Best of both worlds: Samsung Galaxy S8 is now compatible with Google Daydream

Samsung's Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus are making the leap into Google's virtual reality world as a Daydream-ready update is rolling out to the phones right now.

Google VR made the announcement on Twitter this afternoon, marking the compatibility of Samsung's devices with the Google Daydream View headset.

We've known Daydream support was coming since the Google IO conference in May, and today's update means Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus owners can now use their phones to power the Google Daydream headset. This expands the phones' VR scope beyond the Samsung Gear VR as well. 

Unlike the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, Daydream View doesn't need to be hooked up to an expensive PC. Instead, users slip their smartphone into the visor and run games and apps on their phone's display and processors. 

What's more, Daydream is much cheaper than its higher-end competitors. That's especially true today through August 12, as Google is taking $20 off the Daydream View's regular $79 price in the US. 

Now, you'll pay $59.99 for the headset at Verizon and Best Buy, while Amazon has the Daydream View for sale at $63. 

Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus support is a nice feather in the cap for Google Daydream. There are more compatible phones on the way this year – CEO Sundar Pichai says we'll see 11 Daydream-ready phones in all – giving Google solid standing over other smartphone-supported headsets with much more limited compatibility. 

And this isn't the end of the Google VR story this year, either, as we'll see the first standalone Daydream headsets, made by HTC and Lenovo, launch before the New Year. 

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Moto Z2 Force ShatterShield screen scratches easy, Motorola responds to inquiry

Reports from reviewers across the tech space have panned the ShatterShield screen on the Moto Z2 Force for its "scratch magnet" tendencies.

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We could find out when iPhone 8 goes on sale from Apple’s earnings call tomorrow

Tomorrow's Apple earnings call could talk about iPhone 8, even if CEO Tim Cook won't mention the new phone by name. He could, however, still unlock its biggest mystery.

All iPhone 8 release date rumors point to either a routine September launch or one that's delayed to October, November or even into a 2018 time frame.

Waiting to know whether or not we'll be waiting for the new iPhone is the worst part. First world flagship phone problems, amiright?

So we're going to listen closely to Cook's comments for one specific thing: are flat iPhone sales expected to recover in any part of September?

What to listen for tomorrow

You see, Apple's earnings calendar started on September 25, 2016 and it ends two months from now, on September 30, 2017. This is perfect timing for everyone but Apple's SVP of surprises (not a real role).

During last quarter's conference call, Cook warned of a 'pause in purchases on iPhone' due to 'frequent reports about future iPhones.' Oops, that's on us.

Is he now going to expect a slight uptick in sales in September? Or will his pause comments be repeated, with all sales reserved for October to December, when Apple's next fiscal calendar begins?

Even though Apple leaked the iPhone 8 design highlights itself this week, don't expect Cook to refer to the brand new iPhone by its name.

Of course, you don't have to listen into Apple's third quarter conference call for a preview of its iPhone 8 expectations. We'll report the news as it happens.

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Google’s keyboard app for iPhone adds helpful new features

Google's Gboard application is getting a major upgrade, incorporating two of the tech giant's other products into the add-on keyboard to make messaging even easier

Rolling out now for iOS, Gboard is adding support for Google Maps and YouTube, alongside the ability to make your own in-app drawings to spice up conversations.

By hitting the Google Maps tab on the Gboard toolbar, users can now send their location or share an address instantly. Similar goes for YouTube functionality, which allows users to search videos right within Gboard, expediting the time it takes to find that hot new trailer without leaving the chat.

Drawing on Gboard can now be found next to the keyboard's GIF and emoji tabs, allowing users to sketch out doodles to send to their friends — you know, should emojis not fully express your feelings or you need to show someone a very specific, hard-to-describe pattern for some reason.

Gboard's latest tricks are available now for iPhone users via the App Store. We've contacted Google to learn if it has plans to bring Maps, YouTube and doodles to Android users soon, and will update this story as we learn more.

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LG Releases LG Q6 Smartphone with FullVision Display

LG announced the availability of the LG Q6 smartphone featuring the proprietary FullVision display. The LG Q6 will be available this week in Korea, soon to be followed by key markets in Asia, Europe, Middle East and the Americas in the weeks to come. Here's more info: The Q6 is the first model in LG's new ...
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Samsung Galaxy S9 could be the fastest phone at 1.2 Gbps

The tech industry is in a constant state of pushing devices to do more faster, and Samsung has announced the latest in its efforts to speed up future smartphones, with a high probability of including the Galaxy S9

Samsung revealed today it's developed LTE modems for the next generation of its Exynos mobile processors, ones that support six carrier aggregation, or 6CA. 

What's the big deal? Well, this is a first in the industry, Samsung said, and an achievement that unlocks a max download speed of 1.2 gigabits per second (Gbps). That's a 20% boost over the current modem found in the Galaxy S8

While Samsung's current Exynos 9 Series (8895) modem supports 5CA and turned the S8 into the first gigabit-speed phone, Samsung added one more bandwidth in its newest modem to generate the .2 Gbps boost. 

Hypothetically, the updated modem will allow phones to download an entire HD movie within 10 seconds. It will also, hypothetically, eliminate buffering during video calls and live-stream broadcasts.

Primed for Galaxy S9

Other benefits of the new modem include more stable data transfers, 4X4 Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output, and the ability to aggregate licensed and unlicensed network spectrum from network carriers. 

Not only does this get Samsung ready for 5G (whenever that arrives), but with chips housing the updated modems entering mass production at the end of 2017, it sets up the Galaxy S9 to be the fastest smartphones on the market. 

Samsung is expected to announce the new flagship phone at MWC 2018 in February. 

Samsung is doing its part in producing new modems inside its chipsets, but carriers also need to support increased bandwidths in order to achieve these theoretical speeds. 

That's a much slower process than pumping out new silicon, but as more US carriers tout higher network support, we likely won't have to wait as long before we're transferring data at record clips. 

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Asus Zenfone 4 Max bares all ahead of August launch

Asus promises to surprise you with the ZenFone 4 Max on August 19, but spoiler alert, it's already shown off the Android phone on its own website 19 days early. 

Looking similar to last year’s Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom, the midrange smartphone sports a 13MP dual-lens rear-facing camera array – a feature that has spiked in popularity in the past year. In place of the Zoom’s optical zooming ability, Asus has gone with a wide-angle lens that’s capable of 120-degrees of view compared to 82-degrees found in the Zoom.

The phone doesn’t try anything new for Asus design-wise, though moving its fingerprint sensor from rear to the front is a notable change. Otherwise, this phone seems to be stocked with the usual suspects, like a 3.5mm headphone jack and a USB-C charging port.

This is the “Max” version?

We’re saving judgment until we give it a try, but the specs listed for the Zenfone 4 Max appear to be pretty ho-hum. Of course, that hangs heavily on the final price tag. If this device is sub-$250, that’s more convincing story. 

The obvious stand-out in the spec sheet is its 5,000mAh battery, which considering its thin frame is a marvel of engineering. This huge battery powers the efficient Snapdragon 430 with 3GB of RAM.

Topping it off is the 5.5-inch IPS panel. Asus’ website claims that it’s “HD”, so that could mean 720p or 1080p. Either way, the battery inside really could last for days with these specs.

Lastly, Android 7.1.1 Nougat comes built-in with the new ZenUI 4.0. Before you get up in arms, you should know that it’s almost unrecognizable to Asus’ software of old–in a good way. It got rid of nearly all bloatware, leaving less between you and that stock Android goodness.

We’ll know more about the Zenfone 4 Max soon and hopefully with that, more on what else Asus has planned for the Zenfone 4 lineup, too. Though, if this is the “Max” version of the phone, can users expect much in the way of performance out of the brand’s core Zenfone 4? August 19 is just around the corner, so we’ve not long to find out.

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MSI Updates WS63 Thin Workstation Laptop

MSI today announced the updated of the WS63 workstation laptop with Quadro P4000 with Max-Q Design, a Pascal generation of GPU. Here's more info on this thin workstation laptop from MSI: Based on NVIDIA Pascal architecture, the Quadro P4000 GPU delivers over 40 percent better visualization performance and 1.7 times the computing performance of the previous ...
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Samsung Gear S3 frontier TUMI Special Edition offers ‘luxury’ design at reasonable price point

A fancy new Samsung Gear S3 frontier edition caters to US-based lovers of luxury wearable designs on relatively tight budgets.

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Microsoft kills popular Word Flow iOS keyboard ‘experiment’, suggests SwiftKey as replacement

No more "experimenting" with the ingenious Arc mode of Microsoft's Word Flow keyboard app for iPhones, as Redmond puts all its chips on SwiftKey.

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Is photography on Android really ‘years’ behind the iPhone?

If an ex-Googler says that photography on Android is inferior to what you get with an iPhone, that has to make it true, right?

Vic Gundotra, former senior vice president of social at Google, posted to Facebook a set of photos taken with the iPhone 7 Plus’ Portrait mode, which takes advantage of its dual-lens setup. They are certainly nice photos, filled with warmth, focus and bokeh.

In the comments, he responds to someone praising the Samsung Galaxy S8’s abilities by saying “I would never use an Android phone for photos!” However, the finger isn’t pointed at any phone in particular. The blame, he says, lies on Android itself. And according to Gundotra, the photography experience as a whole on the platform is a “few years behind” of where Apple’s currently sitting.

Do you agree? I'm conflicted.

It depends on the user

Most people–if not all–will agree that phones in general have never taken better photos than they do now. As in, there has never been a better time to leave your DSLR at home and rely solely on your smartphone for taking snaps.

From the bird's eye view, Android’s progress chart is more difficult to map out compared to Apple’s, though there is certainly progress being made. Just look at what the S8 and Google Pixel are capable of. Though, as Gundotra states, most Android smartphones offer a “confused and bewildering array of photo options” and I totally agree. 

Using a camera on an iPhone involves the same process, no matter the model you own. This makes moving from iPhone to iPhone much easier for the consumer. Thus, Apple’s job of updating the software and hardware for its unified batch of phones is all the more simple. 

We’re at the point where it isn’t difficult at all to find a phone that takes competent photos, no matter your preference of Apple or Android. All said, I’d argue that if you aren’t someone who concerns themselves in what’s happening on the other side of the fence, you probably don’t think about what you’re missing out on, unless it’s a big-ticket feature.

A Pixel-only affair

Gundotra doesn’t mention this part, but he sort of doesn’t need to, as it would muddle his argument. Not every Android device falls victim to the bewilderment he speaks of.

If you own a Nexus 6P or Google Pixel XL, you’re treated to an experience that more or less mimics each other. The camera icons look similar and they both use Google Photos as their default camera gallery app. In a sense, these Android phones offer the most Apple-like experience in that regard.

These phones exist in a bubble and by showing that it can create a cohesive experience, Google is doing a service to those who want one, like Gundotra. But in doing so, it’s also adding to the problem of fragmentation among the greater family of Android devices. This is an issue worth working to solve, as companies like Samsung, HTC, LG and others have been making great strides in mobile photography.

However, if you own one of these Google-made phones, you’ll agree that each put forward more than enough proof that you can take the snap the best photos around without an iPhone.

Google is still crushing it

The attack on Android doesn’t single-out megapixel counts, the number of lenses, aperture values or any other spec that traditional photographers obsess over. Gundotra focuses on the smartphone’s area of expertise: computational photography, or using software smarts to compensate for the phone’s lack of optical bravado.

Apple’s Portrait Mode intelligently gathers depth information with its lens array, filling in the background with a thick layer of bokeh that gives each photo a really rich, DSLR-like effect. When it works–which is most times–it works really well. 

But while he states that Google’s heyday in the space was 5 years ago, the company’s upcoming innovations make removing wrinkles, whitening teeth and other effects seem like child’s play. 

Google Lens, unveiled at Google IO 2017, takes computational photography to a whole new level. When it launches soon, this new injection of machine learning into Android’s camera will be able to remove unsightly objects from photos, even ones that sit in the foreground. 

So, is photography on Android “years” behind the iPhone? In the sense that Google lacks unified camera experience across all devices, yes. However, Google’s own devices, as well as Samsung’s prove that Android is right on par and ahead in a few key ways. 

But as we’ve seen, it’s not always so fair to compare Apples to Androids.

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