Apple’s renewed fight against AIDS includes new iPhone cases

Apple has made a tradition of marking World AIDS Day with a campaign to donate to the Product (RED) charity, and it’s going the extra mile for its 10th year of support. On top of the company’s existing (RED) gear (which sends a contribution to the Global Fund’s fight against AIDS), it’s launching four new accessories and devices that count toward the charity. You can get red versions of the iPhone 7 Battery Case, the leather iPhone SE case, Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones and the Beats Pill+ wireless speaker. All of these are available today, and there are other ways to help out even if you have no intentions of buying hardware.

To begin with, purchasing anything at an Apple store (physical or online) through Apple Pay between now and December 6th will donate $ 1 toward (RED), up to a maximum of $ 1 million. Bank of America will match those donations if you buy using one of its cards. You can also buy an album from The Killers (Don’t Waste Your Wishes) on iTunes with all US proceeds heading to the fund. Beyond this, in-app purchases in 20 high-profile iOS games (including Angry Birds 2, Clash of Clans and PewDiePie’s Tuber Simulator) will contribute to the anti-AIDS campaign through December 7th.

These individual efforts may seem like drops in the bucket, but Apple has historically been one of Product (RED)’s strongest contributors — it had raised $ 65 million by 2013. And while a bona fide cure is still years away, the United Nations now believes that you could realistically see the end of AIDS by 2030. You may only make a small difference by yourself, but the combined effort adds up.

Source: Apple (1), (2)

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Yelp wants you to add a ‘Yelfie’ to your restaurant reviews

After letting its users virtually queue up for restaurants with a previous update, now Yelp wants them to put a face to the person behind each star-rating. With the service’s amateur reviews shaping restaurant scenes around the globe, the influential platform’s latest update allows its users to attach a selfie, or “Yelfie,” as the site is unfortunately calling them, to their reviews.

When checking-in to a restaurant, reviewers can now pout after being served a poor pastry or smile after tasting a particularly succulent soup. With over 140 million monthly users, these amateur critics now have a chance to gain some notoriety. It will be interesting to see how influential popular “Yelpers” become.

The idea was originally developed by the company at a hackathon conference and they decided that it was too good an idea to waste. Both Android and iPhone Yelp users can download the update today. With spurned restaurant owners now being able to see who’s behind their scathing reviews, be sure to check your Yelfie before you wreck your self(ie).

Source: Yelp

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Bragi’s ‘Headphone’ takes on Apple’s AirPods

Almost three years ago, Bragi left an indelible mark on the headphone universe. The then-unknown company launched a pair of “truly” wireless headphones on Kickstarter that not only cut every wire, but boasted a slew of fitness-tracking features, all wrapped in a superslick design.

Bragi delivered on its promise, releasing the Dash this summer, but with a few compromises. The fitness features weren’t comprehensive enough to be valuable, the microphone wasn’t great, and even basic connectivity with phones wasn’t very stable. You can’t have bleeding edge without a few cuts, though, right?

Enter “the Headphone.” These $ 149 buds look a lot like the Dash, but are a much simpler proposition. The Headphone drops nearly all the smart features, and the result is arguably the product Bragi should have launched originally: a solid pair of truly wireless headphones. The Dash was definitely an impressive opening act, though, and perhaps necessary to earn the company the gravitas to be taken seriously.

The very first thing I noticed about the Headphone is that the build feels cheap compared to the Dash. The Headphone comes in a light plastic case — not a cold, weighty metal one this time. There’s no battery in that case either; it just serves as a charging cradle (and case, obviously). The Dash’s smooth, touch-sensitive controls have been replaced by physical buttons on the right bud. There’s also no app connectivity with the Headphone, and no onboard storage for music. So why bother? Well, there’s at least three very good reasons: connectivity, battery life and price.

Bragi defined the truly wireless headphones category, and many competitors soon emerged. Remarkably, all of them — almost without exception — suffered some form of connectivity hiccup. This could be between the buds themselves, or between the headphones and your phone when outside (an issue with the Dash). Some cheaper products presented both problems.

With the Headphone, connectivity issues have vanished — even outside walking with your phone deep in your pocket. The Dash is very sensitive, and if you have your phone in the wrong pocket, music would suffer dropouts. With the Headphone, I’ve had the odd minor glitch while turning my head to look for traffic crossing a road, with the phone in the opposite pocket.

The audio connectivity isn’t just better than the Dash; it’s better than any “truly” wireless buds I’ve tried (Erato’s Apollo 7 and Earin, to name a few). Importantly, the Headphone’s buds never lost connection with each other either — a common problem with these products. Best of all, unlike similar headsets, Bragi didn’t use a design with something hanging out of your ears (looking at you, AirPods) to help ensure good connectivity. Like the Dash, the Headphone sits flush in your ear, making them much more inconspicuous.

One downside to the physical buttons is that they require quite a push to register a click, so you’re basically mashing the earbud into your ear each time, which can feel uncomfortable. This mashing effect happens with all three buttons on the right bud. It’s a relatively minor annoyance, as you can always use your phone to control the volume, but it’s something to get used to.

The lack of fitness features on the Headphone isn’t a problem, as there are many other ways to track activity. But I did love the ability to load music onto the Dash and leave my phone at home when going for a run. Not many truly wireless buds offer this — Samsung’s Iconx is one of the others — but it’s a feature that elevates the usefulness of wireless earbuds, especially when music streaming might not be convenient.

A feature the Headphone does have is the “transparency” mode that Bragi helped pioneer. Transparency uses the microphone to blend ambient noise around you (traffic, people talking, etc.) with your music. Handy when you don’t want to stop your music, say when buying a coffee. But also a potential lifesaver for cyclists who gotta have their tunes on the ride to work.

It’s definitely a welcome addition to the Headphone’s relatively basic feature set, but for some reason, the ambient noise doesn’t seem to be quite as audible as it is on the Dash in the same conditions. My doorbell pierces through much less on the Headphone while listening at moderate volume, and sometimes I had to remove a bud to engage in conversation, which is less common with the Dash. Perhaps Bragi reconfigured it the second time around.

More important, music sounds pretty good on the Headphone, but a caveat: Bragi’s press materials told me this might not be the audio profile that will be on retail units. The profile on the model I’m wearing right now is fairly neutral. That’s to say, it’s sounds like there’s less emphasis on the bass and the high midrange frequencies (vocals, melodies, etc.), which are commonly ramped up in consumer headphones.

Again, if we’re comparing to the Dash, I actually prefer the Dash’s audio profile. It feels a little thicker, and has more impact (and a fair bit louder). The Headphone is still a very good listen, and probably more suitable to those who listen to live/acoustic music. My noisy brand of angry dance music just doesn’t feel quite as thumping this time around, though.

The microphone, on the other hand, is less impressive. I rang a number of friends and family and didn’t tell them I was using a hands-free, and nearly everyone asked me where I was calling from in that “you-sound-different” kinda way. I recorded a few tests on my MacBook using the mic on the Headphone, and they ranged from poor to inaudible. You’ll be able to use these to make calls, but it’s not a strong suit.

It might seem like there’s a lot of things lacking in the Headphone, and to a large degree that’s true … if you compare it to the Dash. Pit the Headphone against most of the competition, and suddenly things look rosier. The general connectivity situation is a great step forward for the category. The audio quality is solid (even if the mic is lacking), and the six or so hours of battery life is pretty decent (though a shame there’s no battery in the case).

At $ 149, the price undercuts Earin’s lightweight buds by some $ 50, and is (no doubt deliberate) $ 10 less than Apple’s AirPods, which is perhaps the competition Bragi’s really setting its sights on. With a better battery life, decent audio and enough change to buy yourself lunch, the Headphone should appeal to those iPhone 7 owners shopping around for a wireless set. Especially if Bragi can deliver on it’s “November” ship date and beat Apple to market.

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Lenovo Phab 2 Pro review: Stumbling out of the gate

I just spent 15 minutes wandering around the office, trying to shoot ghouls in the face with lightning. Before that, I dropped a virtual rococo sofa into the empty space next to my desk, just to see if it would fit. And before that, I measured … well, everything. Welcome to the augmented life, courtesy of Google and Lenovo. Google has spent more than two years taking its “Tango” technology from project to full-blown product. The goal: to help our gadgets examine the world around them and overlay information — or even whole new worlds — on top of the reality we already know. Along the way, Google tapped Lenovo to help craft the first consumer-ready Tango device: an enormous slab of a phone called the Phab 2 Pro. And now it’s here.

If the Tango stuff alone didn’t make the Phab 2 Pro a groundbreaking device, this is also the first Lenovo-branded smartphone to land in the United States. Too bad it’s not quite ready for prime time.

Hardware

I can’t emphasize this enough: The Phab 2 Pro ($ 500) is enormous. Then again, how could it be anything but? We have plenty of things to thank for that, from the phone’s 6.4-inch IPS LCD screen to the bank of capacitive buttons below it, to the massive 4,050mAh battery under the hood. Of course, the real reason the Phab 2 Pro is so big is because of all the Tango tech Google helped squeeze inside. It’s worth remembering that Google’s Tango reference device for developers was a tablet with a 7-inch screen, one of NVIDIA’s Tegra K1 chipsets and two — two! — batteries.

That Google and Lenovo managed to squeeze all the requisite bits into a mostly pocketable smartphone is a feat in itself. There are, after all, plenty of nonstandard parts here. Just look at the Phab 2’s back if you don’t believe me. Nestled between the 16-megapixel camera and the fingerprint sensor are two more cameras — one has an infrared emitter to determine how far things are from the phone, and the other is a wide-angle camera with a fisheye lens that works as part of Tango’s motion-tracking system. Turns out, Lenovo had to punch a hole in the phone’s main circuit board to make room for all those sensors.

Those cameras and sensors work in tandem with a customized version of Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 652 processor. We’ve seen more conventional versions of this midrange chip pop up in devices like ASUS’s new ZenFone, but the version we have here has been tuned to more accurately timestamp the data captured by all of the phone’s sensors. Why? To keep the phone’s location in lockstep with all the crazy AR stuff you’ll see on screen. Also onboard are 4GB of RAM, an Adreno 510 GPU, 64GB of storage, a micro-USB port and a tray that takes either two SIM cards or a SIM card and a microSD card as big as 128GB.

So, long story short, the Phab 2 Pro is massive, and for good reason. The last time I played with a non-Phab phone this big was three years ago, when Sony launched a version of its Xperia Z Ultra running a clean version of Android in the Google Play Store. Since then, the market has coalesced around big smartphones with screens of about 5.5 inches. Years of similar-size devices, then, means the Phab 2 Pro feels extra unwieldy.

It would’ve been more of a problem if Lenovo hadn’t done such a good job putting the Phab 2 Pro together; the body is carved out of a single block of aluminum, and the screen is covered by a sheet of Gorilla Glass that’s ever-so-slightly curved around the edges for that subtle “2.5D” effect everyone seems to love. The aesthetic is pleasant enough if you’re into minimalist design, and big-phone fans are probably going to drool, too. If you’re thinking of getting one, though, best if you can get some hands-on time before taking the plunge.

Display and sound

The 6.4-inch screen on the Phab 2 Pro is indeed massive, but mostly unremarkable. Lenovo went with an “assertive” IPS LCD screen, which basically means the panel can optimize colors and contrast on the pixel level. It’s a handy trick for when you’re traipsing around outdoors — it’s excellent under direct sunlight — but the screen is otherwise forgettable.

Don’t get me wrong: Its 2,560 x 1,440 resolution means it’s still plenty crisp, even if it isn’t as pixel-dense as other devices because of how big the panel is. Color reproduction is accurate too, though it’ll definitely feel a little flat if you’re coming from a device with an AMOLED screen like the Galaxy S7. What’s more, brightness is respectable — this screen is just a touch dimmer than the iPhone 7 Plus’ — and viewing angles are also pretty great. I half-expected the screen to be worse, because it would have been a likely place for Lenovo to cut corners on a $ 500 phone.

The sound quality lags behind screen quality, but that’s no surprise. The Phab 2 Pro has a single speaker carved into its bottom edge, which makes for anemic, muddy-sounding music, with bass notes utterly lacking in oomph. It’s fine for sound effects in Tango-enabled games, but headphones are otherwise a must. It helps that the Phab 2 Pro ships with a Dolby Atmos app that launches automatically when headphones are plugged in. Included are presets for music, movies, games and voices (say, for podcasts), and, in general, they added a decent amount of oomph to my audio. Music, in particular, felt a little punchier and more expansive, though the results seemed to vary from song to song.

Software

Motorola has long been a fan of near-stock Android, and I’m glad its parent company, Lenovo, seems just as fond of it. The Phab 2 Pro ships with a build of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow that has been left almost completely untouched. Seriously, there are no extra widgets, no visual junk, no bloatware. If you put the Tango-specific stuff aside, there are but a few add-ons: an app for simple file sharing, another for cloud backups, a sound recorder, a Dolby Atmos app for audio tuning and Accuweather. The rest of Lenovo’s work on the software front is much subtler, and largely meant to make using such a big phone easier.

Rather than picking up the phone to see what time it is, for instance, you can toggle an option to wake the device by double-tapping the screen. Still another option causes the lock screen’s PIN-input pad and the phone’s dialer pad to slide to the left or right depending on how the Phab 2 is tilted so you don’t have to stretch your thumbs across the screen.

And you’re in luck if you’ve been looking for a smarter alternative to the traditional home button. There’s an option for a floating on-screen button that provides quick access to all three traditional Android navigation keys, plus the screen lock, calculator, audio recorder and flashlight. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need to whip out a calculator all that often, so the inability to change any of those shortcuts is a little frustrating. You can add a second page of app shortcuts too, though the resulting grid of icons looks pretty ugly.

Lenovo’s light touch with software is appreciated, but it’s far from perfect. Certain apps (here’s looking at you, Gmail) offer notifications that are hard to read because some of the text is too dark against the translucent-gray notification shade. The problem is even worse when you’re using a dark wallpaper, and surprise: A good chunk of the included wallpapers, including the one that’s on by default, do indeed fall into that category.

Life with Tango

As I write this, there are 35 Tango apps available in the Google Play Store, and broadly speaking, they fall into one of two categories: tools and games. I’m not going to dissect all of them — not unless you all really, really want me to — but there are recurring themes across these apps that speak to the larger experience of living with Tango.

Despite all the whimsical, weird stuff we’ve seen Tango do in the past, Google is making it clear the tech can help you get stuff done, too. The Phab 2 Pro ships with Google’s Measure app, for one, which does exactly what its name suggests. Fire up the app, point at something, tap to drop an anchor, then tap to drop an anchor at that something’s endpoint. Congratulations, you just measured something without having to grab a tape measure. The Lowe’s Vision app has a similar trick, and when Tango’s sensors cooperate, the results can be very accurate indeed.

That’s definitely not a given, though. Let’s say you’re measuring the edge of a box or a desk. The depth sensor sometimes has trouble figuring out where the edge begins, and you have to maneuver just right to tap on the correct spot. (To Google’s credit, Measure says it offers estimates instead of hard numbers.)

Tango recurring theme No. 1: The Phab 2 Pro occasionally fails at figuring out what it’s pointed at, even in bright conditions.

Speaking of, we’ve seen Lowe’s app used in Tango demos for ages now. In fact, the Phab 2 Pro will even be sold in select Lowe’s stores. Even so, it’s still fun filling an empty room with virtual ovens, sofas and end tables. Online retailer Wayfair has a similar app, which generally seems to work much better; the dressers and couches and cabinets I’ve dropped into the world around me were faster to load and didn’t randomly appear right on top of me as in the Lowe’s app. In fact, the Wayfair app is a joy to use at least partially because it doesn’t try to do too much — just plop furniture down, and that’s it. Same goes for Amazon’s Product Preview app, which lets you see how different TVs would look on your wall. It does one thing, and does it well.

Tango recurring theme No. 2: When it comes to augmented reality apps, the simpler the better.

Tango’s tools aren’t just about seeing how junk fits in your home, by the way. One of my early favorites is Signal Mapper, which prompts you to wander around and visualize how strong your WiFi signal is (future versions will support cellular networks, too). Keep at it long enough, and you’re left with a signal-strength heat map that doubles as a rough blueprint of… wherever you happen to be. Then there are apps like Cydalion, meant to help visually impaired persons get around more easily. In brief, these apps provide audio and touch feedback when someone gets too close to a nearby object.

Tango recurring theme No. 3: The technology might not be perfect yet, but the potential here is just astounding.

So, yes, there are plenty of Tango utilities for you to play with. But let’s be real: The first thing I did after receiving the Phab 2 Pro was load up a handful of games. As it turns out, though, games are where Tango’s shortcomings become most apparent. We’ve seen some of these augmented-reality games before, like Domino World, which scans your surroundings and lets you build convoluted structures out of those tiny tiles. But there’s a tendency for the app to think a flat surface like a tabletop goes is longer than it really is, so you’ll often build a long string of dominos that jut out into the air, just waiting to be knocked over.

Other games, like Woorld, are heavier on the whimsy. Designed in part by Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi, Woorld turns the space around you into a playground where the only real goal is figuring out how to find new pieces — like a sun, clouds, sprouts and picnic tables — to add your tiny domain. It’s cute, it’s fun and I blew the better part of an afternoon on it. Woorld is, by the way, the one game I played that really threw the Phab 2 Pro for a loop. It was the second time I had fired up the game, and less than 10 minutes after I started plopping cottages and clouds and sprouts on a conference room desk, the real-world view provided by the RGB camera nearly ground to a halt.

I’m not exactly sure what caused the issue — maybe a memory leak somewhere — but it hasn’t happened again. Suffice to say, this sort of laggy behavior was an exception, not the rule. I’m actually still surprised that the Phab 2 Pro performed these AR tasks as well as it did, but I probably shouldn’t have been: This phone was supposed to launch at the end of the summer, and it’s clear Google and Lenovo used the extra time to do some tightening up.

Even so, the software is buggy. Playing Phantogeist, the ghost-blasting game I mentioned in the beginning of this review, was great until said ghost spookily hunkered down inside a wall, rendering my lightning-gun-thing useless. When it wandered back into the field, I nuked it from a distance and continued doing that to all its nasty, noncorporeal friends.

Tango recurring theme No. 4: When everything works the way it’s supposed to, Tango can feel like magic.

These past two years have turned Tango into a functional product, but it’s a long way from seamlessly good. There were, however, plenty of those moments where everything came together just so and I felt I like I was playing with a tricorder pulled out of storage on the USS Enterprise. Some of these issues will be addressed in future Tango hardware — Google’s Tango program lead Johnny Lee has said more is coming — but here’s hoping software fixes patch up some of these early troubles. The potential benefits are just too great to give up on.

Camera

Since the Phab 2 Pro’s 16-megapixel camera plays such an important role in making Tango’s augmented reality work, you’d think Lenovo would’ve chosen a top-flight sensor. Not quite, but it has its moments. When the conditions are right — by which I mean there’s plenty of light — the camera yields detailed shots with colors that are mostly true to life. Pro tip: You’ll probably want HDR mode on all the time to give your photos a dose of verve that would otherwise be missing.

My biggest gripe so far has been the finicky autofocus, an issue that only gets more bothersome in low light. Our office already has a Christmas tree in the lobby, and it posed no problem for the iPhone 7 Plus or the Galaxy S7. The Phab 2 Pro, on the other hand, refused to lock onto the tree no matter how many times I tapped to focus on the screen. This doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s a pervasive enough issue that Lenovo should really issue a software update to address it.

I wish I could say the 8-megapixel front camera was better, but it has a lot of trouble accurately rendering colors in selfies. Take me, for example: Around this time of year I’m sort of a pale, milky coffee color, an observation backed up by selfies taken with the iPhone 7 Plus and the Galaxy S7. For reasons beyond comprehension, though, the Phab 2 Pro’s front camera made me a deep orange-brown. That’s with the face-smoothing mode off and everything else set to auto, too. Seriously disappointing, Lenovo.

The camera app itself isn’t much to write home about, either. Sure, there might not be much in the way of manual controls, but there are eight scene modes, a “touchup” mode for cleaning up your face in selfies and some basic white balance and exposure controls. The thing is, they’re tucked away inside a settings menu, making them easy to miss. It’s just bad design. (Then again, looking at the interface Lenovo slapped together, is another bit of bad design really a surprise?)

Because the Phab 2 Pro is all about augmenting reality, it’s no shock that there’s an AR mode within the camera app too. Tapping the AR button brings up a live view of what’s in front of you (duh) along with options to turn that space into some sort of bizarre fairy garden (complete with freaky child-fairy) or a playground for a kitty, a puppy or a chubby, oddly designed dragon. Sound familiar? These sorts of AR tricks figured prominently in Sony smartphones like the Xperia X line, where they were just as hokey. They’re good for a chuckle or two, but the novelty doesn’t last long (unless you have kids). At least the Phab 2 Pro does a better job dispelling the heat that tends to build up during intense AR kitty play sessions.

Performance and battery life

We’ve already established that, beyond the occasional hiccup, the Phab 2 Pro can keep Tango apps running at a decent clip. But what about everything else? Even though the Snapdragon 625 is specifically tuned for Tango, the Phab 2 Pro should be able to handle most people’s daily routines without issue. My days, for instance, are filled with lots of frantic app launching and multitasking; I’m constantly bouncing between Slack, Outlook, Spotify, Trello, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud and more for hours on end.

The Phab 2 Pro took that mild insanity like a champ, with occasional stutters punctuating long stretches of smoothness. Not bad. If your day features a lot of hardcore gaming, however, you might want to look elsewhere. Graphically intense games like Asphalt 8 (with the visual settings cranked to the max) sometimes proved to be a little much for the Phab 2 Pro. In other words, don’t freak out if you see the occasional jerkiness or dropped frame. Though this is an important device, you’re not exactly getting flagship-level power.

Google Pixel Google Pixel XL Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Lenovo Phab 2 Pro
AndEBench Pro 14,941 16,164 13,030 8,930
Vellamo 3.0 5,343 5,800 4,152 4,922
3DMark IS Unlimited 28,645 29,360 26,666 17,711
GFXBench 3.0 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 46 48 47 14

I was also expecting more from the Phab 2 Pro’s 4,050mAh battery — it’s the biggest I’ve seen in a recent smartphone, after all. The usage time skewed more middle-of-the-road than I expected, but that’s still sort of a win after all the time I’ve spent playing with Tango apps. Since seeing the sun for any appreciable period of time now requires me to be up early, I usually pulled the Phab 2 Pro off its charger at around 6:45AM, then put it through the daily wringer, with lots of time to get acquainted with Tango. I mean, who could resist?

Over the course of a few days like that, the phone settled into a predictable pattern: It’d power through 12-hour workdays just fine with about 10 percent to 15 percent left in the tank. On weekends, when I spent much less time glued to the phone, it generally stuck around for closer to two days on a charge.

Things were a little less promising in Engadget’s standard rundown test, wherein we loop a high-definition video with the phone connected to WiFi and the screen’s brightness fixed at 50 percent. The Phab 2 Pro lasted for 12 hours and 8 minutes — 20 minutes less than the Google Pixel, and a full two hours less than the larger Google Pixel XL. Such is the downside of having to power such a big display.

Wrap-up

The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro is an incredible thing, and it’s just brimming with potential. It’s also unpolished and frustrating to use a lot of the time. When the hardware and software don’t come together as they should, it makes me wish Google and Lenovo had spent a little more time ironing out the bugs. But when everything does come together — which happens frequently — I feel like I’m playing with something from the future.

Even so, there’s work to be done. Hardly any of the Tango apps available for the Phab 2 Pro feel like killer apps. As developers continue to get a feel for what Tango is capable of, we’ll see the platform become more useful — at least, I hope so. Part of that growth hinges on people starting to adopt Tango devices like the Phab 2 Pro, but it’s pretty clear that in its current form, no one needs this phone. For all Lenovo’s work cramming Tango into a well-built body, the Phab 2 Pro still feels like a proof of concept. If you’re a developer or an early adopter, then by all means, go get one.

Everyone else should remember that Tango doesn’t end with this phone. It’s special, it’s immersive and I think it could be huge for the future of mobile computing. It just needs time. I’m glad the Phab 2 Pro exists, but if there were ever a phone that wasn’t meant for everyone, this is it. The race is on now, though, and who knows? Maybe the next device with this tech is the one that truly delivers on Tango’s promise.

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12 gifts for music nerds

Nerds come in many forms. Some build stuff, some like video games, and others sweat the tiny details of audio fidelity or salivate over vintage drum machines. That latter group can be difficult to shop for if you’re not initiated in the ways of the music nerd. But don’t worry. Whether the obsessive audio freak in your life is more into making music or listening to it, we’ve got you covered. For those that love composing sweet beats, there’s the TR-09 — a pretty solid remake of the classic 909 drum machine that was essential to creating ’80s and ’90s house and techno. There are also pocket synths for musicians on the go, like the Pocket Operator line from Teenage Engineering.

For those who get their kicks more from listening than creating, there are subscription services like VNYL that deliver fresh pressed records to your door. You’ll also need a solid turntable like Music Hall’s MMF-2.3 to listen to them on, of course. And, if your favorite audiophile also happens to be an iPhone owner there’s an obvious stocking stuffer: Belkin’s Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar. This brings back the headphone jack and lets you charge the phone at the same time!

For our full list of recommendations in all categories, don’t forget to stop by our main Holiday Gift Guide hub.

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The Morning After: Tuesday, November 22, 2016

It’s Tuesday, which means Facebook and Instagram have nicked another feature from Snapchat. Meanwhile, the Snapbot has landed in NYC, Apple has a battery problem of its own to deal with and the HTC Evo name makes a triumphant return.


Yo, I heard you liked the OnePlus 3Review: OnePlus 3T

Even though its predecessor is just six months old, Cherlynn Low found the OnePlus 3T “a refinement that not only feels timely, but also well-planned and executed.” It’s missing Android 7.0 Nougat and expandable storage options, but adding an upgraded processor to match the Google Pixel, a slightly larger battery and a new front camera for just $ 40 extra makes this phone a pretty good deal.


Stop us if you’ve heard this one beforeInstagram adds live video and Snapchat-style disappearing photos

Facebook’s quest to offer a version of every Snapchat feature continues with the latest Instagram update. Now, users can send disappearing messages through Instagram Direct, potentially making your next headfirst slide into the DMs less risky. There’s also built-in support for live video, which works a lot like Facebook Lives, except inside Instagram.


Choose the Mad Max: High Octane Collection — trust usHoliday Gift Guide 2016: The Movie Buff

Friends don’t let friends struggle with their home theater setups. Whether you’re ready to spend a lot or just a little, we have a few ideas about what gifts to put in your favorite videophile’s stocking.


Snapbot sightedSnapchat Spectacles have arrived in NYC

So far, Snapchat’s camera-infused sunglasses have been a West Coast-only thing, now they’re in the Big Apple. If you’re willing to try your luck, head to the Spectacles pop-up shop at 5 East 59th Street in Upper Midtown Manhattan and prepare to wait in line. The store will be open through New Year’s Eve (but closed 11/24, 12/24 and 12/25) so you will have a full month of opportunities.


At least they’re not explodingApple is replacing some iPhone 6s batteries

Just last week, Apple announced a repair program for the iPhone 6 Plus and its “touch disease,” and now it’s facing a problem with the iPhone 6. The company says a “small number” of handsets have a battery fault that causes them to spontaneously shut down. If your device was manufactured between September and October 2015, then you may be in line for a replacement or a credit.


Not what you’d expect for the holidays.Jony Ive and Marc Newson’s latest project is a… Christmas tree?

It doesn’t have a headphone jack or Christmas lights.


The missing detailNTSB is investigating the first flight of Facebook’s Aquila drone

When Facebook announced its “successful” first flight of the Aquila internet drone on June 28th, it mentioned a “structural failure” just before landing. That may have been worthy of more than a footnote, however, since the NTSB has classified it as an accident.

But wait, there’s more…

  • The HTC Evo is back! (If you live in Europe)
  • 4K Netflix streaming comes to Windows 10
  • What’s on TV this week? Try Netflix’s Brazilian sci-fi series “3%”
  • To battle fake news is to battle brain chemistry

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Apple’s Jony Ive helped design a Christmas tree with no lights

Jony Ive and Marc Newson have designed a range of products that have little to do with their work at Apple, but their latest is something… different. They’ve worked with set designer Michael Howells on the Claridge’s Christmas tree for 2016, and it largely lives up to your “if Jony Ive designed this, it would…” stereotypes. Just as your new Mac or iPhone is devoid of ports, there are no conventional tree lights in this hotel display — you’ll see 13-foot light boxes beaming images of snow-covered birches, but the actual tree arrangement is bare. It’s like Ive was sent on a mission to destroy your holiday memories with his signature minimalism.

The collaboration isn’t coming out of the blue: Ive and Newson are “long-time friends” of Claridge’s. And while it’s definitely non-traditional, you will remember it if you wander through the hotel’s lobby in the weeks ahead. However, it’s not about to reassure critics concerned that Ive and Newson are devoting less time than they could to Apple products. Wouldn’t it have been great if they’d poured that energy into something more permanent that you could actually take home?

Via: Gizmodo

Source: Claridge’s

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OnePlus 3T review: A satisfying update to a fairly new phone

Remember the OnePlus 3? It came out barely six months ago and was the best phone you could get for $ 400. Well, it’s about to be replaced by a faster, slightly more expensive version of itself that the company is calling the OnePlus 3T. (The T doesn’t stand for anything; it’s a cheeky take on the typical “S” suffix denoting many flagship sequels.) The new $ 439 device uses the latest Snapdragon 821 processor to achieve even faster speeds, and packs a beefier battery and sharper front camera — improvements in areas where the original sort of fell short. I say “sort of” because other than battery life, the OnePlus 3 didn’t need much improving. But OnePlus made it better anyway, and now it’s one of the best phones on the market, especially at this price.

Hardware

There isn’t much of a difference, at least externally, between the OnePlus 3T and its predecessor. Indeed, a lot of what I’m going to describe here was covered in greater detail in our review of the original. The most obvious physical change is the new “gunmetal” color, which is a slightly darker shade of gray-silver than the OnePlus 3. A “soft gold” option is also available, just like with the original.

Color aside, the 3T looks exactly the same as its predecessor, which itself is impressive, given that it has a larger battery. It sports the same 5.5-inch full HD Optic AMOLED display, which was sharp and bright enough to watch videos on indoors and outdoors. It also has the same single speaker at the bottom that was loud enough to fill my living room with sound, although it got tinny at top volume.

You’ll find the same fingerprint sensor, USB-C charging port and physical mute switch here as on the OnePlus 3. Just like the previous version, the OnePlus 3T has a dual nano SIM card slot, but no room for a microSD reader. Those who want more storage will have to opt for a new 128GB option, which costs $ 479. Neither phone meets widely accepted water-resistance standards, though the company says the handsets will survive wet weather. It didn’t rain during my review period, so I unfortunately wasn’t able to test that claim.

Software

You probably won’t notice many differences between the OnePlus 3’s version of OxygenOS and its successor’s; the changes here are very subtle. The company resized its app icons so they’re consistent across the home, all apps and Shelf pages, and added some new gestures, such as three-finger screenshots and flip-to-mute, to make the phone more convenient to use.

The OnePlus 3T also gets new apps for weather and voice recording, and allows you to lock specific apps with your fingerprint. It also features a quick-settings panel that’s more similar to what you’ll find on Android Nougat. The changes here aren’t major, but they do make getting around the system slightly easier.

Cameras

I don’t generally need an excuse to go on a selfie-taking binge, but I did appreciate having “testing the OnePlus 3T’s 16-megapixel front camera” as a reason to do so. The new setup is much sharper than the one on the OnePlus 3, which the company says makes for better low-light performance.

This was indeed true when I casually snapped dozens of portraits while traipsing around Manhattan one night, and the camera delivered several crisp images, despite all the motion. Not only were they sharp, but the pictures were also bright and relatively noise-free. I had to take a picture in a dark, poorly lit warehouse before I started to see any graininess. The one thing I wish the OnePlus 3T’s front camera had was some form of flash, for taking clear shots in near-darkness.

Just because they have the same megapixel count, though, doesn’t mean that the front and rear cameras are the same. They differ quite vastly on color quality, thanks to their different sensors and pixel size. The same scenes shot with the front camera looked washed-out and pale compared with those taken with the rear camera, which generally captured vibrant, richly colored images. OnePlus 3T also added a layer of sapphire glass to the back camera to protect it from scratches that could forever mar your shots.

As we mentioned in our review of the OnePlus 3, the rear camera is capable in most lighting conditions, but won’t impress the way the iPhone 7 Plus or many other smartphone cameras would. It delivered sharp, accurately colored exterior shots on sunny days, and rendered a respectable amount of detail in low light, but images looked flat indoors. Still, it’s perfectly adequate, and that front camera will please selfie fans like myself.

Performance and battery life

Most flagship phones released this year use the Snapdragon 820 processor, rather than the newer 821 chip that Qualcomm started offering later in the year. So, only the Google Pixel and LeEco Le Pro3 have it, which makes the OnePlus 3 slightly less competitive on specs (the LePro 3 costs the same as the OnePlus 3). I imagine this is one of the biggest reasons OnePlus decided to drop a new flagship so soon after unveiling its previous one, but still, it’s a smart move.

OnePlus 3T OnePlus 3 LeEco Le Pro3 Google Pixel
AndEBench Pro 14,399 13,841 13,354 14,941
Vellamo 3.0 6,144 5,202 6,559 5,343
3DMark IS Unlimited 31,691 30,058 31,753 28,645
GFXBench 3.0 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 50 48 30 46
CF-Bench 51,262 41,653 42,572 30,997

The Snapdragon 821 processor makes the OnePlus 3T faster than the original, which was already pretty speedy. It’s hard to tell the difference in day-to-day performance, because I’m not a robot and can’t detect minute differences in app-launch times, but overall the 3T was very responsive. Its Vellamo score of 6,144 beat the OnePlus 3, the Samsung Galaxy S7, the HTC 10 and the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, while its AndEBench result trumped the OnePlus 3 and the Galaxy S7 but fell short of the Pixel phones and HTC 10. The OnePlus 3T also bested the field in graphics-performance tests.

This means you’re mostly going to see similar speeds across these phones. Considering the Pixels use the same chip (albeit with less RAM) but cost hundreds of dollars more, the OnePlus 3T really delivers on value here.

The OnePlus 3T has the same 6GB of RAM as the original, which makes for swift multitasking. OnePlus says it also improved the launch speed for large apps and games, so you won’t have to wait quite as long to open these programs. I also found call quality to be perfectly adequate. I called a friend who was in Queens (on T-Mobile’s network), and he was able to accurately repeat a string of numbers that I recited, despite his dog barking in the background, which I heard as well. Unfortunately, as with previous OnePlus handsets, the 3T works only on GSM carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile.

One area where the company says it received the most negative feedback about the OnePlus 3 was battery life. In addition to simply bumping up the battery capacity to 3,400mAh from 3,000mAh, OnePlus tuned the power efficiency of the CPU so that despite its faster speed, it sips power at the same rate as the previous handset.

I was expecting a slight increment on endurance and wasn’t quite prepared for the 3T’s epic stamina. It lasted 16 hours and seven minutes on Engadget’s battery test, which involves looping an HD video with the screen set to 50 percent brightness until the device conks out. That’s almost six hours more than the OnePlus 3’s runtime, and two hours longer than the Google Pixel XL, which has a 3,450mAh bank.

When the phone does eventually run out of juice, it charges back up to offer what the company says is a day’s worth of power in 30 minutes. After the OnePlus 3T finally died on Engadget’s battery test, I plugged it in and was able to take it on a quick video shoot just 15 minutes after, because it already got back up to 20 percent in that time. Not only is this fast, but that’s enough juice to last at least two hours.

The competition

The OnePlus 3T faces direct competition from the LeEco Le Pro3, which uses the same processor with less RAM for $ 400. But the Le Pro3 suffers from unintuitive software, has a less vibrant display and doesn’t last as long as the 3T.

Google’s Pixel phones also use the same processors, offering similar (if not better) performance in a premium frame. These handsets have better cameras and run the latest version of Android (7.0 Nougat), offering a cleaner interface and helpful new features like Google Assistant. But the Pixel lineup starts at $ 800, which is nearly twice the OnePlus 3T’s asking price. Indeed, the latest OnePlus handset is probably the best handset you’re going to find for around $ 440.

Wrap-up

The OnePlus 3T improves things about the original that were slightly lacking, such as battery life, and amps up on performance and software, making it a strong option for power users. I particularly love the sharper front camera for its solid performance in low light. I’d also argue that the boost in endurance alone is worth the $ 39 price hike, but the previous iteration offered enough stamina for the average user who may not want to shell out for a few extra hours of juice. As a replacement for an existing flagship, the OnePlus 3T is a refinement that not only feels timely, but also well-planned and executed. You’d have a hard time finding a better phone for the price.

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LG V20 review: Great for audiophiles, but who else?

After the unabashed wackiness of its G5, LG had a real conundrum on its hands: Does it keep up the modular streak for its 2016 V-series flagship phone and risk lousy sales, or try something a little more traditional? As it turns out, LG chose the latter and built a more conventional kind of powerhouse: the V20. None of that means the phone is boring, though. Between its stellar audio, a neat dual-camera setup and a second screen, there’s theoretically enough charming weirdness here to help the V20 stick out from the competition. The bigger question is whether all those disparate bits come together to form a compelling whole. As is often the case, the answer depends where your priorities lie.

Hardware

LG V20 Review

It’s funny how little the V20 ($ 672+) looks like its predecessor. Last year’s V10 all but shoved its rugged design in your face, with its rubbery DuraSkin rear and a pair of stainless steel bars flanking its display. The design looked better in person than I thought it would, but it definitely wasn’t for everyone. The V20, meanwhile, is more subdued in its style, even though it’s rated to handle 4-foot drops, just like the V10.

Now, don’t go confusing “subdued” with “attractive” — the V20’s aesthetic is best described as utilitarian, and I’d be surprised if anyone felt the blow-to-the-gut pang of attraction that sometimes comes with seeing finely crafted gear. In fact, when I first laid eyes on the V20, I couldn’t help but point out visual similarities between it and the BlackBerry Z10 — not exactly a comparison LG should be proud of. Regardless, the V20 is plenty sturdy: It’s made of 6013-series aluminum capped on the top and bottom with a tough polycarbonate to help it deal with drops.

It’s also huge. The 5.7-inch Quantum LCD display is a handful as it is, but the V20 also has a tiny secondary display above the main screen. For the sake of comparison, the V20 is just a hair longer and thicker than the iPhone 7 Plus, which is itself a whopper of a smartphone. Both of these phones also coincidentally share a dual-camera setup (which I’ll dive into later), but the V20 is noticeably lighter. It’s too bad that the V20 isn’t water-resistant like some of its rivals, but the trade-off might be worth it to some people. You see, LG is one of the few flagship smartphone makers who still let users remove their batteries. To that end, there’s a button low on the phone’s left side that pops off the V20’s metal battery cover, revealing a 3,200mAh battery and a combination SIM/microSD slot. The phone takes memory cards as large as 2TB, by the way, though the 64GB of included storage will probably be enough for most.

Sitting directly above is the standard rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, which is among the fastest I’ve used on a smartphone. Many people seem to appreciate its placement on the back of the phone, and I’m slowly becoming one of them. Sure, it would be nice to be able to unlock the V20 with a touch while it’s sitting face-up on a table, but I like that the sensor is in the perfect spot for my finger to rest on it when I pull the V20 out of my pocket.

Displays and sound

As mentioned earlier, the main screen is a big ol’ 5.7-inch IPS LCD running at Quad HD, and it’s noticeably brighter than the panel on the G5. As a result, legibility and color reproduction are also better under direct sunlight than on the G5 or the V10, though I’d be shocked if they weren’t. Speaking of colors, they’re rendered well across the board and look surprisingly natural, thanks to LG’s Quantum display tech. When LG first embraced quantum displays in the G4, it claimed it offered a more accurate take on colors. That may be true, but the V20’s screen might not be for everyone right out of the box; it’s quite cool, so there’s a tendency for whites to look a little blue. You don’t get the visceral vividness and deep darks that come with AMOLED screens, but hey — it’s ultimately a matter of personal preference.

More important, the secondary display is back. To be clear: It’s not actually a separate screen — just an extra bit that juts out from the top of the main panel. In theory, the 1040×160 overflow area is a neat idea: It acts as a dedicated zone for the time and notifications when the main display is off, and offers shortcuts to apps and actions when the main display is on. I have a few issues with LG’s multiscreen implementation, but let’s just get the big one out of the way first: As with the V10 and even Samsung’s Edge line, very little about this second display is essential.

Most of the shortcuts — like toggling WiFi and Bluetooth and grabbing a screenshot to mark up — exist in the Quick Settings tray above the notifications shade anyway, so you’re rarely saving time. Ditto for app shortcuts: I’ve found it much easier to leave my most used apps on the bottom row of a home screen rather than scoot up my hand (or use my other one) to tap on an app icon in the overflow area. Still, it’s not like the second display is without merit entirely. The best part is having a set of music controls available while the phone is locked. Your mileage may vary, but I’d have given up on the second screen completely were it not for that.

So yeah, the second screen is of dubious value. The V20’s audio performance more than makes up for it, though: The phone is kitted out with a Quad DAC and support for 24-bit high-resolution audio. I’ve been a little dismissive of this stuff in the past, but the V20 has helped me turn a corner. With the DAC enabled and headphones plugged in, your audio will automatically sound at least a little richer and fuller. The differences can be harder to suss out with certain songs — particularly ones you stream — but the changes stemming from the DAC are almost universally welcome. LG’s choice of DAC also means the V20 supports 32-bit audio and lossless formats like FLAC, if that’s something you’re down with, though it goes without saying that the V20’s single speaker won’t come close to doing them justice.

Chances are you won’t see them, but the V20 also plays host to a trio of microphones for high-quality audio recording. They’re technically what are called acoustic overload point microphones, and I’ll spare you the drawn-out explanation — just know they’re designed to keep distortion to a minimum in very loud situations. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how crisp and clean the resulting records have been, and while these microphones would really shine at concerts and right next to musicians, they’ve also been great for recording interviews and conversations for work.

Software

LG pulled off a neat coup with the V20: It’s the first smartphone that shipped with Android 7.0 Nougat preloaded. Google made that victory a hollow one when it launched the Pixel and Pixel XL with Android 7.1, but whatever: Nougat is still surprisingly hard to come by, and I’ll take it where I can get it. (You can check out our full Android 7.0 review here, by the way.) All of the new little — and not so little — Nougat tricks are here and ready to play with. Even LG left some facets of Nougat almost completely untouched, like the notifications shade and the quick-settings panel above it. Nicely done.

That said, not every Nougat feature works as Google intended. Android 7.0 lets you play with the display size, for instance, allowing you to adjust the size of text and app icons. When left untouched, Nougat gives you five display options to help you find the perfect size, but LG’s implementation gives you only three. Fine, that’s probably not the biggest deal, but it’s a sign that Google’s word still isn’t gospel for OEMs. At least the horsepower on display here makes the V20 an efficient multitasker; not every app works with Google’s new multiwindow mode, but the ones that do run smoothly.

Of course, Nougat is only part of the equation — LG painted over it with an updated version of its custom interface, called LG UX 5.0+. For the most part, it’s a rehash of the interface on the G5, but there’s at least one big change to keep your eyes peeled for. By default, the V20 doesn’t have a traditional app drawer; all of your stuff gets splashed across your home screens by default. Seeing a flagship Android smartphone ship in the US without an app drawer is a little unusual because these setups are more popular in Asia, but it’s easy enough to revive the launcher if you miss it.

The rest of LG’s custom skin is as bright and inoffensive as always. I do wish LG would pare back its paint job to let stock Android shine through, especially since there’s a tendency for some of the company’s first-party apps to feel clunky. It doesn’t help that my review unit is a Verizon model, which means it’s loaded with bloatware I couldn’t wait to uninstall or disable. At least Verizon was kind enough to shove most of its apps in a folder for easy decimation.

The cameras

Remember the G5’s fascinating dual-camera setup? The one that was eventually overshadowed by the iPhone 7 Plus even though they aspired to the exact same thing? Well, LG tweaked the formula for the V20, swapping in different sensors. All told, the 16-megapixel main sensor and 8-megapixel wide-angle camera next to it are fun to use in tandem, even if the resulting photos aren’t as good as what competing devices are capable of.

Most of the time, you’ll be using that 16-megapixel camera with its f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilization and more often than not you’ll get photos that look pretty good. Other phones do better with color representation and detail — here’s looking at you, Galaxy S7 and Google Pixel — but the V20 puts up a decent fight. The larger problem here is one of consistency. When shooting in Auto mode — which many people will be doing — the V20 often gets the exposure a little wrong or gets a little too ambitious when it tries to automatically reduce noise. Low-light performance is decent too, but not even a wide aperture, image-stabilization and multiple autofocus methods can prevent grain and ghosting.

The smaller, 8-megapixel sensor has to grapple with these issues too, plus the barrel distortion that becomes prominent when you’re shooting from a distance. It also would’ve been nice if LG tightened up the transition between the cameras when you’re zooming in and out on a subject. There’s still about a one-second pause while the phone makes the switch, which could make the difference between nabbing the shot you wanted and missing it completely.

As far as off-the-cuff shooting goes, the V20 could be much, much better. Ironically, the manual-shooting mode LG included might be my favorite on any smartphone. Familiar settings like ISO, shutter speed, white balance and more can be found at the bottom of the screen, but they’re joined by a tremendously helpful manual focus mode that highlights parts of the image when they’re nice and crisp.

The tragically vain will be glad to know that the 5-megapixel front-facing camera is perfectly adequate, and offers a wide enough field of view that squeezing a few friends into the shot should be no trouble. While we’re talking about the perfectly adequate, shooting video with the V20, even in 4K, yielded footage that was pleasant enough. If only LG were better at playing the expectations game. The company spent a decent chunk of its V20 launch event talking about how awesome Qualcomm’s built-in video-image stabilization is. And while it’s certainly helpful, it’s hardly the miracle-worker I was hoping for.

Performance and battery life

For all the V20’s quirks, the stuff under the hood is very familiar. Like the G5 before it, the V20 packs a quad-core Snapdragon 820 chipset paired with 4GB of RAM and an Adreno 530 GPU. It would’ve been nice to see LG give the V20 another edge in the form of the newer Snapdragon 821 chip, but alas, we probably got a little screwed by the intricacies of supply-chain management. Either way, we’re still working with a phone that keeps pace with the best of ’em; the slowdowns I experienced were thankfully rare, even when running graphically intense games.

Google Pixel Google Pixel XL Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge LG V20
AndEBench Pro 14,941 16,164 13,030 13,172
Vellamo 3.0 5,343 5,800 4,152 5,266
3DMark IS Unlimited 28,645 29,360 26,666 27,968
GFXBench 3.0 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 46 48 47 39
CF-Bench 30,997 39,918 46,290 32719

That’s great, but horsepower doesn’t count for much without a good battery to back it up. Alas, the 3,200mAh cell here fails to impress. Sure, it’s more capacious than the one that shipped with the G5 earlier this year, but that doesn’t mean the V20 lasts any longer on a charge. In my nearly two weeks of testing, the V20 typically powered through 12-hour workdays full of Slack messages, emails, podcasts and the occasional Hearthstone match, and came out on the other side with about 10 percent charge remaining. For those keeping count, that’s almost exactly the same usage I squeezed out of the G5 and its smaller battery.

Now, 12 hours of continued, mixed usage on a single charge isn’t bad, and Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0 tech means topping up the V20’s battery takes very little time. And if that’s not fast enough, you could always carry around a spare battery and just swap it in as needed. Even so, there’s no denying that devices like the Pixel siblings and Samsung’s Galaxy series tend to last longer with their sealed batteries.

That was also true in our video rundown test, where we loop an HD video with screen brightness set to 50 percent while connected to WiFi. The V20 stuck around for 11 hours and 10 minutes — that’s a bit better than the 10.5 hours I got on the G5, but hours behind devices like the Galaxy S7 and Google’s Pixel phones.

The competition

I’ve been making not-so-veiled references to Samsung’s current line of Galaxy phones and Google’s Pixel family, and for good reason. If you’re looking for a new flagship and the V20 is on your shortlist, these devices need to be too — after all, they offer similar horsepower for around the same price. For those who like the idea of the V20’s second screen, there’s always the Galaxy S7 Edge. It packs just as much horsepower as the V20 and an always-on display you can rub to peek at your notifications and the news without having to unlock the phone. In general, its battery life is much better too, though you’ll have to deal with a custom interface and a lack of Android Nougat.

Then again, if it’s great photos you’re after, you won’t do much better than the Pixel or Pixel XL. Both pair impressive 12-megapixel cameras with really impressive (not to mention instantaneous) HDR image processing, which add up to the best point-and-shoot camera experience on an Android device. It doesn’t hurt that the Pixel phones run a clean version of Android 7.1 Nougat, offer access to Google’s clever new assistant, and offer speedy performance.

By now, though, it’s clear the V20 isn’t your average Android flagship. There’s an underlying emphasis on creativity here that extends way beyond what other device makers have attempted. In that regard, no clear competitors come to mind.

Wrap-up

LG has done a fine job choosing top-tier components and focusing on things like audio quality and manual photography. On paper, that sounds great! In practice, there’s an underlying lack of cohesiveness between these parts. Audio nerds will find a lot to like here, the swappable battery is nice, and there are some great shots to be captured if you’re comfortable tinkering with the shooting settings. If what you need out of smartphone matches LG’s vision, the V20 is a great choice. But for people who value power and polish over a highly specific set of tools, there are more well-rounded options out there.

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The Morning After: Friday, November 18, 2016

Is a folding drone the next must-have accessory in your travel bag? We review the Passport, dig into Snapchat’s Spectacle strategy and investigate news for iPhones old and new. Plus: The old Top Gear crew is back today on Amazon with The Grand Tour — that’s one way to head into the weekend.


Desktops are cool againReview: Microsoft Surface Studio

There’s a new option for desktop all-in-ones, now that Microsoft has released the Surface Studio. The Surface Dial accessory brings a unique twist on interaction and touch control, while its slick design and powerful specs help meet the marks pros are actually looking for in a computer. On the other hand, mobile graphics and a stodgy hybrid storage system, plus its high price and the need for more software support, make it hard to recommend switching right away.


Big phone problemsApple’s repair program for the iPhone 6 Plus will fix touchscreen issues — for a price

We’ve been hearing from iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners about a so-called touch disease affecting their phones, and Apple’s response is here. Without copping to a problem with the phones, its repair program will fix your iPhone 6 Plus if it’s having problems with flickering or multitouch for $ 149, out of warranty. The only problem? That may not go far enough, as the CEO of iFixit disputes Apple’s claim that the problem comes from dropped phones, and many people have said it affects the smaller iPhone 6 too.


Bring a wind sock tooReview: Hover Camera Passport

Sure, everyone wants a drone, but most don’t have a drone like this. While it’s not as big as the top-flight units from the likes of DJI and GoPro, Zero Zero Robotics’ Hover Camera Passport combines a tiny form factor and foldable case. It’s small enough that you can bring it along easily, without needing FAA registration. Controlled by an app on your phone, it’s also smart enough to do face and body tracking for optimal selfie angles. Of course, small size means small battery, which means short flight time, plus the fact that a strong breeze could blow away your $ 600 machine in an instant.


Popping tagsInstagram tries to pull in advertisers with new shopping tags

Everyone has to make money, and Instagram’s next big idea is the integration of shopping tags for brands like Warby Parker and Kate Spade. Only on iOS in the US for now, it’s just one of Instagram’s business-focused features currently rolling out.


Comcast will ruin this somehowSpaceX wants FCC approval for its satellite-based internet provider

Focused on more things than reaching Mars, Elon Musk’s space company took the next step in its internet project this week. An FCC filing reveals it’s seeking to launch 800 satellites that will provide internet service in the US, then growing its network to 4,425 satellites capable of 1Gbps connections around the globe.


Experiences, not thingsAirbnb’s latest category rents more than just spare rooms

Airbnb has a new “comprehensive” travel venture that goes beyond just putting you up in a stranger’s house for the weekend. A new Experience category promises access to both short events and longer multi-day “Immersions,” as well as features that help guide travelers to interesting places near where they’re staying. The new features are live in 12 cities now, and will be available in more than 50 next year.


The Galaxy iPhoneIs 2017 the year OLED comes to the iPhone?

OLED tech just came to the MacBook Pro, and a rumor from Bloomberg suggests that next year Apple will release at least one version of the iPhone using this display technology. Samsung has relied on these screens for models of its Galaxy phones, but word on the street is that obtaining enough supply for the iPhone could be a problem.


They’re playing hard to getSnapchat is relying on fans to get the word out about Spectacles

The first hardware from Snap Inc. is unique not just because of its glasses-integrated camera, but also in how it’s launching. The slow rollout of Snapbots is driving up the hype about where its vending machines will arrive next, without the usual wave of media reviews.

But wait, there’s more…

  • Sony’s cord-cutting service comes to Apple TV
  • Obama: We have to get serious about facts
  • The Prince estate is suing Jay Z’s Roc Nation, saying Tidal’s streaming rights have expired

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