Tag: smartphones

Google’s First Mobile Chip Is An Image Processor Hidden In The Pixel 2

One thing that Google left unannounced during its Pixel 2 launch event on October 4th is being revealed today: it’s called the Pixel Visual Core, and it is Google’s first custom system-on-a-chip (SOC) for consumer products.

You can think of it as a very scaled-down and simplified, purpose-built version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, Samsung’s Exynos, or Apple’s A series chips. The purpose in this case?

Accelerating the HDR+ camera magic that makes Pixel photos so uniquely superior to everything else on the mobile market.

Google plans to use the Pixel Visual Core to make image processing on its smartphones much smoother and faster, but not only that, the Mountain View also plans to use it to open up HDR+ to third-party camera apps.




The coolest aspects of the Pixel Visual Core might be that it’s already in Google’s devices. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL both have it built in, but laying dormant until activation at some point “over the coming months.”

It’s highly likely that Google didn’t have time to finish optimizing the implementation of its brand-new hardware, so instead of yanking it out of the new Pixels, it decided to ship the phones as they are and then flip the Visual Core activation switch when the software becomes ready.

In that way, it’s a rather delightful bonus for new Pixel buyers.

The Pixel 2 devices are already much faster at processing HDR shots than the original Pixel, and when the Pixel Visual Core is live, they’ll be faster and more efficient.

Looking at the layout of Google’s chip, which is dubbed an Image Processing Unit (IPU) for obvious reasons, we see something sort of resembling a regular 8-core SOC.

Technically, there’s a ninth core, in the shape of the power-efficient ARM Cortex-A53 CPU in the top left corner.

But the important thing is that each of those eight processors that Google designed has been tailored to handle HDR+ duties, resulting in HDR+ performance that is “5x faster and [uses] less than 1/10th the energy” of the current implementation, according to Google.

This is the sort of advantage a company can gain when it shifts to purpose-specific hardware rather than general-purpose processing.

Google says that it will enable Pixel Visual Core as a developer option in its preview of Android Oreo 8.1, before updating the Android Camera API to allow access to HDR+ for third-party camera devs.

Obviously, all of this tech is limited strictly to the Pixel 2 generation, ruling out current Pixel owners and other Android users.

As much as Google likes to talk about enriching the entire Android ecosystem, the company is evidently cognizant of how much of a unique selling point its Pixel camera system is, and it’s working hard to develop and expand the lead that it has.

As a final note, Google’s announcement today says that HDR+ is only the first application to run on the programmable Pixel Visual Core, and with time we should expect to see more imaging and machine learning enhancements being added to the Pixel 2.

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5 Secret Android Functions Most Of Users Don’t Know About

There probably isn’t a person now who hasn’t got an absolutely indispensable smartphone in their pocket.

However, despite this fact, there aren’t many people out there who know about all the incredible things these devices are actually capable of.




1. Save your battery power

If you choose a black or simple dark background for your screen, the automatic pixel highlighting will turn off, and you’ll notice that your device keeps its charge for much longer.

This feature isn’t available for all Android devices yet, but it’s already implemented on most Samsung smartphones and tablets. Give it a try!

2. Text-to-speech

Not only can you read this article but you can also listen to it if you have an Android device.

So if you prefer to hear incoming information rather than see it, go to Settings -> Accessibility and turn on the Text-to-Speech Output option.

3. Smartphone remote control

Just go to Settings -> Security -> Device administrators, and check the boxes next to Android Device Manager, Remotely locate this device, and Allow remote lock and erase.

4. Turning on Guest Mode

If you would like to temporarily give your phone to another person yet keep your personal data confidential, use Guest Mode. Swipe down from the top with two fingers, and touch the user icon on the upper right.

The Add guest icon will appear, and you’ll be able to choose which actions the person handling your smartphone will be allowed to take.

5. Screen magnifier

People with poor eyesight often have no idea how much this feature can help them. Just go to Settings -> Accessibility -> Magnification gestures.

Then you’ll be able to zoom in on any part of the display just by tapping it.

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5 Reasons Why Smartphones With A Stylus Are Simply Better

1. No screen is too big

While a big screen means better viewing and more space for games, it also means awkward hand positions while typing or the fear of dropping your phone/making too many mistakes while writing something.




This is where the S Pen comes in. You can now easily hold the phone in one hand and write away with the other without any fear!


2. Use them in any climate!

The best part about an S Pen is that it can be used in any climate and any condition. You can easily send texts even if your hands are wet or soiled. Psst: Don’t forget to wipe your S Pen clean later.

 

3. A boon for those suffering from OCD

Do you cringe every time you come in contact with a touch-screen at a public facility like ATM machines or ticket vending kiosks?

Then you can just use an S Pen to operate touch screens other than your smartphones and rest assured that your fingers are germ free. Do we hear the ‘Monks’ cheering?

 

4. Keep your screen safe 

S Pens can save the day and a whole lot of screen trouble as they’re specially designed for your smartphone screens and keep the screens completely safe.

They’ll not only keep your precious phone screens scratch and smudge free but even save you thousands of bucks for screen damage repairs.

5. Precision redefined

The S Pen is designed with a special S tip that makes selecting text more easy and you almost always get precise results. No more scope for error or cussing out loud when you just cannot select the right text!

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The Best “Lite” Versions Of Your Favorite Android Apps

If you’re looking for a good way to speed up your phone or cut down on your data usage, there are a lot of official “lite” versions of popular apps like Facebook or YouTube.

These are generally less feature-rich than their full-powered counterparts, but they’re often a great middle ground between features and function.

What Are “Lite” Apps?

Big companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter want as many people as possible using their services. But not all phones are powerful for their full-featured apps, and some data plans are heavily limited.

So, they’ve created “lite” versions of their apps for those audiences.

This is not to be confused with the hundreds of makeshift lite applications out there that are just containerized versions of mobile web sites, the apps on this list are official applications provided by the original developers.




This is an important and noteworthy mention, because there are a lot of “fakes” out there—we recommend using the official lite apps whenever you can.

These official “lite” versions are generally designed for use in countries with less powerful Android devices and slower mobile internet.

They keep the speed up and data usage down by omitting the superfluous features that people on slower connections wouldn’t be able to use anyway.

The Best Lite Apps

Alright, now that you know what lite apps are and why you’d want to use them, it’s time to look at the best options for the apps you’re probably already using.

Facebook Lite

Facebook is one of the most popular apps on the Play Store, but the full app is notoriously big. The primary app is nearly 65MB in size, where the much smaller lite version only tips the scale at a measly 1.6MB. That’s a huge difference.

Facebook Messenger Lite

Similar to Facebook Lite, there’s a lightweight version of Messenger available too.

It’s lacking nearly all of Messenger’s more robust features, like video chat, Facebook calls, SMS integration, and chat heads, but it’s pretty solid if all you want to do is text chat with Facebook friends.

As a result, Messenger Lite is about a fifth the size of the full Messenger app (11MB vs. 55MB).

Twitter Lite

Twitter Lite is arguably the best lite application on this list, as it’s almost as robust as its much larger counterpart.

It’s essentially a packaged version of the Twitter mobile website, which has undergone some major upgrades over the last several months—as a result, you’ll get a killer lightweight Twitter client that offers almost everything you need.

YouTube Go

Look, everyone loves YouTube. But if you’re finding the stock YouTube app to be a bit bulky and slow, YouTube Go is the answer.

It’s super fast and light, and offers some of the better features of the stock app—like the option to save videos for offline viewing.

It even asks what you want to do (save or view) each time you select a video and offers various quality levels. Very cool.

Skype Lite

There are a lot of good video chat apps out there, many of which are arguably better than Skype—but if your grandma uses Skype, you’re stuck using Skype too.

Thankfully, there’s a lite version. This app actually leverages Google Play’s testing feature, as it’s technically an “unreleased” app—at least on an official level.

Like it’s bigger brother, it offers voice and video calling, text chats, and even SMS integration.

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Razer’s First Smartphone Won’t Have A Headphone Jack

Razer has unveiled its first smartphone, the Razer Phone, designed to handle high performance games and stream high resolution movies.

The company revealed the phone during an event in London, which it had previously teased last Oct. 11.




The Razer Phone boasts a few remarkable specs, including:

  • 120 Hz UltraMotion screen, Dolby ATMOS
  • THX certified audio
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • 12MP dual cameras
  • 4,000 mAh battery for all-day power.

The one thing Razer’s Phone doesn’t have, however, is a 3.5mm headphone jack.

CNET reports that a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone adapter dongle will be come with the phone. The phone will also only be available through a GSM network, like AT&T or T-Mobile.

Razer’s foray into the smartphone business shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering that in January, the company purchased Nextbit, maker of the storage-focused, cloud-based phone, the Nextbit Robin.

Production on the Robin came to a halt following the acquisition.

The Razer Phone will be released on Nov. 17 for $700. The Phone can be purchased directly from Razer or Amazon.

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How To Get Internet To Isolated Puerto Rico? With Balloons.

More than one month after Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, cell phone communication and connection to the internet remain sorely lacking.

Enter Project Loon, the internet-beaming balloons from X, the “moonshot factory” run by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, which have provided a huge boost to getting the affected U.S. territories back online.

The balloons launched from the Nevada desert over the weekend and traveled the 3,500 miles by sky to reach the stratosphere over Puerto Rico. Algorithms are keeping them in position where the need is greatest.




At least 66 percent of cellular sites were out of service in Puerto Rico and 55.4 percent are out of service on the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to a status report released on Monday by the FCC.

This is the first time we have used our new machine learning powered algorithms to keep balloons clustered over Puerto Rico, so we’re still learning how best to do this,” a blog post from X said.

As we get more familiar with the constantly shifting winds in this region, we hope to keep the balloons over areas where connectivity is needed for as long as possible.”

X received permission from the FCC earlier this month to deploy the balloons 12.5 miles over the ground in Puerto Rico. However, deploying them and bringing connectivity wasn’t exactly simple.

Earlier this year, the moonshot factory had success connecting people in Peru during a time of torrential rain and flooding.

In that case, X had an advantage in rapidly getting Peruvians connected because it had already been working with a local carrier on testing the technology.

But this time, X had to quickly work with partners to integrate Loon into their networks, ensuring the system would work once it was deployed. X is working with AT&T in Puerto Rico to deploy internet to the hardest hit parts of the island.

That means some people on the ground with LTE-enabled devices will get basic connectivity, enough to send texts and emails and get some internet access.

Loon is still a work in progress, but having it up and running in Puerto Rico could potentially allow X to work out any potential snags.

Project Loon is still an experimental technology and we’re not quite sure how well it will work,” X freely acknowledged in its blog post.

But we hope it helps get people the information and communication they need to get through this unimaginably difficult time.

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The Complete Guide To Breaking Your Smartphone Habit

Smartphones are magical.

A device that’s small enough to fit in your pocket, allows you to instantly communicate with virtually anyone on earth, take breathtaking photos, and access humanity’s collected knowledge. Amazing!

But like any magical implement, the smartphone’s power can be so consuming that all you want to do is stare into its comforting, glowing, little screen.

Unsurprisingly a growing number of people feel disconcerted with the insatiable pull their phones exercise on them, and are unhappy with the amount of time and attention they give to these devices in return.

Below are such a game plan with all the tools and techniques you might consider implementing in order to get a handle on your smartphone habit.




The Negative Effects of Chronic Smartphone Use

For many folks, checking and twiddling with their smartphone has become a habit boarding on addiction.

Yet research shows that heavy smartphone use can also have a deleterious effect on several different aspects of our lives:

  • Loss of empathy and connection with others
  • Loss of sleep.
  • Loss of focus and the ability to do deep, meaningful work.
  • Loss of the ability to be fully present in your life.

How to Break the Smartphone Habit

Are you tired of being unable to really engage in conversations with your friends because you’re always checking your phone?

Do you feel guilty about how often your kids catch you staring at a screen when you should be interacting with them?

Are you sick of ending each day bemoaning your utter lack of focus and productivity at work, and how little progress you’re making on your goals?

While the bad news is that chronic smartphone use can have a negative impact on your life, the good news is that research demonstrates that the restless, distraction-producing itch they exercise on us can be reversed.

It just takes some work and discipline to get a handle on your habit. Here’s how to do it:

  • Perform an Audit on Your Cell Phone Use
    The first step in breaking the smartphone habit is to measure how much time you’re actually spending on your phone throughout the day.Just seeing hard numbers on how much time you’re spending on your phone can affect your use.
  • Going Nuclear, or Getting a “Dumbphone
    It’s been a week, and you have a good idea of how much you’re using your smartphone and what apps you’re using.Maybe you’re so appalled by the results of your smartphone audit that you decide the best course of action is to completely chuck your smartphone altogether and downgrade to a rudimentary “dumbphone” that just allows you to make calls and send simple text messages.
  • Making Your Smartphone Dumber
    After seriously considering ditching the smartphone, you’ve decided owning a dumbphone just isn’t going to be a viable option for you.Maybe your work requires you to answer email from your phone and use other apps. Or maybe you like being able to snap high-quality pics of your kids using your phone’s built-in camera.The question then becomes how do you take advantage of all the benefits that come with your smartphone while not getting sucked into the smartphone-checking habit? The answer is to make your smartphone dumber.

  • Turn off notifications
    The easiest thing you can do to instantly reduce the itch to check your smartphone is to turn off notifications.One of the things that makes these devices so irresistible to check are the pings, buzzes, and flashing lights that go off whenever you get a new email.You can curb this technological salivation by getting rid of notifications. You’ll be amazed how this one little change will dramatically reduce how often you check your smartphone.
  • Turn off cellular data and wifi
    Let’s assume you’ve turned off notifications, but you still have the itch to pick up your phone to check email or other apps.You can change the settings on your smartphone to make it temporarily dumb for certain periods of time.  All you need to do is turn off your cellular data and wifi.When you turn these services off, you’ll still be able to make calls and send simple text messages.

I hope this guide will help you get a handle on your own smartphone habit, so you can use your phone in a way that maximizes its benefits and minimizes its drawbacks.

Give these apps and techniques a try if you’re looking to be a more productive, industrious, and successful man.

Be the master of your technology, not its slave!

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Google’s Getting Serious About Building Its Own iPhone

Google unveiled its first custom-designed smartphone chip on Tuesday, the Pixel Visual Core, which is used in its new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones.

The Pixel Visual Core enables smartphones to take better pictures using HDR+, a technology that can take clear pictures even if there’s a lot of brightness and darkness in the same shot.




One example might be taking a picture of a shadowy skyscraper against a bright blue sky.

With HDR+, you’ll be able to capture both the skyscraper and the blue sky, without bits of either washing out because of parts of the image being too bright or too dark.

While the chip exists in current phones, it isn’t yet activated, but will be in a future software release.

The Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2 aren’t the first smartphones to offer HDR support, but Google is trying to make its photos the best using the new processor.

Google said that the Pixel Visual Core will be accessible by camera applications created by other developers, not just the built-in camera app, and that it plans to activate access to the core through software updates “in the coming months.

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