TIME Reviews

Hands-On With China’s iPhone Killer

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The OnePlus 2 is one of the best cheap smartphones out there

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The OnePlus 2 is finally here, priced at a competitive $329 for the 16GB version and $389 for the 64GB model. But the question on everyone’s mind: Is it really the “flagship killer” as OnePlus calls it?

The short answer is yes, as this phone matches up in many ways to competitors’ models that cost twice the price. However, that’s not to say it’s better in every way. Still, on first impression the OnePlus 2 is an extraordinary phone, one that’s sure to upset the status quo even more than the original OnePlus One did last year.

Same back, new frame

The first striking aspect of the OnePlus 2 is that it looks and feels like a well-made phone that utilizes quality materials. It still feels like a OnePlus – the back sports the same rough textured plastic, which feels more like stone than the slick plastic of other phones. It means the OnePlus 2 is extremely grippy.

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The back is a lot easier to remove this time, too. The rear cover is more like the back on the Galaxy Note 4 – it just peels off the metal frame without any fuss. And it’s that frame that makes all the difference. Suddenly, the OnePlus 2 feels like a flagship, as well as performing like one.

It’s not a particularly thin phone, but it is both narrower and shorter than the iPhone 6 Plus with the same size screen. At 5.5 inches it’s still a big phone, but if you’re used to 5-inch screens then you shouldn’t find the OnePlus 2 too tricky to use.

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At 175g it’s substantial too, but not too heavy to use for prolonged periods.

The design touches don’t end there. The metal buttons are placed exactly where you want them to be and there’s a smart notification toggle that comes with three settings – on, mute and all off, for when you don’t even want it to vibrate. Useful stuff.

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The OnePlus 2 might not feel quite as classy as the Galaxy S6 Edge or iPhone 6 Plus, but it’s not far off them either. On first impressions we prefer bother the look and feel of it over the far more expensive LG G4 and Sony Xperia Z3+. Flagship killer? So far so lethal.

Anaemic screen

The 5.5-inch 1080p screen is perfectly acceptable in terms of specs – on paper it’s the same as the iPhone 6 Plus.

In reality, however, the display is a little anaemic. It’s not the lack of Quad HD resolution that’s the problem – the screen is sharp enough and has good viewing angles. The problem is the muted colours that look washed out, although top brightness is decent.

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There’s no doubt I’d rather look at LG G4 or Galaxy S6’s screen more, but the OnePlus 2’s display is still good, particularly when you compare it to similarly priced handsets.

Cool and quick

Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, 4GB DDR4 RAM (64GB version) 3GB DDR4 RAM (16GB version)

Alarm bells rang when OnePlus announced the OnePlus 2 would use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 chipset. It’s as speedy as it comes when put through its paces, but it does tend to make phones a little toasty.

In the hour or so I had with the OnePlus 2, I didn’t notice any problems at all – and I really tried to get it all hot and bothered. A few dozen photos, two minutes of 4K video, a quick bout of Hill Climb Racing and some general browsing left it barely warm.

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On first impressions it looks like the OnePlus 2 is both slick, fast and responsive without succumbing to some of the issues we’ve experienced with the Xperia Z3+ or LG G Flex 2 that also pack the Snapdragon 810 processor.

This is because the OnePlus 2 is using a revised version of the processor (although HTC reckons it’s the same as the one in the One M9) and has worked hard on the thermal regulation. It’s clearly working.

We weren’t able to put the OnePlus 2 through our range of benchmarks so we don’t know quite yet how well it stacks up to other flagships, but it should be on par, and certainly feels more than fast enough for most people.

Improved camera

13-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front camera, Optical image stabilization

Cameras are one of the most hotly contested aspects of phones. There’s little to separate the iPhone 6 Plus, LG G4 and Galaxy S6 – arguably the best camera phones on the market.

The OnePlus 2 has a 13-megapixel sensor, just like its predecessor, but this time OnePlus has increased the size of the pixels to 1.3 microns. That’s bigger than the 1.1 microns of the S6 but smaller than the 1.5 microns of the iPhone 6. Why should you care? Well the larger the pixel the more light it lets in and this helps when taking photos in darker environments.

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It’s impossible to test a phone camera adequately when you can’t see the images on a big screen, but on first impression the OnePlus 2 manages to take decent shots. The one thing I noticed, however, is that the OnePlus takes an age to process photos with HDR turned on – that’s something the iPhone 6, S6 and G4 have cracked.

This could mean the OnePlus 2 won’t be snuffing out the competition when it comes to taking pictures. It may still be the best cameraphone in its price range, though – we’ll find out when we review it fully.

Breathing easy with OxygenOS

The OnePlus 2 runs OxygenOS on Android 5.0 Lollipop off the bat, unlike the OnePlus One that launched with CyanogenMod.

The experience is almost pure Android, but with a few bells and whistles thrown in. Off screen gestures and customizable buttons are all still there, and it also comes with a bunch of personalization controls. It’s not as power-user pleasing as CyanogenMod, but it is simple to use.

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Trusted ReviewsOxygenOS comes with MaxxAudio sound that lets you create a load of setting you can toggle to.

I did have some issues with the camera app, it was tricky to zoom in and flick through images. OnePlus told me this will be resolved in a software update.

The slick SwiftKey keyboard that learns as you type is also included as the OnePlus 2’s main keyboard.

Faster than Touch ID – Less reliable than Touch ID

One of the most talked about new features on the OnePlus 2 is its fingerprint sensor. This lets you unlock the phone using your digits just as you can on the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6.

It’s quick and easy to set up your fingerprints, and the phone unlocks in fractions of a second when the screen is on. OnePlus claims it unlocks faster than the iPhone 6 and based on our testing that’s right.

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Trusted ReviewsThe fingerprint sensor on the OnePlus 2 doesn’t double as a physical button.

However, I found its performance variable when the screen is turned off. It just didn’t work as consistently as I’d like for such a key feature. Hopefully software optimization will sort out a lot of these issues, as they did with the fingerprint scanner on the Galaxy S5.

Type C USB = No more fumbling

Fingerprint scanners are so yesterday though, what about real innovation? Well the OnePlus 2 can lay claim to being the very first smartphone to use Type C USB. That means no more guessing when you’re trying to plug in your phone.

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What’s the OnePlus 2 missing?

Not much when you compare it to the flagships it’s looking to crush. There’s no microSD slot, which plenty of Android fans crave in their phones, but it does include dual SIM slots so you can have two nano-SIMs with two different numbers working off one device.

This isn’t a feature many people in the U.K. or U.S. care about, but it’s huge elsewhere in the world and I’ve always found it handy, particularly when roaming.

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Perhaps the biggest and most interesting omission is NFC. Google Wallet requires NFC to work as a touch-and-pay device and with the growth of Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay coming soon, this is an area the OnePlus 2 will be found wanting.

Less of a problem is a lack of wireless charging, we’re sure third-party cases will come along that provide the feature. The battery isn’t removable either, but at 3,300mAh it should provide ample battery life. We’ll need a lot more time with it before we know for sure, though.

First Impressions

The OnePlus 2 looks to build on the awesome OnePlus One in all the right ways. The fingerprint scanner might not be perfect, but the OnePlus 2 trounces every other phone in its price bracket.

Would I rather have it than a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge? Not if both were offered to me as a gift and I had to choose. If I had to open my wallet, though, I’d be insane not to consider the exceptional value the OnePlus 2 brings to the table.

Of course it all comes down to being able to buy it. The OnePlus 2 is only available via invitation – does OnePlus like you enough to give you the opportunity to buy one? If yes then it’ll be hard to consider any other phone in its price range. Only the Motorola Moto X Play, announced recently, comes close to offering the same value for money at a decent specification.

This post is in partnership with Trusted Reviews. The article above was originally published at TrustedReviews.com

TIME Cameras

Hands-On With the Smallest GoPro Ever Made

GoPro's latest action cam is a rad little cube

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GoPro’s action cameras have always been dinky, almost a miniaturization of a traditional digital camera. But the company’s latest effort, the GoPro Hero 4 Session, is the smallest GoPro ever — and shaped like a near-perfect cube.

The GoPro Hero 4 Session is 50% smaller and 40% lighter than the rest of GoPro’s high-end Hero 4 range. This is important. GoPro is the go-to brand for action sport enthusiasts — think anybody who uses the words “gnarly,” “stoked,” or “rad” with reckless abandon. These thrill seekers want small and robust cameras to attach to skateboards, skis, helmets and just about anything else you can imagine. The smaller and lighter the camera, the better.

And if that’s the rule, the Session is definitely better. It’s an eight megapixel action camera with a 170-degree wide angle lens aimed at users who value compactness over all else. It’s also the first GoPro to be water-resistant without needing a separate case.

I’ve spent the last few days with the Session, dunking it in water, jumping over hills in a buggy and cycling through a busy city. I’ve been thoroughly impressed.

For its first task, I strapped the GoPro Hero 4 Session to a paddle for some white water rafting action. Being regularly submerged in the wet stuff didn’t bother the Session one bit – it can be submerged down to 33 feet – and I could hardly feel its weight on my oar. Best of all, the footage it captured is outstanding. The video is crisp and the shots of the foaming rapids look exactly as I experienced them.

It’s not just the Session’s video that looks good. GoPro has worked hard at improving its sound capture, too. Because the camera isn’t enclosed in thick, transparent plastic means its microphones aren’t muffled. Clever software decides which mic to prioritize so wind noise, for example, doesn’t drown out what you actually want to capture. What this leads to is some impressive sound quality that puts you right back in the moment. As the paddle dunks the camera underwater, the audio quietens, just like when your ears are submerged. As the paddle rises the sound explodes again in a cacophony of rolling waves.

Shots of driving a buggy over jumps are also thrilling, whether in full-HD at 60 frames per second or at the highest, 1440 pixel, 4:3 resolution at 30fps. You don’t get 4K here — that’s still limited to the top-of-the-range GoPro Hero 4 Black — but you do get 100fps slow-motion at 720p. The fisheye lens can capture almost everything in front of it, though at the cost of distortion at the edges. This is normal with action cameras, and is a small price to pay for the sheer amount the Session can fit into your shots.

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Once you’ve shot your footage, you need to cut it into a compelling movie. You can use GoPro Studio for this. It’s reasonably simple to use and helps you make exciting and fun videos with a minimum of fuss.

Being so small means the GoPro Hero 4 Session doesn’t have many controls on the body. There’s a tiny LCD screen, a flap covering the microSD and microUSB slots and a main button that lets you shoot video or, with a longer press, time-lapse photos. The only other button is tiny and lets you either flag interesting moments in a movie or connect the Session to a smartphone, helpful for getting the most out of the Session.

The GoPro app has a slew of settings you can tweak to help create the perfect video as well as remotely control the Session. It’s easy to use, and connections between a phone and the Session are rock solid. Best of all, GoPro has added low-energy Bluetooth so neither device’s battery drains too fast while connected. The Session can last a full six days on standby like this. Battery life in general is impressive for such a small camera. I managed a little over two hours of video at full-HD 30fps. Gnarly.

The GoPro Hero 4 Session looks certain to be a firm favorite for adrenaline junkies. Its lightness and low-profile design make it a great complement for bikers who want a helmet-mounted action cam, or musicians looking to capture interesting angles at a gig.

For the rest of us, the Session is a luxury, particularly as it costs $399. That’s as much as the GoPro Hero 4 Silver, which has better specs, though in a bigger package. For anyone considering taking the GoPro plunge without sinking too much money into a purchase, I recommend the GoPro Hero+ LCD. Yes, it’s bigger than the Session, but it also comes with an LCD screen for viewing your shots and settings — and it’s $100 cheaper, at $299.

This post is in partnership with Trusted Reviews. Read Trusted Review’s full hands-on with the GoPro Hero 4 Session here.

TIME Smartphones

HTC’s Lead Designer Explains How Smartphones Get Made

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HTC HTC One M9

"You can make the wildest predictions, but it will always surpass your imagination"

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TrustedReviews sat down with Daniel Hundt, HTC’s passionate Creative Director and now Lead Designer, to ask him about the design of HTC’s latest flagship – the HTC One M9. He explains honest design, how materials affect the process and why the world isn’t yet ready for modular phones.

Trusted Reviews: What’s changed on the One M9 and why?

Hundt: A common question we get is: “Why does it look similar to the One M8 and M7?” It’s really important for us that we keep the lineage. We’ve built a strong brand with the One and we want to continue that strong DNA. I tell my team all the time that we need discipline – we can’t get bored of what we’re doing, we have to stay true to who we are what we feel is HTC. We have to keep what’s good and improve on what’s not working.

We’re always striving to make the perfect product. Sometimes we’re pretty close, other times we’re further away, but we always seek greatness combined with consistency.

What we did with the M8 was shrink down the size to make it more pocketable and feel better in your hand. We made the M8 rounder than the M7 to attract more female customers, but also to make it more ergonomic. One interesting thing that we learned from making it round was that, as you use it, the texture changes, so it becomes more slippery. People said, “Hey, it’s really hard to hold, can you guys go back to something that has a little more of an edge feel?”. We ended up with something in between the M7 and M8 because that’s what people want.

How do you decide what materials to make a phone out of?

Craftsmanship is really important to us. When we talk about our products, we talk about our inspiration. We think of ourselves as makers – like shoemakers, watchmakers, instrument makers – and get inspired by attention to detail. That’s the level of perfection that we try to apply.

The HTC One M9 is a premium phone, a premium device, with premium materials. We invested heavily in making a phone with a metal unibody and bringing that to life, and over the last three years we’ve been looking to improve that.

On the M7 we had a metal unibody with some plastic on the sides. We improved the design on the M8 where we had 95% metal content. As competitors started to catch up it was important that we push ourselves again and bring the metal finish, and the way we work with metal, to another level. That’s why we introduced not just the dual tone, but also the dual finish – two processes in one phone.

First we machine the back from one block of aluminum – 95% of the aluminum gets machined away, but of course we recycle that into new blocks. Then we anodize it and then machine it again, treat the edge and put another really fine hairline and anodize it again. It’s a pretty crazy process and one of the reasons I love working for HTC is that we’re doing those things.

We sit down with our CEO and present ideas we feel have a consumer benefit and people really love. If we present an opportunity that can make a real emotional connection with the user, then we go for it, and I really think as a company we have our heart in the right place. We think about the consumer before the bottom line.

You use metal for the One M9, but do other materials provide more design benefits?

Whenever you deal with a conductive material like metal, you have to deal with the antennas so the phone almost designs itself. There’s a beauty in that. As a designer you sort of guide the process rather than trying to shape it into what you want. You’re almost not designing it as a designer, you’re there to guide the process rather than to try to steer it. You have to let go of control and let the material and technology do its thing, and you just make sure it stays on track. It’s a fascinating process.

Can a flagship phone made of plastic ever compete with the likes of the metal One M9?

No. You’ve seen other brands play in that space before [with phones] that were completely made out of plastic and tricked people into thinking they had a metal frame. Obviously the market has shown that you can be successful if you put enough marketing knowledge behind it, but I fundamentally believe that’s the wrong thing to do. When we use a material, we want to be honest about it. We try not to fake things; we’re totally against that.

So the problem isn’t plastic, the problem is making plastic look like another material?

Yes. That’s bottom-line thinking. You take the cheapest available material and then you try to make it look like something else. Fundamentally I don’t agree with that. When you show a person a product in a picture you’re giving them a promise, and I think you have to be true to yourself. If you tell them that you’re going to give them metal, you give them metal. If you want to give them a different material then you have to be honest about that as well. Plastic can be beautiful, it’s a matter of how you use a moulding technology to bring it to a new level, like we’ve done with the Desire Eye and Desire 820.

Do you think some manufacturers compromise battery life too much in the pursuit of thinness?

Yes, but we don’t look at what other people do and how they make trade-offs. For us it’s about finding the right balance. We study that a lot. You wouldn’t believe how many mock-ups of the HTC One M9 we have with different batteries in. We put everything on the table and think about battery life and see what effect it will have on the form factor and make those smart tradeoffs. We don’t just say “this is the battery it has to have.” We do tons of mockups and put ourselves in the role of the consumer and decide what will really benefit them.

It’s very tempting to play the spec game, but we try not to get ourselves caught up in that. What’s the user benefit to have a phone 0.1 or 0.2mm thinner? It’s a strong statement to say you have the thinnest phone available, but we try not to get caught up in that.

What will the phone of 2020 look like?

I stopped making predictions so far out. Just looking back in the history of mobile phones, technology exceeds your imagination. You can make the wildest predictions, but it will always surpass your imagination.

What about modular phones then? Will they ever be as successful or be as good as a well-designed all-in-one phone?

It might be as technology advances. It’s about tradeoffs. If you have something modular you have wall thicknesses to consider. Once technology reaches a certain size why wouldn’t it be successful?

I don’t think it’s marketable yet, though. I think the tradeoffs on an everyday level for a product like that, because of its size, mean it’s not justifiable yet. It’s more for novelty’s sake. It’s very interesting and it will happen, but technology has to adapt.

[Making a modular phone] is similar to choosing a material for a phone. You will have to guide the process. Technology will set the rules, the outline, and our job as designers is to create a function by which those rules are applied. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in that space. I’m not clawing onto the fact that this [One M9] has to be in this package or sit in this form. If there’s a consumer benefit then we’ll look at it.

How are bezel-free designs and curved and flexible screens going to change the design of phones going forward?

Well, the bezel-free design we’re all driving for has a clear consumer benefit, which is size. You have maximum screen-to-form ratio and that’s something I’m really excited about.

Curved displays always take me back to the question of consumer benefit. Is it just for novelty’s sake, is it to be interesting, have something to talk about, or does it have a long-lasting benefit to the user?

At the moment where do you think curved displays sit?

I haven’t seen an application yet where it’s for true user benefit. So far, curved screens are for novelty’s sake.

What makes a design stand the test of time and can another truly iconic phone ever be made with annual refresh cycles?

I don’t see this as a limit. It’s important for us to have discipline. We felt like we had something special when we were working on the HTC One M7 three years ago, the first completely unibody phone with the strong iconic look. As a design team we felt we’d found something. This is HTC moving on. We want to maintain that.

It’s important for us to have the discipline and not react to the marketing team saying, “Hey, we need something new, we need to be the thinnest.” We want to keep what’s good and what’s recognizable for us and work on the elements that don’t work so well for us.

If you have an icon and create something good, you should hone it and refine it rather than doing something revolutionary.

This post is in partnership with Trusted Reviews. The article above was originally published at TrustedReviews.com.

TIME Smartphones

The LG G4 Could Be One of the Nicest Android Phones Out There

LG has fitted the G4 with a host of high-end new features

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LG G4: First Impressions

The LG G4 is the latest flagship phone from the Korean manufacturer and a device that has a lot to live up to. Not only have the likes of the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 raised the smartphone stakes over the past 12 months, but it’s predecessor, the LG G3, was crowned TrustedReviews 2014 Phone of the Year.

Looking to continue this rise to smartphone supremacy, LG has fitted the G4 with a host of high-end new features – I’m talking an improved QHD display and a 16-megapixel OIS-enhanced camera here. What’s more, this festival of top-notch components has been wrapped in a new leather-bodied design that really works.

I had a play at the phone’s London launch to see if G4 is the answer to the industry’s current leading players.

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LG G4: Design

I don’t conform to the belief that the all metal bodied phones look and feel the part and plastic handsets are cheap. There are exceptions to the rules in every field. The G3, however, would have benefited some, more ‘premium’ materials, being used.

Now, instead of following industry trends, LG has gone left-field, cladding the G4 with leather. Before you shirk at the thought of a phone made out of the same stuff as your dress shoes or sofa, bear with me. This is no Samsung Galaxy Note 3 echoing faux leather-plastic-hybrid. The G4 looks and feels great.

The genuine leather back is soft and supple, without feeling out of place on a phone. Its natural full grain gives the device a comforting amount of grip that handsets such as the iPhone 6 and Huawei P8 severely lack.

The stitching which runs down the centre of the device’s rear is a pleasing addition too. As well as breaking up the solid look of the device, it acts as a guide to LG’s now trademark rear-mounted physical buttons. How the genuine leather finish will stand up to daily wear remains to be seen, however.

If you’re not a fan of the cowhide, or a vegan, LG has also created a selection of plastic-bodied G4 options, although I found these to lack the charms of their leather-bound counterparts.

It’s not all about the materials either. The G4 features a gentle curve in its design. It’s a long way from the sizable bend on its sibling, the LG G Flex 2. The G4’s ‘slim arc’ design features just enough curve to conform to the natural shape of your hand.

LG has claimed that this subtle curve makes the phone 20 per cent less likely to be damaged if dropped. As you can expect, this is something I’ve, as yet, been unable to test. The phone is a comfortable 9.8mm thick and 155g in weight. This is beefy by some standards, but I found the handset to be well balanced and comfortable to hold.

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On first impressions that LG G4’s design has left me hugely impressed. I found the phone to look and feel every bit a flagship device – one of the G3’s few areas of weakness.

While the tan leather is a personal favorite, there are enough color options to meet a variety of tastes. The G4 will also be offered up in black, blue, burgundy, grey and yellow leather schemes, with the plastic-backed offering to debut in black, white and gold hues.

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LG G4: Screen

Like the G3, the LG G4’s screen is a 5.5-inch QHD offering with a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution. The reworked IPS Quantum panel bestowed on the G4, however, is 25 per cent brighter than its predecessor’s screen. This isn’t where the differences end either. A 20 per cent wider color range is paired with a contrast ratio that has been improved 50 per cent.

The results, on first impressions at least, are stunning. The G4’s screen is exceptionally bright and detailed. Colors are vibrant and punchy, blacks are deep and subtly varied, text is crisp and sharp and video playback fluid and engaging. During my brief time with the phone I found the G4’s screen hard to fault. When we get our full review sample in I’m believe it could rival the Galaxy S6 for the mantle of our most fancied phone panel.

It’s not all about the looks either. The G4’s screen benefits from Advanced In-Cell Touch (AIT) which boosts the panel’s touch sensitivity. From first use, it was hard to discern the difference between this and a standard display, but it handled all the multi-finger commands I could throw its way without fuss or fanfare.

Despite the phone not being water-resistant, LG has claimed this tech will allow the G4’s screen to function even when doused in the wet stuff. Given my limited time with the device in a formal environment, however, I’ve as yet been unable to test this claim.

LG G4: Features

The G4’s surprise feature is its processor. With the 64-bit Snapdragon 810 chip already powering a number of its big rivals – including the HTC One M9 – the G4 has eschewed the headline processor in favor of its hexa-core sibling, the Snapdragon 808.

Avoiding talk of the 810’s ongoing overheating concerns, LG has claimed the 808 enables a number of the G4’s key features (read camera capabilities) without hammering the sizable 3,000mAh battery.

Whatever the reasoning behind its inclusion, on first use this chipset appears more than capable of keeping the G4 swift and suitably powered. During early tests, the phone handled everything I could throw at it with consummate ease. There was no app launch delays or multitasking woes here, just a smooth, effortless experience.

Given my limited time with the device, however, I have been unable to really put the phone’s processor through its paces or test its gaming prowess. A full test will be conducted ahead of our full LG G4 review, coming soon.

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The Snapdragon 808 chip might be grabbing headlines, but it is far from the phone’s only core feature. Packing 3GB of RAM and dedicated graphic RAM, the phone also features 32GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD. As an added bonus, all G4 owners will be handed a complimentary 100GB of Google Drive storage – handy.

Android 5.1 runs the show on the G4, with the latest iteration of Lollipop skinned with a reworked take of LG’s custom UI. LG’s UX 4.0 is a low-key update. At least on the surface.

Visually the skin is very similar to past offerings, and this is a little disappointing. LG has long filled its phones with great software features – you’re looking at the creators of the Knock Code here – but styling has often been a shortcoming.

Further testing of the UI’s ins-and-outs is required before final judgement can be passed, however.

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LG G4: Camera

2015 is already shaping up as the year smartphone cameras kicked on to new levels. Here, the LG G4 has run with the crowd, offering significant (on paper) improvements over its predecessor. The phone features a 16-megapixel primary camera and a secondary, 8-megapixel shooter for the selfie lovers amongst you.

This isn’t just any 16-megapixel snapper though. The G4’s camera is enhanced by industry-leading optical image stabilization, laser-assisted focus and a color spectrum sensor for more natural tones in resulting shots.

Again, early impressions are strong. Resulting images in limited testing conditions were positive. Colors are detailed and accurate, focus quick and on-point, and the general user experience has few peers.

For me, however, the true highlight of the G4’s mass of new camera features is the phone’s Manual shooting mode. Giving you the opportunity to tweak all manner of settings – from white balance and focus length to ISO and shutter speed – the mode is a dream for nay half-keen amateur photographer.

After a quick play, I was left overjoyed by it. It is a simple, intuitive addition with intricate levels of customization. I can’t wait for a more through use in more suitable shooting settings.

It’s too early for me to pass judgement on the G4’s overall imaging abilities, but on first use, the outlook is strong.

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Early Verdict

LG has taken the strong foundations of the LG G3 and improved on every aspect. The LG G4 is a device that looks, feels and acts the part. I can’t wait to use it again.

This post is in partnership with Trusted Reviews. The article above was originally published at TrustedReviews.com.

TIME Smartphones

Review: The S6 Edge Is One Of Samsung’s Best-Looking Phones Ever

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But the two curved edges may not be worth the extra money

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This post is in partnership with Trusted Reviews. The article below was originally published at TrustedReviews.com.

When I picked the S6 Edge up a few weeks ago at Samsung’s launch event in Barcelona I was divided by the smartphone with the two curved screen edges. This is one of the best looking phones Samsung has built and it’s something the Korean company should be truly proud of.

From a practicality point of view and knowing how expensive the S6 Edge is going to be, I remain unconvinced two curved edges is really worth the extra money you’ll have to pay over the Galaxy S6.

My initial reaction on the design hasn’t really changed. The Gorilla Glass 4 back marries well with the screen and doesn’t have any of the slippery issues I’ve encountered with Sony’s flagship. It’s slim at 7mm thick and weighs just 132g so it’s lighter than the S6 and just ever so slightly thicker than Samsung’s other flagship, but not enough for you to notice. The buttons are well positioned and easy to reach while the improved Touch-ID style fingerprint technology packed into the home button are all welcome changes.

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Did Samsung have to make such a radical change with the design? I’m not so sure. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy A5 has since proved that small changes can make the world of difference and I would have been happy with something in the mould of Samsung’s most recent phones.

It’s holding the handset where I take issue with the S6 Edge. Everyone will inevitably experience the initial awkwardness gripping the Edge, especially when we are so used to feeling the smooth metal trim of an iPhone or One M8. Unlike the Note Edge, the curved screen is now on both sides and is less prominent curving inwards into the body. It feels strange to hold and not as comfortable as the curved body on the LG G Flex 2, which sits more naturally in my hand. Some will inevitably grow accustomed to it, but I’m not the biggest fan.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S6 vs S6 Edge: What’s different?

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I have less of an issue with the decision to abandon a removable back and removable 2,800mAh battery to accommodate a sleeker, slimmer design but it’s the missing microSD card support that’s surprising. Samsung has decided to take the Apple approach by offering three storage options. However, there’s only a 64GB and 12GB models for the S6 Edge where the S6 has a cheaper 32GB option.

Something Samsung is really nailing is its smartphone screens. The Note 4 is one of the best phone screens I’ve seen and the S6 Edge builds on that with its 5.1-inch ‘2K’ QHD AMOLED screen. That sees a move from 1080p Full HD resolution to a 1,440 x 2,560 resolution with an impressive 577 PPI pixel density. It’s a gorgeous screen with great vibrancy, sharpness and delivers those deep blacks for movie watching. Compared to the HTC One M9’s screen, it’s certainly brighter and colors are more vivid. Both phone have great displays but the S6 Edge edges it for opting to include something more innovative. As a bonus, Samsung is also introducing a Gear VR headset that’s compatible with the S6 Edge and the S6, which should be launching some time this year.

Read more: Samsung Gear VR headset for S6 and S6 Edge hands-on

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Away from the main screen are those curved edges. This builds on the design featured on the Galaxy Note Edge only this time you can assign features to either edge. Samsung has pared back some of the modes featured on the Note Edge for a simpler integration with the operating system, but has kept elements like the Information Stream. I’ve gone into detail about the uses of the curved screen on the S6 Edge and while some of the uses are clearly very gimmicking and likely to be untouched by most, there’s some that do add nice touches. Like the Lighting and the People Edge modes which can be combined to uses different colors to indicate when assigned contacts are trying to get in touch. The night clock mode is handy as well but the swiping gesture required to view notifications and information streams is temperamental.

Samsung has made some positive changes to its software. The S6 Edge runs on the latest version of Android 5.0 Lollipop with TouchWiz on top and the bloatware has finally been stripped back. Kid Mode, S Health, S Voice, and S Planner are there as well as, oddly, a Microsoft Apps folder. You can still swipe all the way to the left for the Magazine UX, but that’s about it. Samsung is also adding its Samsung Pay platform powered by the acquisition of LoopPay. Most importantly, Samsung has listened and kept bloatware to a bare minimum. Finally.

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One of the big talking points with Samsung’s flagship phone launch is the decision to move from the Snapdragon-based processing power used on the S5 for the Korean company’s own custom built 64-bit Exynos octo-core chipset to sit alongside 3GB of RAM and a Mali-T760 GPU. The cores are not all utilized at the same time, but dedicated to different tasks to offer a more power-efficient performance. The big difference here with the Snapdragon 810 is the 14nm manufacturing process, compared to 20nm for the 810. In theory this makes the chip more efficient, though it bears closer inspection in real world use.

Read more: Octa core vs Quad core: What’s the difference?

General navigation is very positive. There’s no signs of lag, which is helped by the more streamlined TouchWiz UI and gaming holds up as well. Running the Geekbench 3 scores against the S5 and the One M9, you can get an idea of the kind of upgrade this is on last year’s flagship and how it compares to HTC’s flagship running on the new Snapdragon 810 chipset.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge benchmark scores
Geekbench 3 multi-core score: 4,152
Ice Storm Unlimited score: 21,829

Samsung Galaxy S5 benchmark scores
Geekbench 3 multi-core score: 3,029
Ice Storm Unlimited score: 19, 523

HTC One M9 benchmark scores
Geekbench 3 multi-core score: 3,800
Ice Storm Unlimited score: 21,625

Evolution of the  Galaxy S
SamsungEvolution of the Samsung Galaxy S

What the numbers suggest is that the S6 Edge is great deal more powerful than its predecessor and also comfortably outscores the One M9 at least in the multi-core benchmark tests. In the Ice Storm tests, which analyses graphical rendering and how well the phone copes when the CPU is overloaded, there’s not as much between them. Ultimately, the S6 Edge is a powerful phone and should be one and the decision to abandon Qualcomm might not be a bad decision after all.

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Moving to the camera and the S5 has arguably one of the best all-round cameras out of the 2014 flagships and the same can similarly be said of the Note 4, which inherited the same optical image stabilization. The S6 Edge matches the S6 for camera features with a 16-megapixel main camera and five-megapixel front-facing camera both with f/1.9 lenses to improve low light shooting. That’s aided by the inclusion of optical image stabilization and a new real-time HDR mode. For video, you can shoot at a maximum 4K resolution, but like the HTC One M9 and the LG G Flex 2, you can only shoot for five minutes at a time.

I’ve had some time to take a few sample shots up close and from a distance against the S5 in good lighting conditions to give you an idea of how it compares. As the images show below, there doesn’t appear to be a significant upgrade in image quality. You still get good levels of sharpness, vibrant, accurate colours and not too much noise. The real improvements should be more apparent in low-light shooting, which will be covered more extensively in the full review.

S5 vs S6 Edge: Close-up image samples

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TrustedReviewsSamsung Galaxy S5 sample
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TrustedReviewsSamsung Galaxy S6 Edge sample

S5 vs S6 Edge: Landscape image samples

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TrustedReviewsSamsung Galaxy S5 landscape sample
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TrustedReviewsSamsung Galaxy S6 Edge landscape sample

Read more: Where can I buy the Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge?

Early Verdict

The S6 Edge is undeniably going to be the more memorable of Samsung’s two flagships. While one looks like an iPhone imitator, the other is trying to offer something radically different. The curved edged screen from a design and practicality perspective is still very unconvincing and I don’t think everyone will like how it feels to hold and use. Dropping micro SD card support is disappointing as well while I’m intrigued to see what the battery life is made of and hope it performs better than the One M9 in general day-to-day use.

What’s more concerning is the price of the S6 Edge. It’s going to be one of the most expensive phones on the market whether you buy it SIM-free or on a monthly contract. It’s going to be a hard sell justifying paying significantly more than it costs to buy an S6 or pretty much any other flagship phone currently available for a nicer-looking curved screen. Where the 32GB S6 cost $679.92 from T-Mobile, the 64GB S6 Edge costs a massive $779.76. If Samsung decides to introduce a 32GB model then it this could be the more desirable of the Samsung flagships, but right now, it’s going to be an expensive investment.

 

For the original article, please go to TrustedReviews.com.

Read next: You’ll Be Freaked Out to Learn How Often Your Apps Share Your Location

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TIME Smartphones

Review: HTC One M9 Chooses Evolution Over Revolution

Front and rear views of the HTC One M9 smartphone.
HTC—AP Front and rear views of the HTC One M9 smartphone.

The HTC One M9 shows how far HTC has come in the last few years

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This post is in partnership with Trusted Reviews. The article below was originally published at TrustedReviews.com.

What is the HTC One M9?

The HTC One M9 is a crucial phone for the Taiwanese manufacturer. The One M8 and original One were fantastic handsets, arguably better than their Samsung and Apple counterparts. The competition has caught up, though. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have sold by the bucket-load and Samsung appears to have put its flimsy-design woes to rest with the glass and metal Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.

How does the One M9 compare? HTC has opted for evolution rather than revolution this time. The design closely resembles its last phone and the screen is almost the same. A new camera, processor and larger battery provide the bulk of the hardware changes, while HTC’s version of Android has had a facelift with Sense 7.

This all leads to a great phone that still has some areas of improvement. The rear camera doesn’t live up to its promise, and neither does the One M9’s battery life. And that really is surprising.

However, this is still one of the best phones you can get and it just goes to show how far HTC has come in the last few years that we hold its products to such lofty standards.

Watch the HTC One M9 hands on video:

Related: HTC On M9 Tips, Tricks and Secrets

HTC One M9: Design

Think about the HTC One M9 like an S version of an iPhone. It shares the same basic design and screen as the One M8, but some minor tweaks differentiate it from last year’s model.

The first, and most evident, is the new two-tone design. Where the back of the previous One curved round to the screen, the M9 has a ridge that connects the front to the back. It looks as if the front of the phone has been shoehorned into the rear, the benefit being that HTC has managed to remove the thin plastic edge between the screen and frame.

It’s a fussier design and one that’s highlighted by the fact that the front metal is a goldish-silver (in this case), while the edge is gold. Turn the phone around and it changes again to – this time to a more traditional silver finish. Not all colors are as glitzy. The gunmetal grey version is dark and broody instead.

Related: HTC One M9 vs HTC One M8

Do any of these changes make it better? Not in our opinion. The HTC One M8 has a classier air about it – it’s like comparing an understated Breitling to a gold Rolex. Both are well-made, but which one you’d grace on your wrist depends entirely on your taste.

This is a little harsh on the M9. It’s a good-looking phone, full of slick design touches and craftsmanship – a word HTC keeps using, and with good reason – but we like the M8 more.

The one upside to the ridge is it makes the M9 easier to grip – it’s less slippery than the M8 and other curved phones like the iPhone 6. It’s easier to hold one-handed, too, though it’s a smidgen less comfortable to hold.

Related: 17 Best Smartphones and Mobile Phones

In every other respect the design of the HTC One M9 is a triumph. This isn’t a thin phone, but neither does it feel porky – it’s 0.2mm thicker than the M8, but almost 1mm narrower. The back curves into your hand and the metal feels solid – more so than the previous model even though it’s a few grams lighter at 157g. That weight gives it a good heft – the One M9 is well balanced, if a little bottom heavy. It feels like you’re holding a quality phone, not a toddler’s toy. We like that.

One major new design improvement is the feel and location of the volume and power buttons. Previously plastic and along the top, the power button was a struggle to reach. It’s now in a far more sensible position, on the right hand edge, just below the volume buttons. It’s also been upgraded to metal and comes with a light etch so you can tell the difference between it and the volume buttons. These have had a tweak too. The buttons are a mite firmer and feel that bit better to press.

Related: 10 Best Android Phones and Smartphones

This is a tall and narrow phone so the new button position means it’s easy to reach with your thumb, if you’re using it right handed, or with your left hand’s index or middle finger. What’s still an issue is reaching the top of the screen.

It’s a real stretch to get your thumb to the browser back button or search box. Apple has gone some way to solving the issues that come with handling a large phone by dropping the screen with a double-tap on Touch ID. Samsung has as well, to a lesser extent, with one-handed mode. HTC hasn’t addressed the problem at all. If you’ve got average or small hands, you will need to juggle the phone to reach certain areas of the screen when you’re using it one-handed.

In most other respects the HTC One M9 is what you’d expect from a flagship phone. The microUSB and 3.5mm headphone jack are at the bottom, while there’s a pair of fine grilles at the front which house the new BoomSound speakers – we’ll cover those in more detail later.

Almost the whole top edge is covered with translucent black plastic. This is there to accommodate the infrared blaster that lets you use the M9 as a TV or home cinema remote.

Related: The Best Android Apps

The only other difference between the One M9 and last year’s phone is on the back. Rather than a round camera that sits flush to the body the M9 has a square one that’s slightly raised. Rounded edges ensure the phone doesn’t snag when you’re sliding it into a tight pocket.

All in all the design changes HTC has made to the M9 are positive. The ergonomics have improved thanks to the new power button and narrower body, but some of the aesthetic alterations are less of a success. HTC could have left well enough alone, but there’s no denying that the HTC One M9 is dashingly handsome.

The M9 is available in three colors at launch: Gunmetal Grey, Gold on Silver, and Gold on Gold. Read on to find out about the HTC One M9’s screen.

For the rest, please go to TrustedReviews.com.

TIME Reviews

The New MacBook Is Perfect for the iPad Generation

The new MacBook is the hybrid iPad that Apple will never make

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First you’re in awe of how thin and light it is. Then you’re amazed that it’s totally fanless. Next you’re floored by its beautiful screen. You’re intrigued by its innovative Force Touch trackpad; envious of its flawless design; impressed that it’ll still last nine to ten hours on a full charge.

But then you start to think about the practicalities of Apple’s new MacBook, announced Monday. It doesn’t have a normal USB port. There isn’t even a microSD slot, let alone a proper SD card slot like almost every other laptop on the planet. If I wanted an iPad, I’d buy an iPad. In fact, I already own one! What am I supposed to do with this?

 Apple Inc. began showing off features and applications for its first new device in five years, a smartwatch designed to put information on peoples' wrists and break open the fledgling market for wearable technology
David Paul Morris—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LPThe new gold edition Macbook laptop is displayed during the Apple Inc. Spring Forward event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, March 9, 2015.

And there’s the key point. The new MacBook will replace the iPad for some people. Indeed, when you look at it closely, it has as much in common with an iPad as it does a laptop.

It has a Retina screen like an iPad. It has a single connection for power and video out like an iPad. Its only other connection is a headphone jack just like an iPad. Here’s a great stat for you: the new MacBook is only 0.1mm thicker than the original iPad! Yes, seriously.

Now let’s flip that around – what similarities does the new MacBook have with a typical laptop? It looks like a laptop. It has a keyboard like a laptop. It runs a laptop operating system and, well, that’s all I have. By my count, that’s a draw.

That’s why I think the new MacBook is, in effect, an iPad-MacBook hybrid. It’s just not a hybrid in the way the Surface Pro 3 is a hybrid. It combines the spirit of the iPad and MacBook into one, not their incompatible designs. It is, in other words, the perfect laptop for the iPad generation.

Some of you are probably thinking I’ve drunk the Apple Kool-Aid, that I’m a rabid Apple fanboy and my opinion isn’t worth jack. I urge patience. It’s true that all the things that make the new MacBook wrong for me (and you) are deeply annoying. Just try and remember that there’s a large body of people out there for whom none of those things matter.

Let’s start with that SD card slot business. Have you seen camera sales recently? Every month the good folks at Gfk UK send me a report that shows the sales trends across various markets. I can’t remember the last time the photography market wasn’t 20% to 30% down year on year. That 20% to 30% are the people for whom a phone is the only camera they need, and whose photos sync wirelessly as they go.

Next, let’s talk USB. USB is great and this new USB Type-C connection is a special thing – I recommend you read Edward Chester’s guide to USB Type-C when you get a spare moment. But even I don’t need USB ports that often – I most often use them to access press kits I’m given on a flash drive.

For many people, a USB flash drive is a quaint tradition, though. They also don’t use printers, or at least use them wirelessly. They don’t have external hard drives. For the once in a blue moon that they’ll need a USB port, Apple will sell an adapter that includes video and USB connections. It’ll sit in a drawer for most of its life, I’ll wager. It’ll probably cost $70 or so, but does that matter when you’re buying a $1299 laptop? It’s a bit like agonizing over spending pocket change on a mobile app.

It’s a similar story for video out. I bought a Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI cable when I bought my MacBook Air back in oh, 2011/12. I still haven’t used it. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I just don’t need to plug my MacBook into screens anymore. Ordinary users need to do so even less than I do.

And this is why the new MacBook is Apple’s hybrid. Anyone who’s ever bought a keyboard for their iPad is looking at the new MacBook very hard right now. If you can live with an iPad paired with a keyboard, you can live with a proper laptop with iPad-like restrictions.

Moreover, so much of the software on Macs is now just like it is on iPads – the new Photos app, currently in public beta, is a near carbon copy of the iPad version. It’s increasingly true across the whole operating system, and that integration and homogenization is only going to increase.

Related: Intel Core M: How it makes the new MacBook possible

So, when a friend or relative expresses an interest in buying the new MacBook, remember that the things you care about probably don’t matter to them anymore. They’re a member of the iPad generation. They are, to use Steve Jobs’ brilliantly ambiguous term, “Post-PC”. And, for them, the new MacBook is everything they need in a laptop.

For the original article, please go to TrustedReviews.com.

Read next: Hands-On With Apple’s Stunning New Gold Laptop

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TIME Gadgets

The Pebble Time Smartwatch Is a Massive Leap Forward

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Pebble Pebble Time

Hands-on with Pebble's new color smartwatch

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This post is in partnership with Trusted Reviews. The article below was originally published at TrustedReviews.com.

Sitting in the TrustedReviews office, I stared in amazement at the Kickstarter page for the Pebble Time as it rapidly soared past its funding goal in a matter of minutes. Now I’ve got to play with the Time, I understand why there was all that excitement – it’s a massive leap forward from the original Pebble smartwatch.

Watch our Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel hands-on video

SEE ALSO: Pebble Time Steel hands-on

The big change is the more streamlined design, which actually reminds me a little of Swatch watches. It’s smaller and more elegant than the first Pebble and the more neutral look means it’s truly unisex. It’s also waterproof to 5ATM, so you take it in the shower and even go swimming with it.

It’s light as well. I strapped one around my wrist and it’s neither as cumbersome nor chunky as most Android Wear watches I’ve tried. It’s not really a watch you’d imagine someone sitting in a business meeting with, though. The plastic body gives it a more playful look, but Pebble now has the Pebble Time Steel to cover the more serious watch-wearing demographic.

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The 22mm silicone straps are surprisingly comfortable and use a new quick-release strap, so you can use other similarly sized straps to mix the looks up. At the moment, there’s not a massive amount of color options for the straps and watch bezels at launch. There’s red, white and black, but I did get to see one with a purple strap, so this may expand.

For a battery top-up, you still need a charger that magnetically connects to the left of the watch. No change there.

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Pebble has made the rather radical move, though, to swap its trademark monochrome display for a color one. Crucially it’s stuck with the same E Ink technology, so you still get good visibility and less drain on the same 5-7 days of battery life offered by the original and the Pebble Steel. I moved through the interface using the buttons on the side of the screen and had no problem viewing the screen. The true test will be taking it outside in the sunshine though.

The last big physical change lies around the back. When Pebble launched its latest Kickstarter campaign, it made some vague reference to connecting sensors to the back of the watch to add extra functionality. Now it’s confirmed that it will support smart straps, which can connect to what looks like charging pins to add heart-rate sensors or even support for NFC payments. Pebble’s opening the platform to developers, so it will be interesting to see whether there’s an appetite to make these smart straps and what interesting uses third-party companies will come up with.

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Before the Pebble Time was announced, Pebble’s CEO Eric Migicovsky spoke about the dramatic overhaul of the software. According to Pebble, user feedback suggested people were complaining of a constant stream of notifications, so now it’s come up with something that reduces that overload and only gives users information they need at that exact moment.

It sounds a lot like Android Wear and it works in a similar way. You still have all the smartphone companion features as normal, but now you’ll also be able to see what’s coming up in your day, whether that’s meetings or events. Unlike when you dismiss notifications in Android Wear, you can go back 24 hours on the Pebble, in case you missed an email from the previous day.

Pebble is also adding voice support, but it’ll only be used for recording voice memos and offering quick responses to texts or leaving a message when you’ve rejected a call.

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Early Verdict

If you compare the Pebble Time to the original Pebble, it’s like night and day. It’s better looking, it now has a colour screen and the new smart strap feature has the potential to make this the most versatile smartwatch around.

I’m beginning to see why Pebble has been able to fight off Android Wear and other rival platforms, because it’s listening to what its users want. And I think those loyal users are going to be very happy with what the second-generation Pebble has to offer.

For the original article, please go to TrustedReviews.com.

TIME Smartphones

The Galaxy S6 Is Samsung’s Best-Looking Smartphone Yet

Samsung’s new flagship Galaxy S6 was announced Sunday amid trouble for the company’s smartphone division. The Galaxy S5 didn’t sell as well as expected, and competition from HTC and Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi and OnePlus has also had an impact on sales. To rub salt in the wound, Apple has gone from strength to strength since the release of its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

It’s unsurprising, then, that Samsung went to great pains during its Mobile World Press press conference in Barcelona, Spain to convince the world the Galaxy S6 is better than the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. A reference to Apple’s possibly overstated troubles with bending iPhone 6 Plus units and side-by-side comparisons of photos taken with the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy S6 were heavy-handed examples of Samsung’s efforts here.

So the Galaxy S6 is Samsung’s great white hope – well, it comes in “Gold Platinum,” “Black Sapphire” and “Green Emerald” as well. And this time around, Samsung has changed its approach. Instead of packing every feature under the sun onto its flagship smartphone, Samsung has focused on design and desirability.

That’s not a totally unexpected move. Both last year’s metal-framed Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Alpha hinted at things to come. There’s no denying it — the Galaxy S6 is a good looking phone, far nicer to hold and look at than any of its predecessors, although it feels a little too light. It looks like a cross between the iPhone 6 and iPhone 4 – two design classics, but it doesn’t quite have the right heft and feel. It’s undoubtedly made of high-quality materials, but like previous Galaxy phones it doesn’t exude class when you hold it.

Samsung has realized that people want more than a functional phone: They want a desirable one, too. But has it gone too far? The S6 is handsome. A smooth metal frame is sandwiched between two pieces of the latest and toughest Gorilla Glass 4. The back is surprisingly grippy for glass, but it’s also a magnet for fingerprints. Every use required a wipe to remove the fingerprints while we were filming. That’s not something you want to see on such an expensive handset.

With the Galaxy S6, plenty has been sacrificed in the name of design. Gone is the removable back cover and with it the replaceable battery. That won’t be missed by too many. What will be missed is the microSD slot. This is one differentiating feature that Samsung fans had to lord over iPhone owners, but no longer. Instead, the Galaxy S6 comes in three storage variants: 32GB, 64GB and 128GB.

There’s a lot more to talk about than the design. A brand new camera has been fitted to the back that packs 16 megapixels and optical image stabilization – a feature that helps you get better shots in the dark. Selfie-lovers are well catered-for too, with a five-megapixel front-facing camera.

The front camera has larger pixels, like the HTC One M9, and we were pleased by the test shots we took. Less convincing was the rear camera that protrudes significantly from the rear of the phone. The image quality of our shots was a little blurry – on first impressions the HTC One M9 may well have the better camera.

We haven’t had a chance to fully test the capabilities of the Galaxy S6 yet, but early signs are promising. A brand new eight-core processor manufactured by Samsung powers the S6, helping it zip through menus and opens apps instantaneously. It’s probably quicker in benchmark tests than Apple’s iPhone 6, and perhaps quicker than its other great rival announced just hours before – The HTC One M9.

(Read more: The HTC One M9 Could Be One of the Best All-Around Phones of the Year)

It’s efficient, too. Samsung claims the S6’s guts are 30% more efficient than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor on the Galaxy Note 4. Combine that with quick charge technology — Samsung says the S6 will fully charge in half the time it takes the iPhone 6 to do the same — and wireless charging, and the S6 should last a while and be easy to charge on the go.

One area that makes the Galaxy S6 stand out is its glorious screen. With a pixel-packing 2K resolution, it’s far sharper than the iPhone 6 or HTC One M9. Is all that sharpness necessary? Arguably not. But both its competitors are plenty sharp. Where the S6 really pulls ahead is with dark scenes and colors. These look fantastic on the S6’s 5.1-inch AMOLED screen – far better than the LCD screens on the One M9 and iPhone.

The fingerprint scanner is now a match for Apple’s Touch ID, too. On the Galaxy S5, it was a clunky affair that only worked with precise swipes. Now simply resting your thumb on the home button springs the S6 to life. We didn’t get a chance to see quite how well it works for ourselves, though.

The Galaxy S6 also packs Samsung Pay, a variant on Apple Pay that looks like a winner. It allows payment through the magnetic strip used in older card readers, so doesn’t just rely on Near-Field Communication (NFC) like the iPhone and Apple Watch.

And now to an area that has traditionally held Samsung back: TouchWiz. TouchWiz is Samsung’s interface – a layer that goes over Android (5.0 Lollipop, in this case) to make Samsung phones look and feel unique. It’s not bad, but it’s never been as slick as Apple’s iOS operating system or HTC’s Sense layer.

Samsung has rebuilt TouchWiz from the ground up, attempting to make it a better all-around experience. Has it succeeded? It looks a lot better. Once again, Samsung has emulated Apple, so icons have become text buttons. Unfortunately, after about 15 minutes of use, we got a faint indication of the annoying momentary lag we’ve experienced with TouchWiz on previous Galaxy phones. It’s too early to reserve judgment now, though.

Has Samsung done enough with the Galaxy S6? That’s the big question. It may have gone too far in its attempt to emulate Apple, and could alienate the very fans that bought a Galaxy phone for the sheer amount of features they provide. The behemoth Samsung marketing machine will go into overdrive to ensure the S6’s success, and on first impressions there’s no reason it shouldn’t do well. This is a good-looking phone that packs top-notch specs.

Finally, Samsung also announced a Galaxy S6 Edge variant at Sunday’s event. The Edge packs the S6’s features into a phone with a screen that curves around the edges. It’s pretty, but the side screens aren’t as useful as they are on Samsung’s Galaxy Note Edge. It’s a little difficult to hold a phone with narrow sides, and the extra functionality the edges provide here – notifications when the phone screen is off and quick access to up to five contacts – feel like a solution waiting for a problem. Add a few hundred dollars to the cost and there’s no reason to opt for the Edge over the S6, unless you really want to be different.

 Galaxy S6 Edge
SamsungSamsung Galaxy S6 Edge

Both devices will be released in the U.S. and 25 other areas on April 10. Pricing has not yet been confirmed, although rumors suggest the S6 Edge will cost significantly more than the S6.

For Trusted Reviews’ full hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S6, visit Trusted Reviews.

Read next: How to Slash Your Cell Phone Bill in 7 Minutes or Less

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TIME Smartphones

The HTC One M9 Could Be One of the Best All-Around Phones of the Year

But it isn't a radical upgrade from the HTC One M8

HTC announced its new flagship Android smartphone, the HTC One M9, at the annual Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain on Sunday.

You might think it’s boring — the HTC One M9 doesn’t do things radically differently to its predecessor. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. This could be one of the best all-around phones of 2015.

If you’re not aware of the One range, think of it as Android’s equivalent to the iPhone. Made of metal and sporting design aesthetics that Apple would be proud of, the HTC One M9 looks almost identical to its predecessor, the HTC One M8.

That previous HTC flagship phone had a few drawbacks, though. The most glaring was the rear Duo camera that felt like a bit of a gimmick. It just didn’t provide the level of performance HTC promised, especially when compared to Samsung, LG or Apple’s finest. That aside, it was a solid phone, with a great 5-inch screen, ergonomic design and outstanding battery life.

HTC has kept everything that was good about the One M8, improved the Boomsound speakers to provide a surround sound-like effect, and fixed the rear camera. It’s not a revolutionary handset, but the hour or so we had with it left us with a very good impression indeed.

What’s new

The HTC One M9’s rear camera now has a more traditional 20-megapixel sensor, which should provide much more detail than the previous 4-megapixel “Ultrapixel” camera, which sacrificed the sheer number of pixels in favor of making each pixel larger to capture better shots in low light. HTC hasn’t given up on that idea entirely — the Ultrapixel camera has shifted to the front of the phone, perfect for party selfies in dark bars and clubs.

The One Gallery app now pulls together all the photos you have from Facebook, old phones, Flickr and more into, unsurprisingly, one gallery on your phone.

The M9 packs a Snapdragon 810 processor, one of the fastest mobile processors we’ve ever tested. This is a high-performance phone. The experience was butter smooth when flicking through menus, and quick when opening apps. The model I had in my hands was a pre-production sample, though, so there’s plenty of testing to be done before we know exactly how well it performs. Suffice to say, just like the best phones on the market right now, it will be plenty fast for the majority of people.

Perhaps the biggest strength of the HTC One M9 is its operating system. Its foundation is the latest version of Android – 5.0 Lollipop – but it’s been heavily customized with what HTC calls Sense UI (user interface). More often than not, the UI skins that manufacturers place on phones are more hassle than they’re worth. Not so with Sense. It looks smart, it’s easily customizable and, crucially, provides a smooth and coherent experience.

The M9’s Sense 7 is HTC’s latest version of the software. It comes with Blinkfeed, a service that aggregates all your news and social media updates in one place. That’s been around for a while. What’s new is Themes, an app that customizes the look and feel of the M9 from the lock screen all the way to the fonts. Have a favorite picture? Themes can examine it, pick the colours, and design a phone UI to match – all in just a few seconds. It worked really well in our tests.

A feature that might prove more irritating than useful is Sense Home. This adapts your homescreen to an experience that’s tailored to your location. Want to use the HTC One M9 as an IR remote to control your home theater setup? The app will pop up as soon as you walk through your front door. We’ll have to wait and see to find out if this is more confusing than helpful. Thankfully, you’ll be able to permanently pin your most important apps where you want them so they won’t move around.

Early verdict

It’s easy to like the HTC One M9 right off the bat. It does what a good phone needs to do, and with aplomb. If you want to be critical, you might say that HTC has played it safe. But that’s no bad thing – “innovative” features are often of questionable value. Innovative or not, the One M9 could be the best all-around phone we’ve ever seen.

Will it be enough to tempt Apple fans away from their beloved iPhones or damage the prospects of the Samsung Galaxy S6, also about to be revealed at Mobile World Congress? We’ll need to test it further to figure that out.

The HTC One M9 will be available in the U.S. on all major carriers in early Spring. HTC will sell an unlocked version directly through its website.

For Trusted Reviews’ full hands-on with the HTC One M9, visit Trusted Reviews.

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