Alongside the launch of its new phone, Razer also has a new set of earbuds up for grabs.

Designed to complement the Razer Phone, the new Hammerhead USB-C is a new take on Razer’s Hammerhead buds, but, as the name would suggest, designed with a USB-C connector.

Given the Razer Phone lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack in favor of going all-in on USB-C, that’s good news for anyone picking up the new smartphone. Of course, they’ll work with any old phone with USB-C you have laying around as well.

In terms of build, the Hammerhead USB-C packs all of the same specs as its Hammerhead siblings. The audio is powered by 10mm dynamic drivers, which Razer claims are larger than most similarly priced earbuds. That larger size should help to produce deeper bass tones and clear highs. As you might expect, the Hammerhead USB-C buds also pack an in-line remote and come with a custom carrying case.

As for raw specs, here’s a look at what makes the Hammerhead USB-C tick:

  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20kHz
  • Impedance: 32 ± 15% Ω
  • Sensitivity: 102 ± 3 dB @ 1 kHz
  • Max input power: 10 mW
  • Drivers: 10 mm with Neodymium magnets
  • Cable length: 1.3 m / 4.27 ft.
  • Approximate weight: 0.06 lbs (28.0 g)

Razer’s Hammerhead USB-C earbuds are available and shipping now directly from Razer for $79.99. For more, check out Windows Central’s in-depth review of the Hammerhead Bluetooth variant.

See at Razer

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

A quick look at some of Alcatel’s offerings for 2018.

Alcatel’s not the most popular phone brand around, but the company has proven to be able to kick out some really solid handsets for not a lot of cash (one of the most recent examples being the Alcatel Idol 5). Evan Blass shared an image of the company’s higher-end lineup for 2018 back in October, but we now have higher-resolution shots of all the handsets that were previously leaked.

(Left to right) Alcatel 5, 3V, 3X

The devices include the Alcatel 5, 3V, 3X, 3, 3C, and 1X – ranging from highest to lowest-end in that order. There aren’t any accompanying specifications to go along with the images, but that doesn’t mean we can’t infer anything about what’s being shown off here.

In regards to the most premium of the bunch, the Idol 5 features a pretty unique design that should help it to stand out a fair bit. There’s a pretty large top bezel, but very slim ones on the bottom and sides. The phone appears to be made out of metal, but strangely enough, there’s only a single camera. If you want dual cameras, you’ll have to go with either the Alcatel 3V or 3X.

(Left to right) Alcatel 3, 3C, 1X

A glass construction appears to be present for the 3V, 3X, 3, and 3C, but the cheaper 1X features a plastic one. The 1X is also the only phone of the bunch that doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor.

It’s unclear when in 2018 Alcatel will release these phones or how much they’ll cost, but if past devices are anything to go by, we’ll be looking at competent Android handsets that are very competitively priced.

Alcatel Idol 5 review: One of Cricket’s best

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

How to set up PlayStation VR

17 November 2017

Get the best start in life with PlayStation VR with our handy set up guide!

So you’ve picked up a shiny new PlayStation VR, and brought it home, excited about the possibilities of having a VR headset run on your PlayStation 4 console. Before you can put the headset on, and jump into your favorite game, you’ll need to get everything set up. Everything that you need to get set up is sitting right inside that big blue box.

While Sony does include a fairly conclusive set of instructions in the box, there are some tips and tricks to ensure that your setup process is as simple and easy as possible.

Read more at VRHeads

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

There’s a lot to watch on Amazon Video. Here’s what’s coming up in December 2017.

Amazon Prime Video has is one of the go-to destinations for on-demand content, thanks in no small part to devices like the $50 Amazon Fire Stick, the all-new $70 Amazon Fire TV, and even the $229 Amazon Echo Show.

But hardware is the easy part. Buy it once, and then use the heck out of it. What’s not quite so easy is keeping up with everything that’s new on Amazon Prime Video — because new shows are always coming and going.

December is looking GOOD for Amazon Prime Video. How about, oh, only EVERY “ROCKY” MOVIE EVER. (OK, up till the most recent one.) Or that Christmas feelgood flick, “Silence of the Lambs.” Or “Bloodsport.” Basically, you don’t have a reason to have to leave the house. Order up a movie, order up some food, and you’re good to go until 2018. Plus, a few NFL games for good measure.

It’s gonna be a REALLY good month.

Here’s what all you can look forward to in December 2017 on Amazon Prime Video.

Don’t have Amazon Prime Video yet? Get a free 30-day trial!

Coming Dec. 1

  • Apocalypse Now (1979)
  • At Close Range (1986)
  • Basic Instinct 2 (2006)
  • Bloodsport (1988)
  • Brothers Grimm (2005)
  • Buffalo 66 (1998)
  • Child’s Play (1988)
  • Dr. Strange (2007)
  • Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
  • Hammett (1982)
  • Hannibal (2001)
  • Hitch (2005)
  • Hulk Vs. (2009)
  • In & Out (1997)
  • In Enemy Hands (2003)
  • Light Sleeper (1992)
  • Meet Wally Sparks (1997)
  • Moonstruck (1987)
  • Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008)
  • Planet Hulk (2010)
  • Point Break (1991)
  • Rocky (1976)
  • Rocky II (1979)
  • Rocky III (1982)
  • Rocky IV (1985)
  • Rocky V (1990)
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)
  • Silence (2016)
  • Stigmata (1999)
  • The Final Cut (2004)
  • The Heartbreak Kid (2007)
  • The Invincible Iron Man (2007)
  • The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • The Weight of Water (2002)
  • Thor Animated Movie: Tales of Asgard (2011)
  • Titanic (1997)
  • Ultimate Avengers II (2006)
  • Ultimate Avengers the Movie (2006)
  • Wristcutters: A Love Story (2007)

Coming December 3

  • Class (Season 1)

Coming December 4

  • The Royals (Season 3)

Coming December 7

  • Thursday Night Football: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (8:25 p.m. Eastern Time)
  • Aftershock (2012)
  • Gun Shy (2017)

Coming December 8

  • Crank 2: High Voltage (2009)
  • The Grand Tour (Season 2, Amazon Original)

Coming December 9

  • It Comes at Night (2017)

Coming December 10

  • Nightcrawler (2014)
  • Rosewater (2014)

Coming December 12

  • Foreman (2017)

Coming December 14

  • Thursday Night Football: Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts (8:25 p.m. Eastern)

December 15

  • Jean Claude Van Johnson (Season 1)

December 18

  • Doctor Who Christmas Special

Coming December 21

  • Humans (Season 2)
  • Woodshock (2017)

Coming December 22

  • Monster Trucks (2017)

Coming December 23

  • Teen Wolf (Season 6)
  • Anne of Green Gables (Season 2)
  • Banksy Does New York (2014)
  • Someone Marry Barry (2014)

Coming December 25

  • Thursday Night Football: Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans (8:25 p.m. Eastern)

Coming December 28

  • Anjelah Johnson: Mahalo & Goodnight (2017)

Coming December 29

  • Rings (2017)

Coming December 31

  • Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)
  • Solace (2015)

Previously, on Amazon video …

Here’s what was (or still is, depending on when you’re reading this) new on Amazon Video in November:

Coming November 1

  • A Knight’s Tale (2001)
  • A View to Kill (1985)
  • Airplane! (1980)
  • Airplane II: The Sequel (1982)
  • Altar Egos (2017)
  • Bad Boys (1983)
  • Beauty Factory (2013)
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
  • Chasing the Star (2017)
  • Crocodile Dundee (1986)
  • Crocodile Dundee II (1988)
  • Dances with Wolves (1990)
  • Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
  • Die Another Day (2002)
  • Dirty Work (1998)
  • Dr. No (1963)
  • For Your Eyes Only (1981)
  • From Russia with Love (1964)
  • GoldenEye (1995)
  • Goldfinger (1964)
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
  • Legally Blondes (2009)
  • License to Kill (1989)
  • Live and Let Die (1973)
  • Moonraker (1979)
  • Never Say Never Again (1983)
  • Nowhere to Run (1993)
  • No Way to Live (2016)
  • Octopussy (1983)
  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
  • Redeemer
  • Speed Racer (2008)
  • St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)
  • The Beautiful Ones (2017)
  • The Cell (2000)
  • The Departed (2007)
  • The Little Tin Man (2013)
  • The Living Daylights (1987)
  • The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
  • The Peacemaker (1997)
  • The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
  • The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
  • The World is Not Enough (1999)
  • Thunderball (1965)
  • Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
  • Unforgettable (1996)
  • Up in the Air (2009)
  • You Only Live Twice (1967)

Coming November 3

  • Falling Water (Season 1)
  • The Only Living Boy in New York (Amazon Original, 2017)

Coming November 4

  • Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween (2016)

Coming November 5

  • Life on the Line (2016)
  • The Lovers (2017)

Coming November 6

  • Among Us (2017)
  • Pearly Gates (2015)

Coming November 7

  • Fifty Shades of Black (2017)
  • Home Fires (Season 2)
  • If You Give A Mouse A Cookie (Amazon Original, Season 1)
  • Thursday Night Football — Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals (8:25 p.m. Eastern)

Coming November 9

  • Armed Response (2017)

Coming November 10

  • Allied (2016)
  • Baby Steps (2015)

Coming November 13

  • Broken Mile (2016)
  • Orion (2015)
  • The Patent Scam (2017)

Coming November 16

  • Shot Caller (2017)
  • Thursday Night Football — Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers (8:25 p.m. Eastern)

Coming November 17

  • Landline (Amazon Original, 2017)

Coming November 19

  • Man Down (2016)

Coming November 20

  • Before the Sun Explodes (2016)
  • Blood Ransom (2014)

Coming November 21

  • Dark Angel (Season 1)

Coming November 23

  • Home Remedy (Season 1)
  • The Stinky And Dirty Show (Amazon Original, Season 1)

Coming November 24

  • Fences (2016)
  • The Big Sick (Amazon Original, 2017)

Coming November 27

  • London’s Finest (2014)
  • Panic (2014)
  • The Incomparable Rose Hartman (2016)

Coming November 28

  • Click Clack Moo Holiday (Amazon Original)

Coming November 29

  • The Circle (2017)
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Original, Season 1)

Coming November 30

  • Ogar: Will of Steel (2017)
  • Thursday Night Football — Washington at Dallas Cowboys (8:25 p.m. Eastern)

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

A few wallpapers to make your current phone look like OnePlus’s latest.

After weeks upon weeks of leaks and rumors, OnePlus finally took the wraps off of the OnePlus 5T on November 16. The phone is shaping up to be one of the absolute best ways to spend $500 on a new device, and if you’re anxiously awaiting November 21 to get here so you can order the phone, you can now download all of the 5T’s official wallpapers.

The most notable feature with the OnePlus 5T is its large 6-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 2160 x 1080. The aspect ratio’s been changed to a more modern 18:9, and like a lot of other phones we’ve seen this year, OnePlus drastically slimmed down the bezels from every angle.

In an attempt to show off the true power and capabilities of the 5T’s display, the wallpapers that ship with it are, unsurprisingly, filled with a lot of bright and vibrant colors. There are five new wallpapers that’ll be available on the 5T when it’s released, but if you want to download them to your phone right now, you can do just that.

Check them all out below!

OnePlus 5T hands-on preview: Relentless iteration

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The march of innovation never ends.

OnePlus has perfected a strategy over the last two years. Rather than expanding its product portfolio, it simply takes its flagship phone and iterates on it, adding subtle features and updating the design, while sticking to the core principles of having fantastic specs for the money. And in the past two generations now, that has included a mid-cycle refresh of its phone with a “T” variant. Understanding that the diehard fans don’t wait to wait a whole year for a new phone, for fear of having “old” tech in their pocket, OnePlus stays on the bleeding edge by giving a six-month refresh with a few key changes and a small price bump to match.

Comparing the OnePlus 5T to its immediate predecessor, the OnePlus 5, isn’t all that exciting. But watching OnePlus relentlessly iterate with one phone after another, unceremoniously killing off its predecessor in the process, sure is. Here’s what OnePlus has to offer in the 5T.

Moving look

OnePlus 5T Hands-on video

Some things are best conveyed with video. To see the OnePlus 5T in action, you’ll want to watch our hands-on preview above. When you’re finished, continue on for all of the details!

What’s the same

OnePlus 5T Carryovers from the OnePlus 5

Let’s just lay it out from the start: about 90% of the OnePlus 5T is identical to the OnePlus 5. I’ll get into the specifics of what has changed below, but despite those subtle proportional differences the core materials and build quality are identical to its predecessor. The aluminum slab of a frame is near-featureless, with rounded sides and almost no texture to help you hang on to it. Even though the 5T is slightly different in size the ports and switches are all in the exact same places — the headphone jack and Alert Slider both remain, thankfully.

Let’s just lay it out from the start: about 90% of the OnePlus 5T is identical to the OnePlus 5.

The spec sheets for the two phones are also identical. A Snapdragon 835 processor runs the show, supported by either 6GB of RAM and 64GB storage or 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage once again. A 3300mAh battery provides the power, and the 5V/4A Dash Charge charging system refills it. But beyond that, you’ll find all of the same finer details, down to the same radio bands and connectivity options. This is, in every respect, the same platform inside.

OnePlus 5T specs

The OnePlus 5T is still running Nougat, barely changed from what’s on the OnePlus 5 today — there are a couple subtle launcher changes and a new gesture in the camera app, but no wholesale redesigns or feature additions. Funnily enough, the OnePlus 3 and 3T are actually a step ahead of the 5T in one respect, as it has an early look at the Oreo update through its beta program already, which is the software that will be coming to all phones from the OnePlus 3 onwards by the end of 2017.

OxygenOS is still great — one of my favorite manufacturer customizations of Android — but it continues to be a head-scratcher why OnePlus doesn’t time new software releases to coincide with new hardware. With so much shared between the 5 and 5T in terms of hardware and specs, it would’ve been a nice little differentiator to see the new phone also debut new Oreo software and at least have that head start going for it.

A few tweaks

OnePlus 5T Hardware changes

So, what is different? Well, the few changes that have been made actually have an influence on how the potential buying public will perceive the OnePlus 5T. Unlike the OnePlus 3 to the 3T last year, the company swapped out the display to completely change the look of the front of the device.

You simply get more screen in the same body — it’s a win-win.

Gone is the “old”-looking 5.5-inch 16:9 panel, replaced by a 6-inch 2:1 panel instead. It’s a near-identical Optic AMOLED screen, with very similar tuning, colors and brightness, and though it isn’t a mind-blowing panel like the Galaxy Note 8 it also doesn’t have any notable flaws that’ll put you off at first glance. The bigger display necessitated the reduction of the top and bottom bezels to keep the phone manageable in the hand, and it definitely still is. The OnePlus 5T is just marginally taller than the 5 and the same width and thickness, so you simply get more usable display in effectively the same footprint — it’s win-win.

That necessitated the removal of capacitive keys below the display, which was a long-held nod to the enthusiast crowd that traditionally loves OnePlus phones. But alas, it’s time to let go — I see a not-so-distant future where no phones have capacitive keys, and it’s beautiful. The fingerprint sensor also moved, of course, repositioning to the rear where many of the same enthusiasts happily use it on phones like the Pixel 2 XL. It’s still a super-fast sensor, and it has an ergonomic placement that makes plenty of sense — it also lets you swipe on it to lower the notification shade. Nice.

Those smaller bezels seem to have had a direct correlation to the camera bump on the back of the phone growing in thickness, as there just wasn’t as much room to jam everything above the display. It’s still a dual camera module and is the same width and height, but sits higher off the back and provides for a bigger wobble when the phone is on a table. A subtle difference, and one you probably wouldn’t notice unless someone told you.

Camera changes

OnePlus 5T A few feature additions

The remaining changes and differentiators with the OnePlus 5T are extremely subtle, and they have to do with the cameras.

It seems as though OnePlus wasn’t happy with the OnePlus 5′s secondary telephoto lens, as it has scrapped it just a few months in with the 5T. The secondary camera remains, but it now has the same focal length as the primary camera. The sensor itself has changed, though, to a Sony IMX 376k (from IMX 350) and the lens is now f/1.7 to match the primary. That new sensor is still 20MP with quite small 1-micron pixels and doesn’t have OIS — which isn’t typically a recipe for success in bad lighting even though OnePlus claims the second sensor is “tuned” for low-light photography.

I think everyone would trade Portrait Mode for better photos out of the main camera.

You can’t explicitly switch to that secondary low-light camera, so it only comes on automatically — and early indications are that it only enables in really dark scenes. The secondary camera is shaping up to once again be more of an afterthought than a point of strength, just like on the OnePlus 5, leaving me leaning toward being upset that the main camera didn’t pick up any improvements. Yes that dual lens approach lets OnePlus do its Portrait Mode shots, but that’s about it — and I think just about everyone would trade that feature for better photos from the primary camera.

Over on the front side, OnePlus hasn’t changed anything about the camera hardware — a 16MP Sony sensor with f/2.0 lens — but has managed to leverage something in it for a fresh feature: Face Unlock. Though this is far from what Apple is doing with Face ID, OnePlus is claiming (and initially, delivering) much better accuracy and speed than Android’s longstanding built-in “Trusted Face” unlocking.

Face Unlock works by using the front camera to identify 100 reference points — but not depth information — in your face, and works entirely locally to the phone without storing a complete picture of your face. It starts working the moment you press the power button (or double tap the screen to wake it), and it unlocks extremely quickly — almost unsettlingly so. To that point, OnePlus isn’t making any claim that Face Unlock is particularly secure, and is positioning it as a good offering for someone who doesn’t typically want to deal with secure lock screens. If you want to keep things locked up tight, you still need to use a password or fingerprint.

Relentless iteration

OnePlus 5T First thoughts

The OnePlus 5T in itself isn’t very exciting. It isn’t even much of an improvement over the original OnePlus 5. But with the way that OnePlus operates, it doesn’t really matter. You can’t buy the OnePlus 5 anymore — and the new 5T is simply a better version of that phone for a starting price that’s just $20 higher. To evaluate the OnePlus 5T properly, you have to see how it stands on its own, and what it offers as a complete package for $499 at the end of 2017.

Anyone who was intrigued by a OnePlus 5 a month ago will be happy with the 5T, that’s for sure. And if you’ve been holding onto a trusty old OnePlus 3 or 3T it offers a great upgrade proposition — once again simply offering a newer and better version of the phone you have now. The OnePlus 5T, with its full spec sheet and solid hardware, still compares favorably to the rest of the market even as its price took another small jump. Provided people aren’t put off by the idea of OnePlus continuously refreshing its flagship phone every six months at the expense of the prior model immediately becoming obsolete, it’s poised to have the same success as its other flagships have up to this point.

We’ll have full impressions of this phone in our complete review — look for it here in the coming days!

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Your phone was faster yesterday than it is today, and will be slower tomorrow. Bit Rot is a real thing.

Computers are kind of like people — as they age they tend to get a little slower and flaws are easier to see.

Our phones are computers shrunk down to be pocket-sized and easy to carry around. And that means as time goes by, things aren’t happening as quickly as they used to or things can get a little buggy. This is universal; it happens to Galaxy phones and LG phones and Pixel phones and iPhones and every other phone that does more than make calls and send texts. Some people say they don’t see it happening, and that’s because of why it happens and the way software is written for all the different phones out in the wild. But it is still happening on your phone right now, and always will be.

Let’s take a look at what is commonly known as “Bit Rot” and see if we can’t understand things a little better.

What is Bit Rot, exactly?

It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot by people who are into computers, and it basically means that the software is “old” and has become slower than it used to be. There are three things at play, and they’re well documented even if they’re not very easy to understand: Software Erosion, Software Entropy, and Software Bloat.

First, some outliers

Sometimes there can be other factors, too. Data Degradation and Feature Creep can cause programs and apps to slow down, but they’re easier to explain and are a little different than what we call Bit Rot. Data Degradation is a fancy word that means your memory — either the RAM, the storage or both — is getting old. RAM and Solid State media require an electric charge and over time it can disperse more than it was designed to do. This means some of the stored bits (software bits) can be changed. When a few bits are wrong, many programs can compensate but that takes time and the programs are a little slower. When a lot of bits are wrong things pretty much stop working as intended.

Data degradation and feature creep can make your phone slower, too, but are different from Bit Rot.

Feature Creep is easy to understand. Your phone was built with a specific set of software in mind. When you get an update that adds more features, the hardware has to work harder and things get slower. Online forums are filled with people who hated a recent update on their Galaxy phone and people with older iPhones who hate the latest version of iOS. That’s because the software was written with newer and more capable hardware in mind, just like the software your phone originally shipped with was. We all love new features and updates, but the old adage “be careful what you wish for” is right on the money here.

These issues can certainly have an effect, but they’re different from Bit Rot and probably aren’t contributing much towards any slowness on our phones because we don’t keep them long enough to see it in action.

Software Erosion

Software Erosion is the slow but steady deterioration of performance that can happen to any software, whether it’s something we use a lot or just a little. Or even never. This happens because we use the software and all applications change when they’re used — we add user data to the base so that the software does what we want it to do. Note that this is different than software getting slow or buggy while we’re using it a lot but goes back to normal with a restart. That’s usually due to small errors accumulating over time or a memory leak. You can’t fix Software Erosion by closing and re-opening an app or restarting your phone.

All software has bugs and all software needs regular maintenance it never gets.

There are two different types of Software Erosion, dormant and active. Dormant software erosion happens when a program or parts of a program you don’t use stop working well because other things changed, and active erosion happens because of changes while you’re using it. Both types happen because of a few different reasons.

  • Unused or leftover code can (and often does) contain bugs that don’t get caught.

All software has bugs, no matter what a developer of user says. When a company changes some code there’s a very good chance some of the original code is never going to be used but is still built into the final product. Bugs here aren’t as likely to get caught and can have an immediate effect or one that takes a while to show up.

  • Changes because the software isn’t user-friendly happen a lot.

A developer builds software with a specific idea of how we will use it, but once it gets into our hands we often don’t use it that way! Sometimes this isn’t our fault and software has a poorly implemented interface so we do things a developer never thought we would. Other times it is our fault and we do things like make multiple accounts or run multiple instances of an app or function that wasn’t designed to run that way. This can leave user data or cached data that is more difficult for an app to process.

  • Lack of updates and maintenance are bad.

Any developer will tell you that the job isn’t finished once the program is published, and software needs to be maintained. This means fixing bugs users find, but also frequent updates to work well with other software. Lack of regular maintenance across the board is the biggest cause of Software Erosion.

The “Android” that runs on your phone is actually a big group of independently running programs and services that need to communicate with each other constantly. An example: Facebook makes another change on their servers, then updates the app in Google Play. Your Contacts app ties into Facebook, so it might need an update. Or your camera gets an update but the gallery application that’s tied to it doesn’t. All the parts of the system need to work with all the other parts, and that means regular maintenance.

The good news here is that a lot of Software Erosion problems are fixed with a factory reset where all the user data is wiped. The bad news is that it all comes back eventually.

Software Entropy

All software that we can’t change has bugs and unused code (see above). These bugs will probably stay unchanged over time, but can get worse as the complexity of software we can change increases. This is called Software Entropy.

The software you change affects the software you can’t change because the system itself gets more complex.

Most of the software on your phone is in a closed system. You might be able to update the keyboard or camera app from the Play Store, but the bulk of the operating system is installed at the factory and only changed with a full system update. This is very different from all the apps, both factory-installed user apps and ones you installed yourself. The software you can change gets more complex over time and the software you can’t change has to deal with it.

The people who wrote the software on your phone are pretty darn smart when it comes to all of this. But nobody can know the things we’ll do, what new apps will be capable of doing, and how apps designed for one set of APIs (application programming interfaces), for instance, Samsung’s APIs from their software development kit, will work with apps designed for another set of APIs, like the ones from Google that are part of Android. The developers have to do their best to guess and make the software in a way that won’t break and hope for the best.

There are two ways to fight Software Entropy — regular software maintenance through timely updates, or resetting the user software back to the factory state.

Software Bloat

This isn’t what the name suggests, though extra bloatware apps can and do cause things to run slower. Software Bloat when talking about Bit Rot means software that is filled with extra or unused features.

The more features added to any program, the more complex it will be. Complexity makes applications slower.

“Extra” features are impossible to define. Apps, or parts of apps, that I don’t use are extraneous to me, but you might use and love them. From a computer’s point of view, the only good application is one that does only one thing then closes itself once finished. This is impractical from a user point of view; imagine a keyboard app that closed after each letter was typed. The companies that make the phones we love have to find a happy medium between features and performance by using the right hardware or cutting back on features in apps. That could mean adding more RAM and using a faster processor or trimming features from an app, or both.

Another part of the “extra” features is software that has to be able to handle multiple (and often competing) standards. Your email applications are a great example of this. If you use Gmail and use the Gmail app, things are a lot more streamlined than they would be if you’re using the other email app with a Gmail account, or an Exchange account, or something like a Yahoo! POP3 account. The Email app has to be able to do things the Gmail app can’t, and has to be able to handle the different types of data we create. This takes time to process and as we add more data it takes more time.

Perhaps the best example of “extra” features and how they affect performance would be comparing Evernote and Google Keep. If you only use the app to take notes, all the extras in Evernote mean it takes a lot more time to add or read them. If you like those extra features, you’ll quickly find that Google Keep just can’t do most of them. There is no right or wrong here, but this does have a big impact on performance.

Unused “leftover” features can still run and cause problems, and our phones are filled with them.

Unused features are more frustrating because we don’t know they are there and we couldn’t do anything to change things if we did. When a company like LG (we’ll pick on them here, but this applies to every company making phones, even Google) makes a phone with their own apps that are duplicates of “stock” android apps like the phone dialer or the calendar, there is a lot of leftover code that isn’t being used. Some of the code still runs when you start your phone, too. We’ve talked about how this means bugs will be harder to find in that portion of code, but it also can have a big impact on performance. And when Software Entropy is factored in we see how those bugs can get worse and worse over time.

When you see silly arguments in comments about how a phone like the Moto G5 is faster than a Galaxy S8 with half the hardware power, Software Bloat is why.

So what does all this mean and what can I do about it?

That’s an easy question — it means that some phones are slower than others and some phones get noticeably slower over time while others are less affected. And there’s not really anything we can do about it.

More features mean slower software and more opportunity for Bit Rot to happen. It’s a trade many gladly make.

Real talk — a phone like the Note 8 is noticeably slower (and shows it when attached to tools that monitor performance) than a Pixel 2. The Note 8 will get even slower six months or so down the road. But the Pixel 2 will never be able to do some of the things a Note 8 does, no matter how many apps we install or how we hack the crap out of it. I can annotate a screenshot with the S Pen immediately after I capture it on the Note 8, but on the Pixel 2, I have to share the screenshot to another device to annotate it with the same level of features and detail.

Like the Evernote vs. Google Keep argument above, what’s better is largely a matter of features that you like. The Note 8 has all the features. This means it has all the bugs and software bloat that makes Bit Rot more noticeable. This could be a problem for you, but for others, it’s not because there is no other way to get the feature-set. This is why there are more Android phones than just a Pixel and Pixel Plus and what everyone means when they say Android gives you a choice.

And when Bit Rot ever becomes enough of a problem that you need to do something about it, just factory reset your phone and take a few hours to set everything back up.


Sound off in the comments below!

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

Best overall

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4

See at Flipkart

The Redmi Note 4 is the phone to beat in the budget segment. It features a 5.5-inch Full HD display with 2.5D curved glass, a premium design with an all-metal chassis and contoured edges, and class-leading battery life.

And with Xiaomi issuing a permanent price cut, the Redmi Note 4 is much more pocket-friendly. The variant with 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage is now selling for ₹9,999, making it the best deal in the budget segment. If you need more memory and storage, Xiaomi is offering the model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage for ₹11,999.

The phone is now receiving the stable build of MIUI 9, which is based on Android 7.0 Nougat. If you’re new to the MIUI ecosystem, there’s plenty to look forward to: the custom ROM comes with a slew of useful features, and you can alter the look of the interface through a varied selection of themes from the store.

The camera has received a sizeable upgrade as well, and it now takes great images in daylight conditions. Overall, you’re getting a phone that offers an incredible amount of features for not a whole lot of money.

Bottom line: A premium aluminum design, great battery life, decent camera, and attractive pricing make the Redmi Note 4 the standout device in this category. For its price, there really isn’t another device that gives you more.

One more thing: The Redmi Note 4 is available online and from thousands of retail stores across the country.

Why the Redmi Note 4 is the best

Xiaomi has figured out the formula to succeed in India’s competitive budget segment: offer devices packed to the gills with features, and price them lower than the rest of the market. It’s no wonder, then, that the Chinese manufacturer currently fields three of the best-selling phones in India in the Redmi Note 4, Redmi 4, and the Redmi 4A.

The Redmi Note 4 is at the pinnacle of budget phones. You get a 5.5-inch Full HD IPS LCD display, Snapdragon 625 with eight Cortex A53 cores, a 13MP rear camera with PDAF and dual-tone LED flash, 5MP front camera, and a massive 4100mAh battery. The design is much more premium than its predecessor, and the camera is of a higher quality. You even get an IR blaster that lets you control appliances in your house.

The Redmi Note 4 has a premium design and outstanding battery life.

The phone has recently picked up the MIUI 9 update, which introduces a bevy of new features. You get a brand-new image editor that lets you remove elements from the background, a notification pane with bundled notifications, system-wide optimizations to make the UI feel smoother, native split screen mode, a new video player, and so much more.

Another area where the Redmi Note 4 excels at is battery life. With a 4100mAh battery under the hood, you routinely get screen-on-time of over eight hours on a full charge. While there’s no fast charging available, you’re guaranteed to get two days’ worth of usage from a single charge.

There’s no dearth of features on the Redmi Note 4, and all things considered, you’re getting a lot for your money.

Best small phone

Xiaomi Redmi 4

See at Amazon

If you’re looking for a device with a 5.0-inch form factor, then the Redmi 4 is right up your alley. The device is a bargain for ₹8,999, offering a 720p display with a built-in blue light filter, Snapdragon 435, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, and a massive 4100mAh battery.

The compact size and the huge battery make the Redmi 4 a great option if you’re in the market for a device that can last two days between charges.

The Redmi 4 also has a 13MP camera with an f/2.0 lens and PDAF, and you get the usual bells and whistles in the Mi Camera app: Panorama, burst mode, HDR, real-time filters with previews, and face recognition. You can also use Xiaomi’s Beautify effects in conjunction with the 5MP front shooter.

Bottom line: The Redmi 4 gets the basics right at an unbeatable price tag.

One more thing: The phone is available in gold and black color options, and should pick up the update to MIUI 9 shortly.

Best selfie phone

Xiaomi Redmi Y1

See at Amazon

The Redmi Y1 shares a lot of similarities with the Redmi 4, including its ₹8,999 price tag. The phone also comes with the Snapdragon 435, and has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal memory.

Where the Y1 differs is the front camera, which is a 16MP offering with a dedicated selfie flash. The flash kicks in automatically in low-light conditions, and Xiaomi’s Bestufy 3.0 feature automatically “enhances your natural beauty” to get that perfect selfie.

The Y1 isn’t just about the front camera; the phone also features a 5.5-inch 720p display, a design aesthetic that’s similar to that of the Redmi Note 4, and a 3080mAh battery that gives you all-day battery life. The MIUI 9 stable build is also making its way to the device.

Bottom line: The Redmi Y1 is your best option if you’re looking for a device with a great selfie camera.

One more thing: The Y1 comes with a dedicated microSD card slot along with a dual-SIM card tray, so you don’t have to choose between using a secondary SIM card or an SD card.


Right now, it feels like Xiaomi is the only manufacturer that’s serious about the budget segment. Lenovo has released several devices in this category this year, including the likes of the K8, K8 Plus, and the K8 Note. Although the company made the switch to stock Android, the devices won’t be receiving the Oreo update until June 2018 at the earliest.

Then there’s Motorola, which rolled out the Moto E and Moto C in this segment. The Moto E4 Plus is particularly interesting thanks to its 5000mAh battery, but the phone isn’t confirmed to receive the Oreo update. For a device that’s just three months old, that’s inexcusable.

Simply put, if you’re looking for a phone that offers the most value for your money, then the Redmi Note 4 should be at the top of that list. The recent price cut makes it a much more enticing option, with the 3GB variant now available for just ₹9,999. For that price, you get a great design, incredible hardware, amazing battery life, and a camera that holds its own in this category.

Best overall

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4

See at Flipkart

The Redmi Note 4 is the phone to beat in the budget segment. It features a 5.5-inch Full HD display with 2.5D curved glass, a premium design with an all-metal chassis and contoured edges, and class-leading battery life.

And with Xiaomi issuing a permanent price cut, the Redmi Note 4 is much more pocket-friendly. The variant with 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage is now selling for ₹9,999, making it the best deal in the budget segment. If you need more memory and storage, Xiaomi is offering the model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage for ₹11,999.

The phone is now receiving the stable build of MIUI 9, which is based on Android 7.0 Nougat. If you’re new to the MIUI ecosystem, there’s plenty to look forward to: the custom ROM comes with a slew of useful features, and you can alter the look of the interface through a varied selection of themes from the store.

The camera has received a sizeable upgrade as well, and it now takes great images in daylight conditions. Overall, you’re getting a phone that offers an incredible amount of features for not a whole lot of money.

Bottom line: A premium aluminum design, great battery life, decent camera, and attractive pricing make the Redmi Note 4 the standout device in this category. For its price, there really isn’t another device that gives you more.

One more thing: The Redmi Note 4 is available online and from thousands of retail stores across the country.

Update, November 2017: The Redmi Note 4 continues to be our top budget pick in India.

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

Never vacuum again.

Is this deal for me?

We’ve seen a lot of technological advancements over the past few years, and while we don’t have robot maids like The Jetsons did, this deal will get you the next best thing.

Head to Amazon and pick up an iRobot Roomba 690 Robot Vacuum for $274.99. This item normally sells for $355, and today’s price is the best in history. It is also the #1 Best Seller in Commercial Indoor Robotic Vacuums. It received 4.1 out of 5 stars based on 311 customer reviews.

This handy-dandy little vacuum is compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices. If you don’t have one of those yet, you’ll be glad to know that this also works just fine with your existing Wi-Fi network.

The patented 3-stage cleaning system and dual multi-surface brushes make sure that everything big and small is sucked up. This also features dirt detecting sensors, so areas that need a little more TLC will receive the proper attention. It also automatically adjusts its height to clean everything from hardwood to plush carpet. Your purchase is backed by a one-year warranty and your first set of AA batteries is included. When Roomba is done vacuuming, it will return to the included home base to recharge and get ready for the next dust-busting session.

Surprise company coming over? Tell your Roomba using the free iRobot HOME app and it can start cleaning before you get home. Or, schedule it to clean at a specific time and rest assured knowing you won’t have to spend hours vacuuming anymore. Now if only there were a robot that could do laundry….


See at Amazon

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

Here’s everything you need to know about the AT&T MVNO.

Cricket Wireless is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) or “alternative carrier”. MVNOs lease coverage from the Big Four networks (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon) and sell it to customers for less. The benefit of an MVNO is that you experience the same level of service as a customer on one of the larger networks, but you can often find talk, text, and data plans for a fraction of the cost.

Cricket is owned by and leases coverage from AT&T. If you sign up with Cricket, that means you get AT&T’s 4G LTE coverage, as well as unlimited plans.

Cricket Wireless coverage map

If you like AT&T’s coverage, but you’d prefer a cheaper bill every month, then consider signing up with an MVNO. Here’s what you need to know about Cricket Wireless.


Individual plans

Cricket offers fairly straightforward unlimited talk and text plans with varying allotments of 4G LTE data. All plan prices are flat fees, with taxes and fees included. So you will only pay $30/month if you opt for the $30 plan, for example. All plans, except the $25/month Talk & Text plan, come with unlimited talk, text, and 2G data. Pricing varies depending on how much 4G LTE data you opt for.

The base plan is $25/month and includes only unlimited calling and texting, with no data access or multimedia messaging. $30/month gets you 2GB of 4G LTE data (max 8Mbps) ; $40/month gets you 5GB of 4G LTE and the plan is eligible for the $5/month Auto Pay discount (max 8Mbps); $55/month gets you 22GB of data (max 3Mbps); and $60/month gets you 22GB of 4G LTE up to 8Mbps.

Note: If you want tethering (mobile hotspot), you can get it with the $55 or $60 unlimited plans, but both of them limit high-speed tethering to 8GB of usage.

Learn more

Family plans

Cricket calls its family plans “Group Save Discounts”. In order to receive the discount, each line of up to 5 lines must be on the $40/month 4GB plan or better. You save more with each line you add, for lines 2 to 5.

You save $10 off the second line, $20 off the third, $30 off the fourth, and $40 off the fifth, so if you have 5 lines, you can save $100 per month. The $5/month Auto Pay credit is not available when you use the Group Save Discount.

Learn more

Best Cricket Wireless phones

Since Cricket Wireless operates on AT&T’s network, you can bring your own phone, and it can be just about any GSM device. Before you decide, however, you should check compatibility.

If you don’t have a phone of your own to bring or want to update, these are the ones you should consider.

Samsung Galaxy S8

Arguably the best Android smartphone available, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is a gorgeous phone with all the bells and whistles you could want in an Android device. It features a lightning-fast fingerprint sensor, as well as facial recognition and iris scanning to unlock it. The infinity display packs even more screen into a smaller form factor, helping to keep it just this side of “phablet” territory. The best part is that, if you join Cricket, you can get it for $699.99, which is $50 less than what AT&T is selling it for! If that price tag is too high, the Galaxy S7 is still holding up remarkably well.

Learn more

ZTE Blade X Max

A big phone at a small phone price, the ZTE Blade X Max is incredible value at $99.99. Exclusive to Cricket Wireless, the ZTE Blade X Max features a massive 6-inch HD display, a 1.4GHz octa-core Snapdragon 435 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 13MP rear camera, and a 3400mAh battery, all running Android 7.1.1 Nougat.

Learn more

How to cancel Cricket Wireless

Cricket might just be the easiest service to cancel in the world. This is a direct quote from its website:

We don’t want to see you go! But if you need to cancel your service, just stop paying.

Yeah. That’s it. If you haven’t paid within 60 days of your last Cricket pay date, your account will be canceled. Just be aware that once it’s canceled, that’s it: your number is made unavailable, your account is closed, and any remaining balance is removed.

If you have an account with more than one line, you’ll have to give Cricket a call at 1-800-274-2538 (1-800-CRICKET) or dial 611 on your Cricket Wireless phone. You can also chat on the Cricket site.


How to unlock a Cricket Wireless phone

All you have to do is call 1-800-CRICKET (274-2538) and request an unlock code. You do, however, have to meet the following requirements:

  • The device you want to unlock has to have been active for at least 6 months or you’re on an unlimited plan.
  • The device hasn’t been reported as lost or stolen.
  • The phone is actually locked to Cricket’s network.
  • The device isn’t associated with a fraudulent account.

Basically, if you’ve been a customer in good standing for at least 6 months, you just have to ask.

Learn more

Finding another MVNO

If you like AT&T’s coverage and are considering Cricket Wireless but want other options, then you may want to consider another MVNO that uses AT&T’s network or another that uses multiple networks.

There are more than 15 MVNOs that use AT&T’s network, so you have many to choose from, and some may work better in your area than others.

Learn more

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |