This tiny iPhone speaker could revolutionize workspace conference calls

Boardroom meetings in the office look a lot different today than they used to. With new tech like video calling, iPhones, etc, it’s easier now than ever to call into or broadcast a conference meeting. But the age old conference question still stands: can everybody be heard?

Now, tech company Pioneer wants to fix those dreaded conference call sound trouble with its new Lightning-powered conference speaker, called Rayz Rally. 

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The speaker is tiny — it fits in your pocket — and it can connect to your iPhone, Mac, PC, iPad or iPad touch to help amplify sound. And despite its small size, the itsy-bitsy speaker boasts enough noise to broadcast your conference meeting throughout the whole boardroom. The room-wide volume from such a tiny device comes from Averna Corporation’s patent-pending analog and acoustic audio technology. 

The little speaker is also pretty smart. Rally knows what you’re using it for, differentiating between conference calling or listening to music, and it automatically optimizes performance for the the best listening experience.

In addition to its sound capabilities, the device features a sleek and intuitive design — Rally has just one button, meaning everyone in the office should be able to get a hang of it pretty quickly. That lone button mutes and unmutes your call or plays and pauses music based on what you’re doing. 

Rally also takes away some of the office charging stresses — the speaker itself doesn’t require batteries. Instead, it just needs to be plugged into whatever device you’re using for power. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still charge your main broadcasting device. The speaker also has a second Lightning port to connect a power cable, so you can continue to charge your other devices, even while using Rally.

The speaker comes in space gray, onyx, and ice.

The speaker comes in space gray, onyx, and ice.

Image: Pioneer

Pioneer’s new product even keeps you from falling being behind the tech times. Rally’s iOS app will automatically update your speaker every time new software upgrade comes along, so you don’t have to worry about checking in on the status. 

Anyone looking for a sound upgrade can get their hands on the $99.95 speaker at Apple.com and Apple stores. You can choose from cool ice, onyx, or space gray colors. The sound capabilities are the same in all, so just pick which color fits your office style best and carry on with your business.

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Agentology, the referral network for real estate agents, closes on $4.5 million


Real estate is one of those industries that has been rather slow on the uptake of technology, which makes a lot of sense. Buying and selling a home is one of the biggest, most personal decisions in a person’s life, and the shift to online browsing, transactions, etc. was bound to take longer than other sectors.

Brokers, too, have grown accustomed to their ways and are usually hesitant to use technology to upgrade their processes.

But Agentology hopes to change all that.

According to Agentology, agents are 21x more likely to convert cold leads into clients if they engage with those leads within five minutes of the buyer or seller reaching out.

Unfortunately, many of these leads go unanswered. Agentology says brokers spend billions for lead generation and yet often leave around half of those leads unanswered, either because they can’t get to them quickly or because those leads don’t make sense for their particular skill set.

Agentology tries to solve this by using a combination of machine learning and humans to respond to every lead within five minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across multiple channels like text, phone, and email.

These conversations work towards qualifying the lead, and the full conversation around any lead is handed over to agents with full transparency, where those agents can check on all back-logged communication.

But even with a service that qualifies leads and keeps them warm right from the get-go, agents still can’t take on every single qualified lead that comes their way, either because they’re too busy or because that lead doesn’t fit into their wheelhouse.

That’s where Agentology really differentiates from other lead-gen services like Riley.

With Agentology, brokers are able to refer their leads to another broker with the click of a button. Agentology has more than 30,000 agents in their referral network.

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Agents who refer leads get a 25 percent of the receiving agent’s commission once they close on that particular listing, which is essentially turning an interface button into a revenue model.

Of course, Agentology takes their own cut of the commission (10 percent), as well. The company also makes money on its core service, charging based on lead volume on a monthly basis, which turns out to be around $4 to $6 per lead.

The company just closed a $4.5 million funding round, led by Freestyle Capital, with participation from Entry Ventures Group and OurCrowd.

Agentology, based in San Diego, plans to use the financing to build out product teams and the technology teams.

The company says that it eventually wants to get into other verticals like insurance, lending, and property management, but has no immediate plans to launch for a new vertical.

Featured Image: Caspar Benson/Getty Images

Amazon Prime Wardrobe lets you try on and return clothes free


Amazon’s latest perk for Prime members could make us more stylish by letting us buy everything that catches our eye and return what doesn’t fit. Today Amazon revealed Amazon Prime Wardrobe, which is currently in beta, but you can sign up to be notified when it launches

First you pick at least 3 items and up to 15 from over a million Amazon Fashion options including clothes, shoes, and accessories for kids and adults to fill up your Prime Wardrobe box with no upfront cost. Brands available include Calvin Klein, Levi’s, Adidas, Theory, Timex, Lacoste, and more.

Once the Amazon Prime Wardrobe box arrives, you can try on the clothes for up to seven days. Then you either schedule a free pick-up or drop the resealable box with its pre-paid shipping label at a nearby UPS to return whatever you don’t want. Keep three or four items from the box and get 10% off everything, or keep five or more for 20% off. You only pay after for what you keep, with no charge up front. Amazon Prime Wardrobe is free for Prime members with no extra fees.

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Amazon emailed us a scant statement, noting “today Amazon Fashion announced Prime Wardrobe, a new way to shop for fashion at Amazon, where you can try things before you buy them.”

By taking the hassle and regret out of returns for clothing, the same way Zappos did before it bought it, Amazon could make people much more comfortable pulling the trigger on an online apparel purchase. Pick well and you get a bonus discount. But pick poorly and…no big deal. The move could be quite lucrative for Amazon, as apparel’s share of all digital spend has grown for the past three years straight from 15.4% in 2013 to 17% in 2016, according to comScore.

Amazon Prime Wardrobe is similar to Stitch Fix and some other fashion delivery services where you get shipped a box of clothing you don’t choose. That’s more targeted at people who don’t like shopping, especially men. But Wardrobe lets you pick and choose what you want rather than delivering a random grab bag. Perhaps if Wardrobe tests well, Amazon would consider acquiring Stitch Fix, TrunkClub, or another boxed fashion delivery service to instantly boost its scale.

The speed and simplicity of Prime Wardrobe could be its biggest selling points. If you want the clothes for a special occasion, you can be confident Amazon will get you them in time, and you won’t have to fiddle with getting a box and shipping label if you want to send something back. That friction can often cause people to keep items that don’t want, or dissuade people from buying clothes online in the first place.

Amazon eliminating these troubles could remove one of the last big selling points for brick-and-mortar retailers. And since you can return misbuys, Prime Wardrobe could make it more comfortable purchasing through voice commands to Amazon Alexa.

Prime Wardrobe aligns well with the Amazon Echo Look that takes full-length photos of you to review your day’s clothing choices and uses the Amazon StyleCheck app feature to have AI score your fashion decisions. Prime Wardrobe could also mesh with the Amazon Fashion vertical that features upscale clothing.

A decade ago, Jeff Bezos said “In order to be a $200 billion company we’ve got to learn how to sell clothes and food.” While it’s far surpassed that mark already, nailing the clothing ecommerce experience could further expand Amazon’s empire. Plus, now it has all those Whole Foods stores where it could sell clothing too.

Type ‘spinner’ into Google for a fidgety surprise

Will the fidget spinner craze ever end? One day, maybe. But right now, Google is just adding fuel to the fire. 

The company known for pranks and easter eggs hid a functional, virtual fidget spinner inside its Search site. 

To access it, just search for “spinner” — don’t add any other words to the search phrase as it won’t work. You’ll be able to spin the virtual thingie, and that’s it as far as options go — but that’s pretty much how the real-life toy works as well. Click anywhere on the spinner to instantly stop it. 

Google did add another option, though — you can spin a numbered wheel instead of the fidget, and you can even choose the number of numbers on the wheel. 

What’s the purpose of this? We don’t know. Someone on Google’s developer team probably had an extra hour or two, and decided that this was a good idea. It will probably shave off half of percent the entire population’s productivity every day. Thanks for that, Google. 

Now excuse me while I spin it just one more time.

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Fitbit will hit NBA courts next season, but not on players’ wrists

Fitbit is finally making the leap to the major leagues.

Fitbit and the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves have signed a deal to make the wearable maker just the seventh jersey patch sponsor in the NBA, as the league experiments with a brand new advertising opportunity. It’s the first time a wearable company has paired with an NBA team, giving the association its first official experience with fitness tracking. 

New jerseys with the Fitbit patches will debut later this year during two exhibition games against the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in October at the 2017 NBA Global Games in China. 

The three-year deal means more than just put a patch on some game uniforms, though. Fitbit will be the official wearable and sleep tracker for the three teams in the organization, the NBA Timberwolves, WNBA Lynx, and the G-League (formerly D-League) Iowa Wolves. 

The players at the NBA level won’t wear the fitness trackers on the court — the NBA has strict rules about what is allowed during play — but players will use the activity trackers with insight from the team’s training staff to amp up their recovery regimens between matchups. Everyone in the organization, from stars like Zach LaVine to everyday employees, will be encouraged to start using the wearables.  

Timberwolves CEO Ethan Casson told Mashable that the organization was looking for more in a sponsor than just the highest bidder. “We’re excited about having a partner that wanted to collaborate and innovate together,” he said. 

The NBA’s framework for the new sponsorships only allows for three-year deals, but according to Casson and Fitbit CMO Tim Rosa, both organizations have wider ranging plans for the partnership. As part of the deal, the G-League Iowa Wolves will be used as an “R&D incubator” for Fitbit to test out new uses for the fitness and sleep tracking tech. 

“There’s a little bit more flexibility there to experiment and go deeper than at the NBA level,” Rosa said. “Being able to have access to some of the fittest athletes in the world on a regular basis to look at how sleep and hydration impact recovery is really exciting for the athletes, trainers, and our research teams.”

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The players across the Timberwolves organization won’t be the only beneficiaries of the deal: Minnesota’s fans will have a shot to get in on some fit tracking opportunities too. “The fan experience is going to be a big focus for us, and we’re going to try a lot of different things,” Casson said.  

That experience will start at the Timberwolves’ home arena, the Target Center, during games. Fitbit is working to integrate its tech into the concession stands. When fans buy snacks, they’ll have the option to automatically add the food and its calorie and nutrition information to Fitbit’s food log, which Rosa said will be a first for the company. 

Further out, Rosa said the fan experience could get even better if Fitbit adds near field communication (NFC) tech to its product line, which would enable instant purchasing and even more interactivity between devices. He had no more specifics to share on that topic, but if Fitbit is really looking to get into the smartwatch space, NFC could be a valuable and useful feature.  

Fitbit will also look to design community challenges specifically for Timberwolves fans, which could potentially even rope in the players to give fans a chance to compete with their NBA favorites. They probably won’t make one of those a dunk contest, though, just to be fair. 

The sponsorship gives the NBA its first official foray into fitness tracking. While players have snuck devices onto the court, the league’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) only allows teams to ask players to use trackers in practice. 

Pro basketball is slow to adopt the trend compared to other leagues. The MLB cleared a few wearables for on-field use this season, including WHOOP, a high-level fitness tracker that is also now the official wearable of the NFL Players Association. But these deals are just the start. As the devices become more advanced and players’ training regimens depend on them for more insights, wearable tech will become an integral part of high-level athletics.  

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Meditation app Headspace hires a new chief business officer


One of the first times Ross Hoffman met Headspace CEO Rich Pierson when talking about a role running the company’s business, Pierson was not talking a lot about business. Instead, he was peppering Hoffman with questions about himself, telling stories about users, and talking about work ethos.

The business questions came later, of course, but that kind of introduction and vetting for a company built around a meditation app might not be all that surprising. and Headspace has now hired Hoffman to be its first chief business officer. Hoffman, who was most recently Twitter’s VP of global content partnerships, is joining the company at the beginning of July.

“What we spoke about was, revenue is important but not why headspace exists — and the job is balancing those two things to make sure we’re upholding the culture and the product,” Hoffman said. ” It’s ensuring you can do that while building a business and not interfering with that mission.”

Headspace last raised $30 million in 2015 amid a big focus — at least, in Silicon Valley — on solving the problem of promoting mindfulness through an app. It’s a total Silicon Valley-ish thing to do, but Headspace recently revamped its app in order to help build those small meditation sessions into a daily habit. The company also recently hired a new chief scientist and head of growth in order to scale it up. Hoffman said those kinds of moves, plus the activity he saw online praising the app, were what finally wooed him.

“I’m on a 100 day run streak [in the app] myself,” Hoffman said. “There’s a cool thing in the office, a map of the world, and different quotes from different users It’s really incredible. I went on Twitter and saw what people are saying about headspace. 99% of the Tweets are overwhelmingly positive. To have a [net promoter score] of a product that’s that high, I thought it was really special.”

There may be an opportunity here for Headspace — and Hoffman — if the company is able to convince large businesses that meditation can be a helpful and healthy activity for their employees. These kinds of companies, with “wellness” budgets and other kinds of funding, may see an opportunity to work with Headspace directly in order to keep their employees happy and performing. To do that, it’ll need someone with experience dealing with partnerships like Hoffman.

There’s plenty of competition for Headspace, including Calm and Aura Health, as well as your Apple Watch periodically telling you to breathe (whether that’s meditative or not is sort of subjective). But convincing users to carve out a part of their day every day can create a heavily engaged customer that will be willing to pay in order to keep and promote that habit if they think it’s healthy — something that could easily branch into larger and larger groups of people, like in corporations.

For Twitter, that’s another loss on the executive team, which has more or less become the norm these days (though it did bring on a new lead for its live video business in May). To be sure, Hoffman had been at Twitter since 2011, so a departure after that long a tenure doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary. And Hoffman, to his credit, has not fallen asleep during one of the meditation sessions.

Sphero spinoff Misty Robotics gets $11.5 million to create a mainstream robot for the home


Hardware startup Misty Robotics has a daunting task ahead of it. The Boulder-based company is working on a robot aimed at mainstream consumers for employment in the home and office. But Misty certainly has a solid foundation, as a spinoff of robotic toy maker Sphero, coupled with an $11.5 million Series A led by Venrock and Foundry Group.

The new company employs about half a dozen former Sphero ex-pats, including co-founder Ian Bernstein, who will be Misty’s Head of Product. Bernstein and team have been working on the seeds of Misty’s first product under the Sphero banner for roughly a year and a half, ultimately opting to spin it off into a new company, given its vastly different — and decidedly more ambitious — goals.

“At some point it just made sense for Sphero to focus on connected play,” Bernstein tells TechCrunch. “And it would make sense to spin off a company so we can raise more money and go bigger and faster on this idea of an autonomous robotic being in the home and office.”

Founded as Orbotix in 2010, Sphero has seen rapid growth in the past several years as it’s transformed itself from a niche maker of a smartphone-controlled robotic ball into a full-fledged Disney co-conspirator. The company rocketed to success when its first product became the basis of the remote-controlled BB-8, a wildly successful Star Wars tie-in. Since then, the partnership has  produced new Cars and Spider-Man toys.

But Misty’s offering is something else entirely. The company isn’t ready to reveal much in the way of details at this early stage, except to say that it’s planting the seeds for more mainstream devices. It’s understandable, of course, that it’s fairly modest in its projections. Countless companies have tried to bring consumer robotics to the home, but have largely failed through some combination of half-baked technologies and impossible-to-meet consumer expectations.

For a robot to succeed in the home, it has to be affordable, capable and serve some task that people either can’t or simply don’t want to perform. Only iRobot’s Roomba has come close. The product has found success, but even so, its one-note functionality feels underwhelming compared to the expectations science-fiction has been feeding us for decades. But products like it and Amazon’s Echo are slowly opening the door to more technology in the home. Though Misty tells me it believes a truly mainstream consumer robot is still “several years” away.

“We don’t believe it’s time for a mainstream robot,” says CEO Tim Enwall, who also founded Google-owned home automation company Revolv. “We don’t believe there [is currently] a market for it. What we do believe is that there will be a robot in everyone’s home and office and there is a progression to that process. And that progression, like every other technology we’ve ever adopted as humans, doesn’t start with a mainstream market. It starts with an innovator market.”

Misty’s first several products will be targeted at the hobbyist/maker market — something more akin to where desktop 3D printing and drones have been for the past decade. From there, however, it hopes to build toward something more substantial, both through acceptance among early adopters and a fine-tuning of the multi-purpose robot’s functionality. But, adds Enwall, “even the first-generation of product will embody the principles required for putting a robot in everyone’s home and office. It’s just that this first version will be targeted at innovators.”

The company has released the above promotional image, which highlights an early prototype. At the very least, it appears to point to something more biologically influenced that the Roomba’s hockey puck shape. Whether it takes the form of a humanoid robot, an animal or something else entirely, remains to be seen.

Though Misty’s Sphero experience does point to a company that understands the value of imbuing a product with personality. “We’ve learned a lot,” says Bernstein. “From the progression of starting to add personality in Sphero 2.0, to the Disney deal, [we’ve learned] the power of creating a robot that’s…more of a character.”

Misty’s first product is set to hit the market next year.

iPad Pro 12.9 review: a great iPad, one I won’t buy

There is something about the iPad that is… aspirational. Every time I pick one up or use one or review one, I think, Maybe this is the iPad I should buy. I have visions of carrying much less weight in my purse or backpack, of having LTE connectivity on my “computer” whenever I need it, of becoming the breezy, super-efficient iPad user that Apple shows in its commercials. I will be so damn creative with this thing, I think, especially with the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

And then reality sets in. This is not the iPad I will buy.

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad product or an insufficient computing device. Apple has improved this version of the giant iPad in a few key areas, including its display and processing power, that make it more appealing than ever to iPad lovers. But I still think it’s built for certain tasks and serves specific needs. It also starts at $799 for 64GB of storage — that’s not including the cost of Apple’s stylus ($99) and accessory keyboard ($169). That’s an expensive iPad.

The truth is that if you are a creative professional who is already itching to buy the updated version of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro that Apple announced a couple weeks ago, then you’re very likely going to get it regardless of what I have to say. If you’re on the fence about it and you don’t need a giant screen or don’t think you’ll use the stylus all that much, then you’re probably better off getting the smaller 10.5-inch iPad Pro, or even the lesser 9.7-inch iPad, which only costs $329.

Still, there are a few hardware updates to this new version of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro that are absolutely worth noting, especially since we won’t be able to fully assess the new and improved software until it’s released.

The most obvious update to the big iPad Pro is its display. The smaller version, the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, also has this new display. Unlike the 10.5-inch tablet, which has shrunken bezels to give you more screen, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro display has been crafted in exactly the same dimensions as the 12.9-inch iPad Pro from 2015.

Its display brightness and refresh rate are improved, however. It now has a TrueTone display, which means it automatically adjusts to the lighting in the room. Apple also says it’s 50 percent brighter than the last iPad Pro, reaching 600 nits at peak brightness. This makes it a little bit easier to see in sunlight, although I still wouldn’t plan to use this for your beach reading.

The display’s refresh rate is even more noteworthy. Both new iPad Pro models have a variable refresh rate that changes from 24Hz to 48Hz to 120Hz, depending on the kind of content you’re looking at on the screen. This means if you’re watching an action-packed movie, or scrolling a webpage with lots and lots of photos, or shopping in an app that shows lots of visual products, the rate at which the pixels are refreshed on the screen will adjust accordingly, and the imagery should look more natural or smooth.

Apple, not surprisingly, has a marketing name for this dynamic refresh rate: ProMotion. This naming convention is also partly due to the fact that this isn’t just display technology; it’s powered by its own separate core in the iPad’s processor.

This also means the Pencil, Apple’s stylus that only works with iPad Pros, has a lower latency as well. If I’m being totally honest, I thought the Pencil worked just fine on the first iPad Pro, and I thought it worked just as well on this newer iPad Pro. In other words, I didn’t notice a huge difference in speed or thought that it felt that much more like a real pencil, whether I was writing in Notes, or using the Pencil to make edits in a photo app. For what it’s worth, Apple says the Pencil now has 20 milliseconds of latency — which happens to be one millisecond less than Microsoft’s Surface Pen.

Internally, the new iPad Pros have been updated with Apple’s newest mobile processor, and this is really the element that makes this an “iPad Pro” and not just an “iPad.” The new A10x Fusion chip is said to be 30 percent faster than the A10 chip in the iPhone 7, and early benchmark tests are showing that it could be even faster than that. The iPad Pro is, for the most part, completely capable of handling your everyday tasks as well as more processing-heavy ones. As I write this, I have nearly 20 apps open, along with seven tabs in the web browser, and still app switching feels fast and fluid.

At one point during my testing, the iPad Pro did freeze up, and I was unable to close any apps or switch to another one. And a new photo app, Affinity, also crashed once mid-project. This was a surprising given the touted processing power, but I only recall those two instances in the past week.

The 2017 12.9-inch iPad Pro also has an updated rear camera. It’s the same camera as the iPhone 7, and it’s a really good one for a tablet. That also means it has optical image stabilization. And once iOS 11 comes out, you’ll be able to take pictures of documents you need to sign, send them to Notes, and annotate them immediately on the iPad Pro (or, just mark up photos of your cat). But, fair warning, no amount of camera technology will counter how ridiculous you will look holding up a 12.9-inch glass-and-metal slab to take photos.

The battery claim per charge with the new iPad Pro is the same as the last one: 10 hours. In my experience, with “normal” usage, it easily achieved that. I used it for basic productivity purposes (email, Slack, Twitter, web browsing, and writing in Google Docs) at 50 percent brightness for several hours during the day, then watched a one-hour and forty-minute movie with the brightness popped up, then shopped a little bit before bed, and still had about 20 percent left the next morning. Speaking of movie watching: the four speakers in each corner of the device (the same design as the previous model, with the same sensors that adjust sound based on orientation) offered excellent sound for a tablet.

But there’s movie watching and browsing and shopping, and then there are real work tasks. Ever since Apple released the first 12.9-inch iPad back in November 2015, people (including people at The Verge) have wondered if this was the laptop-killer: the thing that would make us all ditch our PCs and our desktop operating systems and our desktop apps in favor of something light, fast, and essentially mobile. This one is still not there yet, but that’s mostly because of its software.

The loaner unit I’ve been using this week is running iOS 10.3, which already feels a little stale and will soon be outdated. iOS 11 on the other hand, which should roll out as a public beta later this month and will become officially available in the fall, promises to be the iPad software revamp we’ve been waiting for.

I was able to use an iPad running iOS 11 at Apple’s recent developers conference, and the changes are great. There’s an app dock that you can pull up from the bottom of the home screen at any time; apps “float” on the screen in multitasking mode; you can activate a Mission Control-like feature that lets you see miniaturized versions of all of your open apps; and you can use drag and drop across a variety of file systems and applications.

There are still no resizable windows in iOS 11, and you still can’t really manipulate the home screen in the way that you would be able to on a desktop. But the changes mean you feel a little more in command of the things you want to do on your computer, rather than being totally stuck in the iOS world of full-sized windows and neat rows of app icons.

So, for right now, the 2017 version of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a stunning new piece of hardware running on a soon-to-be outdated version of the OS. Creative professionals, or serious iPad users with a lot of cash to spend, will appreciate the improvements, especially the display and processing power. For others, it’s a big wait-and-see. And yes, I meant to use the word “big” there.

8 Verge Score

Good Stuff

  • Improved display
  • Powerful processor
  • Better camera
  • Large screen ideal for pros and creative types

Bad Stuff

  • Expensive
  • Accessories not included
  • PC power, but with the limitations of a mobile OS

These are the five best fully wireless earbuds on the market today

Let’s face it: No matter how excellent they may sound, we’re all tired of untangling the wires of our favorite earbuds. Thankfully, as more and more listeners embrace the lack of a jack, an increasing number of companies have released completely wireless earbuds, pushing listeners towards the wire-free future.

So far, this burgeoning genre isn’t without its fair share of poorly functioning products. Whether it’s short battery life, poor sound, or shoddy connection, there are a number of flawed earbuds you’ll want to avoid. If we’re being completely honest, we’re strong believers that those willing to deal with a single cable between their earbuds will get better performance with halo-style and tethered Bluetooth headphones for a lot less money. That said, if you’re ready to leave the wires — all the wires — behind for a set of completely wireless bud, we’re here to help.

Here are our favorite totally wireless earbuds, ranging from sweat-proof sports buds to basic in-ears.

Our pick

Bragi The Headphone true wireless earphones

Why you should buy this: They look good, sound great, and always work as they should.

Who it’s for: Those looking for the simple pleasures of great, hassle-free sound.

How much will it cost: $149

Why we chose The Headphone:

Sure, German startup Bragi showed a bit of hubris when it named its second generation fully-wireless earbuds “The Headphone,” but as far as we’re concerned, that’s about the only detraction from these excellent buds. Where the company’s first product — The Dash — failed, The Headphone succeeds. Offering good looks, great battery life, and impressive sound, The Headphone are streamlined and easy to use, rather than feature-packed and difficult to decipher.

Along with music streaming, The Headphone can also handle phone calls, and allow you to control playback and even access your phone’s digital assistant via tiny buttons on the buds themselves. Like many pricier headphones, they’ll also play/pause music when set them in or remove them from your ears. The only thing missing in the package is a portable charging case. However, with six hours of playback per charge, that shouldn’t be a problem for any but the most unrelenting daily listeners.

The earbuds are also great for wire-free beginners: They’re intuitive to use, and if you’re afraid of losing one you can purchase a leash from Bragi’s website to keep them strung together until you’re ready to set them free. Best of all is the price. For just $150, The Headphone earbuds are a killer deal that offers everything you want, and nothing you don’t.

Bragi The Headphone review

The best for long journeys 

apple airpods

Why you should buy this: They’re reliable, ultra-functional, and they sound good enough to be a smart upgrade from Apple’s EarPods.

Who it’s for: Apple devotees, and those who like to wander from their phone.

How much will it cost: $159

Why we chose the Apple AirPods:

Apple’s iconic white earbuds have long been the bane of Apple-wielding audiophiles. The one-size-fits-some tubes are often tough to get correctly seated in your ears, and the sound quality is middling at best. But with its AirPods, the company has delivered a solid upgrade worthy of consideration.

While sound is still fairly muddy, the AirPods boast better audio chops than their wired counterparts, and they also pack in several useful features that work consistently (a rarity in the fully-wireless universe). Fans of Apple will appreciate Siri connectivity, intuitive touch controls, and accelerometers that recognize when the buds are in or out, pausing and playing automatically. They offer a solid 5 hours of music streaming per charge (among the best in their class), and even boast an extended range of around 100 feet without obstructions.

In addition, the Airpods come with a well-engineered charging case for 24 hours of total playback time on the go, and they work well for making or receiving phone calls — the ‘buds work independently, so you can take calls while looking like a member of the Secret Service. If you don’t mind the golf-tee look — and if you can get them to fit — Apple’s AirPods are worth a good look.

Apple AirPods review

The best for sports

Jabra Sport Elite

Why you should buy this: You want fully wireless earbuds that love a good sweat as much as you do.

Who it’s for: Those with an active lifestyle who need earbuds that stay put, keep up, and keep track.

How much will it cost: $200-$250

Why we chose the Jabra Elite Sport:

Jabra has added some of the best elements of its hearty workout buds to the fully wireless world with its Elite Sport headphones, giving fitness fanatics something new to drool over.

In addition to being sweat proof and waterproof — able to be submerged in shallow water for up to 30 minutes — the Elite Sport headphones also feature a built-in heart rate monitor, helping listeners keep track of their vitals during strenuous workouts. Perhaps most important, the earbuds come with a wide variety of eartips and support connectors, allowing you to draw up a secure fit that insures they won’t jostle around during your workout.

Beyond the gym, potential buyers will be happy to know that the Elite Sport offer solid sound quality with ample bass response, to help keep you rocking out longer and harder as you train for that half marathon or Crossfit event.

Jabra Elite Sport review

The best everyday audio enhancement

Nuheara IQbuds review

Why you should buy this: You’re looking to enhance or modify the sounds of the world around you, and jam out while you do it.

Who it’s for: Those who are hard of hearing, or who have other specific live-audio needs.

How much will it cost: $200

Why we chose the Nuheara IQbuds:

Nuheara’s IQbuds will play your favorite tunes, of course, but their primary purpose is to help those hard of hearing control ambient sound and boost speech, augmenting their sonic environment.

The Nuheara do an excellent job separating words from background noise, turning difficult hearing situations into easy listening environments — all with the help of an extremely in-depth (but surprisingly intuitive) app. And unlike some competitors in the “wearable” genre, they also boast decent battery life for the genre, coming in at around 3.5 hours of music playback per charge with augmentation engaged.

Audio performance is relatively impressive, too, and best of all they work very efficiently, offering listeners a stable connection.

The IQbuds are also some of the most comfortable fully wireless earbuds we have tested thus far, making them perfect for longer listening endeavors in the real world.

Nuheara IQbuds review

The best cheap-seat earbuds

axgio ah t1 wireless earphones video review true 2720

Why you should buy this: They offer a comfy, secure fit and passable sound performance at a crazy-low price.

Who it’s for: Those who want to cut the cord, but don’t want to shell out for it.

How much will it cost: $50

Why we chose the Axgio AH-T1:

They’re not the most glamorous or the highest-fidelity option on the market, but for less than $50, Axgio’s AH-T1 do what many pricier fully wireless earbuds do not: They actually work, and work pretty well at that.

The clever, over-ear hook keeps these sweat-proof buds securely on your ears during a workout, while volume and playback can be controlled via a series of three buttons on either earbud. Pairing is easy, connection is solid, and at four to five hours, battery life is up there with the best smaller earbuds. While they don’t have a portable charging case, they do come with a handy carrying case, and you can even pair just one of the buds at a time for mono sound.

If you’re looking to cut the cord but don’t have a ton of money to drop on smaller, fancier earbuds, the AH-T1 are an excellent option that will stay put — even when you don’t.

Axgio AH-T1 video review

After LGBTQ backlash, YouTube finally updates ‘Restricted Mode’ policy

Back in March, several popular LGBTQ+ YouTube vloggers claimed YouTube was using the site’s “restricted mode” to hide some of their videos. 

Now, after promising to fix the system, YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki wrote a blog post explaining the measures the company is taking to make its policies more inclusive.

Working with “dozens of volunteer LGBTQ employees and select LGBTQ creators” YouTube has rewritten and broadened the Restricted Mode guidelines to allow personal accounts of individuals who suffered discrimination or violence as long as they don’t contain graphic language or content. 

Restricted mode, according to Google, enables users to filter out “potentially objectionable content” and was originally designed to ensure students attending public institutions like libraries and schools don’t watch mature content like porn or violence. 

However, the policy led to some LGBTQ+ vloggers to accuse YouTube of implicitly categorizing their material as not “family-friendly.”

British vlogger Rowan Ellis was one of the people who complained, telling Gizmodo, “there is a bias somewhere within that process equating LGBTQ+ <should the Q be missing here?> with ‘not family friendly.”

Ellis posted her own video addressing the issue after she found dozens of her videos fell victim to the process:

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In the blog post, which also announced YouTube’s Pride Month initiatives, Wojcicki acknowledged “there was LGBTQ (and other) content that should have been included in Restricted Mode but was not, like kissing at weddings, personal accounts of difficult events, and speaking out against discrimination.”

In April, YouTube said it fixed an engineering problem that was wrongly filtering LGBTQ videos:

“After a thorough investigation, we started making several improvements to Restricted Mode,” reads a message from posted by Johanna Wright, YouTube’s vice president of product management. 

“On the engineering side, we fixed an issue that was incorrectly filtering videos for this feature, and now 12 million additional videos of all types — including hundreds of thousands featuring LGBTQ+ content — are available in Restricted Mode.”

Besides updating the policy, Wojcicki also said that the company will add new content to the Creator Academy, which helps video-makers create video “that will meet the criteria for Restricted Mode”. 

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