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June 15 2017

15:00

What you need to know when considering a smart lock for your home

Not all smart locks are created equal. In fact, many aren't even all that smart.

There are some incredible benefits to home automation, but when it comes to securing your home, it's important to not simply buy the cheapest thing on the shelf. There's a lot to these "smart" locks, and not all of them live up to the promises in the packaging.

Here's a quick look at what you can do to make sure your smart lock is both convenient and safe.

Understand how the lock you want works

Smart locks come in several different flavors. Some add a Wi-Fi connection to your lock and let you control the ability to lock and unlock from wherever you are. Some rely on Bluetooth and only give you the ability to automatically unlock when your phone is close by. Some rely on touch to unlock, while others offer a keypad for a security pin.

The point is, there isn't one kind of smart lock. It's important to understand how the lock you install works and understand how it keeps you safe when locked.

Make sure the lock itself is safe

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Just because your smart lock is shinier and more expensive than a normal door lock does not mean it is more safe or secure. Many first-generation smart locks offered compromised, less expensive locks with all of the smart trimmings around it.

It's also important to make sure the smart tech you are buying actually works as advertised. That's not always the case, which is dangerous. Some early locks using Bluetooth Beacons couldn't actually tell which side of the door you were on, meaning if your phone was inside the house and near the door it could still be unlocked. Obviously, that's not great.

Beware of misbehaving apps

Assuming you have found a lock that is safe and works the way you want it to, it's important to keep an eye on how the app behaves on your phone. Early versions of the Kwikset Kevo app, for example, kept the phone awake when nearby a lock and constantly draining the power from your phone while doing largely nothing.

This isn't easy to test before bringing the lock home, so it's important to rely on hands-on reviews with testing on battery life over time. App power problems are less common now, especially with changes Google has made to recent versions of Android, but it's still something to keep an eye out for.

The good ones really are worth it

As disheartening as it can be to see stories about connected home tech going wrong and leaving people vulnerable when they think they are more secure, there's a lot to like about the good smart locks.

Being able to remotely lock your home if you forget, or being able to give someone a temporary virtual key if they're house sitting while you're away, or even using the locked state of the door to control the away modes of other connected home tech are all important. These features save you money over time by conserving energy, keep your home safe by using smart lights to make it look like people are here when you're away, and are generally more convenient than digging around for your keys.

The most important first step is making sure you're buying a quality lock from a reputable company with features you actually want. When that happens, you'll be much happier with how you use your front door.

Do you have a smart lock?

Which one? Has it worked out well for you? Share your success or horror story in the comments below!

14:50

LG's Second Year Promise gives the G6 an extra year of warranty

LG is making a big move to win customer loyalty.

The LG G6 has consistently been heralded as one of the best smartphones of 2017, all but erasing the negative impression of the G5 before it. Now, LG wants to continue that goodwill with a new program called the Second Year Promise, which extends the G6's regular warranty from one year to two in the U.S.

While this isn't quite like HTC's Uh-Oh Protection, which acts more as a low-deductible insurance policy, the Second Year Promise, according to a report by The Verge, merely extends the G6's regular manufacturer's warranty an extra 12 months. This puts the phone's U.S. warranty on par with its European one, which tends to be two years for electronics goods.

Here's what you need to know:

  • This applies to all LG G6s sold in the U.S., both from carriers and unlocked through online retailers.
  • This doesn't apply to user-caused damage, so if you drop your phone on day one or day 401, it doesn't matter — this won't cover you.
  • Users need to register their G6 with LG 90 days after the announcement of the program in order to extend the warranty.
    • If you've already bought an LG G6, don't worry, you're still covered as long as you sign up within 90 days from June 15.
  • If a phone is found to be defective, it will be replaced within two business days of shipping it back to LG.

That's it! Easy peasy. What do you think of the new program? Is it going to entice you to buy a G6 if you haven't already, or a future LG product in the future?

See at LG

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} .devicebox ul, .devicebox p { display: block; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox p img, .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 661px), all and (max-width: 500px) { /* 2x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(even) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:last-of-type:nth-of-type(odd) { width: 100%; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 659px) and (min-width: 501px) { /* 3x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(100%/3 - 10px/3); 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height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*--><!]]]]]]]]><![CDATA[>>>*/ /*--><!]]]]]]><![CDATA[>>*/ /*--><!]]]]><![CDATA[>*/ </style></div> </div> </div> </div>]]>
14:25
Spider-Man by Sphero offers interactive games with plenty of snark
14:00

The case for a Material Dark culture on Android

I love hex black and a dark UI!

You Android-lovers can't deny,

That when an app installs in an itty-bitty space,

With a dark theme in your face,

You get sprung!

Google and Android are filled with white, white, white UIs. It wasn't always that way, but it is now. The only real dark system UIs available right now are downloadable TouchWiz themes and third-party apps and Google's apps are whiter than my jeans-365-days-a-year legs. Night modes have been toyed with in Developer Previews the last two years but have never amounted to much — and it's been left out of even the Developer Previews on Android O.

Really, even if they had stuck around, it wouldn't've been the dark theme we need — or want — anyway.

<!--break-->

A dark theme, a night mode, and a Material Dark app.

Let's get some terminology straight first because we keep interchanging some similar but very distinct terms. A dark theme is a UI that is primarily a dark color rather than white. Android itself used a dark theme back in the Holo days. There are a lot of apps with dark themes out there, frequently calling them night modes, but they're wrong. Night mode should be reserved for the blue light filter that'll keep your screen from keeping you up while you surf YouTube in bed. Some manufacturers have included blue-light filters in the past, and third-party apps have offered it, too.

We shouldn't be lobbying Google for this. We should be lobbying everyone.

Then we have what I'm affectionately calling Material Dark, a Material Design-compliant UI based on a dark gray or black background with strong pops of accent colors. It's not enough to ask for an app to have a dark theme; it needs to be a well-designed and tested dark theme that fits current developer guidelines. Material Dark is what we should push for in Google's apps and in every app that we use and care about.

And we shouldn't just be lobbying Google for this. We should be lobbying everyone. Lobby Google to give us Material Dark Google Apps — please, please lobby Google for Material Dark Google Apps — but ask the developers of your favorite apps if they could add a dark theme. Samsung has a dark theme for most of its system apps, so ask Motorola and LG why your Moto G5 Plus and your LG G6 can't have a dark phone app so you won't burn your retinas answering a call at 5 in the morning to fill in for a sick coworker.

Lobby for Material Dark for individual apps rather than begging for some magical device-wide dark theme because individual apps can easily add a dark theme without a system or device upgrade like any system night mode would've required. It can reach more people and improve the experience for more users without having them shell out money for a new phone.

Also, think of this: how often do you open the Settings app on your phone? How often do you open YouTube? On which one would a dark theme matter more to you day-to-day? So why is it we bitch more about Settings not having Material Dark than YouTube? The white, bright Material Design theme on YouTube can take users out of the videos they're trying to watch and strain their eyes, meaning they watch fewer videos and Google loses views. Why doesn't YouTube use Material Dark — like YouTube Music already does — when users will get far more use out of it?

It can potentially double the UI work for a developer, but Material Dark is a feature that users actively seek out in their apps, and adding one can help developers make their apps stand out from the pack. But we have to ask developers to take the time and effort for it. Politely, repeatedly, and in numbers. I've been asking for a Material Dark Google Play Music app since the day they announced the current white/orange color scheme. I love pumpkin seeds — I will rock the jack-o-lantern music player! What apps do you want to see go Material Dark? Sound off in the comments!

13:35

Essential Phone coming to Canada as a Telus exclusive

Telus nabs Andy Rubin's Essential Phone for sole distribution up in Canada.

This was unexpected. Essential Phone, the titanium-and-ceramic wünderhandset from Android creator Andy Rubin's company of the same name, will debut in Canada later this summer on Telus.

The company said in a press release that the phone will be available for pre-order at the end of July, with availability later this summer. According to Rubin, Telus was chosen as the sole carrier "due to our strong alignment on the importance of continuous innovation and support for consumer choice."

Essential Phone Specs

Essential announced earlier this month that the Phone would be available for $699 when it goes on sale unlocked in the U.S. Sprint then came out as the sole U.S. carrier offering the phone. With Telus locked in for Canadian distribution, it would seem that Essential's strategy is in place.

Canadian pricing hasn't been confirmed just yet, but Telus said it will be available outright — likely for close to $1,000 given today's exchange rates — or on subsidy with select shared data plans. Telus also plans to sell Essential's 4K 360-degree camera accessory in its stores.

See at Telus

13:30
Microsoft AI beats Ms. Pac-Man with a perfect score
13:02

Allt tyder på att Iphone 8 får ansikts-igenkänning

En av Apples större underleverantörer bekräftar nu att man står i begrepp att leverera stora mängder 3D-linser till en telefontillverkare. Med stor sannolikhet handlar det om komponenter som ska användas för ansiktsigenkänning på Iphone 8.
13:01

Apple vill göra Iphone till en mobil patientjournal

Enligt uppgifter till CNBC ska Apple ha ”ett hemligt team” (nåja) som jobbar intensivt med att göra Iphone till en central informationsbank för användarnas hälsa.
13:00
Surface Pro Review 2017
13:00

How to shop on Amazon with Alexa

As an Amazon product, naturally you can buy things with Alexa. Here's how.

Everything Amazon ever does has some form of hook into buying things from its retail store. On its tablets, that extends to adverts on your lock screen, but on the Amazon Echo, it's pretty much the opposite.

You can use it to buy things from Amazon, but only if you want to. There're no ads, no up-sell. But instead of reaching for your phone or going on the computer, just ask Alexa to order things for you. Here's how.

<!--break-->

How to enable purchase by voice

The first thing you need to do is turn on the feature in the Alexa app on your phone, tablet, or in a web browser.

  1. Open the Amazon Alexa application.
  2. Tap the menu button. It's the three-line icon in the top left corner.
  3. Select settings from the menu.

  4. Scroll almost to the bottom and select voice purchasing.
  5. Turn the purchase by voice button to on.

  6. Below this, add a four-digit confirmation code to stop unauthorized purchases.
  7. Hit save changes.

That's all you need to do in the app for now. Before you can buy things from Amazon with your Echo, you need to follow the below criteria with regards your Amazon account. You need to have:

  • An annual or 30-day free trial Amazon Prime membership.
  • A U.S. shipping address (50 United States and the District of Columbia).
  • A payment method issued by a U.S. bank with a U.S. billing address in your 1-Click settings.
  • Voice purchasing enabled in the Alexa app.
  • A device with access to the Alexa Voice Service (such as Echo).

The same applies outside of the U.S., where you'll need to have the necessary payment, address and Prime subscription for your location.

To order a product through the Echo simply say:

Alexa, order a [insert product name here]

You then get the option to respond yes or no when Alexa asks you to confirm your order. You can also use a few other voice commands while shopping on the Echo such as re-ordering a previously purchased product.

Alexa, re-order [insert product name here]

In both cases, when ordering a product, you'll be asked for your four-digit code if you set it up as part of the confirmation process. It's worth making sure this is on and you keep it secret from anyone you don't want placing orders on your Amazon account.

You can also use Alexa to put items in your shopping cart for purchasing later online or in the Amazon app on your phone or tablet. To do this simply say:

Alexa, add [item] to my cart.

Your chosen items will then be waiting for you in your cart to checkout at a later date.

But what about cancellations? If you have a sudden change of heart, you can also cancel your order by asking Alexa to do it for you:

Alexa, cancel my order.

Your last order will now be canceled for you. If for any reason it can't, you'll have to go into the Amazon app or your account on the Amazon website to try and put the cancellation through.

And that's all there is to it. If you shop a lot on Amazon, which if you're an Echo owner is pretty likely, Alexa can help you order things with ease throughout the course of your day.

Download Amazon Alexa from the Google Play Store

See at Amazon

Questions?

Let us know in the comments below.

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12:44

Sphero made a Spider-Man your kids can talk to like an Amazon Echo

Sphero's contract with Disney now includes Marvel, which is great for all of us nerds. I guess kids will like it, too.

We've seen Sphero bring BB-8 and Lightning McQueen to life over the last year, but now is the time of superheroes. A little Spider-Man can now stand on a pedestal and interact with anyone who taps the logo on his chest, in a way that is not terribly unlike an Amazon Echo speaker without the wake command. What makes this little Spidey worth adding t your house? It's aimed at being a best friend for your kid.

Spider-Man by Sphero is a Wi-Fi enabled snark machine with eyes that animate with the audio from the speaker and lots of ways to play with kids. He will "guard" a bedroom, tell stores, and with the two hour battery inside can roam around the house with your kids to go on adventures. You know, standard friendly neighborhood hero stuff.

You can grab one of these little heroes starting today for $149. Will you be picking one up?

See on Amazon

12:30
Facebook marks GIF’s 30th birthday with comments GIFs, new GIFs
12:00
2018 Hyundai Kona First Drive: Better late than never for all-new SUV
12:00

Sphero Spider-Man Release Date, Price and Specs - CNET

Maybe your next assistant will be Iron Man.
12:00

Using Alexa Scenes to control your home like magic

How do I use Alexa Scenes?

Most connected home gadgets have a way to do things automatically or based on specific conditions. That's the whole appeal after all: being able to automate parts of your life. That might be changing the color temperature in your living room when it's time to watch a movie or maybe just making sure the cable box is set to a specific channel when you turn on your television. Either way, Amazon collects these little scripted behaviors and puts them in a voice-controlled system called Scenes. Here's how it works.

Discovering your Scenes

Amazon's Scene tab isn't for creating; it's for collecting. If you have a Logitech Harmony set up to control you TV, those instructions can be added to a collection. If you have a thermostat and lights working together to change your environment in specific conditions, that gets added to the collection.

It's basically anything that isn't automated but still part of the system. Instead of going to those individual apps to activate these scripts, Alexa gathers them up and lets you activate them with your voice.

How to discover Scenes

  1. Open your Alexa App.
  2. Tap on the Menu button.
  3. Tap Smart Home in the Menu.
  4. Tap Scenes.
  5. Tap Discover.

Alexa will now scan your local wireless network for any tech with a Scene to be collected. If you have a Philips Hue set, you'll need to press the sync button on the Hue Hub to give Alexa access to those scenes.

How to use Alexa Scenes

In your Scene list, you'll see everything you've set up for light bulbs, fans, thermostats, and other smart home things that can be on or off with a simple command. The Scene has a name, and if you say that name to Alexa, it will execute the series of commands in the Scene.

For example, if you have a Philips Hue Scene named "Bedtime" that slowly lowers the brightness when you give the command, you can say "Alexa, turn on Bedtime," and the Scene will start. If you have scenes that work in multiple rooms, adjust the command to include the name of the room after and it will work.

Questions or comments?

Do you have an Alexa Scene you rely on every day? Share your favorites in the comments!

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11:15
Galaxy J7 Max, J7 Pro come with “Social Camera”, Samsung Pay
10:30
Your iPhone could soon contain your entire medical history
10:30

Grab Samsung's USB-C cable for just $8 today

With Samsung’s latest phones moving from Micro-USB to USB-C, you may be in need of a few more cables for around the house. Samsung’s 3ft option is a great one to have around, and today you can pick it up for just $8.

10:00

Honor 9 is the sum of many incremental upgrades, and that's just fine

The biggest upgrades in this year's Honor flagship will be software, camera, and audio.

The Honor 9 won't be announced in Europe for another couple of weeks — a launch event is scheduled for June 27 — but thanks to the standard early Chinese launch, we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the handset. <!--break-->

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It's the direct successor to the Honor 8, one of our favorite mid-priced flagships of 2016, and packs much the same internal hardware as the recently launched Honor 8 Pro. To wit:

  • Kirin 960 processor
  • 4GB or 6GB RAM
  • 64 or 128GB storage + SD
  • 12MP (color) + 20MP (monochrome) rear cameras, f/2.2 lenses
  • Laser AF + PDAF
  • 8MP front camera, f/2.0 lens
  • 4K video support (main camera only)
  • Dual SIM support
  • 5.15-inch 1080p IPS LCD with DCI-P3 color space, 2.5D curved glass
  • Front-facing fingerprint scanner

Despite similarities, Huawei and Honor aren't competing so directly anymore.

In other words, similar — but not identical — to the P10 phone released by the Huawei mothership a few months back. But in contrast to last year's arrangement, where the Huawei P9 and Honor 8 were very closely matched, there are some key spec differences. If you ignore the ongoing oleophobic coating issue, the Huawei P10 mostly comes out ahead on specs.

The Honor 9 has:

  • No OIS
  • f/2.0 lens for the front camera, down from f/1.9
  • 9V/2A quick charging, not the faster Huawei SuperCharge
  • And Gorilla Glass 5 isn't mentioned on the spec sheet, so presumably the Honor 9 will use version 3 or 4 of Corning's hardened glass.

That's alongside the obvious external differences, which mostly amount to a matter of personal taste. Once again, Honor's flagship phone features a glass and metal chassis, with curved "3D glass" on the back, formed of 15 layers of the material. The curved rear panel should give the Honor 9 a more comfortable in-hand fit, while tighter joins between the metal and glass should hopefully eliminate the unfortunate "hovercraft" effect that caused the Honor 8 to slide its way off flat surfaces.

The greater differentiation between the Honor 9 and P10 line are important in that it allows Huawei's two brands to avoid competing so directly with themselves. Based on the Chinese pricing, the Honor 9 will land at a price tier below the P10, and so the slight spec downgrade is to be expected. That's in contrast to the situation last year, where the Honor 8 was both ahead on specs and priced below the P9 at many retailers.

Upgrades in important areas across the board — but nothing revolutionary.

The jump from Honor 8 to Honor 9 doesn't bring about any revolutionary changes — and that's fine, because it doesn't really need to. Externally, the most noticeable shake-up is the relocation of the fingerprint scanner to the front of the phone. (And from what we've seen of the software so far, we can expect the P10's optional swipe input on the fingerprint scanner to carry across as well.) On the inside, the upgraded Kirin 960 CPU and ARM Mali-G71 GPU should bring performance improvements across the board, most notably in gaming, where the older Mali-T880MP4 lagged behind a little.

The camera hardware lands somewhere between the Mate 9 and Honor 8 Pro — so expect good photos, if not the very best. The Honor 8 Pro conjured up impressive pics out of a similar hardware setup, so hopefully the new 12+20MP combo will build on that without sacrificing low-light performance. The new Honor phone also inherits the Mate's "hybrid zoom" function, which uses the secondary sensor to bring out more fine detail in zoomed photos.

And Honor is plugging its new "HiSten" 3D Surround audio system in its Chinese promotional materials for the phone. The new Hi-Fi audio chip is tuned by Grammy Award winner Rainer Maillard, who makes a cameo on the product page. (And yes, the increasingly rare headphone jack is included.)

What's far, far more important than any of those hardware changes is the Honor 9's software. EMUI 5.1 is an enormous upgrade compared to the old, clutzy version 4.1, and having this software at launch is important. In contrast to the relatively low-key, online-only Honor 8 Pro, a lot more attention (and marketing money) will be given to the Honor 9, so it's important that a great software experience is present from the get-go.

So that's what we're expecting from the Honor 9 based on what's been revealed in the Chinese marketing materials so far. A sharper take on a familiar design, some predictable internal hardware upgrades and a focus on improved camera and audio quality. You still don't get wireless charging, water resistance, Super Charging or a 2K display, but then you wouldn't necessarily expect those things in a handset at this price point.

The Honor 9 might still undercut the OnePlus 5 on price.

Incidentally, incremental spec bumps and an improved camera system are also what we're expecting to see from the Honor 9's principal rival in the affordable flagship segment, the OnePlus 5.

Price-wise, the base model 4GB + 64GB Honor 9 will sell for the equivalent of $340 in China — but a word of warning that Western prices for Honor phones almost never match the super competitive Chinese pricing. I'd expect something around the $400 mark to be a more realistic target. Nevertheless, with rumors pointing to a $500 price tag for the OnePlus 5, Honor could still bring plenty of fight to its main rival at a lower price.

Keep it locked to Android Central over the next couple of weeks. We'll be live from the European Honor 9 launch event in Germany to bring you the final details — in English! — as they arrive.

09:45
Google Drive will soon make it easy to Backup and Sync PCs, Macs
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