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1 day ago

MetroPCS is now throwing in a free year of Amazon Prime for new customers

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A similar offer to its competitors, but with a couple caveats.

In April, AT&T added a free HBO subscription to some of its unlimited plans. T-Mobile followed suit in September by giving all of its customers free access to Netflix, and most recently, Sprint announced that its subscribers will soon have access to Hulu for no extra charge. MetroPCS is the next carrier to run a similar promotion, but its offer is a bit more limited.

Starting today, November 16, customers that switch to MetroPCS from their current wireless service provider will be able to get a free year of Amazon Prime and access all of the many benefits that it comes with. MetroPCS's deal is only available for new customers and is only offering a Prime account for one year rather than indefinitely, but those that do take advantage of this will also get the Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime for free.

The Galaxy J7 Prime usually costs between $209 and $99 on MetroPCS, and some of its key specs include a 5.5-inch Full HD display, 8MP f/1.9 rear camera, 1.6GHz Exynos 7870 processor, 16GB of internal storage, 2GB of RAM, and a 3,300 mAh battery.

In order to take advantage of this MetroPCS deal, you'll need to first make the switch to the carrier and pick up your free J7 Prime. Once you do this and submit your information through MetroPCS's website, you'll get an email with a link and code to enter on Amazon's site. Do this, and you'll be all set up with a free year of Prime.

See at MetroPCS

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1 day ago

OnePlus 5T vs. Samsung Galaxy S8: Beast mode

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With the OnePlus 5T, the flagship that never settles can now contend with the flagships that truly sell.

It's not really a fair fight, since the Galaxy S8 costs over $700 (the larger S8+ over $800) and the OnePlus 5T a mere $500, but for the sake of the argument, let's assume you're choosing between these two phones. The Galaxy S8 is smaller — usable in one hand, even — while the OnePlus 5T is roughly the same size as its immediate predecessor, but has a larger screen in an updated 18:9 aspect ratio.

Both of these phones feature the latest and greatest in terms of hardware, but whereas Samsung's phones are all-in on a single 12MP camera, OnePlus tries to eke superior low light performance from a secondary sensor that, strangely, has smaller pixels than the primary one. Anyway, the Galaxy S8 is one of the best phones of the year so far — does the OnePlus 5T give it a run for its money? Let's find out.

Specs and design

The Galaxy S8 was among the first phones to launch with the now-common 2:1+ aspect ratio (in this case, 18.5:9 because Samsung needs to be different). That was all the way back in March (and right after the LG G6 began the craze), and since then many companies have followed suit.

OnePlus says that the 5T is essentially the same phone as the 5, but is taking advance of newer technologies available to it. We can see that in the display, which is essentially the same panel just without the borders above and below — with a slight resolution bump to 2160x1080 — and a fingerprint sensor around the back.

Take a look at the specs below to see how similar they compare internally.

Category OnePlus 5T Samsung Galaxy S8 Operating system Android 7.1.1 Nougat Android 7.0 Nougat Display 6-inch Optic AMOLED, 2160x1080 (18:9) 5.8-inch AMOLED
2960x1440 (18.5:9) Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core
Adreno 540 GPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core
Adreno 540 GPU Storage 64/128GB (UFS 2.1) 64GB (UFS 2.1) RAM 6/8GB LPDDR4X 4GB Rear camera 1 16MP, 1.12μm, f/1.7
Dual LED flash 12MP Dual Pixel, f/1.7
1.4μm
OIS Rear camera 2 20MP, 1μm, f/1.7 N/A Front camera 16MP, 1μm, f/2.0 8MP, f/1.7
auto focus Battery 3300mAh 3000mAh Charging USB-C
Dash Charge USB-C
Fast Charge
Qi/PMA wireless charging Water resistance No Yes Security One-touch fingerprint sensor
Face Unlock One-touch fingerprint sensor
Face Unlock | Iris scanner Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi, 2x2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0, aptX HD
USB-C (2.0), NFC
GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo Wi-Fi 802.11ac MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC, GPS, Glonass, Galileo, BeiDou
LTE Cat.16 Network LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/30/66
3xCA, 256QAM, DL Cat 12, UL Cat 13 LTE 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/20/25/26/29/30/40/41/66
4xCA, 256QAM, DL Cat 16, UL Cat 13 Dimensions 156.1 x 75 x 7.3 mm
162 g 148.9 x 68.1 x 8 mm
155 g Colors Midnight Black Midnight Black
Coral Blue Price $499 / $559 $729

Obviously, the Galaxy S8 has less RAM than either of the OnePlus 5T variants, but in day-to-day usage that shouldn't pose too much of a problem. The OnePlus 5T has a larger battery but lacks the waterproofing and wireless charging of the more expensive phone. Similarly, the 5T also lacks Cat 16 LTE, which prevents it from reaching those gigabit speeds; instead, OnePlus is really pushing the Dash Charge feature of the 5T, which lets it charge through USB-C faster than any other system out there right now.

Given that the base model OnePlus 5T comes with 6GB of RAM, you'd expect the phone to keep apps in memory for longer than the Galaxy S8 — and doubly so for the 8GB model that ships for $60 more and adds an additional 64GB of storage — but, given Android's pedigree for divesting itself of app load in memory, that isn't the case. Nevertheless, the OnePlus 5T is an extremely good performer, and continues OnePlus's legacy as one of the best values for money you can buy.

How much does it matter that the OnePlus 5T doesn't have water resistance or wireless charging?

The OnePlus 5T shares a lot of its design with its predecessor, the OnePlus 5, but shifts some things around to give it a more modern feel. Gone is the front-facing fingerprint sensor, moved now to the back of the phone down the center to accommodate the larger screen. When using the phone, the extra screen real estate is much appreciated, and the 6-inch OLED panel is, while not as sharp as the Galaxy S8's, of decent quality (it's manufactured by Samsung Display, natch), but the Infinity Display on the S8 still stands out, months later, as one of the industry's best. Indeed, the curved glass that meets the metal sides looks incredible.

The OnePlus 5T's camera stack is different internally, as we'll find out later, but its looks haven't changed since June's OnePlus 5. Still located on the top left of the device, the 16MP primary and 20MP secondary shooters protrude slightly. It looks fine, but when compared to the Galaxy S8, you can clearly see Samsung's superior industrial design chops at play. The Galaxy S8 doesn't have a camera bump, and its shiny glass back, while it invites more fingerprints than the 5T's matte metal, feels awesome, and facilitates wireless charging to boot.

There isn't a phone released this year that looks and feels as good as the Galaxy S8.

It's also worth pointing out just how fantastic the Galaxy S8 feels in the hand. I know — "hand feel" quickly loses its lofty distinction after using the phone for a few days, but it's still important. The Galaxy S8 is on the smaller side of this year's flagship crop (with the 6.2-inch Galaxy S8+ and 6.3-inch Galaxy Note 8 hitting sizes closer to the OnePlus 5T), but to my mind, and hand, it hits the right size for most people.

That's not to say the OnePlus 5T doesn't look great; it builds on the successful maturation of the OnePlus 5 and removes much of the legacy design elements. The all-screen front is a big deal, especially for those looking to OnePlus as a trend-setting company; while the fingerprint at the back makes a big difference in usability, especially when paired with the Face Unlock feature.

It's also worth pointing out that both the OnePlus 5T and Galaxy S8 have headphone jacks. Because you can never have too many ways to listen to music.

Extra features

The OnePlus 5T adds a Face Unlock feature that uses 100 points of measurement on one's face. It's not nearly as advanced, or secure, as the iris scanning on the Galaxy S8, but it also works far faster — it's even faster and more reliable than Samsung's less-secure face unlock method — but it works so, so well.

Indeed, I've barely needed to use the fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone (which is much more sensibly placed than that of the Galaxy S8) to unlock it, since the Face Unlock just works.

Samsung has been a forerunner in alternative biometrics, starting with iris scanning in the Note 7, but this year's crop of phones, between the perpetual unreliability of the face unlock and the awkward placement of the fingerprint sensor, undermined that achievement somewhat. OnePlus doesn't try to complicate things and, as a result, wins in both respects.

Still, Samsung has the edge in a well-rounded set of features: it supports Qi and PMA wireless charging; it's IP68 water and dust resistant; and it's a true gigabit phone, supporting speeds up to 1 gigabit per second. The OnePlus 5T has none of those things: despite using the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 platform and baseband solution, its lack of 4x carrier aggregation support limits it to 600Mbps.

Finally, you can't forget Bixby, the local assistant that Samsung, for better or worse, has chosen to tack along to its 2017 lineup. While the button can be completely disabled these days, it's still an encumbrance given its proximity to the volume rocker, especially since Bixby itself isn't all that useful.

OnePlus, on the other hand, maintains the presence of its three-toggle mute button, which makes it iPhone-easy to change between loud, vibrate, and silent modes. I've come to appreciate this slider over the years, and appreciate that the company has maintained it since the OnePlus 2 debuted in 2015.

Software

Right now, the OnePlus 5T runs Android 7.1.2 Nougat, which, while disappointing in a world of phones launching with Oreo, is still a newer version than the Galaxy S8, which is stuck on 7.0.

OnePlus hews a little closer to what we would consider "stock" Android, but the company adds its own flair, and for the most part, the features add value. Since the 5T is the first OnePlus phone without capacitive buttons, there may be a slight learning curve for those coming from older OnePlus devices, but the company has maintained its bevy of shortcuts and gestures to make navigating the Android OS easy.

OnePlus also promises an update to Oreo by the end of 2017, which may actually be sooner than Samsung's equivalent for the Galaxy S8 series.

Cameras

The jury is still largely out on the OnePlus 5T's camera — we'll have to wait until a full review — but in my brief time testing it, results are mixed.

In daylight, the photos are nigh identical to the OnePlus 5 — as they should be, since the two phones share the same 16MP sensor. But at night, results vary. They're supposed to be better than the 5 thanks to a 20MP RGB sensor that's optimized for low light, but in our early testing, they're merely good, not great.

Compared to the Galaxy S8, the results provide more detail in daylight and aren't quite as good in low light. We'll have to wait a few more days for samples.

Still, the OnePlus 5T, with its second sensor (that forgoes the telephoto focal distance of its predecessor in favor of low light optimization) can do portrait photography, and the results are much better than when the 5 came out earlier this year.

This improvement is more due to software optimizations than any inherent hardware advantages, but it's still significant.

I'll let this image speak for itself, but at this point, it's unclear whether OnePlus's gambit to improve low-light capture will pay off; the phone only switches to its secondary camera when the sensor detects light of 10 Lux or less, which is almost pitch black. And given that the second sensor has more pixels than the main one, with smaller individual pixels to capture light against an f/1.7 lens, I'm not sure it was the right decision.

How does the OnePlus 5T stack up?

While it's not a fair fight given the Galaxy S8 exacts a $200 premium over the OnePlus 5T, this comparison is more an exercise to see whether OnePlus can compete with the best phones out there today. The Galaxy S8 may be a few months old but alongside its larger counterpart, the Galaxy S8+, it's by far the most popular and successful Android phone in the world.

To its credit, OnePlus hits a lot of the same notes for significantly less money, and while the camera continues to be the biggest sticking point, it's good enough that a prospective buyer won't feel short-changed.

OnePlus considers the 5T to be a slightly upgraded version of the 5, but essentially the same phone. When viewed that way, a $20 bump is a small price to pay for a larger screen, a great new face unlock feature, and the same awesome performance and software experience as before.

Who still wants a Galaxy?

See at OnePlus

OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5

OnePlus Amazon

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1 day ago

Best Speakers To Use With Your Amazon Echo Dot

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Best Overall

Bose SoundLink II

See at Amazon

While it's designed to be a Bluetooth speaker to connect your phone, the design and audio quality from this speaker make it perfect for filling most rooms with sound.

You can connect your Amazon Echo Dot to this speaker and leave it forever as a better Amazon Echo, or you can take the $180 Bose Soundlink II with you when leaving the house thanks to its internal battery. It's a great flexible option for just about every occasion, and looks nice enough that it can sit in a room without standing out or taking up too much space.

Bottom line: This speaker will turn your Amazon Echo Dot into something better than an Amazon Echo, and does a whole lot more.

One more thing: You can pick up the Bose SoundLink II in either black or white to match your Echo Dot.

Why the Bose SoundLink II is the best

Plain and simple, this one comes down to style and feature set. Bose made a nice looking speaker with colors that complement the Echo Dot well, offers a quality audio experience over both Bluetooth and through the 3.5mm jack, and can be portable if you want it to be. This can be a poolside speaker as well as a great Amazon Echo speaker, and it will look nice doing both.

This speaker does make your Amazon Echo Dot a little more expensive than a standalone Amazon Echo when you add the two costs together, but what you're getting in exchange is noticeably better audio quality and some features you won't get by just buying an Amazon Echo.

Best for portability

VAUX speaker for Echo Dot

See on Amazon

Why bother with buying multiple Amazon Echo Dots when you can buy a speaker that powers your single Echo Dot so it can come with you wherever you are in the house? VAUX is one of several speaker designers clever enough to make the body of the speaker something that can actually hold the Echo Dot while in use, so it not only powers the brains of the operation but makes the whole system a single portable unit.

This $50 speaker promises six hours of portable run time, and the dual 52mm drivers will certainly make this little Echo Dot fill a room with sound. Best of all, you don't need a different power cord to charge this combined unit. The charger you used to power the Echo Dot is also capable of charging this speaker.

Bottom line: If portability is your goal, this is a great place to start.

Best Audio Quality

B&O Play Beoplay A6

See on Amazon

The speaker on a taller Amazon Echo is ok, but in larger rooms frequently feels a little flat. If your goal is high audio quality so you can stream across an entire house and really rattle the windows, you either want a complete standalone stereo system or you want a Beoplay A6.

Bang & Olufsen is the champion of high quality audio in portable form, but you pay for the privilege. These speakers are not cheap, but the audio difference couldn't be more clear when compared to other standalone speakers. While the Beoplay series does come in other, smaller formats that do a good job filling a room with sound, the $799 Beoplay A6 speakers are built for style and room-filling audio. It's a strange looking speaker for sure, but one of those experiences where you don't know you can listen to anything else after listening to this.

One more thing: These speakers are available in a bunch of different color fabric options, but tracking something down outside of the standard off-white or textured grey (sorry, Light Gray and Oxidized Brass) isn't easy.

Conclusion

There are a lot of great options for speakers to add to an Amazon Echo Dot, because just about every speaker has a 3.5mm jack right now. If you want the best for a single room, the Bose SoundLink II is where you want to be. If your goal is portability over all else, the Bliik Infinite X is your speaker. And if audio quality is the most important thing to you, grab a Sonos Play:5 and have a blast.

Best Overall

Bose SoundLink II

See at Amazon

While it's designed to be a Bluetooth speaker to connect your phone, the design and audio quality from this speaker make it perfect for filling most rooms with sound.

You can connect your Amazon Echo Dot to this speaker and leave it forever as a better Amazon Echo, or you can take the Bose Soundlink II with you when leaving the house thanks to its internal battery. It's a great flexible option for just about every occasion, and looks nice enough that it can sit in a room without standing out or taking up too much space.

Bottom line: This speaker will turn your Amazon Echo Dot into something better than an Amazon Echo, and does a whole lot more.

One more thing: You can pick up the Bose SoundLink II in either black or white to match your Echo Dot.

Updated November 2017: We have updated our best picks for speakers to use with your Echo Dot!

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1 day ago

LastPass won't be affected by restrictions on Accessibility Services

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LastPass and other big applications will be able to keep using Accessibility Services like normal.

At the beginning of this week, it was discovered that Google was informing app developers about new restrictions being implemented on the use of Accessibility Services. We have a full breakdown that explains exactly what's going on and why these changes are being made, but essentially what it boils down to is Google trying to prevent malicious applications from tapping into this deeper part of the OS.

However, while protecting against potentially huge security threats, this also left some questions regarding legitimate apps that rely fairly heavily on Accessibility Services, such as LastPass, Tasker, etc.

LastPass – "there is no immediate impact to our Android users."

Following this concern, LastPass issued a statement saying that "there is no immediate impact to our Android users." LastPass says that Google is currently working closely with certain developers so that they'll be able to continue to use Accessibility Services in the short-run, while also helping them convert to safer solutions down the road.

In LastPass's case, that long-term solution comes in the form of Android Oreo's Autofill API that allows for nearly the same (and sometimes better) experience as what's currently offered with LastPass's App Fill feature.

It's unclear at this time what developers have the green light from Google to keep using Accessibility Services for the time being, but should we learn of any more, we'll be sure to keep you posted.

Accessibility Services: What they are and why Google is cracking down on their misues

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1 day ago

OnePlus 5T vs. OnePlus 3T: Should you upgrade?

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OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 3T

The iterative march can make it tough to know when to upgrade.

The average OnePlus phone owner likely upgrades faster than owners of other brands, but even they have limits. Most won't drop the money to get a new phone every six months ... but jumping up every year is totally reasonable. With the release of the OnePlus 5T there are a whole lot of OnePlus 3T owners eyeballing this upgrade who understandably passed on the quick jump to the original OnePlus 5 while their own purchase was still nice and fresh. And there are probably many OnePlus 3 owners feeling the same way, not wanting to wait another half a year for whatever succeeds it.

Whether you're hanging onto a OnePlus 3 or the slightly upgraded 3T, we want to give you the information you need to know if the OnePlus 5T is a worthy upgrade at $499.

What's the same

OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 3T

OnePlus has held a pretty amazing consistency in its flagships from the original OnePlus One up to today's 5T. Though the exterior of the OnePlus 5T looks quite different from the 3 or 3T, the core experience of using the phone hasn't changed all that much. Android 7.1 Nougat on the OnePlus 3 and 3T is near-identical to what ships on the 5T, and all three phones are slated for the Android 8.0 Oreo update by the end of 2017.

The core experience of using the phone hasn't changed much from the OnePlus 3 to the 5T.

Performance, too, is extremely consistent between the phones. Though the OnePlus 3 may seem "old" to phone nerds, its Snapdragon 820 processor and 6GB of RAM are more than capable of pushing this nimble OxygenOS software and all of the latest apps at nearly the same pace as a Snapdragon 835 and (potentially) 8GB of RAM on the latest OnePlus 5T.

Beyond the software being displayed on the screen, the core hardware experience hasn't changed much either. We'll talk about the design changes below, but when you think about the basic hardware features — like ports, buttons, speaker, radios, etc. — you'll find few discrepancies between the previous generation and the latest. Again, it's worth remembering that even the OnePlus 3 isn't particularly old at this point, and when it was released it had most of the latest and greatest internals — they've aged well.

What's different

OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 3T

The most obvious difference with this upgrade is the change of hardware design. OnePlus is using the same simple, solid and efficient hardware in the 5T as it did back with the 3, but it's much more sleek and refined in 2017. The OnePlus 5T has a bit more character, more polish and more style when set next to the generic-looking OnePlus 3. The feel isn't much different between the two, but looks are important.

There's no doubt the OnePlus 5T feels like a far more 'modern' phone.

The same goes with the view from the front, where the 6-inch 2:1 display on the OnePlus 5T just feels more modern compared to the larger bezels surrounding a 5.5-inch 16:9 display on the older phones. And it isn't just for looks: you get the benefit of more usable screen space in effectively the same package, too, and the fingerprint sensor is just as usable on the back of the phone. The Optic AMOLED display panel itself isn't notably improved from last year, but getting more of it in the same basic package is a win-win.

We've established that the OnePlus 5T doesn't necessarily have a huge lead in terms of performance today compared to the older phones, but its newer specs certainly give it a longer runway into the future. The Snapdragon 820 holds up just fine today, but how about in another year? It won't feel the same as the 5T's Snapdragon 835. And that brings up a larger point about the future of software on these phones: the OnePlus 3 and 3T are likely done with official software support following the Oreo update, while the 5T will see at least the "P" release in 2018.

The 5T's specs aren't game-changing today, but they will help a ton going forward.

The one clear point of differentiation in terms of specs and their actual effect on your daily use right off the bat will be when talking about battery. The OnePlus 3's 3000mAh capacity is of course 10% smaller than the 5T's 3300mAh, but the newer phone also has a much more efficient processor on board to make better use of it. That's a real-world improvement you'll see in battery life day after day. Now when talking about the OnePlus 3T with its 3400mAh capacity, you won't see much of a difference — you can't argue with that extra capacity.

The camera comparison between these phones is a bit of a mixed bag as well. You can quite easily argue that the OnePlus 5T's newer sensor, secondary lens for low light and Portrait Mode as a complete package is better overall than the single 16MP camera on the OnePlus 3 and 3T. But in many shooting conditions that old camera — with its optical image stabilization — is going to do an admirable job that'll compare favorably to the OnePlus 5T. Yes the newer phone has more features, but in terms of raw shot-to-shot photo quality OnePlus just hasn't made massive strides in the last year.

Should you upgrade?

As you can see, OnePlus hasn't made huge improvements in features or performance when comparing the OnePlus 5T to even the original OnePlus 3. But that really is more of a testament to how well the OnePlus 3 has held up over time than the OnePlus 5T being unattractive on its own. OnePlus takes a relatively conservative approach, and isn't particularly willing to throw out features or specs with the new phone — it instead refines in some areas and adds in others to give you a better phone with each generation.

This isn't a 'sure thing' sort of upgrade, but you can find reason for it — and it may not be expensive.

When you look at things this way, it's easy to say that your can be happy with your OnePlus 3T or even OnePlus 3 at the end of 2017, choosing to not drop the extra money on a new OnePlus 5T that isn't a substantial upgrade. Yes the hardware is nicer, the screen is larger and the specs give you more runway for the future; but today you'll get almost the same experience using a OnePlus 3 as you do on the OnePlus 5T.

The one thing making this upgrade decision interesting is how well OnePlus phones seem to hold their value on the used market. Browsing OnePlus listings on popular trade site Swappa shows OnePlus 3s still selling for over $200, and 3Ts often snagging upwards of $300. That's a solid return on a phone that's at least a year old, and gets you about half way toward your new OnePlus 5T, should you decide to upgrade.

If you're willing to sell on your OnePlus 3 or 3T, you can hop onto the latest and greatest from the company for what comes out to a modest investment. And in doing so, you're getting a phone with a longer runway into the future and the same great day-to-day OnePlus experience you already know and love.

OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5

OnePlus Amazon

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1 day ago

Best Large Android Phone

Best Overall

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

See at Verizon See at AT&T See at T-Mobile See at Sprint See at Best Buy See at Amazon

Forget last year's missteps — the Samsung Galaxy Note line is back in style. This year's Note takes everything we loved about the Galaxy S8 Plus and adds even more display real estate, an impressive new dual-camera rig, boasting 2X telephoto with optical image stabilization, and new features for the S Pen stylus, including animated written messages.

Samsung's best-in-class display gets even better with new capabilities including a 1200-nit daylight mode. And the Note's performance is supercharged thanks to 6GB of RAM as standard, and software enhancements in Samsung Experience 8.5.

You of course get Samsung's trademark S Pen stylus, which is smarter than ever in the seventh-generation Note. But the biggest reason to invest in one of the priciest Android phones on the market might be the Note 8's new dual camera setup. The main camera mirrors the excellent performance of the GS8, while the secondary shooter captures zoomed in shots with greater detail than any Android phone, thanks to its 12-megapixel resolution and optical stabilization.

Bottom line: The Galaxy Note 8 boasts a fearsome price tag, but it's easily the best handset in this category. Between the display, performance, cameras, and productivity features, there's no better big-screened phone

One more thing: The Note 8's fingerprint scanner is in kind of an awkward place — not unlike the Galaxy S8. And in addition, the face unlock and iris scanning features can be temperamental.

Why the Galaxy Note 8 is the best

Simply put, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is the best at almost everything it does.

Samsung's latest big-screened handset steps out from the shadow of the Note 7, excelling across the board and building on the success of the Galaxy S8 line. The huge 6.3-inch SuperAMOLED display looks fantastic, with the best daylight visibility we've seen in a phone and bright, vibrant colors. And the phone itself is beautiful, with a symmetrical design that shows off its epic display.

What's more, the Note 8 has everything you could ask for in a high-end handset with a top-tier dual camera array, software that's differentiated but not overbearing, and speedy performance.


Best alternative

Google Pixel 2 XL

See at Verizon See at Best Buy See at Google Store

The larger of Google's two second-generation Pixel phones brings a tall 18:9 display with slimmer bezels, a big battery, an excellent camera, and the best software experience on any Android phone. There's a curved "3D glass" front, a unqiue painted metal exterior, along with water- and dust-resistance capabilities and 64GB of storage as standard — big, necessary upgrades from the older Pixels.

You'll of course get Android Oreo out of the box, with the promise of swift updates to future versions of the OS, along with some excellent software customizations from Google. Google Lens will tell you what' in your photos, and "Now Playing" can identify songs in the background without using mobile data. And to top it off, Google's second-generation Pixel camera excels across the board, with legendary low-light and high-contrast capabilities. While the display isn't the best out there, it's still decent, and the rest of the phone is absolutely top-tier.

Bottom line: Despite some concerns around the screen, the Google Pixel 2 XL is a phenomenal smartphone with awesome software, and the best camera out there.

One more thing: We have to pick one overall winner, but the Pixel 2 XL is about equal with the Note 8, on balance. It just depends what your priorities are.



Best for battery life

Huawei Mate 10 / Mate 10 Pro

See at Amazon

Chinese manufacturer Huawei continues to go from strength to strength, and the latest Mate 10 phones — in particular the Mate 10 Pro — stand out as great overall devices with particular focus on battery life. Both Mate 10s are fast, run Huawei's Android Oreo-based EMUI 8 software, and run the new Kirin 970 chip, which comes with cutting-edge AI hardware for added future-proofing.

Beyond its size and software, the Mate 10 series nails the fundamentals of a great Android experience, with quick performance and between 64 and 128GB of storage as standard, plus microSD expansion on the regular Mate 10, and one of the best dual camera setups we've seen. Unlike Huawei combines two cameras with the same focal length, but with one OIS (optical image stabilization) 12MP camera capturing colors, and the other, a 20MP monochrome sensor, picking up fine detail, behind super-bright f/1.6 lenses. The result is a camera setup that goes toe-to-toe with the Google Pixel 2 in many situations.

Bottom line: Huawei has nailed the camera experience this time around, and that, combined with the Mate line's historic strength in battery life, make for a great device.

One more thing: We're still waiting for the Mate 10 series to launch properly, though Amazon pre-orders for the regular model are available, and a European launch for the Pro is immiment.

Best for less

LG V30

See at AT&T See at Verizon See at Sprint See at T-Mobile

LG has successfully built on the G6 with its best big-screened phone to date, the V30. The V30 takes the design of its G-series forerunner and smoothes out the angles, with curved Gorilla Glass 5 front and back, polished aluminum on the sides, and plenty of power lurking within. It's also LG's first flagship phone in more than two years with an OLED screen, and while it's not quite as spectacular as the Note 8's Super AMOLED, LG's latest display is great in its own right.,

On the inside, you get a standard loadout of high-end smartphone specs: Snapdragon 835, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (or 128GB if you get the V30+). But as with most LG phones over the past year or so, the biggest reason to choose the V30 might be its camera capabilities. The main shooter is a 16-megapixel unit with a new, super-bright f/1.6 lens, with OIS. And that's paired with a brighter wide-angle camera with f/1.9 aperture, so you can capture dramatic 120-degree views even in low light.

LG has also built out new cinematic video shooting features in the new Cine LOG recording mode, which is great for videographers wanting to edit footage from the phone in Final Cut or Adobe Premiere.

Bottom line: The V30 is a great overall package. If you want many of the top features of the Note 8 without breaking the bank, LG's latest is well worth a look.

One more thing: No more weird regional variations! All V30s come with LG's famed Quad DAC for high-quality wired audio, as well as wireless charging and IP68 water resistance.

Best 'Almost a Note 8' phone

Samsung Galaxy S8+

See at Verizon See at AT&T See at T-Mobile See at Sprint See at Best Buy See at Amazon

Samsung delivers a great big-screened Android experience in the larger of the two Galaxy S8 models. The new 18.5:9 aspect ratio, combined with a 6.2-inch display size (6.1 inches excluding the rounded corners) makes the Galaxy S8+ big, but not impossible to hold. And the extra height of that beautiful Quad HD+ SuperAMOLED panel means you'll fit more on screen, too.

The design work Samsung started in 2016 can be seen coming to fruition in the GS8+, with an almost completely symmetrical metal and glass chassis that complements the big screen. And Samsung nails the fundamentals of the smartphone experience too, with fast performance and a great camera, improved from the GS7 thanks to new processing tricks. On the software side, Samsung's UI feels more polished and mature than ever, with a new sci-fi aesthetic that's slick and unique but not overbearing.

Bottom line: It's expensive for sure, but the Samsung Galaxy S8+ easily one of the best phablets out there.

One more thing: The Galaxy S8+'s fingerprint scanner is in kind of an awkward place, around the back and next to the camera lens. But at least you've got face unlock and iris scanning to fall back on.

Conclusion

If you want the best Android has to offer in a big-screened phone, look no further than the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. The size of Samsung's 6.3-incher is both a strength and a weakness — thanks to the extra-tall 18.5:9 aspect ratio, this is a very tall phone. But if that's what you're after, Samsung does a great job of showcasing an enormous, bright display and backing up a great physical design with good-looking software and unique software tricks, the S Pen and a fantastic dual camera setup.

Best Overall

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

See at Verizon See at AT&T See at T-Mobile See at Sprint See at Best Buy See at Amazon

Forget last year's missteps — the Samsung Galaxy Note line is back in style. This year's Note takes everything we loved about the Galaxy S8 Plus and adds even more display real estate, an impressive new dual-camera rig, boasting 2X telephoto with optical image stabilization, and new features for the S Pen stylus, including animated written messages.

Samsung's best-in-class display gets even better with new capabilities including a 1200-nit daylight mode. And the Note's performance is supercharged thanks to 6GB of RAM as standard, and software enhancements in Samsung Experience 8.5.

You of course get Samsung's trademark S Pen stylus, which is smarter than ever in the seventh-generation Note. But the biggest reason to invest in one of the priciest Android phones on the market might be the Note 8's new dual camera setup. The main camera mirrors the excellent performance of the GS8, while the secondary shooter captures zoomed in shots with greater detail than any Android phone, thanks to its 12-megapixel resolution and optical stabilization.

Bottom line: The Galaxy Note 8 boasts a fearsome price tag, but it's easily the best handset in this category. Between the display, performance, cameras, and productivity features, there's no better big-screened phone

One more thing: The Note 8's fingerprint scanner is in kind of an awkward place — not unlike the Galaxy S8. And in addition, the face unlock and iris scanning features can be temperamental.

Updated November 2017: We've added the Pixel 2 XL and Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro to our lineup!

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1 day ago

OnePlus 5T hands-on preview: Relentless iteration

41
OnePlus 5T

The march of innovation never ends.

OnePlus has perfected a strategy over the last two years. Rather than expanding its product portfolio, it simply takes its flagship phone and iterates on it, adding subtle features and updating the design, while sticking to the core principles of having fantastic specs for the money. And in the past two generations now, that has included a mid-cycle refresh of its phone with a "T" variant. Understanding that the diehard fans don't wait to wait a whole year for a new phone, for fear of having "old" tech in their pocket, OnePlus stays on the bleeding edge by giving a six-month refresh with a few key changes and a small price bump to match.

Comparing the OnePlus 5T to its immediate predecessor, the OnePlus 5, isn't all that exciting. But watching OnePlus relentlessly iterate with one phone after another, unceremoniously killing off its predecessor in the process, sure is. Here's what OnePlus has to offer in the 5T.

Moving look

OnePlus 5T Hands-on video

Some things are best conveyed with video. To see the OnePlus 5T in action, you'll want to watch our hands-on preview above. When you're finished, continue on for all of the details!

OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5

What's the same

OnePlus 5T Carryovers from the OnePlus 5

Let's just lay it out from the start: about 90% of the OnePlus 5T is identical to the OnePlus 5. I'll get into the specifics of what has changed below, but despite those subtle proportional differences the core materials and build quality are identical to its predecessor. The aluminum slab of a frame is near-featureless, with rounded sides and almost no texture to help you hang on to it. Even though the 5T is slightly different in size the ports and switches are all in the exact same places — the headphone jack and Alert Slider both remain, thankfully.

Let's just lay it out from the start: about 90% of the OnePlus 5T is identical to the OnePlus 5.

The spec sheets for the two phones are also identical. A Snapdragon 835 processor runs the show, supported by either 6GB of RAM and 64GB storage or 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage once again. A 3300mAh battery provides the power, and the 5V/4A Dash Charge charging system refills it. But beyond that, you'll find all of the same finer details, down to the same radio bands and connectivity options. This is, in every respect, the same platform inside.

OnePlus 5T specs

The OnePlus 5T is still running Nougat, barely changed from what's on the OnePlus 5 today — there are a couple subtle launcher changes and a new gesture in the camera app, but no wholesale redesigns or feature additions. Funnily enough, the OnePlus 3 and 3T are actually a step ahead of the 5T in one respect, as it has an early look at the Oreo update through its beta program already, which is the software that will be coming to all phones from the OnePlus 3 onwards by the end of 2017.

OxygenOS is still great — one of my favorite manufacturer customizations of Android — but it continues to be a head-scratcher why OnePlus doesn't time new software releases to coincide with new hardware. With so much shared between the 5 and 5T in terms of hardware and specs, it would've been a nice little differentiator to see the new phone also debut new Oreo software and at least have that head start going for it.

OnePlus 5T

A few tweaks

OnePlus 5T Hardware changes

So, what is different? Well, the few changes that have been made actually have an influence on how the potential buying public will perceive the OnePlus 5T. Unlike the OnePlus 3 to the 3T last year, the company swapped out the display to completely change the look of the front of the device.

You simply get more screen in the same body — it's a win-win.

Gone is the "old"-looking 5.5-inch 16:9 panel, replaced by a 6-inch 2:1 panel instead. It's a near-identical Optic AMOLED screen, with very similar tuning, colors and brightness, and though it isn't a mind-blowing panel like the Galaxy Note 8 it also doesn't have any notable flaws that'll put you off at first glance. The bigger display necessitated the reduction of the top and bottom bezels to keep the phone manageable in the hand, and it definitely still is. The OnePlus 5T is just marginally taller than the 5 and the same width and thickness, so you simply get more usable display in effectively the same footprint — it's win-win.

That necessitated the removal of capacitive keys below the display, which was a long-held nod to the enthusiast crowd that traditionally loves OnePlus phones. But alas, it's time to let go — I see a not-so-distant future where no phones have capacitive keys, and it's beautiful. The fingerprint sensor also moved, of course, repositioning to the rear where many of the same enthusiasts happily use it on phones like the Pixel 2 XL. It's still a super-fast sensor, and it has an ergonomic placement that makes plenty of sense — it also lets you swipe on it to lower the notification shade. Nice.

Those smaller bezels seem to have had a direct correlation to the camera bump on the back of the phone growing in thickness, as there just wasn't as much room to jam everything above the display. It's still a dual camera module and is the same width and height, but sits higher off the back and provides for a bigger wobble when the phone is on a table. A subtle difference, and one you probably wouldn't notice unless someone told you.

OnePlus 5T Face Unlock

Camera changes

OnePlus 5T A few feature additions

The remaining changes and differentiators with the OnePlus 5T are extremely subtle, and they have to do with the cameras.

It seems as though OnePlus wasn't happy with the OnePlus 5's secondary telephoto lens, as it has scrapped it just a few months in with the 5T. The secondary camera remains, but it now has the same focal length as the primary camera. The sensor itself has changed, though, to a Sony IMX 376k (from IMX 350) and the lens is now f/1.7 to match the primary. That new sensor is still 20MP with quite small 1-micron pixels and doesn't have OIS — which isn't typically a recipe for success in bad lighting even though OnePlus claims the second sensor is "tuned" for low-light photography.

I think everyone would trade Portrait Mode for better photos out of the main camera.

You can't explicitly switch to that secondary low-light camera, so it only comes on automatically — and early indications are that it only enables in really dark scenes. The secondary camera is shaping up to once again be more of an afterthought than a point of strength, just like on the OnePlus 5, leaving me leaning toward being upset that the main camera didn't pick up any improvements. Yes that dual lens approach lets OnePlus do its Portrait Mode shots, but that's about it — and I think just about everyone would trade that feature for better photos from the primary camera.

Over on the front side, OnePlus hasn't changed anything about the camera hardware — a 16MP Sony sensor with f/2.0 lens — but has managed to leverage something in it for a fresh feature: Face Unlock. Though this is far from what Apple is doing with Face ID, OnePlus is claiming (and initially, delivering) much better accuracy and speed than Android's longstanding built-in "Trusted Face" unlocking.

Face Unlock works by using the front camera to identify 100 reference points — but not depth information — in your face, and works entirely locally to the phone without storing a complete picture of your face. It starts working the moment you press the power button (or double tap the screen to wake it), and it unlocks extremely quickly — almost unsettlingly so. To that point, OnePlus isn't making any claim that Face Unlock is particularly secure, and is positioning it as a good offering for someone who doesn't typically want to deal with secure lock screens. If you want to keep things locked up tight, you still need to use a password or fingerprint.

OnePlus 5T

Relentless iteration

OnePlus 5T First thoughts

The OnePlus 5T in itself isn't very exciting. It isn't even much of an improvement over the original OnePlus 5. But with the way that OnePlus operates, it doesn't really matter. You can't buy the OnePlus 5 anymore — and the new 5T is simply a better version of that phone for a starting price that's just $20 higher. To evaluate the OnePlus 5T properly, you have to see how it stands on its own, and what it offers as a complete package for $499 at the end of 2017.

Anyone who was intrigued by a OnePlus 5 a month ago will be happy with the 5T, that's for sure. And if you've been holding onto a trusty old OnePlus 3 or 3T it offers a great upgrade proposition — once again simply offering a newer and better version of the phone you have now. The OnePlus 5T, with its full spec sheet and solid hardware, still compares favorably to the rest of the market even as its price took another small jump. Provided people aren't put off by the idea of OnePlus continuously refreshing its flagship phone every six months at the expense of the prior model immediately becoming obsolete, it's poised to have the same success as its other flagships have up to this point.

We'll have full impressions of this phone in our complete review — look for it here in the coming days!

OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5

OnePlus Amazon

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1 day ago

'Bit Rot' explained: Why your phone is slower than when it was new

51

Your phone was faster yesterday than it is today, and will be slower tomorrow. Bit Rot is a real thing.

Computers are kind of like people — as they age they tend to get a little slower and flaws are easier to see.

Our phones are computers shrunk down to be pocket-sized and easy to carry around. And that means as time goes by, things aren't happening as quickly as they used to or things can get a little buggy. This is universal; it happens to Galaxy phones and LG phones and Pixel phones and iPhones and every other phone that does more than make calls and send texts. Some people say they don't see it happening, and that's because of why it happens and the way software is written for all the different phones out in the wild. But it is still happening on your phone right now, and always will be.

Let's take a look at what is commonly known as "Bit Rot" and see if we can't understand things a little better.

What is Bit Rot, exactly?

It's a term that gets thrown around a lot by people who are into computers, and it basically means that the software is "old" and has become slower than it used to be. There are three things at play, and they're well documented even if they're not very easy to understand: Software Erosion, Software Entropy, and Software Bloat.

First, some outliers

Sometimes there can be other factors, too. Data Degradation and Feature Creep can cause programs and apps to slow down, but they're easier to explain and are a little different than what we call Bit Rot. Data Degradation is a fancy word that means your memory — either the RAM, the storage or both — is getting old. RAM and Solid State media require an electric charge and over time it can disperse more than it was designed to do. This means some of the stored bits (software bits) can be changed. When a few bits are wrong, many programs can compensate but that takes time and the programs are a little slower. When a lot of bits are wrong things pretty much stop working as intended.

Data degradation and feature creep can make your phone slower, too, but are different from Bit Rot.

Feature Creep is easy to understand. Your phone was built with a specific set of software in mind. When you get an update that adds more features, the hardware has to work harder and things get slower. Online forums are filled with people who hated a recent update on their Galaxy phone and people with older iPhones who hate the latest version of iOS. That's because the software was written with newer and more capable hardware in mind, just like the software your phone originally shipped with was. We all love new features and updates, but the old adage "be careful what you wish for" is right on the money here.

These issues can certainly have an effect, but they're different from Bit Rot and probably aren't contributing much towards any slowness on our phones because we don't keep them long enough to see it in action.

Software Erosion

Software Erosion is the slow but steady deterioration of performance that can happen to any software, whether it's something we use a lot or just a little. Or even never. This happens because we use the software and all applications change when they're used — we add user data to the base so that the software does what we want it to do. Note that this is different than software getting slow or buggy while we're using it a lot but goes back to normal with a restart. That's usually due to small errors accumulating over time or a memory leak. You can't fix Software Erosion by closing and re-opening an app or restarting your phone.

All software has bugs and all software needs regular maintenance it never gets.

There are two different types of Software Erosion, dormant and active. Dormant software erosion happens when a program or parts of a program you don't use stop working well because other things changed, and active erosion happens because of changes while you're using it. Both types happen because of a few different reasons.

  • Unused or leftover code can (and often does) contain bugs that don't get caught.

All software has bugs, no matter what a developer or user says. When a company changes some code there's a very good chance some of the original code is never going to be used but is still built into the final product. Bugs here aren't as likely to get caught and can have an immediate effect or one that takes a while to show up.

  • Changes because the software isn't user-friendly happen a lot.

A developer builds software with a specific idea of how we will use it, but once it gets into our hands we often don't use it that way! Sometimes this isn't our fault and software has a poorly implemented interface so we do things a developer never thought we would. Other times it is our fault and we do things like make multiple accounts or run multiple instances of an app or function that wasn't designed to run that way. This can leave user data or cached data that is more difficult for an app to process.

  • Lack of updates and maintenance are bad.

Any developer will tell you that the job isn't finished once the program is published, and software needs to be maintained. This means fixing bugs users find, but also frequent updates to work well with other software. Lack of regular maintenance across the board is the biggest cause of Software Erosion.

The "Android" that runs on your phone is actually a big group of independently running programs and services that need to communicate with each other constantly. An example: Facebook makes another change on their servers, then updates the app in Google Play. Your Contacts app ties into Facebook, so it might need an update. Or your camera gets an update but the gallery application that's tied to it doesn't. All the parts of the system need to work with all the other parts, and that means regular maintenance.

The good news here is that a lot of Software Erosion problems are fixed with a factory reset where all the user data is wiped. The bad news is that it all comes back eventually.

Software Entropy

All software that we can't change has bugs and unused code (see above). These bugs will probably stay unchanged over time, but can get worse as the complexity of software we can change increases. This is called Software Entropy.

The software you change affects the software you can't change because the system itself gets more complex.

Most of the software on your phone is in a closed system. You might be able to update the keyboard or camera app from the Play Store, but the bulk of the operating system is installed at the factory and only changed with a full system update. This is very different from all the apps, both factory-installed user apps and ones you installed yourself. The software you can change gets more complex over time and the software you can't change has to deal with it.

The people who wrote the software on your phone are pretty darn smart when it comes to all of this. But nobody can know the things we'll do, what new apps will be capable of doing, and how apps designed for one set of APIs (application programming interfaces), for instance, Samsung's APIs from their software development kit, will work with apps designed for another set of APIs, like the ones from Google that are part of Android. The developers have to do their best to guess and make the software in a way that won't break and hope for the best.

There are two ways to fight Software Entropy — regular software maintenance through timely updates, or resetting the user software back to the factory state.

Software Bloat

This isn't what the name suggests, though extra bloatware apps can and do cause things to run slower. Software Bloat when talking about Bit Rot means software that is filled with extra or unused features.

The more features added to any program, the more complex it will be. Complexity makes applications slower.

"Extra" features are impossible to define. Apps, or parts of apps, that I don't use are extraneous to me, but you might use and love them. From a computer's point of view, the only good application is one that does only one thing then closes itself once finished. This is impractical from a user point of view; imagine a keyboard app that closed after each letter was typed. The companies that make the phones we love have to find a happy medium between features and performance by using the right hardware or cutting back on features in apps. That could mean adding more RAM and using a faster processor or trimming features from an app, or both.

Another part of the "extra" features is software that has to be able to handle multiple (and often competing) standards. Your email applications are a great example of this. If you use Gmail and use the Gmail app, things are a lot more streamlined than they would be if you're using the other email app with a Gmail account, or an Exchange account, or something like a Yahoo! POP3 account. The Email app has to be able to do things the Gmail app can't, and has to be able to handle the different types of data we create. This takes time to process and as we add more data it takes more time.

Perhaps the best example of "extra" features and how they affect performance would be comparing Evernote and Google Keep. If you only use the app to take notes, all the extras in Evernote mean it takes a lot more time to add or read them. If you like those extra features, you'll quickly find that Google Keep just can't do most of them. There is no right or wrong here, but this does have a big impact on performance.

Unused "leftover" features can still run and cause problems, and our phones are filled with them.

Unused features are more frustrating because we don't know they are there and we couldn't do anything to change things if we did. When a company like LG (we'll pick on them here, but this applies to every company making phones, even Google) makes a phone with their own apps that are duplicates of "stock" android apps like the phone dialer or the calendar, there is a lot of leftover code that isn't being used. Some of the code still runs when you start your phone, too. We've talked about how this means bugs will be harder to find in that portion of code, but it also can have a big impact on performance. And when Software Entropy is factored in we see how those bugs can get worse and worse over time.

When you see silly arguments in comments about how a phone like the Moto G5 is faster than a Galaxy S8 with half the hardware power, Software Bloat is why.

So what does all this mean and what can I do about it?

That's an easy question — it means that some phones are slower than others and some phones get noticeably slower over time while others are less affected. And there's not really anything we can do about it.

More features mean slower software and more opportunity for Bit Rot to happen. It's a trade many gladly make.

Real talk — a phone like the Note 8 is noticeably slower (and shows it when attached to tools that monitor performance) than a Pixel 2. The Note 8 will get even slower six months or so down the road. But the Pixel 2 will never be able to do some of the things a Note 8 does, no matter how many apps we install or how we hack the crap out of it. I can annotate a screenshot with the S Pen immediately after I capture it on the Note 8, but on the Pixel 2, I have to share the screenshot to another device to annotate it with the same level of features and detail.

Like the Evernote vs. Google Keep argument above, what's better is largely a matter of features that you like. The Note 8 has all the features. This means it has all the bugs and software bloat that makes Bit Rot more noticeable. This could be a problem for you, but for others, it's not because there is no other way to get the feature-set. This is why there are more Android phones than just a Pixel and Pixel Plus and what everyone means when they say Android gives you a choice.

And when Bit Rot ever becomes enough of a problem that you need to do something about it, just factory reset your phone and take a few hours to set everything back up.

Questions?

Sound off in the comments below!

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1 day ago

OnePlus 5T specs: 6-inch display, Snapdragon 835 and new low-light camera

17

Everything inside the latest from OnePlus.

Unlike the jump from the OnePlus 3 to the 3T, moving from the OnePlus 5 to the 5T focuses on exterior changes and leaves the internal specs near identical. The same core components of the processor, RAM, storage, battery and charging remain. The only notable changes are the screen size, fingerprint sensor placement and switch to a secondary camera that focuses on low light performance rather than a telephoto lens.

Here's everything you'll find inside the OnePlus 5T.

Category Spec Operating system Android 7.1 Nougat Display 6-inch Optic AMOLED, 2160x1080 (18:9 aspect ratio) Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core
Adreno 540 GPU Storage 64/128GB UFS 2.1 RAM 6/8GB LPDDR4X Rear camera 1 16MP (IMX 398), 1.12-micron pixels, f/1.7
Dual LED flash, 4K 30 fps, 1080p 60 fps, 720p 120 fps video Rear camera 2 20MP (IMX 376k), 1-micron pixels, f/1.7 Front camera 16MP (IMX 371), 1-micron pixels, f/2.0
1080p 30 fps video Battery 3300mAh
Non-removable Charging USB-C
Dash Charge Water resistance No Security One-touch fingerprint sensor Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi, 2x2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0, aptX HD
USB-C (2.0), NFC
GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo Network 3xCA, 256QAM, DL Cat 12, UL Cat 13
FDD-LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/18/ 19/20/25/26/28/29/30/66
TDD-LTE Band 34/38/39/40/41
TD-SCDMA Band 34/39
HSPA Band 1/2/4/5/8 Dimensions 156.1 x 75 x 7.3 mm
162 g Colors Midnight Black

OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5

OnePlus Amazon

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1 day ago

Which Amazon Echo can you buy in Canada?

1
Amazon Echo Plus

Which Amazon Echo can you buy in Canada and which is the best for you?

On December 5, Amazon is finally bringing its Amazon Echo smart speakers to Canadians via Amazon.ca. It's been over two years since the first Echo was released in the U.S., and Google Home came to Canada way back in May, so if you haven't given Amazon's line of Echo devices much of a thought, here are the models you can buy in Canada and which one may be best for you.

Here's the best part: Pricing is pretty much the same. The Echo Dot is only $49.99, same as the U.S., the Echo is only $99.99, again, the same as the U.S., and the Echo Plus is $169.99, $20 more than the U.S., but considering the way the Canadian dollar's been, that's pretty damn good.

Note: Amazon is only brining the second-generation Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus to the Canadian market. Looks like we'll have to wait and see if we get the Show, Look, or Tap.

Echo Dot: The best starter Amazon Echo

Start off simple and small. The Dot doesn't have an amazing-sounding speaker, but it can control all your smart home devices, stream your music, tell you the weather, and much, much more. Plus, at an entry price of only $50, you're not going all-in so soon. And if you have a great Bluetooth speaker kicking around, then you can pump tunes from your Dot to the speaker (you can also use the 3.5mm AUX input).

Point is, if you want to give the whole Alexa thing a try but aren't totally sold, this is the perfect way to get a taste without breaking the bank. You can get yours in black or white.

See at Amazon


The second-genAmazon Echo: A great mid-range option

The second-generation Echo has been redesigned with less of an obelisk-like look, in favor of a fabric wrap and a shorter, slightly more portly physique. It features updated internals and three color options: "Charcoal", "Heather Grey", and "Sandstone" (black, dark gray, and lighter gray). It has a significantly better speaker than the Dot, so you'll be able to jam out to tunes with a decent low end and overall better sound.

If you want something better than the Dot but still don't want to blow past the $100 mark, then this is the Echo for you. It's perfect for the kitchen counter or a living room shelf, where it'll make a bit more of a statement than the Dot.

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Amazon Echo Plus: The best-sounding Echo yet

Amazon kept the first-gen Echo design around, but updated its internals, giving it better sound than the second-gen Echo

Also new for the Echo Plus is the ability to serve as a smart home hub — if the devices you're looking to support use Zigbee to connect. (You're forgiven if you don't know what Zigbee is — it's not something an end user should ever have to worry about.) It likely won't solve all your smart home problems, but it's a nice little addition nonetheless.

See at Amazon

Amazon Echo

See at Amazon

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1 day ago

Oreo is coming to the OnePlus 5 and 5T in beta by the end of 2017

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OnePlus 5T Oreo release

OnePlus has been pretty good about rolling out consistent software updates to its 2016 and 2017 devices, and that's set to continue.

The OnePlus 5T is launching on November 21, and when it does it will ship with Android 7.1.1 Nougat, not 8.0 Oreo as many expected.

That's all part of the plan, according to OnePlus; the company is treating the 5T as an extension — essentially the same phone — as the OnePlus 5. From a software perspective, despite minor differences and a few additional features in the newer model, they are identical.

Stable Oreo builds won't arrive until 2018.

With the OnePlus 3 and 3T currently testing Oreo as part of an open beta program, OnePlus plans to add the 5 and 5T to the same program before the end of the year. The OnePlus 5 will get it in "late November," while the OnePlus 5T will be added to the beta in "late December" since, according to OnePlus, the software is more complicated.

Then, a few weeks later, the OnePlus 3 and 3T will receive final versions of Oreo, since they're a fair bit ahead in terms of development. Finally, the OnePlus 5 and 5T will get upgraded to stable versions of Oreo in "early 2018."

All told, OnePlus is confident that its 2016 and 2017 lineups will receive Android Oreo far before most other flagships, and that's good news for current and prospective owners. Even if it's a bit disappointing to wait until the new year for the stable Oreo build on the latest phones.

OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5

OnePlus Amazon

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1 day ago

The OnePlus 5T is official, on sale Nov 21 for $499

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OnePlus 5T

It's time for another T.

For the observant phone geeks, the OnePlus 5T hype cycle and leaks have revealed much of what there is to know about the phone. But of course, we needed confirmation from OnePlus itself: yup, the OnePlus 5T is here, and it's up for sale earlier than many would've thought. Unveiled at its first in-person launch event in New York City, the OnePlus 5T focuses on improving a shortcoming of its predecessor, the camera, while modernizing the design a bit with a move to a larger, taller display.

Unlike the jump from the OnePlus 3 to the OnePlus 3T where the focus was purely on internal spec bumps, the OnePlus 5T marks changes in the exterior hardware and leaves the internals nearly identical. The most striking change is the move to a 6-inch 18:9 AMOLED display that's quickly becoming an industry standard form factor. It removes a lot of excess bezel in the process, and moves the fingerprint sensor to the phone's back. It's arguably a more ergonomic placement, and it lets OnePlus give you more screen in a body that's only marginally taller than the OnePlus 5.

OnePlus 5T specs

The 5T adds a few new features, and doesn't lose anything in the process.

Beyond that larger display, things are identical — you'll find buttons, switches and ports in all of the exact same places, and even the hardware materials and build feel the same. The internal specs carry over, but that's not a bad thing. A Snapdragon 835 with 6 or 8GB of RAM and 64 or 128GB of storage is still great for a 2017 flagship, as is the 3300mAh battery with Dash Charge quick charging. The body still doesn't have an IP67 water-resistance rating, but that's simply one of those corners that has to be cut to keep the price down.

OnePlus has interestingly given up on the telephoto secondary camera after less than a year, with the OnePlus 5T's secondary instead being a "low light" specialized sensor with the same focal length as the main camera, which remains unchanged. That second sensor is 20MP with 1-micron pixels, and lacks OIS — which on the face of it is a puzzling decision for a camera meant to enable better low-light photos. The camera app automatically switches to the second sensor in really dark situations, so expect to use the main sensor most of the time — and therefore get effectively the same photos as you would on a OnePlus 5.

Is $499 pushing the envelope of what OnePlus fans will pay?

One other interesting change is a new "face unlock" feature that's much better than promises to be better any other we've seen on an Android phone but nowhere near on the same level as the iPhone X's Face ID. It's designed to be super-fast, but because it identifies just 100 features of your face using the front-facing camera it isn't nearly as secure as Apple's solution. A neat selling feature for sure, but not one meant to replace the fingerprint sensor.

The OnePlus 5T is launching on Android 7.1.2 Nougat, rather than Oreo as we originally expected. OnePlus is claiming it will have a beta version of the Oreo update ready for both 5T and 5 owners by the end of 2017, but we'll have to wait until "early 2018" for a stable build on the phones.

We've finally shrugged off the whole "invite" nonsense for good, as OnePlus is once again opening up sales almost immediately. On November 21, dozens of countries get a chance to buy. Pricing has bumped modestly, slotting up to $499 (€499, £449) for the 6GB/64GB model and $559 for 8GB/128GB. That's still a relative bargain as flagship phone prices have ballooned over $800 as of late, and even though OnePlus hasn't changed much from the OnePlus 5 it's easy to see this as a great upgrade for fans with a OnePlus 3 or 3T or for someone who wants to keep cost down but still get a "flagship" phone.

Press release:

Presenting the OnePlus 5T – A New View

6" Full Optic AMOLED Display with 18:9 aspect ratio, and dual camera deliver immersive viewing experience and enhanced low-light performance in sleek flagship smartphone

NEW YORK – November 16, 2017 – OnePlus today announced the OnePlus 5T its latest premium flagship device. The OnePlus 5T is the company's most competitive product to date, offering key hardware and software updates inspired by the active OnePlus community, including a higher resolution, 18:9 display, enhanced low-light camera performance, and numerous new software features. "We love nothing more than offering our community the latest and greatest technology and a user experience to beat expectations," said OnePlus Founder and CEO Pete Lau. "Once again, we've worked hard to refine every last detail."

Immersive Display

The OnePlus 5T marks the introduction of a 6-inch Full Optic AMOLED Display with an 18:9 aspect ratio to deliver a more immersive viewing experience, all while keeping a form factor similar to that of the OnePlus 5. Thanks to the built-in software algorithm, the OnePlus 5T's Full Optic AMOLED display features a new Sunlight Display that adapts automatically to harsh light to facilitate a great viewing experience. In addition to enhancing the visual appearance of the device, the larger display helps to improve the overall user experience. Users can calibrate their screens based on their viewing preferences across four different modes, including default, sRGB, DCI-P3 and adaptive. To ensure the OnePlus 5T's seamless front design, OnePlus moved its famously fast ceramic fingerprint sensor, which unlocks the phone in under 0.2 seconds, to the back of the device. The seamless aluminum unibody of the OnePlus 5T is both functionally and visually slim, creating a phone that is not only comfortable to hold but extremely durable. Designed with painstaking attention to detail, the OnePlus 5T continues OnePlus design's proud tradition of refinement and total cohesion.

Dual Camera with Enhanced Low-light Performance

The OnePlus 5T comes with key improvements that enhance camera performance in low-light. The OnePlus 5T features the same main camera as that of the OnePlus 5, but boasts an improved secondary camera equipped with a large f/1.7 aperture for superior low light photography. With Intelligent Pixel Technology, the OnePlus 5T's secondary camera merges four pixels into one, reducing noise in low-light environments and enhancing clarity.

Additional software improvements have also been added to Portrait Mode to improve noise reduction. This is accomplished through new multi-frame algorithms that compare different frames of the same scene to filter out inconsistencies and improve the overall clarity of portraits.

Android Refined – OxygenOS

OnePlus' operating system, OxygenOS, offers a refined Android experience that is faster, cleaner and more customizable than other Android experiences. OxygenOS' new platform enables a more streamlined software development process, resulting in faster, more consistent updates guided largely by user feedback. Newly added to OxygenOS is Face Unlock, which allows OnePlus users to unlock their phone just by looking at their device. One of the fastest on the Android market, Face Unlock uses over 100 identifiers to unlock the OnePlus 5T. Similar to its approach to hardware, OnePlus' approach to software is centered around an experience that is refined, efficient and minimalistic. New features are vetted by OnePlus users through channels like the OxygenOS Beta Program and only added once OnePlus is confident the features can improve the way users use their phone.

A Day's Power in Half an Hour

First introduced with the OnePlus 3, Dash Charge is one of the fastest charging solutions on the global market and a favorite feature amongst OnePlus users. A quick half-hour charge gives the OnePlus 5T enough power for the day. By carrying more current and shifting the power management from the handset to the adapter to keep the phone cooler during charging, Dash Charge can continue to fast charge the OnePlus 5T even while using GPS or playing graphically intensive games.

Smooth Performance

The OnePlus 5T offers a smooth experience through a combination of powerful hardware and intelligent software that works seamlessly together. With up to 8 GB of LPDDR4X RAM, the OnePlus 5T can run a large number of apps in the background without a single second of lag, allowing users to switch between apps with ease. The OnePlus 5T's dual-lane storage, based on UFS 2.1, ensures faster app loading and read/write speeds.

The OnePlus 5T takes advantage of one of the most powerful and energy efficient platforms on the market, the Qualcomm® SnapdragonTM 835. The Adreno 540 GPU boosts graphical performance, so users can play demanding games smoother than ever before.

Price and Availability

The OnePlus 5T in both the 64 GB and 128 GB (Midnight Black version) storage options will be available on OnePlus.net in the United States and in Europe on November 21st starting from USD 499 / EUR 499 / GBP 449.

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1 day ago

Revitalize Any Outdoor Area With Colorful Solar Lights Controlled By Your Phone

0

Brighten up your backyard garden with brilliant lights you can control with your phone!

Smart lights are one of the easiest ways to start upgrading your home to be a "smart home," and there are so many options for inside the home — but what about something a bit more portable that you can use to light your balcony, patio, or garden?

LuminAID has a rather elegant solution with its new line of Smart Solar Garden Lanterns. Available in two unique styles — Gem and Star — these origami-inspired solar lanterns simply look magical while offering ambient lighting in your backyard, letting you set the mood for any occasion using a Bluetooth connection and the LuminAID app (iOS or Android).

Check out the campaign trailer to see these lanterns in action:


For every Kickstarter pledge, LuminAID will donate one if its original inflatable solar lanterns to a family still living without power in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

Just like other smart lights you may have seen, these lanterns are packed with smart features, with eight high-powered RGBW LEDs that let you choose from pure white or hundreds of colors. Since they're solar powered, you never have to worry about running wires or replacing batteries, and you can even use the app to check in to see how well your lanterns are charging in the sun, or schedule the lights to come on at a specific time each day. They're built tough to be both waterproof and weatherproof so you don't have to worry if a storm rolls in. Want to take them along on a camping trip or to the cabin? Both the Gem and Star lanterns fold down to be flat and compact. Each style is best suited for different use cases — the Gem is best suited as a path marker along a walkway or as a table lantern on a patio, while the Star is perfect for hanging up around your backyard or as an accent piece for a social evening under the stars.

LuminAID has already surpassed its initial Kickstarter goal, but there's still plenty of time to back this project and get your own smart lanterns at a discounted price. The Gem will retail for $70 and the Star for $80, but you can save some money by backing with a pledge today. With a pledge of $59, you'll get one Gem lantern, or pledge $69 to get a Star Lantern. But that's just the start — you're probably going to want more than one of these beautiful and LuminAID's pledge rewards to scale up nicely. The best reward is probably around the $179 mark, which gets you four lanterns of your choice — maybe get three Gems to line your front path and a Star to hang by the door. The choice is yours! LuminAID plans to start shipping these lanterns by June 2018 — just in time for summer!

But this campaign is about more than just launching a new product. Since it was founded in 2010, part of LuminAID's company mission is to also assist in humanitarian relief efforts. For every Kickstarter pledge, LuminAID will donate one if its original inflatable solar lantern to a family still living without power in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. In fact, if LuminAID reaches their next stretch goal of $100,000, they'll donate an extra 1,000 inflatable lanterns to families in need.

This is LuminAID's second Kickstarter campaign, and they're building off of the success of the LuminAID Solar Inflatable Lantern, which is the lantern style they will be donating for each pledge received. You can back with confidence knowing that the team at LuminAID has been through this process before and are also a socially conscious company that aims to give back.

See LuminAID Solar Garden Lanterns on Kickstarter

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1 day ago

Amazon Echo vs. Dot vs. Tap vs. Show: Which should you buy?

84

Which Amazon Echo is best for you? I have no idea. But here's how I'd approach each one.

I own too many Amazon Echo speakers. From the original Echo to the Echo Dot and the newfangled Echo Show with its screen and camera. Plus the Amazon Tap, and Echo Look, which you can't even buy without an invitation. (And you probably shouldn't but it, for reasons I'll get into in a second.)

This isn't a cookie-cutter list of all the Echo speakers and why you should buy them. Hell, a couple I think you probably should stay away from. This is a list of how I see things after having used them all for months and months. Hit the links below to jump on down to the Echo that tickles your fancy.

Echo Dot: The best Amazon Echo for starting out

Start simple. If you're just not sure about this whole Alexa thing and really don't know how much you'll get out of an Amazon Echo, it's best to not spend a lot of money. Start with an Echo Dot.

The Echo Dot costs $49 retail, but it's not uncommon to see it on sale for as low as $30. And at that price it's kind of a no-brainer. Buy one and give it a go.

Another pro tip here is to buy more than one at a time. Amazon typically has deals if you buy multiple Echoes Dot at one time — $20 is the usual savings. So if you're like me and you know you'll want to stash a few of these around the house, save yourself a few bucks and take advantage.

See at Amazon


The redesigned Amazon Echo: A great mid-range option

Amazon has completely redesigned the basic Echo for 2017. It's shorter than the original and more squat in stature. And you can get one clad in fabric for $99. That's not a bad buy, and it's what I'd recommend for someone who wants to get something better than the Dot, but still not spend more than a hundred bucks. The sound quality is decent for that price. Can you get something better? Yeah. But not for less money.

If you want to spend a little more, though, $119 will get you a new Echo with a wood veneer, or in matte plastic. I've found the fabric to be plenty good, though.

See at Amazon

Amazon Echo Plus: The best-sounding Echo yet

Amazon decided to keep the tried and true Echo design, but give it better internals. That gives us the $149 Echo Plus. It sounds a little better than the previous-generation Echo, and definitely better than the current 2017 model. It comes in the same matte plastic, but now you can get silver in addition to black and white.

Also new for the Echo Plus is the ability to serve as a smart home hub — if the devices you're looking to support use Zigbee to connect. (You're forgiven if you don't know what Zigbee is — it's not something an end user should ever have to worry about.) It likely won't solve all your smart home problems, but it's a nice little addition nonetheless.

See at Amazon

Amazon Tap: Smaller, portable, expensive

For whatever reason, this isn't an "Echo" device. It's "Alexa-enabled." OK. (Maybe it's because the "Alexa" hotword isn't enabled by default, and instead you're supposed to push the microphone button.) But no matter. For all intents and purposes it's an Echo, and it's meant to be portable.

The Tap has a charging base that allows you to just pick up the speaker and take it wherever you want. And it sounds decent. Not great, but good. Good enough for $129 retail, though? Eh, now Amazon is starting to ask a lot — particularly when you can get a portable battery base for the original Echo for just $50 and get a much better speaker for your troubles. Or you could stick an Echo Dot in this little cordless speaker and get a decent experience — again, for just $50.

Personally, I don't really see the necessity of a portable Alexa speaker — especially since the speaker itself is going to need to be connected to the Internet at all times for the Alexa stuff to work. And hotspotting to your phone just isn't something I want to bother with.

Your money probably is better off with any other Echo — or just a traditional Bluetooth speaker.

See at Amazon

Echo Show: Will it ever get better?

I was an early fan of the Echo Show — the potential for an Alexa-enabled device with a large touchscreen is enormous. Unfortunately, it's yet to pan out in the first few months. The headlines you get are pure fluff, with very little actual news, if ever — and Amazon says it's done this on purpose.

Then Google decided to not let YouTube videos play on the Echo Show — likely because Amazon's implementation was doing so without advertising. That killed one of the few reasons I'd actually recommend the Echo Show.

And then there's the fact that very few Alexa Skills actually take advantage of the display in the first place. It's a novelty at this point, not a necessity — even though making video calls on the Echo Show is still a great experience.

See at Amazon

Echo Look: How much do you care about what you wear?

There's a pretty good chance you shouldn't buy the Echo Look. Unless you really care about fashion — to the point that you want to take a picture of what you're wearing and send it to Amazon for cataloging and analysis — then you'll just want to ignore this. For that's what Echo Look is good at. It's got a camera and its own app for taking your picture from head to toe, and it does a nice job of highlighting you while downplaying everything else.

From there it lets you flip back through what you've worn day after day, and you can have it compare two outfits and decide which it thinks looks better on you. (To varying degrees of success, I found.)

You very much will get out of Echo Look what you put into it. I don't care so much about what I'm wearing, so this wasn't really $200 well spent for me. Your wardrobe mileage may vary.

And to be fair, you can't just go out and buy an Echo Look. You'll have to tell Amazon you're interested in it, and then wait for an invitation.

See at Amazon

Updated November 2017: We've added the newest offerings from Amazon — the redesigned Echo, and new Echo Plus. Also, we've downgraded the Echo Show.

Amazon Echo

See at Amazon

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1 day ago

Join us for the OnePlus 5T launch event: Live at 11:00 a.m. ET!

4

Come see the latest from OnePlus.

OnePlus has fallen into a groove with its phone releases, and for the second time in a row it's releasing a mid-cycle refresh of its flagship phone. It's the OnePlus 5T this time, but unlike the OnePlus 3T this refresh is shaping up to bring external changes rather than just an internal component jump.

In a change of pace for OnePlus, it's actually holding a full-on launch event as well, rather than rolling things out with an online-only announcement followed by a handful of pop-up shops. That means that the Android Central team will be there on the ground to see everything that OnePlus has to show.

To see it all happen in real time, be sure to join us right here for the event — it all kicks off on Thursday November 16 at 11:00 a.m. ET!

OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5

OnePlus Amazon

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