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1 month ago

Amazon Fire HD 10 review (2017)

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Amazon Fire HD 10

If you just want a basic tablet that can do all the things and do them reasonably well, this is the one to get.

Here's all you need to know about Amazon's 2017 Fire HD 10 tablet. It has Alexa built in. It runs all the Android apps Amazon has in its own Appstore. It's got access to Amazon Books and Music and Games and Photos and everything else Amazon has.

And it starts at $150.

That's it. It's a middle-of-the-road, won't-break-the-bank, no-frills tablet.

And it's the only one I'd ever buy for that kind of money.

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Amazon Fire HD 10

OK, OK. There's a little more to this story. Only, not really. Amazon keeps doing what it's been doing with its tablet hardware for some time now. You get something that works, and works surprisingly well, for not a lot of money.

The intent, of course, is to make up the difference buy buying things from Amazon. Preferably, Amazon would tell you, all the things from Amazon. The Fire HD 10 is the upsized gateway, just like the Fire HD 8 is the smaller, even less-expensive model.

Watch this ...

The Amazon Fire HD 10 video review

None better for the money ...

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) Review

The Fire HD 10 specs are exactly what you'd expect in an Amazon tablet at this point. It gets the job done, it gets it done reasonably well enough, and it doesn't make too much of a fuss about it. There's no talk of cutting-edge processors. No display resolution so dense that it threatens to question reality itself.

  • Display: 10.1-inch IPS LCD (1920x1200 resolution)
  • OS: Amazon Fire OS 5.3.4 (based on Android 5.1)
  • Price: Starts at $149
  • Processor: MediaTek Quad-Core 2 @ 1.8 GHz and 1.4GHz
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 32GB or 64GB internal, up to 256GB microSD
  • Weight: 17.7 ounces (500 grams)
  • Size: 10.3 x 6.3 x 0.4 inches (262 x 159 x 9.8mm)
  • Wifi: 802.11ac
  • Connector: MicroUSB
  • Cameras: 2MP rear, VGA front
  • Colors: Black, blue, red

Nope, it's just a good, inexpensive tablet, with a whole lot of apps at its disposal, and pretty much the same content (or in some cases even more) than you'll find on the mainstream offerings from Apple and Samsung.

For a lot of folks, that's plenty good enough. For those who don't mind wading into the gray areas of life, it's simple enough to install the Google Play Store and then get access to everything you're used to.

Really, though, this all comes back to the fact that we're looking at a tablet that starts at $150. That's for the version "with special offers," which means ads on the lock screen that while awful on principle really aren't all that bad in actuality. And if you don't want to deal with that sort of thing, it's just an extra $15. And $165 for a 10-inch tablet that can actually play basic games and show shows and do email ain't bad at all.

That bare-bones price is also for the model with just 32GB of storage. You have about 28GB free to do whatever you want with, though, and for a lot of folks that's going to be plenty. And it can be augmented with a microSD card of up to 256GB — and that's just what we call (in technical terms) a butt-ton of storage. There's almost no reason to buy the 64GB model.

See the best SD cards for a Fire HD tablet

Watching video on a 10-inch, 1080p display still isn't my favorite thing to do. That's just 218 pixels per inch. Video is certainly watchable, despite my snobbery. And if you're not used to something with a higher resolution, it'll be just fine for you. And the stereo speakers (they fire downward from the left-side long edge) are decent, but nowhere near what you'd find in, say, an iPad.

Would I want to use this tablet myself? Not if I could get away with spending five times that amount on a nice iPad. But I also wouldn't fault anyone who just wants something basic that works. Because the Fire HD 10 very much fits that bill.

Amazon Fire HD 10 with case The Amazon Fire HD 10 with case. ($39 at Amazon)

Would I want to hand this tablet over to my kids? Absolutely. I've said in the past that the Fire HD tablet is the best there is for kids — not just because it's inexpensive, but because Amazon has some excellent screen time controls, and you get an email anytime a new app is installed. And this tablet continues that tradition.

And it's worth spending a few extra dollars for a case for this thing. For one, it'll protect your investment. Even though you didn't pay out the arm for the Fire HD 10, you still want your money to go just as far as it possibly can. Amazon's own case isn't inexpensive at $40, but I'm glad I picked it up. In addition to protecting the screen, it does a fine job of proving up the tablet for watching video.

So all told, we're about $210 in for a perfectly capable tablet whose true purpose is to pump Amazon content at you as often and as fast as possible — while also doing other normal tablet things.

The Fire HD 10 isn't the best tablet that's out there. But it's the best one for the price you pay — less than $200 — that you'll find anywhere.

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Amazon Fire tablets

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1 month ago

Samsung announces new Galaxy Tab A, available November 1 for $229

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An affordable family tablet, just in time for the holidays.

Tablets have lost a lot of traction over the past couple of years, but that's not to say the market for them has totally died out. Samsung is one of the few companies still releasing tablets in 2017, and following the high-end Tab S3 that came out earlier this year, we now have a much more affordable option with the latest entry in the Galaxy Tab A series.

Simply referred to as the Galaxy Tab A (8.0"), Samsung's latest tablet is being targeted at families with kids in search of a big-screen entertainment solution that won't break the bank. The Tab A comes outfitted with an 8-inch 1280 x 800 display with a brightness level of 480-nits. It's surrounded by relatively thick bezels, and near the bottom is a physical home button with two capacitive buttons flanking it.

The Tab A features a metal frame to allow for a more premium feel in the hand, and small touches like USB Type-C and 32GB of internal storage that can be expanded with a microSD card are always great to see with less expensive gadgets.

Other specifications include Qualcomm's Snapdragon 425 processor, 2GB of RAM, 8MP/5MP rear and front-facing cameras, Android 7.1.1 Nougat, and a 5,000 mAh battery that's rated to offer 14 hours of usage.

You'll be able to purchase the Galaxy Tab A in Black and Silver from Samsung.com on November 1 for just $229.99.

The Galaxy Tab S3 is worth buying just for its S Pen

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2 months ago

MrMobile goes hands-on with the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL!

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When Google dropped its first Pixel smartphone last year, I was not impressed. I dogged it for its lack of waterproofing, its derivative design, and for having a custom launcher when I expected pure stock Android. But then an important thing happened: I used the Pixel. And in short order, its instantaneous responsiveness ruined me for every other Android phone out there.

Yesterday in San Francisco, Google announced a couple successors to those original Pixels. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL correct some of their predecessors' shortcomings … while also introducing a couple more. Join me for the MrMobile hands-on with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, and stick around till the end for a lingering look at the new PixelBook! And be sure to check out Android Central's detailed dive on the same!

Stay social, my friends

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2 months ago

Huawei Mediapad M3 vs. Mediapad M3 Lite: Which should you buy?

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A battle between two fantastic Android tablets at different price points.

Huawei's Mediapad M3 and Mediapad M3 Lite are both extremely capable tablets that won't break your budget. How do you pick between two devices that look so similar, though? You let us break it down feature by feature to see M3 is more worth your hard earned money!

Specs comparison

Category Mediapad M3 Lite Mediapad M3 CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 435, octa-core Kirin 950, octa-core Screen resolution 8-inch 1920x1200 pixels 8.4-inch 2560×1600 pixels RAM 3GB 4GB Memory 16GB 32 GB / 64 GB Battery 4800 mAh 5100 mAh Price $169 $299 / $330 Dimensions 4.8 x 8.4 x 0.30 in 4.8 x 8.5 x .28 in

Same name, different device

The Huawei Mediapad M3 and Mediapad M3 Lite are two vastly different tablets that share a name. They're both 8-inch portrait-oriented tablets (though the Mediapad M3 has a slightly bigger 8.4-inch screen).

It's the actual hardware that makes a serious difference between the Mediapad M3 and the Mediapad M3 Lite. The M3 is in possession of the much more powerful Kirin 950 octa-core processor compared to the M3 Lite's Snapdragon 435 processor. Likewise, the Mediapad M3 has a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels, which surpasses the 1920 x 1200 resolution of the Mediapad M3 Lite by quite a margin.

The Mediapad M3 also has more storage and RAM than the equivalent models of the Mediapad M3 Lite. And the Mediapad M3 has a slightly larger 5100mAh battery compared to the 4800mAh cell in the M3 Lite.

Now while the Mediapad M3 does have far more power under the hood, it's also the much more expensive tablet at $299 versus the Mediapad M3 Lite's $169 asking price.

Intent matters

Due to the major differences in hardware between these two devices, it's a bit difficult to compare one directly against the other. Instead, what you need to consider it what you plan on using your Huawei Mediapad for.

If you need a device for distracting the kids during car rides, watching your favorite shows, and surfing Facebook, then the Mediapad M3 Lite is definitely the one to pick. It doesn't have the better specs overall, but it is more than capable of getting the job done.

In comparison, the Mediapad M3 is capable of doing far more than letting you catch up on binge watching. It's got a huge battery, a solid processor, making it great for everything from checking documents in Google Drive to conducting live chats with friends on Hangouts. With its fantastic screen and great speakers, the Mediapad M3 can really act as a replacement for your Laptop in most cases.

The Mediapad M3 is the better tablet!

By every possible marker, the Mediapad M3 comes out ahead of the Mediapad M3 Lite. This isn't surprising, as it is the higher end Mediapad from Huawei, but Huawei has gone above and beyond to pack it to the brim with fantastic features for you to take advantage of. While it is a bit pricey compared to the Mediapad M3 Lite, it's well worth it for the increase in screen quality, battery, processor, and speakers.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the Mediapad M3 shipped with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and still hasn't been updated to Android 7.0 Nougat in most regions of the world. The Mediapad M3 Lite, though, shipped with Nougat since it is a newer product.

Essentially in every other metric that counts, the Mediapad M3 excels, delivering a device that really does go above and beyond.

See Mediapad M3 at Amazon See Mediapad M3 Lite at Amazon

Which is your favorite?

Both the Mediapad M3 and the Mediapad M3 Lite are very capable, but the Mediapad M3 pulls ahead by virtue of all of its features. Do you agree that the Mediapad M3 is the better device? Do you prefer the Mediapad M3 Lite? Let us know about it in the comments below!

Huawei Mediapad M3 review

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2 months ago

Huawei Mediapad M3 Lite vs. Huawei Mediapad T3: Which should you buy?

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The M3 Lite is the superior tablet, but not by much.

When it comes to size, dimensions, and even battery capacity, the Huawei Mediapad M3 Lite and Mediapad T3 are quite similar. But there are some differences we want to highlight, and help you decide which one to buy if you're looking for an inexpensive Android tablet!

Both models come in affordable 8-inch and 10-inch models — the former in a portrait orientation and the latter in landscape. We've compared these two tablets in both sizes, and the M3 comes out on top thanks to its additional features. Check out all the details on how we made our decision below!

8-inch Mediapad M3 Lite vs. Mediapad T3 specs comparison

Category Mediapad M3 Lite Mediapad T3 CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 435, octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 425, quad-core Screen resolution 1920x1200 pixels 1280×800 pixels RAM 3GB / 4GB 2GB / 3GB Memory 16GB / 32GB / 64GB 16 GB / 32 GB Camera 8MP front, 8MP rear 2MP front, 5MP rear Battery 4800 mAh 4800 mAh Price $169 $119 Dimensions 8.40 x 4.85 x 0.30 in 8.31 x 4.91 x 0.31 in Weight 310 grams 350 grams

10-inch Mediapad M3 Lite vs. Mediapad T3 specs comparison

Category M3 Lite T3 Screen resolution 1920x1200 pixels 1280×800 pixels RAM 3GB / 4GB 2GB / 3GB CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 435, octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 425, quad-core Memory 16GB / 32GB / 64GB 16 GB / 32 GB Camera 8MP front, 8MP rear 2MP front, 5MP rear Battery 6660 mAh 4800 mAh Price $219 $159 Dimensions 9.50 x 6.75 x 0.28 in 9.05 x 6.29 x 0.31 in Weight 310 grams 460 grams

Where they're the same

Both the Huawei Mediapas M3 Lite and the Mediapad T3 are pretty solid devices, and while they are definitely more different than the same, they do share a few aesthetic qualities. For the 8-inch version, from the outside, these two tablets look strikingly similar.

They also both share a hefty 4800 mAh battery. This is a battery that will easily keep you going through a few days of use and means you'll have plenty of time between charges for gaming, or watching your favorite shows on Netflix.

How they're different

While these two tablets certainly look alike, they differ under the hood. The Mediapad M3 Lite just manages to pull ahead by virtue of solid features that outstrip the Mediapad T3 little by little.

The Mediapad M3 Lite has the better screen resolution at 1920x1200 pixels compared to the Mediapad T3's less dense 1280x720 pixels. The Mediapad M3 Lite is available in 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB sizes, while the Mediapad T3 is only available in 16GB and 32GB. The Mediapad M3 also wins out with an octa-core Snapdragon 435 processor against the Mediapad T3's Snapdragon 425 quad-core, and the Mediapad M3 also has more RAM in every size.

None of these differences are major on their own, but with so many features in the Mediapad M3's favor, it's hard to argue that it isn't the superior device. Especially when you consider that the Mediapad M3 Lite is available for $169 which is only $50 dollars more than the Mediapad T3's $119 price tag.

See Mediapad M3 Lite at Amazon See Mediapad T3 at Amazon

Size makes a difference

While the 8-inch version of the Mediapad M3 Lite and the Mediapad T3 are very similar in a few aspects, that starts to change with the 10-inch version. Not in terms of design, where they still share a similar look, but from dimensions to the battery, they are quite different.

The Mediapad M3 Lite comes out ahead in every category. It's a tiny bit larger, has the superior screen resolution, rocks more RAM at every level, and is available in 64GB. The biggest difference is the battery that the Mediapad M3 Lite is using, it's packing a 6660mAh battery that will keep you going from the beach on vacation all the way home.

Of course, the bigger battery and larger size do come with a price jump. The Mediapad M3 Lite is available for $219, which is a $50 price bump from the smaller size. The T3 also jumps up to $159, which is a $40 bump in price.

Once again, the Mediapad M3 Lite manages to win out by virtue of the features it packs under the hood. The massive battery on top of a great processor and larger screen with a better resolution lets it whomp the Mediapad T3, even though it's the pricier of the two.

See M3 Lite 10 at AmazonSee T3 10 at Amazon

Which is your favorite?

Do you agree that the M3 Lite is the better tablet? Do you think we should have given the T3 another chance? Let us know about it in the comments below!

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2 months ago

Amazon's all-new Fire HD 10 has a 1080p display, costs just $149

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The latest generation Fire HD 10 costs $80 less than its predecessor.

Amazon is rolling out much-needed updates to the Fire HD 10 and decreasing its price point at the same time. The latest generation Fire HD 10 features a 10.1-inch Full HD display, double the amount of storage at 32GB, and a 1.8GHz MediaTek quad-core CPU that's 30% faster than the one used in its predecessor. The tablet will go up for sale starting October 11 for $149, or $80 less than the starting price of its predecessor.

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2 months ago

Let's talk about Blueborne, the latest Bluetooth vulnerability

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Because you need to know what's up and what to do about it.

We got to see something cool and terrible (yes, it's possible to be both at the same time) earlier this week when Armis Security published the details of a new Bluetooth exploit. Called "Blueborne," the exploit allows a person with the right tools and who is within Bluetooth range of your smart thing — laptop, phone, car, or anything else that runs Android (as well as most every other operating systems, including iOS and Windows) — to gain control over the device without any action from the user.

That's because the exploit cleverly attacks portions of the software needed to establish a connection to hijack the Bluetooth stack itself, which is pretty much done in a universal way because of how complicated Bluetooth is and how the stack itself handles so many things the OS could be doing instead.

Interested yet? If not, you should be.

Before we go any further, here is the good(ish) news: Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all patched the exploit. On the Android side, we saw the fix in this month's security patch released the same day the vulnerability was made public. This surely isn't a coincidence and kudos to Armis for working with the companies who write the software we all use every day to get this fixed. Of course, almost every Android-powered device doesn't yet have this patch and won't for a while.

I'll resist the temptation to make this all about Android's update woes and the million-and-one different reasons that it happens. I'll just say that if you value being protected against most vulnerabilities like this you currently have three options: an Android-powered device from BlackBerry, an Android-powered device direct from Google, or an iPhone. You decide what to do here.

Instead let's talk about what Blueborne is and how it does it, as well as what you can do about it.

What is Blueborne?

It's a series of simple attacks on various parts of the Bluetooth stack running on almost every smart device in the world. Including 2 billion Android phones. It's not a MiTM (Man in The Middle) attack, where someone intercepts Bluetooth traffic between you and a thing you're connected to. Instead, it's posed as a device that wants to discover and connect over Bluetooth but the exploit happens before the connection attempt gets to a stage where a user needs to act.

For people into this sort of thing, the short version of how the exploit works on Android is that the attacker sends out a discovery query, then manipulates both the timestamp and size of a second discovery query for a separate service to the same machine. This causes a buffer underflow and bypasses the standard Bluetooth Security Management Protocols to hit the failsafe "just works" connection. While it sounds crazy that this works, it's better than the default BlueZ stack version of the exploit which is a straight-up buffer overflow that bypasses every connection check. I'm not familiar enough with Windows or iOS to parse the exploit code for those operating systems, but if you are hit the link in the opening paragraph and check it out. Then hit the comments and help us all understand better.

If you're not into looking through code (it's a special sort of illness, I do admit) the short short version is that a person with a computer that has a Bluetooth connection can type a few lines in a terminal and connect to your phone. How easy it is for him or her to connect is ridiculous (we'll talk about why that is later) and anyone with even just a passing knowledge of this sort of thing can do it. That's why it was important that Armis hold the release until Apple, Google, and Microsoft were able to act.

The scary part is what happens after the connection is made. There is no secret magic app that roots your phone and hacks all your data. It's too easy to prevent any process from getting that level of control, and permissions prevent it from happening unless a process does have that level of access. Instead, an attacker can act as the logged in user. That's you.

With 8 billion devices that need to connect, Bluetooth is a big target for people who want to steal data.

In the example video above we see the attacker establishing a Bluetooth mouse connection to a sleeping Pixel, then doing the same things you could do if you were holding it in your hands. Apps can be started, pictures, video, and audio can be recorded, and your files can be downloaded directly to the attacker's computer. there is nothing on your phone to say "Stop, this is not cool" because it is cool — it's acting as you. And none of your data is safe. If the attacker is unable to access a sandboxed directory, he or she can simply open the associated app and pull images of what's on the screen while it is running.

The frustrating part of all this is why it works. I'm not talking about how the stack is exploited and someone crashes their way in, I mean why in the broader sense. Why something this preventable was able to slip past the experts who oversee security and are really good at writing this sort of thing out of the operating system. And the answer is that it happened because Bluetooth is a giant, complicated mess.

It's not the Bluetooth SIG's (Special Interest Group) fault, even if it is their responsibility to ultimately address this. Bluetooth started out in 1998 as a simple short-range wireless connection. It's now on more than 8 billion devices worldwide and has grown and grown in features and complexity. And it has to be backward compatible, so portions of it have to be left as-is when it comes to things like advanced connection security standards. If an encrypted paired-key connection can't be established, it has to be able to try something less secure and keep trying until it connects, runs out of ways to try, or the security management features tell it to stop. Exploit the SMP layer and you're in. And as new features get added to newer versions, it only gets worse.

There are exploits in proprietary software, too. We just don't know about them until it's too late.

The people writing an operating system and the security team whose job it is to break it will all take their share of the responsibility here, too. The problem here is that they're dealing with impossibly complex code in the Bluetooth stack and while they are busy trying to patch it against one thing other things could also be exploited. Google did change a good bit of the "default" Bluetooth implementation for Linux, as did Apple and Microsoft. The things you use are well-protected against things like a man in the middle attack or a way to get admin permission over Bluetooth. That's because those have traditionally been the way Bluetooth was exploited, and there is always plenty of work to do prevent it from happening.

Finally, this is a great example of why open-source code is great. The researchers at Armis were able to find this exploit, see exactly how it works and determine exactly how to patch it because they have access to the code itself. While Apple and Microsoft don't use a fully open source Bluetooth stack, they knew exactly where to look to patch their version. If every company involved used closed proprietary code this exploit would still exist, but we wouldn't know about it until it was too late and other folks knew about it, too.

What should you do about it?

Every person reading this probably has one or more Bluetooth devices. Your watch, your phone, your laptop, your TV, and the list could go on and on; Bluetooth is everywhere and on almost everything. That means you're likely to have Bluetooth enabled on your phone, and that's all it takes to be vulnerable to this if your phone is still unpatched.

The saving grace here is that Bluetooth is a short-range connection standard. Bluetooth 5 is working on extending the range, but you're pretty much confined to about 30 feet before the signal gets bad. That means you're really only at risk when you're within 30 feet of the person trying to get into your phone.

Bluetooth's short range means an attacker has to be near you to use the Blueborne exploit.

And the way this exploit works is scary, but it also means you're probably going to notice it. If your phone is sleeping and locked, an attacker can still connect. But as soon as they attempt to access your stuff or get tricky and try to take control, the screen would light up and they would need to unlock the phone. For now, at least. Don't think for a minute that people aren't working on a way around this because they are. And they will find it.

I'm not going to suggest you stop using your smartwatch or your favorite Bluetooth headset and shut down Bluetooth permanently. But there are a few things we can do to make it harder for someone to get in through Bluetooth while we're waiting for a patch. And again — if your phone has the September 2017 security patch, you're protected.

  • Shut Bluetooth off when you're not using it. You're probably safe at home or at work, but if you get into the habit of turning Bluetooth off when you don't need it you won't forget the next time you go to Starbucks. There is no way for an attacker to turn Bluetooth on. At least not yet.
  • Make sure you have a secure lock screen. Dead stop. If you don't already have a password, PIN, pattern, fingerprints or anything else set up so your phone is locked until you unlock it yourself, go do it now.
  • Turn off trusted devices while you're at it. Tapping in a 4-digit PIN or scanning your eyeballs is way more convenient than getting new credit cards and talking to your bank, even once. Trust me, I've been there. (Thanks, Target. Idiots, I swear.)
  • Don't leave your phone unattended. Put it in your pocket or purse and take it with you even if you're only stepping away for a minute or two.
  • If you see the screen turn on, look and see why. This is the biggest "flaw" in the exploit; it will turn your screen on if someone tries to do anything after they are connected.
  • Ask the company you gave money to when you bought your phone when you should expect an update to fix this. Asking nicely lets it know that you care about it, and when enough people show they care a company will decide to care. The patch is available to every phone running Android 4.4 and higher.

There probably isn't an army of people armed with laptops and Mountain Dew patrolling the streets, ready to hack "all the phones" through Bluetooth. But there could be that one guy, and he could be at McDonald's or the library or anywhere else. In cases like this, it's always better to be safe because the things we can do are pretty easy.

Your stuff is worth it.

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3 months ago

Huawei has four new inexpensive MediaPad tablets coming to the U.S.

24

Huawei is launching new MediaPads in the U.S. beginning at the end of August.

Besides its Mate flagships and Honor-branded smartphones, Huawei also makes the MediaPad line of tablets. Now, in the days before IFA, Huawei has announced four new tablets coming to the U.S. in September.

The Huawei MediaPad T3 8-inch and 10-inch and M3 Lite 8-inch and 10-inch tablets are now available for purchase from Amazon. The tablets feature entry-level specs, but they'll pack more than enough power for consuming media.

The T3 tablets include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor, 1200x800 displays, 16GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD) and 2GB of RAM, Android 7.0 with EMUI 5.1 on top, and a 5MP rear camera and 2MP front camera. The only difference between the two T3 tablets are the screen size and price: the 8-inch and 10-inch T3's both include a non-removable 4,800 mAh power pack. The T3 8-inch is priced at $139, while the T3 10-inch retails for $159. The T3 tablets are only available in a black/space gray coloring.

MediaPad T3 8-inch at Amazon   MediaPad T3 10-inch at Amazon

The M3 Lite tablets use an unnamed octa-core processor, 1920x1200 displays 16GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD), 3GB of RAM, Android 7.0 with EMUI 5.1 on top, an 8MP rear and 8MP front camera and a fingerprint sensor for secure unlocking. The 8-inch M3 Lite tablet features a 4,800 mAh battery and two Harmon Kardon speakers, while the 10-inch version sports a 6,660 mAh battery and four Harmon Kardon speakers. The M3 Lite tablets are only available in a white/silver coloring, with the 8-inch version retailing for $199 and the 10-inch version available for $249.

MediaPad M3 Lite 8-inch at Amazon   MediaPad M3 Lite 10-inch at Amazon

Are you interested in any of Huawei's new tablets? Let us know down below!

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3 months ago

Lenovo Tab 4 10 review: A cord-cutter's dream tablet

20

The Lenovo Tab 4 10 is a great, affordable companion for any cord cutter in 2017.

The quick take

Lenovo latest 10-inch tablet isn't the most powerful workhorse, but then again it was surely never designed to be a device for everything. With modest specs and a budget price, this is a tablet for anyone looking for a reliable second screen to use around the home for streaming music and video, browsing the internet, cooking instructions in the kitchen, or sheet music when learning to play an instrument.

The Good

  • Great build quality
  • Perfect for streaming
  • Lenovo Performance Mode is fantastic
  • Great battery life
  • Loud Dolby Atmos speakers
  • Mostly stock Android experience

The Bad

  • Cameras are a total afterthought
  • Screen is a fingerprint magnet
  • Hard to use in direct sunlight
  • System takes up nearly half of the 16GB storage

Tech Specs

Category Lenovo Tab 4 10 Operating System Android 7.1 Nougat Display 10.1-inch LCD IPS Multitouch, 1280x800 Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 (1.4GHz, quad-core) Storage 16GB Expandable microSD up to 256GB RAM 2GB Rear Camera 5MP w/ autofocus Front Camera 2MP w/ autofocus Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS Charging Micro-USB Battery 7000mAh non-removable 2 Cell Li-Polymer Dimensions 247 x 170 x 8.5 mm Weight 503g

The things you'll love

The Lenovo Tab 4 10 features a (you guessed it) 10-inch screen with a 1280x800 resolution and is powered by a 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon 425 processor and 2GB of RAM. With those specs, you're definitely going to notice a significant slowdown if you try to play any particularly resource-heavy games, but overall it feels capable of handling anything you throw at it — especially video streaming — with ease.

The Lenovo Tab 4 10 is lightweight without feeling cheap.

While the Tab 4 lacks the premium design materials like a glass back and aluminum frame, it doesn't feel cheap, either. I personally prefer a non-glass back design for my devices, so I appreciated the Slate Black model's subtle texture on the back. The power and volume buttons are perfectly placed on the left side of the device, so you won't accidentally press them when you're just kicking back watching your favorite shows, yet accessible when needed. Overall, the Lenovo Tab 4 10 is lightweight without feeling cheap — while I was fortunate to avoid dropping my unit during the review period, I always felt confident that it would survive without barely a blemish had it.

I've found the battery life to be outstanding. Lenovo says you can expect up to 20 hours of usage on a fully charged battery, and in my experience that even seems like a conservative estimate based on heavy usage.

In terms of software, you get a mostly stock Android experience here running Android 7.1.1 Nougat out of the box. However, one of my favorite features using the Tab 4 10 is Lenovo's Productivity interface. Designed to be used with an optional Bluetooth keyboard attachment to convert the tablet into a makeshift laptop for added productivity, I enjoyed using it all the same without the keyboard, as it moves the on-screen Android navigations within reach of my left thumb while also adding a task bar for conveniently switching between apps as you would on a PC. I spend most of my review time using the Productivity mode because it's just a smartly-designed interface. There's also a Kids Mode, too, making this a great option for families.

I predominantly used the Lenovo Tab 4 10 for media streaming from Netflix, Plex, and DAZN with nary a hiccup, and the built-in Dolby Atmos speakers had me ignoring the Bluetooth speaker I'd typically use. As a hardened cord cutter, the Tab 4 served all my needs very well.

The things you'll hate

Firstly, the screen is an absolute fingerprint magnet, so you'll definitely want to keep the included screen cleaning cloth nearby at all times. It also doesn't fare too well near direct sunlight, so I'd say this is definitely a tablet to be used in and around the home and less so for commuting. There's a model that includes 4G connectivity with a SIM-card slot alongside the microSD slot, but honestly, I wouldn't spend more money when you're only going to want to use this thing wherever Wi-Fi is probably available.

You'll probably want to buy a microSD card for this thing as you only have about 8GB space out of the box.

The 16GB of internal storage is a tad underwhelming, as nearly half of that space is dedicated to the OS system files, making the option for expandable memory almost a prerequisite. Some users have had issues mounting a microSD card, but I did not have such problems.

As mentioned above, the specs are a little weak if you were hoping to do some serious gaming. Playing Madden Mobile was fine but noticeably sluggish at times. Temper your expectations or look elsewhere if top-end gaming is what you're after.

Lenovo included both front- and rear-facing cameras because I suppose they had to, but a 2MP and 5MP respectively, it's not even worth opening the camera app.

Should you get it? If you're a cord cutter, yes

If you've cut cable out of your life and are simply looking for a tablet for streaming Netflix, Hulu, and the rest around the house, the Lenovo Tab 4 10 will serve your needs wonderfully. You're unlikely to find a better Android tablet for under $200 that offers such a clean and focused design and user interface.

See at Amazon

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3 months ago

AT&T's new Primetime tablet is a perfect match for DIRECTV

10

AT&T has announced a new tablet that plugs into its DIRECTV service.

Cellular-connected tablets have been around since the first iPad, letting users connect to the Internet even when they're not around Wi-Fi. This was typically associated with light web browsing, as streaming video over a cellular connection is a fast way to burn through a data cap. As more carriers have brought back unlimited plans and zero rating for certain services, the ability to use a tablet as an on the go streaming device has become easier than ever.

To that end, AT&T has announced a first party tablet centered around content consumption. The AT&T Primetime Tablet is designed specifically for DIRECTV subscribers.

As for specifications, the tablet has a 10-inch 1080p display and a 9,070 mAh battery. It runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat, which is great for multi-tasking, and has a Snapdragon 625 and 2GB of RAM, along with 32GB of internal storage. The tablet will use a custom home screen with gestures for quickly accessing DIRECTV when you just need to watch TV right this second. The spec sheet mentions users will be able to stream to two separate Bluetooth headsets of speakers, which is a very neat feature (but not part of the Bluetooth 5.0 spec) The device also features dual front-facing speakers with Dolby Atmos and 4 audio presets, along with 5MP front and rear cameras.

Existing AT&T Unlimited Plus or Unlimited Choice customers can add the Primetime tablet to their existing plans for an additional $10 per month for 20 months. The device can also be purchased on its own for $29.99 total with a 2-year contract. The Primetime Tablet will be available on AT&T's online store on in physical retail stores beginning August 25.

See at AT&T

Which unlimited plan should you buy?

Update: An earlier version of this story said that the Primetime tablet required a DIRECTV subscription to purchase, which is not true. Customers can buy the tablet directly from AT&T for $200 outright or 20 payments of $10 per month.

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3 months ago

Google says Oreo will roll out to some partner devices by the end of the year

36

Google has been working with its partners to get the Oreo update out by the end of the year.

While Google's first party devices get new Android releases immediately, the same can't be said for partner devices. Since these devices comprise the vast majority of Android devices, we run into situations like Nougat only being available on 13% of all Android devices a year after release.

But there may be cause for hope: tucked in the Android Oreo announcement post was this quote:

We've also been working closely with our partners, and by the end of this year, hardware makers including Essential, General Mobile, HMD Global Home of Nokia Phones, Huawei, HTC, Kyocera, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sharp and Sony are scheduled to launch or upgrade devices to Android 8.0 Oreo.

Google has made vague promises like this before, but the fact that the company is naming specific partners is new. Google caveats that by stating the partners may be launching new devices with Oreo, not necessarily upgrading existing devices. We may see the LG V30 and Sony Xperia XZ1 launch with Oreo, but the rest of the devices are expected to be upgrades. Samsung is also expected to announce the Note 8 this week, but that will likely launch with Nougat. Time will tell if the partner companies make good on their word.

Android Oreo

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3 months ago

Android 8.0 Oreo system images available, update rolling to Developer Preview users

33

Google has uploaded the Android 8.0 Oreo system images.

For those that want to be on the bleeding edge, the Android 8.0 Oreo system images are now available. Google has the images for last year's Pixel phones, the Nexus 6P and 5X, the Nexus Player and the Pixel C. Manually updating a device requires a few tools and a bit of time, but it's an easy process overall. There are carrier-specific images for the Pixel phones, so make sure you download the right one for your device.

For users that were on the Developer Preview, you should be receiving two Over the Air (OTA) updates to the stable version of Oreo. Depending on the device and version of the developer preview you're on, the first file should only be between 12MB and 50MB. The secondary update file clocks in at 900MB, so you'll want to be on WiFi for that one.

Have you already installed Oreo? Let us know down below!

Here's the fastest way to get Android Oreo on your phone right now!

Android Oreo

img { width: 100%; height: auto; } .devicebox ul { display: table; margin: 0 0 10px; width: 100%; } .devicebox ul li { background: #f7f7f7; margin: 2px 0; padding: 4px 15px; } .devicebox ul li:hover { background: #fff; } .devicebox ul li:before { display: none; } .devicebox p ~ p { line-height: 1.25; } .devicebox p:first-of-type + p { padding: 15px; } .devicebox a.buy-link { border-radius: 5px; display: inline-block; font: 14px/31px "Proxima Nova Extrabld",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; text-align: center; } .devicebox a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:link, .devicebox a.buy-link:active, .devicebox a.buy-link:visited { background: #37B5D7; color: #FFF; } .devicebox a.buy-link:hover { background: #2694B2; text-decoration: none; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { content: "\e61e"; font: 40px/0 "ac_iconset" !important; margin: 0 3px 0 -8px; vertical-align: middle; } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { /* div:not(.columns-3) excludes help menu content */ .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p img, .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 660px) { .devicebox h3 { text-align: center; } .devicebox ul, .devicebox p { display: block; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox p img, .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 661px), all and (max-width: 500px) { /* 2x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(even) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:last-of-type:nth-of-type(odd) { width: 100%; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 659px) and (min-width: 501px) { /* 3x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(100%/3 - 10px/3); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(3n):not(:nth-last-of-type(2)) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:only-child { width: 100%; margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(odd) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 500px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } .page-admin .devicebox {max-width: 350px;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe {position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

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3 months ago

Android 8.0 Oreo review: Vive la évolution

58
Oreo

The latest version of Android packs in many small but important additions, all of which make the OS more polished and mature than ever.

Some Android releases represent massive sea changes for Google's OS, overhauling technical underpinnings or introducing new design elements. Others are content to tighten up the screws and add polish to an already well-established platform.

The new release of Android for 2017/18 — version 8.0 Oreo — fits somewhere in between those two extremes. Android itself is pretty stable at this point, so it's natural that broad, sweeping UX and functionality changes are less likely to happen with every new version. Yet although Oreo looks and feels a lot like the previous Android Nougat, contained within are myriad feature tweaks and low-level tune-ups that make Android more mature and powerful.

With Oreo, your phone (or, let's be honest here, your next phone) will be able to view videos in the foreground as you use other apps in the background. It'll become easier to keep track of multiple notifications from the same app, thanks to the new notification channels and notification dots features. Smarter text entry and autofill APIs will take the tedium out of entering passwords and other sensitive info. And Google's "Project Treble" should help phones shipping on Oreo get faster updates to Android P and beyond.

That's alongside subtle visual and animation tweaks that make Android lighter, brighter and more dynamic.

Google kept us guessing until the end when it came to the eventual nickname of Android 8.0, but the software itself has slowly been coming into focus through the past five months of developer previews. And now, with the final, stable release of Oreo in our hands, we're ready to get stuck in.

This is the Android Central review of Android 8.0 Oreo.

Oreo

About this review

I (Alex Dobie) started work on review in early August 2017, having used Android O in developer preview form since it first landed in March. Most of what's written here is based on the last developer preview, which is considered a near-final "release candidate" quality build. We're not expecting to see any significant differences in the final release of Oreo for Pixel and Nexus devices, but we will update this review should we find any noteworthy changes.

This review isn't intended to be an exhaustive list of every little change Google has made in Android 8.0, nor will we go into excessive detail on the developer-centric additions, like the introduction of Kotlin as a fully supported language. These changes are important, but this review is intended to give regular Android users an idea of what to expect in the new version of the OS.

That said, we're not writing an instruction manual here either. Instead, we're presenting this review as an overview of the direction Google has taken Android in Oreo, zeroing in on major additions and offering a critique of how these affect the overall Android experience.

Enjoy!

Pixel XL

Look and feel

Most of us see Android through the lens of whichever manufacturer's UI we choose. This long-standing trend isn't going to change in Oreo, and so bear in mind that when you get 8.0 on, for example, your Galaxy S8, it'll look a bit different to what we're reviewing here on Google's Pixel devices.

Nevertheless, more manufacturers than ever — Motorola, Lenovo, OnePlus and HTC, to name a few — are using a near-stock Android UI right now. So in that context, the design direction of vanilla Android continues to matter.

Android O Settings

There's been no major visual overhaul in the new version of Android. In fact, the most striking visual difference is the brighter color palette for the quick settings area in the notification shade. It's now light gray, not dark gray, reflecting similar color changes in the stock Settings app. For the non-phone nerds among us who own Pixels, these might well be the only visual change they notice. (As for whether it's good or bad, that's a matter of personal taste.)

Aside from this color change, there's been some minor rearrangement to the quick settings panel, bringing the settings, user switching and edit shortcuts further down, making these easier to reach on larger phones. With the shift to an 18:9 aspect ratio in many popular flagships this year, improving reachability on taller phones is important.

Android O icon types

The redesigned Settings app is the next most significant visual change. The slide-out "hamburger" navigation panel added in Nougat has been removed, and instead Google has made navigation easier by redesigning each of the 13 sub-menus. Many of the major settings options are accompanied by icons, and Android now does a better job of surfacing important items within each sub-menu.

Android's settings are lighter, simpler to navigate and easier to reach.

The new battery settings page is a great example of this. Screen usage (screen-on time) is shown right up top, along with the time since your last full charge. Scroll down a little, and your most battery-hungry apps are displayed.

You need to look below the surface to spot many of the other visual changes in Android 8.0. For instance, Google has finally started bringing a sense of order to app icons, with the new "adaptive icons" feature. Just as Google pushed towards circular app icons in Android 7.1, adaptive icons lets phone makers change this cutout shape to what best fits their own visual style. (On the Pixels, you can choose between five cutout types.)

Notifications

This means manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei and LG, who like to use their own icon cutout shape, have a more reliable way to do this that doesn't result in bad, weird-looking icons for third-party apps. The new icon style should also bring some uniformity to Android app drawers and home screens, which for a long time have been a jumble of mismatched shapes.

Oreo introduces a handful of neat new animations in the notification area.

Android's animations haven't changed a whole lot in Oreo, but there are a couple of spritely new animation behaviors in the notification shade that add to the polish of Google's Material Design. Icons smoothly transition from the status bar into their notification cards, then into the overflow area if you have lots of notifications. And icons also juggle themselves around the status bar places as new alerts arrive, making the whole system feel more dynamic.

These are small changes, but they go a long way towards making this important area of the system feel more lively and dynamic.

Finally, it's worth mentioning a handful of upgrades to that most important of smartphone features, emoji! Android 8.0 adds a handful of new emoji in Emoji 5.0, while redesigning the graphics themselves in a move away from the old-style "blobs". Going forward, Google's emoji compatibility library will allow developers to support new emoji on older Android versions (all the way back to 4.4 KitKat).

Android O emoji

Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes font changes in Oreo allow developers to customize the way emoji look in their specific apps, while making it easier for devs to use custom fonts in their apps. (Thanks to fonts becoming a full resource type in Android 8.0.)

Arguably, the Emoji Compatibility features in Google Play Services is the more significant changes here. Nevertheless, system-level support for new icons, and more consistent-looking emoji, are also a big deal. It's easy to shrug off the importance of emoji, but they're an important part of communication for millions of people, and Google is doing the right thing by focusing engineering effort on them, both in Android and Play Services.

Notification channels

Notifications, alerts and widgets

Android notifications were overhauled in Nougat, and Oreo brings a handful of smaller changes to make handling the daily firehose of alerts a little easier.

The big new thing is notification channels, a new feature which brings categories of notifications to apps, making it easier to manage and filter different types of alerts from the same app. A social app, for example, might have channels for direct messages, status updates, likes or other interactions.

And you can then choose how you're alerted for notifications in each of these channels — sound, vibration, or LED — or even block notifications from some channels altogether. Long-pressing on a notification lets you see and configure its notification channels — just as in older versions of Android, you could choose to allow or block notifications.

There's a certain amount of micro-management involved in getting to grips with notification channels.

Notification snooze

There's a certain amount of micro-management involved here, and it's questionable whether most users will even be aware of notification channels in the short to medium term. Google is hoping to speed this process along by requiring notification channel support when apps target Android 8.0 on the Play Store.

And that's the other caveat here — it's going to take time, and a lot of individual app updates, before we know how successful this feature is going to be. Maybe notification channels will be genuinely useful. Or perhaps we'll all be too lazy to bother with them.

Speaking of laziness, Android 8.0 also allows you to snooze individual notification groups for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour or two hours, by swiping right and hitting the clock icon. The use case here is pretty obvious — this should be a helpful way to dismiss a notification you don't need to deal with right away, without getting rid of it permanently.

Elsewhere, media player apps like Google Play Music, YouTube, and eventually others, can introduce a splash of color to their notifications, drawing upon the main colors of album art, video thumbnails or poster art. It's a somewhat contentious feature, with some commentators arguing that it adds unnecessary visual clutter. The faded transition into album art is a little distracting, particularly when brighter colors are introduced, but it's also arguable that this helps set media controls apart from other miscellaneous alerts.

Colorful playback notifications jump into the foreground, as persistent notifications fade into the background.

Music notification

Just as media controls are being pushed more into the foreground, persistent notifications — for example, from Maps, the Google app, a Wi-Fi hotspot, USB connection or any other process that might be running in the background — are being de-cluttered. These now shrink down to a shorter notification card in a slightly darker shade, setting them apart from more important alerts. If you need to see more info, you can expand them like any other notification.

Always-on display

The changes to Android's notification setup are small but numerous, and they aren't confined to the notification shade itself. Ambient Display, first introduced way back on the Nexus 6, has seen its biggest overhaul thus far in Android 8.0.

The main Ambient Display area actually shows you less information than it did in Nougat, with only the time and a series of icons appearing when the phone is raised. The other side of that coin is that individual notifications now flash up in a more user-friendly way.

Notification pop-ups on the Ambient Display are larger and easier to read, and if you have the option enabled, a double-tap is all it takes to open up the main lock screen.

Balancing information density and glanceability is always tricky, but Google manages a reasonable blend of both in Oreo.

Notification dotWidget controls

And last but not least, in addition to the notification shade, lock screen and always-on display, Android 8.0 allows launchers to show you individual app notifications through the notification badges feature. Apps with a pending notification will display a colored dot, and long-pressing to open up the shortcut menu will show notifications alongside app shortcuts, complete with the ability to swipe to dismiss.

That's not the only new trick hiding behind the app shortcut menu in Oreo — a new widget shortcut button frees users from long, cumbersome widget menus, with an easy way to see all the widget from a particular app.

Picture in Picture

Picture-in-Picture

Picture-in-picture mode was actually introduced in Android 7.0, but only for Android TV devices. Version 8.0 brings it to phones and tablets, introducing a potentially huge feature for owners of extra-large phablet-class devices.

PiP mode varies a little depending on how the developer implements it, but basically this feature lets you start a video from within one app, then hit the home key to shrink it down into a smaller floating window with its own playback controls. You can resize and move it around the screen in the foreground, while opening and using other apps as normal in the background.

It's similar to multi-window, introduced as standard in Nougat. And while you can use multi-window to split the screen between video and other apps, PiP is a much more elegant approach.

Picture in picture

Picture-in-picture mode finally arrives on mobile devices — but will content providers make users pay to use it?

Like many Android 8.0 features, we're going to have to wait for developer to update their apps to take advantage of PiP. And as always, some platform holders (or their advertisers), and rights holders (or their lawyers) may object to allowing background playback in some instances. We're already seeing background playback gated off behind a virtual paywall in YouTube, where a YouTube Red subscription is required to play videos in the background.

In any case, Oreo lays the technical foundations for this feature on phones and tablets. And with the possibility of more Google-branded Android tablets ahead — and even more Android-enabled Chromebooks — there are exciting possibility for users and developers alike.

Smarter logins and text entry

Everyone hates entering passwords — the tedium of password entry has spawned an entire industry of password managers. But these still require a lot of frustrating copying and pasting.

So in Oreo, Google has tackled the password pain point on two fronts. Firstly, "Autofill with Google" can help you sign into accounts on your phone using information already stored in your Google account — all with a single tap. For instance, if you've signed into Twitter on the web through Chrome, Google can then use these saved credentials to help you sign into the Twitter app on your phone.

Autofill with Google

Android Oreo is the beginning of the end for password entry on phones.

If you've already signed up to a password manager service (and they've updated their app to work with Android 8.0), you'll be able to pull in passwords from their app automatically, with any hopping back and forth, or copy-pasting between text fields.

This feature certainly takes a lot of the pain out of setting up a new Android devices, and from Google's perspective, the benefits work both ways, giving Android users an additional reason to use Chrome for their desktop web browsing.

Smart text selection

Taken to its logical extreme, Android 8.0's password features could entirely do away with having to enter passwords on a mobile device. (With the exception of your Google password and two-factor code, of course.) But like many of Android's most convenient features, you'll need to be comfortable with giving Google all this information in the first place to reap the benefits.

On a related note, Android is also getting smarter about how it handles specific kinds of information in text fields. When highlighting text, Google's machine learning figures out what kind of data you've selected and offers relevant contextual options — for example, a shortcut to the Dialer app for phone numbers, or Google Maps for addresses.

This is supported in Google Chrome on older versions of Android, but it's great to see it being introduced throughout the OS in Oreo.

Android O on Pixel C

New features for convertibles

Despite the moribund state of the Android tablet market, Oreo provides clues that Google still intends to push into the convertible space — either through Android as we currently know it, Chrome OS running Android apps, or something else entirely.

Android 8.0 brings new life to the soon-to-be-retired (yet still criminally overpriced) Pixel C tablet. On top of the new multitasking interface introduced for tablets in version 7.1.2, Android 8.0 adds a new system for keyboard shortcuts within Android apps, making it quicker to get around apps and menus where it's not convenient to touch the screen. That's particularly useful considering that a vast majority of a large tablet's life is spent attached to a keyboard.

Android O on Pixel CAndroid O on Pixel C

No more awkwardly resizing that Netflix window to fit alongside your other apps.

More broadly, the Pixel C, and Chromebooks in general, should benefit from the new picture-in-picture mode, which will be particularly useful on a laptop, tablet or convertible. (No more awkwardly resizing that Netflix window to fit alongside Chrome, Twitter and other apps.) It's not a full desktop window system, but instead brings Android tablets in line with where the iPad is right now.

Also noteworthy: New audiovisual improvements that should help make Android tablets more appealing to content creators. Support for wide-gamut color in apps (such as DPI-P3, Adobe RGB and Pro Photo RGB), aim to make Android tablets a better fit for photographers, while the new AAudio API will reduce audio latency, bringing Android a step closer to taking on GarageBand on the iPad.

Android still has a long way to go before it can challenge Apple and Microsoft on tablets and convertibles, but the new features in Oreo shouldn't be discounted. As ever, the critical issue with Android tablets is still app support, where very few apps — even Google's own — properly support large, landscape displays. Android 8.0, for all of its improvements, can't really do anything to fix that.

Pixel XL + Nexus 6P

Under the hood: Background limits, better battery life, faster OS updates

Out-of-control apps running in the background have long been the number one reason for poor battery life on Android phones. And now, building on the "Project Doze" and "Doze On-The-Go" enhancements in Android 6.0 and 7.0, version 8.0 makes it harder for badly-behaving apps to run roughshod over your device's battery.

In Oreo, Google has introduced even more limits on what apps can do while they're not in the foreground. Broadcast limitations in the new version mean that (with a few exceptions) apps in the background can't react to broadcasts (things happening on the device) that don't specifically target them. Google is using these restriction to nudge developers towards Androids job scheduler feature, introduced in Lollipop, which manages background tasks in a way that's easier on your battery.

As the owner of a device on Android 8.0, you don't need to do anything to take advantage of the battery life (and performance) benefits of tighter background controls. Over the past couple of weeks using the final Oreo developer preview, I can't say I've noticed any huge difference in battery life on my Pixel XL compared to Nougat. (Then again, I've always found that phone's standby battery life to be solid.)

Android update diagram

Oreo makes it harder for misbehaving apps to devour your battery.

Another major pain point being addressed in Android 8.0 is OS updates. Through its new Project Treble initiative, Google is has created a modular structure that hardware companies can use to separate out their own customizations from the core OS. The idea is this will make it easier to push out firmware updates without completely reinventing the wheel. This isn't a panacea for Android's update woes, but it should significantly reduce the workload required to update a phone shipping on Android 8.0 to a hypothetical version 8.1 or 9.0, in addition to speeding up the rollout of security patches in the interim.

It's going to take years, not months to judge the success (or otherwise) of Google's new Project Treble.

It's going take time to judge how much of a success Project Treble has been. AC understands that it's not a hard requirement for OEMs shipping a phone on Android 8.0, but that Google will push device makers towards using Treble rather than continuing in the old way.

Watch this space.

Android O on Pixel C

Android 8.0: The Bottom Line

It's hard to get excited about any single feature in Android 8.0 Oreo, even for smartphone nerds like us. That's very much a product of where we are in the OS's lifespan right now, but it also speaks to the fact that Google is using this release to target specific areas — notifications, autofill, picture-in-picture, background battery life, Project Treble — as opposed to doing any major work on the user-facing side of Android.

As a result, Oreo is the sum of many smaller changes that make the OS easier to use, with better performance, fewer pain points and added convenience. Android still feels like Android, but in 8.0 it's more polished than ever.

Oreo is free from the early wonk that affected the first round of Android 7.0 releases.

That said, Nougat is still more than good enough for most folks, for the time being. And as Google and its partners continue to roll out security updates independently of OS updates, being out of step with the latest platform version doesn't mean you're open to malware. That's just as well, because if past years are any indication, we'll be well into 2018 before Oreo hits double figures in terms of its Android ecosystem share.

In the grand scheme of things, Project Treble could turn out to be the most significant addition in this version of Android, as Google finally picks away at the technical barriers that keep so many phones on older versions of the OS. At the same time, the introduction of picture-in-picture mode, as well as refinements to keyboard navigation, see Android shuffling closer to desktop/convertible OS status.

On the surface, this is a fairly safe release cycle for Android — evolution, not revolution. And true, most of us will see Oreo for the first time on a new 2018 handset, unless there's an unexpected rush among OEMs to update existing devices. (That's almost certainly not going to happen.)

But despite the lack of an exciting headline feature, Oreo is still an important update. More importantly, it appears to be free from the woes which affected early Nougat firmware for the Nexus 5X and 6P this time last year. And for Pixel and Nexus owners lucky enough to be on the early release track, they'll be among the first to experience the most stable and capable Android release in years.

Andrew Martonik and Jerry Hildenbrand contributed to this review.

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5 months ago

The new Amazon Fire HD 8 is still the best tablet for kids

5

I love my kids. But they're going to break things. Expensive things. So I don't buy them expensive things.

Sure, grown-ups love their tech. But as we all know too well, so do our kids. And while I'd love for mine to always have the latest and greatest, the fact is that's just a bad idea. My kid doesn't need a $1,000 tablet. Or even a $500 tablet, for that matter. So where to turn?

The Amazon Fire HD 8. We've had the 2016 model in my house since, well, since 2016. And now we have an updated model, starting at $79. That's with 16GB of storage and "special offers" — which means ads on the lock screen and notification pull-down. (What's crazy is that they don't really bother me that much.) The specs won't blow anyone out of the water, but it's still a pretty capable Android tablet. It's got access to Amazon's Appstore, so it has tons of books and videos and games on hand.

But most important is that if and when it gets dropped, you're not going to take out a second mortgage to replace it.

This is the only tablet I'd buy my kids at this point.

See at Amazon

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5 months ago

The Galaxy Tab S3 is now available in India for ₹47,990

3

The Galaxy Tab S3 goes up sale in India for ₹47,990 ($745).

The Galaxy Tab S3 is the best Android tablet currently available, and starting today, Indian customers will be able to get their hands on the tablet.

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