A mid-cycle color refresh for the phone taking over the Note 7′s sales.

If you lusted after the bright blue-and-pink “blue coral” Note 7 back when it was on sale, you’re in luck: the color is being reintroduced on the Galaxy S7 edge in the U.S. later this year. Blue coral was originally a Note 7-exclusive color, but will now sit alongside black, gold and silver as color options for the GS7 edge a “major wireless providers” in the States.

For those who wanted to stand out a bit the blue coral Note 7 was certainly enticing, with its amazingly flashy blue body being accented by a light pink metal trim that looked like no other phone on the market. The Galaxy S7 edge stands to be just as stunning in the color, even set next to the gold and silver options.

Though people with a Galaxy S7 edge aren’t going to be swapping out their current phone for the new color, at the very least the blue color option will help it stand out a bit on store shelves for holiday phone buyers. Together with pricing incentives in the final quarter of the year, Samsung is hoping that the Galaxy S7 edge (in all colors) will pick up some of the sales slack created by the Note 7′s recall.

The new color will go on sale starting November 1, with specific availability by region announced when it becomes available in each area.

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Write this down: Here’s the news for Monday, October 31.

Do you write anymore? I mean physically, on paper. It recently occurred to me that I often go weeks without writing more than a signature on a contract or an incoming delivery (or a check, another anachronism).

In our Note 7 recall survey, the number one answer people gave to “What feature will you miss most on the Note 7?” was the S Pen. And I miss it, too: I always prefer to take written notes in meetings instead of typing on a screen, especially if it’s a one-on-one interview or a small group. Pen-and-paper just feels more personal, and closer to the subject matter. As someone who spends his whole day writing, I often miss that connection. And yet even at my most studious, back in college, I probably couldn’t have written by hand all the essays and papers I was expected to turn in. If I had, they would have been shorter and, conversely, more succinct. The keyboard (and to a lesser extent the typewriter) gave us the opportunity to be more verbose, and considerably more long-winded.

I think that’s been both a blessing and a curse.

ARM’s new Mali combo promises better graphics and video streaming in cheaper phones

After debuting its high-end Mali-G71 GPU back in May, UK-based ARM, which just got bought by Japan’s Softbank for a cool $31 billion, is back with another big announcement.

The company unveiled the mid-range Mali-G51 GPU alongside its V61 video processing unit. The former is based on the same Bifrost architecture as its more expensive counterpart, but will be aimed at cheaper phones that still want to meet those 60fps goals on 1080p displays. The V61 on the other hand promises less bandwidth-intensive 4K streaming video through more efficient codecs. Both promise power savings over their predecessors, and will be available in phones next year.

Twitter tries some Nougat, likes it

Over the weekend (remember those, workaholics?) Twitter added a bunch of Android Nougat-based features to its alpha client. Specifically, support for multi window (Android 7.0+) and app shortcuts (Android 7.1+). Oh, and there’s also a rounded icon for those running 7.1, too. Want in? Sign up for the Twitter Alpha.

Android Pay now supported by more banks

The list of banks supporting Android Pay has grown again. Android Police notes that the official list of banks has been updated once again and now First Flight FCU, Bristol County Savings Bank, Capitol One and others have been added. Earlier this year Capitol One showed up on the list but it was then removed, so hopefully it is here to stay this time.

Google handing out $50 Play Store credits for late Pixel deliveries

Google is reportedly sending emails to Pixel owners, particularly those who wanted the larger Pixel XL, whose delivery dates were pushed back due to manufacturing delays.

According to several threads on Reddit (via Techcrunch), Google has generously offered $50 in Play Store credit to anyone affected by Pixel delivery issues. Good going, Goog.

BlackBerry inks deal with Ford to improve connected cars

“We have the best embedded software and security engineers in the world, and Canada is pretty great!” That’s how Marty Beard, BlackBerry’s Chief Operating Officer, closed his blog post last week after debunking rumors that Apple was raiding QNX’s staff to work on its car platform.

Today, BlackBerry made a significant announcement to reinforce that claim, inking a deal with Ford to continue powering the technology behind its SYNC dashboard. Specifically, BlackBerry will dedicate a portion of its QNX team to work only on Ford products going forward. No terms were disclosed for the deal, but it’s certainly going to help BlackBerry reach its revenue targets for FY17.

Sony’s newest flagship is now $50 less ridiculously overpriced

I kid, I kid. Sony’s Xperia XZ flagship, which arrived in September, now sells for $649 USD on Amazon, a nice $50 reduction. We liked the device when it debuted, but have trouble recommending it over the similarly-priced Pixel. See at Amazon

Samsung is going to sell its weirdest mobile accessories in the U.S.

A wireless, water bottle-shaped speaker? Sure, why not? Samsung has announced that it will bring a number of its formerly Korean-only accessories, such as the aforementioned Wireless Speaker Bottle, a dual Wireless Charger Tray, and a USB-based LED light, to the U.S. They’re all coming to Samsung’s online store, and will be available in brick-and-mortar equivalents in early November.

Motorola cuts $150 from its Moto Z line, for now

If you were waiting to buy a Moto Z, Z Force or Z Play from Motorola, you can now save up to $150 on the whole kit — until November 18th. Pretty good deal for a fantastic set of phones.

Help us out, take a survey!

Feel like sharing a bit about how you use your phone, and on what carrier? Take our State of the Mobile Nations Phones Survey for a chance to win $600 towards a new phone! Thanks!

Happy Halloween, everyone! Be safe out there. Oh, and if you haven’t played today’s Google Doodle game, do so immediately. It’s amazing.

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We don’t need a third mobile platform. We need better mobile strategies.

Yesterday, Jerry wrote a fantastic piece about how the world needs a third player in the mobile space, a competitor to Google’s and Apple’s duopoly that has taken hold since Microsoft all but abandoned the mobile hardware space in 2015. I agree with a lot of his points, especially around how these two huge technology companies need to be held in check or risk becoming complacent.

But given Google’s recent foray into hardware and integrating its core web services so tightly with it, I don’t think we’re at risk of these companies becoming lazy and not innovating; what’s more likely is that they get too big and take on too much at once. We can see some of this happening on both sides, with Google’s very public discontinuation of Project Ara and scaling back of Google Fiber, and with Apple’s reported move away from building its own car, opting instead to focus on software.

Microsoft’s new Paint 3D app for Windows 10 (Windows Central)

At the same time, Microsoft was rightfully praised this past week for delivering a truly innovative product, in the Surface Studio desktop, and a cohesive vision of the future that collects all of its disparate businesses — mobile software and apps, Bing, VR, HoloLens, machine learning, Azure, cloud storage — into a neat narrative about empowering creative people to get work done. I bought it, and I’m sure a lot of you did, too: it’s the perfect cap to a comeback story that began with Satya Nadella’s poised and thoughtful position as the company’s leader. And Paint 3D looks pretty damn powerful.

But if you take what Jerry referred to as a “third mobile platform” and position Microsoft as that potential savior, you’re going to be thoroughly disappointed. Microsoft has ceded mobile — as a full-stack builder of hardware and software — in favor of a much more nuanced, and potentially more powerful, position: a horizontal strategy that sees its best features available on Windows 10, yes, but also iOS, Android — hell, even Oculus and SteamVR.

Unlike Apple, and much like Google, Microsoft will likely never make a considerable profit from its hardware, since it is in the business of tunnelling into your connected lives from places you wouldn’t expect: powering Siri’s and Alexa’s web search; taking business away from Amazon’s AWS dominance; beating Google at AI; and, yes, making great hardware that forces Apple loyalists to wake up and say, “There is an alternative.”

We don’t need a third mobile platform — we already have a third, and a fourth, and a fifth. Instead, we need better experiences for consumers through more astute partnerships.

You also can’t forget Amazon and Facebook. They may not make phones (anymore), but their ubiquity on your phones, and in your homes, could be construed as another mobile platform. Facebook alone owns three of my most-used apps, and Alexa has slowly been eating into the time I would spend streaming music to Apple TV or asking Google Now for the day’s top stories.

And then there’s the Android manufacturers like Samsung, Asus, Xiaomi, LeEco and myriad others that build platforms on top of Android already. Some, like Xiaomi and LeEco, have amassed huge followings less for their hardware than their ability to use that hardware as loss leadership for their subscription-based software and services.

So while I think that Jerry makes some great points, he is wrong about one thing: we don’t need a third mobile platform. We already have a third, and a fourth, and a fifth. Instead, we need better experiences for consumers through more astute partnerships. Samsung has already figured this out to some extent, partnering with Microsoft, Facebook and a number of other players to counter Google’s dominance even as it builds on top of Android. It doesn’t mean changing the default search to Bing, or replicating even more Google services on top of Android, but finding ways to add value to people’s lives without tacking on gratuitous features — as is often the case today.

The answer to mobile innovation isn’t obvious to me — some think it’s AR/VR, others AI/bots, others still solving the app monetization problem — but that there is tremendous innovation happening at all levels, be it hardware, software, or in the cloud, is obvious. And I hope that doesn’t change.

A few other things:

  • It’s pretty clear that the Pixel and Pixel XL are winners. One person could be an aberration; two, a coincidence. But now that nearly everyone on the AC staff has one in hand and shares the same sentiment, I think it’s fair to crown the Pixel as the best Android phone currently available.
  • But that statement sure has been controversial.
  • The LG V20 is likely one of the last major carrier releases of the year, and if you’re not enthused by the Pixel it’s a pretty good alternative. It also takes the complete opposite strategy, despite being built on what amounts to the same software. But whereas the Pixel is all about understated (dare I say, underdeveloped) design, the LG V20 constitutes excess in almost every way. Excess is not inherently bad, and LG has reined in its software a little, but if you read my above thoughts and then think about the Pixel at one side of the spectrum and the V20 at the other, things start to make a bit more sense.
  • It’s also sad to see how completely LG caved to the carriers with the V20 release. Not only does the AT&T model have 20 pre-installed apps, but Verizon straight-up breaks several features because they came close to duplicating many of the services Big Red bundles with its phones. .
  • We discuss this in great detail in our latest podcast.
  • It’s a shame about Vine. It’s an even bigger shame about Twitter.
  • I’m incredibly excited about Google Home given the early potential of Assistant. The first units should start shipping this week.
  • I’m even more excited about Google Wifi, since my home is basically a Wi-Fi nightmare zone that requires mesh.
  • I love that we’re doing more on Chrome recently. If you want to see Google’s tablet strategy for 2017, look at what’s happening on Chromebooks right now.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday and have a very happy, safe and spooky Halloween!


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The Galaxy S6 is still a great phone, but you might find its battery life to be lacking.

Still loving your Samsung Galaxy S6? That’s fantastic. But what might not be so fantastic is your phone’s battery life. Its 2,550mAh battery was never a strength so you might be struggling to make it through your day without relying on your charger. That’s really inconvenient, as you can’t utilize a regular charger just anywhere. That’s where having a battery pack for your Galaxy S6 comes in handy.

We’ve selected our top four favorite battery packs for the Galaxy S6 that range from 3,000 mAh all the way up to 25,600 mAh. That means you’ll have enough battery life to get you through the most demanding of days, no matter which option you go with.

TYLT Energi (3,000 mAh)

Not every portable battery has to be huge and unwieldy, but you still want it to charge up your phone quickly and efficiently. The TYLT Energi 3K battery walks the line nicely with a compact case that’s made of durable hard plastic and contains 3,000 mAh of capacity. A built-in MicroUSB cable means you don’t have to bring one of your own to charge up your phone, and an additional standard USB port means you can charge two devices at once if you need to in a pinch.

The capacity is just right for giving your Galaxy S6 a full charge, and when you get back home it won’t take long at all to get the Energi 3K itself juiced back up and ready for your next outing. What’s more, the price is just right at the moment at under $20.

See at Amazon

Aukey Quick Charge Battery (10,000 mAh)

We might sound like a broken record suggesting this portable battery, but when it comes to quickly charging the Galaxy S6 you want a battery that can stand up to the challenge.

After our initial hands on review of the Aukey 10,000mAh Quick Charge Battery, we determined that its sleek design, Quick Charge 2.0 capability and 10k battery capacity was simply a must-have for anyone in the fast charging club. We’ve seen it in action with the Galaxy S6, too — and it works great.

This Quick Charge battery comes with a white micro-USB cable, and is available for under $30 on Amazon.

See at Amazon

KMASHI Quick Charge Portable Charger (20,000 mAh)

KMASHI’s external battery bank has a capacity of 20,000mAh and can charge two devices simultaneously. It’s got one regular USB charging port, and another Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 port which is compatible with your Galaxy S6.

This battery pack comes with a built-in LED flashlight for emergency situations and offers a sleek, somewhat rugged design, which means you can take it with you anywhere. Coming it at around 6 inches by 4 inches, it’s about average size for a portable battery pack of this capacity. Given its size you’ll be be able to fully charge your Galaxy S6 multiple times with this battery pack. You can get yours for under $50 on Amazon.

See at Amazon

Anker E7 Battery (25,000 mAh)

Saving the beast for last, Anker’s Astro E7 has an impressive 25,600mAh battery inside and offers an incredible charging speed of 3A per USB port or 4A using all 3 ports.

Packed with Anker’s PowerIQ technology, it will automatically detect the fastest possible charging speed when plugged into the Galaxy S6 — that goes for any device, too. It even comes with an LED flashlight built-in which could prove useful for camping trips among many other low light situations.

If you’re after a battery pack for your Galaxy S6 that’ll outlast the rest, this is a keeper. It comes with a micro-USB cable, travel pouch, and is available in black or white right now for $79.99.

See at Amazon

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Polarr Photo Editor is the best way to edit pictures on your Chromebook.

One of the most often asked questions about Chromebooks we get is how to edit photos. You see the same questions in the comments of Chromebook posts and in forums and everywhere else. It’s a valid question.

One of the biggest holes in the Chromebook toolbox has always been content creation apps and utilities. If you need to edit video or audio or do more than some quick touch up work on photos, you likely looked towards a Windows or Mac laptop instead of a Chromebook because the tools were few and far between and many of the available ones were little more than a link to an online utility.

That’s starting to change. The old adage of “if you build it they will come” rings a little true. Chromebooks are selling well even with a down market for traditional computers, and more and more schools are giving students a Chromebook to help them with their schoolwork and get them ready for the “outside world.” This puts more eyeballs on great apps, and developers like to have eyeballs on their stuff. Add in Android app support through Google Play and you have a ton of choices to sift through to find the best. We did it for you.

If you’re looking for the best photo editor for your Chromebook you should install Polarr Photo Editor.

Polarr is a stand-alone program developed for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome. There is even an online version you can use through your web browser. It’s a full-featured program, and not what many people imagine when they think of a Chrome app.

Simply put, it’s the real deal. In fact, it’s one of the best Chrome apps you’ll find and an example of how just good things can be.

Polarr is one of the first Chromebook apps that’s as good as anything on Windows or the Mac.

The feature set is the perfect mix for casual to advanced work, which is exactly where a Chromebook shines. If you just want to add a filter so your photo stands out a little on Instagram, they are there and can be applied with one click. If you just want to let the app do some automatic magic fixes, Polarr can do that, too, and it does a great job smoothing out the noise and sharpening your photo while not destroying the color balance. When you want or need to do more, Polarr has you covered there, too.

You can adjust the color, lighting, detail, vignetting, HSL (hue, saturation, and luminance), RGB channel curves, toning, and distortion. You can even apply photo effects like fringing or film grain. And you can do this on a RAW file up to 40MP in size.

The controls are simple and perfect for anyone who doesn’t have to use Photoshop five days a week to earn a paycheck. All adjustments are in real time so you can see what effect each has and you have a full history panel to undo any or all the changes. You can even drag and drop the controls so the toolboxes work the way you want them to.

Polarr on my Chromebook makes my workflow easy again.

Here at AC taking photos is part of the job, and a big part of that is trying to make sure the stray piece of dust or eyelash doesn’t ruin a photo and the bright screen on Android phones isn’t washed out. That means most of the time our pictures of phones need run through an editing program. I’ve been using Polarr on my Chromebook to do it without any problems. In a lot of ways, I prefer Polarr to Lightroom — I like the tools interface better and the file handling is much better if you only have a few pictures to work on. Most importantly, Polarr does a good job balancing the exposure and cleaning up the noise that gets left behind when your adjusting it.

If you have a Chromebook or Chromebox — especially if you’re all-in and it’s your only computer — you need to try it. You can install Polarr for free from the Chrome Web Store and get most of the experience. All the tool features are available but some of the advanced adjustments are locked. What you get for free is very usable and works great. If you like what you see and want the rest the program is $20. That’s about $100 cheaper than Lightroom and the things most people who don’t need Lightroom would want to do are easy with Polarr. I feel like I got my money’s worth.

Download Polarr Photo Editor for Chrome (Free / full version $19.99)

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Want a thin case to keep your Droid Turbo 2 free from scratches during daily use? If so, Amzer’s Pudding TPU case is a great choice to consider. This case won’t protect much during a fall, but it will prevent scratches and dings from covering your phone, and right now you can pick one up for just $3.95.

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Good, portable headphones are hard to come by.

Most of the great headphones out there aren’t all that portable. Even with collapsible sides, many still take up quite a bit of space in your bag. That makes bringing decent headphones with you when you also plan on bringing your VR headset with you filling even more space when you go around every day. You could go earbuds, or you could take a look at some smarter headphones.

After spending a couple of weeks with the Fiil Diva headphones, it’s clear these are the headphones VR fans should be looking at for their next audio fix.

Read more at VR Heads

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Google and Apple offer a great experience and everything we could want in our phones. While that’s a great recipe for success and happy customers, it also means they can afford to get a little lazy.

Now I’m not saying the people working there aren’t busting their butts and worth their salaries, I’m talking about the company — and their mobile ecosystem (God I hate that phrase) — becoming complacent and less willing to try new ideas. New ideas are what drives technology forward. Every time a great idea fails, that’s an opportunity for people to figure out why and to work on ways to ensure it won’t fail the next time — the perfect example in recent memory is the idea of a “modular” phone.

A modular phone is a pipe dream. Project Ara kept scaling back until they announced its death, and the resurgence by others picking up the pieces won’t be anything at all like the concept if it ever really happens. But a phone that had optional hardware you can add and remove at will didn’t die: LG tried it. It flopped. Motorola is trying it and it’s a little better. Eventually, someone will figure out a way to deliver a set of accessories and upgrades that we as consumers can add to a phone that doesn’t have any suck factor attached. This is a great example of the people making the phones we love still trying. We need the companies controlling those ecosystems I hate to mention trying just as hard.

This happened because Google had to fight to get there.

Five years ago, BlackBerry (then Research in Motion, the coolest company name ever) had started in its downward spiral, Microsoft was telling us how great stuff would be next year (some things never change), Apple was counting piles of money and Google was shaking everything up. They had to. Android was a perfectly usable (and fun to monkey around with) software platform for a phone, but it was a bit of a mess. People who are tech orientated and love to fiddle with settings were impressed at how powerful it was, but it lacked any polish. The only reason Android took the majority of the market was because companies were making super-cheap smartphones that brought the web and Google Play to anyone who had $100 to spend.

Sure, there were some great phones out there running Android, but most people who were buying expensive phones and had plenty of disposable income were buying Apple products. That made Google try harder. Five years later we see how Google, Samsung, Motorola, HTC and LG have transformed Android into a software package that can equal or exceed anything from anyone else when it comes to the user experience.

The mobile experience we love is a direct result of competition.

While that was happening, some really talented people at Apple were doing everything they could to keep the simple and user-first experience they’re known for while adding some must-have features. When Google can offer better services and apps for an iPhone than Apple can, that makes people work hard. The motivation to keep making money starts at the top and the best way to keep making it is to have the right people thinking of — and trying — the right things. Apple Maps was fun to laugh at as long as it wasn’t you being steered into the desert or off of a bridge, but Apple needed to do it, and anyone using it now can tell you it’s a great service. Plenty of people with an iPhone still use Google Maps because they have years of data Google uses to turn a map into something more like a tour guide, but Apple Maps will soon catch up there, too. It has to.

But what about the next big thing? If we want the next YouTube or the next iTunes to be something awesome on our phones, we need people willing to try something besides what they know already works. Every quarter that goes by where sales look good, money flows in and sites like Android Central or iMore tell you how great the things we have are, the incentive to shake it all up lessens. Why take a chance when things look good? That great idea that came from Larry in engineering sounds kind of cool, but when the bosses and investors are happy with the status quo, why risk trying it? We will still be happy when things become stagnant if we have no idea they are stagnant.

The iPhone 7 and Google Pixel (as well as Android 7.1 in general) are the end result of companies filled with bright minds fighting for their place in the market. The market is set, Apple and Google have enough cash to buy paradise, and they no longer have to duke it out.

We need Microsoft to force Apple and Google to try harder.

If a third company with know-how in mobile were to start pouring money into the right thing, Google and Apple won’t go there. Yes, right now, unless Derek Kessler and LG can revive webOS, that means Microsoft. It looks like Microsoft has all but giving up on selling Windows phones. Some people think otherwise, and there’s always industry talk about what happens behind the scenes, but when you visit AT&T or Verizon (or Rogers or EE) you don’t walk out with a Windows phone. When you visit Carphone Warehouse or Best Buy you don’t see them. Windows phone does not exist right now. That’s a bad thing.

The Galaxy S3 changed everything in mobile. For the better.

On episode 312 of the Android Central Podcast, we were talking about money and companies who aren’t making as much of it as they like. I said Microsoft needs to get with LG and make the shit out of Windows phones. Yeah, that got the reaction you imagine it would, but I was serious. We need Microsoft to find a partner bigger than just phones and set a goal to sell a billion Windows phones. If (when) they fail, both companies have huge incomes from other divisions and can absorb the losses. They can try again next year. Keep building them, keep working on the software and keep trying great new ideas until it works.

I want the phone I buy in 2018 to do things I never imagined.

That’s exactly what Google and Samsung did. Google did what they could to help Samsung get Android into a billion phones. They weren’t timid and didn’t play safe. If you had a Samsung Galaxy S, you knew it was pretty damn different from anything we’ve seen before. Fast forward a couple years and the Galaxy S3 changed everything. And changed it for the better.

I want someone new to do it again. I want to see what Google can do when they have to fight to be the best again. I want the phone I buy in 2018 to do things I never imagined. And I want someone to come along and force it to happen.

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The Pixel XL is the new hot camera on the block, but we can’t forget about LG.

The latest phones from Google and LG don’t look very similar and take different approaches to the user experience, but one thing that’s constant is the focus on camera quality. Google has talked a big game with the launch of the Pixels, and so far it seems to have held up unlike previous generations. At the same time, LG has been shipping phones with excellent cameras the past few years, easily landing near the top in overall quality and experience. The new LG V20 is no exception, offering not only high-quality but also unique photography possibilities.

When you put the Pixel XL and LG V20′s cameras head-to-head, though, which one comes out on top? We’re here to answer that question.

Performance and interface

Pixel XL (left) / LG V20 (right)

Google has made improvements to its camera interface over the past couple of years, but if you’re looking for a raw number of features, modes and options you’re going to be a bit disappointed. The Google Camera app is still all about simplicity, giving you access to just a couple of toggles and the choice to switch to Panorama, Photo Sphere and Lens Blur. Yes there are a few additional tweaks, but it’s nothing like what LG offers.

The V20 is billed as being for “content creation,” and naturally that lines up with a far more powerful camera app as well. You get all of the basics in a simple interface, plus live filters and lots of great shooting modes for things like time lapses built right in. Not only do average users have extra options in the viewfinder, pro-level users can also toggle into a Manual shooting mode and tweak any possible setting they could think of. That may not be your thing right now, but not having to download a different camera app to get those advanced features is a huge plus. Oddly enough, though, you have to hop into the settings just to toggle the HDR mode.

LG offers more shooting options; it’s not even close.

Though the V20 leads in terms of the interface if you want tweaking options, the Pixel XL is ahead in speed and overall performance. Google has made massive improvements to the speed of its camera compared to the Nexus 6P, and now the PIxels are at the top of the heap. The V20 can launch as fast as the Pixel XL through a double press of the volume down key, but in my time using it there was an inconsistency about it where you’d sometimes launch the camera with hesitation and some lag before you could take your first shot. The Pixel XL has never failed to launch immediately and be ready to take a photo.

But those speed differences are really minor in the grand scheme of things, and you’re easily going to be able to look beyond them if you want to have the option to tweak your shots with the V20. The average person who just wants to pull out their phone, snap a shot and share it on social media will be well-served by either camera app — the big difference is how much you value the customizability.

Camera quality

The Pixel XL offers a lower 12MP resolution and slower f/2.0 lens to the V20′s 16MP and f/1.8 — but both offer very fast laser auto focusing. The Pixel XL’s one big trump card is the combination of very big individual pixels and outstanding software processing, which it has shown to use to great effect. So how does that all combine in terms of photo quality? I took both phones out and snapped pictures just how anyone else would: lift up the phone, snap a picture, lift up the other phone, snap a picture. No post-processing or tweaks. Here are the shots.

Pixel XL (left) / LG V20 (right) — click images to view larger

Much like I found in my comparison of the Pixel XL and Galaxy S7 edge, the Pixel XL lines up closely in quality with the LG V20. The Pixel XL consistently took a bit cooler and more natural-looking photos, while the LG V20 was a tad warmer and often took brighter photos. Those brighter images — partially due to the f/1.8 lens — are definitely more appealing to the eye, even if they aren’t actually true to the scene.

When you zoom in and check things out closely, the Pixel XL offers sharper details, but that’s hardly noticeable when viewed full-size. Both phones did an excellent job using HDR to simply take balanced and good-looking photos, rather than blowing out the colors. The one big difference, for me, is how it was very clear when the V20′s auto-HDR didn’t kick in, leaving you with a comparatively dull shot from the single exposure. Taking that into consideration, I’d lean toward just recommending leaving HDR on 100% of the time on the V20.

The V20 can match the Pixel XL’s quality, and has the second camera to play with.

When it comes to low light shots, the differences are still narrow between the two, though I can give the nod to the Pixel XL here thanks to its wonderful sharpening and managing of noise in dark scenes. The LG V20 is still extremely capable in light in a more “traditional” sense with its f/1.8 lens, but the Pixel XL captures more fine detail in low light scenes (mostly noticeable when you zoom in on images), and better manages dark portions of mixed scenes with its HDR+ processing. Again, realistically the differences are slight — but if you want to get critical, you give Pixel XL the higher praise.

Something that makes this comparison a bit tougher is the V20′s inclusion of a secondary super wide-angle camera. As you can see from the comparison shots above I focused on the V20′s main 16MP camera, and though the secondary 8MP shooter isn’t as high of quality (especially in low light) it offers extremely unique shooting opportunities that can really set it apart. Having the choice of toggling to the wide-angle lens with a tap on the screen can be a difference maker, and I loved using it throughout my review.

Bottom line

I’m so happy to see that we have multiple phones giving us fantastic cameras in 2016, and after comparing it to the Pixel XL the LG V20 is definitely one of the top-tier group. My enjoyment of shooting with the Pixel XL is well known at this point, but the LG V20 offers a unique set of features and possibilities that make it more fun to take pictures with, even if the quality isn’t particularly better in any given situation.

The choices of shooting in a full manual mode, or with the secondary wide-angle camera, definitely tip the scales in LG’s favor when you compare it to the more bare-bones Pixel XL. Not everyone is going to care about the extra complication of those other features, though, and in that case either one of these phones will absolutely impress you with their photos.

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What do the Android Central editors think of the Google Pixel after a week?

Google’s Pixel phones have been out for just over a week now, and some of us have had them for far longer. We’ve written three reviews and ten times the number of editorials, and yet there’s more to say about these amazing devices — so we convened a roundtable to do just that.

First, Pixel or Pixel XL? And Why?

Daniel Bader

I have been enjoying the smaller Pixel more than I thought. It has the right combination of size and power for my liking, and it’s extremely usable in one hand.

More than anything, it just works. I know that’s overrated in a market that values features over function, but for what I use my Android phone for, the Pixel does the best job right now, period.

Jerry Hildenbrand

Pixel. With the same service and the same apps, it actually has better battery life for me (though not really enough to make a difference) and it’s easier to carry. I’ve mentioned it before, but riding around in a wheelchair all day means keeping my phone in a shirt pocket works better for me, and the Pixel works better for a shirt pocket.

Andrew Martonik

I used the Pixel XL first, and I actually found it much more comfortable to use than I first expected, though it pushes the upper limit of what I can safely manage in one hand for my usual tasks. After receiving my smaller Pixel, that’s the one I’ve settled on. Having the same great experience in a smaller size is wonderful, and battery life has just been ever so slightly less — a worthy tradeoff for me. Going back to the XL isn’t completely out of the question, but I’m just enjoying the Pixel more right now.

Russell Holly

For me, it’s all about the Pixel XL. While I appreciate a good small phone, and the PIxel is exactly that, the slight difference in daily battery life means I can do things like drop a wireless hotspot for 45 minutes while finishing a thought on my laptop and never have to worry about my phone making it through the day. I’m very much over feeling like I need to carry a battery backup or my quick charger with me places. This phone lasts me all day, and that’s what I wanted.

Also, Daydream View is going to be awesome through the larger Pixel.

Harish Jonnalagadda

I really liked the in-hand feel of the smaller Pixel, but the added battery life and the denser display of the Pixel XL won out in the end. The Pixel XL is much more usable one-handed than the 5.7-inch Nexus 6P, and the battery easily lasts a day even when connected to a cellular network throughout, with Bluetooth and location services enabled. After using the LG G4 for most of last year and the G5 for a few months earlier this year, I now look for all-day battery life when buying a phone. And in that regard, the Pixel XL delivers.

Marc Lagace

I got my hands on the smaller Pixel and haven’t had the opportunity to hold the Pixel XL. But after using some bigger phones for a while (RIP Note 7), it’s been really nice coming back to a phone that’s a bit more compact and easy to use one-handed. While I’m sure I’d enjoy the extra battery life and the crisper display found on the Pixel XL, I’m more than satisfied by what the Pixel has offered so far.

What’s your favorite thing about the phone so far?

Daniel Bader

That would be a tossup between the software itself — the day-to-day goings-ons of bug-free, smooth-as-butter experience, plus Nougat’s excellent notifications and multi-window support — and the camera.

The camera was surprising. It went from, “Oh, this phone takes great photos,” to “Holy crap, look at this photo. And this one. This is one I took in near pitch black that came out amazing with little grain.”

I’m not saying it’s the best camera on a smartphone today, but it takes great photos almost every time and I have to give Google props for that.

Jerry Hildenbrand

All of the things that aren’t there.

I don’t want IR blasters or iris scanners or SD cards. I want a piece of tech that lets me stay connected with “my people” that has a great way to use the services I like to use when doing it. The Pixel stays out of the way and lets me do that.

Andrew Martonik

It has to be the overall fluidity and consistency of performance. I’ve never used an Android phone that’s this quick to open and switch apps while also never slowing down or skipping a beat. Everything is super stable, and so smooth it’s remarkable.

Russell Holly

It’s just so damn fast. The camera is fast. The launcher is fast. Switching between apps is fast. I’ve been using the phone for over a week and my Pixel hasn’t lagged or visually dropped frames or completely frozen in place. The same can’t be said of my last three phones, a list that includes the iPhone 7 Plus, the Galaxy Note 7, and the Nexus 6P.

Harish Jonnalagadda

The performance. The phone just flies! It’s remarkable how seamlessly the Pixel handles everything you throw at it. There’s no lag anywhere, and I never got the feeling that I was waiting for an app to launch. I’m wary of switching back to phones with manufacturer skins, even those in the high-end segment. Once you get used to the Pixel, everything else feels slow.

Marc Lagace

It’s a toss-up between Google Assistant and the camera. I’ve enjoyed using Google Assistant so far, and am pretty excited to see Google develop it further as time goes on — but mostly I’m just a big sucker for hilarious easter eggs and random fun, and Google Assistant is chocked full of both.

But the camera — my goodness, the camera! It’s lived up to the hype and then some in my books. Every time I’ve shown someone a photo or video i’ve taken with the Pixel, they’ve been blown away by the quality. Every time. It’s that good, folks.

Where do you think Google could have improved?

Daniel Bader

On the smaller Pixel, battery life has been an issue. In Toronto, during my normal daily routine, I typically get to 9pm before I need to top up, after taking the phone off the charger at 7am or so. That’s pretty good.

But I’ve been traveling for the past few days, and have been penalizing the battery with roaming and constant hits to Google Maps. That really annoyed the Pixel, and I was almost empty after five hours on one of those days. It’s not the end of the world — the Pixel charges quickly, and I have quite the collection of portable battery packs — but it is something to consider for the average road warrior. This is a daily driver, not a day-and-night driver.

Jerry Hildenbrand

I know thin flat phones are trendy, but they aren’t the most ergonomic thing in the world. A bit of curve in the rear would make the phone feel like it was a better fit in the hand. It might not actually be better, but things we can see or touch trump facts. The HTC 10 nails this, and I wish that had been the phone Google was chasing instead of the iPhone.

Andrew Martonik

On the hardware side, missing waterproofing is a real downer — a phone this expensive should have the feature. In terms of software, Google really has to figure out how it’s going to combine Google Search, Now and Assistant into one cohesive product. The parts are there, but they have to be combined in a smart way.

Russell Holly

Assistant is cute, but needs some muscle behind it immediately. It’s barely able to keep up with Google Now when it comes to basic commands, and as much fun as the follow-up question system is in concept it barely works in practice. This is a big step forward for Google because of what it means for the future of personal assistant software, but it’d be great if it was useful all the time.

Harish Jonnalagadda

The Pixel gets all the basics right, but it’s missing fringe features like water resistance. It’s a tough ask to convince customers to shell out over $600 for a phone when there are very capable handsets for under $400, and Samsung has done a great job of distinguishing its flagships with curved displays, wireless charging, and water resistance. The Pixel makes up for it through sheer performance, an excellent camera, and Google Assistant, but an IP68 rating would have definitely made it a more compelling option.

Marc Lagace

I would have really liked to have seen better water resistance to match what Apple and Samsung are offering with their flagship devices. Also, the lack of an SD slot is disappointing. I’m rocking the 32GB Pixel, so I’m slightly paranoid about running out of storage space. Other than that I’ve found the build quality and performance to be on point.

The camera: is it as good as they say it is?

Daniel Bader

Yes, I’m rehashing here, but the Pixel’s camera is impressive. One thing to note that is that smaller phones usually get punished in some way compared to their larger counterparts, often by lacking optical image stabilization or featuring a less capable sensor.

The Pixel’s camera is identical to that of the Pixel XL’s, and has proven to shoot great photos in almost any condition. I spent a lot of time talking about this in our latest podcast, but what’s impressed me most is how usable the low-light photos are given the lack of OIS, proving that software is perfectly capable of minimizing noise and shake with the right engineering work. And Google has that in spades.

Just look at the speed of HDR+. Google has been touting this feature for years, but it’s only now proving its mettle in the camera department. This is evolution at its best.

Here’s one of my favorite photos:

Jerry Hildenbrand

It’s better. Almost impossibly better. Reason says there is no way the camera can be this good without the traditional means to keep pictures from blurring when the light is low or you’re moving too much. Yet it is. I had little faith in seeing any real improvement over the Nexus 6P, but I was wrong. So wrong.

Here’s one of my favorite photos:

Andrew Martonik

It’s as good as they say it is, and it’s better than I ever could’ve imagined. You see, Google has talked a big game about its Nexus cameras for years … and now, it has delivered entirely. The Pixels not only take excellent photos, they take consistent photos and they do it quickly as well. That’s just the perfect combination.

Here’s one of my favorite photos:

Russell Holly

This is, without a doubt, the best smartphone camera I’ve ever used. At least, in full auto anyway. I wish Google would implement a proper manual mode so we could have some extra fun, but in full auto the camera is outstanding. It pulls light in from basically nowhere, everything is nice and crisp, and the slow motion is absolutely beyond belief.

Here’s one of my favorite photos:

Harish Jonnalagadda

I have a knack for taking out-of-focus images from phones that have great cameras. I usually resort to taking several shots, out of which I get one that’s passable. That isn’t the case on the Pixel. I consistently got great shots without putting in any effort, and the ability to create GIFs in burst mode is an added bonus. Easily the best camera I’ve ever used on a phone.

Here’s one of my favorite photos:

Marc Lagace

Man. As I already mentioned, the camera is probably my favorite part of the phone. It’s super quick to load and takes great photos and videos regardless of the conditions. I went to a concert the day after getting my Pixel and yea, I’m one of those guys who likes to take videos at rock shows. I was blown away by the quality when I reviewed them the next day!

Here’s one of my favorite photos:

What about battery life? Is it in line with your expectations?

Daniel Bader

I’m going to talk about the Pixel XL here, because I also have that one. It’s really good, better than the Nexus 6P with the same battery size, and certainly good enough to get through a whole day. As I said above, I’m worried, not disappointed, with the smaller Pixel’s uptime, but that it pulls 12-14 hours on a 2770mAh battery is no small feat.

But the Pixel XL’s cell is 25% larger, and that shows in practice. I’ve never finished the day short of 10% battery life — even long days, when I stay up editing these wonderful people — and that’s encouraging. I find the XL a bit big for my liking, otherwise it would easily take the place of the smaller Pixel in my pocket, but you shouldn’t have any qualms opting for the more expensive model if size is a concern.

Jerry Hildenbrand

It’s better than the Nexus 6P or BlackBerry Priv with the same apps and services running. I can’t say how good it is other than it’s not yet been dead when I go to bed and plug it in. That has happened before with other phones. Battery life does take a bit of a hit when I’m somewhere with a bad mobile signal, but that’s to be expected. No complaints so far!

Andrew Martonik

The Pixel XL offers all I need and more in terms of battery life, making it through my full day with some 20-30% to spare. If I push it hard, I’ll end with at least 10% left. I never had to scramble to a charger on the XL. The smaller Pixel isn’t as great, regularly finishing the day about 10% lower than my XL did — most of the time that’s fine, but on a tough day I really needed Battery Saver come 9 p.m. to make it until bedtime.

Russell Holly

I can regularly get through a 17-hour day with four hours of screen on time and still have 15% remaining when I plug in before bed. I’ve never had an Android phone without a 4,000mAh battery onboard deliver that experience. After Google’s promises of Doze on the go, this phone meets my expectations and then some.

Harish Jonnalagadda

I’ve been using the Pixel XL for nearly a week, and I haven’t had to enable Battery Saver yet. I’d call that a win.

Marc Lagace

I’ve been using my Pixel pretty heavily throughout the day and it typically reaches 15% battery life by the late evening end of the day. I also appreciate how quickly it charges for the times where I’ve forgotten to plug it in overnight.

Let’s talk software: do you think Google did everything it could to separate itself from its partners?

Daniel Bader

I think there’s something to be said about simplicity. In my experience, Android is better when Google calls the shots, since it has always, with some exceptions, had users’ best interests in mind.

If you look back on examples where companies like Samsung, LG, Huawei et al. decided to augment Android with their own interpretations of features yet to launch on “stock” Android, they’ve either been abandoned after a generation, or had little developer support. Samsung’s Multi Window is perhaps the only example of a feature that developers adopted in any great number because the API was mature and easy to integrate with. But even then, now that Google has a multi window API of its own, developers will like default to that one when Samsung launches Nougat on its battery of devices.

All that is to say I believe Google wields far more influence over the Android developer community than its manufacturing partners (rightfully so, since it builds Android), and on the Pixel those features are showcased as they were intended.

It could even be said that the Pixel software’s lack of affect, its simplicity and polish, alone separates from its partners, and now that Google is marketing a phone designed and engineered in-house, there is even more reason to think of “stock” Android as the canonical version.

Jerry Hildenbrand

Look at an LG V20 and ask me again.

Yes. Something like a Moto Z will have similar software, but that’s because Motorola chooses not to alter Google’s design too much. The Pixel software follows the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) software design they’ve used since the G1. With Android 7.1 it’s refined to do the relatively few things it does remarkably well. Sometimes, less is more.

Andrew Martonik

Everything? No, I wouldn’t say so. You can tell that Google has put some extra work into the Pixel’s software experience that it didn’t (or couldn’t) do in previous Nexus phones, and that goes much deeper than a new launcher and Google Assistant. Google did a lot to make the software fast and extremely cohesive, and that helps differentiate itself from most phones — aside from any discussion of what that means for its partners.

Russell Holly

Yes and no. When you pick up this phone, it’s clear you’re using something different in the launcher and the wallpapers and the audio tones. That said, there’s still very little that makes “Pixel” particularly different from “Nexus” in day to day use. I guess an argument could be made for the way you can access Assistant everywhere being the big thing that separates this phone from everything else, but as I covered earlier it’s not a huge feature for me yet.

Harish Jonnalagadda

Google has significantly added to the software experience when compared to the Nexus line, and that’s evident from the second you start using the Pixel. That said, Google Assistant needs a lot of work before it becomes the all-encompassing virtual assistant that Google envisions.

Marc Lagace

Well, it’s unlike any other Android phone I’ve used. I like the tweaks they made to the app drawer, and everything runs smoother and faster than anything else I’ve tried. I also really like the way Google Assistant was integrated into the OS and look forward to see it evolve over time.

Is this really the iPhone of the Android world?

Daniel Bader

That’s a dumb question, Daniel. But seriously, yes in some ways this is the Android community’s equivalent of the iPhone — if you mean updates from the source, a focus on imaging, and the proper marriage of hardware with integrated services.

Google is even trying (and failing) to recreate iMessage and FaceTime with Allo and Duo, respectively.

The Pixel will never actually be anything like the iPhone, at least this round, since Android is so vast that Google relented much of its fate long ago. But by trying to take back at least a small semblance of the messaging, the aspirational side of Android, Google has created something iPhone-like, and I think that’s a good thing.

Jerry Hildenbrand

Yep. Outside of the appearance, the Pixel is a conduit for the apps and services it provides and nothing more — exactly like the iPhone. No bells, whistles or gizmos added to distract attention away from the one thing on the screen you’re looking at is a decision, not an accident. Like the iPhone, the Pixel brings you a core software experience designed to be augmented by the things you want rather than the things the company who built it says you want. And it does it in an unassuming package.

Andrew Martonik

In terms of this being an in-house made vertically integrated phone experience, sure. There are clear differences in philosophy and execution between Google and Apple — this isn’t an iPhone, it’s Google’s version of the iPhone “model” of making a phone. It controls the whole stack: sales, hardware, software, apps, services, and even the carrier.

Russell Holly

Sure? I’m not sure how it matters whether this phone is like an iPhone or not. There’s a market out there for a phone made by Google with dedication to software updates and actual product support by Google. If that makes this an iPhone than sure, whatever.

If your reasoning for calling this an iPhone is that it’s expensive and locked down to Google’s experience, consider this me laughing directly in your face followed by continuing to enjoy this phone.

Harish Jonnalagadda

In the sense that Google controls both the hardware and software side of things, yes. In every other aspect, the Pixel is like any other high-end Android phone. It represents Google’s vision for Android, but you’re free to tinker with it any way you like to make it truly yours. Try doing that on an iPhone.

Marc Lagace

I feel like comparing the Pixel to the iPhone is supposed to be like throwing shade Google’s way. But if the Pixel is Google’s ideal vision for an Android phone, and that feels reminiscent to Apple’s iPhone, then so be it. At least I didn’t have to replace all the stock iOS apps with the Google equivalents as I’ve done with every iPhone I’ve ever owned.

Any final thoughts? Is it worth the $649+?

Daniel Bader

No waterproofing is a serious knock against this phone, and you can be damn sure the Pixel 2 will have it. But when I consider the price I paid for the Pixel against the value I perceive it brings me, I don’t think $649 is asking too much.

Would it sell more if it were $549, or $399? Sure, but then it wouldn’t sit in the same category as the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7, and that’s the market Google wants to pursue, and be seen pursuing, with the Pixel.

Jerry Hildenbrand

No phone is worth $600. But if that’s the price put on the best phones, then yeah. There is nothing built by anyone else that has these features or this hardware, and if they are worth that much, it’s hard to argue the Pixel isn’t. $600 is also what the Nexus One cost after tax and shipping. And the Nexus 6 cost me $700 before either.

In any case, only you should care how you spend your money. The Pixel is worth as much or more than anything else out there.

Andrew Martonik

I absolutely understand the hesitation from a lot of people to spend $649 to $769 for a phone — be it a Galaxy S7 edge, Moto Z, LG V20, iPhone 7 or Pixel XL. There are tons of great phones out there that will set you back $2-300 less, and they’ll give you a solid experience. But if you’re willing to spend $649+ on any phone out there today, you’d be crazy not to consider the Pixels.

Russell Holly

Like the HTC 10, I feel like these phones are about $100 off the mark. Samsung earns their price tag by stuffing every feature under the sun in their phones, and the law of diminishing returns abides. This phone is very nice, and I’m happy to pay slightly above my perception of its value for the experience I’ve gotten so far, but this phone would be damn near perfect if it were either $100 cheaper or included things like waterproofing and wireless charging.

Harish Jonnalagadda

I have no issues with the Pixel XL’s $769 retail price. That’s a significant discount when compared to the phone’s asking price in India, which is $1,010 (?67,000). Google is pushing the overall experience with the Pixel, and that commands a premium. One that I’m willing to pay.

Marc Lagace

Honestly? Probably not. It’s a fantastic phone, but unless you’re comfortable with re-upping on a carrier contract for a discounted price, I don’t understand how people can justify spending so much on a phone. Then again, we’re living in a world where the latest flagship phone from any manufacturer is going to run you upwards of $700 or more, so it is what it is. And the Pixel is arguably the best of the best right now.

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