In the world of tablet computers, the Apple iPad is still the king – it’s our favorite tablet, too – but even though the standard iPad is pretty affordable compared to other iOS hardware, Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet lineup is hard to beat when it comes to sheer value. The Fire 7 and HD 8 tablets are especially great if you’re looking for a smaller ereader-sized device and don’t want to shell out $400 or more for the new iPad Mini 5.
Now, Prime members can score a Fire tablet for even less than usual: Amazon is offering shoppers with a Prime subscription some exclusive deals on the Fire family right now, letting you score one for as little as $35. If you’re shopping for a good cheap tablet for a kid you know or you just want to grab one for yourself, these Amazon Fire deals are just what the tech doctor ordered, especially if you use a lot of Amazon’s services (and if you’re a Prime member, you probably do).
Fire 7 Tablet – $35
For a basic, no-nonsense tablet, the Fire 7 is an incredible value. It’s got a compact 7-inch IPS display, making it super portable, but it’s fully compatible with entertainment apps like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Pandora (not to mention Amazon Prime Video and Music) so it’s great for enjoying entertainment on the go. Dual-band Wi-Fi also ensures smooth streaming and web browsing. The 8GB of internal storage can be expanded up to 256GB with a MicroSD card, as well.
At just $35 for Prime members ($15 off), the 8GB Fire 7 would be a fantastic device for a child or for anyone just looking for a cheap, no-frills tablet and ereader. Even if you don’t have Prime, the 7-inch Fire tablet is still a great value at its normal price of 50 bucks.
Fire HD 8 Tablet – $50
A great “middle option” between the Fire 7 and Fire HD 10, and one that might be the best value of these three Prime deals, is the Fire HD 8. This member of the Fire tablet family features a few enhancements over the Fire 7, including an 8-inch high-definition display and 16GB of storage (expandable via the MicroSD card slot). The Fire HD 8 tablet works with all of your favorite streaming services, social apps, and more, and it comes with Amazon Alexa built right in.
A $30 Prime discount brings the 8-inch 16GB Fire tablet down to just $50 – the same as the regular price for the Fire 7 – making this another great cheap tablet for kids and adults alike who want a slightly larger (and high-definition) display and more storage.
Fire HD 10 Tablet – $100
The Fire HD 10 is the most full-featured Fire tablet and is the easy choice for those who want a larger, more traditionally sized device for streaming and light gaming. Its 10-inch Full HD display has over 2 million pixels with a resolution of 1,900 x 1,200, so it’s the best Fire tablet for enjoying visual entertainment from services like Netflix and HBO (among many others), while its Alexa capabilities allow for easy hands-free voice control.
Prime members can score the 10-inch Fire tablet with 32GB of internal storage for just $100 and enjoy a solid savings of $50. Even at its non-Prime price of $150, however, the Fire HD 10 is an unbeatable value.
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Smartphones are now responsible for the majority of photos that are taken. The downside is that these photos, collectively over time, take up a lot of room. Throw in videos, time-lapses, burst shots, snaps, and uncompressed RAW files, and you can easily fill up your device. Users don’t always edit, back up, or delete their photos, turning their phones into digital graveyards. If you want to archive your photos to use later, then you want to make sure you know how to back them up on a computer. Learn how to transfer photos from an Android phone to a PC eight different ways, so you can offload those photos even when there’s no cord handy. (Are you an iOS user? See our guide on transferring photos from an iPhone.)
One of the best features of Android is its mostly unfettered access to the USB file system. The fact that you can simply plug your phone into your computer using the included USB cable makes it easy to download any and all images and drag them into any desktop app or your file system for safekeeping. We find this to be the easiest, most foolproof method, and the only downside is that you need a computer and your charging cable handy.
If you’re using Windows, the USB connection auto-prompts will present you with options for managing the device as soon as it’s connected. With Windows 10, you can also open Photos, then choose Import > From a USB Device to choose what images to add to the photo-management program.
Google Drive’s backup service is by far the simplest method for both backing up your photos and subsequently getting them off your Android phone. The service comes standard on almost all Android phones and works quietly in the background, uploading your files to your Google Drive for easy access on other devices. Synced photos are stored privately, too, meaning you don’t have to worry about any embarrassing photos winding up in the wrong hands, but they’re easily and quickly accessible from within your Google Drive.
In the Google Drive app, press the menu button or icon, then open the Settings menu. Find the Google Photos option and turn on the auto add. Here, you can set the auto backup to be on or off, as well as change the settings that correspond to it. In order to access and download your synced photos, open your Google Drive. Your photos are stored in a private folder labeled Google Photos. Open that folder, and you can browse and download your photos directly to your desktop. Your photos will also be added to Google Photos using this method.
If you don’t want to enable syncing, you can also upload individual files from your phone to your drive. Open your phone’s photo gallery, open a picture, then tap the Share button. From there, you will be able to select from multiple sharing options. Tap the Google Drive icon, and the files will be uploaded. Once uploaded, the picture can be accessed via Google Drive. Keep in mind, however, that any files uploaded to your Google Drive will take up your allotted storage space. Therefore, you may want to periodically clean out your drive or opt for a more robust storage plan.
Google Photos works in a similar fashion to Google Drive; in fact, the user interface and experience is nearly identical because both share Google’s Material Design language. Of course, Google Photos is strictly for stowing photos and videos, while Google Drive handles all types of files. But Google Photos offers an array of useful tools that allow you to edit and share your creations, or automatically group photos and videos into collections. The service can also cast content to a Chromecast, keep your photos private unless specified, and perform smart searches using machine learning. The “assistant” can even create fun projects with your images, such as slideshows, collages, panoramas, and animations. Best of all, you can access your photos from almost any device — not just those running Android.
If your utmost concern is backing up images, then Google Photos might be the better solution. It’s free, storage is unlimited (so long as you don’t use the “original” file size option), and, unlike Google Drive, it doesn’t impact your allotted amount of free storage. Google has also recently improved performance, meaning Photos is now twice as fast. However, there is a catch.
The service supports JPEG, TIFF, RAW, WEBP, and GIFs that are at least 256 pixels, as well as a dozen different video file types including MP4 and MOV. The free storage option does downsample those files slightly, however. Images are still pretty high resolution, so it’s fine for most people, but if you really want to keep the entirety of the file intact, you’ll want to upload individually to Google Drive and have those photos count against your storage limits.
Google Photos is also simple to set up and use. Once you connect it to your Google ID, the app will upload any new content automatically. If you don’t have an unlimited data plan, just make sure you set Google Photos to only sync when your phone is connected to a Wi-Fi network, which can be done by accessing the Settings menu in the top-right corner of the app.
Unlike the iPhone, many Android devices let you expand storage via a MicroSD card. With a large-capacity card inserted, you could set supported photo apps to save content directly to the card instead of your phone’s internal storage. This is particularly useful if you purchased a 16GB or 32GB device, which, if you’re an avid shooter, will fill up in no time. Save the internal memory for applications and use the MicroSD card for storage. But remember, don’t leave the photos sitting on the card – transfer them to your computer. Check out our guide on using MicroSD cards on Android devices for more information.
What if your Android device lacks support for MicroSD? In this case, the Leef Access MicroSD reader is awesome for transferring photos between devices while expanding the storage space on your phone. The tiny dongle plugs into your phone’s Micro USB port, while the other end functions as a MicroSD card reader and a slot for secondary storage. Once a card is inserted, you can use most file-management apps to copy photos (or any files, for that matter) to the card. If you use a high-speed MicroSD card, the transfer process from phone to the card is relatively quick. You could also use USB On-the-Go; read more about it in the section of this article on External Storage.
Like Google Drive, another option is the popular Dropbox app for Android, a free utility that automatically syncs files and photos with the cloud-based server, so you can easily access them anywhere. The Dropbox App is available via the Google Play store.
Once you’ve downloaded the Dropbox app, you have to either log in to your existing account or make a new one. Either in settings or at the top of the photos and media tab, select Turn on Camera Upload to access the settings that govern what photos get backed up automatically, and whether you want them backed up on cellular data or only over Wi-Fi.
A group of former Microsoft engineers, who just so happen to be photo enthusiasts, got together and created Mylio. Billed as a “memory organizer,” the service lets mobile users back up their photos — up to 500,000 — for free. Mylio lets you sync up to 12 Android or iOS devices, and offers in-device photo editing, along with the ability to work with JPEG, TIFF, PNG, and RAW files. The concept behind Mylio is similar to Google Photos, but while the latter targets casual photographers, Mylio seems to skew toward enthusiasts. We think Google Photos offers more features for everyday shooting, but if you work with high-quality files, Mylio is a great companion to Google Photos.
Email and sharing
It isn’t the most elegant solution, but if you only need to transfer over an image or two, and you only do it sporadically, then you can easily use your email. This is also a good way to send images to a PC that isn’t connected to your Google Drive or other cloud accounts, such as a work computer. Depending on your email provider, the exact process may vary, but it’s a simple process no matter which app you use. Compose a new email, and enter your email address as the recipient.
Tap on the Menu button to bring up a context menu, and then select Attach File to add a picture to your email. If you’re in Gmail, you can capture a photo right from that menu.
Send the email, and a few short minutes later, you will see the email pop up in your inbox for you to open from another phone or your computer. Note that you are sending a large file and some email services have a limit on the file size you can send.
You can also share a photo to other services, like Facebook, Google Drive, Instagram, and Twitter by sharing. Pull up the photo you wish to share, then tap the Share button. From there, you will be prompted to select which app you wish to use to share the picture. Depending on which app you choose, the picture will be emailed, posted, or uploaded.
Sometimes, nothing else will do besides a reliable external storage device. As connectivity in smartphones increases, so do your options for connecting to different storage methods.
One nice thing about Android is its support for external storage, which owes much to a USB protocol called USB On-the-Go (OTG). You can plug in a standard external USB hard drive — the kind you’d use with a laptop or desktop machine — and add a ton of storage for offloading photos and videos, particularly 4K and RAW files. You will need a USB OTG-to-Micro USB adapter, however. Also, keep in mind that not all Android devices support USB OTG; to find out if yours does, use the Easy OTG Checker app.
Taking a ton of photos? Western Digital’s My Passport Wireless SSD packs tons of storage, wireless connectivity, and portability into a single package. With Wi-Fi, you can connect your Android device to the drive (via the WD My Cloud app) and easily copy photos over. There’s a built-in SD card slot, too, which allows you to back up the photos from your digital camera without a computer.
Ever since Apple launched its truly wireless AirPods, there’s been no shortage of competition, with many models eclipsing Apple’s features — even with the launch of the newly updated AirPods. But so far, no major brand has had the audacity to create a product that mimics the AirPods’ signature elongated design — until today, that is. Huawei’s just-announced FreeBuds (118 euros, or $132 U.S.) are the spitting image of Apple’s wireless earbuds, and they sport a very similar feature set.
There are two notable differences however: The addition of IPX4 water resistance — something Apple has so far chosen not to offer on the AirPods — and the availability of black as a color choice. Despite the heavy-handed duplication of Apple’s design, we don’t think Tim Cook and company need to worry. The FreeBuds may look the part, but the specs are entirely unremarkable, and even a little lackluster:
Auto pairing when you open the charging case (after an initial Bluetooth setup)
IR sensors for detecting when an earbud is removed
EQ adjustment (via an app, we assume — Huawei doesn’t say how this is done)
Voice assistant access via a double-tap on the left earbud
The real disappointment here is battery life. Huawei claims only a paltry 3 hours of playing time on a single charge, which is among the shortest durations we’ve seen from truly wireless earbuds. For comparison, Apple’s latest version of the AirPods last 5 hours per charge, and we were pretty disappointed about that too. Strangely, the charging case appears to be capable of wireless charging, but Huawei’s product page doesn’t specify this, so we’re not sure. Amazon’s Italian website lists a Qi charging mat as a suggested accessory, so maybe that’s the answer.
Huawei also announced an around-the-neck set of wireless earbuds, called FreeLace (99 euros, or $111. Available in four different colors, the FreeLace is only noteworthy for its unusual Bluetooth pairing process: Detaching the cable from one of the earbuds reveals a USB-C tip, which you then plug into your Huawei phone. Thus commences the company’s automatic pairing process it calls HiPair. You charge the FreeLace via the same connection, both from a standard USB adapter, as well as via a Huawei phone if it’s compatible with reverse-charging. When the earpieces are magnetically attached, the FreeLace goes into power-saving mode.
With 18 hours of battery life, a fast charge feature that grabs 4 hours of playback time in just 5 minutes, and an IPX5 rating for decent water resistance, the FreeLace looks like it will be a good, if not great option for those who aren’t interested in a fully wireless design. We have to say, the aluminum finish does give it an upscale look, and we’re intrigued by Huawei’s description of the cable. It calls it “memory metal,” which is apparently a mix of nickel-titanium alloy and liquid silicon designed “to feel smooth and contour to your neck.”
There’s no word yet on whether either of these Huawei earbuds will make their way stateside, or how much they’ll cost if they do.
Apple doesn’t care about news, it cares about recurring revenue. That’s why publishers are crazy to jump into bed with Apple News+. They’re rendering their own subscription options unnecessary in exchange for a sliver of what Apple pays out from the mere $10 per month it charges for unlimited reading.
Apple News+ threatens to open a massive hole in news site paywalls, allowing their best premium articles to escape. Publishers hope they’ll get exposure to new audiences. But any potential new or existing direct subscriber to a publisher will no longer be willing to pay a healthy monthly fee to occasionally access that top content while supporting the rest of the newsroom. They’ll just cherry pick what they want via News+, and Apple will shave off a few cents for the publisher while owning all the data, customer relationship, and power.
“Why subscribe to that publisher? I already pay for Apple News+” should be the question haunting journalists’ nightmares. For readers, $10 per month all-you-can-eat from 300-plus publishers sounds like a great deal today. But it could accelerate the demise of some of those outlets, leaving society with fewer watchdogs and storytellers. If publishers agree to the shake hands with the devil, the dark lord will just garner more followers, making its ruinous offer more tempting.
There are so many horrifying aspects of Apple News+ for publishers, it’s best just to list each and break them down.
No Relationship With The Reader
To succeed, publishers need attention, data, and revenue, and Apple News+ gets in the way of all three. Readers visit Apple’s app, not the outlet’s site that gives it free rein to promote conference tickets, merchandise, research reports, and other money-makers. Publishers don’t get their Apple News+ readers’ email addresses for follow-up marketing, cookies for ad targeting and content personalization, or their credit card info to speed up future purchases.
At the bottom of articles, Apple News+ recommends posts by an outlet’s competitors. Readers end up without a publisher’s bookmark in their browser toolbar, app on their phone, or even easy access to them from News+’s default tab. They won’t see the outlet’s curation that highlights its most important content, or develop a connection with its home screen layout. They’ll miss call outs to follow individual reporters and chances to interact with innovative new interactive formats.
Perhaps worst of all, publishers will be thrown right back into the coliseum of attention. They’ll need to debase their voice and amp up the sensationalism of their headlines or risk their users straying an inch over to someone else. But they’ll have no control of how they’re surfaced…
At The Mercy Of The Algorithm
Which outlets earn money on Apple News+ will be largely determined by what Apple decides to show in those first few curatorial slots on screen. At any time, Apple could decide it wants more visual photo-based content or less serious world news because it placates users even if they’re less informed. It could suddenly preference shorter takes because they keep people from bouncing out of the app, or more generic shallow-dives that won’t scare off casual readers who don’t even care about that outlet. What if Apple signs up a publisher’s biggest competitor and sends them all the attention, decimating the first outlet’s discovery while still exposing its top paywalled content for cheap access?
Remember when Facebook wanted to build the world’s personalized newspaper and delivered tons of referral traffic, then abruptly decided to favor “friends and family content” while leaving publishers to starve? Now outlets are giving Apple News+ the same iron grip on their businesses. They might hire a ton of talent to give Apple what it wants, only for the strategy to change. The Wall Street Journal says it’s hiring 50 staffers to make content specifically for Apple News+. Those sound like some of the most precarious jobs in the business right now.
Remember when Facebook got the WSJ, Guardian, and more to build “social reader apps” and then one day just shut off the virality and then shut down the whole platform? News+ revenue will be a drop in bucket of iPhone sales, and Apple could at any time decide it’s not thirsty any more and let News+ rot. That and the eventual realization of platform risk and loss of relationship with the reader led the majority of Facebook’s Instant Articles launch partners like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Vox to drop the format. Publishers would be wise to come to that same conclusion now before they drive any more eyeballs to News+.
News+ Isn’t Built For News
Apple acquired the magazine industry’s self-distribution app Texture a year ago. Now it’s trying to cram in traditional text-based news with minimal work to adapt the product. That means National Geographic and Sports Illustrated get featured billing with animated magazine covers and ways to browse the latest ‘issue’. News outlets get demoted far below, with no intuitive or productive way to skim between articles beyond swiping through a chronological stack.
I only see WSJ’s content below My Magazines, a massive At Home feature from Architectural Digest, a random Gadgets & Gear section of magazine articles, another huge call out for the new issue of The Cut plus four pieces inside of it, and one more giant look at Bloomberg’s profile of Dow Chemical. That means those magazines are likely to absorb a ton of taps and engagement time before users even make it to the WSJ, which will then only score few cents per reader.
Magazines often publish big standalone features that don’t need a ton of context. News articles are part of a continuum of information that can be laid out on a publisher’s own site where they have control but not on Apple News+. And to make articles more visually appealing, Apple strips out some of the cross-promotional recirculation, sign-up forms, and commerce opportunities depend on.
The whole situation feels like the music industry stumbling into the disastrous iTunes download era. Musicians earned solid revenue when someone bought their whole physical album for $16 to listen to the single, then fell in love with the other songs and ended up buying merchandise or concert tickets. Then suddenly, fans could just buy the digital single for $0.99 from iTunes, form a bond with Apple instead of the artist, and the whole music business fell into a depression.
Apple News+’s onerous revenue sharing deal puts publishers in the same pickle. That occasional flagship article that’s a breakout success no longer serves as a tentpole for the rest of the subscription.
Formerly, people would need to pay $30 per month for a WSJ subscription to read that article, with the price covering the research, reporting, and production of the whole newspaper. Readers felt justified paying the price since the got access to the other content, and the WSJ got to keep all the money even if people didn’t read much else or declined to even visit during the month. Now someone can pop in, read the WSJ’s best or most resource-intensive article, and the publisher effectively gets paid a la carte like with an iTunes single. Publishers will be scrounging for a cut of readers’ $10 per month, which will reportedly be divided in half by Apple’s oppressive 50 percent cut, then split between all the publishers someone reads — which will be heavily skewed towards the magazines that get the spotlight.
I’ve already had friends ask why they should keep paying if most of the WSJ is in Apple News along with tons of other publishers for a third of the price. Hardcore business news addicts that want unlimited access to the finance content that’s only available for three days in Apple News+ might keep their WSJ subscription. But anyone just in it for the highlights is likely to stop paying WSJ directly or never start.
I’m personally concerned because TechCrunch has agreed to put its new Extra Crunch $15 per month subscription content inside Apple News+ despite all the warning signs. We’re saving some perks like access to conference calls just for direct Extra Crunch subscribers, and perhaps a taste of EC’s written content might convince people they want the bonus features. But even more likely seems the possibility that readers would balk at paying again for just some extra perks when they already get the rest from Apple News, and many newsrooms aren’t set up to do anything but write articles.
It’s the “good enough” strategy we see across tech products playing out in news. When Instagram first launched Stories, it lacked a ton of Snapchat’s features, but it was good enough and conveniently located where people already spent their time and had their social graph. Snapchat didn’t suddenly lose all its users, but there was little reason for new users to sign up and growth plummetted.
Apple News is pre-loaded on your device, where you already have a credit card set up, and it’s bundled with lots of content, at a cheaper price that most individual news outlets. Even if it doesn’t offer unlimited, permanent access to every WSJ Pro story, Apple News+ will be good enough. And it gets better with each outlet that allies with this Borg.
But this time, good enough won’t just determine which tech giant wins. Apple News+ could decimate the revenue of a fundamental pillar of society we rely on to hold the powerful accountable. Yet to the journalists that surrender their content, Apple will have no accountability.