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2 weeks ago

Ultimate Guide to Samsung Gear VR!

Whatever you want to do with your Gear VR, we've got the details for you here!

Samsung's Gear VR is easily one of the most accessible VR systems that is available today. Running off of a Samsung phone, this headset has benefited from lots of small but important improvements. The end result is a portable entertainment center, offering up games and movies and a huge selection of new ways to completely immerse yourself in new worlds.

Here's everything you need to get the most out of your Samsung Gear VR!

Read more on VR Heads!

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2 weeks ago

What are Zigbee and Z-Wave? Everything you need to know!

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Cree lamp

Your connected home can be built a lot of different ways, but likely starts right here.

Maybe the most fun part of new tech and internets of things and stuff is all the crazy names attached to it. And there are a lot of them.

Two of the most popular, for now anyway, are Zigbee and Z-Wave. They are fun to say and have similar sounding names, and are mostly used for the same things. But there are some differences. We've seen more than a few questions about them and since we like to geek out over this sort of thing, we can talk about what they are and what they are used for. And bees.

What is Z-Wave?

Samsung's SmartThings uses both Zigbee and Z-Wave to control just about anything.

Z-Wave (or ZWave or Z Wave) is a way for two or more things to communicate wirelessly. It's a low-energy mesh network where devices can communicate directly with each other by sending very reliable and very small low-latency bursts of data, but it still requires a hub or gateway so a device can control all the other devices. It's almost exclusively used for residential applications — you use it around your home or small office — while other standards (like Zigbee, which we'll get to in a minute) are better suited for industrial and wide-scale commercial applications.

Z-Wave is represented by names we already know, and there are 1,700 different products that are Z-Wave-certified.

Z-Wave is very well suited for home automation. Devices like door locks, thermostats, and light switches don't send large packages of data and often only send or receive data while they are actually in use. Your garage may have a security system in place, but the door opener only needs to know when it's time to open or close the door. Data speeds are capped at 100kbps and the maximum recommended distance between mesh nodes is 40 meters, though older Z-Wave gear has a maximum throughput of 9.6 kbps and a 30-meter range. A data packet can hop between four nodes before it's discarded but Z-Wave's network mapping is pretty good so the shortest distance with the fewest hops will usually be used.

Z-Wave transmits on the unlicensed Part 15 ISM band (Texas Instruments .pdf file link) at 908.42MHz in North America and 868.42MHz in Europe. Other countries have specific frequencies that Z-Wave is regulated to use and all this is important because Z-Wave can use the same radio frequency bands as consumer cordless telephones. This isn't an ideal situation, but it does keep Z-Wave completely clear of the crowded 2.4GHz band that Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a host of less popular standards use.

Z-Wave was introduced in 2001, and as of 2012 is an option in the ITU's (International Telecommunications Union) G.9959 standard for wireless devices under 1GHz.

What is Zigbee?

The new Echo Plus is also a Zigbee controller!

Zigbee is also a low-power wireless mesh network standard, designed specifically so devices will have a long battery life. Zigbee can be used for residential applications and it works well, but it's also well suited for industrial and large-scale commercial use. The network layer supports star (a central hub and devices connected to it) and tree (groups of star networks connected to one linear backbone) networks as well as a generic mesh node-to-node layout. Every Zigbee network needs at least one controller device but can support more than one.

Zigbee is designed to work well in places where wireless is congested, but it also works great in our homes.

Support for numerous types of network topology and support for multiple coordinating devices are part of what makes Zigbee a good choice for more complicated applications. Zigbee support is included in microcontrollers with their own flash storage so automation routines can be built and triggered as needed by software. Other types of Zigbee devices include routers which can act as a network extender and ZEDs — Zigbee End Devices which can only receive data from a coordinator device and can't relay data back.

Zigbee is one of the global standards covered by the IEEE 802.15 group. It operates in the unlicensed portion of the 2.4 GHz bands but can also operate in the unlicensed 902 to 928 MHz (Australia, North America, and South America) and the 868 to 868.6 MHz (Europe) ISM bands. Transfer rates cap at 250 kbps in the 2.4 GHz band, 40 kbps in the 915 MHz band, and 20 kbps in the 868 MHz band. Data rates will be slower than the maximum, partly because Zigbee has more overhead. It was designed to operate in "hostile" (think crowded, congested and always changing) 2.4 GHz band and has built-in collision avoidance and retry abilities. Typical range is between 10 and 20 meters depending on any obstruction, but in outdoor long-range applications, a range of 1,500 meters (line of sight) is possible as the output power of a Zigbee radio can reach 20 dBm at 100 mW (a lot stronger than you think).

Zigbee was named after the dance worker honeybees perform when they return to the hive. Bee's zig-zag. Zig. Bee. And yes, I'm serious. 🐝

So which is better?

That's going to depend on who you ask and what they are doing that uses either standard.

Z-Wave is more mature and easier to develop applications for. Almost every device will use the same Intel MCS-51 microcontroller and familiar names like Carrier, Honeywell, Black & Decker and Samsung are part of the Z-Wave Alliance and help keep Z-Wave robust yet simple in design and operation.

When it comes to consumer products, one is not better than the other.

Zigbee is great for devices that are hard to reach. A Zigbee certified device must have a battery life of over 2 years to pass testing. the protocol is just really friendly when it comes to power requirements. But Zigbee networks can be far more complicated, and even if you're producing a simple switch you'll need to be able to support any network configuration. Zigbee also competes for bandwidth with high-speed protocols like Bluetooth and IrDA (Infrared Data Association) that are built to use every bit of bandwidth possible for applications like voice or video transmission. This is why multiple network topographies and great collision and retry features are a big part of the standard.

So, yeah. It really depends on what you're trying to do! KwickSet's deadbolt locks are a perfect use case for Z-Wave. A small hub in your house lets you control up to 230 devices like a door lock with your phone, a controller, over the internet, or through Google Home. Zigbee is a better fit for something that needs to be able to stay connected under any conditions. Something like this SHURE wireless microphone developed in 2011 that was able to transfer in real time and in a very congested area. Though these microphones are now end-of-life with the dawn of 600 MHz cellular connections.

For the things we as consumers love to use, both are great. The characteristics of Z-Wave make it more robust in a house filled with walls and multiple floors, but Zigbee devices are also trouble-free in the home most of the time. And there are cool gadgets that use either protocol or even both. You can do amazing things in your home with SmartThings or Wink hub and control it all with your phone or you watch or something like an Amazon Echo or Google Home.

These products and services work with Google Home

Google Hardware

Google Home family

Google Wifi:

Google Amazon

Google Home:

Google Best Buy

Chromecast Ultra:

Google Best Buy

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Amazon Echo

See at Amazon

img { width: 100%; height: auto; } .devicebox ul { display: table; margin: 0 0 10px; width: 100%; } .devicebox ul li { background: #f7f7f7; margin: 2px 0; padding: 4px 15px; } .devicebox ul li:hover { background: #fff; } .devicebox ul li:before { display: none; } .devicebox p ~ p { line-height: 1.25; } .devicebox p:first-of-type + p { padding: 15px; } .devicebox a.buy-link { border-radius: 5px; display: inline-block; font: 14px/31px "Proxima Nova Extrabld",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; text-align: center; } .devicebox a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:link, .devicebox a.buy-link:active, .devicebox a.buy-link:visited { background: #37B5D7; color: #FFF; } .devicebox a.buy-link:hover { background: #2694B2; text-decoration: none; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { content: "\e61e"; font: 40px/0 "ac_iconset" !important; margin: 0 3px 0 -8px; vertical-align: middle; } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { /* div:not(.columns-3) excludes help menu content */ .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p img, .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 660px) { .devicebox h3 { text-align: center; } .devicebox ul, .devicebox p { display: block; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox p img, .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 661px), all and (max-width: 500px) { /* 2x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(even) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:last-of-type:nth-of-type(odd) { width: 100%; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 659px) and (min-width: 501px) { /* 3x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(100%/3 - 10px/3); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(3n):not(:nth-last-of-type(2)) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:only-child { width: 100%; margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(odd) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 500px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } .page-admin .devicebox {max-width: 350px;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe {position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

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2 weeks ago

Samsung offering free DeX or Gear VR with Galaxy S8 or Note 8 purchase

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Available now through November 18.

Flagship phones are great, but they also have a tendency to be quite pricey. Samsung regularly runs promotions to help defer the cost of its Galaxy devices, and the latest one allows buyers to grab a free DeX Station or Gear VR with the purchase of a new phone.

You'll need to make your order through Samsung's website to claim your free gift, and with the DeX Station and Gear VR (with an included controller) regularly costing $149 and $129, respectively, this is a really solid deal to hop on if you're looking to do some early shopping for the holiday season.

Eligible devices include the Galaxy S8, S8+, S8 Active, and Note 8. The deal is live now through Saturday, November 18, so be sure to act fast to ensure you don't miss out.

See at Samsung

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked

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2 weeks ago

Google Home: What you need to know about Assistant, Skills, Music and more!

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Get to know your Google Home!

Google Home works as a hub for making your life easier. From listening to music to getting the news, to using Google Home to stream videos through Chromecast, there is plenty that it can do. With so much going on it can be intimidating at first, so we've put together this handy guide to help you get acquainted.

Keep reading for all the details!

What is it?

Announced at Google's hardware event in October 2016, Google Home is a smart speaker that hooks into Google Assistant. You're able to ask Home to do pretty much anything, from answering questions about sports and news, to finding a song from Play Music or Spotify.

The speaker sounds good -- better than the Amazon Echo -- and thanks to a growing ecosystem of skills, it's getting smarter all the time!

Google Home review

How to adjust the default apps on Google Home

Google Home makes it easy to keep track of your busy life and enjoy some music when you're relaxing at home. When you're ready for some music or you want to check up on the news, though, you'll want to be sure that the default apps are the ones that you want to use.

How to change the default apps on Google Home

Do I need more than one Google Home?

Google Home makes it easy to control your connected home. So what do you do when multiple people in the house all want to use your Google Home at the same time? Well, you pick up a second — or third! Even better, the Google Home Mini can be used to expand your Google Home network for much less money! Having multiple Google Homes only increases your benefits, and we have the details for you here!

Do I need more than one Google Home?

How to take advantage of Google Home offers

Google Home brings you a hub that lets you control your connected home, listen to music, and plenty more. Hidden inside of the menu in the Google Home app, you'll also find a tab called "Offers" filled with special deals that can let you enjoy everything this accessory has to offer at a discount. These include Play Movie rentals for just $0.99 or discounts on a SmartThings lighting kit and more.

How to take advantage of Google Home offers

What countries support Google Home?

Google Home has been helping out Americans with scheduling, playing music, and bringing their connected home together since November of 2016. While this accessory started out in the States, it's been slowly rolling out across the world. The United Kingdom and Canada are the two newest additions, but there are definitely more to come.

What countries support Google Home?

What you need to use Google Home

Google Home aims to make your life easier, but you will need a few things in order to use it. Don't worry though, chances are you already have access to the three integral parts of using Google Home.

What you need to use Google Home

How to buy things with Google Home

It seems as though every year our lives get even busier than they were the year before. Between your commute, working, hitting doctor's appointments, making it to the gym, and ensuring everything gets done on time, it can be hard to figure out the best time to run out to the store. That's where Google Home wants to make things a bit easier for you.

You can set up voice purchasing and even reorder items that you've ordered previously. It only takes a few minutes to set up voice purchasing, and we have the details on how to do it right here!

How to buy things with Google Home

How to set up Google Home with multiple users

Google Home works by recognizing your voice, letting you listen to music, add items to your shopping list and even check the day's news. With multi-user support, that goes a step further allowing up to six different accounts to link to a single Google Home. This means that every account can receive personalized responses from Google Home to help them on their day.

How to set up Google Home with multiple users

How to manage users on Google Home

Google Home makes it easy to control your connected home and linked accounts all with the power of your voice. While multiple accounts can use Google Home at the same time, the time may come when a roommate moves out and you need to remove their access. Have no fear.

We've got the details on how to add or remove a linked account from Google Home, and it only takes a few short minutes!

How to manage users on Google Home

How to listen to music with Google Home

Google Home has a great set of speakers, making it fully capable of filling the room with music. The speakers on the Google Home Mini aren't quite as good, but still sufficient. All you need to do is link up a music account, and you'll be good to go. With options like Pandora, Spotify, YouTube Music and Google Play Music, you'll always be able to listen to the music you're craving, and all you have to do is ask Google Home to play what you want to hear.

How to listen to music with Google Home

How to get Google Home to lull you to sleep

Finding it hard to fall asleep with the blaring summer heat? Google Home is good for more than turning off the lights or playing back your favorite podcast. You can use it as a noise machine of sorts for when the current environment just isn't your vibe. If you're in the U.S., you can use these quick tricks to get the Assistant-enabled speaker to drown out the noise of the trains, planes, and automobiles outside your window and instead transport you to a serene nature scene — or whatever else you need to be to fall asleep.

How to get Google Home to lull you to sleep

These products and services work with Google Home

Google first introduced Google Home to the world back in May at Google I/O 2016, later revealing the final product alongside the Pixel in October. From everything we've seen, Google Home seems primed to eventually link up with any smart device in your home and allow you to control everything with just the sound of your voice.

Google Home works with many smart home devices, including Nest, Phillips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Honeywell, Logitech Harmony and more. Of course, Google Home also works with Google's Cast ecosystem. Continue to check back to this article in the coming months, as we'll surely be updating this list as more products and services are added. We've broken things down into two categories — home automation products and supported services.

These products and services work with Google Home

6 Awesome Google Home commands you may not know about

Google Home has tons of great features that allow you to keep better track of things. If you aren't sure what it's really capable of, or how to use it, then it can be hard to get started. That's why we collected the six great commands you may not know about. These include listening to music, checking your schedule, controlling your home, and more.

6 Awesome Google Home commands you may not know about

Top 8 things to know about Google Home in Canada

Google Home is now available in Canada, and it's the first voice assistant-powered speaker to make the trip north (despite years of secret Amazon Echo smuggling). Available for $179, the diminutive speaker is terrifically cute and extremely useful, but there are a few differences between it and the U.S. or international versions that you'll want to know about. Additionally, Google Home Mini is also available in Canada for $80.

Top 8 things to know about Google Home in Canada

Top ten tips and tricks for Google Home

Using Google Home is fun. That's not unique to just Google Home — telling any computer, no matter what size or shape, to do stuff by talking is fun. And the more you talk to your Google Home the more things you'll find out about what it does and what it doesn't do.

Top 10 tips and tricks for Google Home

There's a mini version!

A year after announcing the standard size, Google unveiled the Google Home Mini. Everything you love about the Google Home is now available in a smaller, less expensive size. The only real downgrade is in speaker quality, since the Mini doesn't have as much room to push sound. But all voice commands work the same and all smart home accessories are also compatible with the Mini.

More: Google Home vs. Google Home Mini: Which should you buy?

Updated November 2017: Added references to the Google Home Mini and additional products and services that work with the Google Home ecosystem.

Google Home

Google Store Best Buy Target

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2 weeks ago

Can Mophie make an argument for the $150 battery pack?

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The Mophie Powerstation USB-C XXL is a big, reliable battery that gets the job done.

Search "battery pack" on Amazon and there's no shortage of high-quality options at reasonable prices. Once-unknown brands like Aukey, Anker, and RAVPower seem to have maneuvered their way to the tops of the search results, and hundreds of thousands of happy customers regale the user reviews sections with tales of successful deals on top-notch componentry.

When a battery pack that can charge a phone, a tablet, and a laptop at the same time costs a hair under $40, can Mophie convince people that it's worth spending nearly four times that amount on a portable charger that has less capacity and fewer ports? That's what we're aiming to answer here.

See at Mophie

This is definitely the nicest-looking battery pack I've used, but that doesn't mean much in the long run.

The Mophie Powerstation USB-C XXL is a two-port charger with a USB-C port and a USB-A port splitting the responsibilities. Its 19500mAh capacity is, while capacious — especially for its relatively small size — not the biggest we've seen, but the Mophie is programmed to release that capacity as quickly as possible right now.

That's because, in addition to the USB-A port that supports standard 2.4 amp output, the USB-C port uses the Power Delivery standard, allowing for up to 30W of output with a compatible device and proper cable. As we learned from the Pixel 2, most phones don't support such wattage — it technically supports a 27W charger, but will only accept 18 watts, likely due to heat concerns. Still, the Mophie can charge a phone and tablet at the same time, or a phone and USB C-capable laptop (say, a Pixelbook), which is pretty great.

For most products on the market today, the USB-C port will output 3A, which is roughly equivalent to Quick Charge 3.0 speeds.

The battery itself is hefty and solid, wrapped in a fabric outer layer that, after a few weeks tossed into the bottom of my bag, has worn incredibly well. The single button uses four white LED buttons to indicate battery levels, and unlike many other chargers, the Powerstation is intelligent enough not to need an "on" button to start charging something that's plugged in.

So why spend $150 on a battery when larger capacities are available at a third of the cost? Well, USB-PD is a burgeoning standard not supported by most battery chargers yet, and its licensing fees are reportedly higher than Quick Charge and other fast charging standards. Mophie is also well known for its high-quality components, and the Powerstation's two-year warranty should be reassuring for those willing to take the plunge.

I can say that the Powerstation USB-C XXL is not three times better than the average battery pack from RAVPower, Anker, Aukey, and others, but in my time with it, it's been incredibly reliable, useful, and hardy.

See at Mophie

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2 weeks ago

MIUI 9 global is now rolling out: Here's the list of eligible devices

3

The global version of MIUI 9 is now starting to roll out to Xiaomi's devices.

MIUI 9 was unveiled earlier this year in China, and now the global version of the ROM is starting to roll out to Xiaomi's entire portfolio of devices. The manufacturer is making the update widely available, with the five-year-old Mi 2 set to receive the latest version. To put things into context, the Mi 2 launched with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

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2 weeks ago

Does your Galaxy Note 8 show signs of lag?

129

Let's see how Samsung's latest holds up after a few weeks of use.

If you're in the market for a big phone, one of your best bets is Samsung's Galaxy Note 8. The Note 8 is a behemoth, and along with its huge footprint, it offers one of the best AMOLED displays around, a dual-camera system, the iconic S Pen, and so much more.

The Note 8 is also packed to the gills with some of the fastest silicon currently available, but even with its Snapdragon 835 (or Exynos 8895) processor and 6GB of RAM, the Note 8 isn't impervious to Samsung's heavy software customizations that tend to slow its devices down after just a few months or weeks of use.

Some of our forum users have already started to experience varying degrees of degradation, saying:

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PainFX 10-31-2017 06:59 PM “

During the phone call switching back to the homepage it almost froze. Had to end the call and restart the phone and everything went back to normal. It's only been 1 month. You guys have any problems yet?

Reply
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sdsubball23 10-31-2017 08:17 PM “

I'm having a gallery lag where it will stutter opening and closing pics. Anyone have a solution to this?

Reply

With that said, most users seem to be quite happy with the Note 8's performance.

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srvctec 10-31-2017 08:23 PM “

Nope, totally fine and smooth here, always. AND that's with being on the middle power save mode since day 1, which should cause more freeze ups because of the throttling of the CPU, but it's been perfect.

Reply
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Gray Area 10-31-2017 09:59 PM “

No lag issues, going on 2 months. I have however had a couple of instances where it seem like it wouldn't fast wired charge and I had to unplug it a couple times and plug it back in before it did it.

Reply
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creekwater1482 11-01-2017 07:31 PM “

No lag issues here at all. I do utilize device maintenance and close apps frequently. I'll reboot phone as well, once a week probably. Same thing with my gear s3, tablet, surface, etc.

Reply

If you own Samsung's latest and greatest, we'd like to know – Have you experienced any lag with the Galaxy Note 8?

Join the conversation in the forums!

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2 weeks ago

7 Unique Amazon Echo Dot Cases and Stands to Amp up Your Home Decor

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Personalize your Echo Dot with these unique cases and stands!

For all its great features and portability, the Amazon Echo Dot is rather uninspired when it comes to looks. The $50 smart speaker comes in two colors: black and white. It's a short, relatively small puck with four buttons, a tiny speaker system, microphones, and an LED light ring. Depending on your decor (and where you choose to place it), the Echo Dot may blend in… or it may stick out like a sore thumb (I'm still not entirely certain sore thumbs stick out, but please pardon the digression). Whether you want to turn your Echo Dot into more of a statement piece or have it blend in seamlessly with your particular style, you're going to need a case or stand to provide the proper camouflage. Without further ado, here are 7 unique Echo Dot cases and stands that'll help you achieve your interior design goals!

Amazon Echo Dot Cases

Amazon Echo Dot Cases

Amazon's Echo Dot cases don't necessarily fit the "unique" criteria because there's a chance many, many other people have picked up a few of these. That said, the $10 to $20 sleeve comes in six varieties — odds are you're going to find something that matches your style.

Designed and sold by Amazon, the case is a perfect fit for your Dot. You simply slide your Dot down into the sleeve, plug it in, and you're ready to go. The sleeve comes in three fabric styles ($10 apiece) — sandstone (a grayish white), charcoal (a dark gray), and indigo (a denim blue) — and three leather styles ($20 apiece) — merlot (a deep red), midnight (a deep black), and saddle tan (a medium brown).

With so many options to choose from, you could have a perfectly matching Echo Dot for every room of your house!

See at Amazon

Bamboo Echo Dot Case

Bamboo Echo Dot Case

This bamboo Echo Dot case is not only a nice, natural look for your home, but it also serves as a light feature of sorts. Thanks to the fact that the Echo Dot sits down inside of the case, the Dot's light ring beautifully lights up the edges of the bamboo.

You can get this bamboo Echo Dot case for the same price as Amazon's fabric cases: $10. It's lightweight, it's simple, and it's shaped perfectly to hold your Echo in place — it's even got a hole in the back for plugging everything in.

If you want a splash of light brown, textured bamboo to accompany your Echo Dot, this case is the perfect choice!

See at Amazon

Bamboo Echo Dot Stand

Bamboo Echo Dot Stand

You can step things up a notch from a simple bamboo case to this cleverly crafted, bamboo Echo Dot stand!

The unique design lets you nestle your Dot in the top of the stand, leaving loads of space inside for the Dot's small speaker system to resonate and grow louder. You can even position the hole on the front of the stand to direct the sound depending on where you are in your home. It's designed to precisely hold your Dot in the top portion of the stand — you can route your cables through a hole in the back.

If you're looking to pump up the power of your Echo Dot's small speaker system while adding the natural, beautiful look of bamboo to your home, this $16 stand is for you!

See at Amazon

Dot Genie Flush Mount

Dot Genie Flush Mount

I must confess: I am absolutely in love with this contraption. The $20 Dot Genie Flush Mount won't add to your home decor, instead it serves to hide your Amazon Echo away while still giving you easy access to Alexa's voice commands.

So how does it work? Well, it's a rounded puck that's meant to sit flush against a wall or ceiling. You cut out a hole in your drywall, stick the mount into the hole, feed in the Amazon Echo Dot, and wire everything up (it comes with wiring, too). After it's installed, you can use your Dot the same way you normally would. This is a great way to get your Dot up off the counter or table and into a place that's free from furniture and other objects that might obstruct your voice. Plus, if you're a little self conscious about having a bunch of fu7ur3 73ch in your home, this'll hide it away!

If your idea of a smart speaker and in-home assistant is a disembodied voice that seems to communicate from the heavens (mine sure is), then you've got to pick up this flush mount. Oh, I should also mention it won't muffle your Dot's built in speakers — the mount features a unique design that channels the audio out into the room.

See at Amazon

Fintie Echo Dot Sleeves

Fintie Echo Dot Sleeves

If you struggled with the numerous case options from Amazon, you're going to be stuck clicking between these sleeves from Fintie for the next couple hours. For about $12, Fintie offers a protective case that's made with a synthetic leather exterior and microfiber interior.

To put on the sleeve, you slide your Echo Dot into the pocket of the sleeve and fasten it with a small metal snap on the side. The case has cutouts for the ports on the back of your Echo, cutouts for the four buttons atop the device, and space for your speakers and mics to output sound and listen for your commands. The best part (or worst part if you have trouble making decisions) is the wide variety of colors and patterns available. From simple colors like black and blue to complex patterns like illustrated trees and stained glass, you're likely to find something that works for your home decor.

Whether you'd like to really make your Echo Dot stand out or just need something to add a bit of you to your Dot, Fintie's sleeves are a great choice!

See at Amazon

NewRice Echo Dot Statues

NewRice Echo Dot Statues

Talk. About. Adorable! These Echo Dot statues from NewRice would look right at home in just about any home. Instead of buying a glass vase and filling it with those little wicker and twine balls or fake cherries, buy one of these statues! You'll be getting an interesting bit of home decor and a place to tuck away your Dot.

NewRice is offering both an owl and an elephant statue that retail for about $20 and $24, respectively. Much like the bamboo stand we mentioned before, these statues let you nestle your Dot into the top of the vessel. There's a hole on the back for routing your cables. It even features a non-slip coating on the bottom of the statue to keep you from knocking over your new decoration.

If you'd like to add a little statement piece to your home and hide away your Echo Dot, you've got to take a look at these NewRice statues. If you look closely, you can see the owl staring longingly at you, asking you to let it come hang out.

See at Amazon

This Dottie Echo Dot Mount

This Dottie Echo Dot Mount

Like the flush mount, the "This Dottie" mount is for those who feel the Dot is incompatible with their home decor. For about $20, you can get this mount in either white or black — whichever works better for your home and the color of your Dot.

The all-in-one design of the "This Dottie" mount makes it simple to keep your Echo Dot — and its cord — up and out of the way of your counters and tables. You connect your Dot, slide it into the mount, and plug it in! The mount works in two configurations: up and down, meaning you'll be able to choose the best option based on where your wall outlets are positioned.

If you want to get your Echo Dot out of the way and more out of sight, the "This Dottie" will help with that. I love the all-in-one design that eliminates the need for an unsightly wire hanging down and snaking across your countertops.

See at Amazon

Thoughts? Ideas?

What do you think, are any of our choices calling out to you? Do you have a different case or stand that you absolutely adore? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments and over on Twitter!

Amazon Echo

See at Amazon

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2 weeks ago

Xiaomi Redmi Y1 preview: Another bestseller in the making

0

Xiaomi is once again delivering incredible value with the Redmi Y1.

Xiaomi has launched six phones in India this year: the Redmi Note 4, the Redmi 4A, Redmi 4, Mi Max 2, the Android One-based Mi A1, and the bezel-less Mi Mix 2. Five out of those six devices are aimed at the sub-₹20,000 segment, and now the company is adding to its ranks with a new sub-brand in the Redmi series.

The Redmi Y1 is positioned between the Redmi 4 and the Redmi Note 4. While the design and specs on offer look similar to what we've seen from the manufacturer in recent times, the main differentiator with the phone is a 16MP front camera, which has a "Selfie LED" front-facing flash module.

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2 weeks ago

Xiaomi Redmi Y1 specs: 16MP front camera with LED flash and Snapdragon 435

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The Redmi Y1 brings a great selfie camera to the budget segment.

The Xiaomi Redmi Y1 is now official in India, and like the rest of Xiaomi's offerings, you get great value for your money. The highlight of the phone is a 16MP front camera, which has an LED flash module that lets you take decent selfies in low-light scenarios.

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2 weeks ago

Xiaomi Redmi Y1 with 16MP front camera unveiled in India for ₹8,999

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The Redmi Y1 offers an outstanding selfie camera, and the rest of the hardware isn't all that bad either.

For Xiaomi, the Redmi series is the moneymaker. The manufacturer has focused its attention on the budget segment over the last twelve months, rolling out one hit after another in the Redmi Note 4, Redmi 4A, and the Redmi 4. The Redmi Note 4 turned out to be the best-selling phone in the country this year, followed by the Redmi 4 and the Redmi 4A.

With its latest handset, Xiaomi is looking to keep that momentum going. The Redmi Y1 offers the same great value for money as its siblings, but the defining characteristic of the phone is a 16MP front camera with LED flash. The camera is touted to be one of the best in this segment, and Xiaomi is confident enough in the phone's abilities that it is branching out the device into its own sub-brand in the Redmi series.

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2 weeks ago

HTC U11+ hands-on preview: More screen, more battery, translucent body

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HTC U11+

HTC has a new phone with a giant battery, an 18:9 screen and Android Oreo. But you won't be able to buy it in the U.S.

2017 has been the year of the 18:9 smartphone. Increasingly, Android phones with "traditional" widescreen displays have started to look seriously old-hat. One notable victim of 16:9 ennui this past year was the HTC U11 — a high-end device that did almost everything really well, but which, from the front, looked remarkably dated next to the latest creations from Samsung. The technology and feature set was all there, but the GS8-like excitement was lacking.

So in a somewhat surprising move, HTC kicks off November with a new flagship phone launch. It's the Taiwanese company's biggest smartphone screen to date, in that trendy 18:9 aspect ratio, paired with its biggest battery to date, encased in hardware that finally feels as polished and modern as the One M7 and M8 did back in the glory days.

And yet, being an HTC phone with no current U.S. launch plans and a scaled-back UK presence involving zero British carriers, it's unclear whether the U11+ will be able to move the needle much, if at all.

Physically, the HTC U11+ is a slimmer, elongated, slightly flattened U11. It's noticeably taller, a bit less curvy, and slightly easier to hold onto than its forerunner, despite the move to lankier 6-inch, 18:9 chassis.

Around the front, it's pretty much all screen — a SuperLCD 6 panel that looked phenomenal in the hour or so I got to play with the device. It's sufficiently bright, punchy and sharp, with a Quad HD+ resolution and colors that appear just as vibrant as the U11's. And with significantly trimmed bezels compared to that phone, the front face is more forward-looking.

HTC U11+

It has the look of a standard 2017 flagship, which is good, if not particularly outstanding.

The new svelte bezels also necessitate the relocation of the fingerprint scanner around the back of the phone, where we've seen it used time and time again to great effect.

As for the side walls, newly chamfered borders make the U11+ far easier to hold onto than the older model. The feel is more HTC 10 than U11 — at least around the sides.

The back panel, however, is very much in line with HTC's current design language. The generally well-received "liquid surface" finish returns in a couple of colors. Firstly, there's an incredibly shiny, almost mirrored black finish. It's somewhere between the black U11 and Sony's ridiculously reflective XZ Premium.

The translucent U11+ is a truly unique and undeniably cool piece of hardware.

But the version that really caught our eye was the translucent model, which retains some of the subtle reflectiveness of other U-series phones, while also providing a window into the phone's internal hardware. The most noticeable feature is the NFC antenna, located right by the HTC logo, and which actually becomes an unconventional design feature. Look more closely, especially around the top of the device, and bits of PCB come into focus around the camera module and mainboard.

HTC U11+

It's nerdy, sure, but it's one of those rare glimmers of brilliance that reminds us that HTC is still HTC. I had the same feeling about the fiery red U11 when I first saw that back in early May. And while this is far less ostentatious, it's unique, aesthetically pleasing, and just damn cool. The internals of the phone themselves become points of visual differentiation.

HTC is playing its cards close to its chest in terms of European launch plans for the translucent color variant. I'd imagine Taiwan (and possibly other parts of Asia) would get it at launch, but the safer black model is likely to be more readily available in the West.

HTC U11+

The spec sheet is almost a mirror image of the U11's, with a few small but significant exceptions. The screen size and resolution, naturally, jump to 6 inches at 2880x1440. There's a way bigger battery, with a capacity of 3930mAh basically guaranteeing all-day use, and even a second day if you're careful. And the U11+ also boasts Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box, augmented by HTC's Sense software, which has grown one or two new tricks in this latest phone.

Storage and RAM comes in 4GB/64GB and 6GB/128GB configurations, and this time — finally — the UK will be getting the higher-specced model.

More: HTC U11+ specs

The core of the device remains unchanged from the standard U11 released earlier in 2017.

Key U11 features like Edge Sense — the feature where you can squeeze the phone's bezels to activate Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, take a photo or perform other actions — also returns, with a minor software overhaul we'll get to later. Same with BoomSound Hi-Fi — HTC's on-device audio solution — and HTC USonic, the USB-C-based wired audio package. I'll still bemoan the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack, but at least with a larger battery onboard you're less likely to need to use wired audio and your charger at the same time.

The U11's excellent "UltraPixel 3" camera makes a return too — that's a good thing, as it's easily one of the best Android cameras on the market right now, coming close to the quality we've seen from the Google Pixel 2 XL. (Thanks in part to the always-on "HDR Boost," HTC's answer to Google's HDR+.). Meanwhile, the front camera has been downscaled to an 8-megapixel resolution, but with a larger physical sensor, which should improve low-light performance.

We'll dive deeper into the U11+'s camera in our full review, but first impressions are that little has changed.

The U11+ will be the first phone to run HTC Sense and Android 8.0 Oreo, and HTC's UI has undergone some small tweaks to bring it in line with the new version of the OS. Some of these are small cosmetic tweaks, like the move to "squircle" (squared circle) icons for many apps in the launcher, or the lighter notification shade and Settings app.

Oreo marks an evolution in Sense's design, not an overhaul.

There are other, more functional, changes too, most notably the new rotary menu that pops up when you squeeze the phone at the home screen. Two wheels of app and setting shortcuts pop up, and these can be anchored to either side of the display for easier one-handability.

This whole setup is reminiscent of Samsung's Edge Panels, which is to say it seems like a feature that'll be occasionally useful, but far from a revolutionary addition.

In a meeting ahead of today's announcement, HTC noted that the software we were shown wasn't yet finalized, and we weren't able to show any of the phone's software besides the home screen and navigation wheel. In any case, if you're familiar with the U11's software, you'll pretty much know what to expect here. The core Sense apps are still overdue a visual overhaul, and it's somewhat jarring to see apps that have barely changed since 2014 alongside newer UI elements from Oreo.

HTC U11+

The U11+ is competitively priced in the UK, but there's no word on carriers.

The HTC U11+ feels like a substantial step up from the U11, but many of the changes are admittedly fairly superficial. From the front, it now looks like a phone that belongs on store shelves in 2017. Yet ironically, it's stuck with a geographically limited release and a lack of carrier support. So even in the select countries it's coming to, like the UK, you'll need to buy it from HTC directly. The phone gets a lot right, but HTC's business challenges are still sizeable obstacles for this handset.

So yeah — the HTC U11+ won't be coming to the United States anytime soon, but in Europe it'll sell for £699, which gets you the 6GB/128GB variant. That's good value for money in the context of some other flagship phones pushing near four figures. Sales begin November 20, and those HTC fans that remain are sure to find plenty to like about the the latest phone from this once-dominant brand. But it's not clear how this phone will be able to get HTC out of its current financial rut.

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2 weeks ago

HTC U11 Life coming to the U.S. via T-Mobile, globally as Android One model

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A return to the the lower price segment by HTC.

After pretty thoroughly leaking ahead of time, HTC has made the new mid-range U11 Life official. The U11 Life takes on much of the styling and features of the U11 flagship launched earlier this year, but scales back materials and specs to meet a $349 price point.

It has a 5.2-inch 1080p SuperLCD screen, and is powered by a Snapdragon 630 processor, 2600mAh battery, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. Despite the drop in specs, the U11 Life keeps IP67 water-resistance, Edge Sense squeezing, a fingerprint sensor and has HTC's USonic active noise-cancelling earbuds in the box. And yes, that means there's no headphone jack here.

See at T-Mobile See at HTC

The body of the U11 Life may look nearly identical to the U11 from a distance, and that's definitely a good thing, but the frame is plastic rather than metal and the back is an acrylic material instead of curved glass. The cameras are of course of lower quality as well, with 16MP BSI sensors and f/2.0 lenses on back and front, both lacking OIS. Thankfully not many more corners are cut, as this $349 phone still has NFC, Bluetooth 5.0, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and many of the other "nice to have" features so often dropped in lower-end phones.

HTC U11 Life specs

Many people would prefer to have the Android One version, but it just isn't available here.

Now here's the interesting part: there are two distinct models of the U11 Life, one for North America and another globally. Internationally, the U11 Life is identical hardware-wise but is one of the new crop of mid-range Android One devices, meaning the U11 Life has a Google-sanctioned version of Android 8.0 with few HTC changes aside from the addition of Edge Sense. Certain markets will also see a bump up to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, though it seems like the 3/32GB model will be what most people see.

The North American model is running Android 7.1.1 with HTC's Sense customizations, and in the U.S. the only carrier you can buy it through is T-Mobile — though thankfully HTC.com is also selling it unlocked (and lacking Verizon and Sprint support, sorry). HTC says it will update the U11 Life to Android 8.0 within 30 days, but don't expect the interface to change much — this will still be Sense, not Android One.

The U11 Life goes on sale right away from HTC.com in the U.S. for $349, Canada for $449, and on November 3 from T-Mobile. Various nternational markets will also announce availability independently, but pricing is set at £349 in the UK and €349 in Europe.

HTC U11 Life review: High style at a low price, with compromises

See at T-Mobile See at HTC

Press release:

HTC U11 life: Premium Innovations Without Putting a Squeeze On Your Wallet

Squeezable Edge Sense, Amazing Cameras, Weather-Resistant Design, and USonic Noise Cancelling Earbuds In-Box Deliver Unparalleled Smartphone Value

SEATTLE – Nov. 2, 2017 – Building on the award-winning design and innovation of the flagship HTC U11, HTC today announced the newest member of the "U" family of smartphones, the HTC U11 life. Like its predecessor, the HTC U11 life is designed to reflect "U" – your drive, passion, creativity, and individuality – yet uniquely delivers flagship-quality features and experiences at just a fraction of a flagship's price.

The HTC U11 life gives you the best innovations from the HTC U11 and more:

  • Edge Sense, the next dimension in touch interaction that lets you squeeze HTC U11 life to perform your most common useful actions, including Google Assistant.
  • Amazing cameras, with Phase Detection Autofocus and HDR Boost on the 16MP main camera for faster, clearer photos, and UltraPixel light sensitivity on the 16MP front camera for awesome selfies even in low light. Google Photos is also the default gallery, providing free and unlimited storage of high quality photos and videos.
  • Durable, weather-resistant liquid surface design, incorporating an acrylic glass back that stunningly transforms light with every movement you make – even in rain, snow, or dust with IP67 water and dust resistance1.
  • HTC USonic earbuds in-box, the most personal listening experience on a smartphone that adapts to your ears, in addition to built-in Active Noise Cancellation.
  • Get the latest from Google with Android One – enjoy the newest Android OS update, Android Oreo, right out of the box, bringing you a best-in-class software experience designed by Google.

The HTC U11 life in Sapphire Blue is available in the US and Canada beginning today for just $349 ($449 CAD) at htc.com. It will also be available in T-Mobile stores nationwide and at t-mobile.com beginning Nov. 3.

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2 weeks ago

HTC U11+ specs: 6-inch LCD, Snapdragon 835 and 3930mAh battery

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HTC U11 Plus

Snapdragon 835, Oreo, and an enormous battery.

HTC's new big-screened handset, the U11+, builds upon one of the lesser-known flagships of 2017 and adds a big battery, Android Oreo and a new 18:9 aspect ratio. We've got a full hands-on report live now, but if you'd prefer to peruse the spec sheet, that's exactly what you'll find down below. Enjoy!

Category Specification Platform Android 8.0 Oreo with HTC Sense Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 64-bit octa-core up to 2.45GHz Display 6-inch SuperLCD 6, 2880x1440
Corning Gorilla Glass 5 RAM 4/6GB (Varies by region) Storage 64/128GB (Varies by region)
microSD up to 2TB Battery 3930mAh
Quick Charge 3.0 Water/dust-resistance IP68 Main Camera 12MP UltraPixel 3, 1.4-micron pixels, f/1.7
UltraSpeed Autofocus, BSI sensor, OIS, Dual LED flash Front Camera 8MP, f/2.0, 85-degree field of view
BSI sensor, HDR Boost Sound HTC USonic with Active Noise Cancellation
HTC BoomSound™ Hi-Fi edition
Hi-Res Audio stereo recording,Hi-Res audio certified
Qualcomm aptX HD, LDAC 24-bit high resolution wireless audio Network HSPA: 850/900/1900/2100 MHz
FDD-LTE Band 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 20, 28, 32
TDD-LTE Band 38, 39, 40, 41 Sensors Edge Sensor, Ambient light sensor, Proximity sensor, Motion G-sensor, Compass sensor, Gyro sensor, Magnetic sensor, Fingerprint sensor, Sensor Hub for activity tracking Location GPS, AGPS, GLONASS Connectivity USB 3.1, Type-C
802.11ac Wi-Fi Dual-band, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC
HTC Connect, AirPlay, Chromecast, DLNA, Miracast Additional Features Always-on voice commands, Motion Launch, Quiet ring on pick-up, Pocket mode, Flip to mute, Display color personalization Size  158.5 x 74.9 x 8.5 mm Weight  188 g

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2 weeks ago

HTC U11 Life specs: 5.2-inch display, 2600mAh battery, and Snapdragon 630

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HTC U11 Life

Here's what HTC can pack into a phone for under $400.

HTC is continuing the U11 brand with the new lower-end U11 Life, but it sure isn't re-using any of the flagship's components. With a launch price of $349, the HTC U11 Life is constrained quite a bit in its specs, meaning we're looking at a few corners shaved here and there — but there are a few other additions that are nice to see in an inexpensive device.

Here's the full spec sheet for the HTC U11 Life.

Category Spec Operating system Android 7.1.1 Nougat (North America)
Android 8.0 with Android One (Global) Display 5.2-inch SuperLCD, 1920x1080
Gorilla Glass 3 Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 RAM 3GB (North America)
4GB (Global, some regions) Storage 32GB (North America)
64GB (Global, some regions) Expandable microSDXC up to 2TB Rear camera 16MP, f/2.0, BSI sensor, PDAF
HDR, Pro mode, 4K video, hyperlapse Front camera 16MP, f/2.0, BSI sensor
HDR, 1080p video Battery 2600mAh Charging USB-C
5V/2A max Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11ac dual-band, NFC, USB 2.0, Bluetooth 5.0
Cat 9 LTE, VoLTE, Wi-Fi Calling (where supported) Network (U.S.) LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/12/13/17/20/28/66
HSPA 850/900/AWS/1900/2100 MHz Location GPS + AGPS, GLONASS, Beidou Sensors Edge sense, ambient light, proximity, motion G, gyro, compass, magnetic, sensor hub Headphone jack No
USB-C USonic earbuds Water resistance IP67 rating Security One-touch fingerprint sensor Dimensions 149.09 x 72.9 x 8.1 mm
142 g Colors Blue (North America)
Black, white (Global)

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