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1 day ago

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

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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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4 days ago

Let's talk about Andromeda

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Andromeda and Fuchsia look to be the mating of Chrome and Android, just not the way anyone thought it would be.

I got to completely geek out when Daniel Matte wrote up the things he found about Andromeda while looking through some Google source code earlier this week. It reinforced a lot of the things I thought when I first looked through all the code in August 2016, caught a lot more things that I overlooked, and examined the new code. I think Matte's assessments are pretty close to the mark here. Not because they confirmed some of my original thoughts, but because it points out things I got wrong. Or at least I think I got them wrong. Everything about Andromeda or Fuchsia is still just educated guessing.

More: 'Fuchsia' operating system project is interesting, lacking details that make it matter

At this point, I think we have a pretty good idea of where Google is going with Andromeda, Fuchsia, Android and Chrome. The future looks like it will be all about consolidating everything without making things the same. I've been digging and chatting and poking things for a couple days and that's my conclusion.

The Pixel C should have shipped with Fuchsia. Maybe the next one will.

Fuchsia is where we need to start. Fuchsia is a way to replace Linux and become an operating system for Chrome and Android to run on. Android is kind of weird. It can be built as an all-in-one OS waiting for some hardware support to be added making it ready to run, or it can also be a runtime(s) and support files for applications. The Nexus 6P is using Android as an operating system, the BlackBerry Classic is using Android as an application platform atop another operating system. If you were to hack Google's apps (Google Play, Play Services, etc) onto the Classic it could do everything the Nexus 6P can do when it comes to Android apps, even though it's not using "Android" as the operating system.

Fuchsia will work with the Android runtime and support everything using compatible APIs. In other words, we won't see any difference but the people developing Android will.

The future where everything is the same but different makes sense when done right.

Fuchsia will also power Andromeda. We have already seen stage one of Andromeda when Google Play came to some Chromebooks. Right now, Chrome OS is basically a user interface and application platform running on a fairly standard Linux kernel and middleware. If that sounds confusing, just think of Chrome OS as something like Ubuntu. That's close enough for what we're talking about here. Android apps run in Chrome natively, but not really natively. There's a layer that talks to Android apps and talks to that middleware through Chrome that makes it seamless to the user. That layer is step one of Andromeda.

Fuchsia will work with the Chrome application platform and framework and support everything with compatible APIs. In other words, we won't see any difference but the people developing Chromium will.

It looks like Andromeda and Fuchsia is a hybrid of Android and Chrome, but not the way people thought it would be. It's the software underneath it all that's being changed to support everything. And that's about as awesome as it gets for people who work with Android and Chrome every day.

More: How Google can use Andromeda to conquer everything

You and I are end users for Android and Chrome. We appreciate the changes (or hate them) to the operating system but are familiar with them both and choose to use them instead of something else. Changing that and offering something that looks and feels different is risky. Keep giving people the things they want to buy.

A universal OS is hard because not all screens are the same size.

Developers benefit from having one operating system that powers both platforms. As things advance, the lines between what a Chrome app is and what an Android app is will blur until there is only one app that runs on both. Developers can target the mobile, touch-friendly version or the full pointer-driven version, or both. This eliminates the biggest drawback to what Ubuntu and Microsoft are doing because a universal interface just won't work on a 4.5-inch screen and a 30-inch monitor.

Or everyone thinking about it all and guessing could be completely wrong. Wouldn't be the first time.

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1 week ago

Buy Lenovo's Android-powered Yoga Book for $500 and get a free $100 Amazon gift card

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Right now you can score a free $100 Amazon gift card with the purchase of a Lenovo Yoga Book. Since its release, the Android-powered tablet has yet to see a price drop, and while this doesn't mean you are paying less, it is still a great perk. The 10.1-inch tablet comes with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and a unique Halo Keyboard which makes it stand out a bit more. You can pick one up in your choice of gold, black, and gunmetal right now. Once you receive your gift card you could always use it to grab a protective leather case, some screen protectors, or some other accessories you may need.

All you have to do is select the option that bundles the Yoga Book and gift card, and add it to your cart, it's just that simple. This deal should run through February 22, but it is possible it will sell out before that, so be sure to place your order now if you want one!

See at Amazon

For more great deals on tech, gadgets, home goods and more, be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!

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1 week ago

Android Nougat update for the Shield Tablet K1 is now live

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The Shield Tablet is still great and the Android 7 update means you won't have to buy a new tablet this year.

Android 7.0 is on the way for your Shield Tablet K1, extending the life of everyone's favorite 8-incher and bringing all the new features of Google's latest.

Besides the Android 7 enhancements — split screen, Doze 2.0, better notifications and those sweet, sweet emojis 🌮 🦄 — we see some extra awesome tossed into the mix with support for the new 2017 controller and an exclusive Shield Rewards loyalty program that we're eager to check out.

The update is pushing out now, so grab your Shield and make sure it's charged up. Now begin mashing that button! NVIDIA's full changelog is below.

SHIELD Controller (2017) Support

  • Updates to SHIELD controller support

New Multitasking Features

  • Split-screen: Run two apps side by side* in Portrait or Landscape modes
  • Quick switch: Double tap the Overview button to quickly switch back to the last opened app

Improved Notifications

  • Multiple notifications from the same app are now bundled for a streamlined experience
  • Reply to messages directly from within the notification*
  • Tap and hold on a notification to quickly silence or block notifications from the app

Improved Power Consumption

  • Doze on the Go: Doze is now smarter & kicks in even when the device is being carried around

Emoji

  • Includes all-new Unicode 9 emojis

Usability Improvements

  • Display & Font size can now separately adjustable to improve readability or screenspace
  • Quick Settings can now be customized directly from the menu by tapping "Edit"
  • The top Quick Setting tiles can now be accessed with a downward swipe from the lock screen
  • Settings now includes a Navigation Menu & Suggestions to improve usability
  • The "Clear all" option in Overview have been relocated to the top right

System wide improvements including:

  • New Data Saver: when enabled, limits access to Cellular data for background apps
  • New JIT compiler: improves the speed of App & System updates
  • Update to Android Security Patch Level December 1, 2016

SHIELD Rewards Program

  • Introducing SHIELD Rewards, the exclusive loyalty program for SHIELD owners

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2 weeks ago

MrMobile's best Android tablet (is from 2015)

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It's been 15 months since Google's Pixel C launched, and it hasn't diminished in quality (or price). It still has some annoying bugs, and there's still software that just won't work in landscape mode, but after over a year since release, I still find myself gravitating toward it whenever I'm able to leave my bigger machines behind.

I'm Michael Fisher, alias MrMobile, and it'd be ridiculous for me to suggest you buy the Pixel C … at full price. But when it goes on sale, or it comes bundled with the attachable keyboard, I'm in enthusiastic agreement with what Jerry Hildenbrand said: the Pixel C is a handy piece of hardware, and it's (still) my favorite Android tablet of the year (so far). Hit play on this video, and let me tell you what's great (and not-so) about the Pixel C in 2017.

Featured Products

Stay social, my friends

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2 weeks ago

For a limited time you can grab the Fire Tablet for just $39

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Right now you can pick up Amazon's Fire Tablet for just $39, a savings of $10 from its regular price. Even at $49 this thing is an incredible value, so being able to save an additional $10 on it makes it an even easier purchase. The tablet features a 7-inch IPS display, a 1.3GHz processor and now works with Amazon's Alexa cloud-based voice service. There are tons of great apps, games and more that are completely free through Amazon Underground, so you won't have any shortage of content here.

Storage in these tends to fill up fast, so you may want to check out some of the best microSD cards to add so you don't find yourself running low. This pricing won't last long, so be sure to pick one up before it is too late!

See at Amazon

For more great deals on tech, gadgets, home goods and more be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!

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2 weeks ago

Lenovo announces a cheaper version of its innovative Yoga Book

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Lenovo has announced a cheaper version of its innovative, mostly excellent Yoga Book, the aptly-named Yoga A12.

Aimed at emerging markets and people not looking for the power and extra expense of the Yoga Book itself, the Yoga A12 pares back the power — it has an Intel Atom x5 chip, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage by default — to go along with the 12.2-inch HD screen, though it's unclear whether it's 720p or 1080p (I'd venture to say the former).

The Yoga Book's keystone feature, the Halo keyboard, makes a return on the Yoga A12, which the company says has been improved and thinned out since its first iteration. That the Yoga A12 runs Android out of the box is a given, but this version will not come with a Windows option unlike its more expensive counterpart. There's also no stylus input support, which leant the Yoga Book something of a productivity win with a certain demographic, but the tablet does have a 360-hinge that can be positioned in many ways.

The Yoga 12 goes on sale Wednesday, February 8 for $299 in one of two colors: Gunmetal Grey or Rose Gold.

See at Lenovo

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2 weeks ago

How to replace your laptop with a tablet

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If you're looking for true mobility with your devices, sometimes even a laptop can be too much. Tablets are ubiquitous, and with the right preparation, can easily replace a laptop for your (lighter) work days. If you're hesitant about making the move from laptop to tablet, let me assuage your fears.

I'm Michael Fisher, though you probably know me better as MrMobile, and yes, I'm writing this from a tablet. Sometimes all you need is to sit at a cafe, drinking coffee and typing on a device that can comfortably fit inside a SCOTTeVEST. I know that's all I need. slurp ahhh.

Featured devices

Stay social, my friends

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3 weeks ago

Amazon Fire HD 10 vs. iPad Air 2: Which is the better big tablet?

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Is Amazon's big tablet a worthy alternative to the might of the Apple iPad Air 2?

Both Amazon's and Apple's tablets have their own content ecosystems to go along with their hardware, so in some ways are very similar. The biggest difference, of course, is Amazon's Fire HD 10 uses Android, while Apple remains the default choice for the casual consumer considering a tablet, since iOS has the App Store.

The question is, if you're looking for a big tablet, is the Amazon Fire HD 10 a good buy, or does it fall short compared to the stalwart iPad Air 2?

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3 weeks ago

Samsung teases tablet on MWC 2017 event invite, announcement set for Feb 26

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A tablet announcement is a lock for the end of February.

On the same day that we saw our first major spec leak of a purported Galaxy Tab S3, Samsung has sent out invites to its MWC 2017 event with a sneaky image of a tablet on it. The event will be held on February 26 at 7 p.m. in Barcelona, which translates to 1 p.m. in New York and 10 a.m. in San Francisco.

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3 weeks ago

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 rumored for MWC — specs, price + release date leaks

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Galaxy Tab S2

Snapdragon 820, Nougat and a 9.6-inch display in super-thin chassis.

Samsung's high-end Galaxy Tab S range is long overdue a major update — the current generation of Tab S2 slates were announced almost 18 months ago, in August of 2015. Now it appears Samsung may finally have an updated model waiting in the wings, as Korean outlet Naver News reports that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 will break cover on February 26 in Barcelona, ahead of Mobile World Congress.

Rumored specs include:

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1 month ago

Android Central Best of CES 2017 Awards!

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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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1 month ago

The Android launcher experience on tablets is still terrible

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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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1 month ago

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

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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 month ago

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

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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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