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2 weeks ago

Android Wear 2.0 is making its way to the LG G Watch R and Watch Urbane

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LG's fabled Android Wear smartwatches will be able to roll with the rest of 'em for a little while longer.

The LG G Watch R and first-generation LG Watch Urbane may seem like aging fuddy-duddy smartwatches to some, but they're still holding on. The three-year-old Android Wear smartwatches are slowly seeing the update for Android Wear 2.0.

Per Android Police, wearers of the G Watch R and Watch Urbane have confirmed the arrival of Android Wear 2.0 on their respective smartwatches. It's possible they're part of a "third wave" of updates, too, the first of which hit the Fossil Q Founder, Casio Smart Outdoor Watch, and TAG Heuer Connected, and the second of which began rolling out to other Fossil, Michael Kors, Nixon, and Polar watches.

A quick shout out to those sporting Motorola's second-generation Moto 360 or the original Huawei Watch. We figure you're likely hoping you're next in line for the update to Android Wear 2.0.

Android Wear

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

Google adds Bluetooth APIs and USB support to Android Things Developer Preview 3

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Thus continues Google's attempted foray into new parts of your home.

To get Android Things prepped and polished for launch, Google recently opened up the Android Things Developer Preview in an effort to encourage developers to make apps and devices that work with its rebranded Internet of Things (IoT) platform.

The third iteration of the developer preview is available now and it brings with it a few new features for developers to tinker with, as well as helpful bug fixes. Google detailed the update on its Android Developers Blog:

Android Bluetooth APIs

DP3 now includes support for all Android Bluetooth APIs in android.bluetooth and android.bluetooth.le, across all Android Things supported hardware. You can now write code that interacts with both Bluetooth classic and low energy (LE) devices just like a regular Android phone. Existing samples such as Bluetooth LE advertisements and scanning and Bluetooth LE GATT can be used unmodified on Android Things. We have also provided two new samples, Bluetooth LE GATT server and Bluetooth audio sink.

USB Host support

Android version 3.1 and later supports USB Host, which allows a regular user space application to communicate with USB devices without root privileges or support needed from the Linux kernel. This functionality is now supported in Android Things, to enable interfacing with custom USB devices. Any existing code supporting USB Host will work on Android Things, and an extra sample USB Enumerator is available that demonstrates how to iterate over and print the interfaces and endpoints for each USB device.

Google asks that any developers who are working on the Android Things Developer Preview provide feedback as they're moving along. You can file bug reports or feature requests, or ask questions at Stack Overflow.

If you're interested in the Android Things preview for developers, you can learn more here. But if you're just waiting for it to arrive so you can use it in your own home, you'll have to hold tight. Hopefully, we'll hear more about the connected platform at Google I/O 2017.

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2 weeks ago

Best adult apps for Android

In an ocean of adult apps done poorly, these rise to the top.

If you're reading this, chances are you have an awesome pocket computer running Android at your disposal. Today's Android phones and tablets can pretty much do anything, and that includes things of an adult nature. We want to help you find and see that content the best way possible.

Updated, April 2017: This post has been updated with the best adult apps available right now.

Android After Dark

It's a big world out there, and it's not all Rated G. Welcome to Android Central's NSFW section — home to sex, booze and other stories of an adult nature. It's not for everyone — especially if you're underage —and that's OK. Be adult. Be respectful. And be responsible.

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;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

We're not here to condone or condemn anyone or anything — and by all means let's keep things legal — but we feel that adults using their Androids to peruse adult content is just fine and dandy. We bet a good number of you guys and gals feel the same way.

If you don't agree, that's cool, too. We also are firm believers in the "live and let live" philosophy, and fully respect your opinion and support your right to have it. We also advise you to not click through the break if you think you might be offended. We love you regardless.

Don't worry, we're not trying to push any boundaries or limits (too terribly far), we just want to share a list of the best ways to find and browse adult content on Android. And do it in an adult way.

Namaste my friend. Namaste.

There are countless ways to see adult content on your Android out there, covering a broad range of subject matter. This is our list of the best of the best, and ones we feel confident to recommend. Be sure to tell us in the comments if you know another we should have a look at. Sorting through apps is a tough job, and we always love hearing input about the great stuff we need to check out.

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2 weeks ago

Encrypt your family: How to send safer, smarter messages

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I just wanted my family's messaging habits to be a little more secure. And the move was easier than I expected.

Nothing scares a parent more than letting their kid roam free — even just a little bit — online. I'm under no illusions that my daughters won't run into something nefarious at some point, be it adult content, or a phishing scheme, or cyber-bullying. For the most part that's all part of growing up. It's just digital now, wherein back in my day (get off my lawn!) it was almost all analog.

Those are all things I can help educate against, though. Same goes for the basics — like having good password security.

What I can't do anything about is the bad actors out there. True sniffing and hacking and what not. While I'm not quite ready to explain VPNs to my family, I have taken a couple of steps that should at least make things a little harder on anyone who targets us. (And, I'd argue, taking little steps instead of going full-IT on the folks you live with is probably the better route anyway.)

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WhatsApp and Signal

Messaging

We've all used text messages, of course. But they're hardly secure. Things get better if you're in an all-iOS household, of course, because then iMessage gets thrown into the mix. That in and of itself is not a bad thing at all. But my household is mixed. (And platform-specific apps like iMessage are bad on principle anyway.) So it was time to move us to something new.

The wife and kid and I used Google's Allo for a bit. It's a very nice app. Runs great on Android and iOS. But nobody else we know uses it. (And it doesn't do encrypted messages by default.)

Then we switched to Signal for a bit. Think iMessage, only for everyone. It does SMS text messages and secure, encrypted messaging, in a single app. It's open-source, which is great. And it's free. I like it a lot.

Ultimately we moved to WhatsApp, though, along with roughly a billion or so other people. And that's mostly why. Signal is great, but we know more folks on WhatsApp. Both also have good web components, so you can type longer messages on a real keyboard.)

So if you need me, I'll be on one (or both) of those. It's certainly easy enough to switch at any time.

Also: Privacy matters more now than ever

ProtonMail

Email

Email is a little trickier, and I'd argue maybe not quite as important. Not that I'm passing secret messages all day long — I just wanted an option for easily encrypting email if I so desired.

Encrypting the content of an email is a tradeoff between security and convenience.

So I went down the rabbit hole that is PGP is pretty quickly decided it wasn't something I wanted to (or had any real reason to) mess with, to say nothing of trying to explain public and private keys to my 10-year-old kid. ... (I think I'll try to slip that in when it's time for The Talk. But let's face it, my kid's probably already smarter than me anyway, right?)

The general consensus (both out there in the real world as well as here at AC) is that ProtonMail is a really good place to start. So I gave it a shot and quickly made it my personal email service. It's got a free version, which might well be fine for you. But I went ahead and ponied up $48 for the yearly upgrade, which lets me use a custom domain.

The gist: It looks and acts a lot like Gmail. It's got a nice web interface, and the Android and iOS apps are excellent.

It does the usual end-to-end encryption for messages sent to other ProtonMail users. And it's super simple to encrypt messages to recipients outside ProtonMail. Just hit the little lock icon, add a password (that you'll have securely shared somehow beforehand), and then send. The person who you send that message to will then open the decrypted email in a web browser.

It's an extra step, yeah, and not one I use every day. Or even every week. But it's available if I need it, and it's easy to use. And that's really all I wanted.

The bottom line

There's no one right way to do more secure messaging. (There are a lot of really good ones, though.) And there's no way to guarantee that you might not get hacked somehow. Brute force is still very much a thing, and social engineering is even easier.

I just wanted to make it harder on someone who might just be sniffing around to get into our lives. So for that we've turned to WhatsApp for messaging, and I'm using ProtonMail for email.

Now I just have to figure out the best way to get the family onto a VPN when they need to.

Modern Dad

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

Protect your Galaxy S8 and S8+ with Spigen's Protective Cases

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Want to protect your Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus? Take a look at these great options from Spigen.

That beautiful glass on the new Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus will be prone to scratches and marks if you're not careful. If you're curious on how to protect your new Galaxy when you finally get it, here's a closer look at Spigen's more protective cases.

Tough Armor

If you're looking for a phone that maximizes protection while keeping the slim profile of the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus intact, Spigen's Tough Armor case is the ideal choice for you. It adds rugged protection and increased tactility to a phone that's beautifully designed, but might also be slippery to hold. Spigen's Tough Armor is available in four colors: gunmetal, black, coral blue, and maple gold.

The two-piece design fits securely around your phone, offering edge-to-edge protection and bezels around the screen and camera. The buttons are kept flush with the case, which should still provide good feedback and are easily accessible. The TPU body offers protection from drops and falls by providing some shock absorption, while the hard polycarbonate shell protects from scratches and scuffs. There's also a built-in kickstand on the back, which has been reinforced this time around.


The Spigen Tough Armor is available for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Samsung Galaxy S8+.


Neo Hybrid

Spigen's Neo Hybrid case features a brand new look from the last generation, and personally, it's my favorite looking case in Spigen's updated lineup.

Still providing dual-layer protection but with a slimmer profile, the Neo Hybrid case is comprised mostly of a TPU body with a subtle polycarbonate bumper frame to reinforce the corners and the edge of the phone.

The first thing you'll notice is how nice case feels in hand. While the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus is a smooth, silky feeling phone, the Neo Hybrid gives your device a more rugged, textured feel. This texture will no doubt give the phone a more solid feel in your hand, so you wouldn't have to worry about your new Galaxy slipping away from you.

Another great addition to the Neo Hybrid case is the redesigned bumper. It now cuts into the back of the case instead of just going around the edges. This allows the bumper to lie completely flush with the TPU body, meaning you won't have to deal with any sharp plastic edges when you're slipping your phone in and out of your pocket.

The Neo Hybrid comes in a wide variety of colors; however, the gunmetal version is the only one you can buy right now —the other colors will be available April 10.

The Spigen Neo Hybrid is available for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Samsung Galaxy S8+.

Rugged Armor

Spigen's Rugged Armor is slim and flexible while maximizing its durability and resilience. Carbon fiber accents along both the top and bottom of the case look greatnwhile also providing much-needed texture when the phone is in your hand.

There are precise cutouts for all the ports along the bottom of the phone, so you still have easy access to everything you need and all the buttons on the side are also protected, so you don't have to worry about dust and dirt getting into the hardware. The buttons are also slightly raised from the profile of the case, which helps you feel where they are when you're not looking. Perfect for making sure you pull your phone out of the pocket the right way.

Much like Ford in the early days, you can have the Rugged Armor in any color you want, as long as it's black.

Spigen's Rugged Armor is available for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Samsung Galaxy S8+.

Liquid Air

Made up of just a singular TPU shell, the Liquid Air case does have textured pattern on the rear of the case to improve your grip. Plus, all the ports are free and open, so you don't lose any functionality of your phone and the buttons along the sides are all covered to protect you from dust.

The Liquid Air and Rugged Armor as super similar, the biggest difference is in appearance. The Liquid Air offers you a much more uniformed look and is perfect for people who love a more modest look.

Spigen's Liquid Air is available for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Samsung Galaxy S8+.

Spigen also offers a number of other cases for the Galaxy S8 and the S8+.

Which case looks best to you?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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2 weeks ago

Everything you need to know about Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plan

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A complete breakdown of Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plan and everything else you can get when you sign up for service.

In the United States, there are a lot of companies that can get you and your phone online, but most people use one of the four biggest: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. Choosing between them can be difficult. Your first priority should be what service works best in the places you spend your time. It's not worth saving $10 a month if the service is bad. Once you have that sorted, you can look at what each company has to offer and the prices they charge for it.

More: Which unlimited plan should you buy?

Let's take a look at Sprint to see what they can give you and what it will cost.

Updated, April 2017: This post has been updated with the latest information about Sprint's plans and pricing.

Sprint Unlimited Freedom plan details

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data (with certain restrictions)
  • Unlimited data for streaming video up to 1080p
  • Unlimited data for gaming up to 8Mbps
  • Unlimited data for streaming music up to 1.5Mbps
  • 10GB high-speed mobile hotspot with VPN and P2P support
  • Add a tablet with unlimited data for $25 per month

Note: These features apply only to new accounts.

Sprint's definition of Unlimited Data means that after you use 23 GB in a single month, your service can be slowed down if you're in a congested area. You'll hear the word throttled used here but you need to know that it's only a temporary deprioritization of your data connection when you're in a busy area. It may not happen at all depending on how many other customers are using the same towers.

Buying a phone and getting exactly the data plan and extras you want is far easier on Sprint than every other company we've tried.

Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plan applies only to new customers who are also buying (outright purchases or financing) or leasing phones from Sprint at the time of purchase, and credit approval is required. There is an activation fee of up to $30 per line and the Unlimited Freedom Plan requires eBilling. Current customers can call 1-866-275-1411 with questions about changing their plan.

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Sprint offers a 14-day satisfaction guarantee and devices purchased on installments are subject to a $350 early termination fee.

Additional lines can be added to a Sprint Unlimited Freedom plan. Every line has the same benefits outlined above and requires an equipment purchase. Here is a pricing breakdown.

  • One line of service is $50
  • Two lines of service is $80
  • Three lines of service is $100
  • Four lines of service is $120

These prices are part of a limited promotion and are set to change on June 30, 2018. They also include the standard AutoPay discount ($5) the carrier uses to determine their advertised pricing.

Sprint Unlimited Freedom plan add-ons

Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plan is a no-frills option at a low price. There are few extras and add-ons available if you want international options or a few extra features.

  • Free Sprint Open World Winter Promo: Free calls, texts and high-speed data from Canada, Mexico and 25 other countries in Latin America until March 31, 2017
  • Mexico-Canada Plus: Unlimited calls and texts from the U.S. to Mexico and Canada, unlimited messaging to 180 countries and discounted international calling rates from the U.S. for $5 per month
  • Upgrade your phone every 12 months with a $5 monthly charge

Sprint also offers trials and discounts on some premium services for new customers. Spotify Premium has a 30-day trial available, as does Lookout and Sprint Family Locator. After the trial period, normal monthly rates apply.

Sprint also will offer "unlimited access to exclusive artist content not available anywhere else" now that the company has bought one-third of Tidal, though exact details on this aren't yet available.

See at Sprint

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2 weeks ago

Best Cases for LG V20

43

What are the best cases for the LG V20?

Update April 2017: These are still the best cases to get for your LG V20.

Life is full of unfortunate surprises, which is why you want to be prepared in case you drop your sparkling clean LG V20 onto the ground. Protect your new smartphone with one of these affordable insurance plans.

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2 weeks ago

Sprint is going all-in on unlimited and killing its 50%-off deal to boost revenue

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Sprint is getting rid of its metered plans entirely as it moves to a single unlimited plan.

Sprint has announced its intention to get rid of its metered plans and go all-in on unlimited as it tries to find a balance between the intensely competitive U.S. wireless market and its own need to keep revenues high.

The company is ending its long-standing 50%-off deal, which offered up to four lines for $90 per month to new customers, and is instead settling on a more reasonable, but still lower-than-T-Mobile pricing structure that starts at $50 per month for one line.

The change actually makes it cheaper than before to have two lines on the service — it's down to $80 from $90 — rising to $100 for three lines and $120 for four, a $20 to $40 discount over T-Mobile.

Sprint also claims to support unlimited HD video streaming unlike T-Mobile, but T-Mobile is currently promoting that feature, along with 10GB of high-speed LTE tethering, with its own unlimited plan for a limited time.

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The second way Sprint is using to sell its new unlimited plan is by advertising its spectrum allotment, which is higher than the rest of the U.S. carriers.

Sprint has more spectrum than any other carrier in the U.S. With holdings of more than 160MHz of 2.5GHz spectrum in the top 100 U.S. markets, Sprint has the right kind of high-band spectrum that is built for data and very fast speeds. This is a tremendous advantage, allowing Sprint to keep adding the capacity and speed needed to meet customers' increasing demand for data now and well into the future. Perfect for unlimited.

High-band spectrum, though, is much more difficult to use reliably on smartphones, and Sprint lacks the same coverage in the 700MHz spectrum, which puts it at a disadvantage next to Verizon and AT&T.

These unlimited prices are also only for a limited time — the price of a single line goes up to $60 on June 30, 2018 — and includes a $5 AutoPay discount.

Everything you need to know about Sprint's Unlimited plan

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2 weeks ago

Everything you need to know about SD card speeds and your phone

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When it comes to SD cards, our phones have a need for speed.

An SD card is the only way to get extra storage space inside your phone. If you need an extra 256GB of storage that doesn't need any wires or anything plugged in, you have no other option. But you have to do it right to make the most of it.

The single biggest decision to make when you're buying an SD card is the speed. The form factor is easy (you need a microSD card for your phone) and we all understand that more capacity means we can put more stuff on it. But unless the card you buy is fast enough, none of that matters. Let's see what fast enough really means and how you can tell how fast a card is rated.

A numbers game

Ignore the speed listed on the package because it's not realistic, Ever.

When you get a new SD card you'll see all sorts of claims on the package about the card's read and write speeds. Forget about the actual rating for a moment because you need to know that your phone will never be able to read data from the card or write data to the card as fast as the package says. Most of the time, nothing can meet those speeds in the real world. Consider those numbers the theoretical maximums that happened under perfect conditions while a unicorn was in the lab next to the tester.

Next, you need to know that the write speed is much more important than the read speed and those blurbs that say things like "up to 90MB per second" are talking about the read speed. Like every other thing that's sold, the company making the cards wants to advertise the best features and fastest and biggest everything. But that's OK because you'll know exactly what you want when we're done here!

The speed "class" rating

All SD cards have a rating that tells us approximately how fast data can be read from an SD card. They are, in order from slowest to fastest:

  • DS (up to 12.5 MB/s)
  • HS (up to 25 MB/s)
  • UHS-I (up to 104 MB/s)
  • UHS-II (up to 312 MB/s
  • UHS-3 (over 312 MB/s)

Don't get excited when you see those speed ratings and think you'll be able to move data at 312MB per second. Remember, those are the laboratory test maximum speeds that a computer program calculated. But those speeds are useful when you see how much faster or slower one type of card is compared to another. And to make things even more confusing there are also speed subclasses, and those are what most people use when they discuss anything to do with SD card performance.

  • DS speed cards are rated (slowest to fastest) 2,4 or 6
  • HS speed cards are rated 10
  • Sometimes UHS cards are abbreviated as U1, U2, and U3

You'll find the speed class of the SD card listed on the packaging and printed on the card itself. Look for a ②, ④, ⑥ or ⑩ printed on DS or HS class cards and the actual rating on a UHS class card. And know that a UHS-3 (I have no idea why Roman Numerals weren't used for 3 when they were for I and II) card is about 30 times faster than a class 2 DS rated card.

Here is where we are going to make things easy for you: Never buy a card slower than class 10 and always buy the fastest one you can afford.

Why your phone wants a fast card

This is simple once you stop overthinking things. The faster you can move data to and from your storage the less time it takes to do it.

A real world example would be copying a 600MB file to your SD card. A class 2 card would take about 200 seconds. A UHS-3 class card would take about 20 seconds to do it. While waiting for files to transfer is a horrible thing we go through from time to time, it matters even more to your phone.

Your phone is a computer. It is programmed to take input from you or through an app and do something cool with it. If you tell it to do something that needs it to copy a 600MB file, it has to wait until the file is copied before it can begin. Since it can't tell jokes or mix the perfect martini, it won't do anything while it is waiting. You can do something else while waiting on your phone, but nothing you can do will make the data move any faster.

While this is general information that's good for the way most of us use an SD card as a place to store media and documents, sometimes you want something even faster.

Running apps and using your camera

Imagine your SD card being used as the install location for an app and the place to store all the data for the app. You just doubled the wait time.

Realistically, you will be fine with a class 10 card most of the time even if you install apps to it. Your phone will store the parts of the app that make it run in its actual RAM so it only needs to load that once. And data created by an app is usually in very small files that can be read almost instantly. But there are apps that are huge, and some of them use many big files from their data resources when they run. You will see longer load times and wait times with something like a really big 3D game even with a UHS-3 card and they are magnified when you use one that's slower.

Your 4K videos will look better when you use a faster SD card.

Last but not least, your camera wants the fastest card available, especially if you take burst photos or shoot 4K video. Your phone camera has what's called a buffer. When you take a picture or video, the images and metadata and sound are all copied to that buffer because it's really fast to put them there. The buffer then writes all that data to the storage, and if you're using an SD card for camera storage those wait times come into play.

You'll be able to take more burst mode photos in sequence and that means less of them will be blurry. The faster the picture can move from the buffer to the card, the more free space is in the buffer for the camera to drop photos into. When that buffer is full, your camera can't do anything.

4K video will just look better with a faster card. 4K video files are gigantic and the data is pulled from the buffer a little differently. Since you're doing something live and in real time, waiting for a buffer to flush isn't an option. The movement from the camera buffer to the SD card is more like streaming video that a direct file copy. When you can't pull data from the buffer fast enough, you get fuzzy video, poor sound, skipped frames or audio and video not synchronizing very well. While 4K video is best when written to the phone's storage, you can get by with a fast UHS class SD card. You can't get by with a slower card.

If you take a lot of pictures or want to run apps from your SD card, buy a class UHS-3 card. Full stop. You will wish you bought a faster card eventually if you don't.

Don't be confused

Numbers and letters and the different ways an SD card can be used can be overwhelming if you're just buying an SD card to use and aren't worried about knowing what they all mean. But all that jazz aside, a few simple rules will make sure you don't buy the wrong thing.

  • Buy a class 10 card or faster every time.
  • If you like to take pictures and video, buy a class UHS-3 card.
  • If you want to install apps on your SD card, buy a class UHS-3 card.

We wish all tech was this easy to sort out.

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2 weeks ago

Home screen layouts and how to theme them

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Making your home screen look pretty is not a requirement. Putting things on it is.

Even if you don't actively theme your phone, you do actively lay out your home screen. Layouts are the way you arrange the apps and widgets on your home screen. We don't talk about them nearly as much when theming as we should. In fact, I try to avoid specific layouts in my themes so they are more accessible to users of varying tastes. But layouts are important, whether you intend to theme your phone or not.

Some people like their home screen to have as little on it as possible. Some people want everything on the home screen they possibly can squeeze in there. Some people are a little of column A and a little of column B, because we believe that the space on our home screen is meant to be used, but we don't need/want to cover up every inch of it. No matter which camp you fall in, all of us can benefit from seeing the differences and the benefits of each approach.

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2 weeks ago

Comcast, 'the worst company in America', just launched cellular service

121

Comcast is launching cellular service through its Xfinity subbrand in partnership with Verizon.

Comcast, the enormous cable, internet and content creation behemoth, just launched cellular service despite owning no actual wireless spectrum.

The company, which owns NBCUniversal along with its massive Comcast Cable division, will offer 4G LTE service under the Xfinity Mobile brand, in partnership with Verizon, which powers the actual cellular part of the proposition. The other part is automatic access to Comcast's 16 million wireless hotspots peppered around the country, which will be open to all Xfinity Wireless customers through a simple authentication process that uses the other Xfinity apps and services to verify a customer's identity.

But Xfinity Wireless will not be available to everyone; it's a bundle-only deal for existing Xfinity cable or internet customers (pdf), and will differ in price per line depending on how much one already spends with the company.

"Xfinity Mobile benefits customers by bundling wireless service with Comcast's other Xfinity experiences. With Xfinity Mobile, customers only pay for the gigabytes they use, with the flexibility to easily switch back-and-forth between data options using the Xfinity Mobile app at no cost."

The idea is pretty straightforward: existing Xfinity customers can sign up for unlimited wireless service for $65 per line, up to five lines. Top-tier Xfinity X1 customers, though, get the service for $45 per line, but at this point it's not clear what that minimum spend is. But despite being called unlimited, wireless service is throttled after 20GB per line, which is lower than Verizon's own unlimited throttling policy.

The other way to get service is by the gigabyte: each line can spend $12 per gigabyte, which works out to be cheaper if the user stays under 5GB per month. Users can go back and forth between the two options, so if it appears that one line is going to spend more than $65 per month in a la carte data, it can switch to the unlimited option with no penalties.

The offering is, technology-wise, very similar to Google's Project Fi in that Xfinity Mobile is acting as an MVNO, facilitating a mix of wireless and easily-accessible Wi-Fi hotspots around the U.S. The major difference, though, is that Comcast is generally disliked by most of its customers (it was voted "the worst company in America" three years ago), and plans to bundle its bevy of entertainment options with each phone:

When using Xfinity Mobile, you're already signed into your other Xfinity apps – whether it's watching up to 200 live TV channels and 40K On Demand movies and shows with the Xfinity Stream app, or controlling your home devices from the road with the Xfinity Home app.

Comcast says that customers will be able to manage all of their mobile services, including adding and removing lines, buying more data or switching plans, or cancelling service, through the Xfinity Mobile app.

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And while the company is entirely a wireless MVNO right now, working exclusively with Verizon, it has bid in the now-closed 600MHz wireless auction, so it's possible it could launch 4G LTE service of its own in the near future, at least in some parts of the country.

When it launches in the coming months (no word on a specific launch date yet) it will offer a range of phones, including the latest devices from Samsung, LG and Apple, according to a press release. It's unclear at this point, due to the tie-ins with Xfinity services, whether you'll ever be able to bring your own phone.

Are you into this at all? If you're an Xfinity customer, are the prices preferable to your current plan, unlimited or not? Let us know in the comments!

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2 weeks ago

Galaxy S8's Snapchat-like filters are the perfect tool for Instagram

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You hate Snapchat. You wish you could get the funny effects without installing the app. This is the answer!

I see you: the Snapchat naysayers with the app icon secretly stashed at the back of the Home screen. You know you give yourself away if you post a filtered selfie to Instagram Stories, right?

Perhaps you should consider the Galaxy S8 as your next smartphone. It comes chock full of Snapchat-like filters already baked into the phone's native camera app, and they're just as much of a delight to use as the ones they imitate. Their inclusion is also a nice compromise for anyone who loves the idea of silly augmented reality camera effects but doesn't want to deal with Snapchat's often sluggish Android app.

Like the real thing

Galaxy S8 filters effects.

A sampling of the Galaxy S8's filter effects.

I had a chance to play around with the Galaxy S8's filter effects at a media briefing a few weeks back. They looked high definition in the view finder and seemed more responsive to subtle body movements, at least compared to my experience with Snapchat. Samsung's inherent facial recognition feature is likely the reason for why tracking felt so fast. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to test the effects with another person in the picture.

The Galaxy S8's built-in filters will be great for Instagram Stories users.

The Galaxy S8's built-in filters will be especially beneficial for Instagram users who don't typically have access to augmented reality effects for their Stories. They won't have to maintain a dual app life, either, and have to switch between using Snapchat, saving and exporting to the camera roll, and then importing back into Instagram. It's easier to do it all with the default camera app, which is also more user-friendly.

Interestingly, Snapchat users won't be reaping many benefits from the built-in filter effects on the Galaxy S8. Any photos or videos that are not produced with the Snapchat app fail to translate. The app has an extremely clunky import mechanism, likely to discourage others from using other apps, and thus, any media imported through the camera roll is published with an accosting white border around it.

Will the kids like it?

Snapchat has this reputation — and rightfully so — of being the young millennials app, which is why this feels like such an obvious ploy for the youths. But this could also turn out to be one of Samsung's smartest marketing ploys, particularly if the filters take off worldwide and the people using them are prolific on social media.

If the filters included with the Galaxy S8 were specially designed for Samsung's devices, that means that anyone posting content made with those filters is representing Samsung, in some capacity. It's in the same vein as Snapchat's puppy dog filter; when people see someone posting a picture with the puppy dog filter, they immediately associate with the Snapchat app.

This could turn out to be one of Samsung's smartest marketing ploys.

If this sort of thing catches on as a mainstream camera effect, much like how Instagram-like vintage photo filters are now bundled into most default camera apps, perhaps we should all look forward to a future abundant in augmented reality photo effects.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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2 weeks ago

Nougat is rolling out to the Sprint Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+

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Nougat for 2015-era phones, thanks to Samsung and Sprint.

The 2015-era Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ are getting their Nougat updates on Sprint today. The phones, which are still in use by millions around the world, were promised an update to Android 7.0 back in January, and it's great to see Samsung (and its carrier partners) following through on their claim with relative haste.

The Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ benefit from the same simplification and lightening of the UI as its newer counterparts — though perhaps not to the same extent, if past years are any indication — along with the March security patch.

There's no word on when other variants of the Note 5 and GS6 edge+ will receive Nougat, but we'll keep an eye out.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

AT&T Sprint T-Mobile Verizon Best Buy

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2 weeks ago

Gboard update adds a floating keyboard, cursor control, and GIF suggestions

27

Gboard is turning into the most feature-rich keyboard around.

Gboard has picked up a significant update to version 6.2 that introduces a slew of new features. In one-handed mode, you now have the ability to resize and reposition the keyboard, allowing you to move the keyboard to a location where it's comfortable to use. All you have to do is switch to one-handed mode, select the pop-out icon from the bottom left (or right, based on the orientation) of the keyboard, and move it around the display.

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2 weeks ago

OnePlus is doing everything right lately

110

The amazing story of OnePlus figuring out how to make great products people want.

A strange thing has happened between mid-2016 and today: OnePlus stopped screwing up.

The company that was notorious for poorly-considered marketing campaigns and forcing customers to wait months in virtual lines for new phones has improbably and wholeheartedly corrected course over the past nine months, turning into, at least from the outside, a well-run and confident machine. After releasing the OnePlus 3 in June of 2016 — a phone that our Andrew Martonik called "a downright great smartphone" — the company has begun manufacturing its phones in India to meet growing demand, expanded its profitable and surprisingly good accessories line, and ironed out its logistics enough to ship phones to order for the first time in its existence.

Then, in November, OnePlus surprised everyone by releasing an upgraded version of its then-three month-old flagship phone, and was among the first third-party manufacturers to release Android 7.1.1 only months after just hitting its target for a Nougat update.

A year ago...

OnePlus is hardly recognizable, in a good way.

A year ago, a list this breathless and expansive would have seemed impossible to anyone looking at how the company was being run. A mass exodus (or a planned consolidation, depending on who you speak to) of its software development team made apparent that the company was, at times, chasing its own tail, trying to decide how to best manage its explosive growth on a shoestring budget. But the company bore the criticism relatively well, admitting fault when necessary while doubling down on the core, early-adopter audience that gave it life back when it debuted in 2014.

Today, the company regularly releases software updates for both of its 3-series phones, and as I sit here with a newly-released Midnight Black OnePlus 3T running Android 7.1.1 Oxygen OS Open Beta 4, if you must know), I am simply floored at its uniformity, at how utterly cohesive and mature the thing feels, and how OnePlus managed to figure out how best to sell its products — that is, by doing simple and good better than any other smartphone manufacturer.

With release of the limited edition Midnight Black OnePlus 3T, it's clear the company's marketing machine is in rhythm with its product and logistics divisions, eking out as much goodwill and return business during the natural year-long product cycle before the whole thing begins again.

Midnight Black

Yes, it's merely an updated color of an existing phone, itself a minor refresh of an existing phone, but the Midnight Black OnePlus 3T is a really stunning piece of hardware. Moreover, after using it for a few days, it's hard to imagine OnePlus ever falling considerably behind the competition again in terms of industrial design or build quality, nor — despite my own public concerns — reverting to a poor state of Android software quality.

Indeed, the worst criticism one can level against OnePlus's software is that it too quickly abandons its aging product lineup — the OnePlus 2, released in 2015, isn't getting Nougat anytime soon — but the same can be said of Samsung, LG and many companies.

Using the OnePlus 3T is a joy; it just works. Performance is superb, and the latest beta (which will eventually roll out to all users) addresses the touch latency problems that were evident on early Nougat builds. And there are some subtle things that I really like: the haptic engine is tuned just perfectly to my taste, even at its default setting. Tapping away on the keyboard evinces the exact right feedback response. The front fingerprint sensor, which doubles as a home button if you want it to, is incredibly fast, as is launching the camera, which I have done dozens of times to use the excellent rear sensor.

Using the OnePlus 3T is a joy; it just works.

Of course, the 5.5-inch 1080p panel isn't the most accurate or brightest out there, and it's framed by large top and bottom bezels that, after using the LG G6 and Galaxy S8, make the phone seem oversized and awkward in one hand. I have no doubt OnePlus plans to address this — as do most manufacturers with any aspirations of greatness — with the 3T's successor, but the design will look increasingly dated as the year rolls on. Still, this is a good phone, mainly for the fundamentals. And for that black.

I've heard the term "murdered out" to describe the exact shade of black that has become increasingly common on phones like the Galaxy Note 7, Galaxy S7, and, now, the OnePlus 3T, and I think that's fair. This thing isn't pitch dark — it shimmers in the light — but it carries the smooth, aggressive confidence of a much more expensive product.

Come a long way

Being just a regular OnePlus 3T in a new shade is one thing; the other part of the equation is the beta build I'm running, which should be rolling out more widely in the coming weeks.

I feel like I could hand the OnePlus 3T to anyone and not worry about the learning curve.

Open Beta 4 is still based on Android 7.1.1, but adds some major improvements to the launcher, which is quickly becoming my favorite manufacturer skin around. It now has a Pixel Launcher-like app drawer, which you swipe up from the bottom which, combined with the widely-loved 'swipe-down-for-notifications' gesture, brings it as close to perfect as I would want. It also supports icon packs, and comes with two excellent ones pre-loaded — I highly recommend Dives if you aren't using a OnePlus 3/3T — that just keep everything looking fresh and clean.

Here's the thing: I feel like I can hand this phone to someone who has never used Android before and feel confident in his or her ability to just pick it up and get to know the operating system. OnePlus has its fair share of gimmicks hidden in the settings — why would you want to draw an 'O' to activate the camera when double-pressing the power button does the same thing much more intuitively — but they're few and far between, and don't distract from the first-on experience.

A year later

I didn't expect OnePlus to get to this point so quickly; I thought it had a couple more years of growing pains yet. But I'm incredibly encouraged by what I'm seeing, both from an end user and company culture perspective.

It appears to have found some much-needed equilibrium to balance out the frenetic momentum that kept it afloat until now. The fact that the Midnight Black OnePlus 3T is just $479, undercutting many other high-end Android phones by more than $200, further sweetens the pot. As Alex Dobie pointed out in this smart piece, it seems that OnePlus plans to depress its handset prices indefinitely, even if it takes a loss on the hardware, to further other aspects of the business.

[These peripherals, like bags and headphones], say a lot about the growth of OnePlus as a brand, and hints at how it might make the bulk of its profit further down the line. The company has admitted that it makes very little profit on sales of phones like the OnePlus One, 2 and 3. That's no surprise when you're shipping devices with cutting-edge specs around the $400 mark.

But look at the accessories and gear sections of OnePlus's store. It's packed with much higher-margin items like branded power banks, earbuds and chargers, not to mention bags and clothing. By ensuring every customer feels like they belong to the OnePlus family, they're more likely to fork out for more expensive accessories either at the point of purchase, or further down the line. (The 3T also has a OnePlus Community app preloaded, which plays into that strategy.)

The phones, the community, the exclusivity, fosters a user base that makes people want to invest further in the brand. That OnePlus is a much more coherent, self-assured company with a working logistics arm that ships phones on time to match its ambitious sales goals is a bonus, and one that puts it in good stead for 2017 and beyond.

See at OnePlus

OnePlus 3T and OnePlus 3

OnePlus Amazon

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