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1 week ago

New Samsung site tells you if your Galaxy Note 7 is safe [Update: Taken down]

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Galaxy Note 7s

Update: Samsung has now disabled the link, which currently redirects you to your local Samsung support site. It's likely the tool will be relaunched in the near future.

Original story: As promised a few days back, Samsung has launched a new online tool to let Galaxy Note 7 owners check if their phone is affected by the battery issue causing some units to catch fire or explode.

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1 week ago

Best Sprint phones

Best Sprint Phones

Sprint offers some of the best phones on the market. We've rounded them up just for you!

Sprint doesn't exactly play well with others, so the selection of unlocked phones that you can bring to its network is rather limited. If you are trying to bring your own unlocked phone to Sprint, it's best to head to the nearest location and ask if your device is compatible.

That being said, it has a relatively decent list of phones that you can buy straight from them, including some of the top Android phones available right now.

We've rounded up a quick list of the best they have to offer.

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2 weeks ago

Samsung refutes Note 7 'remote deactivation' reports

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Galaxy Note 7

Remote disabling of recalled Notes not part of official Samsung guidance.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall saga has been gathering pace in recent days. One of the reports doing the rounds over the weekend pointed to the possibility of Samsung remotely disabling devices affected by the battery issue causing some handsets to catch fire or explode. The story goes that one French Note 7 owner on Reddit was told that every "recalled" Note 7 would be remotely deactivated by Samsung after September 30, thus ensuring that no potentially dangerous handsets could be used after this date.

However the firm's official line is that this isn't happening. We've reached out to Samsung and been told that this is not something the company has stated, and that all official guidance will be published on its website.

In a fast-moving story like this, it's easy for inaccurate info to quickly spread. True, the remote deactivation of defective phones would've been a sure-fire way to prevent any more incidents like the recent report from New York where a young boy was injured by a combusting Note 7. But it now appears a mass-deactivation is not happening anytime soon.

For more background on the Note 7 recall, hit up our guide to everything you need to know.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

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2 weeks ago

Best T-Mobile phones

The best phone options available through T-Mobile.

Whether you're a long-time T-Mobile subscriber looking to upgrade your phone or you're switching and want to find out what's available at a glance, we're here to help.

We've broken down the best devices available to buy through T-Mobile. Check out our reviews to learn more about each of these and if you're ready to take the plunge, we've included links to buy directly from T-Mobile.

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2 weeks ago

Best cheap Android phones of 2016

If you want the best possible experience for a low price, the Nexus 5X from Project Fi is the best deal out there. It's a great phone that has direct support from Google for just $199.

Best overall

Nexus 5X (from Project Fi)

See at Project Fi

Though the Nexus 5X typically retails for a higher $349 (or $299 frequently via coupons), the way the phone makes this list is its amazingly low price of $199 when purchased through Project Fi.

At that price, you can look past the sometimes-inconsistent performance and lackluster hardware of the Nexus 5X, and instead focus on getting a great software experience, strong camera, one-touch fingerprint sensor, solid screen and continued support directly from Google. And even if you decide Project Fi isn't for you, you can simply cancel the service without penalty and keep using your Nexus 5X on another carrier.

Bottom line: Even though it's a year old, this is still Google's phone and it's slated for future updates. It offers a lot for just $200.

One more thing: New Google phones are on the way, and will be arriving in about a month. They won't likely have sub-$200 price points, but if you're worried about being left behind, it's best to wait.

Why the Nexus 5X from Project Fi is best

Even a year on, this is Google's own phone.

When the Nexus 5X first came out, it was playing second fiddle to the bigger Nexus 6P. After a few months on the market with some software updates that really improved the experience it turned into a great choice in the budget space. Nearly a year on, discounts have dropped its price to the point where it's now a fantastic value.

At its original price of $349 it was a bit harder to recommend, but when it comes to getting great bang for your buck things change a bit when it's just $199. For that price you're getting solid hardware, a fantastic one-touch fingerprint sensor, a good screen and a very powerful camera. Cheaper phones may offer you a handful of those features, but none of them hit them all at this price.

And what really makes the Nexus experience is the software — not only is it distributed directly by Google, meaning it was one of the first to get the latest Android 7.0 Nougat update, it's also fast and packed with great features. Because of this, we have a Nexus 5X a year on that's actually more powerful and capable than it was when it launched — not all phones can claim that.

If you think that 16GB will be too tight for you, you can buy a 32GB model for just $50 more, and even at that price the Nexus 5X is still a great phone.

Best outside U.S.

Moto G4

See at Amazon

The Moto G line basically created the high-value low-cost phone segment, and years on has kept making great options that start at amazingly low prices. The latest, the Moto G4, builds on the same formula. You get a 5.5-inch phone that gives you a solid screen, 13MP camera, long battery life and most of Moto's great software features.

On the downside, the Snapdragon 617 processor and 2GB of RAM can sometimes come up short if you have expectations set by more expensive phones, and the hardware doesn't exactly feel inspired. But you have to give in somewhere.

Bottom-line: You really can't go wrong with a Moto G4 — it's the inexpensive phone that all other inexpensive phones are measured by.

One more thing: If you want to endure ads on your lock screen, Amazon will sell you a Moto G4 for $50 off.

Best to be unique

Honor 5X

See at Amazon

The Honor 5X is a perfect example of where the $200 price point smartphone market is headed. For a remarkably good $195, 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.

Bottom-line: The Honor 5X is still a decent buy, and has gotten a lot better with its Marshmallow update.

One more thing: You might also consider the Honor 5C, which has far less spectacular build quality but a speedier CPU.

Best under $100

Moto E LTE (2015)

See at Amazon

Motorola's second-generation Moto E adds LTE to the mix, while retaining more of the premium features from more expensive Moto phones than ever before. You're looking at a basic 4.5-inch qHD (960x540) LCD display, and a Snapdragon 410 processor running the show in the LTE model (which is the one to buy).

Beyond that, the latest Moto E is an unspectacular but solid budget offering, with a decidedly basic 5-megapixel rear shooter and chunky plastic construction. It does have Moto's excellent software experience going for it though, and has been updated to Android 6.0 Marshmallow. For well under $100, it's a great buy if you're on a strict budget.

Bottom-line: The Moto E LTE gets you basic smartphone functions and doesn't feel as cheap as the price tag would lead you to believe.

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

Best in Europe

Wileyfox Swift

See at Amazon

The Wileyfox Swift is the British company's first Android phone and has every right to be taken notice of. It cost's a ridiculously cheap £129 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 $200 and still want a great Android phone, the Nexus 5X from Project Fi is the way to go. Google supports it directly with software updates, and the hardware and features on offer are fantastic for the price.

Best overall

Nexus 5X (from Project Fi)

See at Project Fi

Though the Nexus 5X typically retails for a higher $349 (or $299 frequently via coupons), the way the phone makes this list is its amazingly low price of $199 when purchased through Project Fi. That's right, if you are using Google's own Project Fi service, you can pick up a Nexus 5X for an absolute steal. You can even finance that $199 price over 24 months with no interest.

At that price, you can look past the sometimes-inconsistent performance and lackluster hardware of the Nexus 5X, and instead focus on getting a great software experience, strong camera, one-touch fingerprint sensor, solid screen and continued support directly from Google. And even if you decide Project Fi isn't for you, you can simply cancel the service without penalty and keep using your Nexus 5X on another carrier.

Bottom line: Even though it's a year old, this is still Google's phone and it's slated for future updates. It offers a lot for just $200.

One more thing: New Google phones are on the way, and will be arriving in about a month. They won't likely have sub-$200 price points, but if you're worried about being left behind, it's best to wait.

*/

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2 weeks ago

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 review: Another budget winner

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Xiaomi Redmi Note 4

The quick take

When it comes to budget smartphones, the Redmi series from Xiaomi is a force to reckon with not just in China, but also in markets like India – the company's second home.

Xiaomi launches phones in quick succession, and pushes the envelope further each time. There's much hype, and a lot of anticipation. Not undeserved, one would say. Launched in China last month, the Redmi Note 4 is a turbo charged Redmi Note 3, and the all-metal budget smartphone looks set to be another winner for the company.

The Good

  • Metal chassis with 2.5D glass display
  • Beautiful Full HD display
  • Long battery life
  • Great price

The Bad

  • Average camera performance
  • Micro-USB, not USB Type-C

About this review

I used the Chinese retail variant of the Redmi Note 4 that ran MIUI 7.3 out of the box, but there was an update for MIUI 8 available immediately. For most of the time, I used it with an Airtel 4G SIM in Delhi NCR.

I used the 2GB/16GB variant which had about 9.5GB of internal storage available out of the box. There's also a higher-end variant with 3GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.

Redmi Note 4 Design

The Redmi Note 4 carries on Xiaomi's design ethos. Apart from rare aberration, most devices in the Xiaomi portfolio look alike, and the Note 4 looks just like the Redmi Pro. That's not a bad thing, really. Xiaomi makes good looking budget smartphones and the Note 4 is no different. There's nothing special, but the industrial design works for most.

However, while the metallic chassis on the Redmi Pro sports a smooth back, there is a hint of cheapness on the Note 4 with rugged surface which gives a feeling of it being less "solid" than the former. Of course, you get what you pay for. The curves on the edges at the back aid the grip, and makes it a nice phone to hold in the hand.

A successor to Redmi Note 3, there are only a few subtle changes on the Note 4. While both phones boast of a full metal unibody design, the Note 4 sports 2.5D curved glass on the front that exaggerates its style. There are changes here and there but unless you look closely, it's hard to differentiate between the two.

At 175 grams, the Note 4 is not light, although it doesn't get too overbearing in the hand. However, since it packs a massive 4100mAh battery, most users who are picking the Note 4 for long battery life would want to overlook this.

Redmi Note 4 Hardware

Category Features Operating system Android Marshmallow 6.0 with MIUI 7.3 Display 5.5-inch IPS LCD
1920x1080 Processor 2.1GHz deca-core Mediatek MT6797 Helio X20 RAM 2GB / 3GB Internal Storage 16GB/64GB
MicroSD up to 256GB Battery 4100mAh Rear Camera 13MP, f/2.0, PDAF
Dual LED flash Front Camera 5MP, f/2.0 Dimensions 151 x 76 x 8.4 mm Weight 175 g

Xiaomi's always looked to pack in a punch in terms of specifications, and the Note 4 is no different. It boasts of MediaTek Helio X20 processor – clearly a high-end processor in a budget smartphone.

Increasingly, smartphone makers are bundling 3GB RAM in budget devices as well, but Xiaomi has chosen to keep it at 2GB for the lower variant. For a heavy skin like MIUI, that is just about okay. More available memory never hurt on Android, and you might want to look at the higher variant, which also quadruples the internal storage from 16GB to 64GB.

That said, the Remi Note 4 performs well on daily usage. Multi-tabbed browsing, interface navigation, and even playing graphic-intensive games is a breeze. The processor offers good enough grunt for most apps and games. It does stutter sometimes when multitasking and the culprit is most often the lack of available RAM.

The Note 4 includes a hybrid SIM slot, so if you'd want the dual SIM functionality, you'd have to be contended with inbuilt storage it offers since you won't be able to put in a microSD card. Another reason to pick up the 3GB/64GB variant.

One of the biggest disappointments of the Note 4 is Xiaomi opting to put in a Micro-USB port instead of the newer USB Type-C. Yes, it's a budget smartphone and Micro-USB is not dead yet, but a smartphone coming in second half of 2016 should've been better.

Otherwise, the Note 4 is a winner all the way. The fingerprint sensor works great, and unlocks the phone in a quick snap each time. There's also an IR port on the phone so that you can use it as a universal remote controller. Also, the Note 4 packs in the latest version of Bluetooth v4.2.

Redmi Note 4 Display

The Note 4 sports a beautiful 5.5-inch display panel with 1920x1080 resolution — good for a density of 401 ppi. The 2.5D arc glass accentuates the display. It's vivid with great viewing angles and the colors and contrast are perfect. For a budget device, the display on the Note 4 stands out as one of the highlights.

Outdoors in sunlight, the display is a tad dim, and I preferred to keep it at maximum (or high) brightness than what was set automatically. Still it's crisp and consistent from different viewing angles.

Redmi Note 4 Software

While I assumed the Redmi Note 4 comes with the latest version of the company's proprietary UI, the MIUI 8, it wasn't the case. On first run, I was greeted with MIUI 7.3 running on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

But then, there was MIUI 8 Stable waiting for me, and I updated immediately. While customized Android skins are a matter of personal preference, MIUI has been able to garner a large fan base. And credit where it's due, it's not misplaced. Xiaomi works hard on MIUI bringing features, UX tweaks, and nifty utilities to augment the Android experience.

One of the highlights of the MIUI 8 is Second Space that allows a user two configure two profiles on a device – like virtual desktops so to say. It allows you to keep separate apps or separate layouts for distinct personal and work needs.

Then there's the new Dual Apps feature which allow you to run two instances of apps like WhatsApp that don't allow multiple sessions with different accounts otherwise. Well, I don't have any use for this feature personally, but a lot of people, especially the ones who use two SIMs, have always wanted a functionality like that.

MIUI 8 also boasts of 'Quick Ball' similar to the assistive touch on iOS. You can configure it for frequently used apps and actions on a single tap for easy accessibility. While it is very handy for phablet, Note 4 users would only appreciate it if one-handed usage is a big deal – like for those who take long daily commutes to work or school.

Redmi Note 4 Battery life

One of the highlights of the Redmi Note 4 is its superb battery life. Of course, it packs in a big battery at 4100mAh, but there's also enough power optimizations under the hood that makes it last long – really long. While there's no USB Type-C, the Note 4 does include MediaTek PumpExpress 2.0 technology for fast charging.

On moderate usage, you could stretch the battery life up to about two working days. For a power user like me, it lasted me whole day of being out and about and still had some juice left at the end of the day. Pokemon Go fans, rejoice!

Redmi Note 4 Camera

Unlike the last few Xiaomi devices, the primary shooter on Redmi Note 4 fails to impress. Yes, it's a budget device and manages to click decent pictures, but Xiaomi itself has been one of the companies at the forefront of spoiling budget smartphone buyers offering too-good-to-be-true internals, camera, and build quality.

The 13-megapixel rear camera unit sports a dual LED flash. It does manage to click some nice photos with a decent depth of field effect, but the color reproduction and saturation is not the best. In not exceptionally bright conditions, like indoors or on a gloomy day, the photos are just okay. In well-lit conditions, I did manage to snap a few good ones on Auto mode.

The Note 4 has a great display, but once you take some of those average photos off the phone, you'd notice that the contrast is a tad off. The focus is spot on and quick though, almost the best in any Redmi devices till date.

The camera interface on the MIUI 8 is slick and offers a variety of options with seamless user experience. I'm hoping a firmware update would come soon to improve the camera performance. It's not a bad camera, mind you, but with some of the budget devices – including last couple from the Xiaomi stable – impressing in this critical component, we've started to expect more and more.

Redmi Note 4 Bottom line

The Redmi Note 4 is a pretty good smartphone for its price. It's a capable performer and a decent snapper, but there's nothing exceptional about it. Except the price of course.

If you're in India, you'd not get this variant, mind you. Due to an ongoing legal tussle with Ericsson, Xiaomi cannot sell MediaTek-based devices in India. So, like in the past, Xiaomi will come out with a Qualcomm-based Redmi Note 4 for the Indian market. Hence, there is also a chance, Xiaomi only launches one variant of the same which would then most likely be the 3GB variant, or so we hope.

Should you buy it? Probably

At CNY 899 for the lower specced variant and CNY 1,199 for the higher one, the Redmi Note 4 is a value-for-money device, just like the Redmi Note 3 was. It's not perfect, but at the price, you should be okay to adjust expectations here and there.

Available in three colors – silver, gray, and gold – at the moment you can pick one from the TinyDeal.com, the popular Chinese online retailer for $169.

See at TinyDeal

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2 weeks ago

Best MetroPCS phones

27
Best MetroPCS Phones

MetroPCS offers some great phones to go along with its affordable plans, and we're going to find the one that best suits your needs.

MetroPCS gives you the opportunity to not break the bank when buying a phone without a contract, but most of its phones are mid- to low-end when considering specs. They do offer some high-end phones, which we've featured on this list. Coupled with their affordable plans, you might not be able to pass them up.

We'll be updating this list regularly to keep current with new phones!

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7

MetroPCS brings you Samsung's latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S7 — a surefire choice for anyone looking to upgrade or anyone just stepping foot into the smartphone game. Enjoy the latest from Android with 6.0 Marshmallow, and shoot photos to your heart's content with a 12MP Dual-Pixel camera. The Galaxy S7 is able to charge wirelessly, and has 32GB internal storage you can upgrade to 200GB with a microSD card.

Color options are limited with MetroPCS: the Galaxy S7 comes in Onyx Black only.

If you're thinking about going with the Galaxy S7 but want to learn more, check out our review:

More: Samsung Galaxy S7 review

See at MetroPCS

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung's previous flagship, the Galaxy S6, was released in 2015 and received stellar reviews. Its 16MP camera with image stabilization is a great feature for anyone who loves to shoot photos, and features a brilliant display that compliments Samsung's first effort towards unibody design for their flagship brand.

MetroPCS gives you gold and white color options when choosing your Galaxy S6.

More: Samsung Galaxy S6 review

See at MetroPCS

LG Stylo 2 Plus

Need a bigger screen? You might want to try the 5.7-inch Stylo 2 Plus, one of LG's budget phablet devices. The phone is slim, offers decent battery life, and features a removable battery and expandable storage. And if drawing or penning notes is your thing, there's a stowable stylus that comes with a suite of compatible apps. Just bear in mind that while the phone's Snapdragon 430 processor is capable enough for everyday tasks, it's not exactly a gaming powerhouse.

See at MetroPCS

Bring your own device

If you don't want to shell out the money for a Galaxy S6 or S7 and don't want to settle for a lesser phone, MetroPCS allows you to bring your own phone to their service. Before you pull the trigger have a look at MetroPCS's restrictions when it comes to using your own device with their service.

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2 weeks ago

What you need to know about U.S. carrier plans and subsidies

59

Can I still buy a smartphone with a carrier subsidy?

I forgot what it's like to actually buy a smartphone. I've been living in a bubble because of my privileged position as a former smartphone reviewer and I missed out on the fact that carrier subsidies aren't really a thing anymore.

Back in the day—that is to say, a mere two years ago—you could purchase the latest smartphone at a significant discount after signing on for another two years of service. But in the last year, U.S. carriers have effectively changed their policies so that their customers have to either finance or lease their smartphones, or just buy them outright.

Are there any major carriers still offering subsidies? The answer is, not really. But that doesn't mean that purchasing your next smartphone has to be a daunting experience. Here's what the four major U.S. carriers are offering in terms of upgrades.

Tip: Most of the major carriers have special offers throughout the year that could save you some cash on your next device. For instance, Verizon offers up to $300 trade-in value for your old smartphone when you upgrade or add a line on select devices. These deals change from time to time, but like buying a car, if you can wait to upgrade until the next promotion, it could afford you some major savings.

Verizon Wireless

At present, Verizon only offers two smartphone buying options: Financing the phone with monthly payments, or buying the phone outright. By default, Big Red will allow you to pay for your phone over the course of 24 months, or two years from your purchase date. For instance, if you wanted to buy the 32GB Samsung Galaxy S7, you'd be paying $28 a month until you reach the $672 retail price. Alternatively, you could also put some money down, like $200, and only pay $19.67 per month for 24 months. Unfortunately, you can't pay extra towards the balance of the phone each month after the fact, though you can choose to pay it off entirely at any time if you have the funds.

Big Red will allow you to pay for your phone over the course of 24 months.

Long time customers have a little more luck. Verizon stopped offering subsidies to new customers late last summer, but if you were on contract at that time and you're only now considering an upgrade, you can still buy your next smartphone at a discount until Verizon decides otherwise.

AT&T

Like Verizon, AT&T allows you to pay for your smartphone over time or in one lump sum. There are is an option if you're aching to upgrade early on, however, and depending on your credit, you might even have the luxury of paying off your phone slowly, up to 30 months after initial purchase.

AT&T Next is a bit more flexible than Verizon's offering.

AT&T's financing plan is called AT&T Next, and it's a bit more flexible than Verizon's offerings. For example, if you're looking to upgrade to the 32GB Galaxy S7 edge and you have a good credit score, you can choose to put nothing down and pay $36.50 a month for 30 months. You could also lower your monthly rate by adding on an optional down payment and then choose to pay off your device over 24, 18, or 12 months if you qualify.

AT&T also offers a Next Every Year program, which makes you eligible for a discount on a new phone with a trade-in, but only after your current device is halfway paid off (this takes roughly one year). And if you cancel your service in the middle of paying off the device, you'll have to pay it in full before you can leave.

Sprint

If you're a Sprint subscriber, you can choose to lease your phone, buy it outright, or pay for it in monthly installments.

Sprint's leasing program works similarly to leasing a car. You choose almost any phone you want and then pay for it over the period of 24 months. At the end of the lease, you can choose to pay off the remaining balance on the device, trade it in for a new model, or continue paying month-to-month until you figure out what you want. There's also a $5 monthly Early Upgrade option, though you'll have to have paid toward your device for 12 consecutive months before you can upgrade to a new phone. And if you're crazy for every new Samsung device, you can sign up for the Galaxy Forever leasing program.

Sprint's leasing program is a bit problematic. You don't actually own the device unless you choose the purchase option and should something major happen to the device in your care before it's paid off, you'll be liable for the Damaged Device Fee unless you're enrolled in the Total Equipment Protection plan, which also costs a monthly fee.

Sprint's leasing program is problematic in that you don't actually own the device.

At the end of it all, Sprint's leasing program doesn't sound like the best deal. You'll have to pile on program fees just to ensure you're not paying up the wazoo at the end of the lease, and if you decide to keep the phone, you'll actually be paying more than the current value of the device at the end of the leasing terms. The full terms of Sprint's leasing program are here.

It's also unclear if Sprint has done away with subsidies. On its cell phone upgrades page, Sprint says, "If you have completed a 2-year commitment, you can upgrade to another discounted device if you enter into a new 2-year Service Agreement." This applies only to those customers that are paying at least $40 a month for their bill.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile's Jump program costs $10 a month and includes device insurance. Once you're signed up, you'll pay for the device in monthly installments, and after it's halfway paid off, you can trade it in for a new one.

T-Mobile will let you pay for your phone outright or in 24 month installments.

Like Verizon, T-Mobile will also let you pay for your phone outright, or in installments over 24 months, though you may have to fork over a down payment depending on your credit score. At the very least, that down payment goes towards the full price of the phone. You can also choose to pay extra each month so that your phone is paid off sooner, though you'll have to file that separately from your monthly bill so that it's registered in the system as a device payment.

Lastly, T-Mobile offers a leasing program called Jump! On Demand, which is great for smartphone enthusiasts who are keen on having the latest and greatest but don't necessarily want to commit to shelling out all the cash at once. You'll essentially be making monthly payments to use the phone, though you'll never actually own it. The upside you can walk into any T-Mobile store and trade your months-old phone in for a new one, up to three times in a year. But it also means that you can't get too attached to your daily driver.

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2 weeks ago

How is the iPhone 7 Plus dual camera different from Android cameras?

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iPhone 7 Plus

Android manufacturers say they had dual-camera phones first. Technically they're correct. But Apple's doing things very differently.

For those of us who live and breathe smartphones, it's fun to poke Apple when it "invents" a feature we've been seeing in the Android space for years. Like when it "invented" bigger phones in 2014, or "invented" split-screen multitasking on the iPad Pro.

Sometimes the snark is justified. Other times, not so much. (And for what it's worth, Apple rarely claims to be first with features.) In my view, the clamoring over the iPhone 7 Plus's new dual-camera setup fits somewhere in the middle. Sure, in the Android world dual cameras aren't new. But there's a lot Apple's doing that is new and important.

Let's take a look at how Android's been doing dual cameras over the past two and a half years, and how it differs to Apple's new stuff.

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2 weeks ago

Galaxy S8: New report points to twin edge-screen flagships for 2017

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GS7 edge

5.1 and 5.5-inch edge screen Galaxy S8 models on the way, according to reports from Korean.

After introducing a more subtle edge screen in the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung might be doing away with completely flat screens altogether in its next-gen Galaxy S phone. According to a new report from The Korea Herald, both Galaxy S8 models might feature curved screens, at the same 5.1- and 5.5-inch sizes as the GS7.

Sources said the company has already started securing display panels in two sizes — 5.1-inch and 5.5-inch -- from its own display-making unit Samsung Display, the world's sole producer of double-edged screens.

An improvement in yield rates of the hard-to-make curved displays is a key factor, the outlet says.

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2 weeks ago

Huawei P9 second opinion: A well-rounded smartphone with a brilliant camera

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The quick take

The latest flagship smartphone from Huawei, the P9, has a lot of things going for it in tandem to offer a great Android smartphone experience, along with arguably the best mobile photography credibility a smartphone has offered yet.

The Good

  • Brilliant camera
  • Excellent fingerprint sensor
  • Good display
  • Elegant design and build quality

The Bad

  • Not cheap
  • EMUI is overwhelming
  • Occasional lags
  • Single SIM only

Huawei P9 Full Review

Huawei does a lot of things right. It's made some great hardware for the past couple of years, like the Nexus 6P and the P8. Then there's the Honor sub-brand that has offered some very capable and nice-looking smartphones for customers on a budget. It took the Nexus 6P, obviously aided by the Google branding, to make a lot of people aware about the company's research, engineering, and design capabilities.

The Huawei P9 with Dual Leica Lens is an engineering marvel on paper, and has much improved EMUI software – the biggest showstopper for Huawei phones till date. Let's see how the P9 fares against the flagship smartphones and the value-for-money flagship killers — because it sits right on the fence between the two.

About this review

I used the Indian retail variant of the Huawei P9 (EVA-L09) that ran EMUI 4.1 running on top of Android Marshmallow 6.0 out of the box. For most of the time, I used it with an Airtel 4G SIM in Delhi NCR. There is another higher spec'd variant with 4GB RAM and 64GB of internal storage that is on sale in some markets. This 32GB variant had about 25 gigs of storage available out of the box.

Huawei P9 Design

The Huawei P9 has an industrial design that is consistent with the company's design ethos, yet the metallic unibody construction gives it an elegant look. It's solidly built and the craftsmanship with the chamfered edges and the nicely milled aluminum is impressive.

Because of the smaller screen size, the overall footprint is compact and it is a delight to use with one hand – something which is a thing of the past when it comes to the current trend in flagship smartphones. At 144 grams, it is light and easy to handle, and yet doesn't feel flimsy because the weight is evenly spread across the surface area of the device. With less than 7mm of thickness and curved edges, it feels great to grip the P9 in your hand and you'd not want to reach for your pocket or bag to put it away all the time.

The back sports the camera unit which, despite the advanced optics, does not have a bump like the Nexus 6P had. Of course, there's the Leica branding next to it which is something definitely worth flashing.

There's no doubt the P8 and P9 are part of the same lineage, which isn't a bad thing. The Huawei P8 was a well-designed smartphone, and the P9 is a nice evolution of the same. There's nothing flashy about the Huawei P9 and yet it is one of the best designed smartphones on the market – not just in looks but in ease of use as well.

Huawei P9 Hardware

Category Features Operating system Android Marshmallow 6.0 with EMUI 4.1 Display 5.2 Inch Full HD (1080 x 1920) IPS LCD | 423ppi Processor 2.5GHz Huawei Kirin 955 Quad-core RAM 3 GB Internal Storage 32 GB; expandable up to 128GB via a microSD card Battery 3000mAh Rear Camera Dual 12MP (color & monochrome) | ƒ/2.2 lens | Co-engineered with Leica Front Camera 8MP Dimensions 145 x 70.9 x 6.95 mm Weight 144 grams

Powered by Huawei's home-brewed octa-core Kirin 955 chipset with four Cortex-A72 cores clocked at 2.5GHz and four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.8GHz, the P9 packs in 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.

The Kirin 955 packs in enough muscle for being a daily driver without breaking a sweat, and it's a shame that many question Huawei's decision to opt for its own chipset instead of going with a Qualcomm one without taking it for a spin in the real world. From multi-tabbed browsing to Full HD video playback to playing graphic-intensive games, the P9 handles everything thrown at it smoothly. It does tend to get a little hot when playing games for an extended period.

It's not all hunky-dory though. While there's a lot of memory management optimizations under the hood, I did run into occasional lags with the P9. It's not a showstopper, but one wonders if packing in 3GB of RAM (or having a lower spec'd variant for India) was a wrong decision by Huawei. Overall though, the Kirin 955 does well to offer a fluid Android experience with a lot of tweaks for the camera experience.

The fingerprint sensor on the P9 is one of the fastest in the business and supports 360-degree recognition. You can also configure the fingerprint sensor for additional functionality like answering calls or taking phones et al. Also, the EMUI offers several gestures in conjunction with the fingerprint sensor for extended functionality — like swiping down on the sensor to bring down the notifications shade or double-tapping it to clear the notifications. One of the more useful gestures is the ability to swipe left or right on the sensor to browse photos without your finger blocking the view over the display.

Interestingly, the Huawei P9 has a single nanoSIM card slot that supports 4G LTE instead of the common hybrid Dual SIM slot – surprising considering the trend in the Indian market. So if you use two SIMs on an everyday basis or on your frequent travels, the P9 is a no go for you.

Huawei P9 Display

The Huawei P9 features a 5.2-inch Full HD IPS LCD. Unless you're a fan of the 6-inch-and-around display sizes, the display on the P9 is just about perfect for most people. Huawei steers clear of the temptation for boundary-pushing 4K or even a Quad HD display, and the 1080p screen makes absolute sense on a 5.2-inch display. Anything higher would only drain the battery faster.

In any case, the display on P9 is extremely good and with a pixel density of around 423ppi, the P9's panel makes images look incredible and the text crisp. The 2.5D curved glass looks beautiful and accentuates the display. The viewing angles are great and the color reproduction is pretty accurate. You can also adjust the color temperature of the display from the settings to make it warmer or cooler as you'd prefer.

The sunlight legibility is just good enough, though slightly marred by the reflective glass. Overall, the display is sharp, and watching a movie or viewing your photos is a treat.

Huawei P9 Software

Emotion UI, or EMUI, is Huawei's custom UI layer running on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Far from just a skin, it adds a ton of features to the operating system including a variety of gesture controls. The number of features can actually be intimidating, so you may need to spend a couple of weeks moving things around to make everything work for you.

Like most of the proprietary UIs from Chinese brands, the EMUI lacks an app drawer. There's a one-hand UI with shifting keyboard (not sure why you'd need it on a compact smartphone like the P9 though) as well as a simple UI mode for basic users and for those who are visually impaired. There's the 'Phone Manager' app that gives easy access to, well, phone management options like system optimizations, memory clean-up, traffic manager, battery manager, as well as a harassment filter for blocking unwanted calls and messages.

The EMUI 4.1 is thankfully a good progression and takes care of some annoyances of the past. It's a very usable user interface with a host of customization options. Once you get a hang of it, it becomes clear that EMUI 4.1 is the best version of the EMUI yet, and as powerful as any other launcher. Of course, if you don't like what Huawei has done with the EMUI, you can switch to your favorite launcher just fine.

Huawei P9 Battery life

The Huawei P9 includes a respectable 3,000mAh non-removable battery, and big props to Huawei for packing a battery of that size into the slim form-factor of the P9. With average usage, the P9 easily lasts a day. The lack of Quad HD or 4K panel is a definite factor here, as well as the power-efficient optimizations of the Kirin 955 processor. You can squeeze out even more juice with the useful 'ROG power saving' mode which reduces the phone's resolution to 720p — further knocking down the battery consumption.

Overall, the battery life on the P9 is pretty good — not stellar — and since it supports fast charging, you can charge it up to two-thirds in less than 30 minutes. Trouble is, the supplied charger is the normal 5V/2A charger and takes over two hours to charge the phone from empty to 100%.

Huawei P9 Camera

Of course, the highlight of the Huawei P9 is the camera — co-engineered with Leica, the legendary optics enterprise from Germany. It's obviously less of a hardware partnership and more of a branding collaboration, similar to the Dolby Atmos or Beats tie-ups we've seen in the past for audio component.

Yet, imaging is a critical aspect of a smartphone experience today, and the collaboration with Leica and the execution is impressive, and so let me just say it outright. The photos clicked with the Huawei P9 are some of the best photos clicked with smartphones – the flagships included. Shots from the 12-megapixel rear camera offer a lot of details with impressive color reproduction.

The rear camera on the P9 packs in two sensors – RGB and Monochrome – with 27mm focal length and an f2.2 aperture, assisted laser AF as well as a dual-tone LED flash. The smartphones that boasted dual camera sensors in the past typically used them for 3D effect or for sensing depth of field, and hence never made a big impression. For Huawei, the dual camera sensors allow you to snap outstanding pictures using the two sensors, which work in unison with the RGB sensor capturing the colors and the monochrome sensor capturing the details. Despite sporting a smaller sensor as compared to the Samsung Galaxy S7 for example, the P9 has terrific low-light performance because of that monochrome sensor.

The P9 also includes a dedicated depth sensor which allows users to mimic depth of field just like shooting with DSLRs. Several other phone cameras with similar attempts end up clicking pictures that look unnatural. But the P9 excels here, allowing for bokeh effects that are pleasant to look at and look real.

Just as the marketing pitch of Huawei proposes, snapping monochrome photos on the P9 is an indulgence in itself. The monochrome mode captures photos with the monochrome sensor – unlike other smartphones where the photos are taken with an RGB sensor and then desaturated to look like a black-and-white photo. Nah, not the same thing! The monochrome photos with the P9 are brighter with more details. If you're like me and love monochrome or B&W photos, you'll end up shooting random things using the monochrome mode on the P9 all day for the sheer delight of the results.

On the front, there's an 8-megapixel camera with a f/2.4 aperture. It does well for those selfies outdoors, and even in low light although they are a tad darker in the latter case. There's also the functional beauty mode if vanity is your thing.

The brilliant results the P9 camera manages to offer are not just due to the optics hardware, but also the under-the-hood processing as well as the stock camera app. The latter may be intimidating as there is a lot going on here. There are almost too many options and features baked in, including 14 modes for clicking pictures and the option to shoot in RAW or the manual mode to granularly adjust ISO value, exposure, shutter speed, and focus.

At the end of the day, this is still a smartphone camera. It will not replace your DSLR (no smartphone can make such a claim at the moment) like some hyperbole headlines would suggest, but it's a darn nice camera with tons of options to get the photos you want for those likes and shares.

The video recording tops out at 1080p and 60fps and the P9, despite all its camera credentials, doesn't shoot in 4K. Frankly, like most people, I don't care about 4K, but it's a dent on the specifications sheet. Even on other flagships that support 4K recording, I record only 1080p to save storage space. You still get manual controls, and an option of standard, smooth, and vivid colors for video – but not the star monochrome option here. There's no optical image stabilization as well. So, yeah, you can shoot decent videos on the P9 but nothing fantastic or extraordinary like the stills it manages to capture.

Huawei P9 Bottom line

After the Nexus 6P, which probably isn't a Huawei phone in absolute terms, the Huawei P9 is the best smartphone from the Chinese brand. As Phil NIckinson says, the P9 is the "best mainstream phone Huawei has made." It's one of those smartphones that can't be judged on mere specifications and impresses you when you hold it in your hand and start using it.

The EMUI is in its best avatar on the P9, and although a little overpowering, it offers what the best in business offer feature-by-feature. It's got powerful internals with a well-executed dual-camera setup encased in a beautiful chassis with understated elegance. There are misses, too. Like the underwhelming RAM — in number or in memory performance. With all the camera hype, expert videographers and photographers — not me — would point at the lack of 4K recording and the just about average f2.2. aperture. And there's no dual SIM variant, mind you.

Should you buy it? Yes

The Huawei P9 is a top-notch smartphone, but alas, it's not a 'value for money' device like the Xiaomi Mi5 or OnePlus 3. At ₹39,999, the P9 is expensive but also a really impressive smartphone, and Huawei is within its rights to charge the premium for it.

Go ahead and buy it if you love mobile photography (who doesn't?) or like a stylish-looking slab that fits snuggly in your hand.

See at Flipkart

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2 weeks ago

5 things I learned traveling with the Honor 8

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Honor 8 travel

Travel lessons from a week with the Honor 8 at IFA.

If you're a frequent traveler, you'll know that nothing taxes a phone like dragging it halfway across a continent, through airport security bins, onto planes and back again. So whenever I take a phone with me on a trip — as I did with the Galaxy S7 edge earlier this year — it's fun to reflect on the lessons learned.

This time around my phone of choice was the Huawei-built Honor 8, and the venue was IFA 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Read on to find out how it fared.

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2 weeks ago

Wireless Fast Charging explained

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Qi Fast Charge brings faster and more efficient charging without any change in how we use it.

The Qi charging standard has come a long way since it was first specified. What started as a very slow and very wasteful technology to recharge low-power devices (like the battery in your phone) has expanded to include things that need more power like a laptop and the Wireless Power Consortium has even demonstrated the tech powering kitchen appliances at 1kW. But for most of us, the biggest advance has been the introduction of wireless fast charging.

Any Qi-enabled phone will charge on any Qi pad, even if Fast Charge isn't available.

Qi (pronounced Chee and roughly translated to "spiritual energy") is a charging standard. The Wireless Power Consortium — think a group of electrical engineers that really love chargers and the smart people who make things that need to be charged — developed the specification in 2009. The first version supported wireless power transfer up to 4.999 watts, and it works by using two coils and some computer logic that sends a signal across the gap when they get close to each other, then uses magnetic induction to produce electricity on the receiver side. In the early days, you had to waste a lot of power creating an oscillating magnetic field in the base that was strong enough to induce the same oscillation and field in the receiver in order to charge your phone. And even then it charged very slowly. It was more of a convenience thing than an efficiency thing.

More: Wireless charging, in plain English

The folks at the WPC have kept expanding and developing the standard and besides additions like a medium-power mode that can provide up to 120 watts, they have been working on three specific ways to make it better: a longer range (it's up to 40mm now), higher output done safely, and less wasted power in the form of heat.

In June of 2015, the WPC released the latest version of the standard and increased the power transfer to 15 watts without any increase in the amount of wasted electricity as heat. That means the power created by the receiver coil (the one inside your phone) has increased by 300% and charging is faster, without either coil getting any hotter.

Using a charger and a phone with the "Fast Charge" label you can charge a typical phone (for example, the Galaxy Note 5 and Samsung's Wireless Fast Charger) to about 50% in 30 minutes, or charge fully in 90 minutes. While not as fast as a wired quick charge solution, this is a lot faster than it used to be.

Like every quick charging specification the tech has to monitor the transfer rate, the temperature, and the amount of charge the battery has. From a "cold" state, it takes about a fair amount of time for things to reach the point where they need to be scaled back. Reducing the amount of electricity provided (the base modifies the frequency and wavelength of the magnetic field created by its coil) is done to protect the battery and electronics inside your phone from getting too hot. At this point, the power (watts are a measure of power) generated is dropped until the battery is full, at which point it shuts down. Your phone monitors itself and sends a signal to the base to indicate that things need to change.

A lot of engineer speech is involved here, because of the subject matter. Essentially, your phone and your charger carry on a little electronic conversation.

  • Phone: I need some power!
  • Base: OK, I'll start my end. Make sure you stay close enough so the way my coil hums makes your coil hum, too. If I see your coil stop humming I'll turn everything off.
  • Phone: Gotcha. Staying close.
  • Base: I see that you are using the latest Qi standard, so I'll go full speed ahead until you give the word.
  • Phone: OK, I'm getting warm, so scale things back a little.
  • Base: OK. Lowering the frequency and pitch of my coil's hum so things don't get any hotter. Let me know when we're done.
  • Phone: My battery is full. You can stop now.

This is exactly how Qi charging has always worked. The only differences are changes to the resonant circuits in both the phone and the base that allow the coils to oscillate at a higher frequency with less damping (resistance) and less radiated energy (wasted energy in the form of heat) production. The current generated is higher while the resistance and heat produced are lower than previous versions, so more juice can flow from the coil in your phone to the battery without things getting too hot too fast. These changes were part of an update to the Qi standard, and everyone who is part of the WPC — Belkin, HTC, Lexus, Motorola, Samsung, Verizon and the rest of the 230+ members — can use the design to build chargers and devices that need charged and be sure everything is compatible.

Qi Fast Charge can generate up to 300% more current than the original specification.

The Qi specification has nothing to do with any USB charging standards and is generally followed to the letter by everyone involved. It's also freely available to anyone after a short term of WPC members-only access so everyone can use it — even a startup who might not have an extra $20,000 for the annual fee. Generally, you don't have to worry about the things you buy not meeting the full specifications. It just works. And now it works even faster.

For us as consumers, there isn't a lot to think about. If our phone is Qi Fast Charge compatible and we use a charging base that's also Qi Fast Charge ready, our phone will charge faster — about as fast as using an old (not quick charge) wall plug and cable. The system is designed to slow down before things get too hot and shut off completely once the battery is full — we don't need to intervene at any level. Qi is also backwards compatible so all your devices that use it will charge with any charging base, even if Fast Charge isn't available. The one thing we should do is to use the proper wall plug to make sure the right amount of current is available to the charging base and it doesn't overheat or charge too slowly.

If you like the convenience of wireless charging, make sure the next charging base you buy is Fast Charge ready!

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2 weeks ago

Australian airlines ban Galaxy Note 7 use as FAA considers options

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Galaxy Note 7

Note 7 may not be used or charged onboard Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia flights following battery fires.

The latest development in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall saga: Three Australian airlines have banned the use of Note 7 handsets onboard their aircraft, citing safety concerns after at least 35 devices suffered battery fires or explosions. Meanwhile the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority says it's considering its options.

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2 weeks ago

LG V20 Hands-On: The phone for the A/V geek

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LG hasn't had the best year when it comes to smartphones, but the LG V20 has a few tricks under its unassuming outer shell. At IFA 2016 in Berlin, the company gave me a quick peek at the successor to last year's LG V10... and if you're the kind of kid who hung out in the A/V studio in high school, you're gonna love it.

From high-decibel microphones to high-resolution cameras, the LG V20 comes packing — but does it bring enough heat to overcome the wet blanket that was the LG G5? Find out in MrMobile's LG V20 hands-on!

Go forth and be social!

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