Wireless headphones and earbuds to fit your budget

Wireless headphones and earbuds to fit your budget
Editor’s note: This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch may earn affiliate commissions.

Headphones keep us connected to our favorite music, podcasts, and audiobooks. They make sure we don’t drop an important phone call. As our devices ditch the headphone jack and Bluetooth technology improves, more and more people will need to upgrade to something that offers great sound, solid performance, and helpful features.
We’ve tested hundreds of wireless earbuds and headphones, and whether your budget is $30 or $300, we’ve found a pair to fit your needs.
 

Bluetooth earbuds: Skullcandy Ink’d Bluetooth
For the cheapest option that still offers good sound quality, the Skullcandy Ink’d Bluetooth earbuds are the best wireless earbuds under $50. They come with a collar that’s equipped with large control buttons, but it’s so light you’ll forget that it’s around your neck. The Ink’d Bluetooth are comfortable and made to fit all but the largest ear canals. Plus, they’re water-resistant.
The Ink’d Bluetooth’s battery will get you through a full day before it’s time to recharge. During testing, we were able to walk two rooms away from our connected smartphone before experiencing a signal drop.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald
Workout headphones: Aukey Latitude EP-B40
When it’s time to focus at the gym, there’s no better way to tune out distractions than a reliable pair of earbuds. For a cheap but comfortable pair that can handle casual workouts and a bit of sweat, we recommend the Aukey Latitude EP-B40. They’re the best workout headphones under $50 and they offer more than eight hours of battery life, which is enough for a few gym sessions before recharging.
Silicone tips and wings help with keeping them secured during high-intensity activities. The cable that connects the earbuds is longer than we’d like, but the Latitude EP-B40 are a better option for working out than similarly priced wired earbuds, and they offer good sound quality.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald                                                               
Budget Bluetooth wireless: Jabra Move Wireless
For some, earbuds just don’t cut it. The Jabra Move Wireless are the best Bluetooth wireless headphones under $100. They’re ideal for someone who prefers over-ear headphones and doesn’t want to spend a lot of money. The Move Wireless sound almost as good as Bluetooth headphones that cost four times as much—without sacrificing solid basic features like intuitive and easily accessible controls. The Move Wireless’ pivoting earcups and a padded headband add to comfort.
Photo: Rozette Rago
True Wireless: Jabra Elite 65t
If keeping up with the latest tech gear is important to you, you’ve probably already done your research on true wireless headphones. The majority of them are still first-generation models and come with a few kinks. Still, the Jabra Elite 65t perform just as well as standard Bluetooth earbuds—offering great sound, battery life, and comfort—without a wire connecting each earpiece.
The Elite 65t usually block out a good amount of noise, but you have the option of using the mics to hear your surroundings by activating transparency mode. We like that these headphones work with voice assistants (Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa) and they have both track and volume controls. During testing, the Elite 65t’s Bluetooth 5.0 offered seamless and stronger connections than competitors, making calls sound especially clear. For a true wireless workout version of these headphones, we recommend the Jabra Elite Active 65t.
Photo: Rozette Rago
Bluetooth Wireless: Sony H.ear On WH-H900N
If you’re ready to invest in a pair of high-end Bluetooth wireless headphones that come with the best features, we recommend the Sony H.ear On WH-H900N. You’ll get above-average active noise cancelling, long-lasting battery life, a clear mic for voice calls, and, most importantly, a pair of headphones that sound great.
During testing, the H.ear On WH-H900M sounded better than competitors (with or without noise cancelling) and the bass added a noticeable boost that didn’t overpower vocals. We like that these headphones are lightweight, comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and that they come in a variety of colors.
These picks may have been updated by Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch may earn affiliate commissions.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Skullcandy aims upscale with two new headphones

Skullcandy aims upscale with two new headphones
Skullcandy has always been an odd brand. Aimed at a younger, hipper audience, the headphones always featured wacky graphics and a lower price point. Now, facing competition from multiple players, they’ve decided to step up their game in terms of quality and style.
Their two new models, the noise-cancelling Venue and the bass-heavy Crusher 360, are designed to hit the Bose/B&O/Sony quality point while still maintaining a bit of Beats styling. The Venue are the most interesting of the pair. They are true over-ear noise-cancelling headphones that cost a mere $179 — more than $100 less than Bose’s best offerings.
The Venue’s noise cancellation was excellent, as was the sound quality. The headphones were solidly built and last for two five-hour flights, a first for me when it comes to wireless or wired noise-cancelling headphones. Usually in almost every model I’ve tested I’ve had to charge or change the battery after about eight hours. This is a vast improvement.
As for audio quality, I was quite impressed. Having heard earlier Skullcandy models, I went in expecting tinny sound and muddy bass. I got neither. What I got was a true sound without much modification and very nice noise cancelling. In short, it did exactly what it says on the tin.
One peeve is the size of the headphones and the case. Most headphones can fold up to a smaller package that is unobtrusive when it hangs off your back or sits in your lap. These headphones come in a massive, flat case that is not imminently portable. If you’re used to smaller, thinner cases, this might be a deal breaker. That said, the price and sound are excellent and the Venue is a real step up.

Then we have the Crusher 360. These are also well-made headphones that collapse into a slightly smaller package than the Venue. They also offer what Skullcandy calls Sensory Bass and 360-degree audio. What that means, in practice, is that these things sound like a bass-lover’s very effusive home theater system on your head.
The Crusher, like the Venue, is wireless and lasts about 30 hours on one charge. They don’t have noise cancelling, but what they do have is a set of haptics inside the ear cups that essentially turn bass events into wildly impressive explosions of sound. You can turn this feature up and down using a capacitive touch control on the side of the headphones and, if you’re like me, you probably will be using that feature multiple times.
How do they work? Well, the bass these things pump out is almost comical. While I don’t want to completely disparage these things — different ears will find them pleasant if not downright cool – the Crushers turn almost everything — from a drama to a bit of dubstep — into a bass-heavy party. I used these on another flight and heard every single bang, boom and bop in the movies I watched and, oddly, I found the added bass response quite nice in regular music. If you like bass you’ll like these. If you don’t, then you’d best stay away.
The headphones cost $299.

Skullcandy isn’t the audiophile’s choice in headphones. That said, their efforts to improve the brand, product and quality are laudable. I avoided the company for years after a few bad experiences and I’m glad to see them coming back with a new and improved set of cans that truly offer great sound and a nice price. While the Crushers are definitely an acquired taste I could honestly recommend the Venue over any similarly priced noise-cancelling headphones on the market, including Bose’s businessperson specials. These headphones aren’t perfect, but they’re also not bad.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Sony’s 10″ Digital Paper Tablet is an ultra-light reading companion that needs to do more

Sony’s 10″ Digital Paper Tablet is an ultra-light reading companion that needs to do more
Last year I had a good time comparing Sony’s DPT-RP1 with the home-grown reMarkable. They both had their strengths and weaknesses, and one of the Sony’s was that the thing was just plain big. They’ve remedied that with a much smaller sibling, the DPT-CP1, and it’s just as useful as I expected. Which is to say: in a very specific way.
Sony’s e-paper tablets are single-minded little gadgets: all they do is let you read and lightly mark up PDFs. If that sounds a mite too limited to you, you’re not the target demographic. But lots of people — including me — have to wade through tons of PDFs and it’s a pain to do so on a desktop or laptop. Who wants to read  Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox by hitting the down arrow 500 times?

For legal documents and scientific journal articles, which I read a lot of, a big e-paper tablet is fantastic. But the truth is that the RP1, with its 13.3″ screen, was simply too big to carry around most of the time. The device is quite light, but took up too much space. So I was excited to check out the CP1, which really is just a smaller version of the same thing.
To be honest, there’s not much I can add to my original review of the RP1: it handles PDFs easily, and now with improved page jumping and tagging, it’s easier to navigate them. And using the stylus, you can make some limited markup — but don’t try to do much more than mark a passage with an “OK” or a little star (one of several symbols the device recognizes and tracks the location of).
It’s incredibly light and thin, and feels flexible and durable as well — not a fragile device at all. Its design is understated and functional.

Writing isn’t the Sony tablets’ strong suit — that would be the reMarkable’s territory. While looping out a circle or striking through a passage is just fine, handwritten notes are a pain. The resolution, accuracy and latency of the writing implement are as far as I can tell exactly as they were on the larger Sony tablet, which makes sense — the CP1 basically is a cutout of the same display and guts.
PDFs display nicely, and the grid pattern on the screen isn’t noticeable for the most part. Contrast isn’t as good as the latest Kindles or Kobos (shots in the gallery above aren’t really flattering, since they’re so close up, but you get the idea), but it’s more than adequate and it beats reading a big PDF on a small screen like those on your laptop’s LCD. Battery life is excellent — it’ll go through hundreds of pages on a charge.
A new mobile app supposedly makes transferring documents to the CP1 easy, but in reality I never found a reason to use it. I so rarely download PDFs — the only format the tablet reads — on my phone or tablet that it just didn’t make sense for me. Perhaps I could swap a few over that are already on my iPad, but it just didn’t strike me as particularly practical except perhaps in a few situations where my computer isn’t available. But that’s just me — people who work more from their phones might find this much more useful.
Mainly I just enjoyed how light and simple the thing is. There’s almost no menu system to speak of and the few functions you can do (zooming in and such) are totally straightforward. Whenever I got a big document, like today’s FCC OIG report, or a set of upcoming scientific papers, my first thought was, “I’ll stick these on the Sony and read them on the couch.”
Although I value its simplicity, it really could use a bit more functionality. A note-taking app that works with a Bluetooth keyboard, for instance, or synchronizing with your Simplenote or Pocket account. The reMarkable is still limited as well, but its excellent stylus (suitable for sketching) and cloud service help justify the price.
I have to send this thing back now, which is a shame because it’s definitely a handy device. Of course, the $600 price tag makes it rather a niche one as well — but perhaps it’s the kind of thing that fills out the budget of an IT upgrade or grant proposal.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

HTC is gone

HTC is gone
Gather around, campers, and hear a tale as old as time.
Remember the HTC Dream? The Evo 4G? The Google Nexus One? What about the Touch Diamond? All amazing devices. The HTC of 2018 is not the HTC that made these industry-leading devices. That company is gone.
It seems HTC is getting ready to lay off nearly a quarter of its workforce by cutting 1,500 jobs in its manufacturing unit in Taiwan. After the cuts, HTC’s employee count will be less than 5,000 people worldwide. Five years ago, in 2013, HTC employed 19,000 people.
HTC started as a white label device maker giving carriers an option to sell devices branded with their name. The company also had a line of HTC-branded connected PDAs that competed in the nascent smartphone market. BlackBerry, or Research in Motion as it was called until 2013, ruled this phone segment, but starting around 2007 HTC began making inroads thanks to innovated touch devices that ran Windows Mobile 6.0.
In 2008 HTC introduced the Touch line with the Touch Diamond, Touch Pro, Touch 3G and Touch HD. These were stunning devices for the time. They were fast, loaded with big, user swappable batteries and microSD card slots. The Touch Pro even had a front-facing camera for video calls.
HTC overlayed a custom skin onto Windows Mobile making it a bit more palatable for the general user. At that time, Windows Mobile was competing with BlackBerry’s operating system and Nokia’s Symbian. None was fantastic, but Windows Mobile was by far the most daunting for new users. HTC did the best thing it could do and developed a smart skin that gave the phone a lot of features that would still be considered modern.

In 2008 HTC released the first Android device with Google. Called the HTC Dream or G1, the device was far from perfect. But the same could be said about the iPhone. This first Android phone set the stage for future wins from HTC, too. The company quickly followed up with the Hero, Droid Incredible, Evo 4G and, in 2010, the amazing Google Nexus One.
After the G1, HTC started skinning Android in the same fashion as it did Windows Mobile. It cannot be overstated how important this was for the adoption of Android. HTC’s user interface made Android usable and attractive. HTC helped make Android a serious competitor to Apple’s iOS.
In 2010 and 2011, Google turned to Samsung to make the second and third flagship Nexus phones. It was around this time Samsung started cranking out Android phones, and HTC couldn’t keep up. That’s not to say HTC didn’t make a go for it. The company kept releasing top-tier phones: the One X in 2012, the One Max in 2013 and the One (M8) in 2014. But it didn’t matter. Samsung had taken up the Android standard and was charging forward, leaving HTC, Sony and LG to pick from the scraps.
At the end of 2010, HTC was the leading smartphone vendor in the United States. In 2014 it trailed Apple, Samsung and LG with around a 6 percent market share in the U.S. In 2017 HTC captured 2.3 percent of smartphone subscribers and now in 2018, some reports peg HTC with less than a half percent of the smartphone market.
Google purchased a large chunk of HTC’s smartphone design talent in 2017 for $1.1 billion. The deal transferred more than 2,000 employees under Google’s tutelage. They will likely be charged with working on Google’s line of Pixel devices. It’s a smart move. This HTC team was responsible for releasing amazing devices that no one bought. But that’s not entirely their fault. Outside forces are to blame. HTC never stopped making top-tier devices.
The HTC of today is primarily focused on the Vive product line. And that’s a smart play. The HTC Vive is one of the best virtual reality platforms available. But HTC has been here before. Hopefully, it learned something from its mistakes in smartphones.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Sony shrinks its Digital Paper tablet down to a more manageable 10 inches

Sony shrinks its Digital Paper tablet down to a more manageable 10 inches
I had a great time last year with Sony’s catchily named DPT-RP1, an e-paper tablet that’s perfect for reading PDFs and other big documents, but one of my main issues was simply how big the thing is. Light and thin but 13 inches across, the tablet was just unwieldy. Heeding (I assume) my advice, Sony is putting out a smaller version and I can’t wait to try it out.
At the time, I was comparing the RP1 with the reMarkable, a crowdfunded rival that offers fantastic writing ability but isn’t without its flaws. Watch this great video I made:

The 10-inch DPT-CP1 has a couple small differences from its larger sibling. The screen has a slightly lower resolution but should be the same PPI — it’s more of a cutout of the original screen than a miniaturization. And it’s considerably lighter: 240 grams to the 13-inch version’s 350. Considering the latter already felt almost alarmingly light, this one probably feels like it’ll float out of your hands and enter orbit.
More important are the software changes. There’s a new mobile app for iOS and Android that should make loading and sharing documents easier. A new screen-sharing mode sounds handy but a little cumbrous — you have to plug it into a PC and then plug the PC into a display. And PDF handling has been improved so that you can jump to pages, zoom and pan and scan through thumbnails more easily. Limited interaction (think checkboxes) is also possible.
There’s nothing that addresses my main issue with both the RP1 and the reMarkable: that it’s a pain to do anything substantial on the devices, such as edit or highlight in a document, and if you do, it’s a pain to bring that work into other environments.
So for now it looks like the Digital Paper series will remain mostly focused on consuming content rather than creating or modifying it. That’s fine — I loved reading stuff on the device, and mainly just wished it were a bit smaller. Now that Sony has granted that wish, it can get to work on the rest.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Here’s the ultra-low-light phone camera Sony promised

Here’s the ultra-low-light phone camera Sony promised

Sony promised an “ultra low-light camera” during its Mobile World Congress press conference back in February. The off-hand announcement was intended to throw a bit of shade at Samsung’s recent flagship, but ultimately had the unintended consequence of undermining the company’s own newly announced XZ2. But, then, Sony’s never been great when it comes to marketing handsets.

That said, the company didn’t waste a lot of time delivering on that promise. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that the Xperia XZ2 Premium was the phone the company would have liked to have led with at the world’s largest mobile show, but it just wasn’t fully baked at the time. In fact, the handset won’t actually be arriving until this summer.

When it does hit retail, it will sport a number of improvements over the regular XZ2 (and likely a steep price tag to match). Most notable here are the upgrades to the camera, because, well, Sony. The company says the phone’s capable of capturing ultra-low-light stills with an ISO of up to of 51,200 — with up to 12,800 for video. Press materials issued this morning say the phone accomplishes this by utilizing its dual camera sensors (a new addition with the XZ2 line), utilizing the company’s AUBE signal processor.

That’s a pretty impressive feat, if true, and would certainly surpass Samsung’s recent low-light camera advancements. I can’t say as I’m always excited to try out the latest Xperia handset, but this is one I’ll want to put through its paces. Sony’s certainly wowed us with its camera prowess in the past — in fact, that’s really the main thing Xperias have going for them. U.S. availability, on the other hand, isn’t likely to be one of them.

Other bits and bobs worth mentioning: There’s a 4K HDR display here, pretty much a given on a Sony flagship at this point, along with 4K movie recording. The phone also sports a similarly smooth design to the other XZ2 models — a notable upgrade from the old, boxy design. There’s also a beefy 3540mAh battery on board, along with a Snapdragon 845.

Given Sony’s traditional use of the Xperia line as a funnel for camera technology, I’d say it’s probably safe to expect similar low-light cameras to start trickling into other manufacturers’ handsets in the not too distant future.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

FTC warns companies that void warranties over using third-party services

FTC warns companies that void warranties over using third-party services
The days of reading the small print to see whether a repair or new part for your ailing laptop will void its warranty may be coming to an end. The FTC has officially warned several companies that their policies of ceasing support when a user attempts “non-approved” repairs or servicing are likely illegal.
It’s the sort of thing where if you buy a device or car from a company, they inform you that unless you use approved, often internally branded parts, you’re voiding the warranty and your item will no longer be supported by the company.
The idea is that a company doesn’t want to be on the hook when a user replaces an old, perfectly good stick of RAM with a new, crappy one and then comes crying to them when the computer won’t boot. Or, in a more dire situation, replaces the brakes with some off-brand ones, which then fail and cause an accident. So there’s a reason these restrictions exist.
Unfortunately, they’ve come to encompass far more than these dangerous cases; perhaps you replace the RAM and then the power supply burns out — that’s not your fault, but because you didn’t use approved RAM the company takes no responsibility for the failure. The result is consumers end up having to buy components or servicing at inflated prices from “licensed” or “approved” dealers.
“Provisions that tie warranty coverage to the use of particular products or services harm both consumers who pay more for them as well as the small businesses who offer competing products and services,” explained Thomas Pahl, from the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in the announcement.
The agency gave several examples of offending language in customer agreements, blanking out the names of the companies. Ars Technica was quick to connect these with the major companies they correspond to: Hyundai, Nintendo and Sony. Here are the statements the FTC didn’t like, with the company names in bold where they were blank before.

The use of Hyundai parts is required to keep your . . . manufacturer’s warranties and any extended warranties intact.
This warranty shall not apply if this product . . . is used with products not sold or licensed by Nintendo.
This warranty does not apply if this product . . . has had the warranty seal on the PS4 altered, defaced, or removed.

It’s one thing to say, don’t overclock your PS4 or we won’t cover it. It’s quite another to say if the warranty seal has been “defaced” then we won’t cover it.
“Such statements generally are prohibited by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act,” the FTC announcement reads, and in addition “may be deceptive under the FTC Act.” The companies have 30 days to modify their policies.
This could be a major win for consumers: more repairs and service locations would be allowed under warranty, and modders of game consoles may be able to indulge their hobby without trying to hide it from the manufacturer. That will depend on the new phrasing of the companies’ policies, but this attention from the FTC will at the very least nudge things in the right direction.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Rating the big smartphone makers at MWC 2018

Rating the big smartphone makers at MWC 2018
 With that in mind, this seems like the perfect opportunity to take a good look at how the industry’s big names fared at the show. Barring any sort of unforeseen circumstances, here’s a list of this week’s biggest winners and losers. HMD (Nokia): HMD scored a coup for a second year in a row, led by another nod to Nokia’s former successes. This time out, it was a return… Read More

Source: Mobile – Techcruch