Sorry we haven't updated the buyers's guide in a couple months -- we've been too busy pumping out reviews of all the new devices. Now that things have finally started to slow down (fingers crossed), let's take a step back and look at all the awesome stuff we've had a chance to test this fall. For starters, there's a bunch of excellent smartphones that we absolutely need to add to our guide. Namely: the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, the Nexus 6P and 5X, and the Moto X Pure. On the tablet side, we're inducting both the iPad mini 4 and the Surface Pro 4. Microsoft makes another appearance in the laptop section, where we've added the Surface Book, along with Dell's Chromebook 13. Rounding out the list, we threw in a few miscellaneous items, including the new Xbox One Elite Wireless controller, the redesigned Sonos Play:5 wireless speaker and Google's $35 Chromecast Audio.

Amazon Book Store

Did you recently get a notice that Amazon changed your password? You're not alone. Numerous readers tell ZDNet that Amazon reset their passwords after learning that the login might have been "improperly stored" or "transmitted" in a way that could expose it to others. The company is shy about what happened (is it a data breach? A security hole?), but doesn't believe that someone actually swiped your info -- it's just giving you a new password out of an "abundance of caution." Gee, thanks. We're glad to see Amazon taking a better-safe-than-sorry approach, but we've reached out to the internet giant to get a better sense of what happened... and whether or not you have reason to be nervous.

[Image credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson]

Row-bot with its 'mouth' hanging open

One day, you might see robots that not only survive in hazardous environments, but thrive in them. University of Bristol researchers have built Row-bot, a swimming robot that powers itself by feeding on dirty water. Its paddle both propels it forward and helps its microbial fuel cell gulp down the nutrients it needs to generate electricity. This robot might never need refueling so long as it's wading through unpleasant seas, whether they're full of algae or oil.

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A mesh of Xandem monitors watching over a home

You don't have many great choices for home security systems right now. Conventional systems are expensive and effectively fixed in place, while connected cameras are conspicuous and carry the risk (however small) that someone might spy on you. Xandem thinks it has a better way, however. It's crowdfunding a security system that uses motion-detecting wireless mesh networking (previously the stuff of research) to alert you to intruders. It only requires plug-in nodes to work, and the resulting radio frequency web can both travel through objects and follow subjects. If all goes well, you're getting more complete coverage that stays hidden and reduces the chance of a false positive -- you can even track motion in apps or the web to see if it's a burglar or just a family member who got home early.

When you switch on the traffic layer in Bing Maps, you'll now get a lot more info than color-coded route details. On top of letting you know how bad (or good) traffic is along your route, Bing allows you to see where traffic cameras are for a look at that commute. You can also check multiple cameras at the same time if you want to take a glance at the places where you typically encounter delays along the way. Like Google Maps and other navigation apps, Bing Maps already let you know if you should expect a backup, and now you can take a look at the congestion, or lack thereof, for yourself with this latest addition.

Since NASA modified its old "pumpkin suit" for future missions aboard the Orion spacecraft, it has to undergo testing to ensure that it's tougher and more mobile than its predecessor. These days, NASA has been testing it aboard a C9 aircraft, which can fly in parabolas to simulate weightlessness. The agency even built a mock-up Orion cabin inside in order to see if astronauts will be capable of performing various tasks while wearing the suit. Since the Orion capsule is meant for deep space missions, the Modified Advanced Crew Escape Suit is being developed to be able to sustain crew members in case of emergency and to protect them during spacewalks. Unfortunately, it'll take almost a decade before we see it used for an actual trip to space, as Orion's first manned mission won't happen until 2023.

Hoopla, the app that lets you borrow videos, books and music from your local library digitally, has been on a roll this year when it comes to adding comics. Now, it's making a play for your living room by adding Chromecast support for videos. You'll need a public library card to access Hoopla's streaming catalog, as always, but at least you won't have to worry about late fees. Anything you borrow from Hoopla expires automatically (and yes, multiple people can view the same file at once). Digital lending isn't anything new for libraries, but usually it involves fighting with a clunky library website, rather than having everything accessible through a simple app. Hoopla currently covers 865 library systems, and its library now has more than 400,000 pieces of media.


A report from The Wall Street Journal suggests that Alphabet wants its startup-like subsidiaries to behave more like financially accountable independent companies. Alphabet is the recently formed parent of Google, Google X, Fiber, Nest, and other companies previously under the "Google" banner. Under the change, companies like Google X, Calico and Life Sciences will be billed for using services from other subsidiaries.

On paper, Motorola's Droid Turbo 2 looks like an upgraded version of the Moto X Pure Edition, which was already one of our favorite Android phones. In particular, the Turbo 2 brings more powerful components, a big battery and a shatterproof screen. In reality, though, the Turbo 2 suffers from a slightly dim screen, mediocre camera and loads of Verizon bloatware. The battery life, while pretty decent, is not quite as long as advertised. Also, at $624, it's expensive for what it is, and it's not likely to receive software updates as quickly as the Moto X. Don't get us wrong, it's a decent phone, but given the choice, you'd still be better off with the bog-standard Pure Edition. That's the gist, as you'll see in our mini review video, and if you have time for a longer read, check out our full review here.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - June 6, 2015: Photo of:, uber homepage on a monitor screen through a magnifying glass.

Uber's rapidly becoming a polarizing topic, with people either prepared to defend it to the hilt or attack it with similar fervor. Much of that hate comes from a belief that the firm has a lax attitude towards background checks and its passengers safety. That's why the company is hoping to remedy the problem by appointing its first ever safety advisory board. According to the LA Times, the panel is made up of weighty names that include Ed Davis, Boston's former police commissioner and Cindy Southworth, vice president at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Misfit has teamed up with BaubleBar to create a necklace and bracelet for the Misfit Flash that'll provide the wearable with some much-needed style points. Essentially, the Helena Necklace and Bracelet are glittery lockets that keep the device tucked inside, hanging from either a six or 32-inch chain. According to the company, the pieces are "as smart as they are stunning" and will be available exclusively at Target from November 29th for $69.99 a pop. It's worth mentioning that the devices come with their own $29.99 Flash tucked inside, as well as the traditional rubber strap for workouts.

Today on In Case You Missed It: Teddy Ruxpin is all grown-up with the artificially intelligent Diro robot that can act as an alarm and keep your kid entertained. London installed solar-powered recharging benches in public spaces that also monitor pollution and noise levels. And not one but two glue formulas are making waves: There are the powdered small glue balls that become sticky when pressed together and the MIT hydrogel that's made mostly of water, is super flexible and can conduct electricity.

Apple Pay in the UK

Apple's latest iPhones have been a raging success in China, so the lack of Apple Pay in the nation has been a sore point. That's about to change soon, however, as Apple will bring Pay to China by early February 2016, according to the WSJ. Its sources say it has made deals with the company's four state banks, meaning most consumers will be able to pay at stores with an NFC-equipped iPhone 6 or 6s model. The deal is reportedly now just awaiting regulatory approval, and Apple is hoping to launch it before February 8th when China's spring holidays begin.


Back in May, Amazon said it would bring Prime Music and Instant Video to select JetBlue flights. Fast forward to today, over six months since the original announcement, and the retailer is finally turning this feature on for Amazon Prime customers. If you're a subscriber who's flying in one of JetBlue's Fly-Fi-ready planes, you can stream tunes, movies and TV shows at no extra cost thanks to the airline's newly developed internet service. The experience itself is built into the Fly-Fi hub, letting you easily access your Prime media library on laptops, iOS and Android smartphones or tablets and, naturally, Amazon's Fire devices. Amazon says this is already working on most of JetBlue's Fly-Fi fleet, with the full rollout expected to be completed by November 26th.

Blue Origin, the private space firm owned by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, has just dropped a huge gauntlet in the race to develop a reusable rocket. It just launched its New Shepard space vehicle (video, below), consisting of a BE-3 rocket and crew capsule, to the edge of space at a suborbital altitude of 100.5 kilometers (62 miles). The capsule then separated and touched down beneath a parachute, but more importantly, the BE-3 rocket also started its own descent. After the rockets fired at nearly 5,000 feet, it made a a controlled vertical landing at a gentle 4.4 mph.

Just three months after launching the Redmi Note 2, Xiaomi is back with its successor. The Redmi Note 3 is, unsurprisingly, another mid-range handset with decent specs and a staggeringly low base price: $141, or more importantly RMB 899, given that it's only headed to China at the moment. For the money you're getting a full metal body and a 5.5-inch, 1080p display. Underneath is the same MTK Helio X10 processor found on the Redmi Note 2, along with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. If you're willing to pay a little extra, however (RMB 1,099, or $172) you can upgrade to 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage instead.

Lots of folks still don't have Android 6 "Marshmallow" on their shiny new phones, but owners of some older models can now get it from CyanogenMod. The Nexus 7, LG G4, Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, LG G3 Verizon, Moto X 2014 and, yes, the OnePlus One models are all primed to receive a "nightly" version of CyanogenMod 13. There are certain caveats, however. If you're moving from a stable CyanogenMod 12.1 (Android 5.1) version, the team said to prepare yourself for a "dip in quality," due to the fact that nightly releases are considered experimental. Users moving from previous versions will also have to update their Google apps (via OpenGapps, etc.). However, if you're willing to try it you probably already know the risk -- and believe that the bragging rights are worth it.

Color shot of a young woman looking through a cardboard, a device with which one can experience virtual reality on a mobile phon

Turns out there's more to Google's collaboration with Disney for the upcoming Star Wars flick. In addition to dressing up your Google services to represent the side you choose (Light Side or Dark Side, obviously), the two companies (along with Verizon) have developed a serialized virtual reality experience for the Cardboard viewer. The episodes, which were created by ILMxLAB (Lucasfilm's, Industrial Light & Magic's and Skywalker Sound's immersive entertainment laboratory), are directly connected to The Force Awakens. They can be accessed through the Star Wars app for Android and iOS, though you'll have to wait until December 2nd to be able to watch them. If you don't have a Cardboard yet, you can get one right now straight from the Big G. But in case you want to collect anything Episode VII, Google will also start selling four Star Wars-themed viewers on December 2nd in Verizon stores.

Some Pebble users that link their smartwatch to an iPhone will now be able to reply to text messages straight through their devices. We say "some," because this is a beta release, and the feature's available to a pretty limited number of people for now. To be able to access the capability, you must have a Pebble Time, a Time Steel or a Time Round model, all of which were launched just this year. Plus, you must be an AT&T postpaid subscriber. If you somehow fall within the intersection of that Venn diagram, you'll be able to reply to texts either with a voice or a preloaded message. Pebble says its devices are the first non-Apple smartwatch "to bring voice and text replies to... iPhone users" and that it's working to roll the feature out to more carriers.