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Best of Android 2017: What phone offers the best User Experience?

fa7c4_Best-of-Android-2017-boa-user-experience-header-840x473 Best of Android 2017: What phone offers the best User Experience?

The latest flagship Android smartphones are becoming increasingly homogenous, with similar specs and features, and as such, the differences are constantly getting smaller. How do you decide which device offers the best overall package?

For most users, it comes down to the overall experience, and this week, we’ve explored different areas of the overall experience, including the display, audio, battery, performance and camera. The other key area that needs to be explored is the actual user experience, but how do you assess how good a phone’s UX is, when each person gets value from a different feature?

How we tested the UX

Trying to decide which phone offers the best user experience is probably the most challenging thing when assessing smartphones. While things like display quality, battery life and performance are all quantifiable, user experience is mostly subjective.

For Best of Android 2017, our approach to user experience was simple: which phone ticks all the hardware and software features that we feel make up a flagship device? Our UX testing spans every area of a phone, from hardware features including display, audio, battery and camera to software features such as speed of updates, whether it’s running the latest OS, how close a device is to stock Android and additional features that help set phones apart from each other.

While the rest of Best of Android is based on objective data from cumulative testing, the user experience section is about the overall experience, as well as the unique features that each device has to offer.

In total, there are 119 points available for each device in the UX section. To name just a few criteria, we awarded points for features like dual stereo speakers, HDR displays, amps, wireless charging, dual cameras, expandable storage, water resistance, IR blasters, payment services, and many others. For brevity’s sake, we won’t break down the full list of features (and the corresponding points) of each phone, and only list their final scores. Let’s take a look at each device and what makes them unique.

fa7c4_Best-of-Android-2017-boa-user-experience-header-840x473 Best of Android 2017: What phone offers the best User Experience?

BlackBerry KEYone Black

Without doubt, the KEYone is one of the most unique devices on the list as it’s the only one to offer a full QWERTY keyboard. A throwback to a previous era, the KEYone offers pretty impressive specs – at least for a BlackBerry – but other than the keyboard, there’s not a lot that stands out about the KEYone. The large bezels, slow updates, older OS, and otherwise lack of standout features mean the KEYone scores bottom of our overall UX rankings with 33 points.

Razer Phone

A newcomer to the smartphone space, the Razer Phone is a smartphone designed for gamers and while it looks great on paper, we’ve found the phone doesn’t quite deliver on all of its promises. However, features such as an outstanding variable refresh rate display – which is the first smartphone to go all the way up to 120Hz – help the Razer Phone score a little higher than the BlackBerry at 40 points.

OnePlus 5T

Next up is the OnePlus 5T, and OnePlus’ latest smartphone takes the excellent OnePlus 5 and makes it a little better with a taller display and smaller bezels. A higher screen-to-body ratio helps differentiate the 5T from its sibling but other than this, there’s not a lot that stands out about OnePlus 5T. A score of 42 points is indicative of its overall UX placing.

Moto Z2 Force

Next up on our list is the Moto Z2 Force which offers something different to all the other devices on our list: expandability. Specifically, the ability to use Moto Mods with the handset means you can add new features, as well as improve on the existing ones. Whether it’s the speaker and battery mods to improve those features, or the projector and gaming mods to offer new ways to use your smartphone, Moto Mods help make the Moto Z2 Force what it is and it scores 45 points in total.

fa7c4_Best-of-Android-2017-boa-user-experience-header-840x473 Best of Android 2017: What phone offers the best User Experience?

Google Pixel 2 XL

Next up is Google’s latest smartphone and while the rest on our list have a feature or two that some consider gimmicky, the Pixel 2 XL offers the Android experience as Google imagined it. Unfortunately, as far as wish-lists for smartphones go, the latest OS and speed of updates only go a little way towards addressing the lack of features that we feel should be present in all flagships, such as a dual camera and expandable memory. A score of 48 points puts the Pixel 2 XL firmly in the middle of the pack as far as the UX goes.

Nokia 8

Nokia’s back, or at least in some form. Finnish company HMD bought us the first Nokia Android phones earlier this year and the company’s first flagship, the Nokia 8, has certainly surprised all of the team here with its overall experience. The dual camera, splash-proof IP rating and great front camera help the Nokia 8 score 49 points overall.

Sony Xperia XZ1

Sony might release a lot of smartphones but its latest flagship, the XZ1, is definitely an interesting smartphone. It offers a lot we’d expect from a flagship including expandable storage, excellent camera features in the form of the 3D scanning, latest Oreo OS and all-round impressive hardware help the XZ1 score 52 points overall.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro

Now to the top 3 and where these phones stand out from the rest is that they tick a lot of hardware boxes we’d expect from the best smartphones. The Mate 10 Pro is the first of these with an excellent Leica dual camera, supremely small bezels, high base storage and HDR 10 support in its display. The lack of latest OS, notoriously slower updates compared to other devices and duplicated apps somewhat detract from the overall experience, but the Mate 10 Pro comes third with a score of 58 points.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

The Galaxy Note 8 is next up on the list and firmly splits the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and the overall UX winner, the LG V30. Samsung bounced back from a horrendous late 2016 with some outstanding devices this year and the Note 8 has blown away a lot of the competition thanks to its S-Pen, outstanding display which also supports HDR 10 and features such as the edge screen. The biggest let downs in the overall experience are that it’s not running the latest OS version and there are quite a few duplicated apps. A score of 61 points is indicative of an overall very good smartphone.

LG V30

The winner of the UX section is the LG V30 as LG’s flagship ticks more boxes than any of the competition. Although not running the latest Oreo OS, the V30 hits all boxes as far as display and audio features go, as well as having above-par shock protection, dual cameras, expandable storage and a lot more. Although it’s not running the latest OS and the interface won’t be for everyone, the LG V30 stands out with 64 points, especially thanks to the excellent features it has in its camera!

fa7c4_Best-of-Android-2017-boa-user-experience-header-840x473 Best of Android 2017: What phone offers the best User Experience?

fa7c4_Best-of-Android-2017-boa-user-experience-header-840x473 Best of Android 2017: What phone offers the best User Experience?fa7c4_Best-of-Android-2017-boa-user-experience-header-840x473 Best of Android 2017: What phone offers the best User Experience?

Conclusion

There you have it, the winner of our UX comparison is the LG V30, and it’s closely followed by the Galaxy Note 8 and the Huawei Mate 10 Pro. The V30 only scores 53% of the available points however, and this is more indicative of smartphones in general. While different phones offer different features, no one phone offers everything we want to see in a flagship device.

Which phone do you think is the phone of the year? Let us know by voting in the poll below, as your vote counts towards which phone we’re going to crown the People’s Choice Phone of the Year 2017!

Remember, you could win one of the three smartphones that come placed first, second and third overall! To enter, check out all the details in the widget below and for five extra entries, use this unique code: BOAUX7.

Best of Android 2017 3 Phone Mega Giveaway!


Credits

Series Contributors: Rob TriggsGary Sims, Edgar Cervantes, Sam Moore, Oliver Cragg, David Imel
Series Editors: Nirave Gondhia, Bogdan Petrovan, Chris Thomas

Microsoft’s Android apps offer the best Windows mobile experience to date

A few weeks ago, we did something weird. We set aside the Google Pixel launcher on the Pixel XL in favor of the new Microsoft Launcher, Microsoft’s rebranded Arrow Android launcher, which was first launched back in 2015. Then, we took it a step further and downloaded and made default both the new Microsoft Edge browser for Android, and Cortana for Android.

The result? The best Microsoft mobile experience available.

It’s no secret that Windows Mobile has failed. Not only is its market share tiny, but a Microsoft executive also recently admitted that development of Windows Mobile was effectively over — putting in serious doubt rumors of a new Microsoft Surface Phone. So it makes sense that the company would instead focus its attention on getting Microsoft apps and services onto third-party mobile operating systems, and it makes sense that it would start with Android, where it can effectively take over your mobile life. What we didn’t expect is that it would actually deliver.

The launcher

If you’re looking to turn your Android phone into an Android-Microsoft hybrid, then the core of that experience is the Microsoft Launcher, which, as mentioned, is essentially a rebranding of the Arrow launcher from 2015. When Arrow was first launched, it impressed reviewers, and since then it has only grown better. It’s clean, well-organized, and offers a few tricks that other launchers don’t have.


There are a few things to get used to, especially as a Pixel user. For example, from the home screen swiping up won’t reveal the app tray — it’ll reveal a few favorite apps that you can place, as well as quick settings like Wi-Fi, airplane mode, Bluetooth, and so on. To get to the app tray, you’ll tap the small app tray button that’s still present on many Android launchers, and was even a staple of stock Android until recently. Once you pull up the tray, you’ll notice a very clean, alphabetically organized experience. At the top, you’ll find a list of recent apps, and a menu where you can choose to hide those recent apps or organize apps horizontally. You can even hide apps that you want to keep private.

Some might find it more useful than Google Now.

The launcher does away with Google Now, too. Instead of getting Google Now when you swipe left, you’ll get a rundown of your recent activity, events you have for the day, quick access to contacts you talk to a lot, and news. The feed does learn as it goes, and some might find it more useful than Google Now considering the recent activity section, from which you can see recently snapped photos and calls.

At the top of the home screen, you’ll find a search bar, and you can customize that search bar to your preferred apps and services. Because we wanted to test how well Microsoft’s services all worked together, we used Edge with Bing, and it worked pretty smoothly.

One of the coolest things about the launcher comes when you have a Windows PC. If you have your Windows computer updated to the latest version of Windows 10, you can link your phone and your computer — after which you can quickly and easily “Continue on PC.” What this means is that you can take a photo and immediately see it on your computer, or edit a document on Office and then continue editing it on your computer once you get to your desk.

So why is all this better than just having a Windows phone? Well, we strongly believe that Android is an overall better and easier to use operating system on mobile, plus this way you have access to the massive range of apps available on the Google Play Store.

The browser

Reviews for Microsoft Edge have been mixed, and that’s only likely to continue on Android. Still, while there’s no need to use Edge with the Microsoft launcher, those seriously plugged into the Microsoft ecosystem — and those that use Edge on their PC — might want to.


It’s actually a pretty good experience on Android. On the main screen, you’ll find the navigation bar at the top, but contrary to Google Chrome you’ll get some controls at the bottom. By default, those include forward and back buttons, a button to view all your open tabs, and a menu button. You’ll also get a “Continue on PC” button, which makes it super easy to send what you’re doing over to your PC without having to go through any extra taps or steps. Continue on PC only works if you have the latest version of Windows, but once you’re all updated and ready to go, it works pretty smoothly.

There are still a few bugs to work out with the system. Once or twice, my phone wasn’t able to find the computer and prompted me to link my PC. It’s also important to note that on Windows, the system uses Edge — even if your default is set to something else, like Chrome. We would like to see the whole Continue on PC system speed up a bit — it often took a few seconds to find a linked PC — but it wasn’t really a big deal to wait those few seconds and it was never more than a few.

In general, using Microsoft Edge on Android was a smooth experience.

The main complaint we have with the Continue on PC feature is that it’s too limited. For example, users should be able to continue editing a Word document on their computer or phone. There’s no reason this can’t expand to all of Microsoft’s apps — and we’d like to see it do so. Of course, that’s probably in the works. Microsoft just brought the launcher out of beta, and the Continue on PC feature is totally new.

In general, using Microsoft Edge on Android was a smooth experience. The overall design looks and feels pretty similar to Edge on Windows, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re signed in to your account, things like favorites and your reading list will sync, which is handy for those that want a uniform experience. Severely lacking from that uniform experience, however, is the ability to open all of your open tabs at once from Android to Windows. According to other reports, that feature is to come soon — which is good news.

The experience

What can make or break a mobile experience lies in how well a company’s products all work together. That doesn’t just mean how well the phone works with the computer, but also how the launcher, browser, and digital assistant all work together on a single device — the smartphone.

You may have noticed that we haven’t talked much about Cortana for Android yet. Unfortunately, it’s the real point of failure in Microsoft’s Android ecosystem. It’s slow, often gets things wrong, and it can’t be voice activated outside of the Cortana app. There’s not really much that Microsoft can do about that — the thing about building a service and the operating system that a service works on is that you can integrate the two together, allowing you to control third-party apps, and use that important always-listening feature. Google knows that, and because of it Google Assistant is still the best digital assistant on Android — and will likely remain so, at least for the foreseeable future.

Conclusions

The best thing about Microsoft’s products on Android is how well they work with your PC. If you’re a Windows user, who also sticks with Edge and often uses apps like Office and OneDrive, then Microsoft’s Android apps and launcher could actually end up being super helpful for you. Us? We’re reverting to Chrome and Google Assistant, and it’s hard to pass on the Pixel launcher, which gives a lot more access to all the Google services that we’ve been using for years now.

It’s tempting to switch though. It’s tempting to get rid of the Mac and adopt Windows full-time rather than just when we’re testing Microsoft stuff. Integration between devices is a big deal, and while Apple is doing a pretty good job of it, and Microsoft is working hard to get better at it, Android users have been a little left out so far, if they choose to use Google’s apps and services.

You can download all of Microsoft’s new Android offerings for yourself at the Google Play Store. Head here for the Microsoft Launcher, here for Edge for Android, and here for Cortana for Android.




Microsoft’s Android apps offer the best Windows mobile experience to date

A few weeks ago, we did something weird. We set aside the Google Pixel launcher on the Pixel XL in favor of the new Microsoft Launcher, Microsoft’s rebranded Arrow Android launcher, which was first launched back in 2015. Then, we took it a step further and downloaded and made default both the new Microsoft Edge browser for Android, and Cortana for Android.

The result? The best Microsoft mobile experience available.

It’s no secret that Windows Mobile has failed. Not only is its market share tiny, but a Microsoft executive also recently admitted that development of Windows Mobile was effectively over — putting in serious doubt rumors of a new Microsoft Surface Phone. So it makes sense that the company would instead focus its attention on getting Microsoft apps and services onto third-party mobile operating systems, and it makes sense that it would start with Android, where it can effectively take over your mobile life. What we didn’t expect is that it would actually deliver.

The launcher

If you’re looking to turn your Android phone into an Android-Microsoft hybrid, then the core of that experience is the Microsoft Launcher, which, as mentioned, is essentially a rebranding of the Arrow launcher from 2015. When Arrow was first launched, it impressed reviewers, and since then it has only grown better. It’s clean, well-organized, and offers a few tricks that other launchers don’t have.


There are a few things to get used to, especially as a Pixel user. For example, from the home screen swiping up won’t reveal the app tray — it’ll reveal a few favorite apps that you can place, as well as quick settings like Wi-Fi, airplane mode, Bluetooth, and so on. To get to the app tray, you’ll tap the small app tray button that’s still present on many Android launchers, and was even a staple of stock Android until recently. Once you pull up the tray, you’ll notice a very clean, alphabetically organized experience. At the top, you’ll find a list of recent apps, and a menu where you can choose to hide those recent apps or organize apps horizontally. You can even hide apps that you want to keep private.

Some might find it more useful than Google Now.

The launcher does away with Google Now, too. Instead of getting Google Now when you swipe left, you’ll get a rundown of your recent activity, events you have for the day, quick access to contacts you talk to a lot, and news. The feed does learn as it goes, and some might find it more useful than Google Now considering the recent activity section, from which you can see recently snapped photos and calls.

At the top of the home screen, you’ll find a search bar, and you can customize that search bar to your preferred apps and services. Because we wanted to test how well Microsoft’s services all worked together, we used Edge with Bing, and it worked pretty smoothly.

One of the coolest things about the launcher comes when you have a Windows PC. If you have your Windows computer updated to the latest version of Windows 10, you can link your phone and your computer — after which you can quickly and easily “Continue on PC.” What this means is that you can take a photo and immediately see it on your computer, or edit a document on Office and then continue editing it on your computer once you get to your desk.

So why is all this better than just having a Windows phone? Well, we strongly believe that Android is an overall better and easier to use operating system on mobile, plus this way you have access to the massive range of apps available on the Google Play Store.

The browser

Reviews for Microsoft Edge have been mixed, and that’s only likely to continue on Android. Still, while there’s no need to use Edge with the Microsoft launcher, those seriously plugged into the Microsoft ecosystem — and those that use Edge on their PC — might want to.


It’s actually a pretty good experience on Android. On the main screen, you’ll find the navigation bar at the top, but contrary to Google Chrome you’ll get some controls at the bottom. By default, those include forward and back buttons, a button to view all your open tabs, and a menu button. You’ll also get a “Continue on PC” button, which makes it super easy to send what you’re doing over to your PC without having to go through any extra taps or steps. Continue on PC only works if you have the latest version of Windows, but once you’re all updated and ready to go, it works pretty smoothly.

There are still a few bugs to work out with the system. Once or twice, my phone wasn’t able to find the computer and prompted me to link my PC. It’s also important to note that on Windows, the system uses Edge — even if your default is set to something else, like Chrome. We would like to see the whole Continue on PC system speed up a bit — it often took a few seconds to find a linked PC — but it wasn’t really a big deal to wait those few seconds and it was never more than a few.

In general, using Microsoft Edge on Android was a smooth experience.

The main complaint we have with the Continue on PC feature is that it’s too limited. For example, users should be able to continue editing a Word document on their computer or phone. There’s no reason this can’t expand to all of Microsoft’s apps — and we’d like to see it do so. Of course, that’s probably in the works. Microsoft just brought the launcher out of beta, and the Continue on PC feature is totally new.

In general, using Microsoft Edge on Android was a smooth experience. The overall design looks and feels pretty similar to Edge on Windows, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re signed in to your account, things like favorites and your reading list will sync, which is handy for those that want a uniform experience. Severely lacking from that uniform experience, however, is the ability to open all of your open tabs at once from Android to Windows. According to other reports, that feature is to come soon — which is good news.

The experience

What can make or break a mobile experience lies in how well a company’s products all work together. That doesn’t just mean how well the phone works with the computer, but also how the launcher, browser, and digital assistant all work together on a single device — the smartphone.

You may have noticed that we haven’t talked much about Cortana for Android yet. Unfortunately, it’s the real point of failure in Microsoft’s Android ecosystem. It’s slow, often gets things wrong, and it can’t be voice activated outside of the Cortana app. There’s not really much that Microsoft can do about that — the thing about building a service and the operating system that a service works on is that you can integrate the two together, allowing you to control third-party apps, and use that important always-listening feature. Google knows that, and because of it Google Assistant is still the best digital assistant on Android — and will likely remain so, at least for the foreseeable future.

Conclusions

The best thing about Microsoft’s products on Android is how well they work with your PC. If you’re a Windows user, who also sticks with Edge and often uses apps like Office and OneDrive, then Microsoft’s Android apps and launcher could actually end up being super helpful for you. Us? We’re reverting to Chrome and Google Assistant, and it’s hard to pass on the Pixel launcher, which gives a lot more access to all the Google services that we’ve been using for years now.

It’s tempting to switch though. It’s tempting to get rid of the Mac and adopt Windows full-time rather than just when we’re testing Microsoft stuff. Integration between devices is a big deal, and while Apple is doing a pretty good job of it, and Microsoft is working hard to get better at it, Android users have been a little left out so far, if they choose to use Google’s apps and services.

You can download all of Microsoft’s new Android offerings for yourself at the Google Play Store. Head here for the Microsoft Launcher, here for Edge for Android, and here for Cortana for Android.




Big Island students get hands-on experience in computer science

Nine-year-old Jayden Cortez generally plays Minecraft at home while tinkering around on his iPad.

On Thursday, the Chiefess Kapi‘olani Elementary School third-grader got to learn the concepts used to actually create the popular video game — by programming movements into a simulated piece of a Minecraft world himself.

“This is kind of brand-new to me but it’s fun,” Jayden said, hunched over his laptop screen as he dragged and dropped “blocks” of instructions — the basics of block-based coding — into the program workspace. “You get to play Minecraft, do new things in the game and also learn.”

Kapi‘olani is one of 14 Hawaii Island public schools participating this week in the Hour of Code, a nationwide movement designed to expose youth to computer science, “demystify” coding and forge student interest in the field at an early age.

Hour of Code began four years ago. Thousands of schools throughout the country now participate. It takes place each year during Computer Science Week, which runs through Sunday this year.

Participating students learn coding through a range of free tutorials provided by the nonprofit Code.org.

“(Computer science) is almost like a basic skill now for a lot of future professions,” said Kapi‘olani technology coordinator Jonette Fujitake, who led Thursday’s Hour of Code activities. “So the goal is to springboard or kick-start this whole idea of computer science and to get them excited about it. The hope with this program is that we continue. They are going to have to have this skill. We want to get them exposed now so they’ll get comfortable and … equalize that playing field when they’re older.”

“And the students are so into it,” Fujitake added. “They think they’re playing, but what they don’t realize is they’re creating lines of block code.”

For Hawaii students interested in computer science, the job outlook is bright: The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the need for computer and information research scientists will grow 19 percent from 2016-26, which is “much faster than the average for all occupations.”

In Hawaii, there are 1,169 open computing jobs compared with 155 computer scientist graduates in 2015, according to Code.org. Nationally, there were 59,581 graduates in 2015 compared to 527,169 jobs available.

The average wage for a computing job in Hawaii is $80,734 compared with the state’s overall average wage of $49,430, Code.org said.

Nationally, just 40 percent of schools teach computer science, however, and in Hawaii just 12 schools offered AP Computer Science in the 2015-16 school year, according to Code.org.

At Kapi‘olani, technology is a focus of the school’s academic plan, Fujitake said. The school currently features a one-to-one technology device ratio for each child. Fujitake said students picked up coding concepts “extremely easily” and seemed to have gleaned additional skills through the tutorials, such as teamwork and problem solving.

“You can just see the gratification when they’ve conquered whatever the problem is they’re trying to figure out,” Fujitake said.

For Jearisha Souleng, 8, coding was a new but exciting endeavor. She and classmate Kaimi Andrews-Facchini, 8, laughed as they dragged blocks of instructions into the workspace portion of their screens Thursday, causing characters to move when code was “run.”

“It’s a little difficult and hard but fun,” Jearisha said, adding her favorite part is “just playing the game.”

“I’ve (played Minecraft) before on my mom’s phone,” Kaimi added. “I think this is fun because it shows you how to explore and learn.”

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

‘Anyone can do it’: Students get hands-on experience computer coding

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3 accessories to make your iPhone X experience more complete

The iPhone X is an incredible piece of technology. But if you want the “complete” iPhone X experience, you’re going to need to open your wallet again for a few must-have accessories.

Take a look:


A good case

50311_49dc15ed4df441558ce5c1fa2b53786179915a37-800x480 3 accessories to make your iPhone X experience more complete

I’m not a big fan of cases, but owning a case is an absolute necessity if you own the iPhone X, which has both a glass front and a glass back.

There’s one good reason you’ll want a case: Repairing the iPhone X can be extremely expensive.

If you break the iPhone X’s front screen, you’ll pay:

• $29 if you bought AppleCare+

• $279 if you’re not under warranty

If you break the iPhone X’s back glass, it’s even more costly:

• $99 if you bought AppleCare+

• $549 if you’re not under warranty

That’s not a typo – you will literally pay roughly half the price of your iPhone X if you don’t have AppleCare+ and you need to get the phone’s glass back repaired.

So please, for your own sake, get a case. My colleague Avery Hartmans rounded up the best iPhone X cases you can buy, but I would personally recommend you get a case from Apple (they make some very nice silicone and leather cases) or Society6, which has hundreds of thousands of different fun designs to choose from.


A wireless charger

50311_49dc15ed4df441558ce5c1fa2b53786179915a37-800x480 3 accessories to make your iPhone X experience more complete

The iPhone 8 and X models are the first iPhones to support fast charging and wireless charging, but given how fantastic the battery life is on these new iPhones, I wouldn’t recommend a fast charger; they’re expensive solutions for a problem you won’t really have with the iPhone X. On average, I end each day with about 60% left on my iPhone’s battery, so I personally don’t have occasions where I need to quickly charge my phone.

Wireless chargers, though, are totally worth your money: Since your phone will almost certainly make it through a full day, you just place your iPhone X on a charging pad when you’re ready to go to sleep, and by the time you wake up, it’ll be fully charged. Or, you can put the phone down for a few minutes and pick it back up whenever you need. It’s a much more fluid and elegant solution compared to continually unplugging and replugging your phone into a Lightning connector.

As for a specific charger, I would highly recommend buying Belkin’s BoostUp wireless charging pad for iPhone X and iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Belkin was kind enough to let me borrow a review unit and I’m thrilled with the product: It’s simple, looks beautiful, and works effortlessly. You just plug a into a socket, connect the cord to the charging pad that rests on your table or nightstand, and you’re all set! Just place your iPhone on the pad (in any orientation, just in the middle), and it’ll start charging. It works instantly, feels very futuristic to use, and makes the iPhone X feel like a more complete experience.

My colleague Steven Tweedie is a big fan of Samsung’s wireless charging pad, which can also prop up your iPhone X at an angle on your nightstand.


AirPods (or any wireless headphones)

50311_49dc15ed4df441558ce5c1fa2b53786179915a37-800x480 3 accessories to make your iPhone X experience more complete

The iPhone X comes with a dongle in case you want to plug in your favorite pair of wired headphones, but honestly, it’s almost 2018, and you should really own yourself a nice set of wireless headphones at this point. You can get wireless headphones for pretty cheap these days, and they offer a ton of great benefits – like not feeling tethered to a tiny device in your pocket. It’s a freedom you need to try for yourself.

Of course, it’s no surprise Apple products work best with other Apple products, so for wireless headphones I would recommend Apple’s $170 AirPods, which are easily my favorite pair of wireless headphones and are worth that price; you could also consider Beats’ way more expensive Solo3 ($330) or Studio3 ($400) headphones. All of those headphones sound excellent, and they come with Apple’s proprietary W1 chip that enables near-instant pairing between your iPhone X and your headphones. When you turn on your headphones, they’ll automatically connect to your device.

There are a ton of great wireless headphones out there – I’m partial to V-Moda’s Crossfade Wireless as an over-ear option, personally, but many people also swear by Sennheiser’s HD-1 headphones – but I love AirPods and would recommend them to just about anyone. Forget how they look to other people; they’re lightweight, sound excellent, and I find them very comfortable. For both listening to music and answering phone calls, to me, they’re the ideal complement for the iPhone X.

Computer science student gains tech field experience through ‘self-advocacy’

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Camille Buranday poses next to a Google sign. Buranday attended Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute the summer before her senior year of high school.

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

Camille Buranday poses next to a Google sign. Buranday attended Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute the summer before her senior year of high school.

For a freshman, management information systems major Camille Buranday is already ahead of the game, having spent the last few years exploring her preferred career field — technology.

“I’ve always known I wanted to be in tech — I just didn’t know if I wanted to work on the software, hardware or business side,” Buranday said. “I’ll most likely end up as an IT analyst, but, as long as I am working in the tech field, I know I’ll be happy.”

Buranday said she learned a number of valuable lessons from her high school teachers.

“The biggest thing I learned from my mentors in high school is self-advocacy,” Buranday said. “You have to go out there and create these opportunities because they won’t be handed to you.”

Just before her junior year of high school, Buranday began seeking out opportunities and applying for internships to get a head start on her goals. Taking initiative paid off.

For three weeks during the summer before her senior year of high school, Buranday attended Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute, where she learned about various coding languages and heard professionals speak about key aspects of jobs within the technology field.

The summer before that, she had the opportunity to study abroad at Pembroke College in Oxford, England.

“The application was extremely tedious,” Buranday said. “Several essays, a few short answers, numerous reference letters and typical things like transcript, resume, etc. The program actually only offered me a half scholarship, but I kept pushing them to reconsider my application. I honestly thought they got annoyed at me, but they finally got back to me with a full scholarship offer.”

Upon receiving the full scholarship, Buranday spent her last summer before college as a student in Oxford. Attending classes during the day and exploring the city during her downtime, she was able to get a sense of what collegiate life would entail prior to enrolling for her first semester at Wichita State.

“It was honestly a lot like college,” Buranday said. “A typical day would be class for a few hours in the morning, lunch, and then you were free to explore the city on your own, do homework, or participate in pre-planned activities. We also had field trips, talent shows, and a homecoming-type dance on Fridays.”

The entire program even took a day trip to London.

Even though she said her experience at Google is what really pushed her to pursue a degree in management information systems, Buranday said the effort and dedication that the Oxford application required, taught her a lot about how to take steps towards achieving her goals.

“My Oxford trip taught me that self-advocacy can get you to places you never thought you’d end up — literally,” Buranday said. “Being proactive and constantly putting myself out there were definitely my keys to success.”

deepin 15.5 Linux Distro Released — Get A Beautiful And Easy-to-use Linux Experience

After much anticipation, the deepin project has finally pushed the latest version of deepin Linux distro, i.e., deepin 15.5. Following its design philosophy, deepin continues to bring an attractive and easy to use desktop experience to the open source enthusiasts. These capabilities have helped this OS to find a good place on our lists of most beautiful and beginner-friendly Linux distros.

As expected, deepin 15.5 continues to refine its already near-perfect experience and brings important changes that need to be mentioned. So, let’s tell you about the changes in brief:

What’s new in deepin 15.5?

This release has brought the full support for HiDPI and ensures that the appropriate resolution for HiDPI is identified. As a result, your experience with fonts, icons, and overall interface will turn out to be more pleasant.

6cc57_hidpi-deepin-15.5 deepin 15.5 Linux Distro Released — Get A Beautiful And Easy-to-use Linux Experience

15.5 comes with pre-installed Deepin Clone and Deepin Recovery, which help you to clone, backup and restore your disks. Deepin Recovery lets you enter the repair mode directly from startup interface in case you’re facing some problem in booting.

Apart from gesture improvement, fingerprint support has also been added for supported devices for authentication purposes. With the new Wi-Fi Hotspot feature, you can also turn your PC into a wireless router and share the internet with others.

6cc57_hidpi-deepin-15.5 deepin 15.5 Linux Distro Released — Get A Beautiful And Easy-to-use Linux Experience

A new feature for auto color and temperature adjustment has been added to save you from visual fatigue and better sleep.

It goes without saying that the applications in Deepin Family have been updated; this list includes Deepin File Manager, Image Viewer, Screenshot, Screen Recorder, Terminal, Movie, etc.

6cc57_hidpi-deepin-15.5 deepin 15.5 Linux Distro Released — Get A Beautiful And Easy-to-use Linux Experience

Other small-big changes have been made to the installer, dock, control center, launcher, etc.

Download deepin 15.5

You can download deepin 15.5 Linux distro by visiting its download page. Please note that it’s available only for 64-bit versions.

Also Read: 6 Best Linux Music Players That Every User Must Try — (2017 Edition)

‘Third of mothers’ experience mental health issues

359e8__98968227_de27-1 'Third of mothers' experience mental health issues

Image caption

Lauren Doyle suffered PTSD after having her first daughter Ava

More than a third of mothers have experienced mental health issues related to parenthood, according to an online survey of 1,800 British parents by the BBC Radio 5 live and YouGov.

The study revealed that, in comparison, 17% of fathers had experienced similar issues.

More than two-thirds of the affected mothers sought professional help – suffering from conditions such as acute stress, severe anxiety and postpartum depression.

‘All mums feel like that’

Lauren Doyle experienced post-traumatic stress disorder after giving birth to her first daughter Ava.

“It just wipes you out really – you just become a completely different person,” said the mother-of-three from West Yorkshire.

“I’d get upset over something as simple as we’d ordered a takeaway and they’d forgotten the fried rice and I just couldn’t stop crying,” she said.

The birth was physically traumatic and it meant that Lauren and her daughter were looked after in different hospitals, which prevented them from developing a strong bond.

She said: “I didn’t think I was unwell. I thought, ‘All mums feel like that, this is just mum mode, I’m a mum now.’

“I’ve got to put up with feeling this way.”

Lauren would cry in the shops and find herself getting angry and upset all the time.

She also felt burdened with guilt when she couldn’t breastfeed.

“It’s another factor that makes you feel isolated, that you’re not being the best mum,” she said.

Image copyright
Supplied

Image caption

Lauren’s children Isaac, Isla and Ava

Lauren’s not alone. Many of the parents surveyed reported feeling criticised by a large number of people.

Mothers said their parents were the most critical of their parenting (26%), followed by their spouse/partner (24%) and other family members (18%).

About 14% said they had been criticised by strangers, compared with 5% of the 800 fathers who responded to the survey.

New parents can experience troubles in the workplace as well.

About 30% of mothers who responded said they had felt discriminated against at work through being a parent, compared with 14% of working fathers.

According to Citizens Advice, new mothers are reporting increasing levels of unfair treatment at work.

Image copyright
Supplied

The survey also found women turn to online forums for support more than men.

A total of 60% of women said they had received emotional support from their friends, 56% from their partner and 18% went online.

But 15% of mothers and a quarter of fathers say they didn’t receive any emotional support for their parenting at all. This is despite a growing understanding that postpartum depression affects men as well as women.

For Lauren, receiving support in her local community was challenging because she had recently moved to a new area and therefore didn’t have many established friendships.

The mother-of-three relied on her parents-in-law and her husband, Rob, who first noticed there was a problem and encouraged her to seek help.

“I didn’t know where to go to, where to turn to, to get support,” she said.

She saw a doctor after the birth of her second daughter Isla. She said all they could provide was medication and eventually received support through the parenting support group Pandas.

“It looked so effortless being a parent and that’s what I thought it was going to be,” she said.

Six years on, Lauren says things have improved. “I’m happy – I feel that I’m doing my job properly now.”

Watch the live stream of Mum Takeover on 5 live on Tuesday between 13:00 GMT and 15:00 on their website or Facebook page.

Transcriptable for Windows 10 creates a beautiful experience for transcribing audio

a5d35_Transcriptable-Hero_0 Transcriptable for Windows 10 creates a beautiful experience for transcribing audio

If you need to transcribe audio but can’t keep up with the speaker’s speed, you can slow them down with Transcriptable.

Transcribing audio can be a daunting task. You might be a fast typist, but listening to a speaker and typing what they’re saying in real time is a whole different challenge. Transcriptable allows you to slow down audio playback with much less distortion than if you just played audio at a slower speed.

The app also has hotkey support, can work with a foot pedal, and has a variety of equalizers and presets that make transcribing much easier. It’s worth checking out whehter you’re new to transcription or if you are expereinced and are looking for a software to enhance your workflow.

The app is available for Windows 10 for $39.99 and there is a free trial available to help you decide if it’s worth it.

See in Microsoft Store

Playback options

a5d35_Transcriptable-Hero_0 Transcriptable for Windows 10 creates a beautiful experience for transcribing audio

The biggest challenges when it comes to transcribing audio are understanding the speaker and being able to type as fast as they talk. Transcriptable addresses both of these concerns. You can edit the playback speed to a range of 20 percent to 250 percent and the app. Usually slowing down audio makes it sound ridiculous and almost impossible to understand but Transcriptable minimizes distortion. This feature works very well and you can reasonably use that app at any playback speed as long as the original audio quality is good, though it’s worth noting that any form of speech sounds off at one fifth its normal speed.

a5d35_Transcriptable-Hero_0 Transcriptable for Windows 10 creates a beautiful experience for transcribing audio

If your original audio has background noise that you need to take out, Transcriptable has an equalizer with a number of presets and also lets you do custom equalization. You can remove both high and low frequencies or remove just one end of the frequency range. There are also presets for male voices, female voices, and telephones calls.

The custom EQ setting is very handy because it lets you select five different Hz ranges that you can individually boost or reduce. For example, if you have a hissing noise from having to boost audio too much you can reduce the higher range or if you need to lower crowd noise you can reduce the lower range.

These equalizing controls can make a big difference when it comes to understanding a speaker, especially if they were recorded in less than ideal audio conditions.

Features for transcribers

a5d35_Transcriptable-Hero_0 Transcriptable for Windows 10 creates a beautiful experience for transcribing audio

The app’s playback options make hearing a speaker easier but Transcriptable also has a number of features that make typing easier. It supports hotkeys for playback but also has ten configurable hotkeys for phrases. For example, if you are transcribing a speech by the CEO of a company you could you have hotkeys for the company’s name, core products, names of key individuals, and other common phrases that are in the speech. You can then type these by pressing one key.

There’s also a hotkey for pasting a timestamp of your current playback location. This is essential when transcription is used in conjunction with editing audio or video because you can mark where a specific phrase occurs in a speech and then easily find it again later.

Transcriptable doesn’t have a text editor within the app but plays nice with your editor of choice. Hotkeys work within Microsoft Word, notepad, Appy Text, and presumably any other text editor.

Summary

a5d35_Transcriptable-Hero_0 Transcriptable for Windows 10 creates a beautiful experience for transcribing audio

Transcriptable is an easy-to-use app that makes transcription more efficient. The audio playback controls make it simple to slow down a recording with minimal distortion to audio quality, and hotkey support makes it a breeze to insert common phrases and words.

Sure, $39.99 is a lot for an app in 2017, but Transcriptable offers great audio control options and features specifically aimed at transcribers. It also has a free trial if you want to see if it’s worth the price.

Masterpiece

5/5
a5d35_Transcriptable-Hero_0 Transcriptable for Windows 10 creates a beautiful experience for transcribing audioa5d35_Transcriptable-Hero_0 Transcriptable for Windows 10 creates a beautiful experience for transcribing audioa5d35_Transcriptable-Hero_0 Transcriptable for Windows 10 creates a beautiful experience for transcribing audioa5d35_Transcriptable-Hero_0 Transcriptable for Windows 10 creates a beautiful experience for transcribing audioa5d35_Transcriptable-Hero_0 Transcriptable for Windows 10 creates a beautiful experience for transcribing audio

See in Microsoft Store

Groupy for Windows 10 delivers a tabbed File Explorer experience

aca80_Groupy-Hero_0 Groupy for Windows 10 delivers a tabbed File Explorer experience

Jumping between programs is easier than ever with Groupy, an app that lets you run apps, documents, and programs in tabbed groups for better organization and navigation.

Multitasking in Windows has come a long way since the one-app-at-a-time days of Windows 8. The app Groupy takes that journey even further by letting almost anything run in series of tabs.You can drag and drop documents and apps into groups of tabs, and still use keyboard shortcuts to jump between them.

The app is not yet widely available and is currently in a beta phase, but it should roll out to the public next month for $9.99. The beta is available to users of the Object Desktop software suite, which is currently on sale for $29.99.

Maximizing small screens

aca80_Groupy-Hero_0 Groupy for Windows 10 delivers a tabbed File Explorer experience

Many people use multiple monitors or an ultrawide screen to get more work space, but when you’re on a laptop or using a smaller screen, multitasking isn’t quite as smooth. Windows 10 has great snapping functionality, and the taskbar, but these aren’t as elegant as grouped tabs.

Groupy allows you to have groups of tabs that you can separate by category. You can have one window with content you need for work and another for entertainment, for example.

Using Groupy doesn’t replace any of Windows 10’s features because you can still snap windows, use Alt+tab, and click on programs and apps on the taskbar. Clicking on the taskbar even switches which tab is open within a window.

The end result is a fluid experience that better utilizes smaller screens, though it could also be used with multiple monitors or giant screens to streamline your workflow.

Tabbed File Explorer

aca80_Groupy-Hero_0 Groupy for Windows 10 delivers a tabbed File Explorer experience

Groupy works with a variety of apps and programs but it brings a feature that fans have been screaming for to the File Explorer. Using Groupy, you can have multiple tabs of the File Explorer open and drag and drop files between them.

It works rather seamlessly, as you can click on a file, drag it to the tab on the top of the window, and place it into a new folder or area. There’s no need to copy and paste, and using it makes it almost upsetting that Microsoft hasn’t brought tabs to the File Explorer already.

Groupy is an almost perfect app

aca80_Groupy-Hero_0 Groupy for Windows 10 delivers a tabbed File Explorer experience

Groupy is an excellent program with few flaws. The only complaint I have is that to resize windows you have to click and drag from the edge or corner of the app you are using within the tab, rather than the edge of the window containing the tabs. This is a small gripe and might be a limitation of Windows 10 rather than a choice by the developers of Groupy.

Once you start using Groupy, it’ll be hard to believe this feature wasn’t available earlier. The drag-and-drop mechanics are easy to use and customizable and make multitasking much easier, especially on smaller screens.

The $9.99 price is not cheap, but believe Groupy comes at a fair price.

Outstanding

4.5/5
aca80_Groupy-Hero_0 Groupy for Windows 10 delivers a tabbed File Explorer experienceaca80_Groupy-Hero_0 Groupy for Windows 10 delivers a tabbed File Explorer experienceaca80_Groupy-Hero_0 Groupy for Windows 10 delivers a tabbed File Explorer experienceaca80_Groupy-Hero_0 Groupy for Windows 10 delivers a tabbed File Explorer experienceaca80_Groupy-Hero_0 Groupy for Windows 10 delivers a tabbed File Explorer experience

Learn more about Groupy on Stardock.com

See Object Desktop suite

OnePlus 5T review: premium full-screen experience at half cost of iPhone X

The OnePlus 5T propels the Chinese company into the brave new era of full-screen smartphones, with a new 6in minimal bezel display squeezed into the body of a 5.5in device.

The 5T is OnePlus’s fourth phone in two years. Unlike the OnePlus 3 to 3T upgrade in 2016, the internal components for the 5T have mostly stayed the same as those of the OnePlus 5, with the screen and camera the biggest differences.

The 6in full HD+ AMOLED screen takes priority, stretching to fill the front of the device, bar the slim bezels at the sides and the relatively small top and bottom panels. It doesn’t look quite as impressively “full screen” as Apple’s iPhone X or Samsung’s Galaxy S8, but the 5T has visibly smaller bezels than most, including the Google Pixel 2 XL.

The screen isn’t as high resolution as some competitors, sticking with full HD+ as Huawei did for its Mate 10 Pro, but most won’t care because it clearly benefits battery life. It looks great with good contrast, solid viewing angles and your choice of colour calibration including sRGB and DCI-P3. It looks particularly good with full-screen video.



The fingerprint scanner on the back is one of the best in the business. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The back of the device has a gentle curve, making it feel great to hold, and a minimalist aesthetic in all black, with only the etched logo, fingerprint scanner, dual camera and flash visible. The antenna lines bend round the top and bottom edges in the same way they do on the OnePlus 5.

The fingerprint scanner on the back is genuinely great – up there with the best of them in speed and accuracy.

The OnePlus 5T feels solid in the hand, but weighing only 162g it is relatively light for a 6in smartphone. Most devices of that size weigh over 170g, including the 174g iPhone X, the 173g Samsung Galaxy S8+, the 175g Google Pixel 2 XL and the 178g Huawei Mate 10 Pro.

The 5T is also thinner than most at 7.3mm thick, and is 1.7mm narrower than the Pixel 2 XL, meaning you’re losing nothing in the design despite the phone’s reduced cost. You even get a headphone socket at the bottom, which makes the OnePlus one of the last top-end smartphones to still have one.

The only thing missing is water resistance. Where most flagship smartphones have a water resistance rating of IP67 or greater, the 5T lacks such assurances.

Specifications

  • Screen: 6in full HD AMOLED (401ppi)
  • Processor: octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
  • RAM: 6 or 8GB of RAM
  • Storage: 64 or 128GB
  • Operating system: Oxygen OS based on Android 7.1.1
  • Camera: 16MP + 20MP rear dual camera, 16MP front-facing camera
  • Connectivity: LTE, dual sim, Wi-Fiac, NFC, Bluetooth 5 and GPS
  • Dimensions: 156.1 x 75 x 7.3mm
  • Weight: 162g

Smooth performance and long battery life



The OnePlus 5T has great battery life and charges really fast, thanks to the company’s Dash Charge technology. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The OnePlus 5T has the same specifications as the OnePlus 5 and therefore the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor as used in the majority of top-end smartphones , but with more RAM than most, and options of either 6GB or 8GB.

Performance is excellent all round, with a level of sprightliness only seen on Android with the new Pixel 2 XL and Mate 10 Pro with Android Oreo. It’s testament to how much optimisation OnePlus clearly performs with its software, meaning I’m expecting great things once the 5T is updated to Oreo in the first quarter of 2018.

If you want Pixel-level smoothness, the 5T is as close as you can get without buying a Google phone.

One thing that has improved since the OnePlus 5 is battery life. Despite the larger screen the OnePlus 5T lasted more than 34 hours between charges, meaning I could start using it at 7am and it would make it all way the way through to gone 5pm on the next day.

That was while using the OnePlus 5T as my primary device with two sims loaded in it, browsing and using apps for six hours with hundreds of push emails and messages, watching 90 minutes of Netflix, taking around 30 photos and listening to around six hours of music via Bluetooth headphones. Most users will easily be able to go two days between charges.

The OnePlus 5T also charges really fast using the company’s proprietary Dash Charge system. Going from zero to 70% charge took just over 33 minutes, which means you’ll get around a day’s charge in well under 30 minutes.

Oxygen OS



Oxygen OS comes with lots of little customisation options and gestures. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The OnePlus 5T runs Oxygen OS 4.7, the company’s customised version of Android 7.1.1 Nougat, not the latest Android 8 Oreo that is available on a variety of new top-end smartphones.

Overall, Oxygen OS is a refined experience, which is only slightly tweaked from what is considered the standard Android experience. Small additions include the ability to run two versions of the same app side by side, such as two instances of WhatsApp for two phone numbers, which works very well, and more customisation options. Users can switch the order of the navigation keys, change status icons and use a variety of gestures to launch apps or features.

Oxygen OS is a very smooth and well implemented version of Android, it’s just a shame the OnePlus 5T isn’t launching with a version based on the improved Android 8 Oreo.

Camera



The OnePlus Camera app is much improved since last year, and is now one of the best in the business. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The OnePlus 5T’s dual-camera system is slightly different to that fitted to the 5. Instead of having one camera with a wide-angle lens and another with a telephoto lens, allowing users to get a 2x optical zoom, the 5T’s two cameras both have f/1.7 lenses.

The main 12-megapixel camera takes care of most duties, with help from the 20-megapixel secondary camera, which is great for depth effects such as portrait mode. But in low light conditions the phone switches over to the 20-megapixel camera, which combines four pixels into one to improve low-light performance, and for the most part it appears to work.

Low light shots were better than the OnePlus 5, with relatively good detail even in photos taken in dim street lighting. It wasn’t quite as good as the Pixel 2 XL at preserving fine detail and minimising blur, but it was fairly close.

The camera was also capable of producing excellent shots in better lighting, but the 2x “clear zoom” wasn’t very good, particularly on an overcast day. Pictures looked fine on the phone, but viewed at full resolution on a PC the images lost their crisp detail, an unfortunate consequence of digital zoom.

Portrait mode worked well at producing the pleasingly shallow depth of field effect, but it isn’t as good as the best of rival’s implementation, coming unstuck around fine detail such as hair.

The 16-megapixel selfie camera is also very good, although it looks a little soft when viewed at full resolution. The camera app is great, with plenty of options including lots of manual control and RAW output.

Observations



The optional ambient screen is clear and easy to read even in direct sunlight and didn’t appear to have much of an effect on the excellent battery life. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian
  • The USB-C port has quite sharp edges that are uncomfortable on my little finger when held at certain angles
  • It comes with a screen protection pre-installed and a soft plastic case in the box
  • Dash Charge works great, but the 5T requires OnePlus’s power adapter and cable to fast-charge
  • Dual-sim support means you can have two mobile phone numbers and plans at the same time in one phone
  • The alert slider that switches between ring, silent and do not disturb modes is great
  • OnePlus has had its support issues in the past but co-founder Carl Pei has pledged to improve support and software updates for current and new customers

Price

The OnePlus 5T comes only in “midnight black” and costs £449 for 64GB of storage and 6GB of RAM (buy here) or £499 for 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM.

For comparison, the 5.8in Galaxy S8 with 64GB of storage costs £689 (buy here), the 6.2in Galaxy S8+ with 64GB costs £779 (buy here), the the 6in Pixel 2 XL with 64GB costs £799 (buy here), the 5.5in Apple iPhone 8 Plus with 64GB costs £799 (buy here) and the 5.8in iPhone X with 64GB costs £999 (buy here).

Verdict

The OnePlus 5T is a brilliant phone. The large, good-looking 6in screen corrects one of the only flaws with the previous OnePlus 5 to produce a device that is thoroughly on-trend.

Its performance is top-notch, the cameras are good, the phone feels great and there’s even a headphone socket. If that wasn’t enough the 34-hour battery life is excellent. All it is missing are wireless charging, water resistance and the latest version of Android.

It would be a really good phone costing £600, but priced at just £449 makes the OnePlus 5T an absolute bargain, offering a top-notch experience for considerably less than the competition – you could buy two 5Ts and still have £100 spare for the cost of one iPhone X.

Pros: great battery life, good screen, good build, great performance, dual-Sim, good camera, Bluetooth 5

Cons: old version of Android, no IP water resistance rating, screen only FHD+, no wireless charging, no expandable storage, questions around support



The 6in screen is brilliant for watching video. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Other reviews

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Women’s Health Experience Expo helps local women get a jump start on their health – WILX

CHARLOTTE, Mich. (WILX) — The busyness of the holiday season leaves little time for doctors appointments or annual health screenings, but yesterday, AL!VE Health Club hosted the Women’s Health Experience Expo in Charlotte to give women a chance to focus on themselves and get a jump start on their health.

c3c6c_Untitled408 Women's Health Experience Expo helps local women get a jump start on their health - WILX

“women’s health is you know not just..breast health its not just cancer..It’s heart health its nutrition its exercise..It’s mental health..It’s all of those facets that we need to focus on. We want to impress upon them..you know.. the importance of that and taking a little time for themselves”, said Christina Campbell, ALl!VE Operations Manager.

The expo, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, offered healthy cooking demonstrations, wine tasting, massages, and exercise classes. Attendees also received a gift and free healthy catered lunch.

Various physicians had booths set up, giving women the opportunity to have health screenings and get information about different health topics.

News 10 spoke to some attendees who were not only appreciative of the day off, but thankful that this event is bringing light to different aspects of women’s health.

“Its all personal..when they are talking they are talking to you as a woman..and your health and your needs. It can take you places where you didn’t even know you walked away and said you know..I should get that checked out..that is really important to know”, said Becky Scott, an expo attendee.

Over 400 women attended the free expo. Al!VE Health Club says they hope to include local retailers in next year’s expo, giving women the chance to buy early Christmas decorations and gifts.

Why Hands-On Experience Beats A Computer Science Diploma

In the tech world, it’s often the case that degrees matter less than skill, adaptability, and willingness to learn. And there are plenty of high-paying technical careers that don’t require a diploma. But is one type of learning–academic training vs. hands-on experience–superior to the other? Or are they equal yet different? Here’s what technical professionals from a variety of fields have to say.

pexels.com

How techies learn more on the job than they do in the classroom

Margaret Potter: Both Are Valuable In Different Ways

“I think of the college experience and learning on the job as being two distinct and complementary learning environments,” says Potter, a data scientist at Calabrio. “Neither one should replace the other because we benefit from both. What you learn in school supports how you learn on the job, and primes you for being a lifetime learner outside of the classroom.”

She credits some of the skills she learned as a student–“studying independently, asking for help, building connections with peers, helping others succeed, and finding good mentors” for opening the door to her career. The rest, such as learning “how to use new software tools or program a new language,” came as she pursued new learning opportunities on the job.

James Maude: Students Should Seek Out Hands-On Opportunities

Maude, Senior Security Engineer at Avecto, sums it up like this: “In the classroom you learn how things are supposed to be done, on the job you learn all the ways things can go wrong. Computers don’t make mistakes people do, and a lot of the learning you receive on the job is understanding how people work.” Because of this, he says, the usefulness of academic training only goes so far.

However, that certainly doesn’t mean that college years are wasted ones. Maude suggests seeking out hands-on work as soon as possible, whether that’s a tech internship, personal project, or freelancing through college. “The best new hires are those that stepped out of the classroom at college and got involved in work or open-source projects early,” he says. “Those people learn far more than those who just went to class.”

Ben Sadeghipour: Learn The Basics, Then Get Better By Using Them

Sadeghipour, Technical Account Manager at HackerOne, considers academia to be a good place to acquire foundational knowledge–but in order to reach the next level, you must put it into practice.

“I was a computer science major in college, which really helped me understand the basics of software development and security,” he says. “While I was still in school, I realized that I could learn just as much breaking software as I could building it, so I started hacking (ethically) in my spare time, and wound up putting myself through my senior year of college entirely on bug bounty earnings. I got better by doing and that’s how I ended up working at HackerOne right after college. I would have never ended up where I am now had I relied solely on my degree or coursework.”

OnePlus 5T launch: ‘all-screen’ experience at half price of iPhone X

The latest Android smartphone from Chinese upstart OnePlus hopes to tempt users looking for the new all-screen experience, but at less than half the price of an iPhone X.

The 5T is a revamped version of the 5 launched in June and marks the second time the company has updated its smartphone line more than once in a year. According to co-founder Carl Pei, this is because “when we’ve got new technology ready to go we don’t want to leave our users with older devices”.

Launched in New York, the 5T is essentially a OnePlus 5 on the inside, with the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, memory and storage options, fast-charging system and Oxygen OS software based on last year’s Android 7.1.1, not the newer Android 8 Oreo. It even costs the same, priced at £449, undercutting rivals by at least several hundred pounds.

But the 1080p AMOLED screen has been stretched to the now popular 18:9 ratio, filling the front of the display with thin bezels at the top, bottom and sides. That means the 5T has a larger 6in screen squeezed into a body that is less than 2mm bigger than the 5, with its 5.5in screen. The fingerprint scanner has been moved to the back – a common position for many Android devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S8, which introduced the 18:9 stretch-screen concept earlier this year.

OnePlus has also introduced its own version of facial recognition using the front-facing selfie camera to make unlocking the device while on a desk a little more convenient, trading a certain level of security in the process.



The rear dual camera uses f1.7 lenses for better low-light performance. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

“Our face-recognition system analyses 100 different points on your face and is one of the fastest on Android,” said Pei. “It’ll be difficult to fool with either a photo or a video, but it’s only 2D not 3D [like Apple’s Face ID], which means it’s a feature designed for convenience, for those that are happy to trade a little bit of security for convenience, of which there are many.”

The rear dual camera has also been altered, ditching the telephoto setup that provided a 2x optical zoom for two cameras both using the same fast f1.7 lenses for better low-light performance. One camera has a 16-megapixel sensor and the other a 20-megapixel sensor, which is used in light levels below 10 lux – where a very dark overcast day is around 100 lux.

“Low-light photography was one of the key pieces of feedback we got from users, so we designed a system that merges four pixels into one to reduce noise while having two cameras to produce portrait mode shots and a hybrid zoom system that could replace the 2x zoom of a telephoto lens,” explained Pei.

The OnePlus 5T will go on sale on 21 November across Europe and North America, priced at £449 for 64GB storage and 6GB RAM, and £499 for 128GB storage and 8GB of RAM.

OnePlus has made a name for itself as the self-proclaimed “flagship killer”, offering a top-end experience at price significantly less than rivals. It has gained the backing of O2 in the UK, which sells last year’s OnePlus 3, a significant consumer confidence boost for a relatively unknown brand. But the company has faced challenges, including over software updates – an update to Android 8 Oreo for the 5T is not expected until the start of 2018.

Recently the company was accused of having installed a diagnostics program on its phones that could be used to create a backdoor via a developer system when attached to a computer allowing so-called root access.

“While [the EngineerMode app] can enable adb root, which provides privileges for adb commands, it will not let third-party apps access full root privileges,” said OnePlus. “Additionally, adb root is only accessible if USB debugging, which is off by default, is turned on, and any sort of root access would still require physical access to your device.”

“While we don’t see this as a major security issue, we understand that users may still have concerns and therefore we will remove the adb root function from EngineerMode in an upcoming OTA.”

Hilton and Marriott Turn to the Internet of Things to Transform the Hotel Room Experience

When Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta took to the stage at the Skift Global Forum in September, one of the most headline-grabbing statements he made had to do with what he described as Hilton’s “Connected Room.”

“Imagine a world where the room knows you, and you know your room,” Nassetta said. “Imagine a world where you walk in, the TV says, ‘How are you doing, John? Nice to see you,’ and all of your stuff is preloaded and not only preloaded, but the only thing you ever need to touch to control in the room is in the palm of your hand,” he said, referring to a guest’s smartphone.

Hilton is currently beta testing this concept in a handful of hotels, and the company intends to expand this feature to more hotels worldwide in 2018.

But Hilton isn’t the only hotel company that wants to deliver smart, hyper-personalized hotel rooms. In fact, not far from Hilton’s Innovation Lab in McLean, Virginia, another major hotel company has similarly grand designs of using the Internet of Things (IoT) to transform the hotel guest experience. And last week, Skift got a firsthand sneak peek of this new guest room experience.

At Marriott’s own Innovation Lab, housed in the lower levels of its main headquarters office in Bethesda, Maryland, Marriott senior vice president of global design strategies Karim Khalifa and his team have also been working on their own version of a connected room.

“With this room type, we’re experimenting with technology that not only anticipates your needs, but also personalizes the experience for you,” Khalifa said.

Called the IoT Guestroom Lab, the Marriott facility consists of two different model guest rooms. One is meant to showcase what this technology might look like for a completely newbuild hotel, with all the bells and whistles of what’s currently possible with IoT technology. The other shows both owners and consumers what that experience could be like in already existing hotel rooms, with minimal construction or infrastructure changes.

Marriott just began showing the rooms to owners and consumer focus groups last week, and after some feedback, Khalifa and his team will then begin to decide if and how to initiate a formal pilot in different Marriott hotels.

Both Marriott and Hilton share, more or less, the same vision of delivering a hospitality experience that’s more personalized and smarter about anticipating guests’ needs during their stay. But how they respectively plan to achieve this goal involves two different paths.

Transitioning from Smart Home to Smart Hotel

As more consumers bring artificial-intelligence powered voice assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo into their homes, more households are becoming “smart homes.” And while the number of people living in smart homes today is still relatively low — just more than 15 million, or 12.5 percent of U.S. households were considered to be in smart homes by the end of 2016 — that number is expected to increase to 28 percent by 2021, according to media research group Kagan.

“The Internet of Things has opened up home automation to the everyday consumer,” said Ken Freeman, senior vice president of demand generation at Legrand, an electrical and data communications product manufacturer. “Anyone can buy an intelligent thermostat, color-changing lamp, or smart door lock. As a result, consumers are starting to demand at least the same level of technology in the hotel guest room.

“Hoteliers have to identify the right level of technology for their properties and they need to implement these, even if only at a basic ability to remotely control lighting and temperature, or the consumer is going to judge them as antiquated and irrelevant. The hoteliers that get this right will gain the loyalty of the next-generation traveler.”

But translating the smart home experience into the hospitality world, and getting it right, presents a variety of challenges related to cost, infrastructure, and security, among many others. Currently, there are technologies such as sensor-activated thermostats, digital room keys, and in-room streaming/casting services, but most brands have yet to connect them through a comprehensive system or platform powered by IoT.

Last year, Skift spoke to Scott Hansen, Marriott International director of guest technology, who told us: “The future of the guest room will be voice activation. Amazon Echo and Apple’s Siri are consumer versions of this technology. I have all that in my own home. That is the future. Whether we use that existing tech or some other voice-activated mechanism has yet to be determined. The real brick in the road is trying to get the Internet of Things upgraded to the net-connected appropriate part of the network. It’s very expensive to retrofit everything in a hotel.”

One year later, those strategies for bringing the smart home into the hotel room are beginning to become much more apparent. For now, the extent of the smart home technology being brought into the hotel room consists of an Amazon Echo in every room, as is the case with Wynn Resorts, for example. Other brands, Marriott and Best Western included, have also piloted the placement of these voice assistants in hotel rooms.

Robert Cole, the founder of RockCheetah, a hotel marketing strategy and travel technology consulting firm, said that as more hotel companies begin to explore IoT-connected rooms in varying degrees of depth, they’ll “need to work on replicating the experiences that these travelers have in their homes, already in their everyday lives. How can they make that a seamless transition when they travel? And do all the same things? That will be challenging.”

Another challenge is the ability to deal with a variety of devices. The way that many of today’s IoT systems are set up involves ecosystems of single brands: all Apple, all Google, all Amazon, for example.

“Think about a hotel room,” said James Stansberry, senior vice president and general manager of ARTIK IoT for Samsung Electronics. “There are dozens of different products in there from many different manufacturers — curtain shades, thermostats, TVs, light switches, etc. How do you connect all of those devices together easily and be able to trigger an action easily?”

As Marriott and Hilton are finding out, there are different ways to make a hotel room “smart” and all the more personalized for guests. Here’s a closer look at what they’re up to.

Hilton’s DIY Approach

During Hilton’s most recent third quarter earnings call with investors, Nassetta gave a few more details about Hilton’s Connected Room, describing it as “the first truly mobile-centric hotel room.”

He said, “Through the app, members will be able to seamlessly control their room’s lighting, HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning], and entertainment options, including pre-loaded and streaming content.”

Last week, Skift spoke to Hilton spokesperson Julia Burge, who also gave us an update and more insight into Hilton’s IoT guest room strategy.

For one thing, Hilton’s smart room technology is proprietary. “Our teams are constantly testing off-the-shelf stuff,” Burge said, “but nothing that is direct to consumer provided enough, both for our guests and hotel owners, so we built something from the ground up.”

Hilton has invested heavily in its mobile app technology over the past few years, including adding Digital Key access and giving loyalty members the ability to pick their own room when checking in via mobile.

For now, the types of things this platform can support relates to controlling lighting, air conditioning/heat, and streaming entertainment, and all of it is controlled through a guest’s smartphone, via the Hilton Honors mobile app. “The smartphone will be the remote control of the hotel room,” she said.

Guests who opt into Hilton’s loyalty program and to relating their guest preferences to Hilton will be able to personalize their stays with the Connected Room.

One thing that isn’t included in Hilton’s Connected Room, however, is voice activation. “We’re constantly testing that,” Burge said, “but the pilot being rolled out will not have voice for the time being. At this point, we don’t have a voice technology component.”

“I think there’s a challenge right now with voice technology in that it isn’t totally reliable yet,” said Makarand Mody, assistant professor of hospitality marketing at the Boston University School of Hospitality Administration. Last year, Mody, together with a group of students, worked on pitching a smart room concept to Park Inn by Radisson hotels last year. “But if this type of experience is intended to be seamless, I think voice will play a key role,” he added.

Burge, however, noted that the platform that Hilton has created is meant to “grow and expand as the availability of technology grows and expands,” implying that voice could eventually be added in the future. Burge added that Hilton is currently in negotiations with a variety of streaming media partners as well, and that it is still identifying other tech partners it may want to work with going forward.

Another benefit, she said, of the Connected Room, is the ability to inform the back-of-house hotel staff to specific guests’ or room needs.

Burge said that while Hilton still isn’t ready to make a full announcement about Connected Room, it plans to begin media previews of the Connected Room in December, and has already demonstrated what the technology can do at Hilton’s annual owner’s conference earlier this year. She also confirmed that the rooms are already being tested in a handful of hotels at the moment, and the pilot will expand “in a bigger way” in 2018.

Marriott’s Partnership Strategy

 Hilton and Marriott Turn to the Internet of Things to Transform the Hotel Room Experience Hilton and Marriott Turn to the Internet of Things to Transform the Hotel Room Experience

Marriott’s IoT Guestroom Lab features two model guest rooms outfitted with technology that enables rooms to be voice-activated. Shown here is the model for a newbuild hotel room. The all-white design was meant to be brand-agnostic. Source: Marriott International

Marriott, unlike Hilton, is not building its own technology from the ground up. Instead, it has decided to partner with Legrand and with Samsung to bring its own IoT guest room to life.

Khalifa said he was inspired to work with the two companies after attending a conference hosted by Legrand back in November 2016. The conference was meant to serve as a showcase for Legrand’s Electrical Internet of Things (Eliot) program. It was there that he saw the smart home concept come to life, and he thought, “How do we do this in the hotel world?”

Samsung, which had already been a technology partner of Legrand’s for more than two years, provides the cloud-based IoT platform, called ARTIK, that brings everything to life. The enterprise-level platform works not only for Samsung products, but also third-party devices and clouds securely.

“It’s Samsung’s hope to map all 20 billion connected devices to this cloud by the year 2020,” Khalifa said. “There’s no wiring necessary, because everything is cloud-powered. And because [ARTIK] it’s brand-agnostic, it’s meant to be neutral — you can bring in devices that never really talked to each other before.”

Together with Samsung and Legrand, Marriott has built two different prototype rooms, each programmed with different scenarios for three different types of travelers: a yoga-minded meeting planner; a frequent road warrior; and a family of four on vacation.

“Guests will have to opt into giving us their information and creating their profiles, and these profiles are then memorized so the scenes are set for you,” Khalifa explained. He emphasized that only Marriott would have access to guest profiles and data to ensure guest privacy.

“What Marriott is trying to do is leverage guest profiles,” Freeman said. “The idea is if I’m a Marriott Rewards member, and my profile has my attributes and dislikes/likes, it can be set up to do things based on me and my type of trip, more personally. I might be on a business trip today, but for the weekend I might be spending time with my wife on vacation,” he said.

In the newbuild room, some of the tech features on display include a smart mirror; a smart art frame; a smart shower and faucet and for now, an Amazon Show for voice-activated commands. Khalifa said Marriott hasn’t yet committed to a single natural language processing system for rolling out these rooms. Guests can easily adjust the lighting, temperature, humidity, curtains, artwork, etc. just using their voices. Sensor presence technology knows when you get out of bed at night and automatically turns on red nightlights that guide the path to the bathroom. It also knows how many people are in the room and adjusts the amount of oxygen in the room accordingly.

In the renovated smart room, the Amazon Show is replaced by an Amazon Dot and the primary way to control the room’s smart features are through the TV’s remote control. Instead of having customized data cables placed in the room as with the newbuild, the renovated room only requires the placement of a TV box and Wi-Fi enabled switches.

For now, the three primary ways for guests to control Marriott’s smart rooms include: voice, TV remote, and manual control. Khalifa said the features will most likely also be controlled through the Marriott app eventually.

“What we want to do is get to a point where almost every guest feels the benefit of the technology, even if they’re not actively leveraging it through an app or voice,” Freeman said.

Some of the possible scenarios and use cases Khalifa described as being enhanced by this technology included the following:

  • Doing your morning yoga routine with the help of the smart mirror, which can also monitor your heart rate
  • A personalized welcome screen on the TV for each and every guest
  • Specialized lighting, such as blue tones in the morning to help you wake up
  • Being able to order a car service from the room (There are “tentacles outside the room” for this technology, too, Khalifa noted.)
  • By placing beacons on equipment in the fitness center, Marriott can tell you which pieces of equipment are available without you having to leave your room, only to find out that fitness center equipment you want to use is being occupied
  • Being able to order Starbucks coffee and have it waiting for you in the lobby
  • Choosing the artwork that’s displayed in your room and having it automatically dim at night to help you sleep better

And at some point, Samsung’s Stansberry said, it’ll be “entirely possible for the technology to use machine learning, over time, to know a specific person’s habits and make a prediction.”

So, at some point, guests may not even have to say anything at all, for their rooms to know exactly what they might need.

Convincing Hotel Owners

While Marriott and Hilton invest in these smart hotel rooms, the one decision-maker they’ll both have to convince are their respective hotel owners. While both companies didn’t divulge what the costs associated with this technology are exactly, both, not surprisingly, said that there’s significant return on investment in having smarter hotel rooms.

Khalifa said that some owners could save as much as $300 a year per room in energy conservation because the rooms will be smart enough to know when to shut off air/heat/lights or pull shades to conserve energy.

He also said that, for newbuilds, the use of data cables is actually cheaper than the use of traditional steel/copper wiring and don’t require the need for an electrician to install. “It’s a paradigm shift in construction,” he said.

Hotel owners also have to be mindful that there’s a danger in being too ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting technology, too. Hoteliers risk coming off as too gimmicky if they just do some small type of integration — like having a voice assistant in every room — but going all in on the whole suite of technology available today is just as risky if not more because of the costs and the fact that the technology is still a work in progress.

“I think hotel owners understand that technology is the way forward, and customers now assume that hotels will incorporate things like connected rooms going forward,” Mody said. He said brands will have to make the case to owners that not only can this technology streamline operations, but that it also has added revenue potential, including cross-selling and enhance selling opportunities, and the ability to leverage better guest data.

As for which hotels will likely incorporate IoT first, Mody thinks lifestyle and experiential brands will take the lead because guests of full-service hotels still expect “a higher level of human touch.” Midscale and economy brands, he said, will likely be the slowest adopters.

From Beta Testing to Reality

While Hilton, Marriott, and their peers explore this technology even further, it’ll be crucial for them to pay close attention to the user experience, say Cole and Mody.

“If, as a guest, I have to struggle with the technology — it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, or the assistant can’t understand my voice commands, for example — this technology has the potential to make the experience more frustrating than liberating,” said Mody.

He continued, “Seamlessness is the second critical factor. Brands need to put this technology to the Turing Test, whereby the technology’s ability to be able to exhibit intelligent behavior has to be equivalent to or indistinguishable from that of a human. Until then, the tech won’t really enhance the guest experience beyond the novelty or ‘this is cool’ factor.”

Where brands can offer value, however, is in the degree to which they’re able to personalize individual guest’s experiences, say Mody and Cole. And for that, tying this technology to loyalty programs will be crucial.

“I think Hilton’s use of its loyalty app is a smart move,” said Cole.

“The loyalty tie-in is critical here,” Mody added, “and it needs to be the central value-creator in this process.”

Another thing for the hotel companies to consider is how to scale this type of technology accordingly for different brands and varied guests: Do they offer less or more functionality based on the chain scale or type of hotel property? Do they scale functions differently based on a guest’s loyalty status?

As for which hotel company has the superior strategy for incorporating IoT into the hotel guest experience, the jury is still out.

“Building your own framework has a higher initial investment however, over time, and over hundreds of new properties being built on the platform and existing properties being brought on, the costs get distributed across the network through economies of scale,” said Mody. “That said, it is a longer-term investment than working with partners — which also has its challenges of making sure the various pieces of technology talk to each other.”

“Theoretically, I like Hilton’s approach slightly better,” said Cole. “But because I’m fuzzy on what they plan to do with the voice component — I really hope they have a clear product plan for how voice is integrated into this, because people love using voice assistants — I’m going to wait and see what develops. If Marriott decides to incorporate this into their app, too, it would be a killer app.”

As for other technology that should be on hotels’ radar these days, Mody noted, real-time, voice-based translation such as Google’s Pixel Bud technology as a potentially significant differentiator, too. “For technology in the guest room to be truly inclusive, it has to be able to cater to the language needs of people from across the world.”

Below are two videos that give you a closer, behind-the-scenes look at Marriott’s IoT Guestroom Lab:

 

The Pixel 2 is the Android experience everyone deserves

If you’re judging the Pixel 2 launch on headlines alone, you’d probably think it was a flop. But when you’re immersed in either of the new phones, it’s an entirely different vibe.

I’ve been using the Pixel 2 for a few weeks now, and I don’t plan on switching for a while. This is the best Android experience for everyone; its spectacular rear camera, simple and modern design, and Assistant-driven features are examples of why Google’s made it worth wielding.

Let’s gush about the camera first

df41e_Pixel2_7509-840x560 The Pixel 2 is the Android experience everyone deserves

The camera is too good not to talk about how crazy it makes you.

Simply put, the camera is the best part of owning a Pixel 2

Simply put, the camera is the best part of owning a Pixel 2. I remembered being impressed with the Pixel XL last year, but the Pixel 2 has managed to exceed expectations. Unlike the Galaxy Note 8 there’s more dynamic range in each shot with the Pixel 2, making it easy to take the result into a photo editing suite to tweak further.

The photos below are cat portraits I shot during my week with the Pixel 2 XL, which I used while I waited for the Pixel 2 to arrive (both devices have the same rear-camera hardware). The Galaxy Note 8 sample on the left looks as if it has blown out highlights in the photo, while the Pixel 2 XL’s end result appears bolder and more balanced. I also like that I can zoom in and see the finest hairs of cat fur on the Pixel 2’s photo sample, where they’re a bit fuzzy in the Note 8’s composition.

df41e_Pixel2_7509-840x560 The Pixel 2 is the Android experience everyone deserves

Taken with the Galaxy Note 8.

df41e_Pixel2_7509-840x560 The Pixel 2 is the Android experience everyone deserves

Taken with the Pixel 2 XL.

And what about those Motion Photos? They’re so neat. I’ve been saving mine as quick-second videos to post to Twitter and Instagram Stories. They’re a dynamic way to relay the little details of your day. I also just appreciate the way that they capture memories for me. Imagine a year from now when I have a bigger library of motion photos stored up; I’ll be able to flip through photos and then long-press to quickly experience the moment. Memories are the only things we carry with us through the ages, and I value the role that my mobile device plays in helping me at least attempt to digitally archive them.

Motion Photos are a Pixel 2 and Google Clips exclusive feature for now—or rather, they can only be made with those two devices at present. As a reason to try Google’s smartphones, its a sweet “carrot” of sorts for skipping out on what Samsung and LG are offering. I also like that Motion Photos are shot with the fidelity of the Pixel 2’s 12-megapixel camera so that they’re as well-produced as any other photo I shoot with the aid of the camera’s f/1.8 aperture.

Hey, it’s a nice phone

df41e_Pixel2_7509-840x560 The Pixel 2 is the Android experience everyone deserves

With its interface matching its outer aesthetic, the Pixel 2 has a nice cohesiveness to it.

While I was impressed by the pearly orchid gray back on this year’s Galaxy S8, and the curvature of the LG V30‘s chassis design, there’s something to be said about the way stock Android looks and operates on a Google-designed smartphone. From the Pixel Launcher’s weather font— Google calls it Product Sans—to the easy-launch application drawer, there’s a beautiful uniformity to the operating system, especially  paired with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL’s clean exterior lines.

There are admittedly some things about the interface that seem to still be under construction—the Google Assistant feed surfaces the wrong information at the wrong time more often since its switch to the new feed—but Google has more or less managed to create near-perfect cohesiveness between device design and software. I’d even go as far as to say it’s pretty Apple-like, and I love it. I love feeling rooted in the Android foundation.

The power of Google Assistant

df41e_Pixel2_7509-840x560 The Pixel 2 is the Android experience everyone deserves

Google Assistant offers plenty of helpful feature—and some that are a little half-baked.

Have you met my Google Assistant? It lives inside the Pixel 2, and all I have to do to conjure it up is long-press the Home button (or use a voice command or squeeze gesture). Think of it like a genie, except that you don’t have to worry too much about whether you’re rubbing the bottle the right way.

Google Assistant isn’t exclusive to the Pixel line of devices. You can find it on other Android-based devices, smart speakers like the Google Home, and even the iPhone. There are subtle facets of its API integrated into other aspects of the Pixel 2 that are pretty cool, though. For instance, while the Now Playing ambient display might seem superfluous compared to everything else Assistant can do, I like glancing down every once in a while to identify the music quietly piping through my ears. Remember, that data isn’t pulled from the cloud, it’s all locally stored on the Pixel 2 itself. There’s data for 10,000 different songs embedded inside in a mere 53MB file.

The real Achilles’ Heel of Google Assistant at the moment is Google Lens. I don’t understand its usefulness in my daily life just yet, and it doesn’t help that when I use it to query inside Google Photos, the result is usually off. I asked it to identify a photo of the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand, and it somehow surmised that the more pertinent information to display is that it’s categorized as a steeple. That’s a far cry from the demonstration put on at Google I/O 2017, where we saw that Lens could automatically connect to Wi-Fi simply by snapping a photo of a password. With Google, there’s typically an air of “beta” hovering around its products, and perhaps it’s that lingering sensation which keeps people doubting the company’s ability to “make it on its own” as a smartphone vendor.

One of the best smartphones of the year

One thing I didn’t mention in the beginning is that this is my first time using a display under 5.5-inches since the Galaxy S6. The Pixel XL was perfect for the year I used it, but I consistently found that it would always be just a bit big for my jacket pockets and clutch purses. As a tech-consuming individual, I appreciate that Google decided to launch two sizes of its flagship device, the way Samsung and Apple have. I especially appreciate that I’m not asked to compromise on extra features, like portrait mode and water resistance, just because I wanted to spend less on the smaller version.

It’s only been a few weeks with the Pixel 2 as my daily driver, but I’m thoroughly enamored. In addition to its pocketable size, it’s a Google-designed smartphone with the power of Google’s artificial intelligence presented in a way that’s useful to anyone, regardless of technical expertise. I much prefer this friendly implementation of Android. It’s almost as if this is the way that Google had intended for it to be all along.

The iPhone X Is A User Experience Nightmare

Apple didn’t jump straight from that place to the iPhone X.  It’s just the final level of its UX Inferno, a journey that started a long time ago. Back in 2011, there were only a few patents detailing new iOS gestures. At the time, I was wary–if Apple keeps adding gestures to this simple language, I wrote, “it will kill what made these devices successful in the first place.” Later, with iOS 5, Apple introduced new finger motions for iPad. In iOS 7, we got new finger funking for iPhone as well, including the swiping gesture to navigate across apps or Safari history. We also got new swipes from different edges to invoke the notification and control centers. In 2015 the iPad got six new gestures. Some of them required you to have contortionist fingers.

By 2016 there were articles titled All the Hidden iOS Gestures and Shortcuts You May Have Forgotten, probably a clear sign that something was amiss. Pressure-sensitive screens brought a new dimension to this cluster: 3D touch, or the ability to press harder to call up a different type of interaction. And finally, iOS 11 brought things like five (FIVE) different types of tap, more iPad-only gestures for multitasking, and the iPhone X home button mess documented at the beginning of this article.

The UX Inferno

Now, to fully take advantage of an iPhone or an iPad, you have to know to cast spells like Dr. Strange. Here’s one: “Place four or five fingers spread out on the screen, and move your hand upward. Swipe up with four fingers to close multiple apps. Once you’ve opened the App Switcher (what Apple calls this screen you get after doing the above gesture), you can close apps that are running in the background by swiping up.” Then there’s “simply swipe up from the home bar at a 45-degree angle towards the right of the screen and then let go, and the app switcher should move straight into view almost immediately.” You may argue that the latter was unavoidable because they had to take out the home button. But remember that there is no home button–or TouchID–on the iPhone X because of Apple’s own inability to make it work with its edge-to-edge screen. This is a new problem that didn’t exist, and now has a bad solution.

The simplicity of Apple’s UX made its devices computers for the rest of us, which is why their popularity was so universal. Nobody needed cheat sheets to use them to their full potential. Then, little by little, a divide opened between two types of iOS device users–between regular users who use the iPhone in the simplest way possible and have no idea about most of the hidden gestures and the power users who know the secret ninja moves. Today, anyone who buys the iPhone X, whether regular or power user, will have to learn new arbitrary conventions–a convoluted navigation system that instead of solving problem adds a new layer of complexity to an already complex device, replacing the elegant, simple, intuitive solution that came built-in with the original iPhone.

With the iPhone X, Apple has completely left behind Steve Jobs’s original motto: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Now it’s the ultimate mess.

Windows 10 gamers can get a Nintendo Switch inspired experience with the Vastking G800 gaming tablet

by Jennifer Locke

 




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