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1 week ago

Spoiler Alert! If you're using a Note 7 ROM, you're going to get Note 7 notifications

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No, Samsung is not collecting your ROM'd phones.

Samsung's recall of the Note 7 means two things — lots of people curious about whether their phone might be next, and lots of misinformation about how Samsung is handling the recall. We've seen reports claiming Samsung will send kill signals to phones, claims that Samsung has been monitoring existing Note 7 users, and now claims that Samsung is pulling phones running Note 7 software.

The one thing all of these stories have in common is that they aren't at all true, but that last one is what happens when you don't fully understand how rooting and romming works.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was running some interesting software that isn't available to all other Samsung phones. As a result, some of the more clever Samsung users out there have flashed modified versions of the Note 7 software to other phones. Samsung doesn't know (or care) about the difference between a real Note 7 and a phone running Note 7 software, which means when Samsung pushes a recall notification to all active Note 7 phones reminding them of the need to submit the phone for a recall everything gets it. One of those people, a Redditor with a Note 4 running Note 7 software, got that message and shared it. What happened next on tech blogs eager to write anything new about the Note 7 will surprise no one.

Is this a reason to panic? Of course not. If you are smart enough to root and flash Note 7 software to your Note 4, you're more than smart enough to know Samsung's recall notification doesn't apply to you. Samsung isn't sending updates to disable your phone, and there is no massive surge in people sending in Samsung phones that aren't the Note 7 for a recall because they're running Note 7 software.

If you'd like to explore applying Note 7 software to something that isn't a Note 7, you should start with our guide to rooting your Android phone and learn from there!

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

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1 week ago

Samsung brings Gear S3 and Blue Coral Galaxy S7 to Canada

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Canadians can now get in on the Blue Coral GS7 love.

Samsung is bringing more of its highly-awaited mobile products to Canada this week with the Gear S3 classic and frontier, and the Blue Coral Galaxy S7.

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1 week ago

Samsung Galaxy S7 Android 7.0 Nougat release date: When to expect the GS7's biggest software upgrade

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Galaxy S7 Nougat

It's possible — but by no means guaranteed — that updates for some models could arrive by the end of the year.

The Galaxy Beta Program is allowing some Galaxy S7 and S7 edge owners to get an early taste of Android 7.0 Nougat. But as for anyone who doesn't want to use potentially buggy pre-release software, we're left waiting on an official rollout for what's turning out to be a substantial update.

So when's it due out? Officially, Samsung's not saying. But there are a few clues out in the wild.

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1 week ago

HTC kicks off Black Friday deals with $200 off HTC 10, RE Camera for $75

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HTC One M9, HTC 10

Other offers include 40% off accessories, A9 for $275.

HTC is the latest phone maker to given an early launch its Black Friday deals, with a wide range of offers on some of its high-profile phones and accessories. The flagship HTC 10 is down to $499 unlocked, $200 off the standard price, in all four color options. The RE camera — HTC's fun, if underappreciated little action cam — is yours for a mere $75, while the UA Band gets slashed to $79.

Other accessories are on sale for 40% off — including the HTC Ice View case for $29.99, and HTC's Quick Charge 3.0 charger for $20.99.

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1 week ago

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro review: Tango should keep the 'project' tag for now

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Lenovo Phab 2 Pro

Few of Google's "projects" have been as fascinating to watch take shape like Tango, but now that the first phone with the AR equipment baked in has hit store shelves it's not entirely clear who should invest in this tech.

The quick take

Tango remains an impressive collection of cool ideas, but the Phab 2 Pro is nowhere near ready to be considered a serious consumer product. Aside from being huge and awkward, Neither Lenovo nor Google's software is fully baked enough for this to be a complete thought.

The Good

  • Decent display
  • Solid build quality
  • Great battery life

The Bad

  • Huge and awkward
  • Camera isn't great
  • Tango is half baked
  • Lenovo's notifications are awful

It's very easy to think about Tango in individual contexts. We've seen it used as an incredible tour guide for museums, deployed on the International Space Station inside NASA's SPHERES satellites, and even used as the eyes of an autonomous drone. The individual possibilities for using the computer vision tech in Google Tango has demonstrated itself as highly useful in very specific situations, but what happens when you put all of that tech in the hands of a consumer?

Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro is the first retail product with Tango onboard, a massive smartphone with all the computer vision potential. You won't find it in a carrier store next to the Moto Z, though. It's available to purchase in Lowe's hardware stores as a phone that gives users the ability to measure objects in space and even place objects in augmented reality so you can "see" the product in the home or office before you buy it. The suggestion here is that the phone isn't really built for the Facebook generation, but is instead a smarter tool for contractors or interior designers to show their customers what their house could look like with a bit of help.

At the same time, Lenovo makes sure everyone knows this phone is also an entertainment powerhouse. A massive high resolution display with a quality audio system and a rich gaming experience thanks to the Tango Core, but it is lacking support for Google's new Daydream VR platform. Lenovo's selling points differ from what you see on the shelf at Lowe's, which differs again from Google's initial vision for Tango.

So, who is this phone for? Is this a massive media and gaming powerhouse? Will this become standard issue for contractors and interior decorators? Should eager tinkerers prepare little robots for this phone to power? Maybe all of the above? Read on to find out.

About this review

I'm writing this review after six days with a retail Lenovo Phab 2 Pro (model PB2-690Y) in Glen Burnie MD on T-Mobile. This review unit, which was provided by Lenovo, was using software version PB2-690Y_S100020_160924, based on Android 6.0.1 with the August 1, 2016 security patch.

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro

You'll need two hands

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro Hardware

As the name suggests, Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro is a big phone aimed at people who want to do a lot on the go. As much as I despise the word phablet, it really does apply here. This behemoth gave me flashbacks to the Sony Xperia Z Ultra, only thicker and a lot more solid. Make no mistake, this is is only a phone for people who like massive screens and the batteries that drive them.

The outer casing isn't anything special when it comes to design, but checks all the right boxes for a quality build. The aluminum body feels solid and has just the right amount of grip, with a nicely textured power key and a tactile volume rocker with very little wiggle. The edges of the phone have a slight chamfer that catches light well, but offers little towards making the phone comfortable to hold with one hand. Across the top of the phone you'll find the headphone jack off to the left, and on the bottom of the phone you'll find what looks like stereo speaker grilles on either side of a Micro-USB port. In reality, it's a single Dolby Atmos speaker firing down with the other side for what Lenovo calls a 360-degree microphone array.

The front of this Phab 2 Pro is a single sheet of 2.5d curved Gorilla Glass. It's not curved like the Galaxy S7 edge or LG G5, but the edges of the glass slope away into the bezel connector in a way that makes this phone a little easier to grip by the sides. Instead of software navigation keys like most Android phones, Lenovo went with the old school soft keys under the display. You only see those keys when lit up, which isn't all the time, so when the display is off the only thing you see on the face of this phone is the camera off to the right of the top speaker. Toss in a couple of antenna lines on the top and bottom and a fingerprint sensor dead center of the back, and you've got a fairly generic looking phone. You know, as long as you ignore the three cameras taking up the top half of the phone.

This phone should have been an early Christmas present for nerds.

In order for Tango to work, Google uses a standard RGB sensor, and infrared sensor, and a fisheye lens. The standard 16MP sensor and infrared sensor work together to "see" things, and the fisheye lens adds human-style depth perception, among other things. All three of these cameras work together with the specially optimized Snapdragon 652 processor to give this phone the information needed for a successful Tango experience. You hold the phone up with two hands, look at the QHD IPS display as though you were peering into another world, and in theory Tango does the rest.

It's difficult to imagine this phone with a case on it. The Phab 2 Pro is not fun to carry around in your pocket, both because it weighs more than half a pound and because the 6.4-inch display is noticeably larger than any phone I've tested over the last year. People using this phone for commercial reasons, like consulting on hardware installations, are going to want a case — which is going to make this phone even larger. It's possible there are people out there who would buy this phone because it's fairly inexpensive and gets you a massive display and a 4050mAh battery, but either way dropping this phone is not going to be fun for anyone.

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro

No, really. When does this get good?

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro Software

This is the part where I, the VR and AR nerd, am supposed to tell you how much better your life would be if you had the ability to look through your phone and see another reality. Having followed Tango and drooled over the potential for years, this phone should have been an early Christmas present for nerds like me. Instead, Lenovo and Google seem to have tried their best to make this phone one of the least enjoyable experiences I've had in 2016.

Lenovo's Android has never been great. Previous iterations of their software have been visually uninspiring and on several occasions included bloatware that bordered on offensive. After the purchase of Motorola and the release of the fairly impressive Yoga Book, it seemed as though Lenovo's software was finally getting the overhaul it needed.

While Lenovo has worked hard to stay close to something that more closely resembles stock Marshmallow with this release, it all falls apart with the notifications. They're transparent with either black or white text, which means no matter what wallpaper you're using the notifications are often difficult to read in the best of lighting. Out in daylight, forget about it.

Lenovo and Google seem to have tried their best to make this phone one of the least enjoyable experiences I've had in 2016.

This phone does dial it way back on added software though. The only nonstandard apps installed are Accuweather, McAfee Security, Sound Recorder, and SYNCit for people who want a third-party backup tool for their phone. Sound recorder makes sense, given the special microphone array this phone has. The purpose is to offer a more complete 360-degree recording solution, and it works noticeably better than just sticking a recording app on a Pixel and leaving it on a table to record while you talk. This is a great feature for talking through something in an interview format, but there aren't a ton of other uses for this microphone setup.

Obviously the big software feature here has basically nothing to do with Lenovo. Google Tango already has more apps in the Play Store than Google Daydream does, and only two are actually made by Google. These apps can be broken out into three basic categories:

  • Games take a look at the environment around you and overlay some kind of activity for you to interact with. This can be a small simulated city like Towers for Tango, a firing range where you point your phone and tap to shoot like Tango Targets, or a table full of puzzle pieces for you to walk around the real world and interact with. Most of these require fairly low accuracy and so work fairly well. There's also some surprisingly big names, like Crayola Color Blaster and Hot Wheels Track Builder Tango.

  • Shopping apps let you browse Amazon, Wayfair, Lowe's, and others for a variety of products and then show you what those products would look like in your home. The measurements offered in the product description and Tango's computer vision work together to place objects in augmented reality so they don't clash with anything in the real world, and as long as your room is well lit and you have a fairly open space this method of shopping works well.

  • Tool apps let you measure 2D and 3D spaces with an app, and allow you to store those measurements for later. This can be physical measurements or a way to observe things like signal strength for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and cellular networks in the real world. These apps require accuracy to be effective, which means wide open spaces and proper lighting to "see" everything clearly. Even in perfect conditions, tool apps still have a high failure rate.

Very little in this software experience works the way it should.

While games are a great way to show someone Tango and give a starting idea for what computer vision is all about, it's a serious problem that these are the most accurate apps in the Tango arsenal. Not only is this setup only useful indoors, but even in ideal conditions the software isn't reliable. Google's Measure app starts with a warning that it's meant for estimation and not for accuracy. Shopping apps are more reliable when you're in a well lit room, but fail quickly in low light and handles collision poorly if your goal is to see how well a corner table would look with two real couches on either side.

Very little in this software experience works the way it should. Between the frequent failure rate of individual apps to Lenovo's aggressively mediocre implementation of Android, it's not entirely obvious who would enjoy this experience enough to justify spending money exclusively for playing with Tango. I say playing because that's basically what you're doing with these apps. The tools aren't accurate enough to be considered useful by real contractors. The shopping apps would only be useful to interior designers in an empty, well-lit home. The games are only fun if you happen to have a ton of free space in you home to enjoy them, which isn't a ton of people.

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro

Dragons are cool, I guess.

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro Experience

You know how some phones just sort of disappear in your pocket? This is not one of those phones. The good news is I don't think I'd ever misplace this phone, regardless of how long I used it. The less good news is I can't take this phone anywhere without either putting it in my jacket pocket or wearing a belt. It's not that the phone is big — though really, this is such a huge damn phone — it's the weight. Some of that is top be expected with a huge battery and a metal body and the additional hardware, but comparing the weight of this phone to every other on my desk is incredible.

Speaking of that big battery, if I don't touch the Tango features at all, I can get through a normal 16 hour day with 55% battery remaining when I go to sleep. With Quick Charge 2.0 on board, I can recharge this phone in minutes and basically never worry about it dying. Unless, of course, I start a Tango app. On average, Tango apps drain 10% of the battery for every 15 minutes of use, which is insane. It's no shock that three cameras and the act of processing that information while displaying content on the screen consumes battery, but you can crush almost half of the battery on this phone with an hour of Tango use. There aren't a lot of situations that call for an hour of Tango use though, so it's unlikely to be a huge deal in day to day use.

There's a lot of promise in tech like Tango, but this phone was not ready for primetime.

It cannot be overstated how poorly Tango operates in less than ideal situations. The Signal Mapper app failed 16 out of the 18 times I tested it. Between Google Measure and the measure tool in the Lowe's app, I got a mostly accurate measurement twice after using both apps every day for nearly a week. The number of time I've seen "Unfortunately, Tango Core has stopped" is embarrassing. In no way should this experience be on a store shelf right now.

But at the same time, the promise of Tango remains. This tech is so damn cool, and now that it's in a form factor that can generously be called a phone at a reasonable price it's accessible to way more people. This may not deserve to be a consumer product yet, but Project Tango as a concept is something incredible and powerful. Right now it just only works when you're inside a big empty room and conditions are perfect.

Some of that may be due to Lenovo's primary camera. It's not the best sensor for grabbing detail, and in low light the sensor struggles a lot. I found myself frequently wondering what would happen if a Tango Pixel existed, with a sensor that handled low light like a champion and could combine powerful AR with Google Daydream VR. That's obviously not happening anytime soon, but it's a cool thought. In the mean time, Lenovo's camera does include a cute AR mode that lets you overlay some animals for you to take some photos. Here's a quick look at some of the shots I grabbed this week.

There's a lot of promise in tech like Tango, but usually that promise is in contained experiences. A detailed 3D guide of a store is cool, but only if enough people own something that justifies the experience. This could be great when specialized for specific things, but on its own it's difficult to imagine wanting this phone in my pocket every day.

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro

The bottom line

Should you buy the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro? Probably not

Is it possible that Tango will improve with time? Sure. At one third the cost of Google Glass — that's $499 for the uninitiated — it's the kind of thing we'll see show up at hacker spaces for cool one-off ideas over the next two years. It's difficult to imagine this being the kind of thing you see someone casually using in public, and it's even more difficult to imagine a professional using this to enhance their work and being satisfied with the results right now.

But as a daily driver, even if you're really hyped about Tango and Augmented Reality? This isn't what you want, at least not yet.

See at Lowe's

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1 week ago

'Glossy black' Galaxy S7 edge is Samsung's answer to the 'jet black' iPhone

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Say hello to a slightly different black GS7 edge.

With the Note 7 consigned to the flaming dumpster of history, it seems Samsung is looking to new color options for the Galaxy S7 series to boost sales in the run up to the holidays. We've already seen the "blue coral" GS7 edge, and now it looks like it may be joined by a darker, glossier version of the "onyx black" color that's been available from launch.

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1 week ago

Alcatel now offering Idol 4S for just $349 without VR headset

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Save a few dollars on an Idol 4S by skipping out on the virtual reality headset.

Alcatel is now offering a version of the Idol 4S without its previously bundled VR headset and Incipio case, and shaving off an extra $50 in the process. The phone still comes with its standard accessories of a quick charger, USB cable and tempered glass screen protector, though.

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1 week ago

Next Google Pixel update adds raise-to-wake, double-tap-to-wake

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So far, only Pixel owners in Canada are seeing the mid-month update to build NPF26J.

It's been just a few weeks since the Google Pixel November security update started rolling out, but already we're seeing a new build hitting some handsets, with the second update apparently hitting Pixel owners in Canada first.

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1 week ago

Nextbit Robin Nougat update released to community testers

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Minty cloudphone company teams up with Paranoid Android devs for faster updates.

Nextbit has announced that the Android 7.0 Nougat update for its Robin phone has officially entered its community testing phase, with builds now rolling out to testers registered through its online form. To help bring the Nextbit Robin right up to speed on the latest stable version of Android, it's partnered with the Paranoid Android development team, the group responsible for one of the most popular custom Android ROMs out there.

Nougat for Robin brings another surprise with it - more help from the community. When we say "our dev team," that now includes members of Paranoid Android. We have joined forces to bring you a faster, less power-hungry OS. We're proud of what we've accomplished together so far, and this cooperation will continue. Stay on the lookout - Robin is going to get even better. For more info, check out our blog post.

Nextbit says over-the-air updates are already going out to testers, and the rollout will continue over the next 24 hours — so don't fret if you've registered but aren't seeing an OTA notification just yet. As you'd expect from a beta build, there might be a few bugs in the mix until the builds become official and stable.

Robin owners can look forward to redesigned notifications, split-screen multitasking, improved battery life and re-vamped Settings controls in Android 7.0, along with a bunch of smaller under-the-hood enhancements.

Image credit: Android Police.

Android Nougat

img { width: 100%; height: auto; } .devicebox ul { display: table; margin: 0 0 10px; width: 100%; } .devicebox ul li { background: #f7f7f7; margin: 2px 0; padding: 4px 15px; } .devicebox ul li:hover { background: #fff; } .devicebox ul li:before { display: none; } .devicebox p ~ p { line-height: 1.25; } .devicebox p:first-of-type + p { padding: 15px; } .devicebox a.buy-link { border-radius: 5px; display: inline-block; font: 14px/31px "Proxima Nova Extrabld",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; text-align: center; } .devicebox a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:link, .devicebox a.buy-link:active, .devicebox a.buy-link:visited { background: #37B5D7; color: #FFF; } .devicebox a.buy-link:hover { background: #2694B2; text-decoration: none; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { content: "\e61e"; font: 40px/0 "ac_iconset" !important; margin: 0 3px 0 -8px; vertical-align: middle; } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { /* div:not(.columns-3) excludes help menu content */ .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p img, .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 660px) { .devicebox h3 { text-align: center; } .devicebox ul, .devicebox p { display: block; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox p img, .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 661px), all and (max-width: 500px) { /* 2x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(even) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:last-of-type:nth-of-type(odd) { width: 100%; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 659px) and (min-width: 501px) { /* 3x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(100%/3 - 10px/3); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(3n):not(:nth-last-of-type(2)) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:only-child { width: 100%; margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(odd) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 500px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } .page-admin .devicebox {max-width: 350px;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe {position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

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1 week ago

T-Mobile Black Friday deals: Free phones, free money and free Wi-Fi

29
John Legere

Deals kick off midnight Pacific Time on November 24.

T-Mobile U.S. has announced its Black Friday 2016 deals, with some attractive offers for anyone looking to pick up a flagship phone on the cheap, cash in on a change of carrier, or score some free Wi-Fi on the flight home this Thanksgiving weekend. For Android lovers, the main attraction this year is a free LG V20 or Samsung Galaxy S7.

Highlights include:

  • A free LG V20, Samsung Galaxy S7, or S7 edge (or, ahem, iPhone 7) when you trade in a qualifying device. (T-Mobile ONE or Simple Choice Unlimited, via 24 monthly bill credits.)
  • $200 per line when you switch to T-Mo, up to $2400 total, on a prepaid MasterCard.
  • A free hour of in-flight Wi-Fi for everyone — even if you're not a T-Mobile customer — from today through until November 26.
  • Free Gear VR and $50 Oculus store credit when you buy a GS7 or GS7 edge.
  • $70 off UE BOOM 2 Wireless speaker ($129.99)

The new deals aren't live on T-Mo's page just yet, instead expect them to show up when the carrier's Black Friday sale official kicks off — at 12 a.m. PST this Thursday. More details, along with plenty of marketing speak and small print, over on T-Mobile's official blog.

See at T-Mobile

Anything catch your eye? Let us know down in the comments!

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1 week ago

Galaxy S7 on Nougat defaults to 1080p: A look at Samsung's new display scaling options

69

On the current beta release, the Galaxy S7 runs at a lower resolution by default. But that's not as big a deal as it might seem.

Android 7.0 Nougat for the Samsung Galaxy S7 — currently in testing in the form of a semi-public beta build — is the phone's biggest software update to date, featuring not only a brand new OS version, but a host of new Samsung-specific changes, and a significantly updated UI. Among them are major changes to the display settings, allowing you to change how graphics and fonts are shown — and change the phone's screen resolution.

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1 week ago

What is LeEco's EcoPass actually worth?

39

As of now, the Le Pro3's content offerings aren't enticing. Not even a little bit.

Last month, Chinese smartphone maker, LeEco, announced the Le Pro3, an Android device that promises to be thinner, faster, and more powerful than the competition. For $400, you get the phone, which features top-of-the-line specifications, in addition to three months of LeEco's EcoPass, which is what ostensibly unlocks a subscription to LeEco's video content services.

There's a catch, however. Since it's all still in "beta," there is no word on how much the EcoPass will cost to continue reaping the benefits of its content library. And that got me thinking: How much is LeEco's content library even worth in the first place? As a dedicated subscriber to a number of free and premium on-demand entertainment services, I decided to venture in and gauge it myself.

LeWhat?

There are two ways to play LeEco's content. The first is to launch the Le app, which showcases all the content you can watch on demand. Then there's Le Live, which aggregates all that watchable content into channels that are easy to peruse.

Remember when Netflix first started offering streaming video and a majority of the available titles were mostly low-budget horror movies and arty indie flicks? LeEco's offerings are a little like that. To dig out gems like Chris Rock's Good Hair and Benny & Joon, you'll have to sift through some slightly jarring movie titles and hokey web series.

It took a long time for me to find anything worth watching.

It took a long time for me to find anything worth watching. I was surprised at how little "on demand" content is actually offered and then subsequently annoyed that it was outdated. The Vice channel on Le, for instance, lets you watch episodes from series like Munchies and Noisey, but most of the episodes are already available on YouTube. Where's the exclusivity?

Here's another bold move on LeEco's part: Charging for channels with content that's free somewhere else. If you want a children-only entertainment channel, for instance, you'll have to fork over $3.99 a month, or 399 EcoPass tokens. This unlocks shows like Sonic the Hedgehog — yes, that one — Sabrina The Animated Series, The Adventures of Super Mario Bros 3, and Inspector Gadget. These shows are already free to watch on Pluto.TV, another live mobile TV app. Granted, you won't get them on-demand like you do with a subscription on a LeEco smartphone, but it's still free somewhere else! The kid's channel offers other content, too, and some shows I've never heard of, but I'd much rather pull from the free YouTube Kids app if I were a parent than pay another monthly subscription price.

What is worth paying for?

Have you heard of Seeso? It's a curated comedy channel. On its own, it costs $4 a month for a subscription. You can watch a library of Saturday Night Live" and *Monty Python clips, in addition to seasons of shows like Parks and Recreation and original content from both indie and mainstream comedians. It's available as an app on every major set-top box and streaming device.

Now, you can already subscribe to this channel on your own time, without the help of LeEco. It's even included in your package if you're an Amazon Prime subscriber. So why, then, is LeEco attempting to advertise Seeso as exclusive content, especially when it's already offered as a standalone app? It's not even a part of the EcoPass subscription — You have to pay the extra $4 a month on top of what you'd already be paying monthly. That's not exactly a deal.

And then there's Tastemade, which is basically the web's Food Network. It's cute, it's kooky, and most of the content is already shown for free on Pluto TV. The only benefit of paying the $3.50 monthly subscription price is to get access to Tastemade Plus, and that's if you find a personal benefit from this Internet food channel. Still, it's not inspiring me to buy into LeEco's content ecosystem, especially when I can already purchase this on my own.

Is the EcoPass even worth it?

There's a reason LeEco didn't announce its monthly subscription prices for the EcoPass at its big event back in October: It's not worth much. What you'd be paying for is scrap content from the Internet. You could very well curate your own YouTube playlist with more interesting clips and clandestinely uploaded television shows if you wanted. (Let's be honest: We all scour for those from time to time.) And here's the worst part: You can't even cast the shows from a LeEco smartphone to your television unless you've got a LeTV in the house.

What you'd be paying for is scrap content from the Internet.

In all fairness, I pay monthly for content on Hulu and Netflix that I will never watch, but the difference is that both of those services offer something else that I find worth the value. I watch so much of ABC and NBC's content on Hulu, for instance, and I like that I can do so on demand. I can also watch it on any TV set I want, or my tablet, or my computer.

LeEco's offerings don't entice me to buy its products. All I see are libraries of movies I've never heard of before, and web content I've already seen. It's possible that once LeEco's partnerships with Lionsgate and MGM come to fruition, that the EcoPass will be more worth the money. But don't bank on that as a reason to buy into LeEco's ecosystem.

More: LeEco LePro 3 and Le S3 Hands-on: Welcome to the U.S.

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1 week ago

OnePlus 3 owners shouldn't fret about software updates

15

The OnePlus 3 will get updates at the same time as the OnePlus 3T, until the end.

If you're a newly-minted OnePlus 3 owner ticked off at the sudden appearance of the better, more powerful OnePlus 3T, here's one piece of solace: the two phones will be updated at the same time (which we already knew), and the original will receive updates for as long as its newer kin.

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1 week ago

OnePlus 3T now available in the U.S.

20
OnePlus

Snapdragon 821 for $439.

OnePlus's new mid-cycle flagship refresh, the OnePlus 3T, is now available to buy unlocked, directly from the upstart manufacturer. The phone is shipping today in both 64GB and 128GB storage configurations, with the base model coming in at $439, and the more capacious model running $479. Right now the only color option is the new "gunmetal" hue, with "soft gold" set to arrive at a later date.

Compared to the soon to be discontinued OnePlus 3, the 3T steps up to a Snapdragon 821 processor, a 16-megapixel front camera, a bigger 3,400mAh battery and additional software tweaks. Besides those differences, you're basically looking at the same phone, and as such the 3 and 3T will be on the same software update schedule in future.

Here's what Andrew Martonik had to say in his review of the phone:

Even with the modest price bump, the OnePlus 3T is an amazing value. It has great hardware, slick and responsive software, amazing battery life, strong rear camera and every internal spec you could want. Even its few weaknesses, like slightly low screen brightness, lack of waterproofing and questionable software update frequency, are minimal bad marks on what is otherwise an exceptional phone. At $439, you can't find a better value than the OnePlus 3T.

The OnePlus 3T rollout continues next week, with a European launch on November 28.

See at OnePlus

OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T

OnePlus

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1 week ago

HTC's 10 Evo is a Bolt for the rest of the world

21
HTC Bolt

Mixed bag of hardware launches Nougat and HTC Sense globally.

As rumored, HTC today took the wraps off the HTC 10 Evo, a global version of the Sprint-branded Bolt. Aside from some branding changes, this is the same phone we recently reviewed, with a questionable assortment of hardware: HTC 10-style metal unibody, a bigger 5.5-inch screen, water resistance, USB-C audio only (#donglelife) and a nearly two-year-old Snapdragon 810 processor, with 3GB of RAM. There's also a big focus on audio in general, with the bundled Type-C cans debuting HTC's BoomSound Adaptive Audio.

At least the software is bang up-to-date, with the latest Android 7.0 Nougat preloaded along with HTC's Sense interface.

Here's what Florence Ion had to say in her review of the HTC 10 Evo's American cousin:

The Bolt is a definite look at what HTC has in store for us next year. I'm expecting a super cool aluminum smartphone with top-of-the-line hardware and a rear-facing camera that can better capture low light. For now, consider the Bolt a mere test run that shows off Sprint's network — and one that isn't likely worth $600 to you.

The HTC 10 Evo will launch in Europe this month, but there's no word of any carrier partnerships or SIM-free price just yet. To the latter point, the current £500 unlocked price of the higher-specced HTC 10 (not to mention competitively priced rivals like the OnePlus 3T3 could make things tricky for HTC. For what it's worth, the Bolt's $600 cost would place it around the same price point as the HTC 10 in the UK, if prices were converted over directly.

More: HTC Bolt review

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