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1 month ago

Best Phones in India

Update, May 2017: The Galaxy S8+ is now our top pick for the best phone in India. The Pixel is still a great phone, but the S8+ offers much more for its asking price.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S8+

See at Flipkart

The Galaxy S8+ is Samsung's most ambitious phone yet. Its defining feature — the bezel-less Infinity Display — is nothing short of incredible. The glass panel curves on all sides and merges seamlessly with the metal frame, creating a design aesthetic that's unmatched.

The lack of bezels has allowed Samsung to fit a 6.2-inch display in a smaller chassis, making it easier to use. The QHD Super AMOLED panel sets the bar for smartphone displays, offering deep blacks and sharp colors.

Samsung hasn't cut corners anywhere else — the 12MP camera is class-leading in its own right, the phone retains its IP68 dust and water resistance, you get 64GB of internal storage, and there's a microSD slot.

Under the hood, you'll find the Exynos 8895, a chipset built on Samsung's latest 10nm manufacturing node. There's also 4GB of RAM, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C, an iris scanner, and a 3500mAh battery that'll last you through the day.

Bottom line: Right now, there isn't a phone that offers quite as much as the Galaxy S8+.

One more thing: There are three color options of the S8+ available in India: Midnight Black, Coral Blue, and Maple Gold. The latter two variants are quite striking.

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1 month ago

Motorola's first phone with dual rear cameras is the Moto G5S Plus

10

Motorola is bringing dual rear cameras to the mid-range segment.

It looks like dual rear cameras will be the defining trend this year. We've already seen Xiaomi roll out the feature in the Mi 6, and OnePlus is rumored to offer a dual-camera setup in the OnePlus 5. Motorola is jumping on the bandwagon, with the Moto G5S Plus set to become the first phone from the manufacturer to sport two cameras at the back.

Leaked renders by Gear India reveal a desing that's identical to what we've seen yesterday with the Moto G5S, albeit with two cameras at the back. We don't know if Motorola will resort to a similar implementation as Huawei — offering a monochrome sensor paired with an RGB lens — or if it'll use the secondary sensor as a telephoto lens like the Mi 6.

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1 month ago

HTC U11 hands-on: MrMobile's new squeeze

10

By now you've seen the HTC U11 hands-on treatment: the smudge-prone but beautiful backplate; the conventional face; the interface that reacts to a squeeze as well as a swipe. But thanks to some canceled flights and some overzealous NYC security guards (long story) I got to spend a little longer with the HTC U11 than I might have, and as a result I was able to produce a slightly more in-depth hands-on than would otherwise be possible. That's thanks to Android Central, whose HTC U11 review unit I took for a spin around Mountain View during Google I/O, so be sure to give Android Central's HTC U11 Preview a look once you're through watching MrMobile's hands-on ... and stay tuned for much more coverage on the smartphone you can squeeze in the weeks ahead!

Stay social, my friends

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1 month ago

How (and when) to clear app cache or data on Android

29

Apps sometimes can misbehave. If it happens to you, here's something to try.

Update May 2017: This post has been updated to be in line with newer versions of Android.

Every Android smartphone has an application manager that you can get to through the settings menu. It's usually in the top level somewhere, though it can vary a little by phone. But once you get to it, you're at the heart of the matter. This is where you can see every application that's installed on your phone or tablet. And it's a handy place to clean things up a bit should they go wonky. Here's what's up:

Clearing the app cache

As you use applications, they start storing files for reference later. These files are stored in an app "cache." For instance: When you're using the Android Central app, it'll save images and other pieces of the stories you've read so that they don't have to be downloaded each and every single time the app needs them. This saves you time and data.

But maybe you want to clear an app's cached data, either to regain some used space or to try to fix a misbehaving app. This is where you can do it. Just tap into the app, and then tap the "Clear cache" button.

The next time you use the app it will download everything it needs from the internet like it did the first time you used it. Clearing cached data does not clear other data like logins or saved games.

This often fixes things, especially when an app pulls its content from a website that always changing and adding more content. If this doesn't work, move to the next step.

Clear app data — or resetting an app

Clearing app data is a little more drastic. You're wiping the cache, but also clearing any and all settings that go along with that app. You're basically starting that app over, from scratch, and it'll behave as it did the first time you installed it. This is generally a last resort type of thing. If you clear app data on, say, the Facebook app, you'll need to log back in. If you clear data on a game you've been playing, you'll be back at the beginning, as if you'd never played it. (And let's hope that game is properly saving your place to the cloud.)

Next, open the app and sign in or do anything else you need to get started using it. With no "old" data in place — either stored settings or cached — you're essentially running the app for the first time again. See if your problem is resolved and if so you're golden.

One nice thing to do if this fixes any weirdness with an app is let the developer know. It's mighty hard to keep track of versions and data conversion and everything else about making and publishing a great app and they'll appreciate the heads up if you found a bug that affects everyone.

When to clear cache or data ...

So when should you clear an app's cache manually? Chances are you'll never need to. But should an app start to "feel" sluggish or otherwise start misbehaving, this is where I'd start. Clear the cache.

And should an app really go haywire — or if you just want to start it from scratch — you can go all out and clear its data and start over from the beginning. Just tap the "clear data" button. You'll get a warning asking if that's really what you want to do. Confirm that, and you've reset the app to scratch.

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1 month ago

Best Android Phones of 2017

Samsung Galaxy S8

Update, May 2017: The Galaxy S8 takes the top of the list, while the rest of the group pushes down one spot. The new Moto G5 Plus has been added as an affordable option.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S8

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

 

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Best clean experience

Google Pixel

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

LG G6

See at Verizon See at AT&T See at T-Mobile See at Sprint 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, as different retailers and carriers can have varying pricing schemes.

Best for basics

OnePlus 3T

OnePlus 3

See at OnePlus See at Amazon

OnePlus took an interesting approach at the end of 2016, choosing to bump the specs of its flagship OnePlus 3 and make a new model: the OnePlus 3T. The new version has a slightly faster Snapdragon 821 processor, optional 128GB of storage, a larger 3400mAh battery and new front-facing camera.

What it doesn't offer are some fringe features — you won't find waterproofing, fancy camera processing, an iris scanner or a bunch of software features that blow you away. It hits the basics, and hits them really well. That's it.

The update keeps the OnePlus 3T relevant for that much longer, and it still stands as an excellent option that competes with the rest of the flagships at a much lower price — even though it is a tad more expensive than the original, at $439. The hardware, camera and software can all stand up to the competition that retails for $200 more.

Bottom-line: Though it doesn't have some of the fringe features you'll find elsewhere, the OnePlus 3T offers the best value in a high-end Android phone today.

One more thing: The OnePlus 3T's Dash Charge fast charging solution isn't compatible with any other quick charging standards, so you'll need to invest in new chargers if you want to top up quickly.

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Best inexpensive

Moto G5 Plus

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 Verizon See at AT&T See at T-Mobile See at Sprint 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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1 month ago

Best Android Camera

Update, May 2017: The Google Pixel is still our top camera, followed closely by the Galaxy S8. The LG G6's dual cameras join the group, taking over from the V20, and the new HTC U11 hops on as a great camera in its own right.

Best overall

Google Pixel

See at Verizon See at Google

Google's Pixel phone comes out on top when you look at photo quality and simplicity of shooting. Interestingly, it does this with what would normally be considered middle-of-the-road camera specs. You get a 12MP sensor and f/2.0 lens without the support OIS (optical image stabilization), but that isn't an issue for the Pixel.

It also has a simple camera interface that doesn't have a ton of features, but makes up for it in terms of overall quality. Just point and shoot, and you're going to get a great photo every single time. Daylight shots are crisp and bright with just the right amount of extra saturation, and low-light shots are surprisingly smooth and lack the extra noise that other phones often introduce.

Add in the extra perk that the Pixel includes unlimited full-resolution photo backup with Google Photos, and it's a truly great smartphone camera.

Bottom line: For the best possible photos from every type of situation, the Pixel is your best choice.

One more thing: For the same camera experience in a larger size with a bigger battery, consider the (more expensive) Google Pixel XL.

Why the Google Pixel is the best

After years of Nexuses with hit-or-miss cameras, Google finally delivered on its promise with the Pixel — and it's doing it with a similar formula we first saw in the Nexus 6P and 5X. You don't get OIS (optical image stabilization), but instead a 12MP sensor with really large pixels that can take in extra light and HDR+ software that does the extra work to bring multiple exposures together.

The results are absolutely fantastic, no matter the shooting situation. As Alex Dobie said in our Pixel review:

Captures are quick, there's plenty of fine detail in a wide variety of lighting conditions, and Google's Auto-HDR+ trickery produces photos with excellent dynamic range in situations where many rivals stumble. Colors are punchy, but not excessively saturated. And even in challenging lighting conditions, such as dark restaurants at night, a good amount of fine detail and color detail is preserved.

The Pixel doesn't offer a ton of shooting modes or lots of tweaking options in the camera interface, but that doesn't really matter to most people — the end result when you press the shutter key matches or beats the competition, and offers amazing consistency from shot to shot. Photos are crisp with just the right amount of punchy color, and when the light is at a minimum it manages to still take smooth shots anyway. It's incredibly impressive what Google was able to do in the Pixel, and the results are to your benefit every time you open the camera.

Best runner-up

Samsung Galaxy S8

See at Verizon See at AT&T See at T-Mobile See at Sprint See at Best Buy

Samsung's new Galaxy S8 (and the larger Galaxy S8+) has an extremely iterative camera experience from the Galaxy S7, but when you're coming from such a great shooter as before it's easy to see why. This is still a 12MP sensor with 1.4-micron pixels and an f/1.7 lens, which are all specs that stand up strong in 2017. What's changed is Samsung's processing software.

The Galaxy S8 takes excellent photos in just about every situation, leaning on those bigger pixels and bright lens to make the most of dark scenes. Samsung's new processing is a bit less saturated and more balanced than the GS7, but still steps away from "neutral" and leans toward "pleasing to the eye" instead — that's not an issue, but simply a characteristic of Samsung's cameras. The GS8's edge detail and sharpening are much improved all around from last year.

The camera app is still blazingly fast to open and consistent, adding in a whole bunch of shooting modes and a few neat features that enhance the experience.

Bottom line: Anyone would be happy to shoot with the Galaxy S8, and it's tough to find fault in this formula.

One more thing: Samsung's front-facing camera also offers auto focus, which is a nice-to-have feature you don't get everywhere.

Best for tweaking

LG G6

See at Verizon See at AT&T See at T-Mobile See at Sprint See at B&H

LG has taken the dual camera setup from the V20 and vastly improved it with the G6. Both sensors are identical 12MP units, leading to increased quality of the wide-angle shots and more similar shots overall between the two. This makes the dual camera setup more valuable, as you can lean on the 125-degree wide-angle lens in the same way as the standard 71-degree one.

Despite having relatively small 1.12-micron pixels, the main camera takes amazing photos paired with its f/1.8 lens. During the day it's quite neutral and true to life, while at night it does well to recreate the scene without adding light that isn't actually there.

LG's camera app can still be a little slow and isn't as fast as Samsung's or simple as Google's, but gets the job done. And as a trade off it also offers a whole heap of manual controls so you can tweak anything you want.

Bottom line: With a main camera that can challenge the competition and an extra wide-angle shooter, the G6 offers many great options for photos.

One more thing: The LG G6 is also the cheapest phone in this lineup, offering perhaps the best value for your money when looking at the cameras.

Best balanced

HTC U11

See at Amazon See at Sprint See at HTC

HTC's 2017 flagship, the U11, sort of splits the difference between the Pixel and the Galaxy S8. Like the Galaxy S8 it has a 12MP sensor with 1.4-micron pixels and an f/1.7 lens — which HTC dubs "UltraPixel 3" — but HTC's camera app is simpler, leaning a bit toward Google's. The U11's camera offers advanced shooting modes and hyperlapses, for example, but no filters or anything of that sort to get in your way.

When it comes to photo quality HTC will tout its DxOMark Mobile score of 90, but the proof is in the pictures: this thing absolutely competes with the top-end phones released in 2017. HTC's continued focus on accurate photos is at play here giving you shots that are attempting to be true to the scene, but reproducing them with just a little punch and plenty of sharpness and clarity.

Bottom line: The U11 offers a great overall camera experience, with excellent photo quality and also extra features without being overwhelming.

One more thing: We highly recommend buying the U11 unlocked from Amazon or HTC — it works on any U.S. carrier.

Conclusion

Google still has the best camera when it comes to photo quality, but it's followed closely by three other phones that all have their own perks. The Galaxy S8 is fast and feature-packed, the LG G6 has its dual cameras and HTC offers a nice mix of features and quality.

Best overall

Google Pixel

See at Verizon See at Google

Google's Pixel phone comes out on top when you look at photo quality and simplicity of shooting. Interestingly, it does this with what would normally be considered middle-of-the-road camera specs. You get a 12MP sensor and f/2.0 lens without the support OIS (optical image stabilization), but that isn't an issue for the Pixel.

It also has a simple camera interface that doesn't have a ton of features, but makes up for it in terms of overall quality. Just point and shoot, and you're going to get a great photo every single time. Daylight shots are crisp and bright with just the right amount of extra saturation, and low-light shots are surprisingly smooth and lack the extra noise that other phones often introduce.

Add in the extra perk that the Pixel includes unlimited full-resolution photo backup with Google Photos, and it's a truly great smartphone camera.

Bottom line: For the best possible photos from every type of situation, the Pixel is your best choice.

One more thing: For the same camera experience in a larger size with a bigger battery, consider the (more expensive) Google Pixel XL.

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1 month ago

Moto G5S leak shows off all-metallic chassis and three color options

12

Motorola is getting ready to launch an upgraded variant of the Moto G5.

Motorola's leaked roadmap for 2017 revealed the existence of a Moto G5 variant dubbed the G5S, and we're now getting a first look at the device courtesy of Android Authority. The publication got a hold of press renders of the upcoming phone from a "trusted source familiar with Lenovo's plans," showing off the color options on offer.

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1 month ago

OnePlus 5 teaser reveals four color variants, including a unicorn option

19

The OnePlus 5 could be available in black, unicorn, red, and gold color options at launch.

As we get closer to the launch of the OnePlus 5, the company is teasing additional details about its upcoming flagship. The latest tweet suggests the phone will be offered in four color options, including a multicolored unicorn hue:

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1 month ago

LG launches the X Venture, an affordable active smartphone

14

Bear Gryll-types and the accident prone: if the Galaxy Active is too much for you, LG's offering a cheaper alternative.

Looking for a rugged device that won't break the bank? LG wants you to consider its second-generation X Venture smartphone. It's made for people who are active and it's cheap enough that, if you're on AT&T, you could probably grab one as a backup simply for adventurous weekends.

The LG X Venture features a 5.2-inch Full HD In-Cell touch display. It runs Android 7.0 Nougat and features IP68 water and dust resistance, a front-facing fingerprint sensor embedded into a physical Home button along with two other physical navigation keys, and a whopping 4100mAh battery. It also comes with a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 5-megapixel wide-angle front-facing camera.

Its other specifications may leave a bit to be desired, however, especially if you're eager for flagship-worthy specs. The X Venture is powered by a low-end Snapdragon 435 processor and 2GB of RAM, though it should be enough for traversing the trails and slogging through mud pits—if that's your thing. The LG X Venture is an AT&T exclusive for now.

The trickling news of LG's rugged smartphone appears to be perfectly timed with the alleged leaks of Samsung's Galaxy S8 Active hitting the scene. It's hard to ignore the similarities, too; Not only is the X Venture also an AT&T exclusive, but the X Venture is also equipped with a QuickButton on the side, which is similar to the Galaxy Active's own quick launch hardware button. LG's can be customized to launch your favorite app, too.

This particular smartphone is much cheaper, however. Rather than charge full price for a decidedly full featured phone, the LG Venture X is well-suited as a secondary device with its $260 price tag. It'll be available exclusively at AT&T beginning May 26.

See at AT&T

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1 month ago

Best Android Phone Under $700

Update, May 2017: The Google Pixel is still the best small phone you can buy, if you can find it, though we've also added the LG G6 to this list and removed the HTC 10.

Best Overall

Google Pixel

See at Verizon See at Google Store

I have good news for those of you ruing the day that the first phablet was ever announced. Google's Pixel smartphone is a mere 5 inches, so those of you with smaller hands and diminutive pockets can rest easy knowing that there is flagship-level, feature-packed Android phone out there that doesn't take up so much room.

The Pixel is impressive on the inside, too. It's got the latest Snapdragon 821 processor and 4GB of RAM. You can purchase it with up to 128GB of storage, though if you decide to stick to the alternative 32GB option, Google will still offer unlimited Photo uploads for your pictures. The Pixel also boasts impressive camera performance that nearly bests the Samsung Galaxy S8's.

Bottom line: If you're looking for the smartphone that best represents Google's Android, go Pixel.

One more thing: You can purchase device protection insurance for your Pixel. It covers accidental damage from a drop or water ingress, as well as any general malfunctions for two years.

Why the Google Pixel is the best

It's everything Google could want in a smartphone.

The Pixel is unlike any smartphone that Google's collaborated on before. Lest you forget, the company doesn't actually manufacture its own smartphones. For this particular launch, Google enlisted the help of HTC, a company that's produced many a major Android hit though its financial health is still a bit weary. Regardless, there is nothing remotely HTC-y about the Pixel, unless you count its curved chassis and iPhone-like looks, like on the HTC U11.

Our very own Daniel Bader summed it up succinctly in his review of the smaller Pixel:

This is a well-made phone that performs its function as a mobile computer better than any Android phone currently available, and potentially better than any phone, period.

The Pixel isn't entirely defined by its chassis or its specifications, anyway. Google's more focused on advertising the fact that this device will grant you access to its all-powerful, all-knowing Assistant. If you like Google Now or were interested in the AI abilities of Allo, your ears might perk up at the mention of this particular feature. It still feels a bit "beta" in its implementation, but over time the feature is likely to get better as Google pumps more resources into it. And hey, it already has IFTTT integration.

The end of the Nexus era is a bittersweet one for many of us, but if you're aching to use Android just as Google meant it to be used, the Pixel is the way to go.

Best Second-best

LG G6

See at AT&T See at Sprint See at T-mobile See at Verizon

The LG G6 is the next best alternative for a sub-$700 smartphone, particularly if you aren't too interested in buying one of last year's Samsung devices as this year's daily driver.

Sure, LG was known to be chasing gimmicks with its flagship releases the last few years, but it's since changed its tune with the G6. This hand-friendly smartphone features an attractive design, great build quality, and a stunning, nearly bezel-less 5.7-inch display. It also features Qi wireless charging, water resistance, a rear-facing fingerprint sensor that doubles as a power button, and a bevy of fun, wide-angle camera features.

If you're the kind of person who loves to go crazy with camera effects in your daily Instagram posts, then the G6 is a worthy buy. You can grab it unlocked in a variety of colors, including black, white, and platinum.

Bottom line: LG is back to making really solid smartphones and the G6 is a worthy buy if camera hardware is especially important to your.

One more thing: The LG G6 is only available in 32GB in the U.S. and Europe, so be sure to grab an additional microSD card for a bit of extra storage for your photos and such.

Best discounted, last-gen device

Samsung Galaxy S7

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

Since the Galaxy S7 was last year's best Samsung smartphone, you're likely to find it at quite a discount. And it's still a worthy wield: The Galaxy S7 is equipped with a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 3,000mAh battery pack. Its 12-megapixel rear-facing Dual Pixel camera is particularly impressive, and you'll appreciate its performance in low light.

Of course, as is the case with most versions of Android that aren't directly developed by Google, Samsung's version of Android is polarizing. The newly simplified offers some helpful features, but there are still too many extra software features. At the very least, you can disable and hide any apps you don't care for.

Bottom line: If you're looking to save some money, last year's Samsung phone is just as worthy of wielding as the Galaxy S8 that succeeds it.

One more thing: If the GS7's 5.1-inch display is too small for your liking, consider the Galaxy S7 Edge for its bigger screen and curved edges. The S7 Active is also a viable choice if you're a rugged outdoor person and an AT&T subscriber. And of course, Samsung offers an unlocked model that also works overseas.

Best for customizing

Moto Z

See at Motorola See at Verizon

It's always fun with a manufacturer tries something different. Motorola's trying out the modular smartphone thing with its Moto Z flagship. This svelte smartphone is an absolute sight to see: It's one of the prettiest phones on the market and is incredibly thin. Inside, it boasts a Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 2600mAh battery. It also has a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera.

If you're aching for features like more battery life or true-to-form optical zoom, you can invest in any of the Moto Z's modular accessories. For instance, there's a variety of power packs you can purchase for extra battery life, or you can buy the Hasselblad True Zoom for better smartphone photography.

Bottom line: The Moto Z is a worthy considering for anyone who wants a razor thin smartphone—or who believes modularity is the future of mobile devices.

One more thing: You can choose between the Moto Z Force if you're a Verizon subscriber and you're looking for a better camera sensor and a bigger battery, or the mid-range Moto Z Play if you're looking for something a little cheaper and a bit more basic. Both phones are compatible with Motorola's Moto Mods accessories.

Conclusion

We don't where Google's Pixel will rank another six months from now, but we know that right now it is still the best smartphone offered at the sub-$700 price point. It's not crowded with redundant applications like a Samsung device, nor does it come with extra gags you'll have to ignore. The Pixel is the smartphone that Google made and it's fit for both Android enthusiasts and newcomers alike.

Best Overall

Google Pixel

See at Verizon See at Google Store

I have good news for those of you ruing the day that the first phablet was ever announced. Google's Pixel smartphone is a mere 5-inches, so those of you with smaller hands and small pockets can rest easy knowing that there is flagship-level, feature-packed Android phone out there that doesn't take up so much room.

The Pixel is impressive on the inside, too. It's got the latest Snapdragon 821 processor and 4GB of RAM. You can purchase it with up to 128GB of storage, though if you decide to stick to the alternative 32GB option, Google will still offer unlimited Photo uploads for your pictures. The Pixel also boasts impressive camera performance that nearly bests the Samsung Galaxy S8's.

Bottom line: If you're looking for the smartphone that best represents Google's Android, go Pixel.

One more thing: You can purchase device protection insurance for your Pixel. It covers accidental damage from a drop or water ingress, as well as any general malfunctions for two years.

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1 month ago

Nokia 9 leak shows off dual cameras, 5.3-inch QHD display, Snapdragon 835

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An early look at the Nokia 9 shows off a device with a lot of potential.

Nokia's foray into the world of Android started off with three entry-level offerings — the Nokia 3, Nokia 5, and Nokia 6 — with the company stating that it would launch high-end phones at a later date. The Nokia 9 is likely to be the first of the premium phones, and a recent leak out of FrAndroid gives us a first look at the design and possible specs.

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1 month ago

Lenovo rep confirms 3000mAh battery for the Moto Z2 Play

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Lenovo is trading battery life for a sleeker phone.

It's looking more and more likely that the Moto Z2 Play will feature a smaller battery than its predecessor. A leak from earlier this month revealed that the phone will come with a 3000mAh battery, and a recent tweet by a Lenovo representative confirms the change:

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1 month ago

More Android phones are using encryption and lock screen security than ever before

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Galaxy S7 lock pattern

An increasing number of people are making the right decisions.

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We like to harp on security here from time to time, but it's for good reason. Many often have a false sense of just how secure their private data is on their devices — that is, if they're thinking about it at all. Your average smartphone user just wants to access the apps and people they care about, and not worry about security.

That's why it was extremely encouraging to hear some of the security metrics announced at Google I/O 2017. For devices running Android Nougat, roughly 80% of users are running them fully encrypted. At the same time, about 70% of Nougat devices are using a secure lock screen of some form.

Android encryption adoptionAndroid lock screen adoption

That 80% encryption number isn't amazingly surprising when you remember that Nougat has full-device encryption turned on by default, but that number also includes devices that were upgraded from Marshmallow, which didn't have default encryption. Devices running on Marshmallow have a device encryption rate of just 25%, though, so this is a massive improvement. And the best part about Google's insistence on default encryption is that eventually older devices will be replaced by those running Nougat or later out of the box, meaning this encryption rate could get very close to 100%.

The default settings are immensely important.

Full-device encryption is particularly effective when paired with a secure lock screen, and Google's metrics showing 70% adoption in this regard definitely needs some work. It's a small increase from the roughly 60% secure lock screen rate of Marshmallow phones but a decent jump from the sub-50% rate of devices running Lollipop. The most interesting aspect of these numbers to my eyes is that having a fingerprint sensor on the device doesn't signal a very large increase in adoption — perhaps just a five percentage point jump. On one hand it's great to see people using secured lock screens even when they don't have something as convenient as a fingerprint sensor, but then again I'd expect the simplicity of that sensor to help adoption more than these numbers show.

The trend is heading in the right direction in both of these metrics, and that's a great sign despite the fact that secure lock screens show a slower growth rate. The closer we get both of these numbers to 100%, the better.

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1 month ago

Android Go is the smartest thing Google can do to win the next billion smartphone users

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Android Go isn't a big deal, and that makes it an incredibly powerful and meaningful change for Android users everywhere.

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You may know this well-known idiom: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Such a phrase can be applied to many circumstances, but it also works in the context of Google's salvo into the world of unifying the experience of budget smartphones, Android One.

One is the loneliest number

Android One was unveiled in 2014 as a way for hardware manufacturers to spend less time building custom software, and assigning expensive engineers to update that software, by putting the onus on Google to keep those phones updated. But Android One floundered soon after its launch, since the Indian companies Google partnered with on the project didn't put nearly as much marketing muscle behind those phones as the ones they could profitably customize to their hearts' content.

By the time Google fixed Android One's biggest problems, its partners were recreating its best features for less money.

And while Google rectified the problem a year later with the second generation of Android One devices, by that time the likes of Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo and Lenovo were mimicking the positive aspects of Google's enterprise while simultaneously undercutting them on the hardware, leaving Android One to flounder. It had some success in countries like Turkey, Japan, Indonesia and Portugal, but by the end of 2016 it was clear Google's partners were on the verge of abandoning their low-cost Android One strategy. Google learned that, especially in the low-end smartphone space, hardware vendors want Android, not Google's Android, spurned by the very companies it wooed just a couple years earlier.

Along comes Go

Now we're hearing about Android Go, and how it's also going to revolutionize the Android experience for people who are just about to buy their first smartphone, or have limited budgets in developing regions where their phone is perhaps their only computer. And while we've heard this before, Google's latest salvo for "the next billion" actually makes a lot of sense. Here's how it breaks down:

  • Android O and beyond will be optimized for devices with 1GB of RAM and under. These days, that's a number that often gets derided as too little, especially for a memory-hungry OS like Android, but the foundations have been in place since Project Svelte debuted back in 2012 with Jelly Bean. Google is taking things even further by separating parts of the operating system that can be pared down. At this point, Android — Google's Android — is as lean as it's ever been, and with advancements in battery optimization and app caching, Android O should run well on almost any piece of hardware.
  • Google is optimizing its own apps — YouTube, Gboard, Chrome — to use as little mobile data as possible. Chrome will use its Data Saver feature by default. YouTube will preview videos before using expensive mobile bandwidth. And Gboard, Google's excellent virtual keyboard, has been updated to support multiple languages and transliteration.
  • When a device ships with Android Go, Google Play will automatically populate apps that have been "lightened" — YouTube Go, Facebook Lite — to use less data. Apps installed on the phone will also remain in a compressed state and the OS won't continually ask for "updates," potentially saving battery life. That doesn't mean that the Play Store will be limited, though: while Google will highlight lightweight apps on the Play Store's home page, the entire app catalog will be available to download.

All of these together will allow Google to make any phone, not just those from manufacturers it partners with, to work really well on limited memory without necessarily forcing those vendors to use a "stock" version of Android that may not allow for its well-regarded customizations. Yes, in certain countries, customized versions of Android are preferred to what we know as vanilla Android.

The next billion

This is a platitude that we hear all the time: there are seven and a half billion people in the world, and with two billion active Android devices, there are hundreds of millions of others in countries like India, Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey, Philippines and Cambodia, to name a few, that, frankly, don't have good experiences when they spend $50 to $100 on an Android device.

Android Go is about more than controlling software updates. It's about making Android leaner and more efficient for everyone.

But Android Go isn't about Google controlling updates, nor is it about offering a separate version of Android that needs to be maintained and continually optimized year over year. As we've learned since Android debuted, Google has a tendency to debut and support features for a brief time only to abandon them completely for something shinier. To put Android Go in a position to succeed, Google made the inspired decision to merely integrate it into its general Android plan. It is so simple, so uninteresting that it has a much better chance of success.

That's because, by default, when a company builds a phone with 1GB of RAM or less, Android Go will just be the default state; the lighter configuration of Google's first party apps will be installed, and the version of the Google Play Store users see will automatically highlight low-bandwidth apps.

But the end result will be an Android experience that will seamlessly cause fewer performance hiccups, and fewer accidental data cap overages. It may also improve the reputation of low-cost devices since, even though they are getting better over the years, there is still a stigma around using a phone with low memory.

For the rest

Android O will integrate a number of memory and battery usage improvements into its core, available to phones with 1GB and 6GB of RAM alike. That's the beauty of the enterprise — it just works.

If OnePlus or Samsung can't make Android smooth with 4GB of 6GB of RAM, it's clear that there's more work to be done.

But we've heard this before, and RAM usage continues to dog Android's reputation. Companies like OnePlus and Samsung have been accused of poor memory management, despite outfitting their flagships with plenty of memory. From errant apps to poor governor management, Google can only do so much to make Android a smooth and problem-free experience. Once the code is in the hands of external vendors, all bets are off.

So once again, Google is just trying to make things a little bit better for everyone. Android is already pretty good at scaling, but it could always be better. Usually when we talk about scaling, though, we talk about it scaling up — for better screens, faster CPUs and more powerful GPUs — not down. In 2017, when it's pretty easy to nab a great phone for $300, it makes sense that Google is optimizing the experience for the increasingly important $100 phone so that one day, when phones are $10, we'll look back on this move and consider it a turning point.

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1 month ago

Best Customer Service from a Mobile Carrier

Which carrier has the best customer service in the U.S.?

Prices? Sure. Coverage? Absolutely that's important. But how does your carrier treat you? When you call, are you answered promptly and courteously? Are your problems fixed easily? Does the person on the other end sound like they even care? What about tech support?

Here's how you should pick if customer service is most important to you.

Best customer service: Verizon Wireless

For top-notch customer support, look to Verizon. In Tom's Guide's testing, which took into account online support, social media responses, and over-the-phone support, Verizon scored the highest with a 94/100 rating. In terms of coverage, The Wirecutter rates Verizon number one, so you get the best on both fronts.

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Whether it's a question about your plan, your specific device, or tech support, Verizon nails it on the phone, online, and via social media. It even has an online device simulator, which can virtually take you through tutorials on your specific phone so that you can figure out problems or simply learn how it works without having to wait on hold or heading into a Verizon store.

Runner up: T-Mobile

In Tom's Guide's ratings, T-Mobile didn't fall far behind Verizon, since it has a great social media presence when it comes to support, and its over-the-phone support is quick and helpful. That being said, its online resources could be a little better. Having had to do a ton of research on T-Mobile, I fully agree with that assessment. T-Mobile's website is quite frustrating at times, and it takes quite a bit of googling to find help pages that should probably be easier to find right on its site.

Having chatted online with some reps as well, I've noticed (similarly to Tom's Guide) that T-Mo reps assume that the customer knows more than they they really do, so their instructions aren't always explicitly clear.

Batting in the hole: AT&T

Since AT&T switched to an automated answering service, its over-the-phone support isn't the best. That being said, its support site is quite helpful, with quick response times for email, but its responses on social media are lacking.

This rating is despite J.D. Power's assertion that AT&T ranks the highest in overall customer satisfaction. J.D. Power's rating only takes customers with unlocked phones into account.

Bringing up the rear: Sprint

In Tom's Guide's ratings, Sprint is actually in fifth place, behind Cricket Wireless (an MVNO owned by AT&T). According to Tom's Guide, reps are friendly and quick to respond, but testers were consistently given incorrect information, even on topics reps should know well.

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Top Ten Reviews' rating is consistent with Tom's Guide, placing it in fourth place in its guide of best carriers and giving it the lowest score of the bunch for customer help and support.

Looking at Sprint as a consumer, putting customer service reps aside, Sprint's bring your own device policy is frustrating and a major turn off. Wanting to buy your phone from a provider is one thing, but having to is another. Sprint's dated CDMA technology holds it back on all fronts.

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