About the Author

Ben Schoon

@NexusBen

Ben Schoon is a Senior Editor at 9to5Google, working for the publication as one of its primary news writers for the past 5 years. In 2013, Ben helped start an independent tech publication where he learned the skills used at 9to5Google including writing, product photography, and videography. He is located in the city of Winston-Salem in North Carolina where he lived with his wife Melissa, married in 2019.

He primarily covers Android products, including Google Pixel devices, Samsung Galaxy smartphones, as well as devices from OnePlus, Oppo, LG, Motorola, and more. Beyond just covering news about these products, Ben also spends time using these products himself, speaking from experience with the articles he writes. Some of Ben’s most recent hands-on reviews include; Galaxy S21 Ultra, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, Fitbit Versa 3, Nest Thermostat, Galaxy Z Fold 2, and Fitbit Sense.

Ben is also a leading source for information about Google’s Android TV, diving deeply into important parts of the platform including its powerful Operator Tier, explaining future changes to the platform, and reviewing its products such as Chromecast with Google TV, Nvidia Shield TV, and more.

In 2019, Ben leaked one of the first in-person photos of the Pixel 4 before later revealing the Recorder and Pixel Themes apps months ahead of launch. In 2020, Ben also reported on multiple upcoming Pixel devices including Pixel 5a and the first report of Google working on a foldable Pixel smartphone. That same month, he was also the first to correctly report the $49 price point of what became the Chromecast with Google TV.

Ben Schoon is active on Twitter, @nexusben, but can also be found on Instagram and LinkedIn. For questions or tips, you can email him directly, and his portfolio is also available online.

Email: schoon@9to5mac.com | Encrypted Email: benschoon@protonmail.com

Ben Schoon's Favorite Gear

Today

Fitbit is ‘reviewing’ an option to turn off Minions-themed activity badges

If you’re an active Fitbit user who’s recently had a day with some heavy step counts, you might have triggered a new activity badge based on the animated Minions characters. Fitbit Minion badges are enabled by default, and currently, there’s no way to turn them off. The company is currently considering an option to do so, though.

June 18

Bandwidth: Xbox Game Pass dominates E3, plus new GeForce Now titles

E3 2021 brought a bunch of new game announcements, and while cloud gaming wasn’t a major focus of the event, Xbox Game Pass got some major wins. Here’s what you need to know.

E3 should have been a busy week for Google Stadia, but it didn’t result in much. However, there was one bright spot for this platform. This week, it was confirmed that EA’s Madden NFL 22 will arrive day-and-date on Google Stadia.

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Google Photos unlimited storage is ending — How to get the most out of free and paid tiers

Six years after its debut, Google Photos is about to change in a major way. Free, unlimited storage on Google Photos is going away at the start of June, taking away one of the platform’s most attractive offers. That doesn’t change all of the other valuable tools Google offers, though. Here’s how you can still get the most out of it.

You can get free cashback and rewards with these Google Pay promotions

Google Pay is a useful way to pay in stores without a physical card and to exchange funds between friends, but after being revamped in late 2020, it can do more. You can earn a lot of cashback and rewards with the new Google Pay app — here are which promos are available now and how to use them.

Google 3D animals and objects: Which ones are available and how to use them

At its I/O conference in 2019, Google announced that it would be adding augmented reality objects to Search. Over the year since, Google has a bunch of 3D animals you can view in Google Search using AR — here’s the full list that we’re constantly updating.

OnePlus and Oppo are formalizing their relationship and merging internal teams with the goal of improving software and speed up other actions. Despite that, though, CEO Pete Lau says OxygenOS will survive the OnePlus/Oppo merger.

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All signs currently point to the next Samsung foldable making its debut in August, but ahead of that launch the company is making a big move. Apparently, Samsung is ending sales of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 in the US, but it’s unclear if the device is entirely being discontinued at this point.

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June 17

A few months after it was released by Google, the Nvidia Shield TV is officially adopting the latest Android TV homescreen. Starting today, the “Discover” UI is rolling out to users, complete with “content recommendations.”

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Following its I/O 2021 announcement, there’s a lot of excitement around Google’s revamped Wear OS update set to be released in the fall, but there’s also a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds for products currently on the market. This week, though, Qualcomm is claiming that not only its newer Snapdragon 4100 chips, but also its Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip will be able to handle the new Wear OS.

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Lincoln announces plans to adopt Android Automotive in future cars, EVs

Android Auto is usually thought of as just a way to mirror your phone’s relevant content up on a car’s display, but there’s also a native version that can run an entire vehicle’s infotainment system. This week, Lincoln has announced plans to use native Android Auto in some of its future vehicles.

Google, predictably, won’t change the Pixel Launcher to hide Android gesture bar

Gesture navigation in Android works a lot like it does on iOS, and in turn, there’s a constant navigation bar at the bottom of the display to signal that you can use gestures. On iOS, the gesture bar disappears when you’re on the homescreen. On Android, though, the gesture bar remains in place on the homescreen, including the Pixel Launcher, and Google says that won’t change anytime soon.

After expanding to Sony earlier this year, the next big name is about to join the Google TV train. Apparently, TCL is preparing to launch its batch of Google TV panels sometime in the next two months.

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June 16

Wyze Lock adds long-awaited support for Google Assistant w/ latest software update

Smart locks are a great way to make your home’s security a bit more convenient, but many require paying an arm and a leg for the privilege. In the company’s usual fashion, the Wyze Lock bucks that trend and offers much more affordable hardware, and now, it finally supports Google Assistant.

Google claims technical issues running Assistant and Alexa simultaneously, Sonos claims otherwise

As a court case between Google and Sonos rages on, an interesting tidbit has recently come out. Google says that there are technical issues preventing Google Assistant and Alexa from running side-by-side on the same device, but Sonos claims they’ve figured it out.

It’s been over two years since Huawei was cut off from the Google Play Store and other crucial Android apps. Now, after splitting from Huawei, the Honor brand is launching its first device with Google apps in the flagship Honor 50 series.

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In an effort to move away from third-party cookies, Google is working on rolling out the Federated Learning of Cohorts, better known as FLoC, to Chrome users. The initiative has been highly controversial, with several online companies publicly opposing it. Amazon, though, has quietly started blocking FLoC on its site and properties.

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After years of OnePlus and Oppo clearly sharing the same resources but, the former, confidently coming across as their own entity. Last year, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau took on a bigger role that involved overseeing portions of both OnePlus and Oppo, and now he’s merging more teams internally on the promise of better efficiency and faster software updates.

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June 15

One of the best features of Gboard is its extremely clever and fun Emoji Kitchen. On the back of another update rolling out now, Google is also rolling out an updated library for the Emoji Kitchen. Here’s the good news. Finally, Google is giving its beloved blobs some attention, inserting them into the Emoji Kitchen and resulting in some truly adorable combinations.

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Alongside a bunch of other Android announcements today, Google is highlighting some recently-released Android Auto features. While several have been available for a while, one does stand out. Android Auto now has improved content navigation that lets you scroll by letter.

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