Sony

Sony

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

What a year, huh?

2016 was certainly a year to remember in the smartphone world. Samsung had a major slip up with one of its flagships, Google started making its own phones (and said goodbye to the Nexus line), and we finally got to see something promising come from HTC. We also saw a few OEMs – LG and Lenovo/Moto – step out of their comfort zones and into the realm of modular designs.

In 2016, some companies struggled to find their footing, while others really came into their own. So what happens next?

Join us as we talk about what we want to see from each major smartphone manufacturer in the new year.

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2016 in review: 10 defining moments in the world of Android

5 days ago

Samsung

Try not to have any phones explode next year, okay?

Okay, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Samsung has a lot of work to do in 2017.

The company started 2016 off with a bang, as it unveiled the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge at MWC in Barcelona. While the S7 and S7 Edge were described as more of an evolution than a revolution, they did bring a number of big improvements over 2015’s Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.

For starters, the S7 and S7 Edge featured a refined yet familiar design language that was first present on the S6 line. An all-glass chassis, complimented by an aluminum border really made these phones feel like they were worth the high asking price. This time around, though, the S7 line featured minimized camera humps, curved edges on the back, and came in two different sizes to suit more consumers’ needs. Oh, and they also featured microSD expansion and an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance – two features that were notably missing from the S6 line.

2016 was the year that Samsung really started listening to its customers

2016 was the year that Samsung really started listening to its customers. Because the S7 and S7 Edge succeeded in winning over so many fans, that made the launch of the Galaxy Note 7 even more exciting.

Samsung announced the Galaxy Note 7 in August 2016 amid much fanfare. Not only did the 5.7-inch phone bring top-of-the-line specs, an IP68 water resistance rating and expandable storage, it was basically a bigger, better version of the Galaxy S7 Edge. Like its smaller sibling, the Note 7 featured a curved display – complete with all of Samsung’s Edge software features – along with a curved back panel that made it really easy to hold. Plus, it had a few other tricks up its sleeve, like an iris scanner, a secure folder to hide sensitive content, and a user interface that wasn’t horrible to look at.

See also:

Galaxy Note 7 recall: what you need to know

October 11, 2016

The Note 7 unfortunately had an exploding problem, though, which led to the device getting recalled and permanently discontinued all over the world. The Note 7 will forever be known as Samsung’s exploding phone, and the company is going to spend the next year trying to win consumers’ trust back. That’s why Samsung’s main focus in 2017 needs to be quality control. They’ve already proven to us that they can make some really good phones – the S7, S7 Edge and pre-discontinued Note 7 were some of the best phones of 2016. Now the company needs to make sure that quality control issues never happen again.

In 2017, Samsung needs to make sure none of its phones, you know, explode

Samsung, put the brakes on new, wild innovations if you have to. Heck – just make another great phone that doesn’t injure people. I know a lot of Samsung fans probably wouldn’t have a problem if the Galaxy S8 really turned out to be a repackaged Note 7. That was a really good phone, and now a lot of people feel robbed.

Aside from the whole exploding phone thing, Samsung does still have some other things to work on. Most importantly: software.

I know, we say the same thing every year. My thoughts on the subject are a little different this time around, though. After spending a few months using Android 7.0 Nougat (beta) on the Galaxy S7 Edge, it’s clear that Samsung has worked hard to bring the best version of Nougat to its flagships as it can. While many of the company’s resources are tied up in the Note 7 ordeal, Samsung has done a great job at refining the latest version of Android and making it it’s own.

See also:

This is Nougat on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

November 28, 2016

With all that said, Samsung has never really been the fastest when it comes to rolling out software updates to its gigantic list of devices. Samsung has just said Android 7.1.1 will roll out to the S7 and S7 Edge in January, while the HTC 10, LG G5, Moto Z and a few others have gotten their updates.

I must say, though, Samsung is getting better. Even though we don’t have official Nougat builds yet, at least we have the community-driven beta program, which is much more than we can say about last year. Look at me, trying to find other things to gripe about. Samsung, just don’t have a repeat of 2016. All in all, you had a hard year… but if anyone can bounce back from a bad year, it’s probably you.

HTC

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

The HTC 10 really impressed, but there’s still more work to be done.

In the smartphone world, a few things really stood out in 2015: Samsung’s Galaxy S6 was beautiful and fast, LG’s G4 wasn’t far behind, and the HTC One M9 was bad. With its atrocious camera and wonky software features, it was clear that HTC didn’t really focus on innovating in 2015. From the One M9 to the too-iPhoney One A9, HTC clearly went through somewhat of an identity crisis in 2015.

That finally changed in 2016 with the HTC 10.

HTC introduced the 10 in April 2016, and overall, it was received quite well in the smartphone community. Not only is the HTC 10 still one of the most well-built phones on the market, the company managed to refine its trademark design without copying other manufacturers’ work or rehashing the same old design of its flagships of years past. It’s clearly an HTC phone through and through.

Also read:

HTC, it’s time for you to come up with a new design

2 weeks ago

HTC refined its software experience this year

One of the main focuses for HTC this year was in the software department, and it shows. Instead of cramming in a ton of useless features or putting a heavy, bloated skin atop the Android we all know and love, HTC managed to put its own spin on things while still staying lean. HTC’s Sense skin is still here, but it’s quicker and lighter than ever before. Perhaps that has a lot to do with the fact that HTC eliminated many of the duplicate apps this year, forgoing its own calculator, calendar and browser apps for Google’s.

Plus, due to the company’s light software interface, the HTC 10 was one of the first smartphones to receive its Android 7.0 Nougat update this year. Not that HTC has been particularly bad at issuing software updates in the past, but it’s always nice to see a company focus on bringing the latest and greatest to its users.

HTC also did something completely unprecedented with the 10: it made a good camera

HTC also did something completely unprecedented with the 10: it made a good camera. While it’s not quite Google Pixel or Galaxy S7 good, it’s still really good. Featuring a 1.55μm UltraPixel sensor with optical image stabilization, an f/1.8 aperture and laser-assisted autofocus, the 10’s camera offers fast and accurate autofocus in most lighting conditions as well as good exposure and noise reduction in low light. It’s miles above what the One M9’s camera offered, but honestly that wasn’t a high bar to clear. Also, for what it’s worth, DxOMark says the 10’s camera is among the best with a score of 88 points.

With all of that said, HTC isn’t in the clear yet.

We wanted a great phone from HTC, and we got one. But 2016 was the year of trying new things, and HTC might have missed out on that a bit. Samsung upheld the idea that edge displays are the future, so the S7 Edge and Note 7 both came with slightly curved displays. LG and Lenovo (or Moto) did something a little more daring this year, bringing modular designs to the masses. But what exactly is so unique about the HTC 10? Aside from its more advanced audio capabilities and sound profiles, what does it offer over the competition?

It doesn’t have that sense of risk taking that most other flagships today offer. It’s not modular, it doesn’t have a crazy dual camera or curved display; it’s just a smartphone. A really good smartphone at that. Now don’t get me wrong, I love most everything about this phone; its design, display, fantastic audio capabilities and software are really some of the best on the market. That’s why in 2017, HTC needs to step out of its comfort zone. Build us a VR-focused smartphone that enhances the HTC Vive somehow, or try your hand at at a modular phone this time around. Heck, if that HTC Ocean concept ever sees the light of day, I’m sure people will buy it.

See also:

HTC 10 vs Samsung Galaxy S7 / Edge vs LG G5

May 6, 2016

As was the case last year, HTC needs to start innovating. They built a great smartphone this year, but there are plenty of other great ones on the market for around the same price or a lot cheaper. If HTC gives people a good reason to buy their phones, things will start shaping up.

Google

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

You had one heck of a year – just make sure to focus on what the users want.

We left Google out of last year’s manufacturer’s letter for a reason, and that’s because the company never really made its own smartphones. While Google may have had its hand in the manufacturing process of its Nexus phones, they were still made by other manufacturers. Not only that, each Nexus device was notably missing any Google branding, and was instead branded by its manufacturer.

Since the beginning, Nexus devices were Google’s way of bringing a no-frills Android experience to developers and die hard fans of the OS, but that changed significantly in 2016. 2016 was the year the Pixel and Pixel XL arrived, and the year the Nexus line went away.

In 2016, Google created the Pixel and axed the Nexus line

So what are the differences between Nexus and Pixel? Well, as noted above, the Nexus line carried other manufacturer branding and was meant to bring a vanilla Android experience to developers and fans around the world. In contrast, the Pixel is still manufactured by another company (HTC, in this case), but you wouldn’t know it; the Pixel and Pixel XL are only branded with Google’s name, and apparently the company has a bigger say when it comes to the phone’s hardware.

See also:

The best Android phones of 2016, according to you

4 days ago

A lot has changed in the Google phone landscape, and that’s not a bad thing in the slightest. The Google Pixel and Pixel XL were two of the best Android phones released in 2016. They both offer great performance, amazing cameras, and, most notably, they both have the Google Assistant on board.

But if the Pixel and Pixel XL are so great, is there any room for Google to improve? Yes, certainly.

With the switch to Pixel, Google ditched some of the most important things that made the Nexus line, well, the Nexus line. While pricing with the Nexus line has never been super consistent, some of the most recent devices came to market with incredibly affordable price tags. The Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, for instance, were available at launch for only $499 and $379, respectively. That’s not a lot of money at all, especially considering the Galaxy S6 was still going for over $500 at that time, as were some of the other flagship phones in 2015.

With the switch to Pixel, Google ditched some of the most important things that made the Nexus line great

The Pixels weren’t meant to be affordable in any way, though, which is quite telling by their price tags at launch. The Pixel and Pixel XL came to market for $649 and $769, respectively, which is a stark contrast from the Nexus 6P and 5X’s price tags. All in all, the Pixels arguably offer much less compromise than the 6P and 5X ever did, which might help make the price bump make more sense. Still, that’s not great news for consumers’ wallets – spending upwards of $600 on a new phone isn’t something everyone wants to do.

There are a few other things worth pointing out that make the Pixels’ price points less than stellar. Many flagship smartphones released in 2016 came with impressive water resistant ratings, including the Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, Sony Xperia XZ, and even the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Still, despite the Pixel and Pixel XL’s premium price tags, they unfortunately don’t come with any notable ratings for dust or water resistance. Google was reportedly too tight on time to include proper water resistance ratings on the Pixels, but that doesn’t really soften the blow at all. The lack of an IP67 or 68 rating is one of the the only blemishes on the Pixels’ spec sheets.

The Pixels' designs aren't all that unique at all

The fact that the Pixels were rushed out of the door may also have something to do with their unassuming and somewhat generic design. For comparison, the Nexus line has always offered quirky, unique designs that aimed to stand out against the competition, but the Pixel and Pixel XL’s design isn’t all that unique at all. The front panels of the Pixels don’t stand out at all, while the bottom half of the back panel is probably the most generic part of the phones. It’s clear that Google tried to do something slightly original with the glass portion on the back, but that’s about the only thing that stands out.

In our full review, we told you that the build of the Pixel XL leaves a lot to be desired. Despite not being dropped once, there are still a few dents and a couple of scratches on the body. Google seems to have cut some corners in the design department.

I don’t want to harp on Google too much this year… the Pixel and Pixel XL are two of the greatest smartphones ever made. There are just a few things holding them back from being truly no-compromise smartphones. If Google can bring a proper water resistance rating, a more unique design and a slightly more affordable price tag to its 2017 flagships, Google will have a successful year.

Lenovo / Motorola

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

The Moto Z was a great start on modularity – now keep improving

I used to be a huge Motorola fan. Back in 2014, despite its horrible camera and less-than-perfect processor, I thought the 2nd Generation Moto X was by far one of the best Android phones on the market at the time. With its customizable design via Moto Maker, innovative Active Display feature and smooth, stock-like software, Motorola, in my opinion, hit the nail on the head with the 2014 Moto X. It was innovative, and it was what the people wanted. I consider this to be peak Motorola.

Then 2015 rolled around, and Motorola continued to offer high-end, customizable smartphones that wouldn’t break the bank. The Moto X Pure Edition was the priciest of Motorola’s 2015 lineup, while the 3rd-gen Moto G brought reliable performance and an impressive build without the high price tag. All in all, Motorola had a successful, iterative 2015.

Lenovo took the Moto brand in a new direction in 2016

Throughout the past three years or so, Motorola has been an industry leader in that it went against the norm, offering relatively affordable, customizable, unlocked handsets to consumers. Then in 2016, things started to change. The Motorola we once knew and loved took a different direction, thanks to its new owner, Lenovo.

In June 2016, Lenovo took the wraps off the new Moto Z and Moto Z Force. While Moto X devices of years past focused on hardware customization, the new Moto Z line brought users another way to customize their devices – through modular accessories called Moto Mods. Compatible with the entire Moto Z lineup, Moto Mods are swappable accessories that simply snap on the back of the Moto Z to bring extra functionality to the device.

See also:

Moto Z and Moto Z Force (DROID) review

July 21, 2016

Moto did really well in the hardware department this year. Both the Moto Z line and the Moto Mods themselves feel like premium, well-designed pieces of hardware. But there’s still work to be done, of course, and that has a lot to do with Moto Mod support.

As it stands now, there are a total of seven Moto Mods available for purchase: the JBL SoundBoost Speaker, Moto Insta-Share Projector, Hasselblad True Zoom Camera, Incipio OffGRID Power Pack, Incipio Vehicle Dock, mophie juice pack and Moto Style Shells. So here’s the big question – are Moto Mods useful enough to get consumers to buy a Moto Z? As we stated in our full Moto Mods review, yes and no. Most of the Moto Mods on the market have been well executed and truly bring extra functionality to the device. The problem is, most of them are quite expensive, meaning investing in a Moto Z and a Moto Mod or two can get quite costly.

Modular throwdown:

Motorola Moto Z Force vs LG G5 – Modular or Mods?

August 17, 2016

And although the current Moto Mods on the market are well done, they’re not necessarily needed to make the Moto Z line good. Plus, they’re not the most cost effective way of bringing wireless or Bluetooth solutions to your device. If you’re in need of a louder speaker, for instance, you can always invest in a Bluetooth speaker that costs less than the $79 asking price of the JBL SoundBoost Mod. Or if you’re in need of a better camera, there are plenty of great point-and-shoot cameras for less than the $300 asking price of the Hasselblad Camera Mod.

So what can Lenovo do to make sure Moto Mods catch on? In 2017, Lenovo needs to keep pushing the development of Moto Mods and bring more third-party companies into the mix. That’s already getting off to a good start, too – back in November, the company announced a new partnership with Indiegogo to help jumpstart the next wave of Moto Mods innovation. The Moto Mods Development Kit (MDK) has already been around for awhile, allowing developers to contribute to the ecosystem by creating their own Moto Mods to work with their products. With the Moto Mods Indiegogo campaign, though, developers will be provided with an easy way to raise money to help bring their Moto Mods to life. In addition, Lenovo Capital has set aside up to $1 million to help bring the best Moto Mods ideas to market.

Lenovo needs to keep pushing the development of Moto Mods in 2017

With the help of third-party developers, I think Moto Mods can really prove to be useful add-ons, not just overpriced accessories. But that’s going to require a lot of work on Lenovo’s part.

As a side note, Lenovo, please bring back Moto Maker support for your smartphones. While Moto Maker still exists as a simple color/storage amount selector, I think I can speak for everyone when I say we want the option to choose different colored back plates, front plates, accents and more.

Also read:

Exclusive: Moto X (2017) leaked renders and video

3 days ago

LG

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

Marketing, marketing, marketing!

Last year, LG was trying to compete directly with Samsung in more ways than one. Samsung had the Galaxy S6, LG had the G4. Samsung had the Galaxy Note 5, LG had the V10. While these competitors were going for a similar demographic, LG’s offerings were quite different from Samsung’s.

This is part of what made the year 2015 interesting in the Android world. Samsung has long been considered as the most popular Android OEM, but then LG swooped in and tried to take some of the company’s users away. That changed in 2016, with the introduction of the LG G5.

On paper, the G5 competes with all of the other major 2016 flagships. It has a 5.3-inch Quad HD display, a Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM and even an impressive 16 and 8MP rear-facing camera setup. The G5 also brought something entirely new to the table this year: a modular design. Yes, we’ve already talked about Lenovo’s take on modularity with the Moto Z line, but the G5 actually came out first.

We much prefer Moto's module implementation over LG's

The G5’s modular design is quite different from the Moto Z’s. Instead of simply placing a module on the back of the device, you need to detach and remove the G5’s bottom cap and replace it with something else. If this process sounds more cumbersome to you than the Moto Z’s method, you’d be right. Pulling the cap off the G5 isn’t the easiest thing to do… we much prefer Moto’s method of module integration.

LG only launched two modules (or Friends, as LG calls them) with the G5 at the start: LG CAM Plus, which provides a 1,200mAh boost in battery and better grip for taking photos, and the LG Hi-Fi+ with B&O Play, bringing a 32-bit DAC to the phone. These Friends are nice and all, but the G5 has been out of almost a year and we still have yet to see any more modules for the phone. It’s worth noting that the LG Hi-Fi+ never even made its way to the United States.

So if LG planned to go all-in on modules this year, why has modular development seemingly come to a halt?

That may have something to do with the company’s weird start to modular development. Back in April, LG opened up the G5’s modular design to third-party developers, allowing them to take advantage of software and hardware development kits to make third-party modules for the phone. The problem is, LG noted that each module needs to be co-developed by LG, which would likely slow down the development process drastically. Plus, LG notes that it wants to (understandably so) take a cut of the profits (since it’s co-developing the modules, after all), which might end up turning some devs away from the platform. Starting a modular ecosystem is hard, and it doesn’t seem like LG is taking the right steps to succeed.

Let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about the LG V20. LG announced the V20 just over a month after Samsung launched the Note 7. Now, the Galaxy Note 7 went on sale August 19, still a few weeks before the V20 became official. You’d think LG would want to hit the ground running and get the V20 on store shelves as soon as possible, but that didn’t happen. The company didn’t bring its new flagship device to market until late October (nearly two months after its announcement), after the Note 7 was already recalled and around the time the Google Pixel went up for sale.

The V20 was sort of a missed opportunity for LG

This is why the V20 is potentially a missed opportunity for LG. If the company brought its new device to market just one month earlier, it could have scooped up more folks who jumped the Note 7 ship, and also beaten the Pixel to market. Now, I’m aware that LG can’t just launch a phone whenever it wants to; these things take time. But the phone’s biggest competitor was recalled – that just doesn’t happen. I guess what I’m trying to say is, hindsight is 20/20: LG dragged its feet a little bit and missed the perfect opportunity to sell more units.

So, what can LG do in the new year to improve its smartphone business? Market their products.

In 2017, LG needs to promote its products more than it ever has

In 2017, LG needs to promote its products more than it ever has. If the company wants to continue with its modular ecosystem, then it needs to promote it like it’s a big deal. And if the modules are getting the axe this year, LG still needs to market whatever phone it launches early next year. The same goes for the next phone in the V series. If they want people to know that there are other big and powerful phones out there other than the Note 7, LG needs to put that in front of consumers faces. Tons of commercials, more web advertisements and billboards in big cities are a start. LG has a lot of money, and it needs to spend it in the right areas.

Sony

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

Overpriced smartphones won’t get you anywhere.

I’m going to reiterate a lot of what I said last year, mainly because Sony didn’t really change much at all in 2016.

You may recall that in 2015, the company released three flagship smartphones, the Xperia Z5, Z5 Compact and Z5 Premium. All three devices offered up solid hardware and software experiences, as is the case with most other phones in the Xperia line. The Z5 Premium, though, had one standout feature that made it truly special: a 4K display. With an impressive pixel density of 806ppi, the Z5 Premium wasn’t just a beast on the spec sheet, it offered a little glimmer of hope that Sony would actually start innovating again.

You see, Sony is a company that’s taken the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” saying a little too far. Most of the smartphones it’s produced in the past five years have looked nearly identical, with only a few minor design changes differentiating each one. Then the Z5 Premium arrived, offering up something we’ve never seen on a smartphone before. Sure, the 4K display didn’t turn out to be incredibly useful (it didn’t show 4K content at all times, for instance), but it was something unique.

Then in 2016, the company ditched the 4K display idea and went back to its old ways.

Back in February at MWC, Sony axed its popular Z lineup to instead focus on the new X line of smartphones. Sony called the X line “an evolution of the Xperia brand”  that were meant to be smart connected devices “capable of changing the way you interact with the world.” Unfortunately that turned out to be marketing mumbo jumbo, as aside from the change in build materials, the new Xperia X, Xperia X Performance and Xperia XA were basically iterative upgrades over the company’s 2015 flagships.

That’s not to say these are bad smartphones, though. The Xperia X is the mid-range offering in the lineup, sporting a 5.0-inch 1080p display, a Snapdragon 650 processor, 3GB of RAM and a 23MP rear camera. The X Performance is the highest-end offering in the bunch, with its Snapdragon 820 processor, 2,700mAh battery and same 23MP rear camera sensor. And if you’re looking for a budget option, the Xperia XA offers a 5.0-inch 720p display, MediaTek MT6755 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 13MP camera.

Unfortunately Sony pulled a Sony and hiked all the prices up by a pretty big margin. The Xperia X Performance launched in the U.S. for a hefty $699, the Xperia X launched for $549, while the low-end XA launched for $279. Compared to some of the other similarly-spec’d devices on the market at the time, Sony’s smartphones were unfortunately one or two hundred or so dollars too expensive.

All of Sony's smartphones were WAY overpriced in 2016

Then partway through the year, Sony launched a phone that stood out. The new Xperia XA Ultra aimed to win over the selfie-obsessed, media-focused crowd. It sports a big 6.0-inch 1080p LCD display with minimal bezels on the right and left sides of the device. In fact, the XA Ultra barely has any bezels at all – its chassis is just a millimeter wider than the 5.7-inch Nexus 6P.

That’s great news! The XA Ultra seems to be the most innovative smartphone the new Xperia X line. And the $369 asking price is certainly not outrageous, especially considering that near bezel-less display.

Why does the Xperia XZ exist?

But then at IFA in September, Sony, for some reason, launched two more smartphones in the X line, further convoluting the company’s 2016 lineup. Oddly enough, the Xperia XZ features most of the same specs as the X Performance. It has a 5.2-inch Full HD display, a Snapdragon 820 processor, 3GB of RAM and a slightly larger 2,800mAh battery. The biggest change with the XZ is its new design, which Sony says is a nod to the legacy of the Xperia line. With a new metallic finish and a “flattened cylinder” design, the Xperia XZ was arguably more attractive than other phones in the X line. But why does this phone exist? Why would Sony create a new phone with mostly the same internals as its other flagship smartphone, only with an upgraded design? The two phones cost similarly, and the U.S. version of the XZ doesn’t even come with a working fingerprint sensor.

See also:

How to activate the Xperia XZ & X Compact fingerprint scanners in the US

October 6, 2016

There’s also the Xperia X Compact, which launched alongside the XZ. Those familiar with Sony smartphones will know how popular the company’s Compact devices have been in the past. Sony has made a name for itself by shrinking down its flagship smartphones to a more manageable size (4.6 inches, in this case), without skimping on the specs. That’s mostly the case for 2016’s X Compact. It comes with a 720p display, a Snapdragon 650 processor, 3GB of RAM and a 23MP rear camera. When comparing the X Compact to other devices in the mid-range segment, the Compact can certainly hold its own. When bringing up the price point, though, that’s where things go downhill. At launch, the X Compact came to market for a ridiculous $499. In a world where the ZTE Axon 7 or OnePlus 3T are selling for less than $500 at launch, there’s no reason anyone should buy the X Compact for $500. Unless they really want a 4.6-inch phone.

Sony is so disconnected with the way smartphones are priced nowadays it's sort of ridiculous

So what does Sony need to do to get people to buy its smartphones again? For starters, it needs to start paying attention to how much smartphones are selling for these days. Sony is so disconnected with the way smartphones are priced nowadays it’s sort of ridiculous. If each one of the company’s smartphones were brought down by $200, they’d offer fierce competition in the Android space. The company’s crowded smartphone line doesn’t need to offer bleeding edge specs, but they also shouldn’t be priced as such.

And as is the case every year, Sony needs to start giving people reasons to buy its smartphones. Consumers aren’t going to buy Sony phones for the cameras alone, or just for the software experience. There needs to be at least one reason worth buying a Sony phone over, say, the Google Pixel, Galaxy S7 or HTC 10.

OnePlus

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

Don’t forget to be original, and don’t forget about software.

Throughout the first half of 2016, everyone was looking forward to what was coming next from OnePlus. The OnePlus 2 was aging quite a bit, and people were itching for a refresh. Not that the 2 was a bad smartphone, but it did omit a few key things that didn’t really make much sense. For starters, the phone didn’t come with NFC on board, because OnePlus One owners “never used NFC”. That means OnePlus 2 owners weren’t able to take advantage of mobile payments services like Android Pay. The 2 also didn’t have quick charging capabilities, which was becoming more and more popular in other smartphones at the time the device was on the market.

But that’s just the start of it all. Perhaps the biggest downside to owning a OnePlus 2 in 2016 was the fact that OnePlus forgot to update it. The OnePlus 2 didn’t receive Android 6.0 Marshmallow until June 2016, a full eight months after Google released it. That’s downright unacceptable, and OnePlus 2 owners were pretty mad that it took so long.

The OnePlus 2 didn't receive Marshmallow for a full 8 months

All eyes were on OnePlus in June. After releasing the Marshmallow update to the OnePlus 2, the company brought us an all-new handset that drew some attention away from 2015’s seemingly neglected flagship. The OnePlus 3 featured a new design, a bump up in specifications and a bunch of other improvements that made the OnePlus 3 a killer flagship.

On the spec sheet, the OnePlus 3 competed with the best of the best. It sports a Snapdragon 820 processor, plenty of on-board storage, a massive 6GB of RAM, USB Type-C complete with Dash Charge (OnePlus’ own version of quick charging), and a decent 3,000mAh battery. Even though the 5.5-inch display was only of the Full HD variety, it seems most OnePlus fans didn’t care. The 1080p display wasn’t the big news with the flagship, though, it was the design of the phone itself.

The OnePlus 3 is truly a killer flagship

The OnePlus One and OnePlus 2 were unique-looking smartphones. Sure, they were still just slabs with a giant display attached to the front. But compared to the other slabs on the market, these two devices were well thought out and attractive. But with the OnePlus 3, it seems as though OnePlus forgot to take the time to come up with a unique design. That’s not to say that the OnePlus 3 isn’t attractive… it has an all-metal chassis, it’s super comfortable in the hand, and it just feels like a well made device. But it also looks like a lot of the other Chinese smartphones out there. It doesn’t look all that original, which is a shame.

All in all, though, the OnePlus 3 has been very well received throughout its lifetime. That is, the 3’s lifetime was cut pretty short, as OnePlus threw a curveball in November and announced a new flagship that would take the 3’s place.

The OnePlus 3T shares just about everything in common with the OnePlus 3, save for the processor, front-facing camera and battery. This newer, shinier device sports a Snapdragon 821 chipset, as opposed to the 3’s Snapdragon 820. It also comes with a non-removable 3,400mAh battery, up from the OnePlus 3’s 3,000mAh unit. Last but not least, the front-facing camera has been upgraded to a 16MP Samsung 3P8SP sensor, up from the 3’s 8MP Sony IMX 179 sensor. Oh, and one more thing – instead of dropping the price of the OnePlus 3 and still offering it as a more budget-friendly option, OnePlus decided to axe the phone altogether. The company stopped making its June flagship in favor of the 3T, and also charged more at launch for the upgraded device. The 3T came to market for $439, while the 3 was available at launch for just $399.

Now, it’s difficult to harp on OnePlus for launching a newer, better smartphone late in the year. Everyone seems to be in love with the 3T. And thankfully for OnePlus, OnePlus 3 buyers don’t seem to be too burned by the company’s decisions.

OnePlus needs to not drop the ball on software in 2017

So that’s OnePlus in 2016. What do they need to work on in the new year? Honestly, OnePlus had a great year, and there aren’t too many things they need to work on. If anything though, the company needs to focus on bringing more timely software updates to its devices. They waited much too long to update the OnePlus 2 to Marshmallow, and that shouldn’t happen again. Thankfully it seems to be on the right track – a beta build of Android 7.0 Nougat is now available for the OnePlus 3 and 3T, and the company has just announced that stable builds of Nougat are starting to gradually roll out.

See also:

Android Nougat on the OnePlus 3 is impressive, even in beta

December 3, 2016

And one other thing… One of the main reasons why OnePlus became so popular in the beginning was because they promised to do things differently from the other manufacturers. That’s when we got the OnePlus One, 2 and OnePlus X – three solid performing, low-cost phones that sacrificed very little. But the OnePlus 3 and 3T just feel a little boring, and that’s not OnePlus’ style. In 2017, OnePlus needs to innovate a little more, and give users something a little different than they’re used to.

Huawei

A letter to the manufacturers – here’s what we want to see in 2017

If you keep making phones like the Honor 5X, Honor 8 and Mate 9, people will keep noticing you. 

Buying an Android phone on the cheap used to mean settling for something. Before the days of the Moto G, you couldn’t find a good Android phone for $200 or $300 without sacrificing build quality, specs or features. Now those days are thankfully behind us, and it’s easy to go out and spend a couple hundred dollars and not instantly regret your purchase.

Back at CES 2016, Huawei announced that the Honor 5X, a $200 Android phone with a solid build and great internals, would be making its way to the United States. Why was that such a big deal? For starters, it was the first Android phone Huawei started selling in the U.S. Also, $200 is a really good price for an all-metal phone with these specifications. While the 5X’s speaker and camera turned out to be no good, it still offered a great value to anyone looking for a cheap smartphone with too many compromises.

And you know what? That was really nice to see. The Honor 5X seemed to do pretty well here in the States, and luckily Huawei had more in store for us in 2016.

The Honor 5X offers a lot for very little money

Taking a break from the budget-friendly market, Huawei’s flagships for 2016 were unveiled in April. The Huawei P9 and P9 Plus both feature an all-metal construction, solid under-the-hood specs, and bared a slight resemblance to the company’s beloved 2015 posterchild, the Nexus 6P. Huawei also managed to co-develop the P9 and P9 Plus’ camera sensors with Leica, the popular German optics company, which certainly bought the company plenty of good press (and some bad). All in all, it seems as though the P9 line has done well.

This company was all over the place in 2016. Following the launch of the P9 lineup, the company unveiled the Honor 8 – its newest entry to the budget-friendly flagship segment. With its gorgeous design, great camera and excellent software performance, the Honor 8 enters the market as a direct competitor to the OnePlus 3T and ZTE Axon 7. Sub-$500 flagship smartphones started becoming a thing in 2015, but they got really good in 2016.

In 2016, we also got two new smartphones added to the Mate lineup, the Huawei Mate 9 and Porsche Design Mate 9. These two phones really do have some of the best specs and build quality on the market right now, and Huawei thought it’d be a good idea to price them as such. The Mate 9, which is expected to launch for the US market at CES 2017, is expected to cost around $700, while the Porsche Design Mate 9 currently goes for €1,395, or roughly $1,450. That’s a lot of moolah for a smartphone.

So that was Huawei in 2016. The company launched a smartphone in just about every category this year, and that’s exactly what they should be doing. But there’s one more area the company needs to add just a bit more focus on if it plans on making it big in the States – software.

If you’ve ever read one of our Huawei or Honor reviews, you’re probably aware that the first ‘negative’ we point is in regards to the software. Huawei and Honor phones run the company’s EMUI software overlay, which traditionally has been a bit polarizing to folks in the United States. Mainly its lack of an app drawer, and its iOS-like interface have been seen as major sore points, but also its abundance of unnecessary extras and features that arguably aren’t all that useful.

Huawei's EMUI software might turn some U.S. users away

The good news is that Huawei is aware that its software doesn’t appeal to the western markets the same way it does in the east.

With Huawei’s EMUI 5 the company has finally brought a bit of material design inspired touches to the mix, ditching its odd time-line based layout for both its dialer and notification tray, defaulting to something that’s a bit more akin to what you’d find in a stock Android device. Sure, it’s still not exactly stock, but it finally feels more like Android than iOS. The same goes for icons, which now are more stock-like, and even the multi-tasking (recent apps) menu now takes on a card setup that should be much more familiar to Android users than what was offered in past EMUI iterations. Huawei even gave users the option of an app drawer, though its not turned on by default and requires going through the settings to find it and turn it on.

Overall, the tail end of 2016 saw a positive push in the right direction in terms of software, but the company’s work isn’t done. Some of the things we’d like to see this year is a refined setup process that gives you the option to choose whether you want the app drawer or the iOS-like layout when turning on your phone for the first time. We’d also like to see Huawei continue to work on improving some of its extras, and axing special features that either don’t work well (such as their odd knuckle-based motion features) or are just too gimmicky.

See also:

What’s new in EMUI 5?

November 4, 2016

In many ways, Huawei’s EMUI is in a transitional phase that’s not unlike what we saw with Touchwiz not too long ago, when Samsung started to ax unnecessary bloat in favor of a smoother, easier to use experience. If Huawei and Honor can continue pushing its software forward, while also being mindful of pricing trends, 2017 could be a big year for the company.


So what were your thoughts on 2016? Is there anything you’d like to see from these manufacturers in 2017? Be sure to let us know your opinions in the comment section below!

Google Home now works with some Sony speakers and Android TVs

The recently launched Google Home connected speaker is slowing adding new third-party devices that will work with the product. This week, Sony revealed that some of its Chromecast built-in Sony speakers can connect to Google’s latest hardware product, along with some of its and Android TV-based 4K HDR televisions.

See also:

What voice commands can I use with Google Home?

November 10, 2016

If you own one of these Sony speakers and Google Home, you can say, “Ok Google, play some workout music on my Sony speaker”, for instance. You can also ask it to stream your favorite playlist from your preferred music service. Other voice commands will allow you to control the volume of the speaker, stop or skip over a music track, or even ask for a song’s title simply by saying, “Ok Google, what is playing?”

All of Sony’s Android TVs now support Google Home, too. The company’s sound bars that support the speaker include the HT-ST9, HT-NT5, HT-CT790, HT-XT2, and HT-RT5 models, along with the STR-DN1070, STR-DN1060, and STR-DN860 receivers. Finally, the Sony wireless speakers with the model numbers SRS-X99, SRS-ZR7, SRS-ZR5, and SRS-HG1 all now work with Google Home.

Google’s new speaker product recently added support for over 30 new services and apps, including Netflix and Google Photos.

Flashtool update includes Android 7.0 Nougat support

No one will blame you if you haven’t heard of Flashtool. This is because the software only supports Sony devices (Xperia Z10 to Xperia Z Ultra), and it is only relevant to tinkerers. The helpful tool can be used to unlock bootloaders and flash custom ROMs. It cool can be really easy and convenient, but until today it didn’t have support for Nougat, Android’s latest version.

See also:

Android 7.0 Nougat review

October 21, 2016

Today Flashtool gets upgraded to version 0.9.23.0, which does include compatibility with Android Nougat. And while that is the most exciting improvement in this update, there are a few other things to enjoy. These include TA raw backup for devices exploitable by the dirtycow vulnerability, a more accurate USB log parse, a notice that will inform you whether you can use Flashtool Script and more. You can see the changelog here.

Ready to download? Just keep in mind tinkering with your smartphone’s software can harm your device and/or void your warranty. The team does mention C4, C5 and M5 devices could be bricked when using this tool. Just be careful and do your research before attempting anything. If this disclaimer doesn’t scare you, the download link is right below.

Download Flashtool

Deal: Sony Xperia X Compact on sale for $299 ($100 off) over at Amazon

 

The Sony Xperia X Compact started selling in the US a few months ago – in September to be exact. Initially, the device retailed for $499.99 but is now available for far less. Well, at least over at Amazon.

The online retail giant is currently selling the device for $299.99, which is $100 off its regular price and $200 the list price. But the offer is only valid for the Black and the Blue version of the device. If you want to get your hands on the White model, you’ll have to fork out an additional $50.

The device features a 4.6-inch display with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. You’ll find the Snapdragon 650 processor under the hood along with 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage for your photos, apps, videos, and other content. To keep your data safe, the Xperia X Compact also features a fingerprint sensor, which is located on the side of the device.

See also:

Sony Xperia X Compact gets September security update, Xperia C4 gets July’s

October 26, 2016

It also has a 23 MP camera at the back with an f/2.0 aperture, a non-removable 2,700 mAh battery, and ships with Android Marshmallow. However, the Android 7.0 Nougat update is expected to hit the Xperia X Compact sometime next year.

$299 at Amazon

The Sony Xperia X Compact is unlocked and has a US warranty. If you’re thinking of buying one, click the button below to visit Amazon’s sales page. We have no idea how long this deal will last, so as always, we advise you to move fast if you want to get it. Any takers?

5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week! – Android Apps Weekly

Welcome to the 169th edition of Android Apps Weekly! Here are the headlines from the last week:

  • Niantic and Starbucks have announced a collaboration. Over the course of the coming weeks, 7800 Starbucks locations will be turned into either a Gym or a PokeStop. This comes just a couple of weeks after a similar Sprint deal that saw 10000 stores join the ranks of PokeStops or Gyms. Additionally, Starbucks will be selling a Pokemon Go Frappuccino. This is just in time for the massive December update that promises more Pokemon along with more features.
  • Pandora has finally announced a relative release date for their Pandora Premium service. For those who don’t know, the service is going be much like Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, and others. It’ll have on-demand access to a larger music library, playlists, and more. It’ll still have some features of the original app. Pandora is launching the service sometime in early 2017. We don’t know how much it’ll cost, but we’re guessing it’ll be the standard $9.99 like most services.
  • Google Play is reportedly testing a new and separate apps and games section in the Google Play Store. Currently, both are in the same spot in the Play Store. Earlier this year, Google started removing the games from the app section of the top charts. This seems to be a natural continuation of that effort. We don’t know if it’s rolling out to everyone or if it’s just an A/B test, but it would be really nice if it did.
  • A while back, Sony teased that they could be getting into the mobile gaming fray. This week, they officially announced that they are working on ten mobile games. ForwardWorks will be developing and releasing all ten games. That is a company that Sony set up specifically to make mobile games based on PlayStation IP. The release date is set for 2017 for all ten games. In a surprise twist, Square Enix will also be collaborating on a game with Sony next year as well.
  • Google has officially opened up Google Home for app development. The platform should allow developers to integrate new voice commands into their apps to make it compatible with Home. A few developers are already working on it, including Yahoo, Dominos, CNBC, and others. Google will also be adding in additional features over time. Some examples are the ability to purchase things or book things like airplane flights.i

For even more Android apps and games news, releases, and updates, check out this week’s newsletter by clicking here! There you’ll find a whole bunch of information that we didn’t have space for here. You can also sign up for the newsletter using the form below and we’ll send it out every Sunday. Don’t forget to check out the Android Authority app!

Android Apps Weekly
Subscribe to the Apps Weekly newsletter.

Apollo Justice Ace Attorney

[Price: $15.99]
The cult classic courtroom sim from Capcom has hit Android! Apollo Justice Ace Attorney was released this last week to critical acclaim. The game is the fourth in the series which is a bit odd but that isn’t a bit issue. It has been faithfully ported with all of the game play of the original. The controls have, of course, been adapted to mobile for easier play. It costs exactly one arm and one leg at $15.99, but there are no in-app purchases.

Download now on Google Play!


5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week! – Android Apps WeeklyPayPal Business

[Price: Free]
PayPal Business was quietly released by PayPal last week. As the name implies, the app was made for business owners. It has a variety of business-oriented features, including the ability to manage invoices, send invoices, transfer money, access customer information, and you can even manage sales and account activity. It has a simple design that is quite easy to use. It’s also complete free. You could do a lot worse than this if you run a business out of PayPal.

Download now on Google Play!

5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week! – Android Apps Weekly


5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week! – Android Apps WeeklyDawn of Titans

[Price: Free with in-app purchases]
Dawn of Titans is a new strategy game. Okay, it’s not exactly new. It was soft launch months ago. The game was officially launched this week. This game shares a lot of mechanics with other large scale war games and strategy games. The difference is that this one looks pretty good. You build and command a giant army that you’ll have fighting against massive titans. It has the usual array of stuff, including daily quests, events, and campaigns that you can engage with. It’s a freemium game, but it’s worth a shot if you don’t hate those.

Download now on Google Play!


5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week! – Android Apps WeeklyTrusted Contacts

[Price: Free]
Trusted Contacts is a new app from Google that tells other people your location. Thankfully, it’s only when you want it to. The app works by allowing you to define a number of trusted contacts. Those contacts can request your location at will. If you don’t respond in a reasonable time frame, the app will let them know where you are. It’s great for emergency situations, natural disasters, and especially for families. It’s also completely free.

Download now on Google Play!

5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week! – Android Apps Weekly


5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week! – Android Apps WeeklyBully

[Price: $6.99]
Bully was originally released by Rockstar Games back in 2006. Like its Grand Theft Auto titles, it received its fair share of controversy but had a loyal cult following anyway. Now, the game is on Android. For those who never played, it’s an open world adventure game where you play as a kid. Your goal is to complete various missions, go to class, and engage in various other activities. It’s relatively inexpensive at $6.99 and it has no in-app purchases.

Download now on Google Play!


Related best app lists:

If we missed any big Android apps or games news, tell us about it in the comments! To see our complete list of best app lists, click here.

Sony’s Android Auto aftermarket head unit on sale now for $499

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If you are looking to add full support for Android Auto inside your current vehicle, there’s a new option available. The Sony XAV-AX100 aftermarket car head unit, which supports both Android Auto as well as Apple’s CarPlay, is now available to purchase for $499 at Amazon.

See also:

Android Auto: everything you need to know

August 3, 2016

The price tag for the Sony unit is definitely on the lower side of these aftermarket car entertainment solutions; usually they sell for between $800 to $1,500. One of the reasons why this Sony version may be so cheap is that it uses a less advanced resistive touch screen, rather than the capacitive supported displays that are more common in smartphones.  One thing it does have is a physical rotary dial on the left side to control volume and other features without having to use the touch screen.

Some of the other features included with the Sony XAV-AX100 are the ability to create virtual speakers on the dashboard with the Dynamic Stage Organizer, and the 4 x 55 W Dynamic Reality Amp, which the company says offers users clear sound, even at high volumes. Amazon’s listing states that shipments of the unit will begin sometime before Christmas, but a specific date was not posted.

Get it at Amazon

Sony wants to be the first manufacturer (besides Google) to release Android 7.1.1 Nougat

Sony aims to be the first manufacturer outside of Google to release Android 7.1.1 Nougat. According to Xperia Blog, Sony’s developer team has stated that issuing Android 7.1.1 is its “number one priority” and that “if you spot any other vendor (excluding Google) releasing this faster than us, prepare your rotten tomatoes!”

Android 7.1.1 was recently released on December 5 for the Google Pixel phones and Nexus devices, and Google made the source code available to manufacturers via the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) on the same day. When exactly Sony intends to release its take on Android 7.1.1, and to which devices, isn’t yet known.

See also:

Sony rolling out the Nougat update for Xperia XZ

1 week ago

Sony was previously one of the first manufacturers to roll out the Android 7.0 Nougat software, bringing a beta build of it to its Xperia X Performance handset on November 2. Sony has already confirmed that the Android Nougat update will at some stage roll out to its Xperia X and Z5 series, as well as the Z3+ and Z4 Tablet.

Do you think Sony will be the next manufacturer to release an Android 7.1.1 Nougat build? Give us your take in the comments.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow updates roundup – December 8, 2016

Android 6.0 Marshmallow is here, and now the waiting game is on. “When will my phone get the Marshmallow update?” ask countless Android fans, and for good reason: while phone makers are doing a better job at keeping their devices up to date, the process is still lengthy and opaque. Worse, many models will inevitably be left behind. We’re here to shed some light on the issue.

In this post, which will be updated frequently, we are rounding up all the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update news, so you can get a good picture of what to expect.


Who did the best job with Android Marshmallow updates? Find out here.

Looking for Nougat updates? Visit our Android 7.0 Nougat update tracker for the latest information.


Before we start

The release of Android updates for most devices is a complex process, involving Google, chip makers, device makers, and carriers. With so many players, and so many things that could go wrong, you should expect delays, slow rollouts, botched releases, and generally a lot of variation based on your specific model, your region, and your carrier.

Just because your phone or tablet isn’t listed here, it doesn’t mean that it won’t be updated. OEMs occasionally change their minds. In other cases, the lists that they put out are non-final.

Patience is advised.

See also:

Android 6.0 Marshmallow – New features explained

October 9, 2015

Nexus Marshmallow update

Google released the initial Android 6.0 factory images for Nexus devices on October 5. These images can be flashed manually, allowing you to bypass a potentially lengthy wait for the OTA update.

The following Nexus devices are receiving Marshmallow updates:

  • Nexus 6P
  • Nexus 5X
  • Nexus 6
  • Nexus Player
  • Nexus 9 LTE
  • Nexus 9 WiFi
  • Nexus 5
  • Nexus 7 2013 WiFi
  • Nexus 7 2013 Mobile

The Nexus 4, Nexus 7 2012 (either variant), and Nexus 10 will not be updated to Marshmallow.

If you don’t want to wait, it’s relatively easy to flash a factory image following our guide:

You can also manually flash the OTA zip files, which are the update files that would normally be pushed to your device from Google’s servers. Note that in order to correctly install the update, your device must be running the firmware version mentioned in the link.

The latest factory images and OTA links are listed below.

Rollout underway

Nexus 6P

Nexus 5X

Pixel C

Nexus 6

Nexus Player

Nexus 9 LTE

Nexus 9 WiFi

Nexus 5

Nexus 7 2013 WiFi

Nexus 7 2013 Mobile


Android One Marshmallow update

Like Nexus phones, all Android One devices are supposed to receive fast Android updates straight from Google. OTA download files for various Android One phones sold in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Philippines, and Nepal are available below. You will need to be on the LMY48M version of Lollipop in order to install these updates.

If you’re looking for full Android 6.0 factory images, we have the following:

To flash these images, you can follow our manual installation guide.

On November 22, an over the air update to version 6.0.1 of Android began hitting some Android One devices. The update appears to be a bug fixing release.


Samsung Marshmallow update

Samsung has announced the kick-off of its Marshmallow update campaign on February 15. The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge were the only devices officially confirmed to receive the update, but the following devices are rumored to receive Android 6.0 Marshmallow:

  • Galaxy S5
  • Galaxy S5 LTE-A
  • Galaxy S5 neo
  • Galaxy S6
  • Galaxy S6 Edge
  • Galaxy S6 Edge+
  • Galaxy Note 4
  • Galaxy Note Edge
  • Galaxy Note 5
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

These are all obvious candidates for an upgrade, so we’re pretty that Marshmallow will eventually become available for most versions of these devices.

Samsung has an infographic listing some of the features coming in its Marshmallow update. For more details on what to expect from the Marshmallow update for the Galaxy S6, here’s our close look at the beta.

Rollout underway

Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus

Samsung Galaxy S6 Active

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

Samsung Galaxy A9

Samsung Galaxy A5

Samsung Galaxy Tab A

Samsung Galaxy S5 Neo

Samsung Galaxy On7

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

Samsung Galaxy Tab S

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)

Samsung Galaxy A7 (1st gen)

Samsung Galaxy A8

More info

December 4 – Hungary: A Galaxy Note 4 user in Hungary received Android 6.0 Marshmallow on his device. A screenshot gallery and hands-on video of Marshmallow on the Note 4 are available. The most notable feature spotted in this non-final firmware build is the new Air Command from the Note 5, as well as the ability to write on the screen when the phone is sleeping.

December 28: one lucky Galaxy S5 owner ended up receiving the update to Marshmallow, reportedly by mistake.

An alleged roadmap for the Marshmallow update for Samsung devices leaked out on March 2. While we can’t vouch for its authenticity, the leak claims the Galaxy Note 4, Note Edge will be updated in April, the Galaxy S5 in May, and the Galaxy Alpha in June.


LG Marshmallow update

October 6: According to a leaked T-Mobile update list, besides the LG G4, the LG G3 and G4 Stylo will also receive the update. Besides this, we can speculate that the recently announced V10 and the G Flex 2 will also be making the jump. We’re less optimistic about LG’s mid-rangers, including the Bello, Magna, Leon, and Spirit, though at least some of them can probably handle Marshmallow.

Rollout underway

LG G4

  • October 15 – Poland: LG announced it would be the first OEM to roll out Android Marshmallow, with the LG G4 model sold in Poland to be first in line, with models in other “markets in Europe, Asia and the Americas” to follow.
  • November 4 – South Korea: The LG G4 models sold in South Korea began receiving the Marshmallow update.
  • November 29 – Europe & Taiwan: the Android 6.0 update reportedly became available in several European countries, via the LG Bridge PC sync software. These regions are: Portugal, Poland, Romania, GErmany, Spain, Turkey, UK, Croatia, Hungary, and Switzerland. The update is also available in Taiwan. Note that not all carrier versions are available. Even if you are not in one of these countries, it’s worth firing up LG Bridge to check for an update manually.
  • December 18 – US – Sprint: Sprint users of the LG G4 began receiving Marshmallow on December 18.
  • January 12 – US – US Cellular: Android 6.0 Marshmallow arrived to the LG G4 on US Cellular.
  • February 2 – Canada – Telus & Rogers: The Marshmallow update hit the G4 sold by Canadian carriers Telus and Rogers.
  • February 6 – US – T-Mobile: Marshmallow began trickling out for the G4 carried by T-Mobile.
  • February 9 – US – AT&T: The G4 sold by AT&T got Marshmallow on February 9.
  • February 16 – US – Verizon: The Big Red carrier released Marshmallow for the LG G4.

LG G3

LG G Stylo

  • March 8 – US – T-Mobile: Android 6.0 arrived for the T-Mobile LG G Stylo.

LG V10

LG G Pad X

LG Magna

LG Spirit

LG Leon


Motorola Marshmallow update

Motorola has made a good name for itself in the Android community, thanks to its fast updates and focus on a smooth stock-like user experience. The Marshmallow rollout may change that positive perception though. It’s not that Motorola hasn’t been forthcoming about its plans; it’s the fact that those plans seemingly don’t include either version of the Moto E, the Moto X (2013), or some carrier versions of the Moto X (2014).

On December 9, it was revealed that Motorola would update certain versions of the Moto E (2015). Specifically, the update will roll out to the Snapdragon 410 powered versions in Canada, Latin America, Europe and Asia, excluding China. The US is not on the list where the update will be available.

Here are the Motorola devices officially confirmed to receive Marshmallow:

  • 2015 Moto X Pure Edition (3rd gen)
  • 2015 Moto X Style (3rd gen)
  • 2015 Moto X Play
  • 2015 Moto G (3rd gen)
  • Moto E (2015) – Snapdragon version
  • 2014 Moto X Pure Edition in the US (2nd gen)
  • 2014 Moto X in Latin America, Europe and Asia (2nd gen)
  • 2014 Moto G and Moto G with 4G LTE (2nd gen)
  • DROID Turbo
  • 2014 Moto MAXX
  • 2014 Moto Turbo
  • Nexus 6

Rollout underway

Moto X Pure (Style)

  • December 2 – International: Motorola announced that Moto X Pure (2015 edition) users in Moto’s feedback program have begun receiving the soak test Android 6.0 update. If all goes to plan, the update should hit the general population in a week from December 2.
  • December 9 – US – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint & U.S. Cellular: Motorola announced that Marshmallow is rolling out to Moto X Pure users on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and U.S. Cellular.
  • December 9 – Latin America: The update is also coming to the Moto X Style in Latin America.

Moto X Play

Moto E (2015)

  • February 18 – India: The Moto E (2015) sold in India received its Android 6.0 update.

Moto G (2015) & Moto G Turbo

Droid Turbo 2

Droid Maxx 2

Moto X (2014)

Moto G (2014)

  • February 10 – India: The Moto G (2014) in India got Marshmallow from February 10.
  • March 1 – United States: The Moto G (2nd generation) got its upgrade to Android 6.0.

Moto 360 (2nd gen)

  • February 6 – International: How about some Marshmallow for your watch? Yup, Motorola send out the Android 6.0-based Android Wear update to the Moto 360 (2nd gen).

Moto (Droid) Turbo


HTC Marshmallow update

HTC has revealed a tentative list of devices that will be updated to Android 6.0:

  • HTC One M8
  • HTC One M9+
  • HTC One E9+
  • HTC One E9
  • HTC One ME
  • HTC One E8
  • HTC One M8 EYE
  • HTC Butterfly 3
  • HTC Desire 826
  • HTC Desire 820
  • HTC Desire 816

After the launch of the One A9, HTC announced the unlocked version of the device will receive “every” Android update within 15 days from the time the update hits the Nexus devices. That’s a very bold promise, and hopefully it’s a sign of bigger things to come.

Rollout underway

HTC One M9

  • December 7 – International: Mo Versi revealed that the Marshmallow update would hit the unlocked version of the One M9 this month.
  • December 13 – Canada – Carrier models: It was revealed that Canadian carrier versions of the One M9 will get Marshmallow in early 2016.
  • December 24 – International: The HTC One M9 (unlocked models) would get its update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow. 
  • January 17 – Canada – Rogers, SaskTel, VideoTron & Wind: HTC announced that Rogers, SaskTel, VideoTron, and Wind in Canada would see Android Marshmallow hit the One M9.
  • January 18 – UK: HTC announced the HTC One M9 would get its Android Marshmallow shortly.
  • February 6 – US – Sprint: HTC One M9 offered users the chance to update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
  • February 6 – US – Verizon: Big Red offered the Marshmallow update for the M9 on February 16.
  • April 30 – US – AT&T: HTC One M8 & M9 suffer Marshmallow roll-out delay on AT&T
  • May 12 – US – AT&T: The HTC One M9 and M8 receive the Marshmallow update at last

HTC One M8

HTC One A9

HTC Desire 816

  • March 4 – International: Marshmallow began hitting international Desire 816 models.
  • March 21 – International: The update is hitting dual-SIM versions of the device.

HTC Desire Eye

HTC One M8 Eye

HTC Desire 820

HTC One E8


Sony Marshmallow update

Sony has published an exhaustive list of devices it plans to update to Marshmallow, including all the likely candidates, including the latest Xperia Z5 series. Unfortunately, Sony won’t bring Marshmallow to the 2013 Xperia Z1 and Z1 Compact, as well as the older Xperia Z. On the flip side, at least there are a few mid-rangers on the list. Sony has also released AOSP resources and binaries for some of its devices, allowing the community to easily create custom ROMs.

As for the update itself, Sony is running a beta program with 10,000 users that we hope to learn more about soon.

Sony devices officially confirmed to get Marshmallow:

  • T Xperia Z5, Xperia Z5 Compact, and Xperia Z5 Premium
  • Xperia Z4 Tablet
  • Xperia Z3+, Xperia Z3, Xperia Z3 Compact, Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
  • Xperia Z2, Xperia Z2 Tablet
  • Xperia M5, Xperia C5 Ultra, Xperia M4 Aqua and Xperia C4

A note for users of the Sony Xperia Z3+, Z4 Tablet, C4, C5 Ultra, M4 Aqua and M5: according to a Sony support page, these devices will jump straight to Android 6.0, skipping Android 5.1.1.

Here’s an official Sony video showcasing the features you can expect from the Marshmallow update for your Xperia device:

Beta program

Rollout underway

Sony Xperia Z5

  • March 3 – Japan: The Marshmallow update began rolling out to the Xperia Z5 in Japan.
  • March 7 – International: The Marshmallow update for the Xperia Z5 came through in more markets on March 7.
  • March 28 – Canada: Sony pulled the Marshmallow update it released for Canadian versions of the Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Compact just three days before.

Sony Xperia Z3 Plus

  • March 7 – International: the update kicked off for the Xperia Z3 Plus.

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet

Sony Xperia Z3 & Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua

Sony Xperia C5 Ultra

Sony Xperia C4


Huawei Marshmallow update

Huawei has a lousy record when it comes to releasing Android updates for its devices, but perhaps its involvement with the Nexus program will help nudge things along. The company announced in would bring Marshmallow to the following devices:

  • Huawei Mate S
  • Huawei Mate 7
  • Huawei P8
  • P8 Youth Edition
  • P8 Max
  • Maimagn 4
  • G7 Plus
  • G7
  • Honor 7
  • Honor 7i
  • Honor 6 Plus
  • Honor 6
  • Honor X2
  • Honor 4X
  • Honor Play 4C

Rollout underway

Huawei Mate 7

Honor 5X

Honor devices

  • October 28: The Honor team, which is technically autonomous inside Huawei, recently announced that a beta build of Android 6.0 Marshmallow update for the honor 7 will be made available in the following weeks.
  • December 4: Honor put up a form allowing honor users to sign up for the Marshmallow beta program. You can check the form here.
  • December 14: The Honor 7 Enhanced Edition launched with Marshmallow on board on December 14.
  • January 16: Honor announced that the 5X would receive Marshmallow and regular security patches, though no exact timeframe was given. Considering Huawei (and by extension, Honor) have a poor history with updates, this is a welcome announcement.
  • February 15: The Honor 7 will received the Marshmallow update within two weeks, honor announced.
  • March 27 – Europe: The Honor 7 is now receiving Marshmallow in European markets.
  • April 22 – Android Marshmallow heading to the Honor 5X ‘soon’

ZTE Marshmallow update

Like Huawei, ZTE is known for not caring about Android updates. It remains to be seen if this year will be any different. ZTE is looking for a breakthrough in the Western markets with the Axon line, so perhaps the Chinese giant will deem it necessary to bring Marshmallow to it, at the least.

Rollout underway


OnePlus Marshmallow update

OnePlus is in a tricky place: its first phone, the One, still runs Cyanogen OS, and theoretically, Steve Kondik’s outfit should deliver the Marshmallow update in the following months. The OnePlus 2, meanwhile, runs OnePlus’s own OS, Oxygen, and its development is led by former members of the Paranoid Android team.

November 16: OnePlus announced a timeframe for its devices updates:

  • The original OnePlus One will get Cyanogen OS 13 (from Cyanogen OS) in Q1 2016.
  • The semi-official Oxygen OS build for OnePlus One will be updated to Marshmallow when “time allows it.”
  • The OnePlus 2 will receive the update to the Marshmallow-based Oxygen OS version in Q1 2016.
  • No information was given about the Marshmallow update for the new OnePlus X.

Rollout underway

OnePlus 2

OnePlus One

OnePlus X


Asus Marshmallow update

Asus came out with a short list of devices that will get the Marshmallow update:

  • PadFone S (PF500KL)
  • ZenFone 2 (ZE550ML/ZE551ML)
  • ZenFone 2 Deluxe / Special Edition (ZE551ML)
  • ZenFone 2 Laser (ZE500KG/ZE500KL/ZE550KL/ZE600KL/ZE601KL)
  • ZenFone Selfie (ZD551KL)

Missing from the list are the original Zefone 4, 5, and 6, as well as other Asus devices from 2014.

February 27: Asus clarified that the devices from the above list will get Marshmallow from Q2 (April to June). The good news is Asus added two new devices to its update list: ZenFone Selfie and ZenFone Max. The company also specified that the update will see Asus’ own messenging, calendar, and mail app be replaced by Google’s respective apps.

Rollout underway

Asus ZenFone 2 Laser

Asus ZenFone Max

  • June 8 – International: Marshmallow arrived for the Asus Zenfone Max

Asus ZenFone Selfie

Asus ZenFone Zoom

Asus ZenFone 2

Asus ZenPad S

  • October 31 – International: The Asus ZenPad S received Marshmallow.

Lenovo Marshmallow update

Lenovo finally announced some of its Marshmallow plans on November 6, but the good news ends there. Lenovo only confirmed the update for a handful of devices, and the timeframe for the rollout is painfully long:

  • Lenovo A7000, A7000 Plus, and K3 Note – update expected by September 2016
  • Lenovo Vibe P1 and Vibe S1 – update expected by June 2016

On December 3, news about Lenovo’s Marshmallow plans surfaced online. The following devices are expected to receive Marshmallow:

China:

  • K3 Note – March-April 2016
  • Vibe X3 – March-April 2016
  • Vibe P1 – March 2016
  • A7000 – April 2016

Rest of the world:

  • K3 Note – March 2016
  • A7000 – April 2016
  • Vibe P1  – May 2016
  • Vibe S1 – June 2016
  • Vibe X3 – July 2016
  • A7000+ – July 2016

Rollout underway

Lenovo K3 Note

Lenovo Vibe S1

Lenovo K4 Note


BlackBerry Marshmallow update

BlackBerry only released one Android device to date, and a fast Marshmallow update isn’t a priority for the company. The BlackBerry Priv will receive Android 6.0 “sometime into the new year.”


Nvidia Marshmallow update

Rollout underway

Nvidia Shield Tablet K1

  • November 17: Nvidia relaunched the Shield Tablet as the Shield Tablet K1. The revamped model runs Lollipop, just like its predecessor, but Nvidia promised an update to Android 6.0 “in the coming months.”
  • December 15: Nvidia showed off Android 6.0 Marshmallow running on the Shield Tablet K1. The update could roll out ahead of the holidays.
  • December 21: The Shield Tablet K1 Marshmallow update would arrive, though the older Shield tablet variant was not included in this rollout.

Original Nvidia Shield Tablet

Nvidia Shield Android TV


Xiaomi Marshmallow update

On December 4, Xiaomi’s MIUI operations manager announced on Weibo that Marshmallow would hit the Xiaomi Mi 4 and Xiaomi Mi Note “soon,” via an MIUI update.

June 2: Xiaomi’s Marshmallow-flavored MIUI 8 beta goes live

Rollout underway

Xiaomi Mi 4


Micromax & Yu Marshmallow update


Alcatel


Custom (unofficial) Marshmallow ROMs

When Android OEMs let us down, we all look up the developer community to pick up the slack, at least when it comes to Android updates. Unfortunately, the custom ROM scene is not as vibrant as it used to be, with only CyanogenMod left to carry the torch.


More info and discussion

For a discussion on all the Android Marshmallow updates, check out the dedicated thread on the Android Authority forums.fds

Missed something? Let us know and we will update this post. Tell us your thoughts!

Sony to release up to six mobile games in 2017

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After a fair bit of talk about getting into mobile games this year, Sony has finally announced that the company is working on a total of 10 mobile gaming titles, six of which are expected to be released in 2017. The 10 titles are to be based on classic Sony IP and look set to include PaRappa the Rapper and Arc The Lad.

Sony’s mobile games will initially be released in Japan and will then be followed up be dates in other Asian countries. It’s not clear if Sony intends to bring any of these games to the West in an attempt to capitalize on the success of games like Pokemon Go. There’s some extra digging required to find all of the upcoming titles, as Sony didn’t announcement all of them officially at the event, but the company’s ForwardWorks studio has announced a list that contains most of them. Unfortunately most of the release dates are still to be determined, but here’s the list of 10:

  • Mingol
  • Hot Shots Golf
  • No Heroes Allowed! DASH!
  • Arc The Lad Wild Arms
  • Doko Demo Issho
  • PaRappa the Rapper
  • Boku no Natsuyasumi
  • Disgaea
  • Yomawari
  • Sora to Umi no Aida

These upcoming titles look set to be released by the company’s ForwardWorks development studio. Sony setup ForwardWorks in Toyko back at the end of March and the studio will be working exclusively on mobile titles mostly using PlayStation IP. Square Enix is also going to work in collaboration with ForwardWorks on a title that will be announced at a later date.

See also:

Sony to launch its own lineup of mobile games on December 7?

3 weeks ago

Sony’s move into mobile games should help relieve some of the pressure that it’s facing from this growing gaming segment, which is particularly big business in the company’s home country of Japan. In Japan, mobile gaming now accounts for more than half of the $12.4 billion market, according to research firm Newzoo.

Deal: Sony Xperia XA Ultra on sale for only $229.99 ($100 off) – today only!

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If you want to get your hands on an affordable smartphone with a large screen and from a reputable brand, keep on reading. The Sony Xperia XA Ultra is on sale at B&H for just $229.99, which is a savings of about $100.

The device launched back in July and was originally priced at $369.99. As it has been available for a few months now, the price of the device went down, and normally retails for $329.99 at B&H. Now, the retailer dropped the price down for another 100 dollars, which is a killer deal.

But you’ll have to hurry up, as the offer is only valid today and expires in just over 10 hours!

See also:

Sony Xperia XA Ultra officially announced

May 17, 2016

As a refresher, the XA Ultra features a 6-inch 1080p display, a Mediatek Helio P10 processor, 3GB or RAM and 16GB of storage. It also sports a rear 21.5MP camera with an f/2.2 aperture, a 16MP selfie snapper, a 2,700mAh battery, and runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It’s also available in three different colors — Graphite Black, Lime Gold, and White.

If you’re interested in snagging this deal up, head over to B&H’s official website by clicking the button below to place your order. And if you do decide to buy the device, do let us know which color you opted for by posting a comment below.

Get the Sony Xperia XA Ultra now