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2 weeks ago

China and India expected to be the biggest smartphone markets by 2019

9

What will smartphones even look like then, you think?

The United States may be one of the top-selling smartphone markets in the world, but it's on track to soon be eclipsed by India, according to Statista.

After breaking down smartphone sales over three years (2013-2016) by geographical region, the report concluded that both China and India are headed for the top two spots on the regional sales charts. Today, China is the current leader at 31%, while the U.S. sits in second at 16.7%, says Statista.

At present, 220 million people in the U.S. own a smartphone, but by 2019 — two years from now — India is expected to surpass that number and have almost 15% of the entire world's smartphone market share. The U.S. is expected to stall at 10%, with Brazil a distant fourth with 4%.

News like this is certainly inside baseball for the rest of us. But for those who've been closely following smartphone releases over the past few years, it should also come as no surprise. Companies like Google and Apple have taken great strides in attempting to capture both Chinese and Indian markets, with initiatives like Android Go and selling iPhones at lucrative discounts in India.

Smartphone shipments worldwide are also expected to increase to two billion units by 2019, with China laying claim to at least half of those sales.

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2 weeks ago

Best Phone for Business

Update, June 2017: The BlackBerry KEYone makes its appearance at number 1 on the list.

Best overall

BlackBerry KEYone

See at BlackBerry Mobile

BlackBerry is legendary when it comes to mobile device management and security, and follows that trend when using Android to power its phones. With the KEYone, you also get the keyboard experience that only BlackBerry can offer. The KEYone is a great way to enjoy Android for people who still want a physical keyboard on their phone and peace of mind knowing a company is concerned about security.

Bottom line: BlackBerry continues its reputation of excellent mobile security and having a great keyboard with the KEYone.

One more thing: BlackBerry phones are usually the first to get the monthly Android Security update — often hours before Google releases the bulletin itself!

Why the KEYone is the best

A phone you want to use can also keep your data safe — both personal and business data.

The phone you carry to serve your customers and keep things running smoothly at work needs to be able to do them quickly and keep all that data safe. The KEYone is our top pick when it comes to these specifics.

BlackBerry has built a reputation on serving business owners with highly capable and very secure phones. That legacy lives on with its Android offerings. BlackBerry's additions like the Hub and contact manager are proven to be effective ways to manage busy business accounts. The KEYone's great physical keyboard means you'll feel right at home if you're coming from an older BlackBerry.

And the KEYone is a phone that does all this with no compromises when it comes to performance. The efficient yet powerful Snapdragon 625 CPU also means you can do whatever it takes to keep things running smoothly all day without searching for a charger and power outlet. Whether you're managing email, sorting through a spreadsheet at the airport, or watching a video in your downtime, the KEYone can handle it all.

Best for updates

Google Pixel

See at Google See at Verizon

The Google Pixel is the most secure Android phone you can buy, and one of the most secure phones of any available today.

Without disabling any security protections, the Pixel and Pixel XL are protected against known public security exploits and remote installations are monitored by Google's scanning software which blocks potential malicious content. While security and privacy are two very different things, when you decide you want private things to stay private you need to make sure your phone is secure to keep them that way. Security is paramount when it comes to using a phone with all your important business contacts and details.

One of the things that make the Pixel and Pixel XL the best is that they use the latest — and most secure — version of Android. It's also updated monthly with fixes for security exploits (both known and unknown) directly from Google. For those who can't wait for the update to reach them, the update files are hosted by Google for download and installation. More importantly, the changes and code behind these fixes are available for peer review so they can be made more robust.

Bottom line: The Google Pixel will always have the latest and most secure version of Android for the duration of its lifetime.

One more thing: Verizon carries the Pixel and your account rep can take care of any order.

Best value

BlackBerry DTEK60

See at Amazon

BlackBerry says the DTEK60 is the world's most secure Android phone.

The DTEK60 adds an enhanced version of the DTEK software tool to monitor application and system use to warn you when something isn't playing nicely. While this software is available as an update for the Priv, the out-of-the-box experience on the DTEK60 lets BlackBerry claim the "most secure Android "title. It's also pretty nice to use, too.

Bottom line:The DTEK60 is a welcome lower-cost option for many users and IT managers.

One more thing: Scott Wenger, VP of design and devices for BlackBerry says DTEK stands for "Detection."

Conclusion

Media outlets like to give Android a bad reputation when it comes to security, and it's difficult to blame them. Old, outdated software from manufacturers with no real concern for your security or privacy are the norm when it comes to phones running Android. The phone you use to run your business can't be this way.

The KEYone has the BlackBerry legacy of security and professional tools behind it, and the move to Android also makes even more services available. When it comes to the day-to-day needs of running a business or having your staff using the best tools possible in a safe and secure way, you can't beat the BlackBerry KEYone.

Best overall

BlackBerry KEYone

See at BlackBerry Mobile

BlackBerry is legendary when it comes to mobile device management and security, and follows that trend when using Android to power its phones. With the KEYone, you also get the keyboard experience that only BlackBerry can offer. The KEYone is a great way to enjoy Android for people who still want a physical keyboard on their phone, and peace of mind knowing a company is concerned about security.

Bottom line: BlackBerry continues its reputation of excellent mobile security and having a great keyboard with the KEYone.

One more thing: The BlackBerry is usually the first phone to get the monthly Android Security update — often hours before Google releases the bulletin itself!

Read more and comment

 
2 weeks ago

OnePlus 5 teaser gives us first official look at the upcoming flagship

73

OnePlus starts teasing the OnePlus 5 ahead of its official unveil.

Ahead of its official unveil on June 20, OnePlus is slowly releasing information regarding the OnePlus 5. The latest teaser shows off a dual camera setup at the back, with the two sensors aligned horizontally next to each other. The positioning of the cameras and the overall design at the back looks similar to that of the iPhone 7 Plus, but a closer look suggests OnePlus turned to its sister company OPPO for inspiration.

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2 weeks ago

The Galaxy S8+ can clearly change an owner's view of their iPhone 7 Plus

58
Galaxy S8+ and iPhone 7 Plus

Owners of both the Galaxy S8+ and iPhone 7 sound off on their differences.

We've all been there before: you think the phone you have right now is The Best Thing Ever™, only to use something else and start to question why you're still using your current device. Apparently that's happening for a number of iPhone 7 Plus owners, like forum user jjinal, who has picked up a Galaxy S8+ and found it tough to go back to that big slab of iPhone.

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jjinal 06-03-2017 10:53 AM “

I put my sim back in my iPhone yesterday but I don't think I'll make it very long. The 7+ is a fantastic device. It does everything well but after 6 weeks with my S8+ it's just not the same as b4 the S8+.

Reply

After giving it a try for a bit while being skeptical, apparently that indeed did not last very long:

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jjinal 06-03-2017 07:00 PM “

Just switched back to the S8+ after about 24 hours. The iPhone just doesn't cut it anymore. That's a shame actually. It's a great device.

Reply

It seems to be repeatable time after time. Actually using a Galaxy S8+, even when you're used to a big phone, changes your perspective.

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Lefty724 06-03-2017 10:08 PM “

I've been using a S8+ since launch, then tried to switch back to my iPhone 7 Plus and that lasted about 2 hours lol. Just can't do Apple anymore. I let a buddy use my S8+ while I worked on a S7 Edge and BlackBerry Keyone and he has since bought one and put his iPhone 7 Plus in the drawer for good lol.

Reply

As we all know, the Galaxy S8+ offers more screen real estate in a smaller package that's easier to handle. And even though your hand may adjust a bit to handle the iPhone 7 Plus over time, there's no denying that it's a really big phone. Using something more manageable without sacrificing screen could change your perspective.

Have you made a swap between a big phone like an iPhone 7 Plus and made the move to a Galaxy S8+ instead?

Join the discussion in the forums!

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked

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2 weeks ago

Moto Z2 Play lands in India for ₹27,999; pre-orders now live

4

Motorola's latest mid-range phone makes its debut in India.

Motorola has launched the Moto Z2 Play in India for ₹27,999 ($435), or $65 less than its retail price in the U.S. The phone is now up for pre-order on Flipkart and offline stores, with a full launch slated for June 15.

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2 weeks ago

To those who think you don't need a screen protector on the Galaxy S8

67
Samsung Galaxy S8

It's one of the oldest questions in smartphones.

Phone screens have gotten larger, and at the same time quickly lost all protection from the bumps and scrapes of daily life. The Galaxy S8 is probably the best example of just how vulnerable a piece of glass can be — with curved edges and no real bezels to protect.

Sure there's Gorilla Glass 5 on front, which is supposed to provide some scratch protection, but that doesn't mean this ongoing debate about whether or not to use a screen protector has been put to rest. Forum user flyingkytez posted his frustration with seeing small scratches develop on his GS8 as a warning to consider a screen protector. Not everyone agrees, though!

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naturalguy 06-05-2017 06:09 AM “

Mine is in and out of my pocket a lot during the day, I am pretty rough on my phones, I don't use a screen protector and have no scratches

Reply

This is obviously dependent on how you're using your phone. What's "normal" use to some may not be the same for others. If you'r eon the road, pulling your phone in and out of your pocket or tossing it on tables, it's far more likely to get these tiny scratches over time. You won't notice them as they accumulate, but once they hit a critical mass you'll see them.

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ThrottleJohnny 05-31-2017 04:50 PM “

I'm okay with fine scratches. I will be keeping this phone 5 more months max.

Reply

Then others are more pragmatic. They know no matter what they do they're bound to pick up some scratches on the curved screen of a phone like the Galaxy S8, but they understand that's part of the deal. If you don't plan to hold onto a phone for that long anyway, why baby it or compromise screen quality with a plastic protector.

Where do you land on this discussion? Is a screen protector worth the hassle to avoid small scratches, or do you just deal with it in order to use the phone as it came out of the box?

Join the discussion in the forums!

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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2 weeks ago

OnePlus 5 rumor roundup

41

Everything we know about the OnePlus 5.

OnePlus has had a pretty good year, what with the success of its OnePlus 3 and 3T phones and some massive overhauls internally that, against all odds, led to improvements to its Oxygen OS software, with more frequent updates.

Now we're seeing the first signs that a sequel is in the company's future and that OnePlus is skipping the "4" name altogether and readying flagship successor, the OnePlus 5. Here's everything we know so far.

What will it be called?

After previously confirming the OnePlus 5 name to Android Central, OnePlus has since started to use the moniker on its website and in promotional materials. This one's official.

Why would OnePlus skip the OnePlus 4 name? One thought is because in Chinese culture, the number four is considered bad luck when attached to a product. And besides, the OnePlus 3T is sort of a fourth OnePlus phone, so there's that angle, too.

When will it be available?

The OnePlus 5 will be unveiled on June 20, as OnePlus announced an online launch event for that day at 12:00 p.m. ET. This is just a week later than the OnePlus 3 launched last year.

OnePlus has planned nearly a dozen pop-up events on both June 20 and 21 to let fans get an early look at the phone and even buy one on site. We don't yet know if online sales will open on launch day, but considering the company's previous launches it would make sense to at least take pre-orders right after launch.

What are the specs?

The specs of the OnePlus 5 aren't clear just yet, but there are a few elements we know and a couple others, based on leaks, we can pretty accurately guess.

Here's what we know so far:

Category spec Operating System Oxygen OS based on Android 7.1.2 Display 5.5-inch AMOLED
2560x1440 pixel Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Adreno 540 GPU RAM 6GB LPDDR4 (8GB in some markets) Storage 64GB storage (128GB in some markets)
Non-expandable Rear Camera Dual 12MP Front Camera TBD Audio 3.5 mm headphone jack Battery ~3600mAh
Non-removable Charging USB-C
Dash Charge Water resistance TBD Wireless charging No Security Front one-touch fingerprint sensor Dimensions TBD Weight TBD

I wouldn't be so sure about an 8GB RAM version for North America.

Breaking it down a little more, there are a few variables to keep in mind. We know that the phone will launch with a Snapdragon 835 processor, because of course it will — OnePlus' CEO even confirmed it. OnePlus has launched all four of its flagships with that year's canonical Qualcomm SoC, and this year will likely be no exception. The OnePlus 3 had 6GB of RAM, so you can expect that same number in the OnePlus 5; it also came standard with 64GB of internal storage, so you can expect that, too. I wouldn't put too much credence in the idea that it will ship with 128GB standard, nor that it will come with 8GB of RAM. We're not there yet, and OnePlus gains little from offering those in a base configuration.

We've heard that there may be an 8GB/128GB variant of the OnePlus 5 for China, specifically, which makes a lot of sense since that country is obsessed with maxing out what's possible in a phone, but I wouldn't count on it coming to North America. It's possible OnePlus will, instead, offer a 6GB/128GB or even a 6GB/256GB model in North America for $50 or so more.

On the screen front, we're hearing that OnePlus will keep its 5.5-inch display size and that, while the screen will do away with as much of the top and bottom bezels as possible, it will keep the front fingerprint sensor, and may also maintain the OnePlus 3 series' 1080p resolution. From a battery-saving perspective, it would make sense to keep the OnePlus 5 at 1080p, especially if the AMOLED panel used is of very high quality — even devices like the Huawei Mate 9 have fantastic screens despite relatively low pixel densities — but given that most competing phones have upgraded to 2560x1440 or an equivalent QHD resolution at various aspect ratios, it would make sense for OnePlus to do the same.

A dual camera setup on the OnePlus 5 could be its most exciting feature.

At either resolution, we'll likely see the OnePlus 5 support Google's Daydream VR platform, which will make for another popular handset in the category.

Finally, another big upgrade is to the battery. While the OnePlus 3T already saw an improved capacity, from 3,000mAh to 3,400mAh, the OnePlus 5 is expected to pack a 3,580 to 3,600mAh cell. That could translate, along with the more-efficient Snapdragon 835, to much better battery life.

What about performance?

Pete Lau, OnePlus' CEO said in a blog post that the phone will not only run a Snapdragon 835, the fastest chip on the market to date, but it will also be optimized for touch latency and RAM management, two areas where the OnePlus 3 and 3T were heavily criticized. He said this in a post on the company's forums:

But choosing the right components is only the first step. You also have to optimize performance to create the best user experience. When we began developing the OnePlus 5, we envisioned a smartphone with flawlessly smooth performance. To illustrate how we made it happen, we'd like to share a bit about our process.

One of the main areas we wanted to improve was touch latency. Our engineers tested why scrolling occasionally differed between phones. There wasn't a lot of precedent for them to work with – no benchmarks, no industry case studies to learn from. So we used a special high-speed camera to track screen movements and measure input speeds. As a result, apps respond quickly to your touch for a seamless user experience.

We also wanted to improve the overall feeling of smoothness. To achieve this, our engineers added a feature to OxygenOS to better manage the way your apps perform. The apps you use most are ready to go when you turn on the OnePlus 5. Apps you rarely use are deprioritized and kept from affecting performance.

That's really good news, considering that even now, after a few updates, the OnePlus 3 and 3T have excellent touch latency and, while still not great, much improved RAM management.

A few odds and ends

  • Despite rumors to the contrary, there's no reason to think that OnePlus will drop the headphone jack from this year's unit.
  • We haven't heard whether OnePlus will add waterproofing to this year's flagship, but the company would be doing itself a huge disservice by going another year without it.
  • Wireless charging? Not likely, since it looks like OnePlus will stick with a metal back again.
  • Renders show that OnePlus is likely to keep its physical mute switch on the side of the phone.
  • Dual speakers? Not this year.
  • Removable battery? gtfo.

What will it look like?

As mentioned above, the OnePlus 5 is probably not going to look too different from its predecessor — don't expect the same jump that we saw from the OnePlus 2 to the OnePlus 3. Instead, you can be sure that OnePlus is going to go out of its way to shrink the phone as much as possible without sacrificing usability. Front-facing fingerprint sensor? Definitely, but you'll probably also see space-savings elsewhere on the device.

Our most reputable look at the phone, shown above, comes from Android Police and shows a more rounded look, with dual cameras on the back and a more pronounced "2.5D" glass front. It's hard to get a sense of scale from the render, though. Part of the render was confirmed by a teaser photo sent out by OnePlus itself, showing a smooth back, rounded corners and a dual camera setup in the top-left corner.

So it will have a fingerprint sensor on the front?

Yep, the company's CEO confirmed as much to GizChina in an interview, which means that it will still likely have a 16:9 aspect ratio and optional capacitive buttons on either side of it.

Have you heard anything about the camera?

The camera on the OnePlus 5 is expected to be cameras. OnePlus is expected to be adopting the dual camera trend, with two identical 12-megapixel rear sensors. It's unclear at this point whether the lenses will be of different focal lengths, but either way you can expect some cool camera tricks and an overall improved photo taking experience.

What would be cool is to see a OnePlus 5 with the same wide-angle lens as the LG G6, since I think a lot more people would be interested in that than the "telephoto" distance of something like the iPhone 7 Plus. An improved front-facing camera, likely with auto focus, is also in the cards.

We do know that OnePlus is teaming up with popular camera benchmark company, DxO, to optimize and "enhance" its cameras.

We're happy to announce that we have teamed up with DxO to enhance your photography experience with our upcoming flagship, the OnePlus 5. DxO is perhaps most well-known for creating the defining photography benchmark, the DxOMark. They've got years of imaging experience and expertise, both for professional cameras and for smartphones.

Working alongside DxO, we're confident the OnePlus 5 will be capable of capturing some of the clearest photos around.

What about the software?

Expect another iteration of Oxygen OS on the OnePlus 5, launched with a slightly updated version of what we currently have on the OnePlus 3 and 3T, running Android 7.1.2. The phone will launch long before Android O is public.

Oxygen OS has turned into quite the capable piece of Android software, and while it's unclear whether the OnePlus 5 will have any distinctive hardware elements that change up the software experience, what is clear is the company's desire to keep Android as simple and fast as possible, while relegating the gimmicks to the background.

And software updates?

OnePlus doesn't have a great track record of maintaining updates for longer than a year or so — the OnePlus 2 still doesn't have Nougat despite a number of promises — but the OnePlus 3 and 3T are still getting regular updates well into their lifespans, and after a somewhat close call on a promise to get Android 7.0 by the end of 2016, the phones are now seeing new software regularly.

In other words, we don't know. Hopefully, OnePlus will keep the OnePlus 5 updated long into its lifespan, but we have more confidence in its ability to do just that than we did a year ago.

What will it cost?

Judging from the minor price bump between the OnePlus 3 and 3T, coupled with rising component costs throughout the world, the OnePlus 5 may cost somewhere between $449 and $499, which puts it creepingly close, but still a step below, the flagships that it's competing against. At $399, the OnePlus 3 was a serious contender for "amazingly cheap"; at $439, the OnePlus 3T is just "inexpensive." A OnePlus 5 at $469 or so would be close to "Should I spend the extra money on another phone?" Still approachable, and maybe even affordable, but losing its pricing edge.

Color me impressed!

Oh right, colors! Almost forgot! OnePlus has teased four color options for the OnePlus 5, including black, red, gold and what looks to be a multi-colored gradient extravaganza. Fun!

Will I still be able to buy a OnePlus 3T for a little bit less?

Nope! The OnePlus 5 will completely replace the 3T, according to the company. Too bad, since we really like the OnePlus 3T and think it could be a great buy at $100 less than its current $439 price tag. But you also have to understand that OnePlus is interested in getting people up to date with its latest hardware.

Anything else?

We'll have lots more on the OnePlus 5 when it's unveiled in "early summer," which is getting here sooner than later! In the meantime, check out our OnePlus 3T coverage and let us know what you want in OnePlus's new flagship!

OnePlus is doing everything right lately

Update June 7, 2017: This post has been updated with the latest rumors of what to expect with the OnePlus 5, including new renders of the device.

OnePlus 5

OnePlus

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2 weeks ago

4G in India: Everything you need to know

24

4G is finally going mainstream in India.

India's mobile market has seen a meteoric rise in the last few years, and it doesn't look like the growth will abate anytime soon. A key part of that vision is 4G connectivity, which has been rolling out in phases since 2012. One of the key stories in the country's digital transformation in 2016 was the launch of Reliance Jio.

Jio made its debut late last year, offering affordable tariffs and a robust network that's built entirely on 4G. The fact that the carrier gave away huge amounts of data for free for everyone for the first six months allowed it to climb up the ranks in a short time, amassing over 100 million subscribers already. When it comes to 4G, Jio is in the lead by a huge margin. Here's what you need to know about the state of 4G in India.

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2 weeks ago

OnePlus 5 is launching in India on June 22

2

OnePlus is planning a major launch event for the OnePlus 5 in India.

The OnePlus 5 will make its way to India on June 22, just two days after its global unveil. OnePlus founder and CEO Pete Lau will oversee the launch, and as this is the first time the company has hosted a major event in the country, it is opening the gates to its fan community.

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2 weeks ago

9 things to know about the Sony Xperia XZ Premium

29

A big, beautiful new phone, but it may not be worth the price.

Sony's latest flagship is the Xperia XZ Premium, and it's really nice. It's one of those phones you don't want to touch because it's so nice to look at. You may also not want to touch it because the damn thing is incredibly shiny, exposing fingerprints as well as any mirror. And it may not be worth buying because, well, there are just better devices out there at a lower price.

Interested in this phone? Here are a few things you need to know about Sony's best phone ever.

This is Sony's second 4K phone, but its first with HDR

Sony debuted the 4K smartphone in 2015 with the Xperia Z5 Premium, and this year's follow-up has a better, brighter 5.5-inch 4K panel with a trick up its sleeve: HDR support.

Content that supports HDR — High Dynamic Range — will look more vivid and colorful on the XZ Premium's 4K display. Let's just hope that app developers get up to speed with supporting it — Netflix, at the moment, still only supports the LG G6.

Beyond that, the screen itself is really good for daily use. It's bright, crisp and colorful — and Sony gives you a few display settings to tweak it how you want it to look.

The camera is new, but isn't the best

People don't buy phones; they buy cameras that connect to the internet. Sony understands this and has designed its devices around the camera experience for years. But as much as it's tried to outdo the likes of Samsung, LG, and Apple, it continues to come up short.

There's a massive speed improvement, but the end results aren't matching the competition.

Sony thinks the XZ Premium has what it takes to beat the competition in 2017 with a new "Motion Eye" camera setup that lowers the resolution from 23 megapixels to 19 while increasing the size of the individual pixels, ensuring improved low-light results. At the same time, a new connection between the camera sensor and the phone's memory allows for caching of photos — predictive capture, as it's called — five times faster than any previous Sony phone, so no frames are lost during quick-shutter action shots.

The results are good, but not great. This is indeed the fastest Sony camera we've seen yet when it comes to opening and capturing — whether it's a single shot or a burst. But the results are mixed, not necessarily jumping to the top of the heap with the leaders such as the Galaxy S8, LG G6 and HTC U11. Sony still highly over-sharpens photos in "auto" mode and requires tweaking in "manual" mode if you want anything better.

You can capture slo-mo video at 960fps

Yup. Insane.

It may only be 720p but think about the contrast between a regular 30fps capture and something as smooth as 960fps, slowed down to look great on this big, beautiful screen.

You can only take very short clips and it takes a bit of time to get used to how the interface for super-slow-motion works, but it's a great trick that sets the XZ Premium apart from most other phones.

The glass back is reflective AF

Seriously, this is just about the most reflective phone we've seen — right on par with the HTC U11. The Luminous Chrome variant is the worst offender, offering an easily-tarnished mirror finish that shows off every fingerprint.

As long as you're not too particular, and walk around with a microfiber cloth in your bag or pocket, the Xperia XZ Premium could stay pristine, but it's likely to pick up hairline scratches pretty quickly — a problem with all phones, but exacerbated by the reflectiveness of the Gorilla Glass 5.

You get dual speakers and a headphone jack

It's easy to complain about the size of the bezels above and below the XZ Premium's display, but Sony is at least putting part of that space to good use. In an increasingly rare combination, Sony includes both dual front-facing speakers and a headphone jack on the phone.

The speakers sound pretty good and of course have the direct advantage of firing toward you rather than down and away, though I have to say the volume doesn't top out as high as the HTC U11's combined speaker approach.

There's still no fingerprint sensor in the U.S.

Seriously Sony, this is getting ridiculous. We know there's some sort of contractual obligation that's limiting Sony's ability to include a fingerprint sensor in its U.S. phones, but consumers don't care about the reasoning — they just want a fingerprint sensor.

For a phone this high-end and expensive, it's just downright frustrating to not have this core smartphone feature found in phones as cheap as $200.

It's water resistant and dustproof

Like most Sony phones of the last few years, the Xperia XZ Premium is IP68 water resistant and dustproof. The ratings mean you can submerge the phone in up to one meter for an extended period without incurring damage. And, of course, there are no port covers to worry about.

More: What do IP ratings mean?

It runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

We may be beyond it by the time the phone is released but the Xperia XZ is currently certified for Android 7.1.1 Nougat, which means that it will support all the latest goodies from Google, including rounded icons, image keyboards, and more.

Sony's skin continues to be very light and very fast, and there's no question that the company has learned its lesson in deviating too far from Google's recommendations. This isn't Samsung; Sony doesn't have the customer loyalty, nor the resources, to develop great custom skins, so the more it keeps to Google's Android the better.

Most of the XZ Premium's interface is unchanged from the Google Pixel, and the launcher even includes the Google Now feed to the left like Google's own launchers. Sure you get some Sony apps and icons, but it's nothing offensive or getting in your way. And of course because Sony sells unlocked and not through carriers, you don't get any extra carrier bloatware.

The price is high — probably too high

As you'd expect for a phone with the title "Premium" right in the name, the Xperia XZ Premium is expensive. It goes on sale in the U.S. on June 12, and the price tag is $799. That's the upper edge of what most people are willing to pay for a phone — the only other mainstream offering challenging that price is the Galaxy S8+ at $825.

With a price like that, it makes you really question whether the Xperia XZ Premium could be a true competitor. For all of its great improvements, features, and design, it still has a handful of missteps that are tough to overlook when there are other great phones out there for less money.

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2 weeks ago

Best T-Mobile Prepaid Phones

Update, June 2017: The entire list has been refreshed to show the best options for someone buying a phone to use on T-Mobile prepaid.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S8

See at T-Mobile See at Best Buy

The Galaxy S8 has slick redesigned hardware with tiny bezels that let it have a big screen in a small body, but inside it still offers everything you want: a high-end processor, lots of storage, an SD card slot, full waterproofing and a top-end camera.

Yes the fingerprint sensor is slightly awkward to use, but the GS8's iris scanner is dramatically improved to make up for it. And it only takes one look at the industry-leading display to start to forgive Samsung's decisions on the back.

Though its software can be a little overwhelming to novices, you can't argue that Samsung continues to pack in hundreds of features to a single phone, making sure there's something in here for everyone's needs. Samsung continues to take this approach of offering more more more with just a few compromises — and it continues to work.

Bottom line: The Galaxy S8 gives you piles of features in a beautiful body, and is a great choice for a wide range of potential buyers.

One more thing: Of course, you can always pay a little extra and get the larger Galaxy S8+ for a bit more screen and battery life.

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Why the Galaxy S8 is the best

Samsung's Galaxy S brand carries considerable weight in the mobile world, and the Galaxy S8 continues to both leverage that brand while also offering a fantastic overall smartphone experience that today's consumers want. Once again, Samsung took its core principles of great hardware, a top-end display, waterproofing, solid cameras and mounds of features and updated it all for 2017.

The result is a fresh design that shrinks down the display bezels and really smooths out all of the sharp edges to give you a sleek, thin phone with a really large display that doesn't feel that large. The extra-tall 18.5:9 aspect ratio comes in at 5.8-inches across on the Galaxy S8 and 6.2-inches on the Galaxy S8+, and in both cases feels quite a bit smaller than the numbers would lead you to believe.

The sleek body still packs in top-end specs, of course, starting with that magnificent Super AMOLED display and backing it up with a Snapdragon 835 or Exynos 8895, 4GB of RAM, larger 64GB of storage (plus an SD card slot), a new USB-C port and locking it all down with waterproofing. The batteries are no bigger than last year's models, but battery life hasn't taken any hit. On the other side of the hardware, there's one big downside: Samsung moved the fingerprint sensor to an awkward position on the back next to the camera, leaving you with the less-consistent and less-convenient face scanning and iris scanning instead.

Samsung continues to make phones with all of the design and features people are clamoring for.

The camera experience has actually changed more on the front than the back with a new 8MP unit that packs auto focus. But the 12MP rear camera is still no slouch — Samsung has improved its processing to get even more out of this setup, and it remains a competitor for the best overall smartphone camera out there.

The ongoing point of contention when it comes to Samsung phones is the software, and that's the same once again on the Galaxy S8. Samsung continues to put in a massive number of features without removing any from years prior, leaving you with lots of things to get in the way and confuse you when you're trying to get the basics done. On the other hand, it's hard to find someone who can't get done what they need to get done right out of the box on this phone. It truly is aimed at being relevant to as diverse a set of consumers as possible, and it succeeds on that point.

By putting up with a few of the out-of-the-box quirks and taking some time to set it up how you like it, the Galaxy S8 can do anything you want and get it done at a fast pace while looking great as well.

Best clean experience

Google Pixel

See at Google See at Verizon

The Google Pixel does almost everything right. Its metal body is well-built and easy to grip — in either the 5-inch or 5.5-inch size — and its spec sheet is still capable, featuring a Snapdragon 821 and 4GB of RAM powering its QHD display

But the Pixel really makes its case because Google owns both the hardware and the software. Even the best manufacturers can't achieve what Google has with its first-party powerhouse. It's fast, clean and lovely to use with Google's apps and services. The downside is the Pixel can't match the others in terms of raw features.

Then there's the camera, which continues to be one of the best in the business, helped along by Google's exemplary electronic stabilization that gives you silky smooth video recording.

Bottom line: Google doesn't compete in the raw number of features, but offers a sleek, consistent and holistic experience that absolutely deserves praise.

One more thing: The Pixel is available unlocked through Google's store in most countries, but if you're in the U.S. we suggest considering buying through Google Fi.

Best for less

LG G6

See at T-Mobile See at B&H

The LG G6 uses a tall 18:9 display and tiny bezels (hey, it even came out before the Galaxy S8) to give you a larger screen in a smaller body. The all-new metal-and-glass design may not be totally inspired, but it's built amazingly well and incorporates lots of little features — like waterproofing — to help it hold up over time.

All of the internal specs you expect are here, even though the battery isn't removable like its predecessors. The one downside here is regional differences: the higher-quality Quad DAC is exclusive to Asia, while wireless charging is only for the North American market.

LG's dual camera setup has returned but with a refined emphasis on the wide-angle camera so it packs the same sensor as the standard camera. The main camera takes fantastic photos to go toe-to-toe with the best of them, and the wide-angle shooter adds in something that no other phone offers.

Bottom line: This is LG's best flagship phone to date, and going a step further it's one that comes in at a notably lower price than the Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel XL.

One more thing: Shop around a bit before buying, and you may find a discount or deal.

Best inexpensive

Moto G5 Plus

See at Amazon

The Moto G line no longer really resembles its first couple of models, and now focuses on trying to offer a bit of a flagship experience at a much lower price point. The Moto G5 Plus, starting at just $229, aims to offer some high-end, interesting features in both hardware and software.

A Snapdragon 625 processor and 3000mAh battery give you fantastic battery life and performance, and you get up to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage inside along with a couple other solid features like a fingerprint sensor and fast charging. The software is typical clean and useful Moto, though a couple of its features have started to reach toward the "gimmick" range.

Yes this is a phone launched in 2017 still using the older Micro-USB charging port, lacks NFC and isn't exactly the most beautiful phone to look at. But what you're getting here for a price of $229 or $299 is great.

Bottom-line: For a really good experience that isn't going to cost you a bunch, it's hard to beat the Moto G5 Plus.

One more thing: While you can get a lower-end model with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, we strongly recommend pitching in $70 more for the 4GB/64GB model.

Conclusion

For most people, the Galaxy S8 will serve as the best possible choice with its excellent design, top-end hardware, great camera and piles of software features. It's hard to go wrong with this phone, whether you're choosing the Galaxy S8 or the larger Galaxy S8+.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S8

See at T-Mobile See at Best Buy

The Galaxy S8 has slick redesigned hardware with tiny bezels that let it have a big screen in a small body, but inside it still offers everything you want: a high-end processor, lots of storage, an SD card slot, full waterproofing and a top-end camera.

Yes the fingerprint sensor is slightly awkward to use, but the GS8's iris scanner is dramatically improved to make up for it. And it only takes one look at the industry-leading display to start to forgive Samsung's decisions on the back.

Though its software can be a little overwhelming to novices, you can't argue that Samsung continues to pack in hundreds of features to a single phone, making sure there's something in here for everyone's needs. Samsung continues to take this approach of offering more more more with just a few compromises — and it continues to work.

Bottom line: The Galaxy S8 gives you piles of features in a beautiful body, and is a great choice for a wide range of potential buyers.

One more thing: Of course, you can always pay a little extra and get the larger Galaxy S8+ for a bit more screen and battery life.

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2 weeks ago

Best text messaging apps

144

There are plenty of great text messaging apps to choose from, and these are some of our favorites.

Text messaging is a big part of phone use for many people, and while all phones come with native messaging clients, they… they can suck. Some native text messaging apps don't handle MMS the way we'd like. Some native text messaging apps are laid out poorly. Thankfully we have the option to use one of many, many third-party SMS clients — some of which are minimal messaging apps, and others that offer features above and beyond the rest.

Update June 2017: We've added Pulse and Mood, and we've done some much overdue spring- er… summer cleaning.

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3 weeks ago

Android Security Bulletin: Everything you need to know

48

Fixing the latest bugs and exploits in Android every month.

Google has detailed the latest Android Security Bulletin and released the fixes for Nexus and Pixel devices.

These are exploits and other security concerns that affect Android as a whole. Issues with the operating system, kernel patches, and driver updates may not affect any particular device, but these need to be fixed in the Android base by the folks maintaining the operating system code. That means Google, and they've detailed the things they have improved for this month.

Updated factory images for Pixel and Nexus devices that are supported are available, and over-the-air updates are rolling out to users. If you don't want to wait, you can download and flash the factory image or OTA update file manually, and here are some handy instructions to get you started.

How to manually update your Nexus or Pixel

The company who made your phone uses these patches to send an update out to you.

These changes have been released to the people making Android phones for at least 30 days, but Google can't force anyone to deliver them to you. If you're using a phone from Samsung, LG, or anyone besides Google, you'll need to wait for them to send an update and shouldn't try to flash any of the above files.

Of course, Google has safety checks in place to prevent any problems on your phone because of any security exploits. Verify Apps and SafetyNet are at work anytime you add an app to your phone, and seamless updates to Google Play Services will keep them up to date regardless of any hold-up from a manufacturer or carrier. Details and incident numbers can be found in the yearly Android Security Review (.pdf file).

Highlights for June 2017

June 2017's update comes with two patch dates: 06/01/2017 and 06/05/2017.

  • Google Pixel devices for the Canadian carrier Rogers will get a hotfix for VoLTE issues in addition to security updates.
  • Qualcomm has patched a slew of device drivers for the Snapdragon platform. Most were of moderate severity but a Bluetooth-specific update is a critical patch.
  • NVIDIA, MediaTek, and Synaptics have also supplied patched device drivers for a range of issues rated from low to moderate. Any of these binaries that are applicable to Nexus or Pixel devices are available at the Google Developer site.
  • Exploits that allow remote code execution while viewing media in email, SMS or the browser continue to be addressed as new ones arise. This is a never-ending fight and a reason why monthly patches are important.

If you get an update with a patch date of 05/05/2017, you also have every issue addressed by the 05/01/2017 update in place.

Previous bulletin highlights

Here are summaries and highlights of recent patches from the monthly Android Security Bulletin. As with the current bulletin, these issues were also mitigated by Google's Verify Apps, Safety Net, and seamless updates to Google Play Services.

May 2017

May 2017's update comes with two patch dates: 05/01/2017 and 05/05/2017.

  • Qualcomm has patched an exploit that potentially could allow unauthorized bootloader access for devices using Snapdragon 800 series processors. Motorola has issued a separate update to address the Nexus 6.
  • A specific vulnerability in GIFLIB that can cause memory corruption when a bad file is received has been isolated and patched. This patch applies to Android 4.4 or higher and has been merged into AOSP.
  • Qualcomm, NVIDIA and MediaTek continue to address exploits that affect their "drivers" and have again refined the code for May 2017. Any of these binaries that are applicable to Nexus or Pixel devices are available at the Google Developer site.
  • Several moderate exploits in the Bluetooth stack that could allow a user to receive a file without explicit permission have been addressed. Patches have been merged into AOSP back to Android 4.4.

If you get an update with a patch date of 05/05/2017, you also have every issue addressed by the 05/01/2017 update in plac

April 2017

April 2017's update comes with two patch dates: 04/01/2017 and 04/05/2017.

  • MediaServer is once again the focus of patches for potentially critical exploits. Six possible ways a media file can cause memory corruption during decoding and playing have been patched in all supported devices from Google. Changes have been merged into AOSP as far back as Android 4.4.
  • A potential exploit in the Factory Reset process has been found and fixed for all supported Google devices and changes were merged into AOSP in 4.4 and above.
  • Updated firmware binaries to address hardware-specific vulnerabilities were received from Broadcom, HTC, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, and MediaTek. Any of these binaries that are applicable to Nexus or Pixel devices are available at the Google Developer site.
  • A number of important updates and patches for the Linux kernel have been found, applied and merged upstream.

If you get an update with a patch date of 04/05/2017, you also have every issue addressed by the 04/01/2017 update in place.

March 2017

March 2017's update comes with two patch dates: 03/01/2017 and 03/05/2017.

  • A remote code execution vulnerability in OpenSSL and BoringSSL was patched. This exploit could allow a specially built file to corrupt files stored in memory and potentially could allow remote code execution. All Android devices (everything else that connects to the internet as well) are vulnerable. Google has built patches for Android versions 4.4.4 through 7.1.1.
  • An elevation of privilege vulnerability in the recovery verifier that could enable kernel access to a local app has been patched. As above, this is a critical patch for all devices and Google provides a fix in AOSP for versions 4.4.4 to 7.1.1.
  • The AOSP Messaging app has been further patched to address a vulnerability that could enable another app to bypass Android's system-level protections and see data it shouldn't be able to access.
  • Updated firmware binaries to address hardware-specific vulnerabilities were received from Broadcom, HTC, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Realtek, Synaptics and Google themselves for the ION subsystem. Any of these binaries that are applicable to Nexus or Pixel devices are available at the Google Developer site.

If you get an update with a patch date of 03/05/2017, you also have every issue addressed by the 03/01/2017 update in place.

February 2017

February 2017's update comes with two patch dates: 02/01/2017 and 02/05/2017.

  • Qualcomm and MediaTek have issued updates that prevent a malicious app from gaining elevated privileges by executing code in the kernel space. The code for these patches is not publicly available, but updated binary files are available at the Google Developer site. Devices running Android 7.0 or higher were not affected.
  • The AOSP Messaging and Mail apps have been patched to address a vulnerability that could enable another app to bypass Android's system-level protections and see data it shouldn't be able to access.
  • The Bionic DNS function (Bionic is Android's standard C library) has been patched to prevent a specific Denial of Service attack that would cause a device to freeze or reboot.
  • Updated firmware binaries to address hardware-specific vulnerabilities were received from Broadcom, HTC, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Realtek, and Synaptics. Any of these binaries that are applicable to Nexus or Pixel devices are available at the Google Developer site.

If you get an update with a patch date of 02/05/2017, you also have every issue addressed by the 02/01/2017 update in place.

January 2017

January 2017's update comes with two patch dates: 01/01/2017 and 01/05/2017.

  • Qualcomm has fully patched the various exploits that were collectively called quadrooter. All phones with a patch date of 01/05/16 or later are patched. Qualcomm additionally assisted in patching less severe exploits in the camera and bootloader of some phones.
  • The multimedia server and support drivers for audio and video components continue to be updated to prevent exploits such as last year's Stagefright issues. Google made a promise to continuously monitor and patch the multimedia system to prevent a repeat and have so far delivered on it.

If you get an update with a patch date of 01/05/2017, you also have every issue addressed by the 01/01/2017 update in place.

Archives of all previous Android Security Bulletins are available at the Android Security website.

See the Android Security website for details on all bulletins

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3 weeks ago

MrMobile's HTC U11 review: A study in contradictions

41

In five years reviewing smartphones I don't think I've ever seen one so full of contradiction as the HTC U11. A stunning backplate mated to a forgettable face; fast software blunted by extraneous gimmicks; slick multimedia features without a big battery to back 'em up. Even the name "U11" seems an awkward compromise of last year's simplicity and this year's … peculiar claptrap.

But despite all the flip-flopping, the HTC U11 is a good smartphone with some unique features; find out whether they're enough to make it matter, in MrMobile's HTC U11 Review! And be sure to check out all of Android Central's coverage as well!

Stay social, my friends

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3 weeks ago

Amazon reportedly working on an 'Ice' smartphone lineup with Play Store access

22

Amazon is planning to launch a $100 "Ice" smartphone in India later this year.

After the dumpster fire that was the Fire Phone, it looks like Amazon is planning to re-enter the smartphone segment with a new lineup of devices codenamed "Ice." Citing two sources familiar with the matter, Gadgets 360 states that the Ice smartphones will be targeted at emerging markets like India. Unlike the Fire Phone, they will run the latest version of Android with Google Mobile Services enabled, allowing customers to download apps and games from the Play Store.

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