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2
Sep

Should you still consider a mesh network in a small space?


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Best answer: It depends on your needs, but if you want top speeds in your apartment without running Ethernet cable everywhere, get a mesh network

Amazon: Google WiFi three-pack ($300)

How your apartment Wi-Fi is now

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If you live in an apartment — or even close to other houses — you can probably open your phone and see dozens of Wi-Fi networks from your neighbors. Most of those networks use the 2.4Ghz channel, which is designed to travel over long distances. Some closer to you will also be on the 5Ghz channel, which prioritizes speed over distance.

Even if you’re in the same room as your router, you may notice that you still have trouble connecting to your network. For demanding appliances — like your desktop PC or gaming console — you’d be better off with a wired connection from your router to the device. However, a wired connection in an apartment may be hard to route — and I say this as someone who has proudly taped an Ethernet cable to my ceiling.

What a mesh system offers

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Mesh routers like the Google Wifi, Orbi, Eero or AmpliFi may not seem like an obvious choice for your apartment. You’re not exactly struggling for coverage since you can clearly reach your network from across your apartment complex. But Mesh systems may be worth looking at because of just how they work.

When the routers inside your mesh network talk to each other, they aren’t using the same 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz channel that your laptop, smartphone, or other devices use to connect to the network. Because of this, the routers in the mesh system don’t have to worry about interference when they’re communicating with each other.

Why this is better

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Using a smartphone, laptop, or other device over Wi-Fi may still present the same issues with interference from your neighbor’s networks, but if your device is closer to one of our mesh routers, you should still have a better signal than you did before installing the mesh system.

The best part of a mesh system in an apartment comes for your more demanding devices — your game console, desktop computer or other devices that you would traditionally use an Ethernet cable for. A Google Wifi router offers an Ethernet port that you can use to connect those devices, and for all intents and purposes, it’s no different than running a long Ethernet cable from your main router. Speeds will be the same, and applications like Plex will work exactly the same as if you ran the long Ethernet cable.

Our pick

Google Wifi

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$300 at Amazon

Google’s Wifi systems are a breeze to set up, look great and all the maintenance is handled for you.

While it doesn’t offer many advanced features, Google has the basics covered with its mesh routers. More importantly, they take almost no effort to install and pair, security updates are applied without any user interaction and the routers themselves look great.

2
Sep

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 16GB tablet has dropped to just $130 today


Hook yourself up.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A eight-inch 16GB tablet is down to $129.99 on Amazon. This is a price match of Best Buy so you can find it there as well. The tablet normally sells for around $179, so this is a nice chunk off the price.

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The Galaxy Tab A has an eight-inch display with 1024 x 768 pixel resolution. It includes a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 1.5GB RAM, 16GB flash storage, and the Android 5.0 operating system. It has a 4200mAh battery with features like Ultra Power Saving mode to shut down non-essential apps and save some juice when you need it most. Invest in an inexpensive microSD card if you want to increase your storage.

See on Amazon

2
Sep

Get a fresh look with a new band for you Samsung Gear S2


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Give your Samsung Gear S2 a fresh look with a new wristband!

The Samsung Gear S2 is over two years old now, but it’s still a great smartwatch for. You may be thinking it’s time to upgrade to the new Galaxy Watch or an Wear OS option but if you’re really still loving the Gear S2 — or don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on an upgrade — you can make your watch feel brand new without breaking the bank.

The price of replacement bands has dropped so low that you can completely revamp the look of your Gear S2 for as low as $10. Let’s dive in on the best replacement bands for the Gear S2!

  • V_moro
  • Getwow
  • Moretek
  • MoKo
  • FanTEK

V_moro watch bands

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$9 at Amazon

If you’re a fan of giving your technology a bit of personal flair, then the V_moro watch bands should certainly pique your interest. There are over a dozen different silicone bands available in different solid colors, as well as a four-pack of floral and vintage designs.

The individual bands are $10, but the real price-performers here are the multi-packs, which give you four watch bands for the price of two. Considering just how easy it is to swap bands on a Gear S2, these packs can let you pick a new watch band every day to match your daily outfits.

Silicone bands are durable, waterproof, sweatproof, and work well in all seasons, meaning V_moro’s bands should stand up well to anything you might throw at them short of an open fire or a sword.

Getwow watch bands

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$8 at Amazon

Another great place to look is at the watch bands from Getwow. These rubberized bands have been so popular that they only have two eye-catching designs left — one dark and floral, the other bright and woodsy. At these prices, you should grab one before they vanish forever!

At $8 and $6, these bands are an impulse buy that can boost your style for less than a weekend of Pumpkin Spice lattes (we won’t judge). Some of the Amazon reviews have mentioned the band being a bit big on slimmer wrists, but they’ve also said these bands are more comfortable than the bands the Gear S2 came with.

Moretek watch bands

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$11 at Amazon

If you’ve got a Samsung Gear S2 Classic and want a watch band that will work well for fitness and prevents sweat from building up between your wrist and your watch, Moretek has you covered, with their porous silicone bands.

There are five color combinations that you’ll be able to choose from here, and the perfectly perforated design of these bands lets the two-tone color scheme shine through the gaps and add a subtle pop of color to your watch and your wrist.

MoKo watch bands

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$10 at Amazon

If you want to avoid clasps, the MoKo band for Gear S2 Classic is a magnetic option that adheres to itself. This means that if you have a wrist larger, or smaller, than the norm you don’t have to worry about it not fitting correctly.

Milanese loop bands are great for those of us with wrist sizes that seem to always be between the holes on our watch bands. These bands are easy to slip on and off because all you need to do is slide or life the magnetic clasp to loosen the band. The classic silver version is $10, but if you’re looking for a unique and psychedelic watch band for your Gear S2 Classic, there’s a Colorful anodized version that shimmers like a rainbow.

FanTEK watch bands

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$8 at Amazon

Not everybody wants a watch band that stands out like a shiny glitter bomb. Thankfully, FanTEK comes through with affordable watch bands that sport muted designs. Unlike the bright designs on many other watch bands, you’ll find dark colors and simple designs that draw your eye to the Gear S2 without being overwhelming.

FanTEK’s bands sport a lovely crimson, an alluring navy blue, a subtle charcoal gray, and the standard black. There’s also a white version, but that’s kind of bland. The black version can be had for $6, but the colors will run you $8.

How to replace your Gear S2 watch band

Once you get your Gear S2 replacement band, it’s easy to change it out. Just follow along with our how-to video!

What caught your eye?

Did any of these watch bands look like a real winner? Let us know about it in the comments below!

Update August 2018: I’ve updated pricing and pictures for our favorite functional and fashionable Gear S2 bands to reflect changes in designs and available colors. I’ve also removed the Honeda due to dwindling supply.

Samsung Gear S2

  • In-depth Samsung Gear S2 review
  • Full Gear S2 specs
  • Here are the phones that work with Gear S2
  • Gear S2 vs. Apple Watch
  • Join the discussion in our forums!

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2
Sep

Resist the urge to go swimming with your water-resistant Android phone


Not unless you like living on the edge, anyway.

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Every so often, we have to be reminded of a harsh reality — phones just shouldn’t be used in water, even if they’re built to. The advent of water-resistant smartphones has paved the way for swimming with your phone and potentially dropping it in the pool without having to be immediately stressed out about an insurance claim. Yay!

Or not. Although companies are increasingly making smartphones with IP68 water resistance, they’re not exactly advertising a day in the pool with them anymore. There’s a reason for that: they really don’t want you to ruin your phone.

IP Ratings Explained

Yes, the phones are water resistant, but there are many ways you can still suffer water damage. The most commonly listed disclaimer is that sitting submerged in a certain amount of water for a certain amount of time (usually varies by phone and manufacturer) is enough for the phone to potentially take on water damage.

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But here are all the things they don’t tell you:

  • Those figures are estimates. A phone could survive longer, and it can also take damage in a matter of minutes.
  • The claims these companies make are more often than not based on tests which are done with fresh water.
  • You’d be surprised just how much water you encounter on a daily basis is actually pure. The water in your swimming pool has chemicals. Your juice or soda has lots of bad stuff for electronics. And even water from your sink may have trace amounts of harmful bits. And don’t even think about using your phone in a sea of salt water, a deadly combo that’ll eat right through the strongest adhesives and sealants.
  • Even with pure water, there’s no guarantee that the seals used inside the phone won’t wear over time.
  • Even steam could be enough to damage a phone (though that’s probably only in the most extreme cases).

Just take a look at Sony’s page on the matter to see what we’re talking about. Despite extolling the virtues of water resistance and explaining exactly what their devices are rated for, they still have a long list of guidelines and a recommendation that you should generally be looking to avoid wet conditions whenever possible.

I come to all of you with this on a random Friday afternoon because I’m a victim of my own brand of carelessness. My Samsung Galaxy S9+ is usually good to sit inside of a 20-minute shower, with it resting up on a shelf that doesn’t come into direct contact with the shower stream. It sits in a case that protects the charging port and headphone jack, but nothing more.

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And for months it’s been problem-free… until the one time it wasn’t. I suddenly began experiencing problems with my speaker that I’d never had before. It wasn’t the usual waterlogged speaker sputtering until the water dried up or worked its way out. It was dying, and there was no amount of drying or waiting that could bring it back. I took the thing back to AT&T to be slapped with a big old deductible for water damage.

Granted, the phone wasn’t totally useless. I could still use apps, make calls, and all that good stuff, and I was probably really unlucky as I’d never come across any issues using my previous IP68-rated phone in this manner. But when you’re buying a product that has IP68 water resistance, know that resistance is not equivalent to invulnerability. Do yourself a favor and treat the phone like the fragile little $1,000 baby it is.

2
Sep

Power up on-the-go with this $6 Quick Charge 3.0 Dual USB Car Charger


Keep this stashed in your glove box for safe keeping.

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The Choetech 30W Dual USB Car Charger is available at Amazon for just $5.99 when you enter promo code QMX7USG8 during checkout. That’ll save you $9 off its average price.

This car charger features a Quick Charge 3.0 port which is capable of charging compatible devices four times faster than regular chargers can. It sounds like marketing nonsense, but it actually works really well. A USB-C cable is included with its purchase too, which is awesome because a USB-C cable would normally cost you at least $5 by itself anyway. There are safeguards to protect your devices from over-current, over-charging, and more.

Choetech includes an 18-month warranty with this charger’s purchase as well. At Amazon, over 1,500 customers reviewed it resulting in a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars.

See at Amazon

2
Sep

How to measure your home for the required number of smoke detectors


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Smoke detectors come in all shapes and sizes but still have one important job — letting you know that there may be a fire or similar emergency situation. To do that job efficiently and correctly you need to cover the right areas inside your house so that smoke (or other indicators of a fire) can be detected quickly and accurately. However, the requirements published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) can sometimes be hard to understand. Here’s what you need to know to make sure you’re getting proper protection.

Products Used In This Guide

  • Amazon: Nest Protect ($124)

National regulations

The NPFA regulations for residential dwellings — single family homes that don’t house a business or provide care services — say you’ll need an alarm in the following places:

  • All sleeping rooms and guest rooms.
  • Outside of each separate sleeping area, within 21 feet measured along the path of normal travel.
  • Every level of a dwelling where separated by a door, one shall be on each side of the door.
  • For dwellings greater than 1,000 square feet per level, one alarm for every 500 square feet of floor space mounted on the ceiling and within 30 linear feet of another detector.
  • Dwellings with vaulted ceilings allow detectors placed to protect an upper floor will also be designated as protecting the lower floor in areas with those types of high ceilings.
  • New homes built since 2007 require interconnected alarms/detectors.
  • Detectors shouldn’t be placed inside a garage, attic, furnace room, or kitchen because they can cause false alarms.

Even when pulled away from the more technical wording intended for contractors, these rules can be a bit confusing. And any local regulations (check with your closest fire department station) supersede these regulations. Here’s an easy way to break it down.

  • You need one alarm for every room designated as a bedroom or guest room.
  • You need an alarm on the outside of sleeping areas within 21 feet of its door. That means one detector can cover multiple rooms.
  • If you have a door to the basement stairs or an upper floor, you need one detector on each side of it.
  • If your house is bigger than 1,000 square feet — excluding an attached garage — you need a detector for every 500 square feet and it has to be no further than 30 feet away from another detector.

The first three bullet points are easy to understand — you know which rooms are intended for sleeping and if you have a door leading to the basement stairs. The last bit can be a little confusing, especially since a mounted detector can fulfill more than one of these requirements. If you have a home that was built during or after 2007, someone already did the work and you know where smoke detectors are required. If you’re installing new detectors you’ll need to know the size of your home in square feet and if all levels are the same size.

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For example, if you have a 3,000 square foot two-story house, you probably have 1,500 feet of floor space per level. That means you need at least three detectors per floor to meet these requirements (1,500 sq. feet divided by 500 sq. feet). Before you go buying anything extra, see where detectors needed for sleeping areas will be placed. If you need to mount two detectors outside of sleeping rooms in order for them to be within 30 feet of each other, you have met the requirements for that level. A good place for any alarms that are needed to fulfill the 500 square foot rule is at the foot and head of any stairs.

It’s recommended that you don’t put a detector inside an unfinished attic, a garage, your kitchen, or any room with a furnace or water heater. This is because these places tend to have water vapor or pollutants in the air that can cause false alarms. Your local building code may have different requirements here, though, so you should ask your Fire Marshall.

Our top equipment pick

If you want to protect your home from both smoke and carbon monoxide, there’s only really one choice. Don’t be tempted to go cheap when you’re buying something like a smoke detector but don’t spend money on products that aren’t great at what they do. That makes the Nest Protect the logical choice. These smart alarms use advanced detection methods and split-spectrum sensors to continuously monitor levels of pollutants (read: smoke) and carbon monoxide, and the Nest app lets you monitor things while away from home.

Best smoke detector

Nest Protect

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$124 at Amazon

If you’re replacing or adding smoke detectors, the Nest Protect is your best buy.

A smoke detector needs to warn you when appropriate, and not give false alarms. The Nest Protect excels at both and also provides excellent carbon monoxide detection. Because they’re from Nest, they are easily integrated into any home automation plan and work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

2
Sep

Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL swing by the FCC


Everything we know about what’ll likely be one of the year’s best phones.

Google first introduced its Pixel series in 2016, and since then, has been hard at work to establish itself as a serious player in the smartphone market. Google may be one of the most powerful and iconic companies in the world, but when it comes to hardware, is still very much a newcomer.

We saw vast improvements with the Pixel 2 compared to the original Pixel line, and we’re expecting to get that again with the Pixel 3. Google’s quickly learning what it takes to compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple, and seeing as how the Pixel 2 was one of 2017’s best phones, there’s a lot riding on this year’s entry.

Ladies and gentlemen, here’s everything we know so far about the Google Pixel 3.

The latest Pixel 3 news

August 31, 2018 — Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL swing by the FCC

Before we head out for the week, let’s end our Friday on another Pixel 3 tidbit.

Today, FCC listings A4RG013A and A4RG013C from Google appeared — likely relating to the Pixel 3 and 3 XL, respectively. These numbers line up to last year’s phones where the Pixel 2 was G011A and the 2 XL was G011C.

Although no new information is revealed in these listings, it’s once again confirmed that Foxconn is the manufacturer rather than HTC or LG like we saw with the Pixel 2 series.

August 30, 2018 — Regular Pixel 3 appears in first hands-on photos, might not be a Verizon exclusive

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Although the Pixel 3 XL has been leaked to death at this point, we still haven’t seen much on the regular Pixel 3 outside of device renders. However, thanks to a user over on Reddit, that’s now changing.

The photos confirm that the Pixel 3 will not have a notch and instead have slightly thicker bezels on the top and bottom compared to its XL sibling. The screen measures in at 5.5-inches, the resolution is 2160 x 1080, and there’s an aspect ratio of 18:9. The smaller battery also appears to be a 2,915 mAh unit.

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Other specs from the 3 XL are carried over to the Pixel 3, including the Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB RAM, dual 8MP front cameras, etc.

Also, in an update to the Reddit post, it’s said that the Pixel 3 in the above photos is part of a carrier testing program that isn’t Verizon. Contrary to reports we heard earlier this year, this suggests that Verizon’s exclusivity of the Pixel line may finally be over.

August 27, 2018 — Unboxing video shows off the Pixel 3 XL and its packaging, October 9 announcement date revealed

It’s pretty difficult to be surprised by a Pixel 3 leak anymore, but that certainly hasn’t stopped them from flowing in.

Most recently, a YouTube channel by the name of In DIGI uploaded a high-res 1080p Full HD unboxing video that shows the Pixel 3 XL being taken out of its packaging in one of the crispiest clips we’ve seen yet.

In addition to the Pixel 3 XL itself, the box is also home to the Pixel Bud-like wired earbuds that definitely appear to be included with the phone, #teampixel stickers, USB-C charging cable, USB-C to USB-A adapter, a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter, and AC wall adapter. The video gives us an up-close look at the front and back of the phone, as well as a few camera samples.

Lastly, we also got another hint as to when the Pixel 3 will officially be unveiled. In a Bloomberg article published by Mark Gurman this morning, it’s noted that:

Alphabet Inc.’s Google also plans to debut new Pixel phones on Oct. 9 at a media event in New York City, other people familiar with the plans said.

Google declined to comment on this news, but that lines up with earlier rumors and the press events for the company’s previous Pixel announcements for the past two years.

August 23, 2018 — Pixel 3 XL reported to have new Pixel Visual Core and a wide-angle selfie camera

We’ve known for quite some time that the Pixel 3 and 3 XL will have dual front-facing cameras, but up until now, it’s been a mystery as to what the second sensor will actually do. Thanks to a report from 9to5Google, we now have some more info as to what these sensors will be used for.

According to one source the site spoke with, the two cameras will allow for a new “Super Selfie” mode with another mention of there being an “improved Portrait Mode.” A leak from earlier today revealed new Portrait settings in the camera app, so that all lines up quite nicely.

As for the second sensor specifically, another source claims that this will act as a wide-angle lens so that users can fit more people in the frame in a single shot.

Details on the single rear camera are still pretty scarce, but 9to5 also mentions that one of their sources mentioned a “new Visual Core chip” and that Google is “doubling down on making a single camera powerful enough to not need a second camera.

August 23, 2018 — Another Pixel 3 XL leak highlights an updated camera app, included earbuds, and more

Kicking things off with a bang this morning, Russian website Mobile-Review recently published a “first look” at the Pixel 3 XL using a prototype model that was sent to it by “an anonymous well-wisher.” This hands-on is very similar to other ones we’ve seen already, but there are a couple new tidbits worth mentioning — specifically with the Pixel 3 XL’s camera app.

The UI shown here is a bit different from what we currently have on the Pixel 2. Rather than swiping open a hamburger menu to change shooting modes, the app now has them listed above the shutter button. Users can cycle through Panorama, Portrait, Camera, and Video. Tapping the More icon gives options for Google Lens, Slow Motion video, and Photo Sphere.

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Portrait mode now allows you to choose between Natural and Soft face-retouching in addition to toggling it off altogether, a new “Google Lens suggestions” mode is featured, and the rear camera is confirmed to be 12.2MP while the front-facing camera is 8MP. For whatever reason, only one front-facing camera is mentioned in the app despite the Pixel 3 XL clearly having two.

As for the included earbuds, the instruction manual that comes with them indicates you’ll be able to use the in-line controls for controlling music, answering calls, and prompting the Google Assistant.

August 22, 2018 — Stolen Pixel 3 XL handsets are apparently being sold on the Ukranian black market

It’s not an uncommon practice for smartphones to be leaked ahead of their official release, but with the Pixel 3 XL, the quantity and quality of leaks we’ve been getting lately has been somewhat staggering. The first hands-on photos of the Pixel 3 XL were shared all the way back in June, and since then, it’s been a nonstop flood of leak after leak.

According to a new report from 9to5Google, a large portion of the leaks have been appearing thanks to a black market dealer over in Ukraine.

Essentially, this dealer somehow acquired multiple models of the phone and is shipping them from London at a price of $2,000 USD per phone. They’re said to be pre-release versions of the Pixel 3 XL, with it noted that “everything looks and works exactly the same” compared to the final versions that’ll be released in October.

We aren’t sure how many units this seller has or how they obtained them in the first place, but it’s further reported that people are still buying the phones and that more leaks are coming soon.

August 22, 2018 — Pixel 3 XL poses for more hands-on photos, Active Edge appears to be making a return

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The Pixel 3 XL has reared its head in a number of hands-on photos at this point, but for the most part, they’ve been pretty low-quality and not the prettiest to look at. Thanks to user @wylsacom on Twitter and Rozetked, that’s no longer the case.

These photos don’t reveal a whole lot that we haven’t seen before, but they show off the Pixel 3 XL in a much more professional manner and, more importantly, a higher resolution.

The notch is as big as ever, the back is definitely all glass, and thanks to a shot of the settings page, it appears that Active Edge is returning so you can squeeze the sides to prompt Google Assistant.

August 22, 2018 — Leaked video confirms wireless charging on Pixel 3 XL; Camera samples shared on Instagram

Thanks to various hands-on photos, we’ve known for a while that the Pixel 3 and 3 XL will come with all-glass backs. However, up until now, it’s been a mystery as to whether or not wireless charging will make its way to the phones.

At least for the larger Pixel 3 XL, a video that was shared by user @khoroshev on Twitter confirms that this feature is, in fact, present.

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— Максим Хорошев (@khoroshev) August 22, 2018

The video above shows the Pixel 3 XL being placed onto a wireless charging pad, and when it makes a contact, a small animation appears on the screen to show the current battery percentage and to indicate that charging has begun. Google’s obviously yet to confirm the legitimacy of this video, but it sure does seem like wireless charging is a go for the Pixel 3 lineup.

Along with the video, that same person also took to Instagram to share a heap of photos that he supposedly captured with the Pixel 3 XL. Just like the Pixel 2 before it, the pictures showcase great dynamic range, excellent colors, and more. We don’t have access to the full-resolution files seeing as how these were uploaded to Instagram, but even so, it’s a great early look at what’s to come.

You can check out all of the photos here and here.

August 17, 2018 — Pixel 3 XL and its unforgiving notch pop up in Toronto

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Surprise, surprise — another Pixel 3 XL leak!

A reader of the Canadian tech site MobileSyrup recently snapped the above photo while riding a streetcar in Toronto. As you can see, the phone shown in the picture appears to be none other than the Google Pixel 3 XL.

While Google’s yet to formally unveil the phone, the device lines up with everything else we’ve seen so far. It’s running Android P, has a chin below the display, and its large notch is impossible to miss.

This photo doesn’t reveal anything we didn’t already know about the phone, but the fact that Google’s got people using these out in the wild confirms that we’re not too far off from an official launch.

August 10, 2018 — Another hands-on video shows the Pixel 3 XL in use while also confirming some specs

The same person that shared those Pixel 3 XL photos and unboxing video from a couple days ago has returned with yet another video that reveals even more about the phone.

In this video, we can see the Pixel 3 XL actually being used. It’s running Android 9 Pie (no surprise there) and appears to have the same UI of the Pixel and Pixel 2 running the new software.

A couple benchmarks results are also shown during the video, and as such, a handful of specs have been confirmed. They include:

  • 1440 x 2960 screen resolution
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor w/ Adreno 630 GPU
  • 3,430 mAh battery
  • 12.2MP rear camera
  • 8.1MP front-facing camera (x3)

The most interesting of those specs are the front-facing cameras. Antutu lists three 8.1MP sensors up front, although in the video we can only see two. This could be nothing more than a glitch in the app, or Google could have implemented some sort of mystery camera up there. We really aren’t sure about that one.

August 8, 2018 — Pixel 3 XL appears in more hands-on photos and unboxing video

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Previous renders and real-world pictures have already given us a clear look at the Pixel 3 XL’s design, and to help make that image as clear as humanly possible, SlashLeaks recently shared three additional hands-on photos and an unboxing video of the phone.

One of the photos shows the back of the white Pixel 3 XL while the other two showcase the front. We once again see that Google will be sticking with just one rear camera and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and unfortunately, that notch hasn’t shrunk at all since the last time we saw it.

Moving over to the unboxing video, it’s apparent that Google’s using very similar packaging compared to the Pixel 2 and 2 XL. The box does contain a pair of wired USB-C earbuds in addition to the Pixel 3 XL, but seeing as how Google experimented with this idea for last year’s release, we aren’t entirely sure if the free buds will stick around for the final retail packaging.

August 6, 2018 — October 4 launch date leaked for the Pixel 3

While we’ve seen plenty of leaked renders and specs for the Pixel 3, talk about its release date has been fairly quiet. That is, up until now. As spotted by Brandon Lee from the YouTube channel This is Tech Today, the Pixel 3 is shown to be released on October 4 according to the website Famebit.

Famebit is a website that allows companies to connect with content creators and work out deals to create sponsored content for YouTube videos, Instagram posts, etc. An ad on the site was recently created by Google and asks for Canadian creators to switch to the Pixel 3 and then making a video talking about their experience.

In this listing, it’s stated that “The Pixel 3 phone is launching October 4, 2018.”

While there’s no way to confirm if this ad really was created by Google, that October 4 date is what we were previously expecting anyways. That’s the same day Google used to announce the Pixel and Pixel 2 before, so it makes sense that it’d keep the trend going this year.

July 30, 2018 — Clearly White Google Pixel 3 XL shows up in new leak

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We just got our best look at the Google Pixel 3 XL courtesy of XDA. The images in question show off the Clearly White color option, and the live photos confirm a cutout at the front and a single rear camera. We can also make out a single speaker located below the display.

The XDA leak once again reaffirms the presence of a glass back on the Pixel 3 XL, with the finish alternating between glossy and matte. A glass back opens up the possibility for wireless charging, but for now there’s no further information as to whether the feature will make its way to the device.

July 28, 2018 — ‘Pixel Stand’ could be a wireless charger for the upcoming Pixels

A teardown of the Google app by the folks at XDA has served up interesting information. The code references something called a Pixel Stand, leading to suggestions that it will be a wireless charging dock for the upcoming Pixels.

According to XDA, the Pixel Stand will feature Assistant integration, and will be able to offer personalized suggestions and answer queries when the phone is docked.

June 27, 2018 — Pixel 3 and 3 XL renders show the phones from every possible angle

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As if previous leaks of the Pixel 3 and 3 XL haven’t been revealing enough, MySmartPrice teamed up with OnLeaks to share a boatload of both photo and video renders of the two phones.

These renders confirm a lot of what we’ve previously seen, including things like an all-glass back for both phones, single rear cameras, and a notch on the larger Pixel 3 XL.

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However, while earlier rumors suggested that only the 3 XL would have two front-facing cameras, these renders show that the regular Pixel 3 will have them, too.

The Pixel 3’s display is said to measure in at 5.4-inches with an 18:9 aspect ratio, whereas the Pixel 3 XL will have a 6.2-inch screen and 19:9 setup. As for the dimensions, we’re looking at 145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9mm for the Pixel 3 and 158 x 76.6 x 7.9mm for the 3 XL.

June 18, 2018 — Case render confirms Pixel 3 XL design

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Ice Universe on Twitter has built up a reputation for being pretty accurate about leaks/rumors in the mobile space, and on June 18, they shared a case render that further confirms the Pixel 3 XL’s design.

Like we saw with the hands-on photos on June 7 and 8, the Pixel 3 XL will have a notch in its screen, dual front-facing cameras, stereo speakers, rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and a single rear camera.

It’s peculiar that Google’s choosing to use two cameras on the front while keeping just one on the back, but based on how excellent the Pixel 2’s single rear camera is, I don’t expect this will be a downside at all.

June 8, 2018 — Pixel 3 XL shown off in six more hands-on pictures

Less than a day after those first two hands-on photos of the Pixel 3 XL surfaced, six more have appeared.

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These additional photos showcase the Pixel 3 XL from every possible angle, and when XDA Developers reached out to their forum member that shared them, they were able to confirm that the phone has a full glass back. In other words, it’s possible this year’s Pixel line may finally adopt wireless charging.

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The front and back photos are pretty similar compared to what we saw yesterday, but the other images showcase a reflective glass frame around the phone, volume rocker and power/lock button on the right side, and a USB-C port and SIM slot on the bottom.

Also, as 9to5Google pointed out, that mysterious logo on the back of the Pixel 3 XL was used previously with old Pixel 2 prototypes.

June 7, 2018 — Hands-on photos apparently showcase a Pixel 3 XL prototype

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Out of the blue, XDA Senior Member meraz9000 shared two photos on the XDA Forums showing what’s supposed to be a prototype of the Pixel 3 XL. There’s obviously no way we can confirm whether or not this is the real deal, but it sure does line up with the display panels that were leaked last month.

The photos show the Pixel 3 XL from both the front and back, with the front reiterating the point that the 3 XL will more than likely have a notch in its screen. For what it’s worth, it does look like we’ll be getting two front-facing cameras and a chin at the bottom to retain stereo front-facing speakers.

Around back, this Pixel 3 XL prototype looks nearly identical to that of the Pixel 2 XL. The glass panel seems to be ever-so-slightly smaller, but that could just be the way the photo was taken.

In any case, what do you think about how the Pixel 3 XL is shaping up?

June 4, 2018 — Google’s apparently working on a mid-range Pixel phone

According to one tipster, Google’s in the process of developing a mid-range Pixel phone that’s codenamed “Bonito” and is powered by the Snapdragon 710 processor.

Rumors of a mid-range Pixel first popped up in April, but the old claim of it launching this July has since been replaced with a release scheduled for the first half of 2019.

That would suggest that Google may launch this new Pixel phone during I/O next year, but with so much discrepancy surrounding the release date, it’s entirely possible it’ll be announced alongside the Pixel 3 in October.

May 30, 2018 (part 2) — Verizon is said to be the exclusive carrier for the Pixel 3, again 😕

A report from Bloomberg recently surfaced confirming a few details about Google’s upcoming phones per a source that’s familiar with their production. According to the report:

  • The Pixel 3 series will once again be exclusive to Verizon Wireless in the U.S.
  • A notch will be present on the larger Pixel 3 XL
  • Google will announce/launch the phones in October
  • Foxconn will manufacture the Pixel 3/3 XL
  • Stereo speakers will be present on both phones
  • The Pixel 3 XL will have dual front-facing cameras
  • “Both models will include upgraded, single-lens cameras on the back”

May 30, 2018 — LG will reportedly manufacture the Pixel 3 XL’s OLED display

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Just a couple days after the Pixel 3 XL’s notched panel leaked, a report’s come out of Korea claiming that Google will once again use LG to manufacture and supply an OLED screen for the phone.

Furthermore, an official from LG Display that remains anonymous said, “We have maintained close ties with Google and the volume will not be much different from the previous one (the Pixel 2 XL).”

If this turns out to be true, one can only hope that LG’s improved the quality of its mobile panels since last year. The LG-made Pixel 2 XL display was the center of a lot of controversy for the phone’s first few weeks out in the wild, and Google really can’t afford to go through that again with gen-three.

What do you think about LG making the Pixel 3 XL’s display?

May 28, 2018 — The Pixel 3 goes 2:1 and the Pixel 3 XL gets a notch

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Here’s an interesting leak that, while not necessarily all-telling, gives us an indication of where Google is taking the series in 2018. Specifically, the larger Pixel 3 XL looks to have a notch while the smaller Pixel 3, though moving to a 2:1 aspect ratio, will lack one. At the same time, we see some sensors that may indicate Google is adding either a second front camera to the phones or, more likely, some sort of dedicated biometric sensor for faster/more reliable face unlock.

The leak comes from Weibo (by way of Slashleaks) and reportedly shows two front glass panels for the new phones. Given that we’re almost in June, this would be the time for accessory makers to begin testing products for the final phone design. It’s also good to see Google maintaining dual front-facing speakers for the lineup.

What do you think of this latest leak?

May 10, 2018 — The Pixel 3 could be joined by second-gen Pixel Buds and a Pixel Watch

Google’s hardware events surround the Pixel phones with a heap of other product announcements, and this year, it’s reported that we’ll see a second-gen version of Pixel Buds and Google’s first Pixel-branded smartwatch.

Specifics on these gadgets are still up in the air, and as excited as I am to see how Google improves its wireless earbud game, I’m beyond ecstatic to see how the company’s first smartwatch turns out.

Wear OS is in an awkward stage right now, but a proper Pixel Watch and new silicon from Qualcomm could bring it back into the limelight. Assuming Google handles this right, the Apple Watch may soon be faced with some of its stiffest competition yet.

When will the Pixel 3 be released?

In 2016 and 2017, Google held its hardware event on October 4. We don’t have a concrete date for this year’s event quite yet, but there’s no reason to believe Google will deter from this pattern.

A Bloomberg article reports that the event will be held on October 9, and while that’s a few days later than the past two announcements, is still within the general ballpark we were expecting.

Pre-orders for the Pixel 3 will likely open shortly after it’s announced that same day with shipments going out at least a couple of weeks later.

How much will the Pixel 3 cost?

Over the past couple years, pricing for Google’s Pixel phones has remained mostly the same. The MSRP for the Pixel and Pixel 2 series is as follows:

  • Pixel w/ 32GB — $649
  • Pixel w/ 128GB — $749
  • Pixel 2 w/ 64GB — $649
  • Pixel 2 w/ 128GB — $749
  • Pixel XL w/ 32GB — $769
  • Pixel XL w/ 128GB — $869
  • Pixel 2 XL w/ 64GB —$849
  • Pixel 2 XL w/ 128GB — $949

I imagine we’ll see similar numbers with the Pixel 3, but don’t be too surprised if we get a Pixel 3 XL variant that crosses the $1000 threshold.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

  • Pixel 2 FAQ: Everything you need to know!
  • Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL review: The new standard
  • Google Pixel 2 specs
  • Google Pixel 2 vs. Pixel 2 XL: What’s the difference?
  • Join our Pixel 2 forums

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2
Sep

RAGE 2 is a carnival of carnage fans of DOOM won’t want to miss


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RAGE 2 is an upcoming dream collaboration between id Software and Avalanche. The result is a circus of mayhem fans of DOOM or Just Cause can’t afford to miss.

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RAGE 2 is the unexpected sequel to 2010’s post-apocalyptic shooter from id Software. RAGE 2 takes place decades after its predecessor, following a global catastrophe. An asteroid impact has wiped out virtually all civilization, leaving earth in a dilapidated state. Many of the survivors banded together to form enclaves, some passive, others violent, as lawlessness and chaos grip the land.

RAGE owes a little more to Mad Max than some of the other post-apocalyptic titles out there, due to its focus on wasteland vehicular combat. To continue that tradition, id Software enlisted the aid of Avalanche Studios, known for its chaotic sandboxes like Just Cause and the criminally underrated take on the Mad Max universe, which in my opinion, has the best vehicular combat in an open world game, maybe ever.

We went hands-on with RAGE 2 at Gamescom 2018, and we talked to id Software Studio Director Tim Willits and Senior Game Designer Loke Wallmo from Avalanche Studios.

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Setting the scene for mayhem

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Players take control of Walker in RAGE 2, a descendant of nanomachine-enhanced humans who used advanced technology to escape the asteroid impact. Walker also has these nanomachines, dubbed “nanotrites” in-game, and he can wield them more effectively than Nicholas Raine from the previous game, complete with superhuman strength. The tutorial narrator refers to you as a Wasteland Superhero, and that very much sums up RAGE 2’s core gameplay premise.

Taking place 30 years after the first game, RAGE 2 will feature an all-new cast and self-contained story, although it will feature nods and returning characters for fans of the original.

RAGE 2 will also ditch the “50 shades of brown,” as described by id Software’s Willits, in favor of brighter colors and a wider variety of biomes. The orbital “Arks” used by humanity to avoid complete annihilation also came equipped with terraforming equipment to repair the world’s ecology after the asteroid impact. Their descent to earth has created forests, swamps, and other types of terrain not present in the original. This gives RAGE 2 its own personality, as the world recovers from the desert wasteland of its predecessor.

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RAGE 2 doesn’t have an RPG-like “EXP” system or anything of that nature, but there are characters and quests scattered throughout the world that will give you upgrades for virtually any weapon or system tied to your character. RAGE 2 will also feature some vehicle customization and grant you the ability to collect vehicles. Any vehicle in the game can be hijacked and driven, too, including the hulking war machine big-rigs.

While you will be fighting plenty of Mad Max-style primitivist bandits in RAGE 2, you will also be battling twisted mutants, deranged cultists, and the game’s central antagonist, The Authority, who are all attempting to take over what little remains of civilization by force. Devoid of morals, The Authority utilizes an army of twisted cyborgs and bastardized nanotrite technology, so they should prove to be more difficult to battle than your average road warrior.

Chaotic combat with elegant execution

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RAGE 2 retains some familiarity from the original title. Notably, the Mad Max-inspired boomerang-like “wingsticks” return, with some brand new homing technology. And RAGE 2 is still the fast-paced shooter that you remember.

RAGE 2’s combat flows with an elegance the original RAGE simply couldn’t achieve.

The demo we played took place in an abandoned space facility, where the player is tasked with overseeing the landing of a satellite. The base, naturally, has been taken over by bandits and crazies, and the demo gave us a multitude of violent toys to play with.

RAGE 2 isn’t a cover-based shooter by any means. In keeping with titles like DOOM, you’re supposed to be fast on your feet, moving from area to area with a shotgun in hand and nanotrite superpowers in the other. RAGE 2 will have a wide array of weapons, so we’re told, but in our demo, the shotgun stood out as particularly unique.

I got to play RAGE 2 at Gamescom 2018, and it might have some of the best shotgun gameplay I’ve ever seen. (Reuploaded, wrong clip before) pic.twitter.com/LzpyQOfuHk

— Jezpunk 2077 (@JezCorden) August 30, 2018

One of RAGE’s signature features was the realistic and unpredictable way enemies moved. They could vault over objects, parkour along walls, and swing from bars. id Software seems to have continued this tradition in RAGE 2, but now it works both ways. The shotgun isn’t only incredibly satisfying to use simply from a first-person-shooter (FPS) standpoint, but now, it also has impact. Hitting an armored enemy in the chest might not kill them, but the force will knock them flying across objects, splattering onto the corners of tables or hanging over railings. You can also use it to push them off ledges or out of windows, when not killing them outright. The sheer force of a weapon is something often overlooked by other shooters, and it simply felt tremendous in RAGE 2.

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Nanotrites in the first game only allowed the player to resurrect in the field with an internal defibrillator, but their implementation in RAGE 2 goes far deeper. Walker can quickly dash left and right, to escape bullet fire. He can also do a force punch, reducing unarmoured and low-health enemies to piles of bloody chunks. You can also leap into the air and forcefully strike the ground, creating a wave of devastation, knocking enemies flying away when you’re surrounded.

You can feel the touch of Avalanche at every level in RAGE 2, with the way the game’s physics-based systems interact with one another. Perhaps you punch someone across the room with the Shatter nanotrite ability, and they might slam into a gas canister and cause an explosion, which might then chain react with other nearby explosives in a scene wholly reminiscent of Just Cause. The organic nature of these gameplay mechanics creates dynamic events that are far more memorable than any scripted sequence. As a result, every weapon and every ability I tried in RAGE 2 was incredibly infectious to use, creating unpredictable sequences that were awe-inspiring. RAGE 2’s combat flows with an elegance the original RAGE simply couldn’t achieve.

RAGE 2 is the result of a match made in gaming heaven

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RAGE 2 looks like its shaping up to be a match made in gaming heaven, as id Software and Avalanche Studios’ unique skillsets intersect and complement each other like few gaming partnerships have. The industry-leading shooter expertise of id Software is on full display in RAGE 2, and merging it with Avalanche’s open-world tech and vehicular combat from Just Cause and Mad Max holds a tremendous amount of promise.

RAGE 2 is a completely single-player experience, although id Software teases some connected “community” features and some post-launch content. The game world will be “massive,” completely free of loading screens or artificial sector gating, allowing players the freedom to explore the wastes, jungles, and ruins as they see fit.

RAGE 2 doesn’t have a fixed launch date as of writing, but it should drop sometime in 2019 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

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2
Sep

HTC U12 Life hands-on: Quite a looker, with an interesting take on plastic


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A few good ideas with some uninspiring execution.

HTC’s attempt at parlaying the brand recognition of the U11 into the lower-end U11 Life didn’t particularly work out. It was an entirely forgettable phone with some performance shortcomings — hardly just a “small version of the latest flagship.” HTC is at it once again with the HTC U12 Life, which is even further removed in terms of design from the U12+ — outside of the fact that it’s made out of plastic, of course, it also just lacks even a passing resemblance to the flagship.

HTC uses the phrase “acrylic glass unibody with a metal like design” to describe the U12 Life. This phone is plastic. All the way through. And that’s okay! Lots of inexpensive phones are made out of plastic. And when you just own up to it and make something good of it, nobody cares. HTC did something very interesting with the back of the phone, etching parallel lines across about two-thirds of the back to provide not only a super-unique look but also extra grip and fingerprint resistance. I would love to see this process applied to a full glass-backed phone, and maybe we’ll see it in the future.

See at HTC

The rest of the build of the phone looks a whole lot like the U11 Life, which means the plastic is overly shiny and therefore shows off many of the flaws of the cheap materials. It recreates the eye-catching sheen of the U12+ from a distance, but in your hand it feels like the mid-range phone it is.

The size lands in the “just right” segment, with a 6-inch 18:9 display that has surprisingly small bezels for this class of phone and isn’t hindered by a notch. HTC’s picked a quality display from what I can tell, and 1080p resolution is plenty for a mid-range phone. That etched back provides a little extra grip to counteract the slippery sides, but with this display size I had no issues handling and reaching across it.

It’s interesting that HTC decided to roll out two colors that are so similar. Ostensibly they are blue and purple, but depending on the lighting they almost identical. The “blue” version is a bit duller and less flashy, while the “purple” has a mirror-like finish that reflects more and is therefore more chrome or metallic as a result. They both look good from a distance, though the evaluation units I handled at IFA 2018 were already heavily gouged in the top non-etched portion of the backs.

Evaluating mid-range phone design is a tough task, because you know the most important features of these phones are things like real-world performance, features and display quality. Those are all things that I can’t properly examine in a short time with the phones. Chances are the relatively light HTC software, Snapdragon 636, 4 or 6GB of RAM and 3600mAh battery will get the job done in that respect. So if you’re buying based on style, as so many people looking for a smartphone bargain are, the HTC U12 Life checks the box. It isn’t a U12+ in any way, but if you get past the naming misdirection you’ll find this is a really nice inexpensive phone.

See at HTC

2
Sep

Sprint’s new $90/month Unlimited Premium plan sounds kind of awesome


The price goes down to $80/month if you bring your own device.

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Less than two months ago, Sprint decided to do away with its one-size-fits-all unlimited plan and introduce two new ones — Unlimited Plus and Unlimited Basic. Starting today, those two plans are being joined by another, more expensive option called Unlimited Premium.

Sprint Unlimited Premium costs $90/month for one line, but if you bring over your own phone or buy a brand-new one at full price, goes down to $80/month. Included with the plan is unlimited talk, text, and data, video streaming in Full HD, unlimited talk, text, and LTE data in Mexico + Canada, and global roaming in over 185 countries around the world.

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None of that’s particularly special, but one of the big perks of Unlimited Premium is that you get access to 50GB of mobile hotspot data each and every month. For comparison’s sake, Unlimited Plus only comes with 15GB.

To make the deal even sweeter, Sprint also includes:

  • Amazon Prime ($119/year value)
  • Tidal Premium ($9.99/month value)
  • Hulu with Limited Commercials ($7.99/month value)
  • Lookout Premium Plus mobile security service ($99.99/year value)

Plus, for a limited time, Unlimited Premium subscribers get $20 in Uber credits to use each month.

The act of wireless carriers having multiple “unlimited” plans can get old really fast, but Sprint’s latest offer with Unlimited Premium honestly sounds like an amazing deal. If you’re interested, you can check it out for yourself on Sprint’s site right now.

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Carriers

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  • Which unlimited plan should you buy?
  • Verizon’s Unlimited plans: Everything you need to know
  • Everything you need to know about the T-Mobile ONE unlimited plan
  • Everything you need to know about the AT&T Unlimited plan
  • Everything you need to know about Sprint’s Unlimited Freedom plan
  • Join the Discussion

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