Features

5 things to do while stuck indoors

Aside from sleeping

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My weekends for the entire year are taken up by 40 percent traveling, 30 percent sleeping, and 30 percent staying indoors. Most of the activities I enjoy involve nature, dirt, sun, and open skies. Yeah, mostly the outdoors.

As much as I want to be outside all the time, some unforeseen circumstances can force us to postpone our plans and stay home. If you’re bored to death being indoors, here are things that you can do that are actually fun if you give it a try.

Photo by Victoria Bilsborough

Get creative

Creativity is like our sense of adventure. We feel an adrenaline rush when we start creating, and when we find ourselves being immersed in the experience, we don’t stop. If you own an iPad and an Apple Pencil, make sure to download Procreate from the App store and start drawing.

If you don’t have one, a blank canvas — most likely paper — will do. Even with technology coexisting with art, it’s still euphoric seeing your hands actually create something out of nothing. Go and splash some colors!

Photo by Florencia Viadana

Read, read, read

Like love, you have to find the book that speaks to you, understands your taste and your interests, and above all, will open your mind to something new.

If you can’t find a physical book near you, look for an eBook which is available for purchase online like on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Google Play Books. Don’t forget to download an eBook reader, and yes, there’s an app with the same name. If you’d like to listen to someone who’s always right, then I’d recommend UB Reader, which is actually my favorite app for reading novels and other eBooks I buy online.

Photo by MJ Jucutan

Pump it up with music

Okay, I know we all have our own taste in the kind of music we play and listen to. But everyone likes music (to an extent), and it means that jamming to your favorite tunes can be a fun thing to do over the weekend.

Get a wireless speaker and open Spotify or iTunes, whichever your app of choice is. Sometimes, we don’t always need to do something; we can just lie down and look outside while listening to good music. Or if you’re in the mood, sip some hot chocolate and emote. (I do this all the time.)

Photo by MJ Jucutan

Play games like a kid

If you own a gaming console, maybe it’s time to bring out a classic RPG or bash some baddies with an FPS game. If you don’t, mobile gaming is the next best thing. Tons of games are available for download on the App Store and Google Play, and most of them are free.

If you happen to choose a graphics-heavy game such as PUBG or Mobile Legends, make sure your phone is capable. If gaming is your language, then maybe it’s time to get a gaming-oriented phone for a better experience.

Photo by Thibault Penin

Binge-watch shows and other media content

Like I said earlier, 30 percent of my weekends are spent indoors. Most of the time, I sit or lie in bed, wrapped in a blanket, while binge-watching something new on Netflix over the weekend.

To improve your binge-watching experience on Netflix, find a bigger screen like a Smart TV, a laptop, or a phone that supports HDR — and possibly one that has a headphone jack so you can plug in your earphones or speaker for more immersive audio.

Weekends can be fun even if you don’t go outside. The GadgetMatch team also finds time to relax, and staying indoors is the most convenient break for us. So if you want some recommendations or just want to know what we’re up to, watch out for Now Playing every month on GadgetMatch.

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Netflix knows what you want and lets you watch without buffering

The best binge-watching experience!

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Are you one of the millions of Netflix subscribers like I am? If you are (or even not), I have something interesting to share about how Netflix makes their streaming service the best in the business.

For those who don’t know, Netflix is not what they were before. The company started off as a DVD-rental business — just like your favorite local rental stores back when they were popular. It was in 2007 when they launched their streaming service formerly branded as Watch Now. It was restricted to just PCs and you needed the right browser to be able to play their videos.

It was also in 2007 when the first iPhone from Apple was announced, so two pioneers were born that year and they have yet to properly meet each other.

Netflix formally launched their mobile app in 2010 and it changed how we consume content on our phones. Today, more than 60 percent of Netflix members use the mobile app every month. This is why the company is continuously working to make long-form videos more enjoyable on mobile.

When I say enjoyable, it’s not just about showing in HDR, because there’s more to it than just high resolutions.

First, there is personalization. Netflix considers this very important because of the limited screen space on mobile phones, so you have to see the titles you really like first. This feature is not just on mobile; it’s also available on any internet-enabled device you have Netflix on, whether it’s a TV, laptop, tablet, or even game console.

If you can recall, Netflix added mobile previews to their app earlier this year. This lets users get a sneak peek of the content without leaving the homepage and make choosing a show much faster. It works well on mobile since it’s presented in vertical format — no need to turn the orientation of the phone.

Then we have the new feature called Smart Downloads which is currently available on Android phones and tablets. What this does is it identifies the show being watched and automatically downloads the next episode over a Wi-Fi network. It then automatically deletes the downloaded episode after it’s completed. Basically, Netflix makes sure that you can continue watching the next episode while you’re on the road without using up your data plan.

Speaking of saving data, Netflix is also working round-the-clock to make encoding much better. Thankfully, they know how mobile data can be expensive or slow in certain places.

Back then, Netflix streamed their shows in a “one-size-fits-all” bitrate which is great for high-quality streaming but it consumed too much data. Good thing they learned that not all content requires the same encoding bitrate, so they based it on individual titles. 2D animation shows can be compressed at a low bitrate but still be streamed in high quality, while action-packed titles will be meticulously compressed to avoid any compression artifacts.

Netflix didn’t stop there. Their latest innovation called Dynamic Optimizer Encoding now selects the best encoding recipe per shot. Each shot is dynamically encoded to ensure best overall quality which results in, according to Netflix, 64 percent less bandwidth consumption.

Before all this, users could only watch seven hours of content on mobile using 4GB of data. Since the implementation in 2015, viewers can now enjoy 10 hours, and with the per-shot encoding, members can binge-watch for 26 hours with the same amount of data. Soon, this will reach up to 33 hours using the latest AV1 codec which is something Netflix is currently working on.

SEE ALSO: Netflix is testing engagement by putting ads between episode

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Features

Pixel’s Night Sight now available — here are samples

It delivers when it matters

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Night Sight, which is an additional mode that improves low-light performance in the Pixel camera app, is now available for download from the Google Play Store for all three generations of Pixel.

It was teased during the launch of the Pixel 3, and I even got a chance to test it early thanks to third-party developers, but it’s only now we’re seeing the final product.

Not much has changed since my first experiment, but I do feel that the UI around it has been refined. It’s a free update, so why complain? In fact, it’s an awesome addition to an already-great camera app.

What’s cool is that it works wonders for the worst lighting conditions, and even applies to the front camera if you really must take a selfie in the dark. Just keep your handheld shot a little steadier — no need for a tripod here.

I was fortunate enough to take the final Night Sight build with me on a trip this week, and I must say it’s impressive when needed most.

Here are some samples with and without Night Sight:

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And there we have it. Night Sight isn’t always required, but makes a world of difference when it counts. It can pretty much see in darkness.

For lots of instances, though, Auto mode was sufficient. But that isn’t to say Night Sight isn’t revolutionary; it simply means the Pixel camera’s HDR rendering is still in a class of its own and doesn’t always need assistance.

The rollout of the update may take a few days to complete. Be patient, as it’s definitely worth the wait.

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Accessories

Her Holiday Gift Guide: Presents for the different types of women in your life

Tis the season!

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May it be a sister, a mother, a friend, or a lover, this holiday season is the perfect time to appreciate the women in your life. But, different women have different needs so I’ve rounded up a number of great gift ideas and the type of ladies they’d be perfect for.

You’re welcome.

For the skincare lover

Something to pamper her with! The Foreo UFO offers a home facial mask treatment like no other. Great skin has never been this attainable! This tiny thing is capable of LED light therapy, thermotherapy, and cryotherapy. There are also a number of great face sheets to choose from.

For the fitness buff

For those who aspire for a healthier life, the Fitbit Versa is the perfect gift. Doing what Fitbit does best, the Versa tracks all your health data plus it has smartwatch capabilities! It comes in rose gold and looks pretty with all the great-looking strap options.

For the stylish

Cutting-edge tech for hair styling comes in the form of Dyson’s Airwrap. It’s every girl’s mane dream (pun intended). This iron uses hot air and the British brand’s vacuum technology to make sure hair is curled and not damaged in the process. Oh, and it doesn’t only curl; there are different hair attachments for multiple hair types so you can achieve many looks.

For the sentimental

To help her capture priceless and fleeting moments, get her a Polaroid OneStep+. This pretty camera looks reminiscent of the original Polaroid OneStep; yes, it’s very pretty! Aside from taking great Polaroid photos, this instant camera can now connect to an app. Talk about added fun!

For the traveler

Make her feel safe and look good. Travelon anti-theft bags are perfect to bring on trips. Equipped with RFID-blocking tech, slash-proof material, and locking zippers, these are bags that will leave you with peace of mind without compromising your outfit.

For the homemaker

Make cleaning a breeze with Xiaomi’s Mi robot vacuum. This smart device will clean every inch of your home with a tap on your smartphone. With the Mi Home app, you’ll be able to check which areas the robot has vacuumed and you can even schedule cleaning sessions remotely. And no, this thing won’t fall down the stairs or run over your pets.

For the audiophile

 

iPods are not a thing anymore but this awesome music player is! The Mighty Music Player is a music streaming device — yes, that means you can listen to your Spotify sounds even without your phone. It comes in yummy colors, too.

For the woman on the go

These colorful Bluetooth earphones are not only wireless, but they’re also smart. Honor’s new Flypods look cool with the teal color option, plus it can answer calls, has wireless charging, and responds to touch control.

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