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7
May

Cyanogen partners with Truecaller to bring smart caller ID to Cyanogen OS devices


Cyanogen dialer

It’s extremely common to get a phone call from a number you don’t recognize nowadays, even with the built-in caller ID functionality and advanced dialer apps we’ve been seeing more and more of over the past few years. Google included a certain smart caller ID feature into the dialer app in Android 4.4 KitKat with the Nexus 5, and we even recently saw Facebook launch a dialer app of its own not too long ago. These two dialers are nice, but what if you don’t want to use Facebook’s or Google’s services? The folks over at Cyanogen have just announced a partnership with Truecaller which will eventually bring web-enabled caller ID functionality into smartphones running Cyanogen OS.

Truecaller integration will make its way to devices via an OS update over the next few months, and will actually be part of the Cyanogen OS dialer. You’ll be able to opt in or out of the new feature once you start up your device. If you choose to opt in, Truecaller will supposedly be able to look up the number that’s calling you, even if that number isn’t saved in your contacts, in less than a second. In addition, Truecaller will let you know how many people have marked a certain phone number as spam, so you can decide whether to pick up the call or not.

If you’re phone is running Cyanogen OS, be on the lookout for a software update in the next few months. Cyanogen says that Truecaller integration will also come pre-loaded on future Cyanogen OS devices.

Show Press Release
Truecaller Enters Global Partnership with Cyanogen to Improve the Communications Experience on Android

New Caller ID and Spam Blocking Features Will Be Seamlessly Integrated
into the Dialer for Cyanogen OS Mobile Users

Stockholm – May 7, 2015Truecaller today announce an agreement with Cyanogen Inc. that aims to enhance the static dialer experience on Android devices. Truecaller will be seamlessly integrated into the native phone app on the Cyanogen operating system, making Truecaller’s spam blocking and caller ID features available on future mobile devices that ship with Cyanogen OS, and will also be made available to existing users via over-the-air update.

Cyanogen is a leading mobile operating system company that is evolving the Android platform by creating a more open, level playing field for third-party developed apps and services. Cyanogen OS is the company’s commercial operating system, built on Android. Truecaller is a global search company that is home to more than 100 million global users who use the service everyday to report and block spam, identify calls, and search for contacts among a database of more than 1.6 billion contact numbers. Similar to the way that the main Truecaller app and dial pad replacement app Truedialer are used, the new dialer experience coming to Cyanogen OS represents a big improvement over stock Android. Together, the companies bring an improved dialer experience to Cyanogen users with the ability to detect known spammers and identify unknown callers in both live calls and your call history.

“Together with Cyanogen, we’re helping OEMs deliver the best possible experience to their users,” said Tom Hsieh, VP of Partnerships and Growth at Truecaller.  “This is another in a series of strategic partnerships we’ve forged that radically advances the current mobile phonebook experience and upgrades what native dial pad apps can offer.”

“Truecaller shares our vision of enabling an open platform that gives users ultimate choice in their core app experiences,” said Dave Herman, VP of Product Development at Cyanogen Inc. “The new integrated dialer experience is a seamless, frictionless way for users to screen calls and block unwanted spam without ever leaving the native dialer.”

On upcoming device launches that ship with Cyanogen OS, Truecaller services will be fully integrated into the dialer. Over-the-air update to existing users will be made available in the coming months.

For consumers who want a better communications experience on other mobile platforms outside of Cyanogen OS, Truecaller is also available as a free, standalone app for Google Play, the Apple App Store, BlackBerry, Nokia, and Windows Phone. Additionally, the free dial pad replacement app, Truedialer is available on Android and Windows Phone.

About Truecaller

Truecaller is a leading search technology company that is transforming the phonebook with a set of intelligent and useful services. Headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, Truecaller was founded in 2009 by Alan Mamedi and Nami Zarringhalam, and is available on all Internet-enabled devices and on the web. Investors include Sequoia Capital, Atomico and Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. For more information visit www.truecaller.com.

About Cyanogen Inc.

Cyanogen is reimagining mobile computing, giving power to the people to customize their mobile device and content experiences. The CYANOGEN® operating system is built on Android and known for its revolutionary personalization features, intuitive interface, speed, improved battery life, and enhanced security. With a rapidly growing global user base and a vibrant community of developers, we’re intelligently connecting smartphone and tablet consumers to people, apps, and things they love. For more information, visit Cyanogen’s website, Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.



7
May

Blu Selfie Review


The Bottom Line

PROS
  • Unique and attractive design
  • Solid build quality
  • Good display
  • Good performance
  • Impressive battery life
  • Budget-friendly price point
CONS
  • lackluster camera performance
  • Outdated processor
  • Poor placement of power button and camera shutter button
  • No 4G LTE support
6.5

The Blu Selfie features a distinctive design that will certainly turn heads, and offers decent performance and impressive battery life, but unfortunately falls short in what should have been its biggest selling point, the camera performance.

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Blu may not be the most well-known company in the Android smartphone space, but the Florida-based company has released a slew of entry-level to high-end smartphones that are available at very affordable prices unlocked and without any contractual commitments. It’s not just about the price though, as some of their more recent releases do attempt to bring something unique to the table, such as the Blu Selfie. There’s no prizes for guessing what the primary purpose of this smartphone is, but what does it have to offer beyond the ability to take a good selfie? We find out, in this comprehensive Blu Selfie review!

Design

Blu Selfie-14

The Blu Selfie features one of the more unique smartphone designs out there, with a shape that is a bold departure from the norm. With a look that will remind you of a concept design from the past, there’s no denying that this device is certainly very different and eye catching. With its subtly curved polycarbonate back and brushed metal band, the Blu Selfie not only looks great, but feels great in the hand as well.

Blu Selfie-11

The plastic comes with a matte finish that helps with grip and is quite resistant to fingerprint smudges, but unfortunately can fall victim to some minor discoloration. After using the device for around two weeks, a faint bluish hue was noticeable on the chin of the phone where the plastic back wrapped around to meet the glass of the display, which may be an issue with the white version of the device. Using a damp cloth to wipe the area does help, but only to some extent, making it difficult to return to the original color.

Blu Selfie-16

The golden accents found on the camera ring and metal band complement the design, and the tapered meeting point between the plastic back, metal band, and display give the device an elegant and professional look. Understandably, using the Blu Selfie when out and about drew a lot of attention, and the response from those who asked about it was generally positive. The competition in the budget-friendly smartphone space is as intense as ever, and it’s great to see a company attempt to offer something unique to consumers.

Blu Selfie-13

Granted, the choice in shape, and Blu’s determination to pack the device with two Sony IMX 135 cameras does result in a few drawbacks. For starters, it is on the slightly thicker at 9.6 mm, and the curve on the back does make for a wobbly device, even if it isn’t enough of an issue to be a major concern. Secondly, for as unique as the shape of the device may be, it does make for a considerable amount of bezel on the front, not surprisingly at the top and bottom, but unfortunately also along the sides of the display, making for a device that is much larger than its 4.7-inch display size would suggest. That said, it’s not difficult to reach across the display, but does require some hand gymnastics to get to the top.

Blu Selfie-6

There’s a very good reason for these bezels of course, with the top bezel housing the 13 MP front-facing camera with a flash, along with the earpiece and the usual sensors. The bottom bezel is where you will find the back, home, and recent apps capacitive keys, that have plenty of illumination for comfortable visibility both indoors and outdoors. The home key also doubles as a notification LED, eliminating the need for an extra light at the top of the phone. Overall, for a lot of users, the distinctive look of the device should help overcome any negative feelings with regards to the thick bezels.

Blu Selfie-2

Going around the device, on the left is the volume rocker, positioned to be within easy reach. Unfortunately, that same isn’t true for the power button found up top, which requires a stretch to get to given how tall the device is, and the possibility of dropping the phone while reaching for it can be a concern. The headphone jack and the microUSB charging port are at the top and bottom respectively. On the right is the SIM and microSD card slot, as well as a camera shutter button placed right at the center on that side.

Blu Selfie-5

What is unfortunate about the camera button is that it only works when the phone’s display is on, and unlike some other devices out there, you can’t simply press and hold the button to launch the camera when the phone is locked. You actually have to press the power button first, and then press and hold the camera button to launch the camera app. The logic behind is quite confusing, since you can also just swipe left on the lock screen to open the camera at the same speed as the physical button. Since it doesn’t speed up the amount of time it takes to actually take a shot, it’s usefulness is certainly diminished, and further, it’s not positioned ideally to even take a picture when the camera app is open. Ultimately, it would have been much better served if the power button was where the camera shutter button now is, with the latter more effective along the bottom of the right side.

Ultimately, it would have been much better served if the power button was where the camera shutter button now is, with the latter more effective along the bottom of the right side.

Display

Blu Selfie Feature-1

The Blu Selfie comes with a 4.7-inch IPS LCD display with a 1280 x 720 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 312 ppi. The display looks pretty good overall, with good brightness and viewing angles, and accurate color reproduction. Of course, it won’t be as sharp as the higher resolution panels out there, but at this size, 720p does more than a good enough job. The display is protected with a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 panel to keep it free from scratches, and Blu also includes a screen protector in the box if think it’s needed.

Performance and Hardware

Blu Selfie-14

Under the hood, the Blu Selfie packs an cota-core MediaTek MT6592 processor, clocked at 1.7 GHz, and backed by the Mali-450 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. This particular processing package is starting to show its age, but things remain more than decent when it comes to the overall performance. General day to day usage is mostly smooth, with some stutter noticeable only while scrolling through some webpages. The device also handles gaming impressively, with games like Asphalt 8 and Bloons Tower Defense 5 running without any hiccups.

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The Blu Selfie comes with 16 GB of built-in storage, further expandable via microSD card up to 64 GB. Popping out the SIM tray on the top right side of the phone reveals a dedicated area for a micro SIM card on the left, and a shared area that can house either nano SIM card or microSD card on the right. This implementation is something we’re seeing with a lot a budget-friendly devices, and gives the user the choice between expandable storage or having dual-SIM capabilities.

Blu Selfie-17

Unfortunately, the Blu Selfie doesn’t come with support for 4G LTE, so users will be limited to HSPA+ on the AT&T and T-Mobile network. It has to be mentioned though that HSPA+ on the T-Mobile network is not fully supported though, with connectivity possible likely only in metropolitan areas. The usual suite of connectivity options, including GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, and Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n are also available. The device comes with a single speaker mounted at the bottom on the back, and offers decent sound quality. It does get loud, but a noticeable distortion is present when at the highest volume.

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On the battery front, the device packs a non-removable 2,300 mAh unit, which offers surprisingly great battery life. During the three days of real world battery life tests, I had no trouble getting the phone to last throughout a full day of use, with just over three and a half hours of screen on time each day. The lower resolution display, power efficient Mediatek chip, and lack of LTE support are certainly contributing factors, but some credit lies with the software optimization as well. One area that the Blu Selfie really shines is with regards to the performance of the battery.

Camera

Blu Selfie-10

Given the name of the device, there are a lot of expectations from the camera performance, and while Blu has been resolute in their marketing of the 13 MP Sony IMX 135 cameras found both up front and on the back, the performance is unfortunately disappointing.

The camera application is quite minimalistic and simple to use, with a few settings available, such as white balance and image quality, along with normal and panoramic shooting modes. Given the selfie-centric nature of this device, a few beauty enhancement features are also included, giving you the ability to make your eyes bigger, slim down your face, and smoothen or whiten your skin. The camera software is pretty simple to use, with options in the settings to adjust white balance and image quality, normal and panoramic shooting modes, and a few beauty enhancement features.

Blu Selfie-8

The device comes with a dual LED flash, flanking the very large sensor on the back. The flash does get very bright, and unfortunately floods the subject in low light conditions, making some shots look worse than they should have been. As expected, the Blu Selfie takes some decent looking shots in well-lit environments or outdoors, but a certain amount of grain and out of focus objects are noticeable when zooming in to the shot. The rear camera seems to have problems focusing, and the slow shutter speed requires very steady hands to get a shot without any blurring. The overall quality is just about average, with a lot of the shots taken lacking color, and coming with excessive amounts of noise.

The front-facing camera is placed in the center of the bezel at the top of the phone, and the single flash is to its right. The front-facing flash is what BLU calls Glam Flash, and is designed to offer the right amount of light when you need it most and performs very well. It is bright enough to illuminate the face, but not blinding, while taking a selfie. It does sometimes take up to four seconds to finally capture an image with the flash on, so you have to be extremely still if you want to increase the chances of your selfies being in focus. Overall, I would say that the front facing camera takes just average looking selfies, except at a larger 13 MP.

Software

Blu Selfie-9

The Blu Selfie comes with Android 4.4.2 Kitkat out of the box, which is disappointing given the fact that it is a new release, and further, there doesn’t seem to be any plans for an official update to Android 5.0 Lollipop in the works either. However, Blu is still supporting the device with OTA updates for bug fixes and general improvements in performance.

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The myHome launcher is on top, which doesn’t come with an app drawer, leading users to rely on folders to stay organized. Custom icons are present for the system apps, and any third party applications you download are denoted with a circle around them. The lack of an app drawer does take some getting used to, but you do always have the option to download a third party launcher from the Google Play Store to return to a more familiar software experience.

Specifications

Display 4.7-inch IPS LCD
720p resolution, 312 ppi
Processor 1.7 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6592
Mali-450 GPU
RAM 2 GB
Camera 13 MP rear camera with dual LED flash
13 MP front-facing camera with flash
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Storage 16 GB, expandable up to 64 GB
Battery 2,300 mAh
Colors white, blue, black
Dimensions 146 x 66.3 x 9.6 mm
136 grams

Gallery

Pricing and Final Thoughts

The BLU Selfie is available in white, blue, and black, and is priced at $249.

So there you have it – an in-depth look at the Blu Selfie! Although the device comes with a unique design, decent display, good performance, and impressive battery life, the expectation that comes from its name of great camera performance is unfortunately not met. As mentioned, the competition in this segment is very intense, and there are some wonderful offerings available from some other OEMs at this price point. Despite is very distinctive look that is sure to turn heads, the overall experience is rather lacking, making the Blu Selfie somewhat difficult to recommend.

Buy now on Amazon



7
May

Flickr version 4.0 update brings better upload, search and editing features


17213643530_bc4a3c4416_o

It hasn’t been an extremely long time since Flickr for Android received a nice UI refresh, but today the Flickr team is beginning to unify the design between its Android and iOS apps and on the web. Version 4.0 of the app, which is now available in the Google Play Store, brings an overall more refined, vibrant interface, complete with a new Timeline view for a better browsing experience.

Aside from the interface, version 4.0 brings a few new features that most Flickr users will surely welcome. The new Auto-Uploadr feature will allow you to automatically upload both photos and videos from your mobile device. As your files upload, they’ll also be added to the Flickr cloud, so you’ll be able to access them at any time from any device. And if you happen to have two of the same photos on your smartphone, Flickr will get rid of duplicates with “automatic de-duplication”.

16780948753_d619dec40c_b

Camera Roll is another new feature being added in this update, allowing you to easily manage all of your photos across different platforms. You’ll be able to crop, add filters, group into different albums and more with the photos that are in your Camera Roll.

The update is now live, so head to the Google Play Store link below to grab version 4.0.

Get it on Google Play



7
May

Goat Simulator, CounterSpy and Monument Valley on sale right now






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The weekend is fast approaching for many folks out there and that might mean lots of plans with the family, or working on the honey do list. Either way, a person needs a break every once in while and entertaining games can usually help out with that immensely. While the Play Store offers an ever growing list of free games, the paid games sometimes tend to be a bit exciting. If you are looking for a gaming deal today then I have a few titles you might be interested in snagging up.

First up is Goat Simulator. Yes, it is a thing and it is pretty popular too. In a nut shell you get to be a goat and be out of control all the time. Coffee Stain Studios just released Goat Simulator GoatZ which takes things to the zombie side of things too. If you have been dreaming of being a goat your whole life, then this is a must have. If you just like lunacy and laughing, then it is also probably the game for you. Goat Simulator usually sells at $4.99 but can be had for a limited time price of $1.99.

CounterSPy

If being a goat in your spare time isn’t your thing maybe you have dreams of being a spy. That is where another great title from PlayStation Mobile could help out a bit with CounterSpy. Like any good spy game, you are trying to stop a crazed superpower from launching nuclear missiles. A side perk tot he title is that it cross syncs your gaming data with your PlayStations 4, PlayStations 3 and PlayStation Vita. Sony doesn’t say if this is a limited time sale or a permanent price tag. Considering it only has 5,000 – 10,000 downloads since its launch in September of last year, I am thinking it could be more of a permanent price tag. The regular starting price was $4.99, but you can get in on the cold war espionage action now for $0.99.

Monument Valley main


One final game that seems to always be worth grabbing, especially when on sale, is Monument Valley. The title brings some stunning puzzles where you manipulate impossible architectures to help guide a silent princess through each world. Some people loved it while others hated it. The titles normal price tag comes in at $3.99, but is on sale now for $0.99.

Feel free to hit any of the links below to snag the titles while they are on sale.

The post Goat Simulator, CounterSpy and Monument Valley on sale right now appeared first on AndroidSPIN.

7
May

‘Redacted’ Hits Number 8 Spot in Mac App Store With Just $302 in First-Day Profit


App developer Sam Soffes today published a blog post detailing the early monetary performance of his new app Redacted [Direct Link], which allows users to easily obscure sensitive information on personal photos.

redacted appScreenshot of Redacted’s image obscuring features
After launching the app earlier this week, the $4.99 Redacted app quickly broke into the top paid app lists on the U.S. Mac App Store. Specifically, by the end of its launch day on May 5, Redacted was eighth in overall paid apps and first in top paid graphics apps. After some friends began questioning him about his expected profit, Soffes realized he hadn’t really even begun to think about the possible profit the photo-obscuring app would rake in for him.

Yesterday, Soffes tweeted out a question, asking his followers to guess how much profit the app received in its first day on the market. While the guesses averaged $12,460.67, Soffes revealed his app had achieved just 87 paid downloads, earning him a mere $302 worldwide for the eighth top paid app in the U.S. Mac App Store.

redacted profit

There were 37 guesses. I threw out the lowest and highest guesses which were both hilarious. The average guess was $12,460.67. 7 of those units were promo codes I sent out. Only 59 of those units were in the US. It’s pretty nuts that 59 sales is top paid on the Mac App Store in the US.

In response to Soffes’ blog post, Dan Counsell, a developer of popular organizational app Clear, shared a few numbers on the app’s profits over a single day. Counsell tweeted that Clear earned $453 the day before the tweet, noting the list app is third in productivity and fifteenth overall in the top paid app list for the United States.

The top paid ranking is a measure of download volume (with some tweaks to account for sales momentum), not profits, so developers of higher-priced Mac App Store apps are in some cases certainly doing better than Redacted. Even so, with a drop in sales following the launch surge, Redacted is currently the #81 top grossing app in the U.S. Mac App Store while sitting at the #19 spot in paid apps.

Towards the end of his blog post, Soffes mentions that he nearly decided to continue working on another indie app, Whiskey, in an attempt to make a living off of that app. “I’m glad I didn’t,” he states honestly. He now is employed at mobile payments solution Venmo as of early this week.




7
May

How to Send and Respond to Messages on Apple Watch [iOS Blog]


One of the main focal points of the Apple Watch is communication, and as such, it offers a Messages app much like the one on the iPhone. It’s not quite as robust as the Messages apps available on other iOS and Mac devices, but Messages on Apple Watch lets you send pre-made replies, animated and non-animated emoji, and full voice-to-text messages.

For those of you who want to learn the ins and outs of creating and responding to messages on the Apple Watch, we’ve written up a detailed tutorial on the Messages app. Plus we’ve also got some tips on customizing the available options for communicating with others.

Sending a Message

  1. How to send messages on Apple Watch 4Press the Digital Crown to go to the Home screen on Apple Watch.
  2. Open the Messages app.
  3. Firmly press on the Messages list until the icon for New Message appears.
  4. Tap “New Message.”
  5. Tap “Add Contact” to select the recipient.
  6. Tap the icon to add a contact. (It looks like the silhouette of a person with a plus (+) symbol next to it.)
  7. Select a contact. Then, select the phone number or Apple ID you wish to use for that person.
  8. Tap “Create Message.”
  9. Use the Default Replies, Emoji, or Dictate Text to send the message.

Sending a message can also be done quickly by tapping the button underneath the Digital Crown to bring up your friends list, where you can select a favorite contact. From there just tap the Message icon to get to the messaging options. If you’ve already got a list of conversations available in the Messages app (which you likely do if you use Messages on the iPhone), you can also just click there to continue a conversation from your wrist.
Read more »

7
May

[Deal] Grab the Silver LG Watch Urbane for $300 from eBay


LG_Watch_Urbane_Silver_Main_Silver_Chronos_Watch_Face_TA_01

If you’re looking for a classy Android Wear watch, then look no further than the LG Watch Urbane. It’s stainless steel, features a 1.3-inch (320 x 320) P-OLED display, and a 410 mAh battery. It has a proper Always On display as well so you can enjoy all those beautiful watch faces.

The watch normally goes for $349, which I know is pretty steep. However, you can grab the silver version right now on eBay for only $300 with free shipping included. Plus you can also escape the sales tax so you are looking at close to $75 in savings depending on where you live.

If you’re looking to get started in Android Wear or you want to upgrade, the Watch Urbane is the one to get. Let us know if you grab one.

source: eBay

Come comment on this article: [Deal] Grab the Silver LG Watch Urbane for $300 from eBay

7
May

Google: Nexus 9 will get Android 5.1, starting today!


Nexus 9-19
After being stuck on Android 5.0.1 for way longer than it should have been, earlier this week, Nexus 9 owners were given an update for their devices, but not to Android 5.1 or 5.1.1 — to Android 5.0.2. For those that were disappointed, angry, or flat out confused by the move, the good news is that the update to Android 5.1 is finally here … Almost.

Taking to Twitter, the Nexus team revealed that the Android 5.1 OTA will begin rolling out to the Nexus 9 starting today. In Google’s usual fashion, we can expect the rollout to happen in gradual stages, so don’t be surprised if it is still a few days or even weeks before the OTA hits your device.

With the Nexus 9 Android 5.1 update finally on its way, it seems pretty obvious that the 5.0.2 update was rolled out as a necessity, to set the stage for a 5.1 rollout, and not to further anger Nexus 9 owners. Of course letting folks know Google’s intentions through some kind of an announcement earlier this week probably would have been a smart move.

While the tweet mentions Android 5.1, it is possible this is actually 5.1.1, but we wouldn’t bet on it just yet. Still, Android 5.1 brings a number of bug fixes and other minor improvements, and we are glad that the Nexus 9 is no longer being left out in the dark. We’ll be sure to update you as soon as OTA images start rolling out, or Google posts up the factory images.



7
May

LG G4 Review: a phone that attempts to do everything


 

The Bottom Line

LG tries to offer users everything the others do not – and then some

PROS
  • Aesthetically unique and attractive design
  • Quad HD 5.5-inch screen is vivid and great for media
  • Snapdragon 808 shows how optimization is recipe for success
  • Backing is removable, comes in leather or plastic
  • Removable battery and expandable storage
  • Camera is among the best in quality
  • Camera manual mode is robust
  • LG UX is very snappy and almost feels slimmed down
CONS
  • LG UX still a bit bloated
  • Still some smudgy post processing in the camera
  • For those that don’t want leather backings, plastic backs are a consolation prize
9.0

With a unique and attractive design, great performance, and a fantastic camera, while also being the only current flagship to feature a replaceable battery, LG is attempting to provide users with a phone that offers literally everything you may want.

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In today’s landscape, we are seeing more and more OEMs push away from the less premium designs of old, electing for slim, great-looking devices that are unfortunately not without their compromises. LG has decided to go a somewhat different route with their latest flagship, in an attempt to provide users with a phone that offers literally everything you may want, from a great design to power user features like removable battery and microSD.

What does the company’s latest high-end offering bring to the table, and how does it stand out from the crowd? We find out, in this in-depth LG G4 review!

Design

lg g4 first look aa (6 of 32)

In terms of design, what worked with LG’s last two high-end releases, the G Flex 2 and the G3, are brought together to create this new device. Curves, a variety of back cover options, and a large form factor are all par for the course here.

The presence of a 5.5-inch display dictates the overall size of the phone and the resulting handling experience, but as always, LG’s penchant for slim bezels on the sides of the display does make for a pretty narrow device. The G4 is slightly taller than its predecessor, but that is mitigated by a very subtle curve. Speaking of which, the curve of the G4 display isn’t as pronounced as what was available with the G Flex 2, and unfortunately, does not offer the immersive quality of the latter. The benefits are felt in terms of durability though, with even this small curvature resulting in 20% more resilience when compared to any regular slab smartphone.

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The sides remain quite thick, with the phone measuring 9.8 mm at its thickest point, but there are no buttons on these sides, with LG’s signature rear button layout returning, found below the large camera optics. The power button is quite small, but offers a different feel from the volume rocker that flanks it to make it easy to identify the right area to press. This button layout falls squarely in the region where the index finger would lay when holding the phone, a design choice that continues to make sense, apart from just being aesthetically unique.

What curves may be lost in the subtlety up front are best felt on the back. This is all for the sake of handling, and there’s no doubt that the LG G4 offers one of the best handling experiences around when it comes to large form factor device. For a lot of users, there is an obvious preference for at least some form of one-handed usage, and the G4 manages to just toe the line of comfort. The device rests nicely in the hand and in the pocket, and while hand gymnastics are of course necessary to reach across it, it’s not too bothersome.

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Back covers of the LG G4 are available in a couple of different styles, with a slew of color options across them. This particular review unit is the titanium version, which comes with a metallic feel, with the other plastic iterations, the white and gold, coming with a ceramic finish, and all coming with a subtle diamond grid pattern. However, the fashion statement LG is making with the G4 comes in the form of the leather backing, with a variety of textures and color options available. We did enjoy our time we had with these back covers during the launch event, but it might be a point of contention for some though, as the leather is actually sourced from cows and vegetable tanned. What might be the biggest selling point of the LG G4 is the fact that the back cover is removable, something that no other current flagship offers, giving users access to features like expandable storage and replaceable batteries.

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The LG G4 is certainly a lot like the G Flex 2, with a design that is further refined and with a less severe curve overall, and does raise the question as to whether the presence of leather backings is a way to prevent this release from seeming too incremental. That said, LG’s design continues to be distinctive and therefore, recognizable, and the G4 is still quite an attractive phone.

Display

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LG ups the ante in the display department with an ever better iteration of the Quad HD display from its predecessor, now boasting the Quantum Display moniker. Flashy names aside, the 5.5-inch IPS+ LCD screen comes with 2560 x 1440 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 538 ppi. What makes this display different is the Quantum Dot technology behind it. LG’s presentation during the launch event focused on how the actual molecules are being manipulated as it passes through a phosphor layer, the result being an even better color gamut than typical IPS screens can provide.

What is probably easier to understand is their philosophy on displays this time around, with the company looking to adhere to the DCI standard normally reserved to television and cinema with the G4. Whereas the Samsung Super AMOLED displays of the world go past this standard with its overly saturated colors, the G4 stays 98% within the parameters, to provide the proper experience. Now, without some real knowledge of film standards, it is hard to really tell if LG has hit that mark, but the difference can be seen in a comparison shot, with the Samsung phone definitely being a little more saturated.

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What matters most of all is that the display of the LG G4 is still powerful and pleasing to the eye. Blacks are adequately shown, colors are definitely very vibrant, and all tasks look great on it. A couple of small nuances from its predecessor return however, like a smoothening of the screen elements, that can be observed mostly when viewing and scrolling through text, likely a result of the device lowering sharpness on these types of areas to lower power consumption. Knock On and Knock Code also return, so double tapping the screen to turn it on or tapping a pattern at any time are available.

Big words and scientific language aside, the display on the LG G4 is worthy of a high-end flagship, and there certainly have been no complaints from us.

Performance

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While we might expect the latest and greatest processing packages to be found in today’s high-end flagships, LG decided to take a somewhat unconventional route in this regard. On paper, it looks like LG has taken a step back, with the G4 packing a 1.8 GHz hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, backed by the Adreno 418 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. Thankfully, the overall experience is better helped with more optimization, as opposed to just sheer power.

Thanks to this optimization, the still bloated LG G UI manages to move along with a speed and smoothness that might be a bit surprising. In my daily usage, there have been no hiccups or instances of stutter throughout, with there being a negligible pause only when applications needed to be loaded from the Recent Apps screen. Unlike what is the case with some other flagships, this smoothness isn’t a result of a stripped down and lighter software experience. In fact, much of what was found with G3 and G Flex 2 make a return here with even a few more extras tacked on, and whatever close relationship LG has with Qualcomm is what has paid off here.

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Browsing among applications is a breeze, even when using the Dual Window functionality, and intensive gaming is also not hindered by the two core shortage, with the Adreno 418 doing an admirable job in the graphics department. Despite many of the elements remaining in the latest iteration of the LG UI, the snappiness of it all makes it feel otherwise. It all makes a case that taking great care in optimizing the processor to the needs of the software, and vice versa, can often be a better recipe for success.

Hardware

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As already mentioned, and something that LG will most certainly heavily market, the main cornerstones of the LG G4 is the availability of expandable storage and removable battery. The expandable storage will be most useful for photographers looking to take advantage of the RAW capture ability of the souped-up camera of the G4, but most everyone will agree that it’s always nice to have a buffer for space regardless.

It’s important to mention here that this review unit is the Korean edition, and as usual, LTE connectivity in the US wasn’t possible. While HSPA+ connections were still adequate for daily usage, I relied mainly on Wi-Fi for internet connectivity. Connection on the T-Mobile network was still quite good, including during calls, and the subtle curve of the phone is felt when holding the phone up to your ear. The rear facing speaker does sound better than previous iterations, with more body and richness to the sound, but unfortunately, the general issues with this positioning of the speaker do return.

Qualcomm and LG did work together to create a more accurate location algorithm in the G4, but without the benefit of full mobile network connectivity, this is something that I will have to follow up on with a local version of the phone. Nonetheless, this accuracy is achieved using a combination of all sensors available in the phone, rather than just Wi-Fi and general global positioning. During a day heavy with GPS navigation, it seemed to do its job quite well, positioning me in the right direction even at the start of each trip, which isn’t always common.

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Battery life will also have to further tested with a US version of the device with LTE connectivity. In this case, primarily using Wi-Fi and HSPA+ where  required, the G4 did do very well in terms of daily battery usage, with up to 3 hours of screen-on time possible during a total usage of 16 hours. A few hours of screen-on time was also possible even with heavy usage, including once that included almost a full hour of GPS navigation, which did seem to provide the kind of accuracy LG and Qualcomm claim the G4 has.

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Of course, power users will be happy about the fact that you always have the option to carry around spares, which is something that might need to be taken advantage of, with any quick charging capabilities being noticeably absent. In my observation, I did find the phone to charge quicker when using something like the Motorola Turbo charger, but definitely nowhere close to the speed that Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 provides.

Camera

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It might be a game of one-ups-manship for LG as it tries to provide more than the competiton, and specifically, their Korean brethren Samsung. Ultimately though, it’s the consumers that are the winners, as LG introduces yet another high quality camera to this year’s Android smartphone space.

Te larger camera package on the back is very noticeable, and bigger than anything we’ve seen so far. This larger sensor comes with a f/1.8 aperture lens, flanked by laser autofocus, a flash, and a color spectrum sensor. LG made a lot of sense in their launch that a large aperture opening doesn’t make much sense if the actual sensor itself is really small, so the G4 has quite a bit going for it physically, as the larger sensor will also benefit from better optical image stabilization.

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Up front is an 8 MP unit, providing a larger photo than many competitors, but also comes with a few gesture-centric features. Bring a hand up and close it to trigger a countdown, or do the gesture twice to take four pictures in succession, and then bringing down the phone immediately after the shot lets you automatically review the selfie. The last one might be the more useful feature, because we think that just hitting that shutter button on the selfie cam is just as quick, and requires less effort. We might put the front facing camera as one of the better iterations in Android now, as it has good detail and a wide enough perspective for group shots.

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When it comes to the camera interface, there are a few different modes available. The Simple mode allows for tapping on subjects for quick laser focusing and immediate snapping, the Auto mode opens up a few more possibilities which are easily seen via the controls, and then there is the Manual Mode.

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It’s here that the budding photographer will have a great many tools at its fingertips, including everything from a histogram for accurate levels, to shutter speeds as long as 30 seconds, to a full white balance kelvin gamut that allow you to cater the shot exactly how you want it. All of the changes will show in the viewfinder, so there is little guess work to be had in this manual mode, and even then, if you are not happy with the JPEG that comes out, shooting simultaneously in RAW format opens up the possibilities even more, as the photographer can take the RAW capture and mess with every setting available in a program like Lightroom. Of course, the RAW files will be huge, so expandable storage will definitely be required in this case.

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White balance is a very important aspect of this camera, as the IR backed color spectrum sensor works to analyze the entire scene and get accurate color reproduction, and of course, the very act of taking pictures is still a breeze here because of the laser guided autofocus. Indeed, using this camera in either the Auto or Simple modes brings one of the easiest picture taking experiences available, and the resulting pictures still happen to be quite great.

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In good lighting, the 16 MP photos are very pleasing, especially with the low aperture lending to nice depth of field perspectives for close or far focus. When zooming in, one can find that a noise reduction is still at work here, as the grain is smoothed out. This does detract just a little bit from the overall sharpness of the image though, but doesn’t do so to a large degree. This is better seen in lower light situations, where the camera also seemingly opts to have a slower shutter speed instead of higher ISO, making clear shots a bit tougher to capture. Finally, in lower light, prominent light sources are a little bit blown out, but again, not to a terrible degree.

We give the LG G4 high marks for having a great camera interface and a fast picture taking experience. It’s pictures are ultimately quite great, but fall just short of being the best in Android today because of the post processing that results in smudgy shots sometimes. That said, the G4 camera is definitely one of the best companions a user can have in the pocket.

Software

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Moving on to the software side of things, easily noticeable is the speed of the familiar user interface, but there are a few new additions this time around as well. Mainly, the calendar app has been updated to use just about any captured area of the phone as reminders on dates. It takes away from having to fill in a lot of information, but those who prefer high organization might still opt for the textual elements. The gallery has been given categories for

The gallery has been given categories for easy look back at one’s memories, and is generally better organized overall. If the hand gymnastics need to be helped, changing the button layout on the softkeys is possible in the Settings. Finally, the phone can now perform a number of actions based on location cues. LG’s continued relationship with Google is easily seen here, with Chrome being the default browser, and integration with Google Drive baked in, which also includes an additional 100 GB of storage for free for two years.

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The UX largely looks the way it did in the G Flex 2, with new Lollipop styled elements and plenty of features all around. Dual Window adds to multitasking and plenty of contextual features include the Smart Notice widget. Now there are more reasons for the widget to tell you pieces of information, as it will give suggestions not only for current weather conditions, but also warn the user of when applications in the background are continuously draining battery. These suggestions aren’t bad, but they might not be as useful for everyone as LG thinks.

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QSlide apps also return, so if you do need to have a floating window for things like a dialer or calculator, the line of applications will add extra girth to the notification dropdown. There is also the Smart Bulletin, which is a second screen to the far left that brings information from a number of sources, including LG Health and tips for better usage. It’s a better way of showing these features than before, but thankfully it can also be easily turned off.

The LG UX offers quite a lot without overcrowding the experience, which has been a gradual but welcome change. As a daily driver, it’s hard not to be impressed with the speed of this operating system, and the G4 manages to deliver a user experience that keeps up with some of the best out there.

Specifications

Display 5.5-inch LCD Quantum Dot
2560 x 1440 resolution, 534 ppi
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 (hexa-core: 2xCortex A57+ 4xCortex A53, 64-bit), Adreno 418 GPU
RAM 3 GB DDR3
Storage 32 GB, expandable via microSD, up to 128GB
Camera Rear camera: 16MP, f/1.8, color spectrum sensor, OIS, laser-assisted focus;
front camera: 8MP
Connectivity HSPA, LTE-Advanced
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct
Bluetooth 4.1
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Battery 3,000 mAh, user removable, wireless charging, quick charging
Software Android 5.0 Lollipop, LG UX 4.0
Dimensions 149.8 x 76.2 x 6.3-9.8 mm, 155 g
Colors and finishes Plastic: Gray, Gold, White
Leather: Black / Brown / Red / Sky Blue / Beige / Yellow

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Pricing and Final Thoughts

The LG G4 will come in at the premium price for a flagship on carriers, and as we have been told, will be the same price unlocked as the LG G3 when it was first launched. Obviously, the main competitors in the space include Samsung and HTC, who have released their flagship devices earlier this year.

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So there you have it – an in-depth look at the LG G4! It’s been a great year so far for flagships. With every phone bringing different offerings to the table, the LG G4 is trying to bring the most. A great camera experience is backed by yet another speedy iteration of Android, in a body that remains recognizable and attractive due to LG’s signature design language. If what are missing in other flagships kept you from buying them, the G4 just might be the phone that you’re looking for. It isn’t a big leap from previous generations of the series, but that is true for most of this year’s releases as well.

If you want something unique, the G4 is among the best choices you have today, with its leather backings, and expansion options only sweetening the deal. If we had any doubt that LG was falling behind in the competition, the G4 is surely an example that they haven’t lost the touch yet.



7
May

Deal: Snapdragon 400-powered Huawei SnapTo for just $139.99, but act fast!


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Need a new smartphone, or a secondary handset, but don’t have a lot of extra cash to spare? Right now you can get Huawei’s SnapTo on Amazon for just $139.99 as part of a Lightning Deal, that’s $40 off. Of course you only have about 2 1/2 hours (at time of writing) before the deal ends.

As for what the SnapTo brings to the table? We are talking about a budget friendly device with specs to match. There’s a 5-inch 720p display, a 2GHz Snapdragon 400, 1GB RAM, 8GB storage, 5MP rear cam, 2MP front cam, 2200 mAh battery, 4G LTE, and Emotion UI 2.3 (based on KitKat). Other than the fact it is running outdated software, you’re basically talking about a device that’s similarly spec’d to the Moto G (2014), but with the addition of LTE for less money than Motorola is charging.

The SnapTo certainly isn’t an impressive device, but the asking price of $179.99 was already pretty decent. This current Lightning Deal price is even more exciting. Anyone planning on picking it up?



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