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Alexa catches up to Google Home and adds individual voice profiles

The back-and-forth of feature additions between Google and Amazon on their smart speakers is becoming one long, tedious yet fascinating, tennis rally. "I have this," "Now I have it too, and I added that as well," "I just added that too." It might get tiresome, but it's definitely making things better for all of us consumers. If these two weren't pushing each other that hard, we might have waited longer for Google to implement calling and Alexa to add voice profiles.

And this is what we're here to talk about.

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ASUS releases app for its new ball-shaped 360° Camera

We didn't even know the ASUS 360° Camera existed, but apparently it was announced along with the ZenFone 4 in August. This little ball-shaped camera attaches via USB-C or MicroUSB to your phone and takes spherical images with its two 210° lenses. It can take 4K (4096x2048) photos and 2K (2048x1024) videos, and let you view them as immersive panoramas, asteroids or crystalballs (both a little reminiscent of Tiny Planet).

Now the ASUS 360° Camera has its own app on the Play Store so you can control the camera if you purchase it. It can take photos with multiple filters, videos, time-lapses, and stream live to "popular social media platforms." You can also view previously taken photos in a VR immersive mode too.

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Google Maps is adding new achievement badges for Local Guides

Those of you who contribute as Local Guides on Google Maps (a club I recently joined) will know that as well as the satisfying feeling of helping other people out; you also gain points for your hard work. Those points help you rise through the ranks, getting a new badge every time you level up and eventually leading to certain perks, such as early access to new features.

To add some extra motivation, Google is about to add some new achievement badges that can be attained by completing different types of tasks. Badge fiends will now have four new ones available to them, which can also be leveled up as you submit information to the service.

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Google Wallpapers app adds new categories and wallpapers, most are Pixel-exclusive

Google's wallpaper app gets a refreshed collection every once in a while, but it's still pretty limited in what it offers. Today, however, marks the arrival of 3 new categories that should open up the app to more diverse wallpapers, plus a few new wallpapers in existing categories.

First, the new categories are Geometric Shapes, Underwater, and Keep Looking. Only the first one, which feels so Nexus 4, will show up on all devices, whereas the other two appear to be Pixel-exclusive for now. Sad, because I really wanted those underwater wallpapers.

Second, there are new wallpapers in different categories, but they also appear to be Pixel-exclusive for now.

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YouTube is testing autoplay videos on the home page, but you can turn them off

Autoplaying videos are the devil. I can't say how many times in a single week I have to turn off the "autoplay" toggle on YouTube's queue so it doesn't move from the video I'm watching to what it thinks I want to see next. (Why isn't this a universal setting, YouTube, why?!) And now it looks like YouTube is testing another way to annoy you with autoplaying videos on your home screen.

According to Android Central, the "feature" started showing up, though we don't have it on our devices despite running the latest YouTube version. It's one server-side test I'm not too brokenhearted about.

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Kindle's Oasis is its first waterproof eBook reader with a larger 7" display

The holidays are fast approaching and Amazon seems to be announcing one new product or service every day, so it's hard to keep up. The latest, however, is a waterproof Kindle with a larger 7" display that has us really jealous and itching for something like it but also compatible with Play Books.

Unlike its predecessors, the Oasis doesn't sport a 6" display, but takes it up a notch to 7". And it does that while reducing most bezels and thus still being roughly the same height and weight as the Paperwhite or Voyage. Only the width is larger, mainly thanks to that big black bezel on one side.

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Pure White Essential Phone can now be ordered at Essential.com

The Essential Phone is already a gorgeous phone in its debut Moon Black, but us tech enthusiasts seem to have a thing for panda-themed phones (black front, white back). Just look at how many people went crazy over the 'Black & White' Pixel 2 XL. But before the Pixel 2 XL was even unveiled, Essential already had a Pure White version of the PH-1 in the works. And now, it's finally for sale.

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Snapseed passes 50 million downloads on the Play Store

We've covered Google's photo-editing app, Snapseed, plenty of times here. It's one of the best photo manipulation apps available for Android, especially considering it's completely free. If you needed more proof that the app is awesome, maybe the app's 50 million downloads will convince you.

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Verizon stores will have Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL display units tomorrow, October 12th

The Pixel 2 and 2 XL were announced last week, but with most variants not shipping for a few weeks, those of you pre-ordered one are probably getting a little antsy. But starting tomorrow, October 12th, Verizon stores will have floor units of the Pixel 2s for customers (and eager tech nerds) to play with.

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Google permanently removes top touch functionality on Home Mini

Yesterday, Artem shared his personal experience with the Google Home Mini, and how his unit began recording audio at random intervals. This was due to a hardware flaw, where the Mini believed that the top touch button was being pressed, which then prompted it to start listening for voice commands and sending the audio to Google's servers. Google quickly disabled the top button via a software update while it worked on a possible solution.

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