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1 week ago

These Galaxy Note 7 cases are just $7 for a limited time!

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Update: All of the coupons have been redeemed. Be sure to keep an eye out for more deals!

If you've placed an order for the Galaxy Note 7 and have been looking for a case for it, you'll want to check these out. Right now, you can score a number of Caseology's cases for just $7 with a coupon code, which is a pretty awesome deal. Depending on which color you are interested in adding to your Note 7, or whether you want something protective or slim, there are some great options here to check out.

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1 week ago

Spigen U100 Universal Kickstand review

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Spigen U100 Universal Kickstand review

We check out Spigen's new universal kickstand for your phone!

Spigen is great at pretty much all things to do with phone accessories. Their cases fit exceptionally well, their style ring is one of the most oddly convenient accessories ever, and now they've got their U100 Universal Kickstand to try and add to that legacy. But does it live up to Spigen's reputation?

This kickstand does exactly what it's supposed to do: it stands your phone up on an angle for hands-free viewing and gaming. Whether it's well-made or works well is a bit of a different story.

Let's break things down in terms of:

Aesthetic

U100

No one wants to admit they're shallow, but come on: the first thing you notice is how a phone accessory looks. Lucky for all of us, the Spigen U100 Universal Kickstand is a pretty slick little product.

It's a sleek and good-looking, minimalist accessory.

If you have a phone with a metallic back, it looks particularly sexy, thanks to its silver metal composition and compact design. It basically looks like a slightly larger tie clip with the Spigen logo etched into it.

The closer your phone is to the color of the kickstand, the more it blends in and actually just looks like it's built-in. However, if you use it with a slightly curved phone, like the HTC 10 (like I did), then you'll notice it a lot more from the sides.

All in all, it's a sleek and good-looking minimalist accessory that doesn't scream "cheap" and won't detract from your phone's good looks.

Design

U100

I'll start this section off by saying that this kickstand is meant exclusively for phones with mostly flat backs. It works with the HTC 10, but I mainly use a Moto X Pure Edition and the kickstand won't stick at all, both because of the phone's curvature and its textured back (depending on the customization).

The way the U100 works is via what Spigen calls "one-touch technology" and "semi-automatic spring tension". Really, it's essentially a spring-loaded leg that is held in place by a magnet and deployed when you slide your nail under the indentation at the bottom of the stand. If you have short nails, you may have a hard time unlatching the leg.

That being said, the magnet really holds the leg in place nicely; repeatedly shaking my phone, trying to loosen it, did not dislodge it.

When not in use, the kickstand is about 5mm thick, which, depending on where you place it, may make things feel a bit strange when regularly using your phone or taking a call. I situated mine just under the camera lens as Spigen recommends, and gripping it during a call has never felt comfortable.

Be gentle: The stand is thin strip of metal that can withstand almost no pressure.

The adhesive is made by 3M and sticks fairly well, although not as well as the adhesives Spigen was using for their first run of Style Rings (the ring broke before the adhesive let go!). Our recommendation is to make sure you place the kickstand exactly where you want it – constantly replacing it diminishes the stickiness. And if you have it almost in place and try to slide it into better placement, it'll just move back to where it was; 3M's adhesive is quite elastic.

U100

Regarding the metal composition of the kickstand, I'm a little put off. It doesn't look cheap; it doesn't feel cheap, but somehow it is flimsy.

I assume you won't be trying to bend it to test its limits, but when I tried to bend the stand leg on its own, it did so to a point and then just snapped, and it was not difficult to do. When I tested how much pressure I could place on the stand, the leg just snapped right off before I applied as much force as I had planned – the holes that the pins on the leg sit in make for an incredibly thin strip of metal that can withstand almost no pressure.

All in all, the kickstand is fairly well-made, but never pick your phone up by the stand leg or apply too much downward pressure or it will likely snap off in your hand. Also, don't sit on it. Just don't. Trust me.

Functionality

U100

As I said at the beginning of this review, the U100 Universal Kickstand does exactly what it's meant to. So long as you place it properly on your phone, it will prop it up and you will be able to watch videos hands-free.

It's also rather convenient, since that "one-touch technology" claim is pretty true, however obvious it may be. The magnet is secure, but not so strong that you have to pry the leg away with a crowbar.

The U100 Universal Kickstand does exactly what it's meant to.

I tried the U100 in both orientations on the back of my HTC 10; I placed it horizontally and vertically and both ways work just fine, though placing it vertically makes your phone easier to knock over.

When placed horizontally, it looks like your phone is being held up with a small popsicle stick and it really looks like it should be tipping all over the place, but it's actually perfectly stable when the kickstand's in use and might even work in the car on a portable lap desk.

The "semi-automatic spring tension" is quite handy, since once you pop the leg off, it springs into action and that's it — you're ready to go. Basically, everything about the kickstand works like it should and like you want it to. What more can you really ask for?

Final verdict

U100

Despite some design flaws, the Spigen Universal U100 Kickstand is very handy. If you can get used to the way it feels on the back of your phone, it's a convenient, minimalist way to watch YouTube and be able to eat dinner at the same time.

It looks great and works just like it should, so if you're looking for an accessory in this vein, you have no reason not to pick this one up … as long as your phone has a flat back.

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

No, we don't need a 'flat' Galaxy Note 7 model

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Here's the thing: we already have a 'flat' Galaxy Note 7.

When the Galaxy Note 7 was announced and Samsung talked about how wonderful the curved display was, Note fans were riled up about the prospect that there wasn't a "flat" version announced alongside it. And to be fair to them, we've had simultaneous curved and flat variations of Samsung flagships for the past four iterations — it became an expectation.

To set the stage here, I'm hardly a fan of the Galaxy S7 edge's curved screen design and what it does to hurt usability — no matter how cool it may look while doing it. Especially when considering that the accompanying "Edge UX" software is useless at best and completely duplicative at worst. And for that reason, I totally sympathized with the group who immediately cried foul over seeing that there was no "flat" version of the Galaxy Note 7 — not understanding the differences, it was frustrating to think that the only Note 7 you could buy was to be saddled with the same curved edges that make the phone harder to use.

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1 week ago

Samsung Gear VR 2016 review: a master class in refinement

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Gear VR

Seven small but important changes come together to shape the next wave of smartphone-based VR headsets.

With all the excitement surrounding the more powerful and more interactive desktop-class VR headsets, it's easy to forget that most VR users today are mobile VR users. It's not hard to guess why, either. The barrier to entry is often an order of magnitude less if you already own a compatible smartphone, and with mobile VR there's an inherent portability that makes sharing the experiences you discover that much easier.

In many ways, Samsung has cornered the market on smartphone-based VR through their partnership with Oculus. There's nothing quite like the Samsung Gear VR right now, but that hasn't stopped either Samsung or Oculus from repeatedly enhancing their hardware and software, respectively, to raise the bar even higher when competition finally does arrive.

The latest update comes alongside the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 to ensure those with the new USB-C device are still able to use the Oculus-powered VR experience we've seen on previous Galaxy phones. In the process of updating to support this new Note, Samsung has refined the hardware in ways that make the ability to swap between USB-C and microUSB through an interchangeable port the least significant change to the headset.

Samsung Gear VR

One size might actually fit all

Samsung Gear VR Hardware

It's bigger, it's blacker, and it's without a doubt the most comfortable Gear VR to date. The glossy white plastic from Samsung's first Gear VR revision has been replaced with a matte black plastic — only unlike the original Gear VR the darker plastic is on the outside as well. It's a superficial external change, but it gives the headset a much more polished look. The previous generations looked almost like a toy; this new Gear VR stands out as something more mature.

This new Gear VR stands out as something more mature.

The matte black interior is the opposite of superficial. The goal here is to stop glare from the displays bouncing around and causing distortions or distractions, and to that end Samsung has succeeded. This has been a multi-step process for Samsung, which actually switched away from a matte black interior in early models to help deal with light bleed distractions. Light bleed on the original Gear VR was a design decision to help deal with air circulation and reduce lens fog. Both were largely resolved in the updated Gear VR that was given away with the Galaxy S7, but the update introduced new points of frustration.

This third version aims to reduce ventilation and light bleed concerns even further, and almost nails it. The only source of outside light when wearing this new headset comes from a slight gap between the top of the nose gap and my nose. It's something I've only noticed when the Gear VR displays are entirely off, though, which is better than what I get using an Oculus Rift in the same conditions. It's possible this could be tweaked further with a facial gasket that touches the nose bridge, but the potential for discomfort likely wouldn't be worth the tradeoff.

Not only is the inside of the headset darker, it's also noticeably wider and taller. More of your face fits inside the opening with the lenses, and that is fantastic news for glasses wearers. Whereas the original Gear VR was nearly unusable with glasses, and the first revision was usable if you were careful, this new Gear VR is downright spacious. Just about everyone will be able to easily wear eyewear inside the headset without having to worry about them being pressed up against their face or cramming them up to the lens before putting the headset on. In fact, the comfort level on the new Gear VR is second only to Sony's PlayStation VR.

Samsung has set the bar incredibly high in creating a refined experience you actually want to wear.

Samsung still relies on a pair of straps to wear the Gear VR, but the setup is a little different this year. Out of the box you set up a single strap to wrap around your head, and if you are comfortable you can leave it at that. Should you decide to add the top strap, however, a small velcro spot in the back strap makes do so simple. This is a lot more comfortable than the plastic spacer that was there before, especially when laying down with your Gear VR, and makes it feels just as secure on your head as with previous iterations of the three strap system.

Once you have the Gear VR securely attached to your head, you need to set the lens distance to match your eyes. Samsung has always made this easy with a simple scroll wheel on the top of the headset, but this year that wheel has almost no resistance to it. Such a small change would only be notable if you've used the previous two headsets, but that smooth scroll wheel makes it so much easier to dial in the perfect lens distance for your eyes. Sitting all three headsets together, the increase in polish on this simple tool exemplifies the refinement Samsung has aimed for in this revision.

Samsung Gear VR

One final example of Samsung's borrowing from the original design of the Gear VR to enhance the overall experience is the touchpad. The original Gear VR had a touchpad with no texture to it at all, aside from a small dip in the plastic so you knew where it was when you ran your finger across it. Samsung "fixed" this in the next Gear VR with a D-Pad groove embedded in the plastic with a circular section in the middle to act as a button for selecting things. While this was helpful for casual navigation, it became a pain when gaming.

Samsung's latest Gear VR goes back to the all-flat touch area, with a single raised line in the center to help you determine where the middle of the pad is when wearing the headset. It's a welcome return to form with a little enhancement to meet everyone halfway, and to take things forward there are now two buttons above the touchpad instead of the single back button. This makes it a little easier to jump back home, and since the two buttons feel very different as you run your fingers over them this couldn't be simpler.

For those keeping score, the last 800 words represent a remarkable amount of polish that most people won't see at first glance. Samsung applies the same level of careful attention and engineering to this new Gear VR that we've seen recently on the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy Note 7, and the difference is subtle and fantastic. Knowing there's going to be significant competition in the not-so-distant future in the form of Google Daydream, Samsung has set the bar incredibly high in creating a refined experience you actually want to wear.

Oculus Home

Getting better all the time

Samsung Gear VR Software

Building a virtual environment is a lot more complicated than the app launcher you use on your phone. It's the first thing every user sees when jumping into VR, and has to offer more than merely icons represented in 3D space around you. It's where you adjust the headset to make sure it's comfortable, where you check to see which of your friends is online, and where many people buy apps and adjust settings. What makes this a unique space is how the creator approaches it, and whether the space is inviting or deeply technical. In a Gear VR this experience isn't a launcher but a special room where all of your favorite VR experiences live. It's warm, relaxing, and all-encompassing. It's a killer backstage room, with your apps existing on the main stage.

As expected, interacting with apps on the new Gear VR isn't any different than its predecessors. Samsung offers a slightly wider field of view with this new Gear VR — 101-degrees over the previous 96-degrees — but the difference is imperceptible in most situations. If you're using a Samsung Galaxy S7 instead of an S7 edge or Note 7, you'll notice you need to be a little more specific about where your eyes are positioned in front of the lenses. This means you'll need to adjust where the headset is on your face until things come into total focus. Other than this minor adjustment, it's the same overall experience. All of your games and apps work the same, and all the settings are in the same place.

The biggest difference in day to day user interface controls on this Gear VR is the home button. In the past you had to hold down the back button and tap on the home icon in the Oculus Menu. Now, if you want to close an app and move on to something else, pressing the home button immediately raises the prompt asking you if you want to return to Oculus Home. A small change to be sure, but one that feels a lot faster than the previous implementation.

Samsung's big design decision this year also left off the front cover that came with all of the previous Gear VR headsets. Samsung claims this is so app developers can start better taking advantage of the camera, which had already started in small ways with a handful of apps. Apps that let you take photos with active filters, or place a pretend Terminator vision in front of you are cute, but exactly as limited as they sound. Also, given the position of the camera relative to the rest of your body, it's still a bad idea to try walking around with Samsung's camera as your eyes. The Note 7 and Galaxy S7 have awesome cameras, but the 2D video positioned on the left half of your body presented as a stereoscopic image is still very disorienting.

The Gear VR puts you in a special room where all of your favorite VR experiences live. It's warm, relaxing, and all-encompassing

All told, this is the same Gear VR software we've seen slowly evolve separate from the hardware. After the last update, the software is not much more in line with what you see with an Oculus Rift, and the new navigation button doesn't really change much. Head tracking is still smoother than anything else you'll see on a smartphone right now, and the new frictionless touchpad makes playing games a little nicer. In the future it's possible we'll see some new software to take advantage of the USB-C port on the Gear VR, which Samsung says could possibly be used for accessories but currently doesn't do anything but charge the phone. It's nice to know this headset is reasonably future-proof, but first we'll need to see what exactly that means.

Until that happens, there are still a ton of things to do in the Gear VR.

Gear VR

Far from passive VR

Samsung Gear VR Experience

The sharp sound of polished metal grinding against a socket in the wheels under me persists through the pounding and the screams as I'm wheeled down a hallway. The nurse to my left is reassuring, trying to explain away the sounds and make it clear that everything will be alright. The look of the guy pushing me makes that difficult to believe, and as she wanders off to attend another patient he makes it clear we're going somewhere less than pleasant. The lighting in the next hallway flickers constantly, and with each flash it becomes obvious we're in a wing of the hospital built on nightmares. There's no elevator, so he carelessly pushes me along a flight of stairs until we reach the filthy surgical room at the bottom. Another nurse comes around the corner with a massive needle in her hand, and before this can get any worse I rip the headset off and stare out into the daylight, pleasantly reminded that I'm safe at home and no one is about to cut into my brain.

This new Gear VR is the golden standard by which everything else will be judged

In 2016, having a smartphone means you have more entertainment than you could possibly experience at your fingertips. Music, video, games, books, and so much more live in your pocket at all times. We consume so much through that 5-inch screen, many ask what's the benefit in adding a plastic face harness to something you can already conveniently take with you everywhere. When the Galaxy S7 launched, we said the answer was presentation. You weren't just watching a show, you were sitting in a crazy future space station watching TV. I think we got that wrong, though. VR isn't just the entertainment center that holds your virtual game console and streaming video services. It certainly can be that, but if you limit yourself to those experiences you're barely scratching the surface.

Great VR experiences are deeply emotional. Some of them are designed to scare you half to death, while others are designed to make you fully alert and ready to act. You might be tasked with escaping a room, or you might be guiding an animated bumblebee through a leaf maze. There's no one thing VR offers, but nearly everything is immersive enough that as the user you feel something you'd never experience by just touching the screen on your phone. Even 360-degree videos aren't a truly passive experience. You're meant to feel like you are there, and in many situations that illusion holds.

Samsung's latest headset improves this experience subtly. It's more comfortable to wear and an improved design makes it considerably easier to feel fully immersed in what you're doing. That immersion is the most important part of being in VR, and these little changes make a big difference when you're in the seat of a gun turret defending your ship against wave after wave of enemy vessels. It's not something you need to have with you at all times like a smartphone, but it's absolutely something you'll want nearby to enhance those relaxation times.

Samsung Gear VR

Good luck competing with this

Samsung Gear VR Bottom line

Samsung could have easily released the exact same Gear VR we already had with a USB-C port and Note 7 users would have been just as happy. The change had to happen, Samsung needed to support USB Type-C, and having a phone as amazing as the Note 7 without this great VR experience would have been a huge disservice to its growing VR audience.

The coolest part of this headset is the way it all comes together. None of the individual changes Samsung made are particularly impressive. They're nice to have, but are neither necessary nor a massive step forward in any significant way. Together, however, these changes take an already great VR experience and make it the most comfortable mobile VR experience by far. This new Gear VR is the golden standard by which everything else will be judged.

Gear VR design progression

Should you buy it? Most likely

As cool as these little changes are, calling this headset a need if you already own a Gear VR is a stretch. If you plan to purchase a Galaxy Note 7, this is clearly what you want. If you own a Galaxy S7 or S7 edge and have not yet purchased a Gear VR, this is clearly what you want. If you have already shelled out the $100 for a last-generation Gear VR and are curious about this being a worth upgrade, you should try one before you put your money down.

Where to buy the Samsung Gear VR

You can find this updated Gear VR available for pre-order from Amazon and Best Buy. As with previous versions of this headset, you can expect the headset to also be available in carrier stores alongside the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

Strap a Moto 360 Sport to your wrist for £129

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There's a promotion currently ongoing for the Moto 360 Sport in the UK. You can pick up the smart wearable for just £129 after applying two discount codes. Originally covered over on Hot UK Deals, the listing on Motorola's own store also includes free delivery, which is an added bonus for an already superb deal on the watch.

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1 week ago

ZenFone 3 series lands in India, along with Snapdragon 821-toting ZenFone 3 Deluxe

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At a media event in New Delhi, ASUS has launched the ZenFone 3 series in India. All three models in the series — the ZenFone 3, ZenFone 3 Deluxe, and ZenFone 3 Ultra — will be going up for sale shortly. The highlight in the series is the ZenFone 3 Deluxe, which is the first phone to ship with the Snapdragon 821 SoC and 256GB internal storage.

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1 week ago

Best wallet cases for Moto G4

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What's the best wallet case for Moto G4?

The Moto G4's shape lends itself nicely to a wallet case, since it has a broad, flat front. Let's face it: Thanks to its price, you'll probably have a few bucks left over after you buy the phone. You just need somewhere to keep 'em!

Here are some of the best wallet cases you can get for your Moto G4, so that your pockets aren't overloaded, but your bank account can be!

Abacus 24-7 wallet w/ flip cover

Abacus 24-7

The Abacus 24-7 wallet case is the best-reviewed Moto G4 wallet case on Amazon, and for good reasons.

The synthetic leather is durable and doesn't feel cheap like some "pleather" can, even though you can find this case for around $10. It provides a double layer of protection in that you have the leather wallet, but you also have a TPU bumper into which your Moto G4 fits nicely and snugly, protecting it from bumps and dings.

The case folds into a stand so that you can watch movies, TV shows, and YouTube hands-free, and there's enough room for a few credit cards and even some cash.

You have your choice of black or gold and either pairs well with the black finish on your Moto G4.

If you're looking for a leather case but don't want real leather, either for ethical reasons or because you don't want it to get marked up, then the Abacus 24-7 wallet case is ideal for you and your phone.

See at Amazon

Innovaa premium leather wallet case

Innovaa

Innovaa's PU leather wallet cases are for folks who like their phone case to make a statement without having to break the bank to do so. They come in seven bold colors and patterns, including a rather eye-catching light pink and a neat geometric "Dreamstime" pattern.

The magnetic closure is tight and secures three credit cards and your cash snugly, while the free screen protector and TPU bumper inside help keep your Moto G4 protected from scratches, bumps, and dings.

The flip cover folds back into a stand for hands-free viewing, and the cutouts for the camera and ports are precise, so you won't struggle to plug your phone in when it's charging time.

If you're after the leather look but don't want to spend too much and would prefer a synthetic leather case that adds a bit of "pop" to your Moto G4, Innovaa's cases are perfect for you.

See at Amazon


NageBee premium PU leather wallet case

NageBee

NageBee's PU leather wallet cases are probably the prettiest cases in this roundup and a deserve their place because the designs are magnificent.

You could pick the black or brown cases, sure, but the real beauty in these cases comes in the form of three beautiful graphics: "Butterfly Tree", "Plum Blossom", and "Royal Totem". Butterfly Tree is my favorite!

All in all, the NageBee PU leather wallet case is pretty similar to any of the other cases in this roundup, so you're getting the same quality, a great magnetic closure, a flip cover that folds back into a stand, etc.

NageBee's cases are all about the gorgeous designs, so if you're reluctant to cover up your Moto G4 but know you need a wallet case, cover it up in one (or all) of these lovely wallet cases (they're only around $10!).

See at Amazon

J&D Slimfit wallet stand case

J&D

If you're looking for a wallet case for your Moto G4 but don't want anything bulky, then J&D's Slimfit wallet case should be your choice.

These cases protect your Moto G4 from dust and dirt, as well as drops, thanks to the inner TPU case, while also comfortably carrying three cards and a bit of cash, so that you don't have to have both your wallet and your phone in your pocket.

J&D synthetic leather cases come in four great-looking colors: aqua (my favorite), black, brown, and red. So if you want the classic leather look, you can go with black or brown, but go with aqua or red for some pizzazz (yeah, I said pizzazz).

If a slim wallet case is what you're after, then J&D's wallet case is perfect for your pocket or clutch, and starting around $11, you might as well grab one of each.

See at Amazon

Orzly multi-function wallet case

Orzly

Orzly is a mainstay of great phone cases and its multi-function wallet case for Moto G4 is another great addition to its repertoire.

This is probably the sturdiest wallet case in this roundup and it offers excellent protection, especially for a wallet case. Its textured exterior is enough to stand up to scratches and scrapes, while the inner TPU bumper absorbs bumps and dings. It has all the features you'd want in a wallet case: it can comfortably hold three cards and a bit of cash; its cover folds back into a stand; and the cutouts are exactly where they should be, so you can take photos and charge 'er up without having to take your Moto G4 out.

If you're looking for a sophisticated-looking wallet case for your Moto G4, then Orzly's case is for you.

See at Amazon

What's in your wallet?

I'll assume it's the Moto G4, but what wallet case are you using? Is it in our roundup/? Let us know in the comments below!

Moto G4 and G4 Plus

Moto G4:

Amazon Motorola

Moto G4 Plus:

Amazon Motorola

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1 week ago

Huawei P9 with Leica optics finally debuts in India for ₹39,999

1

Four months after its international debut, the Huawei P9 has made its way to India. The phone will be available in Titanium Grey, Mystic Silver, and Prestige Gold color options, and will go up for sale starting later today for ₹39,999 ($600).

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1 week ago

Honor 8 is the affordable Huawei P9, coming to the U.S. for $399

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The Honor 8 is coming to the U.S. and Europe next month.

Honor, Huawei's subbrand, announced that the Honor 8 is set to come to the U.S. next month (as well as to Europe, though details will be finalized at a launch event on August 24).

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1 week ago

Honor 8 hands-on preview: Way better than you expect

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The Honor 8 introduces the U.S. to one of the world's best-kept phone secrets.

A year ago, our Alex Dobie called the Honor 7 "a well-built, premium handset and a quick performer, [with] camera capabilities that stand out in the mid-range space." At the time, I had barely heard of the Honor line, but was impressed by the brand's slow encroachment into the Western market, which combined the aspirational hardware design of Huawei's high-end phones with a much more accessible name and price.

Now, with the Honor 8, the brand comes barrelling back into to the U.S. after a soft launch in 2015 with the Honor 5X, nominally sidestepping the continued reluctance of American carriers to accept anything with the Huawei name. But the Honor 8 is more than merely a reintroduction to a new market (it is also launching in Europe later this month): it is a statement of purpose, and a powerful one at that.

Honor 8 Specs

Category Features Display 5.2-inch IPS LCD
1920x1080 Processor HiSilicon Kirin 950 octa-core
4xA72 @ 2.3Ghz + 4xA53 @ 1.8Ghz
Mali-T880MP4 GPU Storage 32GB / 64GB RAM 4GB LPDDR4 OS Android 6.0 with EMUI 4.1 Rear cameras Dual 12MP (monochrome + color), f/2.2
1.25-micron pixel equivalent Front camera 8MP, f/2.4 Connection USB Type-C SIM/MicroSD Dual SIM in Asia
Single SIM with microSD (256GB) in Europe/U.S. Battery 3000mAh
Quick Charge 2.0 Security Fingerprint Other Infrared, bottom mono speaker, VoLTE (T-Mobile only) Waterproofing No LTE Bands LTE FDD: B1/B2/B3/B4/B5/B7/B8/B12/B17/B20 Dimensions 145.5 x 71 x 7.5 mm Weight 153 grams Colors Pearl White, Sapphire Blue, Midnight Black Price $399 (32GB) / $449 (64GB)

Honor 8 The fundamentals

At its core, the Honor 8 is based off the impressive Huawei P9, and shares much of that phone's architecture, including its 5.2-inch 1080p display, dual 12MP sensors, and Android 6.0-based EMUI 4.1 software. But the Honor is a more youthful product, shipping in one of three reflective colors (Pearl White, Sapphire Blue, Midnight Black) whose hues shimmer and dance behind two panes of Gorilla Glass 3. The version I received, Sapphire Blue, instantly become my favorite thing ever, shifting in the sun's variability from dark to light and a thousand blue hues in between.

The extra gigabyte of memory gives the Honor 8 a bounce to its step that was lacking in the Huawei P9

As Alex mentioned in his preview, the Honor 8 looks like a cross between an Honor 6 and a Galaxy S7, both of which are great devices. Clad in a color-matched metal frame, the device feels both airy and robust, though like all glass phones it is extremely slippery. More than once I woke up to the phone on the floor after it gingerly slid off my purportedly-flat night table. No worse for the wear, though, the Honor 8 only needs a couple wipes with a microfiber cloth each day to remove the myriad fingerprints that inevitably plant themselves all over the front and back glass.

Inside, the HiSilicon Kirin 950 chip pairs with 4GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of expandable storage to fashion a hardware base that is more than capable of driving the Honor 8's excellent (and bright!) 1080p IPS display. On the one hand, the Kirin 950 is a regression from the 955 inside the Huawei P9 — its four 2.3Ghz Cortex-A72 chips are clocked 200Mhz slower — but the extra gigabyte of memory gives the Honor 8 a proverbial bounce to its step that was, according to our Phil Nickinson, lacking in its Huawei counterpart.

In my testing, the Honor 8 handled everything I threw at it with aplomb, easily standing up to the Exynos 8890 chip in the international Galaxy S7. HiSilicon's Kirin processors have improved immensely over the last two years, and the Kirin 950 is decidedly modern, built on a 16nm FinFET process and featuring eight 64-bit cores in a big.LITTLE array that resembles the best from Samsung (and to some extent Qualcomm).

Without getting too into the weeds, the introduction of another processor competitor to Samsung and Qualcomm in the U.S. is significant, especially given that the latter company practically monopolizes the mobile baseband market. Like Samsung, HiSilicon has built its own LTE modem into the Kirin 950, and while at maximum speeds of 300Mbps it is not quite as advanced as the competition, it stands to reason that the Huawei subsidiary will only continue to improve as it iterates.

Like the P9, the Honor 8 features a rear fingerprint sensor that is one of the fastest I've ever used. I place either of my index fingers on the back of the phone and the screen turns on. It's wonderful. Add to that a number of intuitive, why-didn't-anyone-else-think-of-that gestures such as swiping vertically to bring down the notification shade and it becomes more than a biometric tool.

The fingerprint sensor is also a button, adding even more gesture possibilities

The sensor — or the area around it — is also a button, adding even more possibilities. Though it does not replace the home button, double-pressing the the so-called Smart Key can be configured to open the camera app, or quickly turn on the flashlight. It all has the potential to become a bit complicated, and therefore a burden, but Honor has wisely made all of these features opt-in.

On the phone's bottom, you'll find a USB Type-C port flanked by a headphone jack and single speaker port. The speaker is, like most in its class, adequate but underwhelming, and doesn't come close to matching the front-facing stereo prowess of the ZTE Axon 7 or HTC 10. But this is also a very thin, minimal phone, and there wouldn't have been space on the face to sandwich in such hardware.

Longtime fans of the Honor series will be happy to know that the top of the phone features an IR blaster that pairs with the popular Smart Controller app. I was able to get my Yamaha receiver and Samsung television configured in about five minutes.

Honor 8 Software

In the past, you couldn't talk about Huawei or Honor without mentioning the divisive and often-frustrating software experience. While there are elements of that legacy on the EMUI 4.1 software of the Honor 8, most of the biggest issues have been corrected, including the garish and unusable icon sets that gave previous versions of the so-called Emotion UI a cartoonish feeling.

This launcher is a far cry from what you'll find on practically any Android phone shipping today

That's not to say Honor has rid itself of all its excess; as mentioned previously, there are plenty of settings and modes to tweak and toggle to make the phone feel decidedly yours, and the phone's launcher and notification shade constantly remind you that you're living a world away from Nexus, or even Samsung.

Specifically, the launcher has no app drawer, resembling — nay, mimicking — the iPhone homescreen. Sure, the home screens support widgets, but this is a far cry from what you'll find on practically any Android phone shipping today. That's fine, and easy enough to work around with a third-party launcher, but the notification shade is considerably more difficult to overlook, and forgive.

Honor heavily customizes the way notifications function, pinging you with requests to allow new apps to send notifications and a system to punish apps that use too much energy. It's certainly not unusable, and I quickly grew used to its idiosyncrasies, but it's something to keep in mind when buying this phone, and any handset from the Chinese manufacturer.

Honor has also bundled a number of apps, including Shazam and News Republic, along with a bevy of first-party utilities that, while useful, were quickly relegated to a folder (another reality it shares with the iPhone). Huawei is in the Samsung-circa-2014 era of app design, still determined to give its apps a unique visual flair, with no accordance to Google's Material Design guidelines. Its SMS app, for instance, has no onscreen back button, forcing you to use the titular navigation key — not a huge problem, but outside the bounds of a well-designed Android app.

Honor 8 software

I can't, and won't, bang on this drum too hard, and though I still take issue with some aspects of it, I quickly grew to enjoy using the Honor 8's software, quirks and all. And while this is my first real experience with EMUI, I understand from others that this is as clean, thoughtful and performant as it's ever been. Thank goodness for that.

Honor 8 Camera

The Honor 8 has a unique dual-camera setup, borrowed from the P9 (though without the price-inflating Leica branding): a 12MP color sensor, and an identical monochrome equivalent. Together, they are meant to create sharper, more vibrant photos, with better results in low light, even without optical image stabilization. While the daylight results are some of the best I've seen, the phone's lack of physical stabilization does impact its after-hours capabilities, though not as badly as devices with only one sensor.

The dual lenses are tack-sharp and focus instantly, buoyed by a camera app that makes capturing great photos easy

The f/2.2 lens(es) are tack-sharp and focus instantly, buoyed by a camera app that makes capturing great photos easy. Another benefit of the second sensor is the now-rote addition of manual refocus, since the second sensor captures depth information when the accompanying feature is enabled. As with rival Samsung there is no shortage of image modes, from Pro photo to Panorama to the aptly-named "Good food," which didn't seem to make my quick lunch of nachos and salsa any more photogenic. Like the Galaxy Note 7, this camera app is gesture-friendly — though it's a little sensitive, which means even the slightest of horizontal or vertical flourishes will activate one of the many menus or mode selectors.

While the Honor 8 lacks 4K video capture, it can do 1080p at 120fps, which is good enough for my internet sharing abilities. More than that, though, the phone manages to do a great job capturing beautiful photos in almost any condition.

Honor 8 Final Thoughts

I didn't expect to be as impressed by the Honor 8 as I am. While I haven't been able to do sufficient battery testing to determine whether the 3000mAh battery lives up to the competition, the phone has shown promise, refusing to drop below 20% in any of the days I've used the phone.

More than that, the Honor 8 consistently performs well, has a great screen, and captures fantastic photos, at a price that is sure to be significantly lower than the phone it is gunning for — the Galaxy S7.

It may not have the carrier support of its South Korean counterparts, but if this first salvo is any indication, and the price of previous Honor flagships a factor, it's going to do very well when it debuts at Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg, B&H Photo, and Honor's online store in early September.

See at Honor

Honor 8

Honor 8

Amazon HonorBest BuyNeweggB&H

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1 week ago

Honor 8 specs

15

The Honor 8 is here, and it's fantastic.

A compact phone with plenty of great specs, including a Kirin 950 SoC and 4GB of RAM, the Honor 8 is powerhouse starting at $399. Coming in either 32GB or 64GB variants, the phone arrives with dual 12MP cameras, an ultra-fast rear fingerprint sensor, and plenty of software customizations through Huawei's EMUI 4.1 running Android 6.0.

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1 week ago

Intel all set to build 10nm ARM SoCs, starting with LG

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Intel is finally starting to flex its fab muscle.

Intel has failed to make a mark in the mobile SoC market with its Atom lineup of processors, but the chip vendor has announced plans to manufacture ARM-based designs on its 10nm FinFET manufacturing process. Intel also said that it will partner with LG to fabricate a "world-class mobile platform" based on the 10nm node.

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1 week ago

Enter this giveaway for a free Note 7 from Android Central!

188

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review is out, and the phone will be available to purchase starting August 19. This phone offers some new features and a freshly refined design. More internal storage, an improved S Pen, some fresh software and the oft-rumored iris scanner allow the Note 7 to differentiate itself from the Galaxy Note 5.

We know many of you are anxious to get your hands on this phone, and we're here to help! One of you will be taking home a FREE Galaxy Note 7 at the end of this contest. Read on for all the details.

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1 week ago

How to set up and use Google Duo

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Do you duo?

A simple cross-platform mobile video chat that actually works!

Duo is Google's latest foray into video calling, and rather than basing it on your Google account or your email, it's tied to your phone number, making it easier for you to chat with the contacts that are already in your phone. Google launched Duo on Google Play and on iOS so you can chat with friends on Android and Apple. The keyword for Duo is simplicity, and here's how simple the app is to use.

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1 week ago

With phones like this, who needs a tablet? Watch MrMobile's Galaxy Note 7 review!

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The first Galaxy Note was a remarkable smartphone when it hit store shelves in 2011. It was the first widely-adopted mobile to offer an oversized display, the first to give the stylus a proper resurrection, and the first to prove that marketing an overpowered "phablet" to hardcore users could also pay off in the mainstream.

With the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung steers the Note family even further toward those everyday users: it boasts a gorgeous design, water resistance, a streamlined S Pen experience – and it brings back the MicroSD card whose absence on the Note 5 cost Samsung some consumer goodwill. But in an age of solid $399 flagships, does the Galaxy Note 7 bring enough to justify its $850 price tag? Watch MrMobile's Galaxy Note 7 review to find out!

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img { width: 100%; height: auto; } .devicebox ul { display: table; margin: 0 0 10px; width: 100%; } .devicebox ul li { background: #f7f7f7; margin: 2px 0; padding: 4px 15px; } .devicebox ul li:hover { background: #fff; } .devicebox ul li:before { display: none; } .devicebox p ~ p { line-height: 1.25; } .devicebox p:first-of-type + p { padding: 15px; } .devicebox a.buy-link { border-radius: 5px; display: inline-block; font: 14px/31px "Proxima Nova Extrabld",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; text-align: center; } .devicebox a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:link, .devicebox a.buy-link:active, .devicebox a.buy-link:visited { background: #37B5D7; color: #FFF; } .devicebox a.buy-link:hover { background: #2694B2; text-decoration: none; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { content: "\e61e"; font: 40px/0 "ac_iconset" !important; margin: 0 3px 0 -8px; vertical-align: middle; } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { /* div:not(.columns-3) excludes help menu content */ .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p img, .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 660px) { .devicebox h3 { text-align: center; } .devicebox ul, .devicebox p { display: block; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox p img, .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 661px), all and (max-width: 500px) { /* 2x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(even) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:last-of-type:nth-of-type(odd) { width: 100%; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 659px) and (min-width: 501px) { /* 3x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(100%/3 - 10px/3); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(3n):not(:nth-last-of-type(2)) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:only-child { width: 100%; margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(odd) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 500px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } .page-admin .devicebox {max-width: 350px;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe {position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

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