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3 days ago

Firefox Focus browser with built-in ad blocking lands on Android

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Firefox's privacy-focused browser is finally available on Android.

The Firefox Focus browser made its debut last year on the iPhone and iPad, and now the company is bringing the privacy-focused browser to Android. The highlight of the browser is built-in ad blocking, which not only gets rid of ads on websites, but also prevents web trackers from serving you ads across the internet.

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3 days ago

Download the official OnePlus 5 wallpapers in 4K

3

Abstract wallpapers from the latest OnePlus flagship.

With the OnePlus 5 announced and about to go on general release, the man behind the stock wallpapers from the new phone has stepped forward. Artist Hampus Olsson has taken to his personal blog to tell the story of these new abstract wallpapers, which draw inspiration from macro photography.

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3 days ago

OnePlus 5 accused of cheating in benchmarks, Carl Pei responds

44

XDA accuses OnePlus 5 of manipulating benchmark scores to gain a 5% performance boost.

Earlier this year, the folks at XDA Developers found that the OnePlus 3T and Meizu Pro 6 Plus were cheating at benchmarks, activating a "performance" mode as soon as a bnechmark test was initialized to eke out a favorable score on testing apps like GeekBench.

With the OnePlus 5 now official, the company is once again under fire, with XDA claiming that units that have been sent out to reviewers manipulate benchmark scores.

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3 days ago

ZTE Axon 7 Mini gets surprising Android 7.1.1 update, support for T-Mobile Wi-Fi calling

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The ZTE Axon 7 Mini is one of the best phones under $200, and it's got software likely newer than your phone.

ZTE's Axon 7 flagship got an update to Android 7.1.1 in March, and it looks like the company is following through with its promise to do the same for its smaller, less powerful (but just as well-designed) Axon 7 Mini.

The phone, which sports a 5.2-inch Full HD display, shipped with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, and is making the jump right past 7.0 to Android 7.1.1. A Nougat preview for the phone was advertised on the company's forums back in March, and it seems like everything went well, since it's being released to the public.

The update reportedly improves performance and fixes bugs, and adds all of Nougat's existing features, including multi-window and support for in-line notification replies and more. Android 7.1.1, if you recall, added new emojis and support for round icons and app shortcuts, among other things. All of those are here, plus a few ZTE-specific additions, including support for T-Mobile Wi-Fi Calling.

Earlier this year, we called the ZTE Axon 7 Mini the best phone you can buy for under $300, thanks to its combination of design, performance, camera quality and software. And while, with the Moto G5 Plus, that crown may be close to being relinquished, it's still a great device, especially at its newly-discounted price of $199.

See at Amazon

If you currently have a ZTE Axon 7 Mini, grab the update now by going to Settings —> System Update. Just remember that the phone needs to be charged up to 30%, and it may restart a number of times during the procedure.

Do you have a ZTE Axon 7 Mini? How's it holding up after all these months? Let us know in the comments!

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3 days ago

There are still people in parts of the world who use Android Market on Android 2.1

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Google is officially ceasing support for Android's archaic app store on Eclair at the end of the month.

Do you remember using the Android Market to download apps for your smartphone? Google announced that it will cease support for the relic app on Eclair devices at the end of June.

In the Android Developers Blog, Google's Maximilian Ruppaner writes:

On June 30, 2017, Google will be ending support for the Android Market app on Android 2.1 Eclair and older devices. When this change happens, users on these devices will no longer be able to access, or install other apps from, the Android Market. The change will happen without a notification on the device, due to technical restrictions in the original Android Market app.

The news is hardly revelatory. Developers don't support Eclair, anyway, since it's so old. Many other third-party app makers have also ceased support in the last few years, focusing instead on maintaining support for Android 2.3 Gingerbread and up. But there are still people out there using smartphones from that era, either because they can't afford to purchase a new device or because that's all they've had access to. Granted, the Android Platform Version numbers don't include the tally of users still on Eclair — or Froyo, for that matter — but the heavily worded blog post seems to suggest that it was published as a warning to the stray few.

Anyway, consider the rest of the month your chance to mourn the past and look ahead to new beginnings.

Android O

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4 days ago

Latest Pokémon Go update is rolling out, introduces Raid Battles for summer

4

It's shaping up to be an epic one-year anniversary for Pokémon Go

It's been almost a year since Pokémon Go took the world by storm, and Niantic is looking to recapture some of that magic again this summer. Tickets just recently went on sale for the first real-world Pokémon Go event to be held in Chicago on July 22, and now Niantic is rolling out a major new update that will unveil new Gym battling mechanics as well as new cooperative gameplay via Raid Battles.

Here's a full rundown of the app changelog from the Pokémon Go blog:

Pokémon GO is in the process of being updated to version 0.67.1 for Android and 1.37.1 for iOS devices. Below are some release notes and comments from our development team.

  • Gym features significantly updated to add the all-new motivation system.
  • Added new Gym Badge feature.
  • Added in-app and push notification system for Gyms.
  • Added Raid Battles, a new cooperative gameplay experience.
  • Added four new items available only by completing Raid Battles.
  • Added Raids tab to Nearby screen.
  • Added search functionality to Pokémon collection screen.
  • Added visual indicator to unvisited PokéStops.

We'll have to wait and see what effect these new updates have on the game, but it's encouraging to see the developers are refocusing on going out and playing with friends. Maybe it'll draw those of us who "retired" from Pokémon Go months ago.

Pokémon Go

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4 days ago

The two OnePlus 5 colors are almost identical

14
OnePlus 5

Chances are you won't be able to tell the difference between 'slate grey' and 'midnight black.'

The new OnePlus 5 comes in two color options, and damned if they're not almost identical. Should you opt for the $479 6GB / 64GB OnePlus 5, you'll get a "slate grey" chassis. Crank your purchase up to 8GB / 128GB for a cheeky $60 extra, and it's "midnight black" — similar to the murdered-out hue of the midnight black 3T.

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4 days ago

OnePlus 5 vs. OnePlus 3: Should you upgrade?

20
OnePlus 5 vs OP3

If you've been holding onto a OnePlus 3 for the past year, is now the time to upgrade?

After a barnstorming 2016, OnePlus is back with its most anticipated smartphone yet, the OnePlus 5. It's slimmer, with improvements to build quality and battery life, and a new dual camera system. But if you're rocking the year-old predecessor, the OnePlus 3 — or its upgraded cousin the 3T — is the new model worthy of a $479 splurge?

That all depends on your priorities, so let's examine why you might want to take the plunge and upgrade to a OnePlus 5 — and why you might be smarter to hold onto your cash and stuck with a 3 or 3T.

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4 days ago

How to add a user to your Alexa Household

2

Share your Amazon content with your special someone with Alexa Household.

Household profiles are an option that you can use on Alexa to share certain Amazon content and purchases with another user. This means that you and your sweetie can share your Audiobooks, Music, Lists within Alexa, and plenty more. We've got all the details for you here!

What is an Alexa Household?

Alexa Households let you share content

By using Alexa Households, you can ensure that no matter which of you buys the new Stephen King audiobook, you'll both be able to listen. When you join in a Household with someone, you're essentially linking your accounts by using Alexa. This is so that purchasing content twice or having to log out and then log back in doesn't become an issue. Since many couples only purchase content on one account, this is a serious godsend for making sure you can always access the content that you shelled out dollars for!

Now it's worth mentioning that by adding someone to a Household with you, you are authorizing them to use the credit or debit card that is linked to your account. If you're worried about accidental misuse, you may want to set a verbal pin number that must be used when trying to make voice purchases.

How to add another member to your Household

  1. Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  2. Tap the menu button that looks like 3 horizontal lines.
  3. Tap settings.

    Open the Alexa app, Tap the overflow button, Tap settings.

  4. Scroll down and tap Household Profile.
  5. Tap Start.

    Scroll down and tap Household Profile, Tap Start.

  6. Tap OK after passing your device to the person whose account you want to add to your Household.
  7. Enter the email address and password for the Amazon account you are adding to the Household and tap Verify Account at the bottom of the screen.
  8. Tap Join Household.

    Pass your device to the person you want to add and tap Ok, Enter the account information and tap Verify Account, Read the terms and conditions before scrolling down and tapping Join Household.

Have you added anyone?

Have you added a member to your Alexa Household? Have questions? Let us know in the comments below!

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon

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4 days ago

Project Fi takes the guesswork out of splitting the phone bill

9

Don't fight with your friends and family. Let Google be the mediator at the end of every month.

Have you ever rounded up a bunch of friends to go in on a carrier subscription in an effort to save some cash on a major family plan? I personally know people who have done this, and it's akin to the same way that I stay subscribed to my family plan to save a couple of bucks. Splitting the bill at the end of each month can be a pain, however, which is why Google wants to help in an effort to convince you to come over to Project Fi.

Project Fi now offers group plans. Per the official announcement:

To take the headache out of sharing your wireless plan, today we're introducing group repay—an easier way to split your Project Fi group plan bill. Each month, we'll calculate participating members' portion of the bill, send out payment reminders, and provide a simple way for members to repay plan owners directly through Project Fi.

How nice of Google to take on the arduous task of splitting the bill. The company will even do all the math for you based on each individual's data usage. Any Project Fi plan owner or member can set up the monthly repayment reminders, too, though the plan owner will have control over the amount. There is even a payment history tracker so that you'll always have that archived information available when the inevitable dispute comes up. And if you sign up now and add a new member to your group plan, you'll both receive a free month of Fi Basics. This promotional offer is only good for a limited time, though.

Google's working hard to push Project Fi, and why wouldn't it? It's the Android maker's own carrier offering, not to mention that every new user means that there's another person in the world using a Google-branded smartphone.

What do you think? Is this something you'd benefit from as a Project Fi user?

Google Project Fi

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4 days ago

HTC Vive Deluxe Audio Strap: Should you buy it?

What is this Deluxe Audio Strap all about, anyway?

The first of many accessories slated for the HTC Vive this year has shipped to those who pre-ordered, and it's all about adding audio and structure to the Vive experience. It's called the Deluxe Audio Strap, and HTC is asking $100 for this upgrade to what is already the most expensive — though also most feature complete — virtual reality kit you can buy today.

Is this new strap worth the upgrade fee? Lets break it down.

Read more at VR Heads!

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4 days ago

OnePlus 5: Do you really need 8GB of RAM in a phone?

36

Nope. But it opens a lot of possibilities.

You can buy a OnePlus 5 that has 8GB of RAM on board. That's 4GB more than most other high-end Android phones (and Chromebooks and cheap Windows Laptops) have and about 6GB more than the absolute bare minimum you can get away with. We'll answer the question right here in the first paragraph: No, you do not need 8GB of RAM in a phone.

But it does mean some really cool stuff could happen.

Read our OnePlus 5 review

What your phone does with RAM

We all know that more RAM means more apps can be kept running at the same time (sort of at the same time, anyways) but that's just one thing your phone does with the RAM inside of it. In fact, a portion of that RAM gets used before Android even starts running.

Without getting too nerdy and injecting ideas like compcache into the mix, your phone uses RAM like this:

  • The kernel-space: Your Android phone runs on top of the Linux kernel. The kernel is stored in a special type of compressed file that's extracted directly into RAM during the device power-on sequence. This reserved memory holds the kernel, drivers and kernel modules that control the hardware and room to cache data in and out of the kernel.
  • A RAMdisk for virtual files: There are some folders and files in the system tree that aren't "real." They are pseudofiles written at boot and hold things like battery levels and CPU speed data. With Android, the whole /proc directory is one of these psuedofile systems. RAM is reserved so they have a place to live.
  • Network radios: Data about your IMEI and radio settings are stored in NVRAM (Non-Volatile memory that's not erased when you power off your phone), but get transferred to RAM along with the software needed to support the modem when you first turn on your phone. Space is reserved to keep this all in memory.
  • The GPU: The graphics adapter in your phone needs memory to operate. That's called VRAM, and our phones use integrated GPUs that have no stand-alone VRAM. System RAM is reserved for this.
  • Available RAM: This is what's left over, minus any extra reserved for file-system cache and minfree settings. This is what the apps you run can use.

Having 8GB of RAM means any or all of these different ways RAM is used can use a lot more of it if it needs to. Or if a person writing the operating system wants to try something new and different.

What can you do with extra RAM

I'll start by saying we're not yet sure what OnePlus is doing with the extra RAM or what plans it has for the future. We'll know more when the phones get in the right hands. At first glance, it appears that it's not doing anything different at all.

But there is one thing that OnePlus (or any custom ROM developers) can do that would be a great way to use an extra 2GB of RAM: store the entire system home launcher in it.

8GB of RAM means more could be set aside for the user interface or a game mode.

Think back to the HTC M7 if you've been around Android that long. It was the first phone that used Android and was super-responsive when you were zipping around the OS. It was because a good portion of the system RAM was "reserved" for HTC Sense and wouldn't be freed when another app asked for more memory. In the M7's case, that meant it couldn't hold as many apps open as other phones. Most companies making Android phones do something similar now and set things up so that parts of the launcher are never removed from RAM, and Android feels much better to use because of it. With 4GB of RAM, getting a balance that offers good performance without upsetting users who want to keep apps open in the background can be tough.

With 8GB of RAM, the whole user interface can not only be kept in RAM, but done with a real reserved block outside of the system memory parameters.

Writing a device driver that enables DMA (Direct Memory Access) for the user interface means RAM can be set aside for use by only the user interface. The operating system still controls the i/o, but no other application can overwrite any part of it so everything needed for "instant" scrolling and swiping is held in RAM where it's fast and ready at all times.

OnePlus may not have anything planned for the extra RAM, but I'm sure developers at XDA will.

This is a little different than the memmap kernel parameter that reserves space outside the operating system for the radios and VRAM, but it lets the OS manage the RAM so data can move in and out and a buffer can be written when you shut the phone down to prevent data loss. It's a more robust solution than using the standard Linux LMK (Low Memory Killer) system to keep important processes running. The end result is a user interface that's fluid and responsive all the time, without affecting the way other apps run or stay alive in the background.

And that's just one example I thought of without digging too deep into it all. Imagine a "game mode" that reserves more RAM for the GPU or can keep more of a 3D game in memory while you're playing it. Or even tweaked minfree settings so we can leave every app we love open in the background all of the time.

Don't forget the cool factor

The OnePlus 5 can have 8GB of RAM to do crazy stuff with the OS for better performance, but it likely has it simply because it can.

RAM isn't expensive. At least not component RAM used on a phone mainboard. Spending a few dollars more per unit (which can be a lot if you sell millions of units) to give the OnePlus 5 something the Galaxy S8 or iPhone doesn't have is a real selling point in parts of Asia and for a lot of enthusiasts. Plenty of people are obsessed about the specs of a phone because they understand how they could be used, or simply because more is always better. Double the RAM of other flagship phones makes the OnePlus 5 more futureproof.

I'm sure someone at OnePlus did the math and figured that through a combination of all these factors, it was beneficial to sell an 8GB RAM model.

We'll end this the same way we started: by saying no, you don't need 8GB of RAM in a phone. But it doesn't hurt anything, and the creative freedom it gives to Android developers, both at OnePlus and third-party devs, could very mean some cool things will be coming.

OnePlus 5

OnePlus

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4 days ago

Best Heavy Duty Cases for Google Pixel

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What are the best rugged cases for the Google Pixel?

The Google Pixel is quite possibly the best phone of 2016. It's a beautifully designed phone (and rather expensive to boot). If you've got one, you'll want to make sure you keep it protected.

And therein lies the problem with any new phone — should you forgo a case and risk scratches and scuffs or keep it looking brand new with a rugged case? If you fall into the latter category, we've got some great options for you and your new phone.

Note: These are cases designed for the 5-inch Pixel, not the larger Pixel XL.

Spigen Rugged Armor

We trust the cases Spigen makes, and you should too. Spigen's durable Rugged Armor cases are typically among the best heavy duty cases you can buy for your phone. For their Pixel case, Spigen has gone an extra step in incorporating some of the unique design elements of the Pixel right into the case.

Along with the tough TPU providing edge-to-edge protection of scratches and scuffs and military-grade drop protection in the corners, the back of the case around the fingerprint scanner is designed to look like the iconic glass sheet on the top third of the Pixel. That way people in the know will recognize you're using a Pixel even when you've got it covered in a case. This is the only one-piece case on this list, so if you'd prefer the added protection of a two-piece design keep reading.

For protection that's stylin', Spigen's got what you need.

See at Amazon

OtterBox Commuter

OtterBox is another trusted name in phone cases, and their Commuter case for the Pixel is equal parts rugged and stylish.

This two-piece case features a rubber slipcover and a polycarbonate shell to offer superior protection for both drops and scratches. On the back, the case features a smart, ergonomically-designed channel to help your finger quickly find the fingerprint scanner.

Amazon provides your best deal on this case, but as of writing it is currently out of stock. If you're not patient enough to wait, you should be able to get one right away from OtterBox .

See at Amazon

SUPCASE Unicorn Beetle Pro Series

SUPCASE is known for making some outstanding heavy-duty cases, and their Unicorn Beetle Pro series offer a great combination of rugged protection and easy grip for your Pixel

It's a dual layer case with a hard PC shell covering a flexible TPU sleeve that hugs tight to your phone and protects against the shock of a nasty drop. It also includes a front cover with a built-in screen protector which will keep your screen safe without affecting the touch sensitivity or clarity of the screen. There are also port covers to block out dust and debris.

All this, and the case also comes with a side mount belt clip holster. If you want a case that will keep your Pixel in pristine condition, this is it!

See at Amazon

YOUMAKER Rugged Belt Clip

If protection is your top priority, this option from YOUMAKER offers layers of full-body protection along with an included belt clip if that's your style.

With a thick TPU shell on the back, and a hard polycarbonate front plate featuring a built-in screen protector, this case is as rugged as they come. Clipped into the belt clip, your phone is fully protected from everything, making this a great option if you work on your feet and need the phone to be accessible and protected. Precise cutouts keep all the ports and buttons accessible, and the big loop around the fingerprint scanner makes it quick to find without looking. It's a great option for those looking for quality protection and features at a reasonable price.

See at Amazon

Wellci Hybrid Dual Layer Armor

Sometimes the best way to prevent your phone from suffering drop damage is to make it harder to drop. The first thing you'll notice about this case from Wellci is the pattern on the back of the polycarbonate shell, which helps to make this one of the grippier heavy duty cases you can get for your Pixel.

The shell works with the TPU slipcover to provide impact resistance and protection against scratches and scuffs. It's also the cheapest case on this list, making it a great frugal option if you're still looking for quality protection for your new Pixel.

See at Amazon

Lifeproof FRE

One of the glaring features omitted from the Pixel's design was waterproofing. Considering the latest iPhone and Samsung devices have included it, some were a little disappointed Google didn't match those specs with the Pixel.

A guide to waterproofing your Pixel

If the threat of water ruining your phone is a major concern for you, you'll want to get a Lifeproof case. Their cases are some of the best you can get if you're willing to spend top dollar to keep your phone protected. Currently, the Lifeproof FRE is not yet available for the Pixel, but you can learn about it and sign up for an email alert when it's ready to ship.

See at Lifeproof

Protection or style: What do you prioritize?

Are you the type to buy a case as soon as you get a new phone? Or do you prefer to show it off in it's full splendor? Let us know in the comments!

Update June 2017: Added the SUPCASE Unicorn Beetle Pro to the list.

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

Google Store Verizon

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4 days ago

MrMobile's OnePlus 5 video review

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Almost a year ago to the day, I kicked off the MrMobile YouTube channel with a review of the OnePlus 3 – so it seems fitting that MrMobile's one-year anniversary lands alongside the debut of the next phone in the family formerly known as "flagship killers."

Like its immediate predecessor the OnePlus 3T, the OnePlus 5 is better described as a killer flagship, with top-of-the-line specs packed into a very affordable package. That's OnePlus's game, after all, and the company plays it well. But does its focus on camera quality justify the slightly higher price tag – and will you be able to tell it apart from your friends' iPhones? Hit up MrMobile's OnePlus 5 review to find out, and then hop on over to Android Central's full OnePlus 5 review to learn what it really means to "never settle."

Stay social, my friends

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4 days ago

Netflix now lets kids choose their own adventure

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Netflix is adding interactive branching stories for kids. What about big kids?

Netflix is announcing something pretty cool — interactive storytelling. Beginning with Dreamworks' Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale, kids will be able to use their controller to choose the narrative direction of a particular story.

It doesn't work on Android or Chromecast yet, but it will, and by the time it does there will be another show — Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile — to peruse. Netflix says that this is as much an experiment in behavior as it is in showing off its new technology:

We've done extensive research and talked to lots of kids and parents, collecting qualitative data to better understand if this is something viewers will like. While we've gotten positive feedback (for example, parents like the fact their child has the ability to make decisions and take a seat in the director's chair, if you will), we're eager to learn how our members will engage with the experience. Which choices or storylines will be the most popular? Will the mean bears or the friendly bears be more popular? Are members more compelled to rewatch and uncover all of the different storylines?

The children's programming space was a natural place for us to start since kids are eager to "play" with their favorite characters and already inclined to tap, touch and swipe at screens. They also talk to their screens, as though the characters can hear them. Now, that conversation can be two-way. It's really about finding the right stories - and storytellers - that can tell these complex narratives and bring them to life in a compelling way.

You can see where this is going, too; so many of the conduits for Netflix, from the NVIDIA Shield to the Xbox One, have controllers, and it makes sense for the company to add as much "gaming" to the increasingly personalized experience as possible. As Amazon has with its X-Ray feature, which allows you to look up actors' names and bios during a movie or TV show, Netflix may start overlaying pieces of information on top of its own content.

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