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1 month ago

Alcatel Idol 4S review: Getting the most from the mid-range

51

Alcatel delivers its best phone ever with the Idol 4S.

Quick Take

The Alcatel Idol 4S is a 5.5-inch mid-ranger from a company that's spent the time to refine its design and hardware. You get access to a fantastic camera with manual features and Hi-Fi audio. The phone offers an excellent display, even outdoors, and provides battery life that will easily get you through the day.

Good and Bad

The Good

  • Awesome camera with plenty of features
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Great Hi-Fi audio

The Bad

  • Phone can feel slippery in your hand
  • Processor heats up after extended use

About this Review

I (Jen Karner) am writing this review after using the Alcatel Idol 4S for two weeks. It's running Android 6.0.1 with the July 1, 2016 security patch (build number 4AGB-UEB10.) It was connected to the AT&T network in Halethorpe, Md., and the great Baltimore Metropolitan area, and was connected via Bluetooth to a 2015 Honda Fit.

Alcatel Idol 4S Specs

Category Features Display 5.5-inch QHD AMOLED screen Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 octa-core CPU Storage 32GB storage, micro-SD slot RAM 3GB RAM Rear Camera 16 MP, f/2.0, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash Front Camera 8MP Battery 3,000 mAh, Micro-USB port, Quick Charge 2.0 Dimensions 153.9 x 75.4 x 7 mm
149 g

Sleek and metal

Alcatel Idol 4S Hardware

The Alcatel Idol 4S has a sturdy metal and glass body that feels great from the moment as you pick it up. While the device fits comfortably in your hand, it tends to get slippery, (which means that investing in a decent case might be a good plan if you have a tendency to drop your phone regularly.)

The back is smooth glass, with minimal branding. The only thing that protrudes noticeably from the back is the rear camera lens. While there is a fingerprint sensor set into the back, there isn't any indentation. Instead, you'll be able to locate it by the metal ring that surrounds it. And it's reasonably ergonomic too, even if you have smaller hands.

The boom button lets you trigger certain actions when within apps, or when your phone is locked.

From the front, the phone looks pretty similar to many other rounded 5.5-inch handset (particularly some of Samsung's recent devices.) One of the biggest differences comes in the buttons layout. That's because along with the power button on the upper left, and volume rocker on the upper right, you'll find the "Boom" button — a circular key in the middle of the right side.

The boom button lets you trigger certain actions within apps, or when your phone is locked. This includes doing things like launching your camera when the device is locked, or triggering specific actions like a weather preview. It's a nifty feature that enhances the experience, but isn't entirely necessary and can be ignored if you so choose. It also really, really looks like a power button.

Alongside the standard Micro-USB and headphone jacks down below, you'll also find a slot for your micro SD card on the upper left corner, just underneath the power button. And at both the top and bottom of your screen you will see small discrete speaker grates for the Idol 4S's impressive audio system.

You don't need to jack up the volume all the way to get fantastic sound when listening to music, or sharing videos with friends.

Those speakers really get the job done, too, with support for Hi-Fi audio and stereo output whether the phone is facing up or down. That's right, they'll fire out the back of the phone too. Aside from that you don't need to jack up the volume all the way to get fantastic sound when listening to music, or sharing videos with friends, which is great.

The display is impressive, too, with a 2560x1140 pixel resolution that rivals some more expensive smartphones. So naturally there's plenty of pixel density to go around, and I also found it bright enough to use in outdoor conditions — although you'll need to watch out for increased battery drain at higher brightness levels.

As for general speed, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 652 processor works admirably, and I didn't notice any performance issues with the Idol 4S. It didn't matter if I'd been playing Avengers Academy for over an hour, or if I'd had to navigate my way through Baltimore City using Google Maps, this phone was always up to the task. Even when I'd been using the phone heavily for several hours, the only real issue was heat buildup — something that's by no means unique to the Idol 4S. It never started dropping apps, acting jittery, or requiring me to put it down to give it a rest. (It did start to slow down after a while, but even this was generally when the battery was quite low.)

And storage-wise, there's 32GB of internally, which can thankfully be augmented using a microSD card for plenty more storage to keep your games, photos and music loaded locally. Alcatel specifies that the slot can take cards up to 512GB.

All Google, all the way

Alcatel Idol 4S Software

For now, the Alcatel Idol 4S is reasonably up-to-date software-wise, running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow right out of the box with the July 2016 Android security patch. We're on the cusp of Android Nougat, but Marshmallow still gets the job done, and Android 6.0.1 performs really well on the Idol 4S.

While it doesn't come in bogged down in tons of bloatware, there are a fair few apps that come preloaded. Several of these revolve around VR, because the Alcatel Idol 4S comes packaged within a Google Cardboard headset. You'll find a few games, a VR launcher and a VR store where you access new virtual experiences.

Preloaded VR content helps you make the most out of the bundled 'Cardboard' headset.

An added perk is the addition of the Waves Maxaudio app. This phone has Hi-Fi audio, and the app lets you manually adjust how things sound. You can tweak stereo, bass, treble, and even set specific settings for different genres of music. You also get access to an app called Fyuse, which allows you to take seriously epic movable photos (when it works correctly, anyway).

Superbly suited

Alcatel Idol 4S Camera

Cameras have become integral to the way that many of us use our phones. Whether it's rolling through Instagram and taking selfies, or recording video of friends at parties, having a camera that works well is a necessity. Thankfully, the Alcatel Idol 4S does a great job here, with tons of software features, and cameras that do a great job capturing memorable moments.

There's a 16MP rear facing camera, and an 8MP selfie shooter. Both function quite well, though they do have a tendency to blur if you aren't holding your hands still. Usefully, you can actually open up your camera, even if your phone is locked pressing the Boom button on the side.

Alcatel gives you plenty of options with the camera as well. You've got auto, panorama, and manual modes, slow motion videos, Fyuse, and micro-video. Each one is chock full of features to let you get the best results in different situations. The Fyuse mode lets you take photos that you can actually look at from multiple angles, but it did have problems about half of the time when I tried to use it. Aside from showing people how it worked, I more or less left this function alone.

In manual mode, all of your options appear on the right side of the screen and let you adjust them on a slide bar. Panorama functions will show you a preview of your photo as you take it, and even the auto mode has basic sliders you can tweak up and at the top of your screen. So long as you can get used to having to hold very still when taking photographs, you'll be quite happy with the results that you get.

Capacity to continue

Alcatel Idol 4S Battery

The Acatel Idol 4S is equipped with a 3,000mAh non-removable battery. In my experience, it's capable of taking you through 12+ hours without needing a recharge, even with heavy use. When it does come time to fuel back up, you've got access to quick charge capabilities which means you won't be stopping for too long.

Even when I was moving between multiple games, or out for a walk playing Pokemon Go, I could count on having hours of gameplay without having to stop and let the phone recharge. When that time finally did come, I didn't need to plug it in for more than about 90 minutes because it supports Quick Charge 2.0.

Even using the Alcatel Idol 4S heavily, I never once managed to actually run completely out of juice.

Even using the Alcatel Idol 4S heavily, I never once managed to actually run completely out of juice. The lowest I got was about 5% and that was usually at the very end of my day, as I was headed to bed. For regular or light users you can expect to get through a solid 16 hours without issue, heavier users should expect 10-12 hours of use. That's about standard for a phone of this size in mid-2016.

Bottom Line

Should you buy it? Yes

This brings us to the big question with the Alcatel Idol 4S, should you buy it? Between the battery, screen, and camera you're looking at a solid phone that can easily get you through your day without ease and it doesn't have a killer price tag attached. You can pick it up from Alcatel directly for $399, which is a pretty sweet deal.

Considering that you also get a fantastic VR headset with your phone, you can go far with this phone. It isn't a flagship device, but Alcatel has worked their butts off to offer a fantastic device that is affordable for many people. Sitting as a mid-grade phone, you've got plenty of options, but the Alcatel Idol 4S is a good choice for anyone who values photo and audio quality, as well as a great overall experience.

See at Alcatel

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1 month ago

Android 7.0 Nougat likely releasing Aug 22

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Nougat statue

Both LG and Canada's Telus suggest same date for final Nougat code drop.

Nexus owners: Get ready for some Nougat. It's looking highly likely that the next version of Android will go official next Monday, August 22. That's the date given for the Android 7.0 update on Nexus 5X and 6P by Canadian operator Telus in its latest software update schedule.

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1 month ago

IFA 2016: Everything you need to know

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IFA sign

Wearables dominate a busy week of Android-related announcements in Berlin.

IFA is an annual consumer electronics show held in Berlin, Germany, which often serves as a launch event for mobile products heading into the holiday buying season and the beginning of the following year. It's one of the major events of any given year for mobile tech, right up there with the Barcelona-based Mobile World Congress.

In previous years, IFA was dominated by the Samsung Galaxy Note line, which has since relocated to early August. And so he past couple of shows have played host to a more diverse set of news in tablets, smartwatches, mid-range phones, accessories and more.

This year's event officially runs from Sept. 2-7, with the official media days leading up to it — so look for our coverage to really kick off from Aug. 31. The main venue is the enormous Messe Berlin complex in the west of the city, with other press conferences and gatherings throughout Berlin.

IFA 2016 looks like being as busy as ever for Android-powered gadgets. Let's take a look at some of the broad trends we're expecting to see.

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1 month ago

The Honor 8 is more important to the U.S. market than you think

72

The Honor 8 brings premium hardware from the Huawei-owned brand to the United States for the first time — and that's a big deal.

The Honor 8 has officially launched in the United States, bringing increased competition to the $400-level "affordable flagship" segment. Owned by Chinese tech giant Huawei, Honor intends to challenge the likes of OnePlus among younger people and tech-savvy phone buyers with an impressive glass and metal design, impressive internals and a competitive price point. Throw in some serious pomp and ceremony — and celebrity brand ambassadors like Brooklyn Beckham — and you've got a notable product launch during what is turning into a very busy summer for smartphones.

But beyond the launch-day hype and beautiful hands-on photos, what really matters about the latest from Huawei and Honor? Let's dive in with some first thoughts.

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1 month ago

Galaxy Note 7 benchmarks: Exynos vs. Snapdragon head-to-head

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Which version of the Galaxy Note 7 is faster: the Snapdragon 820 or Exynos 8890 version? Benchmarks, anyone?

It's always been our opinion that benchmark apps for Android phones really only tell you how well a phone runs the benchmark apps. They give a score that, while meaningful in some ways, tend to be used as some sort of gospel about how one phone is clearly better than another when that's not really the case. And they can be confusing for some folks who aren't exactly sure what any of those scores mean. We usually forgo running any or talking about them at any length and instead focus on the user experience.

This time, we're going to venture into the benchmark waters because we have both the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 version and the Exynos 8890 version of the Galaxy Note 7 here. Samsung promises that users won't see any real-world performance differences between the two — and we agree — but we wanted to see the synthetic differences from a handful of benchmark testing apps in Google Play. We're not going to read too much into any of this, and we're certainly not about to declare any winner. Both models offer the same experience while you're using them. For the folks who do care about those numbers but may not have an opportunity to get both models, here are the results.

About the tests

We tested a Samsung SM-N930F (UK model) with an Exynos 8890 CPU and a Samsung SM-N930T (U.S. T-Mobile model) with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820. Both phones have the same basic configuration — a personal account, a work account, and a small handful of apps from the Play Store installed.

Nothing special was done before we tested. We used the phone normally, installed the apps, then ran the tests without restarting or clearing anything or killing any apps. We even tested in the evening after a day of normal use. None of the phone's features were disabled. Really, we treated them like we do every phone and just ran the apps we installed to benchmark them.

Geekbench 3

Geekbench 3 has several tests that aim to simulate real-world CPU performance, and can utilize all of the processor cores. The results are calculated and returned as an overall indicator of your phone's processor performance in both single core tests and multicore tests. Higher scores are better.

As expected, the Exynos clearly calculates and processes data "better" than the Snapdragon. Surprisingly, the single core scores are both much lower than leaked benchmark results from early versions. We'll attribute that to two things — fully set up devices with apps and account synchronization running, and not clearing app cache and killing off the background processes. But keep in mind that a lower multi-core score on the Snapdragon 820 is expected because it has four cores, half the number as the Exynos 8890.

Download Geekbench 3

AnTuTu 6

AnTuTu runs a series of tests of four key areas of your phone's performance — the processor, 3D graphics ability, memory, and user interface. The results are calculated and delivered as four individual scores, with a higher score being better.

The Exynos again scores better in processor performance testing, but the Snapdragon marks higher in 3D and user interface features. The RAM testing is as expected — both phones have the same memory modules and controllers, and the results are identical within an acceptable margin of error.

Download AnTuTu Benchmark

GFXBench

GFXBench measures graphics performance with a focus on long-term performance stability, render quality and power consumption. The tests use high-quality and high polygon 3D graphics, and we tested the off-screen versions of the Car Chase, both Manhattan and Manhattan 3.1, and T-Rex at 1080p.The results are the average frames per second (fps) for each test.

We are unable to compare the results of the render quality tests because our Exynos version would only return an Out Of Memory error. The Snapdragon version scored 2510 for the standard render quality test, and 3632 for the HQ render quality tests. These numbers are the PNSR (peak-to-peak signal-to-noise) values.

Download GFXBench

Hipxel's Disk Speed and Performance

This benchmark measures the read and write speeds of the internal memory in MB/s. The labels can be confusing as both tests (internal and external) are measuring the built-in internal memory and not any SD card or other attached storage.

The internal tests are the read and write speeds of the phone's application data storage partition. This is where the private data is stored and where most apps are installed. The external tests measure the speeds of the internal SD card storage, where media and some application data is stored.

The app will measure SD card performance, but we choose to pass on that test as we don't have two brand-new SD cards of the same make and model to use for a comparison. The results would be similar, and won't show any measurable differences.

Download Disk Speed/Performance Test by Hipxel

What does this mean?

Not a lot, really.

Sure, the Exynos has a "better" CPU and the Snapdragon has a "better" GPU if you go strictly by the numbers in these benchmarking apps. Both phones have the same memory and the same storage, as well as the same parts and logic to control each, and the results reflect that.

But using them will always count more than any benchmark numbers. As mentioned, we were curious and had both versions so we're sharing with people who are curious as well. Don't use these as proof of anything, and we'll call them both winners — it's like youth soccer where everyone wins a trophy because it's all good.

Feel free to do what you will with the numbers in the comments.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint

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1 month ago

Honor 8 is the affordable Huawei P9, coming to the U.S. for $399

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The Honor 8 is coming to the U.S. and Europe next month.

Honor, Huawei's subbrand, announced that the Honor 8 is set to come to the U.S. next month (as well as to Europe, though details will be finalized at a launch event on August 24).

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1 month ago

Honor 8 hands-on preview: Way better than you expect

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The Honor 8 introduces the U.S. to one of the world's best-kept phone secrets.

A year ago, our Alex Dobie called the Honor 7 "a well-built, premium handset and a quick performer, [with] camera capabilities that stand out in the mid-range space." At the time, I had barely heard of the Honor line, but was impressed by the brand's slow encroachment into the Western market, which combined the aspirational hardware design of Huawei's high-end phones with a much more accessible name and price.

Now, with the Honor 8, the brand comes barrelling back into to the U.S. after a soft launch in 2015 with the Honor 5X, nominally sidestepping the continued reluctance of American carriers to accept anything with the Huawei name. But the Honor 8 is more than merely a reintroduction to a new market (it is also launching in Europe later this month): it is a statement of purpose, and a powerful one at that.

Honor 8 Specs

Category Features Display 5.2-inch IPS LCD
1920x1080 Processor HiSilicon Kirin 950 octa-core
4xA72 @ 2.3Ghz + 4xA53 @ 1.8Ghz
Mali-T880MP4 GPU Storage 32GB / 64GB RAM 4GB LPDDR4 OS Android 6.0 with EMUI 4.1 Rear cameras Dual 12MP (monochrome + color), f/2.2
1.25-micron pixel equivalent Front camera 8MP, f/2.4 Connection USB Type-C SIM/MicroSD Dual SIM in Asia
Single SIM with microSD (256GB) in Europe/U.S. Battery 3000mAh
Quick Charge 2.0 Security Fingerprint Other Infrared, bottom mono speaker, VoLTE (T-Mobile only) Waterproofing No LTE Bands LTE FDD: B1/B2/B3/B4/B5/B7/B8/B12/B17/B20 Dimensions 145.5 x 71 x 7.5 mm Weight 153 grams Colors Pearl White, Sapphire Blue, Midnight Black Price $399 (32GB) / $449 (64GB)

Honor 8 The fundamentals

At its core, the Honor 8 is based off the impressive Huawei P9, and shares much of that phone's architecture, including its 5.2-inch 1080p display, dual 12MP sensors, and Android 6.0-based EMUI 4.1 software. But the Honor is a more youthful product, shipping in one of three reflective colors (Pearl White, Sapphire Blue, Midnight Black) whose hues shimmer and dance behind two panes of Gorilla Glass 3. The version I received, Sapphire Blue, instantly become my favorite thing ever, shifting in the sun's variability from dark to light and a thousand blue hues in between.

The extra gigabyte of memory gives the Honor 8 a bounce to its step that was lacking in the Huawei P9

As Alex mentioned in his preview, the Honor 8 looks like a cross between an Honor 6 and a Galaxy S7, both of which are great devices. Clad in a color-matched metal frame, the device feels both airy and robust, though like all glass phones it is extremely slippery. More than once I woke up to the phone on the floor after it gingerly slid off my purportedly-flat night table. No worse for the wear, though, the Honor 8 only needs a couple wipes with a microfiber cloth each day to remove the myriad fingerprints that inevitably plant themselves all over the front and back glass.

Inside, the HiSilicon Kirin 950 chip pairs with 4GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of expandable storage to fashion a hardware base that is more than capable of driving the Honor 8's excellent (and bright!) 1080p IPS display. On the one hand, the Kirin 950 is a regression from the 955 inside the Huawei P9 — its four 2.3Ghz Cortex-A72 chips are clocked 200Mhz slower — but the extra gigabyte of memory gives the Honor 8 a proverbial bounce to its step that was, according to our Phil Nickinson, lacking in its Huawei counterpart.

In my testing, the Honor 8 handled everything I threw at it with aplomb, easily standing up to the Exynos 8890 chip in the international Galaxy S7. HiSilicon's Kirin processors have improved immensely over the last two years, and the Kirin 950 is decidedly modern, built on a 16nm FinFET process and featuring eight 64-bit cores in a big.LITTLE array that resembles the best from Samsung (and to some extent Qualcomm).

Without getting too into the weeds, the introduction of another processor competitor to Samsung and Qualcomm in the U.S. is significant, especially given that the latter company practically monopolizes the mobile baseband market. Like Samsung, HiSilicon has built its own LTE modem into the Kirin 950, and while at maximum speeds of 300Mbps it is not quite as advanced as the competition, it stands to reason that the Huawei subsidiary will only continue to improve as it iterates.

Like the P9, the Honor 8 features a rear fingerprint sensor that is one of the fastest I've ever used. I place either of my index fingers on the back of the phone and the screen turns on. It's wonderful. Add to that a number of intuitive, why-didn't-anyone-else-think-of-that gestures such as swiping vertically to bring down the notification shade and it becomes more than a biometric tool.

The fingerprint sensor is also a button, adding even more gesture possibilities

The sensor — or the area around it — is also a button, adding even more possibilities. Though it does not replace the home button, double-pressing the the so-called Smart Key can be configured to open the camera app, or quickly turn on the flashlight. It all has the potential to become a bit complicated, and therefore a burden, but Honor has wisely made all of these features opt-in.

On the phone's bottom, you'll find a USB Type-C port flanked by a headphone jack and single speaker port. The speaker is, like most in its class, adequate but underwhelming, and doesn't come close to matching the front-facing stereo prowess of the ZTE Axon 7 or HTC 10. But this is also a very thin, minimal phone, and there wouldn't have been space on the face to sandwich in such hardware.

Longtime fans of the Honor series will be happy to know that the top of the phone features an IR blaster that pairs with the popular Smart Controller app. I was able to get my Yamaha receiver and Samsung television configured in about five minutes.

Honor 8 Software

In the past, you couldn't talk about Huawei or Honor without mentioning the divisive and often-frustrating software experience. While there are elements of that legacy on the EMUI 4.1 software of the Honor 8, most of the biggest issues have been corrected, including the garish and unusable icon sets that gave previous versions of the so-called Emotion UI a cartoonish feeling.

This launcher is a far cry from what you'll find on practically any Android phone shipping today

That's not to say Honor has rid itself of all its excess; as mentioned previously, there are plenty of settings and modes to tweak and toggle to make the phone feel decidedly yours, and the phone's launcher and notification shade constantly remind you that you're living a world away from Nexus, or even Samsung.

Specifically, the launcher has no app drawer, resembling — nay, mimicking — the iPhone homescreen. Sure, the home screens support widgets, but this is a far cry from what you'll find on practically any Android phone shipping today. That's fine, and easy enough to work around with a third-party launcher, but the notification shade is considerably more difficult to overlook, and forgive.

Honor heavily customizes the way notifications function, pinging you with requests to allow new apps to send notifications and a system to punish apps that use too much energy. It's certainly not unusable, and I quickly grew used to its idiosyncrasies, but it's something to keep in mind when buying this phone, and any handset from the Chinese manufacturer.

Honor has also bundled a number of apps, including Shazam and News Republic, along with a bevy of first-party utilities that, while useful, were quickly relegated to a folder (another reality it shares with the iPhone). Huawei is in the Samsung-circa-2014 era of app design, still determined to give its apps a unique visual flair, with no accordance to Google's Material Design guidelines. Its SMS app, for instance, has no onscreen back button, forcing you to use the titular navigation key — not a huge problem, but outside the bounds of a well-designed Android app.

Honor 8 software

I can't, and won't, bang on this drum too hard, and though I still take issue with some aspects of it, I quickly grew to enjoy using the Honor 8's software, quirks and all. And while this is my first real experience with EMUI, I understand from others that this is as clean, thoughtful and performant as it's ever been. Thank goodness for that.

Honor 8 Camera

The Honor 8 has a unique dual-camera setup, borrowed from the P9 (though without the price-inflating Leica branding): a 12MP color sensor, and an identical monochrome equivalent. Together, they are meant to create sharper, more vibrant photos, with better results in low light, even without optical image stabilization. While the daylight results are some of the best I've seen, the phone's lack of physical stabilization does impact its after-hours capabilities, though not as badly as devices with only one sensor.

The dual lenses are tack-sharp and focus instantly, buoyed by a camera app that makes capturing great photos easy

The f/2.2 lens(es) are tack-sharp and focus instantly, buoyed by a camera app that makes capturing great photos easy. Another benefit of the second sensor is the now-rote addition of manual refocus, since the second sensor captures depth information when the accompanying feature is enabled. As with rival Samsung there is no shortage of image modes, from Pro photo to Panorama to the aptly-named "Good food," which didn't seem to make my quick lunch of nachos and salsa any more photogenic. Like the Galaxy Note 7, this camera app is gesture-friendly — though it's a little sensitive, which means even the slightest of horizontal or vertical flourishes will activate one of the many menus or mode selectors.

While the Honor 8 lacks 4K video capture, it can do 1080p at 120fps, which is good enough for my internet sharing abilities. More than that, though, the phone manages to do a great job capturing beautiful photos in almost any condition.

Honor 8 Final Thoughts

I didn't expect to be as impressed by the Honor 8 as I am. While I haven't been able to do sufficient battery testing to determine whether the 3000mAh battery lives up to the competition, the phone has shown promise, refusing to drop below 20% in any of the days I've used the phone.

More than that, the Honor 8 consistently performs well, has a great screen, and captures fantastic photos, at a price that is sure to be significantly lower than the phone it is gunning for — the Galaxy S7.

It may not have the carrier support of its South Korean counterparts, but if this first salvo is any indication, and the price of previous Honor flagships a factor, it's going to do very well when it debuts at Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg, B&H Photo, and Honor's online store in early September.

See at Honor

Honor 8

Honor 8

Amazon HonorBest BuyNeweggB&H

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1 month ago

Honor 8 specs

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The Honor 8 is here, and it's fantastic.

A compact phone with plenty of great specs, including a Kirin 950 SoC and 4GB of RAM, the Honor 8 is powerhouse starting at $399. Coming in either 32GB or 64GB variants, the phone arrives with dual 12MP cameras, an ultra-fast rear fingerprint sensor, and plenty of software customizations through Huawei's EMUI 4.1 running Android 6.0.

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1 month ago

Android 7.0: Better performance, longer battery life

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By addressing specific things that affect performance and power efficiency, Android 7.0 Nougat should make our phones run better and longer between charges.

Every time the software on our phones receives a big update, we hear how it will perform better and use less of our battery. While it's often true, the ideas and how they are implemented need plenty of fine-tuning to meet expectations. Android 7.0 improves on two existing features to help them live up to their full potential: Projects Doze, and Project Svelte.

The goals are simple — find ways to make the phone less power hungry when you're not using it, and better management of background processes. All software is built with an emphasis on performance and efficiency, and an operating system so much more so. We'll take a look at the changes and see how they could have an impact.

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1 month ago

Watch our Galaxy Note 7 video review!

25

See what we have to say about the Note 7 in a fresh format.

In case you missed it while reading our comprehensive written review of the Galaxy Note 7, we've worked up a full video review for your enjoyment as well. Nice scenery, beautiful shots of the Galaxy Note 7, and some insightful analysis — what's not to like? This is the complete package.

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1 month ago

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review: Biggest and best

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Samsung Galaxy Note 7

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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.

Samsung takes the spirit of the Note down to the Galaxy S line, and it's a hit.

The quick take

Even though the Note 7 doesn't immediately strike you as an altogether stand-out device like its predecessors, it's still an amazing phone that stands atop others available today. The Note 7 takes the Galaxy S7's formula of minimizing gimmicks in order to offer a fantastic core smartphone experience, and does so with very few, if any, missteps. It checks all of the boxes, and goes above and beyond expectations in just about every way. It's the best Galaxy Note to date.

The Good

  • Beautiful hardware
  • Industry-leading display
  • Great camera
  • Unique S Pen features

The Bad

  • Still too big for some hands
  • Very expensive
  • Carrier bloatware still horrible
  • No U.S. unlocked model

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1 month ago

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 now available for pre-order in the UK

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Galaxy Note 7

Major networks and retailers put Samsung's new Note up for pre-order.

Today's Samsung Galaxy Note 7 pre-order day in the UK, and that means Brits can finally secure their handsets ahead of the Sept. 2 UK launch date.

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1 month ago

Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 in the UK

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Galaxy Note 7

As expected, every major UK network will carry the Galaxy Note 7 — and it'll cost a pretty penny if you buy unlocked.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is official, and as expected all the major UK networks have announced that they'll be carrying the phone when it launches in early September. The official Samsung pre-order date is Aug 16, so that's when we can expect to see more details on pricing and colors form the UK carriers.

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1 month ago

Complain all you want about the OnePlus 3, at least it's getting updates

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OnePlus 3 software updates are fixing things and breaking other things. But that's OK.

I've been witness to a maelstrom of frustration and invective over the weekend as OnePlus rolled out yet another fix for its OxygenOS software for the OnePlus 3.

OxygenOS version 3.2.4 began trickling out in small waves over the weekend, with promises to fix a few of the OnePlus 3's nagging issues — many of which were introduced in previous updates. That's a problem, sure: it's never ideal to replace one set of bugs with another. But the reality is that OnePlus, free from the need to submit its software to carriers, can and is doing the right thing by unilaterally releasing regular fixes — even as it continues to roll up Google's own security updates into separate releases.

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1 month ago

BlackBerry Priv and DTEK50 first to be fully patched against all QuadRooter vulnerabilities

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BlackBerry is rolling out a patch against the QuadRooter exploit to the Priv and DTEK50 starting today.

BlackBerry has built a patch against the fourth and final vulnerability of the QuadRooter exploit.

As a refresher, QuadRooter was able to use vulnerabilities in Qualcomm's firmware drivers to gain elevated permissions (read: root) on your phone or tablet. Zero cases have been reported in the wild, and the user would have to disable factory security settings and manually install an app using the QuadRooter code. In addition, all phones running Android 4.2 or higher and use Google Play have built-in protections that scan apps and warn the user before the installation. BlackBerry devices that run Android — the Priv and the DTEK50 — also have a secure boot process that verifies the system hasn't been tampered with.

In other words, this wasn't going to go far in the first place.

Nevertheless, it's great to see BlackBerry's active focus on security. Three of the four vulnerabilities were patched by Qualcomm and included in the August Android Security Patch, but the fourth was slated to come with the September patch.

Some critical Android vulnerabilities – for example, one that can be easily and remotely exploited with a publicly disclosed method to execute 'root' privileged malware – simply can't wait for a monthly update cycle. — BlackBerry Chief Security Officer, David Kleidermacher

Kleidermacher is correct. BlackBerry stakes its reputation on security, and patching a new firmware bug should take top priority. Well done, BlackBerry.

The patch has been released and is available today for devices purchased from ShopBlackBerry.com. Partners are expected to begin the rollout this week.

MORE: Android Malware — should you be worried?

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