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3 weeks ago

Android Central's Top Picks from IFA 2016!

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Android Central's Top Picks from IFA 2016!

The best of the best from Berlin.

There's a lot of tech here at IFA in Berlin, as is often the case. OK, that's one hell of an understatement. There's a LOT of tech here at IFA. Some from the usual players. A whole lot from folks we've, frankly, never heard of.

And that's maybe the hardest part of these jaunts. Not the jet lag. Not the time away from home. No, it's sorting through all the awesomeness that gets crammed into the Messe Berlin and put on display for the world to see.

But we've managed to narrow it down a bit. Here, now, are Android Central's Top Picks from IFA 2016.

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3 weeks ago

Modular phones really never stood a chance

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The more complicated a plan is, the more likely it is to fail.

Project Ara is dead.

Just four months after Google announced they were going to work on a developer model for the end of this year and a consumer model sometime in 2017, the program was laid to rest. And really, is anyone surprised? The deck was stacked against them since the idea was born.

The idea itself is great. Forget the folks who say they will carry around different cameras or different speakers or different anything because those will end up just being one more thing left on a dresser after a few weeks. But Google's example of an insulin monitor that can be plugged in when you need to test your blood is awesome, and I'm sure smart people had ideas of other ways it could actually be useful. That's how some great ideas are born — think big and sort the details out later. But back to reality for a bit.

Great ideas and practicality seldom mix.

Phones and other small electronic things that use embedded hardware are pretty specific when it comes to the software that powers it. Writing the software and optimizing the code for a very specific set of components is mandatory. You have limited storage and limited power so you're forced to use both very efficiently. Writing the software so that it can support more than one part for a single function would make that very difficult. It could be done, and Google may very well have a solid plan to make it work. Google isn't the only company involved, though.

Android might be open source software, but the open portions can't be used to write a working operating system. The people who make things like the processor or the camera or the memory controller will have some very model-specific software need to make them work. Without these files, your phone just isn't going to work. A modular phone would not only need software support from Google but from the companies who make each individual part, too. And then those companies will need to be convinced to allow Google to redistribute that software as a downloadable package. And we already have seen how a single company can bring things to a screeching halt when it doesn't like that idea, as Qualcomm held back needed software for the Nexus 7 2013 Lollipop update. Things can get a little ugly. Good people can quit their job in frustration.

Software support comes from many different companies.

Now multiply that situation by the number of companies who build the parts that fit into one of the six slots on the Ara chassis. Suddenly, unoptimized software that takes a lot of storage space isn't such a big issue.

We aren't sure why the project was scrapped, and I'm not saying this was the reason. But this would be a pretty big stumbling block and I don't think even Google could work around it. Other folks in the "industry" that I've talked to feel similar, and we even heard some doubt about the project's future at Google I/O 2016 as the news of Project Ara's future was being announced.

Other companies are still going to work on a modular phone. One day someone will succeed and make one we can buy.

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3 weeks ago

How to return your recalled Galaxy Note 7 to Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint

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Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Samsung has initiated a recall for the Note 7, but all you care about is your interaction with your carrier.

Since a majority of us in the U.S. still buy our phones from the big four carriers, we don't really care about the process of returning our still-new recalled Galaxy Note 7 elsewhere — we want to know how to get it done here. Well, it turns out that one of the benefits of buying your phone from a carrier is that it handles a bit of the responsibility. In this case, that means you get to turn over your recalled Note 7 to the carrier you bought from, and it in turn figures out how to get it back to Samsung.

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3 weeks ago

Play it safe and swap your Note 7 because of the recall

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Unless you think you know better than the people who built your Note 7, not getting it replaced is stupid.

I'm seeing a disturbing trend in forums and social media — people are saying they aren't going to return their recalled Note 7 and get a new one. Don't be that person.

Some of the reasons I'm seeing for not returning a Note 7 for a new one do make sense on some level. Nobody wants to take the time to set up a new phone, or people are worried that the replacement might not be as "perfect" as the one they are using now. I feel ya. I hate setting up phones and I know getting the perfect piece from a giant mass-produced manufacturing pile can be tricky sometimes. But other things I'm reading have me a little concerned.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall: Everything you need to know

"Only (insert you own made-up number here) phones have been found defective" or "I only use a (put the name of your favorite brand here) charger and everyone knows they are safe" and other assorted nonsense not only defies logic but shows how far people will reach to escape the obvious: You need to swap your phone under the recall.

Yes, only a small percentage of the phones that were boxed up and sent to stores or homes have burst. Odds say yours isn't one of them. Odds also say that sex without birth control won't necessarily lead to pregnancy, too. Both cases here, as well as countless others, like not wearing a seatbelt because I never had an accident or nobody needs to know Calculus are equally wrong. Some people do need to know Calculus, and some Note 7s are going to explode in a ball of dragon fire.

The same smart people who designed your Note 7 are now advising you to return it for replacement.

There are two things about this situation we know to be true. The only people who know all the details aren't telling them to us, and that they never will. Put all the speculation and imaginary numbers away for a moment and consider that every Note 7 not made for China uses the same battery. Samsung is concerned enough to recall all of them without being forced to do so by any entity with the power to force companies to do things. If you toss out everything else and consider these two simple things, you'll realize that you really should return your Note 7 and get a new one.

You have an opportunity to be 100% certain that you have a phone without the issue causing the batteries to blow up. The same smart people who designed the Note 7 are advising you to do just that. Samsung has done an excellent job working with all the businesses around the world selling the Note 7 to make it as painless as possible. Not taking advantage of that is, frankly, pretty damn stupid.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint

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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3 weeks ago

Android and chill: Samsung's nightmare moment

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How you handle a product safety issue is important. Samsung handled it right.

Samsung just faced the worst nightmare any type of product design team could have on Friday. They realized that the Note 7 had some sort of flaw, and one that could hurt people, so they're pulling it off the shelves.

I'm not going to try and hash out all the different theories about why or how many or anything like that. We can either accept what Samsung's PR tells us and move along or realize that we'll never know the whole story and move along anyway. Instead, I'm going to talk about reactions.

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3 weeks ago

Best phone to buy if you're returning a Galaxy Note 7

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What should I get if I'm returning a Galaxy Note 7?

It's a tough question, but one a lot of people are asking themselves right now. Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 recall is coupled with some particularly violent photos of phones in various stages of burning and melting, which is the last thing you want with a brand new version of that phone in your pocket. Samsung has identified 35 cases of phone explosion across the over a million that have been sold so far, but most folks who bought a Note 7 are still well within their return window. If you decide to return your Note 7 instead of waiting for an recall exchange from Samsung, here's a few suggestions for what your next phone should be!

Galaxy S7 edge

If you like the Galaxy experience, and you are ok with a Note 7-sized phone without the pen, consider the Galaxy S7 edge. This phone offers a lot of the same fantastic features found in the Galaxy Note 7, will cost you slightly less, and is available everywhere the Note 7 is sold. Not only have no Galaxy S7 edge versions exploded, but it's the next best thing if you're looking for one of the best smartphone experiences available to you today.

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

HTC 10

For those returning a Galaxy Note 7 with no interest in another Samsung phone, consider the HTC 10. This phone offers an aluminum unibody design with killer speakers and a camera that easily competes with the Note 7 in most situations. As HTC's top phone this year, it offers the same level of performance as the Galaxy Note 7, and comes in several striking colors. There's a lot to like here, especially if you're into a great music and gaming experience on your phone.

See at Amazon See at Sprint See at Verizon

OnePlus 3

Deciding to return a big expensive phone like the Note 7 may have you rethinking how much you're willing to spend on a smartphone in the first place. If that's the case, you might want to take a look at OnePlus. This is a company that has made quite a name for itself in the smartphone world by offering phones that are dangerously close to being considered some of the best experiences available today for half the cost. The OnePlus 3 is a fantastic example of this, and if well worth considering if you're not sure what to grab next.

See at OnePlus

Grab something cheap and wait

There's always something new and exciting right around the corner, but you've got to have a phone now. It could be the answer is to wait for something like Google's Pixel phones to be officially released, or maybe you want to wait for some holiday sales to kick in and save yourself a little money in the process.

Whatever the reason, you may decide the best option is grabbing a cheap phone and waiting for something better to come along. If that's where you are, we've got a great list of cheap phones to tide you over until the next great phone arrives!

Show me the cheap phones!

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint

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3 weeks ago

Best cheap phone to buy while you wait for a Note 7 replacement

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What is the best cheap phone to hold me over until the Note 7 replacements come in?

You're looking at your Galaxy Note 7 wondering how long it will take for Samsung and your carrier to get new stock in after the recall takes place. In the meantime, you may be without a phone — or at least a phone you want to use — for a while. In that case, why not buy a cheap(ish) Android phone to tide you over? One that, when you get your beloved Note 7 back you'd be happy to give to a family member or friend.

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3 weeks ago

Rugged phone ratings: Everything you need to know

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Ever wonder exactly what the IP rating on your phone means? This reference has your answers.

IP ratings are a way to describe the ingress protection of your phone. IP itself stands for International Protection Marking, but you might see it called ingress protection because it fits and describes exactly what it is. Phones like the Galaxy Note 7 are rated with an IP specification (IP68) to tell you how resistant to dust and water they are.

IP ratings are broken into two numbers. The first number is the level of protection against solid objects — things like fingers, tools, wires, and dust. The second number is the liquid protection rating and is tested using water (no water specifications for things like salinity or TDS are referenced) and not other liquids unless specifically mentioned.

Because there are so many different combinations in use, a set of charts will help explain it all.

Solid particle protection

Solid IP number How effective is it? IP number How effective is it? 0 Not protected at all against any size particle. 1 Particles larger than 50 mm can not enter in enough quantity to affect the normal operation. 2 Particles larger than 12.5 mm
This is the minimum rating to protect against putting your finger(s) into a thing. 3 Particles larger than 2.5 mm can not enter in enough quantity to affect the normal operation. 4 Particles larger than 1 mm can not enter in enough quantity to affect the normal operation. 5 Dust Protected
Dust must not enter in enough quantity to affect the normal operation. 6 Dust Tight
Dust can't enter, even in a vacuum.

The type of dust used for the last two tests could matter and no specifications or particle sizes are given like they are in the first five tests. If you're working with something like a dry stone saw that creates really fine particles, you might want to assume you're not protected. For everyday use, though, dust is dust.

Liquid ingress protection

Liquid IP number How effective is it? IP number How effective is it? 0 Not protected at all. 1 Protected against dripping water. 2 Protected against dripping water when tilted up to a 15-degree angle from its normal position. 3 Protected against spraying water when tilted up to a 60-degree angle from its normal position. 4 Protected against splashing water at any angle. 5 Protected against water sprayed from a 6.3 mm nozzle at 12.5 Liters/minute and 30 kPa (pressure) from three meters away for three minutes. 6 Protected against water sprayed from a 12.5 mm nozzle at 100 Liters/minute and 100 kPa (pressure) from three meters away for three minutes. 6K Protected against water sprayed from a 6.3 mm nozzle at 75 Liters/minute and 1,000 kPa (pressure) from three meters away for three minutes. 7 Protected against immersion in water up to one meter at normal pressure for 30 minutes. 8 Protected against immersion in water one meter or deeper at specifications detailed by the manufacturer. 9K Protection against water sprayed from high-flow and high-pressure jets at high-temperature
Water volume of 14 to 16 Liters/minute
Water pressure of 80 to 100 bar
Water temperature of 80-degrees Celsius
Distance of 0.10 to 0.15 meters

Ratings of 5, 6, 6K and 9K are pretty extreme protection and something we'll never see on a phone or watch or tablet. I'm pretty sure 6K testing would damage your skin, and 80-degree Celsius liquids are a bit above the comfort level of most of us. For phones and other electronics, the 7 and 8 ratings are more important.

In addition, the IP Code has letter designations for additional protection. Like any K rating, you'll never see these on a cell phone.

Additional protection designation

Letter code What it means Letter code What it means f Oil resistant H High voltage protection M Motion during any testing S No motion during any testing W Weather resistant

Note that these additional ratings aren't mandatory. Their absence doesn't mean your phone (or any other IP rated product) will not survive exposure. It just says that nobody is certifying it.

Most importantly, having an IP rating doesn't mean you can do anything you like with your phone. Phones aren't tested individually and they are mass produced. Your phone might fail if you take it into the pool, even if rated for water resistance. Having the IP rating does mean that the people who made it should be willing to stand behind it for any warranty issues.

We wouldn't use an IP certification as the only reason to buy a phone, but having it certainly can be an added bonus!

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3 weeks ago

Galaxy Note 7 benchmarks and the nerds who love to hate them

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Does the Note 7 have a performance problem?

Despite going through a massive recall at the moment, the Galaxy Note 7 is still one of the top phones on the market. And there's something deep in the heart of every smartphone nerd that twinkles every time they own a phone that someone with any measure of authority calls "the best" and defends that statement in a way they agree with.

Note 7 fans had that feeling taken away from them recently by the smart folks at XDA-Developers. Through a combination of "real world" tests, benchmarks, and system monitoring tools the XDA writers told a tale of stuttering performance that seemed to demonstrate this shiny new phone was, in some ways, not deserving the space at the top of the heap so many tech reviewers has placed it.

It's a fun read, especially if you only kind of understand what you're reading. Before you consider flinging your Note 7 back into the store it came from with that homemade catapult, there's a few things you should know about benchmarks and "real world" tests.

Benchmark apps are pointless

If you use a benchmark app to tell you how great or terrible your phone performs, you're not getting anything anywhere near a complete picture. Benchmark apps used to be great for troubleshooting, existing so you could see if there had been some kind of performance loss over time or damage to your equipment. Today, many manufacturers implement special code that forces that hardware to perform above the typical thresholds when a benchmark app is being used, which irreparably alters the results. You're measuring a version of the hardware your phone otherwise never lets you have access to, so you gain nothing but an attempt at the highest score when you run benchmark apps today.

If you see a Note 7 performing anywhere near as smoothly as a Nexus 6P, consider how many more things that Note 7 is doing.

Those performance altering software changes lead to a much bigger issue. When you are comparing a Galaxy Note 7 to a Moto Z Droid Edition and a Nexus 6P, you're comparing three different experiences that will never be doing the same thing at the same time. Samsung and Lenovo both have background tasks that can't be replicated on the Nexus 6P. Features that can't be disabled to get a 1:1 compare of the software performance. If you see a Note 7 performing anywhere near as smoothly as a Nexus 6P, consider how many more things that Note 7 is doing. Better yet, take a look at the immeasurably more thorough Anandtech review of the Note 7 performance as it compares to all other high performing phones, and see how it regularly outpaces the Nexus 6P.

There's value in testing for things like dropped frames, and reporting on those dropped frames in context is an important thing to do when your goal is to educate and inform potential buyers. It's hard to say that's what happened with the presentation from XDA, given the lack of context or proper comparison. Does the Note 7 drop more or less frames than the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge? Could this be an issue exclusive to the Snapdragon variant of this model? Is this happening because Samsung's new Grace UI was rushed out and could be fixed in a future update? None of these questions are answered, because the goal wasn't to inform.

Cherry picking in the "real world"

Not long after XDA published their findings, a post from The Verge's Vlad Savov attempted to apply some reality to the initial Internet explosion. In this Vladitorial, it was pointed out that some of the findings on XDA weren't really findings. Specifically, claiming that a 200ms difference in launching apps was an example of "embarrassing performance" is silly and not representative of how people actually use smartphones. XDA fired back with more data, trying to fortify their position. The counter argument, that a 200ms delay would add up over time to a phone in such a way that a Note 7 user would grab a Nexus 6P and be amazed at how much faster it "feels" is enforced by GIFs demonstrating those performance differences.

What's fascinating about this demonstration is the cherry picking. Samsung's software is far from perfect; in fact, after uninstalling 13 apps from my shiny new Verizon Note 7 and finding eight more that I can't disable I kind of want to smash mine with a hammer right now. Sitting that phone next to my freshly Nougat-filled Nexus 6P, there are absolutely aspects of this Note 7 that are demonstrably faster. The camera, for example, routinely launches a full second faster. It wouldn't be difficult to cherry pick half a dozen examples, GIF them up, and write something that looks like evidence of how superior the Note 7 is to the Nexus 6P.

The thing is, that's not how real world testing works. The point of real world testing, as the name suggests, is to offer performance examples of how the whole phone functions as though an "average" user is going to use the phone. Using that data to compare one experience to another is tricky, instead of offering a 1:1 compare of software as it functions you're offering a 1:1 compare of the experience, what using the phones feels like. Showing how a share menu loads, especially when those phones are clearly not set up the same way with the same apps, doesn't really fit that description. Unless, of course, you're pushing a different narrative.

Better tools and actual analysis

The real flaw in all of this is a mistaken assumption that Samsung's Note 7 and Google's Nexus 6P are built for the same purpose. Plain and simple, they aren't. Google's Nexus experience has evolved from clean Developer Kit to a demonstration of the Android Open Source Project with a handful of extras. Samsung's phones haven't started with AOSP in a long time, and there's no reason for the company to consider another path right now.

Samsung phones are Android-based, not Android.

Samsung phones are Android-based, not Android. As a result, Samsung phones are optimized in whatever way they deem most important. Right now those optimizations are for delivering unique Samsung features, like Samsung's camera, Samsung Pay and the unique S Pen functions. Android, by which I mean the OS, doesn't place priority on those things. In recent releases there's been a focus on things like battery consumption when you aren't using the phone, security at all times, and a consistent 60FPS user interface. It's difficult to argue that any of these things aren't important, but neither Samsung's Android nor Google's Android places a priority on all of these things.

Really, what this comes down to is what you as the user place priority. If you want the most secure phone with a slick, unburdened interface, you probably want the thing Google and HTC are going to be announcing soon. If you care about a great camera and software built to offer you a ton of feature you may or may not use, Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 is tough to beat right now. Trying to claim the Note 7 is somehow underperforming because it doesn't behave like a phone it wasn't built to behave like is ridiculous, no matter how you tightly you try to wrap that narrative in benchmarks.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

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

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3 weeks ago

The Lenovo Yoga Book is too cool for a keyboard

44

Every once in a while, a piece of technology comes along that looks more at home on the set of a sci-fi film than on a store shelf in 2016. The Lenovo Yoga Book is one such device.

It's more than lightweight and super-thin; it ditches the conventional keyboard for a flat black slab, with touch-sensitive keys that illuminate only when the "Halo Keyboard" is enabled. Toggle it off and you activate a Wacom digitizer with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, converting the keyboard into a drawing tablet for the included stylus. And odds are you can do those doodles in your preferred artistry app, because the Yoga Book runs either Android or Windows depending on which model you get.

I've been waiting literally six months to show you this sucker, so tune in for my early impressions on the highs and the lows of the Lenovo Yoga Book – and stay tuned for MrMobile's full review, coming later this year!

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3 weeks ago

How to back up the data on your Galaxy Note 7 before returning it for recall

43

You'll need to switch phones when you turn in your recalled Note 7, but you can still keep your stuff.

If you're going to be taking advantage of Samsung's voluntary recall for the Note 7 (and you should) you probably want to keep a few things stored on it. Besides the obvious — things like your address book or email — you likely have pictures, music, and other important stuff on the thing. You don't have to lose it when you get a new phone.

The first thing to remember is that your Note 7 runs Android with Google's services. That means a lot of your data can be backed up to your Google account in the cloud. This is how Android was designed to work — it's a cloud-based operating system.

Email, contacts, and calendar

If you're using Gmail, your email is already backed up. Google's Contacts and Calendar work the same way. If you are signed into any of these services and use them, you can pick up right where you left off on any device, anywhere by signing in with the same account.

If you're using another online-based email service, like Yahoo! or Microsoft's Outlook.com, it sill works the same way. The data isn't tied to your Google account, of course, but once you sign back in with the same login you'll have access to everything again. This is true for email, address book, and calendar with most online services.

If you're syncing a POP email account (like the one from your internet provider) you will need to check the settings on your email account itself to see how message syncing is done. The people who provide you the service can help if you have any questions. For any local (read: not online) address book or calendar apps, you'll need to check the app settings and see if there is an export feature.

Finally, if you have your work email, contacts and calendar on your Note 7 you need to ask your friendly IT person what to do.

Your media

Chances are you are using the Note 7 camera to take a picture or two, and you want to keep them. You might have a handful of music files and a video or two on there as well. Luckily, backing media files up is easy.

You can store pictures on your computer and transfer them via a USB cable, or you can store them in the cloud. If you were to ask my recommendation, I'd point you towards Google Photos. But there are other services like Dropbox that work, too.

How to back up photos and video to your computer or the cloud

If you have a computer, backing photos up is easy. There's an advantage to using your own local storage to keep photos — there is no image loss or resizing involved. Hit the link above to see all your options and how to get started.

Music files work mostly the same way. Services like Google Play Music or Amazon Music let you use the cloud, or you can plug into your computer and copy between phone and PC at will. One advantage of using a cloud service is being able to stream your songs from any device, but the files may take a hit on quality. If your music is stored in a lossless format or a very high bitrate Mp3 make sure to keep a copy on your computer. Click the link below to see your options and how they work.

How to back up your music files to your computer or online storage

Samsung Smart Switch

If you're going to stick with the Note 7 or use any other Samsung Galaxy phone, you can use a service from Samsung called Smart Switch.

Using the cable that came in your box (and the adapter if you need it) you can copy all the data from all your apps, the apps themselves, all your accounts and all of your media files / SD card content from your Note 7 to a computer or another Galaxy phone. The program is easy to use and does a pretty good job.

How to use Samsung Smart Switch to back up your Galaxy phone

There are a couple things to keep in mind here.

  • Smart Switch is only an option if the phone you're putting the data on is a Samsung Galaxy phone. Smart Switch can pull the data off of any Android or iOS phone, but it can only copy it back to a Galaxy model.
  • If you're going to be using a really old Galaxy phone — something like the Galaxy S3 or Note 2 — you might have issues with apps and their data. Things have changed a lot in the past couple of years.
  • Any loaner you get from your carrier might not be compatible with Smart Switch. Your carrier isn't going to be handing out brand new Samsung phones like candy. Expect something that they wouldn't care about losing.

And remember — if you're returning your phone through your carrier or a Samsung store, they can help make sure you keep everything that's yours and help you get it on a new phone. It's OK to ask for help!

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

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3 weeks ago

Best alternatives to the Chromebook Pixel

38

With the Chromebook Pixel heading off into the super high-resolution sunset — at least for now — something has to take its place as king of the Chromebook hill.

For a lot of people, the Chromebook Pixel didn't make any sense. Our company stance here at Android Central was that it was too expensive and didn't bring anything more to the table than a lot of other models, so you were better off passing. Personally, I think it's the best damn laptop I've ever had and worth the money. It's OK to have different opinions. In any case, none of that matters now that Google has stopped selling it and hasn't announced a replacement. It's Google Reader all over again. Not really.

I am pretty certain another Chromebook Pixel will be released, but this gives us an opportunity to look at other tier-one level models. These are the Chromebooks you would buy if you couldn't stomach the price tag but still wanted something a little more "premium" than the average cheap Chromebook.

Don't think we're bashing cheap Chromebooks, though. They are the important models because a $200 Chromebook is perfect for plenty of folks. A cheap gateway to the internet that's safe and easy. Plenty of people are using something like the Acer C720 and still completely satisfied because it still does the things they bought it to do. But if you're someone who wants to spend a little more money for nicer hardware or just want to go all in on the Chrome experience, here are the best available right now.

The best Chromebook you can buy: Dell Chromebook 13

The fully-specced Dell Chromebook 13 ticks most every box to be at the top of the heap now. The $650 model offers a beautiful 1080p touch screen display, aluminum chassis, glass trackpad and an Intel Core i3 processor. It doesn't stop there, either. You have USB 3.0 onboard, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 LE connectivity, a backlit keyboard and 32GB of storage. In the coming weeks, the Dell Chromebook 13 is also slated to get access to Google Play and Android apps.

Honestly, this is still a bit of overkill for many folks. The Intel Celeron model is also plenty capable and priced about $200 less. You'll have the same premium build, minus the touchscreen. It's still a very solid choice.

I love the battery life and how well the Chromebook 13 is put together, and everything you want to do is responsive and enjoyable — this thing is fast! It was always a true high-end laptop, but the Chromebook Pixel's exit makes it the best Chromebook you can buy in September 2016.

See at Dell

Something a little lighter: Toshiba Chromebook 2 (2015)

Checking in at 2.9 pounds, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 can still deliver a top-of-the line experience without the extra two pounds of the Dell hanging off of your shoulder. Anyone who has to carry their mobile office in a bag or satchel every day can appreciate the weight reduction.

The best part is the Toshiba is still more than able to do all things Chrome OS smoothly and quick. When compared to the Dell, the biggest drawbacks are lack of a touch screen and a maximum storage capacity of only 16GB. The Core i3 model checks in around $450 while an Intel Celeron mode will save you $150.

If the lighter weight is worth the trade-off of losing the touch screen and cutting the storage in half — and for a lot of us it will be — Toshiba has your high-end Chromebook needs covered.

See at Amazon

A new player appears: Acer Chromebook 14

If you need something a little bigger but still want that high-end feel and specs that deliver, the Acer Chromebook 14 is for you.

The 1080p display has extra-wide viewing angles and uses a proper high-quality IPS panel. the Intel Celeron drives Chrome OS to its full potential and 32GB of space is a big plus when Android apps and Google Play appear this fall. You also get two USB 3.0 ports and 802.11ac MIMO Wi-Fi — all for around $300.

The aluminum build isn't quite as thick feeling as the Dell, which is why the larger display Acer weighs about the same as the 13-inch Dell. The trackpad isn't quite as smooth and the keyboard lacks the backlighting, but you're also saving about $350.

Some of us want a Chromebook with a larger screen and the Acer Chromebook 14 is my pick for the best in the 14-inch category.

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Chromebooks

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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3 weeks ago

The Chromebook R13 could be Acer's best Chromebook yet

38
Acer Chromebook 13

One of the leaders in the Chromebook space is pushing the category again with its new Chromebook R13.

Acer's brand new 13.3-inch "convertible" (i.e., it folds backward) Chromebook R13, unveiled at IFA 2016, is clearly a step beyond the quality on offer from the Chromebook 14 that was released back in March, but of course it also has a higher starting price at $399.

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3 weeks ago

Best wallet cases for the Galaxy Note 7

33

What are the best wallet cases for my Galaxy Note 7?

Not everyone loves a wallet case for their phone, but those that do love the convenience of having practically everything they need — money, ID, and smartphone — all in one package when they're on the go.

Given the beautiful design of the Galaxy Note 7, if you're going to cover it entirely with a wallet case, you'll want your case to look classy in it's own right. So we've broken down the best wallet case options that combine stylish design with functionality.

Story Leather Aspen

The Galaxy Note 7 is a premium device. That fact is reflected in the build quality and the price. If you want a case to match that premium quality, look no further than the offerings from Story Leather. They actually offer a range of wallet and other leather-backed cases for the Note 7 which are all custom made to order, but we'll specifically recommend the Aspen wallet case for it's stylish-yet-simplistic design.

Made with premium genuine leather and personalizable with a monogram or corporate logo, this case is perfect for the fashionable consumer. You can choose from over 50 different leather colours to truly make it your own. On the inside, the case features slots for three cards as well as a side pocket for holding cash. It's all built around a sturdy polycarbonate shell that will protect your phone.

With a production lead time of 25-30 days and prices starting around $100, this is not the case to buy if you're looking for a quick cover to protect your new phone. But the handmade quality you receive in return will be well worth the money spent for some folks.

See at Story Leather

Spigen Wallet S Leather Case

Spigen is a trusted name for phone accessories, and their Wallet S case for the Galaxy Note 7 is one of the most versatile cases you can buy to protect your Note 7.

Made of faux leather, the Wallet S looks good without costing an arm and a leg. It features a magnetic strap that's reversible — it will securely hold the cover open and closed. The Note 7 securely snaps into the polycarbonate shell on the inside, which also features three slots for your credit cards and ID, as well as a pocket for money or other valuable items. The case also folds over into itself to create a horizontal kickstand for hands-free media viewing.

You have to be consciously aware of how you insert your cards in the case, because the placement of the magnet strap could wreck the magnetic strip on a credit card. Other than that design flaw, which is addressed in a leaflet included with the case, the Wallet S does a great job of combining a wallet and phone case into a stylish option for travelling or enjoying a night out on the town — and all at a reasonable price.

See at Amazon

Incipio Stowaway Credit Card Case

If you want a case that will store your ID, cash and a credit card, but want something a bit more inconspicuous than a fold-over wallet case, there's the Incipio Stowaway Credit Card Case.

At a glance, this case just looks like a sturdy and smooth polycarbonate outer shell to protect your phone — until you notice the compartments on the back. Open the bigger one and you'll find room for three cards (or an ID card and some cash), which are held down with a little lip that make sure they don't pop out if the case takes a hard fall. The smaller compartment reveals a kickstand which, admittedly, is probably not worth using. But the main stowaway compartment will be extremely convenient for travellers or folks that don't like taking their whole wallet or purse to the bar.

Incipio also includes a rear protective film for the back of your phone, so that it isn't scuffed or scratched by any of your cards — a little detail that goes to show phone protection is the top priority here. Best of all, it still mostly preserves the look of the Galaxy Note 7's sleek design and curves.

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J&D Wallet Stand Slim Fit

This wallet case option from J&D is quite similar to the Spigen Wallet S, but separates itself from the pack with a few small but important details.

It features three card slots and a pocket for cash, a magnetic strap to keep things secure, and can be folded over into a horizontal kickstand for media viewing. But we love the clear sleeve for the first card slot, making it the ideal spot to store your ID. Then there's the removable wrist strap which provides added security when you're carrying it around with you. And finally, it's available in four colours (aqua, black, brown, and red) as well as white Dog and Cat versions, that feature a cute graphic on the back. Starting at around $11, it's also one of the most affordable wallet cases you'll find.

See at Amazon

What's your favourite wallet case?

As we're still early into the Galaxy Note 7's product life, there will no doubt be more wallet cases coming out in the future. We'll add them as we find them, so let us know if there's anything we missed in the comments.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

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3 weeks ago

How your phone can help before and during a hurricane

43

Hurricane season is upon us, and your smartphone is now one of the most important tools in your preparedness kit.

You don't want to be caught unawares when a hurricane hits, and as we've learned recently, they can arrive unexpectedly, and in unexpected places. There's no better time than now to bone up on some of the best ways to keep current on what's out there, and how to stay safe if a storm comes your way.

And just like with everything else, our smartphones now play an integral part with that.

I've lived on the Gulf Coast my entire life. I've been through storms. God willing, I'll never go through another. But either way, I'll be ready. Let's take a look at a few ways you can be, too.

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