What we’re buying: Lightroom on a new iPhone, Google’s Pixel 2 cases

This month, we’re making the most of our devices, whether that’s by testing mobile photo-editing apps, trying out an iPad keyboard that matches its surroundings, or simply just laying down a little too much cash for a pretty-looking Pixel 2 phone case.

Timothy J. Seppala

Timothy J. Seppala
Associate Editor

I’ve been using Adobe’s Lightroom on my phone for a few years now. It’s never been the most user-friendly image-editing suite for iPhone (that’d be Google’s Snapseed), but it makes up for that shortcoming with sheer power. Adobe focused on adding incredibly useful features to the mobile app, like support for both editing and capturing uncompressed RAW files and high-dynamic-range (HDR) photos.

Since I upgraded to the iPhone 8 Plus, the app has gotten even more useful. This is mainly because of the extra processing power afforded by the A11 Bionic processor. While Apple crowed at launch about how much games and AR would benefit from the chip, what won me over was that now it takes only a few seconds to export an edited RAW file at max resolution. On my old iPhone 6s, that would take anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds. In that time, I can export and upload five or six photos to Instagram on Apple’s second-newest phone. What’s more, on my old phone, using the “professional” mode brought everything to a grinding halt. Setting exposure and ISO was a chore, and a handful of adjustments were grayed out because the hardware wasn’t capable enough. Dragging the white-balance selector around was a stuttery experience too.

That isn’t the case with the 8 Plus, but I’m usually getting better results shooting in auto or HDR mode; I shoot only full manual with my Nikon, but I’m fine letting the computer take over on my phone.

More than that, even with the 8 Plus, making adjustments to ISO and shutter speed sometimes brings the app to a crawl. It’s intermittent, though, and I rarely use the pro setting, so it’s not a huge deal. Given how buggy iOS 11 has been for me, I’m willing to blame the system software and not Lightroom.

This brings us to HDR. Apple has made huge strides with the iOS camera app’s HDR setting (it’s turned on by default out of the box) and, depending on the use case, it often produces better photos than Lightroom does — especially in low-light situations. That probably has a lot to do with the new hardware’s dedicated image signal processor. Snapping a photo at a concert using Lightroom results in an unusable image full of purple grain where the shadows are, and outdoor shots at dusk typically don’t fare a whole lot better.

For instance, a photo taken of the gaping hole in my parents’ garage roof blew out all the highlights and turned everything a sickly yellow, while the default camera app looked approximately like what I saw onscreen when I hit the shutter. Daylight HDR photos usually look overprocessed and unnatural, but every now and again the shadows and highlights aren’t blown out and I get better results than with the iOS camera.

As far as actual editing goes, Lightroom is as good as it ever was, if not a little better, thanks to the device I’m using it on. Aside from the speed improvements I mentioned earlier, editing on the 8 Plus’ bigger screen is a lot more enjoyable than on my 6s. It’s also easier to see fine details and how different adjustments like sharpening or clarity affect them. Holding my phone in landscape makes editing an even more comfortable experience. Editing tools tuck into the right rail and expand when I tap on them, and disappear just as quickly.

I keep mobile photos and shots taken with my Nikon camera siloed off from one another and typically don’t edit iPhone shots anywhere but on my phone. And for that, Lightroom CC is great. It doesn’t quite allow for the more stylized edits I favor for my DSLR stuff, but for throwing a set of pictures to Instagram after an impromptu photo walk through my neighborhood, it does the trick. And if I want to get really crazy once I get back to my laptop, I can always use the Lightroom camera to grab some RAW files. Will the app’s shortcomings, like wonky HDR, stop me from using it? No, because for me it’s still better than Snapseed’s mostly gimmicky editing tools and iOS’ bare-bones options for tweaking.

Rob LeFebvre
Contributing Editor

There are plenty of reasons to use an external keyboard with an iPad, including better accuracy and comfort when typing for extended periods. I have my favorites, of course, like the Logitech K811, which can hold up to three different devices in its memory. However, being able to physically attach one onto an iPad is my own personal holy grail for iOS-capable input devices. The Brydge 10.5 iPad Pro keyboard is what I’ve been looking for — an input device that makes my iPad look like a laptop with a good-looking, protective form factor. It has backlit keys, doubles as a clamshell case for your 10.5-inch iPad Pro and comes in space gray, silver, gold or rose gold to match the finish on your precious iOS device, turning it into a MacBook mini of sorts. The keyboard has the same thickness and rounded design as the iPad Pro 10.5-inch, making it the perfect companion for my tablet of choice. It also works with any other device as a standard Bluetooth keyboard, of course.

The Brydge keyboard has nicely spaced keys, and, while they’re not full-size, they are easy to hit and use, even when touch typing. The keys are responsive, and the F and J keys both have a little raised bump on the lower half so you know where to place your fingers for touch typing — just like a MacBook.

At first, I had a little trouble hitting them with enough force to register a key press, but I was able to train my fingers to do so within just a few minutes. There are three brightness settings (low, medium and high) for the backlit keyboard so you can match the brightness of the keyboard to the ambient light from your iPad and the room. There’s even a small handrest below the keys themselves — not enough room to rest my admittedly large hands in their entirety, but roomy enough to rest part of them during long typing sessions.

Why not just get an Apple-made Smart Keyboard, though, which is thinner and adds less weight to your iPad? Well, aside from the extra $ 20 it costs and the lack of backlit keys, Apple’s own input device is pretty flimsy in comparison. Sure, it’s more spill-resistant than the Brydge, but the Smart Keyboard isn’t really my favorite way to type on an iPad when it’s in my lap; it feels flimsy. The Brydge, however, is made of the same metal construction as the iPad itself. The Brydge’s hinge keeps the iPad at the exact angle I want without flopping around at all. I’m able to use it on my lap when I sit with my legs extended to my coffee table in front of me (my usual posture), as well as in a cross-legged position while sitting on my bed or in a large chair. I can also see it being pretty fantastic for tiny lap trays in the coach section of an airliner, where a larger MacBook might have trouble fitting in (especially if you’re behind one of those travelers who insist on leaning their seat back during the flight).

The Brydge feels so much like typing on my MacBook Pro that I have to keep reminding myself to touch the screen and not search for a touchpad. It’s a solid, useful, stylish peripheral that has boosted my writing productivity on my iPad.

Mat Smith, Engadget

Mat Smith

Mat Smith
Bureau Chief, UK

I like to hop between Android and iOS phones, but one of the minor frustrations I’ve found with Google-powered smartphones is the relative lack of case options. If it’s not an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy slab, there’s often not much to choose from, or it’s a bunch of unremarkable plastic or rubbery sleeves. I wish I were brave enough to carry my phones around “nude,” without a case, but that’s not going to happen.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Google’s own Pixel 2 family launched with official case options that are actually attractive, eye-catching and well, desirable. When all phones are mostly all the same — slabs of metal and plastic in metallic hues — the case represents one last attempt to deliver some kind of self-expression. I have the completely black Pixel 2, which means that my case, the “midnight” color, is the only way I can get a splash of neon orange on my power button. (The “cement” number also tempted me with its minty blue button.)

The case is downright tactile: the outside is a knitted fabric slightly similar to the Google Home Mini speaker, a nylon-polyester material with a pixelated look (get it?) that stands out. It’s still a solid case, and that does mean it adds a bit of thickness to either the Pixel 2 or the Pixel 2 XL, but neither of these phones was particularly chunky to begin with — it’s not a major complaint, but if you wanted a slender case for your phone that only minutely affects its thickness, this isn’t the one for you. Cleverly, despite its rigidity, these cases are compatible with the squeeze-to-launch Google Assistant motion. I rarely use the function, but I was surprised that something so solid could still deliver my squeezing efforts. That “welded silicone” logo on the rear of the case doesn’t come cheap ($ 40 / £35), but the fabric case is now making my Pixel 2 a conversation point. And it’s a positive one.

“IRL” is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they’re buying, using, playing and streaming.

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What we’re playing: ‘Super Beat Sports’ and ‘Animal Crossing’

Welcome back to Gaming IRL, a monthly segment where several editors talk about what they’ve been playing in their downtime. This month we’ve been loving Super Beat Sports and Stardew Valley and taking an early look at Nintendo’s Animal Crossing mobile game. But first, let Kris Naudus tell you about the scariest dating sim she’s ever played.

This article contains spoilers for ‘Doki Doki Literature Club.’

Doki Doki Literature Club

Kris Naudus

Kris Naudus
Senior Editor, Database

It’s sort of impossible to not have expectations when you start a game. I certainly had preconceived notions when I began playing Doki Doki Literature Club. I’d seen headlines that proclaimed it one of the scariest games of the year, and I certainly knew I was in for something… interesting when one of the opening screens warned that people with depression should not play.

The game looks like another dating sim, with your main character wooing the girl of his choice from among three options: the cheerful best friend (Sayori), the quiet geeky lady (Yuri) and the nasty but secretly nice freshman (Natsuki). Your courtship is conducted by writing poems, angling your word choices toward the girl you hope to end up with. I found the whole thing rather tedious. But when the girls would show me their own works of poetry, the cracks started to show. They were weird. They were unsettling. Clearly we were heading somewhere outside of the normal bounds of otome games.

The more I progressed with sensitive girl Yuri, the more my relationships with the other girls unraveled. Monika, the president of the eponymous literature club, was catty and passive-aggressive. Natsuki hated me. Sayori confessed that she suffered from severe depression. But it was when Sayori revealed her true feelings to me that things fell apart.

I could either tell her I loved her or reject her with an affirming “You’re my best friend.” I became disgusted with the game. I was angered by the obvious emotional blackmail, even if Sayori never actually said, “I will hurt myself if you reject me.” I had already committed myself to choosing Yuri. So I rejected Sayori. And the game did exactly what I expected it to.

Still, I felt awful, and resolved to do “right” by her on my next playthrough.

That’s one of the things we count on with video games. You live, you die, you live again. You can always reload your last save, start from the beginning of the board or even reset and do the whole thing all over again. This is especially important with visual novels and dating sims, where you might want to play it again to see all the paths untaken. This is expected enough that some games now count on it, requiring multiple playthroughs to reach the “true” ending like the Zero Escape series, or rewarding you with new story paths and game modes like Hatoful Boyfriend does.

Doki Doki Literature Club punishes you.

I figured I’d pick Sayori the next time around, if only to see what her story would have been like, to see how things would have been different if only I had just chosen her. But when I loaded the game, she was nowhere to be found. She had been removed from the game.

The choices are always wrong. You’re always going to fail.

So, with that choice removed, I made a play for Natsuki instead. And while I did everything I was supposed to do, I somehow ended up getting scenes with Yuri again and again and again, until… well, things continued to go wrong.

In the end, that’s the real horror of Doki Doki. In visual novels, you’re supposed to make choices and have those decisions matter. Sometimes you’re wrong and you fail, but you try again. Here, the choices are always wrong. You’re always going to fail. The game will emotionally abuse you as long as you continue to play. It will even break down the fourth wall to do it, something that made me scream, even though I knew the entire time it was just a game.

I’m constantly reminded of the ending of War Games, where “the only winning move is not to play.” And if you never open Doki Doki Literature Club, all of the girls get to live and be happy. Or not. It’s Schrödinger’s cat, but in a file folder.

Opening this box made me feel awful. But it also constantly surprised me. It’s like riding a roller coaster, or watching a jump scare in a horror movie. You feel a terrible shock for a brief moment, and then you find yourself laughing afterwards. Doki Doki didn’t make me laugh, but it subverted my expectations and denied my choices so brazenly, I can’t help but smile a bit.

Stardew Valley

Rob LeFebvre

Rob LeFebvre
Contributing Writer

Oh, I do love Stardew Valley on the Nintendo Switch. I’ve just gotten through winter, my least favorite season so far, and my virtual farm is finally shaping up again. I’ve got beanstalks, parsnips and a few other “springtime” seeds in the ground, and I’m watering them daily with my upgraded watering can, which can pour across three different plants at once. I’ve got a full chicken coop with four egg-layers in there and a barn with a couple of cows that just started producing milk. I know pretty much all of the folks in town, including the wizard and that weird ancient mariner who has a magic amulet he refuses to sell to me.

If video games are all about a sense of progression and mastery, Stardew Valley ticks all the boxes. It’s clearly inspired by the Harvest Moon games, though it also has a touch of Animal Crossing thrown in for good measure. You are given a farm by a relative and tasked with meeting the residents, amassing a fortune and (of course) growing crops and raising animals. That’s really not the whole of it, though.

Stardew Valley offers quite a bit of exploration, combat (while in the deep mines — I’ve only made it down to level 65) and supernatural mystery to boot, with a haunted community center, the aforementioned wizard and some weird totems scattered around town. There are holiday festivals for each major season change too. Taking it on the go is even better; I’ve whiled away plenty of time, while waiting for my kid to finish a piano lesson, harvesting blueberries and fighting off slimes in the mines. Overall, Stardew Valley is a charming title with a ton of things to do; you won’t get bored if you enjoy the gentle Zen of growing crops and exploring your little corner of the world.

Super Beat Sports

Timothy J. Seppala

Timothy J. Seppala
Associate Editor

Like many others, I got my first exposure to Harmonix’s work through Guitar Hero 2. But outside of The Beatles: Rock Band, I didn’t spend a ton of time with the studio’s band-simulator franchise. Usually I didn’t have friends around to play it with, and lugging out a plastic drum set for a quick song was always a pain. I’ve loved the studio’s one-off games like Rock Band Unplugged for PSP and Rock Band Blitz for consoles, though, because they took what I loved about the full-on games — awesome licensed music and beat-matching gameplay that was second to none — and stripped away the bulky plastic instruments. Imagine my surprise when I fired up the team’s Nintendo Switch effort Super Beat Sports and discovered it was basically a portable Rock Band in disguise.

I’m talking specifically about the “Whacky Bat” mini game. On the surface, it looks like a simple batting practice exercise, with adorable pink monsters hurling baseballs at you in time with music. You have to knock them back from whence they came, using audio cues to get the timing right. It all seemed a little familiar, but I couldn’t figure out why. After a few rounds of this, I unlocked “Pro Mode,” which had me facing down multiple monster pitchers across five lanes, swapping between each. That’s when it hit me: This was basically one of the pared-back Rock Band games on my Switch.

The balls are the note gems; each pitcher’s lane is the note highway; and swinging my hockey stick (it makes sense in the game) to the beat, keeping a streak going, is nailing a full combo on a plastic instrument. Of course, there are other mini-games (“Net Ball,” a take on volleyball, and “Gobble Golf” are great as well) and deeper multiplayer offerings, but none of them grabbed me quite like “Whacky Bat.”

Super Mario Odyssey is one of the best games I’ve played in years, sure, but I’d rather experience that at home on my TV with surround sound. If I’m on the go, you can bet I’m playing Super Beat Sports.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Aaron Souppouris

Aaron Souppouris
Features Editor

On first impression, I was as entranced by Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp as I was by New Leaf on the 3DS. Just as Fire Emblem Heroes is exactly what I want from a mobile Fire Emblem game, Pocket Camp seemed to be the perfect distillation of what makes the series so special. You shuffle around, solving various animals’ problems (mostly by gathering fruit, bugs or fish), and in return you get materials to add furniture to your campsite and camper. Pick the right objects and animals will come visit your camp, making space for more characters to appear around the game’s small world. It’s a nice loop that works great on mobile.

After a week or so, though, I felt like I was running out of things to do. The NPCs were giving me similar lines of dialogue, and the challenges were all the same. Perhaps that’s by design. A lot of the game seems to hinge around real people — you can make friends with people you know and don’t, and then team up to complete challenges or wander around their campsite looking at how they’ve chosen to decorate it. Because I played the game on a throwaway account, I’ve been unable to add any people I actually know to the game, and the world Nintendo has crafted began to feel oddly dull and lifeless.

This isn’t really Nintendo’s fault. I jumped through hoops to download Pocket Camp early, essentially lying to my iPhone until it believed I was living in the Sydney Opera House. I’m cautiously optimistic that when the game is released worldwide later this month, I’ll find more to do, because I’ll be playing with friends.

The other lingering question is about the payment structure. Pocket Camp is free to play, and the gifts that Nintendo gives away to new players dry up very quickly. Doing anything after a week seemed to take forever unless I paid to speed things up. Fire Emblem Heroes mostly strikes a good balance here, providing enough hooks for big spenders to keep spending while ensuring that you could choose never to part with real money and still have fun. That equilibrium doesn’t seem to be there for Pocket Camp.

This is definitely Animal Crossing; it’s just not very good right now. But even with these pre-launch issues, I’m still hopeful. The monthly updates to Fire Emblem Heroes over the past eight months have consistently improved it, and if Nintendo pays that much attention to Pocket Camp, it could grow into a great game.

“IRL” is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they’re buying, using, playing and streaming.

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Apple Watches were crashing when asked about the weather

We hope you didn’t ask your shiny new Apple Watch about the weather on November 4th — you probably got a rude response. Many Series 3 owners reported that their wristwear crashed (specifically, the “springboard” interface restarted) if they asked Siri how the weather was that day. It wouldn’t crash if they asked about weather in subsequent days, but the odd hiccup affected users across North America and Europe. We’ve asked Apple for comment. With that said, there’s already a potential culprit… and it’s a familiar one for iPhone users.

Reddit user rgsteele has theorized that the crashing was related to the end of Daylight Saving Time. If you asked about the time either after DST was over or in areas that don’t observe it (such as the Canadian province of Saskatchewan), you were safe. And sure enough, the issue appears to be over: we’ve checked both before and afterward, and it’s now safe to ask Siri if it’s raining. The Apple Watch didn’t have this issue in previous years, but it’s notable that iOS devices had long-running alarm and calendar bugs related to DST shifts.

There’s no guarantee that the time change is the cause, and it’s not certain how much of the fault would rest in Siri’s servers versus the watch software. However, it’s a safe bet that Apple will want to prevent this from happening again — you don’t want a common voice command bringing everything to a standstill one day out of every year.

Via: MacRumors

Source: Reddit

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What we’re using: Qapital, Mighty and the Switch Pro controller

This month’s In Real Life focuses on self-improvement: taking your Spotify playlists to the gym minus your phone, getting some app-powered help on your savings and, er, being a better gamer on the Nintendo Switch.

Nicole Lee

Nicole Lee
Senior Editor

I like spending money, but I’m not so great at saving it. I’ve used Mint and other budgeting software before, but they still require me to do the heavy-lifting of actually watching what I spend. So after doing a bit of research, I decided to try out Qapital, an app that promises to do the saving for me. I’ve been using it for about a month now, and I’ve already saved up around $ 500 — without really trying.

The trick with Qapital is that it lets you set up a series of rules that’ll automatically transfer money out of your bank account and into your Qapital account. And the great thing is, you can create whatever rule you want. So for example, you can have a “Round-Up” rule that’ll automatically round up each expense to the nearest dollar and transfer the difference. Or you can create a rule that’ll chip in $ 10 every time you spend something on Amazon (which Qapital calls the “Guilty Pleasure” rule).

For the extra nerdy, you can even hook Qapital up with If This Then That (IFTTT), a service that connects different internet accounts together. This way, you can save a buck every time you post a photo on Instagram, or save $ 5 every time you tweet. You can also set it so that it saves money every time you reach your 10,000-step goal if you’re so inclined.

When the money arrives in your Qapital account, it gets siloed into one or more of different goals that you’ve set up for yourself. This can be something like a “Rainy Day” fund with a goal of $ 10,000 or a “Vacation” fund with a goal of $ 2,000. Qapital encourages you to have smaller, multiple goals to work toward (so you can get the satisfaction of achieving something), but it works just as well with the one big goal.

I opted to choose rules that saved money every time I spent — the Round-Up rule as well as the Guilty Pleasure rule. I also had three separate goals set up, with the same rules applied to each one. Before I knew it, I was putting away almost a hundred dollars a week — every time I went to the grocery store, or bought a gadget on Amazon, extra money was shuffled from my bank account to Qapital. I was pleasantly surprised by just how much money I could save and still be able to live my life the way I always have.

I’ll warn here that you do need to give Qapital your bank login credentials for the whole thing to work. If you use credit cards for your spending, you’ll want to add those account logins to the Qapital app too, so that your spending can trigger the rules. That might scare off some of you, but this is how Mint and most other budgeting apps work. Besides, the Qapital account is FDIC-insured, so you won’t have to worry about your money disappearing in the middle of the night. Also, you can transfer the money out of Qapital any time you want. You can even use Qapital to pay your bills directly.

There’s one caveat though, and it’s an important one: You don’t earn any interest from the money you put away in your Qapital account. After all, the service is free — the interest from your savings goes directly to Qapital instead of you. It would be far more prudent and money-wise for you to simply transfer all that money into your very own interest-earning account yourself.

But if you need help saving and you want it to be done automatically, then Qapital does provide a simple and elegant solution. An interest-earning savings account will get you more money over time, sure, but this is better than not saving anything at all.

Mat Smith

Mat Smith
Bureau Chief, UK

Billy has already given the Mighty a thorough testing here, but for the uninitiated, it’s an iPod Shuffle-esque Spotify player with both a headphone socket and the ability to play music wirelessly. As I’m a foolish iPhone 7 owner, my headphone choices have gravitated towards wireless options. But I still own some wired sets, which generally offer better sound quality. (Oh yeah, and Apple stopped selling the iPod Shuffle.) Finally, I could listen again to my Spotify tracks with higher-quality ‘phones on my commute, at the gym and the rest. I was an early backer on Kickstarter — yeah, I can’t believe it happened either, and my device even landed ahead of review samples. I’ve had it for a few months now.

I made the wrong choice on color, however. Unlike our review sample in moody black, mine was a slightly dull white, if you remember desktop PCs from the mid-90s, you’ve got the right shade. It gave the feeling that this was some sub-$ 20 MP3 player, not something closer to 90 bucks. The clip was reassuringly sturdy, with a rubber edge to keep it all snugly attached to wherever I put it. (Like you can see in the image in this article, I did wear it on my shirt collar, because I could.) One personal caveat is that I’ve realized that I’m pretty much tethered to my phone when I go the gym: I log my exercises, timings and the rest. I might even Google stretches and rehab movements because my body doesn’t like it when I make it move. This means that Mighty doesn’t liberate me as much as say, someone that goes running, or follows along a class. But, hey, that’s me.

Unlike my colleague, I had a few early troubles getting my music tracks to sync, but once you’ve got your best playlists synced, you rarely have to meddle with the app and sync from your phone again. This is great. Less great is the choice of charging port: The headphone socket. Yes, I understand that this helps simplify design, and there’s likely technical design reasons for it, but it also means another obscure cable I need to keep around. Just add a micro-USB port — those cables are cheap and plentiful. The Mighty might not be essential for me, but it is smart way to take your Spotify collection away from your phone and PC and there aren’t many options for that.

Timothy J. Seppala

Timothy J. Seppala
Associate Editor

Nintendo is forcing my hand to buy a Pro Controller for my Switch. After sending my left Joy-con in for service (yup, mine loses sync too), my buddy Victor offered to lend me his Pro so I could keep chipping away at the legendary beasts in Zelda. Until then, I’d sworn the gamepad off because the Wii U’s version never felt quite right to me. That and the updated model is $ 70. C’mon, Nintendo.


Getting it to sync to my console was a bit of an ordeal, but a few minutes later I was up and running. I haven’t owned a non-default controller for a Nintendo system since the GameCube, and once I fired up Breath of the Wild, I realized how much of a mistake that’s been.

Scrolling through my arrow and weapon inventory with a real D-pad and having normal-sized face buttons was a revelation. The Joy-cons and adapter are serviceable stand-ins for a controller, but now that I’ve used the real deal, I don’t think I’ll be able to go back. The ergonomics are better, as is the fit and finish. Best of all? When I’m staring at my TV screen, I don’t have a nagging feeling that I’m using an input device designed around compromises.

“IRL” is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they’re buying, using, playing and streaming.

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What we’re listening to in June

We spend every minute of the working day bringing you news, reviews and features on every aspect of technology. Like everyone else, though, we also use tech outside of work hours. Last month we launched a new series about the gadgets we use every day, the apps and services we can’t live without and what we watch and play.

This week, it’s time for music and podcasts. We start with a personal story from Dana Wollman on her on-again-off-again relationship with podcasts, before four other editors offer quick takes on the music and shows they’ve been obsessing over this month.

Dana Wollman

Dana Wollman
Executive Editor

The first time I tried to get into podcasts, it was to impress a guy. He loved podcasts, so I was going to love them too. Looking back, my early collection mostly amounted to NPR’s greatest hits, with a few other public radio standards thrown in. Think: Planet Money, Marketplace, Radiolab, This American Life. Generally speaking, it was basic stuff, with a heavy dose of pundits engaged in rambling conversation.

Being the purist I am, I made myself back-listen to older episodes that had piled up, even news programs like NPR Politics that, by definition, had a limited shelf life. It didn’t help that I had a tendency to listen precisely when my concentration was at its most impaired. Pro tip: If you’re riding the train home drunk from Brooklyn to Harlem at 2AM on a Sunday morning, Ira Glass’s voice isn’t the best pick-me-up.

Soon enough, I burned out. I went on to date men who were indifferent to podcasts, and I ignored all of you as you grew obsessed with Serial. I continued to appear as guest on various programs — including Engadget’s own! — but never subscribed to any myself.

When I finally did give podcasts another try, it was also because of a guy — one who I didn’t want to think about any more.

Incidentally, when I finally did give podcasts another try, it was also because of a guy — one I didn’t want to think about anymore. I had to get out of my head, away from my tired Spotify playlists and daydreams of running into him on the street.

This time around, I started with S-Town from the team behind Serial and This American Life, which launched to critical acclaim about a month before my current podcast kick. Despite those accolades, I somehow loved it even more than I expected. No longer was I nodding off on the train, losing 10-, 15-, 20-minute chunks. I was listening intently, on my commute to work, and then home again. When I walked through my door, the episode continued, on my phone or laptop speaker.

This was aural literature and, indeed, I was as reluctant to finish it as I would have been a great novel. I wanted to talk to people about the storytelling, the narrative arc, the ethical problems with delving into the life of a man who never consented to be profiled, per se. I even tried to get my dad (a book lover in his own right) to give podcasts, and S-Town in particular, a try. Who was I?

The truth is, I like my brain better on podcasts. I’m learning, I’m thinking critically and I’m not ruminating — or if I am, it’s nowadays usually not about myself. In my case, podcasts have distracted me from disappointment and sadness. But I’ve heard various friends say the same, including people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and others still who would otherwise find their workweek dull and repetitive.

In addition to S-Town, I’ve binge-listened to Codebreaker, The Leap and Still Processing, along with the first season of Serial. You guys were right: It’s pretty good. For politics, my current diet includes Pod Save America, Lovett or Leave It and the occasional Pod Save the People, with a tolerable amount of overlap there. My Dad Wrote a Porno is the only podcast that can make me laugh out loud on the subway, though I’ve also been enjoying 2 Dope Queens, a standup-comedy roundup hosted by Jessica Williams ofThe Daily Show fame.

Not everything I’ve tried has stuck. I feel like the only human on the planet who doesn’t find Jordan, Jesse, Go! funny. I listened to Missing Richard Simmons with interest but ultimately found it ethically suspect, with one interview, in particular, amounting to a character assassination. I also gave The Human Race from Runner’s World, Girl Friday and New York Magazine‘s Sex Lives a try, but haven’t yet committed to any of them.

I did also give news podcasts another shot, by the way. The Daily from the The New York Times is a 20-minute morning podcast in which host Michael Barbaro interviews two or so Times reporters about whatever big story they broke the afternoon or evening before. I’ve been enjoying the concise length, the added insight and, in particular, the behind-the-scenes element of hearing journalists discuss their work. Even so, listening to The Daily still sometimes feels like eating my vegetables before I can proceed to dessert (in this case, true crime stories and tales of dating schadenfreude). Maybe news podcasts really aren’t my jam.

My Favorite Murder

Jessica Conditt

Jessica Conditt
Senior Reporter

Like many women across the world, my life is tinged with the subtle yet constant anxiety that, one day, when I least expect it, I’m going to be raped and murdered. On top of this anxiety — or perhaps because of it — I’ve sustained a lifelong obsession with the macabre mental processes of serial killers. How do they choose their victims? Why do they do such horrific things? Would I be able to spot a murderous sociopath at the bar? Would he be able to spot me?

My Favorite Murder doesn’t answer all of these questions, but it scratches all of my most morbid itches. It’s hosted by two hilarious women, Georgia Hardstark (Drunk History) and Karen Kilgariff (Mr. Show), who manage to infuse the most disturbing descriptions of brutality with sarcasm, wit and warmth. My Favorite Murder is a podcast about the violent death of innocence, but it feels more like a slumber party at Rory and Lorelai Gilmore’s house.

True crime has been hot since Serial and Making a Murderer burst onto the scene, and there’s no shortage of podcasts covering crazed killers. But My Favorite Murder occupies a unique space within the genre. Consider The Last Podcast on the Left: It’s a fantastic show that happens to be hosted by a group of dudes who often dive into murders from the perspective of the killers, using words like “prostitute” to describe female victims without pause. My Favorite Murder tends to focus just as much attention on the killers and the victims, often with an undertone of, “That could have been any of us.” This is usually followed by a joke about the dangers of men with briefcases, of course.

My Favorite Murder has spawned a litany of fan-favorite lines, including “Fuck politeness,” “You’re in a cult. Call your dad,” and “Stay out of the forest.” But, the show’s sign-off offers a perfect summary of its place in the true-crime podcasting universe: “Stay sexy and don’t get murdered.”

Future Islands

Jamie Rigg

Jamie Rigg
Reviews Editor, Engadget UK

I swear by my Spotify Discover playlist, but first thing on a Monday morning, my brain typically relegates it to white noise. On this initial playthrough, it’s rare a track stands out enough to steal my attention away from stimulants and Twitter. One recent such song, however, was “Vireo’s Eye” by Future Islands; thus started a several weeklong binge of the band’s back catalog.

The dominant bassline and muffled, repeating vocals of “Vireo’s Eye” gave me serious Cure vibes, leading me to believe Future Islands were an ’80s group that had somehow passed me by. I was surprised to see, then, that the synthpop act — Wikipedia’s description, not mine (I’m useless at genre determination) — had released a new album just a few weeks before my fortuitous discovery.

Turns out that Future Islands have only been around for the past decade, but the influence of late-20th-century rock and pop is palpable throughout their music. And that is very much my jam — or one of them, at least. For a time, the five albums available on Spotify were even upgraded to offline download status, which is quite the honor considering storage space on my 16GB iPhone is at a premium.

Not all of Future Islands’ tracks are quite as anthemic as “Vireo’s Eye,” which is the perfect introduction to their signature sound of slightly OTT vocals, commanding bass guitar, melancholic undertones and healthy doses of synth. It’s variety within the band’s catalog that’s kept me coming back, though. “Walking Through That Door” and “Long Flight” are relatively high-intensity, whereas “The Great Fire” and “Where I Found You” sound like tracks pulled from Donnie Darko‘s slow-dance playlist. Then there’s the aching vocals on “Beach Foam,” which make it one of my favorites.

A friend tells me that vocalist Samuel Herring is even more charismatic live than he sounds on studio recordings, so I’ll most definitely be catching a Future Islands gig the next time the opportunity presents itself.

The Handsome Rambler

Timothy J. Seppala

Timothy J. Seppala
Associate Editor

Hannibal Burress isn’t the only comedian with a podcast, but he’s the only one I listen to. In fact, The Handsome Rambler is the only podcast I listen to, period. Like my boss Dana, I took an extended break from podcasts, but my reasoning was I got tired of listening to video game shows and not having a commute means my time for listening was basically nonexistent. And when I’m home, I’d rather listen to music than talking heads or my TV. After switching over from night shift recently, though, I started walking a few miles a day for exercise and needed a soundtrack for my jaunts — something to completely zone out to and take my mind off from work and current events. At the recommendation of my coworker Richard Lawler, I gave Rambler a spin.

I’m a stand-up comedy nerd and have devoured almost everything Burress has put out in the past few years. I even saw him play in Michigan last fall. I’m not sure what I was expecting out of Rambler but what’s there never fails to make me smile. The show isn’t him just testing out new material or talking solo into a mic for an hour. More often than not, it’s just Burress having a conversation with his friend and touring companion Tony Trim about everything from the Airbnb reviews they’ve gotten, life on the road and the different “energies” everyone gives off.

The best parts, though, are the commercials. A running joke is that once he finishes his comedy career, he’s going to become a rapper and producer. He doesn’t have a record contract, so commercials for MeUndies, Seat Geek and Squarespace are his outlet. They’re absurd in the best way possible, usually freestyle rapped over a beat from Trim. There’s no real way to do them justice by describing them, though, but know that Autotune and a Moog Theremini appear in the most random places at the most random times. Listen to the SoundCloud embed above to hear what I’m talking about.

Lofi Hip Hop Radio

Nick Summers

Nick Summers
Associate Editor, Engadget UK

At the peak of Vine’s popularity, I was obsessed with a six-second subgenre that blended classic anime moments with relaxing, jazz-infused beats. I’ve seen the terms “vaporwave” and “chillwave” attached to the movement, but honestly, I have no idea if they’re accurate — music categorization isn’t my forte. What I can confirm is their sumptuous tone and considered, note-perfect editing. Studio Ghibli films were a popular choice, no doubt because of their slow, melancholic tone. Cowboy Bebop, Akira and Neon Genesis Evangelion would crop up too, slowly stretching the genre and the people that stumbled upon it.

Vine’s collapse left a Spike Spiegel-shaped hole in my heart. Thankfully, a similar community has popped up on YouTube. Channels like AnimeVibe and Lophee are posting the same sort of music in full, but with anime stills or fanart in the background. The thoughtful editing is gone, and while that’s a shame, I can still appreciate the music and nostalgic anime callbacks. My favorite upload, however, is a 24-hour livestream managed by “ChilledCow.” It’s a nonstop playlist of lo-fi hip hop that is constantly updated with new tracks from up-and-coming beat-makers. For a writer like me, it’s the perfect office soundtrack.

The legality of such a setup is unclear. From what I can tell, ChilledCow has (or at least seeks) permission from all of the artists he or she streams. YouTube, however, was never designed to support internet radio, and I have a hunch this playlist breaks some service terms somewhere. Regardless, it’s a hypnotic, serene and lovingly crafted playlist that never fails to brighten my mood. The looping GIF ripped straight from Studio Ghibli’s Whisper of the Heart. The live chat box that slowly scrolls by as new listeners voice their appreciation. It’s a weird but wonderful corner of the internet — one that I hope keeps streaming for many months to come.

“IRL” is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they’re buying, using, playing and streaming.

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Apple’s ‘we’re sorry we took away your ports’ dongle sale ends today

When Apple rolled out its controversial new MacBook Pro last fall, potential buyers were a bit miffed at the need to buy a host of expensive dongles to make the computer work with their old devices. Apple quickly responded by cutting prices on a host of USB-C cables and accessories, as well as the new LG 4K and 5K displays that are compatible with the MacBook and MacBook Pro. Originally, those discount prices were set to expire at the end of 2016, but Apple extended the deal until the end of March. Well, that day of reckoning is here — the discount on cables, accessories and monitors is set to expire today, March 31st.

So if you’ve been considering buying one of those LG monitors, today is definitely the day to do it. The 21.5-inch 4K display currently sells for $ 524, down from $ 700. The 27-inch 5K screen is priced at $ 924, a pretty notable discount from the $ 1,300 it will cost tomorrow.

You’re not going to save nearly as much cash on cables and adapters, but Apple is still offering pretty steep discounts. The super-helpful USB-C to USB dongle is $ 9 right now, down from $ 19, while you can save $ 5 on USB-C to Lightning cables for your iPhone or iPad. More expensive multiport adapters for outputting video to external displays are $ 49 instead of $ 69. All third-party USB-C accessories are 25 percent off, as well. If you’ve been thinking about buying a new MacBook Pro (or already have one) and have been dragging your feet on getting the cables you need, now’s a good day to go get them.

Source: Apple Store

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Google’s defense against anti-trust claims: ‘we’re open’

Google has a response for the European Commission’s anti-trust allegations. In a lengthy blog post, the tech juggernaut addressed the EC’s concerns point by point. That starts with the EC’s stance that Android isn’t in competition with Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, and Google citing the Commission’s own research that 89 percent of survey respondents feel that the two are competitors. That last bit is a recurring theme, with Google pointing toward the survey responses for the EC’s stance on Android’s “stable and consistent framework” across devices as well.

In perhaps the most poignant response, Google made a GIF that illustrates how many apps are typically pre-installed/bundled on Android devices versus the competition — something the EC directly called out. By Mountain View’s count, of the Samsung Galaxy S7 with Android 6.0.1’s 38 pre-installed apps, only 11 were from Google. Contrast that with 39 out of 47 on the Lumia 550 from Microsoft and 39 out of 39 from Apple on the iPhone 7 running iOS 10.0.2.

“Android hasn’t hurt competition, it’s expanded it,” Google’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker said in a statement. “Android is the most flexibe mobile platform out there, balancing the needs of thousands of manufacturers and operators, millions of app developers and more than a billion consumers.

“Upsetting this balance would raise prices and hamper innovation, choice and competition. That wouldn’t just be a bad outcome for us. It would be a bad outcome for the entire ecosystem, and — most critically — for consumers.”

And with that, the battle moves onward. Maybe the EC’s stance won’t leak ahead of the next round. Maybe.

Source: Google

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