Latest StoriesSmartphones
    How Adam Savage Is Filming Himself in Self-Isolation

    We shot this piece last month before going into shelter-in-place, in which Adam shows his custom-assembled lightweight iPhone stand he put together to film himself during weekend builds. But now that he's alone in the cave all the time, this rig is proving essential for Adam to document his builds in isolation as well as livestream every week. Hope it helps in giving you inspiration to make your own cameraphone rigs!

    Samsung Galaxy Z Flip Hands-On Impressions!

    The flip phone is back! We go hands-on with the newly announced Samsung Galaxy Z Flip smartphone, which has a 6.7-inch OLED display that's apparently made of foldable glass. Plus, we check out the 100X "Space Zoom" camera on the Galaxy S20 Ultra flagship from the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event!

    Tested: iPhone 11 Pro vs OnePlus 7T Cameras

    The new iPhone 11 Pro adds an ultrawide camera to its back, complementing the standard wide-angle and telephoto cameras. Ultrawide lenses aren't new to smartphones, and we compare the camera systems on the iPhone 11 Pro to the three cameras on the new OnePlus 7T. The iPhone's ultrawide has a frustrating limitation, and the OnePlus 7T's cameras have a unique mode that's very impressive.

    Quick Look at the Razer Phone

    We go hands-on with the brand new Razer Phone, the first smartphone from laptop and gaming accesory maker Razer. This monolithic Android phone stands out with a 120Hz screen--the first for a phone. We show how smooth and responsive this display is compared to other flagship hardware with our high-speed camera, but you can even see the differences in real-time.

    Testing the LG G6 Smartphone!

    We test and review the LG G6, the first of 2017's major flagship Android smartphones. Norm focuses on two features that differentiate it from other phones--G6's wide-angle camera lenses, as well as its 2:1 aspect ratio display. Here's why we think taller screens and minimal bezels will be a trend that's here to stay. (LG G6 review unit provided by LG.)

    How to Protect Your Privacy on Android Without Making Your Smartphone Dumb

    Your Android phone knows where you are and what you're doing, and it'll share that data with Google and any number of app developers. If you're a privacy-minded individual, you might not want to fling your data around freely. At the same time, you bought a smartphone in order to make use of all its cool features. There is a middle ground between being completely open and shutting off all your phone's features. Let's try to find it.

    Secure your location data

    You will hear plenty of people advocating turning off location completely to enhance privacy, but I don't think you need to go that far on newer version of Android. There are plenty of times you do want an app to be able to access your location. It's better to make use of Android's built-in permission system and disable automatic tracking through Google.

    You may not realize, but Google maintains a full history of where your phone has been. You can see it in the Maps app under "Your Timeline." If you don't like the idea of your phone constantly uploading your location to Google, you can disable that in the settings. It's under Settings > Location > Location History. You can turn it off with the toggle at the top, and your phone will stop uploading your location to Google.

    Next, it's time to take advantage of the permission system Google rolled out in Marshmallow. Head to the settings and find the app permissions list. Sometimes this is hidden in the overflow menu. One of the entries in the permission list will be location. Tap that and you get a list of all apps on your phone that request the location permission. You can turn all of them off here if you want, or just leave the essentials on. Apps will request location when you open them, but that can be denied.

    Tested: Samsung Galaxy S7 Smartphone

    We've been using Samsung's latest flagship smartphone for over a month, and here are our testing results. While processor performance improvements alone aren't enough to justify an upgrade, the new camera, water resistance, battery capacity, and return of expandable storage makes the Galaxy S7 an excellent Android phone.

    Tested In-Depth: Nexus 6P Android Smartphone

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

    Android at Mobile World Congress 2016: The Rundown

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

    Google's Project Tango

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

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

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


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

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

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

    Testing: Microsoft Lumia 950 Smartphone

    The Microsoft Lumia 950 comes nearly two years after the last Lumia flagship, the Lumia Icon, was released in the US, and a year and a half after the same phone was released internationally as the Lumia 930. With such a long gap between releases one would expect a noticeably better device, and on paper the Lumia 950 has everything you'd expect from a 2015 high-end phone; a high resolution screen, a hexacore processor, and a 20MP camera. It also showcases Microsoft's new mobile OS, Windows 10 Mobile. I've been testing the 950 for three months, since it came out in late November, and have been an avid user of Windows Phone for over four years.

    The Nitty-Gritty

    Previous 900-class Lumias could go toe-to-toe with the latest iPhone and Android flagships when it came to specs. In some ways the Lumias were even a step ahead of the competition.

    This time out the newest Lumia has a 5.2 inch 2560x1440 AMOLED screen, and it's stunning, if not a little excessive. At a ridiculous 564 pixels per inch, even the smallest text appears sharp. That's significantly higher than the retina screens of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, at 326 and 401 ppi respectively, and similar to 2015 flagship Android phones such as the LG G4, 5.5" at 538 ppi, and the Samsung Galaxy S6 with a 5.1" screen at 577 ppi. Colors might be a little plain out of the box, but, as with previous Lumias, the color profile can be easily changed. With the ClearBlack polarizing filter and Sunlight readability brightness setting, the screen gets plenty bright even under direct sunlight. And Glance Screen, the fan favorite Lumia feature that provides glanceable information without turning the display on, is back, but the Lumia 950 is curiously missing Double Tap to Wake.

    Overall, I can't tell much of a difference between this screen, and the 1080p AMOLED screen of the Lumia 930. I can see the reasoning behind having a 2K screen on a 5.7" device. But, on a smaller phone I feel it's excessive and an unnecessary bullet point. I'd much rather have a great quality 1080p display, more battery life, and a potentially cheaper device.

    Inside the Lumia 950 is a 1.8GHz Snapdragon 808 processor, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage with the option to expand it via a microSD card slot. By now many of you are likely aware of the issues surrounding the Snapdragon 810. While it's technically more powerful than the 808, the 810 runs hotter than previous Qualcomm chips, so the processor's performance is throttled heavily in some phones in order to keep the temperature within reason.

    In Brief: How Apple Has Abandoned Basic User Experience Design Principles

    Writing for Fast Company, Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini--two of the original members of Apple's human interface group--explain at length about how Apple has abandoned many of the core design principles set forth in the company's own Human Interface Guidelines in iOS. The argument boils down to Apple changing its priorities and guidelines to accommodate beauty and simplicity. By tracking the progression of core design principles over time, Norman and Tognazzini show how gestural systems like that of iOS omit discoverability, feedback, recovery, consistency, and encouragement of growth. Whether or not you agree with the assessment, the commentary is worth reading to get a glimpse of how UX designers think about desktop and mobile interfaces from a high level.

    The Budget Android Revolution: Pros and Cons of Going Cheap

    Not that many years ago, buying an Android phone off-contract for $250 would assure you of a terrible experience. Buyer's remorse was almost inevitable, and the only way to avoid it was to spend two or three times more on a "proper" android phone. My, how times have changed. A new era of Android has dawned, and the price of solid mid-range devices has come down dramatically. It's not all roses, though.

    Let's take a look at what you gain and what you lose with these budget-friendly Android phones.

    The How and Why

    One of the primary reasons you can get a device like the Asus Zenfone 2, Alcatel Idol 3, or Moto G for well under $300 is that chipset makers have finally caught up to Android's software requirements. Mid-range SoCs like the Snapdragon 410, 615, and MediaTek Helio X10 have enough power to keep Android running smoothly in most instances. Most of these chipsets even support LTE. NAND flash and memory has come down in price dramatically as well.

    There has also been a shift at the top of the market that has sent some OEMs looking for a new angle. It's actually very difficult to make a $600 smartphone and turn a profit while competing with Samsung, LG, and the other big players. Even some notable names in Android have had trouble competing in the premium bracket as of late (see: HTC). So what's an OEM to do? Well, go cheap, sometimes with the help of hardware partners.

    There's an interesting dynamic playing out in the supply chain right now that has pushed hardware costs even lower than they might otherwise have been. Intel is looking to make a name in phones, and its latest generation Atom SoCs are actually quite good. Qualcomm is stumbling right now with the toasty Snapdragon 810, so Intel has partnered with OEMs like Asus to get its chips into budget phones quickly and cheaply. The price of a device like the Zenfone 2 might not have been as reasonable were it not for Intel's aggressive moves as of late.

    Testing: Pebble Time Smartwatch

    The recently released Pebble Time is Pebble's third smartwatch, after the original Kickstarter model and the Pebble Steel. That gives the company a leg up on other smartwatch makers--its large backer and customer base has informed Pebble about usage patterns on the watch, so follow-ups can play on its strengths. And in the case of Pebble Time, the relatively few changes to the platform indicates that Pebble is confident in its core strength: putting your smartphone's notifications on your wrist. That's something that Android Wear watches and the Apple does too, but with Pebble, it's the most important feature, and one that's streamlined with physical button interactions.

    Get notifications, and then be able to respond to or act on them. That's what I need a smartwatch to do well, and the Pebble Time excels at it. I've been using the $200 watch for the past month instead of my Asus ZenWatch, and have taken it on numerous work trips, including last week's Comic-Con. But I'm ready to go back to Android Wear. Despite differentiating features that Pebble Time brings to the table, the hardware makes some glaring missteps. Let's start by going over some of those new features.

    The Color Display is a Step Back

    The big "improvement" in Pebble Time is the color display. The original Pebble used an always-on memory LCD, which, like an e-paper display, was only readable with an external light source. Pebble Time's new memory LCD is a 1.25-inch display with the same resolution as the original (144x168, for app compatibility), but now can display 64 colors. That may not sound like a lot, but with dithering, the palette extends to a few thousand color. It's essentially the resolution and quality of a Nintendo Game Boy Color (which actually had a 15-bit display), but squeezed onto a 1.25-inch screen. I thought the range of colors is good, but images look muted and flat because of the way the memory LCD works. When used properly, the images look good, but this is something meant for displaying pixel art, not photos.

    While there's nothing inherently worse in using the color memory LCD over the black and white screen, visibility is actually worse on Pebble Time. Pebble Time's screen needs a good amount of light to read clearly, and more importantly, that light needs to be reflected at a good angle. Unfortunately, the sweet spot for reflection is limited--angle the Pebble off-axis by 30 degrees and the screen becomes difficult to read. Unlike any backlit display, you're actually trying to angle the screen in a position to get the most glare for readability.

    The Best iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Battery Case

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at

    We've spent more than 140 hours testing 21 different battery cases (18 for the iPhone 6 and three for the iPhone 6 Plus), and we think the best battery case for most people is Anker's Ultra Slim Extended Battery Case. It provides an above-average 117 percent of a full charge to the iPhone 6—one full charge plus another 17 percent—and at only $40, it's by far the least expensive. The result is the highest ratio of charge percent per dollar and the lowest cost per full iPhone recharge out of all the models we looked at. It's also the lightest and thinnest battery case we tested.

    Anker's Ultra Slim Extended Battery Case.

    Why you might want a battery case

    Depending on how you use your iPhone, draining its battery during an average day can be easy. If you rely on your phone to last a full day, and you don't have the time (or physical access) to plop down next to a wall outlet, a battery case—which puts a moderate-capacity rechargeable battery inside a bulky iPhone case—can be a smart choice. In the best circumstances, a battery case can double the battery life of your iPhone and then some. And unlike with stand-alone battery packs, you don't need to bring a separate cable or figure out how to carry both devices together. You just slide or snap your iPhone into the battery case to get protection and power in a single unit. If you're looking only for some protection, we can also recommend a regular case.

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (June 2015)

    There are a ton of Android phones available for purchase, and new ones are coming out all the time. You don't want to get the wrong thing and regret it on a daily basis. What's a phone nerd to do? Well, let's try to figure that out.

    This month is still a close call between the LG G4 and the Galaxy S6, but there are a few options beyond these two flagships for the discerning buyer.

    The Galaxy S6 and LG G4

    Both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG G4 are available on all four major US carriers, so I'm breaking these two out for a direct comparison. After laying all this out, we'll figure out an alternative for each carrier, just in case neither of these is the right fit for you.

    Samsung is using a new version of its Super AMOLED screen on the Galaxy S6 (and S6 Edge) and the company has reason to gloat a little. It's a stunningly beautiful screen. It gets very bright, very dim, the colors are good, and it's extremely crisp. It's really impossible to find fault with. Perhaps down the line it will develop some burn-in as AMOLEDs sometimes do, but Samsung has been working on that. It does consume a lot of power, but that's what you get with a 5-inch 1440p AMOLED.

    LG has stuck with an LCD for the G4 as its AMOLED efforts are still lacking compared to Samsung. The only unique thing about this panel is the slight top to bottom curve it has. I don't know that there's any usability advantage here, but there you go. It's 5.5-inches and 1440p in resolution. LG has bumped up the brightness and colors compared to the LCD on the G3, which is a good thing.

    Testing: Asus ZenFone 2 Smartphone

    In the United States, on-contract subsidies for phones is slowly being supplanted by leasing and "easy-pay" deals where users can get new phones for no money down--the full price of the phone is amortized over the term of the contract. It's another way that carriers are trying to hide the fact that the latest flagship phones are more expensive than most people think--$600 and up in the bottom line. That's why we take note when phones like the Nexus 5 and OnePlus One are released for half that price, off-contract and unlocked for use with any GSM carrier. The latest of these low-cost high-end phones is Asus' ZenFone 2, which I've been using for the past few weeks. Its recent US release turned heads because of its price: $200 for a 1080p phone with really good technical specs. Sounds great on paper, and I'm happy to report that there aren't many catches (at least not any you can't work around).

    The Asus ZenFone 2 is also interesting because it runs on an Intel Atom processor. The quad-core SoC is on the top end of Intel's Silvermont architecture, paired with a PowerVR graphics component. It's actually the same chip found in the Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet I tested at the beginning of the year, which was a great performer. As with the Dell tablet, you shouldn't have to worry about Android app compatibility with X86--Android Lollipop's ART runtime takes care of that. And running on a 1080p smartphone, the performance of the chip is competitive with the latest ARM SoCs from Qualcomm and Samsung. My benchmarks showed it fitting between the performance of the Galaxy S6 and LG G4--definitely flagship material. At that level, I couldn't notice performance differences in day to day use, even in gaming.

    I should mention that the ZenFone 2 does come at two price points, with meaningful differences. The $200 entry-level runs a slightly slower 1.8GHz processor, with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The $300 model I tested has a 2.33GHz Atom, 4GB of RAM, and four times the storage at 64GB. RAM and SoC are the notable differentiators between the models, since you can expand storage on both with a microSD card. Both models also have dual microSIM slots. But even at 1.8GHz and 2GB of RAM, you're going to be able to run any new Android app and game without problems.

    The respectable performance doesn't come as a surprise, so we turn to the areas that really differentiate the day-to-day use of a smartphone: display quality, camera, and battery life. On these counts, the Asus ZenFone is above average, but doesn't claim any crowns. Let's start with the screen.

    The Best Portable USB Battery Pack for Daily Use

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at

    Smartphone batteries don't always last through a busy day, but a pocket-size USB battery pack can give your handset enough of a boost to survive the evening. After 40 hours of research and 65 hours of testing, the one we like the most is Anker's 2nd Gen Astro 6400. It fits in any pocket or purse, and it charges phones and small tablets about as fast as any pocket-friendly pack out there. At 6,400 mAh, it has a larger capacity than most, too.

    The Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6400 can slide into a relaxed-fit pants pocket alongside a smartphone, though a jacket pocket or purse will be a more comfortable fit.

    The Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6400 can slide into a relaxed-fit pants pocket alongside a smartphone, though a jacket pocket or purse will be a more comfortable fit.

    How we decided

    We started by looking for packs that could slide into a relaxed-fit jeans pocket without bulging too much. We also wanted a pack that could fully charge power-hungry phones like the Apple iPhone 6, Motorola Moto X, and Samsung Galaxy S6 at least once, and at full speed. From there, we favored packs with the best cost-to-capacity and size-to-capacity ratios and higher-current power output (up to a point).

    Everything You Need to Know about RAW Photography on Android

    Android camera hardware has gotten very good in the last few years, but the quality of the images you get are largely dependent on the processing technology that a device maker has chosen to implement. When most phones have very similar image sensors, this software can make a huge difference. Slowly but surely, the power to produce better images is being granted to the users with support for RAW image capture.

    If your phone can capture in RAW, you don't have to worry about substandard processing algorithms in the phone. You can take matters into your own hands. Here's how to make RAW photo capture work for you on Android.

    What is RAW and which phones support it?

    Most Android phones are only set up to spit out processed images that have been compressed into JPEGs. This is usually fine, but you're relying on the ability of the stock software to do the scene justice. A lot of data is thrown away in the process, and a RAW file gives you access to all of that. A JPEG from a high-resolution camera sensor might be 4-5MB on Android, but a RAW file could easily be upwards of 30MB.

    These files come with file extensions like .dng and .nef (Android uses .dng). They contain virtually all the data from the sensor, so they're not ready to be tweaked with a standard image editing program or posted on your favorite social network. You need to work with each file and make changes to the colors, white balance, exposure, and more. It can be a significant amount of work, but you're not doing this because it's easy.

    On Android, RAW image capture can be done in a few ways. Both LG and HTC have opted to add the ability for users to snap both JPEG and RAW with the stock camera app on the G4 and One M9. You don't need to do anything other than pop into the settings to make this work. When you press the shutter, the phone outputs a DNG to the internal storage (or microSD card in the case of the G4) along with the JPEG. Samsung is supposed to be adding RAW support to its stock camera app in Android 5.1 for the Galaxy S6, which should be out in a month or so.

    Testing: LG G4 and Android Smartphone Cameras

    This is a follow up to our review of the LG G4 smartphone we posted last week. I wanted to give you a better look at the photos I've been able to take with the G4, and also to elaborate more on the state of Android cameras in general. The last two Android phones we've tested--the Samsung GS6 and LG G4--have produced the best photos I've seen from any smartphone, iPhone 6 Plus included. But we're still seeing stories like this Motherboard column, proclaiming that Android cameras still suck. It's a hyperbolic headline, but the point of the post has merit: smartphone photo quality is a product of more than just the camera sensor; it's dependent on factors like optics, post-processing, JPEG compression, and even the screen you're using to view those pictures. Apple has done well optimizing its camera hardware and photo software, while Android is at the mercy OEMs' hardware choices and in-house camera apps.

    For example, HTC One M9's harsh photo processing hurts its camera performance, but shouldn't be considered representative of other recent flagships. Samsung and LG are role models when it comes to excellent integration of camera hardware and software--I am loving the photos I've been able to take with them. The GS6 and G4's photo processing algorithms seem to make the most of the raw image data that that passes through their respective optics and sensors. A good image processing algorithm is the result of choices and tradeoffs. Engineers have to prioritize factors like sharpening, tonal adjustments, compression, processing power, speed, and file size. On Android, something that helps is the ability to give that algorithm the best possible image in advance by letting photographers configure manual camera settings. It all starts in the camera app interface.

    The camera app on the LG G4 is one of the most robust I've used on a smartphone. Users have almost all the settings you would find on an entry-level DSLR: white balance, exposure adjustment and lock, ISO, shutter speed, and even manual focus. That lets you effectively shoot in full manual, aperture, or shutter priority (with a fixed aperture, of course). The manual focus "dial" in the camera app threw me off a bit, since autofocus has been sufficient in most smartphones. But I liked the ability to use it for focusing on densely layered subjects like a bouquet of flowers. With the shallow depth-of-field offered by the camera's f/1.8 iris, manual focus was also very useful for macro shots.

    Tested In-Depth: LG G4 Smartphone Review

    We test the new LG G4, an Android flagship that may have the best camera we've ever seen in a smartphone. Plus, it has a removable battery and expandable storage--something missing from other flagships. Will and Norm sit down to talk about how its photos compare with ones taken on the Samsung GS6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and whether the high-resolution LCD screen is needed.