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2 weeks ago

Evening brief: Samsung apologizes, Xperia X Compact ready for ROMs, and cows deserve privacy

20
Lloyd

All the news that's fit for your eyes to wrap up the week.

With the iPhone launching and it being a Friday, it was a relatively slow day in terms of Android news. The one funny bit that took over social media today was the BBC report of a cow having its face blurred by Google after being caught in a Street View scene — nice catch! (But seriously cows deserve privacy, too, right?)

In more on-topic news, LG teamed up with Boost Mobile to launch a small phone with a massive 4100 mAh battery, Sony's new Xperia X Compact was added to its AOSP program and SanDisk updated one of its most popular apps. In the ongoing Samsung Note 7 recall saga, we got an official apology for the incident from Tim Baxter, President of Samsung America. Here's all of the day's news!

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2 weeks ago

Best weather app for Android

238

Accuweather is a feature-rich simple to navigate weather app that has great support and incredibly detailed local data thanks to its weather station network.

Best overall

Accuweather

$2.99

Accuweather

See on Google Play

You might be using Accuweather right now on your Android, whether you know it or not. The longtime weather service powers the weather data on many apps and widgets, including those pre-loaded on many handsets by manufacturers. They use Accuweather for a reason: it's dependable and damn accurate.

And why should you use Accuweather? That accuracy here is combined with a clean, concise app that is easy to navigate and easy to understand.

Bottom-line: Accuweather is the forecasting brains behind many a weather app, but its own app is simple, stable, and gets the job done in style.

One more thing: Accuweather's Minutecast is a marvel and while it's easy to find and read on the main app, it's omitted from its Android Wear app, where it really would do the most good.

Why Accuweather is the best

AccuWeather is one of the more established weather sites out there today, and it has a sizable Android following not only because of a simple yet feature-rich app, but also because AccuWeather powers a plethora of widgets and third-party weather apps. AccuWeather's first-party app is a bright affair, with the simple white (or black) background broken up with big pictures, charts, and ads, though those can be removed by upgrading to AccuWeather Platinum.

The detailed charts for both hourly and daily temperatures also scored big, making it easy for users to judge coming conditions more quickly and easily than reading a slew of numbers. AccuWeather also has regional video forecasts a la The Weather Channel and support for Android Wear, putting the forecast and conditions on your wrist for your convenience.

Best for widget users

1Weather

$1.99

1Weather

See on Google Play

1Weather got a big update at the beginning of September, bringing the app at last to Material Design. 1Weather has always been a beautiful weather app, featuring one of the best dark themes we have encountered… but that dark theme is now broken up with Material Design's bland white cards. These cards aren't themeable like the rest of the app, as you can change the background theme, you can change the icon set from white to black, and you can theme the widgets a multitude of ways… but we can't switch the cards from white back to that beautiful black.

Functionally, there are very few flaws we've found in our extended use of 1Weather, and most of them can be attributed to the horizontal, tabbed layout 1Weather uses, such as the disconnect between reaching the map and interacting with it, as you have to tap an expand button before you can zoom or move the map. There are ads in 1Weather that can be removed with a one-time in-app purchase. It even has Android Wear support, though rather than an app it comes in the form of three-card notifications for current conditions and immediate forecast and one-card notifications for alerts, each with customized background images.

Bottom-line: 1Weather is a beautiful weather app with a layout to match, featuring the best weather widgets for anywhere in the world that isn't Walt Disney World.

One more thing: If you have a child that's interested in what the weather terms we often look at mean, 1Weather is an app that can help teach them a bit more about the weather. When you tap on any of the stats on the bottom of the main page, it will give you explanations of that term and some helpful hints as to what they mean — for instance, that when barometric pressure is dropping there's a good chance a storm is coming.

Best for visual weather

Yahoo Weather

Free

Yahoo Weather

See on Google Play

Yahoo takes the honor in this humble writer's eyes for being the prettiest weather app, but when it comes to weather apps, pretty can't be all it has. Yahoo Weather is powered by Weather Underground, so it's forecasts and data have the accuracy of its nationwide network of personal weather stations.

The background images for the app are pulled from Flickr, Yahoo's picture service, so if you're looking at picturesque locations like New York City or Walt Disney World, you're likely to get a new and beautiful image every time to go into the app. If you're in a more remote location, those pictures will be more generic. The layout for Yahoo Weather is nice if you like to check multiple locations quickly, as you scroll up and down for the data about one location, then scroll side to side to switch between locations.

Bottom-line: Beautiful and backed by WeatherUnderground's robust network of weather stations, Yahoo is a visual marvel and great for users looking to check weather in multiple places quickly.

One more thing: Yahoo doesn't allow you to get rid of ads, but there are at least not that many of them, with a single ad between the forecast and radar and then a list of Yahoo's many Android apps in the menu shade between your locations and settings.

Best Layout

Dark Sky

$2.99/year

Dark Sky

See on Google Play

Dark Sky is one of the most popular weather apps for ... that other platform ... and it finally came to Android earlier this year. Dark Sky's claim to fame is that its "hyperlocal" accuracy can tell you within minutes of when it's actually going to rain. In addition to that it's got your basic weather information — current temperature, highs and lows, what it actually feels like, etc. You also get precipitation information, windspeed, humidity and UV index.

You can get detailed information on the week ahead, hour by hour. A handy map feature shows you where the rain (and snow) is, worldwide, at any given time. And you've got a wealth of notification options, including a daily summary, next-hour precipitation, severe weather alerts, and custom alerts based off your own variables. Also, Dark Sky features a dedicated do-not-disturb mode so you won't be bothered in the middle of the night (but as someone living in Tornado Alley, I highly advise against it).

Bottom-line: Dark Sky is a bright, brainy weather app that can go beyond how the weather looks by the numbers and tell you how it feels.

One more thing: Dark Sky is free, but some of the more up-to-the-minute options will require a $2.99-a-year (that's $3 every 365 days) subscription. When the app launched on Android, this model drew quite a lot ire, but detailed weather information and a well-supported weather app all year for the price of a large cup of coffee is a bargain.

Best Simple App

The Weather Channel

Free

The Weather Channel

See on Google Play

The Weather Channel app has undergone some changes in recent times, and most of them have improved the app greatly. The layout is much slicker and simpler than before, having ditched its previous UI for one big, long continuous scroll.

As you scroll you get to more detailed information, like daily forecasts, radar, even social options and what the weather is like in some ski resorts. The Weather Channel is one of the most well known sources of forecast information on the planet, and their latest Android app takes out the complicated and makes it ultra simple to see what you need to see.

Bottom-line: The Weather Channel is one of the most recognized and trusted names in weather, and their app is simple without skimping on details.

One more thing: Like Yahoo, The Weather Channel has no paid/premium version to get rid of the ads. Unlike Yahoo, The Weather Channel slips in ad after ad as you scroll.

Best overall

Accuweather

$2.99

Accuweather

See on Google Play

You might be using Accuweather right now on your Android, whether you know it or not. The longtime weather service powers the weather data on many apps and widgets, including those pre-loaded on many handsets by manufacturers. They use Accuweather for a reason: it's dependable and damn accurate.

And why should you use Accuweather? That accuracy here is combined with a clean, concise app that is easy to navigate and easy to understand.

Bottom-line: Accuweather is the forecasting brains behind many a weather app, but its own app is simple, stable, and gets the job done in style.

One more thing: Accuweather's Minutecast is a marvel and while it's easy to find and read on the main app, it's omitted from its Android Wear app, where it really would do the most good.

*/

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2 weeks ago

Best free Android games of 2016

90
Best free Android games

Here's our roundup of the very best free Android games available in the Google Play Store right now.

Have some time to kill and only your trusty Android phone to keep you company? Take a gander at some of the most exciting, engaging, and free games that you can download from the Google Play Store. We have a healthy mix including shooters, puzzle games, racing, and lots more.

If you're itching for something new and you're able to stomach a few in-app purchase prompts, read on!

Ancestor

Ancestor

Ancestor is a fast-paced puzzler mixed with a side-scrolling action runner. You'll need sharp reflexes and quick thinking if you have any hopes of getting far in this game.

You play as a cloaked hero who must traverse dangerous lands filled with traps and enemies — all with the help of a mysterious orb that shoots lasers. Clear the path ahead by solving quick puzzles and shooting down enemies — including boss battles — as the game adapts to your skills and ups the difficulty as you go. It's a free game with in-app purchase available to customize your character and the laser orb, but you can also unlock all items by collecting the in-app currency during gameplay.

Download: Ancestor (Free, IAPs)

Pokémon Go

Pokemon GoPokemon GoPokemon Go

Pokémon Go Is easily the hottest and most hyped game of the year, so chances are you're already out there exploring your city and attempting to catch 'em all.

If you've been living under a rock, Pokémon Go is a game developed by Niantic that lets you find and catch Pokémon all around you using augmented-reality. It's based on the Ingress platform, Niantic's first breakthrough game (which, coincidentally, was previously featured on this very list), Pokémon Go is built on a nearly identical game engine. It forces you to get out and explore your neighborhood as you search for wild Pokémon to catch and PokéStops to stock up on crucial items like Pokéballs.

Once your trainer reaches Level 5, Gyms are opened up to you and you're able join one of three teams — Valor (red), Mystic (blue) or Instinct (yellow) — which is when the game really ramps up and turns into a truly social experience. Meet up with your friends and search for some rarer Pokémon, or team up to take down an enemy-controlled PokéGym.

Pokémon Go has quickly become a cultural phenomenon, so don't miss out!

Download: Pokémon Go (Free, IAPs)

Vainglory

VaingloryVainglory

Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games have been blowing up the PC gaming world recent years — think League of Legends or DOTA2. If you're looking for a quality MOBA game for your moble device, one game has risen to the top: Vainglory.

This game is the complete package, featuring all the frantic MOBA action fans of the genre have come to expect — jump into a quick match with random teammates and opponents, create your own party of friends and take on all comers, or chill offline and practise your strategies against bots. There are five hero classes featuring a total of 25 unique heroes to unlock, upgrade and take into battle. The touch controls are smooth and easy to pick up, so you'll be able to jump right into the heat of the battle instantly. As you fight your way down the lane, there's a significant upgrade system that branches out, allowing you to react and counter your enemies more effectively.

If you're new to the MOBA genre, no worries! After introducing you to the gameplay fundamentals on first launch, Vainglory also features the Academy, an extensive tutorial section that will help you bolster your skills and abilities in the game. There's also a ton of things to unlock, live events to participate in, and a bustling online community on Twitch, Jump in!

Vainglory is a free download in the Google Play Store with optional in-app purchases available.

Download: Vainglory (Free, IAPs)

Asphalt 8

Asphalt 8: Airborne is easily one of the top racing games on mobile right now. It skips all pretensions of realism and provides an over-the-top, high-octane experience with all the fixings. Players can work their way through career mode, can unlock new rides, can upgrade the ones they have, or can take the competition online in multiplayer. The usual race modes are there, plus a new Infected mode where players have to tag other racers before succumbing to an explosive virus.

The incredibly polished graphics and outstanding soundtrack make Asphalt 8 an adrenaline trip you won't soon forget.

Download: Asphalt 8: Airborne (Free, IAPs)

Disney Crossy Road

Disney Crossy RoadsDisney Crossy RoadsDisney Crossy Roads

If you've played the original Crossy Road, you know just how addictively fun it is dodging trains and traffic as a chicken or any of the other characters you were able to unlock. It became a huge hit for the developers at Hipster Whale, which lead to Disney Crossy Road.

All the free fun of Crossy Road is now available with your favorite Disney characters! From classics like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to the heroes from the latest Disney flick, "Zootopia" — they're all here! It's the perfect game for kids, but it's also tons of fun for anyone who appreciates Disney films, given all the little details they include with specific characters. It's fantastic!

Disney Crossy Road is the perfect pick-up-and-play casual game for all ages.

Download: Disney Crossy Road (Free, IAPs)

Hearthstone

Hearthstone is a free, turn-based card game that follows a familiar formula: players summon creature cards and cast spell cards based on the Warcraft universe in an effort to defeat online opponents. Every one of the nine heroes has their own unique special ability as well as a sizable batch of collectible and craftable cards. Casual online games, ranked matches, wacky weekly Tavern Brawls, and grueling Arena games appeal to varying levels of commitment.

Hearthstone is without a doubt the best free card game to come to Android to date.

Download: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (Free, IAPs)

Smash Hit

Smash Hit is a minimalist target practice game where players tap the screen to toss a marble and shatter glass obstacles. If you bump into something you lose marbles. Lose all your marbles and it's game over. Every section is littered with power-ups and fresh batches of marbles to keep you going. If you manage to keep hitting the marble refill crystals without missing, you can fire off two, three, or five marbles at once.

Though it's a simple, on-rails shooter, Smash Hit's polished physics make for a massively accessible and compelling experience.

Download: Smash Hit (Free, pro upgrade)

Alto's Adventure

Alto's AdventureAlto's Adventure

If you haven't checked out Alto's Adventure, what are you waiting for?

It's a beautiful game with simple controls and endless replayability. You play as Alto, who must snowboard down the side of a mountain to collect all of his runaway llamas, dodging boulders and jumping over chasms as he goes. You can pull off epic stunts, pick up power-ups, and work to complete challenges to level up. Sick of the challenges? Simply swipe over to Zen mode and just enjoy the endless relaxation of sliding down the mountainside.

It's definitely one of the best games released for Android in 2016, and best of all — it's FREE!

Download: Alto's Adventure (Free, IAPs)

Modern Combat 5

Modern Combat 5 offers some of the greatest shooting action you'll find on Android. Dive into an action-packed, single-player campaign, and once you're comfortable with the myriad of classes, weapons, and attachments, dive into a variety of multiplayer modes. Challenges invite players to really test their skill in short, specialized scenarios. For those that are really serious, Modern Combat 5 supports hardware controllers for the real FPS experience.

Modern Combat 5 is perfect for hardcore gamers.

Download: Modern Combat 5: Blackout (Free, IAPs)

Clash Royale

Clash RoyaleClash RoyaleClash Royale

If you've grown tired of Clash of Clans gameplay but still love the characters and world that the folks at Supercell have created, you should definitely check out Clash Royale. Unlock and upgrade troops, build your battle deck, and take on real-life opponents in real-time battles.

Join or create a clan and share cards and strategies with friends from around the world. You'll need to employ quick thinking and genuine strategy to win, so you'll be compelled to keep tweaking your decks by working in new cards. In-app purchases will be tempting and are essentially required to reach the upper echelons of the leaderboards, but there's still tons of fun to be had playing Clash Royale without spending a dime.

Download: Clash Royale (Free, IAPs)

Sky Force Reloaded

Sky Force ReloadedSky Force ReloadedSky Force Reloaded

Fans of vertical scrolling shoot-em-ups rejoice! The new Sky Force Reloaded is on Android and is better than ever!

Blast your way through nine action-packed missions as you take down enemies while dodging the attacks they send back your way. Collect stars and upgrade your ships as you try to earn all medals on each mission at each difficulty level. It's a well-polished game from a storied and celebrated franchise, making Sky Force Reloaded an absolute must-play.

Download: Sky Force Reloaded (Free, IAPs)

UltraFlow 2

UltraFlow 2UltraFlow2UltraFlow2

Looking for an extremely casual yet challenging game that you can pick up and play whenever you've got a few minutes to kill? UltraFlow 2 will fill that void nicely.

The gameplay mechanic is somewhere between shuffleboard and miniature golf, where your goal is to launch the puck to the goal with a limited number of bounces. As you advance through the game, the stages get more complex and puzzling, but there's no penalty for failure. You're free to play around and tweak your shot until you figure it out. It's a free game, with an in-app purchase to upgrade and remove ads. The ads aren't intrusive, and only pop up when you're moving onto a new section of levels. Plus, if you love UltraFlow 2, you can always double back and play the first UltraFlow which is also free.

Download: UltraFlow 2 (Free, IAPs)

Your favorite free Android games?

Nobody made us the Fun Police. Shout out in the comments with your favorite free Android games, as we're constantly on the lookout for the next great time-waster.

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2 weeks ago

Talking about everything Android adjacent

44

There's a lot more to Android than the OS.

The launch of the HTC G1 was significant for two reasons. First and foremost, this phone was weird because it was Google's effort "against" Apple and their iPhone and somehow it might actually compete well. Second, and in my mind the most important, Android was positioned from day one as a platform where third-party apps could be submitted and people could choose whatever apps they wanted. It took Apple a little while to catch on, but in the next revision of iOS they did.

Now, apps are everything and everything has an app. The second part of that sentence is significant, because it's a big part of what I am passionate about. Android phones are exciting to me because they are pocket-sized hubs to everything, and I'm going to spend a lot of time talking about that experience.

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2 weeks ago

Best Unlocked Phone

Best unlocked phones

When buying unlocked, our top pick doesn't change — the Galaxy S7 is still the best phone to buy.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7

See at Amazon

The Galaxy S7 is the complete package. All of the hardware features you could ask for, inside a beautifully designed metal-and-glass frame with a wonderful screen. There's something refreshing about the compact body on a 5.1-inch phone, and Samsung has executed it perfectly here, while also filling it with top-end internals.

Samsung's software gets better with every iteration, and everything you do with the phone just flies. The 12MP camera leads the industry, as does its display fingerprint sensor. Even though it's over six months old, the Galaxy S7 is still the pinnacle of Android right now.

Bottom line: The unlocked Galaxy S7 is expensive, but it's worth it.

One more thing: Even though it's unlocked, this Galaxy S7 does work on the U.S. carriers — yes, even Verizon.

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2 weeks ago

10 essential Chromebook keyboard shortcuts you need to know

10

Getting to know your Chromebook's keyboard can save time and make you more productive.

If you're one of those people who want to keep their hands on the keyboard when they're sitting in front of a computer — I know I am — then you need to check out the keyboard shortcuts built into your Chromebook.

There are over 100 different things you can do with the keys alone. You can access menus, start apps, switch between things, check your notifications and do just about anything you would ever need in the browser using a combination of the modifier keys (Control, Alt, and Shift) combined with other keys. Some of them you already know because they are universal across most things with a keyboard, like copying text with the Control + v key combo. Others you might not know — like switching languages with Control + Shift + spacebar. Even shortcuts you should never need to use, like Alt + Search for CAPS LOCK are there. Please be careful with caps lock.

Of course very few of us will memorize all the different things we can do through our Chromebook keyboard or which keys we need to press to do them. But I do have a few I use every day, and I think you'll benefit from knowing my top ten. Here they are, in no specific order.

  • See all the shortcuts with Control + Alt + / (see a full keyboard overlay with Control + Alt + ?)
  • Open the file manager with Alt + Shift + m
  • Launch an app from your shelf with Alt + 1 through 8
  • Open the browser menu with Alt + e
  • Snap open windows with Alt + [ (snap to the left side) and Alt + ] (snap to the right side)
  • Turn a word into a URL by typing it into the Ominbar then pressing Control + Enter
  • Move the cursor by the word instead of the letter in a text field with Control + right/left arrows (highlight each word as you move through them with Control + Shift + right/left arrow)
  • Open your notifications with Control + Alt + n
  • Switch tabs with Control + 1 through 8 (open the last tab on the right with Control + 9)
  • Reopen the last tab you closed with Control + Shift + T

Protip: If you use the same tab(s) day in and day out, drop it in the number one (furthest left) spot. I keep three tabs I always have open in positions one, two, and three. And none of them are Android Central because it stays at the very end at all times. With my pinky finger on the Control key, I can get to them without ever moving the cursor.

These are the ones I know by heart — my brain just can't hold any more of them in memory — my RAM is full. I know there are shortcuts for changing screen zoom (Control + and - because I just looked. Again.) but I can never remember them when I need them. Instead, I know Alt + e opens the menu where I can click the tiny button to do it. Thankfully, you can bookmark a page that has them all at Google's Chromebook Help center or just memorize the first one in my list.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who gets plenty of mileage from my keyboard. If you have any shortcuts you use every day, let us know in the comments!

Chromebooks

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2 weeks ago

Best Android Phone Under $100

It's possible to get a decent Android experience, even on a shoestring — and unsurprisingly Motorola dominates this field.

Best overall

Moto G Play (with ads)

See at Amazon

The Amazon-exclusive Moto G Play is a $150 phone reduced to $100. The catch? You'll get ads and offers from the retail giant on your lock screen, which may or may not be a deal-breaker depending on how you like to use your phone. (We've got a good breakdown of what it means here).

Otherwise, you're getting a decent entry-level Android phone for not a lot of money at all. The Moto G Play (a.k.a. Moto G4 Play) packs the same soft-touch polycarbonate body as its big brother, the Moto G4, and runs a Snapdragon 410 processor, which has plenty of power to run [Android 6.0 Marshmallow](/./marshmallow on a 5-inch 720p display. There's a reasonable 16GB of storage, expandable via microSD, and an 8-megapixel camera that handles the basics well.

Bottom line: Putting up with lock screen ads allows you to get a $150 phone for $100. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than you'd otherwise get for the cash.

One more thing: It's unlocked, so you can use it on any carrier of your choice. And if you know where to look, there are some places on the Internet that'll help you take care of those pesky ads.

Why the Moto G Play is best

Amazon plugs the price gap with offers on your lock screen.

With ads from Amazon, or without ads from Verizon, the Moto G Play gets you a great core Android experience — fast software, thanks to Motorola's hands-off approach towards customization, and decent specs all-round.

It's not the flashiest or showiest smartphone, with a relatively generic design, but you don't expect pizzaz when you're paying less than a Benjamin for a full-featured smartphone. Same deal with bonus features like water resistance and swappable backs, like you might get from last year's Moto G (third generation).

Instead, the Moto G Play is just a solid all-round phone for not a lot of cash.

Best ad-free

Moto E LTE

See at Amazon

The unlocked Moto E LTE can be used on any supported network, and doesn't come with any of the bloatware you'd expect from the U.S. carriers. And better still, it's only $81. It's powered by the same Snapdragon 410 chip that's inside the Moto G Play, however you do lose a few important features compared to that phone — a smaller 4.5-inch screen with a less impressive qHD (960x540) display. And there's only 8GB of storage, so an SD card will be an essential purchase.

Bottom line: You're getting less phone than a Moto G Play, but also at a lower price without bloatware, carrier locks or ads.

One more thing: You'll definitely want to snap up a microSD card.

Best on Verizon

Moto G Play Droid

See at Verizon

If you're settled on Verizon as your carrier of choice, you can get the Moto G Play (Droid) for $85 without the need to see any ads on your lock screen. Droid branding aside, this is the same phone as the Amazon version, just running on Verizon's network with the expected loadout of pre-installed bloatware apps. On paper it's close to last year's third-gen Moto G, with a Snapdragon 410 processor, a 5-inch 720p display and 16GB of storage.

The main trade-offs between last year's G: Lack of water resistance and a less spectacular camera. The Moto G Play is splash-resistant however, which means you won't need to worry about using it out in the rain.

Bottom line: Trading ads for bloatware gets you Moto's best super-cheap phone for less — if you're on Verizon.

One more thing: Don't expect software updates to be as quick as the unlocked version.

Best on AT&T

Samsung Galaxy Express Prime (GoPhone)

See at AT&T

In AT&T's GoPhone range, the somewhat ridiculously named Samsung Galaxy Express Prime stands out as offering the best bang for your buck. You'll get Android 6.0 Marshmallow and the latest version of Samsung's TouchWiz UI on a 5-inch 720p SuperAMOLED display, powered by Samsung's own Exynos quad-core processor. And an ample 2,600mAh battery should be enough to see you through the day.

The Galaxy Express Prime also looks a little more eye-catching than other devices in this range, appearing like a shrunken-down Galaxy S5. Other specs aren't the greatest — only 1.5GB of RAM and a mere 5-megapixel camera, but at least there's a reasonable 16GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD.

Bottom line: Probably the best Samsung phone you're gonna find for under a hundred bucks.

One more thing: Don't expect an update to Android Nougat anytime soon, if ever.

Best on T-Mobile

Samsung Galaxy On5

See at T-Mobile

A distant cousin of the AT&T Express Prime, T-Mobile's Galaxy On5 packs in the essentials for a good deal less than $100. Once again you're dealing with Samsung's own Exynos 3475 Quad processor and 1.5GB of RAM and a similar style of chassis.

The biggest difference is the network — if you're in a great location for T-Mobile coverage, you'll get largely the same experience as the AT&T GoPhone offering, only for less cash on a network that might suit you better.

Bottom line: The Galaxy On5 is about a year old at this point, but still a decent buy for the money.

One more thing: You'll need to buy a refill pack to get the On5 for this price, which nudges the price a little over $100 in total.

Best on Sprint

Virgin Mobile Moto G (third gen.)

See at Virgin Mobile

The third-generation Moto G is getting a bit long in the tooth, but it's still a fantastic budget phone, and for under $100 on Virgin Mobile, well worth considering. For starters, it's the only phone on this list boasting water resistance, and Motorola's swappable back covers let you easily add some flair to the device.

On the inside, you're looking at a Snapdragon 410 processor and 2GB of RAM, along with 16GB of storage — all standard entry-level stuff. The display is a passable but not spectacular 5-inch 720p panel, while around the back you've got a surprisingly good 13-megapixel shooter.

Storage-wise, there's 16GB internally, with the option to expand via microSD.

Bottom line: The Moto G has aged well, runs great on Marshmallow and is definitely worth a hundred bucks, even in late 2016.

One more thing: The Moto G is now more than a year old, so don't hold out for timely updates to future Android versions.

Conclusion

You'll need to put up with the occasional ad, but Amazon's offer of a Moto G Play for under $100 is really hard to beat.

Best overall

Moto G Play

See at Amazon

The Amazon-exclusive Moto G Play is a $150 phone reduced to $100. The catch? You'll get ads and offers from the retail giant on your lock screen, which may or may not be a deal-breaker depending on how you like to use your phone. (We've got a good breakdown of what it means here).

Otherwise, you're getting a decent entry-level Android phone for not a lot of money at all. The Moto G Play (a.k.a. Moto G4 Play) packs the same soft-touch polycarbonate body as its big brother, the Moto G4, and runs a Snapdragon 410 processor, which has plenty of power to run Android 6.0 Marshmallow on a 5-inch 720p display. There's a reasonable 16GB of storage, expandable via microSD, and an 8-megapixel camera that handles the basics well.

Bottom line: Putting up with lock screen ads allows you to get a $150 phone for $100. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than you'd otherwise get for the cash.

One more thing: It's unlocked, so you can use it on any carrier of your choice. And if you know where to look, there are some places on the Internet that'll help you take care of those pesky ads.

*/

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2 weeks ago

Wrath of Loki review: Stop Ragnarok before it's too late!

It's time to find the pieces to save the world.

When your father Odin comes to you and tells you that your brother Loki is on the warpath — you know, again — you don't argue. That's because when Loki is on the warpath, Ragnarok — aka the end of the world as we know it — is nigh. Let's face it, even the Norse gods don't want to see that go down. So it's up to you to stop the chaos, and make sure that humans can go on living their lives.

Read more at VR Heads!

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2 weeks ago

Best Heavy Duty Cases For OnePlus 3

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What are the best heavy duty cases for protecting your OnePlus 3?

The OnePlus 3 is a stylish and capable smartphone featuring a unibody design carved out of aluminum, with its AMOLED display protected by Gorilla Glass 4.

OnePlus offers a collection of stylish protective cases options when you purchase through their site. Alas, if you're feeling like it could use some added protection from drops and other accidental damage, there are rugged case options available to give you better peace of mind.

Otterbox OnePlus 3 case

Otterbox is one of the most trusted names in smartphone cases. Their case for the OnePlus 3 is featured prominently right on the OnePlus website, which should tell you that the manufacturers themselves trust this case to keep your device protected.

Featuring a hard shell outer layer to defends against drops and scratches and a coupled with a shock-absorbing silicone layer designed to stay snug to your phone. All this comes in a slim package that doesn't add too much bulk to your phone, and available in three color schemes — Dark Matter, Saharan White and Cardinal Red.

See at OnePlus


Spigen Rugged Armor

Looking for a rugged case that doesn't sacrifice your phone's sleek design too much? Look no further than the Spigen Rugged Armor case.

This one-piece case is made of flexible TPU, and features a spider-web pattern on the inside that helps distribute the shock from drops along the entirety of the case. There's raised lips to protect the screen and back camera, Spigen's air cushion technology in the corners, and a glossy finish with carbon fiber features on the back to complete this stylish, protective case.

See at Amazon


TUDIA Ultra Tough Hybrid

Looking for a case that provides full protection from all angles? The TUDIA Ultra Tough Hybrid case will keep your OnePlus 3 protected from front to back.

It features a polycarbonate outer shell — available in four colors — with an inner sleeve made of TPU to protect against the shock from drops. along with a polycarbonate front plate with a built-in protector to keep your screen free from scratches. This also means that your tempered glass protector won't fit with this case, but unlike other cases that have this issue, at least TUDIA provides its own layer. Rounding out the protection are covers for the charging port and headphone jack to keep out dust and pocket lint.

See at Amazon


OEAGO Tough Rugged Protective Case

The OEAGO Tough Rugged Protective Case is the most rugged-looking case on this list by far. The soft TUP inner sleeve helps with shock absorption, and is covered by a polycarbonate shell, featuring a tactile gridwork to help you maintain a good grip on your phone at all times. The outer shell also features a built-in kickstand, which is convenient for hands-free movie watching, and the inner shell is available in eight different colors so you can find the one to fit your style.

Best part? It's currently available for under $10. You can't beat that value!

See at Amazon


Tell us your favorite!

How do you keep your OnePlus 3 protected? Got a case recommendation that didn't make our list? Let us know in the comments below!

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2 weeks ago

Digital Offers: Secure your internet connection for $79

15
PureVPN lifetime subscription

How secure is your internet connection? When you're travelling or using a public network, can you guarantee that your private information will be safe from hackers and other sketchy types? Most of us jump onto public networks and never stop to think about the access we might be granting to total strangers. That includes not only your passwords, but your messages and photos, too. Add to that the fact that, depending on where you're travelling, public networks may not even allow you full access to the internet you're used to; blocking certain sites isn't uncommon. How are you supposed to keep up and stay safe when you're travelling, or even just out and about in your own city, when you're spending all of your time worrying and getting frustrated?

What you need is a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. It allows you to become the authorized user of a network that is encrypted, meaning your data remains safer than if you just use a regular public Wi-Fi network. PureVPN is a trusted provider, with well over one million users worldwide, giving you a secure network connection even when your only choice is a public network.

You can get a lifetime subscription to PureVPN through Android Central Digital Offers for just $79, which is 86% off the original price of $597! PureVPN is supported by over 500 servers in 141 countries, so whether you're overseas on business or just down the street from your place, you'll have a secure internet connection and access to everything you need. Your subscription:

  • Keeps your web history completely out of view of potential hackers, protecting your passwords and usernames from becoming public information
  • Is ideal for travel in places where you may find sites have been blocked for some reason; you can now work around those blocks and get access to the sites you need
  • Is compatible with nearly any Smart device you may use at home or when you're away. The subscription also includes five multi logins so that you can access a server from multiple devices at once
  • Includes unlimited data transfer so you can download, browse, stream, and share as much as you like
  • Prevents unauthorized access to your messages, photos, videos, and more

Lifetime subscriptions to anything are expensive, but right now you can get one for PureVPN for 86% off and never have to worry about secure networks or internet roadblocks again. Get yours now!

See at Android Central Digital Offers

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2 weeks ago

Which color Honor 8 should you get?

24
Which color Honor 8 should you get?

Which color Honor 8 should I buy? There are so many to choose from!

Pearl white, midnight black, sapphire blue, and sunrise gold. Which one, which one?! It's always hard to make the decision, especially when you're going to have to look at the Honor 8 every five minutes for the next year or two.

We know that the color you choose often comes down to personal preference, but we've got some tips that might help those of you still struggling to make a choice.

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2 weeks ago

Morning brief: Moto G4 Play now up for sale in the U.S., and the boys are back!

4

What could possibly go wrong?

Welcome to Fridays with Android Central. People all around the world are eagerly waiting in line to buy a phone that's already sold out, Samsung is continuing to do all it can to get customers to turn in their defective Note 7s, and the budget Moto G4 Play is now up for sale in the U.S.

But more importantly, The Grand Tour is kicking off on November 18. The show will feature fast cars, a lot of swearing, and three middle-aged men making their transition from mucking around in a studio to having fun in giant tents. And with that, it's time to do the news.

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2 weeks ago

Putting Linux on your Chromebook is easier than you think (and totally worth it!)

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If you need to use those productivity programs that Chrome OS just doesn't offer, or you just want to try something new, Linux on your Chromebook has you covered.

You've may have seen chatter on the internet about installing Linux on your Chromebook. Plenty of longtime Chrome OS users are doing it, and it allows the use of programs like GIMP (a Photoshop replacement), or Darktable, (a Lightroom alternative) as well as plenty of programs for video and audio editing. It's a way to use your Chromebook for the few power-user features you might need. It's also completely free and easier than you think.

Let's walk through an easy setup that keeps Chrome OS and is able to run Ubuntu with the Xfce desktop and any applications you might need. You'll be able to run both operating systems at once with a shared Downloads folder, a shared clipboard and web links opening in the Chrome browser you're already familiar with. You can even run them side by side in a split window.

And yes, it really is as cool as it sounds.

Getting started

Before you try anything we're talking about here, you need to do two things: back up all your user files to Google Drive, and have a Chrome OS restore image ready just in case. We're going to be unlocking developer mode and starting with a clean and current Chrome OS install. There's no way around that. The first time you unlock developer mode your Chromebook is Powerwashed and everything is erased. And whenever you're doing something like this there is always a chance that you'll need to reinstall Chrome from scratch with the restore image. Don't worry, none of this is difficult.

Get everything you need ready before you start so you're not stuck looking for it if things go wrong.

You'll need to search Google to find the exact instructions to unlock developer mode for your Chromebook. On some models, you'll need to toggle an actual switch, and on others it is done through the standard recovery software. If you're using a Pixel, for example, you press and hold the Escape and Refresh keys, then hold the power button until the system shuts off and the keyboard backlight comes on to enter recovery mode. On some older Samsung Chromebooks, you'll need to find a switch next to the SD card slot and flip it, then reboot. Everything you need to know is a web search away.

The same goes for grabbing a restore image. You'll find full instructions on where to download one and how to write it to an SD card or thumb drive. Don't skip this step — especially if you don't have another computer to use. The process is simple and it's always nice to have everything you need to factory flash your Chromebook on hand.

Once you're unlocked and prepared in case you need to start from scratch, we can start copying some files.

Crouton

No, not the breadcrumb kind of Crouton, the chroot kind from David Schneider, a Google hardware engineer who loves Chromebooks. Crouton is a script that you can run to automatically fetch all the bits and pieces you need, create an environment for them, and get everything working without doing it by hand.

Using the same principle that Android and Google Play are using to run on Chrome, you can install a full Linux desktop that runs in its own space yet is able to share your Chromebook's hardware. This isn't the only way to install Linux on your Chromebook, and nobody is saying it's the best way. But it is easy simple to uninstall or modify down the road. To get started, grab your Chromebook and download Crouton.

If you're not going to play Steam games, you can run Chrome and Ubuntu at the same time in separate windows.

For the next step you need to make a choice — are you going to install Steam and play games? We'll cover that with another how-to, but know that installing the full Steam client and installing any games your Chromebook meets the minimum requirements for is a thing. We're going to be using a Chrome extension called Crouton Integration (also from David Schneider) that works with the window manager to run your Linux desktop in a window while Chrome OS is still active. This allows you to share things like the clipboard and Downloads folder, as well as use Chrome itself to open web links and pages.

The only concern is that there are performance trade-offs when you're running something that taxes the GPU. For a program like GIMP, it's fine. For Rocket League or CS: Go, it's really not. If you're not going to install Steam, grab the extension from the link above and install it. We'll split out instructions anytime they're different.

Once you have Crouton downloaded, and the Crouton Integration extension installed if you need it, we can install Linux with just a few commands.

The Chrosh shell

This is Chrome OS's command line interface, and what you'll need to run the installer. Open one with by pressing Ctrl+Alt+T on your keyboard. A new tab will open with a text interface. Switch to it, and enter the command shell to change from the Chrosh (Chrome Shell) shell to a proper bash (Bourne Again Shell — a command interpreter that's universal across Linux, BSD, and OS X) shell. The text will change to green and you're ready to run the install script.

  • If you are using the Crouton Integration extension, type the following and hit enter. Mind the spelling, spacing, and punctuation.

sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -t xiwi,xfce

  • If you're not going to use Crouton Integration, use the following instead:

sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -t xfce

Now, we wait. Crouton is creating a chroot environment, fetching the right software packages and extracting them to the right place. You'll have to interact with the shell tab a couple of times, but it halts at the right spot and waits for your input so you don't have to try and read all the scrolling text. Depending on your internet connection, this will take anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes.

When it's finished downloading and unpacking, you're ready to fire things up.

Starting your new desktop

Using the same shell you used above, type sudo startxfce4 and press the enter key. A few lines of text will scroll by, then you're switched to a new GUI. What you're seeing is a full install of Ubuntu (12.04 LTS at the time of this writing) with the Xfce desktop environment running. You'll use the username and password you set up earlier, and you can install any application the runs on Ubuntu and built for your processor architecture.

If you choose to integrate Crouton into Chrome, you might need a couple tips to get started.

The first time you launch Ubuntu, it might open full screen and prompt you to use the F11 key to switch back to a windowed view. Your Chromebook has no F11 key so you'll need to use a little trick to exit. Right-click on the desktop and add an internet shortcut. It can point to any website or local file, so that's not important. It will use Crouton Integration to switch back to Chrome OS to parse whatever URL you entered and minimize the Ubuntu window. You can then switch between Chrome and Ubuntu using the tray icon for Crouton Integration and Ubuntu will stay inside a bordered window with standard minimize, maximize and window keys.

A quick trick in case it happens again after you shut down — open the extensions page in the settings and scroll to the very bottom. Click the link titled Keyboard shortcuts and create one for Crouton Integration. You can use that shortcut to move to and from full screen.

If you didn't use Crouton Integration, none of this applies. When you start an Ubuntu session, Chrome is suspended and when you log out you're returned.

If you lose your mouse pointer the first time you start Ubuntu, don't panic. On some hardware, this is expected. Just press and hold the power button until you're at the login screen, and use Tab and Enter to shut down. When you reboot things are fine and it won't happen again.

Make it your own

Using these instructions you'll have a very basic setup. You'll probably want to customize it a bit. You can go through the settings and try them all, but there are a few things you will probably want to install to get started — a bash utility and the Ubuntu Software Center. To get both up and running, right-click on the desktop and open a terminal session from the menu. Type the following commands one line at a time, hit enter and let them finish before moving on.

sudo apt-get update

This synchronizes the internal package database with the online servers. Ubuntu uses packages to install software, and will automatically install everything you need to run a program when you install the program itself. The command line version is apt, and we want to update the package lists before we fetch any new software.

sudo apt-get install bash-completion ttf-ubuntu-font-family software-center synaptic

This installs a utility that lets you enter the first letter or letters of a location in the terminal, and use the Tab key to fill in the rest, as well as the fonts you'll need for the software store (otherwise some entries will have squares in place of letters) and the store itself. During the installation of the True Type fonts, you'll need to accept a license. Use the arrow keys to scroll the window, then tab key to choose an option and the enter key to accept.

Ubuntu has its own app store to install programs with just a click of the mouse.

Once finished, you'll find the Ubuntu Software Center in your apps list. That's Ubuntu's version of an app store where you can download just about any program available. If you're using a Chromebook with an Intel processor, there's nothing to do except look through it and grab the things you'll need. If you're using an ARM Chromebook, some of the programs aren't going to run — check the description and reviews to see if someone has mentioned it. If something you want isn't working for ARM processors, hit Google to find one that does. There a really good chance someone has compiled it for ARM because they wanted to use it, too.

You'll be told when updates to your operating system are available and can install them with the click of a button. You'll probably see a notice that a new version of Ubuntu is available to download. Don't just click yes and try it! Ubuntu 12.04 LTS isn't the newest version, but it is the best-supported version for most Chromebooks. Any and all critical updates and patches are available for 12.04, so there is no urgent need to try it. Google around a bit and see how newer versions work with your particular model before you jump in.

One last thing

Because your Chromebook is in Developer Mode, you'll need to hit Ctrl + D at the boot screen every time you start it. You'll also get a scary warning about security. Know that doing any of this makes your Chromebook less secure. It's still more secure than most other laptops, but you are giving someone with physical access another way to try to get in.

When you log out of Ubuntu you go back to Chrome. the tab with your shell session is still open, and to go back just type sudo startxfce4 again. When you shut down, you'll need to reopen a shell session tab (Ctrl+Alt+T) again, and switch to bash with the shell command. You can then start Ubuntu with the sudo startxfce4 command. The tab with the shell running will need to stay open while you're in Ubuntu.

All that's left now is to try it and see why the people "dual-booting" on their Chromebooks love it so much!

Chromebooks

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2 weeks ago

Fess up: Who's buying an iPhone 7 today?

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iPhone launch day yay magical give us your money sheeple

Spend a night in the rain to buy a smaller version of the phone you actually wanted.

For Android people, today is Friday — a good day, to be sure. Elsewhere though, it's iPhone launch day, a magical, revolutionary time that (usually) comes just once a year. It's the time of year when people camp outside a glowing retail cuboid only to be told the phone they actually want is out of stock. That's right: today is the first day actual humans, as opposed to weirdo tech bloggers, can get their hands on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

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2 weeks ago

Evening brief: Motorola fibs, Note 7 burns 92 times, and SwiftKey goes neural

39

"I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!"

I flew home from New York to Toronto this morning, and prior to the flight attendant warning everyone about seatbelts and emergency exits, they told us to "power down all Samsung Galaxy Note 7s." Like all infectious diseases, this one seems to be spreading quickly and widely before it can be contained, and Samsung, despite its best efforts, is having a tough time doing that. Obviously the implications for the company's reputation are unclear right now, but it wouldn't be unrealistic to say that this patient is going to take a long time to heal.

Speaking of healing, today was the first day I needed a sweatshirt in Toronto, which is both exciting and upsetting. Winter is coming, friends.

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