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2 days ago

Honor 9 is official: Flagship specs + curved glass for £379

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Honor 9

New flagship builds on the well-received Honor 8 with a refined design and spec upgrades across the board — while keeping the affordable price tag.

At a launch event in Berlin, Germany, today, Huawei's Honor brand took the wraps off a phone we've been eyeing since it launched in China a few weeks back — the Honor 9.

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2 days ago

Honor 9 hands-on preview: The affordable flagship

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Honor 9

The new flagship phone from Honor is cheaper and prettier than the OnePlus 5.

The "affordable flagship" segment — occupied by Huawei's Honor brand and rivals like OnePlus and ZTE — is one of the most exciting areas of the smartphone market right now. It's never been easier to get hold of a great high-specced phone without paying Galaxy or iPhone money. And while Honor might not have the instant recognition of the bigger names, it's tough to argue with performance and build quality of its latest offering, the Honor 9.

For £379, you get most of the internal specs of the Huawei P10, encased in a beautiful metal and glass chassis, running software that's light years beyond what you might remember from the Honor 8 at launch. It's easily the best Honor phone yet, and it's coming to Europe in July.

The design of last year's Honor flagship has been refined and trimmed into an even more impressive slab of metal and glass.

First off, there's a LOT of Honor 8 DNA in this phone — which is mostly a good thing. The rear is clad with a stunning 15-layer glass panel, which is now gently curved at the edges. The headline color for the UK is sapphire blue, with black and silver variants also available for the color-averse. This splash of color in continues through the aluminum side walls around to the front, where it spruces up the tapered 2.5D glass of the display.

The updated design hasn't changed a whole lot compared to last year's model, but subtle tweaks like the removal of a plastic rim between the metal and glass parts make it feel significantly more premium. And the curved back, of course, helps the Honor 9 fit more comfortably in the hand. The sharper joins between metal and glass also make it less slippery in the hand than I remember the Honor 8 being, helping with one-handed gripability.

The Honor 8's hockey puck-like tendencies make an unwelcome return.

Unfortunately though, this phone remains decidedly slippery on... well, things that aren't hands. The smooth glass rear will manage to slide its way across flat surfaces given the opportunity — one of my least favorite characteristics of the Honor 8.

Regardless, it's a gorgeous-looking design, and a lustrous counterpoint to the unremarkable visuals of its main rival, the OnePlus 5. Sure, there are undeniable Samsung influences — the curved glass rear will remind a lot of folks of the Galaxy Note 5, and some of Xiaomi's recent offerings. And from the front, it could just as easily be a Huawei P10 or either of the past three OnePlus phones.

While we're mentioning OnePlus, the Honor 9's button layout now mirrors that of the OnePlus 5, with a central fingerprint scanner that doubles as your home key, flanked by swappable capacitive keys. No more on-screen keys. No more rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. Both are matters of personal taste — and personally, I'm fine with the new direction Honor's taking here.

Honor 9

On the front is a 5.15-inch 1080p IPS LCD panel which, while it's not as pixel-dense as still looks fantastically vibrant, and is easily visible out in bright daylight. The smaller size may be a turn-off for some — it's actually pretty rare to find high-end specs like this in an Android phone that's so friendly to one-handed use. Yet after using a lot of phones at 5.5-inch and up lately, including this phone's main rival the OnePlus 5, it's kinda refreshing to go back to a smaller handset like the Honor 9.

It's refreshing to see flagship-level specs paired with a display as small as 5.15 inches.

Sound is also a big focus for the new Honor flagship, with audio tuning by Grammy-winning engineer Rainer Maillard, and sound profiles inspired by Monster. (Part of the new partnership between the smartphone brand and the headphone giant that's spawned new earbuds.) The verdict on sound quality is going to remain out until I've spent more time with the Honor 9, but at the very least the built-in loudspeaker seemed suitably punchy — if a little distorted at very high volume levels.

When it comes to internals, the Honor 9 is almost a carbon copy of the Huawei P10. Running the show is a Kirin 960 octa-core chip, a proven 16nm processor combining four ARM Cortex-A73 cores for power-hungry tasks with four efficient A53s for lower-powered stuff. There's also 4 or 6GB of RAM depending on which country you buy it in — more on that later — and 64GB of storage plus microSD. There's also an ample 3,200mAh power pack with quick charging — pretty capacious for this size of phone.

All the major internal specs from the Huawei P10, with a few exceptions.

Notable P10 features you don't get in the Honor 9 include Huawei's faster Super Charging tech, and Optical Stabilization in the main camera. I'm inclined to think neither is a huge deal, especially considering the price point.

Once again, Honor has gone with a dual rear camera setup, with a 12-megapixel color sensor and 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, behind f/2.2 lenses. Unlike the Huawei P10, there's no Leica tuning in this camera, but it really doesn't seem to be worse off for it. In my brief time with it, the Honor 9 was quick to capture images with vibrant colors and excellent dynamic range. And thanks to that 20-megapixel sensor, you also get the same hybrid zoom feature and portrait mode that we've enjoyed on the P10.

Honor 9 camera

But we'll have to wait and see how it shapes up in darker conditions, where the new low light mode with pixel binning is designed to produce clearer night shots. The current generation of smartphones — handsets like the LG G6 and OnePlus 5 in particular — is all about using software processing to pull great photos from run-of-the-mill sensors. Given what we've seen from the Honor 8 Pro already, I'm hopeful the Honor 9 will deliver in this area.

Software-wise, the Honor 9 runs Huawei's EMUI 5.1 firmware, based on Android 7.0 Nougat — and Honor is already promising an update to Android 8.0 when it's release, but there's no timeframe for that yet. (Based on the track record of the Honor 8, early 2018 is a good bet.)

Honor 9

You'll find more on EMUI 5.1 in our Huawei P10 and Mate 9 reviews, but the quick version is that it's Huawei's best software yet, though still highly differentiated compared to what you might be used to from Samsung, Google or HTC. However it is a vast improvement on earlier versions of Huawei's software, as we saw on the Honor 8 last year. Nothing is broken, everything is fast, and nothing is too terribly offensive to the eyes.

Out of the box, EMUI 5.1 feels a lot more like Android than prior versions, and there's a pleasant blue and white theme running through Huawei's own apps — while other parts of the software can be endlessly themed and customized.

For just £379 in the UK, the Honor 9 is highly competitive.

The Honor 9 is shaping up to be one of the best affordable Android flagships available, delivering great specs, speedy software, a promising camera and a sharp design. And it does so at a highly competitive price point: All this stuff is yours for £379 in the UK, or €449 in Europe. (The UK and most other countries will get the 4GB RAM model, France and Italy will score an Honor 9 with 6GB of RAM, likely with a proportionally higher price tag.)

That balance of specs, design, feature set and price is truly impressive, and the Honor 9 looks set to give OnePlus a run for its money in the always-interesting "affordable flagship" space. Time will tell which one will come out on top.

Honor 9

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2 days ago

OnePlus CEO claims the company doesn't know how to overclock

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OnePlus CEO talks about the OnePlus 5's benchmark scores, retail pricing, and lack of water resistance.

OnePlus came under fire last week after it was revealed that the OnePlus 5 was manipulating benchmarks to gain a favorable score on synthetic benchmarking apps like GeekBench. The company's co-founder Carl Pei responded to the issue, stating that when running a benchmark, the phone "performs the same as when running resource intensive apps."

Meanwhile, in an interview with The Indian Express, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau took a different approach, noting that effective heat dissipation influences the CPU performance:

If there is heating the performance of the CPU will not reach the maximum. We only try to tap the full potential of the CPU. We don't even know how to overclock.

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2 days ago

OnePlus team fields OnePlus 5 questions in Reddit AMA, reveals little

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Every once and a while it's great to get a feel for what's going on behind the scenes of a smartphone launch.

As they have done before, a handful of high-level people from OnePlus fired up a Reddit AMA to field questions from some of the most die-hard fans of the company. This time, it's all about the OnePlus 5 of course.

As is typically the case with Reddit AMAs, there's a whole lot of cruft to wade through to find the "good stuff." But nestled within all of the strategically unanswered questions, there are a few good nuggets in there relating to decisions on the camera, design, accessories and overall marketing of the phone.

If you're interested in getting some additional insight into the OnePlus 5's creation and future prospects from the OnePlus team itself, the Reddit thread is definitely worth browsing. After taking a look through I don't see any major bombshells, nor was I expecting any, but it's still worth seeing how some of the OnePlus engineering, software and product team feel about the phone.

OnePlus 5

OnePlus

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2 days ago

Best Android Phone For Long Battery Life

Best overall

Huawei Mate 9

See at Amazon

With a massive 5.9-inch display, you'd think that the Huawei Mate 9 wouldn't be able to last a whole day — but you'd be dead wrong. That screen is helped along by a 4,000mAh battery — one of the biggest in its class — pushing the Mate 9 to a staggering 2-day average uptime. Huawei's flagship device also has some Machine Learning chops that learn what apps you use most and least, in order to optimize them for battery usage.

Bottom line: A huge 4,000mAh cell plus software optimizations make the Huawei Mate 9 the best phone for battery life.

One more thing: Sometimes the Mate 9 can push battery optimizations a bit too far, so be sure to tweak your app settings when appropriate.

Why the Mate 9 is the best

An underrated performer in the U.S. because it doesn't have carrier support, but the Huawei Mate 9 is a serious worker.

Huawei has come a long way since its days of questionable software and China-only releases. The Mate 9 is now officially available in the U.S., and you get a lot with its $599 price tag, including a 4,000mAh battery that has to be one of the best out there. The company's homegrown Kirin 960 chip is not only fast, but its 16nm manufacturing process makes it extremely efficient.

Combined with the power-sipping 1080p LCD panel, the Mate 9 seemingly lasts forever; there wasn't a single day that reviewer Alex Dobie worried about it dying by the afternoon:

The phone never failed to get us through a full day of mixed use on LTE and Wi-Fi, often with more than 50% in the tank by the evening. Even pushing the phone really hard with lots of photography and a little wireless tethering, we never came close to experiencing battery anxiety.

Other than battery life, the Mate 9 is just an all-around great phone, and Huawei has committed to updating it with Alexa support in the coming months.

Best for sleekness

Samsung Galaxy S8+

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

The Galaxy S8+ is the spiritual battery successor to the Galaxy S7 edge, and despite having a slightly smaller battery does an amazing job keeping the phone alive for as long as possible. That's partly due to the amazing efficiency of the Snapdragon 835 chip, which we're starting to see in more devices this year, but the GS8+ manages to outlast them all.

Bottom line: The Galaxy S8+ is a sleek, sophisticated and powerful Android phone — probably the best available overall — with amazing battery life.

One More thing: This highly-rated device is available at all four major carriers in the U.S., but if you'd rather live dangerously and contract-free, Samsung offers an unlocked model that also works overseas.

Best for less

Moto Z Play

See at Motorola

The Moto Z Play starts quickly and keeps going. It's actually quite amazing to witness. Thanks in part to the super-efficient Snapdragon 625 processor, which is built on a 14nm process, the phone rarely gets hot, and with eight cores, works smarter, not harder.

With a 3,510mAh battery inside, along with software that feels as light as a feather, the Moto Z Play is the longest-lasting $400 phone we've used. It's also a pretty great smartphone, featuring a bright 5.5-inch display, a great 16MP camera, and support for Moto Mods.

Bottom-line: The Moto Z Play doesn't sacrifice much from its more expensive, much thinner Moto Z sibling. If you can deal with the added girth, and a slight hit to processing abilities, you get one of the best, longest-lasting Android phones around.

One more thing: Pair the Moto Z Play with Incipio's 2,220mAh OffGrid battery pack, and you have a whopping 5,730mAh combination that should last two full days, or longer!

Best for hard workers

BlackBerry KEYone

See at Amazon See at Best Buy

The BlackBerry KEYone is, unsurprisingly, a workhorse. There's a lot going on beneath those classic BlackBerry keys, but the one thing you need to know is, like the Moto Z Play, it pairs a massive battery with an energy-sipping Snapdragon 625 processor. If you're longing for the good 'ol days of not having to charge your BlackBerry everyday, the KEYone fits the bill nicely.

Bottom-line: The KEYone is an exceptional phone with a near-perfect hardware keyboard and multi-day battery life.

One more thing: There are two separate variants of the KEYone, one for AT&T and T-Mobile and another for Verizon. Choose wisely.

Conclusion

Most phones claim to have "all-day battery life," but few actually make it to bedtime. The Huawei Mate 9 actually backs up its claims, and does so while excelling in almost every other area.

Best overall

Huawei Mate 9

See at Amazon

With a massive 5.9-inch display, you'd think that the Huawei Mate 9 wouldn't be able to last a whole day — but you'd be dead wrong. That screen is helped along by a 4,000mAh battery, one of the biggest in its class, pushing the Mate 9 to a staggering 2-day average uptime. Huawei's flagship device also has some Machine Learning chops that learn what apps you use most and least, in order to optimize them for battery usage.

Bottom line: A huge 4,000mAh cell plus software optimizations make the Huawei Mate 9 the best phone for battery life.

One more thing: Sometimes the Mate 9 can push battery optimizations a bit too far, so be sure to tweak your app settings when appropriate.

Update June 2017: The Mate 9 stays on top of the list with its huge battery, but the Galaxy S8+ takes over from the GS7 edge and the Honor 8 gets bumped for the BlackBerry KEYone.

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2 days ago

Essential accessories for the OnePlus 5

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Unsure of where to go to equip your OnePlus 5? Let us help you in your time of need with this list of worthy things.

Like its predecessors, the OnePlus 5 continues to be a worthy buy. It comes equipped with the same level hardware specifications as the rest of the flagship brood, in addition to 64GB of storage space, 6GB of RAM, and a bigger-than-the-average battery. The OnePlus 5 available for under $500, too, and you can use the rest of your savings to purchase some essential accessories.

OnePlus Dash Type C Cable

Don't get caught out of the house without a trusty, official Type C cable from OnePlus. This Dash charger cable is a mere $10 and worth purchasing in bulk to ensure you have a couple of backups around the house. This cable is compatible with the Dash charger that comes equipped with your OnePlus 5. It enables you to charge up to 60 percent battery power in a mere 30 minutes. The cable is red and white, too, to match the OnePlus's company colors, and it's wrapped in sturdy silicone, so you don't have to worry about it fraying.

Also, if you'd like a backup of the OnePlus Dash-enabled charging brick, you can buy one here.

See at Amazon

SEGMOI 4-pack Universal Smartphone Ring Grip

If you purchased the OnePlus 5, you may find that the smartphone is a tad bit slippery. Covering the device in a case will certainly help prevent major damage from an accidental fall, but have you also considered a finger grip?

This helpful stick-on accessory sticks to both the back of the device chassis or an external case. The rear finger hook helps you effectively grip your phone, or you can orient it so that it props it up for playing music, gaming, or video chat. Best of all, this entry starts at $8 and comes in a pack of four, so you'll already have a couple for backup.

See at Amazon

UE Roll 2 Volcano

This is one of our favorite portable Bluetooth speakers. The UE Roll 2 features a maximum sound level of 85 decibels and it's waterproof for up to half an hour under a meter of water. It hooks up to the OnePlus 5 via Bluetooth or a 3.5mm audio output — this phone has a headphone jack, after all — and you can pair up to seven other devices. The UE Roll 2 will also last up to nine hours out in the wild, so you can quite literally keep that dance party going all night long.

The UE Roll 2 starts at $65 and comes in a variety of colors, including a gray and red combo that matches the OnePlus 5.

See at Amazon

AUKEY 5000mAh USB-C Universal Power Bank

Don't get stuck out there on the road without a battery pack. The Aukey 5000mAh power bank is a worthy buy to ensure that you've always got extra juice for the OnePlus 5's 3300mAh battery. It's small, too, so you can toss into your computer bag or purse without any added bulk. At $20, it comes with an included USB-C cable and features a two-year warranty.

See at Amazon

What did you buy for your OnePlus 5?

The OnePlus 5 will launch officially this summer. When you get yours, tell us below what you've bought for your new unlocked flagship device.

OnePlus 5

OnePlus

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3 days ago

Honor 8 Pro is launching in India on July 6, will be exclusive to Amazon

0

Honor's flagship phone is landing in India on July 6.

The beastly Honor 8 Pro will be making its debut in India on July 6. The phone will be sold exclusively on Amazon India, and while there's no information on how much it'll cost, it is likely to be north of ₹40,000 if the UK pricing is any indication.

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3 days ago

First OnePlus 5 update brings bug fixes, camera tweaks

6

OxygenOS 4.5.2 is now rolling out with bug fixes and stability improvements.

The OnePlus 5 will be going up for sale starting tomorrow, June 27, but if you were able to get your hands on one during the company's "early drop" sales event, there's an update waiting for your handset. The OxygenOS 4.5.2 update comes in at just 36MB, and has fixes for app installation issues, camera tweaks, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and network stability fixes, along with better third-party app compatibility.

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3 days ago

Best Samsung Galaxy S8 Deals for June 2017

42

Where is the best place to buy a Galaxy S8 right now? Let's find out!

Updated June, 2017: Samsung is running an awesome BOGO offer on T-Mobile versions.

Samsung's Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are the company's latest smartphones to hit the market, and they've been the center of attention since. If you're the type that likes to stay on the breaking edge of technology, you're probably looking to get your order in sooner than later, so that you can have one to show off to everyone. Whether the smaller one is what interests you, or the larger display that pushes the limits even further speaks to you, the last thing you want to do is not find the best deal to buy one.

Samsung Galaxy S8

Samsung Galaxy S8+

Your favorite deals?

Have you come across any deals that aren't listed here? If so, be sure to drop a note in the comments with a link to the deal so others can check it out as well!

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked

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4 days ago

Samsung's Galaxy S8, S8+ BOGO deal is infinitely better than T-Mobile's

95

Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time with a Galaxy S8 deal you can't afford to miss!

Update: Samsung has brought this insanely-popular deal back again. If you missed out last time, don't miss out this time!

We've seen it many times before, and it will continue to happen. New phones release and cellular carriers offer these ridiculous "Buy one get one free" promotions to entice people to purchase them, but most of the time the offers are quite terrible and require you to change plans, get small credits each month for 24 months and more. Samsung is currently running its own offer, which is actually a really great deal.

Here's how it works:

  1. Purchase 2 new Galaxy S8 / Galaxy S8+ phones from Samsung.com
  2. Activate one of the new devices on Samsung.com within 14 days
  3. Get a rebate for the less expensive of your 2 phones (minus taxes/fees) on your original payment method, up to 8 weeks after activation

Pretty simple, huh? No long waits for a mail-in rebate, no hoops to jump through. The offer is a bit confusing with the "activate a line on the T-Mobile network", but according to Samsung all you have to do is activate the included SIM card on any line through its site. Once your order ships and is delivered, you'll be able to click an activate button on the order status page, and then once it is done, you are set. The rebate is issued directly to the original payment method..

You can opt to pay for the devices in full, or sign up for a payment plan, and both phones will qualify for the free entertainment kit from Samsung. The kit, which has 6-months of Netflix and a 64GB microSD card will be automatically added to your cart with the phones. You can mix and match with one S8 and one S8+ or grab two of the same, and you can choose between Midnight Black, Arctic Silver, and Orchid Gray for each.

If you're in need of two new phones on your T-Mobile plan and have been looking at the Galaxy S8, you won't want to miss out on this deal. Once you've got your new phone on the way, be sure to stock up on some USB-C cables and cases for it!

See at Samsung

For more great deals be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked

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6 days ago

HTC U11 in solar red now available in the UK

6
HTC U11 red

Dual-SIM red U11 launches via HTC's online store, priced £649.

Just a few days after its launch in the U.S., HTC has announced that the vibrant "solar red" version of its U11 flagship is now available to pre-order in the UK.

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6 days ago

Everything you need to know about Bixby Voice

37

We have early access to the Galaxy S8's built-in Bixby Voice. Here's another look at what's coming to a Galaxy S8 near you.

We've already written plenty about the Galaxy S8's Bixby functionality, but what we haven't touched on is what to expect with Bixby Voice — ostensibly the main reason there's an extra button on the flagship device in the first place.

Up until the latest preview, all we knew about the Bixby is that it enabled you to press a button to control the phone with your voice. Well, now that we've had some time with it, we can confirm that Bixby Voice really is all about talking to the Galaxy S8. It's not the same as Google Assistant, though, as Bixby is more conversational and apologetic when it messes up. This is a voice-activated virtual assistant that aims to please.

Note: At present, you can only set up Bixby if you're part of the Early Access Preview, which is currently limited to the United States. There's no word yet on when Bixby will go live.

Setting it up

After you've updated all the apps in your Galaxy Apps queue, you can click over to the Hello Bixby panel to start the prompt for setting up Bixby Voice. At present, only American English and Korean are the available languages for the virtual assistant.

Bixby will walk you through a rather storied setup process. You'll need to first agree to a long list of terms and then continue on to update any Bixby Voice-compatible apps, as well as any third-party apps that have access to experimental features from the Bixby Labs. The entire onboarding process is pretty straightforward, and it even starts you off gently by having Bixby dictate the sequence. In the English-speaking version, Bixby is a sprite young female, though you can choose from male or female for the Korean variant.

How to access the Bixby Voice settings menu.

Once Bixby Voice is raring to go, you should be able to press and hold the Bixby button to give it a command from any screen. If you start on the Home screen, you can ask Bixby to open an app and then perform an action. If you're already in an app, however, you can press the button to instruct Bixby on what to do within that app. I tried it first with the Gallery app to crop a photo, and then in the browser to navigate to a web page; Bixby worked effortlessly in both situations.

"Hey Bixby"

Like Google Assistant and Apple's Siri, you can call out to Samsung's Bixby in your time of need. The virtual assistant will help you set up the ability to wake up the phone with a voice command from the get-go; you'll be asked to record yourself saying "Hey, Bixby" about three times, and then you'll be asked to recite a few commands so that the software can learn the different intonations in your voice. When it's finished, you can actually play back what you recorded to ensure it sounds exactly the way Bixby would hear you every time.

Like Google Assistant and Apple's Siri, you can call out to Samsung's Bixby in your time of need.

I have to admit: part of the reason I didn't use Google Assistant much until the Google Home came into my life is that my phones would often struggle to hear me or understand my commands. But Bixby has the opposite problem, as it understands me so well that I was triggering it even while podcasting in a nearby room in my house. I guess there are plenty of words out there that sound like Bixby, so naturally, Bixby thought I was speaking to it.

You don't have to really say a particular phrase to get Bixby to listen, either. I've said both "Hey, Bixby" and "Okay, Bixby" with the Galaxy S8's screen both on and off and it worked remarkably well. I also just shouted "BIXBY!" a few times and that seemed to work, too, despite the fact that I was being antagonistic. Sorry, Bixby.

Of course, if Bixby doesn't understand what you said — which will happen, as it happened to me plenty of times — it will ask that you let it know it didn't perform so well before offers for you to retry your command. You can skip all that if you don't care to do it, though, and simply tap the Bixby icon or press and hold the side button to continue engaging.

What can you do with Bixby?

bixby

What is the meaning of life? Sorry, Bixby can't help you with that.

I'm still figuring out all that's possible with Samsung Bixby. It's like Google Assistant in that it can assist you with even the most basic of smartphone commands, but it doesn't appear to be explicitly tied to a search engine in the same manner.

When you do ask Bixby the kind of question you'd ask Google Assistant — like "What's the meaning of life?" for example because apparently, I had to make this as existential as possible — Bixby will reply quietly in the main home screen. When you ask it to help with doing something, however, it's much more responsive.

Samsung's Bixby works a bit differently than Google Assistant in that it'll require you to be very specific with your commands. The result can be more effective, however, if you consider that you can do things like crop an image with just your voice.

Perhaps the best example for showing Bixby's abilities is the crop-and-post example. For instance, I asked Bixby to open up the gallery and select the latest photo. From there, I pressed the Bixby button and asked it to first crop the photo and then, crop the photo in 4 by 3. The Gallery app then cropped the photo as I asked it to, though it waited for me to choose where the crop placement should go before it continued.

Once again, I pressed the Bixby button and asked it to save the image and share it, and from there it popped up Android's sharing dialog window.

I also used Bixby to launch the Gmail app and dictate a message. It was strikingly easy, and I was impressed by the way Bixby seemed to move forward with what it figured I'd ask it to do next.

There is certainly more that you can do with Bixby, and the commands change whenever you're inside another app. With this preview mode, the trick is to test what it can do and take it from there.

About that extra button

Let's talk about that extra button on the side of the Galaxy S8.

There's good news for those of who you've managed to either successfully remap the Bixby button or just aren't interested in the push-the-talk action of Bixby Voice. The app doesn't actually require you use the added hardware to interact with your assistant. Rather, it's there to help in times of need, like when the environment is too loud for the phone to pick up on your command. Bixby pops up an on-screen indicator to let you know it's working hard, and there's a quick toggle shortcut in the Hello Bixby app.

Admittedly, using the Galaxy S8's built-in Bixby button feels a bit strange as it's not something that I'm accustomed to. I've been long using Google Assistant — or Google Now, as it were — to do my bidding and that merely requires I utter "Okay, Google" or tap on an icon.

Regardless, the push-to-talk ability is a nice alternative when you're in situations where it'll come in handy, though it would be nice to be able to officially remap the Bixby button when the situation calls for it.

Bixby's Home screen

Bixby's home screen reminds me quite a bit of Apple's Siri because of its black-to-purple ombre background, but besides the similarities of the female voice, it's really quite different. For one, you can type in your command to Bixby if talking to it isn't a possibility (that's coming soon to iOS 11 for Siri users), or you can cycle through some of your past commands. There's even an easy screenshot toggle if proving your friend right requires photo evidence, and you can individually adjust the sound of Bixby Voice.

Bixby Voice's home screen.

If you're inside an app and you conjure up the Bixby home screen, the app will offer up a bevy of suggestions for commands you can use specifically within that app. It's helpful to have this resource to learn what it is you can control with just your voice, though you might find that it's simply easier to go by trial and error. After all, the best way to learn something is to practice it (as my math tutor told me all those years) and with Bixby, you'll have to learn how to be really specific without being long-winded.

Bixby points system

bixby

Bixby requires quite a bit of validation to ensure it's properly operating. But the upside is that each positive interaction earns you "points" towards leveling up your Bixby experience.

Bixby will improve itself over time, though it relies quite a bit on feedback to steer itself in the right direction. Each time you command Bixby, you'll rack up points towards your overall Bixby Level. If your interaction is less than stellar, however, you can let Bixby know that it needs improvement over a particular subset of commands, and the virtual assistant will do its best to accommodate you during the next round.

Take a gander at what Bixby's point system looks like.

If you're curious to see where you're at on the points scale, tap on "My Bixby" in the main Hello Bixby overflow menu. This will reveal all of your growth stats. There's also a counter that keeps privy to how many conversations you've had with Bixby, and you'll see how many times you've given it props and when you've told it that it could have done a better job.

Frankly, Bixby's "level up" screen looks akin to the dashboard you'd find in a roleplaying game — all it's missing is a counter for the hit points. But that's sort of the point of this page existing in the first place. The "experience points" you can procure to effectively level up Bixby were clearly added in an effort to encourage users to play on by gamifying the experiences with the virtual assistant. I'm curious to see what I'll unlock the more I interact with it; I'm close to unlocking more background colors, for example, and I wonder what other little treats are hidden in the interface.

What you can change

Bixby Voice's settings panel seems limited in its beta state.

The Bixby Voice settings aren't as customizable as Google Assistant, but there are some extra features you can enable to make the virtual assistant more robust. In addition to the ability to enable constantly, always-on voice command capabilities, you can also choose Bixby's feedback style. If you prefer quick, terse answers, you can choose to keep Bixby's responses short. Or if you're really aching to connect with it, you can opt to have the assistant talk to you in full sentences.

Bixby also offers a helpful dictation featurette, which I found to be just as useful as the ability in Google Keyboard. This ability doesn't require that you tap on a microphone icon when the keyboard app is up, however; rather, you'll want to toggle on the Dictation on keyboard capability to enable the ability to start the dictation mode by pressing and holding the Bixby key while the Samsung Keyboard is open. This means you'll have to actively use the Samsung Keyboard, but the dictation ability appears to work just as accurately as Google when it comes to forming sentences.

It's still just a preview

Bixby

There is still plenty to discover about Samsung's Bixby Voice.

Bear in mind that all that we've experienced with Bixby thus far has been entirely a preview. The kinks have yet to be worked out, not to mention the fact that there are very few people using the service at present. Bixby's overall purpose in the industry has yet to materialize, too, and we won't know where it fits into the virtual assistant space until the software is ready to go live to everyone with a Galaxy S8 in their hands. It's not meant as a replacement assistant for Google, either, so I'll be curious to see what it's like using the two assistant suites in tandem in my day-to-day.

We'll be updating this page once Bixby is ready for primetime. If you have any questions until it's ready for the stage, however, leave us a comment and we'll investigate for you in the interim.

And if you're in the preview, how is Bixby treating you? What command do you like to use with it? Are you finding it's a better way of interacting with your Galaxy S8 or S8+ than, say, simply tapping around?

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked

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6 days ago

Flip phones are making a comeback

39

With the announcement of Samsung's Galaxy Folder 2 flip phone in South Korea, it's a wonder if we're backtracking through time to when phones were simpler things.

I can't believe I'm writing about a flip phone in 2017, but lo and behold, here we are.

What you see here is Samsung's Galaxy Folder 2, a flip phone with a 3.8-inch display that's sandwiched in between a large keypad and an outward-facing metal shell. There are also separate shortcut buttons for quickly accessing contacts, text messages, social channels, and the camera app — just like on the flip phones or yore — in addition to physical Android navigation buttons.

Inside, the Galaxy Folder 2 is a 1.4GHz quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. Fret not about the limited storage space, however, as there's an additional expansion slot along with a 1950mah battery powering the entire thing.

Unfortunately, even if you wanted to buy this thing for a giggle, you'd have to contend with its year-old, outdated software. The Galaxy Folder 2 runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which is so old. It's also equipped with 15 special ringtones that, according to a translation of the Korean-written press release, "focus on the audible spectrum of the middle-aged people."

The Galaxy Folder 2 is only available in South Korea at present. However, it got us thinking: is what's happening overseas an indication of what's coming to the mainstream phone market? Are we due for a resurgence of cellphones past? Has nostalgia officially caught up enough that it's affecting technology, too? What do you think?

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked

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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6 days ago

Moto E4 review: Keeping it simple

15

The Moto E4 is one of the best prepaid deals you can get right now.

The Moto E4 is fine. It's not particularly good looking or powerful, nor is it filled with features. When you think a generic smartphone, this is kind of what you think of.

And yet, for $129, I would probably recommend it, warts and all, over any other phone. At $70 on Verizon's prepaid service, it's an absolute steal. Here's why.

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6 days ago

OnePlus 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S8 camera comparison: Playing catch-up

59

No matter what we pay for phones, we always want a great camera.

OnePlus has consistently nailed the core experience of a high-end smartphone, over-achieving its price in so many ways. But one area where it felt more native to its price point was the camera — but the OnePlus 5 is designed to change that. Even though it is notably less expensive than the flagship competition, the OnePlus 5 will constantly be compared to the top-end phones available today. It's when you start to compare cameras, especially, that the battle gets tough: the past two years have seen fantastic improvements in smartphone cameras at the high end.

Millions of people are familiar with how the Galaxy S8 takes photos, and it's well-regarded as having a consistently good camera in a variety of ways. If the OnePlus 5 can beat — or even just match — the likes of the Galaxy S8, it's going to be in great shape to pick up sales as people look for the best value in a smartphone that includes a great camera. This is how the two compared in our testing.

Daylight photos

OnePlus 5 (left) / Galaxy S8 (right) — click to view larger

When viewing these photos at typical size embedded in a webpage, it isn't easy to pick out differences. That's a good sign for OnePlus, as it shows the OnePlus 5 can put out nice-looking photos what are generally indiscernible from a leading smartphone at a glance.

You have to zoom in pretty tightly to see differences in these photos.

Once you zoom in and start to nitpick a little bit, you can see where the Galaxy S8 does things a bit better. The GS8's photos easily have sharper edges and finer detail when you start to closely inspect them. In most cases, it doesn't really come across in the end product viewed at a typical size (especially when just viewed on a phone) — but sometimes you just get a sense of the GS8's photos being crisper than the OnePlus 5's.

You'll notice from the photos above that the Galaxy S8 still tends to take warmer photos, and although the OnePlus 5's color balance seems better it doesn't have quite the brightness and saturation that the Galaxy S8 does. That's a bit more of a personal preference ... but in general, the average smartphone buyer enjoys the look of those punchy, extra-contrast shots the Galaxy S8 tends to take.

Low light photos

OnePlus 5 (left) / Galaxy S8 (right) — click to view larger

Switching to low-light photos, you can more easily see differences in the output of these cameras at a typical size before even zooming in. The Galaxy S8 on average takes sharper, clearer photos when the lights get dim. When you start to inspect the photos more closely, you'll see the OnePlus 5 has a considerable amount of grain to low-light photos that the Galaxy S8 manages to avoid through a combination of a lower ISO and better overall processing.

The Galaxy S8 is still better in low light, but the gap is narrowing.

Of course you'll notice once again the Galaxy S8's photos are warmer than the OnePlus 5's, but in many low-light scenes that warm color is a bit more accurate to the scene. In some cases it felt like the OnePlus 5 was again too cool in its color temperature adjustment. Having a warmer color temperature is a fine trade off in this case, considering how much sharper the fine details in dark scenes are in most photos compared to the OnePlus 5.

Though it doesn't quite match the Galaxy S8, I'm rather impressed by the OnePlus 5's ability to take solid photos in bad lighting conditions considering its small 1.12-micron pixels and lack of OIS — but if you look at the photos with a critical eye you do notice some of its shortcomings. In some very dark scenes it took multiple shots to get an acceptable one, as it's easier to reach a point where the ISO has to go too high and the shutter speed just can't go any lower without OIS. Considering the fact that the OnePlus 5 isn't that far off from the pace here, it's conceivable that improvements could be made with some software updates. Let's hope it gets tweaked in the future.

Bottom line

The OnePlus 5 takes an admirable swing at reaching a leading camera like the Galaxy S8's, but ultimately doesn't quite get there. Daylight shots are just about neck-and-neck, with the tie-breakers being your personal preference on how the Galaxy S8 tends to over-warm and over-saturate photos and where the OnePlus 5 ends up being a little softer and dimmer. The real separator is low light shots, where the GS8 on average takes a clearer, better-balanced photo — the OnePlus 5 does admirably, but doesn't have the processing (or the hardware, frankly) to perfectly match it.

The Galaxy S8 has a better camera, but the OnePlus 5 is close and has a few extra features, too.

Aside from the main cameras compared here, let's also remember that the OnePlus 5 packs a complete secondary camera that offers a longer focal length for interesting shots and a Portrait Mode that gives you unique background blurring in certain photos. Whether or not those additions bring the entire OnePlus 5 camera experience up to the level of the Galaxy S8 for you is a good question to ask when comparing the two.

The fact that this is a relatively close competition should be taken as a good thing from the perspective of OnePlus, as the OnePlus 5 is over $200 less than the Galaxy S8. It's completely reasonable to see the OnePlus 5's camera capabilities — to say nothing of all its other great qualities — and say it's darn well close enough to the Galaxy S8 that the extra $200+ isn't worth the small improvement.

OnePlus 5

OnePlus

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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