Sprint has announced that it will be making the HTC 10 available to its customers starting on May 13. While HTC is selling the HTC 10 for $700, Sprint customers can buy the phone for a mere $624 or 24 … Read More

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AKG keeps these headphones compact, while also bringing all of the features you want at a solid price.

If you travel, work in a busy office or just have trouble concentrating on tasks at home, chances are you’ve looked into noise-canceling headphones. The basic technology behind noise cancellation is pretty much commoditized at this point, but companies add their own flavor to it, with varying levels of effectiveness. Beyond that, these of course work as standard headphones, too, giving companies more ways to differentiate.

AKG is a well-known name in audio, but definitely doesn’t have the general brand awareness that a company like Bose does when it comes to noise-canceling headphones (just walk through any airport and you’ll see). AKG’s new N60NC on-ear noise-canceling headphones are out to take a slice of the market, bringing a few neat features to differentiate from other options — and to make you feel a bit better about dropping big money on a set of on-ear headphones.

AKG sent us a set to check out. Here’s how we’ve been enjoying them over the past few weeks.

Comfort, quality and features

Noise-canceling headphones are usually associated with being a bit big and bulky because of their need for extra electronics, but the N60NCs break the mold here. Rather than going with a large, over-ear design that takes up a lot of room in your bag, AKG went with a drastically more compact on-ear design.

This is a surprisingly compact design.

The headphones fold up to a compact size for stowage but even when expanded aren’t that large. The main construction is a hefty black plastic, accented by a nice metal frame and some soft touch plastic in other parts. The headband portion doesn’t have a ton of padding, but the headphones are light enough that you don’t feel pressure on your head in any case. As you’d expect, the headband is adjustable to fit your head just right.

The only real issue with the earcups is that by design they rest on your ears, and aren’t quite as comfortable as over-ear models that wrap around your ears and put less pressure on them. That said, I wore the N60NCs for dozens of flights, and even on nine-hour transatlantic flights without any real discomfort. The earcups swivel at two points to minimize pressure on your ears, and their padding is a very soft leather material with foam underneath.

The audio cable is just shy of 4 feet long, and is removable for those times when you just want to block noise, but not listen to music. It has a straight 3.5mm jack on the headphone end, an L-shape connector for the device’s end, and near the headphones is an in-line play/pause button and microphone. The cable is made of a nice tangle-free braided nylon material, and the connectors are a solid brushed metal.

The big downside of active noise cancelation is that it requires power, and that often means a small removable battery (usually a AAA cell). This is where the N60NCs differentiate themselves — they’re fully rechargeable with an internal 320 mAh battery, and they recharge over the 3.5mm headphone jack with a special cable. That means there’s no need to ever pop out a battery or carry a spare just in case they die, and because it charges over the 3.5mm headphone jack there isn’t any extra hardware or another plug on the headphones.

AKG quotes up to 30 hours of battery life from the internal battery, meaning you can easily take a trip and leave the charging cable at home. The cable is a 1-foot braided style, just like the audio cable, with a flat USB plug on one end and a standard headphone-like jack on the other, and you can charge it from any USB charging source.

Sound and noise cancellation

The noise cancellation is great — perhaps bette than Bose.

Despite their smaller size, the N60NCs do a really great job at canceling out all sorts of ambient noise. Just flip the switch on the back of the left earcup to enable the feature, and ambient noise all but disappears. This goes for just about everything, from low city noise up to the constant rumble of an airplane. What’s particularly impressive about the noise cancellation on the N60NCs is that it also works well for blocking out people talking, which noise-canceling headphones generally don’t deal with as well as constant noise.

When it comes to sound quality, the headphones aren’t particularly overwhelming, as is the case with most noise canceling headphones — a good chunk of the price you’re paying is for the noise cancellation, not the audio quality. Comparing them to my daily use on-ear headphones, the $90 Xiaomi Mi Headphones, I’d say the AKG headphones are about on-par in terms of quality, and that’s just fine with me (I’m definitely not an audiophile, in any case). They sound pretty good whether I have the noise canceling function turned on or not, though you can appreciate your music or podcast quite a bit more without the outside noise distracting you.

The bottom line

When it comes to buying some solid noise-canceling headphones, the simple choice is to skip out on shopping around and just go with Bose. But as is often the case, Bose is also the more expensive offering. AKG’s N60NCs retail for a cool $249, or $50 less than the well-known Bose QuietComfort 25s, and that’s likely to immediately grab some attention.

But here’s the thing: despite their lower price, AKG actually does a lot of things better than Bose, regardless of price. The on-ear design is dramatically more compact, folding down to fit into a smaller case and take up less room in your travel bag — all without sacrificing much in terms of comfort or sound. Comparing them head-to-head I can say that AKG’s noise cancelation is on par or even better than what Bose offers. Their battery life is also just as long, and the N60NCs are rechargeable over any USB plug, which is preferable for most people (myself included).

If you’re looking for a compact set of noise-canceling headphones, you definitely have to take a look beyond Bose — and the AKG N60NCs are one of the options you should check out while you’re shopping.

Where to buy

Do the AKG N60NCs sound like the right headphones for you? Well you’re in luck — they’re easy to buy from several sources. Hit the links below if you’re interested in picking up a pair for yourself.

See at Crutchfield
See at Harman Audio
See at Amazon

(Ed. note: At the time of writing, Amazon’s listing for the headphones is dramatically more expensive than other sources. That may change over time.)

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Time again for the Mobile Nations Community Update! That’s right, it’s time to roundup some of the best stuff happening around Android Central, Connectedly, CrackBerry, iMore, and Windows Central.

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Mother’s Day is just around the corner and HTC wants to help you get yours a colorful One M9 or One A9 at great prices. Now thru May 8th HTC has reduced the price of the Unlocked One M9 in … Read More

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SpaceX is all like “Hey everyone, check this out!”

We’ve seen some cool things done with 360-degree video already. We’ve even captured a couple of things ourselves. Collectively, early adopters are learning what to do with these relatively new cameras, and that includes a look at when to put the tech away. It’s fascinating stuff, especially if you’re looking at things through Google Cardboard, but it’s not always clear what video you should choose to introduce new people to this technology.

And then the folks at SpaceX posted this to Facebook.

The only thing cooler than seeing a rocket that just delivered payload into space successfully land on a human-free droneship is watching it happen as though you were standing on the deck. The ability to see this in 360-degree video format makes it so much more compelling, and should absolutely be the kind of thing you show your friends when they don’t quite get why this is so cool.

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Android has had limited support for removable storage in one form or another since the beginning. With Marshmallow, the new Adoptable storage feature lets you turn your removable SD card option into a more or less permanent (and no longer removable) part of the device.

The whole thing is simple, really, and most of the confusion surrounding Adoptable storage is easy to clear up. There are a few things to keep in mind so you understand how it works and what it’s doing.

Your storage device really gets adopted

You can force any storage device connected via USB OTG to be adopted using one simple command:

adb shell sm set-force-adoptable true

But you probably shouldn’t.

Once a storage device is adopted, it becomes part of the system and is no longer removable. Sure you can physically remove it, but you’ll be prompted to put it back while apps and services crash on your phone or tablet. It’s adopted — taken in and loved by the system, and made part of the whole.

This means Adoptable storage is really only useful for two things:

  • An SD card placed in a phone or tablet and never to be removed
  • A USB storage device attached to your Android TV box, and never to be removed.

When you insert an SD card into the HTC One A9 or something like your G4 or V10 that has been updated to Marshmallow, you have the choice of using it as a Portable device or an Internal device if you go to reformat it. If you choose Portable, it acts like any other SD card and you can take it out and swap it between devices at your leisure.

If you choose Internal, things change. The device is formatted as a local, 128-bit AES encrypted EXT4 drive and mounted as part of the system. It’s then set as the preferred storage, and you’re prompted to move data over. Newly generated data is placed on the adopted storage by default.

If you try to remove it, things go haywire.

It might be a little slow

Your phone will “benchmark” storage when it’s adopted. When I tried it (both on the A9 and hacking a USB 3.0 thumb drive via USB OTG on the Nexus 6P) it told me that my storage was slower than recommended at the end of the process. I didn’t notice any significant slow-down, but I might not have been doing the right things to make it become slow.

When you get a phone with Marshmallow and an SD card slot, I recommend using the fastest SD card you can find that’s supported. Class 10 and UHS are words to look for.

In any case, it’s never going to be as fast as the internal flash storage built into your phone. This might make a difference to you, and you might not like what you see.

Do you really want to adopt your SD card as part of the system?

Chances are, you probably don’t.

Everyone thinks Google made this move because Android One devices all ship with limited internal storage, and users will need more space to install apps and their associated data. I agree, and this is a decent solution if you have a similar phone.

But for many of us reading this, we really only want more storage to store things like pictures, music and movies. We’re better off using an SD card as a portable storage device that we can remove and use wherever we want (like to transfer files back and forth between devices), and keep apps and data off of the card.

There’s also the bit about how SD cards have a limited number of times they can be read from and written to. Using an SD card the “normal” way means failures are uncommon. When you start caching data and reading and writing at a rate higher than a card was designed to handle, problems can arise. Android takes some precautions here with formatting and mounting options that reduce the indexing, but it can still happen. It’s interesting to watch and see how different cards handle this, now that Marshmallow and adoptable storage are common, we can see which cards are better than others in this regard.

Adoptable storage is a good idea. Formatting an SD card as an ext partition and mounting it at boot is something Android hackers have been doing for a while. It allowed my Nexus One to live a much longer life than it should have.

But it’s not magic, and the idea is simple once you stop and think about how it works. You’ll have to decide if it’s an idea you want to use or not.

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Verizon customers can now pre-order the HTC 10 with a delivery date of May 5th! Verizon is listing the retail price of the HTC 10 at $648 and on HTC’s website the phone is listed at $699. If you order … Read More

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With but a few minor software annoyances and a wealth of options, this is easily Huawei’s best mainstream phone yet.

The quick take

Huawei’s newest flagship phone — the P9 — isn’t the most inspired design you’ve ever seen. It’s sort of your basic smartphone. But this is the best iteration of its EMUI software yet, full of features you might want in a third-party launcher. Huawei’s Kirin 955 processor sings, and Huawei’s new dual-camera setup works very well.

The Good

  • Much-improved software
  • Excellent camera and fingerprint sensor
  • Slim, with a great display
  • Good battery life

The Bad

  • Pricey, starting at €599
  • Sheer amount of features is overwhelming
  • Annoying power management alerts
  • Occasional software lag

From China, with love

Huawei P9 Full review

Ask anyone of us who have used the Huawei P9 what we think, and we’ll quickly tell you that it’s the least broken of Huawei’s phones that we’ve used. And while that’s accurate — it’s not really fair. There’s a whole lot going on with this phone from a company that — let’s face face it — non-nerds in North America haven’t heard a whole lot about.

Huawei has made some really good (if not necessarily inspiring) hardware for some time now. The Nexus 6P. The Mate series. Its Honor sub-brand. It helped spread good fingerprint sensors to the whole of Android. It’s had above-average cameras for a while now. The anchor dragging it down has always been its EMUI software — its iOS-inspired user interface.

That had as much to to with how EMUI was implemented as it did the fact that it’s simply different than what most of us on Android are used to. No app drawer. A different sort of notification drawer and quick-settings scheme. And in the process of changing all that, things were broken — particularly when Huawei’s phones were sold outside China and Google’s services were added back in.

In fact, we need to change “least broken” to “really good.” Pretty much all of the showstopping bugs we’d experienced before have been fixed. Even the still-niche Android Auto works out of the box — something we can’t say for some of the major phones being sold in the U.S.

That’s not to say this is a perfect phone, or maybe even the best Huawei has done. But it’s probably the most complete thought from the Chinese manufacturer.

This, then, is our full Huawei P9 review.

Press play

Huawei P9 Video review

The little things

About this review

We’ve been using the Huawei P9 (EVA-L09) exclusively for more than two weeks. This is the lesser spec’d of the two P9 options, with 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM, as provided to us by Huawei. It’s running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, with EMUI 4.1.

Immediately before publishing this review we received the “B135″ update. The changelog doesn’t appear to address any issues we had during our review time, but we’ll update should we see something new.

We had the P9 connected to an LG Watch Urbane for the entirety of this review.

It’s a smartphone

Huawei P9 Hardware

You can say this about Huawei: It’s among the more consistent manufacturers when it comes to its industrial design. You can read that as “boring” if you want. But if you’re looking for a solid, basic sort of smartphone, Huawei does this very well. (And has for a while.)

A well-built, if not overly inspiring design.

There’s nothing particularly exciting about the design — it’s your standard smartphone slab, with nicely milled aluminum. It’s pretty light at 144 grams and comes in at just under 7 millimeters in thickness — surprisingly thin for something with as big a battery as the P9 has.

Metal and glass. Glass and metal. Fingerprint reader on the back, buttons where you’d expect to find them on the side. It’s all in a really good size with a 5.2-inch screen. No too big, not too small. That display is excellent outdoors and in my eyes is better than what you get on the LG G5 or HTC 10, by far, with none of the polarization issues when wearing sunglasses. The top and bottom bezels maybe feel al little big, but some of that is the contrast in color between the colored metal and black screen.

The headphone jack’s on the bottom, along with the single speaker. It’s surprisingly loud, but it’s still just a single smartphone speaker, so you’re not going to get much bass out of it. But it’s fine for casual music playback and calls.

The P9 also is using the new USB-C port. The SIM card tray doubles as the microSD card slot, which is useful for augmenting the 32 gigabytes of internal storage. It’s perfectly milled into the phone, too — something that too often isn’t 100% nailed on a lot of phones.

Where things get more interesting is on the back. Two cameras — one monochrome, the other full color — outputting 12-megapixel images. They work together as well — and you end up with some really good pictures because of it. Indoors, outdoors, low light — straight into the sun — you name it. This camera does most things really well.

Width Height Thickness
5.7 in
2.79 in
0.27 in
5.08 oz
144 grams
  • Display:

    • 5.2-inch IPS LCD
    • 2.5D glass
    • 1920×1080 resolution (423ppi)
  • Cameras:
    • Dual 12MP (color & monochrome), ƒ/2.2 lens, Leica certified
    • 8MP front camera
  • Battery:
    • 3000mAh capacity
    • Non-removable
  • Chips:
    • Huawei Kirin 955
    • Quad-core 2.5GHz
    • 3GB or 4GB RAM
    • 32 or 64GB internal storage
    • microSD slot

Storage, processor and battery

As you can see from the specs, there are a couple versions of the P9 floating around out there. We’ve got the one with 32 gigabytes of storage and 3GB of RAM. We’ve got about 25 gigabytes to use for apps and pics and stuff. (And after a couple weeks we’re down to 16GB of that still free.)

You can (and probably should), of course, slot in a microSD card. We’ve been using a 128GB card without issue. Like a number of other manufacturers, Huawei is not using Adoptable Storage, so you’ll be able to stick the card in a computer or another phone to move things around as you please.

Kirin 955 builds on the strengths of the 950, but 4GB of RAM should be standard.

The 3 gigabytes of RAM is really the only questionable hardware decision for us at this point. While Huawei’s software is extremely aggressive about memory management — and the Huawei Mate 8 with the Kirin 950 processor was pretty darn smooth — we’ve been running into a little bit of lag with the P9. Maybe not quite enough to sound the alarm at, but there have have been too many times where apps are a little slow to load (especially the camera), and we have to wonder if 3GB of RAM is enough for EMUI 4.1.

Otherwise, we’ve not got any real complaints about the newer Kirin 955 processor, which has been updated with a number of tweaks for the dual camera.

As far as battery life goes, it’s pretty much same as it ever was. A 3,000 mAh capacity is pretty standard at this point, and it’s good for pretty much a full day’s use. More time spent on LTE will chew away at that, of course. But if you’re on good Wi-Fi, you shouldn’t have a problem getting from sunup to sundown.

You will, however, miss out on quick charging. Huawei’s included charger (we got a European brick, so we’re talking theoretically here) does things at 5V at ~2A. Not exactly a trickle charge, but not the new (and disputed) hotness.

Best EMUI yet

Huawei P9 Software

It’s time to stop turning your nose up at Huawei’s EMUI software. There are a ton of features (some new, some still hanging around) in EMUI 4.1. The launcher (that is to say the user interface) is so full of options, in fact, that you could spend a couple of weeks with it — which we have — and still find something new, which we are.

The number of features here can be intimidating, but they’re also as powerful as any other launcher.

Loads of lock-screen options. Plenty of ways to arrange your home screens and place widgets. Multi-page folders. Even an entire section dedicated to apps you want to hide from the main view. And while it’s cool these days to complain about the lack of and app drawer, the simple fact is that this is the best version of EMUI we’ve used. If you can’t make it work for you, that’s not the phone’s fault. It DOES take a little extra work to move things around — and you absolutely should move things around. But I’ve forced myself to not run to my usual launcher, and EMUI is serving me just fine. But if you don’t like what Huawei’s doing here, you can switch to your favorite launcher just fine.

Notifications look different — and the icons are so small in the nav at the top of the screen they might as well not be there. But all in all this a very useable user interface. It just looks different than what you’re used to.

Huawei still has a “Phone Manager” app that gives easy access to, well, phone management options. There’s system optimization, which attempts to clean up memory and empty out other files you might not need anymore. We generally let Android just do all this on its own. But if it makes you feel better, you can use it. Huawei’s overly aggressive power consumption tool is here as well. And it’s as annoying as ever. And just do yourself a favor and don’t bother with the Swype-based keyboard.

There’s a traffic manager so you can see what apps are using data — and when they’re using data. There’s a “harassment filter” for blocking unwanted calls and messages. You’ve got quick access to the battery manager, and its three power management plans, and an option for lowering the screen resolution even further to 720p. And you can lock individual apps behind a password or your fingerprint — which is something we want to see on every phone at this point.

So, yeah. There’s a ton of stuff on the P9.

Two lenses, no waiting

Huawei P9 Cameras

There’s a ton of stuff going on with the cameras, too. Again, we’re talking about dual f/2.2 lenses on the back that feed into 12-megapixel sensors with 1.76-micron-equivalent pixels. (The real physical pixel size is 1.25 microns.) So not the widest aperture or the largest pixel size we’ve seen, but that’s pretty decent. The real power of this camera is in the processing, and in the camera app itself.

It’s all kinds of busy — pretty much any feature you could hope for is baked in here. A swipe left gets you to 14 modes, including HDR, beauty, panoramas, light painting, time lapse, slow motion, watermarks, document reading, audio notes, night shots, video, black-and-white — you get the idea. A swipe the other direction gets you to the world of settings, including a bunch of film modes. Pull up from the bottom and you’ll get full manual controls, including the option to shoot in RAW.

While the P9 is just fine in automatic mode — absolutely among the top cameras you can find in a smartphone — this is a pretty intimidating camera app. There is a LOT going on here.

Selfies look great, too, thanks to all that processing, and an 8-megapixel sensor. And they’ve still got that beauty mode the kids are into, if the real thing just doesn’t do it for you.

One word you might have noticed we’ve kept from saying so far is “Leica,” which has lent its name to the camera system in the P9. It’s really not any more than a branding thing, and that’s not uncommon for smartphone features. You see it all the time with audio in a phone — it’s just that with Leica you usually expect some sort of hardware tie-in. With the P9 it’s more of a “certification” thing.

The end result? Some pretty good pictures. I’m not really a fan of all the film modes Huawei included here. (Other manufacturers have been doing that as well.) And I’d prefer to switch the top-level macro button for HDR, as the aperture control is really aggressive and looks over-processed, like what we’d get from the single-lens cameras through software a few years ago. (As in the out-of-focus parts are really out of focus.)

At the end of the day this is still a smartphone camera. But it’s still a REALLY good one, with tons of options.

And same goes for video. The P9 tops out at 1080p and doesn’t shoot in 4K, but that’s probably just fine for 90% of the population. You still get manual controls, and top-level access to all those film filters. What you do really miss out on is optical image stabilization, and the microphone was pretty quickly overwhelmed by wind noise.

So you can shoot video, and it’s decent. But not fantastic.

The bottom line …

Should you buy it? Maybe

There’s a lot to like the Huawei P9. And it’s probably the company’s most finished phone, too. (That’s aside from the Nexus 6P — which while very much a Huawei product sort of doesn’t count in that context.)

This is the best mainstream phone Huawei has made.

The biggest problem for us at this point is availability, and price. You still can’t get phones running Huawei’s own Kirin processor in the United States. While the P9 is launching in a whole bunch of other countries, it’s not necessarily cheap there — the retail price starts at €599 Euros (about $680 U.S. dollars) for the 32-gigabyte storage option, and ramping up to €649 Euros ($737 U.S. dollars) for the 64-gigabyte option with 4 gigs of RAM. That’s a lot of money (though price does vary some depending on your country) and it puts the P9 in the same range as the Galaxy S7 or a top-spec’d iPhone — which is exactly the league Huawei wants to play in.

And you know what? The P9 holds its own. It’s different. It’s maybe a little overpowering, with all those options in the UI and in the camera app. But the end result is a very useable phone and an excellent camera setup.

And it’s an excellent effort from Huawei.

Where to buy the Huawei P9

If the Huawei P9 sounds like the phone for you, and you’d like to check out its pricing, hit up the retailers below.

See at CPW
See at Vmall
See at O2
See at Vodafone

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It was recently revealed that Google was testing a new app for travelers, and now we have a better idea of what it might do. The new app called Trips, is currently in beta testing, and apparently tracks your upcoming and past trips, making recommendations about places to visit, stay, and eat. The app pulls information by scanning messages in Gmail, looking for hotel confirmations, flights, and more.

From TechCrunch:

However, in the case of the Google Trips app, it seems the focus is less on mimicking the somewhat utilitarian nature of most travel planners and companion apps, and more on the fun that comes with exploring a new destination.

As an app built using Google Maps data, Trips lets you find things to do – both inside and outdoors – around your location. It also helps you manage reservations, find nearby food and drink, access a list of saved places, and plan how you’ll get from one place to the next.

Screenshots of the app have also been posted by Androidworld:

The app is being beta tested by members of Google’s Local Guides program, and no launch plans seem to have been determined.

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Samsung has launched the Gear 360 in South Korea for 399,300 Korean Won, or the equivalent of $350. The 360-degree camera is now available for purchase online in the country, and will be heading to over 450 stores starting from May. At launch, the Gear 360 is compatible with the Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 edge, and Galaxy S6.

The Galaxy J5 2016 and the J7 2016 have also made their debut in the country, and will be available for 290,000 Korean Won ($253) and 363,000 Korean Won ($318) respectively. The Galaxy J5 features a 5.2-inch 720p display, quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 410 SoC, 16GB storage, microSD slot, 2GB of RAM, 13MP camera, 5MP front camera, LTE, and a 3100mAh battery.

The Galaxy J7 shares the same specs, with the main differences being a 5.5-inch 720p display, higher-clocked 1.6GHz CPU, and 3300mAh battery.

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