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5
May

The best smartphone you can buy


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Updated: We re-assessed the phones on the market, and our top pick for iPhone 7 Plus still stands. We did make some changes though, adding the Samsung Galaxy S8, Moto G5 Plus, and OnePlus 3T to this list. We also changed some recommendations for buying a phone today. By Simon Hill on May 5, 2017.

Smartphones are perhaps the most personal tech we own. That’s why it’s super important to pick the phone that’s best for your needs. There are many factors to consider from design and operating system to security and durability. We consider every aspect of the smartphone to determine whether it’s a good buy for you or if you’re better off with something else.

When it comes to choosing the best smartphone, it’s always a tough decision. Last year was particularly difficult, because we had two incredible contenders: the iPhone 7 Plus and the Google Pixel XL, and now some newer phones like the LG G6 and Galaxy S8. After much debate and soul searching, we landed on the iPhone 7 Plus as our top pick for the best smartphone of 2016 and nothing has come along yet that can knock it off its pedestal. However, the Pixel XL is the closest second we’ve ever had in this race. It very nearly won. Here’s why the iPhone 7 Plus ultimately triumphed, and a list of our picks for other smartphone categories.

Our pick

iPhone 7 Plus

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Why should you buy this: You want the most powerful, secure, and shutterbug-friendly phone ever

Our Score

The best

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

You can’t do better than the iPhone for design, security, power, and camera tech.

$869.99 from T-Mobile

$769.99 from Verizon

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants the most simple, easy to use phone.

How much will it cost: $770+

Why we picked the iPhone 7 Plus:

What’s not to love about Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus? Its iconic aluminum design is now fully waterproof, its A10 Fusion processor makes it the fastest smartphone you can buy — period, the dual-lens camera pulls off amazing DSLR tricks, and iOS has never looked better or been more functional. Add to that Apple’s commitment to your security and privacy, as well as its industry-leading customer service, and you have one helluva smartphone.

The impressive 12-megapixel dual cameras are among the most compelling reasons to buy the iPhone 7 Plus. One of the cameras is a telephoto lens that offers 2x optical hardware zoom and up to 10x software zoom. The quality of 2x zoom on the iPhone 7 Plus is just extraordinary. It beats out every other smartphone on the market. You don’t lose detail, and your zoomed picture turns out excellent. You can go up to 5x in good lighting conditions without too much noticeable loss in quality, which is still better than you can say of any other smartphone’s zoom.

The dual-camera lenses also enable the best bokeh effect (when the background blurs around the subject of the shot) we’ve ever seen on a smartphone. Other phones, including the Pixel, tend to mess up the blurring effect on the small details. Apple is also well known for reproducing colors accurately, while Android phones consistently oversaturate images. It comes down to personal preference, but we prefer the iPhone’s natural hues. It also produces strong images in low light, rivaled only by the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.

Apple really hit it out of the park in terms of performance with the A10 Fusion processor. It’s the fastest smartphone in benchmarks, leaving every Android phone in the dust. Even though it has less RAM, the iPhone 7 Plus is smoother, slicker, and more efficient than any Android phone. The battery life is a solid day and a half, which is equal to (or more than) every other phone on this list. It even comes standard with 32GB of storage, which is a big upgrade from 16GB, though not as great as last year’s 64GB option.

Since Apple designs the hardware and software together, iOS 10 runs like a dream on the phablet. It is the best version of iOS to date. Interactive notifications, the incorporation of 3D Touch into every aspect of the interface, and the new iMessage are a game changer for iPhone users. Every app and game meets Apple’s design standards, which results in a fluid, seamless experience across the OS and other Apple devices.

Instant software updates are the icing on the cake with iOS. Unlike with an Android phone, you never have to worry that your iPhone will miss an update or vital security patch. Apple has your back when it comes to security and your personal privacy. Our lives are on our phones and hackers are becoming more skilled every day. Security has never been more important and your privacy is of high value. That’s why Apple went to war with the FBI to guarantee your right to encryption and data privacy.

Then there’s Apple’s customer service. If you have an iPhone, you can walk into any Apple Store and get help for free. Apple will even repair your device right there in the store and get it back to you on the same day most of the time. No other company gives you that option.

The lack of a headphone jack is the only major blight on the iPhone 7 Plus’ near-perfect record. It comes with Lightning EarPods, but if you have your own headphones, you may struggle with the included 3.5mm-to-lightning adapter. You may also want to purchase wireless headphones, but it neither of these scenarios are the end of the world. After two months with the iPhone 7 Plus, we can tell you with confidence that you will survive. It’s not ideal, but the same change is coming to Android phones already and will be the standard in a few years’ time. Mark my words.

I’ve personally tried every Android phone on this list, and no matter how good or innovative they are, I always go back to the iPhone, and the iPhone 7 Plus is the best one yet.

Our full review

The best Android phone

Google Pixel XL

Google Pixel XL

Why should you buy this: It’s the first and only Android phone with hardware and software straight from Google

Our Score

The best phablet (the best Android phone)

Google Pixel XL

The Pixel XL is pure Android perfection, straight from Google.

$769.99 from Verizon

$649.00 from Google Store

Who’s it for: Android fans who want the ultimate stock Android phone by Google

How much will it cost: $770

Why we picked the Pixel XL:

Google’s Pixel XL is the best Android phone we’ve ever used. It’s the first Android phone in history that can fully compete with the iPhone in several key areas: security, software updates, customer service, and software design. It’s so good we nearly named it the best smartphone of the year. Indeed, if you’re an Android fan who will never buy an iPhone, the Pixel XL is the best phone you can buy. Here’s why.

Google built the Pixel XL from the ground up with partner HTC. Because of that, it was able to perfectly integrate hardware and software together into one excellent package — just like Apple does with the iPhone. That approach, plus the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chip and 4GB of RAM, make the Pixel the most powerful Android phone you can buy.

The pure, stock Android 7.1 Nougat software runs silky smooth on the Pixel XL. It’s also more minimalist and aesthetically pleasing with the revamped app drawer, which no longer has an icon taking up space, and the replacement of the search bar with a subtle G logo you tap to start searching. The Pixel XL’s software is ridiculously attractive and perfectly done. After using it for two weeks, looking at Android phones with user interfaces on top is hard. The Pixel just looks nicer. It even looks nicer than Android 7.0 on a Nexus 6P. It’s that attention to detail and design that makes the Pixel XL appeal to iPhone and Android users alike.

Assistant is a helpful artificially intelligent bot that surpasses Siri in some ways, but doesn’t yet have third-party app integration.

Then there’s the crisp, natural 5.5-inch, 2,560 x 1,440-pixel screen, which is very easy on the eyes. The Pixel’s design may not be for everyone, because of its aluminum body’s glass insert on the back of the phone, which is easy to shatter and is a fingerprint magnet. However, it feels premium and comfortable to hold. The rear fingerprint sensor is good for security and Android Pay.

The Pixel XL’s 12.3-megapixel camera is nearly as good as the iPhone 7 Plus’, though it doesn’t have 2x optical zoom or the dual-camera tech to pull off accurate lens blur. Its lens blur effect is good, but the iPhone’s is just better.

You might also like the LG V20

The LG V20 is a big phablet with a 5.7-inch Quad HD Screen that comes with a tiny second screen at the top for quick actions and app shortcuts. It has killer wide-angle cameras front and back, a removable battery, and a slick metal design.

Our full review

The best things about the Pixel XL are its commitment to timely software updates and customer service. Pixel phones will get automatic Android software updates and security patches without delay. In fact, they will be automatically downloaded when you aren’t using the phone. No other Android phone will get more timely updates than the Pixel. That’s vitally important for your privacy and security.

The Pixel XL also has 24/7 customer support embedded right in its own tab in the Settings menu. It’s great that you can contact Google’s support team with any questions or problems right in your phone via chat or phone call. That’s just good business.

The Pixel XL may be as expensive as an iPhone, but it is well worth your money. Because it has timely software updates, it will last you longer and keep your data safer. It’s also part of a larger product ecosystem that Google is building, so it has a bright future. We are excited to see how the Pixel phone series evolves.

Our full review

The best Samsung phone

Samsung Galaxy S8

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: You want an eye-catching design and the best display

Our Score

The best Samsung phone

Samsung Galaxy S8

It’s the best Samsung phone you can buy.

$750.00 from T-Mobile

$756.00 from Verizon

Who’s it for: Samsung loyalists who want a great phone

How much will it cost: $750+

Why we picked the Galaxy S8:

Samsung has been innovating in the design department over the last few years with its curved edge displays and the S8 brings together every lesson into one of the best-looking phones we’ve ever laid eyes on. Curved glass front and back folds into a precise metal frame, and the home button has been wiped away, enabling Samsung to fit an impressively large screen into a body that’s comfortable to handle.

The S8 boasts a brilliant, 5.8-inch 1440p display that’s crisp and vibrant. Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology continues to lead the pack, with inky blacks and support for HDR. The S8 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835. It has 4GB of RAM, and there’s 64GB of internal storage, with a MicroSD card slot offering room for expansion. The battery is rated at 3,000mAh, which is enough to see you through the day. It also boasts the same IP68 rating as its predecessor, so water is nothing to worry about.

The main camera in the S8, which boasts 12 megapixels, super fast focusing, and an aperture of f/1.7, is much the same as last year’s S7 camera. It performs well in low-light scenarios and should leave you more than satisfied. The front-facing camera, however, has been improved. It’s an 8-megapixel camera with a wide selfie mode for group shots and a host of fun stickers, filters, and masks, which are ideal for selfie fans.

If you want a Samsung phone, this is the one to get. If you prefer something slightly bigger, then the S8 Plus stretches the screen up to 6.2 inches and has a bigger 3,500mAh battery, but it will cost you an extra $90.

Our full review

The best small Android phone

Google Pixel

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Why should you buy this: It’s the best small Android phone you can buy

Our Score

The best small Android phone

Google Pixel

Google’s Pixel is the fastest, finest, and most powerful small Android phone.

$649.00 from Verizon

$648.00 from Best Buy

Who’s it for: Android lovers who want a small phone

How much will it cost: $650+

Why we picked the Google Pixel:

Small and mighty Android phones are hard to come by these days. The Google Pixel stands alone in a sea of jumbo-sized phablets as the most powerful, small Android phone you can buy. Its 5-inch, 1080p screen is hardly petite when you compare it to the bite-sized iPhone SE, but it looks positively adorable next to its bigger brother, the Pixel XL.

The Pixel’s aluminum body is offset by a flashy glass panel at the top that will catch your eye (and your fingerprints). It is easy to hold and use one handed, and the fingerprint sensor on the back of the device adds security and the convenience of mobile payments.

However, the real appeal of the Pixel isn’t its design, but rather, its software. Google designed both the Pixel’s hardware and software from the ground up, so this is the smoothest and fastest Android has ever been. The slick new Pixel launcher streamlines Android by replacing the giant search box with a subtle G logo and removing the app drawer icon. You can still see all your apps in the drawer by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. It’s absolutely flawless.

Google’s artificially intelligent bot Assistant is just icing on the cake. Assistant replaces Google Now, and you can access her with a long press of the home button. Assistant can read your daily schedule, play music, answer queries, and so much more. It’s also integrated into the rest of Google’s new products, so you can use Assistant to control your smarthome, Chromecast, and more.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 chip, the 4GB of RAM onboard, and Google’s software optimization result in the highest-performing Android phone ever made. While most small phones skimp on performance, the Pixel surpasses the competition, including the Galaxy S7 and LG G5.

Its 12.3-megapixel camera takes stunning photos that are on par with the Galaxy S7, LG G5, iPhone 7, and other leading phones. There’s even a neat lens blur effect that’s powered by software and the ability to create GIFs. Battery life is a solid day, and you can quick charge it up to full in 15-30 minutes with Google’s charger.

Best of all? The Pixel gets automatic software updates directly from Google, so your phone will always be up to date and perfectly safe. Google also offers 24/7 customer support right in the settings menu, so you can reach out to Google immediately if you have a problem.

Our full review

The best small iPhone

iPhone 7

Apple iPhone 7

Why should you buy this: Big phones aren’t for everyone, and this small iPhone is great

Our Score

The best small iPhone

Apple iPhone 7

It’s the best small iPhone you can buy (no headphone jack notwithstanding).

$649.99 from T-Mobile

$649.99 from Verizon

Who’s it for: Apple fans who don’t want a giant phone

How much will it cost: $650+

Why we picked the iPhone 7:

Apple is now one of the few manufacturers that is still making a phone that’s smaller than 5-inches. The iPhone 7 is a better phone than the iPhone SE, sports the same 4.7-inch, 1,334 x 750 pixel Retina screen as the 6S, and comes wrapped in a very slim aluminum body. The biggest difference is that this year’s iPhone 7 is water-resistant with an IP67 rating. In other words, you can drop it in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes and it’s safe from dust particles. There are even two new black finishes for those who want a darker look.

Apple also upgraded the rear camera to a 12-megapixel shooter with a larger sensor and aperture. The front-facing shooter got an upgrade to 7 megapixels, too, so your selfies will look better than ever. The speedy A10 processor and 2GB RAM keep things moving, and iOS 10 is a revelation for iPhone users. It takes 3D Touch to another level and notifications are now interactive. It’s a truly incredible device for iOS users who still want a slightly smaller phone.

Want to go even smaller? Try the Apple iPhone SE ($400+)

What if the iPhone 7 isn’t small enough for you? Don’t worry; Apple has you covered with the 4-inch iPhone SE. This retro phone is the same size as the iPhone 5S, but it is powered by the same processor as the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. The only downsides to the SE are an older Touch ID sensor, a poor 1.5-megapixel front-facing camera, and the lack of 3D Touch. It does have a headphone jack, so there’s that.

Our full review

Battery life is slightly better on the iPhone 7 than it was on the iPhone 6S, but it will only last you a day, so you may want to pick up a battery case. Sure, the case will add some bulk to your phone and it’s not ideal, but if you’re desperate for more battery, you’ll want one.

Be forewarned that it doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack, though, so you’ll have to use wireless headphones, the included lightning earbuds, or the 3.5mm headphone jack to lightning cable adapter that’s in the box.

Nonetheless, the iPhone 7 is the best small iPhone you can buy, so if you’re not into phablets, but still want an iPhone, this is our pick for you.

Our full review

The best $400 phone

ZTE Axon 7

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Why should you buy this: You’re an adventurous Android fan who refuses to spend $650 on the Pixel

Our Score

The best $400 phone

ZTE Axon 7

It’s a true flagship killer with high-end specs, a slick design, and hi-res audio support.

$359.99 from Amazon

$367.99 from Best Buy

Who’s it for: Android fans who want killer specs for less

How much will it cost: $400+

Why we picked the ZTE Axon 7:

ZTE has done it again with the Axon 7. This all-metal device borrows a few specs from its predecessor, the Axon Pro, such as its 5.5-inch AMOLED screen and a 2,560 x 1,440-pixel resolution, but it improves on it in almost every other way. You’ll find it powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB RAM and a whopping 64GB internal storage. Thanks to MicroSD card support, you’ll also be able to upgrade to an additional 128GB of space.

It’s a high-powered flagship for a fraction of the price. The performance is faultless, which is in part thanks to the nearly pure Android software onboard. ZTE added a few extras with MiFlavor UI, but the overall experience is similar to Android on a Nexus. ZTE says it’s committed to updating the Axon 7 from Android Marshmallow to Nougat in time for Google’s DayDream VR, because the Axon 7 is the first phone that was built with Google’s new standards in mind.

The Axon 7’s 3,140mAh battery should last you a day, and ZTE has gotten rid of the dual-camera setup from the Pro and replaced it with a 21-megapixel rear camera and an 8-megapixel selfie cam. The cameras take solid pics that are nearly as good as the ones you’ll take with a Samsung Galaxy S7. The Axon 7 also boasts stellar audio capabilities with two front-facing stereo speakers and Dolby Atmos technology. It’s one of the best sounding phones you can buy with those speakers and hi-res audio support. These extra features are what put the Axon 7 over the top to edge out the great OnePlus 3 for our top pick in the $400 phone range.

You might also like the OnePlus 3T ($440)

The OnePlus 3T is also as powerful as any flagship phone, with its 5.5-inch 1080p screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and powerful quick charging technology. The phone sports a sleek, all-metal body and a fingerprint sensor to boot. It costs just a touch more at $440, while offering everything you’d expect from a flagship phone.

Our full review

The Axon 7 also boasts stellar audio capabilities with two front-facing stereo speakers and Dolby Atmos technology. It’s one of the best sounding phones you can buy with those speakers and hi-res audio support. These extra features are what put the Axon 7 over the top to edge out the great OnePlus 3 for our top pick in the $400 phone range.

The only downside is that you can’t buy it at your carrier, so you’ll have to grab one online from ZTE. ZTE does offer an installment payment plan, so you can pay about $20 a month for a few years to own the Axon 7 — just like you would at your carrier.

Our full review

The best $200+ phone

Moto G5 Plus

Lenovo Moto G5 Plus reviewKyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: You’re on a strict budget, but you still want a powerful phone

The best $200+ phone

Moto G5 Plus

It’s the best budget phone you can get for a mere $230.

$229.99 from Motorola

$299.99 from Newegg

Who’s it for: Bargain buyers who want a steady Android phone

How much will it cost: $230-$280

Why we picked the Moto G5 Plus:

Motorola’s Moto G series has been widely popular thanks to its sub-$200 prices. The new G5 Plus is the second since the Lenovo acquisition, and while it’s a little pricier, it certainly can’t be left off this list, especially since the basic Moto G5 isn’t being sold in the U.S.

For $230, the base model of the Moto G5 Plus offers a 5.2-inch, 1080p screen, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, and 2GB of RAM. There’s also a new, metallic design that brings a more expensive feel. You can opt for 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, or upgrade to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, for an extra $50. Thankfully, if storage is an issue, you can expand it via the MicroSD card slot.

The Moto G5 Plus has a nice, recessed fingerprint sensor on the front, and boasts a decent 12-megapixel rear camera, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. It also comes with a 3,000mAh battery, which should be more than enough to last you a day, and there’s support for turbo charging to replenish that battery in a hurry. It runs the latest, near stock Android 7.0 Nougat, and general performance is smooth and snappy.

It’s a shame that the smaller Moto G5 isn’t available Stateside, as it comes in around the $200 mark, but we would be advising you to find an extra $30 and upgrade to the G5 Plus anyway. The larger screen, better processor, bigger battery, and better camera make it a superior choice. The jump to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage in the more expensive model is a harder sell, especially since you can stick a MicroSD card in the G5 Plus to expand your available space.

Our full review

Should you buy now or wait?

Now is a good time to buy a phone. The Galaxy S8 just launched, and there are some great options already on the table. We aren’t expecting a new iPhone or Pixel until the Fall, or possibly later. If you’re an Apple fan, then you might want to hang on because the 10th anniversary iPhone 8 is widely expected to be something special.

If your phone is two or more years old, it’s time for a new one. You should definitely consider grabbing a new phone at this point. Since you’re about to start over fresh and carriers no longer offer two-year contracts or subsidized phone pricing, it’s best to buy your phone unlocked if possible. Unlocked phones can be used on any network, so you’ll be able to switch carriers and keep your phone if you want.

Buying your phone unlocked also means you’ll avoid carrier bloatware like extra apps and services you don’t need. If you are an Android user, it also means the carriers can’t hold back your software updates.

If your phone is just a year old or less, you really don’t need to get a new one (unless you have a Note 7 — Return it now!).

Which OS is best for you?

This is where things get personal. Picking a smartphone operating system is a huge deal. You’re buying into an entire ecosystem of apps and compatible products when you choose between Android and iOS.

Apple’s iOS is a beautiful, simple operating system and the App Store offers the best app selection imaginable. Each and every aspect of iOS is curated by Apple, and it shows. Android is more open and it has less rules, but that means that manufacturers and app makers can willfully ignore Google’s Material Design language and do whatever they want, sometimes rendering Android unrecognizable and ugly. Pure Android is gorgeous, but you don’t often see it. Only Google’s Pixel and Nexus phones run a pure version of the operating system. iOS is always beautiful and a pleasure to use on every iPhone because Apple has complete control over the OS.

Since Apple is the only company that makes iPhones, it also has complete control over software updates. As such, iPhone users always get the most recent and best iOS experience possible. The vast majority of iPhone users were on iOS 9 when iOS 10 came out, and nearly 15 percent immediately updated to iOS 10 just one day after its launch. By February, 2017 a full 79 percent of Apple devices were running iOS 10.

Android users don’t have that luxury. Unless you own a Pixel or Nexus device — and very few of Android users do — you will have to wait months if not years to get software updates. That’s why less than 5 percent of Android users are running the latest Android 7.0 Nougat, which was released in August 2016. Only 31.2 percent of Android users are currently running Android 6.0 Marshmallow on their phones and it dropped at the end of 2015. In fact, there are more Android users running Lollipop, which is from 2014, than there are users running Marshmallow. It’s absurd.

Software updates contain security updates, which keep your phone safe from malware, viruses, and hackers. Android is the most heavily targeted mobile OS, so it is attacked by the worst bugs, like Stagefright and Heartbleed, both of which remain unpatched for millions of Android users. Google now issues a security patch every month, but many manufacturers don’t push them to users in a timely fashion, if ever.

In contrast, Apple can immediately patch security flaws and send the updated software to all iPhone users immediately. Since most users update their software when prompted, most iOS users are protected from these very real threats. There is no denying that iPhone users are safer. Apple’s iOS also offers full encryption with no compromises. The company even went to war with the U.S. government and the FBI to guarantee the right to encryption for its users. If you care about your security, you should buy an iPhone.

How we test

A phone is so much more than its spec sheet. Your entire life is stored on it, from your photos and contacts to your music and your favorite apps. There is no device more personal than your smartphone, so it’s with great care that we review phones to recommend that you buy only the best ones out there.

We use each phone we review as our daily driver for an extended period of time to test out all the features. We do benchmarks, play games, take photos, plunge them in water, and use them until their batteries expire. Then we charge ’em up and do it all over again. We test devices like real people use devices. We’re not in some stuffy lab during obscure tests. We’re running around the cities we live in using these phones just like you use your phones.

Then we think about each phone in comparison with its competitors to come to a decision: Should you buy this phone or something else? If the answer is “something else,” we tell you what to buy instead.

Smartphone innovation has peaked, and the number of radical new features that come out each year is shrinking. As such, when you’re buying a phone, you’re buying a device that will be with you 24/7 for several years. It’s a big choice, and things like apps, a product ecosystem, customer support, and security should become important factors in your buying decision.




5
May

Best app deals of the day! 6 paid iPhone apps for free for a limited time


Everyone likes apps, but sometimes the best ones are a bit expensive. Now and then, developers make paid apps free for a limited time, but you have to snatch them up while you have the chance. Here are the latest and greatest apps on sale in the iOS App Store.

These apps normally cost money, and this sale lasts for a limited time only. If you go to the App Store and it says the app costs money, that means the deal has expired and you will be charged. 

More: 200 Awesome iPhone Apps | The best Android apps for almost any occasion

Smart Merge Pro

Your contacts are the most important data in your phone. Smart Merge Pro easily helps you detect and merge duplicate contacts.

Available on:

iOS

Lucid Dreaming

Control your dreams and discover a new awareness with “Lucid Dreaming Hypnosis” from Rachael Meddows.

Available on:

iOS

Fitrack

Achieving your goals and working through your pain is what matters in the gym. Fitrack makes tracking your results effortless. You can choose from hundreds of animated exercises and create routines in a matter of moments.

Available on:

iOS

Zones

Zones is the simplest way to convert time zones between cities around the world. Recently rewritten and updated to version 2.0, Zones is the best way to deal with time zones on iOS.

Available on:

iOS

Go Tip

Go Tip is a bill splitter and tip calculator that is quick, simple, and doesn’t get in your way. Determine how much each individual owes. The tip amount for each is shown along with the total amount owed based on the tip percentage.

Available on:

iOS

Adrian James 6 Pack Abs

Adrian James 6 Pack Abs Workout has become an international sensation. Download the chart-topping app to transform your body and gain a newfound lust for life.

Available on:

iOS




5
May

Proposed U.K. law lets authorities snoop on communications, defeat encryption


Why it matters to you

The U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Bill grants law enforcement sweeping surveillance powers.

The United Kingdom’s Investigatory Powers Bill faced a firestorm of criticism this week after a leak of documents detailing the law’s surveillance powers. According to the International Business Times, it would permit U.K. law enforcement agencies to request the content of telephone calls, text messages, and internet browsing activity, and require some telecoms and services to provide a way around encryption.

The leak included a nine-page draft titled “technical capability notice,” which required internet providers and phone companies to “provide and maintain the capability to ensure the interception, in their entirety, of all communications […] in their entirety, of all secondary data authorized by or required by the warrant.” Telecom companies would be expected to hand over data within 24 hours, in some cases, and would be required to store data for 12 months.

The Investigatory Powers Bill also targets end-to-end encryption, the digital method of obfuscation used to secure communications. Telecom companies — including U.S. companies which operate in the U.K., potentially — would be required to “disclose, where practicable, the content of communications […] in an intelligible form and to remove electronic protection applied by or on behalf of the telecommunications operator.”

There are some limits to what U.K. authorities could do. Surveillance requests would have to be approved by either a senior police official or the Secretary of State, and would be overseen by a judge appointed by the Prime Minister. Telecommunications firms which solely provide service to banking, insurance, investment, or other financial services won’t be subject to the law, and warrants won’t be imposed on carriers with fewer than 10,000 customers.

Still, advocacy groups criticized the bill for “disproportionate powers […] straight out of an Orwellian nightmare.” Jim Killock, executive director of the U.K.’s Open Rights Group, told the International Business Times that “[the powers] could be directed at companies like WhatsApp to limit their encryption.”

“The public has a right to know about the government powers that could put their privacy and security at risk,” he said. “There needs to be transparency about how such measures are judged to be reasonable, the risks that are imposed on users […] and how companies can challenge the demands.”

The documents, which were drafted in consultation with the U.K.’s Technical Advisory Board, have yet to be approved by the U.K.’s parliament. But the bill is expected to become law by late May, after a brief “consultation” period.

In March, following the terrorist attack in London which left many people injured and one killed, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced the U.K. government’s intention to persuade WhatsApp to provide a way for authorities to read encrypted messages.

“We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other,” Rudd told The Guardian.




5
May

Proposed U.K. law lets authorities snoop on communications, defeat encryption


Why it matters to you

The U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Bill grants law enforcement sweeping surveillance powers.

The United Kingdom’s Investigatory Powers Bill faced a firestorm of criticism this week after a leak of documents detailing the law’s surveillance powers. According to the International Business Times, it would permit U.K. law enforcement agencies to request the content of telephone calls, text messages, and internet browsing activity, and require some telecoms and services to provide a way around encryption.

The leak included a nine-page draft titled “technical capability notice,” which required internet providers and phone companies to “provide and maintain the capability to ensure the interception, in their entirety, of all communications […] in their entirety, of all secondary data authorized by or required by the warrant.” Telecom companies would be expected to hand over data within 24 hours, in some cases, and would be required to store data for 12 months.

The Investigatory Powers Bill also targets end-to-end encryption, the digital method of obfuscation used to secure communications. Telecom companies — including U.S. companies which operate in the U.K., potentially — would be required to “disclose, where practicable, the content of communications […] in an intelligible form and to remove electronic protection applied by or on behalf of the telecommunications operator.”

There are some limits to what U.K. authorities could do. Surveillance requests would have to be approved by either a senior police official or the Secretary of State, and would be overseen by a judge appointed by the Prime Minister. Telecommunications firms which solely provide service to banking, insurance, investment, or other financial services won’t be subject to the law, and warrants won’t be imposed on carriers with fewer than 10,000 customers.

Still, advocacy groups criticized the bill for “disproportionate powers […] straight out of an Orwellian nightmare.” Jim Killock, executive director of the U.K.’s Open Rights Group, told the International Business Times that “[the powers] could be directed at companies like WhatsApp to limit their encryption.”

“The public has a right to know about the government powers that could put their privacy and security at risk,” he said. “There needs to be transparency about how such measures are judged to be reasonable, the risks that are imposed on users […] and how companies can challenge the demands.”

The documents, which were drafted in consultation with the U.K.’s Technical Advisory Board, have yet to be approved by the U.K.’s parliament. But the bill is expected to become law by late May, after a brief “consultation” period.

In March, following the terrorist attack in London which left many people injured and one killed, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced the U.K. government’s intention to persuade WhatsApp to provide a way for authorities to read encrypted messages.

“We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other,” Rudd told The Guardian.




5
May

Learn to build cross-platform apps with Xamarin for just $35


App development is the bees’ knees right now. The cat’s pajamas. “Where it’s at”. But do you build apps for iOS or Android? And which software do you use to do it? Of course, you want your apps to be in both the Google Play Store and the App Store, so do you bounce back and forth between coding languages to get them there? No.

Learn to code with Xamarin for only $35! Learn More

There’s a big opportunity for people who use Xamarin to help develop apps for both iOS and Android, simultaneously. People who can use Xamarin to its fullest are much-sought-after in the current app development industry and the current app development industry is thriving. You need to get in there and show ’em what you got. But you need to learn Xamarin and get some real-world app-building experience first.

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Enter the Xamarin Cross Platform Development Bundle from Android Central Digital Offers. Through more than 57 hours of content, you’ll learn the absolute basics of Xamarin, right up to the most advanced cross-platform development techniques, and you’ll build fully functional apps for iOS and Android using the C# programming language. That’s lifetime access to almost 60 hours of content, comprising 6 courses, for only $35. Go elsewhere for this kind of education, and you’d end up spending over $1000, but at Android Central Digital Offers, you save 96%!

Understand the most popular development platform now! Learn More

In the first course, you’ll learn the basics of Xamarin and jump in the deep end, creating fully developed apps. From there, you’ll tackle mastering C#, Xamarin Forms, Xamarin and Android, building native cross-platform apps, and finish off with the Ultimate Xamarin Course, where you’ll learn advanced development techniques and strategies.

App development is big business right now and being able to simultaneously create apps for the two biggest mobile platforms is not only efficient but a valuable skill in the industry. Grab the Xamarin Cross Platform Development Bundle from Android Central Digital Offers and learn all there is to know about Xamarin so that you can get a foot in the app development door and start to build your career. Just don’t pay over $1000 elsewhere. Get lifetime access to over 57 hours of content for just $35 at Android Central Digital Offers.

5
May

The OnePlus 5 is confirmed to be coming this summer


Prepare your wallets, a new OnePlus is on the horizon.

Update: Android Central has independently confirmed that the OnePlus 5 will launch in the early summer timeframe, likely early June.

There’s still plenty we don’t know about the next phone from OnePlus, but one thing that has been absolutely settled is when everyone can expect to buy it. According to The Verge, and confirmed by Android Central, OnePlus will be unveiling its next phone at some point in the summer, and it’s not being called OnePlus 4 because that number is considered unlucky. Instead, as rumors suggested, it’ll be called the OnePlus 5.

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OnePlus has a history of making hardware for enthusiasts who get excited about raw specs, so rumors of a Snapdragon 835 with 6GB of RAM under a 5.5-inch 1080p display and dual cameras on the back tick a lot of boxes for that crowd. The current OnePlus 3T is still considered more than enough phone for a lot of people, and at nearly half the price of the industry heavyweights. While none of these details have been confirmed, it’s not hard to see OnePlus pulling out all of the stops and making sure this phone feels like a worthy upgrade in every possible way for its loyal userbase.

Are you excited about this OnePlus 5? What is the one killer feature you’d like to see OnePlus nail with this generation? Sound off in the comments!

OnePlus 3T and OnePlus 3

  • OnePlus 3T review: Rekindling a love story
  • OnePlus 3T vs. OnePlus 3: What’s the difference?
  • OnePlus 3T specs
  • Latest OnePlus 3 news
  • Discuss OnePlus 3T and 3 in the forums

OnePlus
Amazon

5
May

Samsung Gear VR: The best mobile VR headset you can buy today


One of the most feature complete VR experiences available today, and all you need to power it is your phone.

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Samsung and Oculus have worked closely together since late in 2014 on a way to offer a compelling VR experience using little more than a phone. The Gear VR uses Samsung’s superior display tech and a unique but locked down software experience from Oculus, and since that initial launch there have been four revisions to the hardware. The most recent revision, released alongside the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, takes the Gear VR experience to new heights by offering a special motion controller for new depths in interactivity.

gear-vr-front-bby.jpg?itok=q91y9_Xk Samsung Gear VR with Controller See at Amazon

Like its predecessors, this latest version of the Gear VR is designed to be worn for hours, and can even charge your phone from while it is docked in the headset so extended gaming or movie sessions don’t negatively impact your battery for the rest of the day. Perhaps most important, it’s comfortable enough that you’d actually want to wear it for those extended periods of time.

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Why should I care about VR?

Virtual Reality is a new way to explore a lot of amazing things you’d otherwise never get to see in person, by making you feel like you are in an entirely different place. You can stand in the middle of Stonehenge, or sit at the top of the Empire State Building, and everything you see is a massive spherical image of that place. You can even invite other people to experience these things with you, and talk to a virtual version of them as though you are standing right next to each other.

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It’s also incredible for entertainment. You can watch the next episode of The Handmaid’s Tale with a friend living on the other side of the world, blast zombies away with futuristic rifles, or pilot the fastest spacecraft in the galaxy. These experiences don’t live on a flat screen in front of you, it’s happening all around you when you’re wearing a VR headset.

You don’t need to be sitting still or standing in place to enjoy VR either. There are amusement parks all around the world using VR headsets to turn roller coasters into amazing new experiences just by switching out the sights and sounds of the theme park with something immersive and new. This form of immersion even had medical uses, from assisting in physical therapy sessions to distracting from pain.

It may seem strange to see VR be called new, especially if you remember back when massive heavy headsets and bulking computers-filled malls with things that made a lot of people nauseous after a few minutes. What we’re talking about here isn’t anywhere near the same thing, even though it does have the same name. It’s new, it’s fun, and if you’ve not tried a new Gear VR it’s time to give one a shot.

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How the Gear VR stands out

Basically, this headset is a complete thought. It’s designed to keep light out while offering ventilation to keep the lenses from fogging up after extended use, and can be quickly adjusted for a variety of different eye comfort levels. You can wear the headset with glasses or without, and the headset itself offers additional tracking hardware to guarantee a smooth experience even when quickly turning in an app of game. It’s also very sturdy, so there’s no need to worry if you pack it away in luggage or a backpack that gets knocked around a bit.

gear-vr-front-bby.jpg?itok=ZARx_0Zn 8.18 in207.8mm
3.89 in98.9mm
12.17oz345g
  • Lens
    • 101˚ FOV
    • 62mm IPD (fixed)
    • 10mm Eye Relief
  • Ports
    • USB-C, OTG
    • MicroUSB
  • Sensors
    • Gyroscope
    • Accelerometer
    • Proximity (Headset only)
    • Magnetometer (Controller only)

There’s an important detail in that specs sheet which helps explain why this headset stands out in the crowd. The Samsung Gear VR is more than plastic and glass, it has extra sensors baked in to help the phone process motion tracking. This additional information means things like turning your head quickly in a Gear VR feels more natural, which can make a big difference for people easily unsettled by the almost out of body feeling so frequently associated with virtual reality.

While there are other VR experiences that use a phone to deliver other-worldly visuals and exciting games, Samsung has ensure there is no competition for the Gear VR if you’ve already purchased a phone. If you are already happy with your phone and would like to explore VR, the decision has largely been made for you thanks to exclusivity agreements.

Galaxy S8 ✔️
Galaxy S8+ ✔️
Galaxy S7 ✔️
Galaxy S7 edge ✔️
Note 5 ✔️
Pixel ✔️
Pixel XL ✔️
Moto Z ✔️
Moto Z Force ✔️

The good news is a lot of the most popular experiences in VR are made by companies happy to make sure every VR users has the same experience. The bad news is if you enjoy your Gear VR experiences but want a phone made by another manufacturer in the future, you will be leaving things like game saves and friends lists behind. This isn’t a huge deal if you’re only using your Gear VR occasionally, but once you find something unique that hooks you into diving into VR daily it’s clear you’ll likely be sticking with Samsung for a while.

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Embracing the Gear VR Controller

While the Gear VR has many games which support or require the addition of a Bluetooth gamepad, many games rely on the touch pad mounted on the side of the headset for input. That works well for quick apps and games, but if you want someone to do something in VR for an extended period of time you can’t expect them to keep their hand mounted on the side of the headset.

Enter the Gear VR Controller.

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This small Bluetooth wand lets you do everything you would normally do on the side of the headset, but in the palm of your hand. It’s not only significantly more comfortable, but it also adds buttons for developers to add features to. Where everything in the past was “swipe up to jump” you can now have a button for things like this, which is way more fun.

Samsung and Oculus very much see this Controller as the future.

The Gear VR Controller does way more. When you look down at your hand while wearing the Gear VR, you can actually see the controller. As you move it around in your hand, those movements are seen in the Gear VR. The Controller has something called Three Degrees of Freedom (3Dof) which means you can move it around and those movements will be added to VR. For VR games, this means a pistol you can actually point and shoot. For education or browsing, this means a laser pointer in your hand for precise pointing and even typing.

You get a Gear VR Controller with the latest Gear VR, but if you already own a Gear VR it’s super easy to add the Controller to your existing experience since you can buy it separately. Samsung and Oculus very much see this Controller as the future, and have worked with over 40 developers to quickly build unique new experiences which rely heavily on this unique new controller.

Read more: Where to buy a Gear VR Controller

Create the ultimate Gear VR kit with these accessories!

  • Best Gamepad — Steelseries Stratus XL
  • Best Headphones — Sennheiser HD 598 Cs
  • Best Memory add-on — Samsung 128GB MicroSD
  • Best Carrying case — Caseling Hard Case

Gaming in your Gear VR

Yep, you can play a lot of incredible games on the Gear VR. In fact, there are more great games on the Gear VR than any other mobile VR platform. You can play epic puzzle games, shooters, racing, even tabletop fantasy card games. There’s a lot to love about the options you have available, and new experiences are hitting the Oculus Store daily.

Check out the best free games for the Gear VR

You need to stand up to play these amazing Gear VR games

These are our favorite Gear VR games

Best of all, the Oculus store makes it easy to see which games are the most intense right in the description. You can set your comfort level, or you can push your own limits to see what you can handle. It’s entirely up to you, which makes it a ton of fun.

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What about overheating?

Virtual Reality is incredibly demanding on these tiny pocket computers we’re so fond of. These experiences require more from the processor, graphics, and display than just about anything else you can do with your phone. As a result, a lot of early Gear VR experiences were limited to a few minutes to keep the phone from staying warmer than usual for too long. Samsung has worked hard to address this over the last few generations, with the Galaxy S8 representing the most significant change in performance.

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Samsung Gear VR thermal test: Galaxy S7 (left) vs Galaxy S8 (right)

In many ways, mobile processors have caught up to the expectations set by virtual reality experiences. With a Galaxy S8 in a Gear VR, you can play for multiple hours without ever seeing a heat warning. This is a big deal when compared to the first generation Samsung and Oculus first created, and overcoming this hurdle means VR developers can push the envelope ever further and create more intense and realistic experiences to delight the senses.

Sex, Drugs, and Gear VR

I’m sure some of you have questions about using a Gear VR that maybe aren’t “family friendly” because I get those questions in my email all the time. Don’t worry, we’ve got the answers you need.

Yes, you can watch porn on a Gear VR

You can use a Gear VR while high, but be careful

Be safe, and have a good time!

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Where to go for even more information

We’ve only scratched the surface of what is possible with your Gear VR, and how to make sure you’re getting the most out of these hardware. And really, that’s what makes the Gear VR so uniquely deserving of being called the best mobile VR headset you can buy right now. The sheer volume of amazing things you can do is exciting, and seriously grows every day.

gear-vr-front-bby.jpg?itok=q91y9_Xk Samsung Gear VR with Controller See at Amazon

If you’re on the fence about a Gear VR, or you have one now and want to know more about having a great time with this experience, here are some great resources for you to check out.

The Ultimate Troubleshooting Guide for your Samsung Gear VR

Check out our Gear VR forums to chat with fellow VR fans

5
May

Top Tips and Tricks for CATS: Crash Arena Turbo Stars


Blast your opponents away with these tips and tricks for CATS!

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CATS is an explosive new game for Android developed by ZeptoLab. It’s a game that challenges you to build the best battling war machine using parts you unlock from timed crates as you work your way up the rankings.

It’s easy enough to learn the base mechanics at play here, but harder to actually unlock and determine the best strategies to win. You’ll need to invest some time —and probably some money, if we’re being honest here — if you want to progress quickly. But some smart tips and tricks will help you get the edge on your opponents without spending for in-app purchases.

Here’s the best strategies we’ve found so far.

Things you need to know to get started

Your death machines are comprised of three things: the body, the wheels, and the weapons/accessories.

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The most important component is the body. When determining which body to start building your machine around, you’ll want to consider the style, weapon placement, and power rating. As we’ll discuss in the next section, anything with a wedge shape is automatically best suited to win most fights, but the location of the fixed weapon sockets and the power levels are equally important. The body power level determines how many weapons you can add, while the weapon sockets show where they can be placed.

After time you’re going to collect some pretty garbage parts that will never win you any fights. but are still valuable for upgrading. You’re able to fuse parts together to upgrade them by dragging the part you want to fuse to the stats page for the part you want to upgrade. This is not the time to be hoarding parts — if you’ve got the credits needed to fuse and upgrade a part you should do it.

Selecting the right wheels is also important. Go too small and you may lack the traction needed to push against the opponent. Go too big and you’re susceptible to being flipped. This is where you’re going to have to do some independent testing to find the right wheel combinations that serve your needs. I’ve seen some pretty interesting designs that only use one set of wheels, too, so don’t feel limited by traditional design tropes.

Get low

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If you’ve ever participated in a robotic sumo match (or sumo matches in general, I guess), you know there are two keys to victory — get low and maintain your footing. The same theory comes into play in CATS, where you’ll often be able to get the upper hand on your opponent right quick by getting underneath them at first contact. By that logic, wedges with a low center of gravity are your best build types.

The “classic” body type is a great option to use, especially if you unlock one with advantageous weapon positioning near the front for a drill or a chainsaw. Otherwise, you may want to equip a forklift to give you an artificial lift when you get in tight with your opponent.

When you’re first starting out, you’re going to be somewhat limited by the parts available to you, and then limited based on the configuration of the body — where the weapon posts are positioned and its overall power capacity. If you come across anything with a power capacity of 10 or more you’re going to want to keep it, since it should allow you to mix and match multiple weapons.

Pick up design tips from your opponents

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One of the benefits of battles being played out automatically is that the results are purely based on a combination of physics and the design of the machines battling. As you play through the Championship or Quick Fight modes, take note of any and all design choices that prove to be really successful. Granted sometimes machines simply have While maybe you don’t have the parts to copy it exactly just yet, you’ll want to remember which combinations were especially effective.

Being able to recognize superior designs will also help you extend your Quick Fight win streaks, as you should be able to cherrypick opponents with whom you have an upper hand over.

Take advantage of bonuses to your advantage

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Certain parts were just made to be together, which you’ll discover from the the bonuses linked to special parts them. These can have an effect on your machine’s total health, or boost the strength of a specific weapon type.

Combining these special parts together might seem like the perfect strategy, but you also need to avoid forcing the issue and creating a machine that’s supercharged with bonuses but still lacking in the fundamentals of good design. Then again, if you manage to muster up a supercharged weapon, you don’t technically even need wheels to win. Maximizing your rockets and then operating as a motionless turret might not feel in the spirit of the game, but it sure can be effective!

Download: CATS: Crash Arena Turbo Stars (Free w/IAPs)

Android Gaming

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  • Best Android games
  • Best free Android games
  • Best games with no in-app purchases
  • Best action games for Android
  • Best RPGs for Android
  • All the Android gaming news!

5
May

It’s a breeze to manage your notifications on Gear VR


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We’ve got the details on how to manage those pesky notifications when you’re in VR.

Whether it’s making sure that you know when a text message from your mom comes in, or letting you know that the email you’ve been waiting on has arrived, notifications on your phone serve an important purpose. However, what do you do when you’re trying to gun down the enemy and a notification that you don’t care about pops up on your screen? Well, have no fear; we’ve got all the details on how to manage your notifications within Gear VR.

Read more at VRHeads.com

5
May

T-Mobile gets into the insurance game with Premium Device Protection Plus


“That’s a real nice phone you got there. It’d be a shame if anything happened to it.”

Let’s face it: it’s a dangerous world out there for a nerd and their Android phone. Our lives are on these pocketable computers and they’re up against a big bad world of malware, phishing, identity theft, device theft, bugs, breakdowns, and screen-shattering drops. If you feel the need for some more security for your phone — and your peace of mind — T-Mobile has a new service to sell starting May 7.

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Behold, T-Mobile’s Premium Device Protection Plus or PDP Plus for short. The service bundles a whole heck of a lot of security and support-based services and shoves them under that mouthful of a name for a monthly fee. McAfee Security for T-Mobile and VIP tech support are a few of the headliners in this security smorgasbord.

Seriously, though, look at this laundry list of services being shoved under this $15/month service:

  • Identity theft protection tools with 24/7/365 dedicated agents to provide Lost Wallet and ID Restoration services backed by $1 million insurance for qualifying recovery expenses.
    Data Protection against viruses and online threats and including privacy protection for up to 10 compatible devices, including phones, tablets and even your PCs and Macs. Also includes a password manager and anti-theft features like a capture cam capability that takes a photo of whoever is trying to unlock your phone (after 3 failed attempts) and emails you their location!
  • Device Protection provides coverage for accidental damage and hardware service—for any mechanical breakdown—as well as lost and stolen devices.
  • AppleCare Services for a newly purchased or financed iPhone or iPad provides 24/7 priority access to AppleCare technical support (via chat or phone); low service fees—like just $29 for iPhone screen damage and free battery service; Apple-certified repair or replacement at Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers; hardware service with genuine Apple parts; software support for iOS, iCloud, and Apple-branded iOS apps; and hardware repairs and service backed by Apple, the people who know iPhone and iPad best.
  • Tech PHD (Personal Help Desk) provides VIP-level access to immediate, personal technical and diagnostic support via online chat, phone and self-serve resources for devices that connect to your T-Mobile phones, tablets and Hotspots – like printers, routers, TVs and game consoles.

If you want this cyber cornucopia, it’s available to T-Mobile customers buying a new phone and adding a new line of service. If you just bought yourself a T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S8 — or any other new T-Mobile smartphone in the last 60 days — you can upgrade to JUMP! Plus, the new level of the JUMP! device upgrading program that comes with PDP Plus.

Which unlimited plan should you buy?

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