Samsung is finally offering a SIM-unlocked Galaxy S7 (and GS7 edge) in the United States. That means a few things.

The unlocked Galaxy S7 and S7 edge are able to work on pretty much any operator here in the U.S. While most folks out there don’t hop from one to the next too often, it’s still a very nice ability to have. These versions also aren’t bloated up by carrier software. And as we noted when the GS7 was released, the operators can make a pretty big mess of things. These should also theoretically get software updates faster. (We’ll just have to see on that one.)

But the big question: Where will you be able to buy an unlocked Galaxy S7? Turns out there a number of choices. Samsung has committed to having the phones available from several different retailers, but not all have put them on sale right at the same time. Here’s the current list, and we’ll be updating it as more join in.

U.S. unlocked Galaxy S7

See at BestBuy
See at B&H Photo

U.S. unlocked Galaxy S7 edge

See at B&H Photo
See at Samsung

These direct links will take you to the proper pages for the U.S. unlocked phones … make sure when searching elsewhere for the phones that you aren’t confused by other “unlocked” models — those could possibly not have the correct network bands for the U.S.

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It ain’t exactly Nexus-quality stuff, but Amazon selling phones for cheap while adding a little bit of its own DNA isn’t a return to the phone of which we shall not speak.

The jokes were inevitable, of course. With the news that Amazon was sticking its mitts into the smartphone world once again — selling the new Moto G4 and BLU R1 HD for cheap in exchange for lock screen ads — it had to happen.

Return of the Fire Phone.

I own a Fire Phone. It’s buried deep in box somewhere, probably next to my HTC First Facebook Phone. Or maybe I shipped it up to West Virginia. Same difference, really. But the point is we paid good money to have one around, just in case the damned thing took off and we needed to write more about it.


And that’s not to say that I don’t have questions about these two sponsored phones. The BLU R1 HD (I still can’t decide if license plate names are better than froo-froo names for phones) is just $49 for Amazon Prime members. The Moto G4 will run you $149. In exchange, you’ll have to put up with lockscreen ads, and some preinstalled Amazon apps. The latter doesn’t bother me as much as the former. You find Amazon apps bundled with carrier-branded phones all the time. That doesn’t mean I like it — it just means I’m used to it.

Lock screens are a little more sacred. They’re generally the first thing you see when you wake a phone. And since the Moto G4 doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner (that luxury is reserved for the higher-spec’d Moto G4 Plus) you’re going to be seeing the lock screen a lot, just like the bad old days.

So that’s question No. 1. Will you be able to install a replacement lock screen app? I’ve never used any, but there are plenty of folks who have — and we’ve got a good list of ‘em right here. Question No. 2 has to do with the software as a whole. The first three generations of the Moto G had unlockable bootloaders. I could see where this Amazon version — that’s what it is at this point — wouldn’t want that to be available, as you could buy a $149 phone and essentially get the same software as one that wasn’t on sale. And at that price point it’s a real consideration. On the other hand, it could be wide open.

But neither of those things would turn either the Moto G4 or BLU’s new phone into the dumpster fire that was the Fire Phone.

For one, both of these phones still have access to Google’s apps and services. While Amazon has done a great job of building out its own app ecosystem, it’s just not the same. Then there’s the matter of the software itself. Even lock screen ads and a few pieces of bloatware are better than the weird 3D thing Amazon was pushing on the Fire Phone. It’s not that it was horribly executed — it was just unnecessary and distracting.

So, no. Just because Amazon’s doing its thing to a couple of phones doesn’t mean the Fire Phone is returning from the puddle of slag it quickly became. Far from it.

On the other hand, maybe a little more Fire in our lives wouldn’t be so bad. ‘Cause we could always use a little more of this guy.

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Android N is Nougat!!!

30 June 2016

After what has seemed like the longest wait since the last time we had to wait for an Android nickname, we now know what Android N will be called.


Google announced the latest nickname — its 12th — live from its campus in Mountain View, Calif., sharing the tasty treat on Snapchat, but not before a lengthy tease. Through the Android statue garden, into some “top-secret Android N labs.” And finally, we got it.

The Android Nougat statue. Image credit: Google

Introducing #AndroidNougat. Thank you, world, for all your sweet name ideas! #AndroidNReveal

— Android (@Android) June 30, 2016

Nougat, for those unfamiliar, is a confectionary treat loaded with sugar or honey. It usually includes some sort of roasted nuts, and occasionally fruit. Whipped egg whites may be involved as well.

The next trick is going to get people to actually pronounce “nougat” correctly.

Here’s the rundown of every Android nickname we’ve had:

  • Cupcake: Android 1.5
  • Donut: Android 1.6
  • Eclair: Android 2.0-2.1
  • Froyo: Android 2.2
  • Gingerbread: Android 2.3.3 to 2.3.7
  • Ice Cream Sandwich: Android 4.0.3 to 4.0.4
  • Jelly Bean: Android 4.1 to 4.3
  • KitKat: Android 4.4r
  • Lollipop: Android 5.0 to 5.1
  • Marshmallow: Android 6.0
  • Nougat: Android ??? (Probably 7.x)

Android Nougat

Android N (currently in Developer Preview status) is now Android Nougat! It’s the 12th nicknamed version of Android and will be released to the public in the fall of 2016. Here’s everything you need to know so far!

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LG announced the X cam earlier this year, and the phone is now available on South Korea’s SK Telecom and LG U+ for ?495,000 ($430). The highlight of the X cam is the dual rear cameras, with the phone getting a secondary camera with a 120-degree wide angle lens, much like the LG G5.

The two cameras at the back allow you to take Animated Photos, which creates a picture-in-a-frame effect by combining a video and still photos. Panorama View automatically scrolls wide images, and the Signature feature lets you add overlays and text to your photos. You can even add filters to your images and videos with Film effects, with the feature allowing a quick preview of how the desired filter will look like.

As for the specs on offer, the X cam comes with a 5.2-inch Full HD display, 1.14GHz octa-core processor, 13MP camera with a 5MP wide-angle lens, 8MP shooter up front, 2GB of RAM, 16GB storage, microSD slot that can take SD cards up to 2TB in size, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, microUSB 2.0, LTE, and a 2520mAh battery. On the software front, you get Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

The phone is sold in titanium and white color variants.

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Deadmau5 has teamed up with Absolut to launch a VR game that lets you step into the shoes of the Canadian music producer. The game is designed for Google Cardboard, with Absolut launching a limited edition Cardboard viewer stylised to look like deadmau5′s mouse head helmet.

The title includes a mix of live-action and CGI elements that allow you to guide deadmau5 from his studio to a nightclub, ending in a concert performance of his new track, Saved:

The Absolut deadmau5 experience begins in the artist’s garage with a guest appearance from his Instagram-famous cat, Meowingtons. Here, users help deadmau5 select one of his iconic cars, complete with a driver, and set out on a journey toward a nighttime gig. For the next scenes, users maneuver live-action obstacles to get deadmau5 to his concert destination on time.

The culmination of the experience is a concert in which the artist performs his new track, “Saved” in front of a live audience shot in the artist’s hometown of Toronto.

The free Absolut deadmau5 app will be launching on July 27, and if you already have a Cardboard, you can install the app on Android and get started. Absolut’s limited edition Cardboard viewers are available for pre-order for $17.95 from the link below.

See at Absolut

Interested in how the game came together? Here’s a look at the behind-the-scenes footage:

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The PlayStation Vue app is now officially available for Android phones and tablets. Sony recently announced that it would be releasing the app and held to its word. Vue is a streaming service that lets you watch movies, TV, sports and more without a cable subscription.

From the app’s description:

PlayStation™Vue is a new TV service with live TV, movies and sports, without a cable or satellite subscription. Now available on Android Mobile. Download the app and sign-in with your Sony Entertainment Network account to get started. Available nationwide.

If interested in trying out the service, you can start a free trial now to check it out. After the trial there are a few different subscription plans, ranging from $40 to $55 per month. You can get started with the PlayStation Vue app on your compatible Android device now. Are you excited to see this, or are you content with your current streaming setup?

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When searching for the best case for your Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, you should look at the official options first.

The official S-View Flip Cover is a popular choice for the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. It protects your screen when you’re not using it and gives you access to some of your phone’s features through a window interface. The S-View window is not a gimmick. We’ll show the features in our review.

The Samsung S-View Flip Cover comes in three colors for the Galaxy S7 edge: Black, Silver, and Gold. We have the silver one to match our phone. We’re not very happy with the materials used on the case because it doesn’t feel premium. We prefer the leather-like material Samsung used on the LED View Cover. This one feels a little like paper to touch, but on the other hand, the cover is sturdy, and the window itself feels like glass.

Installing the case is very easy. Simply line up the top of your phone with the top clips of the case and then push down on all four corners.

On the front cover, there’s a 3-inch square window that lets you take advantage of some features while not having to open the phone. You can see the time, notifications, and you can also swipe down for the quick settings. You can also swipe on the phone or camera shortcuts to dial contacts from your favorite contacts list, or use the phone’s camera without opening the cover. Just keep in mind that the photos you take with the window will have a square aspect ratio. You also won’t be able to use the front-facing camera when the cover is closed.

Notifications act the same through the S-View, except you now have a smaller display. When you tap on a notification, it’ll tell you to open the cover to view more details. Music playback control also works through the S-View. For example, the Spotify app lets you pause or skip a song without opening the cover.

When you receive a phone call, you can swipe right to accept or swipe left to reject the call. You can also swipe up to reject a call with a message.

You can change the wallpaper that shows up in the S-View by going to Settings > Accessories > S View windows wallpaper. It doesn’t affect the wallpaper option on your normal lock screen.

Above the 3-inch window, there’s a cutout for the earpiece, so you’ll still be able to hear your callers. The case doesn’t cover the sim slot on top or the audio jack, micro-USB port, microphone, and speakers at the bottom. The power button on the right side is accessible through a spacious cutout, but the front cover can sometimes get in the way. Moving your thumb toward the back helps.

There are no holes on the left side for the volume buttons, but there are labels to show you where to press.

The back has the cutout for the camera and the flash, and we don’t see anything here that gets in the way of taking photos or videos. You can even still use the camera when the front cover is fully flipped over, but we don’t recommend it especially when using flash.

Another smart feature is that the phone automatically sleeps or wakes when the cover is opened or closed. This can save battery life and reduce the need to reach for the power button.

And if you were wondering about wireless charging, the S-View Flip Cover is compatible. There were no issues when placing our Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge with the case on the Fast Charge Wireless Charging Stand.

Overall, this is a nice case if you want to protect both the front and back of your Galaxy S7 edge. We like that the S-View window is actually functional, and not just a gimmick. We just wish there was an option for leather with this case.

The S-view Flip Cover is originally $49.99, but you can find it on Amazon for about $30 to $40. Are you getting it? Let us know in the comments!

See at Amazon

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Following the devastating terror attacks at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon have announced that their customers can call and text friends and family in Turkey for free.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere condemned the attack, saying that the carrier will offer free calls and texts to Turkey through July 5:

The attack in Istanbul is horrifying & senseless. We’re making it free to call/text from the US to Turkey thru Tues.

— John Legere (@JohnLegere) June 29, 2016

Sprint CEO mentioned that all calls and texts to Turkey from Sprint, Virgin Mobile USA, and Boost Mobile customers will be waived off until July 5:

.@Sprint, @virginmobileusa & @boostmobile will waive fees for customer call/texts to & from #Turkey thru July 5

— MarceloClaure (@marceloclaure) June 29, 2016

From AT&T:

AT&T will waive or credit charges incurred for consumer or business calls placed by AT&T’s customers from the United States to Turkey between June 28, 2016 to June 30, 2016, in the local time zone. This includes landline, texting, and mobility (Postpaid and GoPhone) calls.

Verizon is offering free calls and texts to Turkey until June 29:

More than 170,000 Verizon employees worldwide extend condolences to all our friends and family in Turkey. In this time of uncertainty, we want to support our customers affected by the attack at Ataturk airport in Istanbul, Turkey, so Verizon is offering free wireless and wireline calling from the U.S. to Turkey to connect with family and friends.

Wireless users will incur no charges for texts or international long distance calls originating from the U.S. to Turkey on June 28 and 29, 2016 (applicable taxes and surcharges will apply).

Home wireline telephone customers can make free calls to Turkey on June 28 and 29, 2016 (applicable taxes and surcharges will apply).

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With the PHAB 2 Pro, Lenovo announced the first consumer-ready phone with support for Google’s augmented reality Tango platform. The PHAB 2 Pro is powered by the Snapdragon 652 SoC, which features software-level optimizations to be fully compatible with Tango. Qualcomm has announced at MWC Shanghai that it is expanding Tango support to its flagship Snapdragon 820 SoC, as well as future SoCs in the Snapdragon 800 and 600 tiers.

From Qualcomm:

As we’ve noted, the Snapdragon 652 offers many advantages for Tango, including high accuracy, uniform time stamping of multiple sensor data streams, efficient processing without the need for external co-processors, and leading camera and sensor processing technology. Now, Snapdragon 820 offers the same advantages, as well as the added benefits of our premium Snapdragon 800 tier processors, including higher performance and even lower power consumption.

The fact is, all Snapdragon 600 and 800 series processors share the same architectural advantages needed to deliver Tango experiences in highly mobile form factors. Tightly integrated into a single chip, the components of Snapdragon processors are uniquely equipped to simultaneously process data from all five Tango-related sensors (gyroscope, accelerometer, and three camera sensors, including two new Tango-specific camera sensors: a fisheye motion tracking camera and a depth sensor camera).

Snapdragon 600 and 800 series processors also include an integrated global high-frequency clock, which performs highly accurate, uniform time stamping of all that sensor data, which is critical for enabling smooth augmented reality experiences, where 3D graphic overlays track virtually seamlessly with physical surroundings.

Tango does not require a specialized co-processor, and as such an OEM can build an AR-ready phone by adding a depth sensor and motion tracking camera. Qualcomm is hoping that the technology becomes a standard feature, and support for the high-end Snapdragon 820 opens up the potential for a lot of interesting AR hardware.

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When the software experience is nearly identical from one smartwatch to the next — such is the case with Android Wear — we turn to more subjective features in deciding which stands out above the rest. And has been the case for some time, you really can’t go wrong with any of the Android Wear offerings from any of the manufacturers. They all basically do the same thing, and they all basically do those things equally well.

But all things must be ranked. They must be weighed, measured and presented for your approval.

And here, now, are our picks for the best Android Wear smartwatches.

Update June 2016: It’s been a couple months since we last updated this post — and not much has changed since then. A major update to the Android Wear platform is coming later this year, (we’ve already taken a look at it), and things are kind of in a standstill until then.

The best: Huawei Watch

Huawei’s first try at Android Wear did a lot of things right. First, off, it’s round, which at this point is a near necessity for a watch to land at the top of our list. And the Huawei Watch (as the company is quick to remind you) is all-the-way-round, with no “flat tire” to break the perfect circle. The bezel is nicely sculpted, make it look a little thinner than it actually is. And while the lugs are still a little on the large side and the body perhaps just a tad thicker than we’d like in a traditional watch, it remains nicely designed. The 2-o’clock crown position is a nice touch as well.

And don’t look past Huawei’s leather. We’ve used many Android Wear watches with any number of types of leather bands, and Huawei’s is the first that hasn’t disappointed us. It looks as good as it feels, with proper stitching down both sides. And if you don’t like the leather, Huawei has a number of first-party bracelet options as well. And both the watch and body are available in a number of colors, styles — and price points, ranging from $349 to $799 for gold on gold.

Add all that up, and the Huawei Watch is an easy choice as our top pick. If we had to single out one gripe, it would be that you have to be careful when placing this thing on the charger. It doesn’t always sit properly, and you may come back to a dead watch in the morning.

More: Read our Huawei Watch review

Google   Huawei   Best Buy   Amazon

Moto 360 second-gen

The original Moto 360 was one of the first two Android Wear watches announced in 2014. The Moto 360 2015 was a welcome sight, trading a tired processor for the same Snapdragon as most of the other watches — and thus gaining improved performance.

And while much of the 360 received a redesign — watch bands now fit into traditional lugs instead of in the body itself, allowing for more options — the “flat tire” black bar at the bottom of the face remains. That leaves room for the ambient light sensor, and it’s a must-have feature for many. But for others, it’s a deal-breaker.

Motorola also is offering up three sizes of this year’s 360 — 42mm and 46mm for men, and a 42mm women’s version. Motorola also has more color and band options this year as well. Pricing starts at $299.

There’s also the Moto 360 Sport version, but it brings quite a set of compromises with its rugged design and few fitness-focused features.

More: Read our Moto 360 review

Amazon   Motorola   Best Buy   Verizon   Motorola UK

Fossil Q Founder

The first entry from Fossil — an actual watchmaker! — is the Q Founder, available either in leather or with an excellent steel bracelet for $20 more. It’s a round watch (obviously), though one with the “flat tire” design that makes way for an ambient light sensor in the lower section. And it’s not a bad watch at all, with more attention to detail than the similar LG Watch Urbane. It’s also one of the first to use an Intel Atom processor, though there’s little visible user benefit from that.

The thorn in the Q Founder’s side is its huge charging pillow, which means you’re going to have to think twice (or rig up some other Qi charging option) if you’re going to be traveling with the Q Founder.

Read: Our complete Q Founder review

Google Store   Amazon (steel)   Fossil (leather)   Fossil (steel)

LG Watch Urbane

The LG Watch Urbane spent a good little while atop this list. It still has a stylish design, with a decent leather band. And it really was the first Android Wear smartwatch we’ve worn that was able to nearly pass as a traditional mechanical watch.

But like we said in our review, it’s almost as if someone said “Make this watch nice, but not too nice.” And so it was pretty easily overshadowed by the Huawei Watch and Moto 360, among others.

But the Watch Urbane remains a pretty solid buy considering that it retails for $349 but can be found for about $200. (Start with anywhere other than the Google Store, really.)

Read our LG Watch Urbane review

Best Buy   Amazon   Google Store

ASUS ZenWatch 2

The ZenWatch 2 is our top budget pick for Android Wear. It’s not the best watch, though it does have a fun rounded-square design and excellent build quality. But the lower resolution of the display means you’ll be seeing individual pixels quite a bit — and the square face and large bezels do nothing to impress us.

But there’s the price. At $149 the ZenWatch 2 is the least expensive of the current generation of Android Wear smartwatches.

It’s gained a crown this time around but lost the pulse monitor in the process — a fair trade for most of us here. There are two sizes available as well.

More: Read our ZenWatch 2 review

Best Buy   Google   Amazon

Casio WSD-F10

Casio’s first entry into Android Wear is the rugged (and awkwardly named) WSD-F10. It’s meant for the type of watch-wearer who’s going to be spending a lot of time outdoors, hiking or rafting or whatnot. That’s not necessarily the best time to be wearing a smartwatch, perhaps, but this one is definitely built for it. It’s got a MIL-STD-810G rating. It’s big. It’s rated up to 50 meters of water. It’s also expensive, retailing for $500.

We’ve yet to review this watch but will update if and when we do.

See at Amazon

Luxury: TAG Heuer Connected

Few would argue that a watch from TAG Heuer shouldn’t be on a list of best watches. But let’s face facts: If you’re in the market for an Android Wear smartwatch, you’re probably not in the market for a $1,500 Android Wear smartwatch. That’s not really a “high-end” price — but it’s absolutely on the high end for Android Wear.

The good news is that this watch is an investment. If and when the Connected hits end-of-life, you can pony up another $1,500 upgrade to a mechanical Carrera. That’s an intriguing proposition — and one that certainly moves the Connected into a different class than the other Android Wear watches.

Read our hands-on with the TAG Heuer Connected

TAG Heuer

Legacy watches

There are two watches that basically have been dropped — they may not even be sold sold directly anymore, and in any case we’d be hard-pressed to actually recommend them at this point. If you’re dying to try out Android Wear and can get one for less than $100, then maybe it’s worth it. But the experience isn’t going to be great.

The legacy Android Wear watches are:

  • Sony Smartwatch 3: An older, and therefore more affordable, “sport” watch option.
  • LG G Watch R: Still not a bad watch at all. Just getting up there in age and was replaced by the Urbane.
  • LG G Watch: On of the original square models. Don’t pay more than $50 for it at this point.
  • Moto 360 1st gen: Always a fan favorite, but so slow nowadays it’s tough to use.
  • ASUS ZenWatch: Not bad, but no reason to buy with the cheap sequel available.
  • Samsung Gear Live: You can forget about this one. Samsung did.

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