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The Right to Repair Association Crowns the Winners of the CES 2021 Worst in Show Awards

Now that CES 2021, the first all-virtual event in the show's history, is over, it's time to start putting together best-of lists. This year, the Right to Repair Association has taken an alternative look at what was on offer.

The organization, which campaigns for your right to repair your electronics, along with some expert judges, put together the Worst in Show Awards, highlighting products that are unrepairable, unsustainable, and generally bad for the consumer.

CES 2021 Worst in Show Award Winners

The products at CES this year were judged on privacy, repairability, security, and environmental impact. There was also the Community Choice and Overall Worst in Show awards.

  • Repairability: X-Series Combine Harvester
  • Privacy: Linksys Aware Motion-Sensing WiFi
  • Security: TCL 32-inch Class 3-Series Smart TV
  • Environmental Impact: YSL Rouge Sur Measure Customizable Lipstick
  • Community Choice: ColdSnap Ice Cream Maker
  • Overall Worst in Show: X-9 Series Combine Harvester

You can view the full list, and the rationale for each choice, over on the Right to Repair Association website.

Why the Worst in Show Awards?

You may be wondering why someone would choose to put together a list of the worst products at CES. After all, countless people worked to bring those items to market. That's not to mention that, to some people, these products are enjoyable investments for their home.

However, the Right to Repair Association campaigns for what's often called Right to Repair, a legal and economic ability to fix your broken electronics. This is a worldwide issue but is particularly severe in the US, where several large, monopolistic manufacturers make it all but impossible for you to repair broken items.

On the whole, CES is an enjoyable event bringing together some of the most exciting technology. But it also offers a space to companies who may not have the best interests of the customer, or the planet, in mind.

Protecting Your Wallet and the Planet

In the coming years, it'll be more important than ever that you should be able to repair faulty items. The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will place a financial strain on most people, making it less viable for you to replace a broken phone, laptop, or smart home device.

Fixing electronics rather than disposing of them also prevents unnecessary e-waste from non-recyclable products. Similarly, it prevents another one from being sold for every device fixed, thus reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing and supply chains.

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Microsoft Launches Digitial Vaccination Passport Plan With Global Healthcare Organizations

Microsoft is joining forces with tech companies and health organizations to begin development of a digital COVID-19 vaccination passport. The digital vaccination passport will be made available worldwide and could become a new standard for international travel in the post-pandemic world.

Digital Vaccination Passport in Your Pocket

The Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI) is a coalition of leading tech companies and healthcare organizations seeking to enable transparent vaccination record passports.

The idea is that once you have a COVID-19 vaccination, you can carry a digital verification of the vaccination. The digital vaccination passport will enable you to travel, return to work and school, and complete other "normal" tasks currently restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

VCI's vision is to empower individuals to obtain an encrypted digital copy of their immunization credentials to store in a digital wallet of their choice. Those without smartphones could receive paper printed with QR codes containing W3C verifiable credentials.

Microsoft is just one of the companies joining the VCI. Other tech companies include Oracle and Salesforce, who are joined by health organizations, including The Commons Project, The Mayo Clinic, and Safe Health.

Paul Meyer, CEO of The Commons Project Foundation, confirms that "The goal of the Vaccination Credential Initiative is to empower individuals with digital access to their vaccination records," using an open standard to protect privacy and begin to open the world back up.

Related: Los Angeles Residents Can Add Proof of Coronavirus Vaccine to Apple Wallet

The VCI will use the open SMART Health Cards specification, which is being developed as a short term solution "to enable a consumer to receive COVID-19 Immunization or lab results and present these results to another party in a verifiable manner."

The Vaccination Credential Initiative will work alongside the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure the digital vaccination passport will eventually become available worldwide.

Vaccination Passports Prompt Privacy Pushback

The introduction and rollout of a global digital vaccination passport are likely to prompt understandable pushback.

The privacy implications of such an initiative will come under scrutiny, with many arguing that they shouldn't have to disclose their vaccination to anyone, period. It is hard not to agree.

Related: Twitter Bans Misleading Content About the COVID-19 Vaccine

However, the flip side is that some countries may begin restricting entry based upon COVID-19 vaccination status, especially if the pandemic doesn't show any sign of abating. Against a backdrop of increasing infection numbers and new COVID variants, countries may require travelers to present a valid digital vaccination passport before entry.

As not everyone will have a COVID vaccination (for whatever reason, but we're not getting into that), it could place additional and potentially unnecessary restrictions on regular people.

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Microsoft Teams Will Soon Save Your Eyeballs With a Better Dark Mode

If the words "light mode" are enough to make you wince in pain and rub your eyeballs, you'll be pleased to know that Microsoft is rolling out a dark mode for all its products. While Microsoft Teams already has a dark mode, Microsoft is making it even better in a future update.

Microsoft Teams' New Enhanced Dark Mode

The news on Microsoft Teams' new dark mode arrived on Windows Latest. While the existing dark mode does tone down all the bright whites, there are still elements on Teams that hurt to look at while you're working away at 3 am. For instance, some UI elements use a solid purple that isn't as forgiving on the eyes as the rest of the app.

The update will allow these colors to adapt to your chosen theme, which means dark mode users will get a more eye-friendly version of Team's harsher colors. The update will also feature rounded corners on icons and drop shadows and implement Microsoft's Fluent Design into Teams.

While we don't have a solid release date for the update right now, it's expected to drop in mid-February 2021. This is around the same time that the new Microsoft Teams PowerPoint Presenter view will arrive, so expect a big batch of updates for Teams around late January to mid-February 2021.

Come to the Dark Side, We Have Better Eyesight

If you dislike harsh, bright colors when using websites and apps, Microsoft Teams may have the update for you. Keep an eye out around mid-February when Microsoft Teams' dark mode gets a much-needed improvement.

You may already know that Windows 10 has its own built-in dark mode; however, did you know that you can customize it to turn on when it turns nighttime?

Image Credit: Shahid Jamil / Shutterstock.com

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Google Officially Owns Fitbit: What That Means For You

Google took to The Keyword to announce that its acquisition of Fitbit is complete. This means that Google owns all of Fitbit's devices and all of the data those devices have on Fitbit users.

What Does the Acquisition Mean for You?

The deal has been in the works for over a year now, so hopefully, anyone who purchased a Fitbit in the last year knew they were going to be under Google's wing.

Obviously, the primary concern for Fitbit users is that Google will now have access to all of their personal data. Google claims that "this deal has always been about devices, not data," which is slightly reassuring.

In the announcement, Rick Osterloh, Senior Vice President, Devices & Services, said that "a series of binding commitments that confirm Fitbit users’ health and wellness data won't be used for Google ads and this data will be separated from other Google ads data."

Fitbit CEO and co-founder James Park also used the same wording in a statement on Fitbit.com, so at least it seems that both companies have good intentions. He also said that "many of the things you know and love about Fitbit will remain the same." The key part of that statement is "many," though, as there are bound to be some changes.

To put it simply, nothing should change for you as a Fitbit user. Google claiming it won't use your data is one thing, but the fact that it has the aforementioned binding commitments makes us feel a little more confident. You should be able to keep using your devices as normal.

What could change is the hardware from Fitbit. The company already started implementing Google Assistant into Fitbit devices, and we'd expect to see more synergy between the companies in the future.

Are There Any Issues?

While Google may have announced that the acquisition is complete, Android Police received a statement from the DOJ that reads as follows:

"The Antitrust Division’s investigation of Google’s acquisition of Fitbit remains ongoing. Although the Division has not reached a final decision about whether to pursue an enforcement action, the Division continues to investigate whether Google’s acquisition of Fitbit may harm competition and consumers in the United States. The Division remains committed to conducting this review as thoroughly, efficiently, and expeditiously as possible."

Essentially, it sounds like the government has some final checks to complete before the deal is really official.

However, Google issued a statement to Android Authority, and the company felt the deal was far enough along to make the announcement:

We complied with the DOJ’s extensive review for the past 14 months, and the agreed upon waiting period expired without their objection. We continue to be in touch with them and we’re committed to answering any additional questions. We are confident this deal will increase competition in the highly crowded wearables market, and we’ve made commitments that we plan to implement globally.

At this point, it's safe to say that Google is going to have Fitbit as part of its collection of companies, albeit with some hurdles.

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Google Officially Owns Fitbit: What That Means For You

Google took to The Keyword to announce that its acquisition of Fitbit is complete. This means that Google owns all of Fitbit's devices and all of the data those devices have on Fitbit users.

What Does the Acquisition Mean for You?

The deal has been in the works for over a year now, so hopefully, anyone who purchased a Fitbit in the last year knew they were going to be under Google's wing.

Obviously, the primary concern for Fitbit users is that Google will now have access to all of their personal data. Google claims that "this deal has always been about devices, not data," which is slightly reassuring.

In the announcement, Rick Osterloh, Senior Vice President, Devices & Services, said that "a series of binding commitments that confirm Fitbit users’ health and wellness data won't be used for Google ads and this data will be separated from other Google ads data."

Fitbit CEO and co-founder James Park also used the same wording in a statement on Fitbit.com, so at least it seems that both companies have good intentions. He also said that "many of the things you know and love about Fitbit will remain the same." The key part of that statement is "many," though, as there are bound to be some changes.

To put it simply, nothing should change for you as a Fitbit user. Google claiming it won't use your data is one thing, but the fact that it has the aforementioned binding commitments makes us feel a little more confident. You should be able to keep using your devices as normal.

What could change is the hardware from Fitbit. The company already started implementing Google Assistant into Fitbit devices, and we'd expect to see more synergy between the companies in the future.

Are There Any Issues?

While Google may have announced that the acquisition is complete, Android Police received a statement from the DOJ that reads as follows:

"The Antitrust Division’s investigation of Google’s acquisition of Fitbit remains ongoing. Although the Division has not reached a final decision about whether to pursue an enforcement action, the Division continues to investigate whether Google’s acquisition of Fitbit may harm competition and consumers in the United States. The Division remains committed to conducting this review as thoroughly, efficiently, and expeditiously as possible."

Essentially, it sounds like the government has some final checks to complete before the deal is really official.

However, Google issued a statement to Android Authority, and the company felt the deal was far enough along to make the announcement:

We complied with the DOJ’s extensive review for the past 14 months, and the agreed upon waiting period expired without their objection. We continue to be in touch with them and we’re committed to answering any additional questions. We are confident this deal will increase competition in the highly crowded wearables market, and we’ve made commitments that we plan to implement globally.

At this point, it's safe to say that Google is going to have Fitbit as part of its collection of companies, albeit with some hurdles.

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Here’s Everything Else We Saw From Samsung at CES 2021

It's the final day of CES 2021 in virtual Vegas and South Korean tech giant Samsung has stolen the show with its Unpacked event.

The company used the spotlight to finally reveal a public version of the new Samsung Galaxy S21 range of smartphones, as well as some new active noise canceling earbuds and a Bluetooth-enabled tracking dongle.

But that was far from being the only news to come out of Samsung during the course of the event. Here are some other big announcements that you might have missed.

1. A New Smart Fridge

Samsung has been making smart fridges for a few years. And while consumers are yet to fully embrace the concept, there is no denying that the fridges themselves are becoming more complex with every passing year.

The refreshed Samsung Bespoke 4-Door Flex now has changeable panels so that you can choose the colors and materials, as well a "beverage center" and dual auto ice maker.

2. A 110-inch Micro LED Screen

Samsung has been touting giant screens at CES since 2018, but they are now finally going to be available for consumers to buy.

They will come in 88, 99, and 110 inches and will include a self-lit inorganic LED, bezel-less edges, and the ability to support up to four different inputs on the screen at the same time (sports lovers, rejoice!).

Because the screen is self-lit, it will be able to produce perfect blacks and contrasts, just like OLED 4K screens.

3. Improvements to SmartThings

Budding chefs will be delighted to hear that SmartThings has gotten a culinary overhaul.

There is now an automatic meal planner (which relies on a third party food AI) that can plan and recommend your meals for the entire week, as well as make shopping lists, connect to local grocery retailers, and integrate with the Samsung Family Hub fridge.

You will even be able to sync recipes between your various Samsung smart cooking appliances for a seamless experience.

4. Samsung Health Smart Trainer

If you buy a new Samsung TV in 2021, you can expect it to have the new Samsung Health Smart Trainer built in.

It will turn your home into a gym by providing ideas, guidance, and analysis of your performance. During the workout, it can help to count reps and estimate the calories you're burning. After the workout, you will get feedback on your posture, form, and more. The whole thing can be managed using Bixby voice controls.

Stay tuned for more analysis of Samsung's new CES gadgets over the next few days.

 

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It’s About To Get a Lot Easier To Give Presentations on Microsoft Teams

While you can currently give a PowerPoint presentation on Microsoft Teams, it can be fiddly to do and is missing some great quality of life features. However, Microsoft is aiming to change that with an update that makes it easier to give a presentation on Teams.

What Microsoft Is Planning For Microsoft Teams Presentations

OnMSFT broke the news earlier after a Microsoft MVP spotted the update in the wild. This update contains the "PowerPoint Presenter view" which gives you more power over how your presentation goes.

You can currently host a PowerPoint presentation on Microsoft Teams, but its controls leave a lot to be desired. For example, the presenter cannot see the notes they've written for each slide.

Not only that, but you currently cannot change to a slide that's out of the pre-set order. This means that if you want to move back and forth between your slides, you'll find Microsoft Teams a pain to use. This goes double if you went through all the tips to prepare a professional PowerPoint presentation.

This isn't great for Microsoft, because Teams is now one of its biggest services. With the COVID-19 pandemic as strong as ever, people are flocking to Teams to give their presentations, from big businesses to small hobby groups.

Fortunately, Microsoft is aiming to fix all of these headaches using the PowerPoint Presenter view. When the update rolls out, you'll be able to see slide notes and hop between slides to your heart's content.

If you can't wait and need to get the advanced PowerPoint controls right this second, fear not. You can grab the update before its official release by signing up for Microsoft Team's public preview program.

Best of all, only the person presenting requires the update to give these enhanced presentations. As such, if you love to show off your PowerPoint slides over teams, it may be worth hopping on the train now.

If you can wait a little longer, the update should make its way onto the public channel in late January 2021.

Making It Easier To Give Presentations From Home

If you've used Microsoft Team's PowerPoint presentation service, you may have found it lacking in the features department. Fortunately, a new update to Teams is in the works, and it's not long now until you're giving a presentation like a pro.

Now that that's sorted, why not grab some nice PowerPoint templates for your next presentation? They can be a quick and effective way of making stylish slides.

Image Credit: Platoo Fotography / Shutterstock.com

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Microsoft Teams Will Soon Recap Your Meetings For You

Sometimes you have those meetings where a lot was said, but nothing managed to stick in your memory. If you need a recap after a meeting to remind yourself of its bigger points, Microsoft Teams will soon do all the heavy lifting for you.

Microsoft's Plans for Teams Recaps

You can see all the juicy details for yourself over on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap. The Roadmap is a really handy tool for checking out all the upcoming updates for Microsoft 365 products. In fact, we've only just reported on Microsoft's plans to bump OneDrive's file-sharing limit to 250GB thanks to a Roadmap entry.

This time around, we're taking a peek at Feature ID 68729, titled "Microsoft Teams: Meeting Recap." The description goes as follows:

Meeting recap will help teams stay on track and keep their work moving forward after the meeting is over. Coming this year, a recap with the meeting recording, transcript, chat, shared files and more will be shared with participants in the meeting Chat tab and viewable in the Details tab for each meeting.

It's interesting to note that Microsoft uses the phrase "coming this year," which semi-implies that the update is still a ways away. However, the release date listed on the feature pins it for a January 2021 release, which means it may come out a lot quicker than initially implied.

Moving From the Office to the Home

With COVID-19 still making the rounds, people have had to tough it out and work from home as much as possible. With the shift from the office to the home comes the challenge of trying to figure out how to be a hard-working professional when you're sitting in your armchair still in your pajamas.

Because the workplace has shifted from the office to the home, people may miss out on tools and services that they would otherwise enjoy if they were in a place of business. When someone realizes they don't have the same luxuries they did in the office, they may struggle to find a way to fill the gap.

Microsoft's plans for Teams appear to be bringing the much-needed productivity features into a work-from-home environment. That way, stay-at-home workers can benefit from professional-level services from the comfort of their living room.

This end-of-meeting recap will help people who aren't used to self-isolation when working at home to get all the information they need in the absence of printouts or one-to-one discussion. Hopefully, Microsoft will bring even more of these handy tools to Teams in the near future.

Bringing the Office Essentials Home With Microsoft Teams

With a lot of people now working from home, employees don't have access to the same tools they'd otherwise have in an office. Fortunately, Microsoft is working hard to ensure home workers have everything they need to stay productive.

If you're still not totally used to working from home, don't worry. There are plenty of tips and tricks you can use to turn your house into a productivity haven.

Image Credit: Ingo Bartussek / Shutterstock.com

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Anker Reveals Excellent Update to Liberty Air 2 Pro ANC Earbuds

Headphones and earbuds have been all the rage at this year's all-digital version of CES 2021. Joining the hoard is Anker, who have significantly stepped up their presence in the busy earbuds marketplace in the past few years.

At CES 2021, Anker revealed their new Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro wireless earbuds, complete with ANC. There's also the interesting announcement of the PowerWave Go 3-in-1 Stand, a new multi-purpose wireless charging station.

Let's take a look.

Anker's Soundcore Earbuds Receive Hardware Boost

If the "Soundcore Liberty Air 2" name sounds familiar, that's because this is a hardware upgrade rather than a completely new product.

Still, Anker hasn't skimped on the upgrade.

The Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro returns with larger 11mm drivers, which will deliver better overall sound. Along with the larger drivers is something called "PureNote," which Anker is marketing as a sort of hardening for your earbud drivers, and at the very least sounds like it'll make the drivers last that bit longer.

Regarding Active Noise Cancelling tech, the Liberty Air 2 Pro earbuds include three ANC modes: Transport, Outdoor, and Indoor. Each ANC mode comes with varying levels of noise cancellation, allowing you to adapt the earbuds to your surroundings.

You can also personalize your audio experience using the Soundcore smartphone app. The app includes a small hearing test which tunes the Liberty Air 2 Pro into your hearing.

Related: The Best Fake AirPods That Look Like the Real Deal

Battery life for earbuds is important, and the Liberty Air 2 Pro doesn't let down there either. The earbuds hold up to seven hours of playback (dropping to six with ANC switched on), plus another 26-hours of playback from the carry case. Furthermore, the carry case supports Qi wireless charging, and you can grab around two hours of playback from a 10-minute charge.

Finally, the Liberty Air 2 Pro is rated IPX4, which means it'll withstand some light contact with water (think, sweat while exercising or a bit of light rain) but not complete submersion.

Anker Reveals PowerWave Go 3-in-1 Charging Stand

Anker didn't stop with the updated Liberty Air 2 Pro earbuds.

The PowerWaves Go 3-in-1 Stand is a new charging stand with a focus on iOS devices, featuring specific ports for iPhones, AirPods, and the Apple Watch. But Android users aren't out in the cold, at least not if your device supports wireless charging. The PowerWave Go supports Qi wireless charging, meaning you can charge all kinds of devices simultaneously.

Smartphones can use up to 10W, while AirPods can make use of up to 5W. Better still, the PowerWave Go doubles-up as a portable battery in its own right, featuring a 10,000mAh battery.

The PowerWave Go 3-in-1 Stand is set to launch in March 2021, although we don't have a specific MSRP at the time of writing.

Related: How Does Wireless Charging Actually Work

It has been a successful CES 2021 for Anker. The Liberty Air 2 Pro earbuds look like a great upgrade, and the PowerWave Go is warmly received. Several Anker devices also featured as CES 2021 Innovation Award Honorees, including their new eufy RoboVac L80 Laser Navigation Robotic Vacuum Cleaner.

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The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Are Now Available for Purchase

CES 2021 is starting to wind down (today is the last official day of the event), but that doesn't mean there's not a whole of exciting news that's still ahead.

The biggest story of the day so far is Samsung's Unpacked event. While it's not officially part of CES, Samsung has used the virtual nature of this year's gathering to piggyback on the media hype and officially release its latest gadgets.

We've finally seen the unveiling of the new Galaxy S21, and after weeks of leaks and rumors, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro now have a price and a release date.

What Have We Learned at Samsung Unpacked?

While the new Galaxy phones are sure to grab most of the headlines, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are just as impressive. They are one of the most eagerly anticipated new earbuds of the year and are the company's most premium earbuds to date.

We thought we knew quite a lot about what to expect; Samsung leaks have been worse than ever in the last few weeks. But some details have at last been officially confirmed.

Most notably, they now have a price—the buds will cost $200 at launch (though European prices have not yet been announced). We also have an official release date: today! You can buy the new buds right now on the Samsung website and via selected partners.

We also learned that the Pro earbuds aren't merely a rehashed and upgraded version of the Galaxy Buds Plus; they have an entirely new design and new drivers.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Features

So far, so good. But why have Samsung's new earbuds caused such a stir in the tech world?

Here are some of the standout features:

  • Active Noise Cancellation: The Galaxy Buds Pro mark the first time Samsung has added ANC to a pair of earbuds. Note the difference between ANC and the Galaxy Buds Live's "distraction-blocking tech." The ANC has two levels—high and low.
  • Voice Pickup Unit: The buds use three mics (two exterior, one interior) and an accelerometer to recognize and remove interference when you're speaking, leading to much higher call quality. There's also something Samsung calls "Windshield Tech" that will remove the sound of gusts when you're outdoors.
  • Device Switching: The buds can automatically jump between Galaxy devices with no user input. If you are using a tablet and get a call on your cell phone, they will immediately make the switch so you can answer.
  • IPX7: You can submerge the buds in water of up to one-meter depth for 30 minutes and they will emerge unscathed.

Under the hood, you get an 11mm woofer and a 6.5mm tweeter, as well as a 360-degree audio setting.

If you have ANC enabled, the battery will last for five hours, with the case providing up to 18 hours. That jumps to eight hours and 28 hours with ANC turned off.

Lastly, we now know the new buds will be available in three colors to match the new phones: black, silver, and violet.