This week, Daniel Bader, Alex Dobie, and Jerry Hildenbrand dissect the technology in Apple’s new iPhone X for a deep dive into wireless charging, facial recognition, and the impact they have the entire smartphone industry. Additionally, LG’s V30 continues to generate buzz in the market while the Galaxy Note 8 is now shipping, and the Pixel 2 is officially set for an October 4th announcement. The crew also talk about Andy Rubin, Vic Gundotra, computational photography, and more!

Show Notes and Links:

Podcast MP3 URL:

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

The powerful and compact Sonos Play:1 speaker is currently $35 off at eBay, dropping the price of it down to just $165. While $35 may not seem like a big discount, it isn’t too often that we see any savings on these speakers, so you don’t want to miss when it happens.

Whether you have Sonos speakers already spread throughout your house or are looking to get started with your first one, taking advantage of discounts when they are available is the best way to do this. You’ll be able to add a Play:1 to your existing setup or put it in a room or office to run independently.

Sonos does an amazing job of supporting its speakers and bringing new features to them often. Unfortunately, this price won’t last long. If you’re in the market for a Sonos speaker, be sure to grab one in either black or white before the deal ends.

See at eBay

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

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

It’s a relatively niche space, but Essential is innovating a bit.

The Essential Phone‘s first proper accessory attachment, its 360-degree camera, is finally slowly shipping to early buyers and is available to add to new Essential Phone orders. At $199, the 360-degree camera isn’t exactly an impulse purchase and is in the same price range as other 360-degree offerings, like the Samsung Gear 360.

But just look at it: it’s so small, and it’s an interesting example of the types of things that are possible with the Essential Phone’s pogo pins and fast wireless data transfer system. Even though the Essential 360-degree camera doesn’t have any interoperability with other devices, it sure is a cool piece of technology and worth seeing how it works — and importantly, how that measures up to Essential’s claims and expectations.

How it works

As you’d expect, the Essential Phone’s 360-degree camera is dead simple … almost to a fault. Just snap the camera onto the back, where it attaches with a satisfying clunk of strong magnets, and the camera app will load up in a few seconds directly to the 360 capture mode. You can switch the camera between 4K and 2K resolution, tap a button to re-center the image, and then take a photo or capture video. Yup, that’s it.

Unlike the Moto 360 Camera Mod, you can’t actively switch between the 360 and standard cameras. In fact, the only way to get the 360 camera to launch is to remove the camera from the phone and reattach it. (Surely something that could be added with an update to the camera app.)

360-degree photos and videos are saved automatically into the photo gallery, right alongside all of your other photos and videos, where you can share them out — so no dealing with other storage media or transferring files. You can share the 360-degree photos and videos to all of the usual places like Facebook, YouTube, Google Photos, Flickr, etc. and they have all of the proper metadata to show up just perfectly.


Here are a few good photo samples that give you a feel for what the Essential 360-degree camera can do. One in harsh, one-sided lighting outside, one in consistent lighting outside, and one inside during the day.




The photos look pretty good and have plenty of resolution to be competitive — even though it may not seem too impressive when you compare it with 13MP stills from the main camera. Colors are accurate and no part of the scene is really blown out or blurry, which is about what the average person is going to expect. The stitch between the two lenses is noticeable still, but is pretty well smoothed — it’s only really pronounced in the first photo, which has very strong lighting only hitting one of the lenses. Each 360-degree photo is just 1-2MB.

Though it isn’t necessarily surprising, it’s disappointing to see that the Essential Phone’s camera app doesn’t seem really ready for the 360-degree camera. There’s no option to shoot with just one lens or the other for great one-shot panoramas, nor can you actively switch between standard and 360 shots on the fly. The camera app itself is still quite slow, as you’d expect if you’ve read any of our previous Essential Phone coverage.


In the above video clip, you’ll get a good taste for a few different aspects of the Essential 360-degree camera. First, you get a feeling for how sensitive the microphones are — or at least, how they’re primarily tuned to hear what’s very near to the camera. You can in some cases hear me breathing at an arm’s length away, and at the same time barely hear cars driving by at 20 mph.

A few small issues aside, this is really solid 4K 360-degree video out of a tiny camera.

Next, you see how much walking and movement affects the video quality. It’s not too bad, actually, and there isn’t too much of a jelly effect with the processing applied to it. Then you get to see what things look like when the camera is still (toward the end of the video) — things look really good here once you take the shaking and movement out of the equation. And remember, this is just handheld.

Across the whole video, you notice a couple of small downsides. There’s some odd artifacting in a few places, and there seem to be unnecessary stitching lines where you wouldn’t expect — like directly down the middle of one of the lenses, which is odd. Both of those things, and the sensitive microphones, can indeed be fixed in software. Those small quibbles aside, the core experience here when it comes to video is quite good. That’s solid 4K resolution video out of what is a really small camera setup.

Bottom line

Essential got a whole lot right with its 360-degree camera. It’s extremely compact by 360-degree camera standards, and is relatively inexpensive at $199 — and at the same time, it shows off the great capabilities of the phone’s pogo pins and wireless data transfer. The quality of its photos and videos are quite good, too, which isn’t always easy to do on the “first” try for a product like this.

As is the case with the rest of the experience, the 360-degree camera is hamstrung by software.

As is the case with the rest of the camera experience on the phone, though, the 360-degree camera is somewhat hamstrung by its software. Being able to quickly take and share 360-degree photos and videos just like any other photo is really awesome, but the camera app lacks many features that would be very useful — like simply being able to switch between 360 and standard photos on the fly, or stream 360 videos to Facebook and YouTube.

The Essential 360-degree camera itself isn’t going to sell anyone on the Essential Phone, but as proof of what its technology can do and yet another piece of the ecosystem, it definitely serves its goal. It’s a really solid and not-too-expensive 360-degree camera option.

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

These are the phones Motorola is committing to updating to Android 8.0.

Motorola has had a … mixed history with software updates. On one hand it’s often been super-quick to get the latest version of Android out to some phones, and on the other it has abandoned lower-end phones far sooner than expected. Today, it announced which of its phones will get the update to Android 8.0 Oreo.

Starting “this fall,” Motorola will roll out the Oreo update to:

  • Moto Z
  • Moto Z Droid
  • Moto Z Force Droid
  • Moto Z Play
  • Moto Z Play Droid
  • Moto Z2 Play
  • Moto Z2 Force
  • Moto X4
  • Moto G5
  • Moto G5 Plus
  • Moto G5S
  • Moto G5S Plus

Aside from reaffirming just how ridiculous the naming convention is for Motorola’s phones, a few things stand out. First, it’s great to see that the flagship Moto Z line, now over a year old, is definitely making the jump to Oreo. Also, it’s not surprising to see the latest phones in the Moto G lineup also making the jump — but hey, sometimes you never know with Motorola.

Then there are a couple notable omissions here: what about the Moto E4 series, which launched this year? Sure phones like the Moto E4 retail for just $129, and are already on sale well under that mark, but it’s a phone that launched in June 2017 and it isn’t confirmed for an Oreo update. And how about last year’s Moto G4 lineup — perhaps not every model, but maybe the high-end Moto G4 Plus, at least? Nothing confirmed right now.

That’s not to say that Motorola couldn’t roll out those updates later, perhaps in the first few months of 2018 as so many other manufacturers will, but this isn’t necessarily giving us tons of confidence that it’ll happen.

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

Have you ever been frustrated with your smartphone’s battery life, storage limitations, blurry pictures, software updates and overall performance? If you have, Google’s new Pixel 2 teaser claims that the answer to your frustrations is coming on October 4th.

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 | Posted by | Categories: HTC |

Andy Rubin hosted a Reddit AMA, and answered some burning questions the community had.

After a few delays, the Essential Phone was finally released last month to awaiting fans and critics. While the Phone certainly has a nice design and exotic materials, there are parts of the device that are a bit of a compromise at the retail price of $700. In our review we noted that the camera felt far from finished, and general issues with stability have been ongoing despite multiple OTA updates since.

In a Reddit AMA today, Essential co-founder Andy Rubin (as well as other Essential staff members) responded to numerous questions regarding the camera and stability problems the Essential Phone is facing, as well as other questions on the community’s mind. Rubin himself says the team is happy with the hardware of the camera, and they’re still working on tuning it in software. That’s fortunate since it means the issues can (technically) be fixed for existing users, rather than having to wait for a hypothetical Essential Phone 2 to get a great (or even acceptable) camera experience. But before they get there, they’re also nearing completion of an update to fix the major bugs and crashes users are currently facing.

The first goal is stability and bug fixes … then we get better performance and Oreo.

Elsewhere, the team says that kernel sources and factory images will be released in the next few days. That will be very beneficial for custom ROM developers to learn just how the phone ticks, while the factory images are always a great way to get back to safety after some experimentation. In the same comment, the Essential team said that Android 8.0 Oreo will be released for the device in the next month or two. Given how little Essential has customized in terms of interface, it should be pretty straightforward to build the upgrade. Interestingly enough, Oreo will also make the device compliant with Project Treble. There will also be a beta track for enthusiasts who want to test upcoming releases.

We may actually have cases to choose from soon — and you can buy it all in Europe!

One of the unique but currently underutilized features of the Essential Phone is the modular pogo pins on the back. The only shipping accessory at the time of writing is the 360-degree camera attachment. Next up will be the already announced charging dock, followed by a high-end 3.5mm headphone jack attachment (sigh). As far as third party accessories go, companies will soon have a reference design to build off of, and there will be cases from “several brands” soon — the latter being a real pain point of early Essential Phone buyers.

While the release of the phone is now mostly complete in North America, Essential is looking at releasing the device in Europe soon. A mark of progress is an EU-compliant power adapter being completed this month. Back in the U.S., the company is also in the process of certifying the device to work on Verizon. It already has all of the radio bands necessary, but without official certification the phone won’t work with Verizon’s advanced features like VoLTE. That should be finished in the coming days, Essential says.

That’s a whole lot to digest, but it’s great information. Surely it raised a few more questions as well — let us know what you’re thinking in the comments below!

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

What are the best horror games for VR? {.intro}

You either love them or hate them, but one thing has become apparent: horror games in VR are an entirely new experience. Shutting out the real world, including your desk, monitor, lights, and family members, and being injected straight into a horrifying world is quite a thrill. We’ve rounded up the best VR horror games available right now that will scare you real good.

Read more at VR Heads!

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

These are the lucky August winners of some cool Huawei/Honor swag.

There’s nothing like being a cool person on the internet and winning great gadgets while doing so. But with our Huawei/Honor Community Incentive Program, you can do just that! The basis is pretty simple: be an active, engaged and friendly member of the Huawei or Honor communities in our forums to win great stuff.

Here are the winners from August:

  • Aljean Thein — Congrats, you’ve won a MediaPad M3 tablet!
  • vtua — Congrats, you’ve won an Honor Band Z!
  • pkcable — Congrats, you’ve won an Honor Band Z!

We’ve already halfway into September, but there’s still plenty of time to get to the top of the charts and win some amazing stuff! All you need to do is be active our Huawei/Honor communities!

Learn more about the Huawei/Honor Incentive Program!

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

The upcoming Pixel 2 unveiling has been rumored for October 5th. It looks like the rumors were close, but they appear to have missed the mark by one day. A new Google billboard has gone up in Boston, telling viewers … Read More

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 | Posted by | Categories: HTC |

Well, it doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Initial reports pegged the Google Pixel 2 announcement for October 5, but it doesn’t get much clearer than this image sent to Droid-Life: a billboard, spotted in Boston, with the phrase “ask more of your phone” accompanied by a Google logo the date of October 4. Barring some weird coincidence, it seems like that’s the date for the next Pixel event.

Last year’s Google Pixel event, which was held in San Francisco, was (not so) coincidentally held on October 4 as well. It wouldn’t be surprising if Google wanted to keep that date going, and initial rumors only being off by one day isn’t too shabby.

Now, what exactly could “ask more of your phone” actually manifest itself as in the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2? Well, we don’t really know — that’s a pretty vague statement. Initially it could be taken literally in terms of what Google Assistant could do on the phones, but it could also be a figurative statement — we all want more from our phones.

But we do know what current leaks and rumors are pointing to: two phones from different manufacturers, with the smaller Pixel sticking with a design closer to the original and the larger phone going with something closer to an LG V30. Expect a slightly newer version of Android Oreo with a few extra features, and of course some app and service updates that make it all sing.

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |