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4 days ago

Android 8.1 will reduce storage sizes of infrequently used apps

15

A new tool to save your precious storage.

Google officially released the Developer Preview for Android 8.1 Oreo in late October, and after getting a chance to go hands-on with the latest build of our favorite mobile OS, we discovered a lot of minor tweaks compared to the current 8.0 release. Since then, a new commit has been discovered in the Android Open Source framework for 8.1 that should greatly benefit phones with lower storage amounts.

Discovered by the folks at XDA Developers, the commit is designed to decrease the size of applications that are installed on your phone once they've been detected as being inactive for a certain period of time. Inactive apps are essentially those that haven't been used for some time, and this is determined by a field in the OS called sysprop pm.dexopt.unopt_after_inactive_days.

Once an application is detected as being inactive, it's stopped from running through Android's dexopt tool to prevent them from taking up precious space on your device.

No action is required on the user's part to make this happen, and as ingenious of a system as it is, it's not perfect. OEMs are required to enable the feature in order for their devices to use it, and it's only available for 8.1 and not 8.0. In other words, while Pixel and Nexus devices will be able to benefit from it in about a month or so, it'll likely be quite a few more months before other hardware can take advantage of this.

Android Oreo

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4 days ago

Google Home can now be used as an intercom with Broadcast feature

20

And you thought in-home intercom systems were dead.

Alongside the Pixel 2, Pixelbook, and all of its other hardware announcements, Google also used its October 4 event to unveil a host of new features coming to its Google Home speakers. A lot of these were simply said to be "coming soon", but the new Broadcast feature that was announced is officially rolling out now.

You might have had a home intercom system if you grew up between the 70s and 80s, and that's exactly the kind of functionality Broadcast offers. Simply tell your Google Home, "Ok, Google, broadcast" and then whatever message you'd like, and your voice will then be played on all Google Homes connected throughout your house.

For example, you can say "Ok, Google, broadcast it's time for dinner" to get everyone's attention that it's time to eat without having to holler up and down flights of stairs – something every parent has likely had to do once or twice.

Broadcast is available for users in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia.

You can use Broadcast for all sorts of messages, but for common, everyday things, Google Assistant will play a charming message rather than your voice. For example, saying "Ok Google, broadcast it's dinner time" will play a dinner bell sound on your Google Homes.

In addition to using Broadcast while you're home, you can also use the feature on your phone with the Google Assistant to do the same thing. If you're just getting out of the office and want to let your family know you're on the way, get your phone, say "Ok, Google, broadcast I'm on the way home", and your message will be sent to all of the Google Homes back home.

Broadcast is rolling out now to users that have Assistant on their Google Home and phones set to the English language in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia with more languages scheduled to come out "soon."

Google Home

Google Store Best Buy Target

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4 days ago

Enter Android Central & Mint SIM's Ultimate Pixel 2 Giveaway!

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A hot phone and a year of free service could be yours, FREE!

Android Central is teaming up with Mint SIM for the Ultimate Google Pixel 2 Giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive their choice of either a Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL. That's not all! A great phone deserves a service that provides awesome and reliable LTE data along with unlimited text and calls.

Thanks to Mint SIM, the winner will also receive a prepaid SIM card good for one year of paid service that includes 10GB of data per month with unlimited talk and text. We're big fans of Mint SIM, thanks in part to its low-cost plans and nationwide 4G LTE coverage. For savvy shoppers, it's the perfect service to pair with any unlocked phone, including the Pixel 2.

Now on to the giveaway!

THE PRIZE: One Android Central reader will win their choice of Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL and a year of service from Mint SIM!

THE GIVEAWAY: Head down to the widget at the bottom of this page. There are several ways to enter, each with varying point values. Complete all of the tasks for maximum entries and your best shot at winning! Keep in mind that all winning entries are verified and if the task was not completed or cannot be verified, a new winner will be chosen. Please note that while the giveaway is open internationally, Mint SIM only provides service in the U.S., and no substitutions for that part of the prize will be made. It's up to you to determine if the phone will work on your carrier. International winners will be responsible for any customs fees incurred during shipping.

The giveaway is open until November 15, 2017, and the winner will be announced right here after the closing date. Good luck!

Enter Android Central's Ultimate Google Pixel Giveaway!

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4 days ago

Microsoft now sells Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ online

14

Microsoft is now selling the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+) online.

As first spotted by MSPU, Microsoft is now selling Samsung's Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones at its online store

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4 days ago

Samsung's best 55-inch 4K Smart TV is down to just $898 for the first time

9

If you don't have a 4K TV yet, you're running out of excuses.

The Samsung 55-inch MU8000 4K Ultra HD LED Smart TV is down to $897.99 on Amazon. This is its lowest price ever and its first time ever dropping below $900. This price is also available at BuyDig and B&H.

This is a 2017 TV model with incredible 4K image quality and smart streaming functionality. It has 4.4 stars based on 180 user reviews.

The 55-inch is not the only TV in the MU8000 series on sale today. The whole lineup has dropped in price:

See at Amazon

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4 days ago

Best Selfie Camera on a Phone

Best Overall

Samsung Galaxy S8

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

Samsung knows how to equip you with what you need to take a selfie. Not only is the Galaxy S8 packed with some of the best front-facing camera hardware — an 8-megapixel camera with auto focus, to be exact — but it also offers a number of extra software features that'll help sustain your vanity. For instance, the camera app offers Snapchat-like features baked right in, in addition to a robust beauty mode that buffs out your imperfections and makes you look like the freshly airbrushed model you wish you could be. The filters also work on your friends' faces in group selfies, and if you can't fit them all into the shot, you can easily switch into the wide-angle selfie mode.

Bottom line: You'll win at narcissism with the Galaxy S8's fine front-facing hardware and its accompanying software features.

One more thing: If you need something bigger, the larger Galaxy S8+ shares the same hardware, not to mention it also offers a bigger screen for you to view the end results. And the Note 8 also features the same excellent camera with more features, and S Pen, an dual rear cameras.

Why the Galaxy S8 is the best

Let's riff on the Galaxy S8's specifications for a second. The new Galaxy S8 features an 8MP front-facing camera with auto focus capabilities— even in the high end, most phones don't have auto focus capabilities on the front-facer. The front-facing camera also shoots with a f/1.7 lens, so it takes decent low-light photos, just like the rear-facing camera. It also has HDR capabilities, a selective focus mode for portrait shots, and you can download additional modes as you see fit.

The point is: The Galaxy S8 is not only equipped with an impressive front-facing camera, but it also offers a host of fun software features that'll keep you snappin'.

Best Non-Samsung

Google Pixel 2/Pixel 2 XL

See at Verizon See at Best Buy See at Google Store

Both versions of Google's Pixel 2 phones use the same 8-megapixel sensor, with large 1.4-micron pixels, behind a f/2.4 lens. The Pixels take a different approach to selfie photography, with a fixed-focus sensor, relying on software to bring out more detail and dynamic range in your shots. There's also a front-facing portrait mode, which uses the same tech as the Pixel's rear camera to create artistically blurred selfies.

Bottom line: If you'd rather go Google because software updates matter more to you than an abundance of camera features, the Pixel 2 is a bona fide selfie shooter.

One more thing: The Pixel 2's front-facing portrait mode is a feature you won't find on any other Android flagship phone right now.

Best Budget

OnePlus 5

See at OnePlus.net See at Amazon (India)

OnePlus has upped its game in 2017, and the OnePlus 5 includes a 16-megapixel sensor capable of capturing some of the sharpest selfies around, behind a bright f/2.0 lens. OnePlus's excellent electronic image stabilization works with the front camera too, so videos with the front-facer should be free from camera shake.

While we're in between phones for OnePlus right now, with the impending launch of the OnePlus 5T, we can expect the new model to feature a selfie camera that's at least as good as its predecessor.

Bottom line: If you don't want to pay full price for a premium phone, but you still want a worthy selfie-snapping sensor, the OnePlus 5 is more than up to the task.

One more thing: You may want to hold out and pick up the OnePlus 5T when that launches.

Conclusion

Samsung knows selfies. It's been attempting to perfect them since the Galaxy S III, likely because it's a major selling point. And this year, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ have had their front-facing cameras overhauled with better features and more capabilities, making either one the most compelling choice for the most vain of smartphone users.

But for the most part, the best smartphone for selfies is the one you already have your hand. So get to snappin'!

Best Overall

Samsung Galaxy S8

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

Samsung knows how to equip you with what you need to take a selfie. Not only is it packed with some of the best front-facing camera hardware — an 8-megapixel camera with auto focus, to be exact — but it also offers a number of extra software features that'll help sustain your vanity. For instance, the camera app offers Snapchat-like features baked right in, in addition to a robust beauty mode that buffs out your imperfections and makes you look like the freshly airbrushed model you wish you could be. The filters also work on your friends' faces in group selfies, and if you can't fit them all into the shot you can easily switch into the wide-angle selfie mode.

Bottom line: You'll win at narcissism with the Galaxy S8's fine front-facing hardware and its accompanying software features.

One more thing: If you need something bigger, the larger Galaxy S8+ shares the same hardware, not to mention it also offers a bigger screen for you to view the end results. And the Note 8 also features the same excellent camera with more features, and S Pen, an dual rear cameras.

Why the Galaxy S8 is the best

Let's riff on the Galaxy S8's specifications for a second. The new Galaxy S8 features an 8MP front-facing camera with auto focus capabilities — even in the high end, most phones don't have auto focus capabilities on the front-facer. The front-facing camera also shoots with a f/1.7 lens, so it takes decent low light photos, just like the rear-facing camera. It also has HDR capabilities, a selective focus mode for portrait shots, and you can download additional modes as you see fit.

The point is: the Galaxy S8 is not only equipped with an impressive front-facing camera, but it also offers a host of fun software features that'll keep you snappin'.

Updated Novembe, 2017: We've updated this post with our list of the best devices with improved front-facing cameras, including phones released in the second half of 2017.

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4 days ago

See A New View: Meet the OnePlus 5T this week in NYC!

The most wonderful time of the year is coming sooner than you think!

It's not often that we get to look forward to two OnePlus announcements in the same year, but we have good news and better news: the OnePlus 5T is coming, and it's going to be unveiled at a splashy event in Brooklyn, New York on November 16 starting at 11 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. PT.

Want to learn more? Read on!

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4 days ago

How to fix common Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL problems

27
Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL

Having trouble with your Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL? Here's where you start.

No phone is perfect. And even though the Pixel 2 and 2 XL seem to be pretty solid devices, there are some issues that have cropped up over time as thousands and thousands of them made their way out into the wild. Some of the problems are inherent in all smartphones, others appear in rare cases and a couple are simply unavoidable in the Pixel 2 and 2 XL in particular.

If you're having trouble with any aspect of your Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, this is a great place to start. We've gathered up some of the most common issues owners are having, and accompany them with some possible remedies.

Screen color is 'wrong'

Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL

How you feel about the color and saturation of your phone display is a very personal decision, and everyone has different thoughts on what looks "right." But the Pixel 2 XL in particular has taken heat for not having the most colorful or saturated display out there, to the point of looking dull to some. If you're not a fan of how your Pixel 2 or 2 XL's screen looks, you have some options — at least, once your phone has the November software update (or later).

Once you have the update, go into your Settings, then Display and tap on Colors and choose between the three options. "Natural" will be the most neutral and simple, "Boosted" will be natural still but with a little extra punch, and "Saturated" will go more over the top with colors. Most people will be happiest with Boosted, but those coming from other OLED phones that are often tuned to offer deeper colors will want to switch to Saturated to keep things familiar.

Noticing screen burn-in

Perhaps the biggest hullabaloo surrounding the Pixel 2 XL has been early reports of image retention and full-on burn-in on the screen. The former isn't much more than an annoyance — sometimes things that have been shown on the screen for a long time stay there faintly for a bit after switching away. The latter is more of an issue — burn-in seems the same as image retention at first, but the effects are permanent and typically seen for core interface elements like the navigation and status bars.

Don't go hunting for screen burn-in, but if you see it early you should get a replacement.

The most important thing to say here is that you probably shouldn't go hunting for signs of screen burn-in on your phone. If you don't notice it in the regular use of the phone, you shouldn't have any issue with it — and at the same time, every phone today with an OLED-based screen will have some level of burn-in over time. It's just a characteristic of the display technology at this point.

But if you're noticing screen burn-in on your Pixel 2 or 2 XL early on, such as within the first two weeks, you shouldn't hesitate to contact Google support and get a replacement device. While burn-in is relatively common, it doesn't typically set in on phones so rapidly — and seeing a considerable amount right from the start isn't a great sign for how that display will look a year on. Google will offer you at least a two week return period, and you should take advantage of it. For serious cases, Google has also extended its manufacturer defect warrant to a full two years.

Bad battery life

Google Pixel 2 battery life

"I'm seeing bad battery life" is the holy grail of problems that are nearly impossible to diagnose. But here are some good basic principles to follow when trying to improve battery life:

  • Check for power-hungry apps: One badly coded app can be a nuisance; a handful of badly coded apps can destroy your battery. At the end of the day, go into your battery settings, scroll down and see what percentage of your day's battery life was consumed by which apps. If a single app is using more than 5%, think about if it really needs to be using that much — investigate to see if you can get it to calm down.
  • Uninstall unused apps: A bad app can't drain your battery if it isn't installed. If you started up your new Pixel 2 and just installed all 100 apps from your last phone, chances are there are dozens on there you don't actually need. Uninstall the useless ones — you can always install them later if you decide you need them.
  • Turn off always-on display: It doesn't have a huge effect, but any time the screen is even partially illuminated it's using battery. Go into the Display settings and turn off "Always-on" — a nice compromise is keeping "Lift to check phone" turned on to have it illuminate when you grab your phone.
  • Reduce display sleep time: In the same vein, you can set your display to go to sleep quickly when it isn't being interacted with. By default the phone is at 1 minute, but you can set it as low as 15 seconds if you'd prefer to save the battery instead of the convenience of having the screen stay awake.
  • Use a static wallpaper: Out of the box the phones use a great "living wallpaper" that subtly animates. It looks cool, but also uses up battery. Switch to a static wallpaper, and you'll save some precious juice.

One thing to consider at some point, particularly on the Pixel 2 with its 2700mAh battery capacity, is that you just won't be able to get more battery life out of your phone no matter what you do. Even if you follow all of the above steps, you have to use your phone at some point — and if you use it hard, it's going to drain the battery quickly.

Slow performance

Chances are your Pixel 2 or 2 XL is still zippy, but perhaps 6 or 12 months into owning it you'll notice it slow down a bit. This is normal, but it's also preventable! It's no coincidence that some of the fixes for bad battery life noted above are also applicable to issues with bad performance. The best thing you can do is figure out if there is an app (or multiple apps) running rogue in the background and sapping your processor power or memory.

The best thing you can do is check on misbehaving apps and clear up your storage.

First, go to your battery settings and see if an app is draining an an usual amount of your battery over the course of the day — if it is, there's a good chance it's also using up other system resources. While you're thinking about apps, also consider uninstalling old apps you haven't used in a while — there's no need to keep them around, potentially running in the background, if you have no intention of using them.

Next, go into Settings and then Storage to see if you have enough free space on your phone. Chances are if you're at a critically low storage level you'll have a notification bothering you about it, but if you're pushing up past 90% full storage you may run into other performance issues. The Storage settings give you a readout of what's using up storage, and an option to automatically free up space.

LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS problems

Google Pixel 2 network connections

Dealing with wireless radios is so often referred to as a sort of dark art — something that's difficult to understand but so often extremely frustrating to deal with. But on phones, we rely on mobile networks, Wi-FI, Bluetooth and GPS on a daily basis. If you're having troubles with any of the set, here are a few tips to consider trying:

  • Turn the radio off and back on again. Yes, really — just toggle on airplane (flight) mode, and turn it back off about 15 seconds later. Give your various radios a few minutes to reconnect to everything, and see if that fixes your issues.
  • At the same time, power cycle the device on the other end. There's a good chance the cheap pair of Bluetooth headphones, or the wireless router at home, is what's having an issue. Turn it off and start over.
  • Forget the network or device you're having trouble with. Whether it's a Bluetooth speaker or a Wi-Fi network, go into the network/device list and forget it — start back from scratch and see if it fixes it.
  • Reset network settings by going into Settings, Reset options and "Reset WI-Fi, mobile & Bluetooth." Confirm you want to reset, and it will return all of these areas back to their defaults. Now you can start fresh and reconnect to each device one at a time to determine where the issue may be.

There are so many potential issues here that it's tough to get into the details. But start here — and hopefully you get on the right path to troubleshooting where the issues are and how to fix them.

Clicking noise in Pixel 2 earpiece

One of the more peculiar issues on the Pixel 2 in particular is a reported "clicking" or "hissing" noise heard in the earpiece when making a call. It wasn't present on all calls or all phones, but it's happening on enough phones that Google has addressed the problem. According to Google it has rolled out a fix for the clicking sound with its November software update.

Previously, Google had indicating that turning off NFC would fix the problem temporarily, and though some have reported that this doesn't work, it may be worth a shot if you're still waiting for that November update. If the problem persists beyond that update, that points to a potential hardware problem and you may want to contact Google support and look for a replacement device if you're still within your return window.

How to factory reset the Pixel 2 or 2 XL

Google Pixel 2 factory reset settings

For the software-related issues noted here, if the step by step processes to try and fix them don't work sometimes the only way to go is a full-on factory reset of the phone.

Before going any further, make sure you've backed up any data you want to save. Make sure Google Photos is synced, and you have any other important data offloaded to a service like Google Drive or Dropbox. Then, proceed.

  1. Go into Settings and scroll down to select System.
  2. Tap on Reset options and then Erase all data (factory reset).
  3. Scroll down to acknowledge and tap Reset at the bottom.
  4. Confirm your PIN or passcode, and proceed.

After a brief period and a reboot of the phone, it will come back exactly as it did the first day you took it out of the box. Use this opportunity to start anew — don't necessarily just reinstall all of the same things you had before, because that may be how you had troubles in the first place!

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

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4 days ago

Check out the upcoming PlayStation VR games we're most excited for!

PlayStation VR has some fantastic games coming to get excited about!

After a year PlayStation VR is off to a great start with tons of great games already available. Of course, the best is yet to come, and there are some fantastic games that are going to be making their debut on the platform soon. With so many excellent titles to get distracted by, we've collected the games that we're most excited about. Some of these will be appearing on the PlayStation store in the next few weeks, while we're still a few months out from others releasing.

Read more at VRHeads

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4 days ago

Best Unlimited Data Plan

90

Unlimited plans are back, but which one is the best?

All four major U.S. carriers offer an unlimited data plan again. After years of hearing how they were unable to provide unlimited data to every customer and maintain the quality of service they wanted, new technology and a more competitive market means a 180-degree turnaround was in order and here we are.

We've previously written about how most people just don't need unlimited data, and you should have a look if you have any questions about how much you should spend or how much data you need. But if you're sure you need all the data you can get each and every month, let's look at which company you should give your business to. We'll start with a quick look at what each company has to offer and what it will cost you.

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AT&T

Feature Cost Price for single line $90 for Unlimited Plus
$60 for Unlimited Choice (data speeds are capped at 3M/s) Price for two lines $145 for Unlimited Plus
$115 for Unlimited Choice Additional lines $20 each (wearables are $10)

Features

There are a few differences between the plans, so let's break each down.

Unlimited Plus

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • 10 GB mobile hotspot (tethering)
  • Unlimited talk and text to Canada and Mexico
  • Advanced messaging between compatible phones on the AT&T network
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico with free Roam North America Feature (if more than 50% of use is outside the U.S. the plan can be terminated)
  • Unlimited music and video streaming with optional Stream Saver for less data use
  • $25 monthly credit for DirecTV services
  • Free HBO subscription

Unlimited Choice

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Data speeds capped at 3Mbps
  • Standard definition video streaming
  • Unlimited talk and text to Canada and Mexico
  • Advanced messaging between compatible phones on the AT&T network
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico with free Roam North America Feature (if more than 50% of use is outside the U.S. the plan can be terminated)
  • $25 monthly credit for DirecTV services
  • Free HBO subscription

Like most carriers, the monthly fees don't include tax or regulatory fees and you may have other costs if you get your phone from AT&T.

Sprint

Feature Cost Price for single line $60 Price for two lines $100 Additional lines Free (with the current promotion) for phones
Tablets are $25 per month

Sprint Unlimited Freedom plan details

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data (with certain restrictions)
  • Unlimited data for streaming video up to 1080p
  • Unlimited data for gaming up to 8Mbps
  • Unlimited data for streaming music up to 1.5Mbps
  • 10GB high-speed mobile hotspot with VPN and P2P support
  • Add a tablet with unlimited data for $25 per month

Note: These features apply only to new accounts.

Again, you'll need to pay taxes and fees on top of these prices and equipment fees aren't included.

T-Mobile

Feature Cost Price for single line $70 Price for two lines $120 Additional lines $140 for three lines
$20 each for more

These prices include taxes and all fees

T-Mobile has a lot of feature fine print that goes with their T-Mobile ONE plan, and it might make a difference:

  • 200MB of roaming data per month
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico
  • One hour of free Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi and unlimited texting on enabled flights
  • Unlimited data and texting in over 140 locations at 2x speed (264kbps) (limited time offer)
  • Netflix streaming included

T-Mobile also offers two Plus add-ons that are worth a mention here:

The $10 monthly T-Mobile ONE Plus add-on includes everything from the standard ONE plan plus the following:

  • Unlimited HD video streaming
  • 10GB of high-speed data tethering per month
  • Unlimited in-flight data on all Gogo-enabled flights
  • T-Mobile Visual Voicemail
  • T-Mobile Name ID

The $25 T-Mobile ONE Plus International add-on includes everything from the ONE Plus plan and adds the following:


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Verizon

Verizon offers two tiers of unlimited plans. Here's the breakdown.

Go Unlimited

Go Unlimited is the cheaper of the unlimited plans, aimed at users that don't necessarily need the fastest performance at all times or high-quality video streaming.

  • One line: $75/month
  • Two lines: $65 per line/month
  • Three lines: $50 per line/month
  • Four or more lines lines: $40 per line/month

Paper-free billing and $5/mo AutoPay discounts apply.

The Go Unlimited plan offers unlimited LTE data, but you're subject to reduced speeds (throttling) when the network is congested. Verizon may choose to throttle at any time of the billing cycle, which is unlike most other unlimited plans that only do so after a certain amount of data is used.

On Go Unlimited, all video streaming is capped at 480p on phones and 720p on tablets. And while the Go Unlimited plans offer unlimited mobile hotspot (tethering), the speed is capped at 600kbps, which is likely too slow for most people do anything other than browsing the web — slowly.

As of November 3, 2017, customers can pay $10 per line to remove streaming restrictions and have video delivered at its original resolution.

Beyond Unlimited

Beyond Unlimited is basically Verizon's original unlimited plan with some slight tweaks.

  • One line: $85/month
  • Two lines: $80 per line/month
  • Three lines: $60 per line/month
  • Four or more lines: $50 per line/month

Paper-free billing and $5/mo AutoPay discounts apply.

The Beyond Unlimited plan offers unlimited LTE data, but you're subject to reduced speeds (throttling) at times of network congestion if you exceed 22GB in a billing cycle (customers that sign up on a two-year contract get 25GB per month before throttling).

Video streaming is capped at 720p on phones and 1080p on tablets. Mobile hotspot use is unlimited, with 15GB of LTE data in each billing cycle. Laptops or other devices used through the hotspot have a 1080p hard cap for streaming video.

As of November 3, 2017, customers can pay $10 per line to remove streaming restrictions and have video delivered at its original resolution.

The best unlimited wireless plan

There are a few things in common with all four carriers: The listed prices in all advertisements are for customers who use autopay for their monthly bill. Each carrier can slow down your data to 3G speeds once you hit an invisible cap on data, which is right around 20GB per line. And no carrier guarantees great coverage, no matter what their coverage maps might say.

T-Mobile offers the best unlimited plan in the U.S.

Overall, T-Mobile has the best unlimited plan you can buy. We considered price, coverage, and features equally and while we can't say T-Mobile will work for everyone, it's where you should look first. Here's how we reached the decision.

  • Which companies offer the coverage you need? Having a cheap cell phone bill isn't so great if your phone doesn't work where you need it to work. There are large areas of the U.S. where T-Mobile has no coverage at all but for the most part, these are rural areas. While we think rural areas are awesome, we can't ignore that T-Mobile does offer coverage where most people live. As always, if total overall coverage is your main criteria when buying an unlimited plan, you should have a look at Verizon.

  • How much are your monthly taxes and fees going to be? In some places, these extra fees will add up. When you add upwards of $30 (or more) to each month's bill, T-Mobile bundling them into the plan price might make a difference. Once you add in all the fees that find their way into your monthly bill, there probably won't be much difference between Sprint and T-Mobile unless you have three or more lines. Sprint is cheaper, but T-Mobile picking up the tab for those fees makes a big difference.

  • Do you need any of the other services that come with a particular plan? If you have to pay extra for things like texting or calling people in other countries be sure to add those costs into the price unless it's included in the plan. T-Mobile offers roaming data, calls, texts and data in all of North America as well as texting and data in 140 other places around the world. They even offer free in-flight Wi-Fi with Gogo. This is a great set of useful extras.

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The best news is that everything here is subject to change at any time! Because the market has become so competitive for unlimited data, companies will constantly be adjusting prices and features. When one company makes a move the rest will soon follow with their own new pricing or other offers.

See at T-Mobile

Updated November 2017: This article was updated with the latest plan details, but T-Mobile still gets the number one pick.

Carriers

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5 days ago

PlayStation 4 Pro vs. Xbox One X: Which should you buy?

60

Welcome to 4K gaming, Sony and Microsoft.

Gamers have been politely discussing the merits of owning an Xbox verses owning a PlayStation for a long, long time. Some years, the scales tip one way, some years the scales tip the other way. The truth is there's never been a "winner" in this particular conversation for very long, but if you have no loyalty toward one or the other it's not uncommon to pick based on which is more popular or more capable at the time.

This year, the conversation lands squarely on the shoulders of the latest console heavyweights. Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro and Microsoft's Xbox One X aren't so much a new generation of console as they are more capable versions of the existing generation. These are the versions built to be a little more future-proof, and help set the stage for new gaming experiences.

Here's how the two compare with one another.

See PlayStation 4 Pro at Amazon

See Xbox One X at Amazon

Way less interesting on the outside

There's no nice way to put this, both the Xbox One X and the PlayStation 4 Pro look kind of bland.

Microsoft successfully shrunk the massive bland box that was the original Xbox One, and the result is a slightly less boring thing that will easily be mistaken for a generic DVR when it is not powered on. Sony took the slanted box look of the PlayStation 4 and made it bigger to hold more hardware, but it's still just a slanted box with curved edges.

The PS4 Pro design has a little more character than the Xbox One X, but not enough to really matter. When you fire up both consoles you get either the iconic blue pulse of the PlayStation 4 or the glowing white pulse of the Xbox and that winds up being enough to make these things feel a little more alive. What's more interesting is how similarly wide these machines are. The Xbox One X is just slightly wider than the PlayStation 4 Pro, but it makes up for it by being appreciably smaller going the other way. The slanted design of the PlayStation 4 series has always made the console feel longer than it needed to, but this design decision feels particularly exaggerated with the larger Pro model and the Xbox One X looks positively dainty by comparison.

I guess it's not what's on the outside that counts though. Here's a quick look at how the specs compare.

Category Xbox One X PlayStation 4 Pro Dimensions 11.8in x 9.4in x 2.4in 11.61in x 12.87in x 2.17in CPU 8-core AMD custom Scorpio Engine
Liquid-cooled vapor chamber AMD Jaguar 8-core (x86-64) GPU 40 custom AMD GCN cores (6 TFLOP)
12GB DDR5
326GB/s memory bandidth 36 AMD GCN cores (4.2 TFLOP)
8GB DDR5
218GB/s memory bandwidth Storage 1TB 1TB Optical out Yes Yes AV out HDMI 2.0 HDMI 2.0 Power consumption 245w max 310w max 4K Streaming Yes Yes USB USB 3.0 (x3) USB 3.0 (x3) VR support No Yes (PSVR Enhanced)

A few other interesting things to note:

  • Sony includes a headset in the box so you can use voice commands and chat right away. Microsoft does not.
  • Xbox One X still fully supports TV passthrough, complete with HDMI-in and IR out. PS4 Pro has none of these features.
  • Both Xbox One and PS4 Pro have internal power supplies, so no more ugly bricks!


Way more interesting on the inside

Microsoft managed to make the smallest Xbox it has ever made, and at the same time made it noticeably more powerful than the larger PlayStation 4 Pro — at least on paper. As impressive as the gap between the six-teraflop performance cap on the Xbox One X is compared to the mere 4.5 teraflops on the PlayStation 4 Pro, there are a few things you need to know about how that translates to real-world performance in games.

By the time these consoles have fully matured it's possible there will be obvious visual differences between an Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro version of the same game.

The original versions of a lot of Xbox One and PlayStation 4 games were barely capable of "full HD" 1080p gaming at 30fps. The target for a lot of Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro games is 4K gaming at 30fps, but that's not the limit. There are a bunch of games on both PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X capable of 4K gaming at 60fps with HDR enabled. Currently, all of these 4K games are being labeled as "enhanced" because they support these more advanced gaming modes, but still play on regular Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles.

Here's where things get interesting. Over time, developers are going to be able to do more with the Xbox One X. We're already starting to see some enhanced games for the Xbox One X that look a little better than their PS4 Pro counterparts. Right now the differences are subtle, and only really apparent when the games are subjected to thorough analysis. By the time these consoles have fully matured and developers have started to really push the limits of the hardware, it's possible there will be a clear visual difference between an Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro version of the same game.

One really important caveat to all of this performance talk is that it only matters when you're playing on a 4K television. In fact, in some cases, it only matters if you're playing on a 4K HDR television. That's far from everyone, and if you're playing on a 1080p television there's a limit to how much of these improvements you're actually going to see. The performance on either console will still be well above what you saw on the original Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but the potential performance gap we're discussing here won't be something you'll experience until you make the jump to a 4K television.

Four HDR TVs under $700


Virtual Reality Gaming

This section was originally going to be a lot more interesting than it ended up being in real life. Sony's PlayStation VR headset works best with the PlayStation 4 Pro, and so far in the VR world this headset has been remarkably successful with well over a million headsets sold in the first year of its existence. PlayStation VR games continue to roll out at a healthy pace, and have started to include big name developers like Bethesda and Capcom. It is the most popular VR platform by a fairly healthy margin, and continues to grow quickly.

Microsoft's Windows Mixed Reality headsets are new to the Windows world, but will not be coming to the Xbox One X. Despite the Xbox team's insistence that the console is capable of delivering the full Windows Mixed Reality experience, Microsoft has made it clear the Xbox won't see a Mixed Reality headset until there can be a wireless option. Microsoft doesn't want users to trip over wires in the living room, or have extra hardware going in between the Xbox and the television like you have with the PlayStation VR.

Bottom line? If you're an Xbox fan eagerly awaiting VR, don't expect it to happen anytime soon.

Which should you buy?

There's a lot to consider when buying a game console, but for most folks, it comes down to a couple of things:

  • What are my friends playing on right now?
  • Where are the best games?
  • How much does it cost?

While that first one is up to you to answer, the other two are really easy this go around. If you want the best single player games, you probably want a PlayStation 4 Pro. Not only are there more really good single-player games on the PlayStation right now, but with the addition of a PlayStation VR, there's an entire category of fun local games that are not coming to the Xbox anytime soon. If you care about these kinds of games, the PlayStation 4 Pro is absolutely the console you want to go with. Xbox is more focused on multiplayer gaming right now, and that is also a good thing.

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As for the price tag, that $399 PlayStation 4 Pro price isn't really that much smaller than the $499 Xbox One X price. It's cheaper, sure, but there's an argument to be made for this Xbox being $100 better than its PlayStation counterpart if you own a high-end 4K television. If you care about having the best graphics, the Xbox One X is going to be the best thing for you to buy long-term. Even if you don't have a 4K television right now, a lot of you probably will make the upgrade before the next big update to the Xbox hardware.

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Why are we talking about game consoles on Android Central? Let us explain.

PlayStation 4

Amazon

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5 days ago

Best apps for Samsung Phonecast right now

If you want to use phone apps that aren't built for VR, Samsung Phonecast allows you to take advantage of that virtual screen real-estate.

One of the drawbacks of the Gear VR is that not all apps are built to be immersive. But that doesn't mean you can't watch your favorite videos on a gigantic virtual screen. Samsung Phonecast VR places you in a picnic with a view of a 200 inch screen that can play videos from popular services such as YouTube, Sling TV, and more.

The viewing experience is very similar to using the Netflix app on the Gear VR and is a great way to feel like you're in a cinema while you're in a much smaller space. Here are some of the best apps to use with Samsung Phonecast right now.

Read more at VRHeads!

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5 days ago

Grab a 2nd-gen Fossil Q smartwatch in various colors for $123

4

Strap some style on your wrist at a crazy price!

Fossil's 2nd-gen Q smartwatches are now available at Amazon for as little as $123.19, which is a huge discount. These normally sell for between $255 and $275 and have never dropped below $175 in the past. These Android Wear-powered smartwatches can deliver your notifications to your wrist, track your steps, and much more with ease. If you've been considering trying out a smartwatch, but couldn't swallow the price tags, you won't want to miss out on these deals.

The options available at this price include:

Target also has some of these available, and you may be able to pick them up today if you need that instant gratification.

If you can't find a watch band color or style that you like, don't worry. There are a lot of other band options available, like these silicon sports options or this milanese loop band. You should also probably invest in a screen protector to keep the display safe from scratches and cracks.

TL;DR

  • What makes this deal worth considering? - This is a huge discount, and by far the lowest price we've seen on these watches. It's a great way to get started in the Android Wear space without a huge investment, and they look great as well!
  • Things to know before you buy! - There are a few different options at this price, and if you don't see one with a band you want, you can always buy a band that you like and replace the existing one with it.

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5 days ago

Apps using Accessibility Services improperly could be removed from the Play Store

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Apps like LastPass and Tasker could be in danger because of this.

If you've ever used apps like LastPass, Tasker, Clipboard Actions, or Universal Copy, you've likely benefitted from Android's Accessibility Services. Accessibility Services were initially created as a way for app developers to create special tools and features to make their applications or games easier to use for those with disabilities, but certain titles have been tapping into Accessibility Services to allow for features that all users can take advantage of.

Unfortunately, according to emails that Google is sending out to numerous developers whose apps use Accessibility Services, some changes will need to be made soon.

In emails that these developers are receiving, Google states that applications using Accessibility Services should only make use of the system if they're directly benefiting those that have disabilities. Developers are told that they need to explain how using the service benefits these users, and if they don't meet requirements Google has created, their apps stand to be removed from the Play Store.

Within the email under the subtitle of "Action required", Google states –

If you aren't already doing so, you must explain to users how your app is using the 'android.permission.BIND_ACCESSIBILITY_SERVICE' to help users with disabilities use Android devices and apps. Apps that fail to meet this requirement within 30 days may be removed from Google Play. Alternatively, you can remove any requests for accessibility services within your app. You can also choose to unpublish your app.

Along with this, Google continues by saying that "serious or repeated violations of any nature will result in the termination of your developer account, and investigation and possible termination of related Google accounts."

As someone that uses LastPass's App Fill feature on a daily basis, this is worrisome news. Users on Reddit have expressed plenty of concern over this move, and while this concern is justified, Joao Dias (the developer of AutoTools) told Android Police that Google's statement on this is too vague to be taken literally at the moment.

Google has yet to respond to the complaints following this news, but we'll be sure to let you know if/when they do.

Things to know when switching from iOS to Android

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5 days ago

Razer Phone review: Don't go outside

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Razer Phone

Razer's first Android phone is a striking piece of hardware with excellent performance, undone by a dim display and a calamitous camera.

The quick take

The Razer Phone is supposed to be a device for enthusiasts, but for it to make sense at the $699 price point, you need to be the kind of enthusiast who doesn't care about water resistance, a good camera, or display daylight visibility.

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