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Google Pixel Tablet Review: A Smarter Home Display

Google Pixel Tablet Review: A Smarter Home Display

The speakers on the hub get loud enough to fill a medium-sized room, and they sound robust, with surprisingly decent bass for their size. I found the max volume comparable to my first-gen Nest Hub, but the speakers on the Pixel Tablet’s hub sounded richer to my ears.

In Hub Mode, you can have the screen display photos or choose from a few snazzy clock designs. When I called on Google Assistant, the array of three far-field mics in the tablet adequately picked up my voice from the other end of the room. My favorite Hub feature is the Google Home icon that you can tap on the lock screen. It opens up basic controls for your favorite smart home devices—thanks to Google’s recent redesign of the Home app—and acts as a quick way to toggle on devices like fans, lights, and TVs.

You can also use this mode to look at the feed from a video doorbell or Wi-Fi security camera, but this feature is specifically disabled when the tablet isn’t docked to prevent randos from looking at your camera feeds. Anyone can talk to Google Assistant when the tablet is docked, but only the primary user can get personal results, and they’ll still need to authenticate with the fingerprint sensor to see those.

That brings me to one of the best parts of the Pixel Tablet: multi-user support. You can load up to eight different profiles on the tablet, and with a simple tap, the entire slate will switch to someone else’s profile, complete with their custom apps, layouts, wallpapers, and widgets, all protected by their fingerprint. That includes kid accounts too, and there are parental controls to limit screen time and block apps and websites on accounts accessible by children.

I had my wife set up her profile in case she wanted to try it out. She rarely wants to try any gadgets that fly into our home. Color me surprised then: one day when I was playing a video game on the TV, she took the Pixel Tablet off the dock and started casting YouTube videos to the slate as she played The Sims 4 on her laptop. I was shook. The Pixel Tablet is the only tablet with built-in Chromecast, so you can cast pretty much anything like you would a smart display (except Netflix as it’s not supported).

This has quickly become the way I use it too, since she’s more often the one hogging the TV. I’ll just … stop using my phone and use the much larger screen on the Pixel Tablet to browse Reddit (RIP Reddit Sync) or catch up on the news. I wish you could adjust the angle of the tablet when it’s on the hub, but there is a Google-approved third-party attachment that enables this functionality for $25.

Perhaps my biggest concern is battery life. It’s difficult to gauge this because I always put the slate back on the hub to recharge. Right now, after four hours of constant use, it dropped from 90 percent to 45 percent. I think it should be good enough for most use cases, though that battery performance doesn’t seem particularly remarkable.

My issue is more to do with battery longevity. If it’s constantly staying topped up, I expect the battery to degrade more quickly. Google has added some battery optimization software so that the tablet stops charging at 90 percent, which slows the creep of battery fatigue. But a year of use will tell how much the battery capacity changes with everyday surfing, streaming, docking, and charging. At least this tablet will be supported for a good length of time; Google promises it will get three OS updates and five years of security updates.

Before the Pixel Tablet came my way, I was miffed that Google didn’t provide a stylus so people could doodle on it. I was also peeved that there wasn’t a keyboard cover to easily turn it into a workstation. At least bundle in the kickstand case! I still think those would be nice additions, but this slate already feels like it’s doing quite a lot in the home, and sitting on a dock or in your hands is where it feels most comfortable.

Apple iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 (2023): How to Download, New Features, Supported Devices

Apple iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 (2023): How to Download, New Features, Supported Devices

If you’re a fan of dictating your messages instead of typing (fewer “ducks,” am I right?) then you’ll appreciate the improvements to dictation. Now, the keyboard will stay open during dictation so you can easily move between voice and touch. You can tap text to select it and replace it with your voice, and even send emojis without taking forever to find one. 

Safari Tab Groups and Passkeys

You can create tab groups in Safari already, such as a collection of tabs for work, but in iOS 16 you can share these groups with other people. You’ll also be able to see what tabs people are viewing in real-time. 

Everyone wants to get rid of passwords, and Apple is one step closer with Passkeys. These are unique digital keys you can create via Touch ID or Face ID; there’s no password to generate or type in, and Apple says they are virtually immune from being phished or leaked in a data breach. They sync across your Apple devices via iCloud Keychain and will work across apps and the web. Apple says it’s working with the FIDO Alliance for a cross-platform solution for those who also use non-Apple devices. Read more about how Passkeys work.

Updates to Live Text Visual Look Up 

iPhone showing iOS 16 Live Text feature

Real-time visual translation.

Photograph: Apple

Live Text, the feature that lets you grab the text in any photo (before or after you snap it), now works with videos. Just pause any video and tap the text to copy it. There are a few new quick actions when you select particular kinds of text, such as converting currency and translating text.

Visual Look Up was a different feature Apple introduced last year that offered up more information on the photo you were looking at, such as details about a landmark or similar web results. It now supports birds, insects, and statues, but you can also use it to grab the subject from a photo (much like using the Lasso tool in Photoshop) to paste anywhere, like in a conversation thread in Messages. 

Medication Tracking

Apple updated the Health app with a new Medication tab to help make it easier to track your medications. You can use it to add medications you need to take and set reminders (and receive them on the Apple Watch). You can manually type in these medications or just scan the label of the bottle with your phone’s camera. The data includes Critical, Serious, or Moderate interactions with the pills. You’re able to log when you’ve taken your medications, too. You can share this health data with family members.

Use Your iPhone as a Webcam

Person using Continuity Camera feature on MacOS Ventura

Photograph: Olivia Bee/Apple

You can use your iPhone as a MacBook webcam (the rear cameras, which are significantly better than the webcam cameras), and without needing to plug anything in—your Mac will automatically detect the rear camera and use it for your video calls. (Any MacBook that can run macOS Ventura will support this feature.) You can use features like Center Stage, which has the camera following you around a room, and Portrait Mode, which blurs the background to block out the mess behind you. There’s even a Desk View mode that utilizes the ultrawide camera to show folks what’s on your desk, though I don’t want anyone seeing that. Belkin has a custom mount you can use to outfit your iPhone on top of the MacBook, and there’s even a version for Macs. 

Apple Maps Goes to Vegas

Apple has been slowly redesigning select cities in the US to show off richer data. The company has added Las Vegas, Miami, Seattle, Atlanta, and Chicago to the list, and more cities are supposed to arrive this year. The feature is also available in London and Canada. Other Maps updates include the ability to add up to 15 stops before your final destination, which is great for long-distance road trips (and you can set this up on a Mac and send it straight to your iPhone). If you’re using public transit, you can now see fares, add transit cards, see low balances, and reload transit cards. 

Lockdown Mode

Screenshot of Lockdown Mode on iOS

Photograph: Apple

To help protect your devices from “highly sophisticated cyberattacks,” Lockdown mode adds an extreme layer of additional protection to your iPhone and iPad. When enabled, features, apps, and websites will be limited for security purposes to help keep the malware or spyware from accessing and compromising specific data. You can learn more about Lockdown Mode and how to turn it on here.

Safety Check

This new tool lets you quickly remove all access that you might have granted to anyone in your circles and includes an emergency reset that will sign you out of iCloud on all other devices, reset privacy permissions, and limit messaging to the device you have in your hand. It also shows you who has access to your devices and apps.

Family Sharing

iPhone showing iOS 16 Family Sharing feature

Photograph: Apple

There’s now a simpler process for setting up devices for kids. Just bring your iPhone close to your iPad and choose your kids’ account. It’ll set it up with all the parental controls you configured before. You can even grant screen time extensions in the Messages app instead of having to go into the device’s settings. There’s also a Family Checklist tool for suggestions like turning on location sharing, and tweaking settings as your kids get older.

iCloud Shared Photo Library

iPhone showing iOS Family Albums

Photograph: Apple

You can now set up an iCloud Shared Photo Library, similar to how you can set up shared photo libraries in Google Photos. Just add up to five other people to a library and everyone can add and edit family photos. You can choose which photos to share, including whether to base them on a start date or via face detection. There’s also a toggle in the Camera app that you can turn on to automatically send the photo you capture to the shared library. If you’re all on vacation, these photos can even automatically show up in the shared library based on your proximity to family members. 

Emergency SOS Via Satellite 

Those with any model from the iPhone 14 lineup now have access to the new Emergency SOS via the Satellite feature. If you’re ever in need of assistance while in a remote location with no cellular service, the iPhone will have the ability to connect to Globalstar satellites in orbit. That way, you can communicate with emergency responders or Apple’s own Relay Center to get help.

Advanced Data Protection for iCloud

Apple has increased the number of iCloud data categories protected using end-to-end encryption. In addition to credit card and payment data, health data, and passwords, you’ll now have to option to extend this protection to other sensitive information like Notes, Photos, and iCloud Backup. You can learn more about the new feature here.

Apple iPhone displaying twofactor authentication and security key prompt.

Photograph: Apple

Apple ID Support for Physical Authentication Keys

In addition to two-factor authentication codes (which are required for all new Apple IDs), you now have the option to use hardware keys as part of the process. Unlike codes, hardware tokens can’t be compromised or shared as easily—adding an extra layer of security to your devices.

Support For HomePod (2nd Generation)

With the launch of a second-generation HomePod, iOS 16 unlocks a variety of new features for the new smart speaker—some of which are also available on the first-generation HomePod and HomePod Mini. On all HomePods, you can now use Find My to ask Siri the location of family and friends (if they’ve shared it with you) and set up recurring Home automation via Siri using your voice (like turning the AC on at a specific time during the day). When controlling devices that are in different rooms, you’ll also hear a new Siri confirmation tone to confirm the command has gone through. 

On both the HomePod (2nd generation) and HomePod Mini, you’ll have access to the internal temperature humidity sensor. It can measure indoor environments, allowing you to set an automation such as turning the AC on when a room reaches a certain temperature. Both full-size HomePods also now come with auto-tuning optimization for spoken content like podcasts or audiobooks, which should allow for greater clarity.

Emergency SOS Controls

Prior to iOS 16.3, you could make an emergency call on your iPhone by holding the side button, one of the volume buttons, and using the Emergency SOS slider. In an effort to prevent people from accidentally triggering the feature, Apple has tweaked the controls slightly. You still have to hold down the side button and one of the volume buttons, but the call won’t go through until the countdown ends and you physically let go of the buttons.

Pay It Later With Apple Pay

iPhone showing iOS 16 Pay Later feature

You can afford it. Really.

Photograph: Apple

Services that let you buy now but pay later have received some pushback from consumer analysts, but Apple is barreling ahead with its own take called Apple Pay Later. It allows you to split the cost of an Apple Pay purchase over four equal payments spread over six weeks with zero interest and no fees. You’ll also have the option to apply for Apple Pay Later when you’re checking out with Apple Pay (Apple says it will do a soft credit check), and you’ll need to have it backed with a debit card. It’s available everywhere Apple Pay is accepted online or in-app. You can also see order tracking directly in Apple Pay, though this is available only with participating merchants. And if you’re a small business owner, you’ll be able to accept Apple Pay payments via iPhone instead of having to use a separate terminal. 

The Best iPad to Buy (and a Few to Avoid)

The Best iPad to Buy (and a Few to Avoid)

Buying an iPad should be simple. You just get whatever’s new, right? If only. Apple sells four main iPad models, each with its own strengths. In addition, a growing number of older iPads are floating around the eBays of the world. Since all of these devices look pretty much the same, it’s important to know what you’re buying and what you should pay for it. This guide covers the best iPads available right now, what’s coming up, the important differences between models, and the old models that exist (including the ones you shouldn’t buy at any price).

Be sure to check out all our buying guides, including the Best iPad Accessories, Best iPhones, Best iPhone 13 Cases and Accessories, Best Tablets, and Best MacBooks.

Updated September 2022: We’ve added buying advice ahead of Apple’s September event. 

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How to Install the Google Play Store on an Amazon Fire Tablet

How to Install the Google Play Store on an Amazon Fire Tablet

Once you’ve installed all four apps, it’s time to restart your Fire tablet. Press down on the power button until the power menu comes up, then tap Restart.

4. Log In to Your Google Account

Once your Fire tablet has restarted, you should be able to open the Google Play Store, sign in to your Google Account, and start downloading apps. Again, not everything works, but there’s certainly a larger selection than what you get in Amazon’s Appstore.

Tips and Troubleshooting

If you want a more stock Android experience, you can install a custom launcher, which will let you hide all the Amazon apps you don’t need. I like Nova Launcher, but there are many others available.

Assuming you are done installing the APKs from unknown sources, it’s a good idea to go back and turn that option off. It’s in Settings > Security & Privacy. Toggle off the Apps from Unknown Sources option. It’ll prevent you from accidentally downloading malicious software.

If you run into problems installing apps from the Play Store, try clearing the app data. Head to Settings > Apps & Notifications > Manage All Applications. Look through that list and find the Play Store. Tap to edit the settings. The first step is to tap Force Stop to shut down the Play Store. Next, tap Storage, then Clear Data (or Clear Storage, depending on which version of Fire OS you’re running). Once that’s done, restart your device and try logging in to the Play Store again.

If that doesn’t work, you may want to punt: factory reset and start over. However, be aware that a factory reset will erase all your data and files, not just the Google Play store, so make sure you have a good backup before you try that.

Finally, for those who’d like to try installing LineageOS, the open source alternative to Android: I do not recommend it. Fire devices do not have unlockable bootloaders, and getting LineageOS installed is not for the faint of heart. Even if you pull it off, things rarely work 100 percent of the time, and you can still screw things up after the installation. I bricked an older Fire HD 8 running LineageOS (I tried to update the bootloader within LineageOS, which proved a mistake). There is also, as far as I’m aware, no version of LineageOS that fully supports Fire hardware. If you want to run LineageOS on a tablet, a Samsung slate is probably your best bet.

The Top New Features in Apple’s iOS and iPadOS 16

The Top New Features in Apple’s iOS and iPadOS 16

It’s that time of year again. At WWDC 2022, Apple showed off iOS 16 and iPadOS 16, the next versions of the operating systems that run on its iPhones and iPads. This update builds on many of the new features Apple introduced in iOS 15, like SharePlay and Focus, and adds a greater degree of customization.

Here’s everything you need to know. 

Is Your iPhone or iPad Compatible?

With iOS 16, Apple is ending software support for the following devices: the iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone SE 2016, iPhone 7, and iPhone 7 Plus. Basically, if you have an iPhone 8 (2017) or newer (including the second- and third-gen iPhone SE), you’ll be able to download and run iOS 16 when it’s released this fall. That doesn’t mean every feature in the update will be available on your iPhone, though, as some features like Live Text work only with iPhones powered by an A12 Bionic chip or newer.

It’s a little more complicated for iPads, since they don’t have sensible naming conventions. Here are the generations that will receive iPadOS 16 this fall. You can figure out which model you have by following the directions here.

  • iPad: 5th-gen and up
  • iPad Mini: 4th-gen and up
  • iPad Air: 2nd-gen and up
  • 9.7-inch and 10.5-inch iPad Pro
  • 11-inch iPad Pro: First-gen and up
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro: First-gen and up

What’s New in iOS 16?

Here, we’ve highlighted the top new features coming in iOS 16. We’ll be adding more continuously until Apple releases the final version this fall.

Lock Screen Overhaul

Hands holding iPhone

New lock screens.

Photograph: Apple

Apple is redesigning the lock screen completely in iOS 16. Notifications now appear on the bottom of the screen so as to not clutter up your beautiful lock screen photo. The clock widget cuts behind the subject of your photo, giving off a cool depth effect, and you can customize its design, from the typeface to the color—just press and hold the lock screen to go into editing mode. 

You can add more widgets below the clock, like weather, activity rings, and the calendar. All the way at the bottom, where the notifications live, you can also pin certain kinds of live activities. For example, if you’re following an NBA game, you can see the scores via a pinned notification at the bottom. You can also pin things like Uber rides, workout activities, and Now Playing controls, which can expand to the full lock screen now to show album art. 

There’s a new wallpaper gallery with tons of designs to choose from, including a live weather lock screen that mimics the real-time weather conditions, or suggestions using photos from your very own camera roll. Apple will let you set up multiple lock screens, and it’s easy to cycle through them, just like how you can easily switch watch faces with a swipe on an Apple Watch. 

More Focus Improvements

iPhone showing iOS 16 Lock Screen

More customization in Focus.

Photograph: Apple

Your lock screen can also be tied to a Focus, meaning you can set a lock screen for your Work Focus and a different one—with a more personal photograph—for your Personal Focus. Swiping to the relevant lock screen will simply trigger that Focus. iOS 16 also adds Focus Filters in apps like Safari, Calendar, Mail, and Messages. This means when you open Safari with your Work Focus turned on, you’ll only see work-related tabs. The same goes for the other apps that support these filters, and Apple says developers can take advantage of an API to add support. 

Messages, but Editable

Poof.

Courtesy of Apple

Twitter still won’t let you edit tweets, but Apple is letting you edit messages in the Messages app after you’ve sent them. You can even “Undo Send” to recall messages. Also new is the ability to mark any thread as unread so you can check back on messages at a later time. Apple is also adding SharePlay support to the Messages app. Now, you don’t need to FaceTime a friend just to watch a synced movie together—you can start the action in the Messages app and chat with synced video and shared playback controls.

If you’re a fan of dictating your messages instead of typing (fewer “ducks,” am I right?) then you’ll be happy to see the improvements to dictation. Now, the keyboard will stay open during dictation so you can easily move between voice and touch. You can tap text to select it and replace it with your voice, and even send emoji without taking forever to find one. 

Pay It Later With Apple Pay

iPhone showing iOS 16 Pay Later feature

You can afford it. Really.

Photograph: Apple

Services that let you buy now but pay later have received some pushback from consumer analysts, but Apple is barreling ahead with its own take called Apple Pay Later. Soon you’ll be able to split the cost of an Apple Pay purchase over four equal payments spread over six weeks with zero interest and no fees. You’ll have the option for Apple Pay Later when you’re checking out with Apple Pay, and Apple says it’s available everywhere Apple Pay is accepted online or in-app. 

You’ll also be able to see order tracking directly in Apple Pay, though this is available only with participating merchants. And if you’re a small business owner, you’ll be able to accept Apple Pay payments via an iPhone instead of having to use a separate terminal.