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1 week ago

OPPO's new F3 Plus has two front-facing cameras for true 'selfie experts'

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Turn the power of a dual-sensor camera on yourself and become a 'selfie expert!'

Dual camera sensors have become one of those trendy features included on newer phones, but that setup has typically been kept to the back of the phone. Enter OPPO, the Chinese smartphone manufacturer behind the F-series of phones for "selfie experts". The company's latest phone, the F3 Plus, features two front-facing camera sensors — a 16MP main-camera and a 8MP sub-camera.

While OPPO didn't share any other specs in its PR release, according to GSMArena the phone is expected to have a 6-inch screen and 4GB of RAM while running on a Snapdragon 653 chipset. You'll also find a single 16MP camera sensor on the back.

Both the F3 and the F3 Plus are set to go on sale March 23 in five Southeast Asian countries — India, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam. While those of us in the west might not be too familiar with OPPO, it holds a 13.2% market share in Southeast Asia, and was ranked the fourth-largest smartphone brand globally in 2016 according to IDC, behind only Apple, Samsung and Huawei.

Love them or hate them, selfies have become ingrained within our culture. So when OPPO Vice President and Managing Director of International Mobile Business says the "F3 Series will take selfie technology onto another level" and may "set a standard that others will follow"... it might just happen.

Asian markets do seem to be ahead of the curve when it comes to selfie technology. We've seen "beauty mode" included as a camera feature on Samsung devices since the Note 4 and of course there was the meteoric (or mediocre) rise and fall of the Meitu selfie app from China back in January. I didn't get it either.

Personally, I'd rather have a quality dual camera setup on the back rather than pointed at my dumb face all the time, but to each his own.

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1 week ago

Insta360 Air review: Here, have a weird selfie camera

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Finally, a plug and play 360-degree camera.

As much as I love taking photos with my trusty Ricoh Theta, it's not the easiest thing in the world to use. I have to remember to keep it charged, the Bluetooth connection with my phone can occasionally be a little finicky, and while it's thin enough to be pocketable it's also long and needs a protective sleeve to keep the lenses safe. Most other 360-degree cameras are worse, especially the ones that have removable storage slots that also need to be independently managed.

I need a 360-degree camera that doesn't feel like work when I use it to capture something fun, and the people at Insta360 think the new Air camera for Android is the right way to go. Here's how that worked out.

Nailing portability

Insta360 Air is, without a doubt, the smallest 360-degree camera you'd actually want to use. This is accomplished by removing things like batteries and storage slots and excess plastic. Instead, what you have is a pair of fisheye sensors with an image processor to stitch the two halves together and a USB-C port to connect to your phone.

This setup doesn't get much simpler. You install the app from the Play Store, and when you connect the camera to the bottom of the phone, it immediately launches the app. Take the photos or video you want to take, the photos are immediately stored on your phone, and you remove the camera when you're done.

When not in use, this little camera stores in a small rubber sleeve that keeps the USB-C port safe and the lenses mostly protected. I say mostly because it's possible for sand or sediment to get in between the rubber and the lens when in your pocket, which could score the lenses over time if you aren't careful.

The important thing for day to day is that the rubber casing protects the camera housing well enough that you could toss it in a bag and be off without a worry. With this casing added, the little orb isn't the most comfortable thing to have in a front pocket, but it's no more uncomfortable than a large set of keys, so it's probably fine for most folks.

Simple, straightforward, kinda clumsy software

When the Insta360 Air app launches, you're immediately ready to take a photo or grab a video. The time from connecting the camera to taking a photo is less than 10 seconds if your phone is locked, which isn't bad. Flipping from photo mode to video mode to live broadcasting is all a single button press away, and since it all relies on your internal storage and cellular connection, there's no Bluetooth delay for anything.

If you're looking for a quick and easy 360-degree selfie camera, this would be the one to get.

Once you've taken a photo or video, you can either share immediately to your preferred social network, add a filter or two, or get involved in the Insta360 social stuff built into the app. There's nothing particularly advanced here, unless you're trying to see the 360-degree photos you've taken from outside of this app. Google Photos won't have access to these photos unless you specifically export your images to a folder on your phone, which has to be done individually. This is clearly designed to be a quick and contained experience, and there are some seriously fantastic photos shared by others in this app.

But the whole thing is upside-down, which is fine when taking photos but weird once you've removed the camera. Even when the camera isn't attached, the UI for this app rotates so you have to hold your phone as though it were. It's probably more confusing for new users if the UI was constantly switching back and forth, so I can appreciate the design decision, but it's an odd experience once you've become familiar with the way the camera works and just want to quickly share something.

You're really only using this for selfies

While the camera and its software score high marks for convenience and portability, the camera itself just isn't all that great. The image quality is relatively low when compared to the Ricoh Theta S, especially when it comes to detail and low-light performance. This is a usable camera when lighting is perfect and everything you want to take a picture of is within 10 feet of you, but if you're trying to capture a large room or an outdoor scene it's going to disappoint.

There's something to be said for the ability to quickly livestream in 360, and this camera does handle that well. With services like Facebook and YouTube looking into more 360-degree content, cameras like this one will be valuable for quickly capturing the whole scene around you when something needs to be shared. It's very cool to see such a future-forward feature on this camera.

You're also never going to be able to use this camera without holding your phone, so every photo with this camera is a selfie. Even if you have a stand for your phone and can set the camera up to capture a scene without you in it, there's no remote shutter for Android Wear or anything like that. The best you get is a time delay for capturing a shot, so you can set the phone up and run away quickly. If you're looking for a quick and easy 360-degree selfie camera, though, this would be the one to get.

See on Amazon

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1 week ago

LG G6 will launch in the U.S. and Canada on April 7

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The LG G6 will come to the U.S. and Canada three weeks before the Galaxy S8.

LG Canada has confirmed that the highly-anticipated LG G6 flagship will launch at several carriers on April 7. A U.S. launch is expected the same day.

The U.S. launch day was revealed by Evan Blass, whose leaks on the G6 have been reliable, and Android Central has corroborated that release day with people familiar with LG's plans. We're likely to get official confirmation in the coming days.

LG Canada, on the other hand, says that the G6 will arrive on Friday, April 7 at the following carriers:

  • Bell
  • Eastlink
  • Fido
  • Freedom Mobile
  • Koodo Mobile
  • Rogers
  • SaskTel
  • TELUS
  • Videotron
  • Virgin Mobile

It's unclear right now whether the version sold at Freedom Mobile will be LTE-enabled, but we have no reason to believe otherwise (and have reached out to LG for confirmation). The Canadian model will also be without the wireless charging that will be present on the U.S. model, but the units will otherwise be identical: Snapdragon 821, 4GB RAM, 32GB storage, 3300mAh battery, IP68 water resistance, 3x carrier aggregation, and a dual 13MP camera setup.

If the rumored April 28 release date of the Galaxy S8 holds, the LG G6 will have a full three weeks on the market before Samsung's behemoth swoops in and steals all the attention. The LG G6 is expected to be released in Australia on March 28.

LG Canada says pre-orders for the G6 will begin on March 15. Let's hope we won't have to wait too long for the U.S. carriers to follow suit.

LG G6

Verizon Sprint T-Mobile AT&T B&H

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1 week ago

Best Google Pixel Deals for March 2017

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What is the best deal you can get on a Google Pixel?

When shopping for a new gadget, like the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, you should be looking for the best possible deal available. But hunting them down can be difficult since most retailers change them weekly — but don't worry, we've got you covered. Whether you are looking to save finance your purchase, get some freebies with it, or try and save some money on the purchase there are a few places to check out.

Let's take a look at some of the best deals on Google's Pixel and Pixel XL that are available right now.

Refresh often! This page is constantly being updated as we discover new Pixel deals. Check back soon!

Google Pixel

Want to pick up the smaller of the two Pixels but avoid paying full price? Retailers are offering a variety of deals on these phones as Google continues its marketing push, and some will offer discounts in the future and others will include some extras at no cost. If you want to check out the best deals, these are the ones you want to look at.

Google Pixel XL

If you are looking for the larger version, you'll want to check out the deals on the Pixel XL. Odds are that most of the times retailers will offer the same deals on the Pixel and Pixel XL in terms of discounts or freebies, but there may be some specific sales that offer incentives to go bigger. Here are some of the best deals that you can find right now on the Pixel XL.

Other deals

As time passes you'll start to see these appear on other sites like eBay and Swappa, offering great deals on second-hand units. Some people may turn around and sell theirs at launch for a profit, but if you are looking to save you'll have to wait a bit longer.

Have you noticed any other deals on the Pixel or Pixel XL? If so, be sure to drop a line in the comments letting us know where the deal is and why other people may be interested.

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Google Store Verizon

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1 week ago

The LG Stylo 3 is just $179, now available from Boost and Virgin

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The surprisingly popular low-end Stylo line gets a third revision.

Sprint's prepaid subsidiaries Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile are both offering the latest iteration of the LG Stylo lineup with the Stylo 3, and it's only going to set you back $179 outright. For that money, you can't expect much — but LG makes some good decisions here, putting in a big 5.7-inch display, a fingerprint sensor and a big 3200 mAh (removable) battery.

The rest of the specs actually round out fine for such a cheap phone: that display is 720p, and powered by a Snapdragon 435 octa-core processor, 16GB of storage, 2GB of RAM and thankfully Android 7.0 Nougat. The cameras (yes, there are actually two — not a given at this price) are 13MP on the back and 5MP on the front. The hallmark of the Stylo series, its stylus, of course makes a return.

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1 week ago

Best Android Games of 2017

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Best Android Games of 2017

What are the best Android games to play in 2017?

Update March 2017: The first big update for 2017! We've added our favorite games released so far this year, along with some fantastic holdouts from last year that are still worth checking out.

If you're looking for the best new games available in the Google Play Store, you've come to the right place. Whether you're new to Android and need some fresh, new games to start building out your Google Play library or simply looking for the latest trendy games that are worthy of your time and attention, we'll break it all down for you with recommendations that are sure to ruin your productivity.

Reigns

ReignsReignsReigns

If you've always dreamt of being king for a day, you'll definitely want to check out Reigns. It's a stylish game with simple gameplay mechanics and razor-sharp wit, wherein you try to keep your kingdom running smoothly by interacting with advisors, citizens, witches, and other characters in your kingdom. It's best described as one of those "choose your own adventure" books, except instead of flipping to some page, you simply swipe left or right.

Each decision you make has an effect on four resources you must manage: religion, citizens, the army, and your kingdom's treasury. Balancing these resources is key, as if any meter maxes out or reaches zero, your reign is over. But the game doesn't end — you instead become your successor and try to last longer in your reign than the king before you.

It's the perfect pick-up-and-play game for killing some time, and you'll definitely enjoy the dark humor throughout.

Despite being released and celebrated in 2016, Reigns gets top billing on this list for 2017 for being the winner of Google's inaugural Indie Games Contest.

Download: Reigns ($2.99)

The Battle of Polytopia

Also highlighted as a finalist for the Google Play Indie Games contest in February, The Battle of Polytopia is a great game for anyone who's a fan of turn-based strategy games, like the Civilization franchise. The game features multiple game modes, including the rarely seen pass-and-play option for playing against friends. With multiple tribes to choose from, this plays like a full-fledged strategy game packaged with cartoony graphics and scaled down perfectly for playing on a mobile device.

The turn-based gameplay against the AI is brisk and you can add more opponents or up the difficulty level if you're in need of a bigger challenge. Best of all, it's a free download from the Google Play Store!

This games feels perfect for your daily commute on public transit or really any time you got time to kill — if you start a Domination game (last tribe standing wins), you can save and resume your game at a later time as needed.

Download: The Battle of Polytopia (Free w/IAPs)

Causality

Causality is a mind-blowing puzzle game that's all about manipulating time. This is just a brilliant game where you control time and make adjustments to the level and alter the sequence in such a way that you help your stranded astronauts reach their goals.

Set in simplistic-yet-beautiful alien landscapes, this stylish game will have you wracking your brain as you try to figure out how to guide each astronaut to their color-coded exit within the allotted time. Of course, you have full control over the timeline and can jump to any point in time and change an aspect of the level. There are 60 mind-bending puzzles to unlock and complete in this outstandingly polished and challenging game.

Download: Causality ($1.99)

Island Delta

Island Delta is a very stylish top-down action-adventure-puzzler developed by Mantisbite out of Finland. Explore the mysterious retro-futuristic island lair of Doctor Gunderson as our heroes, Zoe and Baxter.

Using your anti-gravity gun, you must work your way past mechanical minions, traps, and guards as you solve puzzles to make it through to the end of each level. At its best moments, Island Delta feels like a stripped down, third-person version Portal, which is something I wasn't aware I needed in my life. The cartoony graphics and outstanding level design will immediately draw you in.

You can read our full review here before deciding to buy it. It's available for $2.99 from the Google Play Store.

Download: Island Delta ($2.99)

After the End: Forsaken Destiny

After the End: Forsaken Destiny is a really beautiful puzzle game set in a mysterious desert world. The story follows a father-son duo who are on parallel paths at different times and must work together across time to help each other progress past obstacles and puzzles.

The wonderful art style will draw you in. The controls are fairly simple to pick up: you use the left half of the screen to control your character, tap the button that appears on the right side of the screen to interact with switches and objects, and you will also need to frequently rotate the camera by swiping across the screen.

The puzzles here are varied and increase in difficulty as you progress further through the game. There's many secret areas to explore and relics to collect throughout the game. It's a paid game, so there are no ads or in-app purchases to distract you from the beautiful graphics and challenging puzzles.

Will the father and son ever be reunited? There's only one way to find out.

Download: After the End: Forsaken Destiny ($3.99)

Fire Emblem: Heroes

Fire Emblem: Heroes represents Nintendo's first foray into developing games for Android (ignoring last year's Miimoto app) and is the eighth title in the popular strategy-RPG franchise to be released on North American shores.

Heroes brings all of your favorite Fire Emblem characters together for a brand new story that pits the noble Askran Kingdom against the power-hungry Emblian Empire, which wishes to rule all worlds. You play the role of a mighty summoner who has the power to bring Fire Emblem's best heroes together to help defend the kingdom. Battle takes place in arenas where you must strategically move your Heroes around to attack and defend against your opponents.

Play through the Story Mode to unlock new game modes, including Special Maps, Arena Duels, and the Training Tower. Arena Duel is the multiplayer aspect of the game that will keep you busy beyond the single player campaign.

You can read our full review here.

Download: Fire Emblem: Heroes (Free w/IAPs)

Heart Star

Heart Star is a cute puzzle platformer with a simple concept: you swap controls between two characters who can only walk on certain surfaces. You must use teamwork to make it through the 50 mind-bending levels included here.

Featuring wonderful retro graphics and an 8-bit soundtrack, this is just a really complete game that offers a decent challenge as you progress through the later levels. You will have to contend with the occasional ad that pops up when you fail or complete a level, but it's worth the minor distraction to play this fun little game for free.

Download: Heart Star (Free)

Star Wars: Force Arena

Star Wars: Force Arena is arguably the best Star Wars game you can play on Android. Combining the card-casting mechanic from Clash Royale with MOBA-style gameplay, it's an extremely exciting game that couples fast-paced action with deep strategic elements as you step in as general for the Empire or the Rebellion.

Choose from your favorite Star Wars heroes and villains from the original trilogy and Rogue One and lead your army into battle against online opponents. There's a freemium model in play here, meaning you'll be tempted to spend real money to help unlock and upgrade new characters and troops more quickly — but you can move up the rankings just fine by being strategic in battle and patient opening card packs. You can battle one-on-one or team up with another hero for epic 2 vs 2 skirmishes.

At its best, Star Wars: Force Arena lets you recreate your own epic battle scenes on your phone. Rally your troops and take down the enemy turrets on your way to victory!

Read our full review here.

Download: Star Wars: Force Arena (Free w/IAPs)

Pokémon Go

I know, I know. You're asking what is Pokémon Go doing on this list in 2017.

Well, love it or hate it, Pokémon Go is still widely popular, and Niantic still has big plans to support it throughout the year. They've added the second generation of Pokemon with another five generations of Pokémon still in the bank, and as our pals over at iMore have reported, there are a bunch of global and region-based events in the works and the potential for a bunch of new and revamped features.

Also, winter is nearly over so we may see a resurgence of Pokémon Go during the warmer months. Will it ever reach the heights that it did during the summer of 2016? Probably not. But it still represents one of the best and most popular games available for Android.

Download: Pokémon Go (Free w/IAPs)

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1 week ago

Gmail app adds Google Wallet money attachments so you can get paid faster

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A sneakily great Gmail feature is coming from the web to Android.

You've been able to send and request money via Gmail for some time now — but curiously, the function was limited to the web. With the latest update to the Gmail app for Android, you now have the ability to make the same money transfers within the app, making it even easier to transfer money between friends and family.

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1 week ago

Google I/O 2017 preview: Everything you need to know about Google's dev conference

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What we expect to see from this year's Google I/O.

Google I/O 2017 will be here before you know it. Everyone's involved: Google itself, presenters, hardware partners, and anyone else who will make the three-day event awesome is busy getting ready. We're going to have fun and learn stuff. That's the perfect combo.

Last year's Google I/O had some logistics problems that shouldn't return in 2017.

2017's I/O is going to be at Mountain View's Shoreline Amphitheatre like it was in 2016. That caused a few, ahem, difficulties last year and we learned that even Google is unable to control the weather and figure out you need more than 50 chairs to seat 200 people. I'm sure they did a good bit of post op and think they have a better handle on things this year. I know we do and we're already talking about how we can do our jobs better at this type of event.

Of course, the most important things to come out of Google I/O will be seeing the direction Google's products will be taking for the year. We typically see several announcements that have everyone shifting gears and trying something new, but most of Google's products are mature and won't see any major changes on the user-facing side. When the event is over, some will be excited and some will be disappointed, so it will be the same as every year on that front. But make no mistake; Google will be pushing Android and Chrome forward while they chase the next billion users.

Android O

By Evan-Amos - Public Domain

There's no way Google can get through the week without saying something about the next version of Android.

I expect to see some early demos on the big screen, as well as just enough information about what's changing to get developer interest piqued. But we're not going to be flying home from the Bay playing with any type of beta software.

Expect Google to announce Android O without giving it a name, announce a beta program without giving it a date, and announce that it will be the best Android version yet. It's early in the year so all we really need is a good bit of hyperbole.

Security

There is so much misinformation being spread around (much of it on purpose) about phone hacking that Google almost has to address this area.

Expect Google to affirm that the encryption methods used to secure your data inside Android haven't been cracked by anyone no matter what any ex-pats may say on Twitter. But they will recognize the threat we're seeing from leaked documents and how the focus has changed. A shift from widespread surveillance then pouring through it all has moved to targeted methods to attempt to gather intel one phone at a time. That's a very big challenge for Google, Apple, and Microsoft to tackle and will mean some changes have to come.

Now would be a good time to encrypt Gmail from end to end, Google.

VR

Daydream is just the beginning. Google needed to make VR inexpensive and comfortable before they could take the next step and we're already seeing enormous amounts of work from the Android and Chromium teams when it comes to VR and AR.

Strap yourself in because VR is going to be bigger than ever.

We can say with confidence that Google wants to be able to bring rich mixed reality content to your eyeballs via the web, on every screen you own. How they plan to do this is still a mystery, but the first steps — a VR web experience through Chrome for Android — are already in place. More importantly, developer tools that make it easier to build a VR web are a priority and alliances, like the Khronos Group, are making the technology ready for content.

The success of products like the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR mean that the market for people who won't or can't spend that much money is super important. Google and Facebook and Samsung and Oculus all competing to try and outdo each other is great news for us.

You'll be able to get your fix for everything VR from Google I/O both here at Android Central and VRHeads, so you won't miss a thing!

Google in your house

Google has been thirsty to get into our living room for years. The combination of Chromecast, Google Home, and Android TV give them the best shot of doing it that they've had.

Google knows the edge they have when it comes to Assistant. It's part of an internet writer's job to remind you that Alexa can do 11 more things than Assistant right now, but that's the tiny picture. Google has a mountain of your data. When combined with the mountains of data from everyone else, they have the most difficult part of training an AI system to be smart. They just have to figure out how to present it while it's learning so we want to keep using it. Amazon doesn't have this, but Facebook does and they will soon make their play in the same space. Google needs to be one step ahead here.

One of the bigger pieces of the puzzle that often gets overlooked is Android TV. With Nougat, Android TV has most everything it needs to become (and replace) your cable box and DVR. Potential changes planned with Android O could fill in the rest and the right hardware partner could mean Google is at your cable company, too. Google routers and TV boxes can provide everything we want from an entertainment package and Google gets more of that precious data they need to survive.

Android Wear

Google was very smart in how they handled the Android Wear 2.0 update and it reminds us that they are serious about wearables, even if we don't get news on them every day.

Wear 2.0 took the best ideas about how computing on your wrist can be done and implemented them without adding extra cruft to a system designed for very limited hardware. From first experiences, it looks like they were successful and Wear 2.0 is part of what it will take to make smart watches compelling again.

Wear 2.0 is good enough to make us want smartwatches again and Google is going to make sure we know it.

What's missing (and what we saw from Apple) is the right fitness partner. Names like Nike can make a platform mainstream as long as the initial release is good enough to get people to buy the next release. Any new platform, whether it be on your wrist, on your TV or in your car, is instantly caught in the worst Catch-22 situation available: Content is needed to attract buyers and buyers are needed to attract content creators.

We know companies like LG can make the hardware and Android Wear can power it all. Now Google needs to make sure everyone else knows and some big news for wearables at their annual developer conference would be a smart way to get started.

The Web

Google has some amazing products and projects for use on the web in general. Some we use every day and others that we only know the buzzwords surrounding them. And plenty of others we don't know about at all.

Besides the obligatory news and improvements for advertisers and analytics (someone has to make all the money so everyone else can have some fun), we might get to hear some really cool stuff about Tensorflow and deep learning. And there's a lot there to talk about, covering a wide range of spaces like cancer research, cars that drive themselves, or even something as mundane as finding files on your Google Drive faster.

The Cloud is a platform and Google knows it. And it will take everything Google can do to wrest it away from Amazon and Microsoft.

These and other web technologies Google has at work all mix into another area where google would love to get a stronger hold — Internet As A Service. Amazon and Microsoft have a tight grip on the market because they offer great products and services. Google has great products and services of their own and as they further develop and work together, we'll see more and more ways Google can provide what a business needs for data services.

There is a lot of money to be made here. Like every company, Google wants their chunk of it.

Everything else

Every department at Google will have something worth seeing and hearing about at Google I/O. Hearing about some of them, like Android and Chrome, is a given, but there will certainly be a surprise or two. Last year, Firebase came out of nowhere (not really, but tech press wasn't ready) and stole the show with the way it makes everything easier for people developing for the future.

Who knows what this year's sleeper hit might be? That's anyone's guess, but you can bet that we'll be itching to talk about everything we get to see at Google I/O 2017.

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1 week ago

Grab yourself a Samsung Gear VR for just $50 at T-Mobile for a limited time

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Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time with a way to save you 50% on a Samsung Gear VR!

If you haven't already picked up a Samsung Gear VR, today is the day to grab one. Right now you can save 50% on the purchase at T-Mobile, dropping the price down to just $49.97. This discount is on the latest version of the VR headset which offers both a Micro-USB and USB-C connection type. This is a perfect way to dabble into the world of VR without a huge investment and can provide countless hours of entertainment for yourself and your family.

Odds are this won't stick around long at this price, so be sure to grab one now before they are gone!

See at T-Mobile

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

Which Android tablets have the best camera?

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Galaxy Tab S2

If you want an Android slate with a camera that's not a total afterthought, your only real option is Samsung's Tab S line.

The Android tablet space is kinda weird right now, ahead of major changes expected later in the year in the world of Google laptops, tablets, and convertibles. If you need an Android tablet right this second, the best options are Google's Pixel C and Samsung's Galaxy Tab S2 series, soon to be superseded by the Tab S3. For more laptop-like productivity, there's Lenovo's Yoga Book. But of this subset of decent Android tablets, only Samsung's Tab S2 treats the camera as more than an afterthought.

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1 week ago

If your Gear VR has frozen after you reorient the screen, give this a shot!

Being unable to reorient your display is frustrating, but there is a way to deal with the problem.

From time to time while playing in VR on Gear VR, you may end up needing to reorient your display. Whether it's due to drift, or you've somehow contorted yourself into an uncomfortable position is irrelevant. What matter is that reorienting is an easy and painless process. However some folks have been having issues with their Gear VR freezing up after reorienting the display using the quick menu.

Read more at VRHeads.com

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1 week ago

Best March Madness apps for Android 2017

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The NCAA Tournament is in full swing. These apps will help you keep up with your bracket.

Game on. The 2017 NCAA Tournament (that's college men's basketball, in case you're not into such things) is underway. That means countless work hours lost over the next couple weeks, but specifically in these early days as we all pore over our brackets, hoping to avoid the bust and advance to the next round.

Sadly, we don't all have televisions in our offices. But seeing as how this is 2017, there's more than one way to keep up with the tourney. A trusty web browser is one, of course. But you're on the go. That's where these handy Android apps come in.

Updated March 2017: We've updated our favorites for following this year's big dance.

The Score

theScore

theScore is a longtime sports staple on Android. Follow leagues, teams and even individual players. You'll get real time updates on scores, stats and news, and the ability to fine tune and personalize that feed. It's got a dedicated tournament section, with a smartly designed sort of bracket that's using Android design guidelines instead of the sort of pan-and-zoom thing you'll find elsewhere. It's really well done.

The app is ad-supported, but it's also one of those apps that can very well stick around once you try it. So try it.

Download theScore (free)

NCAA March Madness Live

NCAA March Madness Live

This one's the official app from the folks putting on the tournament, so you know it's good. It's also very much sponsored by AT&T, Capital One and Infiniti, so you'll be subjected to ads from those three throughout. But if you've got a cable subscription this is a great way to watch all the games live.

And with Chromecast support built in, you can stream to a larger TV or monitor if you're not in the same room as your cable box. Plus there are scores, info on every team in the tourney, and the ability to keep up with your bracket, at least until it gets busted. There's are also radio broadcasts of each game, and video highlights so that you can keep up on every moment.

Download NCAA March Madness Live (free)

ESPN Tournament Challenge

ESPN Tournament Challenge

This one's less about following the tournament and more about a bracket challenge. Specifically, if you're playing with ESPN's brackets. (If you're not, just move on.) You can follow up to 25 brackets and get alerts on the latest news. You also get access to Bracketcast which allows you to see how upsets or underdogs have affected your own brackets. Following scores is fairly simply, but the app also is (unsurprisingly) pretty ad-heavy. Again, if you're not actually doing ESPN's bracket challenge, no need to stop here.

Download ESPN Tournament Challenge (free)

CBS Sports

CBS Sports

CBS consistently has had some of the best sports apps out there, and that continues this year with the latest iteration of the CBS Sports app. At launch you'll be asked if you want to use location services to follow local (or regional) teams. Do or do not, there is no try. You also can designate specific teams in any of the sports that you want to give special attention to.

From there, it's all sports, all the time. That means you'll see other events lumped with the basketball games. Just duck into the drawer on the left for quick links to scores and news, the full brackets, and expert pics. (And CBS has added the NIT tournament for good measure.) You also get Chromecast support, live streaming radio, and personalized alerts for the news stories that you don't want to miss.

If you're looking for a really good all-around sports app, this is one to have.

Download CBS Sports (free)

Google Now

Google Now

Don't wanna go through any of that? Just ask your phone. "Show me NCAA basketball tournament scores" will pull up the recent games in Google Now. No having to install and wade through any other apps than that. It's quick, it's easy, and it's probably already on your phone.

Download Google (free)

Your turn

Those are still our favorite picks. Did we miss something that's worth checking out? Let us know in the comments. And may your bracket live beyond the weekend.

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1 week ago

You should definitely buy this Android-powered iPhone case

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This is definitely not going to end badly for you.

Let's assume that a few people actually reading this article have an iPhone in their pocket. Perhaps it's in addition to an Android device, or maybe it's just a curiosity thing. But let's suppose.

If you are such a person, I definitely recommend you invest in the Eye, a Kickstarter project that turns your iPhone into an Android phone.

Eye attaches to the back of any iPhone 6 or 7 model — regular-sized and Plus — and adds what amounts to an Android phone (in both power and thickness) to Apple's flagship phone. It's the ultimate troll.

Powered by a MediaTek Helio P20, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage and a 2800mAh battery, the Eye sells itself on being everything the iPhone is not: flexible, open, and supportive of accepted standards like wireless charging, NFC and an open app store. It even has a headphone port as the ultimate middle finger to the iPhone's minimalist approach.

Here are the reasons Eye's creators, ESTI Inc., think you should buy one:

I rest my case. You should definitely back this incredibly compelling product.

The Eye ships in August or September, and backers can grab the Super Early Bird price of $95. It retails for $189.

See at Kickstarter

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1 week ago

The eero Home Wi-Fi System is impressively easy

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Before there was Google Wifi, there was eero.

We've looked at several home Wi-Fi products here at Mobile Nations. They are an important part of using your phone or any internet-connected device, so they're pretty relevant for all of us. And with consumer mesh networking hardware becoming a thing, it's also some really cool new tech. Even Google is on board and Google Wifi is one of their best products to date.

Mesh networks are perfect for many of us because of how they're setup and the way they work just where they're needed. Sometimes it just doesn't make sense to blast Wi-Fi out from a big central router when you only need it in a few spots and need it to be fast in those spots. Modular systems put really good Wi-Fi right where you need it.

Router vs Mesh Networking: What's best for your home Wi-Fi network?

Let's talk about how eero does it.

The hardware and setup

Eero sells its router system as a single pack, a two-pack, or a three-pack. We tested the three-pack for a week or so in a home office situation where the internet rarely sleeps. We took it out of the package and just started hooking it up according to the simple instructions and didn't do anything "special" to get ready.

Each eero unit is a compact square box about 5 inches per side and 1.5 inches tall. They're powered by a dual-core 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM and have a 4GB partition for flash storage. Eero says you should use a unit for every 1,000 square feet you want to be covered, so it's nice to see them sold in a pack of two, as well as a single pack and three-pack.

If you look at the back of each, you'll find a proprietary power port, a tiny recessed reset switch, a USB 2.0 port, and two auto-sensing Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connections. Everything is manufactured very well and there are no gaps or rough edges on the seam where the top shell meets the base.

Key specifications

  • Dual-band (simultaneous 2.4GHz / 5GHz), 2x2 MIMO, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
  • 1GHz dual-core CPU with 512MB of RAM
  • USB 2.0 service connection
  • Bluetooth Smart ready
  • 2 auto-sensing Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • WPA2 personal wireless encryption
  • DHCP, NAT, VPN passthrough, UPnP, Static IP, and Port Forwarding.

And the setup is easy. That's one of the things we love about Google Wifi. The eero app does the same things but presents it all to you a little better. Again, it's a more friendly feeling that most companies try to make happen and eero nails it.

When you lift the first unit out of the box (it's marked with a blue sticker that says "Start") the packaging underneath tells you how to get started. You have to see it because it covers the power supply and amazingly well-built Ethernet cable that comes with each unit. Basically what it tells you to do is to grab the eero app for your phone.

Download: eero - Home Wi-Fi System from Google Play

With the app installed, you're directed to plug in that first unit and let your phone talk to it to get everything set up. All you need to know for this is what you want to name your network and what the password will be. Next, you move to the second unit and plug it in, and the eero app will tell you if the connection between them is good or if you should move the unit closer or somewhere without structural interference.

Of course, the third unit is set up the same way. You do everything through the eero app, and the app is very well done and designed for people who aren't networking engineers or even hobbyists.

How does it work?

I placed my units in the same place I have them with my "permanent" Google Wifi setup: one in my basement office connected to a Motorola cable modem, one in the living room directly above my office, and one in the master bedroom.

I'm also using the wired connection on each unit, one to a desktop computer, one to a hub for a Hue bridge and entertainment system and one directly to a television in the bedroom. I've got nothing fancy going on here and think of this as a way any typical household would use an eero system.

The network speeds are great. They're great everywhere from top to bottom and even in the bathroom behind a wall filled with wires and copper pipes. This is exactly what anyone would expect from an expensive Wi-Fi setup and eero does not disappoint. Anywhere in my house or on my porch, my internet speeds are very close to what I see from a wired desktop. I'm not losing anything from my ISP and my LAN speeds are exactly what I would expect from a 5GHz ac network.

Part of the reason why is eero's "TrueMesh" technology. Unlike some of the competition, eero is very straightforward about how they mesh units together. And it's the way they should be meshed.

Network speeds were fast and all my stuff loved eero's Wi-Fi.

Each unit supports simultaneous 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless on a dual-band Wi-Fi radio. One of these radios is used the same way your Wi-Fi router uses its radio now: it communicates with the various devices (it's a 2x2 MIMO path if you're keeping score at home) you use to get on the internet. The other radio is a separate channel used to communicate between each node so your data speeds aren't reduced by 50% for each "hop" away from the internet point-of-entry.

We're not knocking whatever magic some other companies use to get similar results, but it is nice to see eero being straightforward about how they do it.

Again, we want to stress that no home networking product can make your internet speeds faster. That's between you and the company you pay for monthly service. What they can do is make the wireless network between the internet and your laptop or phone or tablet faster so you don't lose any speed.

Ask AC: Do I really need a mesh network?

That's where products like eero shine. You get everything positioned to cover the places you want or need Wi-Fi and the connection back to your internet modem is just as strong on one side of your house as it is on the other. As long as you use enough units for full coverage you won't have any dead spots and the network logic takes care of keeping you connected to the strongest signal which is usually the closest unit.

Network features

The eero app is really well done, as we mentioned earlier. Not only is the initial setup easy and friendly, but the "advanced" features and tools are perfect for most homes and easy to use.

You get plenty of information about the devices connected to the network, as well as the devices that make up the network. You can see how many devices are connected, how strong the connection is for each, which eero node they are connected to, and network information like MAC and IP addresses for each. There are even some statistics like when a device was last connected and for how long.

You can also get the serial number, location, OS version, Wi-Fi SSID, and MAC address for both ethernet ports on every individual eero unit in your network. This information could come in handy if you had to call for support, and if you don't need to know any of it, it's hidden and doesn't affect any of the other tools you might need.

There are features most people won't use but they're out of the way and everything just works as-is.

Those tools are geared towards what you might need in an average home. The basics are there: family profiles, guest network controls and at-a-glance status for each eero unit. These are presented in a way where you don't have to know how they are done on an IP network with a wizard-style interface. That's perfect because these are the tools most people will need.

Other tools in the Advanced category include basic ISP settings, DNS settings, DHCP controls, UPnP and port forwarding. Everything is configured as automatic with UPnP on by default, so people who don't need to use these settings can ignore them and everything just works.

For people that do want to use them, they all work as advertised. That means if you forget to turn UPnP back on, none of your Chromecasts will work and you might spend 45 minutes trying to figure out why …

A nice bonus for many is eero's Alexa skill. Once set up with your Echo, you can pause/start your Wi-Fi network, turn the status LED on or off for each eero unit, and find your connected devices based on which eero station they are connected to. These work as advertised, though the "find my phone" feature is more a gimmick than a feature because it only finds which node is closest to your lost device.

The best thing about all of this is that eero is quick on keeping the software updated. That means things can stay secure while eero continues to work well and add new features. Automatic and frequent software updates are a must unless you like flashing things yourself.

The flip side is that you need to use an app and have an online account to set up and use an eero system. We think that's a worthy trade-off for people who might need a company with a team there to keep everything up-to-date and offer support. But you might not. This isn't unique to eero and I can't find anything that makes me feel like eero isn't taking very good care of your information.

But they do gather some information. Before you buy anything or sign into anything you should visit their policy page and see what they collect. You also need an Android or iOS device with its own data connection to go through the setup process — one that's in the U.S.A.

Should you buy this thing?

This is tough.

I really like what eero is doing here. Having used several modular mesh Wi-Fi products from various companies, I think eero is the one I like the best.

The application and setup procedure is one of the best examples of making something accessible to everyone by ditching the tech-jargon. You can tell this was a conscious effort and it deserves the recognition. An eero kit is something my mom could set up, and she is my litmus test.

Is extra polish worth it to you? It is to me.

Another thing I like about eero is having a few proper network controls. While it's still not as flexible as some other routers, the network tools I really want are there. Sometimes you need more than just a checkbox for these kinds of settings.

But a three-pack of eero is about $100 more than a Google Wifi three-pack or an Amplifi system, both of which work great and I can highly recommend.

Anyone who buys an eero system is going to have great Wi-Fi everywhere in their house, and the extra $100 isn't a bad trade for the attention to detail we see in the app and the fine-tuned switching the network programming offers. You won't be buying something like this very often so there's no reason to automatically get the model that's less expensive. I really want to say eero is worth the higher price but know that's difficult for most people to justify. It just has more polish than Google Wifi. Is extra polish worth it to you? It is to me.

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

Levi's will sell its Google-powered connected jacket this fall for $350

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Levi's, in collaboration with Google's ATAP division, is finally going to put its connected jean jacket on sale this fall.

Two years ago, at Google I/O 2015, Google unveiled a project that it called Jacquard. The idea was simple: use existing fabrics like cotton, nylon, polyester and silk as conduits for touch gestures, using a tiny computer and a Bluetooth radio to transit information to a phone.

At the time, Project Jacquard was just a prototype, but a year later, during 2016's iteration of Google's developer conference, the company announced a collaboration with Levi's — the seminal denim maker — to create a commuter jacket that would accept input.

The jacket, which accepts swipes and taps to do things like change songs on a playlist or turn on connected lights, will cost around $350 when it goes on sale this fall. And while it's the first such commercialized product to come out of Google's ATAP branch, it is unlikely to be the last. The potential for connected clothing is enormous, and with the miniaturization of computers and other necessary sensors, the actual aesthetic impact will be minimal.

Other companies, like Montreal's OMsignal, have already developed and begun selling connected sportswear, mainly to track things like heart rate and other vital functions. Jacquard appears to have a more mainstream outlook, with the goal of selling regular people, not just high-intensity athletes, on doing things without pulling out a phone or tapping on a smartwatch screen.

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