Wednesday, June 20, 2018

6 Reasons to Wait for the Galaxy Note 9 & 5 Reasons Not To

This guide will take you through some reasons why you should, and shouldn’t, wait for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 release later this year.

If you’re hunting for a new Android smartphone, the Galaxy S8, Galaxy Note 8, and the new Galaxy S9 should be on your shopping list.

The Samsung Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, and Galaxy Note 8 are cheaper than they once were and they’re also getting upgraded to Samsung’s Android 8.0 Oreo update. Android 8.0 Oreo brings a long list of new features, enhancements, fixes, and patches with it.

These Galaxy devices and others, like Samsung’s Galaxy S7, should have your attention, but don’t forget about the other Galaxy flagship Samsung’s reportedly working on for 2018.

Galaxy Note 9 Rumors

Developers digging through Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 Android 8.0 Oreo update discovered a collection Samsung product code names.

Among them, names like “astarqlte” (Galaxy S9 Active w/ Snapdragon), “star” (Galaxy S9), “star2” (Galaxy S9+), and “crown.” The device known as “crown” is reportedly the Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

Well-known leaker Evan Blass has corroborated this leak and says the Galaxy Note 9, model number SM-N960U, is indeed called “crown.”

At Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, Samsung confirmed a “Galaxy Note 9” launch to ZDNet. The company’s also filed for a “Galaxy Note 9” trademark in Colombia. The trademark doesn’t mean a release is close, but it’s an important piece of the puzzle.

The Galaxy Note 9 has also been certified for launch in China well ahead of its expected release date. The SM-N9600 and the SM-N9608 have both passed through the China Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The device is also starting to show up in benchmarks confirming potential features like a Snapdragon 835 chipset from Qualcomm. The Snapdragon 835 also powers the Galaxy S9. Unsurprisingly, there will also be a model powered by Samsung’s in-house Exynos processor.

There’s also talk of an early launch date. Nothing is confirmed, but it sure sounds like we’ll see the Galaxy Note 9 before IFA 2018 in late August.

The fact that Samsung’s working on a successor for the Galaxy Note 8 shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Samsung’s released a new Note model every year since 2011.

We’re starting to see Galaxy Note 9 rumors firm up which means some of you still might want to consider holding out for this year’s Note flagship.

There are also a few reasons why you might not want to sit through several months of Samsung Galaxy Note 9 rumors and speculation.

Wait for More Horsepower

Wait for More Horsepower

If you want a ton of horsepower from your next smartphone, consider holding out for the Galaxy Note 9 launch later this year.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a powerful device, but if you need more, the Galaxy Note 9 will probably have what you’re looking for.

Galaxy Note 9 rumors are scarce, but you can expect the usual round of hardware upgrades: A more efficient processor (improved battery life, better gaming, etc), more RAM (the Galaxy S series got a bump this year), and some changes (a microphone?) to the Galaxy Note’s unique S Pen stylus. 

In response to a question about the next Galaxy Note model, BJ Kang from Samsung Electronics’ Global Product Planning Group says the team is “already considering how to approach the development of the next Note by evaluating the latest model and looking for ways to improve upon signature features like the S Pen.”

Rumors point to Samsung bundling a brand new S Pen with the Galaxy Note 9 so if you aren’t a huge fan of the current experience, we suggest you wait for the next iteration. 

Galaxy Note 9 rumors also point to a larger 3,850 mAh battery. The Galaxy Note 8 features a smaller 3300 mAh battery. There’s also chatter about a 4,000 mAh battery. 

If you aren’t impressed with the hardware on the Galaxy Note 8 or this year’s Galaxy S9 flagships, you might want to take a raincheck and wait for Samsung’s Next Big Thing. It might have what you’re looking for. 

Instagram is launching its YouTube clone, IGTV, on Android in a few weeks

The Instagram app on Pixel 2.

  • Instagram has revealed it now has 1 billion users worldwide since it first launched in 2010.

  • It also announced plans to launch a new app, IGTV, designed to show longer videos of up to one hour.

  • The app will launch sometime in the next few weeks for Android and iOS and is meant to compete with YouTube.

Instagram is making not one, but two big announcements today. The first is a new milestone for the Facebook-owned social network as Instagram revealed it now has 1 billion users worldwide. Instagram first launched in October 2010, which means it took less than eight years for it to hit that 1 billion user mark. By contrast, its parent Facebook took over eight years to reach that number.

instagram igtv app

The other big announcement, and one that has been rumored for the past several days, is the reveal of an upcoming standalone app, IGTV. It will allow Instagram video creators to upload vertically formatted clips of up to one hour in length. At the moment, Instagram allows users to post videos up to just 60 seconds on their profile, and just 15 seconds in Instagram Stories. The IGTV app will go live sometime in the next few weeks for Android and iOS.

Editor’s Pick

Instagram says the new app will include features like being able to begin watching content from people you already follow on Instagram right when you launch the app. You will also be able to switch between “For You,” “Following,” “Popular” and “Continue Watching” categories. Each Instagram creator will have an IGTV channel with all of their longer video clips. Finally, the IGTV app allows you to like and comment on those videos, as well as send them to friends in Direct. All of the longer videos in the IGTV app will also be available to watch in the main Instagram app.

This new move clearly shows that Instagram and Facebook are going after both the video creators and fans who are addicted to Google’s YouTube service. Offering longer videos to Instagram’s 1 billion audience members could result in a ton of competition for those viewers. Instagram will also likely leverage this longer video format for advertisers as well. The big question is whether or not users will embrace the vertical video format, or stick with the traditional horizontal video clips found on YouTube.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Brawl Stars Release: Everything You Need to Know

From the developers of Clash Royale and Clash of Clans, two extremely successful mobile games, is a new game called Brawl Stars. A competitive real-time 3v3 multiplayer shooter similar to other MOBA titles, with cartoon graphics and a top-down view. It’s still not available yet, but here’s everything you need to know about Supercell’s exciting new fast-paced game Brawl Stars.

The free-to-play game, Brawl Stars, got announced quietly through a livestream by the company with more details at its forums. This was back on June 14th, 2017. The game is 1-years old, and still not available globally, or for Android. Supercell slowly tests its games in select markets for the iPhone before deciding to release it around the world or cancel it completely. We still don’t know the fate of Brawl Stars.

Read: Clash of Clans 2018 Updates: 8 Things We Want Next

While there are still numerous questions about the game, incoming updates, and if it’ll ever get released on Android, we do have some initial details for potential players. Below we’ll go over the 3v3 shooter style, characters, game modes, and general release availability for those interested.

Supercell has successfully launched several different games for Android and iOS. Starting with Hay Day, then Clash of Clans, Boom Beach and more recently Clash Royale. Each game is wildly successful, with Clash of Clans still being one of the highest grossing mobile games on the planet. This is why Brawl Stars is so exciting, even if they’ve yet to release the game.

Brawl Stars Release Date

For now, we still have no clue when Supercell will release Brawl Stars, or if they’ll release it at all. That being said, the company is conducting a “soft launch” in Canada as we speak. Anyone with an iPhone in Canada can try the game today, and it’s available on the App Store.

Brawl Stars is actually available for iOS in Canada, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Ireland. The developers hope to add Android and other regions in the near future. However, they said that in June of 2017, and one year later, almost nothing has changed.

There has been no mention of a Brawl Stars release on Android, or a global release date for other regions. Most of the gaming community thought the game would go global (get released around the world) on the 1-year anniversary. Which, of course, is June 15th, 2018.

That didn’t happen. We still don’t know when this game is coming out. We’ll keep an eye out for information and share it here the moment we know more.

Download – Brawl Stars for iOS (Select regions only)

As we said above users can only play Brawl Stars on iOS in Canada and a few other regions. Those in other regions can create a new Apple ID using an address in Canada/Finland to try it today, and more information on that process is available here.  That, or wait for a global release date.

What is Brawl Stars?

The best way to explain Brawl Stars is to consider it a MOBA title, which stands for multiplayer online battle arena. Players will participate in real-time 3v3 battles using one of 15+ different characters, each with their own unique hero abilities and attack styles. There are multiple game modes, achievements, leaderboards and more.

Hero-based combat games like DOTA or League of Legends come to mind, although Brawl Stars has a friendly look and feel full of cartoon graphics. Like any MOBA title, Brawl Stars has different game modes to enjoy.

We’ve seen several updates over the last 12 months that changed the entire game. From balance changes, how the game looks and feels, new game modes, hero changes and more. And, we’re expecting a big Brawl Stars June-July 2018 update soon. Here’s a quick preview from Twitter. The developers are active on Twitter, which is a good sign that this game will get released eventually.

Each team consisting of three players battle another team of three in the arena. The goal is to take out the enemy with any of your characters while collecting gems, crystals or stars along the way for upgrades and skins. You can also destroy the enemy mines to win the battle, or kill all three players. This, of course, depends on the game mode being played. Not to mention some of these modes or game rules may change by the time this game gets released.

Brawl Stars Game Modes

At soft launch, there were four main game modes. These are the initial game modes, although they likely changed in the last 12 months. And, they might change again before the game goes public. It’s still in a limited soft launch beta testing phase.

  • Bounty: Collect stars for your team by eliminating opponents, but be careful not to let them pick you off. The team with the most stars at the end of the match wins!

  • Smash & Grab: Collect Crystals from the center of the map, while fighting the opposing team. The first team to collect 10 crystals and hold onto them wins.

  • Heist: Crack the safe protected by the opposing team, or defend your valuables from would-be safecrackers. You have a couple of minutes to determine who leaves with the loot!

  • Showdown: The rowdiest rumble! 10 players get dropped into a slowly shrinking arena. Can you be the last Brawler standing?

Players will be able to collect coins, Elixir and chips to unlock new Brawlers. You can do upgrades, get new skins, and plenty of other personalization. You can battle solo, or play with friends. Instead of joining a clan like other Supercell games, you’ll be able to join a Band of Brawlers to battle for the top spot. Climb the leaderboards, complete achievements and become the best Brawler.

Keep in mind that while Brawl Stars is free to play, there are plenty of in-app purchases like all Supercell games. Players can spend real money on new characters, upgrades, skins, and weapons.

This could become the best fast-paced multiplayer shooter on mobile.

Brawl Stars Gameplay Video

It’s hard to get a sense of a game without seeing it played in real-time. Along with the announcement, Supercell gave some popular YouTube “lets play” personalities early access to the game. Here is Clash Royale stars GamingwithMolt and NickatNyte playing Brawl Stars.

Here we see the fast-paced 3v3 battles in real-time as they take on enemies with a slew of different characters and weapons. It looks like a fun game, but some may not enjoy the childlike cartoon graphics. For a more recent video with all the changes over the last year, upgrades, and new modes, check out this video.

Read: Common Clash of Clans Problems & Fixes

As you can see the game is still very much in the early stages, a beta, and nowhere near a completed game. However, in the coming weeks and months, it will get updates and improvements. We’re hoping for an announcement before the end of June 2018.

Brawl Stars Android APK

Do not try to download Brawl Stars for Android until it is officially announced by the game developer. We repeat, Brawl Stars is NOT available yet for Android, even though we’re seeing dozens of download links and Brawl Stars APK’s floating around the internet. An “APK” is the installation files for games and apps on Android. However, installing an APK and granting it access to your phone, or accepting the pop-up permissions could harm your smartphone or tablet.

These are fake downloads and not the real game. Some are harmless, while others could install malicious code on your device. We’ll update this post the minute Brawl Stars is available for Android. For now, avoid anything you find online.

Other Details

In January of 2016 Supercell announced Clash Royale and made it available for select users on iOS. Two months later on March 2nd, it arrived for all with a global release date for both iOS and Android. We expected a similar 2-3 month trial for Brawl Stars, but that wasn’t the case.

Now, over one year later, the game still isn’t available. As of writing, it’s June of 2018 and we’re still waiting for an announcement, a release date, or even availability on Android.

Try it early on iOS in Canada

Supercell is in a unique position when it comes to mobile games, as each title released has been a smashing success. Whether or not Brawl Stars will receive the same attention and fame as their other titles is a complete mystery. At the end of the day, this is a trusted game developer with a history of releasing some of the best games for mobile, and we expect the same from Brawl Stars.

However, for the game to be a success they need to release it first. With the 1-year anniversary here, be on the lookout for more details in the next few weeks. The developers at Supercell could finally be ready to release the game. Maybe they’re waiting for E3 to end, we’re not sure.

We’re pretty confident in saying that Brawl Stars will get released in 2018, we just don’t know when. Stay tuned for more details.

What’s the Fastest Cell Phone Carrier in 2018

It’s easier than ever to find a decent cell phone carrier, but which is the fastest cell phone carrier in 2018.

After sending testers to 30 major cities in the U.S. and testing in six rural areas PCMag found that Verizon is the fastest mobile network in the U.S. T-mobile is a close second, with AT&T in third and Sprint way out in the back.

Even if you aren’t on the fastest cell phone carrier, speeds overall are up 10Mbps and latency is down, which means better connectivity for everyone.

<figcaption class=" wp-caption-text/>Verizon is the fastest cell phone carrier in 2018.

While the testing focuses on data, this is also a good indication of voice quality since T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon all use voice calls over LTE when connected to high-speed networks, so you can expect good voice coverage if you can get fast data speeds.

In addition to an overall nationwide winner, the PCMag report breaks down regional winners and winners by city where the testing took place. This makes finding the fastest cell phone network in your area easier.

T-Mobile won the Southeast region, but Verizon won out across the rest of the regions in the U.S., and in 20 of the 36 cities, which is why it is the overall winner.

Read: Verizon vs T-Mobile

You can see the results of this testing in detail, including the winners by city. This test is helpful because it focuses on the real world, not a controlled speed in a lab or ideal settings. The test includes reliability, average speeds and other factors to help you make better decisions.

If you use a pre-paid carrier, you can check out the results here, since the best pre-paid carriers all use the big networks.

Keep in mind that as you pick a carrier, you may not always get to use the fastest speeds for anything you want. Many of the new carrier plans limit the bandwidth for streaming video, so a super fast download speed won’t always make YouTube or Netflix look better on your phone.

16 Best Budget Apps for 2018

Mint Budgeting App

Mint Budgeting App

Mint is one of the best budget apps because it takes the hassle out of making a budget. You connect the Mint app to your bank and the app can use your details to help create a personalized budget. We love this budget app because it can help you quickly identify where you are spending your money, so you can see where to trim your current expenses as you make a budget. 

The Mint app uses the same security as banks and the team behind this service also makes TurboTax and Quicken, so you can trust that they take all possible steps to secure your accounts and your data.

Mint will send you alerts to unusual charges and helps identify tips customized to your spending that can help you reduce the money you spend on fees and on other bills. Mint also includes your credit score, so you can see a big picture view of your budget and your personal finances.

With the Mint apps for iPhone, iPad and Android you can see your budget anywhere and there is also an online component to look at from your computer and a bill pay component to help you manage and pay your bills in one place.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

2 Reasons to Pre-Order Cyberpunk 2077 & 4 Reasons to Wait

CD Projekt Red, the developer behind the popular Witcher series, is finally talking about its next game, Cyberpunk 2077. We don’t have an official release date just yet, but the game is up for pre-order. And while some of you might want to pre-order now, many others are better off waiting.

It took awhile, but we’re finally inching closer to the release of Cyberpunk 2077 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC.

Cyberpunk 2077 was originally confirmed all the way back in 2012 and the game is a sequel to Mike Pondsmith’s pen and paper RPG Cyberpunk 2020. Cyberpunk 2020 was released all the way back in 1988.

CD Projekt Red’s taking its time, but fans of Cyberpunk and The Witcher series are hoping the developer can recreate the magic it delivered in 2015 with The Witcher 3.

Now that the developer is talking more about Cyberpunk 2077, retailers like Amazon and Best Buy are taking pre-orders for the game. And now that we know a little more about the direction it’s taking, some of you, particularly those of you who are fond of CD Projekt Red’s games, might be thinking about ordering a copy.

In this guide we’re going to take you through the best reasons to pre-order a copy of Cyberpunk 2077 right now. We’ll also take you through some reasons to think about holding off, at least for the time being.

Pre-Order If You Love Huge Single Player RPGs

Pre-Order If You Love Huge Single Player RPGs

If you’re hoping for a deep multiplayer experience, you shouldn’t pre-order Cyberpunk 2077. If you were a fan of The Witcher series and you’re generally a fan of deep, immersive single player RPGs, you should think about putting in a pre-order. 

While there were rumors of a multiplayer component, it looks like Cyberpunk 2077 will, like The Witcher 3, be a “single-player game purchased for a one-off fee.”

More specifically, Cyberpunk 2077 is a true single player, story-driven RPG where you’ll be able to create your own character. 

We haven’t seen much of the game yet, but you can expect a cast of memorable characters, a large selection of weapons, great storytelling, and a huge open world to explore. The game is set in the fictional Night City, California

These types of games can take many hours to enjoy and finish. The Witcher 3’s main story (on average) took gamers around 50 hours to complete. Call of Duty this is not. It’s a commitment. 

That said, this is the type of game that will almost certainly be worth the price of admission ($60).

If you loved The Witcher series and/or exploring a huge dystopian metropolis on your own sounds like something you want to play ASAP, you should think about pre-ordering Cyberpunk 2077.

How to Find Fallout 76 Power Armor Edition in Stock

Bethesda’s Fallout 76 Power Armor Edition will be a limited run which means it could be hard to find ahead of the game’s release date this November.

Fallout 76 is official and Bethesda and its retail partners are selling two versions of the game ahead of the November 14th launch date on Xbox One, PS4, and Windows PC.

You’ve got the standard, no frills, $60 edition that includes a copy of the new Fallout. You’ve also got the $200 Power Armor Edition, this year’s equivalent to 2015’s Fallout 4 Pip-Boy Edition.

If you recall, the Pip-Boy Edition was an expensive Fallout 4 bundle that included a copy of the game and a real-life Pip-Boy. The Pip-Boy Edition release was plagued with stock shortages and scalpers charging an arm and a leg for a copy ahead of the game’s release date.

We don’t know if history will repeat itself, but the Fallout 76 Power Armor Edition is already showing up as “Currently Unavailable” at Amazon and “Coming Soon” at Best Buy, no longer available at Walmart, and “Not Available” at GameStop . This could be a sign of things to come.

Bethesda already says supplies will be very limited and we could see a complete sellout this summer. If really want the Power Armor Edition collectors items, which include a glow in the dark map and a Full-Scale Wearable T-51 Power Armor Helmet, you’ll probably want to put in a pre-order when the bundle is in stock.

We don’t know when stock will become available at those sites so you’ll want to monitor them as we push through the summer. Fortunately, this is fairly easy to do.

How to Find Fallout 76 Power Armor Edition in Stock

The first thing you’ll need to do is visit the Fallout 76 page on Now In Stock. This page shows a history of the Fallout 76 Power Armor Edition stock at Best Buy, Amazon and GameStop. It will update every few minutes and give you an up-to-date look at their inventory.

You can easily track Fallout 76 Power Armor Edition stock with these alerts.

If you don’t want to open up your browser and a new tab every time you want to check, you can set up an alert that will send you an email, text or browser notification when the Fallout 76 Power Armor Edition is available at one of these retailers. Here’s how to do that:

  • Register for a free account at Now In Stock.

  • Check your inbox for a verification email and click the correct link to verify.

  • Go back to the Fallout 76 page.

  • Click Add/Manage alerts in the right corner of the screen.

  • Add an item to track it.

Once you click Add an item you’ll get a little menu where you can select to get text, email and Browser alerts. These are free, other than carrier text message charges.

This is the best way to manually check for Power Armor Edition stock. It’ll help you secure a pre-order and avoid paying exorbitant prices for a copy if and when there is a sellout.

If you’re thinking about buying the game from Amazon, you can also opt into email alerts for the Power Armor Edition. It’s not as elegant as the NowInStock option, but it’s an option nonetheless.

If you want to receive email alerts from Amazon:

  • Sign into your Amazon account.

  • Go to the appropriate Power Armor Edition option.

  • Under the “Currently Unavailable” signage, click Email Me.

  • Check your email everyday for an update.

4 Reasons to Pre-Order Fallout 76 & 5 Reasons to Wait

Pre-Order If You Love Online Games & Fallout

Pre-Order If You Love Online Games & Fallout

If you like the sound of an online Fallout-style RPG, you might want to put in a Fallout 76 pre-order.

Fallout 76 is an online survival RPG inspired by games like Rust and DayZ

The game is still in development and the gameplay is reportedly still in flux, but it’ll be much different than Fallout 4.

That said, the game will have quests and tons of enemies to kill just like Bethesda’s traditional single-player RPGs. It’ll also have base building (dubbed C.A.M.P.), something Bethesda introduced in Fallout 4 back in 2015. Fallout 76 allows you to build anywhere. 

Fallout 76 is going to more Fallout Online/Elder Scrolls Online than Fallout 5. If sharing an open, evolving Fallout world with friends sounds amazing, think about putting in an early order today, tomorrow, or sometime in the near future. 

Vivo Nex vs Google Pixel 2 camera comparison: Closer than you might think

Google Pixel 2 vs Vivo Nex camera

When it comes to smartphone cameras, the Google Pixel 2 is the de facto benchmark for most of us. Whether it’s still the best smartphone camera isn’t the point — it’s simply the phone camera most of us are most familiar with. That’s why I took a bunch of comparison shots with the Pixel 2 while I was in China for the Vivo Nex launch this week. They’re not direct competitors, nor are they priced equally, and they have far from the same target audiences. Regardless, the two phones posted some very compelling results.

To keep the playing field level, I won’t highlight up front which device took which photo in the slider images below. I’ll keep the same phone on the same side in each comparison below, and reveal which was which at the end with a few thoughts on the results. Let’s see if you picked right.

If you want to pixel peep the full-res images, you can grab them here.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other…

What this first batch of images will likely impress upon you is just how similar the cameras on these two phones are. There are some slight differences in exposure and saturation, but you really need to zoom right in to start picking them apart. Color reproduction is remarkably similar on both, mainly differing in white balance.

Portrait mode

Portrait mode reveals big differences in exposure, saturation, and color, with the phone on the left producing a brighter image with poppier colors. The phone on the right gets more contrasty detail on the roof of the building, but loses plenty of detail below the awning and on the tree trunk to the right. Both handle the cutout of foreground and background well and produce a bokeh effect that looks far from fake in either. Remember, the Pixel 2 only uses a single camera to achieve this result while the Vivo Nex has a secondary camera.


The first image here shows very similar results again with a couple of noticeable differences. The image on the left blows out the detail, where you can see the sky through the tree. The image on the right produces an unnaturally bright green on the plant growing out of the roof. With the second scene, the image on the right shows more noise and really struggles with the edges of the TV tower where it meets the sky, especially around the round sections. The image on the left is cleaner overall, but colors aren’t as saturated as on the right.

Dynamic range

The results in this batch of images had greater variation. In the first image, the device on the left shows less detail on the white wall at the back, but if you zoom in you can clearly read the sign in the shadows (which you can’t do with the image on the right). The second image shows greater dynamic range in the right-hand image where the hallway meets the bright exterior. It also produces more detail in the shadows inside.

The third and fourth sets of images flip the results a little. Colors notwithstanding, let’s look at the sign and trees on the left of the third set of photos. The image on the left captures much more information in the shadows under the trees and the writing on the blue sign is far more legible. The fourth image pair shows similar handling of the sky, but the image on the right has a peculiar purplish tint and tries too hard to lighten the darker areas under the awning of the building. The image on the left is much more natural-looking.

Detail and sharpening

At first glance the elevated cityscape shot looks nicer on the left. If you zoom right in you can see plenty of oversharpening in effect. In the second image, we see a microcosm of what has come before: a lighter exposure and more detail under the tree shadows in the left-hand image, and a darker exposure and less vibrant colors in the right-hand image. In the third comparison there’s very little in it that wouldn’t be carried one way or another based on personal preference. The final pair is similar again: the photo on the right is darker, with more noise in the water, and slightly duller colors overall.

Low light

Like the zoomed-in night-time shot above, these shots of the Shanghai skyline reveal most of the same things. Colors are more saturated in the image on the right (the opposite of what happens during daytime), but sharpness is lost due to the muddy blurring of the bright lights (zoom in on the blue building to the left of the TV tower for an example). The night sky is darker in the right-hand image too, but it also shows much more noise than the cleaner image on the left.

Front-facing camera

I left this one until last because it seemed the most likely to give away the true identities of the two devices. The Pixel 2 has a very well-regarded front-facing camera, and for good reason. Based on this image alone it’d be relatively easy to identify that the right-hand images throughout this camera comparison came from the Pixel 2. Like the main camera, the Vivo Nex overexposes again. Did you pick which was which correctly?

Final thoughts

I was quite surprised Vivo managed to put such a competitive camera on the Nex (the Nex produced the left-hand images throughout). Barring the front-facing camera — sadly one of the big attention-grabbers for Vivo’s new phone thanks to its elevating mechanism — the Nex cameras perform very well. The Vivo Nex camera may not outright beat the Pixel 2, but it comes tantalizingly close on multiple occasions. That fact alone is about as good an advertisement as any smartphone can ask for right now.

Vivo managed to put a very competitive camera on the Nex.

I ran a little blind test amongst a couple of the Android Authority team and most actually preferred the images from the Nex. They correctly identified the presence of oversharpening in the Nex’s image processing but nevertheless preferred the punchier colors and lighter exposure. It’s a little like Samsung displays: we all know they’re more saturated than “normal” but we can’t help but like them anyway. Sometimes an OEM bumping the colors and exposure isn’t so bad — it can actually save us a trip to an editing app before we share them. Then again, others will detest the sharpening and exposure of the Nex.

As I said about the Huawei P20 Pro, which approach you prefer will likely come down to whether you judge a smartphone photo as it appears on your smartphone or as it appears up close on your computer. The Pixel maintains detail at the expense of added noise, only making colors pop at night. The Nex tends to overexpose, with very visible sharpening if you zoom in. We won’t declare an outright “winner,”  but the Vivo Nex definitely puts up a very good fight against the smartphone camera against which all others are judged.

Now you tell me: which set of images did you prefer?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

4 Reasons to Wait for the Galaxy S9 Active & 4 Reasons Not To

Before you go out and buy a shiny new Samsung Galaxy S9 you should think about waiting for the rumored Galaxy S9 Active.

Rumor has it, the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ will be joined by another Galaxy S9 model sometime in 2018. We don’t have a specific date to share, but Samsung Galaxy S9 Active rumors are starting to pickup steam as we push into the summer months.

Samsung’s Galaxy S Active series has been around for a number of years now. And while the devices typically mirror the regular models in some ways, there are always some key differences between the regular flagships and devices with the Active brand.

Initially the Galaxy S Active series was limited to a single carrier (AT&T) in the United States. Last year, the Galaxy S8 Active spread to Sprint and T-Mobile giving those with an active lifestyle a little more choice.

We haven’t heard anything about the Samsung Galaxy S9 Active’s carriers, but we expect the device to follow in the Galaxy S8 Active’s footsteps.

With a launch reportedly getting closer, it’s a great time to think about waiting, or passing, on the Samsung Galaxy S9 Active. There are plenty of reasons to consider waiting and there are a few reasons you think about buying something else before Samsung launches its next Galaxy S9 model.

Keep these reasons in mind as you decide what to do with your money in the days ahead.

Wait If You Work or Frequent Rugged Environments

Wait If You Work or Frequent Rugged Environments

If you often take your phone into rugged environments for work or for fun, you should think about waiting for the Samsung Galaxy S9 Active. 

The Galaxy S Active series is designed for those with an active lifestyle. That might be someone taking their phone to a construction site. That might be someone who enjoys taking their phone on hikes in the mountains. 

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Active, if and when it arrives, will instantly become one of the most durable smartphones on the market.

The Galaxy S8 Active features a dust and water resistant design with a metal frame that can absorb drops from long distances. It also includes what Samsung calls a shatterproof design. We expect more of the same from the Galaxy S9 Active. 

If you need a top of the line phone that can withstand a ton of punishment, you’ll want to think about waiting for the Galaxy S9 Active. 

15 Best Nintendo Switch Games for 2018

In this guide we’ll share a list of the best Nintendo Switch games. Whether it’s a return to a franchise you love or a hot new title like Fortnite, we have something for everyone. If you love your portable console or want to get one in 2018, these are the best games for the Switch to help you get started.

Like most Nintendo consoles, you’ll find some excellent exclusive games that aren’t available on any other platform. Whether that’s Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, Super Mario or Mario Kart 8.

Read: 13 Common Nintendo Switch Problems & Fixes

That said, the Switch also has a growing collection of fantastic games from 3rd party developers, which is something other Nintendo consoles don’t enjoy. From Fortnite to Skyrim, or even the crossover Rabbids Kingdom Battle. The Nintendo Switch has plenty of options you’ll love.

These games will keep you entertained for hours on end, give you some nostalgia, or show your kids what you loved back when you were younger. Basically, we have a little of something for everyone. Whether that’s NBA 2k18 or Kirby Star Allies.

Read: 7 Best Nintendo Switch Games Coming in 2018

Then, as we saw from Nintendo at the E3 gaming convention, there are plenty of exciting titles coming in 2018-19. Games for the Nintendo Switch you’ll absolutely love once they arrive.

Whether you’re playing this hybrid console on the couch at home, or on the go, these are the games we can easily recommend. We’re constantly trying new Switch games, and we know which ones are the best. Then, 2018 has a lot in store so check back often for the latest titles. We’ll update this list with each new Nintendo Switch game released.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

This list is in no particular order, as all of these Nintendo Switch games are an absolute blast. 

Who doesn’t love Mario Kart? Seriously, this is one of my all-time favorite games, and Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U was a great game too. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch offers the same amazing core gaming experience as the Wii U. However, they added a bunch of additions specifically for the Switch, as this is the “Dexule” version after all. 

Whether that’s battle mode, new characters, holding two items at a time to take down 1st place, or the older DLC tracks and courses. And we can’t forget multiplayer. You can play with up to 8 different consoles, use split-screen, and more to fully enjoy everything Mario Kart has to offer on the Switch. Even if you played it for the Wii U, we recommend getting the Switch variant. It’s a game that never gets old. 

Buy it Now on Amazon for $54

Samsung brings back the ability to set custom ringtones for text messages

The Samsung Galaxy S9.

  • Samsung brought back the ability to assign custom ringtones to each thread on the stock Messages app.

  • The updated Messages app is available from Galaxy Apps.

Samsung smartphones might not be known for excellent optimization, but they include a laundry list of features. One of those features is the ability to set custom ringtones for incoming text messages. Randomly disappearing for a bit, the feature returns as an update to the Samsung Messages app, reported SamMobile.

So long as you had a Samsung smartphone running Android Nougat or older, you could set contact-specific ringtones for text messages. Other messaging apps also support the feature, but it was nice to see it in the default Messages app.

For some reason, however, Samsung pulled the feature with the Android Oreo update. The feature also disappeared on the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, which run Oreo out of the box. When people noticed that they could no longer set custom ringtones for messages, they flooded Samsung’s forums with at least 10 threads of complaints. One thread in particular contained over 150 pages before it was permanently closed.

Editor’s Pick

Whatever the reasoning was behind Samsung’s decision, a moderator on the company’s forums confirmed that the feature would return in a future update. Make sure to visit Galaxy Apps and grab version of Messages. Alternatively, you can download the app’s APK and install the newest version.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Sharp might have quietly launched an Android One version of the Aquos S3

SK Telecom

  • A Reddit user spotted what looks like the Android One version of the Sharp Aquos S3.

  • The phone is available through South Korea’s SK Telecom.

  • Sharp announced the Aquos S3 back in March and was originally available in Taiwan.

Announced in March, the Sharp Aquos S3 and its display notch were only available in Taiwan. A Reddit user noticed that the phone is now available in South Korea through SK Telecom, but they also noticed that some of the press renders show a clean build of Android.

Based on the images, it looks like Sharp opted to go with Android One for the Aquos S3 in South Korea. According to the listing, the phone runs Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box. This runs contrast to the Taiwanese version, which runs Android 8.0 Oreo under Sharp’s Smile UI.

The listing certainly looks legitimate, along with the screenshot that features the Aquos S3 and the Android One logo. The phone does not appear in any of the Android One landing pages, though that should change soon.

Editor’s Pick

This would not be the first time Sharp launched an Android One smartphone. Announced in January, the Android One S3 is Sharp’s low-end Android offering and is only available in Japan.

By comparison, the Aquos S3 is a big step up in just about every category. As a refresher, the smartphone features a 6.0-inch 18:9 display with a 2,160 x 1,080 resolution, dual 12MP and 13MP primary cameras, Snapdragon 630 chipset, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, and a 3,200mAh non-removable battery.

The Aquos S3 will likely not launch in many more regions, since Sharp tends to stick to the Asia-Pacific for its smartphone releases. You are more than welcome to import the phone, though band support might be lacking.

Deal: Get the Asus Chromebox 2 at Amazon for just $197

  • Amazon is currently selling the Asus Chromebox 2 PC for $197.24, or over $21 off its normal price.

  • The ChromeOS-based mini desktop PC includes an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage.

  • It’s still one of the few ChromeOS devices designed to be used like a desktop PC.

Most products that run Google’s ChromeOS are Chromebooks, but there are a few that are made to look and work like a desktop PC. This week, Amazon has a discount on one of these products, the Asus Chromebox 2. It’s currently on sale for just $197.24, or over $21 off its normal price of $219.

The Asus Chromebox 2 G096U model that’s on sale includes an Intel Celeron 3215U processor with a clock speed of 1.7GHz, along with 4GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage, with a 4-in-1 card slot for adding even more storage. The 1.32 pound mini-PC design is small and light enough that you could even connect it the back of a PC monitor, with its included VESA mount.

It also has four USB 3.0 ports, two in the front and two in the back, along with both a DisplayPort and a HDMI port, which means you can connect the Chromebox to two PC monitors at once. It also has 802.11ac Wi-Fi hardware, and Asus throws in 100GB of Google Drive space free for 2 years. The Chromebox 2 uses much less power than a standard Windows PC and is also very quiet. While you won’t be using the Asus Chromebox 2 for high-end gaming, it’s perfect if you just want a small desktop PC to surf the web, watch YouTube videos or write emails. Unfortunately, it’s not currently listed as a ChromeOS device that will be able to run Android apps.

Will you be picking up this Asus Chromebox 2 model at this low price?

Latest Essential Phone camera app update brings back “tiny planet” videos

  • Essential has updated the Essential Phone’s camera app for the second time in two weeks.

  • The updated camera app brings back “tiny planet” videos and more.

  • The update is available through the Play Store.

Even though the Essential Phone shipped with a poor camera experience, Essential has slowly improved it with numerous updates to the camera app since. Essential issued yet another update on Wednesday that adds a few nifty features and enhancements to the camera app.

The biggest new feature is the ability to save, adjust, and share 360-degree videos as “tiny planets.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because the camera app previously included the feature as a beta before Essential removed it.

Elsewhere, the camera roll now saves burst mode shots as a single group. The camera roll also uses new icons to better identify burst mode shots, as well as slow-mo, 360, and regular videos. The icons appear over the thumbnail in the camera roll and will help differentiate the items.

Editor’s Pick

Finally, the updated camera app includes undisclosed stability fixes that apparently help it open faster and improve the shutter speed.

Keep in mind that Essential updated the camera app just two weeks ago. That is an impressive clip for a company with one foot reportedly in the grave. Whatever the company’s fortunes become, you can grab the update at the link below.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

5 Reasons to Pre-Order Battlefield 5 & 4 Reasons to Wait

Battlefield 5 pre-orders are live ahead of the game’s release date in October. While some of you might want to pre-order the game today, others are better off waiting a few weeks or, in some cases, skipping a pre-order.

With Battlefield 1 development slowing down, EA DICE’s turned its attention to the next installment in the long-running series. As expected, the next Battlefield game is called Battlefield 5 (stylized as Battlefield V) and it takes Xbox One, PS4, and Windows PC owners to the battlefields of World War 2.

DICE hasn’t confirmed a release for the Nintendo Switch so there’s a good chance the game will skip the portable console in 2018.

The first Battlefield 5 gamplay trailers and gameplay videos are live and they give prospective buyers their first look at the next Battlefield game. We don’t have the full picture just yet, but we know what the game looks like and how some of the mechanics will work.

These videos and the return to World War 2 might’ve already sold some of you on a Battlefield 5 pre-order. There are also some other perks to putting in an early order including early access to the beta and the final version of the game when it arrives in October.

Putting in a pre-order is certainly tempting, but there are also some reasons why you might want to hang back and wait for more information to emerge.

In this guide we’ll take you through the best reasons to, and not to, pre-order Battlefield 5 for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or Windows PC right now.

Pre-Order if You Want to Play Battlefield 5 ASAP

Pre-Order if You Want to Play Battlefield 5 ASAP

If you want to play Battlefield 5 the second it goes live you’ll want to pre-order a very specific copy of the game. 

Pre-ordering the game’s Deluxe Edition will grant you three days early access to the final version of the game in October. 

Those who pre-order the regular version of the game ($60) will get access to Battlefield 5 on October 19th while those who pay a little bit more for the Deluxe Edition ($80) will get access to the game on October 16th. 

If you want to play even earlier than that, you should think about getting an EA Access (Xbox) or Origin Access (PC) account. 

The Battlefield 5 Play First Trial for EA Access and Origin Access members opens up on October 11th. Both require a paid subscription, but they’ll give you the earliest access to the game. 

If you think you might want to start ranking up your character the second Battlefield 5 goes live, think about putting in a pre-order.


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