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4 weeks ago

Honor 8 review: A new competitor in the U.S.

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Honor 8

Same old software frustrations, wrapped up in a fantastic package for $399.

Android Central Choice Award

After seeing considerable growth and brand awareness in Europe, Honor is properly launching itself in the U.S. Sure it released its budget-minded Honor 5X earlier this year ... but that was a bit more of a test run — this, the Honor 8, is the true embodiment of what Honor is capable of right now, and it's launching in the States right on cue with the launch in China and Europe.

Though Honor's phones can cover a wide range of prices, the Honor 8 really hits the current sweet spot when it comes to getting value for your money: $399 starting for an unlocked phone with almost all of the specs you want in a high-end phone, wrapped up in hardware that rivals that of the better-known brand names out there. It has a crowd-pleasing size, great screen, fingerprint sensor and good performance, and even though its software isn't leading the industry it has improved immensely in recent months.

This is just the beginning of a long play for Honor in the U.S., with the obvious goal being to bring the Honor name to the U.S. and starting to build brand awareness. For this reason the Honor 8 itself doesn't have to sell in the tens of millions, and Huawei can certainly eat the costs, but it shouldn't have to worry about that — the Honor 8 is poised to be a great budget-conscious, flagship-challenging option. Read on for our full review.

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1 month ago

Android 7.0 and the Snapdragon 800 — a conundrum

212

You'll have to get Android 7.0 for the Nexus 5 from XDA. Let's try to figure out why.

Many of us are sad that the Nexus 5 isn't getting any official update to Android 7.0. Especially when we watched and saw Google continue to build device trees in the code for Hammerhead — that means someone, somewhere, was working on it. And when Sony announced which phones were going to receive an update to Android 7.0, many noticed that the Xperia Z3 wasn't on the list. While the idea that phones from 2014 not getting updated late in 2016 isn't particularly surprising, the fact that the Z3 was part of Sony's Android Concept Initiative — a fancy name for an Android 7.0 Beta program — but didn't make the cut and that Google was working on Nougat for the Nexus 5 then just suddenly stopped was.

The situation has the internet asking the obvious question — why? The answer is that the Z3 and Nexus 5 actually can't officially run Android 7.0, even though could as a beta. Read on. It will all make sense.

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1 month ago

HTC's A9 15-day update pledge goes out the window

105

Travel back to October 2015, when the HTC A9 was shiny and new. Amid the controversy about the price and availability — too much and too little — or how it was just a copy of the iPhone that was just a copy of the HTC M9, there was a small glowing nugget of sunshine. A promise of software updates within 15 days of Google's official phones.

At the time, I was skeptical and took this to mean monthly updates (which didn't happen either) because of the way Android is developed in the Google vacuum instead of out in the public like a proper open-source thing. There would be too many things to go wrong, and when they all went wrong there was no way Google was going to hold off updating a phone because HTC needed more time. In any case, none of it matters now.

HTC tweeted a small and generic update schedule for the phones they are planning to update to Android 7.0, and we're going to be waiting to see anything for the A9 until sometime after the HTC 10 gets updated in Q4 (October, November, or December) of 2016. I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is and I can count to 15. HTC was able to give us a statement when we asked about the discrepancy.

With the excitement around Android Nougat, we're aligning engineering resources around our most popular flagship products where the most customers will benefit.

This doesn't matter. Waiting for an update never hurt anyone, and even if they wait until the very last day in 2016 the A9 will get updated long before many other phones. But HTC has been in this game long enough to know that when they put a number or a date on anything, the internet will roast them when they miss it.

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1 month ago

Where to buy the Honor 8 in the UK

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Honor 8

A whole lot of phone for £369.

It's official: the Honor 8 is coming to the UK, with a £369.99 SIM-free price tag. It's launching first, unlocked and SIM-free, on Amazon, as well as Huawei's vMall platform, along with free bundled goodies.

As for other retailers and carriers, we've got the first details on UK availability down below. It's worth noting that for now, the only model available in the UK is the 32GB Honor 8, as opposed to the more expensive 64GB variant.

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1 month ago

Samsung launches 'Pink Gold' Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, exclusive to Best Buy in the U.S.

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You're sure to stand out if you go with this color.

Update: Samsung has confirmed that T-Mobile will not be a carrier option for the Pink Gold Galaxy S7 and S7 edge.

Original story: Looking for a little bump in sales as the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge have been out for several months now, Samsung has partnered up with Best Buy in the U.S. to launch an exclusive new "Pink Gold" color option of the phones. The new color will be available for Verizon, Sprint and AT&T.

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1 month ago

Latest look at the LG V20 confirms secondary display ticker

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What does the LG V20 look like? Kind of like a BlackBerry Z30.

We already know a fair bit about the LG V20, since the Korean company enjoys, in the run-up to its phone announcements, what we in the industry consider a "trollout." Based on LG's official word, it will be the first phone outside of Google's own Nexus line to run Android 7.0 Nougat. And thanks to a few choice leaks over the past few weeks, we suspect that it may have the same modular bones of the G5, which was unveiled earlier this year.

Now, thanks to prolific leaker, Evan Blass, we have a front view of the upcoming phone, which is set to be officially unveiled on September 6. While the headpiece bears a close resemblance to that of the BlackBerry Z30, the phone appears to retain its secondary display, which arrived on the V10 to a mixed response.

Our own Phil Nickinson noted in his V10 review that "the Second Screen is nicely implemented, but [he] just didn't find it all that useful." Not a great endorsement, and one largely shared throughout the industry.

On the software side, the render — together with what Google teased of the V20 with the Nougat launch — all but confirms that LG will ship the V20 with an overlay largely identical to its Marshmallow-based G5 skin, which eschews the traditional app drawer in favor of a horizontal pane. Of course, like that phone, the V20 will probably have an option to enable the app drawer. You know, for the purists.

Finally, get already knew that the V20 would have the world's first 32-bit Quad DAC, but this week LG also shared that the V20 will "feature best-in-class audio functions developed in partnership with B&O PLAY." You'll recall that one of the "Friends" meant to ship with the G5 earlier this year was a B&O-powered plug-in DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) that promised to give the modular phone a superior sound experience through headphones. While LG didn't hint that a similar module would be arriving with the V20, it did note:

LG and B&O PLAY worked closely together to bring the best sound to users by optimizing the audio capabilities of the V20 smartphone. Acoustic engineers collaborated to achieve B&O PLAY's philosophy of delivering a natural and balanced sound in a portable package. To enhance the total experience, the V20 set will include a special pair of B&O PLAY earphones and a set of wallpapers designed for the V20 which includes the official logo of B&O PLAY, as a certification of B&O PLAY premium audio.

We'll know lots more about the V20 when it debuts on September 6. In the meantime, let us know what you think of how the V20 is shaping up!

LG V20

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1 month ago

HTC reverses course, starts displaying Android Security Patch date on HTC 10

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Making sure your HTC 10 is up to date is now a little easier.

We were admittedly disappointed when we noticed that the HTC 10 was missing the line in the settings to let you know which Android Security Patch was installed. It didn't make the phone any different, and the good things about the 10 were still the same good things (and likewise with the not-so-good) but it just feels like that's one of the things we all should be able to see and check. Having the patch date displayed didn't make anything better, but it did let us know when the last update was and if we needed a new one.

HTC has changed that policy, and you can see when your HTC 10 was last updated with the latest patch.

While it's tempting to get silly and make light of this, we shouldn't. Whether or not you take the security of your private data seriously enough to make sure you have the latest patches for your phone, we do. It's our job to care. There are other easy ways we can check when the phone was last updated, but having it displayed with the rest of the software information makes it easy for the average user. Google designed it this way — they want you to be able to tell if you have the latest security "fixes" they provide. Hiding that means most people weren't likely to know.

We're not sure why HTC originally decided to not display the patch date, but it's no longer an issue, at least on the 10. Thanks for that, HTC. Little things mean a lot.

HTC 10

HTC Best Buy Verizon Sprint

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1 month ago

OnePlus introduces OxygenOS 3.5 as its first Community Build

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OnePlus has announced Community Builds, a new way for people to test upcoming software updates, and the first version will be OxygenOS 3.5 for the OnePlus 3. The company wants to give users a chance to try the software before anyone else and help give feedback on it in the process. With OxygenOS 3.5, OnePlus has introduced some back-end changes that it says will improve the user experience in the long run, but that comes at the cost of some other issues.

Some of the new features include:

  • Several UI improvements
  • New and improved OnePlus apps, including clock, weather and file manager
  • Improved camera software
  • More robust settings and customization features

With it being the first build, there are also a number of issues as well. Some of them include:

  • Android Pay is not currently supported
  • Only English is currently supported in several OnePlus apps
  • Some performance issues
  • Some UI issues when using custom themes
  • System UI tuner is unstable (do not use); using the system UI tuner could cause serious issues that can only be resolved via factory reset
  • You will need to re-register your fingerprints if you have fingerprint authentication enabled

Getting started is easy. OnePlus has set up a downloads page with instructions to get started. You will need to be on the stock OxygenOS with the OnePlus recovery for this to work. If you take the plunge and load it up, be sure to let us know how it is working out for you.

OnePlus 3

OnePlus

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1 month ago

Honor 8 is coming to Europe: First UK pricing and release info

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Honor 8

New flagship Honor phone available from August 24, priced £369.99.

The latest high-end phone from the Huawei-owned Honor brand is officially coming to Europe. At an event in Paris today, Honor announced that the Honor 8recently unveiled to an American audience — will be available from today, Aug. 24, priced £369.99 in the UK. Huawei's vMall outlet will get it first, along with an "anniversary package" of bundled goodies. In addition, the unlocked Honor 8 will be carried by the usual suspects, including Clove, Ebuyer, Expansys and Amazon. (Amazon's throwing in a free Fire TV stick while stocks last.)

And on the carrier side, Three will offer the Honor 8 for sale "in the coming weeks."

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1 month ago

Moto Z Droid Edition second opinion — Mods shouldn't make the phone

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Moto Z Review

I have a tiny suitcase full of amazing accessories in desperate need of a great phone.

Motorola has an amazing ability, something no other smartphone company has ever accomplished before —to execute on ideas that blow away the competition in ways that frequently takes one full smartphone generation to catch up. Look back at the Moto X, and how long it has taken every other company — including Google — to recreate ideas like Moto Display, an effortless camera launch, and voice commands that can be reliably accessed without turning the display on. Add these unparalleled software experiences to Moto Maker, a platform that let you customize your hardware in more ways than most people customize their software, and it's not hard to see why someone like me has such a soft spot for Motorola.

Motorola has taken the best parts of the Moto X and shifted to a new set of concepts in the form of the Moto Z. This new Moto has gone modular, and with that comes a few new ideas that truly set this phone apart from the pack. After using the Droid Edition of the Moto Z for the last six weeks, here's what I have to say about this new/old Moto and its tiny suitcase of cool ideas.

Moto Z

What have you people done?

Moto Z Hardware

Lets get this out of the way real quick: the body of this phone does not remind me at all of the Moto X. In some ways, that's a good thing. As we learned from the Nexus 6, enlarging a Moto X 2014 and calling it a new phone doesn't necessarily make it better. The Moto Z is something new, with hints of its predecessor sprinkled in. For starters, the metal body of this phone feels amazing. The outer band is smooth to the touch but not slippery, and the glass on the front of the phone curves just enough so your finger can keep sliding to the rest of the phone with no rough edges or interruptions. The optional wood Style Shells, when installed, match this curve, making it so the phone just plain feels well made. A single USB Type-C port on the bottom and an antenna line across top split the phone down the middle visually. The power button is textured so you distinguish it from the volume buttons (which are right above it).

For starters, the metal body of this phone feels amazing.

Oh, right. That backplates are held on with magnets, and when you remove them you find the grand secret to this phone: Moto Mods. The ability to connect a louder speaker, a bigger battery, or even a projector to the back of the phone and enhance the initial experience. You aren't going to want to use the phone with no backplate, as the back edge cuts in dramatically without it and feels harsh to your hand, but damn is this phone thin with nothing on the back. Impressively — some might say uncomfortably — thin when holding it. The fear of dropping this phone without a backplate is real, even though its construction feels no less solid with no cover.

Moto Z Galaxy S7

After pulling off the backplate and watching it magnetically re-adhere a few times — I'll be honest, I do this five or six times a day just because — you power the phone on and notice immediately just how much chin this thing has. Between the Moto logo, fingerprint sensor, and software buttons on the display, there's a whole lot of space between the bottom of this phone and the usable parts. Because the phone is so tall, a lot of one-handed functions are compromised, even though the phone is thin and narrow enough to enjoy using with one hand. It's a tough call to make — Motorola couldn't put the fingerprint sensor on the back because of the Moto Mods — but the amount of space consumed is more noticeable here than on any HTC or Samsung phone to date.

Let's talk about those Moto Mods: they are so clearly the star of the Moto Z story

Let's talk about those Mods for a moment, since they are so clearly the star of the Moto Z story. I'm testing a TUMI battery add-on, a JBL SoundBoost speaker, and the Moto Insta-Share pico projector. Right away, these options are vastly superior to accessories for other modular smartphones. Not needing to mess around with Bluetooth settings and just snapping on a big speaker when I'm grilling outside is awesome. Being able to attach a projector to the back of my phone and immediately share what I see is largely impossible on another phone — even the modular LG G5. Not needing an ugly battery case to boost my total capacity appeals directly to how I use my phones. These Mods might as well have been made directly for me, which is awesome.

That said, there's a few things I wish were done differently. For example, the speaker and the projector can't be used together because you can only use one Mod at a time. The battery starts charging the phone as soon as you connect it, which means there's some additional heat generated in the bottom left of the phone — right where it sits in your palm. The battery status on all of these accessories are only accessible with a single blinking light on the Mod unless you have it connected to a phone, which doesn't give you a lot of information. Overall these are tiny concerns, especially compared to what you get with the Mods themselves, but it's clear Moto and their partners have some room to improve here.

Out of the box, there's a lot to love about the Moto Z and its accessories. The designs are solid; using the Mods are effortless and intuitive; and the 3.5mm jack isn't wasting space on the body of the phone. This design wouldn't have been possible with a headphone jack, and I think Motorola made the right choice in removing it. There are plenty of people out there who disagree, and there are other phones out there for those folks. This phone exists to do something other than cater to the past.

Moto Z

Same same. But different.... but still same

Moto Z Software

As the only Android manufacturer that updates their software separate from a Google-based or hardware release-based cycle, it's easy to pick this phone up and immediately feel familiar with it. This is the same software available on the Moto X and Moto G, which is to say it runs nearly Nexus-like Android software with some subtle enhancements. It's easy to see this and be concerned about stagnation, even though Motorola updates the individual pieces of their software through the Google Play Store fairly frequently.

Moto Display still has no equal

At the same time, it's not like Moto software really has a lot of competition. Moto Display still has no equal. Moto Camera's twisty launcher only recently has functional competition in the form of double-tapping buttons on the hardware of other phones (like double-pressing the home button on the Galaxy S7), and Moto devices remain the only phones I can reliably access from across the room with "Computer, Respond" as a custom voice activator. Why change what works, right? These aren't trivial features to people who use them, and each of these is deeply missed when I move to another phone to use something else. When Moto first launched these features, everyone tried to say these were gimmicks that could be reproduced in software by anybody. Years later, with several half-baked attempts to copy in the Play Store and weak copies of Always On Display on Samsung hardware, Moto phones are still the only phones to offer this experience.

Moto ZMoto Z

The one big change in the software this year is a direct result of the hardware changes. Moto Mods need some sort of management software on the phone, but that software is all but gone until you connect a Mod. Instead of requiring an awkward app for everything, Moto Mods are integrated into the OS itself. When you connect a Mod, you get a notification letting you know how much battery it has and that it's ready to be used. The projector can be fired up immediately and mirrors whatever is on the screen, but also uses the gyroscope to set the angle of the display. The speaker immediately takes over all of the system sounds. These aren't accessories in the traditional sense. When you connect them, they become a part of the phone. This is exactly the way modular phones need to be done.

Lenovo's disinterest in ensuring your device is consistently protected from exploits is bad, and they should feel bad.

This being a Droid Edition Moto Z, there's some Verizon software onboard. It's you standard complement of far-too-many Verizon apps and associated bloat. Verizon seems to have mostly standardized this setup, including what apps can be uninstalled and what must be disabled. If it's a "Verizon Core" app, you aren't getting rid of it. If it's a game or music app, blow it away and never think twice. This is the standard Verizon experience, like it or not. Considering what we've seen with software from competing carriers, I'd say Verizon's bloat is perfectly tolerable.

But do you want updates to your core OS? The Moto track record is spotty, but we know that Nougat is coming to the phone in the not-so-distant future and security patches will be rolled out in bundles that are not following Google's monthly track. Is it unreasonable to point a finger at Moto and demand timely security updates when so many competitors have yet to consistently deliver the same across more than a small fraction of their products? No, it's not unreasonable. Every manufacturer should be able to build the updates handed to them monthly and release them, especially now that Google has split monthly patches out to make them easier for companies to deliver. Lenovo's disinterest in ensuring your device is consistently protected from exploits is bad, and they should feel bad.

Moto Z

Aggressively mediocre

Moto Z Camera

Using Moto software is awesome because it mostly still feels like it did with the original Moto X. The same can not be said of the Moto Camera interface, but the same can be said of the photos that come out of the phone.

Moto Camera finally lives up to the original promise. It's incredible simple, can be used with one hand, and the settings are as minimal as they come. Tap to focus is the default over the drag around exposure ring, and you swipe for previous photo as well as access settings. You have quick toggles for HDR, flash, and a timer. In case it hasn't been mentioned twice already (it has) double-twisting the phone to launch the camera is still awesome. Performing the action in the app flips the camera to the front, where you still have a dedicated flash for those dark selfies. This setup couldn't be more simple and straightforward, and it's something so many other camera apps could learn from.

Until you look at the photos, anyway.

If you're outside in perfect lighting, the Moto Z does an incredible job getting the shot. The camera handles motion well, captures a fantastic amount of detail, and HDR balances well 9 out of 10 times. If you are in any other situation, this camera's success rate drops by a third. The camera has repeat problems focusing when the light isn't perfect, and this auto low-light mode kicks in and frequently takes an extra 1-2 seconds to take the shot. That delay means motion is a problem, and Motorola's "Best Shot" mode that tries to show you a second photo that might look a little better frequently misses the mark. Put simply, this is not a camera capable of competing with Samsung, HTC, or even the latest Nexus phones.

The front camera, on the other hand, is pretty fantastic. Selfies are often much nicer on this camera, especially when the flash is used in low light situations. It take a little getting used to, and it's still real awkward when you blind someone that isn't ready for that flash to go off. It's a great camera for video chat as well, which is especially good with Google Duo now available to the world.

Moto cameras have a long history of being not quite good enough, and it's unfortunate to see that tradition continue with the Moto Z. You can get great shots from this phone if you work at it or are lucky, but that's just not the case with so much of the competition right now.

Moto Z Speaker

Had no idea this was what I wanted

Moto Z Battery & Experience

A normal day for me starts at about 5:30am. My phone is where I get news in the morning, how I send video to my television while I get ready for my day, and the remote for all the lights in my house. By 6:30am, when it's time to flip the lights on in the kids' rooms through the Hue app, I'm already down 10%. At this point I have two choices, I can connect the battery pack and know for a fact I'll have at least 45% of my battery left at the end of the day, or I can keep my nice wooden back on and hit up the Turbo Charger before I leave work at the end of the day. It'd be nice if the phone could actually get me through to 10pm on a single charge, but that has yet to happen even on days where I barely use the phone.

I have to make that decision at the beginning of the day, because putting the battery pack on when the phone has reached 20% is a mess. The battery pack will heat the phone up considerably in an attempt to quickly charge the internal battery with the snap-on battery, maybe add 35%, and then be completely spent. If the battery pack is on at the beginning of the day, it will keep the phone topped off at 100% for 8-10 hours and generate far less heat in the process. For me, the battery pack is what I reach for when I know I'm going to go play Pokemon Go or use my phone for GPS over an extended period of time. It's a nice backup, and not thick enough to be uncomfortable when using the phone throughout the day.

Moto Z Projector

The solid, smooth design of this phone is fantastic. The way the Mods clip on and feel like a part of the phone is incredibly well done. The fingerprint sensor has a success rate in line with the S7 and Nexus 6P. The display isn't quite enough to compete with the Sun, but the auto-brightness sensor works well and will get you through most situations. There's a lot to like about the way this phone is put together, and it's nice to see Moto X things like wooden backplates brought over to the Moto Z. It's not quite Moto Maker unique, but this is a phone you can have some fun with when it comes to making it your own and that's an important part of this experience.

I'm a big fan of the speaker Mod. I am not a big fan of feeling like I need the speaker mod because the Moto Z speaker can't compete with a sizzling pan when I'm cooking while listening to a podcast. Adding the speaker makes the phone too big to enjoy having in a pocket, so I'm unlikely to walk around all day with it connected. The same goes for the projector. Both very cool accessories with very specific use cases that make me feel like I need some sort of carrying case that lives in my car or something. This wouldn't be a big deal if I didn't feel like I needed at least one of these things to fully enjoy the phone.

Moto Z

Nice try though

Moto Z The Bottom Line

The Moto Z on its own is a mostly mediocre phone. The software is exactly what I want as a user, but with a unacceptably short battery and a lackluster camera and speaker it fails to deliver the kind of experience expected of a top tier phone. The Mods are what make this phone fun to use, but each comes with their own cost and compromise. The base price for a Moto Z on Verizon is $50 shy of a Galaxy S7, and by the time you drop the extra $80 on a battery Mod you're on the other side of that price point and still have an overall worse experience.

In many ways the Moto experience has remained the same — an amazing software experience with some unique hardware that can't quite compete with the rest of the high-end ecosystem, and that's a shame. Above all else, though, I think Lenovo should push forward with Mods and make them a standard feature with lots of options. That ecosystem has the potential to deliver in ways that no other modular pitch we've seen so far.

Should you buy it? Probably not

If you're a hardcore Moto fan and love the idea of enhancing your phone with Mods, go nuts. You'll love the Moto Z. If you're a road warrior looking for a way to make your presentation tech more compact, a Moto Z and the projector Mod is a great option. If you're looking for the best phone you can buy and were hoping that included the ability to snap things onto the back, this is not the phone you're looking for.

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1 month ago

Pick up an unlocked BlackBerry Priv for just $299 again!

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Right now you can grab an unlocked AT&T version of the BlackBerry Priv for just $299 at eBay. This is the best price we've seen for the phone off-contract and matches the recent deal that was offered. With this savings the price drops down to the same as the recently-announced DTEK50, but offers a larger screen and physical keyboard with it.

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1 month ago

Will my phone get updated to Android 7.0 Nougat?

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Jerry looks into his crystal ball and asks: Will your phone get an Android 7.0 update?

It's time for a new version of Android, and that means I also get to make my yearly predictions about updates. Fun times!

Now, to be sure, unless a manufacturer has already committed to updating an existing phone, these are simply (mostly) educated guesses. We base them on a company's track record, the capabilities of the phone itself, and the number of phones a company makes. It's sort of like a blogger version of reading tea leaves and calling the bookmakers. And it's fun. Even when we get it wrong it's fun.

Since we're here because we are interested in Android, and most of us like to have a little fun, let's jump right in and answer the million dollar question — will my phone get updated to Android 7 Nougat?

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1 month ago

First major Nougat update coming soon, new Developer Preview landing this fall

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Nougat statue

Android is moving 'into a new regular maintenance schedule over the coming quarters.'

Now that Android 7.0 Nougat has been released we're starting to hear the first details on what's next for Google's OS. In a post on the Android Developers blog, Engineering VP Dave Burke lays out what's next for Nougat.

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1 month ago

LG V20: Google gives us our first look at Nougat-powered phone

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Google 'introduces' new LG phone on Nougat promo page.

As Google officially unveiled Android 7.0 Nougat, there's a small surprise waiting on the shiny new Nougat promo page — an early look at the upcoming LG V20.

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1 month ago

Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Everything you need to know

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Galaxy Note 7

Galaxy Note 7 details, specs, pricing and everything you need to know.

Recall info: Samsung has issued a worldwide recall of the Note 7 due to concerns over faulty battery cells causing explosions. We have everything you need to know about it right here.

Unlike the last few Samsung launches we don't have two versions of the phone — there's a single Note 7 version, and it's a phone that integrates a ton of what we've already seen in the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge.

To get up to speed with everything surrounding the Galaxy Note 7, we have you covered right here.

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