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2 days ago

Why do new phones ship with older versions of Android?

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New phones shipping with outdated versions of Android isn't too surprising. The reasons? Release cycles, and Benjamin Franklin.

This summer, you'll see phones sold — expensive phones — that have older versions of Android. Brand new phones that cost hundreds of dollars and are the best models available. They will be on shelves beside other brand new phones that have "old" software on them, too. And not just models that have been available for a while, but just-released devices that we have heard about and are waiting to buy. For some, that can be frustrating. But there is a reason, and it's pretty simple.

It's known as opportunity cost. The idea behind opportunity cost is that all resources must be used efficiently. These resources could be monetary, but they also include things like time or any other corporate benefit. We're all more familiar with the idea the way Ben Franklin expressed it: "Remember that Time is Money."

It's no secret that most phones that run Android aren't using the latest software. The main reason is that it's not an easy task to keep phones updated because of Android's software licensing, and nobody involved in making your phone or the software on it wants things to change. Many of those same reasons apply when we see brand new shiny phones that have old software on them, too.

Building an operating system is hard and you can't change the platform in the middle of doing it.

Google only makes Android for the products they sell. They allow companies like Samsung or LG to build their own operating system based on Android any time they like because of a liberal software license. That's why Android became the dominant operating system so quickly, and it's also why your phone probably has an older version of Android, and has ever since you bought it.

It's not cheap to build and test an operating system. Sometimes it's comparatively easy; think of BlackBerry's Android phone and how they are patched on time every month when Google releases a security bulletin. The new code was designed to be merged into existing code, and all a company using it needs to do is check the parts they have changed compared to the download Google provides. Actual changes to the Android core are another matter, and even a bump from 7.0 to 7.1 can prove challenging. And expensive.

Software cycles versus hardware cycles

Samsung is likely going to show us a Galaxy S8 in late March. It may run Android 7.0 or it may run 7.1. The chance that it will be running 7.1.1 (the latest official version) is very slim because that particular version wasn't ready when Samsung was finalizing the software the way it wants it to be on the S8. And that's not going to be a big deal. It will be running Android Nougat and have the same application support as Google's Pixel. Phones that release near the beginning of the year are usually all like this and will only be a point or two behind.

Those point releases are nice but not critical. 7.1 is still just fine.

This becomes more of a problem for phones that come later in the year. Android gets its yearly platform update every autumn. Recent versions have had a beta testing cycle so we get to see them a few months before. But companies can't build their software based on beta code so any phone in late stages of production before the Android platform update will be a full platform version behind. That can have major implications when it comes to security and app compatibility.

In both cases, the time it would take to stop production and update the software before selling them would directly affect the amount of money a company makes from selling them. Companies that make things like phones exist only to make money.

Nobody at Samsung or LG or anyone else wants you to have old software on your phone. But because they have to do the updating themselves, it takes time. And time equals money.

Android Nougat

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2 days ago

How to change keyboards on Android Wear 2.0

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It's the stuff of dreams — a keyboard on your tiny watch face.

In all seriousness, it's nice to have a backup input method when Android Wear is having trouble understanding your commands. Android Wear 2.0 comes with built-in keyboard input capabilities, so you can tap or swipe around to reply to messages. And if you have other keyboard apps installed, you can switch to those as default input method, too.

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3 days ago

How to track your sleep with Android Wear 2.0

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Easily track your slumber with Sleep as Android.

How can you track your sleep patterns with Android Wear 2.0 if it doesn't come with a built-in sleep tracker? And why doesn't Android Wear natively feature sleep tracking abilities the way that most fitness bands do?

Unfortunately, I don't have the answer to the second question, but I can help you with your sleep tracking conundrum—especially if the smartwatch you brought home doesn't offer its own sleep tracking app. Try Sleep as Android on for size. It's a full blown sleep tracking app for your smartphone that actively listens as you sleep to determine whether you're sleeping well or hardly at all. The app also offers Android Wear sleep tracking functionality, as well as synchronization with your Google Fit account, and though the wearable app is merely a switch to turn on your phone's sleep tracking feature, it's better than using nothing at all.

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4 days ago

How to customize your avatar in Pokémon Go Gen 2

Pokémon Go has completely changed the way you customize your avatar in Gen 2. Here's what you need to know.

Along with many, many improvements, upgrades and changes to Pokémon Go in version 0.57.2, also known as Gen 2, the game has overhauled avatar customization with a new UI, in addition to a number of new styles and clothing options.

Here's everything you need to know about the new avatar customization in Pokémon Go Gen 2.

Everything you need to know about Pokémon Go Gen 2

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4 days ago

Which unlimited plan should you buy: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon?

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All four major carriers in the U.S. offer unlimited data plans. But which is the best?

With Verizon bringing back an unlimited data plan, the big four networks in the United States (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon) all carry an unlimited data plan now. That's important for power users as well as anyone who uses their mobile broadband internet as their sole way to stay in touch or for entertainment. The cost of data overages means that unlimited data is a must for many of us.

But just because everyone offers unlimited data doesn't mean that all plans are equal. Pricing is important as are "extras" like tethering and the hidden data cap that pushes you back to slower 3G speeds when you reach it. And of course, zero-rating means we have to pay attention to what unlimited means when it comes to the quality of streaming media as well as the source.

We took a look at what each carrier has to offer so we can decide who delivers the very best unlimited data package. Let's start with a look at the details for each carrier.

AT&T

  • Cost for one line: $100 per month1
  • Additional lines: $40 per month12
  • Data limit for potential throttling: 22GB per month
  • HD video included: Yes3
  • Tethering package: Only for smart vehicles

Notes:

1AT&T's pricing does not include taxes, surcharges or other fees.

2Customers with four lines will receive a $40 bill credit each month, starting on the third month.

3AT&T defaults streaming video to 480p but this can be disabled at no cost.

Sprint

  • Cost for one line: $55 per month1, 2
  • Additional lines: $40 per month for a second line, $30 per month for lines three through five1, 2
  • Data limit for potential throttling: 23GB
  • HD video included: No. Requires Sprint Premium Unlimited plan for $75 per month
  • Tethering package: 5GB per month

Notes:

1Sprint's pricing does not include taxes, surcharges or other fees.

2Promotional pricing of $50 per month for one line, $40 per month for a second line, and up to three additional lines for $0 per month is available until March 2018.

T-Mobile

  • Cost for one line: $70 per month
  • Additional lines: Two lines for $100 per month. A third line is $40 per month and a fourth line is $20 per month
  • Data limit for potential throttling: 28GB per month
  • HD video included: Yes1
  • Tethering package: 10GB/month (additional tethering options available with T-Mobile ONE Plus)

Notes:

1As of February 17, all T-Mobile One customers can enable HD video.

Verizon

  • Cost for one line: $80 per month1
  • Additional lines: Minimum 2, $110 + $20 for each line ($150). + $20 for each additional line (up to 10)1
  • Data limit for potential throttling: 22GB per month
  • HD video included: Yes
  • Tethering package: 10GB per month

Notes:

1Verizon's pricing does not include taxes, surcharges or other fees.

Verizon also allows any smart devices to be added to the plan for $5 per month.

The best unlimited data plan

As always, you have to choose the carrier that provides you the best coverage in the places you spend your time. Saving a few dollars for better perks is not worth struggling to find a signal. What works for someone else who might be hundreds or thousands of miles away should have little influence on your decision. Since everyone's coverage will be different, we have to treat each carrier equal on that front and base the decision on other criteria.

T-Mobile offers the best unlimited data plan in the U.S.

This is based on cost, data available for tethering and the "real" monthly allotment before you are throttled. One important thing puts it ahead of Verizon, and that's the notion that an $80 plan should cost $80. Not $80 with added fees and taxes. It sounds like a gimmick, but two lines on T-Mobile is going to cost about the same (or less) as a single line with a $5 connected device because of those fees. If we focus only on cost — which you should if you have equally good coverage — T-Mobile wins.

T-Mobile also beats Sprint's promotional plan because Sprint limits your ability to stream HD. We think a good data plan has to be able to entertain us in all ways, so we have to disregard anything that doesn't allow us to do just that. AT&T's offerings simply fall short and we hope recent changes from Verizon and T-Mobile get them to follow suit.As of February 17, 2017 AT&T now offers an unlimited data plan for up to four devices without the requirement of being a DirecTV subscriber. The new pricing is reflected above, and is considerably more expensive than T-Mobile or Sprint's plans.

If you have equally good coverage from all carriers and want to get the most value from your phone company you only have two real choices right now: T-Mobile or Verizon.

Recent user-data through Open Signal suggests that there is little difference in network speeds or total coverage, and pricing is very similar now, too. These two companies want your business and have been bickering for a while. They've also been adjusting their policies and rates to "out-do" each other which is awesome for us as consumers.

See plans at T-Mobile

See plans at Verizon

See plans at AT&T

See plans at Sprint

Your turn

What carrier do you subscribe to, and are you thinking of switching to either T-Mobile or Verizon? Let us know in the comments!

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4 days ago

Getting 'GPS signal not found' error in Pokémon Go? Here's how to fix it!

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Don't let GPS errors stop you from playing Pokémon Go!

Pokémon Go is everywhere, and that's great for Android gamers around the world. But if you're getting a "GPS signal not found" error when you launch the game, here's how to fix it!

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5 days ago

How to configure the hardware shortcut buttons on Android Wear 2.0

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LG Watch Sport

Watches are all about personalization — yes, even the hardware buttons.

Android Wear 2.0 opens up new hardware possibilities for wearable makers, including the inclusion of extra hardware shortcut buttons on the case. These buttons typically land above and below the power button on the side of the watch, and can be customized to launch any app that you have installed.

So if you have a watch with extra buttons running Android Wear 2.0 — like the LG Watch Sport — know that you don't have to stick with their default configuration. Here's how you can customize those hardware shortcut buttons.

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6 days ago

Top 5 ways to manage messy charging and power cables

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Drowning in cords, cables, and wires? We're here to help!

Getting a new desk, computer monitor, TV, or other device is exciting, but dealing with the power cords, charging cables, and all the other wires that come with those devices is a different story.

While it's impossible to do away with every cable or cord needed to run all your tech, there are a lot of ways to manage your cables more efficiently, which can help you eliminate the stress of a disorganized space.

1. Move closer to outlets

I live in an old house, and I know power outlets can sometimes be in some inconvenient spots, but if you can, moving closer to wall outlets will prevent power cables from needing to stretch across the room. This small change can help minimize the look of clutter, and prevent tripping over cables.

2. Go wireless where you can

Almost anytime you can go wireless; you will feel a bit of relief from your cable madness,

Wireless Bluetooth headphones and speakers are prime examples of gadgets that can reduce cable fatigue. Yes, I know, they both have charging cables, and I'll get to that in a second, but the freedom and mobility devices such as these offer is outstanding and truly make spaces cleaner.

While those are common examples of going wireless, less common but super helpful is using wireless HDMI.

It's not the cheapest solution or even the most practical for everybody, but if you have multiple TVs and dislike having to get an HDMI cord (or several) for each TV, you can always pick up a product like the IOGear Wireless HD Digital Kit.

Rated as The Wirecutter's best wireless HDMI transmitter, it's easy to see how this just how useful the IOGear can be.

"The IOGear transmitter base unit has two HDMI inputs and an HDMI output. This means you can have a TV, transmitter, and sources (Blu-ray, cable/satellite box, etc.) wired up in one room while wirelessly sending the same signal to another TV elsewhere in the house."

See at Amazon

3.Store small cables and adapters

Charging cables, dongles, and small power adapters add up over time, and I often find they are about 90% of my clutter — especially at my desk. It's good to having a place to store said small items is crucial to getting your cable chaos under control; invest in a cable organizer.

The BAGSMART travel organizer is the perfect way to store cables and adapter you're not using. I know, it's meant for travel, but there is no reason you could store this in a drawer or on a shelf by your desk.

With one zipper pouch — big enough to hold a large mobile phone — BAGSMART also includes some stretchy straps, which are ideal for keeping in oddly shaped or bulkier items.

Plus, if you ever do want to travel with it, the outside of the case is padded and has a slight rigidness to prevent your items on the inside from being damaged by scrapes and minor falls.

See at Amazon

4. Keep essential cords neatly arranged

You probably charge items like your phone and your tablet every day, which means you're going to want access to those cords often and with ease.

An item like the YOCOU 5-Channel Cable Management System can tidy up your workspace and keep your most important cables readily available.

The small grooves will hold in pace almost any wire or cord that's ¼-inch or less in diameter, and It has an adhesive back that sticks to any flat surface so you can mount it wherever works best for you.

See at Amazon

5. Tie together excess cords

Some cords and cables are comically long, leaving you to deal with several feet of cord that inevitably ends up in a tangled mess behind your TV, computer, desk, etc. If you're going to have an excess amount of cord hanging around, why not make it look neat?

Wrapping your excess cord together with a velcro strap is an excellent way to eliminate some clutter. It's especially useful for cords and cables that you don't need to move often.

For example, The HDMI cable from your gaming console to your TV or the power cord for your computer speakers. If you don't regularly need to move the position of the item you're plugging in, strap that sucker down!

How to you keep your cables organized?

Have any other tips for keeping your cords and cable tidy? Share them in the comments below.

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6 days ago

Where to buy the Samsung Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro

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Samsung Chromebook Pro

Samsung's latest Chromebooks are here, and you have plenty of places to buy them.

With the two new laptops, Samsung has tossed its hat into the ring to be considered for the best mid-range Chromebooks available today. With a thin-and-light metal frame, brilliant QHD display and a stylus, it's worth taking a look at these machines. Your only decision is whether to buy the $550 "Pro" model with an Intel Core m3 processor, or the $450 "Plus" version with a lower-powered ARM processor.

The more mainstream Chromebook Plus is hitting stores first, with the Chromebook Pro to follow at the end of April. This is everywhere you can pick up the latest Chromebooks from Samsung.

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6 days ago

How to add complications to your watch face on Android Wear 2.0

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Android Wear 2.0

Watch faces aren't just for looks anymore — now they can give you tons of useful information.

Android Wear 2.0 brings a ton of new features to your smartwatch, but one of the more noticeable is the addition of customizable "complications" on your watch faces. Complications are a two part system — watch face developers can design their faces to have open slots of the complications, and app developers can surface parts of their apps to integrate as complications.

As the Google Play Store on your Android Wear 2.0 watch starts to fill with freshly updated watch faces and apps that include complications, you'll want to spend a little time customizing things to make the most of the new capabilities. Here's how you can get it done.

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1 week ago

How to stay connected in a storm: a MrMobile guide

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APOCALYPSE! Well, maybe it's not that dramatic, but when your power goes out it can feel like one, especially in our connected world. If you haven't prepared, you might not be able to check your Twitter for HOURS. That's too much for some to bear.

I'm Michael Fisher, alias MrMobile, and I spent yesterday in one of New England's dreaded Nor'easters, preparing for the worst (which, in this case, was a cup of hot chocolate and uninterrupted electricity). But if you find yourself in the path of a storm, this video guide will help you get set up for whatever's incoming!

Featured Products

Stay social, my friends

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1 week ago

Where to buy the LG Watch Sport

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At launch you have three places to buy the latest LTE-connected Android Wear watch.

The new LG Watch Sport is here, and Google is giving you three different places to buy it at launch: its own Google Store, as well as AT&T and Verizon, its U.S. carrier partners.

To simplify things, every LG Watch Sport includes an LTE radio is sold unlocked — meaning you don't have to make up your mind about a carrier decision at the time of buying. That means you can find the retailer that makes the most sense for you, knowing that it won't come back to bite you later.

The LG Watch Sport is now available for purchase! Here's all of the information you need.

More: LG Watch Sport review

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1 week ago

Where to buy the LG Watch Style

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The sleek and beautiful LG Watch Style is available for an affordable price.

At just $249 and with a size that appeals to a wide range of buyers, the LG Watch Style has the features for success. The final part of the equation is where to buy it — and thankfully, Google has a big partner on board in Best Buy to supplement availability online from the Google Store.

The LG Watch Style is now available from Best Buy and the Google Store. Here's what you need to know.

More: LG Watch Style review

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1 week ago

How to install LibreElec [OS for Kodi] on Chromebox

6

Get Kodi on your Chromebox in a flash using LibreElec!

A Chromebox is a pretty cool and inexpensive way to get yourself (or your kids!) online with Chrome OS. They're easy to use and keep you safer than most computers while you work or play around. But they're also just a regular compact-form PC when it comes to the hardware.

That means it's easy to slap another operating system on one if you take a little time to find the right directions. That's what we're going to talk about right here and get you started with installing LibreElec on your Chromebox.

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1 week ago

What color LG Watch Sport should I buy?

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What LG Watch Sport Model should you buy? That depends...

The LG Watch Sport is a big watch for thick wrists, or at least people who are willing to carry 89.4 grams and 14mm of stainless steel goodness.

And while the rounded aesthetic may be the most universally appealing shape for watches these days — practically every Android Wear watch released in the past 18 months has been round — color also matters, and that's where things can get a bit tricky.

Unlike the LG Watch Style, which is, well, stylish in three colors, including rose gold, the Watch Sport is a bit more sedate in its palette options, offering just two: Titanium (black) and Dark Blue. In reality, as different as those depictions sound, the two colors are very similar — almost to a fault. Let's explore them, and which one you may want to buy.

Note: The Dark Blue version is currently a Google Play exclusive in the U.S., and like the lighter blue Pixel at its launch, it may be a little hard to come by for a while.

Titanium (black)

This is the standard model, the one that you will likely see sold in stores and on wrists, and the one that Google, LG and its carrier partners will push — hard. That's OK, because it's extremely attractive, with a lovely brushed stainless steel chassis and dark grey band to match. The dual tone is lovely, complementing one another, and that's a great thing, because the bands are not user-replaceable.

Dark Blue

As noted above, this is currently a Google Store exclusive in the U.S. so it may be hard to come by for a while — and it may never come to other regions. That's OK, too, because it looks very similar to the Titanium model, and may even be confused for the more ubiquitous version in some lighting conditions. The brushed stainless steel has a blue tinge, and the rubberized band is slightly darker than its Titanium counterpart, but otherwise the two models have considerable similarities.

Which should you get?

The quick answer is that you should probably get the Titanium model. It's going to be much easier to find, and combines the simple elegance of a dark silver bezel with a dark grey watch band, making it appropriate for almost any situation.

If you're more adventurous, or covet the things that few people are allowed to have, the Dark Blue model is going to be up your alley. The way its subtle cobalt hue glimmers in the right light helps it stand out from its more familiar counterpart, but at the end of the day there is very little between it and the Titanium Watch Sport.

Where to buy the LG Watch Sport

Android Wear

img { width: 100%; height: auto; } .devicebox ul { display: table; margin: 0 0 10px; width: 100%; } .devicebox ul li { background: #f7f7f7; margin: 2px 0; padding: 4px 15px; } .devicebox ul li:hover { background: #fff; } .devicebox ul li:before { display: none; } .devicebox p ~ p { line-height: 1.25; } .devicebox p:first-of-type + p { padding: 15px; } .devicebox a.buy-link { border-radius: 5px; display: inline-block; font: 14px/31px "Proxima Nova Extrabld",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; text-align: center; } .devicebox a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:link, .devicebox a.buy-link:active, .devicebox a.buy-link:visited { background: #37B5D7; color: #FFF; } .devicebox a.buy-link:hover { background: #2694B2; text-decoration: none; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { content: "\e61e"; font: 40px/0 "ac_iconset" !important; margin: 0 3px 0 -8px; vertical-align: middle; } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { /* div:not(.columns-3) excludes help menu content */ .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p img, .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 660px) { .devicebox h3 { text-align: center; } .devicebox ul, .devicebox p { display: block; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox p img, .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 661px), all and (max-width: 500px) { /* 2x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(even) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:last-of-type:nth-of-type(odd) { width: 100%; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 659px) and (min-width: 501px) { /* 3x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(100%/3 - 10px/3); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(3n):not(:nth-last-of-type(2)) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:only-child { width: 100%; margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(odd) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 500px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } .page-admin .devicebox {max-width: 350px;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe {position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

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