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1 month ago

Camera comparison: Google Pixel XL vs. Galaxy S7 edge

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Google Pixel XL vs. Galaxy S7 edge

Google has made a huge stride in camera quality, but can it take on Samsung head to head?

Though Google's new Pixel phones have seriously impressive imaging that put its previous Nexus phones to shame, we have to remember that before they arrived it was well-observed that Samsung led the pack with the camera on the Galaxy S7 edge (and of course Galaxy S7 and Note 7).

Now that we've had a Pixel for a little while, it was only natural to compare it head-to-head with the camera that is leading the pack among all Android phones. Here's how the camera experience on the Pixel XL and Galaxy S7 edge compare.

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1 month ago

Android Pay no longer works if you unlock your bootloader, and that's a good thing

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Android Pay

Yes, Google has blocked Android Pay if you unlock your bootloader. My biggest question about it all is 'why did it take so long?'

Quietly and without any fanfare, Google disabled the ability for Android Pay to make payments on phones with unlocked bootloaders; landing in line with its previously held policy of not allowing rooted phones to access the payment system. It's frustrating to some, but it's the right move and it's in line with Google's vision for the security of its platform and services.

Android, as built by Google and not modified or having native security features disabled, is really secure. Security chief Adrian Ludwig speculates that one day we'll see U.S. presidents use Android (thanks, Obama) because it's safe and you have complete control over where and how your data is shared. But all that goes away once you start changing settings, enable USB communication or unlock your bootloader.

An unlocked bootloader is not secure, and when money is involved security is paramount.

It can be frustrating for a power user or enthusiast, but it's time we realize that Android is not built just for us. It's built for everyone — including people who may have unlocked their bootloader without understanding the implications of it all. These are the people who need to be protected from something on their phone that might be able to get access to their bank account or credit card information.

This doesn't just protect the person with the unlocked bootloader, either. When a bank or card issuer has to eat the cost of a fraudulent charge, it doesn't happily consider it a fact of doing business — it wants to limit these instances as much as possible. Interest rates and service fees are how the banks and card issuers make money from us, and raising one or the other (or both) is what happens when the expenditures column get's bigger due to fraudulent charges from insecure systems. In some cases, the banks and card issuers just skip payment methods like Android Pay altogether before they get to that point. By keeping Android Pay from running on potentially compromised phones, it helps Google get more companies on board. For example, Chase took forever to join Android Pay — and there are plenty of other banks yet to join. Not doing everything possible to make the service secure would be a great way to scare them off and keep it from happening.

Thankfully, you don't have to unlock your bootloader to manually update your phone since you can sideload update packages if you're impatient. Maybe one day developers will make use of Android's native app data backup service so we won't have to use Titanium or something similar to keep our app data in place. In the meantime, if we unlock the bootloader we lose Android Pay. It's that simple.

Google's not trying to stop anyone from unlocking their phone's bootloader, nor is it trying to turn Android into something that's not "hacker friendly" (the good kind of hacker). We can still unlock the bootloader to root or to run a different version of Android or just because we want to, but we can't use Android Pay — a service owned by Google and never intended to be open — if we do it.

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1 month ago

Why I'm ready to ditch the Nexus 6P for the Pixel XL

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When your phone starts acting up, sometimes you have to live with it.

If you follow me on social media, you've likely read my complaints about my year-old Nexus 6P. Frankly, my "Really Blue" Pixel XL can't get here soon enough. I'm ready to throw Google's last Nexus device out the window. The frequent lag, the touch-input delay, the poor battery life—things seem to have taken a turn for the worse these last six months with the Nexus 6P as my daily driver. Every day with it is a lesson in patience.

The beginning of the end

The Nexus 6P's performance issues started several months ago, around the time I was covering Google I/O. I remember getting frustrated at how long it took to type anything with the Google Keyboard app. I'd tap a key and then it would take about five seconds for the interface to respond. Eventually, I'd type entire sentences and wait for the interface to catch up with my input. I'd pray the end result was accurate, and for the most part it was, but penning even simple text messages became a chore.

Then I started missing out on photo opportunities. The Nexus 6P's HDR processing became a slow crawler — a far cry from my first month with the device when it would take a mere second for the camera app to start up with a double-press of the Power button. The HDR was so slow to process that sometimes it would remain stuck and I'd lose the end result.

The HDR was so slow to process that sometimes it would remain stuck and I'd lose the end result.

I don't always have the luxury of standing around and waiting for the phone to finish what it's doing, so now I avoid taking photos with it altogether. There's a reason they call it pointing and shooting, but that's not something I am confident doing with the Nexus 6P in hand.

The 6P seemed to officially hit its edge after I updated to Nougat. Man, that was a bad idea. The touch input lag became worse, and now there are days where I'll press down the power button and the phone will take about 30 seconds to turn on the screen. What's worse: Despite the addition of Google's souped-up Doze mode, the phone hardly lasts through to the early afternoon without screaming for a charge. This is no way to live life with your smartphone.

Why don't you just factory reset, Flo?

This past year, I was deep in the throes of a major life event. Resetting my smartphone was simply not an option. I had phone numbers and message threads that had accumulated and I simply couldn't deal with attempting to backup all of that data. As it stands, Android's native backup abilities are still a bit half-baked, and I typically try to avoid having to attempt to restore anything precisely because it turns into a major project.

I tried a few other quick fixes instead. First, I cleared the system cache, so that I could remove any extra data leftover from the apps and APKs I had uninstalled. That didn't help. Then, I removed any memory-intensive applications, like Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and an app I absolutely adore, Should I Answer?, which blocks spam callers. That app runs in the background and cross references the phone number calling you with a massive database before it lets the call through. However, uninstalling it didn't help and I kept accidentally answering spam calls.

You shouldn't have to reset your phone to fix performance issues.

Finally, I went in and turned off Developer Options. I figured that was the culprit in the first place, but still, the phone suffers from severe slowdowns from time to time. Earlier this week, for instance, I was driving an hour to Sonoma County and the 6P's screen wouldn't turn on despite the fact that I had Google Maps in navigation mode. I could hear the turn-by-turn directions dictated through my car's stereo speakers, but I couldn't actually see the route ahead. I had to pull over and manually restart the phone by holding down the power and volume up buttons. This is about the third time I've done this in six months. It's really distracting to have your phone acting up while you're driving.

The time for Pixel is now

No typical smartphone user wants to think about resetting their phone to make it run smoothly—especially after only a year with it as a daily driver. For some users, the mere thought of doing so is incredibly overwhelming.

Earlier this year, I managed to convince my mother to take the Nexus 6P for a test drive while she was overseas. She loved it; she loved the look of stock Android and how much bigger the phone was than her Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. However, I can't imagine what she'd do if she were having the same problems as me. My mom isn't savvy enough to do the kind of troubleshooting unless I carefully walked her through it. But frankly, no one should have to do that. This is what Google's attempting to say with its new line of smartphones. You shouldn't have to be a developer or a tinkerer to get your smartphone working when it's throwing a tantrum. It should simply work, even a year after you've taken it out of the box.

I still haven't factory reset the Nexus 6P because, at this point, I'm waiting for my Pixel XL to arrive. When it gets here, I can finally troubleshoot what's been going on with the 6P these past several months. Then, I'll do a fresh restart of Android 7.0 Nougat—or, hopefully, 7.1—and see if the phone is functioning any better. I don't want to write off the Nexus 6P yet because it's been quite the workhorse, but I am curious to see how Google's last Nexus device stacks up in the long run.

Your turn

How's your Nexus 6P holding up a year later? Is it chugging along, or just plain chugging? Let us know in the comments below!

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Google Store Verizon

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1 month ago

Google Pixel XL first impressions: MrMobile edition

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Eight years after the first Android phone hit shelves, the Google Pixel is here to solidify the concept of the "Google phone." Onboard: upgraded intelligence, heavily optimized software, and a camera that works with the gyroscope to produce insanely steady videos. From what Alex and Daniel are saying, it does a pretty bang-up job of redefining what an Android smartphone can be. But all that promise is wrapped up in a humdrum casing that looks unfinished at best and derivative at worst. What's more, the $649 price tag means this first-gen product needs to bring the heat if it wants to compete.

My full review in the coming days. In the meantime, join me for some initial impressions following a day on the streets of Shanghai with the Google Pixel XL

While you wait, why not catch up on Android Central's reviews of the Pixel and Pixel XL:

Get social with MrMobile

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Google Store Verizon

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1 month ago

Google's control of Pixel updates isn't great for everyone

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The value of carrier updates is sometimes overlooked.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Updates straight from Google = good. Updates that go through carriers, which have to pass certain quality control and network performance tests and are therefore mired in delays and bugs = bad.

That's the story that we often tell people, directly or indirectly, and as a straight narrative it's largely true. But like any narrative in this world, there is nuance. To explain, I'll tell you a story.

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1 month ago

Daily Briefing: Obama burns Samsung and Pixels burn wallets

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Thanks, Obama — for making the Android Central News Briefing, October 20, 2016.

There are many things we like to see: puppies, hot coffee and croissants together, and the release of our favorite new devices in the wild. The Pixel and Pixel XL are now making their way to customers around the world, and we're excited to see what people think.

But don't forget the Moto Z Play, which is also available for $200 less than the Pixel, and you get a pretty great experience, too.

Mainly, I'm just happy that this weekly cadence of phone releases is calming down so I can get back to writing the great Canadian novel, Drake's BlackBerry.

With that, here's today's top stories!

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1 month ago

Here's what you need to know about LeEco

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The brand you've never heard of is going to be everywhere soon.

While LeEco is a relative unknown in Western markets, it has a huge presence in China and India. The company is now making its foray into the U.S. with the mid-range Le Pro3 and the budget Le S3 phones, which offer enticing specs at attractive prices. Crucially, both phones eschew the traditional 3.5mm port for USB-C audio.

LeEco has ambitions that go far beyond phones, which is why the company bought TV maker Vizio earlier this year. The company also makes its own lineup of TVs, and will start selling them directly to customers in the country through its LeMall online store. The brand started out as a video streaming service and is often dubbed the "Netflix of China" even though it started investing in original programming three years before the launch of Netflix.

LeEco's diverse content portfolio is the main reason for its acquisition of Vizio, as the move gives the Chinese brand a foothold in the U.S. market for its streaming, internet TV, and cloud-based services. The acquisition allows Vizio to expand its global presence by leveraging LeEco's distribution and localised content streaming services.

LeEco isn't just into phones and TVs either. The vendor debuted an autonomous electric car called the LeSEE earlier this year, and has invested in California-based electric car maker Faraday Future. To date, these are the segments LeEco is doing business in: smartphones, smart TVs, video streaming, music streaming, live sports broadcasts, film production, cloud storage, electric cars, smart bikes, and even real estate.

Here's what you need to know about LeEco.

Le phones

LeEco's first phones in the U.S. market are the Le Pro3 and the Le S3. The $399 Le Pro3 goes up against the OnePlus 3, Honor 8, ZTE Axon 7 and Moto Z Play, offering high-end internals in a brushed-metal chassis.

The $249 Le S3 has a similar metal build and premium design, but is powered by the Snapdragon 652 instead of the Snapdragon 821 in the Le Pro3. The Le Pro3 and Le S3 go on sale in the U.S. starting November 2, but if you pre-order before then, you'll get a $100 rebate on either handset.

Both phones come with the company's EUI custom ROM, which has several customizations. There isn't a traditional app drawer, and the quick toggles are accessed from the recent apps menu. EUI lets you alter the look and feel of the interface with bundled themes, and the app icons come with an unread count badge.

Category Le Pro3 Le S3 Operating System Android 6.0.1
EUI customizations Android 6.0.1
EUI customizations SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 RAM 4GB 3GB Storage 64GB 32GB Display 5.5-inch 1920x1080 (403 ppi)
Gorilla Glass 5.5-inch 1920x1080 (403 ppi)
Gorilla Glass Rear Camera 16MP, PDAF
4K video 16MP
4K video Front camera 8MP, 1.4-micron pixels 8MP Battery 4070 mAh 3000 mAh Charging USB-C
Quick Charge 3.0 USB-C
Quick Charge 3.0 Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1 Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes Waterproofing No No Colors Grey, Gold Grey, Gold, Rose gold Dimensions 151.4 x 73.6 x 7.37 mm 151.1 x 74 mm x 7.37 mm Weight 177 g 153.1 g


LeEco is able to sell phones for ridiculously low prices as it doesn't rely on hardware to drive profits. The brand sees phones, TVs, and even cars as delivery systems for its digital content platform. To this end, the manufacturer rolled out a free hardware day in China earlier this year, where it gave away phones, TVs, and accessories for free to those buying content subscriptions. LeEco is committing to what it calls the "ecosystem era", wherein hardware is irrelevant and consumers rely on content services to derive value from a particular device.

In 2015, LeEco managed to sell a modest 3 million handsets, but is forecasting 15 million sales this year.

Le Pro3 and Le S3 hands-on

Digital content ecosystem

In China, LeEco draws over 350 million monthly users for its digital content services, with the brand offering over 10,000 TV shows and 5,000 movies. The company started out as a video streaming service, but has since branched out into music, live sports, film production, and cloud storage over the course of the last five years. All of LeEco's content services are bundled into a single package dubbed the EcoPass in the U.S. A highlight of the subscription is access to LeEco Drive, which gives you 5TB of cloud storage.

LeLive

As the name suggests, LeLive delivers live TV to your phone. You can access live programming by selecting the "Live" button in the center of the home screen dock. The channels that you'll be able to view are tailored for your region, and LeEco is also planning to offer live streaming from music festivals around the world.

In the U.S., LeEco will deliver content from Showtime, MGM, Sling, Machinima, Magnolia Pictures, Mitú, Vice, Lionsgate, MGM, The Travel Channel, and Awesomeness TV. Amazon Video, Hulu, Netflix, and HBO are all missing from the platform, but with the service just getting started off, it is possible LeEco will add more partners in the coming weeks and months.

LeEco also has a video aggregation service called LeView, which offers a curated YouTube feed with a smattering of content from LeEco's partners. Then there's LeVidi, which lists all the on-demand content available.

Smart TVs

LeEco sold 2.85 million TVs in China last year, earnings $86 million on sales of $2 billion. The brand debuted four TVs in the U.S., including the 85-inch uMax85 4K TV with HDR (HDR10 and Dolby Vision), Harman Kardon speakers, 4GB of RAM, and a 64GB SSD that lets you store content locally. The uMax85 will cost $4,999, but you can get a $1,000 rebate if you enroll in the company's LeRewards user feedback program.

Aside from the uMax 85, LeEco is launching three TVs in the 4K Super4 line: the X43 Pro, X55, and the X65. All three TVs feature Harman Kardon speakers, 3GB of RAM, 32GB SSD, and HDR. You'll be able to buy the TVs from LeMall.

Furthermore, the Vizio acquisition will allow LeEco to get its content ecosystem on the second-largest TV manufacturer in the country. With most of its ecosystem bets envisaged for the long-term, the TV business is one of few areas where LeEco is making profits right now.

Le Vision Pictures

Le Vision Pictures is the sixth-largest film distributor in China, and the production house has financed and distributed several Hollywood movies in China, including * The Expendables* franchise. The studio is now co-producing The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon. The production house has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles.

Le Music

Le Music is LeEco's music streaming service. In India, the service is powered by Hungama, a local streaming provider that offers a catalog of 9.5 million songs. The catalog is much more extensive in China, where it is one of the largest streaming services available. No word as of now regarding U.S. availability, but we should know more shortly.

LeSports

LeEco has invested nearly $1.35 billion in LeSports, with the venture now valued at $3.3 billion. The service has exclusive streaming rights to the Chinese Super League for two years, a three-year deal with the Major League Baseball to stream baseball games in China and Hong Kong, and live broadcast rights to the English Premier League in Hong Kong until 2019. LeSports also has broadcast rights from FIFA, UEFA, the ATP, NFL, and the NCAA.

Faraday Future and Aston Martin

LeEco is also a major investor in Faraday Future, and the platform developed by the California company for its EV will be used by LeEco in the LeSEE.

Earlier this year, LeEco partnered with Aston Martin to roll out the Internet of the Vehicle in-car infotainment system. The brand is also working with the luxury car maker over the development of the RapidE electric vehicle, which will offer a power output equivalent to 1000bhp.

While LeEco is betting big on electric vehicles, some have questioned whether the brand will be able to deliver a consumer-ready vehicle given the sheer amount of money it takes to develop a car from the ground-up. Even if there's no clear timeline as to when we'll see an electric car from LeEco, the company has done a remarkable job of vertically integrating its services in such a short period of time.

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1 month ago

Google Pixel and Pixel XL now officially on sale

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No pre-ordering required, go get the latest from Google today.

We watched, we waited and we may have even salivated ... but today is the day the Pixel and Pixel XL are actually on sale. No more pre-order nonsense or wondering when they would actually ship. Depending on which model exactly you want, you can pick up the phone today and start using it right away.

Even if you're a bit pickier about which color, storage option and retailer you use, there are still choices out there that'll get you a Pixel very quickly.

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1 month ago

The Google Pixel review: Notes from a smaller phone

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The best small Android phone you can buy.

It's been a fun few days, what with unboxing the Pixel and trying to get to know it as quickly as possible.

And in that time, I've realized a few important things about the device, from its feel in the hand (great!) to the Assistant (WIP!) and everything in between. Andrew and Alex have each put their thoughts down on paper already, but since I'm the only one of the three to spend any length of the time with the smaller Pixel so far, it's a good opportunity to give my less formal take on this new phone.

More: Google Pixel specs

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1 month ago

HTC 10 second opinion: Six months later

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It's time to revisit the best Android-powered phone of 2016 that nobody wanted to buy, the HTC 10.

The HTC 10 is extremely responsive, has the best touchscreen we've ever used, has acceptable battery life, and comes with a very competitive camera. On top of it all is the best third-party Android offering of them all according to the majority of original reviewers (and obviously biased users) and world-class audio playback through the headphone jack. Yet it hardly made a dent in the market.

Looking back it's not hard to see why — it was priced the same as phones from Samsung most people felt were just better. Unfortunately, making a great phone that is in many ways better than the competition isn't enough, and you need to slash your prices to move phones that don't have one of two company logos on the back in 2016. That's a shame because it means that many of us didn't take the time to look at the HTC 10, and we missed out because of it.

Which brings us back to the HTC 10. If you've been using it you know how nice it is, even today, after many subsequent releases. For everyone else, let's take a look at how it's weathered.

The hardware, six months later

The hardware on the HTC 10 has been proven to be both physically durable and able to hold up well while using it to do normal day-to-day things that can often adversely affect the performance of some phones. You don't really need the quarterly factory reset to keep things running smoothly, and six months of being carried around in a laptop bag with a set of headphones — the HTC 10 is my primary audio player — haven't scratched its metal chassis beyond a few surface abrasions.

The HTC 10 is not thin and it's not light. But it feels great to hold.

To quickly revisit, the HTC 10 has an aluminum unibody with a 5.2-inch display. It's not thin and it's not light. There's also a front-mounted fingerprint sensor, capacitive buttons, and a 12 MP camera that DXOMark rated the same quality as the Galaxy S7 if you're into numbers to describe quality.

Under the hood is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 with 4GB of RAM and the magic needed to provide USB 3.1 and Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 through the USB-C port on the bottom. This means the HTC 10 is not USB-C compliant and contributes to the confusion surrounding a simple set of USB standards that companies have set aside in favor of proprietary methods and the accompanying licensing dollars.

There is also a headphone jack. And it's a shame that we even have to mention that.

See the HTC 10s full specifications

What's not there are "waterproofing" and wireless charging. These were once written off as gimmicks when certain phones didn't include them but now are called essential since they appear on popular models. I have no idea if either is important in the overall scheme of things, but I do like wireless charging and wish it was there.

HTC followed the same path they've been on since the HTC One M7.

HTC also changed Boomsound. The two front facing speakers have been replaced with a single speaker around the front and a bottom-ported speaker that plays lower frequency sounds. I like the change, many do not. The raw volume we had with the M7 through the M9 has been replaced by a sound that's clearer and more separated without the distortion that came with the previous models. It's very different, and it's easy to see why fans of one aren't fond of the other.

In general, HTC followed the same plan of building a good smartphone they've used since the HTC One M7: Tough industrial design (HTC is the father (mother?) of the antenna band), larger bezels, and an unapologetic thicker profile with bevels and swelling in the places needed to feel like you have a good grip.

If you want the thinnest and lightest phone you can buy, you just aren't going to like the HTC 10. But if you're OK with something a little more chunky designed to be easier to grip and hold on to, you might. Either way, you can expect it to still look good after six months of normal use.

Six months of HTC software

Here is where things usually aren't quite so shiny and happy. Android phones can do a whole lot of things and they have a whole lot of settings and a whole lot of apps. Combined, this often leads to sluggish performance over time that can only really be fixed with a factory reset. I hate resetting my phone and setting it up all over again, and I assume most of us feel the same way. That's why I'm really happy that the HTC 10 hasn't shown any problems here.

The software is lean and fast, but sparse on the feature side.

I'll go out on a limb and say this is because of the operating system. HTC builds this version of Sense more like a themed version of "vanilla" Android than a complete custom job with overhead cams and dual exhaust. While there are some overlapping apps — HTC uses their own dialer software and contacts app for instance — the basic software feels a lot like what you could get from a Nexus phone with a third-party launcher and a handful of apps from Google Play.

If you're just interested in using your phone for smartphone stuff like messaging or social media with a few phone calls thrown in along with on-the-go web browsing and some simple games, you would probably love it. If you want your phone to be able to do more or if your phone is your primary entertainment and information device, you might not. Including the right amount of the best bells, whistles, and gimmicks is hard because no two people are the same.

What I want may not work for you, and vice-versa. HTC does a good (not great) job here for me, and I'll dare say they do it better than anyone else has so far. That means it is not going to be great for a lot of other people. Think simple, beautiful, and functional all at once and you'll have an idea if what using the HTC 10 is like. Only you know if that sounds like something you want.

There are a couple of misses, though. The Boost+ app pairs a few really good features with the ridiculous notion that killing off background processes for no reason is a good thing. There are undoubtedly a few models of Android-powered phones that need random junk in the background shut down. The HTC 10 is not one of those.

I also absolutely hate the TouchPal keyboard and the seemingly endless things it needs updating from Google Play. That's easy enough to fix, but I find it odd that the lightest factory software is paired with the most bloated keyboard you can imagine. And I think HTC should have included a stand-alone gallery app in tandem with Google Photos for people who would rather not use it. The latter two of my gripes are minor and likely not the popular opinion, but I think everyone can agree that Boost+ needs to die.

Six months later, the HTC 10 feels the same when I'm using it as it did when it was new. Granted I'm not the type of person who wants (or needs) their phone to act as a phone, a tablet, a portable PC, a game console, and a movie player. I think I could do all those things on the phone, but I have no idea how well it would fare after a few months of it. Hopefully, someone can chime in down below in the comments here.

Six months of great music

One thing I do most all day every day is listening to music. When I'm not in front of my messy stereo setup I have at my office desk I'm doing it through my HTC 10.

There's a very short list of phones that deliver really good audio with a set of quality headphones. The HTC 10 is on that list, I can't rank which phone is better when it comes to the sound (the LG V10, ZTE Axon 7, Xiaomi Mi Note and the HTC 10 are all great) but when it comes down to which one I want to use there is no contest. Like everything else you can do on the HTC 10, the software gets out of your way while you're listening to your music and is quietly there when you need it. I had been using the LG V10 as my music player and pocket camera previously and was able to tolerate LG's heavy-handed approach to Android whenever I needed to do anything else. With the HTC 10, I don't feel like I have to fight the software.

You'll love the way your music sounds through a pair of good headphones.

Since Android's beginnings, I've always felt that it would be perfect for a fully connected high-end music player. I've never had the pleasure of using a top of the line Sony Walkman with Android on it (Dan, buy me a Sony Walkman please) but if I were to remove the phone abilities from the HTC 10 it would be very close to what I've envisioned. That's basically how I use it every day — with my Project Fi data-only SIM. I have used it when traveling (the 10 and an unlimited T-Mobile account are my go-to when far from home) because I can have my great sounding music, my calendar, my address book, Google Maps and everything else all in one unit.

Six months of heavy use here and I still love the way the HTC 10 sounds. I'm sure things have burned in a little and it sounds different than it did when it was new, but not in any way I can notice. I'm listening to some Parliament Funkadelic right now while I'm writing this on my porch with my Chromebook Flip, and P-Funk sounds as good as it ever did.

Other stuff that's important

There are some other things we need to talk about that just don't fill out their own section. Important things, though.

The display is a great LCD. That means it's not as bright, it's not as saturated, and not as poppy as an AMOLED display. I seriously think this is the single biggest thing that held the HTC 10 back — sitting on the shelf at the AT&T store beside a Galaxy S7 that's the same price makes the screen look bad. Nobody wants to spend money on a bad screen, even if it's not really bad. LCDs just don't look as appealing as AMOLED to most of us (myself included). All that aside, the display is clear, has great viewing angles and is very close to being color-correct on the couple of HTC 10s I've seen. They just don't have that punch and look washed out compared to the amazing screens from Samsung.

The HTC 10 is a great phone for folks who want a clean, elegant, and simple experience. People who want more should look elsewhere.

Nothing stands out when it comes to battery life. It's not terrible nor does it make me want to say it's amazing. It lasts as long as most other phones I have here, give or take an hour or two. If you're going to be depending on it during a long day, bring a charger or a battery pack. You might not need it, but better safe than sorry.

Phone calls and network connection are great everywhere I've been except where I live when using T-Mobile. On AT&T, (I'm using the unlocked model) it's great. From what I gather from various sources, network features on T-Mobile are in a bit of a limbo, especially in areas where they are repurposing the older 2G network — like where I live. I don't know all the details but have gathered enough to say this is why T-Mobile quietly stopped selling it. Since I'm not using it as a phone when I'm home, I can deal with it. You might not have that luxury so be on the lookout if you pick one up and use T-Mobile. I just wish whoever needs to fix it will sort it out.

More: HTC 10 review

I like the camera. The automatic mode does great in low-light, and the manual modes are topped only by the LG V10. Samsung's GS7 is superior when things are well lit, but any of these three cameras can take great pictures that are more than good enough to share on social media or with family and friends, and absolutely acceptable to be ready to grab a once-in-a-lifetime moment and do it well enough that you'll want to keep it.

Some final thoughts

I think the HTC 10 is the best phone made in 2016. Everything there is done the way I like it, and other than wireless charging I really don't care about the things that may be missing. On the software front, the phone is super responsive and sits with the LG G5 at the top of the pile when it comes to how fast apps will open and switch to the foreground. The audio is better than most anything else you'll be able to buy and the camera matches well against all the competition.

But I'm not the only person buying phones. It's easy to see why it was outclassed in the minds of many, and why it didn't seem to be worth the asking price. You have to decide what kind of smartphone user you are to know if the HTC 10 could be right for you. If you enjoy a simple experience that does what it was designed to do very well, it might be worth a look when the inevitable price drop after CES and MWC happens next spring. But if you're looking for more and don't mind an experience that's a bit more complicated and cluttered (because it has to be) while filled with many more features, the HTC 10 will never be for you.

HTC 10

HTC Best Buy Verizon Sprint

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1 month ago

Le Pro3 and Le S3 hands-on: Welcome to the U.S., LeEco

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LeEco Le Pro3 and Le S3

LeEco is trying to make its case in the U.S., starting with inexpensive phones attached to a massive ecosystem.

We've seen LeEco phones before, mostly in Asia and India, but now the company is branching out to North America with its latest "ecophones," the Le Pro3 and Le S3. The pair of 5.5-inch phones are supposed to be a one-two punch to get U.S. consumers introduced to the LeEco brand and excited about the value it provides with devices that have really solid specs at impressive prices.

We've seen countless phones come from Chinese companies at mid-range value-oriented prices before, but LeEco is hoping to differentiate itself with software, services and an ecosystem that only a company of its size can provide. Let's take a look at the front-end smartphone hardware that brings it all together.

Le Pro3

As the name suggests, the Le Pro3 is the higher-end of the two phones, coming in at $399 to directly compete with the likes of the OnePlus 3, Honor 8, ZTE Axon 7 and others. And unsurprisingly the Le Pro3 looks very similar hardware-wise to these other Chinese phones — the OnePlus 3 and Huawei Mate 8, in particular, come to mind when I look at this brushed metal rectangle. (The difference, in my short time using the Le Pro3, is that the OnePlus 3 seems to be better executed.)

More: LeEco Le Pro3 and Le S3 specs

The 5.5-inch 1080p phone has no real design flair, but is instead a simple blank vessel to carry high-end specs that look great on paper: a Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a massive 4070 mAh battery (with Quick Charge 3), a one-touch fingerprint sensor and a 16MP rear camera can all be found inside.

The metal itself is simple and coated with a high-gloss sheen that separates it from the Le S3's more raw aluminum look, and aside from the capacitive buttons below the screen nothing actually stands out about the hardware design. Unless the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack is considered standing out at this point.

The internals of the Le Pro3 are incredibly impressive, particularly for a $399 phone, but beyond that value there really isn't much to be said about the looks or feel. This isn't a phone you're going to be particularly proud to show off as much as you'll just be happy to fit in with the crowd of other metal slab phones.

Le S3

At a glance, the Le S3 doesn't seem at all like a cheaper phone than the Le Pro3. It has nearly the same dimensions as the Le Pro3, the same quality of screen and a similar metal build that lacks the reflective coating of the more expensive phone but actually feels better to me. Of course LeEco cut back on the internals to hit a $249 price point — a slower Snapdragon 652 processor, along with less ram (3GB) and storage (32GB) than the Pro3. The Le S3 also has a lower-quality screen glass that isn't sculpted as nicely on the edges, and is missing other fringe features like NFC.

Despite the shortcomings when compared to the Le Pro3, the Le S3 still offers a compelling set of hardware for $249, much in the same way that the Honor 5X did earlier this year. You're getting solid internals and a much nicer build and design than most of the phones you can pick up in this price range. From that standpoint, the Le S3 is a bit more interesting than the Le Pro3 that has more competition at $399.

A common vision: The ecosystem

LeEco Le S3

Though there are differences in internals and small tweaks of design between the two that lead to a solid difference in price, both the Le Pro3 and Le S3 are clearly here to accomplish the same goal: get LeEco's software and ecosystem to you as simply as possible. Both of the phones run a customized version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow that is simple, clean and heavily focused on LeEco's content.

The goal is to get you viewing LeEco's video content.

Permanently placed in the center of the home screen dock is a "Live" button that takes you directly to LeEco's live TV app. Above it, you'll find the Le, LeVidi and LeView apps to give you access to various bits of LeEco's content library. A swipe to the right on the home screen sends you to the live feed of the Le app showing you everything happening in the world of LeEco. That's A LOT of LeEco to take in, and it's all right there waiting for you to consume.

Of course you can install a new launcher, uninstall the Le series of apps and skip all of that, but that's not really what LeEco expects people to do. If you were to remove that set of apps, there isn't so much compelling about the Le Pro3 in particular ... you can get very similar internals and better external hardware for the same money in a OnePlus 3, while also getting a better overall software experience.

The hardware on offer for the money with the Le Pro3 and Le S3 is extremely impressive, but that hardware clearly isn't the end game for LeEco. We'll have to see how its apps, services and content library stack up as a true value-add to these phones that can make them appealing overall devices.

More: LeEco has to prove its content-first strategy is worth our time

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1 month ago

LeEco has to prove its content-first strategy is worth our time

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Without its content offerings, the LeEco Le Pro3 is just another cookie-cutter smartphone.

How does a manufacturer make its generic-looking smartphones enticing to the general populace? For LeEco, the answer is stuffing its first two U.S. smartphone releases with an abundance of internet TV channels and what seem to be direct-to-video movie releases.

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1 month ago

Leaked slide deck reveals Xiaomi Mi Note 2 specs

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We're less than a week out from Xiaomi's Mi Note 2 event, and ahead of the official unveil, the purported slide deck for the phone has leaked on Weibo, giving us a look at the specs on offer.

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1 month ago

Nougat soak test underway for the Moto G4 Plus in Brazil

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Motorola published the list of devices that will be updated to Nougat earlier this month, stating that the Moto G4 and the Moto Z would receive the update first. The company is now kicking off the Nougat soak test for the Moto G4 Plus in Brazil, with the update coming in at 953MB.

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1 month ago

Should you buy the Google Pixel in India?

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The Pixel and Pixel XL are well-crafted devices that showcase the best of Android. But can Google convince Indian buyers to pay up?

Google has partnered with handset manufacturers over the years to create the Nexus lineup of phones and tablets, but this year, the company is putting forth its own vision of a high-end Android phone with the Pixel and Pixel XL. The phones feature a minimalist design backed by an excellent camera, a vibrant AMOLED display, Snapdragon 821, and all-day battery life. By controlling both the hardware and software side of things, Google has managed to deliver a superior software experience that isn't found on any other Android phone today.

Even though the phones aren't loaded with features — there's no microSD slot, OIS, or waterproofing — they excel at showcasing Android's potential. Google has baked its AI-powered Google Assistant into the phones, and several features will remain exclusive to the Pixel range, like unlimited photo and video backup that includes 4K video. If you're looking for the best that Android has to offer, this is it.

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