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2 weeks ago

5 features the OnePlus 5 does better than other smartphones

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It's the little things that make a phone, and these sorts of things might even convince you to bring home the OnePlus 5.

Whether you're a diehard Android subscriber or merely curious about venturing away from the rest of what everyone else is carrying in their hands, you might be wondering whether to consider the OnePlus 5 as a lofty alternative.

The phone is a worthy competitor against whatever else your mobile carrier might be offering. In addition to boasting the latest specs, an interesting camera and killer display, it also hails some other features you won't typically find on mainstream smartphones.

Better front-facing camera

oneplus 5

The front-facing camera has indeed become a priority on flagship smartphones — just look at the HTC U11 and Samsung Galaxy S8's's 16-megapixel and 8-megapixel front-facing cameras. Both companies are in on the idea that the photos you take with the front camera should be just as shareable as the rear ones.

OnePlus also adheres to this motto, and it's cheaper than those mentioned above. Its 16-megapixel camera is a fine choice if selfies are a primary concern. With ample aperture for dim bar shots and electronic image stabilization (EIS), the OnePlus 5's front-facing camera is capable of capturing your face in various environments. You can record high quality 1080p video with it, too, and it offers a beauty mode and a portrait mode for taking real glamour shots. It's also handy to have on you if you're a frequent Snapchat storyteller or an Instagram fiend.

No bloat

oneplus 5

The upside to buying an unlocked smartphone is that you don't have to deal with any additional carrier bloatware. But then, some brands bundle in an app that already exists, and others include extra apps you have to eliminate before you can comfortably use your phone.

The OnePlus 5 has none of that because of the company's commitment to keeping its software clean. The minute you turn it on, you'll see less than two dozen apps already installed, including a Gallery app and a File Manager. You won't get the same perks with this device like you would with a Google-made one — unlimited uploads to Photos, anyone? — but you will be able to lay claim to the entirety of the OnePlus 5's 64GB of storage.

And if you opted for the 128GB version of the flagship, feel free to revel in all that room.

Customizable buttons

OnePlus 5

More devices these days are eschewing physical navigation buttons for more screen space, but not everyone is a fan of the shrinking bezel trend. If you like physical buttons, the OnePlus 5 kept its hardware and left it so that it's entirely customizable by the user. You can choose where you like the back button to be placed, for instance, or set up shortcuts for each, like long pressing the home button to launch Google Assistant. There's also an option that shuts off the hardware buttons, though it will knock off a bit of screen space.

If you're afraid of bumping the buttons during a marathon gaming sessions, there are tools included to disable the capacitive area.

It's a little more futureproof

oneplus 5

Yes, it's true that the extra RAM you get for dropping the extra $60 on the OnePlus 5 is entirely unnecessary for any app or game you'll be using today. But even if you stick with the default 6GB of RAM offered at the starting price point, you'll see that extra memory go a long way — and for a long while.

You'll also see that memory help with processing graphics and stream live video. As we stated in our review of the device, don't expect your experience to slow down any time soon. It's always great to have room to grow with future software updates and memory-intensive apps.

The Alert Slider

OnePlus 5

Never underestimate the allure of a quick-flip switch embedded into the chassis of a smartphone. It's an Android user's most coveted feature, likely because so many of us have accidentally interrupted the calm of a yoga class — and a church service — with an inappropriate song lyric set as the ringtone. (Oh, was that just me?)

On the OnePlus 5, you can quickly stifle that embarrassing ringtone from ever revealing itself before the class or sermon even starts. Go even further in the device settings by choosing whether the slider goes into Silent mode or Do Not Disturb mode, the latter of which lets you set up a few favorite contacts in case an emergency should occur during your quiet time.

And one thing it could do better

The latest trend of waterproofing smartphones is, frankly, one of the most welcome feature additions since wireless payments. The earth is 71% water, after all; the smartphones that each of the billions of people on earth carries around are bound to find their way near a body of water within its lifespan. And rather than expect disaster to occur from the melding of these two elements, why not prevent it?

Many manufacturers, including Samsung and LG, have caught on to making their respective flagship devices resistant to liquids — well, unless that liquid is over 5 feet deep. You can bring the Galaxy S8 or LG G6 to a summer splash party without worrying about it getting drowned.

But you can't do that with a OnePlus 5, as its lack of water resistance makes it especially vulnerable to life's most precious element. It's a shame, too, considering all the selfies you could take in the pool with that 16-megapixel front-facing camera.

OnePlus 5

OnePlus

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2 weeks ago

Anker SoundCore 2 review: The sweet sounds of a summer speaker

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The Anker SoundCore 2 pairs perfectly with summer

There's a lot of competition in the portable Bluetooth speaker segment, with plenty of options to choose from no matter your budget. If you're looking for one under $100, it's hard to find something that checks all the boxes: high-end sound, long-lasting battery life, and rugged, water-resistant design.

Enter the Anker SoundCore 2, an updated speaker for 2017 that claims hit all of those desired specs. Anker sent me one to test out and review, and I did my absolute best to put it through the wringer.

Anker has delivered pretty good value via its line of SoundCore speakers, with the original SoundCore proving itself to be a reliable Bluetooth speaker, albeit with a few nagging design issues. With the SoundCore 2, Anker has offered improvements across the board, including two 6W drivers that pump out some serious jams and a battery that Anker says offers up to 24 hours of music playback — a bold claim. Then again, Anker is best known for its outstanding portable battery packs so it does make sense.

To put this speaker through its paces I've been using it in every conceivable situation around the house, and it holds up quite well. I also challenged that IPX5 water resistance with a stormy weekend of camping, with the SoundCore 2 outlasting the rain and wind without skipping a beat.

Overall design

At first glance, Anker hasn't seemed to change too much in terms of design from the original SoundCore, but it becomes apparent quite apparent upon closer inspection. The SoundCore 2 is slightly smaller and feels quite dense weighing in at about a pound, with a soft touch finish that feels nice, but also is a magnet for fingerprints and dirt.

You'll either love or hate the basic, black brick design — it's fairly utilitarian with subtle curves. The controls on top are large and accessible with raised buttons that are easy to find even in low-light situations. I even found it to be slim enough to fit in my pocket, which allowed me to play some tunes while biking around the city.

In terms of the IPX5 water resistance, it's perfect to use as a bathroom speaker when taking steamy showers and can also withstand a rainstorm. When the rain started to fall on my camping trip, I decided to put the SoundCore 2 at the edge of our tarp. Things got rather messy, but the SoundCore 2 never faltered and passed the test with flying colors.

Sound quality

You can instantly tell the improvements in sound quality between the SoundCore 2 and it's predecessor. The SoundCore 2 delivers a deeper bass and manages to get way loud without distorting.

No stutters or distortion, it worked exactly the way you'd expect it.

I used a Galaxy S8 for the majority of my testing, connected via Bluetooth and went to town listening to Spotify, watching YouTube, and playing games and the SoundCore handled it all perfectly to my ear. No stutters or distortion, it worked exactly the way you'd expect it. It's quick to pair with your phone or computer and I've had no issues with the Bluetooth connectivity unless I walked far away from it.

For those looking for a booming bass, Anker has the SoundCore Boost which packs in twin subwoofers to some extra oomph of room-filling sound. But the Boost falls short on battery life, which is where the SoundCore 2 really shines.

Battery life

Anker is perhaps best known for its portable chargers and other charging accessories for mobile phones, so I wouldn't be surprised if its designers sat down and tried to build a speaker around a massive lithium-ion battery pack. Anker qualifies its 24-hour battery life claim by saying results will vary based on what you're listening to, the volume, and etc., and while I never tried to just run the battery down for a full day just to see, that's also not a realistic way you'd use a portable speaker.

If you use this speaker to listen to your favorite podcasts throughout the day, you'll be confident knowing it'll still have juice for supplying some post-work tunes on the back patio. But more importantly for me was the camping test. On a fully charged battery, the SoundCore 2 supplied all the music needed from Friday night around the campfire to Sunday afternoon packing up. While obviously, we weren't using the speaker the entire time, it was reliably loud when it needed to compete against a howling wind and survived the rainstorm to provide some tunes at the beach the next day.

Should you buy it?

The Anker SoundCore 2 talks a big game but it backs it all up. The battery life is super impressive and it's rugged enough to withstand a sudden rainstorm. Above all else, the sound is great. Currently available for under $50, this speaker is an absolute steal.

See at Amazon

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2 weeks ago

Best External Battery Packs for Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge

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Galaxy S7 battery

Give your GS7 and GS7 edge a second life with a battery pack.

Our phones just keep adding new capabilities, but their batteries never feel like they last any longer than the day they came out of the box. A year on, the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge are still great phones — but if you find your battery is dying earlier than you'd expect, you may want to check out a portable battery pack for those heavy days.

They're entirely portable, relatively inexpensive, and could keep your phone going when you need it most. We've rounded up the best battery packs to use with your Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge.

Aukey Portable Power Bank (10,400mAh)

Aukey

This portable battery is Aukey's bread and butter — a simple 10,400mAh pack with a single USB port to charge up your phone. It has enough juice to charge up your phone twice with a bit left over, and still manages to remain relatively compact.

The metal construction means it can stand up to plenty of bumping around in your bag or pocket. And with Quick Charge tech on board it'll charge up your phone as fast as a wall plug can. Not a bad deal for just under $30.

See at Amazon

EasyAcc Monster (20,000mAh)

EasyAcc

Charge your Galaxy S7 and up to three other devices at the same time with the EasyAcc Monster. They're not kidding about the name. This thing has enough juice to charge your GS7 around six times over, which makes it great if you're headed out of town for a few days and aren't sure if you'll see a wall socket any time soon.

It has a built-in flashlight and can auto-detect components and adjust the maximum output accordingly, which makes it great if you want to charge up multiple devices on the go. Does the whole family have Galaxy S7s? Charge them all at the same time for just $32 with this battery.

No need to worry about overcharging and shorting, since the EasyAcc has a built-in surge protector, which is ideal since you'll have to wait 6 hours for this one to charge back up fully.

See at Amazon

Samsung Fast Charge Battery Pack (5,200mAh)

Samsung Fast Charge Battery Pack (5,200 mAh)

This is actually not the latest battery pack from Samsung, but that doesn't mean anything when it comes to actually using it. But it does mean you can get a great deal on a really good battery from the same company that made your phone.

With 5200mAh capacity it's only good for a little more than a full charge of your phone, but in return it's light and svelte — it's roughly the same dimensions as a Galaxy S7 edge. That means it's super easy to slide in a pocket with a USB cable for when you need to top up your phone in the evening.

You can find Samsung's battery for about $40, or sometimes a bit less if you shop around.

See at Amazon

Unifun 10,400mAh Waterproof Power Bank

Unifun 10,400mAh Waterproof Power Bank

Calling all campers! Unifun's power bank is rugged and waterproof, so you can charge your Galaxy S7 or S7 edge when you're really on the go. It's rated IP66 for water and dust resistance, while also having anti-shock and anti-skid protection.

This pack even has a strap hole, so you can attach to a belt loop or clip, which is great if you're working outside all day or constantly on the go; just run a cord to your pocket and away you go.

It's a little bulky, at 6 inches by almost 3 inches, but you'd expect something so rugged to be a little on the bulky side. Especially at the price: under $20 for all those features is great.

See at Amazon

What's your favorite?

Which battery packs are you using to charge your Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge? Sound off in the comments below!

Update July 2017: Updated with the latest battery packs, pricing and links for the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge.

Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge

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2 weeks ago

HTC allegedly working on a mid-range U11 powered by the Snapdragon 660

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HTC is working on a Mini variant of the U11.

The HTC U11 is one of the best phones you can buy today, and it looks like the Taiwanese manufacturer is working on rolling out a Lifestyle or Mini variant that's targeted at the mid-range segment. According to a series of tweets by noted HTC leaker LlabTooFeR, the device is codenamed Ocean Life, offering a 5.2-inch 1080p panel, 16MP rear and front cameras, Android 7.1.1 Nougat with Sense 9.0, and a 2600mAh battery.

The phone is said to be powered by the Snapdragon 660, and like the U11, it will feature a squeezable frame that lets you perform actions by pressing down on the sides of the device.

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2 weeks ago

Get red, white, and blue with these patriotic wallpapers this Fourth of July!

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Happy Birthday, America!

Sure, the vote took place on July 2, but this is the day we celebrate starting our own country trying out this little thing called self-government. It's hard its ups and downs, but since 1776 we've been going strong. Whether you're looking for some low-key patriotism or flashy as a firework flair, we've got the wallpapers for you!

Fireworks may go off on other holidays, but no other day is more synonymous with lighting shiny explosives than July 4th, and while doing them at home can be dangerous, there's no shortage of local, state, and national displays to watch the professionals strut their stuff. Fireworks make for explosive wallpapers, allowing your apps to pop like fireworks of their own against the high contrast colors. The whimsy of these corkscrew fireworks add a playful touch, as well.

Fireworks 3 by AreteStock

In a homage to Wonder Woman's history as an American superhero (even with her international heritage), DeviantArt user Superman 8193 has taken some poses by David Despau, artfully done them up with some splashes of patriotic colors, and gifted them to the world as a beautiful wallpaper that can be patriotic and nerdy all at once! This wallpaper is also great for theming, with widgets fitting well at the top and bottom of the screen, with plenty of room to scatter your app icons in Wonder Woman's patrotic locks in red and blue Glim icons.

David Despau - Wonder Woman 2 by Superman8193

As I said, fireworks are one of the holiday's most treasured traditions, the reason it's so treasured is not the highly dangerous pyrotechnics, but the people we gather with to watch them. Watching your friends' and family's faces light up as the fireworks light up the night is the kind of memory that can last a lifetime (why do you think Disney sets off fireworks every night?). And this wallpaper celebrates the most important part of both the holiday and the national pride behind it: building a legacy with loved ones.

4th of July by vongue

There are a lot of lovely quotes around patriotism and American pride, but it's the understated quotes that often have the most impact. Walt Disney certainly a man with no shortage of American pride, but there are two quotes of his that I think sum up his particular brand of national love: "Laughter is America's greatest export" and "I get red, white, and blue at times". This simple wallpaper also plays well on a clean lock screen or a busy home screen.

It also offers some Mickey Mouse flair, possibly the most recognized American icon in the world.

I get Red, White, and Blue at times by Disney Parks Blog

Some patriotic wallpapers are a little more abstract, but this one works it remarkably well. This wallpaper also works well both vertically and horizontally, giving you an extra level of freedom with its stars and stripes. It vaguely gives me some Coca-Cola vibes, so that might explain my unnatural attraction to it.

Stars and Stripes

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2 weeks ago

Here are the Xiaomi phones that will be updated to Nougat

4

Xiaomi will roll out the Nougat update to 14 phones.

The Mi 6 and Mi Max 2 run Android 7.1.1 Nougat out of the box, but a majority of Xiaomi's devices are still on Marshmallow. The company has now confirmed that it is working on delivering the Nougat update to 14 phones, with internal testing underway for five phones: the Mi Note 2, Mi Mix, Redmi 4/4X, and the Mi 5s along with the Mi 5s Plus.

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2 weeks ago

Best T-Mobile Phones

The best phone options available from the third-place U.S. carrier.

Whether you're a long-time T-Mobile subscriber looking to upgrade your phone or you're switching and want to find out what's available at a glance, we're here to help.

We've broken down the best devices available to buy through T-Mobile. Check out our reviews to learn more about each of these and if you're ready to take the plunge, we've included links to buy directly from T-Mobile.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Every carrier has to offer the latest Samsung Galaxy, and for good reason: this is the top-end phone everyone knows and lusts after right alongside Apple's latest iPhone. T-Mobile of course offers both the Galaxy S8 and larger Galaxy S8+, but which size you want is purely personal preference — the experience is ultimately the same on both.

Samsung continues to go all-out on its hardware design, and the Galaxy S8 does it up right. The sleek and slim metal frame is accented by curved glass all over, and the new extra-tall 18.5:9 screen with tiny bezels is breathtaking.

Inside you obviously get all of the latest specs, including Samsung's go-to features like wireless charging, waterproofing and an industry-leading display. It's expensive, but you just can't skip over considering the latest Galaxy when shopping for a flagship phone.

Be sure to read our Galaxy S8 review for the full take.

Samsung Galaxy S8 review

See at T-Mobile

LG G6

The G6 is easily LG's best overall flagship phone to date, and it directly competes with the top phones from other companies well. LG gave up the hardware gimmicks and stuck to a tried-and-true formula of a strong metal frame with a solid glass back, but picked up the style with a new 18:9 display that has really small bezels all around.

LG's software still isn't its strong point, but the styling has improved and it's still fast and fluid. What is a point of strength is the pair of rear cameras, with an excellent main camera backed up by a great wide-angle camera for breathtaking shots you just can't get anywhere else.

It may have an "older" Snapdragon 821 processor, but everything else on the G6 is top notch and you should absolutely consider it on T-Mobile.

You can read our LG G6 review for the full take.

LG G6 review

See at T-Mobile

LG V20

The LG V20 is a big phone with some powerful specs, and though it doesn't have the general appeal of the LG G6 or Galaxy S8 it's still a good choice for those who want something big, brawny and with some niche features.

With a pair of excellent rear cameras, a big, beautiful 5.7-inch screen, a removable battery and a high quality DAC, it has a lot going for it. Sure it's big and doesn't have the same svelte looks as the LG G6, but it has a lot going for it in its own right.

Making the V20 extra appealing is its generous price discount now that it's a handful of months old — you can get it for under $500.

LG V20 review

See at T-Mobile

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2 weeks ago

How to share your photo library in Google Photos

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Google Photos has a major new feature, and it makes it easier to share your whole library with someone you trust.

Google Photos is already one of the best places to upload, archive and share photos, videos and albums. But recently, at Google I/O 2017, the company announced a new feature that would allow people to share their library with someone close to them, such as a parent, partner, child or best friend.

Obvious with sharing an entire library, there are some privacy concerns, so here's what you need to know about the new feature.

How to share your library with someone

  1. Open Google Photos on your Android phone or tablet.
  2. Open up the left-side "hamburger" menu.
  3. Tap Share your library.
  4. Select person you want to share with from the list, or type in name.

  5. Select whether you want to share All photos or Photos of specific people.
    • If you select Photos of specific people, follow the instructions to choose the ones you want.
  6. Decide whether you want to share all photos or Only show photos since a specific day.
    • If you select Only show photos since this day, choose that day.
  7. Ensure all the details are correct and press Send invitation.
  8. Enter your phone's PIN, pattern or password.

After that, if the person you sent the invitation to chooses to accept it, the photos you shared will be available to them.

How to remove access to a shared library

So you gave away a bit too much of yourself and now you want to take it back. That's pretty easy, too!

A word of warning: People you give access to have the ability to save shared images, and automatically save future shared images, to their own library, so even if you retract access to your library, they may have a local copy.

  1. Open Google Photos on your Android phone or tablet.
  2. Open up the left-side "hamburger" menu.
  3. Tap on Shared with email address of the person you want to remove.
  4. Tap on three-dot menu button at the top right.
  5. Tap on Shared library settings.

  6. Tap on Remove partner.
  7. Confirm and tap on Remove.

Now that person will no longer have access to your library!

How to accept a shared library request from someone

If you're on the receiving end of a shared library request, you can easily accept it and start scrutinizing perusing the photos in your special someone's gallery.

  1. Open Google Photos on your phone or tablet.
    • If you received an email, open it and tap Accept invitation.
  2. Open up the left-side "hamburger" menu.
  3. Tap Invitation from person.
  4. Review photos in library and tap the ones you want to save.
    • If you want to save automatically, tap Start saving automatically.
    • Choose All photos to automatically save future photos to your library.

That's it! You can now go through the other person's library and choose the photos you want to save to yours. If you enable automatic saving, you'll be notified whenever new photos are added to the other person's library.

Questions?

This is a new feature and there are surely kinks to work out, so if you have any questions, feel free to leave them below!

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2 weeks ago

Note 8, S9 and beyond: The buttonless future of Samsung phones

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GS8 navigation keys

How do you trim down even more screen bezel? Make the softkeys entirely optional. And with its latest GS8 update, Samsung is already halfway there.

A few weeks back, Samsung started rolling out a new software update to the Galaxy S8 series in India and Europe, including a curious new option for the phones' navigation bar. As standard, a small dot icon in the bottom left corner lets GS8 owners hide the on-screen navigation buttons for home, back and recent apps, freeing up space for whichever app is currently on-screen.

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2 weeks ago

Grab the world's smallest camera drone for only $25!

Drones keep getting faster and smaller, but that usually means they're stripped of extra features, like cameras. The small size usually also means you're paying more for the drone. What if you could have a small drone with a camera attached for under $30?

Get the world's smaller camera drone and a 2GB microSD card for just $25! Learn more

What if that drone was actually the world's smallest drone to have a camera mounted on it? Right now, Android Central Digital Offers has a deal on this little marvel. Instead of paying $50, you'll instead get it at 50% off. That's a final price of $25. Not only do you get the drone, you also get the controller, a 2GB microSD card, extra blades, and cables and adapters to charge the battery and transfer photos and videos.

This quadcopter's four blades allow it to zip around in any direction, and the LEDs allow for night flights — no getting lost in the grass. The camera mounted on the drone can take video and still photos, and it takes less than 30 minutes to fully charge the battery.

Take your photography to new heights with this tiny $25 camera drone! Learn more

If you've been waiting to get your hands on a drone, why not grab one with a mounted camera and included storage? This drone is small enough that you won't have to register it with the FAA. Ready to start flying? Grab this deal today; it won't last forever.

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2 weeks ago

Moto Mods 2017: Your phone is fun again

4

If you're looking for the most-fun phones around right now – and let's face it, smartphone hardware could stand a little fun injection – you needn't look any further than Motorola. It was just one short year ago that the company kicked off the Moto Z line of smartphones, along with its special Moto Mods: the slap-on magnetic modules that gave them their special talents.

Our own Daniel Bader already covered how well the newest Motorola lives up to its legacy in his Moto Z2 Play Review, and I'll follow that up with my own take shortly. For now, though, I want to talk about the first official 2017 Moto Mods: the new Style Shell, JBL SoundBoost 2, and TurboPower battery pack. While they may not pack the fun factor of a Hasselblad camera or a slap-on physical keyboard, they're still impressive (and for now, unique) examples of modular phone accessories done right. Jump in to the MrMobile Moto Mods 2017 review, and stay tuned for much more coming later in the year!

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2 weeks ago

Keep your KEYone protected with a Tempered Glass Screen Protector

4

How can you best keep your KEYone's screen protected?

The BlackBerry KEYone has less screen to protect than other phones, but it's still worth keeping it safe from scratches and drop damage with a tempered glass screen protector.

If you've spent some time with the KEYone, you'll know that the screen has a curve at the edge, which is never good news for tempered glass screen protectors. There's also a limited offering at this point, but we've rounded up the best options as recommended in the CrackBerry KEYone Forum and from reputable brands on Amazon.

Brotect AirGlass screen protector

This recommendation came from the CrackBerry Forums, and is deceptively thin. Brotect claims its AirGlass line of screen protectors is thinner and lighter than ever before while still offering strong anti-scratch hardness. Do note that does not curve around the edges of the KEYone screen.

Now, Brotech claims their protector is the thinnest glass screen protector — so much so that it flexes like crazy. This has lead do some people to claim they're offering a plastic film screen protector, so Brotect has this video showing what happens when you snap one in half. They include an extra cutout of glass with the screen protector as a sample which you can test for yourself.

By the way, if you're in the hunt for KEYone accessories, the CrackBerry forums have an ongoing thread on that very topic)

See at Amazon

J&D Tempered Glass Screen Protector [3-pack]

Looking for more than one screen protector… you know, just in case? Consider this offering from J&D which includes three tempered glass screen protectors for your KEYone. Each is precisely cut to cover to the edge of the screen with some room around the curved edge for case compatibility.

The dimensions and design of the KEYone sure made it pretty easy for accessory makers — all it needs is a rectangular slab of glass with no cutouts needed for the camera or speakers. So really how could it go wrong?

See at Amazon

Skinomi Tech Glass

You can pre-order a 3-pack of tempered glass screen protectors on the Skinomi website, which will be available on July 15. Three is always better than one, especially at only $8 for the pack. Skinomi also offers a 30-day money back guarantee if you through its website, so if you're unsatisfied with the fit or quality you can send it back — just be sure to hold onto the original packaging.

Meanwhile, if you're OK with a film screen protector, Skinomi offers it's TechSkin Carbon Fiber full body skin that might be enticing to some, which also ships with a film screen protector. Might be an option to consider as we wait for more tempered glass options to hit the market.

See at Skinomi

Keep it protected

Do you strictly stick to tempered glass to keep your phone's screen protected? Got any other recommendations to offer? Drop a line in the comments!

BlackBerry KEYone

Amazon Best Buy BlackBerry Mobile

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2 weeks ago

I thought this Anker 26,800mAh portable battery was too big — I was wrong

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Anker PowerCore 26800mAh

The landscape of mobile battery packs is just as diverse as the people who buy them.

Think about any conceivable situation in which you'd need to charge up your phone, tablet, accessories or even laptop away from a wall socket, and there's a battery out there to serve you. I typically carry a 10,000mAh battery with just a single USB port — it's something compact I can always carry with me, and I'm willing to take the trade-off of only charging up phones one at a time.

But then I bought a new MacBook Pro, and started to transition more aggressively to making everything in my life USB-C — considering every phone and tablet I have also has the same port. The number of great USB-C batteries out there is small, and the number properly supporting the USB-C Power Delivery spec is even smaller — but it's something that I'd ideally have to charge up my MacBook Pro just as well as any phone or tablet.

I found this Anker PowerCore battery with its massive 26,800mAh capacity, and my mind has been changed about carrying big external batteries.

See at Amazon

Anker PowerCore 26800mAh

Yes I realize I'm legitimately talking about buying a $100 battery pack in a world where you can get some really great ones for less than $30. But this Anker PowerCore 26800mAh battery is worth it, at least in my case.

Having USB-C Power Delivery immediately changed the calculus of lugging a big battery around.

I typically scoff at such large portable batteries because I feel I'm never going to be away from a wall plug long enough that I'd need to charge a phone eight times or a tablet three times. And at the same time, such a huge battery typically takes forever to charge back up. My flip-flop on both of these feelings comes from one thing: USB-C Power Delivery.

USB-C PD lets the battery output 30W of power — enough to charge a MacBook Pro 13-inch, but also charge many phones (Pixels, Nexuses, the HTC U11, LG G6 and more) at their fastest possible rates. Just as importantly, the battery also uses USB-C PD for recharging itself. So now instead of waiting overnight, or connecting two chargers at once, it takes just 4.5 hours to get this big battery from dead to full. A game-changer, in both respects.

Beyond the USB-C port, there are also two high-speed USB-A ports for plugging in whatever you want. No, there isn't Qualcomm Quick Charge here, but these are "PowerIQ" ports that output 5V/3A — plenty capable for your phones, tablets, accessories and cameras. Having a portable (well, relatively portable) battery that can charge my laptop, phone and tablet at the same time is awesome and extremely important when I'm traveling. When I can't find a wall socket, or just don't want to carry a wall charger, it's immediately worth more than that $100 price.

Then there's an extra bit of nice-to-have kit in the box: a 30W USB-C PD wall charger. This little charger, with its foldable plug, can of course charge up the battery but also works perfectly with a MacBook Pro as a travel charger or with any of my USB-C phones or tablets. A real value-add that's worth factoring into this $100 price.

Let's quickly address the one downside here. Yes, the battery is huge compared to your typical choices — but moreover, it's dense, weighing in at 1.29 pounds / 590 grams. Part of that weight comes from its hefty metal construction, but it's mostly the massive battery capacity inside. It is far too big to put in a pocket or easily carry around while you're using your phone. But it is comfortably under the 100Wh limit for carrying on a plane. Good call, Anker.

This isn't a go-anywhere portable battery; it's a venerable power station for all of my devices.

But this isn't supposed to be a go-everywhere super-portable battery for just your phone — you can find those anywhere. This is a venerable power station that you can take out knowing it can not only recharge a phone eight times, but more importantly can charge up your phone once while also giving a 100% charge to your MacBook Pro or other USB-C laptop on the go.

Am I going to get rid of all of my smaller batteries and just stick to this monster? No, that's just not practical. Sometimes all I need is a 5000mAh battery to slip into a jacket pocket to top up my phone, and I'll keep using those. But for a battery that's going to stay in my bag, ready to charge up anything I need while I'm out of the house or traveling, it's going to be this Anker PowerCore 26800mAh battery.

See at Amazon

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2 weeks ago

Project Fi's mysterious mid-tier phone rumored to be the Moto X4

21

Upcoming Motorola mid-tier phone could be the first non-Google phone in Project Fi's roster.

Late last week, Google said that one of its partners would launch a mid-tier device on Project Fi. According to seasoned leaker Evan Blass at VentureBeat, that partner is Motorola, and the device in question is the Moto X4.

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2 weeks ago

How much mobile data does streaming media use?

35

Here's the breakdown on how much data streaming music and video use so you know how much to budget.

The things most of us love to do with our phones is also the thing that eats the most data: stream music and video.

Modern phones and streaming services were made for each other. Your phone is capable of delivering high-quality content through the screen or its audio components and streaming services like YouTube, Netflix and Spotify were made to deliver them. The first popular media-centric phone was the iPhone. Both Apple and Google owe a lot of their success to this because it was also the best way to watch YouTube in the palm of your hands.

Things have come a long way since then, but one thing hasn't changed. We love to watch and listen with our phones. But the advent of HD video streaming and high-bitrate audio streaming means that it also gobbles up the data like never before. Let's break it down to see just how much data you use when you fire up your favorite streaming app.

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Streaming audio

While some services offer super-HQ streaming music, most services use the same scale: Low, Normal and High. And most use the same bitrate (the number of bits per second that are transmitted digitally) to define each category. Here's how they look and how much data each will consume.

  • Low quality is typically 96kbps. On average, Low-quality audio streaming uses 0.72MB per minute or 43.2MB per hour.
  • Normal quality is 160kbps. Normal-quality music streaming uses 1.20MB per minute or 72MB per hour on average.
  • High quality music is 320kbps. High-quality streaming music uses 2.40MB per minute or 115.2MB per hour on average.

"Average" is the key word here. Most services offer streaming service that auto-adjusts based on your network conditions, and some (Apple Music and Beats Music are an example) use lower quality bitrates for all categories. But most any other service, including Google Play Music and Spotify, follow these guidelines when you don't have things set up to auto-adjust.

Streaming video

As you can imagine, streaming video uses a lot more data than audio does. There's just more information being transmitted. And your network conditions play a big part in how the media is streamed because nobody likes buffering. Thankfully, apps are smart enough to ask for a video stream that will work with the available network speeds and buffering is mostly a thing of the past. Mostly. Note that this hidden feature will usually override your settings when it has to, but if you ask for an HD or 4K video, you'll get it if it can be delivered.

Here's how the streams break down on average.

  • Low quality video is very low-quality. think 240p or 320p. Low-quality settings will use about 0.3GB (300MB) per hour.
  • SD quality video is standard 480p video. SD-quality video uses about 0.7GB (700MB) per hour.
  • HD quality video is between 720p and 2K (remember, the app adjusts the stream). HD-quality video uses about 0.9GB (720p), 1.5GB (1080p) and 3GB (2K) per hour.
  • UHD quality video uses a lot of data. A 4K stream uses about 7.2GB per hour.

Again, these are averages and Netflix has helped by telling us how much data their service uses. Compression, variable quality based on network conditions and your phone's cache will all factor in here, but these numbers are a pretty safe bet.

How much can I stream on my data plan?

A typical data plan that's not unlimited (and not from T-Mobile or other company who practices zero-rating) comes in 2GB, 5GB and 10GB flavors. If you wanted to stream media while using your data connection, here's what each tier will allow:

  • A 2GB plan will let you stream

    • 47 hours of low-quality music
    • 28 hours of normal-quality music
    • 17 hours of high-quality music
    • 6.5 hours of low-quality video
    • 2.8 hours of standard definition video
    • 2.2 hours of 720p video
    • 1.3 hours of 1080p video
    • 0.6 hours of 2K video
    • 0.25 hours of 4K video
  • A 5GB plan will let you stream

    • 117 hours of low-quality music
    • 70 hours of normal-quality music
    • 42.5 hours of high-quality music
    • 16.25 hours of low-quality video
    • 7 hours of standard definition video
    • 5.5 hours of 720p video
    • 3.25 hours of 1080p video
    • 1.5 hours of 2K video
    • 0.6 hours of 4K video
  • A 10GB plan will let you stream

    • 234 hours of low-quality music
    • 140 hours of normal-quality music
    • 85 hours of high-quality music
    • 32.5 hours of low-quality video
    • 14 hours of standard definition video
    • 11 hours of 720p video
    • 6.5 hours of 1080p video
    • 3 hours of 2K video
    • 1.2 hours of 4K video

We followed the industry standard 1,000MB = 1GB formula here and not the "real" calculation of 1,024MB in one GB. That's because your carrier might do the same. And remember — these are close estimations. Because of how data is compressed and bitrates changed based on every situation, my measurements may be a little different than yours. And none of this takes any rounding your carrier might do into account. To us, 1.7MB is 1.7MB, not 2MB.

Streaming HD media uses a lot of data. Know this before you decide how much you need.

One thing these figures show is that you're always better off using Wi-Fi to stream high-quality media. Besides the data savings, Wi-Fi also has a more robust signal that will mean less degradation or compression. Your internet company probably optimizes media traffic, but not nearly as much as your wireless carrier does. You can also use services that let you download or pin your media while you're on Wi-Fi and play it back later.

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Just be aware that if you watch 8-hours of HD video every day, you're going to need upwards of 300GB of data. That means you'll need an unlimited plan that doesn't have the fine-print telling you "unlimited" stops at 22 or 24GB then gets too slow to stream. Such an animal doesn't exist, and carriers that zero-rate aren't going to serve you 2K video (or even 1080p).

Uses these numbers to plan out how much data you need for streaming if you're shopping for service.

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