2021 is the Year of the Gaming Handheld – CNET

The year 2020 was one of big, high-powered game consoles: the PlayStation 5, the Xbox Series X and Series S (and, for me, the Oculus Quest 2). But 2021’s new game systems are all about fitting in your hand. Welcome back to Portable Gaming World.

Handheld games have been around for decades: the Nintendo 3DS, the DS before it, the PlayStation Vita, the PSP, the Game Boy and Game & Watch. But there’s something of a renaissance going on at the moment. A big part of that involves unique boutique devices that have been promised for several years, and are finally being released after 2020’s COVID-related production delays. 

Now playing: Watch this: Valve’s Steam Deck is a portable, handheld PC


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But more than anything else, the Year of the Handheld is being anchored by two products: Valve’s surprise Steam Deck, a handheld, Nintendo Switch-like PC gaming device; and Nintendo’s newest version of the four-plus-year-old Switch, which adds a larger OLED screen.

I’ve always loved handheld gaming. I don’t enjoy being parked in front of a TV, having to choose a room to play in. When I commuted to work, I could take games with me. At home for a year-plus, I can pick the room or place I play in.

Phones and tablets have already made most people handheld gamers for well over a decade now, but this new wave of devices splits along two clear lines: novelty or specialist products, and flexible or switchable products.

The Steam Deck, like the Switch, can play games on the go or docked into a TV or monitor. So, too, can the Analogue Pocket, an upcoming handheld designed to play throwback game cartridges (Game Boy Advance, Game Boy and more) on a monitor or TV.

Now playing: Watch this: New Nintendo Switch adds bigger OLED: Here’s what we…


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Is this a regression from 2020’s wave of high-end consoles? Not to me, not at all. I don’t play games just for bleeding-edge graphics. Gaming has already exploded into a million shards of subgenres and media forms, from retro and emulations, to indie to AAA studio titles, online multiplayer metaverses and immersive VR/AR experiments. 

I’m just glad that the notion of handheld gaming, which seemed reborn with the Nintendo Switch in 2017, has finally led to another wave of devices. Frankly, I expected this explosion of new multimode handheld devices a few years ago, but better late than never. The fall of 2021 will be pretty busy… if you can find one of these to actually preorder. So far, many of these handhelds have frequently been sold out, or had their shipping dates slip to 2022. Here’s what to expect.

Nintendo

The Nintendo Switch isn’t reinventing itself, it’s just getting a few welcome upgrades. The dockable Switch, which hasn’t changed much since 2017, gains a larger 7-inch OLED display, better speakers, a better kickstand for tabletop gaming and a dock with Ethernet. Nintendo is betting that’s worth the $50 price upgrade. It sounds worth it for hardcore Nintendo gamers, but otherwise you may be just fine with the Switch you have.

Read GameSpot’s hands-on impressions of the Switch OLED.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Valve’s Linux-based gaming handheld is like a Nintendo Switch for SteamOS. The $399-and-up handheld plays games on the go with a wide array of thumb sticks, trackpads and buttons, but can dock and become a monitor-connected PC, too. SteamOS isn’t compatible with all Steam games, and Valve’s commitment to this experimental device is unclear, but the relatively low price and its possible flexibility as a Linux-running device gives this a lot of interesting upside. It’s already available for preorder, but delivery times have slipped to mid-2022.

Read our Steam Deck first take.

Panic

This playful little black-and-white plaything, made by the publisher of Untitled Goose Game, looks like a Game Boy cross-bred with a Pikachu and a Tamagotchi. It’s a completely new system with its own indie-developed games that get pushed to the device automatically, as part of a subscription that comes with purchase. The whole idea is clever, kitschy, throwback and whimsical. Also, I didn’t even mention that there’s a crank in its side that works with specially designed games. It’s available to preorder now, and early preorders should be getting it this year… but for others it’s already slipped to 2022.

Read GameSpot’s hands-on impressions of the Playdate.

Analogue

Speaking of Game Boys, Analogue’s reinvented game handheld is literally made to be a rebuilt, improved player of original retro game cartridges. Analogue has done this before with its reinvented and remastered SNES and Genesis consoles. The Pocket does the same for handheld games: it plays Game Boy, Game Boy Advance and — with adapters — Sega Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket and Atari Lynx cartridges. The $200 Pocket is sharper-screened, USB-C rechargeable, and can dock and play games on a TV via HDMI. The Analogue Pocket is also expected this fall.

Read our Analogue Pocket first take.

It’s time to put the headphone jack behind us – CNET

It’s been five years since Apple took it upon itself to take the headphone jack out of its iPhones. The change brought backlash from fans, but to their dismay, the industry followed suit. Nowadays you’d be hard-pressed to find a flagship phone that has one.

The fact of the matter is, five years have passed and that’s a long time in tech. We’ve seen innovation in wireless audio technology come on leaps and bounds. In its infancy it was spotty, but now we have codecs that can almost mimic the fidelity of lossless audio. Not to mention the extra real estate freed up by the 3.5mm headphone jack’s omission.

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An analog component in a digital world.

Jide Akinrinade/CNET

Having personally ditched the wires back in 2016, I came back to them for this video and found them miserably cumbersome. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for the headphone jack, but maybe its omission from our phones is just part of the industry’s wider move from analog to digital, with even the charge port doubling as a point for data transfer. (And that may be the next to go.)

For the full lowdown, take a look at the video above and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

9 great reads from CNET this week: COVID protests, algorithms, swimming pools and more – CNET

The pandemic isn’t over, not by a long shot. Infections, hospitalizations and deaths have been on the rise in the US as the delta variant of the coronavirus runs rampant. Those being hit hardest are the unvaccinated, and only about half the total population in the US is fully vaccinated. That’s forcing a reckoning across the federal government, the tech industry and elsewhere.

Yet opposition to the COVID-19 vaccines and restrictions remains strong in many areas, both in the US and around the world. There have been mass protests in recent days from Paris to Sydney. This prompted CNET’s Daniel Van Boom to try to come to terms with what’s motivating the disaffected and what that means for all of us. “Like the coronavirus itself,” he writes, “the distrust that fuels these protests infects the entire world.”

Van Boom’s commentary is among the many in-depth features and other thought-provoking pieces that appeared on CNET this week. So here you go. These are the stories you don’t want to miss:  

Commentary: COVID denialism and anti-vaxxers can no longer be ignored. 

Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination protesters march in Sydney on July 24.
Don Arnold/Getty

CNET’s Jesse Orrall outsourced several of his daily decisions to algorithms for a week to better understand the lines of code that are playing a greater role in guiding all our lives.

Dressed in hoodie like a hacker
CNET

Your visit may or may not include a giant unicorn floatie.  

Swimming pool with a unicorn floatie
Swimply

Commentary: Paired with a GamePass subscription, it’s the easiest way to jump into next-gen gaming.  

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

If confirmed, the finding would push back our earliest evidence of animal life by about 350 million years.   

Mediterranean sponges
Getty

It’s corny, ridiculous and at times downright exhausting. But CNET’s Mary King couldn’t stop watching.

Scene from Netflix's Outer Banks
Netflix

Premium network Starz decided to overrepresent women and people of color at its network, and it found a secret to success.  

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Starz

Many people are confused when it comes to the rules surrounding HIPAA. We’ll help explain.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The finale for a show like Kevin Can F**k Himself was always going to be tricky. 

Kevin Can F Himself Allison and Kevin
Jojo Whilden/AMC

Now playing: Watch this: Starz’s makes diversity the rule for its shows — and…


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Google Pixel 6 rumors: The latest release date, price and Whitechapel chip buzz – CNET

pixel-6-pixel-6-pro-cameras

Pixel 6 renders based on leaked photos of Google’s next flagship phone.

Jon Prosser

The Google Pixel 6 could be on its way in October, and with it the possibility of the company’s own in-house chip. During Alphabet’s earnings call Tuesday, CEO Sundar Pichai noted that Google would show “deep technology investments” in its fall lineup. It’s speculated that this could be a reference to Google’s self-made chip, codenamed Whitechapel. Although Pichai didn’t mention the Google Pixel 6 by name, he did refer to the company’s fall line, which is rumored to include the upgraded Pixel. 

Google’s first Pixel phone made a splash when it was unveiled almost five years ago, but since then, the search giant’s foray into mobile devices has been inconsistent. Last year’s Pixel 5 received high marks for its cameras, but it lacked the premium features you’d expect from a flagship smartphone, especially for the price. CNET’s Lynn La called it “hard to recommend.” Compare that to the original Pixel phone (“pure Android at its absolute best” and “our favorite phone, bar none”) and Google’s phone trajectory looks rough.

The question remains whether Google will live up to the original’s legacy with the release of the Pixel 6 or continue to disappoint its one-time fans. Until we catch an official glimpse of the rumored phone, let’s go over everything we’ve heard about the Pixel 6 so far. We’ll update this story as new rumors and leaks come to light.

Read more: Here are all the iPhone 13 rumors and Galaxy S22 rumors, too.

Release date: Pixel 6 will probably be here in October

Based on speculation alone, we have a pretty good idea of when Google will release the Pixel 6. Google has unveiled a new Pixel phone in October every year since 2016, with the exception of last year’s Pixel 5, which was announced Sept. 30. But 2020 was an exceptional year for many reasons, including phone release schedules

Google’s Pixel release dates usually follow a similarly predictable pattern, putting phones for sale within a week or two of being announced. Thus, we’d expect to see the Pixel 6 both unveiled and released within the month of October. 

The chip shortage could throw a wrench in Google’s plans, pushing the Pixel 6 release into November or later. But right now we’d put our money on October. Given the unpredictability of the ongoing pandemic and the delta variant, it remains unclear whether Google will announce its new smartphone at a live or virtual event.

pixel-6-pro-front-back-2

A leaked render of Google’s Pixel 6 smartphone.

Jon Prosser

Name: Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 XL… or Pro?

Unlike Apple and Samsung, Google has been consistent with its phone nomenclature. The original Pixel was followed by the Pixel 2, then the Pixel 3 and so on, so it wouldn’t be too radical to assume that 2021’s model will be christened the Pixel 6. 

Where some uncertainty does enter the equation, however, is with the higher-end variant. Google has traditionally released an XL model alongside its baseline handset: the Pixel and Pixel XL, Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, and so on. Last year’s Pixel 5 was the first without an accompanying XL version. (The company also introduced a midrange line in 2019 with the Pixel 3A and 3A XL, followed by the Pixel 4A and 4A 5G in 2020. We expect to see a Pixel 5A in 2021 as well, likely before the Pixel 6.)

So will there be a Pixel 6 XL? Maybe. Or maybe it’ll be a Pixel 6 Pro, or a Pixel 6 Ultra. Or maybe the Pixel 6 will also debut unaccompanied. Rumors about a Pixel 6 Pro began when leaker Jon Prosser debuted renders depicting the “Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro” in May. Prosser’s renders were purportedly based on actual images of the phones, released as renders to protect his source’s identity. Tipster Max Weinbach, on the other hand, wasn’t so sure about the new name, and when Google accidentally (maybe?) included the name “Pixel 6 XL” in a form meant for mobile game developers, he tweeted an I-told-you-so.

Price: Pixel 6 could cost the same as Google’s last flagship

Cost is another aspect of the Pixel 6 that we haven’t heard many whispers about yet. Last year’s Pixel 5 made some compromises to get the launch price down to $699, making it more of a midrange phone than its predecessors, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 4, which both launched at $799. It’s likely that Google picks up where the Pixel 5 left off and keeps the price (and specs) in line with last year’s offering. 

Judging from the specs leaks we’ve seen so far (more on that below), a Pixel 6 price tag that more or less matches the Pixel 5’s would make sense. And it also makes sense that Google would want to go after this segment of the market, with rivals also releasing similar price-conscious handsets recently — the iPhone SE and Galaxy S20 FE, for instance. And if the Pixel 6 XL (or Pixel 6 Pro) is real, we could be looking at a more high-end price tag for that model to match the higher-end specs.

Design and colors: Google might give the Pixel 6 a makeover

So far there have been two major Pixel 6 renders leaked, both of which suggest that Google’s next flagship will be undergoing a significant redesign. Among the changes are a centered hold-punch selfie camera (compared with the off-center front camera on last year’s model), thinner bezels all around, an under-display fingerprint scanner, curved display and, most notably, a maximalist camera bump that juts out and spans the entire width of the phone.

Prosser’s renders show a black camera bump with a two-toned backing with either a vibrant orange or more neutral champagne stripe across the top, though it’s possible this ends up being closer to Google’s “Not Pink” color, which is apparently not very popular. Weinbach also mentioned a silver, green and black color option in a subsequent rumor.

A follow-up render from @OnLeaks showed a similar design to Prosser’s, but with a slightly larger chin. According to this leak, as reported by Digit, the Pixel 6 will feature a 6.4-inch AMOLED display, with the Pixel 6 XL (or Pro) going up to 6.67 inches.

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Here’s what the Pixel 6 phone could look like, according to a leaked render.

Jon Prosser

Camera: What’s up with Pixel 6’s selfie camera?

Earliest rumors about the Pixel 6’s camera setup included speculation that Google might upgrade to an under-display selfie camera, nixing the somewhat-intrusive hole-punch style of its most recent phones. This rumor is based on a patent filed by Google that appeared not to have a visible front camera, so the alternative interpretation would be no front-facing camera whatsoever. Considering the renders we’ve seen since that show a centered hole-punch front camera, we’re guessing this one is not going to come true for the Pixel 6.

Speaking of the selfie camera, 9to5Google reported some interesting implications in March, based on code examined in an upgrade to Google’s camera app. Takeaways include a corroboration of the centered hole-punch theory (with a redesigned status bar that shifts the clock to the left), and support for 4K video. 

But what about the rear cameras? Based on renders alone, we can assume the Pixel 6 will include two rear cameras, with the 6 XL/Pro sporting three. Renders also show an unknown sensor above the flash. Prosser released a full spec sheet for the Pixel 6 and XL/Pro, which says that both variants will include a 50-megapixel wide-angle lens and a 12-megapixel ultrawide, with the larger phone also boasting a 48-megapixel telephoto lens.

A July report indicated that Google camera app code suggested a possible 5x zoom option in the Pixel 6, which means its camera setup could include a periscope-style telephoto lens. If true, the Pixel 6’s optical zoom capability would be on par with Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra.

We’ve also heard whispers about improved stabilization, with a gimbal-like steady-cam mode that would result in “big improvements in video.” We saw what a smartphone gimbal camera could do with last year’s Vivo X50 Pro, which CNET’s Sareena Dayaram called “buttery smooth.”

Finally, Google announced improvements to its software for “a more accurate and inclusive camera” that works better for a variety of skin tones. This upgrade includes adjustments to the phone’s auto-white-balance algorithm.

Specs and features: Whitechapel chip and everything else Pixel 6 could have

Rumored new features for the Pixel 6 lineup include an under-screen fingerprint scanner, replacing the rear-mounted sensor of the Pixel 5, potential wireless charging and dual stereo speakers. Perhaps the most intriguing Pixel 6 rumor, however, is the buzzy “Whitechapel” chip that would be made by Google itself instead of chip giant Qualcomm. According to 9to5Google, the Whitechapel chip is a collaboration between Google and Samsung, making the house-made chip similar to Samsung’s Exynos processors.

Speaking to investors during Alphabet’s second-quarter earnings call, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai noted the company’s upcoming fall event would show Google’s “deep technology investments.” It’s speculated that this could be a reference to Google’s in-house chip. 

Although Pichai didn’t mention the Google Pixel 6 by name, he did refer to the company’s fall line, which is rumored to include the upgraded Pixel. “I’m very excited by our fall lineup, which will showcase Android 12 and some of the deep technology investments that are helping us push boundaries,” said Pichai. 

Below are all of the rumored Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 XL/Pro specs we’ve heard so far. In the meantime, here’s how to decide between a Pixel 5 versus the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4XL, the Pixel 5 versus the Pixel 4A 5G, and Pixel 5 versus the iPhone 11, Galaxy S20 FE and OnePlus 8. Plus, six reasons to buy a Pixel and what we think of the Pixel Buds A-Series.

Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 XL rumored specs

Pixel 6 Pixel 6 XL/Pro
Screen size 6.4-inch 6.71-inch
Display AMOLED Plastic OLED
Rear camera setup 50MP (wide) + 12MP (ultrawide) 50MP (wide) + 48MP (tele) + 12MP (ultrawide)
Front camera 8MP 12MP
Battery 4,614 mAh 5,000 mAh
Processor Google Google
Ram 8GB 12GB
Storage 128GB / 256GB 128GB / 256GB / 512GB
OS Android 12 Android 12

Actor Bob Odenkirk says he had a heart attack, but will ‘be back soon’ – CNET

Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman in acclaimed Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul.

AMC

Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad star Bob Odenkirk on Friday publicly thanked family, friends and fans for their support following his collapse on set this week. 

“Thank you. To my family and friends who have surrounded me this week,” the actor tweeted. “And for the outpouring of love from everyone who expressed concern and care for me. It’s overwhelming. But I feel the love and it means so much.”

After the actor was rushed to the hospital, family and representatives said he was recovering from a “heart-related incident” and in “stable” condition.

“I had a small heart attack,” Odenkirk elaborated on Friday. “But I’m going to be OK thanks to Rosa Estrada and the doctors who knew how to fix the blockage without surgery.” The 58-year-old actor said he would take some time to recover, “but I’ll be back soon.” 

According to TMZ, Odenkirk required medical attention on set in New Mexico while filming the sixth and final season of AMC’s Breaking Bad spinoff.

As news of his collapse spread, many in the entertainment world, and beyond, expressed their concern for Odenkirk on social media. 

In an Instagram post Wednesday, Odenkirk’s Breaking Bad co-star Bryan Cranston expressed how anxious he was about the collapse. “Please take a moment in your day today to think about him and send positive thoughts and prayers his way, thank you,” Cranston wrote. 

Odenkirk’s Better Call Saul co-star Michael McKean also expressed support for Odenkirk.

Odenkirk’s most recent film Nobody came out earlier this year and saw the Emmy-winning comic actor transform into an ass-kicking action star.

Best language learning apps of 2021 – CNET

Want to learn a second language? There’s an app (actually, several) for that. Whether you’re planning an exciting trip abroad or you want to spend your down time doing something enriching, a language app can help you build your vocabulary, develop proper grammar, and eventually become fluent through lessons that are easy to digest — all from the comfort of your smartphone or laptop.

The best language-learning apps are also economical, especially when compared with formal schooling or tutoring with a language expert. Many have speech recognition, which is key to ensuring you have proper pronunciation. Others offer several language options, which is ideal when you want to pick up multiple languages.

Here are the 10 best language learning apps that make it easy for you to learn a language at your own pace. You’ll sound like a native speaker in no time!

Read moreDuolingo vs. Rosetta Stone: How to choose the best language learning app

Screenshot/Babbel

I found Babbel to be the most like a foreign language course you’d see in an online school curriculum. The minimalist layout of the Babbel app helps prevent a new language (French for me) from seeming overwhelming, without making it boring. Each lesson takes you through translations, and includes variations of the word or phrase, pictures and whether it’s formal or informal. If it asks you to spell a phrase, the letters are included.

You also get to see the new words you’re learning used in common conversations, listen to them (if you choose to have audio on), repeat the phrases, and learn more about verb groups. The 15-minute language lessons are easy to work into your day — whether it’s on your commute, before bed or on your lunch break. The My Activity module lets you track all your progress. 

Babbel is free, or you can subscribe to a package. A three-month subscription is $27, six months costs $46, and one year is $75.

Screenshot/Mondly

Similar to Drops, Mondly is a fun, colorful app that has multiple features to take advantage of even if you don’t subscribe to premium. I tried beginner Hungarian on this app, and I liked how it offered to show you different conjugations if you tapped on verbs. The app packs images, translations and auditory aids to help your specific learning style. 

The instructor also speaks the words and phrases in a rather melodic way that made it easier for me to recall them (even after trying different languages on different apps). 

On top of that, Mondly is offering a huge discount on its Premium features for the next five days. Lifetime access to Premium (which includes all 41 languages) is usually $2,000 annually, but it’s dropped to $90. If you subscribe to Premium, you’ll also get access to special kids lessons. 

Screenshot/Duolingo

As a regular Duolingo user, I enjoy the app’s colorful interface and short, game-like exercises. The app doesn’t restrict how many languages you can try to learn at the same time (personally, I think two is a good maximum if you want to retain anything). I use Duolingo to practice Spanish and German.

To make sure you don’t get rusty on the basics, even if you’ve “mastered” a skill by reaching a higher level, the skill can still “shatter” if you don’t review it consistently. Practice the skill again and it’ll repair itself. 

I like Duolingo’s user-friendly layout, and the “streak” feature, which motivates you to keep going by tracking the number of days you’ve reached your point goal. In the app, you can access resources such as Duolingo Stories, which are short audio stories that allow you to check your comprehension skills as you go. I also subscribe to Premium for $7 per month which includes an ad-free experience, downloadable lessons, and unlimited “health.” 

Screenshot/Memrise

One of my favorite parts of Memrise is the app’s use of short videos to show how real locals express different phrases in conversation. I tried the French course, and the first lesson alone let me listen to the tone of voice and casual pronunciation, as well as showing me the phrase’s literal translation and explained its gendered usage. The app also helps you spot patterns in the language to make it easier to improve your skills. 

A few lessons are available for free daily, but the full program unlocks if you subscribe to Memrise Pro. There are three plans — one month for $9, a year for $90 or a lifetime subscription for $140. 

Screenshot/Busuu

When you sign up for Busuu, you select the language you want to learn, and the app helps you determine how advanced you are with it and why you want to learn it, and to what level. From there, you set a daily study goal, and if you subscribe to the premium plan, it creates a study plan so you’ll reach your goal by a set date. For example, Busuu says if I study three times a week for 10 minutes a day, I’ll be pretty fluent in my chosen language in about eight months.  

Premium costs about $6 per month for a year. Even without premium, Busuu offered valuable tools if you want to learn a language. There’s also a Premium Plus option for about $7 per month for extra features. 

I tried Italian with Busuu and I liked the clean, bright layout of the app. Busuu also offers helpful reminders: The second time I logged in, it reminded me about “weak words” I needed to review to improve my vocabulary. In addition to listening to a phrase paired with a photo of the corresponding action, Busuu included helpful vocabulary tips (like that “ciao” can mean “hello” or “goodbye”).

Screenshot/Lirica

If you listen to any song enough, you’ll learn all the words through repetition — even if they’re in a different language. But how do you figure out what they mean? This is where the Lirica app comes in. This app is unique in how it approaches teaching Spanish and German. Instead of traditional teaching methods for learning a language, Lirica uses popular music by Latin and reggaeton artists to help you learn language and grammar. On top of learning the language, you’re also immersing yourself in the culture behind it. The app also includes facts about the artist while you’re learning.

Lirica has a one-week free trial and then it’s about $4 per month. For now, the app only offers Spanish and German, but its website says it plans to add more languages in the future. 

Screenshot/Drops

I tried my hand at Greek on the Drops app. The app’s fun, colorful layout definitely made the language (which has its own alphabet) less intimidating. The app shows users each word in the Greek alphabet and the English alphabet, and says the word and shows an image of it. Drops is constantly adding new languages, most recently, the app brought on Ainu, an indigenous Japanese language. 

If you don’t subscribe to premium for $10 per month, you have to wait 10 hours to access another lesson, but you can check out your statistics after completing the lesson (correct answers, wrong answers and words learned) and tap on the words you’ve learned to hear them pronounced again (and see them written in the Greek alphabet). This can give you a leg up when your next lesson starts. 

Screenshot/Netflix’s Roma

While not technically an app, the free Language Learning with Netflix Chrome extension can be helpful on your journey to becoming multilingual. Install the extension and click the icon to launch the catalog of movie and TV show options. You do need a subscription to Netflix though. 

Once you launch the catalog, you can pick from hundreds of titles that use movies on Netflix to help teach different languages. For example, if you wanted to work on your Spanish, select the language in the dropdown menu, along with the country where you’re using Netflix. If you’re watching in the US, the extension generates 306 titles. To watch one of the films, just click the red “Watch on Netflix” button. Depending on the language you want to learn, you might have fewer titles to pick from.

As the series or movie plays, two sets of subtitles display at the bottom of the screen. One set is your native language and the other is the one you want to learn. The words highlight as they’re spoken, like a karaoke sing-a-long. You can listen to the dialogue phrase by phrase, pause and replay as needed, access a built-in dictionary and more. 

Pimsleur

Pimsleur is an app that offers 51 languages to learn, but delivers the information in what is basically the form of a podcast. Essentially, you’ll choose the language you want to learn and begin a 30-minute auditory lesson (which are downloadable and Alexa-compatible). The app also has a driving mode, so you can improve your language skills during long commutes without looking at a screen. 

You get a seven-day free trial. An Audio-Only subscription costs $15 a month, while a Premium subscription, which includes the 12 top selling-languages, is $20 a month. Features include reading lessons, roleplaying challenges and digital flashcards. 

Screenshot/Rosetta Stone

Perhaps the best-known language learning service, Rosetta Stone has come a long way since it started in the ’90s. My parents still have a box set of discs for learning Spanish somewhere in their house. It’s a lot easier now with the Rosetta Stone app, but you still need at least 30 minutes to complete a Core Lesson. 

I tried Rosetta Stone’s first Irish lesson, which was primarily auditory with images, though there are ways to customize the app to your learning preferences. The lesson started out fairly challenging, especially since I was completely new to the Irish language. But it did get easier as I went along. 

The iOS app got an update last year that brought augmented reality into the mix. This enables Seek and Speak, which is a scavenger-hunt-style challenge. Point the phone camera at an object and get a translation in the language you’re learning. 

Rosetta Stone has a variety of subscription options, depending on the language — for instance, Spanish is $36 for three months, $96 for a year or $179 for lifetime unlimited access to all of its languages. 

Now playing: Watch this: How Game of Thrones language High Valyrian comes to life


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PSA: You might want to avoid the gobs of Halo Infinite spoilers Microsoft just leaked

If you’re invested in the story of Master Chief, Cortana, and the fate of the Halo universe, you might want to keep your head down and start muting some keywords on social media until Halo Infinite arrives later this year — because vast spoilers for the game’s entire story are now floating around on the internet.

Note: we’ll be keeping this post spoiler-free, though.

Halo Infinite creative director Joseph Staten confirmed on Twitter that Microsoft accidentally leaked “a small number of Halo Infinite campaign files” when it launched the game’s first multiplayer beta yesterday on July 29th, saying they “can ruin the campaign experience for everyone.”

As far as we can tell, that’s no exaggeration — we found a plaintext dump on the web with over 800 strings of text that appear to be from Halo Infinite’s campaign. They seem to describe both your in-game objectives, and basic descriptions of the plot, all the way through the end of the story. (At least one of them literally describes a plot twist.)

We’re not linking to the strings, though they’re not terribly hard to find if you really want to spoil the campaign. But if, instead, you’re trying to keep spoilers away, might we suggest our guide on how to mute words on Twitter?

In lighter Halo Infinite news, developer 343 Industries recently revealed you’ll finally have a “drop weapon” button, hopefully leading to fewer randos teamkilling you just to claim your sniper rifle.

Best student credit card for August 2021 – CNET

Why get a student credit card? When it comes time to apply for a loan, finance a car or rent an apartment after graduating, having good credit is key; some employers even check your credit before making you a job offer. It can be hard to build credit from scratch and that’s why the student credit card system exists. Check out the best offers below. 

A student credit card helps students learn how to manage credit cards and begin building credit while limiting risk — kind of like a bike with training wheels. Spending limits are relatively low compared with a regular credit card. That means the chance of debt spiraling out of control, resulting in bad credit, is slimmer with a student card. There are a handful of great student credit cards out there. This list — which we’ll update periodically — will help you choose the one that’s best for you. 

The best student credit card overall

Standard APR: 12.99% to 21.99% variable (0% intro APR on purchases for the first 6 months)
Penalty APR: None
Late payment fee: Up to $40
Annual fee: $0
Cash-back rewards: 2% on gas stations and restaurants, up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter; 1% on all other purchases
Foreign transaction fee: 0%
Standout feature: No late fee for first late payment (up to $40 thereafter)
Eligibility requirements: No credit history required, proof of income 

The Discover It Student Chrome offers a winning combination of cash back and other rewards as well as lenient terms for first-time credit card holders. You won’t get dinged by the credit card company for a late payment — at least the first one — or have to deal with an exorbitant penalty APR. And, of course, getting 1 to 2% back in rewards each month is a welcome bonus. Note that Discover offers another similar student credit card, the Discover It Student Cash Back credit card, but the rotating bonus categories make things overcomplicated, especially for first-time cardholders. 

Features and rewards

Most student credit cards offer 1% cash back. The Discover It Student Chrome card bests that with 2% cash back on gas stations and restaurants, plus a generous cash-back match at the end of the first year. The match effectively doubles your first year’s bonus rewards, so if you receive $75 in cash-back rewards during the first 12 months, Discover will chip in an additional $75. We also like that the Chrome student credit card incentivizes good grades: You can earn a $20 statement credit for each school year you maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher (up to five years). 

Rates and fees 

Discover’s rates and fees are generally lower than competitors’. The APR charged on purchases ranges between 12.99 and 21.99% variable, and there’s an introductory six-month period with 0% APR. Students with the Discover It Student Chrome also don’t have to worry about a penalty APR, which some issuers will institute if a card holder misses a payment. There’s no late fee for the first late payment, but for the second instance the credit card company charges up to $40, which is comparable to what other cards charge. 

At the moment, most study abroad programs have been put on hold. That noted, the Chrome student credit card has no foreign transaction fees — though Discover isn’t as widely accepted outside of the US as Mastercard and Visa.

Best for students without a credit history

Standard APR: 18.74% variable
Penalty APR: None
Late payment fee: Up to $25
Annual fee: $0
Cash-back rewards: 1% on all purchases 
Foreign transaction fee: 0%
Standout feature: Low late payment fee
Eligibility requirements: No credit score required; no Social Security number required for international students 

Deserve Edu Mastercard positions itself as an alternative to the traditional banks and credit card issuers, and specializes in credit cards for students and first-timers. And the Deserve Edu student credit card checks many of the boxes: It offers 1% back on all spending, features a relatively low late-payment fee and comes with a flat 18.74% APR. While it offers a lower student rewards rate than others, its relaxed eligibility requirements are well suited for students with a brief or nonexistent credit history or other potentially disqualifying limitation — like not having a Social Security number, if you’re an international student. 

Features and rewards

The Deserve Edu student credit card offers 1% cash back on all purchases, which can be redeemed for statement credits in increments of $25. Card holders also get one year free of Amazon Prime Student — worth around $40 — and up to $600 of credit toward cell phone protection coverage when you pay your monthly bill with it. 

Rates and fees

The 18.74% variable APR is relatively low for a student credit card, and it’s not tied to your credit score, so you know exactly what the APR is at the outset. Rather, the APR is “variable” because it’s tied to the “prime rate” — a benchmark interest rate used by lenders that changes over time. With most other cards, you won’t know the exact APR certain until you’ve been approved, and if you have a limited or nonexistent credit history it could be on the higher end of the range of what the issuer advertises. If you miss a payment, there’s no penalty APR, though you may be charged a late payment fee of $25. (Still, that’s about $15 less than the fee charged by most other student cards.) Deserve doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees.

Best for students who plan to carry a balance

Standard APR: 14.99% variable
Penalty APR: Up to 29.99% variable
Annual fee: $0
Late payment fee: Up to $40
Cash-back rewards: 1% on all purchases; 5% cash back on Lyft through March 2022
Foreign transaction fee: 3%
Standout features: Free, unlimited access to credit score. Earn a credit limit increase after making five monthly payments on time within 10 months from account opening when meeting credit criteria
Eligibility requirements: No co-signers, proof of income

The student version of one of our favorite cash-back credit cards, the Chase Freedom Student credit card has a lot to offer. The 14.99% variable APR is one of the lowest available for student credit cards, and you get a $50 credit when you sign up and make your first purchase within the first three months from account opening, a $20 good Standing bonus every year (for the first five years) and can earn a credit limit increase after five on-time monthly payments.

Features and rewards

Chase offers cardholders free and unlimited access to their credit score, which can be an important tool for those building credit from scratch. The credit limit increase is another nice feature as credit use is a primary factor in a credit score. Most credit experts recommend using less than 30% of your total credit available, so the higher the limit, the easier it is to keep your credit use low.

Its 1% cash back on all purchases is consistent with the category average and the 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2022 is nice (though less practical for many in the coronavirus era). The $50 sign-on bonus can be triggered by making a single purchase in the first three months so you need not worry about hitting a high spending threshold. And the $20 annual reward can be redeemed for up to five years — as long as your account remains in good standing.

Rates and fees

Every cardholder gets the 14.99% variable APR — so you know what you’re signed up for at the outset. It’s best not to maintain a balance month to month, but if it happens once or twice, the interest can be lower than with other cards.

A few words of caution: This card’s late payment fee can run as high as up to $40 for a first late payment; most other student cards have a lower penalty or no penalty for first-time offenders; and if you’re planning on studying abroad, this card will subject you to a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Best for students who have a co-signer

Standard APR: 14.99% to 22.99% variable
Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%
Late payment fee: Up to $40
Annual fee: $0
Cash-back rewards: 1.5% on all purchases
Foreign transaction fee: 0%
Eligibility requirements: Allows co-signers

Bank of America is one of the few card issuers that allows co-signers, who can be a parent, guardian — or anyone with a good credit score who’s willing to share the legal liability. On the other hand, any late or missed payments or high outstanding balances will also negatively affect the co-signer’s score. 

Features and rewards

This student credit card is essentially the same as Bank of America’s Travel Rewards card, which means it offers higher risks and rewards than most other student cards. You get a higher cash rewards rate — 1.5% back on all purchases — but fewer of the relaxed requirements for credit novices. And points can be redeemed only as statement credits against travel purchases; so, unless 1.5% of your spending is on taxis, Uber or Lyft, flights, baggage fees, hotels, rental cars, buses, trains, amusement parks or campgrounds, this card’s rewards aren’t particularly valuable.

Bank of America will grant you 25,000 points, equivalent to $250, when you sign up if you spend $1,000 during the first three months. That’s a higher threshold than you’ll find with other student cards, but also a higher reward. Bottom line: If you can time your credit card application with a large purchase, it’s worth it.

Rates and fees 

Bank of America offers an introductory 0% APR for the first year and no foreign transaction fees. That being said, this student credit card doesn’t mess around when it comes to penalties: The standard APR runs between 14.99% and 22.99% depending on your credit score, but if you’re late with a payment, you could be hit with the 29.99% penalty APR. That’s exorbitant — and it comes in addition to a $40 late payment fee. Students at risk of paying late should avoid this card at all costs.

In the table below, we’ve broken down the key features of each card to help you determine the best credit card for students.

Best student credit cards compared

Best overall Best for students without a credit history Best for students who plan to carry a balance Best for students with a co-signer
Discover It Student Chrome Deserve Edu Credit Card Chase Freedom Student Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
Annual percentage rate (standard / penalty) 12.99% to 21.99% variable, with 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 6 months / None 18.74% variable / None 14.99% variable / up to 29.99% variable 14.99% to 22.99% variable
Late payment fee Up to $40 Up to $25 Up to $40 Up to $40
Cash-back reward rate 2% on gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter), 1% on all other purchases 1% on all purchases 1% on all purchases; 5% cash back on Lyft through March 2022 1.5% on all purchases
Eligibility requirements No credit history required, proof of income required No credit score required; no Social Security number required for international students Co-signers not allowed, proof of income required Co-signers allowed
Annual fee $0 $0 $0 $0

What’s the best student credit card right now?

The Discover It Student Chrome is our pick for the best student credit card right now due to its lenient terms for first-time cardholders, including no penalty for the first late payment, and a combination of cash back and other rewards. The Deserve Edu Credit Card is best for students without a credit history, while the Chase Freedom Student is a sound choice for students who plan to carry a balance. If the student has a co-signer, we recommend the Bank of America Travel Rewards card.

How does a student credit card work?

Student credit cards offer those with limited or no credit a way to start building credit and create a credit history. They generally come with lower credit limits than typical credit cards and don’t charge annual fees. And they often have novice-friendly features, including late payment forgiveness, incremental credit limit increases over time and credit education resources. Reward rates may be lower than for standard cash-back and travel credit cards, however, making student credit cards a lower-risk, lower-reward financial tool.

Are student credit cards a good option for first-time credit card holders?

Student credit cards offer those with limited or no credit a way to start building credit and create a credit history. They generally come with lower credit limits than typical credit cards and don’t charge annual fees. And they often have novice-friendly features, including late payment forgiveness, incremental credit limit increases over time and credit education resources. Reward rates may be lower than for standard cash-back and travel credit cards, however, making student credit cards a lower-risk, lower-reward financial tool.

How is a student credit card different from a secured credit card?

 While some people choose to build credit with a secured credit card — that is, a card where you’ve backed your credit limit with a cash deposit, student credit cards work a bit differently. These cards typically only offer a small credit line, sometimes just a couple hundred bucks. That way, the student can use the card to build credit without the risk of racking up too much credit card debt (which leads to bad credit), while the card issuer hopes that the card holder will transition into full-time employment and will use their card for everyday purchases for years to come.

What do you need to qualify for a student credit card?

A typical credit card application requires a high credit score (around 650 or so) and at least a few years of credit report history. To get a student credit card, however, you don’t necessarily need either, though some proof of financial experience and responsibility helps when it comes to securing a credit card offer. The card issuer looks at sources of income — even from part-time work or deposits from parents — as well as information about checking and savings accounts to get a sense of an applicant’s saving and spending. Luckily, once a student is able to get a card, simply making everyday purchases is an easy way to build credit (so long as the student is able to pay off their purchases).

What are the benefits of a student credit card?

In addition to more relaxed eligibility requirements, the best student credit card will offer some of the following features:

  • Special rules for credit newcomers such as minimal late fees and no-penalty APRs
  • Lower credit limits — usually between $500 and $2,000
  • Cashback rewards program on spending
  • A “reasonable” APR — usually between 15 and 20%

How do cash-back rewards work?

For all the cards listed above, “cash back” refers to a statement credit that’s applied to your account to lower your balance. For the Bank of America Travel Rewards card, for example, you can only redeem rewards against travel purchases. But for most other cards, cash rewards can be applied toward a balance regardless of expense type.

How we chose the best student credit cards

We evaluated 19 credit cards marketed specifically to students, and we selected four that stood out across a range of criteria, including APR, forgiveness for credit mistakes, cash rewards and lenient eligibility requirements. We urge students to consider important factors like interest rate, whether the card has an annual fee and if the card offers a cash advance before they make a decision. 

Cards we researched

  • CapitalOne Journey Student Rewards
  • Discover It Student Chrome 
  • Discover It Student Cash Back 
  • Deserve EDU Student
  • Bank of America Cash Rewards for Students
  • CapitalOne Secured Mastercard
  • Bank of America Travel Rewards for Students 
  • Citi Rewards + Student
  • OpenSky Secured Visa
  • BankAmericard for Students 
  • StateFarm Student Visa 
  • Wells Fargo Cash Back College 
  • Petal Visa 
  • Chase Freedom Student
  • CapitalOne Platinum
  • Discover It Secured
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Citi Double Cash Card
  • CapitalOne Quicksilver Cash

Disclaimer: The information included in this article, including program features, program fees and credits available through credit cards to apply to such programs, may change from time to time and are presented without warranty. When evaluating offers, please check the credit card provider’s website and review its terms and conditions for the most current offers and information. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

The comments on this article are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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Here are the latest accusations Activision Blizzard employees have leveled at the company

More disturbing allegations of Activision Blizzard’s reported culture of sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination have been reported in recent days, following a huge lawsuit filed against the company by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) last week.

Details in these stories may be challenging to read, so we are prefacing them with a content warning for descriptions of sexual harassment.

On Thursday, The New York Times posted a story of extremely distressing accounts of Activision Blizzard’s culture. Here is one from Shay Stein, a former customer service employee:

Ms. Stein, 28, who worked at Activision from 2014 to 2017 in a customer service role, helping gamers with problems and glitches, said she had consistently been paid less than her ex-boyfriend, who joined the company at the same time she did and performed the same work.

Ms. Stein said she had once declined drugs that her manager offered at a holiday party in 2014 or 2015, which soured their relationship and hampered her career. In 2016, a manager messaged her on Facebook, suggesting she must be into “some freaky stuff” and asking what type of pornography she watched. She said she had also overheard male colleagues joking that some women had their jobs only because they performed sexual favors for male superiors.

And former vice president Lisa Welch shared an account of how an exec asked her to have sex with him “because she ‘deserved to have some fun’ after her boyfriend had died weeks earlier.”

Vice published a disturbing report on Friday about the story of Emily Mitchell, a security researcher, who approached Blizzard’s booth at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference in 2015 and was harassed by Blizzard’s representatives.

When she got to the table, she said she asked about the penetration testing position. Penetration testing, or pentesting, is the industry term for a security audit. Mitchell said she was wearing a t-shirt made by cybersecurity company SecureState, which had “Penetration Expert” on the front. One of the Blizzard employees first asked if she was lost, another one asked if she was at the conference with her boyfriend, and another one asked if she even knew what pentesting was.

“One of them asked me when was the last time I was personally penetrated, if I liked being penetrated, and how often I got penetrated,” Mitchell told Waypoint. “I was furious and felt humiliated so I took the free swag and left.”

Mitchell would later work as the COO at a company called Sagitta HPC (now Terahash), and when Blizzard wanted to hire the company in 2017, she reported the incident to founder and CEO Jeremi Gosney, according to Vice. Gosney posted his redacted email reply on Twitter in March 2017, demanding that Blizzard fulfill several conditions if they were to work together, including a “50 percent misogyny tax” where the proceeds would be donated to three charities supporting women in technology, and that Blizzard send a letter of apology to Mitchell.

Gosney confirmed Friday that the redacted name in the email was Blizzard.

IGN posted a big feature Friday detailing enormous challenges women have faced at Activision Blizzard. One harrowing example: men would walk into breastfeeding rooms, because at one point they didn’t have locks:

A source who has since departed Blizzard talked about how the room designated for breastfeeding didn’t have locks. “Men would walk into the breastfeeding room. There was no way to lock the door. They would just stare and I would have to scream at them to leave.” IGN understands that breastfeeding rooms have since been updated, with locks added to doors.

IGN’s article also added further detail to the allegation in the DFEH’s lawsuit that working at the company was “akin to working in a frat house:”

Such stories abound at Activision Blizzard, compounded by a drinking culture that until recently was “insane,” a source said. One woman told me she “doggedly avoided” drinking events on campus because of their reputation. Another talked about how it was “much more sexual” in Blizzard’s main office in Irvine circa 2015, with women being subjected to inappropriate touching in the chest area and elsewhere, “sometimes at the holiday party, sometimes not.”

Activision Blizzard has taken steps to attempt to address the problematic drinking culture by introducing a two drink maximum at company events, according to IGN, a policy that was put in place in 2018, a company spokesperson told the publication.

On Wednesday, Activision Blizzard employees walked out in protest of the company’s handling of the lawsuit. Employees had signed a letter Monday slamming the company’s initial response. A day later, CEO Bobby Kotick attempted to address the allegations and concerns ahead of the planned walkout, calling Activision Blizzard’s response “tone deaf” in a public letter. Just before the walkout, employees responded to Kotick’s letter in turn, saying that it “fails to address critical elements at the heart of employee concerns.”

In a small positive step, the Overwatch League, which is owned by Activision Blizzard, committed Friday to donating to “worthy causes.” But the league took that step after Overwatch League teams the Washington Justice and the Houston Outlaws jointly announced Thursday they would be donating to RAINN and Big Sister Little Sister.

After accusations, Twitter will pay hackers to find biases in its automatic image crops

Twitter is holding a competition in hopes that hackers and researchers will be able to identify biases in its image cropping algorithm — and it’s going to be handing out cash prizes to winning teams (via Engadget). Twitter is hoping that giving teams access to its code and image cropping model will let them find ways that the algorithm could be harmful (such as it cropping in a way that stereotypes or erases the image’s subject).

Those competing will have to submit a description of their findings, and a dataset that can be run through the algorithm to demonstrate the issue. Twitter will then assign points based on what kind of harms are found, how much it could potentially affect people, and more.

The winning team will be awarded $3,500, and there are separate $1,000 prizes for the most innovative and most generalizable findings. That amount has caused a bit of a stir on Twitter, with a few users saying it should have an extra zero. For context, Twitter’s normal bug bounty program would pay you $2,940 if you found a bug that let you perform actions for someone else (like retweeting a tweet or image) using cross-site scripting. Finding an OAuth issue that lets you take over someone’s Twitter account would net you $7,700.

Twitter has done its own research into its image-cropping algorithm before — in May, it published a paper investigating how the algorithm was biased, after accusations that its previews crops were racist. Twitter’s mostly done away with algorithmically cropping previews since then, but it’s still used on desktop and a good cropping algorithm is a handy thing for a company like Twitter to have.

Opening up a competition lets Twitter get feedback from a much broader range of perspectives. For example, the Twitter team held a space to discuss the competition during which a team member mentioned getting questions about caste-based biases in the algorithm, something that may not be noticeable to software developers in California.

It’s also not just subconscious algorithmic bias Twitter is looking for. The rubric has point values for both intentional and unintentional harms. Twitter defines unintentional harms as crops that could result from a “well-intentioned” user posting a regular image on the platform, whereas intentional harms are problematic cropping behaviors that could be exploited by someone posting maliciously designed images.

Twitter says in its announcement blog that the competition is separate from its bug bounty program — if you submit a report about algorithmic biases to Twitter outside of the competition, the company says your report will be closed and marked as not applicable. If you’re interested in joining, you can head over to the competition’s HackerOne page to see the rules, criteria, and more. Submissions are open until August 6th at 11:59PM PT, and the winners of the challenge will be announced at the Def Con AI Village on August 9th.