The Mi A1 is Xiaomi’s best budget phone yet.

Of the hundreds of phones sold in the budget segment every year, a mere handful of devices stand out: the Moto G series, for instance, along with the likes of Xiaomi’s Redmi Note phones, Lenovo’s K series, and Honor’s budget devices.

In 2017, that list is dominated by Xiaomi’s phones. The Redmi Note 4 continues to be one of the best devices in the sub-₹15,000 segment seven months after its launch, and the Redmi 4 and Redmi 4A offer excellent bang for your buck in the sub-₹10,000 tier. Then there’s the Mi Max 2, which for ₹16,999 offers a large 6.44-inch display backed by a gorgeous aluminum unibody design.

Xiaomi’s aggressive positioning in the budget segment allowed the brand to catapult up the rankings, with the manufacturer now the second-largest phone vendor in India. The Redmi Note 4 and Redmi 4 are two of the best-selling phones in the country this year, and with its latest phone, Xiaomi is set to consolidate its position in this category.

The Mi A1 is a great phone in its own right, but Xiaomi’s decision to partner with Google to deliver stock Android makes it a much more compelling option. A small but vocal minority of Xiaomi fans have been clamoring for a device with clean Android for some time now, and with the Mi A1, the brand has delivered just that.

Read on to find out why the Mi A1 is the best budget phone you can currently buy in India.

About this review

I (Harish Jonnalagadda) am writing this review after using the Mi A1 for two weeks in Hyderabad, India on Airtel’s 4G network. The phone runs Android 7.1.2 Nougat out of the box along with the August 1, 2017 security patch. The unit was provided to Android Central for review by Xiaomi India.

Xiaomi Mi A1 Specs

Category Spec
Operating System Android 7.1.2 Nougat
Display 5.5-inch IPS LCD 1920 x 1080 (403ppi)
Gorilla Glass, 2.5D curved glass
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
2.0GHz octa-core Cortex A53
14nm FinFET
GPU Adreno 506
RAM 4GB
Storage 64GB
Expandable Yes, up to 128GB
Battery 3080mAh
Charging USB-C
Rear Camera 1 12MP wide-angle (OmniVision OV12A10) f/2.2, 1.25-micron pixels
Dual tone flash, PDAF
4K@30FPS
Rear Camera 2 12MP telephoto (OmniVision OV13880) f/2.6, 1.1-micron pixels
Front Camera 5MP
1080p video
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 4.2
IR blaster, 3.5mm jack
GPS/AGPS, GLONASS, BeiDou
Audio 3.5mm headphone jack
Dedicated amplifier
Security One-touch fingerprint sensor at the back
SIM Dual SIM slot (hybrid slot)
Dimensions 155.4 x 75.8 x 7.3mm
165g
Colors Black, Gold, Rose Gold

Xiaomi Mi A1 Hardware

The Mi A1 is a rebranded variant of the Mi 5X, which sports an all-metal chassis with antenna lines at the top and bottom. There’s a clear difference in the design language between the Redmi series and phones in the Mi lineup, with the latter featuring a more refined aesthetic. As a result, the Mi A1 makes recent devices like the Redmi Note 4 look outdated.

The clean lines combined with the aluminum chassis gives the Mi A1 a premium look, and the build quality is outstanding. The phone comes with a 3.5mm jack, and unlike the Redmi Note 4, there’s a USB-C charging port at the bottom. The power and volume buttons at the back provide a decent amount of tactile feedback, and there’s an IR blaster located up top.

The back of the device is where things get interesting, with the Mi A1 sporting a dual camera setup. The configuration is the same as that of the Mi 6 — a primary sensor augmented by a secondary telephoto lens — but Xiaomi is using different imaging sensors.

The positioning of the dual camera to the top left corner coupled with Xiaomi’s decision to tuck the antenna bands at the top and bottom of the device means the Mi A1 has more than a passing resemblance to the OnePlus 5. There is a Mi logo and Android One signage at the bottom of the phone to inform the world that it isn’t in fact a OnePlus 5, and the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor also makes that abundantly clear.

The Mi A1 is Xiaomi’s best-looking phone in the budget segment thus far.

The fingerprint sensor is conveniently located such that your finger automatically rests on it, and it had no issues authenticating my fingerprints.

Switching over to the front, the first thing you notice is the bezels at the top and bottom, and if you’re picking up the gold color option, you’ll get a white front plate. The side bezels are narrow, which makes it easier to hold the phone, and the back button is in the wrong position for a phone running stock Android.

Xiaomi has a long history of offering decent LCD panels in its phones, and the situation is no different with the Mi A1. The 5.5-inch Full HD screen is one of the best in this segment, with excellent colors and viewing angles. The panel gets sufficiently bright that it isn’t an issue to view the contents on the screen under harsh sunlight.

Coming over to the hardware side of things, the Snapdragon 625 paired with stock Android makes the Mi A1 absolutely fly. You’re not going to notice any slowdowns or lags in everyday usage. It’s astonishing just how fluid the phone is at day-to-day tasks, whether it’s switching between apps, quickly launching the camera, or playing visually intensive games.

Battery life

Battery life on the Mi A1 is excellent. I was initially worried that the 3080mAh battery wouldn’t last a day, but I consistently got a day and a half’s worth of usage out of the battery.

Even on days when I was on cellular data throughout, I managed to get up to four hours of screen-on-time and overall battery life exceeding 20 hours. To put that into context, that’s nearly double what I averaged on the Pixel XL in similar conditions.

The one downside is the lack of a fast charging option. The Mi A1 tops out at 5V/2A, and it takes nearly two hours to fully charge the phone.

Software

The software is what sets the Mi A1 apart from every other Xiaomi phone in the market today. The Chinese manufacturer teamed up with Google to offer the Mi A1 as a part of the Android One initiative, which means that for the first time, we’re getting to see a Xiaomi phone with stock Android.

Google’s first attempt with Android One failed miserably due to a combination of several factors. The phones were underwhelming and didn’t stand out in the entry-level segment where they were positioned, and Google didn’t do enough to advertize them to the masses. By partnering with Xiaomi, it is addressing those setbacks: the Mi A1 is one of the best-looking phones in the budget segment, and Xiaomi utterly dominates the mind share in markets like India, which ensures the phone gets plenty of visibility.

The software experience on the Mi A1 is on par with the Pixels and Nexus devices.

As for the software experience itself, it is in line with what you’d get on a Pixel or Nexus device. There’s a swipe up gesture to access the app drawer, Google Now occupies the left-most pane, and all interface elements are unchanged from stock Android.

The phone runs Android 7.1.2 Nougat out of the box, and has the August 1, 2017 security patch. You get all the features built into Nougat, including split-screen multitasking, in-line notification replies, app shortcuts, granular controls for Do Not Disturb, and more. Then there’s the ability to pull down the notification shade by swiping down on the fingerprint sensor, à la Pixel. There’s also a gesture to quickly launch the camera by double pressing the power button.

Overall, it’s a refreshing change to use a Xiaomi phone with stock Android. MIUI certainly has a lot to offer, but purists looking for an uncluttered experience finally have a device they can call their own.

Software updates

The only unknown when it comes to the software side of things is the update situation. Previous Android One devices have received updates directly from Google, but that will not be the case with the Mi A1. As the phone features a dual camera setup, Xiaomi has bundled its own Mi camera app instead of Google Camera. Xiaomi also pre-installed the Mi Remote app, which lets you use the IR blaster to control your TV, air con, or set-top box.

As a result of these additions, Xiaomi will be in charge of software updates for the Mi A1. The brand is committing to quick updates, and Google has stated that the phone will receive Oreo before the end of the year. Furthermore, the Mi A1 will be one of the first devices to pick up the Android P update next year.

Camera

The Mi A1 has two 12MP cameras at the back: the first is a wide-angle lens with 1.25-micron pixels and f/2.2, and the latter is a telephoto f/2.6 lens with 1.1-micron pixels that offers 2x optical zoom. The tagline for the Mi A1 is, “Flagship dual camera,” with Xiaomi alluding to the fact that the phone has the same camera configuration as the Mi 6.

Although Xiaomi is using different imaging sensors, the image quality you get with the Mi A1 is on par with that of the Mi 6, at least in daylight conditions.

Mi 6 on the left, Mi A1 to the right.

The Mi A1 managed to hold its own next to the Mi 6, and the phone outdid its costlier sibling in a few scenarios. That said, the Mi 6 is currently on a beta MIUI build whereas the Mi A1 is running a stable version of Android 7.1.2 Nougat.

The camera app itself should be immediately familiar if you’ve used a Xiaomi phone in the past. You get toggles for filters and easy access to various shooting modes, which include panorama, tilt shift, a square mode for Instagram, and others. There’s also a toggle for enabling the watermark, with resulting images featuring a “Shot on Mi A1″ watermark in the bottom left corner.

Other options include the ability to switch between the primary imaging sensor and the telephoto lens via the 2x button, toggles for HDR, flash, portrait mode, switching between photo and video modes and the front and rear cameras. And yes, it still tries to guess your gender and age when you’re taking selfies.

Portrait Mode works in a similar fashion to what we’ve seen on the Mi 6, with the camera blurring out the background to put the subject in focus. The mode needs plenty of lighting to work, and while the camera does a decent job in terms of blurring the background, it has a tough time delineating the edges.

Photos shot in daylight have plenty of detail, but those taken in low-light conditions tend to be very noisy. The 5MP front shooter is similarly decent for taking selfies. The camera on the Mi A1 isn’t groundbreaking, but it is plenty capable considering the price point the device is targeting.

Xiaomi Mi A1 Bottom line

Xiaomi seems particularly intent on building out market share, and to that effect the brand has priced the Mi A1 very aggressively. The ₹14,999 price is astounding when you consider what’s on offer with the device: sleek design, great display, clean software experience, dual cameras, and all-day battery life.

The software experience in particular is the standout feature of the Mi A1. One of the main reasons for Motorola’s success in this segment was because of its reliance on an uncluttered user interface, and by teaming up with Google, Xiaomi is able to offer a similar experience to its customers.

Should you buy it? Without a doubt

The Mi A1 is the most uncompromising phone in the budget segment today. We’ve seen some great devices debuting in the market this year, notably the Redmi Note 4 and the Moto G5 Plus, and as an overall package, the Mi A1 handily beats both devices. For ₹14,999 you’ll be hard-pressed to find a phone that offers quite as much for your money.

Xiaomi is once again leveraging its flash sales model for the Mi A1, which means that you won’t be able to go to Mi.com and purchase the device whenever you want. The sale kicks off every Tuesday at 12 p.m., but if you don’t want to wait, you always have the option of going to a Mi Home store and purchasing the device. Xiaomi is also making the phone available at over 600 partner stores.

It isn’t the easiest process to get a hold of the Mi A1, but the device itself is well worth it.




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Google wants to win the smartphone game, and with the recent HTC deal, there’s a realistic roadmap to getting there.

When rumors began swirling about Google buying HTC’s smartphone division, anyone with an opinion on the industry had thoughts; here’s why it’s good for Google; here’s why it’s a terrible idea. Both sides were probably right, to some extent.

Now that the deal is done, though, we have a more nuanced understanding of exactly what transpired, and why Google chose not to acquire HTC’s entire smartphone division, but instead over 2,000 of its employees, most of which have worked in some capacity on the company’s Pixel lineup. The deal ensures that the Pixel lineup is here to stay, that Google is not just invested in hardware as a division — this is not some ephemeral project that will dissipate into Google’s core business as so many others have over the years — but in the Pixel smartphone as a concept.

Google was a very different company when it bought Motorola in 2012.

I agree with many things about Alex’s beautifully-written Editor’s Desk from a few weeks ago, but we divert in a couple of key matters — and I have the benefit of hindsight, so forgive me — when it comes to Google’s past and future. For starters, I firmly believe that Google didn’t buy Motorola primarily for its patents in 2012, nor did it “become a smartphone vendor by accident.” That lets Google off too easily by allowing the company to reframe its enormous mistake in a way that, in retrospect, still makes sense. Yes, we lost a ton of money, but it was all about the patents anyway, so it was still a good deal for us.

Google definitely bought Motorola to become a smartphone vendor. It wanted to build Motorola into a tier one smartphone vendor to take on Samsung and Apple by reshaping the company in its own image. Under Google, Motorola went through a metamorphosis of simplicity and focus that, even under Lenovo today, from which it is still benefiting. Similarly, Google learned a tremendous amount about the smartphone industry, about making deals with wireless carriers, and about manufacturing smartphones, that likely led it to understand that it didn’t want the overhead. If, under Google, Motorola had risen to sell tens of millions of phones a year and turn a handsome profit, Google would be boasting today of its success in delicately balancing the needs of Android the platform and its in-house smartphone division.

This is an oversimplification, but when Google sold Motorola to Lenovo in 2014 for less than a fifth of what it paid it also shed itself of the tremendous ongoing financial burden of actually owning the equipment, and maintaining the logistics and distribution deals, that go along with being a smartphone maker. It’s tough, capital-intensive work — work that Apple, which makes the most money in the industry by an enormous margin, outsources to partners all over China. Apple may design an increasing number of components inside its phones, but it doesn’t actually build, or employ people that build, any of them.

Google, by “aqui-hiring” a couple thousand HTC employees, and gaining non-exclusive access to the Taiwanese company’s patent portfolio, is moving in that direction. It is setting itself up for the next ten years of the Pixel, building on the foundation of its relatively successful foray into smartphone collaboration with the Nexus line.

The first-generation Pixels have a lot more HTC DNA than Google is willing to admit.

When the Pixels were announced last October, it was no secret that HTC was heavily involved not only in the manufacturing of the phones but the designs as well. When the inevitable teardowns came in the days following their October 20 release, it became immediately apparent that these were HTC phones in nearly all but name; the internal designs, from the placement of the batteries to the choice of vibration motors, were all HTC. To be clear, Google enforced a set of rules for HTC to follow, and held its hand to finalize the design, ensuring that these would be the most “Google” phones released to date, but they still shared plenty of HTC DNA.

Google could work with the likes of Foxconn, Pegatron and other specialized manufacturing firms to build in-house-designed flagships, but that’s a ways off. Spending $1.1 billion for more than 2,000 HTC employees, though, ensures that future is accessible when the time comes.

The Google that spent $12.5 billion for Motorola in 2012 is not the same one that spent less than a tenth of that amount last week. Back then, Google was run by Larry Page and Android overseen by Andy Rubin. Android, despite having been around for nearly half a decade at that point, was nowhere near the polished, mature, and capable operating system it is today. In late 2011, when Google announced it was purchasing Motorola, it was HTC, not Samsung, that dominated the ecosystem’s conversation — and its sales. It wouldn’t be until the following year, with the Galaxy S3, that Samsung would rightfully overtake HTC — and everyone else — in dominating the Android space. In the intervening time, Google worked with Motorola to build what is still today one of the most ambitious flagships of the last decade, the Moto X.

Flawed as it was, if Motorola had sold ten million Moto Xs instead of the same number of Moto Gs, the Android ecosystem today may look very different. But what happened happened, and Google has since hired Rick Osterloh, the man responsible for steering that unwieldy Motorola ship, to run its nascent hardware division. And under him, not only have we been given Pixels, but Google Home, Google Wifi, Daydream, and an emerging optimism for a Google that understands the types of hardware experiences people want.

The first generation Pixels are also flawed. They also didn’t sell in the tens of millions. But Google just spent $1.1 billion to make sure that it can, and will, sell in that number sometime in the future. Because neither Apple nor Samsung, nor BlackBerry or Nokia before them, sold in those numbers in their first years. The phone business is a long-term investment, one that involves making hundreds of precarious right moves before finding true success. What this HTC deal tells me is that Google wants the Pixel line to be around in 10 years, and that it wants to compete with Samsung and Apple in every market, from hardware to machine learning and computational photography to smart assistants and media acquisition.

There’s a reason I haven’t talked much about the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in this column, the phones that Google wants us all to focus on right now. That’s because this HTC deal will likely only bear fruit not in 2017 but in 2023. The HTC of 2017 helped Google build a smartphone; by 2023, Google hopes those same people will help it build an empire.


Here’s what else is going through my mind this week.

That’s it for me this week! Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, and I’ll see you all here again tomorrow.

-Daniel




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The comments are open and ready!

Yet another week has passed, and we’re starting to get into the home stretch of 2017. At least in the smartphone world. But it’s cool — this time of the year makes for some great weekends.

Weekends at the end of summer are awesome. The weather isn’t quite as hot so it’s a great time to get outside and breathe some fresh air. Maybe fire up the grill, or take a hike, or do any of those things it was just too hot to do a few weeks ago. Heck, even the fish start biting again!

We’re in prep-mode for the last big new phone push of the year. Google has their Pixel 2 shindig planned in about a week, and then we can take it all in and look at all the great products from the companies that make Android what it is. It’s been a pretty good year for an Android fan. From the CES hype train to the Note 8 launch, we saw so many excellent phones from all the big names. We all will have a favorite, but I think everyone agrees that it’s cool when everyone has a choice that they love.

So take a minute and share what you’re doing over the weekend, and let everyone know what phone from 2017 caught your eye. We’re not done just yet, but so far I’m feeling the G6 as the overall winner, even though it’s not my personal choice. Oh, and I’m working this weekend, but doing it from my back porch where the hibiscus are still in bloom and mulberry trees keep me in the shade. For a few more weeks, anyway. 😎




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Android One phones in the U.S. are an opportunity for everyone to have a Good Phone™.

Step into the Wayback Machine with me for a minute, as we head back to the Autumn of 2013. Amidst all the hype and furious pace of Android phone releases, one phone was unexpectedly great: the original Moto G.

The 2013 Moto G only had to do one thing: not suck. It succeeded.

The first generation Moto G was, at around $150, fairly inexpensive. It didn’t have the fastest and bestest processor or ungodly amounts of memory (it actually had 1GB of RAM, if you can believe it). It even had a mediocre 4.5-inch LCD display. If you placed it beside a phone like the Galaxy S4 it was clearly outclassed in almost every way. The thing that made the OG Moto G special is that it did not suck. Prior to 2013, you weren’t going to find a cheap phone that didn’t suck. The 2013 Moto G became the bar all cheap phones are measured against, even today.

And you know what? There are a lot of people who want a cheap phone that doesn’t suck. That’s where Android One and the Moto X4 come into play.

The Moto X4 will be the first Android One phone you can buy in the U.S. without importing it and wondering whether it will work on your network. We (that means you if you’re reading this on a Saturday) might buy phones that ship from other countries, might not work, and have no warranty, but most people don’t. Those (smart) people go to Verizon or Best Buy and pick something that they can see and touch. Even if they’re “only” spending $200 on a phone, they want things like warranties and compatibility. That’s smart.

At $400, the Project Fi-powered Moto X4 isn’t cheap. It’s also filled with high-end parts that a good cheap Android One phone doesn’t require. And selling it through Project Fi guarantees that hardly anyone will buy it, even compared to the meager sales the standard unlocked Moto X4 will gather. Fortunately, it’s the first Android One phone for the U.S. and not the only Android One phone for the U.S.

The Moto X4 isn’t cheap, but there are more Android One phones coming that might be.

Let’s hope Samsung and LG and all the other big names in the Android space get interested. Imagine something like the Galaxy J, a phone that sells in India for 5,000 Rs ($78 U.S.) and isn’t equipped with the guts to run the TouchWIZ software it ships with, instead running Android One. You would have barebones software that runs well on the device, updates for two years (three years for security patches) and fast updates to hotfix all the messy ways people find to hack into it. Sure, there would be things Samsung does that would be missed, but Google Play can help you with most of it and come on, it sells for 80 bucks!

Now throw away that dream because it will never happen. Samsung (and LG and HTC) aren’t likely to be interested in Android One anytime soon. They sell a brand, Android. But you know which companies just might be? Huawei, Xiaomi, Meizu and (wait for it) OnePlus. All companies that know how to build decent phones that don’t happen to cost $900. Chinese phone manufacturers sell a brand much like the bigger U.S. names do, but they also are interested in selling a lot of phones in the United States. Selling phones under the Android One umbrella isn’t ideal for any company, but if priced right it just might be a nice cash injection as well as a way to get American consumers familiar with the names.

Who here wouldn’t want a OnePlus Android One?

I have no idea how popular Android One phones will be here in the States, nor do I have inside information about which companies might be building them. Hell, we might not ever see one besides the Moto X4 — Google says a lot of things that sort of never happen. But there’s a chance it happens and we can start buying good cheap phones that are well-supported again. A man can dream.




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It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the ever-changing world of physical information storage. New hard drives and flash drives are constantly hitting the market and obsolescence is inevitable. There has never been a better time to store your data in the cloud, and cloud security has also never been better.

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See at Android Central Digital Offers




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Best Large Android Phone

23 September 2017

Best Overall

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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Forget last year’s missteps — the Samsung Galaxy Note line is back in style. This year’s Note takes everything we loved about the Galaxy S8 Plus and adds even more display real estate, an impressive new dual-camera rig, boasting 2X telephoto with optical image stabilization, and new features for the S Pen stylus, including animated written messages.

Samsung’s best-in-class display gets even better with new capabilities including a 1200-nit daylight mode. And the Note’s performance is supercharged thanks to 6GB of RAM as standard, and software enhancements in Samsung Experience 8.5.

You of course get Samsung’s trademark S Pen stylus, which is smarter than ever in the seventh-generation Note. But the biggest reason to invest in one of the priciest Android phones on the market might be the Note 8′s new dual camera setup. The main camera mirrors the excellent performance of the GS8, while the secondary shooter captures zoomed in shots with greater detail than any Android phone, thanks to its 12-megapixel resolution and optical stabilization.

Bottom line: The Galaxy Note 8 boasts a fearsome price tag, but it’s easily the best handset in this category. Between the display, performance, cameras, and productivity features, there’s no better big-screened phone

One more thing: The Note 8′s fingerprint scanner is in kind of an awkward place — not unlike the Galaxy S8. And in addition, the face unlock and iris scanning features can be temperamental.

Why the Galaxy Note 8 is the best

Simply put, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is the best at almost everything it does.

Samsung’s latest big-screened handset steps out from the shadow of the Note 7, excelling across the board and building on the success of the Galaxy S8 line. The huge 6.3-inch SuperAMOLED display looks fantastic, with the best daylight visibility we’ve seen in a phone and bright, vibrant colors. And the phone itself is beautiful, with a symmetrical design that shows off its epic display.

What’s more, the Note 8 has everything you could ask for in a high-end handset with a top-tier dual camera array, software that’s differentiated but not overbearing, and speedy performance.

Best for battery life

Huawei Mate 9

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Huawei has made great progress over the past year, and its latest flagship, the Mate 9, stands out as the best big phone for buyers outside the United States. That’s largely thanks to Huawei’s much improved EMUI 5 software experience, based on Android Nougat. But the Mate 9 also benefits from a massive 5.9-inch 1080p screen in a body the same size as the Nexus 6P.

Beyond its size and software, the Mate 9 nails the fundamentals of a great Android experience, with quick performance, an ample 64GB of storage as standard, plus microSD expansion, and a capable dual camera setup. Unlike LG, Huawei combines two cameras with the same focal length, but with one OIS (optical image stabilization) 12MP camera capturing colors, and the other, a 20MP monochrome sensor, picking up fine detail. The result is a camera setup that often goes toe-to-toe with the best out there, and can produce some interesting creative effects thanks to its second sensor.

Bottom line: Huawei’s much-improved software — together with great build quality, performance and dependable cameras — makes for a fantastic big-screened experience.

One more thing: The Huawei Mate 9 isn’t currently available through any U.S. carriers — instead you’ll have to buy the unlocked version, which works on T-Mobile and AT&T (and their MVNOs), as well as just about every global LTE network.

Best for less

LG V30

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LG has successfully built on the G6 with its best big-screened phone to date, the V30. The V30 takes the design of its G-series forerunner and smoothes out the angles, with curved Gorilla Glass 5 front and back, polished aluminum on the sides, and plenty of power lurking within. It’s also LG’s first flagship phone in more than two years with an OLED screen, and while it’s not quite as spectacular as the Note 8′s Super AMOLED, LG’s latest display is great in its own right.,

On the inside, you get a standard loadout of high-end smartphone specs: Snapdragon 835, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (or 128GB if you get the V30+). But as with most LG phones over the past year or so, the biggest reason to choose the V30 might be its camera capabilities. The main shooter is a 16-megapixel unit with a new, super-bright f/1.6 lens, with OIS. And that’s paired with a brighter wide-angle camera with f/1.9 aperture, so you can capture dramatic 120-degree views even in low light.

LG has also built out new cinematic video shooting features in the new Cine LOG recording mode, which is great for videographers wanting to edit footage from the phone in Final Cut or Adobe Premiere.

Bottom line: The V30 is a great overall package. If you want many of the top features of the Note 8 without breaking the bank, LG’s latest is well worth a look.

One more thing: No more weird regional variations! All V30s come with LG’s famed Quad DAC for high-quality wired audio, as well as wireless charging and IP68 water resistance.

Best ‘Almost a Note 8′ phone

Samsung Galaxy S8+

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Samsung delivers a great big-screened Android experience in the larger of the two Galaxy S8 models. The new 18.5:9 aspect ratio, combined with a 6.2-inch display size (6.1 inches excluding the rounded corners) makes the Galaxy S8+ big, but not impossible to hold. And the extra height of that beautiful Quad HD+ SuperAMOLED panel means you’ll fit more on screen, too.

The design work Samsung started in 2016 can be seen coming to fruition in the GS8+, with an almost completely symmetrical metal and glass chassis that complements the big screen. And Samsung nails the fundamentals of the smartphone experience too, with fast performance and a great camera, improved from the GS7 thanks to new processing tricks. On the software side, Samsung’s UI feels more polished and mature than ever, with a new sci-fi aesthetic that’s slick and unique but not overbearing.

Bottom line: It’s expensive for sure, but the Samsung Galaxy S8+ easily one of the best phablets out there.

One more thing: The Galaxy S8+’s fingerprint scanner is in kind of an awkward place, around the back and next to the camera lens. But at least you’ve got face unlock and iris scanning to fall back on.

Conclusion

If you want the best Android has to offer in a big-screened phone, look no further than the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. The size of Samsung’s 6.3-incher is both a strength and a weakness — thanks to the extra-tall 18.5:9 aspect ratio, this is a very tall phone. But if that’s what you’re after, Samsung does a great job of showcasing an enormous, bright display and backing up a great physical design with good-looking software and unique software tricks, the S Pen and a fantastic dual camera setup.

Best Overall

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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Forget last year’s missteps — the Samsung Galaxy Note line is back in style. This year’s Note takes everything we loved about the Galaxy S8 Plus and adds even more display real estate, an impressive new dual-camera rig, boasting 2X telephoto with optical image stabilization, and new features for the S Pen stylus, including animated written messages.

Samsung’s best-in-class display gets even better with new capabilities including a 1200-nit daylight mode. And the Note’s performance is supercharged thanks to 6GB of RAM as standard, and software enhancements in Samsung Experience 8.5.

You of course get Samsung’s trademark S Pen stylus, which is smarter than ever in the seventh-generation Note. But the biggest reason to invest in one of the priciest Android phones on the market might be the Note 8′s new dual camera setup. The main camera mirrors the excellent performance of the GS8, while the secondary shooter captures zoomed in shots with greater detail than any Android phone, thanks to its 12-megapixel resolution and optical stabilization.

Bottom line: The Galaxy Note 8 boasts a fearsome price tag, but it’s easily the best handset in this category. Between the display, performance, cameras, and productivity features, there’s no better big-screened phone

One more thing: The Note 8′s fingerprint scanner is in kind of an awkward place — not unlike the Galaxy S8. And in addition, the face unlock and iris scanning features can be temperamental.

Updated September, 2017: Galaxy Note 8 is the new king of large phones, with the LG V30 coming in as an excellent, less expensive option for late 2017.




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The LG V30 and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 are two of the biggest new Android flagships right now. Both offer beautiful designs, high-end specs and unique dual camera technologies. They’re not exactly direct competitors though — if nothing else, there’s a big price and size gap between them. The V30 is expected to retail a couple hundred U.S. dollars below the Note 8′s lofty price point.

Still, they’re both significant launches in the Android calendar from two companies with a well-established rivalry. And that means it’s time for them to go head-to-head! Before we begin, note that the V30 we’ve been using so far isn’t final hardware just yet, so we’re going broad strokes in this first comparison — remember that things can change between a pre-production phone like I’ve been using, and the final, retail boxed version.

With that out of the way, hit the video above to find out how I’ve been getting to grips with the LG V30 and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 over the past couple weeks!




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File this one under things finally working as described.

If you’ve ever mashed that “Check for update” button in your phone settings because you were waiting and ready for an update, you know disappointment. You might be disappointed less in the future, as the button now actually checks for an update when asks rather than check to see if you were slotted in to be updated that day.

Long-time Android developer and new master of update buttons Elliot Hughes took to Google+ today to explain the changes.

When a device checks in because you’ve specifically asked it to, we flag that this is user-initiated and so you’re not subject to the usual limitations. So even if we’re at 1% rollout and 1% of users already have the update, if you manually check you’ll still be offered it, even though a background check at the same time wouldn’t.

You’ll need the latest version of Google Play Services, and it appears that this feature may be for Oreo and higher based on comments. We’ve reached out to Google and will update with more when we hear back.

It’s also worth noting that this only applies to OS updates. Apps will still have a gradual rollout as decided by the developer, even Google’s apps. Even Google Play Services, which you need the latest version of for this to work as intended. That would be the one dated September 5, 2017, and the version number varies by device.

It’s also worth noting that doing this means you might be someone who gets to witness the next bug firsthand. Gradual rollouts are done so that any bugs that weren’t found during testing won’t affect many devices before the rollout can be stopped and the software fixed. Impatience is often rewarded!

So go ahead and hit the button if you’re waiting for the September patch and let everyone know if it worked.




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The Nest Thermostat E is one of the best entry-level thermostats you can buy, and it can save you real money.

The biggest compliment I can give to the $169 Nest Thermostat E is that no one noticed it.

I’ve had a third-gen Nest Learning Thermostat in my entrance way for years, conspicuously placed so that everyone who walks into my living room inadvertently wakes up its bright LCD screen as they saunter past. The round stainless steel bezel is shiny — garish, even — inviting speculation and questions. “That’s the touchscreen thermostat, right?” they ask. In fact, it’s not touchscreen, but it looks like it.

After nearly two years with a Nest, I’ve learned a few things about it. For starters, it’s very good at what it does; I’ve probably saved close to $1000 in electricity by intelligently rationing out central heat and air conditioning, and by allowing the system to learn my habits and create a schedule that accommodates my work-from-home lifestyle and my wife’s desire for the house to be a tiny bit warmer than I’d prefer.

The second thing I’ve learned is that the Nest hardware itself is complete overkill, and totally unnecessary to enjoy the unit. It’s a vestigial remnant of a time that you needed to physically walk up to a thermostat to make changes. And while I occasionally do make adjustments using the satisfying clicker ring used to navigate the basic user interface, I spend far more time in Nest’s excellent Android and iOS apps. To that end, the $249 Nest Learning Thermostat is a nice-looking widget that tells people I have a smart home.

The Nest Thermostat E is not that. It’s cheaper — $169, a full $80 cheaper — and wonderfully understated. Gone is the shiny stainless steel and black bezel, replaced by a smaller, plastic housing and a lower-resolution screen. The screen is also covered by a frosted white glazing, meant to slightly obscure the screen and allow it to blend it better with its surroundings. And you know, it totally works.

Installation and compatibility

If you’ve used a Nest before, you know exactly how this one works.

The Nest E, as I’ll refer to it, requires basically the same setup as its larger predecessor; it assumes that your house already has the necessary wires protruding from some wall in your house, likely in a basement or main floor. Compared to the Nest proper, there are fewer connections — six instead of 10 — which makes it less likely to be compatible with some higher-output dual fan systems, but it had no problem interfacing with my fairly generic single-blower forced air system.

Installing the Nest E was as simple as removing the older Nest, disconnecting the wires and removing the backplate, and installing the newer, smaller equivalents. My system was wire-for-wire identical, though that may not be the case for yours. If you’re coming from an older system, or just don’t really trust yourself to install it correctly, the company offers very detailed installation videos and, at a cost, professional installers, to ensure that it will work right.

Unlike the regular Nest, which claims to work with “95% of 24V heating and cooling systems, including gas, electric, forced air, heat pump, radiant, oil, hot water, solar and geothermal,” the Nest E works with “most” heating and cooling systems, according to the company. In other words, the Nest E will probably work for you unless you have a bespoke or high-powered commercial system that probably needs a professional to maintain, anyway.

The experience

The Nest E offers what amounts to the identical experience as the regular Nest, with a few minor differences. The interface, due to the lower-resolution glazed screen, is a bit simpler, but it still allows you to turn the sphere to maneuver around, and push in to select, just as before. (If you’re new to Nest, the controls are extremely intuitive, and you definitely won’t mistake this one for a touchscreen.)

The Nest E is easy to set up and a joy to use.

Once set up and connected to Wi-Fi, the Nest E can be controlled either through the unit itself or the accompanying iOS or Android app (which we’ll get to shortly). Like any thermostat, the Nest E sits on your wall and monitors the ambient conditions using built-in sensors; these include temperature, humidity, proximity/occupancy, and ambient light. When it detects the temperature is above or below a given threshold, it activates cooling or heating, respectively. When it detects humidity is too high, it can be programmed to run the fans for a few hours. When it detects people aren’t home, it can be made to automatically activate Eco mode, which sets the conditions a bit higher or lower than is comfortable to save energy.

What the Nest E doesn’t have are the near-field and far-field sensors built into the original Nest, which means it has a hard time determining whether people are home by the ambient movement or sound around it. To make up for it, a proximity/occupancy sensor ensures that if someone walks past, it jumps to attention and figures out whether it should start working, but it’s a little less precise. In real-world testing, however, I’ve noticed no difference at all.

The upside

In fact, that’s what I’m taking away from my experience with the Nest E. If it works with your furnace, it’s exactly the same experience as its more expensive counterpart.

Much of that is due to the fact that Nest’s app, which has grown in usefulness while remaining remarkably simple, is the primary control center for your thermostat, and any other Nest products (of which there will be a lot more in a few months) you may have, from cameras to smoke detectors. I have all three, so I spend a lot of time in the Nest app, and I’ve absolutely come to depend on it.

Anything you can do on the Nest itself can be replicated in the app; Nest’s best features are the ones you set once and forget about, from Airwave, which uses the fan to continue blowing cold air through the system once the air conditioner itself has been shut off, to Early-On, which suggests a time for reaching a certain temperature in the house and adjusts the cooling or heating accordingly.

That Nest has been available since 2013, which may suppress a bit of its magic to long-time owners, but anyone coming from a clunky offline thermostat will marvel at the ability to remotely set temperature a few hours before returning home from vacation, or even from work, to compromise between comfort and cost.

And now that the asking price is a considerably lower-than-before $169, Nest is accessible to even more people.

The downsides

Nest isn’t the only game in town. Others, like ecobee, have shown considerable innovation in areas that, for some reason, Nest refuses to touch. ecobee, in particular, uses in-room sensors to detect temperature in multiple rooms throughout the house, allowing the thermostat to make intelligent decisions about heating or cooling with additional data points. My bedroom is a good five degrees warmer in the summer, and five degrees cooler in the winter, than my living room — such is the agony of a tall house.

Nest is really good at a lot of things, but it still falls short when it comes to multi-room sensing.

When it’s really hot or cold outside, I often have to manually adjust the temperature to accommodate for such discrepancies, something that I’m sure ecobee, and a couple of extra sensors, would take into account. ecobee’s latest version, the ecobee 4, also integrates Alexa in the U.S.; Nest, owned by Google parent Alphabet, has no such plans to integrate Assistant into its thermostats anytime soon.

And Nest is a standalone product, owned by Alphabet; big names like Honeywell, Emerson, and Carrier, which either build their own or partner with many furnace providers across the United States and Canada, are manufacturing their own (admittedly dumber) smart thermostats, and providing heavy incentives for customers to upgrade. Nest isn’t able to compete with such an entrenched market that is typically moved less by Silicon Valley than the Yellow Pages. Most of these companies throw in a so-called smart thermostat for free with a furnace or air conditioner upgrade, which puts Nest out of the conversation completely.

Should you buy it? Definitely

Even though I have the more expensive Nest Learning Thermostat, I have no intention of ditching the Nest E anytime soon. Not only do I think its white plastic housing looks better and disappears more easily than the chrome metal of the regular Nest, its simpler interface is a joy to use — I simply see no reason to go back.

For me, Nest built the perfect downgrade, a product that promises less and delivers more because of it. If you already have a Nest, you can completely ignore this review — there’s no reason to switch. But if you’ve been on the fence about moving up in the thermostat world, the Nest E is probably your best place to start.

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