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MacRumors Giveaway: Win a Black Leather Apple Watch Band From Southern Straps

For this week’s giveaway, we’ve teamed up with Southern Straps to give MacRumors readers a chance to win one of the company’s black leather Apple Watch bands.

Southern Straps offers a range of high-quality leather and colored nylon Apple Watch bands on its website. The black leather band is crafted from a single piece of supple, full grain Italian leather, which the company says has not been sanded, buffed, or snuffed, leaving it with an attractive, unblemished finish.

To ensure a deep, long lasting black, the strap has been dyed with vegetable dye and it features hand stitching with waxed cord. All of Southern Straps’ leather bands feature a two-year warranty against manufacturing damage.

The black leather band fits all Apple Watch models, including the new Apple Watch Series 4 models. Southern Straps offers its leather bands with lugs to match all Apple Watch finishes, including black, silver, and gold.

Southern Straps’ leather bands are reasonably priced at $79, but we have 15 to give away to MacRumors readers. To enter to win our giveaway, use the Rafflecopter widget below and enter an email address. Email addresses will be used solely for contact purposes to reach the winners and send the prizes. You can earn additional entries by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, subscribing to our YouTube channel, following us on Twitter, following us on Instagram, or visiting the MacRumors Facebook page.

Due to the complexities of international laws regarding giveaways, only U.S. residents who are 18 years or older and Canadian residents (excluding Quebec) who have reached the age of majority in their province or territory are eligible to enter. To offer feedback or get more information on the giveaway restrictions, please refer to our Site Feedback section, as that is where discussion of the rules will be redirected.

a Rafflecopter giveawayThe contest will run from today (October 5) at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time through 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time on October 12. The winners will be chosen randomly on October 12 and will be contacted by email. The winners will have 48 hours to respond and provide a shipping address before new winners are chosen.

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Apple’s Former Legal Chief Bruce Sewell Says FBI ‘Never Heard’ of Supermicro Allegations Last Year

Apple’s efforts to thoroughly deny this week’s bombshell Bloomberg Businessweek report now extend to a former top executive.

Apple’s former general counsel Bruce Sewell
Apple’s recently retired general counsel Bruce Sewell told Reuters he called the FBI’s then-general counsel James Baker last year after being told by Bloomberg of an open investigation into Supermicro, and was told that nobody at the federal law enforcement agency knows what the story is about.

“I got on the phone with him personally and said, ‘Do you know anything about this?,” Sewell said of his conversation with Baker, reports Reuters. “He said, ‘I’ve never heard of this, but give me 24 hours to make sure.’ He called me back 24 hours later and said ‘Nobody here knows what this story is about.’”

Sewell’s comments are consistent with a statement Apple shared with Bloomberg Businessweek and on its Newsroom on Thursday:

On this we can be very clear: Apple has never found malicious chips, “hardware manipulations” or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server. Apple never had any contact with the FBI or any other agency about such an incident. We are not aware of any investigation by the FBI, nor are our contacts in law enforcement.

Also from the Apple Newsroom:

No one from Apple ever reached out to the FBI about anything like this, and we have never heard from the FBI about an investigation of this kind — much less tried to restrict it.

Apple later clarified that it is not under any kind of gag order or other confidentiality obligations after speculation mounted.

Amazon and Supermicro have also refuted the Bloomberg Businessweek report, with the latter company claiming it has “never been contacted by any government agencies either domestic or foreign regarding the alleged claims.”

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has also backed Apple’s and Amazon’s denials of the Bloomberg Businessweek report, claiming Chinese spies planted tiny chips the size of a pencil tip on server motherboards manufactured by Supermicro, which both Apple and Amazon used at one time in their data centers.

“We are aware of the media reports but at this stage have no reason to doubt the detailed assessments made by AWS and Apple,” the agency, a unit of the GCHQ, said in a statement provided to Reuters today.

“The NCSC engages confidentially with security researchers and urges anybody with credible intelligence about these reports to contact us.”

Bloomberg Businessweek yesterday reported that Apple discovered the suspicious microchips around May 2015, after detecting odd network activity and firmware problems. Two senior Apple insiders were cited as saying the company reported the incident to the FBI, but kept details tightly held.

The insiders cited in the report said in the summer of 2015, a few weeks after Apple identified the malicious chips, the company started removing all Supermicro servers from its data centers. Every one of the 7,000 or so Supermicro servers was replaced in a matter of weeks, according to one of the insiders.

One government official cited in the Bloomberg Businessweek report said China’s goal was “long-term access to high-value corporate secrets and sensitive government networks.” No consumer data is known to have been stolen, the report added, but the extent of the alleged attack appears to be unclear.

At this point, there is a clear divide between what Bloomberg is reporting and the denials from Apple, Amazon, and Supermicro. In the coming days, additional information will hopefully provide some clarity about the matter.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tags: China, Bruce Sewell
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AnandTech Calls A12 Bionic in iPhone XS ‘Just Margins Off’ Best Desktop CPUs in New Review

AnandTech, known for in-depth reviews of new Apple products, today published a lengthy review of the iPhone XS and XS Max, Apple’s newest flagship iPhones.

AnandTech’s review takes a deep dive into the A12 chip in the two smartphones, which is the first commercially available 7nm silicon.

Image of A12 SoC via TechInsights with labeling by AnandTech
According to AnandTech, the A12 chip features a major revamp of the neural accelerator, a redesigned system cache that features the “biggest change since its introduction in the A7,” significant changes to the CPU core, and memory compression for the GPU, all of which has led to impressive performance improvements.

Based on SPECint2006 benchmarking, the A12 performed an average of 24 percent better than the A11 in the previous-generation devices. When it comes to power efficiency, the A12 improved by 12 percent, but with memory heavy workloads, power consumption was up, for an average power usage of ~3.36W on the A11 to 3.64W on the A12.

SPECfp benchmarking saw average performance gains of 28 percent, and again, workloads with major improvements also resulted in increased power consumption.

AnandTech’s benchmarking tests suggest that the A12’s Vortex cores and architectural improvements offer a “much higher performance advantage than Apple’s marketing materials promote.” Apple’s A12 beat the best Android SoCs both in performance and power efficiency.

The contrast to the best Android SoCs have to offer is extremely stark – both in terms of performance as well as in power efficiency. Apple’s SoCs have better energy efficiency than all recent Android SoCs while having a nearly 2x performance advantage. I wouldn’t be surprised that if we were to normalise for energy used, Apple would have a 3x performance efficiency lead.

AnandTech says that it’s “quite astonishing” how close the A12 and the previous-generation A11 are to desktop CPUs, with “very small margins until Apple’s mobile SoCs outperform the fastest desktop CPUs in terms of ST performance.”

As part of the review, AnandTech also offered a look at how Apple has improved performance in older devices by tweaking scaling performance. The A9 in the iPhone 6s, for example, took 435ms for the CPU to reach maximum frequency, but that time was cut to 80ms in iOS 12 for a “great boost to performance in shorter interactive workloads.”

Similar improvements were made to the A10 (going from a 400ms ramp up time to 210ms), but there was little change to the A11.

All in all, AnandTech said the iPhone XS and XS Max are a “big shift” for Apple’s lineup with a “beast of an SoC” that’s offering performance improvements of up to 40 percent.

Apple’s marketing department was really underselling the improvements here by just quoting 15% – a lot of workloads will be seeing performance improvements I estimate to be around 40%, with even greater improvements in some corner-cases. Apple’s CPU have gotten so performant now, that we’re just margins off the best desktop CPUs; it will be interesting to see how the coming years evolve, and what this means for Apple’s non-mobile products.

The full iPhone XS and XS Max review from AnandTech is well worth checking out for those who would like to get a deeper technical look at the components inside the two new devices. It goes into much greater detail on the CPU and GPU in the iPhone XS and XS Max, while also taking a look at the camera, battery, display, and other components.

Related Roundup: iPhone XSBuyer’s Guide: iPhone XS (Buy Now)
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Garmin listens to feedback, adds Spotify to Fenix 5 Plus Series watch

Garmin is rolling out Spotify support for its Fenix 5 Plus series of GPS multi-sport GPS watches, the company announced Wednesday, October 3 at a New York City event. Fenix owners can visit the online Connect IQ app store and download the Spotify app immediately. The addition of Spotify is a huge win for the smartwatch maker, which is pushing music as one of the flagship features of its Fenix 5 line of fitness trackers.

Designed for serious athlete and adventurers, the Fenix 5 Plus series launched earlier this year with integrated music, but the platform supported only iHeartRadio and Deezer. Spotify was noticeably absent — an omission we noted in our recent review of the Fenix 5X Plus, and one that spurned consumers to band together and voice their complaints. Garmin was silent and would not say if or when the popular music service would be added to its devices. The announcement is a pleasant surprise for all Fenix 5 Plus series owners.

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus owners now can choose their favorite playlists and sync those tracks using the phone’s Wi-Fi connection. The watch ships with 16GB of onboard storage so there is plenty of room to store multiple playlists for offline listening. The new feature requires a Spotify premium account, but Garmin and Spotify are partnering to offer a free trial premium account for Garmin owners.

After the playlists have synced, Garmin watch owners can listen to their music offline through the new Spotify app. They will be able to choose between different playlists and move through the tracks using the controls on the watch. These music controls are available from the music data screen when exercising and from the music widget anytime.

The new Spotify app is available now to download from the Garmin Connect IQ app store. It is compatible with the Fenix 5S Plus, the Fenix 5 Plus, and the Fenix 5X Plus. Unfortunately, Spotify is not yet available for the company’s other music-enabled watches. Both the Garmin Forerunner 645 and the Vivoactvie 3 Music allows owners to listen to offline playlists from Deezer and iHeartRadio. Now that the gates are open for Spotify on the Fenix models, support for the Forerunner and Vivoactive hopefully is not too far behind.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Garmin’s fitness wearables now support Deezer music streaming app
  • Apple Music vs. Spotify
  • Garmin Fenix 5X Plus review
  • Spotify hits 83 million paid users as the race with Apple Music rocks on
  • Jam out in style with the 25 best playlists on Spotify


Apple is making 2018 iMac Pro, MacBook Pro repairs even harder

Apple is locking down certain Macs from third-party repairs, according to a report from MacRumors. Impacted models include the iMac Pro and 2018 MacBook Pro, which have advanced security features, and must pass certain Apple Service Toolkit 2 tests for successful repairs.

Citing internal documents distributed to Apple’s Authorized Service Providers, the report reveals Apple is using a new Service Toolkit 2 software lock. This essentially ends up making iMac Pro and 2018 MacBook Pro models useless if they are not repaired at specific locations approved by the company. The locking software impacts any repairs on the 2018 MacBook display assembly, logic board, top case, and the Touch ID board. Also impacted by the lock are any repairs on the logic board or flash storage present on the 2018 iMac Pro.

In both cases, if these systems are not repaired using the Apple Service Toolkit 2, the service will be rendered incomplete and the system won’t boot. Considering the recent hardware-based hacks, this is reportedly meant as a security measure intended to protect the Apple T2 chip, which holds encrypted storage information and Touch ID authentication.

Per a separate report from Motherboard, only Apple’s Authorized Service Providers will have access to Apple Service Toolkit 2, so this means these repairs can’t be completed at independent repair shops.

“For Macs with the Apple T2 chip, the repair process is not complete for certain parts replacements until the AST 2 System Configuration suite has been run. Failure to perform this step will result in an inoperative system and an incomplete repair,” explains the documentation.

When compared to HP, Dell, or Lenovo, Apple is known for putting up a walled garden of protection around its products, so this should not be too surprising. However, the news is a concern for consumers who may be looking to skip Apple and repair their devices solo without any help.

In fact, Apple and many other tech companies were recently involved in lobbying against right-to-repair laws, which aim to give consumers more rights and access to resources to repair their products free of any first-party intervention. Apple has yet to comment on the report, but considering the controversy inherent in this story, you might hear from the company soon.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The MacBook Pro’s tight security comes with an annoying compromise
  • If you own a 2018 MacBook Pro, you will want to maintain data backups
  • Apple repair program won’t upgrade older MacBook Pros to new keyboard
  • Apple fixes MacBook Pro keyboard issue — sorta
  • Apple’s T2 chip may be causing issues in iMac Pro and 2018 MacBook Pros


Fossil Q Venture HR review

Research Center:

Fossil Q Venture HR

It took a few iterations, but Fossil has come even closer to perfecting its smartwatches with the fourth generation Q Venture HR. As the name suggests, the women’s smartwatch now packs a heart rate monitor, but there’s also GPS and an NFC chip for contactless payments — that’s a lot more tech that now fits into an incredibly small, slim case. What’s unfortunate is the processor powering everything inside —  Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100.

Qualcomm just unveiled the Snapdragon Wear 3100, a major upgrade that will help deliver 2 days of battery life and numerous other improvements, and it’s disappointing to see new watches running Google’s Wear OS launching without it. This is, however, one of the first watches we are using with Google’s updated Wear OS interface, which vastly improves the experience of using the watch.

Beautifully designed, even with the bling

The fourth-generation Fossil Q Venture HR is smaller than its predecessor, but we think the 40mm stainless steel case is the perfect size — especially for those with smaller wrists. At 13mm thick, it very much feels like a traditional watch, which immediately elevates the level of comfort when it’s on the wrist.

Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

While we still aren’t fans of a lot of bling on our watches, our Q Venture HR looks a lot more subtle than previous Fossil watches despite the ring of pave setting stones around the watch face. It ties in well with the gold case and 18mm blush leather strap, which altogether delivers an elegant look. Those who aren’t fans of the gemstones are in luck — the Q Venture HR comes in nine colors including a gold case with a brown leather strap, silver case with a gray silicone strap, and stainless steel. We do recommend going for the darker watch strap or even stainless steel — we found that our blush leather strap stained easily because of its light color, making it look worn out after only a couple of weeks.

The 40mm stainless steel case is the perfect size — especially for those with smaller wrists.

The pre-installed watch faces on the Q Venture are quirky, but there are a few others that are less loud. It’s easy to swap them for when you want a more suave look, or something more casual. You can also customize select watch faces by switching up the color scheme; for some, you’re able to add different “complications” as well. For example, on the Fashion Digital watch face you can change up the complications to show whatever you want to see the most like step count, Google Fit data, or your agenda. All customized styles can be saved in folders for easy access whenever needed.

There are three buttons on the right side as opposed to one. This is a nice change of pace as Fossil’s previous watches for women only offer one button, but their men’s watches usually have three offering more versatility. The extra two buttons let you trigger shortcuts to specific apps, and it’s customizable. On the Q Venture HR, the crown also can rotate, which means you can use it to scroll through the operating system instead of getting grubby fingerprints on the screen.

Redesigned Wear OS

The Wear OS redesign from Google is a big improvement over the previous user interface. It’s much more streamlined, and you don’t need to memorize a variety of gestures to accomplish simple tasks anymore. Simple swipes on the display will get you where you need to go, and the redesign overall makes smartwatches much more enjoyable to use.

A swipe down on the display brings you shortcuts like Google Pay, battery saver, Do Not Disturb mode, and more quick setting tiles that you can toggle on or off. The Settings icon is also conveniently placed above the tiles, to allow you to easily access it whenever needed. We do wish there was more customizability here — such as the ability to choose which tiles we want to appear in the menu, just like you are able to do on Google’s Android mobile operating system.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Notifications are also more appealing to look at with each one stacked neatly on top of one another in chronological order. You’re able to expand a notification to read through it entirely, and collapse it when you’re done, which is a much faster way to interact with alerts than being taken to a separate screen per notification.

Swiping to the left now takes you to the redesigned Google Fit. With one quick swipe, we’re able to see our activity metrics, and tapping on the display shows more in-depth data. Seeing as how the Q Venture HR adds a heart rate monitor, it’s nice that this data is much more accessible. Having it available to view at a glance so easily makes us more motivated to work towards hitting our fitness goals throughout the day.

The new screen on the left of the watch face provides a personalized overview of the day.

Our favorite feature, however, is powered by Google Assistant. It’s the new screen on the left of the watch face that provides a personalized overview of the day, from calendar appointments, restaurant reservations, traffic alerts, upcoming flight information, and more. For example, on our smartwatch, swiping to the right brings us to information for an upcoming flight we have and details on the hotel we’re staying at, along with weather updates of the city we’re currently in. Smart suggestions here also ensure you utilize all of the watch’s features, from reminding you to check your step count to tapping on “Top news” to see the latest headlines.

It’s important to note that Wear OS still works best with an Android phone, and those using an iPhone will encounter limitations. With iOS, you will have to always run the Wear OS app in the background for the smartwatch to stay connected. iPhone owners also won’t be able to interact with the notifications. You’ll only be able to accept or deny phone calls from the watch.

Smooth performance, nice display

Even though the Q Venture HR includes the two-year old Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset, we haven’t run into too many issues with performance. Apps load fairly quickly, and the only lag we experienced came from using the Play Store on the watch. With 4GB of storage, you can also store music directly on the smartwatch.

Fossil Q Venture HR Compared To

Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20

Diesel On Full Guard 2.5

Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30

Casio G Shock GPR-B1000 Rangeman

A.B. Art Touch X

Alpina AlpinerX

Haier Asu

Fossil Q Venture

Garmin Vivoactive 3

Emporio Armani Connected touchscreen…

Fitbit Ionic

Diesel On Full Guard Smartwatch

Garmin Vivoactive HR

Asus ZenWatch 2

Asus ZenWatch

The circular AMOLED display gets bright, making it easy to view content in direct sunlight. The colors pop off the screen and make the watch faces look more vibrant. The 1.19-inch display is only slightly smaller in size compared to the third-gen Q Venture which came in at 1.2-inches. But without the addition (and distraction) of extra gemstones, it feels like there’s room to see more content on the Q Venture HR.

More fitness features to use

The health and fitness tracking capabilities of previous Fossil Q Venture smartwatches amounted to  tracking steps, calories burned, and distance traveled through Google Fit and Google Fit Workout. The new Q Venture HR can measure your heart rate, and the results are logged in Google Fit.

If you opt-into the feature, the Q Venture HR will measure heart rate automatically throughout the day, updating your beats per minute every 20 minutes. It is automatically tracked and recorded via Google Fit during workouts — so you don’t have to worry about tracking while exercising. Otherwise, you can choose to measure your heart-rate manually throughout the day instead, which will preserve battery life.

Fossil offers exclusive watch face options that include heart rate as a complication — that way you can quickly measure it by tapping on your display. Using the “Essential Digital” watch face, we tapped on the heart-rate icon below the time and waited for it to measure our BPM. While our last measured heart-rate was always listed on the watch face, it’s hidden in ambient mode which is nice if you don’t want to share your heart rate to anyone who looks at the watch. The Google Fit app also offers a nice graph with all the heart rate measurements logged throughout the day — allowing you to see how it fluctuates.

Other features on the Q Venture HR include built-in GPS, which allows you to track your runs and bike rides without needing your smartphone. There’s also an NFC chip for contactless payments through Google Pay.

Same battery

The Q Venture HR still includes the same 300mAh battery as its predecessor, which only lasted for a little over 12 hours on the third-generation Q Venture. That’s without the addition of a heart-rate sensor and built-in GPS. We thought the addition of more technology would cause the battery to drain event faster, but our results were surprising.

The Q Venture HR still includes the same 300mAh battery as its predecessor.

Taking it off the charger about 5:30 a.m., we hit 52 percent around 12:45 p.m. (including the watch sitting in airplane mode for three of those hours). The watch still managed to last until 10:50 p.m. before having to place it back on the charger with 7 percent remaining. Even though we did conserve power on the flight, it’s safe to say the smartwatch is capable of lasting throughout an entire day — even with automatic heart-rate monitoring turned on.

What’s convenient is that the Q Venture HR does charge much quicker than the third-generation Q Venture. It’s still a puck-shaped charger, but this time there’s the addition of magnetic pins that clip into the pins on your smartwatch when charging. Fossil says it’s capable of charging your smartwatch’s battery to at least 80 percent in an hour — which we found to be accurate. After placing our smartwatch on the charger at zero percent at about 4:30 a.m., we were at 95 percent by about 5:00 a.m.

On a normal work day, we found the Q Venture HR lasted us a little over 12 hours. We took it off the charger at 8:30 a.m. and by noon it was at 57 percent. By the end of our day at around 5:30 p.m., it was at about 36 percent but managed to last up until 9 p.m. when we put it back on the charger before going to bed. It’s important to note that our battery life tests were made when the Q Venture HR was connected to an iPhone, and may differ with an Android.

Warranty information

The Fossil Q Venture HR is currently available from Fossil’s website. Depending on the style you choose, the smartwatch will range anywhere between $255 and $275.

Fossil offers a limited two-year warranty that covers any manufacturing defects, but it doesn’t cover accidental damage to the case or watch strap.

Our Take

The Fossil Q Venture HR is a beautiful smartwatch that offers all the necessary health and fitness features. Not only does it feature a heart-rate monitor, but includes a large, vibrant display all wrapped into a sleek case. While spending over $200 for a smartwatch that doesn’t include Qualcomm’s new 3100 chipset may seem questionable, the Q Venture HR runs smoothly and is great for everyday use.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes. If you’re looking for a smartwatch with an even larger watch face, the Misfit Vapor features a 1.39-inch display. While it doesn’t include untethered GPS, it does have a built-in heart-rate sensor. Our favorite part of the Vapor is the touch-sensitive bezel, that allows you to browse through menus and notifications by brushing your finger along the black edges of the watch. It’s also cheaper than the Q Venture HR, with a price tag of $200.

There’s also the Samsung Galaxy Watch for $330, which is the successor to the Gear Sport. It comes with a heart-rate sensor, stunning design, and a ton of fitness tracking features. Depending on which size you choose (42mm or 46mm), it lasted us between three to four full days — that’s including tracking workouts and receiving notifications.

But there’s the Fitbit Versa as well, which comes packed with tons of fitness features and a heart rate sensor, along with a beautiful design that allows you to wear it everyday regardless of the occasion. The $200 smartwatch also lasts for up to five days on a single charge, depending on how you use it.

For iOS users who want to take advantage of all the features on a smartwatch without any restrictions, we recommend the Apple Watch Series 4 which comes equipped with an electrocardiogram app and the ability to recognize an irregular heart rate.

How long will it last?

The Fossil Q Venture HR should last you beyond the two-year limited warranty. But the battery will deplete overtime, and it’s unclear how long it will receive software updates — especially with the launch of the new Wear 3100 chipset. At 3ATM, it’s not swim-proof so you shouldn’t wear it while doing laps in the pool or shower with it on.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you’re fond of the design, and are looking for a smartwatch that tracks all your important health and fitness metrics and allows you the freedom to wear it everyday, the Q Venture HR is a good choice.


The best phones you can buy from T-Mobile


T-Mobile has a good lineup of phones at a variety of price points. For a no-compromise high-end phone, the Galaxy S9+ is the best phone available on the carrier right now. But not everyone wants to spend over $800 on a phone — we have several other great picks for less money, both new phones and some that are a bit older but have moved to palatable pricing to what was once a high-end device.

Top pick

Samsung Galaxy S9+


The Galaxy S9+ gives you everything you could ask for in a high-end phone. It has all of the latest and greatest specs, an industry-leading display, a great pair of rear cameras and software that lets you customize it to exactly what you need. The hardware is beautiful and robust, and there’s an expansive ecosystem of accessories built to support it.

$840 at T-Mobile

Coming up

LG V40 ThinQ


The LG V40 isn’t on sale just yet, but when it is it will be a direct competitor to the Galaxy S9+. It’s a little bigger, and has a really fun triple-camera setup that gives you more variety of shots. The rest of the experience rounds out just like Samsung’s, with excellent performance and all of the hardware features you expect to get for the money.

$920 at T-Mobile

Budget pick

Moto E5 Plus


The Moto E5 Plus is one of our best overall picks for a cheap Android phone, and it’s great that T-Mobile has it. It’s basically a cheaper version of the higher-end Moto G6, with a big 6-inch display and a nice-looking design. The battery is also massive, with no-caveat all-day battery life from a 5000mAh capacity.

$225 at T-Mobile

Extra cheap

Moto E5 Play


The Moto E5 Play is all about value. For just $150 (or $6/month), you’re getting a really solid and familiar Motorola experience that doesn’t skimp on performance or software. Sure it has a smaller 5.2-inch display and just 16GB of storage, but it’s capable of doing everything you need to and last a full day doing it.

$150 at T-Mobile

Former flagship



The LG G6 is a bit old at this point, but in LG’s lineup it’s only one generation old at this point and it’s worth considering at a substantial price cut to $360. For that kind of mid-range money you’re getting what was a flagship phone 18 months ago, with excellent hardware, great performance and a dual-camera setup that’s fun to shoot with.

$360 at T-Mobile

Big and cheap

LG Stylo 4


When your two buying criteria are size and price, LG has you covered. For the same price as a Moto E5 Plus, you can get the even larger LG Stylo 4 — and it has the added bonus of packing a stylus, which nothing other than the Galaxy Note 9 (at four times the price) offers. It doesn’t have as smooth of software as the E5 Plus, but if you want the biggest possible screen for little money, this is your pick.

$250 at T-Mobile

These are all of the best phones that T-Mobile offers, from the super-high-end down to some value-focused picks. No matter your budget or needs, there’s something here for you. If you want the absolute best, you’ll want to go for the Galaxy S9+, but for a fraction of the cost you can still get a great phone with the Moto E5 Plus — and there’s something else in each price bracket in between.



Mpow 059 Bluetooth headphones are outclassed by the competition


Good headphones that are outdone by the competition.

Wireless headphones are becoming more and more prominent as brands continue to kill off the 3.5mm headphone jack from our smartphones. There are premium options such as the Bose QC35 and Sony WH1000XM3, but if you don’t feel like plopping down $350+, there are plenty of other choices for much, much less.

Mpow is one brand that’s been kicking out a lot of affordable audio gear, and one of its most popular offerings are the Mpow 059 headphones. They’re rated as the best-seller for over-ear headphones on Amazon, and while they do cram in a lot for such a low price, Mpow’s other, slightly more expensive option is probably the better pick for most people.

Here’s what you need to know about the Mpow 059!

An OK budget option

Mpow 059 Bluetooth Headphones


$35 at Amazon

Affordable headphones that get the job done.

The Mpow 059 do a lot of things right for such a low price, but when compared to Mpow’s newer H1 headphones, they become a tough recommendation.


  • Good sound quality for the price.
  • Up to 20 hours of battery.
  • Available in a lot of colors.


  • Not very comfy.
  • Cheap plastic.
  • Mpow H1 are a much better purchase.


Mpow 059 Bluetooth Headphones What I like

For $35, it’s hard to really complain about anything with the Mpow 059. As long as the headphones turn on and play music, that’s basically already a win for this price range.

The sound quality here certainly won’t blow you away, but it’s actually rather enjoyable for all kinds of music. Everything does sound slightly muffled, but it’s nothing that gets in the way of enjoying your tunes. Whether you’re jamming out to Logic, CCR, or This American Life, everything sounds perfectly fine.

Battery life is possibly the second-most important feature of wireless headphones right after sound quality, and this is an area in which the 059 shine. The original version was only rated for 13-15 hours of playback, but following an update from October 2017, that’s been increased to up to 20. In other words, you’ve got plenty of juice for road trips, long workout sessions, you name it.

Lastly, a small touch that I really appreciate is all the colors that you can choose from. There’s a variety of single and two-tone finishes in black, red, blue, pink, green, and gray that all look fantastic in their own special way.

Mpow 059 Bluetooth Headphones What I don’t like

Corners need to be cut somewhere for headphones of this price, and for the 059, that unfortunately fell on its build quality.

The Mpow 059 are constructed mostly out of a very glossy plastic that instantly looks and feels cheap. Fingerprints stick on it with ease and I have a feeling it wouldn’t hold up well at all in the event of a drop.

There’s padding in the headband and around the speakers that try and keep you comfortable while jamming, and while they do alright for shorter listening stints, longer sessions usually resulted in some ear discomfort.


Mpow 059 Bluetooth Headphones Final verdict

Since the world of wireless headphones is always expanding, the Mpow 059 face stiff competition every single day. This doesn’t seem to have phased them too much since they’re still reigning as the top seller on Amazon, but Mpow actually has a newer pair of headphones that cost almost the same and are better in nearly every way.

The Mpow H1 have a clearer sound profile at the expense of some bass, battery life is still rated for up to 20 hours, the shiny plastic is replaced with a much classier matte setup, and the overall fit is much more comfortable for my head and ears. Oh, and they’re just $1 more.

out of 5

That’s not to say the Mpow 059 are bad headphones by any means, but unless you really are in love with their design or need that more powerful bass, most people are probably better off with the H1.

See at Amazon


Get up to $600 off the Galaxy Note 9 when you trade in your current phone

Live in the U.S. or Canada? Here’s what you need to know about buying the Galaxy Note 9!


Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 is here, and as you probably know by now, there’s a lot to get excited about. The all-new S Pen is more powerful than ever before, the cameras are shaping up to be the best we’ve seen from Samsung to-date, and the massive 4,000 mAh battery should be perfect for road-warriors.

Galaxy Note phones are usually available just about everywhere, and with the Note 9, that’s no different.

Whether you live in the United States or Canada, here’s everything you need to know about where to buy Sammy’s latest and greatest.

Current Promos

  • Now through November 3, Samsung is offering double your regular trade-in value when you hand over your exisitng phone — resulting in a max savings of up to $600. On top of that, you can also get a free Gear360 or Gear VR.
  • If you’re on AT&T, you can save 75% off a second Note 9 after you buy your first at full price and also get up to $600 back when you trade in your existing phone.
  • T-Mobile’s outright pricing is down to $870 and $1119.99 for the 128GB and 512GB models, respectively.
  • Save $200 at Verizon over 24 months and get up to $300 back on your trade-in when you switch.
  • Lease the Note 9 on Sprint and pay just $20/month for 18 months with Sprint Flex.
  • Get a free $200 prepaid gift card when you buy the Note 9 at Xfinity Mobile.
  • Take $200 off the Note 9 when you trade in your current phone at Bell, Rogers, and Samsung Canada.

United States

  • AT&T
  • Sprint
  • T-Mobile
  • Verizon
  • Straight Talk
  • U.S. Cellular
  • Xfinity Mobile
  • Amazon
  • Best Buy
  • B&H
  • Samsung

The Galaxy Note 9 is currently available to purchase in the United States in Ocean Blue, Lavender Purple, and Cloud Silver. Starting October 12, Midnight Black will become available.


Starting first with AT&T, the carrier has both the 128GB and 512GB models that are priced at $999.99 and $1249.99, respectively. While you can pay that full price upfront if you’d like, you can also finance both storage configurations over 30 months for $33.34/month and $41.67/month.

If you’re looking to get more bang for your buck, AT&T’s running a buy one get one 75% off promo that requires a new line of wireless service and TV through DIRECTV.

You can also get double the regular trade-in value of your current phone up to $600 and take 50% off the Samsung Wireless Charger Duo when you buy the Note 9.

See at AT&T


Moving over to T-Mobile, everyone’s favorite Un-Carrier is selling the Note 9 in 128GB and 512GB flavors. Full retail pricing is normally $999.99 and $1249.99, respectively, but for a limited time, T-Mobile’s knocking these down to just $870 and $1119.99.

Alternatively, you can get the 128GB model for $30/month and $150 down on an equipment installment plan or the 512GB version for $399.99 down + $30/month for 24 months.

On top of those already solid savings, T-Mobile will also let you take $720 off the Note 9 via 24 monthly bill credits when you add a new line of service.

See at T-Mobile


Similar to AT&T and T-Mobile, Verizon is also selling the 128GB and 512GB Note 9.

By default, you’ll pay $999.99 and $1249.99 for each model, respectively. For Verizon’s installment plans, you’ll pay just $33.33/month for the 128GB unit and $43.74 for 512GB over the course of 24 months.

Those monthly rates will result in a total of $200 in savings compared to the retail pricing, and if you trade in your current phone, you’ll either get $100 back if you upgrade your line or $300 back when you switch from another carrier.

See at Verizon


If Sprint’s your carrier of choice in the U.S., your choices are a bit more limited. Specifically, Sprint is not selling the 512GB Note 9.

Instead, you can only pick up the 128GB model. Pricing is the same at $999.99, but you’ve also got the option of leasing it for 18 months with the Sprint Flex plan for $41.66/month. For a limited time, however, Sprint’s cutting that down to just $20/month.

See at Sprint

Straight Talk

Post-paid carriers are fine and dandy, but if you prefer buying pre-paid, Straight Talk Wireless has your back as it’s also carrying the Note 9.

Similar to Sprint, Straight Talk is selling just the 128GB model. Here, the price is slightly discounted to jsut $949.99.

If you prefer to pay month-to-month, you can either get a $46.17/month for 24 months or $115.92/month for 15 months plan depending on your credit history.

See at Straight Talk

U.S. Cellular

U.S. Cellular isn’t nearly as popular as the above carriers on our list, but even so, it’s still carrying the Galaxy Note 9. Better yet, you can choose to pick up either the 128GB or 512GB configuration!

Pricing is the same at $999.99 and $1249.99, and for a limited time, installment pricing has been reduced to $28.30/month for the 128GB model and $36.64/month for the 512GB one. No matter which one you pick, the installment plan runs for 30 months and requires $0 down with 0% APR.

See at U.S. Cellular

Xfinity Mobile

For the last U.S. carrier on our list, we’ve got Xfinity Mobile.

Like most other carriers, Xfinity Mobile is selling the Note 9 in 128GB and 512GB options for $999.99 and $1249.99. You can buy the phone outright if you’ve got the cash, or finance it over the course of 24 months to lessen the stress a bit on your wallet.

If you purchase a Note 9 on Xfinity Mobile, activate a new line, and port over an existing number, you can get a $200 prepaid card that you can use wherever you’d like.

See at Xfinity Mobile


Stepping away from carriers, Amazon is one of the many retailers in the U.S. that’s got the Note 9 up for grabs.

The phone’s available on Amazon in both 128GB and 512GB flavors, and while the 512GB model costs the regular $1249.99, the 128GB version is a bit lower at $979.

See at Amazon

Best Buy

Best Buy is the go-to store for all things tech, and as expected, can purchase the Note 9 here, too.

Just like the Note 8, Best Buy allows you to purchase the Note 9 through AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, or completely unlocked. Best Buy typically matches any promotions being offered by carriers, in addition to running its own from time to time. As such, if you’re looking for the vest best deal, you’ll want to hit up Best Buy’s site to see what’s being offered.

If you decide to buy the Note 9 through Best Buy, the retailer is offering a free 32-inch TV with activation of the Note 9 on Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint, or if you buy it unlocked. Additionally, Best Buy is the only place in the U.S. where you can buy the Cloud Silver color.

See at Best Buy


B&H is known for offering killer deals on new tech, and with the Galaxy Note 9, that’s no different.

You can pick up the Note 9 at B&H in 128GB and 512GB flavors and pricing is the same at $999.99 and $1294.99. However, B&H gets a nice edge as 0% tax is collected on your order if you live outside of New York or New Jersey.

Want more? B&H customers also get a free Samsung Fast Charge Qi Wireless Charging Stand that would normally set you back $49.99.

See at B&H


Rounding out our U.S. picks, the Galaxy Note 9 is also being sold on Samsung’s official website and through the ShopSamsung app. Shocking, right?

Along with selling the unlocked version of the phone, Samsung also lets you buy the AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile Verizon, and U.S. Cellular variants. And, although it should go without saying at this point, the 128GB option costs $999.99 and the 512GB model is $1249.99.

Starting October 5 and going through November 3, anyone that buys a Note 9 and trades in their old phone can get double the regular trade-in value up to $600. On top of that, buying a Note 9 also makes you eligible for a free Gear360 or Gera VR.

See at Samsung


  • Bell
  • Rogers
  • Freedom Mobile
  • Samsung Canada

Similar to the United States, the Galaxy Note 9 officially went on sale in Canada on August 24.

The 128GB Ocean Blue model is available at all carriers/retailers, but if you want the 512GB Midnight Black option, you’ll need to buy the Note 9 directly through Samsung.


The first Canadian carrier on our list, Bell, is selling just the 128GB Note 9.

Buying the phone without any service will set you back $1379.99, and depending on the two-year term that you choose, you can decrease the upfront cost to either $749.99 or $549.99.

If there’s a Bell store near you, you can walk in, trade-in an eligible device, and take an entire $200 off the phone.

See at Bell


Rogers is also carrying the Galaxy Note 9 in the 128GB flavor! Here’s what the current pricing looks like:

  • No Tab — $1299
  • Talk & Text Tab — $1299
  • Smart Tab — $899
  • Premium Tab — $749
  • Premium+ Tab — $549
  • Ultra Tab — $269

In-stores only, Rogers is offering a $200 discount on the Note 9 with an eligible trade-in on a 2-year Share Everything plan.

See at Rogers


TELUS is carrying the 128GB Note 9, and depending on which plan you choose, the outright price varies quite a bit:

  • Pay $300 outright and then $115/month on a 2-year Platinum plan
  • Pay $550 outright and then $105/month on a 2-year Premium+ plan
  • Pay $750 outright and then $95/month on a 2-year Premium plan
  • Pay $900 outright and then $85/month on a 2-year Standard plan
  • Pay $1440 outright to buy the phone with no associated plan

As part of an in-store only offer, TELUS will take $250 off the Note 9’s price when you trade-in an eligible phone.

See at TELUS

Freedom Mobile

If Freedom Mobile is your carrier of choice, you’re in luck!

The 128GB Galaxy Note 9 is available with all of Freedom’s plans, and right now, pricing is as follows:

  • $1300 with no plan
  • $820 + $20/month MyTab Boost for 24 months on current $30+ plans
  • $600 + $25/month My Tab Boost for 24 months on current $40+ plans
  • $149 + $35/month My Tab Boost for 24 months on current $50+ plans
  • $0 + $35/month My Tab Boost for 24 months on current $60+ plans

See at Freedom Mobile

Samsung Canada

Last but not least, you can get the Galaxy Note 9 directly through the Samsung Canada website.

You can get the same Ocean Blue model with 128GB that’s available at all the carriers, but this is the exclusive place to go if you want the 512GB Midnight Black configuration.

The 128GB Ocean Blue Note 9 will set you back $1299.99 while the 512GB Midnight Black model costs a whopping $1629.99.

Now through October 31, you can trade in your old device and get a minimum of $200 back in credits on top of your regular trade-in value.

See at Samsung

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: Welcome to the one comma club

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review
  • Galaxy Note 9 vs. Note 8
  • Where to buy the Galaxy Note 9
  • Galaxy Note 9 specifications
  • Is the Note 8 still a good buy?
  • Join our Galaxy Note 9 forums


Updated October 2018: Refreshed this list with all of the latest available deals!


These are the best icon packs for Android


App icons are different shapes, sizes, and color schemes and follow different design guidelines. Samsung’s icons look different than Google’s icons, look different from Microsoft’s icons, look different from every other developer’s icons. Adaptive icons have sought to bring some order to this chaos, but with little luck. Thankfully, icon packs are here to pick up the slack. Icon packs are plentiful, colorful, and they come in every style under the sun. I love Whicons, but all of these packs are fantastic.

Goes with everything



If you only download one icon pack, make it Whicons! This free icon pack is simple, its icons are easy to identify, and Whicons goes with just about every dark and vivid wallpaper you can imagine.

Free at Google Play

Little white lines



Outline packs may take different thicknesses and sizes, but Lines remains my favorite. It’s been around for a really, really long time — just look at that Settings icon! — but Lines always comes through when I need a wireframe pack.

Free at Google Play

Glassy gleam



This glassy icon pack is as rare as it is beautiful. Transparent squircles give a look of consistency to your app drawer and home screen, but the white logo shapes within are still instantly identifiable.

$1 at Google Play

Teardrops of darkness



Hex black teardrop icons cut through bright and dim wallpapers alike, but the shaded stencil logos within them allow some wallpaper details to show through, as seen on the YouTube and AC logos.

$1 at Google Play

Little black icon pack



Zwart is the yin to Whicon’s yang, its evil twin, and deliciously dark standout. When light icons can’t keep their definition against vivid wallpapers, Zwart stands bold and firm.

Free at Google Play

Sophisticated cutouts



This pack turns its simple monochromatic logos and thin black border into an elegant affair. Like onyx cuff links buttoning up your home screen, Nimbbi offers sharp contrast to vast landscapes and geometric wallpapers.

$2 at Google Play

Going greyscale



This classic pack is unique in both its shape and its particular shades of grayscale. Never quite black — only very, very dark grey — Noctum can be used quite well with black wallpapers, a feature I’ve taken advantage of in my Blank Panther theme.

$2 at Google Play

Shadows and circles

Lux Dark


Circular icon packs are some of the most popular, but Lux Dark shines a diamond in the rough. The bright, gradient-steeped color accents blend well with dark and colorful themes quite well.

$3 at Google Play

Keep it mellow

Mellow Dark


This pack tries to perfectly balance shadow and vivid color in flat Material icons that use repeating shape styles to evoke consistency in an app that isn’t completely forced into one particular shape.

$1 at Google Play

Can’t fight the moonlight



Moonrise, meanwhile, tries to add as much depth to its Material icons; icons are steeped largely in shadowed grays with delicately chosen color pops. This pack features a lot of shadowing, shading, and angled light-play.

Free at Google Play

Docked and locked



Ombre is one of my favorite “shaped” icon packs. The bottom dock/bar is mostly plain, but for fitting icons, it transforms! The colors here are vivid enough to work with dark themes, even with the dark icon accents.

$2 at Google Play

Color on the lines

Outline Icons


Outline goes beyond the monotone of simple white to bring bright, bold colors to its neon-reminiscent icons. Being a technicolor pack, it’s a little easier to lose some of the more muted detail shades in some wallpapers, but this pack is a gem that shines in dark wallpapers and app drawers

$2 at Google Play

Pixel perfect



Pireo keeps the layered look of the original 2016 Google Pixel’s round icons alive and strong two years later. It favors white for its icon backgrounds a lot, but the small shadow keeps them distinguishable, even on pure white wallpapers.

$1 at Google Play

Flat and round



Elun also emulates some of the 2016 Pixel’s style, but this pack is flatter, slicker, and far, far more colorful. Soft grays and vivid accent colors help it avoid an abundance of white, so icons like YouTube and the Dialer stand out more.

$2 at Google Play

Material magic



Urmun is a pack built upon Material Design, one that emphasizes bold logos and sharp color palettes. Shadows add depth to this diversely-shaped, 4,300+ icon-sporting pack, and details are emphasized expertly.

$2 at Google Play

Sweet and colorful



Taking more of a shine to bright sugary colors and simple shapes, CandyCons is a sweet icon pack to keep around. Plentiful, colorful alternate icons make for great theming around the holidays.

Free at Google Play

Hip to be square



These ever-so-slightly-rounded square icons offer a flat look and a wide color array. Based on Xiaomi’s MIUI, this pack has over 3,000 icons and a uniquely blended style.

$1 at Google Play

Touch of TouchWiz

Aspire UX S9


A lot of icon packs emulate the Samsung Experience/TouchWiz look, but none do it with quite the style of Aspire UX. This wireframe pack’s more than willing to bulk up with original logos when the outline look doesn’t work, and I’m grateful for their discretion there.

$1 at Google Play

Basic beauty



Out of the darkness and into the light, Minimalist tends to favor square icons with its sun-faded palette and flat, minimal feel. While these icons are beautiful, it can take a moment to tell which apps are which.

$2 at Google Play

Go retro



Retrorika has grown in downloads and icons for years while maintaining a sepia-stained look that skews the palette in new and often fun ways. Like Lloyd’s pink old-timey bathing suit? At least, I hope that’s a bathing suit.

$1 at Google Play

Magic rainbow rave



Unicorn very much matches the food craze that engulfed everything from cupcakes to donuts to Starbucks and beyond. Vivid pinks and purples contrast more muted blues and greens for a pack that’s rave-ready, day or night.

$2 at Google Play

All that glitters

Golden Icons


This beveled beauty of a pack is the little sister of Whicons and Zwart. While it lacks a golden mask to keep unthemed icons truly consistent, there are enough alternate icons to keep your app drawer golden.

Free at Google Play

BYOP: Build your own pack

Icon Pack Studio


If no icon pack can quite suit your tastes, don’t give up hope — just make an icon pack yourself! Icon Pack Studio lets you pick the colors, textures, styles, stencils, and more and covers every app on your phone no matter how obscure.

Free at Google Play

Fill the gaps



If you only need to plug one or two holes in your app drawer — or simply want to make an icon pack where every single icon can be individually customized, colored, and shaped — Adapticons is your app! Just be prepared; this can take a little while to do one by one.

Free at Google Play

There are a lot of icon packs, and while I love and enjoy keeping a wide array of icon packs at my disposal, I do find myself coming back to Whicons — it really does go with everything! When Whicons doesn’t quite fit a theme, Ombre usually does, and Icon Pack Studio gives me icons that are perfectly color-matched to my theme’s palette and covers every app in my drawer, popular or not.

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