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Add a thin case to your Nexus 5X for just $5 today

Not a huge fan of cases but want a thin layer of protection for your Nexus 5X? If so, look no further than Amzer’s Pudding TPU case for an extra layer of safety and grip for your phone, all for just $5 today!

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16 hours ago

6 things I learned traveling with the Galaxy S8+

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Galaxy S8 travel

Travel revelations from Samsung's super-tall, super-specced flagship.

It takes time to get to know a new phone and understand all of its various quirks, strengths and foibles. Traveling with a device can rapidly accelerate that process, though. Nothing pushes a phone to its limits like juggling airport navigation, boarding passes and in-flight antics — and that's before you start on however much work or play awaits you at the other end.

That's exactly what I've been doing for the past couple of weeks, first taking my Samsung Galaxy S8+ to San Francisco, then on to Google I/O in Mountain View and back, before hopping on another plane a couple days later to Computex show in Taipei, Taiwan — from where I write this article.

After spending entirely too much time taking the S8+ on and off planes and across borders, I decided to share a few of the things I've learned...

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18 hours ago

It's time for a holiday weekend comments thread!

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Sit back, relax and chat about stuff because it's the weekend!

Another week is in the can, and we have a three day weekend to quietly reflect and rest so we're ready for Tuesday to come. Just kidding. Weekends are for fun!

You jelly?

What started as a quiet week (everyone was recuperating from Google I/O) quickly morphed into something with good news for Canada about Android Pay, more teasers from Andy Rubin, and a beautiful shiny HTC U11 that nobody is going to buy because Samsung didn't make it. You know it's true, don't hate.

So, yeah, Even a slow week in the Android world has a bunch of cool stuff. But that's all done and in this thread, we only care about Memorial Day weekend stuff!

What are y'all doing this weekend? I'm stuck at home after some minor back surgery (I'm fine, just want to lay down again and take a bath. And glorious pain meds!) so I'm gonna do something really stupid cool. I'm gonna hack the ever-loving you-know-what out of the Jelly phone. I snagged it from Mr. Mobile at Google I/O and it's just begging to become the tiny king of all Androids. Or something. It's so tiny and different it must be done, or get broken in the process.

Creative Commons 3.0

Happy Memorial Day, and never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice and died while serving.

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19 hours ago

Best Watch Bands for Samsung Gear S2 Classic

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Best watch bands for Samsung Gear S2 classic

Class up your Samsung Gear S2 Classic with some great watch bands.

Updated May 2017: Added Moretek's great silicone band — perfect for fitness fanatics.

If you've bought or are looking into buying the Samsung Gear S2 Classic, then you're probably someone who enjoys the traditional watch look with some sweet tech under the hood.

We've rounded up the best watch bands for your Gear S2 Classic so that you can match your smartwatch to your personal taste and lifestyle.

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20 hours ago

Your FPS favorites on Android! [Best games from the AC community]

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We want to know what games you're playing!

Update May 27: In this week's roundup, we take a look at the FPS offerings on Android.

First-person shooters are a staple within the gaming world. We all love to play them no matter if you prefer to play with a keyboard and mouse or a gamepad in your hands. Whether you love Battlefield, Call of Duty, Doom or any of the other countless AAA titles, you can play them across all the major gaming platforms — except Android.

I guess that's fair, to a point — there's a clear divide in strategy between the mobile gaming industry space and the larger gaming industry. For example, a major console game will come out priced at $60, and then try to upsell you with DLC content or a "season pass". Mobile gamers aren't going to pay nearly that much for a game like that — even if the phones might be capable of offering a fairly similar experience at this point.

Instead, mobile game developers trend towards the free-to-play model wherein the real game is constantly vying for your attention with notifications and unlockable crates for weapon upgrades and in-game currency to collect.

Because of this, so many first-person shooters on mobile feel like the off-brand, hand-me-down versions of our PC favorites. Don't get me wrong, the games are still pretty good, and even derivative franchises like Modern Combat have really managed to build a substantial audience, and even treading into E-Sports territory.

But the freemium model taints the experience. They're just not quite the pure FPS experience (whatever you consider that to be), but we're free to play them on the go which rules so we love them all the same. Without further ado, here are the AC community's favorite first-person shooters.

Critical Ops

Critical Ops is still in Alpha phase so the only modes available are deathmatch and bomb defuse. But given this game is in early development and constantly being updated, it's going to be really good when it's finished.

It's kind of got that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare vibe to it, mixed with a healthy dose of CounterStrike to create a best-of-both-worlds scenario that offers great graphics and really solid controls.

Spencer Schenk recommended it in the comments, calling it "a skill based shooter that's basically a noble poppy of cargo done well" — which is some mix of slang I don't think I've come across before... but somehow sums it up quite well.

This game is really fun to play and hasn't yet gotten too bogged down by the free-to-play model, although all the pieces are there. Like I get how the whole system of opening crates or cases to unlock new guns is designed to give us that quick slot machine hit of endorphins — that rush to keep you coming back for more — but I'd much rather just pay some money outright to finally play a game unrestrained by these bizarre restrictions. A boy can dream.

Either way, Critical Ops is definitely a game to watch if you're into FPS on mobile.

Download: Critical Ops (Free w/IAPs)

Modern Strike Online

CounterStrike. In my circle of friends, CounterStrike was king. Unfortunately, I was always mostly a console gamer so any time I'd get a chance to play at a LAN party, I'd get my ass handed to me in short order.

That's why I consider Modern Strike to be the great equalizer. It's essentially a CounterStrike clone on a touchscreen, meaning the twitchy muscle memory from years of keyboard and mouse play don't factor in (although Bluetooth controller support would be amazing).

Modern Strike was mentioned by segag1 in the comments, who says he still plays it practically every day. I used to be a regular player but sort of burnt out on it as you do. 

Still, I consider Modern Strike to be my favorite FPS for Android. I gave it high praise and I stand by it. It's a fun game that offers a pure multiplayer experience exactly how you'd expect from CounterStrike. Stupid time-delayed chest openings aside, it's a great shooter for gaming on the go.

Download: Modern Strike Online (Free w/IAPs)

Pixel Gun 3D

Ok, so before Modern Strike, for me, there was Pixel Gun 3D. I hate to brag, but I was absolutely ruthless in this game, playing it religiously every day for months during college. There weren't any global leaderboards that I recall, but I would have been in the top 10 for sure.

I fell in love with it shortly after its initial release. Here was this great shooter with Minecraft-inspired graphics and great controls. Not only was there a full single-player campaign and survival mode, but robust multiplayer as well with great modes like Deadly Games, which mimicked the Hunger Games, where you all start in the middle with no weapons and a package in front of you. You all take off into the woods and proceed to hunt each other down one by one. Just EPIC. King of the Hill maps, Capture The Flag, Team Deathmatch… It felt really complete and I sunk a bunch of hours into it.

But that was just the beginning, apparently. The developers continued to flesh this game out with updates and new maps, and modes, and features, and skins and an in-app currency system and… it kind of lost itself. When I revisited the game a few months later (mobile game burnout is real), the game was still fun and popular but all the menus made things feel a bit cluttered and the new weapons and features felt like distractions from actually playing the game.

It's still worth checking out, but I'll always remember the Pixel Gun 3D glory days.

Download: Pixel Gun 3D (Free w/IAPs)

What are you playing?

We want to know what Android games you're playing — even if you're still addicted to Candy Crush or Clash of Clans. Let us know in the comments below or you can join the conversation in our recently revamped forums!

Submit your gaming reviews and opinions!

Android Gaming

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21 hours ago

Get a lifetime subscription to premium web development courses for $50

A career in web development is a career well-invested in today's marketplace. Many companies are moving to an entirely online business model, and if you're looking for job security, you'll want to get in on the development side if you're at all interested. Or maybe you're already a developer, but you have been for 20 years and haven't kept up with current technology and trends.

Use code MEMDAY15 for an extra 15% off! Learn more

Going back to school can be costly and probably isn't the most efficient way to use your time, especially if you're already in a full-time career. You need online courses that you can access from anywhere, at any time, on your own time. But those can be expensive as well, so where do you look?

Look no further than Android Central Digital Offers and this great deal on a SitePoint Premium Courses Lifetime Subscription. You'll gain access to over 80 ebooks, 70 courses, and 300 tutorials, covering everything from coding in CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and more to key coding frameworks and libraries, like jQuery, Node, TypeScript, and more. Typically you would get a lifetime subscription to all of this content for $49.99 but use the code MEMDAY15 for an additional 15% off, which lowers the price to $42.50. These courses and ebooks together generally retail for $450, but at iMore Digital Offers, you save over 90%.

The best part of this bundle is that new content is uploaded monthly, and you'll get unlimited downloads for all the ebooks, courses, and tutorials that come out. Learning all these new skills is imperative if you want to keep competitive in today's business world, so you'll also learn about Google Maps API and how to manipulate HTML5 video with JavaScript, as well as a host of other new techniques. And, of course, you'll be educated on the essentials, like WordPress, Git, project management, and more.

Use code MEMDAY15 and pay only $42.50! Learn more

If you want to stay relevant in the web development world, you need to update your skills and learn the latest techniques. Check out SitePoint Premium Courses, but don't check them out for $450. Check out a lifetime subscription at Android Central Digital Offers for $49.99 and don't forget to use coupon code MEMDAY15 at checkout for an additional 15% off!

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21 hours ago

Mophie Juicepack for Pixel XL: A beast of battery burden

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What do you get someone who has a nearly perfect phone? More battery life, of course.

Google's Pixel XL is a lot of things. It's the phone to have if you're into tinkering. It gets updates before any other phone. It's got a camera that's considered one of the best available today.

But battery life? That's not always been its strongest asset, even considering its 3,450mAh capacity.

For years, the Mophie Juicepack has been the go-to battery case. Mostly for the iPhone, but more recently for Samsung's Galaxy S line. And now, it's available for the Pixel XL.

What you need to know: This case will make the phone thicker. Longer. Heavier. It'll make the fingerprint sensor harder to get to.

And it'll increase battery capacity by more than 75%.

Notice I don't say "battery life." Actual usage time is one of those things that very much will vary from person to person, even with the extra 2,950mAh. But with that sort of increase, you know that you'll be running much longer than you would have otherwise. (And reminder that you gain wireless charging with this thing.)

The soft-touch coating on the case is exactly what we've come to expect over the years — just about perfect, if still prone to the oil from your fingers. The seam where the top half of the case meets the bottom is well out of the way and nicely matched in any event. And the case itself should do its usual protection job.

Oh, this doesn't feel like a Pixel XL anymore. There's nothing svelte about this phone when it's wearing a Juicepack. I'm now showing 9.75 ounces on the scale (up from the naked phone's 5.83 ounces). The flat back is demolished by what I want to describe as something more whale-like.

We've all seen these cases before. They're beasts.

See at Amazon

Modern Dad

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22 hours ago

OnePlus 5 rumor roundup

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Everything we know about the OnePlus 5.

Update May 26: This post has been updated with the latest rumors of what to expect with the OnePlus 5, including a front fingerprint sensor and a Snapdragon 835 chip.

OnePlus has had a pretty good year, what with the success of its OnePlus 3 and 3T phones and some massive overhauls internally that, against all odds, led to improvements to its Oxygen OS software, with more frequent updates.

Now we're seeing the first signs that a sequel is in the company's future and that OnePlus is skipping the "4" name altogether and readying flagship successor, the OnePlus 5. Here's everything we know so far.

What will it be called?

The one thing we know without a doubt is the phone's name: OnePlus confirmed to Android Central that its next phone will be called OnePlus 5. We've also seen a promotional photo (above) from the company's CEO, Pete Lau, teasing the name.

Why would OnePlus skip the OnePlus 4 name? Because in Chinese culture, the number four is considered bad luck when attached to a product — and besides, the OnePlus 3T is sort of a fourth OnePlus, so there's that angle, too.

When will it be available?

The OnePlus 5 will be available some time in the "early summer", according to the company, which confirmed that approximate timeframe to Android Central. Last year, the OnePlus 3 was unveiled on June 14, and we wouldn't be surprised to see the OnePlus 5 launched around the same time.

OnePlus, because it doesn't have much overhead, selling the majority of its devices through its e-commerce store, may put the OnePlus 5 on sale the same day it is announced, which would give its early adopters something to look forward to.

What are the specs?

The specs of the OnePlus 5 aren't clear just yet, but there are a few elements we know and a couple others, based on leaks, we can pretty accurately guess.

Here's what we know so far:

Category spec Operating System Oxygen OS based on Android 7.1.2 Display 5.5-inch AMOLED
2560x1440 pixel Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Adreno 540 GPU RAM 6GB LPDDR4 (8GB in some markets) Storage 64GB storage (128GB in some markets) Expandable No Rear Camera Dual 12MP camera sensors Front Camera TBD Audio 3.5 mm headphone Battery ~3600 mAh
Non-removable Charging USB-C
Dash Charge Water resistance TBD (probably not) Wireless charging TBD (probably not) Security Front fingerprint sensor Dimensions TBD Weight TBD

I wouldn't be so sure about an 8GB version for North America.

Breaking it down a little more, there are a few variables to keep in mind. We know that the phone will launch with a Snapdragon 835 processor, because of course it will — OnePlus' CEO even confirmed it. OnePlus has launched all four of its flagships with that year's canonical Qualcomm SoC, and this year will likely be no exception. The OnePlus 3 had 6GB of RAM, so you can expect that same number in the OnePlus 5; it also came standard with 64GB of internal storage, so you can expect that, too. I wouldn't put too much credence in the idea that it will ship with 128GB standard, nor that it will come with 8GB of RAM. We're not there yet, and OnePlus gains little from offering those in a base configuration.

We've heard that there may be an 8GB/128GB variant of the OnePlus 5 for China, specifically, which makes a lot of sense since that country is obsessed with maxing out what's possible in a phone, but I wouldn't count on it coming to North America. It's possible OnePlus will, instead, offer a 6GB/128GB or even a 6GB/256GB model in North America for $50 or so more.

On the screen front, we're hearing that OnePlus will keep its 5.5-inch display size and that, while the screen will do away with as much of the top and bottom bezels as possible, it will keep the front fingerprint sensor, and may also maintain the OnePlus 3 series' 1080p resolution. From a battery-saving perspective, it would make sense to keep the OnePlus 5 at 1080p, especially if the AMOLED panel used is of very high quality — even devices like the Huawei Mate 9 have fantastic screens despite relatively low pixel densities — but given that most competing phones have upgraded to 2560x1440 or an equivalent QHD resolution at various aspect ratios, it would make sense for OnePlus to do the same.

A dual camera setup on the OnePlus 5 could be its most exciting feature.

At either resolution, we'll likely see the OnePlus 5 support Google's Daydream VR platform, which will make for another popular handset in the category.

Finally, another big upgrade is to the battery. While the OnePlus 3T already saw an improved capacity, from 3,000mAh to 3,400mAh, the OnePlus 5 is expected to pack a 3,580 to 3,600mAh cell. That could translate, along with the more-efficient Snapdragon 835, to much better battery life.

What about performance?

Pete Lau, OnePlus' CEO said in a blog post that the phone will not only run a Snapdragon 835, the fastest chip on the market to date, but it will also be optimized for touch latency and RAM management, two areas where the OnePlus 3 and 3T were heavily criticized. He said this in a post on the company's forums:

But choosing the right components is only the first step. You also have to optimize performance to create the best user experience. When we began developing the OnePlus 5, we envisioned a smartphone with flawlessly smooth performance. To illustrate how we made it happen, we'd like to share a bit about our process.

One of the main areas we wanted to improve was touch latency. Our engineers tested why scrolling occasionally differed between phones. There wasn't a lot of precedent for them to work with – no benchmarks, no industry case studies to learn from. So we used a special high-speed camera to track screen movements and measure input speeds. As a result, apps respond quickly to your touch for a seamless user experience.

We also wanted to improve the overall feeling of smoothness. To achieve this, our engineers added a feature to OxygenOS to better manage the way your apps perform. The apps you use most are ready to go when you turn on the OnePlus 5. Apps you rarely use are deprioritized and kept from affecting performance.

That's really good news, considering that even now, after a few updates, the OnePlus 3 and 3T have excellent touch latency and, while still not great, much improved RAM management.

A few odds and ends

  • Despite rumors to the contrary, there's no reason to think that OnePlus will drop the headphone jack from this year's unit.
  • We haven't heard whether OnePlus will add waterproofing to this year's flagship, but the company would be doing itself a huge disservice by going another year without it.
  • Wireless charging? Not likely, especially if the metal design from the OnePlus 3 series shows up again, which we think it will.
  • There's no reason to think that the mute switch will disappear, given that it's become a sort-of OnePlus signature, and it has a lot of very loyal fans.
  • Dual speakers? Not this year.
  • Removable battery? gtfo

What will it look like?

As mentioned above, the OnePlus 5 is probably not going to look too different from its predecessor — don't expect the same jump that we saw from the OnePlus 2 to the OnePlus 3. Instead, you can be sure that OP is going to go out of its way to shrink the phone as much as possible without sacrificing usability. Front-facing fingerprint sensor? Definitely, but you'll probably also see space-savings elsewhere on the device.

You can probably take for granted that the popular Midnight Black color will make a return with the OnePlus 5, even though it may not be offered as a launch color.

So it will have a fingerprint sensor on the front?

Yep, the company's CEO confirmed as much to GizChina in an interview, which means that it will still likely have a 16:9 aspect ratio and optional capacitive buttons on the side.

Have you heard anything about the camera?

The camera on the OnePlus 5 is expected to be cameras. OnePlus is rumored to be adopting the popular dual camera trend, with two identical 12-megapixel rear sensors. It's unclear at this point whether the lenses will be of different focal lengths, but either way you can expect some cool camera tricks and an overall improved photo taking experience.

What would be cool is to see a OnePlus 5 with the same wide-angle lens as the LG G6, since I think a lot more people would be interested in that than the "telephoto" distance of something like the iPhone 7 Plus. An improved front-facing camera, likely with autofocus, is also in the cards.

We do know that OnePlus is teaming up with popular camera benchmark company, DxO, to optimize and "enhance" its cameras.

We're happy to announce that we have teamed up with DxO to enhance your photography experience with our upcoming flagship, the OnePlus 5. DxO is perhaps most well-known for creating the defining photography benchmark, the DxOMark. They've got years of imaging experience and expertise, both for professional cameras and for smartphones.

Working alongside DxO, we're confident the OnePlus 5 will be capable of capturing some of the clearest photos around.

What about the software?

Expect another iteration of Oxygen OS on the OnePlus 5, launched with a slightly updated version of what we currently have on the OnePlus 3 and 3T, running Android 7.1.2. The phone will launch long before Android O is public.

Oxygen OS has turned into quite the capable piece of Android software, and while it's unclear whether the OnePlus 5 will have any distinctive hardware elements that change up the software experience, what is clear is the company's desire to keep Android as simple and fast as possible, while relegating the gimmicks to the background.

What about software updates?

OnePlus doesn't have a great track record of maintaining updates for longer than a year or so — the OnePlus 2 still doesn't have Nougat despite a number of promises — but the OnePlus 3 and 3T are still getting regular updates well into their lifespans, and after a somewhat close call on a promise to get Android 7.0 by the end of 2016, the phones are now seeing new software regularly.

In other words, we don't know. Hopefully, OnePlus will keep the OnePlus 5 updated long into its lifespan, but we have more confidence in its ability to do just that than we did a year ago.

What will it cost?

Judging from the minor price bump between the OnePlus 3 and 3T, coupled with rising component costs throughout the world, the OnePlus 5 may cost somewhere between $449 and $469, which puts it creepingly close, but still far below, the flagships that it's competing against. At $399, the OnePlus 3 was a serious contender for "amazingly cheap"; at $439, the OnePlus 3T is just "inexpensive". A OnePlus 5 at $469 would be close to "Should I spend the extra money on another phone?" Still approachable, and maybe even affordable, but losing its pricing edge.

Color me impressed!

Oh right, colors! Almost forgot! OnePlus has teased four color options for the OnePlus 5, including black, red, gold and what looks to be a multi-colored gradient extravaganza. Fun!

Will I still be able to buy a OnePlus 3T for a little bit less?

Nope! The OnePlus 5 will completely replace the 3T, according to the company. Too bad, since we really like the OnePlus 3T and think it could be a great buy at $100 less than its current $439 price tag.

Anything else?

We'll have lots more on the OnePlus 5 when it's unveiled in "early summer," which is getting here sooner than later! In the meantime, check out our OnePlus 3T coverage and let us know what you want in OnePlus's new flagship!

OnePlus is doing everything right lately

OnePlus 3T and OnePlus 3

OnePlus Amazon

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1 day ago

Which phone are you using right now, and why? [Roundtable]

400

See what phones the people write about phones for a living are using.

A perk of working for Android Central is that you get to use a lot of different phones throughout the year. Of course, we all have a favorite that we keep going back to or never want to switch away from. In that respect, we're just regular smartphone users like everyone else!

With 2017 almost half finished, see which phones the AC staff is using and why. Then let us all know which phone does it for you in the comments!

Russell Holly

The smaller Galaxy S8 is for me, because I don't need that extra tall mess in my life right now.

I'm on the Galaxy S8 right now. The smaller one, since I don't need that extra tall mess in my life right now. The battery life is exactly what I need, the camera is exceptional, and while I'm not a big fan of disabling all the extra Samsung crud to get the experience I want, I found that process less tedious this time around. I love that I have wireless charging again, and once I found a "case" I liked for the phone it became the phone I reached for most often.

It's also a practical choice for work right now. The Galaxy S8 is soon to be the only Android phone with Gear VR and Daydream support, which means I can enjoy both and share those experiences with others. But if I'm honest, it's mostly because of the other stuff.

Jen Karner

I kinda fell in love with my Pixel XL back in December, and it's still my phone for the time being. Although, to be fair, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is definitely making me think that I might want to switch soon. The Pixel takes care of me in all the right ways, namely giving me access to Daydream, along with a great camera, and plenty of room for apps and games.

I've been in love with the Pixel XL since December.

I haven't had any issues with my Pixel XL, and so far it hasn't let me down. I take most of my photos using my phone so having a device with an excellent camera is always on my mind. The big pull for me is really being able to use Daydream View with it. I always want to be able to access the best in VR, and for the most part, my Pixel delivers on that. Until the Galaxy S8 gets that feature, too.

Ara Wagoner

Galaxy S8 and HTC 10 are how I roll.

I'd love to say that the Samsung Galaxy S8 is my daily driver right now… but I can't put my AT&T SIM card in it, so I am dual-dailying right now. I keep the S8 for apps, music, gaming, and pretty much everything I do that doesn't require my personal SIM, which is in my HTC 10. I switched from the Pixel back to the HTC 10 for some irking little reasons, but now that there's an OTA beta for O out, I might stick my SIM back in there and dual-daily the Pixel and S8 so that I can play around with that.

I've loved the S8 so far, I'm even starting to get used to that stupid fingerprint scanner placement. My biggest issue with the phone so far are the weird bugs it's been having with Google Play Music, but I don't hold that against the phone… yet. Battery life has been steady, BT and call audio has been consistent, the camera is excellent. If I could stick my SIM card in it, it'd be the only phone I carry. And until it is, I'm gonna carry it around anyway.

Daniel Bader

via GIPHY

I'm actually using a super secret phone that I won't be able to talk about until next week, but I really like it and I'm sure you will, too. Tease over.

Right before I switched, though, I was using the Galaxy S8+, which took over from the Galaxy S8 a few weeks back (yes, I have a problem). There are a few reasons I prefer the Plus, battery life aside: it feels like a small tablet, which means I have no issues at all watching TV shows, movies, and YouTube videos on the screen while traveling. I haven't touched a tablet since I began using it.

The Galaxy S8 does everything better than the competition.

Ultimately, though, after all the nitpicking and minor criticisms over fingerprint reader placement and usability concerns with the curved glass, the Galaxy S8+ is just a competent smartphone. It does most everything well, better than the competition. I tried returning to the LG G6 for a few days after using the S8+ and just couldn't; it felt somehow incomplete and flawed.

I am not impressed that the Galaxy S8 series shipped with Android 7.0, though: I'd have liked to see 7.1.1 at launch. And I don't think the camera is quite as good as it could have been given Samsung's previous year-over-year improvements. But every time I stop reviewing it and start using it, I realize how much I enjoy using the Galaxy S8+, and that's a pretty steep hill to climb for a guy that uses dozens of phones every year.

Andrew Martonik

I've been using the HTC U11 since Google I/O last week. It's an "amazing silver" model that is, unfortunately, a Taiwanese review unit (network bands don't all line up with the U.S.), but despite a couple missing radio bands I've been sticking with it anyway.

The HTC U11 nails all the basics and is fast.

After not really caring for the U Ultra earlier this year, I'm super happy with the U11 right now. The phone is beautiful and built with typical HTC solidity, and the company just continues to nail the basics like its build quality, buttons, haptics, fingerprint sensor, and speakers (no, I won't hear any more crying over not having the "old" BoomSound). The software is fast and responsive in a way that evokes memories of using the Pixel XL. And it turns out the camera is really good too.

The U Ultra's design feels a bit last-gen set next to the Galaxy S8 and LG G6, but that's not enough to put me off of a phone that's otherwise really great in daily use. I'll be sticking with it for a while.

Marc Lagace

I made the switch to the Galaxy S8 from the Pixel because new shiny things are awesome — though I'm tempted to switch back to the Google Pixel to check out the Android O beta. Samsung has sure made it tough to switch back to anything else, though, because the Galaxy S8 is the real deal. It's blazing fast, feels great to hold and the infinity display lives up to the hype.

The Galaxy S8 is the real deal.

Really, the only thing that's bothering me about using the Galaxy S8 is Bixby. I'd much prefer to use the superior Google Assistant, but I keep hitting the Bixby button on accident. I know there are apps and methods to remap the button, and Google Assistant is still accessible on the GS8, but I really fell in love with Google Assistant on the Pixel and really appreciate how Google built the Pixel's software around it.

Harish Jonnalagadda

I switched to the Xiaomi Mi 6 earlier this month, and I'm liking it a lot. The phone is a huge improvement over the Mi 5 in several areas, and the murdered-out black color option, in particular, looks great. With the Indian variant of the Galaxy S8 powered by the Exynos 8895, the Mi 6 is the first phone I've used that runs the Snapdragon 835. It definitely runs smoother than both the Mi 5 and Mi 5s, and the 128GB of storage gives me more than enough room to install all the apps I need.

My murdered-out black Xiaomi Mi 6 is my go to.

The dual camera setup is a welcome addition, but more importantly, the main 12MP camera is leagues better than the Mi 5. The software situation has also been improved, with the phone running an MIUI 8 build atop Android 7.1.1 Nougat. The main drawback with the Mi 6 is that it doesn't have a 3.5mm jack, but I recently picked up a Sony MDR-1000X, so its omission doesn't annoy me as much as it used to.

Florence Ion

I still haven't switched over from the Pixel XL, but why bother? This phone has carried me through many a trying time, as well many an International trip. This thing is the second-most reliable smartphone I've ever carried — the first was the HTC Incredible, which lasted me a whopping three years of use. How apropos, then, that the manufacturing brains behind the Pixel XL is HTC.

The Pixel XL is ready to go when I am.

Anyway, I know I'm kind of boring in my smartphone usage these days, but I've spent the last couple of years constantly switching back and forth between devices. And it's true that there are now more worthy Android-powered smartphones than ever, but when it comes to daily life, I just need something that's always ready to go when I am. Let's hope that Google's next smartphone release is just as reliable after eight months with it.

Jerry Hildenbrand

I'm using the BlackBerry KEYone. But because my "real" phone number is attached to Project Fi, I also keep my Pixel around. I'm just too busy lazy to port the number out and sign up for a new Fi number. That's like a lot of hassle and I'd have to do it because some of my people still (gasp) make phone calls. That's the number they have. It's cool tho, the Pixel is a really damn good phone too. #firstworldproblems

You had me at QWERTY.

I just really dig everything the KEYone has to offer. Disable all the BlackBerry stuff (I just don't use it and hate to try new things) and it's close enough to plain-jane Android that I know where everything is and there's nothing getting in my way that I don't want. My needs in a phone are simple, yet I'm pretty picky and they have to be met: The phone has to have the latest software patch and not do secret things in the background that connect to some server from the company that made it. That's hard to find, unfortunately, but the KEYone does it.

And that keyboard. I'm a sucker for a good keyboard.

Your turn

You probably have a phone in your hand reading this! Jump into the comments and let us all know which one, and why you love it.

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1 day ago

Best 360-Degree Cameras

21

Updated May 2017: The Samsung Gear 360 is finally available to purchase, making it our best 360-degree camera.

Best overall

Samsung Gear 360

Samsung Gear 360

See at Amazon

Not only is Samsung's latest 360-degree camera smaller, thinner, and lighter than it's predecessor, but it's also cheaper and faster! The Samsung Gear 360 is one of the easiest 360-degree cameras to use, making it possible for you to either quickly snap a photo with friends while holding it or remotely access the camera from an app loaded up with advanced features for capturing the best image.

Not only can you grab 15-megapixel spheres with lots of detail, but the video mode will capture in 4K at 30FPS with no problem. The bottom mount makes it easy to stick the camera on just about anything, and the unique microphone array in the camera makes capturing sound from every direction very easy.

Bottom line: For ease of use, price, and camera features the Gear 360 is the best consumer 360-degree camera you can buy.

One more thing: This camera also works well with the iPhone!

Why the Samsung Gear 360 is the best

Samsung Gear 360

What it really comes down to with this camera is convenience and price. The Gear 360 software is noticeably easier to use than just about all of the other camera apps out there. You have quick access to more features, editing images and video is easier, and there's a lot that can be done with exposure and white balance settings to make sure you get the perfect shot. Transferring images in large batches to your phone is easy as well and noticeably faster than most cameras.

As for price, the Gear 360 launched at nearly one third the price of the original 360-degree camera Samsung released last year. That's a considerable markdown when you consider how expensive a lot of these cameras are, and even though this camera doesn't have the highest megapixel count, the photos you get are fantastic.

Samsung's motivation for making this camera easy to get and easier to use is simple: more people making videos that can be enjoyed inside the Samsung Gear VR headset is great for that ecosystem. To that end, the Gear 360 is one of the best 360-degree camera experiences you can get today.

Best runner-up

Ricoh Theta S

Ricoh Theta S

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Ricoh has been making the best 360-degree cameras longer than most, and for this experience it all comes down to the stitching. The physical design of this camera puts the two sensors very close together, which makes it so the Ricoh software can stitch the two pieces together into the closest thing to a flawless sphere you can get from a consumer camera today. It's a fantastic camera, though its height makes using it for video when mounted to a moving surface a little less convenient.

Bottom line: This camera will give you some amazing pictures and is a lot of fun to use.

Best Value

Insta360 Air

Insta360 Air

See at Amazon

It may not have the highest resolution or the most convenient software, but Insta360 has two incredible features with the Air camera. First, it's the only USB-C 360-degree camera. This means it plugs directly into your phone with no need to ever worry about battery life or image transfer speeds. You just plug the camera in, flip your phone upside-down, and start shooting.

Second, this camera is the least expensive 360-degree camera worth buying by a long shot. The small profile and quick-launch software makes it convenient, but the price (around $130) really makes getting into 360-degree photography a lot more manageable for a lot of people.

Bottom line: If you want to give 360-degree photography a try, this is where you start.

Conclusion

There are a lot of great reasons to start exploring 360-degree photography. If you're looking for the best camera to really dive in and start having fun, get the Gear 360 from Samsung. If you're interested in the best sphere you can capture and love playing with settings to get the perfect shot, the Ricoh Theta S is what you want. If you're mostly looking to play and don't want to spend a bunch of money, get the Insta360 Air.

Best overall

Samsung Gear 360

Samsung Gear 360

See at Amazon

Not only is Samsung's latest 360-degree camera smaller, thinner, and lighter than it's predecessor, but it's also cheaper and faster! The Samsung Gear 360 is one of the easiest 360-degree cameras to use, making it possible for you to either quickly snap a photo with friends while holding it or remotely accessing the camera from an app loaded up with advanced features for capturing the best image.

Not only can you grab 15MP spheres with lots of detail, but the video mode will capture in 4K at 30FPS with no problem. The bottom mount makes it easy to stick the camera on just about anything, and the unique microphone array in the camera makes capturing sound from every direction very easy.

Bottom line: For ease of use, price, and camera features the Gear 360 is the best consumer 360-degree camera you can buy.

One more thing: This camera also works well on the iPhone!

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1 day ago

Aviate Launcher review: Smart, but not better

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Aviate Launcher

How's Aviate Launcher these days? Let's take a look!

Updated May 2017: Review updated to reflect the stability of the launcher and how it's aged over the last two years.

Aviate Launcher has garnered hype since it first debuted on Android, and after being acquired by Yahoo has actually seen steady improvement through updates. It's been awhile since we last examined it, and now it's time to take a fresh look and see how it works today.

Aviate aims to analyze how you use your phone to better surface information and apps that are relevant based on a variety of factors, taking the burden of customization away from you. But does it work? We're going to find out.

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1 day ago

The best tech deals that you don't want to miss out on

Our friends at Thrifter post some great deals every day, and here are the best ones available right now!

From mobile phones to general tech, home goods and much more, the team at Thrifter is scouring the web every single day to find the best deals. Whether something hits a new all-time low, gets discounted for just a limited time, or has a new coupon code available for it, you won't want to miss out any of them. If you want to know about the deals as soon as they are happening, you'll want to follow Thrifter on Twitter, and sign up for the newsletter, because missing out on a great deal stinks!

So, what are the best deals that you should be looking at right now? Well, let's take a look at them so you can see which ones are best for you!

Netgear Nighthawk AC1750 router - $89 (Normally $109)

Having a good router in your home can make all the difference in the speeds that your wireless network is delivering to your devices. You may think that a router is a router and that there is no need to pay a bunch of money to get a new one, but you'd be wrong. Netgear's Nighthawk AC1750 (R6700) is an extremely powerful, highly-rated dual-band Wi-Fi router, and right now you can pick one up for just $89 when clipping the on-page coupon. This is a $20 savings from its regular price.

See at Amazon

SanDisk 256GB Flash Drive - $34.99 (Normally $49.99)

If I didn't have a drawer filled with miscellaneous USB drives containing tiny bits of information from old college presentations to photos I've long-since forgotten about, I'd probably get this Cruzer Glide for $35. SanDisk is a reliable name for storage, and there's a lot you can do with 256GB that fits in your pocket. The $35 price matches its lowest price ever, and it has been selling above $50 for most of the year.

See at Amazon

Best Buy Memorial Day Sale

Memorial Day weekend often indicates the start of summer for many, and Best Buy is celebrating with 4 days of discounts. From smart lights to televisions, home security cameras to new computers, there are tons of deals here worth checking out. Many of the prices we are seeing bring items down to some of their lowest prices, and easily beat prices we are seeing from other retailers.

See at Best Buy

More great deals!

For even more great deals, and to see these discounts as they become available, be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!

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1 day ago

The great Virtual Reality buyer's guide

Pick the experience that best suits your needs.

Don't let this secret slip out, but there's actually no such thing as "the best VR headset" or "the best AR headset" right now! There are new things in hardware and software being built almost every week, and while it's easy to look at the newest or shiniest thing and slap a blue ribbon on it there's a lot more going on.

At the same time, there are a lot of folks eager to try VR or AR and want to know where to best spend money, and we're here to help. This guide contains all of the most compelling strengths for each of the headsets you can buy today, as well as links to our ultimate guide for getting the most out of those experiences.

Read more at VR Heads!

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1 day ago

Gifting on Google Play: What you need to know

3

I just want to send someone a gift card...and on Google Play, that just got a lot harder.

We've talked about how Google was missing the ability to gift content before, and there's a little good news on that front: you can now gift books through Google Play. Now there's a bit of bad news, too: you can't buy Google Play gift cards on the Google Play app anymore. If you want to add credit to your Google Play balance, you'll need to go hunt one down at a brick and mortar store or answer some Google Opinion Rewards.

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1 day ago

Nova Launcher Beta adds Android O style notification dots, but Dynamic Badges are better

19

Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges.

Notification badges have made huge strides on Nova Launcher in the last few months. We got Dynamic Badges to replace the hum-drum numeric badges back in March, and now, Nova is letting us downsize our badges and try out the more simplistic Android O-style dots in its latest beta update. And while I'm all for bringing the latest Android goodies to older versions, this is one bit of O-ey goodness I will be skipping.

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