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HBO’s Mosaic interactive story app now out for Android

Movie and TV director Steven Soderbergh is known for taking risks in his projects, both in terms of story content and even how those stories are presented. His latest effort is perhaps his most innovative yet; he has teamed up with HBO to release Mosaic, a free app that tells a story, but allows users to switch perspectives at certain points. The app, after launching a few weeks ago on iOS, is now finally available on Android.

Editor’s Pick

The app follows a rather mysterious story, featuring actors like Sharon Stone, Beau Bridges, and Paul Reubens, and has over seven hours of video. However, users of the app will be ask at certain times to make a choice to follow the story from the perspective of one character or another. The idea is that some parts of this story could be very important to one character, while others would not consider them to be as major in their lives. Basically, it’s as close to a Choose Your Own Adventure book as you will get, only with major Hollywood actors and a ground breaking director behind the scenes.

HBO plans to release Mosaic as a standard six episode TV series in January, so you will be able to see what choices you made to complete the story compared to how Soderbergh chose to handle it with the same content. Be aware that Mosaic is only available to download in the US and certain US territories due to licensing agreements and restrictions

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Is Samsung about to release a Star Wars: The Last Jedi-themed Note 8?

Hollywood’s winter blockbuster season is almost upon us and this year’s slate is dominated by the next installment in a certain sci-fi franchise set in a galaxy far, far away.

As expected, Disney is already lining store shelves with Star Wars: The Last Jedi merchandise in time for the holidays (really though, who could possibly say no to a Porg cuddly toy?), and now it seems like Samsung is also looking to cash-in on the hype with a limited edition Galaxy Note 8 with exclusive Star Wars-themed features.

The rumor stems from an image shared by Chinese leaker “Ice Universe” which shows a standard-looking Note 8 sporting wallpaper featuring the series’ spherical droid, BB-8. Other than that, there’s very little to go on and the alleged device doesn’t appear to carry any other Star Wars-related branding or design quirks.

While we’ll have to wait for an official announcement to be sure, it wouldn’t be that surprising to see Samsung embracing the ways of the force with a special edition phone, as the South Korean giant has worked with Disney on a number of similar projects in recent years.

Most recently, Samsung released a fairly bland Pirates of the Caribbean-themed Galaxy S8 in China, but its partnership with the House of Mouse was at its best in 2015 with the launch of the stunning Iron Man Galaxy S6 Edge.

If there is a Star Wars Note 8 on the horizon I really hope it isn’t as dull as just a regular Note 8 with a bunch of branded wallpapers and ringtones. There’s an S-Pen right there that’s just begging to be turned into a glowing lightsaber. Come on, Samsung.

As the folks at SamMobile note though, the appearance of BB-8 may just have been Samsung’s cheeky way of advertising its new artificial intelligence platform as the logo for Bixby can be spotted alongside the render. Little is know about the system, which appears to be dubbed Galaxy AI UX, early speculation suggests it could make its debut on the Galaxy S9.

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Fitbit Flyer review

Earlier this year, Fitbit unveiled its very first smartwatch, the Ionic. That was certainly the biggest news to come out of the August announcement, but the company announced another product which flew under the radar. The Fitbit Flyer is the company’s first audio product, and it’s aimed squarely at what are currently the best workout earbuds on the market, the Jaybird X3.

Don’t miss: Fitbit Ionic reviewBest workout earbuds

Are Fitbit’s first workout earbuds worth your money, or should you pass them up for another pair? Let’s find out.

What’s in the box?

Fitbit Flyer review

Upon opening the box, you’ll find the earbuds, a quick start guide, warranty information, a small microUSB charging cable, and a carrying pouch. Fitbit also included a little tray filled with three different sizes of ear tips (small, medium, and large), as well as two sizes of wings and fins (small and large). No foam tips were included in the box.

Build and design

Fitbit Flyer review

The earbuds are comprised mostly of plastic and silicone, but the aerospace-grade aluminum accents make them look much more premium. That’s not to say the plastic makes them feel cheap however— I think it’s pretty clear that Fitbit took the design process very seriously with the Flyer.

I’m partial to the Nightfall Blue color option (the one in this review), though there’s also a Lunar Gray color that features Rose Gold accents. It’s pretty classy.

Fitbit Flyer review

I’ve found the earbuds to be quite comfortable no matter how long I wear them. The stock wings gave me ear fatigue pretty quickly however, so you may consider switching to the fins if you’re planning on wearing them for more than a few minutes. Once you find a comfortable fit, the earbuds will stay secure no matter how much you move your head around.

The Fitbit Flyer remains comfortable no matter how long you wear it. You might want to switch to the ear fins, though.

The cable connecting the earbuds is flat and rubbery, and it’s hardly noticeable on your neck. On the right side of the cable, about two inches below the earbud, is the control module/microphone. This is how you’ll play/pause, skip tracks, increase/decrease volume, and access your voice assistant. The module isn’t too big or heavy, and is easy to use during workouts.

Unfortunately Fitbit didn’t make the earbuds water resistant, though they are sweatproof. There’s no official IP rating, though they feature a hydrophobic nano coating on the inside and out that’s supposedly rain, splash, and sweatproof. I haven’t run into any problems throughout the review period, though it would give me peace of mind if they came with a proper IP rating— especially considering the $ 130 price tag.


Fitbit Flyer review

One of the nicer features on the Fitbit Ionic is the fact that it comes with 2.5 GB of storage for music playback when you’re on the go. The whole reason Fitbit made the Flyer is because it needed an audio product to sell alongside the smartwatch. So, as you’ve probably guessed, you can pair the earbuds with the Ionic.

The Flyer works great paired with the Ionic.

The earbuds come with Bluetooth 4.2, which means it sports a 32-foot range and supports A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, and HFP profiles. They can be paired to up to eight devices, and can be simultaneously connected to two devices. That’s especially handy if you have your Flyer paired to your Ionic and your smartphone. Even if you’re listening to music through your Ionic, the Flyer will relay phone calls (if your is smartphone nearby).

When you receive a phone call, you should have a seamless experience. That’s because there are two MEMS mics on the control module— one that picks up your voice, one that handles wind reduction. I received a call from my wife while I was wearing the earbuds, and she said call quality was crisp and clear. My voice sounded a bit tinny compared to my Pixel 2 XL, but it was still clear.

Fitbit Flyer review

The Fitbit Flyer is compatible with Android, iOS, and Windows smartphones, which means you can summon Google Assistant, Siri, and Cortana depending on what type of phone you have. Just long-press the middle button on the control module and your voice assistant will trigger right away.

Throughout my review period, I only heard a handful of stutters when streaming music and podcasts. Not enough to be an annoyance, but still worth pointing out.

Battery life

Fitbit Flyer review

Fitbit says the earbuds are capable of lasting up to six hours on a single charge, and I’d say that’s almost accurate. I’ve been able to achieve a little over five hours with regular use. That’s not the eight hours that the Jaybird X3 offers, but it’s still pretty good.

When you do need to charge them, it will only take an hour or two to charge from empty to full. Fitbit also says you’ll get one hour of playback after a 15-minute charge.

The Flyer charges via microUSB, and there’s a small cable included in the box. Its a very small cable, so be careful you don’t lose it.

Sound quality

Fitbit Flyer review

There’s no way to customize different audio profiles on the Flyer, though Fitbit included a Power Boost mode that amplifies bass and EQ. For the sake of testing however, I am using the Signature sound profile that’s activated by default. The majority of the testing was done on the treadmill at the gym and during runs outside around the neighborhood.


Throughout my testing, I’ve found that lows, no matter what I’m listening to, are just right. I prefer listening to punk/indie music when I’m running, and I’ve had no issues hearing plenty of bass. Sometimes you need that extra push when you’re running, so the Power Boost mode might be your cup of tea if you’re going outside for a run.


Fitbit put a decent emphasis on mids, though they could be louder. They also start to distort a little when the volume is turned up to max. For me this isn’t much of a dealbreaker, and I think they’ll be fine for most people.


Even when I’m listening to the squealing guitars and synth in Mystery Pills by Antarctigo Vespucci, I never noticed any piercing highs. Overall, the highs blend in with the lows and mids just right.

Power Boost

Accessed by simultaneously long-pressing the volume up and down buttons, Power Boost mode was built in partnership with Waves Audio. Waves is known for providing audio tools for records, films, and video games, and this is the first time the company has brought its sound technology to headphones.

The main thing you’ll notice after turning Power Boost on is the amplified bass. In fact, going back to the Signature audio profile after turning Power Boost on is a little jarring. This mode slightly distorts mids and highs, but not so much that I thought the audio quality was bad. It’s just much louder than the Signature profile— so loud that turning the volume up to max while in Power Boost mode will hurt your ears.

Fitbit Flyer review

The Flyer comes with Passive Noise Isolation to help reduce background noise, and I think it does a great job. I was able to almost completely block out a couple people talking in the other room without the need to shut my office door.



Fitbit Flyer review

The Fitbit Flyer is available from Amazon and for $ 129.95, roughly the same price as Jaybird X3, our favorite pair of workout earbuds on the market. So which should you buy?

With the Flyer, you get good audio quality and a comfortable fit wrapped up in a high-end design. The Power Boost mode is also helpful if you need a little more out of your music.

The Jaybird X3 also provides a good overall audio experience, though it does give you more control over how your music sounds. There’s a dedicated app that lets you choose from different presets and customize the sound to your liking if you have more particular tastes. It also tells you how much battery you have left, which is very helpful. If you like to fine-tune your audio, go with the X3.

It’s also worth pointing out that the Flyer is a great workout companion, but it doesn’t actually track any of your activities like the Jabra Sport Coach, which costs $ 10 less than the Flyer.

Fitbit’s earbuds offer good audio quality, a comfortable fit, and a high-end design. But with other, more proven workout earbuds on the market, the Fitbit Flyer is a tough sell.

With that said, the Flyer is made to work seamlessly with the Fitbit Ionic. So if you’re an early adopter of Fitbit’s first smartwatch, you should probably go with Fitbit’s earbuds. Regadless, with other more proven workout earbuds on the market, the Fitbit Flyer is a tough sell.

Next: Best wireless Bluetooth headphones for running

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5 best dialer apps and contacts apps for Android

best dialer apps and contacts apps featured image
Dialer apps and contacts apps are a bit of a niche market. In most cases, the stock dialer and contacts app is more than good enough most of the time. However, there are some cases where it may be necessary. The Note 8 occasionally freezing while using the contacts app is a good example. In any case, there are a bunch of decent options, but only a few really good ones. Also, we considered doing separate lists for contacts apps and dialer apps. However, generally speaking, if you get one, you get the other too. Both lists would pretty much have the same apps. Thus, we’ve consolidated it into a single list here. Here are the best dialer apps and contacts apps for Android.


Price: Free / Up to $ 3.99
Drupe is one of the most popular dialer apps on mobile. It features a modern, beautiful interface along with a call recorder, smart dialer, call blocker, and methods to deal with duplicate contacts. It can even send GIFs to people when you call them, but both people need to have Drupe installed for that to work. The app covers all of the basics and does many of them better than the stock app. It has the occasional bug, but nothing serious. It’s free to download for the most part. Some features require purchase via in-app purchases.


Price: Free / $ 3.99
ExDialer is one of the better dialer apps and contacts apps. This one features support for 30 languages, includes a smart dialer (with T9), and boasts a faster, lightweight experience. It also includes a variety of plugins, gesture controls, and little Easter egg commands to make things easier. It rounds out the experience with a simple, easy, Material Design UI. The free version is a five day trial. The full version is a separate unlocker app that coasts $ 3.99.

Metro Phone Dialer and Contacts

Price: Free
Metro Phone Dialer and Contacts takes a few design cues from Windows’ Metro UI. It features solid colors, a simple UI, and enough features to make it good. That includes a customizable UI, themes, contact searches, and more. It’s a little lighter on features than most. However, that can be desirable if you need something simple that just works. It’s also totally free with no in-app purchases. There are ads, though, and we would’ve liked a pro option to remove them.

Simpler Contacts and Dialer

Price: Free / Up to $ 9.99
Simpler isn’t as popular as some other dialer apps or contacts apps. It probably should be. Simpler features an improved caller ID, functions to control duplicate contacts, social network support, over 40 themes, and more. It also has call blocking, offline backup, and tools to clean up your contact list a little bit. The app rounds everything up in a simple, good-looking Material Design interface. There really isn’t much wrong with this one aside from a bugs here and there. The app is free to download with an optional pro version available via in-app purchase.
Simpler Contacts and Dialer


Price: Free / $ 1.99 per month / $ 17.99 per year
Truecaller is one of the most popular and powerful contacts apps and dialer apps. It even works as an SMS app. It includes a laundry list of features for the dialer, contacts, and SMS portions of the app. That includes an SMS spam filter, call blocking, dual-SIM support, and a lot more. It also boasts the best caller ID out there. The interface uses a basic Material Design. We’re not going to complain about that! The only real downside is the price. This is one of the only dialer apps or contacts apps with a subscription. It’s not necessary to use the basic features, but $ 17.99 per year is a little steep for our tastes.

If we missed any great dialer apps or contacts apps for Android, tell us about them in the comments! You can also click here to check out our latest Android app and game lists!

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OnePlus 5T vs OnePlus 5: Worth the upgrade?

The new OnePlus 5T builds upon the original OnePlus 5 with a new screen, a new camera, and updated software. But is it enough to justify an upgrade, especially for those who already have the original?

Don’t miss: We go hands-on with the OnePlus 5T

We find out in this quick look between the OnePlus 5T and the OnePlus 5.

Users of the OnePlus 5, which was released this summer, will find that the T variant has changed things up in a few small, but very significant ways.

Given that the 5T has a sprawling 18:9 aspect ratio screen, the fingerprint reader has been moved from the front to the back, in a familiar spot that is easily reached with the index finger. This puts the 5T in line with plenty of other Android devices that have their fingerprint readers in similar spots, and it works in a fast manner.

Fractions of a second are all that the ceramic reader needs in order to wake and unlock the device

Fractions of a second are all that the ceramic reader needs in order to wake and unlock the device by just tapping the sensor. This fingerprint reader also lends the 5T a couple of other functions like swiping to bring down the notification dropdown and holding in order to trigger the shutter while taking a selfie.

Speaking of selfies, the 16 MP front facing shooter is used for OnePlus’ own brand of facial recognition security. Setting up face recognition is simple enough, and, with the camera always checking if your face is in view, simply hitting the power button can bring you straight into the homescreen of the updated Oxygen OS. So far, it’s been a really fast way of unlocking the phone, certainly comparable to the speed of the fingerprint reader. However, OnePlus readily admits in the 5T’s setup screen that facial recognition is less secure than the other available security options.

Users may always be facing the screen anyway to enjoy the new display experience – this AMOLED panel comes in the 18:9 aspect ratio, and, although it continues OnePlus’ choice of 1080p resolution, there is plenty of room for work and play. The 6-inch screen simply takes up more of the phone’s footprint, making for a better display-forward experience, without making the phone any bigger. That said, the metal finish can slip about a little bit and handling all of this display in one hand can be kind of tough.

The newest version of Oxygen OS makes the best possible use of the space and lower pixel density.

OnePlus does deserve some credit for making sure that its newest version of Oxygen OS makes the best possible use of the space and lower pixel density. For example, OnePlus’s proprietary Slate font can be scaled alongside other elements in the OS so that the viewing experience doesn’t feel far off from Quad HD competitors.

OnePlus also made sure that all of the OnePlus 5’s display options returned in the 5T, like Night Mode and – my personal favorite – the Reading Mode, which attempts to replicate the black and white look of an e-paper device.

The latest version of Oxygen OS puts all of these features in a shell that seems to be coming of age – the design elements of the homescreens, the dark mode, the widget safe-keeping Shelf, user programmable accent colors, and even the app folders have a distinct look to them that is very OnePlus. To bring back an old phrase I once used often, Oxygen OS is simplistically elegant and has come a long way since its early days as a fledgling Android interface.

These changes are all powered by the same general spec readout that made the OnePlus 5 such a well-rounded performer – the Snapdragon 835 is backed by either 6 GB or 8 GB of RAM and 64 or 128 GB of onboard storage, every unit comes with a dual-SIM tray, the headphone jack hasn’t been done away with (yet), and Dash Charging gets the 3,300 mAh battery back to work in no time at all. Anyone that enjoyed the reliable speed and performance of the original OnePlus 5 won’t fall prey to phone envy too easily.

Read: OnePlus 5T official spec sheet

There might be one place where original users won’t get the FOMO – the camera

So, the screen has been stretched out, facial recognition is working well, the fingerprint reader doesn’t take up space on the front anymore, and Oxygen OS has been updated to enhance the T experience. All of those enhancements could make existing OnePlus 5 users a little miffed they didn’t wait longer, but there might be one place where original users won’t get the FOMO – the camera (and not just because the camera bump is much bigger on the OnePlus 5).

Editor’s Pick

 Instead of bringing back the dedicated zoom lens, OnePlus has instead tacked a 20 MP f/1.7 camera alongside the original 16 MP f/1.7 shooter. Its usage is a bit interesting, as low-light shots are taken with support from the 20 MP shooter as it groups its pixels in batches of four in order to better capture enough light and data in dark situations. We haven’t had much chance to test this out just yet, but, if this “Intelligent Pixel Technology” actually works, it might be a significant trade off compared to the originally included zoom lens. Granted, zoom and Portrait Mode are still part of the camera experience in the OnePlus 5T, but they are achieved digitally rather than with the help of an actual zoom lens. We’ll do more testing on this moving forward, but let us know how you feel about this camera change in the comments below!

Get up to speed: How good is the OnePlus 5 camera?

OnePlus continues to provide flagship level experiences in their own distinct style and flavor of Android

OnePlus continues to provide flagship level experiences in their own distinct style and flavor of Android, but the T variant was a bit controversial last year due to its price hike. Users of the original editions were understandably miffed by the prospect of buying an entirely new phone that isn’t entirely new, and that is certainly true this time around. But anyone that held out for the 5T will be happy to know they won’t be paying a huge premium to enjoy the latest enhancements, as the OnePlus 5T will be priced at $ 499 for the base model, and $ 559 for the 8 GB/128 GB edition. That’s $ 20 more than the original, but given all that OnePlus has added into the 5T, twenty bucks sounds pretty reasonable. You can find more details about the OnePlus 5’s pricing and availability here.

But what do you all think? Let us know how you feel about the OnePlus 5 vs OnePlus 5T following today’s announcement, and sound off in the comments below!

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The HTC U11 Life begins to roll out to retailers across Europe

Earlier this month, HTC took the wraps off the HTC U11 Life, a brand new Android One device. It comes with vanilla Android, mid-tier specs, and a familiar Liquid Surface design. It’s been a long time since HTC has made a big push into the mid-tier space, but with solid specs and a beautiful design, the U11 Life could be a compelling contender there. We’ve been patiently waiting for HTC to start selling the device, and it looks like today is the day. The phone has begun its rollout across Europe.

As a refresher, the HTC U11 Life comes with a 5.2-inch Super LCD 1080p display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage that can be expanded via microSD card, 16 MP rear and front-facing cameras, and a 2,600 mAh battery. It supports Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, and NFC.

See also: Why the HTC U11 Life will probably cost you a little more than $ 349

The HTC U11 Life also features a number of features you’d expect to find in much more expensive devices. First off, the phone has an IP67 rating. That means it’s completely protected from dust and immersion in water of up to one meter. It also has sensors built into the side of the device. Much like the flagship HTC U11 from earlier this year or the recently released Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, you can squeeze the sides of the phone to open up Google Assistant.

Notably missing from the HTC U11 Life is a headphone jack.

The device is rolling out to a number of retailers across Europe as we speak. The rollout seems to be gradual with some retailers still showing the device as a pre-order, even though you can add it to your cart and place an order. HTC’s website and Media Mrkt seem to be the best sources to pick one up online, although others retailers are carrying it as well. You can grab yours beginning today for €349.

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Must read: top 10 Android stories

This week we went hands-on with the OPPO R11s, reviewed the Garmin vívosport, compared the LG V30 with the Galaxy Note 8, and talked about what we’re expecting to see in the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. Here’s the news of the week!

Who wants to win a Google Pixel 2?

Google’s Pixel 2 is compact, powerful, and has a killer camera. Here’s how you can win one!

10 Android stories we handpicked for you

OPPO R11s hands-on Following in the footsteps of the R11, the OPPO R11s and R11s Plus improve on three key areas: display, cameras and software. This is our OPPO R11s hands-on.

Black Friday 2017: save big on phones, smartwatches, and more This Black Friday, shop smarter with our Black Friday 2017 tech deals roundup. This list will be continuously updated throughout the Black Friday season.

Want to attend the OnePlus 5T launch? Here’s your chance! Want to see the OnePlus 5T first? Want to attend a really cool event and get some swag? Here’s your exclusive chance to attend the OnePlus 5T launch!

The Pixel 2 is the Android experience everyone deserves If you’re judging the Pixel 2 on headlines alone, you’re missing out, because when you’re using the new phones it’s an entirely different vibe.

Garmin vívosport review What happens when you take one of the best fitness trackers and add a color display, stress tracking, and more? Find out in our Garmin vívosport review.

LG V30 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 8 We pit what many consider the true flagships of their respective companies against each other in this comparison of the LG V30 and Samsung Galaxy Note 8!

What to expect from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 Qualcomm is expected to launch its Snapdragon 845 mobile platform in December, so here’s what we think the company has planned.

What being an ‘AI first’ company means for Google Google shifted to an “AI first” company this year, and this has already had an effect its latest products, but it’s all part of an even bigger shift.

The next big thing in small screens Right now, you can have any display you like – as long as it’s an LCD or an OLED. Will these be the only choices for mobile device buyers forever? Maybe not…

Google’s Pixel 2 fabric cases are well worth the steep price tag Google released some new fabric cases with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. I’ve been using one for a few weeks, and I think they’re great.

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Android has a new feature to highlight apps that cause bad battery life


One of the biggest challenges with battery life on Android devices over the years has been wakelocks. Wakelocks are caused by apps that constantly poll the phone for information. This prevents a phone from entering a deeper sleep state where minimal battery life is used. Since the phone can never enter deep sleep mode, it just sits there burning battery.

See also: How to extend your Android’s phone battery life

There have been many third-party apps to detect and crack down on wakelocks, but it looks like Google is now getting involved. Users on Twitter (via Android Police) have reported that in the latest Android 8.1 Developer Preview the battery app is naming abusive apps. A warning appears in the battery settings with a red battery icon, the name of the offending app, and how it’s draining your battery. Tapping the warning will give you options to fix the issue. This may be as simple as killing the app or turning off location data for it.


There’s no telling yet whether this new feature will make it into Android 8.1 when it releases to the public. Google has been known in the past to add features in developer previews only to remove them before a final release. But, it’s an encouraging development that Google is testing out a feature that gives users more information and control over their phones. Google has long been trying to improve battery life with initiatives like Doze, but this takes it a step further.

What do you think about Android’s new feature? Do you think it will actually lead to better battery life or just more annoying notifications? Let us know down in the comments.

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The Pixel 2 is the Android experience everyone deserves

If you’re judging the Pixel 2 launch on headlines alone, you’d probably think it was a flop. But when you’re immersed in either of the new phones, it’s an entirely different vibe.

I’ve been using the Pixel 2 for a few weeks now, and I don’t plan on switching for a while. This is the best Android experience for everyone; its spectacular rear camera, simple and modern design, and Assistant-driven features are examples of why Google’s made it worth wielding.

Let’s gush about the camera first

The camera is too good not to talk about how crazy it makes you.

Simply put, the camera is the best part of owning a Pixel 2

Simply put, the camera is the best part of owning a Pixel 2. I remembered being impressed with the Pixel XL last year, but the Pixel 2 has managed to exceed expectations. Unlike the Galaxy Note 8 there’s more dynamic range in each shot with the Pixel 2, making it easy to take the result into a photo editing suite to tweak further.

The photos below are cat portraits I shot during my week with the Pixel 2 XL, which I used while I waited for the Pixel 2 to arrive (both devices have the same rear-camera hardware). The Galaxy Note 8 sample on the left looks as if it has blown out highlights in the photo, while the Pixel 2 XL’s end result appears bolder and more balanced. I also like that I can zoom in and see the finest hairs of cat fur on the Pixel 2’s photo sample, where they’re a bit fuzzy in the Note 8’s composition.

And what about those Motion Photos? They’re so neat. I’ve been saving mine as quick-second videos to post to Twitter and Instagram Stories. They’re a dynamic way to relay the little details of your day. I also just appreciate the way that they capture memories for me. Imagine a year from now when I have a bigger library of motion photos stored up; I’ll be able to flip through photos and then long-press to quickly experience the moment. Memories are the only things we carry with us through the ages, and I value the role that my mobile device plays in helping me at least attempt to digitally archive them.

Motion Photos are a Pixel 2 and Google Clips exclusive feature for now—or rather, they can only be made with those two devices at present. As a reason to try Google’s smartphones, its a sweet “carrot” of sorts for skipping out on what Samsung and LG are offering. I also like that Motion Photos are shot with the fidelity of the Pixel 2’s 12-megapixel camera so that they’re as well-produced as any other photo I shoot with the aid of the camera’s f/1.8 aperture.

Hey, it’s a nice phone

With its interface matching its outer aesthetic, the Pixel 2 has a nice cohesiveness to it.

While I was impressed by the pearly orchid gray back on this year’s Galaxy S8, and the curvature of the LG V30‘s chassis design, there’s something to be said about the way stock Android looks and operates on a Google-designed smartphone. From the Pixel Launcher’s weather font— Google calls it Product Sans—to the easy-launch application drawer, there’s a beautiful uniformity to the operating system, especially  paired with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL’s clean exterior lines.

There are admittedly some things about the interface that seem to still be under construction—the Google Assistant feed surfaces the wrong information at the wrong time more often since its switch to the new feed—but Google has more or less managed to create near-perfect cohesiveness between device design and software. I’d even go as far as to say it’s pretty Apple-like, and I love it. I love feeling rooted in the Android foundation.

The power of Google Assistant

Google Assistant offers plenty of helpful feature—and some that are a little half-baked.

Have you met my Google Assistant? It lives inside the Pixel 2, and all I have to do to conjure it up is long-press the Home button (or use a voice command or squeeze gesture). Think of it like a genie, except that you don’t have to worry too much about whether you’re rubbing the bottle the right way.

Google Assistant isn’t exclusive to the Pixel line of devices. You can find it on other Android-based devices, smart speakers like the Google Home, and even the iPhone. There are subtle facets of its API integrated into other aspects of the Pixel 2 that are pretty cool, though. For instance, while the Now Playing ambient display might seem superfluous compared to everything else Assistant can do, I like glancing down every once in a while to identify the music quietly piping through my ears. Remember, that data isn’t pulled from the cloud, it’s all locally stored on the Pixel 2 itself. There’s data for 10,000 different songs embedded inside in a mere 53MB file.

The real Achilles’ Heel of Google Assistant at the moment is Google Lens. I don’t understand its usefulness in my daily life just yet, and it doesn’t help that when I use it to query inside Google Photos, the result is usually off. I asked it to identify a photo of the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand, and it somehow surmised that the more pertinent information to display is that it’s categorized as a steeple. That’s a far cry from the demonstration put on at Google I/O 2017, where we saw that Lens could automatically connect to Wi-Fi simply by snapping a photo of a password. With Google, there’s typically an air of “beta” hovering around its products, and perhaps it’s that lingering sensation which keeps people doubting the company’s ability to “make it on its own” as a smartphone vendor.

One of the best smartphones of the year

One thing I didn’t mention in the beginning is that this is my first time using a display under 5.5-inches since the Galaxy S6. The Pixel XL was perfect for the year I used it, but I consistently found that it would always be just a bit big for my jacket pockets and clutch purses. As a tech-consuming individual, I appreciate that Google decided to launch two sizes of its flagship device, the way Samsung and Apple have. I especially appreciate that I’m not asked to compromise on extra features, like portrait mode and water resistance, just because I wanted to spend less on the smaller version.

It’s only been a few weeks with the Pixel 2 as my daily driver, but I’m thoroughly enamored. In addition to its pocketable size, it’s a Google-designed smartphone with the power of Google’s artificial intelligence presented in a way that’s useful to anyone, regardless of technical expertise. I much prefer this friendly implementation of Android. It’s almost as if this is the way that Google had intended for it to be all along.

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Google Assistant can finally recognize songs

One of Google Assistant‘s more glaring omissions since its debut in 2016 was the inability to identify songs. Some semblance of that functionality arrived with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, but it looks like the feature is finally rolling out to Android smartphones.

Editor’s Pick

If you want Google Assistant to identify a song, you can ask “What song is this?” or something along those lines to have Google‘s virtual assistant start listening. Once the song is identified, Google Assistant presents you with a small info card that contains some lyrics, the artist, the album, when it was released, and what genre the song belongs to.

The info card also contains embedded links to listen to the song through YouTube and Google Play Music, as well as an embedded link to search the song on Google.

Alternatively, Google Assistant has “What’s this song?” as a suggestion in the carousel of choices. You will need to have voice set as the preferred input in settings for that option to pop up. Interestingly, when I tried this on my Pixel XL, it did not pop up at first and took an extra second or two for the option to pop up.

I am not sure how widely available the new feature is, but as with all things Google when it comes to software, it might take a few days until the rollout finishes. It should also be noted that I am using the English version of Google Assistant and am located in the US, so that could affect whether the ability to identify songs works for you or not.

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