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39 min ago

Qualcomm's upcoming 5G-enabled Snapdragon chipsets will be built on Samsung's 7nm node

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Qualcomm's upcoming 5G-enabled Snapdragon chipsets will be built on Samsung's 7nm node

Qualcomm is ready to make the switch to 7nm with Samsung's help.

Qualcomm detailed its 5G plans late last year with the introduction of the X50, its first 5G-enabled modem for smartphones. The company has now announced that it is partnering with Samsung over its next-generation Snapdragon chipsets with 5G capabilities. The upcoming chipsets will be built on Samsung's 7nm node, a huge leap forward that sees the introduction of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography.

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2 hours ago

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 and Redmi Note 5 Pro are now up for sale in India; prices start at ₹9,999

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Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 and Redmi Note 5 Pro are now up for sale in India; prices start at ₹9,999

The wait is over: you can finally get your hands on Xiaomi's latest budget phones in India.

Xiaomi launched the Redmi Note 5 and the Note 5 Pro in India on February 14, and both models are now available for purchase in the country. The Redmi Note 5 starts off at just ₹9,999 for the 3GB variant with 32GB of storage, with the Redmi Note 5 Pro coming in at ₹13,999 for the version with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage.

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3 hours ago

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro review: King of the hill

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Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro review: King of the hill

With the Redmi Note 5 Pro, Xiaomi is solidifying its position at the top of India's handset market.

Xiaomi can do no wrong in India. The manufacturer sold nearly 10 million units of the Redmi Note 4 in the country last year, and is looking to maintain that momentum with the Redmi Note 5 Pro.

Xiaomi built its entire business model on offering great value for money — and as the sales numbers indicate, the strategy has paid off handsomely for the brand. But following up on the Redmi Note 4 is a tough act, as there wasn't much wrong with the device.

That's why with its 2018 budget phone, Xiaomi is focusing on core upgrades in all the major areas. The Redmi Note 5 Pro introduces an 18:9 display, a dual camera at the back and a 20MP front camera with LED flash, a Snapdragon 636 chipset, and up to 6GB of RAM. Xiaomi led the category for battery life last year, and things aren't any different this year — the Redmi Note 5 Pro has a 4000mAh battery.

With the competition also fielding increasingly powerful phones, does the Redmi Note 5 Pro have what it takes to further Xiaomi's cause in India? Let's find out.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro Specs

Category Features Operating System MIUI 9.2 based on Android 7.1.1 Nougat Display 5.99-inch 18:9 FHD+ (2160x1080) IPS LCD panel
403ppi pixel density
450nits maximum brightness SoC Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 636
Eight Kryo 260 cores up to 1.8GHz
14nm GPU Adreno 509 RAM 4GB/6GB Storage 64GB/64GB
microSD slot up to 128GB Rear camera 12MP with 1.25um pixel size and f/2.2 lens + 5MP with 1.12um pixel size and f/2,0 lens
PDAF, LED flash
1080p video recording Front shooter 20MP with LED Selfie light
1080p video recording Connectivity LTE with VoLTE
Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, GLONASS
Micro-USB, 3.5mm audio jack, IR blaster Networks LTE: 1/3/5/40/41
GSM: 2/3/5/8
WCDMA: 1/2/5/8 Battery 4000mAh battery
Fast charging (5V/2A) Fingerprint Rear fingerprint sensor Dimensions 158.6 × 75.4 × 8.05mm Weight 181g Colors Gold, Rose Gold, Blue, Black

About this review

I (Harish Jonnalagadda) am writing this review after using the Redmi Note 5 Pro for over two weeks in Hyderabad, India. The device is a pre-production unit provided by Xiaomi India and is running a nightly build of MIUI 9 (9.2.2.0). I tested the phone on Airtel and Jio's 4G networks in Hyderabad.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro Design

The Redmi Note 5 Pro marks Xiaomi's foray into the 18:9 form factor in the budget segment. The brand led the way for bezel-less panels with the Mi Mix and the Mi Mix 2, and while the effect isn't anywhere as striking on the Redmi Note 5 Pro, you do get a taller 5.99-inch display with significantly reduced bezels when compared to last year's Redmi Note 4.

The switch to an 18:9 panel also means there's an all-new design up front. The capacitive navigation buttons have made way for on-screen keys, and you can change the orientation of the back and overview buttons from the settings menu.

Round back, things are more familiar. If you ignore the camera module, the Redmi Note 5 Pro is identical to the Redmi Note 5, which in turn shares the same design aesthetic as the Redmi Note 4. The Redmi Note 4 had an iterative design that was nearly identical to the Redmi Note 3, so what we have here is a design language that's three years old.

Like previous years, the antenna inlays at the top and bottom of the device are made out of plastic, but feature a metallic finish. There's a minor variance in color between the inlays and the metal back, particularly on the gold version. It isn't as noticeable on the other color options of the device.

While the aesthetic has evolved over the last three years, the design at the back is starting to look stale. The design works for the Redmi Note 5, which starts off at ₹9,999, but it would've made more sense for Xiaomi to differentiate the Redmi Note 5 Pro from the standard variant.

Talking about lack of differentiation from the Redmi Note 5, the Note 5 Pro also comes with a microUSB charging port. The standard is becoming outdated, and the onus is now on Xiaomi to make the switch to USB-C in the Redmi series. That said, the IR blaster is intact, as is the 3.5mm jack. The volume and power buttons offer a decent amount of tactile feedback as well.

The 18:9 panel up front is one of the best in the budget segment.

The fingerprint sensor at the back is identical to what Xiaomi has used in the past, and it is quick to authenticate and the positioning is just right. The sensor is located in the top one-third section and is right next to the natural resting position of your index finger. There's also a more prominent curve where the back meets the mid-frame, leading to better in-hand feel.

Coming to the display, the 5.99-inch LCD panel is one of the best in this segment. Xiaomi has made a habit of offering vibrant displays in this category, and the same is true for the Redmi Note 5 Pro as well. The panel offers a resolution of 2160x1080, which is becoming the standard for the 18:9 form factor.

Colors out of the box are excellent, and you can tweak the settings to your preferences by going into the settings. The phone also comes with a blue light filter that can be configured to automatically kick in from sunset to sunrise. If you're one to use your phone a lot during the night, you should enable the feature as it reduces strain on the eyes.

For better or worse, the camera sensor — with the lenses arrayed vertically and the flash tucked in between — is identical to that of the iPhone X. It protrudes from the back as well, which makes the phone wobble when laid on a flat surface like a table.

Overall though, the build quality as well as fit and finish are all top-notch, with Xiaomi undertaking stricter quality control measures. At 181g, the Redmi Note 5 Pro is heavier than its predecessors, and the taller panel doesn't make it conducive to use one-handed.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro Hardware

Xiaomi is regularly in the first wave of manufacturers to roll out Qualcomm's latest hardware. We've seen that in years past, and that's the case with the Redmi Note 5 Pro as well, which is the first device to be powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 636 mobile platform.

The Snapdragon 636 is interesting as it introduces Kryo cores to the budget category. The Snapdragon 660 did the same for the mid-range segment last year, but a majority of the phones powered by the chipset — the OPPO R11 and the Xiaomi Mi Note 3 — were limited to the Chinese market.

The Snapdragon 636 features eight cores in total, with four performance cores complemented by four energy-efficient cores. We've seen that same combination in use in the Android space for a few years now, and it strikes the ideal balance between performance and energy efficiency.

The four high-performance cores are based on ARM's Cortex A73, one of the fastest cores available today. The energy-efficient cores are based on the Cortex A53, a mainstay in the budget segment over the last two years. Qualcomm has offered fully custom cores in the Kryo platform before, but it is leveraging the "Built on ARM Cortex Technology" licensing agreement to build semi-custom cores.

The Redmi Note 5 Pro is on par with flagship chipsets from just a few years ago.

The license allows Qualcomm to take off-the-shelf Cortex cores and make modifications to tweak the overall performance. We've seen Qualcomm go down this road with the Snapdragon 820, 821, and the 835, and the chip vendor is now doing the same for the downstream Snapdragon chipsets. Going with a Cortex license has several benefits as it gives Qualcomm the ability to go to market faster — it doesn't need to design a core from the ground-up — while retaining a competitive advantage.

Coming back to the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the Kryo cores make a tangible difference in terms of overall performance. You're looking at anywhere from a 15-20% increase in CPU speeds and a 10% uptick in GPU performance. As we've seen in the benchmarks, the Snapdragon 636 is an underclocked version of the Snapdragon 660, which delivers performance equivalent to flagship chipsets from just a few years ago.

The performance on tap with the Redmi Note 5 Pro is nothing short of extraordinary, and it's safe to say that this is the fastest phone in the budget segment by some margin. The GPU performance means that the phone can now handle visually intensive games as well, which was a limitation with last year's Redmi Note 4.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro benchmarks

The Redmi Note 5 Pro is also decked out with LPDDR4X RAM, which thus far has been limited to the high-end segment. It would've been great had the device offered UFS storage as well, but the global demand for storage meant it wasn't viable for Xiaomi to include it in the Redmi Note 5 Pro. The phone instead features eMMC 5.0 storage, and with both variants offering 64GB of internal memory, you're not going to run out anytime soon.

Also new with the Redmi Note 5 Pro is Wi-Fi ac as well as Bluetooth 5.0, with both features limited to the Pro variant and not available in the standard version. Talking about connectivity, the Redmi Note 5 Pro had no issues with calls, and the speaker at the bottom is astonishingly loud. In short, if you're looking for the most bang for your buck in the budget segment, this is the phone to get.

Battery life

Xiaomi prioritized the battery segment last year, introducing a 4100mAh battery in the Redmi Note 4. The huge battery combined with MIUI's optimizations allowed the Redmi Note 4 to run rings around its rivals. A year on, that hasn't changed. While the Redmi Note 5 Pro has a marginally smaller 4000mAh battery, you're guaranteed the same great class-leading battery life.

You'll easily get a day-and-a-half worth of usage from that battery consistently, even if you're a power user and rely on your mobile primarily for your entertainment needs. In my usage, I averaged nine hours of screen-on-time spread over two days.

My main issue with the battery on the Redmi Note 5 Pro is the lack of fast charging. With the battery easily lasting more than a day on average, more often than not you'll be looking to top up your device in the middle of the day, and that poses problems as the bundled charger maxes out at 5V/2A. The phone itself is not compatible with fast charging, taking an agonizing two hours to get from zero to a full charge.

Fast charging isn't a big deal on a device with such great battery life, but the lack thereof is one of the few areas where the Redmi Note 5 Pro is behind the competition.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro Software

On the software front, it's business as usual. The Redmi Note 5 Pro comes with the latest version of MIUI 9, but if you were hoping for Oreo, get ready to be disappointed. The phone is still based on Android 7.1.1 Nougat, with an Oreo update slated for sometime later this year.

Furthermore, with the Redmi Note 5 Pro being the first to run the Snapdragon 636, there are odd glitches along the way. My unit is on the nightly 9.2.2.0 build, and the stable 9.2.4.0 update is scheduled to make its way to the phone shortly after its release. The stable build should iron out the kinks and allow the phone to take full advantage of the Snapdragon 636.

Optimization could also be the reason why Xiaomi stuck with the Snapdragon 625 for the standard version of the Redmi Note 5. The manufacturer has been optimizing the chipset for well over a year now, to the point where it runs with nary a lag or stutter. It'll take a few weeks at least to get the Redmi Note 5 Pro to the same level, following which we'll hopefully see the Oreo update make its way to the device.

MIUI is a ROM that needed a visual refresh yesterday.

Apart from the lack of Oreo, the user experience on offer with the Redmi Note 5 Pro is similar to Xiaomi devices released over the course of the last twelve months. There's a ton of customization options and more features than you'll end up using, but that's one of the main draws of MIUI. Xiaomi has invested considerable resources in building out features, and MIUI 9 has plenty to offer in the form of quick replies in the notification window, an all-new Mi Video app, native split-screen functionality, and much more.

Then there's older features like Dual Apps — which let you run two instances of an app simultaneously — and Second Space, through which you'll be able to create a separate profile on your device. The SMS app has been tailored for Indian customers, taking the information from a ticket confirmation SMS and automatically creating a card with all the relevant details highlighted.

MIUI 9: Nine new features you need to know

As I said last year, MIUI is never going to adhere to "pure" Android in terms of a visual layout, and that's because a majority of its users are in China. The unregulated nature of the Chinese app market is what led to features like a dedicated Security app and granular control over autostart permissions.

But with usage vastly increasing in markets like India, we may see a wholesale change heading to MIUI in the coming years. The retooled notification pane is definitely a step in the right direction, but the interface as a whole is in need of a refresh to make it more modern. The recents menu, for instance, hasn't changed from the KitKat era, and if you need an app drawer, you'll need to look to a third-party launcher. Xiaomi will hopefully address these issues and make much-needed changes to MIUI sooner rather than later.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro Camera

If you ignore the fact that the dual-lens arrangement at the back is identical to that of the iPhone X, there's plenty to like in the Redmi Note 5 Pro's camera. The phone features a 12MP primary camera that's joined by a secondary 5MP depth camera, and up front you get a 20MP camera with LED flash.

The Redmi Note 5 Pro does a stunning job in daylight conditions, with images offering plenty of detail and accurate colors. HDR is off by default, and while the mode was more of a hindrance in past Redmi devices, it's actually usable in the Redmi Note 5 Pro. Finally, the phone does a decent job in low-light conditions, which is a huge deal seeing as how most budget phones struggle in this area.

The camera on the Redmi Note 5 Pro beats other phones in this category by a country mile.

I put the phone to the test by using it as my daily driver during Xiaomi's launch event earlier this month, and came away impressed with the overall results. I normally rely on either the Pixel 2 XL or the Note 8 for launch event coverage as the lighting at these venues isn't ideal, but the Redmi Note 5 Pro did an admirable job.

The dual camera setup also enables portrait mode, which we've seen in the Mi 6 and more recently the Mi A1. The background blur effect is more conservative this time around, but as Xiaomi pointed out at the launch event, its edge detection algorithm is spot-on.

On the video front, you get electronic image stabilization, but miss out on 4K recording. It's unclear why the feature was removed as the Snapdragon 636 can handle 4K video, and as good as the Redmi Note 5 Pro is at taking photos, videos aren't the device's forte.

Sure, the Redmi Note 5 Pro won't blow the Note 8 out of the water, but you have to remember that the phone is available for less than one-fourth the price of Samsung's flagship.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro Bottom line

The Redmi Note 5 Pro is Xiaomi's strongest showing in the budget segment in the last two years, and puts the brand in a great position as we head into the launch cycle for 2018. The 18:9 display is a much-needed change to keep the device competitive, and the Snapdragon 636 ensures class-leading performance for the foreseeable future.

This is the first Redmi device I'd consider using as my daily driver.

The Redmi Note 5 Pro is the first phone in the Redmi series I'd consider using as my daily driver. Previous phones in this series weren't short on power, but the camera was the one area where Xiaomi lagged behind.

With the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the manufacturer is taking the lead in this category, and once again setting the benchmark for the rest of the field to follow.

Should you buy it? Absolutely

If you're in the market for a budget phone, the Redmi Note 5 Pro should be at the top of your list. The combination of sheer hardware combined with the great camera, two-day battery life, and 18:9 panel makes the Redmi Note 5 Pro the device to beat in the budget segment.

The phone is offered in two variants — a model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and a version with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. The 4GB model retails for ₹13,999 and is on sale, and the 6GB version will be making its debut at a later date for ₹16,999. With Xiaomi making a stronger push for offline sales, it'll be easier to get your hands on the Redmi Note 5 Pro than in previous years. The phone should be making its way to Xiaomi's offline partners shortly after its launch, and head to the 22 Mi Home stores in the country.

See at Flipkart

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12 hours ago

Motorola study sheds light on how addicted we really are to our phones

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Motorola study sheds light on how addicted we really are to our phones

Over half of Gen-Z respondents in the study referred to their phone as "a best friend."

Smartphones are great. They connect us with friends and family members, allow us to capture memories through pictures and video, and can even be home to some truly excellent gaming experiences. It's almost necessary for most people to own a phone these days, but as we all know, there's a point where phones can become a problem.

Motorola recently partnered with Dr. Nancy Etcoff from Harvard University and the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry to ask a series of questions to 4,418 smartphone users in the U.S., Brazil, France, and India between the ages of 16 to 65. The goal of the study was to get a better idea as to how the average person uses and interacts with their phone, and some of the results are, honestly, pretty depressing.

  • 33% of respondents said they'd rather spend time on their phone than spend face-to-face time with friends
  • 53% of Generation Z respondents consider their phone to be "a best friend"
  • 44% said they feel compelled to constantly check their phone
  • 29% are "thinking about using it or planning the next time I can use it" when they're without their phone

Thankfully, most people appear to be aware of their addictions and want to change things. 60% of those surveyed agreed it's important to have a life away from phones and 61% said that they want to get the most out of their phone while on it and the most out of life when they're not.

60% of people want to better their phone-life balance.

Following these findings, Motorola created a simple 10-question quiz you can take to see whether or not you need to improve your phone-life balance. Motorola is also working with the team behind the SPACE Phone-Life Balance App, so there's a chance future Moto phones could come with exclusive trials, discounts, or features for the service.

Phone addition isn't a cheery topic to talk about, but it's also incredibly important. My eyes are on a screen for 8+ hours each day between my phone and computer for work, and while I can't really give these things up because of the nature of my job, I do my best to make conscious efforts to use them as little as possible when I don't have to. I don't always succeed at this, but it's something worth working on each and every day.

If you're comfortable opening up in the comments below, how's your phone-life balance? Is it something you think you've mastered, or do you often find yourself struggling with it?

Phone addiction is making me sad and anxious, but so is the idea of quitting

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12 hours ago

Best Verizon Wireless Deals of February 2018

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Best Verizon Wireless Deals of February 2018

No matter what T-Mobile says, you can actually find some pretty great deals on Verizon.

Verizon Wireless has some of the largest coverage for customers in the United States, and although T-Mobile likes to continually poke fun at the carrier for having high monthly rates, there are actually some really solid deals to be found if you know where to look.

You can typically find quite a few deals being run by Verizon at any given time, but if you only want to look at the best of the best and don't have time to sift through the garbage, that's where we come in.

These are best deals on Verizon Wireless right now.

Get the Pixel 2 XL for just $22.91/month

If you want one of the best Android phones money can buy, look no further than the Google Pixel 2 XL. The Pixel 2 XL is packed to the gills with features to love, including the best smartphone camera on the market, a pure Android experience, the ability to squeeze the phone to get Google Assistant, and so much more. You'll usually pay $35.41/month for the phone, but right now you can get it for just $22.91/month.

A small credit is applied to your account with each monthly bill, and at the end of 24 months, you'll end up with a savings of $300 off the regular price. Also, for that same $22.91/month, you can get the regular Pixel 2 and see a savings of $100. No matter which phone you pick, no trade-in is required.

See at Verizon

Google Home Mini and Max bundle for $399

The Home Max and Home Mini are Google's latest smart speakers, and if you're interested in buying both of them, you should probably do so through Verizon. The Home Max and Mini each cost $399 and $49 respectively, and as such, buying both would normally set you back $448. However, Verizon is selling a bundle that lets you get both for just $399.

You won't be able to get the Home Mini is the stunning coral color with this bundle, but for a deal this good, we're perfectly okay with the chalk style.

See at Verizon

Save $200 on the Galaxy S8, S8+, LG V30, and Moto Z2 Force

We're expecting exciting new phones from Samsung, LG, and Motorola this year, but if you don't really care about having the very latest and greatest, you can find some excellent savings on last year's best hardware. Verizon is currently offering $200 discounts on the Galaxy S8/S8+, LG V30, and Moto Z2 Force, and similar to the Pixel 2 /2 XL savings, no trade-in is required. As such, the devices in question now cost:

  • Samsung Galaxy S8: $23.16/month (normally $31.50/month)
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+: $26.66/month (normally $35/month)
  • LG V30: $26.66/month (normally $35/month)
  • Moto Z2 Force: $23.16/month (normally $31.50)

See at Verizon


Grab the Moto Z2 Play for only $10/month

All of the above phones are excellent options you can't go wrong with, but if you're looking to spend even less, the Moto Z2 Play is worth checking out. The phone is already a great deal at $17/month, but now you can pick it up for only $10/month.

For that $10 each month, you're getting a phone with a 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display, Snapdragon 626 processor, 3,000 mAh battery, and full compatibility with Motorola's Moto Mod system.

See at Verizon

Verizon Unlimited and Fios customers save $20/month on their bill

If you're living out the full Verizon experience by subscribing to the wireless Unlimited plan and also use the company's Fios service for your home internet, you can now save $20/month on your total monthly bills.

Subscribers of double or triple-play bundles will automatically start seeing this $20 discount on their bill, with $10 being off your wireless plan and the other $10 lowering the price of your Fios subscription. As long as you keep both services, both new and existing customers will start seeing the lower monthly price from here on out.

See at Verizon

Carriers

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Updated 2/21/2018 – Added a heap of new deals for February!

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12 hours ago

Mobile gaming has an advertising problem that needs to be addressed

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Mobile gaming has an advertising problem that needs to be addressed

There are so many great games in the Google Play Store library — don't fall for sleazy advertising tricks.

It's safe to say that aside from the Super Bowl, people generally go out of their way to avoid watching ads. We use ad blockers wherever possible and smash that "Skip Ad" button on YouTube pre-roll ads as soon as humanly possible.

Needless to say, I am also aware that ads are still a necessary evil in the world of smartphone apps — users typically don't like to pay for apps if there's a free alternative, but developers still need reliable avenues for generating revenue. Including ads in your game or app offer a workable compromise wherein users are conditioned to expect the occasional ad interruptions in exchange for not having to deal with upfront costs.

If you're playing a free game downloaded from the Google Play Store, you'll be forced to sit through ads for other games eager to steal a share of your screen time.

This means if you're playing a free game downloaded from the Google Play Store, you'll be forced to sit through the occasional ad for a different game eager to steal a share of your screen time. Services like AdMob by Google have helped generate over $3 billion according to its own figures, and I'm all for app developers getting paid for their work, even if they ultimately decide to release their app for free.

But over the past couple years, it's become abundantly clear to me that there are little to no standards or guidelines for acceptable content or honesty in mobile gaming ads. There are many examples I could point to, but I'll focus my arguments on three particular ad types that are gratuitous, misleading, or just plain gross.

Sex sells

First up, consider this CG trailer for Sword of Chaos. Between the excessive boob jiggling and gratuitous low-angle shots of the all-female cast fighting, you're left with no clue who the characters are, what they're fighting for, but most importantly what type of game is being advertised.

It's an MMORPG, by the way, and it looks and plays nothing like this ad would have you believe. The actual game features a fixed, high-angle camera that keeps your character in the center of the frame, so I guarantee more than a few teenaged users were left feeling deflated if they downloaded this game immediately after seeing this ad pop up on their screen. The developers say it's "one of the most cutting-edge mobile action MMORPG ever produced", but if that's true, you're left to question why they chose to focus on the overt sexual objectification of women (sex sells) instead of simply showcasing the game itself.

You know, just like Lords Mobile does in its ads.

So much cringe

If you search "Lords Mobile ads" on YouTube, you'll get results for videos titled "Terrible Lords Mobile Advertisements are TERRIBLE", "Lords Mobile Ad Cringe", and "Lords Mobile ads are cancer". On one hand, these ads do attempt to show actual gameplay, but they do so by overlaying a cheesy scripted video of a "streamer" "playing" the game. Almost every ad uses the same in-game footage with a different actor reacting incredulously about how fun this game is to play.

It would be easy to brush off these laughable Lords Mobile ads as just lazy, but when they continue to pop up over and over again on your screen it really makes you think — oh, never about downloading the game, but instead how bad the game must be if it wasn't possible to reach out to the community and get a real player to record genuine reactions to them playing one of their favorite game.

Beyond the pale

But the worst of the bunch that ultimately led me to write this article was a series of ads that bombarded my phone last week for a game called Mafia City. Each ad was slightly different, but they all shared a similar tone and shocking imagery: a whimpering person gagged and bound to a chair while a cool-looking mafia dude stood nearby with a big gun. It was a video ad with accompanying audio of a man pathetically sobbing.

They were all pretty dumb ads to be sure, but nothing worth writing about until one popped up with options to either "Kill" or "Seduce" the bound man. What.

Why does Google allows so many dishonest or disrespectful ads to propagate across its network of services?

I'm not sensitive to video game violence. I played through GTA 5 and had no issues with the controversial torture scene in that game. But that scene is designed to be a tough moral choice for the player to make, and GTA 5 was also never marketed solely based on that single game mechanic. It's one thing for video games to glorify violence, but Mafia City to me crossed boundaries of decency and good taste simply for the shock value. I tried to imagine what sort of personality you'd have to have to see that ad and think "Heck yea, this is the game for me!"

I question why Google allows ads of this ilk to propagate across its network of services. They pop up within other games and apps downloaded from the Google Play Store and also as pre-roll ads on YouTube. Are there no guidelines for what is considered acceptable for advertising mobile games? Should we not expect honesty in advertisements from mobile game developers?

I'm aware that by spending so much time talking about these bad ads, I'm probably proving some marketing expert's point about how effective these ads are at making impressions and generating discussion. If I could write about this topic without buzz marketing any of the associated games I would. Just know if you're an app developer or advertiser using these sleazy tricks I will never download your app, and I hope anyone reading this avoids them, too.

Android Gaming

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13 hours ago

The best tech deals that you don't want to miss out on

The best tech deals that you don't want to miss out on

Our friends at Thrifter post some great deals every day, and here are the best ones available right now!

From mobile phones to general tech, home goods and much more, the team at Thrifter is scouring the web every single day to find the best deals. Whether something hits a new all-time low, gets discounted for just a limited time, or has a new coupon code available for it, you won't want to miss out any of them. If you want to know about the deals as soon as they are happening, you'll want to follow Thrifter on Twitter, and sign up for the newsletter, because missing out on a great deal stinks!

So, what are the best deals that you should be looking at right now? Well, let's take a look at them so you can see which ones are best for you!

Blue Snowball iCE USB condenser microphone - $39.99 (Was $50)

We haven't shared a deal on the Blue Snowball condenser mic dropping to $40 since December. This is a regular price drop we've seen before, but it is $10 off the street price and a match for its lowest ever. Only the Black version of the mic is on sale, as White is still as $49.

If you need a mic for podcasts, streaming, or making any sort of online videos the Snowball is a great option on a budget. It uses easy plug-and-play features that let you connect to your Mac or PC with no drivers to install. It also ships with the stand so you don't have to buy that separately. Users give it 4.4 stars based on more than 2,900 reviews.

See on Amazon

Dell Professional Series 27-inch 4K monitor - $399.99 (Was $450)

Dell's P series 27-inch 4K monitor is down to $399.99 at Amazon and B&H. It normally sells for around $450 at both retailers, and it's as high as $500 at Best Buy. This is one of the best prices we've ever seen.

The monitor has 3480x2160 pixel resolution. It's an IPS panel with 8ms response time and a 60Hz refresh rate, but it also has 178-degree viewing angles. It has HDMI, DisplayPort, a mini DisplayPort, and four USB 3.0 ports. It has VESA mounting and 99% sRGB factory-tuned color accuracy. The Professional series is covered by Dell's dead pixel guarantee.

See on Amazon

Prepay one month of DirecTV Now and get a free Amazon Fire TV 4K - $35 (Was $105)

DirecTV Now is offering a free Amazon Fire TV 4K when you sign up for its service and prepay for just one month of service, even if you pick the $35 a month plan. The company previously required you to prepay for two months of service to get the free Fire TV (which Amazon charges $70 for), but now has slashed that down to just one. For $35 you now get access to a full month of the streaming service and some new hardware to watch it on.

You will need to be a new customer to take advantage of this offer and the Fire TV 4K will be shipped to you via FedEx within 2 to 3 weeks from the time you sign up. The offer is a little hidden, as usual, so to take advantage of it you'll need to begin the account creation process. Once you input your email and create a password you'll select a channel package and any add-ons that you may want, and then it will offer you the free Fire TV 4K promotion.

See at DirecTV Now

More great deals!

For even more great deals, and to see these discounts as they become available, be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!

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13 hours ago

Essential Phone users can now join the Oreo beta with a simple OTA update

6

Essential Phone users can now join the Oreo beta with a simple OTA update

Sideloading is still an option, but why would you want to bother with that?

Although we're still waiting for the Essential Phone to get a public Oreo update, the company's been running an Oreo beta since November. The process for getting the beta isn't the simplest around, but Essential is now making it much easier to sign up and join.

Up until now, if you've wanted to sign up for the beta to get Oreo on the Essential Phone, you've had to manually sideload the software onto your device. This isn't an overly complicated process, but if you aren't careful with what you're doing, there's always the chance you could accidentally brick your phone. Thankfully, Essential is eliminating this barrier and allowing you to join the Oreo beta with a simple over-the-air update.

To do this, the process couldn't be any simpler. Just head to Essential's beta page, choose the "Over-the-Air" option under "How Would You Like to Install the Beta?", and then enter your name, email address, and device serial number. Once you do this, your Essential Phone will receive an update to download Oreo.

The last Oreo beta was released on Valentine's Day, and with it came an update to 8.1, a fix for jittery scrolling, and the latest February security patch.

Essential Phone

Amazon Best Buy Sprint Telus

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13 hours ago

Best Android Phone Under $100 for 2018

Best Android Phone Under $100 for 2018

Best overall

Nokia 2

See at Amazon

Right on the dot at $99, the Nokia 2 is simply the best low-cost phone you can buy. It features a sleek and sturdy design with a metal frame, along with a 1.3GHz quad-core processor and a near-stock build of Android. It's a bit lacking internally, with just 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, but the clean software keeps it running smoothly, and you can expand its storage with a microSD card.

The 5-inch 720p display is fairly impressive as well, but where you'll really be wowed is with the 4100mAh battery, which easily manages two days of moderate usage. It also has a surprisingly decent 8MP primary camera, as well as a 5MP selfie shooter.

Bottom line: The Nokia 2 offers clean software and speedy performance for just a Benjamin.

One more thing: Nokia has promised an upgrade to Android 8.1 Oreo soon, bringing the Nokia 2 far more up to date than anything else on this list.

Why the Nokia 2 is best

The ideal package in any price range is a well-built phone with clean and quick software, and the Nokia 2 delivers. With HMD Global already promising an update to Android 8.1 Oreo, it's easily the most up-to-date device below $100, making it even more attractive on the software front than the popular Moto E4.

It's not the flashiest or showiest smartphone, with a relatively generic design, but you don't expect pizzaz when you're paying a Benjamin for a full-featured smartphone. The only thing it's missing — and this is a big one — is a fingerprint sensor, meaning you'll have to revert back to using a PIN for security.

Best on Verizon

Samsung Galaxy J3 Mission

See at Verizon

The Galaxy J3 Mission is an affordable phone from Samsung with a quad-core processor, 1.5GB of RAM, and 16GB of microSD-expandable storage. The 2600mAh battery provides plenty of endurance throughout the day, and the phone ships with Android 7.0 Nougat.

Bottom line: For just under $100, the J3 Mission is one of Verizon's better prepaid offerings.

One more thing: This phone isn't likely to receive many software updates.

Best on Cricket Wireless (AT&T)

LG X Charge

See at Cricket Wireless

If you want to get a prepaid phone from one of the big four carriers, your choices are limited, but AT&T's Cricket sub-brand has a great selection, including the LG X Charge for $100. It's got a big 5.5-inch HD display, a quad-core processor, Android 7.0 Nougat, and a massive 4500mAh battery.

Bottom line: The LG X Charge's huge battery will outlast any other phone in Cricket's lineup.

One more thing: Don't expect many updates with this phone. That's the price of prepaid.

Best on MetroPCS (T-Mobile)

Moto E4

See at MetroPCS

The Moto E4 is one of the best deals around, coming in at just $59. With it, you get a 1.4 GHz Snapdragon 425, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage. The 5-inch 720p display barely draws any battery from the 2800mAh cell inside, and the 8MP camera isn't half bad either.

Bottom line: The Moto E4 offers stock Android and speedy performance at a shockingly low price.

One more thing: The Moto E4 is actually $119 upfront with a $60 mail-in rebate. Unfortunately, this is how almost every phone at MetroPCS is sold.

Best on Boost Mobile (Sprint)

Moto E4 Plus

See at Boost

You probably aren't surprised to see another Moto phone on this list, because they're just the pinnacle of value. For $79.99, you get a fast fingerprint sensor, some light water resistance (but not IP68, so don't go dunking the Moto E4 Plus in a pool), and a ridiculous 5000mAh battery with fast charging.

Bottom line: You won't find a bigger battery and cleaner software experience for the money.

One more thing: If Boost's pricing were available on the unlocked Moto E4 Plus, it would easily be our top overall pick.

Conclusion

The Nokia 2 is the best overall device, largely thanks to its clean software and high-end build quality, but customer discounts could land you a better deal depending on your carrier.

Update February 2018: The unlocked Moto E4 is no longer available for under $100 on Amazon, so we've replaced it with the Nokia 2.

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14 hours ago

Oliv. Magnetic Mounts review: Refined design

3

Oliv. Magnetic Mounts review: Refined design

These magnetic and modular car mounts are a cut above the competition.

I've had a growing number of car mounting systems come across my desk for testing purposes, so I've developed a keen eye for determining which are worth writing about and which bring nothing new to the space. When considering a new car mount, my three main considerations are: ease of installation, ease of use, and multi-use scenarios.

ProClip sent me a couple of its new Oliv. Magnetic Mounts for consideration — the Oliv. Magnetic Button Mount ($29.99) and Oliv. Magnetic Suction Cup Mount ($39.99). The magnets used here are strong enough to hold your device securely yet safe to use with your devices. They won't wipe your credit cards or affect the compass tech in your phone.

One of the more interesting parts of the design here is how modular each mount is. For the magnetic button mount, you only adhere a minimalist disc to your dash which you can use to directly mount your phone, or add in the included swivel mount so you can position your phone exactly the way you want. Oliv. also offers a vent mount if you don't want to stick something to your dash.

But it's the suction mount that really stole my attention — it's by far the easiest suction mount I've ever used. Simply place it onto a smooth surface and twist the textured ring around the base and voila! The mount is secured. Want to move it or re-adjust it? Simply twist it the other way and it pops right off. No adhesives and no weird clips. It works elegantly.

And while the packaging showcases the mount as a windshield accessory, you could also use this for mounting your phone anywhere in your home or office — use it as a desktop stand for your phone, or stick it on your kitchen counter while you cook. I love it because its so easy to relocate without much fuss or mess.

The elephant in the room, as is the case with all of these magnetic mounting systems, is the requirement of sticking a little metal plate onto the back of your phone. It's understandable that not too many people love that look. The Oliv backplate is a bit bulkier than other options I've looked at, too, meaning you won't be able to slip it behind a case. My recommendation would be to instead slap it onto the back of a case, so you're not adhering it straight to the back of your phone (although the plates it won't stick to a silicone case). Each mount includes two metal plates, with two-packs available for $8 if you share your car with multiple people.

Included in the documentation is a list of other mounting options that will flesh out the Oliv magnetic ecosystem, including a bike mount clip that uses the same magnets. The bike mount is not currently listed on the Oliv site, but would be a compelling reason to buy into this mounting system and justify adding the metal plate to the back of your phone.

Car mounts are designed to keep your phone out of your hands while you're behind the wheel. Be sure to check your local laws regarding car mounts and whether windshield mounts are banned by state laws before buying and always keep your eyes focused on the road ahead.

See at Oliv.

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15 hours ago

Google Assistant is now built into the Nest Cam IQ indoor camera

2

Google Assistant is now built into the Nest Cam IQ indoor camera

Nest Aware is also getting a new $5/month plan.

The Nest Cam IQ is one of the best indoor security cameras money can buy, and thanks to the company's recent merging with Google's hardware team, is getting even smarter.

A new software update is on its way to the indoor Nest Cam IQ, and it adds Google Assistant to the gadget. Just like the Google Home, this means you can now use voice commands to ask the Nest Cam IQ about the weather, set timers, check on the traffic to work, and more by first saying "Ok, Google" and then whatever you'd like to say.

Nest Aware can now tell the difference between people and things.

The Cam IQ will get the Google Assistant via an update to the Nest app, and while it's currently the only product in Nest's lineup to support this feature, it's expected to expand to more Nest hardware as time goes on.

In addition to this, Nest's Aware service is seeing a few upgrades. Alerts for your activity zones will now be able to distinguish between people and things, and if you have either the indoor or outdoor Cam IQ, Nest Aware will detect familiar faces in duplicate photos and merge them together in your photo library.

Lastly, Nest Aware is getting its cheapest subscription plan to-date. You can now sign up for Nest Aware for just $5/month to get 5-days of backed-up footage, and this will be joining the $10/month and $30/month plans that offer 10-days and 30-days of backups, respectively.

Nest co-founder Matt Rogers is leaving the company after nine years

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15 hours ago

Improve your videos with better audio using the $40 Blue Snowball USB microphone

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Improve your videos with better audio using the $40 Blue Snowball USB microphone

Talk about savings!

We haven't shared a deal on the Blue Snowball condenser mic dropping to $40 since December. This is a regular price drop we've seen before, but it is $10 off the street price and a match for its lowest ever. Only the Black version of the mic is on sale, as White is still as $49.

If you need a mic for podcasts, streaming, or making any sort of online videos the Snowball is a great option on a budget. It uses easy plug-and-play features that let you connect to your Mac or PC with no drivers to install. It also ships with the stand so you don't have to buy that separately. Users give it 4.4 stars based on more than 2,900 reviews.

See on Amazon

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15 hours ago

Android Enterprise Recommended highlights the best phones for businesses

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Android Enterprise Recommended highlights the best phones for businesses

Recommendations include the Pixel 2, BlackBerry Motion, and others.

As a regular consumer, deciding which Android phone is best for you can often be a real struggle. When you're in charge of a company and trying to find the best phone for your employees and co-workers, this struggle is exacerbated even more. To help alleviate some of the headaches that can come with this, Google is launching the Android Enterprise Recommended program.

Android Enterprise Recommended will highlight phones that Google deems to be the best fit for businesses/enterprises, and devices that are part of the program must be running Android 7.0 Nougat or later, offer zero-touch enrollment with bulk deployment to employees, run the latest Android security patches within 90 days of their release, and more.

These guidelines will be updated alongside the release of each new Android version, and for OEMs that have handsets within the program, they'll receive "an enhanced level of technical support and training from Google."

Android Enterprise Recommended is launching with 22 phones that meet its requirements, including:

  • Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL
  • BlackBerry KEYone and Motion
  • LG V30 and G6
  • Moto X4 and Z2 Force Edition
  • Huawei Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro, P10, P10 Plus, P10 Lite, and P Smart
  • Nokia 8
  • Sony Xperia XA2, XA2 Ultra, XZ1, XZ1 Compact, XZ Premium

More devices will be added to this list over the next few weeks and months, and Google says the framework for Android Enterprise Recommended will be expanded to other areas in 2018, including rugged and "dedicated" devices, mobile carriers, enterprise mobility management providers, and systems integrators.

Google's Reply app is here and works surprisingly well

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15 hours ago

This AmazonBasics 50-mile indoor HDTV antenna is only $21

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This AmazonBasics 50-mile indoor HDTV antenna is only $21

Stop paying so much for TV.

This AmazonBasics 50-mile indoor HDTV antenna is down to $21.39, its lowest price ever. it regularly sells for $28 and has only dropped from that price once before, but even that previous drop didn't go as low as this one.

The 50-mile range is helpful particularly for people who don't live in urban centers. You want to make sure your antenna can reach the signals coming from the nearest broadcast tower. This antenna lets you pickup channels like ABC, NBC, PBS, Fox, and more. It has black and white sides, and it can be painted over if you would like it to be a different color. The coaxial cable is 16 feet long. It comes with a one-year warranty.

Use this map of DTV signals from the FCC to make sure this antenna works for you.

Pair this antenna with the $79 HDHomeRun Connect Duo and not only can you keep up cable TV without a subscription, you can then transmit it to your mobile devices like your phone or tablet.

If you want an HDTV antenna for your RV or to use outdoors, you can grab this one with a 50-mile range that's down to $4.99 with code WLFU9XNJ. It has 4.3 stars based on 41 user reviews.

See on Amazon

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15 hours ago

What to look for when buying USB-C cables and adapters

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What to look for when buying USB-C cables and adapters

Buying a cable shouldn't be difficult. It doesn't have to be if you follow these simple tips.

USB standards have a long history, and they've gone through plenty of changes since first implemented in 1996. The premise behind them is providing a way to standardize cables, connectors, communication, and power transfer between electronic devices. Those are some pretty high goals to reach, but the specifications do just that and the rest is up to the manufacturers of all the products that use them.

Some of the first equipment to use USB was the really old, brightly colored iMac G3 (I had a Tangerine Rev. 3 model) and, oddly enough, speakers. Trust me when I say things were not even close to plug-and-play, and really, it stayed that way for a few years until operating systems caught up. But, those speakers and that orange iMac would still be able to communicate with any device made today provided it didn't do something to break legacy USB support. USB was designed to be the one standard that does it all, and that's pretty much how it all worked out.

You can think of USB-C as a set of rules to make smarter USB plugs, cables, and connectors.

The USB-C specification is one of those USB standards. Released in August 2014, it's a set of rules for a small 24-pin reversible plug connector to use with existing USB systems. Some of the connections inside are used to tell which way a cable is plugged in; others are used to transfer data or power, and some are used as a dedicated connection to allow both sides to talk to each other. There are also connections and software rules that make sure the right amount of electrical current is being sent to safely charge or power one device from the other using the Power Delivery specifications. Though it was released in tandem with the USB 3.1 specification, USB Type-C rules are only for the physical connections — data speeds are covered by other rules. You can think of USB-C as a set of rules that only exist to make smarter USB plugs, cables, and connectors.

More: Getting to know USB-C infographic

Power Delivery is one of the best features of the USB specification and also the part that makes buying the right cable or adapter important. Technically, Power Delivery 2.0 is a separate standard and applies to USB Type-A, USB Type-C, and Micro-USB but when you're dealing with normal consumer-grade devices you will only see it through USB-C. That's great for safety reasons; if you thought finding the right USB-C cable was a mess, try to find a "USB Type-A to Micro-USB PD 5A" cable.

With USB-C and Power Delivery, all connected devices can send power out as well as receive power in. You can charge a phone or set of headphones or anything else that uses the USB-C spec with another phone that uses the USB-C specs (I do it all the time because the Galaxy S8+ has a decently-sized battery). You could also rig up cables that can pull power from several phones and charge the battery in a MacBook if you wanted to. We tried that once, too.

Buying the right cable is a must or you risk damaging the things you're plugging in, or even starting a fire.

USB-C with Power Delivery (PD) also includes a native way to "fast-charge" one USB-C PD-certified device safely from another using that dedicated connection channel mentioned above. While the previous version of USB power standards allowed for five volts and 2.5 watts (USB 2.0) or 4.5 watts (USB 3.0), the new PD specs allow using up to 20 volts and 100 watts. The tiniest bit of current could potentially cause a fire or harm you under the right circumstances, but 100 watts of power is dangerous even in the best situation. We're talking amounts of electricity that can cause serious damage if not used the right way.

It's also an open specification that anyone can use and alter to better suit their needs. This means not everything using USB-C is the same and buying the right cable is a must or you can risk damaging the things you're plugging in or even starting a fire.

More: This USB-C problem isn't going away anytime soon

But don't fret. You don't need to know all the rules in the USB specs or how it can tell which way it's plugged in or any of the other geeky details to make the right choice if you follow a few easy tips when you're buying a cable or connector. These three tips will help you get exactly what you need.

Know what you need

Remember when we said the USB-C spec was an open standard that companies can change to better suit their needs? Phone manufacturers are doing that, and sometimes the cables and chargers they sell and use aren't compatible with all the rules. Qualcomm's Quick Charge is really popular, and phone makers can use a USB-C connector that isn't fully compatible with the USB-C PD standards. Other companies have their own proprietary fast charging methods, and you'll need a cable that's compliant with their equipment, too.

Not everyone is using USB-C in a standards compliant way, so be mindful of "quick charge" methods.

If your phone has a USB-C port you can look at the papers it came with or online to see if it uses the port in a way that's not "standards compliant." Terms like "Quick Charge" or "Turbo Charge" or any other trademarked fast charging method are a dead giveaway. The list of devices doing this is always changing but we've seen phones from every manufacturer that aren't fully standards compliant. That means you shouldn't use the charger, cable, or any adapter that came with them for any other piece of equipment without making sure they are compatible.

A third-party high-quality cable that follows the USB-C PD specifications can be safely used with phones that use other quick charging methods, but don't go the other way and use cables designed for Qualcomm Quick Charge or any other fast charging method without checking to see if they are standards compliant.

The best thing to do is use the cable, charger and any adapters that came with your phone and order direct from the manufacturer if you need a spare or replacement. We know that's not feasible for most of us so make sure you check before you plug anything in.

Buy a reputable brand

We've all seen ultra-cheap USB cables online or at the drug store and were tempted to buy them. While still not the best idea in the world, most of the time that was fine with the older USB Type-B micro standard used on most phones and other gadgets. Low voltage and low current were sent on the same pins every time, and the cable only connected in one direction. That's changed, even for the older Micro-USB "standards" because of the need for faster charging.

Don't buy a USB-C cable just because it's cheap.

When you're buying a USB-C cable or a connector, be leery of companies you've never heard of and stick with names that are generally trusted. This is the best way to make sure the cable is using the appropriate size wires inside, the connector is properly constructed and the right resistance is being used. All three of these things are important when you're sending more current over tiny wires, and cheaply-made cables that aren't using the right components can be dangerous.

Don't blindly buy a cable because it's a "name-brand" though, as we've seen some that aren't built correctly. That's where the next tip comes in ...

Make use of reviews or forum posts

There are still a lot of cables that have a USB-C plug on one end and a "regular" USB plug on the other that are non-compliant in a dangerous way.

Besides using the appropriately sized wire and properly shielding the cable and connector ends, a "regular" USB to USB-C cable requires a 56k Ohm resistor to act as what's called a "pullup" on the VBUS (pins 2 and 17 if you're curious) power channel. This is one of the things you need so a USB-C device can let a power source know how much current to send and when to stop sending it. Using a cable with the wrong size wire will damage the wire. Using a cable with the wrong size resistor can damage the things plugged into each end or start a fire. If one of those things plugged in is your phone you certainly don't want it to be damaged and nobody likes a house fire.

You can test the resistance of a cable yourself, or you can see what someone who already did has to say.

This isn't just a problem with bargain-bin cables, either. Some very high-profile companies have had (or still have) issues with their cables. If you're the type who has fun doing things like testing continuity and resistance of USB cables, that's awesome and you should test everything you buy then share your results. If you're not, you can do a quick google search of the brand or part number and see what those people have to say.

I'll do my part here since I do like to do things like test cables. These Anker brand 6-foot cables are advertised as being compliant, and I've cut one open to make sure. They will work to fast charge every device that uses the USB-C PD standards, as well as work with Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3 and Motorola's Turbo Charge. I am unable to test them with Dash Charge but see no reason why they wouldn't work as advertised. The best part is that they're inexpensive and you can buy a handful of them right now and not have to worry about cables until you change phones.

See at Amazon

USB-C isn't dangerous. It's capable of safely delivering relatively high current as long as the proper equipment is used, and offers a lot of benefits because of the way it can communicate with other compliant devices. What started out by powering small speakers in the late twentieth century is now robust enough to talk with the instruments used to make the music that comes through them or even the bus the band drives to concerts. What's important is that you're using the proper cables and adapters, though.

Just follow these tips, and you'll be fine.

Updated February 2018: Updated with new information and new tips on buy USB-C cables and adapters for the latest devices.

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