Sunday, April 30, 2017

15 best strategy games for Android

best strategy games featured image
Strategy is among the oldest game types in human history. Whether it’s chess, board games, or even some card games, we’ve been playing strategy games since long before there was ever a computer. Strategy games have come a long way, but the basic premise of using your brain to beat your opponents remains true even to this day. It’s a fantastic way to test yourself to see how creative you can be. Here are the best strategy games on Android!

Age of Civilizations

Price: $2.14


Age of Civilizations is a mix between a strategy game and a board game. It has a lot of the same qualities as Risk, where your job is to obtain territories from other civilizations. You’ll have access to a variety of scenarios, such as World War I and II as well as a modern world scenario. You can also create your own scenarios to challenge yourself. It also contains 193 civilizations, two planets, and some interesting mechanics. It’s complex, difficult, and highly addictive. Best of all, there are no in-app purchases. It’s one of the better, simpler strategy games.


Age of Civilizations

Card Thief

Price: Free / $1.99


Card Thief is one of the more unique strategy games. It’s a mix between strategy and a card game. Your goal is to move around to avoid detection. You’ll have equipment, stealth points, and more to help you avoid the guards and finish the level. It boasts a play time of two to three minutes per play. That makes it great for casual gamers. You can can download the game for free and unlock the full version for $1.99.


Chess Free

Price: Free


Chess is one of the oldest strategy games. Chess Free is probably the best chess game on mobile. The graphics aren’t a lot to look at. However, you’ll have 12 difficulty levels across two game modes, ELO Ratings, save and load games, local multiplayer, a chess tutor, and a bunch of other cool stuff. It’s about as complete of a chess game as you can find. It utilizes the Treebeard Chess Engine. It’s the same one from MSN Chess. It’s completely free with no in-app purchases or advertisements.


Chess Free

Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition

Price: $4.99


Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition is a strategy survival game. It starts with you being thrown into the wilderness of some random planet. Your job is to survive. You’ll have to gather resources, craft things, build structures, and even find sources of food. It does so with a fun tongue-in-cheek flavor. The graphics aren’t half bad either. It was a very popular game on PC and the Pocket Edition is pretty much the same game. You’ll have to fork out $4.99 to play, but at least there are no in-app purchases.


Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Price: Free with in-app purchases


Hearthstone is one of the most popular card dueling strategy games on mobile. With this title, you build decks of cards and then use them to duel other players online. You unlock cards as you go and gradually get better and stronger. This game also has cross-platform support. You can log in using your account and play on PC or mobile. Blizzard has done a decent job of adding in new content to keep the game fresh and it remains among the best card duel options available right now.


Kairosoft Co games

Price: Varies


Kairosoft is a game development studio that has a ton of interesting strategy games. Some of their more popular titles include Game Dev Story, Ninja Village, Anime Studio Story, Grand Prix Story, and others. Currently, their collection spans dozens of games with free and paid versions of most of them. The games are challenging, but not too difficult, and it’s easy to sink several hours into pretty much any of them. We recommend giving Game Dev Story and Ninja Village a try first. Click the button below to view their entire collection!


Kingdom Rush games

Price: Free / $1.99 / $2.99 with in-app purchases


Kingdom Rush is one of the most successful tower defense franchises out there. There are three games in the series. They include Kingdom Rush, Kingdom Rush Frontier, and Kingdom Rush Origins. They all have the same basic mechanics. You’ll build towers and employ heroes to defend yourself against wave after wave of bad guys. Each title has plenty of levels and upgrades to unlock. The first Kingdom Rush game is currently free while the others will cost you a few bucks. The only downside is that they all have in-app purchases, even after you pay for them. Otherwise, they’re great strategy games.


Machines at War 3

Price: $6.99


Machines at War 3 is one of the better real-time strategy games. Your job is to beat the bad guys and save some scientists. It features a deep story that covers 21 missions. It also features 130 different types of units and tech to build, unlimited random map skirmishes, online multiplayer, and more. There is even an unlimited random skirmish mode in case you just want to kill a few minutes. The game is delightfully challenging as any good strategy game should be. It’s a tad expensive at $6.99 but there are no in-app purchases.


Out There: Ω Edition

Price: $3.99


Out There: Ω Edition is one of the most difficult strategy games that we’ve played. The objective in this game is to survive in the vastness of space after your character wakes up from a cryo-chamber. You’ll have to manage things like your oxygen levels and other resources as you travel, encounter various forms of alien life, and slowly repair your ship. It’s about as hard as it sounds. It also has Google Play Games achievements, four alternate endings, and each new game is freshly created so no two plays will be the same.


Pandemic: The Board Game

Price: $1.99 / $1.99


Pandemic is among the best board games out there. You and up to three other people play as CDC scientists. Your job is to traverse the world to kill disease. Diseases will crop up as you try to destroy them. If you wait too long, the diseases cause a pandemic and it’s game over. There are seven characters to play, up to four players via local or online multiplayer, three difficulty settings, a full rulebook, and more. You can also pay a few extra bucks for expansions that give you more roles, more events, and more content. This is really one of the best strategy games out there.


Plague Inc

Price: Free with in-app purchases


Plague Inc is one of the most popular and successful strategy games of all time. The premise is that you’re supposed to infect the entire world with a disease. Thus, you must develop and evolve a disease that is strong enough to do that. You’ll have 12 disease types to play around with along with save/load functionality so you can keep going between play sessions. It’s quite a complex game. The developers have also done a great job adding in expansions over the years. Even the CDC likes this game. Yes, really.


Rollercoaster Tycoon Classic

Price: $5.99 / $5.99


Rollercoaster Tycoon Classic is a port of the original Rollercoaster Tycoon. The game comes with both the first and second title in the series. There are additional expansions available as in-app purchases as well. For those who have never played, Rollercoaster Tycoon gives you a theme park. There is also a set of conditions that must be met. You must build a park that also fulfills all of those conditions to win the scenario. There are 95 scenarios to play through, tons of coasters and attractions to build, and more. There is even a Park Scenario Editor to create your own scenarios. It’s a ton of fun and definitely one of the best strategy games out there.


Supercell games

Price: Free with in-app purchases


Supercell is the developer of three of the most successful and popular strategy games ever. They are Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, and Boom Beach. Clash of Clans and Boom Beach are RTS strategy games where you build a base, defend it against other players, and then attack other players. Clash Royale is a card game similar in scope to Hearthstone. Each game boasts a massive player base and that’s good news because they’re all online multiplayer games. Each one is also a freemium game.



Price: Free with in-app purchases


Vainglory is arguably the most popular MOBA on Android right now. It features three-on-three online battles that last up to 20 minutes each. You can play as many as you want without restriction. The game boasts 60fps and a sub-30ms control response which caters to the hardcore fans of the genre. There are quite a few heroes available and more are frequently added. You can also customize them with skins if you prefer. There are casual, ranked, and quick play modes depending on what kind of challenge you’re looking for. It’s also popular with eSports fans.


XCOM: Enemy Within

Price: $9.99


Last and certainly not least on our list is XCOM: Enemy Within. This is a tactical strategy game where you move your characters on a chessboard style map and kill off the bad guys. On top of that, you’ll be able to recruit new characters, upgrade a variety of things including your gear and abilities, and more. There is also a campaign mode with tons of stuff to do. It also has online multiplayer in case you feel like doing a little social gaming. It’s a bit expensive, but there are no in-app purchases and the graphics are pretty fantastic. It’s one of the best strategy games out there.


If we missed any of the best strategy games for Android, tell us about them in the comments!

You can give the LG G6 a see-through back too


Zack Nelson from YouTube durability testing channel JerryRigEverything has responded to requests on social media to see if the same approach to creating a Galaxy S8 with a see-through back panel would also work on the LG G6. Turns out it does. Zack now has the world’s first clear LG G6 to go with his see-through Galaxy S8.

The process starts out much the same as with the Galaxy S8, just apply a heat gun to the back to soften the glue and carefully pop the Gorilla Glass 5 panel off. But where the Galaxy S8 required a solvent bath to remove the paint layer from the inside, the LG G6 simply has a plastic-like layer that can be peeled off by hand.

A few minor nips and tucks follow to fully show off the internals and the naked LG G6 is born. If you’re at all interested in trying this on your G6, just be aware that besides voiding your warranty you’ll also lose your water-resistant rating and wireless charging if you choose to remove the coils, but it’s still an easier-looking project than the clear S8. Zack’s taking requests for the next phone to receive the naked treatment, so hit the comments on the video to make your suggestions.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

New 2017 iPad Review: Apple Offers a Budget Tablet

Apple’s new 9.7-inch 2017 iPad doesn’t come with a lot of surprises except for one, the $329 price tag Apple gave the 32GB model. It now competes with other budget tablets including the company’s own iPad mini 4, their former low-price option. Potential buyers may want to know if this new 2017 iPad offers enough reasons to upgrade from their present iPad or switch from another company’s tablet. We’ll let readers know in our review of the new low-cost iPad.

new 2017 ipad

Apple and other retailers sell the iPad in two storage sizes, 32GB for $329 and 128GB for $429. That gets the buyer a Wi-Fi only model. Add Cellular for an extra $130 making them $459 for 32GB and $559 for 128GB. You can also add Apple Care for $99, which delivers premium support and an extra year to the warranty life.

Apple sells the new 2017 iPad in three colors, Space Gray, Silver and Gold.

apple 2017 ipad color options

2017 iPad: Hardware Design

The hardware design of the new 9.7-inch 2017 iPad looks almost exactly like the rest of the iPads Apple sells or sold earlier. It’s got the same rounded corners, brushed aluminum edges that bring the front glass display together with the aluminum back and the same rounded edges.

Along the top right we get the power button and on the top right we find the volume up and down buttons.

new 2017 ipad top edge

Apple didn’t remove the 3.5mm stereo headphone/mic combo port like they did on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. It’s still there on the top edge on the left.

The left edge doesn’t show us much, but Apple placed their magnets there to connect to the Apple Smart Cover and other covers.

new 2017 ipad bottom edge

The bottom edge of the new 2017 iPad has the speakers and a Lightning port between them.

Why doesn’t Apple change their iPad design more drastically from model to model? First, why mess with something that works? People like the thin slab of glass and metal design because it works well, Apple makes them to last and it helps users view content and attach accessories in a useful way.

2017 iPad: Performance and Battery Life

new 2017 ipad home button

The new 2017 iPad comes it at only $329 and it’s budget price shows somewhat. Pressing the home button to unlock takes a second or two longer than my iPad Pro or iPhone 7 Plus. Apps usually launch instantly, but after a little use, the iPad does launch them noticeably slower. However, it’s not enough that the average user will mind. In fact, if I wasn’t looking for a speed difference while launching apps and unlocking my iPad next to my other iOS devices, then I might not have noticed.

new 2017 ipad back

The graphics chip and CPU built into the new 2017 iPad run slower than the iPad Pro and iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The A10 Fusion chip in the iPhone 7 bests the 2017 iPad’s A9 as does the M10 over the M9 for graphics processing. In real world, that means the new iPad’s not the top choice for gaming and design, but it will still play casual games and in my experience works well for most common tasks.

The battery of the new 2017 iPad compares favorably to the other iPads. Apple promises 9-10 hours depending on what you’re doing. That’s pretty accurate in real-world experience.

Despite the low price, the new iPad isn’t a slouch in terms of power and battery life. Most users will enjoy using it, but the power user might want the iPad Pro instead.

2017 iPad: Camera

new 2017 ipad camera and volume buttons

Apple put an 8MP camera on the back of the new 2017 iPad and it enjoys many of the same features seen in iPhone cameras. You can use it to take Live Photos, panorama photos, HDR images, burst mode, timer mode photos and videos. It shoots 1080P video at 30fps, 120fps Slo-mo video and time-lapse video with image stabilization.

facetime camera app new 2017 ipad

The FaceTime Camera on the new 2017 iPad takes decent shots and excels at FaceTime video chat.

On the front, there’s a 1.2MP FaceTime HD camera that’s capable of Life Photos, 720P video and burst mode as well. Strangely, the front facing camera has a better aperture of f/2.2 compared to f/2.4 for the back camera. Aperture gives the user better low-light photos and narrower depth of field which blurs out the background.

animated gif of a live photo

Live Photos are fun. I created the above animated GIF of a Live Photo using the iOS app LivePix ($1.99).

The camera doesn’t give users the Portrait mode we enjoy in the iPhone 7 camera. In spite of that, the camera app on the iPad works a lot like the iPhone camera app. You can switch from the front to back easily.

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On the left, you’ll see the digital zoom control. Digital zoom isn’t recommended since it blows up the size of the pixels instead of moving the lens like a traditional DSLR or Point-and-shoot photo camera zoom lens. You’ll get softer focus like the photo in the gallery above. The gallery above has two images, one with zoom and one using normal zoom without digital zoom.

new 2017 ipad camera app options

On the right side of the Camera app screen (seen above), we see the controls to turn on or off features like Live Photos, HDR or the Timer. They’re on the top right above the shutter release button. Immediately above the shutter release below these buttons, you’ll find the toggle to switch from the front to back camera.

sample hdr shot

This HDR version of the photo shows color in the sky.

Below the shutter button, there’s another button that opens the Photo gallery. View your photos and edit them. Next, you get the camera mode options starting with Time-lapse, Slo-mo, Video, Photo, Square (takes a square photo instead of a wide or tall shot) and Pano (stitches together multiple shots to make a very wide-angle shot.

sample non-hdr shot

This normal shot without HDR shows how the sky gets blown out without the HDR setting turned on.

The HDR setting does a great job of adding color where it would normally show none. The two sample shots above of my house show one with plenty of color in the blue sky while the non-HDR shot shows just white because it’s blown out because the sky is too bright.

a panorama shot taken on new 2017 ipad

A sample panorama shot taken on the new 2017 iPad.

Notice how the above sample of the Pano shot didn’t get the exposure right on the last section of the scene at the right side of the shot. Below you’ll see what the Camera app looks like while taking a Pano shot.

2017 ipad camera app pano setting

A screenshot of the Pano setting in the new 2017 iPad Camera app.

A few years ago people would die for a camera this good on their phone or tablet. Today, it’s clearly a step down from the great cameras we get on phones like the iPhone. The new Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6 come with incredible cameras, too.

The iPad camera is great for snap shots and scanning things like documents, photos, the white board in a class or meeting room and receipts. You can take nice photos in regular light. Find a few samples below.

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2017 iPad: Display and Sound

new 2017 ipad display

Apple put their beautiful 9.7-inch Retina display in the new iPad with a resolution of 2048 x 1536, or 264 pixels per inch. It’s a color accurate display that also looks great while reading text, editing photos and watching movies or TV shows. We get a bright display with good color.

new 2017 ipad speaker

Apple skimped on sound in the new 2017 iPad. The stereo speakers flank the Lightning connector along the bottom edge of the iPad. They’re muddled and weak. You can use them to listen to audio books, podcasts and other spoken word content. They’re fine for a quick YouTube or Facebook video, but you’ll want a pair of earbuds or the Apple AirPods if you plan to listen to music or watch movies and want great sound.

new 2017 ipad reading

2017 iPad: Software

ios 10.3 on new 2017 ipad

The latest version of iOS looks just like the earlier versions. In other words, the design of the operating system desperately needs an update. iOS 10 feels old and out of date. The grid of icons matches the smaller screen iPhone, which makes no sense. Why not narrow the distance between icon rows and columns so users can fit more icons on the screen instead of the 5 x 4 grid in landscape mode? Even the iPhone 7 Plus fits six icons across in landscape mode, but that’s because it has a wider aspect ratio.

Also, static icons are boring. Why not let users place live widgets on the home screen? The force touch available on the iPhone helps, but we don’t get that on the iPad. We still have to pull down from the top of the screen to show the notification area and use widgets in iOS. There’s also the Control Center, which the user drags up from the bottom to show. The only customization we get comes from adding app widgets to the notification area and some settings for when the user can use the Control Center.

control center on new ipad

In case people think I’m only complaining because iOS doesn’t act more like Android, realize that I’m a iPad user since 1.0. I’ve owned many Android tablets, but none of them satisfied me like the iPad.

2017 iPad: Bottom Line

The new 2017 iPad didn’t get a big overhaul because it seems Apple set a brand new goal: to lower the price so that this iPad would appeal to schools. Google dominates the education market with their affordable and simple Chromebooks mostly due to price and simplicity. When you consider the price reduction, the new 2017 iPad makes for a great tablet for schools and others.

Even though the $329 2017 iPad comes with a couple of compromises, it’s still the best budget tablet in the 10-inch range. The iPad Pro wins the prize for high-end tablets, but none of the other comparably-priced tablets come close to it for the following reasons. First, it has the best hardware design and quality. It’s a beautiful tablet with a great screen, performance and nice battery life.

Second, iOS 10 is still a simple and easy to learn operating system. Sure, Apple needs to add some features that we enjoy on Android and even Windows Phone like active tiles or icons on the home screen and better customization. However, Apple kept iOS the same for all these years because it’s simple to use. People can pick up an iPad and become productive without a lot of education or training.

Finally, the screen look great. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3 delivers better color, but not better text display. It’s not worse than the iPad, but it’s not better. The iPad starts at a lower price than the S3, too.

If you’re looking for a new tablet, then you should give the iPad a lot of consideration. Don’t replace your iPad Air with one. If you have an iPad older than that, you will want to look into upgrading. It doesn’t work with the Apple Pencil or Smart Cover, both designed only for the iPad Pro. However, you can find a wealth of great accessories to use with the 2017 iPad thanks to iPad line’s popularity.

Deal: Save $50 on BLU R1 Plus, pay just $110

The BLU R1 Plus was only just launched yesterday but it’s already on sale. Over at Amazon, for the next fifteen hours or so, you can pick up a BLU R1 Plus for $109.99 (that’s $50 off its normal price). Best Buy also has the R1 Plus at the same price but doesn’t have a scary countdown clock like Amazon.

If a new phone shipping with Marshmallow doesn’t put you off, this is a pretty good price, especially when you consider this is the 32 GB version with 3 GB of RAM. Other BLU R1 Plus specs include a 5.5-inch HD display, quad-core MediaTek 6737 chipset clocked at 1.3 GHz, 13 MP/8 MP camera combo (both of which have a LED flash), 4,000 mAh battery, dual-SIM, microSD and 4G LTE Plus (only for AT&T and T-Mobile).

If you pick one up, be sure to let us know how it goes in the comments. If you’re after other options for affordable phones, check out our list of the best cheap Android phones.



Friday, April 28, 2017

Amazon is shutting down its Underground Actually Free Android app program

Many big companies wait until Friday to announce news that would be considered negative by the world at large. Today is no different as Amazon is letting Android app developers know today it will be phasing out its Underground Actually Free app store program.

7 things the Google Play Store does better than the Apple App Store

January 27, 2017

Amazon first announced the Actually Free program in August 2015. It was meant to replace the company’s previous “Free app of the day” and other free app promotions that it ran though the Amazon App Store. The Underground Actually Free program gave Android device owners a way to get thousands of dollars in apps, games and in-app items for free. In exchange, developers who signed up to have their apps and in-app purchases be part of this program got some money back from Amazon, based on how much time their apps were played on a per-minute basis.

Today, Amazon noted that since Underground Actually Free began, its app store has expanded to include over 800,000 apps and games. However, it looks like the company is going in a different direction for its app store. It stated that after May 31, developers will no longer be able to submit apps or games to the Underground Actually Free program. Any such apps that were published in the program prior to that date can still be updated until the end of 2019, and developers will still be paid for every minute users spend on those apps until their contracts run out.

For Android owners, access to the Underground Actually Free store will end sometime in the summer of 2017, but those users will still be able to play any apps downloaded on their device from that program. If you own an Amazon Fire tablet, you can still access the Underground Actually Free store and download apps and games until the end of 2019.

Amazon noted in its announcement that app developers can still offer in-app purchases of branded t-shirts via its Merch by Amazon program. Also, it will continue to support purchasing apps in its store with the use of Amazon Coins. However, the shut down of the Underground Actually Free app program could keep many people from even trying Amazon’s app store. Hopefully, we will learn more about the company’s future plans for its Android-based app store in the near future.

How to Customize the Galaxy S8 Notification Bar

You can easily access some of the most used Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+ features right from the notification pulldown bar. Like connecting to WiFi or turning on night and power saving modes. In this guide you’ll learn how to customize the Galaxy S8 notification bar and do more with your smartphone.

Read: How to Use the Galaxy S8 Night Mode Filter 

Almost everything in the pulldown bar can be customized. Like changing the layout or adding more useful settings controls. Which will help you find things faster rather than fumbling around in settings.

How to Customize the Galaxy S8 Notification Bar

Pulling down from the top of the screen will access the notification bar. Users will see a slew of quick access to settings or controls. Swiping down from the top twice will reveal  3-dots for the menu, and a gear-shaped settings button. This is where you can start customizing the Galaxy S8.

  • Pull Down Notification Bar

  • Tap the 3-dot Settings Button

  • Select Button Order or Button Grid

  • Customize your grid size or the order of quick settings by dragging and dropping the icons

  • Hit Done to finish

You can quickly press and drag icons to change the order to best fit your needs. Or tap “Grid” to change the number of apps and settings to access at once. Owners can choose between 3×3, 4×3 or 5×3.

Customize your Galaxy S8 notification bar

Now, when accessing the notification bar more options will be available, and in the order you prefer. There is no way to remove persistent brightness slider, but it can be moved to the top or bottom by hitting the downward facing arrow on the right.

Other Customization

Additionally, there are a few other steps owners can take in regards to customizing the notification bar. Like the font size, clock, battery meter or colors.

For that, simply head to Settings > Wallpaper and themes to choose a new theme. Most will completely change the color of the notification bar, quick settings, and other aspects of your device. Similar to our screenshot below.

Next, navigate to Settings > Display > Screen Zoom and Font to make changes to the size of text or icons. You can change how big text is, the icons, or both to improve your experience. Perfect for those with poor eyesight.

Additionally there are options to add a percentage number to the battery, or limit how many notifications are at the top of the screen at once. As an example, you can limit the Galaxy S8 to only show the last three notifications in the status  bar to keeps things clean and orderly. Head into Settings > Display > Status Bar and make any necessary changes.

While you’re here, learn how to change the on-screen buttons or add a new wallpaper and background image.

The wild and crazy John McAfee wants you to buy the “most hack-proof smartphone”

John McAfee is one of those folks that many people label as “colorful” if they are being polite, while others might use the term “crazy” or even worse if they don’t care for him. Like McAfee or not, he definitely is one of the most outspoken figures in the tech world. This week, he officially announced his next venture, which is to release a smartphone that he claims will be the most hack-proof device ever launched.

Best security apps for Android

3 weeks ago

First, a quick history lesson on McAfee. He is best known for founding McAfee Associates in 1987, which released the first commercial computer anti-virus software, also called McAfee. He left the company he founded in 1994, and since then he has put money in a number of other tech ventures, as well as other investments.

He also lived in the country of Belize for several years, and in 2012 he came into the international spotlight when the Belizean Police Department started searching for him as a “person of interest” in the murder of one of his neighbors, Gregory Viant Faull. McAfee decided to flee the country instead and ended up back the US where he still lives.

In 2016, a documentary on the Showtime cable TV network portrayed McAfee as a wild and crazy person. It alleged that he was involved in not one but two murders and that he has engaged in rape, drug use and more criminal activities. McAfee has denied the portrayal of himself in that documentary and said he planned to sue the filmmakers. It’s safe to say, however, that McAfee is not your normal, button-down tech geek or executive, no matter which version of the man you believe is real.

Now McAfee believes that, even with his own checkered background, there will be an audience for his privacy-themed smartphone. It’s officially called the John McAfee Privacy Phone, which is about as dull of a name as you could expect. The phone itself will be released by a security firm he leads called MGT. Earlier this week, he posted an image of what he called the first prototype of the Privacy Phone on his Twitter account and it clearly shows that it is running some version of Android.

Of course, we have seen claims about other Android phones that were supposed to be ultra-secure in the past, such as the Blackphone, that have never taken off in terms of sales. What will make McAfee’s Privacy Phone more hack-proof than these other devices? In a chat with Newsweek, McAfee says it’s all about the hardware in the phone. Specifically, he claims owners will be able to remove not just the battery but also the phone’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and geolocation wireless hardware, along with its camera and microphone.

He claims owners will be able to remove not just the battery but also the phone’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and geolocation wireless hardware, along with its camera and microphone.

He adds that the Privacy Phone will be protected from IMSI catcher devices that are designed to intercept mobile phone traffic and location data. Finally, the web browser in the Privacy Phone is supposed to include an anonymizer so when you search on the browser, you won’t get hit by ads.

McAfee is holding off on revealing the specific hardware specs of the Privacy Phone until the week before it is launched. That is supposed to happen sometime later this year. The phone will be priced at a hefty $1,100 when it is released. McAfee claims it is mostly targeting enterprise users, but he believes it will also attract buyers who simply want to have a more secure mobile phone experience. He seems very confident it will be a success, so much so that a second version of the phone is already planned for the summer of 2018, which McAfee claims “will be as hack proof as humanly possible.”

He seems very confident it will be a success, so much so that a second version of the phone is already planned for the summer of 2018, which McAfee claims

Putting aside the fact that many companies have tried and failed to push expensive privacy-themed smartphones to consumers and businesses in the past, this new venture has the added baggage of having McAfee attached to it. Really, would you want to buy a smartphone that was developed by a man who has been accused of so much illegal stuff in the past? We would be afraid that if we bought the phone, our info might be collected and used for . . . well, some bad stuff. Even if that was not the case, paying $1,100 for a phone with high claims of being ultra-safe to use without real proof is taking a huge risk, no matter who was selling it.

Are you interested in getting the John McAfee Privacy Phone, even with his reputation? Do you think such a phone, even with its hardware and software features, could be as secure as he claims? Let us know what you think in the comments.

The best OEM specific features

In terms of day to day performance, flagship smartphones are all pretty similar these days. Whatever brand you pick, you’re virtually guaranteed a good camera, snappy performance, and a sharp display. What really separates phones at the high-end are the more subtle extras, which often fall under proprietary technologies or new takes on existing designs.

Here’s my pick of some of the best extras that each Android manufacturer is currently offering, and some that we hope may sneak across to other OEMs in the future.

Samsung – Samsung Pay

Samsung’s smartphones always come packing in plenty of features, so picking one stand out piece of tech for the world’s most popular Android manufacturer is a tricky business. I was tempted to suggest that the S Pen, the edge display, or even the modern Touchwiz UI might be Samsung’s best features. However, I believe that Samsung Pay is arguably the company’s best innovation lately, as it’s hands down better than anything that the competition has to offer.

As well as working with NFC enabled terminals, like Android and Apple Pay do, Samsung’s MST design means that the phone’s mobile payment system will work with any terminal that accepts a traditional card swipe. Adding cards to the system is easy, If you leave your wallet at home one day, Samsung Pay will have you covered.

The company is in the midst of bringing Samsung Pay to a wider range of handsets and has just rolled out the platform in India too. With LG scheduled to finally launch its own LG Pay system this June that also uses MST, we will hopefully see this type of mobile payment spread across the Android ecosystem in the coming year or so.

Samsung Pay launches in India: All you need to know

March 22, 2017

HTC – BoomSound

HTC’s flagships may have come in for some criticisms in the past couple of generations, but if there’s one thing that the company knows how to do well it’s audio, particularly its BoomSound and its latest Hi-Fi edition speakers.

Given that most of us probably use our smartphones for listening to music and watching videos, a quality speaker setup is a surely a requirement these days. HTC’s BoomSound improves on your traditional smartphone speaker configuration by offering up a dedicated amplifier for two speakers, one of which handles the bass and the other which acts as a tweeter. This provides extra clarity and more power than your traditional single speaker setup.

However, with the HTC 10 this move over to a bass/tweeter configuration means that some of impressive stereo separation from the old BoomSound setup may be lost to some degree, in exchange for greater clarity between the highs and lows. Stereo speakers are becoming increasingly common, but HTC retains the high-bar.

LG – Camera options

Since the LG G2 the company’s smartphones have been some of the hottest for photography buffs. The introduction of manual shooting modes in the LG G4 and wide angled camera shooting options with latest G and V series models gives users the greatest variety of shooting options around.

In case you’ve not had a chance to play around with LG’s latest camera app, there’s the typical white balance, ISO, and shutter speed options, along with HDR and manual controls for video, including bit-rate, framing, and audio level adjustments. The G6’s 18:9 display ratio also lends itself nicely to some helpful previews and other shooting options.

LG G6: Exploring the new camera

February 28, 2017

Granted, manual shooting modes are now available in pretty much all high-end flagships, but the addition of 13 megapixel wide angled shots gives LG’s flagships greater flexibility than most.

Oppo – VOOC charging

Fast charging technologies are pretty ubiquitous these days, but Oppo’s VOOC fast charging stands out as one that other manufacturers should aim to emulate. Yes it’s a proprietary technology that wouldn’t usually win brownie points in my book, but many manufacturers are at this these days anyway.

While VOOC isn’t quite the very fastest charging technology around, it’s one of the quickest. The major bonus points are scored when it comes to measuring temperature though, as our testing revealed that the Oppo R7s only saw a 3 degree celsius increase in temperature throughout the course of a full charging cycle, which is notably lower than the 8 to 20 degrees seen by other charging technologies.

Lower charging temperatures not only mean that you can keep using your phone in comfort while charging, but a cool cell is a boon for battery longevity too. If your phone charges at a low temperature, the battery should last more cycles before it needs to be replaced, which is particularly important in the age of non-removable batteries.

Qualcomm Quick Charge vs Oppo VOOC vs MediaTek PumpExpress+ vs Motorola TurboPower vs the others (updated)

February 4, 2016

Sony – Hi-Res and LDAC audio

Sony has long been implementing support for Hi-Res audio, 24-bit FLAC or DSD files and the like, and a number of other manufacturers have cottoned on to the trend in the past couple of years. For music enthusiasts this is clearly a plus, and with some companies moving away from the 3.5mm audio jack, Sony’s LDAC Bluetooth standard offers a much better listening experience for those going wireless as well.

LDAC has recently made its way into core Android via the Android O developer preview, so we’ll hopefully see more devices sporting the technology going forward. Unfortunately LDAC is a proprietary format, which means that you’ll need a compatible set of headphones too in order to make use of top notch Bluetooth streaming.

Even if developers don’t go all in with Sony’s LDAC, we’ll hopefully see Bluetooth audio move over to Qualcomm’s AptX HD alternative. We’ll have to investigate the quality differences a little more closely, but both of these technologies will provide a big boost in quality over traditional Bluetooth audio, which is something that’s sorely needed.

You can thank Sony for some of the wireless audio improvements in Android O

March 22, 2017

Huawei – Leica Cameras

We know that dual camera’s are no longer an exclusive trend in the smartphone world, but Huawei’s implementation remains one of the best and most unique. Rather than opting for telephoto or wide angle lenses, Huawei’s technology makes use of a dual RBG and Monochrome sensor configuration.

By using data from a sensitive monochrome camera and intelligently combining this with traditional RGB data, Huawei’s camera technology is able to produce images with exceptional colors, great dynamic range, and artistic looking depth of field effects too.

Perhaps best of all, this monochrome camera technology has made its way into Huawei’s lower cost Honor range too, albeit without the Leica endorsement. This is certainly a camera technology that we’d like to see some other OEMs implement inside their flagships, especially in the mid-tier segment.

Google Assistant

Ok, this one isn’t an exclusive feature to Google’s Pixel handsets anymore, the software has already made its way to new phones running Android 7.0, such as the LG G6, and even other flagship phones running Android 6.0 now have access to Google’s intelligent “AI” software.

However, with smart assistants set to become a major feature throughout 2017 and beyond, what with Amazon’s Alexa appearing in the Mate 9 and Samsung’s Bixby right around the corner, this is a tough feature to ignore. Google Assistant is a smarter way to search, stay organized, and interact with other products, such as smart home technology, and so it’s something that we’ll certainly be looking for in future smartphone releases.

Wrap up

Of course, this list is just a handful of the interesting exclusive features that have appeared in smartphones over recent years, but it’s hopefully given you a few features to keep an eye on when it comes to purchasing your next smartphone. Hopefully other OEMS will learn from their competitors’ strength and we’ll all have even more impressive handsets to look forward to in the future.

What about your favourite OEM exclusive features, have I missed something off the list? Sound off in the comments below.


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