Intel Recalls Basis Peak Watches Because of All the Burning

Intel Recalls Basis Peak Watches Because of All the Burning

Source: WIRED

Instagram’s Snapchat Ripoff Is Brazen and Totally Fine

Instagram’s Snapchat Ripoff Is Brazen and Totally Fine

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Source: WIRED

The VCR Is Officially Dead, But We’ll Never Forget It

The VCR Is Officially Dead, But We’ll Never Forget It

VHS VIDEO TAPE CASSETTE

Source: WIRED

How the DNC Pulled Off That Colossal Balloon Drop

How the DNC Pulled Off That Colossal Balloon Drop

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Source: WIRED

Today’s Your Last Chance For a Free Windows 10 Upgrade

Today’s Your Last Chance For a Free Windows 10 Upgrade

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Source: WIRED

Review: Blu R1 HD

Review: Blu R1 HD

I started to enjoy the Blu R1 HD a lot more as soon as I let go of the word “better.”

That’s usually the word reviews pivot around, after all. Is this camera better than that one? Is this interface more responsive? Does this battery last long enough (probably not)? The Blu R1 HD asks an entirely different question, though. The only benchmark it needs to clear is: Can you believe this only costs $60? And honestly, I still can’t.

Blu R1 HD

6/10

Wired

An insanely cheap phone for what it does. Android 6.0 with refreshingly few tweaks. Some pre-loaded Amazon apps are annoying to download otherwise.

Tired


Get used to lots of ads all day. The camera’s a mess. Can’t delete pre-loaded Amazon or Google apps.




How We Rate

  • 1/10A complete failure in every way
  • 2/10Barely functional; don’t buy it
  • 3/10Serious flaws; proceed with caution
  • 4/10Downsides outweigh upsides
  • 5/10Recommended with reservations
  • 6/10A solid product with some issues
  • 7/10Very good, but not quite great
  • 8/10Excellent, with room to kvetch
  • 9/10Nearly flawless, buy it now
  • 10/10Metaphysical product perfection

Let’s back up for a minute, because Blu isn’t a name most people know—this is not the e-cig company, please do not try to vape this phone—and that price tag comes with a few important caveats.

Blu itself is easy enough to explain. It’s a smartphone company, based in Florida, that specializes in surprisingly affordable hardware that runs minimally tweaked Android firmware. As for the caveats, its R1 HD is one of two phones that are Prime Exclusives, a new program that gives Amazon Prime members steep discounts on devices in exchange for allowing ads on their lock screens, in their notifications, as well as on a suite of preinstalled Amazon apps. The other is the Moto G4, the latest in an established lineage of high-quality, inexpensive phones. That one starts at $150 with offers and ads—plenty cheap, but it’s got nothing on the R1 HD.

The entry level, ad-laden R1 HD costs $50, which nets you 8GB of storage and one measly gig of RAM. For 10 bucks more, you can double both of those. Unless you’re a Hamilton away from affording a critical blood transfusion, it’s worth stepping up. Buying it with no ads at all will cost you $100 or $110, respectively.

We might as well talk about the specs, too, although if you care much about specs you’re not the target audience for this phone. Still, they’re better than you’d expect for something that costs about what you’d spend on a 3-D movie date. There’s a 1.3 GHz quad-core processor powering the operation, a 5-inch, Gorilla Glass 3 (a generation behind, but still hearty) HD display, and 5MP/8MP front and rear cameras. None of which can compare to last year’s flagships, much less the latest leaders, but still, not bad, considering!

Performance matters more than numbers, though, and for that Blu gives mixed results. The good news is that it’s entirely usable day to day. I don’t say that to damn it with faint praise; there are plenty of more expensive phones that are barely functional nightmare machines. Here, though, swipes are smooth, and less intensive game experiences were fine; I was able to catch a Pidgey or two without any hiccups. Video, too, streamed seamlessly, although watching Amazon’s original series All or Nothing was an unfortunate reminder that the R1 HD’s display is dim and lacks crispness. Its speakers are tinny enough to make even Jon Hamm’s voiceover sound like it was recorded into a tuna can. Audio-visual mediocrity aside, there were very few times the R1 HD got its gears stuck. It’s surprisingly reliable.

Hewing close to stock Android helps. There are a few Blu-imbued flourishes here and there, like the ability to set audio profiles in the swipe-down settings menu, and a camera app that’s as feature-filled as the camera itself is disappointing. For the most part, though, this is very recognizably Android 6.0.

Well, except for all the Amazon apps. There are a dozen of them installed on the R1 HD when it arrives (assuming you get the Prime Exclusive version). That didn’t bother me much. You can’t find some of them, like Amazon Video, in the Google Play store, so it saved me the hoop-jumping that getting some Amazon apps on Android normally requires. What does rankle some is that you can’t delete any of them. That includes apps like Prime Now, a service that’s not even available in my city (it’s only in 27 right now) and Audible, for which I don’t have an account and don’t intend to get one.

The R1 HD comes with the standard suite of Google apps as well, which you also can’t delete. In all, you’re getting a 16GB phone with roughly two dozen apps that you can’t get rid off. You can plop in a microSD card for expandable memory, but as is, you don’t have a ton of space to work with.

There are other, very mild inconveniences to a phone in Amazon’s ecosystem. Photos head straight for Amazon Drive, rather than the backup of your choosing, though it’s easy enough to set up Google Photos or Dropbox as well. Overall, though, if you’re even a semi-regular Amazon user, there’s more to like here than to gripe about.

And then there are the ads. Big, bold ads every time you wake up your smartphone. Ads for mascara, ads for wireless earbuds, ads for Wild Frontier dog food (#1 ingredient real salmon!). Ads in your notification bar that can be easily swiped away and ignored. As far as trade-offs go, it’s not as bad as I was expecting. By now I’ve even gotten used to seeing Zendaya shilling Covergirl instead of the photo of my two toddlers that occupies my Nexus 5. If anything, and I almost can’t believe I’m saying this, I wish the ads were at all targeted, and had a little more variety. I look at my phone dozens of times a day, and what gets me most isn’t the repeated ad blitz, but the repetition. Presumably, as more ad partners sign on, they’ll be able to mix and match a little more acutely.

There’s more to say about the hardware, probably, but going much deeper feels like holding a Big Mac extra value meal to French Laundry standards. This isn’t an iPhone, but it also costs an order of magnitude less than one. The camera? Terrible, don’t use it. The build quality? Sturdy but bulky. Does its vibration mode sound like a deep wheeze sometimes? Sure it does.

But guess what? None of that matters. This is the phone for when you break your real phone and need to fill the gap until you’re ready for a true upgrade. This is the phone you get if you feel like your life would benefit from a second smartphone but don’t want to commit to the idea. Better still, this is the phone you don’t get, but use as a baseline for how inconceivably good and how cheap smartphones have gotten.

The Blu R1 HD isn’t better than anything. But it’s still plenty good.

Source: WIRED

Official Star Wars Drones. I Repeat. Official Star Wars Drones

Official Star Wars Drones. I Repeat. Official Star Wars Drones

I could tell you all kinds of specs about these Star Wars drones from Propel, but first I have to encourage you to take a good long look at them. Take your time! Because yes, that is a speeder bike, and an X-Wing, and the Millennium Falcon, and a Tie fighter. And yes, they really do fly.

OK, all done? It’s okay, you can sneak one more peek after you get through the words part. Propel’s four Star Wars quadcopter models features a clever propeller placement—they’re underneath and clear, instead of above and opaque—that helps them disappear when in flight. Speaking of, they can hit speeds of nearly 40mph. Oh, except for the Millennium Falcon, which can hit 50mph. That’s not quite DJI Phantom zip, but it’s pretty close. And a DJI Phantom never made the Kessel Run.

There are other promised features, like “push-button aerial 360 stunts,” three speed settings to help novice pilots man their rebel vessels, and a laser-based fighting mechanics that let up to 24 quadcopters battle simultaneously mid-air. The beauty of these wee drones, though, is that all the extras really are just that. If you’re getting one of these, it’s because they’re the most artistically realized Star Wars flying machines this side of Corellia.

“You have the combination of something that’s really detailed and collectible, which really appeals to the true Star Wars fan, but it also performs,” says Propel CEO Darren Matloff. “That’s never happened before.”

The collection ships this fall, with each quadcopter expected to cost between $200 and $300. The catch? They haven’t currently not available in North America, although they are pretty much everywhere else, and there’s still a few months to patch that distribution hole. You can reserve one now, with no obligation to buy. Before you decide whether it’s worth it, maybe take peruse them one more time. With this many options, it’s no easy task to figure out exactly which drone you’re looking for.

Source: WIRED

Nest Cam Outdoor Fixes the Security Camera’s Biggest Fault

Nest Cam Outdoor Fixes the Security Camera’s Biggest Fault

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Source: WIRED

Polaroid Swing Thinks the World Needs a Better Photo App

Polaroid Swing Thinks the World Needs a Better Photo App

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Source: WIRED

Snapchat Saves Your Snaps Now Because Hey, Memories Can Be Nice

Snapchat Saves Your Snaps Now Because Hey, Memories Can Be Nice

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Snapchat has built a social media kingdom on the back of a fairly straightforward premise: the things you share disappear soon after you share them. Snapchat Memories, rolling out as of nowish, upends that proposition, letting you save snaps within the app for posterity. Apparently even ephemerality is ephemeral.

You could previously save your own snaps to your camera roll, but keeping them within the app should make for easier curating and sharing. To access Memories, swipe up from the camera. Any snaps or stories that you’ve saved will be there waiting for you, searchable by date, place, or object-recognition-powered keyword. You can also edit saved snaps, or add a location, or send them to friends or intermix them with your current story (you can tell an old snap from its white frame). Have a sensitive saved snap? You can plop it in “My Eyes Only,” a section that requires a PIN to access.

There are practical reasons for Memories, namely that saving snaps to your phone either leaves you vulnerable to losing that phone (and your Snapchat history along with it) or dependent on another service’s cloud for backup. Since snaps are a singular form of self-documentation, might as well keep them safe on Snapchat’s servers.

The more important point, though, may be that Snapchat has outgrown its original premise. As it becomes the default messaging app for more people—over two-thirds of 18-24 year olds use it, according to Comscore, along with a significant chunk of their elders—it captures increasingly important moments. A disappearing message is a fun gimmick, but some memories deserve more than that. In which case, why leave life’s milestones to Instagram?

As an ancillary benefit, it should also help you live more in the moment. Take a picture or video now, save the snapping for later. That takes away some of the real-time engagement Snapchat offers, but hey, everyone’s filter game should wind up that much more on point.

Yes, this is yet another process to learn as you continue your journey toward Snapchat mastery. But at least take some comfort in knowing that not even Snapchat knows exactly what it is yet.

Source: WIRED