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3 days ago

Samsung Galaxy S7, six months on

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Samsung Galaxy S7

It's been half a year since we reviewed the Galaxy S7; now it's time to revisit things.

Oh how quickly time flies. It's hard to believe that the Galaxy S7 has already been on sale for over six months, as we published our review on March 8. The GS7 has been what I consider my "primary" phone since then (with requisite time spent away from it with review devices), so I've racked up plenty of experience using Samsung's base-level flagship since it was launched.

Revisiting a phone several months after reviewing it gives necessary perspective, particularly as sales continue and potential buyers keep considering the Galaxy S7. So how has it stood up to a half-year of use? Read on for my experiences.

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3 days ago

T-Mobile extends free high-speed roaming in Europe and South America until end of 2016

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T-Mobile extends roaming privileges until the end of 2016.

T-Mobile always finds a way to put itself in the news. The company has announced that it will be extending free high-speed roaming to postpaid customers until the end of 2016. The original plan was supposed to expire at the end of September.

Specifically, the company says all postpaid customers will be able to roam on LTE at no extra charge in a number of European and South American countries, including Spain, Sweden, UK, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and more.

Of course, not all of T-Mobile's roaming partners in every country support 4G LTE, but the company promises the "fastest available data" in each place.

T-Mobile says that after introducing the promotion earlier this summer to coincide with the Olympics, it saw a 3x increase in data use in those countries — unsurprising when people didn't feel they had to count their bandwidth.

Last month, the company introduced T-Mobile One, a single plan that offers unlimited calls, texting and data to all of its customers. After some criticism around the speed of free tethering, T-Mobile then revised the One plan to include faster free 3G tethering, and the option to add 4G LTE hotspot support and unlimited HD video streaming for an extra $25 per month, per line.

The full list of countries eligible for free, high-speed roaming is:

Europe

  • Armenia
  • Austria
  • Croatia
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom

South America

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Easter Island
  • Ecuador
  • French Guiana
  • Guyana
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Suriname
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

What do you think of this move to extend free, high-speed roaming in Europe and Latin America? Let us know in the comments below!

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3 days ago

Digital Offers: Keep your browsing private and secure for only $39!

There's so many reasons why you'd want to securely browse the internet anonymously in 2016; whether you don't like how advertisers and marketers track your every search and click online, you hate dealing with geo-locked content, or you're bothered by the idea of your ISP or government snooping on you.

The obvious solution is to get yourself a VPN subscription, but those can be a hassle to set up and can end up costing you hundreds of dollars over time. Plus, there's typically limitations on the number of devices you can use it for.

That's what makes this deal from Android Central Digital Offers so amazing. You can get a lifetime subscription to Windscribe VPN for just $39.99! Featuring a desktop application and a browser extension that work in conjunction with one another, Windscribe VPN not only protects your online privacy and unblocks geo-locked websites but it also removes ads and trackers from your browsing experience.

Windscribe helps you stay private online by blocking ads and trackers and changing your IP address to one that is shared by thousands of people, so your Internet activity cannot be tracked by your Internet Service Provider and other parties. It also features a top-notch firewall and can be used on all your devices simultaneously (compatible with PCs running Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10, Macs running OS X 10.8 or later, and Linux as well).

A lifetime subscription to Windscribe would typically run you upwards of $900. That's why you should act now and save 95% with this amazing deal. Keep your browsing private and safe with Windscribe VPN.

See at Android Central Offers

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3 days ago

Using Google Chromecast Audio as a whole-house audio alternative to Sonos

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Great-sounding music is made easy with a Chromecast Audio. And you'll save a fistful of dollars, too.

If you're thinking about setting up a whole-house (or even just a single-room) streaming audio solution, Sonos systems are pretty much what you'll find recommended by folks on the Internet. They are easy to set up and the Sonos service offers a decent choice of streaming content providers. But the price tag — you'll be spending hundreds per room for individual Sonos amps or speakers — can be tough to swallow. We've got a solution: Use a Chromecast Audio and a few standard components and save a whole lot of money.

Three things make the Chromecast Audio a good (or even better) alternative — the Chromecast has its own 96KHz / 24bit capable audio hardware, the 3.5 mm combination output supports optical as well as analog connections and has a high dynamic range setting for hi-res music files, and the Google Cast app lets you create groups or zones so you can stream your music to specific sources just like you can with a Sonos. There's no hacking or messing with hardware required, either. Plug your Chromecast Audio into a set of powered speakers, or a small amp and passive speakers, or even an A/V receiver, and cast some music.

Getting started

You'll need three things — a Chromecast Audio, something to play the music that's streaming and something to initiate it. The Chromecast Audio is the easy part — you'll find one on Google Play as well as plenty of other online retailers or on the shelf at Walmart or Best Buy. One will set you back about $35 unless you find it on sale.

To tell the Chromecast what to play, you'll need an Android or iOS device or a computer running Google Chrome (a Chromebook works really well, too). Install the Google Cast app and it will walk you through finding your Chromecast(s) and setting them up. You'll then be able to stream from popular online services like Google Play Music, Pandora, Spotify and plenty of others. You can also stream your own hi-res music from a network-attached storage device using a server like Plex or an app like BubbleUPnP for your Android phone. You can even mirror local files from your Android phone or tablet or cast audio directly from a Chrome tab across your local network. There are plenty of options when it comes to the source of your music, and more apps are adding Google Cast support all the time.

The Chromecast Audio is designed to be plug and play with other equipment.

Playing back the sound is really the only part you'll need to think about. You need a way to get the audio from the Chromecast's 3.5 mm jack to a pair of speakers (either powered or via an external amp). There is nothing special about how this is done. In fact, you can plug a pair of headphones into your Chromecast Audio and it plays exactly as you would expect. That means you can let your needs and your budget decide what you use here.

Adding some speakers

Probably the best solution would be to use a small Class-T bookshelf amplifier and a pair of passive speakers. The amp can cost as little as $20 and still deliver great sound because we're not necessarily looking for bells and whistles — we just need a way to increase the power of the signal and pass it along to some speakers. Decent bookshelf speakers start at $50 or so, while great ones can be bought for about $100. You can even splurge and use a pair of studio monitors (along with an amp capable of driving them) for one or more rooms if you plan on streaming a lot of hi-res music. The folks where you buy your speakers will be able to help you if you're not sure what to buy, Just tell them what you're planning to do and they'll point you towards everything you would need. Add in a few cables and you've just built a great audio streaming setup without breaking the bank. Here's an example of a good setup that would compare to a pair of Sonos Play 3 speakers or a Sonos Connect amp setup:

Chromecast Audio Topping mini-amp Pioneer speakers

Even after adding in the cost of a few cables and things like speaker stands if you want or need them, this is a much cheaper alternative that sounds great and has support for more services than a Sonos system. The only downside is wiring things up, which should take just a few minutes because everything on this list will be plug and play. Now multiply the savings by the number of places you want to bring your music to, and you'll have saved a lot of money.

A great sounding system is easy to build, or you can plug a Chromecast Audio into your existing setup.

A Chromecast Audio is also really easy to drop into your existing home stereo or entertainment center. If you already have a great setup and would love to use Google Play Music or listen to your music across your own network, all you need to do is plug a Chromecast Audio into an open optical input using a Toslink cable and fire up the Google Cast app. You can even use a pair of powered speakers like these Mackie 4-inch Monitors for great sound without a separate amplifier. Being versatile is a big plus, and a Chromecast Audio will fit most anywhere and connect to anything using standard cables.

Whether you're just looking for a cheap and easy way to build a streaming stereo for your office or bedroom, or want to connect your whole house with multiple setups indoors or out, a Chromecast Audio is a great way to do it.

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3 days ago

BlackBerry is officially getting out of the phone hardware business

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BlackBerry's transition to a software company is complete. During its Q2 2017 earnings today, CEO John Chen announced that the company "plans to end all internal hardware development and will outsource that function to partners." This change was already in the works for some time, with Foxconn taking over the design responsibilities of some of the company's future devices and TCL, owners of the Alcatel brand, building its phones under the DTEK brand, but to see it official is bittersweet for this Canadian.

"Our new Mobility Solutions strategy is showing signs of momentum," said Chen in a press release. "Under this strategy, we are focusing on software development, including security and applications."

BlackBerry's hardware business has been losing money for some time, and this is just the last nail in the coffin.

BlackBerry announced revenue of just $334 million for the quarter, down 47% from a year earlier, and down sharply from its days of billion-plus quarters less than three years ago. It lost $372 million due to a hit of $147 million from its RAP, or Resource Alignment Program, and $96 million from inventory write-downs.

In other words, BlackBerry's hardware business has been losing money for some time, and this is just the last nail in the coffin. But the company says that its transition to a software and services company, building Android-based security solutions for other OEMs, is proving successful, and revenue increases will meet the targets set in early 2016 for the end of this fiscal year. Chen is a pragmatist, and has been warning that he would get out of the hardware business should he see no future in it, and this move is the first step towards realizing that goal.

The investment needed in rebranding a TCL-built phone with BlackBerry software is minimal, especially, as we've seen in recent months, the company intends to distribute its security-focused Android software suite to all users running Lollipop and above. As someone who has followed BlackBerry since the early days of BlackBerry OS — I lined up to purchase a Bold 9000 in 2008 when everyone else was lusting after the iPhone 3G — I am a little saddened by this news, but certainly not surprised. Based on what we've seen from the burgeoning DTEK line, if there's any money to be made in the coming years, it's not going to be in high-margin devices like the Priv that, at $699, are critical successes and commercial failures.

The news comes on the heels of an announcement by Alcatel parent company TCL of its new TCL 950 flagship, the purported basis for BlackBerry's upcoming DTEK60, which is expected to be announced in mid-October.

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3 days ago

The best way to use your Pokémon Go Plus

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Is the Pokémon Go Plus worth it?

You can explore the world of Pokémon Go for free if you have a smartphone, but if you really want to take this game to the next level you can buy a $35 wrist button. At least, that's what Niantic and Nintendo want you to think when you see Pokémon Go Plus on the shelf. This inexpensive little gadget is all about keeping you in the game even when your phone isn't in your hand, by buzzing your wrist when there's something nearby for you to do in the game.

If being tethered to Pokémon Go without looking at your screen is an appealing idea for you, there's a lot to like about this simple little accessory. Here's how to get the most out of the experience.

Walking with Pokémon Go Plus

The biggest benefit to having Pokémon Go Plus on your wrist is not needing to have your phone in your hand or carefully positioned in a pocket while you walk around. Walking in Pokémon Go powers incubators for hatching eggs, and encourages your designated Pokémon Buddy to give you extra Pokémon Candy the more you walk. It's a huge part of the game, and keeping your screen on while you do so is kind of tedious. Pokémon Go Plus lets you walk with your screen completely off and in your pocket. As long as that wristband is connected to your phone, every step you take is recorded in the game. This means you get those kilometers in much faster than you normally would, because it's always paying attention to how far you've walked.

You can really take advantage of Pokémon Go Plus by being just a little more active every day. Anything from a casual walk through a grocery store to a sprint down the street in hopes of catching your bus across town gets counted by Pokémon Go Plus. It's fantastic encouragement to go for a walk during your lunch break or even just park further away the next time you're at the store. It all adds up quick when you don't have to fire up the Pokémon Go app to capture those steps, which means more eggs hatched and more candy received!

Checking in at Pokéstops

You'll get a small vibration on your wrist and a flashing blue light in the center of the wristband every time you're near a Pokéstop that's ready to be spun. Instead of pulling your phone out and checking the app, you just tap the button on your wrist and it will check in for you. This works whether you're walking down the street or stopped at an intersection with a Pokéstop nearby, and every time the Pokéstop recharges you're notified to check in again. When you finally do check your phone, you'll see all of the items you received in your Journal and in your Inventory.

One weird note with Pokéstops through Pokémon Go Plus: checking in with the button doesn't always turn the stop purple. This doesn't mean you can check in twice — we tried repeatedly — but it is something worth keeping in mind as you switch between playing with just the wristband and playing on your phone.

Catching all the Pokémon

A green or yellow light flash on your wrist means there's a Pokémon nearby for you to catch. Green flashes mean it's a Pokémon you've encountered before, and yellow means it's a Pokémon not currently in your Pokédex. Before you tap that button and try to catch yourself a Pokémon using nothing but your wrist, there are a few things to consider.

Pokémon Go Plus will only ever throw a single standard red and white Pokéball on your behalf. If the Pokémon breaks free of that single standard Pokéball, it breaks free immediately and flees. You don't get another shot to catch that Pokémon, it's gone. This is particularly troubling when you can't actually see what you're going to be catching, so your best bet is to only use Pokémon Go Plus to catch something if you have absolutely no plans of otherwise stopping to catch it. You should probably always avoid trying to capture something that flashes yellow on your Pokémon Go Plus, especially once you reach level 20 or higher in the game.

Overall having Pokémon Go Plus on you can be handy, and it's hard to argue with the price, but it's important to figure out how to fit it into your particular style of gameplay before you go for a jog with it on.

Pokémon Go

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3 days ago

Huawei Mate 9 leaks: 6 colors, 2 cameras, 6GB RAM and 256GB storage

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November launch likely, with prices for the Nougat-powered slab rumored land between $480 and $700, depending on RAM and storage options.

It certainly looks like Huawei's leaving nothing on the table for the launch of its upcoming big-screened handset, the Mate 9. The latest details unearthed from Chinese social network Weibo by Playfuldroid show off what looks like six distinct colors and finishes for the phone, along with Leica branding for its dual rear cameras.

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3 days ago

Samsung faces new Note 7 battery fire claim in China

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Galaxy Note 7

Guangzhou man claims his Note 7 caught fire less than 24 hours after delivery — but isn't handing it over for inspection.

Even as Samsung makes strong progress with its Galaxy Note 7 exchange program and looks to reassure customers around the world that the new Note 7s are safe, there's a new report of Note 7s catching fire in China.

Note 7s sold in China were originally through to be unaffected by the battery glitch causing some phones sold elsewhere to overheat and explode, however some devices sold as part of a preview program were recalled two weeks ago. Today's report from Bloomberg says 25-year-old Guangzhou resident Hui Renjie says his phone caught fire less than 24 hours after it was delivered from Chinese outlet JD.com, burning his fingers and his MacBook in the process.

"We are currently contacting the customer and will conduct a thorough examination of the device in question once we receive it," the Korean company said in an e-mailed statement.

A Samsung representative reportedly visited Hui shortly after the incident, however according to Bloomberg, "he declined the offer because he doesn't trust the company to reveal the reason for the fire, and plans to publicize the issue." Which by all accounts he's succeeded in doing.

Two other battery fires in China have been investigated by Samsung, which has attributed them to external heating — i.e. the original source of the fire wasn't the battery, as in reports centered around the old Note 7 with the defective cell.

It's too early to draw any conclusions from this latest report, and since the owner isn't willing to hand it over for analysis, we may never know what caused the fire. There are many things that can go wrong and suddenly cause all the power contained in a lithium-ion battery to release at once. (Heat from the nearby MacBook is one possibility.) It's also worth noting that these reports have been isolated to China so far — and explained away by the manufacturer where it's been able to investigate.

Elsewhere, Samsung continues to reassure customers that the new Note 7, with its green battery icon, is safe to use.

MORE: Frequency illusion and exploding Samsung phones

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

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3 days ago

Pixel + Pixel XL versus Nexus 5X + 6P: Google's new phones compared, to scale

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Big Pixel and baby Pixel side-by-side, in context.

As reported yesterday, we now have the first official-looking renders of Google's new Pixel phones, thanks to leaker Evan Blass. No surprise: Both the 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL look basically identical. In fact, the change in wallpaper is more noticeable than the difference in size, when viewed individually.

However, with a bit of simple math, it's easy to put these two alongside each other in context, since we know the relative screen sizes. So here you go — here's how Google's two new phones should look relative to each other. (Note that the phones are only to-scale relative to each other. Obviously they'll all appear larger or smaller than real life depending on the size of your screen.)

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3 days ago

Allo's best chance of beating WhatsApp in India depends on Google Assistant

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Google is betting on native Hindi support for Google Assistant as a way to tackle India's ubiquitous messaging service.

At its second annual "Google for India" event, Google launched several new features and services targeted at getting the next billion users online. Allo was prominently featured at the event, with Google stating that it is working on adding native Hindi support for Google Assistant by the end of the year.

The AI-driven Google Assistant is in its preview mode right now, and while it understands a few Hindi words and phrases, it mostly says that it is trying to learn the language. Localization is Allo's biggest advantage in a market dominated by WhatsApp. The Facebook-owned service is ubiquitous in India, and everyone from financial institutions to government agencies uses it to engage with their customers.

WhatsApp's simplicity is what enabled its meteoric rise over the last two years. For the uninitiated, WhatsApp is very straightforward to use: just enter your phone number, invite your friends, and chat away. You won't find any ads; the user interface is spartan, and most importantly, the service works great on 2G networks and across all platforms. With end-to-end encryption and voice calling now standard, the service is now indispensable. For a majority of the online populace in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, WhatsApp is becoming the primary source of information.

Allo has WhatsApp's simplicity combined with Google's AI smarts.

Google has incorporated the same principles into Allo. The messaging service relies on your phone number, and it has a minimalist UI that merges into the background, putting the focus on your chats. While it currently lacks the ability to sync messages across devices, you do get group messaging, ability to share media with ease, stickers, and Google Assistant. The last feature could prove pivotal in taking Allo mainstream in India.

Localization is a big deal. While there are 100 million people in the country that can converse in English, nearly 300 million count Hindi as their native language. The segment is severely under-catered to, as most services — WhatsApp included — don't offer a lot of options. That's where Google's work over the years in machine learning comes in handy. The company's Knowledge Graph now understands Hindi queries, and when using Chrome on Android, Indian users can seamlessly switch between English and Hindi search results.

Localization is the differentiator for Allo.

By integrating all of these features into Assistant, Google is making its AI smarts accessible to a wider audience. Instead of switching to a browser to search on Google, people can directly type @google in a chat and get their queries answered in Hindi.

As for the initial push, Google may also decide to pre-install Allo on new handsets sold in the country. Micromax has already begun pre-loading Duo on its latest sub-$100 phones, and the company's co-founder has said that the video calling service's simple UI has the potential for mass adoption.

Allo is also in the same category. At its core, Allo is a lightweight messaging service powered by the Google Assistant. The conversational nature of the AI chatbot puts it ahead of WhatsApp, and the localization feature will entice local handset makers to pre-load the app as a way to differentiate their devices for their audience.

Brands like Micromax, Intex, and Lava don't have the engineering resources of major international brands like Samsung or LG, and as such they rely on Google for software services. With Allo and Duo, the company is offering two compelling products aimed at the local audience. While not a unified solution, this is Google's best chance of beating WhatsApp.

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3 days ago

LG V20 available in Korea starting 'this week'

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LG V20

V20 hitting North America, Latin America, Middle East, and other parts of Asia over 'next several weeks.'

Sales of LG's big-screened, Nougat-powered V20 begin this week — at least in the company's home market of South Korea. In a press release this morning, LG confirmed that sales would begin sometime this week, but bizarrely neglected to mention a specific date.

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3 days ago

Google Play Music finally launches in India!

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Google Play Music is here, and it's everything you've been waiting for.

After several false starts, the moment we've all been waiting for is here. Google Play Music is finally available in India, and at an initial glance, it looks like the entire catalog is available for customers in the country.

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3 days ago

BlackBerry DTEK60 images leak ahead of official unveil

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It looks like BlackBerry is all set to announce a follow-up to the DTEK50, dubbed the DTEK60. The phone is slated to make its debut on October 11, and ahead of its unveil, press renders have leaked out showcasing the device from all angles.

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3 days ago

Daily brief: Pixels, pixels, big and small

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Another Pixel render, a Xiaomi release, and offline YouTube support for some. Here's all the news you need to know for September 27.

Want to know something cool? I played with a new phone today. Oh, you want to know what it is? OK, I'll tell you. It's got a screen, a big, beautiful screen, with lots of colors. And man is it sharp. It's made of metal, high-quality metal, the kind they make cars from. And probably planes. It's got a really good camera. Like, a camera so good that it can capture in detail things you want to put on the internet. And man, that battery. Its battery lasts so long you can use it all day, and maybe even longer. But the one thing that really differentiates this phone from all the others is that it runs Android. Have you heard of this Android thing? Man, this phone is really great.

Do you have a phone? You should really think of getting one.

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4 days ago

Best Cricket Wireless Phones

Here's a look at the best Android phones offered by Cricket Wireless.

No, we're not talking about the wildly popular sport. Cricket Wireless is AT&T's contract-free, pay-as-you-go MVNO. It offers a wide array of coverage that piggy-backs off of the major carrier's network, as well as a number of smartphones. These are the ones that are worth your cash.

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