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    Testing: The LG G5 Android Smartphone

    LG has been chasing its hometown rival Samsung in the Android ecosystem for years now, but it's never managed to beat Samsung. The LG G5 is LG's attempt to address concerns about its materials and design while also keeping the features that set it apart from other Android OEMs. The G5 has an aluminum frame, whereas past phones were plastic. At the same time, it keeps the removable battery and adds a system of modular accessories. Is this enough to make for a compelling flagship phone?

    I've been using the G5 for a few weeks, so let's see how it stacks up to the competition.

    Design and Display

    The G5 is an aluminum phone, which is a big deal for LG. In the past, it has been criticized for sticking with plastic materials while its competition used more impressive metal and glass designs. However, the way LG is using aluminum is probably not the way you would have expected. In fact, there's been a lot of argument about this on the internet.

    So here's the deal: the G5 is a metal phone, but it doesn't feel like one. There's a thick layer of synthetic polymer primer on top of the metal that hides the antennas on the back panel. Most metal phones have those plastic lines across the back (think iPhone), but LG decided it wanted to hide those. The solution seems bizarre to me because part of the appeal of a metal phone is that it feels like metal. The upshot of all this is the smooth back (if you like that), and a more rigid frame that allows for the unique battery system (more on that shortly).

    Also on the back is the power button with built-in fingerprint sensor. The volume rocker has, sadly, moved back to the side of the phone. I quite liked it on the back with previous LG phones. The fingerprint sensor works well enough, but it's not as good as the ones from Google, Samsung, and HTC.

    On the bottom is the mono speaker, which is fine, and the new USB 3.0 Type-C port. The Type-C port will mean ditching all your old cables, but this is the standard of the future. Best we all just get with the program. The addition of Quick Charge 3.0 is nice as well.

    LG has again gone with a 2560x1440 resolution LCD—it was the first mainstream OEM to do that with the LG G3 two years ago. The G4 was an improvement over that phone, and the G5 improves even further. The colors are solid and accurate without any of the blown out reds of some LCDs that are trying to emulate AMOLED. With the high resolution, this 5.3-inch panel is very dense and produces crisp images. The outdoor brightness is impressive as well. Some people are noticing some backlight bleed, but I haven't seen that one my unit.

    Google Play App Roundup: Screenshot Join, Redcon, and Warhammer Freeblade

    Grab your phone and prepare to shoot some new apps and games over to it from the Google cloud. It's time for the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new and cool in the Play Store. Just click the links to head to each app's page to check it out for yourself.

    Screenshot Join

    One of my favorite features Samsung built into its newer Galaxy phones is the scrolling screenshot. Whenever you take a screenshot, you have the option of automatically scrolling down and stitching the next screen onto it. Screenshot Join is a new app that gives you similar results on any Android phone. It's not quite as easy, but it seems to get the job done more easily than using a general photo editor.

    To start, you'll need to snap all the screenshots you want to stitch together using your phone's native button combination. With that accomplished, it's time to open Screenshot Join. The app offers the option of exploring just the screenshot folder or using the Android file picker to see all recent images. Odds are the screenshot option will be easier.

    After selecting the first and second photos, you'll be taken to an interface with a split screen allowing you to line up the spot where the images match. It's sort of like sliding the second pic under the first one until the stitch isn't visible anymore. Note, you can pick vertical or side-by-side orientation for the photos. Vertical will probably be more common.

    So, that leaves you with two joined screenshots as one file. What if you want more? Just hit the arrow action button and you'll go back to the image selection interface with the new stitched image as the top photo. Add the next image in the series to the bottom and go through the process of lining it up again.

    You can add as many images as you like to the final product before saving. It's a little more tedious than I'd like, and some sort of finer control while lining the images up would be appreciated. Still, Screenshot Join is faster at this than the alternatives and it's free. You will have to put up with a few ads when attaching images, though.

    Google Play App Roundup: Quote, Toby: The Secret Mine, and Velociraptor

    Grab your phone and prepare to shoot some new apps and games over to it from the Google cloud. It's time for the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new and cool in the Play Store. Just click the links to head to each app's page to check it out for yourself.

    Quote

    The number of RSS readers ballooned a few years ago when Google announce it was retiring Reader. People who had never really used an RSS reader before thought Reader sounded like a good idea, and developers were there to provide alternatives. Many of them plug into one service or another, so what you're really looking for is a good front end. The newly released Quote (from the developer of Fenix for Twitter) has a clean design with support for popular feed aggregator services.

    You can log into Quote with Feedly or Inoreader accounts. The pro upgrade includes the ability to have multiple accounts as well. The main screen shows you your overall counts at the top, collections in the middle, and individual subscriptions at the bottom. The layout is much less dense than some apps, and if you have a huge list of subscriptions, it might seem sub-optimal. For most people, it's a much more friendly and easy UI to get used to.

    Whenever you tap through to a different list, you can always swipe back to return to the previous screen. Swipe gestures are used throughout Quote to keep the UI clean and avoid the cluttered toolbars and menus you get with many other RSS readers. There's also a neat swipe gesture to mark items as read or unread.

    The reading interface is one of the best I've seen in an RSS reader, and this is just the first public release. It's full screen, so the status bar hides when you scroll down. At the bottom is a toolbar that also hides, including buttons to skip to the next/previous feed item, star a post, and change your reading mode. Most sites limit the RSS feed to just snippets, so Quote lets you open in the browser, or more interestingly open "readability" mode. That just grabs the full text and renders it in the Quote UI. It feels completely native.

    Like any self-respecting RSS reader, Quote has support for syncing your subscriptions for offline reading. This can be triggered automatically in the background or only when you open the app. However, you can choose to exclude images from that or only allow them to be downloaded on WiFi.

    The free version of Quote has two themes to choose from, as well as some ads. For $2.49 you get the pro version with two more themes (the sepia looks great) and no ads. You should check out the free version and see if it's right for you. This is great for a first release.

    Google Play App Roundup: Scarlett for Chromecast, Pokémon TCG, and Chameleon Run

    Android devices do a lot of neat stuff out of the box, but you can always load it up with new apps to make if do more stuff. And maybe some games for good measure. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new on Android. Just hit the links to head to the Play Store.

    Scarlett for Chromecast

    Google's Cast screensaver is okay, but there's not much to it even after customizing with the Cast app's backdrops. Scarlett for Chromecast aims to make your Chromecast or Android TV a little more useful by turning it into a dashboard for information.

    To use Scarlett, you'll need to have a Chromecast or Android TV (obviously). Just open the app on your phone and tap the Cast button to select the target. You'll immediately get a feed of information dictated by your settings. Scarlett offers to set all this up on your first run, but you can edit the settings later.

    The feed includes content from YouTube, Twitter, Reddit and more. Facebook and Pinterest are apparently coming soon. The bulk of the interface is taken up with the current item in the feed list. If it's a video, you can play it on the TV and control via the app. Other content cycles through automatically every 30 seconds. The app can also advance through feed items with a swipe. You can also open any of the content on your phone from the app. After logging in, your Twitter timeline and YouTube playlists will be accessible in Scarlett, which is pretty cool.

    The dashboard is accessible in the second tab of Scarlett. Selecting that will kick the TV over into that mode. It's a bit less interactive, consisting of weather, a clock, and images from 500px cycling through. It's more like the standard Cast screen with a few more features. The last tab is for search, which is handled by voice input. That allows you to look for specific content and have it appear on the TV screen inside Scarlett.

    Scarlett for Chromecast is still in the early stages of development, but it's a really solid idea with lots of room to add functionality. It's free too. You should check it out if you've got a Google Cast device connected to your TV.

    The Best Android Smartphones for Your Network (April 2016)

    The season of 2016 flagship smartphones is in full swing now with big phones from both Samsung and LG. If you held off upgrading last year, the time is approaching for you to make a decision. You could wait a few more weeks and find out what HTC has lined up for this year, but you've got plenty of great options now as well. Let's see where things stand right now.

    Photo credit: Răzvan Băltărețu via Creative Commons

    Carrier Phones

    If you're looking to pick up a phone from your carrier of choice right now, there are two devices you should be looking at -- the LG G5 and Samsung Galaxy S7. Both have their strong points, but I think the Galaxy S7 has the edge. Let's start there.

    The Galaxy S7 does look a lot like the Galaxy S6, but it makes several improvements that users were asking for last year. There will be deals on the GS6, but don't let the similar looks fool you. The GS7 is a much better phone and it's worth the cost.

    Samsung is using a metal and glass unibody design for the GS7. The designers took an unusual step, though. Samsung made the GS7 about a millimeter thicker so the camera hump is flush with the back, and there's more room inside for a bigger battery. The glass panel on the back also has curved edges to make it more comfortable in your hand.

    The slightly thicker frame means the regular GS7 has a 3000mAh battery, and the GS7 Edge has 3600mAh. Both phones are also water resistant, which is a feature Samsung dropped from the GS6. There's also a microSD card slot in these phones, another improvement over the Galaxy S6, but it shares the same tray as the SIM card, making swaps difficult.

    Google Play App Roundup: Monospace Writer, Hammer Bomb, and Ultraflow 2

    Despite being a search company, Google hasn't really made it very easy to find the apps you're looking for. That's why we do the Google Play App Roundup. Here you'll find the best new and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app link to head right to the Play Store to download for yourself.

    Monospace Writer

    The Google Drive quite is pre-installed on every Android device, but it packs in a lot of features that many people don't want when they are writing on a mobile device. Let's face it, doing any significant amount of writing on a touchscreen isn't ideal, but Monospace might make things easier. This app has been in beta for a few months, but now it's available to everyone. Plus, it's free to try.

    With Monospace, you just start typing and add formatting along the way. The toolbar at the top only has a few buttons for color theme, undo, and sharing. The theme options are helpful if you're working in a dark or bright environment, and the dark theme has an optional AMOLED true black mode. All the formatting commands are accessed by highlighting text with a double-tap or long-press. You can bold, italicize, underline, strikethrough (pro), add bullets, and more. It's smart to keep all this stuff out of the way until you need it, and when you do see it, it's in the same area of the screen you just tapped to highlight.

    Having all this only exist on your Android device wouldn't be very useful, so Monospace has syncing abilities too. You can connect to Dropbox to access your documents on other devices and stay in sync. With the $4 pro upgrade, you can also use Google Docs to automatically sync. That's more useful option as the files are accessible in the Docs editor more easily. Monospace saves files as text with markdown, so it can be copied into various other programs and services. There's also a plain text export option.

    When creating files in Monospace, you may notice that there's no apparent way to organize into folders. You actually can, and it's very cool. Monospace uses hashtags for organization. At the end of your document, add a hashtag (#name) to set a folder. The app will create a folder and add the document to it. You can also create nested folders with hashtags (#name#anothername). One of my favorite features is the ability to quickly encrypt important information by adding the #encrypted hashtag. The app will ask for a passcode, and you'll have to enter that to decrypt the file each time.

    Monospace Writer is a great option if you're looking for a minimalist text editor on Android. It's still quite capable even without the pro upgrade, but the $4 price tag is fair for what you get.

    Testing: The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge Smartphones

    Samsung is by far the largest and most successful Android device maker on the planet, and its flagship Galaxy phone is the biggest release each year. For a lot of Android users, the annual Galaxy phone is Android. Last year, Samsung made significant changes to the Galaxy S6 that included a unibody metal and glass design, and the loss of a few features.

    This year's Galaxy S7 brings a lot of those features back and adds a few new tricks. Let's take a closer look at how this phone stacks up to the competition.

    Design and Display

    Just like last year, there are two versions of the Galaxy S7, regular and Edge. Unlike last year, the Edge model has a larger screen than the regular GS7. Both phones include many of the same features, so most of this goes for both, except where noted. The Galaxy S7 shares a lot with the Galaxy S6 in overall appearance. The front and back are both Gorilla Glass, but the rear panel curves slightly toward the edges. That makes it nicer in the hand compared to the completely flat GS6.

    The aluminum band around the middle has a matte finish that makes the phone a bit less slippery. We are still talking about a glass phone, though, which is going to be more apt to leap from your grip than a plastic one (it's also a fingerprint magnet). The GS7 is also a bit easier to hold because Samsung made it about 1mm thicker this year. That's remarkable when every year they've been crowing about having the slimmest phone ever. Now, the extra thickness allowed Samsung to add a large 3000mAh battery to the GS7 and a 3600mAh to the GS7 Edge. They're water-resistant as well, something that was dropped from the Galaxy S6. This might not be an essential feature for everyone, but it's very nice to have.

    Google Play App Roundup: Klara, Exit Hero, and Hex Defender

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    Klara

    Weather apps have always been a big part of the mobile application ecosystem, ever since the earliest days when we just had to decide if we hated Weatherbug or Weather Channel less. There are much better choice these days, and Klara the newest one. This is a forecast-focused weather app that uses a timeline interface, but it's not a knockoff of the popular Weather Timeline app.

    Klara's main interface is laid out in a series of tabs across the top of the screen. The one on the left that Klara opens to first is the one you'll probably look at the most -- temperature and precipitation. The current conditions are on the far left of the timeline. You can tap and drag across the scale at the bottom to move the indicator. As you do, the data shown by the app changes to match the chosen time.

    Across the top you have temperature and conditions (denoted by icons). In the middle is a graph of temperature forecasts. This is a nice way to visualize things, but I wish it was bound to some real scale on the Y-axis. It seems to use the lowest point on the graph as the bottom of the graph. Making the current conditions more easily accessible would be smart too. Precipitation is shown at the bottom as a series of blue bars. The taller they are, the more precipitation per hour.

    The other three tabs are set up in a similar way, but they show different data (except for the condition icons, which are on all the screens). The next one over shows you wind speed and direction. Again, the present time is on the far left, then the next few days extend off to the right. The next tab is cloud cover, and the last one has pressure and humidity. This one has the most data, but it's of less use to most people.

    In addition to the main UI as described above, there's an extended forecast screen with less detail that is accessible from the slide-out nav menu. There's a widget too, which is an essential feature of weather apps as far as I'm concerned. It's clean and shows the forecast data well. I just wish (again) current conditions were more easily discerned.

    There are a few things that need to be improved in Klara, but it's a well-designed app and it's completely free right now.

    Google Play App Roundup: WhaToDo, Monster Mountain, and Rayman Classic

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    WhaToDo

    The age-old question of what to do when you're planning a trip can be solved with searching and reading of guides, but the aptly named WhaToDo app just tells you what to do with a pleasant material interface and location-based deals. You can even book tickets and reservations right from the app.

    WhaToDo supports a fair number of cities, but it's far from everywhere. Most of the more common destinations I could think of are available in the app, though. There are apparently about 1000 destinations available in the app. To find a city, just use the search bar at the top. If WhaToDo has results, they will be split up into tabs along the top. There's also a floating action button at the bottom of the screen that switches between the list view and a map.

    The first tab is all the most popular options, then you've got attractions, shows, tours, and so on. Each item WhaToDo has a full description page with photos, videos, duration, and more. There's an integrated Google Maps page to help you figure out where it is as well.

    If you decide to book something, the app includes full support for booking tickets. I'm impressed that this isn't just a webframe or something, but an actual function of the native app. You can get select tickets, enter payment info, and access them easily from the reservation section of the slide-out nav menu. The bookings are apparently all handled by the company that makes the app, and there are exclusive deals on events that are only available in the app.

    The design of WhaToDo is a rather good example of what material design can look like when it's done right. The navigation is self-explanatory with the scrolling tabs, and there are animations throughout that don't get in the way of using the app. WhaToDo seems like a solid way to plan a trip.

    Our 5 Favorite Features in the Android N Developer Preview

    Google has taken the wraps off the next version of Android a little early this year. We weren't expecting to get a glimpse of Android N until Google I/O in May, but here we are with a developer preview. If you don't have a device to install it on, don't worry. I've been playing with the dev preview for the last few days to see how it works.

    After taking N for a spin, I've picked out the 5 coolest and most important changes in this version of Android.

    Multi-Window

    After over a year of tantalizing hints in AOSP, Google has finally shown us with true multitasking will look like on Android. I don't think it's any secret that Google wanted to have multi-window done a long time ago -- the pieces have been buried in Android since the Nexus 9 came out. It's still rough around the edges, but this might finally make Android tablets genuinely useful devices.

    There's nothing to turn on in Android N to make multi-window work. All the apps on your device can be opened in split-screen mode, but developers are being asked to set a flag that explicitly allows it. If you open an app that doesn't have official support (all apps right now), you'll get a toast warning that things might break. An app that has been designed to scale to different screen sizes should render just fine, though.

    You can enter multi-window mode while you've got an app open by long-pressing the overview button. This will kick your current app into the top half of the screen and open the recent app list in the bottom half. Simply choose the app you want in that half, and you're all set. The other way is to long-press and drag a card in the recent app list up to the top of the screen.The divider between the top and bottom app can be dragged to give one app or the other more space too. If the app you want to run in multi-window isn't in the recent list, you can hit home to find and open it, which kicks you back into split-screen mode.

    Exiting multi-window is a bit awkward right now. To go back the standard full-screen apps, you have to drag that separator all the way to the top or bottom of the screen. That maximizes one of the apps and closes the other. None of this is set in stone, of course. Google will probably make changes to this over the course of the developer preview and in the final version of Android N.

    Google Play App Roundup: Join, DIRAC, and Universal Copy

    I don't know if you could say there are too many apps out there, but there are certainly enough that it can be hard to find the ones worth your time. This is the problem that Google Play App Roundup is seeking to solve. Every week we tell you about the best new and newly updated apps in the Play Store. Just click the app name to head right to the Play Store and check things out for yourself.

    Join

    For me and many others, Pushbullet has been an indispensable part of the Android experience for years. It's has consistently added features and improved the ones it already had over that time, but it does cost money now. It was inevitable that people would try to build replacements, and now the most prominent of these apps is out of beta. It's called Join.

    Like Pushbullet, Join connects all your devices, making it easier to transfer text, files, and other content between them. Join implements most of the core features of Pushbullet, but I'd say it's overall not as clean or easy to use. It is still early, though.

    After you install Join on your phone, you need to get it on your other devices too. There are some browser extensions, a Windows app, and a web interface. To push a link, text, or file, you can either share it to Join or open the app and find the device you want to send to. It has a messaging-style layout rather like Pushbullet (sorry, these comparisons have to happen). The pushing seems to work well, but it uses your personal Google Drive for file pushing. Some people might like this, but it will clutter things up if you use it for other uses. I also don't see any way to push files to other people.

    Notification mirroring is one of Pushbullet's most important features, at least to me. It takes all the notification content from your phone and mirrors it on a desktop. Join has that same feature, but setting it up is a bit of a pain. You have to manually select each app you want to push notifications. There's no indication in the app that you need to do that until you venture several levels deep in the settings. Along with notifications, are SMS replies. You can reply to SMS directly from your computer, which is pretty handy.

    The SMS stuff and clipboard syncing are two features that are partially or totally restricted to Pushbullet's pro plan. Join allows unlimited access to both with the full version of the app. Clipboard syncing works well for me, but the bubbles that pop up on the phone to make sharing to a specific device just get in the way, so I turned them off.

    Join has a robust feature set, and if you've never used Pushbullet, this might be a good way to go. Join is free to try, but a $3.99 in-app purchase is needed to continue using it and remove the ads. It isn't quite as full featured or as reliable as Pushbullet, but it's close.

    Google Play App Roundup: Xcerpt for Twitter, Thumb Drift, and Rocketfella

    A new week has dawned, but you can ease the transition with some new apps and games. You've come to the right place, too. This is the Google Play App Roundup, the weekly feature where we tell you what's new and cool in Google Play.Just hit the links to zoom right to the Play Store.

    Xcerpt for Twitter

    Twitter is rumored to be planning a feature that will let you tweet more than 140 characters, but that's currently the limit. So what if you want to tweet something a little more detailed? Xcerpt has an interesting take on that. With this app, you can use a screenshot to build a custom image that is embedded in your tweet, giving you space to talk about the content too.

    To start, you fine a page that you want to share and take a screenshot. Then, head over to Xcerpt and use it to choose that screenshot. You want to make sure the screen has the text you want to share clearly visible. The next step has you crop the screenshot down to get rid of all the extraneous elements possible around the text. Xcerpt uses OCR (I believe) to process the text and insert it into a clean little frame.

    You have the option of selecting and highlighting text to add emphasis or call attention to a choice quote. This interface has a second tap at the top where you can modify the source for the image. The app is very smart about pulling that automatically, but you are also able to paste in a URL if it gets it wrong.

    When you've assembled all the pieces, you'll have to log into Twitter to send the Tweet from Xcerpt. What you get is a post with a link to the source, the image with the text you've framed, and whatever you what to add to the body of the tweet. You should have about 100 characters left after the two links. Because most Twitter clients automatically show images in the stream, it makes your Tweet much more eye catching. You can also just save the image to your gallery if you want to Tweet it from another app.

    Not everyone will have a use for Xcerpt, but those that do will find it gets the job done quite well. If you find yourself bumping into the character limit when sharing links, you might want to give it a shot.

    The Best Android Smartphones for Your Network (March 2016)

    Mobile World Congress has ended, and we have the next few weeks of Android releases lined up. Now that some of the biggest devices of 2016 have been announced, you can begin to make some decisions without feeling too apprehensive. Samsung's new flagship devices are up for pre-order, but LG is still a few weeks away. Meanwhile, HTC is still working on its unannounced M10 and there are compelling unlocked phone choices. Let's break it all down and see what you ought to buy.

    Carrier Phones

    If you're buying right now -- right this minute -- the choice for a carrier-branded phone is clear. The Samsung Galaxy S7 is up for pre-order on all major US carriers, and most other carriers around the world. The official launch date is March 11th, but T-Mobile is already shipping online orders. For all intents and purposes, this phone is out.

    The Galaxy S7 takes a lot of cues from the Galaxy S6, but it makes several improvements that users were asking for last year. So, let's get this out of the way -- there's no reason to get the Galaxy S6 anymore. If Samsung devices appeal to you, the Galaxy S7 is worth the added cost, and there will be some appealing GS6 deals. Don't do it.

    Samsung is again doing the unibody aluminum and glass thing for the GS7, but they've done something remarkable this time. Samsung made the GS7 about a millimeter thicker so the camera hump is flush with the back, and there's more room inside for a bigger battery. The overall shape of the device is a little more round, but both phones otherwise look very similar to last year's phones.

    The slightly thicker frame means the regular GS7 has a 3000mAh battery, and the GS7 Edge manages to up that to 3600mAh. The frame, in addition to being thicker, is also water resistant again. That's a feature Samsung ditched last year for the big GS6 redesign. There's also a microSD card slot in these phones, another improvement over the Galaxy S6.

    Tested In-Depth: Nexus 6P Android Smartphone

    We review Google's Nexus 6P smartphone, which launched recently as the premium flagship for Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Kishore's been testing it for a month, and we discuss how its performance compares to other flagships, the new camera, and what it's like to use Google's Project Fi cellular plan.

    Android at Mobile World Congress 2016: The Rundown

    Mobile World Congress has become one of the premiere events of the Android news cycle in recent years, and 2016 was no exception. Of course, there were the big announcements from LG and Samsung, but we've gone into exhaustive detail on those devices already. Let's take a look at all the other Android news that broke at Mobile World Congress this year.

    Google's Project Tango

    Google was on-hand at MWC to show off Project Tango with the help of Lenovo. Why Lenovo? The Chinese firm announced at CES that it would be making the first consumer-ready Tango device this summer. While we didn't get a look at Lenovo's hardware, there was a neat demo of Tango technology.

    Using data from Glympse and GuidiGo, Google created an interactive Tango experience in a Barcelona museum. Users could use Tango's orientation and location sensors to guide themselves around the building, see where other people were in augmented reality, and get more information on exhibits just by looking at them.

    Tango is going to be a big deal later this year when it finally comes to consumer devices, and this is just a hint of the functionality we'll have.

    Sony

    Oh, Sony. Sometimes it seems like Sony is trying really hard to make Android work, but mostly it just stumbles from one mediocre product launch to the next. The Xperia Z5 family just launched in the US (without fingerprint readers, because of reasons), and now Sony has confirmed the Z series is no more. For now on, it's main device line will use the X moniker. To those ends, Sony has announced the Xperia XA, X, and X Performance.

    The XA is the cheapest device in Sony's new lineup with a MediaTek processor, 2GB of RAM, a 5-inch 720p LCD, 16GB of storage, a 13MP camera, and a 2300mAh battery. Sony insists upon calling this a "super mid-range" phone. The next step up is the Xperia X. This one has a new Snapdragon 650 processor, 3GB of RAM, 5-inch 1080p display, 32GB of storage, 2620mAh battery, and one of Sony's new 23MP cameras. At the top of the heap will be the X Performance with a Snapdragon 820, 5-inch 1080p LCD, 3GB of RAM, and a 23MP camera.

    The strange thing is Sony hasn't announced an actual release date. The phone is launching early this summer with Android 6.0. Google will have already revealed a dev version of the next Android OS by then, and other big phones will be on the horizon. Sony doesn't usually announce phones so far in advance, at least for the initial markets. Speaking of, these phones will launch first in Asia with the X and XA moving on to Europe after that. The X Performance will apparently not be available elsewhere at the same time. Pretty weird, Sony.

    Google Play App Roundup: Boost for Reddit, Epic Flail, and iSlash Heroes

    Time once again to check in on what's new in the Play Store. This is the Google Play App Roundup where you can come every week to find out what's new and cool on Android. Just hit the links below to head right to the Play Store on your device.

    Boost for Reddit

    Boost is yet another Reddit client for Android, and you may be wondering why you need another one of those. Well, maybe you don't but this one is still just in beta and it's already rather impressive and full featured.

    Boost has several different layout options out of the gate including a standard list, gallery, and card view. You can further customize the look and feel of the app with day and night themes, with the option of an AMOLED black night mode. There are also a few alternative colors.

    This app has a proper material look, and the app has a dedicated multi-column UI for tablets in landscape mode. I think this is the best way to browse Reddit on a mobile device, and a lot of apps don't get it right. Boost's multi-column UI is reasonably good, but I wish it loaded the browser in only one of the panes. Reddit is Fun continues to be the best at this.

    You can, of course, log in and view your subscribed sub-Reddits using the slide-out navigation menu. It also has an option to quickly visit a sub you aren't subscribed to from this menu, something that some clients lack. I do, however, wish the multi-usb were at the top of the list, whereas they're at the bottom right now.

    Commenting, voting, and submitting, filtering and even viewing the sidebar are all supported in this initial release. There are Reddit apps that have gone through several updates that don't have all these features. The overall smoothness and speed of Boost are also where I'd expect a quality app to be.

    When Boost launched a few days ago, there was a persistent ad at the bottom of the screen and no way to get rid of it. The developer has since added a $2.49 in-app purchase to remove the ad. You should at least check out the free version. With a few more updates, Boost could rival the top Reddit clients on Android.

    Everything You Should to Know About the LG G5 Smartphone

    LG has been working on advancing its design for the last few years, but it has always been held back by its commitment to modular features like a removable battery. With the newly announced LG G5, it isn't giving up on features like that. In fact, it's taking the idea of a modular smartphone more seriously than ever, but it's also experimenting with a solid aluminum shell and revamped design language.

    The G5 doesn't look like LG's past phones, and that's going to take some getting used to. Let's see what's going on with the upcoming LG flagship.

    Design

    The LG G5 has an interesting look. Gone is LG's blade-like aesthetic from the G4, replaced by a rounded all-aluminum frame. It's completely smooth with no visible antenna cutouts. There's no removable back this time, and the trademark rear-facing buttons have been altered. You've still got the power button on the rear, along with a fingerprint sensor a la the LG V10. However, the volume toggles have moved to the side of the device like every other phone on the planet.

    The most interesting aspect of the G5's design is the bottom section, which pops off to provide access to the battery. You can just slide a dead one out, and insert a fresh one. This is actually similar to a system HTC used four or five years ago when it was tinkering with aluminum frames prior to making them completely unibody.

    The bottom cap with the LG chin is where LG's new accessories come into play. The LG G5 will have several replacement modules that connect to the bottom of the phone in place of the stock cap. LG has only shown off a few of these modules, but they are... interesting. For example, there's a camera grip add-on that gives you physical camera controls and a larger battery. They also have a high-quality DAC for HiFi audio processing. There are a lot of things you can do with this concept. Many of those things are cool (imagine a FLIR IR camera module), but are they going to sway any purchases? Either way, it's a very bold approach.

    On the front of the device is a 5.3-inch 1440p LCD. That's a little smaller than LG's last few flagship phones at 5.5-inches. There were rumors in the lead-up to the announcement that the G5 would have a second screen like the V10, but what we have instead is an always-on display. It can show the time, battery level, and notification content. However, this is an LCD, not AMOLED. Traditionally, keeping the backlight on for an LCD to remain active drains the battery much faster than an AMOLED, which can light individual pixels. LG says it has compensated for this, but didn't go into detail.

    Everything You Should Know About the Samsung Galaxy S7

    Samsung has been the dominant Android device maker for the last several years, and that's probably going to continue in 2016 with the Galaxy S7. This phone was finally announced after much speculation at Mobile World Congress a few days ago, and it's addressing many of the complaints everyone had about the Galaxy S6 -- the specs are improved, missing features have been added, and the Edge variant has been differentiated from the standard phone.

    Here's everything you need to know about the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge.

    Design

    There are a few subtle differences between the Galaxy S6 and S7, but the GS7 is undoubtedly a Samsung device. This is a unibody phone with an aluminum frame and glass rear panel. The GS7 is a bit more rounded on the corners and back than the GS6 was, which should make it a little more comfortable to hold. The camera hump is also much less pronounced -- it's almost flush with the surface. Samsung actually did something remarkable with the overall shape of the Galaxy S7 -- it's thicker than the Galaxy S6 to accommodate a larger battery and prevent the camera from sticking out.

    You still can't take the battery out, which made it easier for Samsung to bring back another much-requested feature -- water-resistance (IP68). You can get this phone wet and it won't be dead. It will actually be fine in 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes, and Samsung didn't even need to resort to that port cover nonsense from the Galaxy S5. However, the port in question is a microUSB. That means all your existing cables will work, but Samsung is dragging out the USB Type-C transition even longer by not getting on-board with the new standard.

    The GS7 SIM tray holds yet another surprise this year. Everyone was disheartened when Samsung ditched the microSD card last year, but this time it's back and built into the SIM tray. That's not the most convenient location for swapping cards, but at least you've got one now.

    Google Play App Roundup: Qapital, Dub Dash, and Evo Explores

    You probably want more apps, but more than that, you want the right ones. That's what we're here to deliver with the weekly Google Play App Roundup. This is where you'll find the best new and newly updated apps and games on Android. Just click the link to head right to Google Play.

    Qapital

    Saving can be hard, but there are apps that can make it easy. In the case of Qapital, it makes it almost completely invisible. This app lets you configure various rules that drop a few bucks here and there into a savings account with specific goals. Setup is a bit involved, but it seems like a really interesting financial app.

    As with many apps that plug into your bank account, Qapital requires you to go through a few steps. First, you make an account and lock PIN for the app. Next, you'll register your bank account. You'll probably need to get the unique access code from your account to connect Qapital. Lastly, you have to wait a few days for Qapital to make two small deposits in your account, then use those amounts to verify with the app.

    Okay, now that that's all taken care of, what can Qapital do for you? You can configure the service to dump money into your Qapital savings account each time something specific happens. The app comes with several built-in rules that can be configured to your liking. For example, the round up rule allows you to round all your purchases up in whatever dollar increments you want. The extra money is deposited in Qapital (which is a standard FDIC-insured account, by the way). You might also want to use the budget rule to deposit money into Qapital when you're under budget for a certain thing. There's even a neat "guilty pleasure" rule that transfers money each time you do a certain thing, like eat fast food. Yes, regular old manual transfers are a thing too.

    The other side of Qapital is setting goals. Your savings can just be a big lump of money if you want, but the app makes it easy to track your progress toward purchasing an item or going on a trip. The main screen in Qapital keeps you appraised of all your recent activity and how much has been saved toward your goals.

    What makes Qapital a bit different from the other trendy saving plan apps out there is that it has IFTTT integration. IFTTT is a cloud-based automation platform that plugs into a ton of connected devices, apps, and services. With IFTTT, you can create recipes with Qapital that make it much more powerful. For example, you can have all of your Qapital transfers automatically logged to a Google spreadsheet. You might also want to trigger a transfer to savings when you hit your goal (or don't) with your Fitbit. Qapital is a clever app.

    Google Play App Roundup: Flyperlink, Alto's Adventure, and GTA: Liberty City Stories

    Apps move quickly on Android. No sooner have you found an app you can get cozy with, a better alternative has come along. We're here to make sure you're ahead of the curve. That's what the Google Play App Roundup is for. Just click on the links to head to Google Play and get the best new apps and games for your device.

    Flyperlink

    Android still doesn't support split-screen or windowed apps, even though we know it's been in the works for a long time. There are a few third-party alternatives, but the new app Flyperlink might be the best so far. This is a floating browser that loads links in the background that's optimized for multitasking.

    This isn't a full browser like Chrome, but it should be good enough to get plenty of basic browsing taken care of. Simply open links in Flyperlink, or set it as the default for web pages. You can always bounce a link out into Chrome with the toolbar button if you need the full browser. Sharing links to Flyperlink is another way to get pages open in bubbles.

    The default behavior for Flyperlink is to open pages in full screen, then minimize to a floating bubble on command. You can drag multiple bubbles around and open them one at a time. This is all part of the free version of the app. I strongly suggest doing the $0.99 in-app upgrade as it adds the popup page option in settings. Turn this on, and each browser window becomes a resizable window, which is very cool on larger screen devices. I'm testing this on a tablet, and I find it quite useful. On a phone, maybe not so much. You can also toggle the "stay open" option for any of your windows. allowing you to open other floating bubbles at the same time.

    Whichever mode you choose, Flyperlink always has a themed toolbar that pulls colors from the website and favicons on the floating bubbles. It includes the ability to force desktop versions of pages and open the link in other apps via the share menu. You can also have the bubbles accessible on top of the lock screen if you want.

    The performance of Flyperlink seems fine to me -- every bit as good as Chrome at least. It lacks some of the features you'd get in a full browser like bookmarks and account synchronization, though. It's definitely worth checking out the free version, and that $1 upgrade will be very tempting for tablet users.