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Apple Iphone X

Ater months of hype, endless speculation, and a wave of last-minute rumors about production delays, the iPhone X is finally here. Apple says it’s a complete reimagining of what the iPhone should be, 10 years after the original revolutionized the world. That means some fundamental aspects of the iPhone are totally different here — most notably, the home button and fingerprint sensor are gone, replaced by a new system of navigation gestures and Apple’s new Face ID unlocking system. These are major changes.

New iPhones and major changes usually command a ton of hype, and Apple’s pushing the hype level around the iPhone X even higher than usual, especially given the new thousand-dollar starting price point. For the last few years, we’ve said some variation of “it’s a new iPhone” when we’ve reviewed these devices. But Apple wants this to be the beginning of the next 10 years. It wants the iPhone X to be more than just the new iPhone. It wants it to be the beginning of a new generation of iPhones. That’s a lot to live up to.

I got a lot of questions about the iPhone X as I wrote this review, and I did my best to answer as many of them as I could. Apple’s asking users to change a decade’s worth of habits, which is a big change. And with big changes come big risks.

DESIGN

At a glance, the iPhone X looks so good one of our video editors kept saying it looked fake. It’s polished and tight and clean — my new favorite Apple thing is that the company managed to move all the regulatory text to software, leaving just the word “iPhone” on the back. The screen is bright and colorful and appears to be laminated tighter than previous iPhones, so it looks like the pixels are right on top. Honestly, it does kind of look like a 3D model instead of an actual working phone.

But it is a real phone, and it’s clear it was just as challenging to actually build as all the rumors suggested. It’s gorgeous, but it’s not flawless. There’s a tiny sharp ridge between the glass back and the chrome frame that I feel every time I pick up the phone. That chrome frame seems destined to get scratched and dinged, as every chrome Apple product tends to do. The camera bump on the back is huge; a larger housing than the iPhone 8 Plus fitted onto a much smaller body and designed to draw attention to itself, especially on my silver review unit. There are definitely going to be people who think it’s ugly. But it’s growing on me.

There’s no headphone jack, which continues to suck on every phone that omits it, but that’s the price you pay for a bezel-less screen with a notch at the top. Around the sides, you’ll find the volume buttons, the mute switch, and the sleep / wake button. The removal of the home button means there are a few new button combinations to remember: pressing the top volume button and the sleep / wake button together takes a screenshot. Holding the sleep button opens Siri. And you turn the phone off by holding either of the volume buttons and the sleep button for several seconds.

Apple gave us the white and silver model to review, and although Apple says the band on the outside is better than surgical-grade stainless steel, mine already has scratches and dings. So I wouldn’t expect it to remain flawless if you don’t have a case.

And, of course, there’s the notch in the display — what Apple calls the “sensor housing.” It’s ugly, but it tends to fade away after a while in portrait mode. It’s definitely intrusive in landscape, though — it makes landscape in general pretty messy. Less ignorable are the bezels around the sides and bottom of the screen, which are actually quite large. A lot of people I showed the phone to hated them, but I think they make the bright colors of the display pop. It’s a very different design decision than curving the screen to eliminate the bezel entirely, like Samsung does. Instead, Apple’s highlighting what little bezel remains. That amounts to a thick black border all the way around the screen, with that notch set into the top.

I personally think the iPhone 4 is the most beautiful phone of all time, and I’d say the iPhone X is in third place in the iPhone rankings after that phone and the original model. It’s a huge step up from the surfboard design we’ve been living with since the iPhone 6, but it definitely lacks the character of Apple’s finest work. And… it has that notch.

DISPLAY

The iPhone X is Apple’s first phone to use an OLED display, after years of Apple LCDs setting the standard for the industry. OLED displays allow for thinner phones, but getting them to be accurate is a challenge: Samsung phones tend to be oversaturated to the point of neon, Google’s Pixel XL 2 has a raft of issues with viewing angles and muted colors, and LG’s new V30 has problems with uneven backlighting.

Apple’s using a 5.8-inch Samsung-manufactured OLED display, which it says it custom designed for the iPhone X. It’s a bigger number than the iPhone 8 Plus’ 5.5-inch display, but it’s a taller, thinner aspect ratio, so it’s actually not as big. Overall, the iPhone X is definitely more of a slightly bigger iPhone 8 than a smaller 8 Plus, and that’s what it feels like in your hand. It’s like when Apple moved from the iPhone 4 to the 5 — the display grew a bit taller. In fact, when you run apps that aren’t optimized for the X, they run with huge software bezels and the whole thing looks exactly like an iPhone 8.

The display uses a diamond PenTile pixel layout, which means every pixel on the screen shares red, green, and blue subpixels with the pixels around it — unlike previous iPhone LCD screens which have dedicated RGB subpixels in a stripe for every pixel on the screen. A lot of people don’t like PenTile screens and I haven’t liked them in the past either, but you really can’t tell the iPhone X is PenTile with the naked eye. Apple says it’s doing a bunch of custom antialiasing and subpixel rendering to make this display work better than other Samsung PenTile OLEDs, and I think the effort shows.

In any event, the screen is excellent. The iPhone X OLED is bright, sharp, vibrant without verging into parody, and generally a constant pleasure to look at. Side by side with the iPhone 8, the X is noticeably cooler, and a bit softer — which I think makes it slightly easier to look at for long periods. The iPhone X has Apple’s True Tone system to automatically adjust color temperature to the ambient light, but strangely the X was a very different color than the iPhone 8 with True Tone on. I asked Apple about this, and they suggested that the iPhone X’s 10-channel light sensor was more precisely reading the ambient light than the 4-channel unit in the 8. Whatever the case, they were very different.

Apple is very proud that the iPhone X display offers Dolby Vision HDR support, so iTunes movies mastered in HDR play with higher brightness and dynamic range, but honestly, I found it very hard to see the difference when I watched Wonder Woman from iTunes and regular videos on other services. It’s a nice spec line, but I don’t think you’ll notice day-to-day.

The screen isn’t perfect, though: every OLED screen shifts colors off-axis, and the iPhone X is no exception. It definitely gets bluer if you tilt the phone back and forth along either axis, but it’s nothing like, say, the Pixel 2 XL, which tints blue if you just shift the phone in your hand. It’s one of those things that doesn’t leap out at you, but you’ll notice it if you’re looking for it.

A lot of you asked us about burn-in, and I haven’t seen any yet. But it’s early, so I asked Apple about it, and they told me that they’ve also done a ton of work with the screen and in the OS to limit burn-in. Every OLED screen eventually suffers some burn-in though, so we’ll just have to wait and see if the iPhone X really is better than the competition.

Unfortunately, the top of the display is marred by that notch, and until a lot of developers do a lot of work to design around it, it’s going to be hard to get the most out of this screen. I mean that literally: a lot of apps don’t use most of the screen right now.

Apps that haven’t been updated for the iPhone X run in what you might call “software bezel” mode: huge black borders at the top and bottom that make the phone look just like an iPhone 8. And a lot of apps aren’t updated yet: Google Maps and Calendar, HBO Go, the Delta app, Spotify, and more all run with software bezels. Games like CSR Racing and Sonic The Hedgehog looked particularly silly. It’s fine, but it’s ugly, especially since the home bar at the bottom of the screen glows white in this mode.

Apps that haven’t been specifically updated for the iPhone X but use Apple’s iOS autolayout system will fill the screen, but wacky things happen: Dark Sky blocks out half the status bar with a hardcoded black bar of its own, Uber puts your account icon over the battery indicator, and Instagram’s volume bar disappears behind the notch entirely. It almost looks right, but then you realize it’s actually just broken.

Apps that have been updated for the iPhone X all have different ways of dealing with the notch that sometimes lead to strange results, especially in apps that play video. YouTube only has two fullscreen zoom options, so playing the Last Jedi trailer resulted in either a small video window surrounded by both letter- and pillar-boxing or a fullscreen view with the notch obscuring the left side of the video. Netflix is slightly better because it mostly plays 16:9 video but you’re still stuck choosing between giant black borders around your video or the notch.

Landscape mode on the iPhone X is generally pretty messy: the notch goes from being a somewhat forgettable element in the top status bar to a giant interruption on the side of the screen, and I haven’t seen any apps really solve for it yet. And the home bar at the bottom of the screen often sits over the top of content, forever reminding you that you can swipe to go home and exit the chaos of landscape mode forever.

I’m sure all of this will get solved over time, but recent history suggests it might take longer than Apple or anyone would like; I still encounter apps that aren’t updated for the larger iPhone 6 screen sizes. 3D Touch has been around for years, but I can’t think of any app that makes particularly good use of it. Apple told me that it’s holding workshops for developers and that the auto layout tools in iOS should make things go much faster than the transition to the iPhone 6 size, but we’ll just have to see how it goes.

CAMERAS

Now that we have an iPhone X and the Google Pixel 2, we’re going to do a super in-depth camera comparison, but here’s what I can tell you right now: the iPhone X has basically the same cameras as the iPhone 8, and the photos look almost exactly the same. And at the end of the day, I tend to prefer the photos from the Pixel 2 XL.

The back of the iPhone X has two optically stabilized 12-megapixel cameras, one with a f/1.8 wide angle lens and the other with an f/2.4 telephoto. That’s an upgrade from the 8 Plus, which has an f/2.8 non-stabilized telephoto lens. That stabilized tele lens is great; these are probably the best zoom photos I’ve ever taken on a phone, and it’s amazing to shoot 6x zoom video in 4K and have it be sharp and usable. We got a question about slow sync flash, and it’s here, but I don’t think it does very much. Don’t take flash photos if you can help it.

The two rear cameras allow for Portrait Mode, which works as well as Portrait Mode on the 8 Plus and also support Portrait Lighting. In another difference from the 8 Plus, the front camera also supports Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting.

Portrait Mode: iPhone X (left) / Pixel 2 XL (right)

Regular photos from the iPhone X are fine — some of them are even great. But I think the Pixel 2 XL takes more evocative photos, with more contrast and better HDR. The iPhone’s dual rear cameras definitely produce better portrait mode photos than the Pixel, and the Pixel definitely produces better portrait photos from the front camera. And I don’t think the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 holds a candle to either of the iPhone X or the Pixel 2: Samsung’s aggressive smoothing makes low-light shots appear better at first, but the iPhone retains more detail.

Shooting in low light: iPhone X (left) / Galaxy Note 8 (right)

Front camera portrait mode selfies: iPhone X (left) / Pixel 2XL (right)

All in all, these are both excellent cameras, and it really comes down to personal preference and how much you value that zoom lens. I think I prefer the Pixel 2’s cameras, which just seem to produce absolute winners more often. But like I said, we’ll be doing a deep dive video with these cameras soon.

Verge Editor-in-Chief Nilay Patel engaged in the animoji creative process

Of course, the main thing the front camera can do is take Animoji, which are Apple’s animated emoji characters. It’s basically built-in machinima, and probably the single best feature on the iPhone X. Most importantly, they just work, and they work incredibly well, tracking your eyes and expressions and capturing your voice in perfect sync with the animation. Animoji work by lighting up the TrueDepth IR camera and dot projector, but it’s not nearly as hardcore as Face ID. There’s no depth map or security stuff; it’s just motion tracking of the muscles on whatever face it see. The only time it doesn’t work great is when you try to wink; Apple told me they know about this and suggested it might get better over time.

Apple’s rolled out a lot of weird additions to iMessage over the years, but Animoji feel much stickier than sending a note with lasers or adding stickers or whatever other gimmicks have been layered on. And while iMessage remains a prime example of platform lock-in, Animoji are notably cross-platform: they work in iMessage, send as videos over MMS, and can be exported as MOV files. Nice. I love them.

FACE ID: IT WORKS, MOSTLY

The most important feature change on the iPhone X is Face ID, the system that unlocks the phone by recognizing your face. Even that’s an understatement: the entire design and user experience of the iPhone X is built around Face ID. Face ID is what let Apple ditch the home button and Touch ID fingerprint sensor. The Face ID sensor system is housed in the notch — it’s the whole reason the notch exists. The Apple Pay user flow has been reworked around Face ID. Apple’s Animoji animated emojis work using the Face ID sensors.

If Face ID doesn’t work, the entire promise of the iPhone X falls apart.

The good news is that Face ID generally works great. The bad news is that sometimes it doesn’t, and you’ll have to actively move the phone closer to your face to compensate.

You can point a cheap camcorder with night vision at Face ID to see how it works, which I highly recommended doing, because it’s really cool. The iPhone X has a IR light, a dot projector, and an IR camera, all tucked into the notch at the top of screen. (It’s basically a tiny Xbox Kinect.) When you wake up the phone, the IR light goes off, and if the IR camera sees a face, the dot projector flashes a pattern of 30,000 dots. The camera then takes a 2D photo, which gets turned into mathematical depth model, sent to the secure authentication chip, and matched against the stored value. If it matches, you’re in.

Setting up Face ID is ridiculously simple — much simpler than setting up Touch ID on previous iPhones. The phone displays a circular border around your face, and you simply move around until a series of lines around that circle turn green. (Apple suggests you move your nose around in a circle, which is adorable.) Do that twice, and you’re done: Face ID will theoretically get better and better at recognizing you over time, and track slow changes like growing a beard so you don’t have to re-enroll. Drastic changes, like shaving that beard off, might require you to enter your passcode, however.

Face ID should also work through most sunglasses that pass infrared light, although some don’t. And you can definitely make it fail if you put on disguises, but I’d rather have it fail than let someone else through.

In my early tests, Face ID worked well indoors: sitting at my desk, standing in our video studio, and waiting to get coffee. You have to look at it head-on, though: if it’s sitting on your desk you have to pick up the phone and look at it, which is a little annoying if you’re used to just putting your finger on the Touch ID sensor to check a notification.

You also can’t be too casual about it: I had a lot of problems pulling the iPhone X out of my pocket and having it fail to unlock until Apple clarified that Face ID works best at a distance of 25 to 50 centimeters away from your face, or about 10 to 20 inches. That’s closer than I usually hold my phone when I pull it out of my pocket to check something, which means I had to actively think about holding the iPhone X closer to my face than every other phone I’ve ever used. I also apparently hold the phone pretty close to my face when I wake up in the morning — closer than the recommended 10-inch minimum — and don’t have my glasses on, so I had to adjust that muscle memory as well. “You’re holding it wrong” is a joke until it isn’t, and you can definitely hold the iPhone X wrong.

That’s a small problem, though, and I think it’ll be easy to get used to. The other problem is actually much more interesting: almost all of the early questions about Face ID centered around how it would work in the dark, but it turns out that was exactly backwards. Face ID works great in the dark, because that IR projector is basically a flashlight, and flashlights make it easy to see in the dark. But go outside in bright sunlight, which contains a lot of infrared light, or under crappy florescent lights, which interfere with IR, and Face ID starts to get a little inconsistent.

I took a walk outside our NYC office in bright sunlight, and Face ID definitely had issues recognizing my face consistently while I was moving until I went into shade or brought the phone much closer to my face than usual. I also went to the deli across the street, which has a wide variety of lights inside, including a bunch of overhead florescent strips, and Face ID also got significantly more inconsistent.

I asked Apple about this, and it seems like you’ll just have to hold the iPhone X closer to your face in certain lighting conditions. It never just totally failed for me — it just didn’t work as well from farther away when I was walking around outside or in sunlight. And you can’t unlock it in landscape mode or if your face is upside down; you’ll just have to enter your passcode. You also have to look at it pretty directly, which means unlocking while the phone is sitting on a table is out unless you look over the phone. And if you’re the sort of person who discreetly checks their notifications while talking to people, well, get used to making it very obvious that you’re looking at your phone, because notifications don’t fully display until the phone unlocks

A lot of people asked me about Face ID privacy issues, but I don’t think there’s much to be worried about. Face ID never really takes or stores a photo of your face — the regular front camera is only used during setup so you can see yourself. The IR photo is just used to generate the depth map that’s compared to the stored value. And nothing ever gets sent to Apple — it’s just a bunch of numbers stored in the secure part of the processor. Obviously every system can be hacked, but you shouldn’t worry about a bunch of photos of your face being sent to iCloud or whatever. It’s just not how the thing is designed. If you weren’t worried about Touch ID, you probably shouldn’t worry about Face ID.

As for speed, well, it varies. Most of the time, in normal lighting conditions, it’s so fast that it’s almost like not having a passcode on your phone. You pick it up, swipe up, and you’re in — just like the old swipe to unlock days. But other times, it takes a second. Again, I think that’s mostly under strange lighting conditions.

It’s basically the same amount of irritation as a fingerprint scanner: sometimes your fingers are wet and you have enter the passcode, and sometimes the light’s weird and you have to move the phone closer to your face and wait a second.

You also use Face ID for Apple Pay, and it’s pretty easy: you double click the side button, authenticate, and then hold the phone to the reader. It actually makes a little more sense to me than Touch ID, because you’re actively turning Apple Pay on, instead of just waving your phone at the card reader and hoping it works. It’s nice.

All in all, Face ID is a fine replacement for Touch ID. It’s not perfect, but it’s perfectly workable. But you will definitely run into situations where you have to adjust where you’re holding the phone or try it again a few times. Recent Apple products have tended to demand people adapt to them instead of being adapted to people, and it was hard not to think about that as I stood in the sunlight, waving a thousand-dollar phone ever closer to my face.

SOFTWARE

There’s a lot of new hardware in the iPhone X, but it’s still running iOS 11 — albeit with some tweaks to navigation to accommodate the lack of a home button. Apple told me they didn’t want to make any drastic changes to the main iOS experience because they thought the removal of the home button was enough — you have to learn a whole bunch of new gestures to navigate this phone.

You swipe up from the bottom to go home, swipe down from the right to open Control Center, and swipe down from the left to open the notifications pane. That pane also has buttons for the flashlight and camera; in a twist, they require 3D Touch to work, so they feel like real buttons. It’s neat, but also breaks the 3D Touch paradigm — it’s the only place the entire system where 3D Touch acts like a left click instead of a right click. It’s emblematic of how generally fuzzy iOS has become with basic interface concepts.

If you want to switch apps, you either swipe along the bottom of the screen or swipe up and hold — you’ll get a little haptic bump and the app switcher will show up. It took a minute to figure out how to do that move consistently. It took me a little longer to figure out how to consistently use Reachability.

Actually, lots of people asked about Reachability, which is the iOS feature that brings the top of the screen down to make one handed usage easier. I use it all the time on my Plus, and it’s still here -— only now you swipe down about halfway up the icon dock from the home indicator. I couldn’t get this work at all until something clicked and I figured it out, but I’m still not perfect at it. Once you’ve brought the UI down, you can swipe on either top corner to open Notification Center or the Control Center. You’ll be pulling down Control Center a lot, since it’s the only way to see battery percentage and Bluetooth status on the iPhone X — the notch means there’s not enough room to put that info in the menu bar full time. I check battery percentage all the time, so this felt like a step back.

I asked Apple why Notification Center is a sheet and Control Center is an overlay, and the company told me that it’s “philosophical” — Control Center is supposed to be an always-there widget, and Notification Center is supposed to be another screen that slides down. Whatever it is, I think it looks really messy to have two different interface patterns for the same action at the top of the screen.

And… those are basically the changes to iOS 11 on the iPhone X, apart from the various notch-related kerfuffles. If you’ve been using iOS for a while and iOS 11 for the past month, nothing here will surprise you. If you spend a lot of time in unoptimized apps for work like Google Docs and Trello like I do, it’s a lot like using an iPhone 8. I really want Apple to make notifications more powerful. I would love to see some more customizability on the home screen, and I would love to be able to set new default apps for mail and web browsing. Siri is still Siri. I’d also love for the overall design to be more fun — years after iOS 7, everything still feels pretty stark and brutal, compared to the increasingly whimsical version of Android Google’s shipping on the Pixel.

If you’re buying an iPhone X expecting a radical change to your iPhone experience, well, you probably won’t get it. Unless you really hate unlocking your phone.

BATTERY

Apple says the iPhone X should get two hours more battery life than the iPhone 7, and while it’s been pretty hard to test this week while we’ve been running the screen and cameras full tilt for this review, I’ve been pretty impressed. OLED screen generally draw less power than LCDs, and I got great battery life with the iPhone 8, which shares most of the same components as the X. So I would expect to go close to full days with the X.

The iPhone X is clearly the best iPhone ever made. It’s thin, it’s powerful, it has ambitious ideas about what cameras on phones can be used for, and it pushes the design language of phones into a strange new place. It is a huge step forward in terms of phone hardware, and it has the notch to show for it. If you’re one of the many people who preordered this thing, I think you’ll be happy, although you’ll be going on the journey of figuring out when and how Face ID works best with everyone else.

But if you didn’t preorder, I suspect you might not feel that left out for a while. The iPhone X might be a huge step forward in terms of hardware, but iOS 11 runs the same on lots of other iPhones, and you won’t be missing out on anything except Animoji. Face ID works extremely well, although you should expect to have to move the phone closer to your face from time to time. And until your favorite apps are updated, you won’t be able to make use of that entire beautiful display.

All that adds up to the thing you already know: the iPhone X is a very expensive iPhone. For a lot of people, it’ll be worth it. For a lot of people, it’ll seem ridiculous. But fundamentally, it’s a new iPhone, and that means you probably already know if you want to spend a thousand dollars on one. If you’re a huge iPhone fan and you have the money, you’ll love it. It’s a really nice phone. But if you have any doubts at all, stick with an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus. You’ll get most of the same features, and you’ll wait out app developers figuring out how to use this new screen. Eventually every iPhone will look like the iPhone X, after all. The rest of us will just be using Animoji in the meantime.

Source : The Verge

Amazon Alexa Gen 2

For the past three years, Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant has been invading homes inside the case of the Echo smart speaker. Alexa has been answering questions, turning on smart lights, adding things to shopping lists, ordering things from Amazon, and playing music for millions of people. The Echo essentially established the smart speaker market, which now has entries from Google, Microsoft, and soon, Apple.

After expanding the line with the smaller and super-popular Echo Dot, the portable, battery-powered Tap, and the more expensive, but ultimately less thrilling, Echo Show, Amazon has finally gone back and updated the original Echo. The new Echo, which is heretofore known simply as the “All-new Echo,” as the original Echo no longer exists in Amazon’s world, comes with a smaller, simpler design; better aesthetics; supposedly improved audio; and, most importantly, a significantly lower price of $99.

That lower price is the main draw for the new Echo. If you’ve been holding off on buying one because the original’s $180 cost kept you away, or you are looking for a second Echo for yourself or as a gift, the new Echo is a much easier purchase to make.

But aside from its smaller design and new, customizable appearance, the new Echo isn’t hugely different from the first model. It still performs all of the same tasks, can still hear its wake word from across the room, and still doesn’t have great audio quality for listening to music. If you already have a first-generation model, it doesn’t make much sense to replace it with the new Echo — you don’t gain much with it and in some instances, you give up some.

Still, thanks to that new, lower price, the new Echo should be just as enamoring and appealing as the first Echo and will likely keep Amazon at the forefront of the smart speaker world.

The most obvious visual difference between the new Echo and its predecessor is the device’s size. Where the first Echo’s size and shape was akin to a can of Pringles or tennis balls, the new model is more like a can of Foster’s beer. It’s short and stout, about two-thirds as tall as the first model, but with a slightly larger diameter. That should make it a little easier to tuck into a shelf or hide away in a corner of your living room or kitchen.

The Echo’s new swappable decorative shells are also designed to make the device blend in with your home better. The first model’s black (and eventually, white) plastic finish gave the device an ominous obelisk vibe that didn’t do anything to diminish the Big Brother feelings that come along with an always-listening internet-connected device in your home. In contrast, the new model comes with a fabric cover in a variety of grays (basically, dark, medium, or light gray) that’s both more appealing to look at and should fit better in modern decor.

You can also purchase various shells to change the look of the Echo, including a silvery gray, walnut, or oak finishes. But since the shells are just plastic and not actual wood or metal, none of the optional decorative covers look as good as the standard fabric one to me.

The simplified design of the new Echo trades the rotating volume ring for plus and minus buttons, like found on the Echo Dot. They work just as well, and since most of the time I adjust the Echo’s volume with voice commands, I don’t miss the ring at all. The new Echo has the same number of far field microphones to pick up voice commands (seven), but Amazon says it has second-generation technology that’s improved over the first model. I haven’t noticed a significant improvement in my testing however, the new Echo hears me just about as well as the prior model did. Most of the time, it hears me on the first try, even when it’s playing music, though occasionally I have to repeat the “Alexa” wake word. It is no better or worse than the Google Home or Harman Kardon Invoke in this regard.

The other new feature with this Echo is the ability to output its audio to a larger speaker or stereo system over a 3.5mm auxiliary cable or Bluetooth. This works the same as it does on the smaller Echo Dot, and makes it easy to add voice control to your existing stereo equipment.

On the inside, Amazon has added Dolby sound processing in an effort to make the Echo’s 2.5-inch subwoofer and 0.6-inch tweeter sound better. But in side-by-side testing, I didn’t find the new Echo to sound any better than the prior model, and for listening to music, I actually preferred the first Echo’s sound.

The new Echo’s sound is sharper, with more treble than the first model. That’s good for hearing Alexa speak back to you, or for cutting through the din of a running faucet if you’re using the Echo in a kitchen. But for music, the sound is thin and flat, with even less bass than before. The old model had a softer sound with just a little bit more bass that’s much more pleasant to listen to.

It almost goes without saying, then, that the new Echo doesn’t sound as good as theGoogle Home or anywhere near as good as the Harman Kardon Invoke or Sonos One. It’s not even as powerful or fun to listen to as some portable Bluetooth speakers, such as the JBL Charge 3 or UE Boom 2. That’s a little disappointing, given that Amazon itself admits that the most common thing people do with the Echo is listen to music. Most people will be content with the Echo’s sound quality for casual listening, but given that it is the one area most often complained about with the first model, I’d have to liked to have seen more improvement here.

Amazon has added a number of new features to Alexa, the smart assistant inside of the Echo, including control of Fire TV set top boxes and improved smart home controls. Since Alexa runs entirely in the cloud, it doesn’t matter which Amazon Echo device you own, it performs all of the same functions on all of them. You don’t need to buy a new Echo to get the latest Alexa features on your first-generation model.

And the new Echo performs all of those voice-controlled functions just as well as its predecessor. I use an Echo in my kitchen to add items to a shared grocery list that my wife and I both have access to on our phones; I use one to turn on lights throughout my house; I use an Echo Dot to control the Fire TV box connected to the TV in my play room; and I use another Dot as an alarm clock next to my bed each morning. Once you have Alexa in one room and have configured it to do more than just play music, it becomes the type of thing that you want in every room of your home

Amazon’s clearly tapped into an alluring idea with the Echo, and even though the company won’t admit how many it’s sold so far, by all accounts it’s a successful product. In light of that, the latest version doesn’t rock the boat too much. It doesn’t improve the Echo’s rather poor audio quality, nor does it introduce any new, groundbreaking features. It just does the same things in a smaller, cheaper design. That’s enough to keep Amazon ahead of its competitors, which are all a step or two behind the Echo line-up.

In all honesty, Amazon really didn’t have to do much to the Echo to make it more appealing. It just had to make it less expensive, which is exactly what Amazon did here. The real product Amazon is selling is Alexa, and for an in-home virtual assistant, Alexa is very good. And if you want the best way to use Alexa, the new Echo is it.

Source: The Verge

Latch C Iphone Smart Lock

Latch C Iphone smart lock is introducing a new smart door lock today that can be controlled with an iPhone. It’s called the Latch C, and in addition to iPhone control through Apple’s HomeKit platform, it has all the same smart features as the original Latch door lock: a built-in camera to see who’s at your door, the ability to use passcodes and cards instead of a key, and a recorded log of who’s come through.

The Latch C is much smaller than the original Latch lock, called the Latch M, because it’s designed for a different type of doorlock. Where the Latch M was built for tall mortise locks, the Latch C is meant for simpler cylindrical deadbolts, which aren’t attached to the knob. That allows the unit be a lot smaller while still offering the same features — though it also means that, like the M, it can only fit on certain types of doors.

Unfortunately, whether your door is compatible with a Latch lock doesn’t really matter, because you still can’t actually buy one. Rather than sell directly to consumers, Latch has built its business around selling locks to the real estate companies that build and operate apartment buildings. It’s hoping new and existing apartments will outfit residents’ doors with Latch locks, giving the units a high-tech perk.

Latch R, M, and C locks
Latch R, M, and C smart locks

Photo: Latch

Latch offers conveniences to real estate companies, too. Those companies want locks that log comings and goings for security reasons, and Latch provides a website for building owners to manage all of their installed locks and the ability to audit who’s come through them. Locks cost $399 each (it also sells an electronic model called the Latch R), and they require an ongoing subscription to Latch’s management service.

Latch isn’t sharing how many doors its locks are installed on yet, nor will it say when it plans to start selling directly to consumers, which its website suggests will happen eventually. “It is less typical for individuals to own their own units in [modern apartment buildings] and so we’ve focused on selling to large building owners directly,” Latch CEO Luke Schoenfelder wrote in an email to The Verge.

As for other smart platforms, like Google Assistant and Alexa, Schoenfelder said that Latch sees “a variety of interesting opportunities” but said that Apple has “done a phenomenal job” addressing security concerns. It should also be possible for the Latch M to eventually be updated with HomeKit support, though Schoenfelder only said that additional details of Latch’s HomeKit implementation would be announced in the future.

 

Source: the Verge

DJI Spark- Drone of the future

DJI Spark

Small drones are not new. Toy-sized quadcopters have been on the market for years helping kids (and dads) start flying for a relatively reasonable price and not much expertise. Yet small drones that can do almost anything a big drone can do? That’s new. And that’s what makes the DJI Spark so exciting.

The first and, ultimately, most important thing you’ll notice about the Spark is its size. It is tiny. It’s so tiny, it makes the very small Mavic Pro look like an obese giant. If the Mavic Pro is the size of Italian sandwich, the Spark is the size of a hearty cannoli. At 300 grams, it weighs about as much as a cannoli, too. Since a recent court ruling found that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cannot require hobbyists to register their drones, you can just take the Spark out of the box and start flying for fun. If you’re using it for commercial purposes, those rules still apply.

That’s part of why it took two people to review this bite-sized little quadcopter. Michael is a licensed commercial drone pilot, so he manned the controls. Adam is a recreational pilot, so he worked as the spotter (and photographer). And to be a real dad about it, you should always do your drone flights with a friend. At the very least, two sets of eyes come in handy, when you’re trying to keep your eye on the aircraft. Since the Spark is so small, you’ll need all the help you can get.

What kind of tiny drone is this?

Broadly speaking, the Spark boasts all of the same features as the larger, folding Mavic Pro, but everything is dialed down. With a maximum speed of 31 mph, the Spark is not as fast as the Mavic Pro’s 40 mph. With a maximum transmission distance of 1.2 miles, the Spark can’t fly as far as the Mavic Pro which has a range of 4.3 miles. With a battery half the size of the Mavic Pro’s, the Spark can’t fly as long. You’ll get 16 minutes of flight on a single Spark charge. The Mavic Pro’s battery lasts 27 minutes. The 1080p camera and two-axis gimbal on the Spark is not nearly as good as the 4K camera and three-axis gimbal on the Mavic Pro.

Bear in mind: the Spark in flying mode (left) is roughly half the size of a folded up Mavic Pro (right). The Mavic Pro gets about twice as big, when you unfold it.

Yet like the Mavic Pro and the Phantom 4, the DJI Spark features obstacle avoidance technology and extra sensors that enable intelligent flight modes, like Tap Fly, Active Track, and Gestures. That last one is where the Spark really stands out. Thanks to an infrared sensor on the front of the aircraft, you can actually control the Spark with your palm. A lot of people are calling this “Jedi Mode,” and it’s pretty cool, when it works.

 What’s it like?

This is all especially exciting since the DJI Spark only costs $500. That makes it not only the smallest drone DJI’s ever made but also the cheapest. But there’s a catch, that $500 price tag does not include the cost of a controller, and you’ll definitely want to fly the Spark with a controller.

The DJI Spark controller looks just like the Mavic Controller except there’s no display and no need to plug in your phone, as it communicates with the controller using wi-fi.

To get a controller, you have to buy the Spark Fly More Combo for $700. The combo comes with a lot of other stuff that you’ll definitely want, like propeller guards, extra propellers, and an extra battery. However—and that’s a capital “H” however—let us remind you that you don’t need the controller to fly the Spark. You can fly it with your hands, or you can use a smartphone or tablet. It’s great for beginners who don’t need another joy stick in their lives, but that experience might not be ideal for seasoned drone pilots, who love the tactile feel of a controller.

How does this tiny drone do in the sky?

Think of the Spark as a personal drone. Everything about it is designed to make you feel safe and in control—especially if you spring for those propellor guards. You can technically fly the DJI Spark with your hands and take selfies by making a picture frame with your fingers. Toss the DJI Spark in a backpack and go on vacation to California. It can take off from your palm, track you and your pal as you pose next to a redwood, take a photo, and then land on your palm. Except for the whole California vacation thing, we did this. It worked.

Here’s an unedited still taken on a very hot and sunny day in Brooklyn.

But the gesture control is far from perfect. You really do have to learn the different gestures and train yourself a little to do them exactly right. Even then, you’re very limited to what you can do it. Basically, the DJI Spark will take a photo of you and fly within a few feet of your palm. It’s a parlor trick at best. And don’t even think about trying it in the wind. The Spark bounces around in a breeze, and that seems to confuse the infrared sensor to no end.

But the technology still feels like the first generation of a thrilling new wave of drones that work with minimal effort and require nothing more than a trained human to make them fly. Or maybe, in the future, these drones will be sentient and take over the world. We don’t know yet, and that’s what makes it so exciting!

What does it do besides taking selfies?

Thing is, you don’t need the gesture control at all. It’s a fun bonus for a drone that’s already awesome. It’s like the Mazda Miata of drones. Sure, it’s not the biggest or most powerful thing you can buy. But it’s fun as hell.

In this unedited image, Adam is failing to control the Spark with his hand. Michael, took this still from the controller while the drone was in gesture mode.

We could really see the Spark being extra fun for wannabe drone racers. While 31 mph isn’t the fastest speed for a DJI drone, it feels fast when you’re flying the Spark in sport mode. And because the Spark is roughly the same size as the racing drones you see people flying in the Drone Racing League on ESPN, you’ll start to feel like you could get the hang of this hobby. The big bummer is that the Spark currently doesn’t work with DJI Goggles, the company’s first-person view (FPV) headset.

 Camera

Meanwhile, the camera is exceedingly decent for simple stuff like taking a selfie or shooting an aerial view of the city skyline. However one thing that the DJI Spark camera really doesn’t do well is tilt the camera lens up or down. The barebones two-axis gimbal doesn’t move smoothly; it essentially jumps from one position to the next, which will keep the Spark from being useful for budding cinematographers who want smooth pans.

The infrared sensor, 1080p camera, and two-axis gimbal on the front of the Spark makes it look a bit like a Star Wars character.

If you find yourself disappointed by little shortcomings like a jerky gimbal or lack of FPV goggles, the Spark might not be for you. You’re probably someone who already owns a Phantom or a Mavic Pro or, who knows, a freaking $3300 Inspire. You might consider buying a Spark for your kids, though. Heck, get one for your fun-loving mom or that close friend you’ve been convincing to take up the hobby. It’s an expensive way to get started with drones, but it’s worth it for the right person.

Should you buy the Spark?

But before you spend any money, consider your mission. Are you a beginner, looking to get a first drone that works dependably well for most purposes? The Spark’s a great choice. Are you a long-time Phantom owner, looking for something more portable? The Spark is a good choice, but for $300 more the Mavic Pro is better. Are you an aerial cinematographer hoping to get some of your footage in a Hollywood movie? You shouldn’t even be reading this right now, because you should be saving up for the $5,000 DJI Matrice.

The Spark minus one propellor guard, which snaps securely to the drone’s arm, and one propellor, which folds and connects to the motor with a push-and-turn motion.

This is another way of saying that, with the addition of the Spark, DJI really does sell a drone for every level of expertise. And quite impressively, the $500 Spark is just enough drone for most people. No matter how advanced you are as a pilot, the Spark is genuinely fun to fly.

It could get even better with age, too, thanks to potential firmware updates and improvements to the gesture control. Otherwise, it’s a magical glimpse into an exciting future of drones, aircraft that are smaller than we thought possible and that can do more than ever before.

Update 7/26/2017 – This story has been updated to include new details about FAA drone rules, namely the fact that small drones no long need to be registered if they’re being flown for recreational purposes.

Tesla Model 3- Its Here

As Tesla delivered the first few Model 3 production units today, I had the chance to drive one around the Fremont factory.

This is one part of a series of posts from the Model 3 unveiling. You can read the other parts here:

Here’s a quick report on my short time with the highly anticipated electric car.

The first few vehicles produced by Tesla are being delivered to executives and employees and a few of them were nice enough to allow reporters to drive them around the Fremont factory earlier today. Unfortunately, we were not allow to take pictures or film the test drive.

Nonetheless, I got to drive a brand new Midnight Silver Model 3 with 19″ ‘Sport’ wheels (the non-aero ones).

The first thing that comes to mind when seeing the vehicle in person is that it is indeed a Tesla. It might be half the price of the Model S, but it does look and feel like a ~20% smaller Model S with a design refresh. Of course, that’s just how it looks, but it also features several updated systems, including a new architecture.

A walk around shows nothing new that we haven’t seen in the countless recent sightings, but the glass roof is definitely a standout feature – it looks great in person, especially from the back:

Now you have to actually get in the car. Tesla is parting ways with its concept of using a key fob that looks like the car and instead, it will rely primarily on the owner’s phone.

Tesla’s app will take an increasingly more important role and the Model 3 will be Bluetooth connected to your phone in order to automatically unlock the doors as you approach.

If your phone is dead or you don’t have it on you for whatever reason, Tesla provides a keycard with a NFC chip. You just have to swipe on the B pillar and it will unlock the doors:

The Inside

 

Now once you are inside, you can admire the minimalist interior of the Model 3.

While the center 15″ touchscreen almost jumps in your face, the long straight dash almost steals the show:

I didn’t have a lot of time to play with the user interface of the screen, but it almost looks exactly like each of Tesla’s current apps but in different formats to fit on the horizontal display:

The left side is definitely more animated when in drive. The renders of the Model 3 and surrounding vehicles appear on the screen like they do on the instrument cluster of current Model S and Model X vehicles with Autopilot.

The area which shows charging information above changes when the car is in drive to display gears and speed of the car. There’s also a very small animation of the power consumption.

I wasn’t comfortable with looking at it too much while driving, but I have to assume that drivers could get used to it after an extended period.

The car was so new that it was still calibrating its Autopilot sensors when I drove it, which means that I couldn’t activate Autopilot.

Tesla Model 3 Dashboard

But I was assured that it was the latest version currently available in the new Model S and Model X vehicles. The biggest difference is the way the driver activates it since it is now on the gear selector, as we recently reported.

You need to tap down twice in order to activate the features where it is available.

As for the driving experience itself, it felt a lot like a Model S 60 with a 0-60 acceleration of 5.1 seconds.

Despite being about 1,000 pounds lighter than the Model S, it felt very solid with sharp handling, especially in “sport” steering mode. It benefits from the same architecture as its predecessors with the battery pack laying flat close to the ground between the axles.

I honestly didn’t have enough time with the car to form a valuable opinion on the driving experience, but my first impression is that it feels solid for a vehicle of its size and again, very comparable to the base Model S in term of driving.

I did notice that the regenerative braking is significantly weaker than I anticipated, but I am now used to the regen of my Model S P85, which is quite strong.  It is possible that regen strength could get stronger on future dual-motor versions of the Model 3, or a performance version if it ever comes.

This one part of a series of posts from the Model 3 unveiling. You can read the other parts here:

Source: https://electrek.co/2017/07/29/tesla-model-3-first-drive-experience/

 

Nokia 3310

The new Nokia 3310 takes the iconic silhouette of the original and reimagines it for 2017. The custom designed user interface brings a fresh look to a classic, whilst the 2.4” polarized and curved screen window makes for better readability in sunlight.

Swell Water Bottle-Hot or Cold

Swell water bottle – Stay hydrated in high style with a sleek, double-walled stainless-steel water bottle featuring ThermaS’well™ fabrication that keeps cold drinks cold for up to 24 hours and hot drinks hot for up to 12. Each bottle features a wide mouth that makes it easy to fill, add ice cubes and clean.

  • 9 oz.: 8″ height; 2 1/2″ diameter.
    17 oz.: 10 1/4″ height; 2 3/4″ diameter.
    25 oz.: 12″ height; 3″ diameter.
  • 9 oz. and 17 oz. sizes fit into standard car cup holders.
  • 25 oz. size holds a full bottle of wine.
  • 18/8 food-grade stainless steel/silicone/BPA-free polypropylene.
  • Hand wash.
  • By S’well; imported.
  • S’well donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each bottle to UNICEF to help provide clean drinking water to children around the world.

 

 

Source: Nordstroms

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo voice-activated smart home speaker is undeniably futuristic, but it’s also practical and accessible. With a rapidly growing slate of features and integrations, it’s easy to get excited about the Echo’s potential.

 

 

Since introducing the original Amazon Echo in November 2014, Amazon has continued to refresh and expand its lineup of hands-free, voice-enabled speakers. In April, the company introduced the Echo Dot, a smaller version of the Echo, and in September returned with an updated version of the Dot, simultaneously cutting its price almost in half to $50 (or £50).

This new Echo Dot, available in black or white, has a slightly sleeker design than the original, though it comes equipped with the same array of seven microphones and advanced noise-cancelling technology. Amazon says that the new Dot features a more powerful speech processor, which delivers improved far-field speech recognition accuracy. It’s currently available for preorder and scheduled to ship in October. (Read the full preview.)

The original, more expensive Echo can fill a room with sound. The Dot features much of the same functionality as the Echo, just with a less powerful speaker and a line-out plug on the back. In April, also Amazon introduced the $130 Echo Tap. Because it runs on a battery, you need to hit a button to initiate interactions; it’s less convenient than the always-listening Echo and Dot, but it’s also portable. And once you do push the button, you can issue voice commands to Alexa, play music from your phone or stream it over Wi-Fi, check the weather or news, and issue commands to control your smart home.

In August, Sonos announced that it will add support for Amazon’s Alexa voice control (and Spotify Connect) in 2017. Sonos did not mention new hardware; rather, the initial integration (a free software upgrade) will require Sonos wireless speakers and an Alexa-compatible Amazon device, such as theEcho or Echo Dot. The company has scheduled a private beta to begin later this year, with a public release slated for early 2017.

Potential buyers should also note that Google’s big entry into the “smart speaker” space, Google Home, is expected to be revealed at the company’s event on October 4.

Source: CNET

DJI OSMO- Best All in one Steady Cam

Motion without blur. Action shots without shake. Perfect video even when you move. Thanks to advanced technologies specifically designed to keep the camera flat no matter how you move it, the DJI Osmo helps you record videos and take photos like never before. It is much more than just a camera. It helps you create with more freedom than ever.

dji-osmo-camera

I own the DJI Osmo Camera And I can Tell you that I use it all the time. I use it professionally for video shoots on all kinds of project, and I use it for running around with my kids. It is very versatile and produces steady shots in any condition. It even shoots up to 4k at 30fps.

The DJI Osmo also can be incorporated into DJI Inspire Drone, It is interchangeable!

 

They also have an attachment for a mobile phone. With the development of smartphone camera this is a perfect solution for getting great results

dji_osmo_mobile-670x295

 

Best Drones 2017

Best Drones 2017  We put together a comprehensive list of all the best. For different user’s, price points, and needs. You will find what you need here.

Top Camera Drones- If your looking for a drone for Arial Video, here are the best from quality

  1. DJI Phantom – $799

    With options ranging from the 4k enabled Phantom 3 to the new Phantom 4 Pro version which is $1,800, There is a drone for everyone and they all produce amazing footage.   The newest is equipped with a 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor capable of shooting 4K/60fps video and Burst Mode stills at 14 fps.The adoption of titanium alloy and magnesium alloy construction increases the rigidity of the airframe and reduces weight, making thePhantom 4 Pro similar in weight to the Phantom 4. The FlightAutonomy system adds dual rear vision sensors and infraredsensing systems for a total of 5-direction of obstacle sensing and 4-direction of obstacle avoidance.

    phantom_4_pro

  2. Yuneec Q500 4k- $899

    Simply the best value 4K system available, an included Android touchscreen controller means faster setup and no need to add your own mobile device to capture impressive 4K video. Typhoon 4K also captures 1080p/120fps slow motion video with a full complement of manual camera settings for total creative control. Perfect ground shots are also available with the included Handheld SteadyGrip™.

yuneec_q500_typhoon_4k_rtf_copter_cgo3_3

Top Racing Drones- These are small, Agile FPV driven crafts that can do some crazy things and are a ton of fun.

  1. TBS VENDETTA- $499

    Full carbon fiber monocoque, quick swap arms, solder-free repairs, ready to fly as 240 size fpv racer, for 5″ props. But it doesn’t stop there! Sporting the brand new TBS Triumph Antenna in combination with the TBS CORE Pro OSD and TBS Unify Pro VTX, the TBS Vendetta allows you to configure every parameter of your FPV racer via R/C stick commands! Each drone comes tuned and test-flown by our professional tuning expert, Magnus. Install a receiver, strap on a 4S battery and the TBS VENDETTA will tear a hole into the sky, and you’re coming along for the ride!

tbsvendetta2.  EACHINE RACER 250- $380

First of all Eachine Racer 250 is one of the most affordable RTF (ready-to-fly) racing drones out there in the market. If you want to try FPV racing but are not confident or able to invest on a higher-budget product, worry not. This drone is powerful enough to ensure you will keep up with the most powerful racers in the community, even beat them! Resistant and lightweight frame, durable brushless motors and batteries, Racer 250 durability and life time will not disappoint you. Fast and highly maneuverable, very responsive racer, great live image quality with no lag. Very beginner friendly, even the software to configure CC3D flight controller is.bea7653a-3eb6-438b-990c-09d07ea4163e

Top Toy Drones

  1. HUBSAN X4- $37

The Hubsan X4 H107L is micro quadcopter very suitable for all age groups and experience levels. It offers a maximum flight time of about 9 minutes, and a remote distance of about 30 meters. One reason why it’s recommended for beginner flyers is because it’s very stable in the air, especially indoors. The drone has the potential to fly fast & aggressively, but can also be flown conservatively if you choose. It’s this kind of versatility that makes the Hubsan X4 H107L an excellent beginner quadcopter.

sku072712-1852. BLADE NANO QX- $59

The tiny Nano QX is RC flying fun you can take with you everywhere. The Nano QX weighs little more than half an ounce and is small enough to fly in spaces no bigger than an office cubicle. Never flown a quad-copter before? No problem. The Nano QX uses the SAFE™ technology system with sophisticated flight control software to keep itself stable in a hover while in stability mode. If you get in trouble, just let go of the sticks. The SAFE technology system will bring the Nano QX back to a hover all by itself. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can switch the SAFE system to agility mode for faster flying speeds and more maneuverability.

51xnrn27jzl-_sx355_3. PROTO X- $34

Meet the Proto-X, now available in six colors — black, white, red, yellow, green and purple. Not only is it the world’s smallest quadcopter, it’s also one of the world’s lightest multi-rotor helis.

The 50 mm Proto-X is tiny, ideal for indoor flying — and it weighs only 11.5 g, just four-tenths of an ounce. Bright, built-in LEDs make it easy to see the Proto-X in low-light conditions.

maxresdefault

 

So There it is the Best Drones 2017