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4 days ago

Which unlimited plan should you buy: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon?

213

All four major carriers in the U.S. offer unlimited data plans. But which is the best?

With Verizon bringing back an unlimited data plan, the big four networks in the United States (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon) all carry an unlimited data plan now. That's important for power users as well as anyone who uses their mobile broadband internet as their sole way to stay in touch or for entertainment. The cost of data overages means that unlimited data is a must for many of us.

But just because everyone offers unlimited data doesn't mean that all plans are equal. Pricing is important as are "extras" like tethering and the hidden data cap that pushes you back to slower 3G speeds when you reach it. And of course, zero-rating means we have to pay attention to what unlimited means when it comes to the quality of streaming media as well as the source.

We took a look at what each carrier has to offer so we can decide who delivers the very best unlimited data package. Let's start with a look at the details for each carrier.

AT&T

  • Cost for one line: $100 per month1
  • Additional lines: $40 per month12
  • Data limit for potential throttling: 22GB per month
  • HD video included: Yes3
  • Tethering package: Only for smart vehicles

Notes:

1AT&T's pricing does not include taxes, surcharges or other fees.

2Customers with four lines will receive a $40 bill credit each month, starting on the third month.

3AT&T defaults streaming video to 480p but this can be disabled at no cost.

Sprint

  • Cost for one line: $55 per month1, 2
  • Additional lines: $40 per month for a second line, $30 per month for lines three through five1, 2
  • Data limit for potential throttling: 23GB
  • HD video included: No. Requires Sprint Premium Unlimited plan for $75 per month
  • Tethering package: 5GB per month

Notes:

1Sprint's pricing does not include taxes, surcharges or other fees.

2Promotional pricing of $50 per month for one line, $40 per month for a second line, and up to three additional lines for $0 per month is available until March 2018.

T-Mobile

  • Cost for one line: $70 per month
  • Additional lines: Two lines for $100 per month. A third line is $40 per month and a fourth line is $20 per month
  • Data limit for potential throttling: 28GB per month
  • HD video included: Yes1
  • Tethering package: 10GB/month (additional tethering options available with T-Mobile ONE Plus)

Notes:

1As of February 17, all T-Mobile One customers can enable HD video.

Verizon

  • Cost for one line: $80 per month1
  • Additional lines: Minimum 2, $110 + $20 for each line ($150). + $20 for each additional line (up to 10)1
  • Data limit for potential throttling: 22GB per month
  • HD video included: Yes
  • Tethering package: 10GB per month

Notes:

1Verizon's pricing does not include taxes, surcharges or other fees.

Verizon also allows any smart devices to be added to the plan for $5 per month.

The best unlimited data plan

As always, you have to choose the carrier that provides you the best coverage in the places you spend your time. Saving a few dollars for better perks is not worth struggling to find a signal. What works for someone else who might be hundreds or thousands of miles away should have little influence on your decision. Since everyone's coverage will be different, we have to treat each carrier equal on that front and base the decision on other criteria.

T-Mobile offers the best unlimited data plan in the U.S.

This is based on cost, data available for tethering and the "real" monthly allotment before you are throttled. One important thing puts it ahead of Verizon, and that's the notion that an $80 plan should cost $80. Not $80 with added fees and taxes. It sounds like a gimmick, but two lines on T-Mobile is going to cost about the same (or less) as a single line with a $5 connected device because of those fees. If we focus only on cost — which you should if you have equally good coverage — T-Mobile wins.

T-Mobile also beats Sprint's promotional plan because Sprint limits your ability to stream HD. We think a good data plan has to be able to entertain us in all ways, so we have to disregard anything that doesn't allow us to do just that. AT&T's offerings simply fall short and we hope recent changes from Verizon and T-Mobile get them to follow suit.As of February 17, 2017 AT&T now offers an unlimited data plan for up to four devices without the requirement of being a DirecTV subscriber. The new pricing is reflected above, and is considerably more expensive than T-Mobile or Sprint's plans.

If you have equally good coverage from all carriers and want to get the most value from your phone company you only have two real choices right now: T-Mobile or Verizon.

Recent user-data through Open Signal suggests that there is little difference in network speeds or total coverage, and pricing is very similar now, too. These two companies want your business and have been bickering for a while. They've also been adjusting their policies and rates to "out-do" each other which is awesome for us as consumers.

See plans at T-Mobile

See plans at Verizon

See plans at AT&T

See plans at Sprint

Your turn

What carrier do you subscribe to, and are you thinking of switching to either T-Mobile or Verizon? Let us know in the comments!

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4 days ago

You may soon be able to use Google Home or Amazon Echo to make phone calls

26

Hey Alexa, get me the operator!

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that both Google and Amazon are looking into ways to add phone call functionality — remember that? — to the Home and Echo, respectively.

The tech giants could launch the feature this year, the people said -- but the effort is hung up over concerns about privacy, telecom regulations and emergency services. And they are aware of the inherent awkwardness of having phone conversations on a speaker.

While one would think that having phone call functionality on such a product would be equivalent to using the speaker on a phone, but both the Home and Echo are stationary products that plug into a wall, and the companies would have to figure out how to seamlessly transition a call from one room to another, or back to a phone, without interrupting the call.

Amazon would also have to contend with the fact that it doesn't own the operating systems the Echo would connect to in order to facilitate the phone call, something that Google, with Android, can more easily overcome. Amazon is looking into call forwarding or even providing the Echo with its own virtual number to get around that limitation.

Would you use a Google Home or Echo to make phone calls? Let us know in the comments below!

Amazon Echo

Amazon

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4 days ago

Essential Accessories for Huawei Mate 9

4

Got a fancy new Huawei Mate 9 sticking out of your pocket? Accessorize it with these useful add-ons.

The best part about bringing a new smartphone into your home is all the accessories that you get to buy in celebration. Here are a few ideas of how to initially equip yourself for life with the Huawei Mate 9. And if you need some cases to accompany those new accessories, we've got you covered there, too.

Ranyi Premium Hybrid case

A great case doesn't need to be expensive or bulky. Ranyi's Premium Hybrid case for the Mate 9 is neither, but at $8.99 it's well worth the price.

Featuring a hardened carbon fiber back and plastic sides, the Ranyi case protects against drops and scratches without adding weight or thickness.

See at Amazon

AUKEY Magnetic Car Mount

car mount

It's illegal in many states to hold your smartphone while you're driving, even if you're not actively using it. Keep it out of your hands and easy to see with a magnetic car mount that slides inside your air conditioning vent. The ultra-strong magnet comes with sticky magnetic strips you can adhere to the back of your phone or inside a case.

See at Amazon

Huawei Mate 9 Desktop Charging Dock

charging dock

Keep the Mate 9 handsomly docked by your bedside or on your desk with this desktop charging dock from Encased. The stand is Type-C compatible and features a height adjustable design, in case your smartphone case is keeping the Mate 9 from properly docking. The built-in cable also enables data transfers.

See at Amazon

Arctek Type-C Car Charger

car charger

If you spend quite a bit of time in your car — commuting sure is rough — be sure to grab the Arctek USB car charger, which supports QuickCharge 3.0. It also has built in protection for overheating and overcharging, in case you need to keep your Mate 9 plugged in for the ride. This car charger is also compatible with some laptops, including the ChromeBook Pixel and Apple MacBook.

See at Amazon

Foneso Extendable Monopod

extendable tripod

Planning to shoot photos with the Mate 9's dual rear-facing cameras? Get the Foneso tripod and selfie stick combination! It's the ultimate travel accessory because it holds up your phone for selfies and stands up for group shots! The camera mount stows down to 7 inches and features a Bluetooth remote. It also offers a 1/4-inch standard screw for GoPros and other smaller cameras.

See at Amazon

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5 days ago

How to fix a stuck keyboard in your Gear VR

Getting the keyboard to open in Samsung Internet is easy, but closing it requires an extra step.

One of the coolest things you can do while playing with your Gear VR, is spend some time surfing the internet. That's entirely possible too, with the help of the Samsung Internet app. This means you can check out 360 degree videos, or check out the latest SNL clip to give yourself a guffaw. However, some users have reported a problem where they can open up the virtual keyboard in Samsung Internet, but are unable to close it or access voice search. Thankfully there is an easy fix to this problem!

Read more at VRHeads.com

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5 days ago

Master Product Management with this bundle for 79% off

Product Management is a skill that many companies are looking for these days as they bring new products to market, test new ideas, and figure out which direction to go. In today's world, things change so fast that you've always got to be ahead of the curve or you get left behind quickly, and no one wants that. Wouldn't it be cool to get involved with the next big thing, before it is the next big thing? Well, you can with the right skills.

Master these new skills for $45! Learn More

The complete Product Management bundle will help get you started with the skills you need to jumpstart your new career path. From learning the basic skillsets you need to shift your career to mastering the interview and becoming a Product Manager, you'll get it all. With 7 different courses and nearly 500 lessons, you'll get a whole lot of information at a huge discount here.

The courses include:

  • Skillsets to Shift Your Career to Product Management - $45 Value
  • The Complete Product Management Course - $35 Value
  • Master the Product Manager Interview - The Complete Guide - $35 Value
  • The Non-Technical Person's Guide to Building Products & Apps - $30 Value
  • Become a Product Manager | Learn the Skills & Get the Job - $35 Value
  • Product Management: Product Market Strategy - $20 Value
  • Buyer Personas for Your B2B Business - $20 Value

Take a chance at a new career for 79% off! Learn More

Normally, you'd pay around $220 for these courses on their own, but right now you can pay a fraction of that. Priced at just $45 for a limited time you can finally make the move towards a new career path without going broke. Be sure to act quick as this deal won't last long, your future self will thank you.

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5 days ago

Adding a SubPac to your VR setup makes a huge difference!

Is there such a thing as too much immersion?

A great VR experience pulls you in and keeps you totally engaged. It doesn't matter if you're battling sorcerers, diffusing bombs, operating on people, or just running a convenience store for robots. That immersed feeling is everything, and it's never just one thing that pulls you in. A polished, natural-feeling environment coupled with some great audio can come together to build something truly special, but how much further can you go with home VR equipment?

For some, the next step is better whole-body detection. Others want a way to feel what is happening in VR with better vibration and impact vests. Some just want to increase the sense of presence by adding smells or air movement. The truth is there is no one way to move forward, as long as the ultimate goal is to increase immersion. The folks at SubPac have been working for a long time on making it easier for you to feel sounds as though they're coming from more than just your headphones, and it makes a surprisingly big difference in VR.

Read more at VR Heads!

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5 days ago

HTC will launch a mobile version of the Vive this year

8

HTC will design and release a mobile VR solution this year.

HTC isn't selling as many phones as it used to, and is now referring to itself as a "VR company," much to the delight of its shareholders.

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5 days ago

Getting 'GPS signal not found' error in Pokémon Go? Here's how to fix it!

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Don't let GPS errors stop you from playing Pokémon Go!

Pokémon Go is everywhere, and that's great for Android gamers around the world. But if you're getting a "GPS signal not found" error when you launch the game, here's how to fix it!

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5 days ago

AT&T vs. Verizon: Best Share Plan

49
 Best Family Plan

Which carrier will help alleviate the resentment of the data hog in your shared family plan?

I don't blame you for looking this up. Getting a mobile plan that benefits both you and the various members of your family — whatever that might look like — is difficult. Every person has different needs from their data, as cliché as the saying goes, and I bet that there's at least a few of you reading this who resent the data hog in your shared family plan. You can help prevent this kind of resentment by signing up for the right shared plan.

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5 days ago

Facebook videos will now auto-play with the sound on by default

27

Facebook's auto-playing videos are about to get much more annoying.

If you're not a fan of Facebook's auto-playing videos, get ready to be annoyed. Starting today, videos will auto-play with the sound enabled by default. If you don't have your phone set on silent, every time you scroll past an auto-playing video, you'll now hear the audio associated with it.

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5 days ago

Chromebook Diaries: How I learned to live with Chrome OS

32

I'm chronicling my journey with my first Chromebook, the Asus Chromebook Flip. Join me.

In spite of my obvious allegiance to Android, the truth is that I've never owned or operated a Chromebook. Between two MacBook Pros and a Windows PC, I hardly had a reason to adopt a not-quite-a-desktop laptop. But now that Android apps are a big part of Chrome OS, I'm ready to see what that Chromebook life is like.

I bought the 12.5-inch Asus C302CA-DHM4 Chromebook Flip, based on a suggestion from my colleague, Android Central's own Jerry Hildenbrand. I was initially planning to hop on the bandwagon and pre-order the Samsung Chromebook Pro before it was even out, but I'm grossly impatient, and thus is the story of my life.

So it's time to buck up. I'm strapping myself into my boots and plugging the power adapter into my first Chromebook. I'll be chronicling my days with the platform all this week. Tune in, ask me questions, give me advice — this is what makes technology so fun.

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5 days ago

Huge Pokémon Go update adds 80 new creatures from Pokémon Gold and Silver games

6

This is the Pokémon Go update we've been looking for.

Niantic is rolling out a sizeable content update to Pokémon Go later this week that will introduce over 80 new Johto Pokémon from the Pokémon Gold and Silver games, including Chikorita, Cyndaquil, Totodile, and others. The new Pokémon will be discoverable in the wild, and won't just be limited to hatching from eggs, like those that debuted last December.

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5 days ago

Best Android Phones with Expandable Memory

Update, 14 February 2017: Our top pick remains unchanged. The Galaxy S7 edge is the phone to get if you want a high-end phone with a microSD slot. We removed BLU's $100 R1 HD, and slotted in the Honor 6X in place of the Moto G4. The Huawei Mate 9 also makes its debut on this list.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

See at AT&T See at Sprint See at T-Mobile See at Verizon See at Amazon

The Galaxy S7 edge is the total package. The phone features a stunning metal-and-glass exterior backed by an excellent 5.5-inch display. The dual curved display is easily one of the best you'll find on a phone, and differentiates the S7 edge from the pack. The handset is powered by Qualcomm's beastly Snapdragon 820 SoC, and offers 4GB of RAM along with 32GB storage. The 12MP camera is outstanding, and the 3600mAh battery ensures you get at least a day's worth of usage from a full charge.

Best of all, Samsung reintroduced the microSD slot after leaving it out on the Galaxy S6 series. The phone accommodates microSD cards up to 256GB, which should be more than sufficient for all your movie or music needs. If all that isn't enough, the S7 edge is water resistant with an IP68 rating.

Bottom line: The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge is one of the best smartphones you can currently buy.

One more thing: If you don't want to be tied down to a contract, Samsung has started selling the S7 edge unlocked in the U.S. The unlocked model has global LTE bands, making it compatible with several carriers overseas.

Why the Galaxy S7 edge is the best

A gorgeous phone loaded with features.

Samsung was criticised in years past for launching boring phones, but the manufacturer responded magnificently with the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge. The Galaxy S7 edge is an evolution of that industrial design, with the phone featuring rounded edges and a curved back to go along with the dual curved display, allowing it to nestle comfortably in your hand.

The 5.5-inch QHD Super AMOLED display is one of the best in the business, offering deep blacks and excellent contrast levels. Then there's the microSD card, which allows you to store up to 256GB, more than enough to take your media collection along. Samsung decided to not incorporate Marshmallow's Adoptable Storage feature, which treats an SD card volume like internal storage. Instead, when you insert an SD card into the S7 edge, it is mounted as a separate volume.

Samsung is known to throw in gimmicky features (Air View, anyone?), but this time around the South Korean manufacturer has shown restraint and focused on utilities customers will actually end up using. Water resistance is one such feature. The S7 edge is dust-proof, and the IP68 certification allows the phone to be submerged in up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) of water for 30 minutes without any issues.

Talking about software, Samsung has been proactive in rolling out monthly software patches. The phone has picked up the Nougat update in several regions around the world.

The 3600mAh battery lasts a day even on heavy usage, and on occasions when you need a quick top-up, you can rely on Samsung's Adaptive Fast Charging. The phone also offers wireless charging, and is compatible with both Qi and Powermat charging standards.

Phablet-sized

Huawei Mate 9

See at Amazon

Huawei's Mate 9 is one of the most feature-rich phablets available today. The fact that it's available unlocked for $599 makes it that much more attractive. The 5.9-inch Full HD display has excellent contrast and brightness levels, and what it lacks in resolution it makes up in sunlight legibility. The phone is powered by Huawei's latest Kirin 960 SoC with four Cortex A73 cores, and it offers 4GB of RAM, 64GB storage, and a 4000mAh battery. The microSD slot lets you slot in memory cards up to 256GB in size.

The standout feature on the Mate 9 is the Leica dual camera setup at the back, with a 12MP RGB sensor augmented by a 20MP monochrome sensor. The monochrome sensor adds fine detail to images while the RGB sensor adds color-related data. With both sensors working in conjunction, you get stunning photos from the camera on the Mate 9. The phone is also the first Huawei device to run the company's Nougat-based EMUI 5.0 out of the box.

Bottom line: For $599, the Mate 9 offers an enticing package with high-end internals, incredible camera, and all-day battery life.

One more thing: The Mate 9 is fully compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile, but it will not work on Verizon or Sprint.

With Adoptable Storage

HTC 10

See at Sprint See at Verizon See at Amazon See at HTC

HTC hasn't fared well in the high-end segment over the last two years, but the HTC 10 represents a return to form. The phone sports a gorgeous aluminum unibody design with a beveled chamfer that circles the back. The curved back ensures that the phone fits comfortably in your hand, and the 5.2-inch screen size allows for one-handed use. From a design standpoint, the HTC 10 is one of the best phones you can buy today.

The phone offers the latest internals. You'll find a Snapdragon 820 SoC under the hood, and there's 4GB of RAM and 32GB on-board storage. The 12MP camera is one of the best fielded by the company to date, and there's a 3000mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 that gives you a full day on a charge. The handset has a great DAC if you like listening to Hi-Fi audio from your phone. Coming to the software side of things, Sense 8 is one of the best manufacturer skins around. HTC has committed to rolling out the Nougat update to the HTC 10 in Q4 2016.

The HTC 10 also comes with a dedicated microSD slot that can accommodate SD cards up to 256GB. Unlike the S7 edge, the HTC 10 supports Marshmallow's Adoptable Storage, which allows you to reformat the external SD card storage and mount it as a part of the internal system storage. You'll be able to use the entire storage — 32GB internal and a possible 256GB with the SD card — as a unified volume, but the downside is that you won't be able to remove the SD card and use it for anything else.

Bottom line: The HTC 10 gets the basics right, and the fact that it is on sale for $549 makes it an enticing option.

One more thing: If you buy the phone direct from HTC, you get 12 months of HTC's Uh Oh Protection for free, which covers screen cracks, water damage, and switching carriers.

The mid-range option

ZTE Axon 7

See at Amazon

The ZTE Axon 7 is a standout phone in the mid-range segment. Available for $399, the phone offers a great 5.5-inch QHD display with minimal bezels, resulting in a compact size. You also get stereo speakers at the front, a 20MP ISOCELL camera and a fingerprint sensor at the back, and a 3250mAh battery that runs a day and a half. There's a decent DAC onboard as well if you're looking to listen to high-fidelity tunes on your phone.

Under the hood, the Axon 7 is running the Snapdragon 820 SoC, 4GB of RAM, 64GB storage, and a microSD slot that works with Adoptable Storage. The microSD slot can accommodate a 256GB card. On the software front, ZTE has started rolling out the Nougat update.

Bottom line: The Axon 7 is a compelling device in the mid-tier segment, and is worthy of your consideration.

One more thing: The Axon 7 comes with ZTE's Passport 2.0 protection plan in the U.S., which offers a two-year warranty against hardware defects.

Best budget pick

Honor 6X

See at Amazon

The Honor 6X doesn't feel like a budget phone in that it has a premium anodized aluminum chassis and dual cameras at the back. The internal hardware is also astonishingly good, with the phone featuring a 14nm Kirin 655 SoC, 3GB of RAM, 32GB storage, and a 3340mAh battery. The 5.5-inch Full HD display is one of the best in this segment, and the main 12MP camera at the back is joined by a 2MP secondary sensor that adds depth information to images, leading to a bokeh effect.

The Honor 6X has a hybrid dual-SIM card slot, which means that the secondary SIM card slot doubles up as a microSD slot. The phone made its debut with the older Marshmallow-based EMUI 4.1, but Honor has committed to rolling out the Nougat update to the phone in March.

Bottom line: The Honor 6X offers a lot of value for its $249 price tag.

One more thing: Like the Mate 9, the Honor 6X will not work on Verizon or Sprint.

Conclusion

If you want a phone that has expandable storage, the Galaxy S7 edge is still your best option. Featuring top-of-the-line hardware, a stunning metal and glass design, and one of the best cameras in this space, the Galaxy S7 edge has a lot in its favor. Water resistance and wireless charging make it an even more compelling choice. Add all that and throw in a microSD slot that supports up to 256GB of expandable storage and you'll find why the S7 edge is the most feature-rich Android phone around.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

See at AT&T See at Sprint See at T-Mobile See at Verizon See at Amazon

The Galaxy S7 edge is the total package. The phone features a stunning metal-and-glass exterior backed by an excellent 5.5-inch display. The dual curved display is easily one of the best you'll find on a phone, and differentiates the S7 edge from the pack. The handset is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 SoC, and offers 4GB of RAM along with 32GB storage. The 12MP camera is outstanding, and the 3600mAh battery ensures you get at least a day's worth of usage from a full charge.

Best of all, Samsung re-introduced the microSD slot after leaving it out on the Galaxy S6 series. The phone accommodates microSD cards up to 256GB, which should be more than sufficient for all your movie or music needs. If all that isn't enough, the S7 edge is water resistant with an IP68 rating.

Bottom line: The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge is one of the best smartphones you can currently buy.

One more thing: If you don't want to be tied down to a contract, Samsung has started selling the S7 edge unlocked in the U.S. The unlocked model has global LTE bands, making it compatible with several carriers overseas.

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5 days ago

Samsung could reveal Galaxy S8 launch date at MWC

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Samsung is likely to drop a few hints about the Galaxy S8 at MWC.

Samsung has already mentioned that it won't unveil the Galaxy S8 at this year's Mobile World Congress, with the official launch said to occur a month later — likely on March 29 — at an event in New York. A new report out of Korea suggests that Samsung will reveal the launch date for its upcoming flagship at its MWC event, which is being held on February 26.

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5 days ago

The top 3 things Xiaomi can do to win 2017

1

Xiaomi needs to embrace the offline market in 2017.

When Xiaomi burst onto the scene in 2012, it did so with little fanfare and zero reliance on advertising. The company was the first to understand the potential of online-only sales, and in the following four years, it would grow to dominate this field.

However, Xiaomi's competition has similarly latched onto online sales, and while the company still controls a majority of the mindshare in China and India — its two largest markets — it has seen its market share and sales numbers erode in 2016.

According to the latest IDC figures, Xiaomi managed to sell just 41.5 million smartphones in 2016 in China, a 36% decrease from the 64.9 million it sold in 2015. As a result, the company's market share in China went down from 15.1% in 2015 to 8.9% at the end of 2016.

Here's what the company needs to address this year to turn the tide.

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