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    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Helio Switches

    Linear switches are a bit of an acquired taste, but the proliferation of gaming-oriented boards has acquainted many users with switches like the MX Red and MX Black. Despite not having a clicking mechanism, linears tend to produce a racket because it's easy to bottom them out on each press. A few silent linears exist to combat this, and keyboard enthusiasts are about to have a new silent linear option from Zeal PC -- it's called a Helio, and you can pre-order some now.

    Helios are part of the Zeal V2 revamp, which includes new Zealios and Zilent switches as well. Those switches have different tactile bumps, but the Helio is an entirely new design based on the Tealio linear switches. They're the silent counterpart to Tealios like Zilents are the silent alternative to Zealios.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Input Club Kira Keyboard

    You will almost never see a custom keyboard with a full 104-key layout. That's something that exists as the "default" simply because it's been around for so long. It's not very efficient, though. There are several custom boards that have almost as many keys but with a much more compact layout. Input Club, makers of the WhiteFox and K-Type boards, has just launched a Kickstarter for the long-awaited Kira. It's a full-sized keyboard with full programmability that won't take up as much space on your desk.

    The Kira has a 99-key layout, which provides single-layer access to virtually every standard keyboard function. The arrow cluster has moved in closer to the alpha keys, clipping the right shift key a bit. The group of keys that usually lives above the arrows has moved to the space above the number pad—yes, there's a full number pad. It sits right up against the modifiers on the right. You also have a full F-key row directly above the number row.

    With less wasted space, the Kira reduces the distance your hands have to move to access everything. You can also have your mouse closer than if you had a clunky full-sized board. That's not to say the Kira is a lightweight. It'll probably be a hefty board with the option for an aluminum case. If you want to save a few bucks, the injection molded plastic case is cheaper and lighter. No matter which case you choose, it'll be a "high-profile" design. That means the board is permanently sloped. Many inexpensive keyboards have feet that you can use or not, but not the Kira.

    On the bottom of the case, you get a transparent panel the show off the RGB underglow. There's even more RGB to be had, too. Just like the K-Type, this board has per-key RGB backlighting. You'll need switches that support underglow properly, and Input Club has you covered there. If you want an assembled Kira, you can choose from various switch options including the Hako Clear, True, and Violet. There are also Kaihl-manufactured switches from Novelkeys and a few Cherry RGB switch variants. They should all work with the SMD lighting components.

    The Kira will run Input Club's KLL firmware with an online configuration tool. That means you can change the layout and function layers to whatever you want. Once your layout is flashed, you can plug the Kira into any system, and it will work exactly the same.

    The 8 Must-Have Apps for Your New Android Phone

    Picking up the latest and greatest Android phone is only the first step. The apps on your phone are just as important as having fast hardware or a razor-sharp screen, but there are so many apps out there. Which apps are worthy of your phone? Here are the eight must-have apps for an Android phone.

    Authy

    The internet is a scary place, and even as strong password might not be enough to protect your accounts all the time anymore. Using two-factor authentication (2FA) is the best way to ensure no one but you accesses your accounts, but the default SMS option for 2FA is susceptible to SIM hijacking. The best way to use 2FA is with an authentication app, and the best I've found is Authy.

    This app is entirely free and easy to set up. All services that support auth apps (eg. Google, Twitter, and many more) will work with Authy. You just need to scan a QR code, and Authy generates numeric codes for your accounts. The best thing about Authy is that it encrypts and syncs your auth tokens between devices. Thus, you can generate codes on your phone, tablet, or PC. You need to know the decryption password for the tokens to access them on a new device, but the added security is worth it. Authy is completely free.

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (February 2018)

    It's a rough time to buy a phone—well, it always is, but now especially. We're probably just a few weeks away from learning what the Galaxy S9 will look like, and that makes purchasing a new phone from carriers risky. At least things have shaken out on the unlocked side. Google continues to offer the best long-term bet, but there are some cheaper options if you don't fancy the high price of a Pixel.

    Carrier Phones: Note 8 or wait

    Buying from a carrier is appealing to many consumers because carriers offer easy monthly payments on devices, as well as frequent deals when you buy multiple devices. However, the selection of phones is somewhat limited, and you have to put up with more bloated software. The Samsung Galaxy S8 has offered the best overall option for most people buying from carriers as of late, but the time has come to leave that device in the past. Right now, you should get a Note 8 or simply wait to see what the Galaxy S9 holds.

    Let's talk about the Note 8 first, which is basically a Galaxy S8 on steroids with a stylus. It has a Snapdragon 835, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. Performance is a little better than the Galaxy S8, which I assume is because Samsung targets power users with the Note series. The 3,300mAh battery will get you through a day easily, but not much more.

    The S Pen stylus is a big selling point of the Note 8, and it's one of the primary reasons you might still be justified buying this phone. This phone includes features like handwriting recognition and improved screenshot capture. The Galaxy S9 won't support the S Pen, so we're still at least six months away from this phone's replacement. That stylus is paired with a larger 6.4-inch screen with the same 1440 x 2960 resolution as the GS8. The OLED panel on this phone is slightly better than the GS8 when it comes to brightness and color accuracy.

    Google Play App Roundup: Cake, Game Dev Tycoon, and A Hollow Doorway

    There was a time when the Google Play Store was lacking in content. The only benefit was that it was easy to find the handful of great apps on the platform. Now there are many, many apps, and quite a few of them are good. Now the 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.

    Cake

    All your standard browsers work in more or less the same way, but what if that way isn't ideal for mobile? Cake is a new browser that claims to be designed with mobile in mind. In some ways it's like a "regular" browser, but search is all swipeable. You just page through results instead of using the regular search page, which could be a real time saver.

    When launched, Cake offers a text entry field where you can input a URL or search term. Should you want to search, Cake offers trending results right below the field. After you search, the first result (via your choice of Google or Bing) loads in a new tab. Swipe to the right, and you get the next search result. These pages are already loaded, so there's no waiting as you move from one to the next.

    Cake loads the top ten results in this swipeable interface. If one of these is the page you want, you can begin scrolling up and down as you normally would. In the event one of the top ten results isn't right, you can go back to the first page and swipe to the left. That's where the standard search results page lives. In my testing, I've found the swipeable UI to be good for basic searches. If you're looking for a very specific page, it's easier to look at the regular results and tap the link you want.

    There's a persistent bar at the bottom of the screen with quick access to features like bookmarks and tabs, but there's also a big search button right in the middle. That brings up search categories like videos and images, so these more specific searches work with the swipeable interface.

    When you're looking a regular web page, Cake works like most browsers. You can add bookmarks, open links in new tabs, and so on. There's also built-in ad-blocking. One thing I will note, the overall experience is a bit sluggish. This is most noticeable when you're in the search interface, which I assume has something to do with loading all those results at the same time. However, even a single page has a touch of lag when scrolling.

    If the developers can optimize a little more, Cake could be a cool alternative to Chrome or Firefox.

    Google Play App Roundup: Feedster, Cat Tower, and Shapes

    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.

    Feedster

    In this go-go digital world of ours, you're probably getting news and social content from multiple sources. It can be tedious to go to different apps and websites to make that happen, but Feedster might be the answer. It has a lot in common with a regular feed reader app, but it plugs into more sources and has a clean interface.

    Feedster starts by asking you to log into your account on services like Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, and Feedly. It pulls all that content in and turns it into a single feed. The feed is organized by some process that I cannot discern. It's not chronological, so it's probably some mix of popularity and timeliness. By default, it only shows you content you have not seen before, but you can change that in settings.

    Each item in your feed tells you what service spawned it right at the top. You can tap on any of them to get an expanded view of the content, which varies based on what it is. Instagram posts load the full image and comments, by a news story from Reddit or Feedly loads the URL in a Chrome Custom Tab. You can always swipe to the right to get back to the main feed. There's also a floating button at the top of the screen to zip you back up to the top for quick refreshing.

    In general, I'm very impressed with how well Feedster handles content from all these sources. You can actually interact with the content like you would in a native app. For example, you can view comments and up/downvote on Reddit posts. For Twitter, you can see the full conversation, reply, retweet, or like a post.

    In the free version of the app, you get a light and dark theme. The paid version adds a number of other themes, though. The upgrade also removes the ads interspersed with your content. They aren't too annoying, but the upgrade is only $2.99.

    Google Play App Roundup: Scheduled, Hexa Turn, and Skullgirls

    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.

    Scheduled

    You probably already use your phone to make reminders, but how often are those reminders related to sending a message? Ask someone about something or wish that guy a happy whatever—you know the drill. Scheduled is an app that takes the middleman out and lets you schedule messages for the future.

    Scheduled works with a wide variety of messaging apps and services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram. There's also support for good old-fashioned SMS. In fact, SMS is the most powerful option in Scheduled. When setting up an SMS, you can choose to have the app send the message automatically when you configure it.

    To set up a message, simply pick a contact, date, time, and repetition. Toggle on the auto-send feature if you're sending an SMS and you want to speed things along. The app fires off a notification at the appointed hour, allowing you to quickly open up the message details. A tap on the send button brings up menu of supported apps. Tap the one you want to use, and the message is dropped in.

    Again, SMS is the coolest part of the app as Scheduled can simply act as the SMS sender. That's a single tap to send, or no taps if you choose to send automatically. You can schedule as many messages as you want in the app, and there's even an option to sync the birthdays in your calendar for easy messaging of happy birthday wishes.

    The basic functionality is free, but you might be wondering why the app's reviews in the Play Store are a bit mixed. Well, people aren't jazzed about the payment model. The app has some ads, and the auto-sending feature is locked unless you pay. Oddly, the developer has opted for a subscription model. It's $0.99 per month for the premium features. A lot of people will probably steer clear for that reason, but if you use this app frequently, I can see the $12 annual cost making some sense.

    Google Play App Roundup: ProtonVPN, Let Them Come, and SpotOn Alarm

    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 right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    ProtonVPN

    Your privacy on the internet used to be assumed, but we live in a much more complicated world these days. Your ISP sees all your unencrypted traffic, and the only way to prevent that is to stick a VPN between you and the ISP. However, you need to actually trust that VPN. The makers of ProtonMail have released an Android VPN client, and plenty of people already trust the ProtonMail developers, who came from CERN and MIT. The app happens to be pretty solid, too.

    ProtonVPN can be used completely free, but there are paid plans that include faster connectivity and more features. Regardless of your plan type, you still get access to Proton's secure servers. The app plugs into Android's built-in VPN system, so all you need to do is log in and tap the dialogs to allow access.

    The app's main interface is broken up into three tabs. There's countries, map view, and profiles. The countries tab just lists all the places where servers are available. Each one is a collapsible list with the individual servers listed. Each one has a capacity indicator so you can choose a good one. However, most of the time it's easier just to tap the action button at the bottom of the screen and select the "fastest" option. The exception is, of course, when you need to connect to a certain country. The map view tab lets you connect to the country of your choice in a single tap. The profile tab is basically a list of your favorite servers. There are stock options for fastest and random, but you can create new ones with servers of your choice.

    Across all three tabs is a popup menu at the bottom of the display. You can slide that up to see your current connection stats. There's IP, server, a traffic graph, and so on. There's also a disconnect button and an option to save the server as a profile.

    ProtonVPN has several service tiers. The free level only offers access to three of 12 countries and just low speeds (no P2P). It's single-device, too. You get higher speeds and 2 devices for $4 per month, and five devices runs you $8 per month. When you sign up for a new account, there's a trial of the faster speeds, but the app doesn't say how long it lasts. I'd assume a week or so. It's plenty fast for just about anything you could want to do on your phone. ProtonVPN says its servers are all 1-10Gbps, so even desktop usage should be fine.

    This seems like a genuinely compelling VPN option for Android users now that there's a native app. At $4 per month, you can get ProtonVPN protecting your computer and phone. That's cheaper than a lot of other services.

    Google Play App Roundup: UpThere Home, Peace, Death!, and BBTAN2

    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.

    UpThere Home

    Cloud storage services are a dime a dozen lately, but storage monolith Western Digital is looking to get into this space by charging less than a dime. Its UpThere cloud storage service costs just $1.99 per month for 100GB of space, which is the same as many competing services. However, there's more flexibility here. There's even a new Android app to use, and it's pretty good.

    Like other cloud storage apps, Western Digital wants you to import files from your phone as you create them. One of the first things suggested by UpThere is linking your gallery, which creates backups of all your photos on the UpThere servers. You can also designate other folders to back up to the cloud via UpThere.

    The app has a clean monochrome look with a bottom tab bar for navigation. Yes, that's an acceptable part of the material design guidelines these days. Although, I'm not sure about WD's decision to leave the buttons unlabeled. The far left tab is your "home screen" for UpThere, but it's called Flow. It's a sort of timeline where you can see all the activity on your account. In general, UpThere has fancy names for several basic concepts.

    The other tabs are for file types like images, documents, and music. In the case of music, you can use UpThere to stream your tracks at full quality. The last tab is for "Loops," which seem to just be folders by another name. You can add items to a Loop to see them all in one place. Loops also plug into UpThere's sharing system. You can still share files the old-fashioned way, but you can basically create shared Loops for other people to view as you add new things to them.

    You can try UpThere free for three months. After that, it's $1.99 per month for 100GB, but interestingly, that's the rate for every 100GB. If you need another 100GB, it's just another $1.99 per month. This looks like a much more flexible pricing model than something like Drive, which jumps from 100GB to 1TB.

    If you're not already married to a cloud storage service, you might want to give UpThere a shot.

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (January 2018)

    So, the time has come to get a new phone. Before you toss the old one out and head to your local phone retailer of choice, you should get the lay of the land. There are dozens of Android phones worth considering, but only a few are the "good," and even fewer will be the best for you. Let's break it all down and call out the top devices on the big carriers as well as the best among unlocked phones.

    Carrier Phones:The Galaxy S8 or Note 8

    Getting a phone from the carrier is what most people do for one primary reason: it's easy. You walk in, and walk out with a new phone on a monthly payment plan. However, you don't have as many good choices on the carriers. One consistently good choice in the last year has been the latest devices from Samsung like the Galaxy S8 and more recently, the Note 8. These are, right now, the best overall choices on the big carriers.

    One of Samsung's biggest selling points is the display. The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus have some of the most incredible OLED panels available, and they're a bit more curvy than the Note 8. The Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch curved display, whereas the Plus has a 6.2-inch curved panel. These screens are taller than old 16:9 panels with a resolution of 1440 x 2960. They're crisp, bright, and have fantastic colors. The rounded corners and smooth glass frame of these phones makes them so visually interesting. They're gorgeous.

    The glass housing looks nice, but it comes with some drawbacks. It's slippery, and it picks up fingerprints immediately. On the other hand, the shape and size of the GS8 and S8 Plus are comfortable with the symmetrically curved front and back glass. The glass is also prone to breaking when dropped because there's so much of it. A case is a very good idea if you're going to be out and about.

    Samsung finally switched to on-screen navigation buttons with the Galaxy S8, but the fingerprint scanner (formerly in the home button) has ended up in a rather awkward spot on the back of the phone. It's way up next to the camera instead of below it. The on-screen buttons can be reorganized to display in the right order. The home button is also pressure-sensitive. Hard-pressing on that area of the screen will always trigger the button, even if the phone is asleep.

    Google Play App Roundup: Fluctuate, Arena of Valor, and Remindee

    Your phone 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.

    Fluctuate

    Buying things on the internet can save you a lot of money if you wait for a good deal to come along, but you could be out of luck if you don't hop on a hot deal fast enough. Fluctuate is a new app that tracks prices for things you want to buy, and pushes alerts for pricing changes. The basic functionality is free, but several advanced features will cost you.

    There are two ways to add items to Fluctuate. You can either share a URL to the app via Android's built-in permission system, or you can open the app and tap the floating action button to paste a URL manually. Fluctuate reads the page and looks for a price, which it usually finds. You have the option to tell the app that the detected price is not the correct one. In that case, the app loads the page, and you can tap on the name of the item and the price to correct the record.

    With your item set up in the app, you'll see a notification in the event the price changes… at all. Depending on the site, that might mean a lot of notifications. You can, instead, set a threshold at which you'll receive a notification. Each item on your Fluctuate list shows the current price, and tapping on it lets you buy or view the product. When selecting "Buy now," the app will track how much you've saved based on the price drop since an item was added to the list. That running tally appears at the top of the app.

    All of this functionality is free, and there are no ads in Fluctuate. The app will track pricing data over time for your saved items, but you can only see the graph if you upgrade to the pro version for $3.49. There's a separate $1.99 IAP for backup and restore support. That lets you save your tracked items so you won't lose them when migrating to a new device. If you want both, there's a single $4.99 everything upgrade.

    Fluctuate has performed well for me with a variety of sites including Amazon, the Google Store, and B&H. I think the IAPs are a bit high, but the free functionality is already very solid. It would have been easy to toss some contextual ads in Fluctuate, but the devs didn't do that. Thumbs up there.

    Google Play App Roundup: Haven, Bridge Constructor Portal, and Fit

    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.

    Haven

    Many of us have spare Android phones around collecting dust, but a new app from The Guardian and Edward Snowden could give those devices a new lease on life. Haven lets you leverage all the sensors in your phone to monitor your personal space, and unlike cloud-connected security cameras, you're completely in control.

    Haven installs on any Android phone, using the microphone, cameras, and orientation sensors to detect changes. When you first open the app, it asks you to choose sensitivity levels for motion and sound. You can move the phone around and make noise to find a level that makes sense for your situation. For the camera, you can choose between front and rear.

    You'll probably need a stand or mount of some sort to keep the camera pointed at a door or whatever else. The camera on a smartphone (usually) isn't nearly as wide angle as a security camera. However, maybe you want Haven to be more surreptitious. You can just set the phone on a desk where it will capture anyone who sits down or moves the phone out of the way.

    Getting notifications is what makes haven truly interesting. You can set up the app to send SMS alerts, but that's only good if you have a SIM card in it and don't mind the insecure nature of text messages, A more secure option is to set up a Signal profile on the phone. This encrypted messaging service lets you push messages via WiFi to devices without anyone eavesdropping. There's also a Tor hidden service upload, if you want to check on the camera like that.

    When you activate, Haven, you get a 30-second countdown before it's armed (this is configurable). I've set this app up on a few phones to test, and it seems very good at detecting sound and motion based on the calibration settings. The camera features work well enough, but there are a few bugs. Using the rear camera on some phones seems to produce a lot of alerts when nothing is actually moving. This doesn't happen as much when stationary objects are not close to the device. There's supposed to be an ambient light trigger as well, but I don't see it in the app.

    Haven is still in beta, so these small bugs will hopefully be worked out. It's free and could perform an important service.

    Google Play App Roundup: Grammarly Keyboard, Ticket to Earth, and Dash Quest Heroes

    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.

    Grammarly Keyboard

    Thankfully, spell checking is now standard on most Android devices. However, spelling is only part of the problem. Grammar is much harder for computers to correct, and your phone mostly doesn't bother. Grammarly is a desktop tool that aims to improve all aspects of your writing. Now, it's available on Android as a keyboard app.

    Getting Grammarly up and running is the same as any other keyboard. Just enable it in the settings and switch your input method using the notification. At first glance, Grammarly looks like the Google Keyboard, which I assume is not an accident. The basic functionality is mostly the same, but there's no swipe input. That's a real bummer for me, but not everyone uses it so heavily. As you start typing, that's where things get interesting.

    As a keyboard, Grammarly can see all of the text you add to a field. Thus, it can offer corrections based on its understanding of the English language. Potential revisions appear in the space directly above the keyboard where most apps have suggestions. These boxes might suggest you add, change, or remove a word. It can also catch various punctuation problems. Just tap the box, and Grammarly will make the change in your text.

    You'll be asked to log into the app when you set it up, but that's optional. However, you should consider doing so if you use Grammarly on other platforms. If you have a premium subscription, you definitely want to sign in. Premium users get access to the full suite of Grammarly corrections just like on the desktop. It can pick up on things like passive voice and sentence structure.

    The correction features seem mostly accurate to me, but machines still have problems with some elements of language. Grammarly is better than most, though. My only issue is with the keyboard part of the keyboard. It'd be nice to see more features like themes, swipe input, and additional layouts. I'm looking forward to seeing what we get in future updates.

    Google Play App Roundup: Underburn, Turretz: Planetz, and Reigns: Her Majesty

    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.

    Underburn

    Smartphones have allowed billions of people to access the whole of human knowledge at any moment, communicate openly in the blink of an eye, and avoid going to sleep as they stare at the warm glow of the internet in their hand. On that last count, screen brightness is a constant issue. Even when you think you've set a nice dark theme on your device, something bright can pop up and scorch your retinas. No more with Underburn. This app monitors the colors displayed on your screen and intelligently modifies the brightness to save your eyes from the light.

    To make this work, Underburn does need to ask for some rather serious permissions. It needs access to your system settings and the ability to record your screen. It'll ask for the screen permission every time you start it, though. It's not just going to start watching you in the background, and the developer removed the internet access permission to further put your mind at peace.

    The reason Underburn needs this sort of access is that it's actually taking a screenshot every quarter of a second. Those images are checked to see how many bright colors are displayed. When it seems the content getting brighter, Underburn lowers the brightness of your screen to compensate. I haven't noticed any performance impacts from running Underburn in the background, but you might want to watch carefully if your phone is already a bit slow. This could make it worse.

    This app makes the most sense when you're using a dark system UI or app theme. Then, whenever an image or message appears that's mostly white, the screen dims to save your eyes. I also find it very useful for checking the notifications, which are much lighter than most of the apps I'm using.

    Underburn takes a fraction of a second to adjust the brightness, and there's an optional floating button that can tweak the brightness setting. Before you activate Underburn, you can also change what the light and dark cutoffs are, as well as how much it will adjust the brightness in automatic mode. It does require a persistent notification, but that makes sense considering the nature of the app. I also like that you can plug Underburn into Tasker for full automation.

    Underburn is $1.49 in the Play Store, but it solves a common problem. You might not even realize you had this problem until Underburn solves it for you.

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (December 2017)

    Most of us aren't running out to buy a new phone every time something new comes out. Thus, it's important to make the right call when the time to upgrade comes around. You'll probably have to live with that phone for at least a year or two, so making the wrong call will lead to plenty of frustration. There are plenty of choices, but we've got you covered. Samsung is still offering some great devices on all the major carriers, and Google has a new generation of Pixel phones. At the same time, OnePlus has refreshed its flagship phone yet again. Let's break it all down.

    Carrier phones: Samsung Galaxy S8 or Note 8

    If you want to get a phone directly from your carrier, Samsung's high-end phones are probably your best bet. If you're looking for something a on the less expensive end, there are a lot of extremely compelling deals on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. If price is no object, the Galaxy Note 8 is an even better phone.

    One of the main selling points for Samsung phones is the display, which cannot be beaten. The Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch curved display, whereas the Plus has a 6.2-inch curved panel. These screens are taller than old 16:9 panels with a resolution of 1440 x 2960. They're crisp, bright, and have fantastic colors. LG's OLEDs aren't bad, but the V30 just can't compare in the screen department, and it's priced as even higher than Samsung's phones. That's disqualifying in my eyes.

    I'm not personally a fan of glass phones, but that seems to be the trend lately. The GS8 is comfortable to use with the symmetrically curved front and back glass. It fits nicely in the hand, but it's slippery. If you drop it, the curved glass is vulnerable to breakage. Broken Galaxy S8s are apparently common, so a case is a good idea.

    The larger display on these phones meant Samsung had to ditch the physical nav buttons, which I'm quite happy about. The on-screen buttons can be reorganized to display in the right order. The home button is also pressure-sensitive. Hard-pressing on that area of the screen will always trigger the button, even if the phone is asleep. However, I'm not happy with the location of the fingerprint sensor (previously in the physical home button). It's on the back way up next to the camera. Even when you find the sensor after fumbling around and smudging your camera lens, it's not very accurate. A cheap phones like the Moto G5 Plus or OnePlus 5T have better sensors than this.

    Google Play App Roundup: Datally, Hoppenhelm, and Puzzle Fighter

    Your phone 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.

    Datally

    Many smartphone users try to keep their bills lower by sticking with capped data plans from carriers or MVNOs like Project Fi. Making sure you don't use too much data can be a pain, though. Android has some built-in data tracking tools, but they're not very user-friendly. Google's latest app lets you exert more control over your data usage by plugging into these system features. The app is called Datally, and it's available on virtually all devices.

    You might know Datally as Triangle, which was the name during Google's geo-limited testing period. Now the app is done and has a new name for its global rollout. Unlike most other data monitoring apps, Datally doesn't need to run for multiple days accumulating data before it's useful. It pulls in all the historic LTE usage info from your system-level features to help you figure out what's using the most data.

    Datally shows you how much cellular data has been used each day and by each app on your phone. Should your data usage get out of hand, Datally also includes a data saver feature. Again, this is similar to functionality already included in the settings of most phones, but it's implemented in a much clearer way.

    There are toggles throughout the app to turn on data saver, so Google seems to really want you to use it. This feature uses a VPN to control which apps can use data, but the app promises Google isn't examining your data. It's up to you to take Google at its word there. By default, no app can use data in the background when Data Saver is turned on. Only the apps you have up and are actively using can do that. In addition, there's a floating bubble on the screen to show you how much data the app has used in the current session.

    Data Saver is completely configurable as well. If you want an app to have unrestricted background access in Data Saver, you can unlock it in the app. You can also completely disable cellular data in an app even if you open it. That's handy for apps that you know use a lot of data and you might open without realizing you're on cell data.

    Datally also offers a list of local WiFi hotspots if you need to get a lot of downloading done while you're out. This list includes shortcuts to Maps so you can get directions.

    This is a great app, and one that could actually save you money if you're on a limited or pre-paid data plan.

    Google Play App Roundup: Focus Go, Jump Drive, and Morphite

    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.

    Focus Go

    All phones come with a gallery app of some sort, but they're often clunky and overflowing with features you don't want. Focus has long been one of my favorite replacement gallery apps, and now there's a faster, simpler version of the app called Focus Go. It's a quick way to review images without unnecessary features getting in your way.

    Focus Go is very stripped down, but that might appeal to some people. There's no folder structure or restricted directories. All the images on your device are shown in the main interface. It's just wall-to-wall photo thumbnails, but you can tap the grid button at the top to change the size of the thumbnails. The default setting is in the middle, so there's a more compact option and one with larger thumbnails. Also at the top of the app is a camera shortcut button.

    The image list is chronological and separated by month. Since it shows all the images on your device (photos, screenshots, etc.), it can get quite long. If you scroll down from the top, the action bar falls off the screen, and it's literally all photos. It's a neat look, actually. Of course, you can tap on any image to expand it in full-screen mode.

    In full-screen mode, you can zoom in for a better look at the photo. At the bottom of the screen are a few buttons. You can delete photos, share, set as wallpaper, and there's even integration with the Graphice app I covered recently (it's the same developer). I also like the info button, which pulls up EXIF data for the image in a small popup that doesn't take focus away from the photo.

    Focus Go is really a hint of what we can expect from the upcoming full rewrite of the Focus app. That complete gallery replacement has been lagging for a while, but it's going to be much more modern very soon. In the meantime, Focus Go is good for taking a quick peek at your pics.

    Google Play App Roundup: Graphice, Tower Fortress, and Faraway 2

    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.

    Graphice

    What color is that in your photo? It can be hard to say, what with the variance in display calibration and our own woefully inaccurate eyeballs. Graphice is a new app in the Play Store that can tell you, objectively, what colors are in a photo. It's free to try, but there's also a paid upgrade with more features.

    Graphice looks and works a bit like your standard gallery app. Open it up, and you see all the images on your device. You can tap on any of the thumbnails to open in full-screen. At the bottom of the screen is a toolbar, which expands with a tap. It opens a full palette of colors from your image. Each one has a swatch and the hex value of the color. A long-press on any square copies the hex value, which you can then paste into other apps. As an aside, Google search understands hex values, so you can get more info on the color.

    The toolbar also includes a share button, but this isn't just a regular photo sharing feature. This button brings up the image along with your color palette. You can tap on as many hex values as you like, which are then included at the bottom of the image. This new JPEG is what's shared via Graphice. You can send it to any of the apps on your phone that plug into Android's share menu.

    So, that's neat, and it's all free. If you pay for the $2.49 pro license, the app gets substantially more useful. With the upgrade, you can specify areas of your photo to generate multiple palettes. These are all saved in the app, and you can do the same things with those palettes (eg. sharing and copying hex codes). The multi-palette options are grayed out if you don't pay the license fee.

    Graphice seems like a solid way to obsess about colors. The free version will be fun to play around with if you're not super-serious about design. There are no ads, either.

    Google Play App Roundup: Files Go, Monument Valley 2, and South Park: Phone Destroyer

    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.

    Files Go

    Google announced a new budget phone initiative at I/O last year called Android Go. The "Go" build of Android is intended to run on lower-specced devices and will include a special suite of Google apps. One such app is apparently the newly launched Files Go. This app showed up in the Play Store recently, and Google has now opened it up to almost all devices. It's not a full file manager, but it includes several features that could help keep your device storage tidy.

    When the eventual Android Go phones launch, they will have a limited amount of internal storage. Thus, many of the features of Files Go have to do with clearing out old files that you no longer need. Even if your phone has plenty of internal storage, you may eventually run low. Files Go is a fine way to clear space on any phone.

    Upon opening the app, you are greeted with a number of suggested actions in a vertically scrollable list. They're all based on the actual files on your device, not just general actions. For example, you might have a card that suggests you clear temporary files from your app cache to save a certain amount of space. On my phone, that's 500MB. The app also detects duplicate files on your internal storage, allowing you to delete one of the copies. If you grant usage access in the system settings, Files Go can also alert you to unused apps that you can safely remove from your phone.

    That's all in the Storage tab, but moving over to the files tab reveals an entirely new set of features. You can tap on the various file type options to see a list of all matching files on your device. Again, this isn't a full file manager, but it offers essential tools to find out what's on your phone. There's also a built-in option to send files to other nearby devices with Files Go without using the internet. It uses Bluetooth, so it's not going to be fast. It's obviously more geared toward usage in places where mobile data is scarce or expensive, but you can use it simply as a convenience.

    This app is still in beta, so Google is liable to add features and improve the ones that are already there. If this is indicative of what we can expect from the other Android Go apps, it'll be a fascinating platform to watch.

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (November 2017)

    There have been a ton of phone releases in the last few weeks, so it's even harder than usual to figure out which phone is the best purchase. While LG's phones have been getting better, Samsung is reaching new heights with the Note 8. Meanwhile, OnePlus has something big planned for the near future, and Google has encountered some push-back with its Pixel 2 launch. What's an Android fan to do?

    Carrier phones: Samsung Galaxy S8 or Note 8

    If you want to get a phone directly from your carrier, the latest offerings from Samsung are the way to go. If you don't want to spend as much, there are a lot of extremely compelling deals on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. If price is no object, the Galaxy Note 8 is an even better phone.

    The Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch curved display, whereas the Plus has a 6.2-inch curved panel. They both have a resolution of 1440 x 2960 pixels, among the highest you can get on a smartphone. Despite the large screen sizes, the tall aspect ratio and small bezels make the phones easy to hold. They have an even higher screen-to-body ratio than the iPhone X. Samsung's AMOLED displays are still the best you can get with incredibly high brightness and (optional) accurate colors.

    This phone is very comfortable to use with the symmetrically curved front and back glass— there's nothing pointy or angular on the phone. Although, the curved glass is vulnerable to breakage when dropped. Broken Galaxy S8s are apparently common, and the glass back is very slippery.

    The Galaxy S8 was the first Samsung phone to move to on-screen navigation buttons. Thankfully, there's an option in the settings to change the order of buttons to the "correct" one used on most other phones. The home button is also accessible at any time thanks to a pressure-sensitive region on the screen. Even when the phone is asleep, simply pressing harder will trigger the home button—this is a great feature. I really like this feature, and I find myself missing it when I use a different phone.