Dec 27, 2016
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As we move further into the age of wireless audio with the iPhone 7 abandoning the ever-so-present headphone jack, a new category of "truly wireless" earbuds has been popping up. So you may be asking, what does "truly wireless" even mean? Well, as you may have seen, many earbuds that have claimed to be "wireless" actually have a wire in between the buds that generally goes around your neck. So, a few companies, such as Bragi, decided to do away with any and all wires, leaving us with Bragi's first product, the Dash. The Dash started as a Kickstarter project back in February of 2014, with an enormous amount of support, raising just under $3.4 million with the promise of earbuds completely free of wires and with loads of other features. These features included activity tracking, touch controls, on-board storage, water-resistance, and more. The campaign had initially intended to ship out the Dash units in October of 2014, but due to many setbacks, they started shipping out units in early- to mid-2016. With initial reports of problems with the microphone and Bluetooth connectivity, it seemed, at first, like the Dash could be just another Kickstarter flop. Instead, however, the company dedicated a lot of time into creating new updates to the firmware that drastically improved, if not completely solved these issues. The Sound DSC01138An earbud can't be good without sounding good, of course. So, how does the Dash stack up to the competition? After all, the price for these is not cheap, coming in at around $300. Well, they're actually pretty good! I wasn't expecting amazing sound from a device so small, yet packed full of components. What I found was that the Dash produces a good, clear sound, though certainly preferring the mids over the lows and highs. That said, I am quite a bass-lover myself and I'm coming from using a V-Moda Crossfade M-100, so I've been spoiled, and for earbuds, the Dash does a good job producing the bass it does. If I had to compare it to some other earbuds, I'd compare the sound to something like the "wireless" (but not completely wireless) Jaybird Bluebuds, which are quite good themselves. Bluetooth Connectivity Now, a common issue with truly wireless earbuds is their often lacking performance in their ability to hold a strong Bluetooth connection. In the beginning, there were lots of complaints from users experiencing poor connection even if the phone was placed only as far as the user's pockets. Obviously, that's a huge issue, but also one Bragi appears to have fixed through their updates. I can confidently say that I have had virtually no issues whatsoever with the connectivity of these earbuds, other than maybe one or two micro drops in connection. I tested the Dash by walking around a room and was able to go as far as 10 to 15 feet away from the source without experiencing any connectivity issues. Additionally, just the process of using and connecting the earbuds is really simple. All you do is take them out of the case and put them in your ears. The buds sense when they're in and automatically turn on, connect to each other, and connect to your phone or other device. Comfort and Design DSC01125Another historically common problem with this category of audio products is the ridiculous look of the product or their inability to stay in ears due to the sheer weight they carry. Luckily, this is not an issue with the Dash. While you may get some head turns while using this product, people often just don't care, and the Dash really doesn't look bad at all. Additionally, these earbuds were surprisingly comfortable to wear. They come with multiple sleeves to fit your ears (XS, S, M, and L), and once you find the right fit, the earbuds fit snuggly and quite comfortably. I haven't had too many issues with the buds falling out, which has always been a problem for me, whether or not the earbuds I was using were wireless. Yet another check mark for the Dash. Gestures/Controls A neat feature of the Dash is the way you control them. There are multiple ways that you control the Dash, including through the app, touch sensors on the outside of each bud, and head gestures. For instance, if you receive a call while using the earbuds, just nod or shake your head to answer or deny the call. Playing and pausing is easy, with just a tap on the right earbud, or start tracking activities with a tap on the left. One of the issues I noticed is that the touch sensors aren't only sensitive to your fingers, so putting on a winter hat caused the earbuds to do some unwanted actions. After looking around a bit, though, it looks like Bragi addressed this issue by including a touch lock that can be implemented by holding down on both the right and left touch sensors, which worked well and solved my problem. Other Features DSC01143The other features included with the Dash are a microphone, onboard storage, a heart-rate sensor, and a case that charges the buds 5 times on-the-go. To start off, the microphone had quite a few complaints in the early days, with users claiming it was unusable and that the person speaking sounded robotic over the phone. This is yet another area where Bragi has used its firmware updates to address an issue. When I was using the microphone for phone calls, some people said there were no problems at all, while others said it sounded a bit muddled, but they could still hear me and know what I was saying. As for the onboard storage, there's not much to be said about it. Songs can be added through a computer and using it works as described. Next up is the heart-rate sensor, which seemed to be relatively accurate, though I didn't have another device to compare it to at the time. This is a really nice feature for athletes looking to listen to music without an annoying wire and no need for a smartwatch. And lastly, the charging case. The case is built quite well, with an aluminum sleeve and a strong metal or plastic where the earbuds actually rest. The earbuds flash when they've been connected properly, and a magnet holds them in place. My only complaint is that I feel like I will drop the earbuds when trying to get them out of the case because you have to take the sleeve off, hold that, hold the battery part, and then fiddle with getting the buds out. That said, overall, the battery case is a nice feature, as the battery life on the buds isn't spectacular at about 3 hours. Conclusion So, what are my overall thoughts of the Dash? Well, I like them. I don't know if I, personally, would quite want to spend the $300 for them, but I could understand why some would. The features work well and the sound quality is pretty good, considering everything that's built into them. I think Bragi's next product, the Headphone, could also allow a lot more people to purchase their products, with reportedly better sound quality and a much lower price of $149. However, that new product does strip the Dash of many of its capabilities, including the water-resistance, touch controls, onboard storage, and heart rate sensor. So it really comes down to what you want. If you want the smart capabilities, there really is no other product out there that offers all of the Dash's capabilities, but if that does interest you, the Headphone is probably the way to go.

Google Announces Allo & Duo Messaging Apps

Google has announced two new apps that are launching this summer for Android and iOS. Allo is a simple one-to-one video calling app with some cool new features while Allo is a secure text messaging app with an intergrated Google assistant.

 

Allo is a smart messaging app that makes your conversations easier and more expressive. It’s based on your phone number, so you can get in touch with anyone in your phonebook. And with deeply integrated machine learning, Allo has smart features to keep your conversations flowing and help you get things done.


Allo has Smart Reply built in (similar to Inbox), so you can respond to messages without typing a single word. Smart Reply learns over time and will show suggestions that are in your style. For example, it will learn whether you’re more of a “haha” vs. “lol” kind of person. The more you use Allo the more “you” the suggestions will become. Smart Reply also works with photos, providing intelligent suggestions related to the content of the photo. If your friend sends you a photo of tacos, for example, you may see Smart Reply suggestions like “yummy” or “I love tacos.”


Allo also features the Google assistant, bringing the richness of Google directly into your chats—helping you find information, get things done, and have fun. You can chat one-on-one with the assistant, or call on Google in a group chat with friends. Either way, you no longer have to jump between apps to do things like book a dinner reservation with friends, get up-to-date sports scores, settle a bet, or play a game. The assistant in Allo lets you bring things like Search, Maps, YouTube and Translate to all your conversations, so that you and your friends can use Google together.

The Google assistant in Allo understands your world, so you can ask for things like your agenda for the day, details of your flight and hotel, or photos from your last trip. And since it understands natural language patterns, you can just chat like yourself and it’ll understand what you’re saying. For example, “Is my flight delayed?” will return information about your flight status.

 

Duo is a simple, fast one-to-one video calling app for everyone—whether you’re on Android or iOS, a fast or slow connection, in New York or New Delhi. Like Allo, Duo is based on your phone number, allowing you to reach anyone in your phonebook. And its simple interface fades away when you’re in a call, so it’s just the two of you.

One of our favorite features of Duo is Knock Knock, which shows you a live video preview of the caller before you pick up. Knock Knock invites you into the moment, making calls feel spontaneous and fun. Once you answer, Duo seamlessly transitions you right into the call.

Duo calls are in crisp HD video (up to 720p) and audio. We’ve optimized Duo to work well even on spotty networks, so if bandwidth is limited it gracefully adjusts quality so you’re still able to connect. We also seamlessly transition calls between cellular and Wi-Fi, so you don’t need to worry about what network you’re on. Finally, we built Duo with privacy and security in mind and all calls on Duo are end-to-end encrypted.

Unfortuantely none of these apps are replacing any of Google’s current apps such as Hangouts which means the market will remain fragmented untill enough people choose to switch to Allo and Duo. This is basically Google’s BBM or iMessage but with some really cool features and it’s cross-platform.

Google’s Project Skybender – 5G Internet Delivered Via Solar-Powered Drones

Google never seems to stop dropping crazy ideas on us, do they? Well, they’ve done it again, so here’s the latest innovation the tech giant recently announced: Project Skybender.

This initiative is quite similar to Google’s Project Loon, which was a project announced in June of 2013 meant to send large balloons into the atmosphere for the purpose of beaming 4G Internet from the sky. This project is still on-going, but that didn’t stop Google from also considering other opportunities, bringing us to Skybender.

Skybender is quite a unique idea, which uses solar powered drones to send down high-quality 5G Internet.

Google is currently testing prototypes out at the Gateway to Space airport in New Mexico. They built a flight control center in a nearby town to control the drones, and they are currently testing a new method of delivering high-speed Internet using millimeter-wave radio transmissions.

This new method has been rated at approximately 40 times as fast as current 4G LTE Internet, and could be the answer to jumping up a 5G level.

Google’s ultimate vision for this project, if it is deemed successful, is to have hundred to thousands of their drones flying around delivering high-speed, high-quality Internet to the world. Of course, they’re going to have to get through the FCC first, with their recent activities cracking down on even hobby drones.

The company started working on Project Skybender’s construction last summer with communication stations at Spaceport America.

Spaceport America

The system uses drones Google created when they acquired the startup Titan Aerospace. The drones they created are high-altitude and solar-powered, which is perfect for a project like this, and some of these drones are quite large, with wingspans of up to 160 feet. Of course, being as high in the atmosphere as they are, the size isn’t much of an issue.

Google plans to continue tests until July this year, when permission from the FCC is terminated, to determine the possibility of this project being successful. Hopefully we’ll hear more about the project in the future, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the project is never heard of again, as with many of Google’s projects.

Google Pays $12,000 to Man Who Owned Google.com Domain for 1 Minute

You may remember back in September of last year when a man named Sanmay Ved purchased the world’s most valuable domain name, Google.com, for $12. The former Google employee said he found the domain up for sale on the listings, and decided to try purchasing it just for fun. He didn’t think the transaction would go through, but much to Ved’s surprise, he was able to charge his card the $12 and own the domain name… for one minute.

Of course, Google was quick to notice something wasn’t quite right when they all of a sudden didn’t own their domain name anymore and cancelled the transaction just after it was originally created. However, as payment for Ved noticing the error, Google told Ved they’d send him a payment for $6,006.13. Why such a specific amount? Well, if you look closely, you can see that 600613 is GOOGLE in numbers (or at least as close to it as you can get).

Ved immediately chose to donate the money to a charity, and when Google found this out, they doubled the payment to $12,012.26. The money was donated to the charity Art of Living India Foundation, a non-profit that runs schools in areas in India that are high in poverty for free.

Google has been known to pay their users for errors found in Google’s system, including over $35,000 for a security researcher working on checking Android for problems. So, if you happen to run across a security issue with Google, be sure to let them know, as you may get some cold hard cash for your Internet stumbling!

Google Launches Project Fi, Its Own Mobile Network [Video]

Google has finally announced it’s own mobile network (Project Fi) that will use Sprint and T-Mobile to provide a constant connection to your mobile device. The service is currently available through invite only and Google’s Nexus 6 is the first phone that is supported by network.

 

Network

Networks change in quality as you move around. To help you get the highest-quality connection at your location, Project Fi uses new technology to intelligently connect you to the fastest network whether it’s Wi-Fi or one of our partner LTE networks.

If you’re on one network and we detect our other 4G LTE network partner has a stronger signal, you’re moved over to the other network to get the fastest available speed.

The Nexus 6 is the first smartphone to support Project Fi’s network of networks. The Nexus 6 works with our unique SIM that lets you access multiple networks and has a state-of-the-art cellular radio tuned to work with different network types. You can use a Nexus 6 you already own, or buy a new one when you sign up.

Plan

Our plan starts with the Fi Basics for $20 per month. This includes:

Unlimited domestic talk and text
Unlimited international texts
Low-cost international calls
Wi-Fi tethering
Coverage in 120+ countries

Then it’s $10 per GB for data. $10 for 1GB, $20 for 2GB, $30 for 3GB and so on. That’s it. With no annual contract required.

It’s hard to predict your data usage when it changes month to month. One month you’re streaming live sports, the next you’re mostly just checking email. At the end of each month, you’ll get your unused data credited in dollars and cents, so you only pay for what you use.

 

If you have a Nexus 6 then you can head over to this link to request an invite.

Source: Project Fi

Google Glass Experience Review, 1 Year 1/2 Later

After nearly two years with Google Glass, I thought it was about time to tell you about my experience with Google Glass and if it’s worth it. I’ve been a supporter of Glass since its announcement and will continue to be one. Google Glass has its ups and downs but the most important thing is its potential, I am nothing but sure that the consumer version of Glass will be awesome and a product worth owning. The video below has a small montage of clips at the beginning but the actual review starts at 1:28.

 

Blip TV: Mirror

Own a Chromecast? Google is Giving You $6 in Play Store Credit

If you own a Chromecast then this news will surely brighten up your day! Google is giving all Chromecast owners $6 to spend in the Play Store, the credit can be used on movies, music, games or anything else in the store. All you have to do is head over to  the Chromecast offers page from your Chrome browser and share your Chromecast device ID with Google. If you’re concerned with giving your Chromecast ID to Google then here is the reason for why they need it:

In order to check for available offers, we require you to share your device’s serial number with Google.

We use the serial number to provide your device with offers that may be relevant to you. If you check for additional offers in the future, you will be asked again to provide your device’s serial number.

For more information about Chromecast’s collection and use of data, please visit the Chrome Privacy Notice.

Chromecast free $6 creditIf you haven’t redeemed any past offers then you can go back after redeeming the $6 credit and redeem any others that you would like. I have three Chromecast’s and was able to redeem the $6 credit three times so make sure you repeat the process for each Chromecast you own!

Source: Chromecast Offers

Project Wing from Google is a New Delivery Idea

By now, most of you have already seen Amazon’s Prime Air, a 30-minute delivery service that delivers by quadcopter. Well, as it turns out, Google has been working on a delivery service of its own, that they’re calling Project Wing. Project Wing actually uses a plane, which takes off vertically and then becomes horizontal, similar to a standard plane. It doesn’t say, but I would imagine flying like a plane would be faster than by quadcopter, but it probably does limit the weight it can hold more than a quadcopter.

Once the plane arrivesat its set location it looks like it hovers vertically as a string holding the package drops until it hits the ground, afterwhich an electromagnet let’s go and the package is delivered. It’s certainly interesting, and I like the idea of very fast delivery, and though the whole idea is far away from becoming normal, I’m very excited to see the innovation. Anyway, take a look at the video Google released!

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