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    Five Busted Android Devices that Were Canceled Before Launch

    Nobody sets out to design a product that fails before it even launches, but it happens sometimes. With all the variation and freedom the Android platform affords device makers, people can just get carried away. Even otherwise very successful companies have screwed up by misreading the market or cutting corners in engineering. Let's look back at five Android devices that were so terrible or broken that they were never released.

    Nexus Q

    Google itself is not immune to poor decision making when it comes to Android hardware, and the Nexus Q (above) is the clearest example of that. This entirely in-house endeavor grew out of Google's Project Tungsten, an offshoot of Android@Home. The 2012 Nexus Q was supposed to be a set top box receiver for media beamed from your phone. Sound like anything you've heard of more recently? The Q was basically a Chromecast with fewer features and a $300 price tag.

    The Nexus Q ran a heavily modified build of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich to play content from YouTube, Play Music, and Play Movies. Notice anything missing? Yeah, it didn't even support Netflix. The hardware itself was high quality, with a spherical metal housing and powerful 25 watt stereo amplifier, but no one was going to pay $300 for the Nexus Q when a $100 Roku did so much more.

    Free Nexus Q units were handed out at I/O 2012, but the initial response from reviewers was so negative that Google decided to pause the launch and reevaluate the feature set. The company also sent out free Nexus Qs to anyone who pre-ordered one. Apparently taking their money for something so fundamentally flawed was a non-starter. By early 2013, Google had scrubbed the Nexus Q from its site, indicating the device was never coming out. Several months later, it began shutting down the servers that handled streaming for the Q, rendering existing devices useless.

    The Best Android Smartphones for Your Network (February 2016)

    We're on the verge of big things in the Android ecosystem. Well, you could make the argument that we always are, but this month in particular things are about to break loose. New phones from Samsung and LG are a lock for Mobile World Congress in a few weeks, but in the meantime there are still some excellent devices out there. Let's see what your options are, and when you should hold off.

    Carrier-branded Phones

    In recent months, I've cited the Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG G4 as the best devices you can get direct from your carrier. That's still true, but the Galaxy S7 and Lg G5 are only weeks away. Let's examine some of the rumors and compare that to what you can buy right now.

    The GS6 has a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED panel, which continues to be one of the best screens available on a smartphone. It's 1440p and the colors are amazing. At 5.1-inches, it's actually comfortable to use one-handed too. The reasonably sized and fantastic screen continues to be one of the primary selling points of this phone. Based on what I've heard from reliable sources, the Galaxy S7 will have the same resolution and form factor. The screen's characteristics will probably be improved, but not dramatically.

    The Galaxy S6 has an aluminum frame and Gorilla Glass front/rear panels, and the GS7 will be much the same. Samsung's phones feel solid, despite having glass rear panels. You can expect the GS7 to also have a non-removable battery like the GS6.

    Samsung still has the best overall camera available on an Android smartphone. Even if you buy it now, you won't be disappointed. The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a 16MP shooter with optical image stabilization and an f/1.9 lens. The exposure quality and consistency are better than any other phone right now, even in low light. The GS7 will probably step down to a 12MP sensor, but with a much wider aperture for better low-light performance.

    Inside, the Galaxy S6 has an octa-core Exynos chip with four faster Cortex-A57 cores and four light-duty A53s. This was a stopgap measure to counter Qualcomm's 810 overheating issues, but the Galaxy S7 will reportedly switch back to a Snapdragon chip, the 820. This is one of the big reasons you might want to wait -- the GS7 will be faster and more power-efficient.

    The GS6 also has 3GB of RAM, 32/64/128GB of storage, and 2550mAh non-removable battery. It's very fast in daily use, but battery life is just average. I regularly see 4 hours of screen time in a single day, but some people are a little higher or lower. It's not going to make it through two full days, but a little more than one is feasible. The GS7 is said to have a larger battery, but the big improvement here is the addition of a microSD card slot. This isn't 100% yet, but it seems very likely.

    Google Play App Roundup: Guides by Lonely Planet, Downwell, and Punch Club

    Another week is upon us, and that means it's time to check out the state of the Google Play Store. Your phone is only a shadow of itself without the best apps, so it's a good thing we're here to save the day. Just click on the app name to pull up the Google Play Store so you can try things out for yourself.

    Guides by Lonely Planet

    Planning some travel? If planning is the operative word there, you might want to get the new Lonely Planet app on your mobile device. Lonely Planet is the largest publisher of travel guides in the world, making it a great resource for getting your trip lined up in advance, or even spur of the moment.

    The Lonely Planet app includes comprehensive guides for a lot of cities (a few dozen), but not everywhere you might visit. If you can't find a guide for a city, the app can notify you if a guide is released. The guides you want will be downloaded locally to your device for offline accessibility. That's handy for those times when you're visiting a place where you won't have reliable (or reasonably priced) internet access on your phone.

    The app shows your downloaded city guides right at the top. Upon opening it, there are categories for food, entertainment, shopping, attractions, and so on. There's also a map at the top you can view that has all the points of interest on it. Importantly, this map is also available offline. Below the categories are "interests, " which are specific groups of places like museums and historic points of interest.

    This is a material app with proper implementation of the slide-out navigation menu with different sections of the guide. The default view is Discover, but there's also Need to Know with basic overview information and cost data. It's impressive how deep these guides go. You can drill down to get reviews of individual restaurants and attractions. The app itself is a bit plain (predominantly white), but there are various material animations and the content is all native, not webframe. It's fast and easy to get around in if you've used any other modern Android app.

    If Lonely Planet has a guide for your destination, it's a no-brainer to download and use it. The guides are great and the app is free.

    The Ups and Downs of Android Wear in 2016

    Google launched Android Wear in the summer of 2014, almost a year before the Apple Watch went on sale. In retrospect, that first release did feel a little rushed, but the feature set evolved rapidly. Google has worked with OEMs on a two generations of Android Wear devices, made numerous tweaks to the OS, and started selling devices directly in the Google Store. However, wearables are still a hard sell to consumers, and Android Wear has experienced several setbacks. Let's see where Google's wearable platform stands and where it's going.

    New Partnerships

    The first round of Android Wear devices were produced by traditional smartphone heavyweights like LG and Samsung. These devices didn't have the most elegant design, but they worked well enough as demos of what the platform was capable of. Newer smartwatches from companies like Motorola show a marked improvement in design aesthetic, but it's clear these are still smartphone OEMs playing at being watchmakers.

    As OEMs work on making smartwatches more watch-like, Google has gone to real watchmakers to bring a different approach to Android Wear. Tag Heuer and Fossil are the first watchmakers to create Android Wear devices, and the design is definitely more impressive than other Wear devices. Even the Moto 360 and Huawei Watch--which I consider the best designed Wear devices from phone makers--avoid taking too many risks with the design, resulting in a minimalist look. That's fine, but I feel like they're just trying not to screw up because they lack the expertise of a company like Fossil. The Fossil Q Founder has a very attractive design, and it looks like a real watch, but it's maybe not the best smartwatch.

    Google Play App Roundup: Chrooma Keyboard, Crashlands, and AppLock

    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.

    Chrooma Keyboard

    Google's stock keyboard is a good alternative if you want a faster, simpler keyboard than the one that came with your phone. Then there's SwiftKey for themes and customization. What if you want a little from column A and a little from column B? That's sort of what Chrooma Keyboard is. It's a keyboard that adapts its theme to the app you're using without any configuration on your part.

    Starting in Android 5.0, developers have the option of theming the status and navigation bars in their apps. However, most only add colors to the status bar. Chrooma Keyboard simply looks at the color specified by the app and matches it. The result is a really neat, colorful UI. It might be to everyone's liking, but there's not really anything else like it.

    An app like SwiftKey has plenty of themes, but let's face it, most of them are ugly. Even the ones that aren't might clash with the theme of various apps. Chrooma always matches, and it has a lot in common with Google's light, fast stock keyboard. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's based on the AOSP keyboard (it's released under the Apache license). That means you get word prediction, swipe input, a voice input button, and more.

    Chrooma's headlining feature is obviously the context-aware theming, and there are a few settings to tweak it. The default is single-color mode, but you can change to palette mode where Chrooma uses lighter and darker shades of the app's accent color on each row of the keyboard. I think this looks pretty snazzy. There's also a night mode that uses darker colors. The other settings are slim with a few layout tweaks, UI settings, and icons. There are plenty of languages, though.

    Text input using Chrooma seems to be just as good as the stock Google keyboard, of which I'm generally quite fond. Swipe input is also solid. In fact, Chrooma retains the multi-word swipe input that Google dropped a few versions ago.

    Chrooma is $1.99 in the Play Store, and I think it's worth checking out if you like the stock keyboard, but would like something a little more colorful.

    Google Play App Roundup: SKWRT, The Room Three, and Pocket Mortys

    There are far too many apps flowing into the Play Store on a daily basis to find all the good stuff yourself. This is the problem that Google Play App Roundup seeks 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.

    SKRWT

    This isn't just another photo editor app for Android. SKWRT will have more limited appeal, but it's really the only app built specifically to correct for lens distortion in smartphone photos. If you don't know what that means, you aren't alone. However, it's one of those things you might not be able to unsee once it's pointed out. Lucky for you SKWRT exists now.

    Smartphone cameras have come a long way in recent years, but it's important to note that the short fixed focal length is bound to cause a little distortion. This can cause lines that are parallel in real life to end up slightly bent. They appear to converge somewhere off-frame. This is particularly noticeable when taking skyline or architectural photos, and it's not always easy to fix. This is where SKWRT comes in.

    When you open the app, it offers you the option of taking a new photo or opening an existing one. I will say I'm not overjoyed about the layout of the app. It does the same thing VSCO does with the unlabeled buttons and dials. Once you figure out where everything is, it's not so bad.

    Across the bottom of the screen are all the transformations SKWRT includes. There are basic things like vignette adjustment and rotation. I'm particularly impressed with the rotation with automatic cropping that preserves the frame and won't leave you with empty pixels in the corners. You can also adjust the horizontal and vertical perspective lines, and of course, do lens correction. SKWRT has built-in modes for adjusting smartphone, GoPro, wideangle, and fisheye lens photos.

    SKWRT shows you a live preview of the photo as you're making adjustments. When you're satisfied, you can tap the export button at the bottom of the screen (which is uncomfortably close to the navi bar, by the way) and save it to your device or share directly to Instagram. You can optionally replace the original photo too.

    SKWRT will cost you $0.99 in the Play Store, and that's it -- no in-app purchases for filter packs, more tools, or anything else. This app has limited utility, but for those who are serious about their photos, it's an important tool.

    Google Play App Roundup: Open Link With, Worms 4, and Defenders 2

    Your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

    Open Link With

    Android offers you a lot of power to install multiple apps that handle the same types of links, and even replace the defaults. However, that can sometimes backfire when a link is opened in a browser when you meant to open it in a dedicated app. It's not always easy to get to the right place, but Open Link With can fix that. It does what the name implies.

    To get a handle on what this app does, here's a scenario. You tap on a short URL in a message or news feed that turns out to be a YouTube URL. However, it is resolved in the browser. You can either watch it in the browser, which is a pretty mediocre experience, or try to search for it in the YouTube app, save it to a list for later, and so on. It's just kind of a mess. Open Link With remembers your app preferences so you can just share a link to it, and the right app will open. If you wanted to have the Medium app always open Medium posts, you can do that too.

    The nice thing about using this app is you don't have to reset your default apps. Just share to Open Link With and it remembers your preferred defaults. Open Link With works best if you grant it usage permissions, which is requests during initial setup. That lets it see what other apps you're running and make it easier to open links in the right place.

    To use Open Link With, just use the Android share menu to share a link with it. This can be a little confusing, but the next dialog popup actually lets you set the preferred app in Open Link With, not the system. As long as you select "Always" in that dialog, the app will remember your choice and always open links to that domain in the chosen app. If you ever want to change a preferred app, the list of domains is in the settings.

    Open Link With doesn't need to run a service in the background or monitor your browsing. All it's doing is relaying a request automatically to the right place in a single tap. It's straightforward and free. Can't argue with that.

    The Best Replacements for Stock Android Apps

    The assortment of apps that come with your phone will get the job done, and in some cases they might even be great. that doesn't mean there aren't viable alternatives out there. You may even find that a third-party alternative app is far better for you than the one that came with your phone. Let's take a peek in the Play Store and see what your best options are for replacing the built-in functionality of your Android device these days.

    Gmail/Email: CloudMagic

    Until recently, I probably would have said Mailbox offered the best overall email alternative on Android, but now Dropbox is shutting down the app. Luckily, there's also CloudMagic. It's been a moderately popular app for a few years, but doesn't seem to get much attention.

    It supports instant push notifications and threaded messages for all types of email including Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, Exchange, and more. For Gmail users, it has full tagging/folder support. If you use multiple email services, there's also a unified inbox mode. The swipe actions make it easy to manage a large volume of email too. With modules for apps like Todoist, Evernote, and OneNote, you can actually get work done from inside CloudMagic.

    All that and it's a free app! Next up, search and camera replacements.

    The Best Android Smartphones for Your Network

    It can be almost impossible to keep up with all the new and upcoming Android phones out there, so what can you do when the time comes to upgrade? You don't want to spend hundreds on a phone that won't be good enough in a few months. There are a number of good options if you're going through the carriers, and if you want to go your own way, that's never been easier. Let's see what your options are this month as we close out 2015 and kick off the new year.

    Carrier-branded Phones

    We're coming to a critical juncture with last year's flagships. Specifically. they're last year's flagships. It's 2016 now and that means a new raft of phones will be coming out before you know it. The top two carrier-branded phones this month are still the Galaxy S6 and Lg G4, but for how long? Let's look at these phones and see if they're still worth buying or if waiting is the best bet.

    The GS6 has a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED panel, which continues to be one of the best screens available on a smartphone. It's 1440p and the colors are amazing. At 5.1-inches, it's actually comfortable to use one-handed too. The reasonably sized and fantastic screen continues to be one of the primary selling points of this phone.

    The Galaxy S6 has an aluminum frame and Gorilla Glass front/rear panels. It feels much more sturdy and premium than a lot of other phones, but of course, it is a glass rear panel. It hasn't given me any trouble, but I know a lot of people get a grippy case to avoid dropping it.

    Samsung still has the best overall camera available on an Android smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a 16MP shooter with optical image stabilization and an f/1.9 lens. The exposure quality and consistency are better than any other phone right now, even in low light. I've actually started taking a lot of my review photos with a Galaxy S6 because it's easier than dragging out my DSLR for a minor improvement in image quality.

    Google Play App Roundup: AutoMate, Ambient Battery, and Rust Bucket

    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.

    AutoMate

    Android Auto is in the wild now, but the aftermarket head units are expensive, and not all new cars have it as an option. What's an Android user to do behind the wheel? Well, there's AutoMate. This app has been in closed beta for a few months, and now it's available in the Play Store for everyone to try. It's basically Android Auto on your phone.

    If you've ever seen Android Auto, AutoMate will look familiar. It has almost the same layout, but it actually does more. Android Auto is designed to be safer to use than hopping back and forth between apps, and sometimes that means features you are used to having are not available. AutoMate is in the middle, acting as a hub for certain features and apps, but there are still times when you're going to be forced to mess with the phone more than you should. It can be set as the default action when a car USB cable is connected, though.

    The app is laid out across five tabs, which are accessible at the bottom of the UI. From left to right you've got maps, phone, home, music, and favorites. The map tab is just a standard Google Maps frame with access to search and turn-by-turn navigation. It actually works surprisingly well. Then there's the phone tab, which actually makes it easier to access your contacts by touch than Android Auto's inexplicably limited system of voice commands. The audio tab grabs whatever media you have playing via notification access, so it works with everything. By comparison, Android Auto only works with apps that have been updated with specific support. Then there's the favorite tab which links to commonly used apps and settings. This one seems not particularly useful as you shouldn't be mucking around in a bunch of apps while driving.

    You'll probably spend most of your time in AutoMate looking at the central home tab. This has a series of cards in a Google Now-style list. There are ongoing cards for the weather and your speed/location, but also things like appointments, reminders, navigation directions, and media playback. It's not quite as smart about pulling up cards as Android Auto, but it tends to have a lot more stuff in general.

    AutoMate has a huge, huge number of settings so you can make it work however you like. Most of them are unlocked in the free version too. Some of these features are just things that Google wouldn't do for liability reasons, though. For example, AutoMate will offer speeding alerts and notifications of red light cameras (premium feature). This is a good alternative if you don't have a smart screen in your car already, and the premium upgrade is only about $3.

    A Look Back at Android in 2015 and Predictions for 2016

    Android moves fast, so every year is packed with news. This year seems to have been a bit more extreme than most. Some companies are struggling, others threw in the towel, and still others are seeing huge success. Through it all Google is improving Android and taking security more seriously than ever before. Let's look back at Android's 2015 and see where things might go in 2016.

    Snapdragon 810

    At the tail end of 2014 we started to hear reports that the upcoming Snapdragon 810 might have an overheating issue. "Nonsense," said Qualcomm. Then the LG G Flex 2 came out in early 2015 with a Snapdragon 810. It got really, really hot. That was the same story for most Snapdragon 810 devices this year, which has been a problem for Qualcomm, no matter how much they say everything is fine.

    The Snapdragon 810 is an eight-core ARM chip based on the standard reverence cores licensed from ARM Holdings. Qualcomm usually uses custom ARM cores, but its 64-bit cores weren't ready when the time came to move past the Snapdragon 805. Other companies have used the same combination of Cortex-A57 and A53 without such extreme issues, but for whatever reason, the 810 was prone to overheating.

    Google Play App Roundup: Clipboard Actions, Cavernaut, and The Beggar's Ride

    There was a time when the Google Play Store was lacking in content. Now there are many, many apps, and quite a few of them are good, and best way to find them is to check our Google Play App Roundup. Every week we bring you the best new, and newly updated app in the store. Just click the links to head right to the Google Play Store and download everything for yourself.

    Clipboard Actions

    Android has had copy and paste support since the early days, but there are some apps that can be used to make the clipboard more than a tool for moving text around. Clipboard Actions parses the text you copy and lets you trigger a variety of actions right from the notification shade.

    Clipboard Actions is extremely straightforward -- after it's installed, you can just go along and copy text like always. If you don't need to do anything else with it. the notification can be ignored. However, just a quick swipe down and you might save some time. If you've just copied a single word or term, the Clipboard Actions notification will have a definition and link to more info online. it can also detect currency and automatically convert it in this top section. The buttons at the bottom of the notification are where things get really interesting, though.

    The notification has a series of buttons for different actions along the bottom. Some will be more useful than others, depending on what you've copied. On the far left is the option to share using the system sharing intent. You can also do a web search with the clipboard contents, which is useful for a wide variety of things.

    If you've copied an address or name of a location, you can tap the map button to search in Google Maps. The translate button will dump your clipboard contents into the Translate app for instant translation as well. It also recognizes content info like a phone number or email address, offering links to the dialer and email respectively. Similarly, if you copy a link, there's a quick option to shorten it. This full turns the link into a bit.ly link and copies that to the clipboard. You can also create a QR code with a link (or text, but that's less useful) right from the notification.

    All the features of Clipboard Actions are configurable, so you don't have to keep everything active. If all you need is sharing and link shortening, all the rest can be turned off. It also doesn't need any crazy permissions, though keep in mind it is reading your clipboard contents. There's no reason to think it's up to no good, but still.

    Clipboard Actions is clever, and it's completely free.

    Google Play App Roundup: Chromer, Scribblenauts Unlimited, and Star Skater

    The time has come again to shine a light into all the shadowy corners of Google Play to find the best new and newly updated stuff for your phone or tablet. The Google Play App Roundup is where you can come every week to see what's cool on Android, and this week is no exception. Click on the links to head right to Google Play and download for yourself.

    Chromer

    Android has supported webviews as an alternative to launching a full browser for the last several versions, but more recently Google created the Chrome custom tab. This became available to users in Chrome v45, so it should work on virtually all devices (the stable channel is already at v47). The problem is waiting for developers to start using Chrome custom tabs, but Chromer lets you do it all yourself.

    Chrome custom tabs are a middle ground between the extremely stripped-down webview and the full Chrome browser. A custom tab is still rendered by the Chrome Blink engine, but it doesn't have to load all the extra stuff that comes along with a browsers. This means a Chrome custom tab can load a page extremely quickly and accurately. It also has access to Chrome data like fill forms and passwords.

    Developers are advised to use custom tabs for all external URLs, but we're still a long way from universal adoption. Chromer lets you set it as a default browser in Android, essentially routing all URL intents through a custom tab. There will probably be situations where this isn't convenient, but when you think about the links you click on, how often do you really jump from that page to another site or access your bookmarks in the same tab? I find that I often back out of these pages and simply open chrome manually when I'm going to be poking around multiple sites. So, why have the whole browser startup just to look at a single link?

    The main advantage of using Chromer is that it's really fast to load pages -- noticeably faster than Chrome or a webview. The rendering is also spot-on and I like having access Chrome services including data saver and the aforementioned personal datastores. The custom tab has a menu option to jump into the full browser as well.

    There's very little configuration to be managed in Chromer. The app includes settings to toggle the colored status bar, page title, and a slide animation. Otherwise, it's all in Google's hands. Chromer (i.e. Chrome custom tabs) will get better as Chrome itself does. This is a free utility and something you should definitely take a look at.

    Google Play App Roundup: Cortana, A Good Snowman, and Cardboard Camera

    We care about your phone almost as much as you do, so we're here very week with more apps and games to make it better. This is the Google Play App Roundup, which is where we tell you about all the best new stuff on Android. Just click the links to head right to Google Play.

    Cortana

    After several months in beta, Microsoft has seen fit to release Cortana on Android officially. Users of Windows Phone and Windows 10 are likely familiar with this virtual assistant, but Android already has Google voice search and Google Now built-in. Can Cortana hope to live up to that? Well, I can tell you right now Microsoft still has some work to do.

    When you open the app, it'll have you sign into your Microsoft account if you've got one. This allows the app to sync your notebook content from the cloud. You might not realize you have anything of the sort, but if you've ever told Microsoft your location or the things you're interested in, you probably have some data already in Cortana. It's a bit like Google Now (but less contextual) with links to news, the weather, and other bits of data.

    At the bottom of the screen is the search box, which is really the centerpiece of what Microsoft is trying to do here. You can type in your query or tap the microphone button to launch the voice input. Then you just start talking. Cortana tries to be more conversational than Google -- it's more like Siri in that respect. You can ask it to tell you a joke or just ask dumb questions to get a funny reply. That's all well and good, but the functionality is what matters, and Cortana does okay in that department.

    You can have it send messages, place calls, and add events to your calendar. I do quite like being able to set reminders that sync over to my PC running Windows 10. Strangely, you'll still have to type or select options for some of these features. For example, I can tell it to text someone, but I still have to type the message in Cortana after it sets up the contact info. That's not super-helpful. For general queries, it does well. Bing doesn't have as much natural language smarts as Google does, but it's usually fine for general knowledge.

    Like Google search, you can call up Cortana from any screen with a hot word, in this case "hey Cortana." I'd say this works about 75% of the time right now, which isn't high enough for me to trust it. That might be a device-specific bug, though. There are also some crashes and general sluggishness when using the app.

    Despite the issues, Cortana is an interesting app to have on Android. Microsoft traditionally kept these features within its own device ecosystem as a selling point. Now you can get it everywhere. With a few more updates, I could see Cortana being a viable alternative for someone who wants to use fewer Google services on Android.

    Nexus 6P vs. Nexus 5X: Which Google Flagship is Best for You?

    Fans of Nexus devices are facing an unprecedented choice this year. Previously, it was almost an iPhone scenario where you'd just buy (or pine for) the single new Nexus phone each year. Not this time. There are two Nexus phones, and they both have their strong points. Let's take a closer look at these phones and see how they compare.

    Design and Battery

    You can tell just from looking that the Nexus 6P and 5X fill two different niches. The 5X is a fairly modestly sized phone, and the 6P is a true phablet. The 5.7-inch 6P isn't as wide or girthy as the Nexus 6, but it's going to be too large for someone who prefers a single-hand phone. The Nexus 5X, on the other hand, has a 5.2-inch screen. That's certainly not "small" in the traditional sense, but it's within the realm of usability for anyone with average or smallish hands.

    The Nexus 6P is the more "premium" or the two phones -- take that to mean what you will. I guess I'd say it feels more expensive. It's an all-aluminum phone with an incredibly thin profile (just 7.3mm thick). It looks really nice in person, but there's a slight camera hump on the back. That glass bar sits above the body of the phone, but it's not a dramatic increase in thickness. Because it's so thin and made entirely of aluminum, the 6P isn't the most comfortable device to hold. It's also heavy at 178g.

    Even though the hardware in the Nexus 5X isn't as impressive on paper, it's a more pleasant phone to carry around. The back panel is soft touch plastic with slightly smoother plastic on the sides. It's just a fraction of a millimeter thicker than the 6P, but it's a lot lighter -- just 136g. Both phones have a Nexus Imprint fingerprint sensor on the rear, but it's a little larger and more grippy on the Nexus 5X, making it even easier to hold.

    Inside the Nexus 6P is a big 3450mAh battery. That's the largest a Nexus phone has ever had, and the 6P makes good use of it. Even with the more power-hungry AMOLED screen, this phone gets more screen-on time than the smaller Nexus 5X. That one has a mere 2700mAh battery. Both get good standby time thanks to Marshmallow's Doze feature, but again, the 6P is just a little ahead.

    Both have support for quick charging via the USB Type-C power delivery spec, but that means using the included Type-C cable and adapter. There aren't any good third-party ones yet.

    Google Play App Roundup: Storehouse, The Executive, and Adobe Premiere Clip

    It's that time of the week again. Time to shake off the weekend vibe and get back to work. But you can probably spare a few minutes to check out some new apps. This is the Tested Google Play App Roundup, which is where we tell you about the best new and newly updated apps on Android. Just follow the links to Google Play.

    Storehouse

    The cameras in Android phones have gotten much, much better in the last few years. Consequently, you've probably been taking a lot of nice photos. But what to do with all of them? You can dump them on Instagram or Facebook one at a time, I suppose, but the new Storehouse app lets you use all those pics to create cool, sharable albums.

    To get started, you can choose up to 50 images and videos on your phone for each "story." Unfortunately, these have to be stored locally on your device. I'd love to see an option to grab media from Google Photos or Dropbox, but you can download the files in advance. The first photo you pick will be the header image, which will have a title and subhead overlaid on it. Everything else is added in a series of full-width images below.

    The default layout isn't really anything special, but what you do with it is. Tapping on a photo lets you resize it right there on the page. You can also long-press and drag it around. The other photos will move around to accommodate it, sort of like resizing a widget on your home screen. The images are being cropped as you do this, but the full resolution still exists, as I'll get to shortly. In addition to moving pictures and videos around, you can add text with a variety of formatting options. These blocks of text can also be moved around on the page.

    My only real issue with Storehouse's layout editor is that moving objects around on the page can be somewhat tedious. This may be a bug, but the page doesn't scroll if you try to drag something up or down to a different area. That means you have to drop it and pick it up several times to move it very far.

    So, what do you do with it when you're done? When you share something like this, there's no guarantee the other party will have Storehouse installed. Luckily, they don't need it. This is where a lot of apps like this go wrong. The link produced in the app opens a private web page with the full story on it. This works in desktop and mobile browsers. Remember all those photos you resized and cropped down to clean up the layout? When viewing the story, you can click on any of them to expand the full resolution version. Additionally, the videos you upload are embedded as HTML5 clips, so they should play on anything.

    Storehouse also has an option to add stories to "spaces," which you can share with friends so they can see all the stories you post to it. It's a neat idea and executed fairly well. It's free, so give it a look.

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (November 2015)

    All the carriers and OEMs are locked in for their holiday phone lineups now, so which ones are worth getting? We live in a world now where the price of phones matters with most carriers charging monthly for the full price rather than simply selling them on contract for $200. And if you don't want to go through the carriers, that's never been easier. Let's dive in and see where you stand.

    Carrier-branded phones

    Even with the plethora of unlocked devices out there, it can often be easier to go through your carrier. You can get a payment plan to make it less expensive to upgrade and more easily return devices if you change your mind. If that's the way you're going, there are two devices that I still think are worth your money, even though they came out last spring -- the Galaxy S6 and the LG G4.

    The GS6 has a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED panel, and it's one of the best screens available on a smartphone at 2560x1440 resolution. So many phones are phablets these days, making one-handed use an increasing rarity. The GS6 is easily one-handable, though. The reasonably sized and fantastic screen continues to be one of the primary selling points of this phone.

    Samsung still has the best overall camera available on an Android smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a 16MP shooter with optical image stabilization and an f/1.9 lens. Images are almost always properly exposed with accurate of colors on the first try, even in poor light. I've actually started taking a lot of my review photos with a Galaxy S6 because it's easier than dragging out my DSLR for a minor improvement in image quality.

    Google Play App Roundup: HomeUX, Please Don't Touch Anything, and Last Horizon

    It's time again to dive into the Google Play Store and see what apps we can find. Every week we find the best new and newly updated apps for the Roundup, and this week is no exception. Just click on the app name to head to the Play Store.

    HomeUX

    You don't have to look long to find numerous home screen replacements in the Play Store. Third-party launchers have been one of the most prominent customization options on Android since its inception, and now there some very diverse options. Most home screens are based on the AOSP Android launcher on some level, and they feel like it. HomeUX (previously a closed beta) has a different vibe, though. This home screen has a clean and efficient UI that focuses on organization and search.

    The basic layout of HomeUX is very different than what you're probably used to. At the top of the screen is a section called the action panel. This is where you'll find a clock, but also the settings (swipe left) and custom groups (swipe right). You also have the option of adding shortcuts to this area that will be available at all times, sort of like the favorites tray on other launchers.

    The bottom three-quarters of the screen is where all the action happens. By default, you have a list of all your apps here in scrollable pages. There's an action button-style search button straddling the border between the two areas, and it does what you'd expect. Tap it, and you can search your phone for apps. Again, this is only the default behavior, though. You can change the long-press action and icon of this button to do all sorts of things. For example, have it launch the Google apps.

    Things get interesting when you start adding custom folders to HomeUX. Let's say I want all my work apps together. I make a folder, give it an icon, and select some apps. You switch between folders by swiping up and down in the app list. So a swipe down, and I'm in the work folder. It's essentially a way to filter your app list. You can also add widgets to these folders, which is a cool way to keep that information easily accessible without cluttering up the UI.

    The free version of HomeUX has some solid customization options including custom grid size, hiding apps, icon packs, and configurable wallpapers/themes. A pro upgrade for $1.49 adds things like icon scaling, notification badges, and clock UI adjustment.

    This is still a beta app, and as such, there are a few rough edges to be worked out. I've seen some graphical glitches and the way certain features are accessed could be clearer. Still, you should give this launcher a shot because it's a refreshing change of pace.

    Testing: In-Depth with the Nexus 5X and 6P Cameras

    Nexus phones have always had great software and innovative hardware features, but even when the camera specs looked good, performance has been mediocre at best. Google has been happy to point out that it prioritized the cameras in the Nexus 5X and 6P, though. They use excellent sensors and the software processing has been heavily revamped. So how good are they? Let's take a closer look at this year's Nexus cameras.

    The Hardware

    The Nexus 6P and 5X have a lot in common when it comes to the camera. In fact, they have identical hardware. We're talking about a Sony IMX377 image sensor with a resolution of 12.3MP. That's a little lower than the Nexus 6's resolution last year, and there's one other feature missing from these cameras -- optical image stabilization. We'll get to that later.

    These Sony sensors have large 1.55μm pixels and a f/2.0 aperture. These features both make for theoretically better low-light performance compared to past Nexus phones. The pixel measurement isn't something you hear about a lot, but HTC has pushed it as an important metric for its Ultrapixel sensor. Those cameras have 2.0μm pixels, which allows them to pick up a lot of light. However, the resolution was only 4MP. The IMX377 is ahead of most sensors in pixel size, commonly 1.1-1.2μm.

    Next to the camera on these phones you also get a laser autofocus module. It's out in the open on the 5X, but it's behind the glass cover on the 6P. This is similar to LG's phones in that it helps you zero in on targets, even in weird lighting conditions. A number of other high-end flagship phones use phase detection tech to focus the camera, but the laser option has proven to be better overall.

    Several of the differences between the Nexus 6P and 5X cameras have to do with the internal hardware, not the camera modules themselves. The 5X has a Snapdragon 808 and the 6P runs a Snapdragon 810. According to Google, several of the processing technologies it chose to implement don't work well enough on the 808, so they're exclusive to the 6P. Specifically, electronic image stabilization, smart burst, and 240fps slow-motion video.

    Google Play App Roundup: Audify, Horizon Chase, and Call of Champions

    If you're going to be supporting app development on Android (and you should), you might as well pay for the best content you can. That's what the Google Play App Roundup is all about. This is where you can come every week to find out what's new and cool on Android. Just follow the links to the Play Store.

    Audify

    Android's notification system is great… when you're looking at the phone. But what happens when your attention is focused elsewhere? A beep and flashing light only provides so much information. With Audify, you can have your notifications read aloud, and unlike some similar services and apps, this isn't just for messaging. Audify can read all your notifications.

    Audify should work on any phone running Android 4.3 or higher. That's because it needs the notification listener, which you'll be prompted to enable upon opening the app for the first time. This lets Audify read the text of the notification, which it then runs through the standard text-to-speech engine on your phone. It's not going to be like having a conversation with a human, but the default voice on most phones isn't bad anymore. It's like a very polite female robot.

    There are multiple settings to control how and when Audify activates. Once you set these rules, you don't have to fiddle with the app at all. The default behavior is to start Audify when you plug in headphones or connect a Bluetooth audio device. This implies that you're not going to be looking at the screen and it might be advantageous to have your notifications read to you. There's also a setting to only read when the screen is off. Again, this is probably the most likely use case. However, you can have the audio go through the speakers and work all the time, even when the screen is awake. It's your call.

    Audify will read all high-priority notifications (the ones that trigger alert sounds). If an app isn't important enough that you want the notifications read aloud, no problem. Just add it to the muted list. Audify will smartly ignore repeated notifications from the same app in a short period of time too.

    Some people will be annoyed by the active notification in the shade when Audify is active. I don't think there's anyway to get around that, though. If you want the app to work, it needs a foreground notification to remain alive. You can give Audify a shot for free with 250 notifications. After that, you have to buy the full version for $0.99. You can also get 100 more free notifications by referring a friend.