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Cut The Cord: Wireless Portable Batteries That Charge By Touch

Portable batteries are a utility we hope ultimately becomes obsolete. But, for the time being, they’re pretty crucial when we need extra juice, and enable us to do a lot of things that weren’t possible before.

But beyond saving us when we’re in a power pinch, portable batteries are becoming gadgets in their own right–going wireless. Meaning: you don’t need any cables or cords in order to use it.

What’s so cool about a wireless portable battery?

No more cord clutter

These wireless-charging portable batteries mean that you no longer need to carry a lightning cable to charge your iPhone, and a Micro USB cable to charge the portable battery.

Freedom from outlets
– Wireless chargers are neat, but they still need to be plugged into an outlet to get power. These wireless portable batteries mean you can truly charge your phone anywhere.

Meta charging

A wireless portable battery can also be recharged wirelessly. Instead of needing to plug the battery into an outlet to recharge, you can place it on a wireless charging pad.

Multiple charging options

Perhaps the best thing about these new portable batteries is that you can still charge with a cable if you want. Wireless portable batteries are not getting rid of their ports, they’re just adding the wireless charging capability into the mix. They’re becoming super batteries.

It’s not all rainbows and ponies, but don’t worry

Consider these things.

Added size and weight

Right now, wireless portable batteries tend to be a little thicker and heavier than non-wireless batteries because of the extra hardware required inside.

No stow-and-go

With a charging cable, you can tether your phone to the battery and drop it in a purse or backpack. Not so with wireless portable batteries. The phone will slide around and not stay planted on the induction charging point.

Slower charging

Wireless charging can be slower than charging with a cable. iPhones can currently only charge up to 7.5W, which makes it just a tad faster than charging with the (minimum) 5W plug that comes with the phone.

But don’t let these minor sticking points deter you. Wireless portable batteries are still far more useful and interesting than non-wireless ones.

 

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Fresh Friday: Ocean’s 8 In Theaters, Plus New Music From Khalid And Sugarland

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Here’s some new stuff to listen to

Khalid has a new single, “This Way,” which appears on the Superfly movie soundtrack.

Hardcore rock fans will enjoy a new track from Thrice called “The Grey.” The same people might also appreciate that The Get Up Kids have a new, four song EP out today.

Country fans can look forward to new Sugarland and Dierks Bentley.

R&B artist Jorja Smith is getting some love from those in the know and could be one of this year’s need-to-know artists.

Plus, new stuff from Dave Matthews Band, Smashing Pumpkins, and Ne-Yo, all for a blast from the past.

Movies now out in theaters

Solo: A Star Wars Story may have officially kicked off the summer movie blockbuster season,  but I think it’s safe to say Ocean’s 8 may be the more interesting film to start summer with. Ocean’s 11-13 were silly capers and hopefully Ocean’s 8 can be the same. These movies don’t need to take themselves too seriously, just provide a cohesive and fun story.

Sure, Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a documentary, opening in theaters this week, but don’t discount it. The movie has gotten rave initial reviews and, from the trailer, looks like a real tearjerker.

Other things from the week

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Use Your Voice To Control This New Home Speaker From Sonos

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At an event today, Sonos announced its new compact TV sound bar, called Sonos Beam, which will be available in July for $399.

Sonos Beam is the company’s cheapest home theater sound bar to-date, but the biggest feature is that Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant comes built in.

Not only will the sound bar connect to your TV for better sound with movies, it also works as a standalone internet connected speaker, and use Alexa to request music on demand—just like Google Home and Apple’s HomePod.

Beam
Image via Wired

Because Sonos Beam will be connected to your TV, you’ll also be able to ask Alexa to turn the TV on or off and the volume up or down, without fumbling for the remote.

Part of the Sonos Beam event was the announcement that AirPlay 2 support is coming both to Beam and some of its newer speakers in July. That feature will let you use Siri for play music to Sonos’ speakers. Those speakers will also gain additonal support for connecting with iOS devices updated to iOS 11.4.

What’s special about Sonos?

Sonos speakers are internet connected. They are made to replace home stereos and connect to Wi-Fi which will let them play any song, directly available from most streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and 80 more.

Unlike Bluetooth speakers, however, which connect directly to your phone and can be interrupted if you watch a video or go out of range, Sonos’ Wi-Fi speakers are initiated from your phone, computer, and now voice, but aren’t tied to the device controlling them.

Sonos Beam is interesting for several reasons. It puts a voice-controlled, high fidelity speaker potentially at the center of your home by making it part of your home theater setup. It’s one of the first speakers to support multiple voice assistants as well, like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant in the future.

At first blush, $399 may seem a bit steep for a speaker, but killing two birds with one stone and getting good TV sound along with a smart speaker starts to look pretty attractive.

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All The Things Apple Just Announced At WWDC 2018

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Apple just announced a bunch of new software features for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and the Mac. There was no new iPads or laptops, just a bunch of coming software features. While there was quite a few items Apple talked about, a lot of it can be skipped over. Here’s what you need-to-know, along with all the rest if you’re curious.

Here’s what’s new and cool

iOS 12

  • Group FaceTime – talk and see to up to 32 people in a single group video call, working across iPhone, iPad, and Mac. You can also put a live-moving emoji over your face during the video call.
  • Siri Shortcuts app – a new way to easily automate multiple tasks. For example, you can say “heading home,” and it will pull up directions, send a ETA text message to someone, play a radio station, and turn on a Homekit connected fan or home device, all with a single voice phrase.
  • Animoji/Memojitongue’s will be detected in Animoji, so it will track more of your face. Plus, there will be new Memoji which you can make personalized emoji that track your face–think Bitmoji from Apple.

 

Apple Watch

  • Walkie-Talkie app – connect with a specific person, tap and hold to talk, let go and the audio message is sent to them. It’s a mix of audio and text messaging, made super quick directly from the watch.

Apple TV

  • Screensavers – although minor, aerial screensavers have long been a loved part of Apple TV. They soon will gain titles so you know the location, and there will be photos taken directly from the International Space Station. 

Mac computers

  • macOS Mojave – there will be a dark mode which will ight mode

Here’s what’s boring

As a quick disclaimer, these things may still be neat, useful, or crucially important for cool things in the future, but as of right now, we’re counting them as snoozers compared to the other announcements.

iOS 12

  • Photos improvements – new search suggestions, a new For You section with smarter recommendations for sharing, as well as surfacing old photos. 
  • Siri improvements  – new shortcuts with quick actions to Siri, from your custom phrases.
  • Updated old apps – Apple News refreshed, Stocks refreshed, Voice Memos coming to iPad, and iBooks becoming Books with both audio books and ebooks.
  • Do Not Disturb improvements – it can be turned on based on location or calendar event so your phone will be muted just during a meeting.
  • App limits – set a usage limit for a certain app and then once the limit is reached, it deters you from using the app.
  • ARKit 2.0 – more ways to use augmented reality, like being able to see the same thing through your phone that other people see through theirs.
  • Performance – iOS 12 will focus on making older phones and iPads feel faster and work better.

Apple Watch

  • Workouts – more functionality for workouts, including tracking Yoga.
  • Better notification – enhanced notifications, including web content formatted for your wrist.

Apple TV

  • *crickets* – there wasn’t a whole lot new here…. Did we mention screensavers?

Mac computers

  • Camera continuity – just like you can click over to bring up web pages or messages on your Mac that you’re currently browsing on your phone, you’ll be able to use your phone’s camera to instantly capture photos for your computer–like adding photos to a presentation, for example.
  • iPhone and iPad apps coming to the Mac in 2019 – this was a sneak peek, but developers will be able to more easily bring their phone apps to macOS, which means you’ll have more app choices in the next few years.
  • New apps – Apple News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home, are all coming to the Mac

When is this stuff coming?

Most of these new features will be coming in the fall when iOS and macOS are released to the pubic. In a few months you’ll be able to take advantage of all these things mentioned here.

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Fresh Friday: Deadpool 2 In Theaters, Plus New Music From James Bay, Ray LaMontagne, And More

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Discover this week’s new music

A bunch of artists, all creating music in a similar vein have new releases this week. If you like James Bay’s soulful rock music, then there’s a good chance you’ll also enjoy Ray LaMontagne’s adult contemporary rock, or Matt Costa’s folk-rock jams.

Anderson .Paak released a new song, “Bubblin;” and K-pop sensation, BTS put out Love Yourself [Tear].

Get out of the house this weekend

Marvel’s adult-themed superhero, Deadpool is back with a sequel. There’s not much to say about the movie at this point; either you’ve seen all the parody marketing Deadpool 2 has been doing and want to see it, or you know it’s not for you.

Sure, there are other movies out in theaters today, but Deadpool 2 is the one to see.

Other things that happened this week

If you’d rather watch Fresh Friday, instead of read, that video is below. See you back here next week for Solo: A Star Wars Story and more of the latest releases.

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Hot Or Not: First Look At New Snapchat Spectacles Sunglasses

spectacles featured

Here’s our first look and impressions with Snap’s new Spectacles sunglasses. The previous version was released a year ago, but Snap, parent company of Snapchat, is back with the second generation, trying to get people to put cameras on their face.

spectacles gif

All things considered, version 2 is a very cautious update, tweaking the design slightly to be less obvious. The biggest change to the glasses comes in the form of adding water resistance. You can now bring them in the pool, rain, and generally anywhere you’d wear sunglasses. You no longer have to worry about getting them wet.

The sunglasses with a built in camera still work the same as before. Hit the button, record a short video and share it to Snapchat or export it other places.

What’s new?

  • Colors – new colors for the glasses and multiple choices for lens.
  • Water resistant – Don’t call it waterproof! But they should be fine anywhere you’d wear regular sunglasses, i.e. pool, beach, rain.
  • Pictures – Beyond just 10 or 60 second videos, you can now snap pictures with the glasses.

spectacles two gif

Version 2 can store up to 3,000 pictures or 150 hours of video and comes with a battery case (a bit thinner overall) to give the glasses four, full additional charges.

Is it worth it to wear a camera on your face?

After a weekend with the new Spectacles, this new version really does address some of the roadblocks that prevented version 1 from becoming more successful.

No one seemed to notice that my sunglasses had a camera in them. No strange looks or questions. The removal of the yellow ring around the camera lens is likely the most helpful in this regard.

Even my kids were surprised and a bit confused at how I had taken video of us playing kickball at the park because they hadn’t seen me take out my phone at all. The action of tapping a button on your sunglasses is subtle enough to go unnoticed.

These new glasses will be fun to use in water, throughout the summer. The water resistance should open up more opportunities you’d naturally want to capture memories, but usually not have your phone readily available.

One of the phrases printed on the Spectacles container is “Share your perspective” and I think that’s the potential Spectacles have always held. It’s fun to have a video of exactly what you experienced without a visible camera present. Even after just a short time with version 2, I do think Snap is onto something here and smart for updating the original glasses.

V2 on the left, V1 on the right
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4 Instant Coffee Choices That Don’t Taste Terrible

instant coffee

Imagine being able to bring delicious tasting coffee with you on an airplane, when you go camping, or even just to the office each day, without the aid of a coffee maker or a barista? It could be life changing. Unfortunately, most instant coffees to-date have been instant crap. But that could all change thanks to a few startups who are trying to buck that stereotype.

sudden coffee instant
Sudden Coffee tubes

It can be tough to go against incumbents like Folders, Nescafe, Mount Hagen, or Starbucks so these new small companies are first focusing on making really good coffee; and second, make it happen in an instant.

Sudden Coffee

Sudden Coffee delivers its new blend in unique tubes–which can also double as coffee stirrers. It’s a monthly subscription plan so you’re committing to at least $8/month. Sudden Coffee does offer a free sample so you can try before you buy.

Swift Cup

Swift Cup is ‘single purchase’ packs of 6 cups, which works out to around $2-$3 per cup, depending on the flavor you choose.

Voila Coffee

Throwing it all on the table, Voila Coffee claims to the be the “world’s best instant coffee.” While taste is relative, they back up that claim with testimonials from legit coffee people like the head of quality assurance at Stumptown who says, “… It’s the best in the field I’ve had…”.

Go Cubes

For those times when you’d rather have your coffee delivered as a solid versus liquid. In that case, check out Go Cubes which promise half a cup of coffee in each cube. It looks like a gummy cube, tastes kinda like a gummy cube, and gets the job done in terms of pep.