It's been a while since smartphones went beyond just being tools to become practically extensions of ourselves. And being so personal to so many users, it's no surprise that a lot of us want to customize the way our phone's interface looks. Unfortunately, stock Android doesn't offer system-wide theming options, but there's a chance this may change with the arrival of Android 12.
When Samsung launched the Galaxy SmartTags alongside the S21 series, the company teased that they could be used for home automation via the SmartThings app. Now that the S21 and the SmartTags are arriving at people's doorsteps, it becomes clear how exactly this automation works. Our own Max Weinbach went hands-on with the tags' smart home routine capabilities.
Samsung always bakes new software features for its latest flagships, and this year's Galaxy S21 series is treated no differently. The smartphones were launched with One UI 3.1 that brought a bunch of new functionality, such as Google Discover on the homescreen and Director's View. There's another addition that's especially useful in a time where video calls have become the primary form of communication for a lot of us: custom video call effects.
Those video doorbells out there might be nice and new, but they're also quite expensive and run on batteries you'll need to replace every so often. Amazon-owned Ring is launching its Video Doorbell Wired to address both of those pain points — notably, it's the most affordable in its portfolio.
One of the more interesting VR applications we've seen in recent years is Tilt Brush, an app that lets users create 3D art in a virtual environment. Unfortunately, Google has announced that it's ending internal development for the app. It will get another chance to succeed, however, as an open-source project.
Square Enix has announced that its free-to-play collection-based tactical RPG Dragon Quest Tact will be coming to the West on both Android and iOS. Back in February (2020), Square announced the game for Japan, and it would appear it was launched in July (2020) and has already racked up 500,000 installs. I suppose this success is the reason the game will soon come to new territories. While the English version isn't slated for a release until 2021, it's already available for pre-registration on the Google Play Store.
The popular automation app Tasker just picked up a big new feature: The ability to call tasks from Tasker directly from the Google Assistant. It's English-only for now, but you'll be able to trigger your tasks just by name when telling the Assistant to "start" or "do" a specific command in Tasker. Even more powerfully and flexibly, you can also use Tasker's Pattern Matching to perform actions with variables on the fly. But unlike AutoVoice, this only works on the device that has Tasker installed on it — probably your phone.
Plex started as a way to organize and stream your media library, but it has since expanded to include live TV, ad-supported streaming video, and Tidal music, among other things. Now, Plex is dipping its toe into gaming. The new Plex Arcade service lets you stream a collection of classic Atari games to your devices. More interestingly, you can also stream your collection of classic game ROMs. However, Plex Arcade won't be free—it's $5 per month for regular users and $3 per month for Plex Pass subscribers.
Another day and we've got more Stadia news! We have new details on the Free Play weekend for the all-new Madden NFL 21 plus three titles joining Stadia Pro next month and three other new games to the platform this week!
Sony has long made interesting smartphone design decisions — tending to prioritize features that, while earning the company a small but fervent following, have failed to make much headway in the market at large. With the new Xperia Pro, it's leaning hard into that approach: the phone is an unabashedly niche $2,500 accessory for professional photographers and videographers, and you can buy one today.