar dynamic drivers as the WH1000XM2 does, but it only costs around $ 200.

There is a future where Bluetooth audio has all of these options as well. When that future becomes the present, I’ll shut up. Until then, wired is still the far superior market for everybody shopping for things other than exercising or flying cross-country.

In reality, you don’t gain anything from removing headphone jacks

I’d be okay with phones without a headphone jack if I were getting something equally amazing in return. A new piece of tech that simply won’t work in a phone with a headphone jack—something game changing or revolutionary. Hell, even something moderately beneficial would shut me right up. Your battery has an extra 500mAh? Sign me up! That’s just not the case, though.

Removing the headphone jack only subtracts from the experience. It adds nothing.

Let’s look at another phone that’s coming out in the relatively near future for many people, the LG V30. It features a bezelless style design. It has a sleek body, wireless charging, IP68 water and dust resistance, and good camera hardware. The V30 does all of that with a headphone jack, and a damn good one. Many other smartphones can boast similar feats. Phones without headphone jacks can’t use the phrase “no compromises” because all they’re doing is subtracting from the core experience.

Bluetooth still works in the V30 (LG and others have had Aptx-HD in their phones for years now) and you’re not getting an overly better Bluetooth experience on the Pixel, the iPhone, or the Moto Z without investing tons of money. The battery sizes are roughly the same. Google Assistant works on all of them. Every Android app works the same way. The fact is: you can still have the exact same wireless experience on a Note 8 or a OnePlus 5, or a V30. Removing the headphone jack brings nothing to the table. It just makes the table smaller.

The Pixel, Moto Z, and iPhone offer objectively small differences to their Bluetooth experience over other OEMs.

So why bother removing the headphone jack? The only potential thing that removing the headphone jack can objectively do is allow OEMs to make phones thinner. Except the Moto Z Force 2 is ~6.1mm thick, the iPhone 8 Plus is ~7.5mm thick, and the Google Pixel 2 is ~7.8mm thick. The V30 is ~7.4mm thick with a headphone jack while the OnePlus 5 (and its headphone jack) clocks in at ~7.3mm. Smartphones aren’t even getting thinner, so what gives?

There is no objective reason to remove a headphone jack. There are monetary reasons to remove a headphone jack. After all, Apple owns Beats and Air Pods, the most popular Bluetooth audio products and Google announced their Pixel Buds this last week. However, we covered that more in-depth already.

It’s a silly thing to do when your reasons are little more than platitudes.

Aside from money and aesthetics, though, there’s really no point to it. We’re all quibbling over whether Bluetooth audio is good enough, or whether or not dongles suck (they do).  The official reasons are little more than platitudes about better designs and “being bold”. It’s hogwash, honestly. The only thing such a decision does is limit the kinds of experiences an individual can have on their smartphone. That is never a good thing.

What do you think?

The future holds what it holds. I may be looking back fondly on this piece of work a few years from now when we’re all using Bluetooth headphones and mobile devices have returned to their 1990’s roots of not having a headphone jack. There’s no reasonable person saying that the issues with Bluetooth audio and headphone jack-less devices aren’t fixable. They definitely are. It just hasn’t happened, yet, and we need to stop pretending like it has.

Bluetooth-only is fixable. The problem is that it hasn’t been fixed yet.

And thus we call back our very first example. Imagine walking into your local electronics store and listening for 30 minutes while an employee told you that DVD video quality was only “imperceptibly worse” than VHS, that you’d need to buy extra dongles to connect it to your existing TV, and that it was going to cost you vastly more money. What are the odds of you walking out of that store with a new DVD player just to save a few inches of space on your entertainment stand? We’re willing to bet that number isn’t high. So why are so many people suddenly okay with this compromise when it comes to audio?

Of course, we’d love to hear what you think. The comment section is just below. Let us know what you think!

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Google Pixel 2 XL vs Samsung Galaxy Note 8: The flagship battle

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Google just unwrapped its latest flagship and it’s only natural to wonder how it compares to the other big phones of the year. At $ 849 for the Pixel 2 XL, it’s definitely on the pricey side of the smartphone market and for less than $ 100 more, you can nab yourself Samsung’s latest flagship, the Galaxy Note 8.

Both devices have a lot to offer and appeal largely to different types of customers, but how do they stack up? Which device is the best and most worthy of your money? Let’s find out!

The Pixel 2 XL follows the trend of other ultra-premium flagships in 2017, sporting a taller aspect ratio display with smaller bezels. It’s bezels aren’t nearly as small as those on the Note 8, though. The Pixel 2 XL features a 6-inch pOLED QHD display with a 2880×1440 pixel resolution. It has front facing speakers at the top and bottom, and slight bezels on either side of the screen.

The Galaxy Note 8 brings a 6.3-inch QHD Super AMOLED display. It’s got a slightly lower pixel density, but the curved screen means it has a similarly-sized overall footprint. The Galaxy Note 8 only has a single speaker at the bottom, but also has a 3.5mm headphone jack, which Google left out of the Pixel 2 XL. Google includes a 3.5mm headphone jack to USB-C adapter in the box, so people with older headphones won’t have to spring for a new pair. The big question here is whether you’d rather have native support for a headphone jack, or dual front facing stereo speakers.

Both devices also support Always-On Display technology. The Galaxy Note 8 Always-On Display features shortcuts to apps, icons for your latest notifications, music controls and the ability to pin a screen off memo from the S-Pen. Meanwhile, the Pixel 2 Always-On Display is a little more understated with a fairly standard experience accompanied by the Now playing feature, which allows you to see what song is playing at any given time at a glance.

Editor’s Pick

As with any flagship smartphone in 2017, the Pixel 2 XL comes with a flagship specs list. This includes being powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with an Adreno 530 GPU, 4 GB of RAM and either 64 GB or 128 GB of storage. The Galaxy Note 8 has the same processing package but increases the RAM to 6 GB and offers 256 GB of storage instead of 128 GB. Both devices also have IP67 dust and water resistance, but the Galaxy Note 8 also comes with other useful extra likes wireless charging and a microSD card slot for expandable storage.

On the back is where you’ll find one of the biggest differences between the two. The Galaxy Note 8 is Samsung’s first attempt at the dual camera. It incorporates two 12MP sensors with an f/1.7 aperture on the wide-angle lens, and an f/2.4 aperture on the telephoto lens. There’s also OIS in both lenses, which is a first for smartphone cameras. You can use the dual cameras to add bokeh to your shots.

The Pixel 2 XL’s front-facing speakers mean its bezels aren’t nearly as thin as the Galaxy Note 8.

The Pixel 2 XL takes a different approach and with it, Google is signaling to the world that a single camera can do the same job as two. The rear camera is a 12.2MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture and OIS, but the stand out feature is Portrait Mode. While every other smartphone OEM needs two cameras to achieve this, Google is able to achieve this by using one lens, dual pixel cameras, and its powerful machine learning algorithms.

The original Pixel XL had what was arguably the best camera of 2016, and with a record-high DxO Mark score of 98, Google’s new flagships could have the best smartphone cameras ever. Of course, the real proof will come once we put these smartphones head to head so stay tuned for that before the end of the month.

As you might have expected, the Pixel 2 XL runs Android Oreo out of the box, while the Note 8 launched with Nougat and will be updated to Android Marshmallow in the near future. Google’s version of Oreo brings a mostly stock experience, with a redesigned Pixel launcher, notification dots, native picture-in-picture and a whole lot more.

The Pixel 2 XL uses machine learning and dual pixels to achieve bokeh effects with only one lens.

The Pixel 2 is the first Android smartphone with Google Lens, which uses machine learning to give you information about anything you point the camera at. It’s similar to Samsung’s Bixby Vision, but being linked to the world’s largest search engine will probably increase usability. The Pixel 2 XL also comes with the new Active Edge feature that lets you squeeze the edge of the phone, like the HTC U11’s Squeeze feature, as an easy way to launch Google Assistant.

The Galaxy Note 8 comes with Samsung’s software experience on top of Android 7.1.1 Nougat. The standout feature of this phone is the S Pen which can be used to jot down notes, create drawings, translate sentences, and more. The S-Pen brings a few tweaks over last year like being able to save screen off memos that are up to 100 pages long, send gif-like live messages, and more.


Editor’s Pick

Which smartphone would you choose between the Google Pixel 2 XL and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Missed all the announcements from the Google event? We’ve got you covered!

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Amazon expands voice calls for its Echo speakers to the UK, Germany, and Austria

Amazon Echo and Echo Dot owners in the UK, Germany, and Austria can now make voice calls and send audio messages to each other. The support was previously added to US owners of the Echo speakers earlier this year.

Editor’s Pick

The new voice call support for the UK, Germany, and Austria arrives via an update to Amazon’s Alexa app for Android and iOS. As with the US support, this new feature lets users make voice calls from one Echo speaker to another, or to a smartphone that has the Alexa app installed. Owners still cannot make calls to non-Alexa smartphones or landlines. The Echo’s biggest rival, Google Home, recently added a way for owners in the US and Canada to make hands-free calls to any landline or mobile phone number in those countries, but it cannot take incoming calls.

Amazon announced new members of the Echo family last week, including a smaller version of the standard model, and a larger Echo Plus, both of which will ship in late October. A smaller screen-based speaker and clock, the Echo Spot, will begin shipping in December. Google is expected to officially announced a smaller speaker, the Google Home Mini, on Wednesday as part of its latest hardware press event, and it may also reveal a new premium model tomorrow as well.

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5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week! – Android Apps Weekly

Android Apps Weekly featured image
Welcome to the 211th edition of Android Apps Weekly! Here are the headlines from the last week:

  • Google decided to not play nice with the new Amazon Echo Show. They pulled YouTube support earlier this week. Google allegedly gave no warning or notification. Google’s return statement indicated that Amazon’s implementation didn’t adhere to the terms of service. In short, the two companies are in a bit of a disagreement. We imagine it won’t take long to resolve.
  • Mozilla Firefox is about to get a lot better on Android. A bunch of things are changing when version 58 hits the Google Play Store. That includes a faster browsing experience, less RAM usage, a visual redesign, and more. The desktop version is getting a similar makeover. The company is also killing off Adobe Flash support in version 56.
  • Twitter is about to double the tweet character limit from 140 to 280. That means people can be awful to each other twice as much with half of the effort! Seriously, though, the feature is currently rolling out to select Twitter users. You can also test the feature yourself by with the Tampermonkey Chrome extension (Google Chrome only).
  • Super Mario Run received a fairly substantial update this week. Included is Remix 10, a new game mode. It sends players through ten short courses in a row. Daisy is also now a playable character. Some other additions include a new section called World Star and the ability to play music stored on your device while playing. The game is also temporarily on sale for $ 4.99. Get it while it’s hot!
  • GO Keyboard is allegedly spying on millions of its users. Research company Adguard ran a bunch of tests. The results weren’t great. The keyboard apparently collects various bits of sensitive information. Many antivirus apps identified some of the GO Keyboard plugins as adware as well. The app also communicates with various tracking networks but a lot of apps do that. Perhaps it might be a good idea to change things up for a bit.

You can find more Android apps and games news, releases, and updates from this week’s newsletter by clicking here! The form below is available for anyone who wants to subscribe and receive the newsletter in their email every week. You can also check out the Android Authority app for even faster updates!

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Another Lost Phone: Laura’s Story

Price: $ 3.49
Another Lost Phone: Laura’s Story is the next game in the Lost Phone franchise. The player finds a lost phone belonging to a woman named Laura. They must dig through the phone to find out why she disappeared. The player digs through various apps to investigate her life, her contacts, her messages, and even her photos. The mechanics are simple enough. It’s a sleuthing game and thus there isn’t anything particularly difficult about it. It is quite fun, though. The game runs for $ 3.49 with no in-app purchases.


Price: Free / $ 1.98
DirectChat is a nifty little chat companion app. It doesn’t send messages on its own. The app does allow other chat apps to use chat heads. That includes instances where it may not be supported. Thus, you can have them with WhatsApp, Hangouts, Allo, or whatever it is that you use. There are some customization options. a Do Not Disturb mode, a blacklist, a block list, and more. The free version contains ads. The pro version goes for $ 1.98. It removes advertising and adds a few extra features.

Pokemon Playhouse

Price: Free
Pokemon Playhouse is a Pokemon-themed kids game. Children can move around the game and interact with a bunch of different Pokemon. It’s a wildly simple title. There isn’t any reading or math skills required to play. It’s not even educational. The game is just there for fun. Nothing about the game is difficult. However, that can lead to a slightly boring game for kids who enjoy more challenging stuff. In any case, the game is entirely free with no in-app purchases or advertising.
Pokemon Playhouse

Google Family Link

Price: Free
Google Family Link is an app for parents. It allows parents to monitor their children’s activities on their smartphone. They can also do things like lock the phone down during certain times of the day. Thus, you can lock the phone when it’s bedtime. Parents have to make a linked Google account for each kid. Additionally, the kid’s phone has to run Android 7.0 Nougat at least. Some are having trouble porting existing accounts into this one. There are also some bugs here and there. Otherwise, it’s an app to keep your eye on.
Google Family Link

Middle-earth: Shadow of War

Price: Free with in-app purchases
Middle-earth: Shadow of War is a new hack and slash action game. It follows the story of Talion and his fight with Sauron’s armies. The game includes action RPG mechanics, tons of gear to collect, and iconic Lord of the Rings characters to recruit. Yes, it is a freemium game. Thus, it has freemium game elements. Other than that, the graphics and sound are decent and the game play is easy enough to learn. It’s worth a shot at the very least.

If we missed any big Android apps or games news, tell us about it in the comments. You can also hit me up on Twitter if there’s an app you think should be here!

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