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5 months ago

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

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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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5 months ago

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

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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

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5 months ago

Android 8.0 Oreo review: Vive la évolution

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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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7 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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7 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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7 months ago

New Amazon Fire 7 is a modest upgrade and still a top cheap tablet

10

Amazon's latest revision to its cheapest tablet is definitely the best it has ever been.

That the 'all-new' Amazon Fire 7 would be a good, cheap tablet was probably never up for debate. We've been recommending its predecessor for some time because you can actually spend just $50 and get a good tablet.

That hasn't always been true of the Android hardware ecosystem, and the Fire 7 is still probably unique in its recommendation at that price point.

So, Amazon made it a little bit better and kept the price the same. It's a modest upgrade, but an upgrade nevertheless, though whether you should ditch your old one is a tougher question to answer.

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7 months ago

Google needs to build a Chrome tablet

58

Developers needs the right tool to get their products ready for the future of computing, and Google is the company that needs to build it.

Many people reading this will have paid at least a passing interest to Apple's WWDC 2017 announcements. Among all the hyperbole and salesmanship in the keynote address there was one thing that became clear: the iPad is closer than ever to the only "computer" most of us need. Apple is serious about making a tablet that's productive but simple to use, and this is going to evolve into the standard for regular consumers. At least Apple thinks so, and it's probably right.

That means Google needs to get on board and help define the future of this new-but-not-really-new thing. The good news is that it has a helluva head start with Chrome OS.

The software on a Chromebook is a good starting point for a next generation operating system.

A lot of people will disagree, but chances are a decent Chromebook is the only computer you need. Sure, content creators will need something with extra horsepower and the software tools to work with, but for the computer you buy for goofing around at home or doing your school work a Chromebook will probably work out fine. Hell, I spend most of my work week in front of one because I have everything I need and it's set up the way I like it. Chromebooks are great for the now but need some adjustment to be ready for the future.

Chrome already works on a tablet. Mostly. We know this because so many Chromebooks can be flipped around and turned into one. I still think my little Chromebook Flip is the best Android tablet you can buy because it has every app you need from Google Play and a real web browser. But it's thick and clunky to use as a tablet and some of the Chrome apps don't work as well with a touch interface as they need to. And let's be honest, the display isn't on par with a good tablet from Samsung or even the Pixel C. But the core experiences — a touch interface that works and an on-display keyboard — are in place and usable.

It's easy to take what we have now in the Chromebook Flip (or any other convertible Chromebook) and turn it into something better. We know it's easy because Microsoft and Apple are doing it and a device that attaches to a keyboard isn't a new idea. The Transformer series of tablets from ASUS is a great example of that. Hardware isn't an issue, though money probably is.

The company who can build a good Chrome tablet needs to be able to lose money on it. That means Google.

A good tablet isn't cheap to build, and that makes it expensive when it gets put on a shelf. The Galaxy Tab S3 or the latest iPad isn't priced the way it is just because. And, to be honest, people who will be willing to adopt a "new way to computer" aren't going to be satisfied with anything less. A good great 10-inch display with a high resolution, a decent processor and enough memory to hold a bunch of apps and web apps, and at least 128GBs worth of storage, is the minimum for a device that's supposed to make us all give up our real laptops. And make sure it has a decent keyboard and a sturdy way to attach it.

Samsung's not going to build this. It shouldn't because Android on a tablet isn't good enough to justify the price, but Chrome might be. At least when the Android runtimes are sorted and Android 8.0 becomes a thing and applications work better than they do now. The software needs to be sorted before it makes any sense to build an expensive Chrome tablet. That means Google needs to build it so there is real hardware to use when sorting out the new software.

It turns out that developers weren't willing to spend the time and money to make tablet apps for Android.

Google can afford to be that loss leader for a "new" hardware category. It's done it numerous times and tried to do it for Android tablets. While it worked for Android TV or Android Wear (mostly) it failed for the tablet because of the software. Developers don't have to do anything for their app to work on a tablet, but there's a difference between just working and working well. Making a great tablet app takes extra time and money that few companies are willing to invest. It's hard enough to make money with an app for a phone, let alone spending more to build an interface for a much smaller tablet market. It seems like Google expected developers to just do it, and it was wrong.

That's why Google now has to try and fix it. On a 10-inch screen, multiple apps doing their thing at the same time is pretty standard. Android 7 introduced new ways for developers to make things better in this situation, and Android 8 is going to help us use apps that weren't updated. Things won't be perfect, but they will be better and help the people making new apps see what they can do to cover both the small screen on a phone and the big screen on a tablet. Since Android apps run native in Chrome, everything a developer does also will apply here.

I still think we'll eventually see a single OS from Google that scales with the display and type of user input. You can call that Andromeda or Fuchsia or whatever you like. But to get there, Google needs to get started now so developers can be ready. With a Chrome tablet, we all can get started and whatever the future of Google's operating systems is, it will be better because developers are ready for it, too.

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7 months ago

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 currently on sale for $499, keyboard cover just $65

22

This is a steep discount, and we don't know how long it'll be around.

Samsung's new Galaxy Tab S3 hasn't been out for long, but there's a big sale on right now across multiple retailers that has dropped its price to $499 (or a tad less in some cases). Amazon, Best Buy, Samsung and more all have the Galaxy Tab S3 for at least $100 off the original price, with Amazon posting the lowest price at $491.22.

Adding to the fun, Samsung has also cut the price of the keyboard cover in half to a far more manageable $65. That means you could pick up the tablet and keyboard for just $556 ... which we have to say is a great deal.

See at Amazon
See at Best Buy
See at Samsung

As one of the only high-end Android tablets that's actually new, many may be taking a look at the Galaxy Tab S3 at this new lower price. At an original price of $729 for the tablet and keyboard it was a tough sell for many, but this may get it down into the range where it's easier to justify picking one up.

More: Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review

Though the Galaxy Tab S3 isn't perfect, it's a really solid big tablet that offers good hardware, a great screen, some nice tablet software features from Samsung and a respectable keyboard case. We have no idea how long this deal will be around, but considering it's available across so many retailers it seems as though Samsung is trying to make a nice early-summer push with its newest tablet.

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7 months ago

Best Android Tablet Under $100

Best Overall

Amazon Fire HD 8

See at Amazon

Amazon has pretty much nailed what it takes to make a good, low-cost tablet. It's been doing it for a while and what you get in the latest Fire HD 8 is pound-for-pound the best tablet around for less than $100.

It's got a decent screen, all the content you could wish for, Alexa, and enough power even to push some of the latest games. You don't have Google Play, but Amazon's Appstore is much better than in years past.

Bottom line: You can't do better below $100.

One more thing: You can only get the 16GB version for under $100, but it has microSD expansion.

Why the Amazon Fire HD 8 is the best

Not having the Google Play Store is no longer a reason not to recommend Amazon's tablets. The truth is that while some apps, namely Google's, will be missing, for most buying a cheap tablet it's not the end of the world.

Amazon is the best reason not to avoid cheap tablets anymore.

Amazon has cornered the market for affordable tablets with a focus on consumption. Its own services are front and center, of course, but you'll also find the other big services there to add to your tablet.

You're also getting pretty good hardware given the price. The 1280x800 display looks pretty good, 16GB of internal storage is OK but you can also slap in a massive microSD card and expand that by a lot. You're also looking at around 12-hours 'mixed use' battery life and a tablet that's strong enough to take a tumble or two.

It used to be the case that we'd warn you to stay well clear of cheap Android tablets. Amazon is the best reason that no longer applies.

Best for kids

Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition

See at Amazon

Beneath the giant, tough as boots case, this is basically a regular 7-inch Amazon Fire tablet. So why is it twice the price? You're getting double the base model's internal storage, that special kid-friendly case, and one heck of a warranty.

With the Kids Edition comes a two-year warranty where you can literally just cash in for a new one if your kid breaks it. No questions asked. That alone is worth the extra cost. That and the year of Freetime included to give the little ones some great, targeted content.

Bottom line: Everything that's good about the regular Fire tablet but with added kid-friendly bonuses

One more thing: The latest model supports expanded storage up to 256GB and dual-band WiFi.

A dual-booting alternative

Chuwi Hi8 Pro

See at Amazon

This brand you may never have heard of has produced an excellent, low-cost Android tablet that's also a Windows 10 tablet. It also has a 1920x1200 resolution 8-inch display, USB-C charging and a pretty capable Intel Atom x5 processor.

The Android part of this tablet may well fare worse when it comes to updates than the Windows portion, but there's a lot in this package for less than $100. The hardware is basically unrivaled at this price point, and it can be a little PC, too.

Bottom line: Half Windows, half Android, all great, budget tablet.

One more thing: The official keyboard case is also very affordable and can give you a mini laptop on the go.

Conclusion

It used to be the case that buying a cheap Android tablet was a bad thing to do. Thanks to Amazon, that's no longer the case. The best offering is the 8-inch, but you've also got smaller and larger versions, as well as those targeted at providing a great experience for your kids. It's hard to go wrong.

Best Overall

Amazon Fire HD 8

See at Amazon

Amazon has pretty much nailed what it takes to make a good, low-cost tablet. It's been doing it for a while and what you get in the latest Fire HD 8 is pound-for-pound the best tablet around for less than $100.

It's got a decent screen, all the content you could wish for, Alexa, and enough power even to push some of the latest games. You don't have Google Play, but Amazon's Appstore is much better than in years past.

Bottom line: You can't do better below $100.

One more thing: You can only get the 16GB version for under $100, but it has microSD expansion.

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7 months ago

ASUS ZenPad 3s 8.0 hands-on

22
ASUS ZenPad 3s 8.0

ASUS hasn't given up on Android tablets — its latest ZenPad looks like a decent metal-clad slate, though you'll need have to contend with the company's typically odd software UI.

Once upon a time it seemed like everyone wanted to release a cheap, small Android tablet. But unspectacular tablet sales — in part fuelled by the rise of larger phones — has cooled enthusiasm for the form factor among device makers. Nevertheless, Taiwanese manufacturer ASUS continues to push out Android tablets; its latest, the ZenPad 8s 8.0, wasn't included in its glitzy Computex press conference, but it was on display on the show floor in Taipei this week.

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8 months ago

Amazon Fire 7 vs Fire HD 8: Which should you buy?

11

In the battle of Amazon's all new tablets, which is the right one for you?

Amazon's latest revisions to its 7 and 8-inch Fire tablets will go on sale in early June 2017. They will completely replace the older models, and while both are modest upgrades, they're upgrades nonetheless.

And better still, while the hardware gets a little bit better, the price stays the same. So, once again Amazon has two affordable tablets that are actually worth buying. But which should you go for?

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8 months ago

T-Mobile Digits is coming May 31: What is it, and should you use it?

62

T-Mobile's Digits brings phone calls and texts into the 21st century, but at a time when people care little about those things, will it make a difference?

Back in December, T-Mobile unveiled a new service called Digits, making phone numbers less reliant on a SIM card, and expanding the simple phone number into the smartphone age.

Now that service is live and available to all T-Mobile customers for free on May 31. It's a re-imagining of the phone number, but it's also a way to entice more people to sign up to more expensive T-Mobile One plans.

And for all of its big talk, Digits is a bit confusing, so let's break it down.

What is Digits?

At its core, Digits is T-Mobile's way of utilizing its new IMS (IP Media Subsystem) backend to dynamically direct calls to any device, or store multiple numbers on a single device.

Basically, without the technical mumbo jumbo, it's a way to free the phone number from its legacy place, and to utilize the flexibility data-based nature of Voice over LTE and Voice of Wi-Fi to allow a call to take place, or to be received, in the most convenient place. This is very similar to Google Voice, and to many other Voice over IP services like Viber and Skype, but T-Mobile has one major advantage: it owns the network, and it distributes the phones.

So what can Digits really do for me?

Provided you're on one of T-Mobile's compatible postpaid plans (yes, this is yet another way for T-Mobile to upsell you), Digits can make it easier to manage phone calls in the increasingly inevitable situation you have multiple devices.

The basic idea is that if you receive a call on your traditional T-Mobile number, your phone should ring, along with any device — another phone, a computer, a tablet, even a connected smartwatch — at the same time. You can also make calls from any of those same devices without your phone nearby, and without the need to have a SIM card.

A secondary but for many people equally important feature is the ability to have more than one number available on a single device. So instead of having separate personal and work phones, you can have a single smartphone make and receive calls from two or more numbers.

This sounds a lot like Google Voice

Yes, it does. The major difference here is that T-Mobile is committing to a couple of things that even Google, which creates both Android and Google Voice, can't do:

  • It is integrating Digits directly into the Android phones it sells, working with manufacturers like Samsung to seamlessly add Digits support into devices like the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S7 and Gear S3.
  • It is making it easy to do so-called "SIM replication," which allows you to duplicate a phone number onto a second device, such as another smartphone or a connected smartwatch.

This is in addition to the Google Voice-like Digits app that's available for Android and iOS, to make and receive calls and texts from any device, anywhere. There's also a Digits portal on the web for people who sit in front of a computer all day and want to be able to initiate communications that way. And because the app is available natively and through an app, devices with SIM cards from AT&T, Verizon or Sprint — any carrier, really — can access Digits messages. If you lose your phone, for instance, you can download the Digits app onto a friend's device and make and receive calls and texts from there, too.

Like many cross-platform messaging services, call logs and messages also sync in real-time between devices, which is a huge boon to productivity if you don't always have your phone in front of you.

It's tailor-made for Android

Android is the only platform on which T-Mobile can rely to help Digits grow.

Digits is a cross-platform play, sure, but it is tailor-made for Android. Not only does iOS have its own cross-device communications protocol in iMessage, which may mess with Digits' ability to route texts, but Apple doesn't allow for any system-level alterations, rendering one of Digits' primary use cases moot.

Indeed, Android is the only platform on which T-Mobile can rely to help Digits proliferate, but by potentially limiting half of the population to merely an app-based experience, it is almost immediately cut off at the proverbial knees. Still, Digits has a five-device limit, and can easily be tuned to be used on an iPhone or iPad, especially since as of iOS 10 VoIP apps can take over the lock screen like a regular dialer.

The best Digits experience will always be on Android, and initially is only natively available on the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy Note 5, or LG G5 purchased through T-Mobile.

Unlike using the app, which will enable T-Mobile Digits when you log in for the first time, users of the native Digits experience on the above phones need to explicitly enable it in the T-Mobile account app by.

  1. Open the T-Mobile app.
  2. Tap Menu.
  3. Tap on Usage & Plans.
  4. Tap View line details.
  5. Scroll down to the DIGITS tile.
  6. Tap Unlock.
  7. On the unlock page, tap the Unlock button.

Does it cost anything?

All postpaid T-Mobile numbers can now access Digits for free. There is no additional fee at all, which is nice. That means that you'll be able to use Digits on a T-Mobile number and, through the app, any non-TMobile phone over Wi-Fi or cellular.

T-Mobile is also running a pretty nice promotion starting May 31 for those who want a second Digits line for, say, giving to online account signups or Craigslist ads. As long as you start the process with a T-Mobile One plan, upgrading to a T-Mobile One Plus or One Plus International line ($5/mo and $25/mo respectively) gets a second Digits line for free as long as that account type is active.

If you don't want to upgrade to a T-Mobile One Plus plan, an extra Digits line costs $10/mo when AutoPay is enabled.

Learn more

Where do I download the app?

Right here!

On May 31, you'll be able to log into the Digits app and begin using it on any device you want, receiving phone calls and text messages like you would on your main line.

So should I sign up?

Digits is an intriguing product, and an example of what it looks like when a carrier turns next-generation core technology like IMS and HLR (which works to virtualize SIM data on the core network) into something that is truly compelling to consumers.

At its core, Digits is about making the phone number more flexible by putting it — phone calls and text messages — on practically any device regardless of screen size or type. Tablet? Sure. Smartwatch? Absolutely.

The use cases for Digits are plentiful, and that may be its downfall; unless you know exactly why you should use such a service, I feel many people will be intimidated by the prospect of juggling one number across multiple devices or, even more so, multiple numbers on one device. The service's bugs have certainly been ironed out during the beta period, and there's no cost to try Digits once it launches May 31.

See Digits at T-Mobile

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8 months ago

Should you buy the all new Amazon Fire 7?

18

Is Amazon's newest budget tablet worth your $50?

The online giant is calling it the "all new Fire 7," which is perhaps more a marketing thing than actual hard truth when it comes to the tablet in question. It is new, and it is improved, but marketing hype is still marketing hype.

So, let's actually break down what is new and whether this latest budget tablet is worth your time.

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8 months ago

Pre-order a 3-pack of Amazon's newest Alexa-enabled Fire tablets and save 20%

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Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time with a discount on Amazon's latest Fire tablets!

Amazon's Fire tablet has been an extremely popular device since its release, and a large part of that is due to its aggressive price point. The company just announced a refreshed version of it with a higher contrast display, the addition of Alexa and more, yet kept it at the same price point. That's right, the new version still starts at just $49.99, but you can actually get it for less if you buy more of them.

You may be considering picking up a few of these for your family, and if you grab three of them at the same time you can save 20% on the purchase with promo code FIRE3PACK. This drops the price of three Fire tablets down to just $128.38, saving you $29.99.

The Fire tablet has a 7-inch IPS display and comes with a base of 8GB of storage in it. You can opt to upgrade that to 16GB of internal space for $20 more, or you could spend that extra $20 on a microSD card since the tablet can handle up to 256GB of expandable storage. You can grab one in black, yellow, blue, or red depending on your preference.

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For more great deals be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!

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8 months ago

Amazon's Fire tablets just got a big refresh

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Amazon is driving costs down even further, making its tablets irresistible.

Remember way back when there was such a thing as a company capable of competing with Amazon on price for tablets? Those days are long gone, and today Amazon is making sure things stay that way. Four of Amazon's tablets have been refreshed today with new features and colors, and the prices just keep getting better.

Lets see what we're looking at!

Amazon Fire 7 and Fire HD 8

The new Fire 7 tablet from Amazon is lighter and thinner than its predecessor, with a 7-inch IPS display Amazon claims is noticeably improved with higher contrast and less battery drain. This new tablet promises up to 6 hours of batter, 8GB of onboard storage with microSD card support up to 256GB, and Alexa enabled in the OS. If you're looking for a cheap tablet that isn't terrible to use, it's hard to argue with $50 for this offering.

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If you want something a little more capable, the Fire HD 8 bumps the screen resolution to 1280x800 and starts with 16GB of onboard storage. This version of the tablet also offers 12 hours of battery, and like the new 7-inch version comes in the standard black as well as Punch Red, Marine Blue and Canary Yellow. This upgraded experience will run you $80, which is clearly not much considering what you're getting.

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Amazon Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 Kids Edition

According to Amazon, the new Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 are already more durable than the current generation iPad. That doesn't stop the company from releasing a Kids Edition variant of its tablets with big silicone bumpers and a two-year "worry-free" guarantee to replace if you actually manage to break yours. The new Fire 7 Kids Edition increases the default storage to 16GB onboard and includes a year of Amazon's FreeTime Unlimited so your kids have access to more apps and shows and books than can be read in that timeframe. This new kid-friendly setup will run you $100, and comes in the three colorful silicone options based on your choice.

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The HD 8-inch variant, like the Adult version, has a better display and larger battery. It's also packing 32GB of onboard storage by default and includes the same two-year guarantee as the smaller version. Like the Adult Fire HD 8, you're paying $30 more than the smaller version for the boost in specs.

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Amazon is clearly not done making a lot of noise when it comes to inexpensive tablets packing all of the best features the company has to offer, so will you be upgrading? Sound off in the comments!

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