Headlines

6 days ago

From the Editor's Desk: Post-CES hot-takes

6
Las Vegas skyline

So long, CES 2018. You were kinda weird.

*/ /*-->*/

As we come crashing out of CES week and into 2018 proper, it's time to reflect on a big (and slightly weird) week in tech.

It's a working weekend, so I'll just touch on a few of the show's major highlights for Android and Google followers. I could go way longer on a lot of these, so consider this assembly of CES hot-takes to be my initial, largely unfiltered thoughts on the show.

Here goes...

Read more and comment

 
6 days ago

Best Android Tablets in 2018

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

See at Best Buy

The two most important things to have in a full-size Android tablet are a great screen and software that uses every inch of it. That's what makes the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 the best Android tablet.

An amazing screen from Samsung is no surprise. The 9.7-inch 2048x1536 Super AMOLED on the Tab S3 carries on the tradition, and it's simply the best display on a tablet. Android and Samsung mesh to provide a great software experience and the new S Pen and its 4096-level pressure sensitivity makes taking notes or producing digital artwork a breeze.

Bottom line: The Galaxy Tab S3 is the best tablet Samsung has ever made, as well as the best Android Tablet you can buy.

One more thing: The internal hardware is also top notch and will keep up with everything you would want to do.

Why the Galaxy Tab S3 is the best

It's exactly what we want from a tablet.

In 2018, a tablet is no longer just a bigger version of a phone. They have to pull extra duty and be a media player, a book reader, a web browser, and a work tool without any complaints or complications. Some tablets are great at some of these things, but the Tabs S3 is great at all of them.

Working, whether it's on a presentation for your boss or a paper for your professor, is very different on a tablet than it is on a more conventional computer. Apps are designed to be more simple and easy to use with a touch screen, while omitting many of the battery-hungry features you would find in their desktop counterparts. The biggest hurdle has always been finding a way to organize the things you're doing on your screen while you're doing them. Samsung has had this figured out for a while and with the debut of native features with Android Nougat, you'll be able to run your apps just how you like to run them.

The S Pen takes things over the top. A tablet with a wonderful screen, a custom-fit keyboard and cover, and powerful hardware is made better with a fully capable digital pen. The excellent Wacom integration makes taking notes or using photoshop a fluid and enjoyable experience that you won't find with any other tablet on the market.

Best smaller tablet

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

See at Amazon

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is an 8-inch tablet that would have been the best tablet you can buy last year. It's the predecessor to our top pick, and shares features like an incredible screen, great battery life and plenty of power.

The Tab S2 may be a year old, but it's still a great tablet if you're looking for one in the 8-inch category. And the price won't make you cringe — you can pick up a Tab 2 for under $300.

Bottom line: If you want something super thin and ultra-light, the Tab S2 is the best.

One more thing: The Tab S2 also has a fingerprint sensor!

Best on a budget

Amazon Fire HD 10

See at Amazon

The Amazon Fire HD 10 isn't going to blow you away with speeds and feeds — that's not why it exists. Instead, it's simply the best budget tablet for doing many things, from watching movies and TV shows to playing mindless games. Best of all, at under $150, you can hand it to your kids and not worry about it.

Bottom line: The Fire HD 10 is one of the best values in technology products you'll find.

One more thing: Did we mention that it's under $150?

For the enthusiast

Pixel C

See at Google

We liked the Pixel C when it first arrived at the end of 2015. We thought the design was striking and the NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor handled everything well. We really loved the crisp display and thought the package represented the Pixel brand very well. It reached its full potential with Android 7.0 and the native multi-window display feature.

Enthusiasts will love the Pixel C because the hardware is open and unlockable. Third-party Android builds or Linux builds or something nobody has thought of yet can be flashed to the tablet with no worries and the path back is as easy as downloading the software from Google.

Bottom line: The community will continue support for the Pixel C long after it officially ends because of its open hardware and bootloader.

One more thing: Because this is a Google hardware product, the Pixel C will be among the first Android tablets to be updated with new features.

Conclusion

Like most things, there is no one Android tablet that's right for everyone. That's one of the big reasons Google was able to break Apple's dominance in mobile computing — it offers a choice for just about everyone. Whether you want the stylish look and thin profile of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 or the high-powered yet low-priced NVIDIA Shield K1 — or anything in between — someone is making a tablet that will work for you.

Our pick with the Galaxy Tab S3 is tough to beat. Great construction, an awesome screen, and Samsung's unique S Pen experience put it at the top of our list.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

See at Best Buy

The two most important things to have in a full-size Android tablet are a great screen and software that uses every inch of it. That's what makes the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 the best Android tablet.

An amazing screen from Samsung is no surprise. The 9.7-inch 2048x1536 Super AMOLED on the Tab S3 carrys on the tradition, and it's simply the best display on a tablet. Android and Samsung mesh to provide a great software experience and the new S Pen and its 4096-level pressure sensitivity makes taking notes or producing digital artwork a breeze.

Bottom line: The Galaxy Tab S3 is the best tablet Samsung has ever made, as well as the best Android Tablet you can buy.

One more thing: The internal hardware is also top notch and will keep up with everything you would want to do.

Update, January 2018: The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is still the best Android tablet you can buy right now.

Read more and comment

 
6 days ago

How to connect PlayStation VR to your PC

0
How to connect PlayStation VR to your PC

You can connect your PSVR to your PC with the help of some third-party software.

Sony's entry into the VR world has been a hit — their head-mounted display is as comfortable as they get, and the library of quality games continues to grow. For some of you, however, PlayStation VR (PSVR) games might not be enough. Thanks to some clever programming by the developers at Odd Sheep Games, you can actually connect your PSVR to your PC. Trinus PSVR is a piece of software that handles all the communication between your PC and PSVR that would normally never happen.

Why would you want to connect your PSVR to anything other than a PS4? If you have a library of Steam games on your PC, whether VR or not, you can play them with Trinus PSVR. If you'd like to watch movies or TV in VR, you can also do so through the PSVR head-mounted display.

If this is something you've always wanted to do, we're here to show you how to get it all set up.

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

Google and Qualcomm are poised to put assistants in all the things

33

Get ready, because little digital helpers are going to be in a lot of the things you buy next year.

You know what I want? I want a microwave oven that has Wi-Fi, a really good speaker, a small touchscreen and Google Assistant. I can make my Hot Pockets while listening to some music, and even tell my little digital buddy to add Pizza Rolls to the shopping list or to turn the heat up a little bit because my feet are cold. And I think I'm going to have the chance to buy it this holiday season because new chips from Qualcomm and changes to Android Things will make it easy to put Assistant in everything.

Cheap specialty hardware and free software makes it silly to not put a voice assistant in your next product.

That's what it takes to make it happen. Everyone is talking about Lenovo's Smart Display Google Assistant video thing-a-ma-jig they demoed at CES, but it's the tech you can't see that makes it happen. You need the right microprocessor(s) with support for the right things and an operating system that can power it all without adding too much overhead. That's what Qualcomm and other chipmakers like NXP, Intel or Broadcom and Google have quietly been doing.

Enter the Low Power Bluetooth SoC QCC5100 from Qualcomm. As you can tell from the name (who named it anyway?), it provides Bluetooth support and doesn't use a lot of power. Two very important things for any modern electronic device. What the name doesn't tell you is that it also has baked-in support for voice assistant services, Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo, aptX HD audio, and integrated hybrid/active noise cancellation. This chip was designed just for headphones that use Google Assistant or Amazon's Alexa service. Other chips in development or already for sale offer similar support for specialty products.

On the Google side, new APIs for Android Things make it easy to make a cool thing with the next generation of chips. Android Things is an operating system for small connected devices that runs fast and lean. It's also easy to develop applications for because you use the same tools and methods that you would if you were building an app for an Android phone. And like Android "proper", it's free for the taking, and if you follow Google or Amazon's guidelines on what the OS can do and what features it will support when you build it, you also get Google Assistant or Alexa for free.

Not every company is as ambitious as Samsung and wants to build their own infrastructure and service backends for a voice assistant. What companies like Qualcomm and Google are offering is a turn-key solution to building a product that people will buy. This allows a company like Lenovo to build out a Smart Display. Or a company like Nest (an Alphabet holding) to put Google Assistant in the next generation of smart thermostats. Or Xiaomi to put Assistant in a television, or Kenwood to put it in your car's dashboard.

The closest any of us here has ever been to a Maserati.

It's important to remember that these aren't Google products. They are made by the companies selling them using off-the-shelf parts and a purpose-built operating system that they get for free. Companies can add a new feature to a product without much extra cost to the bill of materials in the hopes that it will be a hit and they will sell millions of them. Everyone makes money — Qualcomm sells their specialty hardware, Google gets more data for their giant advertising machine in the sky, and companies like LG and Pioneer get to keep the profit from the things they sell. It's sort of like that Perfect Storm scenario from the movie, but with less rain and death (hopefully).

My prediction is that once you can add Assistant or Alexa to a product without spending a lot to develop it, companies are going to do it to everything. From a toothbrush that works with Google Health and Google Fit to a doorbell that reminds you to take an umbrella along as you leave the house, these products are coming. The question is, are we ready for them?

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

Take a break and chat in this weekend's comments thread

52

Everything stressful has been postponed until Monday.

CES is over, and we all saw a ton of stuff that someone hopes we want to buy. And we might even want to buy some of it, as long as it works as well as the product demo videos show. I get a kick out of the little things that end up on a table or in a booth there. The big stuff from the big names overshadows them, but silly things like tiny sad robots are still fun to see.

Another thing I can't help but think about when we see consumerism on display at a show like CES is what happens to all this stuff once nobody wants it any longer. I'm hoping that televisions and phone cases and tiny robots all get properly recycled once they've reached their end, but I have a feeling a lot of it still gets buried in the desert somewhere like bins of E.T. Atari cartridges. Two thousand years from now, future archeologists will think we were insane and savage when they dig it all up.

Anyhoo, it was 70-degrees yesterday and it's snowing right now so I want to think about anything besides the weather. Take a minute and share what you're up to this weekend while I sit here and wonder why I ever left Florida.

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

Best GPS Trackers for Kids

Best GPS trackers for kids

Keeping a closer eye on your children is now simple, safer, and more accurate with a GPS tracker. But what are the best options? Here are a few to check out!

It can be difficult to keep track of your children, and it can also be hard to gauge when it's appropriate to get them a cell phone or something a bit more mature in order to keep in contact with them.

GPS trackers are fantastic, potentially life-saving tools that help keep track of your little ones, so you won't have to worry about where they are. Just have them wear their GPS tracker like a watch, and the rest is up to your watchful eyes.

Here are a few great options to check out if you're looking for the best GPS trackers for your kids!

Tinitell

Tinitell

Stylish looking with a simple, modern design, the Tinitell GPS tracker is an innovative new smartband that worked effortlessly with an app from your smartphone.

Tinitell isn't only an interesting-looking, modern device, it's also an incredibly durable and resilient GPS tracker. Tinitell is designed to take some abuse, including splashing water and dirt (although the device itself isn't 100% waterproof by any means), and for a price tag of $126, you're certainly getting your money's worth.

With your smartphone, you can connect and monitor your child with a precise GPS tracker, and you can even call your child using the Tinitell app. The smartband can have up to 12 contacts listed, so they never have to worry about being stranded without anyone to reach out to if they're in trouble. To make a call, all they have to do is press the front of the band, say the name of the person they'd like to contact, and that's it!

The Tinitell comes in four different, vibrant colors, including aqua, coral, charcoal, and indigo. You can use a Ting SIM card with your Tinitell for around $12 a month.

See at Tinitell

GBD-GPS Tracker Kids Smartwatch

GBD-GPS Tracker Kids Smartwatch

With all-day tracking, three-way positioning, and even an additional fitness tracker element, the GBD-GPS Tracker Kids Smartwatch aims to make monitoring your children as effortless (and as accurate!) as possible.

Using a micro-SIM card, the GBD-GPS tracker is not only able to make two-way calls, but also immediate SOS emergency calls if your child comes in contact with unexpected danger. While some GPS tracking devices use one or two ways of triangulating your child's location, the GBD-GPS uses GPS, AGPS, and LBS positioning to paint a more accurate picture of where your child may be.

The GBD tracker allows parents to erect an Electric Fence, giving your child boundaries that will set off an alarm on your smartphone if crossed. If need be, parents can also call their child on their smartwatch for easy two-way talking, and can even use the app to set remote alarms and reminders for their children.

The GBD-GPS comes in three neon colors, including blue, green, and bright pink, so there's a color option to match almost every child's favorites. This particular gadget will set you back about $150.

See at Amazon

LG GizmoGadget

If you're a Verizon Wireless customer and are looking for a tracker that will allow your child to use text and voice to check in with you, then the LG GizmoGadget is an excellent option for a very affordable price range that starts at $27.

The GizmoGadget sports a 1.3-inch touch screen display, but in order for your child to make a call, they will have to press the physical button, and then use the touch screen to choose a contact. The GizmoGadget also allows you to pre-program up to 9 different texts messages that your child can send to 10 whitelisted numbers.

PC Mag rated the LG GizmoGadget 4.5 out of 5 stars:

The LG GizmoGadget is an excellent smartwatch for primary schoolers who need to stay in touch with their caregivers via voice and text.

The wearable also has a handful of other useful functions, including an activity tracker, a stopwatch, and a timer.

See at Verizon

dokiWatch

dokiWatch

Though the dokiWatch is designed for children 6 to 12, its sleek and modern looking design, high-quality, reliability, and wide range of color options make it a stylish (and incredibly practical) GPS tracker for people of all ages.

The dokiWatch claims that it's the world's most advanced 3G smartwatch for kids, and there's a lot to support that statement. The dokiWatch combines precise GPS, GSM, and Wi-Fi tracking technology with video call capabilities, voice calling, one-way text messages, fitness tracking, and so much more for around $200.

The smartwatch automatically uploads location data directly to your smartphone, meaning you'll never have to guess where your child is. Video and voice calling is almost instantaneous, while parents can remotely schedule their child's appointments and reminders from the dokiWatch's compatible app.

With the dokiWatch, children can send out SOS alerts if they're in immediate danger to their preset contacts, including their location and a recording of their surroundings. Parents can even enable Class Mode which will remove the distraction of the device while their child is in class by deactivating it at specific times.

See at Doki

Trax Play GPS tracker

Do you have a kid that loves to wander? Want to keep an eye on your little one without them toting around a bracelet every day? Then why not take a peek at the Trax Play GPS tracker?

This particular tracker is designed to notify you every time your child leaves his or her dedicated safe zone and works in more than 40 different countries worldwide to provide the perfect amount of protection for your child.

The Trax Play GPS tracker will cost you around $99 and comes in blue and pink.

Oh! And did we mention that the Trax Play is water and dust resistant? 'Cuz it is.

See at Amazon

What's your favorite?

Is there a GPS tracker you've been using that you're extremely happy with?

Please let us know which model is your favorite in the comments and we'll be sure to check it out!

Updated January 2018: The Trax Play GPS tracker has been added to the list.

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

These are the Android Central team's favorite things from CES 2018!

11
CES sign

With so much to see, it's easy to find something to love at CES 2018.

*/ /*-->*/

CES 2018 has come to a close, and Android Central as a whole handed out Best of CES Awards to some fantastic products.

But the AC team is large and diverse, as is CES itself, so we wanted to round up the one favorite announcement from each of us here at AC to tell you how we all saw the show personally. That means some things that we saw personally at the show, some we lusted after from a far, and a couple that go beyond the Android and mobile world we typically deal with. These are the Android Central team's favorite things from CES 2018!

Alex Dobie

The new generation of Google Assistant products with displays represent something really interesting and new. Google framed its first major CES presence around "Hey Google," the new, slightly less awkward hotword for Assistant, but bringing the service's AI smarts to displays that aren't your phone was the shows biggest development for me.

Google is already making plenty of headway in enabling Assistant in Bluetooth earbuds from countless manufacturers, and at CES we saw Assistant make its debut on the long-neglected Android Auto as well. But devices like the Lenovo Smart Display give us the clearest picture of where Google sees Assistant going as a platform, when it's not limited to audio because it's using earbuds, or a limited subset of features because you're driving.

Before long I'm sure we'll see a similar interface replicated on TVs, Chromecasts and other devices, and that process starts with the early Assistant builds we played with at CES this week.

Andrew Martonik

I could very easily choose several different things here and have good justifications for doing so. Most of them will be covered by others here. So just to pick a less-than-popular one, I'm going with the Sony Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra.

I think Sony does so many awesome things with its phones. It just also happens to get in its own way with a lot of stupid things, like not having fingerprint sensors in the U.S. and overpricing phones with very iterative designs. But the Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra are promising because they show Sony's still up for a fight, and that fight will happen in the U.S. alongside other markets — even when most would have assumed it would be understandable for it to leave the U.S. market entirely.

The XA2 and XA2 Ultra have fantastic feeling and looking hardware — now with fingerprint sensors — and also subtle changes like much larger batteries, actually interesting cameras (at least on the front here), subtle hardware tweaks for usability rather than just style, and other increasingly niche features like a headphone jack. All while having really clean software and design that's still unique and striking. And this is in a pair of phones that will retail for around $400.

Sure these phones aren't industry-changing titans, but they do indicate Sony's going to keep trying. Maybe its upcoming flagships will take these cues and run with them — and that's exciting to me. For a show that's increasingly about more than "just phones," Sony definitely used CES as a nice little nod to the phone lovers.

Sony Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra hands-on: No more quirks, these are just good phones

Tom Westrick

Optoma 4K UHD HDR Laser UST

My favorite announcement from CES has nothing to do with Android or Google. Optoma is a company known for making great projectors at various prices, and they did announce the first projector with Alexa built-in. Part of the appeal of projectors (for me at least) is that most projectors are just dumb displays that can be expanded as I see fit, so I don't care for that model. What did interest me is Optoma's 4K UHD HDR Laser UST.

That's a mouthful of a product name, but it tells you everything you need to know. "UST" stands for "ultra short throw", which is a type of projector that can be placed on a TV stand instead of needing to be mounted on a wall or ceiling. Those projectors can display almost straight up, and it makes for an easier set up. The Optoma UST projector is priced at $5,000, which isn't anyone's definition of cheap. At the same time, Sony's latest UST 4K projector is $30,000, so the Optoma projector is a much easier pill to swallow. I'm probably going to wait until next year before taking a serious look at 4K projectors, but it's great to know they're coming down in price.

Ara Wagoner

Android Auto wireless connection

I don't have any one true favorite at CES this year, but I do have a few things that stood out among the blackouts, the robot strippers, and everyone trying not to say what the F in BFGD really means:

  • I refuse to leave the house without my Bluetooth headphones, so Qualcomm announcing a new SoC that aims to help make Bluetooth headphones sound better and last longer on a single charge is fantastic. However, as more and more phones ditch 3.5mm headphone jacks and users become more reliant on Bluetooth to keep their tunes flowing all day, this is the announcement at CES that could impact the most people. Getting all-day battery, crystal-clear sound, and Google Assistant shouldn't cost the $250 JBL is charging.
  • Android Auto going wireless is great, and I can't wait for it to come to more carmakers. No, really, I can't: I've been waiting three years to buy a Honda CR-V with Android Auto. I can't wait another three years to get wireless Android Auto.
  • I use my Shield Android TV every day, and if I could get one of those Big — Friendly — Gaming Displays with the best Android TV inside, I would probably never get anything done again. I use my OTA antenna maybe twice a year, I use the Blu-ray player maybe three times a year, so really, all I need is a massive screen and Android TV.

Daniel Bader

Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini

My take on CES this year is a bit different than the rest. I am not going to highlight a single product or service but an idea: that despite the platform wars still going strong, they appear to be well-established and no longer in danger of being toppled.

For example, Google Assistant was everywhere at this year's CES, but it didn't preclude Alexa, which continues to slowly creep toward smart home ubiquity. SmartThings is becoming the overarching brand for all of Samsung's IoT ambitions, while Bixby, for better or worse, will play front-end to all those commands, from washing machines to televisions. LG's webOS, now in its fourth year, is a stable and good-looking smart TV platform with plenty of interesting features, and LG has added an element of AI to the proceedings with ThinQ. Even Microsoft's Cortana and Apple's Siri/HomeKit was well represented at the show this year, and there appears to be room for all of them to live in harmony.

With expansion to screens and cars, Google Assistant is officially everywhere

Marc Lagace

Since CES is all about featuring tech and toys I'll likely never get to mess around with, I tend to be drawn to crazy concept products like Razer's Project Linda, which aims to turn your Razer Phone into a slick-looking laptop.

Turning a smartphone into a computer itself isn't a new concept, but I can't help admiring Razer's design choices here. I thought Razer was simply trying to buck the latest flagship trends with a brick-shaped phone lacking curved edges. Razer turned around and used the industrial design of the phone to complement the laptop hardware perfectly with its front-facing speakers and side button fingerprint sensor. I really don't even care how it runs, it just looks downright cool and an encouraging adaptation for the Razer Phone — and hopefully a glimpse at Razer's future endeavors building Android devices.

And here I thought Razer could top themselves after last year's Project Valerie laptop ...

Razer's Project Linda turns your phone into a laptop

Joe Maring

My favorite announcement from CES 2018 is easily Lenovo's Smart Display. I use my Google Home on a daily basis, and while it works perfectly fine, I've been yearning for Google to finally take on the Echo Show since its announcement last June.

I'll probably end up waiting to see what Google Home-branded Smart Display we end up getting this fall before handing over any cash, but Lenovo's caught my attention the most so far. The bamboo back on the 10-inch model looks stunning, the ability to stand it up vertically or horizontally thanks to the funky wedge is fantastic, and the physical switch to cover the camera lens is ingenious.

Actually, now that I think about it, maybe I will buy one of these as soon as Lenovo lets me.

Lenovo's Smart Display is the Google Assistant-powered Echo Show we've been waiting for

Jerry Hildenbrand

65 inches of 4K G-Sync enabled 120Hz gaming pixels from ASUS.

The ROG Swift PG65 is one of the new NVIDIA Shield TV enabled giant gaming monitors and it looks like a big old box of Viagra. They have me counting all the money I can find in hopes that it's enough. (It won't be. It never is.) I currently use the second input on my gaming display with a Shield TV, so I'm already loving the way you can flip back and forth between a game and a movie. But my dinky little 27-inch gaming monitor is a far cry from 65 inches, so I'm sure I'll like it even better.

Here's hoping that the "later this year" release date is somewhere between the time it takes to save up the cash and before I see something else shiny and blow it.

NVIDIA partners with Acer, ASUS and HP for new 65-inch 4K HDR gaming displays that run Android TV

Hayato Huseman

Android Auto

I've been looking for a good Android Auto head unit for my car, so I'm pretty excited about Pioneer's new models. They're the first head units to offer wireless Android Auto (each unit creates a WiFi network for your phone to connect to), finally bypassing the need for cable routing and the risk of compatibility issues. You can also just say "Hey Google" to access Assistant hands-free, which is great for the road.

There's also that Vivo phone with the fingerprint sensor under the display. I mean, come on. You know you're excited to see that Synaptics module work its way into more mainstream devices.

Android Auto is fantastic with the addition of Google Assistant and wireless connectivity

Russell Holly

HTC Vive Pro

I love my HTC Vive, but you better believe I will be first in line to upgrade to this new Vive Pro HTC announced. The resolution bump is going to make the headset that much more immersive, the lighter body is going to make it way easier to use for longer, and the baked in headphones sound amazing.

This is an improvement on the original Vive in every way, and when you add in the wireless adapter that will be available later this year it's going to be an entirely new VR experience for me. I am genuinely excited for what happens in VR gaming this year, and a lot of it is going to happen through that new Vive.

Hands-on with the HTC Vive Pro

Your favorites

That's the list that the folks here at Android Central loved. What were your favorites from CES 2018? Let us know in the comments!

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

Action Launcher v33 adds impressive 'AdaptiveZoom' app animations

16

AdaptiveZoom might be our new favorite app opening animation of all time.

Action Launcher has long been one of our favorite third-party Android launchers, and one of the reasons for this is that developer Chris Lacey relentlessly adds new features and settings for us to spend endless hours playing with. The latest v33 update for Action Launcher keeps this trend going, and the big feature this time around is something called "AdaptiveZoom."

AdaptiveZoom is a new app opening animation for Action Launcher, and while these animations aren't anything new, AdaptiveZoom is unique in the fact that it naturally fills your screen with the background color of adaptive app icons as they load. It really is quite gorgeous, and it might result in me mindlessly opening apps on my home screen just to see the animation over and over and over and over.

In addition to AdaptiveZoom, v33 also adds Android 8.1's bounce animation when opening up the app drawer, improved animations and appearance of the home screen indicator, the ability to delete everything on your home screens at once and use empty home screens, and a re-enabling of Action Launcher's ability to use Android's Accessibility API.

Lastly, Action Launcher's Supporter program has been updated with three new exclusive wallpapers and AdaptivePack is being pushed to v4.0 with support for 3500 apps and 1100 unique icons.

Action Launcher's best hidden treasures: Covers, Shutters, and Quicks

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

ZTE plans on releasing more foldable phones like the Axon M

16

Axon M will be a series of foldable phones – not just phones with two screens.

*/ /*-->*/

Towards the end of 2017, ZTE made a surprise announcement with the Axon M. The Axon M is the latest phone to tackle the dual-screen smartphone, and it's the first big attempt we've seen since the Kyocera Echo back in 2011. The Axon M is not a perfect phone, but unlike a lot of the competition, it took a risk to try something different.

In an interview with Engadget, ZTE's Vice President of Marketing, Jeff Yee, confirmed that the Axon M will not be the last of its kind. Yee says that ZTE will release successors to the M, and throughout the interview, Yee reiterates that the Axon M is a foldable phone, not one with two screens.

While the current iteration of the Axon M very clearly has two separate screens, Yee says that ZTE's end goal is to release a phone with one single display that can fold in and out depending on how much screen real-estate you want to use.

It's unlikely that the next version of the Axon M will utilize this tech, but even so, it's clear that this is the direction the mobile industry is very quickly heading. Samsung is reportedly planning to start production of its foldable smartphone by the end of 2018, and ZTE likely won't be the last company to follow in its footsteps.

Aside from the single foldable screen, what else would you like to see from future Axon M releases?

Samsung said to start producing foldable smartphone in November

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

Android's notification dots are coming to Chrome OS

15

A new commit suggests that Chrome OS will soon get Android Oreo's notification dots.

Oreo wasn't the biggest Android update ever released, but one of the features it did add was notification dots. Notification dots are those colorful circles that appear next to your app icons, and long-pressing on an app with one of these reveals the notification(s) for that app above your app shortcuts.

A new commit was recently discovered by Chrome Story, and it suggests that these notification dots will soon make their way to Chrome OS. The commit itself is fairly long, but one of the highlights that leads us to believe notification dots are coming to Chrome OS includes "ShelfView::OnShelfItemChanged handles update the icons indicator."

There are also a few comments regarding the commit, including "Add a notification for the app", "Pin the app after the notification posts", and "Draws an indicator in the top right corner of the image to represent an active notification."

It's unclear when exactly notification dots will make their way to Chrome OS, but it's possible they'll be added within the coming months.

Chrome OS will finally let you run Android apps in the background

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

This could be our first look at the LG G7

37

Spoiler alert – it's a black bar with slim bezels.

Samsung and LG are often the first two companies to release major Android flagships for the year, and we're expecting this to be the case once again in 2018. The Galaxy S9 has already leaked in just about every way possible, but details on the G7 have been fewer and further between.

TigerMobiles recently shared a render of what's supposedly our first look at the LG G7, and while it's impossible to say for sure if this is what the phone will end up looking like, there's nothing here that looks too far-fetched.

LG will more than likely be sticking with the 18:9 aspect ratio that it introduced with the G6 last year, and although we can't tell from the render, we're expecting an OLED panel to finally make its way to the G-series. It appears that LG will be trimming down bezels quite a bit compared to the G6, and if you look at the top left of the phone, you'll see two front-facing cameras.

The LG G7 should be announced at some point in February, and according to a previous statement from an LG spokesperson, it'll actually feature a completely different name and ditch the G-series branding.

Assuming this render is legit, does it have you excited about LG's 2018 flagship?

LG will stop releasing new phones every year

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

New bill aims to block U.S. government agencies from communicating over Huawei or ZTE network equipment

44

H.R. 4747 wants to stop government contracts with telecom companies that use equipment from Huawei or ZTE.

Huawei and ZTE are familiar around these parts because they make some pretty good Android phones, but the bulk of their business comes from the networking equipment the two companies manufacture and sell. Worldwide, both Huawei and ZTE are known for providing equipment like network switches that perform well and aren't crazy expensive. Their gear is popular, with Huawei being the top seller of networking equipment and ZTE coming in at number five — both companies are very important to China's economy.

Past findings show a strong relationship between both companies and China's Communist Party.

Another thing both companies have in common is controversy when it comes to the very same equipment. A 2011 congressional investigation found that Huawei and ZTE were both "directly subject to direction by the Chinese Communist Party," and former NSA chief General Michael V. Hayden has said that Huawei shared "intimate and extensive knowledge of foreign telecommunications systems" with the Chinese state. These allegations led to bans and regulations against any government agencies buying equipment from either company.

A new bill introduced by Texas Republican Michael Conway dubbed "H.R. 4747 — 115th Congress: Defending U.S. Government Communications Act" aims to take things a step further and block any government agency from using a network service provider that has Huawei or ZTE equipment installed. Specifically, service providers with any of the following would be banned from government contracts should the bill pass:

  • Telecommunications equipment produced by Huawei Technologies Company or ZTE Corporation (or any subsidiary or affiliate of such entities).
  • Telecommunications services provided by such entities or using such equipment.
  • Telecommunications equipment or services produced or provided by an entity that the head of the relevant agency reasonably believes to be an entity owned or controlled by, or otherwise connected to, the government of a covered foreign country.

Language in the bill references the past findings of Huawei and ZTE's relationship with the Chinese government, but many U.S. officials are also concerned with trade between both companies and other countries that aren't exactly allies, like Syria, Cuba, or Iran. Last year ZTE was fined over $1 billion for violating U.S.-Iran sanctions and a current investigation into Huawei's dealings with Syria, Cuba, Iran, and Sudan is underway by the U.S. Treasury Department.

This news comes on the heels of AT&T and Verizon dropping support for the Huawei Mate 10 after concerns were reportedly expressed from the Senate and House Intelligence Committees about the companies ties to China's Communist Party. It's also not unusual to see government officials calling for product bans when they think a hostile government may be involved with a company, as we're recently seen with Kaspersky Labs products and Russian spying concerns.

We're unsure how much effect this would have on U.S.-China relations or either company's bottom line, but it surely can't be good news. The bill is currently being considered by a committee and if approved would go before Congress.

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

Best Cheap Android Phones in 2018

Best overall

Moto G5 Plus

See at Amazon

Motorola performed yet another pricing miracle with the Moto G5 Plus, the successor to last year's excellent Moto G4 series and a contender for the best affordable smartphone today.

It starts with the excellent 5.2-inch Full HD display, but the real benefit to the G5 Plus this year is the excellent performance and battery life from the combination of a Snapdragon 625 platform and a 3000mAh battery.

Also of note is the improved low-light performance from the 12MP camera, which boasts the same hardware as (and similar results to) the Galaxy S7.

Bottom line: This is the best sub-$250 phone you can buy today, and it's still a great device even if price isn't a factor.

One more thing: Motorola.com is offering the Moto G5 Plus with inexpensive financing if you don't want to pay up front.

Why the Moto G5 Plus is the best

Last year, we recommended the $199.99 Moto G4 over its $249.99 Plus variant, but this year the only distinction is between memory and storage amounts: the Moto G5 Plus comes in either a $199 2GB RAM / 32GB storage version, or a $239 4GB RAM / 64GB storage version — they are otherwise identical.

With either decision, you'll be happy with your purchase. Motorola has changed up the phone's design this year, adding a metal back and a more compact, mature look that complements the Moto Z series, and the excellent 5.2-inch IPS display is much more manageable in one hand. Also more manageable is the improved shape of the front fingerprint sensor, which is turned oblong and considerably easier to activate.

Motorola has also bestowed a fantastic camera on the Moto G5 Plus this year, giving it the same 12MP sensor and lens combination that's in the Galaxy S7 — though the results aren't quite as good. The phone isn't perfect — there's no NFC on the U.S. model, and it still uses the older Micro-USB charging port — but it's close.


Best all-metal

Honor 7X

See at Honor

A big upgrade to the Honor 6X is the Honor 7X, a capable and well-made all-metal budget phone coming in at $199. Launching with Android 7.0-based EMUI 5.1, the device takes everything that made its predecessor good and adds a great new design, an improved dual camera setup, and plenty of power from the Kirin 659 chip and 3GB of RAM. Best of all, the new 5.9-inch 2:1 screen is bright and beautiful, and provides plenty of space for, well, everything!

Bottom-line: A fantastic flagship-like experience at $200.

One more thing: If you're looking to save a bit of money, or get it from Amazon, the Honor 6X is a solid pick at $140.

Best for even less

Moto E4

See at Amazon

The Moto E line has always been about getting a barebones smartphone experience in order to get a super low price, and that's where the Moto E4 still lands. The specs aren't amazing, nor is the physical design, but you get that core Moto DNA that means this is a slick little phone for a great price.

You get a 5-inch HD display, a Snapdragon 425 processor, and 2800mAh battery. But you also get nice-to-haves at this price, like an 8MP auto focus camera and a fingerprint sensor.

It all retails for just $129 brand new, and it's tough to argue with that. Amazon has a Prime Exclusive version for $99, and Verizon's prepaid service charges just $70 for this phone — both are a steal of a deal.

Bottom-line: For a bargain basement price, it's tough to get a phone that performs better or has the features of the Moto E4.

One more thing: Be on the lookout for better deals and sales — this is a phone that will be discounted regularly to entice budget buyers.

Best for battery

Moto E4 Plus

See at Amazon

Whereas you get a lot for your money with the Moto E4, its Plus variant is only slightly more expensive and gives you a bigger screen, slightly more power and, best of all, a massive 5000mAh battery that lasts, well, forever.

Aside from that two (or three) day battery life, you get a decent 13MP rear camera, a nice 5MP front-facing camera with a flash, and Motorola's excellent Android software. The phone is available for a reasonable $139.99 through Amazon's Prime Exclusive series, but its $179.99 MSRP isn't bad, either.

Bottom-line: The Moto E4 Plus is one long-lasting candy handset. Expect two or three days on a single charge.

One more thing: It's compatible with all four major U.S. carriers, including Verizon and Sprint.


Conclusion

If you don't want to spend over $250 and still want a great Android phone, the Moto G5 Plus is the best choice. You don't get the best looking or feeling phone, but it offers a top-notch experience, especially for the price.

Best overall

Moto G5 Plus

See at Amazon

Motorola performed yet another pricing miracle with the Moto G5 Plus, the successor to last year's excellent Moto G4 series and a contender for the best affordable smartphone today.

It starts with the excellent 5.2-inch Full HD display, but the real benefit to the G5 Plus this year is the excellent performance and battery life from the combination of a Snapdragon 625 platform and a 30000mAh battery.

Also of note is the improved low-light performance from the 12MP camera, which boasts the same hardware as (and similar results to) the Galaxy S7.

Bottom line: This is the best sub-$250 phone you can buy today, and it's still a great device even if price isn't a factor.

One more thing: Motorola.com is offering the Moto G5 Plus with inexpensive financing if you don't want to pay up front.

Best Android phones under $400
Best Android phones under $100

Updated January 2018: We've replaced the Honor 6X with its successor, the Honor 7X, and removed the aging Wileyfox Swift 2 X from the list.

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

Go hands free in your car with a $7 Aukey air vent car mount

3

One of the easiest mounting solutions around.

An Aukey air vent magnetic car mount is down to $6.88 with code AUKEYC38 on Amazon. This mount is normally $13 and only drops this low through the occasional coupon code.

That mount is best for phones around the size and weight of the iPhone 7. If you need something bigger for a phone like the iPhone X, this similar air vent car mount is down to $5.99 with code AUKEYHC5. It sells for $8 without a coupon code.

These car mounts easy secure to one of the air conditioner vents in your car. You then put one of the included magnetic plates between your phone and a case, and you can easily place and remove your phone on the mount. Because there are only magnets holding the phone to the mount, you can rotate it to any angle and easily switch between landscape and portrait mode.

All Aukey products are backed by a two-year warranty.

Read more and comment

 
1 week ago

Sony Xperia XA2, XA2 Ultra, and L2 now available for pre-order

13

Prices start at $249 for the L2 and go up to $449 for the XA2 Ultra.

One of the biggest smartphone announcements of CES 2018 came from Sony in the form of the Xperia XA2, XA2 Ultra, and L2. All three of these are mid-range handsets with pretty typical specifications, but this is the first time in years that Sony has announced phones in the United States with working fingerprint sensors.

Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra

Sony previously said that these phones would be available at some point in February, but pre-orders have already gone live in the United States at Best Buy and the United Kingdom through Clove.

Along with the working fingerprint sensors, you'll find a pretty standard array of mid-range specs. The XA2 and XA2 Ultra are the more powerful of the bunch, and each comes with a Snapdragon 630 processor, 1920 x 1080 display, and 23MP rear-facing camera. The XA2 has a 3,300 mAh battery, but the XA2 Ultra kicks things up to 3,580 mAh.

With the Xperia L2, you're getting a lower-res 1280 x 720 display, MediaTek MT6737T processor, and a 3,300 mAh battery.

The Xperia XA2 Ultra is the most expensive of the bunch at $449, the XA2 comes in at $349, and the L2 costs (you guessed it) $249.

See at Best Buy

Read more and comment

 
Show More Headlines

Pages