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Google adding Advanced Protection for Nest devices

Google adding Advanced Protection for Nest devices

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Google is adding its Advanced Protection Program to Nest devices, the company announced in a blog post Monday, giving added security to its smart home devices. Previously, a user could use their Google account for either the Advanced Protection Program or for Nest, but now they can use both with the same Google account at the same time.

“Since we launched, one of our goals has been to bring Advanced Protection’s features to other Google products,” Shuvo Chatterjee, product manager for Advanced Protection Program, wrote in a blog post. “We want as many users as possible to benefit from the additional levels of security that the Program provides.”

The Advanced Protection program is designed for people at risk of targeted attacks online, such as activists, business leaders, politicians, and journalists. It requires physical security keys, one of which has to be used with a password to access the user’s account, and restricts most outside access to a Google account, blocking unknown apps and fraudulent attempts to access an account. Some Advanced Protection features are already incorporated in Gmail, Drive, G Suite, Chrome, Google Cloud, and Android.

Earlier this year, Google rolled out several new security features to Nest, including requiring two-factor authentication for users who had yet to migrate their Nest accounts to Google accounts.

To enroll in Advanced Protection, users need two physical security keys — a main and a backup — and a phone running Android 7 or higher or iOS 10.0 or higher. Android users can enroll their phones and activate the built-in security key, while Apple users need to download the Google Smart Lock app.

Google’s latest Pixel features include a ‘safety check’ for when you’re walking alone

Google’s latest Pixel features include a ‘safety check’ for when you’re walking alone

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Google is today announcing the next batch of new software features coming to its Pixel smartphones. After adding car-crash detection last year, the company is expanding upon its personal safety features with a new “safety check” tool that’s designed to make sure you’re okay if you’re out somewhere alone — for a walk or run, perhaps.

When you enable the feature, you set a time for when you want it to check in. When that time comes, safety check takes over your whole screen and asks for your status. You can dismiss the prompt and say you’re okay, start sharing your location with emergency contacts immediately, or dial 911. If there’s no response within a minute, safety check will automatically notify your emergency contacts and provide your location on Google Maps. There’s no option for it to automatically call 911 — likely to prevent false positives.

 Image: Google

Even with the small possibility of accidental emergency texts to friends, this seems like a very useful safety measure. There’s no equivalent for safety check built into iOS, and it’s a continuation of Google expanding further into the area of personal safety after introducing car-crash detection last year. And now that effort is coming to older Pixels: the Personal Safety app will soon be available for all of them.

The other new big addition is a bedtime mode that’s being added to the clock app. “Fall asleep to calming sounds and limit interruptions while you sleep — and if you stay up on your phone past bedtime, you’ll get a snapshot of how much time you’re spending awake and on which apps,” Google wrote in its blog post.

 Image: Google

Next up is a nice convenience for people who often rely on Google’s Recorder app. Now, you can use Google Assistant to start recordings (or search from your existing ones). Better still, you can automatically get transcripts of your recordings in Google Docs. It’s always nice to see more cohesion between Google’s services and apps.

Last, Google is improving the adaptive battery functionality. “Now, Adaptive Battery on Pixel 2 and newer devices can predict when your battery will run out and further reduce background activity to keep your Pixel powered longer.”

NES Space for Oculus Quest Puts Classic Games in Nostalgic Environments

NES Space for Oculus Quest Puts Classic Games in Nostalgic Environments

A photo of NES SPACE in action.
NES Space

Virtual reality can help us experience things that are far beyond our reach, like space travel or a zombie apocalypse. But it can also allow us to relive the mundane. Now, anyone with an Oculus Quest can travel back in time to play classic NES games using the NES Space application.

NES Space is an NES/Famicom emulator for the Oculus Quest. It places you in a customizable VR room with fully stocked game shelves, bedroom furniture, and an old TV or arcade cabinet. Of course, you can customize your environment to make it look less like a haunted 80s bedroom, or take your virtual CRT outdoors for a less familiar retro gaming experience.

In a way, NES Space is like a younger sibling to the popular EmuVR application. EmuVR is an emulator that gives you customizable retro environments, but it only works on high-end VR headsets, like the Oculus Rift. NES Space, while not as robust or EmuVR, allows people to experience retro VR playrooms on an affordable, portable Quest headset.

The NES Space application is still finding its legs and has trouble with some ROMs. But it supports multiple controller inputs, like VR gamepads and mobile phones, and the developers plan to add multiplayer support at a later date.

You can buy NES Space now for $14 on Itch.io, but it only works after being sideloaded from your PC. Sideloading is safe and easy, but you need to read a guide to get it done right.

Pax launches web app after getting booted from the Apple App Store

Pax launches web app after getting booted from the Apple App Store

Pax is launching a web app today capable of controlling its lineup of connected weed vapes. The launch comes six months after Pax’s app was banned from the Apple App Store, when Apple decided to crack down on vaping apps amid nationwide concerns over vaping-related lung injuries. The app remained available on Android, but the ban meant iOS users were stuck without a way to control many of the settings on their fancy vapes.

Like its mobile app, Pax’s web app allows users to dial in specific vaping preferences and safety settings, as well as see more information about the cartridge they’re currently vaping. Some settings, like temperature, can be controlled directly on Pax’s vapes, but owners need access to the app to set dosing limits or view detailed information about what’s inside their current cartridge. The app also allows owners to lock usage of their device and control settings like haptic feedback and brightness of feedback LEDs.

The web app supports the Pax 3, Pax Era, and Pax Era Pro on Mac. On Windows, it only fully supports the Era Pro right now. The lack of a way for iOS users to control the smart vapes represented a major disadvantage for Pax, which tried to make its products stand out with customizable preferences and safety controls. Its newest model, the Era Pro, sells for $70.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Android 11’s power button menu leaks, showing new smart home Quick Controls

Android 11’s power button menu leaks, showing new smart home Quick Controls

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Images from leaked developer documentation have just given us our best look yet at Android 11’s new power button menu. The menu can include a series of new smart home shortcuts called “Quick Controls,” which can control everything from smart lights to locks and thermostats, alongside payment options and the standard “Power off” and “Restart” buttons. The images were tweeted out by Mishaal Rahman from XDA-Developers, who credits Twitter user @deletescape as the source of the leaked documents containing the images.

We’ve known about these shortcuts since at least March when XDA-Developers reported on their existence, but these latest screenshots give us a better idea of how the overall menu will look. The existing “Power off,” “Restart,” “Screenshot,” and “Emergency” buttons have been relocated to the top of the screen above a shortcut to Google Pay, similar to the one that was added to the Google Pixel back in March.

The bulk of the screen, however, is taken up with these smart home controls. Android Police reports that tapping each of them will reportedly toggle the corresponding smart home gadget on or off, and long presses will either give you more options or take you directly to the relevant smart home app. As Rahman notes, one of the images shows that a smart home camera feed could even be embedded directly into this menu.

Google was due to officially unveil Android 11 on June 3rd, but it decided to delay the announcement over the weekend. It’s currently unclear when the event will be rescheduled.

Samsung rolls out Access upgrade plan for new Galaxy devices

Samsung rolls out Access upgrade plan for new Galaxy devices

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Samsung is rolling out Samsung Access, a monthly premium upgrade program in the US for users who purchase new Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20 Plus, or Galaxy S20 Ultra phones, the company announced in a blog post.

Unlike its legacy upgrade program, Samsung Access provides additional benefits, including a Premium Care membership, and a premium Microsoft 365 subscription, which includes Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Skype, along with 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage. Another big difference between the new Access plan and the legacy upgrade plan: if you already have a Samsung device, you can’t trade it in to join the new Access plan. The standard upgrade plan allows you to trade in an existing device and put any remaining balance toward a new one.

Pricing for a minimum three-month subscription to Samsung Access will cost $37 per month for the S20, $42 per month for the S20 Plus, and $48 per month for the S20 Ultra. Access subscribers can upgrade their devices every nine months, or earlier for $100. There’s also the option to cancel the plan entirely after three months, or earlier for a $100 fee (although you’ll have to return the phone, of course).

It’s a similar offer to Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, which allows users to get the newest iPhone, Apple’s premium AppleCare membership for a monthly fee, and simple upgrade opportunities.

Vivo’s X50 Pro Flagship Phone Gambles on a Gimbal Camera System

Vivo’s X50 Pro Flagship Phone Gambles on a Gimbal Camera System

Vivo X50 Pro  camera sensor
Vivo

With manufacturers adding more and more cameras to their phones, it’s hard to make one that stands out. Chinese phone maker Vivo is hoping to do that with an unconventional stabilization system: a miniaturized internal gimbal that stabilizes the camera module itself.

We’ve heard these kinds of promises before: phone camera stabilization can be done with active sensor cropping, a built-in, DSLR lens-style optical stabilization system, or a combination of both. Vivo says that the X50 Pro and Pro flagship phones’ gimbal system can stabilize on multiple axes at 200% effectiveness versus a conventional optical stabilization system. The camera app’s “radar” interface tells the user the perfect moment to take a stabilized shot.

Vivo X50 Pro
Vivo

 

Only the primary sensor on the phones—a 48MP Sony and 50MP Samsung, respectively—get access to the gimbal stabilization system. But both phones feature four rear sensors in total with portrait, wide-angle, and “periscope” dedicated lenses.

The X50 Pro uses a Snapdragon 765 G, a 6.5-inch curved AMOLED screen with a hole-punch camera, 8GB of RAM and 128 or 256GB of storage, an in-display fingerprint reader, and an impressive 33W fast charging system. The X50 Pro features mostly the same specs, with a faster 120Hz LCD screen, upgraded Snapdragon 865 processor, and an option for 12GB of RAM. They both run a heavily-modified version of Android 10, and naturally, feature 5G radios.

Vivo X50 Pro  camera sensor
Vivo

The X50 Pro will start at 4,298 Yuan, the Pro goes for 4,998 Yuan, with the maxed-out 12GB version retailing at 5,998. That’s a range of about $600-840, not that these phones are likely to show up where you can pay for them in dollars. Even so, the Chinese market is a place for fierce competition and experimentation—we might see something similar show up in other markets before too long.

Source: Weibo

A Wallpaper is Soft-Bricking Some Android Phones

A Wallpaper is Soft-Bricking Some Android Phones

A Samsung Android phone in a bootloader recovery screen.
rukawajung/Shutterstock

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but set this one as your Android phone’s wallpaper, and it may have you uttering a select choice set of four-letter words. If you have a Samsung, Pixel, and some other phones, you’ll find your device soft-bricked, and only a reset or safe mode can rescue you.

The news comes to us via Ice Universe, a prolific leaker on Twitter. Yesterday he showed the image on Twitter and claimed that merely setting it as your phone’s wallpaper can brick many Android devices.

The folks over at 9to5Google, never afraid to test a wild claim, tried it on a Pixel 2 and confirmed the claim. As seen in a demonstration YouTube video, as soon you set the image as your wallpaper, your device will start blinking on and off. You’ll need to either factory reset your device, or enter safe mode and change the wallpaper to fix the problem.

It seems the problem has something to do with the color space of this particular image. Android tries to display images as sRGB, but the image in question is RGB instead. Android 11 can convert the file to sRGB, but Andoird 10 doesn’t. That finding is backed up by the fact that Android 11 devices appear to be unaffected.

Presumably, that means other similar images could also brick your device. And, thanks to Android manufacturer customizations, not all devices running Android 10 may be affected. OnePlus seems to have escaped the issue, for instance. When you set a wallpaper on an OnePlus device, it makes the change to the launcher and not the system.

We suggest not testing the image on your phone. Enough people from enough reputable outlets have already confirmed that it’s a legitimate problem. While you can recover from the soft-brick easily, there’s little point in going through the effort. Eventually, when all devices are on Android 11, the problem will be solved.

via 9to5Google

Arlo Video Doorbell Now Takes Orders From Google Assistant

Arlo Video Doorbell Now Takes Orders From Google Assistant

A photo of the Arlo video doorbell.
Arlo

The popular Arlo Video Doorbell is no longer Alexa-exclusive. Starting today, you can send commands to the Video Doorbell over Google Assistant. You can also pull up the Video Doorbell’s live feed to a Google Assistant Smart Display, like the Nest Hub Max or Lenovo Smart Clock.

Arlo will continue support for Alexa, of course. But now, it’s one of few high-end video doorbells to support Google Assistant. And at $150, it costs less than popular Assistant cameras from Nest, Eufy, and August.

But is the Arlo Video Doorbell worth $150? That’s up to you. It’s an odd-duck of a smart camera, with a 1:1 aspect ratio that captures the full body of anyone at your door. It can call your phone when guests are at the door (so you don’t have to fumble with an app), and it can use pre-recorded messages to reply to visitors quickly.

Source: Arlo via Engadget

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is $15 off at Best Buy

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is $15 off at Best Buy

Fire Emblem: Three HousesIn Fire Emblem: Three Houses, you assume the role of Byleth, a full-time teacher and soldier.

One of today’s best deals is on one of last year’s best games. Fire Emblem: Three Houses for the Nintendo Switch is $45 at Best Buy. This is about as affordable as Nintendo’s own titles usually get. This is also the first time that I’ve personally seen a discount on this game.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses won over several Verge staffers who played through the game multiple times to see each storyline. Even though the gameplay aspect is mostly based in turn-based strategy, the developers stuffed the moments in between with addicting RPG elements, like leveling up your students’ abilities and building friendships. Plus, the character banter and orchestral music are excellent. It’s a must-buy if you’re looking for your next Switch title.

 Image: Sennheiser

Sennheiser introduced a limited edition version of its HD 25 on-ear, wired headphones, and for all of June, you can get them for $50 off. That brings the price down to $100. This price cut comes as Sennheiser celebrates its 75th anniversary. My colleague Jon Porter wrote about the history behind this headphone model, which is fascinating stuff.