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1 day ago

Samsung Galaxy S8 reportedly using powerful new GPU

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Samsung phones sign

ARM Mali-G71 could provide the power for a 4K display and enhanced VR.

Rumors of a 4K display in the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 have been swirling for some time, with a super-dense display offering a significantly upgraded VR experience in next year's flagship. And now it's reported that Samsung could use ARM's most powerful GPU yet in its next Exynos processors.

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1 day ago

Best Android Phone Under $400

OnePlus 3

Tired of overspending for the latest and greatest? Get flagship-level performance at half the price.

Best overall

OnePlus 3

See at OnePlus

The OnePlus 3 is, simply put, the best package under $400. You're basically purchasing Samsung-level performance at an unlocked price.

Inside, the OnePlus 3 is like any other flagship: It has a powerful Snapdragon 820 processor, a solid 3000mAh battery, and a stellar 16-megapixel rear-facing camera with capable low light performance. The OnePlus 3 also has 6GB of RAM, which might not seem entirely significant at first, but the extra bit of memory really does come in handy over time. And though its 5.5-inch display is a mere 1080p in a Quad HD world, you'll come to appreciate the energy savings.

Do keep in mind that if you bring home this aluminum-bodied beauty that you won't have Google behind the software updates. OnePlus is in charge of its OxygenOS, and while it provides a near-similar experience as Google's Android, it's packed with extra features that you'd typically have to download a third-party app to implement. Still, it's a better alternative to the other versions of Android floating around out there.

Bottom line: Flagships are expensive without a subsidy, so if you're looking to save some cash but you don't want to skimp on the features, the OnePlus 3 is a worthy choice.

One more thing: Because of its unlocked nature, the OnePlus 3 is only compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile (and their respective MVNOs) in the U.S.

Why the OnePlus 3 is the best

The phone to get if you want bang for your buck.

For a mere $400, you get the top of the line specifications, stellar smartphone performance, a rear-facing camera that's almost as good as the competition, and solid battery life. And sure, the OnePlus 3 may be the "alternative" flagship, but it hardly looks it.

It might not appear exemplary at first, but Andrew Martonik's review of the device earlier this year makes a convincing argument for why it's so stellar:

Every edge, every join of materials, every cutout, every transition from curve to flat — every placement is perfect. This precision is hardly exclusive to OnePlus nowadays, as just about any manufacturer can now do things with metal and glass that were previously reserved to multi-billion-dollar companies just a few years ago. But just because you can do it now doesn't mean every phone is built as well as the OnePlus 3.

The design on this device is stunning, and it's even more attractive after you pop on one of OnePlus's fashionable back covers.

OnePlus hasn't typically had the best track record when it comes to its device launches and software updates, but the company is quickly changing its tune. OnePlus ditched its archaic, invite-only business model and made the phone readily available for anyone who has cash to burn.

The only drawback of the OnePlus 3 is that its software and security updates depend entirely on its small software development team, which historically hasn't kept up with the industry leaders in updates. But the OnePlus 3 is a hell of a deal at its price point, so if you're looking to save some cash without compromising much, this smartphone is your best bet.

Best shiny phone

Honor 8

See at Amazon

Do you like shiny things? The Honor 8 is plenty shiny for those of you attempting to add more sheen into your life. I mean, just look at the blue color featured here. It's even more gorgeous in person, and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

The Honor 8 is Huawei's second attempt at entering the U.S. market. It's got a 5.2-inch 1080p display, a 3000mAh battery, 4GB of RAM, and Huawei's in-house developed Kirin 950 processor. The Honor 8 also has dual 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras, both of which work in conjunction to produce the best possible photo you could want. As we discussed in our review, it's plenty capable of being your primary shooter.

The only drawback of the Honor 8 is that Huawei's EMUI is a bit of a doozy to get used to. Its default launcher doesn't offer an app drawer, so you'll have to find another launcher if you're used to having one. It also comes with a bit of bloatware and extra apps you might find redundant alongside Google's offerings, though you can thankfully uninstall and deactivate them at will.

Bottom line: If you're looking for last year's flagship performance at an affordable price point, the Honor 8 is an impressive little package.

One more thing: Like the OnePlus 3, the unlocked Honor 8 is only compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile's networks, along with their associated prepaid MVNOs.

Best to try something new

ZTE Axon 7

See at Amazon

You might have forgotten that ZTE is a major player in the U.S. smartphone wars, but that's okay. The good news is that the company is the brains behind the very impressive Axon line and the Axon 7 is a worthwhile choice if you don't mind dealing with a clunky Android interface.

The ZTE Axon 7 offers a 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 3250mAh battery. It also has a 20-megapixel rear-facing camera, though it's not the best shooter in low light environments. But if you're an audiophile, the Axon 7 might make your ears perk up.

Bottom line: If you're tired of the same old smartphone brands in your life, the ZTE Axon 7 might be that "something new" that becomes your "something constant."

One more thing: The Axon 7 is equipped with the bands necessary to work on a network like Verizon Wireless, but your best bet is to be an AT&T or T-Mobile (or their prepaid brands) subscriber before purchasing this device.

Best for even less

Moto G4 Plus

See at Amazon

Not everyone wants to wield the latest and greatest. The Moto G4 Plus will do just fine if you're simply in the market for a solid smartphone. The G4 Plus offers a 5.5-inch Full HD display, a 1.5GHz Snapdragon 617 processor, and up to 3GB of RAM. It also has a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera and a front-facing fingerprint sensor, so you can be just as secure as all your friends with their cool flagships.

Take heed that there are several versions of the Moto G4. Here's a look at what's different between the two primary models, the Moto G4 and G4 Plus.

Bottom line: If you love living the unlocked life and only need the basics to get you through it, the Moto G4 Play Plus is the way to go.

One more thing: Motorola's been pretty consistent with its software updates.

Best overall

OnePlus 3

See at OnePlus

The OnePlus 3 is, simply put, the best package under $400. You're basically purchasing Samsung-level performance at an unlocked price.

Inside, the OnePlus 3 is like any other flagship: It has a powerful Snapdragon 820 processor, a solid 3000mAh battery, and a stellar 16-megapixel rear-facing camera with capable low light performance. The OnePlus 3 also has 6GB of RAM, which might not seem entirely significant at first, but the extra bit of memory really does come in handy over time. And though its 5.5-inch display is a mere 1080p in a Quad HD world, you'll come to appreciate the energy savings.

Do keep in mind that if you bring home this aluminum-bodied beauty that you won't have Google behind the software updates. OnePlus is in charge of its OxygenOS, and while it provides a near-similar experience as Google's Android, it's packed with extra features that you'd typically have to download a third-party app to implement. Still, it's a better alternative to the other versions of Android floating around out there.

Bottom line: Flagships are expensive without a subsidy, so if you're looking to save some cash but you don't want to skimp on the features, the OnePlus 3 is a worthy choice.

One more thing: Because of its unlocked nature, the OnePlus 3 is only compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile (and their respective MVNOs) in the U.S.

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1 day ago

Grab these unlocked phones at up to 33% off right now!

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Your next phone doesn't have to cost a ton — here are a few great deals.

Amazon is currently offering select unlocked phones at a discount of up to 33%, dropping prices on some of them to under $100. The list includes a variety of different phones, like the OnePlus 2, Nextbit Robin, Alcatel Idol 3 and many others. Unlocked phones make great backup devices or even new phones, and don't come loaded with tons of carrier bloat. You have the freedom to move them between carriers as you need, and with these discounts they are even more affordable.

The deals here include:

There are a number of other deals available, so be sure to hit the link below to check them all out. Will any of these be your next phone? Let us know which one in the comments!

See at Amazon

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1 day ago

Frequency illusion and exploding Samsung phones

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Galaxy Note 7

Just because you're hearing about Samsung phones exploding, doesn't mean it's actually happening more often.

Did you hear?! A Samsung phone caught fire on an Indian airplane! The device in question, a Samsung Galaxy Note... 2 — from 2012 — reportedly went up in smoke in an overhead compartment, before being doused in a bucket of water by cabin crew.

It's one of a few prominent reports lately of Samsung phones other than the genuinely explosion-prone Note 7 going up in smoke. A couple of weeks back, The New York Post carried a story on a Samsung phone catching fire in the hands of a child (the paper incorrectly reported it as a Note 7 initially). Then shouty British rag The Sun published a story on a GS7 edge catching fire in the UK. Those are just two recent examples — many more have been reported in the media since the Note 7 fiasco erupted.

It seems like Samsung phones are constantly exploding! Maybe there's a problem with all of them!

Frequency illusion, amplified by the effect of the modern media.

Well, probably not. What we have here is a case of frequency illusion. (Sometimes called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.) This is a cognitive bias — a trick of the mind — where something which has recently come to the personal or collective attention seems to appear with much greater frequency shortly afterwards.

That's amplified considerably by the modern media, which is quick to jump on unrelated stories like the Note 2 catching fire over India, and present them in the narrative of the Note 7 battery fiasco. Had the Note 7 not had battery issues, a story about a single smartphone malfunctioning (albeit spectacularly) on an airplane, with no harm coming to anyone, wouldn't have been splashed around major news outlets as much as it has been.

Galaxy Note 2

What's more, the idea of there being a broader problem with Samsung batteries simply doesn't stand up to common sense. The Galaxy Note 2 has been around for four years, selling well over 5 million units in its year of release alone. If there'd been a battery problem as serious and widespread as that of the Note 7, it would've come to light literally years ago.

The idea of a wider problem with Samsung phones simply doesn't stand up to common sense.

The same argument applies to the Galaxy S7, which had racked up sales of 26 million units by early July. Given that out of a million or so "bad" Note 7s in the U.S., around 100 caught fire in the first month, we'd be looking at thousands of GS7-related cases if the problem was common to both phones.

Constant bear attacks

It's also worth remembering the sheer number of phones Samsung sells. Samsung was the world's biggest smartphone seller in 2015, shifting some 320 million phones, according to Gartner. It's battled Apple for the number-one spot for the past several years. Many of those phones, especially cheaper models, have user-replaceable batteries.

Which brings us back to our airborne Galaxy Note 2 fire over India. The Note 2 is an old Samsung phone with a removable battery, which opens up the strong possibility that an off-brand battery may have been used.

"In India, it's easier to get a hold of third-party batteries than those made by Samsung," AC India editor Harish Jonnalagadda told me. "Non-certified batteries often retail for one-fourth the cost of the genuine product, making them a much more lucrative option for price-conscious buyers. Meanwhile, retailers are able to eke out better profits by selling third-party batteries, which is why they continue to push them onto customers."

There's a non-zero chance of any lithium-ion battery catching fire.

Lithium-ion batteries pack a lot of power into a small space. At any point in time, there's a non-zero chance of a something or other going wrong and releasing all that energy at once. Given that Samsung sells more phones than anyone else, the prominence of that brand in reports of battery fires (outside of the Note 7) isn't surprising. The same applies to the many reports in years past of iPhones catching fire when charging, given that Apple also sells a hell of a lot of iPhones.

MORE: What makes a phone battery explode?

Between the sheer number of Samsung phones out there, the number with replaceable batteries, the tendency for uncertified batteries to be used in some countries — and the important effect of frequency illusion and the modern media, it's not surprising that there are more reports of exploding Samsung phones in the news. (And also that it seems like it's happening more often.)

But that doesn't mean that there's any flaw with other Samsung batteries, or that exploding batteries are any more common now than before the Note 7 fiasco.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

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1 day ago

Google Pixel and Pixel XL: What to expect from the Nexus successors

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Brace yourself: Pixels are coming.

For the past seven years, Google partnered with some of the leading Android phone makers to sell co-branded handsets under the "Nexus" name. This year, the company is set to unveil two new handsets under a brand that's new to phones, but well known to Google followers: Pixel.

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2 days ago

Best Android Phones 5.2 inches And Under

If you're looking at this page, it's because the right smartphone for you is the one that fits perfectly in your hand.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7

See at AT&T See at Sprint See at T-Mobile See at Verizon See at Amazon

Unless you've been living under a rock this past year, you know that the Galaxy S7 is the biggest hit of the year. The flagship smartphone features a stunning metal-and-glass unibody design that's both water resistant and comfortable to wield. On the inside, it's fueled by top-end internals, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM. It also offers solid battery life and an impressive rear-facing camera that you can confidently utilize as your primary shooter. Best of all, the Galaxy S7's screen is a 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display, so even though it's a smaller screen, you'll still get stunning, TV-like quality from the dullest of YouTube videos.

Perhaps the only drawback of the Galaxy S7 is that it doesn't run the latest version of Android just yet. Nougat has yet to be optimized for Samsung's flagship devices, but it's coming.

Bottom line: If you're looking to adopt one of the best compact smartphones available, get the Galaxy S7.

One More thing: This highly-rated device is available at all four major carriers in the U.S., but if you'd rather live dangerously and contract-free, Samsung offers an unlocked model that also works overseas.

Why the Galaxy S7 is the best

A powerful, compact, water resistant little package.

Samsung has spent generations attempting to perfect its Galaxy flagship. There's still some work to be done, but the Galaxy S7 is considered the best incarnation of Samsung's flagship smartphone yet. Just look at the features: Powerful innards that support the Vulkan API and virtual reality; a water-resistant shell for the accident prone; a fingerprint sensor for added security, an expansion slot for more media storage;, and a high-quality camera that's good enough to leave your DSLR at home. The Galaxy S7 does everything you need a smartphone to do.

Unfortunately, Samsung's version of Android also comes with a few quirks, as well as extra apps you might find redundant alongside Google's own offerings. And the Galaxy S7 often comes bundled with hoards of bloatware, depending on your carrier, and you're not always guaranteed to be running the latest version of Android. But if this is your big purchase for the year, you can be confident in the fact that you made the right decision in terms of hardware and software offerings, especially since the Galaxy S7 offers one of the best smartphone cameras on the market.

Best "Not Samsung" phone

HTC 10

See at Sprint See at Verizon See at Amazon

HTC's had a rough couple of years with its flagship line, but the HTC 10 is a step in the right direction. This aluminum, unibody device is as fashion forward as it is comfortable to hold. Its 5.2-inch Quad HD display is the right size for most hands, and it's equipped with a 12-megapixel rear-facing Ultrapixel 2 camera, as well as a 5-megapixel front-facing camera with OIS, so your selfies will be in focus, too.

The HTC 10 also offers BoomSound Hi-Fi, which the company worked on in conjunction with Dolby, and there's even an amp built in to the headphone jack. The HTC 10's Android interface isn't bad either; HTC's Sense UI is pretty vanilla compared to years past, and you can customize the interface to your liking with themes.

Bottom-line: The HTC 10 is a viable flagship alternative for anyone who is looking for something just as capable as a Samsung device but without the chintzy software.

One more thing: Although the 10 does not have all the bells and whistles as Samsung's devices—like water resistance and wireless charging— HTC does offer Uh Oh Protection, which covers broken screens, water damage, and even switching carriers.

Best affordable phone

Nexus 5X

See at Google

If you're looking for a device that's easy to cradle, but you don't want to break the bank, consider one of Google's Nexus devices. The Nexus 5X is a pocketable, 5.2-inch device with a 1080p LCD display, a solid 12-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a 2700mAh battery. It runs on a Snapdragon 808 processor with 2GB of RAM and its rear-facing fingerprint scanner is faster to use than most smartphones that have it embedded on the front. And though the Nexus 5X doesn't sport the most forward-thinking chassis design, it does come in a seriously attractive mint blue color.

Bottom-line: The Nexus 5X is the best choice if you want a smaller Android phone that will receive consistent software updates for at least another year.

One more thing: You can purchase Nexus Protect for an extra $69 to help cover any device malfunctions and accidental damage for two years.

Best under 4.7 inches

Xperia X Compact

See at Amazon

Bet you didn't think we'd offer up a Sony smartphone as a choice, but the Xperia X Compact is worth the consideration—especially if you're looking for something that's under five inches. Inside, the Xperia X Compact runs on mid-range Snapdragon 650, 3GB of RAM, and a 2,700mAh battery. It's equipped with a 720p IPS display, though that's all you really need from a 4.6-inch screen. It also supports Quick Charge 3.0, so that you can quickly charge it up during your layover, and it offers a solid 23-megapixel rear-facing camera with laser autofocus.

Bottom-line: The Xperia X Compact is great for anyone who's been grumbling that smartphones are just too big in this day and age.

One more thing: The Xperia X Compact will officially launch in the U.S. on September 25.

Conclusion

Folks, if you're looking for a compact smartphone that's got as much power and capability as the laptop on your desk, the Galaxy S7 is the way to go. It has all of the latest features you want wrapped up in a water resistant shell that's somewhat impervious to life's little accidents. And it's a mere 5.1 inches, which makes it comfortable enough for a variety of hand sizes. But if you're not entirely keen on going the Samsung route because of its not-stock Android software, we've also offered up a few other choices for your consideration. We won't let you traverse this journey alone.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7

See at AT&T See at Sprint See at T-Mobile See at Verizon See at Amazon

Unless you've been living under a rock this past year, you know that the Galaxy S7 is the biggest hit of the year. The flagship smartphone features a stunning metal-and-glass unibody design that's both water resistant and comfortable to wield. On the inside, it's fueled by top-end internals, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM. It also offers solid battery life and an impressive rear-facing camera that you can confidently utilize as your primary shooter. Best of all, the Galaxy S7's screen is a 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display, so even though it's a smaller screen, you'll still get stunning, TV-like quality from the dullest of YouTube videos.

Perhaps the only drawback of the Galaxy S7 is that it doesn't run the latest version of Android just yet. Nougat has yet to be optimized for Samsung's flagship devices, but it's coming.

Bottom line: If you're looking to adopt one of the best compact smartphones available, get the Galaxy S7.

One More thing: This highly-rated device is available at all four major carriers in the U.S., but if you'd rather live dangerously and contract-free, Samsung offers an unlocked model that also works overseas.

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2 days ago

This is the safe Galaxy Note 7's new green battery icon

117

This is what your new Note 7 will look like after the update.

Here it is, folks. As promised, after receiving a new Galaxy Note 7 yesterday — with a battery from a different supplier — Samsung is rolling out an update to all Note 7s, pre- and post-recall, separating the haves from the have-nots.

Specifically, my Note 7, the one with the new, safer battery, has a green battery indicator in place of the traditional white, which Google has forced on all manufacturers since Android 4.4 KitKat. Ironically, before then, all Samsung phones shipped with green battery icons.

Samsung received special dispensation for the change from Google itself due to extraordinary circumstances.

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2 days ago

Save $100 on a Nextbit Robin for a limited time!

27

Get yourself a minty cloudphone on the cheap.

For a limited time, you can pick up the Nextbit Robin for just $199, a savings of $100 from its regular price. The unlocked phone has a 5.2-inch 1080p display, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of local storage that is merged with 100GB of cloud storage. Why cloud storage? Well, the phone can intelligently decide which files and apps you aren't using frequently and move them to the cloud in order to save you local space for the stuff you are using and brings them right back when you need them.

Whether you are looking for a new phone for yourself or a family member or a backup to have around, you won't want to miss this deal. You can pick between the midnight and mint colors. We've seen the price jump around the past few months, and this sale brings its back to its lowest price yet.

See at Amazon

Nextbit Robin

See at Amazon

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2 days ago

Sony Xperia X Compact review: Size really does matter

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Sony Xperia X Compact

Small phone lovers have something to get excited about with the latest in Sony's Compact line.

The quick take

The Xperia X Compact gives you everything you need in terms of screen, performance, battery life — plus a few nice additions like stereo speakers, a slick software experience and Sony's latest camera technology. But this isn't simply a flagship-level phone in a smaller size: you're getting a plastic phone that's also missing a fingerprint sensor and waterproofing. So for as great as the X Compact is, it sits in an odd area — offering you less than other phones, but still commanding a $499 price. You really have to want a small phone to spend that much on the X Compact.

The Good

  • Small, but not cheaply made
  • Solid screen, even at 720p
  • Great performance and battery life
  • Strong camera

The Bad

  • No fingerprint sensor
  • Plastic may not appeal to everyone
  • No Quick Charge charger included
  • Expensive for the size

Sony Xperia X Compact

A bit of a throwback

Sony Xperia X Compact Full review

Since roughly 2012, when Android phone screens really started to grow with no sign of stopping, the desire from a vocal group to have a "compact" phone available has strengthened. But not just any small phone, they all want a compact version of a flagship phone; one that doesn't compromise on specs or features in order to fit into a smaller size. This is the holy grail for many.

Sony has been the one manufacturer that consistently offers a range of phone sizes, regularly being the example of how to do this right with its Compact series. The common era of these phones started with the Xperia Z1 Compact, with a small 4.3-inch display. We're now nearly three years past the launch of the Z1 Compact, and we have the Xperia X Compact to carry this tiny torch.

The X Compact has gained a little screen size, now up to 4.6-inches, but it's still working with the same formula. It has nicer components and features than you usually get in a small phone today, with a few standout items like Sony's best available camera setup. At the same time, it sits very awkwardly just underneath the also-compact 5-inch Xperia X, which is moderately larger but with a higher-res screen and now lower price. And this isn't necessarily a full-on flagship phone, either, as it's missing a few high-end features. All while still charging a rather hefty $499.

So many people say they want a compact high-end phone, but few actually end up buying one. Is the Xperia X Compact the one to satisfy that thirst and rack up sales? Read on for our full review.

About this review

I (Andrew Martonik) am writing this review after just shy of a week using an unlocked Xperia X Compact, provided to Android Central for review by Sony. The phone was used on the T-Mobile network in the greater Seattle, WA area. The software was build number 34.1.A.1.198, with the June 1, 2016 security patch, and was not updated over the course of the review.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Little wonder

Sony Xperia X Compact Hardware

Ah, small phones. There's just something refreshing about picking up a phone that you can easily cradle in one hand, reaching your thumb from top to bottom and side to side without any hesitation, shifting or fear of dropping the phone. You just don't find phones this small anymore, especially as the budget segment has increased its screen sizes in order to offer even more perceived value for money. In this case, you have to pay more to get less in the Xperia X compact.

While the X Compact is true to its name in overall size, it is a bit larger than the 4.6-inch screen would lead you to believe. As is the case on most of Sony's phones, the X Compact is adorned with rather large bezels, particularly on the top and bottom of the display. The overall size isn't far off from the 5.1-inch Galaxy S7, and is similar to the 4.7-inch iPhone 7, which itself is known for large bezels.

It's okay to dislike plastic, but this is really nice plastic.

Sony has continued its blocky, semi-rounded "loop surface" look from the rest of the Xperia X series, which is immediately distinguishable to phone fans as a Sony design — and I really dig it. Looking at the bottom of the phone you see a cross-section of the design that looks almost identical to the proportions of its USB-C port, with nicely rounded sides coming around to a flat front and back. The back is a single piece of plastic, which feels a bit cheap compared to the metal on the Xperia XZ but matches nicely to the ceramic-like coating around the rest of the phone. (It also means the NFC antenna is on the back, rather than the front, of the phone — I'll take it.)

The phone is a little on the slick side, but the curves are friendly to your hand and the tolerances for the joins between the materials are perfect and worthy of your appreciation. The front glass is sculpted nicely into the edges and has a couple perfect cutouts for the front-facing stereo speakers, while the buttons on the side are easier to press than they look. That recessed home button feels great, but unfortunately doesn't integrate a fingerprint sensor — a head-scratching choice for a phone with a $499 list price.

Sony Xperia X Compact

There's an amazing simplicity and quaintness to the look of the X Compact.

Looking at the spec sheet and seeing a 1280x720 display resolution (coming in at 319 ppi) immediately makes you check to see what year it is, as even low-end phones now ship with 1080p panels, but naturally those numbers don't tell the whole story. Sony has packed a phenomenal display in the X Compact — it's fantastically laminated to the glass, has great viewing angles and superb color reproduction. I never touched the display settings, choosing to leave it at the default "X-Reality for mobile" mode. Though I confess I can see the slightly rough lines on some things, I never felt it detracted from the experience of using the phone. And as I'll get to later, that lower resolution certainly helps in terms of performance and battery life.

More: Complete Xperia X Compact specs

This is decidedly not a screen for those who want to watch video on their phone more than occasionally, and you don't really realize it until you're holding up the X Compact watching YouTube. For some, that's not an issue — but if you're one to watch an episode of your favorite show on your lunch break or jump into Netflix while you're waiting for a train, the X Compact isn't likely to meet your needs.

But if you don't crave a huge screen for consuming media, there's an amazing simplicity and quaintness to the look of the Xperia X Compact, even in white as I have here but particularly in the black color that's also available. It's a simple, pure design without additional flourishes that get in the way, and that's particularly important for a small phone that just doesn't have the extra real estate for shocking design elements. There's something nice and refreshing about holding a small phone that isn't trying to act like it's a massive supercomputer.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Sony keeps it simple

Sony Xperia X Compact Software

Sony can call the likes of Moto and OnePlus company when it comes to offering clean, simple and fast software. What you're greeted by on the Xperia X Compact is not unlike a Nexus phone running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, with a few subtle changes to iconography and of course the default apps. Perhaps the biggest visual change comes with the launcher and lock screen, which I quite enjoy — and importantly, none of the changes detract from or alter the core Android experience.

I picked up the X Compact and installed my typical Google Now Launcher and Google Keyboard combination, and didn't touch a single thing in the software thereafter. Everything works as I expect it to, and it didn't take a bunch of tweaking or configuration to do so. Sony still includes a handful of pre-installed apps that I didn't really care to use, but most of them can be disabled and the group is nowhere near the size I see in the app drawer on Samsung phones. Sony's styling of the dialer, photo gallery and other apps feel very native to the platform as well, keeping a consistent look and feel across the phone.

Sony Xperia X Compact softwareSony Xperia X Compact softwareSony Xperia X Compact softwareSony Xperia X Compact softwareSony Xperia X Compact softwareSony Xperia X Compact softwareSony Xperia X Compact softwareSony Xperia X Compact softwareSony Xperia X Compact software

In a very nice departure from the past two Sony phones I used, the Xperia X Performance and Xperia XZ, the X Compact is ridiculously fast. Whereas those two phones were mostly quick but still chugged along slowly at times, the X Compact hasn't had a single slowdown or even as much as a stutter in a week of my typical use.

Of course this isn't that surprising considering the very capable Snapdragon 650 processor and 3GB of RAM pushing just a 720p display, but as I noted above this kind of performance isn't always a given on recent Sony phones. The X Compact performs just as well as any other high-end phone you've used recently with a late-model Snapdragon processor, and I wasn't able to do anything that made it slow down. This is what you expect to get for this kind of money, and the X Compact absolutely delivers.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Getting there

Sony Xperia X Compact Cameras

Sony's tried-and-true 23MP Exmor RS sensor is once again the core of the Sony camera experience on the X Compact, but like the Xperia XZ it was announced alongside we actually have something to get excited about here: new 5-axis image stabilization. Sony seemed pained to add OIS (optical image stabilization) to its cameras up to this point, and I'm glad it finally made the jump.

Sony Xperia X Compact camera interface

Sony's camera interface is simple enough, though its "Superior Auto" isn't all that superior anymore and still requires hopping over to Manual in order to toggle HDR or tweak even the simplest things. This wouldn't be a problem if its Auto mode were truly "superior." The X Compact's overall software performance has extended to the camera, thankfully, and is amazingly quick to open, capture and process photos — considerably faster, in fact, than the Xperia XZ and X Performance. Puzzling.

The camera shoots 8MP downsampled (4:3 or 16:9, your choice) photos by default, mostly for file size reasons, but you can quickly jump up to 23MP full-res photos if you'd like. Unless you plan on cropping in after the fact I recommend just leaving the camera to its default 8MP resolution, which saves you storage space and a little bit of processing time.

The camera is no longer a clear weak spot, but it's squarely average.

Photos are incredibly sharp, even when you zoom in to pixel peep a bit, and the colors tend to be accurate rather than over-saturated like some phones (though the look is a personal preference). When shooting in Superior Auto and using tap-to-focus the camera tended to over-expose photos and wash them out, leading me far too often to hop into Manual and just use HDR for a more balanced shot.

For low-light photos, the 5-axis stabilization is clearly in play to help the X Compact take solid and much improved, but just average photos. In dimly lit rooms it tended to go with longer-than-necessary shutter speeds (sometimes up to 1/8 second), often introducing blur, and still couldn't take crisp well-balanced photos like you get from other cameras. Low-light photos sometimes took a couple of attempts, which was a departure from the "point, click, review awesome photo" experience of daytime shots.

I'm impressed by the Xperia X Compact's camera in terms of stepping up its game considerably from Sony's previous phones. As I mentioned in my musings about the Xperia XZ, Sony's new camera setup is firmly in the "good" camp, still a few steps behind the "great" arena where Samsung plays. The camera is no longer a main downside or deal breaker here, and that's a great thing — it just isn't so great that it'll sell phones all on its own.

Sony Xperia X Compact

All day, every day

Sony Xperia X Compact Battery life

Any time you see a spec sheet that lists less than a 3000 mAh battery in a modern phone, you get a little worried about longevity. With 2700 mAh under the hood in the X Compact — a full 200 mAh less than the Xperia XZ, which itself didn't have stellar battery life — the X Compact has been a battery champion, though. The combination of just a 720p screen and a lower-powered Snapdragon 650 processor meant I never thought out battery life on the X Compact.

A battery that lasts all day, every single day.

My typical day out of the house, with three hours of "screen on" time, using LTE, keeping up with notifications, social networking, photography and listening to podcasts I would end the day with at least 25% battery left. On a lighter weekend day where the phone spent good chunks of time on a table or in my pocket, I would end the day with well over 50% battery. Unlike the Xperia XZ, I never had to enable Stamina Mode to extend the battery — in fact, I never once touched the 10% battery level on the X Compact.

For charging back up, the X Compact supports Quick Charge 3.0, letting you quickly replenish that 2700 mAh battery. The charger that ships in the box is a standard non-Quick Charge 5V/1.5A wall plug, though, which is a bit odd. Because battery life has been so great for me on the X Compact I'm not so worried about the charging times of the relatively small battery, but considering the price you're paying for this phone I would've expected a Quick Charge charger in the box with a phone that supports the tech.

Sony Xperia X Compact

Little wonder

Sony Xperia X Compact Bottom line

Going into reviewing the Xperia X Compact, I was excited to use a "small" phone again primarily from the perspective of nostalgia; watching phones get bigger and bigger, I just wanted something more compact that didn't make compromises in experience. Over a week using it, my view shifted entirely to real, legitimate enjoyment of this phone based on its merits. It's amazingly quick with fantastic battery life, has a great screen, is built very well and has a solid camera. There are even a few extra perks like stereo speakers, 32GB base storage with an SD card slot, and Quick Charge 3.0 support.

The Xperia X Compact is great for fans of small phones.

Though I have a strong desire to just recommend the Xperia X Compact outright, I have some trepidation simply because the phone isn't all roses. It commands a high price, yet lacks waterproofing, a fingerprint sensor and metal construction found in the (admittedly larger) competition; it also has a smaller, lower-resolution screen, as well as a technically slower processor and "just" 3GB of RAM. So it's missing a few line items and features that keep it from truly being a "flagship in a smaller size" — it is instead a smaller phone that does indeed have shortcomings.

At a retail price of $499, the X Compact costs $100 more than bigger, more powerful phones with more features like the OnePlus 3 and Honor 8; and at the same time is just $50-100 less than the Galaxy S7 (thanks to recent price drops), which is a better all-around phone. With these market realities, you're faced with having to justify paying more money for physically less phone — that's hard for some people to get over.

The Xperia X Compact is all about the whole package rather than simply chasing line items — though it does have most of what people are looking for in a high-end phone today. It's for those who want a smaller phone with a well-executed design, but don't want to give up on the performance, battery life, camera or base level features they've grown accustomed to in other expensive offerings. And you're going to pay a bit extra for the privilege. Those who simply look at their phone buying decision as "getting the most features and size for my money" won't see value here. But if you're immediately drawn to the smaller size of the Xperia X Compact, you'll get a fantastic phone.

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3 days ago

Evening brief: Between a Note and a hard place

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Software updates, hardware recalls, and Allo's essential features!

Earlier today, I spoke to Samsung Canada's COO about the Note 7 recall, and he told me the same thing I've heard the company's executives say in every market: Samsung dealt with the recall properly, quickly, and safely. And that it is sorry.

That this is going to have lingering negative effects on the Samsung brand isn't in question: it's for how long, and how severe. The consequences of a recall like this reverberate for months, maybe years, largely because people — the average buying public — now balances the strength of a product against the trustworthiness of a brand. There isn't much more to say about this, either: soon, people will start receiving their replacement units, if they haven't already, and many will likely forget that this issue arose in the first place. But what about the 100 or so people injured or traumatized by a phone that was safe one moment and ablaze the next? Let's hope they're not forgotten once things get back to normal.

And with that, tonight's news.

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3 days ago

Samsung going to great lengths to force return of recalled Note 7s

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Samsung is taking unprecedented steps to convince customers to return recalled Galaxy Note 7s.

"Most Canadians are extremely supportive of how we've handled things," says Paul Brannen, COO and Executive Vice President of Samsung Canada, in a Toronto board room.

He's talking with reporters in 15-minute sessions, hoping to quickly cut to the essential truth of the issue: Samsung Canada has handled the Galaxy Note 7 recall better than any other region. He conveys this without saying it, noting that Samsung has managed the return of 70% of the nearly 22,000 outstanding devices, and already has the inventory to replace that number and more with phones containing updated, safe battery cells.

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3 days ago

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall: Everything you need to know

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Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Here's what you need to know about Samsung's Note 7 recall.

Samsung has announced a global recall of the Note 7 along with a halting of sales after concerns of faulty components causing battery explosions. Every Note 7 sold before September 15 is effected by the recall and must be returned or replaced. That's scary, and product recalls aren't fun for anyone to deal with, but Samsung is taking the necessary steps to make sure all of the bad units are replaced.

Here's what you need to know about the recall and how to handle it with your own Note 7.

Note: This is a constantly evolving story with information that is being updated regularly.

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3 days ago

Score an unlocked 64GB Galaxy S6 for just $389 right now!

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Daily Steals is currently offering new unlocked 64GB Galaxy S6 for just $389 with the coupon code ACSEPT10. You'll have your choice of white or blue here, and it is for model G920A which is the AT&T model. Being that the Galaxy S6 doesn't offer expandable storage, it's great to have the 64GB built-in and considering many 32GB versions are selling for this same price it's great to have double the storage at no additional cost.

If you don't need the latest and greatest, or are looking for a backup phone, you won't want to miss out on this deal. Remember, you'll need coupon code ACSEPT10 for the full savings here.

See at Daily Steals

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4 days ago

Huawei's best mid-range phone is coming to Canada in October

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The Huawei Nova series is an interesting product line. Half flagship, half midrange, it embodies the shifting nature of the Android market away from expensive, highly-subsidized phones.

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4 days ago

Best Cases For Honor 8

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What are the best cases you can buy today for the Honor 8?

The Honor 8, as made by Huawei, is one of the most attractive budget smartphones available right now. Take care of it by housing it in one of these recommended cases.

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