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1 month ago

Picking the perfect phone for both work and play

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If you need your phone for both work and everyday life, don't carry two phones — pick the best for both worlds!

All work and no play makes your phone something, something. Oh yeah, boring. If you're required to have a phone for work, you might be reluctant to use it on a personal level, but carrying two phones is cumbersome and counterproductive.

What you need to do is pick one phone and make it count. You need one that's great for productivity (Google apps, cloud services, etc.), while also being capable enough to crush it during play time.

You first just need to figure out what you need to satisfy both sides.

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What works?

Productivity

During work hours, you want a phone that helps with productivity, so it can't be distracting or overly difficult to use.

A phone with an uncluttered interface is invaluable in times where you need to get in and get stuff done. The Moto Z, Google Pixel, and even the HTC 10 are examples of phones with a very user-friendly system, so you won't be constantly swiping and tapping around looking for apps or getting distracted by animations and what not.

Security

To your employer, security is likely one of the most important features of your phone. If you're going to be accessing work servers and potentially sensitive information, you'll need a phone that offers tight security.

One of the best security measures is constant updating. You'll want a phone that receives the necessary software updates regularly, since those often include crucial security updates.

If you know security is top priority, we've rounded up the best phones for security just for you.

Reliability

If you're on a work trip or simply working long hours, you need a phone that can keep up with heavy demand. Make sure it has enough RAM so that it's quick, and ample storage so that you're not constantly having to purge data. If you need mondo capacity, then you'll need a phone with top-notch expandable storage.

If you find that past phones haven't made it to the end of the day, and you just don't have the time to sit tethered to a socket, then you'll also need a phone with the best battery life you can find.

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Price

If work requires you to have a phone but won't foot the bill, then price can be a major deciding factor when it comes to making a choice. That's why we've rounded up the best phones under $900, under $700, under $400, and under $100.

Don't be a dull boy, Jack

Yeah, you use your phone for work, but the purpose of carrying around only one phone is to split its use between the soul-sucking grind and heart-uplifting fun.

Here are some features to look for when considering a phone for fun (alliteration city up in here!).

Camera

For many, the camera is one of the most important features of any phone. No one carries around point-and-shoots anymore — it's all phone, all the time. And with how amazing smartphone cameras are now, why not?!

If you dig photography in your spare time, then there's no reason the phone you use for work can't have an awesome camera too! If you're looking for the phone with the best camera available, we've got you covered.

If video is your bag, we think there are some phones you should check out for that as well.

Storage

Storage isn't just a work issue. If you're a compulsive app downloader, you'll need the space to accommodate all of them, plus all your photos, videos, and more. So do you go for a phone with a ton of internal storage, but at a higher price point and without expandable storage? Or do you go for the best phone with an SD slot?

Ultimately, it's about how much storage you think you'll use. If you're combining work and personal data, you'll probably want the option of expandable storage.

Gaming

No more reading filthy waiting room magazines. Gaming on your phone is where it's at, and that's a particularly good thing for both work and play. I don't know how many meetings I've sat through (tuned out) while paying extra special attention (absolutely nailing it in Candy Crush) and thought "I would love to be playing a game right now" (I totally was).

But what do you look for? Screen resolution? Storage space? Memory? Look no further, because we know which phones gamers will love.

VR

Virtual reality is the best. No, seriously, it's fun on a bun, and it's entirely attainable with the right phone. Headsets are getting less expensive and VR on your phone is way less expensive than a gaming PC, VR setup (HTC Vive or Oculus Rift), and it's even less expensive than PSVR (if you don't already have a PS4).

Not all phones are great for VR, so we put a list together to help you decide.

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Striking a balance

It can be difficult to choose from the multitude of phones available, especially if your needs are pulled in different directions.

Your best bet is to make a list of your needs (work) and your wants (play) and find the phone that walks between worlds. There will definitely be some compromises in your final decision, but once you suss out what's truly important to you, you'll likely have a few options to choose from.

For the best of what's around, check out our Smartphone Buyer's Guide. We've compiled the very best Android has to offer, whatever your pleasure.

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1 month ago

How to set up and use Smart key on Honor 8

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The fingerprint sensor on the Honor 8 is not only fast, but it is also extremely useful. Beyond being able to secure your phone, it can also give you quick and easy access to your notifications, and more. One of the great features Honor built into its software is Smart Key, a way to set up the fingerprint sensor to do even more.

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1 month ago

How to use Multi Window mode on Samsung Galaxy S7

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How to use multi-window mode on Samsung Galaxy S7

How do I use Multi Window mode on Samsung Galaxy S7?

Although Android 7.0 Nougat offers native multi window support for all phones, Samsung's Galaxy series of phones have been able to use Multi Window mode for years now. This multi-tasking feature is extremely useful for people who are tired of moving back and forth between apps.

Note: This article was last updated in November 2016 with new information.

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1 month ago

How to keep your Android, and your data, safe and secure

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Do your part when it comes to keeping your private things private.

Security and privacy are always a hot topic in the mobile space. While there are plenty of high-profile headlines that try to convince us all that the sky is falling, there are also serious and valid concerns. Regrettably, the FUD often takes the stage and the real issues are lost in the maelstrom of bickering and tribalism about which company is the best.

Let's take a moment and talk about what we can do to make our phones — the things that contain most every private detail about our lives — more secure.

We're going to break down the things all of us can do to maximize security, so we can keep our information out of the hands of anyone who might do unfriendly things with it. Yes, this means you, too. You don't have to be high-profile to be a target. Banking information, credit card data, and even your Social Security number can be pretty valuable information for a lot of people. Keeping it as safe as you can is a no-brainer.

More: The most secure Android Phone

This previously-published post was updated in November 2016.

Have a secure lock screen

We say this a lot, and we always hear things like "I never put my phone down" or "I'll never lose my phone" or "I can remote wipe my phone" as replies. Those are all great options and ideas, and while we also hope you never have a lost or stolen phone, in the real-world stuff happens.

Use a password, PIN or any other means to secure the lock screen on your phone. It's easy to do, and all the tools you need to do it are already built into your lock screen settings.

The inconvenience of having to unlock your phone when you pull it out of your pocket or pick it up from your desk is minimal, and things like Android's Smart Lock features can make it something you won't have to do as often.

Compared to the possible issues you would face if the wrong person was able to get in your phone because they stole it or you lost it, unlocking your phone when you pick it up is a minor inconvenience at the most.

Be safe. Protect your lock screen.

Only install apps you trust

For many of us, this means stick to the Google Play store exclusively.

Sideloading applications — a feature built into Android since the beginning — is a great option to have. It's also just about the only way to encounter one of those "Android security scares" you'll read about on the Internet, so you need to be careful here.

Only install apps from places you absolutely trust.

Google allows anyone willing to register a developer account to upload applications to Google Play, but they also scan each and every application to see if it's malware. While things can (and have) slipped in and caused trouble during the time they were uploaded and had not yet been scanned, this is extremely rare (and happens in every application store, no matter how high the garden walls are) and chances are you'll never have to face it.

Amazon, and OEMs like Samsung or LG also have application markets. These are probably just as safe — especially if you don't have to allow "unknown sources" to download and install apps. There are also other alternative app stores, many of which have a very good reputation.

We're not saying sideloading is a bad idea. If you know what you're doing, and more importantly, have absolute trust in the source of the app you want to sideload, it's a great option. Just don't do anything you're not 100 percent sure of.

More: Is it safe to use the Amazon App Store?

Do you need root?

Do you "need" to root your phone?

I get it, trust me I get it. You paid good money for the small computer in your hands and should be allowed to do anything with it that it is capable of doing. And that means you need root to do a lot of it.

But allowing root access on your phone makes it less secure. Not counting any silly mistakes you may make while fiddling with things (it happens to the best of us), there are also concerns about what third-party apps may want to try to do.

If you sideloaded an application that has hidden code to do bad things, it can't do most of them if your phone isn't rooted. It can try, but it won't have the needed permissions to get to any sensitive data and it will fail.

Apps can root access to circumvent most any security feature.

If you allow root access, it has a chance to do more. You can rely on your best judgment as well as a superuser access prompt of one sort or another, but the folks trying to do bad things to your phone are clever.

If you don't need root access on your phone, stay away. If you do need root access, you have to be more careful and more critical about anything you install if you want to stay safe.

A safe bootloader is a locked bootloader

Just like with root above, do you need to unlock your bootloader?

A locked bootloader is an excellent method to protect your phone, especially if someone steals it. If the right person gets your phone in his or her hands, and the bootloader is unlocked, they may be able to root it and bypass any password or other lock screen protection you have in place. This means they have all your stuff.

If your bootloader is locked, it's far more difficult to get admin access and pull data off the phone because an attacker can't just boot up with an insecure image and grab your data. To do that, they would need to unlock the bootloader, which erases all of your data.

I'll admit, my bootloaders are usually unlocked. I know that means that half of the people reading this would be able to get a full copy of everything from my phone with minimal effort if they got my phone in their hands. Why do I risk this, you ask? I dunno. Don't do the silly things I do unless you have a valid need.

Only click links you trust

If you get a link — whether it's in an email, or a text, or an IM, or Facebook or anywhere — from someone you don't know, do not click it.

I'll repeat — don't click any link from someone you don't know.

Random Internet links from random people are a great way to find rogue apps that want to install themselves on your phone (they can't unless you say it's OK, though) or corrupted media files that can freeze things up, or even more serious exploits like the poorly-named "stagefright" hack.

And you might get RickRolled, too. Which is almost as bad.

Don't click random links from random strangers.

Something nobody wants to talk about — faith in the people who made your phone

I know this is a touchy subject and is one of those things that is as divisive as it is informative. But it needs to be talked about and considered:

Are the folks who made your phone delivering those promised "monthly security updates" ?

When talking about Android and all the companies making phones that use it, things can get ugly and complicated.

Samsung, LG, HTC and the rest want to keep you as safe as they can. Making you feel safe means you're more likely to be a return customer, and they also probably want to take care of their customers. The folks working there are also customers of someone, who would want to get all the security updates they need, too.

There isn't much money to be made updating phones nobody is buying.

But it's expensive. The code for any fix that goes into Android source code isn;t going to work if it has been changed. That means people have to be on staff that can take the time to make the necessary changes. Those folks aren't working for free, so any time that's not profitable it doesn't happen.

The various Android vendors make good stuff. Nobody can deny that. But they also will never be able to keep current with security patches the way companies with fewer models and a more streamlined distribution method can.

Some of us are willing to trade off features and options and services for slower security patches. Some of us aren't. Only you know the right answer for you.

There will always be a trade-off of convenience versus privacy and security if you want to use the services and features provided by the folks who made your phone or the software that runs on it. Apple, Google, and Microsoft all need to collect a good bit of anonymous (and that's a key point — keeping it anonymized) data about how, when and where you're using the things you use. Besides wanting to maximize profits, this also helps improve the services and features. For the most part, all these companies do a good job harvesting as much data as they can while keeping it anonymous, and not sharing it with anyone you don't explicitly want it shared with.

While we can't do much about how this is handled without buying the majority of voting stock in these companies, we can do a few simple things ourselves to stay more secure and safer.

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1 month ago

How to free up extra storage on the Google Pixel

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How do I free up storage on the Google Pixel?

The Google Pixel doesn't come with expandable storage, so you'll want to make sure there's lots of free space for your apps, games and other content. Luckily, Google makes it easy to free storage with these built-in tools.

We're outlining two of those tools in this guide, one built into the phone's storage settings, and one built into Google Photos itself.

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1 month ago

Halloween home screen theme roundup

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This is Halloween! This is Halloween! Smartphones scream in the dead of night!

This is Halloween, everybody pick a theme! Trick or treat till the app is gonna crash in fright!

You've probably got a costume for tonight, right? Well, do you have one for your phone? You don't want to leave your most important device out of the fun, do you? Especially when you can make your Android phone look like anything, from an old iPhone to a Pokedex and everything in between. Android themes are amazing, and there's no better time to try one of our many Android themes than Halloween! So dress up your phone! Who knows? Maybe you'll like it so much you keep these decorations up 'til Christmas.

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1 month ago

How to set up and customize Google Assistant on the Pixel

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How do you customize your experience with the Google Assistant on the Pixel?

While Google Assistant made its official debut with Allo, it wasn't until the release of the Pixel that we've seen more of what Google has in store for their personal AI assistant.

There's so many ways to use the Assistant throughout the day, from getting a daily briefing first thing in the morning to conveniently setting an alarm for the next day and nearly everything in between. To get the most out of Google Assistant, you'll want to know about all the settings and features, and we're here to help.

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1 month ago

How to enroll in the Android Beta Program

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How do I sign up for the Android Beta Program?

If you're eager to try Android 7.1 and have an eligible Nexus or Android One device, the Android Beta Program is for you.

Like many big software projects, Android is made better by open beta testing. As part of Google's new maintenance release schedule, we'll see scheduled periodic updates outside of any bug or security patches and major version changes. The first will be Android 7.1.x and is expected in early December of 2016. But if you're willing and able to run beta software on your phone, you can sign enroll in the Android Beta Program and get the first taste today!

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1 month ago

Google Assistant in Allo: Everything you need to know

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OK Google, let's see what you can do.

Google's AI-powered Assistant is the standout feature of the Pixel and Pixel XL. The Assistant is baked into the Pixels, and is available as a chatbot in Google's latest messaging app Allo. The Assistant is an evolution of Google Now, and will make its way on products beyond phones and smartwatches, like Google Home.

Interactions with the Google Assistant are conversational in nature, and the service does a great job of remembering your line of questioning. For instance, you can ask the Assistant about the first Doctor Who episode, and it'll give you the details in the form of a card containing air date and additional information. Later, if you ask a question along the lines of when the next season will air, it will remember the earlier thread and surface results about the upcoming season.

The goal is to make the Assistant personable and readily available to answer your queries. The service is still in its infancy, but the advantage with Assistant is that it can readily draw on a huge pool of data from Google's knowledge graph. As more and more users start using the service, it will use its AI smarts to deliver better recommendations.

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1 month ago

How to manually update your Nexus or Pixel

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Nexus 6P bootloader

Get the latest version of Android on your phone on your own terms.

Nexus, the line of Android phones and tablets developed in partnership between Google and various hardware manufacturers, was a program that helps developers to get their hands on a 100% stock Android experience. It can help to develop applications for the platform quicker and easier than using a device with a manufacturer skin onboard, and that's a good thing. Google has discontinued the Nexus line in October 2016 in favor of the Pixel.

The Pixel is Google's attempt at being a company that sells phones and has more control over whats inside them. Think of them as the continuation of the Nexus line.

These phones aren't just bought by developers. If there's a single reason for consumers to buy a Nexus or Pixel device, it's this: the newest software first. Period.

When Google works on major updates to Android, it's also building them to work specifically on their own devices. This means when Google releases an update to the Android code itself, it will come quickly to these phones first, if not immediately.

And Pixel or Nexus phones actually are among the few that have several ways of receiving updates. Some are easier, some are faster, but all are available to you. Here's how to manually update yours.

This post was last updated in December 2016.

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1 month ago

How to install the Android SDK on Windows, Mac and Linux

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Android SDK

Everything you need to get started with the Android SDK, and everything you need to know about installing it.

Installing the Android SDK is far easier than it used to be, thanks to a new package from Google. One download gives you most everything you need to communicate with your phone via the USB port, using tools like adb and fastboot.

If you plan to use the SDK to build Android apps or just see how they are made (a great decision) you'll probably want to download Android Studio instead. It's even easier to install (Java is self-contained and there is no PATH to set up) and you'll find full directions at the Android Studio website.

If you're just using the SDK and have no need fro the tools to develop for Android, follow along and we'll get you set up.

This post was last updated in October 2016.

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1 month ago

How to use the blue light-killing Night Light on the Google Pixel

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How do I use the Night Light feature on the Google Pixel?

Like many phones this year, Google's Pixel offers a feature called Night Light that tints the screen a reddish-yellow to reduce the amount of sleep-affecting blue light being given off by the phone's AMOLED display.

While it's not likely going to save you a sleepless night if you're prone to bouts of insomnia, blue light filters have been shown to cut down on the negative consequences of lengthy periods in front of a screen, especially under artificial indoor light.

Sound like a feature you're interested in trying? Here's how to do it.

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1 month ago

How to recycle or donate your old Android phone

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Experts suggest that 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed of worldwide every year. We need to make sure we're doing what we can to help manage it all.

How many phones are you in your house right now? I'm not just talking about the one(s) in your pocket, I'm talking about the ones stuffed in drawers, under other obsolete pieces of electronics that will likely never get looked at again until you wake up one morning determined to clean, and stuff everything in the garbage. Your house may benefit from a good electronics purge every once in a while, but unless these devices are exposed of properly, they usually end up in landfills, wasting the potential to recycle the rare metals and other components responsibly.

Here's how to do just that: recycle your old Android phones responsibly.

Get all your stuff

Recycling a phone should be treated the same way reselling one is — don't leave anything personal behind.

Turn the phone on one last time and give it a good once-over. Make sure you're signed out of any accounts, have uninstalled all the things you've accumulated since you first got it and make sure things like pictures and music are taken off the phone (and backed up safely somewhere!). Take care to make sure any on-device address book entries are erased and any credentials you need to log in have been removed.

Never get rid of a phone without clearing your data from it.

Pull out your SIM card and any SD cards you might be using. If you're recycling an Android phone, we recommend a factory reset and wipe once you're sure nothing is left stored on the phone.You should also let things restart and skip through the setup process so you can double check that everything is gone.

We're not trying to imply that anyone at a recycling center is eager to dig through your phone, but you should always protect your privacy.

Sorting it all

You'll want to separate the electronics from the rest of the stuff. The box, the papers that came with it and the incidental stuff you've accumulated and will never use again needs to be gone over so it can go into the proper recycle bin.

Papers, cardboard boxes, and plastic or rubber phone cases can go with your normal household recyclables. The charger, any cables and the phone itself need set aside unless you have a pickup for discarded electronics. You should leave the back of the phone on if it's removable, and there's no need to pull off any skins or screen protectors. Use your judgment for other accessories, and a good rule of thumb is that if it needs power from a battery or a cord, it needs to go in the same bin as the phone itself.

Where to take the rest

Not everyone has easy access to a recycling center and some private centers will charge you when they take your stuff. Don't be discouraged if this describes your situation and be tempted to just toss the whole kit and kaboodle into the trash with the rest of your household waste. Some of the stuff inside a phone — especially the battery — is pretty nasty and is not something we want to be buried in a landfill. Do you want roving bands of mutant super ants? Because that's how you get roving bands of mutant super ants.

Recycling your phone is easy and it does make a difference.

There are plenty of places that want your old phone. Besides all that nasty battery stuff there are also a number of internal materials worth money to the right person. Aluminum. Copper. Gold. All of these fetch a good amount of cash if you have enough of it. You won't find enough in one old phone to make it worth the time to retrieve it, but there are people and companies who collect enough old things to make it worthwhile for them. You don't even need to look for those folks because they have bins at places you probably already visit.

Chances are the place you buy phones, like your carrier, will also take old ones back. They don't want to have something with their name on it responsible for those super ants, and many of them have ongoing relationships with electronics recycling companies. Best Buy is another place that you can drop off an old phone, and you'll find a bin right at the entrance. And if you purchase by mail you can ask for a prepaid bag to send your recyclable phone back in. Samsung has its own electronics recycling program, for both its own products and others.

If all else fails, ask the people who pick up your recycle bins.

Canadians can donate their devices at most carrier stores, or at drop-off locations hosted by Recycle My Cell across the country.

If your phone still works

If you want to recycle your phone because it no longer works, the above directions are the right way to do it. But if your phone is still functional, just not desirable, there are plenty of ways to donate it to the right cause.

In the U.S., organizations like Cell Phones for Soldiers and Verizon's HelpLine are wonderful ways to donate old devices, either for people to use, or for them to sell to raise money on their own.

We've only got one planet. Until we figure out a way to pack it all up and fly to some place better we all need to do everything we can to keep it clean and super ant free. Taking five minutes to sort out a phone and charger from your everyday refuse is easy and finding some place to take it isn't difficult, either.

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1 month ago

How to take a screenshot on the Google Pixel

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How do I take a screenshot on the Google Pixel?

The Google Pixel runs Android 7.1, which is pretty special. There are a whole bunch of new features, and there are rounded icons — for better or worse. If you're using the new phone, you're likely going to want to show off some of its awesome looks in the form of screenshots.

It's easy to take a screen on the google Pixel. Here's how.

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1 month ago

How to share and review apps in Google Play

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Google Play has a lot of app in the store… so how do you find the right ones?

Search can show you what you want if you're specific enough — maybe — but most of our apps don't come from search, they come from our friends, they come from strangers, they come from opinions. They come from our feedback others have left, which is why almost every app you've ever used has had one of those annoying little pop-ups asking you to rate it. Good apps deserve to be shared and championed. Bad apps deserve to be rated, too.

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