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Black Friday tech deals that are actually worth considering – TechCrunch

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Ah, Black Friday. The day of a zillion “deals” — some good, many bad, most just meant to clear the shelves for next year’s models.

Hidden amidst ten thousand “LOWEST PRICE EVER! ONE DAY ONLY!” e-mails, though, are a handful of solid sales on legitimately good stuff.

Whether you’re trying to save some coin heading into Christmas or you just want to beef up your own gear collection, we’ve picked a few things that seemed worthwhile while trying to sift out most of the junk. We’ll add new deals throughout the day as we hear about them.

(Pro tip: Want to check if something on Amazon is actually on sale, or if a seller just tinkered with the price ahead of time to make it look like you’re getting a discount? Check a historical price checker like camelcamelcamel to see the price over time.)

Amazon Devices

Amazon generally slashes prices on its own devices to get the Black Friday train moving, and this year is no different.

  • The 4K Fire TV Stick, usually $50, is down to $25
  • The non-4K Fire TV Stick, usually $40, is down to $20. For the $5 difference, though, I’d go with the 4K model above. Future-proofing!
  • The incredibly good Kindle Oasis is about 30% off this week — $175 for the 8GB model (usually $249), or $199 for the 32GB model (usually $279)
  • If you’ve got Alexa devices around your house and are looking to expand, the current generation Echo Dot is down to $22 (usually $49) while the bigger, badder Echo Plus is down to $99 (usually $150)

Google Devices

google pixel 4 010 1

  • Google’s latest flagship Android phone, the very, very good Pixel 4, is $200 off at $599 (usually $799) for an unlocked model. The heftier Pixel 4 XL, meanwhile, is down to $699 from $899.
  • The less current but still solid Pixel 3a is down to $299 (usually $399).
  • The Nest Mini (formerly known as Google Home Mini) is down to $30 from its usual price of $49.
  • The Nest Protect smoke alarm (both the wired and battery versions) are down to $99 (usually $119)
  • The 4K-ready Chromecast Ultra is down to $49(usually $69), while the non-4K Chromecast is currently $25 (usually $35.)

Roku

With both Amazon and Google slashing at the prices for their streaming devices, Roku isn’t looking to be left out. The company’s 4K-friendly Roku Ultra is down to $48 (usually $100), complete with a pair of JBL headphones you can plug into the remote for almost-wireless listening.

Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo Switch

If you’ve yet to pick up any of this generation’s consoles, now honestly isn’t a terrible time (as long as you can do it at a discount.) Both Microsoft and Sony are prepping to launch new consoles in 2020, but that means you’ve got years and years of really great games from this generation to pluck through — and it’ll probably be a few months before there’s much worthwhile/exclusive on the new consoles, anyway. Nintendo, meanwhile, just revised the Switch to significantly improve its battery life in August.

Microsoft has dumped the price on the 1 terabyte Xbox One X down to $349 (usually $499), including your choice of Gears of War 5, NBA 2K20, or the pretty much brand new Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The Xbox One S meanwhile, is down to $149 (usually $249) with copies of Minecraft, Sea of Thieves, and about $20 worth of Fortnite Vbucks. (Be aware that the One S has no disc drive, so anything you play on that one must be a digital/downloaded copy. That’s not a huge issue! But be aware of it, particularly if you’ve got a slower internet connection or limited monthly bandwidth.)

Likewise, Sony has a killer deal on the Playstation 4 — $199 gets you a 1TB PS4 and copies of God of War, The Last Of Us (Remastered), and Horizon Zero Dawn. The deal is available at most of the big box retailers (Best Buy/Walmart/GameStop/Target/etc), though it seems to be going in-and-out of stock everywhere so you might have to poke around a bit.

Deals on the Switch console itself are few and far between so far (and many of the deals are for the older model with the weaker battery), but you can pick up a pair of Joy-Con controllers for $60 versus the usual $80.

Apple

Airpods Pro

Apple deals don’t tend to get too wild on Black Friday — especially not on the latest generation hardware. This year, though, there’s some surprisingly worthwhile stuff.

Sonos

Looking to expand your Sonos setup? Many things in the company’s line-up are on sale right now, including:

  • The Sonos Beam (the smaller of the company’s two sound bars), usually $399, is down to $299.
  • The bigger soundbar, the Sonos Playbar, is down from $699 to $529
  • The massive Playbase (like a soundbar, except you sit your entire TV on it) is down from $699 to $559.
  • A two-pack of Play:1 speakers is going for $230 on Costco.com (usually $170-200 each), though you’ll need to be a Costco member to access it.

Ridiculously cheap microSD cards

The cost of microSD cards has plummeted over the last year, seemingly bottoming out for Black Friday. SanDisk’s 512GB microSD card was going for $100-$150 just a few months ago; today it’s down to $64. Need a faster model? The 512GB Extreme MicroSDXC was $200 earlier this year, and now it’s down to $80.

Steam games

Valve’s annual Autumn Steam sale is underway, slashing prices on a bunch of top notch games — like Grand Theft Auto 5 for $15 (usually $30), Portal 2 for a buck, The Witness for $20 (usually $40), Return of Obra Dinn for $16 (usually $20), Soul Calibur 6 for $18 (usually $60), or the just released (and absurdly fun) Jackbox Party Pack 6 for $23 (usually $30).

Oh! And Valve’s Steam controller is down to $5 (from $50)… with the caveat that it’s because they’re discontinuing it and honestly for most games it’s just an okay controller.



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Ring Car Cam leaks: This could be Amazon’s Alexa dash-cam

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Details and what appears to be an image of Ring’s upcoming Car Cam have leaked, with the connected dash cam expected to add security both when the vehicle is parked and while it’s on the move. The newest addition to Ring’s line-up was actually announced in September 2020 as part of Amazon’s big device launch, though at the time no pictures of the Car Cam hardware itself were shared.

Still, Ring’s description painted a fairly comprehensive picture of what it was intended to do. As well as tracking bumps and attempted break-ins, and notifying owners via the Ring smartphone app, it can also be used to record journeys and summon emergency services in the case of an accident being detected.

If you’re being pulled over by the police, meanwhile, saying “Alexa, I’m being pulled over” will automatically begin video and audio recording. At the same time as that’s being uploaded to the cloud, the system will send a notification to pre-selected family members to let them know the stop has taken place. Ring said there would be a physical privacy shutter, too, and a choice of WiFi or LTE connectivity. The whole thing would be $199.99, though cellular plans would be on top of that.

Since then, we’ve not heard anything more about the new dash camera. A leak on The Tape Drive, though, has revealed what it could look like, and it’s certainly an unusual design.

The camera assembly looks to be mounted on some sort of bracket, either to be positioned above the dashboard or potentially hung from above the rearview mirror. There’s presumably a fish-eye camera on both sides – only visible from one side in the render – to capture footage both inside and outside of the car.

As for functionality, ZatzNotFunny spotted a seemingly prematurely-published Ring Car Cam information document on the company’s support site. It reconfirms some of the details which Ring told us late last year, but also adds a few extra tidbits.

For example, the camera will connect via the vehicle’s data port, not just hook up to a USB or 12V outlet for power. “Ring Car Cam easily installs directly to the OBD-II port in your vehicle, located behind your steering wheel in most cars,” Ring explains. “It securely attaches to the windshield and dashboard of the car, and the cable can be neatly tucked away and out of sight.”

It’s unclear what extra data Ring might be gathering by using that approach. The OBD-II port typically grants access to various driving metrics, and though originally intended as a way for vehicle technicians to diagnose faults and issues in increasingly computerized models, has also gained traction as a way for third-party devices to tap that same stream of information. Amazon had also announced Ring Car Alarm, a cellularly-connected dongle that plugs into the ODB-II port.

The Ring Car Cam itself won’t require a subscription, though you won’t get all of the features in that case. “You can access video stored locally on the device via the Ring app when the car is within range of wifi,” the company explains. “With an optional Ring connectivity plan, you can access video from anywhere via LTE as well as advanced features like Emergency Crash Assist.”

The connectivity plan for Ring Car Cam will also unlock features like real-time tracking, to help locate a stolen vehicle.

What remains to be seen is how Ring Car Cam will fit into Ring’s existing sharing policies with police departments. The Amazon-owned company has found itself mired in controversy in recent years, after inking deals with law enforcement that saw many requests for footage from connected security cameras and video doorbells. Ring had been accused of fueling privacy infringement and supporting racial profiling.

Earlier this month, the company announced a new policy around sharing with public safety and law enforcement agencies. Moving forward, such agencies will ahem to request information or video from communities through a publicly-viewable category on Ring’s Neighbors app. This new section, “Request for Assistance,” will allow communities to see just what sort of data is being shared, Ring says.

“All Request for Assistance posts will be publicly viewable in the Neighbors feed, and logged on the agency’s public profile,” Ring explains. “This way, anyone interested in knowing more about how their police agency is using Request for Assistance posts can simply visit the agency’s profile and see the post history.”

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YouTube on iOS PiP makes it much easier to watch videos while multitasking

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YouTube is now rolling out the ability for all users to watch videos with picture-in-picture mode, which reduces the video players to a small floating screen on one’s phone or tablet. This feature won’t be limited to only premium customers as some had previously speculated, though those premium customers will get access to the PiP support first.

Android users have had access to YouTube’s picture-in-picture mode for a while; it has become increasingly useful as devices get larger, higher-resolution displays, leaving ample room for using more than one app at a time. With PiP, someone can watch a video in a small corner of their device’s display while doing something else, such as browsing social media, messaging, or playing games.

There have been concerns over recent months that YouTube wouldn’t only make its picture-in-picture mode available to paying Premium subscribers on iOS, but that’s not the case, according to confirmation given to MacRumors.

The feature is now rolling out to all iOS users in the United States, with Premium customers getting it first followed by free users ‘soon.’ Some iOS users have already had access to the YouTube picture-in-picture feature, though its availability has been touch and go with it working only sometimes.

The official support will eliminate the need to deal with difficult workarounds and buggy Safari streaming, though you may need to remain patient if you’re not a Premium user. The feature will be most useful on larger iPhone models where there’s enough screen space to watch a video in the mini player and engage in a second activity.

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Researchers say they’ve found the ideal strategy to pay off student loans

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When many people near college graduation, they begin to contemplate how they’ll deal with the student loans they’ve racked up over the past few years. The burden — which grows more substantial with every generation — can result in stress and, if not managed properly, may throw one’s life plans off track for several years. Mathematicians with the University of Colorado at Boulder may have a solution, explaining that they developed a mathematical model to explore the ideal repayment strategy.

Generally speaking, college graduates get a brief grace period after graduation during which time they aren’t required to make payments on their loans. Two different options are available once payments start: an income-based repayment strategy that involves paying a certain amount monthly based on one’s salary or simply throwing as much money at the loan as possible to pay it off in a shorter period of time.

In many cases, graduates are often advised to pay the loans off as quickly as possible if the funding amount is on the smaller side. On the flip side, graduates are typically told to take the income-based repayment option if they’ve taken out a substantial amount of funds in the form of student loans. The new study suggests a hybrid approach may be more ideal.

The mathematical model takes into account things like compounding interest rates, the income tax that may need to be paid, and more. The findings indicate that some graduates may benefit from a hybrid-style repayment approach that involves paying off as much as possible for the first several years, then switching over to an income-based repayment plan for the remainder of the balance.

The team of researchers hasn’t made their work available as a calculator for the public, but they do plan to improve it and potentially make it available to existing repayment calculators that may integrate the model. The ideal repayment method will ultimately depend on personal factors that must be accounted for, including things like anticipated salary and more.

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