Category Archives: Tech

Telstra unlocks next-gen SMS messaging on newer Android handsets

There’s competition brewing in the messaging world, with Australia’s largest telco announcing the launch of Telstra Messaging, a service that uses the Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging standard.

RCS is Google’s answer to Apple’s feature-rich iMessage, which adds various dynamic features like group chat, high-resolution photo sharing, read receipts and typing indicators to the native Android message app.

This service will now allow Telstra’s Android customers to send and receive these richer formats along with basic text messages from within the same inbox, much like how the current SMS and MMS services work.

Not every phone is lucky

However, not every Android phone on Telstra’s network will be able to use the new messaging service. Telstra Messaging is currently available for only a handful of premium devices, namely the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, and the previous generation of Samsung Galaxy 7 and 7 Edge.

There is no word yet on other handset compatibility, but we will keep you updated when we know more.

How it works

If you’re a Telstra customer who owns one of the aforementioned handsets, Telstra Messaging will automatically get activated on your device, becoming the native texting app.

If you’re not a Telstra customer, however, and want to jump on the Telstra Messaging bandwagon, you’ll need to switch providers and get yourself either a postpaid or prepaid Telstra SIM card on one of the compatible Samsung devices. 

Once set up, there are no additional fees to use the service, but data usage charges will apply, unless the phone is hooked up to a Wi-Fi connection.

And just like how Apple’s Messages app has an indication of whether a contact can receive an iMessage or not, the message composing window in Telstra’s new service will label messages either as a ‘chat’ or an ‘SMS’ – with chats colour-coded green and SMSes coloured yellow – to let users know if the recipient is using Telstra Messaging or not.

In case the contact doesn’t have Telstra Messaging on their handset or belongs to another network, the message will reach them the usual way – as an SMS or MMS.

Telstra isn’t forcing customers to use the new RCS-based service – Telstra Messaging can be blocked by deactivating Rich Communications found within the device’s Settings.

For more information on Telstra Messaging, head over to the telco’s CrowdSupport page for a detailed FAQ.

Australia’s best cheap headphones, discounts and deals

With headphones of all types, colours and styles flooding the market, it’s hard knowing which ones to pick – do you go for the premium model you’ve always wanted, or are you better off just grabbing a cheap set from the discount bin?

Well, it’s worth remembering that cheap headphones are cheap for a reason, so even if saving money is priority we can’t recommend those $2 discount-bin variety that you find all over the world. And, as you’ll find out below, you don’t always have spend a lot of dosh to snag a great set of headphones either.

To save you the time and effort, we’ve put together this dedicated guide to the best bargains on great-sounding headphone. We constantly monitor major Aussie retailers and go a-huntin’ to bring you the most worthwhile deals on a variety of sets – from in-ear buds to noise-cancelling cans – so check out our continually updated list below to discover the best current headphones deals in Australia.

Best over-ear headphone deals this week

Bose QuietComfort QC35 II ($380, down from $499): The second iteration of the ever-popular noise-cancelling headphones from Bose is an improvement on near-perfection. With Google Assistant now integrated into the headphones, these will be the only cans you need, whether it be for long flights, train rides or just everyday listening. You can get the silver Bose QC35 II for only $380 with the code P20MYER. The same code applies for the black QC35 II on Myer’s eBay store as well. Sale ends October 30.

Bose SoundLink Around-Ear II wireless headphones ($263.20; usually $379): With an impressive 15 hours of battery life, NFC and Bluetooth pairing, Bose’s second-generation SoundLink Around-Ear II cans are on sale on eBay for just over $263, saving you a cool $115 on the usual RRP of $379. Just be sure use the code P20MYER at checkout to avail the 20% discount off the listed price. This offer ends October 30.

Beats Solo3 wireless on-ear headphones ($319.20; usually $399): There aren’t too many wireless cans that can match Beats’ promise of up to 40 hours of battery life for the Solo3. Plus, a quick five-minute fast charge gives you three extra hours of playback. So save yourself some money and carry on listening with the Rose Gold Solo3 that will cost you just over $319, saving you 20% on the RRP. Just be sure to use the code P20MYER at checkout, with the offer ending October 30. If, however, you’re after the black set of Solo3, you can use the same code at checkout.

B&O BeoPlay H7 over-ear headphones ($480; usually $699.95): Luxury brand Bang & Olufsen have some great premium audio gear in the market, but they do cost a pretty penny. But now is your chance to grab the BeoPlay H7 for less, and get the power of touch to control your favourite tunes. The H7 promises up to 20 hours of playback, besides having swappable batteries if you want to party on. In fact, it will even save battery life if you’ve stopped listening for 15 minutes by automatically shutting off. To save nearly $230 on these premium cans, head to Addicted To Audio and get yourself a pair of the B&O BeoPlay H7 for just $480.

Sennheiser PXC550 noise-cancelling wireless headphones ($388; usually $629): If you’re keen to shut the world out when out and about so you can enjoy your favourite tunes in joyous harmony, the Sennheiser PXC550 on-ear wireless headphones give you total control of how much ambient sound you’d like to allow in. Touch-sensitive ear cups keep you in control of your environment and promise comfort and great sound. Heck, you can even let the world in by switching off the noise cancellation whenever you want. These premium cans retail for $629, but the Sennheiser PXC550 headphones can be yours for just $388 when purchased from Addicted To Audio, saving you a whopping $291.

Best in-ear headphone deals this week

Bose QuietControl 30 noise-cancelling wireless headphones ($359.20; usually $449): For a pair of in-ear headphones, the QC 30 has a level of noise cancellation that matches any of Bose’s over-ear cans, and that’s very impressive given its size. In fact, the level of noise cancellation can be adjusted to suit your environment via the in-line remote. These are a pretty good set of headphones to get, especially for those who don’t particularly enjoy the feel of cans on their ears. The QC30 buds are available for just $359.20 on eBay by using the code P20MYER at checkout until October 30.

Bose QuietComfort 20 noise-cancelling headphones (from $256; usually $369): For a pair of tethered in-ear headphones that cost you $369, you’d expect only the best from Bose, and the QC20 does not disappoint. If you have the spare change and want incredible acoustic noise-cancelling combined with comfort and amazing sound quality, you really ought to get a pair. You can even save some dosh on these amazing headphones by heading to eBay and getting them for 20% off by using the code P20MYER at checkout, bringing the price down to $256 for a set of QC20s for Android only. Offer ends October 30.

Bose SoundSport wireless headphones ($190.40; usually $249): You don’t have to spend a lot of money to lay your hands on a darn good set of sports in-ear headphones. Bose’s entry level SoundSport wireless buds promise the signature Bose sound along with a steadfast and comfortable fit. And the Bose SoundSport can be yours for just $190.40 when you apply the code P20MYER at checkout on eBay until October 30.

Beats Powerbeats 3 wireless earphones ($207.20; usually $259): Featuring a five-minute fast charge to give you an extra hour’s worth of playback, the Powerbeats 3 buds gives you the freedom of movement during any workout. This set is sweat- and water resistant, plus there’s 20% off a pair on eBay until October 30, provided you use the code P20MYER at checkout. This brings the price of the Powerbeats 3 down to a cool $207.20.

The best deals on our favourite headphones

To help you decide which headphones work best for you, we’ve decided to put together a little buying guide with a list of our favourite recommendations.

The headphones you’ll find here have tons of features to help you to get the most out of your music, or any other form of audio-visual entertainment you prefer, however you like to listen to it.

Bose QuietComfort 35

Bose has brought its fantastic noise-cancelling technology to a pair of wireless headphones and it’s done so without any of the traditional drawbacks of wireless headphones. They sound great, and their battery life is long enough for all but the longest of flights. They’re super comfortable, and despite the fact that they don’t use the AptX Bluetooth standard, the wireless doesn’t harm their sound quality one bit.

Priced at AU$499 a pop, the QC35s sit firmly at the premium end of the spectrum, but if you want the best noise-cancelling headphones available right now, then you can’t get any better. And they can be bought at a great price, too.

Read our review of the Bose QC 35.

Bose QuietControl 30

For a pair of in-ear headphones, the QC 30 has a level of noise cancellation that matches any of Bose’s over-ear cans, and that’s very impressive given its size. In fact, the level of noise cancellation can be adjusted to suit your environment via the in-line remote.

But the effective noise-cancelling comes at the cost of sound quality. The QC 30 isn’t the best-sounding headphones in the world, but if you’re not an audio connoisseur, these are still a pretty good set of headphones to get, especially for those who don’t particularly enjoy the feel of cans on their ears.

Read our review of the Bose QC 30.

Bose QuietComfort 25

The QC 25 are just as good as Bose’s premium cans, but without the premium price tag. They’re still expensive at $399 a piece, but they achieve top performance per dollar and definitely worth your hard-earned dosh.

With exemplary sound quality and equally excellent ambient noise cancellation, the QC 25 will suit the serious or the casual listener, providing a wonderfully immersive experience when watching movies or TV shows, playing games or just listening to your favourite beats.

Read our review of the Bose QC 25.

Bose QuietComfort 20

For a pair of tethered in-ear headphones that cost you $369, you’d expect only the best from Bose, and the QC 20 does not disappoint. If you have the spare change and want incredible noise-cancelling combined with comfort and amazing sound quality, you really ought to get the QuietComfort 20.

The silicone ear tips are designed for a perfect fit while sealing the ear canal and the power for noise-cancellation comes from a lithium-ion battery. This makes the battery pack a tad unwieldy, but you’ll figure out how best to stow it as you go along. But all in all, these are one of the best headphones we’ve put through the paces.

Read our review of the Bose QC 20.

Sennheiser Momentum Wireless on-ear headphones

These no-holds-barred wireless headphones are oozing with positive qualities, but the cans don’t come cheap. However, if you’re an audio lover that can spare the expense, do not hesitate on this comfortable, hard-working set of headphones that will likely last for years.

Stainless-steel arms and leather finishes gives the headphones a rugged look, while the ball-jointed swivelling earcups provide ample movement and comfort. Battery-savers will find the wired option to be convenient, but you can also turn the headphones on to activate active noise cancellation.

Read our review of the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless over-ear headphones.

Oppo PM-3

The Oppo PM-3 is a truly stunning pair of headphones. Make no mistake, we’ve reviewed a lot of headphones over the years but none have we become more fond of than the PM-3.

They’re equally comfortable being plugged into a headphone amp at home as they are commuting through the hustle and bustle of the big smoke, and they stand head and shoulders above rival products from bigger brands. We really can’t recommend them highly enough, they’re just amazing.

Read our review of the Oppo PM-3.

Sennheiser Momentum In-ear headphones

With the appealing candy apple detailing, Sennheiser gets you in the door. But once you’re in, you’ll stay for the killer sound quality that comes from the Momentum In-Ear earphones. And you won’t have a problem that it’s tethered.

Capable of providing booming, tight bass straight to your ear canal, the Momentum In-ear buds will have you foot-tapping to practically every tune you listen to.  And for a low-cost set of in-ears, they’re as fine as they come.

Read our review of the Sennheiser Momentum In-ear headphones.

If you’re after more information on headphones in different form factors, take a look at some of our other dedicated audio articles:

Xperia XZ Premium gets its first bite of Oreo as Sony begins rollout of new Android OS

Google’s new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL handsets may have been the first to receive the new Android Oreo operating system, but Sony isn’t far behind, with the new OS update rolling out now to Xperia XZ Premium handsets.

Ausdroid reports that the rollout is already under way across Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Middle East and Africa, with other markets set to follow in the not-too-distant future. 

Thanks to the Oreo update, the Xperia XZ will receive a number of new features, including Sony’s new 3D scanning application which will allow users to take three-dimensional scans of faces and objects that can be sent to a 3D printer or uploaded to social media.

Sony has also worked closely with Google in the development of a new LDAC codec that will see Android Oreo bring improved audio quality over Bluetooth.

Along with the Xperia XZ Premium, Sony plans to bring the Oreo update to its Sony Xperia X, Sony Xperia X Performance, Sony Xperia XZ, Sony Xperia X Compact, Sony Xperia XZs, Sony Xperia XA1, Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra and Sony Xperia XA1 Plus handsets.

To find out when the latest OS update will be coming to your phone, keep an eye on our Android Oreo release date, compatibility and features hub. 

NBN Co has finally switched on the first Fibre to the Curb connection

The NBN rollout has reached a major proving point as the first Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) connection has been switched on, giving the company a chance to test its latest format in the Multi-Technology Mix (MTM) approach.

NBN Co announced in a blog post that the first FTTC connection (also known as Fibre to the Distribution Point, FTTdP) has been activated at a single property on a trial basis, revealed in a post from June, 2017 to be in Coburg, Melbourne. 

Designed as a compromise between the relatively expensive fibre to the premises (FTTP) and the unreliable fibre to the node (FTTN), this method can “reach the exact same 100/40Mbps top-speeds” as FTTP, according to the company’s post, and is “around $1,500 cheaper”.

While FTTN could result in having to run copper cabling from the premises to the end of its street, FTTC connections will ideally only have to run to an existing nearby telecom pit, thus shortening the distance that the signal has to travel via copper and also reducing the impact of the installation on the premises itself.

Need for speed

According to statements made to News.com by NBN Co, the trial premises “has achieved speeds of 109Mbps downstream and 44Mbps upstream using VDSL technology over a 70 metre copper line”. 

VDSL (Very-high-bit-rate Digital Subscriber Line) is the same technology being employed in FTTN connections and uses the same copper infrastructure as ADSL. Although it still suffers from the same susceptibility to degradation and longer cable lengths, this technology allows for download speeds up to five times greater than traditional ADSL lines. 

While the speeds mentioned are certainly decent, we don’t know at this stage if it’s an accurate reflection of the average FTTC connection for future activations. As the numbers are quite close to the top-tier 100Mbps/40Mbps NBN plan, it could even be possible that these are capped speeds and that the technology is capable of even more impressive down- and upstream results.

FTTC technology will be made available to over 1 million Australian homes and businesses by 2020, according to the NBN. You can find out which connection type your home or business is due to receive, an estimate of when it’ll happen, and an explanation of the different connection types on our Connecting to the NBN: What to expect page.

Is this what the OnePlus 5T is going to look like?

Right now there’s a lot of uncertainty about what OnePlus has planned for a successor to the OnePlus 5 – stocks of that phone are very low, so does that mean we’re going to see a OnePlus 5T soon? After all, OnePlus has done the minor upgrade trick before, with the OnePlus 3T bump last year.

Well, here’s another little clue that the OnePlus 5T is on the way: renders of the phone leaked to Chinese social network Weibo and posted by GizmoChina, an outlet that seems convinced that we are indeed going to see another OnePlus flagship this year.

As the images show, the update would enable OnePlus to join the thin bezel, 18:9 aspect ratio crowd along with the likes of LG, Samsung, Google and Apple. To make room for the massive new display, the fingerprint sensor gets pushed around the back – you can see it just above the OnePlus logo.

The waiting game

Apart from the new super-sized screen and the shifted fingerprint sensor, these new pictures don’t tell us too much. It looks like the dual-camera system used on the back of the OnePlus 5 is again used here, and it’s likely that the innards are going to be the same as well, led by the Snapdragon 835 CPU.

We haven’t heard too much in the way of speculation and rumors so far about whether the OnePlus 5T is going to happen, and that makes us think that the Chinese manufacturer might wait until 2018 and jump straight to the OnePlus 6 – it’s possible that these are pictures of next year’s phone.

If you’re thinking about buying a smartphone in the next few months though, it might be worth waiting to see if OnePlus has anything up its sleeve. The phone is likely to be launched in November, if it’s coming at all.

Google wants to pay you to find bugs in popular third-party Android apps

Google is eager to clamp down on security flaws associated with some of the most high-profile apps in its Android library, so it’s enlisting white-hat hackers as a part of the effort. Should you successfully find a bug in a qualifying app on Google Play, Google will pay you nifty $1,000 for your efforts.

Google is partnering with bug bounty service HackerOne for the project, which it calls the Google Play Security Reward Program. The worldwide program currently only applies to eight popular apps such as Duolingo, Snapchat, Tinder, Headspace and Alibaba, although Google’s own suite of apps for Android qualify as well.

Apps currently only qualify for inclusion in the program if their developers get an invitation from Google, but in time the Mountain View, California company plans to roll out the service on an opt-in basis.

Bug out

Nor do all bugs qualify. At the moment, Google is only interested in finding flaws that enable remote code executions (RCEs) on Android 4.4 and above. In essence, that means it’s looking for bugs that allow web pages to open in an app for the purpose of phishing, or flaws that allowed the download of malicious code and the possible infection of an Android device with a virus.

It’s a not-so-subtle way of forcing Android app developers to get their acts together. You’re not even supposed to contact Google if you find a bug; instead, you contact the developer of the app through a form provided by HackerOne, and then the developer contacts Google once it’s released a patch for the bug. Only then will you see any cash.

Google already offers similar bounties for Chromebooks and Android proper, but this marks the first time that it’s extended the service to developers who use its popular operating system.

The old Android menu button is lurking in the Google Pixel 2’s interface

 

Update: The hidden Android menu button in the Pixel 2 is indeed a bug, Google confirmed on Thursday, just as we theorized.

The company told CNET that the button’s presence is not an intended feature, and that the bug will have a “fix” soon enough. If you’ve discovered the button or want to try it out for yourself on a Google Pixel 2, we suggest you do so now before it disappears for good.

Original article below…

Are you an Android user who misses the old menu button – the one that used to be a defining feature of the operating system? You’ll be happy to know it’s still alive and kicking on the Google Pixel 2.

However, it’s hidden so well that it’s taken a while for anyone to find it. It’s the Luke Skywalker of user interface elements.

Android Police was the first outlet to uncover it, and through ‘purely accidental means’ at that. To access it yourself, just click on the empty area to the right of the button for recent apps, close the corner of the screen, and an app-specific menu will (usually) pop up in all its glory.

It won’t work with every app, though, likely as a consequence of the feature’s absence from more recent apps – because the menu button is absent from latter-day versions of Android itself.

In fact, its oddly hidden placement suggests it may have accidentally been left behind from a rough draft of the Pixel 2 operating system. The fact that it sometimes doesn’t work at all without a few taps lends credence to this hypothesis.

Viewed in that light, its inclusion here is actually rather embarrassing. Now that the word’s out, it’s possible it may be not be long before we see an update from Google that removes it.

But, it’s possibly accidental reappearance has reminded us of its usefulness. As 9to5Google puts it, the subtly reincarnated menu button makes it easier to access features such as the share menu in the Chrome browser ‘without any extra hand gymnastics.’ Removing it now would thus arguably mean stripping the Google Pixel 2 of a useful feature.

Only time will tell whether Google relents to or resists the popular demand. Meanwhile, enjoy it while it lasts – if it’s still around when Google’s new phone officially launches on Thursday.

  • We’re hoping beyond hope for some Pixel 2 deals this Black Friday

Samsung SmartThings: meet the center of your future smart home

 

You don’t need to be following the smart home space that closely to have heard the name Samsung SmartThings sometime in the last few months. SmartThings is becoming one of the biggest and most recognizable names in the Internet of Things space, and might soon evolve from being a household name to a ubiquitous household product – especially now that it comes in a mesh router.

Samsung announced recently at its Unboxed event in New York City that it would release a new mesh router called Samsung Connect Home that, beyond extending your Wi-Fi network, act as SmartThings hub, too.

Of course, routers are just the beginning. Starting next year, all Samsung SmartThings devices will hook into SmartThings Cloud – a powerful new service that uses a cloud-based hub to connect everything from your refrigerator and washer to your TV and smartphone all into a single unified platform.

So why SmartThings over something else? It offers a number of advantages, but the reason it’s reached such high levels of acclaim is because it offers complete control of your burgeoning smart home without a monthly fee, annual contract or any sort of third-party tampering. It’s a smart home built by you, for you.

It’s been discussed on TechRadar on multiple occasions – sometimes praising it, other times calling out its shortcomings (read: the automated home is a mess). But in those times we failed to elaborate, from the beginning, what Samsung SmartThings is, and why some people are buying into it right now.

So that’s exactly what we’re going to do here. That said, you’d better buckle up, what you’re about to read about is the future of smart home technology – one that initially might appear complex, but holds the potential to mitigate frustrations and ultimately make your life easier when it goes fully mainstream in the next few years.

Samsung SmartThings: an introduction

When anyone talks about SmartThings, they’re really talking about two separate but interconnected parts of the same platform –the SmartThings smart home software and the SmartThings family of physical products that includes smart light bulbs, locks, thermostats, cameras, doorbells and more.

First off, let it be said that all these smart home products are neat and could probably have worked five years ago independently of one another to serve their purposes. But what Samsung has done with SmartThings is united them under one banner, given them the ability to talk to one another and made them controllable from your phone or tablet.

But there’s one key to the puzzle here and that’s the SmartThings Hub. It’s sold separately from all the other products and that’s because it’s the proverbial and sometimes quite literal brains of the operation. (That being said, if you want to pick up the hub with a few sensors it does come in the Home Monitoring bundle, described in detail down below.) The Hub connects to your router via a wired ethernet connection and infiltrates your airwaves with a signal that the smart home devices respond to.

Once the hub is installed, it’s time to download the accompanying iOS, Android or Windows app, and start syncing your devices – usually a short and painless process. Depending on what product you set up, you can either start using it independently – if, say you bought a security camera or thermostat – or part of a larger ecosystem by creating routines, i.e. a set of commands that are executed under certain conditions.

We’ll dive into these more in a minute, but think of routines as instruction sets. One application of a routine is if you’re leaving the house, for example, your smart home will understand to turn off the lights, lock the door, turn off the air conditioning and close the blinds without you ever lifting a finger. There’s also something called modes, which is basically the state that your smart home is in at a given point. It sounds a bit convoluted at first, but it all makes sense once you figure out your first routine, which we’ll cover in detail down below.

OK, here’s the coolest part: all the products you’ve seen or heard about so far – these are just the beginning. There are hundreds of companies working on smart home products as we speak – some of these will help you sleep better, work out harder and, well, generally improve every aspect of your life. We’ll talk more about the future below, but know that by buying into the SmartThings platform you’re not just getting the hundred-or-so products available today, but the hundreds or possibly thousands that are coming tomorrow, too.

What products work with Samsung SmartThings?

Now that we covered the basics, let’s talk about all the cool smart home hardware you can pick up alongside your smart home hub.

There’s the kind of tech you’d expect to be here – smart thermostats like the Honeywell Lyric Thermostat and Ecobee 3 – but also some things you never thought would be here, like key fobs, outdoor sprinkler controls and arrival sensors that let you know when people leave and enter the home.

There’s also the upcoming Smart Home Connect, a Wi-Fi mesh router that has 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wave 2 Wi-Fi built-in and speeds of up to 866Mbps @ 5GHz, 400Mbps @ 2.4GHz and a range of 1,500 sq ft. Of course, it has SmartThings built into it, which means it could replace your standard hub if you’re looking for something a bit more multipurpose.

You can see a complete list of products over at Samsung’s website.

We won’t write out every single product that works with SmartThings (that’d take ages) but what we can do is highlight the products we’ve found most helpful or interesting, giving you a point of reference and a few ideas of how to build out your smart home of the future.

Best smart assistant for SmartThings: Google Home

It’s a tight race between the Google Home and Amazon Echo when it comes to best overall smart speaker. But what really seals the deal for the Home as a SmartThings component is its ability to not only sync seamlessly with all your devices, but allow you to link into Google’s family of smart home products, too. With Home, you’ll be able to send videos to your Chromecast, give directions to your Nest Thermostat and check-in with your router if you buy Google Wifi. It’s two smart home systems for the price of one.

Best smart light bulb for SmartThings: LiFX Color 1000

While Philips Hue has long been the market leader in the smart bulb space, our favorite has always been the LiFX series of smart bulbs – they’re easy to setup and, considering how temperamental smart home tech can be, pretty reliable, too. They may not be the most affordable lights on the market and not the kind of thing you’d use to deck out your whole house, but buy one or two for a living room or game room and we think you’ll be impressed.

Best smart thermostat for SmartThings: Ecobee3

If you just ask us which of the three main smart thermostats – Ecobee3, Honeywell Lyric or Nest –  is the best, we’d tell you to go for the Nest. It’s the easiest to setup and the most feature-rich of the group. That said, Nest doesn’t play nicely with Samsung SmartThings.

If you’re looking for the best thermostat will work with your new smart home center, you should check out the Ecobee3. Not only is it sharp-looking and feature a touchscreen, but it comes with a wireless sensor you can place anywhere in your home to make sure even the tough to heat places are getting enough love.

Best security camera for SmartThings: Samsung SmartCam HD Pro

Look online and you’ll find a dozen-or-so connected security cameras that promise to keep your home safe while you’re away. Problematically, however, not all of these work with Samsung’s SmartThings platform. The one that’s guaranteed to do the trick is Samsung’s very own SmartCam HD Pro that offers full 1080p streaming, 128-degree viewing and can automatically switch on when it detects motion – meaning there’s no need for a separate motion sensor. There are better smart cameras out there, but Samsung’s SmartCam works with SmartThings and does the job the just fine.

For everything else: Samsung SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit

We could go through and rattle off the best sensors, outlets and motion detectors. We could, but the best option for all of the above comes in the Samsung SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit. The kit includes one SmartThings Outlet, two Multipurpose Sensors, one Motion Sensor and one SmartThings Hub. Pick up one of these then it’s easy to expand out to any of the other products we’ve mentioned so far.

Samsung SmartThings sample routines

By now you should have your SmartThings Hub setup and the app downloaded on your preferred mobile device. All set? Good.

The SmartThings app ships with four set routines: Good Morning! Good Night! Goodbye! and I’m Back! These routines are almost useless at first without being hooked up to any devices. The only thing they’ll do when pressed is change the mode of the system to Home, Away or Night.

The SmartThings app ships with four set routines: Good Morning! Good Night! Goodbye! and I’m Back!

So how do you get them to, you know, actually do their job and automate your smart home? Add a few products and touch the gear icon in the top right of each box. Start your smart home hardware collection by picking up a smart bulb, thermometer, outlet, door lock and camera. That should be enough to get us started.

Potentially your morning could start as soon as the sun rises (or, if you’re like us, around 8:30am during the week and close to noon on the weekend) and automatically turn on your smart light in your bedroom. Trigger the thermometer to turn on the heat and turn on your smart outlet that’s hooked up to the toaster and/or coffee maker. If you want to add another layer to this, you could trigger this event when a motion sensor in, say, your kitchen, picks up movement after 6 o’clock in the morning.

Leaving the house? Create a routine where, when SmartThings doesn’t detect your smartphone in the house anymore, it automatically locks the front door, turns on your security camera, turns off all the lights and smart outlets and turns off the heat. If you’re leaving the house after the sun goes down, you could always have your smart home leave the outdoor light on just to give the appearance that someone is home. Coming back? Reverse all of the above.

Finally, when it comes time to bed, shut everything down and have Samsung text you “Goodnight!”

The future of SmartThings and the smart home

So where is SmartThings going now that it has its foot firmly planted in the doorway? The path for the platform is clear – it has to continue to bridge gaps between companies like it’s been doing for the past year or two, and actively pursue its own solutions from inside Samsung. As much as we like a lot of the third-party solutions out there, it’s more likely that skeptics will be a little less uptight if they see Samsung’s name on every box.

Samsung’s also got some competition – both Google and Apple have their own smart home solutions in the form of the Made by Google platform and Apple HomeKit. Both these solutions are relatively far behind Samsung in terms of quality and number of products that they support, but it could only be a matter of time before these companies put their full force behind smart home tech. Beyond those, there are a number of smaller, third-party solutions out there like Stringify that can connect your smart devices without a hub.

Considering smart home tech’s presence at this year’s CES, it’s a space we expect to see continue to grow in 2017 and beyond, powered both by large and small developers.

Have a routine you’d recommend or a smart home product you really like? Let us know in the comments below.

WhatsApp’s real-time location sharing lets your friends see where you’re at

 

WhatsApp has now joined the likes of Google Maps and parent company Facebook in activating real-time location sharing for users.

The popular chat service announced that starting today, users of its iOS and Android app will have the option to share their live location with family and friends for a set period of time. Users can also turn off location sharing whenever they choose.

Here’s how to activate Live Location, as the feature is called: open up any chat. Go to the Attach button and select Location. A new option for “Share Live Location” will appear, allowing you to share your location for 15 minutes, 1 hour or 8 hours. Hit send, and you’re set.

As is the case with all WhatsApp communications, Live Location is end-to-end encrypted, so only those in a chat can see it. If multiple people are sharing where they’re at, each person’s location will be visible on one map.

Facebook Messenger also has a Live Location feature, which lets users share their location with friends for up to 60 minutes.

CES 2018: dates, rumors, news and predictions for tech’s biggest show

 

Can you believe it? CES 2018 is right around the corner. Las Vegas will once again play host to the biggest consumer technology expo on the planet, and exhibitors from around the world will descend upon the Las Vegas Convention Center and other locations on the Strip to show off their latest wares.

CES, which stands for the Consumer Electronics Show, has admittedly lost a bit of its luster in recent years as hardware manufacturers have opted to hold individual press events scattered throughout the year to unveil new products, rather than elbow for exposure during a massive conference.

But that doesn’t mean CES 2018 won’t be without must-see gadgets, futuristic cars and sneak peeks at innovations that could change the tech world as we know it. Au contraire – next year’s show could bring as much excitement as ever.

The official CES 2018 dates are January 9 through January 12, though, as was the case last year, two days of media-only news conferences take place on January 7 and January 8. TechRadar will be at CES from beginning to end, delivering must-see news and hands-on reviews from the show floor.

Read on for the latest news and rumors surrounding CES 2018, as well as our predictions for what some of the top manufacturers will bring to Las Vegas early in the New Year.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The biggest consumer technology show on the planet
  • When is it? CES 2018 dates are January 9 through January 12, but there are media-only news conferences taking place on January 7 and January 8
  • What’s on show? Everything from ultra high-res televisions to connected fridges to laptops to electric cars

Samsung at CES 2018

Samsung is always a big focus at CES, generally with good reason. The tech giant typically unveils a number of devices (not counting its updated line of smart washing machines and dishwashers), and sometimes shows off hardware that’s a little bit out there.

Two years ago, it was a bendable TV. Next year, it could be a bendable phone.

Some whispers are circulating that the Galaxy X, Samsung’s rumored foldable smartphone, could debut at CES 2018.

As Forbes notes, the timing would be a bit odd since, unlike MWC, CES isn’t a major phone show. However, it would also be a prime opportunity to show off a completely new device to an international audience. Samsung did unveil the Galaxy A3 at CES 2017, so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to go for a repeat.

What’s more, Samsung originally debuted its bendable display tech at CES 2013, so it’d be fitting to unveil the culmination of five years’ of development in a consumer-ready phone at this coming CES.

Samsung’s mobile boss has said the company is targeting a bendable phone launch in 2018. Unveiling the Galaxy X in early January could be the first step towards a full-blown release later in the year.

In addition to the potential Galaxy X launch, we expect Samsung to unveil new wearables, either on its own or in partnership with others, new Galaxy Tab tablets, new laptops, and, of course, new TVs. There’s a good chance Samsung will update its QLED TV tech to the next generation (and maybe go for a new name, like QLED+).

Sony at CES 2018

In recent years Sony has used CES to focus on its audio and office lines, unveiling devices like new headphones and cheaper 4K projectors along with its newest Bravia TVs.

The Bravia range always impresses and Sony’s other goods are top notch, and so far there’s nothing to indicate Sony will deviate from this script very much. We expect the next line of Bravias to feature OLED screens, which the Japanese firm only this year started producing again.

And, listen up, audiophiles: there’s a good chance we’ll see a new high-res turntable from Sony at CES 2018.

LG at CES 2018

Last year, LG unveiled what might possibly have been the thinnest OLED TV ever at CES. If you don’t remember the OLED W7 Signature Series TV, take a minute to watch the video above.

At CES 2018, look for LG to go for broke once again with its TV tech. Though these screens are flat out expensive, you can’t deny how visually stunning they are. To put a number on it, CES 2018 should play host to LG’s next-gen 8-series OLED screens (B8, C8, G8 and W8).

LG also used CES 2017 to unveil some low- to mid-range phones, including the LG K10 2017 and LG Stylus 3, so we could be in for a few LG mobile surprises.

Rounding out LG’s offerings are likely updates to its home appliances (no brainer), 4K Blu-ray player, gram laptops and even its smart helper robots.

Dell at CES 2018

Dell gave TechRadar an early preview of its next XPS 13 laptop ahead of CES 2018, showing off the 13-inch Ultrabook’s incredibly thin design and pleasing aesthetics.

The laptop now features three USB-C ports, a Micro SD card slot, an Infinity Edge display and two colors – Alpine White and Rose Gold.

Since a new laptop is typically Dell’s big reveal at the the show, the big news about the 2017 Dell XPS 13 we can expect at CES 2018 is its full spec sheet, release date and price.

Car makers at CES 2018

Observers are keenly aware that CES has transformed into something of a car show in recent years, and CES 2018 will only continue the trend.

Fisker, for one, confirmed to The Street that it will reveal its newest electric car at next year’s show. Called EMotion, the new car will cost $129,000 (about £98,000 / AU$165,000) and ships in 2019. Despite its high price, it’s expected to at least put Tesla on notice, especially since the EMotion has a reported range of over 400 miles.

Though its fortunes have turned for the worse, Faraday Future could look to recapture some of its early buzz with a big announcement at CES 2018. Toyota also impressed with its Concept-i self-driving car at this year’s show, and the likes of Ford and Hyundai are sure to show up.

But it won’t necessarily be full-fledged cars we see unveiled. Rather, deeper integration with smart speakers, like the Google Home and Amazon Echo, as well as the digital assistants in our mobile phones, could be what car makers have planned.

And everyone else

Of course, this is just a small taste of the hundreds of companies that will be present at CES 2018.

Other firms we expect to make a splash include Asus, Dolby, HP, HTC, Huawei, Intel, Lenovo, Nikon, Nvidia, Panasonic, Razer, and so much more.

Who knows? We could see the next generation of HTC Vive, a gorgeous snapper from Nikon and new phones from Huawei.

The possibilities are endless, and we’ll keep this page updated as more news and rumors about CES 2018 roll in.

  • Before CES, there’s Black Friday and all those super savings!