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5 days ago

OPPO F5 with FHD+ display is heading to India and other SE Asian markets

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OPPO's upcoming phone will leverage AI to help you take great selfies.

The OPPO F5 will be making its debut later this month, and now we know the launch markets for the device. The phone will be making its way to India, along with other markets in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

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5 days ago

Nokia 9 CAD renders reveal a curved design, dual cameras, and no 3.5mm jack

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New renders give us an early look at HMD Global's upcoming flagship.

The Nokia 8 is now up for sale in Europe and India, but it looks like HMD Global is working on another high-end flagship dubbed the Nokia 9. The render comes by way of OnLeaks, and given the leaker's track record, it's fair to assume this is what the Nokia 9 will end up looking like.

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5 days ago

Movies Anywhere lets you watch your digital movies on any service, and Google is a launch partner

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Disney has teamed up with four big movie studios to make sharing movie downloads between ecosystems as simple as possible.

In 2014, Disney debuted its digital extension, Disney Movies Anywhere, which allowed users to bridge the ecosystem divide for movie downloads. If you bought, say, The Lion King on iTunes and Aladdin on Google Play Movies, DMA gave you access to both those movies on either platform — as well as on Amazon and Vudu.

Now, Disney has finalized agreements with four of the other major studios — Fox, Sony Pictures, Universal, and Warner Bros. — to expand the feature into a near all-encompassing service, aptly called Movies Anywhere. The only major holdout appears to be Paramount Pictures, which distributes popular flicks like Mission Impossible and Transformers.

Available on both Android and iOS or through a dedicated web portal, Movies Anywhere allows users to sign into their Google Play, iTunes, Amazon, or Vudu accounts and, like DMA, gain access to all their movies ... anywhere.

It's a service that our own Ara Wagoner has grown to love, since Disney, which developed the technology, works with the individual platform providers to facilitate the rights management. That means movies aren't sequestered to the Movies Anywhere app, but can be viewed in Google Play Movies like any other purchase. The other studios initially supported a competing technology, Ultraviolet, which was extremely user-unfriendly and garnered little mainstream use.

It won't stem the growth of Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime Video, but it's a consumer-friendly move in an industry that doesn't always put its customers first.

The unifying move is certainly an attempt to make buying movies a lot more enticing in the world of Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services, but it also solves a major problem with platform lock-in. Anyone who's moved from an iPhone to Android likely had the realization that their iTunes music, movies, and TV shows didn't come with them. Movies Anywhere doesn't solve every problem, and not every studio is on board, but it does bring us closer than ever to platform agnosticism.

To incent people to sign up for Movies Anywhere, which is free, the service is offering five free movies when you link two or more accounts:

  • Big Hero 6
  • Ghostbusters (2016)
  • Ice Age
  • Jason Bourne (2016)
  • The Lego Movie

At launch, Movies Anywhere is only available in the U.S., but the companies are working on bringing it to other markets.

Are you interested in signing up for Movies Anywhere? Let us know in the comments below!

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5 days ago

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 vs. OnePlus 5: How much do you care about bezels?

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Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 vs. OnePlus 5

The OnePlus 5 is the safe choice, but you get a lot more for your money with the Mi Mix 2.

Four months after its debut, the OnePlus 5 remains one of the best affordable flagships. With the OnePlus 5, you're getting a phone with high-end specs, a clean software experience, and dual cameras. The design itself is reminiscent of the iPhone 7 Plus from the back, and features large bezels up front.

If you're looking for something that's more differentiated, then the Mi Mix 2 should be right up your alley. The Mi Mix 2 shares a lot of the design principles of its predecessor, which includes a striking design with narrow bezels on three sides of the phone coupled with high-end internals.

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5 days ago

Google to disable touch-activated listening on Home Mini following reports of constant recording

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Well, this sort of escalated quickly.

Google has said it will permanently disable the touch-sensitive function of all Google Home Minis — including touching it to pause/play audio, we suppose — following reports this week that issues with the software and hardware were causing the devices to constantly record and send audio back to Google. The issue, which stems from the Home Mini's touch-sensitive fabric cover being overly sensitive and inadvertently activating on its own, gave people a bit of a spook when it was discovered that early Home Minis were activated and therefore recording 24 hours a day.

Going forward, all Google Home Minis will have the touch-to-activate functionality disabled — leaving the "Ok Google" or "Hey Google" hot word activation as the only option to summon the Google Assistant in the smaller speaker. The touch-sensitive sides for changing the volume of the Home Mini will remain active.

To make things incredibly clear, Google offered the following statement on the situation:

We take user privacy and product quality concerns very seriously. Although we only received a few reports of this issue, we want people to have complete peace of mind while using Google Home Mini.

We have made the decision to permanently remove all top touch functionality on the Google Home Mini. As before, the best way to control and activate Google Home Mini is through voice, by saying "Ok Google" or "Hey Google," which is already how most people engage with our Google Home products. You can still adjust the volume by using the touch control on the side of the device.

While it's certainly conceivable that Google would be able to redesign the Home Mini's software to reject prolonged accidental activations, the bad optics of the situation somewhat forced its hand here. Making it completely clear that the root of the always-recording bug has been disabled entirely makes it much clearer to consumers what's happening with their new Home Mini. This also points to a likely core issue with the Home Mini's touch-sensitive fabric top that may be too expensive to re-engineer and release after likely pre-producing hundreds of thousands of units ahead of launch.

This was clearly a mistake — but the optics of the situation are horrible for Google.

Either way, we must remember that every Google Home device will still be constantly "listening" in order to pick up on your "Ok Google" and "Hey Google" commands — the difference is that the listening should, as always, be kept local until an actual request is given after the fact. For what it's worth, Google Home users can always go into the Google Home app and see every single time one of their Home devices is activated and even see what the Home heard — this is, after all, how this initial Home Mini issue was discovered in the first place.

Is Google's choice to disable the touch functionality of the Home Mini enough to convince you that it's taking your privacy seriously? We're sure you have some opinions — let us know in the comments!

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5 days ago

Google invests in Neverware, the company that puts Chrome OS on old computers

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Google has invested in Neverware, a company that converts old Windows PCs to run Chrome OS.

Chrome is a fantastic web browser, and an even better operating system. Updates are seamless, it's as secure as they come, and it doesn't take much computing power to operate. While Windows is still dominant in the enterprise, Chrome is slowly gaining ground. The problem is that businesses have a lot of older Windows desktops and laptops, and it's easier to just upgrade those devices to a newer version of Windows. Neverware's CloudReady software helps with that; the tool can be used to convert old Windows desktops and laptops to run Chromium, the open-sourced version of Chrome.

Google sees the merit in Neverware, so much so that the search giant is investing in the company. Neverware announced that it has launched its Series B funding round, with Google listed as one of the initial investors. Neverware has been focused on the home user but plans to expand into the enterprise market. One key aspect of this will be integration with Google's administrative tools, so devices converted with CloudReady will be just as easy to administer as a traditional Chromebox or Chromebook. Andrew Bauer, Neverware's CEO, says:

Our Series B will be the first step of our expansion into the enterprise. With continuous support and endorsement from Google and other investors, we're confident in our ability to bring to market an operating system specifically designed for organizations entering the era of cloud computing.

Are you interested in converting an old machine from Windows to Chrome? Let us know down below!

Chromebooks

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5 days ago

Your Amazon Alexa device can finally tell different voices apart

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Although Google beat Amazon to the punch by quite a few months, you won't find us complaining at all about this latest addition.

If you're in the market for a smart speaker, your two biggest choices lie with Amazon's Echo line and Google's Home devices. The original Echo was first made available in late 2014 for select Amazon Prime subscribers, and that means the Alexa AI has been learning new tricks and features for nearly three years. Despite this, Alexa is just now learning how to tell different voices apart from one another.

With this new feature, any Alexa-powered device will now be able to provide specific information to users based on who's talking to it. For example, if you ask for your Flash Briefing, you'll now hear different news stories from what your partner has set up with their Amazon account.

In addition to Flash Briefing, Alexa's ability to distinguish different voices will also creep into shopping, Amazon Music (family plan only), and Alexa to Alexa calling. Amazon says that it plans on expanding this functionality to additional services as time goes on, and along with this, Alexa should get better at telling people apart as you use the feature more.

If this sounds familiar, that's because the Google Assistant picked up this functionality on Google Home way back in April – a commendable feat considering the sizable lead that Amazon had over Google when it comes to this market.

Alexa will be able to start telling different voices apart starting today, and instructions on how to set this up can be found here. Amazon certainly is playing catch up with Google in this case, but we're still excited to see the AI finally pick up this very helpful trick.

Amazon Alexa

See more at Amazon

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5 days ago

All the big announcements from Oculus Connect 4

Here's everything major that was announced at Oculus Connect 4 in San Jose.

Oculus is moving forward with its VR platform, showing off new hardware, software, developer tools, and more at Oculus Connect 4. If you missed the keynote speech, we've put together a list of all the big announcements that are making waves in the VR world.

Read more over at VRHeads!

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5 days ago

Qualcomm appealing Taiwan's decision in $773 million fine

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The Taiwan Fair Trade Commission recently ruled in favor of the $773 million USD fine against Qualcomm, but the company plans on appealing the court's final word.

Qualcomm might not be a household name for everyone, but chances are your phone is powered by one of the company's processors. Qualcomm was hit with a healthy fine of $23.4 billion Taiwan dollars (around $773 million in USD) for reportedly violating Taiwan's competition law, and the Taiwan Fair Trade Commission (TFTC) recently issued a press release saying that it agrees with this fine.

Following this announcement, Qualcomm responded by saying that it disagrees and will be appealing to the decision made by Taiwanese courts once they have time to review what the TFTC has to say.

It'll take weeks before the court issues a final word on the matter, and according to Qualcomm, the fine that it's charged with has "no rational relationship to the amount of Qualcomm's revenues or activities in Taiwan."

Qualcomm has been hit with a streak of bad luck and press lately, and although the company will appeal the court's decision, the TFTC deciding against Qualcomm certainly doesn't make matters any better.

Where did all of this Qualcomm hate come from?

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5 days ago

Google is adding Duo video calling to the dialer and SMS app of Pixel, Android One phones

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A step in the right direction for seamless video calling.

Remember Google Duo? That's the company's person-to-person mobile video calling solution, announced alongside Allo back at Google I/O 2016. Neither app has gained much traction in the open market, but Google's working on that with the announcement that Duo video calling will be built into the phone dialer, contacts app and Android Messages SMS app on Pixel, Nexus and Android One phones. Now right alongside options to message or call people, you'll see an option for a video call that'll be handled by Duo.

That is, of course, contingent on you and the person you're calling having the Duo app installed and configured. Many of the phones this will be enabled on will already have Duo pre-installed, but it's hardly a guarantee that people will have set up the app ahead of time — still a big mountain for Google to overcome.

This is a great way to do it — that unfortunately still requires people sign up for Duo.

Interestingly, this announcement isn't purely about Duo — Google has also included so-called ViLTE (or, video over LTE) support. So if you're calling on mobile data between two phones on carriers that support the ViLTE standard, the video will be carried over that rather than Duo. An odd addition, but one that will at least open up more video call possibilities that go through and improve the public's perception that they actually work. T-Mobile says it sends its native video calls over ViLTE already, as does SK Telecom in South Korea. ViLTE is definitely still in its early stages of expansion to operators worldwide.

Once Google can convince a significant number of people to get Duo installed and set up, this system of starting up video calls right where you already do your regular communications makes the most sense. Having to open up a separate app or do something different for a video call compared to an SMS or standard phone call doesn't make sense, particularly as video calling stands as a relatively niche feature.

And yes, this is a great place to point out that Google's messaging, calling and video calling strategy is still a relative minefield of different apps, services and distracting idiosyncrasies across platforms.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Google Store Project Fi Verizon

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5 days ago

Tickets are now on sale for The Void's 'Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire'

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Pick up tickets, and journey into the world of Star Wars with a new hyper-reality experience!

Star Wars fans finally have the ability to really jump in and experience the universe they've known and loved for so many years at Walt Disney World. The VOID, ILMxLAB, and LucasFilm have joined up to create a hyper-reality experience that allows fans to really jump into the action.

You'll be sent undercover, in groups of four, disguised as Storm Troopers to collect vital intelligence that the Rebellion needs in order to survive. This untethered experience will put you in a chest rig, and headset, but you'll be able to wander untethered to complete your mission.

You can purchase tickets on THE VOID website and you'll have access to two options:

Like Void's Ghostbuster experience, Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire combines physical sets with real-time interactive events to deliver an experience that is not to be missed.

See at THE VOID

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5 days ago

Cyanogen founder Steve Kondik working on Oculus Go at Facebook

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The man behind CyanogenMod is now working on making standalone VR a big deal.

At Oculus Connect in San Jose, California, Facebook's VR team made a number of big announcements that included a permanent price drop for the Oculus Rift to $399, and new features for the burgeoning Oculus platform.

One of the more interesting hardware announcements was the Oculus Go, a standalone $199 headset that sits in between the Oculus-powered Samsung Gear VR and the requires-tethering Rift. Expected to launch sometime in 2018, here's what we know about it so far. From VRHeads:

This headset requires no phone and no cables running to the PC. It will be able to play movies, run games, and help you meet up with friends in VR. It is built to be lightweight, is has a new mesh foam interface, and it supposedly has the best visual clarity so far seen in VR, thanks to new lenses and a WQHD LCD fast-switch display with a higher fill-factor than OLED.

Also interesting is that Cyanogen founder, Steve Kondik, revealed on his Facebook page that he's been working on bringing the Oculus Go to market. After Cyanogen Inc., the company he ran with controversial CEO Kirt McMaster, shut down in late 2016, Kondik took some time off before beginning work at Oculus in March 2017. He briefly had a stint at Samsung between 2011 and 2013 before returning to Cyanogen.

Cyanogen has since transitioned to Lineage, which releases custom ROMs for many popular Android devices, including those that have been left behind by their manufacturers.

Everything you need to know about the Oculus Go from Oculus Connect 2017!

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5 days ago

Anker Soundcore Boost Review: Big sound, sleek design, one flaw

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The Anker Soundcore Boost boasts bigger sound and cool features... but ultimately at the expense of epic battery life.

Anker's been known for its battery packs, but it may soon be equally respected for its Soundcore line of Bluetooth speakers. The Soundcore Boost was released for 2017 and features improved sound quality and deeper bass, along with a redesigned exterior that is both flashy and adds extra functionality.

At $80, it's twice as expensive as the reliable and rugged Soundcore 2, so what does that extra money get you? Much better sound quality and a great portable speaker for around the house.

Overall design

The Soundcore Boost continues the Anker tradition of monolithic Bluetooth speaker design — minimalist, sleek, and available exclusively in black. The Boost stands out from the other Soundcore speakers with a more refined look that's clearly aiming to find a home in your living room rather than your camping gear.

The NFC sensor on the top is a smart addition that makes pairing phones painless and perfect for parties.

It's hard to ignore the curvaceous design of the wraparound speaker grille on this speaker — classic and clean with next to no speaker bezel if you will. On top, you have your usual assortment of controls with the addition of the "BassUp" button which kicks up the bass without distorting the music. The charging port and aux input are behind a rubber panel on the left along with a USB port for charging devices.

The other really convenient features built into the Boost is NFC compatibility. The NFC-sensor on the top is a smart addition that makes pairing phones painless and perfect for parties.

The Anker Soundcore 2 earned praise in my review for its rugged portability after testing it through a rainy camping trip. The Soundcore Boost works equally well as a portable speaker and features the same level of IPX5 water resistance, but the fancier wraparound speaker grille design makes it feel more suited for a bookshelf than a book bag.

Sound quality

The Soundcore Boost delivers some of the best I've heard from a portable Bluetooth speaker, but especially when well-placed within a room. I've found putting it at head height on a bookshelf or something similar delivers the best acoustics.

BassUp is the Boost's key feature, delivering deeper bass at the push of a button.

Of course, the main audio feature here is BassUp, which lets you boost the bass with the push of a button. It allows you to go louder with a deeper low-end that doesn't distort or buzz. It's a nice feature that's easy to use and quite noticeably improves the low end of music or spoken word without distorting the rest of the mix.

Part of the reason why I believe the Soundcore Boost is best as a stay-at-home speaker is that it does such a great job of filling a room with sound — at a reasonable volume but especially with BassUp activated. If I'm cleaning up the house and moving around between rooms, I'll place the Soundcore Boost in a central area of my house with BassUp on and it'll send my podcasts or playlists throughout the house reasonably. It's as loud as an Amazon Echo speaker but a little clear at the highest volume levels.

For me, the Soundcore Boost is a great companion speaker for keeping around the house. On a near daily basis, I'm using it paired to my laptop to watch videos or listen to a podcast in the shower, and it's always available for providing music at a party or around the bonfire.

Battery life

With the extra subwoofer and fancy features included in the Boost, you had to know there'd be a hit to the battery life. Whereas the Soundcore 2 boasted an incredible 24-hours of playtime, the Soundcore Boost claims a respectable but underwhelming 10 hours — and that number will also depend on your usage of BassUp or the USB port to charge your phone.

The lesser battery life is another reason why the Soundcore Boost makes more sense as a stay-at-home Bluetooth speaker. While I've reliably taken a Soundcore 2 speakers with me for a weekend camping trip without needing to recharge, I'm less confident taking the Boost. It's ironic, too, since it's the Boost offers the great feature to also let you charge your phone.

It's not a dealbreaker in and of itself, but coupled with the higher price point, it's a fair conclusion to sacrifice the audio upgrades and cool design for a speaker with a battery that just keeps chugging.

Should you buy it?

The Soundcore 2 was an easy recommendation to make for a $40 Bluetooth speaker, so the question you're left asking is whether the Soundcore Boost's enhanced sound quality and sleek new design are worth paying twice the price of its speaker siblings.

It will also ultimately come down to your specific needs for a Bluetooth speaker. If you're looking for a fun speaker to throw in your backpack and take with you everywhere, I would definitely lean towards recommending the Soundcore 2, but if you're looking for a more advanced portable speaker that's built perfectly for a dorm room or office or just something with a little more oomph to the bass the Soundcore Boost might be worth the extra investment.

Had Anker managed to deliver a 24-hour battery along with all the other features found in the Soundcore Boost, it would be an easy recommendation to make. But at $80, with great options available for significantly less it becomes a matter of your lifestyle and personal tastes.

See at Amazon

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5 days ago

Best Battery Cases for Samsung Galaxy S8

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Double up your Galaxy S8's battery life with protective and functional battery case!

The Samsung Galaxy S8 features pretty outstanding battery life on its own, but you may still be in search of an extra boost of battery life after a long day of use or if you're traveling and will be away from a wall charger for an extended period.

That's where a battery case comes in real handy, offering you essentially an extra battery pack that's attached to your phone and doubles up with some added protection. Before we dive into the options below, we should say from the outset that some battery cases may prevent your phone from using NFC due to their thickness and density — something to keep an eye out for.

With that out of the way, let's take a look at our options!

Mophie Juice Pack (2950mAh)

If you've bought a battery case for your phone in the past, chances are it was made by Mophie. It's one of the leading manufacturers and has a good track record of making quality products. For the Galaxy S8, it's released a version of its classic Mophie Juice Pack, which offers up 2950mAh of extra battery life for your phone, perfect for giving you an extra boost of juice when you're phone's running low near the end of the day.

But that Mophie branding also means it's able to charge a premium price — at $89.99 its nearly three times the price of other cases on this list. It's also worth noting that despite the added protection in the corners, the drawback from Mophie's low-profile design means the case is nearly flush with the screen so you may want to look into a tempered glass screen protector to add a bit of protection around the front.

The case comes with a USB-C charging cable and wall charger but does not offer compatibility with Samsung's Fast Charge feature. But on the upside, the case itself offers wireless charging, so you can still use it on all of your various wireless chargers around the house. Mophie states on its website that its products are covered by a 2-year warranty, and it also offers a variety of wireless charging docks to keep your phone and your case topped up throughout your day.

See at Amazon


Pantheon Ultra Thin Battery Case (4000mAh)

Pantheon's charging case stands apart from the rest of the pack for a couple of reasons, most notably its slim design. It's clear to see where the battery is housed in this case, with the battery bump jutting out just below the camera on the back. Overall, Pantheon has managed to maintain a slim profile while packing in 4000mAh of the battery power.

Better yet, this case is compatible with Samsung's Fast Charge features, so you'll be able to charge your Galaxy S8 faster. You'll find the battery check button on the back with 4 LEDs to indicate how much charge is left. Pantheon offers a money-back guarantee for the first 12 months if you run into any issues and it's available for a very reasonable $22.99 on Amazon.

See at Amazon


Trianium Atomic Pro Battery Case (4500mAh)

The Trianium Atomic Pro case offers a good combination of protection and extra battery life, packing in a 4500mAh external battery on the back panel, with a front-plate bumper that protects the edges and adds a lip of protection for the screen. This case also features quick-charge sync-through technology which lets you charge your phone and your battery pack simultaneously.

On the back, you'll find an LED indicator for how much battery life is remaining in the case. Trianium has also included a headphone jack extender so you don't lose that functionality on your phone. Get this battery case for $44.99 in your choice of black or white.

See at Amazon


Vproof Power Bank Cover (5000mAh)

So if you were to search for battery cases for the Galaxy S8 on Amazon, you'll find a seemingly endless list of lesser-known brands offering essentially the exact same battery case for about the same price. So instead of linking to five nearly identical products, we'll point to one of the better reviewed of the bunch from Vproof.

Offering a 5000mAh battery, this case is as beefy as you would expect it to be but in exchange, it offers an extra 24+ hours of talk time (if you still do that) or up to 13 hours of added web browsing. It's designed with ample cutouts around the speakers, charging ports and headphone jack so the bulkiness won't interfere with your phone's functionality (aside from the NFC issue mentioned above). There's protection for your phone around the corners, but the case sits pretty flush with your phone's screen so you'll want to be aware of that going in. It's also available on the cheap, for just $26.99.

Vproof also offers a 12-month hassle-free warranty as well which is always nice.

See at Amazon

Planning to pick up a battery case?

Do any of these battery cases stand out to you? Which one are you getting? Let us know in the comments!

Update October 2017: Added the Trianium Atomic Pro case and updated pricing information.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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5 days ago

Razer has something big to announce November 1 — and it's probably a phone

6

Razer has something in store for gamers on November 1, and a teaser indicates it'll be a mobile device of some sort.

Razer, the well-known gaming company, took to its social media channels to tease the upcoming announcement of its "biggest unveiling."

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