The Google Pixel 3 Is Coming

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL, released in 2016, surprised many. This blog described the Pixel XL as the “iPhone” of the Android world, and others praised the phone as well. When the Google Pixel 2 was released, the praise continued. Tech Radar gave the updated series 4 stars.

“The Pixel 2 clues us in on why Google called its phone series Pixel: it was building the best camera on a phone. This second-generation effort fulfills that promise with not only the best-in-class photos, but also dual front-facing speakers and water-resistance.”

The review only dismissed the average-looking design and the fact that there was no headphone jack. CNET gave the series four-and-a-half stars, and also complimented the camera. It appears that the camera is the absolute best part of the device. What makes it all fascinating is that unlike the latest smartphone cameras from Samsung and Apple, Google’s only has one lens.

According to various sources, the Pixel 3 series may also only have a single-lens rear camera, but it will have a dual-lens front camera. The next Pixel phone will have a notch (very similar to the one on iPhone X) on its practically bezel-free front, an all-glass back, stereo speakers, and a  rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. There are some rumors that it will have an under-the-screen fingerprint scanner, but not even Apple and Samsung have been able to get that working.

Google's Pixel smartphones only have one rear lens but are known to take fantastic photos.

The Pixel 3 smartphones will likely be announced in early October, which is the same time as the past couple of years. Then, the smartphones will likely be available a couple weeks later. This year, the new Pixel 3 and Pixel XL 3 will have some stiff competition, so they need to stand out in some way. Around the same time, three versions of the iPhone are expected to be unveiled (one supersized version, one less expensive, and one with three rear cameras), and Apple is said to finally make one of the phones compatible with the Apple Pencil.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9, which is expected to be announced on August 9, is expected to come with an S Pen that includes Bluetooth support (more on this in an upcoming article). Otherwise, there is expected to be very little changed in terms of the design, which is fine since the Note 8 design is nearly perfect.

No matter which smartphone you choose, at least you’ll have a great choice this time around. 2018 will definitely be a much-needed peak  year when it comes to smartphones.

 

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Microsoft’s Upcoming $400 Tablet Could Be Apple’s Nighmare

When Microsoft introduced the Surface tablet that ran Windows RT in 2012, they set themselves up for failure. The company introduced a tablet to compete with Apple’s iPad. It’s lowest price was $500 with the Touch Cover. The main problem was that the Surface felt like a (sorry to use this term, but it’s the best way to describe it) crippled Windows machine. It was the latest in a series of bad moves for Microsoft, but the company would recover soon enough.

Microsoft would soon face criticism with the release of the Surface Pro, the higher-end version of the Surface that ran a full version of Windows. However, after improving the Surface Pro, admitting it’s more of a PC than a tablet, and finding major success, Microsoft is going back to compete with the iPad. According to The Verge, Microsoft has been working on a $400 tablet, and it just passed the FCC this week. There aren’t many details about the product, but there is a lot of speculation.

According to CNET, sources say that the new Surface tablet would run on Intel Pentium chips, and it could have a 10-inch screen. Other sources, such as Windows Latest, have the new tablet running either Intel Kaby Lake or Gemini Lake processors. Many sources agree that the tablet will still run a full version of Windows 10. Microsoft is allegedly working on a new range of accessories, such as cheaper keyboard, cheaper Type Cover, and mouse.

The iPad Pro will soon face some heavy competition.

Microsoft’s new tablet could really be Apple’s nightmare, and the main reason is that it will be priced the same as an iPad Pro, but it could really be a tablet that replaces your computer (at least for some people). While the iPad Pro has been advertised as a device that can replace your PC, it’s definitely not the case since it doesn’t run a desktop OS. You can’t run a desktop version of Photoshop. And you can’t run the desktop version of Microsoft Office either.

The one potential problem is that Microsoft’s upcoming $400 tablet, if used as a PC, won’t work as well as a PC. Just because something runs Windows 10 doesn’t mean it does it well. For example, using Photoshop on a low-powered device will be painful. And don’t even try to run video editing programs. But if you use the new Surface tablet for office work and entertainment, the money you save from buying a full-fledged Surface Pro may be worth it.

Apple is scheduled to release their updated iPad Pro this fall. The Cupertino company has always owned the tablet market, even though that market has been decreasing. The new Microsoft Surface tablet device will certainly put a dent in Apple’s future tablet plans

 

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Microsoft’s Pocketable Dual-Screen Surface Device Is What We Need

Microsoft Surface Device Render

Technology has been somewhat boring lately, but Microsoft is about to fire things up. According to The Verge, Microsoft has been working on a dual-screen pocketable Surface device for at least to years that has the codename of “Andromeda.”

“It’s a new pocketable Surface device form factor that brings together innovative new hardware and software experiences to create a truly personal and versatile computing experience,” Microsoft says of the device, adding that it will further blur the lines between a PC and a smartphone.

For those who doubt Microsoft can do something like this, all you have to do is look back at the first Surface RT device in 2012 and the Surface Pro release in 2013. Those devices were laughed at (although they showed major promise). But by the third iteration of the Surface Pro (the Surface RT was discontinued), Microsoft did exactly what it set out to do. And the latest Surface Pro is everything a PC/tablet combo should be.

Microsoft made an almost perfect laptop/tablet combo. Perhaps, they can do the same thing with a phone/PC device.

There have been rumors of a new Surface Phone for the past couple of years now, but nothing concrete has ever emerged. Microsoft hasn’t been successful in the mobile smartphone market, and many thought the highly-touted Surface Phone was what the company needed in order to turn around their mobile fortunes. Who knew that Microsoft was creating something even better than the Surface Phone concept?

It is rumored that the device will run Windows 10. Microsoft got itself into trouble last decade when they tried to put the Windows desktop operating system on devices known as Ultra Mobile PCs. The main problem besides the awful battery life was that consumers didn’t really want the complexity of a desktop operating system on a small device. But Windows has changed over the past 10 years, and it’s possible that Windows 10 can work on a smartphone-sized device now.

People who purchase the Andromeda device probably won’t be purchasing it to replace their laptops or desktop PCs, so Microsoft would be smart to use ARM-based mobile processors in order to save battery life. It looks like Microsoft will add stylus support, which is very much needed in order to compete with the Galaxy Note and the upcoming iPhone X Plus, which may be the first Apple device to have stylus support.

There are no predictions on when Microsoft’s device will come out. But if they decide to release it in time for the Christmas season, it will certainly throw a curve ball  to Apple and Samsung’s marketing plans. 2018 could really be the year of the smartphone we’ve been waiting for.

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Apple’s MacBook Pro Butterfly Keyboard Runs Into Issues

Apple’s Butterfly keyboard is causing problems.

The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar has been discussed on this blog many times, and most of the discussions are positive. The Butterfly keyboard did have a two-day learning curve for me, but I was able to get used to it. They wanted to make an ultra-light notebook and needed to make some compromises.

However, many people have had issues. Early last year, 9to5Mac was one of the first to report on the problems of stuck keys with Apple’s new keyboard.

“An Apple Support Communities thread has multiple reports of stuck keys on the 12-inch MacBook. Some users report that they were able to resolve the issue themselves by cleaning out debris, while others have had machines replaced by Apple under warranty.”

Over the past year and a half, there have been a lot more reports. Finally, Apple acknowledged the issue.  According to The Verge, the Cupertino company is now offering an extended keyboard service program for computers hit by the issue. The extended warranty covers the replacement of key or even the entire keyboard.

While most people who purchased the new MacBook Pro aren’t affected by the issue, the amount of those who are is still troubling. And it makes one ask if the short-travel keyboard design is really worth it. In some case, it is. For example, lets take a look at the Dell XPS 13 9370 keyboard.

Dell XPS 13 9370 Keyboard

The travel on the keys is smaller than previous versions of the XPS, but the click feels natural, not crunchy like the Butterfly keys on the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro devices. Dell was able to fit this keyboard on a device that is lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Pro. However, the new XPS 13 isn’t the only device that has a newly engineered keyboard that Apple can take notes from.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

The keyboard on the XPS 15 2-in-1 has magnetic keys that are similar to the Butterfly keys. However, I have never experienced keys getting stuck. And the magnetic keys gives your fingers the illusion of a full-travel keyboard. This takes more to get used to than other keyboards, but after three days, it feels like one of the best keyboards ever put on a laptop.

Perhaps Apple shouldn’t worry about making the keys shorter, and put back a keyboard similar to the MacBook Pros from 2015. People would rather have a regular keyboard than a lighter unit that makes compromises. And as many have complained about, Apple has already made too many compromises on their latest laptops. Let’s hope that changes when Apple releases the 2018 MacBook Pro, which is rumored to arrive in stores during the fourth quarter of 2018.

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Wearing A Hidden Camera Everywhere May Not Be A Bad Idea

Did something ever happen when you said you wished you had it on camera? It could be something good or something funny. But the most important reason for wishing something is on video is  usually because of something negative.

You were sexually harassed at the park. You witnessed an accident. You could also be part of an uncomfortable encounter that can turn dangerous, and you will need legal backing. Sadly, you could also be accused of wrongdoing by someone seeking attention.

Yes, you have your smartphone camera. And as we’ve seen, there have been viral videos that show racism, misogyny, and other “isms” that have put the perpetrators in their places. But not only do smartphones take a small effort to get out of your pocket, but you may be too full of Adrenalin to even think of using them right when neeed.

Wearable hidden cameras aren’t mainstream yet, but you can bet they will be. They are more important now than ever. There are many different kinds of devices that have hidden cameras. SpyTec sells what looks like regular glasses with a camera that is difficult to notice.

SpyTec Clear HD Video Glasses

For $109.95, the SpyTec Clear HD Video Glasses shoot 720p HD video. The bad news (like with most wearable camera devices) is that they have a relatively short battery life — 90 minutes. I have not used these myself and have heard mixed things from others who have. But, unlike many of the hidden camera devices out there, they at least work as advertised.

SpyTec Smiley Pin with Hidden Video Camera

SpyTec also has another device (and I swear I don’t work for this company; they are just one of the only ones with these types of products) that may be easier (for at least some people). It’s a smiley pin! It costs $39.95, and it looks like the type of thing people would smile back at rather than suspect it’s taking videos of them. It most likely doesn’t take HD videos, because that isn’t advertised. But it still may be useful for many important situations when you need to take a video without anybody knowing.

LKcare HD Hidden Camera Sports Watch

The product that interests me the most right now is LKcare’s HD Hidden Camera Sports Watch, which costs $56.99. I’ve seen one person with it and was pretty impressed. The tinted glass on the watch easily hides the camera, which actually takes pretty decent videos  (unless it’s dark out), and even better photos. It uses a 16GB microSD card. It can take two hours of HD video in one charge, but that’s about the most a device like this offers.

Once again, wearable hidden camera devices are still a niche market, but they won’t be this time one year from now. You can bet this blog will have a review of at least one of these devices before the end of July.

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Ready To Unlock Your Car With Your Smartphone?

Ready to unlock your car without physical key?

How often do you lose your car keys? Personally, I lose mine about twice a year, which is still too much. And I don’t have a spare with me. When this happened late last year, I had to call a locksmith. While he was on his way, I thought about how great it would be if I could just unlock it on my iPhone. Well, it looks like that will become a reality soon.

As Digital Trends notes, the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) has published a Digital Key Release 1.0 specification that shows how tech companies can standardize the use of smartphones to lock and unlock cars. You can even use the smartphone to unlock a car’s engine and share access to the vehicle. This sounds like a great convenience for drivers, but also one for car thieves as well. This is bound to cause a lot of controversy, just as most new technology does.

However, Apple and Samsung are contributing to the future technology, so there might be some hope. Audi, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Hyundai, and Volvo will release the first models that use the Digital Key specification, and that should happen with the release of some 2019 models. The folks behind the new Digital Key project also say that with your smartphone, your car will also predict where you are going to drive once you get into it by “studying” your habits. This is getting very deep but in a very way.

My first thought is that not having to carry a key with me will free my right pocket. It will also free my mind as I panic when I don’t feel my car key in my pocket. But I also may worry about getting my iPhone hacked and getting my car stolen. What kind of security options will Digital Key offer?

Would you trust a self-driving car?

Perhaps it’s not productive to worry so much about the future of the Digital Key technology. Forget smartphone keys; self-driving cars are now the future. But are they safe? Well, we can look at the recent incident in which it was revealed that a self-driving Uber car safety “driver,” Rafaela Vasquez, was streaming The Voice on Hulu when the car killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg. All this makes me wonder when we are going to get the flying car that has been predicted since Back to the Future?

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Bose Sleepbuds: First Exclusive Review

Many sites have talked about the new Bose Sleepbuds, which are making their way into Bose stores this week. But, they have not provided a full review. This is why I was suspicious testing them out today because I thought the reviews must have been so bad that Bose put an embargo on them.

Shockingly, Bose is really onto something with the Sleepbuds. I haven’t used them for a full night’s sleep yet, but I used them for a two hour nap and it was one of the most peaceful ones I’ve had in years, despite it being in my car. I parked at a pretty noisy and annoying parking lot, but I needed some sleep after working all night. I used the “Shower” track, which accurately simulated a rain shower. It reminded me of my childhood in Chicago, a place where it actually rains. (Unfortunately, there has been very little rain here in Southern California.)

The Sleepbuds come with a very classy charging case.

Besides the “Shower” track, there is also Swell (ocean wind sounds), Altitude, Cascade (waterfall sounds), Circulate (useless), Downstream, Warm Static, Rustle (wind & leaves), Tranquility (slow music), and Campfire. Unfortunately, you can’t stream your own music or sounds. I thought it was just a cop-out when Bose said their new buds are too small and not powerful enough for playing music. But once I handled and used the buds, I understood where Bose was coming from.

The best thing about the new rubbery Sleepbuds is that they fit into your ears comfortably without reminding you they are there. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve use the AirPods, which are about as comfortable as wireless stereo earbuds that play music can get. Sony’s new WF-SP700N wireless earbuds have good sound and decent noise cancellation, but can get your ear canals irritated after wearing them for just a few hours. And the Jabra Elite 65t earbuds may be the best overall, but they are also the most uncomfortable.

So, if you are one who sleeps with earbuds or even noise-cancelling over-the-ear headphones, you’ll appreciate the Bose Sleepbuds right away. There are three sizes, and you must pick the one that most comfortably fits in order to get the best results. If you are looking for the active noise cancellation on this product, you are looking for something that simply doesn’t exist. Instead, as Bose properly claims, the buds are noise-masking. They offer passive noise isolation with different sounds that mask annoying sounds such as people snoring, dogs barking, cars crashing, etc. And it works very well.

It’s important to note that even the best active noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds don’t keep out all of the sounds, especially at different frequencies. The Sleepbuds can keep out just about all the background noise (unless you are in a very loud place like a concert or a Starbucks with loud music playing). They put you in another world. And the sounds are realistic and relaxing enough without sounding too digitized.

Bose's Sleepbuds fit very comfortably into the ear canal.

The Sleepbuds aren’t just for sleeping; they are for relaxing almost anywhere or allowing you to get work done without bothersome noises. They are great to wear for people who have ADHD and want to get work done anywhere. In fact,  they are currently being used while writing this review at Starbucks (I’m using the Campfire mode now). I don’t want to take them out of my ears because they are so soothing.

One of the advantages of the Sleepbuds not being able to stream music or take phone calls is that the battery life is great and can go up to 16 hours in a single charge. The Sleepbuds come with a futuristic case that charges the buds rapidly. In other words, you don’t have to worry about being awaken by a voice that says, “Battery level, low!” like you do with other earbuds and headphones.

The only downside to the Sleepbuds is the price tag — $249. But if you suffer from insomnia, have a hard time concentrating in noisy environments, or just want to escape to relaxing soundscapes, Bose’s newest earbuds are something that you should consider. Many may laugh at the Sleepbuds now, but they will soon be considered a revolutionary product.

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Bose Noise-Masking Sleepbuds: Revolutionary Or Instant Flop?

Bose has been on the cutting edge of audio technology for several decades, especially during the 2010′s. They may not be first at every type of product, but Bose — much like Apple — perfects things other companies have failed at.

This time, Bose is trying a different kind of product, and it has me both intrigued and laughing. The sleep buds, which cost $249, are not designed for listening to music (and won’t work for that either), but have what Bose calls “noise-masking” technology. The buds allegedly “deliver uniquely engineered sounds that mask unwanted noise and lull you to sleep.”

What are these “engineered” sounds? They are the sounds of beaches, thunderstorms, waterfalls, etc. They are supposed to mask the sounds of snoring, loud cars, noisy neighbors, etc.

Click to play in YouTube.

First of all (and I hate to be a critic before actually trying them), why can’t you just use regular wireless earbuds, download several soothing audio files, and play them wirelessly through Bluetooth? At the same time, you would only pay a fraction of the price. And is sound masking really good without actual active noise cancellation?

Speaking of noise cancellation, this is what I have used for the past five years in order to sleep. Some may find it uncomfortable, but I fall asleep wearing noise-cancelling over-the-ear headphones, noise-cancelling neckband earphones, and even earbuds. I just leave the headphones on without playing any music. As a person who wakes up easily to almost any type of sound, I can comfortably say that noise cancellation technology has saved me from my days as a frustrated insomniac. And if I want a little added layer of protection, I play slow EDM mood music.

But I am not everybody. And battery life, for many, is an issue. Bose claims that their new sleepbuds can last though two nights of sleep. The battery life on many regular wireless headsets is too limited. But the best thing about the sleepbuds is that you don’t need to tether them to a wireless phone; the sleep-masking sounds are stored in the buds themselves.

The Bose Noise-Masking sleepbuds will be available starting next week. I’m sure, because of the novelty of the product, they’ll sell out quickly. But will this be a long-lasting type of product, or will the sleepbuds make the list of the biggest technology flops of the decade — right along with the Google Glass?

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Would You Buy The New Samsung Galaxy X Foldable Smartphone For $1850?

Samsung Galaxy X concept photo

The Samsung Galaxy X is becoming more or a reality each day. The bad news — it could cost about $1850. Know Your Mobile has the news.

“According to the sources the Galaxy X could cost as much as $1850, making it the most expensive phone Samsung has ever produced.”

The article adds that the phone, which will have an OLED screen, may be able to double as a tablet when unfolded (possibly to a 7.5-inch screen). The production of the components of the Galaxy S will allegedly begin in November, while the launch is set for early 2019.

The Good….

As high as the price may be, people may be willing to open their pockets. These days, almost all phones look identical in some way. Samsung could really shake things up with a completely different type of smartphone. It could be revolutionary in the way the iPhone was back in 2007.

Let’s also not forget that people rarely pay the full cost of a smartphone these days. So many carriers have financing plans, and one can just trade it in for the next big foldable smartphone when using T-Mobile’s “JUMP on Demand” plan. Most importantly, $1850 is just a price that’s being thrown around like it’s a fact. You can expect the final price to be a little cheaper. And even if it isn’t, you can expect carriers to have special deals.

The Bad…

The geeks may be lining up for weeks for the Galaxy X, but will it attract the average consumer? Do you ever hear people say, “I think I need a foldable smartphone?” And even if it is released, there are several rumors that the Galaxy X will be released in limited supplies and (possibly) limited countries.

The Samsung Galaxy X will also be a first-generation product. Remember the first iPhone? Remember the first Galaxy Note? It usually takes a company at least two tries before getting rid of most of the major bugs. And because the foldable technology will be so advanced, it is loudly inviting problems.

The Samsung Galaxy X could make its way into our hands during the first quarter of 2019.

The final reason why the Galaxy X may not be a good idea is because of the operating system — Android. Google’s operating system has been though so many generations, and it still isn’t as user-friendly as iOS. Putting it on a foldable smartphone will just complicate things more.

Conclusion

Ok, so I listed more negatives than positives. However, I am truly looking forward to the Samsung Galaxy X. You can bet that despite all my present and future complaints, I’ll be one of the first in line to buy it.

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Sony’s WF-SP700N Sports Earbuds Aren’t A Failure, But Need Some Improvements

Last week, I posted one of the first actual initial impressions review of Sony’s highly anticipated new WF-SP700N wireless sports earbuds. Now that I’ve used them for a week, I can post my full review. They definitely pass the test, but have some annoying faults.

Design

The WF-SP700N earbuds look like miniature nuggets. You may hold them and ask how they could possibly be comfortable in your ears. However, once you put them in, your fears subside. Now, the case that they come in is a different story. It is very thick and feels like an egg that has been flattened a little bit. Don’t get me wrong; the charging case can easily fit into your pocket. However, it creates somewhat of a bulge.

Audio

Sony's WF-SP700N wireless earbuds offer the best sound in their class.

Of course, this is the most important aspect of any wireless earbuds. In terms of sound, the WF-SP700N buds offer the most rich sound of any earbuds that I have tested. Sony does offer many equalizer modes, but it’s best to leave this mode off for the most natural sound. And Sony’s default sound is heavy on bass (but not overwhelmingly so), a little heavy on treble, and the medium ranges are slightly recessed. 

You won’t get the same sound you do on Sony’s W1-1000X neckband wireless headphones, but it comes pretty close. It’s a technical wonder how Sony can fit in the sound they do on such small ear nuggets.

Noise Cancellation

It’s also a technical wonder how Sony can fit in any kind of noise cancellation. If you are used to Sony’s other headphones, you may not like the level of noise cancellation the WF-SP700N buds offer. However, it is more than decent. You won’t be buying these buds specifically for noise cancellation, but it is good to have.

Like their other headphones, Sony’s buds have an Ambient mode so you can listen to your music while the background noise around you increases. This is especially useful if you are running outside or even driving. Using this mode on the WF-SP700N definitely makes for a safe driving experience.

Phone Calls

Click here to play Sony's promotional video in YouTube.

The worst thing about last year’s WF-1000X buds is that they were absolutely unusable for making audio calls. The updated buds are capable, but still leave room for improvement.

One problem is that only the left bud works for phone calls. Still, if you are in a somewhat quiet room, others can hear you. If you are walking outside without too much traffic, others can still hear you. But once you are in your car or in a windy environment, your voice will become muffled and teeter in and out.

Battery Life

This is another big issue with the WF-SP700N buds. While the case provides up to three charges, it’s still frustrating to hear “Recharge your headset” when you least expect it. Sony says their new buds can last three hours on a single charge, but I have yet to achieve that. (The most I’ve achieved is two hours and fifty minutes).

And putting the buds back in with their fins leads to a frustrating experience. In order to maintain my sanity, I’ve had to take the fins off when charging — something you shouldn’t have to do.

Conclusion

Sony hasn’t made the ideal wireless earbuds yet, but boy they keep on trying. However, the latest buds are worth the $179 price tag. Despite their faults, the WF-SP700 earbuds offer the best sound (when compared to other earbuds), decent noise cancellation, and fit comfortably in your ears. Chances are that Sony will finally make the perfect earbuds on their next try.

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