Monthly Archives: October 2019

Android

HTC is launching a phone with Android Oreo… in 2019

HTC honestly just had a run of bad luck that knocked them off the Android mountain, but some of their recent decisions make it hard to feel bad for them. Case in point, the brand new Exodus 1s that’s running Android 8.1 Oreo in 2019. What? Not only is this brand new phone running an […]

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Android

Google Voice can now be integrated with Siri on iOS

Here’s an interesting development. Google Voice and Siri can now work together on iOS to make calls and send messages, but that’s not the case with Google Assistant. Yes, you read that right. Siri has beaten Google’s own Assistant to the punch. If you rely on a Google Voice number, the latest iOS app update […]

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Android

Baby Steps of Ambient Computing

Made by Google ’19 has come and gone — now it’s time to dissect everything that went down! Daniel Bader, Jerry Hildenbrand, and Ara Wagoner focus this week on Pixel Buds, Pixelbook Go, Nest Mini, and Nest Wifi. Pixel Buds represent the next stage of computing, but Pixelbook Go is a step backwards.

The last few minutes of the show contain general impressions of Pixel 4, but keep your ears open for an episode devoted to our full review!

Show Notes and Links:

Sponsors:

Android

AT&T TV NOW is significantly increasing prices and almost all customers are affected

AT&T TV NOW introduced two new packages earlier in the year and they’ve suddenly decided to punish customers enjoying older, grandfathered plans. At the time of the new packages, customers were able to keep their current rate with a small price increase, but AT&T just started emailing customers with some unwelcome news. Grandfathered plans will […]

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Android

Samsung explains the massive fingerprint security flaw in the Galaxy S10/Note 10

Samsung has been in hot water lately over some pretty shoddy fingerprint scanning on the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Note 10. Apparently there’s a pretty easy way to get into someone’s secured phone, regardless of whose fingerprint you use. That’s, uh, pretty bad, no matter how you look at it. The good news is that […]

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Android

Best unlocked phones between $400-$600

When it comes to buying phones, many in the US are conditioned to purchasing devices from their wireless service provider. Sadly, this backwards thinking is like buying your PC from your internet provider.

Buying a phone unlocked, or direct from the manufacturer, has its benefits. Going this route lets you pick the carrier that works for you. Moreover, the phone is void of bloatware and unwanted apps.

If you’re on the hunt for a new phone, you’ll find that some of the best unlocked phones priced $400 to $600 offer excellent value. It’s here where devices provide high-end performance that will last most consumers multiple years.

We’ve gathered a number of attractive phones that fit in the budget of $400 to $600. Here, we showcase a variety of phone makers and models with some of the standout features.



Google Pixel 3 – $500

 

Thanks to the arrival of the Pixel 4, the price has dropped for its predecessor, the Pixel 3. That’s great news all around because it’s not only one of our favorite phones of the last year, but it’s virtually indistinguishable from the new model — for most users.

For your money you get still-powerful hardware and a stock Android experience. And even though the new model gets exclusive rights on some tech, a lot of the helpful stuff will make its way to the Pixel 3.

An all-around cohesive experience, you get one of the best cameras, incredible smarts, and a clean UI.

Works with: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and respective MVNO brands

Google | Amazon | Best Buy | B&H

OnePlus 7T – $600

 

The newest of those phones listed here, we love what OnePlus has done in the 7T. It’s among the most powerful devices you’ll find a few hundred bucks cheaper than what bigger name brands command.

A 6.55-inch display stretches edge to edge with only a minimal cutout for the front-facing camera. It’s not just any screen, either. There’s 1,000 nits of brightness at 90Hz refresh rate to deliver a stunning image.

Packed with 8GB RAM, super-fast 128GB UFS 3.0 storage, and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus processor, it’s an all-around powerhouse. Then there’s the 3800mAh battery and its warp charging capability.

Let’s see, what else? How about a triple camera configuration, a whole suite of cutting edge connectivity, and LTE support for all four major carriers.

Works with: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and respective MVNO brands

OnePlus

Motorola Moto Z4 – $500

 

Running a near stock Android, the phone’s capabilities grow exponentially and where it matters — thanks Moto Mods!

Get a longer battery, better camera, or louder speaker, and more. Hell, you can even add 5G to your phone if that’s what you want. Standout features include a sizable 6.4-inch display, dual-cameras, fast charging, and a water-repellent coating. Extra points awarded for being compatible with all major carriers.

If you buy it directly from Motorola, you’ll like end up with a free MotoMod accessory. Actually, a lot of places are throwing in a free 360 degree camera.

Works with: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and respective MVNO brands

Motorola | Amazon | Best Buy | B&H

Asus ZenFone 6 – $500

 

There are no other phones on this list that look like the Asus ZenFone 6, literally. It’s the only handset listed with a pair of cameras (48-megapixel and 13-megapixel ultra-wide) on the front and the back. Actually, it’s the same cameras, which employ a unique hinged design.

Speedy with its Snadragon 855 chipset and 6GB RAM, there’s a giant 6.4-inch screen that touches the edge in all directions. A 5,000mAh power source keeps things running day or night and the price keeps money in your pocket.

Works with: AT&T, T-Mobile, and respective MVNO brands

Amazon | B&H | Newegg

CAT S48c – $580

 

While this phone is getting a bit older, it’s still worth a look if you happen to fit the target demographic. Specifically, if you’re a contractor, laborer, utility worker, plumber, or someone who spends their days in the field.

The CAT S48c is rough and rugged and works all four of the major wireless service providers. It’s the sort of experience you go for when you can’t be bothered to worry about being delicate with your device.

Key specs include an octa-core 2.2GHz processor with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal memory. Need more storage? Add a microSD card and you can double it. The 5-inch display is protected by Gorilla Glass 5 which means the ultimate in scratch resistance.

Works with: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and respective MVNO brands

Amazon | Best Buy

Android

Blu G9 Pro review

When it comes to mid-range phones, there’s no shortage of selection. Nearly every handset maker has something to offer which falls in the price range of about $250-$400, even the likes of Samsung. Unlocked phones are no exception to this, either.

Blu is a phone manufacturer who tends to play largely in this sandbox. Its recent G9 Pro is exactly that sort of device — a middle of the road experience with a budget-friendly price tag.

Our team has had a Blu G9 Pro on hand for a few weeks now and are ready to put our thoughts into a formal review.

SEE: Blu G9 review

Design

The Blu G9 Pro ticks nearly all of the major boxes for a quality smartphone experience in 2019. Not all of them, of course, but enough to satisfy the masses.

Powered by Android 9 Pie, the G9 Pro features a generous 6.3-inch display with a minimal water drop cutout notch. The rear houses a triple camera setup, led by a 16-megapixel Sony sensor, a 5-megapixel depth camera, and a 20-megapixel shooter for night shots.

The phone has a thin, curvy profile that fits nicely in hand. There’s nothing overly special about the design, but we do appreciate that Blu didn’t cut corners. Or, is it that we do like the way it cuts corners?

The G9 Pro has a deep purple and blue color that fits right in with other “premium” looking phones of the day. There’s an interesting gradient effect that breaks across the back which really catches light nicely.

As for buttons and the visible hardware, it’s par for the course. The volume and power are located to the right edge of the screen with the microSD/SIM card slot on the opposite side.

The bottom edge houses the 3.5mm headphone jack, speaker, and USB Type-C charging port. An ultra-thin speaker grille is placed just above the camera and display.

The three cameras are set to the top left of the back of the phone with a fingerprint scanner nestled about 3/4 of the way up the center.

Network Compatibility

Blu sells its phones as unlocked devices which means they are compatible with GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile. Additionally, they’re compatible with the likes of Cricket, Metro, and the other players which use the respective networks. Of course, the phone will also work outside of the US with a whole host of carriers.

3G 850/900/1700/1900/2100

LTE 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/28

From time to time Blu will build its phones with support for Verizon or Sprint. While it does technically leave the door open for Verizon compatibility, it is not touted by the phone maker or the carrier.

Additionally, and notably, the G9 Pro does not have support for LTE bands 14/29/30/66/71. Without them users won’t get the full coverage, data speeds, or quality they might expect from their GSM carrier. With that said, the 2/4/5/12 bands should be sufficient for many AT&T and T-Mobile subscribers.

Software

As is the case with pretty much anything that comes out of the Blu camp, the G9 Pro is a nearly stock Android experience. There’s no special “skin” or custom UI but there are a few apps that get installed at the factory.

We’ve seen a number of instances lately where Blu phones start out void of extra apps or games upon first booting up. But, once you connect to a Wi-Fi network or cell tower, it goes ahead and loads a few others. Such is the case with the G9 Pro as our review unit installed a number of titles.

Included with the phone are Coin Master, Pandora, Solitaire, Games Hub, News, Yahoo Mail, and VivaLive TV. All can be uninstalled or disabled, but might be worth a look for new smartphone users. In terms of space, the review unit had more than 88% of the 128GB free, even with those apps installed.

The G9 Pro has Android 9 Pie installed with the most recent security patch being September 5, 2019. This arrived in mid-October and seemed to jump directly from July’s We’re hoping to see something here every other month or so.

Largely an untouched Android UI, there’s a nice mix of color in the settings menus and grouping is relatively the same as what you get from Google. There are a handful of additional options available, though, which give the user an extra bit of customization.

Navigation and gestures, for instance, is a good place to start so you can be sure the phone feels like it’s doing the right thing and that buttons are in a reasonable order.

Camera

Counting cameras doesn’t really matter in 2019. Whether there’s one or four lenses means very little to most people. The AI stuff, depth sensors, night modes, time of flight, and other tech is great, to be sure, but it’s not what the masses care about just yet.

Largely, we care about the end result. And that end result is often simply shared on social media. Ask yourself to name the last time you snapped a photo and printed it out.

We’re getting more demanding, though. Shooting at night, taking portraits, and closeups are coming along and people are slowly conditioning themselves to want more. To that end, the G9 Pro is all the camera that most people need.

There is a 20-megapixel sensor here that’s used strictly for night mode. How does that fare in practice? At first, things look decent, but expand it to full screen and get closer and you’ll see that it’s definitely not perfect. It’s good enough, but not great. We actually liked the standard camera or the HDR one instead of the dedicated night mode.


If we had issues with the camera experience, it’s largely around the app itself. Things weren’t intuitive or presented in a manner that makes sense the first few times. Getting to HDR, bokeh effects, or beauty mode is wonky. Moreover, there’s no auto-HDR and the Pro Mode didn’t let us control shutter speed. This would have been great for night shots that are taken with a steady hand.


The 96-megapixel mode is pretty much a gimmick, to us. Not only does it take too much time to write the image and save it to your phone, but it takes up too much space. Try as we might, it was impossible for us to discern any extra detail in the photos.

We suggest spending some time with the app, familiarizing yourself before going out in the world and learning on the fly.

We’re collecting images captured on the G9 Pro in a Google Photos album and will update it over the coming days/weeks. These will be left unedited.

Performance

This is a solid mid-range phone on all accounts. We found it to work perfectly well for the general day-to-day stuff like social media, email, messaging, podcasts, and the like. Installing a game like Mario Kart Tour didn’t present any problems and we didn’t get the sense that we were on the verge of slowdown.

On the other hand, we did detect an occasional lag when hopping between apps. This was more noticeable when multiple apps and games were running in the back. Though, to be fair, we were looking for these sort of things.

Handing the phone off to less demanding users, and those who don’t have such a critical eye, the G9 Pro handled well.

Touching quickly on a few other aspects, the fingerprint scanner works quickly to unlock the phone as does the face unlock. Neither were difficult to set up and both felt snappy enough.

The audio is loud and clear but we’d never really want to listen to music on the speaker. For games, YouTube,  and other videos have enough punch for those moments on the couch or waiting room.

Battery life, at 4,000mAh, is higher than we’d expect for the price and gets us well beyond a day’s worth of usage. Things charge up quickly over USB Type-C at 18W and the wireless charging is a welcome feature. Blu walks both sides of the line when it comes to the wireless standard and we’re glad to see it come down on this side.

Conclusion

We like the physical appearance of the phone quite a bit. It’s one of the more attractive designs to come from Blu with a comfortable feel. Its nicely rounded, sleek and very modern. The purple and blue is interesting and eye-catching stuff and we hate to hide it under a protective case.

We’re fortunate that price no longer dictates appearance or size. Gone are the days of spending $700 on phones just to get a large display. At 6.3-inches it’s generous enough to make games, video, and text just a bit more engaging. And, thanks to the aspect ratio and the minimal waterdrop cutout notch, it doesn’t make for a cumbersome in-hand experience.

Now, to be clear, you may want to check with your carrier to ensure you’ve got coverage with the network bands in areas that matter. While the G9 Pro does have a respectable amount of support, it leaves a few newer bands off the table.

The camera experience could definitely be more cohesive but it’s not enough for us to complain all that loud. Most of the target user base is likely going to open up the app and take whatever automatic settings provide.

Blu has done an excellent job of mixing performance with aesthetics and seems to be getting better at phones. We like the slowed, more deliberate approach to its devices, especially if it keeps heading in this direction. We’ll take sub-$200 phones like this any day of the week.

Availability

As of the time we published this review, you can find the Blu G9 Pro for $200 at Amazon. It’s currently listed with a $50 discount, but we don’t know how long that will last.

Android

ProWritingAid: Save 50% on writing and grammar tool

Students aren’t the only people who will tell you that writing is difficult. Taking thoughts and ideas and putting them to paper, or typing them out, is easier said than done.

When it comes to writing, there are myriad things to worry about. There’s spelling and grammar, of course, but there’s also style, context, repetition, sentence length, passive voice, and much more.

While you might not have the next best-selling book hidden deep inside, tools like ProWritingAid Premium can really improve your writing.

Features

  • Automatically receive thousands of style improvements so you can breeze through your editing
  • Fix style issues like repetitiveness, vague wording, sentence length variation, over-dependence on adverbs, passive voice, & more
  • Eliminate spelling & grammar mistakes
  • Find the right words w/ the word explorer & contextual thesaurus
  • Learn as you edit by tracking common mistakes & bad habits

In addition to checking for spelling and grammar, the tool will address tone, vague wording, run-on sentences, over-dependence on adverbs, and other common problems. It also has a built-in word explorer and thesaurus.


Best unlocked phones between $250-$400

Best unlocked phones between $150-$250


Take your writing to a whole new level with ProWritingAid Premium. A two-year plan is just $44.99 (50 percent off) in the AndroidGuys Deals Store for a limited time. Don’t want to commit to that long? A one-year option is only $29.99, also half price.

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For every $25 you spend in the AG Deals Store you get $1 credit added to your account. And, if you refer the deal via social media or an email that results in a purchase, you’ll earn $10 credit in your account.

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If this is your first time buying, you are also eligible for 10% discount! Just be sure to subscribe for email updates.

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Not looking to spend any money today? No worries. You can still visit the AndroidGuys section for freebies and pick something anyhow.

Android

Hey Google, this ain’t it, chief

Dated meme aside, I’m disappointed.

After months and months of leaks, this week saw the introduction of the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. After the onslaught tweets and articles revealing every single piece of information about the devices, I should feel numb to the launch. It’s worse than that. I’m annoyed and frustrated.

Let’s just touch on the Pixel 4 for a moment before we chat about the Google Pixel 4 XL. The Pixel 4 XL is obviously the device Google wants everyone to buy; why else would it gimp the Pixel 4 so much?

Let’s start with the pitiful 2,800mAh battery packed into the Pixel 4. It might make it to the end of your shift at work – maybe if you’re lucky and don’t use it that much.

The battery life on the Pixel 3 was already… not great. Google has gone and reduced the battery size from 2,915mAh to 2,800mAh. And on top of that, its 90hz refresh rate will reduce battery life.

For the sake of comparison, here’s an arbitrary list of phones and their respective battery sizes:

  • Google Pixel 4: 2,800mAh
  • Google Pixel 3: 2,915mAh
  • Samsung Galaxy S10: 3,400mAh
  • Samsung Galaxy S10e: 3,100mAh
  • LG G8: 3,500mAh
  • OnePlus 7 Pro: 4,000mAh
  • OnePlus 7t: 3,800mAh
  • Nexus 5: 2,300mAh
  • Google Pixel 3a: 3,000mAh

Besides the Nexus 5 (2013), the Pixel 4 has literally the smallest battery on the list. Like I said, this list is completely arbitrary but I think it proves my point that the Pixel 4 is pitiful. The Galaxy S10 and S10e have similar prices, yet far bigger batteries. The OnePlus 7 Pro and 7t are cheaper and crush it. Even the maligned LG G8 is far larger.

The battery is smaller, and that sucks on its own, but the display is going to be even more hungry. With a smaller power pack, I’m not very optimistic, but, we’ll have to see in our full review.

Big numbers sell phones

Specs aren’t everything but they do matter. We have plenty of examples of phones with top-notch specs that fall short due to crappy software implementation. That being said, you do need to pack in flagship specs to command a flagship price.

The Pixel 4 starts at $799 and the larger 4 XL commands an extra $100. That puts it in par with the latest offerings from Samsung, and Apple while coming in north of devices from LG and OnePlus.

Despite that price tag, the Pixel 4 and 4 XL start with just 64GB of storage, and it can’t be expanded via microSD card. OnePlus devices start out at 128GB and Samsung matches that – and offers a microSD card slot. LG sits at 64GB but does offer a microSD card.Only the Apple iPhone has the same 64 GB of unexpandable storage.

So, we have a poor battery and a lack of storage. What about RAM? One of the biggest issues with the Pixel 3 and 3 XL was that it had 4GB, putting it closer to the middle of the pack than the upper end.

Luckily, Google upgraded this year’s devices to 6GB. I applaud that decision but it still trails flagships from Samsung and OnePlus, both that can be had for a cheaper price.

I am the most hopeful about the RAM department because despite the rocky start, the Pixel 3 and 3 XL were tuned through software updates and it showed. It did get better, but the RAM management was never the strongest aspect of the Pixel 3 and 3 XL.

We buy these devices to use for multiple years, not just the year or so after launch. I don’t know how to recommend a device that is going to be “behind the 8-ball” so soon after asking customers to pay upwards of $1,000.

There are a ton of other things that really bother me about the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. Going back to the storage issue, not only does it start out paltry but it’s slow too. A newer UFS 3.0 standard was semi-widely used this year and it’s sad to see the Pixels launching with the older, slower UFS 2.1.

Yes, there’s wireless charging but you have to use the Pixel Stand to get the faster 10W speeds. The camera saw an upgrade but the front-facing wide-angle lens is gone and there’s not one to be found on the rear.

I’ll never slight anyone for being excited about a new Pixel launch. Getting Google’s vision for Android in your hand is an exciting thing. But, I feel like the vision is flawed here. Relying on an excellent but flawed camera system is not enough. Mediocre battery life is not good enough. $800 and $900 price tag are not good enough.

The Pixel 4 and 4 XL are not good enough.

Android

Motorola’s ‘Spooktacular Sale’ offers up massive discounts on phones

Motorola is running a limited time sale on its website which features phones discounted by up to $290. Moreover, there’s even a couple of ways to get a free handset, too.

The “Spooktacular Sale” runs through the end of October or while the supplies last. There are some really good sales to be had over the next few days so act fast if you’re thinking about one of these.

Motorola Discount:

The selection is a nice mix of phones, each of which speaks to a different demographic. If you’re in the market for an unlocked device that works with your current carrier, you’d be wise to consider starting with the Motorola discounts listed above.