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5 days ago

HTC's 'unexpected surprise' is a U Ultra with a sapphire panel and 128GB storage

43

HTC's limited edition U Ultra picks up 128GB storage and a sapphire-coated display for an additional $150.

HTC Taiwan said last week that it would share an "unexpected surprise" on March 20, and like the company's recent launches, the reveal itself was rather underwhelming. Instead of a successor to the HTC 10, we're being treated to a limited edition variant of the HTC U Ultra with 128GB internal memory and a sapphire screen, a product HTC referenced back in January.

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5 days ago

Huawei P10 vs. P10 Plus camera comparison: Tiny improvements

6
Huawei P10 + P10 Plus

Just how much difference does the P10 Plus's f/1.8 lens make?

In addition to a bigger, higher-res screen and the ability to max out your RAM and storage, the jump from the Huawei P10 to P10 Plus gets you Huawei's most advanced Leica camera to date. The trusty f/2.2 Summarit-branded lens, used in the past a generation of Huawei flagships, makes way for a brighter f/1.8 Summilux aperture.

On paper that should allow for a modest improvement in photo quality across the board. A wider aperture lets you capture more quickly, resulting in less motion blur, or keep the shutter open for longer at lower ISO levels, reducing the appearance of noise.

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5 days ago

Galaxy S8 breaks cover in blue, white and silver

25

Some GS8 models may have colored front panels, if latest leak is to be believed.

The most recent Galaxy S8 render leaks may have given us the impression that Samsung's next major phone will use black front panels, even if the rest of the phone is silver, grey or some other color. However fresh live photos of the phone, scooped up from Chinese social network Weibo by Dutch outlet Techtastic, suggests that at the very least some GS8 models may feature colored front panels as well.

Behold, the Galaxy S8 in blue, white (we think β€” though it may be gold) and silver:

The shots appear to show legitimate, functioning Galaxy S8 models β€” though it's tough to get a feel for which of these might be the larger GS8 Plus. At the very least, it shows that Samsung is considering colored bezels for some GS8s, even as it reduces the screen borders to almost nothing.

So if you'd like a little more color in your, it appears that may well be an option. And if you'd prefer to not be looking at seven very obvious cut-outs in the top bezel (for various cameras and sensors), it seems that'll be an option too.

Multiple color options for the GS8 would be in line with the past few release cycles for Samsung flagships β€” even if they don't reach all regions. A purple hue has also been rumored in recent days.

We'll know more when the Galaxy S8 officially launches in New York on March 29.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus

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5 days ago

Xiaomi Redmi 4A goes live in India with 720p display, Snapdragon 425 for just $90

2

The Redmi 4A shows that sub-$100 phones don't have to be boring.

At a media event in New Delhi, Xiaomi rolled out the latest product in the Redmi series, the Redmi 4A. The phone will be sold exclusively on Amazon India for β‚Ή5,999 ($90), making it the most affordable phone launched by the Chinese manufacturer in the country.

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5 days ago

Qualcomm's 205 Mobile Platform brings 4G connectivity to feature phones

4

Qualcomm will roll out sub-$50 feature phones with Category 4 LTE.

Qualcomm announced last week that it would move away from the Snapdragon branding for its lower-end platforms, and we're now getting a first look at what that entails.

At an event in New Delhi, Qualcomm has introduced its latest product, an entry-level SoC aimed at the feature phone segment in emerging markets. The Qualcomm 205 Mobile Platform is designed primarily to bring 4G connectivity to feature phones, with the SoC featuring the X5 Category 4 LTE modem with a download speed of 150Mbps.

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5 days ago

Rogers and Telus now rolling out Nougat update to the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge

6

Nougat update is now live for most Galaxy S7 and S7 edge variants in Canada.

The Android 7.0 Nougat update for the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge made its way to Canadian carriers SaskTel, Bell, Virgin Mobile, Eastlink, Videotron and Freedom Mobile last week, and the 1.2GB OTA update is now rolling out to Rogers and Telus subscribers.

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6 days ago

The beauty of having a good camera in every pocket

129

Cheaper smartphones that don't suck mean better cameras, and better photos.

While the rest of the team has been playing with phones that border (or safely fall into) the designation of 'expensive,' I've been erring on the side of budget, switching between four devices that are, to me, just as interesting, as much for what they lack as what they offer.

One of those phones is the ZTE Blade V8 Pro, a phone that barely got any attention when it was announced for the U.S. unlocked market back in January. I don't even think we wrote about it. But ZTE offered me a review unit, and after spending some time with it I'm glad I accepted. This $230 phone has pretty much everything you need from a handset these days: a great screen, excellent performance, awesome battery life, and software that doesn't make me want to poke my eyes out (though it ships with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, which is decidedly πŸ˜•).

Increasingly, we carry cameras that make phone calls, not the other way around.

But more than anything else on its spec sheet, it's the impressive camera that really surprises me. The phone lacks all the buzzwords you'd expect from a device three times its price β€” stabilization, phase-detection autofocus, laser autofocus β€” but it does have two 13MP sensors that act in unison to improve photo quality in daylight, impart some intelligence in low light (though less than I would like), and provide some impressive features that feel less gimmicky the more time I spend using them.

More than anything, though, its excellent camera credentials reinforce the thing I find myself repeating every year: we no longer carry smart phones that take photos but smart cameras that occasionally make calls (and connect to the internet, but don't kill my symmetry).

As impressive as it is to see the $649 Google Pixel and LG G6 increasingly offer "real camera" performance from tiny sensors, I love that I can recommend a $230 ZTE Blade V8 Pro to someone and ensure him or her a reliable experience that takes good photos in most situations. When I started reviewing phones, that's really all I wanted: to be able to trust the camera in my pocket the way I could the Auto mode on my Canon or Sony point-and-shoot, the diminutive single-purpose gadgets that I, along with millions of other people, began stuffing in drawers and forgetting about around the turn of the decade.

It's been six years since I brought a camera camera with me on vacation, and though the quality dipped for a time, I've reached the point of comfort (though maybe that's just what comes with age and acceptance of the things one can't control) with the relationship between convenience and quality.

When I started reviewing phones, all I wanted was a camera that took photos reliably. It took until now to make that happen.

Using the Blade V8 Pro (what a name) also reinforces, to me at least, that cameras are really the last true area of competition in the smartphone space. You can get a $100 phone that performs well, has decent battery life, and ships with a version of Android that doesn't make you want to saw off your fingers with a blunt object, but it's still pretty easy to tell the difference between a photo (or video) taken from an LG Stylo 2 and an LG G6. But you just said the $230 Blade V8 Pro takes awesome photos! Yes, but it's still a clear area of research, development, and cultural fascination for those who create, market and buy phones. That Blade V8 Pro, or any $200 phone, takes photos as good as the ones it outputs, is incredible; that the LG G6 takes photos as consistently beautiful as it does β€” perhaps not three times as good, but close β€” is also incredible.

That we get to benefit from the fierce competition around which company can outfit its pocket computer with the best camera β€” that's pretty incredible, too.

Elsewhere in the news:

Have a great week!

-Daniel

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6 days ago

All LG Watch Style colors are down to $180 at Best Buy

22

Excellent Style at a stylish price.

The LG Watch Style has seen its first major price cut, not even two months into its retail life. The watch isn't even available in Canada yet, and already Best buy is cutting the price down to $179.99 for all three colors.

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6 days ago

New Galaxy S8 leak reveals colors and pricing

165
GS8 colors

Three colors shown by veteran leaker, alongside euro pricing for phones, desktop dock, 360 camera and new Gear VR.

Veteran leaker Evan Blass has kicked off what might otherwise have been a lazy Sunday with fresh revelations surrounding Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. First, Blass gives us a closer look at three of the GS8's color options β€” "black sky, orchid grey and arctic silver."

Notably, all three of these colors feature the same black front face, an understandable move given the sheer number of sensors and other cutouts up top. (As we've previously seen in this leak of the gold version.) The "black sky" variant is the murdered-out black model we've seen in many other leaks, with its pitch-black anodized metal frame. Meanwhile the "arctic silver" model seems to be the version shown in one of the first live leaks back in January. And the grey model, as far as we can tell, is somewhere in between.

It's unclear how these colors β€” and others which have been rumored β€” will be split between various carriers and regions. Samsung has fielded a broad palette of colors in the past, but not all of them have had widespread availability.

Blass has also given us European pricing details for the two phones, along with the DeX desktop dock, the new Gear VR with motion controller and what will presumably be a new Gear 360 camera.

The prices for the phones are in line with earlier leaks, and pre-order listings (since pulled) from UK retailer MobileFun. As for U.S. prices, expect them to line up right around those same numbers (after tax), on account of the current near parity between the dollar and the euro.

Between the two new phones, rumored new facial recognition features, a new Gear VR and Gear 360, and that intriguing new desktop dock, the March 29 press conference in New York is shaping up to be a bumper event.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus

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6 days ago

How to use an Elgato to stream video from your PlayStation 4

Elgato makes streaming more versatile, no matter which service you prefer using.

Sharing your gameplay by streaming is pretty easy and baked into PlayStation 4 if you want to stream to Twitch. If your prefer a different service then you may have taken a look at using an Elgato to help facilitate your gaming. While the initial setup of using an Elgato can seem a bit daunting, it's actually pretty easy to do. Just give yourself a bit of extra time the first few streams, and you'll have the entire thing handled in no time flat.

Read more at VRHeads.com

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6 days ago

This $15 desk toy will help you regain your focus and destress

Are you a pen clicker? Desk drummer? Toe tapper?

There's limitless ways people can fidget around when they're stressed out at work. While fidgeting about at your desk or in your chair has been shown to be pretty good for your own heath, it sure can be annoying for your co-workers. So you need to find a new, discreet, and more efficient way to keep your hands busy so you can stay focused on your work or the meeting you're sitting in on.

Get your own Stress Block for only $15 Learn more

One of the latest trends out there are little stress toys, which are designed to give your brain a bunch of little buttons, dials, knobs, and wheels to spin. They're designed to look cool enough to leave on display at your desk, while remaining small enough to slip in your pocket so you can take it anywhere.

Introducing The Stress Block, a cube that's loaded with six different sides covered with little distractions for your fingers to explore and play with while the rest of your brain focuses on work. It's a wonderful way to destress in little moments throughout the day.

You can get one Stress Block for $15 or two for only $28 , which means you could keep one for yourself and gift the second to a friend, family member, or co-worker that you know would love this.

Get two Stress Blocks for only $28 Learn more

Made of plastic and available in black, each side of this cube has a theme: click, glide, flip, breathe, roll, and spin. You can rotate through all the sides or focus on the ones you love to play with the most β€” the choice is yours.

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6 days ago

Spotify may restrict major album releases to its paid subscribers

20

No word on which record companies would be a part of the deal.

And so it begins: The Financial Times reports that Spotify is looking to restrict major album releases from some of the major record labels as an incentive to lower its royalty fees.

The ploy is apparently in response to the company's IPO ambitionsβ€”Spotify can't make money off free listeners, and it needs to be making money to legitimize its place on the stock market. Spotify currently serves 50 million paying subscribers around the world β€” a 40 percent increase from the year prior.

Of course, Spotify isn't the only music streaming service to offer this sort of exclusivity to its paying customers. Tidal, for instance, employs a "pay for access" business model, while Soundcloud keeps its bigger artist's music libraries exclusive to subscribers. There's no word on whether this deal has gone through yet, but when it does, there should be more information about which of our favorite artists will be affected.

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6 days ago

In 2017, what do benchmark numbers even mean??

42

Numbers can mean a lot of things, but not all the things.

Recently we had a look at some benchmark numbers for the Galaxy S8. Or at least we assume they are for the Galaxy S8 since it's not really here just yet. As expected, just by existing these numbers got plenty of people talking about them.

Some conversation about benchmarks is just idle chatter. "Oh, cool! The Snapdragon calculates the "stuff" in a benchmark application about as well as the Exynos" was the majority of the conversation. People talking about them because it's something to talk about while we wait for the Galaxy S8. Tomorrow, another factoid about the Galaxy S8 will conveniently "leak" and we'll talk about the new thing instead.

But some folks get serious about benchmark numbers and consider them an important part of a buying decision. I pulled a dumbass stunt and tweeted some raw numbers for the Galaxy S8 processors compared to the A10 in an iPhone 7 Plus with zero context. I do stupid stuff like that every now and then because I forget how seriously some folks take all this stuff. As a punishment to myself, I'm going to spend a Saturday afternoon talking about benchmarks and iPhones.

Benchmarks on mobile phones aren't really benchmarking any hardware, at least not the way we think they are. They don't have access to the hardware itself because they are using the operating system's application layer. They have a laundry list of things they have the phone do through the APIs exposed by the operating system, then they calculate how well it did them. There is an intermediary layer through the "brains" behind the operating system that controls the hardware directly. So a benchmark app is benchmarking the hardware through some software. You might have heard iOS people talking about Metal or Android people talking about an NDK. This is the software used to build benchmark apps so they can best use the hardware.

If you buy a phone because you like to run benchmarks, you should probably buy an iPhone.

Apple's intermediary layer is better. Let's throw that out there right where we all can see it. Apple builds its own processor and its own software so that they work really well together. Google has to build software that can be adapted to work with anything. It's done an amazing job and the software that powers an Android phone is a beautiful thing that's incredibly complicated. Something like a benchmarking app using Apple's interface to the hardware automatically has an advantage over Android, no matter who built it, because the interface itself is more streamlined and "faster" with iOS.

You're benchmarking the phone as a whole, not just the processor. When it comes to crunching numbers on each CPU core the iPhone 7 Plus does it a lot better.

Let's look at those cores in Apple's A10 processor. That thing is undeniably the best consumer ARM chip ever designed when it comes to raw performance per core. That's because it was designed to do just that. We've talked about ARM architecture before, and the A10 is a great example of how you can scale ARM to do just about anything you want. So are the Qualcomm 835 and the Exynos 8895, they just were designed with different criteria in mind.

We compare them because they all are inside a phone, but Apple is thirsty to build one ARM processor that can power an iPhone, an iPad, and a MacBook. Qualcomm and Samsung build processors to sell to other companies for small mobile devices. They aren't spending money and time to squeeze more from a processor that no other company wants to buy for their phone because it's too expensive.

When you take a tool designed to only do certain things in a certain order and see how "fast" they can be done, the A10 will always win. It should always win, and we should want it to always win. A CPU designed for a 13-inch MacBook needs to perform single core calculations faster than an Exynos 8895. The A10 isn't that CPU, but it is a step in that direction. And Apple is a tech company that we should want to do really cool things to drive tech forward just like we want Samsung or Google or Microsoft to do.

Qualcomm or Samsung could build an ARM processor that is as powerful as the A10, but they have no reason to do it.

My little snip of a benchmark scoreboard that had no context was intended to show that these numbers have little bearing on how great something like a phone is to use. The user experience has little to do with the hardware because the hardware has been good enough for a while now. The innards of a Galaxy S5 or Nexus 7 or Note 4 are more than enough to do the things we expect a phone to do as long as the software is up to snuff. You don't have to take my word on that, just stumble over to XDA where people who don't want or can't afford to buy something newer have built custom software for each.

I'm convinced even mobile VR would be fine if companies cared enough to support Vulkan correctly on their older processors. We'll never know because the companies involved exist to make new things and sell them to us.

What we really see from these benchmarks

What we can take away from these benchmark scores is that the way a CPU core calculates things and works with GPU cores isn't broken. Numbers can be crunched a little faster with newer hardware. The way the CPU cores crunch numbers hasn't been the bottleneck for a long time, so these small differences and increases won't be noticed when you're not running a benchmark application. Newer hardware might be better than last year's, and one processor might be better than another, but not in any way that benefits you while you are using it.

The Galaxy S8 will have a new operating system that should provide a better experience than last year's Galaxy S7 did. Many of us here will consider it a better experience than Apple offers with the iPhone 7, while many will feel the opposite. None of this is because of a benchmark score.

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1 week ago

Best replacement bands for Samsung Gear S2

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Which are the best replacement bands for the Gear S2?

Update, March 2017: Added clarification for bands that are for the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic.

When it comes to smartwatches, the Samsung Gear S2 stands out as a fantastic device, even if it isn't Android Wear. One of it's biggest pulls is that it's a fairly small, and stylish computer for your wrist. What if you aren't a big fan of the watch bands that come with it, or if those bands break?

Thankfully, there are options if you need to replace your Gear S2's watch bands. While you could take a waltz through the internet to search them out, we've put together the best watch band replacements for your Gear S2. Just keep scrolling to check them out.

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1 week ago

Super Mario Run comes to Google Play March 23, you can pre-register now

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Get ready to run as Mario and friends come to Google Play!

Nintendo America just dropped the date of March 23 as the day Super Mario Run comes to the Google Play Store.

In January we heard that Nintendo was putting more focus on getting Super Mario Run to Android, and March was their target for release. They will come in just in time according to this evening's news.

Super Mario Run launched in December, 2016 for iOS, and while not the smash hit for Nintendo that they saw with Pokemon Go, plenty of people are playing on their iPhones.

If you want to make sure you are ready to go on March 23, you can pre-register for the game at Google Play right now so you'll be set when it launches.

Pre-register at Google Play

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