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Forget flying cars: This shoe-tying robot is proof that the future is here

Technology can be a great labor-saving aid, carrying out many of the tasks which are considered too dull, dirty, or dangerous for us to bother wasting our time with. Engineers may be getting to the end of the list of problems to solve, however — since researchers from the University of California, Davis’ College of Engineering recently decided to build a robot that’s sole personality in life is to tie shoelaces.

Word of advice: If you’re getting to the point at which you can’t dedicate a few seconds each day to making sure your shoes are properly laced up, you may be working too hard!

We are, of course, being a bit facetious, since the project was one handed to mechanical engineering students to see if they could carry out a complex task (tying a shoe) using only two motors and no more than $600 in funding. Judging by the results, they passed with flying colors.

The Arduino-powered, shoe-tying robot uses a pair of motors to drive four gearboxes, two on each side of a dedicated shoe platform. One motor transfers power to the machine by driving a horizontal shaft with three spur gears on each side of the motor, while the second motor controls a sort of “clutch”, or idler gear. Using these components, the robot is able to move horizontally and vertically, as well as making rotational movements to manipulate the laces. A finished shoelace tying session lasts around four minutes.

“Imagine getting a project, doing a Google search and finding no leads,” Joel Humes, one of the students who worked on the project, told Digital Trends. “[We checked] YouTube, Instructables, random forums, ran patent searches, nothing at all [came up]. In a world full of information easily accessed through internet searches, it was hard to believe a fully automated shoe-tying machine appeared to be completely nonexistent.”

The machine was ultimately pitted against another robot created with the same objective by students from Meijo University in Japan — and emerged the victor. “Currently, there are no plans to further develop this product because we do not have the proper funds to,” Stephanie Thai, another student engineer, told us. We guess that could change in time, however.

Other researchers who worked on the project included Gabriela Gomes, Jacklyn Tran, and Andrew Choi. Remember those names: When their (possible) shoe-tying robot company is valued at several billion dollars, you will want to be able to tell everyone you knew them all back when they were starving students!

Editors’ Recommendations

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  • You won’t even need to dress yourself in the future — thanks to robots like this
  • Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robo sidekicks, AC for your bed, and more
  • Half taxidermy, half robot: Why UC Davis built this crazy realistic robo-bird


Nokia 3.1 review


Research Center:

Nokia 3.1

The Nokia 6.1 is our favorite budget smartphone under $300, and HMD Global — the company licensing the Nokia brand name and designing these phones — has introduced an even more affordable option to the U.S. market.

The Nokia 3.1 comes in at just $160, but even at that price it faces tough competition from the likes of Motorola and Honor. It eschews all frills and attempts to focus on the fundamentals, but HMD has to do better. We’ve been using the phone for a few weeks, and there are a few too many compromises. Let’s take a closer look.

Basic design, no fingerprint sensor

The Nokia 3.1 follows the same design cues as its more expensive siblings. There’s no glass on the back — instead you’ll find a phone that’s more utilitarian than stylish.

The front of the Nokia 3.1 carries a 5.2-inch display with chunky bezels at the top and bottom. The top bezel is home to a wide-angle 8-megapixel camera along with the 3.1’s only speaker and prominent Nokia logo. The unadorned bottom bezel looks lonely in comparison. There’s a chrome accent line that works that works its way around the display, adding a nice contrasting look, but its continuity is abruptly interrupted on the top and bottom of the phone due to thick, black antenna lines.

Nokia 3.1 review

Nokia 3.1 review

Nokia 3.1 review

Nokia 3.1 review

Steven Winkelman

The IPS LCD display has a 1,440 x 720 resolution with an 18:9 aspect ratio. Colors are a little muted overall, and the display is dim. Even with the brightness cranked all the way up we had trouble seeing the screen outdoors. But for the most part it’s  perfectly adequate. We had no issues streaming Netflix and YouTube, and the screen quality posed no problems.

Flip the phone over and you’ll find a black, polycarbonate back with a chrome-accented single-camera lens, flash, and, more Nokia branding. The camera bump is is nearly imperceptible, and the back of the phone is curved ever so slightly, adding a nice ergonomic feel when the phone sits in the hand.

On the bright side, there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top of the phone.

Notice anything missing? If you said “fingerprint sensor,” you’re correct: There’s none to be found on the Nokia 3.1, though there’s plenty of room for one on the bottom bezel or back. It’s a shame HMD decided to sacrifice the fingerprint sensor on the phone as it really removes the convenience we’ve all come to know and love. The Nokia 3.1’s competition have fingerprint sensors — even the $100 Alcatel 1X Android Go phone packs one.

While the polycarbonate back will certainly be more durable than glass, it does feel cheap. Tap on the back of the phone and it you won’t get a substantial thud you’ll find on other phones — instead you’re greeted with a hollow ring. This is more a remark than a criticism, as most budget phones we’ve tested in this price range can’t help but feel cheap.

On the bright side, there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top of the phone. Over on the right is the power and volume buttons, which are made of the same plastic on the back of the phone. The buttons feel a little loose, but they didn’t cause any issues. The bottom of the phone is home to a MicroUSB charging port — which is another disappointment as many Android phones use USB Type-C, but we’ll give HMD a pass as budget phones in the price range still use MicroUSB.

Nokia 3.1 review Steven Winkleman/Digital Trends

The Nokia 3.1 doesn’t look and feel like anything special; it’s basic, the design works, but a fingerprint sensor is sorely missed.

Frustrating performance, Android One

The Nokia 3.1 is powered by a Mediatek MT6750N octa-core processor with 2GB of RAM (international models have 3GB). Compared to other budget phones like the Honor 7X or Moto E4 Play, performance is frustrating slow.

Two of our benchmarking apps wouldn’t even run.

Lag is a constant companion, from unlocking the phone and opening the app drawer to launching apps and opening the camera. There’s also a pronounced stutter when scrolling through apps like Facebook or Twitter that makes the entire experience painful.

People who like to play games on their phones may find using the Nokia 3.1 even more infuriating. We were able to play Super Mario Run with just the occasional stutter, but when we attempted PUBG MOBILE, things went south. It was possible to play on the lowest graphics setting, but you probably don’t want to sit through constant lag.

Two of our benchmarking apps wouldn’t run on the Nokia 3.1, but here’s what did work:

  • Geekbench CPU: 664 single-core; 2,645 multi-core

The Nokia 3.1 performed better than the Moto E5 Play and E5 Plus in our benchmark tests, but it came far behind the slightly more expensive Honor 7X. But benchmarks do not tell the full story, and in our review period, we found the 3.1 performed much more poorly than the rest of these devices.

Nokia 3.1. Review Interface Screenshots

Nokia 3.1. Review Interface Screenshots

Nokia 3.1. Review Interface Screenshots

Nokia 3.1. Review Interface Screenshots

The U.S model of the Nokia 3.1 comes with 16GB of storage — which we easily maxed out since Android alone takes up more than half of that storage space. Thankfully, a MicroSD slot lets you add more storage if needed.

Perhaps the Nokia 3.1’s best feature is its software. It runs stock Android through the Android One program (Android 8.1 Oreo). The Android One program promises fast software version and security updates for two years, and a clean interface with minimal bloatware. This phone will get Android 9.0 Pie later this year. Most budget phones rarely get updates, so we’re happy to praise a company that puts a priority on issuing updates.

Slow, mediocre camera

It’s hard to expect much when it comes to budget phone camera. They tend to take decent photos in good light, and mediocre to bad photos in low-light scenarios. The Nokia 3.1 bucks that trend, but not in a good way.

Nokia 3.1 review | Original unite lens flare issues

nokia 31 review 3 1 original unit lens flare 3554

Our original Nokia 3.1 unit had a defect that allowed sunlight to refract off the camera lens which led to lens flares on many of our photos. Figuring it was a problem with our review unit, we contacted Nokia and they sent us a replacement.

There’s a 13-megapixel primary camera on the rear with a f/2 aperture, and an 8-megapixel selfie cam with the same aperture on the front. The first batch of photos we took in daylight didn’t just come out blurry, but they had huge lens flares. After cleaning the lens and checking for software updates, we tried again but our tests yielded similar results. Figuring It was a problem with our review unit, we contacted Nokia for a replacement.

Our replacement unit didn’t have the same lens flare issue, but the shutter was incredibly slow. To get decent shots in broad daylight, it was necessary to hold the phone still for three seconds after tapping the shutter button — you don’t need to do that with other phones in this price range.

Shutter lag aside, our daylight photos managed to look decent. Colors are accurate and details are acceptable, but some of the photos lack depth and appear flat.



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Sample photos shot on the Nokia 3.1.

Low-light photos are another issue altogether. There was significant noise and detail loss, and we needed to be completely still yet again to avoid any type of blurriness. There are some decent photos in the gallery above in this kind of lighting, but we were only able to capture them after quite a few attempts.

We never had high hopes for the Nokia 3.1’s camera, but it certainly surprised us at how lackluster it really is to use.

Battery life

The 2,990mAh battery, of all things, is the shining star on the Nokia 3.1. On an average day, we used the phone to surf the web, scroll through social media, listen to music through Spotify, watch YouTube videos, and we managed to have 40 percent left by 8:30 p.m (after taking it off the charger at 7 a.m.).

Nokia 3.1 Compared To

cat s61 prod

Cat S61

alcatel idol 5 prod

Alcatel Idol 5

lenovo moto g5s plus

Lenovo Moto G5S Plus

htc u11 life product

HTC U11 Life

sony xperia xz1

Sony Xperia XZ1

lenovo moto g5 plus motorola product

Lenovo Moto G5 Plus

zte axon 7 mini product

ZTE Axon 7 mini

meizu pro 6 product

Meizu Pro 6

nextbit robin

Nextbit Robin

motorola droid turbo press image

Motorola Droid Turbo

sony xperia z3

Sony Xperia Z3

htc desire eye press

HTC Desire Eye

lg g2 review press image



Google Nexus S

Google Nexus S

Unfortunately if you do find yourself running low on battery, there’s no quick charging feature on the phone.

Pricing, availability, and warranty information.

The Nokia 3.1 costs $160, and you can purchase it through Amazon or Best Buy. It supports GSM carriers like AT&T or T-Mobile, and it won’t work on CDMA networks like Sprint and Verizon.

The phone comes with a standard one-year warranty that covers any manufacturer defects. Water damage, drops, and “Acts of God” are not covered.

Our Take

The Nokia 3.1 is an underwhelming phone in every way. From its low-tier specs, to its mediocre camera, software and battery life are the only things HMD got right on this phone.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes. Several excellent budget phones have been released this year. The Moto E5 Plus is an excellent alternative if you can find it for less than $200. Since the E5 Plus packs in a better processor and more RAM, you should have a much better experience overall. It also features a massive 5,000mAh battery, meaning you should able to easily get through a day, if not two, between charges. It’s also worth looking at the Moto E5 Play, which can cost as little as $70 depending on your carrier.

If you’re willing to spend a little more, you may want to check out the Nokia 6.1. It comes in at $270 and is our favorite budget phone for 2018. The $250 Moto G6 and $200 Honor 7X are also worth considering, and you can learn more about them in our best cheap phones guide.

How long will it last?

The Nokia 3.1 should last you a year or more. We say that largely because we believe performance will simply get worse the longer you use it, and you’ll likely want to throw the phone out a window.

Still, its build quality is good, and the plastic body is more durable than other budget phones with an all-glass body. Since the phone is a part of the Android One program, you can expect regular security and OS updates for two years.

Should you buy it?

No. Even at its low price, the Nokia 3.1 doesn’t offer the performance and reliability we’ve come to expect from HMD.


Smartphone out of juice? Get this Anker power bank for half its normal price

What would we do without our smartphones? With all of humanity’s collective knowledge, cat GIFs, and services in the palm of our hands, it’s no surprise we spend all of our free time staring at them. Your phone is there for you when you’re bored, when you need information, and even when you’re just trying to avoid eye contact with a random stranger — but it has its limitations. Its only ever as good as its battery life.

No matter how wonderful your phone is when it’s turned on, once the battery runs out, its about as useful as a brick. It isn’t that big of a deal if you’re near an outlet  — you’ll just need to huddle awkwardly near it while you recharge, but what if there aren’t any outlets? You can either suffer on without it, or just pull out a portable power bank and plug back in. If you need a little extra juice on the go, you can snag an Anker PowerCore 1300 portable charger for just $29 — about half its regular price.

This portable battery charger from Anker is one of the most compact and powerful battery chargers you can find on Amazon. With 1300mAH under the hood, you’ll have enough power to fully charge your smartphone multiple times over. It can charge an iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S8 three times, and it can even fully recharge an iPhone 8 almost 5 times. It also has two USB ports, so you can charge multiple devices at once if you’re feeling kind enough to share with a friend. Unlike many cheap power banks on the market, the Anker PowerCore 1300 has PowerIQ and VoltageBoost technology to allow for high speed charging on any compatible device. And despite having all of these awesome features, this pocketable device is smaller than a wallet.

Until we invent an unlimited power source or perfect wireless charging, everyone who has a smartphone could probably benefit from a portable battery charger. If you’re going to get one, you might as well get one as powerful as this one — especially since its discounted right now. The Anker PowerCore 1300 power bank is normally priced at $56, but for a limited time, you can get it for just $29 on Amazon.

$29 | Amazon

Looking for more great stuff? Find smartphone deals and more on our curated deals page, and be sure to follow us on Twitter for regular updates.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and choose what we cover carefully and independently. If you find a better price for a product listed here, or want to suggest one of your own, email us at Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.

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Sprint and LG team up on a 5G smartphone set for release in first half of 2019

Sprint and LG are teaming up to bring customers what would be the first 5G smartphone in the U.S. in the first half of 2019.

The 5G smartphone is claimed to be capable of providing Sprint customers with a faster and more reliable experience. The press release specifically points out that the shift from 4G to 5G will be apparent — users will have the ability to download full-length HD movies in only seconds or play Internet-connected, graphics-intensive video games without any disruptions.

In an interview with PCMag, John Tudhope, Sprint’s director of product marketing, said the device isn’t a prototype or an idea. In fact, the 5G smartphone has already moved into the testing phase.

“We have a final hardware design that we’re pretty excited about … It is 100 percent a truly integrated smartphone that we think will be the first of its kind. It is a really elegant, high-end premium-look-and-feel phone … not much thicker than a normal high-end premium smartphone, and will have the appropriate battery to account for the power needs,” Tudhope told PCMag.

Tudhope also mentioned to PCMag that “it will be a lot less clunky than Motorola’s 5G mod approach.” Motorola launched its 5G mod in conjunction with its latest flagship, the Moto Z3, in the beginning of August.

Available in early 2019 exclusively through Verizon, users will be able to snap the 5G Moto Mod onto the Moto Z3 ,which will be capable of delivering up to 5Gbps download speeds. If there’s no 5G service in the area, users will receive 2Gbps speeds on 4G LTE.

As for Sprint’s 5G smartphone with LG, PCMag notes that since the device has already been built, it most likely won’t have Qualcomm’s upcoming 4G/5G Snapdragon 855 chipset, which is expected to be announced in December. It’s also rumored to be included in Samsung’s Galaxy S10.

The report goes on to suggest that the LG phone might feature a Snapdragon 845, along with an add-on Qualcomm X50 5G modem — the same modem built into the Motorola’s 5G Moto Mod.

The carrier didn’t provide additional information in terms of the smartphone’s design or specifications, but says more details, including an exact release date, will be announced later on.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Moto Z3 review
  • Qualcomm releases new antennas that will make 5G phones a reality in 2019
  • Everything you need to know about the Motorola Moto Z3
  • AT&T names three more cities that will receive 5G networks this year
  • Moto Z3 vs Samsung Galaxy S9: Which flagship is more worthy?


For work or for play, these are the 5 best laptop deals for college students

Shopping for a new computer can be fun, but it can also be a headache given the plethora of options available today. The addition of touchscreen and 2-in-1 laptops doesn’t make it any easier to find the right laptop for you. It’s easy to get choice paralysis when shopping for a PC, even if you already have a fixed budget in mind, but we can make your life a little bit easier.

Whether you’re getting ready for a new school year, shopping for a student, or just need a new computer for work or play, we’ve got your back. Below are five of the best back-to-school laptop deals available online right now. Our picks offer something for just about everyone, from those who like the convenience of a touchscreen, to gamers and dedicated Apple fans. Best of all, each of these laptop deals offer deep discounts that can save you hundreds.

Dell Inspiron 15 5000 laptop – $441

For anyone looking for a workhorse Windows 10 laptop, the Dell Inspiron 15 series is a great place to start. The 5000 model sports an 8th-gen Intel Core i3-8130U CPU, plus 4GB of RAM that is boosted by 16GB of Intel Optane memory for snappier performance when multitasking. The 15.6-inch LED display has a crisp 1080p Full HD resolution, while the Intel UHD Graphics 620 integrated GPU provides enough power for light gaming. The large 1TB hard drive also offers plenty of room for all of your files and software.

The Inspiron 15 5000 is already pretty budget-friendly at its retail price of $630, but Dell’s ongoing back-to-school sales event slashes $189 off its price, bringing this laptop down to $441 for a limited time. If you came looking for the cheapest laptop deal on our roundup, this is the one.

$441 | Dell

HP Envy x360 13z 2-in-1 touch laptop – $600

PC makers are increasingly offering hybrid designs that combine the functionality of a laptop and portable convenience of a tablet. HP has been at the forefront of this trend with its excellent Envy series. The Envy x360 13z is the smaller member of this family with a 13.3-inch Full HD touch display. The lid’s hinge rotates so you can turn the display around and fold it flat, effectively turning the laptop into a tablet when you don’t need the keyboard and touchpad.

Under the hood, the Envy x360 13z runs on an AMD Ryzen 3 CPU and Radeon Vega 3 integrated GPU, along with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, which are solid specs for a laptop of this size. Through Saturday, August 18, the HP Envy x360 13z touchscreen laptop can be yours for just $600 after a $160 discount. When you buy an HP laptop, you can also score the compact and Wi-Fi-enabled HP DeskJet 3755 printer for just $20 ($50 off).

$600 | HP

Dell Inspiron 15 7567 gaming laptop – $739

While it used to be the case that gaming laptops lagged far behind desktop PCs in the hardware department, recent years have seen this gap shrink considerably with models, thanks to models like the Dell Inspiron 15 7567, which offers impressive specs for the price. An Intel Core i5-7300HQ processor, Nvidia GTX 1050 TI GPU, and 8GB of RAM easily tackle modern games, while the 256GB SSD offers plenty of storage and snappier performance than standard hard drives.

You’d normally expect to pay $2oo to $300 more for a gaming laptop with similar hardware to a desktop PC – a comparable desktop running an Nvidia GTX 1050 TI would set you back around $600 without any peripherals. Considering that laptops already have displays and keyboards, the Dell Inspiron 15 7567 is a great deal at $739 ($340 off) and is a solid laptop deal for anyone looking for a machine that can handle both work and play.

$739 | Amazon

Apple MacBook Air – $770

Apple deals can be fleeting, so events like back-to-school sales are the perfect opportunity to find Mac hardware at a discount. Although laptops keep getting slimmer and lighter and Apple is no longer the only game in town, the MacBook Air is still a great choice if you’re looking for a lightweight computer and aren’t a big fan of Windows. The MacBook Air MJVM2LL/A offers plenty of performance despite its size, with a 1.6 GHz Intel i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of speedy flash storage.

The 11.6-inch display boasts an HD resolution of 1,366 x 768 and the internal battery offers up to 9 hours of juice – plenty for a full day’s work – before needing to be topped off. A $129 discount knocks the MacBook Air down to $770 on Amazon for a limited time, making this the best Apple laptop deal in our roundup.

$770 | Amazon

Apple MacBook Pro plus free Beats headphones – $1,250

If the MacBook Air didn’t whet your appetite, then we’ve got another one for you: As part of its back-to-school promotion, Apple is offering big discounts on its line of MacBooks and iMacs, including the MacBook Pro. The entry-level Pro features a 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor with Intel Turbo Boost and 8GB of DDR3 RAM, which combine to provide snappy performance for work, entertainment, and multitasking. Apple touches like a 128GB SSD, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and a backlit keyboard complete the package.

A $250 sitewide discount brings the 13-inch MacBook Pro down to as low as $1,250, but Apple is sweetening the deal by throwing in a free pair of Beats headphones for students. You can choose from the Beats Solo3 wireless on-ear headphones, Powerbeats3 in-ear headphones, or BeatsX earbuds, with the Solo3 being the best value (and our recommendation) given their $300 price tag

$1,250 | Apple

Looking for more great stuff? Find laptop deals and more on our curated deals page, and be sure to follow us on Twitter for regular updates.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and choose what we cover carefully and independently. If you find a better price for a product listed here, or want to suggest one of your own, email us at Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.

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The browser-based Monero miner Coinhive generates around $250,000 each month

A report stemming from the RWTH Aachen University in Germany reveals that despite a dramatic fall of interest in cryptocurrency mining, the Coinhive JavaScript-based miner is still highly active, generating around $250,000 worth of digital Monero coins each month, depending on the current value. Coinhive also contributes 1.18 percent of the total mining power behind the Monero blockchain.

Coinhive’s seemingly evil nature stems from those who use the code. It’s meant to be integrated into websites to tap into the unused portions of your processor and mine digital Monero coins in the background. Released in 2017, Coinhive’s code targets websites that want to make money without running annoying advertisements. The tradeoff is that your PC slows down while it generates digital coins in exchange for ad-free viewing.

But hackers are taking advantage of Coinhive’s potential by breaking into websites, secretly installing the code, and configuring Coinhive to send the resulting Monero to their digital wallets. They are also inserting Coinhive into web browser extensions that appear legitimate on the surface.

“If we sum up the block rewards of the actually mined blocks over the observation period of four weeks, we find that Coinhive earned 1,271 XMR,” the report states. “Similar to other cryptocurrencies, Monero’s exchange-rate fluctuates heavily, at time of writing one XMR is worth $200, having peaked at $400 at the beginning of the year.”

At the time of this publication, the worth of a single Monero digital coin (XMR) dropped to $82. That’s still no chump change at $104,222 for four weeks worth of mining. The Coinhive developers get a chunk of that stash, too, earning 30 percent from each mined XMR.

Where is all of this Monero going? The report claims most of the mined funds are piped to 10 individuals. They’re using a short link service provided by Coinhive that requires web surfers to mine Monero in order to reach their destination. Most of these are resolved in minutes while others require an “unfeasible” number of hashes — in the millions — to compute.

“This link redirection monetization is comparable to short link services delaying the redirection while serving advertisements and paying the link creator a commission,” the report explains. “With Coinhive, the creator of the short link receives a share of the block reward that is mined by the users visiting the short links.”

To broadly detect web-based mining across the internet, the researchers ignored the public No Coin filter and developed a new technique based on WebAssembly. Scans showed Coinhive as the largest web-based mining provider to date with a 75 percent usage across mining websites. Other miners detected by this technique include AuthedMine, WP Monero Miner, and CryptoLoot.

No Coin is actually a browser extension with a blacklist that blocks sites with cryptocurrency mining code. The argument is that even though using these miners is great for removing ads, visitors don’t have means to opt out of the mining process. It’s separate from your typical ad-blocking solution because it addresses a different browsing problem. This extension is available for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera.

Editors’ Recommendations

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  • Valve bans Steam game that was installing cryptocurrency mining malware
  • Think your GPU rig is fast? This Asus motherboard can handle 20 at once


The Galaxy S9+ is the best phone out right now — period


The Samsung Galaxy S9+ builds on years of Samsung’s excellence. It starts with a gorgeously sculpted metal and glass body that’s waterproof, with features like dual speakers, a headphone jack and an SD card slot. Inside are the latest and greatest specs, plus a standout pair of cameras on the back and the best display on the market around front.

Our pick

Samsung Galaxy S9+


  • $820 from Amazon
  • $840 from Samsung

The best Android phone for most people.

Choosing the Galaxy S9+ doesn’t require much thought — it can do everything, and looks great doing it, with few real downsides. It’s beautiful, has the best screen, isn’t missing any hardware features and has one of the best camera experiences available in a smartphone today.

Who should buy this phone

Samsung designs its phones to be appealing to the widest possible audience, and that makes the Galaxy S9+ a great device for just about anyone. It has a big and beautiful display that’s quite simply the best in the industry, but with very small bezels and curved edges, it fits into a relatively compact size.

Internally, it has all of the latest specs to handle any app or task you need. It also has a pair of cameras on the back that are in the mix as the best available today. Samsung has also kept around crowd-pleasing features like wireless charging, waterproofing, an SD card slot and a headphone jack. Really, the Galaxy S9+ does a great job at being all things to all people.

Best of all, if you don’t care for the larger size of the Galaxy S9+ for whatever reason, you can simply buy the smaller and less expensive Galaxy S9 instead and get the same core experience with only a few changes.

Is it a good time to buy this phone?

Yes. The Samsung Galaxy S9+ launched the first week of March 2018, meaning it is still the latest and great phone that Samsung makes. The Galaxy Note 9 is expected to launch around October 2018, which will likely be only a marginal improvement over the Galaxy S9+, and the Galaxy S9+’s successor will not be unveiled until March 2019.

Reasons to buy

  • Sleek and beautiful hardware
  • Top-notch specs
  • Waterproofing, wireless charging and more
  • Best-in-class display
  • Up to 256GB of storage available
  • Fantastic dual cameras
  • Dual speakers and a headphone jack
  • Available everywhere

Reasons not to buy

  • Lots of unnecessary apps installed
  • Slow update speed

There are so many great Android phones available, but one stands out just a little extra

The Galaxy S9+ is all about giving you the most features, both hardware and software, in a beautiful package. You get a great display, top-end specs across the board, plus all of the hardware features you expect: waterproofing, wireless charging, an SD card slot, a headphone jack and more. It’s all wrapped up in a glossy and shiny metal-and-glass exterior that’s efficient and great looking.

The camera is all-new this generation, with a sensor that does fantastic processing to remove noise and sharpen fine detail even in poor lighting. It’s aided by a dual-aperture lens to get the best combination of light and detail in different shots, and is paired with a secondary telephoto lens for zoom and portrait mode shooting. Whether you shoot in auto or mess around in manual mode, you can get great shots in just about any scene.

You don’t get the clean and simple software experience of phones like the Google Pixel 2 XL or OnePlus 6, which may take some extra customization and tweaking on your part, but the Galaxy S9+ is far less polarizing overall because it just has so many features to appeal to everyone. When you take it all together, it’s a complete package.

Alternatives to the Samsung Galaxy S9+

No phone is perfect for everyone’s needs, and if you find the Galaxy S9+’s software to be overwhelming or grating, you’ll want to look at the Google Pixel 2 XL instead. Google’s take on Android is clean, fast and a pleasure to use every day — as you’d expect, it also perfectly integrates with Google’s apps and services.


Google Pixel 2 XL


$850 at Verizon

Stellar performance with the best camera you’ll find.

The cleanest, smoothest and most Google-friendly phone available. It has sleek hardware and a killer camera, with years of guaranteed software updates and unlimited Google Photos storage.

The Pixel 2 XL doesn’t have a fantastic screen or headphone jack like the Galaxy S9+ does, but that’s one of the trade-offs you make in order to get this fantastic software experience. The camera on Google’s flagship is just as good, though, and some would say that the overall experience, aided by that great software, is more consistent and approachable. You also get three years of guaranteed software updates, which provides excellent peace of mind.

Budget pick

OnePlus 6


$529 from OnePlus

Great value for an amazing feature-rich device.

The OnePlus 6 is pretty much everything you expect in a high-end phone, but for $200-300 less. You don’t give up much with this $529 phone, and in many ways, you get a better software experience.

These top-end phones are expensive, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck paying top-dollar for your next upgrade. The OnePlus 6 provides nearly the same experience as these other devices at a substantial discount — just $529. You get all of the latest specs inside, and it’s wrapped up in a beautiful metal-and-glass frame not unlike the Galaxy S9+.

There are a few shortcomings, like an average display, basic speaker, and subpar vibration motor, but the software experience is more akin to the Pixel 2 XL than the Galaxy S9+ — and that’s a good thing. OnePlus has dramatically improved its camera offering to where the OnePlus 6 is just a stone’s throw away from the top-of-the-line phones, which just adds to the great value this phone offers.

Amazing camera

Huawei P20 Pro


A high-end device that checks all the right boxes.

The Huawei P20 Pro is all about the cameras — a 40MP main sensor is assisted by an 8MP telephoto camera and a 20MP monochrome camera to give you so many shooting options and out-of-this-world results. It’s a photographer’s dream.

$800 from Amazon

You may think that the “Leica” branding is a bit of a joke at first, but don’t let that turn you away — the Huawei P20 Pro has an amazing set of cameras that can produce the best photos of any smartphone today. The combination of a 40MP main sensor, an 8MP telephoto camera and a 20MP monochrome sensor give you unending shooting options, and the software pulling it all together knows all of the tricks to create stellar photos.

The rest of the phone experience isn’t subpar, either — Huawei’s built a beautiful phone here with powerful specs. It’s just let down as ever by the Huawei software that heavily tweaks and modifies Android — to a fault. Some can look past that to get those wonderful cameras, though, and will even go so far as to import an international version to the U.S.

Bottom line

If you’re a bit more discerning about the software experience, you’ll want to look at the Google Pixel 2 XL. You’ll have to buy from Verizon or unlocked, but that Google software is worth it. For less money, the OnePlus 6 gives you a near-flagship experience and also has great clean software. The most versatile camera imaginable can be found in the Huawei P20 Pro, and the rest of the phone isn’t exactly bad — you’ll just have to put up with some software quirks to take advantage of that great imaging.

But the best Android phone for most potential buyers is the Samsung Galaxy S9+, as it provides the best experience and most features for the widest number of people — it’s also available everywhere, from any carrier or retailer you could imagine.

Update August 2018: The Galaxy S9+ takes over the top spot because of its great overall capabilities and wide-ranging availability. The Pixel 2 XL remains for those who want a simpler software experience and are willing to buy unlocked. The OnePlus 6 is the best pick for anyone who’s on a budget, and the Huawei P20 Pro remains the choice for photography-focused buyers.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide


Daniel Bader is the Managing Editor of Android Central. As he’s writing this, a mountain of old Android phones is about to fall on his head, but his Great Dane will protect him. He drinks way too much coffee and sleeps too little. He wonders if there’s a correlation.


Andrew Martonik is the Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central. He has been a mobile enthusiast since the Windows Mobile days, and covering all things Android-related with a unique perspective at AC since 2012. For suggestions and updates, you can reach him at or on Twitter at @andrewmartonik.


Jerry Hildenbrand is Mobile Nation’s Senior Editor and works from a Chromebook full time. Currently he is using Google’s Pixelbook but is always looking at new products and may have any Chromebook in his hands at any time. You’ll find him across the Mobile Nations network and you can hit him up on Twitter if you want to say hey.


Every PlayStation VR game with HOTAS support


If you’re going to fly in VR, you might as well go all in and pick up a HOTAS.

In the same way racing wheels with pedals make driving games in VR feel a lot more realistic, flight games in VR are improved dramatically when you add a Hands On Throttle And Stick (HOTAS) controller. These controllers allow you to really punch the throttle forward or quickly flip your ship around when fighting in space. You could do these things with a normal controller but, if a game supports HOTAS, the difference in how that it feels in VR is drastically different.

You can get a HOTAS controller for the PlayStation 4 for fairly cheap, but not every game supports this hardware. Here’s a quick list of the PlayStation VR games offering HOTAS support now, planning to offer support later, or launching later this year with support planned out of the box.

Not sure which HOTAS you want for PlayStation VR? We’ve got you covered!

  • Ultrawings
  • End Space
  • Eve: Valkyrie
  • StarBlood Arena
  • Space Rift
  • Ace Combat 7

Games you can play right now

There are a couple of PlayStation VR games you can buy right now, plug in your HOTAS controller, and everything will just work.



Ultrawings is an adorable obstacle in a cartoon world. Take on quests from flying challenges to shooting challenges and see if you can win all of the gold metals! You can find this game on the PlayStation for $24.99 and it’s worth every penny.

See on PlayStation Store.

End Space


The United Trade Consortium has entrusted you with some of their best equiptment to fight an ongoing war. Are you prepared to test your skills? You can find this title on the PlayStation Store for $19.99. While HOTAS support is available there has been reports that it’s not quite perfect yet.

See at PlayStation Store.

Eve: Valkyrie


The first epic space combat game for PlayStation VR has a lot of experience with HOTAS controllers, and adding one to this game makes space combat feel incredible. The best news? You can get it on Amazon for less than $20.

See at Amazon.

StarBlood Arena


More combat focused than space flight focused, this game is all about arena combat and lightning reflexes. A HOTAS controller could be the difference between victory and defeat in online multiplayer. Find this title on Amazon for $14.99!

See at Amazon.

Space Rift


This game already exists for PlayStation VR and HOTAS support was promised shortly after it’s release. Finally, you can play Space Rift with your favorite HOTAS controller! Find it on the PlayStation Store for $19.99

See at PlayStation Store.

Ace Combat 7


This franchise has a long history of quality flight experiences in both classic and modern combat planes. Ace Combat 7 is on Amazon for $59.99. The price might seem steep, but the game is truly worth it!

See at Amazon.

Games promising HOTAS support later

Stay tuned for when we hear about more games promising HOTAS support later!


Which HOTAS experience do you most like in your PlayStation VR? Sound off in the comments or send me a Tweet @OriginalSluggo

Update August 2018: We’ve added Ultrawings, End Space, Eve: Valkyrie, and Starblood arena as the new games with HOTAS support. Space Rift and Ace Combat have now upgraded to support HOTAS as well!

PlayStation 4


  • PS4 vs. PS4 Slim vs. PS4 Pro: Which should you buy?
  • PlayStation VR Review
  • Playing PS4 games through your phone is awesome



How to stop your Android phone from sharing your location with Google


All the settings you need to know when Google doesn’t need to know.

If you carry a cell phone — even a simple flip phone without any sort of real display — someone somewhere is tracking your location. Even if there is no SIM card inside, the phone is in constant contact with cellular towers as long as it’s turned on and one or more are in range. When you add some smarts to the mix and use something like an Android phone, things get a little more complicated.

We can’t help you hide your movements from carriers or cell towers because that’s a little past the grey line between privacy and the law. But we can help you keep Google from knowing where you’ve been and when you were there — all you need to know is that the name of some settings might not mean what you think they mean.

Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

Location History

timeline.jpg?itok=533dfaJD My timeline over seven years.

The wording here has a lot of people confused. Don’t feel bad if you’re one of them because it’s natural to think this means a place where the location of your phone is being kept and updated, and that turning it off should make it all stop. But that’s not what this is, it’s actually the name of a feature tied to your Google account.

Google has a nifty feature it calls a location timeline. You can check it out on your Android phone under the device location settings. What it does is show you a list of where your phone has been and when, and this can be turned into a really cool map that shows your movements over time. A lot of people want this sort of thing; it’s convenient for keeping track of mileage and distance, and this data is part of what Google uses to make Maps more personalized for you.

You can turn this on and off at will (note that turning it off doesn’t erase the data that’s already there) and your location won’t be saved into this history. But this is not a general location setting for any other app or purpose — it’s simply there to manage your location timeline. Turning it off doesn’t affect things like other apps knowing where you are, or localized search results, or anything else that may be requesting location data. You can see what apps want to use your location under the application permissions setting if you’re curious.

Web and App Activity


This is where you can see what apps see when they want your location. Whenever any app on any device you are using while logged into your Google account is used, the data it collects and stores to your Google account is logged here. According to Google, this data is used to provide a better experience in Google’s services.

Saves your activity on Google sites and apps to give you faster searches, better recommendations, and more personalized experiences in Maps, Search, and other Google services.

Some of that data may be your location. It’s important to know that you grant or revoke permission to access your location for each and every app individually, and this has nothing to do with the Location History setting on your account.

Taking control of all this

Knowing what’s going on here is only half the battle and knowing how to stop it all is equally important. Here’s what you need to know.

You can turn some or all of these settings off through the settings on your phone, but since they are account based you need to do it through the web. You can still use your phone to do it, just fire up your web browser and head to the Activity Controls page for your Google account.


The settings you need to know about are right at the top, labeled Web & App Activity and Location History and all you need to do to shut them down is toggle the blue switch. It’s interesting to see what’s been collected by opening the MANAGE ACTIVITY link for each. That’s where you can clear the saved history of each category, but you don’t need to do that to turn one or both off — just flick the switch.

But you do need to know what happens when you turn them off. Turning off Location History doesn’t seem to affect much outside of Google Maps and apps or products like the Local Guides program that are tied to it. Of course, we have no idea what or how Google uses the data stored there so it could halt your favorite thing. You’ll need to experiment here.

Turning off Web & App Activity does have a much larger impact. The first thing you’ll notice (it even warns you) is that Google Assistant instantly becomes mostly useless. That’s because it relies on knowing all about you to help you.

Other apps that depend on having some history about you stored will also work differently. You’ll no longer get narrow and specific search results tailored to you. You’ll notice shopping apps no longer notify you when you’re at a local store. Basically, any app or service that was keeping tabs on how and when you do the things you do will become less functional, or possibly even stop working altogether.

Account based is not device based

One last thing to know that’s also really important is that these settings are across all devices tied to your Google account. That means changing things on your phone’s web browser also changes things on your tablet or Chromebook or PC. But only for your account.

If you have multiple accounts on any device, the other account isn’t affected. You’ll need to make the same changes on all accounts to stop all activity from being logged. The same applies if you share a device, like a Chromebook, with someone else. What happens on their account is still logged and tied to that device.

We’re not suggesting that you hide everything you do from Google and try to stay incognito for all things. We just want you to know how you can keep location turned on so things like navigation apps work but keep the all-seeing Google eye from knowing about it.


Best ways to customize and decorate your Oculus Go


Art can make anything beautiful, including your VR headsets!

Most of us love the sleek look of a plain gray headset, but some of us like a little more spark or a little more silliness. From custom art to safe stickers, I’m gonna show you how to make your Oculus Go one of a kind.

By the time you’re done checking out all your options, your creative energy will be bursting at the seams to put it to good use and get rid of all of that gray! So without further ado, here’s how to give your Oculus Go that one-of-a-kind look you’ve been dying for.

Not interested in giving it a paint job? There are other options!

Give your Oculus Go a custom paint job


Of all the options that were available for customizing my headset, I personally decided to just go ahead and paint a design of my choosing on it. By no means am I a super artistic person, but I like to think I can get the job done if I need to.

If you’re worried about not having a steady hand or you’ve never drawn more than a couple of stick figures, don’t worry. You can always print out a stencil to make the whole process go that much smoother.

Usually, when people give custom art to their tech (like with controllers or Game Boy) they’ll use spray paint. That is not an option in this case. It’s only safe to use in those circumstances because you can actually it apart and put it back together. You can’t take the frame of the Oculus Go off, so using spray paint only risks getting paint into all the tiny holes and crevices.

Alchohol based ink paint


When I say, “Give your Oculus Go a custom paint job,” what I really mean is, “Give your Oculus Go a custom ink job.” You want to use the same ink paint that is used to paint model cars or miniatures for DND.

If you’re still apprehensive I can personally attest that I use my Oculus Go almost 2-3 hours at a time, even after the paint, and have experienced no issues. You can find it on Amazon for $14.20.

See on Amazon.

What you’ll need


You’ll probably find most of what you need in your house already. This includes things like a pencil, a paper plate, a plastic cup, rubbing alcohol, some paper towels and a good source of light.

The rest of what you’ll need are some fine point paint brushes, solvent-based enamel paint, and blue painters tape. If you don’t have painters tape (and don’t want to order any) I used masking tape and got away with it just fine.

Fine point brushes


You’re going to be painting on a much smaller surface than what you normally have on a canvas. For better detailing on the small pieces, you’ll want to make sure you have a few fine-point brushes laying around. You can get a set of 15 off Amazon for $10.97.

See on Amazon.

Cover all of the important bits


First things first, get out your tape and cut it into small sections. You’ll want the pieces of tape to be large enough to go over all the buttons, holes and then some. If what you want to paint will require you getting close to the buttons make sure you’re very careful.

I purposely picked a design that wouldn’t go anywhere near the buttons on my headset to avoid the risk of the paint causing things to stick together or get clunky. If you trust your steady hand a lot more than I trust mine then go for it! Just be very cautious of the crevices you’ll find along the rim of the face and on the bottom of your headset.

Rough drafts and the first base


The best part about the surface of your Oculus Go is the ability to draw on it with a pencil. If you don’t like how something turned out, or change your mind all-together, you can erase the entire thing with nothing more than a slightly damp paper towel.

With my project, I chose to do only a mild outline. Freehanding the Cookie Cats in the background was the best-worst decision I’ve ever made. Don’t be like me, draw out your outline. It’ll save you so much time.

Don’t worry about the clunkyness. As you can see from the second image I’ve provided in this section, the base of my art was very lumpy, uneven and even some of my colors mixed while I was painting. Don’t let it get to you. You’ll need to do a second coat of your paint anyway. If you do make a serious mistake all you have to do is wrap the pointy end of your paintbrush with a paper towel, dip it into some paint thinner (if the paint has dried) and wipe it off. There are no mistakes here, only happy accidents.

Finishing the job


Once you’re done with your base you should be able to go right into your second base. This paint dies wicked fast, making the whole process go pretty quick. Adding your second base will smooth out the paint and allow the colors to become more vibrant. Then all you have to go is go through and finish detailing!

When all is said and done, and you’re happy with your work, get your enamel finish out. I got the spray can version of this, but I did not use the spray directly on my headset. Instead, I sprayed it into a cup and painted it on with my brush. Topcoat for nail polish might seem like a good idea, but don’t do that. You need something that’s safe for temperatures, and outdoor enamel paint is usually perfect for this job. All you have to do is cover the paint, not the entire headset.

Want to change the image up every few months? Skip out on sealing it with enamel. This way you can wipe off your art with paint thinner and do something else with it at a later date. Yes, this means the art will go through the usual wear and tear. But, if you like a constant change you can just use it as motivation to paint again!

Other options


If you’re not the artistic type there are more ways to customize your Oculus Go. Instead, you can try a few of these other options to spice up your VR headset life. One of my personal favorites are the hilariously silly googly eyes. With minimal effort, you can enhance your VR experience forever with constant laughter.

Googly eyes


Nothing, I repeat, nothing will make me laugh more than seeing a pair of Googly eyes on a VR headset. For $6 you can find these stickers on Amazon and have a grand ole’ time with them. Get one of your friends to try out your Oculus Go with a pair of these babies on and strap them into the most physical game you can think of. The results will be endless laughter and great memories, I promise.

See on Amazon.

Other than that there is a decent variety of decal kits you can find online. These are a little bit of a pain to work with, but that might just be my OCD talking. I can almost never seem to get them to line up properly that I end up peeling off and sticking back on so many times it just stops working. I bet you’re better at this than I am, so you should get one for yourself and test it out!

Decal kits


If googly eyes are a little too silly for you there are a few more options. Amazon is carrying decal kits for your Oculus Go and there are quite a few choices to choose from! For $15 you can grab your favorite design and turn your headset into an absolute masterpiece. (Now with half the work!)

See on Amazon.

So how did you decorate your Oculus Go?

Whether you gave it your very own paint job or found some amazing sticker decals, I wanna hear all about it! Tell me in the comment section below, or shoot me a Tweet @OriginallSluggo. What are your plans for spicing up your headset?

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