Trends with Benefits podcast

The continuing evolution of Visual Effects never ceases to amaze, when it comes to the Academy Awards nominees. On this episode we will be covering the Oscar nominees of 2020, The Lion King, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, The Irishman, Avengers: Endgame, and 1917.

Today’s podcast cast includes: Caleb Denison, Adrien Warner, Ryan Waniata, and Greg Nibler.

Trends with Benefits

Each week, we gather a roundtable of tech experts, along with celebrity guests to discuss all things technology-related on Trends with Benefits. We will recap the most important tech stories to surface throughout the week and include any late breaking tech headlines. This is your go to source for topical, informative, fun conversations about the technology that is changing our lives, all in a one-of-a-kind podcast.

Trends with Benefits also streams live each week at 2:30 p.m. PT. The video podcast is available on Facebook,  YouTube and Twitch, giving you the opportunity to join in and ask questions. You’ll get your chance to voice your opinions along with the experts on the show.

Every week the podcast is different, covering the entire range of tech topics available at Digital Trends: Smart home devices and smart speakers are evolving rapidly. They provide new levels of convenience at home, but does Google Home or Amazon Alexa invade your privacy?

With how essential smartphones are to everyday life, Trends with Benefits dices deep into all the latest iPhone and Android news, along with providing real life reviews of all the newest phones.

How we watch television is evolving as streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video compete with cable companies. The TV in your living room is also transforming to take advantage of cord-cutting. Our TV expert Caleb Denison weighs in with all the latest inside information on where TV trends are headed. For weekly recommendations of what shows to stream and movies to watch listen to our other podcast Between the Streams.

Nearly anything Elon Musk does is fair game to talk about on Trends with Benefits. From Tesla to SpaceX to the Boring Co. we cover it all.

Other regular topics include virtual reality and augmented reality, the latest gaming consoles, artificial intelligence (AI) and robots. We love to talk about robots.

Be sure to catch each half-hour episode. Please subscribe now and share Trends with Benefits with your fellow tech enthusiasts. Send in your questions to podcast@digitaltrends.com.

Host Greg Nibler @GregNibler is a media personality, writer, actor, and all around funny guy. Check out his other podcast Funemployent Radio.

Other regular guests include:

The best Nintendo Switch games (February 2020)

The new year has been good to the Nintendo Switch. The console/handheld hybrid has enjoyed a lofty time on the market already, but a slew of promising ports in the first few months of the year has eased Christmas 2019 adopters into a healthy diet of new titles to enjoy.

Ports of existing gems like To the Moon and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encoure cover two sides of the RPG market, whereas the newly completed Kentucky Route Zero has something for those who like to settle down with a classic point-and-click adventure. Whatever you’re in the market for, we rounded up the best Nintendo Switch games you can find, with just the right amount of context to fuel your next obsession.

Astral Chain

PlatinumGames has established itself as one of the best action game studios in the world, with critical darlings like Bayonetta 2 and the existential Nier: AutomataAutomata lead designer Takahisa Taura was given his first chance to direct with the Switch-exclusive Astral Chain, which doubles down on the insane action that PlatinumGames has prided itself on for the last decade. Rather than the post-apocalypse, you’re in a bustling city that is under attack by mysterious interdimensional forces, and it’s up to you to stop it.

You won’t work alone, however, as Astral Chain pairs the protagonist with several “Legion” characters who can attack in unison. This mix of direct and indirect combat is at the heart of the game, but you will also investigate mysteries and solve puzzles along the way. And you can pet the game’s dog-like Legion, so you know it’s good.

Hotline Miami Collection

One of the most stylish and innovative action games to release in the last decade, the original Hotline Miami was oozing with ’80s Miami Vice flair, but it was its ridiculously tough shooting combat that won players over. With death coming swiftly for both you and your enemies, it demands your full attention, and its bundled with the sequel Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number on Switch. Of course, as you play you will have to ask yourself a tough question: “Do you like hurting other people?”

The Switch itself is also an ideal platform for the game, as its simple control scheme doesn’t need a full-sized controller to be used effectively. All you need are your wits and your attention span, because failing to notice the positions of all the enemies in a building will be your downfall. If that happens at the end of a stage, it’s absolutely devastating, and will give you the angry burst of energy and drive you’ll need to beat it on the next try.

My Friend Pedro

What do you get when you combine the precision-shot action of Hotline Miami, the acrobatics of Trials, and the slow-motion bullet time effect from the Max Payne series? If that formula also includes one sentient banana, then you are either tripping on acid or playing My Friend Pedro. Split across several creative and perplexing levels, your goal is simple: Kill everyone and reach the exit. That’s easier said than done, of course, especially when turrets are locking onto your position to deliver a torrential downpour of bullets.

My Friend Pedro is the perfect game to play in the Switch’s handheld mode, too, because a level typically only takes a few minutes to complete. A surreal story gradually unravels as you progress, and special vehicular sections offer a nice burst of all-out action that differs from the methodical play of the rest of the game.

Enter the Gungeon

Developed by Dodge Roll and published by renowned indie studio Devolver Digital, Enter the Gungeon is one of the Switch’s absolute must-play indie titles. Enter the Gungeon is a challenging dungeon crawler with twitchy shooting mechanics and copious amounts of loot to uncover. It’s also a roguelike, though not in the traditional sense. All rooms stay the same, but the enemies, treasure, and location of the rooms are randomly generated.

Working your way deeper and deeper into the dungeon is a difficult task filled with worthwhile rewards. With great mechanics, entertaining lore, and mysteries to discover in every dark corner, Enter the Gungeon is an enthralling action experience. Although available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, the top-down retro aesthetic feels great when playing in handheld mode on the Nintendo Switch.

Splatoon 2

The original Splatoon reinvented the multiplayer shooter by taking the emphasis off of simply eliminating enemies, and its unique ink-spraying online matches were unlike anything we had ever seen before. The Switch sequel, Splatoon 2, largely sticks to the formula we saw previously, but its inventive new multiplayer maps and weapons make the game even more engaging. The game’s humor is also back in full force, with puns galore and user-created artwork that is both hilarious and terrifying.

For those more interested in playing cooperatively, the Salmon Run mode is a great addition to Splatoon 2. Groups of four players must collect golden eggs while fending off waves of evil Salmonids, and it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. Just make sure all your friends have their own systems, as the game doesn’t support split-screen multiplayer.

Ape Out

Ape Out is a top-down kill fest starring an ape that makes humans explode into a pile of blood-soaked limbs. The latest game from Devolver Digital is simplistic but wonderful. In each of the game’s four chapters, you’re tasked with navigating an ape from captivity to freedom. The road to freedom is paved with gun-wielding guards that will shoot rather than ask questions. Thankfully, you can turn every guard into mush by shoving them, or you can use them as body shields before tossing them aside.

Ape Out maintains an addictive rhythm thanks to its jazzy soundtrack that interacts with what is happening on screen. Snare drums beat continuously, picking up the pace when in danger, and cymbals crash to mark the deaths of enemies. Ape is challenging but never feels unfair. Randomization keeps each successive retry feel as intense as the last.

No new DLC planned for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate beyond second Fighter Pass

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate received a sixth downloadable fighter on January 28and another batch of characters is in the works, but the 2018 release is nearing the end of its life span. Game director Masahiro Sakurai confirmed that the upcoming Fighter Pass Vol. 2 will be Ultimate’s final DLC.

The information comes from Sakurai’s latest column for Famitsu where he outlined the end of Smash’s content plans and said Nintendo isn’t working on the next Super Smash Bros. installment, either. That makes sense considering that there has never been more than one Smash Bros. game per Nintendo system.

The Fighter Pass will feature another six downloadable characters, all of which are chosen by Nintendo, according to Sakurai. All of the new characters will come to the game by January 31, 2021, meaning the game’s life cycle will span three years.

By Nintendo’s standards, three years is a long time for Switch games. Splatoon 2 got regular updates for a year and a half following its release while Arms stopped receiving new content after six months.

Despite the generous timeline, the revelation may make fans wary. With only six characters left, Nintendo only has a few opportunities to grant players’ loftiest wishes. Ultimate’s first fighter pack ended with a whimper when Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ hero Byleth became the game’s 75th character. Many fans were disappointed by the announcement, and Sakurai agreed there are too many sword characters.

Even with the end looming, the final characters won’t spell the end for Nintendo’s hit multiplayer game. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is still a staple of the competitive fighting game circuit, and it shows no signs of slowing down in popularity. It will once again grace EVO’s stage this year, replacing Super Smash Bros. Melee for the second year in a row.

As for the game’s director, Sakurai is free to move on to new projects once Ultimate support ends. In his column, Sakurai notes that he was unable to work on anything else during Smash Bros. development. The last non-Smash project that Sakurai worked on was 2012’s Kid Icarus: Uprising, so hopefully, the beloved director will get a chance to work on something new in 2022.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus vs. iPhone 11 Pro Max: Get Plus or go Max?

Love a big phone? The new Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is one of the biggest and best around, with a massive 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED display and an incredibly versatile quad-lens camera. But it’s not the only big phone out there, and it seems everyone has one they prefer. For many, Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max is the big phone of choice, with powerful flagship hardware, a long-lasting battery, and a jaw-droppingly good camera.

If you’re due an upgrade, or simply want something new and shiny, both of these massive, powerful flagships are tempting purchases. But at over $1,000 for each, it’s unlikely you can buy both. Which is better for you? We found out.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
Size 161.9 x 73.7 x 7.8 mm (6.4 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches) 158 x 77.8 x 8.1mm (6.22 x 3.06 x 0.32 inches)
Weight 186 grams (6.6 ounces) 226 grams (7.97 ounces)
Screen size 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.5-inch Super Retina XDR OLED
Screen resolution 3200 x 1440 pixels (525 pixels per inch) 2688 x 1242 pixels (458 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 10 (under One UI 2.0) iOS 13
Storage space 128, 512GB 64, 256, 512GB
MicroSD card slot Yes, up to 1TB No
Tap-to-pay services Samsung Pay, Google Pay Apple Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Apple A13 Bionic chip
RAM 12GB 4GB
Camera Quad lens 12-megapixel, 64-megapixel telephoto lens, 12-megapixel ultrawide lens, and ToF sensor rear, 10-megapixel front Triple lens 12MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide, and 12MP telephoto rear; 12MP TrueDepth front
Video 8K at 30 fps, 4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps 4K at up to 60 frames-per-second, 1080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C Lightning
Fingerprint sensor Yes, in-display No, Face ID instead
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 4,500mAhFast charging (25W)

Qi wireless charging

3,969mAhFast charging (18W)

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Apple App Store
Network support AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon
Colors Cosmic Gray, Cloud Blue, Cosmic Black Midnight Green, Space Grey, Silver, Gold
Price $1,200 $1,100
Buy from Samsung, AT&T Apple, Best Buy
Review score Hands-on review 4.5 out of 5 stars

Looks aren’t everything, but when you’re spending so much, you want something you can show off. Thankfully, both of these phones are stunners. The Galaxy S20 Plus is probably the more unique of the two, with a sleek bezel-less design with curved edges, and a single hole-punch for the selfie camera. But the iPhone 11 Pro Max is no ugly duckling, and while the notch is sizable, the bezel-less design is no less stunning.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a slightly smaller display, but it’s still huge. The 6.5-inch Super Retina XDR display runs a 2688 x 1242 pixel resolution, and it’s crisp with deep colors and inky blacks. The S20 Plus’ 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display has a sharper 3200 x 1440 pixel resolution, though you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference in real use. The S20 Plus’ display also has the option for a super-smooth 120Hz refresh rate, which will please gamers.

There’s a substantial difference in weight though, and that’s down to build materials. The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a stainless steel frame, which is likely to be stronger than the S20 Plus’ aluminum frame. Durability differences end there though, and both have an IP68-rating for dust and water-resistance.

It’s very hard to separate these two, but based on the screen, the S20 Plus has to take the win.

There’s power-a-plenty here, and both phones have top flagship specs. The S20 Plus is rocking the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, while the iPhone uses Apple’s A13 Bionic processor. Benchmark scores between the two processors are split as to which is the more powerful, but what’s sure is you’re not going to lack power either way. Both phones will offer smooth performance in apps and games alike.

The S20 Plus has three times more RAM than the iPhone, but this isn’t the slam dunk you’d expect since iOS and Android handle RAM differently. But there’s more of a difference with storage. Apple really needs to ditch 64GB as a storage option on the basic iPhone, as it just isn’t enough. The S20 Plus starts at 128GB, and has support for 1TB MicroSD cards as well. The iPhone’s 256GB and 512GB models are better, but paying over $1,000 for 64GB of storage just isn’t acceptable.

Things are rosier for the iPhone where battery life is concerned. A full charge will take you into the next day and beyond, with our review unit hitting 35% at 5 a.m. after coming off the charger at 8 a.m. the day before. We haven’t had a chance to test the S20 Plus’ battery yet, but we’re not sure if it will be able to match that feat. The S20 Plus’ 25W charging is faster than the iPhone’s 18W charging, but the difference is small. Both have wireless charging too.

The differences between the two are slight, we’re calling this round a tie pending further testing

Camera

The latest iPhones and Galaxy phones have had significant camera upgrades, making this an important category. The iPhone 11 Pro Max sports a triple-lens camera configuration on the back, with wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses (all 12-megapixel), and a 12-megapixel TrueDepth selfie lens around the front. It’s a phenomenal camera, and although we have some issues with the ultra-wide-angle lens, it’s absolutely the best camera phone at the moment. Smart HDR has been improved, and produces even better composite images than before, and the new Night Mode is excellent. The 12-megapixel selfie camera is similarly impressive.

Is the Galaxy S20 Plus the camera to surpass the iPhone 11 Pro Max? We haven’t had enough time with it yet, but it shows promise. Samsung has squeezed an enormous quad-lens camera onto the back, and it’s comprised of a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens, a 64-megapixel telephoto lens, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens, and a Depth Vision (time-of-flight) sensor. This powerful and versatile setup is completed by some new features, including a 3x optical zoom and 30x digital zoom, as well as Space Zoom A.I. stabilization. It can also shoot video in 8K.

Software and updates

Android vs. iOS is a tale as old as time, and it’s repeated here. You probably know which one you prefer at this point, but if you don’t, there’s plenty to love about both and we wager you can get used to either pretty quickly. Samsung’s One UI interface is a good Android skin, with plenty of customization options and some fun cosmetic touches.

But Samsung’s Achilles’ heel has always been updates, and it’s here the iPhone really shines. Fresh iOS updates come through on the day of release, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max can expect to be updated for years to come. Samsung’s flagships have to wait at least six months for the latest version of Android, and tend to be cut off from updates after two years. Apple’s record on updates is stellar, and that wins it this round.

Special features

The iPhone 11 Pro Max doesn’t have too many special features outside the powerful camera software, but the features it has are polished and impressive. There’s the Face ID-powered Animoji and Memoji, and there are whispers the spatially aware U1 chip could end up being used for something other than the upgraded AirDrop.

The Galaxy S20 Plus is packed with special features. The Bixby button may have gone, but Samsung’s A.I. Bixby remains, and you can choose between that and the Google Assistant. There’s also the DeX desktop mode, Wireless PowerShare, the in-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, and — most importantly — 5G is built into every S20 Plus. While it may seem a little odd to list this in special features, the inclusion of 5G helps to future proof this phone.

The Galaxy S20 Plus’s array of special features and support for 5G makes this a one-sided contest.

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is available for pre-order from February 21, and will release on March 6. It will start from $1,200 for the 128GB model, and will work on most U.S. carriers — though you’ll need to make sure your carrier has a 5G network to use 5G. The iPhone 11 Pro Max is currently available, and it starts at $1,100. Like the S20 Plus, it’s available on most U.S. carriers and from many stores.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

Samsung vs. Apple is a battle almost as old as smartphones themselves, and this time, Samsung’s new contender has come out on top. Based on the spec sheet and the categories above, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is the stronger choice. It has powerful flagship specs, an exceptional screen, 5G support, and a galaxy of features. But it’s a tight contest, and if you prefer Apple or iOS, or really love the great camera or long battery life, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is still a great choice.

But if you don’t care whether you’re using iOS or Android, and simply want the best phone, go for the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus.

Qualcomm’s X60 5G modem will power the next generation of 5G flagship phones

Qualcomm is bringing the 5G connectivity in today’s phones to the next level: The company has announced the new Qualcomm X60 modem, which Qualcomm says will help bring 5G into the mainstream through a new generation of flagship smartphones.

5G in general is likely to take off in 2020. Carriers including Verizon, AT&T, and the new T-Mobile/Sprint are finally widely rolling out their 5G networks, and smartphone manufacturers like Samsung are beginning to build 5G into their smartphones by default — rather than offering a special 5G-enabled version of a device that costs a lot extra.

The X60 is Qualcomm’s 3rd-generation 5G modem, and offers a few features over previous-generation 5G modems. For example, the modem is built on a 5-nanometer process — down from 7 in previous-generation modems. Not only that, but the modem offers features like millimeter-wave-sub6 spectrum aggregation. The result? You’ll get faster 5G connectivity, that can more easily switch between different types of 5G waves, and take advantage of the connections that are available. According to Qualcomm, the modem will deliver download speeds of up to a whopping 7.5 gigabits per second, and upload speeds of up to an impressive 3 gigabits per second — though the speeds you get will obviously vary widely depending on things like what your carrier offers and how many people are connected to the cell tower.

The X60 modem also comes with Qualcomm’s new QTM535 antenna module, which is built to offer better millimeter-wave performance. The antenna design is sleeker and more compact than previous-generation antennas, freeing up space inside a phone for other things, or allowing companies to make slimmer devices. (Although companies like Apple think it isn’t small enough.)

“Qualcomm Technologies is at the heart of 5G launches globally with mobile operators and OEMs introducing 5G services and mobile devices at record pace,” said Qualcomm in a statement. “As 5G standalone networks are introduced in 2020, our third-generation 5G modem-RF platform brings extensive spectrum aggregation capabilities and options to fuel the rapid expansion of 5G rollouts while enhancing coverage, power efficiency and performance for mobile devices.”

Qualcomm says the X60 modem will ship to manufacturers in the first quarter of 2020, and is expected to be available in commercial devices in early 2021. Because of the timeline, we expect the modern to ship alongside the next-generation Qualcomm mobile platform, which will be a follow-up to the Snapdragon 865.

Apple trying to design 5G iPhone antenna after snubbing Qualcomm’s

We’ll see if you’re holding it wrong this time.

Despite a notorious track record in antenna design — remember the whole “Antennagate” thing? — Apple has reportedly decided to design the antenna for this year’s iPhones, the first models to support 5G technology.

Qualcomm will provide the 5G modem chip for the 2020 iPhones, namely the Snapdragon X55, which is also used in the Samsung Galaxy S20. But when Qualcomm offered the QTM 525 millimeter-wave antenna module, Apple decided to pass — because it reportedly does not fit the “sleek industrial design” the company wants for the 2020 iPhones, Fast Company reported, citing a source with knowledge of the matter.

Apple usually prepares several designs for its products, and according to the report, it is still working on one that uses Qualcomm’s antenna. The source said it is still possible for Apple to go with this option, which will mean a slightly thicker iPhone than the company wants. Apple will likely have to make a final decision this summer.

Apple has not found success designing its own antennas, notably the dropped calls problem of the iPhone 4 that led to the Antennagate issue. It is also more difficult to design an antenna for 5G devices, according to Fast Company’s source. The 2020 models will be Apple’s first 5G iPhones, and the company has no room for error.

In December, Qualcomm said that its top priority was to assist Apple with launching a 5G iPhone and that it was working “as fast as it can” as the two companies were fresh off a settlement to a long-and-drawn-out legal battle over royalty payments.

Shortly afterward, reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed Apple was working on a way to secure savings elsewhere in the 2020 iPhone to offset the cost of more expensive, new components, in order to maintain its price. Kuo also mentioned that the 5G iPhone will bring back the design of the iPhone 4 with a metal frame.

It remains unclear if Apple will be able to keep pace with the development of the 5G iPhone and maintain its cost now that the company is designing the antenna for the device. It will be a while before Apple provides official confirmation though; the 2020 iPhones are not expected to be unveiled until September.

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ review: Slick and simple, with monster battery life

Sequels don’t always have to be worse than the original. The Terminator 2 was every bit the blockbuster that its predecessor was, and Red Dead Redemption 2 was a masterpiece. Now, it seems like Samsung’s new true wireless earbuds could be joining the ranks of second-edition success stories.

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds+ were unveiled at the company’s Galaxy Unpacked event on February 11 and went on sale three days later for $150 through Samsung’s website. Judging by the modest price bump from the original Galaxy Buds ($129), as well as the appearance and features of the new buds, it’s clear Samsung knew it didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. The company just had to make a few improvements, and keep them priced low enough to be a serious competitor to the Apple AirPods.

The verdict on the G-buds+ is in: Samsung’s latest are right on the money.

Getting going

As has become the standard for brands like Samsung and Apple, the packaging, accessories, and actual Galaxy Buds+ adhere to a less-is-more aesthetic. Opening the compact white box reveals an even more compact, pill-shaped charging case with the buds nestled inside. Also in the package are a USB charging cable, two extra pairs of eartips and sports fins, and a quick-start manual to guide you through setup.

That setup, by the way, is pretty painless. Most major brands have finally gotten this down to a simple science, and Samsung is no exception. Those not already acquainted with Samsung’s wearables, however, will need to step through a few digital hoops.

First, you’ll want to download the Galaxy Wearable app and allow the app access to your phone. Next, download the Galaxy Buds+ plug-in, allow a few more permissions for the buds themselves, and the buds will automatically connect to your device as you open the charging case.

From there, the next move is pulling the buds out of the case and fitting them in your ear.

The buds were a bit small for me with their initial eartips, as the seal in my ears didn’t feel secure. After swapping in larger tips, I found them just as comfortable as their predecessors, with an extremely lightweight build that would almost let you forget they were there, if not for the sound emitting from their dual drivers.

That’s a lotta battery

One of the biggest upgrades Samsung touted on its new buds was the improved battery, which it claims will provide 11 hours of playing time between recharges. That’s up from 6 hours with the original Galaxy Buds, and miles from the company’s first pair of buds, the Gear IconX.

In fact, we’ve yet to try out a pair with more battery life per charge. They offer more than double the playtime from Apple’s pricier AirPods (including both the second-gen pair and the $250 AirPods Pro). Unlike the AirPods, the Galaxy Buds+ add just a single recharge in the case, but since it’s 11 hours per shot, it amounts to nearly a full day of playback and falls just below Apple’s 24 hours.

As to that battery life claim, the life span for these buds is as stellar as advertised, but there’s an interesting quirk. The app provides you with charging levels for each bud, as well as the charging case itself. I noticed that my right bud ran out of juice faster than the left. It was a slight difference, usually no more than two or three percent at a time. It’s a puzzling trait, though not fully unsurprising — we noticed the same thing with older Samsung earbuds, including the Galaxy IconX 2018.

Custom touch

The Galaxy Buds+ come with standard-programmed gestures for each bud’s touchpads. A single touch will play or pause music, a double tap skips to the next track or answers/ends calls, and a triple tap skips backward.

We feel obligated to point out that on our first run-through with these buds, all these gestures failed. However, after disconnecting and reconnecting, each gesture worked without a glitch, and has continued to do so since. We should also mention a colleague had a different pair of Galaxy Buds+ in the office and experienced zero issues with controls.

A few more touch controls are also available. Through the app, you can determine which earbud will control features like voice command, turning ambient sound on and off, switching playlists on Spotify, and turning the volume up or down. In our testing, each of these controls worked flawlessly.

On the subject of Spotify, the integration here is both compelling and leaves us asking for just a little more. With a long press on the Galaxy Buds+ touchpad, Spotify will resume playing the last playlist you were listening to. Another long press, and the buds will cycle through to the next playlist in your collection, though there doesn’t seem to be a way of determining what that will be. It could be a playlist you created, a “Daily Mix” playlist curated by Spotify based on your listening habits, or a playlist you recently listened to. It definitely kept us on our toes musically, and that’s truthfully not a bad thing, but more direction when toggling between playlists wouldn’t be bad, either.

Sound and call quality

With dual dynamic drivers – a woofer and a tweeter – as well as a new speaker and microphone system powered by Samsung subsidiary AKG, the company has dubbed its new buds as capable of producing “studio-quality sound.”

We wouldn’t go that far, and at $150, we wouldn’t expect them to, either. Honestly, studio-quality is a buzz phrase that really shouldn’t be used for wireless earbuds of just about any kind.

The Galaxy Buds+ instantly sounded clearer than the AirPods to our ears.

What we would say, though, is for the money, the Galaxy Buds+ present a very pleasing soundstage, with decent bass and a clear upper register. The app provides several equalizer presets to adjust the sound however you’d like.

For most tracks, from Blues Traveler’s Hook to Maroon 5’s Girls Like You, the “dynamic” equalizer setting produced the best overall sound, avoiding the sometimes flat-sounding “normal” setting while offering less brightness than “treble boost.” For us, that dynamic setting was the sweet spot. A few selections sounded slightly unnatural (a couple of classic rock songs come to mind), but for the most part, this setting combined vocal clarity and unmuddied instrumentals best.

The Galaxy Buds+ instantly sounded clearer than the AirPods to our ears, though they weren’t as detailed or defined as the lovely AirPods Pro. The latter comes with active noise cancellation, a feature that has escaped Samsung’s wireless offerings. At the price, however, it makes sense that the Galaxy Buds+ have omitted the technology. The only earbuds under $200 that feature noise control features are the Amazon Echo Buds, and even those offer only active noise reduction instead of full cancellation.

As for call quality, following a few test runs, we’re happy to report that conversations come in clearly, without much distortion from the outside environment. Voices on the other end did sound somewhat distant at a few points, but it was a minimal occurrence.

Warranty information

Samsung’s 12-month warranty covers defects in materials and workmanship.

Our take

If the Galaxy Buds+ kept everything the same from the original Galaxy Buds and simply doubled down on battery life, that would still be deemed an improvement worth the cost bump. With upgraded audio and a continued dedication to comfort and ease of use, Samsung has done a good deal more to add to the quality of its true wireless buds.

Is there a better alternative?

While the Galaxy Buds+ certainly have more than enough features to punch up at pricier competitors, the $200 1More Wireless ANC and $200 Jabra Elite 75t would both be solid alternatives without having to totally break the bank. Apple’s Air Pods and Amazon’s Echo Buds also fit into the same tier as the Galaxy Buds+, and either may be more preferable depending on which ecosystem you may already be invested in.

With that said, you’d be hard-pressed to find earbuds that can do everything the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ can at this price point.

How long will it last?

Samsung’s products are generally a durable breed, and these Galaxy Buds+ should be no exception. With swappable eartips and fins, they seem well-equipped for the long haul.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Samsung’s follow-up to the original Galaxy Buds introduces ground-breaking battery life to the landscape of true wireless earbuds, fine-tunes an already-stout audio performance, and maintains an attractive price. That’s a winning formula in our book.

Google’s first Android 11 developer preview brings permissions tweaks and more

Android 11’s path to release has finally begun. Google announced the first developer preview for Android 11, and it’s now available for developers who want to start building apps and services for the next version of Android.

It’s important to note that the majority of consumer-facing features in Android 11 won’t be announced until Google I/O 2020 in May. Instead, this first developer preview serves as a way to introduce developers to new APIs — like new APIs around 5G and permissions.

That said, there are some major new features that will make Android 11 useful for everyone. Notably, perhaps the most important new feature is the new “one-time permission,” which will be available for apps that only need to access things like location once. With this feature, a person can grant access to location once, after which it will be rescinded later.

The notification panel is getting a tweak as well. For example, Google is adding a dedicated “conversations” section in the notification shade, which Google says will help people “find their ongoing conversations with people in their favorite apps.” It’s currently unclear exactly what this feature will look like, as Google hasn’t included screenshots.

Android 11 will continue to get more modular, too. In Android 10, Google made components of Android updatable through Google Play, allowing the company to update parts of Android without having to release full Android updates. That continues with Android 11, with 12 new modules — bringing the total to 20 modules.

Perhaps cooler than the modularity of Android is the fact that Android will soon support digital driver licenses. Android 11 will get support for “secure storage and retrieval of verifiable identification documents, such as ISO 18013-5 compliant Mobile Driving Licenses.” Google says it will have more to share on this feature in the near future.

Other, smaller new features include that Android 11 offers better call screening services, camera improvements like new bokeh modes.

The first Android 11 Developer Preview is now available to those with a Pixel 2 or later. We recommend you only download this early build of the operating system if it’s not on your primary device, and you’re willing to put up with bugs.

More features in Android 11 will be added in the near future, and Google will likely share more details about the operating system as time goes on. We’re expecting the majority of new features to be announced at Google I/O 2020.