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1 week ago

Essential Phone reportedly coming to the UK, Europe and Japan

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Essential phone

EE among carriers in discussion with Android founder's company over exclusivity deal.

Andy Rubin's Essential Phone is looking to spread its reach beyond the United States, according to The Financial Times. The paper reports that Essential wants to bring its phone to the UK, mainland Europe and Japan, and that the company is already in talks with UK carriers including EE around an exclusivvity deal.

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1 week ago

Meizu Pro 7 with secondary display all set to launch on July 26

5

The Pro 7 will let you take selfies with the rear camera.

Meizu will unveil its next flagship, the Pro 7, on July 26. The highlight of the phone is a secondary at the back that will allow you to take selfies with the rear camera. The secondary screen is a full-color display, with a leak from earlier this month showing off a game running on the secondary display.

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1 week ago

HTC keyboard ads likely an error, but damage is already done [Updated]

42
HTC

HTC is telling users to roll back the latest stock keyboard update, which clutters up the screen with ads.

Update, 10:50pm ET: HTC has confirmed to AC that the ads were mistakenly included. An HTC spokesperson provided the following statement:

Due to an error, some HTC customers have reported seeing ads on their phone's keyboard. This is absolutely not the experience we intended, and we're working to immediately fix the error and remove the ads as quickly as possible.

Original story: Ads in the stock keyboard app on a flagship smartphone. Added quietly via an app update. Which then asks you to pay to remove them.

You'd be hard pressed to come up with a more comically villainous thing for a phone manufacturer, or app developer, to pull on its users. Yet that's what's been happening to some HTC phone owners over the past day, as spotted first by Reddit user "Azirack" on his HTC 10.

HTC 10 owners seem to be worst affected (we're not seeing it on the newer U11 for what it's worth), with the ad bar taking up a good chunk of screen real estate. There's understandable outrage among HTC owners whose phones have started coughing up ads every time they open the keyboard. The consensus, obviously, is that this is not an OK place for ads to be appearing.

An error by keyboard developer TouchPal is the most likely explanation.

HTC hasn't gotten back to us with an official statement just yet. (Update: See statement above.) The company's official Twitter account is telling angry users to uninstall the latest update to TouchPal via the Settings app, suggesting that the appearance of ads in this update is a mistake. Most likely, code from regular (non-HTC) version of TouchPal, which does include an ad-supported trial version alongside a subscription-supported paid option, made its way into the HTC Sense version. (Both variants live on Google Play, but are updated separately.)

Plus, after well over a decade making smartphones, it's hard to believe HTC would be stupid enough to OK something like this.

However, it does demonstrate one major pitfall of outsourcing your stock keyboard to a third-party developer. HTC saves money in doing so, but catches all the flack when things go wrong. Customers seeing ads on their expensive new handsets aren't mad at the relatively unknown TouchPal, they're angry at HTC. As it looks to build on solid momentum around the U11's launch, such a dent in its reputation among existing customers is something it really doesn't need.

TouchPal for HTC Sense had tanked to an average review score of 2.6 stars on Google Play at the time of writing.

HTC U11

Amazon Sprint HTC

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1 week ago

Samsung's latest Galaxy S8 BOGO deal scores you a free device with select trade-ins

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Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time with another Galaxy S8 BOGO deal from Samsung directly.

Samsung is back with another awesome Galaxy S8 promotion, this time offering a free one with a purchase of another if you trade-in your old device. The company recently ran an extremely popular deal like this for T-Mobile customers, but this time it works with devices for all carriers. This deal is only available on Samsung.com or through the Shop Samsung app, and lets you score a free Galaxy S8, or $100 Galaxy S8+ when you purchase another one, and trade-in your old device.

If you don't want to be locked into a carrier version, you'll be happy to see even the unlocked version is available this time. When buying the phones, both of them have to be from the same carrier, so no mixing and matching this time around.

Unfortunately, you won't be able to take an old flip phone, or your original Droid and trade it in for a free Galaxy S8. The company notes that the eligible phones include the Galaxy Note5, S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, S7, S7 edge, iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, 7 or 7 Plus devices only, and it has to be in good condition. That means it powers on, no cracks in the display, it isn't bricked or blacklisted, and there are no software locks on the device. If you've been holding out for a Galaxy S8, this deal may be enough to have you finally make the plunge.

These deals have sold out quickly in the past, so be sure to get yours now, before they are gone!

See at Samsung

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked

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1 week ago

Best VPN apps for Android

20

Keep your browsing secure and anonymous with a quality VPN service.

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when you're online is becoming increasingly important these days. While the internet is a public space, a VPN acts like an invisibility cloak and makes your online activity virtually anonymous, making it hard for someone to track you when you're online — whether you're concerned about your internet service provider, the government, or malicious hackers.

We've previously looked at the best VPN services across all platforms, but here we're going to specifically look at VPNs for your Android devices. These are apps that are free to download, but typically require you to pay a monthly or yearly subscription. We've run down the best, so check it out!

Not sure if you need a VPN? We've got your explainer right here.

Private Internet Access VPN

For those who are new to using a VPN, one of the most important features will be an easy-to-use interface. You want something as easy as flipping a switch. Private Internet Access offers just that, with an extremely simple Android app. Best of all, a yearly subscription is around $40, which is one of the lowest prices you'll find for a premium VPN.

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Private Internet Access uses over 3,000 servers in 24 different countries and has received numerous nominations as one of the best commercial VPNs you can use. They don't log any of your online activity and the app is compatible not only with your Android devices, but also any computers running Windows, macOS or Linux.

Learn more at Private Internet Access.

Download: VPN by Private Internet Access (Free, $39.99/year or $6.95/month subscription)

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is another highly-rated premium VPN service that has been praised for its customer service and includes all the features you'd expect from a top-rated VPN such as unlimited bandwidth, unlimited speed, and strong encryption. You're able to connect up to three devices simultaneously via ExpressVPNs thousands of servers in more than 94 different countries.

The app for Android is easy to use for beginners, with settings and features that heavy users will appreciate. Subscriptions are a bit pricier but ExpressVPN offers a 7-day free trial and a no-hassle, 100% money-back guarantee for your first 30 days of service, so you can try it out for yourself.

Learn more at ExpressVPN.

Download: ExpressVPN (Free, $99.95/year, or $12.95/month subscription)

NordVPN

NordVPN is a great option if you're looking for an encrypted connection for up to six devices. Operated out of Panama, NordVPN has no legal obligation to record the activity of its users, so you can confidently connect to one of more than 1000 servers in 57 different countries.

It, too, comes highly recommended from a variety of outlets including CNET and PCMag, with an app for Android that's dead simple to use. Connect to a server with the press of a button and keep your phone protected when browsing on public Wi-Fi.

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You can try NordVPN for free with a 7-day trial before deciding whether to commit to a subscription.

Learn more at NordVPN.

Download: NordVPN (Free, $69/year or $11.95/month subscription)

TunnelBear VPN

Don't mistake the cartoony layout of TunnelBear VPN's Android app — it's a simple-to-use app that offers serious VPN protection. You can create an account for free, which gives you 500MB of secure data a month but we'd recommend checking out a paid subscription that lets you connect up to five different devices at a time to servers in 20 different countries.

The Android app is actually fun to use, and you got to give TunnelBear credit for really doubling down on its name by really running with the concept. TunnelBear does not currently support torrenting, so if that's an important feature you're best to look elsewhere. If you're only looking for a casual VPN for your phone, TunnelBear is a great free option with affordable pricing for upgrading to the premium service.

Learn more at TunnelBear VPN.

Download: TunnelBear VPN (Free, $59.88/year or $9.99/month subscription)

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1 week ago

ZTE launches a $100 phone on AT&T you may actually want

5

The Blade Spark sounds like a drone, but it's a phone. Sorry, that's all I got.

AT&T is launching a new ZTE-branded budget phone today, and it's actually quite nice for its $99.99 MSRP.

Dubbed the Blade Spark, it's yet another in the quickly-expanding line of Blade smartphones that seem to appear like rabbit offspring at various U.S. carriers. Previous incarnations of the Blade have arrived at Cricket Wireless, Sprint, Boost Mobile, and others, and while they share a number of aesthetic similarities and a tendency to stick to an under-$200 price, they're all bespoke, built for those particular carrier's needs. It's like we're back in 2011 all over again.

As for the Blade Spark in particular, it's a 5.5-inch device with a 720p display, a 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon 425 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, a 3140mAh battery, a rear fingerprint sensor, a 13MP rear camera, a 5MP front-facing camera with an accompanying "selfie" button on the phone's side that can be triggered when the screen is off, and Android 7.1.1 Nougat.

Suffice it to say, this phone isn't going to blow anyone away. But judging from the last few ZTE phones I've used, I think it's a safe bet that it's going to be impressive for the price, with better-than-expected build quality and software that mercifully doesn't suck.

See at AT&T Prepaid

Alternative carriers (MVNOS)

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1 week ago

The Secret To Saving Money On Cellphones and Service

10

You can save money on your phone and plan if you do a bit of homework before you buy.

It's never fun to pay more than you need to. And that includes your phone and plan you use with it.

Like most things, you can find a balance where you pay for what you actually use and need rather than pay what someone else thinks you need. That's the real secret to saving money on your phone and the service — your needs. Once you know what you need, what you want and where to get it you can save yourself a nice chunk of cash.

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Your phone

A new phone is the biggest single cash outlay, but only a small part of the total costs. It's not hard to spend $1,000 or so on a new phone, and there are plenty of folks who need the things a $1,000 phone can offer.

Know what you want, what you need, and the difference between the two.

While I'm not saying those phones aren't worth $1,000 (that's for you to decide), I am saying that you can probably find something that does exactly what you need for a lot less cash. The key is knowing what you need, what you don't need, and the difference between the two.

Make a list of what you expect to do with your phone before you check out what's available. Some of us only want to make calls and send texts. Others primarily use Facebook. Or love 3D games. You should also look at secondary features that aren't quite as important but still matter — how fast a critical bug will be fixed or how easy it would be to use the phone abroad. You know how you use the phone you have right now. If you don't yet have a smartphone, you know why you want one. Pay attention to your needs and don't be distracted by the latest shiny thing.

Where to buy? And how.

This is important, too. You can get a new phone online from places like Amazon or eBay, through a big-box store like Best Buy or CPW, or through a carrier's store. Buying a phone is really easy when so many places are selling. But not all shopping is equal.

Price is the obvious thing, but other factors like extra warranty or insurance costs come into play. Be sure to consider things you pay extra for and if they're worth it. I might not buy insurance from Amazon for a $199 phone, but I probably would for a $799 phone. Look at what's covered and what part of a replacement or repair fee you have to pay before you just click or say yes.

You can buy a phone almost anywhere and that means a lot for your wallet.

And don't forget about financing. Ideally, we all want to pay cash for things and be done with it but sometimes that's just not possible. If you need to finance a phone, never use your credit card (and its monthly interest fees) if you can find cheaper financing through the place you're buying it from. Most carriers will offer 0% financing as long as you stay with them for service, so if that's your plan it's not a bad idea. Just be mindful that finance fees can (and do) add up and your phone might cost a lot more than what it says on the sticker if you don't pay attention.

Know what you want to buy before you get started. Never walk into a store to buy a phone unless you know exactly what phone you want to buy. And if it's not available don't settle for something else just for the instant gratification. That's an easy way to pay too much for something you didn't really want or need.

Finally, don't forget about buying used. If you can find a reputable place that brokers used phones (in the U.S. we like Swappa) or know someone who is getting rid of their phone, don't be afraid to have a look. There are plenty of phones out there that are like-new but the owner is an enthusiast and wants to move on to the next thing. If you find one you might be able to get what you want for even less.

Your service

Like buying the phone, buying the service all comes down to what you need.

Not too long ago that meant visiting the local carrier store in the mall and signing up for a 24-month agreement that included hefty fees if you changed your mind. Some carriers still offer these sorts of postpaid plans and they work well for many, but there are plenty of other options now. Prepaid service can be great, especially if you've figured out just what you need as written above. But with so many different companies offering service today, it's important to consider a few things before you buy.

There are three things you really need to do before you buy service for your phone:

  • Know what service works best where you need it. This is the single most important thing to consider when you pay for cell service. We all want to get the cheapest option that fits our needs, but it never makes sense to pay for something that doesn't work when you need it to work. This is super important if you buy a phone that's not unlocked, and something you need to know before you give any money to any company. Ask your friends, check out the online coverage maps and think about the places you will be going.
  • Know what you use every month. If you make 300 minutes of voice calls and use 3GB of data on average each and every month, you should never pay more to get more than you need. Always leave yourself a little headroom (especially at first) by finding out how to add more minutes or data in the middle of the month or getting the next higher usage tier. And don't be afraid to change what you're paying for if you find out you are using more or less than you originally planned.
  • Know what service you're paying for. This sounds silly, but you need to know in advance if the cell service you're buying includes features like tethering or international texting. Many people just need the basics without any frills, but if you need any frills you need to check before you buy — you're not likely to get a refund.

More: These are all the ways you can save data and monitor your data usage

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If it ain't broke

The final and possibly most difficult thing to consider: do you really need something new or something different? You might be able to save some money by changing carriers or cutting back on the plan you're paying for, but that's not what we mean here. We're talking about throwing in the towel and moving on to something new.

Don't buy a new phone just because it's new.

There are plenty of good reasons to do so, but also plenty of reasons not to. You don't have to buy the newest thing or jump to a new platform, especially if the new features aren't important to you. Moving to the next big thing from Apple or Samsung might not be worthwhile and will probably cost you some serious cash. Sure, those are great phones and we all have a twinge of desire inside when we see the cool commercials, but if you're not going to use any of the things that make them stand out (and make them expensive) think before you leap.

Besides, you can probably buy the same phone next year for a lot less when early adopters move on and sell theirs!

A secret is you

As you can see, there's no real secret to saving a little money when you buy a phone or when you pay your bill each month. It just takes a little legwork on your part, but it can (and will) pay off in the long run. If you need to change a few things or you just want to save a few dollars every month, you won't go wrong if you follow this advice.

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1 week ago

Latest Google Pixel XL 2 leak hints at AOD, new display profiles, and much more

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New Pixel XL 2 leak details software-based features.

We got a first look at the Google Pixel XL 2 earlier this week, and a post out of XDA Developers sheds more information on a few features. The Pixel XL 2 is expected to sport a 5.99-inch OLED display with slim bezels, with the panel sourced from LG.

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1 week ago

Xiaomi Redmi 5 leak reveals Snapdragon 630, 4GB RAM, and 16MP camera

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It looks like the Redmi 5 will be quite the upgrade.

A series of photos leaked on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo purport to show off Xiaomi's upcoming phone in the Redmi series. Dubbed the Redmi 5, the phone is expected to be offered in two versions: a model powered by the 2.0GHz Snapdragon 625 and a variant running the 2.2GHz Snapdragon 630.

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1 week ago

Nokia 6 registrations are now open on Amazon India

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Only registered users will be able to buy the Nokia 6 during its first flash sale on August 23.

The Nokia 6 will be launching in India shortly, with the phone exclusively sold on Amazon India for ₹14,999. The retailer has kicked off registrations for the first sale on August 23, and if you're interested in what Nokia has to offer, you should register your interest right away.

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1 week ago

Grab an unlocked Galaxy S8 for just $575 for a limited time

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We haven't seen a price like this before.

Competition between retailers and carriers has offered us some pretty great Galaxy S8 deals since it launched, but this is the lowest price we've seen for a U.S. unlocked Galaxy S8 or S8+. Groupon has the phones on sale for $575 for the Galaxy S8 or $675 for the Galaxy S8+. That's a full $50 less than what Best Buy was offering them at on sale.

Some of these deals from sites like Groupon can be a mixed bag, but this one looks pretty good. These are actually U.S. unlocked models, meaning you can take this to any U.S. carrier, and they're brand new rather than the usual refurbished phones you can see on deep discount. That means you get an original box and accessories, as well as the one-year Samsung warranty you'd get if you bought it directly from the company.

The sale ends on July 18, technically, but we wouldn't be surprised if this one sells out well before that end date considering that great price.

See at Groupon

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked

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1 week ago

Google Pixel 2 leaks: What we know so far

37

We're a few months out from the launch of Google's next Pixel phones, but the first details are already starting to leak, painting a very interesting picture of at least two new Pixel models for 2017.

Same as last year, it looks like we're getting two phones from Google in 2017, but this time there are two different manufacturers: a smaller Pixel made by HTC, and a larger one manufactured by LG.

And while much of what we think we know about Google's next-gen phones is limited to rumor and conjecture, we've recently gotten our first look at the new Pixels thanks to a new mock-up by a usually reliable source.

Check out our video roundup for an overview of everything we know about Google's upcoming handsets!

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2 weeks ago

ASUS' Tango and Daydream-ready ZenFone AR debuts in India

4

World's first smartphone with 8GB of RAM lands in India.

When ASUS unveiled the ZenFone AR earlier this year, it became the first phone to feature 8GB of RAM. It's also the first device that can handle both Tango and Daydream — Google's AR and VR platforms. The ZenFone AR is now available for sale in India for ₹49,999 ($775), with the device exclusively sold on Flipkart.

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2 weeks ago

Grab the 32GB Moto G5 Plus for $199, 64GB model for $249

1

For one day only, get the Moto G5 Plus with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage for $249.

The Moto G5 Plus is one of the best budget phones currently in the market, and you can pick one up for just $199 on Newegg. That's a $30 discount on the model with 2GB of RAM and 32GB storage. Amazon is also getting on the action, offering the variant with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage for $249, which comes out to a savings of $50 from the phone's $299 retail price.

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2 weeks ago

OnePlus 5 vs. OPPO R11: Identity crisis

2
OnePlus 5 vs. OPPO R11

The OnePlus 5 is indistinguishable from the OPPO R11 in terms of external design, but the internal hardware tells a different story.

The OnePlus 5 is one of the best affordable flagships you can buy today, and although it's costlier than previous generations, you still get a lot of value. With the OPPO R11, the spec sheet isn't necessarily the primary focus, with the brand instead focusing on the overall experience.

The OPPO R11 is limited to China, and the phone is unlikely to be available outside a few countries in Asia. As such, the OnePlus 5 will be the default choice in most global markets. But that doesn't make it any less interesting to compare both devices and observe their similarities and differences.

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