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    Hopes and Fears for Google Android in 2017

    This last year was a big deal for Android. Google made substantial changes to its product lineup, took a timeout on smartwatches, and was silent on the topic of tablets. What's going to happen in 2016? I can't know for sure, but I know what my hopes and fears for Android in 2017 are. There are many of them.

    Android Wear

    I personally like smartwatches, but I'm fully cognizant that my job is basically to be a giant nerd. For regular people, smartwatches have yet to catch on. Android Wear is in an interesting place because Google relies upon its OEM partners to make and sell the hardware. It just handles the core software development. In 2016, the number of new smartwatches dropped off and Google had to take a bogie on the big Android Wear 2.0. Needless to say, I'm worried for Android Wear in 2017.

    Motorola and Huawei skipped launching new Wear devices in 2016, and Motorola confirmed it's not even developing more watches. Meanwhile, Google had to delays the release of Android Wear 2.0 when feedback on the developer preview was, to put it kindly, terrible. It's now expected to launch in early 2017. That's not all, though. Google is also releasing new flagship watches.

    The word on Google's Wear 2.0 watches came from Google's Android Wear product manager Jeff Chang. There will be two of them that run Android Wear 2.0 out of the box, They'll be the first devices to run the new software, and they'll be sold directly by Google. However, the OEMs branding will still be present. These won't be "Pixel" devices.

    This is probably the last shot Android Wear has in its current state. We'll know by around the middle of 2017 if Wear is taking off. If it doesn't I feel like Google is going to have to go back to the drawing board to come at wearables from a different direction.

    Tested: Yuneec Typhoon H Hexacopter

    With six rotors rather than the usual four, even the casual observer can see that the Yuneec Typhoon H is a not quite aligned with the multi-rotor mainstream. Aside from the obvious, this ship has several other features that are not often found on a turnkey aerial photography (AP) platform. How about retractable landing gear and a 360-degree rotating camera gimbal? And just wait until you see the transmitter!

    An Overview of the Typhoon H

    The Typhoon H is a factory-built multi-rotor with plastic and carbon fiber components. It has a motor-to-motor diameter of 486mm (19.1"). So, it's just a little larger than the common 350mm AP quads. Each of the Typhoon's six arms can be folded downward to create a smaller footprint when it is not in use.

    Its brushless motors spin 231mm (9.1") propellers. The props snap into place and have a quick-release button for removal. Power comes from a proprietary 4-cell 5400mAh LiPo battery. My flight times with this battery have been averaging around 20 minutes.

    The Typhoon H's hex layout is unique, but it is the ship's enhanced camera functions and great transmitter that make it worth considering.

    The included 3-axis gimbal has a built-in 4K-capable camera. Real-time video feed from the camera is piped to a monitor integrated into the ST16 transmitter. Later on, I'll cover both the camera and the transmitter in more detail.

    Yuneec offers two variants of the Typhoon H. The base model (Yuneec calls it the "Advanced" version) has forward-facing sonar for collision avoidance. The Typhoon H with Intel RealSense ("Professional" version) adds a laser projector and cameras to its collision avoidance system. The standard bundle includes one flight battery and comes packaged in a foam case. Both models of the Typhoon H are also available in a "Pro" bundle that includes a spare flight battery, a secondary "Wizard" controller, and a backpack for storage and transport. In fact, the Professional version is only available in the Pro bundle. Current street prices are $1000 for the Advanced model, $1200 for the Advanced Pro bundle, and $1500 for the Professional model Pro bundle.

    Ryan's Favorite Google and Android Things of 2016

    Google's product strategy changed a lot in 2016—the Nexus line is gone, and all hardware has been united under the Rick Osterloh. In general, Google seems to be taking a more measured approach to all its products and services now. My work (and therefore much of my life) revolves around Google's products, particularly Android. It's a good time to be a Google nerd. Here are my favorite Google and Android things of 2016.

    Google Pixel

    I've used Nexus phones for as long as they've existed, and now they don't anymore. I think I'm okay with that because the Pixel is the best phone Google has ever made—it's actually the best Android phone you can buy right now, in my opinion. There are things I could complain about like the high price or lack of water-resistant design, but it's overall such a compelling phone that I recommend it to people wholeheartedly.

    The Pixel has a Snapdragon 821 SoC, 4GB of RAM, and 32/128GB of storage. It's specced very well, but it's also very well-optimized. The Pixel is without a doubt the fastest Android phone I've ever used. What's more, it stays fast. I've been using it most of the time since it came out, and there's no discernable drop in speed. I also love that there's a small version of the phone that doesn't make a million compromises simply because phablets tend to sell better. The 5-inch Pixel is every bit as fast as the 5.5-inch XL.

    Tested in 2016: Sean's Favorite Things!

    Sean shares his favorite things of 2016, including cooking gear, Star Wars model kits, and his new collection of items for his every day carry! Plus, an amazing set of books for modelmakers. Let us know what you got for the holidays and what are some of your favorite things of the year!

    Google Play App Roundup: Pigment, Oceanhorn, and RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    Pigment

    Just because you're a grown-up doesn't mean you can't chill out with a coloring book and some markers. Adult coloring books are a big deal these days with mental health experts citing them as a great way to relieve stress. There's also a way to get your coloring fix digitally with Pigment. This app includes hundreds of free pages to color, plus a ton more if you subscribe.

    Adult coloring books tend to have vastly more detail than the ones intended for kids, and it's the same way with the pages in this app. They come in various categories like animals, fantasy, and geometric. The default settings make it pretty easy to get up and doodling right away. There are plenty of color palettes to choose from, and you have several different brushes. These also come with distinctive textures. For example, the paintbrush has rougher strokes than the marker, and the airbrush is completely uniform. Each one has configurable size and transparency too.

    When you tap in an area to start coloring, the app will keep you inside the lines. This lets you be a little more free with the way you apply brush strokes without getting a mess. You can turn this off. But you need to be pretty careful—a capacitive touch screen isn't the most accurate input device. At the very least you'll need a stylus with a fine tip to go completely free-hand. It's certainly doable, though.

    The images have a lot of little nooks and crannies to be colored, so you'll have to zoom in with multitouch to get them all. You can also pan across images with a two-finger drag gesture. The pages have very high detail in general. Even zooming way in, the lines are still rendered smoothly.

    Pigment lets you just fill things in solid if you want. However, it also includes the tools to create some very pretty works of art. You can layer colors on top of each other with different brushes and weight to create some very neat effects. All your work will be saved in the app, allowing you to come back to a partially finished page later or export something you previously finished. Exported images have watermarks, though.

    There are around 300 free pages in Pigment, but upgrading to premium gets you thousands more. That also adds more color palettes and removes watermarks. This is a subscription app, so you pay monthly for access. The developers say that more pages will be added every week as a justification for the subscription. It's a little spendy at $7.99 per month. If you're really into coloring, maybe you'll be down with that. Otherwise, the free content it pretty cool too.

    Tested in 2016: Norm's Favorite Things!

    It's the end of the year, and as is our tradition, the Tested team shares with you their favorite things of 2016. To kick things off, Norm presents a few of his favorite new technologies, model kits, and coffee table books. Plus, we reveal our new studio set!

    Google Play App Roundup: Pyrope Browser, Time Locker, and Retro City Rampage DX

    Your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

    Pyrope Browser

    I find that I don't often have cause to stray from Chrome on Android. While it's not always been the fastest browser, it has improved markedly in recent years. It's also deeply integrated with my other Google stuff. I think to be interesting, a browser has to bring some distinct features to the table, and Pyrope Browser. This is a revamped version of the CyanogenMod browser (sometimes known as Gello) that runs on all Android devices. It's based on Chromium, but there's a lot of cool stuff going on here.

    The first thing you'll notice about Pyrope Browser is how minimal the on-screen UI is. There's a URL bar, favicon, tabs, and overflow menu button. If that's too much, you can even enable immersive mode with hides the system UI (status and nav bar) unless you swipe to reveal them. Tapping on the favicon for a site shows all the permissions and security information on that domain. Pyrope Browser has built-in ad-blocking on a per domain basis, so this is where you can enable ads for sites you know and trust. Because this is Chromium under the hood, you also have access to Incognito Mode for sketchy browsing.

    One of the most useful things in Pyrope Browser is the edge navigation, which you will be asked to enable the first time you stumble upon it. Swiping in from the left or right can be interpreted as a forward or back gesture. This can interfere with pages that have edge gesture navigation, but I've found it still usable in those instances. The edge gesture navigation is particularly useful in Pyrope Browser because it loads pages so fast. As you drag inward, you can see the other page slide over. The browser flashes for a moment as the page reloads, and you're all set. Pyrope Browser is definitely faster at loading pages than Google's standard Chrome releases on Android. Devices running Qualcomm Snapdragon chips can take advantage of special APIs that increase performance even further

    Some of the more exotic features include power saving modes, restricted access to webview data, and night mode. That last one is quite interesting. Pyrope Browser simply inverts all the colors on the page. Most pages are black text on a light background, so it's much easier on the eyes in the dark. However, it's smart enough not to invert the colors on a page that uses a dark background by default.

    Pyrope Browser is free, and it might be just the alternative browser you've been waiting for on Android.

    Tested: Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera

    Our video producer Joey tests and reviews the Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at how he's used this small formfactor camera for a variety of Tested shoots, and its post-production workflow. Here's how we used the BMMCC for timelapses, mounting in vehicles, and even on extended trips abroad.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Soldering Battery Connectors

    Soldering is a very handy skill to have in the RC hobby. Sooner or later, you'll find yourself with a need to solder something. This is especially true if you're into electric-powered vehicles. One of the more common (and dangerous) of these jobs is soldering power connectors to a battery. There is a lot of potential energy at hand. A poorly executed approach can ruin your battery, start a fire, or even injure you. Despite the risks, this job is nothing to be afraid of as long as you know what to watch for. Today, I'll illustrate how I mitigate the risks of soldering battery connectors using simple tools and a conservative approach.

    Soldering connectors to RC batteries is simple, but it can be dangerous if you do not take the appropriate precautions.

    Not For Beginners

    To be clear, this article does not cover the basics of electrical soldering. You'll want to be confident in your soldering skills before working with batteries. There are lots of online tutorials that can help you get to that point.

    The biggest danger when soldering battery connectors is accidentally creating an electrical short. Of all the different batteries used by hobbyists, LiPo cells pose the biggest risk when shorted. They are very energy-dense and also intolerant of abuse. Even a brief, incidental short can cause a big reaction and inflict permanent damage. Just brushing a metal tool across two exposed contacts is all it takes. Most of the effort involved with soldering batteries is dedicated to preventing that dreaded short. The actual soldering task is usually no big deal.

    In my example, I will be attaching a Hobbico Star Plug to a 2-cell LiPo. The Star Plug is currently my preferred connector. It is compatible with the Deans Ultra Plugs that I have on all of my legacy hardware, but the Star Plug has a large, textured gripping surface that makes it easier to manipulate with cold or sweaty hands. The Star Plug requires extra attention when soldering, so it's a good example to use here.

    Tested: DJI Phantom 4 Pro Quadcopter Drone

    Less than a year after releasing the Phantom 4, DJI has unveiled the Phantom 4 Professional quadcopter. We test and review this new drone, which is equipped with a new 4K camera system, environment sensors on five sides, and a controller with built-in display. Here's why we think the Phantom 4 Pro is the true successor to the Phantom 3, and the best consumer drone on the market.

    Google Play App Roundup: Trusted Contacts, Dawn of Titans, and Bully

    Grab your phone and prepare to shoot some new apps and games over to it from the Google cloud. It's time for the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new and cool in the Play Store. Just click the links to head to each app's page to check it out for yourself.

    Trusted Contacts

    Google knows where you are, and from the context of your movements, it can often figure out what you're doing. This is all part of the trade off for leaving location services on. You get a lot of cool features, but there's sometimes a little bit of a creepiness factor. It's about time to put Google's location awareness to good use, and that's what Trusted Contacts does. After registering the app with your account and verifying your contacts, you can share your location securely in a snap.

    Trusted Contacts is technically part of Google Play Services, which is on nearly every Android device. However, you need to install the app to enable the feature. After logging in, you can choose which of your contacts you want to set as "trusted." They also need to install the app and confirm the connection.

    Doing all this gives you both access to the other's location, but no unfettered access. Let's say you're supposed to meet your significant other and they're running late. You can use the Trusted Contacts app to request a location. Simply tap on their entry in the app, and send the request. On the other end, your trusted contact gets a notification that you want access to their location. The notification lets them deny or grant access. If they don't act on the notification within five minutes, the request is automatically granted. This is an emergency measure.

    On your device, contacts that have granted location access are visible in the list for 24 hours with a live updating map. This is not an additional battery drain, though. The location information is tied into Play Services. So you're just getting the same location information as Google. When you tap on the map for a shared contact, you have the option of opening the location in Maps

    Your trusted contacts can also, of course, request your location. You don't have to wait for that, though. You can also foist your location upon them by tapping the action button at the top of the app. You can choose individual recipients or just send an alert to all your trusted contacts with your location. This is another emergency measure.

    Trusted Contacts is a neat and useful app. I would not be surprised to see Google require this on GMS-certified devices going forward.

    Tested: HP Omen 17 Gaming Laptop

    We've been testing the HP Omen 17, the first laptop we've tested running on Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1070--a full powered Pascal GPU. That means this is truly a desktop replacement: a portable powerhouse that can run full roomscale virtual reality off of just one AC power outlet. But there are some tradeoffs that allow this fast gaming PC to be priced at just $1500.

    Rescuing a Toy RC Hovercraft

    As I stumbled through my attic to retrieve Christmas decorations, I came across an unmarked box that seemed out of place. I opened it up to find a stash of old RC gear that I had packed away years ago. There were a few odds and ends, but my attention was immediately drawn to a hovercraft that was hiding at the bottom of the box. Score!

    This hovercraft is at least 10 years old (an eternity for electro-widgets). I think I paid $20 for it at a surplus electronics store. As RC models go, this one is definitely toy-grade. But that doesn't mean that it can't be fun. I've owned tons of really cool toy-grade RC gadgets. Their only real drawback is that you usually can't buy spare parts or upgrades like you can with hobby-grade equipment. I brought the hovercraft down the attic ladder along with the next load of ornaments and decided to get reacquainted with this long-forgotten toy.

    Assessing Condition

    Aside from being thoroughly dusty, the hovercraft appeared to be in good shape. My biggest concern was the rubber skirt that forms the perimeter of the vehicle. Any punctures or dry rot on that vital part would have been an immediate deal-breaker. I was pleased to find no discernable damage whatsoever. Press on!

    The hovercraft's proprietary transmitter was also stashed in the box. Thankfully, I had removed the 9-volt battery from this unit before packing it away. So I didn't have any leaky alkaline battery issues to deal with…another potential deal-breaker.

    I found this abandoned toy hovercraft in the attic. It was in pretty good shape overall, but still needed a little attention before it was ready for action.

    I gave the hovercraft and radio a quick wipe down to remove most of the grime. It appeared that all of the necessary parts were accounted for and there was no obvious damage to be found anywhere. It looked like I would only have to tackle two minor issues. First, one of the two control sticks on the transmitter didn't move freely. Secondly, the onboard battery had problems that would need to be addressed.

    Tested: Oculus Touch VR Controller

    They're finally here! Norm and Jeremy test and review the Oculus Touch virtual reality controllers, which bring motion-tracked hand presence to the Oculus Rift VR headset. Here's how Touch compares with the Vive and PSVR controllers in tracking, features, and ergonomics. Plus, we discuss the launch lineup of games and Touch content.

    Google Play App Roundup: Clip Layer, Battleship Lonewolf, and Samorost 3

    Your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

    Clip Layer

    Android has always supported copying text, even back when that was unusual on mobile devices. However, there are still lots of places in the OS that text isn't accessible. There are a few apps that let you grab that text, but Microsoft's Clip Layer seems to be the best at it. There is, however, a drawback. You'll lose Google Now on Tap. Okay, admittedly that's a pretty minor drawback.

    Clip Layer is bound to the long-press home button shortcut—it takes over the Assist command in the system settings. On most phones, that's still Google Now on Tap. The lone exception being the Pixel phones. On those devices, the long-press action launches Assistant. Assistant is useful, so I don't know that I'd recommend using Clip Layer on the Pixel. Everyone else is only losing access to Now on Tap (AKA screen search), which Google has effectively abandoned.

    Your screen is overlaid with a grid showing all detected text when you long-press to launch Clip Layer. To select text, just tap the boxes. These can be app icon labels, contents from widgets, or just text in an app that doesn't expose it for selection. Then, tap the floating text icon in the upper right corner to see all the text you've selected.

    Like other apps, Clip Layer can only grab an entire block of text at a time. However, you can edit a bit in the text popup. You can long-press here to select and copy just a part of the text you've pulled out of the screen.

    At the bottom of the screen in Clip Layer mode are several action buttons including copy, task, email, and share. The copy button is self-explanatory. Task plugs into Wunderlist to turn the text into a to-do (you have to log into Wunderlist first). Email drops the text into a new email, and share simply opens the system sharing menu so you can send the text anyplace else.

    Clip Layer is free, and it's a good solution if you often find yourself needing to copy text from odd places. Losing the long-press shortcut is a minor drawback right now for most phones. If Assistant comes to more devices in the future, you may be less keen on it, though.