Google Allo finally offers web chat, but it’s only for Android users

Allo, Google’s beleaguered chat app that arrived on the iPhone and Android devices last year, finally has a web counterpart. Just a few minutes ago, Amit Fulay (head of product for Allo and video chat app Duo) tweeted that Allo for the web was available, but only for Android phones. To give it a go, you’ll need to open the Allo app on your device and use that to scan a QR code you can generate at this link.

Once you’ve scanned the code, Allo pulls up your chat history and mirrors all the conversations you have on your phone. Most of Allo’s key features, including smart replies, emoji, stickers and most importantly the Google Assistant are all intact here. In fact, this is the first time you can really get the full Google Assistant experience through the web; it’s been limited to phones and Google Home thus far.

There are a few things that didn’t work so well in my quick test. Pictures from earlier in a chat with one of my co-workers failed to translate to the web — instead, I was told I had to view them on my phone. Allo’s little “slider” feature that lets you increase or decrease the size of text in chats is also unavailable, and you can’t make your own emoji like you can on Android.

But the good news is that the most important features are all here and conversations sync quickly between multiple devices. That alone is enough to make Allo worth recommending, perhaps for the first time ever. I just couldn’t go back to a world where my chats weren’t synced across computer and phone, but that’s no longer a problem, at least for Android users. Google says that Allo for the web will be available for iPhone users before long.

Source: Amit Fulay (Twitter), Allo for web

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Motorcycle helmets finally get decent heads-up display navigation

I’m a huge proponent of reducing any and all distractions while riding a motorcycle, scooter, or moped. Helmets and padded gear are great, but when you get down to it, riders are still just squishy people zipping through traffic next to giant machines that could kill you if a driver sneezes or decides to text a friend. So the idea of a HUD (Heads Up Display) for a motorcycle is equal parts intriguing and terrifying.

Done right, it keeps your head up and eyes off your gauges and whatever navigation system you have strapped to your handlebars. Done wrong, and it’s a one-way ticket to the emergency room because you were spending too much time going through menus and trying to find relevant information instead of paying attention to the car in front of you that just slammed on its brakes. A fender bender in a car is a annoyance. A fender bender on a bike could land you in the ICU.

In comes the $ 700 Nuviz, a HUD for full-face helmets. The device’s purpose is to keep you informed while riding without adding too much distraction that could lead to hospitalization. And for the most part, it succeeds.

It shows your speed, navigation, maps, calls and your music via a tiny mirrored see-thru display that sits below the vision-line of your right eye. It’s there when you need it and you can almost ignore it when you don’t.

To see the information about your ride, you peer downward at the display which is focused about 13.5 feet in front of you. That means you’re refocusing your eyes, but the same thing happens when you look at your gauge cluster. Fortunately, the main screen is tailored for quick glances. Your speed and next turn are easily discernible by quickly peeking downward without moving your head which is Nuviz’s advantage over the dials that came with your bike.

Plus, the Nuviz supports audio and comes with the headset that can be installed in a helmet or it’ll sync to Bluetooth-enabled helmets. It’s a bit of a multimedia experience right on your noggin.

My apprehension about the potential for distraction intensified when I installed it on my helmet. From the outside, it’s huge. And while its 8.5 ounce weight didn’t bother me, for some folks with lightweight helmets, that might be a deal breaker. But when I actually put on my helmet all I saw was the tiny display which was a relief.

Riding with the Nuviz also reduced my anxiety. With the combination or visual and audio cues, I was finally able to navigate to a destination without pulling over and checking my phone or attaching it to the mount I bought a few years back and have only used twice because I’m sure my iPhone will fall out of it and break into a thousand pieces on US 101.

The display was bright enough to be legible in direct sunlight, although there were some tiny rainbow-colored dots that appeared in the glass. It wasn’t enough to block the information, but it’s there and while beautiful at times, it’s just another thing you’ll catch yourself looking at.

Navigating the menu system was simple enough with the supplied controller you attach near your left handlebar. An up and down lever scrolls through the main features and it’s surrounded by four action buttons. After a few hours riding using it becomes as second nature as activating my turn signals, high beams or horn.

The controller is also how you turn on the device’s 8 megapixel camera. With it you can take video and photos of your ride. The quality won’t replace a GoPro, but the photos were good enough to capture deer in the brush next to the road. The 1080p video quality is reminiscent of a smartphone from five years ago. It’s basically satisfactory and really the allure is that you don’t have to stop and pull out a camera to capture a moment.

It also might lead to gigantic slideshows, I took 100 photos during a ride around Mount Tamalpais. It’s very easy to just tap the photo button on the controller while riding.

Yet those are the kind of rides the Nuviz is built for. Long excursions on roads without heavy traffic. It was only during that type of jaunt that I felt comfortable turning on music (something I would never do while riding in San Francisco) and taking photos. The companion app makes creating a route with multiple stops that you send to the device a breeze and the actual navigation both on screen and in ear, was easy to follow without being overly distracting.

The device and controller are both easy to remove and reattach to your bike and helmet so you don’t have to check your bike every five minutes during lunch breaks. That also means you can ditch the whole system when doing short rides around town. In my experience, the Nuviz didn’t add much value to my daily commute. I know where I’m going and the roads are for too congested to even think about using it.

Plus, when it’s attached to your helmet, it’s never 100 percent gone. The tiny display, while helpful, is still in your peripheral. You sort of learn to ignore it, but when you’re lane splitting (only legal in California) and keeping an eye out for one of San Francisco’s many bike-swallowing potholes, you don’t need another (no matter how small) distraction.

But for weekend jaunts, the Nuviz is outstanding. It’s eight hour battery life should keep you on your route for the entire day and it’s on-board GPS and downloaded maps means even if you lose signal, you won’t get lost. For Kawasaki KLR and BMW GS riders, it’s a great little companion. But for daily riders in congested cities, it’s best to focus on the act of riding.

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LG G6 review: Finally back in the race

Let’s be real: Last year’s G5 was ambitious, but it never lived up to its potential. Even now, I have to give props to LG: It took guts to make that phone, and it took guts to admit at a Mobile World Congress press conference that it was a step in the wrong direction. “We get it,” the company seemed to say. “We were wrong, but we listened and did better.”

And you know what? It did. The props I offer to LG now are not only for moxie but also for surprisingly good execution. Apart from adding a surprisingly long screen, the company gave up on trying to redefine how smartphones work and built a more conservative machine that played to people’s desires instead. It’s a more sensible kind of flagship for LG. Too bad the competition this year is fiercer than ever.

Hardware and design

I wouldn’t be surprised if LG took almost everything it learned about industrial design with the G5 and set it on fire. That’s the sort of seismic shift we’re working with here. And honestly, it’s for the best. The G5’s modularity required sacrifices, and with that constraint gone the company’s engineers were able to design a sleek, sturdy frame that feels worthy of a flagship. You can tell just looking at the materials used. The G5’s light, plasticky metal is gone, replaced by Gorilla Glass 5 on the G6’s back (a pane of Gorilla Glass 3 covers the screen). Those glass panels eventually meet at a band of aluminum that encircles the phone. Even better, the G6 is IP68 dust- and water-resistant, a feat that was straight-up impossible last year because of the G5’s slide-out battery mechanism.

One of the few design decisions that remained was the dual camera on the back, only this time it sits flush with the phone’s body. Below that is the signature sleep/wake button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor. It’s been years since LG made this a mainstay of its high-end phones, and I appreciate the placement. The sensor was always within reach of my index fingers, but it occasionally needed a few clicks to unlock.

Meanwhile, you’ll find the volume keys on the left side, directly opposite the microSIM and microSD card slot (which takes up to 2TB of additional storage). You’ll probably need the latter too. In the US, the G6 comes with 32GB of storage, only 19GB of which are available once you crack open the box. There’s a USB-C port on the bottom, a headphone jack up top and that’s really it. Well, except for the G6’s claim to fame: the display.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

I challenge you to tear your eyes away from the G6’s screen, its rounded corners or the mere sliver of bezel running around it all. The phone is basically all screen, and it feels like a revelation. In fact, with a screen this prominent, the rest of the G6’s frame fades into the background (especially on our low-key black review unit). That’s fine by me; the G6 is a well-built machine, but it’s pretty plain-looking.

LG’s minimal design aside, the company squeezed a whole lot of screen into a modestly sized body. It’s remarkably comfortable to hold and use for long periods of time. Between the not-quite-finished model I received at Mobile World Congress and the consumer-ready, AT&T version LG later provided, I’ve been using this all-screen design for over a month. In a nutshell: I’m never going back. You’ll still shimmy your hand up the phone’s body to reach the top corners with your thumbs, but the G6 is surprisingly comfortable for one-handed use.

To top it all off, it’s surprisingly durable. One night, while perhaps a little tipsy at dinner, the G6 slipped from my grasp and fell about 15 feet from the restaurant’s upstairs table to the hard tile of the ground floor. I felt like a tremendous idiot, but the phone suffered only a few nicks around the edges. Seriously, LG: well done.

Display and sound

Since the screen is the single biggest change to LG’s G Series formula, let’s dig a little deeper. It’s a 5.7-inch IPS LCD running at 2,880 x 1,440 (that’s an 18:9 aspect ratio, for those keeping track). As far as LG is concerned, this super long FullVision display is the way of the future. After all, it seems well suited to multitasking, and filmmakers (like La La Land’s Damien Chazelle) have already embraced wider-than-widescreen formats. Even better, the G6 and its screen support standards like Dolby Vision and HDR10 for more vivid video. It’s just too bad that finding content that takes full advantage of this screen is still pretty difficult.

And don’t forget about those curves. The corners of the panel are actually round, which supposedly helps disperse the blunt force that comes with a careless drop. It’s equal parts clever and cool-looking, which I love. None of this would matter if the screen itself was lousy, but that’s thankfully not the case: Text and images are crisp and precise, colors are lively without veering into over-saturation. Viewing angles are excellent too, which is crucial: What good is a long screen if it’s hard to glance at?

So yeah, LG clearly paid a lot of attention to the G6’s display — too bad it didn’t spend as much time on the phone’s audio. There’s a single speaker wedged into the phone’s bottom, and its output is anemic at best. It’s a good thing LG kept the classic headphone jack around, but even that isn’t as good as it could be. See, despite the company’s commitment to high-quality audio with its V Series phones, the G6 lacks the Quad DAC that made devices like the V20 such great media players. I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised: You had to buy a separate “Friend” to squeeze high-fidelity audio out of the G5, and it was never available in North America anyway. There’s still hope for you audiophiles: The Asian version of the phone has that DAC built-in if you don’t mind scouting for foreign devices online.

Software

Remember the days when LG’s custom interface was terrible? Yeah, so do I. These days LG is into restraint, and while it’s still a long way from stock Android 7.0, the company’s skin and apps add more value than headaches. Does that mean it’s for everyone? Hell no, but it’s progress.

That progress can be tougher to spot if you’ve used the G5 or the V20, since almost all the usual tricks are back. You can still turn on the screen with a double-tap, rearrange your navigation keys or ditch the traditional Android app launcher in favor of an iOS-style app free-for-all. The most noticeable changes are cosmetic — here’s looking at you, wallpapers and “squircle” icons — but the biggest ones are meant to take advantage of that super long screen.

Consider the calendar and the contact list: They look normal enough when launched, but rotating the phone reveals another view that displays extra information in two side-by-side square panels. Handy. Still another included app lets you change how other apps are scaled to fit on-screen. Fiddling around with it can get certain apps looking more natural on the G6’s 18:9 display, but in my experience, you could ignore this feature completely and not miss out on anything. Google’s also got your back: It’s been encouraging developers to build native support for 18:9 screens into its apps.

Speaking of Google, the G6 was — briefly — the only non-Pixel smartphone to come with Google’s virtual Assistant. Google kind of spoiled LG’s fun by rolling Assistant out to compatible devices shortly after the G6’s announcement, but hey, a good voice interface is a good voice interface. If you were expecting differences in performance between the Assistant here and the one running on Google’s first-party hardware, don’t worry. After a few initial moments of sluggishness, talking to the G6 was as pleasant as talking to the Pixels. That’s good news for those of you with burning curiosities and a fondness for chatting with inanimate objects.

The AT&T model we tested is loaded with bloatware. Maybe the strangest change is AT&T’s use of Firefox — not Chrome — as the default web browser. Some of you won’t mind, as Firefox is a perfectly good alternative. Beyond that, we’re left with 13 preloaded apps no one ever actually asked for and a persistent notification that keeps insisting I set up the DirecTV remote app. News flash, AT&T: I don’t use the service and wouldn’t use this app even if I did, so for the love of God, stop shoving this notification in my face.

Camera

Dual cameras have gone from gimmick to flagship feature, and LG was one of the first companies to make them feel valuable. The work began with last year’s G5, which combined an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera with a 16-megapixel main camera for more-flexible shooting. It was a solid first attempt, but this year’s approach feels much more elegant.

For one, this time the normal and wide-angle cameras shoot at the same 13-megapixel resolution. Now we have resolution parity, and they both turn out crisp, detailed images without much fiddling. There are still differences between the two though. The main camera has a f/1.8 aperture, optical image stabilization and phase-detection autofocus, all of which the wide-angle camera lacks. In other words, you should probably steer clear of those wide-angle shots at night: They too often come out fuzzy and improperly exposed.

In normal daylight conditions though, both cameras capture crisp images with lots of detail and bright colors. In fact, thanks to some aggressive image processing, colors can sometimes border on garish. For more-nuanced control over your photos, you can switch into a Pro mode with manual settings. It’s overkill for most, but in the right hands it leads to some killer shots. And fortunately, switching between the two cameras is mostly free of lag, a feat the company pulled off with some help from Qualcomm.

LG also threw in some square shooting modes that make use of the long screen. You can, for instance, instantly preview photos you took on one side of the screen while retaining a live view on the other or quickly build an animated, 4×4 grid of shots for Instagram or whatever. Exactly how valuable some of these modes are is debatable, but I’m willing to admit I might be short on imagination.

The G6 also doubles as a respectable videographer’s tool. It packs full manual control, a first for LG, which also helps keep low-light videos looking good. What’s more, handy additional features like focus peaking and hi-res audio recording are must-haves for people who take their on-the-go shooting seriously. I still think Google’s Pixels are the best all-around smartphone cameras out there, but consider me impressed by the sheer flexibility on offer here.

Performance and battery life

The G6 felt plenty fast in day-to-day use, thanks to the Snapdragon 821 chipset, 4GB of RAM and the Adreno 530 GPU ticking away inside. I know what you’re thinking: This is a very familiar configuration that we’ve already seen in a handful of flagship phones. The Galaxy S8 and Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium might churn out more power thanks to their shiny new Snapdragon 835s, but performance rarely felt lacking.

My usual workday consists of a lot of Slack, Outlook and Spotify, with pretty frequent sessions of Hearthstone and Dirt Extreme. Multitasking — even in split-screen mode — yielded relatively few hiccups. And graphically intense gaming proved to be no problem either. Swiping around the interface and launching apps was snappy too, though spurts of slowness popped up from time to time. I’d put my money on LG’s interface dragging the system down, but it was never enough to cause more than momentary frustration.

LG G6 Google Pixel XL Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge LG G5
AndEBench Pro 10,322 16,164 13,030 14,152
Vellamo 3.0 5,046 5,800 4,152 4,104
3DMark IS Unlimited 30,346 29,360 26,666 26,981
GFXBench 3.0 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 42 48 47 47
CF-Bench 29,748 39,918 46,290 36,488

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the greatest luck with the G6’s battery. It’s a 3,300mAh cell, which is larger than what you’ll find in some competitors — the HTC U Ultra and the regular Galaxy S8 spring to mind. Even so, I could only count on the G6 to last for one day. If I was lucky and didn’t use the phone too much, I might wake up the next morning to find it still clinging to life. The G6 didn’t fare much better in our video rundown test, where we loop HD videos with WiFi connected until it dies. It lasted just under 11 hours, which puts it a bit behind last year’s V20.

To put that in perspective, the G6 did worse than HTC’s U Ultra and the smaller Google Pixel, despite both of them having smaller batteries. At least the G6 is convenient and quick to charge: It supports Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0 tech, and the US model comes with built-in wireless charging support. (In case you’ve been keeping track, that’s /another/ thing the G5 couldn’t do.)

The competition

I don’t mean to spoil the ending, but this is the best phone LG has built in years. The problem is, its biggest rivals haven’t exactly been sitting still. After a wave of strong first impressions, Samsung’s Galaxy S8 is clearly the smartphone to beat: It too has a long, bezel-less display, and it’s clearly more of a looker. Beyond that, I’m cautiously optimistic about what the S8’s Bixby virtual assistant will develop into over time. The G6 could have the edge in photography though. I’m told the S8’s camera aren’t hugely improved over last year’s S7s, and that’s a hell of a niche to leave open for LG.

If you’re looking for a better music experience, you might want to check out the LG V20 ($ 599) as well. It packs the Quad DAC that our version of the G6 doesn’t have, and it packs a small, sometimes useful second screen above the big one. And for those of you looking for the peak of what the Snapdragon 821 can offer, I’d suggest Google’s Pixel XL ($ 769+). I already mentioned it had the best all-around smartphone camera out there; it also packs a completely clean version of Android. Sure, it might not be as attractive as the G6, but its sturdy build quality means it feels every bit as premium and it’ll get software updates from Google as soon as they’re available.

It’s also worth pointing out that buying a G6 can be lucrative in other ways. If you were fast enough on the draw, you could’ve nabbed a free TV and/or Google Home to go with that G6. That’s an uncannily good deal, though it feels a little desperate.

Wrap-up

There’s no doubt about it: The G6 represents some of LG’s best smartphone work ever. Sure, it’s not perfect: Audio is pretty weak, and so is the battery. None of that takes away from the fact that LG has built a phone that feels ready to compete with the best of the best for the first time in ages. Whether it has what it takes to beat those rivals, though, is a matter of opinion.

I’ve enjoyed my time with the G6 but you can’t underestimate the power of a visceral thrill, and that’s one thing the G6 never managed to deliver. Deep down, I can’t help but wonder if this year will go LG’s way. The Galaxy S8 and Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone are poised to suck the air out of the room, and it’d be a shame to see LG’s effort overshadowed simply because other companies are better at generating hype. If you’re looking for a shiny new smartphone, the G6 definitely deserves a close look … but you might want to wait until we see what the full field of competitors looks like.

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Huawei finally has a phone worthy of the Leica brand

From super-slow-mo cameras and bezel-less displays to banking on the power of nostalgia, smartphone makers have tried almost every trick they can to stand out. Huawei’s latest strategy is to partner with color authority Pantone to come up with a variety of eye-catching hues for its latest flagship. The Huawei P10 (and the slightly larger P10 Plus) will be available in a slew of colors and finishes. But while that’s nice for people looking to personalize their phones, it’s not particularly useful.

What’s actually useful about the new flagship is its powerful camera and reliable performance wrapped in an understated, elegant frame. And although the phones won’t officially be coming to the US for the time being (they’ll sell in Europe starting at €649), they’re still a tantalizing preview of what Huawei might have in store.

Huawei has already proven itself capable of building premium, good-looking handsets, and the P10 is further evidence of that. Its slim 6.98mm (0.27-inch) profile and gently curving edges aren’t just pleasant to look at, they’re a pleasure to hold as well.

Many of my friends have pointed out the P10’s resemblance to the iPhone. And indeed, that’s true of the basic white/gold version I tested. If you aren’t feeling the Apple-esque look, you can opt for one of the many customization options that Huawei offers. Pick a different color — there are seven hues to choose from, including Pantone-approved “Dazzling Blue” and “Greenery.” Or try a different finish. You can get a smooth, sandblasted back, a glossy coat or a gritty texture that’s reminiscent of ridged, holographic lenticular cards. That last option is popular with a couple of my coworkers, and it does help the P10 stand out. The colors and textures available vary between countries, though, so you might not be able to get the exact combination you want.

The P10’s 5.1-inch full HD display is sharp and colorful, and while it won’t wow you with richly saturated images or deep blacks like Samsung’s flagships do, it’s good enough for my Instagram and Netflix binges. The same can be said for the P10 Plus’ 5.5-inch WQHD panel, which offers more space for gaming and reading. I just wish both phones were a tad brighter so I could read more easily in strong sunlight.

While we’re on the subject, the P10 and P10 Plus come with screen protectors out of the box. It didn’t bother me but might annoy people who want direct access to the display. The trouble for these folks is that it appears the protector was applied in lieu of an oleophobic coating on the screen, which other phones have in order to avoid fingerprint grease and water damage.

When we asked about the reported lack of this coating, Huawei said, “The P10 is the world’s first smartphone with capacitive under-glass fingerprint sensor for seamless navigation.” In layman’s terms, that all but confirms that Huawei did away with the coating to prevent interference with its under-glass fingerprint sensor. The company also said, “For screen protection, we have used premium materials such as Gorilla Glass 5 and include a screen protector as part of the integrated product.” Basically, if you want to remove the screen protector (which, by the way, is incredibly difficult), do so knowing you risk damaging the display.

Below the screen sits a pill-shaped home key that houses the fingerprint sensor. Think of this as an etched-out touchpad. It doesn’t depress or click; it simply senses your touch. There aren’t separate Back and Recent Apps buttons on its sides; you’ll have to tap once on the sensor to go back, hold down to go home and swipe sideways to multitask. This takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s worth learning now, since Huawei is not the only company implementing this method (the Moto G5 uses a similar format).

If that’s too much trouble, you can still opt for a set of onscreen navigation keys, which is the default setting for the larger P10 Plus. This feels more intuitive, but it makes the physical sensor redundant and confusing, since I still keep hitting it instinctively to go to the home screen.

Just as it has with the recently released Mate 9, Huawei has integrated artificial intelligence into the P10’s system. Thanks to the company’s custom octa-core Kirin 960 processor, the smartphone can learn your habits over time and divert resources like RAM and power to preparing the apps it predicts you will next open. During my month of testing, I most commonly used the P10 for taking pictures, looking at them in the gallery, and sharing them either on Instagram or to Google Drive. Switching between these apps is zippy, which could be a sign that Huawei’s algorithm is working well here (or, you know, that the processor and RAM are more than adequate for how I used the phone). Like I noted when I reviewed the Mate 9, though, this isn’t something you’ll notice until it doesn’t work. And it’s not as if the phone stuttered when I pulled up apps I didn’t use as frequently; in general, the P10 is responsive and multitasks well.

Capable performance and pleasant aesthetics are important basics to nail, but Huawei has come far enough that their delivering those is no longer surprising. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was the P10’s ability to take stunning pictures. When Huawei first teamed up with Leica to co-engineer the P9’s cameras in 2016, the result was underwhelming. Now the collaboration finally seems to be paying off. I’d actually reach for the P10 over my iPhone 6s every time I want to snap a pretty picture (or a gratuitous selfie). The P10 Plus has newer Leica sensors and a larger f/1.8 aperture than the regular P10’s f/2.0 setup, but I didn’t notice a significant difference in image quality other than more-saturated colors on the larger handset. Both cameras performed similarly well.

The P10’s rear features a 12-megapixel RGB sensor and a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, similar to the setup on a handful of Android phones from ZTE and Xiaomi. Together, the cameras capture crisp, colorful photos with pretty bokeh, thanks to software that applies an artificial depth-of-field effect to pictures. From my experience, though, the iPhone 7 Plus is more accurate when it comes to identifying outlines of faces, while the P10 tends to be more muddy with its boundaries. It causes parts of my head, like my hair, to be blurred out along with the background. Still, the pictures look lovely, and the accuracy is already an improvement over the P9. Plus, it could easily be fixed with a software update.

What the P10 does that the iPhone can’t, though, is apply that same soft focus to selfies. I was won over the instant I saw the results — they’re almost pretty enough to make me switch to Android. It sounds vain, but the front-camera integration makes getting the bokeh effect much easier, and is a bonus for anyone who wants better selfies.

The P10’s front camera also has a handy tool for group selfies that detects faces in the shot and zooms in or out to accommodate them. This feature was finicky in my testing and didn’t always work. When it did kick in, it did a good job of providing enough room for everyone in the picture, but it’s too unreliable right now to be useful.

Software is a big reason the P10’s pictures are superb. Its camera app features a trio of color profiles — standard, vivid and smooth — that let you take richer, more saturated images that are Instagram-ready without any edits. These sometimes result in slightly overexposed photos because of the high contrast, but you can always shoot in standard mode to avoid that. The P10 is also impressive in low light. Pictures of buildings at night displayed almost no noise — details were clear and colors were vivid. Portrait mode can introduce noise, but even there it’s minor.

There is very little to dislike about the P10 — even its battery life is satisfying. The regular P10 has a 3,200mAh cell, while the Plus packs a 3,750mAh one. During my testing, both phones easily lasted about for a day and a half of average use. But anytime I started playing games or watching videos on YouTube, that runtime dropped to a day at best. That’s still impressive, though, and recharging the phone is speedy enough, thanks to quick-charge support. I was surprised to see the P10 go from zero percent to 25 percent charged in a mere 15 minutes.

Ultimately, the P10 and P10 Plus are good-looking, responsive phones with excellent cameras. But they’re not perfect. I’m not a fan of the home key navigation, nor do I like the limited availability of Huawei’s unique color options. Plus, the handsets won’t officially be coming to the US. If you get your hands on one and stick an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM card in there, the phone will work, though you may not get full LTE speeds, since the radio isn’t optimized for US spectrums. Huawei has only just begun bringing its popular handsets stateside, so hopefully the P10 will make its way here soon.

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The Apple TV Remote app is finally optimized for iPads

No, we still don’t have an iPad version of the Instagram app, but another longtime holdout has gotten some big(ger) screen love. Apple has finally given its Apple TV Remote app a refresh tailored for the slate’s display. The iTunes listing says that in addition to the expected visual improvements, there’s also lyrics and “playlists for music and chapters.” That’s in addition to captions section for movies and TV shows.

Last February, Apple’s Eddie Cue and Craig Federighi said that with the then-forthcoming app that it would be a “full replacement” for the Apple TV remote. At the time, he was speaking directly about how an iPhone armed with the app can be a second controller for games. Now, the same functionality (with Siri voice commands, no less) on a more substantial screen is a reality. Don’t have an iPad? Well, then you’ll have to settle for the usual “general performance and stability improvements.”

Source: iTunes

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iTunes movie rentals finally work across multiple devices

Somehow, Apple went until 2017 before adding one of the most basic features to iTunes. You see, for the past nine years, when you’d rent a movie via the app, you’d have to watch it on the device the rental originated from. So, if you rented Manchester by the Sea on your commute, watched a few minutes and then wanted to finish bumming yourself out on your big screen at home, you were out of luck. With the latest version of iTunes (12.6) and “rent once, watch anywhere,” that’s changed.

Assuming you have iOS 10.3 installed on your iPhone or iPad, and tvOS 10.2 on your Apple TV, the feature should be ready to take for a spin. A caveat, though: As 9to5Mac notes, those OS updates are only available in public beta and developer beta channels, respectively. Once those go wide, though, the feature itself should follow suit. This isn’t a massive improvement, but hey, neither is a red iPhone 7.

Via: 9to5 Mac

Source: Apple

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Apple will finally update its Mac lineup on October 27th

It’s been a very, very long time since Apple has updated its Mac lineup — the new Macbook is the only computer that Apple has seen fit to upgrade in 2016. That should all change next week, though: We just received an invite to an event in Cupertino on Thursday, October 27th. With the yearly iPhone refresh in the rearview mirror and macOS Sierra out in the wild, it’s time — well past time, in fact — for some new Mac computers. The event’s tagline — “Hello again” — is a pretty clear nod to the Mac, which debuted with a big old “hello” on its screen way back in 1984.

Headlining the event should be a totally redesigned MacBook Pro, which has existed in its current form for a good four years now. Rumors point to a touch-capable OLED strip on the keyboard above the number row that can adapt to whatever app you’re using. Touch ID might be making its way to the Mac for the first time, as well. Of course, the computers will likely be thinner and lighter and will probably see many of the innovations Apple first rolled out in the MacBook in 2015. The butterfly keyboard mechanism, tiered battery design and reliance on USB-C all seem likely to come on board at this point. We’re hoping the MacBook Pro will be available in a variety of colors for the first time, too.

Beyond that, spec bumps for the iMac and MacBook Air seem like good bets, as does the inclusion of USB-C on those models as well. Looking beyond the Mac line, it’s also possible the iPad will get some love. The iPad Air 2, while still a very capable tablet, is now two years old. And the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is just about a year old and lags behind the smaller iPad Pro in a few key ways. It wouldn’t surprise us to see both of those devices get some updates.

Whatever Apple has to show off, we’ll be there live to bring you all the news as it happens when the event starts at 10AM PT.

Source: Apple

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The Axon 7 finally fulfills ZTE’s ‘affordable premium’ promise

Over the years, smartphones have either been high end and expensive, or dirt cheap and shoddy. But, two years ago, the industry shifted and midrange phones that had great specs for lower prices started to fill the gap. ZTE has long been a proponent of what it calls the “affordable premium” device, and has thrown out middling handset after middling handset that met only the “affordable” part of that promise.

Last year, the Chinese company debuted its Axon line, which was stuffed full of features to fulfill the premium promise. But the Axon Pro fell short, with an oddly hollow metal body, glitchy software and short battery life. It was also more expensive than last year’s OnePlus. This year’s Axon 7, however, is shaping up to be a far better contender, with the same $ 399 price as the OnePlus 3 and offering a higher-res screen, sharper camera and more premium design.

The Axon 7’s design is the result of a team up between ZTE and BMW DesignWorks, and it’s a definite improvement over its predecessor. My gold review unit has a smooth matte finish on its metal body that helps it reject fingerprints and is accented by eye-catching glossy chrome edges that are also around the camera and recessed fingerprint sensor. It looks and feels gorgeous in an elegant way that upstages the OnePlus 3.

Just like its predecessor, the Axon 7 has a row of dot cutouts on the top and bottom of its front face, but unlike the Pro, these grilles actually hide speakers. (The old Axon’s grilles misled a lot of people into thinking it had dual speakers, but it only had one.) Below the display are capacitive keys for Back, Home and All Apps. There’s also a dual SIM card slot on the left edge — a welcome feature for frequent travelers.

ZTE says the Axon 7 will eventually be ready for Google’s “Daydream” mobile VR platform, and its display certainly seems prepared for the task. The 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED screen was a great canvas for my Netflix binging and Instagram sprees, but it was unfortunately dim in sunlight. Although it doesn’t fix the lack of brightness, the Axon offers built-in software that lets you customize the display’s color output. The tool lets you pick from three saturation profiles — “Natural,” “Colorful” and “Gorgeous” — as well as “Warm,” “Normal” and “Cool” color temperatures. I set the screen to “Gorgeous” and “Normal,” which delivered higher contrast levels and deeper hues.

Complementing the screen is a HiFi audio setup. Not many smartphone makers pay attention to quality sound, but ZTE is so proud of its system that it devoted six pages out of a 33-page reviewer’s guide to it. The only other component that got as much love was the camera. For the most part, the coverage was justified.

The Axon’s dual front-facing stereo speakers pumped out distinct, clear sound that drowned out my laptop’s speakers while both devices were set to their maximum volumes. The phone’s speakers were so clear, in fact, that I could easily hear the crinkling of wrapping paper in the background of a scene over dialogue and overlapping music. The Axon was also loud enough to hear from another room. Dolby Atmos enhancements created a surround sound that is more immersive than I’ve experienced on other devices. One of the few other phones to place such a heavy emphasis on audio is the HTC 10, which lets you tailor music output to your hearing.

Continuing its quest to outdo the competition, ZTE also stuffed a 20-megapixel rear camera into the Axon 7. That sensor is sharper than what you’ll find on the iPhone 6s, Nexus 6P and Galaxy S7. The Axon 7’s camera has phase detection autofocus (PDAF), with optical and digital image stabilization that, when combined with the high megapixel count, should theoretically result in crisp pictures. However, real-world image quality was hit or miss. My shot of mosaic art at the 8th Street NYU subway station was clear enough to show individual tiles on the wall, but landscapes with buildings in them sometimes looked blurry.

The camera struggled in low light, too. Upper East Side buildings looked like grainy, dark brown, blobs in a nightscape, and the whole scene was covered with artifacts. Other phones, such as the similarly priced Alcatel Idol 4S, fared better in the same situation.

Up front, the Axon 7’s 8-megapixel front camera takes decent portraits that have accurate colors and are sharp enough to see details such as my individual eyelashes. Thankfully, the “Beautify” mode erases imperfections on your face without going overboard and making you look like a painted-over caricature. Unlike most of this year’s smartphones, though, the Axon doesn’t offer a front flash feature for low-light selfies.

Armed with the same Snapdragon 820 chip as this year’s Android flagships, the Axon 7 was impressively responsive. I relished taking down an enemy Pokémon Go gym as well as catching an oddly evasive Pidgey without any annoying lag — in both cases with a host of apps running in the background.

Even when I used AZ Screen Recorder to capture my exploits while switching between the game and a Netflix video, the Axon kept pace without missing a beat. The only app in which I encountered delay was Pokémon Go, but that appeared to be a server issue rather than the device’s performance.

You’ll be able to enjoy day-long Pokémon Go expeditions without fear of running out of juice, too. The Axon 7’s 3,250mAh battery typically lasted about a day and a half of light use, and I was surprised by the hours of “White Collar” I was able to stream (an impressive 6.5) before the low-battery alert popped up. When powered up with the included charger, the Axon 7 can get back up to 50 percent life in just 30 minutes, the company said.

Although it runs a pretty clean version of Android 6.0.1, the Axon 7 comes with some ZTE-made software changes that I was surprised to find helpful. Most interesting of these is the Power Manager that not only lets you monitor your battery consumption but also gives you the option of setting “power-saving policies” for individual apps such as disallowing autostart, scheduled background wake-up and allowing deep sleep.

A cool Mi-Pop tool adds a floating shortcut to the screen that you can place within reach of your thumb so you can access essential navigation buttons such as Back, Home and All Apps without stretching across the phone. This is a handy tool because trying to reach across the Axon’s face can cause you to drop the phone.

There’s also an intriguing “Voiceprint” function that’s supposed to let you unlock your phone with your voice, but after I excitedly went through the setup process and said my keyphrase three times for the Axon to store it, the method never worked. No matter how many times I said, “Hello there” to the phone, whether its screen was on or off and regardless of the angle at which I held it (ZTE recommends 45 degrees away from your face), I couldn’t get into my phone.

A small thing that infuriated me: Taking a screenshot doesn’t automatically save it to your phone. You’ll have to tap a checkmark below a preview of your snapshot to keep the file. What a waste of time.

Though software glitches like this exist, they’re thankfully rare, and overall the Axon 7 feels like a dependable, well-made handset. If you want a cleaner OS and can live with a less-sharp screen, the OnePlus 3 is a better bet at the same price. But those who prefer a great multimedia experience and a distinct aesthetic will find a more suitable companion in the Axon 7.

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Apple has finally sold its billionth iPhone

Apple has managed to pull in some extremely impressive numbers when it comes to its flagship mobile phone. While iPhone sales overall had begun to decline over the last quarter, that didn’t stop the company from selling its one billionth iPhone last week.

Apple’s CEO announced the milestone today during a special employee meeting in Cupertino this morning. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, thanked employees for “helping change the world every day,” noting that Apple has “always set out to make the best products that make a difference.”

The billionth iPhone was sold about two years after Apple sold its 500 millionth iPhone. That’s a lot of units, and with the impending launch of additional phones to its line, it’s likely to sell a whole lot more in the future.

Via: TechCrunch

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US Senate finally dumps BlackBerry

The US Senate’s Sergeant at Arms (SAA) announced earlier this week that staffers would no longer be able to request new BlackBerry OS 10 devices for official work. That includes the Q10, Z10, Z30, Passport and Classic. In their place, the SAA is offering use of the Samsung Galaxy S6 on Android or the 16GB iPhone SE.

Existing BlackBerry users won’t be left high and dry, should they decline to transition to another OS. BlackBerry support will continue for the foreseeable future and replacement devices will be available for however the SAA’s current stock of 610 mobile devices last.

This is a significant moment in BlackBerry’s history. I mean, the company used to utterly dominate the mobile device market thanks to its focus on security, email (remember, this was before messaging and social media took off) and a physical keyboard (again, this was the era before Swiftkey).
iOS and Android did manage to catch up to the BlackBerry OS within a matter of years, resulting in the company’s precipitous decline and subsequent flirtations with bankruptcy.

But the wheels of government turn slowly — especially when it comes to the adoption of new technologies. Even after the general public — and the President himself — abandoned BBOS for competing systems, BlackBerry handsets persisted on Capitol Hill for more than a decade. But not anymore.

Source: Bomble

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