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1 month ago

OnePlus 5: A reminder that retailer listings mean nothing, and About screens can be faked

10
OnePlus 3T

Never Settle for dubious online rumors.

So we're getting to the time of year when folks are expecting a new OnePlus smartphone. The number four being considered bad luck in some Asian cultures, the name everyone seems to have settled on is OnePlus 5, and boy is the rumor mill already churning. In the past week a post by OnePlus CEO Pete Lau on social network Weibo, not mentioning the OnePlus 5, and revealing no new information was widely reported to be a teaser of the OnePlus 5.

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1 month ago

Refurbished Note 7 clears FCC certification as Korean launch draws near

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The refurbished Note 7 is one step closer to launch.

Samsung announced back in March that it would introduce a refurbished variant of the Galaxy Note 7 with a smaller battery, and the phone is now one step closer to launch. South Korean variants of the refurbished Note 7 have passed through FCC certification, with recent rumors suggesting the phone could make its debut in Samsung's home market at the end of June.

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1 month ago

Here's why Xiaomi got rid of the headphone jack in the Mi 6

44

Xiaomi explains why it ditched the 3.5mm jack on the Mi 6.

There's a lot to like in the Xiaomi Mi 6, but one change that has frustrated potential customers is the removal of the 3.5mm jack. Xiaomi isn't the first company to ditch the ubiquitous port for USB-C audio, and we now have a clearer understanding of why the move was carried out.

In a statement to Android Central, Xiaomi revealed that the headphone jack was removed to facilitate a larger battery:

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1 month ago

Zagg's sapphire-infused screen protector is nothing more than plastic snake oil

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You don't have to spend wads of cash on this overpriced product to protect your new Galaxy S8.

The term "sapphire crystal" may sound like something that's incredibly protective, especially when you consider the fact that sapphire is one of the hardest nature-made materials on Earth. But things are not always what they seem, as proven by the latest JerryRigEverything torture test with Zagg's pricey Galaxy S8 curved glass screen protector.

The $50 Zagg Sapphire Defense advertises that it's effective because it's infused with sapphire. And though it does offer traces of factory-made sapphire in the plastic, according to the report, it's not nearly as protective as the real thing. For comparison, JerryRigEverything shows off a Tissot watch and an HTC U Ultra with actual sapphire displays. They hardly scratch, compared to the Zagg Sapphire Defense, which seems just as effective as any other screen protector — or worse, when you consider that it claims to be made of glass.

Take it from us: If you want ample screen protection, any of of these case-friendly screen protectors will do for the Samsung Galaxy S8. Many of the entries even come in packs of multiples, so you can have a backup on the ready the minute you receive your first scratch.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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About

The Galaxy S8, and its larger sibling the S8+, are Samsung's top-end devices for 2017 meant to appeal to the general consumer and power user alike. The two phones are only differentiated by screen and battery size: 5.8 inches and 3000mAh, and 6.2 inches and 3500mAh.

The displays have a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio with a QHD+ resolution, meaning they're extra tall and narrow. Samsung moved to on-screen buttons and reduced bezel size dramatically in order to fit as much screen into the body as possible. That moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phones, where it sits somewhat-awkwardly next to the camera lens. Iris scanning makes its return in a new-and-improved version from the Note 7.

Though the batteries haven't increased in size from the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, the hope is that the improved efficiency of the new 10 nm processor inside will provide some help. The processor is backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Waterproofing and wireless charging are still here as well, plus a new USB-C port on the bottom. The rear camera is unchanged in terms of its 12MP sensor and f/1.7 lens, but has improved processing thanks to a new ISP and software.

Specs

Width Height Thickness 5.86 in
148.9 mm
2.68 in
68.1 mm
0.31 in
8 mm
5.47 oz
155g grams
  • Display:
    • 5.8-inch AMOLED display
    • 2960x1440 resolution
    • 18.5:9 aspect ratio
    • Dual-curve infinity display
  • Cameras:
    • 12MP ƒ/1.7 rear camera
    • Dual-pixel phase detection autofocus
    • 1.4-micron pixels
    • 8MP ƒ/1.7 front camera
  • Battery:
    • 3000 mAh battery
    • Non-removable
    • USB-C fast Charging
    • Qi + PMA wireless charging
  • Chips:
    • Snapdragon 835 processor
    • Samsung Exynos 8896 processor
      (varies by region)
    • 4GB RAM
    • 64GB internal storage
    • microSD card slot
    • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • GS8+
    • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    • 6.2-inch AMOLED display
    • 3500mAh battery
    • 6.28 in x 2.89 in x 0.32 in
      159.5mm x 73.4mm x 8.1mm
    • 6.10 oz / 73g

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1 month ago

Galaxy S8 Tips: First things to do with your new phone!

10

So you've just unboxed a brand new Galaxy S8, and you want to go exploring everything this phone has to offer. That's great, and there's certainly no shortage of features on this phone — both new additions and familiar stuff from previous Galaxies.

That's why we've rounded up the first 5 things you need to do on your new Galaxy S8 — plus some bonus tips and tricks that'll help you get up to speed. Check out our video above, which covers everything from the launcher to security to buttons and advanced settings!

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1 month ago

BlackBerry KEYone vs. BlackBerry Priv: No contest

15

There is only one real choice for an Android with a keyboard.

An Android phone with a keyboard is a niche product. I think everyone knows it, including the company that makes them. But because the choice is so small (as in just one) it's important you make sure what you're buying is good enough to replace what you already have.

We'll tell you up front that the BlackBerry KEYone is a much better phone than the BlackBerry Priv, and we'll explain why we think that way if you need more convincing.

Hardware, specs and features

The KEYone is a really well-built phone. Not just a well built phone among phones with a physical keyboard but well-built in general. It's hefty and thick by today's standards and is a glorious mix of metal, rubber, and glass. And keys. It's solid, and when you compare it to most other phones on the market you get the impression that it will last forever.

The KEYone is a solid phone and you know it as soon as you pick it up.

This is a stark contrast to the Priv, which came in two flavors: Built fine, or really wobbly and creaky. I got lucky and mine doesn't suffer from a clicky back cover or a loose keyboard slide, but even then it's easy to see that the KEYone is using better and thicker metal and it's put together more solidly.

A big part of the reason is that the Priv was a slider. You had the full-screen experience and a flick of the thumb revealed a BlackBerry keyboard. The KEYone has none of the inherent problems a slider has because it follows the typical BlackBerry look with a screen that only covers three-quarters of the face, with the keyboard itself taking the remainder. I'm a fan of the slider, in theory anyway. But I'm more of a fan of how well built the KEYone is.

Everything inside the KEYone is also a huge improvement over the Priv. And it shows, especially when you're doing all the BlackBerry things this BlackBerry was designed to do.

The KEYone's hardware is just enough, which is something the Priv wasn't able to say.

Where the Priv would slow down when you started to do several things on at once, the KEYone will keep on truckin'. Don't assume the KEYone is infallible and will run as well as a Google Pixel because it doesn't. BlackBerry didn't put the very latest and fastest processor or memory modules in the KEYone so you'll still hit a wall if you try to hit one with all the BlackBerry services and any other app you can think of running. But that wall is far beyond the capabilities of the Priv.

While the KEYone would not be my first choice for playing 3D games or using any other really processor-intensive application, you won't have the problems watching HD video or web browsing that many Priv owners complained of. Temper your expectations, or just buy a Galaxy S8 if that's what you like to do with your phone.

The keyboards

Chances are this is why you're here. If you're using a Priv in 2017, you're doing so because of the keyboard. The good news is that you'll like the KEYone's a lot more.

The keyboard on the Priv was flat. A textured corner on each key was all that let your thumb find them and the only reference was a raised dot on the D key. The only thing that made the Priv keyboard great was that it was the only Android phone to have one. It took a long time to get used to it and become thumb-typing proficient.

The BlackBerry keyboard of legend still hasn't returned with the KEYone, but it's close. And for this keyboard lover, it's almost better.

You won't find a better physical keyboard on a phone in 2017 if that's what you're looking for.

The Keyboard is made of flat keys with a slick coating, but each key is raised out of the body and has a distinctive beveled edge. Even the hardest thumb can find them, and because they are nice and flat the gesture and swipe typing on the keys is great. It's clear that the Priv keyboard was studied so someone knew what mistakes not to make.

If you want a phone with the best physical keyboard possible, you can stop reading and order a KEYone.

Much of what can be said about the keyboard can be said about the small details. The KEYone has better buttons (no more three-button silliness like we saw on the Priv) a better screen and a better camera. Even the rubberized back is better on the KEYone and feels like rubber instead of a pool liner. Add better speakers and a USB-C port (complete with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0) and this becomes an easy choice. Mostly.

The Priv does hold its own in the call quality department.

There is one thing the Priv does better, and it may matter to you. The Priv has better reception than the KEYone in every test I've tried. The Priv is better on T-Mobile and AT&T, as well as MVNO carriers that use either network. In the same place at the same time, noticeably better. Where I live, work and play the KEYone is acceptable when it comes to connection strength and not the worst phone I have here. But it doesn't see the downright awesome signal strength you might have noticed from your Priv. If you need a phone that works well as a phone (the difference in data speeds was negligible at best) and you live on the fringe of coverage, you may have issues you didn't have with your Priv.

That aside, and for most users with good coverage I don't see it being a show-stopping issue, the KEYone beats the Priv in every possible way when it comes to the hardware.

Software and experience

The KEYone ships with Android 7.1.1 while the Priv runs Android Marshmallow (6.0) with no confirmation that it will receive an update to Nougat. For the most part, this means less for BlackBerry's phones than it does for some other brands because all models are updated monthly with the latest security patches, and unlike phones direct from Google, the software experience doesn't depend directly on the version number.

Android on the KEYone is very much like Android on the Priv. BlackBerry has both phones full of their own apps and services so application updates for things like BlackBerry Launcher mean the user-facing differences are hard to find. They are there, and from a security perspective one can say that the KEYone is superior, but most users won't find any big differences when it comes to the software.

The Priv and the KEYone run different versions of Android, but most people would never know it.

But you will find those differences when using the software. And we don't mean the small extras like better battery statistics that are a result of having Android 7; we mean that the BlackBerry suite of apps is a lot more usable on the newer, faster hardware.

BlackBerry Hub is a good example here. It looks the same on both phones and offers the same features, but the strain on the processor could make the Priv stop for seconds at a time. You won't find that with the KEYone. While you can tell the difference between running the Hub and not running the Hub, it's not a deal breaker. And since BlackBerry loves to update its software, chances are things will get better as time goes by and the "microstutters" may disappear altogether. A lot of Priv owners accepted the tradeoffs that using the Hub and the rest of the BlackBerry apps brought with the Priv, and the good news is that all of them are far less obvious with the KEYone.

Users who forgo the BlackBerry apps may not notice any software stutters with the KEYone, depending on what other apps they might be using. The same could not be said for the Priv.

Besides the improvement in responsiveness new processors and faster memory bring, the improved keyboard makes using BlackBerry's apps more enjoyable. Tapping a key shortcut to launch an app or entering a text shortcut so you don't have to type your address is a better experience when it happens almost instantly. BlackBerry has baked the keyboard into the entire experience, and improvements mean all the software benefits.

Photographers will love the improved camera in the KEYone. There are phones you can buy that take better pictures, but the jump in quality from the Priv is instantly noticeable. Photos that were marginal with the Priv's 18MP camera can be great using the KEYone's 12MP camera. And if you take your time and work at it, you can take some stunning photos with the KEYone.

Battery life on the KEYone has been better than anyone expected.

Possibly the biggest improvement that comes with the KEYone is the battery life. The Priv was acceptable at best when it originally launched and did not age well. We're not sure if the software was at fault or the hardware (likely a combination of both) but, regardless, the battery life on the KEYone is much, much better. And that's not just me talking, either. A quick with everyone here at Mobile Nations with a KEYone about every possible thing we didn't like (that's how reviews get made, we look for the bad things, too) and nobody had anything bad to say about the battery life.

With light use — phone calls, messaging, a little social media and looking at pictures of a new baby — the KEYone is almost a two-day phone. That's with all the things happening and not managing the battery at all. A cautious user who will mind how the battery gets used might stretch that out even further. As expected, you can kill the battery if you try, and I recommend you find your favorite Brick Breaker clone and do so every now and then.

Bottom line

Sometimes it's hard to decide if you should ditch a phone you've already paid for and buy a replacement. This isn't one of those times. Not even close.

If you have a Priv, or had one and liked Android with a keyboard, the KEYone is for you. We can't think of any reason not to upgrade if you're considering it and think you'll like what you see.

BlackBerry KEYone

Amazon Best Buy BlackBerry Mobile

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1 month ago

BlackBerry KEYone review: Coming home

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Come for the keyboard, stay for the battery life. You probably already know if this is your next phone.

There's nothing like coming home. Even after months — years — the sounds, the smells, the feelings, are unavoidable.

The BlackBerry KEYone is home. Even more so than the Priv, which was released 18 months ago, the KEYone is BlackBerry's attempt to appeal to its core audience, as small as it may be, with the best hardware keyboard on the market. With that it succeeds, but falls down in a couple notable areas along the way.

The quick take

The KEYone is the best phone for those upgrading from BlackBerry 10, or are holding onto a Priv. For everyone else, it's probably not going to move the needle.

The good

  • Great build quality
  • Android 7.1.1 on board at launch
  • Excellent security features
  • Best hardware keyboard on the market
  • Great battery life
  • Best security update pedigree outside of Google

The bad

  • Software is buggy
  • Performance is inconsistent (likely from buggy software)
  • Camera has potential but suffers in low light

To have and to hold

BlackBerry KEYone Full review

BlackBerry Mobile, which is actually TCL Communications, which makes Alcatel phones, has done an admirable job furthering the legacy of BlackBerry's transition from BB10 to Android. Not only does the KEYone sport the same security enhancements, including Hardware Root of Trust and Verified Boot as all BlackBerry phones released in the past couple of years, but it runs Android 7.1.1 out of the box, and promises to receive monthly security updates. To say that the KEYone is one of the most secure phones on the market right now would probably not be an overstatement.

But the KEYone is also inherently divisive, willfully limiting its potential customer base with a hardware keyboard that harkens back to a time, between six and 10 years ago, when not only were BlackBerrys essential tools for millions of people, but few could envision typing on anything but that miniaturized version of the desktop keyboard.

Times have changed, and people have adjusted. Well, most people. This phone is for the others, and for them it's almost perfect.

See at Amazon See at Best Buy See at BlackBerry Mobile

Those pesky numbers

First, the specs

Category KEYone Operating System Android 7.1.1 Nougat Display 4.5-inch, 1620x1080
IPS LCD
434ppi Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
Octa-core 2.0GHz
Adreno 506 GPU RAM 3GB Storage 32GB Expandable microSD up to 2TB Rear Camera 12MP (1.55 micron) f/2.0, PDAF
dual-tone LED flash
HDR, 4K, 30fps Front Camera 8MP f/2.2
1.12-micron pixels
Selfie flash
1080p/30 video Battery 3505 mAh
non-removable Charging Quick Charge 3.0
USB-C Water resistance No Security DTEK security suite
FIPS 140-2 Full Disk Encryption
Android For Work, Google Play for Work Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11ac, 5GHz, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, NFC
GPS, GLONASS Network (NA GSM) LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/19/20/28/29/30
TD-LTE Band 38/39/40/41 Network (NA CDMA) LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/12/13/20/25/26/28/29/30
TD-LTE Band 41
CDMA BC 0/1/10 Network (EMEA) LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/13/17/20/28
TD-LTE Band 38,40 Dimensions 149.1 mm x 72.39 mm x 9.4 mm Weight 180 grams

I tap, therefore I am

About this review

I (Daniel Bader) am writing this review after spending 10 days with a pre-production version of the BlackBerry KEYone. BB Mobile says that the hardware is near-final but the software is not, meaning that some of the software issues could be fixed in an update. If so, we'll update this review.

The phone was running Android 7.1.1 Nougat on Build AAK831 with the April 5, 2017 security patch. It received an update to Build AAL093, which fixed a number of early bugs and performance problems, on May 3, just a few hours before publishing this review. The phone stayed on the Bell network in Canada throughout its testing.

Solid, like the Canadian Shield

BlackBerry KEYone Hardware

Let's start with the hardware. This is a solid device, as all high-end BlackBerry devices have been over the past few years. Most notably, the aluminum frame joins with the metal frets of the keyboard seamlessly, and while I'm not an enormous fan of the flat top with rounded corners, the phone certainly paints a unique picture.

That fingerprint sensor in the space bar: my goodness, is it awesome.

Indeed, the matte silver finish of the frame honors early BlackBerry models without going too retro, though the black-and-silver color palette definitely gives me the feels. There are modern touches here, though: the symmetrical speaker and microphone grills on the bottom are flanked by a USB-C port, while the sizeable (and distracting, to be honest) front-facing camera sits next to etched holes and a duo of sensors brace against a large 4.5-inch LCD screen.

Back in 2014, when the Passport was released, I remember wondering how BlackBerry would eventually release an Android phone given that its keyboard takes up so much vertical space. Well, here you go. The screen is really good — surprisingly good — though not quite as bright as I'd like (though, really, coming from a Galaxy S8, it's not really a fair comparison). More importantly, though, its 3:2 aspect ratio makes sense: most Android apps can adapt to the reduced vertical real estate, just as they can for the taller counterparts on the Galaxy S8 and LG G6.

What's irritating, and something I don't quite understand, is BlackBerry Mobile's use of capacitive navigation buttons below the screen; for a phone that insists its keyboard is smart, and encourages swiping vertically to scroll through web pages and feeds, it's far too easy to accidentally hit one of the three buttons.

My only other hardware gripe is the placement of the power button, which mirrors BB Mobile's Alcatel counterparts by placing it on the left side of the phone. I'm all for catering to lefties, but I don't think this is the solution. The right side houses a volume rocker and, below it, a programmable convenience key that can be assigned to anything except turning on and off the phone. I think the convenience key is a great idea, but justifying the power button's placement by saying that people will use the fingerprint sensor to turn on the phone and double-tap the display to turn it off again goes against the years of muscle memory most smartphone users have built up.

Speaking of that fingerprint sensor, it's seamlessly integrated into the keyboard's space bar, and my goodness is it awesome. The DTEK60, a repackaged TCL 950, has its fingerprint sensor on the back, but this one is just perfect: fast, accurate, and well-placed.

The keyboard

Let's talk about the keyboard, because in all likelihood it's a big reason you're considering the phone at all. It's good, probably 90% as good as the one on the BlackBerry Classic, and certainly the best on any modern phone.

The keys are wide and responsive, with excellent travel that return to position instantly. If you're a current BlackBerry user, you're quickly going to feel at ease here, and if you're a lapsed CrackBerry addict, the adjustment period will likely be brief.

While the familiar BlackBerry frets are here, the keys are not quite as contoured and angled as they used to be, which BlackBerry Mobile says comes from a need to optimize for the gestures that were popularized by the Passport and, later, the Priv. It's a fine compromise, and not one I mind, but it doesn't do anything to assuage the cognitive dissonance I feel returning to typing on a physical keyboard.

You won't convince me that physical keys are the future, but this one is damn good.

Yes, like I mentioned before, typing on the KEYone is like coming home. But the home feels smaller, more cramped, and rife with compromise. I'll try my best not to brutalize the metaphor too much, but even after using the KEYone all day, every day, for nearly two weeks, I haven't fallen back in love with the process. Typing on this phone is a chore. It's the reason I kept the slider closed on the Priv for much of its life.

I strongly believe that virtual keyboards in their current form provide a superior and more accurate typing experience than a physical one — but that's just me. Google Keyboard; SwiftKey; even BlackBerry's own superb virtual keyboard: they're all very good at figuring out what you're trying to say, and correcting your mistakes as you type. And while BlackBerry's keyboard does that, too, the satisfying feedback of physical keys doesn't always lead to a better experience.

(Those dismissing my pedigree right now should take into account my history with BlackBerrys. My first smartphone was a BlackBerry Pearl 8100, which a few months later was replaced by a Bold 9000. I used that 9000 for years, eventually replacing it with a Bold 9700 and Bold 9900.

In between, I held onto almost every BlackBerry imaginable, from the chiclet keys of the Curve 8300 to, later, the Tour 9630 and Torch 9800. I loved those phones. When BlackBerry 10 was released, I upgraded not to the Z10 but the Q10. I used the Passport; I gave the Classic a try. Even when I had an Android phone in one pocket, I always had a keyboarded BlackBerry in the other.

I feel I've earned the right to look at the state of BlackBerry, and the need for keyboarded phones, objectively.)

Let's remove personal preference for a moment, then. The keyboard, uniformly backlit, is excellent. Once you get the hang of it, the combination of touch typing and on-screen autocorrect works well. There are also a number of gestures that can be utilized to improve the typing experience, though I found myself more concerned with finishing a word than stopping to swipe up in one of three quadrants to extract an autocorrect suggestion.

As on the Priv, swiping to the left over the keys deletes the last word, while double-tapping on it introduces a cursor that can be used to quickly navigate through and edit text. I really like these gestures, and found myself not just using but relying on them as I spent more time with the KEYone.

When you're on the home screen, those keys double as shortcuts to basically anything, too: you can hold down the 'C' button to quickly launch the camera, or short-press the 'M' key to instantly call Mom (hey, it's Mother's Day soon — don't forget!). And when you're typing away, the physical Shift and Alt buttons mean you can quickly cut, copy and paste without digging around for that on-screen cursor. These are all great features, and add tremendous value to the hardware keyboard, especially once you grow used to the keys' nuances.

Typing on the KEYone takes some getting used to, even compared to older BlackBerry keyboards, and that's because BlackBerry Mobile decided to go glossy instead of matte on the buttons themselves. You'll want to make sure there's no oil or sweat on your fingertips, too, because once gunked the keys have a tendency to lose friction, and accuracy, in a hurry. A quick wipe with a microfiber cloth will do the trick, but like any physical keyboard, keep it clean lest you want to clean crumbs from under the frets in a few months' time.

After a few days with the keyboard, using it became second nature, and I returned to the rhythm I'd developed years before. But it's kind of like writing with a pen: you have to rebuild those muscles, physically and mentally.

With the current pre-production software, there is often a tiny but perceptible delay before both the first letter appears in the text box and the first autocorrect option appears at the bottom of the screen. It's almost like the keyboard is waiting for the software to figure out it's typing and, when it does, it snaps to attention and no longer lags. I'm hoping this is a pre-production gremlin and not something endemic to the phone, but software gremlins abound on the KEYone.

Less is more

BlackBerry KEYone Software

Running Android 7.1.1 Nougat is a good thing; promises of monthly security updates are even better. While the Priv is still stuck on Marshmallow, the two phones have remarkably similar software experiences, since BlackBerry has created a consistent aesthetic that leans closely on Google's Nexus and Pixel phones for art direction.

Here's what you get: a custom launcher that does most things right, including giving BlackBerry loyalists notification badges over icons and Android faithful the option of swapping in icon packs and swiping up to quickly access widgets. Practically everything else feels "stock" Android, from Nougat's unmatched notification experience — in-line replies for the win — to the host of pre-installed Google apps.

But BlackBerry (the Canadian company, not BlackBerry Mobile the hardware vendor — with me?) being BlackBerry, it has filled the KEYone with an armada of its own apps and services, punctuated by the Hub, a single place to consolidate all of your emails, texts, calls and social feeds, from Slack to WhatsApp to Twitter.

Hub would be close to perfect if it supported aliases. But it's still damn good.

I can't use Hub as my main email client because it doesn't support aliases (the ability to send or reply to someone from an email different, but associated with, the primary address). It's otherwise so good at what it does, and addresses so many other pain points I have with many email clients today, including my service of choice, Newton. It supports rich formatting, customizable gestures, and has quick access to my calendar.

Everything you need to know about the KEYone's software features

BlackBerry's other apps do a damn fine job replacing Google's own versions, too; from the calendar to an excellent task manager, they're simple and well-designed, and leave no glaring holes compared to what you'd get on a Pixel or a Galaxy. And they sync with Exchange, so they'll work with your existing office setup. You do have to contend with BBM being pre-installed, but if you're going out of your way to buy a KEYone, you may also be one of the people maintaining a presence on BlackBerry's once-ubiquitous messaging service.

Notes and Notable, two similar-sounding apps that do vastly different things — the former is self-explanatory and the latter lets you annotate screenshots and photos — are examples of other value-adds that come pre-loaded on the device, and BlackBerry's DTEK software still keeps you apprised of your phone's security.

BlackBerry's apps are pretty great Google replacements

By default, BlackBerry still shows its so-called Productivity tab, a holdover from the curved edges of the Priv and a welcome addition to the software retinue. It's received a nice makeover here, though, with a full-screen overlay that offers a quick glance at unread emails, upcoming meetings and unfinished tasks.

From the very beginning, BlackBerry's take on Android won me over. Like OnePlus's Oxygen OS, there are just enough useful changes to Android to justify their existence, but they don't get in the way and never bog.

A note on security

That BlackBerry is able to seamlessly blend its security and enterprise assets into a phone like this is admirable. The company boasts a number of security advantages over its rivals, like a constant check for hardware changes and a verified boot that ensures the software has not been tampered with.

Once booted, the phone is constantly scanning installed apps for traces of malware, and a fast rollout of Google's monthly security updates put it on the same footing as the Nexus and Pixel line.

To say that BlackBerry's phones are the most secure devices on the market may be a stretch — the Pixel will almost certainly benefit from having a newer version of Android, plus monthly security patches, while the KEYone languishes on Nougat for some time — but they are certainly among the most secure, and that counts for a lot in this day and age.

Good and really good

BlackBerry KEYone Performance and Battery

Running on the Snapdragon 625 platform with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, BlackBerry Mobile spent a lot of time at the phone's inception justifying the use of an older mid-range chip on a phone that, at $549, approaches flagship prices.

I've had great experiences with Android phones of similar pedigrees, in particular the excellent Moto Z Play. But when I first received the KEYone, I was shocked to see how much slower it seemed than that highly-optimized Motorola device. Indeed, not only was it occasionally difficult to type without lag, but apps would load slowly, menus would crawl as I scrolled, and the keyboard's smart scrolling would intermittently fail.

The good news is that after an update (the day before the review embargo lifted, natch), much of the grime disappeared, and the phone began running the way I hope it will when it reaches retail. Even on this new software build I'm going to save my definitive thoughts on performance until I received a retail unit with final software, since there are still areas where BlackBerry can tighten things. Still, the Snapdragon 625 chip inside seems to provide sufficient horsepower for the meandering tasks I submitted to it, including the occasional game of PinOut and Super Mario Run (my two mobile game addictions of the moment).

Even better is the battery life which, like the aforementioned Moto Z Play, spans days, not hours. The 3,505mAh battery is half of the equation, the other half being the power-sipping Snapdragon 625 and relatively low-resolution LCD screen. This is a great combination, and is sure to win power users over. Whereas a phone like the Galaxy S8 left with 10-20% at the end of a long work day, the KEYone often leaves me with close to 50%.

BlackBerry KEYone Cameras

Much ado was made about the fact that the KEYone boasts the same 12 megapixel IMX378 rear camera sensor as the Google Pixel. But as we've learned countless times throughout the past couple of years, a smartphone camera is far more than its choice of sensor.

The KEYone can take great photos, and does a good job outdoors and in situations with moderate light. The combination of a sensor with large 1.55 micron pixels and a relatively wide f/2.0 aperture provide the right ingredients, and even on Auto mode I took some remarkable shots, including some photos at dusk that I'll treasure. Same with macros, even though the minimum focus distance is a little far for my liking.

It's indoors, in artificial light, where the Snapdragon 625's aging image signal processor, and the phone's lack of optical image stabilization, rear their combined Hydra heads. A surfeit of grain and poor white balance make barely-usable photos, especially when a moving subject is involved. This isn't unique to the KEYone, but given that the phone has, on paper, the same camera potential as the Google Pixel, it shows just how far the right software tuning goes.

BlackBerry does have a pretty great camera-taking experience on its hands, though, with one of my favorite manual modes of any phone camera I've used. It's also really nice to have the space bar, which is always in reach of the thumb, double up as a shutter button.

The phone takes decent-yet-shaky 4K video at 30fps, too, and the 8MP front camera gets the job done.

BlackBerry KEYone As a phone

BlackBerrys were always known as stellar phones to, you know, make calls, and the KEYone is no exception. Not only is it easy to hold in one hand, the textured plastic back is exceptionally comfortable and grippy. Sound quality from the earpiece is superb, and calls made over Bell's network tended to be clear, sharp and agreeable to the other person.

Agreeable to me was the single downward-facing mono speaker, which to BlackBerry Mobile's credit continues a long line of superior audio experiences on smartphones bearing the brand.

Similarly, network speeds were blazing fast over Bell's network (the carrier will sell the KEYone when it's launched May 31 in Canada), reaching speeds of up to 150Mbps using carrier aggregation.

BlackBerry KEYone Final thoughts

One of my favorite things about the KEYone is the ability to use the keyboard as a trackpad, to scroll through articles without having to touch the display. This was true of the Passport and Priv and it's true here, too. But the phone isn't otherwise usable in one hand, especially not for typing; my thumb doesn't reach the 'Q', 'A' and 'ALT' buttons when gripping the phone in my right hand, and because the keyboard is permanent there's no shrinking it down as on a virtual keyboard.

Want a keyboard? Buy this phone!

This illustrates a fundamental frustration I have with the KEYone. To some, its inflexibility is a selling point — the selling point — for a phone they've ostensibly waited years for. The long-awaited Android phone with a proper BlackBerry keyboard that yields no real compromises.

If you're that person, this is your phone. Buy it. Don't think twice. You will be happy.

If you're curious about the KEYone and want to put aside your big-screen phone for one with a keyboard — to return home for a time — the privilege will cost you $549 and some retraining.

But cast aside the keyboard for a moment and look at the KEYone's other traits: it's not too dissimilar to a phone like the Moto G5 Plus, which in its most powerful configuration is just over half the cost of the KEYone.

Should you buy it? Only if you need a keyboard

On its own, the KEYone is a pretty good phone. It's also the best phone with a keyboard you can buy. The gulf comes from the fact that no one else is doing what BlackBerry Mobile is doing, and no company comes close to offering the combination of features, performance, battery life and a physical keyboard.

If the keyboard is important, you've probably already made up your mind. Buy the KEYone and live a happy life.

If you can live without a physical keyboard but still want that BlackBerry pedigree, skip the DTEK line and go find a Google Pixel. Then go download all of BlackBerry's excellent apps, including the Hub and Launcher, and enjoy your newly-redecorated home.

See at Amazon See at Best Buy See at BlackBerry Mobile

How does KEYone compare to the Priv?

BlackBerry has two Android phones with physical keyboards, and they're both great. But how does the new KEYone compare to the older Priv slider? Jerry Hildenbrand pits key against key.

Read BlackBerry KEYone vs. Priv: No contest!

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1 month ago

Everything you need to know about BlackBerry's apps on the KEYone

3

How to make the most out of the BlackBerry apps pre-installed on the KEYone.

The BlackBerry KEYone comes with a full set of productivity apps preinstalled. If you're coming from an Android phone you'll recognize most of them from Google Play, and from an end user perspective, they are identical. If you're coming from a BlackBerry OS phone you might recognize the names but the apps will be a little different. Either way, most anything you need to keep track of the things life throws at you is there waiting. Let's take a look at what's available and what you can do with these apps.

BlackBerry Launcher

Your launcher is where you interact with everything else, and BlackBerry has tightly integrated with its other apps and services. It also offers a lot of customization and has become popular for people using any Android phone, not just one from BlackBerry.

Besides a home screen and app drawer, the launcher also controls your wallpaper and widgets. With the BlackBerry launcher, you can use most any widget you find in Google Play as well as BlackBerry's own, which include Pop-Up Widgets. Pop-Up Widgets let you see an apps widget from the icon by swiping up, down or across it. It's a great way to keep things clean and still have quick access to an app's features.

BlackBerry also adds a lot when it comes to shortcuts. There is a long list of custom shortcuts you can place on your home screen. Here are some highlights:

  • Add a contact
  • Add a task
  • Add a calendar event
  • Take a note
  • Speed dial a contact
  • Get directions using Google Maps

BlackBerry launcher also supports icon packs from Google Play to customize the look and Android for Work to keep your corporate data safe. You'll find all the settings and features by tapping the settings icon while in the app drawer or long pressing on the home screen.

BlackBerry Keyboard

While the KEYone has a physical keyboard, it still depends on software to enhance things. One of the most important of these enhancements is that they physical keys are also touch-sensitive. This provides greater accuracy when typing as well as gestures like the BlackBerry trackpad you might be used to using.

When it comes to keyboards, BlackBerry knows a thing or two.

For faster and easier typing the input engine has its own auto-correct and suggestion feature. These will appear on the screen when you're using the keyboard and can be selected by tapping the word or phrase. In addition to the existing dictionary, you can add your own custom words and create shortcuts for things you'll type frequently like your address. Even with the best keyboard, typing @home to insert your full address is a better experience than spelling it all out!

Other highlights that make BlackBerry's keyboard a standout app are simultaneous input that allows for predictions and corrections in up to three languages at the same time, text selection and cursor control through the touch-sensitive keys, a customizable symbol page and enterprise features that let you secure specific words and phrases.

On top of all this, the BlackBerry Keyboard and BlackBerry Home synergy let you make up to 52 shortcuts to do things like launch an app, make a call or open a web page. You'll find all the features in your KEYone settings under Languages & Input.

BlackBerry Calendar and Contacts

BlackBerry provides its own front-end for your address book and calendar. Whether you use Google or Exchange to manage it all online or just keep everything locally on your phone or SIM card, you'll find both are simple yet packed with features.

Most importantly, no matter what contacts or calendar app you're used to you'll be right at home here. The interface is intuitive and easy to navigate with a central point for all of your settings. And because everything is integrated through BlackBerry's software you can do some pretty awesome stuff using them such as:

  • See adjacent or conflicting appointments and time zone previews
  • Join conference calls directly from event reminders using "Join Now"
  • Get suggestions on who to invite to an event based on your existing events and who you invited last time
  • Directly respond to appointment notifications with quick messages

BlackBerry Tasks and Notes

Fully featured apps for your task list and note taking come installed on your KEYone, and like the calendar and contacts, they are designed to be easy to use while still having a set of features to make them stand out.

Tasks and Notes apps are must-have productivity tools and BlackBerry's included them.

The Notes app adds sync with Microsoft Exchange, automatic setup and connection with Outlook or Exchange and has full support for Android at work accounts. Entering a new note is easy whether you're inside the app or using a keyboard shortcut and the minimal interface lets you focus on the note, not the app. If you want to use a photo or screenshot as a note, the Notable app can grab either and allow for instant editing and sharing.

BlackBerry Tasks syncs with your Exchange notes and entries are fully encrypted during transport. The interface lets you add tags or assign a task to a specific category, then search for tasks using those categories and tags. Best of all, recurring tasks are easy to setup complete with their own reminder system.

Productivity Tab

The Productivity Tab gives you a great agenda view and a quick look at what's happening today, all from your home screen.

Slide the tab out from the edge of the screen — the tab itself is resizable and can be moved to the spot that works best — and you have a mini home page complete with a calendar, contact list, message widget and to-do list. The entries are tied into the rest of BlackBerry's app suite so there is no manual entry or setup and anything you do through the Productivity Tab is synchronized with all the other apps and widgets BlackBerry offers.

Long-time BlackBerry users will especially appreciate this agenda view, and settings to control what you see and how you see it means it's something everyone should have a look at.

The BlackBerry Hub

Like Mr. Lebowski's rug, the BlackBerry Hub ties everything together.

The Hub is a central place where you'll find all your messages in one place. It's super-customizable and works with email. calendar, social apps, and even phone calls giving you a quick preview of each so you can tap to read what's important right away or come back to anything later.

BlackBerry brings all their services and interoperability in the Hub. It's more than a catch-all inbox.

When you open BlackBerry Hub you'll see an ordered list of notifications, with the newest ones at the top. Unread entries are in bold and everything is infinitely scrollable if you're the type who keeps a full inbox. Each is sorted and identified by the application icon and messages from people in your address book have their name in the preview.

The Hub is a great catch-all for anyone who wants all their notifications in one place, but the real power comes with using BlackBerry Hub for email. Not only can you open a message inside the Hub itself (and see any attachments) but you can reply or forward the message as well as compose a new message. All without ever opening your "regular" email app.

BlackBerry Hub is also very configurable, and you'll find visual tweaks and settings galore. BlackBerry has always been keen on a great unified inbox, and they carry on that tradition for Android in the BlackBerry Hub.

DTEK

BlackBerry's DTEK app is a security dashboard for your phone. Besides monitoring the integrity of your software the DTEK app lets you see and change privacy settings for apps that access your camera, microphone, location and personal information like photos and accounts.

Using a meter and universal green/yellow/red safety level colors you'll know at a glance if anything needs your attention.

The DTEK app focuses on four key features to help guard your privacy:

  • Monitor: Know at a glance the overall security rating for your device, as well as for specific security features. You can identify whether you need to take any action to improve the security of your device.
  • Control: Easily change your security settings to improve the security rating for your device and specific security features.
  • Track: Turn on event logging to track what your apps are doing. Advanced tools help you track what info your apps have accessed, how it's being used, and the duration of use. This includes which apps are accessing your camera, microphone, location, and personal information.
  • Alert: Be notified of specific application activities when you set up notifications.

While the DTEK app is no substitute for being diligent when using the internet or installing software, it does give you information about your phone at a glance.

Just the beginning

Along with all these great apps from BlackBerry, you'll find the [Google Play Store]{/google-play) app. It's your gateway to over a million apps that have been monitored and screened to be safe and are ready to install on your KEYone. Once you get the essentials setup, we recommend it be your next stop!

BlackBerry KEYone

Amazon Best Buy BlackBerry Mobile

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1 month ago

Nougat update finally rolls out to AT&T's Galaxy S6, S6 edge, and S6 active

12

Nougat OTA update is now available for AT&T's Galaxy S6 series.

AT&T has finally started rolling out the Nougat update to the Galaxy S6 series. The Galaxy S6, S6 edge, and the S6 active are now receiving the Nougat OTA update, which varies between 1.2GB to 1.36GB based on the device.

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1 month ago

You don't need a Faraday cage in your car to avoid distracted driving

29

Nissan's Signal Shield is meant to block out all signal to keep you focused. But why not just put the phone away?

If you're finding it hard to keep yourself from checking in on notifications, missed calls, and social media status updates while on the road, perhaps you shouldn't be driving at all. Or, you could get a Faraday cage of sorts built into the armrest, as Nissan is suggesting with its new prototype.

The Signal Shield is a bonafide Faraday cage built into the arm rest of the Nissan Juke. Once you place the phone inside, it cuts off all mobile, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi signals. You won't see any messages or be able to check in until the phone comes out.

"The Nissan Signal Shield concept presents one possible solution for giving drivers the choice to remove all smartphone distractions while driving. This is about delivering more control at the wheel, not less," Nissan Motor GB managing director Alex Smith told The Telegraph. "Some drivers are immune to the activity of their smartphone, but for those who struggle to ignore the beeps and pings, this concept provides a simple solution in this very connected world we live in."

I can understand the temptation to check your phone when you're stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and bored out of your mind, but these days, I feel like I see more drivers hitting the pedal to the metal at 60 miles-per-hour while face down in a text message. I only drive a few times a week, but it's often for long distances, and you can bet I see someone breaking the law within minutes of hitting the road.

Having a smartphone in the car isn't the issue here; it's having the discipline to put it on silent and leave it in your bag or pocket when you should be paying attention to the road. And if you don't, perhaps you should consider taking the bus around town. That way, you can use your phone to your heart's desire until you reach your destination.

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1 month ago

Grab an unlocked LG G6 for just $599 right now!

59

Get the LG G6 for a decent price unlocked, and save some sales tax while you're at it!

Update: You'll also be able to secure a free Google Home with this pre-order through May 7, so grab one now!

The LG G6 is easily the best phone the company's ever made, and stands tall next to the Galaxy S8, which has overshadowed its North American launch over the past few weeks.

But the G6 has a lot of things going for it, including a sensibly-placed fingerprint sensor (can't believe we have to say that), and a dual camera setup that is way more fun than it initially appears.

It's also got a much lower price, too.

B&H is selling the unlocked LG G6 for $100 off its MSRP, bringing it to $599, considerably lower than the Galaxy S8's $750. It's not shipping until mid-May, but it's compatible with all four major U.S. networks, and should receive updates faster than the carrier models (though that's not always a guarantee).

See at BH

Perhaps even better is the deal that bundles the same unlocked G6 and the LG Watch Style, which regularly goes for $249 on its own, for $649.99 together.

Both deals don't charge sales tax outside of New York and New Jersey, keeping the cost even lower!

See at BH

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1 month ago

Video: The best Android phone in spring 2017

23

Since it launched late last year, the Google Pixel has been our pick for best Android phone. And, assuming you can actually find it, it's still a great option. But with a new generation of phones comes a new overall champion. And right now, in spring 2017, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is the best Android phone you can buy.

Whether you're looking at the 5.8-inch Galaxy S8 or the 6.2-inch S8+, these are two phones that feel like they've arrived straight from the future. It sets new standards in smartphone design, nails important areas like performance and software, and matches its best rivals in camera quality. The Galaxy S8 is a little odd in that it has a couple of obvious weaknesses — the awkward fingerprint scanner placement and the currently-useless Bixby AI. Even so, the S8 as an overall package is worthy of the massive hype surrounding the phone.

It's going to be a long year full of many great Android flagships, but if you're after the best phone of the here and now, there's no question that's the Samsung Galaxy S8. Check out our video feature for more!

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1 month ago

T-Mobile is currently offering the LG G6 for just $500

14

Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time with a great deal on an LG G6 from T-Mobile.

If you've been on the fence about picking up an LG G6, this deal from T-Mobile may push you over the edge. Right now you can pick one up for just $500 without a contract, which is a savings of $150. Prefer monthly payments on it instead? If so, you can grab one for $20 at the time of the purchase and $20 a month for 24 months. The LG G6 features a 5.7-inch display with super slim bezels, a killer dual-camera setup and much more.

Remember, with the purchase of an LG G6 before May 7 you'll also get a free Google Home from LG. Add the $130 savings of the Google Home to the $150 savings on the phone and you've got yourself a pretty amazing deal here. If you are looking for an unlocked version, B&H Photo has you covered at just $599.

See at T-Mobile

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Complete List of T-Mobile MVNOs

If you're a fan of T-Mobile's coverage but are looking for a better deal, check out an MVNO.

Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) are "alternative carriers" that lease coverage and network access from the "Big Four" carriers (T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint) and offers similar services for less. T-Mobile, which has branded itself as the Uncarrier, supports a ton of MVNOs, so if you like the coverage of T-Mo provides in your area, you might be able to save yourself some money by switching to a cheaper alternative carrier plan.

T-Mobile operates a GSM and LTE network across 700MHz, 1900MHz and the combined 1700/2100MHz (also known as AWS) frequencies. During its vast expansion of LTE throughout 2013, T-Mobile shifted its spectrum holdings in a way that better aligned itself with the network map of AT&T, making it easier for customers of that carrier to bring their phones over to T-Mobile without issue. As such, if you've got an unlocked T-Mobile or AT&T device, you should be able to use it on one of the following MVNOs.

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Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular is a great place to start shopping for MVNO plans, as it offers plans starting as low as $10 a month backed by a 30-day risk-free guarantee to try out the service.

You can build your own plan by combining your expected talk time with a Connect Plan that combines texts and web data into plans that start as low as $2.50 per month for 300 texts and a paltry 30MB of data with pricing tiers up to $40 for unlimited texts and 5GB of data.

Consumer Cellular lets you change your plan any time and as often as you need with no additional fees or penalties. You also have the option to add and share your minutes, texts and web data with additional lines for just $10 per month per line, with free calls between all phones on the same Consumer Cellular account — a compelling low-cost option for families or accommodating friends visiting from out of country.

Consumer Cellular has won awards for its outstanding customer service, offering flexible monthly plans with no contract. You're always in control of your plan, and you will receive usage alerts when you're approaching your monthly limits so you have time to adjust your usage or upgrade your plan as necessary.

Consumer Mobile uses T-Mobile's network, so you're able to grab a free SIM card and use it in any previously used T-Mobile phone.

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EcoMobile

Eco's a great carrier if you're looking for great rates on international calling, with unlimited international calling available for free on plans of $30/month and up.

Plans start at $20 for unlimited talk, text, and 100MB of data. 2GB of data, unlimited talk, text, 2G data, and international calling is $30/month. All plans get voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, three-way calling, MMS (picture and video messaging), and domestic calling.

Note: Eco mobile works with Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile, so you must be sure you're subscribing to the right tier that supports T-Mobile.

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GoSmart Mobile

GoSmart Mobile keeps it real simple by offering four plans that will be especially compelling to heavy Facebook and Facebook Messenger users — all plans come with unlimited 4G LTE access to the world's most popular social media network.

Plans start as low as $25 a month for unlimited talk and text (no data included, but you still get unlimited Facebook access) and include the following plan featuring data:

  • $30 a month for unlimited talk and text, and 4GB of 3G data. This price includes a $5 discount for signing up for auto-refill (only available at this tier)
  • $45 a month for unlimited talk and text and 12.5GB of 3G data
  • $55 a month for unlimited talk and text and a whopping 20GB of 3G data

And those data numbers exclude your Facebook and Facebook Messenger data usage as well. If you're alright settling for 3G data speeds, GoSmart Mobile offers some really compelling plans for heavy social media users. GoSmart also offers monthly and prepaid options for international calling for just $10.

You're able to use any T-Mobile network compatible device you already own. Simply buy a GoSmart Mobile Sim Kit for around $8, pick the plan that's right for you and you're good to go.

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Hayai Mobile

Hayai Mobile offers upfront pricing on all its plans that include all taxes and fees. All smartphone plans include unlimited talk and text, with your best value coming from the Hayai Mobile Max plans. Your three options there are:

  • $39 a month for unlimited talk and text and 2GB of LTE data (then unlimited at 2G speeds)
  • $59 a month for unlimited talk and text and 6GB of LTE data (then unlimited at 2G speeds)
  • $79 a month for unlimited talk, text, and LTE data (up to 28GB, then there may be throttling)

All "Max" plans include unlimited music and video with over 50 services on your device that doesn't count against your high-speed data. Some notable services include Google Music, Slacker, Spotify, Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube. This is similar to T-Mobile's BingeOn service.

Smartphone plans also include other great features like Wi-Fi calling, visual voicemail, and rollover data, but some features might not be available in some areas.

If Hayai is sounding pretty sweet, you'll also want to know that it offers special rates for firefighters, EMTs, nurses, teachers, military (both active or veterans), as well as college students studying at accredited schools. You will need to upload proof of employment or student ID during registration to qualify for the discounts.

All plans require you to bring your own device, and it also offers data-only plans perfect for tablets or LTE Hotspots, which it sells for $90.

Hayai also offers broadband internet for residential and businesses as well as TV packages, and it seems to be very keen to keep building out its network — Hayai even says that gigabit data speeds may be coming soon!

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Jolt Mobile

Jolt Mobile offers BYOD no-contract plans that start at $25 a month for unlimited talk and text and top out at $55 with 5GB of 4G LTE data. All monthly plans feature nationwide coverage, caller ID and voicemail.

It also offers PayGO plans for those looking for flexible pricing options starting at $15 or $20 depending on whether you prioritizing texting or data.

If you're interested in trying out Jolt Mobile, all you need to do is order a free SIM card when you sign up for your preferred plan. Unlocked T-Mobile phones should have no compatibility issues with the network, though Jolt cannot guarantee that all phones will work.

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KidsConnect

While not a traditional MVNO, KidsConnect is worth mentioning because it offers a solution to a problem that is becoming more and more pressing for parenting in modern times: How to keep in touch and track your child via smartphone technology, but without just handing your young child untethered access to a smartphone.

The solution is the KidsConnect KC1, an $80 GPS tracker with built-in speed dialing features for up to four numbers. This device offers real time tracking in Google Maps, as well as location history. If there's ever any trouble, the child can press the SOS button, which sends texts to up to four cell phone numbers, then starts autodialing each number until one is answered. Voice plans are all under $20 and since there's no texting or data access on the device, you never have to worry about overage charges.

Parents have good reason to be wary about giving smartphones to their young children for the purposes of keeping them connected and safe. KidsConnect tries to allay those concerns and give parents the peace of mind they deserve.

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MetroPCS

MetroPCS isn't technically a T-Mobile MVNO — it's actually owned by T-Mobile. It boasts a reliable nationwide network and monthly no-contract plans with 4G LTE data that start as low as $30 a month, taxes and regulatory fees included. All plans include Data Maximizer, which streams video at a resolution ideal for smartphone screens, which helps to keep your data usage last up to three times longer. Plans can be upgraded to include unlimited calling to Mexico, Canada, or the world with device protection plans and an offer for unlimited music from Napster (still a thing, apparently).

Metro PCS offers all the latest phones from brands like Samsung, LG, and HTC, and also give you the option to bring your own device. SIM cards are available for $10 in store, so find the store nearest you.

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Mint SiM

Mint SIM is unique among MVNOs as it doesn't operate with traditional contracts. You pay upfront for your term, which can be 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months, with "buying in bulk" saving you more money in the long run. It's owned by Ultra Mobile and uses T-Mobile's 4G LTE network.

Check out this table to see the pricing breakdown:

Duration Small (2GB LTE) Medium (5GB LTE) Large (10GB LTE) 1 month $35 $50 $60 3 months $69 ($23/month) $99 ($33/month) $119 ($39.67/month) 6 months $119 ($19.83/month) $169 ($28.17/month) $209 ($34.83/month) 12 months $199 ($16.58/month) $299 ($24.92/month) $399 ($33.25/month)

All plans include unlimited nationwide talk, text, and data, though you only get so much 4G LTE per month. Unlimited international texting is included in all plans. Extra data can be added to your account on a per month basis at $10 for 1GB or $20 for 3GB.

Mint SIM lets you bring your own phone as long as it's compatible with T-Mobile's network.

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Net10 Wireless

Net10 Supports BYOD for compatible T-Mobile devices. Click here to check if your phone is compatible for the switch.

All smartphone plans come with unlimited talk, text, and 2G data. $35/month gets you 500MB of 4G LTE, but an extra $5/month gets you 3GB, and you can save $4/month if you sign up for Auto-Refill.

Like some other MVNOs in this list, Net10 actually uses all four major U.S. carrier to power its network, which means that if you have a newer phone, you'll likely get great coverage throughout the U.S. — even if you don't have T-Mobile coverage in a specific area.

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Project Fi

Project Fi is Google's own alternative carrier option, which works by combining access to T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular's networks with a SIM card that can actively switch between the three networks without any user intervention.

Plans start with the Fi Basics for just $20 per month which includes unlimited domestic talk and text. Data is bought at $10 per GB, and you're credited for any data you don't use at the end of each month making Project Fi one of the most flexible data plans in the country. Group plans are also available for up to five lines, where you'd share the same pool of data.

If you're coming over from Sprint and want to bring your own device, it would have to be a Nexus 6P or Pixel as Google only supports a limited number of Google devices. You're also able to buy or finance a new phone through Google if needed.

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Red Pocket Mobile

Red Pocket uses all of the big carriers' networks, advertising that virtually every phone in America works with its services. That means if you've got a T-Mobile compatible device, you should have no problems bringing it over to Red Pocket Mobile.

Red Pocket has two basic plans to choose from and you can add to the second. The first plan is $10/month and gets you 500 minutes, 500 texts, and 100MB of 4G LTE. You can then buy extra texts, minutes, and LTE. The second plan is $19/month and gets you unlimited talk and text, with 100MB of 4G LTE. You can upgrade to unlimited 2G data with 500MB, 1GB, 3GB, or 5GB of 4G LTE for $6 to $41/month.

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Republic Wireless

Low-cost plans starting at just $15 a month. For that, you get unlimited talk and text, but you will have to rely on Wi-Fi for data. Plans with cell data start at $20 a month with 1GB at LTE speeds. Shop its plans and find the one that's right for you. You remain in control of everything via the Republic Wireless app, which lets you see how you're doing on your monthly limits and lets you adjust your plan to suit your needs.

Republic may let you bring your own device if it falls on its list of compatible phones. You may also by a new Android device from them when starting a new account.

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Simple Mobile

Simple Mobile lives up to its name by offering easy-to-understand, no-contract wireless plans that let you bring your own phone and keep your old phone number. Simple Mobile uses T-Mobile's nationwide network, so any T-Mobile compatible phone or unlocked GSM device that operates in 850 and 1900 MHz bands should work fine.

You buy your access to the network in advance which provides you with unlimited talk and text for as low as $25. From there, Simple Mobile offers reasonably priced plans which include a set monthly allotment of 4G LTE data and unlimited data at 2G speeds after that. Then there's the "Truly Unlimited" plan, which offers unlimited 4G LTE speed data for only $60 a month. All unlimited plans now come with unlimited international calling to Mexico, Canada, China and India, along with 60 other countries around the world.

You must re-up with Simple Mobile after every cycle, or you can save some money and sign up to auto-renew your plan on select plans.

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SpeedTalk Mobile

SpeedTalk Mobile offers prepaid, no-contract mobile plans marketed towards seniors that don't use their phones too often, with pricing that starts as low $5 a month. It supports any unlocked T-Mobile, AT&T, or GSM phone and with SpeedTalk Mobile, you only ever pay for the services you use. It offers three different types of plans: Special Plans with set amounts of talk/text/data over 30 days, Marvel Plans which include the option to rollover your unused balance to the next cycle if you opt to refill, and Pay As You Go plans.

So, for instance, if you choose to only pay $5 at the start of the month, which works out to 250 minutes, or 250 texts, or 250MB of data for 30 days. That translates to $.02 per minute, text, and MB of data.

This rate is offered across the board, so if you think you'll need more simply spend more on your plan. If you've been thinking of helping your parent or grandparent get a smartphone, but don't want them to be overcharged for features they won't use, SpeedTalk Mobile might be able to help.

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Straight Talk

Straight Talk is owned by TracFone and is that cell phone section sold at Walmart. It features the latest phones and lets you bring your own T-Mobile device — or really any device since it uses all four of the big networks for coverage.

Plans start at $30/month for 1500 minutes, unlimited texts, and 100MB of data. $45/month gets you 5GB of 4G LTE and unlimited talk and text, as well as unlimited 2G data.

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TelCel América

TelCel is a Mexican wireless telecommunications company that offers affordable plans that work in the U.S.A. and Mexico.

Plans start as low as $25 a month for call and text only, but your best deal is the $60 a month deal that comes with unlimited 4G LTE data. All plans come with unlimited calls and text messages. It also offer a $20 travel plan that gives you 2GB of data over a 7-day period.

If you want to bring your own device to TelCel you can buy a SIM card as long as your phone is compatible with its network. This carrier is especially convenient for anyone who frequently visits Mexico.

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Tempo Telecom

Tempo Telecom offers no-contract plans with no credit checks or hidden fees. All plans include talk, text and data, albeit at different tiers to accommodate all budgets.

Monthly pre-paid plans start as low as $9.95 a month for 50 minutes which are spent on calls, texts and data collectively. Top-ups are available throughout the month as needed, and all of Tempo's plans carry over your unused minutes to the next month. Pay-As-You-Go plans are even more flexible, letting you top up your phone with minutes as you need them. If you don't want to worry about counting minutes and texts, unlimited plans are available with set data limits of 250MB, 1GB, and 2.5GB.

Tempo sells a range of Blu Android devices, but you should also have the option to bring your own T-Mobile device to Tempo Telecom.

Find a dealer near you for more information.

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The People's Operator USA

The People's Operator USA (TPO) separates itself from other alternative carriers by donating a portion of your monthly bill to a cause of your choice.

Plans run as low as $10 a month (with autopay enabled) with plans $26 a month and over including unlimited talk and text. Whichever plan you choose, TPO will send 10% of your bill to your choice of over 30 different charity causes including ASPCA, American Lung Association, and Habitat for Humanity to name a few.

TPO uses a combination of Sprint and T-Mobile, so check to see if TPO service is available in your area.

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Ting

Ting says it offer mobile that makes sense, so it only wants you to pay for the stuff that you used. With pretty affordable rates for talk, text, and data, you'll be sure that are entirely customizable to your needs without locking you into a contract.

Mostly use data and rarely make calls? Create a data-heavy plan that works for you. Lines start at $6 with affordable options for adding monthly minutes, texts and data allotments. Voicemail, picture and video messaging, 3-way calling, caller ID, tethering, hotspot and more are included for no additional fee. You can have as many devices on your account, which all use the same pool of shared talk time, texts and data.

Ting knows your phone usage changes from month to month, so it tallies up your usage at the end of the month and only charge you for what you used. If transparent pricing and billing is what you crave, Ting might be right for you.

Ting allows you to bring your own device. Check your phone's compatibility here.

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TracFone

TracFone has been around since 1996 and owns multiple MVNOs, which it operates on various networks.

Its cheapest data plan with a gig or more is $17.50/month for 1GB of 4G LTE, 750 minutes, and 1000 text, BUT you have to sign up for a 60-day term, so that 1GB has to last you 2 months. An extra gig of data is $10, which expires at the end of your term.

TracFone is perfect for folks who constantly travel to the U.S. and don't want to buy a local SIM or pay outrageous roaming fees.

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Ultra Mobile

Ultra Mobile is a great MVNO option for those who value staying connected with friends or family overseas. All of Ultra Mobile's plans includes unlimited talk to international destinations, along with unlimited international texting. Plans start as low as $19, with unlimited data included on all plans $29 and over. You have the option to prepay for your plan on a monthly basis, or pay for multiple months in advance and save even more.

Cell phones from nearly every manufacturer will work on the Ultra Mobile network as long as they are GSM-compatible and use a SIM card, which includes any unlocked T-Mobile phones you may have. To get started, you can find an Ultra Mobile store near you or buy your SIM card and plan online.

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Univision Mobile

Univision Mobile is another carrier that offers deals specifically marketed to those who frequently call family back home in Mexico or other countries in Central America. All plans include unlimited global texting as well as unlimited calling to landlines in up to 14 international destinations, and start as low as $19 a month.

Univision Mobile lets you bring your own phone from nearly any manufacturer as long as they are GSM compatible and use a SIM card. That includes any unlocked T-Mobile phones you may have. If keeping in touch with friends and family in Mexico or elsewhere is most important to you, Univision Mobile is the MVNO for you.

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US Mobile

US Mobile believes mobile providers should offer plans that are simple and offer great value. As such, you're able to build your own plan based on your specific usage needs. Barely use your phone to talk? Minutes start at just $3 for 100 minutes. It's an ideal choice for those who want to be in full control of their mobile plan.

US Mobile also cares about your privacy, so all customers get a free VPN with 100GB of monthly bandwidth. It's also partnered with a number of universities and colleges to not only offer student discounts, but also sell SIM cards at select student services offices. It says that any unlocked device you own should work on its network, but that will especially be true for any unlocked T-Mobile phones you plan to use. You're able to add up to 10 lines to your mobile account to cover your entire family, with the option to top up your account with more minutes, texts or data as you need.

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Walmart Family Mobile

If you've shopped at Walmart recently, you will have noticed that it, too, offers its own mobile plans using T-Mobile's network. Its plans start at $24.88 a month for unlimited talk and text, and just $5 extra to get unlimited talk, text, and data with 1GB of 4G LTE data. The best value is the Plus plan, which offers unlimited talk, text, and data with up to 10GB of 4G LTE data and also a free movie rental every month from VUDU, Walmart's on-demand video service.

As the name implies, Walmart Family Mobile offers great plans targeted at families looking to save on their wireless bills. You save $5 per month for every additional line added to your plan up to five lines.

Walmart has phones for sale, but you can also buy a SIM card kit for $25 and bring your own compatible, unlocked device — any T-Mobile phone should work just fine.

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ZingPCS

Zing PCS or Zing wireless is an MVNO with decent prices and a website that looks like it was made in 1999. Data plans start at $28.99/month for 1GB of 4G LTE, unlimited talk and text, unlimited international text (picture and video messaging not included), and unlimited 2G data.

Zing also supports and provides service for Lifeline, the FCC program that helps make communication services more affordable to low-income individuals and families.

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ZIP SIM

ZIP SIM offers short-term contracts that are targeted at travellers in the USA. All plans include unlimited nationwide U.S. calling, unlimited global texting while you're in the U.S., along with unthrottled 4G LTE and hotspot tethering included at no additional cost.

Talk, Text and Data plans start at $25 for seven days of service and max out at 30 days of service for $55. There are also data-only plans available that are valid for 14 to 30 days and use T-Mobile's nationwide 4G LTE network.

ZIP SIM is a great option not only for international travellers visiting the U.S. looking for a hassle-free way to use their own phone on their travels, but also for international corporations sending employees to the States for business, or for Americans looking for a backup phone for emergency situations. Activating your phone is as simple as inserting your ZIP SIM card and powering up your phone. Your SIM will activate instantly and automatically, and then text you your new U.S. phone number. Since this service is typically used by International travellers who might not know if their phone is compatible with T-Mobile's network, ZIP SIM recommends using WillMyPhoneWork.net to determine whether your device supports the right frequency bands.

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Alternative carriers (MVNOS)

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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1 month ago

Smartron srt.phone hands-on: A few niggles, but there's plenty to like here

3

The srt.phone is an exciting new entrant in the Indian handset market.

Indian startup Smartron has unveiled its second smartphone earlier today, the srt.phone. The local manufacturer counts Sachin Tendulkar — one of India's biggest sports stars — as an investor as well as a brand ambassador, and the brief with the srt.phone was to deliver a budget device without any compromises. We've seen that time and again from Chinese manufacturers, and Smartron is now looking to mount a challenge with the srt.phone.

Powered by the Snapdragon 652 and running Android 7.1.1 Nougat out of the box, there's certainly a lot going for the srt.phone, including its highly competitive ₹12,999 price tag. Before we get started, here's a look at the specs on offer:

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