Expect only mid-range and high-end flagships from HTC moving forward.

HTC is hoping that less is more when it comes to smartphone offerings. Chia-Lin Chang, President of HTC’s Smartphone and Connected Device divisions, says the Taiwanese company will stop chasing high sales numbers in the entry-level smartphone markets and instead focus on designing and selling highly profitable devices.

This news comes from HTC’s quarterly conference call with investors, wherein the company announced a fourth straight quarter posting an operating loss. When asked how the company plans to shift its strategies for 2017, Chang responded in part by saying “We are going to get out of the entry level part, which I think is ultra competitive and we’re not necessarily going to benefit from a profitability perspective here. To us, profitability on the smartphone is going to be quite important.”

Chang continued by saying the company plans to focus on mid-range to high-end products moving forward, stating the company is planning to release only seven “key SKU” (stock-keeping units) in 2017.

The strategy does make sense, given how crowded the budget phone space has become —especially in the competitive overseas markets of China and India. Instead of chasing high sales figures with cheaper devices, the plan will be to focus on mid-range devices and premium flagships with higher profit margins — such as the forthcoming HTC U Ultra and U Play.

Only time will tell if this new strategy will lift HTC’s smartphone division out of the red, but at least we’re sure to see the top tier of smartphones from HTC moving forward.




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It’s not exactly a choice, but how do these watches compare?

Asking whether an Android Wear watch is better than an Apple Watch here on Android Central may seem a little silly. After all, you can’t use an Apple Watch on Android so it doesn’t really matter right? Also, why are we comparing the technical lesser of the two watches Google and LG released as the Android Wear 2.0 standard bearers to Apple’s one flagship watch?

Here’s the thing — it doesn’t make sense to compare the LG Watch Sport to the Apple Watch. They aren’t competing products. For starters, one is nearly twice the thickness of the other and offers its own cellular connection as a totally standalone platform. The other is an Apple Watch. They aren’t comparable products by any stretch, but the LG Watch Style is positioned perfectly to compete with Apple on their own turf.

So how does the new LG Watch Style with Android Wear 2.0 compete with Apple’s Series 2 Watch? Lets take a look!

Hardware

It couldn’t be more clear by looking at these watches side by side that Apple and Google wanted watches that disappeared under a dress shirt and didn’t get in the way until you actually wanted to interact with them. In effect, these watches are identical in height and thickness. Apple manages to shave a couple tenths of a millimeter here and there, but when wearing the watches it’s impossible to feel or see the difference.

Where you will see a substantial difference is width, due in no small part to the biggest physical difference between these two watches. Apple’s legacy of rounded rectangles made its way to the Apple Watch, while LG joined the ranks of many other smartwatch manufacturers with a round body. Historically, Android Wear have been noticeably larger than the Apple Watch but the LG Watch Style does a great job showing off what a round watch at Apple’s scale looks like.

Both watches offer up a stainless steel version of their watches, but for LG that more durable metal is the default option. Apple’s aluminum Watch variants are the less expensive base models, and are not quite as durable as their stainless counterparts. The underside of both watches are not the metal you find on top in order to support wireless charging. Apple’s Watch uses glass to support the sensors for fitness monitoring, while LG’s underside is a rigid plastic with no fitness sensors. Both watches include magnetic chargers that snap into place quick and easy, so there’s no confusion about whether your watch is being charged.

Fitness sensors aren’t the only thing the Watch Style is missing when compared to the Apple Watch. There’s no NFC radio built into the Watch Style, so Android Pay from your wrist is not an option on this version. Apple’s Watch also includes a second button on the casing instead of just the rotating crown button, which can be customized for rapid app access. You also won’t find a speaker on the LG Watch Style, and whether that matters to you or not you can’t miss the one on the side of the Apple Watch.

One huge things both watches do incredibly well is auto-brightness with no sensor shelf or “flat tire” on the face of the display. The top-down look for both of these watches is fantastic, and both watches handle brightness controls quickly and efficiently. In many cases LG’s Watch Style is just a hair faster when adjusting to extreme light changes, and a big part of why is the LG Watch Style display never fully turns off. The always-on display in this and most Android Wear watches keeps a dimmed version of the watch face or a glanceable version of the app you’re using without consuming a ton of power, which isn’t available on the Apple Watch. Instead, Apple turns off the display to conserve power and activates the display when you lift your wrist.

There’s a lot to like about both of these watches, especially when you start looking at customization. Google’s leather MODE watch band is included with every LG Watch Style so you can quickly swap watch bands to accessorize as you see fit, and Apple’s proprietary watch band system is practically legendary at this point. There are dozens of different bands to choose from in just about every material, all built specifically for the Apple Watch. You’ve got plenty of options either way you go, but you’re significantly more likely to wander through a mall and see a watch band you like that works with your LG Watch Style. Unless, of course, you’re wandering through an Apple Store in your mall.

Software

This may shock you, but Android Wear and Watch OS are fairly different. I know, take a minute if you need. I’ll wait.

Apple designed WatchOS from the ground up to be style first. It’s very pretty, it’s very animated, and when you want to actually do something it can be a little clumsy. Everything starts with the watch face, and a quick swipe left or right will give you access to other faces. This means you can use a fitness-focused watch face at the gym in the morning, a more professional face during the work day, and a silly watch face in the evening when you’re crashed out on the couch or out with friends.

Each watch face has been built by Apple, with personalization sections called Complications that allow you to inject data that is important to you. This can be a step counter, email notification, apps, weather, and personal contacts. Some complications are larger, and can display more information, but you don’t have a lot of control over their placement because you don’t have any control over the watch faces themselves.

Press the crown in, and you get a hexagonal grid of bubbles with app icons. There are no names for these apps, so you need to know what your icon looks like when it’s roughly 1/6 the size of the icon on your phone. You can move your apps around so the ones you use most are closest to the center, but there’s not much else going on here. Like the iPhone, you can’t uninstall any of the “core” Apple apps that are included. Other watch apps can be installed from the App Store, but the bigger your hex grid gets the more tedious it is to locate an app you don’t use frequently.

Apple Watch Apps are largely sidecar versions of apps on your phone, and are great for quickly interacting with existing data. Fitness apps pass data back to the core apps on the phone, but are very much installed and used primarily on the Watch. Apps on the Watch are frequently slower than their phone counterparts, which is to but can also leave you wondering why you don’t just pull your phone out. The most important exception to this is Siri, which launches quickly and delivers nearly the same experience as you expect on the phone.

In typical Google fashion, Android Wear is built to be largely predictive. Also in typical Google fashion, it’s really cool when it works and deeply frustrating when it doesn’t. When you start playing music on your phone or casting something to a television, the player controls are immediately there for you to interact with. If you have a calendar appointment with a location, you’ll get a notification with traffic aware data telling you when you need to leave in order to arrive on time.

Google’s OS now starts with a watch face and includes very little else until you press the physical button, which is a significant departure from the original layout of this OS. Watch faces can be quickly switched around with a swipe left or right, and the ability to shop for watch faces right on your wrist opens up a nearly unlimited number of customization options. There are several third-party tools for building your own watch face from scratch if you are so inclined, but the included watch faces offer a fair amount of personalization through Complications.

Google and LG have done a great job building a watch that actually looks and feels like a watch that fits smaller wrists.

Complications give you the ability to grab data from apps, launch apps, access media playback controls, report weather, and all of the other fairly standard options. Not every watch face supports Complications right now, but those that do include many options for data position and amount of data presented. This is a fairly new system for Google’s ecosystem, but like the ability to make watch faces it has been adopted quickly.

Pressing the crown gives you a list of apps, sorted alphabetically save for the last app you used, which sits at the top of the list. Swiping or scrolling through this list, even with many apps installed, can be done quickly. Each app icon comes with an app name, but not even app functions the same. Google has a healthy mix of sidecar apps and apps that are installed directly on the watch, meaning some apps pull data from the phone while others can exist and function without a phone connected at all.

One of the more important apps installed on the LG Watch Style is the Google Play Store. This gives any LG Watch Style owner access to Google’s entire catalog of apps and watch faces for this watch even if the phone is not connected to an Android phone. This is great news for iPhone users that find themselves embedded in the Google ecosystem, since it also means apps can be installed directly to the watch by using the Play Store web interface. On an Android phone the difference is fairly minimal, save for new notifications about updating apps directly on the watch.

Which is better?

Calling something the “best” invites a lot of subjective criticism, but there are things about each of these watches that are decidedly better than its counterpart. Apple does an incredible job fitting as much hardware as they do in such a small body, but the consequence of this is a battery that can’t power the display all the time. Google and LG have done a great job building a watch that actually looks and feels like a watch that fits smaller wrists, but sacrificed quite a bit in the process.

As for which software is best, it’s not easy to say. Apple’s OS is more visually pleasing, but frequently requires more taps to accomplish the same task on Android Wear. While Google’s predictive software is very nice when it works, the failure rate is still far too high to be considered a solid feature for most. It’s also worth pointing out Google’s massive library of watch faces entirely dwarfs any claim to personalization Apple can claim.

Really, what this comes down to in many cases is price. The LG Watch Style at $249 has a stainless steel body and a nice leather strap in the box. A comparably assembled Apple Watch is $599, plus whatever you’d pay for a leather strap instead of the sport band included in the box. Even if you compare against the aluminum Apple Watch, there’s still a $150 price difference before you add in a leather watch strap. The big question is whether Apple Watch is actually $150 better than the LG Watch Style, and unless you really want to pay for things from your wrist and get a constant look at your heart rate the answer is probably no.




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Best Horror

Until Dawn

See at PlayStattion Store

Until Dawn doesn’t necessarily play like most horror games. Instead of immediately waking up in the middle of a bloody disaster, or in an empty town, it takes a more cinematic route. You play as five friends returning to the same mountain lodge where two of their friends disappeared into the mountains the year previous.

During your night on the mountain you’ll have to deal with someone else who has followed you up there, along with something that has been living on the mountain for a very long time. Until Dawn doesn’t have you constantly shooting, but the gameplay is directly based upon the choices that you make. While it’s entirely possibly to make it to Dawn with everyone in your party, you’ll have to be smart, fast, and ready to survive in order to pull it off.

Bottom line: Until Dawn is a fun thriller that brings a horror movie to life on your game screen. It’s got tons of potential for replay, and will keep you on your toes as you attempt to survive the night.

One more thing: You’ll probably have to play through the entirety of the game at least twice before being able to get every character safely to Dawn, but it is entirely possible.

Best puzzle game

The Last Guardian

See at PlayStation Store

Puzzle games on next generation consoles have become a somewhat rare genre. The Last Guardian aims to break that cycle. The follow up to PlayStation 2 classics Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian has you playing a small boy who stumbled upon a wounded beast called Trico, while lost in crumbling ruins. The aim of the game is to get Trico up to the top of the ruins where presumably more of his feathered friends are hiding out.

You’ll have to explore the environment by climbing and crawling around, as well as occasionally snagging a ride from Trico to get from area to area. You’ll find crates of butterflies to feed your furry winged dragon friend, and occasionally have to hide and let Trico fight the armored up blue-eyed guardians of the ruins. The puzzles — as mind bending as they are — actually play second fiddle to the story which is told mostly through the gameplay itself. It’s a visually beautiful game that will capture your attention almost immediately.

Bottom line: The Last Guardian is a gorgeous and fun puzzle game interlaced with a beautiful story sure to captivate you in the process.

One more thing: One of the flaws in The Last Guardian are the camera angles. They can be seriously terrible, and might make you want to give up on the game, but it’s worth it to power through.

Best Action

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

See at PlayStation Store

The Uncharted series has long be a mainstay when it comes to PlayStation exclusive games. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End continues in that tradition. Combining exploring ancient ruins, shooting down enemies, and a story following Nathan Drake’s quest to reunite with his long lost brother, this is an excellent follow up to the original trilogy.

Drake returns in excellent fashion, and he isn’t alone either. You’ll run into a cast of characters that are mighty familiar if you’ve played the original Uncharted Trilogy. If you’re new to the series, it gives you enough details to keep you in the loop with what has happened thus far.

Bottom line: Uncharted 4 is an excellent game if you like the adventure genre. Finding artifacts, running through ruins around the world, and neatly tying up the story of Nathan Drake in a bow.

One more thing: This is the last game inside of the Uncharted Universe, so it’s definitely worth giving a shot.

Best Story

Last of Us Remastered

See at PlayStation Store

The Last of Us is one of those break out titles that makes you want to immediately purchase a PlayStation console in order to play. While it originally debuted on PlayStation 3, the Remastered version came out specifically for PlayStation 4 and includes the Left Behind DLC. While this is at its core a combination of horror and action, the real gem of this game is this story.

The Last of Us takes place decades after a fungal infection has basically destroyed the world and sent mankind running. When a girl who might have the ability to help create a vaccine appears, Joel goes out of his way to get her to the resistance fighters. This means fighting through swarms of zombies, exploring ruined cities, dealing with cannibalistic human hunters, and plenty more. I could easily wax poetic on this game for hours, because it really is just that good.

Bottom line: The Last of Us Remastered brings an excellent game that will draw you in and capture you almost effortlessly. The story of Joel and Ellie as they fight towards their destination is one that definitely should not be missed.

One more thing: Last of Us Remastered includes a Game+ mode which allows you to replay the game with all of the upgrades you have crafted during your first play through.

Conclusion

There are plenty of exclusive games on PlayStation, and these are just some of the best. As we move forward there are more excellent exclusives coming to the fore. As you begin to explore these games and the many others that can only be played on PlayStation there will be laughs, tears, and furious curses waiting for you. Is there a PlayStation exclusive that should have made our list? Are any of your favorites here? Be sure to leave us a comment and let us know about it!




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Two of the best budget phones in India go head-to-head.

Xiaomi has started off the year strong with the Redmi Note 4, offering a feature-rich phone for ₹12,999. Although Huawei’s sub-brand Honor doesn’t have the same brand recognition as Xiaomi in India, the manufacturer’s latest budget handset, the Honor 6X, stands out in several areas.

In fact, the Honor 6X is the only phone that is close to the Redmi Note 4 when it comes to the value proposition. Both handsets offer a ton of features, and in the case of the Redmi Note 4, the highlight is the battery life. For the Honor 6X, it is the dual-camera setup at the back.

The distribution models are also the same, with sales strategy pitting two of the largest e-commerce players in India against one another. Xiaomi has sided with Flipkart for the Redmi Note 4, while Honor is selling the Honor 6X exclusively on Amazon India. With both phones sold via weekly flash sales, there are a lot of similarities both in the feature-set on offer and the targeted audience. Let’s see if the Redmi Note 4 can hold its own, or if the Honor 6X manages to pull ahead.

Hardware

Xiaomi set the bar for design and build quality in this segment, and Huawei has matched it with the Honor 6X, offering an anodized metal chassis with chamfered edges and a premium design. Visually, both phones look very similar, and what they lack in flair they make up for in sturdy build quality. Both handsets have 2.5D curved glass at the front, and while the Honor 6X offers on-screen navigation buttons, the Redmi Note 4 relies on hardware keys.

The Redmi Note 4 has a better display, and is more comfortable to use one-handed.

The subtle chamfers on the side makes it easy to use the Redmi Note 4 one-handed. The phone has a larger 4100mAh battery over the 3340mAh unit in the Honor 6X, but it isn’t noticeably thicker at 8.5mm over the 6X’s 8.2mm. It’s impressive that Xiaomi managed to fit in a larger battery in a chassis that’s around the same size as the Honor 6X.

As for the display, the panel on the Redmi Note 4 produces accurate colors, and while the Honor 6X wins out when it comes to sunlight legibility, its panel tends to gravitate to cooler colors. You can change the color temperature through the display settings, but the color reproduction is better on the Redmi Note 4. Both phones offer a blue light filter that reduces eye fatigue when viewing the screen at night.

Internal hardware is also similar between both devices. The Indian variant of the Redmi Note 4 is powered by a Snapdragon 625 SoC, which has eight Cortex A53 cores clocked up to 2.0GHz and an Adreno 506 GPU. Meanwhile, the Honor 6X features Huawei’s own Kirin 655 SoC, which has the same octa-core Cortex A53 cores, but with four clocked at 2.1GHz and the latter four at 1.7GHz. On the GPU front, the Kirin 655 comes with a Mali-T830MP2. The Redmi Note 4 wins out over the Honor 6X when it comes to visually-intensive gaming, and that’s largely driven by the efficacy of the Adreno 506.

Category Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Honor 6X
Operating System MIUI 8 based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow EMUI 4.1 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Display 5.5-inch 1080p (1920×1080) IPS LCD panel
401ppi pixel density
5.5-inch 1080p (1920×1080) IPS LCD panel
401ppi pixel density
SoC Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
Eight Cortex A53 cores at 2.0GHz
14nm
Octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 655
Four Cortex A53 cores at 2.1GHz, four Cortex A53 at 1.7GHz
16nm
GPU Adreno 506 Mali-T830MP2
RAM 2GB/3GB/4GB RAM 3GB/4GB RAM
Storage 32GB/64GB storage
microSD slot up to 256GB
32GB/64GB storage
microSD slot up to 256GB
Rear camera 13MP
dual LED flash
PDAF
Dual camera (12MP + 2MP)
LED flash
PDAF
Front shooter 5MP
1080p video recording
8MP
1080p video recording
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1 (A2DP), GPS,
microUSB, 3.5mm audio jack
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1 (A2DP), GPS,
microUSB, 3.5mm audio jack
Battery 4100mAh battery 3340mAh battery
Fingerprint Rear fingerprint sensor Rear fingerprint sensor
Dimensions 151 x 76 x 8.5mm 150.9 x 76.2 x 8.2mm
Weight 165g 162g
Colors Silver, Gold, Black Silver, Gold, Grey

A glaring omission on the Honor 6X is the lack of dual-band Wi-Fi, and as such you’re limited to connecting to 2.4GHz networks. The Redmi Note 4 lets you connect to both 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels. In day-to-day use, both phones run lag-free outside of a few gaming-related scenarios. Both phones have speakers located at the bottom, but the one on the Honor 6X is marginally louder than that of the Redmi Note 4.

The Redmi Note 4 is available in three variants, with the base model offering 2GB of RAM and 32GB storage for just ₹9,999. The sub-₹10,000 pricing works in Xiaomi’s favor, and the entry-level option will undoubtedly sell in huge quantities in India. Xiaomi is also offering a variant with 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage for ₹10,999, and a model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage for ₹12,999.

Meanwhile, the Honor 6X is sold in two configurations: a version with 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage for ₹12,999, and an option with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage for ₹15,999.

Winner: Redmi Note 4

Battery life

Xiaomi has prioritized battery life with the Redmi Note 4, and the result is a phone that can last up to two days on a full charge without any issues. That’s if your daily usage only involves a couple of hours of streaming music or video, along with a few hours of browsing, social media usage, and gaming. The combination of the 4100mAh battery and the energy-efficient 14nm SoC ensures that you get at least a day’s worth of use even if you’re streaming video throughout the day.

The Honor 6X is no slouch either when it comes to battery life, with the phone also lasting through a full day on regular use. However, it doesn’t quite match the battery prowess of the Redmi Note 4. Great battery life is a prerequisite for both phones as they both lack fast charging options. The Redmi Note 4 takes just over two hours to fully charge, with the Honor 6X taking slightly lesser time. You’re not going to be able to charge these phones quickly in the middle of the day should you need to. That said, with the battery life being what it is, you’re not going to find yourself in that situation often.

Winner: Redmi Note 4

Software

It’s hard to find a user interface that’s as convoluted as MIUI. Sadly, Huawei’s EMUI puts up a good challenge. The notification shade alone highlights everything that’s wrong with the way Chinese manufacturers approach software. That said, Huawei has gotten rid of a lot of the excess in the Nougat-based EMUI 5.0, paring back the overt customizations to offer a cleaner implementation. The update will fix many of the annoyances that are currently present in EMUI, and should make using the phone far less irritating. Huawei has mentioned that the Nougat update will be rolling out to the Honor 6X in the month of April.

As for MIUI, Xiaomi’s user interface is known for offering a smorgasbord of features, and if you’re new to the UI, there’s plenty to discover. Xiaomi also adds new features on a regular basis, and has rolled out several local features aimed at Indian users. For instance, the dialer automatically filters spam calls, and gives you caller ID information for several brands. Then there’s the option to limit calls from those in your contacts list, automatically record all calls, and more.

We’re yet to see the changes that Xiaomi will bring to the table with a Nougat-based version of MIUI. The Android 7.0 Nougat update is available in beta for the Redmi Note 4, but that version is still based on MIUI 8, with the user-facing side seeing no alterations. Even with MIUI 9, it is unlikely we’ll see drastic changes in the user interface, as the ROM is still primarily aimed at Chinese customers.

Winner: Honor 6X

Camera

The camera on the Honor 6X is the best in this segment. The dual camera setup isn’t the same as what you’d find on the likes of the Honor 8 or the Huawei P9, which have dedicated color and monochrome sensors, but the standalone 12MP lens does a fantastic job, particularly when you consider the fact that the Honor 6X costs a third of the Huawei P9 and half of the Honor 8.

The Redmi Note 4 also has a decent camera, but it isn’t on par with what you get with the Honor 6X.

Winner: Honor 6X

What should you buy? Up to you

The Redmi Note 4 and the Honor 6X are two of the best budget phones available today, and that will continue to be the case for much of 2017. There really isn’t a whole lot of difference between the two handsets: both offer great 1080p panels, premium design, sturdy build quality, and all-day battery life.

The Honor 6X takes the edge when it comes to camera quality, and the Redmi Note 4 is the winner in terms of battery life. Both phones are evenly matched on the software front as well, but that is set to change shortly for the Honor 6X, which will pick up the Nougat-based EMUI 5.0. The update will make the software much less tedious to use, in turn making the device a much more enticing proposition.

See at Amazon India

That said, the Honor 6X has a ₹3,000 premium over the Redmi Note 4, and while the camera quality entirely justifies the cost, the minor gulf in pricing could prove to be the difference over the course of the year. Furthermore, Xiaomi has a brand cachet that is unmatched in this category, which when combined with the lower pricing gives the Redmi Note 4 a slight edge.

See at Flipkart




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