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►  Samsung Note 8 gives its stylus some style - for a price

A stylus might seem, well, out of style in the tap-and-type world of smartphones. Yet it’s what sets Samsung’s Note phones apart from the competition.

That’s significant as Apple prepares to launch what’s expected to be a super-premium phone next week, one that will match many of the features in the new Note 8 phone . Though not its pen.

I was skeptical at first, but the stylus grew on me.

Still, the Note 8 isn’t going to be for everyone. Most people will be fine with Samsung’s S8 phones for a few hundred dollars less. The Note 8 is more for “power users” — those who use their phones a lot more than the average consumer. The Note 8 starts selling in the U.S. next week for $930 to $960, depending on the carrier.

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BATTERY ISSUES

What’s top on people’s minds probably isn’t the pen, but the phone’s battery, given last year’s Note 7 recall following a string of spontaneous fires. Samsung has stepped up its safety tests this year. Time will tell how well they work.

Samsung reduced battery capacity by 6 percent to make room for various safety measures. But there’s still plenty of juice. The phone still had two-thirds of its charge left after four hours of Netflix. Tasks such as email, Facebook and note-taking won’t be as draining.

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GREAT FOR NOTE-TAKING ... TO A POINT

A screen-off memo feature lets you use the stylus to take notes without having to unlock the phone. You can jot down a quick reminder while walking, or cross items off your shopping list at the store. It feels like real writing, without any noticeable lag. And writing a quick thought doesn’t feel as rude as opening an app and typing while with friends.

Unlike past Note models, this one lets you scroll down to write more than a single screen worth of notes.

But I had to retype my notes anyway, including impressions I jotted down for this review. Samsung’s character-recognition software couldn’t make out my chicken-scratch handwriting. For instance, “end up typing” got transcribed as “inn up yping.”

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TRAVELING ABROAD

Past Note phones translated words you hovered over with the stylus. The Note 8 extends that to full sentences, though it’s on you to figure out that you have to tap the “T? icon to switch modes. And you need to specify the language you’re translating from, even though the Google Translate service the feature’s based on usually has auto-detection.

The translation feature also converts currency and units of measurements. That’s useful in figuring out that a 23-kilogram baggage limit means 50.71 pounds.

But it repeatedly failed to pick up measurements in centimeters. And it didn’t pick up on a common European convention of using a comma where the decimal point usually goes, so 4.20 euros became 420 euros, or about $500. The dollar is getting weaker, but it’s not that bad.

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DIGITAL DOODLING

You can now handwrite text messages, instead of just typing them. Messages are sent as animated GIF files, so your friends can see your exact strokes, even if they don’t have a Note 8. Those who already pepper messages with emojis and other embellishments might like it.

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CAMERA AND MORE

Beyond the stylus, the Note 8 mostly matches features introduced in Samsung’s S8 phones this past spring. This includes an “infinity display,” in which the 6.3-inch screen runs up to the edge, giving the phone more display without feeling much bigger. The fingerprint sensor is on the back, as with the S8, though it’s now farther from the camera lenses to reduce smudge.

And yes, that’s lenses. The Note 8 has a second lens on the back, with twice the magnification, matching Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus. This permits software tricks that blur out the background , though conditions have to be just right. I find the second lens more useful for zoom.

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WAITING FOR APPLE

Apple is expected to announce new iPhones next week, including an anniversary edition that, according to published reports, will include a similar edge-less display, as well as a color-boosting screen technology called OLED, something Samsung has long used. Apple users will probably want to stick with that and avoid having to buy new apps for Android.

Current Note users, though, may want the Note 8, as Apple isn’t likely to include a stylus. And because of the Note 7 recall, the current Note models are getting old.

Kohl’s to open Amazon shops inside some of its stores
Kohl’s said Wednesday that it will open up Amazon shops in 10 of its stores, making it the latest department store operator to make a deal with the e-commerce giant.

Kohl’s shoppers will be able to buy Amazon Echos, Fire tablets and other gadgets from the 1,000-square-foot Amazon shops. Customers can also ask to have an Amazon employee come to their home and install a device or suggest products to buy.

Kohl’s Corp. said the Amazon shops will open next month in Chicago and Los Angeles stores. The Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin-based company has more than 1,100 across the country.

The Kohl’s deal comes a few months after department store operator Sears said it would sell its Kenmore appliances on Amazon.com. At the same time, Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. has been growing its brick-and-mortar presence: It has opened 11 bookstores in two years and recently bought organic grocer Whole Foods, selling the Amazon Echo voice assistant device next to organic grapes and corn.


►  All NFL games will air online, but watching won’t be easy

Every NFL football game will be shown live online this season — but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to watch them.

New this year is the ability to watch with an Amazon Prime or a CBS All-Access subscription. Even so, the sports universe is heavily Balkanized online, meaning your best bet at comprehensive streaming of pro football will involve that old standby — a cable or satellite TV subscription — or cellphone service through Verizon. Otherwise, you’ll be limited to a few unrestricted games online, including Thursday’s night season opener between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots.

Here’s a stream-by-stream guide to catching all the online pigskin you can in the U.S.

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NETWORK STREAMS

In general, Sunday afternoon games air on CBS and Fox. Sunday night games air on NBC. These games are free if you catch them on TV with an antenna, but to watch any of the networks online, you’ll typically need cable or satellite TV. You can also stream CBS games for $6 a month with CBS All Access, unless your local station hasn’t signed on (most have).

You’ll be limited to hometown-team games plus a few other contests your local station broadcasts. You’ll need a DirecTV Sunday Ticket subscription for the rest.

ESPN, meanwhile, owns Mondays, while the NFL Network cable channel gets most Thursday night games, a few weekend games and one on Christmas afternoon. You can watch online if you’re already paying for a TV package that carries these channels.

Ten of the Thursday games and the Christmas game will end up on CBS or NBC as well — but to stream those games without a TV package, you need Amazon Prime for $99 a year. Amazon is replacing Twitter this year as the online streaming partner.

Want to watch on a phone? You’ll likely need to be a Verizon customer, though on the plus side you won’t need cable or satellite. Amazon Prime and NFL Network games have no device restrictions (but require subscriptions). For the rest, grab a tablet or a laptop instead, or watch on the big screen with a streaming-TV device like Roku or Apple TV.

On Verizon phones, use the NFL Mobile app or Verizon’s go90 service. Amazon Prime games are on Amazon’s video app. For the rest, use the network’s app; CBS, NBC and NFL Network games are also on NFL Mobile and nfl.com.

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ONLINE TV SERVICES

Cable-like streaming TV packages are typically cheaper than traditional cable or satellite, but carry fewer channels. The major ones are AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Google’s YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue and Dish’s Sling TV.

All five services have ESPN, NBC and Fox — at least in theory. It’s a mixed bag for CBS and the NFL Network. CBS, NBC and Fox are available only in selected markets — typically where the networks themselves own the local stations. Elsewhere, it depends on whether the streaming service has reached a deal yet.

Vue is your best bet. A $45-a-month “Core” subscription gets you all five NFL networks, as long as your local stations are included. NFL RedZone, a channel that switches from game to game to show key plays and scoring, costs another $10 a month. Vue no longer requires a streaming device such as a PlayStation game console; you can watch on a Windows or Mac computer.

You can replicate the package with Sling TV for $46 a month by getting Sling Orange, Sling Blue and the CBS All Access service separately. RedZone is an additional $10.

If you can live without NFL Network and RedZone, you can get the rest through YouTube for $35 and Hulu for $40. Hulu comes with on-demand movies and TV shows, normally $8 a month. DirecTV Now gets you NBC, Fox and ESPN for $35; CBS is coming soon.

A sports-focused streaming service called fuboTV announced Thursday that it’s getting the NFL Network. It already has NBC, Fox and CBS in selected markets, but not ESPN. The package is $35 a month, or $9 more with RedZone.

To watch, use the streaming service’s app. Some services also let you sign in to use the individual network’s app. Games are blocked on non-Verizon phones except for those on NFL Network.

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NFL SUNDAY TICKET

This service from DirecTV gives you Sunday afternoon games you can’t get on your local TV station, so it typically excludes hometown teams.

It’s intended for DirecTV satellite subscribers who pay an extra fee, though a $280-per-season online package is available if you live in an apartment building or at a location where DirecTV’s satellite signal is obstructed. Subscribing to DirecTV Now isn’t enough to qualify. College students can also subscribe for $100 for the season.

There are no restrictions on smartphones.

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INSTANT REPLAYS

All these restrictions and requirements only apply to live games. Once a game ends, it’s available for streaming through the NFL Game Pass service, which costs $100 for the season. You can also listen to radio broadcasts live online.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL

While all four major broadcast networks will televise some college games, the bulk will be on cable channels. Online policies vary, but a cable or satellite account is typically required. You can also subscribe to an online TV package, though college channels such as SEC Network are sometimes part of higher tiers.

--> Sunday, September 10, 2017
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