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6
Jun

OnePlus 6 review, a second opinion: The best Android phone under $550


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This is a fantastic phone with top-notch software, performance and capabilities — and it happens to be a few hundred bucks cheaper than the competition.

OnePlus has been so incredibly consistent in its phone releases, particularly since the OnePlus 2, that you kind of get tired of the storyline. It’s a flagship-level phone, without the flagship-level price. (The “flagship killer” moniker has all but died, thankfully.) We get it now, that base premise in itself no longer makes OnePlus phones interesting. So it has to actually make a phone that stands alone as something good and exciting, not just one that does most of what the competition does at a lower price.

I’ve been using the OnePlus 6 for a few weeks now, well after our complete OnePlus 6 review — because on the face of it this looked like yet another OnePlus phone, and I wanted to see whether there was more to it. In many ways, it’s more of the same — the tried-and-true OnePlus system is at play here. But with some strategic upgrades and a little more attention to detail, OnePlus has a winner on its hands.

See at OnePlus

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Lots to love

OnePlus 6 What I like

The OnePlus 6 is the first phone from the company since the OnePlus X that isn’t woefully boring looking. The improved design and materials alone are worth the added cost of the OnePlus 6 compared to the 5T, and that’s important — because now that we’ve crested the $500 barrier, people put real weight behind these non-essential aspects of the phone experience.

Hold the OnePlus 6 next to any $700+ phone and you won’t find a difference in quality.

Nobody would hold the OnePlus 6 next to any $700+ phone and point out hardware shortcomings. I sure can’t find any issues — and better yet, I think it’s really nice. The glass feels modern and expensive, the glossy sides match perfectly, and the whole thing just has a classy ambiance to it. There’s still a whole lot of room for OnePlus to go further and really put its own touch on this, but the “Designed by OnePlus” inscription on the back certainly shows that the company is taking this part more seriously.

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Even with the fresh look, the OnePlus 6 retained one of my favorite parts of its predecessors: simplicity. OnePlus has stayed away from the hardware gimmicks. It has regular buttons in regular places, and they have great tactile response. There’s a headphone jack. The always-great Alert Slider is right where you want it. No curved screen or unnecessary hardware buttons or squeeze functionality or “features” to get acquainted with.

The OnePlus 6’s software, too, is extremely simple. It also happens to offer a fantastic level of performance I can always count on. OxygenOS flies on the OnePlus 6 — but then again, it did on the OnePlus 5. This has just become a tent pole of OnePlus phones, but it doesn’t get old because this isn’t a given even on modern phones with comparable specs to the OnePlus 6. Everything is simple, fast and consistent — it’s all I ask for from a phone. I don’t want extra features and apps and settings, I just want the phone to be a tool for accessing everything I want in my apps and services. The OnePlus 6 delivers, even weeks into my review period, I haven’t had a single hiccup, slowdown or crash.

Exceptional software and consistent performance are tent poles of OnePlus phones.

I wish OnePlus would’ve made another step up in battery size just on principle, but the OnePlus 6 just doesn’t need more capacity. I never struggled to make it through a day on a charge, and the only thing that ever got me close was a day that included over two hours of GPS- and data-intensive mapping and listening to podcasts in Android Auto. Through weeks of use, I never felt like I needed to curtail my usage of the OnePlus 6 for fear of battery repercussions later on in the day. And that’s all I can really ask for: confidence in the battery.

Ahead of the OnePlus 6 announcement, I made it clear that I wasn’t going to give the company a pass on camera performance this time around. With a price bump and even more importance being placed on smartphone cameras, there’s no more room for OnePlus to have a good camera “for the money” — it needed to just have a good camera. And it delivered. I’m still disappointed that OnePlus still isn’t doing anything particularly interesting with its secondary camera, but it got the main camera right this time around. Moving to a larger sensor, adding OIS and running it all through a better ISP in the Snapdragon 845 elevated the OnePlus 6’s camera considerably.

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This is finally a camera that’s downright good, not just ‘good for the money.’

The OnePlus 6’s camera is good, really good. In daylight, the shots could pass for those from any top-end phone released in the last year. If you want to nitpick, you can point out it isn’t quite as sharp as some, or that the dynamic range when using HDR isn’t totally amazing. But it’s great, you don’t have anything to worry about in daylight. At night, OnePlus made considerable advancement from the generally weak OnePlus 5 camera. This is up to “above average” level in low-light shots, which places it a rung below the cream of the crop — but that’s an acceptable shortcoming at this point. Things aren’t amazingly sharp in low light, and the white balance can sometimes be off, but these are small problems — most of the time, I liked what I got from the OnePlus 6 in tough shooting conditions.

OnePlus 6 vs. Galaxy S9+ camera comparison: Closer than you’d think

Is the OnePlus 6’s camera is good as the Pixel 2 XL, Galaxy S9+ or Huawei P20? No. But it’s getting close, and that’s more than good enough for this phone. It feels like the only thing separating OnePlus from the aforementioned group is the thousands of hours and dozens of engineers required to get the computational photography part of the recipe just right. That takes time and money (and often patents) that aren’t always easy to come by. But as it stands, the camera is no longer the weak point of the OnePlus phone, and that’s an important step. If the next full generation (OnePlus 7, not 6T) makes the same sort of leap in camera performance, OnePlus will be excruciatingly close to the top competition in cameras.

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A few complaints

OnePlus 6 What’s not as good

Now this isn’t all just a love-fest. There are still corners that have to be cut (or at least rounded off) at a $529 price, and other areas where OnePlus just hasn’t executed properly.

For all of the great components, a few corners had to be cut.

Internally, OnePlus spent money on the components it knows will sell phones to its core customers: processor, memory, storage, and battery. I covered the battery part above, but having the big numbers in the other three categories is important — OnePlus can say it has the same, or better, core specs than the more-expensive competition. But that means that it didn’t get to include the “extras” like a fantastic display, advanced speaker system or a full waterproofing rating.

The OnePlus 6’s display is good. It’s even above average. But it’s not up to speed with super-bright daylight conditions, nor does it get quite dark enough at night for my eyes. Colors and viewing angles are good, and there isn’t much to complain about here in daily use, but it’s these fringe cases that separate “good” from “great” displays. The speaker is as basic as it gets — no attempt at dual speakers, special audio chambers or specific tuning … and that, too, is disappointing. Every other phone I’ve used in the last year has a better audio system than the OnePlus 6. And finally yes, I know the OnePlus 6 is pretty much waterproof. But unless OnePlus is willing to do the proper testing and certification to give it an IPX7 rating on the box, I’m not going to trust it — and that’s something I have to think about on a regular basis.

The vibration and haptics are just downright bad — there’s no way around it.

I’ve railed on this before, and (thankfully) I know I’m not alone: the vibration and haptics on the OnePlus 6 are just downright bad. Haptic response is one of those things where you aren’t supposed to notice it — when done well, it just feels right. When it’s done like the OnePlus 6, it’s noticeable and completely detracts from the otherwise fantastic experience of using this phone. Every time the phone vibrates, it’s rattling, loud and shallow-feeling. There are $250 Motorola phones that have a better grasp of vibration motors. An adjustable vibration setting would at least mitigate the issue — but that wouldn’t be able to fix this entirely, it’s a hardware problem. I know it seems pedantic, but I really wish OnePlus would’ve put more thought and development time into the haptics — like the design mentioned above, these are the things people start to care about when the price of the phone goes north of $500.

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The matter has been settled

OnePlus 6 Second opinion review

If you’re willing to spend up to $550 on a phone, but not a penny more, the OnePlus 6 is where your search starts and ends. For this kind of money, you just can’t find a better combination of specs, hardware, features, camera, software and performance. It’s a great phone that absolutely nails the basics, but also goes beyond your expectations in many other ways.

If your budget caps out at $550, the OnePlus 6 is where your search starts and ends.

OnePlus was likely going to keep holding that “best phone for the money” moniker if it simply refreshed the OnePlus 5 again. But with this improved design, better camera and a bit more attention to detail it has also managed to wiggle its way up into being a credible direct competitor to the more expensive competition. Aside from a few minimal issues, the OnePlus 6 faithfully competes with top-end phones from other companies — and at the same time, its software experience and performance matches or outdoes every other phone out there.

There are better phones if money is no option. And there are better “values” to be had in less expensive phones that still do much of what the OnePlus 6 does. But in this pricing sweet spot, I see no other competition — this phone is the winner.

See at OnePlus

OnePlus 6

  • OnePlus 6 review
  • OnePlus 6 vs. OnePlus 5T: How much changes in six months?
  • OnePlus 6 vs. OnePlus 5: Should you upgrade?
  • These are the official OnePlus 6 cases
  • The OnePlus 6 doesn’t work on Verizon or Sprint
  • Join the discussion in the forums

6
Jun

Unlocked LG G6 finally gets Android 8.0 Oreo update


The May 2018 security patch is included, too.

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The LG G6, one of 2017’s most underrated phones, has been stuck on Nougat since its release. LG promised (and failed) to push Android Oreo to the phone by the end of April, and after missing that deadline, it looks like the update’s finally being rolled out in early June.

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One of our readers recently got an update on their unlocked LG G6 (model US99720a) that upgraded it to 8.0 Oreo and also included the May 2018 security patch.

All of Oreo’s regular features are included, such as picture-in-picture and notification dots, in addition to aesthetic changes to LG’s launcher and settings page.

Interestingly enough, our reader indicates that their G6 has been noticeably slower since upgrading to Oreo, saying that apps take “1-3 seconds to load” and that it’s “struggling to refresh all the app icons and widgets” when going back to their home screen from an app.

We should see U.S. carriers updating their G6 models soon if the unlocked variant’s now being updated, but at the time of publication, only the unlocked handset is seeing the Oreo love.

If you’ve got an unlocked LG G6, have you gotten the Oreo update yet? If so, how’s it running?

Thanks, Jeffrey!

These U.S. carriers have updated the LG V30 to Android Oreo

LG G6

  • LG G6 review!
  • LG G6 specs
  • LG G6 vs. Google Pixel: The two best cameras right now
  • Everything you need to know about the G6’s cameras
  • LG forums

Verizon
Sprint
T-Mobile
AT&T
B&H

6
Jun

Moto Z3 Play Specifications


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Mod the future.

The Moto Z3 Play is Motorola’s latest vehicle for Moto Mods, which continue to be supported into its third year, a welcome change of pace from the planned obsolescence of the tech industry. But most Moto Mods have particular height and width requirements, which limited what Motorola could do with the Moto Z3 Play’s form factor.

There’s a faster Snapdragon 636 platform inside, along with 4GB of RAM standard, and a taller 2:1 1080p AMOLED display eliminates some of the bezels — and the fingerprint sensor — from the phone’s front. The 3,000mAh battery is the same, however, and the Z3 Play loses a headphone jack.

But it also gains a second camera sensor, allowing for portrait mode and other depth effects.

Operating system Android 8.1Moto Display, Voice, Actions
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor Octa-core Kryo 260 @ 1.8GHz GHz 14nm process
GPU Adreno 509 GPU @ ~850 MHz
Screen 6.01-inch Full HD (2160×1080) AMOLED
Materials Gorilla Glass 3 6000 series aluminum
RAM 4GB
Storage 32GB / 64GB
Expandability microSD up to 2TB
Rear camera 12MP, Dual Autofocus Pixel phase-detect, laser autofocus 1.4-micron pixels f/1.7 lens dual-LED flash
Rear camera 2 5MP
Video capture 720p (120fps), 1080p, 4K (30fps)
Front camera 8MP 1.12-micron pixels f/2.0 wide-angle lens
Connectivity USB-C (USB-C to 3.5mm adapter included)
Speaker Single front-facing
Moto Mods support Yes
Water resistance Water-repellent coating
Security Side fingerprint sensor, face unlock
NFC Yes
Battery 3000mAhTurboPower charger (8 hrs battery in 15 min)
Colors Deep Indigo
Dimensions 76.5 x 156.5 x 6.75 mm
Weight 156g
Network LTE: B1 (2100), B3 (1800), B5 (850), B7 (2600), B28 (700 APT) UMTS: B1 (2100), B2 (1900), B5 (850), B8 (900) GSM: B2 (1900), B3 (1800), B5 (850), B8 (900)

6
Jun

Moto Z3 Play hands-on preview: Three’s company


Quit playing games with my wallet.

When Motorola unveiled the Moto Z in June 2016, it wasn’t clear how long its nascent Moto Mods ecosystem would last. At the time, phones were getting bigger every year, and there was a sense that Motorola would be bottlenecking its future by confining its modular phones to a particular set of dimensions.

To some extent, the concern was warranted, as the third-generation Moto Z3 Play evinces a moderate number of design improvements but heeds the restrictions of its forebears. At the same time, Motorola has done a couple of things to ensure the phone doesn’t look completely out of step with an industry moving to taller, thinner displays and reduced bezels.

But is the phone worth its impending $499 price tag? And without significant U.S. carrier support, will it even make a dent?

See at Motorola

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Third time’s a charm

Operating system Android 8.1Moto Display, Voice, Actions
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor Octa-core Kryo 260 @ 1.8GHz GHz 14nm process
Screen 6.01-inch Full HD (2160×1080) AMOLED
Materials Gorilla Glass 3 6000 series aluminum
RAM 4GB
Storage 32GB / 64GB
Rear camera 12MP, Dual Autofocus Pixel phase-detect, laser autofocus 1.4-micron pixels f/1.7 lens dual-LED flash
Rear camera 2 5MP
Front camera 8MP 1.12-micron pixels f/2.0 wide-angle lens
Battery 3000mAhTurboPower charger
Colors Deep Indigo
Dimensions 76.5 x 156.5 x 6.75 mm
Weight 156g

The original Moto Z Play, which launched in early September 2016, took the high-end specs of the Moto Z, toned them down a bit, and fattened the chassis with a massive battery.

Though it didn’t sell in huge numbers, it did well enough to warrant a sequel, and more importantly, it became a bit of a low-key cult classic amongst battery enthusiasts: the power-sipping Snapdragon 625 paired with a 1080p panel and a massive 3,510mAh battery, plus support for Moto Mods, gave it almost supernatural longevity.

Here’s every Moto Mod you can buy right now

Its sequel pared back the battery capacity — and thickness — but by consolidating the Z and Z Play models into a single device, the Moto Z line (along with the Z Force) became more accessible while retaining many of the benefits of both phones. It also went metal, a welcome change from the scratch-prone glass back of the original Z Play.

To this day, I think the Moto Z2 Play is one of the best-looking phones Motorola has ever made.

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Now the Z3 Play, a phone that tries to modernize while retaining the bare necessities of its lineage. It’s imperceptibly taller and narrower than its predecessors, and reorganizes its layout a bit, but the phone is instantly recognizable as a Moto Z product — as long as you’ve seen one before.

In keeping with its minor modernization, the phone’s back is once again covered in glass, though this time it’s stronger and less scratch-prone Gorillas Glass 3, with color-matched Series 6 aluminum sides (there’s only one color, Deep Indigo, available at launch). And like every Motorola phone of the last few years, the Z3 Play isn’t water resistant but for a “nano-coating” that “creates a water repellent barrier to help protect against moderate exposure to water such as accidental spills, splashes or light rain.” Not ideal.

Moto Z3 Play specifications: Everything you need to know!

Its back warrants a second look for a couple of reasons: first, it maintains the 16 pins that afford Moto Mods direct access to the phone’s internals — batteries, cameras, speakers, even a projector — that augment the Z3 Play’s mid-range spec sheet. And it also shows us the new dual camera setup that, for better or worse, feels like a compulsory addition to any device these days.

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What you won’t see on the back is a fingerprint sensor. Despite there being no room on the front, Motorola needed to maintain a blank slate on the rear, so the fingerprint sensor got punted to the right side (which also explains the Z3 Play’s 0.75mm thickness boost over last year).

Motorola said it didn’t want to slow down the fingerprint sensor by pairing it with a power button. That may have been a bad decision.

You may recall something similar on Sony’s Xperia Z5 lineup, but this version doesn’t double as a power button; Motorola said it experimented with that option, but a power button causes minor unlocking delays, so to assuage any performance issues it moved the power button to the left side of the phone.

I have a feeling that the harshness of time will prove this a bad decision, especially because there doesn’t seem to be any alternate way to turn off the phone’s screen. Putting the volume buttons on the left side and the power button above the fingerprint sensor on the right side would have solved this issue, but I’ll wait until I have a device in my hand before reprimanding Motorola’s engineering team too emphatically.

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The Moto Z3 Play next to 2017’s bezel-heavy Moto Z2 Play.

As for the front, Motorola did what it could with its self-imposed constraints, stretching the 1080p AMOLED screen to six inches — at a 2:1 aspect ratio — and reducing bezel in the process. When looked at from the front, the Z3 Play looks considerably more modern than its predecessor, and in my short time with the phone was impressed with the AMOLED panel itself, though it had the same trouble as the Z2 Play reaching sufficient brightness to use in direct sun.

Performance is the least of my worries with the Moto Z3 Play.

Like all previous models, the phone has a single front-firing speaker, nestled into the headpiece, which sounds fine. There are three speaker Moto Mods available should you want something with a bit more oomph, but I’ll take a decent front speaker over the bottom-firing equivalent any day. What irks me is the removal of the headphone jack, since the phone is thicker than the Z2 Play, which had one, and doesn’t offer a larger battery in its place.

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A question of performance

I have no inherent qualms about the Z3 Play’s 3,000mAh battery, since the Snapdragon 636 inside the phone should be more than efficient enough to keep the phone going for longer than a day, but given that the Z3 Play is the first phone widely available with said SoC, it will be interesting to see how it performs in daily tasks.

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There are a few things I’m excited about with the Snapdragon 636: it promises performance improvements up to 30% over the Z2 Play’s 626, with eight custom Kryo cores clocked up to 1.8GHz. And it supports top cellular speeds up to 600Mbps with 3x carrier aggregation through the included X12 modem. The phone also comes with 4GB of RAM standard, a nice boost from the 3GB base in the Z2 Play — 4GB / 64GB was a $50 upgrade.

We’ve seen how well Motorola’s devices perform on mid-range Qualcomm chips, so I’m not worried about the Z3 Play providing a smooth Android experience — that’s a given. The Snapdragon 636 is clocked 400MHz less per core — 1.8GHz compared to the Snapdragon 626’s 2.2GHz — but each core promises considerably better per-cycle performance, and will likely end up boosting battery life as a result.

What will be more interesting is whether the Spectra 160 image signal processor makes a marked difference in how photos are processed and videos are stabilized given that the primary camera hardware is identical to last year’s Moto Z2 Play.

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Camera antics

That Z3 Play’s main rear camera is comprised of a 12MP sensor with 1.4 micron pixels and a fast ƒ/1.7 lens. The pedigree is certainly there for great photography, but last year I found the Z2 Play stymied in low light by a lack of optical image stabilization and poor post-processing.

The Z3 Play still lacks stabilization, but Motorola promises dimly-lit environments will be better served because of improvements to the way photos are developed.

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I was able to snap a few shots with the Z3 Play in the briefing area, but there was nothing around to challenge the camera. As predicted, the wide-open, brightly lit Manhattan vistas proved no challenge for the phone, and the secondary sensor availed itself quite well, too. Motorola still isn’t a leader in algorithmically-produced portrait photography, but it’s made major strides since its introduction in 2017 with the Moto G5S Plus and Moto X4. See for yourself below.

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A MrMobile example of the Moto Z3 Play’s portrait mode, which is vastly improved over Motorola’s 2017 phones (but still not great).

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The Motorola camera app comes equipped with built-in Google Lens support, a feature we’re seeing rolled out to many Android phones these days. And while it’s yet to reach a point where Lens is useful on a daily basis, it’s nice to know it’s there when you need it.

Motorola’sa lso added a new cinemagraph feature to augment the phone’s existing 4K / 30fps camera option: with it, you capture dozens of still photos in quick succession, producing what amounts to a GIF that you can “paint” to select areas of movement. It’s not a new concept, but is reproduced well here and is a ton of fun to use. Unlike on iOS, Android’s been lacking a robust standalone cinemagraph app, so this feature is especially precious to me.

Around front, the new 8MP selfie shooter has an 84° wide-angle ƒ/2.0 lens, also with support for portrait mode. I tried it out a couple of times and it wasn’t great — definitely not as honest as the rear equivalent, but disclaimers of unfinished software and further improvements are necessary here, so take heed.

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A familiar software story

From a software perspective, this is the same Moto experience you know and love. Moto Display is still the most useful example of an ambient display on a smartphone, and Motorola’s suite of gestures and actions, like twist to enter the camera or chop for flashlight, are augmented by new ones like a powerful three-finger-tap screenshot editor that I’ll actually use.

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But perhaps the most significant change is the now-digital version of Motorola’s One Button Nav, which until now has relied on the presence of a front-facing fingerprint sensor.

Available as an opt-in (Motorola says it will never force users to adopt a new navigation paradigm without Google’s signoff), the new One Nav feels quite natural, mimicking Oreo’s traditional navigation buttons with swipes: a swipe left for back, swipe right for multitasking, a tap for home, and a long-tap for Google Assistant.

It’s intuitive and fun, but it’s unclear whether Motorola will abandon the project when Google releases Android P with its own native gesture navigation. For now, though, I recommend giving it a try.

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One Mod short of a narrative

The Moto Z3 Play is coming to the U.S. this summer — likely late June or early July — for $499 unlocked. It’ll be sold directly from Motorola.com, as well as Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Fry’s, B&H Photo, and as a Prime Exclusive Phone at Amazon, likely for a nice discount.

But the carrier story in the U.S. is a bit morose: Verizon chose not to pick up the Z3 Play, leaving Motorola with Sprint and US Cellular. Given that Motorola said the Z2 Play sold very well, it’s certainly a blow to see the phone snubbed by the country’s biggest network provider. (Curiously, Verizon is stocking the better-value Moto G6.)

Every Moto Z3 Play will come with a Moto Power Pack Mod in the box, a slim 2,220mAh battery that retails for around $40. That’s a nice touch, and definitely takes some edge off the $499 price, but when devices like the OnePlus 6 cost just $30 more and wipe the pants off the Z3 Play’s spec sheet, it’s hard to know who this product is for. It appears that the Z3 Play is yet another affordable vehicle for Motorola’s growing lineup of Moto Mods, but a phone needs to stand on its own, and must justify its price.

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For American buyers, the Moto Z3 Play’s lack of carrier distribution is likely to be its downfall, as there is far better value in the budget space. In fact, the phone is outdone by Motorola’s own low-cost lineup: the Moto G6 is $235 at Amazon, and the Moto X4 can be had for between $250 and $280 depending on the retailer. Even something like the Honor View 10, which also costs $500, justifies its price tag better than the Moto Z3 Play.

The question of value comes down to ecosystem: do you already own a Moto Z series phone, and do you have a bunch of Mods that you regularly use? It’s admirable that Motorola has maintained Mods support for a third year, but there needs to be inherent value in their use.

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I like Moto Mods, but they’re like any accessory, any dongle, any battery pack or camera lens add-on — they’re extra. Unless you’re lugging a bag around, or have ample pocket space, you’re not going to want to carry more than one Moto Mod with you, and once you’ve played that song on the JBL SoundBoost speaker or topped up the phone with the TurboPower battery attachment, you have to stow it somewhere. You have to remember to bring them with you. If you’re up to the task, or enjoy turning your phone, Transformers-style, into a projector or Polaroid printer, the Z3 Play will be perfect for you.

But I’m going to need to evaluate it on its own merits, and given the strength of devices coming from Motorola’s budget segment, not to mention OnePlus in this price range and Honor, Xiaomi, and Samsung in regions Motorola has sizeable market share, I’m not ready to call the Moto Z3 Play a winner.

See at Motorola

6
Jun

Amazon opens up the Echo Look availability to all U.S. customers for $200


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Early last year, Amazon announced the Echo Look, a device aimed to help people improve their fashion sense. When it was first announced, the company made it invite only, and up until just now, it has remained that way. The only way to buy one was to request an invite and patiently await it to be delivered to your inbox, but now anyone in the U.S. can order one for $199.99.

Whether you want a second opinion on the outfit you’re using for your big first date, or just want to build up a photo collection of your favorite outfits, the Echo Look can help you with that. It’s an Alexa-enabled camera device that has built-in LED lighting and depth sensing to help capture the outfit while blurring the background of the photos. Using just your voice, you can take full-length photos, 6-second videos, and more. The Echo Look can suggest items that pair well with clothes that you own from Amazon’s extensive collection of items for sale.

In addition to the fashion features, the Echo Look also has all of Alexa’s other great features, like the ability to answer questions, control smart home devices, and more. Our pal Modern Dad put the Echo Look through its paces, so be sure to check that out and get your order in now.

6
Jun

Here’s every Moto Mod you can buy for the Moto Z series


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Want to give your Moto Z phone an ego boost? Tack on one of these magnetic modular backs.

Motorola’s Moto Z series phones are all modular, and can take advantage of Motorola’s proprietary Moto Mods. You can buy them separately online or through your carrier. Once you snap them on, the phone knows how to utilize them from there.

Which phones are compatible with Moto Mods?

As of writing, there are five phones compatible with Moto Mods:

  • Moto Z
  • Moto Z Force Droid
  • Moto Z Play
  • Moto Z2 Play
  • Moto Z2 Force Edition
  • Moto Z3 Play

Complete list of Moto Mods

Hasselblad True Zoom Camera

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Get up the ten times the optical zoom with the Motorola-commission Hasselblad True Zoom Camera ($299.99). This Moto Mod turns your regular old smartphone into a bonafide point-and-shoot of sorts. It features optical zoom, xenon flash, and physical buttons for zooming’ and shootin’. And if you use the Moto Z’s RAW shooting format, you can do all the editing and tweaking you need to do to make it look professional in a desktop app.

See at Amazon

Incipio Offgrid Power Pack

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One more power pack! This one is from Incipio and, like the Mophie Juice Pack, it’s a simplistic battery back you can tack on to the Moto Z for an extra boost of battery power. The Incipio Offgrid Power Pack ($79.99) features an additional 2220 mAh of battery. It also supports both Qi and PMA wireless charging, which will come in handy from time to time where wireless chargers might be available —this one compatible with the charging pads offered at Starbucks! It comes in both white and black.

See at Amazon

Incipio Vehicle Dock

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This phone mount doesn’t just cradle the Moto Z, it latches on to it. Once you snap in the smartphone, the dock will fire up Android Auto so that you can have immediate access to your contact, music, and maps without being distracted from the road.

In addition to Android Auto support, the Incipio Vehicle Dock also offers 15-watt fast charging in your car so you can also ensure you’re topped up and ready to go.

Interested? The Vehicle Dock will set you back $64.99.

See at Verizon

JBL SoundBoost

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The music is better when you’re dancing to it with your friends. Bring your Spotify playlists to life with the JBL SoundBoost speaker ($79.99), which snaps on to the Moto Z and has a built-in kickstand. The mod is comprised of two 27mm speakers with 6W of power each. You can use the speaker to broadcast conference calls and make sure everyone in the room can hear what’s being said back at headquarters. There’s also an extra 1000 mAh of battery packed in there.

See at Amazon

JBL SoundBoost 2

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A sequel to 2016’s SoundBoost, this Moto Mod is a speaker that attaches to the back of a Moto Z series phone, but this one is cooler: it comes in an assortment of colors, including bright blue or red, and is more rounded than the original, making it easier to hold.

With two 3-watt speakers, the SoundBoost 2 sounds just as good (but no better) than the original, and the 1000mAh battery lets it play for 10 hours without needing to be topped up. This one is also splashproof, just like the Moto Z phones themselves.

If you’d like to pick one up for yourself, you’ll need to hand over $79.99.

See at Motorola

Kate Spade New York Power Pack

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Kate Spade New York Power Pack hails the brand’s simplistic, modernist color palette to help make your Moto Z stand out from the crowd.

As if that wasn’t enough, it also boosts the Moto Z series’ battery capacity by an extra 2220 mAh. Similar to the Mophie Juice Power Pack, this easily charges alongside the Moto Z when it’s plugged in for the night.

The retail price for the Kate Spade New York Power Pack is set at $79.99.

There is also a polka-dotted variant at Verizon.

See at Amazon

Mophie Juice Pack

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The battery will eventually peter out on your Motorola smartphone. Avoid living life without smartphone juice by packing something like the Mophie Juice Pack.

This snap-on module provides an extra 3,150 mAh of battery and can be easily recharged when you charge up a Moto Z device.

Mophie’s one of the best-known brands when it comes to battery products, and the company’s Juice Pack can be yours for just $79.99.

See at Verizon

Moto 360 Camera

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The newest Moto Mod is a 360-degree camera ($299.99) that attaches to the back of any Moto Z device and offers dual 13MP sensors and 4K video capture.

There’s also 3D audio support using microphones from the phone and camera itself, and by attaching directly to the phone there’s no Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to struggle with when transferring photos over; they’re all on the device or microSD card itself, and can be edited on the phone and uploaded to Google Photos.

See at Motorola

Moto Folio

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Folio cases are a great solution for keeping the back and front of your phone protected at all times, but depending on which one you buy, the can sometimes add a lot of unwanted bulk.

If you’ve got a Moto Z phone, you can get that same level of protection while keeping your phone slim and trim thanks to the Moto Folio. Although this doesn’t necessarily add any new functionality to your phone, it does offer some enhanced protection and has a small sleeve for storing a credit card or ID.

There are six colors to choose from and prices range from $14.99 and $19.99.

See at Motorola

Moto Gamepad

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This is so cool. Motorola’s Gamepad Mod lets a Moto Z series phone fit inside the comfortable confines of a game controller, adding dual control sticks, a d-pad and four buttons, along with shoulder buttons, for an incredible gaming experience. There’s also a 1035mAh battery to power the Gamepad for eight hours of usage.

If you want to turn your Moto Z into a Nintendo Switch-like alternative, you can pick up the Moto Gamepad for $79.99.

See at Motorola

Moto Insta-Share Projector

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YouTube is fun for everyone, but not when you have to huddle over a small screen to see what’s going on. Snap on Motorola’s Insta-Share projector, which projects what’s on your Moto Z’s screen onto the wall of your choice.

You can project up to 70 inches and adjust the device as you like with the included stand. The projector also adds on an extra 1100 mAh of battery.

The $199.99 price isn’t cheap, but it’s a lot more mangabale than the $300 MSRP it launched with.

See at Amazon

Moto Power Pack

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There are a lot of great battery Moto Mods out there, but there’s one undesired quality a lot of them have — they turn your slim Moto Z handset into a thick beast.

If you want some extra juice without the added weight, the Moto Power Pack is worth checking out. Its 2,220 mAh battery is rated to add up to 16 hours of additional use and measures in at a mere 4.99mm thick.

The charge rate is 4-6W and the Mod’s available in a black or white plastic finish and in two glass-backed designs. Depending on which one you choose, you’ll spend $49.99 to $59.99.

See at Motorola

Moto Smart Speaker w/ Amazon Alexa

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Amazon Alexa is one of the most powerful virtual assistants on the market, and thanks to the Moto Smart Speaker, you can easily bring it with you wherever you go.

You can use the Smart Speaker to use Alexa just like you would on an Amazon Echo, including asking it about the weather, reading aloud audiobooks, controlling your smart home gadgets, and so much more.

In addition to the Alexa capabilities, this Mod also comes with a low-profile docking mode, dual speakers, four microphones, and a built-in battery that should last for 15 hours. Pricing is set at $149.99.

See at Motorola

Moto Stereo Speaker

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If you want an alternative to JBL’s SoundBoost Moto Mods, your only other option currently comes from Motorola itself in the form of the Moto Stereo Speaker. It’s a bit more affordable at $59.99 and comes in black, blue, and red colors.

The Mod’s incredibly eye-catching, featuring an intricate pattern on the back for the speaker grill and a circular stand that pops out so you can prop your phone and the Mod up on a table or other hard surface.

Two 28mm speakers drive your audio and there’s a loudness rating of 80dB at 50cm.

See at Motorola

Moto Style Shell

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Although Motorola’s Style Shells don’t technically add any functionality to Moto Z handsets, they do allow you to quickly change up the look and feel of your phone in the blink of an eye.

There are quite a few Style Shells to choose from, including two nylon ones and three that are made out of Corning Gorilla Glass.

Each Style Shell has its own unique look, and while the Gorilla Glass ones may not be the most durable, they do offer some of the flashiest designs of the bunch. Depending on what you choose, prices range from $19.99 to $29.99.

See at Motorola

Moto Style Shell with Wireless Charging

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If you want to update the look of your Moto Z while also adding wireless charging, the Style Shell with Wireless Charging does exactly what it describes. Adding a tiny 3.25mm of thickness to a compatible phone, the back adds Qi and PMA wireless charging.

This Mod retails for $39.99 and is currently available in only a gray color. It may not look like much, but if you’ve got a lot of wireless chargers in your home or simply don’t want to mess with cables any longer, this is an essential pickup.

See at Motorola

Moto TurboPower Pack

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Motorola’s fast charging technology is branded TurboPower, so it makes sense that its most powerful and expansive battery Mod would be named after it.

The Moto TurboPower Pack contains a massive 3,490 mAh cell that charges a Moto Z series phone at 15W for incredibly fast recharge speeds.

While it adds a girthy 6.58mm to the phone it’s connected to, it’s not meant to be kept on all day; instead, it’s a top-up, bringing a phone from 0% to 50% in 20 minutes or so.

To pick one up for yourself, you’ll need to shell out $79.99.

See at Motorola

Updated June 2018: This list has been updated with the latest Moto Mods added in 2018.

Moto Z3 Play hands-on: Three’s company

6
Jun

T-Mobile’s 600 MHz Extended Range LTE is now active in over 900 markets


It’s also coming to Puerto Rico in the fall.

Having access to blazing-fast data speeds is essential in 2018, and if you’ve got a phone that supports the 600 MHz band, T-Mobile’s Extended Range LTE network is one of the best in terms of speed and reliability.

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Today, the Un-Carrier announced that its 600 MHz Extended Range LTE is officially live in 900+ cities/towns across the US in 32 different states. Expanding on that even more, Extended Range LTE will soon make its way to Puerto Rico this coming fall.

Per T-Mobile’s CTO, Neville Ray —

After the devastating hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico last year, we saw an opportunity to rebuild the network better than new — to rebuild with 5G-ready gear. We’re laying the foundation for the island to become a technology and innovation hub in the future while adding coverage and capacity with 600 MHz LTE this year.

As a quick refresher, Extended Range LTE can travel twice the distance of mid-band LTE and is four-times stronger/faster while indoors.

Looking beyond 4G LTE, T-Mobile announced in late-February that it plans on launching its 5G network in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Las Vegas during 2019.

T-Mobile and Sprint Merger FAQ: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Carriers

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6
Jun

MrMobile goes hands-on with the Moto Z3 Play


The Moto Z3 Play is one of the more predictable smartphone releases of the year. Motorola returns to a glass-on-glass design, adds a second camera for portrait mode, and punches up enough of the specs to keep this phone current with (most of) its mid-tier competition. Of course, the company also continues delivering on its promise of Moto Mod compatibility with the Z3 Play: there’s even a free Moto Mod in the box this time around, a 2000 mAh battery to augment the installed 3000 mAh pack. (Daniel Bader has more on this in Android Central’s official hands-on here.)

If the Moto Z3 Play lives up to its forerunners, we can expect great battery life, outstanding software features and one of the more fun and useful accessory ecosystems to be found in the Android world. The question is: is that enough to get people to spend $499 on a Z3 Play, given competition like the OnePlus 6 (and the notable absence of Verizon Wireless in the list of carrier partners)? Stay tuned for the full review to find out – and check out the official MrMobile hands-on in the meantime!

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6
Jun

Best Android Games in 2018


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Don’t settle for anything less.

If you’re looking for the best new games available in the Google Play Store, you’ve come to the right place. We update this list whenever a new game comes out that’s worthy of being added to this list, so you’ll always know about the latest and greatest games.

Whether you’re new to Android and need some fresh, new games to start building out your Google Play library or simply looking for the latest trendy games that are worthy of your time and attention, these are the best Android games as of June 2018!

  • The Room: Old Sins
  • PUBG Mobile
  • Dissembler
  • JYDGE
  • HQ Trivia
  • Death Road to Canada
  • Stranger Things: The Game
  • Reigns: Her Majesty
  • Causality
  • Framed 2
  • Island Delta
  • Fire Emblem: Heroes

The Room: Old Sins

The Room: Old Sins is the latest epic puzzle game from Fireproof Games and the 4th in the award-winning ‘The Room’ puzzle game series. You are exploring the home of an ambitious engineer who has gone missing when you find a rather peculiar dollhouse in the attic.

Using a sophisticated eyepiece you’re able to explore different rooms in the dollhouse that are filled with incredibly sophisticated puzzle boxes and contraptions. There’s something really weird going on here, so maybe if you can solve all the puzzles you’ll figure out what happened to the missing engineer and his wife.

If you’ve never played a game from “The Room” series before, just get ready for one of the more engrossing games you’ll ever play on a mobile phone. The graphics and audio come together to create a wonderfully creepy vibe as you carefully inspect intricate objects and unlock secrets to help you on your journey.

If you want to catch up with the other games, you can snag The Room, The Room Two, and The Room 3 at discounted prices.

Download The Room: Old Sins ($4.99)

PUBG Mobile

It’s pretty incredible how well PUBG Mobile plays on Android. This is a massive PvP battle royale game that pits 100 players against each other on a massive island loaded with weapons, ammo, tactical gear, and vehicles. You drop in as a solo player or as part of a team and must use all your best skills to take down your opponents until you’re the last man standing.

It’s not unheard of for a popular PC or console release to find its way to Android, but you’ll be surprised at how well PUBG plays on a smartphone. The developers have made it easier for mobile players to pick up and manage items, and have also added bots in the lowest ranks to help ease players into the game experience. Bluetooth controller support would be a nice addition, but the touch controls are some of the best I’ve seen for a shooter on mobile.

It also allows you to scale back the graphics so you can enjoy smooth gameplay even when playing on an older device. If you’ve got a newer device, crank those settings to the max and enjoy one of the best looking mobile games I’ve played in a long while.

PUBG Mobile somehow delivers all the epic moments you’d expect the PC game scaled down perfectly for mobile devices. Best of all, it’s free to play and currently devoid of any in-app purchases. Get your squad together, and I’ll see you on the battlegrounds!

Download: PUBG Mobile (Free)

Dissembler

Dissembler is a colorful and abstract game that, from the outset, might seem like another standard tile-swapping match three game. Instead, Dissembler unravels itself to be one of those puzzle games that almost transcends the genre, offering a relaxing exploration of patterns in abstract designs.

It starts out nice and easy as the game lays out the basic principles before gradually presenting you with more complex puzzles — check out the trailer above to see what I mean.

With over 120 puzzles to play with no time limits, move limits, or in-app purchases or ads to deal, this game absolutely deserves a spot on this list.

Download: Dissembler ($2.99)

JYDGE

JYDGE is a gritty and violent top-down twin-stick shooter that is an absolute blast to play. You are the JYDGE, a cybernetic enforcement officer who uses his Gavel (see: BIG freaking gun) to dole out RoboCop-style justice.

Each level features different challenges that are required to progress but never feel like a slogging chore. Confiscating illegal cash along the way, you’re able to upgrade JYDGE and his gavel with a deep selection of accessories. In that way, JYDGE retains the rogue-like element from its predecessor Neon Chrome by encouraging you to replay levels with different upgrade combinations until you complete all the challenges.

With a game that has you replay levels over and over again, it’s imperative for a game to find that mix of great gameplay with an interesting soundtrack that isn’t super annoying or repetitive — and JYDGE absolutely delivers.

Check out my full review if you need more convincing.

Download: JYDGE ($5.99)

HQ Trivia

It’s the app that started the new craze of live trivia game shows on your phone HQ Trivia is a daily trivia game show where you simply need to answer 12 questions to win a split of the pot. The daily weekday cash pot has risen to $5,000 with a Sunday evening game that usually around $25,000.

It has turned regular host Scott Rogoswky into an internet celebrity as he provides an entertaining performance as the quiz master extraordinaire. The app itself has steadily improved since launching last year, with new features letting you play along with friends in the app. Millions of people play each week because it’s free and you just might win some cash!

That’s right, you’re playing for real cash via PayPal. Even if you only win a few bucks you can cash out at any time and buy yourself a coffee.

HQ Trivia for Android: Everything you need to know

Download: HQ Trivia (Free)

Death Road to Canada

Death Road to Canada is a $10 game — I want to open with that just to get the sticker shock out of the way before I talk about how awesome this freaking game is. (It’s currently on sale for a dollar, though, which makes it an even better purchase.)

Facing a zombie apocalypse, you must lead a scrappy squad of somewhat interesting characters on a deadly mission to the relative safety of Canada. Along the way, you’ll need to explore and loot places for supplies, while also managing your team’s health and morale.

Everything in Death Road to Canada is randomly generated, making every play-through a unique experience in this dynamic road trip action-RPG. You can randomly generate your character and buddy or custom design your starting characters with different attributes to help them stay alive, but you probably don’t want to get too attached unless you’re a really good shot.

The controls admittedly take some getting used to, and there’s a pretty steep learning curve as you learn which weapons are most effective and which times it’s better to fight or run. And you will die, early and often, although that’s part of the fun of a zombie apocalypse, right?

There’s a ridiculous amount of depth in this game, including 10 different game modes to unlock. The price might seem a little steep, but if you’re a fan of rogue-like zombie games, it’s well worth the investment!

Download: Death Road to Canada ($9.99)

Stranger Things: The Game

Stranger Things: The Game is the tie-in mobile game that other companies wish they could churn out. It’s a full-fledged action adventure game with a full cast of playable characters, tons of collectibles, and a retro graphical style that fits into the show theme and setting.

The game presents the entire town of Hawkins, Indiana along with the adjacent Mirkwood Forest to be explored. It plays like a classic Zelda-style adventure game, with the ability to switch between characters lending itself to creating complex puzzles.

Credit Netflix’s marketing team for spending the time to make sure the developers at BonusXP Inc. delivered something special for fans of the series. They’ve created a real winner here, and a true contender for game of the year — and I’m not even a huge fan of the source material.

The controls are optimized for mobile and there’s great game design on display here. The overworld is vast and filled with secret areas to explore and familiar items from the show scattered throughout as collectibles.

There’s just so much to appreciate here. Not only is it a faithful adaptation of the show, it’s available for free with no in-app purchases or ads — although you can certainly count the game itself as being an ad for the second season of Stranger Things. Here’s hoping it ushers in a new trend of substantial mobile games based on TV shows and movies.

Download: Stranger Things: The Game (Free)

Reigns: Her Majesty

Reigns was one of the best games of 2016 and actually won the first ever Google Play Indie Games contest. So needless to say we were pumped to check out the sequel.

In Reigns, you play as the monarch of the land and make decisions that affect four aspects of the kingdom: the church, the people, the army, and the royal wealth. Your goal is to keep all four in balance — if any meter fills to the max or is entirely depleted your reign is over… and a new reign begins!

The sequel plays nearly identically to the first game, except this time you play as the Queen instead of the King, complete with new characters to interact with and multiple branching storylines to discover. The gameplay is as easy as swiping left or right on cards and if it’s anything like the first game there’s a ton of great easter eggs to find along the way!

I would hate to spoil anything for this new game, but if you played the first one and are afraid that it’s going to be too similar, I can assure you there are plenty of new mechanics to make this one of the best titles of 2017.

Download: Reigns: Her Majesty ($1.50)

Causality

Causality is a mind-blowing puzzle game that’s all about manipulating time. This is just a brilliant game where you control time and make adjustments to the level and alter the sequence in such a way that you help your stranded astronauts reach their goals.

Set in simplistic-yet-beautiful alien landscapes, this stylish game will have you wracking your brain as you try to figure out how to guide each astronaut to their color-coded exit within the allotted time. Of course, you have full control over the timeline and can jump to any point in time and change an aspect of the level. There are 60 mind-bending puzzles to unlock and complete in this outstandingly polished and challenging game.

Download: Causality ($1.99)

Framed 2

Get ready for more comic book stylized fun in Framed 2! This is a standalone prequel to groundbreaking mobile game Framed developed by Hideo Kojima back in 2014.

As the story unfolds, you control the action by rearranging the comic book panels to help your character make his way through each section. It’s a totally unique way to play a game and is unlike anything else you’ve likely played on Android. It’s got a cool noir look and feel to it, with an engaging story to keep you hooked.

If you love the format, you can pick up the first Framed game for just $3. Really worth your time if you’re into unique puzzle games.

Download: Framed 2 ($4.99)

Island Delta

Island Delta is a very stylish top-down action-adventure-puzzler developed by Mantisbite out of Finland. Explore the mysterious retro-futuristic island lair of Doctor Gunderson as our heroes, Zoe and Baxter.

Using your anti-gravity gun, you must work your way past mechanical minions, traps, and guards as you solve puzzles to make it through to the end of each level. At its best moments, Island Delta feels like a stripped down, third-person version Portal, which is something I wasn’t aware I needed in my life. The cartoony graphics and outstanding level design will immediately draw you in.

You can read our full review here before deciding to buy it. It’s available for $2.99 from the Google Play Store.

Download: Island Delta ($2.99)

Fire Emblem: Heroes

Fire Emblem: Heroes represents Nintendo’s first foray into developing games for Android (ignoring last year’s Miimoto app) and is the eighth title in the popular strategy-RPG franchise to be released on North American shores.

Heroes brings all of your favorite Fire Emblem characters together for a brand new story that pits the noble Askran Kingdom against the power-hungry Emblian Empire, which wishes to rule all worlds. You play the role of a mighty summoner who has the power to bring Fire Emblem’s best heroes together to help defend the kingdom. Battle takes place in arenas where you must strategically move your Heroes around to attack and defend against your opponents.

Play through the Story Mode to unlock new game modes, including Special Maps, Arena Duels, and the Training Tower. Arena Duel is the multiplayer aspect of the game that will keep you busy beyond the single-player campaign.

You can read our full review to learn more.

Download: Fire Emblem: Heroes (Free w/IAPs)

Updated June 2018: These are still the best games for Android… with a number of big games set to release in the next few months 👀.

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6
Jun

Take 20% off almost any eBay order of $50 or more today only


Today only, eBay is having a flash sale and offering 20% off orders of $50 or more site-wide with promo code PICKDADSGIFT. You can only save up to $100 total and you can only use the code once; however, you can use the code on multiple items in the same cart to get the maximum discount, so do all your shopping in one go and save on everything up to $500. We have seen a couple of eBay site-wide sales over the last few months, but the only one that offered 20% off was back in March. Since then the sales have been 15% off, so we’re happy to see that 5% back again.

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The main exclusions that always apply to codes like this are in the Coins & Paper Money, Gift Cards & Coupons, and Real Estate categories. Unlike most of the other eBay coupons we’ve seen, this deal is not limited to specific sellers! You can use it on any order over $50 as long as the items aren’t in those excluded categories. This sale will last until 10 p.m. Eastern time.

Use this flash sale as an opportunity to grab a deal on a pricey device you’ve had your eye on for a while. You could get a brand new Project Scorpio Edition Xbox One X console directly from Microsoft for $399.20 or a new PlayStation 4 Pro console from Newegg for $319.99.

I highly recommend using major retailers like Best Buy and Newegg if you aren’t a regular eBay shopper. Plenty of other retailers, including Dyson and BuyDig, have eBay storefronts as well. This code should work with all of them.

Here’s a few deals we like:

  • BeatsX wireless headphones – $71.99 (from $90)
  • Philips Hue A19 starter kit – $55.99 (from $70)
  • Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones – $279.99 (from $350)
  • Samsung 860 EVO 500GB solid state drive – $103.99 (from $130)

Remember this sale is site-wide, so be sure to browse to your heart’s content and then buy everything at once.

See on eBay

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