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6 days ago

Smartphones are helping kill the mall


There are so many ways to "window shop" with apps from the Google Play Store, that the convenience is what convinced us to stay home.

Have you heard? America's mega shopping malls are on the decline. The latest figures reveal that about one-fourth of the malls-of-yore left in the country will go the way of the Dodo within the next five years. But is anyone surprised? With the proliferation of so many at-your-door delivery services and online shopping rates at their highest, it appears that the modern way to window shop is with your smartphone.

Granted, there actually are a host of other reasons why shopping malls are no longer a Great American Staple, including the fact that many retailers have simply ceased operations. But I still can't help but wonder if the reason fewer people make it to the store is that there is simply no need when everything can be accessed at the push of a button.

You don't even have to talk to anyone

Get yourself a new patio set without having to set up a creepy meeting.

I'm so anxious to get started on remodeling, that I've taken to spending my evenings on the Galaxy Tab S3 looking for furniture in the Wayfair app, and "trying it on" in my living room with the included silly camera effect. It's easier than driving across town to the nearest furniture outlet to look at what's on display or having to endure IKEA, and I can do this all from the comfort of my home without the pressure of a salesperson breathing down my neck to buy something.

I'm not just looking at new furniture though — I'm open to bringing in a second-hand piece through Letgo if it's something that might match my decor. I haven't had much success with the app yet, but I like the idea of being able to buy and sell used items without the prevailing creepiness of a service like Craigslist. I want to see what the item is that I'm buying before I bother leaving the house, and I want that person to be traceable. I'm also considering using Letgo to put up a love seat for sale since all it requires is snapping a photo with my Pixel XL to post it in the virtual classifieds.

There are, of course, already a number of very popular, robust shopping apps that we've become accustomed to using, including Amazon, eBay, and Overstock. We also have other apps making their way to the top of the shopping charts — new virtual storefronts if you will — with an attempt at coercing us toward new shopping habits. Why bother thrifting, for instance, if you can search for a used designer threads through an app like threadUP without leaving your couch? And who needs the expertise of a shopping assistant at Nordstrom when Polyvore offers the ability to piece together entire outfits and find the best deals, without the obvious attempt at an upsell?

Shopping apps offer one-touch access to some of the biggest online bazaars in the world.

One thing's for sure: the ability to procure stuff has become easier than ever.

Shopping apps aren't perfect, and there are plenty of reasons why you shouldn't just download any app that pops up in the Google Play Store. Many also don't offer any help when it comes to visualizing how the tangible thing looks in your world, so it's likely that until the idea of shopping with augmented reality becomes a mainstream habit, brick and mortar stores will have to exist to cater to a particular shopper. I could also see retail storefronts becoming the next "collector's items," or so to speak, the way that books have. Sure, you can read the text with your mobile device, but if you want something that's special, you can pay a bit extra for the collector's edition and display it in your home. In this way, I imagine that visiting a retail store will one day be reserved special occasions, which is the way my personal shopping habits have slowly morphed.

One thing's for sure: the ability to procure stuff has become easier than ever. We're literally carrying online bazaars in our pockets with access to the biggest and best storefronts that exist. Our next challenge, as consumers, is to choose the ones worth keeping around. Perhaps rather than continuing on our path of rampant consumerism, we scale it back a bit and refocus on supporting quality brands that aren't just hawking light-up fidget spinners.

Lead image from by way of Pexels.

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6 days ago

This is the OnePlus 5


OnePlus starts airing the first OnePlus 5 promo in India — giving us a look at the full device, front and back.

OnePlus showed off a teaser of the OnePlus 5 earlier this month, giving us a look at the dual rear cameras and an early look at the design on offer. We've received other leaks since then, and today the company is showing off the device in its entirety in its first official TV spot.

Airing in India during the finals of the ICC Champions Trophy cricket tournament, the ad features OnePlus India brand ambassador and Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan unboxing what looks to be a OnePlus 5, with an official render of the device itself showcased at the end.

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6 days ago

Galaxy S8 update gets rid of the black navigation bar, lets you auto-hide nav keys


Galaxy S8 picks up a slew of new features in latest update.

The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are receiving an update that brings the June 1, 2017 security patch along with several UI tweaks. There's now an icon to the left of the navigation bar that lets you auto-hide the navigation keys when you're in an app. allowing you to make full use of that 18.5:9 panel. You can toggle it with a quick tap, giving you the option to automatically hide or display the navigation bar.

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1 week ago

Keeping the same phone for two years


Long term support should be as important as the hardware when it comes to our next phone purchase.

I've been thinking about this for a while. Apple, Samsung, and Google are pricing their premium phones high enough to make a dent in most everyone's bank account. There's a lot of room to talk about phones, no matter how smart, being worth the asking prices, but talk probably won't change anything there. The prices are what they are, and we all expect to spend upwards of $900 on a new phone from any of the three the next time a new model comes along. If we buy one, that is.

As prices rise and hardware gets better, our phones will keep doing cool things longer than they used to.

And that's the thing. Along with the creeping prices, the features and parts used to build them are getting better, too. And I think we're at the point where a phone from almost any of the companies who make them could last two years, for even the enthusiast. That's us — people who read about phones on the internet because we love them enough to read about them.

I know some of us are already there. Pick any article about a new phone and there's a good chance you'll find someone happily keeping their Note 4 or Nexus 5, and people have been using iPhones for two to three years for a while now. The same goes for phones from LG, HTC, Motorola or anyone else. In 2019 we'll still see people who love their Axon 7. What used to be rare among the enthusiast crowd — keeping a phone because you like it and it still works fine — is a lot more common now. And that's one of those good things I like to mention every now and again.

Let's take Apple out of the picture here. An iPhone 5S is still a very usable phone because it was well built and Apple still supports it. There are people who bought one when it was first sold who will keep it until it stops working and an Apple Store employee helps them get a brand new model. Even the most die-hard Android fanatic has to recognize that Apple has nailed the after-sale support, and it's well worth paying for if you don't rush to buy the new thing every time it's shown to you.

Supporting a product costs a lot more than making it did.

Androids don't have that level of longevity. In a perfect world, Samsung puts its own processor inside every phone it sells, and it supports them for years. As long as it still turns on, it's fine. Samsung doesn't do this because it can't afford to put its Exynos processor inside every phone and it wouldn't be able to compete with the rest of the companies making Android phones if it had this sales model. The first might change once the courts sort out Qualcomm's fair-use patent pricing. But even then, Samsung just doesn't have the profit-per-unit (I'm sure there is a fancy accounting term for this) that Apple has and it can't make money this way. And the rest of the companies making Android phones? Pfffft. They would make one last model then disappear in a cloud of Chapter 13.

That's important. If you have a phone you want to use and it has some horrible glitch every time you try a certain thing, you need it fixed with an update. Of course, there are also security concerns, which is why Microsoft has to keep sending out updates for software it sold in 2002. These things matter to most of us, but what if your phone works just fine and you're not concerned about security? (You should be concerned about security, and you should lie to me if you're not so I can sleep at night.) That Note 4 does everything Joe wants it to do and does it well, so Joe is keeping it until it falls apart.

The reasons why phones can't be updated for a longer period makes sense, but that's a problem for a billion dollar company to sort out.

I think Joe might have the right idea. I was using my Nexus 5X yesterday and realized I could use it every day until it stopped getting monthly security patches in 2018. There will be cool things coming in the next software update for newer phones that I might like, but it does everything I need it to do just fine. The same can be said for a Galaxy S7 or an LG V10. They are great phones with stable software, and they still do everything they did when they were brand new. This isn't a brand thing because every company makes phones that someone just loves.

The only issue I see with keeping the Nexus 5X (or any phone) for two years or more is the software update situation. Because security updates are important to me, it probably matters more than it does for others, but we need to know the company who made it and took our money is willing to be there to fix whatever needs fixing when it comes to the software it runs. And unfortunately, you can't count on long-term support from any company in the Android space, even Google.

Keeping something you paid $900 for more than 12 months is not a crazy idea.

There are plenty of reasons why, and most of them make sense. But that doesn't matter because Apple and Microsoft can do it. We should expect the same service from a company as big as Google or Samsung or LG. Problems with component vendors or profit margins may be valid, but that's for the billion dollar companies to sort out and do whatever it takes.

We deserve better, and we deserve to be able to keep a $900 phone as long as we want. It would also mean we'll probably buy the same brand next time because we feel like we were taken care of. There is competition between the companies for more than just specs or screen resolution when it comes to our gadgets, and it needs to be just as important as how much RAM your next phone will have.

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1 week ago

Using Cardboard Camera to capture and enjoy VR photos for Daydream

Cardboard Camera brings your photos to life when you view them with Daydream!

Cardboard Camera lets you take a panorama photo of the world around you, and then renders it into a format that can be viewed in VR. This means that you can strap on your Daydream View, and relive those awesome moments, complete with audio and depth.

Here's how to get the best photos with this app!


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1 week ago

Kick off summertime in this week's comments thread


Sit back, relax and chat about stuff because it's the weekend!

It's the last weekend of spring. That means we are all gearing up for the heat, the sunshine and the fun outdoorsy times that come with summer!

I'm spending this one in style at a friend's cabin on the lake to enjoy the weekend on his deck, drinking his beer and loving his rural broadband speeds. I might even wake up early and see if I can coax any trout up out of the deep water and onto the grill for lunch. Even if you still have to work, getting away from it all is important to do once in a while. Besides, his hot tub is way better than mine and I'm looking at a nifty "waterproof"-ish Lenovo Chromebook so what better way to test things?

Click me to see the big version!

We're also gearing up for the OnePlus 5 to show itself in all its iPhone-looking glory. If even half the rumors are true and the price is right it looks like a phone that can stand toe to toe with anything from anyone, and won't require you to take out a second mortgage to buy. We'll know everything about the phone on June 20, but we already know that OnePlus isn't the same company it used to be. That's a good thing. It's grown and we doubt we'll see any more "show your boobs to win a phone" contests or other gimmicks going forward. And that's important, even more than being able to make good stuff is.

Anyhoo, that's next week and it's the weekend right now. What y'all up to that's good? Holler in the comments!

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1 week ago

Save 21% on the HomeSpot AirBeans X True Wireless Earbuds

The search for a great pair of headphones can be tedious and ultimately unsatisfying, especially if you choose the wrong ones. This is especially the case when you're looking for great workout headphones. Earbuds are almost always better for working out, since you don't have anything bouncing around on top of your head, but then you have the cord to worry about.

Truly wireless earbuds for $55 Learn more

Bluetooth headphones are perfect for just about every situation. Whether you're working out or simply sitting at your computer enjoying tunes, Listening to your music wirelessly grants you total freedom of movement. You can usually even get up and walk away from the device you're connected to without losing the signal.

The HomeSpot AirBeans X True Wireless Earbuds are a great solution to your wireless earbud woes. Most wireless earbuds are connected by a weird cord or have huge receivers built into them, but the AirBeans are about as discreet as wireless earbuds get. They retail for $69.99, but at Android Central Digital Offers, they're only $54.99, a savings of 21%. They come with three different bud sizes so that they can fit any ear, and they're totally wireless.

The AirBeans come with a sleek and convenient carrying case, which also acts as the charging cradle. Keep the case charged and you'll extend battery life for up to 8 hours of playtime. In the box, you'll get 2 Bluetooth earbuds, a charging cable, the charging case, the three sizes of ear tips, and a user manual. AirBeans use the latest Bluetooth technology, 4.2, which means they'll work with all of your devices, new and old.

If you need a great pair of Bluetooth headphones but don't want anything with huge receivers or annoying cords, then check out the HomeSpot AirBeans X for just $54.99 at Android Central Digital Offers and save 21%.

Truly wireless earbuds for $55 Learn more

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1 week ago

Best Google Pixel Cases

Whether you're looking for something low-key or high-protection, these are the best cases for the Google Pixel and Pixel XL.

Not everyone uses a case on their phone, and those who do may not even use a case every day. But one thing is certain: your Google Pixel or Pixel XL is a very expensive piece of hardware, and that means you should consider the options for protecting it.

We're not just talking about a drop from shoulder height onto concrete. There are also just little bits of daily life that can leave your phone looking less than pristine after a few months or a year. Now that the Pixels have been out for a while you have plenty of great case options that can help you keep your phone looking great for longer. Here are a few of our favorites.

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1 week ago

Buy a Galaxy S8, LG G6 or LG V20 and get one free with this special deal from T-Mobile and Android Central

Don't miss out on this deal for the latest Samsung and LG phones!

T-Mobile and Android Central are ready to give you a free phone! This deal for the Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy S8+, LG G6 or LG V20 gets you a free phone when you buy one and set up service at T-Mobile. Who doesn't love free phones — especially ones this great!

Here are the details:

  • This deal is only available on the installment plan with T-Mobile.
  • If you're a brand new customer, you can take advantage of this BOGO deal by purchasing both phones on the Equipment Installment Plan and activating on T-Mobile ONE. 
  • If you're an existing customer, just choose your phone on the Equipment Installment Plan (EIP). Next, you'll have to add one voice line + unlimited data to this plan. 

Finally, the big money payback on this BOGO deal comes when you submit a rebate online. You get the refund on a prepaid MasterCard for the device of lesser value. So, up to $500 if you go for the LG device and up to $790 if you grab the Samsung Galaxy. 

How to get the rebate

  • Purchase your phones and activate them per the rules above.
  • Complete the rebate online and enter the promo code 17JUNESAMBOGO and supply the information necessary. You need to do this within 30 days of activation, though. 
  • You should have your money within 6-8 weeks. Cha-Ching!

The fine print

  • There are taxes on any device you go with and you'll have to pay that up front regardless of the plan or phone.
  • If you get on the EIP deal, you have 24 months to pay the device off. 
  • Rebate on the second device will take up to 8 weeks so be sure to fill out your rebate form as soon as you activate your new phone!

Grab your new phones through these links

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1 week ago

Latest OnePlus 3 and 3T Open Beta preps OxygenOS for the OnePlus 5


The latest builds for the OxygenOS Open Beta program primarily offers bug fixes, update to OnePlus Community App.

OnePlus is currently rolling out the latest update to OxygenOS Open Beta 18/9 for both the OnePlus 3 and 3T. Open Beta 9 for the OnePlus 3T — and Open Beta 18 for the OnePlus 3 — looks to address a number of bug fixes along with updating the OnePlus Community App to V 1.9 ahead of the OnePlus 5 launch event next week.

Here's a look at what's changed, according to the changelog:

  • Updated OnePlus Community App to V 1.9
  • Bug Fixes:
    • Fixed occasional duplicate notifications
    • Fixed expanded screenshot duplicate stitches
    • Fixed app locker
    • Fixed inaccurate battery percentage
    • Fixed certain display issues with OnePlus Font
    • Fixed certain display issues in the weather app
    • Fixed camera occasionally unable to open
    • Fixed sending files with 3rd party apps via hotspot
    • Fixed inaccurate displayed network speed when activating hotspot

If you've already flashed an Open Beta onto your OnePlus 3 or 3T, you will receive this update as an OTA, otherwise, you can find the full ROM and instructions on how to flash it to your device from the OnePlus downloads page. The update file size is 76MB

It appears that OnePlus has squashed a number of annoying bugs with this release, and the responses in the forums have been generally positive with users verifying the build is certified in the Google Play Store and also verified by SafetyNet.

If you've downloaded and installed the update, let us know what you think in the comments below. But more importantly, let OnePlus know of any bugs or feedback because that's what these beta programs are all about!

OnePlus 3T and OnePlus 3

OnePlus Amazon

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1 week ago

The Ultimate Guide to Star Trek: Bridge Crew

Welcome to the Bridge, Ensign. You have a lot to learn.

The best cross-platform multiplayer VR game you can play right now is, without a doubt, Star Trek: Bridge Crew. With no shortage of people to play with at any point of the day and plenty of things to keep your whole crew busy while you're exploring the frontier, it's time to get busy.

To help you along, we've assembled this Ultimate Guide for getting the most out of your Star Trek: Bridge Crew experience. Ready? Punch it!


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1 week ago

Best Android Phone Under $400

Best overall

Moto Z Play

See at Motorola

The Moto Z Play already has a sequel, but that doesn't matter: at $399.99, this is the best phone under $400 you can buy. Why? It's got everything you need in a flagship, including a great big screen, excellent performance, unbeatable battery life (seriously, this thing goes two days no problem) and support for Motorola's growing line of Moto Mods accessories.

Bottom line: If you're buying an unlocked phone and have a $400 budget, the Moto Z Play is your best bet right now.

One more thing: The unlocked version will only work on T-Mobile and AT&T in the U.S.; there's a Verizon version available for slightly more money.

Why the Moto Z Play is the best

The phone to get if you want bang for your buck.

Phone prices are rising. That's just a fact. So when you can find a best-in-class product, even if it's not new on the market, you jump at it. The Moto Z Play was recently permanently discounted to $399.99, and that's a perfect price for this near-flawless phone.

It starts with the excellent build quality, made of metal and glass, and extends to the incredibly smooth performance from the Snapdragon 625 processor and 3GB of RAM. You also have a very good 16MP rear camera, and a 5MP front camera with selfie flash. But the best part about this phone — oh, that the software is great, too — is the 3,510mAh battery, which lasts seemingly forever (but really about two days of heavy use). That can even be extended with one of Motorola's useful Moto Mod batteries packs.

Best looks

Honor 8

See at Amazon

Do you like shiny things? The Honor 8 is plenty shiny for those of you attempting to add more sheen into your life. I mean, just look at the blue color featured here. It's even more gorgeous in person, and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

The Honor 8 is Huawei's second attempt at entering the U.S. market. It's got a 5.2-inch 1080p display, a 3000mAh battery, 4GB of RAM, and Huawei's in-house developed Kirin 950 processor. The Honor 8 also has dual 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras, both of which work in conjunction to produce the best possible photo you could want. As we discussed in our review, it's plenty capable of being your primary shooter.

The only drawback of the Honor 8 is that Huawei's EMUI is a bit of a doozy to get used to. Its default launcher doesn't offer an app drawer, so you'll have to find another launcher if you're used to having one. It also comes with a bit of bloatware and extra apps you might find redundant alongside Google's offerings, though you can thankfully uninstall and deactivate them at will.

Bottom line: If you're looking for last year's flagship performance at an affordable price point, the Honor 8 is an impressive little package.

One more thing: The unlocked Honor 8 is only compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile's networks, along with their associated prepaid MVNOs.

Best audio experience

ZTE Axon 7

See at Amazon

You might have forgotten that ZTE is a major player in the U.S. smartphone wars, but that's okay. The good news is that the company is the brains behind the very impressive Axon line and the Axon 7 is a worthwhile choice if you don't mind dealing with a clunky Android interface.

The ZTE Axon 7 offers a 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 3250mAh battery. It also has a 20-megapixel rear-facing camera, though it's not the best shooter in low light environments. But if you're an audiophile, the Axon 7 might make your ears perk up.

Bottom line: If you're tired of the same old smartphone brands in your life, the ZTE Axon 7 might be that "something new" that becomes your "something constant."

One more thing: The Axon 7 is equipped with the bands necessary to work on a network like Verizon Wireless, but your best bet is to be an AT&T or T-Mobile (or their prepaid brands) subscriber before purchasing this device.

Best for even less

Moto G5 Plus

See at Amazon

The Moto G5 Plus is a wonder of cost-cutting in the right places. For either $229.99 (2GB RAM/32GB storage) or $299.99 (4GB/64GB) you get one of the most well-rounded budget phones out there. Featuring an excellent 5.2-inch display, a great 12MP rear camera, and awesome software touches, the Moto G5 Plus is truly a remarkable achievement.

Bottom line: You can't go wrong with the Moto G5 Plus, one of the best budget smartphones available right now.

One more thing: The Moto G5 Plus has a smaller, cheaper sibling in the Moto G5.


The sub-$400 market is both extremely competitive and a little confusing. Smartphone prices are rising across the board, so it's difficult to know whether you should buy last year's flagship or this year's budget device. The Moto Z Play falls kind of in the middle, since it's still fairly new, but has been permanently discounted as we await its more expensive sequel. At the same time, devices like the Honor 8 and Axon 7 continue to offer tremendous value for the money, while the newer Moto G5 Plus redefines what it means to be a top-tier budget device.

Best overall

Moto Z Play

See at Motorola

The Moto Z Play already has a sequel, but that doesn't matter: at $399.99, this is the best phone under $400 you can buy. Why? It's got everything you need in a flagship, including a great big screen, excellent performance, unbeatable battery life (seriously, this thing goes two days no problem) and support for Motorola's growing line of Moto Mods accessories.

Bottom line: If you're buying an unlocked phone and have a $400 budget, the Moto Z Play is your best bet right now.

One more thing: The unlocked version will only work on T-Mobile and AT&T in the U.S.; there's a Verizon version available for slightly more money.

Update, June 2017: The Moto Z Play is our new best phone under $400, while the Moto G5 Plus has taken over from the G4 Plus.

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1 week ago

How do you take and edit pictures with your phone? [Roundtable]


There's more to taking a great pic that mashing the shutter button. Here's how we do it.

Having a great camera on your phone is a must in 2017. Even so-called budget models phones have a decent camera, and the high-end devices from every company in the game can all take some awesome pictures.

But there's usually more involved in taking a great pic than just tapping the shutter button. This week, we're going around the table to talk about how we take pictures and what we do with them from start to finish.

More: Best Android camera

Russell Holly

When taking photos with my phone, I almost always use the stock app. Especially nowadays, the default apps made by the manufacturers are typically quite good. I will occasionally try a specific kind of shot in a standalone app, like "supersampled" photos in Camera Super Pixel, but that's about it.

The camera apps from the companies making these phones are usually pretty good.

Editing depends on what I'm doing. Most of the time I'm happy with the Auto button in Google Photos, but I will occasionally play around in Snapseed if I'm bored. I also edit work photos on my phone through Lightroom, usually by connecting the USB-C SD card reader to my phone and pulling the RAW photos I shot with my Olympus. I have to be in a pretty big hurry to go that far though, so it doesn't happen often.

Ara Wagoner

I try to take pictures with the Samsung Galaxy S8 or the Google Pixel — the Pixel if I can help it because of its stabilization features — and apart from dragging up and down the exposure adjustment, I shoot on automatic. I don't go in for the full manual tweaking, I want good focus, relatively even light, everything inside the frame, and the rest I'll fix in Photoshop.

I edit my pics in Photoshop and save a great web-friendly version.

Apart from rotating and cropping, I don't edit photos on my phones; I have Photoshop for that. I have three shortcuts in Photoshop I use on just about every picture: Alt + L for Levels, where I just the brightness and shadows of the photos, C for cropping out what I don't need in the shot, and Ctrl + Alt + Shift + S to Save For Web, where I output my photos in an article-friendly format and size.

Alex Dobie

When I'm shooting on the Samsung Galaxy S8 or HTC U11, I pretty much always use the stock camera app in Auto mode. There are a few exceptions, like long exposures or macro shots that sometimes necessitate a trip into Manual or Pro mode. But those are pretty rare.

The stock app in auto mode almost always gets the job done.

For photo backup, I use a combination of Dropbox and Google Photos: the former because it's an extremely easy way to get all my photos onto both the computers I regularly use, the latter because it's a superior photo service.

I don't edit every single shot I take, but when I do it's generally in Snapseed or Photoshop Fix. Adobe's app is great at eliminating window smudges and other blemishes. Google is great at tuning up images and making them look better across the board. The other tool in my arsenal is Instagram, and if I post something to the photo sharing platform I'll usually spend a lot of time tweaking levels to get an image looking just right.

Andrew Martonik

No matter which phone I'm currently using, I stick to the stock camera app for the fastest performance and best processing. On occasion when I'm using a phone without a time lapse mode, I'll install and use the Microsoft Hyperlapse app, but that's it.

The editing tools in Google Photos have impressed me.

I use Google Photos as my default gallery app on each phone to keep things consistent as I jump around devices. I pay for Google Drive storage to backup full-quality images, and because of that, I've turned off my Dropbox automatic camera backup.

I've actually been very impressed by the editing tools in Google Photos as well. The "auto" enhance feature does a great job for most photos, but sometimes I hop in and move around specific sliders to get the exact look I want. The best part of Google Photos is that these edits are synced back to all of my phones and the Photos website — I'm not really interested in making one-off edits that I then lose as soon as I move to a new phone.

Harish Jonnalagadda

I primarily relied on the Pixel XL or the Galaxy S8 to shoot images over the last six months. Both phones have capable camera apps, but the one annoyance I have with the Pixel is that it won't retain the camera position — if I switch to the front camera and close the app, it will reset to the rear camera when I open it again.

The Galaxy S8 has more features, but the Pixel wins for simplicity.

That minor drawback aside, I love taking images with the Pixel XL. It is a breeze to shoot in Auto mode — which is what I use almost exclusively — and Google's proficiency at software processing means that I get a great image nine times out of ten. The Galaxy S8 has more features baked in, but when it comes to simplicity, the Pixel wins out.

For editing, I exclusively use Aviary. The Adobe-owned tool has all the features I need from a mobile image editor — a ton of effects, the ability to tweak the brightness, contrast, and exposure among other things, and easy sharing options to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Florence Ion

Whether I'm shooting with the Pixel XL or Galaxy S8, one thing is for certain — VSCO is the only app I'll use to filter my photos before they go to Instagram.

No matter what phone I use, the pics go through VSCO before they get shared.

The abundant filtering suite has been around for quite a while in the app world, so if you've been editing photos specifically for social media, then you're probably familiar with its hipster-like, millennial aesthetic.

You know, as I'm writing this, I'm wondering if I should expand the selection of what I use to edit photos now that I'm older. At my age, that same laissez faire attitude doesn't cut it. Life is about responsibilities and paying your debt to society. It's about embracing your vulnerabilities, and admitting that you've been defeated. It's about coming to terms with the reality at hand.

Perhaps I just shouldn't use any filters at all.

Marc Lagace

I've always been fine with using the stock camera app. I've been bouncing between a Google Pixel and a Samsung Galaxy S8 lately, and both feature outstanding cameras that launch really quick.

The Google Pixel and a style ring is how I roll.

The edge goes to the Pixel because Google Photos is my preferred editing app on both phones. In terms of accessories, I have a style ring on all my phones, which gives me more confidence in my grip and me keep a steady hand when framing a shot — especially handy when I'm shooting video.

The only other photography quirk I have is I love to use Snapchat at concerts or music festivals because it's fast as hell and full of quick filters and other effects. I save everything to my Snap Story and then download it to my camera roll later so I can extract and edit together a highlight reel in Google Photos.

Jen Karner

I'm pretty simple when it comes to taking and editing my photos. I tend to shoot in automatic with whatever phone I'm currently using — right now that means my Pixel XL — without really messing with any of the settings. I do have a tremble in my hands though, so anytime I can I use a device with stabilization. I don't really use the advanced or manual features, even when they're available because I prefer to just snap a photo in the heat of the moment without really thinking about composition, light, or anything else.

I keep it simple, both when taking a pic and when editing them.

I'm just as simple when it comes to editing photos. If I'm mostly happy with it, then I might tweak it using Instagram filters, or by running it through Prisma to make it really pop. If it needs some more adjustments I'll use the editing tools available through Google Photos, which are generally more than competent at getting me to the result I want.

Jerry Hildenbrand

I've got a top-secret built-in weapon for taking pictures: My wheelchair. Yup. Being on or in something relatively solid and with places to rest your arms makes any camera a little better. Hey, I might as well benefit from it, right?

Get familiar with the settings no matter which phone or app you use.

When it comes to the phone I use, my choice would be the LG V10. Newer models from Samsung and Google and LG technically have better cameras, but I have messed with manual modes and settings on the V10 enough to be comfortable with it. That makes a difference. After you have the right light in the right place and your shot framed, getting the exposure perfect is the most important thing you can do no matter what equipment you're using. And for those quick shots with zero set-up time, the V10 in auto was still a pretty good shooter.

Afterward, it's Snapseed for any editing because it's just so easy. Usually just a crop or a bit of color adjustment. For a photo that is so great it needs the full monty, I'll pull it off and edit on my computer in Lightroom. Then "adjust" the EXIF data and copy it to my Pixel so I can upload a full-res version for backup without eating up my Google Photos space. 🙂

Daniel Bader

Galaxy S8. Google Photos. Auto mode. Occasionally VSCO or Snapseed before uploading to Instagram. Yeah, I'm boring.

But when I'm taking photos with a camera that doesn't have a tiny sensor I'm typically using the Sony RX100 IV, an amazing little point and shoot that, through the PlayMemories app, can create a Wi-Fi Direct connection to my phone and transfer photos quickly and painlessly. The UI is pretty terrible, but it gets the job done, and makes it really easy to cheat at Instagram.

Best third-party camera app

I'm also going to take this moment to lament the lack of great third-party camera apps on Android. Unlike on iOS, there isn't a vast selection of well-made, nicely-designed camera apps in the Play Store. Sure, there are fairly good ones like Open Camera, Manual Camera and Camera FV-5, but Google's lack of a robust camera API puts the onus on phone manufacturers to develop their own drivers and apps. And while most, like Samsung, Huawei, LG and HTC, do a pretty great job, it would be nice to have some more choice.

Your turn

We know you all love to take pictures and we've seen some incredible shots from our community. Share your secrets with everyone in the comments!

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1 week ago

Samsung is offering the U.S. a sneak peak of Bixby's voice capabilities


Bixby voice is finally here!... If you live in the U.S. and are granted access to the early access program, that is.

Interested in trying out Samsung's Bixby voice-controlled assistant? Samsung is offering Galaxy S8 and S8+ owners in the U.S. an opportunity to gain early access to its AI assistant as part of an early access program for beta testing the new service.

Samsung introduced Bixby as its voice assistant competitor against the other established brands (Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant) and went as far as building the feature right into the hardware of it's latest flagships — but the voice capabilities just weren't ready at launch. Instead, Bixby in its current state has offered users an experience similar to Google Now, with the notorious Bixby button on the left side of the phone offering quick access to an incomplete visual assistant, along with Bixby Vision functionality built into the phone's camera software which also feels somewhat limited in its current state.

Samsung claims Bixby will be able to handle complex voice instruction and allow you to control connected devices around your home.

Once fully implemented, though, Samsung has big plans for Bixby. It's designed to assist you across multiple different apps using a combination of voice and touch controls, backed by machine learning capabilities that will learn and remember your routine and help you complete tasks more efficiently. Samsung claims Bixby will be able to understand and handle complex voice instructions and allow you to connect and control the growing number of connected devices found around the home.

Samsung plans to continuously update Bixby and intends to add support for additional languages, new features, more third-party apps and devices other than the Galaxy S8 and S8+. No word on when Bixby will be ready for a full release, so we'll have to wait and see how this early access testing goes before we determine whether Bixby can leapfrog Alexa and Google Assistant as the superior voice assistant on Android.

Sign up for the Bixby Early Access Program

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+


Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked


The Galaxy S8, and its larger sibling the S8+, are Samsung's top-end devices for 2017 meant to appeal to the general consumer and power user alike. The two phones are only differentiated by screen and battery size: 5.8 inches and 3000mAh, and 6.2 inches and 3500mAh.

The displays have a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio with a QHD+ resolution, meaning they're extra tall and narrow. Samsung moved to on-screen buttons and reduced bezel size dramatically in order to fit as much screen into the body as possible. That moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phones, where it sits somewhat-awkwardly next to the camera lens. Iris scanning makes its return in a new-and-improved version from the Note 7.

Though the batteries haven't increased in size from the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, the hope is that the improved efficiency of the new 10 nm processor inside will provide some help. The processor is backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Waterproofing and wireless charging are still here as well, plus a new USB-C port on the bottom. The rear camera is unchanged in terms of its 12MP sensor and f/1.7 lens, but has improved processing thanks to a new ISP and software.


Width Height Thickness 5.86 in
148.9 mm
2.68 in
68.1 mm
0.31 in
8 mm
5.47 oz
155g grams
  • Display:
    • 5.8-inch AMOLED display
    • 2960x1440 resolution
    • 18.5:9 aspect ratio
    • Dual-curve infinity display
  • Cameras:
    • 12MP ƒ/1.7 rear camera
    • Dual-pixel phase detection autofocus
    • 1.4-micron pixels
    • 8MP ƒ/1.7 front camera
  • Battery:
    • 3000 mAh battery
    • Non-removable
    • USB-C fast Charging
    • Qi + PMA wireless charging
  • Chips:
    • Snapdragon 835 processor
    • Samsung Exynos 8896 processor
      (varies by region)
    • 4GB RAM
    • 64GB internal storage
    • microSD card slot
    • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • GS8+
    • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    • 6.2-inch AMOLED display
    • 3500mAh battery
    • 6.28 in x 2.89 in x 0.32 in
      159.5mm x 73.4mm x 8.1mm
    • 6.10 oz / 73g

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1 week ago

How to put prescription lenses in your VR headset

How to put prescription lenses in your VR headset

How do I use prescription lenses with my VR headset?

The major VR headsets, including Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR, have been designed in a way that lets most prescription glasses frames fit. However, wearing glasses inside a head-mounted display can still be problematic. You might scratch the headset's lenses with your frames, you might experience a bit of fog, and your lenses touching your face when mashed into the headset can cause smudges that are hard to see through.

A company called VR Lens Lab has taken it upon themselves to create lenses that work with the three major VR headsets. Their first lenses caused some distortion for some users, but they've redesigned them, calling them RABS premium lenses, and the distortion is significantly reduced.

Read more at VR Heads!

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