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4 days ago

Best Samsung Phones

If you're into Android, a Samsung phone is probably on your list. Here's what to consider.

Since the debut of the Galaxy S2, Samsung has ranked as one of the top selling manufacturers of Android smartphones. Over the years, the South Korean company has managed to positively iterate on its flagship offerings by offering new features and a better interface with every new model.

This year, it's the Galaxy S8 that takes the spotlight as the defacto Samsung device, but it's not the only Galaxy offering you can choose from. Here's a guide on the differences between the varying high-end Samsung devices you should consider adopting as your daily driver.

This article is updated periodically. It was last updated May 2017.

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5 days ago

Should you encrypt your Galaxy S8's SD card?

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Probably not. Here's why.

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

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

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

Security is not convenient

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, should I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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5 days ago

Common Moto G5 problems and how to fix them

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

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

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

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5 days ago

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

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

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

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

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5 days ago

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

38

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

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

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5 days ago

Samsung Galaxy S8+ India review: King of the hill

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Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

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

The quick take

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

The Good

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

The Bad

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

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Full review

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

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

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

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Specs

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

About this review

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

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Hardware

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

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

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

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

Performance

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

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

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Software

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

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

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

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

Samsung Pay

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

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

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

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

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

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

Everything you need to know about Samsung Pay in India

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

Bixby

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

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

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

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

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

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Camera

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

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

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

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

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Battery life

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samsung Galaxy S8+ review

Samsung Galaxy S8+ Bottom line

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

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

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

Should you buy it? Absolutely

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

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

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

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

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

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

See at Flipkart

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5 days ago

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

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Everyone likes free stuff — especially from Google.

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

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

See at Google Store

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Google Store Verizon

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5 days ago

Best Front-facing Camera

Updated May, 2017: It's a new year of flagship smartphones! That means we've updated this post with our list of the best devices with improved front-facing cameras.

Best Overall

Samsung Galaxy S8

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

Samsung knows how to equip you with what you need to take a selfie. Not only is the Galaxy S8 packed with some of the best front-facing camera hardware — an 8-megapixel camera with auto focus, to be exact — but it also offers a number of extra software features that'll help sustain your vanity. For instance, the camera app offers Snapchat-like features baked right in, in addition to a robust beauty mode that buffs out your imperfections and makes you look like the freshly airbrushed model you wish you could be. The filters also work on your friends' faces in group selfies, and if you can't fit them all into the shot, you can easily switch into the wide-angle selfie mode.

Bottom line: You'll win at narcissism with the Galaxy S8's fine front-facing hardware and its accompanying software features.

One more thing: If you need something bigger, the larger Galaxy S8+ shares the same hardware, not to mention it also offers a bigger screen for you to view the end results.

Why the Galaxy S8 is the best

Let's riff on the Galaxy S8's specifications for a second. The new Galaxy S8 features an 8MP front-facing camera with auto focus capabilities— even in the high end, most phones don't have auto focus capabilities on the front-facer. The front-facing camera also shoots with a f/1.7 lens, so it takes decent low-light photos, just like the rear-facing camera. It also has HDR capabilities, a selective focus mode for portrait shots, and you can download additional modes as you see fit.

The point is: The Galaxy S8 is not only equipped with an impressive front-facing camera, but it also offers a host of fun software features that'll keep you snappin'.

Best Non-Samsung

Google Pixel/Pixel XL

See at Verizon See at Google

I've been using the Pixel and Pixel XL to take snaps of me and my pals for the past few weeks. Its 8MP front-facing camera is a phenomenal performer, though it only shoots at an aperture of f/2.4. It also doesn't have as many extra feature offerings as Samsung's smartphones, though you can download a third-party app like the BestMe Selfie Camera to have some fun with your friends.

Bottom line: If you'd rather go Google because software updates matter more to you than an abundance of camera features, the Pixel is a bona fide selfie shooter.

One more thing: The Pixel also utilizes the helpful double-press-to-launch shortcut like the Galaxy S8.

Best Budget

Honor 8

See at Amazon

Huawei is particularly keen on boasting about its selfie capabilities — and for good reason. The Honor 8 is an entry-level smartphone with an 8MP front-facing camera. It shoots at an aperture of f/2.4 and comes bundled with features like the "Perfect selfie," which stores your customized beauty settings.

Bottom line: If you don't want to pay full price for a premium phone, but you still want a worthy selfie-snapping sensor, the Honor 8 is a worth considering.

One more thing: The Honor 8 also has dual 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras on the back, so you won't be compromising your main camera performance either.

Conclusion

Samsung knows selfies. It's been attempting to perfect them since the Galaxy S III, likely because it's a major selling point. And this year, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ have had their front-facing cameras overhauled with better features and more capabilities, making either one the most compelling choice for the most vain of smartphone users.

But for the most part, the best smartphone for selfies is the one you already have your hand. So get to snappin'!

Best Overall

Samsung Galaxy S8

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

Samsung knows how to equip you with what you need to take a selfie. Not only is it packed with some of the best front-facing camera hardware — an 8-megapixel camera with auto focus, to be exact — but it also offers a number of extra software features that'll help sustain your vanity. For instance, the camera app offers Snapchat-like features baked right in, in addition to a robust beauty mode that buffs out your imperfections and makes you look like the freshly airbrushed model you wish you could be. The filters also work on your friends' faces in group selfies, and if you can't fit them all into the shot you can easily switch into the wide-angle selfie mode.

Bottom line: You'll win at narcissism with the Galaxy S8's fine front-facing hardware and its accompanying software features.

One more thing: If you need something bigger, the larger Galaxy S8+ shares the same hardware, not to mention it also offers a bigger screen for you to view the end results.

Why the Galaxy S8 is the best

Let's riff on the Galaxy S8's specifications for a second. The new Galaxy S8 features an 8MP front-facing camera with auto focus capabilities — even in the high end, most phones don't have auto focus capabilities on the front-facer. The front-facing camera also shoots with a f/1.7 lens, so it takes decent low light photos, just like the rear-facing camera. It also has HDR capabilities, a selective focus mode for portrait shots, and you can download additional modes as you see fit.

The point is: the Galaxy S8 is not only equipped with an impressive front-facing camera, but it also offers a host of fun software features that'll keep you snappin'.

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6 days ago

Watch our HTC U11 hands-on video preview!

19

Is squeezing your phone the next big thing in mobile? HTC certainly thinks so. Its new flagship phone, the U11, is built around this simple but convenient gesture.

But this phone is much more than just a quirky, gimmicky shortcut feature. There's also a beautiful, shimmering, liquid glass design encasing hardware that'll provide all the power you crave — along with upgraded camera and audio hardware.

As the name suggests, this is the direct successor to the 10, but it's also a member of the new HTC U family, which started with the U Play and U Ultra back in January. But honestly, forget about those phones. The U11 is where the HTC U brand story should have begun.

The design is a considerable refinement of the liquid glass aesthetic that HTC introduced earlier in the year — metal flowing directly into glass, with tight tolerances and joins. And the phone comes in five gorgeous, shimmering colors, including two impressive new hues — "amazing silver," which shifts between a sky blue and silvery gray, and the fiery "solar red," my personal favorite.

HTC also hits all the necessary points for a current high-end handset: A Snapdragon 835 processor, plenty of storage and RAM, IP67 water and dust resistance, and an upgraded UltraPixel 3 camera which ranks as the current DXOMark champion.

Find out more about the HTC U11 in our hands-on video feature. And hit up our full hands-on preview for a detailed breakdown of what's new, what's great, and what's not so great.

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6 days ago

How do apps work on Samsung DeX?

8

A full-featured desktop operating system embedded into your smartphone? It's nearly possible with Samsung DeX.

The idea of using your smartphone to unlock a desktop operating system might sound absurd at first, but what if you could do that for a bit of extra money?

For $150, you can purchase the Samsung DeX dock to unlock the desktop operating system hidden deep within the depths of the code on your Galaxy S8 or S8+. The DeX dock features ports for all the necessary peripherals, including an HDMI input for an external monitor and USB for a mouse and keyboard. Once you have everything set up, you can start using the full-fledged desktop experience to get things done, just as you would on a Mac or PC.

The good news is that Samsung launched DeX with a variety of compatible, popular apps that make getting work done an actual possibility. There's also added Android app functionality, so that you can use every app you already have installed on the Galaxy S8. Here's a look at some of the apps that come readily available to use on the Samsung DeX — and some of those that are best avoided.

Every app is already there

With Samsung DeX, every app you already have installed on your Galaxy S8 will have a launcher icon available in the app drawer, as it were. Any apps that were previously open will show up in the dock — or taskbar — at the bottom of the interface, though you can also switch between active tasks by tapping the Recent Apps button in the bottom left side of the screen.

The desktop interface on the Samsung DeX.

This is what happens when an app isn't optimized for DeX — this one is Facebook Messenger.

Since the Galaxy S8 comes prepackaged with Samsung's own apps, you'll see shortcuts to those immediately available on the desktop. You may not regularly use them on the phone, but you'll want to considering getting into the habit of sparking these up when you get into DeX, since they've already been optimized for a larger display and desktop interface. Many of the other apps are merely emulated and will work best if they were already optimized for a tablet interface.

Some Android apps are fine, though, and work accordingly, even without the fancy optimization. Adobe Clips, for instance, is easy to use and exports videos to the phone's internal storage just fine. The Microsoft Office and the Google Docs app suite are all a cinch to use, too, and you might find you appreciate the fact that you can hook up a full-size keyboard to get some actual writing done. Even Snapchat works just fine, and I was able to post and scrawl away with the mouse and keyboard input.

Not all apps will work properly, and some won't even launch at all.

Not all apps will work properly and some won't even launch at all. My favorite app, Pokemon TCGO, doesn't work on Samsung DeX because it requires touch input (by comparison, the Android app works fine with the mouse or touch input on the Chromebook Flip). Spotify won't work either, and DeX will tell you it's because it wasn't optimized for multiple screen sizes (you can't launch into the browser version of the web app either). I also found that some apps aren't even worth using on DeX because they won't work in the background, like some of my favorite indie music radio apps put out by smaller developers who probably didn't even consider that this was a thing to develop for.

Full-service apps

For those of you looking for the full desktop experience, DeX is compatible with Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solutions like VMWare Horizon Client and Amazon Workspaces. You have to download the apps from the Google Play Store and have a valid license to use the desktop emulating clients.

It might look cramped, but it worked!

I was curious about how this particular ability works, so I tried the next best remote desktop experience I could think of: Chrome Remote Desktop. I tried it on DeX by connecting to my MacBook Pro and though the implementation was a little weird — the mouse and keyboard input abilities don't translate as well as they would if I were using the app from a browser through Chromebook, for instance — it works fine and I was able to navigate around macOS with no lag.

Samsung also worked with Microsoft and Adobe behind the scenes so that their Android apps are solid on the DeX interface. Like the VDI clients, all you have to do is download the apps from the Play Store to get to editing apps and writing TPS reports. When you save a file, it's stored to the phone's internal file system.

More app functionality to come

We still need to spend some time with DeX before offering a full verdict.

The Samsung "desktop experience" is still in its nascent stages, so it'll take some time before all the kinks are worked out of DeX OS. If you'd rather not download an app but still want the functionality, you can do trial by fire with the varying web apps and services you might typically access through the web. Just bear in mind that not everything works.

We've still got quite a bit of diving to do into the DeX experience before we can offer a full verdict on whether it's worth the cash. But if you've brought a DeX home and you're playing around with it, let us know what you think about the apps experience by leaving a comment below.

See at Amazon

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6 days ago

Samsung Pay finally lands in the UK

16

Samsung Pay makes its long-awaited debut in the UK.

Samsung Pay is finally going live in the UK. The app is now available to download from the Galaxy Apps Store, and is available on the Galaxy S8 and S8+, as well as the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. The Galaxy S6 and S6 edge are also eligible as long as they're running Nougat.

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6 days ago

Galaxy Note 8 once again rumored with dual cameras and 3x optical zoom

37

The Galaxy Note 8 will be the first Samsung phone with two cameras at the back.

Samsung tested dual rear cameras on the Galaxy S8, but the company is said to be saving the feature for the Galaxy Note 8. A rumor from last month stated that the phone may feature a 12MP wide-angle lens paired with a 13MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom, and a new report out of South Korea corroborates the claim.

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6 days ago

Sprint buyer's guide: Everything you need to know

Find out what Sprint has to offer.

Sprint may be fourth amongst America's top four carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint), but it's still a big player in the national wireless market, with nearly 60 million subscribers across the country. It was the first carrier to offer "truly unlimited" plans for data, which are still a cornerstone of its mobile business. Sprint operates a nationwide CDMA network in the 800,1900, and 2500 MHz frequency bands, and even combines the three to provide higher throughput with its "LTE Plus" service on certain devices and plans.

Sprint offers unlimited talk, text, and data plans that can be configured for individuals or with multiple lines added for families. They offer deals on the latest phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6.

Sprint has a lot to offer, so read on and find a plan that works for you!

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Best Individual Plans

All of Sprint's contract plans include unlimited talk, text, and data, which start as low as $50 a month for a single line. Sprint also offers prepaid plans for those looking to avoid annual contracts and wanting to avoid credit checks and late fees.

Unlimited plans

Sprint offers some of the most competitive pricing for Unlimited plans amongst the Big Four carriers, as it prominently displays on its website with a comparative graph. According to Sprint, you could get an unlimited plan for two lines at a better price than AT&T and Verizon's unlimited plans for just one line.

You can get a single line with unlimited data, talk, and text for $50 a month. That's before any taxes, fees, or device leasing costs, but it's still a great deal. Enjoy unlimited video streaming in 1080p and take advantage of 10GB of high-speed mobile hotspot access for your tablets and laptops.

Sprint's advertised prices do not include monthly surcharges, taxes, fees and other charges, which you can learn about on Sprint's website.

Learn more

Sprint Prepaid

Sprint offers prepaid plans for individuals and families, which start as low as $45 a month for unlimited talk and text and 3GB of high speed data, with a $5 discount per month for signing up for AutoPay. There's an option for unlimited data if that's important to you, for $60 a month with the AutoPay discount before surcharges and fees.

Prepaid plans include a free mobile hotspot (tethering), which you can use with tablets, laptops, or other Wi-Fi connected devices. There's no credit check required for a prepaid plan, and if you make 12 consecutive on-time payments, you can upgrade to a Sprint postpaid service with no credit check and upgrade to a new device with no activation fee.

Learn more

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Best Family Plans

Sprint offers an Unlimited Freedom family plan that gives you unlimited data, talk, and text for your family, along with 10GB of hotspot data per line for any tablets, laptops, and other connected devices you or your family may own.

Pricing starts at $60 a month for the first line, $40 for the second, and $30 for any additional lines added. Other monthly fees will be applied, including any lease agreements for new phones, and the advertised pricing includes Auto Pay discounts.

You may find a better deal just getting an Unlimited Plan, which offers four lines at $30 a month and offers much of the same features as Sprint's advertised family plan. Sprint will throw in a fifth line for free until June 30, 2017 for new accounts.

Sprint also offers prepaid plans for families which start at $100 a month for three lines and include unlimited talk and text and 3GB of high speed data. Prices will vary depending on how much data you require on each line.

Learn more

Best Phones

Sprint has a very particular network that doesn't let you bring your own device from another carrier, so your best bet will be buying your next phone through Sprint and paying for it on contract. The good news is that Sprint offers many of the latest and greatest Android phones:

If you plan on buying a phone from Sprint, you have a couple payment options to consider. If you have good credit, you can lease or buy the phone via monthly contracts with no money down — if you're still building your credit or have credit issues, you'll have to put money down on the phone (typically around $200). If you've got the cash to buy a phone outright, that option is also available.

If you opt to buy the phone outright or on a 24-month installment plan, Sprint often bundles accessories with its biggest selling phones. For example, if you were to get a Galaxy S8, you'd get a free "entertainment kit" for the Galaxy S8, which includes Samsung's Clear View Standing Cover along with a 64GB EVO+ memory card. Buy the LG G6 and Sprint will throw in a free Google Home.

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Best Deals on Sprint

Sprint has a section on its website with all of its latest deals, mostly for customers opening new accounts, subscribers upgrading their plans, and deals on leasing brand new devices.

As of May 2017, the best deals Sprint is offering include:

— Lease a Galaxy S8 and get a GS7 lease for free. With this deal, you're also eligible to upgrade your Galaxy S8 to the latest Galaxy phone after 12 lease payments. You'll also be entered to win a $5,000 Samsung shopping spree. — Sprints Unlimited plans. — Get a free 32GB iPhone 7 on an 18-month lease with a qualified trade-in and a new line activation. — Switch to Sprint and get a $100 Visa Prepaid Card for each line of activation. — Get 50% off the LG G6 — along with a free Google Home.

There are more deals to be had. Check out Sprint's site or head in-store to find out more information!

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How to cancel with Sprint

You can cancel your Sprint service at any time, but if you cancel it before your contract is done, you'll have to pay early termination fees on top of the balance remaining on your cell phone bill.

You may be able to get out of paying them if you don't think you received the service you paid for (might be your reason for cancelling), or sometimes your new carrier may have a deal to pay them on your behalf. Whichever way you deal with it, you are the one who is ultimately responsible for paying them.

You'll need to call Sprint Customer Service to cancel or change your plans. Call 1-888-211-4727 or dial *2 from a Sprint phone. When you get on the line, ask to speak to someone from the retention team. They may try to offer you deals to keep your business, but will also have the authority to cancel or change your service.

How to unlock a Sprint phone

Not all Sprint phones are available to be unlocked, and even when they can be unlocked, Sprint does not guarantee that they will be fully compatible with other networks. Only Sprint phones released after February 2015 are eligible for domestic unlocking. Of those, the only Android phones that are confirmed eligible for domestic SIM unlock on Sprint's website are the HTC One M9, LG G Flex2, Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, and Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. If your phone is not eligible for a domestic SIM unlock, Sprint may be able to provide a Master Subsidy Lock code.

To get your Sprint phone unlocked, your phone and/or Sprint account must meet the following criteria:

  • Your phone must be Domestic SIM Unlock capable.
  • The device must be or have been active on the Sprint network for a minimum of 50 days.
  • If you have any outstanding lease payments, bills, or early termination fees, you'll need to settle up with Sprint before it will unlock your device. Depending on your contract, you may need to buy out the remaining cost of your Sprint phone.
  • Your Sprint account must be in good standing.
  • The phone hasn't been reported as lost or stolen, or 'otherwise flagged as ineligible to be unlocked'. Basically, as long as you can prove that it's yours and there's nothing sketchy about it, you should be good.

Sprint offers temporary unlocking for international travel — and most devices they sell are compatible. Same rules apply above, except the phone must be currently active on a Sprint account. This will allow you to use a SIM card from the country you're travelling to.

Even if Sprint unlocks your phone, Sprint will not guarantee its phones will operate on another network. You may get limited functionality, such as voice services but no data services. It's the risk you run when you buy through Sprint.

Sprint does partner with a wide variety of alternative carriers. They use Sprint's network, which allows you to easily bring your own Sprint device over to their carrier.

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Finding an alternative carrier that uses Sprint's network

Sprint offers its network up to a whole bunch of alternative carriers. Alternative carriers — also known as MVNOs — work by partnering with one or more of the Big Four carriers to piggyback on their networks. This allows them to offer better deals to consumers without needing to worry about infrastructure upkeep.

They've become increasingly reliable over the years and offer the cheapest plans in the mobile industry. There are 26 MVNOs that operate on Sprint's network, including Boost Mobile, Straight Talk, Project Fi and Virgin Mobile USA.

Learn More

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6 days ago

May security patch rolls out to the Galaxy S8 and S8+ in India

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May 2017 security patch is now live for the Galaxy S8 in India.

Samsung has started rolling out the May 1, 2017 security patch to the Galaxy S8 and S8+ in India. The update comes in at 613.25MB, and aside from the May security patch, there doesn't seem to be anything else that's new (at least from a user-facing standpoint).

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6 days ago

Verizon's Galaxy S8 picks up update to fix red tint display issue

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Verizon is the latest carrier to roll out an update to fix the red tint issue on the Galaxy S8.

Verizon has started rolling out an update to the Galaxy S8 and S8+ that fixes the red tint display issue. After installing the update, you'll be able to fine-tune the colors by adjusting the display settings to eliminate the red tint.

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