• Devices

    by Published on 02-14-2018 08:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on



    Yesterday this Canadian received his Amazfit Bip from a grey-market reseller. With shipping, taxes and duties the final cost was about $100 CAD—pretty much the same price that I paid Amazon for the Pebble 2 SE on the left. How do the two compare? Let's break it down...

    Buttons / UI

    Every late model Pebble has four buttons with four programmable long press actions. The Bip has only a single button on its right side. A short press unlocks the screen; a long press can start or stop the workout of your choice, or turn the watch off. The Bip does have a touch screen, though, and while there are no fancy animated transitions it's still likely to be a more intuitive UI for most users.

    Advantage: Draw

    Notifications

    The two devices handle notifications very differently. Once granted access through your phone (on Android anyway) a Pebble will send through all notifications by default, with the option of blocking certain ones through the Pebble app on your phone.

    With the Bip notifications are opt-in, meaning that you have to manually enable notifications on a per-app basis through the Mi Fit app on your phone. Perhaps more importantly, you can't take any action when a notification comes through on a Bip. You can't even customize the vibrations on the watch.

    Even without the Pebble servers you can still use Gadgetbridge to build a list of customized canned responses for incoming messages. Advantage: Pebble.

    Watch Faces



    The Bip has 10 built-in watch faces, and room for one more that can be sideloaded from the Mi Fit app—the included selections are shown above. Just don't expect anywhere near the breadth or depth of what's available for download (or to archive) from the Pebble app store. Advantage: Pebble.

    Fitness Tracking



    Here's where the Bip pulls ahead. With its long battery life, built-in heart rate sensor and GPS, plus an easy shortcut to start and stop your workout, the Bip makes a compelling case for a cheap and cheerful exercise companion. The Mi Fit app is no slouch, either; it was able to chart all the above data from an hour-long walk yesterday afternoon. Advantage: Bip

    As a fitness tracker I think the Bip is a fantastic buy. But if it's a Pebble replacement that you were looking for then I'm sorry to say that you might have to keep looking.

    Link: Amazfit Bip on geekbuying

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    by Published on 02-09-2018 01:26 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on
    Article Preview


    Besides “the notch” the other X’s other distinguishing feature (aside from the heart stopping price tag) is its facial ...
    by Published on 02-09-2018 08:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices



    All through Android's early years, old guard smartphone enthusiasts like myself secretly dreamed of a Nokia-powered Android phone. And in 2017 that dream came true; HMD Global resurrected the brand and gave the world a range of devices running pure Android. The best part is that I can even buy one of them right now from Amazon. Amazon Canada. On Prime.

    So why haven't I? For the simple reason that the new Nokia does not appear to be in the business of selling modding-friendly hardware.

    In a September 29th tweet an HMD exec seemed open to the idea of shipping a phone with an unlockable bootloader; more than four months later this basic requirement for flashing a custom recovery and gaining root access is still nowhere in sight for any North American Nokia device. HMD has also failed to release any kernel sources for their Android builds—which aids in the development of custom ROMs, but more importantly is a legal obligation under the GPL v2.

    The company did a brisk business in 2017, in Asia and Europe at least. Tomi Ahonen estimates year-end handset sales to be around 8.5 million units, or 1% of the global smartphone market. But to win the hearts and minds of the XDA crowd—and for basic compliance with Android's open source license—HMD clearly needs to do better.

    Sources: Tomi Ahonen, XDA

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    by Published on 02-08-2018 11:10 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on
    Article Preview


    One of the iPhone X’s most controversial features is its screen or rather, the fact that parts of it are missing.

    Yes, I’m talking about the “Notch”.

    While previous iPhones had large bezels at the top and bottom of the phone, the X’s design features a display that takes up the entire front of the phone. That means the iPhone’s most iconic feature; the home button is a thing of the past.
    ...
    by Published on 02-07-2018 11:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices



    With the Pebble apocalypse looming in the distance—June 30th, to be exact—r/pebble on reddit has become an especially interesting destination on the web. Some Pebblers are resigning themselves to jump ship to either Android Wear or Apple Watch, depending on their smartphone. Some are looking to Garmin devices for their long battery life. And at least one of the 35,000+ subscribers there has committed to the watch you see above, the Amazfit Bip.

    Chinese? You bet it is... Amazfit branded wearables are made and marketed by Huami, a sub-brand of Xiaomi. What makes the Bip so intriguing for Pebblers is its always-on colour display and the promise of up to 30 days of battery life. Here's the entire spec sheet from the Bip's US product page:

    Always-on reflective 1.28 inch color touch display
    2.5D Corning gorilla glass generation 3 + AF coating
    Optical heart rate sensor for heart rate zones
    Geomagnetic sensor (compass)
    Air pressure sensor (barometer) for elevation
    GPS + GLONASS for route tracking
    20 mm standard width changeable watch band
    IP 68 rating - resistant to dust, rain and splashing
    190 mAh Li-Polymer Battery
    1.1 ounces (31 grams) total weight

    While Americans can order straight from the source, the best option for Canadians seems to be a grey market importer, like this one. With a price tag of less than $80 CAD I might just have to try one out... for science!

    More coverage of the Amazfit Bip here: GSM Arena, SlashGear, The Verge

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    by Published on 02-02-2018 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Rumors



    Some folks over at XDA examined the code for an unreleased Oreo Beta for the Note8, and within it found an XML file with a list of all upcoming Galaxy phones and tablets for 2018. And without any further ado, here is that list:

    astarqlte (Samsung Galaxy S9 Active)
    c10lte (Samsung Galaxy C10)
    c10plte (Samsung Galaxy C10 Plus)
    crown (Samsung Galaxy Note 9)
    degasy18wifi
    grandppirislte
    gtaxlad
    gta2xl (Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 2018)
    gtesy18lte (Samsung Galaxy Tab E 2018)
    gts4llte (Samsung Galaxy Tab S4)
    j2y18lte (Samsung Galaxy J2 2018)
    j3neolte (Samsung Galaxy J3 Neo)
    j3topelte
    j4lte (Samsung Galaxy J4)
    j6lte (Samsung Galaxy J6)
    j7topelte
    j7toplte
    j8lte (Samsung Galaxy J8)
    jackpotlte
    jackpotqlte
    jackpot2lte
    jackpot2qlte
    kellylte
    lugelte
    star (Samsung Galaxy S9)
    star2 (Samsung Galaxy S9+)

    Most intriguing among the entries here is the "jackpot" series, which may or may not turn out to be the rumoured, foldable Samsung Galaxy X. For more on the list and to see how XDA found it see the three links immediately below.

    Sources: XDA (1) (2) (3)

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    by Published on 02-01-2018 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. News



    You can click the image above to see a video message from an attorney at Girard Gibbs, an American law firm that launched a class action suit against LG for boot loop issues related to the G4, G5, Nexus 5X, V10 and V20. Android Police reported yesterday that the firm had reached a settlement with LG, one with a fairly generous payout for affected users: $425 USD cash or a $700 credit towards a new LG device.

    Some time after the Android Police report was published Girard Gibbs' LG arbitration site went offline. On that site was a link to a SurveyMonkey form, and an indication that LG owners could still join the class action suit up until February 12th. So why did the site suddenly go dark? Here's a commenter on AP:

    I just called the law firm directly. They seemed frustrated about the initial launch, apparently this was not for the general public. The survey is now password protected. This is closed, you can't join if you weren't part of it prior.
    If you're a U.S. citizen and an owner of one of the aforementioned LG devices, you might want to bookmark that Girard Gibbs page, or at least keep an eye on this r/Android reddit thread. Good luck!

    Source: Android Police via r/Android

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    by Published on 01-31-2018 08:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Carriers



    Scumbag Samsung is at it again...

    If you're financing your ultra-premium Samsung flagship through your carrier, as most folks in North America do, it's entirely understandable that you'd want to de-bloat your phone—see this post from 2013 for some examples of Canadian carrier bloat on a Galaxy S4. One of the easier ways to do this has been to flash a different firmware onto your device; though Samsung phones are region-locked it's been possible to flash an in-region but non-carrier version of your device's firmware using tools and guides from XDA.

    Until now, that is: XDA reported yesterday that the January security update for the S8, S8+ and Note8 also includes a new bootloader, one that prevents the flashing of unlocked firmware on carrier-branded phones. If you try to change the firmware on your carrier-branded device you will hard-brick that device. Unlocked hardware purchased from Samsung or third parties seems unaffected.

    Though not explicitly stated by anyone on XDA or the cross-post to r/Android, it sounds to me like this "update" would also prevent users from flashing custom ROMs onto late model carrier-branded Samsungs.

    Remember that time when Samsung gave free phones to the CyanogenMod team? Those days are clearly gone.

    Source: XDA via r/Android

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    by Published on 01-29-2018 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Rumors



    What we're looking at here is an unannounced Acer tablet—photographed, tweeted, then deleted by an attendee at a London trade show. What makes this particular tablet different than all the other Android tablets currently on the market is that its actually not running Android at all, but instead a touch-friendly version of Chrome OS.

    According to Liliputing's Brad Linder, a Chrome OS-powered tablet (or "Chromepad") offers a number of advantages over a similar form factor running Android:

    • Faster boot speeds
    • Free-floating, resizable windows
    • Support for Chrome browser extensions
    • More advanced browser tools including developer tools, a task manager, and a powerful bookmark manager
    • 5 years of software and security updates delivered by Google rather than the PC maker
    All this plus full support for Android apps, just like the Android tablet you're using/not using now.

    Unfortunately it's entirely unknown if Acer is actually planning on bringing this device to market, or if it's just a one-off proof of concept for internal use. Whatever the case, it's certainly an intriguing idea.

    Source: Liliputing (1) (2)

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    by Published on 01-26-2018 08:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices



    Security researcher Elliot Alderson seems to have uncovered a new privacy breach in OxygenOS, the default ROM on OnePlus devices. The good news is that it only applies to the latest Oreo beta for the OnePlus 5T. The bad news? Well, just about everything else.

    The changelog for OxygenOS Open Beta 2 lists a new clipboard application, which is apparently the source of the suspicious activity. Alderson's first tweet, in the screen grab above, notes what appears to be a keyword logger, and is connected to a zip file which appears to phone home to TeddyMobile, a Chinese analytics company that also does business with OnePlus's sister brands Oppo and Vivo. One of the services offered by TeddyMobile is "number verification", and according to Alderson this clipboard app is sending your phone number and device IMEI directly to TeddyMobile—along with your text messages, even bank account numbers.

    OnePlus has yet to publicly respond to any of this. Until they do it's safe to say that you should not install the latest Oreo beta on your OnePlus 5T. In fact, now would be a great time to look into flashing a custom ROM instead.

    Source: Twitter via r/Android

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    by Published on 01-25-2018 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Rumors



    In a press release yesterday Samsung confirmed that their next flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S9, will be revealed on Sunday, February 25th to kick off the 2018 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

    As the teaser suggests, an improved camera system will be a marquee feature of the new devices—that is, the S9 and S9+. According to a reputable leaker on Twitter the big deal this year will be a variable aperture on the rear facing camera lenses:

    S9 Camera:12MP F2.4/F1.5 960fps
    S9+ Camera:12MP+13MP F1.4? 960fps
    — @UniverseIce January 12, 2018
    If you were hoping for a better placement of the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor this year, here's a video of an alleged S9 dummy unit:



    Ok, I guess that's slightly better...

    Other unsubstantiated rumours include a front camera with a 3D sensor (whatever that is), and stereo speakers (finally). Any other juicy leaks will be reported on here; stay tuned!

    Sources: SamMobile, Samsung, Twitter

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    by Published on 01-24-2018 09:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Apps



    It's been over a year since Pebble went bust. Fitbit, who bought the company's technical assets and absorbed some of the team, pledged to keep Pebble's servers running until the end of 2017. We're now well past that expiry date, and the day may soon come when Fitbit decides to turn out the lights, leaving users with no access to weather data, voice replies or an app store.

    At that point Pebblers will have three options: make do with what they've got, regain the ability to sideload apps and watchfaces with GadgetBridge or install Rebble, an entirely new OS, on their watch.

    Progress on Rebble has been slow—as you can probably imagine, building a custom smartwatch operating system from scratch is no small feat. But this week the team posted a rare update, one that immediately shot to the top of r/Pebble. Here's a summary of their progress thus far:

    • New splash screen (see above);
    • Rebble can now be run in an emulator;
    • Bluetooth is now working;
    • Preliminary support for Pebble apps and watchfaces.

    With such slow progress you might be asking, why even bother? The Rebble team has an answer for that:

    It’s a fact that no new Pebble hardware is being produced, ever. It’s been over a year since Pebble closed its doors and as such there are a finite number of devices out there, and their ZEBRA connectors are going wonky, their cases are suddenly ingressing water, and their batteries are getting one charge closer to failure every 4-10 days. But while Pebble hardware may remain frozen in time, technology marches on. New versions of Android and iOS continue to be released, along with new hardware, and with every major release we all cringe and utter “will our Pebbles still work”? Well that’s part of why we’re building new apps, appstores and firmware - but another exciting reason for creating our own open-source, FreeRTOS-based OS is that it opens the door to other Pebble fans or even large smartwatch manufacturers in Shenzhen to build their own new hardware in the spirit of Pebble/Rebble!
    While GadgetBridge will probably remain my go-to solution, what this community of developers is trying to accomplish is certainly admirable. If you want to get involved see the first link directly below.

    Source: Rebble via r/Pebble

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    by Published on 01-23-2018 08:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices



    UK-based Integral Memory has somehow managed to cram half a terabyte onto a tiny microSD card, beating the previous record for diminutive storage of 400GB set by Sandisk last year. Integral's Smartphone and Tablet microSDHC/XC Class 10 UHS-I U1 goes on sale next month. Don't expect it to be cheap.

    It's actually not quite as fast as the previous record-holder; while the Sandisk is capable of 100MB/s transfers Integral's new card can only do up to 90MB/s. However, its Class 10 and UHS-I U1 specification guarantees a minimum write speed of 10MB/s, so direct capture of Full HD video from your smartphone's camera won't be a problem.

    For more information see the press release and product listing immediately below.

    Links: Business Wire, Integral

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    by Published on 01-17-2018 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Rumors

    Some slides from Motorola's upcoming presentation at Mobile World Congress seem to have leaked to Droid Life... or maybe all of them? If the source is legit we can at least have an advanced look at this year's updated hardware designs.



    Moto X5

    5.9 inch FHD+ 18:9 display
    Dual front and rear cameras

    No other information is available for Moto's traditional flagship. However, from the graphic above we can see an Essential/iPhone-esque notch at the top of the screen and some sort of software navigation bar at the bottom.

    Also, does the world honestly need yet another smartphone assistant?



    Moto Z3, Z3 Play

    6 inch FHD+ 18:9 display

    Moto's midrange Z series continues to be the only line to support Moto Mods. And speaking of Moto Mods, get a load of this one...



    Moto 5G Mod

    As crazy as it sounds, this accessory would bring 5G wireless service to any compatible phone. Have we even decided what 5G is yet?



    Moto G6, G6 Play, G6 Plus

    5.7/5.93 inch FHD+ 18:9 display
    Snapdragon 450/630 processor
    3/4/6 GB RAM, 32/64 GB storage
    12 + 5 MP rear cameras, 16 MP selfie cam
    3,000/3,200/4,000 mAh battery
    Fingerprint readers on all models

    The cheapest hardware from Motorola also has the most leaked information. In addition to the specs above there are the following colour options:

    G6 - black, rose gold, silver
    G6 Play - blue, charcoal, gold
    G6 Plus - black, silver, teal

    There is even some pricing information—nothing for the G6 Play as of yet, but the G6 and G6 Plus are expected to retail for $240 and $330 USD respectively.

    Keep in mind that these are unconfirmed leaks, and some or all of the slides may well turn out to be fakes. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that 5G Mod...

    Sources: Droid Life (1) (2) (3)

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    by Published on 01-16-2018 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices



    Anyone remember the Motorola Atrix 4G Lapdock? Here's a new iteration of that same idea, with a unique twist: while bringing the empty shell of a notebook computer to life your smartphone also does double duty as an oversized trackpad for that same notebook.

    Razer showed off a prototype of this oversized accessory for their flagship Android phone at CES; it currently goes by the name Project Linda. The Verge got an early peek, and seemed impressed with how well it all worked:

    Hooking up the Razer Phone to Project Linda is simple: place the phone into the slot, and press a hardware button that causes a USB-C port to extend directly into the Razer Phone, simultaneously locking it in place. The entire hardware is powered off the phone; all the Project Linda base contributes is some extra storage space (around 200GB on the current prototype) and extra batteries, so the Razer Phone charges the entire time it’s docked.
    The phone actually does triple duty here—in addition to bringing the notebook to life and serving as its trackpad it also provides audio via its front-facing speakers. There is a separate webcam above the larger 13-inch QHD display, which is a good thing; using the phone's front-facing camera in this setup would give your video chat partner a view of your chin and nostrils only.

    You can read more about Project Linda at the links directly below.

    Links: Razer, The Verge

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    by Published on 01-12-2018 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices



    One more bit of Japanese gadget porn before we return to our regular schedule of mobile-related news...

    I don't use Windows but I've always had a thing for Panasonic's Japan-only Let's Note laptops. Maybe it's the circular trackpad and array, the silver chassis or the exotic etchings on the bright white keyboard... I've just always found them rather fetching. And on my recent visit to Kyoto and a mandatory stop at Yodobashi Camera I came across something new, or at least new to me: this CF-XZ lets the user detach the notebook's touch screen from the keyboard.

    It's a design that makes a lot more sense to me than an unnecessarily thick laptop with a base and keyboard folded behind; in operation it looks like this:



    Not sure whether that accessory that locks the screen to the base is included or not.

    The Let's Note CF-XZ has an Intel Core i5 7200U processor powering its 12-inch QHD screen. There are three separate models, each with some combination of a 128 or 256 GB SSD and Windows 10 Home or Pro. All models come with 8 GB of RAM. If anyone can find evidence of it running a recent version of Ubuntu or Linux Mint please let me know!

    Link: Let's Note CF-XZ (Japanese)

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    by Published on 01-11-2018 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices



    My opinion on smartwatches hasn't changed; while their mission statement may be to show you phone notifications on your wrist, I still firmly believe that their killer feature is the ability to customize your watch face to match your band, clothing, mood or whatever. This monochrome watch, spied by yours truly at Tokyu Hands in Osaka, Japan, takes that customization up a notch with an e-ink band to complement its e-ink display.

    It's called the FES Watch, which I can only assume is an acronym for Fashion Entertainments and Sony. There are currently two separate product lines, the regular FES Watch available in either black or white, and the more premium FES Watch U, which I'm guessing stands for "Unlimited", and here's why: the regular FES watch has 24 separate watch/band combinations which can be cycled through with repeated presses of the watch's only button. The FES Watch U has a companion app for Android and iOS that can sideload and customize many more faces and bands via Bluetooth. Here's a demo of how that works:



    It even looks like you can use a photo taken with your smartphone as a background for the watch, making me really wish I had brought one home with me. Then again, there doesn't seem to be any ability to display notifications from your phone. If Sony ever decided to add that functionality it would instantly make the FES Watch U a pretty compelling smartwatch.

    Links: FES Watch, FES Closet on the App Store, Google Play

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    by Published on 12-21-2017 08:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices



    The fan site Nokiamob brings news of a new IDC report on global smartphone shipments, in which Nokia and Xiaomi are singled out for impressive 50% year over year growth. Feature phones still account for much of Nokia's consumer business, but industry expert (and former Nokia exec) Tomi Ahonen estimates that HMD Global will end up shipping well over 10 million Nokia-branded Android handsets by the end of 2017.

    That's fairly impressive for a brand that only barely has a retail presence here in the Americas. But how does it compare to Google's Pixel, the must-have sidearm for the serious Android fanboy? Pretty well, as it turns out—assuming that the one available data point for Pixel sales is accurate.

    Back in June Ron Amadeo of Ars Technica observed that downloads for the Pixel Launcher had just crossed the threshold for 1-5 million installations. That achievement took a full 8 months; even with improved second-generation hardware I don't see how Google could possibly move more than 2 million Pixels by the end of the year... Which means that Nokia smartphones could potentially outsell Google-branded ones by as much as 5 times.

    Oh, and if you're wondering where Nokia's sales are coming from, Tomi Ahonen lists China, Germany, India, Indonesia and Russia as its top five markets.

    Sources: Ars Technica, Nokiamob, Tomi Ahonen

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    by Published on 12-20-2017 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices



    But it's not why you might think.

    The urban myth is that Apple deliberately sneaks code into iOS updates to make your older iPhone run slower, in the hopes that you'll buy a new one. It's like that old joke: Android users buy a new phone because they're not getting software updates, while iPhone users buy a new phone because they got a software update.

    As far as I know, nothing about this has ever been proven—at least not until now. Ars Technica has compiled an excellent report on research by Geekbench developer John Poole and the iPhone community on reddit. It turns out the Apple may indeed be deliberately throttling performance on your older hardware, but its reasons for doing so are benign. There's no planned obsolescence here, but there is code within iOS that senses battery degradation, and limits performance for the express purpose of preserving your battery.

    The successful remedy to a throttled iPhone is to replace the battery, but Apple really doesn't want you to do that, bringing us right back to the contentious issue of planned obsolescence. Maybe the next best thing would be to buy one of those battery cases...?

    Source: Ars Technica

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    by Published on 12-13-2017 08:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices



    And with only minor cosmetic damage—it's the one on the left.

    An unlucky redditor on r/apple tells the harrowing tale of an AirPod that fell out of their ear, rolled right into the gap between an open elevator door and the 19th floor of a building and then tumbled 21 floors to the basement below. To Apple's engineering credit (or dumb luck) the hardware survived and still works without issue, but what I find amazing about this story is that the AirPod was recovered at all. Kudos to the elevator maintenance crew that assisted in the rescue.

    For me the moral of this story is that the most alluring feature of truly wireless earbuds is also their biggest downfall. It's truly liberating to be able to listen to music completely unencumbered by wires, but should a bud become dislodged from your ear then there's nothing to protect it from a fall, either.

    I had a similar, albeit much more minor accident the other day while walking through the University of Toronto campus. As a cold arctic wind suddenly picked up I instinctively raised the hood of my jacket to cover my head, and in so doing knocked both of my BOSE wireless earbuds out of my ears and onto the hard sidewalk below. The buds were undamaged, which was good, but I looked like an idiot as I scrambled to retrieve them, which was maybe not so good.

    Welcome to the future, folks!

    Source: reddit

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