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1 week ago

New Humble 'Great Adventures' Bundle may be the best one yet

5

There's a great new Humble Bundle for Android, and you're going to want to spring for this one.

There's no shortage of great games for the Android platform, but many of the best ones cost money up front. Humble Bundle has always been an effective way of purchasing more than one game at a time, often thematically similar and of the highest quality, for very little money.

The Humble 'Great Adventures' Bundle is no exception. You can get classic adventure games like Grim Fandango Remastered, Kathy Rain, and Machinarium — oldies but goodies — for a buck. For $4 or more, you get an additional three titles, including the award-winning Her Story, the fun and unusual Sorcery 4, and the unique Burly Men at Sea. For $6 or more, you get all those and the brand-new-to-Android Lumino City, and the incredible, imaginative Samorost 3.

As always, part of the proceeds go to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child's Play Charity.

Android Gaming

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1 week ago

Save 20% Off Already Low Cell Phone Plans from Mint SIM

Looking for a killer deal on a new cell phone plan for yourself? Don't miss this awesome offer from Mint SIM!

In the recent years, we've seen a whole lot happen to cell phone plans. First unlimited data, then price hikes, then tiered data, cheaper plans, the return of unlimited data and so much more. Competition continues to grow in this field, and Mint SIM is getting in on the action with some extremely aggressive pricing for its plans. Mint SIM is an alternative carrier that offers you an extremely affordable way to have the data you need on your phone, and right now you can save an additional 20% off any 6- or 12-month plan using the coupon ACMINTSIM20.

Mint SIM utilizes T-Mobile's growing 4G LTE network to ensure you have great coverage and fast speeds across most of the United States. The way it works is Mint SIM buys access to networks and packages and then is able to resell them to its customers for better rates than the major carriers are charging.

Save 20% with coupon ACMINTSIM20 Learn More

With Mint SIM you can port your existing number over, or start service with a new one if you wish. You can pay monthly, or buy in 3, 6, or 12-month bundles, which help you save even more.

The additional 20% off comes when you buy either 6 or 12-months, but the savings is pretty big. The Big Four carriers charge upwards of $90 a month to gain access to a reasonable amount of data, meaning you are paying nearly $1,100 a year for service. With Mint SIM you can get 10GB of data per month with unlimited talk and text for just $323 for the year.

You can't afford to miss out on this deal Learn More

There are a ton of deals out there, but none of them are quite this good. You can use the unlocked phone of your choice with any of these plans, so pick one you like, order a new SIM card and give it a shot today!

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1 week ago

Cheap Chromecast Speakers: Best Under $35

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Just because you want a great-sounding speaker doesn't mean you have to spend more than you did on your Chromecast Audio.

Updated April 2017: We removed the DKnight Magicbox and the SoundPal F3, since they're no longer available, but did add the Photive Hydra to our list.

Chromecast Audio provides us with an easy way to stream media from our mobile devices to our favorite speakers, whether they feature Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or neither. We've selected five of the best portable speakers that go great with this audio accessory and cost no more than the Chromecast Audio itself. Keep one in your bedroom, living room, kitchen, or bathroom — these speakers will give you the superior sound you crave without breaking the bank.

Cambridge Soundworks OontZ Angle 3

While the Chromecast Audio may not be waterproof, the OontZ Angle 3 from Cambridge SoundWorks certainly is. This 5-inch speaker speaker has an IPX5 rating, making it completely splashproof for any setting. Inside is a long lasting 2200mAh battery that provides up to 15 hours of music through its dual drivers for a total of 10W of stereo sound. The OontZ Angle 3 sounds great on every level — mids, highs, and even bass are clear thanks to the passive subwoofer design. If you're after a speaker that's built for a tougher environment, this is a great option for you.

Read our in-depth review

See at Amazon

Photive Hydra

Photive Hydra

The Photive Hydra is perfect for people that want a cheap speaker and are more concerned about sound quality than convenience. Sporting a passive subwoofer and two 40mm drivers, the Hydra delivers a fuller-sounding low end, while still providing pleasing, clear treble.

Its IP66 rating means it can get wet, but not submerged. Obviously, your Chromecast Audio is not water-resistant at all, but its a nice feature to have if you ever choose to use it away from the tether of your Chromecast Audio.

See at Amazon

AYL Portable Mini Speaker

For something a bit more compact, but surprisingly loud, the AYL portable mini speaker is definitely one to check out. The 3W speaker on top provides quality sound that jams for up to 10 hours on a full charge. The unique design of this speaker makes it ideal for travel, quickly collapsing into a smaller size when needed. There's even a built-in 3.5mm headphone cable on the bottom for hooking up your Chromecast Audio, along with an extension cable if you need a little extra length. Priced around $15, you can't go wrong with this mini speaker.

Read our review of the AYL Mini

See at Amazon

Anker Classic Portable Speaker

Anker's Classic Portable Speaker, a box design that uses a single 2-inch, 4W driver and bass port to deliver its amazing quality sound. Powering the unit is a 2100mAh Li-ion battery that will keep the music going for up to 20 hours. The built-in mic allows you to use the Anker Classic as a speakerphone, but for keeping things simple just plug in your Chromecast Audio to the 3.5mm port on the side and enjoy what this crafty speaker has to offer. Included is a longer auxiliary cable, travel pouch, microUSB charging cable, and an 18-month warranty. You can grab one in black, blue, or white for around $35.

Read our review of the Anker Classic

See at Amazon

VTIN Cuber

If you're looking for a speaker to use with Chromecast audio that is ultra portable, check out the VTIN Cuber.

With an IP67 rating, this small square speaker is made to withstand the elements, which is great if you every want to use your Chromecast beside the pool or when your outside grilling.

Believe it or not, this tiny thing actually has a pretty solid battery life, giving you up to 8 hours of listening time. It comes with a strap you can attach to make it even easier to carry, and if you want to venture away from your Chromecast you can always use it with standard Bluetooth.

See at Amazon

What speakers are you using with Chromecast Audio?

Those are our top picks for an affordable speaker to use with Chromecast Audio. Which speakers are you using or looking into getting for yours? Sound off in the comments!

[custom:chromsecast]

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1 week ago

Huawei Watch 2 is now available and it comes with 10 weeks of Play Music

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Is that enough incentive for you to buy the second-gen smartwatch? You'll have to read our review to find out.

We weren't too impressed by the Huawei Watch 2 in our initial review, but perhaps the ten weeks of free Google Play Music could entice you to give it a try, anyway. The Android Wear 2.0-based smartwatch is now available for purchase at various retailers around the U.S., including BestBuy and Amazon.

The Huawei Watch 2 is the successor to the widely popular Huawei Watch from 2015. It runs on a Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor and 768MB of RAM. It also offers 4GB of storage, a heart rate sensor, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC and optional LTE. You can get it in carbon black or a color called concrete gray, which features brightly colored speckles and a more athletic aesthetic. There's also the Huawei Watch 2 Classic, which comes in Titanium Grey. The watches cost $299.99 and $369.99, respectively. You can read more on the Google Play Music deal in Huawei's official press release.

Read more in our review of the Huawei Watch 2

Android Wear

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1 week ago

Egg, Inc.: Boost your farm's profits with these tips and tricks

11

Maximize your Egg, Inc. farm's profits with these tips and tricks!

Egg, Inc. is a truly bizarre game set in a future world where the universe has poured all its secrets into chicken eggs. You decide to get in on this massive movement by scaling up your own egg farm's production, researching the latest egg evolutions, and in turn making astronomical amounts of money.

It's a super addictive clicker game with beautifully simple graphics, so many upgrades to research, and endless swarms of chickens. It's all about exponentially scaling up your farm's value by ramping up your egg production. Whether you're just starting out as an egg farmer or as a seasoned Egg, Inc. veteran, we've got some great tips and tricks to help you maximize your farm's profitability.

Watch the skies!

While the goal in Egg, Inc. is to maximize your egg profits, the quickest way to get an influx of cash is by catching a drone. Drones are constantly flying over your farm, even when you're looking in menus, so you'll want to always keep an eye on the edges of the screen for any incoming drones.

To catch drones, you need to keep an eye out for shadows, which appear first and give you clues about its direction and speed. All you have to do to catch a drone is tap it, and it will come crashing down to the ground, bringing with it millions of dollars (or sometimes Golden Eggs).

How much money you get from drones depends both on the production and profit rates of your farm and their speed. The absolute fastest drones are worth dropping everything to catch, but they're also super hard to catch, even when you're ready and waiting for them. They're the only ones that turn, and you often only have a second to react when they come shooting through.

But those are the ones you really want — they often include astronomical bounties often 1000x bigger than the other drones. They will help you quickly build bigger henhouses, improve your distribution vehicles, or quickly complete common upgrades to your farm.


Tap effectively

By default, Egg, Inc. gives you a modest round button for spawning chickens — but that simply won't do. Tap the blue circle next to the button to expand it to an oblong button across the bottom of the screen. This lets you tap with multiple fingers at one time.

Finding a comfortable tapping method is key — maybe you want to do a three-finger gallop rhythm or try and lightly tap all four of your fingers as fast as you can. I've found the latter to be the most effective way to produce chickens the fastest, but find whichever method is most comfortable for you.

And remember — spawning chickens is only a small part of scaling up your farm.


Don't waste your gold eggs on time boosts

As you play Egg, Inc., you collect Golden Eggs (which are different than the Rocket Fuel eggs that only look like they're made of gold). You have a couple options where you can spend your hard-earned Golden Eggs — on epic farm upgrades or on time boosts, which fast forward 30 seconds, one hour, or eight hours depending on how many Golden Eggs you spend.

Now, fast forwarding might seem like a great idea when you're getting billions of dollars a second — you do the math and think 25 Golden Eggs isn't too bad for an instant influx of cash in the trillions.

But wait! You're better off spending all your eggs on epic farm upgrades. This is because these epic upgrades are permanent and stay with your farm after you prestige. These upgrades will really help you in the long run, way more than endless time boosts, so spend those Golden Eggs wisely!


Don't forget to prestige

Scaling up your farm, unlocking new egg types, and endlessly swarming chickens to your henhouses is fun — but if you want to reach the upper echelon of Egg, Inc.'s leaderboards, you'll need to prestige a couple times over to really scale things up.

When you prestige, your farm starts over from scratch, but you gain Soul Eggs, which give you a 10% boost to your income. The farther along down the egg research path you are, the more Soul Eggs you'll be offered to prestige. A good strategy is to wait to prestige until the game offers you 50 or more Soul Eggs to do so. That equates to a clean 5000% bonus on your income when you restart, which will help you boost your farm's value right quick after restarting.

After your first prestige, it's advantageous to wait to prestige until you're able to double your number of eggs. If you spend your Golden Eggs on Soul Food in the epic upgrades tab, you'll make each Soul Egg even more powerful and make each prestige that much more lucrative.


Paying for the premium app

Are you really enjoying Egg, Inc.? You should consider supporting the developers by upgrading and cracking open your piggy bank.

The longer you've been playing the game, the more Golden Eggs will be in your piggy bank. There are always in-app purchases available for more Golden Eggs, but the piggy bank is definitely your best value — and only continues to scale up as you play. A huge bounty of Golden Eggs can pay for a LOT of epic upgrades, which are permanent and stick around after you prestige. One particular epic upgrade to focus on with your Golden Egg bank is Soul Food and Prestige Bonus, which increases bonus per Soul Egg and the number of Soul Eggs you get when you prestige. Quickly hitting up those epic upgrades will make each prestige painless.


What are your best strategies?

Have you been sucked into Egg, Inc.? What are your best tips for expanding your farm? Let us know in the comments!

Download: Egg, Inc. (Free)

Android Gaming

Best action games for Android

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1 week ago

Anker discounts its most popular Bluetooth headphones & speakers in time for warmer weather

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Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time with some big savings on various Anker Bluetooth accessories!

Over the past few weeks, winter finally gave way to spring and it's now nice enough to enjoy workouts without being cooped up in the gym. This is the running season you should ditch those old earbuds and go wireless. I'm hesitant to spend crazy amounts on Bluetooth headphones to workout with since no matter what manufacturers say, profuse amounts of sweat and electronics don't mix.

That's where Anker's SoundsBuds come in handy. They are lightweight, feature Bluetooth 4.1 (perfect for Apple Watch!) and aren't outrageously priced. In fact, they are even less expensive today since coupon code ANKER233 drops the black, green and blue models down to $22.99 (Reg. $30). Thousands of Amazon reviewers rate them 3.8 out of 5 stars so you know they'll hold up well. For those of you who have problems with earbuds popping out during workouts, you could give Anker's SoundBuds NB10 a try while they are on sale for $29.99 (Reg. $40) using coupon code ANKER260.

If you're looking for some wireless tunes for an upcoming picnic or BBQ, Anker's SoundCore Bluetooth 4.0 speaker boasts 24-hours of play time and is on sale for $30.59 (Reg. 36+) when you enter coupon code ANKMAY77 during checkout. There's also the SoundCore nano option for $18.66 (Reg. $25) with coupon code KINANK66, which is the perfect size for traveling.

See at Amazon

For more great deals be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!

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1 week ago

Five important things Android does better than iOS

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Android and iOS have plenty of differences. Here are five places we think Google is doing better than Apple.

The internet is filled with words about Android and iOS and why one is better than the other. It makes for fun writing and reading because everyone likes to hear about why the thing they prefer is better than the thing they don't, but there are some important things each operating system does better than the other.

In a perfect world, Apple and Google would merge and the result (Gapple?) would make software with the best from both sides. Since that's never going to happen, let's look at five important things Android does better than iOS.

Storage options

Everyone knows that some Android phones have an SD card slot. This is easy to see but is a result of the overall way Android handles external storage.

External storage is more than SD cards.

Android allows you to use external storage from an SD card inserted into the phone or a USB card reader, a USB-powered storage device like a thumb drive or hard drive and network mounted storage as part of the file system. Plug a thing in or connect to a service and the OS creates everything needed to make it available, much like your laptop does with its own location in the file system.

iOS can connect to things like cameras for photo transfer, but it's a one-way connection and only certain devices are supported.

Dual SIM

Many Android phones allow you to put two SIM cards in at the same time. This gives you two separate phone numbers for calls and texts, as well as access to two different data networks. iOS doesn't support this.

While not a popular feature in North America, in parts of the world a Dual-SIM phone is a must-have to cut down on roaming fees and connectivity issues. And it's a great way to have business and personal numbers on the same device you use every day.

Firefox and other browsers can open links

With Android, you can decide which app is the default for things like opening internet links. On iOS, you can't.

If I install Firefox or Opera or use the Samsung browser on my Android, it's because I prefer it over Google Chrome. That means when I click a link in an email or message I want it to use the browser I like instead of the browser the people who wrote the software like. When you can make the browser you like be the default, you won't have your personal data spread out between multiple apps.

Single sign in for all the apps you really use

Apple has a pretty good selection of internet services with iCloud. It's really stepped up its game in this space during the last couple of years. But they aren't the internet services most people use. Those all come from Google.

Even people who love iOS are probably using Gmail.

Google's single account sign-in means you sign into one place and you're good with all the services. When you sign into your Android, Gmail, Google Docs, Music, Movies and TV, and every other service are ready to use and all covered under a single privacy agreement. When you sign into your iPhone, you need to download and sign into each of these services individually, which means you also have to sign out of them individually.

On the iPhone, iCloud works the same. But when is the last time you sent an email to someone using an @icoud.com address? One place to manage all your privacy and account security settings is important and Apple does it. They need to find a way to use the Google app to do the same on iOS.

Notifications

Android can handle your notifications really well. They stack nicely when you have more than one for a single app, they are informative, and you can reply from them without opening an app and marking them as read. Apple has most of these features and some of them are done really well. But only Android offers what's called a persistent notification.

Notifications are pretty good on both platforms, but Android's persistent notification feature is something Apple needs to adopt.

A persistent notification means any app can have some vital information in your notification shade when the developer thinks you'll want to see it. Important things like Amber alerts or severe weather information can be a persistent notification but so can convenience things like media playback controls or connection information (including your wireless radios and things connected via USB).

Most importantly, persistent notifications allow an app to continue working as if it were on your screen when you open another app. Having a notification lets you know an application is in the background doing stuff. The alternative is having an app do its stuff without you knowing or not letting an app do its stuff unless you're watching it on your screen.

There are plenty of subjective reasons to like one over the other when it comes to Android versus iOS, but when it comes to core services and the way things are handled, there are some things Google is doing better than Apple. These are just five of them that we would like to see Apple address as it continues to develop iOS.

A better iOS means a better Android as developers on both sides are forced to fight for our attention.

Android Nougat

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1 week ago

Galaxy S8 review: Redemption in glass

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From more than one angle, the Galaxy S8 is the most important Android smartphone of the year. To Samsung, it's a chance to regain the public trust; to gadget nerds, it packs more cutting-edge features than any other mobile; and to normals, it's the phone they're gonna see plastered across every billboard from here to the holidays. Still, there are some important questions to ask before pulling the trigger on a smartphone that straddles the $800 mark. Does it deliver a big enough improvement over last year's model? Are its new stretched screen and heavier-than-ever interface assets or impediments? And most crucially: does the Galaxy S8 even have a place in a world where you can get three quarters of its features for half the price, in phones like the Moto Z Play and OnePlus 3T?

To find out, I dual-wielded a Galaxy S8 review device and a Galaxy S8+ review device for seven days, toting them around Massachusetts to photograph the forests of Salem, take phone calls amid the gusts of Gloucester, and even Snapchat some seagull dive-bombs. To see what I learned, join me for the MrMobile Galaxy S8 Review / Galaxy S8+ Review ... and then hop over to Android Central's Galaxy S8 Review for the rest of the story!

Stay social, my friends

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1 week ago

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ review: Such great heights

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Samsung has taken its proven formula and stretched it to new heights — and prices. But in doing so has made a couple of the year's best phones.

The quick take

The Galaxy S8 isn't quite as revolutionary as its Infinity Display lets on, but the phone, and its larger Galaxy S8+ counterpart, is a definitive statement of Samsung's dominance in the mobile space. Along with the elimination of the home button, Samsung is all-in on curves, and barrelling towards a future of ultra-minimalism.

The Good

  • Best-in-class AMOLED screen
  • Great performance
  • Reliable camera in almost every circumstance
  • Waterproofing
  • Surprisingly good battery life
  • Loud mono speaker
  • Restrained, minimal software touches

The Bad

  • Rear fingerprint sensor is poorly placed
  • Face biometrics are fast, but not always reliable
  • Bixby is undercooked
  • The most slippery phone ever
  • Based on S7 timeline, updates are going to be slow

Two phones, one review

Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ Full review

Samsung never slows down. In a year that saw the company stand by a vice chairman who was arrested for bribery, and a phone that caught fire, it also managed to sell an insane number of handsets, and earn gobs of profit in its best-ever quarter.

Android Central Choice Award

That the Galaxy S8 feels like such a complete thought out of the box likely speaks to how long the phone was in development, long before the Note 7 was released and recalled, and likely before the company realized that the Galaxy S7 edge was the de facto flagship of 2016.

In this review, we're going to be referring to the Galaxy S8 and S8+ interchangeably because, for all intents and purposes, and unlike last year, they are one phone in two sizes.

That's due to a renewed focus on fundamentals, on sticking with what works and evolving the experience in small, meaningful ways. There are regressions, in one major and one minor way, but we'll get to that.

About this review

I (Daniel Bader) have been using the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ at different times for a total of two weeks, spanning New York, NY and Toronto, Ontario. Both models are unlocked Canadian models connected to AT&T in the U.S. or Rogers in Canada, with Snapdragon 835 processors and Sony IMX camera sensors.

One day prior to the review embargo, Samsung released a small update for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ updating the software to Build G950WVLU1AQD9. The update prepared the units for Bixby Voice (which still doesn't work) and updated the security patch to April 1, 2017. It also closed the loophole to allow remapping of the Bixby button.

A Fitbit Alta HR was connected to the phones during the review period.

Samsung Galaxy S8 + S8+ video review

Take a look at our video review. While it only showcases the larger Galaxy S8+, the thoughts are applicable to both phones.

Line items

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ Specs

Category Galaxy S8 Galaxy S8+ Operating System Android 7.0 Nougat Android 7.0 Nougat Display 5.8-inch AMOLED
2960x1440 (570 ppi) 6.2-inch AMOLED
2960x1440 (529 ppi) Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
or Samsung Exynos 8895 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
or Samsung Exynos 8895 Storage 64GB (UFS 2.1) 64GB (UFS 2.1) Expandable microSD up to 256GB microSD up to 256GB RAM 4GB 4GB Rear Camera 12MP Dual Pixel, f/1.7
1.4-micron pixels
OIS 12MP Dual Pixel, f/1.7
1.4-micron pixels
OIS Front Camera 8MP, f/1.7
auto focus 8MP, f/1.7
auto focus Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11ac MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC, GPS, Glonass, Galileo, BeiDou
LTE Cat.16 Wi-Fi 802.11ac MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC, GPS, Glonass, Galileo BeiDou
LTE Cat.16 Charging USB-C
Fast charging
Qi wireless
Powermat wireless USB-C
Fast charging
Qi wireless
Powermat wireless Battery 3000mAh 3500mAh Water resistance IP68 rating IP68 rating Security One-touch fingerprint sensor
Iris scanner
Samsung KNOX One-touch fingerprint sensor
Iris scanner
Samsung KNOX Dimensions 148.9 x 68.1 x 8 mm 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm Weight 155 g 173 g

The main takeaway here, and the reason we feel comfortable combining the two phones into a single review is because, unlike their predecessors, the S8 and S8+ are merely two sizes, and even then, aren't that drastically different. The Galaxy S8 is 5.8 inches, with a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio; the S8+ is 6.2 inches, which makes it a bit taller and slightly wider, with a battery 16% larger.

Would you look at that

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ Hardware

Since 2016, Samsung has built its flagship phones with aluminum frames and glass fronts and backs. And as good as the Galaxy S6 series was, the refinement in this year's phones is noticeable. The curved glass front meets the metal frame at the same gradual angle as the back, which maintains symmetry that debuted on the Note 7, but here looks even better.

Part of that comes down to Samsung's color choices — color-matched metal around the Midnight Black model, or muted purple hue of the Orchid Gray — but much of it is about curves.

The corners curve; the display curves; the glass curves. This is a phone that has no sharp corners, nowhere to focus our attention away from the massive screen. If you think back to the proposition of the Galaxy S3, all the way back in 2012, Samsung wanted the focus on its "pebble design" and Nature UX. This phone, five years later, is the culmination of that journey, for better or worse.

That shape and choice of materials also lends the phone an unprecedented slipperiness. You probably shouldn't try to nestle the Galaxy S8 in the crook of your neck while you're talking on the phone. After a few hours — sometimes a few minutes, even — the phone will be fingerprint-smudged and slippery, so if you're clumsy you will probably want to invest in a case, or a microfiber cloth.

But hold it in your hand, and it feels fantastic. You're getting either a 5.8-inch or 6.2-inch QHD+ display, but both use Samsung's latest AMOLED panels, at a 2960x1440 resolution. We're not going to get bogged down by semantics, but as Alex Dobie points out, the screens themselves are not their exact sizes; instead, they're closer to 5.3 and 5.7 inches if you compare them to traditional 16:9 screens. Whatever the case, you're getting more vertical realestate in a phone you can hold and use in one hand. The larger of the two, the S8+, is a little less amenable to single-paw use, but it's still far narrower than something like the Pixel XL, and has far more usable screen real estate.

The screens are amazing. Great viewing angles are expected these days, but Samsung has once again found a way to make the Super AMOLED panel on both versions of the phone bright and, more importantly, accurate. They are DCI-P3 compliant, which gives them a wider color gamut than a typical RGB palette. That, in addition to being HDR certified, makes them technically proficient, which is great, but you're also getting one of the most pleasurable viewing experiences on a phone today.

Even though wide-angle video is cut off (though some apps make minor crops to fill the display), the tradeoff is worth it. As good as the LCD panel is on the LG G6, Samsung practically owns the OLED space, and it's becoming clear that the thinner display technology is the future of mobile screens.

It really can't be overstated how beautiful this hardware is.

That screen — the so-called Infinity Display — is not a huge departure from something like the Galaxy S7's edge, but it eliminates as much of the bezels above and below the display as possible. LG did it first with the G6 — well, Xiaomi did it with the Mi Mix, and Huawei has been inching towards it for years — but this is a truly remarkable achievement nonetheless. Samsung did it, in part, because it finally removed the home button from the front of the phone, adopting on-screen navigation buttons for the first time in its history. And you can't talk about that without talking about what you're losing.

So there's no physical home button, just three on-screen navigation keys. They're in the traditional "reverse" Samsung order — recent apps, home, back — but you can change that. The achievement comes in the form of an "invisible" home button, a tactile area below the on-screen home button that offers real feedback from a precise haptic engine.

The most controversial change to the Galaxy S8 is the placement of the fingerprint sensor.

Not only does this alleviate some of the angst around losing that physical key, but it allows you to turn on the screen as you would that physical counterpart by pressing at any time — even when the display is off. That, combined with the ultra-fast face recognition built into the S8, made me miss that front-facing fingerprint sensor a lot less.

Yes, the most controversial change to the Galaxy S8 is the placement of that fingerprint sensor. Now on the back, right next to the camera, it's not quite as bad as it looks — especially on the smaller S8 — but it's still not great. Rumor has it that Samsung was working on a way to outfit the S8 with a below-the-glass biometrics, but couldn't make it work in time. And while I wish Samsung would have thrown symmetry to the wind and placed it center, below the camera, I found myself only using the fingerprint sensor when the face recognition wasn't feasible.

Thankfully, starting with the Galaxy S7 series and continuing here, it appears thinness is no longer a top priority for Samsung; the Galaxy S8 is 8mm thick, while the S8+ is 8.1mm, perfectly suited for a modest, but not huge, battery, and the complete elimination of a camera bump. The 12MP rear sensor on the back is completely flush with the glass, ringed by metal and flanked by an LED flash and heart rate sensor on the left and the fingerprint sensor on the right.

And, like the Note 7, the Galaxy S8 has been bestowed a USB-C port, the reversible standard that, along with fast charging and dual-mode wireless charging, suits my lifestyle perfectly. Practically all my "bag cables" are USB-C, and the fewer Micro-USB cables I need to tote around with me, the better. Samsung has also improved the single down-port speaker on the Galaxy S8, giving it some extra power that puts it on par with products like the Pixel with similar designs. It gets considerably louder than the thin speakers of the Huawei P10, OnePlus 3T and LG G6, and along with the superlative (and customizable) quality from the headphone port, reinforces the fact that despite not really talking it up, Samsung still takes audio very seriously. A nice surprise.

Aside from the bevy of sensors aligning the narrow strip of bezel atop the display, the only other major change to the Galaxy S8's design is the addition of an extra button on the left side of the phone. That's for Bixby, Samsung's AI-powered assistant, and when pressed launches Bixby Home. Soon (but not now), when held it will launch Bixby Voice, and let you dictate various commands to it.

It really can't be overstated how beautiful this hardware is. Even if the software was utter garbage (which it isn't), Samsung would get points for its mastery of form, and how far it's come from the plasticky, Band-Aid designs of the Galaxy S4 and S5. The S8 series is not some remarkable departure from its predecessor, but a consolidation of the good ideas therein with the available (and burgeoning) technologies of 2017. You'll likely see more companies release phones of this shape, size and aspect ratio this year, but none will be able to offer an AMOLED screen of this caliber (HDR certification, DCI-P3 color gamut) with a flexible display and curved glass that isn't just a gimmick (well, mostly isn't a gimmick).

Better than it ever was

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ Software

The Galaxy S8 ships with Android 7.0 running Samsung's latest Experience design: ultra-minimal, with an emphasis on white backgrounds with light blue accents. Icons are wireframes that stand out from the rest of Google's (and the rest of Android's, for that matter) Material Design leanings, and the front navigation buttons are a bizarre mess of abstract shapes that feel like they defy Google's accepted practices for no other reason than just to prove they can.

This may be the first Samsung launcher I stick with.

That said, Samsung's new launcher is pretty great, with a gesture-friendly home screen that does a lot with a little. By default, the app drawer icon is hidden, encouraging users to swipe up or down in unused space to open the still-horizontal series of apps. The changes may seem arbitrary to anyone coming from a non-Samsung phone, but current Galaxy users will see the continuity in these design decisions. For what it's worth, this is the first time I've ever used a Samsung phone without wanting to immediately throw away the launcher for something clearly better.

Part of that willingness to accept is thanks to Samsung's beautiful, simple Infinity live wallpapers, which assign gently shifting scenes of the cosmos to the home screen, lock screen and always-on display. Together, they form a blanket of subtle movement to the phone's curved exterior, and play well with the form, from the gradual lightening when turning on the screen to the way the stars move when shifting home screens.

They also work well with the unlocking process, which has been revamped here, and may be the single biggest point of contention about this phone.

Unlocking the Galaxy S8

There are several ways to unlock the Galaxy S8, but three of them are of particular interest to me:

  • Face recognition
  • Iris scanning
  • Fingerprint scanning

We already have an explanation of the differences between the two methods of facial authentication, but I'll recap: the former is insecure and fast; the latter is very secure and still pretty fast.

Face recognition is not new to Android, but this implementation is so much better as to be, well, unrecognizable to the average smartphone user. Because you can turn on the Galaxy S8 by tapping on the invisible home button (Samsung's term, not mine) and have the phone automatically begin scanning for a face, the sequence, while not quite as fast as a front-facing fingerprint sensor, is just as seamless, and when it works, it's a remarkable achievement.

Similarly, the S8's iris scanner, which is much better than the one on the Note 7, likely due to an improved cadre of sensors and software, is quick and reliable, and can also provide a great experience if you're willing to wait a beat more for the phone to unlock.

You have to choose one, though: Samsung doesn't allow the facial recognition and iris scanning to work in tandem, though either one cooperates with the fingerprint sensor if the primary method fails. The thing is — it doesn't really fail. You can turn on the display by tapping the area where the virtual home button lives and have the phone automatically scan your face or iris. I'd say that while iris scanning works quickly 90% of the time, face recognition works practically instantly 99% of the time.

More: Everything you need to know about Galaxy S8 face unlocking

I want to be clear that I'm not an apologist for an unlocking sequence that is not always as seamless as briefly placing your finger on a sensor, but in lieu of a viable alternative, Samsung's offerings are very good.

I guess the question I would ask is, Would you prefer Samsung have maintained the front-facing home button-finger sensor combo and sacrificed the scale and symmetry of the new Infinity Display? After using the phone for two weeks — after maneuvering my left or right index finger to find the awkwardly-placed fingerprint sensor next to the rear camera — I think the decision is not only justifiable, but agreeable.

A word on the fingerprint sensor itself: on the Galaxy S8, it's really not difficult to find while holding the phone normally. I have pretty normal-sized hands and, after a few hours, quickly got the hang of it. On the Galaxy S8+, that distinction is not as clear; instead, I erred on the side of relying on the face unlock, and only using the fingerprint when other methods failed, or when I needed to access biometrically-protected apps like 1Password.

Bixby

You can't talk about the Galaxy S8 without talking about Bixby, the company's AI framework that permeates the entire device. On the one hand, Bixby is a series of what amounts to plug-ins that work with existing apps, along with an integration into the Samsung Launcher, which is also accessible by pressing the dedicated button just below the volume key.

That's what Bixby is right now, and that's all I can review. But soon, with the launch of Bixby Voice, it will be much more — a voice-powered user interface that, according to Samsung, "will be able to support almost every task that the application is capable of performing using the conventional interface (ie. touch commands)."

Bixby Voice a hugely ambitious project that will take time to get right, which is likely why Samsung is delaying it until a few weeks after the S8 is launched (and also why, at first, it will be limited to a handful of apps, and only to users in the U.S. and Korea.)

Right now, though, Bixby is three things:

  • Bixby Home: A place to get all of your Samsung ecosystem stuff in one feed. From calendar entries to recent photos to upcoming Uber rides, Bixby Home is located to the left of the main home screen (and available anytime, thanks to its button), it amounts to a watered-down version of Google Now's Feed. News, trending hashtags, recent photos, Uber rides, upcoming appointments and reminders — these are all good, but not all that useful unless you're fully invested in all of Samsung's services.
  • Bixby Reminders: A typical time- and location-based reminders app that integrates with Bixby Home and, soon, Voice.
  • Bixby Vision: A way to identify and purchase products using your camera, this is one of the more interesting and potential-filled parts of Bixby, but as of now it's fairly limited. You can identify wines and find similar images to a given scene, or translate a word on a page, but I imagine, like Bixby's other areas right now, it will find low pickup because there are just so many real-world objects it doesn't know what to do with.

It's clear that for Samsung Bixby is a very long-term project, something that will be woven into its product design for years to come. On the phone side, we'll soon see Voice launch with support for a small number of apps in only two countries, but eventually it will expand, and Samsung will release an SDK that will give developers the opportunity to integrate Bixby Voice commands into their software.

I applaud Samsung's ambition here — it says that Bixby "will evolve from a smartphone interface to an interface for your life," — but in its current form, it's very clearly a work-in-progress, and must be assessed as such.

Despite having a curved screen, the Edge display features don't really add anything to the Galaxy S8.

To cap off the software experience, Samsung's hidden a lot of little treats inside the menus, from the ability to color the navigation buttons to a fully-customizable audio equalizer that adapts to your particular set of headphones. There's an improved one-handed mode, especially useful on the Galaxy S8+, and the ability to swipe down on the fingerprint sensor, à la Huawei, to expose the notifications.

Apps that aren't optimized for the Galaxy S8's taller aspect ratio can be forced to conform — my default email app, Newton, saw no ill effects — and Samsung has taken it upon itself to optimize YouTube for the larger display, intelligently cropping content so it fills the entire 18.5:9 screen.

And popular features from previous Galaxy devices make a return here, too: Smart Stay, which debuted on the Galaxy S3, is still chugging along, while Samsung's retinue of display scaling options have been maintained from the Galaxy S7 Nougat update.

There is a new set of always-on display options, replete with what Samsung is calling FaceWidgets, a trio of swipeable widgets, from music controls to a tiny schedule, that can be accessed by double-tapping on the perennially-visible clock. The AOD itself is quite attractive, since it cooperates with those Infinity Wallpapers I mentioned, but FaceWidgets seems like it was derived from the same well-intentioned meeting that resurfaced face recognition, albeit with less admirable results.

Of course, both versions of the phone come with Edge screen support this time, and while they're on by default, I find most of the options of dubious value and quickly turned them off. Still, as with the Galaxy S7 edge, a helpful screenshot annotation feature is now built into the Edge screen, allowing you to take a square or circle screenshot, or even a short video that's saved as a GIF, as you work on the phone. I really like the GIF feature, and have been using it to create some pretty great snippets, like this one.

Finally, a number of battery-saving features are on board, including a default resolution of 2220x1080, another holdover from the Galaxy S7's Nougat update. This absolutely contributed to the excellent battery life I got from both the Galaxy S8 and S8+, but I want to be clear about the decision: it's almost impossible to tell the difference between 1080p and the phone's default resolution of 2960x1440, even at the most eye-straining scale.

I did eventually switch to a different launcher (Nova Launcher), and I did disable a number of what I feel are superfluous features, including the Edge screen and FaceWidgets, but the good news is that I am pretty damn happy with the way Samsung has restrained its propensity for feature bloat — or bloat of any kind, in fact. I think we can finally put to rest the notion that Samsung ruins Android; it certainly changes it, but the results are warm, accessible and fluid.

On software updates

Galaxy S8 owners have a valid concern in wondering how long Samsung will take to update the Galaxy S8 to future versions of Android. The Galaxy S7 took more than five months to begin receiving Nougat, and the unlocked model in the U.S still doesn't have it, with neither timeline nor explanation from Samsung. That doesn't instill a great amount of trust in the process, even though the company is now updating its 2015 models, the Galaxy S6 series and the Note 5, to Nougat.

Samsung has been pretty good about rolling out monthly or quarterly security updates in cooperation with all the U.S. carriers. The takeaway is that you'll probably get a major updates for a couple of years, but you'll wait — a while.

Built to last

Samsung Galaxy S8 Performance and Battery life

This is the first phone on the market with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 platform, which once again sees its flagship chip adorned with eight cores, along with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of UFS 2.1-based storage.

We do this every year, say that the newest phone is the fastest, and I'm sure that's true of the Galaxy S8 — Geekbench says it's around 15% faster than the Galaxy S7 — but, to be honest, I'm finding it difficult to tell the difference in performance. I was using the Galaxy S7 edge for a few weeks to prefer for this review and, post-Nougat, find that phone to be just as fast as the Galaxy S8 in daily tasks. Similarly, owners of the LG G6 decrying LG's decision to do with last year's chip don't need to worry too much.

That said, it's great to have some future-proofing built into the Galaxy S8's Snapdragon 835, and besides sheer performance benchmarks, there are a number of notable improvements to the platform.

For starters, the chip is built on a 10nm process, the first of its kind aside from Samsung's own Exynos 8895 that ships in international versions of the Galaxy S8. Not only does the smaller manufacturing process mean less heat output and more efficiency, but it assures that the GPU, an updated version of Qualcomm's excellent Adreno line, has more thermal headroom to play with. For a chip that's going to be extensively used to power mobile VR experiences, the Adreno 540, which is around 25% faster than the Adreno 530 in the Snapdragon 820/821, is perfectly suited to the task.

The Snapdragon 835 also drives the Galaxy S8's improved camera experience, with an updated image signal processor that delivers cleaner photos in low light, and smoother implementations of multi-frame captures like HDR.

And for the handful of networks that currently support it, the Snapdragon 835, and the Galaxy S8 as a result, can reach download speeds of 1Gbps over a cellular connection. This number is largely a formality, a marketing message — no person, even standing right next to a base station with no other traffic on the network would reach 1,000Mbps over the air — but it also has implications for Qualcomm's transition to 5G, which will work far better with devices running the Snapdragon 835's X16 baseband solution, since such devices make the entire network more efficient.

Efficiency seems to be the Snapdragon 835's defining characteristic, and that extends to the battery life. If you skipped through the previous 4,000 words to find out whether the Galaxy S8 and S8+ have improved battery life over their predecessors, I have good news.

Both phone sizes have roughly the same-sized battery cells as their 2016 equivalents — 3,000mAh for the Galaxy S8, and 3,500mAh for the Galaxy S8+. In fact, the latter's cell is 3% smaller. But both are convincingly better at lasting a full day of use, largely owing to the more efficient processor, a Super AMOLED screen that, pixel-for-pixel uses less power, and a lower default resolution that appeases both previous points.

Here's what I found:

  • Galaxy S8: On most days, I got between 14 and 15 hours of mixed use, with 4.5 or 5 hours of screen-on time. I usually found myself hitting the 20% mark around 9 or 10pm with no mid-afternoon top-up. This is definitely an improvement over the Galaxy S7, but may not be enough for more intensive users.
  • Galaxy S8+: On most days, I got between 17 and 18 hours of mixed use, with 6 to 6.5 hours of screen-on time. But for a couple of days where I was heavily engaging the phone, I didn't have to top-up at all during the day, and usually went to bed around midnight at 20% battery, after taking it off the charger at 7am.

Neither phone is a multi-day workhorse, but with support for both Samsung's Adaptive Fast Charging, and (unfortunately) Qualcomm's older Quick Charge 2.0 standard, in addition to fast wireless charging over both Qi or PMA, battery life is notably improved over the Galaxy S7 series.

On battery concerns

I'm not going to spend a lot of time worrying about whether the Galaxy S8 is going to alight in my pocket, or next to my bed. Samsung has spent the last seven months looking into the cause of the Note 7's fires, and the past four months explaining how it intends to ensure such a thing never happens again.

Samsung purposefully didn't push the battery capacity of the two S8 models because it feels that the Snapdragon 835 brings additive efficiencies, and because it doesn't want to take a risk on a cavalier new battery design.

Obviously, we're going to watch the Galaxy S8 more closely than some other phones for signs that its batteries may be affected, but there is nothing gained from preemptively writing off the phone because its immediate predecessor had problems.

Snap-dragon (sorry)

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ Cameras

On paper, the cameras on the Galaxy S8 are only improved on the front, with an upgraded 8MP sensor with autofocus. And it's very good, especially when hunting for multiple subjects, with visible background blur and plenty of built-in Snapchat-like effects.

But there is something to be said for subtle upgrades, and that's exactly what you get with the Galaxy S8's rear 12MP sensor. On the models that ship with the Snapdragon 835, a Sony IMX333 sensor sucks up the photons, and a similar (or identical) f/1.7 lens adds the wide aperture and incredible bokeh on macros.

The focal length is actually slightly longer than the Galaxy S7, which affects framing, but it's a positive development, as the lens now distorts less in the corners, and portraits feel a little more natural, since the viewfinder fits less of the surrounding world in it.

Since the Galaxy S8 has the same fundamentals as its predecessor, it's still one of the fastest, most reliable cameras on any phone. But Samsung is now more willing to let, when Auto HDR is enabled, enable the feature in a plethora of scenarios, similar to the way Google's Pixel employs HDR. Even without HDR, Samsung now uses a feature new to the phone's upgraded image signal processor called multi-frame processing, which uses the faster, wider memory bus to seamlessly capture multiple photos every time you press the shutter button to come up with cleaner, more accurate photos.

And that's exactly what you get. If you compare the Galaxy S8's photos to the Galaxy S7, you'll immediately notice a couple of things: the Galaxy S8 employs far less artificial sharpening around edges, because the photos themselves are much sharper. Because of the improved software processing, the Galaxy S7's artificially enhanced contrast — that looks great from far away, but all but ruins the finer elements of a photo — are replaced with something that is much more indicative, both in terms of color reproduction and grain allowance, of real life.

Samsung Galaxy S8 (left) | Samsung Galaxy S7 (right)

Samsung Galaxy S8 (left) | Samsung Galaxy S7 (right)

Some people won't like this change. Much of Samsung's camera legacy of the last few years has been defined by this tendency towards hyper-sharp, overly-saturated scenes, and this is the company moving away from that. That's not to say colors are muted, or approach the level of pure canonical reproduction, but with Samsung's screens now DCI-P3 compliant and largely calibrated for accuracy, it makes sense that the camera would be similarly tuned.

The Galaxy S8's 12-megapixel camera, up close

So is the camera better than the Pixel, our current champion? I don't think so, at least not in absolute terms. Low-light shots, while cleaner than the S7's, are not substantially better, and are still physically limited by the 1.4-micron pixels, whereas the Pixel benefits from larger 1.55-micron openings.

What is better than the Pixel is the camera app's opening speed, which is astoundingly fast, and the camera app itself, which has been revamped to make finding and using manual controls much faster.

Remember the old days when Samsung would fill every free pixel with some gimmicky feature that you would never use? Thankfully, the company's newfound minimalism extends to the excellent camera app, which now features a handy zoom gesture attached to the shutter button. (While there's only one sensor on here, imagine how useful such a feature would be with two sensors at different focal lengths.)

Even the built-in camera effects, stolen guiltlessly from Snapchat, are well done. A small cartoon bear icon exposes a handful of live augmented reality filters that automatically detect faces and even beckon you to "open your mouth" or "raise your eyebrows" to extend the artifice. They're fun, they're useless, and they're exactly what Samsung should have done to engage a demographic increasingly clamoring for such things.

Of course, Samsung hasn't messed with a few other good things, including the ability to shoot in 4K at 30fps, or 720p slo-mo at 240fps. Optical image stabilization is just as good as ever, though video stabilization doesn't quite match the machine learned perfection of the Google Pixel.

Unlike some of the other substantive hardware improvements, the Galaxy S8's rear camera is another solid effort, but not more.

The big one

Samsung Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+ Which should you buy?

Other than screen dimensions and battery size, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ are identical. I've spent a bunch of time with both and have come to prefer the larger S8+ despite its height. It's just nicer to have that extra few hours of battery, and the additional screen real estate is a bonus. It's not exactly one-hand-friendly, but I'm used to that.

The Galaxy S8 is a little easier to maneuver in one hand, but it's still a big phone. If you're married to using the fingerprint sensor, you're going to have a much easier time consistently finding it on the smaller S8, which is to to be expected, but that minor convenience isn't enough to change my mind. I'm getting the S8+.

Colors

I've ordered the Galaxy S8+ in Midnight Black, which is a great look for this phone. All of the accessories in the box are color-matched, too — a nice bonus.

But I'm surprised at how much I like the Orchid Gray, which has a purple hue in most lighting situations. It doesn't catch my eye as much as the Blue Coral option, which isn't immediately available in North America, but it should be coming soon.

What color Galaxy S8 should you buy?

Don't overthink it

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ Bottom line

In 2016, Samsung released a duo of phones that, despite looking very similar to their predecessors, were huge departures in important ways. The Galaxy S7 took the best parts of the Galaxy S5 and S6 and combined them into a couple of devices that Samsung thought would appeal to wildly different audiences. Turned out most people wanted the Galaxy S7 edge.

The Galaxy S8 is in many ways a lot closer to the S7 edge than it appears on the surface. Samsung has maintained so many of the features that, in retrospect, endeared the Galaxy S7 series to millions of people — waterproofing, a microSD card slot, a great low-light camera — that it was very careful about what to change.

The most obvious change is that screen, which is astoundingly good, and the banishment of the fingerprint sensor to the back. It's going to be controversial, and Samsung will rightfully get a lot of flack for where the sensor ultimately ended up, but face recognition and iris scanning are good enough to justify the change.

The subtle changes to the software, too, are mainly a complement to the screen. Every design decision, it seems, is in some way in service of this screen, which is big and beautiful and colorful and curved.

If you're not a fan of that curved screen, you're out of luck. Get the LG G6 or Google Pixel. Samsung appears to think that everyone, the millions of people who will eventually buy this phone in either size, is going to accept the change.

Should you buy it? Definitely

In either size, the Galaxy S8 is probably the best Android phone you can buy right now. It just looks so futuristic, and offers so much more usable surface area than something like the Pixel or even the Huawei P10.

The main consideration you should make is, as we say every year, you're willing to live with a phone that won't be updated nearly as regularly as something sold directly from Google. And while Samsung and LG are spearheading this tall phone trend, by the end of 2017 you'll likely see most major companies follow suit.

But as well as the Galaxy S7 has held up a year later, I'm expecting the Galaxy S8 to age just as well.

Where to buy the Galaxy S8

Right now, you're stuck getting the Galaxy S8 from a U.S. carrier — there is no unlocked model for sale just yet. That will change in May, but in the meantime you can pick up the Galaxy S8 at one of these providers.

See at Verizon See at AT&T See at T-Mobile See at Sprint See at U.S. Cellular See at Best Buy

See the other Galaxy S8 review!

There's more than one way to talk about the most talked-about phone of the year, so that's why we have two reviews! Check out Florence Ion's take on the Galaxy S8 and S8+!

Read Florence's full review of the Galaxy S8 and S8+!

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1 week ago

Verizon's Wear24 Android Wear 2.0 watch is debuting May 11 for $350

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Verizon's self-branded smartwatch is going on sale next month.

Back in February, Verizon announced that it would be launching a self-branded smartwatch running Android Wear 2.0 called the Wear24, and now we have more details on its availability. The Wear24 will go up for sale starting May 11 and will cost $350.

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1 week ago

Best apps for taxes and getting money back

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These apps will help you to prepare and even file your taxes with a minimum of stress.

Nobody really likes filing their taxes, but it's that time of year. If you haven't filed your taxes (and you should have) these apps will help you to get the job done. They can also help you to stay on top of things during the off-season so that you are ready for next year!

So grab your 1040 and let's go get that refund! Maybe.

Updated, April 18, 2017: We've updated our list of apps for 2017.

TurboTax Tax Preparation

We've recommended this app before, with plenty of good reason, TurboTax Tax Preparation app can sync with your TurboTax account so that you can fill out the question-by-question tax preparation throughout your busy day. It's also helpful if you need to go spelunking for more forms in the black hole formerly known as the family office. You may not fill out your entire return here, but at least you can keep going even if you get dragged away from the computer.

Download: TurboTax Tax Preparation (Free, in-app purchase)

Quickbooks Self Employed

We're living in a world where being a freelancer, or owning your own small business is more common than ever. When you aren't dealing with a tradition W2 to file, and especially if you have multiple lines of income, this is a great way to keep track of everything you have going on.

You can store your receipts, get help with tracking mileage, and even get quarterly updates on your taxes so you know what to expect in April. It also syncs up with Turbo Tax, and is an app we suggest keeping installed year round so that your taxes are as stress free as possible.

Download: Quickbook Self Employed (In-app purchases)

Mint

If you haven't been using a personal finance app all year, it's too late for this return, but maybe the sting from this year will be enough to actually get you into the habit of using an app like Mint. Mint is made by the same company as TurboTax and it's a simple way to both keep an eye on your budget and maintain a trail of where you spent money over the year for things like — you guessed it — your tax return. Whether you're saving your way towards that down payment on your first home or you're just trying to make sure you've got enough left over for whatever new phone/tablet/game/toy you'll be dying to buy on launch day, Mint can help you make it happen.

Download: Mint (Free)

Google Drive

If you think you're more likely to face an audit, or even if you're just looking to get all these documents somewhere easier to sort and access, then think about scanning your documents to a folder in Google Drive for this year's tax return. This way, you can click it, save it, and move on. Drive can also prove useful as you can make lists of deductions you did and didn't take and keep it in that same folder.

Download: Google Drive (Free)

H&R Block 1040EZ

If you qualify to file a 1040Ez instead of a more lengthy and complicated return — and keep in mind that just because you can file a 1040Ez instead doesn't mean that's the one you should file to get all the money back you can — then H&R Block has an app just for you. It even allows you to import your W-2 by taking a picture, simplifying input even more. State selection for your local returns is automatic and based off your address now, so if you get income from another state, you'll need to look elsewhere, but that shouldn't be an issue for most folks.

Download: H&R Block 1040EZ (Free, in-app purchases)

IRS2Go

The IRS is who you're sending your tax return to, so it might help if you saw the tips they give out to help maximize your refund, streamline the process, and get you done with your taxes so they can get done with them, too. The IRS2Go app can also help you track your refund once it's submitted, so you'll know when it's processed, and when that refund should be landing in your direct deposit account.

If your taxes are getting to be too much for you, the IRS2Go app also provides a handy directory of local tax prep offices that you can turn to for help, especially if you qualify for free tax prep. It can also help you to set up a payment plan if it looks like you owe more in taxes than you can afford to pay right now.

Download: IRS2Go (Free)

Google Play Music

Finances can be frustrating. Math can be frustrating. Add in the threat of possible penalties or not getting all of your money back if you mess up, and it's no wonder you've waited this long to do your taxes. It's just too stressful! So put on some tunes to help keep you calm, keep you focused, and remind you to take breaks every now and again. And even if you don't have All Access, the Instant Mix feature will mix a playlist from the songs in your own collection based on a song, artist, or album and keep you jamming out through your tax prep.

Download: Google Play Music(Free, $9.99/month for All Access)

Are you using these apps?

Taxes are pretty much always a stressful process, no matter how used to them you actually are. Thankfully the days of having to do everything on paper are past us, and these apps can help you to streamline that process. Whether that means using them to track your expenses so you avoid surprised, or just to keep track of when your refund hits, they can be a serious help in reducing your stress levels.

Are you using any of these apps? Is there a good one that we failed to mention? Be sure to drop us a line in the comments and let us know about it!

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1 week ago

Best Cases for Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

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Best cases for keeping your Galaxy Tab S3 protected and functional.

If you've got a brand new Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, you're going to want to keep it protected. Determining which case you should get depends on how you plan to use it. We've highlighted some of the different styles available that are worth your attention. Whether you're looking for a folio case that folds over to protect the screen, a case with a built-in keyboard, or a more standard case, mainly for providing protection, just make sure you find the right case for your needs!

Samsung Keyboard Cover

We'll start with Samsung's new keyboard accessory for its newest tablet. Offering protection as well as functionality, this case includes Samsung's latest keyboard, featuring chiclet-style keys, along with intuitive POGO pin connectors, which let you set up your tablet in keyboard mode right quick.

Samsung offers a fairly standard look for this keyboard case, featuring a white folding back panel that provides protection for your tablet, while the keyboard is made of gray, physical keys.

While the Galaxy Tab S3 might not be enough to fully replace the functionality of a laptop, this stylish and functional keyboard will let you do more on the go. If adding a keyboard to your tablet is important to you, this is your best option.

See at Amazon

MoKo Galaxy Tab S3 Slim Folding Cover Case

MoKo's lightweight case for the Galaxy Tab S3 features a premium PU leather exterior that keeps your tablet protected from drops and scuffs, while the interior is lined with soft microfiber material to keep your screen scratch-free. Like most folio cases, you're able to fold the front cover into a viewing stand with multiple angles. The front cover closes with magnets in the corners that allow you to wake your Tab S3 when the front cover is opened, but it won't interfere with the S-Pen. The S-Pen also gets some attention itself, with MoKo including a stylus loop to ensure your S-Pen stays with your tablet.

All buttons and ports are left exposed so that there won't be any fit issues with your accessories, and there's also a convenient hand strap for one-handed use.

You can get this case in classic single color options or choose from more stylish designs — the choice is yours!

See at Amazon

SUPCASE Unicorn Beetle Pro Series Case

SUPCASE makes some outstanding rugged cases for phones under its Unicorn Beetle branding, and you should expect the same level of protection for your Galaxy Tab S3 here as well.

SUPCASE offers full-body protection for your tablet, which includes a protective front casing with a built-in screen protector and a raised bezel to keep that beautiful screen protected. On the back, a dual-layer hybrid casing designed with a shock-absorbing TPU bumper will keep your tablet well-protected from any accidental drops and also features a pop-out kickstand for hands-free viewing.

All your ports and buttons are covered to prevent dust and debris from getting in, making this an ideal case for anyone who likes to take their tablet into the great outdoors. It's also available in your chose of color — black, blue, pink, and white — so you can pick the one that fits your style.

See at Amazon

BELK Leather Viewing Stand w/ Wallet

Featuring high-quality PU leather, BELK offers a very stylish option for keeping your Tab S3 protected. Your tablet is held in place by the rugged inner shell made of rigid polycarbonate, which leaves ample cutouts around the headphone jack and USB-C charging port

What also sets this case apart from the others on the list is the slip pockets on the inside cover, which let you store credit cards, business cards or even IDs, along with a pocket for storing cash, passports — whatever you want to have on you at all times. There's also elastic hand strap which lets you confidently hold your tablet with one hand.

This folio case also lets you fold up the front cover as a kickstand for hands-free viewing, and the whole thing is available in a couple stylish colors.

See at Amazon

Got a favorite?

Using a sweet case with your Tab S3? Sound off in the comments below!

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1 week ago

Replace your aging phone with the ZTE Axon 7 for just $330 today!

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Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time with a great deal on an unlocked ZTE Axon 7!

One of the best low-cost flagships, the ZTE Axon 7, is available through Newegg's eBay store at a pretty great price of $330. This is a savings of around $70 on the already-affordable smartphone. It features a 5.5-inch AMOLED display, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage that can be expanded using a microSD card.

ZTE recently released the Nougat update, making this an even better value for the price. It also comes with dual front-facing speakers, a fingerprint sensor on the back, and is Daydream-ready so you can immerse yourself in VR.

This deal is set to run through Monday, April 24, or while supplies last. If you are looking for a new, unlocked smartphone, you won't want to pass this deal up!

See at eBay

For more great deals be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!

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1 week ago

The best headphones for your Gear VR

Find the best headphones to bring your VR experience to the next level.

Audio is an integral part of how we experience VR, and headphones are a big part of that. VR is meant to be an immersive experience, and without headphones it doesn't quite hit the same peaks. Trying to figure out which headphones are right for you can be difficult though, with so many choices on the market so we've narrowed down the best headphones out there.

Read more at VR Heads

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1 week ago

Android Wear 2.0 Complications are great. It's a shame we can't use them

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Complications are great if you can get 'em

I'm not into 'complicated'.

Despite my penchant for detailed themes with lot of steps, I'm really a girl who likes things to work and work easily. When I got an LG Watch Style and started browsing for watch faces, I was excited to finally have Complications, easily customizable watch face features that can display system statuses like Battery level or pull data from any number of apps, such as currently playing music, your next calendar appointment, or a shortcut to your most-used app. We had seen complications implemented by individual developers before, but they had all worked differently, and I was quite looking forward to things finally working the same across every watch face. I was excited to have the same complications available to all watch faces rather than just the options a developer included in its own.

I soon ran into a problem: Android Wear 2.0 complications have only made the situation worse.

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