Saturday, 20 January 2018

Voog

Most website builders focus on ease of use and simplicity – in short, delivering a service that even the least technical home user can handle. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it could leave professional users wondering if the builder has the power they really need.

Voog takes a slightly different approach. It claims to be simple and straightforward, but the website also highlights its many pro users: businesses, developers, designers and more.

This isn't just a marketing ploy. The baseline Starter plan has a few restrictions (30 pages maximum, 2GB storage), but nothing major, and otherwise it delivers all the core features you need: responsive templates, drag-and-drop editing, custom domain support, and SSL security.

There are only a few templates, but they look better than most (check them out here), and are fully customizable.

Professional extras include support for up to three website languages, full access to CSS and HTML, an API and developer tools for in-depth customization, and a limited online store. This entry-level plan is fairly priced at €6 (£5.30, $6.60) a month, paid annually, although if you don't need the high-end features, there are better deals to be had elsewhere.

The Plus account gives you 10GB of storage, unlimited pages and a more powerful online store. A database tool helps you build dynamic content, like product catalogues – a very unusual extra – and there's a custom domain thrown in. The €10 (£8.80, $11) price looks like good value if you'll use the store and database functions.

The Premium account drops all resource limits, includes priority support and a custom SSL certificate, and has no sales transaction fees for your web store. That's a decent specification, but it might look a little expensive at €39 (£34.35, $42.90) a month, paid annually.

There's no free plan, but Voog does give you a free 30-day trial to sample the service, no credit card details required.

Voog

Getting started

Starting out with Voog is as simple as choosing a template, handing over your email address, and choosing a subdomain for your site, like yourchoice.voog.com (you can also publish to another domain of your own).

The company goes on to ask for your name and phone number, but click the Skip button and the request disappears, at least for now.

Your chosen template is then displayed in one of the most lightweight and unobtrusive editors we've ever seen, with an interface so minimalist it took us a moment to notice it at all. There's no bulky sidebar or other intimidating clutter, just a tiny menu bar at the bottom of the screen which pops up to reveal its controls.

An optional tour walks you through the editing basics. It's extremely simple – little more than a moving tooltip which tells you more about various icons and buttons – but still manages to cover the core website creation steps. Not bad for something which takes only a minute or two to read.

Voog

The Settings menu might be more interesting to experienced users, as it's absolutely crammed with neat and unusual features.

You can view your Sitemap.xml file, for instance. Set a custom Robots.txt file. Add your own Favicon. Integrate with Google Webmaster Tools, or insert Google Analytics or the code for other services into your pages.

Our favorite feature provides a simple way to work on the site with others. You're able to send invitations to friends or colleagues and give them editing rights over the project, allowing teams to collaborate in a secure way (no more sharing of passwords). This could be a very appealing feature for many business users, and it's not one you'll often find elsewhere.

Voog

Editor

The Voog editor does its best to stay out of your way, a welcome approach which brings all kinds of benefits. There are no complicated menus to confuse beginners, no overweight toolbars hogging valuable screen real-estate, and you can browse your template much as though it was a finished website. Clicking a menu link doesn't give you fifty navigation options, for instance – it just takes you to the linked page.

Even when you start exploring the interface, it remains very compact. Tapping the Add button at the bottom of the screen displays small icons for the eight widgets that you can add to a page: a text box, image gallery, video, map, form, social bar, a Buy button, and a general Embed box.

This is far more basic than some of the big-name competition. Wix has a host of galleries, buttons, frames, forms and more, all displayed with thumbnail previews to help you find what you need. Voog is much more stripped-back and leaves you to do more tweaking and customization to achieve the effects you need.

The editor gives you little control over layout. Objects can be placed above or below each other, but you can't easily add page level columns to arrange them side-by-side. You can't drag objects to specific pixel positions, either – you're mostly restricted to aligning them to the left, right or centre of their container, and sometimes you can't even do that.

Workflow isn't always intuitive. There's no image control, for instance: to add a single image you must place it in a text box. And you can't delete a control by selecting it and pressing Del – instead you must click and drag, then drop it into the trash can which suddenly appears bottom-right.

Voog doesn't have a global Undo option, unfortunately. Take some major action, like deleting a control, and you'll be asked if you'd like to undo it. But unless you say yes, you won't be able to reverse your steps later, and there's no guaranteed Undo for lesser changes.

There is still real power here. Click inside a text box, for instance, and a lengthy toolbar appears. This doesn't just have the usual font size, style and alignment options – you can change colors, use bulleted or numbered lists, insert tables, maps or videos, even edit the HTML source to customize the effect. It's a capable word processor, all on its own.

Voog's Embed box is another all-purpose highlight. Paste in a link for a tweet, a YouTube video or other dynamic content from most of the big services and it'll be embedded on your page.

The Voog form opens with three boxes for your name, email and message, but you can change these, define an expected format (email address, web URL), mark a field as required, and more. It's far more customizable than it looks.

Voog

There's speedy support for multiple languages. In a few seconds you can set up your site to, for example, support English, French and German. These options are available from a menu, or you can even have the site automatically detect the language from the visitor's location.

It's a neat idea which works well, although it also has a big catch: add a new language and you start with a copy of the website template, not a clone of your existing site. That means you have to rebuild the site by adding whatever text, images and other components you've used so far.

There's a lot to like here, but the core issues remain. However good some features might be, Voog's editor doesn't offer as many options and widgets as the leading website builders, and the functionality you get isn't always easy to use.

Media

Voog offers only the bare minimum of media support: single images, image galleries, videos, and the ability to embed media from third-party sources. There's no native media player, no direct audio support and no document viewer. There's also a limit of 50MB on the size of files you can upload, which means you're not going to be able to host videos of any significant length on your Voog site.

This is a little better than it sounds. Voog may only have a single image gallery control, for instance, but it has plenty of options. Your images can appear in grids, walls, a slider or a custom 'squares' view, with full-screen viewing if you need it, and control over settings like the slider delay.

The service also scores with its ability to organize your media via the Files area. You can easily upload files of any type and optionally organize them into Collections, making it simpler to find them later. Once they're stored in Files you can then use your media on multiple pages or websites without having to upload them each time.

As we mentioned earlier, Voog's media operations aren't always straightforward. Okay, we understand the developers wanted to create a minimalist interface, but does it really make sense to expect users to add a text box before they can insert an image?

Voog has a distinct lack of media tweaks and customizations, too. While other services boast about their integrated image editors and filters, Voog can't do much more than set an overlay and background color, add a caption or assign a link.

Put it all together and Voog does a reasonable job of covering the multimedia basics, but we suspect many users will be left wanting more.

Blogging

Website builders sometimes struggle with blogging, and even basic tasks like adding a new post can take some work. For example, in Wix you must click Blog > Add a New Blog Post, then work your way through a new full-screen dialog box to set up the post correctly.

Voog avoids all that in the simplest of ways. Once you've chosen to add a new post, you just enter your content on the page where it will be displayed. There are boxes for your title, an excerpt, body copy, tags and more, and you can complete them just like any other web page element.

Voog's sophisticated text control gives you plenty of options, as we mentioned earlier. You can set text font, styles and alignment, enter lists, insert tables, images, videos, maps and more.

If that's not enough, you're able to add any of the components you can include on a regular Voog web page: galleries, forms, social buttons and more.

As with the rest of Voog, the blog is distinctly short on extras. You can't organize posts into categories, schedule their release, limit the number of comments, close them after a period of time or do anything else even faintly advanced. But the system is undeniably simple to use, and if you want a basic blog with the minimum of hassle, it could be a smart choice.

Voog

E-commerce

Voog wasn't really built for e-commerce, and although you can add a web store, it feels a more cumbersome and awkward process than with many website builders.

The support pages explain that you can start selling once you've configured a few key settings, for instance, but this is at the most basic level – best for adding a few products only. It's nothing like the pre-built store components you'll get with Wix and some others.

Starting from a web store template gives you the ability to create product pages and organize them by category, but that's hardly convenient, and there are only five store templates to choose from.

Supported payment providers seem to be only PayPal and MakeCommerce, and the website asks you to contact support to enable them for your site, which is hardly convenient. Keep in mind that you'll pay an extra 3% transaction fee, on top of any payment provider charge, unless you opt for the most expensive Premium account.

There are some significant limits. There's no direct support for selling digital products, physical products can't be given weights, and you can't set up custom shipping or tax rules to any significant level.

As with other Voog modules, the store does have some useful abilities. You can define product variations (size, color), set up discount codes, manage product inventories in a basic way, use multiple shipping methods, and more. It's not a bad system, but it might not be quite good enough for demanding users.

Voog

Support

Help is never far away on Voog, not least because of an unusually complete Help menu at the bottom-right of most Voog screens.

The menu gives you speedy access to a basic Voog tour, for instance. There's a link to the FAQ, and the Voog Facebook page. Start typing in the search box and matching articles appear immediately. If all else fails, there's a box where you can enter a question and send it to Voog support with a click.

The quality of this content is a little mixed. The FAQ page lists just four topics, and one of those is focused on signing up. The rest of the knowledgebase has quite a few genuinely useful articles, and these will often point you in the right direction. But we also found some occasional issues with their formatting, so, for example, links in one page we viewed were clickable in one browser, but not in another.

Still, we found the support site usually provided enough information to help solve our problems. If support is critical to you, or you just want to better understand how Voog works, check out the support site for yourself before you buy.

Final verdict

Voog's quirky interface and lack of website widgets and integrations mean it's not the best choice for novices. But if you know what you're doing, Voog's low-level and developer-oriented features may appeal, and it's certainly worth taking the free trial.



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Friday, 19 January 2018

iOS 11 adoption now at 65 percent

iPhone X hands-on photo

Four months after launching iOS 11 to the public, Apple has given an update on how broadly the update is being adopted.

Sixty-five percent of iOS devices are now running iOS 11. That's up from 59 percent on December 5 and 52 percent on November 6.

Meanwhile, 28 percent of iOS devices are currently running iOS 10, while 7 percent of devices are running a version of iOS earlier than iOS 10.

iOS 11 adoption January 19, 2018

Adoption of iOS 11 isn't as high as it was for iOS 10 during the same amount of time. In January 2017, iOS 10 was on 76 percent of iOS devices.

While 65 percent adoption of iOS 11 is still a nice number, it is notable that usage of iOS 11 is lower than previous version of iOS during the same length of time. It's unclear exactly why this is, but it could be that iOS 11 has had some issues in the months following its launch, like the "i to A[?]" autocorrect bug and the other bug that was going to cause iOS to repeatedly crash on December 2, 2017 before Apple squashed it just in time. And most recently, there's the chaiOS bug that can cause iPhones to freeze and possibly even crash.

Are you running iOS 11? If not, why not?



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LG patent filing shows foldable smartphone designs

LG foldable smartphone design patent

ZTE recently launched a foldable smartphone in the Axon M, and Samsung has said that it's planning to launch its own foldable phone in 2019. Now it looks like LG may be getting into the foldable smartphone game, too.

LG has filed for a patent related to a foldable phone with a flexible display. The patent was filed on July 7, 2017 and published on January 12, 2018.

LG foldable smartphone design patent group

The patent shows two different designs for this foldable device. The first (above) shows a phone that can be unfolded to show a large display and when folded up, it can display information on its back. 

The second design (below) is similar in that the device can be unfolded to show a large display and then folded up to reduce its size. The difference with the second design is that when the phone is folded, there appears to be a small sliver of screen still shown that can be used to display the time and other info.

LG foldable smartphone alternate design patent

There's been some interest in foldable phones from companies like ZTE and Samsung, so it's no surprise to learn that LG is considering that form factor, too. It does have its benefits, like being able to offer users a bigger display when they want it but then folding the phone into a smaller footprint when they don't need a big phone. It's unclear if we'll ever actually see a foldable smartphone from LG, but these patents show that the company is at least thinking about such a device.



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Amazon Alexa app for Android getting Alexa voice interaction

Amazon Echo Dot hands-on

If you've got an Amazon Alexa device and an Android smartphone, you're going to want to grab the latest update to Amazon's Alexa app.

Amazon has updated its Alexa app for Android with support for Alexa voice interaction on mobile devices. This means that you can perform Alexa actions using your smartphone, including remotely controlling your connected home devices, communicating with family, using Alexa skills, and more.

You can also use the Alexa app to find things around you. For example, you can say "Show me restaurants near me" if you need a bite to eat or "What movies are playing near me today?" and get local search results.

Another feature included in the latest Alexa app update is on-screen responses. This allows you to see things like weather forecasts, movie show times, and calendar appointments on your smartphone's display. 

This sounds like a significant update for Amazon Alexa users on Android. With it, people can do things like control their smart home devices remotely, so they do things like turn lights on or off if they need to. Folks that are accustomed to using Alexa in their home can also do things like ask questions and use Alexa skills on the go.

This update is now rolling out in the Amazon Appstore and Google Play. iOS users will receive an update soon.



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Verizon adding Mexico and Canada usage to Go Unlimited plan

Verizon Wireless new logo large

Verizon's Go Unlimited plan is getting a new feature next week.

Starting January 25, the Verizon Go Unlimited plan will include Mexico and Canada. That means that customers can use their unlimited talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada just like they do in the U.S.

One detail worth noting is that 4G LTE data usage in Mexico and Canada will be capped at 500MB per day. Data used beyond that limit will be at 2G speeds until midnight EST that day.

Also coming to Go Unlimited will be unlimited calling from the U.S. to Canada.

These features have been included with Verizon's Beyond Unlimited plan since these two plans launched last year, so it's nice to see that they'll soon be available on the cheaper Go Unlimited plan, too.



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Apple releases iOS 11.2.5 beta 7 and watchOS 4.2.2 beta 5 updates

iPhone 8 hands-on

Apple today pushed the second iOS 11.2.5 beta release this week.

iOS 11.2.5 beta 7 is now available. It's being released to both developers and public testers in Apple's Beta Software Program, so if you fall into one of those two camps, you can grab this update by going into Settings > General Software Update.
 
The update to iOS 11.2.5 appears to include a fix for the chaiOS bug that can cause iPhones to freeze and possibly crash. With this bug, a malicious link that's filled with hundreds of thousands of characters and when the Messages app tries to load a preview, the app can freeze and the phone itself may crash.

Apple today also released watchOS 4.2.2 beta 5 to developers. Devs can grab this update by launching the Watch app on their iPhone and then going to General > Software Update.



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Are you using Android Wear?

Android Wear Moto 360

Last year was a pretty quiet stretch for Google's smartwatch operating system. Android Wear wasn't entirely ignored, but it wasn't really given any major new features, either. I saw quite a few people wondering if Google was done with Android Wear after Google I/O last year, and while I don't think that's the case (yet), I can understand the sentiment.

Apple found a successful launch with the Apple Watch, and the smartwatch market as a whole has apparently fallen in line with the company. Apple leads that market, and a lot of companies have apparently decided it's not worth going up against watchOS at this point in time. It's not just Google going quiet on the Android Wear front, manufacturers need to be leading the charge, too, and it's a silent effort for the most part.

A friend of mine recently picked up a Fossil-branded Q series smartwatch, which features Android Wear on board. We had a quick conversation about the platform in general, and, after he did some looking around for the best possible option right now, he landed on the Q series.

I have to agree with him on this one. I've tried a lot of Android Wear smartwatches over the years, and Fossil has made my favorites to date.

I couldn't help but start wondering if I had ever seen an Android Wear smartwatch out in public. I don't know about you, but I've always found this a pretty fun game. Seeing what's out there in the wild in your neck of the woods, while not demonstrative of anything really, can always be interesting to see what's cropping up the most. Especially to see it change if you live in a somewhat small place and travel to a big city.

I can think of a couple times where I've seen a Moto 360 out in the wild. But that's the only model that really stands out to me. To be fair, one of the benefits of the Android Wear platform is that it works so well on watches that look like, well, watches. The Apple Watch has a definitive design, sure, but I'll admit I like the circular design more in general.

So, while the Moto 360 might stand out to me, there is a chance that I saw other Android Wear smartwatches out in the wild, but didn't immediately recognize them as such because they looked like what Fossil (not a smartwatch version), Citizen, or other companies might release.

So I figured I'd reach out to you, as I know there are a lot of Android users out there. Have you picked up an Android Wear smartwatch, and, if so, which model? Did you pick one up awhile back and then ultimately decide against it? Let me know!



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Amazon increases monthly Prime membership price to $12.99

Amazon Tap packaging

Amazon is quietly raising the price of Prime.

Amazon today confirmed that it's raising the price of a monthly Amazon Prime subscription. Previously a monthly Prime sub cost $10.99 per month, but it's now priced at $12.99 per month.

The price for one year of Amazon Prime will remain at $99, while an annual Amazon Prime Student membership will remain at $49.

Amazon hasn't said why it's increasing the price of a monthly Amazon Prime membership. Paying for a year of Prime at the monthly rate is even more expensive than ponying up for an annual membership, though, at $155.88 vs $99. Some people may like the flexibility that a monthly Prime membership offers, but if you think that an Amazon Prime membership is something that you'll get a lot of use out of, then shelling out for an annual membership seems like the smart thing to do.



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