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1 week ago

This $379 Chromebook can convert into a tablet and lets you access Android apps alongside ChromeOS

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The Thrifter team is back again with a great deal on Samsung's Chromebook Plus that you won't want to miss!

Updated: Best Buy has price matched. You can sign up for their college student program to take another $50 off the cost, bringing the total down to $329.

The Samsung Chromebook Plus is one of the newest Chromebooks around, having just been introduced in January this year, and is currently $378.74 on Amazon. It shipped at a starting price of $449. While it has seen a few drops here and there since then, this is the lowest it has ever dropped. Pretty much everywhere else, including Newegg and Best Buy, has it for $419 or higher right now.

The Chromebook Plus is lightweight, comes with a stylus, and has a touchscreen. It can convert from a laptop into a tablet. It comes with Bluetooth, a 720p integrated webcam, and two USB-C ports. It has a nice, bright, screen with 2400 x 1600 pixel resolution, which is part of the reason it cost a bit more out the gate than your average Chromebook.

It's also unique in that it's part of Google's attempt to combine ChromeOS and Android, letting you use the features of the Chrome operating system while also accessing Android apps. If you already use an Android smartphone, this Chromebook should complement it pretty well. The Chromebook Plus uses a 2 GHz OP1 Dual-ARM processor, which is designed for use with Android apps, to make that a faster process. However, since ChromeOS is designed to work with a different kind of processor you might see some slowness in other aspects (like when browsing the Internet).

It's not perfect. It is a Chromebook, after all, which means it's designed for light work not heavy play. It only has 4GB RAM and a 32GB SSD, which can be expanded with a microSD port. The battery life is only six hours and the keyboard doesn't have a backlight. It's designed to be able to do a few things at a time and do them well. If that's what you need, then go for it.

Not sure if this is the Chromebook for you? Be sure to check out some of our thoughts here.

See at Amazon

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

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1 week ago

Rev up your engines with these automotive wallpapers

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Car wallpapers for the win.

What's your dream car? Mine is a Chevy SSR. It may be impractical — they may call it a "fake truck" — but I don't care: the SSR will always have a special place in my heart. It was just beautiful, and unique, and whenever I see one on the highway, I can't help the words from coming out: "Hi, pretty…" There are cars that desire, delight, and awe. And even if those cars can't grace our garages (yet), they can grace our home screens.

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1 week ago

Get this Wallet-sized Battery Pack for just $20!

There are few things worse than checking your phone and seeing that low battery warning when you're far away from a charger. It can lead to some real anxiety. Battery packs will help, but most are so bulky that it can be tough to take them along with you.

Get this pocket-sized battery pack for $20! Learn more

But that's where this LithiumCard Wallet Battery pack can help! It offers 1,200mAh of power in a sleek package that's about the size of a wallet and includes a built-in Micro USB or Lightning Connector to keep your devices charged.

Best of all, you can get yours for only $20 — that's 66% off the regular price! It's available in your choice of black or silver to match your style.

This thing is compact, roughly the size of a stack of five credit cards. At 1/5 of an inch thick, you can toss this in your bag or jacket pocket and always have that backup power available to you when you need it.

Star your high-paying career as a computer security specialist! Learn more

Enjoy the premium design of this durable aluminum battery pack, which can be yours for only $20. Stash it in your wallet or use the NanoStik pad to attach it directly to your phone. The choice — and power — can be yours, so act now!

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1 week ago

What color HTC U11 should you buy: Black, blue, silver, white or red?

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HTC U11 colors

You want the phone ... now you just have to pick a color.

The HTC U11's big design feature is its pristine curved glass back, which has a unique color infusing process to bake the colors into the glass rather than layering on top or underneath. It's a look that you can't get from any other glass-backed phone, and it means you may be taking extra care in choosing which color HTC U11 you want to buy.

We have great pictures of all five colors, and some things you may want to keep in mind when making a choice — read on.

See at Amazon

HTC U11 in Brilliant Black

When you're releasing a new phone, you pretty much have to offer a "safe" color — that's Brilliant Black. It's a pretty basic look, but you still get the shiny "deep" color embedded in the glass. When you turn the phone the colors do shift and give it a look of some deeper greens and blues, just not to the extremes that the other colors do.

Who is it for?

If you're interested in the U11 but don't want to go all out with one of the flashy colors, black is going to be the one to get. The glass still stands out, but it isn't way out of line.

HTC U11 in Sapphire Blue

The "Sapphire Blue" U11 is one step above the black in terms of flash. The deep blue glass flows into color-matched blue metal on the side, and it really looks nice. When you tilt the phone the colors change to different shades of blue, and because it's a bit lighter it also starts to pull in colors from around it.

Who is it for?

If the black U11 feels a bit boring for you, but you still don't want to go flashy, the blue will be a good middle ground.

HTC U11 in Amazing Silver

This is where things start to get crazy. Depending on what angle you see it from, the "Amazing Silver" U11 can look like anything from shiny chrome all the way to deep blue. In a purely white room with no other colors around, the silver U11 is more of a very light blue — both the glass back and metal sides. But because of the extreme reflectivity, it pulls in colors from all around — it's hardly ever the same color twice.

Who is it for?

If you want a super-interesting color that will stand out from every angle every single day, this is the one to get. So long as you're okay with the "regular" view of it being a light blue base color, the silver U11 is a good choice.

HTC U11 in Ice White

The "Ice White" U11 is a pretty typical white glass and silver metal color scheme. The back has a very deep color that isn't nearly as reflective as the other colors, and the color doesn't shift as much. You get a pearlescent look and hints of pink from some angles, but the back stays very much "white" from most angles.

Who is it for?

There aren't a lot of white glass phones available, so if you've been looking for something that's beyond the standard black/gold/silver options, this is for you.

HTC U11 in Solar Red

It's hard to explain the ridiculousness of the "Solar Red" U11. Nominally, it's red. But when you tilt it off-axis, it turns a deep gold, orange or yellow depending on the angle. It's an amazing effect that's truly unique, even among the other U11 color options.

Who is it for?

The Solar Red color is absolutely for someone who wants to stand out. Not only are there so few red phones out there in general, but you won't find another "red" phone out there that can change colors so dramatically.

Regional differences matter

As is always the case, you won't necessarily be able to choose from all five colors in all regions around the world. Right at launch, HTC is primarily offering the black, blue and silver colors. White and red were not finalized until later on in the development of the U11, so they won't be widely available for some time. Here's the current breakdown of availability, as of mid-June:

  • U.S.: Sapphire Blue, Brilliant Black, Amazing Silver (Amazon and htc.com only)
  • Europe: Sapphire Blue, Brilliant Black, Amazing Silver, Ice White, Solar Red (coming soon)
  • China: Sapphire Blue, Brilliant Black, Amazing Silver, Ice White, Solar Red (coming soon)
  • Taiwan: Sapphire Blue, Brilliant Black, Amazing Silver, Ice White, Solar Red (coming soon)
  • Australia: Brilliant Black, Amazing Silver (carrier/retailer dependent)

One thing you'll notice is that the Solar Red model isn't available anywhere right at launch — but expect it to head out to various regions soon. So if you have your heart set on red, be patient rather than settling for another color, because it is coming.

HTC U11

Amazon Sprint HTC

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1 week ago

These were the biggest VR games shown at E3 2017

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These were the biggest announcements for the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PSVR at E3 2017.

The leading video game show of the year, E3, is currently underway in Los Angeles. Various press conferences have already outlined upcoming projects among top publishers in the industry and virtual reality continues to be a growing trend. Despite VR having a reduced presence in comparison to last year's show, owners of the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PSVR all have titles to look forward to. We've rounded up the biggest VR game announcements from E3 2017.

Read more at VRHeads.com

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1 week ago

How to keep your smartphone cool during the hot summer months

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Sun's out, the smartphone's out. But don't forget that in addition to slathering on the sunscreen, you'll have to keep your phone protected, too.

Summer is all about streaming the hits of year's past and shooting a bounty of selfies. But while you're out doing that, remember to keep tabs on how hot your smartphone becomes as you're having fun.

The warmer weather months don't offer a friendly climate for electronics, and the heat can actually be hazardous to overall device health. Here are a few tips to keep your smartphone cool for the summer.

Don't leave the phone in the car

Grab one of these if you need to tend to use turn-by-turn directions, in your car, during the hot summer months.

There's a reason it's illegal in some areas to leave your child or a pet behind in a hot car. Even with the windows cracked a bit, cars are effectively giant metal incubators. It's also why you shouldn't leave your smartphone behind.

Overall, it's best to pre-plan where you'll put things before you get into the vehicle. If you're driving long distances, for example, grab a magnetic car mount to keep the phone affixed to the air conditioning vent as you're using turn-by-turn directions. If you have to leave the phone in the car for safety reasons, try storing it in the trunk instead. That's the part of the car with the least "greenhouse gas" effect (link is a PDF).

Another rule I abide by is to never leave any gadgets in the glove compartment, even if I'm streaming music and my phone is connected to the auxiliary cable located inside. Glove boxes are hot enough to melt the cassette tapes of yore, and unless you've got an air conditioning vent located inside, it's definitely hot enough to toast your electronics.

Turn off what you don't need

Bluetooth, LTE, Wi-Fi, and GPS — if you don't need these things while you're out and about, turn them off. That will ensure your phone isn't working in overtime in your purse or pocket while you're out gallivanting in sun-stroked gardens. It'll also be a boon for battery life, which you'll want considering how much warmer a smartphone gets when it's plugged in for a charge.

Take off the case

Don't bother with a case in the hot summer months. It'll just make things hotter.

You wouldn't wear layers in the hot summer heat, right? There is no need to pile them on top of your smartphone, either. If you're in need of a case because you're engaging in outside activity, put the phone inside an Otterbox and keep the screen off during your excursion.

Keep devices separate

I don't live in a humid climate or in the desert, so I've never had this sort of issue. But if you're walking around with several devices clustered in a bag or backpack and the air is positively thick with heat, be sure that they're powered off and kept in separate compartments. This gives all the metal things on your shoulder a little room to breathe as the world outside bakes everything else.

Don't put it in the fridge

A strange practice that isn't worth practicing at all.

I used to do this with my MacBook Air until I was scolded for doing so. According to Gazelle, a site where you can sell your old gadgets, cooling your gadgets too rapidly could actually damage the inside components.

Don't cool it too fast. If your phone overheats, your initial reaction is going to be to rush it to the coldest place you can find. However, rushing the cooling process can cause condensation to get trapped on the inside of the devices and inevitably, water damage.

Whoa! The best thing to do if you feel like your device is too hot is to slowly cool it down by turning it off completely and leaving it alone for a while. You should also unseat the battery pack, if it's removable, and definitely place the phone away from direct sunlight.

What are your tricks?

We all have our own tricks for dealing with the heat. What are you some of your methods for cooling your smartphone down when the world outside is burning up? Let us know!

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1 week ago

Exclusive: New OnePlus 5 render shows there's more to the design than dual cameras

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OnePlus 5

We get it, you think it looks like an iPhone 7 — but let's be rational for a second.

Once OnePlus put out a rather revealing teaser of the OnePlus 5's hardware, showing off its dual cameras, the focus quickly turned to one discussion: "it kind of looks like an iPhone." A fresh render of the top-right corner of the back of the phone, obtained by Android Central, shows a few subtleties that paint a bit of a different picture.

A few shared design elements doesn't make one phone a 'copy' of another.

Unfortunately we don't have a complete look at the phone from multiple angles here, but the zoomed-in take gets the point across: this isn't just an iPhone 7 clone. Yes it's black, metal and curved, but the details are clearly different. Take a look at that render above — see the way the metal subtly curves from the flat back then transitions along a straight line to a flat side. That flat side carries all the way down the side of the phone — and based on previous leaks the way it meets the front glass is entirely different from the iPhone as well. It may seem like making a mountain out of a mole hill, but these are differences that will have a big influence on how the OnePlus 5 feels in your hand every day.

Thankfully the Alert Slider (which lets you switch between configurable Do Not Disturb modes) is back, and looks to be nicely crafted with a tight diamond pattern to make it easy to toggle even when you're not looking at the phone. Yes I will grant you the fact that the wide embedded antenna lines look familiar — but you have to get antennas in there somewhere, and if that's the best way to do them right now, so be it.

There are clearly features that make it more than just a design lifted from a competitor.

Based on the views we have right now, does the OnePlus 5 give you feelings that it shares some design elements with the iPhone 7? Sure it does — but to my eyes, it doesn't seem to share much more than any other modern black aluminum smartphone does. You can point to specific parts of any phone out there today and find similarities to another phone.

Yes it seems as though OnePlus is going to stick with an understated, almost generic look for the OnePlus 5 — and once we see the whole thing revealed we can make those assessments. But there are clearly design flourishes and attentions to detail here that make it more than just a basic hardware design lifted from a competitor.

OnePlus 5

OnePlus

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1 week ago

Samsung Pay comes to the budget segment with the Galaxy J7 Pro

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Samsung is aggressively expanding Samsung Pay in India.

After launching Samsung Pay in India earlier this year, the South Korean manufacturer is now making its digital payments service more accessible by bringing it to the budget segment —with the Galaxy J7 Pro the first device to feature the service. Samsung also rolled out another device in the Galaxy J series — the Galaxy J7 Max — which offers Samsung Pay Mini for UPI and Paytm transactions.

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1 week ago

Kodi: The ultimate guide

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Cord cutters are raving about Kodi.

Kodi is an open-source media center app that's been developed and built out over the past decade. Its latest build is one of the most complete media centers you'll find, allowing you to consolidate all your media — videos, music, and photos — into a single destination with a customizable interface that's both stylish and easy to use. There's also a slew of third-party add-ons available within Kodi, which grant you access to all sorts of streaming options from around the world. Kodi is widely available, with builds available for nearly all operating systems and devices. The latest version of Kodi, codenamed Leia, will be released soon. You can read more about the new features being included here.

Kodi makes it easy to organize and watch your favorite media from your computer, smartphone, or TV via a Kodi-enabled device. Available in the Google Play Store, Kodi can be installed on pretty much any Android device. While it's pretty easy to setup Kodi on your own (and we've got guides to help you set things up for yourself, there's been increased interest in Android TV boxes that come with Kodi pre-installed. Simply connect these boxes up to your TV, connect them to your Wi-Fi and you're pretty much ready to start streaming content. Depending on how much you're planning to invest, these boxes can come loaded with 4K capabilities.

See at Kodi.tv

Quick guide to Kodi for beginners

Top picks for pre-installed Kodi boxes

Given how versatile and easy it is to get Kodi, you may already have a device that's ready to roll — whether you've got a computer hooked up to your TV, an Android TV device such as the NVIDIA Shield or the Xaomi Mi Box, or you're looking for a new project for your Raspberry Pi.

But all these options take some setting up and tweaking, which is why many smart TV boxes are coming preloaded with Kodi. Sometimes referred to colloquially as "Kodi boxes," these devices range drastically in terms of quality and security, but they're also extremely affordable and requires very little setup. Take a look at some of these options available from Amazon for under $100.

Q-Box Amlogic S905 Smart TV Box

This Android TV box supports up to 4K playback, runs on Android 5.1, and comes pre-loaded with a bunch of popular apps, including Kodi — though you'll probably need to do some tweaking to get everything up to date with the latest versions. You'll be able to update and get more apps for other streaming services you might be subscribed to via the Google Play Store. There's 16GB of internal storage available for your own media, along with an SD card slot on the back. The Q-Box comes with a remote but also features two USB ports on the back if you'd prefer to control it with a mouse and keyboard.

Aesthetically, this box has a ring of pulsing light around the perimeter, which might feel a bit gaudy to some, but it can be disabled in the preferences.

See at Amazon

MX3 Advance Android TV Box

The MX3 Advance also is capable of supporting 4K playback and should handle all your binging needs without feeling sluggish. It also comes with Kodi installed and preloaded with a bunch of popular add-ons. There's 16GB of internal storage along with an SD card slot so you can load up your personal media, and there's also two USB ports on the back.

Those ports might come in handy since the included remote control has a very limited range and is not so good. You'd be better off getting a wireless controller (See the suggestions on the Amazon page for good options with built-in QWERTY keyboards) or using those USB ports for a keyboard and mouse combo.

See at Amazon

Amlogic S912 Octa Core Android 6.0 TV Box

As recommended by a commenter below, the Amlogic S912 is a great newer Kodi box option that you can buy for around $70. It's running on Android 6.0 and comes with Kodi and a bunch of other useful media apps pre-installed. There is 16GB of internal storage, 2GB of RAM, and connectivity support for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi — and everything is packaged in a rather stylish package.

Each box comes with standard accessories including an IR remote, HDMI cable, power adapter and user manual. You have the option of connecting up your own keyboard and mouse to make searching for content easier. It's a great, affordable option that should be ready to roll right out of the box.

See at Amazon

Your picks?

What are your favorite ways to access Kodi? Let us know in the comments below!

Update June 2017: Added the Quick Guide to Kodi for Beginners.

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1 week ago

The Fi Fit Quiz lets you quickly see if Project Fi is right for you

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See if it's economical for you and your family to switch to Project Fi.

Google is making it easier for consumers looking to switch from their current carrier to Project Fi. The Project Fi website now features a Fi Fit Quiz, a tool that lets you figure out if the MVNO is a right fit for you. The tool lets you enter your home pin code to determine if Project Fi is available in your area, and lets you get an estimate of your monthly bill should you make the switch.

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1 week ago

Xiaomi Mi 6 benchmarks: Putting the Snapdragon 835 to the test

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It's time to see how the Xiaomi Mi 6 holds up in benchmarks.

The Xiaomi Mi 6 is one of the first phones to be powered by the Snapdragon 835. Built on Samsung's 10nm FinFET node, the chipset offers a laundry list of improvements over last year's Snapdragon 820 and 821, including a new semi-custom octa-core Kryo 280 CPU with four cores clocked at 2.45GHz, four cores at 1.90GHz, and an Adreno 540 GPU.

Synthetic benchmarks aren't indicative of real-world usage, nor do they highlight a device's user experience. For instance, the Galaxy S8 with its Snapdragon 835 (or the Exynos 8895) absolutely crushes it when it comes to benchmark scores, but the numbers don't reveal the odd stutter that's still present in the UI.

That said, benchmarks are an important metric to a lot of users, and more often than not, a high score in apps like AnTuTu forms the basis for a purchasing decision, particularly in markets like China and India. Without further ado, here's a look at how the Xiaomi Mi 6 fares next to the competition:

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1 week ago

Google's new Local Guides points system makes leaving reviews worth your time

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Whether you're a traveler or a homebody, the Google-led app rewards handsomely for leaving recommendations.

Google Local Guides were introduced in 2014 to help foster a giant community of local reviewers who just know where all the best stuff is. When you sign up to be a Local Guide, every contribution helps you rack up points towards unlocking other elements of the service inside Google Maps. Over the next few days, Google will introduce a new points system to Local Guides to help unlock other types of goodies and hopefully encourage the proliferation of more reviews.

Certain kinds of contributions that have a higher impact for Google Maps users—like being the first to add a place to the map or leaving a review—earn you more points. In addition, Local Guides now earn points for rating places and checking facts from other community members. All points earned are shown immediately after each contribution, and are visible in the "contribute" tab.

Google has also added five new levels to Local Guides, in addition to adding badges for those who are heavy contributors.

We've added five new levels to Local Guides, bringing the total number from 5 to 10. For levels 4-10, we've designed unique badges, giving guides at higher levels a new way to be recognized for their contributions, and helping users quickly identify the Local Guides who contribute the most. These badges will appear next to each Local Guides' profile picture in Google Maps.

If you're a Level 2 Local Guide, you can enjoy early access to the new features. In select countries, Level 4-10 Local Guides can redeem a three-month Google Play Music subscription and 75% off digital rentals in the Play Movie store.

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1 week ago

How many Pixels has Google actually sold?

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The sales numbers remain a mystery to all of us, though there are a few theories floating around.

With all the fervent rumormongering regarding the next batch of Pixel smartphones, it seems an appropriate time to take a look at several of the theories making the rounds about how many millions of Pixel and Pixel XL units Google has actually sold.

The phone launched eight months ago and has remained a strong seller at Verizon, where it was marketed as an exclusive (it's not; it's also sold unlocked in the Google Store). Regardless, that was certainly a winning strategy, as 7.5% of all phone activations on Verizon late last year (since the phones launched) were a Pixel or Pixel XL. (Sadly, thanks in part to a disjointed marketing strategy, other carriers only ranked in at 2% for the same end-of-2016 time period.)

So, we know the phone is selling relatively well with the help of the carrier that was heavily marketing it as an exclusive. But how well did it sell for Google? According to Ars Technica, it just barely hit a million units:

Unlike just about every hardware manufacturer on Earth, Google doesn't share official sales numbers for the Pixel phones, choosing to bundle the income under Alphabet's "Other Revenues" during earnings reports. We do have one very solid signal for Pixel sales, though: the Play Store, which shows install numbers for apps. If there was an app that was exclusive and install-by-default on the Pixel phones, like say, the Pixel Launcher, the install number would basically be the number of sold activated phones.

This calculation is complicated by the fact that Google Play doesn't show exact install numbers; it shows installs in "tiers" like "100,000-500,000." So most of the time, we won't have an exact Pixel sales number—except when the Pixel Launcher crosses from one download tier to another. So guess what just happened? The Pixel Launcher just crossed into the "1,000,000-5,000,000" install tier (you can see some third-party tracking sites, like AppBrain, still have it listed at 500,000). So for this one moment in history, eight months after launch, we can say Google finally sold a million Pixel phones.

Since there aren't any official sales numbers offered by Google (or Alphabet, as it were), the guesstimate is based on the number of downloads of the Pixel Launcher in the Play Store. The result paints a rather grim picture, however, which didn't seem to be the case when we initially pored over Verizon's Q3 2016 finance reports:

Let's look at Verizon's Q3 2016 earnings report, where we can see it activates roughly 8 million phones per quarter. If you assume Verizon activates a similar number in Q4, that'd average out to 600,000 Pixels activated at Verizon in the first three months...

Last year, the company had a record of activating roughly 8 million phones a quarter. If we assume Verizon maintained a consistent number of Pixels activated per quarter — 7.5% of 8 million, which makes it about 600,000 units — then that puts the number at close to 2 million units, on Verizon alone, since the initial debut. The result then gives less credence to the idea that only a measly million units were sold.

Overall, we don't know how Google actually calculates its Play Store install numbers, but based on what we know about Verizon's sales we certainly can't make the inference based solely on the number of installs displayed in the Play Store.

What we do know is that Google still has a long journey ahead of it before its branded smartphones sell as well as Apple's iPhones (or any of the dozens of companies surely above Google's sales currently). There sure are plenty of Android users in the world, but only a small fraction of them are on the Pixel or Pixel XL.

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Google Store Verizon

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1 week ago

Everything we know so far about Skyrim VR

Everything we know so far about Skyrim VR

What do I need to know about Skyrim VR?

A surprise trailer for Skyrim VR was shown during the Sony presentation at E3 2017. Arriving on the heels of the Fallout 4 VR trailer, many fans were left with a bunch of questions regarding Bethesda's move to take their beloved fantasy RPG into VR. To help spread the word, here's everything we know so far.

Read more at VR Heads!

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1 week ago

How to use a Google Play gift card

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Play money is fun money

Google Play is not only the largest app store in the world but also a music subscription service, a bookstore, and a video store. Google Play gift cards make an excellent gift (hence the name), but that's not the limit of their use. Since Google restricts underage user accounts from Google Wallet, Google Play gift cards might be the only way for your munchkins to purchase content. Here's where to find them and how to use them.

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