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5 days ago

Android Central Best of CES 2017 Awards!

9

AC's CES 2017 award winners are in!

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At this year's CES in Las Vegas, instead of one particular category standing out, we were impressed by a number of existing ones — and updates to old ideas.

But trends did emerge: the Internet of Things is, while still a meaningless generalization, filtering down to consumer products in meaningful ways, like with the NVIDIA Spot. And new takes on a wrist wearable, like the the Lofelt Basslet, feel designed for more specific, and invested audiences.

Still, it was the old form factors that won our hearts this year: the BlackBerry 'Mercury', in its late aughts glory, impressed us, as did the Samsung Chromebook Pro and ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom. All updates to tried-and-true designs, but great products nonetheless.

So without further ado, here are our awards for the best of CES 2017.

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5 days ago

The Android launcher experience on tablets is still terrible

40

It's not quite a desktop, but it's not quite a normal home screen.

The Android tablet experience is often awkward and awful, and that goes double for the launchers, which are inconsistent, inconvenient, and often times ugly. From third-party launchers to manufacturer versions of tablet layouts, there's a lot to be desired, and while part of that blame falls on developers, it also falls to Google, which has still not quite figured out how tablets should behave.

And it falls on us. Because we just don't know what we want.

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5 days ago

What size microSD card should you buy for your Amazon Fire Tablet?

12

It's not always as easy as just buying whatever you see on Amazon.

Sure, it sounds silly. But with the super-cheap Amazon Fire Tablet also comes an important decision on how best to expand the storage capacity. You can slot in a microSD card and make a small, cheap tablet have a lot more space to keep your apps and media.

So, let's try and help you make the buying process a little easier by covering some key points to consider.

READ: Best microSD Cards for Amazon Fire Tablet

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1 week ago

Amazon Fire Tablet 7 vs Fire Tablet Kids Edition: Which should I buy?

10

You want to get your youngsters an Amazon Fire Tablet, but which version is right for you?

The Amazon Fire Tablet 7 is a great buy at $50, especially for the kids. It's capable enough to keep them entertained while not costing enough to pull your hair out if it gets accidentally destroyed. You can also get all the (non-Google) major content services on there as well as a dedicated kids mode to keep those little fingers from buying a new laptop on your Amazon account.

But, when you go to buy, there's both a 'regular' 7-inch and a Kids Edition. Underneath they're both the same, 7-inch Amazon Fire tablet with the same hardware specs and the same software. So what's the difference and which should you buy?

Let's break it down.

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3 weeks ago

Best Cases For Pixel C

10

Looking for an awesome case or sleeve for your Pixel C? We can help.

Google's Pixel C is a versatile and powerful tablet with a large, amazing display. And as such, you'll want to protect your investment by slipping it into some kind of case or sleeve. Here are the ones we like.

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3 weeks ago

Barnes & Noble removes malware from $50 Nook tablet, but you still shouldn't buy it

41

The update may remove the part where your data goes back to China, but everything else is bad and unchanged.

About that $50 Barnes & Noble tablet. You might have heard that researchers working with Linux Journal found that the BNTV450 shipped from the factory with the same malware that phones from Blu and other companies that use a MediaTek processor had. It's called ADUPS and it was configured to literally harvest your personal data and send it back to a server in China.

Sometimes, data really does get sent back to China. This was one of those times.

Anyway, there's an update in the wild that "fixes" things. At least this one thing. Maybe.

The update brings a new version of ADUPS to the tablet. Supposedly, the "bad stuff" the ADUPS malware does is no longer present in versions newer than 5.5. The shipping version — 5.2.0.2.002 — was filled with data stealing goodness, but the version in the update file we received last night is 6.0. The worst part is that most of us can't check for this ourselves, as the ADUPS application needs to be completely decompiled to see the version number in the app manifest. To make a long story short, unless the folks behind ADUPS are doing something else that's shady, the update from B&N squares the malware issue away.

The "Maybe" part? Plenty of people consider any device with any version of the ADUPS software to be compromised and not fit for storing your personal information on. Personally, I'm with them but it's your $50.

But there are plenty of reasons to still not buy this tablet. Beginning with the fact that it's still 100% vulnerable to CVE-2015-6616. In human language, that means the Stagefright exploit. The Android version (6.0 in this case) should be at least partially patched, but there are security updates for the processor which have not been applied.

Don't buy this tablet. I'm telling you to not buy this tablet and our own Modern Dad looked at this one so you didn't have to.

Here's what he has to say about the update:

So it had malware in the program that serves ads. An update is removing the malware from the program that serves the ads. It's still not worth $50. Suck it up and buy an iPad or a Kindle Fire HD.

You know what tablet doesn't have malware, performs way better, and also costs $50? The Amazon Fire Tablet 7.

See at Amazon

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3 weeks ago

With the $50 Barnes & Noble Nook 7 Tablet, you get what you pay for

13

If all you're looking for is an e-reader, then maybe $50 isn't that bad. Maybe. Possibly.

The Nook 7 from Barnes & Noble is $50. That may be the best thing I have to say about it. It's not particularly fast. (Or fast at all.) The display isn't anything to write home about. The software is basically stock Android with BN apps added in.

But if all you're looking for is an e-reader, then maybe $50 isn't that bad, right?

Subscribe to Modern Dad!

I guess it really depends on what you're hoping to get out of this. I'd hoped this might be another option for the kids. And while it is, it's not really a good option. At least not without doing some work to it. There's no real kid support built into the Nook 7 out of the box. There's basic Android user switching, and even profile support for the Barnes & Noble content. It's password protected, even, so you can keep your Disney kids out of your Danielle Steel. But that's it. They still have full access to every single app on the tablet. And you're on your own for setting up any sort of screen time limitations. Point is, for not too much more money you can get a much better tablet for youngsters.

On the other hand, this one does have Google Play support from the moment you fire it up, so there's that.

See at Barnes & Noble

Modern Dad

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4 weeks ago

Amazon Fire HD 8: Finally, a tablet worthy of your kids

33

See at Amazon

Have kids? Have kids who are always "borrowing" your tablet? Maybe get them this instead!

Fun fact: Kids like stealing their parents' tablets. Maybe they're just watching videos. Maybe Pokémoning. (That's a verb, right?) Maybe they're just catching up on emails and building new slide decks. (My kids are weird. Don't ask.)

Thing is, I've never really found a tablet I actually want to let my kids use. High-end tablets like the Pixel are too big and too expensive. Same goes for iPads, really. At some point they're going to drop it. They're going to leave it on the floor to be stepped on. That's just the way it is.

And I've got a real aversion for cheap tablets. You know — those off-brand things that go for $50, never get updates and have zero in the way of support. But what if you could spend just a little bit more for something decent. And, as it turns out, something that has a little bit of kiddie controls already built in.

And that's why I've been pleasantly surprised with the latest from Amazon — the Fire HD 8. It starts at just $89 for the 16GB model, with "special offers." (That means ads, of course.) I ramped things up just a little bit though, going for the 32GB model and no ads, and came out at about $135. That's not nothing, but it's also not horrible for something that's really gotten a lot of use in my house. (Plus, having a range of options is great!)

Get more at Modern Dad!!!

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4 weeks ago

Lenovo Yoga Book: An Android tablet like none other

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The innovative display ... the gorgeous hinge ... the futuristic keyboard ... or the crazy cool pen input — there are loads of reasons to love the Lenovo Yoga Book.

I've seen lots of Android tablets in my day. Even the odd Android-powered laptop. I've seen Android tablets that sort-of try to become laptops. Today, though, we truly have the first one that's able to both — and then some. That beast, of course, is the Lenovo Yoga Book, which the company sent me to take a look at.

It's one part tablet. Another part laptop. Another part futuristic sketch pad. And it pulls off all three in a way that you almost don't expect, given the state of large-form Android devices. But it's pretty easy to nail down just exactly what Lenovo did to create such a unique product.

See at Lenovo

The hardware and that hinge ...

Start with the basics, of course. You've got a 10.1-inch tablet that's impossibly thin, with a gorgeous 1920x1200-resolution display. That's married to a keyboard unlike any that you've ever seen before — because there aren't any keys at all. Instead you get a flat surface on which the outline of keys will present themselves when it's time to type. The rest of the time that area is a high-tech sketchpad, using a souped-up pen to instantly digitize anything you write or draw. It's almost hard to believe how accurate it is, and it turns the worst of scribbles into something that can be stored and manipulated across all kinds of cloud-based ecosystems.

Keeping all that together is the innovative watch-band hinge that Lenovo has made itself famous for. Nothing else looks like that and provides the sort of range of movement. (Never mind that it looks ridiculously cool.) You can easily go from tablet mode to laptop mode to sketchpad mode, with very little effort at all, and without fear of breaking anything in the process. It's as simple as it is innovative.

There's plenty to like under the hood as well. The Yoga Book is powered by an Intel Atom processor, sports 4 gigabytes of RAM, and has 64 gigabytes of storage, with the option for a microSD card to add even more. And the 8500 mAh battery keeps everything powered up. All of this runs Android with aplomb, though there is also a Windows 10 version of the Yoga Book if that's more your thing.

That Real Pen — and that Any Pen ...

For as cool as the hinge is, and as futuristic as that keyboard looks, it's the pen input that's going to grab a lot of folks' attention. But it actually goes way beyond that.

The "Real Pen" is the main method of drawing, writing and digitizing. It's got a more typical stylus nub on it, but you might well want to go with the ballpoint tip so that you can actually put ink to paper while you're putting pixels to the screen.

But then there's "Any Pen" — a technology that lets you take any sort of conductive metal to the display and have it serve as a stylus. Only have a spork handy? So long as it's metal, that half-spoon, half fork will interact with the Yoga Book's display same as the Real Pen. Or a key. Or a knife. You'll obviously want to be a little careful about your writing weapon of choice, but the point is you've got myriad metal options.

The bottom line ...

It's not too often that you get a product that's worth more than the sum of its parts. The Lenovo Yoga Book appears to be one of those, however. You can't overstate the design — just how thin and light and innovative it is. The keyboard has to be seen to be believed. The options for Real Pen and Any Pen add the sort of extras that you won't find anywhere else.

Or boil it down to this — it's just cool. It looks cool. The metal body feels cool. You're going to pull it out of your bag and attract a gaze or two. And you're also going to get stuff done.

And that's truly what it's all about.

See at Lenovo

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1 month ago

Best Samsung Tablet

Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 and 9.7

For the best mix of power and portability, Samsung's top tablet is the Galaxy Tab S2 8.0.

Andrew Martonik Andrew has been a mobile enthusiast since the Windows Mobile days, and covering all things Android-related with a unique perspective at Android Central since 2012. For suggestions and updates, you can reach him at andrew.martonik@androidcentral.com or on Twitter at @andrewmartonik.

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Best overall

Galaxy Tab S2 8.0

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

See at Amazon

Samsung has hit a great balance of size and portability with the Tab S2 8.0, which of course has an 8-inch display. It's notably bigger than even the biggest phones out there, giving you plenty of screen real estate to work with, but it's also extremely thin and light so you can use it in one hand if you want. The metal body is simple and strong, and you get a fingerprint sensor below the screen to keep all of your information safe.

On the inside you get a capable processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, which is plenty for a Wi-Fi only tablet, and you also get Samsung's latest Marshmallow software that's relatively clean and very powerful. It's all powering a very nice 2048x1536 Super AMOLED display that's a bit wider than what you may be used to, but it's actually a good thing — it means the Tab S2 8.0 feels comfortable in both portrait and landscape orientation.

Yes it's a year old at this point, but Samsung hasn't made anything better in the last year ... and the Tab S2 8.0 is still a very capable tablet, especially if you find it on discount from its original $399 price.

Bottom line: If you like Samsung's hardware and software, this is the tablet to get.

One more thing: Because it's a year old, it's unfortunately still using a Micro-USB charger.

Why the Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 is the best

Android tablets with big screens and high price tags have always been a tough sell, so models with smaller screens and lower prices have hit a nice middle ground overall. Not only are they cheaper, but they're also easier to use and cover up some of the shortcomings that still exist today in the Android app catalogue.

The Tab S2 8.0 is amazingly thin and light, which makes it perfect for using in portrait mode — even with one hand — for reading, browsing or typing out quick messages and emails. The screen is fantastic, and the slightly unconventional 4:3 aspect ration means it's still "wide" enough when in portrait mode, while giving you enough room to use side-by-side multi-window apps when in landscape. The battery isn't huge considering that minimal thickness and weight, but that's a fine trade-off for a device you're likely to use casually and let sleep most of the time.

From our full Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 review:

The Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 is thin, light, powerful, has a great screen, and is sprinkled with extra features like a fingerprint sensor, good battery life, a decent rear-facing camera and a solid side-by-side app implementation.

Samsung's newest software offering, based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, closely matches that of what's available on the Galaxy S7 today, which is to say it'll be familiar to Samsung users while also being powerful and relatively sleek. And because these are Wi-Fi-only, you won't have any carrier bloatware to deal with.

While it isn't the biggest tablet out there, the Galaxy Tab S2 offers the best combination of size, portability, features and price that you can get from Samsung.

Best bigger screen

Galaxy Tab S2 9.7

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7

See at Amazon

As the name would lead you to believe, this is the same tablet as our top pick, but with a larger 9.7-inch display that goes toe-to-toe with the iPad. You get the same hardware internals, same great external metal build and fingerprint sensor, but it's all wrapped around a larger display that can better handle multiple windows.

The larger screen is also better suited for landscape orientation, especially when paired up with a keyboard from either Samsung or one of its partners. The keyboards slickly snap onto the back of the tablet with included snap points, meaning you don't have to have a big bulky case wrapped around it just to have a keyboard. When you combine the two pieces, you have something approximating a tiny laptop, letting you type and work better than you ever could on a small tablet with a virtual keyboard.

You pay more for the bigger real estate and the keyboard accessories aren't included, but if you want something bigger then this is your go-to choice from Samsung.

Bottom line: For the same great Tab S2 experience with a bigger screen that can work with a keyboard, the 9.7-inch version is the one to get.

One more thing: Be sure to check out the various keyboard offerings available for the Tab S2 — you don't have to buy the one from Samsung.

Best for less

Galaxy Tab A 10.1

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1

See at Amazon

We get it, Samsung's top-end tablets also come with top-end prices. If you don't want to shell out $500+ for a big Galaxy Tab S2, we wouldn't blame you for looking at the Galaxy Tab A series instead. If you want the Samsung software and design at a lower price, we recommend the Galaxy Tab A 10.1, which comes in at $299 retail.

So where does it make those savings? Well, a little bit of everywhere. The Galaxy Tab A 10.1 has a lower-resolution 1920x1200 display, a bit lower-end processor, less RAM at 2GB and less storage at 16GB. It also lacks a fingerprint sensor.

But in general, while it doesn't have the highest-end specs and features, it can still get the job done for someone who wants a big tablet for casual browsing and media reading. The 10.1-inch display will give you more than enough room to run multiple windows at once, though it won't be as portable as something like the Tab S2 8.0.

Bottom line: To get the best bang for your buck with a big screen, you'll want the Galaxy Tab A 10.1.

One more thing: Because of the 16GB internal storage, you'll want to invest a little in a microSD card to expand for media.

Conclusion

If you want a Samsung tablet that's fast, feature-packed and with a great screen that's also light and portable, your best option is the Galaxy Tab S2 8.0. You can get a bigger display with the Tab S2 9.7, or save some money with the Tab A 10.1, but the best overall offering is the Tab S2 8.0.

Best overall

Galaxy Tab S2 8.0

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

See at Amazon

Samsung has hit a great balance of size and portability with the Tab S2 8.0, which of course has an 8-inch display. It's notably bigger than even the biggest phones out there, giving you plenty of screen real estate to work with, but it's also extremely thin and light so you can use it in one hand if you want. The metal body is simple and strong, and you get a fingerprint sensor below the screen to keep all of your information safe.

On the inside you get a capable processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, which is plenty for a Wi-Fi only tablet, and you also get Samsung's latest Marshmallow software that's relatively clean and very powerful. It's all powering a very nice 2048x1536 Super AMOLED display that's a bit wider than what you may be used to, but it's actually a good thing — it means the Tab S2 8.0 feels comfortable in both portrait and landscape orientation.

Yes it's a year old at this point, but Samsung hasn't made anything better in the last year ... and the Tab S2 8.0 is still a very capable tablet, especially if you find it on discount from its original $399 price.

Bottom line: If you like Samsung's hardware and software, this is the tablet to get.

One more thing: Because it's a year old, it's unfortunately still using a Micro-USB charger.

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1 month ago

Samsung's Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 is just $249 until Christmas

23

Get a great compact tablet for a solid price for the holidays.

Though it's getting a bit old (about a year at this point), the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 is still a really solid tablet and it can be had for a full $150 off retail price from now until December 25. There's no discount link or coupon code to follow, as the price has already dropped at Amazon.

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1 month ago

With Windows 10 on ARM, Microsoft is coming for the Chromebook — and might win

161

Microsoft is taking on Chromebooks with a new ARM-based version of Windows 10, and everyone wins.

Microsoft is coming for your Chromebooks. No, they're not going to confiscate them like the TSA steals your water bottles, but more so in the competitive sense.

This week, Microsoft announced that it is launching an ARM-friendly version of Windows 10 in collaboration with Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon 835 SoC, which comes out next year. While most Android fans will know Qualcomm's work from such phones as nearly every product on the market, Snapdragon is increasingly capable, especially at the high-end, of powering tablets, 2-in-1s and traditional laptops.

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1 month ago

What is T-Mobile Digits and why do I want it?

23

T-Mobile's Digits brings phone calls and texts into the 21st century, but at a time when people care little about those things, will it make a difference?

T-Mobile has unveiled a new service called Digits, making phone numbers less reliant on a SIM card, and expanding the simple phone number into the smartphone age.

But for all of its big talk, Digits is a bit confusing, so let's break it down.

What is Digits?

At its core, Digits is T-Mobile's way of utilizing its new IMS (IP Media Subsystem) backend to dynamically direct calls to any device, or store multiple numbers on a single device.

Basically, without the technical mumbo jumbo, it's a way to free the phone number from its legacy place, and to utilize the flexibility data-based nature of Voice over LTE and Voice of Wi-Fi to allow a call to take place, or to be received, in the most convenient place. This is very similar to Google Voice, and to many other Voice over IP services like Viber and Skype, but T-Mobile has one major advantage: it owns the network, and it distributes the phones.

So what can Digits really do for me?

Provided you're on one of T-Mobile's compatible postpaid plans (yes, this is yet another way for T-Mobile to upsell you), Digits can make it easier to manage phone calls in the increasingly inevitable situation you have multiple devices.

The basic idea is that if you receive a call on your traditional T-Mobile number, your phone should ring, along with any device — another phone, a computer, a tablet, even a connected smartwatch — at the same time. You can also make calls from any of those same devices without your phone nearby, and without the need to have a SIM card.

A secondary but for many people equally important feature is the ability to have more than one number available on a single device. So instead of having separate personal and work phones, you can have a single smartphone make and receive calls from two or more numbers.

This sounds a lot like Google Voice

Yes, it does. The major difference here is that T-Mobile is committing to a couple of things that even Google, which creates both Android and Google Voice, can't do:

  • It is integrating Digits directly into the Android phones it sells, working with manufacturers like Samsung to seamlessly add Digits support into devices like the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S7 and Gear S3.
  • It is making it easy to do so-called "SIM replication," which allows you to duplicate a phone number onto a second device, such as another smartphone or a connected smartwatch.

This is in addition to the Google Voice-like Digits app that's available for Android and iOS, to make and receive calls and texts from any device, anywhere. There's also a Digits portal on the web for people who sit in front of a computer all day and want to be able to initiate communications that way. And because the app is available natively and through an app, devices with SIM cards from AT&T, Verizon or Sprint — any carrier, really — can access Digits messages. If you lose your phone, for instance, you can download the Digits app onto a friend's device and make and receive calls and texts from there, too.

Like many cross-platform messaging services, call logs and messages also sync in real-time between devices, which is a huge boon to productivity if you don't always have your phone in front of you.

It's tailor-made for Android

Android is the only platform on which T-Mobile can rely to help Digits grow.

Digits is a cross-platform play, sure, but it is tailor-made for Android. Not only does iOS have its own cross-device communications protocol in iMessage, which may mess with Digits' ability to route texts, but Apple doesn't allow for any system-level alterations, rendering one of Digits' primary use cases moot.

Indeed, Android is the only platform on which T-Mobile can rely to help Digits proliferate, but by potentially limiting half of the population to merely an app-based experience, it is almost immediately cut off at the proverbial knees. Still, Digits has a five-device limit, and can easily be tuned to be used on an iPhone or iPad, especially since as of iOS 10 VoIP apps can take over the lock screen like a regular dialer.

The best Digits experience will always be on Android, and initially is only natively available on the Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy S6 edge +, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 edge or Note 5 purchased through T-Mobile.

So should I sign up?

Digits, while free during the beta period, won't be afterwards, and T-Mobile isn't saying how much it will cost.

Digits is an intriguing product, and an example of what it looks like when a carrier turns next-generation core technology like IMS and HLR (which works to virtualize SIM data on the core network) into something that is truly compelling to consumers.

There are a couple of caveats, though: Digits, while free during the beta period, will not be afterwards, and T-Mobile isn't saying how much it will cost. It's likely going to be just a few dollars per month, but users already need to have one of the carrier's postpaid plans such as T-Mobile One or Simple Choice. And only the primary account holder can actually sign up for a second line in order to carry two on a single device; secondary users can merely share their existing number across multiple devices.

During the beta period, which is indeterminate but should go into next year, T-Mobile will ask users to provide feedback on the service. This is a complicated thing, despite its upfront simplicity, and bugs will need to be worked out.

In the long run, though, Digits is coming to market at a time when the phone number is likely the least important aspect of a smartphone user's experience. Data, and the avenues to the internet it provides, is the backbone of the mobile experience. Phone calls and rich texts sent over a carrier network, even one as advanced as T-Mobile's, still feel somewhat anachronistic.

Nonetheless, the Digits beta seems like a great option for T-Mobile users running select Samsung phones on Android, and we look forward to trying it out!

See Digits at T-Mobile

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1 month ago

Android is not iOS, December 2016 edition

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Marshmallow rises while KitKat slowly melts.

December's Android distribution numbers are out, and they're boring. Android is still not iOS, and things don't change in large increments, so haters will still hate and defenders will still hate.

Impressively, Android 6.0 Marshmallow now holds the single version crown with 26.3% share. That takes over Android 4.4 KitKat, the previous leader, which dropped 1.2% to 24% even. Lollipop cumulatively holds the lead with 34%, divided between versions 5.0 and 5.1.

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1 month ago

Save $80 when buying an Amazon Tap and Fire tablet together

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Best Buy is currently offering an $80 savings when you purchase the Amazon Tap and 7-inch Fire tablet together. To get the offer all you need to do is add both items to your cart, and then the $80 will be subtracted. With the savings, it is essentially like getting the Fire tablet (normally $69) for free and $10 off the Amazon Tap (normally $129). With the Tap, you'll be able to use your voice to order Amazon items, check the weather and much more with Alexa, and the tablet is great for browsing the web, watching videos and playing some games.

So, for $119 plus tax you can get both of these great items, which is a pretty awesome deal. This offer is only good for today, December 5, so don't wait long to place your order.

See at Best Buy

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