Pandora remains one of the most popular streaming music services around, but most users are still on the free, ad-supported plan. If you scuttle over to Groupon today, you can get three months of premium listening for free.
The Groupon deal actually lets you choose between three premium options, all for free: three months of either On-Demand Premium, On-Demand Premium Family Subscription, or Pandora Plus. Those subscriptions are normally $10, $15, and $5 a month, respectively, so there’s really no reason not to go for the more expensive one unless you think you might want to stay on it.
Pandora Premium offers pretty much all the same features as Spotify’s paid accounts: playing any song directly instead of using the randomized radio, custom playlists, downloads, and unlimited skips and replays for stations, and no advertising. Pandora Plus doesn’t have access to on-demand songs or playlists.
Groupon says that the time for this deal is limited, but doesn’t give a specific expiration. Go for it today if you want to get in.
If you’re in the market for both a new phone and tablet (or maybe you just know someone who’d like the latter), Amazon has an enticing deal today: buy a new Galaxy Note 9 and get a free Galaxy Tab A.
This bargain is notable in two respects: one, the Note 9 is the American unlocked version with a Snapdragon processor, which will work on any US carrier (including the sometimes-tricky Verizon and Sprint networks). And two, it comes with a decent tablet. We’ve seen these kinds of bundles before, usually with a carrier-locked phone that comes with a two-year financing commitment and some no-name, whitebox tablet with the carrier’s own branding on it. The Tab A is a middle-of-the-road 10.5-inch machine, but Samsung’s fit and finish is miles ahead of your typical freebie.
The Note 9 is last year’s Samsung flagship phone, and it’s still a beast in terms of specs and software. Still, this is probably a case of Amazon clearing out some stock before the new Galaxy phone announcements in at Mobile World Congress later this month. The deal is active for the rest of today only.
Peak Design makes bags explicitly for photographers, but there’s enough careful design in the Everyday Messenger to make it worth considering for almost anyone who needs a quality bag. It’s stiff competition for the likes of Timbuk2 and Chrome.
The Everyday Messenger might just be named ironically since the design is anything but. On the surface, it looks surprisingly simple, with a big main pocket that’s undivided by any sleeves or interior compartments. The laptop holder, more or less a requirement for any modern messenger, hides out on the back underneath a sturdy weatherproof zipper. This makes your laptop (and/or tablet, since there’s a divider in there) accessible without opening the main compartment.
But as it turns out, getting into the big compartment is easy—easier than any messenger-style bag I’ve ever used. This is thanks to the unique “MagLatch” sliding clasp and ladder attachment system. The aluminum mechanism grasps onto one of the ladder rungs with a sliding catch, allowing it to easily close and open. A big chunk of metal keeps things securely closed at any of the four positions, while magnets inside the top flap keep it reasonably stable without locking if you’re in a hurry or need to access the compartment multiple times in quick succession. It’s an ingenious design that’s easy to open and close, firmly or softly, with just one hand.
Speaking of which, there’s another way in to that big pocket. If you need to grab something from the top of the pocket quickly, the top of the flap also has its own zipper, granting hand access for smaller gadgets and lenses. It’s a nice perk if you’re frequently swapping out pieces of gear, but it wouldn’t be a practical way to get, say, an iPad in and out of the main compartment.
Keeping our focus on that main pocket: it looks empty. And on its own, it is—a big dump for all your loose gear. But the bag also comes with a pair of dividers: two stiff, trapezoidal little walls for you to attach at any point thanks to soft Velcro on the front and back of the compartment. If you’re used to dedicated camera bags you might be familiar with the setup.
These dividers come with unique origami-inspired folds in the material, allowing them to be set up in different ways. You can get a tall, narrow packet ideal for a water bottle or zoom lens, a divided pocket that works well for a power adapter below and a mouse above, or a double-down fold that works as both a hidey pocket and a platform for irregularly-shaped items, like a DSLR with its lens attached. The dividers can attach at any point inside, accommodating smaller or larger contents.
This setup isn’t perfect. It’s difficult to get big things and small things in the main pocket at the same time—I can’t, for example, carry a mechanical keyboard while also organizing smaller gadgets. But it’s excellent for camera gear and laptop accouterments, and I’m sure more general users can make it work effectively for them, too.
Thoughtful Exterior Touches
One of my favorite parts of the bag is the strap. It solves two problems I didn’t know I had with my old Timbuk2 bag: one, it’s reversible, so there’s no need to order a specific bag with a sewn-down strap for right-handed use or southpaws. And two, it includes a big padded section with a grippy underside, eliminating the call for an extra piece of padding secured with velcro.
Motorola’s G series of phones has long been a favorite among bargain hunters looking for flexible Android handsets on the cheap. Today the company updated the series for 2019 with the G7, G7 Play, and G7 Power.
The G7, sans adjective, is the most expensive of the line, though it’s still more than reasonable at $300. Three bills gets you a relatively large 6.2-inch 1080p LCD screen over a mid-range Snapdragon 632 processor, 64GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM. The rear camera is a dual setup of 12MP main and 5MP depth sensors, with an 8MP front camera chilling in a “teardrop” notch. The phone features a USB-C port and, thankfully for anyone who doesn’t want to buy more adapters, a headphone jack.
The G7 Power (header image) drops the price down to $250 but bumps the battery up from just 3000mAh to a whopping 5000mAh, which should last for at least two days on moderate use. Like the more expensive G7, it can do fast charging at 15 watts. The bigger battery and fetching clear plastic back make the G7 Power noticeably thicker, and it has just 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, though the processor remains the same. It also drops the second rear camera and has a much longer iPhone-style notch on the front. The screen is still 6.2 inches, but it drops down to 720p resolution.
For just $200, the G7 Play gives you a 5.7-inch 720p LCD, 32GB of storage, and a somewhat anemic 2GB of RAM. The rear camera is a different 13MP shooter and the battery drops back down to 3000mAh, this time with 10-watt charging. Oddly, the G7 Play is the only member of the trio to get a front-facing flash in its camera notch. Oddly, all three designs are missing NFC and wireless charging, but they have both fingerprint and face unlock options.
The three new G7 phones go on sale today in Mexico and Brazil, with launches in the US and Europe in the spring. They run Android 9.0 “Pie,” but don’t expect these models to get fast updates when Google’s yearly operating system refresh comes in the third or fourth quarter.
PC gamers drop big bucks to feel immersed in their games. But some new smarthome tech is enabling amazingly immersive effects with just a few lights. Take this Philips Hue plugin for Minecraft as an example.
There are plenty of bias lighting setups that can observe data from a monitor or TV screen and match the light color to the average color on the screen. This tool isn’t doing that: it’s actually using Minecraft’s API to gather light source data from the game itself, matching the color of the bias lighting behind the screen to the objects actually emitting light in the in-game environment.
So if you’re traversing a sunny day in Minecraft, your Hue light will shine almost pure white matching the sun. At sunset you get a slowly-darkening orange, and lightning will flash white then fade to a darker blue. Travel to the game’s final environment The End, and your walls will light up with the ethereal purple glow from the horizon. Inside your cabin you’ll get the flickering reds and yellows of the fireplace. In a nod to utility, it will flash red when you take damage.
It’s a super-cool effect to watch in motion. Since it uses the APIs from Minecraft and Hue, it only works with those specific lights and single game. But as smarthome tech becomes cheaper and more prevalent, you can expect to see this sort of thing more often. To implement the plugin you need to download the source code from Github, then compile it and install it on a Minecraft server. HIt the link for full directions.