All posts in “tech”

The Analogue Pocket Is A Miniature But Powerful Portable Gaming Platform

Retro gaming just continues to grow as more tech companies start to realize the potential market for niche devices. Most of these products are designed to run indie games like the Playdate, which even features a small hand crank. Then there’s more premium and artistic stuff from Love Hultén, which look like instant collector’s pieces. Most of these handheld gadgets usually emulate a beloved classic – the Nintendo Game Boy. With that in mind, the Analogue Pocket seems like the most versatile of the bunch.

When we say that it is the most flexible portable gaming device, we were not exaggerating. According to the product page, it is compatible with huge library of games. It will run cartridges for the Game Boy, Game Boy Colour, and Game Boy Advance. Moreover, it will likewise support Game Gear cartridges via an adapter.

The Analogue Pocket is more than just a gadget for playing games. It is also capable of becoming a portable workstation for users to create music. This function is available through the Nanoloop program for the device. Going back to what it does best, this awesome gaming gadget comes with the Analogue Dock. This accessory allows you to output your games to your HDTV. Now all that’s needed is a pair of Bluetooth controllers preferably from 8BitDo or wired connection via USB.

If you’re interested after reading about all the cool stuff it can do. The Analogue Pocket will start shipping in 2020 for $199. Word is that it will be on offer in limited numbers only, which means you have to act fast.

Get it here

Images courtesy of Analogue

Apple Can Still Save the HomePod

The problem with Apple’s HomePod has never been its sound. When it was released, pretty much everybody who reviewed the HomePod said it was the best-sounding smart speaker you could buy, and an exhaustive HomePod review posted on an audiophile subreddit thread went viral, saying:

“I am speechless. The HomePod actually sounds better than the KEF X300A. If you’re new to the Audiophile world, KEF is a very well respected and much-loved speaker company. I actually deleted my very first measurements and re-checked everything because they were so good, I thought I’d made an error. Apple has managed to extract peak performance from a pint-sized speaker, a feat that deserves a standing ovation. The HomePod is 100% an Audiophile grade Speaker.

It’s been a year-and-half (a little bit more, actually) since Apple released its first-and-only smart speaker and it hasn’t had the stellar success we’ve come to expect with Apple hardware. Just two months after its release, Apple reduced the number of orders from Inventec, the company manufacturing its HomePods, because of less-than-stellar sales forecasts. And, more recently, Apple officially lowered the price of a HomePod from $350 to $300.

So, why aren’t people buying HomePods?

The big two reasons are price and compatibility. The first is the easier of the two to explain. The HomePod costs $300 – or $350 at launch – and that’s just too expensive for a lot of people, especially when you consider that you could buy any of Google’s or Amazon’s smart speakers, a Sonos One, or even one of the latest offerings from Ultimate Ears for considerably less. The tradeoff is sound quality, but it turns out most people don’t prioritize that. Then there’s the issue of compatibility.

Unlike any of Amazon’s or Google’s smart speakers, or third-party smart speakers that use either Alexa or Google Assistant (like the Sonos One), Apple’s HomePod is designed to deliver the best possible experience for anybody with an iPhone and committed to Apple’s ecosystem. Similar to the way that iMessage has kept people from ever switching from iPhone to Android, Apple hoped that the HomePod and its iPhone-special features – the ability to send iMessages, make calls, quickly hand off audio to and from your HomePod, listen to voicemails and create notes (in the Notes app), all with “Hey Siri” voice commands – could cajole iPhone users. But it hasn’t exactly worked.

It turns out that most people don’t really want (or trust) a smart speaker to have an all-access to their phone ( yes, there are settings you can change for the sake of privacy). Nor do most people need a smart speaker to send iMessages or read out voicemails – it’s easier, more accurate and more familiar just to do it by whipping out their iPhone. Then there’s the issue of multi-user support. Amazon’s and Google’s smart speakers have been able to support multiple users for a long time, but the HomePod, almost two years after its release, still can’t do it. Apple has told users that it was roll out a firmware update for multi-user mode to the HomePod “this fall,” allowing it to recognize up to six different voices in the home, but it’s not here yet. If the HomePod is truly designed for the home, with multiple family members interacting with it, multi-user support is a must.

The biggest compatibility frustration with the HomePod is that it’s too dependent on Apple Music. The HomePod and Siri are able to do some pretty special things in regards to music that no other smart speaker can do, such as tell you the exact artist that’s playing, what song the album is on (as well as the release date), and you can even search songs by their lyrics (in case you forget the name of the song); but it’s only able to do these things if you’re a subscriber to Apple Music.

If you subscribe to any other music streaming service, such as Spotify, you can’t summon any music with your voice, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of having a smart speaker. Apple probably hoped that the HomePod would lure more people over to Apple Music, if they weren’t subscribers already; but it turns out that Apple Music, even though it’s a great streaming service, doesn’t have the same sticking power as iMessage. Not everybody with an iPhone is an Apple Music subscriber, after all.

I’ve talked a lot about the reasons why the HomePod hasn’t been a giant success, but it should be noted that a lot of people love it. They love the fact that it can be the smart home hub for all their HomeKit devices, easily play great music (provided they use Apple Music, which now has more paid subscribers in the United States than Spotify), and plays well with iPhone. Still, there’s a lot of ways that Apple could open up the HomePod to even more people.

The obvious thing to do would be to open up the HomePod – specifically Siri – to other streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Tidal and Amazon Music. The HomePod should allow you to select your preferred streaming service, the same way Amazon’s, Google’s and Sonos’s, speakers allow you, and thus more people would be able to ask Siri to play music. This doesn’t seem to be that crazy of an idea because, even though Apple has been notoriously protective of its “walled garden” (aka its ecosystem of hardware and software), it has been more open to third-parties in recent times. For example, just recently it gave a host of TV manufacturers (Vizio, Samsung, TCL and more) the go-codes to Apple TV, Apple TV apps and HomeKit.

Dropping the price of its HomePod (even more) would obviously help, too, but it’s probably more likely that Apple releases an all-new cheaper speaker – which it’s rumored to be doing. That said, the upcoming “HomePod mini” needs to be more than just a smaller cheaper version of its current smart speaker. In addition to opening itself (and Siri) up to more streaming services, it’d be great there were more ways to stream music to the HomePod. For instance, if the new HomePod were to have a line-in, allowing you to hardwire the HomePod to an existing hi-fi system and then control it via Siri, that’d be super attractive. An optical connection could mean that the HomePod could function as a soundbar, too. And if the HomePod had support for Bluetooth, it’d make the speaker way more attractive for way more users, especially those who don’t have iPhones.

The fact is, right now, the smart speaker category seems to be a two-man race between Amazon and Google – as of this past August, Apple controlled just five percent of the total market share for smart speakers in the United States. But that doesn’t mean Apple is out completely. It just needs to make the HomePod and Siri more attractive to more people. And it could start with a new HomePod that’s better different.

A second-generation HomePod could be announced as soon as this October.

The Most Beautiful Wireless Earbuds Now Have Active Noise Cancellation

Master & Dynamic just announced two new versions of its MW07 wireless earbuds, which we reviewed last fall and called “the most beautiful wireless earbuds you can buy.”

There’s the MW07 Go ($199), which are sport-focused wireless earbuds, and then there’s the MW07 Plus ($299), which are premium noise-canceling wireless earbuds. Both new earbuds are available now on Master & Dynamic’s website and will be available at later this month.

With these two new earbuds, you can expect Master & Dynamic to start phasing out its first-generation MW07 earbuds. To help them sell out quicker, Master & Dynamic is dropping the price of the original MW07 earbuds to $249, which is $50 off. (You can also expect to find some pretty sweet deals on them from third-party sellers like Amazon, Best Buy and eBay.)

MW07 Plus

The MW07 Plus ($299) earbuds are essentially identical to the first-generation MW07. They’re made of acetate and stainless steel and have the same stainless steel charging case. There are some significant internal upgrades, however. The MW07 Plus earbuds have three times the battery life (each earbud promises to get about 10 hours of listening time with an additional 30 hours provided by the charging case), Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity and a longer connection range (100 feet).

The MW07 Plus have the same 10mm custom Beryllium drivers as their predecessors, so you can expect similar sound quality, but the biggest upgrade is the addition of noise-canceling and ambient listening modes. An interesting new thing is that since there’s no companion app, in order to switch between modes you have to use the tiny buttons on the left earbud. To turn noise-canceling on and off, you hold the “volume -” button, and to turn the ambient mode on and off, you hold the “volume +” button.

The MW07 Plus earbuds are available in three core colorways, tortoiseshell, steel blue and white marble, and they’ll also be available in a Studio 35 x Kevin Durant special edition colorway, which will be black quartz.

MW07 Go

If you’ve ever worn or held the original MW07 earbuds, the MW07 Plus earbuds will be near-on indistinguishable – that’s not the case with the MW07 Go ($199). These new earbuds are 15-percent smaller and lighter than the original MW07, and they have an IPX6 water-resistance rating. They’re not made of acetate, either, with M&D opting for an ultra-durable TR90 composite that, according to the press release, is a “material traditionally used in performance eyewear,” instead. They have a smaller, lighter charging case that’s made out of a technical knit fabric instead of stainless steel. And they come with more ear tip and ear wing sizes, too, because a really snug fit is essential for good workout earbuds.

Even though they’re smaller, the MW07 Go also custom 10mm Beryllium drivers so you shouldn’t suffer too big of a dropoff in sound quality. As far as battery life, M&D claims that each MW07 Go earbud gets about 10 hours of listening time, with the case providing an additional 12 hours total.

The MW07 Go earbuds come in much more bold, primary colors. You can buy them in flame red, jet black, electric blue and stone grey.

The Canon Ivy Rec Is A Capable $130 Action Cam

Like it or not, Canon’s still very much in the game, despite the fact that film format’s heydays are long gone. To keep a firm foothold in the modern market, the company has introduced the Canon Ivy Rec. It’s a $130 action camera with waterproofing, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi — basically all the typical adventure-proof stuff found on cameras in its category.

The portable shooter, out Oct. 16, started life as an Indiegogo project back in July. The main appeal here, compared to other action cameras, is that it’s got a clippable carabiner clip, perfect if your clumsy but also can’t be bothered with fishing it out of your bag each time you want a shot. Don’t worry if it falls — the Canon Ivy Rec is also shockproof.

We can’t determine if the Canon Ivy Rec takes good shots, though, but the specs sheet portend good things. It boasts a 13-megapixel ⅓-inch CMOS sensor in a fixed-focus lens, which sounds okay, but the lack of autofocus may irk some people. It shoots in 4:3 or 1:1 aspect ratio. For video, it takes 1080p footage up to 60fps in 16:9, though each recording has a 10-minute limit.

As mentioned, the Canon Ivy Rec features Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which allows you to send photos or videos to a smartphone via Canon’s Mini Cam companion app. If you prefer it old-fashioned, the device saves content onto a microSD card, which you can connect to a computer to offload your shots. The camera comes with a 660mAh battery, and whether or not this is enough has yet to be tested.


Photos courtesy of Canon

7 Google Chrome Settings You Should Change Right Now

Google Chrome is a powerhouse of a browser that’s been with us since it launched way back in 2008, ushering in a new era of speedy, simple tab-based browsing. These days its not quite as lean as it once was, but it’s risen to be the most popular browser out there.

In the usual course of day-to-day life, you don’t need to spend much time messing around with browser settings: You just open up a tab and off you go. Dive a bit deeper into Chrome though, and you can tweak its settings for a more secure, streamlined experience.

These options, unless stated, can be found on the Settings page inside Chrome on the desktop: Click the three dots to the top right, then choose Settings.

0. Clean up after yourself

Before you get down to tweaking, it’s important to clean up the cruft that’s built up already. If you click Advanced from the Settings page then choose Clear browsing data, you can wipe out all the cookies stored in Chrome, as well as other images and temporary data stored on your local computer.

Use the Advanced tab for more control over what gets deleted, then use the Time range drop-down to choose how far back the clear-out goes. If you want to remove all traces of your browsing on your current computer without affecting the historical browsing history Google has logged for you, click the Sign out button first.

It’s good to do periodically, but especially before you get down to business with other tweaks.

1. Set your browsing data to self-destruct

Google uses the data it collects about you in Chrome to know what you’re going to search for next, or to decide which restaurants it should recommend to you, or to help you get back to something you were looking at weeks ago. It’s up to you how much you trust Google with your data and how you want to balance privacy with convenience.

You can now tell Google to automatically delete your browsing history after three months, so its recommendations and other algorithms are only running from recent data. From the Settings tab, click Sync and Google services, then Control how your browsing history is used, then Manage activity—the three month auto-delete will be one of the options at the top.

2. Control what Google gets to know

Also on the Sync and Google services page from Settings, you can control how much diagnostic data and other information gets sent back to Google for analysis—Google wants this data to spot bugs in Chrome, and to make it easier for you to browse the web (with auto-complete search suggestions) and so on, but you can stop some of this feedback if you want to.

Toggle any of the switches on the right to Off to limit what Chrome is sending back to home base. For example, you can stop sending the URLs of the pages you visit to Google, and turn off the feeding back of statistics about how you use the browser.

3. Sign into Google without signing into Chrome

By default, whenever you sign into a Google service like Gmail, Chrome now also signs you into the browser itself (to sync passwords, browsing history, bookmarks and so on between devices). This is helpful if you’re jumping between different computers and phones a lot, but you might also want to use Gmail or Google Docs without attaching your identity to the Chrome browser you’re using.

The answer is in Settings, under Advanced and then Allow Chrome sign-in. With the toggle switch turned to Off, you can sign in and out of your Google account on the web, but avoid signing into Chrome and linking the browser to your account as well.

4. Turn off annoying notifications

The days of websites being static pages are long gone, and plenty of sites and online apps are going to want to access your webcam and microphone (for video calls perhaps) and your location (for maps and deliveries and so on). These permissions are granted on a site-by-site basis as they’re needed, but you can edit them from a master list too.

On the Settings tab, click Advanced then Site settings. Choose a permission to see which sites have access, then revoke any permissions one by one, or block all requests of a certain type in one fell swoop. The same page lets you control which sites can display notifications on the desktop.

5. Stop certain sites from tracking you

Like other browsers, Chrome lets sites store cookies on your system: These small files keep logs of who you are and your preferences. Cookies might be used to remember your location on a weather site, for example, or to keep you signed in somewhere. Cookies known as third-party cookies can also be used by advertisers to track your browsing across multiple sites (which is why you might see ads for trainers or another specific product everywhere you go).

Head to the Site settings screen (under Advanced from Settings), then click Cookies and site data: From here you can block cookies completely, or just block the more invasive third-party cookies.

If you really want to get extreme, you can toggle the Clear cookies and site data when you quit Chrome switch to On, and the browser effectively gets reset every time you close it down, so you get a clean slate in terms of site logins and targeted ads.

6. Prevent web apps from running in the background

A lot of websites want to keep running in the background even when you shut down Chrome—to keep files syncing to the web, for example, or to alert you the next time you get a tweet.

If you don’t want this to happen, and would rather sites and apps didn’t run when Chrome was closed, open up the Settings tab then click Advanced, and turn the Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed toggle switch to Off.

7. Search multiple sites more quickly

Chrome can support multiple search engines and sites very easily, so you can switch between searching Google, Amazon, Wikipedia and other places with just a few taps on the keyboard. To set this up, click Manage search engines from the Settings tab—you can use the search engines already listed or click Add to add a new one.

You’ll see available search engines and sites listed together with what are called keywords: To run a search on this site, type the keyword then the search term into your browser address bar. For example, you could set up Wikipedia with a “wki” keyword for fast access to the Wikipedia search.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

The Woman Behind Some of the Most Beautiful Handcrafted Cameras

A version of this article originally appeared in Gear Patrol Magazine with the headline “In Good Hands.” Subscribe today

The camera is not a device normally associated with artisanship. Almost invariably, buying a decent camera means choosing a comprehensive ecosystem carefully managed by the likes of Sony, Nikon or Canon. Once you pick your body and lenses, there’s little room for creativity or building out a bespoke setup. Right?

“You’d be surprised how many people modify their cameras,” says Dora Goodman, an Austria-based builder of beautiful, handcrafted cameras. “Many like to customize their old and even new [cameras]. This ‘let me change this’ and ‘let me improve that’ has always been part of photography. I find it inspiring that photographers have the need and motivation to customize their gear.”

Making a camera from scratch is normally a long, complicated process, but Goodman has created something of a wormhole for avid photographers and made it much easier for them to build their own cameras. All her creations are open-source, meaning anybody can download the blueprints for free and create their own version. If that person doesn’t have access to a 3D printer (which, to be fair, most people don’t), Goodman also sells preprinted camera kits.

“The customer only has to buy the magazine and the lens, and it’s all ready to be assembled.”

“I print the whole body, provide all the necessary elements for assembling it, with all the instructions, packed in together in a stylish box,” she says.

Her first open-sourced modular camera, the Goodman One, was designed for 120-format film. It’s just the framework, of course: photographers can easily add their own lenses and bellows for focusing, as well as a digital or analog back. But while her open-sourced designs vary in complexity and assembly time, all of Goodman’s cameras are similarly medium-format and modular, to give the owner creative control over the type of lens or the back, and whether they want to shoot digital or film.

Aside from being more affordable, Goodman’s modular printed designs are more lightweight than conventional medium-format cameras, and easier to carry on the shoulder; mainstream models are clunky, heavy and expensive — a bad combination for portability and spontaneity.

“You feel much more at ease with them than with [a camera] that costs a fortune,” Goodman says, “but the pictures are of equal quality.”

Microsoft’s New Surface Earbuds Are A Premium Audio Delight

Rumours were circulating about Microsoft’s new Surface lineup for 2019. Insiders have been claiming that there would be dual-display devices joining the annual product refresh. Surely enough, at the big reveal, the Surface Neo and Surface Duo made a huge impact. People can’t seem to stop talking about the two upcoming gadgets slated for release next year. However, another surprise reveal was a pair of true wireless earphones. The Surface Earbuds is a premium audio device designed to blend with other Surface products.

The form factor is simple, but stylish, nonetheless. We noticed that Microsoft intentionally gave it a large flat area for a particular purpose. The touch-sensitive area responds to tap, touch, swipe, and other gestures to control the playback. According to the manufacturer, the audio-quality and precision-tuning of its custom drivers will even impress audiophiles. Meanwhile, the dual-microphone layout on each earbud offers superior call quality and voice recognition.

Despite being its first attempt with true-wireless technology, Microsoft seems to be getting everything right. The company claims users can keep the Surface Earbuds on longer than others. The ergonomic shape of the devices should make it feel non-intrusive to our ears. However, the large circular touch area could make it look too big on some individuals.

As expected with most Surface devices, it features some cool functions that allow you to interact with Microsoft Office applications. A swipe of your finger can move through slides in PowerPoint and so much more. The Surface Earbuds come with a charging case to give it a 24-hour boost on top of the 8-hour battery life. It will carry a retail price of $249 and will be available soon.

Order yours now: here

5 High-End Audio Companies Making Products You Can Actually Afford

It’s easy to understand why consumers look at the sky-high prices of high-end audio electronics and loudspeakers and immediately switch gears – they opt instead for something well-reviewed and affordable, like a Sonos or Bose speaker. There’s also the fact that high-end components and speakers tend to require a little more out of the consumer; the setup process tends to be more complicated and there’s more research required (you need to make sure whatever you’re buying will work with what you already have, after all.)

You’d think that the resurgence of vinyl and mainstream adoption of music would hurt high-end audio companies, but it’s actually created an enormous opportunity. It’s given them the chance to appeal to a new generation of listeners who want something better than just an average sounding smart loudspeaker as their stereo. (Especially, now that more streaming services are expected to release high-end lossless versions. Case and point, Amazon Music HD.) The problem is that most of those consumers don’t want to spend upwards of $5,000 on an entry-level audio system.

Fortunately, there are high-end audio brands that understand that quality needs to be affordable.

Cambridge Audio AXA35 Integrated Amplifier

Cambridge Audio recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with the launch of its Edge A integrated amplifier which retails for $5,000, and the $1,700 Alva TT turntable that wirelessly streams your records to any amplifier that can decode Bluetooth aptX HD. For the rest of us with smaller budgets, the AXA35 is a very worthy alternative with a number of features that make it one of the best affordable integrated amplifiers on the market. Its 35-watts-per-channel may not sound like a lot of power, but the AXA35 can drive most bookshelf loudspeakers with very little effort and a surprising degree of low-end control. The internal phono section works like a charm with high-output moving magnet cartridges, and the build quality is second to none at this price point. There is no internal DAC but connect your laptop with an AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt and you have a $650 set-up that takes a backseat to nothing at this level.

Dali iO-6 BT Headphones

Dali is one of the last premier European loudspeaker brands to enter the luxury personal audio category. Its iO-6 BT are active noise-canceling headphones that deliver excellent sound quality with support for both Bluetooth aptX and aptX HD. They utilize a 2-inch paper cone driver that sounds very natural across the entire frequency range, and there is a lot to like about the durable, yet lightweight design that has one of the most flexible headbands we’ve tried so far. Dali has clearly designed the iO-6 for the commuter or business traveler who is concerned about durability and battery life; 30 hours with ANC and the ability to switch to a wired 3.5mm connection at any time.

Klipsch RP-600M Loudspeakers

The legendary brand that brought us the Klipschorn, La Scala, Cornwall and Heresy horn-loaded loudspeakers is suddenly popular again in the world of high-end audio (a reality that has some of its competitors a tad concerned). The Heritage series loudspeakers start at $3,000 for the brand-new Heresy IV, but the model garnering the most attention these days is the RP-600M. These bookshelf speakers offer a glimpse of the Heritage experience but at a much more affordable price; they deliver with better dynamics, presence and pace than any other speaker in its class. If you’ve avoided loudspeakers like the RP-600M because you read somewhere that horn-loaded tweeters can sound too forward, you will be quite surprised by the top end of this loudspeaker that is quite restrained for a Klipsch. The RP-600M are lively transducers, but not fatiguing at all with a warmer sounding amplifier.

PSB Alpha P5 Loudspeakers

Paul Barton has been designing award-winning loudspeakers for almost forty years; earning PSB a global reputation for excellence at prices that are considered affordable in the high-end category. PSB doesn’t refresh its product line-up every year to look trendy – making products like the Alpha P5 newsworthy because of its remarkable performance for the price. These two-way bookshelf loudspeakers look minuscule next to the Klipsch RP-600M or ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2, but there is no question that they offer a more balanced sounding presentation that would work for most people with something like the Cambridge Audio AXA35 integrated amplifier. The Alpha P5 do not require a lot of power and have an excellent bass response for such a small loudspeaker. Pull them out from the wall on a solid pair of stands, and they disappear in your room; leaving you alone with the artist and their music.

Yamaha WXA-50 Streaming Amplifier

If you’re old enough to remember integrated amplifiers like the Yamaha CA-2010 (1977-1980) which delivered power, layers of resolution, and had one of the best internal phono pre-amplifiers around – the WXA-50 Streaming Amplifier is going to be a huge letdown. If you’re looking for an inexpensive desktop amplifier that is powerful (55 watts per channel), compact, and offers access to your favorite streaming services through Yamaha’s MusicCast app, the WXA-50 will be exactly what you’re looking for. Spotify Connect and Apple AirPlay are both supported (using your iOS device or Spotify Premium subscription), and the amplifier features a 24-bit/192kHz DAC for high-resolution audio playback using music stored on a USB thumb drive or networked music server that you can connect via an Ethernet port on the rear of the amplifier.

Samsung Galaxy Fold Review: A Futuristic Phone That Made Me Nostalgic

A version of this article originally appeared in Gear Patrol Magazine with the headline “Samsung Galaxy Fold.” It has been updated to reflect the Galaxy Fold’s redesign and subsequent commercial release. Subscribe today

The Galaxy Fold made me nostalgic. Not because a folding phone is old-fashioned, but because it’s a novel design at a time when smartphones have become anything but — typically nothing more than the same functionalities ported to ever-thinner slabs of screen. But every time I pulled the Fold from my pocket on the subway and opened the already huge, bright screen to the size of a small tablet, I noticed more than a few double-takes. It’s been years since a new smartphone has been able to turn heads.

But if the Fold’s defining feature is an eye-popper, it’s also been a mitigated disaster. You’ve likely read the story: As soon as the $1,980 smartphone made its way into the world, its signature 7.3-inch folding screen, well, broke — either from over-eager prodding, the stresses of daily use or both. Those problems, though, aren’t universal; my Fold showed no signs of coming undone during the week I lived, commuted and worked with it. Nonetheless, Samsung recalled all review loaners early, pushed back the release date and offered refunds to pre-orderers. (Fortunately, it wasn’t literally dangerous, as with the company’s exploding Note 7.) In September, with a handful of minor design changes and reinforcements aimed at durability, the Fold finally made it to market.

Screen snafu or no, the Fold was always going to be a niche product. A foldable smartphone isn’t something everyone needs, or can afford. But the form factor has its appeal among inveterate multitaskers salivating at that truckload of RAM — and the expansive screen that lets you run three apps at once — as well as early adopters who want a conversation piece in their pocket.

The novelty is appealing. Yes, the Fold sports all the best features from Samsung’s flagship S10, but any amount of capability bows to the Fold’s originality. There’s never been a phone quite like this; my hands were drawn to playing with it, exploring the phone’s sheer usability, like being able to watch YouTube videos while perusing my Gmail inbox and Spotify playlist.

The ultimate multitasking potential, though, was limited by drawbacks, like only supporting one audio stream at a time. But that giant, beautiful OLED screen is meant for more than just multitasking. The Fold is essentially a tablet for your pocket: watching Game of Thrones was certainly an upgrade from viewing on an iPhone XS. And with over seven inches on which to play, the ever-more impressive roster of mobile games — especially battle royales like PUBG and Fortnite — have more room to unfold, with more space for on-screen controls that could give a (small) competitive advantage to players better than myself. Plus, the signature crease comes in handy when reading anything actually shaped like a book.

Screen snafu or no, the Fold was always going to be a niche product.

The Fold’s front screen is a bit lackluster compared to the full article, its main purpose seemingly to goad you into opening the full screen. But common apps like Gmail and Google Maps seamlessly jump from the front to the main screen when you unfold — wandering my way through Manhattan I was able to keep tabs on my general location with a glance at the front, while unfolding when necessary for greater context.

These features might seem like small change relative to the Fold’s exorbitant price, and for the most part that’s true — especially because the phone’s far from perfect. The crease down the center is still visible under some light, and it’s roughly twice the thickness of every other smartphone, which makes it a pain to slide into your pocket. Also, I was never really able to open the Fold one-handed; the magnets were too strong.

[embedded content]

Despite the kinks and the price, my time with the Fold convinced me that the premise of a folding phone remains sound. Shrinking a tablet-sized screen down to smartphone dimensions, allowing it to fit in your pocket, is extremely cool. That’s why everyone is trying to get it right. Huawei’s Mate X, also scheduled for release this summer (trade wars notwithstanding), sports its main screen outside a clamshell fold, rather than inside; it’s an interesting alternative, but given the fragility of Samsung’s folding screen you’d be right to be nervous about shelling out for one just yet. There’s still a lot of experimenting to be done.

iPhone-level sales were never in the cards for the Galaxy Fold, even before the screen issues. It’s too expensive, and its flagship tricks aren’t quite life-changing enough to justify the price tag. But it looks and feels like a radical departure from the endless parade of identical smartphones. That’s key: the Fold itself might have stumbled, but the concept has promise. It’s just a question of who will execute it best.

Samsung provided this product for review.

The Steel Speaker Is Handcrafted Perfection

Remember the super awesome Transparent Speaker? Well, the folks behind that made another jaw-dropping product — the Steel Speaker. It comes part of an extremely limited range of handcrafted speakers called Upcrafted, which consists of three speakers.

One in wood, one in ceramics, and one in steel, with each crafted from recycled materials. The Steel Speaker is arguably the most awe-striking of the three. Jonas Majors did the dirty work for this slick-looking speaker. It was made with only the most essential elements and showcases the raw metal texture of aged steel, here repurposed to perfection.

The limited-edition piece comes with offers high-fidelity sound via two 3-inch drivers. Also here to beef up sound quality? A 6.5-inch woofer and a built-in amplifier. The Steel Speaker also features Bluetooth, which means you can connect it to phones, tablets, and computers. It even supports all the major casting platforms like Apple AirPlay, Sonos, plus digital assistants including Amazon Echo and Google Assistant.

Design comes courtesy of Transparent Sound, the genius folks behind the aforementioned Transparent Speaker. The clean-lined Steel Speaker features a highly minimal look, but not minimal sound quality. If you’re into brutalist interior design, this would make a perfect addition to your living room. The black metal accents shine as the cherry on top of an already gorgeous unit.

Check out the Steel Speaker’s specs when you hit the link below. May we remind you that this doesn’t come cheap. Expect to shell out a couple of thousand dollars to get this bad boy.


Is This Still the Perfect Entry-Level Smartwatch?

Last fall, Fitbit released the Fitbit Versa – and I loved it. It was a simple-to-use smartwatch that was slim and bespoke, relatively affordable, an excellent fitness tracker and it had a battery life that lasted nearly a week. It was a great entry-level smartwatch for basically anybody, but especially casual smartwatch wearers, and it worked equally well with both iPhone and Android.

The next generation of that smartwatch, the Versa 2, doesn’t mess too much with last year’s success. It has the same relative look and feel of the original Versa, but Fitbit updated in nearly every way. It has an even simpler design, a better processor, a new OLED display (a welcome improvement over the Versa’s LCD display), and improved sleep tracking. The most “touted” new feature is the addition of Alexa integration, so you can tell the smartwatch to do things like set alarms and control your other compatible smart home devices. Lastly is price: the Versa 2 comes exactly the same as last year’s Versa.


The Good: The Versa 2 is a better entry-level smartwatch than last year’s Versa, which is something you’d both expect and welcome. The two most important upgrades are that the Versa two now has an always-on display (if you select it) and superior sleep tracking feature, called Sleep Score, which gives you a nice little rating out of 100 – the higher the number, the better your sleep. If you’re fine wearing a smartwatch to bed and you want to track your sleep, the Versa 2 is exactly what you want.

As was true with the Versa, a huge selling point of the Versa 2 is its battery life. If you elect to not have an always-on display (it’s off by default) the Versa 2 can last between five and six days on a single charge; if you have the always-on display, it lasts around three days. Either way, this battery life which is huge, especially when you consider an Apple Watch lasts roughly 18 hours and is not designed to wear while you’re sleeping.

There are two other big reasons to buy a Versa 2. First, it’s solid and intuitive fitness-tracking abilities. It has an always-on heart-rate monitor and can accurately track things like steps and calories. It also, like the Apple Watch, has automatic workout detection, so if you forget to start a walk, run, bike ride or pool workout, the smartwatch won’t skip a beat. And secondly, the Versa 2 is very slim and lightweight, and it’s one of the most comfortable smartwatches that I’ve ever worn.

Who It’s For: The Versa 2 is an entry-level smartwatch designed for anybody who wants a good fitness tracker with some smartwatch-y features (like see call and text notifications, and control music). If you’re somebody who wants to keep track of your sleeping, the Versa 2 is particularly good. It works equally well for iPhone and Android users.

Watch Out For: The new Alexa integration might come as a welcome addition for some, but it really shouldn’t be the main reason to buy this smartwatch. The fact is that most people don’t really need (or want) to talk to Alexa when they’re outside the house. Also, talking to Alexa on the Versa 2 isn’t like talking to Siri on the Apple Watch. For instance, you can’t tell Alexa to send text messages, open certain apps or even play/pause music; all it can do is answer specific queries (“Alexa, what’s the weather?”), set timers and alarms, and control some of your connected smart home gadgets. The other thing is that there’s no speaker, so you won’t be able to hear Alexa and all its answers will just appear on the screen – it’s far from a seamless experience.

As was true with the Versa, the Versa 2 lacks a dedicated GPS, meaning if you want reliable workout data you’ll have to have your smartphone nearby. This is a big bummer for runners. There’s also no LTE model available for the Versa 2.

There’s a new Spotify app that’s available on the Versa 2, which isn’t available on the Versa, but it’s not super helpful. Like with the Apple Watch, the Spotify app on the Versa 2 doesn’t let you download anything (playlists, albums, songs, podcasts) for offline listening. If you’re a Spotify Premium subscriber, only a select few Garmin and Samsung smartwatches do this.

Also, the Versa 2 still comes with a proprietary charger. The annoying thing is that it looks and feels just like the proprietary charger that came with the original Versa, which I didn’t like to begin with, but it’s actually not the same and won’t work with previous Versa smartwatches. I still have and use my Versa, and mixed up the chargers on several occasions, which was obviously frustrating.

Alternatives: Fitbit has a right to feel frustrated after the latest Apple hardware announcements. That’s because, in addition to announcing new high-end Apple Watches, Apple also dramatically reduced the price of its two-year-old smartwatch – you can now buy an Apple Watch Series 3 for $200, which is the exact price of the Fitbit Versa 2. Basically, if you have an iPhone and you want an entry-level smartwatch that works well with it, the Series 3 is probably a better bet.

Verdict: The Versa 2 is a better version of last year’s Versa, which was the best entry-level smartwatch for most people, Android or iPhone owner, who just wanted an easy-to-use smartwatch to track fitness. A year later, the Versa 2’s main problem is that there’s more competition, especially within its $200 price range. The Versa 2’s best qualities are its 6-day battery life, its great fitness and sleep tracking, and it’s super-slim design. If you those things are important to you, then the Versa 2 remains one of the best – if not the best – entry-level smartwatches you can buy. However, the reality is that the Versa 2 will feel more like a glorified fitness tracker than an actual smartwatch, especially if you have an iPhone or Samsung smartphone.

What Others Are Saying:

• “If you’re not wedded to Fitbit’s platform, the Versa 2 is a harder sell when you compare it with other $200 smartwatches, such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active and the Apple Watch Series 3, which both have GPS, onboard music storage and contactless payments. One feature that could set the Versa 2 apart is Fitbit’s new subscription service, but it will take a lot to convince me to spend $80 more per year. Still, the Versa 2 is a very good fitness-focused smartwatch that offers plenty of insights into your overall health, subscription or not.” — Mike Prospero, Tom’s Guide

• “Overall, the Versa 2’s fitness tracking features are the best and most comprehensive you’ll find on any smartwatch, even though it doesn’t have a dedicated GPS radio and relies on your phone for GPS tracking.” — Dan Seifert, The Verge

• “If not for its connectivity problems, the Versa 2 would be an excellent smartwatch. It offers accurate, comprehensive fitness features and a nice design for a reasonable price. It’s also one of the longest-lasting smartwatches around, while the Alexa integration makes it more useful than its predecessor. I just wish Fitbit would get its Bluetooth act together already, and give me a better OS.” — Cherlynn Low, Engadget

Key Specs

Display: 300 x 300 pixel touchscreen AMOLED
Water resistance: swimproof; up to 50 meters
Sensors: 3-axis accelerometer, optical heart rate monitor, altimeter, ambient light sensor, vibration motor, NFC
Battery life: up to 6 days; ~3 days with always-on display


Fitbit provided this product for review.

Read More Gear Patrol Reviews

Hot takes and in-depth reviews on noteworthy, relevant and interesting products. Read the Story
Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

The 8BitDo Lite Bluetooth Gamepad Will Match Your Nintendo Switch Lite

Gamers holding off from buying the original Nintendo Switch are finally getting a slightly better one this year. The new version pretty much offers the same thing as the original but boasts a better battery life. Moreover, those who were hoping for a smaller and cheaper option purely for handheld use can grab the Switch Lite instead. The latter is the most recent one to hit retailers and comes in three stunning colorways. Now, 8BitDo is offering a new set of controllers that will match the latest hybrid game system. Hence, it’s time to check out what the 8BitDo Lite Bluetooth gamepad brings to the table.

For those of you that are unaware of what the Switch Lite is doing differently, should know that the Joy-Cons are now built-in. It means that playing local multiplayer games on the game system requires another unit or controller. We know it’s a bummer, but at least all of the first-party and third-party controllers are still compatible.  8bitDo is known for the retro aesthetics of its products and the Lite Bluetooth gamepad oozes with an old-school flavor.

8BitDo made sure to slather the new wireless controllers in the same shade as the console. This is a big plus for certain gamers who want their accessories to match their new handheld game system. Moreover, you’ll notice that the in place of the analog sticks are directional pads instead. This adds an old-school vibe and makes it easier to navigate some classic games available on the system. Its currently up for preorder and should drop before October 2019 ends. It is a solid wireless gamepad that is compatible not only with the Switch Lite but also works with PC, Android, and other Switch models.

Proorder it now: here

Images courtesy of 8BitDo

The Samsung AirDresser Is A Closet That Cleans Clothes

You know Samsung makes some of the best phones of this generation, but did you know it also has other cool stuff as well? Its latest smart product is the Samsung AirDresser. Is it a closet? A mirror? Is it a steam pressure? Well, how about all of the above?

The Samsung AirDresser is a standalone closet that not only stores your clothes, but also cleans and straightens them out. Just hang them up inside and walk away. Simple as that. Much like the LG Styler, the idea is you hang your shirts, pants, sweaters, and other articles of clothing, and leave them to be heated and steamed as you attend to other tasks.

The Samsung AirDresser debuted at the IFA 2019 consumer trade show. It should appeal to business yuppies pressed for time each day when it comes to neat clothing. The fact that it looks and feels like a closet is one of the greatest factors of the Samsung AirDresser. No need to hide it in the basement. It’ll blend perfectly inside any chic bedroom.

As for the specs, you get a JetAir system and Air Hangers to blast your clothes with rapid-moving air. You’ll also find a Jet Steam system that sanitizes your clothes, plus various filters and dryers for the complete experience.

Samsung has yet to announce a price point for this bad boy, though based on similar devices, expect somewhere between $1,00 to $2,000. The LG Styler cost $1,999 when it came out in 2015, and the Samsung AirDresser appears closest in terms of form and function. Expect a price tag hovering around that mark.


5 Affordable Turntables Than Even Audiophiles Would Want

When discussing turntables, audiophiles tend to bristle if you utter the expression “entry-level.” But the reality is that the brands offering turntable packages understand that the vast majority of first-time buyers see $500 as their ceiling. And that $500 turntable is expected to plug-n-play, be reasonably well made, and sound phenomenal as well.

Established high-end audio brands like Pro-Ject, Rega, and Audio-Technica have decades of experience building high-performance turntables and wisely chose to embrace this new generation of listeners with entry-level packages that can stand the test of time. Affordable audiophile-grade turntables have taken massive strides in both build and playback quality – making them worthy analog sources that will bring justice to your record collection at a price that won’t break the bank.

U-Turn Orbit Custom

This turntable is upgraded with a Grado Black cartridge and a Pluto Phono pre-amplifier, both of which can be added when purchasing from U-Turn Audio’s website.

U-Turn Audio was one of the first American turntable manufacturers to take advantage of the resurgence of vinyl with affordable tables hand-built in Massachusetts made from American-sourced parts. Fast forward seven years to 2019, and we find this upstart brand offering entry-level turntables priced below $500; that have real hardwood plinths, acrylic platters, and their internal Pluto phono stage which can be bypassed if your existing amplifier already offers a phono pre-amplifier. U-Turn offers a limited selection of moving magnet phono cartridges from Ortofon, Audio-Technica, and Grado Labs to finish off your table. The Grado Black1 keeps this remarkably confident-sounding entry-level turntable affordable and audiophile approved.

Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB

Pro-Ject Audio Systems are the leading manufacturer of audiophile turntables in the world; their brand-new manufacturing facilities in Slovakia and the Czech Republic produce 100,000 audiophile tables a year for both the Pro-Ject brand and many others. That level of volume allows them to offer turntables like the T1 Phono SB which includes electronic speed control, dustcover, built-in phono pre-amplifier, and Ortofon OM5e moving magnet phono cartridge for only $349. It’s rare to find a heavyweight glass platter on an entry-level turntable, but Pro-Ject has provided the T1 SB with that added level of performance that makes it stand out against the competition. The one-piece aluminum tonearm is not as fancy as the carbon fiber variety that Pro-Ject supplies on its more expensive tables, but it works well with the supplied cartridge.

Rega Planar 1 Plus

Rega have been building audiophile-approved turntables in the United Kingdom for more than 40 years; the RB-300 series tonearms are one of the best-selling high-end audio components in history. The Planar series turntables are considered a benchmark in affordable high-end design – products that are known to play nicely in the sandbox with a wide range of cartridges, and big on what the Brits call “PRaT’ (Pace, Rhythm and Timing). Rega tables run a little fast creating that boogie factor, something that you’ll notice about the Planar 1 Plus that includes a Rega Carbon cartridge, internal phono pre-amplifier based on their excellent FONO stage and RB-110 tonearm. Some Rega fans view the entry-level package as a step-down in quality from a basic Planar 1, but it’s hard to dismiss the quality of the overall package that is true to the Rega creed.

Fluance RT85

Audiophiles often dismiss entry-level tables for using MDF plinths, cheap tonearms, and bargain-basement cartridges, but none of those criticisms could be leveled at the Fluance RT85. With a solid wood plinth, acrylic platter, 9-inch aluminum tonearm, and pre-installed Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge, the RT85 is a genuine audiophile turntable that delivers speed stability, a dynamic sounding presentation, and a lot of performance for the money. The only item not included in the box with the Fluance RT85 is a phono pre-amplifier which will run users between $130 for a Schiit Audio Mani or Moon by SimAudio 110LP V2 which retails for $399. Both work exceptionally well with the Ortofon 2M Blue and would elevate the sound of the RT85 to end-game table performance for most people assembling an entry-level high-end audio system.

Audio-Technica AT-LP5x USB

Audio-Technica turntables are very popular for a simple reason; they offer great bang for the buck. They may not offer the construction quality of the better entry-level tables from Pro-Ject or Fluance, but they come standard with quality moving magnet cartridges that can be upgraded for a small increase in price. Audio-Technica makes uber-expensive phono cartridges like the AT-ART1000 which retails for $4,999.95 so the brand is not without high-end credibility. Just released at IFA 2019 in Berlin, the AT-LP5x USB turntable is a direct drive turntable equipped with a die-cast aluminum platter, external power supply, pre-mounted AT-VM95E cartridge, support for 78 RPM playback, internal phono pre-amp, and USB output for those who want to digitize their vinyl. The AT-LP5x USB is well-built, quiet in the groove, and sounds balanced and forceful at a very affordable price.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

This MacBook Charger Is So Tiny It Can Fit In Your Pocket

The Magazine

Each issue of Gear Patrol Magazine is a deep dive into product culture. Inside, you’ll find seasonal buying guides, rich maker profiles and long-form dispatches from the front lines of product design. The stunningly designed Gear Patrol Magazine is ready for your coffee table. Quarterly. $39

The Newsletter

Get the best new products, deals, and stories from across the world, in your inbox daily.

The Chromecast and Fire TV Just Lost Their Biggest Downsides

For far too long, Google’s Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV devices have each had a significant flaw: neither could use the competitor’s streaming service. No Prime Video on the Chromecast, no YouTube on the Fire TV. Now, thanks to a hard-won truce between Google and Amazon, the battle is over and both gadgets will benefit.

The streaming slapfight dates back to 2015, when Amazon stopped selling Google’s streaming devices on its website, which lead to a back-and-forth escalation that ultimately lead to the stalemate of incompatibility. Now, after an announcement earlier this year, the thaw has finally arrived and both devices support the services they’ve been missing.

The result is that Google’s $35 third-generation Chromecast and Amazon’s $40 1080p Fire Stick are now effectively do-it-all devices, though the $30 Roku Express still has both beat on price. (For 4K compatibility, Google’s offering is $69, Amazon’s is $50 and Roku’s is $40.)

The fight isn’t totally over yet, because the dueling streaming services still aren’t available for a few of their competitors’ smart devices, namely the Google Home Hub and Amazon Echo Show. But this is progress.

Amazon’s New Echo Studio Smart Speaker Actually Sounds Good

As much as we’ve grown to rely on the convenience and the myriad of features available with Amazon Echo devices–you know what we’re talking about if you’ve ever attempted to yell at Alexa to set…

The Skullcandy Crusher ANC Is For Bassheads

Skullcandy is back in the game. Not that it really left, just that other names became bigger while it receded a bit in the background as we began transitioning to the wireless era. The Skullcandy Crusher ANC brings back the brand’s famous Crusher headphones, which has been offering thumping bass tones since 2013.

Then, in 2016, Skullcandy introduced a wireless version and followed that up with “an ultra-realistic sensory bass experience” on the Crusher 360 just last year. The latest model, called the Crusher ANC, comes with a radical new feature: active noise cancellation.

Like the predecessors before it, the Crusher ANC offers adjustable haptic low-end tone, the trademark feature of this headphone series. Dubbed as “adjustable sensory bass,” this new feature allows you to control the level of bass. With an actual slider built right into the headphones, that is.

According to Skullcandy, the Crusher ANC features the “broadest range of adjustable sensory bass” of any model in its collection so far. You can make the sound even more personal using the Skullcandy app, too. It allows you to toggle a few switches and apply itty-bitty tweaks. So you can adjust the sound profile exactly to your liking. You can also set sound profiles so you don’t have to go through all those settings again.

As for the active noise cancellation, here, according to Skullcandy, it works through “actively” monitoring your environment to block out any noise. The Crusher ANC also has a functionality typical of modern headphones: ambient sound mode. This disables the noise cancelation with a tap, useful for certain situations like quick conversations with people.


Continental Teases The Future Of Mobility With Its Conti C.A.R.E. Smart Tire System

Over the years, automobiles have seen a big jump in innovation. These upgrades make modern vehicles safer, drive faster, handle better, and reduce environmental impact. All the aforementioned elements can be found on most EVs and improvements are not stopping anytime soon. The humble tire is often a neglected piece of modern technology that plays an important role while we drive. It’s responsible for transferring all that power into traction as it pushes our machines forward. Continental is hoping to make some cutting-changes with the Conti C.A.R.E Smart Tire System.

Getting a flat tire is never a fun situation during your travels. Replacing the deflated one with a spare is not an easy task. Under the blazing sun or in a freezing snowstorm, nobody wants to be outside servicing their vehicles. In hindsight, there are innovative concepts out there that have great potential to replace the classic pneumatic rubbers. However, these have yet to undergo a lot of testing before any of them become the new standard.

The industry is likewise exploring the feasibility of self-driving vehicles. And a flat tire is one of the many problems that impede implementation. Requiring passengers to step down and manually replace the wheels ruins the futuristic experience. Thus, Continental wants to help by automating the process. The Conti C.A.R.E Smart Tire System will feature sensors that can detect tire pressure and use a pumping system to regulate everything to recommended specifications. Just remember that properly inflated tires are safer, lasts longer, and boosts fuel economy on the road.

More information here

Images courtesy of Continental

Amazon’s New Noise-Canceling Earbuds: Here Are My First Impressions

One of the star products to be announced at Amazon’s big hardware event today was the Echo Buds ($130), the company’s first true wireless earbuds. Not only do they undercut the cost of most true wireless earbuds, including AirPods, but Amazon revealed that they’ve partnered with Bose to integrate its noise-canceling technology into the Echo Buds. That’s right, these are noise-canceling wireless earbuds that cost just $130.

After the event, I was able to get a little hands-on time with Echo Buds and was even able to listen to two songs (“Trampoline by Shaed” and Bruce Springsteen’s “For You”) and here are my initial thoughts.

The sound quality of the Echo Buds immediately impressed me, especially considering that they are $130 earbuds. It was loud with good mids and strong bass. I’ve tested many affordable true wireless earbuds in the past two-plus years and these were right in the middle of the pack.

The noise-canceling ability was also good, but I think I’m still skeptical about it. I tested the Echo Buds in a crowded room with many journalists and product managers, and I could barely hear the noise around me – which is exactly what you want. That said, these earbuds fit really snug, meaning I’m not sure if it was Bose’s noise-canceling technology that was working its magic or it was just the natural noise isolation of the earbuds pressing right against in my ears. I’ll have to wait until I get to test the Echo Buds for a bit longer to confirm.

If sound quality and noise-canceling abilities of the Echo Buds were the two good things that jumped out at me, there were a few other things that gave me pause for concern.

First, the Echo Buds require you to download and use the Alexa app to get the most out of them, which I’m not sure many people actually want to do. You need the Echo Buds setup properly in your Alexa app to enable the noise-cancellation and the “Hey Alexa” features. That said, if you use them straight out of the box without using the Alexa app, they’ll still work just like traditional Bluetooth earbuds.

Second, why micro-USB? Almost every company making new true wireless earbuds now have gone with a USB-C port. It charges the case (and, thus, the earbuds) faster. It also allows you to charge your earbuds with the same charger you use with a new laptop, Nintendo Switch or even a new pair of headphones. Everybody is using USB-C and Amazon should have too.

Third, I’m not sure that many people want Alexa to be integrated in their wireless earbuds. Most headphones are already compatible with the virtual assistant on your smartphone, to do things like play/pause music or call people in your phone book, so there’s really little need to have another virtual assistant listening to you. (Although, you can of course stop Alexa from listening to you within the Alexa app.)

Lastly, the Echo Buds are priced affordably because they don’t exactly look premium. They’re nowhere near as good looking as Master & Dynamic MW07s or Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless. And they also feel pretty inexpensive, too (plastic).

I can’t help but be impressed by Amazon’s first true wireless earbuds. They have Bose’s noise-canceling technology, after all, even before Bose has been able to put noise-canceling into their own true wireless earbuds, which is just crazy to think about. Then again, there might be a reason for that. Bose is gearing up to release the Bose Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700 in early 2020, and they’re likely to be much better (and much more expensive) than Amazon’s Echo Buds.

The Echo Buds ($130) are available for pre-order right now. Amazon will release them by October 30.