Is it worth paying out for more expensive mice and keyboards?

Is it worth paying out for more expensive mice and keyboards? http://www.windowscentral.com/it-worth-paying-out-more-expensive-mice-and-keyboards Investing in a quality mouse and keyboard can make an enormous difference when playing intense games or spending a good few hours writing up walls of text. The question is: do you really need to spend more in good peripherals?

Best Android Phone Under $700

Want to ensure you’re wielding the best around for your budget? We can help.

You may have balked at the price in the headline, but the fact of the matter is that most of the smartphones worth bringing home these days cost upwards of $700. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of choice at that price point, and we’ve put together a list of the devices that are worth this hefty bit of cash.

Best Overall

Samsung Galaxy S7

See at AT&T See at Sprint See at T-Mobile See at Verizon See at Amazon

The Galaxy S7 is the best version of Samsung’s flagship yet. It’s equipped with a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 3,000mAh battery pack. Its 12-megapixel rear-facing Dual Pixel camera is particularly impressive, and you’ll appreciate its performance in low light.

Of course, as is the case with most versions of Android that aren’t directly developed by Google, Samsung’s version of Android is polarizing. The newly dubbed Grace UI offers some helpful features, but the extra software that comes bundled is redundant. At the very least, you can disable and hide any apps you don’t care for.

Bottom line: If you’re buying a flagship, get the one that’s the best around. That’s the Samsung Galaxy S7.

One more thing: If the GS7’s 5.1-inch display is too small for your liking, consider the Galaxy S7 Edge for its bigger screen and curved edges. The S7 Active is also a viable choice if you’re a rugged outdoor person and an AT&T subscriber. And of course, Samsung offers an unlocked model that also works overseas.

Why the Galaxy S7 is the best

Style, performance, and polish in one little smartphone.

Haven’t we done enough to convince you that Samsung’s Galaxy S7 is worth your dollar bills? Everything you could need from a smartphone is right here. This flagship device boasts powerful internal components, a water resistant metal and glass chassis, an expansion slot, a front-facing fingerprint scanner, and a variety of mobile payment and wireless charging options. It’s also equipped with one of the best rear-facing smartphone cameras—it’s capable enough that you’ll never fret about leaving your camera at home.

Best “Not Samsung” phone

HTC 10

See at Sprint See at Verizon See at Amazon

Give HTC a chance, won’t you? The fashionable HTC 10 features an aluminum unibody chassis and a 5.2-inch Quad HD display. It’s equipped with a high performing Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 12-megapixel rear-facing UltraPixel 2 camera, as well as a 5-megapixel front-facing camera with OIS. The HTC 10 also offers BoomSound Hi-Fi, which the company worked on in conjunction with Dolby, and there’s an amp built in to the headphone jack. You might even like HTC’s modern take on stock Android.

Bottom line: The HTC 10 is a great flagship alternative for anyone looking for stylish performance from a longtime Android player.

One more thing: The HTC 10 does not have water resistance like Samsung’s devices, but HTC does offer Uh Oh Protection, which covers broken screens, water damage, and even switching carriers.

Best Modular phone

Moto Z

See at Motorola See at Verizon

It’s always fun with a manufacturer tries something different. Motorola’s trying out the modular smartphone thing with its Moto Z flagship. This svelte smartphone is an absolute sight to see: It’s one of the prettiest phones on the market and it’s incredibly thin. Inside, it boasts a Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 2600mAh battery. It also has a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera.

If you’re aching for features like more battery life or true-to-form optical zoom, you can invest in any of the Moto Z’s modular accessories. For instance, there’s a variety of power packs you can purchase for extra battery life, or you can buy the Hasselblad True Zoom for better smartphone photography.

Bottom line: The Moto Z is a worthy considering for anyone who wants a razor thin smartphone—or who believes modularity is the future of mobile devices.

One more thing: You can choose between the Moto Z Force if you’re a Verizon subscriber and you’re looking for a better camera sensor and a bigger battery, or the mid-range Moto Z Play if you’re looking for something a little cheaper and a bit more basic. Both phones are compatible with Motorola’s modular accessories.

Best camera phone

LG V20

See at LG

At the time of publishing this, the LG V20 is still not available for sale in the U.S. Regardless, we’re eagerly awaiting its arrival because its specifications are quite impressive. Inside, it’s on par with the other flagships out right now, but LG also equipped its content creation device with a dual 16-megapixel rear-facing camera and 8-megapixel camera for wide-angle shots. Additionally, the V20 offers Hi-Fi audio compatibility, manual video and camera controls, and a cool looking metal body with removable back cover and battery pack—that’s a rarity in this day in age.

Bottom line: If you’re obsessed with making videos and Snapchatting every bit of your life, the LG V20 is the perfect high-end device for doing so.

One more thing: We’re still not sure when it’s hitting the U.S., but you can read all about it.

Best Overall

Samsung Galaxy S7

See at AT&T See at Sprint See at T-Mobile See at Verizon See at Amazon

The Galaxy S7 is the best version of Samsung’s flagship yet. It’s equipped with a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 3000mAh battery pack. Its 12-megapixel rear-facing Dual Pixel camera is particularly impressive, and you’ll appreciate its performance in low light.

Of course, as is the case with most versions of Android that aren’t directly developed by Google, Samsung’s version of Android is polarizing. The newly dubbed Grace UI offers some helpful features, but the extra software that comes bundled is redundant. At the very least, you can disable and hide any apps you don’t care for.

Bottom line: If you’re buying a flagship, get the one that’s the best around. That’s the Samsung Galaxy S7.

One more thing: If the GS7’s 5.1-inch display is too small for your liking, consider the Galaxy S7 Edge for its bigger screen and curved edges. The S7 Active is also a viable choice if you’re a rugged outdoor person and an AT&T subscriber. And of course, Samsung offers an unlocked model that also works overseas.

Florence Ion #AndroidCentral #Android #News #Google #Alphabet http://www.androidcentral.com/best-android-phone-under-700  

Grab this Quick Charge 3.0 USB-C car charger for 50% off!

Tronsmart is currently offering its Quick Charge 3.0 car charger for just $8 at Amazon with coupon code USBCCHAR, a savings of $8. The charger itself offers two ports, one USB-A (without Quick Chare) and one USB-C (Quick Charge 3.0), so you can charge multiple devices while on the go. Using a USB C-to-C cable you can get super-fast charging speeds, allowing you to get maximum battery life, even during a short commute. It is made from premium materials and is on the small side so you can easily carry it around with you when needed.

This deal likely won’t last long, so be sure to act fast if you are interested. Remember, you’ll need coupon code USBCCHAR for the full savings here. Don’t let any of your vehicles go without a Quick Charge 3.0 charger in it!

See at Amazon

Jared DiPane #AndroidCentral #Android #News #Google #Alphabet http://www.androidcentral.com/grab-quick-charge-30-usb-c-car-charger-50  

EarPods and AirPods and the power of ‘good enough’

t’s notable that Apple chose not to ship its Bluetooth AirPods in the box with new iPhones, even though its vision for the future is a wireless one.

A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry.

Tech reviews and broad tech industry media coverage are often about the cutting edge of technology, and as a result can be very critical of anything seen as less than stellar. But the reality is that many ordinary people regularly use technology that could be much more accurately described as “good enough” rather than bleeding-edge. The vast majority of us aren’t using the latest and greatest technology, not least because that often costs more than we’re willing (or able) to spend, and yet we do just fine. This creates an odd disconnect between how real people use technology, and how the experts talk about that same technology.

EarPods and defaults

Every iPhone ever shipped has come with a pair of Apple-provided earbuds in the box, just as iPods did before them. These earbuds have never been at the forefront of headphone technology — they’re small, relatively cheap to manufacture and make no claim to be anything more than they are. But Apple nevertheless made them part of its early ad campaigns for the iPod, and they became a fashion statement of sorts. In a recent survey conducted by Tech.pinions editor Ben Bajarin, more than half of those surveyed said they used the headphones that came in the box.

For many people, the basic option is just fine, and they’ll never look beyond it.

The fact is, defaults are powerful. Many people use those defaults, especially when they’re good enough. That’s not to say there aren’t better options out there for audiophiles, or those who want noise-canceling or over-ear options, but it is to say that, for many people, the basic option is just fine, and they’ll never look beyond it. This is obviously important in the context of the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack on the new iPhone 7. Apple is banking on the fact the majority of people who buy one of these new phones will use the new Lightning-based EarPods, just as they have always used their 3.5mm predecessors. Those who don’t will use the free adapter with their existing headphones, or start or continue using wireless options.

Deciding where good enough is enough

It’s notable, however, that Apple chose not to ship Bluetooth earbuds in the box, even though its vision for the future is a wireless one. Why is this? I think there are two reasons. First, as a practical financial matter, “good enough” in a Bluetooth headset costs significantly more than in wired earbuds, and Apple didn’t want to either raise the price or lower the margins on new iPhones to accommodate that increased cost.

But I think the other reason is that there is a dividing line between products that can afford to be simply good enough and those that can’t. Apple wants to evangelize wireless technology, and you don’t sell a vision based on “good enough” products. You make the very best to sell the story and then, over time, you supply options which are good enough to meet needs further down market. When the perception of a product affects the perception of your brand, you can’t just do “good enough” (unless that’s the brand identity you’re going for, as with Amazon’s Basics line of electronics).

Hence, Apple’s very different focus with its AirPods, which are on par with Apple’s hero products in terms of the positioning, marketing and, yes, pricing. This marks a departure for the Apple brand in the headphone space, although, of course, the acquisition of Beats brought higher-end headphones into the company under a separate brand. That, in turn, signifies something about the broader significance Apple expects the AirPods to take on over time, something others have written about here and elsewhere, and which I’ll likely tackle separately soon.

The challenge of premium

One of the biggest challenges for consumer electronics brands is targeting the premium segment while also serving lower segments of the market. One of Apple’s strengths is it has never really strayed from its premium positioning, even as it has brought several of its major product lines down in price over time. Conversely, other smartphone vendors looking to target the high end have also served the mid-market, and have struggled to associate their brands with premium positioning. This becomes particularly challenging when the same brands put out “good enough” and premium products in the same product category, like smartphones.

Part of Apple’s genius has been carefully separating the categories where it provides premium products from those where it participates at a good-enough level, and not allowing the two to mix or converge. The fact that Motorola and Samsung produce both high-end flagships and very cheap low-end smartphones doesn’t help their attempts to compete with Apple for the premium customer, and Motorola has arguably largely abandoned the very high end in the last year or two. In the car market, this problem is solved with sub-brands (think Lexus versus Toyota, or Cadillac versus Chevy), but we haven’t yet seen that approach play out in the consumer technology market in the same way.

Disruption theory and jobs to be done

Clayton Christensen’s Disruption Theory comes into play here, too — when companies insist on providing only a premium version of certain products, they risk low-end disruption from competitors catering to the needs of those who feel over-served by the current options. However, despite repeated predictions that the premium smartphone market would eventually be disrupted in this way, it hasn’t happened. Yes, low-end Android smartphones have become increasingly capable and cheap, but that’s disrupted almost entirely other Android smartphone vendors rather than Apple.

Products that have strong personal associations — smartphones, cars, clothing and other luxury goods — are stubbornly resistant to low-end disruption.

I believe there’s something about products that have strong personal associations — such as smartphones, cars, clothing and other luxury goods — which makes them stubbornly resistant to low-end disruption. Our use of these products says something about us, and using cheaper imitators may not convey the message we want. The job to be done of smartphones and other similar products, then, goes beyond their obvious functions, and is another reason why “good enough” isn’t good enough for at least some buyers who can afford to be more discriminating. This continues to be one of many fascinating aspects of the smartphone market which separate it from the rest of the consumer electronics industry and continue to make it such an interesting one to follow.

Jan Dawson is founder and chief analyst at Jackdaw, a technology research and consulting firm focused on the confluence of consumer devices, software, services and connectivity. During his 13 years as a technology analyst, Dawson has covered everything from DSL to LTE, and from policy and regulation to smartphones and tablets. Prior to founding Jackdaw, Dawson worked at Ovum for a number of years, most recently as chief telecoms analyst, responsible for Ovum’s telecoms research agenda globally. Reach him @jandawson.

Jan Dawson #ReCode #TechNews #BizNews #News http://www.recode.net/2016/9/30/13019188/apple-earpods-airpods-premium-default-headphones-good-enough  

Google Pixel and Pixel XL: What to expect from the Nexus successors

Brace yourself: Pixels are coming.

For the past seven years, Google partnered with some of the leading Android phone makers to sell co-branded handsets under the “Nexus” name. This year, the company is set to unveil two new handsets under a brand that’s new to phones, but well known to Google followers: Pixel.

On October 4, Google will hold an event in San Francisco where it’ll unveil two new phones “made by Google.” We’ll reportedly get the Pixel and Pixel XL, the regular Pixel sporting a 5-inch screen, and the XL stepping up to 5.5 inches. They’ll be manufactured by HTC, but expect the Taiwanese firm to stay out of the public eye, with the Google brand coming front and center. And when it comes to software, expect Android 7.1 (the first Nougat maintenance release) along with UI changes and a new suite of Google apps.

Here’s a breakdown of what we’re expecting come October 4.

The Pixel name

Google first used the Pixel name for its Chromebook Pixel laptops — a pair of premium notebooks made by the company. In late 2015 Google then unveiled the Pixel C convertible — a big-screened Android tablet with a keyboard dock.

Like Nexus, the Pixel brand has evolved over time. Originally it referred to the high pixel density of the Chromebook Pixel’s impressive display. Then with Pixel C it became more closely associated with hardware from Google. There’s been speculation around Pixel phone since then, and now, it seems, the time is right.

The Pixel brand has evolved over time — now it’s clear Pixel means the very best Google hardware.

The move from Nexus to Pixel represents a change in strategy for Google-branded phones. Whereas Nexus devices were created in a very public partnership with an Android manufacturer, Pixel is looking more like a traditional ODM (original device manufacturer) arrangement. HTC builds phones to Google’s spec, then Google sells them directly, pitches them to carriers and promotes them as phones “made by Google.”

MORE: HTC’s role in Google’s Pixel project

As for whether the phones are truly made by Google… well, let’s remember the iPhone is technically made by Foxconn, not Apple. There’s more to it than whose factory a phone comes out of.

And as we’ll get to later, the new brand will also let Google distinguish its new “Pixel” UI — including a new launcher, color scheme and software features — from the relatively barebones Nexus software experience.

Pixel phone hardware

Update, 9/27: The first Pixel phone renders have now leaked, showing circular icons, redesigned soft keys and the Pixel Launcher in action. Here they are side-by-side, to scale.

Various mock-ups based on Pixel hardware have been floating around the web for months, but the clearest photos we’ve seen of both phones comes via an Android Police tipster, showing both the Pixel and Pixel XL in white

The photos show a metal-bodied design with slightly angled sides and a curious glass window on the back, which extends all the way down to the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. (The blurred-out area on the front is believed to be a security identifier, not any kind of physical button — don’t expect this in the final phones.)

There’s also been speculation of a single “G” logo around the back as the only visible bit of branding. Given what we now know about Google’s pitch for Pixel as being “made by Google,” we wouldn’t be surprised if that’s true.

When it comes to specs, information has been slowly trickling out over the past several months from Evan Blass, Android Police and others. Here’s what we’re (probably) looking at.

Category

Google Pixel

Google Pixel XL

Operating System

Android 7.1 with Google UI

Android 7.1 with Google UI

Processor

Qualcomm Snapdragon 821

Qualcomm Snapdragon 821

RAM

4GB

4GB

Display

5-inch AMOLED 1920×1080

5.5-inch AMOLED 2560×1440

Camera

12MP rear, 8MP front

12MP rear, 8MP front

Battery

2,770mAh non-removable

3,450mAh non-removable

Connectivity

USB Type-C, Bluetooth 4.2

USB Type-C, Bluetooth 4.2

Fingerprint

Yes

Yes

Storage

32GB/128GB

32GB/128GB

IP rating

IP53

IP53

If these specs are accurate, the Pixels will be among the first phones to ship with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 821 chip — a souped-up version of the 820 we’ve seen powering many of 2016’s high-end Android phones.

The regular Pixel’s 1080p screen resolution should help it power through a day of use on a what’s a relatively small power back by Android standards, while the XL packs the same size cell as the Nexus 6P, with a smaller screen and more efficient internals.

As for cameras, there’s been speculation the Pixels’ rear camera may be the same unit used in the HTC 10. If so, we’d expect the to perform comparably to the best Android phones out there right now, given the strength of Google’s HDR+ processing and the likely inclusion of OIS (missing from last year’s 6P.)

Pixel phone software

So far, that’s all standard Android hardware. What’ll really set the Pixel phones apart is the software. Giving the timing of the launch event, in early October, we’d expect it to ship with the first quarterly maintenance release for Android Nougat, which will be Android 7.1 according to one prominent leaker.

But unlike previous years, it’s almost certain 2016’s Google phones will launch with a bunch of new software and UI tweaks on top of “stock” Android. Some are said to be subtle UI changes, and a blue hue replacing the teal used in Android’s quick settings switches and Settings app. Leaked renders have given us a look at what Google plans for icons — maybe an all-circular affair — and on-screen buttons that filled in, not hollowed out.

But there are also more substantial additions coming, according to recent reports, like the ability to double-tap to activate Ambient Display, a Night Light mode for reducing blue light emissions from the display, and a live Support tab within the Settings app for getting help directly from Google. And as part of a handy feature borrowed from Huawei’s EMUI, you’ll apparently be able to swipe down on the fingerprint reader to open the notification shade.

In short: Expect a bunch of Pixel-exclusive software features that might not make it to any other Android phones.

Google will also break away from Google Now Launcher with the Pixel Launcher, which has leaked in a couple of incarnations over the past two months. The iconic Google search bar is gone, replaced with a tab for pulling open the Google Feed (formerly Google Now). And the app drawer has returned to its roots — now a swipe up from the favorites tray shows you all your apps.

Google also appears to be building a live stream of ever-updating wallpapers into its new phones.

Besides this new Google UI, we can expect everything we loved about the software on Google’s Nexus phones to carry over to Pixel — quick updates, developer previews and minimal bloat. (At least when buying unlocked.)

Pixel phone availability, carriers and pricing

Don’t expect Nexus-level prices.

The arrival of two premium smartphones with prominent Google branding and high-end internals — along with apparent carrier involvement — has led to speculation that these phones will carry iPhone-level price tags. After all, Google is surely going after the Apples and Samsungs of the world with these phones. Android Police says the smaller of the two phones will sell for $649, with financing options available through Google. If so, prices for the Pixel XL will almost certainly start north of $700.

It’s also been suggested that at least one of the phones could be carried exclusively on Verizon in the U.S., though it’s extremely unlikely this would preclude unlocked sales through Google’s own online store.

So don’t expect Nexus-level prices here. Instead, look for Google to go all-out with a pair of high-end handsets with appropriately high-end price tags.

There’s only a couple more weeks to go before Google spills the beans on its new Pixel phones. Stay tuned between now and October 4 for all the latest developments!

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Everything we know so far

New navigation buttons

Google UI + circular icons

Android 7.1 Nougat

Pixel vs Pixel XL

Older Nexus phones

Alex Dobie #AndroidCentral #Android #News #Google #Alphabet http://www.androidcentral.com/pixel  

4 Ways to Send Messages That Self-Destruct

4 Ways to Send Messages That Self-Destruct http://fieldguide.gizmodo.com/4-ways-to-send-messages-that-self-destruct-1787173167 Sometimes you don’t want your messages to live forever. Maybe you have something secret you want to tell someone, or maybe it’s something time-sensitive. Or maybe you just don’t want to be trapped by the permanence of the digital age. Whatever the reason may be, here are three tools you can use to g…