SpaceX president: No plans to add price tiers to Starlink satellite internet – CNET

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SpaceX has no plans to introduce tiered pricing to Starlink, the company's satellite internet service, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said during a virtual panel Tuesday.

"I don't think we're going to do tiered pricing to consumers," Shotwell said during the Satellite 2021 Leo Digital Forum. "We're going to try to keep it as simple as possible and transparent as possible, so right now there are no plans to tier for consumers."

Now playing: Watch this: Testing out SpaceX Starlink satellite internet

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Currently in open beta and boasting more than 10,000 users across the US, Canada and other select regions, Starlink costs $100 per month after a $500 deposit to cover the cost of the receiver dish. A tiered pricing approach would offer multiple plans with different capabilities at different prices -- but SpaceX seems more inclined to go with a single, straightforward offering.

In our initial tests, Starlink's satellite internet service was able to hit average download speeds of about 78 megabits per second, with latency or lag of about 36 milliseconds. Both of those figures are quite decent for satellite internet, which promises to bring connectivity to places that lack access to ground-laid fiber or cable infrastructure. Earlier this year, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that Starlink's top speeds would rise as high as 300Mbps by the end of 2021.

Service coverage is expected to spread as SpaceX is able to successfully launch more satellites into orbit. To date, the company has launched over 1,200 satellites into its "constellation," with plans to add thousands more in the coming years.

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US considers boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 – CNET

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The games are set to begin in February. 

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The US is considering a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, a State Department spokesperson told reporters Tuesday. The winter games are set to begin in February. 

State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that a joint boycott with allied nations on board "is something we certainly wish to discuss," according to CNBC.

"A coordinated approach will not only be in our interest but also in the interest of our allies and partners," Price reportedly said, while adding that the Biden administration, which is looking to curb Chinese military expansion and human rights abuses, has made no final decision.

Speaking before the press at a State Department briefing, Price emphasized that the Beijing games are still nearly a year away.

"We're talking about 2022, and we're still in April of 2021, so these games remain some time away," Price said. "I wouldn't want to put a timeframe on it, but these discussions are underway."

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Google’s getting rid of the Google Wifi app – CNET

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The Google Wi-Fi mesh router.

Josh Miller/CNET

Google will end support for the Google Wifi app in July, the company tells CNET. The app had long served as the control center for the original Google Wifi mesh router -- now users will need to control their home network and router settings in the Google Home app, which already houses controls for the second-gen Nest Wifi mesh router.

"We want to make it easier to manage all of your devices in one place, so we've migrated Wi-Fi functionality into the Google Home app," a Google spokesperson said. "Nest Wifi has always been set up in the Google Home app, so we're now bringing this same functionality to existing Google Wifi users."

Here's how that transition will work. Starting May 25, Google Wifi users will only be able to add new devices or expand upon an existing setup by using the Google Home app. Then, in July, Google will end support for the Google Wifi app, remove it from all app markets and ask users to migrate their system controls over to Google Home.

To do that, you'll need to tap the plus icon in the top left corner of the Google Home app's home screen, select "Import Google Wifi Network," and follow the on-screen instructions. Users of Google's OnHub router will be able to migrate controls to the Google Home app as well, Google tells CNET.

The company points out that the Google Home app offers additional Wi-Fi features like network insights, improved teleconferencing and Google Assistant voice support for hands-free speed tests and network pauses, as well as controls for Google Assistant and Chromecast devices. Last year, Google updated the Google Home app to include the same advanced network setting controls as the Google Wifi app offers.

"Most of the features and functionality that users know and love from the Google Wifi app [are] currently available in the Google Home app," a Google spokesperson said, though some of those features will come via future app updates.

Specifically, Google says that the only Google Wifi feature that won't be available in the Google Home app come July is the ability  to track speeds to specific network devices. That feature is set to return in the Google Home app's upcoming 2.38 release.

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Twitter wants your opinion on how it should handle world leaders – CNET

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Angela Lang/CNET

Twitter is putting out a call for public input as to how it should handle world leaders on the platform -- particularly ones who violate the site's rules.

"Politicians and government officials are constantly evolving how they use our service, and we want our policies to remain relevant to the ever-changing nature of political discourse on Twitter and protect the health of the public conversation," reads a new blog post from Twitter posted Thursday. "That's why we're reviewing our approach to world leaders and seeking your input."

To that end, the platform will release a survey on March 19, with a goal of gathering public input on new policies governing the accounts of public officials. The survey will be open to all respondents through April 12, and will run in 14 languages to help capture a global perspective on the matter.

"Generally, we want to hear from the public on whether or not they believe world leaders should be subject to the same rules as others on Twitter," the blog explains. "And, should a world leader violate a rule, what type of enforcement action is appropriate."

For years, Twitter has maintained a stance that blocking or removing the tweets of world leaders would hide information that's meant for public debate, even in cases where said tweets violate site rules. That policy was continually put to the test by former president Donald Trump, who was ultimately banned from the platform after the Capitol Hill riot in January, when Twitter determined that his tweets carried a risk of inciting additional violence.

Now, the platform is looking to get ahead of issues like those by setting new standards.

"Ultimately, our aim is to have a policy that appropriately balances fundamental human rights and considers the global context in which we operate," Twitter says. The company adds that it's in the process of consulting with human rights experts, civil society organizations and the academic community as it shapes new policy for the platform.

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SimpliSafe Home Security review: An outstanding value in its class – CNET

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Chris Monroe/CNET

SimpliSafe's first-gen DIY home security kit won the Editors' Choice Award here on CNET back in 2014. I liked that it was one of the most affordable home security options to feature 24/7 live monitoring, I liked how easy it was to install and operate, and I loved how customizable the system was, with subtle layers of protection for a variety of emergency situations.

The problem was SimpliSafe's hardware -- the dated-looking devices were ugly as hell. That's a significant shortcoming for a system you're supposed to stick up all over your home.

That's why I was particularly excited to test out SimpliSafe's third-gen system, which made its debut at CES 2018. Aside from a couple of new additions to the setup since last time around, the pitch was the same -- monitored security that you install yourself and control from your phone. The difference now is that the hardware looks a lot better -- and, with packages starting at $229, it doesn't cost any more than before, either.

Like

  • Easy to install and operate
  • Great customizability

Don't Like

  • The devices are unattractive (but have improved)
  • Some of the sensors are a little finicky

It's just as capable as before, too. Though some of the sensors -- particularly the glass break and freeze sensors -- were a little more finicky than the rest, everything still worked as promised when I put the system through its paces in the CNET Smart Home. It's still a relatively good value here in 2021, too with live, 24/7 professional monitoring available starting at just $15 per month. If you want a home security budget option that doesn't feel like a budget option, then SimpliSafe is the system for you.

Getting started

The cheapest SimpliSafe package costs $229 and comes with just a single motion detector and a contact sensor that can track when a door or window is open or closed. The most popular package costs $259, and adds in two additional contact sensors. 

You can build your own custom SimpliSafe package with the exact devices you want. All told, the package we tested cost $465.

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

For our purposes, we requested a bigger package with a greater variety of sensors. The total cost as tested: $465.

Part of the SimpliSafe appeal is that you can also build your own custom system with the specific sensors that make sense for your living space. To do so, you'll start with the mandatory base station and keypad, which together cost $185, then add additional devices a la carte style. Here's the full menu:

Burglary sensors

  • Entry sensor: $15
  • Motion sensor: $30
  • SimpliCam: $99
  • Glass break sensor: $35
  • Panic button: $20

Hazard sensors

Like the base station, the keypad is available in both white and black.

SimpliSafe
  • Smoke detector: $30
  • Carbon monoxide sensor: $50
  • Freeze detector: $30
  • Leak detector: $20

Add-ons

  • Keypad: $70
  • Key fob: $25
  • Siren: $60
  • Yard sign: $4

You can run SimpliSafe's system with no monthly fees if all you want is a localized alarm that will sound a siren if someone ever breaks in. If you want to add in professional live monitoring, the fee is $15 per month, which is about as fair a price as you'll find in the home security space. Make that $25 a month, and you'll also be able to monitor the system from your phone using the SimpliSafe app, and you'll unlock integrations with outside platforms like Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant.

Once your system arrives, it's up to you to install it yourself. SimpliSafe made this really, really easy. Each sensor comes with preapplied sticky tabs on their detachable backs. Just peel and stick -- no wiring necessary. If you need to move something, the sensors detach from their backings, exposing the sticky tabs for easy removal that won't damage your walls. The only thing you'll need to plug in is the base station.

That said, SimpliSafe does offer professional setup help for $79 if you need it, but also notes that 97% of users set their systems up themselves.

With your sensors in place, you'll put the keypad into pairing mode, then pair everything up by pressing a button on each sensor, then giving it a name on the keypad. From there, you can make any final tweaks to the system settings by logging onto SimpliSafe's web portal, or by using the SimpliSafe app.

The SimpliSafe base station quarterbacks all of your sensors and houses a siren as well as Wi-Fi and cellular connections to the company's monitoring service.

Chris Monroe/CNET

How it works

SimpliSafe's sensors keep in constant contact with the base station, which then relays everything to your phone (or, in an emergency, to authorities) via Wi-Fi. The base station also includes a 24-hour battery backup and a fee-free cellular connection to the company's monitoring service -- if the power or the Wi-Fi ever goes out, it'll still be able to call for help.

That approach also separates the most sensitive system components from the keypad, the part that beeps and asks for a PIN if the alarm is ever tripped. In many cases, that beeping keypad is probably the first thing that an intruder would try to smash in order to shut down the system, but doing so wouldn't make a difference.

You can arm and disarm the system using the keychain fob accessory.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The system offers three modes during use: Off, which is pretty self-explanatory; Away, which arms the sensors; and Home, which leaves some sensors on but disarms things like motion detectors so you can move around inside without setting anything off. By default, SimpliSafe gives you 30 seconds to disarm the system upon entry (you can customize that length of time in the app).

To disarm the system, press the off button on the key fob or in the app, or enter your code into the keypad. You can assign specific codes to specific users or guests, and you can also set a duress code for situations where someone is forcing you to disarm the system against your will. Punch it into the keypad, and it will appear as if the alarm is canceled and the system disarmed, but SimpliSafe will still send in the authorities.

If you're paying $25 a month for the full system controls, you'll be able to arm and disarm the system from the SimpliSafe app, or arm it on your way out the door with a quick voice command to Alexa or Google.

If the alarm is ever tripped, your phone will ring, and a SimpliSafe representative will ask if everything's OK. They'll also ask for your safeword -- a secret password of your choice that acts like an extra vocal PIN for the system. Fail to give it, and they'll still send the authorities, no matter what else you say. Like the duress code, it's a nice, extra layer of protection.

SimpliSafe also lets you specify which sensors will trigger an entry delay and which ones will trigger an instant alarm. You'll probably want a chance to disarm the system if you trip a contact sensor or a motion detector, for instance, while a glass break sensor alert might merit an instant alarm with no delay.

You can also set secret alerts that can send you a SMS, email or app notification without tripping the alarm at all. Hide a contact sensor on the inside of your liquor cabinet, for instance, and you'll get an alert if your teenager ever tries to sneak a sip.

Our test dog Dolly wasn't able to set off the SimpliSafe motion detector. It does a great job of distinguishing between people and pets.

Chris Monroe/CNET

System performance

SimpliSafe's approach to DIY security is appealing, but it's all for nothing if the sensors don't work reliably well. To that end, we spent a week putting them through a battery of tests.

All in all, the system did a great job. The open/closed contact sensors were the most reliable, triggering the alarm each and every time they were supposed to. The motion detector performed well, too. It was able to distinguish between people and small pets just fine, and it caught me walking through the room about 95 percent of the time. The other 5%: a test where something seemed to hiccup and I needed to walk through the room four or five times before it triggered anything. That wasn't a great result, but it was the only true misfire across several days of testing.

The leak detector was another standout, firing off an alert as soon as it came into water in each of my tests. The one drawback to that level of sensitivity -- it also went off at one point when my producer simply picked it up and moved it. That's not a huge deal though, especially for something you're going to toss under your sink and forget about.

Next up, the freeze detector. By default, it will send an alert if it ever senses ambient temperatures below 41 F or above 95 F, but you can set those thresholds to whatever points you like. It worked as expected over the long run, but it only takes readings and sends them to the base station once per hour. That's acceptable, but maybe a touch more sluggish then you'd like for especially sensitive temperature monitoring. Still, after having the pipes in my crawl space freeze this past winter, I can definitely see the appeal.

My final barrage of tests was aimed at the glass break sensor. Like the name suggests, it'll sound the alarm if it ever hears a window break -- and SimpliSafe claims that its calibrations are precise enough to distinguish between a broken window and a broken plate. Translation: It was time to break some stuff!

I started by trying to trick the sensor into sounding a false alarm. I didn't have a plate I was willing to part with, but I tried dropping a light bulbloudly clinking glassware together, playing glass-breaking sound effects at full volume and even tossing my keys against the wall, as one follower suggested on Twitter. Nothing worked -- the glass-break sensor wasn't fooled.

That all made for a promising start, but then, I tried breaking a small pane of actual glass. (I stole it from a picture frame -- apologies to the CNET Smart Home staging crew!) To my surprise, that didn't set the glass break sensor off, either. Maybe it thought it was a plate?

The team at SimpliSafe suggested I try dialing the sensitivity up -- turns out there's a slide switch on the back of the sensor with three settings. I set it to "high" and tried again, this time with an actual window purchased at a junk store. That did the trick -- across multiple tests, the glass break sensor caught us smashing the window each and every time.

In the end, I'd call that a successful result, but I'd definitely recommend starting with your glass break sensor set to "high" and dialing down from there as needed. As for me, I think the glass break sensor is one that I'd be comfortable skipping.

Smart security, yes; smart home platform, no

Something else worth thinking about as you're shopping for a home security system is whether or not you're interested in something that will tie in with a larger home automation platform. If so, SimpliSafe might not be your best option. 

Sure, SimpliSafe works with Alexa and Google, and it offers an integration with Nest that'll let you monitor your thermostat from the SimpliSafe app and tether its home and away modes to whether or not your system is armed. That's good enough for most, but if you want to add things like smart bulbs and smart switches to your setup, you'll have to control them separate from your security system. You're also stuck with SimpliSafe's SimpliCam as your only option for adding a camera to the equation -- and there are plenty of cameras that we like better.

Meanwhile, the SimpliSafe Smart Lock is a decent and relatively inexpensive addition to the system, but it's a bit more limited in features than standalone competitors like the 2017-edition of the August Smart Lock. That lock works with SimpliSafe, too, which is a useful integration -- I just wish there were similar options for adding smart lights to the system's control, given that automated lighting can help simulate occupancy to scare potential burglars away.

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The old SimpliSafe system in its awkward teenage years.

SimpliSafe

Other concerns

With an old-school, wired security system, you'd have to live with the worry that someone could deactivate your system by cutting a wire. Wireless systems like SimpliSafe eliminate that issue -- but what if someone manages to block the system's wireless transmissions? Wouldn't that have the same effect? As commenter Joe Duarte points out, security researchers have no shortage of questions like those about SimpliSafe and other systems like it.

We looked into jamming back in 2015, and tested SimpliSafe's protections against it. The company says that it uses a proprietary anti-jamming algorithm to detect if a sophisticated thief is trying to mess with your system. If it does, SimpliSafe will immediately notify you about it. That's what happened when we tested it out. With the right equipment, we were able to block a transmission to the base station, but not without SimpliSafe sending us an alert informing us of the jam. 

Bottom line: Jamming attacks like those are absolutely possible, but also exceedingly rare and difficult to pull off. A SimpliSafe representative claims that, to date, the company has no record of any customer ever being jammed. Even so, if a would-be thief were to try it, they'd come up against a functional layer of defense. That's more than enough for me.

As for other concerns like replay attacks where a hacker would try to intercept your keypad's code, SimpliSafe says that all system transmissions are encrypted, and also points out that its hardware allows for over-the-air firmware updates, making it much easier for the company to respond to evolving threats and vulnerabilities in real time.

SimpliSafe Home Security: Final thoughts

SimpliSafe's approach combines do-it-yourself appeal with live monitored peace of mind. It offers excellent value relative to the competition, it's remarkably easy to set up and use, and it doesn't feel (or look) like a compromise pick. In fact, its layers of protection are about as comprehensive as DIY security gets. I would have liked to have seen more new features and smart home integrations in the years since I first recommended it, but then again, it's hard to blame SimpliSafe for not fixing what ain't broke.

The system's strong performance and features earned it an Editors' Choice distinction last time around. Since then, we've seen new competition emerge from names like RingHoneywell, Vivint and ADT. Shopping around is always wise, but for most folks, I feel confident saying that SimpliSafe is still the best option, and still a worthy Editors' Choice-winner here on CNET.

First published on March 28, 2018.

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Disney World will turn your iPhone into a ticket to the park – CNET

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Disney

In a blog post Friday, Disney announced plans to launch MagicMobile, a new service that lets visitors scan their way through Florida's Disney World resort using their phone. The feature is expected to roll out in phases throughout 2021, starting with iPhones and the Apple Watch.

"Disney MagicMobile service is a convenient and contactless way to access MagicBand features like theme park entry through the power of your iPhone, Apple Watch or other smart device," Disney's blog post reads. "It works like magic -- most features will be available by just holding up your smart device near an access point, just like you do with a MagicBand."

The contact-free approach comes amid the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, at a time when a growing number of people might be weighing safety concerns as they evaluate plans for travel and vacation.

It's unclear when park-goers should expect Disney to bring Android gadgets and other devices on board, or if MagicMobile will be rolling out across other Disney parks in 2021, as well. Disney didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but we'll update this space if we hear more.

See also: Apple Watch Series 6 vs. Series 3 vs. SE: Which should you buy?

Now playing: Watch this: Buying guide: The best iPhone models in 2021

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Xbox Live back online after major outage – CNET

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Josh Goldman/CNET

Xbox Live's online platform for console gamers suffered a major outage Thursday afternoon, with gamers worldwide taking to Twitter to report troubles logging in.

But later in the day, the problems seemed to have been resolved. Around 6:30 p.m. PT, the  Xbox Support team tweeted that users should once again be able to sign in, complete purchases and join chat sessions. On Friday morning, the Xbox status page listed all online functions as up and running. 

The outage appears to have started shortly after noon PT on Thursday. "We are aware that users may not be able to sign-in to Xbox Live at this time," the company's support account tweeted Thursday afternoon. "Our teams are currently investigating to fix this issue."

Users might also experience issues with purchasing content and party chat too, Xbox Support tweeted later Thursday.

It's not the first Xbox outage in recent memory -- the platform hit a difficult patch in 2020, with multiple outages as gamers flocked onto the platform for entertainment amid the pandemic.

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Elon Musk: SpaceX will double Starlink’s satellite internet speeds in 2021 – CNET

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Maja Hitij/Getty Images

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter Monday that his company's satellite internet service, Starlink, will offer speeds close to 300 Mbps later in 2021. That's roughly twice as fast as currently advertised, and would represent a significant step forward for the service as it seeks to deliver high-speed internet to underserved regions across the globe.

The tweet came in reply to a customer posting their at-home speed test results with a newly installed Starlink connection.

Musk added that latency, a measure of how long it takes your internet signal to travel to space and back, will also drop to around 20ms this year. That would be a validation of the company's strategy of launching its satellites into low-earth orbit, which reduces the distance that those signals need to travel. That strategy has also raised red flags with astronomers worried about obstructions to night sky visibility, which is something SpaceX has been working to address with updates to its satellite design.  

Musk went on to reply to another user who asked for a coverage map, telling them that Starlink will cover, "most of Earth by end of year, all by next year." From there, Musk said, it's all about "densifying coverage," though he noted that the satellite internet coverage is best suited for regions with low to medium population density.

Starlink now boasts over 10,000 customers, and is currently comprised of a growing network (or "constellation") of over 1,200 low-earth orbit satellites capable of providing an internet signal to homes equipped with a receiver dish. The $99-per-month service, which also charges $500 for the initial equipment cost, is currently accepting pre-orders for customers in parts of Canada, the UK, and the northwest US between latitudes 45 and 53 degrees North, as well as other select locations

The scope of that coverage is expected to grow as SpaceX continues launching additional satellites into orbit -- ultimately, as many as 30,000 of them.

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Microsoft knocks $400 off the cost of a Surface Duo, expands availability to Canada – CNET

Microsoft Surface Duo
Richard Peterson/CNET

Microsoft is bringing the Surface Duo to Canada later in February, the company said Thursday -- and in the US, it's made the dual-screen device available at a steep discount. Initially priced at $1,399 when it debuted in 2019, the Surface Duo can now be had by customers everywhere for $999. It's unclear if that's a permanent price cut in line with the international expansion or just a limited-time offer, but we'll update this space if Microsoft clarifies.

The Surface Duo folds open to reveal two OLED screens designed for multitasking.

Microsoft

Roughly the size of a notebook, the Surface Duo features a hinge that folds open to reveal two OLED screens, complete with full Microsoft Pen support. The Android device includes a SIM card, essentially making a phone that folds open to become a dual-screen tablet designed for multitasking. With its arrival in Canada, Microsoft is also promising, "an updated user experience to usher in a new wave of productivity, functionality and creativity."

"As a company, we will continue to deliver purposeful innovation -- pushing the boundaries of existing categories to not just move technology forward, but to move people forward," Microsoft Canada President Kevin Peesker said in a blog post announcing the product's Canadian debut.

The Surface Duo will be available in Canada on Feb. 18 at the Microsoft Store's Canadian website, Best Buy Canada, and other authorized Surface resellers.

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YouTube will finally let you create short clips of longer videos – CNET

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YouTube's new clipping tool is available now with select videos on Android and desktop, with iOS support coming soon.

Angela Lang/CNET

YouTube is adding a new clipping tool that lets viewers quickly create short, sharable clips of up to 60 seconds from longer video uploads, the platform announced Thursday. The move gives video creators and their fans an easy way to increase a channel's visibility, and to grow.

"We've heard a lot of feedback from creators and viewers who have wanted an easy way to capture short segments of content and share moments from videos or streams," reads a YouTube blog announcing the feature. "We're excited to begin our testing of a clipping feature on YouTube starting today with a small group of creators while we start gathering feedback."

As the feature rolls out, you'll notice a new icon in YouTube's video player that looks like a pair of scissors. Give it a click, and you'll be able to create a custom clip from whatever video you're watching, with a run-time of anywhere from 5 to 60 seconds. Once created, you'll be able to share the looping video clip on other platforms, like Facebook or Twitter. You'll also be able to create a direct link to the clip, or create an embeddable version that you can add to a website.

Clip creation is currently limited to desktop and Android devices, YouTube adds, with support for iOS devices coming soon. You can read YouTube's help page for the feature for more on how it works, or you can try it out for yourself by watching this "sneak peek" video from YouTube's engineers which is, itself, clippable.

See also: Watch full movies for free on YouTube

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