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Home Reviews Opinion: It’s time to reconsider face unlock on the Pixel line

Opinion: It’s time to reconsider face unlock on the Pixel line

It’s time to talk. I think it may be time for us users and smartphone manufacturers to consider moving forward without face unlock as a primary biometrics option. I know that it’s cool to unlock your phone with just a look, but in practice, it’s not ideal.

I was already hesitant with alternative methods to the tactile options of optical sensors, but after spending nearly a year with the Pixel 4 XL, I am over facial recognition. Add that to the current pandemic and masked faces and I’m convinced it’s time to maybe take a step back.

Could it just be me?

Let’s start with the just general use of the Pixel 4 XL with face unlock as the primary biometrics. Over the last nine months of ownership, I swear the overall performance has worsened. I have more and more daily instances of it just not working on the first or even second attempt.

This is not an abused device. It’s not suffered a significant drop and has lived in a case while in my pocket. I honestly think it’s just from debris and oil build up on the screen.

Yes, this happens on capacitive fingerprint readers at times too. Yes, I can clean it. However, after using years of fingerprint unlock, I’ve never gotten consistent failed attempts like this.

Masked Life Complicated Things

Then the world had a global health crisis that currently requires many of us to wear a mask over half our faces. I don’t want to be insensitive to the significant health threat of COVID-19 by any means, I’m just trying to add a real-world effect it’s had on our daily technology.

This makes using things like mobile pay at checkout lines damn near impossible. You have to remove your mask amidst the crowd to try to attempt. The timing couldn’t be worse. In a moment when contactless payments should be shining as an alternative to touching a kiosk, you find yourself passing it over.

Payments Were Already Awkward

Current masked society aside, mobile payments with face unlock was already a mess. One, Google seems to have you confirm the payment scan with biometrics. This leads to you having to essentially unlock the phone twice. Once to open the menu, and another to confirm the NFC transaction.

The first one you’ll have to do regardless, but the confirmation of the wireless transfer is the major fail. The motion forces you to keep your phone at eye level which is pretty awkward in most retail settings. The card terminal is rarely this high at any storefront.

This leaves you with a likely scenario of having to awkwardly hunch over a checkout counter. After two or three tries at this, you’ll most likely just never use it as I have. Know what would make this much easier? A fingerprint scanner.

Solutions are Available

The radar powered unlock mechanisms in my Pixel 4 XL simply solve a problem no one had. I appreciate a good proof of concept. In an age of bigger and better-designed displays for our consumption, it actually seems counterproductive with creating a giant notch.

There are a few different hardware layouts that allow for phone makers to still offer biometrics outside of face unlock. You have the “traditional” rear fingerprint sensor. It’s tried and true with great consistency. This option can also add functionality like bring down the notification shade with swiping on the reader.

The less traditional capacitive scanner is the side-mounted edition. A few manufacturers like Moto and Sony have embraced this model on several phones. The placement is a little more uncomfortable to position correctly at times but is also a solid alternative to other measures.

Lastly, you have the more recent optical readers built under the display on smartphones. Phones like OnePlus and Moto have moved to this on many of the flagships being sold by those companies. This brings the reader to the most forward view of the user. Literally. It’s directly on the screen.

The drawbacks have been consistency and screen protectors. By default, this optical tech is less mature and still has room to grow to get the performance seen by the older capacitive hardware sensors. Another issue is that you can’t just use any screen protector and still have the reader work correctly.

Maybe We Already Had it Right

Despite some of these pitfalls, the alternative options of biometrics seem like a better overall solution over the beta feel of face unlock. These sensors are more mature, reliable, and readily available in the market. You also don’t have to find real estate on the front of the device to the detriment of less display.

And I haven’t even mentioned that many apps have never updated to even use face unlock. Two out of my four banking institutions still rely on either fingerprint or PIN and you’ll never get prompted to use face unlock.

While there is a multitude of reasons leading to my disdain of face unlock, and many are outside of Google’s control, I do think it’s not dismissable information. The industry should be open to trying new things, but also recognize when something doesn’t work and give users a more solid solution.

That time is now. Maybe you keep some of the 2D face unlock standards as a buy-in option from users, but the default should return to a more complete offering in fingerprint sensors.

The glass half full news is that we are hearing rumblings that Google may do this with the release of the Google Pixel 5. I know you can’t see them, but my fingers are crossed.

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Moto360 (3rd-Gen) review

One of the first Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) smartwatches to burst onto the scene was Motorola’s Moto360. Making its debut all the way back in 2014, it was an infamous device namely because of its so-called “flat tire” display.Motorola refreshed its watch a few years later, but largely kept the same design. As such, the wearable found itself in a more crowded market and the new model didn’t do much to stand out.Back for a third time, the Moto360 is no longer strictly Motorola’s product but one that’s licensed by a company called eBuyNow. Touting themselves as an “independent, data-driven consumer electronics company”, it moves the Moto360 forward.As to how far forward the Moto360 moves, though, it’s better measured in steps and not leaps. It’s a decent example of a Wear OS smartwatch that’s priced more affordably than the likes of Fossil or Mobvoi, but not much more.Without diving too deeply, I suspect the problems I have with the Moto360 aren’t really its fault. Sure, the design could be sexier, but it’s likely attributed to my relationship with Wear OS.I am about as big of a Google fan and ambassador as you’ll find and I cheer whenever it steps foot into new territories. I root for them to win, and if not, at least change the game. I’ve championed the Android cause since 2007 and want nothing but success for its wearable platform.I’ve found myself returning to Wear OS multiple times over the years, hoping to find that one wearable that’s not just attractive and stylish, but functional and user friendly.As it turns out, device makers are doing their part just fine. The physical watches are sharp, classy, and versatile. And it’s for good reason. Today’s smartwatches more often come from traditional watch makers and not the likes of LG, Huawei, and Motorola.Wear OS is perfectly serviceable and has evolved nicely. It’s certainly a smarter and more robust platform, but I invariably find myself fine without it. After a day or two of not wearing one of its watches I feel content not even bothering.Does the new Moto360 stand out in a growing crowd? Does it do Wear OS justice?Moto360The Moto360 is not a flashy watch. In fact, it doesn’t look all that different from its predecessors. My time with the black models always feels utilitarian and reminds me of early Android phones and Chromebooks. It looks like a proof of concept.Now, to be fare, I have a friend who simply loved his gold version of the original Moto360. Every time I would chat with him he would tell me about co-workers and colleagues would constantly remark on his watch. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder to be sure.DesignOne of the first things you’ll notice about this generation of Moto360 is that it has a full circular display. That, along with the pair of crown buttons on the side, give this watch a more traditional look.The press of the top button launches an app screen while rotating it accesses notifications or the status panel. The bottom button can be customized to your liking. Have a fitness app you use quite a bit? Set it to that.Included in the box are a pair of watch straps, one being a silicone-like material that’s perfect for getting sweaty on a run — or wet from a shower. The other band is a faux leather material with stitching; it looks more professional and dressy.I’ve found myself pretty much sticking with the silicone band so far. The watch is water-resistant so I like the peace of mind in knowing nothing is going to degrade or get ruined by water. Those who might like switching back and forth on a regular basis will be happy to know it’s a simple process.If you’re switching from another wearable, like a Fitbit, you’ll surely find the Moto360 to be heavy at first. It’s chunky by comparison, and has a bit of heft to it.The 1.2-inch AMOLED display is nice and bright, and easy to see on a sunny day. There’s a fairly significant bezel around the watch, but it sure beats the flat tire. If you opt for a watch with a black background, you won’t notice it too much. Go with something brighter or colored and it’s much more apparent.PerformanceThe enhanced ambient mode works great and shakes to life quickly. I have not had any issues with being forced to flip my wrist to wake it up.The Moto360 makes use of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 3100 Wear processor which is pretty much standard across current-gen Wear OS smartwatches. The chipset is equipped to  place nicely with Android Pay, Bluetooth 4.2 and 802.11n Wi-Fi, and it supports the usual suite of Wear OS features.Early smartwatches, especially the first two generation of Moto360, were plagued with less than desirable battery life. That is a nice way of saying you had to charge it at the end of a day, sometimes earlier.The 3rd generation Moto360 packs a 355mAh battery that gets around a day or more out of a full charge. Mileage varies based on your usage but I’ve routinely ended my day with juice left over.Should battery life get critically low, it will switch over to a time-only mode. Doing so reportedly lets it last for up to three days, but it disables select functionality.When it comes to charging, the battery is said to go from 0-100% in one hour, and I cannot argue that. I’ve seen about the same results. For my needs, though, I usually just charge at night so it matters little to me personally. That said, charging at your desk or over lunch will help keep your level high.The provided charger is a magnetic snap-on USB charger, which locks into place nicely. There’s only one way to do it and it’s easy to connect. But, even as nice as this is, we would love to see support for more of a standard wireless platter.I find that apps open at a desirable, if not expected pace. Save for the initial days and setup, we don’t play on our watches. We’re not hopping from app to app or doing any sort of gaming.When it comes to smartwatch apps, I want to be able to track an activity either passively or actively. That, for me, is often checking notifications, starting a stopwatch, tracking a walk, checking heart rate, or looking at the next appointment.One feature that I did use, with mixed results, is Google Assistant. It was a hit-or-miss experience that ultimately saw me not using it. Unfortunately it was often a case where the watch simply didn’t respond – no error, no signal.I don’t know how much this feature truly means to me. Given I almost always have my watch and phone on me, I’m more likely to just use the latter. It’s more intuitive and natural to me.ConclusionAt a price of $199, the Moto360 smartwatch is a good Wear OS watch that builds on its predecessors and feels very much like it’s still a Motorola product.Wear OS has evolved nicely if not slowly, but does work well here. I like having the two buttons for access and action. The UI is intuitive and helpful with the right amount of baked-in features.The design, particularly with the black on black, is smidge boring. It’s a slightly thick and heavy watch but I suspect you’ll get used to it before long. Based on the colors of the other options I can imagine them being more classic in appearance.There’s a pretty crowded pool of options to wade through for those considering their first smartwatch. Fitbit is getting increasingly more adept with its products and Apple keeps putting out popular wearables. Mix in Garmin and a few others and you can see how tough it might be to make a decision.Generally speaking, it’s a perfectly serviceable watch. Unfortunately, there is not enough going on design-wise to help the Moto360 truly stand out. At least with the all-black one.I should also point out that there is no noticeable difference in build quality or materials with this generation as compared to its predecessors. There’s no indication that it does not belong to Motorola.Where to BuyHead to moto360.com to learn more about the Moto360 and to purchase one. Choose from three color bodies, each of which comes with a pair of watch straps. As of today it’s available for $199.99.

Just $99.99, this bundle has 160 hours of game developer training, 12-months PlayStation Plus

Are you the type of person who has always wanted to create a video game for your computer or phone? You’ve got the plans all fleshed out in your head and know exactly how it would work. The only problem, though, is that you don’t know how to code it. Well, that’s not going to be a problem any longer.Today’s we’re offering is the Mega Gamer Bundle, a 7-piece bundle that includes training designed to educate you on how to create games. Over the span of 160 hours you will learn languages such as Unity3D, C#, and more. It doesn’t matter if you have no experience; in fact, this is created specifically for people like you.Not only does the Mega Gamer Bundle include a massive library of content, but this bundle also comes with 12 months of PlayStation Plus, a $60 value all on its own. And on top of that, it also includes a lifetime of KeepSolid VPN.Save 96% Now!!FeaturesPlayStation Plus: 12-Month Subscription: Act Fast on This Limited Deal to Enjoy 365 Days of Online Multiplayer Gaming, Free Games & Exclusive DiscountsGame Development & Design: Lifetime Membership: Turn Your Love of Gaming Into a Career with This Extensive Training LibraryVPN Unlimited: Lifetime Subscription: Protect Your Online Activity & Browse Without Restriction for LifeThe Ultimate Guide to Game Development with Unity 2019: Learn C# by Developing 2D & 3D Games with This 12-Hour Comprehensive GuideThe Ultimate Guide to Cinematography with Unity: Master Timeline, Cinemachine, C# & Develop a Stealth Adventure GameThe Ultimate Guide to 2D Mobile Game Development: Explore the New 2D TileMap Features of Unity & Create Games That ProfitThe Unity C# Survival Guide: Master C# with Unity, Discover Game Programming Patterns & Become a Career-Ready Programmer in C#Where to BuyYou can purchase the Game Developer and Player Bundle Ft. PlayStation Plus in the AndroidGuys Deals Store for only $99.99 right now. Considering the VPN and PlayStation Plus are worth more than that, it’s like getting a full-on training bundle for free.Save even more!In addition to the savings above, when you buy through AndroidGuys Deals, for every $25 spent, you get $1 credit added to your account. What’s more, should you refer the deal via social media or an email that results in a purchase, you’ll earn $10 credit in your account.Shop AndroidGuys!If this is your first time buying, then you are also eligible for a further 10% discount when you subscribe for email updates.How about a freebie?Not looking to spend any money today? That’s alright, we understand. Why not visit the AndroidGuys section for freebies and take something anyhow? Go ahead, grab two!

The best phones available at AT&T Prepaid (October 2020)

AT&T is one of the largest wireless network providers in the US, serving nearly 100 million subscribers. While most readers are familiar with the tier-one player, it also offers its own prepaid service, too.Here, we gather up a handful of the best phones you can purchase at AT&T Prepaid today. This isn’t a list of the best overall with the top-notch performance. Rather, our list aims to speak to specific users.It’s worth pointing out that you can use any standard AT&T smartphone. Moreover, you can purchase an unlocked phone from your favorite retailer or handset maker.Samsung Galaxy A51Junior flagshipYou don’t have to buy last year’s Galaxy to save a few bucks. The Galaxy A series packs all of the features that consumers find important without the frilly extras, saving you hundreds of dollars in the process.Here, you get a large 6.9-inch display, rear quad-camera configuration, and massive battery. Further, it runs Android 10 and boasts an octa-core processor, 6GB memory, and a generous 128GB internal storage capacity.Shop Samsung Galaxy A51 at AT&T PrepaidNokia 3.1AAndroid as it’s IntendedNokia does a wonderful job of presenting excellent hardware with an unadulterated version of Android. This phone treads somewhere between entry-level and mid-range but should handle the needs of most users.Key features here include a 5.45-inch HD+ display, an 8-megapixel camera, and all-day 2990mAh battery.Shop Nokia 3.1A at AT&T PrepaidAT&T Radiant CoreFirst-time BuyersIf you’re starting out with a smartphone for the first time, you have no idea as to what you truly need. Why drop hundreds of dollars on something only to find out it’s more than you want or use?Priced about as cheap as it gets, the Radiant Core is your way of dipping your toes into the pool without risk of buyer’s guilt. And while it doesn’t pack all that much in the area of hardware, the software is optimized specifically around it.Shop AT&T Radiant Core at AT&T Prepaid

Nest Wifi vs. Orbi vs. Eero vs. AmpliFi: Which system should you buy?

There are some great mesh systems to choose from. Which is the right one for you?Most people don't put enough