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1 week ago

Amazon's Fire tablets just got a big refresh


Amazon is driving costs down even further, making its tablets irresistible.

Remember way back when there was such a thing as a company capable of competing with Amazon on price for tablets? Those days are long gone, and today Amazon is making sure things stay that way. Four of Amazon's tablets have been refreshed today with new features and colors, and the prices just keep getting better.

Lets see what we're looking at!

Amazon Fire 7 and Fire HD 8

The new Fire 7 tablet from Amazon is lighter and thinner than its predecessor, with a 7-inch IPS display Amazon claims is noticeably improved with higher contrast and less battery drain. This new tablet promises up to 6 hours of batter, 8GB of onboard storage with microSD card support up to 256GB, and Alexa enabled in the OS. If you're looking for a cheap tablet that isn't terrible to use, it's hard to argue with $50 for this offering.

See on Amazon

If you want something a little more capable, the Fire HD 8 bumps the screen resolution to 1280x800 and starts with 16GB of onboard storage. This version of the tablet also offers 12 hours of battery, and like the new 7-inch version comes in the standard black as well as Punch Red, Marine Blue and Canary Yellow. This upgraded experience will run you $80, which is clearly not much considering what you're getting.

See on Amazon

Amazon Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 Kids Edition

According to Amazon, the new Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 are already more durable than the current generation iPad. That doesn't stop the company from releasing a Kids Edition variant of its tablets with big silicone bumpers and a two-year "worry-free" guarantee to replace if you actually manage to break yours. The new Fire 7 Kids Edition increases the default storage to 16GB onboard and includes a year of Amazon's FreeTime Unlimited so your kids have access to more apps and shows and books than can be read in that timeframe. This new kid-friendly setup will run you $100, and comes in the three colorful silicone options based on your choice.

See on Amazon

The HD 8-inch variant, like the Adult version, has a better display and larger battery. It's also packing 32GB of onboard storage by default and includes the same two-year guarantee as the smaller version. Like the Adult Fire HD 8, you're paying $30 more than the smaller version for the boost in specs.

See at Amazon

Amazon is clearly not done making a lot of noise when it comes to inexpensive tablets packing all of the best features the company has to offer, so will you be upgrading? Sound off in the comments!

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1 week ago

What's in Alex's Google I/O 2017 gear bag?

Gear bag

Here's what I'm packing to Google's annual nerd party in Mountain View!

Google I/O is a unique gem in the Android calendar, and not just because it's Google's yearly chance to show us what it's working on, and prepare developers for the devices of and platforms of the future. Being an outdoors event, Google I/O has its own set of challenges when it comes to event coverage. You're out in the California sun, for starters, and it's not quite as easy to find somewhere to plug in and write up stories. And that's before you get to the challenges of recording and editing video in that setting.

All of which means you need to pick your I/O gear pretty carefully.

This'll be my third Google I/O attending in person, and I've come packing a refreshed pile of gear to help me through the keynote, developer sessions and beyond

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1 week ago

Should you encrypt your Galaxy S8's SD card?


Probably not. Here's why.

We've written what you need to know about the Galaxy S8's SD card and how you can move some Android apps from the internal memory to it, and a common question that pops up (as it does when we talk about any phone's SD card) is whether or not to encrypt it.

It's a legit question. There are both pros and cons to encrypting the card, and it's hard to get a clear picture when information is spread across many different places. We can try to remedy that and have a clear and concise discussion about SD card encryption sp you can make up your mind after you know a little more. If you've waded through the technical words and terms that experts use and just want a plain answer, this is for you!

Looking for a good microSD card for your Galaxy S8? Check out our guide!

Security is not convenient

The only real reason to encrypt your SD card in any phone is so that the only way to see what's on it is to unlock the screen. It doesn't matter what you have on the card or what anyone else thinks; if you want to make sure nobody can look at what's on the card if you lose your phone or it gets stolen you have to encrypt it. Some programs store their data on the SD card with encryption enabled, but encrypting the entire card is the only way to protect everything in one shot.

Think about that for a second — the only way to see what's there is to decrypt it and that can only happen when you have your phone powered on and unlocked. Guarding your photos or anything else you've saved on the card by encrypting it is a pretty easy thing to understand and see the benefit. But the reasons why you might not want to do it are pretty compelling, too.

  • You can't see anything on the card unless it's inside the phone that encrypted it and the phone is unlocked. That means you can't take it out and use it in anything else unless you erase everything and reformat it. if you stick it into your PC to copy music or a big video to the card, it won't work; your computer will tell you it needs to be formatted. The same goes for another Android phone, even another Samsung brand phone. Which brings us to the next reason ...

  • If your phone dies, all the data on the SD card dies along with it. If something happens to your phone and you can't get it back to a usable state so you can decrypt the card, the data is gone forever. It's really cool that SD card encryption can keep some creep who stole your phone from seeing all your pictures. It's less cool when you break your phone or it has a hardware fault and you can't see all your pictures. Or copy them somewhere.

Google has the same attitude about encryption for SD cards as they do for anything else: Security trumps everything.

This is because Google (Samsung uses the code from Google for encryption) follows old-school hardcore nerd thinking when it comes to encryption. Namely, that if you're going to bother encrypting something, you do everything possible to sandbox the data from the outside world unless it's decrypted. Microsoft, for example, lets you encrypt a volume (a partition or storage drive) and decrypt it in another machine if you have the right passphrase. They have lightened up a little bit because they understand people don't want to lose everything if there's a problem and that most of us don't bother making backups of anything unless it's automatic. Google assumes you understand the situation and will make regular backups in case something fails because locking the encrypted volume to specific hardware is more secure.

Neither is right and neither is wrong, they are just very different ways of approaching security. In a perfect world, both companies would have a setting so you could do it either way, but that's a lot of work and the world isn't perfect. What's important is that you understand that Google won't let you use another phone to get what's on the card if it's encrypted. Important enough to use ugly bold letters, even.

So, should I?

Nope. This is a classic case of "if you have to ask, then no" and we're not even trying to be arrogant. Not even a little bit.

If you are asking yourself that question, you weren't told you had to encrypt the card by your boss or IT manager, or that you don't have anything on the card that you know you need to protect with encryption. These are really the only time it's worth bothering to encrypt the card. This is why it's optional in the first place. Having a secure lock screen keeps anyone from seeing what's on your card when it's inside the phone. Encryption makes sure that applies when it's out of the phone, too.

Not everything is worth the bother or the risk of encrypting your SD card.

If you have random pictures of the cat or your friends and family being silly, some music you like and a picture or two you downloaded from Facebook, ask yourself if it's worth the hassle. There are even apps you can use to encrypt some of the folders without encrypting the whole card. If you have a Galaxy S8, one's built into your phone in the Secure Folder feature you'll find in the settings.

We're also not trying to discourage you here. We like to think that when it comes to our privacy and our data, encryption makes everything better. But not everyone here at Mobile Nations has a Galaxy S8 with an encrypted SD card because the risk of losing it if the phone breaks (or gets stolen or gets lost, etc.) is not worth it. The stuff on the card is too important to lose, and not important enough to encrypt.

There are a lot of things that need an additional layer of security and your things may be some of them. If you keep those kinds of pictures or have files you wouldn't want anyone to see without your permission, you might want to add the extra lock that encryption offers. Nobody can say you shouldn't want to keep your stuff "safe." Just know how it works and be diligent with the backups.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+


Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint


The Galaxy S8, and its larger sibling the S8+, are Samsung's top-end devices for 2017 meant to appeal to the general consumer and power user alike. The two phones are only differentiated by screen and battery size: 5.8 inches and 3000mAh, and 6.2 inches and 3500mAh.

The displays have a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio with a QHD+ resolution, meaning they're extra tall and narrow. Samsung moved to on-screen buttons and reduced bezel size dramatically in order to fit as much screen into the body as possible. That moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phones, where it sits somewhat-awkwardly next to the camera lens. Iris scanning makes its return in a new-and-improved version from the Note 7.

Though the batteries haven't increased in size from the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, the hope is that the improved efficiency of the new 10 nm processor inside will provide some help. The processor is backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Waterproofing and wireless charging are still here as well, plus a new USB-C port on the bottom. The rear camera is unchanged in terms of its 12MP sensor and f/1.7 lens, but has improved processing thanks to a new ISP and software.


Width Height Thickness 5.86 in
148.9 mm
2.68 in
68.1 mm
0.31 in
8 mm
5.47 oz
155g grams
  • Display:
    • 5.8-inch AMOLED display
    • 2960x1440 resolution
    • 18.5:9 aspect ratio
    • Dual-curve infinity display
  • Cameras:
    • 12MP ƒ/1.7 rear camera
    • Dual-pixel phase detection autofocus
    • 1.4-micron pixels
    • 8MP ƒ/1.7 front camera
  • Battery:
    • 3000 mAh battery
    • Non-removable
    • USB-C fast Charging
    • Qi + PMA wireless charging
  • Chips:
    • Snapdragon 835 processor
    • Samsung Exynos 8896 processor
      (varies by region)
    • 4GB RAM
    • 64GB internal storage
    • microSD card slot
    • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • GS8+
    • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    • 6.2-inch AMOLED display
    • 3500mAh battery
    • 6.28 in x 2.89 in x 0.32 in
      159.5mm x 73.4mm x 8.1mm
    • 6.10 oz / 73g

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1 week ago

Begin your Android development career with this professional bundle for $29

Ready to make a change in your career and start creating your own Android apps? Getting started can be a difficult task, there is a lot to learn, a lot of different ways to do things, and unless you have someone to chat with it can be hard to do on your own. There are a number of different ways you can begin your new path, and this bundle is one of the best.

Get started today for just $29 Learn More

Meet the Professional Android Developer Bundle, a great way for you to learn the basics and more advanced features of building Android apps. From an introduction to Javascript to the fundamentals of the operating system itself, there are countless hours of information here for you to move through at your own pace.

  • Introduction to Programming & Coding for Everyone with JavaScript - $295 Value
  • Fundamentals of Operating Systems - $295 Value
  • Building Android Apps That Work - $295 Value
  • Java SE 8 Programming Part 2 - $295 Value
  • Java SE 8 Programming Part 1 - $295 Value

Save big for a limited time! Learn More

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1 week ago

Everything Flo is packing in her Gear Bag for Google I/O 2017


It's basically just sunscreen and some phones.

If there's one thing that stuck with me after attending last year's Google I/O, it's to always wear sunscreen. If you've ever had to carry a giant bag full of things on top of sunburned shoulders, then you know the pain. And that pain is not fun to have lingering around when you'd rather be soaking up developer sessions and checking out the latest Android-based demonstrations.

This year, I'm packing a ton of sunscreen. Bottles of it. I'm bringing the spray kind, the lotion kind, and some for my face — I'll probably slather a bunch in my scalp, for the days I forget my hat. I'm packing a couple of other neccesary things, too — a laptop, a couple of smartphones— but I'm attempting to keep it my kit as concise and as whittled down to the necessary as possible so that I've enough room to carry all that sunscreen.

The bag: Something I bought off of AliExpress

I couldn't do the Timbuk2 Classic Messenger anymore. The more gear I'd cram into it, the more my back seemed to ache for days after merely an hour with it on. So, I switched to this little backpack I found on AliExpress a few months ago, though it's quickly turned into one of my favorite carry-all. And it was pretty affordable, too!

This off-brand bag is big enough to fit my MacBook Pro and Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Insert (the link takes you to the new version of the product). There's also a front pocket that fits my phone and my wallet perfectly, and there's enough room inside to store rolled-up sweater, too. Google I/O will likely be in the upper digits towards the mid-afternoon but at night fall it can get pretty chilly in the South Bay.

Also inside: So much sunscreen

As a pale-skinned woman who burns considerably after only minutes in the sun, I've gotten into the habit of carrying some very heavy duty sunscreen. My favorite is the Alba Botanica Hawaiian sunscreen. It smells nice and it's water resistant, and it's kept me protected through various hikes through the California Redwoods and beyond. It's also available in spray form, which is convenient for quick touchups throughout the day.

On my face, I wear Tarte Guard Sunscreen, which offers all the protection without the grease. But if you're put off by the bright pink bottle, Dr. Jart's Every Sun Day UV Sunscreen is a great Korean-made alternative that's also dermatologist-tested and cruelty-free.

See at Amazon

The phone: Pixel XL

I remember last year, I was already struggling with the Nexus 6P around this time — I vividly remember pulling over while navigating around Mountain View because the phone had randomly shut down in the middle of my route. You can bet there was plenty of screaming and cursing happening that day.

I don't expect to run into the same issue with the Pixel XL, but that's because it's been so consistent since I adopted it last October. I know that I can trust it to post to Twitter, Instagram Stories, and Snapchat without shutting down on me, as well as provide ample battery life for answering the barrage of Hangouts messages and emails I'll be fielding throughout the entire week. It also takes the best photos, and it's the only phone I have in my arsenal with the absolute latest version of Android.

See at Google

The smartwatch: LG Watch Style

To be very honest with you, faithful Android users, I've long since ditched Android Wear 2.0 for the hybrid Fossil Q (also pictured here) because I don't like having to charge a watch every single night. But during major event weeks, I'll switch to the LG Watch Style, which is one of the most comfortable smartwatches for those with smaller wrists. I like to have the notifications pop up as they appear, not to mention it's much more convenient to respond with a simple "ok" on Android Wear than it is to always have my phone in my hand.

See at Google

The other computer: Samsung DeX

I'm not actually planning to use the Samsung Galaxy S8+ to cover Google I/O. I'm actually bringing it to test out the Samsung DeX, which I'll be using in my Mountain View hotel room to decompress at the end of each day. I'm impressed with what I'm seen from Samsung's "desktop experience" thus far, but the real test will be whether it makes sense for me to travel with a mouse, keyboard, and HDMI cable in tow, too.

See at Best Buy

Other gear and accessories

There are a couple of other necessities I'm packing with me. My battery pack this year will be the AUKEY 20,000 mAh solar-powered battery pack, which is quite dense and will certainly add a bit of weight to my bag. But it's got multiple ports for the crew to charge along, and I never have to worry about it running out of juice as long as the sun is still shining.

I'm also bringing along a Polaroid wide-angle lens, which easily screws on to the existing 40mm lens already affixed to my Canon SL1. This makes it so that I can widen the shot of the crazy sculptures placed throughout the Shoreline and switch back to the pancake lens when I need to snap a photo of a screen, for instance.

Coming to Google I/O?

Are you making the trek to Mountain View for Google's annual developer conference? Leave a comment and tell us what you're packing for the event!

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1 week ago

Farpoint Tips and Tricks for survival

These tips will help you survive the inhospitable world of Farpoint.

Farpoint has arrived on PlayStation VR, delivering an excellent sci-fi experience for you to shoot your way through. If you want to be well and truly ready for everything this desolate planet is going to throw at you, then knowing what you are about to get into is handy. So we've put together a few tips and tricks to help you survive what is coming.


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1 week ago

Best Family Plan

Best Family Plan

What's the best family plan in the U.S.?

If you're looking to save money on your monthly mobile bill, then signing up multiple lines is the best way to go. The Big Four carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon) don't really have "family plans" anymore, per se, but they do have multi-line plans that are similar to buying in bulk. The more you add, the more you save.

Here's the best family plan you can get from the Big Four.

Best family plan: T-Mobile


Since all the major carriers switched to unlimited plans, T-Mobile has taken the lead in terms of savings with a family plan.


You can sign up up to four lines on one account for $160 per month ($40/month/line), taxes and fees included. With each line, you get "unlimited" data (up to 30GB of 4G LTE, 2G speeds after that), unlimited talk and text, Music Unlimited (unlimited streaming from select services with no data charges), and tethering at 3G speeds.

With certain services, like HBO Now, you can also stream as much video as you please without extra charges, though video streaming quality is throttled to 480p. If you like your HD video, you'll have to compromise.

Though T-Mobile's coverage still isn't the best in the country, it's quickly catching up to Verizon's wide reach.

T-Mobile's Buyer's Guide: Everything you need to know

Runner up: Sprint


Sprint may not play nice when it comes to bringing your own device, and its CDMA technology might be a little dated, but Sprint's "Unlimited Freedom" plan costs just as much as T-Mobile's for four lines, and you get HD video streaming and 10GB of hotspot data per line. You'll also get unlimited talk and text and 2G data.

The first line is $60/month, the second is $40/month, and each additional line is $30/month, so four lines are $160/month. This does not include taxes or other fees.

If you prefer Sprint's service, or you're already with Sprint and are considering resigning, know that you'll get roughly the same deal as T-Mobile.

Sprint Buyer's Guide: Everything you need to know


For your consideration: Verizon


Verizon may not have the best deal on family plans, but it does have the best coverage in the U.S., and its multi-line pricing is still competitive.

Verizon only offers multi-line plans on its unlimited data plans. Four lines are $180/month (taxes and fees not included). You get "unlimited" data (22GB of 4G LTE, possible throttling to 2G speeds after), unlimited talk and text, HD video streaming, tethering, and service in Mexico and Canada.

Like Sprint, bringing your own phone to Verizon is a bit difficult, but if you want the best coverage available, then check it out.

Verizon Buyer's Guide: Everything you need to know

The other guy: AT&T


AT&T may be the second biggest carrier in the U.S., but its current unlimited family plans are a bit difficult to parse. For its "Unlimited Choice" plan, AT&T's site says you can get 4 lines for "less than $40 per line, per month", but the exact price isn't listed anywhere. You'd have to speak directly with an AT&T rep to see. You can, however, have up to 10 lines on one account.

AT&T Buyer's Guide: Everything you need to know

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1 week ago

Common Moto G5 problems and how to fix them


If you're having issues with your Moto G5 or G5 Plus, we're here to help.

The Moto G5 and G5 Plus are great new additions to the Moto G lineup, but that doesn't mean they're not without their issues. Whether it's erratic Wi-Fi connectivity, background noise in videos, or issues with the bundled TurboCharger, you can rely on a workaround to solve the problem.

Here are some of the common problems affecting the Moto G5 and G5 Plus, and potential fixes.

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1 week ago

Moto E4, E4 Plus, and Z2 Play show up in leaked renders


Leaked renders give us an early look at Motorola's upcoming phones.

A leaked slide from over the weekend revealed that Motorola was planning to launch nine new phones this year. The company already released two phones at the start of the week in the newly-minted Moto C series, which is now the entry-level tier for the brand.

We're now getting a look at the Moto Z2 Play and the Moto E series courtesy of Roland Quandt of WinFuture. The Z2 Play will be a successor to last year's Z Play, and will retain support for Moto Mods. Meanwhile, the Moto E series sits one step above the Moto C lineup, with the phones — the Moto E4 and E4 Plus — likely to retail for under $200.

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1 week ago

Samsung sells over 5 million units of the Galaxy S8 in less than a month


Galaxy S8 and S8+ hit the 5-million sales mark in their first month of availability.

The Galaxy S8 and S8+ made their debut in South Korea, Canada, and the U.S. on April 21, with availability in European markets and India kicking off a few weeks later. The company is now stating that it sold over 5 million units globally, with shipments exceeding 10 million units.

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1 week ago

Netflix no longer works on rooted or bootloader-unlocked Android phones


Wanted to go for a binge on your rooted Android phone? I've got some bad news.

Rooted users started noticing the app gone from Google Play on their devices over the weekend, and Netflix eventually confirmed it did this intentionally. The streaming service is now using Google's Wildvine DRM to block the app from rooted devices that don't pass Wildvine's security status, and its Google Play listing will not appear for devices that fail a SafetyNet check, which not only rules out rooted phones but also unrooted phones that are bootloader-unlocked.

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1 week ago

Samsung Galaxy S8+ India review: King of the hill

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

The Galaxy S8+ is the best Android phone available today.

The quick take

The Galaxy S8+ offers everything you want — and a few things you didn't know you needed — in a package that looks downright futuristic. Combining top-of-the-line hardware with a gorgeous design and an incredible display, Samsung ticks all the right boxes. The phone isn't without its quirks, but when seen as a complete package, you won't find a phone that offers quite as much as the Galaxy S8+ for the price.

The Good

  • Infinity Display is amazing
  • Incredible design
  • Class-leading performance
  • Water and dust resistant
  • Great camera
  • All-day battery life

The Bad

  • Fingerprint sensor location
  • Fragile
  • Bixby is pointless right now
  • Smudge magnet

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Full review

The Galaxy S8+ comes at a crucial time for Samsung. The company is getting back on track from last year's debacle, and although its profits weren't hurt by the global recall of its flagship late last year, consumer trust in the brand took a big hit. Samsung is looking to regain that trust with its most ambitious phone yet.

However, competition in the high-end segment is stronger than ever. Google got off to a great start with the Pixel, and LG has mounted its fiercest challenge yet with the G6. Samsung put itself in a precarious position with the Galaxy S8: it obviously needed to innovate to push past its rivals, but it also had to be wary to not overextend itself in the process. After all, it was the company's overzealousness in wanting to include the largest possible battery last year that led to its downfall.

With the Galaxy S8, we're starting to see the results of Samsung's cautious approach. The brand outdid itself in a few areas, like the Infinity Display, but elsewhere, there's a sense that it held back, opting not to make too many alterations just for the sake of change. In doing so, it created its best phone to date.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Specs

Category Features Operating System Android 7.0 Nougat Display 6.2-inch AMOLED
2960x1440 (529 ppi) Processor 10nm Samsung Exynos 8895 Storage 64GB (UFS 2.1)
microSD up to 256GB RAM 4GB Rear Camera 12MP Dual Pixel, f/1.7
1.4-micron pixels
OIS Front Camera 8MP, f/1.7
auto focus Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11ac MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC, GPS, Glonass, Galileo BeiDou
LTE Cat.16 Charging USB-C
Fast charging
Qi wireless
Powermat wireless Battery 3500mAh Water resistance IP68 rating Security Fingerprint sensor
Iris scanner
Samsung KNOX Dimensions 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1mm Weight 173g Colors Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Maple Gold

About this review

I am writing this review after using the Exynos 8895 variant of the Galaxy S8+ (SM-G955FD) for two weeks in Hyderabad, India. A week into the review, Samsung released an update to fix the red tint issue, bumping the build number to G955FXXU1AQDG. The unit was provided for review by Samsung India.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Hardware

The Galaxy S8+ is the most futuristic phone available today. The dual curved screen merges seamlessly with the edges of the frame to create a design aesthetic that elevates the S8 to a league all its own. Put the Galaxy S8+ next to handsets like the Pixel and the LG G6 — which also has an extra-tall display — and you'll immediately notice the sheer beauty of the thing. This is a phone you'll want to gaze at even while the display is off. The gold color variant in particular looks like it was designed for the robots.

To engineer the Infinity Display, Samsung had to get rid of most of the bezels around the top and bottom of the phone, and while I was initially apprehensive about accidental touches, Samsung did a much better job with palm rejection this time around. With no bezels to factor in, Samsung was able to cram a huge panel in a relatively small chassis.

Even though the Galaxy S8+ is offering a 6.2-inch display, the overall size of the phone isn't much larger than a regular 5.7-inch phone — it is marginally taller than the 5.5-inch Pixel XL. The phone has Gorilla Glass 5 protection both at the front and back, which gives it an added resistance to tumbles.

The USB-C port at the bottom is flanked by the 3.5mm jack on the left and a single speaker to the right. The speaker gets sufficiently loud and doesn't get garbled, even when you crank up the volume. The power button is located on the right, and the volume rocker is to the left of the phone. With the Galaxy S8+, Samsung has added a dedicated button below the volume rocker to invoke Bixby. For now, the Bixby button's main purpose is to come in the way of you taking a screenshot.

Moving a little further up, the 6.2-inch QHD AMOLED display on the Galaxy S8+ is amazing. The 2960x1440 resolution heralds a new age of 18.5:9 displays, and while it takes a while to get adjusted to the tall screen, the narrow width makes it that much easier to use the phone. You will not be able to reach all corners of the display, but it's definitely not as unwieldy as I initially imagined it would be from initial renders of the S8.

Samsung has raised the bar for smartphone displays for a few years now, and the S8+ continues to build on that. Colors are vivid, black levels are excellent, and the screen goes up to 1000nits, allowing you to read the panel outdoors without any issues. However, the 18.5:9 ratio comes with a downside — letterboxing in games and videos. Samsung offers a workaround by allowing you to scale YouTube videos to the full width of the screen, but it will be a while before developers start taking full advantage of the tall panel.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

The Always On Display feature has also picked up new functionality, and now offers six clock faces, music controls, more customization options, and colorful backgrounds. The Galaxy S8+ is also one of the first phones to offer HDR10 and Mobile Premium HDR certifications, allowing you to view HDR content from the likes of Prime Video and Netflix.

From an engineering standpoint, there's nothing else quite like the Galaxy S8+.

The SIM card slot — which also houses the microSD card tray — is located at the top, and is sealed by a rubber gasket. The Galaxy S8+ is IP68 certified, making it dust and water resistant. Samsung removed the physical home button to make way for the Infinity Display, and the fingerprint sensor has been moved to the back panel, and is now located next to the camera sensor. This is the most controversial design change with the Galaxy S8+, and one that makes unlocking the phone more difficult than it should be.

The fingerprint sensor itself is quick to authenticate, but its limited surface area and awkward placement make it harder than usual to locate it with your finger — doubly so when you're using the phone one-handed. More often than not, you'll put your finger on the camera sensor, where you'll end up smudging it. The lack of a noticeable indent also makes locating the fingerprint sensor difficult. Samsung was allegedly looking for a way to integrate the sensor directly into the display of the S8+, but the supplier working on the technology, Synaptics, couldn't get it to work in time for the launch of the phone. Maybe in the Note 8 then.

There is one positive aspect of the fingerprint sensor being located at the back, and that is the ability to pull down the notification shade or access Samsung Pay quickly with a swipe gesture. It doesn't make up for the fact that unlocking the phone is more difficult than it used to be, but Samsung has gone out of its way to introduce additional options to do just that. With the Galaxy S8+, you can use facial recognition and iris scanning to unlock the software.

The location of the fingerprint sensor isn't ideal, but iris scanning makes up for it.

The lack of a home button means that the ability to quickly launch the camera is also diminished. Samsung switched the functionality to the power button in international versions of the S8+, but the Indian unit doesn't have the feature enabled. Samsung has instead opted to offer a panic button — a feature mandated by the Indian government on all phones — that's accessible by three quick taps on the power button. What this means is that for Indian customers, there's no easy way to access the camera. Which is a shame, because the camera is one of the best available today. But more on that later.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

Talking about change, the S8+ offers a haptic engine at the bottom of the display that acts as a replacement for the physical home button. You'll be able to press down on the area where the home button used to be to wake up the screen when the phone is locked, and you can also use it to go back to the home screen while watching a video on YouTube or playing a game. There's also the option of customizing the sensitivity of the home button. It certainly doesn't come close to the feedback of a physical home button, but Samsung clearly wanted to offer an alternative in its stead.

While the front of the Galaxy S8+ is unlike any other phone on the market today, the same cannot be said of the design at the back. However, Samsung is doing a much better job of making various color options available globally. In India, you can choose from three colors — Midnight Black, Coral Blue, and Maple Gold. The black version looks great, but it also highlights smudges the most. The blue and gold options stand out more, and the blue, in particular, looks stunning. Thankfully, with all three options the front panel is black, which masks the litany of sensors located above the display.

The only uncertainty about the Galaxy S8+ is its fragility. With an abundance of glass at the front and back, it certainly isn't the most rugged phone out there. In the two weeks that I've used the phone, it took a single tumble — onto a tiled surface from a height of five feet — and came away unscathed. However, that won't always be the case. You should consider investing in a case, but definitely stay away from so-called premium screen protectors.


Coming to the internal hardware, the 10nm Exynos 8895 SoC on the Galaxy S8+ is a beast. The 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM is more than adequate to juggle several apps at once, and combined with the 64GB UFS 2.1 storage module, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C, and Category 16 LTE modem with Gigabit LTE, it's easy to see that the S8+ packs plenty of punch.

That said, I did notice the occasional stutter, but that's more to do with Samsung's optimization (or lack thereof) than an issue with the hardware itself.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Software

Much like its hardware design, Samsung overhauled the software experience over the last few years. The UI is now called Samsung Experience (version 8.1), and if you're coming from the Galaxy S7 or S7 edge, there's plenty to like.

For one thing, there isn't a button for the app drawer anymore; you instead swipe up or down anywhere on the home screen to launch the app drawer. You can also swipe down on the fingerprint sensor to pull down the notification shade, à la Google Pixel.

Samsung has been offering a Multi Window mode for several generations now, and in the Galaxy S8+, you have the option to snap a particular portion of an app to the top of the display, and run another app at the bottom.

It'll take you a while to go through all the features on offer with the Galaxy S8+.

One-handed mode is also back, but without physical navigation keys to invoke the feature, Samsung has changed things up a little. To enter one-handed mode, you'll have to swipe up diagonally across the screen from either bottom corner. More often than not, you'll end up pulling down the app drawer, so there's an easier way to launch one-handed mode, and that's by tapping the home button three times.

The elimination of the home button has led to one welcome move: customizable on-screen navigation keys. For years now, Samsung strayed from Google's implementation of navigation keys — back button on the left, home button at the center, and the recents pane on the right — but with the Galaxy S8+, you can change the orientation of the buttons to suit your liking. You don't have as many customization options as that on the LG G6, which lets you add up to four buttons, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

With both variants of the Galaxy S8 offering dual curved screens, Samsung made changes to the way Edge panels work. The Edge feed has been removed, and you now have the ability to choose Apps, People, and Tasks edge panels. Each corresponding panel comes with a list of customizable shortcuts, and the optimization and quick tools panels are also present. There's also Edge lighting, which creates a halo around the edges of the screen for incoming notifications. If you don't like Edge panels, you can always disable them.

Samsung has had a shoddy track record when it comes to software updates in other regions, but when it comes to India, the company has done a magnificent job — at least in the high-end segment.

The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge have consistently picked up platform and security updates, and Samsung is continuing that tradition with the S8 and S8+. The phones picked up the May security patch this week, and the fact that there isn't any interference from carriers — all phones sold in India are unlocked — makes things that much easier for the manufacturer. The phone is still running Android 7.0 Nougat, and while there's no mention of when the Android 7.1.1 (or 7.1.2) update will be delivered, for now, Samsung is doing a great job when it comes to updates.

Samsung Pay

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

With Samsung Pay now officially available in India, the Galaxy S8+ is the first flagship with the feature enabled out of the box. The service is also available on the Galaxy A7 2017, but the phone itself isn't all that great to use.

You don't really realize how useful Samsung Pay is until you get started with the service. It has fundamentally transformed the way I pay for goods at offline stores. The service's ease of use combined with its near-ubiquity makes it invaluable when making in-store purchases.

Samsung Pay transforms the way in-store purchases are carried out.

Samsung also nailed the rollout of Samsung Pay in India. Because of its integration with MST, the service works even on older card readers, and the South Korean company is leveraging its marketing budget to ensure retailers and customers are aware of the way it works. Out of the 20 locations where I've used Samsung Pay, only one cashier didn't have an idea about the service.

The service is also incredibly convenient to use: to access Samsung Pay, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen, or use the fingerprint sensor gesture. The gesture isn't enabled by default, but you can set it up from the settings (Settings > Advanced Features > Finger sensor gestures > Open Samsung Pay).

Everything you need to know about Samsung Pay in India

Once Samsung Pay loads up, you can select the card you want to pay with, and authenticate using a PIN or your fingerprint. For transactions carried out in India, you'll still have to enter your credit or debit card PIN.


Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

If there's one sore point on the Galaxy S8+, it is the state of Bixby. Samsung's virtual assistant feels half-baked right now, and Bixby Voice — a key component for the service — won't be available until later this year in the U.S., with an Indian launch coming a few months after that.

Bixby isn't meant to take on Google Assistant. Instead, it is designed to make it easier for you to interact with your phone. For instance, you'll be able to ask Bixby to find images from a particular location or a particular date, and it will surface that information with ease.

With Bixby Vision, you'll be able to point your camera at an object, and the service will offer relevant information about that item. It worked well with QR codes, but when I pointed it at the retail box for the Galaxy S8+, it failed to identify it.

Bixby also lets you set reminders, see contextual information from third-party apps like Twitter, Uber, Foursquare, and more. Bixby on the Galaxy S8+ is a first look at what's possible, and the assistant will get much better over time. For now, though, it doesn't add a whole lot of value.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Camera

Samsung didn't make a big deal of the rear camera in the Galaxy S8+, and although the resolution is the same at 12MP, the phone has an all-new imaging sensor.

In addition to the new sensor, Samsung's latest Exynos 8895 chipset has an improved ISP that takes multiple images every time you click the shutter button. It then automatically stitches the images into a single photo, one that offers a better dynamic range. The new ISP also allows for digital stabilization of 4K videos.

The Galaxy S8+ excels at taking great photos with a minimum amount of fuss. It is on par with the Pixel or beats it in a few scenarios, particularly when it comes to low-light imagery. Previous Galaxy S flagships had a tendency to oversaturate colors, but Samsung has toned down the image processing algorithms in the Galaxy S8+, leading to more natural colors.

The main drawback with the camera is the fact that there isn't a way to quickly launch it on the Indian model. When it comes to the image quality, ease of use, and the sheer number of options available, it is one of the best out there.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Battery life

The standard Galaxy S8 has a 3000mAh battery while the S8+ offers a 3500mAh battery. The added battery size makes a lot of difference in everyday usage. Over the course of the two weeks, I routinely saw around 18 hours of usage with four hours screen-on-time and 30% battery left to spare.

Even on days where I was using cellular data all the time and had the Bluetooth enabled, the battery managed to last until late at night. Samsung's battery-saving measures contribute in this area, and you get regular reminders notifying you of apps running in the background that are consuming system resources.

With the Galaxy S8+, you'll easily get a day's worth of usage from the battery.

You can monitor apps' usage per hour, and set limits on a per-app basis to cut down on undue battery consumption. The feature certainly comes in handy in finding errant apps that suck your phone's battery in the background.

When you do need to extend battery life, there are two power-saving modes to choose from. The first mode — called "min" — decreases brightness by 10%, switches the screen to Full HD (if you've toggled QHD in the settings), throttles the CPU, and switches off Always On Display. The nuclear "max" option downgrades the display to 720p and further restricts background tasks.

The phone also features wireless charging, but the main drawback when it comes to the battery is the lack of fast charging. Samsung offers Adaptive Fast Charging, which made its debut in 2014. The technology is based on Quick Charge 2.0, and is limited to 9V/2A.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Bottom line

Samsung ticks all the right boxes when it comes to the hardware, but that's just one part of the story. The Galaxy S8+ is so much more than its spec sheet — it is a culmination of a grander design that cements Samsung's position as the frontrunner in this space. With the Galaxy S8+, you're getting a phone with a stunning design, a gorgeous AMOLED display that may just be one of the best ever put on a phone, class-leading camera, and top-notch internals. From the gorgeous design to the build quality and execution, Samsung got everything right with the Galaxy S8+.

A Samsung flagship isn't complete without its fringe features, and although there have been many gimmicks in the past, that isn't the case anymore. Wireless charging, Samsung Pay, and IP68 water resistance — just to name a few — all come in handy, and give the phone an added advantage.

The phone has its drawbacks: the location of the fingerprint sensor isn't ideal, and the copious amounts of glass will lead to a constant worry regarding its durability.

Should you buy it? Absolutely

You should buy the S8 just on the merits of the screen and the camera, but there's so much more on offer with the phone.

The ₹64,900 asking price of the Galaxy S8+ is by no means affordable, but you do get your money's worth with the phone. Right now, the main competitor to the S8+ in India is the LG G6, which retails for ₹51,999. You'll be able to get it for as low as ₹46,999 after cashback offers, making it a full ₹17,901 less than the S8+. For that amount, you can pick up a Moto G5 Plus.

LG has significantly raised its game with the G6, offering a phone that's almost as good as the S8+. You get the same 18:9 ratio for the display, better resistance to the elements thanks to a MIL-STD 810G rating, 32-bit Quad DAC, and a dual-camera setup that has a slender lead over the S8+.

That said, the phone doesn't quite have the same allure when it comes to the design when seen next to the S8+, and Samsung's display technology is a step ahead. Samsung also scores a win in the hardware segment with the 10nm Exynos 8895.

There's a reason the G6 is priced so low — LG needs the market share in the premium segment, and as such the manufacturer is willing to forego profits to build its brand in the country. Samsung, meanwhile, is the number one phone vendor in India, and it is using that position to its advantage.

If you're in the market for the best Android phone, just get the Galaxy S8+.

See at Flipkart

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1 week ago

Google Store now offering free $35 case with Pixel XL purchase


Everyone likes free stuff — especially from Google.

Now that Google seems to have some Pixel XLs back in stock on the Google Store, it's running a limited-time promotion to hand out a free case with each purchase. If you go to buy a Pixel XL, you can just add one of Google's silicone cases in a variety of colors to your cart and see a $35 discount applied automatically. There's no specific end date on the deal, as it's simply listed "while supplies last" — but as we know, that may not be long when it comes to the Pixel XL.

The deal is only available for the Pixel XL, and only for the $35 silicone case — which is interesting, because it could easily get away with letting people pick up the cheaper $30 hard plastic case for free instead. But either way, we can't look this gift horse in the mouth. Perhaps the knowledge that the Pixel XL is in stock and you're getting a free case will be enough for people to buy,

See at Google Store

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Google Store Verizon

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1 week ago

Daniel's Google I/O gear bag: 2017 Edition


Here's what I take with me when I travel.

Packing a travel bag for Google I/O is not dissimilar to going on vacation, at least not for someone who lives and breathe technology. There's the laptop and the phone(s), the cables and chargers, the adapters and other accoutrements that make the experience a little more productive during work, and more enjoyable during downtime.

What's interesting about this year is how much less stuff I am bringing; the older and more experienced I get at these shows, the fewer essentials I feel pressured to bring — to the delight of my beleaguered back.

Here's what I'm bringing to Google I/O this year.

The bag - Tylt Energi Pro

I usually have pretty short honeymoon periods with backpacks, but I've found a long-term winner with the Tylt Energi Pro. It's not the included 20,100mAh battery charger and cable routing, but the design and quality of the bag itself.

Excellent, weather-resistant materials mean that I don't have to worry about my stuff getting drenched in a storm or dusty from porousness. Tight, well-constructed zippers ensure that they won't break from applying too much force and, when closed, water won't seep in.

I love the number of compartments, and the easy access to ones on the side when I'm in a rush. The main compartment opens vertically, and is designed for camera equipment and other larger pieces; I can easily fill it with cameras, lenses, cables and adapters and still have plenty of room left over.

The laptop compartment is nicely cushioned and features a number of smaller mesh areas for storing tablets, phones and other diminutive pieces of tech.

Finally, the straps are fully adjustable, and wonderfully cushioned for longer day trips that have me wearing the bag for long periods.

See at Tylt

The computer - 2015 MacBook Pro

An early 2015 MacBook Pro is still my workhorse. It's spec'd out, with a Core i7 and 16GB of RAM, though Chrome churns through memory so I rarely feel its full speed potential.

Still, unlike Andrew I haven't moved to the newer form factor, for, as much as I love simplicity I'm not ready to give up MagSafe for dongles.

I may have to look at another laptop soon, though: the battery life on this computer isn't what it used to be, and I struggle to get more than four or five hours from a charge. In that case, I'd look into a Surface Book or an equivalent high-end Windows laptop. I like Mac, but I want to explore the latest in Windows — provided the notebook has a trackpad that's equivalent in performance to this one. You still can't beat Macs for trackpads.

See at Amazon

The phones - Galaxy S8 + Pixel XL

Two phones for this trip — keeping it simple. The Galaxy S8+ will be my daily driver, hooked into Rogers' Roam Like Home plan to let people from back home call and text me with no problems.

I've had great battery on the Galaxy S8+ so far, and don't expect that to change even while roaming, though connecting to a non-native network does typically impact battery life.

See at Amazon

In the other pocket, a Pixel XL, which I may use to load the first Android O beta when it's announced during the keynote. I still love this phone, and often go back to it for a few days just to remember what I'm missing — the smoothness, the minimalism — when I switch to the Galaxy S8.

See at Google Store

The camera - Sony RX100 IV

This year, I decided to keep things simple and bring just my Sony RX100 IV, a fantastic point and shoot that outperforms rivals in its size range, and many larger DSLRs, too.

Google I/O isn't typically a photo-heavy event, but I've taken the RX100 to product launches, too, and have rarely been disappointed with the results. If there's one gripe I have with the damn thing, it's the lack of a microphone jack, but I've solved that issue, to a large extent, with the next item on the list.

See at Amazon

The Microphones

Zoom H5 microphone + input

Have you listened to a live Android Central podcast over the past year? You've heard this handy microphone in action. The Zoom H5 is a field podcaster's dream, with two XLR inputs along with a super-sensitive default cardioid mic attachment that does well in a pinch.

See at Amazon

Rodelink wireless lav microphone

The next piece of the puzzle is capturing audio wirelessly, and the Rodelink wireless lav is amazing. It hooks into the Zoom's auxiliary input and allows for the capture of high-quality audio from practically anywhere, even outside in the wind.

It's not cheap, but the Rodelink is a great deal if you're looking to capture vocals without having to worry about long cords or standing close enough a boom mic.

See at Amazon


There are a couple of essential chargers and adapters I always include in a travel bag: my three-port AC adapter extension from Belkin, which swivels at its base to make sure it works in any plug; and my Aukey 5-port USB-A hub, which is perfect for charging all the things. One of the ports on the Aukey is Quick Charge 2.0-compatible, which is helpful, but generally I just fill them up with whatever cables and accessories need topping at the end of the day. Easy, peasy.

See at Amazon

Battery pack - Tylt 20,100mAh pack

This is the Tylt 20,100 mAh pack that I mentioned earlier. It's awesome: it has two USB-A inputs, including one that supports Quick Charge 3.0, along with a USB-C port that doubles as both juice in and out — it can give charge as well as receive it. I've only had the battery pack since March, but I am incredibly impressed with the quality of the cell.

See at Amazon

Headphones - Blue Satellite

Of course, my headphone load is my latest rave review: the Blue Satellite wireless headphones. They're comfortable to wear for long periods, and have both active noise cancelling and a separate amp, in case your source isn't particularly powerful. The dual 44mm drivers also sound great, with accurate mids and deep, rich bass.

See at Blue Microphones

Other items (not seen)

I brought my Nintendo Switch because why the hell not? The idea of playing some Mario Kart with some buds in the middle of Shoreline Amphitheatre sounds great. Sure, it's probably not going to happen, but we have to have some fun at these events, don't we?

I also lugged along my Kenu Stance USB-C tripod, which is an awesome little gadget for watching movies or framing video on the go.

Other than that, there are cables, granola bars (Nature Valley what up) and some adapters, as well as some roaming SIM cards from Roam Mobility in case I run out of data.

What about you?

What do you bring on your trips? Let us know in the comments below!

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1 week ago

How to connect a PlayStation Aim Controller to your PlayStation VR

Connecting your aim controller to PlayStation VR is a simple process.

The PlayStation Aim controller is the newest accessory for PlayStation VR, allowing you to really feel like you are in the middle of the action when shooting baddies in a game. However before you go shooting anything that moves, you need to make sure that your Aim controller is properly paired and connected to your PlayStation 4 console.

Getting connected will only take a moment or two though, and we've got the details on how to do it.


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