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Top 6 Reasons Why Android OEMs Should Expect Dismal Growth In 2015

Posted by wicked December - 22 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

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As we close on 2014, and approach 2015, it doesn’t hurt to take a step back and reflect on what was accomplished and what didn’t work out so well during the year. 2014, without a doubt, showed off some great new tech like Android Wear, and virtual reality is finally showing tangible signs of life. Even Apple decided to finally do something new (for itself) and make a reasonable phone size.

2014, as it’s winding down, is also showing some rather dangerous indications of what might be in store for Android OEMs in 2015. Sharp declines in sales, market stagnation and ridiculous patent warfare may bleed over into the new year, and I doubt anyone is going to come out victorious in the end.

It may seem odd to have a negative tone toward Android OEMs on an Android news site, but I think it’s important to always be mindful of the world around us. Question and debate everything, make smart resolutions quickly and be nimble enough to adapt.

That being said, here are my top 6 reasons why Android original-equipment-manufacturers (OEMs) like Samsung, LG and HTC should not expect a stellar year. This list is my opinion and is definitely not all-inclusive, but as an Android enthusiast, it’s where I see the market headed. It’s my hope that knowing the symptoms can prevent the disease.

#1: Frequency in flagship releases

Sheena Iyengar is a professor at the Columbia Business School and has some insights about a concept known as consumer fatigue. In her book, The Art of Choosing, she talks about how when given too much choice, the consumer will become paralyzed and choose nothing.

That being said, do we really need such superficial improvements in our flagships each year, sometimes twice a year? It is a waste of money for the consumer and it is a waste of money for the manufacturer, and it generates consumer fatigue. You cannot sit there and tell me you can tell the difference between a Snapdragon 801 and an 805.

One theory as to why the Galaxy S5 did not do so hot this year was that it just wasn’t offering anything substantial compared to the Galaxy S4. I agree and I would have rather Samsung saved its money and put it towards making something revolutionary. But they didn’t, so here we all are being forced to make Apple comparisons still.

Another example is display resolution. Biologically speaking, the human eye can only see so much. Yet, here we are coming into 2015, still possessing this mistaken belief that we need a new flagship device simply because the display is so much better technically speaking.

FHD vs. UHD is a touchy and tough argument. Not to mention the debate changes radically when discussing TVs vs. mobile devices. You’re never going to sit face-planted in a TV and, unless you’re doing very well for yourself, you’re probably not going to own an 84-inch TV. At least you shouldn’t, so stop buying out of your price range, but I digress.

You are, however, probably going to shell out some dough for a flagship smart device. Chances are you’re going to hold the device at varying ranges from your eyes, sometimes very close. Stop it — it’s not good for your eyes — plus, be glad, I just saved you $800 USD from buying the so-called next-gen device.

1080p is just fine and you can easily wait until a device sporting a UHD 4K screen with good hardware and battery capacity to back it, plus other new and great features, hits the market. This criteria is not met by any of the current flagships or proposed flagships.

#2: It’s lonely at the top

Apple is old news. Sure, many tech journalists who are either getting on in their years or are still fearful of Apple’s known wrath against negative reporting may say all of the vintage buzzwords with regard to Apple product releases, but the facts remain. Apple is seeing zero upward  trending in emerging markets and still dances around the same values in market share in established markets.

And that’s okay for Apple. Apple will be the first to tell you that it likes this role because it only ever intends on releasing a very limited set of products with very expected sets of features that you can safely assume are going to work without a hitch. Apple Maps excluded.

So who’s at the top and what point am I making? Android OEMs are at the summit but this was not always the case in traditional markets.

Samsung’s rise to power in market domination was, and let’s be realistic, based on seeing what Apple was doing and then doing it better. Along the way it tried various things on its own, some of which stunk while other things, like the Note series, created a whole new, popular category in the smart device field, the phablet.

LG, HTC, Sony and others followed suit. Each of these OEMs saw what Samsung was doing, picked what worked great and tried things on their own. When I think of a device that can withstand the elements of our dynamic, wet planet, I think of Sony. When I think of an awesome sound experience from my smartphone, I think of HTC. When I think of OEMs that are very friendly to the hardcore Android modding community, I think of Sony especially, and LG to some extent.

At the source of all of this was Apple, though. That was the target to reach and surpass. But it seems like it’s been almost four years since Apple has done anything remotely industry-leading and that is finally catching up to Samsung and the others.

Samsung, if one were to go off its latest sales reports, has completely dropped the ball in leading. Samsung has emulated Apple almost too well and has fallen into the trap of thinking of itself as a cult that is more obsessed with hearing itself talk than listening to market feedback.

Further reading: Samsung considering management changes as Galaxy S 5 sales fall 40% short

After a disastrous 4th quarter, Samsung is beginning to take the hint. Forcing pay cuts on management, then finally letting go of many management personnel, Samsung claims it is going back to the drawing board with “Project Zero.”

And how often is HTC going to skirt bankruptcy rumors? Its metal unibody design is fantastic. Placing two speakers in the front was brilliant, albeit low-hanging fruit, but that worked for Apple for almost a decade. It still does not appear to be enough.

Xiomi, the world’s third biggest smartphone manufacturer, just recently reported that its net profit for 2014 — hold on to your chairs — was a meager $56 million USD, despite crushing Samsung in the Chinese markets. It could be said that those profits are so slim because it depleted its war-chest in its fight against Samsung, but I am assuming it wasn’t much to begin with.

I am not an engineer nor am I software designer, so I can’t offer many suggestions to remedy the above. What I can say is that the market is showing signs of hunger and Android OEMs look like they are fixing to get chewed up in 2015.

#3: Wasting time on technology, apps, services and lawsuits

Let me start with display technology, seeing as how that’s what was discussed in my second point so much. I hate LCD. I can immediately tell when I’m looking at AMOLED vs. LCD and, for me, LCD looks like it’s been hit with a layer of bleach.

I hate the LCD on my Nexus 5 and I really hate the LCD on my Asus laptop. You can be 1080p all day long, my dear laptop, but when I have to wear sunglasses to view your whites, I’m not pleased. And yes, LG, makers of the Nexus 5, I can see the backlight around the edges of the screen on dark backgrounds.

Some people don’t like AMOLED, mainly because of its color saturation. I sympathize, but I really would rather have that be the problem than white-washed darks.

Not long ago in 2013, Sony began releasing LCD devices utilizing its triluminos technology — their fancy rewording of quantum dot technology — which is basically a somewhat fix for LCD’s backlight issues. So to recap, Sony’s answer to compete better with AMOLED was by going down an, ultimately, dead-end road instead of fixing the color saturation on superior technology. I wonder which direction would’ve saved Sony time and money?

The biggest offender behind redundant apps and services goes to Samsung, though. Does anyone remember ChatON or WatchON, Samsung’s attempts to compete with the plethora of messaging apps and TV-guide apps in existence? Those are getting shut down this month. Did Samsung learn its lesson? Hell no, as it has just recently been reported that it is working on an Apple Pay competitor. Samsung, a word of advice, there’s an Apple Pay competitor that you are already integrated with and you can throw your energy behind: Google Wallet.

Further reading: Samsung’s ChatON messaging service finally bites the dust everywhere but the US

Samsung to permanently discontinue WatchON in several markets

Samsung may be working on an Apple Pay competitor

How many redundant fitness apps, magazine apps, casting apps, etc., do the OEMs need to put out there, especially when a lot of these apps are almost immediately put out to pasture and yet still come pre-loaded as bloatware on our devices? I understand that there is revenue that comes into play with these apps, which is why even Google will be a culprit in this. To Google’s credit, though, it usually maintains support behind its apps or folds them into existing ones to offer more features. Take a page from Google’s playbook, OEMs, buy popular established apps instead of wasting your time and money. Or just don’t compete with them at all, no one likes the kid on the playground who thinks he or she can do everything better.

On the matter of tablets and smartphones, stop making so many variants. Was the Note Edge really necessary? What a considerable waste of resources that must have been. I cringe when I think of the market value of raw materials going up after Samsung decided to produce such a device.

Finally, enough with the lawsuits over patents. Can’t we all just get along? The most recent of which being between Samsung and NVIDIA. Samsung actually sued to get NVIDIA’s graphics chips banned from the US.

Further reading: Samsung files complaint to remove NVIDIA’s graphics chips from the United States

In Samsung’s defense, NVIDIA did start the fight, but what I would really like to know is how much these companies pay to lawyers? Whatever it is, take the majority of those fees and apply it to research and development. Let product strength and unique technology be your defense in court, but perhaps I’m naive when it comes to licensing fees and such.

#4: Android and its many flavors

There is one reason to have non-stop flagship updates: so we can get the latest version of Android without waiting months or years for over-the-air (OTA) updates.

Android being “fractured” used to be a common thing for Apple and its fans to say when discussing Google’s operating system, but the knock began to quiet down when Jelly Bean released. Jelly Bean, by sheer Google-sized force and the dying off of old smart devices, quickly rose to dominance in the Android ecosystem. And, for a time, things were good. Then came Kit Kat and its new features were fairly miniscule enough to not cause many complaints about not having the latest Android OS.

Now there’s the massive Android OS overhaul that is Lollipop and the clamor is back. The Google search results for “lollipop update” calls up a list of enormous size of people wondering when their device will get the newest version. It is probably safe to assume the next flagship device will come out featuring Android 5.0 before you ever get an OTA update.

This is where Apple’s small market share really is of benefit, despite that Apple only cares about its consumers running the last two or so generations of its devices. The products are running its hardware and its software. There’s streamlined coordination at work.

Google, on the other hand, is stuck with herding cats. Like cats, Android OEMs enjoy doing their own thing. Android OEMs have their own skins, their own hardware setups and other vendor-specific changes. Google can talk Android One all it wants with regard to emerging markets, but it’ll be a tough sale to try to bring that to established markets. Google desperately needs to change its cats to cattle and cowboy-up.

Perhaps Project Ara will save Google from this fiasco. I imagine that Ara will have very specific specifications that Google will need to enforce to even have a functioning modular device, so there’s hope yet.

The reason this is an issue for 2015 has to do with how amazing Android 5.0 is. To put it bluntly, Lollipop is awesome. Once consumers get their hands on it, there’s going to be even less incentive for them to upgrade their devices to some new, incremental flagship.

#5: A wild slate appears!

Another year, another slate. Thank the heavens for third-party cases because I am disgusted by each and every smart device’s appearance year after year. I get it: rectangle.

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This is probably the single most reason I was thrilled when I heard news of the Moto 360. I know, in your head you’re telling me that the Moto 360 is a watch. Yes, but it is a watch that didn’t compromise the information displayed on its screen even though all of the formatting being pumped through it was designed with rectangles in mind.

And before I get hate-mail from the normally peaceful rectangle-loving crowd, I don’t have anything against the rectangle. Can we all just admit that there could be a little more done with the aesthetics of it?

In my Google+ circles, I have a page that does nothing but post concept art for smart devices. Most are unrealistic, like transparent tablets, but there are some that are so incredible that I have to really wonder who is helming the ships of these OEM companies’ design teams.

Every year, we are introduced to a new smart device that pushes the limit on thin and light. Every year, I have to search for a new case that adds more heft and bulk to that device. I am not a klutz, I had my Nexus 5 for a long time without a case on it and never got close to dropping it, but the physical feedback of a thousand-dollar device that is cardboard-thin and feather-light is just terrible.

I’d like to see companies stop wasting their time competing with who can make the thinnest, lightest smart device that only has the battery power of a toy car. Let’s make it thicker and add in a bigger battery and some design aesthetics, which will increase its weight. Heck, throw some grippy material on the sides for fun.

At least Russian manufacturer Yota is trying something new with its two-sided smartphone. On the front of the device is the traditional display, while on the back is a mirrored display that uses e-ink. It may be a bit gimmicky, but kudos to them for thinking outside of the box.

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Anyone remember all of the teaser material that OnePlus put out for its One device? It was supposed to have this radically new design and bring something fresh to the market. Yeah, let’s just say the hype they generated did not live up to my expectations. The device didn’t even match the sketches OnePlus teased us with.

Additionally, let’s end the whole plastic vs. metal debate. Plastic has never bothered me. I loved the design on my Samsung Epic 4G Touch and it was a device I really hated having in a case. I gag in my mouth every time I see the word “premium” used in a sentence with “metal.” I’m sure that “premium” was an adjective that didn’t readily spring to mind with owners of a bent iPhone.

One of the bright spots on the horizon is with Moto Maker, Project Ara and flexible screens. If you’re an OEM and you’re lazily making a flexible screen device that just looks like squashed phone, you’re doing it wrong.

I’m focusing this point on hardware. I know there are a lot of people who are unhappy with software related things, like OEM skins over stock Android, but there are market options for that. You don’t like TouchWiz and don’t like to root your device? Try another manufacturer. Unlike the stagnant hardware options, software has variety.

#6: The return of the Sith…erm, Windows

Microsoft is really everyone’s favorite kid to bully, but as in any good plotline, the disenfranchised may rise up. Next year will bring us Windows 10 and, if rumors are to be believed, it may spell disaster for Android OEMs.

Microsoft is skipping the Windows 9 designation and going straight for 10 in a move, it says, to illustrate how Windows 10 is a huge leap from the junk that was Windows 8. It’s a good thing Microsoft used the name 2000 and Vista before Windows XP and 7, respectively, or we’d really be getting up there in numbers…

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To put it short, Windows 10 is purported to be bringing that El Dorado of device integration, one operating system across all devices with real-time connectivity. If Windows 8 was an expeditionary foray into the abyss, then Windows 10 may have finally staked a claim in that new world.

Google was ridiculed in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s for believing in such an always-connected concept. Now that its Chromebooks have begun to really hit their stride as more and more people are constantly connected to the internet, Google has two operating systems on its hands (Chrome OS and Android) and Chromebooks are typically lacking in offline usability. Google may have been, unfortunately, too far ahead of the curve.

If Microsoft can keep its business sector devotees on board, bring this one-experience package to the market and breathe life into its app store, it may make for a rocky year for Android OEMs. Especially when keeping in mind that Microsoft now owns Nokia, so it’s capable of enforcing Apple-like standards on its mobile devices.

In closing

I hope that this article is read as an opinion piece with the intent to always demand more from our Android partners and to always question where we’ve been and we’re we are going. It is not meant to be read as a treatise against market options or support of Android simplification.

The thing that makes Android great is its versatility. It has so much opportunity and adaptability! OEMs need to be careful to not grow complacent in innovation or experimentation, nor get bogged down in profits, senseless rivalry and competition, arrogance, or fruitless and needless endeavors.

Some of my thoughts may fall into the latter. Others you may like. You have a voice and you should express it! You can start in the comments below or on social media. Thanks for reading!

 

Come comment on this article: Top 6 Reasons Why Android OEMs Should Expect Dismal Growth In 2015

Hardware of the HTC Hima leaks out, confirms Snapdragon 810

Posted by wicked December - 22 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

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The HTC Hima is expected to break cover by March or April next year. And as we lead up to its launch, leaks are giving us a better idea of what to expect from the device. This latest leak comes from the renowned source Upleaks, mentioning all that we need to know about the future HTC flagship.

According to the leak, the smartphone will be packing a 5 inch 1080p display, 3GB of RAM, the octa core 64-bit Snapdragon 810 SoC, a 20.7-megapixel camera on the back accompanied by a 13-megapixel or 4-megapixel Ultrapixel sensor on the front. The device is also expected to pack Android 5.0 Lollipop with Sense 7.0 UI and a decently sized 2,850 mAh battery, which should be adequate for a smartphone of this size.

With dimensions of 144.3 x 69.4mm, the Hima could be slightly more compact compared to the One M8. But at 9.56mm the handset could be slightly thicker than the predecessor. The smartphone will apparently be available in Gray, Silver, Gold as well as Gunmetal Gold according to the leak. A launch is expected in March 2015, probably after the commencement of the MWC event in Barcelona.

Source: Upleaks

Come comment on this article: Hardware of the HTC Hima leaks out, confirms Snapdragon 810

Pics and Video: How Android 5.0.1 translates to Sense 6

Posted by wicked December - 22 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

During the time of Android 4.x, HTC was notorious for being slow in integrating Android updates to their own proprietary Sense UI. Not these days, it seems. It wasn’t too long after Google rolled out their first Android Lollipop patch (5.0.1) that we saw the build roll out to the HTC One (both M7 and M8) devices. Let’s see what it looks like.

If you already know about what the 5.0.1 patch brought, then those bug fixes would already be enough for HTC users to be thankful about. But there are lots more to the new Sense 6.0 based on Android 5.0.1 (LRX22C). There are new Google apps included in the build for office type files (Docs, Slides, Sheets), but these apps are also downloadable via the Google Play Store.

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HTC has also made its notification area closer to stock Lollipop, which is prettier in our opinion. All notifications and quick settings are now on the same page, and notifications are also available on the Sense lock screen.

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There’s also a re-design of the multi-tasking element of Sense, closer to Material Design.

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Lastly, there is a new feature for Sense 6 called the “Easy Mode”. It will make more sense if we let the video explain to you how this looks like. Also in another video, new Accessibility features like “High Contrast”, “Color Inversion”, and “Color Correction” are explained.

SOURCE: LlabTooFer

Leaked photos show Lollipop and Sense 6 on HTC One (M8)

Posted by wicked December - 22 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

Lollipop HTC One M8

If you’ve been wondering when Android 5+ Lollipop would land on your HTC One (M8), sadly, this isn’t it, but we do have some leaked photos of what it might look like.

A number of screenshots have leaked of what we can expect of Android 5.0 Lollipop and Sense 6 on the HTC One (M8). Which HTC has promised we should see officially roll out by the end of January.

Lollipop HTC One M8

Updates include a move to the Android Lollipop style Recents UI, as opposed to HTC’s old app. Lock screen notifications are also brought forward from Google’s approach. There are a few tweaks to the quick toggles in the notification bar and Material Design visuals, primarily the icons.

For all the new users out there, and those just looking for a simple interface on their Android phone, there is also a new Easy mode that pops the most common activities into a simple to navigate tiles.

Lollipop HTC One M8

With HTC promising to roll out the latest versions of Android to their latest flagship phones within 90 days of the official code release, we should expect Android 5+ Lollipop to hit the One (M8) by the end of January. However, with leaks like the visuals today, and a few rumors of this update expected for early January, it is, by chance, not unrealistic to expect the sweet release well before that 90 day promise runs out.

Are you liking what you are seeing for your HTC One (M8) with Android 5+ Lollipop and Sense 6?

Screenshots showing Android 5.0.1 on the HTC One (M8) surface

Posted by wicked December - 22 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

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Hardware manufacturers are scurrying to update devices to the latest version of Android. Doing so as quickly as possible makes for some great publicity. HTC imposed a 90-day guarantee for Lollipop on the One (M8); however, where there is time, there are leaks. Screenshots taken from the handset running Android 5.0.1 (behind Sense 6.0) were published online by developer LlabTooFeR.

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While HTC’s Sense 6.0 software overlay is front and center, Lollipop is still noticeable. The home screen, widgets, and BlinkFeed remain untouched. The notification shade, though, is all about Material Design. Individual notifications are separated into their own card-like sections. The Quick Settings panel is flat with icons laying on top of it.

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Above is what the multitasking experience will be like once the One (M8) gets Lollipop. Clearly, it mirrors the way Google intends multitasking to be on Android. Apps get their own unique tabs just like a web browser. While sliding between cards, the Google Search field appears at the top with an option for voice commands.

Another minor, yet important, item that HTC is including is a search bar that can return results for anything on the handset. This includes directions for using certain features or labeled photos lost in the mix.

Source: LlabTooFeR

Come comment on this article: Screenshots showing Android 5.0.1 on the HTC One (M8) surface

Nexus 9 leather cover now listed at Best Buy for $49

Posted by wicked December - 19 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

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Variety is said to be the spice of life, and that goes double for Nexus devices. HTC’s new Google tablet might have been first-to-the-draw on Android Lollipop, but it’s barely mustering up a Johnny-come-lately approach when it comes to accessorizing.

Now that the standard Magic Covers are available, along with the Bluetooth Folio keyboard, it was only a matter of time before the rumored Leather Magic Cover materialized. Best Buy now has a product listing for the cow-created skin, though waiting is still the name of the game as no ship date is offered and the product is not listed as available in stores.

If there is any consolation for those eager to plunk down the cash, at least Google and Friends are a bit more quick to the draw this time around, unlike some of the accessories for the previous Nexus noteworthy.

Best Android smartphones (December 2014)

Posted by wicked December - 18 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

With Android thoroughly dominating the mobile industry, picking the best Android smartphones is almost synonymous with choosing the best smartphones, period. But while Android phones have few real opponents on other platforms, internal competition is incredibly fierce.

From sleek devices that impress with premium design, to powerhouses brimming with features, to all-around great devices, and affordable phones that punch above their weight, the Android ecosystem is populated by a staggering variety of attractive phones.

But “greatness” is subjective, and sometimes spec sheets and feature lists are not enough to make an idea of how good a phone really is. In this roundup, we’re looking at the absolute best – the Android phones you can’t go wrong with.

Editor’s note: we’ll be updating this list regularly as new devices launch.


Moto X (2014)

With the original Moto X, Motorola proved you don’t need to have the latest specs to get a great user experience. With the second generation, the Lenovo-owned company took no chances and double-downed on the spec side as well, packing the new Moto X (2014) with a dense 5.2-inch AMOLED screen, a beefy processor, and a capable 13MP camera.

The Moto X (2014) is well equipped on the inside, but it’s the customizable skin that really sets it apart from other top Android phones out there. Motorola lets you choose your own combination of colors and materials, including the yet to be matched leather and natural wood options. The ability to harmonize its appearance to different styles makes the Moto a great gift for someone dear this holiday season. Other big selling points are the near-stock interface and Motorola’s proven commitment to bringing fast updates to it. If you’re looking for a balanced, stylish, and capable device, the Moto X (2014) should be high up your list.

Specs

  • 5.2-inch AMOLED display with 1080 x 1920 resolution
  • 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16/32GB of on-board storage (no microSD slot)
  • 13MP rear cam, 2MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2300 mAh battery
  • 140.8 x 72.4 x 10 mm, 144g
  • Customizable via Moto Maker
  • Water resistant
  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat (Lollipop update coming very soon)

Read more

Buy unlocked from Amazon for $659


Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Years after Samsung gambled on the original Note, the concept is still the phone to beat when it comes to large devices. While some competitors are offering larger screens, none of them can match the Note 4’s productivity-boosting stylus. The S Pen can truly enhance the way you interact with your phone, with a strong focus on doing actual work, from basic research, to composing a quick message, to multi-tasking. But it’s not just work: basically anything that requires precision and speed can be done better with a stylus.

While Samsung’s TouchWiz Android implementation has a bad reputation, nobody can deny that the Note 4’s feature set is compelling. You can make the most of that 5.7-inch screen with the new and improved multi-tasking tools, and that’s something you simply don’t get on other high-end Android phones. And, with the latest iteration of the series, the Note looks as good as it works, thanks to a finely chamfered aluminum frame. If you’re looking for the ultimate device for getting things done, the Note 4 is probably your best choice.

Specs

  • 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with 1440 x 2560 resolution
  • 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 CPU
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 32GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 128GB
  • 16MP rear cam, 3.7MP front cam
  • Removable 3220 mAh battery
  • 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm, 176g
  • Frosted White, Charcoal Black, Bronze Gold, or Blossom Pink
  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat (Lollipop update coming down the pipeline)

Read more

Buy unlocked from Amazon for $799


Nexus 6

The Nexus 6 is a staple on any list of top Android handsets of the moment, looming large both literally and through what it represents – Google’s vision of what Android software should be like and what hardware that software needs in order to truly shine. That’s always been the case with Nexus devices, but the Motorola-made Nexus 6 is nothing like the understated Nexus 5, which almost vanished in the background to let Android shine through. The Nexus 6 is big and powerful; it makes a statement about its user and it turns heads.

The biggest drawback of the Nexus 6 is the one that makes it stand out – with its six inches display, the Nexus 6 will never be a good choice for everyone. However, if you’re fine with the size, there’s a lot to like about this phone – the screen is amazing, the processing package is top-notch, the camera is powerful, and build quality is as good as any. Plus, even if Motorola and other phonemakers are upping their updates game, Nexus is still the way to go if you like your phones up to date.

Specs

  • 5.96-inch Super AMOLED display with 1440 x 2560 resolution
  • 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 CPU
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 32/64GB of on-board storage, non-expandable
  • 13MP rear cam, 2MP front cam
  • Non-removable 3220 mAh battery
  • 159.3 x 83 x 10.1 mm, 184g
  • Midnight Blue, Cloud White
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop

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Buy unlocked from Play Store for $649


Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The other entries on our list of best Android smartphones all feature displays that are larger than five inches. If you love expansive screens, you’ve never been more spoiled with choice. But what if you like your smartphones smaller? The 4.6-inch Xperia Z3 Compact is probably your best choice. In a landscape of underpowered “Mini” phones, Sony’s Xperia Z3 Compact stands out as a smaller phone that doesn’t require many compromises. Perhaps the only feature that may turn you off from the Z3 Compact is the 720 x 1280 screen, which is a perfectly decent 319 ppi, but clearly lags behind the other phones on this list.

Everything else is at the high end of the scale, including the processing package and especially the 21MP camera, identical to the shooter on the bigger Xperia Z3. The Android implementation is relatively close to stock and doesn’t indulge in any visual excesses, though you will have to deal with a fair amount of bloatware. Plus, you get Sony’s iconic design in a lightweight package that may feel refreshing after having to handle some bigger phones.

Specs

  • 4.6-inch LCD display with 720 x 1280 resolution
  • 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16GB of on-board storage, expandable
  • 20.7MP rear cam, 2.2MP front cam
  • Non-removable 2,600 mAh battery
  • 127.3 x 64.9 x 8.6 mm, 129 g
  • Green, Orange, White, Black
  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • Water resistant – IP68

Read more

Buy unlocked from Amazon for $499


LG G3

Pick up the LG G3 and you will instantly see and feel what makes it special: the display is incredibly crisp and the thin bezels around it allowed LG to keep this device compact and lightweight – or at least more compact than other devices in its size class. Not only is the G3 small for its screen size, the placement of the power and volume buttons on the rear will make it even easier to operate this device.

The G3 doesn’t feature a metal construction like other contestants in our Android flagships roundup, and that thin design may make it more exposed to accidents. On the inside, there’s little to complain about, and you even get a removable battery, something that only the Note 4 offers from the other devices on this list. LG also made some big strides with the Android overlay running on the G3, which includes a few unique features that may prove very helpful.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch LCD display with 1440 x 2560 resolution
  • 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU
  • 2/3GB of RAM
  • 16/32GB of on-board storage, expandable
  • 13MP rear cam, 2.1MP front cam
  • Removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm, 149 g
  • Metallic Black, Moon Violet, Silk White, Shine Gold, Burgundy Red
  • Android 4.4 KitKat

Read more

Buy unlocked from Amazon for $448


Best bang for the buck: OnePlus One

OnePlus came out of nowhere to get everyone talking about its “flagship killer.” Of course, OnePlus couldn’t hold all its bold promises, but the Chinese startup didn’t disappoint in one crucial area – the price. There’s simply no competitor delivering what the OnePlus One delivers at $300. And the One isn’t just a great affordable phone; it’s a great phone it its own.

With solid specs, unique features, and the clean CyanogenMod running on it, the OnePlus One is a great proposition for just about any user. All that considered, the device sells for half the price of similar devices, so it can’t miss from our list of best Android smartphones of 2014.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 16/64GB of on-board storage, non-expandable
  • 13MP rear cam, 5MP front cam
  • Non-removable 3,100 mAh battery
  • 152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm, 162 g
  • Silk White, Sandstone Black
  • Android 4.4 KitKat/CyanogenMod 11

Read more

Buy unlocked from OnePlus for $299


Special mention: HTC One (M8)

Dozens of good Android phones came out this year, across budgets and niches. At the top, where competition is fiercest, we were spoiled with more choices than ever. One device that we couldn’t fit into our top five, but still deserves a shoutout is HTC’s One (M8). With killer looks, a premium build, and HTC’s unique additions to the Android game, the M8 is definitely worth of your attention.

However, one limitation prevented it from ranking higher: its camera, which isn’t for everyone. The 4MP camera with its secondary depth sensor simply doesn’t live up to expectations.

If that’s not a dealbreaker, and if you value premium look and feel above everything, the One (M8) remains an excellent choice.

Specs

  • 5-inch Super LCD3 display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16/32GB of on-board storage, expandable
  • 4MP rear cam, 5MP front cam
  • Non-removable 2,600 mAh battery
  • 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4 mm, 160 g
  • gray, silver, gold
  • Android 4.4 KitKat

Read more

Buy unlocked from Amazon for $527


There you have it – our picks from the best Android has to offer right now. Missed anything? Tell us in the comments!

Thursday Poll: What is the Android Phone of the Year?

Posted by Kellex December - 18 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

2014 is less than two weeks from being officially in the books. It has been a solid year for smartphone tech, especially on Android, though I’m not sure this year carried the same weight or significance as years past. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good year and a bunch of really great smartphones were released that will last a long time, I just don’t know how many of them will be all that memorable in a couple of years from now. With that said, we still need to decide who came out on top.

We saw follow-up flagships from all of the major players, like Samsung, Google, Motorola, LG, Sony, and HTC. None of them really took any chances, but they all still delivered phones that you would have no difficulty finding supporters of. Beyond the standard crew, we also saw Sony finally enter the US market while its newest flagship was still fairly fresh, and OnePlus made a big splash while pissing people off along the way. Like I just said – there were a ton of options, all of which were good in their own right.

We will have our DL staff top lists here shortly, but for now, we want to know the DL reader phone of the year. Who are you taking?

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

Thursday Poll: What is the Android Phone of the Year? is a post from: Droid Life

HTC Dot View, Scribble, and Sense TV apps each receive updates

Posted by wicked December - 18 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

htc_dot_view_holiday_theme_2014

Three applications, each produced by HTC, received updates today. The company brought bug fixes and a bit more to its Dot View, Scribble, and Sense TV apps.

The most noticeable change is for the Dot View case’s companion app. Just like it did for Halloween, the Dot View case will have themes for Christmas. Among the Christmas themes are reindeer with a tree, Santa Claus front and center, and a snowman surrounded by trees.

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Play Store Download Link (HTC Dot View)

As for the Scribble app, the changelog just states “bug fixes.” If we notice anything after playing around with the updated version, we will update this post.

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Play Store Download Link (HTC Scribble)

Finally, Sense TV notifications can be turned off (or back on). This has been something nagging my One (M8) for quite some time. The app was randomly pushing notifications throughout the day. I did not need (or even want) them. Now, they can be turned off for good.

Here is the changelog for Sense TV’s update:

  1. Enhanced new Tiles for live and upcoming sports games.
  2. Features allowing users to support favorite sports teams with ease.
  3. Filtering capability to select the types of sports that users would like to view statistics in Live Sports.
  4. New Notifications Experience, which provides more meaningful notifications that have context and content; also provides option to turn Sense TV notifications on or off.

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Play Store Download Link (HTC Sense TV)

 

Come comment on this article: HTC Dot View, Scribble, and Sense TV apps each receive updates

HTC One M8, One M7 to get Android 5.0 Lollipop next month

Posted by wicked December - 17 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

We already know that HTC is planning to roll out Android Lollipop updates for some HTC phones. We saw some leaked photos last month of an HTC One M8 running Lollipop and Sense 6.0. HTC said the update would arrive once the final build of the platform is ready. That should be sometime in February but looks like the update is coming earlier in January. This is good news for HTC One M8 and HTC One M7 owners who’ve only been waiting for the sweet Lollipop update. The Taiwan-based phone manufacturer was actually the first companies to outline their Android 5.0 plans so this is really good news.

HTC said the update for HTC One M8 and One M7 will be released this coming January 3. This piece of information was confirmed at an event in London according to a report by TechTastic.nl. The Lollipop software update is expected to bring a new look to the phones, many great features of Android 5.0 like the enhanced notifications system, better performance, and a bit of Material Design.

Note that Android Lollipop for the Google Play Edition models of HTC One M8 and HTC One M7 have arrived earlier this month. Rollouts started last December 5 already. This particular update coming on January will be for the Sense version.

VIA: TechTastic