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1 month ago

The best unlocked phones

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Unlocked phones — outside the shackles of the carriers and able to work on any GSM operator worldwide — are finally starting to have their moment in the sun.

And we're not just talking more expensive versions of top-shelf phones. There are a number of mid-range unlocked phones that will serve you very well — and not burn a hole in your wallet. Let's take a look.

Nexus 6P

Nexus and unlocked go together like PB&J

Pros

  • Great build quality
  • Excellent camera
  • Pure Google software

Cons

  • It's pretty big
  • Lacks wireless charging
  • A little bit slippery to hold

In the Android world, one brand should always come to mind when thinking unlocked: Nexus. For the Nexus phones aren't just a way to get the latest and greatest software from Google. They're also a way to get a good phone at a good price and stay away from a new contract. Of the two current Nexus phones, the 6P is the one to get.

We've usually had to recommend a Nexus phone with a rather large caveat — and that's usually had to do with the camera. Not so with the Nexus 6P, manufactured by Huawei.

It's got a camera that doesn't make us want to carry around a second shooter, just in case. It's got the design and build quality that stands up against any other phone. And perhaps most important is that it's going to always be updated to the latest version of Android, and that goes for the monthly security updates, too.

Read our Nexus 6P review

See at Amazon See at Google

Motorola Moto G (2015)

Still one of the best value phones around

Pros

  • Solid build quality
  • No manufacturer bloatware
  • MicroSD card slot

Cons

  • No NFC
  • Only a single speaker compared to previous model
  • No quickcharge or wireless charging

Motorola is arguably responsible for reinventing the budget phone space when it tore up the rule book with the original Moto G. Now three generations in and it's no more difficult to recommend to anyone looking for the best on a budget. And without a contract.

The hardware is more than ample for the price and Motorola's signature software experience of value added to stock Android remains. The camera is improved on its predecessor, Moto Maker allows for some customization on the color schemes and all-in-all the essence of what made this phone great hasn't gone away. And we'd definitely recommend the 16GB/2GB RAM model. It's worth the extra.

The Moto G isn't just a good phone for its price, it's a good phone, period.

Read our Moto G review

See at Amazon See at Motorola

OnePlus 2

Not quite a flagship killer, but very good nonetheless

Pros

  • Excellent hardware and design
  • Good quality fingerprint scanner
  • 64GB internal storage

Cons

  • No NFC
  • Middle of the road camera
  • No wireless charging

As sophomore efforts go, OnePlus has done well to create a device that improves upon its predecessor in nearly every way. The aluminum band around the outside of the phone gives the OnePlus 2 a sturdy heft, and the ability to swap backplates means you can have grip, style, or durability with ease.

OxygenOS is a newer custom version of Android, but like Cyanogen OS before it the focus is a clean, fast experience with a UI that closely resembles the Nexus experience. What few changes you find are subtle, visually pleasing, and often easy to disable if you decide it's not for you.

At $389, OnePlus has struck an interesting balance between performance and price. While it doesn't have every bell and whistle you'd see in a high-end smartphone, the OnePlus 2 is more than capable when it comes down to performance and battery life. You also don't need to go through the ridiculous invite process to get one anymore.

Read our OnePlus 2 review

See at OnePlus

Moto X Style (Pure Edition)

A custom treat

Pros

  • Great starting price
  • Front facing speaker
  • Custom design options

Cons

  • Quite large
  • No wireless charging
  • Camera still weaker than competition

Motorola's made one of the more beloved (if imperfect phones) of the past few couple years. The 2015 edition — the Moto X Style, or the "Pure Edition" if you're in the U.S., also looks to be a good one. But the body of the phone has gotten even bigger, approaching Nexus 6 size. That's going to be a deal-breaker for some folks. But Motorola has slipped an SD card slot into this phone, which opens it back up to many other folks.

We've also got dual front-facing speakers this time around, and Motorola promises we'll be impressed with the camera this year, after two years of disappointments (and more promises). We'll just have to wait and see.

So far the Moto X Style (when it's released sometime in September) will only be available in the U.S. through Motorola, Amazon and Best Buy. (Outside the U.S. is another story, but usually a better one, too.) Price starts at $399.

Read our Moto X Style review

See at Amazon See at Motorola

Asus Zenfone 2 Laser

Frickin' lasers

Pros

  • Great price
  • Long battery life
  • Decent camera

Cons

  • Awkward button placement
  • Cheap feeling materials
  • Software won't be to everyone's taste

The Zenfone 2 Laser is one of many different phones in the same lineup, and for the most part is on par with the original bearing the name. The big change with the Zenfone 2 Laser was the addition of a super-fast laser autofocus on the rear camera.

What Asus offers though is a solid mix of hardware, features and affordable price which makes this phone a good choice for anyone looking to avoid buying from a carrier. You should be good with this on AT&T and T-Mobile.

It's not perfect by any means, with software that's best described as an acquired taste, and some cost cutting in the materials used to build it. But make no mistake, you're getting a solid phone with long battery life, a decent camera and more besides for not a whole lot of your hard earned.

Read our Zenfone 2 Laser review

See at Amazon

Huawei Honor 5X

Honor lands Stateside

Pros

  • Premium design and construction
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Good quality display

Cons

  • EMUI still broken in places
  • Sluggish at times
  • Launched on Android 5.1

The Honor 5X is a perfect example of where the $200 price point smartphone market is headed. For a remarkably good $199, the first Honor phone to officially launch in the U.S. packs a metal body, decent screen and fingerprint sensor. The hardware certainly feels worthy of a higher price point.

The only drawbacks to the Honor 5X come in the software. Huawei's EMUI is still an acquired taste with some questionable features and things that still don't work quite as we might hope. But, there's a lot of good stuff, too, and some really useful features baked in.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow is on the horizon, but overall the Honor 5X proves you don't have to spend a fortune to get a good looking, well built, carrier free phone.

Read our Honor 5X review

See at Amazon See at Newegg

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1 month ago

An HTC One retrospective

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The HTC 10 is coming April 12. And after a lackluster showing by its predecessor — the HTC One M9 — we're looking toward "the 10" (as we're taking to calling it internally, anyway) with cautious optimism. HTC has struggled to sell phones the past couple years (while ramping up in other exciting areas), but it's still one of the better smartphone manufacturers around.

And with that, let's take a look back at the HTC One line. All of us at Android Central have used the phones in one respect or another, and hold a certain fondness (or disdain) for them in a way that's sometimes lacking in other manufacturers.

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1 month ago

The Galaxy S7 edge: A second opinion

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Galaxy S7 edge

The Galaxy S7 edge is both the Galaxy S7 that we wanted, and the Galaxy S7 that we deserved.

Android Central Choice Award

There are a whole lot of people on this little planet who eagerly wait to see what new products big tech companies like Samsung introduce every year. If you're reading this — either as a regular Android Central reader or someone who found us for the first time, you're probably one of them. And this year, when we first got to see the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge, we saw the very best that Samsung — and possibly anyone else — could produce today.

We knew how special the S7 (in my case, the edge model in particular) was when we first got our hands on it. As part of our job we get early access to a lot of the latest tech, and we talk amongst ourselves before we're allowed to talk in public. All of us knew that we had something different here, and things can and will never never be the same.

I have the T-Mobile variant of the Galaxy S7 edge now, and have been using it for a while. See what I think of one of the best phones you can buy.

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1 month ago

In Canada, the Galaxy S6 is still the best Android deal around

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In this market, age is a good thing

I'm holding a Galaxy S7 in my hand. It's comfortable, like a pebble, but sleek and modern, like a race car. It's also got a cool black colour option, which I like very much.

But in Canada, it's almost inaccessibly expensive, especially for customers upgrading not only to a new phone, but to a new plan. See, unless you want to spend a lot more up front, Canadian carriers now force customers to upgrade to one of their new share plans before buying a subsidized phone on a two-year contract. For the Galaxy S7, that means spending $399 at the time of purchase (a $500 subsidy over the $899 outright cost) in addition to negotiating a new plan that, in most cases, offers the same or less data for a higher monthly spend.

To alleviate some of that pressure, previous generation devices remain on store shelves once the flagships are released. Apple began doing that as far back as the iPhone 4, while Android OEMs like Samsung and LG took a few years to get on board, but you'll just as likely see a Galaxy S4 or S5 (for $0, of course) as you will an S6 or S7.

Bargain hunting

That brings us to today's topic: the Galaxy S6. Right now, it is either free or $99 on a two-year contract at most carriers. It is a bargain, a still-great phone that, once it receives Android 6.0 in a week or so will get even better. That $99 price point is manna for many prospective smartphone buyers — anything more and they balk — and it has no out-and-out drawbacks.

Device replacement cycles are extending year after year because the devices we buy are not becoming obsolete as quickly. The Galaxy S6 is a good example of such a product: it has a great screen and camera, approachable software, and decent battery life (that should improve significantly with Marshmallow). Perhaps more importantly, to the average consumer it still looks modern. One may not care much about specs, but the way a phone looks is generally always going to matter, and the Galaxy S6 is an attractive product.

2016 features at a 2015 price

It also has things that even the latest Android devices lack, such as wireless charging, Fast Charging, LTE Advanced and Voice Over LTE support, and a top-notch processor.

Some would even argue that the Galaxy S6 takes better photos than the Galaxy S7 in some instances.

An unlocked victory

If you're holding on to a really good plan and don't want to sacrifice it to upgrade to a year-old phone, why not buy the Galaxy S6 unlocked? It's relatively easy to find for around $600 CAD (though closer to $700 with taxes and shipping).

There are other options, too

Some other 2015 devices are still going strong. Expansys currently has the LG G4 for $424.99 CAD, which is also a great phone — great performance, camera, and battery; lacks fingerprint sensor — but not quite as good as the S6.

Have your say!

Would you buy a year-old phone to save money? If so, which one are you considering?

See Galaxy S6 at Amazon

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1 month ago

Where to buy the LG G5 in Canada

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The LG G5 has come to Canada after a brief wait, and now it's available at most carriers, both regional and national.

Updated April 8, 2016 with new listings from Bell, Telus, MTS, SaskTel and Videotron.

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1 month ago

Get a 32GB Moto X Pure Edition for $350 at Amazon

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If you've had your eye on the Moto X Pure Edition for some time, Amazon is currently offering the 32GB version of Motorola's 2015 flagship for $50 off.

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1 month ago

Why you might want to encrypt the SD card on your Galaxy S7

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Encrypting the SD card on your new Galaxy S7 is easy to do, but you need to know the details before you do it.

Everyone is happy that Samsung has brought expandable storage back to the Galaxy S7 series. Things aren't perfect — plenty still prefer how SD cards worked with KitKat on their Galaxy phones — but for the average user who just wants to store music, movies, photos and other documents on their removable card, it's a workable solution. It's also something that Google and Samsung will continue to work on, keeping things secure and consistent while still being expandable.

Something a lot of people don't think about, though, is encrypting the removable storage on their Galaxy S7. Encryption is all over the tech news because of recent events between the FBI and Apple, and we can take a few minutes and make sure everyone knows what options are available and how things work when it comes to protecting the data on your SD card.

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1 month ago

Lil Wayne pours some more champagne on the Galaxy S7 in new advert

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Galaxy S7

Lil Wayne is good at pouring champagne on the Galaxy S7, which he does a lot of in the video above. And he also shows off Samsung Pay, which works with traditional registers thanks to MST (Magnetic Secure Transmission).

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1 month ago

Huawei P9: The first 7 things you need to know

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Huawei P9

Some quick hits on Huawei's new dual-camera wonder.

The Huawei P9 is upon us, having just been unveiled to the world at its London launch event. The big focus this time around, without a doubt, is photography, as Huawei pushes its partnership with Leica in an effort to stand out in the crowded high-end Android space.

But there's more to this phone than just the Leica brand and the aforementioned dual camera setup. Let's dive deeper and take a look at some of the major P9 facts and features you might have missed.

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1 month ago

We're answering your Huawei P9 questions in the forums!

Questions big and small, we're answering them all.

We had a solid look at the Huawei P9 at its launch event in London, but now that the dust has settled we're here to answer all of your specific questions about the phone. Of course some of the biggest questions, like how the camera performs in a variety of situations, what battery life is like and how we're seeing performance will take more time to evaluate, but there's a lot to look at that can be answered right away.

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1 month ago

Huawei P9 unboxing — you're gonna Leica this

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Opening up Huawei's latest for the first time.

The Huawei P9 was finally unveiled after a good bit of teasing from the Chinese manufacturer, and today at the event we walked away with an untouched, in-box P9 to unwrap for the first time.

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1 month ago

Latest HTC 10 teaser focuses on the camera and how 'you'll see it'

106

The latest HTC 10 teaser from HTC once again puts the focus on the camera, with the tagline of "you'll see it." HTC is set to officially unveil the phone on April 12 during an online-only event. The teaser talks about capturing your favorite memories, and how much time and effort went into perfecting the camera set up so that you will get the pictures that you want.

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1 month ago

8 things to know about the Samsung Galaxy S7's SD card slot

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10 things to know about the Samsung Galaxy S7's SD card slot

Samsung brought back the SD card in the Galaxy S7, now it's time to know what you can do with it.

While a good number of people will be completely fine with the 32-gigabytes of internal storage on their Galaxy S7, having the ability to pop in an SD card and expand that storage by 200GB more is very appealing. Even large SD cards can be found for a great deal, and the best part is being able to choose later on down the road if you want more storage.

But as is the case with adding external storage to most computing devices, there are lots of things to consider: what can you do with the storage? How does it interact with the system? How reliable and fast is it? We answer these questions, and many more, with the first eight things you need to know about SD cards in the Galaxy S7.

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1 month ago

Huawei P9 + P9 Plus hands-on: Dual cameras in Huawei's new high-end duo

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Huawei P9

Huawei's latest high-end phone aims to prove that two cameras are better than one.

The concept of two cameras in a smartphone isn't new. In the Android world, the trend dates all the way back to the dark ages of 3D phones, with manufacturers like HTC and LG using dual cameras to take 3D images or produce depth-dependent effects. Even Huawei got on the dual-camera bandwagon with 2014's Honor 6 Plus.

The Huawei P9 — the Chinese company's latest high-end offering — goes about things a little differently. The phone is the first developed through Huawei's partnership with German optics Leica, and uses a monochrome sensor behind one lens in addition to a full color sensor behind the other. It's an approach which, combined with a "co-engineered" lens system and a revamped camera app influenced by Leica, has Huawei hoping it can differentiate through photography.

We've taken a quick look at the P9 and P9 Plus ahead of their launch event in London. And here's what we found.

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1 month ago

Huawei P9 and P9 Plus specs

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Huawei P9 and P9 Plus

The Huawei P9 and P9 Plus are officially official. Two phones. Two rear cameras on each phone, Leica-certified, no less. And as you'd expect from Huawei, they're packed with the latest tech the Chinese manufacturer has to offer, including an updated Kirin 955 processor, some of the best fingerprint security in the business — and all in a footprint that shouldn't leave you wishing you had a smaller phone.

So let's get to it. These are the official specs for the Huawei P9 and the larger P9 Plus:

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