Deal: Buy the Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL from Target, get a $300 gift card

Google Pixel 3 XL deal Target

For a limited time, buying the Google Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL from Target nets you a $300 Target gift card. The promotion is similar to the deals that Verizon and Best Buy currently offer on the two Pixel 3 smartphones.

New and current Verizon subscribers are eligible for the $300 Target gift card. They must buy either Pixel 3 phone with device financing and have until the end of Saturday, February 16 to take advantage of the promotion.

Also, Target doesn’t offer the Clearly White or 128GB models. Lastly, those interested in the deal must visit a Target store — you can pick up the Pixel 3 online, but you won’t get the gift card.

Editor’s Pick

The phones themselves aren’t discounted, but it’s hard to say no to a $300 gift card when you’re getting an excellent device in return. To quickly recap, the Pixel 3 features a 5.5-inch AMOLED display, industry-leading 12 megapixel camera, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 2,915mAh battery, and Android 9 Pie.

The Pixel 3 XL is mostly the same phone, save for the larger 6.3-inch AMOLED display and 3,430mAh battery.

You can check out the deal at the link below.

Google is trying to stop a private sale of 5G spectrum

  • An alliance of satellite companies wants to conduct a private sale of 5G spectrum.
  • However, Google and a few other organizations don’t want to see important 5G spectrum auctioned privately.
  • The matter will likely end up in court.

The C-Band Alliance — a collective made up of four satellite companies — is trying to sell some of its wireless spectrum, which could be used for 5G connections. However, the C-Band Alliance is looking to make the sale private, something other organizations — including Google — don’t want to happen (via The Information)

Traditionally, spectrum sales like this are performed by the Federal Communications Commission, with part of the profits from the sale going to the U.S. Treasury. Thus, the C-Band Alliance knows it could potentially make more money from making the sale private.

However, an unregulated private spectrum sale could result in one company buying up all the spectrum which could tip the market into the favor of that one company. Google, Charter Communications, and other telecommunications groups oppose the private sale — and are ready to go to court over the opposition.

With the importance of 5G spectrum becoming ever more apparent as we get closer to its eventual rollout, Google and the other opposers believe a private spectrum sale puts too much power into unregulated hands.

Editor’s Pick

Companies that license spectrum shouldn’t have “the ability to hold the FCC hostage essentially in order reallocate spectrum for a higher and better use,” said Staci Pies, a senior policy counsel at Google.

“We think that an FCC auction is really the fastest, fairest, most efficient way to get spectrum out and make it available to all different kinds of players, including Charter,” said Colleen King, vice president of regulatory affairs for Charter Communications, adding, “We don’t think backroom deals by four private companies allows that.”

Meanwhile, a lobbyist for the C-Band Alliance brushes the oppositions aside, proclaiming that companies like Charter don’t want to see the private sale happen because it knows 5G service is a threat to its cable business.

Analysts expect the matter to go to court eventually. It’s likely that the courts would side with the opinion of the FCC, which would likely fall on the side of having a traditional, government-regulated auction for the spectrum.

NEXT: Why I hope AT&T loses the 5G E lawsuit

Want an Apple laptop? Here are the best and cheapest you can buy

If you’re looking for the best Apple laptop, the company currently offers three kinds: MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro. For now, the cheapest one is the older 2017 MacBook Air, which starts at $999. The newer overhauled version packs an integrated Touch ID sensor and a starting price of $1,199.

If you need additional meat in an Apple laptop, the 15-inch MacBook Pro includes discrete AMD graphics and options for six-core Intel Core i7 and Core i9 processors. The smaller 13-inch model doesn’t have discrete graphics, but you’ll find Apple’s innovative Touch Bar on both. If you’re feeling cash-strapped, Apple sells a 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar too for an even happier wallet.

Okay, let’s jump in and look at the best Apple laptops you can buy right now. 

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch)

Apple laptop

Apple’s largest MacBook Pro to date features a 15.4-inch IPS screen with a 2,880 x 1,800 resolution. From here the configurations are somewhat tricky to read, since Apple throws three different processors, four separate discrete graphics chips, and two starting points into the MacBook Pro menu.

The first configuration starts at $2,399 with the eighth-generation Core i7-8750H six-core processor, which is upgradable to the Core i9-8950HK for a higher price. The base configuration also includes AMD’s Radeon Pro 555X discrete graphics processor you can swap for the pricier Radeon Pro 560X. It ships with 256GB of storage but can be configured with larger a 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, or 4TB SSD. Memory starts at 16GB (DDR4 at 2,400MHz) with an option for 32GB.

The maximum price you can pay for this model, just in hardware alone (no extra software) is $6,299.

The second configuration has a $2,799 starting price. It includes the Core i7-8850H six-core chip with the same Core i9-8950HK upgrade option. For graphics, the base configuration includes the Radeon Pro 560X discrete chip with upgrade options for the meatier Radeon Pro Vega 16 or Radeon Pro Vega GPUs at a higher cost. You have the same memory and storage options as the $2,399 version, though this configuration doesn’t offer the 256GB SSD.

The maximum price you can pay for this model, just in hardware alone is $7,049.

Outside those four major differences, the overall design is the same. Both include Wireless AC and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, the coveted Touch Bar with Touch ID, four Thunderbolt 3 ports, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a 720p camera. Powering this MacBook Pro is an 83.6WHr battery promising up to 10 hours of video playback or web surfing.

Finally, Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro measures 0.61 inches thick and weighs 4.02 pounds. You can configure this Apple laptop in the typical silver or Space Gray.

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch)

Apple laptop

Here we jump down to Apple’s MacBook Pro sporting a 13.3-inch IPS screen and a 2,560 x 1,800 resolution. It’s powered by Intel’s Core i5-8259U four-core processor and integrated graphics with an upgrade option for the Core i7-8559U at a higher price. The base model also includes 8GB of system memory (LPDDR3 at 2,133MHz) and a 256GB SSD for a starting price of $1,799. You can upgrade the memory to 16GB while storage options include 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB.

In addition to the Touch Bar, you’ll find four Thunderbolt 3 ports, a 3.5mm audio jack, a 720p webcam, Wireless AC and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, and a 58WHr battery promising up to 10 hours of video playback or web browsing. It measures 0.59 inches thick, weighs 3.02 pounds, and ships in silver or Space Gray.

Unlike the 15-inch version, this model does not provide options for discrete Radeon graphics or Intel’s six-core processors. Note that the $1,999 price point starts you off with a 512GB SSD.

MacBook Pro without Touch Bar (13-inch)

Apple laptop

The hardware is slightly different inside the 13-inch model without Apple’s Touch Bar. This version has the same IPS screen with the 2,560 x 1,600 resolution. By default it is powered by an older seventh-generation Core i5-7360U two-core processor, with a Core i7-7660U upgrade option. The storage options are also slightly different: the base configuration relies on a 128GB SSD and removes the 2TB model, providing only the 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB SSD.

This model only has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one 3.5mm audio jack, Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity, 8GB of system memory upgradable to 16GB before checkout, a 720p webcam, and a 54.5WHr battery promising up to 10 hours of video playback or web browsing. It measures 0.59 inches thick, weighs 3.02 pounds, and ships in silver or Space Gray.

Prices start at $1,299 for 128GB of storage and $1,499 with 256GB of storage.

MacBook Air “Retina” 2018 (13-inch)

Apple laptop

This is Apple’s latest MacBook Air refreshed with a newer processor. Currently it relies on a single eighth-generation Core i5-8210Y two-core CPU option and integrated graphics powering a 13.3-inch IPS screen with a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution. The starting configuration includes 128GB of storage and 8GB of system memory (LPDDR3 at 1,866MHz) for $1,199 while the second starting point includes a 256GB SSD and 8GB of memory for $1,399.

In both cases, you can upgrade to 16GB of memory before checkout and ramp up the storage to 512GB or 1.5TB. Meanwhile, the set specifications include two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one 3.5mm audio jack, a 720p webcam, Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity, and a 50.3WHr battery promising up to 13 hours of video playback and up to 12 hours of web surfing.

This updated model comes in gold, silver, and Space Gray, along with an integrated Touch ID sensor. It measures 0.61 inches thin and weighs 2.75 pounds.

MacBook Air 2017 (13-inch)

Apple laptop

This Apple laptop arrived in mid-2017 packing fifth-generation Intel CPUs. The $999 default configuration relies on an Intel Core i5-5350U two-core processor with an upgrade option for Intel’s Core i7-5650U chip. This unit remains locked in memory at 8GB (LPDDR3 at 1,600MHz) while storage includes 128GB by default with 256GB and 512GB SSD upgrade options.

This model pack a 13.3-inch TN display with a 1,440 x 900 resolution. It’s complemented by two USB-A ports at 5Gbps each, one Thunderbolt 2 port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and an SD card reader. Other ingredients include Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, a 720p camera, a 54WHr battery promising up to 12 hours of video playback or web browsing, and a silver exterior. It measures 0.68 inches thick and weighs 2.96 pounds.

MacBook (12-inch)

Apple laptop

Finally, we have Apple’s 12-inch MacBook, which sports an IPS screen with a 2,304 x 1,440 resolution. You can get this notebook with Intel’s seventh-generation Core m3-7Y32 two-core processor, 8GB of system memory, and 256GB of storage for a starting price of $1,299. You can also start with the $1,599 price point offering Intel’s Core i5-7Y54 two-core chip, 8GB of memory and 512GB of storage. In both cases, you can upgrade to the Core i7-7Y75 two-core processor and 16GB of system memory prior to shipping.

The latest 12-inch MacBook includes a 480p webcam, Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity, one USB-C port at 5Gbps, one 3.5mm audio jack, and a 41.1WHr battery promising up to 12 hours of video playback and up to 10 hours of web browsing, It measures 0.52 inches thin, weighs 2.03 pounds, and ships in gold, silver, and Space Gray.

 
So that’s it for our look at the best Apple laptops. While the Pro may technically be the very best Apple laptop, really all comes down to your needs. 

A bunch of 4K movies are on sale for $5 on Google Play Movies

Google Play Movies Deal

Google regularly holds deals on movies, but this week’s sale is almost too good to pass up. In addition to some hit blockbusters being discounted, Play Movies is selling some 4K films for just $5!

Below are just a handful of the 4K movies available for only $5 for a limited time:

This list of movies is just the tip of the iceberg. The Hobbit trilogy, The Shining, The Matrix, We’re The Millers, Fist Fight, and more can also be had for $5. Crazy Rich Asians is available for $10, Ready Player One is $11, and Deadpool for $15. 

Click on the button below to find the entire list of movies included in this deal from Google Play Movies. 

Google will bring free Wi-Fi to the Philippines

During its ongoing Google for Philippines conference, Google announced it will expand its Google Station program to include the Philippines.

Google Station provides free Wi-Fi hotspots to populated areas in developing countries, such as bus stations and airports. Countries in the Google Station program include India, Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Thailand, and now, the Philippines.

In the Philippines, Google Station will go live in 50 locations by the end of February. Most of the locations will be in Manila and Quezon City, though there are plans to include under-served and additional high-density areas throughout 2019.

Editor’s Pick

Folks in the Philippines will get 30-minute sessions of free Wi-Fi. They’ll need to sign back in when the sessions end.

Google partnered with telecommunications companies PLDT and Smart Communications for the infrastructure. Google also partnered with Unilever for ads, because someone needs to foot the large bill. Unilever owns over 400 brands and primarily makes cleaning, beauty, personal care, and food products.

10 best earthquake apps and earthquake tracker apps for Android!

This is the featured image for the best earthquake apps list on Android Authority
Earthquakes range from mildly annoying to destructively terrifying. However, there are some apps out there that give you an advantage. We noticed two different types of hurricane apps. The first tracks them worldwide. You can see if any took place near you and get alerts for your area. The other type are actual vibration meters. They use the accelerometer in your phone to measure vibrations where you are. We have a healthy supply of both on this list! Here are the best earthquake apps and earthquake tracker apps for Android!


American Red Cross Earthquake

Price: Free
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
The American Red Cross has a bunch of apps for a variety of natural disasters and that includes earthquakes. This one includes support for Spanish out of the box. In addition, the app notifies you when earthquakes happen in your area, provides a history of earthquakes in your area, and it gives you a bunch of informational resources for better preparation. The app has a bunch of tips for dealing with things during and right after an earthquake along with long term recovery advice. This one is entirely free with no in-app purchases or ads. However, the app does have a few bugs.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
American Red Cross Earthquake

Earthquake Network

Price: Free / $2.99
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Earthquake Network is kind of an all-in-one type of earthquake app. It alerts you to nearby earthquakes, uses your phone to detect earthquakes, and acts as a network of sorts. There were roughly 8,800 devices on the network during our testing and we assume the alerts are generated from those people. The app uses the accelerometer in your phone as a seismograph of sorts, but only when your phone is charging. The free version includes that, an earthquake history guide dating back to 2000, and some other features. Those who get the premium version also get some additional notification options and a chat room for emergencies.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY

EarthQuake Alerts and Monitoring

Price: Free / $3.49
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
EarthQuake Pro is a a fairly basic earthquake app. You can view earthquakes from around the world in the recent past. In addition, the app provides details about the event, provides alerts for earthquakes in your area, and it has a seismograph function built-in. The UI is Material Design. That means it looks nice and it’s easy to navigate. The premium version removes advertising and adds a few additional features. It seems like a newer app and it needs a little work to correct a few bugs. However, it’s otherwise competent.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
EarthQuake Alerts and Monitoring

Earthquakes Tracker

Price: Free / $3.49
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Earthquakes Tracker is one of the older earthquake tracking apps. It does what most tracker apps in this space do. Some of the features include alerts, an interactive map of earthquake activity, customized alerts for your area, and various charts for data. You can see things like how many earthquakes happened and how strong they were. The app could use a visual makeover, but it works well regardless. The premium version removes the advertising, but we noticed no other significant differences. You can go with either one.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Earthquakes Tracker

Little Panda Earthquake Safety

Price: Free (with ads)
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Little Panda Earthquake Safety is a neat little game for kids. It’s also a bit of a wild card app on this list. The app is a series of scenarios around earthquakes. Kids play through the scenarios to keep the little panda character safe. The mechanics use actual earthquake safety tips as its base. Thus, kids learn what to do in the event of an earthquake in a fun, safe environment. There is some content that feels a little weird, like treating the open and bleeding injuries of a cute cartoon animal, but it’s an educational experience either way. It’s also totally free to play.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


My Earthquake Alerts

Price: Free / $1.99
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
My Earthquake Alerts is a solid, simple app for earthquake detection. It shows earthquakes all around the world. In addition, you can create custom alerts with no restrictions just for your area. Some additional features include a history that dates back to 1970, a Material Design UI for easy navigation, and more details about any given earthquake. A lot of people started using this app after the 7.0 earthquake in Alaska back in December and they seem to be quite happy about it. There is a premium version for $1.99. The only difference we could see is the lack of advertisements. Otherwise both apps should work about the same.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
My Earthquake Alerts

Volcanoes and Earthquakes

Price: Free / $5.99
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Volcanoes and Earthquakes is a decent app for those who want to keep track of both phenomena. It shows both earthquakes and volcano eruptions on a worldwide scale. In addition, you can see volcanoes that are expected to erupt or are showing other types of activity. There are push notifications for earthquakes near you and the app pings multiple data sources for both types of events. It even has stuff like tectonic plate boundaries so you can see where such activity is expected. The premium version is a tad pricey at $5.99. However, you get more information, no ads, and slightly more granular controls.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Volcanoes and Earthquakes

Vibration Meter by ABC Apps

Price: Free (with ads)
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Vibration Meter is a very simple app. It uses your device’s accelerometer to detect vibration. It is made specifically for earthquakes. You also get the MMI (Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale) for quick reference. The app is otherwise simple, clean, and effective. What you see in the screenshot is basically what you get. A simple UI with a meter at the bottom and the MMI at the top to show you how much the vibration is. The app is free with no in-app purchases although there may be ads. It’s good for what it does and it’s a decent app to pop onto a second device in case you don’t want to use your daily drive for this.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Vibration Meter by ABC Apps

Vibration Meter by Gamma Play

Price: Free (with ads)
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Vibration Meter by Gamma Play is another excellent vibration meter app. Like the one by ABC Apps above, this app measures vibration. It includes the MMI scale right above it for easy reference and highlights the appropriate level based on the readings that it takes. It uses a simple UI. We don’t think anyone will have problems using it. This one hasn’t seen an update in a couple of years at the time of this writing. Thus, if you experience bugs, you may want to just try a different app. This one is free with no in-app purchases. You may see the occasional ad or two.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Vibration Meter by Gamma Play

Wikipedia

Price: Free
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Wikipedia is a decent option for learning about earthquakes. It has all of the major terminology, including information about tectonic plates, earthquakes, terms surrounding earthquakes, and details about historical earthquakes, like the Kobe earthquake in 1995, the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, and even popular media about earthquakes. There are better and more thorough reference materials available from sources like Amazon Kindle or Google Play Books. However, Wikipedia offers a decent introduction into the topic. Plus, the app is free and it’s easy to search and find stuff.
DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY
Wikipedia

If we missed any great earthquake apps or earthquake tracker apps, tell us about them in the comments! You can also click here to check out our latest Android app and game lists!

Clear the bad guys out of New York City with Marvel’s Spider-Man for $40

Save the city and some cash.

The video game Marvel’s Spider-Man for the PlayStation 4 is down to $39.99 at Amazon. The game was released last September, and, while we’ve seen a couple deals before, this is one of its best ever as it normally sells for $60. It was offered at this price for Black Friday last year at select retailers.

If you like playing as a Marvel superhero, enjoy open-world sandbox games that take you all over a fairly realistic portrayal of New York City, and want to fight crime by slinging webs, then this is the game for you. It has been a huge success for the PlayStation and Insomniac Games, the renowned developers. One of the most anticipated games of the year, Marvel’s Spider-Man has found approval from fans and critics with a high rating of 87 on Metacritic.

Our Android Central review gave it 4.5 stars out of 5 and said “It couldn’t be more clear this was a labor of love crafted by folks who genuinely enjoy every facet of the universe they were invited to be a part of. The story is unique yet familiar, the combat natural while complex, and there’s a constant focus on Spider-Man and his immediate connections I deeply appreciated.”

If you’re not finished shopping just yet, Red Dead Redemption 2 is on sale for $40 at Amazon right now too!

See on Amazon

iMessage for Android is the messaging solution we need, not the one we want

This week, I received a new Android phone in the mail. I removed its plastic wrapping, opened the top, unfurled the hastily-placed screen protector and turned it on. When I booted it up, I logged in with my Google account, restored from a backup of my Pixel 3, and waited for the 80 or so apps I regularly use to restore some or all of their user data.

This is my routine for getting a new phone, and it allows me to get up and running, thanks to Google Cloud Backup, in about 30 minutes. It’s a tantalizing and delightful taste of automation, but its usefulness is only as good, and as engaging, as the apps on my phone.

Android has a messaging app abundance, but it’s often too much of a good thing.

With messaging being the quintessential smartphone experience, and with the definition of ‘social networking’ expanding to include feeds like YouTube, Twitch, Reddit, and even Fortnite, communicating on a smartphone is often disjointed and frustrating.

Everyone has a preferred means of communicating, and while the ownership of many of these tools has consolidated over the years — looking at you, Facebook — the choices themselves have proliferated.

On Android phones, the messaging conundrum is no secret, and Google’s done nothing to help the problem by seemingly releasing, or modifying, its flagship messaging tool every few months. Allo, goodbye.

The maelstrom of choice is exacerbated by geographic divisions; WhatsApp is popular in much of Europe and South America, while WeChat is preferred in China, Kakao in South Korea and Line in Japan. Facebook Messenger has an enormous built-in audience of Facebook users but it’s normally considered the path of least resistance, rather than the preferred option, for its hundreds of millions of users. And then there’s iMessage, which is the default messaging platform (and widely considered a social network) on Apple-built devices, but its dominance doesn’t extend beyond North America.

Still, iPhone users love iMessage, and their reasons for amity are not surprising: its seamless integration with regular text messages means that you don’t need to open a separate app. Once Apple’s servers detect whether a recipient — via phone number or email address — is part of the iMessage database, it switches the bubbles from green to blue.

Google’s tried to compete with iMessage, directly and indirectly, for years. Hangouts and Allo fizzled as consumer products, so it’s worked with the GSMA — the standards body and carrier advocacy group — to implement RCS Univeral Profile across a number of devices. Heralded as the Great Messaging Unifier, RCS builds on traditional SMS in the same texting app that ships with your phone.

While right now it’s limited to a few apps and carriers, the eventual goal is for every phone on every carrier to natively support RCS and make something like iMessage for Android unnecessary.

Except for one thing: end-to-end encryption. The Verge’s Dieter Bohn argued earlier this year that there’s a “moral case for iMessage on Android,” noting that while there isn’t much of a business case for Apple to bring iMessage to Android, there is one that appeals to the greater good.

Every time I hear Tim Cook talk about privacy as a human right, I think about the biggest thing his company could do to help ensure that privacy: spread the ability for people to have conversations that are safe from government snooping across the world. And the largest, most impactful way Apple could do that is to release iMessage on Android.

RCS brings most of the features we take for granted in nearly every messenger — support for longer conversations, high-quality images and video, scalable group chats, file transfers, and lots more — to the Android user’s native SMS app. Similar to iMessage, once two devices “shake hands,” all of these features kick in automatically. In practice, the experience is quite similar to iMessage, with one important difference: RCS does not support end-to-end encryption.

Services like iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal, and with some tweaks, Telegram and Facebook Messenger, encrypt communications between the sender and receiver, so there’s no possibility of interception or surveillance. While governments are increasingly decrying the use of encryption as they attempt to prevent terrorism, it’s seen as similarly indispensable for consumers looking to maintain a semblance of control over their online privacy.

And while WhatsApp is bigger than iMessage, Facebook’s encroaching overbearance over the service, and its inevitable back-end integration with Messenger and Instagram, have given many of its users pause. Other options, like Signal, are more extensible but more difficult to use, and like WhatsApp don’t sync across multiple devices.

Which brings us back to iMessage. A small but vocal set of people continue to argue that Apple should bring iMessage to Android. As recent as six months ago, the notion would have been absurd — the company’s finances didn’t warrant any such entreaty to the other side. But lately, with the iPhone train slowing and the company increasingly putting its focus on services revenue, there’s an argument to be made that enough Android users subscribing to iMessage at $5 or $10 per month would make the investment worthwhile. Or Apple would bundle it into a wider iCloud subscription, which would likely make it easier to justify the cost.

Or, even better, it would be free, a service that Apple sees as adding value to its overall brand rather than, as it is today, a lock-in mechanism for iPhones. If it were free and available to all Android users, iMessage could operate as a Trojan Horse into Apple’s other cross-platform services — Apple Music, Texture, and perhaps its forthcoming TV service, which is all but a lock for Samsung, LG, and Vizio televisions already.

The idea of Apple shoring its services revenue through an iMessage subscription is unlikely but more possible than it’s ever been.

Then there’s the other side of the argument: would Android users even want an iMessage that’s merely an app-based alternative to WhatsApp and countless other siloed alternatives? Much of iMessage’s appeal is that you don’t have to think about it — it just works. It’s also pre-installed on every iPhone in the world. That’s a very big built-in audience for Apple, even if its users choose not to download a single app. On Android, however, it would be yet another app to seek out, download, sign into, and manage.

So I put the question to Twitter and found a minute amount of support for the idea — not surprising given the audience, but still, the virulence of the response was surprising.

As in so many areas, Android users are awash in options for communication tools but the consensus I’m seeing is that it’s too much of a good thing. An official iMessage app for Android could utilize Apple’s backend to sync across devices, as iPhones, iPads, and Macs do today. It would also free the blue bubble from the confines of the iPhone.

How valuable that expansion would be to the average Android user, and whether Apple could turn it into a viable side business, remains to be seen. The bigger question, at least in my mind, is whether Google cares enough about privacy and security to stop relying on third parties to build encrypted means of communication. It knows that a fully integrated solution like RCS is a powerful and audacious unifier, but without encryption, it’s just another mediocre option in a sea of competitors.

Want another take? Watch Rene Ritchie’s opinion in video form above or read his written take over at iMore

iMessage for Android is the messaging solution we need, not the one we want

This week, I received a new Android phone in the mail. I removed its plastic wrapping, opened the top, unfurled the hastily-placed screen protector and turned it on. When I booted it up, I logged in with my Google account, restored from a backup of my Pixel 3, and waited for the 80 or so apps I regularly use to restore some or all of their user data.

This is my routine for getting a new phone, and it allows me to get up and running, thanks to Google Cloud Backup, in about 30 minutes. It’s a tantalizing and delightful taste of automation, but its usefulness is only as good, and as engaging, as the apps on my phone.

Android has a messaging app abundance, but it’s often too much of a good thing.

With messaging being the quintessential smartphone experience, and with the definition of ‘social networking’ expanding to include feeds like YouTube, Twitch, Reddit, and even Fortnite, communicating on a smartphone is often disjointed and frustrating.

Everyone has a preferred means of communicating, and while the ownership of many of these tools has consolidated over the years — looking at you, Facebook — the choices themselves have proliferated.

On Android phones, the messaging conundrum is no secret, and Google’s done nothing to help the problem by seemingly releasing, or modifying, its flagship messaging tool every few months. Allo, goodbye.

The maelstrom of choice is exacerbated by geographic divisions; WhatsApp is popular in much of Europe and South America, while WeChat is preferred in China, Kakao in South Korea and Line in Japan. Facebook Messenger has an enormous built-in audience of Facebook users but it’s normally considered the path of least resistance, rather than the preferred option, for its hundreds of millions of users. And then there’s iMessage, which is the default messaging platform (and widely considered a social network) on Apple-built devices, but its dominance doesn’t extend beyond North America.

Still, iPhone users love iMessage, and their reasons for amity are not surprising: its seamless integration with regular text messages means that you don’t need to open a separate app. Once Apple’s servers detect whether a recipient — via phone number or email address — is part of the iMessage database, it switches the bubbles from green to blue.

Google’s tried to compete with iMessage, directly and indirectly, for years. Hangouts and Allo fizzled as consumer products, so it’s worked with the GSMA — the standards body and carrier advocacy group — to implement RCS Univeral Profile across a number of devices. Heralded as the Great Messaging Unifier, RCS builds on traditional SMS in the same texting app that ships with your phone.

While right now it’s limited to a few apps and carriers, the eventual goal is for every phone on every carrier to natively support RCS and make something like iMessage for Android unnecessary.

Except for one thing: end-to-end encryption. The Verge’s Dieter Bohn argued earlier this year that there’s a “moral case for iMessage on Android,” noting that while there isn’t much of a business case for Apple to bring iMessage to Android, there is one that appeals to the greater good.

Every time I hear Tim Cook talk about privacy as a human right, I think about the biggest thing his company could do to help ensure that privacy: spread the ability for people to have conversations that are safe from government snooping across the world. And the largest, most impactful way Apple could do that is to release iMessage on Android.

RCS brings most of the features we take for granted in nearly every messenger — support for longer conversations, high-quality images and video, scalable group chats, file transfers, and lots more — to the Android user’s native SMS app. Similar to iMessage, once two devices “shake hands,” all of these features kick in automatically. In practice, the experience is quite similar to iMessage, with one important difference: RCS does not support end-to-end encryption.

Services like iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal, and with some tweaks, Telegram and Facebook Messenger, encrypt communications between the sender and receiver, so there’s no possibility of interception or surveillance. While governments are increasingly decrying the use of encryption as they attempt to prevent terrorism, it’s seen as similarly indispensable for consumers looking to maintain a semblance of control over their online privacy.

And while WhatsApp is bigger than iMessage, Facebook’s encroaching overbearance over the service, and its inevitable back-end integration with Messenger and Instagram, have given many of its users pause. Other options, like Signal, are more extensible but more difficult to use, and like WhatsApp don’t sync across multiple devices.

Which brings us back to iMessage. A small but vocal set of people continue to argue that Apple should bring iMessage to Android. As recent as six months ago, the notion would have been absurd — the company’s finances didn’t warrant any such entreaty to the other side. But lately, with the iPhone train slowing and the company increasingly putting its focus on services revenue, there’s an argument to be made that enough Android users subscribing to iMessage at $5 or $10 per month would make the investment worthwhile. Or Apple would bundle it into a wider iCloud subscription, which would likely make it easier to justify the cost.

Or, even better, it would be free, a service that Apple sees as adding value to its overall brand rather than, as it is today, a lock-in mechanism for iPhones. If it were free and available to all Android users, iMessage could operate as a Trojan Horse into Apple’s other cross-platform services — Apple Music, Texture, and perhaps its forthcoming TV service, which is all but a lock for Samsung, LG, and Vizio televisions already.

The idea of Apple shoring its services revenue through an iMessage subscription is unlikely but more possible than it’s ever been.

Then there’s the other side of the argument: would Android users even want an iMessage that’s merely an app-based alternative to WhatsApp and countless other siloed alternatives? Much of iMessage’s appeal is that you don’t have to think about it — it just works. It’s also pre-installed on every iPhone in the world. That’s a very big built-in audience for Apple, even if its users choose not to download a single app. On Android, however, it would be yet another app to seek out, download, sign into, and manage.

So I put the question to Twitter and found a minute amount of support for the idea — not surprising given the audience, but still, the virulence of the response was surprising.

As in so many areas, Android users are awash in options for communication tools but the consensus I’m seeing is that it’s too much of a good thing. An official iMessage app for Android could utilize Apple’s backend to sync across devices, as iPhones, iPads, and Macs do today. It would also free the blue bubble from the confines of the iPhone.

How valuable that expansion would be to the average Android user, and whether Apple could turn it into a viable side business, remains to be seen. The bigger question, at least in my mind, is whether Google cares enough about privacy and security to stop relying on third parties to build encrypted means of communication. It knows that a fully integrated solution like RCS is a powerful and audacious unifier, but without encryption, it’s just another mediocre option in a sea of competitors.

Want another take? Watch Rene Ritchie’s opinion in video form above or read his written take over at iMore

Hack this discounted $40 PlayStation Classic and revisit your old favorites

Dibs on King.

Amazon has the PlayStation Classic Console available for $39.99, a price we’ve never seen before. This beats the last discount we posted by over $10 and it originally sold for more than $100.

You’ll receive the console along with two wired controllers, an HDMI cable, and a virtual memory card, though you’ll need to supply your own USB wall charger to power it.

While loaded with 20 original PlayStation games including Final Fantasy VII, Jumping Flash, Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3 and Wild Arms, there are some that just don’t hit the mark of ‘defining an era’ as the product description claims. Thankfully though, there’s an easy way to add your own games to the PlayStation Classic to give it more replayability than before. While it doesn’t match up to the likes of the NES Classic Edition or SNES Classic Edition consoles, you could have a lot of fun with the system despite its flaws such as some of the pre-installed games running slowly and the included controllers having no joysticks. While one of the other gripes about this console at release was its price, this deal at Amazon makes adding a new gadget to your arsenal worthwhile.

See at Amazon