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6 days ago

Celebrate the release of Nougat with these Nexus wallpapers!

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It's release week in Android land. It's kinda like Christmas… if the presents took months to reach some of the good little geeks and nerds.

If you're rocking Nougat right now, I'm happy for you. This is the benefit of buying a Nexus. For the rest of us, we'll be waiting a little while for Samsung, HTC, Motorola, and the rest to get updates to our phones. Okay, some of us will be waiting a lotta while, but in the meantime, we've got a little piece of Nougat you can taste on your own device: a rocking new wallpaper, pulled from the Google Now Launcher that pushed with Nougat on the Nexus 6P and 5X.

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6 days ago

Best clear cases for the Galaxy Note 7

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Best clear cases for the Galaxy Note 7

What are the best clear cases to show off your Galaxy Note 7

You just got your brand new Galaxy Note 7 and while you want to show it off, you also want to make sure it's protected from scratches and scuffs. Some bulky opaque case that'll turn your phone into a brick? Out of the question!

If you want to preserve the look and sleek feel of your new phone, you're best bet is to get a clear case. That way you can keep your phone protected while still being able to show it off to all your friends. It's the best of both worlds!

Spigen Neo Hybrid Crystal

Spigen Neo Hybrid Crystal

If you refuse to sacrifice style for protection — and vice versa — the Spigen Neo Hybrid Crystal lets you have it all.

This two-piece case consists of a clear TPU shell that shows off your phone's design, and a polycarbonate bumper that adds an extra layer of protection if you happen to drop your phone on its edge. Spigen claims this case is Military Grade Drop Certified, putting it into a similar category as other more heavy duty options they provide. The TPU shell features air space technology in each corner that help to mitigate the shock from a drop, so along with the bumper your phone should be well protected from drops.

The Neo Hybrid Crystal also provides a 1.2mm lip of clearance around the screen, and a 1.4mm bezel around the camera on the back to keep them safe when you put your Galaxy Note 7 down on surfaces. The bumper is available in four stylish color options, each with precise cutouts at the bottom for easy access to the S-Pen, ports and speaker. And the case itself offers a bit more grip to help prevent the phone from slipping from your hands.

See at Amazon

Caseology Skyfall Series

Caseology Skyfall Series

Another clear option comes from Caseology, known for their stylish phone case. Their Skyfall Series features a 1.3mm TPU shell and a 1.5mm polycarbonate bumper, which is available in four stylish colours.

The bumper on this case wraps around the back edge of the phone a bit for enhanced sturdiness. There are precise cutouts for the volume and power buttons, which are made of hard TPU for good responsiveness and tactile feedback, which will come in handy when you need to quickly silence an alarm without everyone knowing it was you.

With big cutouts around the charging port and headphone jack, this case will easily accommodate all your accessories while ensuring your S-Pen is always accessible. And with air-space technology in the corners, the case's dual-layer protection will keep your phone safe when it drops to the ground.

See at Amazon

Trianium Clarium Series

Trianium Clarium Series

If pure minimalism is what you're after, the Trianium Clarium Series case will offer you a clear view of your phone from every angle, while also offering protection guaranteed with a lifetime warrantee.

This case features a two-piece design, with a hard TPU shell and a rubberized bumper to help absorb the shock of any drop. Molded to hug your Galaxy Note 7 tight and protect it from scratches and scuffs, you'll be able to show off your stylish new phone without worrying about it getting damaged. It's also a very slim option, so you won't be adding too much bulk.

See at Amazon

Spigen Ultra Hybrid S with kickstand

Spigen Ultra Hybrid S w/ kickstand

What? Another Spigen case on this list? Absolutely. Spigen offers a whole variety of clear cases, but what sets the Ultra Hybrid S apart from the others is the built-in kickstand. This added functionality is exceedingly rare in the clear case category, typically reserved for more heavy duty options.

The kickstand appears to be essentially the Spigen U100 universal kickstand Spigen we recently reviewed, which is made of metal and extremely easy to use.

Spigen went with a one-piece TPU shell design for this case, so it won't offer as much protection as the two-piece options on this list. But with the kickstand allowing for easy media viewing and the TPU shell still providing full protection from any drops, scratches or scuffs, it's a damn fine compromise to make in this case.

See at Amazon

Ringke FUSION Crystal Clear

Ringke FUSION Crystal Clear

Another trusted name in phone cases, Ringke offers the FUSION Crystal Clear case for your Galaxy Note 7. This case comes in two style options — Crystal Clear or Smoky Black — but regardless you go with, your phone's beautiful design will always be on full display.

That's due in part to Ringke's claimed twice the clarity coating which they say enhances the original look of your Galaxy Note 7 without adding minimal bulk. With added TPU cushioning in the corners and certified military grade drop protection, this case will keep your phone protected and looking stylish. And if you ever get bored with looking at the backside of your phone, Ringke also includes a free DIY template for cutting out an image to place between your phone and your case, letting you express your creative side if you so choose.

See at Amazon

What do you think?

Is keeping your phone looking stylish as important as keeping it well-protected? Will you be picking up a clear case for your Galaxy Note 7? Let us know in the comments!

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

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6 days ago

Microsoft's Arrow Launcher is astonishingly good

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Microsoft's Arrow Launcher has a lot to offer.

Microsoft rolled out Arrow Launcher last year, following a positive reception for the company's Next Lock Screen. Both apps originated out of Microsoft Garage, a hub for Microsoft employees to work on projects and ideas that don't have a direct correlation to the company's broader software efforts. Other apps that have come out of Microsoft's Garage include the excellent Word Flow keyboard for iOS.

As for Arrow Launcher, the app has picked up momentum over the course of the year, gaining new functionality with regular updates. The most recent update rolled out earlier this week, adding a slew of new features: a fully customizable home page with widget and folder support, ability to annotate and share recent images directly from the home screen, live wallpaper support, and double tap to lock the screen.

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6 days ago

Moto Z Droid Edition second opinion — Mods shouldn't make the phone

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Moto Z Review

I have a tiny suitcase full of amazing accessories in desperate need of a great phone.

Motorola has an amazing ability, something no other smartphone company has ever accomplished before —to execute on ideas that blow away the competition in ways that frequently takes one full smartphone generation to catch up. Look back at the Moto X, and how long it has taken every other company — including Google — to recreate ideas like Moto Display, an effortless camera launch, and voice commands that can be reliably accessed without turning the display on. Add these unparalleled software experiences to Moto Maker, a platform that let you customize your hardware in more ways than most people customize their software, and it's not hard to see why someone like me has such a soft spot for Motorola.

Motorola has taken the best parts of the Moto X and shifted to a new set of concepts in the form of the Moto Z. This new Moto has gone modular, and with that comes a few new ideas that truly set this phone apart from the pack. After using the Droid Edition of the Moto Z for the last six weeks, here's what I have to say about this new/old Moto and its tiny suitcase of cool ideas.

Moto Z

What have you people done?

Moto Z Hardware

Lets get this out of the way real quick: the body of this phone does not remind me at all of the Moto X. In some ways, that's a good thing. As we learned from the Nexus 6, enlarging a Moto X 2014 and calling it a new phone doesn't necessarily make it better. The Moto Z is something new, with hints of its predecessor sprinkled in. For starters, the metal body of this phone feels amazing. The outer band is smooth to the touch but not slippery, and the glass on the front of the phone curves just enough so your finger can keep sliding to the rest of the phone with no rough edges or interruptions. The optional wood Style Shells, when installed, match this curve, making it so the phone just plain feels well made. A single USB Type-C port on the bottom and an antenna line across top split the phone down the middle visually. The power button is textured so you distinguish it from the volume buttons (which are right above it).

For starters, the metal body of this phone feels amazing.

Oh, right. That backplates are held on with magnets, and when you remove them you find the grand secret to this phone: Moto Mods. The ability to connect a louder speaker, a bigger battery, or even a projector to the back of the phone and enhance the initial experience. You aren't going to want to use the phone with no backplate, as the back edge cuts in dramatically without it and feels harsh to your hand, but damn is this phone thin with nothing on the back. Impressively — some might say uncomfortably — thin when holding it. The fear of dropping this phone without a backplate is real, even though its construction feels no less solid with no cover.

Moto Z Galaxy S7

After pulling off the backplate and watching it magnetically re-adhere a few times — I'll be honest, I do this five or six times a day just because — you power the phone on and notice immediately just how much chin this thing has. Between the Moto logo, fingerprint sensor, and software buttons on the display, there's a whole lot of space between the bottom of this phone and the usable parts. Because the phone is so tall, a lot of one-handed functions are compromised, even though the phone is thin and narrow enough to enjoy using with one hand. It's a tough call to make — Motorola couldn't put the fingerprint sensor on the back because of the Moto Mods — but the amount of space consumed is more noticeable here than on any HTC or Samsung phone to date.

Let's talk about those Moto Mods: they are so clearly the star of the Moto Z story

Let's talk about those Mods for a moment, since they are so clearly the star of the Moto Z story. I'm testing a TUMI battery add-on, a JBL SoundBoost speaker, and the Moto Insta-Share pico projector. Right away, these options are vastly superior to accessories for other modular smartphones. Not needing to mess around with Bluetooth settings and just snapping on a big speaker when I'm grilling outside is awesome. Being able to attach a projector to the back of my phone and immediately share what I see is largely impossible on another phone — even the modular LG G5. Not needing an ugly battery case to boost my total capacity appeals directly to how I use my phones. These Mods might as well have been made directly for me, which is awesome.

That said, there's a few things I wish were done differently. For example, the speaker and the projector can't be used together because you can only use one Mod at a time. The battery starts charging the phone as soon as you connect it, which means there's some additional heat generated in the bottom left of the phone — right where it sits in your palm. The battery status on all of these accessories are only accessible with a single blinking light on the Mod unless you have it connected to a phone, which doesn't give you a lot of information. Overall these are tiny concerns, especially compared to what you get with the Mods themselves, but it's clear Moto and their partners have some room to improve here.

Out of the box, there's a lot to love about the Moto Z and its accessories. The designs are solid; using the Mods are effortless and intuitive; and the 3.5mm jack isn't wasting space on the body of the phone. This design wouldn't have been possible with a headphone jack, and I think Motorola made the right choice in removing it. There are plenty of people out there who disagree, and there are other phones out there for those folks. This phone exists to do something other than cater to the past.

Moto Z

Same same. But different.... but still same

Moto Z Software

As the only Android manufacturer that updates their software separate from a Google-based or hardware release-based cycle, it's easy to pick this phone up and immediately feel familiar with it. This is the same software available on the Moto X and Moto G, which is to say it runs nearly Nexus-like Android software with some subtle enhancements. It's easy to see this and be concerned about stagnation, even though Motorola updates the individual pieces of their software through the Google Play Store fairly frequently.

Moto Display still has no equal

At the same time, it's not like Moto software really has a lot of competition. Moto Display still has no equal. Moto Camera's twisty launcher only recently has functional competition in the form of double-tapping buttons on the hardware of other phones (like double-pressing the home button on the Galaxy S7), and Moto devices remain the only phones I can reliably access from across the room with "Computer, Respond" as a custom voice activator. Why change what works, right? These aren't trivial features to people who use them, and each of these is deeply missed when I move to another phone to use something else. When Moto first launched these features, everyone tried to say these were gimmicks that could be reproduced in software by anybody. Years later, with several half-baked attempts to copy in the Play Store and weak copies of Always On Display on Samsung hardware, Moto phones are still the only phones to offer this experience.

Moto ZMoto Z

The one big change in the software this year is a direct result of the hardware changes. Moto Mods need some sort of management software on the phone, but that software is all but gone until you connect a Mod. Instead of requiring an awkward app for everything, Moto Mods are integrated into the OS itself. When you connect a Mod, you get a notification letting you know how much battery it has and that it's ready to be used. The projector can be fired up immediately and mirrors whatever is on the screen, but also uses the gyroscope to set the angle of the display. The speaker immediately takes over all of the system sounds. These aren't accessories in the traditional sense. When you connect them, they become a part of the phone. This is exactly the way modular phones need to be done.

Lenovo's disinterest in ensuring your device is consistently protected from exploits is bad, and they should feel bad.

This being a Droid Edition Moto Z, there's some Verizon software onboard. It's you standard complement of far-too-many Verizon apps and associated bloat. Verizon seems to have mostly standardized this setup, including what apps can be uninstalled and what must be disabled. If it's a "Verizon Core" app, you aren't getting rid of it. If it's a game or music app, blow it away and never think twice. This is the standard Verizon experience, like it or not. Considering what we've seen with software from competing carriers, I'd say Verizon's bloat is perfectly tolerable.

But do you want updates to your core OS? The Moto track record is spotty, but we know that Nougat is coming to the phone in the not-so-distant future and security patches will be rolled out in bundles that are not following Google's monthly track. Is it unreasonable to point a finger at Moto and demand timely security updates when so many competitors have yet to consistently deliver the same across more than a small fraction of their products? No, it's not unreasonable. Every manufacturer should be able to build the updates handed to them monthly and release them, especially now that Google has split monthly patches out to make them easier for companies to deliver. Lenovo's disinterest in ensuring your device is consistently protected from exploits is bad, and they should feel bad.

Moto Z

Aggressively mediocre

Moto Z Camera

Using Moto software is awesome because it mostly still feels like it did with the original Moto X. The same can not be said of the Moto Camera interface, but the same can be said of the photos that come out of the phone.

Moto Camera finally lives up to the original promise. It's incredible simple, can be used with one hand, and the settings are as minimal as they come. Tap to focus is the default over the drag around exposure ring, and you swipe for previous photo as well as access settings. You have quick toggles for HDR, flash, and a timer. In case it hasn't been mentioned twice already (it has) double-twisting the phone to launch the camera is still awesome. Performing the action in the app flips the camera to the front, where you still have a dedicated flash for those dark selfies. This setup couldn't be more simple and straightforward, and it's something so many other camera apps could learn from.

Until you look at the photos, anyway.

If you're outside in perfect lighting, the Moto Z does an incredible job getting the shot. The camera handles motion well, captures a fantastic amount of detail, and HDR balances well 9 out of 10 times. If you are in any other situation, this camera's success rate drops by a third. The camera has repeat problems focusing when the light isn't perfect, and this auto low-light mode kicks in and frequently takes an extra 1-2 seconds to take the shot. That delay means motion is a problem, and Motorola's "Best Shot" mode that tries to show you a second photo that might look a little better frequently misses the mark. Put simply, this is not a camera capable of competing with Samsung, HTC, or even the latest Nexus phones.

The front camera, on the other hand, is pretty fantastic. Selfies are often much nicer on this camera, especially when the flash is used in low light situations. It take a little getting used to, and it's still real awkward when you blind someone that isn't ready for that flash to go off. It's a great camera for video chat as well, which is especially good with Google Duo now available to the world.

Moto cameras have a long history of being not quite good enough, and it's unfortunate to see that tradition continue with the Moto Z. You can get great shots from this phone if you work at it or are lucky, but that's just not the case with so much of the competition right now.

Moto Z Speaker

Had no idea this was what I wanted

Moto Z Battery & Experience

A normal day for me starts at about 5:30am. My phone is where I get news in the morning, how I send video to my television while I get ready for my day, and the remote for all the lights in my house. By 6:30am, when it's time to flip the lights on in the kids' rooms through the Hue app, I'm already down 10%. At this point I have two choices, I can connect the battery pack and know for a fact I'll have at least 45% of my battery left at the end of the day, or I can keep my nice wooden back on and hit up the Turbo Charger before I leave work at the end of the day. It'd be nice if the phone could actually get me through to 10pm on a single charge, but that has yet to happen even on days where I barely use the phone.

I have to make that decision at the beginning of the day, because putting the battery pack on when the phone has reached 20% is a mess. The battery pack will heat the phone up considerably in an attempt to quickly charge the internal battery with the snap-on battery, maybe add 35%, and then be completely spent. If the battery pack is on at the beginning of the day, it will keep the phone topped off at 100% for 8-10 hours and generate far less heat in the process. For me, the battery pack is what I reach for when I know I'm going to go play Pokemon Go or use my phone for GPS over an extended period of time. It's a nice backup, and not thick enough to be uncomfortable when using the phone throughout the day.

Moto Z Projector

The solid, smooth design of this phone is fantastic. The way the Mods clip on and feel like a part of the phone is incredibly well done. The fingerprint sensor has a success rate in line with the S7 and Nexus 6P. The display isn't quite enough to compete with the Sun, but the auto-brightness sensor works well and will get you through most situations. There's a lot to like about the way this phone is put together, and it's nice to see Moto X things like wooden backplates brought over to the Moto Z. It's not quite Moto Maker unique, but this is a phone you can have some fun with when it comes to making it your own and that's an important part of this experience.

I'm a big fan of the speaker Mod. I am not a big fan of feeling like I need the speaker mod because the Moto Z speaker can't compete with a sizzling pan when I'm cooking while listening to a podcast. Adding the speaker makes the phone too big to enjoy having in a pocket, so I'm unlikely to walk around all day with it connected. The same goes for the projector. Both very cool accessories with very specific use cases that make me feel like I need some sort of carrying case that lives in my car or something. This wouldn't be a big deal if I didn't feel like I needed at least one of these things to fully enjoy the phone.

Moto Z

Nice try though

Moto Z The Bottom Line

The Moto Z on its own is a mostly mediocre phone. The software is exactly what I want as a user, but with a unacceptably short battery and a lackluster camera and speaker it fails to deliver the kind of experience expected of a top tier phone. The Mods are what make this phone fun to use, but each comes with their own cost and compromise. The base price for a Moto Z on Verizon is $50 shy of a Galaxy S7, and by the time you drop the extra $80 on a battery Mod you're on the other side of that price point and still have an overall worse experience.

In many ways the Moto experience has remained the same — an amazing software experience with some unique hardware that can't quite compete with the rest of the high-end ecosystem, and that's a shame. Above all else, though, I think Lenovo should push forward with Mods and make them a standard feature with lots of options. That ecosystem has the potential to deliver in ways that no other modular pitch we've seen so far.

Should you buy it? Probably not

If you're a hardcore Moto fan and love the idea of enhancing your phone with Mods, go nuts. You'll love the Moto Z. If you're a road warrior looking for a way to make your presentation tech more compact, a Moto Z and the projector Mod is a great option. If you're looking for the best phone you can buy and were hoping that included the ability to snap things onto the back, this is not the phone you're looking for.

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6 days ago

Pick up an unlocked BlackBerry Priv for just $299 again!

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Right now you can grab an unlocked AT&T version of the BlackBerry Priv for just $299 at eBay. This is the best price we've seen for the phone off-contract and matches the recent deal that was offered. With this savings the price drops down to the same as the recently-announced DTEK50, but offers a larger screen and physical keyboard with it.

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6 days ago

What would you change about Android Auto?

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Android Auto is a much better experience than most in-car infotainment systems — but could it be made better?

With Android Auto, Google was able to safely bring your favorite Android experiences into the car, but it came with a number of sacrifices. From weird compatibility issues to limited voice navigation while driving, using Android Auto can be equally as frustrating as it is awesome. Google has done a great job of bringing Android's core interface tenets to the dash, but there are some areas that could be changed.

So here's the big question: Is there anything that annoys you daily, or something that you wish the system would do a bit better?

Here's our list:

  • Get rid of the touch limits
  • Allow some customization of the "home screen", with the ability to add widgets
  • Fix weird compatibility issues that prevent some phones from working
  • More navigation options, like Waze, for those who don't rely only on Google Maps
  • More third-party head unit options
  • Ability to connect wirelessly
  • Multi-window view, so you can have maps and a music player or app of choice open at the same time

Since its release, Android Auto has not changed very much, but Google could do some innovative things here to take it to the next level. We've seen more app developers take advantage of the platform and make their apps compatible with it, and hopefully that continues. What are some of the things that you wish you could change about Android Auto? Let us know what you think in the comments.

More: Participate in the Android Auto forums

All About Android Auto

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6 days ago

How to format the microSD card in the Galaxy Note 7

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The SD card slot is back with the Galaxy Note 7 — now here's how you get started when you first pop it in.

microSD cards are hardly new to Samsung phones, but after the feature was removed in Note 5 we wouldn't blame you if you'd forgotten the basics of using one in your phone. But Samsung has changed the software a bit in the Galaxy Note 7 as well, hiding a few basic features — chief among them being the ability to format the SD card after you insert it.

Want to know how to get it done? We have the steps right here.

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6 days ago

These are the Sony devices that will be updated to Android 7.0 Nougat

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Tough luck Xperia Z3 owners.

Sony has published the list of devices that will be updated to Android 7.0 Nougat, and right off the bat there's a glaring omission. There's no mention of phones in the Xperia C, Xperia M, or Xperia E lineups, which means that it is unlikely these devices will ever see the Nougat update. The Xperia Z3, which made its debut in September 2014, will also not be updated to the latest version of Android.

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6 days ago

Pokémon Go updates: Everything you need to know

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There's a new Pokemon Go update. Here's what you need to know!

Pokémon Go updates aren't common, but they are a big deal. Here's what you need to know about each major one!


Update, August 23: Added information about version 0.35.0 with the new Appraisal system!

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6 days ago

Beyond Nougat: What's next in Developer Previews, post-Android 7.0

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Nexus 6P and 5X

Android is getting even more Developer Previews, as it moves towards a new 'maintenance release' schedule beyond version 7.0.

Following the official release of Android 7.0 Nougat, there's a lot going on around the Android Beta Program, which started back in March with the first "Android N" Developer Preview build. The short version is this: We'll be seeing more Developer Previews in future versions of Android — and in the short term you might want to stay enrolled in the Beta program, even on the stable 7.0 firmware.

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6 days ago

Will my phone get updated to Android 7.0 Nougat?

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Jerry looks into his crystal ball and asks: Will your phone get an Android 7.0 update?

It's time for a new version of Android, and that means I also get to make my yearly predictions about updates. Fun times!

Now, to be sure, unless a manufacturer has already committed to updating an existing phone, these are simply (mostly) educated guesses. We base them on a company's track record, the capabilities of the phone itself, and the number of phones a company makes. It's sort of like a blogger version of reading tea leaves and calling the bookmakers. And it's fun. Even when we get it wrong it's fun.

Since we're here because we are interested in Android, and most of us like to have a little fun, let's jump right in and answer the million dollar question — will my phone get updated to Android 7 Nougat?

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1 week ago

Best Samsung Galaxy S6 cases

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With all the options available to protect your Samsung Galaxy S6 from damage, how is one to decide which case is best?

We all have different needs to be met, but there are particular covers out there that stand out among the rest, providing both quality protection and exceptional design.

After careful consideration and input from members of the Galaxy S6 forums, we've selected cases that have made the biggest impression. These choices aren't limited by their size, manufacturer or price — only tried and true options that keep your Galaxy S6 safe from the inevitable drop.

OtterBox Defender Series Case

OtterBox Defender Case

First up, we have the OtterBox Defender Case for the Galaxy S6. Easily the most rugged of the bunch, this hybrid case comes loaded with 3 layers of protection along with a tough belt-clip holster to keep on your belt or pocket. Its size isn't meant for everyone, but those who do use it are keeping their Galaxy S6 safe from the worst impacts.

Speaking of its size, the Galaxy S6 OtterBox Defender is actually the slimmest version we've seen to date, and that's really saying something. You've still got all the familiar features of the Defender series, including an interior foam that seats your device safely, port covers to keep out dirt and other debris, an exterior slipcover that helps absorb impacts while enhancing your grip around the case, topped with a high-impact polycarbonate shell that keeps it all together.

Let's not forget the built-in screen protector, either — great for shielding against those pesky scratches. The Defender's holster holds the Galaxy S6 with the case on, allowing quick and easy access when you need answer a call, text or email while you're out and about. Many users opt out of utilizing the holster, but it's definitely handy for certain occasions.

See at Amazon

OtterBox Commuter Series Case

OtterBox Commuter Case

The slimmer option of the OtterBox series is the Commuter Case, providing just about everything you'd need to protect your Galaxy S6 from scratches, drops and dirt intrusion.

Surprisingly lightweight for its design, the Commuter Case features a smooth polycarbonate shell on top of a shock absorbing silicone interior that slides together for a compact fit. It comes with port covers pre-installed to keep out dust and other debris, but are able to be permanently removed if they're more annoying than useful.

With this hybrid case around your Galaxy S6, you can enjoy an enhanced grip thanks to the skinned edges and easy-press side buttons. It comes in black, blue or glacier color combinations and even includes a self-adhesive screen protector.

See at Amazon

Ringke Slim Case

Ringke Slim Case

There's always a total transparent option that makes it to the top of the list, and the Ringke Slim Case is ranked most popular this time around. And, if clear's not your thing — there are 6 other colors to choose from.

Perfect for slim, casual protection, this clear cover keeps bulk out of the equation and the good looks of the Galaxy S6 in. There's complete access to the side buttons, ports, camera and display while the case is worn, too. Included with the Ringke Slim Case is a complimentary HD film for shielding the back and front of your Galaxy S6 from unwanted scratches — so that's a plus.

Keep in mind, however, that you're not getting a huge amount of protection with this case. It's slim, yeah, but when it comes to more serious impacts — don't expect a whole lot. For everyday use and minor drops it'll do the job, though.

See at Amazon

Urban Armor Gear Composite Hybrid Case

UAG Composite Hybrid Case

If you're into rugged looks, the Composite Hybrid Case from UAG Read our hands-on review is definitely worth considering. Don't be put off by its damage-resistant design, though, because it's actually slim for the level of protection it provides. Both the TPU and polycarbonate shell are fused together with extra impact protection around all 4 corners.

There's obviously a lot to grip with the Composite Hybrid Case, between the TPU side grips and busy pattern on the back shell — dropping your Galaxy S6 becomes a rare occasion. There aren't any port covers to get in the way, but the case meets military drop-test standards — including a screen protector to ward off any scratches.

This case comes in some pretty cool color options, too. Solid colors include: black, white, rust and slate — for more transparency, there's ice and ash.

See at Amazon

Spigen Slim Armor Case

Spigen Slim Armor

An all-around favorite is Spigen's Slim Armor Case, sporting dual layers in an incredibly low profile. It's no secret that Spigen has been at the forefront of the popularity list for quite some time now, and for good reason. They're consistent with their quality and design, offering options for both heavy duty and average users.

What's great about the Slim Armor Case is its ability to shield against impacts without bulking up the Galaxy S6 to the point that it's no longer attractive. It leaves precision cutouts for everything you'd need, including the camera, flash and ports. The side buttons are raised for a more uniformed look, and are easy to press.

On the back shell is a fold-out kickstand for convenient viewing when you need it, and it doesn't protrude from the rest of the case like we've seen with the Trident Kraken AMS. It's designed to allow you to face your Galaxy S6 down on any flat surface while elevating the display, keeping away any possible scuffs or scratches. The Slim Armor Case comes in gunmetal (as shown), metal slate, shimmery white, and blue topaz.

See at Amazon

Speck CandyShell Grip Case

Speck CandyShell Grip Case

Speck's CandyShell Grip is back by popular demand with the Samsung Galaxy S6. It's got serious grip, and we can't blame users for enjoying that level of security.

Featuring an easy, snap-on installation the CandyShell Grip Case provides a soft, rubbery interior that keeps your Galaxy S6 safe from wear. Each corner has been reinforced to help handle impacts if and when they occur, while the raised bezel keeps the display from touching flat surfaces.

The polycarbonate shell is glossy, so fingerprints and smudges can be an issue over time, but are easily manageable. The most notable feature of the CandyShell Grip is its rubber stripes that wrap from side to side, enhancing grip in the most important areas. The symmetrical pattern has a unique look, too. If the black and grey (pictured) isn't your style, choose from 5 other color combinations.

See at Amazon

Spigen Neo Hybrid Case

Sporting excellent grip with its textured TPU skin is Spigen's Neo Hybrid Case for the Galaxy S6. This slim cover combines a thin polycarbonate bumper with a shock absorbent skin that's design to keep things slim yet protective. Metal coated buttons along the sides add to the case's good looks, too. Bumper colors include slate, gold, blue, and silver.

See at Amazon

Obliq Thin Bumper Case

This slim bumper case for the Galaxy S6 is designed to offer easy installation and removal while keeping you safe against minor impacts. The back cover rocks a brushed aluminum finish that looks amazing around the Galaxy S6 in any color. Ports and buttons are left open for easy access as well. Take your pick from 7 different color combinations.

See at Amazon

Verus Card Case

Who says a wallet case has to be a flip cover? The Verus Card Case for Galaxy S6 features a dual-layer design that provides optimal protection against impacts while adding storage under the shell for your personal items. Keep your ID, credit card, even some cash in your new case by sliding it open when you need. Available colors include silver, red, yellow, gold, and dark silver.

See at Amazon

Supcase Unicorn Beetle PRO

The next best thing to an OtterBox is the Unicorn Beetle for Galaxy S6. This rugged case turns your device into a beast that's ready for anything. Between the textured exterior shell, built-in screen protector, and shock absorbent skin inside, impacts don't stand a chance in damaging your Galaxy S6. Also included is a rugged belt holster for keeping your protected device at your side. The Unicorn Beetle comes in black, blue, green, pink, and white.

See at Amazon

Caseology Wavelength Series Case

If you're after grip, then Caseology's Wavelength Case for Galaxy S6 is right up your alley. This incredibly slim cover utilizes both polycarbonate and TPU materials to handle impacts. The grippy "wave" patterned skin on the back is what makes this case stand out. Choose from a handful of different color combinations to find the Wavelength that suits you and your Galaxy S6 best.

See at Amazon

Which is your favorite case?

How do you keep your Galaxy S6 protected? Let us know in the comments!

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1 week ago

Top 5 Android 7.0 Nougat features you need to know!

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From new multitasking and notification features to battery and data-saving modes.

Android 7.0 Nougat is finally upon us, bringing a wealth of new features and some pretty significant changes to the way Android looks and behaves. We've already give you a comprehensive guide to everything new in Nougat, but the broad strokes are equally important — from new multi-tasking features on phones and tablets to smarter notifications.

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1 week ago

First Android 7.0 Nougat factory images now available

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Nougat

Better late than never: Now you can download Nougat factory images for the Nexus 9, Nexus Player and Pixel C

A little later than usual, Google has started rolling out the first of the Android 7.0 Nougat factory images for Nexus devices and the Pixel C. In addition to the Google-made tablet, Nexus 9 (WiFi-only) and Nexus Player owners can grab the new version of Android in its entirety and directly update over a USB connection.

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1 week ago

Back to school gift guide: The best tech for your student

Back to School Guide

What can I get for my back-to-school student?

It's that time of year when students are gearing up for their return to school. These days, gearing up doesn't just mean textbooks and pencils. Your budding academic is going to want some of the best tech available to enhance their student life — both in the lecture hall and in the dorms.

Laptops

Best option: Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13

The ideal laptop for a college student is compact enough to fit comfortably on one of those side table dealies found in older lecture halls, but still reliably powerful for everything that college life throws their way.

Enter the Dell XPS 13, a 13-inch laptop with a decent amount of power under the hood and a brilliant display. We're talking a Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB solid-state drive, and a battery Dell says will last up to 18 hours on a full charge. This won't be enough for heavy video editing or top-end gaming, but it will be more than serviceable for most students to get through a full day. And then there's that sweet InfinityEdge display that goes edge-to-edge, maximizing every possible inch of the display.

It's so good, we gave it a Windows Central Choice Award.

See at Dell

Budget option: Acer Chromebook 14

Acer Chromebook 14

If you're student is looking for a reliable budget laptop for the upcoming school year, you should seriously consider getting an Acer Chromebook.

The Acer Chromebook 14 is a well-built machine, especially for a budget laptop. Featuring an all-aluminum body and a simple yet well-executed design that includes the 1080p LCD screen with a semi-reflective covering for better shared viewing, two USB 3.0 ports, and an HDMI port, your student won't be embarrassed when they take it out in a study group or lecture hall filled with MacBooks. Hardware-wise, this Chromebook is powered by an Intel Celeron 1.6 GHz quad-core processor, with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal memory — no SD card support is an issue, but one easily mitigated with efficient use of cloud storage or an external hard drive.

Chromebooks run on Chrome OS, which is still something of a work in progress but still fully capable to handle the workload of a typical college student, along with some basic entertainment in the downtime — gamers ought to look elsewhere.

See at Amazon

Noble Security Wedge Profile XPS 13 Lock Kit

Noble Security Wedge Profile XPS 13 Lock Kit

It's every student's nightmare: you step away from your computer for only a minute in a busy study hall and when you turn back around, your laptop is gone. All those important lecture notes and ongoing assignments gone — but at least you backed up the most important stuff somewhere safe… right?

Either way, you just can't trust people not to jack your shit. That's why if you get your student a Dell XPS 13, you should definitely also get something to keep it safe and secure. The Dell XPS 13 wedge lock kit from Noble Locks gives you added peace of mind that your laptop will never walk away on you. It's quick to click into the locking port built into the laptop's top-right corner, and lets you use the loop-ended galvanized steel cable to tether the XPS 13 to something secure as you work.

It's also perfect for shared dorms. Your student might trust their roommate, but their friends... maybe not so much.

See at Dell

WD My Passport Ultra

WD My Passport Ultra

These days, an external hard drive is as essential for students as a backpack or textbooks; every student needs to know that all their most important digital files and projects are backed up and secure in case something horrible happens.

Western Digital is one of the most trusted names in external drives, and their My Passport line is a reliable and convenient option. We recommend getting 1TB model, since that will give your student more than enough space to backup everything on their laptop, their notes and project — with some space remaining for their favorite movies and TV shows to bring along with them wherever they go.

It connects via USB 3.0 for quick file transferring and is preloaded to work out of the box with any PC running Windows 10 or earlier, but can also be easily reformatted to work with a Mac with the included software. With a three-year limited warranty, My Passport is durable and portable, so your student can confidently keep it in a bag pocket without worry.

See at Amazon

Tablets

Best option: Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

If your student says they definitely need a tablet this year, you can't go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2. It's a capable tablet they will love to use for school or play, and will last them a long time. While it comes with Lollipop 5.0 out of the box, it's upgradeable to Marshmallow 6.0.

Watching videos or playing games on the Super AMOLED 8-inch display is pretty glorious, and powered by a Quad 1.9GHz + Quad 1.3GHz octacore processor and 3GB of RAM, your student will be able to run multiple apps at the same time.

Your student can easily take it with them to their classes without having to worry that it will run out of charge with a battery life of up to 8 hours on a single charge. It also has a microSD card slot so that your student can expand the built-in 32GB to over 200GB of storage space, perfect for taking all their music, movies and TV shows wherever they go.

See at Amazon

Budget option: Fire HD 6

Amazon Fire HD 6

If size actually doesn't matter to your student, you really can't beat the value of a Fire HD 6. Amazon's 6-inch tablet is pretty capable considering it's well under $100.

Featuring an HD display with 252 pixels per inch, the screen may be small but it sure looks sharp. That means it will work as a fantastic e-book reader, as one would expect. It also comes with 16GB of storage (an 8GB model is also available) as well as free cloud storage for all your Amazon content and photos taken with your Fire device.

And let's talk about that Amazon content for a minute. Beyond e-books, with which Amazon built their e-reader authority on, there are tons of apps and games available in the Amazon Underground app store, and of course there's easy access to all the content on Amazon Prime Video and Music streaming services.

If you're looking to get the absolute best value for your money, the Amazon Fire HD 6 is great value for a budget tablet.

See at Amazon

Phones

Best Option: Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7

If your student needs a new phone for the school year, your best option is the Samsung Galaxy S7. Heading into the second half of 2016, the Galaxy S7 has cemented itself atop AC's best phones of 2016. And it's pretty clear to see why.

Samsung decided to build on the stylish unibody design they introduced with the Galaxy S6 by adding a microSD slot, a bigger battery and making the whole package water and dust resistant. It's a powerful phone with an industry-leading camera.

If you're still not convinced, just check out our full review. It's also compatible with the Samsung Gear VR, which is currently your best modest-budget option for checking out VR today.

See at Amazon

Budget Pick: Moto G4 Plus

Moto G4 Plus

If you're looking for a good balance between quality and cost, you can't go wrong with the Moto G4 Plus. It's the best budget phone you can buy for around $249.

This 5.5-inch phone is all-round great, sporting a camera far better than its price tag would suggest, with and a battery that should provide more than enough juice to get your student through their busiest days. It comes with Android 6.0.1 out of the box, and has all the cool Moto gestures, like a twist of the wrist to launch the camera, or a karate chop to fire up the flashlight.

With the ideal balance of function and style at a very reasonable price, it's definitely worthy of your consideration.

See at Amazon

Battery Pack

Anker Powercore 10000

Anker PowerCore 10000

With how busy college life can be, your student might not have the time to stand around tethered to the wall waiting for their phone to charge. That's where a quality battery pack comes in real handy.

The Anker Powercore 10000 holds 10000 mAh of power, which Anker claims will charge most phones at least three times or a tablet at least once. Thanks to Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 technology, it should charge a compatible phone up to 80% in around 35 minutes, so your student can get on with their day without worrying about their phone's battery life. And best of all, the Powercore 10000 is smaller than a deck of cards making it incredibly portable — it fits perfectly into a pants pocket or bag. Also small? The price, starting at $30.

If your student is worried about the charger overcharging their phone or causing damage they can rest easy; the Power Core 10000 has surge protection and temperature control to keep both your device and your student safe when the phone is charging.

See at Amazon

Dorm Room TV

Vizio E-Series E32-D1

VIZIO E-series E32-D1

No dorm room would be complete without a TV. But gone are the days of crowding around a small tube TV playing Mario Kart 64 with your floor friends (although I'm sure that person would be the hipster king or queen of their college with such a setup).

Smart TVs are becoming a must-own device these days, when you consider the trend of younger generations cutting cable and streaming their news and entertainment from the Internet.

We're recommending the Vizio E-Series 32-inch Smart for a number of reasons. For starters, it comes loaded with apps such as Netflix, Spotify, YouTube, Facebook, and more, so your student can kick back and relax in style after class. The size is about right for a dorm at 32-inches, so it should fit nicely on a modest desk or shelving unit. And the cost will makes it an affordable yet cherished back-to-school gift for any student heading off to college.

See at Amazon

Music

Best option: UE Boom 2

UE Boom 2

There's a reason why this little speaker is called BOOM — it's going to knock the ears off whoever's listening.

Its 360-degree design allows it to deliver sound to an entire room even when it's sitting right in the middle. Users can't stop raving about the quality of sound that comes from a speaker about the size of an energy drink can.

The speaker is Bluetooth-enabled and your student can stay connected up to 100 feet away. Not to mention up to eight people can connect their devices to the speaker, meaning their friends can all share DJ duties. A 15-hour rechargeable battery will keep the party going late into the night and will still have some juice the next morning when your student catches up on recorded lectures.

A companion app regularly delivers updates and even entirely new features to the speaker, and because it's waterproof and shockproof, it won't be going anywhere anytime soon. Check out this awesome speaker that starts at about $180.

See at Amazon

Budget option: UE Roll

UE Roll

What looks like a pincushion and delivers amazing 360-degree sound? The UE ROLL Bluetooth speaker! Your student will be able to carry this speaker around campus in their pocket or attached to their bike or backpack using the marine-grade bungee cord. How cool is that?

Current users love this speaker because of its waterproofing, durability, and sound. Even though it's so small, it delivers deep bass and clean treble that can be heard inside and outside. The battery lasts for up to nine hours, and your student can wander up to 65 feet away and still remain in Bluetooth range.

The speaker doubles as an alarm clock thanks to the companion app, so your student won't be late for class ever again. Want to give a portable speaker with amazing sound that won't break the bank? Check out the UE ROLL — it starts at about $70.

See at Amazon

Chromecast

Chromecast

If your student is complaining their dorm TV lacks the functionality of their neighbor's smart TV, there's no need to drop serious coin on a new TV. Just get them a Chromecast.

Don't let the small package fool you: Google's Chromecast is an incredibly handy accessory that turns any TV with an HDMI port and access to a WiFi network into a smart TV. With a Chromecast, your student will be able to stream their favourite movies, TV shows, YouTube, play music — even casual party games! Seriously, there are a lot of really cool apps that are compatible with Chromecast (even if someone has an iPhone).

Set up is dead simple, and it's portable enough that your student can bring it along with them wherever they go. Anyone with a phone and Wi-Fi access is able to connect up to the Chromecast, allowing for collaborative playlists of party jams, or a convenient way of sharing hilarious YouTube videos without everyone crowding around a laptop screen.

Ready for more good news? It's also dirt cheap at under $40. Thanks, Google!

See at Google

Headphones

Best Option: Bose QC25

Bose QuietComfort 25

Give your student the gift of amazing Bluetooth audio with the Bose QuietComfort 25 over-ear headphones.

Bose is the premiere name for quality audio, and its QuietComfort 25 headphones are top of the class. Designed to be lightweight and comfortable enough to wear all day, your student is sure to get hours of enjoyment from the crystal clear sound we've all come expect from Bose.

And with superb noise cancellation, your student deal with a noisy roommate, or just to turn off the sounds of the outside world for awhile — extremely helpful when they're hitting the books in a noisy study hall, or deep into binge watching their favorite show on Netflix for the umpteenth time. If your student would prefer a Bluetooth option for headphones, there's the wireless Bose QC35s, which will set you back an additional $100 while offer the same outstanding sound quality without the hassle of dealing with wires.

See at Amazon

Budget Option: AmazonBasics OnEar Headphones

AmazonBasics On-Ear Headphones

Don't be fooled by AmazonBasics headphones' $15 price tag — these are quality headphones. They fit on your student's ear, but the soft padding and lightweight construction ensure they stay comfortable over extended periods. Although they aren't equipped with active noise-canceling tech, the on-ear design does a lot block out sound.

Users have reported that the bass is deep and clear, and the treble is crisp and full. Your student is going to love listening to their favorite music on the go or in the dorm, and when they're finished listening the headphones can be folded flat for easy storage.

The 47-inch cable fits any 3.5mm jack and is more than long enough to not have the headphones ripped off your head when moving around. Want to surprise your student with rich sound for a cheap price? Check out AmazonBasics lightweight headphones.

See at Amazon

Smartwatch

Best Option: Huawei Watch

Huawei Watch

If your student is as fashion-conscious as they are tech-obsessed, get them the supremely stylish Huawei Watch. Launched in 2015, it was the Chinese tech giant's first entry into the smartwatch space and a conscious effort of choosing form over function.

The circular watch face is designed to look exactly like a traditional watch, and from a glance with the right watch face, the Huawei Watch will look like a stylish, chronograph watch on its 42mm diameter screen. Combined with the included black leather strap, what you get is a very fashionable piece of wearable technology.

Speaking of technology, the Huawei Watch is no slouch there. Running on a basic Android Wear platform, it has 512MB of memory and 4GB of internal storage so your student can store and keep their favourite music with them at all times and enjoy via a decent pair of Bluetooth headphones. Once paired to your student's phone, they'll be able to recieve all the important texts and notifications at a glance, so they can stay focused on their work.

Check our our full review from back in 2015 for more on why this is the best smartwatch for heading back to school.

See at Amazon

Budget Option: Samsung Gear S2

Samsung Gear S2

Samsung did a lot of things right when they updated their smartwatch offering in 2015 with the Samsung Gear S2. Featuring a novel rotating bezel for navigating through menus, a nice bright screen, and a battery big enough to get your student through a busy day the Gear S2 is a capable piece of wearable technology.

On the software side of things, as we mentioned in our full review, Samsung has thrown a lot of features into the Gear S2 that might make things feel a bit bloated or clunky at times, but key features such as S Voice are just so damn cool and useful that your student will surely find their rhythm using it on a daily basis. They'll be able to easily manage notifications from their favourite apps while on the go, so they can stay organized and in the loop while jetting between classes.

A sleek, minimalist design paired with a flexible elastomer band out of the box gives the Gear S2 a sporty look and feel, which can ideal if your student is more active. If they're not too thrilled with the default strap, it's quick and easy to swap one out for a different band to add a splash of personality or classic style to this essential accessory.

See at Amazon

Desk

Ikea Micke desk

Ikea Micke Desk

Dorm rooms are small, but your student is still going to need to cut out a quiet space for them to study and store all their things. For those reasons, Ikea's Micke desk is an ideal candidate to send out with your student as they head off to college.

As with most Ikea furniture it's intelligently designed to keep cords organized and out of sight, while also providing a built-in drawer for some added dorm storage. Plus, it's reasonably cheap and available in a classy black-brown or modern-chic white.

Some assembly definitely required.

See at Ikea

Backpack

Booq Daybag

Booq Daybag

Every student needs a reliable bag for carrying all their textbooks and supplies, along with a laptop, tablet, and any other tech or accessories they carry on a daily basis around campus. What's more, you want it to be comfortable to wear and look really cool.

The Booq Daybag checks off all those boxes. This deceivingly compact bag opens right up and provides enough space to hold a 16-inch laptop, along with your student's texbooks, binders of notes, and whatever else they might need during the day. With a bevy of pockets inside and out, comfortable shoulder straps, soft back padding, and a high-quality handle it's both comfortable and convenient to carry around throughout the day.

Side pockets remain flush, or can expand out to accommodate a water bottle or umbrella. Speaking of rain, the zippers are also waterproof, meaning your bag might get a little wet, but your valuables inside will remain protected and dry.

Starting at $90 and available in four colors, the Booq Daybag is a perfectly stylish and functional option for your student.

See at Booq

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