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1 week ago

Verizon's Galaxy S8 picks up update to fix red tint display issue

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Verizon is the latest carrier to roll out an update to fix the red tint issue on the Galaxy S8.

Verizon has started rolling out an update to the Galaxy S8 and S8+ that fixes the red tint display issue. After installing the update, you'll be able to fine-tune the colors by adjusting the display settings to eliminate the red tint.

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1 week ago

Xiaomi Redmi 4 is now live in India; prices start at ₹6,999

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The Redmi 4 is Xiaomi's latest entry-level phone in India.

At an event in New Delhi, Xiaomi launched the Redmi 4 in the Indian market. The phone will be sold exclusively on Amazon India, with the base variant selling for ₹6,999.

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1 week ago

Made in Taiwan: How HTC designs, manufactures and tests its new U11 flagship

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HTC design studio

A glimpse at all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into every single phone we use.

Leading up to the launch of the HTC U11, the company opened up its doors to show the amazing process that goes into making each flagship. I was lucky enough to be one of the journalists invited to see how it all comes together in Taipei, Taiwan. Through several buildings, offices, labs and production lines, I saw how HTC took the U11 from the early stages of design all the way to testing of individual components and finally assembly of individual phones that will soon be on store shelves.

From start to finish, it was an incredibly insightful experience.

Peering inside the design headquarters

HTC's Taipei headquarters serve as the principle area for research and design, and is responsible for so much of the iconic HTC hardware over the past decade. It is here where I was able to get a glimpse at the design labs that took the U11 from drawing to prototype and finally into production. The massive building is filled with sharp right angles, copious amounts of smooth white walls, and glass that lets the light flow in from the open atrium that runs the entire height of the building.

More: Read our HTC U11 preview

For all of its excellent design nuances, the U11 still feels connected to the HTC phones of old.

The design team works away in an open office environment, in which I had the opportunity to be enamored with tables full of exploded component views of the new U11 and unreleased HTC design prototypes. (A fun one, in particular, was a prototype from ~2009 with a slide-out game pad that looked similar to an HTC Legend.) All three phones in the U series have a distinct glass back that is a culmination of years of working with glass in this building — and that work shows with the entirely unique colors and feeling of depth you don't find in any other glass phone.

HTC is understandably proud of its hardware design (its design awards are prominently on display), which helps you understand a bit why it hasn't taken more wild risks in recent years. The HTC U11, for all of its excellent design nuances, still feels very connected to the HTC phones of the last five years. Even if you feel HTC's look as gotten stale, you can appreciate that continuity.

The testing that goes into individual components

Down the street from the headquarters, HTC has another building dedicated to finely tuning some of the individual components of the phones such as the speakers and cameras. Full departments for testing and developing audio equipment are here, including massive specialty anechoic chambers. The work here ranges from development of individual speaker hardware to tuning the experience of phone calls and headphones in a variety of simulated audio environments.

Testing individual components isn't glamorous, but it's immensely important.

Down the hall you'll find the camera lab, which beyond feeling extremely odd thanks to its black floor, black walls and blackout curtains (to mitigate glare) is an extremely important area to the fine tuning of the camera processing. Purpose-built machines test how the camera firmware interprets different lighting conditions, colors and real-world scenes, giving feedback on how engineers can tweak individual parts. HTC's camera engineers say their goal is to start with the base line of making the cameras reflect the real world as accurately as possible, then make slight adjustments sot he images continue to be appealing to the human eye.

More: HTC U11 specs

Apparently the work has paid off: HTC is touting that the U11's rear camera has the best-ever mobile DxOMark Mobile score of 90, one point higher than the Google Pixel. We'll have to see how it translates into the real world.

From components to completed phone in one building

About 45 minutes outside of Taipei, in Taoyuan City, HTC's manufacturing facility stands tall in dark glass and concrete surrounded by otherwise typical low-rise city buildings. Inside, I watched U11s being built — moving from sheets of individual components all the way to complete assembly and testing.

The primary components of the phones are assembled in one long line, primarily by automated machines controlled by just a handful of people. Sheets of processors, connectors, memory units and other tiny pieces are placed on main boards, which are originally attached in sets of four. After some careful placement, they're fed into a huge nitrogen reflow oven to effectively bake the components together so they're all soldered in place.

A series of custom-built robotic arms scour through the incoming flow of main boards, separating them and performing various tasks before handing the boards off to the next position. At the end of the line, taking just a handful of minutes per board, a near-complete internal assembly comes out.

Test, test and test again — the production line strives for perfection.

One floor up, the assembled internal components move to a distinctly more human-run line for final assembly. The production line is marked "OCN," coinciding with the "Ocean" codename for the U11. A couple dozen workers per line methodically piece together their selected components, while visually inspecting and scanning each one before placing it in the U11's frame. Several steps down the line, with the phones sealed, a "pre-test" section of the line tumble-tests every phone — placing the phone in a rubber protective case, it's tumbled in a machine 30 times over to test that internal components are securely attached. After completing the tumble test, their water resistance is tested with fine air jets. It is only after passing this pre-testing process that the phones go through a rigorous automated machine testing of the screen, ports, radios and cameras. The phones have the appropriate software flashed, and they're packaged.

One in 10 phones are selected for a completely new round of extra testing, in which a worker actually boots up the device, performing dozens of additional tests simulating real-world use. If a single flaw is found, the entire batch of phones surrounding it is removed from the line.

HTC U11

And then the HTC U11 is ready for you

A one-day tour of HTC's facilities is incredibly insightful, although it still dramatically sells short the amount of time and energy that has gone into the production of the U11. Production cycles for these phones typically last at least a year, meaning as the U11 is released to the world its successor is already under development.

But by seeing all of the individual pieces (figuratively and literally) coming together, you can appreciate the amazing amount of work that goes into making a modern smartphone that fulfills all of our needs and desires.

Ed. note: Due to tight restrictions on photography inside its production facilities, photos used in this article are all pre-approved by HTC for publication.

Our HTC U11 preview

Now that you've seen how the HTC U11 was made, you'll want to know how it all comes together. Be sure to read our full HTC U11 hands-on preview to see everything HTC's 2017 flagship has to offer.

Read our complete HTC U11 hands-on preview!

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1 week ago

HTC U11 coming to Sprint in U.S., also unlocked from Amazon and HTC

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HTC U11

HTC U11 in the U.S.: where, when and for how much.

HTC's relationships with the U.S. carriers have weakened, and with the launch of its 2017 flagship the U11 it has just one carrier on board. The HTC U11 is exclusive to Sprint at launch, going up for pre-order immediately online with a proper release on June 9. The pricing from Sprint is set at $0 down and $29 per month for two years, or a total price of $696. Sprint will be offering the U11 in black and blue colors, at least at launch.

Thankfully, you are only stuck going to Sprint if you want to buy the phone directly from your operator. HTC will also be selling the U11 unlocked on Amazon and HTC.com, continuing an excellent trend of selling directly to consumers who want to bypass the carriers. It's available immediately for pre-order from both storefronts for $649, with an additional color choice of silver alongside black and blue. Unlocked models don't have a specific shipping date, but we know they will ship in June.

See at Amazon

More: HTC U11 specs

The unlocked model won't necessarily support all of the niche carrier-specific network enhancements, but it is designed to be used on all four major U.S. carriers — just pop in your SIM and go. The U.S. unlocked model also has the advantage of not being loaded with any carrier-imposed software, and will theoretically be in a better position to receive software updates as a result.

Strongly consider just buying unlocked this time around.

No matter where you buy it, the U11 in the U.S. is the model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage — we won't have access to the relatively rare 6GB RAM / 128GB storage version. Details on the stunning red and white color models are a bit foggier: we know those colors won't be available in the U.S. at launch, but no information is available on whether they'll come stateside in the future or not.

If you do choose to go with Sprint, you'll get a nice little incentive when pre-ordering before June 8. Early pre-orders will receive two Amazon Echo Dots for free, presumably to promote the fact that the U11 will soon have Amazon Alexa built in as an assistant option. That's a nice $99 value for those who are already planning to stick with Sprint as their carrier.

HTC U11

Amazon Sprint HTC

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1 week ago

HTC U11 vs. LG G6 first comparison: Making up ground

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HTC U11 vs. LG G6

It takes serious work to get back into the flagship game in a meaningful way.

HTC has even less of a foothold in the flagship space than LG does, and the launch of the U11 is hoping to help propel HTC in similar ways to what the G6 has done for LG — picking up sales and improving after a lackluster 2016. For both phones, the way to get back on track is through doing all of the basics right, nailing the hardware and experience instead of reaching for gimmicks that end up hurting the message.

While their relative positions put them below the big leader Samsung in sales and mind share, the HTC U11 and LG G6 are actually quite comparable products. Here's how they line up.

Both phones focus on strength and heft rather than delicate design features.

Unlike the stark contrast in designs seen between the HTC U11 and Galaxy S8, the LG G6 feels more like a direct match for HTC's latest phone. The LG G6 of course has a distinct look with its relatively small bezels and 18:9 display, but the overall build feels of the same generation as the HTC U11. Both phones are unapologetically thick and robust, with metal frames that each feel strong rather than just looking svelte. The phones have a satisfying heft in the hand as a result, which plays into the feeling that both HTC and LG are focusing on strength and simplicity rather than design flair just for the sake of looking nice.

HTC's glass back is a cut above LG's typical color-coated glass. Not only does it offer a unique feeling of depth to the colors that help it stand out, but the way it wraps around the edges of the phone and meets the metal is exquisite. Flipping around to the front, though, HTC's larger bezels and capacitive navigation buttons feel set in the past compared to the LG G6. The displays themselves feel comparable in terms of quality, so it's really a personal preference on how you feel about the "standard" versus "tall" aspect ratio.

HTC takes the lead with a newer processor, but LG has a couple trump cards.

Launching a couple months later, HTC was able to get a newer Snapdragon 835 processor into the U11 compared to the last-gen 821 in the G6. Aside from that, the specs line up similarly — with LG taking the small advantage with a larger battery and of course retaining a headphone jack. Despite HTC doing very interesting things with its USB-C headphones and solid speakers, some people just won't get over the headphone jack omission. The cameras, too, line up similarly. The U11's 12MP with an f/1.7 lens matches up to the G6's 13MP and f/1.7 — there are slight differences in pixel size, but LG has proven to be getting really great quality out of its smaller pixels. Of course the G6 has the trump card of its wide-angle rear camera as well, which continues to go unmatched in the market.

The software styling differentiates these phones further, though again not as much as setting the U11 beside the Galaxy S8. LG has made a move toward simplicity and lowering the number of duplicate apps and services in the G6, and that's the track HTC has been on for a couple of years now. You can easily see that LG's overall interface design is a bit more heavy handed than HTC's, but neither phone hits you over the head with piles of excess features or software cruft. You could say HTC is living a bit in the past with its interface that hasn't changed substantially since 2015, but at the same time say that for all of LG's progress it has yet to catch up with modern software expectations. Pick your poison.

Moving on up

HTC and LG are both fighting similar battles trying to make up ground in the high-end space in 2017, and both the U11 and G6 are great devices to help them do just that. They each focus on having a solid phone with all of the proper internal specs, and just a couple of feature hooks to get people interested. LG has its dual cameras and small bezels, while the U11 offers better speakers, cleaner software and its unique "squeeze" functionality.

Both phones have considerable work to do to try and bring their respective companies back up to a high level in the flagship space, but the U11 and G6 each offer a compelling experience that make them worth considering in 2017.

HTC U11

Amazon Sprint HTC

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LG G6

Verizon Sprint T-Mobile AT&T B&H

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

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1 week ago

HTC U11 vs. Samsung Galaxy S8 first comparison: Market share matters

28
HTC U11 vs. Samsung Galaxy S8

It's tough to stand out in a market dominated by Samsung's latest flagship.

HTC's proper 2017 flagship, the U11, has arrived, and it hits the market just a few weeks after Samsung released its Galaxy S8. Though HTC is miles away from Samsung in terms of market share, it's attempting to make a flagship on the same level when it comes to specs, hardware, and experience.

In terms of overall dimensions, the HTC U11 lands in between the Galaxy S8 and S8+ but is a closer comparison to the smaller GS8 when it comes to screen area. We spent some quality time with both phones together to see how they stack up.

There are plenty of internal similarities between these phones, but the companies have taken distinctly different approaches to hardware. Samsung made big strides this year in shrinking bezels and moving to an extra-tall 18.5:9 display, but HTC is sticking with the old model of a 16:9 aspect ratio and rather large bezels all around. Even further, HTC's traditional capacitive keys and front-mounted fingerprint sensor are in stark contrast to Samsung's switch in 2017.

HTC's hardware execution is excellent, but the Galaxy S8 just feels futuristic.

HTC's design decisions feel a little antiquated in general, but doubly so when sat next to the sleek and futuristic Galaxy S8. On the other hand, there are clear advantages to having a fingerprint sensor that's right where you expect and a flat display with bezels that reduce accidental touches. The U11's 5.5-inch display is smaller diagonally than the Galaxy S8's, but because of its wider aspect ratio there's actually more display here — but combined with the larger bezels, the entire phone is larger to boot. That doesn't necessarily have large implications for actual use of the phone, but when you set the two together you do notice how dramatically narrower and easier to grip the Galaxy S8 is.

Size aside, the HTC U11's hardware is equally impressive as the Galaxy S8's. HTC's manufacturing quality continues to be excellent, and the back glass panel curves and flows more effortlessly than Samsung's with colors that catch your eye differently from all angles. You don't get the dramatic edge screen effect or the big sweeping metal curves of the GS8, but the U11 just feels so ... solid when you pick it up. There's some value in that.

In waiting to release the U11 well after the original U Ultra and U Play, it let HTC make some key component upgrades that help it be a proper competitor to the Galaxy S8. The Snapdragon 835 processor is of course one major improvement, but we're also looking at a different 12MP rear camera from the U Ultra that incorporates new phase detection auto focus and a fast f/1.7 lens. The rest of the specs line up identically to the Galaxy S8: 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 3000mAh battery and a QHD display resolution.

More: HTC U11 complete specs

HTC offers cleaner software ... but also, no headphone jack.

The one place Samsung is distinctly different here is with its inclusion of the 3.5 mm headset jack, which HTC has moved beyond. HTC includes some great USB-C headphones with the U11 that include active noise cancellation, as well as a USB-C to 3.5 mm adapter, but at this point this choice may still rub some people the wrong way. At the same time, HTC does offer a superior dual speaker setup on the U11 that can offer better sound at higher volumes than the Galaxy S8's single speaker.

HTC's software hasn't changed much in the past year (or two, if I think about it). On the upside, that means you're getting an extremely fast, smooth and generally bloat-free experience, with some light visual touches that nicely integrate into Google's Nougat software. But that also means some of HTC's apps are going to feel stale as you notice they're near identical to what you would've experienced on the last couple phones. The interface still feels consistent and everything looks fine, but it doesn't quite feel as modern as what other companies have on their latest phones.

Meanwhile Samsung has definitely pushed its interface into modern design expectations, and still offers a dramatically higher volume of apps and features so there's something here for everyone — even though that means it can be frustrating or overwhelming for those who want a simple and clean experience.

Fighting an uphill battle

In a high-end market so heavily dominated by Samsung, it's really tough for any phone to break out and take away sales. Despite the HTC U11 offering brilliant hardware and matching its internal specs, it's tough to pull ahead of the Galaxy S8. Phone buyers will have to be drawn to a few of the finer points in the U11's experience in order to choose it over Samsung — its brilliant colors, "traditional" dimensions and simpler software are its only real standout strengths compared to the Galaxy S8, while the lack of a headphone jack, wireless charging and strong brand recognition are hurting it.

It's not that the U11 is doing anything particularly wrong — and the phone overall seems to have what it takes to garner sales — but it doesn't necessarily have the standout features to grab the attention of average buyers who so often start with Samsung's latest phone as the default choice and work from there.

HTC U11

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Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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About

The Galaxy S8, and its larger sibling the S8+, are Samsung's top-end devices for 2017 meant to appeal to the general consumer and power user alike. The two phones are only differentiated by screen and battery size: 5.8 inches and 3000mAh, and 6.2 inches and 3500mAh.

The displays have a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio with a QHD+ resolution, meaning they're extra tall and narrow. Samsung moved to on-screen buttons and reduced bezel size dramatically in order to fit as much screen into the body as possible. That moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phones, where it sits somewhat-awkwardly next to the camera lens. Iris scanning makes its return in a new-and-improved version from the Note 7.

Though the batteries haven't increased in size from the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, the hope is that the improved efficiency of the new 10 nm processor inside will provide some help. The processor is backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Waterproofing and wireless charging are still here as well, plus a new USB-C port on the bottom. The rear camera is unchanged in terms of its 12MP sensor and f/1.7 lens, but has improved processing thanks to a new ISP and software.

Specs

Width Height Thickness 5.86 in
148.9 mm
2.68 in
68.1 mm
0.31 in
8 mm
5.47 oz
155g grams
  • Display:
    • 5.8-inch AMOLED display
    • 2960x1440 resolution
    • 18.5:9 aspect ratio
    • Dual-curve infinity display
  • Cameras:
    • 12MP ƒ/1.7 rear camera
    • Dual-pixel phase detection autofocus
    • 1.4-micron pixels
    • 8MP ƒ/1.7 front camera
  • Battery:
    • 3000 mAh battery
    • Non-removable
    • USB-C fast Charging
    • Qi + PMA wireless charging
  • Chips:
    • Snapdragon 835 processor
    • Samsung Exynos 8896 processor
      (varies by region)
    • 4GB RAM
    • 64GB internal storage
    • microSD card slot
    • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • GS8+
    • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    • 6.2-inch AMOLED display
    • 3500mAh battery
    • 6.28 in x 2.89 in x 0.32 in
      159.5mm x 73.4mm x 8.1mm
    • 6.10 oz / 73g

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1 week ago

HTC U11 preview: Shiny and squeezy

110
HTC U11

HTC's latest phone will try to convince you that squeezing is the next big thing in mobile. But beyond the quirky Edge Sense feature, the U11 dazzles with a shimmering metallic exterior and packs in all the power enthusiasts crave.

Unless you've already clawed your way to the top of the pile, standing out in the high-end smartphone market of 2017 is tough. These devices are commodities now, and making a phone — especially a high-end, high-priced phone — that's really different and better is more difficult than ever.

For an underdog like HTC, it's especially challenging. Last year the HTC 10 was praised for being a great all-rounder, but it didn't offer much besides the core formula of metal body + latest specs. Once upon a time, HTC had a near monopoly on high performance and great build quality in the Android space. The 10 served as a reminder of the extent to which the competition had caught up to, and in many cases, surpassed HTC.

There wasn't a great deal about the way the HTC 10 looked or what it did that was truly unique anymore. It did the same smartphone things as every other Android device, and it did them well, and that was about it. The foundations were solid, but relatively bare.

Forget the U Ultra and U Play — the is where the 'HTC U' brand story should have begun.

In its 20th anniversary year, HTC's new flagship is the U11, the name being a collision of old and new branding. Technically, it's the third member of the HTC U family, after the U Ultra and U Play — but honestly, forget those phones. The U11 is where the "U" brand story should have begun.

It's a phone with beautiful glass construction bathed in vibrant, shimmering colors — a leap beyond the relatively dull metal unibody of the HTC 10. On the inside, it has all the top-end specs and features you'd expect from a 2017 flagship, along with important improvements in HTC's own camera and audio tech.

See at Amazon

That's only part of it, though. What makes the U11 truly unique is Edge Sense, a feature built into the metal rim, which responds to a squeeze and which HTC is pushing hard with this phone's launch. And in a world where AI assistants increasingly compete for the same attention, HTC wants the U11 to serve as a hub, hosting Google Assistant, Amazon's Alexa, and more — in addition to its own Sense Companion app.

It's HTC's boldest flagship in years. Given that it's competing for shelf space and sales against the almighty Galaxy S8, it needed to be.

This past week we've spent a short time getting to know the HTC U11, and while it's made a good first impression, the jury's still out on a few of its core features.

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1 week ago

HTC U11 specs: Snapdragon 835, 5.5-inch QHD display, 12MP f/1.7 camera

44
HTC U11

HTC's 2017 flagship boasts top-tier internals.

With the arrival of the HTC U11, the Taiwanese company kicks its new "U" brand into high gear, with a true 2017 flagship featuring suitably advanced internals. The short story: Snapdragon 835 — the first phone to use this chip across all regions — 4 or 6GB of RAM, 64 or 128GB of storage, 3,000mAh battery, new 12-megapixel UltraPixel 3 camera with upgraded HDR, and of course HTC's squeezy Edge Sense feature. Check out the longer version down below.

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1 week ago

HTC U11 is official: Snapdragon 835, UltraPixel 3 camera, Edge Sense squeeze input!

146
HTC U11

HTC's 2017 flagship will be available unlocked in the U.S., and sold exclusively via launch carrier partner Sprint in the U.S.

HTC has hosted a special event in Taipei, Taiwan to officially unveil the new flagship phone for its 20th anniversary year: the HTC U11. The U11 follows in the footsteps of the U Ultra and U Play, released earlier in the year, with a refined version of that phone's "liquid glass" design — while introducing a pressure-sensitive, squeezable metal trim as part of the new Edge Sense feature.

It also boasts suitably high-end specs — the U11 is a 5.5-incher with a Quad HD SuperLCD 5 display, and it's powered by Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 835 chip, with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage in the U.S. and UK (some other regions will also carry a 6GB/128GB model). As is becoming increasingly standard for flagship phones, the HTC U11 is water and dust resistant, rated IP67. And the company has upgraded its 12-megapixel shooter — now dubbed an "UltraPixel 3" camera — with faster autofocus and an f/1.7 lens, and enhanced HDR capabilities thanks to the always-on HDR Boost feature.

See at Amazon

More: HTC U11 specs

Squeeze to start the camera, take a photo, open Assistant or launch your favorite app.

Edge Sense is the big new hardware feature HTC is focusing on with this phone, turning the entire outer frame itself into a programmable shortcut area. Squeezing the phone — either with a short or long grip — can launch the camera, Google Assistant, or any other app. Many of HTC's own apps have Edge Sense capabilities built in, and an add-on app launching shortly after the U11 goes on sale will allow you to map certain features of third-party apps to a short or long squeeze too, without the developer needing to update it.

Speaking of Assistants, the U11 will launch with Google Assistant, and Amazon's Alexa will be made available via a Play Store software update in the weeks following release. HTC says it's working to bring more AI assistants to the phone, and that they'll be treated as equals, with the same access to wake-up voice commands and Edge Sense's capabilities. In China, Baidu's DuerOS will provide Assistant functionality relevant to that market on the HTC U11.

Like the HTC Bolt and U Ultra, the U11 also abandons the 3.5mm headphone jack, and instead comes bundled with a pair of HTC USonic USB-C earphones, which have now been upgraded to include active noise cancellation. And elsewhere, HTC's BoomSound Hi-Fi system has been enhanced to bring volume in line with the company's older front-facing BoomSound speakers, thanks to the entire body of the phone acting as a resonant chamber.

More: HTC U11 hands-on preview

The HTC U11 will go on sale later in May, starting in select markets next week. The unlocked HTC U11 will sell for $649 in the U.S., and it'll also be available on Sprint, the exclusive carrier launch partner. In the UK, it's £649 SIM-free from Amazon, Very.co.uk, Argos, and will also be available at Carphone Warehouse, EE and O2. More regional carrier announcements should start popping up in the days ahead.

For more on HTC's latest creation, you'll want to check out our hands-on preview!

HTC U11

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Press release:

HTC Unveils New Flagship Smartphone Made for the Brilliant U: Meet the HTC U11

HTC U11 combines revolutionary new squeeze interaction with stunning liquid surface design, intelligent personal audio, amazing cameras, and multiple AI assistants for a smarter smartphone

TAIPEI – May 16, 2017 – You affectionately squeeze the hand of the one you love. A baby intuitively squeezes her mother's finger. A child squeezes his teddy bear to feel safe at night. Nothing feels as close, connected and personal as the sensation of touch or the warmth of an embrace. And no device is as personal in our lives as our smartphone. Inspired by the power of touch and the Brilliant U, HTC today unveiled HTC U11, the world's first smartphone with revolutionary new squeeze interaction. Made for "U" with design, materials, and experiences that reflect your inner drive, passion, creativity, and individuality, HTC U11 offers the most advanced features ever in a smartphone, including:

  • HTC Edge Sense, the next dimension in touch interaction with your phone.
  • Liquid Surface, a stunning, unique design that reflects you.
  • HTC USonic, our most advanced headset ever built for personal audio, now including Active Noise Cancellation.
  • Amazing cameras with the highest independent rating ever awarded to a smartphone camera1.
  • HTC Sense Companion, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa for a smarter, more helpful smartphone2.

All together, HTC U11 sets a new standard of what you can expect from a smartphone.

U touch

  • Few things are as natural and intuitive as the sense of touch. HTC Edge Sense transforms this fundamental sense into a completely new and revolutionary interaction with your phone. With a simple squeeze, HTC Edge Sense lets you easily engage with your phone in an unprecedented yet intuitive way, helping you more naturally enjoy the things you love like taking photos, opening Facebook, or launching any of your favorite apps.
  • For example, with HTC Edge Sense, launching your camera has never been easier. No more fumbling for buttons or awkward hand positions. No more worrying about dropping your phone while you pose. Just lift, squeeze, smile, and snap.
  • You can also send texts faster and easier than before. Texting can be impossible when you are on the move, but using HTC Edge Sense for Voice to Text, you can speak your text messages without having to slow down. Lightly squeeze, speak your message and send your texts on the go.
  • You can even customize the squeeze gesture: open email with just a squeeze. Or launch your favorite game (or any other app). Or pick any one of a host of options. Want even more touch control? HTC Edge Sense gives you the ability to activate advanced touch and use a "short squeeze" as well as a "squeeze and hold" for even more functionality at your fingertips.
  • And because Edge Sense is based on actual pressure applied to the side of the device, it can be used in nearly any condition – including while wearing gloves or in weather such as snow or rain that would normally be a challenge with capacitive buttons.

Reflects U

  • HTC U11's liquid glass surface is crafted to impress using Optical Spectrum Hybrid Deposition. By layering highly-refractive precious minerals across the phone's back cover, we've created vivid new colors that transforms light with every movement you make.
  • The new seamless, curved look of HTC U11 is achieved with 3D glass on both front and back. Heating and then bending the glass using extreme pressure results in unique, 3-axis symmetry for a phone that is slim no matter which way you hold it.
  • HTC U11 has a 5.5" Quad HD 3D glass screen designed for vivid, crisp images and text in any light – even direct sunlight. With our best display and true-to-life color reproduction, we provide you a purer full-framed viewing experience. Our display avoids the cropped pictures or distorted colors at the edge that are the results you can expect from a curved screen.
  • Plus, HTC U11 is water-resistant3, so no need to worry about splashes, spills, or dunks.

Tuned to U

  • HTC U11 introduces the latest version of HTC USonic, which now combines Active Noise Cancellation with the ability to tune audio to your unique hearing. By leveraging built-in microphones on the headset and USB-C data connectivity, USonic earbuds map your inner ear with an advanced sonar-like technology and then adapt the sound profile to your unique biology. This creates an incredibly personal and optimized listening experience with vibrant audio shaped specifically for you.
  • USonic now incorporates Active Noise Cancellation, which reduces disruptions and distractions around you, so you can stay focused on your music. Active Noise Cancellation continuously monitors environmental sound levels, and quickly adjusts to any new noises or disturbances. You're free to stay focused on your music, videos, or games
  • HTC BoomSound Hi-Fi Edition speakers got an upgrade, too. We've improved the speaker design to deliver more loudness and better Dynamic Range Audio. On top, the tweeter now offers an acoustic chamber that allows the highs and mids to sound richer. While below, the woofer sports a new speaker and improved magnetic circuit design for louder, clearer and deeper bass tones. You really have to hear it to believe the power of BoomSound.
  • We didn't forget to upgrade the microphones, either, using four optimally positioned omnidirectional microphones together with our new Acoustic Focus technology, HTC brings you our best 3D audio recording quality yet. HTC U11's microphones work together to record audio from all directions, and when shooting video with Acoustic Focus, you can visually zoom in to target your subject and amplify their specific sounds.
  • Out of the box, we will also ship an HTC USB-C to 3.5mm adapter with a built-in DAC that offers great audio performance and wide compatibility with all other devices and earphones.

Pictures that move U

  • HTC U11 has achieved the highest ever rating for a smartphone camera for both photo and video by independent metric DxOMark4. Our multi-axis optical stabilization system and super-fast autofocus in all lighting conditions make the camera quick, your pictures sharp, and videos smooth. We improved our camera and video for a more dynamic exposure range with HDR Boost without the lag, new white balance enhancement, a major reduction in noise, and excellent detail preservation.
  • HTC U11 introduces Auto HDR Boost to give you all the benefits of HDR without the lag. HDR Boost offers clearer, more balanced pictures by taking multiple shots that measure the darkest shadows and brightest highlights without any slowdown. HTC U11 enhances textures and colors, increases visible detail and brings out the best in every shot. When shooting video, Temporal Noise Reduction automatically uses information from the previous and next frames to remove unwanted noise and deliver the clearest video.
  • Great news for serious photographers: HTC U11 incorporates the new UltraSpeed AutoFocus with same full sensor auto-focus technology that's found in top DSLR cameras, so you can enjoy significantly faster focus speeds, with snappy and delightful performance. In addition, HTC U11's exceptional optical and electronic stabilization system will keep your photos and video steady and crisp even when your hand is shaking.
  • The new front camera now combines high-resolution 16MP detail and our UltraPixel light sensitivity for brilliant selfies day or night. It also utilizes the same powerful HDR Boost and noise reduction as the main camera.

The smarter digital companion for U

  • Three brains are better than one, so inside HTC U11 you can find three intelligent companions devoted to you: HTC Sense Companion, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa2. In mainland China, HTC U11 also offers Baidu DuerOS.
  • We've made HTC Sense Companion smarter than ever: it will get to know you and your daily patterns over time in order to offer you more convenience every day. For example, HTC Sense Companion is smart enough to notice if you have any late appointments that day and will remind you to recharge while you have time or bring a power bank. It will make sure your phone is running at its optimum speed by suggesting to clear junk files and unused apps for more free space. It will let you know if you need to dress for inclement weather conditions, track your fitness progress relative to your goals, recommend great nearby restaurants at mealtime, and much more5.
  • HTC U11 runs the latest version of Android, so it also includes Google Assistant, the helpful personal assistant powered by Google se arch and services for finding directions, getting answers, managing your tasks, planning your day, and entertainment.
  • HTC U11 is also the first smartphone on the market to feature hands-free wake word access to Amazon Alexa. By simply asking questions such as "Alexa, what's the weather today?" or saying things like, "Alexa, turn on my living room lights," Alexa will respond to your needs anywhere you go, making it easy to control smart home products, ask for news, weather, music, and the 12,000-plus skills in the Alexa skills store. The Alexa voice service is currently available to customers in the United States, U.K., and Germany.
  • And in mainland China, HTC and Baidu DuerOS have built a strategic partnership to create a voice-based virtual assistant with speech recognition and voice interaction to satisfy Chinese users' needs, which can better understand Chinese people and help them find what they want.

Powerful U

  • HTC U11 is the first smartphone to be commercially released worldwide that is exclusively powered by the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 Mobile Platform. So no matter what region of the world you live in, you get an octa-core processor with breakthrough speeds, jaw-dropping graphics, impressively smooth performance and outstanding battery life. Every HTC U11 also includes UFS 2.1 for an extremely fast processor paired with the fastest memory performance. Experience Gigabit Class LTE (up to 1Gbps) with the integrated Snapdragon X16 LTE modem, which is designed to deliver fiber optic speeds on the go for lightning-fast music and video downloads and to get almost instant access to the web, social media sites or your content in the cloud. You get 25% faster graphics than the HTC 10, with 35% or 3 hours more video playback, 30% or 8 hours more music playback and 43% or 3.5 hours longer web browsing time via a LTE network6.
  • A blazing fast processor with amazing camera and incredible HTC USonic sound means you'll want a lot of storage for apps, games, photos, music, and entertainment: HTC U11 offers 4GB RAM/64GB storage and 6GB RAM/128GB storage options, so fun on your phone is always available.
  • HTC U11 also offers a fingerprint reader for enhanced privacy and security. Requiring just a few minutes to set up, the fingerprint reader will unlock your phone with the press of your finger – making it faster and easier to jot the note, capture the photo, or do anything you want with your phone on a moment's notice.

The HTC U11, available in Amazing Silver, Sapphire Blue, Brilliant Black, Ice White, and Solar Red, and will be available worldwide from May 2017 onward. Please see htc.com for detailed specifications and more information.

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1 week ago

Why Motorola bringing Lenovo's laptop strategy to smartphones is not the right move

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Motorola

New models in the C, E, G, X, and Z series will confound potential customers.

Motorola has a clearly-defined strategy for its smartphones: the Moto E series is aimed at the entry-level segment, the Moto G lineup is catered to the budget category, and the Moto X and Z phones traditionally serve the mid-range and high-end segments. However, a recent leak suggests that the company is getting ready to significantly expand its smartphone lineup in 2017.

The list includes the mid-range Moto Z2 Play and high-end Z2 Force with Moto Mods support, a mid-range Moto X with a Full HD display and so-called SmartCam, new entrants in the Moto E series, and the introduction of an "Ultimate Essentials" Moto C series that starts at €89.

Motorola 2017 leak

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1 week ago

The Nokia 3310 is coming back to India on May 18 for ₹3,310

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The Nokia 3310 will go up for sale in India from later this week.

The Nokia 3310 is one of the most anticipated devices in India in 2017, and we now know when the phone will go on sale. HMD Global has announced that the Nokia 3310 will be heading to retail stores across the country starting May 18, with a retail price of ₹3,310.

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1 week ago

Moto G5 Plus vs. Honor 6X: The ultimate budget battle

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Just because the big-name phones get all the attention, that shouldn't preclude excellent devices like the Moto G5 Plus and Honor 6X from getting their fair shake. At under $300 each, both phones certainly have trade-offs compared to their more expensive counterparts, but each manages to bring a certain something, from fantastic performance and software to superb battery life and great camera optics, to make them worth your time.

At least that's what Jacklyn says in her latest video, finding it hard to choose a winner.

Which phone would get your money? Leave a comment below with your favorite, and while you're at it, go subscribe to AC's YouTube channel if you haven't already!

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1 week ago

Best Phone For Gamers

Update May 2017: The Samsung Galaxy S8 has surpassed the Galaxy S7 as the best phone for gamers — but the GS7 is still remains a great option! Moto Z Play is still the best for battery life, and the HTC 10 still has the best touch responsiveness.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S8

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

It should come as little surprise that the Samsung Galaxy S7 has been dethroned as the best phone for gamers by its follow up, the Galaxy S8. Whether you go with the Galaxy S8 or the slightly larger S8+, you'll be getting an outstanding device that can handle pretty much any game you throw at it.

It features a brilliant AMOLED display capable of scaling up to QHD+ resolution — that's 2960 x 1440. Depending on your region, the Galaxy S8 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or Samsung Exynos 8895 processor with a beefy 3,000 mAh battery tucked into the phone's thin frame. It combines beautiful design with raw processing power to create a phone that delivers all the gaming action you can handle with nary a hiccup in gameplay.

On top of just being a fantastic phone with top-tier specs and a brilliant display, Samsung has done a great job of revamping the Game Tools first introduced on the S7. If you're serious about mobile gaming and can afford the upgrade, the Galaxy S8 or S8+ is a quality investment to make.

Bottom line: Samsung has done a better job integrating Game Tools features with the Galaxy S8. On top of that, it's easily the best phone you can buy right now.

One more thing: Make sure to turn on the setting that stretches the game to fill the Galaxy S8's unique aspect ratio.

Why the Samsung Galaxy S8 is the best

The best just keeps getting better.

What else can we say? Samsung has gone in and improved nearly every aspect of the things that made the Galaxy S7 the best phone for gamers in 2016, making the Galaxy S8 and easy pick in 2017. The Samsung Galaxy S8 has all physical components needed to handle the most resource-hogging games in the Google Play Store.

Both Game Launcher and Game Tools are back and better than ever, with Samsung making strides to improve their integration into the overall experience of the phone. Game Tools especially, which has been built into the navigation bar and appears any time you load up a game. It includes the same features for turning off distracting notifications while also including important new features for addressing the curved edges of the screen and temporarily turning off the "invisible" home button so you don't accidentally press it during gameplay. If you're the type that likes to stream as you game, you'll love the built-in screen recorder tools which let you record at 720p and use the front-facing camera to record your reactions as you play.

Simply put, the Galaxy S8 is packed with all the specs and features you need for the gaming performance you desire.

Best value

Samsung Galaxy S7

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

Samsung's 2016 flagship is still a great phone to pick up in 2017, and you'll be able to get one at a discounted price with the Galaxy S8 now available.

Featuring a brilliant 5.1-inch AMOLED display powered by a Snapdragon 820 chipset and 4GB of RAM, the S7 will have your games looking great and running smooth as butter no matter how much of a resource hog they happen to be. With 64GB of on-board storage and a dedicated microSD slot you should easily be able to load up all your favorite games. Not only will current games run will on this phone, but Samsung's decision to jump ahead of Google in supporting Vulkan APIs for higher quality gameplay meant the S7 was among the first to usher in a new wave of graphically superior mobile games.

On top of all the standard features that make the S7 an outstanding device, Samsung's software includes built-in features that make gaming both fun and social. If you're a serious gamer, you'll definitely want to dive into the advanced settings and turn on the Game Launcher and Game Tools. They help to optimize the phone for gaming so you never feel bogged down or distracted from your game, and let you share that game with others through live streaming.

Bottom line: The Samsung Galaxy S7 was seemingly designed to be a gamer's best friend, from the top-tier hardware to its convenient software tools for gaming.

One more thing: There are deals to be had for the Galaxy S7 as carriers and electronics stores look to clear out last year's flagship.

Best for battery life

Moto Z Play

See at Motorola

We've all dealt with the battery drain of extended gaming sessions when you're gaming on the go. There's nothing worse than getting all caught up in the heat of the action, only to have a low battery warning ruin things. If you suffer from battery anxiety when gaming off charger, the Moto Z Play is the perfect device to alleviate that stress.

The latest in Motorola's modular lineup, the Moto Z Play comes with a massive 3,510 mAh battery that's optimized by a more efficient processor and a lower-resolution display. Granted this your display won't get quite as bright as other displays, but the color calibration and viewing angles remain great. You'll definitely enjoy the outstanding extended battery life you'll get in exchange. When it's time to top up, you'll be able to give your phone up to 9 hours of charge in just 15 minutes with Motorola's TurboPower wall charger.

Still not enough power? Take advantage of the Moto Z Play's modular design and slap on the Incipio offGRID Power Pack and add an extra 2,260 mAh battery to your phone, along with charging efficiency and the added ability to wirelessly charge both the pack and your phone.

All this battery life business would be pointless if the Moto Z Play was a pain to use, but fortunately that's not the case. As AC's Daniel Bader wrote in his Moto Z Play review, if you're a fan of the Motorola's past offerings — including their handy gesture and voice controls — you'll be happy to know they're all present in the Moto Z Play.

Bottom line: Starting at just over $400, the Moto Z Play is the perfect companion for the mobile gamer with battery anxiety.

One more thing: Other awesome Moto Mods available for the Moto Z Play include a JBL Soundboost speaker, Hassleblad True Zoom camera mod and the Moto InstaShare Projector.

Best for touch responsiveness

HTC 10

See at HTC

Serious gamers know that input lag is simply unacceptable. Any amount of lag can have a devastating effect whether it's a coming down to a photo finish, or a frantic deathmatch shootout. While traditional gaming allows for full controller customization (whether we're talking keyboard and mouse or controller), mobile gaming on a touch screen ultimately relies on the touch responsiveness of the sensors on the phone.

In that regard, there's no better phone than the HTC 10. With its 2016 flagship, HTC boasts the 10 has the lowest touch latency of any smartphone on the market — iPhones included. While that's not typically a frequently touted spec, it does make a difference for gaming.

Beyond touch responsiveness, as mentioned in our official review the HTC 10 is a fairly impressive phone that features outstanding high-definition audio output, a capable 12 megapixel camera, and fast performance thanks to the Quad-core 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB RAM. It's all wrapped up in an aluminum unibody design with a curved back that's ergonomically designed to fit comfortably in your hand.

Bottom line: Never blame your poor performances on lag again with the super responsive HTC 10.

One more thing: The beautifully designed HTC 10 is available in three stylish colours: Carbon Gray, Glacier Silver, and Topaz Gold.

Conclusion

For the best Android gaming experience, look no further than the Galaxy S8. It's got all the top-end specs you need to any game in the Google Play Store at the highest settings, and that's not going to change anytime soon. If battery life is your biggest concern, the Moto Z Play is your best bet, especially with an optional Moto Mod to expand that battery life further. If you think lag is a real drag, the HTC 10's touch responsiveness is what you want.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S8

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

It should come as little surprise that the Samsung Galaxy S7 has been dethroned as the best phone for gamers by its follow up, the Galaxy S8. Whether you go with the Galaxy S8 or the slightly larger S8+, you'll be getting an outstanding device that can handle pretty much any game you throw at it.

It features a brilliant AMOLED display capable of scaling up to QHD+ resolution — that's 2960 x 1440. Depending on your region, the Galaxy S8 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or Samsung Exynos 8895 processor with a beefy 3,000 mAh battery tucked into the phone's thin frame. It combines beautiful design with raw processing power to create a phone that delivers all the gaming action you can handle with nary a hiccup in gameplay.

On top of just being a fantastic phone with top-tier specs and a brilliant display, Samsung has done a great job of revamping the Game Tools first introduced on the S7. If you're serious about mobile gaming and can afford the upgrade, the Galaxy S8 or S8+ is a quality investment to make.

Bottom line: Samsung has done a better job integrating Game Tools features with the Galaxy S8. On top of that, it's easily the best phone you can buy right now.

One more thing: Make sure to turn on the setting that stretches the game to fill the Galaxy S8's unique aspect ratio.

Android Gaming

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1 week ago

Best Bands for the Samsung Gear Fit 2

17

Update the look of your Gear Fit 2 with these stylish band options!

Update May 2017: Added some handy clasps for those who are happy with the stock bands but want a bit of added wrist security.

The Samsung Gear Fit 2 is a pretty good fitness band that includes a feature typically found on smartwatches: the ability to swap out the 22mm bands for other colors or styles.

If you prefer to wear yours 24/7, having a couple extra bands can help you accessorize your Gear Fit 2, whether you're attending a formal affair or just like to spice things up with a fresh splash of color. There's a number of great, affordable options out there, so let's dive in!

MoKo Soft Silicone Replacement Sports Bands

MoKo offers a wide range of color options of their silicone straps for the Gear Fit 2. Each strap is adjustable to fit small or large wrists (4.96" - 8.38") via the same style of metal plug used on the strap that came with the Gear Fit 2. Bands can be swapped in and out quickly with the one-button quick release for locking the watch band, making it convenient to have a fresh strap to swap out after a sweaty workout. With a price of only $10 compared to Samsung's stock replacement for the black, you can economically afford to get a couple of these in your favorite colors, then keep them in a bit of a rotation so your wrist always feeling fresh and looking fine.

See styles at Amazon

Moretek Fit 2 Wrist Straps

Moretek offers two different style of wrist bands for the Gear Fit 2: a more traditional strap available in 12 different color and pattern options and a rugged strap (pictured) that offers impact protection for your tracker's watch face. Everything is made of a skin-friendly silicone material and held on your wrist with a traditional watch strap buckle. The rugged bands are definitely going to add some bulk to your wrist, but whether you're playing a high-impact sport or simply prone to banging it against doorways, that extra protection might save you from incidental damage.

See styles at Amazon

V-Moro Metal Replacement bands

If you're after a metal strap option for a more stylish look, V-Moro has you covered with two distinct styles — a classic metal link band and a Milanese loop band featuring a magnetic clasp. Both styles are available in silver or black, with the Milanese band (pictured) sold in small and large sizes, so choose accordingly.

The metal band includes a tool for adding and removing links for adjusting sizes. Both are great for incorporating your Gear Fit 2 as an accessory in a professional wardrobe. V-Moro also offers a medium-sized silicone strap on the same Amazon listing. In stark contrast to the stylish metal offerings, these are extremely utilitarian and offer that "classic" fitness tracker look, with five colorful options to choose for.

See styles at Amazon

MDW Security Clasps

Not digging the band recommendations above? We get it. Frankly, it's quite alright to love the band that came with your Gear Fit 2. However, there have been reports of bands coming unclasped or otherwise falling off people's wrists. Maybe this has happened to you!

Allow us to share this recommendation from the comments. You can get a 7-pack of these colorful security clasps that fit over the band and ensures your band never pops off. They should offer the extra protection from your Fit 2 falling off your wrist while also letting you add a splash of color.

See at Amazon

How do you accessorize your Gear Fit 2?

Are you a band swapper? What's your favorite style for your Gear Fit 2? Let us know in the comments!

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1 week ago

Amazon is dangerously close to being the new king of messaging

51

With Alexa gaining the ability to make voice calls and Echo Show bolstering the living room, Amazon moves a step closer to messaging ubiquity.

It was about three or four years ago when my wife and I decided to finally get rid of our landline. We weren't really using it anymore — it was mostly an emergency backup, and a great way for solicitors to bug us. (That it occasionally made phantom 911 calls in the middle of the night was another impetus.)

This presented a problem, though. Our kids ride the bus home, and family members pick them up there. But what happens if for some reason nobody shows up at my house? The kids need a way to call their parents so they're not stuck home alone.

I had a brief flirtation with Google Hangouts for this. But it was clunky at best, and now is a nonstarter, since Hangouts is dying. And so this is how our eldest daughter got "her" first phone way earlier than I would have liked.

This is also why I'm ridiculously excited about Amazon's recent announcements. Let's start with the more important of the two.

Preorder Echo Show

But first ... a word on your contacts

When you first set up Alexa calling you have to give the app access to your contacts. Don't do that without some hesitation. You're giving Amazon the ability to see every person in your contact list. Same goes for anyone who has you in their contact list.

That in and of itself isn't evil, but it's poor implementation. I have at least one person in my Alexa contacts now who I had to look up. They'd emailed me for an Android Central thing back in 2012. And now I have their phone number and the ability to call their Amazon devices wherever they may be? That's ridiculous.

Amazon must (and I'm sure will) add granular controls as to who is allowed to contact you through Alexa calling. And it needs to do it ASAP.

Alexa calling

Alexa calling changes everything

If you have young kids or aging parents, Alexa calling and an Echo Dot is a no-brainer.

What I really needed was a way for my kids to be able to call their parents without needing a phone. The new calling (and messaging) feature in the Alexa app makes this a reality.

Alexa messagingSetup was super simple. You'll need the Alexa app, (available for Android and on iOS — and of course on Amazon's Fire tablets) and you'll need to give it access to your contacts. Once you do that it'll match the peeps in your phone with the peeps who own an Echo or have the Alexa app installed. (There's a pitfall here, but we'll get to that in a second.)

And that's it. Once that's done you can call anyone in your Alexa contacts. And when you do so it'll ring their mobile devices and any Echo devices. If you don't want to have a live call, you can just leave a voice message, or send a basic text message through the Alexa app.

Don't mistake these for regular phone calls and SMS messages — they're not. But that matters less and less these days. So long as the meaning gets through, who cares what the mechanism is?

And my kids aren't the only ones who are going to take advantage of this. My grandparents are 90 and still ridiculously awesome. (One's on an iPhone, and the other on Android. Along the same lines as my wife and I, now that I think about it.) But smartphones at 90 aren't necessarily as easy as smartphones at 40. Simpler is better, especially if an emergency happens. And is there really anything more simple than a $50 Echo Dot that can call me in mere seconds?

For young kids and aging relatives, this is a game-changer.

Amazon Echo Show

Echo Show — we'll see ... and it will, too

The other major announcement from Amazon was Echo Show — an Echo with a touchscreen and a camera. That's a big deal, too, for a few reasons.

All this connected stuff at home is great. But we've yet to see a proper visual hub that could finally tie it all together. Sure, there are DIY smart mirrors, and Apple TV and Android TV have the potential to serve as display hubs. But none of that has really happened yet.

A home hub display and cross-platform video calls will be a BIG deal for a lot of people.

And none of them has the Skills that Alexa has. That is, Alexa is the endpoint for thousands and thousands of APIs for so many services. A visual hub makes so much sense here.

It's also a big deal for video calls. While Apple's FaceTime has always been excellent for this, it's limited to someone having an Apple device nearby. Same for any other video chat service. Mobile devices are, by definition, mobile. But video calls on a home hub mean it's always there, and always available, for everyone.

I'm less bullish on the "Drop-in" calls — wherein someone — after you've granted them access — can literally drop in on you with a video call, basically saving them the trouble of accepting the call themselves. (They'll still have the option to reject it, though.) But I'll just have to wait and see how well that actually works.

And Echo Show will do more traditional things like watch videos and play music and order things from Amazon. And surely that's just the beginning.

While having a camera in the living room isn't a novelty anymore, I get that folks will still be hesitant to let Amazon (or any other company traditionally outside of the security space) have a look at what's going on so easily. But I also think the ease of communication will trump that fear.

An imperfect, huge head start

Messaging through Amazon Alexa is a big deal. But it's far from perfect and definitely has room to improve. A few thoughts off the top of my head:

  • Again, the contacts thing is ridiculous. That never should have happened.
  • So technically my kids are calling my through my own account, but whatever. It just works.
  • But having more than one person in the home is a little clunky, even with the Amazon Household stuff. You have to tell Alexa to change accounts. Google has that beat with voice recognition for multiple accounts on Google Home.
  • (That also means anyone who has access to an Echo device can listen to your messages. So keep things SFW, folks. Or not.)
  • Know what else I want? Some sort of web or (even better) native computer support for when I'm sitting here working.
  • The Alexa app is still not great, if you're looking to actually use it as a messaging app. In fact, it's bad for that.
  • And Amazon needs to give more assurances that your messages are secure.

The simple fact of the matter, though, is this: While Apple beat everyone to the mobile assistant game with Siri, and Google Assistant is very good and growing all the time, neither has reach ubiquitous status, leaving Amazon to fill in the large gaps left by anything that's not traditionally mobile.

Google Home has helped with that, but there's no denying Echo has a huge lead. Microsoft is even farther behind with its Cortana speaker, and anything similar from Apple is still in the rumor status. Will Echo Show extend Amazon's head start? There's almost no way it can't at this point.

For now, it's still Amazon's game to lose. And with Alexa calling and soon with Echo Show, it's making nothing but winning moves.

See the entire Echo family at Amazon

Modern Dad

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