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1 month ago

What is Bixby and is it like Google Assistant?

15

Bixby isn't a search engine. It's the Galaxy S8's live-in assistant.

Virtual assistants are all the rage, and with the success of services like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, it's no surprise that other companies want a go at it, too. Samsung's trying its hand in the AI space with the launch of Bixby, the virtual assistant that comes baked in the Galaxy S8 and S8+.

Unlike the competition, Bixby isn't a search engine. It's an assistant that's there to help you navigate through the phone itself. Samsung's invested quite a few resources into Bixby and its capabilities, and plans to make it a major part of the Galaxy S8's marketing story. If you're wondering what's in store, here's what we learned about Bixby from our brief time with it on Samsung's new flagship smartphone.

What Bixby aims to do

Bixby Home

Earlier this month, Samsung made a point to lay out what Bixby is and how it will live alongside the rest of the virtual assistants making headway in the tech world. Bixby was heralded as a "conceptually new philosophy to the problem [of virtual interaction]," Samsung wrote. "It is the machine that needs to learn and adapt to us."

"A conceptually new philosophy to the problem of virtual interaction."

That's a powerful statement, but that's exactly Bixby's aim: to learn what you like to do with your smartphone, and then adapt itself to cater to those particular actions. It's not a search engine like Google Assistant; it is an assistant, and it can navigate around your smartphone the way that you normally would with your own fingertips. Bixby will support almost every task you ask it to do, like cropping a photo, applying a filter, or sharing it with your favorite social network. Eventually, you'll be able to talk Bixby through your process without looking at the screen at all.

Bixby.

Bixby stands by in anticipation of your next command.

Bixby is also supposed to complete tasks, even if you don't shout out the entire command. The idea is that as it's learning what you do with your device, it's also learning how to stay three steps ahead in anticipating what's next. And if it doesn't understand everything that you asked, it can get you most of the way there instead of failing and asking you to try again.

What we've seen it do

Bixby's primary method of contact requires you to press and hold the physical "Bixby button," which resides on the left side of the Galaxy S8 and S8+ — essentially, your own "push to talk" for artificial intelligence. Samsung did say that Bixby would work with hot word detection, but most of the devices laid out for our demonstration were offline. Regardless, if you don't feel like drawing attention to yourself by shouting out "BIXBY!" in the middle of the grocery store, that's what the hardware button is for.

If you don't feel like shouting out "Bixby!", that's what the hardware button is for.

Bixby also offers its own live feed of sorts, akin to Google Now. It's a bit redundant alongside Google's offerings, though it does sort of lay out the kind of data it's aggregating on you. You can check in on things by scrolling to the left-most home screen of Samsung's launcher like you would on the Pixel Launcher. It's not entirely clear how Bixby pulls in all the information — whether it's hooking into apps, or whether it's only limited to the apps that have opted in — but we do know it looks at location data to find the context of where you are, to offer you actions based on whether you're at home or at work.

When is it available?

The bixby feed.

There is quite a bit of nuance behind Samsung's Bixby. We'll be curious to see how it fares against Google Assistant in the long run — particularly after millions of Galaxy S8 and S8+ phones are sold and Bixby gets put to use.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Main

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint

About

The Galaxy S8, and its larger sibling the S8+, are Samsung's top-end devices for 2017 meant to appeal to the general consumer and power user alike. The two phones are only differentiated by screen and battery size: 5.8 inches and 3000mAh, and 6.2 inches and 3500mAh.

The displays have a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio with a QHD+ resolution, meaning they're extra tall and narrow. Samsung moved to on-screen buttons and reduced bezel size dramatically in order to fit as much screen into the body as possible. That moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phones, where it sits somewhat-awkwardly next to the camera lens. Iris scanning makes its return in a new-and-improved version from the Note 7.

Though the batteries haven't increased in size from the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, the hope is that the improved efficiency of the new 10 nm processor inside will provide some help. The processor is backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Waterproofing and wireless charging are still here as well, plus a new USB-C port on the bottom. The rear camera is unchanged in terms of its 12MP sensor and f/1.7 lens, but has improved processing thanks to a new ISP and software.

Specs

Width Height Thickness 5.86 in
148.9 mm
2.68 in
68.1 mm
0.31 in
8 mm
5.47 oz
155g grams
  • Display:
    • 5.8-inch AMOLED display
    • 2960x1440 resolution
    • 18.5:9 aspect ratio
    • Dual-curve infinity display
  • Cameras:
    • 12MP ƒ/1.7 rear camera
    • Dual-pixel phase detection autofocus
    • 1.4-micron pixels
    • 8MP ƒ/1.7 front camera
  • Battery:
    • 3000 mAh battery
    • Non-removable
    • USB-C fast Charging
    • Qi + PMA wireless charging
  • Chips:
    • Snapdragon 835 processor
    • Samsung Exynos 8896 processor
      (varies by region)
    • 4GB RAM
    • 64GB internal storage
    • microSD card slot
    • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • GS8+
    • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    • 6.2-inch AMOLED display
    • 3500mAh battery
    • 6.28 in x 2.89 in x 0.32 in
      159.5mm x 73.4mm x 8.1mm
    • 6.10 oz / 73g

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1 month ago

5 things to know about the Samsung Galaxy S8's DeX dock

27

The Galaxy S8's hidden feature is desktop-style operating system you can use in lieu of a laptop.

If you could hook up your Android smartphone to an external monitor to unlock a desktop mode, would you? Samsung is making a major play towards its truly mobile users with a desktop-style operating system embedded into the software of the Galaxy S8 and S8+. Here's what Samsung DeX is, and why it might make Samsung's new flagship appealing to those with bonafide on-the-go lifestyles.

You need the dock to use DeX

To even access Samsung DeX, you need the DeX dock, which is sold separately. The dock itself is cheaper than, say, an Asus Chromebook Flip, but you'd still have to adopt one of the Galaxy S8 smartphones for it to work.

Once the Galaxy S8 is plugged in, you can hook up peripherals as you please.

But of course you need all of the other things to plug into the dock as well. Once the Galaxy S8 is plugged in, you can hook up peripherals as you please to start the computerization process. The DeX dock comes with an HDMI port, two USB ports, and Bluetooth connectivity. It also keeps the Galaxy S8 charged while it works, so you don't have to worry about running down the battery. And there's a built-in fan (don't worry, you won't even notice it's there) to keep the smartphone cool as you're operating in DeX mode.

It's (kind of) like a Mac or PC

DeX Start menu.

Samsung DeX offers a Start menu.

Samsung's desktop experience isn't too different from what you're used to.

Samsung's desktop experience isn't too different from what you're used to. There's a start button of sorts that offers quick access to compatible apps and you can minimize and maximize individual windows or close out of them like you would on a Mac or PC. Oft-used commands are available, too, and there's a dock where you can pin your favorite apps. The notifications and status bar from your phone appear along the bottom of the desktop, just where you'd expect them to be, so you always have access to your typical "phone" functions while in the DeX dock.

The Samsung DeX also features a lock screen — think of it as a screensaver. You can secure the DeX with a passcode or facial recognition to keep peering eyes out of your secret stuff.

But it doesn't run Windows or Mac apps

If you're thinking that the Samsung DeX sounds a bit like Microsoft's Continuum with Windows 10, you'd be on the right track. It's essentially the same concept, with the main appeal being that DeX offers a scaled-up desktop when the Galaxy S8's comparatively smaller display is simply not enough.

The DeX is a bit like Continuum.

So because this is just Samsung's Android build scaled up to a larger screen, you can't use any Windows or Mac apps on this computer wannabe — but there are compatible Adobe and Microsoft apps, including Adobe Lightroom and Microsoft Word, that are designed specifically for the big screen. DeX also supports virtual desktops like Citrix, Amazon Workspace, and VMWare, so you can actually get some work done if you need to. And if you wanted access to any of your Android apps, those are also compatible.

It's unclear exactly how normal Android apps and the DeX apps will work in tandem, and how the system handles apps that aren't designed to run on a larger display or in a windowed environment — right now, Samsung is (understandably) only talking about its own apps.

DeX is not a laptop replacement

Samsung doesn't appear to be positioning the DeX dock towards those looking for a laptop replacement — and certainly not in the way that the Chromebook has been positioned.

The DeX is something you'd bring with you on a business trip.

Instead, it seems the DeX is something you'd bring with you on a business trip, particularly if you knew there was a monitor hookup already waiting where you're headed. It could also be a useful accessory for the frequent traveler — it can be hooked up to any television with HDMI — or exist as an on-the-go photo editor.

Sadly, this isn't a spiritual successor to the Motorola Atrix.

We still have a few questions

There's got to be more to the Samsung DeX.

Is there more to the Samsung DeX than just a blown-up phone screen to a desktop interface? Well, software support from other apps will be extremely important for the experience. The existence of different docking options would be fantastic, and of course the general availability of the DeX dock in the places you want to work would be the key to unlocking the power of this platform.

We're not sure about many of the details, but Samsung is excited about the possibilities of DeX.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Main

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint

About

The Galaxy S8, and its larger sibling the S8+, are Samsung's top-end devices for 2017 meant to appeal to the general consumer and power user alike. The two phones are only differentiated by screen and battery size: 5.8 inches and 3000mAh, and 6.2 inches and 3500mAh.

The displays have a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio with a QHD+ resolution, meaning they're extra tall and narrow. Samsung moved to on-screen buttons and reduced bezel size dramatically in order to fit as much screen into the body as possible. That moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phones, where it sits somewhat-awkwardly next to the camera lens. Iris scanning makes its return in a new-and-improved version from the Note 7.

Though the batteries haven't increased in size from the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, the hope is that the improved efficiency of the new 10 nm processor inside will provide some help. The processor is backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Waterproofing and wireless charging are still here as well, plus a new USB-C port on the bottom. The rear camera is unchanged in terms of its 12MP sensor and f/1.7 lens, but has improved processing thanks to a new ISP and software.

Specs

Width Height Thickness 5.86 in
148.9 mm
2.68 in
68.1 mm
0.31 in
8 mm
5.47 oz
155g grams
  • Display:
    • 5.8-inch AMOLED display
    • 2960x1440 resolution
    • 18.5:9 aspect ratio
    • Dual-curve infinity display
  • Cameras:
    • 12MP ƒ/1.7 rear camera
    • Dual-pixel phase detection autofocus
    • 1.4-micron pixels
    • 8MP ƒ/1.7 front camera
  • Battery:
    • 3000 mAh battery
    • Non-removable
    • USB-C fast Charging
    • Qi + PMA wireless charging
  • Chips:
    • Snapdragon 835 processor
    • Samsung Exynos 8896 processor
      (varies by region)
    • 4GB RAM
    • 64GB internal storage
    • microSD card slot
    • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • GS8+
    • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    • 6.2-inch AMOLED display
    • 3500mAh battery
    • 6.28 in x 2.89 in x 0.32 in
      159.5mm x 73.4mm x 8.1mm
    • 6.10 oz / 73g

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1 month ago

HTC U coming later this year with Snapdragon 835 and touch-sensitive frame

33

HTC Ocean is coming later this year as the HTC U.

HTC is said to be working on a flagship simply called the HTC U that will be powered by a Snapdragon 835. Codenamed Ocean, the phone will be the third in the U series — after the U Ultra and the U Play — but it will introduce a new input method called Edge Sense.

HTC is embedding sensors into the metal frame of the device, through which you'll be able to control various facets of the interface by squeezing or swiping along the sides of the phone. The idea was shown off in a concept video that leaked last year, and it looks like HTC succeeded in turning it into a usable feature for its upcoming flagship:

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1 month ago

T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint are already shipping LG G6 pre-orders

16

LG G6 is already in the hands of a few lucky customers.

U.S. carriers have kicked off pre-orders for the LG G6 ahead of its debut in the country on April 7, and customers that have ordered the device are already starting to see shipping notices, with deliveries scheduled for later this week. T-Mobile was the first carrier to announce pricing, and the first to ship the handset to customers.

A few AT&T and Sprint customers that pre-ordered the device are now receiving delivery notices for March 29, which is incidentally when the Galaxy S8 is making its debut.

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1 month ago

Best Cheap Android Phones of 2017

Update, March 2017: The $229 Moto G5 Plus is now our go-to budget pick, and we've added the ZTE Blade V8 Pro as a great option for dual-camera fans. The Moto E 2015 has also been replaced with the Moto G4 Plus.

Best overall

Moto G5 Plus

See at Amazon

Motorola performed yet another pricing miracle with the Moto G5 Plus, the successor to last year's excellent Moto G4 series and a contender for the best affordable smartphone today.

It starts with the excellent 5.2-inch Full HD display, but the real benefit to the G5 Plus this year is the excellent performance and battery life from the combination of a Snapdragon 625 platform and a 3,000mAh battery.

Also of note is the improved low-light performance from the 12MP camera, which boasts the same hardware as (and similar results to) the Galaxy S7.

Bottom line: This is the best sub-$250 phone you can buy today, and it's still a great device even if price isn't a factor.

One more thing: Motorola.com is offering the Moto G5 Plus with inexpensive financing if you don't want to pay up front.

Why the Moto G5 Plus is the best

Last year, we recommended the $199.99 Moto G4 over its $249.99 Plus variant, but this year the only distinction is between memory and storage amounts: the Moto G5 Plus comes in either a $229.99 2GB RAM / 32GB storage version, or a $299.99 4GB RAM / 64GB storage version — they are otherwise identical.

With either decision, you'll be happy with your purchase. Motorola has changed up the phone's design this year, adding a metal back and a more compact, mature look that complements the Moto Z series, and the excellent 5.2-inch IPS display is much more manageable in one hand. Also more manageable is the improved shape of the front fingerprint sensor, which is turned oblong and considerably easier to activate.

Motorola has also bestowed a fantastic camera on the Moto G5 Plus this year, giving it the same 12MP sensor and lens combination that's in the Galaxy S7 — though the results aren't quite as good. The phone isn't perfect — there's no NFC on the U.S. model, and it still uses the older Micro-USB charging port — but it's close.

And if you buy it through Amazon, you can save $45 on the base model, bringing it down to $184.99!

Best for dual camera

ZTE Blade V8 Pro

See at Amazon

Who would have thought that a device with an absurd name like the Blade V8 Pro (it sounds like a weaponized drink) would end up on this list, but here we are. ZTE has done an amazing thing: make a big, plastic phone that adds up to far greater than the sum of its parts. The 5.5-inch 1080p display is fantastic, and it runs like a dream on the Snapdragon 625. There's a massive 3,100mAh battery inside, too, to go along with the dual-13MP cameras, something you don't see from this class of phone.

Bottom line: The ZTE Blade V8 Pro has everything going for it, including great hardware, endless battery life and competent cameras.

One more thing: The phone runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, with no timeline for an upgrade to Nougat.

Best all-metal

Honor 6X

See at Amazon

For the new year the Honor 6X replaces its predecessor the 5X on this list. While you won't be blown away by magnificent design or all of the top-end features, the Honor 6X is an exercise in what you can get for about $250. You get a good enough screen, expandable storage and a fingerprint sensor, wrapped in a metal body that's better than the plastic offerings out there. There's also a neat dual camera setup around back that can take interesting-looking shots.

Sure it's stuck on Micro-USB and the software has yet to make the jump to Huawei's new EMUI 5.0 (and we can't wait for that to come), but you can't get that complete of a package in a phone this inexpensive.

Bottom-line: It doesn't offer everything, but it's a solid package for the money.

One more thing: Keep an eye out for discounts and promotional "flash sales" at lower prices.

Best under $100

Moto G4 Play

See at Amazon

We're stretching this one a little, because the Moto G4 Play is actually $149.99, but you can get it for under $100 by purchasing it through Amazon's Prime Exclusives section. It's the same phone, but it comes preloaded with unobtrusive lockscreen ads and a few pre-installed Amazon and partner apps and games.

Looking at the phone itself, this is a very well-rounded product for the price. You get a 5-inch 720p display, a quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor at 1.2Ghz, 2GB of RAM, 16GB storage, and an 8MP rear camera, with all-day battery life from the 2,800mAh cell, running Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

Bottom-line: The Moto G4 Play is the spiritual successor to the Moto E, but it has a bigger and better screen, more power, and a much nicer design.

One more thing: Don't expect an update to Android 7.0 Nougat on the Moto G4 Play.

Best in Europe

Wileyfox Swift 2

See at Amazon

The Wileyfox Swift 2 is the British company's latest Android phone and has every right to be taken notice of. It costs a ridiculously cheap £119 and packs Moto G-matching hardware while undercutting it on price.

The display is nice, the battery life is pretty good, the overall appearance is on point and the software provided by Cyanogen is slick, speedy and bloat-free. It's not available officially outside Europe right now, but it's absolutely one of the best cheap phones money can buy. And with recent offers dropping the price to just £99, it really is a bargain.

Bottom-line: For those in Europe looking something a little nicer than a Moto E, with a fresh software experience, the Swift is a good choice.

One more thing: Don't be tempted by the lower-end Spark or Storm. The Swift is the only one we recommend.

Conclusion

If you don't want to spend over $250 and still want a great Android phone, the Moto G5 Plus is the best choice. You don't get the best looking or feeling phone, but it offers a top-notch experience, especially for the price.

Best overall

Moto G5 Plus

See at Amazon

Motorola performed yet another pricing miracle with the Moto G5 Plus, the successor to last year's excellent Moto G4 series and a contender for the best affordable smartphone today.

It starts with the excellent 5.2-inch Full HD display, but the real benefit to the G5 Plus this year is the excellent performance and battery life from the combination of a Snapdragon 625 platform and a 3,000mAh battery.

Also of note is the improved low-light performance from the 12MP camera, which boasts the same hardware as (and similar results to) the Galaxy S7.

Bottom line: This is the best sub-$250 phone you can buy today, and it's still a great device even if price isn't a factor.

One more thing: Motorola.com is offering the Moto G5 Plus with inexpensive financing if you don't want to pay up front.

Best Android phones under $400
Best Android phones under $100

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1 month ago

LG G6, one month on: A great phone, and the best LG has ever made

126
LG G6

LG is back on the right track with the G6.

The Spring smartphone launch season is under way, and LG made a calculated decision to get out ahead of most phones with a late-February announcement of the G6. Coming in less than a year after the all-but-failed G5 and just a few months beyond the niche market V20, the G6 is what will be advertised as the phone from LG hoping to create a halo for its whole lineup.

Well time flies, and we're no longer talking about our first impressions of the LG G6 or saying how much longer you'll have to wait to buy it. I've been using the phone for a full month now, and it's already on sale in many countries. There's a certain bit of perspective that you get from using a phone for a long time that you don't get from an initial review period, and that's why we continue to use and revisit these great phones to see how they continue to perform.

Here are my thoughts on using the LG G6 for the past month.

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1 month ago

Alleged Moto X 2017 breaks cover with Snapdragon 625, dual camera setup

35

Motorola could use dual rear cameras as the differentiator for the Moto X 2017.

Motorola moved away from the Moto X brand last year to focus on the Moto Z lineup, but it looks like the series could see a resurgence this year. A series of images leaked on Google+ of an alleged Moto X 2017 show off a metal chassis, a front fingerprint sensor that's similar to what we've seen on the Moto G5, and a dual camera setup at the back.

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1 month ago

OnePlus 3T Midnight Black color option is now up for sale for $479

15

You can now pick up the OnePlus 3T Midnight Black color option without waiting in line.

The sleek Midnight Black color option for the OnePlus 3T is now available for purchase. The phone is up for sale on OnePlus' website for $479 in the U.S., €479 in Europe, and £439 in the UK.

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1 month ago

Google Home and Google Wifi launching in the UK on April 6 for £129

13
Google Home

The latest products in Google's hardware family are coming to the UK next week.

After a brief teaser last month, Google has today officially announced the launch of Google Home and Google Wifi for the UK.

The new devices see the company building out its "made by Google" hardware range internationally, following last October's Pixel phone launch. Home and Wifi represent new frontiers for Google in the UK, where Amazon has been selling its Echo-branded smart speakers since late last year.

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1 month ago

Moto G5 will make its debut in India on April 4

1

Moto G5 with Snapdragon 430 is coming to India next week.

After launching the Moto G5 Plus in the country earlier this month for ₹16,999, Motorola is getting ready to introduce the Moto G5 next week. The phone will make its debut in the country on April 4.

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1 month ago

The guy who created Android is making an Android phone that looks like the LG G6

81

Andy Rubin has a dream to take on the company he once worked for.

We've known since January that Andy Rubin, whose company Danger was purchased by Google in 2005 to acquire the intellectual property that would later become Android, is coming out with a smartphone.

According to a previous report, Rubin's new company, Essential, will make a high-end smartphone that would use artificial intelligence as its primary selling feature, along with its ability to speak with other smart home gadgets, presumably also using the same AI engine.

Now, Rubin is showing off that long-rumored phone, and it appears to be running Android. The phone looks like the LG G6, and potentially the Galaxy S8, along with any forthcoming device with slim bezels and a rounded screen. It also clearly shows Android's cellular connectivity and clock icons in the top right. From the teaser it's difficult to ascertain any other specifics — we see what looks like an oversized power button to the right of the screen — but according to a tweet from the engineer, he's "eager to get it in more people's hands."

What do you think of the teaser? Could this disrupt the mobile industry the way Android did some ten years ago, or should we have more modest expectations?

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1 month ago

Google Play now gives away a paid app every week

26

Android has millions of free titles, but some paid titles need to be shared.

There are millions of free apps available on the Play Store, and many of them are pretty great. But there are also millions of paid apps that don't always get the attention they deserve.

Now, Google wants to highlight a few of those paid titles by offering a free app or game of the week. The first one is Card Wars — Adventure Time, a lighthearted card trading and battle game that usually runs for $2.99, but this week is going gratis.

Like Apple's version of the same, it appears Google will highlight a single title each week, and chances are it will be a paid game that also has in-app purchases. That benefits both Google and the developer, since it gets a chance to add millions of new users and ramp up revenue.

This isn't the first time Google has given away paid apps for free. It started the practice in its then-nascent Family section back in 2015, but that particular enterprise seems to have faded away for this more broad version.

Android Gaming

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1 month ago

What big carriers won't tell you about prepaid alternative carriers

20

Being informed is great for us, but big carriers would rather keep you in the dark when shopping for phone service.

There are plenty of reasons to use an MVNO instead of one of the four major network providers here in the U.S. We have talked about many of them and most center on the service to cost ratio and how an MVNO can usually be a better value for most people. We think that value is a big consideration — who doesn't love paying less without getting less?

There are a few little things that carriers won't mention about MVNOs that can make using one even more attractive. Here are a few things you won't hear about when you see a commercial from the Big Four.

These are the cheapest data plans you can buy in the U.S.

They are MVNOs themselves

All four carriers have at least one MVNO that is part of their corporate entity. They can incorporate them individually and appoint someone else as a company CEO, but when you follow the money back to the bank it's going to the same account in the end.

All four carriers run one or more MVNOs.

They have several reasons for doing this. One is that if they didn't, they would risk losing more customers to smaller companies that operate independently as MVNOs. For example, Virgin Mobile USA and Boost Mobile are wholly owned subsidiaries of the Sprint Corporation. Together they have about 11 million subscribers. Sprint can't afford to lose revenue from 11 million accounts, and the revenue from Boost and Virgin USA goes directly to Sprint.

What is an alternative carrier?

Sprint also has its own Sprint-branded prepaid service. It doesn't try to hide the fact that it owns Boost or Virgin USA, but it lets them act as if they were their own MVNO because they can offer different plans at different prices marketed to all types of customers. You can feel good about saving money on Boost instead of paying more for a Sprint plan, even though you are on a Sprint-owned plan and network.

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Sprint counts everyone with a Sprint postpaid plan and one of its MVNO subscribers in its subscriber count every quarter because it's all the same company. It sees the value in an MVNO for the same reasons we see the value: to get more for less. It's not just Sprint: AT&T and T-Mobile both run their own MVNOs for the very same reasons. (Verizon offers prepaid service, but only as part of its main brand. It also sells its service to other alternative carriers.)

You are paying for things you don't need or use

If you have a post-paid account with one of the four major operators in the U.S. you are paying for things you don't use. You don't use them because you don't need them.

Customer service, international "extras" and other plan perks aren't free. Neither is the cost to develop and maintain extra services the companies offer like live TV broadcasts or cloud storage accounts or NASCAR sponsorships. The cost of all these things, as well as corporate facilities and accountants and lawyers, come from you and me. It's part of our monthly bill and a big reason why you pay more for a data plan than you would through an MVNO. Many of us make use of some of these services, but think about the ones you don't use and are still paying for.

An MVNO buys bulk data from these same carriers at a highly discounted rate. It can pass those savings on to you because it isn't building billion-dollar corporate headquarters or paying millions of dollars to be an internet television service provider. It deals in phone calls and data plans. That's what it sells you and that's what you are paying for.

Hardly anyone needs huge data plans

Someone is going to comment that he use hundreds of gigabytes per month on his unlimited data plan. I'm sure that's true, and it's great that there's an option to do it. But the simple fact is that most of us don't use very much data, and the smaller 1GB or 2GB plans are all we would ever need. We still want to help save you money if you need unlimited data, though.

Which unlimited plan should you buy: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon?

This doesn't diminish anyone's need for 100GB of data per month. If you need that much, stick with one of the Big Four and their unlimited plans. But if you don't need a shared family plan with 10GB of data for your family, you don't have to pay for it. An alternative carrier usually offers small data packages or services that can be maintained by paying for calls and texts that you can top up with data as you need it. This can mean substantial savings over the course of a year compared to even the smallest "smartphone" data package from a postpaid carrier.

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They use the same wires as an MVNO

T-Mobile (for example) has the same network footprint as MetroPCS (which is an MVNO that's really part of T-Mobile like we talked about earlier) or any other MVNO that uses T-Mobile's network. It doesn't split the network into different areas when it sells wholesale data to another company.

A carrier only has one network and it's the one it also sells to MVNOs.

If it tells you it has a bigger network footprint it's because is paying another carrier to use its data network in some places. This is more common that you think, and even the U.S. telecom giants that are AT&T and Verizon have agreements with other carriers for places where their networks needs some help. If you are in one of these areas, some features of the plan you pay for aren't going to work, and your data speeds may be diminished, but it's still better than a dead spot. And cheaper than network expansion.

This isn't a bad thing. Plenty of people travel all over the place and need service to follow them, and roaming agreements between companies help make that happen. But for the majority of its network coverage map, the service and data connection is the same as an MVNO that uses its network.

They love MVNOs as much as we do

Selling bulk data to an MVNO is very profitable for a big carrier. It doesn't need to do anything extra when selling wholesale data to an MVNO so it means it is getting more (money) for less (work).

Alternative carriers have to maintain the network for their own customers. They have to expand the network for their own customers. They have to improve the network for their own customers. These are real costs, and selling data to an MVNO helps the bottom line because there isn't anything they need to do after they sell it.

They can even make more money by offering things like billing services and in-store sales for an MVNO as an extra service. And after all that, your MVNO can still offer service cheaper than the company it is buying it from. Makes one wonder just how much profit is in every megabyte of data the Big Four sells, doesn't it?

An MVNO isn't making deals with hardware companies

At least not as many deals and not the same kinds of deals.

For a long time, AT&T was very interested in getting you to buy an iPhone every year. That's because it had a special deal with Apple, and for that deal to be profitable it had to sell a whole lot of iPhones. That's great for Apple and AT&T, but not so great for you and me.

A Galaxy S7 works great on an MVNO, but nobody is pressuring you to buy one.

That hasn't changed now that everyone can use a Galaxy S7 on any network (it's awesome on an MVNO, by the way!). Apple, Samsung, LG and everyone else works with the major carriers to find ways to make even more money, and employees are directed to do certain things to help make it happen.

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When you sign up for service from an alternative carrier, you might find a deal on an older model phone or a refurbished phone, but nobody is there to steer you towards a specific brand or model. MVNOs are interested in selling you good, cheap phone service. Not the next big thing from Samsung or Apple.

And that next big thing from Samsung or Apple will work just fine if it's what you really want.

Alternative carriers are businesses and designed to make money. They aren't out to be our friends or to operate at a loss. But there are plenty of reasons why they can make money by selling the same service for a lot less, and the Big Four carriers don't really want to talk about them.

Alternative carriers (MVNOS)

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1 month ago

Where to buy the Moto G5 Plus in the U.S.

6

The Moto G5 Plus is coming to the U.S. Here's where to get it!

The Moto G5 Plus is probably your best bet for an unlocked smartphone in the U.S. under $250. It's fast, has a great camera, decent software, and many other reasons you may want to pick one up.

If you want to buy a Moto G5 Plus, you can do so beginning March 31 in the U.S.

Which version should you buy?

In the U.S., you can't buy the Moto G5 Plus from a carrier, so you're going to be getting it unlocked at one of the company's many retail partners, or directly from Motorola itself.

The two configurations are identical but for RAM and storage amounts:

  • The $229.99 version comes with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.
  • The $299.99 version comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.

They are otherwise identical.

Moto G5 Plus specs

Buy the Moto G5 Plus from Motorola

Motorola is the main place to buy the Moto G5 Plus in the U.S., since it comes directly from the manufacturer, unlocked and ready to go in two varieties — a 2GB RAM/32GB storage version and a 4GB RAM/64GB storage version — and two colors.

Motorola is also offering low-rate financing, and a 5% discount when you complete your order, bringing the more-expensive model down to $284.99.

See at Motorola

Buy the Moto G5 Plus from Amazon

Amazon is another great option for the Moto G5 Plus, largely because it offers the phone in four varieties: the same two models as above, plus Amazon's Prime Exclusive versions, which bring down the price $45 and $60 respectively. In exchange for the discounts (and you must be a Prime member to receive them), you have to deal with Amazon's lockscreen ads and a bunch of pre-installed apps, but that shouldn't be a problem if you're looking for the lowest price on these phones.

See at Amazon

Buy the Moto G5 Plus from Best Buy

The Moto G5 Plus from Best Buy is a good deal because it comes with a free Incipio case with each purchase.

The phone is available in either size or color (Lunar Gray or Fine Gold) and is otherwise priced the same as from Motorola — $229.99 or $299.99.

See at Best Buy

Buy the Moto G5 Plus from B&H

B&H is increasingly becoming a go-to site for buying unlocked phones, and if you live outside of New York or New Jersey the company doesn't collect taxes, which means that you can potentially save a couple of dollars on your purchase.

B&H offers both versions of the Moto G5 Plus — the 32GB and 64GB models — at their standard $229.99/$299.99 prices.

See at B&H

Buy the Moto G5 Plus from Newegg

Newegg is also a reliable place to get your unlocked phones because it offers inexpensive shipping, and free 3-day shipping for Premier members. Newegg isn't giving away any free stuff or discounting the phones, but if you're already a member of the site, it's a good option.

See at Newegg

Buy the Moto G5 Plus from an alternative carrier

The Moto G5 Plus doesn't have any official carrier presence in the States, but it will be sold through a few alternative carriers, also known as MVNOs.

See at Ting

Ting and Republic Wireless will all offer the phone when it's available on March 31, and if you're looking to bundle a phone with some service, they may be good options, especially if you want to get it with financing.

See at Republic Wireless

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1 month ago

New leak reveals alleged spec sheet of Xiaomi's Mi 6 and Mi 6 Plus

14

Latest rumor suggests the Mi 6 and Mi 6 Plus will be powered by the Snapdragon 835.

Xiaomi is rumored to unveil its 2017 flagships — the Mi 6 and Mi 6 Plus — on April 11, and a recent leak gives us a look at the alleged spec sheet of both devices. According to the leak, both the Mi 6 and Mi 6 Plus will be powered by the Snapdragon 835, contradicting earlier rumors that Xiaomi will initially launch a variant with the Snapdragon 821.

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