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1 month ago

Video: HTC U Ultra + U Play first impressions!


Just a week removed from the end of CES, we already have our first major Android launch of 2017 — from HTC. The Taiwanese company has just unveiled the HTC U Ultra and U Play — a pair of new phones pitched as "flagship" devices.

But while both pack the same impressive metal-and-glass construction, the Ultra is the handset you'll want to get more excited about. It's got top-tier internals, an upgraded version of the camera from the HTC 10, Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box and AI smarts thanks to the new "Sense Companion." It's early days for both these phones: so early, in fact, that HTC isn't allowing live hands-on video. But we're still able to give you an early sneak peek at both phones. You'll find everything you need to know compressed into four minutes in our first look video!

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1 month ago

Android's progress lives and dies by Samsung


Google makes Android, but Samsung increasingly owns Android. And that's a problem for updates.

In Canada, we have seasons. It's currently winter, and therefore cold. Not so cold, but enough to change the snow to rain and back again, and it's been doing a fair amount of both lately.

But aside from cold hands and wet feet, this type of weather isn't great for most Android phones, and only one in my lineup right now is IP68 water resistant: the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. But as wonderful and beautiful as that phone is — and despite the presence of a Micro-USB, it's barely aged a day — its success is actively being undermined by the fact that it's running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, and has been since I got it in March.

The problem

More than ever Google's Android strategy is permanently and inextricably aligned with Samsung's

With Samsung officially rolling out Nougat to its GS7 lineup, the time is ripe for talking about how much influence the company has over how Android's update-reliant fragmentation is seen by the world. But this is not just about Samsung's flagships, either. No, looking at this month's Android version distribution numbers, it occurred to me that more than ever Google's Android strategy is permanently and inextricably aligned with Samsung's as long as the former develops the OS for free and the latter keeps building the world's most popular phones on top of it.

And while we've heard rumors for years that Mountain View will take Android updates into its own hands, the most likely scenario is one that's playing out already: Google releasing annual updates to its Pixel line and keeping those running the latest version of its mobile OS for as long as possible.

In the meantime, it's hard to look at the paucity of phones out there running Nougat without levelling some of the blame directly at Samsung. While the Korean giant has certainly had a tough few months, potentially pushing back the release of Android 7.0 for its non-exploding phones, there's no question Samsung has a dubious track record for expeditious updates. A flick of the switch on a couple of generations of handsets would singlehandedly quintuple the number of phones running the latest version of Android.

It's going on six months since Android 7.0's official release on Nexus devices.

This time, Samsung did do things a little differently by offering a public (though hard-to-sign-up-for) beta of Nougat for the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, but as valuable as such a process will be to the overall stability and performance of the phone's eventual release candidate, it will be nearly a full year after Android N was announced, and going on six months since Android 7.0's official release on Nexus devices.

The cold hard data

Even though Samsung begins its Nougat trickle next week, it will be months before all 50 million or so units get it — the majority will have been sold through carrier channels, most of whom perform their own extensive quality control — and many of those may receive the older Android 7.0 instead of the more recent Android 7.1.1. Again, this is nothing new. But based on new data from Kantar WorldPanel, Samsung's latest phones captured 28.9% of holiday sales, sitting closely behind the iPhone as the most popular devices in the U.S. That's millions of phones unboxed during the busiest season of the year running year-old Android software.

That same data from Kantar claims Google's Pixel phones accounted for just 1.3% of the smartphones sold in the same period, and more than half of that business was done from a single carrier, Verizon. Most people in the U.S. still buy their phones through carriers, and thanks to the longevity of hardware, last-generation devices are still being offered at tremendous discounts to people who just want something that works.

Devices like the Galaxy A and Galaxy J are the devices sold and forgotten, never receiving the upgrades us early adopters so crave.

Moving down the line, Samsung's A and J series are competent devices that, according to IDC, comprise the majority of the company's smartphone shipments every quarter. These are the devices sold and forgotten, never receiving the upgrades us early adopters so crave. But the longer replacement cycle of smartphones coupled with the fact that Samsung has little incentive to invest the considerable engineering time to even issue security updates to those entry-level and mid-range phones, let alone the updated Android code, means that we'll likely see slower uptake of Google's latest Android versions unless the cycle is broken. Same goes for older flagships like the Galaxy S6, Galaxy S5 — even the Galaxy S4, which Verizon still sells — which are still being purchased in the millions.

This isn't really Samsung's fault, either. The company has a right to support or neglect its phones as it sees fit, and millions of customers are obviously speaking with their wallets by continuing to purchase Galaxys over competing Android devices, most of which have better update track records. But that Android's long-term health is so caught up in Samsung's own update strategy can't sit well with Google, and the Pixel's modest success hasn't, and likely won't for some time, positively impact Mountain View's own desire to get the Platonic ideal into as many pockets as possible.

Well, I guess there's always next year.

Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge

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1 month ago

Wileyfox unveils Swift 2 X with FHD display, Snapdragon 430 for £219


A larger Swift 2 Plus with a Full HD display.

Wileyfox has introduced the Swift 2 X, the third phone in the Swift family. The phone is now available for £219, and offers decent specs for the price in the form of a 5.2-inch Full HD display, Snapdragon 430 SoC, 3GB of RAM, 32GB storage, and a microSD slot.

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1 month ago

Samsung and LG may launch foldable phones this year


It's time to get excited about foldable screens.

After showcasing concepts for several years, it looks like Samsung may finally launch a phone with a foldable screen later this year. Citing anonymous sources, The Korea Herald states that Samsung is getting ready to launch 100,000 units of a phone that unfurls into a 7-inch tablet sometime in the third quarter of 2017. Apparently, Samsung was already working on fold-in screens — panels that fold inward — and it wasn't a major challenge for the vendor to switch to screens that fold outward.

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1 month ago

Stable Nougat OTA now hitting Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, starting with beta users


Android 7.0 Nougat is now making its way to the S7 and S7 edge.

After concluding the beta program last week, Samsung announced that it would roll out the stable Android 7.0 Nougat update to the Galaxy S7 and the S7 edge later this month. The company is now kicking off its rollout, with the update making its way initially to those enrolled in the Galaxy Beta Programme.

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1 month ago

HTC U Ultra + U Play hands-on: Hardware design isn't everything

HTC U Ultra and U Play

HTC keeps making really interesting phones, but will anyone care? I want to believe.

The question is asked every single time HTC releases any phone, from its mid-range Desire line up to the One (and now just numbered) flagships. HTC's phones always pack stunning designs, clean and fast software, a few neat ideas ... and usually a couple of odd decisions that throw people off. On the whole they're still good phones, though, so why doesn't anyone ever seem to care? Through a combination of factors the smartphone market has started to leave HTC behind. It's a big company that doesn't make products that often go head-to-head with the likes of Samsung and Apple, but at the same time are too expensive to compete with the scrappier competition from OnePlus, Moto and Huawei in the mid-range market.

HTC's grasp at a chunk of the 2017 smartphone market isn't a new phone in an existing line, but instead two phones in a brand new line with a fresh name. They are the HTC U Ultra and U Play, phones that are ostensibly all about "you" (get it now?), and independent from previous offerings. They're marked by a fresh design approach and the start of injecting artificial intelligence into HTC's software, and are designed to take on the flagship (U Ultra) and top-end of the mid-range (U Play) markets.

With a beautiful glass exterior, high-end specs and a couple of features aimed at grabbing interest, the U Ultra is getting out ahead of the other flagships expected to launch in a couple of months. The U Play, for its efforts, is targeting other more price-sensitive markets with a size and spec cut inside the same excellent chassis. Will the pair offer enough to make people start considering HTC again? We take a look at what they have to offer.

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1 month ago

HTC announces U Ultra and U Play: Beautiful glass back in two sizes with disparate spec sheets

HTC U Ultra and U Play

HTC is waiting less than two weeks into 2017 to launch two new phones.

At an event today in Taiwan, HTC unveiled its latest phones in a new line: the HTC U Ultra and U Play. The two models follow a familiar strategy for HTC, launching one high-end device and another in the same line with lower specs to target different audiences. To that point, the U Ultra is the phone we'll see here in the U.S. and around the world, while the U Play will see a much more limited release.

Both phones have a brand new design language for HTC, dominated by a curved full-glass back look it calls "liquid surface" and accented by clean metal accents and a muted front. The phones retain a front fingerprint sensor that doubles as a home button flanked by capacitive back and recents keys. You won't find a headphone jack on either phone, as HTC continues its high-quality USB-C audio story started with the HTC Bolt.

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1 month ago

HTC U Ultra specs: 5.7-inch QHD display, Snapdragon 821, 3000 mAh battery

HTC U Ultra

You should know every last spec you're getting in a new phone.

HTC's U Ultra is a big phone, with plenty of specs under its beautiful glass exterior. When it comes to what you expect from a high-end phone, you get it here: Snapdragon 821, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 5.7-inch QHD display covered by Gorilla Glass 5 and a top-end camera with big pixels and a fast aperture. It's all here, and more, in the full HTC U Ultra spec sheet.

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1 month ago

HTC U Play specs: 5.2-inch 1080p, MediaTek CPU, 16MP camera

HTC U Play

Stepping down in size but also internal specs.

The HTC U Play may retain the excellent external hardware of its larger sibling, but the internal specs are decidedly downmarket from the U Ultra. In order to cut down the price, the U Play moves to a MediaTek processor and in some cases 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. It also drops to a less-desirable 16MP camera, smaller battery and a 1080p display resolution.

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1 month ago

LG G6 teaser reveals large screen, compact body, and water resistance


LG's 2017 flagship will make its debut next month.

LG is slated to unveil the LG G6 next month at Mobile World Congress, and the company is starting to slowly trickle out information regarding the device ahead of its debut. In a teaser video, LG asks people to share their wish list for an ideal smartphone, and the replies include a big screen that's easy to use one-handed, water resistance, reliability, and a great camera. Unsurprisingly, the LG G6 will have all of those attributes.

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1 month ago

Latest Axon 7 Mini update brings VoLTE to more users, December security patch, and camera tweaks


Latest update brings a slew of features to the Axon 7 Mini.

Good news for those of you who recently nabbed an Axon 7 Mini. ZTE has announced a maintenance release for the device, namely a software update that will add VoLTE, Google security patches up to December, and camera enhancements. ZTE says that there are three different builds out right now and the one you have installed will affect the update you receive. For instance, those who were on build B16 have already received their VoLTE update through T-Mobile.

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1 month ago

How to get the Huawei Mate 9 at the best price using

How to get the Huawei Mate 9 at the best price using is a website with tons of products and their goal is simple: saving you money. By opting out of certain online "luxuries", you can end up spending less on your purchases.

Save money on the best big Android phone See more

The Huawei Mate 9 is the best big Android phone money can buy, and if you're in the market for Huawei's next flagship, why not save a little cash in process? Here's how!

How to get the best price on the Huawei Mate 9 with

Saving on the Mate 9 is simple; you just have to forego free returns and have your debit card handy.

  1. Add the Huawei Mate 9 to your cart. Then the savings start.
  2. Pay by debit card.
  3. Click to opt out of free returns. Don't worry, you can still return the phone — you'll just have to pay $5.99 plus 5% of the price of the phone.
  4. Click the option to do both for the most savings!

How does that save me money?

The way explains it is that free returns are actually built into the price of the item, so the return isn't, in essence, "free". You can still make a return, but you'll have to pay $5.99 plus 5% of the phone price.

Get the best price on the Huawei Mate 9 See more

As for paying with your debit card, companies have to pay a certain fee per credit card transaction — there is no fee when debit is used. So, no free returns and no credit card transaction fee means you save money on the best big Android phone around.

Get saving

Check out the Huawei Mate 9 on for the best price on the best big'un!

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1 month ago

Galaxy S7 dominates holiday sales, but Android loses ground to iOS in the U.S.


The iPhone is quickly on the way to dethroning Android's dominance in the U.S., though the platform continues to thrive overseas.

Via Recode, Kantar WorldPanel released data that shows the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, and the iPhone 6S accounted for about 31 percent of smartphone sales since Apple's flagship launched in September 2016.

Samsung's Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge were up next with 28.9 percent of sales, while Google's Pixel managed a meager 1.3 percent. KantarWorld Panel refers to the Pixel's numbers as "strong gains," but it's a wonder if it would have sold better had Verizon not confused consumers about its exclusivity.

It's worth noting that Big Red also made some gains over the holiday:

"Verizon booked nearly a quarter of all US smartphone sales during the Black Friday period, playing a vital role for all brands, including Apple and Samsung."

Despite the impressive sales of Samsung and Google's devices, Android's market share is slowly falling in the U.S. The platform has been on a consistent downturn for the past six quarters. It lost about five percent market share in the last year, though it still makes up about 55 percent of all U.S. smartphone sales.

Not surprisingly, Android is maintaining a strong presence in overseas markets, such as China. Chinese iPhone sales dipped below 20 percent during the same period, about five percent less compared to 2015. Kantar WorldPanel reports:

"Nearly 80% of all smartphones sold in Urban China during the three months ending November 2016 were Android, as local brands continued to dominate the market."

Huawei represented about 25 percent of all Android smartphone sales in China, though the iPhone 7 was the best-selling device in Urban China, dethroning the Oppo R9.

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1 month ago

Android Central Best of CES 2017 Awards!


AC's CES 2017 award winners are in!

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At this year's CES in Las Vegas, instead of one particular category standing out, we were impressed by a number of existing ones — and updates to old ideas.

But trends did emerge: the Internet of Things is, while still a meaningless generalization, filtering down to consumer products in meaningful ways, like with the NVIDIA Spot. And new takes on a wrist wearable, like the the Lofelt Basslet, feel designed for more specific, and invested audiences.

Still, it was the old form factors that won our hearts this year: the BlackBerry 'Mercury', in its late aughts glory, impressed us, as did the Samsung Chromebook Pro and ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom. All updates to tried-and-true designs, but great products nonetheless.

So without further ado, here are our awards for the best of CES 2017.

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1 month ago

Huawei's next flagship is coming at MWC 2017

Huawei logo

Huawei P10 likely to break cover in Barcelona.

Huawei has begun sending out "save the date" invites for its Mobile World Congress 2017 press conference, which kicks off on the afternoon of Sunday, February 26 in Barcelona, Spain. The invite promises "the global unveiling of a new flagship device" -- a surprising development perhaps, just a couple of months after the Mate 9's arrival.

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