Project Fi Now Adds US Cellular to the Mix

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Project Fi just got a new benefit announced today. It was announced that US Cellular is going to be an added provider that Project Fi uses. This means better coverage for all Project Fi users. Google has said it will be rolled out in the coming weeks. That means it will most likely need an update for Nexus phones. It is interesting that Google could build phones that were ready for even more networks than they originally planned for with their cellular service.

Looking at the coverage map for US Cellular it looks like their primary network is in the Midwest and Northern California. There is also other partner coverage that shows up on their map, so it will be interesting to see how much more coverage is added to Project Fi. It can range from a few small areas to a lot more. We will see what happens in the coming weeks.

OnePlus Smartphones Finally Available Without Invites

 

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For the past few years OnePlus has made good smartphones. The OnePlus One, Two, and X have all been popular phones. But until now you had to sign up for an invite and wait a long time sometimes to get your phone. In the days of Amazon Prime 2 day shipping it is hard to stomach a 2 month wait for a smartphone.

The OnePlus 3 will launch on June 14th without needing an invite. Whether this means they have enough stock to not sell out quickly or not is still to be seen. It would be a waste of time to make a big display about not having invites, then having the phone sell out and have a 2 month wait.

Google Allo is the Coming of the Chat Bots

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Google announced Google Allo at their Google I/O developer conference. Allo is a new messaging app that learns the phrases and reactions you have in your normal writing and gives suggestions as to what it thinks you will say next. For example, if someone says they had a long day, it could suggest a couple options like “Why is that?”, “What happened”, or something else. You could then just touch the option, then hit send. This would greatly speed up messaging and give you the ability to write basic responses to situations and questions.

I think this could be something that could be beneficial if it was built into Android, or at least would work with SMS text messaging. Right now it looks like it will just be a separate messaging app that would need to be downloaded. Then if you are having friends download an app with chat bots it would be obvious that sometimes you would be talking to a chat bot instead of a human. That probably wouldn’t be the best idea.

Android Apps are Coming to Chromebooks

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Google just announced at Google I/O, their developer conference, that Chromebooks will be able to run Android apps natively in the future. Right now Chrome OS and Android are two completely separate universes. Chrome OS has the apps that live inside the Chrome browser, accessed through the Chrome store. Android has over a million apps accessible through the Google Play store.

This is exciting because Chromebooks will now be opened up to a world of new applications and capabilities. This makes the idea of a $200 laptop much more interesting if it can run over a million apps including games. It appears as though it will only be available for touch-screen Chromebooks, and will come sometime later this year. The Chromebooks will likely need a GPS sensor and other sensors smartphones have to enable all app functionality. Google may require new Chromebooks to have these features in the future.

Leaked Moto G 4th Generation Spotted

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The latest version of the popular Moto G series has been spotted in the wild. The Moto G has always been a great value phone that was around $200. The latest leak suggests the phone will have an upgraded camera, NFC, and a 32 GB storage option. It also suggests upgraded specs like processor and RAM. It appears the Moto G will be announced during a May 17th press conference that will be held in India.

Although this phone will be a good value for the money, it will be hard to beat the latest deal from Google on the Nexus 5X. They are offering the 16GB version for only $199 ($249 for 32GB) when you sign up with Project Fi for at least a month. Obviously they want people to stick around with Project Fi, but there is only a one-month requirement to stay with their service. After that you could switch to another pre-paid GSM provider like Cricket, AT&T GoPhone, MetroPCS or others.

Google Play Music App Now Runs Podcasts

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After announcing last year that Google Play Music would offer the ability to subscribe and listen to podcasts, it has finally come to mobile. This has worked on the web version, but until recently has not worked on the mobile version.

This brings the Android phone up to the same level of Apple when it comes to podcasting. Podcasting has always been a seamless experience on iPhone because the iTunes Store has been the most popular directory in existence. In the past you had to use separate podcasting apps, but now it is built-in. This will make listening to podcasts on the go easier for all Android users.

Google Photos Review

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Google retired its old Picasa Web Albums a while ago and replaced them with one all-encompassing web and mobile app called Google Photos. When it first launched in May of 2015 it had a limit on the quality of uploads that wouldn’t count against your Google storage space. It was around 10 megapixels as I recall, which was limiting since I was shooting with a DSLR at the time. The DSLR was a 20 megapixel camera, so I decided to pass on using Google Photos and stick with Flickr which offered 1 TB of photo storage space without limits. I didn’t want my pictures to be cut by 50%. Now Google bumped this limit to 15 megapixels so it makes it much more attractive since most cameras shoot at less than 15 megapixels.

The Google Photos app can automatically back up and sync the photos from your smartphone. This saves time and is a free alternative to Dropbox which does the same thing. It also allows uploads via the web interface if you have photos on your computer that need to be added.

The interface is simple and easy to use. You can create albums, and share them easily via Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also create a quick link to the album for anyone to view them without an account. Unfortunately there are not many editing options for the photos once they are in the system. There is a crop function, several filters to add, and a few other settings. What would really set Google Photos apart is the ability to have many of the advanced editing options that their Snapseed app has.

Overall Google Photos is a great system and I would recommend it to anyone looking to easily back up their photos for free. It is something that even the most novice of users can try to get their photos in order.

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Android App

A New Bill Could End “Burner Phones”

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There is a gap in the laws here in the USA that allow people to sign up for prepaid phones without giving any identification or filling out any forms. Thus they are able to anonymously make and receive phone calls. These are called “burner phones” in that the person using them would destroy the phone if they ever needed to. They are mainly used by criminals for criminal activity so they can’t be traced.

A new bill is being introduced into the US House of Representatives is called “Closing the Pre-Paid Mobile Device Security Gap Act of 2016”. It is unclear whether it will gain any traction yet among the lawmakers. Although it could have an affect on legitimate users of prepaid phones by making them register their phones and show ID to use them. This would cut down on the ease of just buying a phone and buying a new minutes card whenever it runs out.

Apple Watch Price Drops to $299

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Apple just announced the Apple Watch price has been cut to $299 from $349. This is to better compete on price with the new Fitbit craze that everyone is into. The Apple Watch has not sold well compared to their other products, so they obviously wanted to lower the price so it isn’t just a luxury item anymore. Apple also announced a new line up wristbands to pair with the watches in line with Spring colors.

Many were hoping for a new watch to be released, but Apple instead decided to lower the price. The watch isn’t an item that goes obsolete in a year, so it isn’t a big deal if there isn’t a new one every year. Also, people aren’t in the mindset of upgrading their watch every year or two like they do with their smartphones.

 

Samsung Galaxy S7 Review

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Is the Samsung Galaxy S7 the best Android phone ever made? Many review websites are saying that could be the case. Many point towards the Nexus line by Google as the best phones, but it takes more than just stock Android to be the best phone. Let’s break this phone down in detail.

Screen
The screen on the Galaxy S7 is probably the best out there with the 2k resolution screen. Keep in mind the screen size is only 5.1 inches, so your eye can’t even begin to see the individual pixels anymore. The brightness of it is excellent too. Add in the new “always on” screen mode that shows the time, date, battery life, and certain notifications when the screen is off too.

Camera
All the reviewers of the Galaxy S7 have said this is the best cell phone camera hands down. It even beats the iPhone 6S. The low light capabilities are amazing. It can take a photo in low light and make it look great without a flash. Even better than many DSLR’s can do.

Look/Feel/Functionality
Samsung has raised their game again when it comes to the look and feel of the phone. It is an all glass phone front and back and has that premium feel to it. It is still a very light phone even though the battery size has increased from the S6. Pair this premium look and feel with the new waterproofing that is now included and you have a really well-built phone.

Battery Life
The battery life of the S7 has greatly improved above the S6. This is partially because the battery size is almost 20% larger, but also because of the improvements Android 6.0 brings to the table. Android now does a better job of putting unused or background apps to sleep when they are not used so the standby time increases greatly.

Operating System
The Samsung version of Android has come a long ways in the past 3 years. It went from being a clunky, ugly OS to something that is nearly as good as stock Android. It is easy to use, lightweight, and almost fun to use.

Overall the phone is an excellent choice if you are in the market for a new phone. Samsung hasn’t made any mistakes this time when putting it together unlike in the past.