For all of its great successes in the Pixel, Google still has one critical flaw to figure out.

April 20 marked the six-month anniversary of the Google Pixel going on sale in the Play Store. As was typical for a Google phone launch, they were tough to get ahold of — backorders reached weeks or even months, depending on what model you wanted. Now, six months later, Google inexplicably still can’t keep Pixels in stock. Just head to the Google Store right now and see that most configuration combinations aren’t available.

Even the models that you can click “buy” on — like a black 32GB Pixel or silver 128GB Pixel XL — won’t ship for two to four weeks. Once again, this is a phone that has been on sale for six months and not once in the past 180+ days has the stock situation been any better. How is it that Google can get this so wrong? Part of it is expectations, but the blame mostly lies on Google’s apparent inability to control its supply chain.

When it’s tough to get a phone, you can always take the positive view that it is simply so popular that the company can’t make enough. But let’s not kid ourselves — you’d have to see a Pixel in every other person’s hand on the street to believe that demand was high enough that it legitimately outpaced any company’s ability to make the phones. The retail channel limitation of only being able to buy from the Google Store or Verizon — rather than seeding to the likes of Amazon and Best Buy — is alone enough to cut back on supply pressure. So really, the issue is how Google set expectations of the Pixel’s availability, only to drastically underdeliver.

After years of Nexus devices with a variety of go-to-market strategies, the Pixels are clearly designed and advertised as phones for everyone in the market for a top-end phone. The way the phones were made, paired with huge spending on effective advertising, set the expectation amongst general consumers (read: not just smartphone nerds) that this would be a phone you could actually buy. At the same time, it seems Google internally still has a portion of its hardware team that sees the Pixels the same way as Nexuses of the past: make some phones, sell what we have and don’t make it a priority to keep stock levels where they should be for a global product launch. Those two aspects don’t mix, and it’s a recipe for frustration for those who want to buy a Pixel.

Google led us to believe we could just buy a Pixel, but then it failed to deliver.

But there’s a problem: those normal consumers that Google targets with its continuous Pixel ads don’t wait around for a phone unless it says “Apple” or “Samsung” on the box. And even then, a significant portion of the buying public wants to walk into a store or visit a website and simply buy the latest phone available today — they don’t want to sit around and wait three weeks for a phone to be in stock, then wait another two weeks for it to arrive. They need a phone now, and every time Google can’t keep its Pixels in stock it’s a lost sale from the exact market it targets.

For all of their flaws, the other Android manufacturers know how to manage a supply chain. Samsung, LG, Huawei, Motorola, HTC and heck, even OnePlus now, know how to make phones available around the world in massive quantities. They have in most cases each made the necessary deals and commitments to get the phones in thousands of physical stores as well, a dramatically taller task than simply stocking a couple of warehouses for online-only distribution.

I don’t want to belittle the huge commitment of time, money and people required to manage the manufacturing, shipment and distribution of phones. But Google designed a phone for the general consumer and spent tens of millions advertising to that demographic, only to once again completely fail to make the devices available when those people went to buy. At some point, we just have to throw up our hands and wonder why it can’t get this right when so many other companies have.

And now, let’s cap off the week with a few other thoughts:

  • During my extremely amazing vacation, the rest of the team killed it with Galaxy S8 review coverage.
  • This is just the beginning, of course, as we’ll continue to talk about the Galaxy S8 a lot for the next year.
  • I now have my black Galaxy S8 — making a conscious decision to choose the smaller model for ease of use understanding that the battery life takes a hit.
  • The official Twitter app rolled out a change to replace the Moments tab with a Search tab that includes search, topic exploration and Moments. This is a way better interface that makes that tab (which everyone has to see every day) useful for a far wider range of Twitter users.
  • Hard to believe we’re only a few weeks away from Google I/O 2017 — it’s going to be a blast, as usual.

That’s all for now. Have a great week, everyone.

-Andrew




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A lingering issue plenty of users have reported in VR is one displaying darker than other.

As the technology for VR grows and develop, there are going to be small problems that crop up. One of the lingering problems that’s been cropping up as far back as 2014 and has appeared on Daydream, Gear VR, and even Oculus Rift, is one eye displaying darker visually on the screen than the other.

Read More at VR Heads!




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Chromebooks for education is an excellent program, but it looks like the educators need a little more teaching when it comes to getting started.

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has renewed their charge against Google, Microsoft, and Apple for the way student privacy is handled in their respective educational markets. They say “Students and their families are backed into a corner.”

As students across the United States are handed school-issued laptops and signed up for educational cloud services, the way the educational system treats the privacy of students is undergoing profound changes—often without their parents’ notice or consent, and usually without a real choice to opt out of privacy-invading technology.

We should want the EFF to act as a watchdog when it comes to our privacy. Or our kids’ privacy.

This is a serious problem, and we should want the EFF to keep pushing and pushing until they can’t find anything to push. With about three-quarters of the education market, Google will certainly be looking out for its own bests interests as will Apple and Microsoft who still find the education sector a pretty lucrative peach. Online privacy for children — especially young children under the age of 13 — is a thing we should all care about and everyone needs to advocate.

The bigger problem is that the teachers and administrators running these programs on the local level aren’t informing students or their parents or even other teachers about the things they should know. And that something Google (and their industry rivals) needs to fix, too.

Teachers love Chromebooks. Students love Chromebooks. The people in the school districts who pay the bills love Chromebooks. But it takes more than love to manage a school system where students are working through the cloud. There needs to be better support and training because sometimes the people running the program and who have control aren’t sure how to use it.

We all had teachers we remember fondly. Mr. Aquisto taught me how to weld when I was 10 and I’ll never forget that. Or him. Teachers don’t make enough money to be doing what they do just to get rich and retire. They care about their students and want to prepare them for life as an adult. But most of them aren’t IT professionals or security researchers. The love of teaching isn’t going to be helpful when it comes to getting a student set up to use a Chromebook with their own Google account while being aware of the potential privacy issues.

Even the best science teacher can need help rolling out Chromebooks while minding student privacy.

Some of the bad practices the EFF points out are admins creating accounts and filling in the personal details for faculty and students without any advance notice, not allowing students or their parents finish the setup process themselves and read the privacy policy and terms of use, allowing children under 13 to get set up with a Google Account without parental consent, and not offering an alternative method of learning for children whose parents would opt-out if given the choice. We expect Google to try and collect data using every legal method available, but the idea that these sort of things are happening is worrisome. And avoidable.

Let’s be clear: None of these problems is Google’s fault. The Chromebook for Education platform is a very good thing that needs a group like the EFF to constantly police it so Google doesn’t go too far. Google offers support for the setup and administration of all the hardware and the admin software, and they aren’t obligated to do more. But they should want to.

The money spent to outfit a school district with Chromebooks may be less that it would be to use iPads or Surfaces, but it’s still a whole lot of money. It needs to come with a real live human being to train faculty members during the initial rollout and a way to contact them in person while the schools are participating. Something needs to change so teachers and school administrators aren’t following very bad procedures because they don’t know any better.

Google doesn’t have to offer more or better training for their EDU partners, but they should want to.

Using Chromebooks in a properly supervised education environment is a great way to prepare children of all ages for the future. The program needs to expand until every child in every school has access to the technology they need to learn as much as they can. But not at the expense of their privacy, and certainly not because the undertrained staff isn’t sure how to guard that privacy. I think part of “Don’t Be Evil” is educating your customers about the best ways to deploy and use the equipment they are buying.




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Sit back, relax and chat about stuff because it’s the weekend!

The weekend is finally here. The five days between them sometimes feel like they take forever, but this week was pretty cool with all the Galaxy S8 stuff. Flo and Daniel have to be especially grateful that the calendar says Saturday this week. Be sure to have a look at the reviews (some things need more than one) they wrote for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ if you haven’t already.

I’m sure they weren’t the only ones working long hours to get things done. But that’s all behind us and it’s time to enjoy life two days at a time.

Part of the way we relax is on the couch with a phone surfing the internet. When you’re doing that it’s always fun to talk about things with other internet surfing relaxed folks. Here’s an open space where you can do just that. Talk about anything with anyone (but be kind to each other and don’t go too far). Phone stuff is cool, but so is car stuff or lawnmower stuff or the best way to make a Mint Julip stuff.

Here’s my random thought to get things started:

I got to play with a PS4 Pro, Xbox One and a Gaming PC all hooked to the same fancy ASUS ROG monitor and all playing the same titles earlier in the week. Anyone who says a console looks and plays as nice as a PC isn’t being honest with themselves or you. And not just a little bit — when you see things side by side it’s a little crazy how much difference is between good (console) and great (PC). A PlayStation or Xbox is still awesome for playing games on the couch, but try not to compare either to a PC the way I did because you’ll never unsee it. I was happier before I did it.
Now it’s your turn. Tell us all something cool!




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Best Shower Speakers

22 April 2017

Sing along with your favorite tunes in the shower with these great speakers.

Updated April, 2017: Added UE’s latest speaker, the Wonderboom.

If you’re sick of belting out your favorite tunes in the shower a cappella you may want to consider getting a speaker to use in the shower.

We’ve compiled a list of the best shower speakers you can find to help you sing like nobody’s listening.

UE Wonderboom

UE’s latest water-resistant Bluetooth speaker is cute as a button! The Wonderboom is a compact Bluetooth speaker with big sound, a lovely design, and an IPX7 rating, meaning it can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes — it’s perfect for the shower. I’ve been testing this speaker and have been very impressed with its low end. The bass is surprisingly warm for such a small unit, and its size, again, is perfect for the shower.

Given its size, the Wonderboom does have a bit of trouble at higher volumes, with clarity capping out around the halfway mark on my phone’s volume. That being said, half my phone’s volume is plenty loud outside the shower and almost too much in it, so you don’t need to crank it at all.

It comes in six fun colors, and we’ll just hope the price comes down below its current $100 to make it a bit more competitive.

See at Amazon

Polk Audio BOOM Swimmer

This tadpole-looking device was conceived by the folks at Polk Audio to be as versatile as possible. The tail-end of the speaker is bendable, making it easy to wrap around shower curtain rods or even your shower head pipe, meaning there is always a convenient place to put it.

The Swimmer’s waterproof rating is even greater than it needs to be for use in the shower. It can be submerged in up to 3 feet of water for half an hour without suffering any damage, meaning it can even fall into the tub when you’re taking a bath.

The sound quality is not bad; although, there is very little bass, which isn’t a surprise when you’re talking about something this small.

See at Amazon

Photive Hydra

The Photive Hydra is perfect for people that want a shower speaker and are more concerned about sound quality than convenience. Sporting a passive subwoofer and two 40mm drivers, the Hydra delivers a fuller sounding low-end, while still providing pleasing, clear treble.

Its IP66 rating won’t allow the speaker to be submerged, but it can handle water jets and splashing just fine, making it more than durable enough to withstand your daily shower.

The Hydra is a little bulkier and bigger than most of the other speakers on the list, but it’s still compact enough to fit on the edge of your tub or on your shower caddy.

See at Amazon

SoundBot SB510

The SoundBot SB510 is perfect for people who want an easier way to control their music while they are listening in the shower.

The simple interface on the front of SoundBot will let you control playback or adjust volume with just a tap of its buttons, meaning you don’t need to get out of the shower and touch your phone to change songs. Plus, there is even a speaker and microphone for taking calls, so you won’t miss anything important just because you’re bathing.

Its water-resistant rating only protects the SoundBot from splashing; however, It installs super easily with a suction cup that is attached to the back of the speaker, so you should have no problem finding a place for it that’s out of harm’s way.

See at Amazon

UE Roll/UE Roll 2

The Ultimate Ears Roll has an IPX7 rating, meaning submerging it in up to 3 feet of water for about half an hour won’t cause any damage, so your daily showers won’t affect it at all. Plus, on the back, it comes with a bungee cord loop, making it easy to wrap or tie the speaker around your curtain rod or shower head, so it stays out of your way while you’re headbanging in the shower.

The UE Roll 2 does come with a couple of improvements over its predecessor model. It has better sound, regarding both volume and quality, than its predecessor, and it also has an increased Bluetooth range of 100 feet, meaning your phone or tablet doesn’t even have to be in the hot, steamy bathroom while you’re getting clean.

See UE Roll 2 at Amazon

Braven Mira

The first thing you will notice about the Braven Mira is the impressive sound quality for such a small device. It manages to stuff two drivers and a passive radiator into its small protective housing, giving the Mira the ability to sound full and provide some decent bass.

The hook on the back of the speaker allows it to hang easily from your shower head or it can even be used as a kickstand, allowing it to sit nicely in the corner of your tub. Plus, the battery lasts for up to 12 hours of playback, so even the longest shower takers should get more than enough time between charges.

Its waterproof rating is IPX5, meaning it can handle being hit by the stream from your shower head, which is more than enough protection for the average user.

See at Amazon

Fugoo Sport

Although it’s another speaker you will need to rest on a shelf or the side of your tub, the Fugoo Sport is an awesome device.

The thing that stands out the most is its 40-hour battery life. If you are truly using this in just the shower, you could probably go for weeks without needing a charge. With a waterproof rating of IP67, not only can you submerge the speaker in 3 feet of water for 30 minutes, but it’s also dust-proof, meaning dirt and other particulates won’t cause you any problems.

On top of it all, the sound quality is very good. The Fugoo Sport has six drivers that are spread out across all four sides, giving you clear, well-balanced 360 degree sound.

See at Amazon

UE Boom 2

Taking the UE Boom 2 into your shower is absolutely no problem as it has a very high water-resistant rating, allowing it to be submerged in 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. It’s also protected against dirt and mud, but you can hand-wash the speaker with warm, soapy water just in case it gets messy.

UE Boom 2′s battery will last you approximately 15 hours of playing time, which should amount to a lot of time in the tub, and has a Bluetooth range of 100 feet, making sure your phone, tablet, or PC doesn’t have to be anywhere near the water. Plus, if you truly want the Boom 2 to live up to its onomatopoeic name, you have the option to set up another one to make a stereo pair and really raise the roof.

See at Amazon

What’s your favorite?

Are you a shower singer? Let us know your favorite speaker to take into the shower with you by leaving us a comment below!




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We already know that HTC’s 2017 flagship will be officially unveiled on May 16th in Taipei, but a new rumor claims that the phone’s final name will be the HTC U 11. While the name sounds a bit awkward, it … Read More




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Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time with cases for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ for great prices!

The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are the hottest smartphone releases of the year. Whether you’ve already placed your order or are about to, odds are that you’ll want a case. With the shrinking bezels, the increased screen size, and the all-glass back of the phone, protection is key if you want it to look great for the long term. Luckily, you don’t have to hide the beauty of the phone with an ugly case because you don’t want to spend a ton of money on one.

Right now you can pick up a variety of cases from Caseology for as little as $5.99, which means you’ll probably want to grab a couple of the different styles. From clear to colored cases, there is something here that just about everyone will like. In order for the coupons to work, you may need to select the non-Prime, fulfilled by merchant option. If you try and use the coupon on the Prime listing and it gives you an error, try changing the seller under the “Other Sellers on Amazon” option on the right side of the page.

Galaxy S8

Galaxy S8+

Note: Each coupon code has a limited number of uses. If you see one that you want, be sure to grab it before the codes expire.

For more great deals be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!




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The company that built Jelly doesn’t claim it’s the smallest smartphone in the world. (That honor might instead belong to its predecessor, the Posh Micro X.) Rather, Jelly is touted as the world’s smallest smartphone that also includes 4G. Toss in Android 7.0, dual SIMs, a replaceable battery and a full-size headphone jack, and you start to wonder if maybe a phone that fits in your coin pocket is worth making a few sacrifices – like re-learning how to type on a keyboard the size of a matchbook. And that’s not even taking into account the bargain-basement price.

Is Jelly worth braving the hazards of Kickstarter and MediaTek processors? Is “world’s smallest smartphone” really a title anyone should be chasing? Just how bad can a smartphone camera get, anyway? Hit the MrMobile video above and see if Jelly is a fit for the smartphone lightweight in your life (or a good second phone for the days you need to travel light)

Stay social, my friends




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Oh, Moto…

I get that it’s hard to cut through the noise and get your name back out there, especially in a market that’s been dominated by Samsung and Apple, but Motorola, you’ve got the best cheap Android phone on the market. Your Moto Mods are one of the best takes on a modular phone that we’ve seen commercially.

You don’t have to come on this strong.

The 56-second video harkens back to the original cell phone call, and what its maker has done since. From the RAZR and Dynatac to the Moto Z family and all of its mods, Motorola tries to make us remember its previous highs and believe that it’s coming again with the Moto Mods and the phones they can be used with.

I’m all for a good lyric vid, and it is Flashback Friday, but c’mon, Moto. This is dad-trying-to-rap levels of trying too hard.




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Four Android Central community members give their thoughts on the value-first alternative carrier, Mint SIM.

We know that our readers are pretty savvy folks, and want the best deal for mobile data they can find. Mint SIM, which you’ve seen mentioned a lot on the site in recent months, is an alternative carrier that promises great LTE speeds and coverage for less than any other carrier.

But people were skeptical — what’s the catch? Why is it so cheap? And are there any downsides? We decided to let the AC community decide for itself. Four forum members, some of whom were provided Mint SIM service in exchange for moderating the forum (but were not influenced for a review in any way) had this to say.

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On setting it up

All four reviewers had a very easy time setting up Mint SIM because it is essentially “plug and play.” You get a SIM kit in the mail, which takes a couple of days, and go to the company’s web page to activate the SIM card. Here’s what DecAway had to say:

I turned my device off, pulled out the old SIM card and popped the Mint Sim, SIM card into my phone and powered it back up. After a few minutes of working your way through the activation process, you’ll be in business and can power up your device and connect to the network. I was actually pleasantly surprised at the ease of activating the SIM and establishing service!

The others noted that the APN — the address that allows the SIM to connect to the Mint SIM network — should automatically work, but on some phones it may need to be entered manually. That’s easy enough, since instructions are in the Getting Started guide. dpham00 said this:

Setup was straightforward. The provided pamphlet guides you through the activation process, porting your phone number (optional), inserting your sim (the provided sim has perforations, and can be punched out for a mini, micro, or nano sim), and setting up the APN. After doing the activation process, I didn’t have to do any setup at all, I just popped in the sim and everything worked fine.

How to set up the APN on your phone

On performance

Here’s where things get interesting. All four reviewers agreed that performance was good, not great, and that it varied wildly depending on the time of day and the location. dpham00 said that his experience was inconsistent:

Performance seemed to be a little inconsistent – even immediately after getting a good speed test, I would sometimes struggle to open a web page. This could be an issue with the Mint sim being de-prioritized over T-Mobile customers, or something with the connection itself as sometimes, simply turning airplane mode on, and off again, will get things going.

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He notes that, indeed, because Mint SIM is an MVNO — an alternative carrier — it must piggyback off a larger network, which in this case is T-Mobile. While it’s unlikely that T-Mobile is actively deprioritizing Mint SIM traffic, it not be privy to the network’s fastest speeds, especially during times of congestion.

DecAway had a similar experience, but found that performance was mainly very good, and quite reliable:

After a week of using the service I can tell you that it’s definitely not always “blazing” fast, as noted by Mint SIM, but it can be… and it is adequate. Mint Sim users are naturally deprioritized, meaning in congested areas your bandwidth will be much more limited at times, which I attribute to the slower speeds that I received. However, is that necessarily bad? Well, the answer is that it depends. First, objectively, I just paid roughly $12 bucks for 2GB of LTE data… Reflecting on my experience with Mint Sim so far, I have been able to achieve download speeds of up to 21.04mbps and 12.24mbps, with a top-end 13.79mbps and 9.99mbps upload speeds.

Those are pretty good speeds. VDub2174 had a similarly good experience, but remarked on the excellent Mint SIM coverage:

Coverage was great for me! When I checked the coverage map I saw that I was in an area that got great 4G LTE coverage. Living in a suburb area I sometimes get spotty 4G LTE but in my direct neighborhood it was great. I kept an eye on my reception while going about my day and saw that coverage was on point with my T-Mobile phone.

He also enjoyed access to Wi-Fi Calling, which is a hallmark T-Mobile feature that made the jump to its MVNO partners.

User Golfdriver97 also enjoyed the wide coverage provided by T-Mobile’s network, saying he didn’t have a problem with speed or network availability anywhere he went.

Had good to high signal where I went. So there wasn’t any gaps in coverage.

On value

All four reviewers noted that Mint SIM, even with its sometimes-spotty LTE data speeds, is a good deal. From dpham00:

So the question you are having now is – is it worth it? I would say for the price, absolutely. It is aggressively priced if you are willing to make a commitment from 3 months and up, especially at the one year mark. Sure it has a few hiccups here and there, but if you are looking at Mint sim, then you are looking for a bargain basement pricing, and as such, you will have to deal with the occasional problem here and there. If you are using it a lot and demand the best performance, then you would probably be better off with one of the big 3. However, I think this is great for someone who uses the internet somewhat sparingly and can accept some hiccups.

Golfdriver97 agrees:

I would honestly say give them a shot. Start by getting an independent number at first. This way you aren’t porting your number and find out that it doesn’t work for you.

That’s another sentiment shared by all reviewers: Mint SIM is alright as a primary number — VDub2174 said his number was recycled and received a lot of spam calls — but better as a secondary number primarily for data usage. While Mint SIM doesn’t support tethering, it’s a good way to watch media on the go for less money.

DecAway said that Mint SIM is great for most situations:

If you carry two phones around like me and can turn on wireless tethering with the other device, it really makes up for the shortfalls. If you’re cool with occasional inconsistencies in data speeds, then it’s also less worrisome. Call quality and messaging are more than adequate, so if you really need a cheap phone plan with the promise of internet in uncongested areas and off-peak times, this could be the answer for you.

He also notes that the promotional pricing, which is $35 for 3 months, with 2GB of data, is only for new customers, so it’s an easy investment to try, but costs will go up eventually. (You can get 20% off a 6-month or 1-year plan with the offer code “ACMINTSIM20″, by the way.)

Finally, VDub2174 sums it up nicely:

Pricing is very affordable when compared to other plans so if you’re looking for a plan that gives you the most bang for your buck, I would check out Mint SIM.

So there you go. Mint SIM is a great choice for people who don’t need tethering, and can deal with a few occasional slowdowns when it comes to cheap wireless data service.

Head to our dedicated Mint SIM forums to ask questions and get more information!




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