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2 weeks ago

FCC drops all inquiries into Binge On and other zero-rating programs

84

The FCC has dropped all inquiries into one of the most contested parts of net neutrality.

As the FCC moves into a new era that, under new Chairman Ajit Pai, looks to cut down on regulations that purportedly impede innovation, it has reported that all inquires into sponsored data programs will be stopped.

Under Tom Wheeler, who former President Barack Obama appointed Chairman in 2013, the FCC began sending letters to the top U.S. network providers, including T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon, on their use of "sponsored data programs" that either allowed companies to pay for the right to forgive the cost of certain blocks of traffic, or "zero-rate" traffic from an entire website or app.

T-Mobile has made this the most consumer-facing with its Binge On promotion, which under its new T-Mobile One plan doesn't count any video from most sources, including YouTube, towards one's monthly allotment. That video, however, is streamed at a lower bitrate than it otherwise would be, and preferences large media companies that have the power to negotiate deals with T-Mobile and its competition.

In a letter sent to the companies above, and a statement posted on its website, the FCC makes its intentions under this administration very clear:

Today, the Commission finally puts an end to the past Commission's zero-rating inquiries and recommits to permissionless innovation. While this is just a first step, these companies, and others, can now safely invest in and introduce highly popular products and services without fear of Commission intervention based on newly invented legal theories.

That it "recommits to permissionless innovation" is a good thing for consumers in its eye, but the language around "just a first step" implies that under Pai, the FCC will dismantle Title II and the net neutrality clauses that are held within it.

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2 weeks ago

Sony Xperia sales slump 33% in final quarter of 2016

37

Despite slumping sales, Sony says they're still on target for an operating profit.

2016 was not a good year for Sony's smartphone division.

The company closed out the third quarter of its financial year by shipping 5.1 million Xperia smartphones — down from 7.6 million in 2015 over the same quarter. Sony CFO Kenichiro Yoshida explained this 35% decrease in year-on-year sales was due to weaker sales in Europe, which is typically one of the more popular markets for Sony smartphones. In response, the company has downwardly revised its annual smartphone unit sales forecast by 2 million units.

Image credit: Xperiablog

Sony ended the quarter generating 249 billion yen (US$2.1 billion) in sales — down from 385 billion (US$3.4 billion) in 2015. But while sales and revenue income were down, the impact was partially offset by cost reductions in unprofitable markets such as Latin America and the Middle East, along with a positive impact from foreign exchange rates. As such, Yoshida says the company is still on target to maintain an operating profit by the end of the fiscal year.

You can grab an unlocked Sony Xperia X Compact on Amazon for a smooth $350 right now, or wait to see what Sony has in store for us at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of the month.

If you're interested, you can read more about Sony's latest financial results.

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2 weeks ago

Our favorite Android devices through the years

205

Looking back, everyone has a point where they started loving Android. Often those products became sentimental favorites. These are some of them as told by the AC editors.

Android is quite amazing. Not only is it nearing its 10 year anniversary, but the platform has dwarfed any reasonable expectation of success the founders must have had when developing the software.

It's also why, and how, many of the writers on Android Central got their start in the industry — by trialling new phones and tablets and offering their opinions online. We asked them to highlight some of their most memorable devices — not necessarily the best (as you'll see) but ones that had the most impact.

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2 weeks ago

Android Central 323: The BlackBerry drinking game

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Audio-only stream below

It's a reunion episode in a few ways!

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2 weeks ago

Google deepens Progressive Web Apps integration with Android

10

Improvements coming to the integration of Progressive Web Apps on Android.

Google is continually looking to empower developers with more tools to help deliver great web apps for Android users. It began back in 2015, when Google first introduced Progressive Web Apps as a feature in Chrome for Android, which allowed developers to create web apps that prompt users to add a site shortcut to their Home screen while offering features such as push notifications.

Google is ready to introduce the latest version of this experience which will start rolling out to the Chrome beta over the next few weeks. The aim is to make things much more convenient for users by improving the overall integration with the Android OS.

From the Chromium blog:

For example, Progressive Web Apps will now appear in the app drawer section of the launcher and in Android Settings, and will be able to receive incoming intents from other apps. Long presses on their notifications will also reveal the normal Android notification management controls rather than the notification management controls for Chrome.

The goal here is to get more developers invested into developing quality web apps for Chrome. Once this new version of Progressive Web Apps is fully integrated into the Chrome on Android experience, web apps added to your Home screen or app drawer will be handled by Android more like the apps found in the Google Play Store.

This move will also help to blur the line between web apps and apps downloaded from the Play Store, as Google ultimately move towards creating a harmonious experience across all types of apps within the Android experience. Also expect these new web app features to eventually make their way to all browsers available for Android.

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2 weeks ago

How to replace your laptop with a tablet

35

If you're looking for true mobility with your devices, sometimes even a laptop can be too much. Tablets are ubiquitous, and with the right preparation, can easily replace a laptop for your (lighter) work days. If you're hesitant about making the move from laptop to tablet, let me assuage your fears.

I'm Michael Fisher, though you probably know me better as MrMobile, and yes, I'm writing this from a tablet. Sometimes all you need is to sit at a cafe, drinking coffee and typing on a device that can comfortably fit inside a SCOTTeVEST. I know that's all I need. slurp ahhh.

Featured devices

Stay social, my friends

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2 weeks ago

Top Amazon Echo Tips and Tricks

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Top Amazon Echo tips and tricks

Optimize your Echo experience with our handy tips and fun tricks!

The Amazon Echo, Amazon's smart speaker, is taking the home automation game to another level, thanks to Alexa and the fact that she's constantly learning to serve you better. Sure, Google Home is out, but Alexa's large library of skills still gives the Echo a bit of an upper hand (especially until Google Assistant is Siri-level awesome).

See at Amazon

If you have an Echo of your very own or are considering buying one (you really should!), then we've got some tips and tricks that'll help you get the most out of your experience and/or entice you into picking one up (Did I say you should? You really should!).

Update, February 2nd: This article was originally published on June 1, 2016. It was last updated in February 2017 to add new tips.

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2 weeks ago

No, Google hasn't cancelled Pixel production

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An email sent to someone on Reddit claimed that Google had stopped Pixel production. It hasn't, so chill.

Reddit is useful for a lot of things, but it's also very good at fomenting alarm when none is necessary. That became apparent this week after an email to a customer that, three months earlier, had ordered a Google Pixel had it cancelled with a warning that "Google will be ceasing production of their Google Pixel line and we will not be receiving further inventory of this phone. Therefore we will not be able to fulfill your order for the selected product. We apologize on the behalf of TELUS and Google for this inconvenience."

Obviously not the email you want to read after ordering a phone, especially one as in-demand as the Google Pixel. The company that sent the email on behalf of TELUS, Mobileaxs, operates as a dealer for the Canadian telecom, fulfilling corporate and enterprise orders, so it's unlikely it would be privy to Google's production strategy, not to mention TELUS's own company-wide inventory.

In a response to Android Central, Google confirmed that the email was incorrect, and that production of the Pixel has not ceased. "We're really excited by the demand for the Pixel XL in Canada. Telus is currently out of stock of the Pixel XL. We're working with our partners to restock inventory across our retail channels and we can confirm that production of the Pixel has not stopped." The Pixel XL, the larger of the two Google phones, has been harder to come by than its smaller counterpart in recent months.

TELUS also confirmed independently to Android Central that it has no intention of halting Pixel sales:

TELUS is currently out of stock of the Pixel XL. We're working with Google to restock inventory across our retail channels as quickly as we can. Google has confirmed that production of the Pixel and the Pixel XL has not stopped. We are in the process of updating our retail channels to ensure our customers have the latest information about their Google Pixel orders.

So there you have it. Nothing to see here, except for sustained high demand for the best Android phone you can buy.

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Google Store Verizon

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2 weeks ago

Google Now Launcher to be discontinued by Google

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Goodbye, Google Now Launcher.

Google's first launcher, the launcher that shipped with the Nexus series and that helped define what much of the theming community views as 'stock', will be retiring soon. Google Now Launcher will be pulled from Google Play and from the Google Mobile Services package that allows manufacturers to install it out of the box on their phones. With the Pixel Launcher as the shiny new launcher in the Google stable, I suppose it was inevitable that GNL would be put out to pasture.

A discontinued launcher on a discontinued phone.

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2 weeks ago

Don't want to call Congress? Use this app instead! 🏛

Countable is the best free app for contacting your Congress member and staying privy to the politics happening behind the scenes.

Last week, I wrote a little ditty on the apps you can install to easily keep privy with what's going on in the world. I had mentioned the app Countable, which keeps you up to date on what's going in Congress.

This week, I'm imploring you to download it, especially considering what happened last week in the United States with regards to immigration policy. Politics and policy-making may not be your thing or whatever, but there is always legislation happening that affects you, even if it's merely tangential. All it takes to start paying attention is checking in with the app once a day. After a while of interacting with the Countable community, I guarantee you'll eventually find something to say.

Every view on an issue

Parsing what's happening above you and on behalf of you can be difficult to do when you're also juggling the events of your daily life. Countable is helpful because it'll keep you informed even when you don't have the time to delve into the particulars. I like the daily notifications what my representatives are voting on in my state, though the app is also good for researching what's what.

For instance, say you're wondering what's happening in the realm of public transportation. You can tap on the Issues category in the Countable app to bookmark it and then see what it is exactly that Congress is voting on that's related. The topic page will have a "featured" bill — typically, the one that's up next up on the voting block— but if you have some time to swipe through, you can also read up on what's coming in the pipeline. I also like to use Countable as an aid for when I have the time to go diving into archived news articles and hackneyed Wiki pages.

I know they typically caution that you don't read the comments, but skimming the Opinions section of each individual bill page is a great way to get the tl;dr version of what people are saying about the matter.

Countable has already had three years on the market, which means you can safely bet that enough time has elapsed for there to be enough active users. I know they typically caution that you don't read the comments, but skimming the Opinions section of each individual bill page is a great way to get the tl;dr version of what people are saying about the matter.

Immediate access to Congress

There are a number of policy-making apps already in the Play Store, but many of them are meant to serve as a reference tool. Countable is different in that it actually connects you to your representatives, without having to endure the awkward one-way conversation that typically happens with a voice mailbox.

All you do is select "Yea" or "Nay" on each bill, and then Countable will send an email on behalf of you. You can tack on a custom message if you choose, but it's nice that it isn't required. The only caveat of this particular feature is that you have to input your address, though that's to help confirm to the representative you're contacting that you live in their district.

After you've voiced your opinion, Countable will file that matter away in your personal profile, where you can keep track of the issue and see how it fares over time.

Yes, it's buggy

I can't sit here and pretend that the Countable app hasn't frustrated me a few times with its delayed touch response and general bugginess. Thankfully, the team at Countable is looking to completely rewrite the app for Android users. In the meantime, you can install the app to receive notifications, if the app starts to bug you, simply peruse the topics at hand online at the Countable website.

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2 weeks ago

Best Android reading apps for kids

3

Best overall

Hooked on Phonics

See at Play Store

When it comes to teaching children to read, one particular program has been doing a great job for two decades: Hooked on Phonics. This curriculum is now available on your phone or tablet, and it comes with its traditions in tact. These include ebooks, games, and reading lessons.

There are 24 progressive learning lessons. They start with easier concepts like learning vowels, simple compound words, and and two syllable words. Each lesson ends with a specific story that uses the words your child just learned, ensuring that they have properly absorbed the lesson in front of them.

Bottom line: Hooked on Phonics delivers an excellent system right to your smartphone, giving your child all the tools to being a proficient and confident reader.

One more thing: Great for kids 3-7, but Hooked on Phonics does focus on the basics of learning to read.

Why Hooked on Phonics best

Hooked on Phonics delivers an excellent all-round system for teach your child how to read.

Hooked on Phonics is stellar at what it does, in part because of how much it has to offer. From learning the sounds of the alphabet and sight reading, to being able to confidently read complicated sentences. Everything is broken down into bite-sized chunks that make it easy for them to stay involved, without getting frustrated as they learn.

While the full version of the app requires a subscription, you do get access to the first three lessons, and the first story involving the concepts in those lessons. While paying for a subscription isn't ideal for everyone, by trying it out first you can check to be sure that it works for your child before purchasing the full version.

Hooked on Phonics also takes into account the fact that your children's school has certain standard. Their program syncs up to Federal and State reading proficiencies for 1st grade. It can also be used on multiple devices, and with multiple accounts so that each of your children can enjoy it separately.

Best Free

Sight Words and Reading

See at Play Store

An integral part of learning to read confidently is being able to identify words and sounds. This definitely includes learning vowels as early as possible. Sight Words and Reading is made for pre-K and Kindergarten children who are still learning their sounds, identifying letters, and mastering simple sentences.

All of the learning in Sight Words is in a game format, making it engaging for your child for any stretch of time. The colors and illustrations are bright to help draw in and keep the attention of your tot as well. During the course of the games in the app, children are introduced to 300 common words helping to expand their vocabulary.

Bottom line: Sight Words and Reading is an awesome process to get your child excited and engaged at a variety of fun games, all while learning to read. There are a variety of games, and a great vocabulary to get them ready for the rest of their lives.

One more thing: The developers of this app provide a variety of other apps that can help your child to build on the foundation created with this app.

Best for vowel sounds

Starfall Learn to Read

See at Play Store

Learning to read is easier with a friend, and in this case it's Zac the Rat. He takes your child on a reading adventure that is built up of several different kinds of games created to keep your child motivated. These include games that require children to recognize items when given a word, helps them to learn to spell, and plenty more.

Starfall Learn to Read takes special consideration to help your child learn their vowel sounds. Since vowels can be tricky, especially for kids, they provide examples of words with short and long vowels. By focusing on these primary concepts, they are then able to easily master later concepts.

Bottom line: Starfall Learn to Read makes sure that your child masters the fundamental concepts of reading. This includes a variety of games to keep them engaged, and emphasis on learning the vowel sounds required to master the English language.

One more thing: This app was created by Starfall, a charity that believes in motivation children through exploration, positive reinforcement, and play.

Conclusion

There are plenty of amazing apps that can help your child to become a strong and confident reader. However, the best all around system is still Hooked on Phonics. It offers the largest variety of exercises to help your child master reading in English while making things fun and keeping them engaged.

While it does require a subscription to access the full system of lessons, if your child has been struggling with the basics this is a great way to help them catch up to their peers in school. Making learning fun is integral to their system and it ensures that they'll want to keep coming back to the app to keep learning.

Best overall

Hooked on Phonics

See at Store

When it comes to teaching children to read, one particular program has been doing a great job for two decades: Hooked on Phonics. This curriculum is now available on your phone or tablet, and it comes with its traditions in tact. These include ebooks, games, and reading lessons.

There are 24 progressive learning lessons. They start with easier concepts like learning vowels, simple compound words, and and two syllable words. Each lesson ends with a specific story that uses the words your child just learned, ensuring that they have properly absorbed the lesson in front of them.

Bottom line: Hooked on Phonics delivers an excellent system right to your smartphone, giving your child all the tools to being a proficient and confident reader.

One more thing: Great for kids 3-7, but Hooked on Phonics does focus on the basics of learning to read.

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2 weeks ago

Kodi update brings new skins, higher Android version requirement, and 4K optimizations

18

One of the best ways to watch streaming content just got a big update.

If you're a Kodi fan, you might have noticed the app looking a bit different after this week's update. Kodi 17, which has the positively super codename of Krypton (h/t Android Police), brings a new default skin and a handful of changes under that nifty new wrapper, including enhancement to help 4K content and more supported audio pass-through.

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2 weeks ago

How to control your TV with Amazon Echo

1

Amazon Echo can replace your remote control, with a little help.

As nice as it would be for every television to include a simple local network access function, most TVs still rely on good old fashioned Infrared (IR) to receive commands. This isn't the best news for someone looking to convert the living room into Smart Home 2.0, but there are some tools available that make this a little easier to deal with than you'd think.

For example, you can pair a Logitech Harmony Hub and an Amazon Echo to create a totally voice controlled television. Here's how you set it up!

See Logitech Harmony Hub at Amazon

The Harmony line from Logitech has been the best option for universal remotes for a long time, but recently the company has moved from baking all of those smarts into a better remote control to building a hub that controls way more than just the TV. On its own, Harmony Hub can give you the ability to control just about anything connected to your Wi-Fi network as well as anything you can control with IR in a single app. You can even build little scripts inside of Harmony, so a single button press turns on the TV, sets the input you want to be on, and can even be activated on a schedule. It's an impressive setup, made all the more impressive when you add an Amazon Echo.

Starting your smart living room conversion is fairly easy. Set up your Harmony Hub anywhere that lets you mount the IR sensor pointed right at the television. It doesn't have to be close, but if you want to set Harmony up with your entertainment center you can. After it is set up and connected to your network, you can add Harmony to Alexa just like any other skill.

  1. Open your Alexa App.
  2. Go to Home --> Skills.
  3. Search for Harmony.
  4. Select the blue icon that appears.
  5. Enable the Harmony Skill.
  6. Log in to Harmony from the Alexa app.

Once Alexa is connected to Harmony, you have the ability to turn the television on and off automatically. Just about everything else requires a little bit of extra work. Harmony is aware of what channels are available with your provider, but you can't just ask for a specific channel out of the box unless your television is connected directly to cable. If you use an HD cable box that connects via HDMI, or something like a Tivo, you have to create actions in Harmony under the Smart TV settings.

Volume control isn't available through Alexa because Harmony doesn't have it set as an Action function. Alexa also doesn't have the ability to switch inputs through Harmony without actions, but an IFTTT trigger can be set up to allow this. Harmony and Alexa absolutely can be better integrated, but right out of the box this is a great way to control your television with your voice.

Amazon Echo

Amazon

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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2 weeks ago

Honor 6X to receive Nougat update sometime in March

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The Honor 6X is soon getting the update it needed from day one.

The Honor 6X will be updated to Android 7.0 Nougat and EMUI 5.0 sometime in March, according to an email sent to Android Police and confirmed by us (not saying they were lying, but we like to get confirmation on these things, you know?)

The device, which we think is objectively one of the best mid-range devices you can buy in the U.S. right now, was hobbled out of the gate with an older version of EMUI based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow — the same build that Honor 8 users have been clambering to update since last summer. And given that, thanks to beta tests for the Honor 8 and shipping software on the Huawei Mate 9, we know how much of an improvement it is, we're excited for Honor 6X users to play with it.

The best Android phones under $300

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2 weeks ago

Pick up an unlocked HTC One A9 for just $249 today only!

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Brought to you by the Thrifter team

Right now you can pick up a 32GB HTC One A9 for just $249 at Newegg, a savings of $250 from its regular price. Featuring a 5-inch 1080p display, the One A9 comes equipped with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage that can be expanded with a microSD card. This is an unlocked variant of the smartphone in the topaz gold color, so it will work on any U.S. GSM carrier, like AT&T, T-Mobile, Tracfone, and others. HTC has also already pushed the Android Nougat update to the phone which brings a number of great new features to it.

Newegg is offering free 3-day shipping with all purchases right now. This deal is only good for today, February 3, so be sure to act quickly if you are interested!

See at Newegg

For more great deals on tech, home goods, everyday essentials, fashion and everything in-between, head over to Thrifter now!

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