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1 week ago

Target's Black Friday ad is here with a $30 Google Home Mini and more

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Target's Black Friday ad is here, and there are some deals you won't want to miss!

Black Friday will be here before you know it, and there's no better time to start preparing than now. Target is one of the many retailers that will be open on Thanksgiving with tons of deals, and there are some you will want to know about, and others that are worth passing.

Target will be open from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Thanksgiving and will re-open at 6 a.m. on Black Friday. It has already announced that all online orders will ship for free, with no minimums, and a bunch of the Black Friday deals will be available to purchase online and then pick up in a store near you.

Some of the hottest deals that we spotted include a Google Home Mini for $29 with a $10 Target Gift Card, discounted LEGO sets, up to $300 in gift cards when activating a Galaxy S8, S8+, Note 8, or iPhone 8, and $20 off the brand new Amazon Echo.

Of course, there are video games for as little as $15, Blu-ray's for as low as $4, and CDs starting at $8.

Check out the Thrifter Black Friday Hub

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1 week ago

Sprint's parent company is increasing its stake in the U.S. carrier

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"Sprint is a critical part of our plan to ensure that we can deliver our vision to American consumers."

Talks about a T-Mobile and Sprint merger have been happening for years, and as you probably heard over the weekend, those talks were finally put to rest. T-Mobile recently issued a press release announcing that it and Sprint were "unable to find mutually agreeable terms", and as such, we shouldn't hold our breath for a merger between the two carriers anytime soon.

Shortly after this news broke, Sprint's parent organization – SoftBank Group – issued a press release announcing that it'll be increasing its stake in the U.S. carrier.

This increased stake will happen through open market transactions and other matters, but SoftBank Group states that it has no plans of increasing its current ownership of Sprint to 85% or higher as a result of this new initiative.

Per SoftBank Group's CEO and Chairman, Masayoshi Son –

We are entering an era where billions of new connected devices and sensors will come online throughout the United States. Continuing to own a world class mobile network is central to our vision of ubiquitous connectivity. Sprint is a critical part of our plan to ensure that we can deliver our vision to American consumers and we are very confident in its future.

It's unclear as to whether or not this move by SoftBank will have any implications for U.S. customers, but with the T-Mobile merger now dead, we'll likely see Sprint make a big push in the coming months to make itself as attractive and competitive as ever.

Unpacking the doomed T-Mobile / Sprint merger

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1 week ago

Google Pixel 2 second opinion: Close to perfect

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Is the Google Pixel 2 all it's cracked up to be? Heck yes it is.

I'm a fan of smaller phones, so when Google put the Pixel 2 up for sale I went for the mainline version. I also used the original smaller Pixel since it came out a lot more than the 2016 Pixel XL, so I knew beforehand which phone I wanted. So far, I'm not disappointed, and there are a few things I really love.

You should probably check out the video review and read the full Pixel 2 review to get a handle on all the specs and features of the phone, too. I'm not going to go into a lot of things nearly as deep as was done in the full review. This is more of my take on the phone after I've been using it for a while than an in-depth look at it from top to bottom. These are important, too!

Read the full Pixel 2 review

The best of Android

I'll start with the question a lot of people seem to have, especially folks thinking about moving to Android from Windows or iOS: Is the Pixel 2 the best Android phone you can buy right now?

Yes. It's not the best LG phone you can buy, or the best Samsung phone, or the best of anything else any company has to offer. But when you want to see Android without any extras added so you can pick your own extra features from Google Play, the Pixel 2 is better than "stock" phones any other company like Motorola or Nokia has to offer.

The Pixel 2 is the best "regular" Android phone you can buy.

Is it the best overall phone? I don't know. To me it is, as I don't want another company deciding which features I have installed, or even a carrier having a say. When I spend my money, I'll decide, thank you very much. Plenty of other people feel differently and want what phones like the Note 8 or V30 have to offer. I can't decide which type of person you are. If you're new to Android, I suggest you shy away from the everything but the kitchen sink model and buggy, slow software that Samsung and others use and stick with "regular" Android instead, as it's very close to what you're used to from Apple or Microsoft.

While no company makes phones that run unaltered Android (not even Google), the Pixel 2 comes very close and outperforms everything else when it comes to doing the things I want it to do, using the features and apps I have installed. It's not perfect, but without doing things like rebooting regularly or manually deleting cache for my apps it zooms along and keeps me in touch with family and friends, lets me have a little fun and keeps me informed about the things I want or need to know. And it has one helluva great camera to boot.

An upgrade from last year

As mentioned, I used the 2016 Pixel a lot. The Pixel XL was great for Daydream (and still is) but I never found much of an advantage with the larger size. When the Pixel 2 arrived, I literally turned off my 2016 model and activated it, setting it up from the latest backup and never missed a beat.

Using the Pixel 2 feels a lot like using the original Pixel. That's a good thing.

There are a few differences, but the experience is pretty much the same. The 2016 Pixel is just as snappy as its successor and is a fine phone that could be a great deal if you find a nice used one.

Don't buy a 2016 Pixel new, though; the extra $100 you spend on this year's model means two more years of software updates and warranty, and the camera alone is worth it.

The three biggest differences between the old and new Pixel are the camera, two front-facing speakers, and the headphone jack (or lack thereof). They are about the same size and shape, they have very comparable displays and the very same software. The Pixel 2 has a Project Fi eSIM (which works great and was simple to set up) along with Active Edge, which lets you bring up Google Assistant by squeezing the sides. At this time, though, I'm not finding either to be very compelling. Fi setup with a regular SIM card is easy enough and Assistant is always there when you call it. I do see why people would like Active Edge so I won't dismiss it, I just don't use it very often.

The longer warranty and extra year of support make the Pixel 2 a better buy than the original and maybe even worth an upgrade.

I'll say more about the camera and the audio situation a little further down, but the Pixel 2 is a worthy upgrade just for the warranty and the extra year of updates. If you're upgrading from something else, the Pixel 2 is definitely the one to get and worth more than the $100 difference from last year's model.

The display

You can't say the words Pixel 2 without thinking of the screen. What you need to know is that none of the issues surrounding the Pixel 2 XL display affect the smaller version. You don't have the extra-visible tint when holding it at an angle, scrolling won't make everything look grainy and weird, and while normal OLED burn-in is to be expected, it doesn't have the strange hybrid burn effect that some are seeing on the 2 XL.

None of the display drama seen with the Pixel 2 XL is here.

The colors seem to be a little warmer than the XL's display, too, so things look closer to the way you expect when you're using it. It covers 95% of the DCI-P3 color space, has a 100,000:1 contrast ratio and is an overall good 24-bit OLED panel. As a plus, work Google is doing to make colors more vivid on the larger Pixel 2 XL will also be able to give the Pixel 2 a bit of extra punch if you want it.

Eventually, Google will figure all of this out and, hopefully, force developers to support color profiles if they want their apps on Google Play, and we'll look back on all this with the same nonchalance we did for previous Galaxy S phones before Samsung got it right with the S6.

The Pixel 2 has a good display with the same AMOLED drawbacks as all the rest, but nothing more.

It's still an OLED screen. That means it will show yellow or blue or even pink on a white background when you tilt it away from you, and things like the battery meter, clock colon, and navigation buttons will eventually burn into the screen. I've called this "normal" behavior, but as a commenter once pointed out to me, it's a thing that the companies making OLED displays need to fix rather than a thing we need to accept. One day we'll have a display that looks as good as a Super LCD at all viewing angles, has the unlimited black depth and contrast ratio of OLED and doesn't ever burn in or ghost. For now, we have good displays of each type and a good OLED one is on the Pixel 2.

Bluetooth, headphones, and Snap, Crackle, and Pop

The Pixel 2 does have great speakers, but they don't make up for the headphone jack's absense.

I hate that the headphone jack was taken away.

There's no getting around it, and the headphones I like to use now need to have a dongle swinging from the cord that I'll eventually lose, or they can just stay at home. The 2016 Pixel didn't have any extras that made it a great audio powerhouse like we've seen from LG and others, but I could put my headphones into the hole and listen to music or a video without bothering anyone else.

To somewhat alleviate the pain, the Pixel 2 does have two front-facing speakers, which are plenty loud and as tinny sounding as a tiny speaker with no enclosure will always sound. To me, though, they are just an extra way to bother other people and I'd gladly trade them for a headphone jack. And before anyone says anything about "old tech" they need to have an excuse ready for 100 plus-year-old tech called the transistor that's still in use for phones and every other modern gadget.

I've wrangled a pair of the Made for Google Libratone Q Adapt Wireless On-Ear Headphones to use, and they're OK. They sound as good as wired headphones would with the Pixel and Pixel 2, but they also are another thing to keep charged. They also sound pretty poor when compared to my favorite headphones and a music player or a phone like the HTC 10 or LG V20. It's certainly a trade I don't want to make, so I don't listen to music very often when I'm out without something that can play it decently. It's just not worth keeping track of what's charged and what's not.

Taking away the headphone jack means I don't listen to music as often as I used to.

I'm not seeing any other issues with Bluetooth. Granted, I don't have a bunch of Bluetooth "stuff" here, but the Pixel 2 connects just fine to my desktop, my MacBook Pro, and my Pixelbook. It also works as expected with our Klipsch portable Bluetooth speaker or with a Logitech Bluetooth audio adapter connected to my stereo. We don't have Bluetooth in any of our cars here and mostly use Chromecast for streaming audio, so I'm not the best person to judge any Bluetooth issues, but I don't see any. Your mileage may vary.

I'm also not hearing the pops and snaps through the top speaker that many others are, but understand the issue well enough to see the problem. Google's solution of toggling NFC while on a call will fix it, but they probably should look at how much power is being sent to the NFC antenna, or why it's positioned in a place that may need that much power. Passive RFID for contactless communication only needs a millimeter or two of range to properly work and my Pixel 2 will read an RFID tag at five to seven centimeters. I'm assuming a proper long-term fix for a point bump hardware revision can tone things down a bit, but I could be wrong. Either way, shutting off the NFC antenna when a call is active works, and Google needs to get the fix out ASAP.

The camera

The warranty and extra life for updates may be the sensible reason you should buy a Pixel 2, but the camera is the fun reason. It's everything you've heard and then some.

Google's combination of machine learning and intelligent HDR processing make the camera in the Pixel 2 — both models have the exact same camera hardware and software — the best camera in a phone you can buy today. The hardware and software have been improved from the original Pixel 2, and the one thing Google was unable to do in 2016 was add OIS (optical image stabilization) and has adjusted its camera magic so that it works on the Pixel 2. That will help when you have the shakes.

Software-based photography will only get better with time. You can't change lenses.

The Pixel 2 also has a dedicated SoC for machine learning called the Pixel Visual Core. It gets enabled in Android 8.1 for Google's HDR+ algorithms (support for third parties will follow soon after) and will make the camera even better because the "smarts" that can recreate a scene will learn more, learn faster and be able to intelligently recreate missing data. Computational photography is something I'm fascinated with, and pixel-peeping photos at magnifications like 2400% show how great the Pixel 2 can do right now. The addition of a dedicated SoC will hopefully blow our collective minds.

The Pixel 2 can also do "portrait" photography with a single lens. This is also part of Google's software magic, and somehow enough data can be analyzed to fake a depth map without adding a second focal point. None of this is new tech, but it is tech we've never seen on a phone and never seen at an affordable price.

Like all fixed focal length phone cameras regardless of the number of lenses, the portrait mode still looks, well, bad. Blurring the background or foreground and focusing on one shape as the subject is a lot easier than recreating the real unfocused look that our eyes or a more capable camera can recreate, and no matter which phone you use, it shows. As fascinating as the idea of how the Pixel 2 can do this as well as the iPhone 8 or Note 8 with only one lens is, I'm still looking forward to when it will get better across the board.

Portrait photos on tiny fixed lenses with no real aperture looks bad every time. The Pixel 2 looks no worse than phone cameras with two lenses.

The one drawback (or hilarious unintended feature, depending on when it happens) of doing everything through an algorithm is that when it fails, it fails spectacularly. Most of the time, though, it doesn't fail. I'm not a big camera phone guy. I don't leave the house without a "gear bag" hanging from my wheelchair, so I always have a camera stashed away somewhere. A phone that can take a decent spur of the moment photo is good enough for my use, so just about every phone since the Nexus 5 will work for me. But I love playing with new tech and find myself taking at least twice the number of pictures with a phone as I used to, even if only to look at the results then delete them. If you really love a good camera on your phone like many other people do, you'll love the one on the Pixel 2.

Everything else, and should you buy this thing? Yes!

Battery life has been fine and I never hit the sheets without at least 15 - 20% of charge left. I plug it in on my nightstand, make sure the alarm is set and unplug it in the morning. It's never locked up or rebooted that I can see (the only reboot was to install the 8.1 Developer Preview Beta) and phone calls, data speeds, and every-day functionality exceed my expectations.

Should you buy the only phone that will still be supported in 2020? Yes.

I have the Project Fi eSIM activated and also have either a GoPhone an AT&T Prepaid or T-Mobile SIM card in the slot and can switch on the fly without rebooting or any hiccups. Everything I want or need it to do, it does without any problems. Like the 2016 Pixel, it just works.

If you want a phone that doesn't try to be everything all at once with a laundry list of features you'll never use or need, and aren't into the extra tall no-bezel thing that almost every other high-end phone is chasing, then yeah. The Pixel 2 is the one I'd recommend to you. The camera, the two-year warranty, and the three-year support promise are worth the premium over some other great phones even if you don't care about having the latest version of Android and any benefits or features that come with.

No phone is perfect, but for me the Pixel 2 comes really close.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Google Store Project Fi Verizon Best Buy

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1 week ago

How did Amazon screw up the Echo Show's best feature so badly?

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Amazon Echo Show

Echo Show is good at showing headlines, but very bad at showing anything that's actually important. And that's a problem.

Update Nov. 6, 2017: In light of the fact that there's a ton of breaking news early this week — actual important stuff like mass shootings in church and huge document dumps and civil unrest and political investigations and ... — we're re-upping this post. If you don't see anything of substance on your Echo Show news feed, it's Amazon just protecting you from any actual seriousness.

It's Sunday morning. Past the breakfast hour and closing in on lunch. I've been trying to come up with ways to make myself feel better after seeing the carnage in Charlottesville, Va., and the predictable responses on Twitter and Facebook and from our political leaders. It's times like these that I don't want to think at all about tech toys. (And to be clear, this is hardly the first time. Or the second. Or the third. And I'm hardly alone in this feeling.)

But something stood out as I stood in the kitchen making breakfast. And it took me a few hours before I realized what it was.

It was the Amazon Echo Show. Alexa with a screen. I'd chuckled a little earlier in the day reading blogger-turned-investor-turned-blogger M.G. Siegler's "Quick Thoughts on Amazon's Echo Show."

What really sold me was that while I was making coffee, it was next to me displaying news headlines. ... This sounds obvious. I mean, we all walk around every single day with devices in our pockets that can access any information — including news headlines — at any time. But there's something profound about having it pushed to you in an ambient way.

I agree. And once you're bludgeoned with information the way I was at a newspaper starting from 19 years old — it was my job to try to tame the waterfall — it's a hard habit to give up. Echo Show is perfect for this. Or, rather, it can be. Eventually.

If it's not timely, and it's not important, then why is it being pushed in front of my eyes?

I can say this with certainty: The afterglow of Echo Show headlines will wear off pretty quickly. Maybe it'll be when you wonder why you're seeing a headline that's two hours old (an eternity in online news time). Or maybe it's when you've seen 13 headlines in a row that you just don't care about. The image at the top of this post — promoting a "Game of Thrones" Episode 5 preview, is showing the day after the episode aired. What good is that?

Or maybe it's the morning after a domestic terrorist event when you're walking through the kitchen and don't see a single headline about it on the Echo Show.

That's right. Not a word about Charlottesville and the racist Nazis who directly contributed to the death of a woman. (And indirectly to the deaths of two law enforcement officers whose helicopter crashed.)

Not a single headline that I saw in the morning. Or in the 10 minutes I left a camera trained at the Echo Show.

As I'm writing most of this piece about 9 hours later, I still don't see any headlines about Charlottesville. ... Fast-forward to Monday morning. ... Still nothing. No headlines. No videos. No still images.

Echo Show isn't exactly a font of information just yet. At least nothing timely. Or of any real import.

Does Amazon worry about our showing us anything remotely provocative? Or is it just bad at this?

The question now is why. I don't think Amazon's doing anything nefarious here. And I don't even think it's about Charlottesville or the current political landscape. I think it's probably more a matter of not wanting to surface anything too provocative or potentially upsetting. And there's something to be said for that.

In fact, that's pretty much what Amazon said for that when I asked. Here's a quote from a company representative:

For trending topics on Echo Show, we primarily surface lifestyle, entertainment, and sports news since it's a communal device that the whole family sees and uses. If customers want to hear business or political news, we offer the daily Flash Briefing which offers a variety of news outlets to choose from. As with everything we do, the Echo Show trending topics experience will continue to improve and evolve over time based on customer feedback.

Fair enough, though I'd still argue the world ain't always a pretty place. It's not really protecting anyone here.

The good news is that this is an easy problem to fix. In lieu of actually improving the headlines feature itself, Amazon could let the user tailor the options. More news, less fluff. More from one source over another. It's limitless, really.

The problem right now is that the Echo Show headlines are extremely limited. And dated. And that just makes Echo Show — and Amazon — look silly and out of touch.

Amazon Echo

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

Are you going to pick up an Essential Phone for $449?

61

A $250 discount is hard to argue with.

When the Essential Phone initially debuted earlier this year at its introductory price of $699, it left critics and consumers alike feeling quite polarized. The handset has some of the best hardware of any phone released this year, but the myriad of camera and performance issues made the Essential Phone difficult to recommend.

Numerous software updates and a substantial price cut later, and the Essential Phone is now more appealing than it's ever been. Essential has made massive improvements to the camera speed and quality, and the recent drop from $699 to $499 made it much easier to swallow with the shortcomings the device still has.

On top of that $200 price drop, Best Buy recently took another $50 off for a final price of only $449. Here's what some of our forum users had to say about this latest discount.

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gibsonb2 11-05-2017 08:07 AM “

Dang... There are quickly becoming ZERO reasons not to buy this phone.

Reply
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DominionRoofs 11-05-2017 08:58 AM “

Thanks very much for the heads up. I just placed my order for the white. Also, sent in a return request for my Pixel 2 XL. I will be saving exactly $529. Yeah, I can live with an inferior camera and a tad less speed for that!

Reply
*/
Wildo6882 11-05-2017 09:04 AM “

Man, this is getting REALLY compelling. I’ve been debating between this, a Pixel 2, or the iPhone X. I’m usually one to try to have the latest and greatest, but the money savings on this thing is really starting to make sense over those other two phones. Man, what to do?!

Reply
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cz9h3d 11-05-2017 02:24 PM “

I bought white via Amazon last week, and got 10% off due to one day late in shipping, so $449. Also, they will split payments into 5 months, which what attractive. So far I'm liking the phone. Still getting use to the "small" big screen vs. my Nexus 6P. It's much faster (of course). I would love to have a "perfect" camera (i.e. iPhone X or Pixel 2), but certainly not at twice the price! ...

Reply

With all that said, we'd like to know – Will you be purchasing the Essential Phone for $449?

Join the conversation in the forums!

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1 week ago

AT&T Buyer's Guide: Everything you need to know

Find out what AT&T has to offer.

AT&T is the second-largest wireless carrier in the U.S. with over 100 million subscribers across the country. It offers nationwide Voice and LTE data coverage on its network, using GSM and LTE technology for both voice and data, primarily on 700, 850, 1700 and 1900MHz spectrm.

AT&T offers unlimited talk and text wireless plans for individuals and families and have deals on the latest phones including the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. If you're a loyal AT&T customer for other services, you'll be happy to know that there are benefits to bundling your services together, but if you're strictly looking for a wireless plan, AT&T's base offerings are definitely on the pricier side — though they do offer affordable prepaid plans and the option to save by bringing your own device.

Read on to learn more about what AT&T has to offer, and find the best plan and phone deal for you!

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Best Individual Plans

AT&T offers a range of mobile service options for individuals. We'll start off with their standard talk, text, and data plans available when you're buying a new phone through AT&T, then look at AT&T's prepaid no-contract options, and finally your options for bringing your own device to the AT&T Network.

Talk, Text and Data plans

AT&T offers two base talk, text, and data plans for individual lines — the AT&T Unlimited Choice plan, and the Unlimited Plus plan.

The Unlimited Choice plan starts at $65 a month for a single line (before discounts) and includes unlimited talk, text, and data with standard definition video streaming and data speeds that max out at 3Mbps. It's a great option if you don't want to worry about managing monthly quotas and don't mind the slower data speeds for video.

The Unlimited Plus plan is significantly more expensive at $95 a month (before discounts), but that includes high definition video streaming and 10GB of mobile hotspot usage all delivered at the fastest speeds available on AT&T's nationwide 4G LTE network. Both Unlimited Choice and Unlimited Plus plans include an HBO subscription, which lets you watch all your favorite HBO shows on all of your devices.

Keep in mind the cost of these plans do not include payments towards a new phone. If you're trying to budget getting a new phone on contract with AT&T, add an extra $25 to get a closer estimation of what your monthly bill might look like. However, there are ways to bring that bill down a bit. You can save $5 a month by signing up for AutoPay and paperless bills ($10 per month for multiple lines). And all DirectTV customers (existing and new) save an additional $25 when bundled with wireless service.

You'll also save if you add extra line to your account up to four lines total — Unlimited Choice goes down to $40 a month per line, while Unlimited plus goes down to $50 a month per line (after Autopay discount).

AT&T offers a number of bundles that include DirectTV alongside its other services, so if you're looking for a total home package through one carrier you may lock down a pretty good deal that includes TV, home phone, internet and wireless all through AT&T.

To find the pricing offered in your area, you'll want to go to AT&T's website and enter your ZIP code.

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AT&T Prepaid

Not interested in locking yourself into a long-term contract with AT&T? You may be interested in a prepaid plan instead. AT&T offers GoPhone plans for those looking for cheap and functional wireless services without the hassle of dealing with overage fees and or paying for features you don't end up using.

Monthly GoPhone plans start at $30 for unlimited talk and text and 1GB of data, and it also offer decent pay-as-you-go plans which start as low as $2 a day for unlimited minutes and texts. With pay-as-you-go, you're not charged on days that you don't place or receive a call or send a text.

You can also get an unlimited prepaid plan, which offers up to 22GB of data capped at 3Mbps, for $60 per month after discounts.

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Bring your own device to AT&T

If you're switching over to AT&T from another carrier, you may be able to bring your current phone over to the network. You'll want to make sure that your device has been unlocked by your previous carrier and then check its eligibility on AT&T's network. You're also able to connect laptops, tablets and mobile hotspots to an AT&T wireless plan, which you can learn more about in store.

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Best Family Plans

AT&T offers shared data plans for families with unlimited domestic talk and text and worry-free data — you won't receive overage charges when you've reached your data allotment.

Add up to 10 lines to your plan and find the monthly data amount that meets your family's needs. Starting at $80 for 10GB of shared data, your best value for a data-hungry family is the 25GB plan for $110. Spread across a family of four, that averages to 7.5GB per phone, which is more than enough to support regular streaming of audio and video, along with everything else your family uses their phones for.

Since AT&T offers much more than just wireless service, you have the option to add a plethora of features to your plan. First, you can add more devices such as LTE-enabled tablets and wearables for a monthly access charge, as well as laptops and mobile hotspot devices.

More importantly for families, you can add both home phone and internet to your plant for only $30. AT&T also offers cable bundles if you're interested in cable TV packages.

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Best Phones

Looking to buy a brand new phone through AT&T? It can offer you the latest and greatest devices — for both Android and iOS — including:

You have two options for buying phones through AT&T — you can buy them outright, or pay no money down with AT&T Next, a payment plan service that links the cost of the phone to your wireless contract, as you pay for the phone in monthly installments with an option to upgrade to a new device in two years. You may choose put a down payment on the device to bring the monthly payment down, or consider trading in an older phone to put cash towards your new one.

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Best Deals on AT&T

Right now, AT&T is pushing a couple great deals for unlimited data plans.

AT&T's Unlimited choice plan is jam-packed with awesome features for heavy mobile users and fans of HBO. You get 22GB of high speed data before AT&T may slow your speeds and 10GB of mobile hotspot per line per month. You can get four lines for just $160 a month (that's $40 a month per line) which is a great option for families.

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AT&T is also offering Direct TV for just $25 a month for 24 months with an AT&T Unlimited Plus wireless plan. We're all for cutting cable, and technically Direct TV isn't cable so if you're looking for a deal on a TV package this might be right for you!

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The ZTE Axon M is available exclusively through AT&T. It's a pretty unique device with double the screen! To promote this new device, AT&T is offering a $100 Visa Reward Card when you buy a ZTE Axon M. The phone itself is $725 if you're into the concept here.

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How to cancel AT&T

If you're considering signing a multi-year contract with AT&T, you need to know the details and processes for canceling your service. This is where reading the fine print of your contract ahead of time comes in handy. Depending on your wireless plan, you may have to pay an Early Termination Fee or the outstanding balance of an installment agreement like AT&T Next plans.

You have two options for canceling your services with AT&T:

  • Call 1-800-331-0500 or 611 from an AT&T wireless phone, and then follow the call prompts to cancel your service.
  • Cancel in-person at an AT&T store near you.

If you've decided to cancel your service within 14 days of activation, you'll want to know about AT&T's equipment return policies.

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How to unlock an AT&T phone

If you plan on buying a phone through AT&T, you may want to know the process for unlocking your phone. AT&T has complete instructions on its support website, and the whole process should take no more than three days to process.

The first step is determining whether your device is eligible to be unlocked, and of course AT&T has a site for that. Unlocking your AT&T phone is a fairly painless process, requiring you to fill out some forms with your AT&T credentials and your device's IMEI number. Once your request has been processed, you are free to connect your device to another wireless carrier.

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Finding an alternative carrier that uses AT&T's network

If you want to use the AT&T network but are looking for plans that offer a better deal, you might be interested in a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). MVNOs are often referred to as alternative carriers, and they work by partnering with the big four carriers to piggyback on their networks. That means they can offer better deals to consumers without needing to worry about infrastructure upkeep.

They've become increasingly reliable over the years and offer the cheapest plans in the mobile industry. There are currently 12 MVNOs that operate on AT&T, including Cricket Wireless, Straight Talk, and H20 Wireless.

Learn More

Update, November 2017: This article was last updated with the most recent AT&T pricing.

Carriers

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1 week ago

Samsung thinks iPhone owners need to 'grow up' and get a Galaxy

260

This one cuts pretty deep.

Samsung and Apple will always throw shade at one another, but the former has always been a bit more on the nose about it. Samsung's commercials have often chastised Apple for what it sees as bad product decisions, and even poked fun at iPhone owners at the same time. If you think that's a good strategy for Samsung to take, you'll find its latest 1-minute commercial to be a thing of beauty.

It's a pretty simple story to follow, and one that cuts pretty deep if you've seen anyone live through years of using an iPhone. The excitement of a new model time after time, followed by several examples of new iPhones coming up short on features while showing how Samsung handled the situation better. Running out of storage. Not having a big screen or stylus. Not being waterproof. Not having a headphone jack. And ... that was one hell of a dig at the iPhone X at the end.

You could easily see these sorts of commercials as being quite petty on Samsung's part, particularly as it isn't much of an underdog when you look at global sales numbers. But you can't argue that Samsung is still trying to convince many longtime iPhone users to at least look at a Galaxy, and there's no better way to do that than a commercial that points out some of the more absurd realities of using an iPhone compared to its phones over the years.

Samsung doesn't really have much to lose here, I don't think. What's your view?

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Best Buy

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1 week ago

The state of original content for Google Daydream

Sometimes "Original" doesn't mean good.

Google has been partnering with assorted production and sporting companies to produce VR content for its Daydream Viewer. I think the idea is to show what can be done to improve on normal TV formulas and how companies can enhance peoples viewing with VR. Some of their attempts fall wildly short of "enhancing". Let's take a look at some of the examples.

Note: I will be critiquing this content by its use of VR first and foremost. The actual content is secondary to how the content uses VR to enhance the experience. If it wasn't then all the sportsball stuff would instantly be the worst, I don't like sport so will concentrate on the VR instead.

Read more at VRHeads

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1 week ago

Unpacking the doomed T-Mobile / Sprint merger

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The T-Mobile / Sprint merger isn't going forward ... for now.

For what appears to be the third time in under four years, a proposed T-Mobile / Sprint merger has fallen apart, leaving the U.S. wireless market in the same confused state it's been in for a long time. According to a press release issued by T-Mobile, "the prospect of combining with Sprint has been compelling for a variety of reasons, including the potential to create significant benefits for consumers and value for shareholders," but those reasons were not elaborated upon.

The truth is that U.S. mobile customers have never had it better: T-Mobile's 'unlimited' gambit in February largely upended the way AT&T, Sprint and Verizon do business, putting pressure on all three to offer more value for its users' monthly fees, or risk them leaving for pinker pastures. And, as true competition tends to do, that's exactly what happened: T-Mobile has led the industry in net smartphone additions throughout 2017 (and for many quarters before that), while Verizon and AT&T have been forced to match it feature for feature.

But T-Mobile's success has not precluded the advancement of its biggest rivals. While AT&T struggled to add new wireless customers in the third quarter, its wireless business is very healthy, and its churn (the number of customers that leave for another carrier) remains quite low at 0.84%. Verizon added far more postpaid smartphone customers (the ones that pay more per month) than AT&T in the third quarter, and earned a tidy sum of money in the process, but it too is struggling against the unceasing momentum of T-Mobile.

Sprint also added more postpaid wireless subscribers than analysts expected (PDF), but that's because it's been undercutting everyone else by a considerable margin, a move that's not sustainable in the long-run.

So, yeah, a lot of numbers and stats to throw at you on a Sunday, but the upside is this: competition is good for the whole industry, and the more T-Mobile does to entice wireless customers to sign up for its compelling T-Mobile ONE unlimited plan, the harder the other three will work to prevent that from happening.

A T-Mobile / Sprint merger wouldn't have automatically killed competition in the U.S., but it would have had major implications in the long-term. Many analysts that supported the merger used other countries like Canada and Australia to show that three wireless providers can still foster healthy competition, but as someone who lives in Canada I can tell you that's not necessarily true. A lot depends on the country's size, the regulatory environment, and the way that people buy their phones.

A study conducted in late 2016 by Nordicity Group on behalf of the Canadian telecom regulator, the CRTC, found that Americans (and Canadians) pay among the highest costs for mobile service in the developed world, and while the unlimited plans that debuted in early 2017 increase the amount of data available per dollar spent, cheap high-speed data is still out of reach for many Americans. Those who don't need unlimited plans have access to MVNOs, or alternative carriers, either owned by the Big Four carriers themselves (Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, MetroPCS) or licensed out through a network sharing agreement.

It's never been better to be a wireless customer in the U.S.

Consolidation in the wireless market would not only eliminate choice in the high end, reducing the number of unlimited data providers from four to three, but it would have major implications for the dozens of MVNOs that rely on T-Mobile and Sprint — and their fierce pricing war — to balance out the prepaid market.

At the same time, consolidation may be good for those less price-sensitive; a combined T-Mo/Sprint would offer an incredible amount of capacity, bringing together a treasure trove of low- and high-band spectrum that would give the combined entity the strongest LTE network position in the country. With both companies moving towards 5G, capacity is going to be more important than ever.

Some MVNOs, like AC favorite Project Fi, which relies on both T-Mobile and Sprint, would likely benefit in both speed and coverage from a combined SprinT-mo, even though wholesale costs per gigabyte would rise in the long-term. And it's important to realize that, even together, the two carriers would still be behind AT&T and Verizon in terms of total subscribers — Verizon and AT&T have around 148 and 139 million subs, respectively, while SprinT-mo would have a combined 125 million or so.

The network nerd in me is kind of sad to see this merger fall apart — I think it would have been very interesting to see just how much better T-Mobile's network would become with Sprint's incredible capacity. But the consumer in me, the Canadian that knows how disastrous a three-carrier system has been for the country to America's north, is relieved.

A few more thoughts on this week:

  • I picked up an iPhone X. It's the best iPhone by a mile, and the notch stops being distracting after an hour or so. The hardware is unimpeachable — Apple and Samsung are really the leaders in this regard. I'm a big fan of the stainless steel band, and the OLED screen is fantastic.
  • Moreover, I think Face ID is transformational; this is nothing like Samsung's eye-scanning half-measures. It's not "accurate most of the time" the way it is on the Galaxy S8 or Note 8 — it's 100% accurate in basically every lighting situation. And it's fast; I barely even realize I'm being authenticated since I just swipe as soon as I pick up the phone and it usually lets me right in. Every Android user should want something like Face ID.
  • Before I get murdered in the comments, I'm not suggesting that Android OEMs get rid of the fingerprint sensor; there are numerous situations where a finger is both faster and more subtle than sticking your face in the path of a camera. But I hope Face ID forces Samsung to overhaul the way it approaches facial biometrics, because this year's phones don't even come close to the iPhone X.
  • I am so ready to give the Essential Phone another try. At $499, this thing is a deal.
  • I'm totally smitten with the HTC U11+, which probably won't come to North America in any official capacity. Shame, though: it's exactly what I wanted the U11 to be.
  • I'm using the Pixel 2 XL as my daily driver, and I think the attention being paid to the screen is ridiculous. The OLED issues come nowhere close to overshadowing the phone's numerous upsides.
  • As for the Razer Phone? Yeah, no.

Take care of yourselves.

-Daniel

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1 week ago

Best Google Pixel 2 Deals for November 2017

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Where should you buy a Google Pixel 2 from in order to get the best deal?

Shopping for a new phone, like the Google Pixel 2 and Google Pixel 2 XL can be an expensive proposition, but there are ways that you can make it a little easier on your budget. Hunting down the best deals can be difficult since most retailers change them weekly — but don't worry, we've got you covered. Whether you are looking to finance your purchase, get some freebies with it, or try and save some money on the purchase there are a few places to check out.

Let's take a look at some of the best deals on Google's Pixel and Pixel XL that are available right now.

Check out the best deals on the original Pixel and Pixel XL

Google Pixel 2

Want to pick up the smaller of the two Pixels but avoid paying full price? It's not extemely often to find great deals on the Pixel phones. Google hardly ever discounts them, and sometimes you'll see a few dollars off each month through Verizon, or a random deal at a retailer. Here's all the best deals right now.


Google Pixel 2 XL

If you are looking for the larger version, you'll want to check out the deals on the Pixel 2 XL. Most of the time you'll find the a similar deal on the Pixel 2 XL as you would on the Pixel 2, but somtimes the discounts are a little larger because it costs more. The current deals include:


Other deals

As time passes you'll start to see these appear on other sites like eBay and Swappa, offering great deals on second-hand units. Some people may turn around and sell theirs at launch for a profit, but if you are looking to save you'll have to wait a bit longer.

Have you noticed any other deals on the Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL? If so, be sure to drop a line in the comments letting us know where the deal is and why other people may be interested.

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Google Store Verizon

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1 week ago

Relieve stress and anxiety with this top-rated meditation app

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We're living in anxious times where it can be tough to take the time to reflect and relax your mind with some mindful meditation. There are many mindfulness apps available out there, but not all are created equal. You'll want to find one that's been thoughtfully designed and optimized for personalization.

Aura Premium is a highly-rated meditation app that's been developed by top meditation teachers and therapists that's been built around a groundbreaking AI that learns how to provide more specific meditation for your feelings the more you use it. It takes as little as three minutes of meditation every day to help relieve stress and anxiety, so you'll be able to get in a quick session before starting work.

Android Central Digital Offers has a great deal on Aura subscriptions — you can get a lifetime subscription for just $59.99, a savings of 84% off the $399 regular price. Don't know if you want to commit to a lifetime subscription? You also have options to get a 1-year subscription for $29.99 or a 2-year subscription for $49.99](https://digitaloffers.androidcentral.com/sales/aura-premium-2-year-subscription). It's a great deal that only gets better when you use coupon code AURA15 at checkout to get an additional 15% off

If you've never used a meditation app before you can check it out from the app store and see if it's right for you. If this is something that will improve your life, be sure to jump on this deal soon before it passes.

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2 weeks ago

Will my phone adjust to Daylight Saving Time automatically?

33
Date and time settings

Let's do the timewarp again ...

Twice a year the clocks change (for most of us). We "spring forward" and "fall back," and depending on where we live that happens on a different day. It's all sort of convoluted. And this inevitably leads to folks wondering what they have to do to their Android phone so things work right after the switch. If this sounds like you, we've got good news:

You don't have to do anything.

This is the best thing you'll never have to do for your phone!

Unless you've went into your phone's settings and switched away from the automatic network time (in which case you already know what to do), you won't have to do a thing. Your Android will check the network for the correct date and time and switch itself on it's own, changing the system time so that things like calendars and alarms will still be right. The same thing applies when other parts of the world move an hour forward or back on their schedule, and still apply in six months when we change again. And more practically, it's also what lets our phones know the right time when we fly or drive to a different time zone.

If you're worried about your phone's ability to switch the time automatically, go double check your "date & time" settings and make sure your time zone is set properly and that you have "automatic date & time" turned on. The network and phone will handle the rest while you sleep.

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2 weeks ago

It's time to stop being afraid of new technology

55

Concerns about how A.I. will affect our lives are necessary, but so is properly talking about them.

We're on the cusp of a major change in the way our gadgets do things. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are no longer something you would see in a science fiction novel, and smart machines are being deployed to do even the most mundane tasks, as well as more high-profile things that catch our attention. While I think we're still at least a few years away from the point where we all have our own robotic butlers and flying cars, the possibilities are no longer in doubt.

Nobody wants computers that are evil and nobody is building them.

Along with the breakthroughs that enable machines to make real decisions comes an inherent fear of the consequences. Some are valid, many are silly, but every one of them makes for a great headline. Whether reporting that Elon Musk's billion-dollar crusade to stop the A.I. Apocalypse (a real headline) or reminding us how everyone is one breath away from stealing our identity, reporters and publications need to provide both sides of every issue and point us towards resources where we can learn more. Doing neither makes us unnecessarily suspicious of the tech breakthroughs that will be a part of our future.

I'm going to pick on the iPhone X today. Before anyone gets upset, I'll tell you my impression of the iPhone X without ever having touched one — too bad the cool stuff it can do came from Apple first, because I really don't want to use an iPhone every day. It's an iPhone in the Essential Phone's body with some excellent tech at the top that can do some really interesting things. If you like the iOS ecosystem, it seems like it's the phone you want to buy. And because of the fascination with all things Apple, it's getting the lion's share of attention by the western press. That might be a good thing for other companies though, as much of the press surrounding the things that make it special isn't necessarily the good kind.

Two recent articles stand out about today's new smart tech, how it's used by Apple, and why it's something to be concerned about, but I'm sure there are countless others. In October, Wired talked about how machine learning "COULD SURFACE YOUR IPHONE'S SECRETS" (yes, in all caps) and Reuters told us how facial recognition "spooks" privacy experts. Both need a very critical eye when reading.

Rene Ritchie did an excellent job discussing the problems with Wired's article which basically claims that machine learning can find your nude photos and do something nefarious with them, but I still need to point out a bit of text from the article itself.

Researchers are quick to note that while Core ML introduces important nuances—particularly to the app-vetting process—it doesn't necessarily represent a fundamentally new threat. "I suppose CoreML could be abused, but as it stands apps can already get full photo access," says Will Strafach, an iOS security researcher and the president of Sudo Security Group. "So if they wanted to grab and upload your full photo library, that is already possible if permission is granted."

Essentially, Apple's Core ML system (their machine learning algorithms and the hardware that can process the data) cannot do anything that any other app isn't able to do. Even if you tell the system to root out photos that appear to be of naked people, it can't do anything with them if it finds any. Yet the article and it's alarmist title is there for everyone to see.

Reuters poses the premise that security researchers are afraid of what Apple's facial recognition means for our data privacy. Specifically, that a third-party developer can somehow use the data from the iPhone X's camera in ways that intrude into our lives or even use the data as identification credentials. It's good that security researchers and privacy advocates worry about these things. That's what they are supposed to be doing. It's not as good when Reuters doesn't explain what data is shared with third parties and what can be done with it once they let us know that the ACLU is taking a close look.

The iPhone X is getting the attention but these are the new technologies that every company is using in what comes next.

This isn't an Apple problem even though it's their product in the spotlight. We've all seen or read about the things Google can do with their advanced machine learning algorithms, whether that means making a better camera and gallery to take and view your photos or diagnosing disease earlier so treatment can begin when it's most needed. But machine learning plays a big part of things we wouldn't associate with tech, like disposable pens or tomatoes.

Entire industries already use machines that make rudimentary decisions and will be deploying even smarter ones as they are developed. Many products you use (or even eat!) every day were processed through an automation line that manufactured, sorted and inspected them using cameras and smart computer systems. Then they were packaged using machines that knew what size box to use based on what was dumped into a hopper and put on the right pallet so they could be delivered by the right equipment to the right loading dock.

Sensationalism will lead to unnecessary and unwanted oversight. It always does.

Concern about what even more advancement might mean for unemployment is something that laymen should be discussing, but inherent safety and privacy concerns are best left to the experts until actual problems are found. Sensationalism at this stage will only lead to regulations enacted by people wholly unqualified. Imagine your senator or member of parliament trying to dissect Tensorflow or Cloud ML and find ways to "protect" us from them.

We need highly qualified people to look long and hard at machines that can think. We also need responsible reporting on what those researchers have to say instead of clickbait. Remember, every headline you can see is also one that members of the United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law can see. It's very important that all of us get the facts without the hyperbole. Let's not kill the next big thing before it gets off the ground.

Space X photograph courtesy of Pushkr - https://www.flickr.com/photos/pushkargujar/23791728242/, Creative Commons 2.0

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2 weeks ago

Your weekend comments are slow and easy

56

The best 48 hours of the week, every week.

Another weekend is here, and this time of the year means an outdoors weekend for some and a weekend by the fireplace for others. Here in DC area this one will be glorious and could be the last glorious one for a while. That means making the most out of it!

I'll probably just sit around and do a lot of nothing while my wife does some early holiday shopping; Hanukkah and Christmas are closing in and both can be a pretty big deal around my house. And since I mostly suck at shopping for, well, anything I get to stay home and babysit the dogs. Not complaining, not even one little bit.

Of course, the big holiday spending spree is yet to come and there's always a chance I'll get drafted to be chauffeur and doorman and anything else that doesn't involve gift decisions except for my dad, who wants a pair of headers for his El Camino. I totally have that one under control.

One thing that's not on anyone's list this year is a new phone. Everyone in the family is set for a while and while the new iPhone X is one I want some time with, I'm still not into the prices new phones have attached to them. $1,000 buys like five sets of headers for pop's 396 and won't be nearly as fun to use once set up. Vroom vroom.

Hopefully, your weekend is nice and relaxed or exciting and hectic — whichever way you like it. Take a few and share what's going on with you this weekend!

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2 weeks ago

The T-Mobile and Sprint merger talks are officially laid to rest

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Back to business as usual.

For the past week, everyone with an ear on the industry has said that plans for a Sprint and T-Mobile merger were done and the whole idea was scrapped and rumors from Japan suggested that Softbank (Sprint's parent company) head Masayoshi Son ended talks at the end of October.

Today that becomes official, per the T-Mobile Newsroom.

T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) today announced that it has ceased talks to merge with Sprint, as the companies were unable to find mutually agreeable terms.

T-Mobile says that while the idea of a merger between the two smaller carriers was a compelling idea, it could only happen if there was a clear long-term benefit to T-Mobile shareholders and consumers. We're not told anything that came out of the talks which would mean it wasn't in T-Mobile's best interests, only that the two companies were unable to come to an agreement and T-Mobile will continue on the path they've been walking for the past 15 quarters of record growth.

We're not surprised or saddened by this news, as our opinion has remained that more choice is always better for customers and the industry as a whole. The full, but brief, press release is below in full.

Bellevue, Washington — November 4, 2017 — T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) today announced that it has ceased talks to merge with Sprint, as the companies were unable to find mutually agreeable terms.

"The prospect of combining with Sprint has been compelling for a variety of reasons, including the potential to create significant benefits for consumers and value for shareholders. However, we have been clear all along that a deal with anyone will have to result in superior long-term value for T-Mobile's shareholders compared to our outstanding stand-alone performance and track record," said John Legere, President and CEO of T-Mobile US, Inc. "Going forward, T-Mobile will continue disrupting this industry and bringing our proven Un-carrier strategy to more customers and new categories – ultimately redefining the mobile Internet as we know it. We've been out-growing this industry for the last 15 quarters, delivering outstanding value for shareholders, and driving significant change across wireless. We won't stop now."

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