TIME Smartphones

One of the Best, Cheapest Phones Is Now Available to Everyone

OnePlus One
OnePlus OnePlus One

You can now buy a OnePlus One without an invite

OnePlus, a Shenzhen-based smartphone maker, has released its “flagship-killer” smartphone to the general public at a lethally competitive price of $300 without a contract.

The OnePlus One smartphone garnered rave reviews since it was released by invitation only to a select number of users last year. Critics marveled that a smartphone could match its highest-end rivals spec-for-spec, from the 1080p display to the clean design, yet retail at less than half their price.

OnePlus announced on its blog that the phone would go on sale to anyone, no invitation necessary, starting Thursday.

The Chinese smartphone maker, which has swelled to more than 700 employees, also announced the upcoming release of its next generation smartphone, OnePlus 2, which will be available, once more, by invitation only at launch.

TIME Smartphones

You Can Now Find Your Lost Phone by Googling It

Inside A Samsung Electronics Co. Digital Store Ahead Of Fourth-Quarter Results
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A visitor tries out a Samsung Electronics Co. Galaxy Note 4 smartphone at the company's d'light flagship store in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.

It only works for Android users

Next time you lose your phone, a simple Google search may be able to find it.

Google announced Wednesday a new phone-finding feature for Android users tied to its search engine. Simply type “find my phone” into the Google search bar, and the results will show a map with the last known location of your phone. You can also choose to ring the phone from this page to make it easier to find — say, if it’s lost under the couch.

The feature works on the desktop and with the Google search app. Just make sure you’re signed into the same Google account on your phone and on your desktop to enable the option.

Read next: Google Has a New Handwriting Keyboard and It Actually Works

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Smartphones

Your Voice Could Replace Annoying Cell Phone Passwords

Day Two Of Mobile World Congress 2015
Simon Dawson—Bloomberg / Getty Images An employee holds a Motorola Solutions Inc. Moto E android smartphone in the Lenovo Group Ltd. pavilion at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Tuesday, March 3, 2015.

Google has reportedly enabled a "trusted voice" feature for a limited number of Android users

Google has reportedly begun to roll out a a new voice identification feature that unlocks Android smartphones with a spoken command rather than a PIN number.

Several smartphone owners told the website Android Police that they first spotted the “Trusted Voice” feature in the settings menu after they updated their phones to Android’s latest version. Switching it on enables the phone to detect the unique register of the owner’s voice. Saying, “OK Google,” automatically unlocks the phone. It also comes with a warning that the feature is currently “less secure” than a written password or PIN number, according to Android Police.

Google has yet to make a formal announcement on the updated feature, suggesting that the new technology may be subject to a quiet, gradual rollout.

 

TIME How-To

How to Save Stories To Read Later On Your Phone

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Oli Kellett—Getty Images Woman using phone and drinking coffee

Pocket and Instapaper help you avoid missing the articles you want to read

Sometimes, it feels like our phones buzz with notifications from our favorite news apps at the most inconvenient moments — it’s hard to open a notification about Iranian nuclear developments when we’re headed into a meeting or chasing down the bus.

Luckily, there are a few great apps that will help you save important stories for reading later in the day when you’ve got some downtime, even if you don’t have a data signal (say, on the subway).

One of the most well-known of these story-saving apps is the easy-to-use Instapaper. After creating an account and downloading the mobile app (iPhone and iPad here, Android here) and optional browser extensions, you can save stories to your Instapaper queue from your desktop browser or mobile device. Later, you can recall those saved stories in Instapaper’s app for easy reading. Some websites and apps also offer a button that lets you instantly save stories to Instapaper directly.

Another popular option is Pocket, which works mostly the same way as Instapaper — people tend to prefer whichever app they were introduced to first. However, Pocket gives you some different options for saving stories, like the ability to add articles to your queue by emailing them to a designated Pocket address. Like Instapaper, you can also save from a number of third party apps through the share function. Get the iPhone version here, Android here.

TIME Smartphones

There’s a Hidden Vulcan Salute Emoji in the New iPhone Update

Star Trek
CBS Photo Archive—CBS via Getty Images Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock in "Star Trek: The Original Series" episode 'Amok Time'. Spock shows the Vulcan salute, usually accompanied with the words, "Live long and prosper."

Here's how to add it to your iPhone

Apple’s new iPhone update out this week packs a bunch of new emoji — including support for a secret Vulcan salute emoji that you have to add manually.

Here’s how to do it:

First, download and install iOS 8.3.

Next, open this Cult of Mac tweet in your iPhone’s web browser:

Then, select just the Vulcan salute emoji and hit “copy.” Next, go back to your iPhone’s home screen and pop open “Settings.” Navigate to General -> Keyboard -> Shortcuts, then tap the “+” icon. In the “Phrase” field, paste the Vulcan salute you copied from the tweet above. Then type out a shortcut that will generate the emoji in texts and other posts, like “vulcan.”

With that done, every time you type “vulcan” (or your phrase of choice), your iPhone will replace the text with the hidden Vulcan salute emoji. Pretty cool!

Read next: Samsung’s New Galaxy S6 Went On Sale Today

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TIME Smartphones

Samsung’s New Galaxy S6 Went On Sale Today

AUSTRALIA-SKOREA-SAMSUNG-PHONE-S6
Peter Parks—AFP/Getty Images The new Samsung Galaxy S6 is seen on display in a Samsung store in Sydney on April 10, 2015.

The company is predicting record-breaking sales

Samsung launched its latest flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, in the U.S. on Friday, marking the South Korean device maker’s latest attempt to revive smartphone sales after a year of tumbling profits.

The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge were widely praised by reviewers as Samsung’s best looking smartphone to date, replacing the plastic chassis of the previous model with a smooth metal frame. Samsung also included eye-catching design flourishes, such as a touchscreen on the S6 Edge that gently curves around one side of the phone.

Samsung executives predict record-breaking sales for the latest Galaxy smartphones, which, at a starting cost of $600, will compete in the same price bracket as the iPhone 6.

TIME Smartphones

The 13 Best Free Smartphones You Can Buy

Motorola Mobility Portfolio Launch Event
Daniel Boczarski—2014 Getty Images Motorola announced the new Moto X and G, Moto Hint and Moto 360 by opening its headquarters for media to meet the engineers and designers committed to offering people more choice, control and accessibility in their personal technology.

$0 down can actually go a long way

Walk into any AT&T or Verizon store, and you’ll see a shelf full of $0 phones, complete with cheap knock-offs, devices that can’t connect to the Internet, and old handsets from 2012. Make no mistake: when it comes to free phones, you usually get what you pay for.

Here and there, however, you can find a great phone for $0 down. Some companies will offer discounts on devices in a less popular size, while others will drop prices significantly a year after release. Even some of the best flagship models from top brands—like Apple, Samsung, HTC and LG—will eventually drop their prices to $0, as long as you know where and when to look.

With this in mind, we set out to find the best free phones on the market today. Each of the devices on this list will cost you $0 from at least one carrier, as long as you’re starting a new contract.

How did we pick and rank the list? We started with a list of phones that can be purchased for $0 with a new contract. We then looked at specs, features and expert reviews to calculate a Smart Rating for each device. Finally, we ranked our list by the overall ratings, using release date to break ties (the newer the device, the better).

We’ll start with number 13 and work our way to the best free phone of all.

LG Enact

Smart Rating: 79/100
Release: August 2013

For customers who miss physical keyboards, the LG Enact hides a full QWERTY set-up right underneath its full 4-inch display. It’s the sort of design you’d have to pay half a grand for in 2007. Today? You can snap one up for $0 with a contract.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

Smart Rating: 84/100
Release: May 2013

Samsung fans hoping to save should give a hard look at the $0 Galaxy S4 Mini, a phone with signature Samsung quality, but costing hundreds of dollars less than the newest models.

Motorola Moto G

Smart Rating: 84/100
Release: November 2013

Praised for its pure Android experience (no needless frills or odd augmentations), the 2013 Moto G remains a smart, sensible buy for people who live on Google services like Gmail, YouTube and Maps.

BlackBerry Z10

Smart Rating: 88/100
Release: January 2013

The Z10 was BlackBerry’s best attempt to produce a modern-style smartphone—complete with the familiar grid of app icons and no physical keyboard. To this day, it’s still a great option for BlackBerry fans who like the way iOS looks but don’t care for Apple’s ecosystem. And best yet, it doesn’t cost a penny.

Motorola DROID Mini

Smart Rating: 89/100
Release: August 2013

Generally speaking, bigger phones tend to have larger—and thus longer lasting—batteries. Take the iPhone 6 versus the 6 Plus: the 5.5-inch Plus boasts over 70% more battery than its smaller cousin. The $0 DROID Mini defies this trend—a 4.3-inch phone with a whopping 28 hours of battery. It’s a rare combination at an unbeatable price.

LG Lucid 3

Smart Rating: 89/100
Release: April 2014

The LG Lucid 3 was made specifically for the tasteful budget phone shopper—someone who wants smooth operation and clean hardware design for next to no cost. The device is also a nice, compact alternative to LG’s parade of big-screen, 5.2- to 6-inch phones.

Motorola DROID MAXX

Smart Rating: 90/100
Release: August 2013

The Motorola DROID MAXX still offers one of the best batteries on the market, capable of going two full days on a single charge. Sure, the performance doesn’t match the latest flagship phones, but if you simply need something reliable, cheap and long-lasting, this is your handset.

iPhone 5C

Smart Rating: 90/100
Release: September 2013

Apple’s pricing structure is steady and predictable: the newest models start at $200, the year-old model at $100, the two-year-old model at $0. This time around, however, the free model (the iPhone 5C) is noticeably different than its more expensive cousins. The newer models feature bigger screens and metal bodies; the 5C sports a plastic shell and compact screen. For some customers, the 5C will be exactly what they want anyway—and they won’t be able to beat the $0 price tag.

LG G Flex

Smart Rating: 90
Release: January 2014

The LG G Flex has a novel, curved display—the sort of unique hardware design you’d normally have to pay extra to enjoy. By now, however, enough time has passed—and a new model has surfaced—to make the original G Flex free with a 2-year contract. The curved display isn’t for everyone, but if you’re intrigued, you can try it for free.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha

Smart Rating: 90/100
Release: September 2014

Samsung’s small-screen Galaxy Alpha has a premium feel and solid performance. It’s the ideal phone for Samsung fans who never joined the big-screen revolution. With the impending Galaxy S6 launch, Samsung has slashed the price on the Alpha, making this an excellent time to buy.

Amazon Fire Phone

Smart Rating: 93/100
Release: July 2014

Yes, the Amazon Fire Phone flopped hard. Sure, the 3D effects were nothing more than a gimmick, and the internals weren’t anything special. A year later, however, the Amazon Fire Phone might actually be underrated. For the Prime subscriber and Amazon shopping addict, there’s still no better phone for optimizing your retail experience. And you can get the whole experience for $0 on day one—a happy consequence of all the bad press.

LG G2

Smart Rating: 94/100
Release: September 2013

You might worry that the LG G2 is a little too old to warrant a purchase, as it was first released in fall 2013. Consider, however, that the LG G2’s performance was at least six months ahead of its time, and that the phone served as the prequel to our Editors’ Choice for Best Smartphone of 2014 (the LG G3). A $0 price tag? On that device? Crazy.

And it’s the best Android phone on this list.

HTC One (M8) for Windows

Smart Rating: 95/100
Release: August 2014

Normally, you have to sacrifice quality to get a free phone, but the HTC One M8 for Windows is both free and one of the best handsets on the market. Why? It all stems from popularity. Most people are on either iOS or Android, so HTC sells the Windows version at a discount. What’s more, HTC still isn’t as popular as Apple or Samsung, so the company is willing to cut costs to compete. Add it up, and the HTC One M8 is the best free phone you can get. If you haven’t tried Windows on a phone before, this is the perfect place to start.

TIME Smartphones

Google’s Plan to Help You Make Super-Cheap Overseas Cell Calls

Opening Day Of Mobile World Congress 2015
Simon Dawson—Bloomberg / Getty Images A Google Inc. and app logos sit on the screen of a OnePlus One smartphone in this arranged photograph at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, March 2, 2015.

The talks come as Google prepares to launch a wireless network that could shake up carrier fees

Google is reportedly discussing a potential partnership with an international wireless carrier that could move the search giant one step closer toward launching its own mobile network and stripping out fees for overseas calls.

Sources familiar with the talks confirmed to the Telegraph that Google has been discussing a partnership with Hutchison Whampoa, which runs cellular networks in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Italy, among other overseas destinations.

Google has been working toward a launch of its own wireless network service that would work by leasing out cell phone towers from existing carriers and experimenting with new pricing models, including a flat rate for calls and data usage from anywhere within its network.

[Telegraph]

TIME Smartphones

How You Can Block Calls and Texts on Your Smartphone

smartphone-front-view
Getty Images

Applicable for Androids and iPhones

No one enjoys cell phone spam, especially aggressive telemarketing calls and texts while you’re on the go. Though you can list your cell phone number on the Do Not Call Registry, that doesn’t stop telemarketing text messages or even all phone calls in our experience.

If you’re tired of these nuisances, you have options. You can use the following apps and features built into your phone to help cut down on spam.

For Android smartphones

If your phone is updated to Android 4.4 KitKat or later (check Settings > About Phone to check which Android version your device is running) there are some built-in features that identify incoming calls. Caller ID by Google will match incoming calls with Google Places listing and display that name on the call screen for you. Unfortunately, this is highly dependent on the company being listed in Google’s business directory.

If you’re getting nuisance calls from the same number, you can block it from the call log. Select the number you want to block and when you see the details for the caller, hit the menu button. There you’ll find the option to “Add to reject list.” You can manage your call reject list, including adding contacts or numbers, under settings >> call >> call reject >> auto reject list.

For earlier versions of Android, your options vary somewhat by manufacturer. When you get a spam call, open the call log and press and hold the number you want to block. While you’re holding, a menu will pop up letting you add that number to your contacts or block it. Samsung calls it “add to reject list,” HTC calls it “block contact”—you get the idea. On LG models, you can go into system >> call >> call reject >> and then use the + to add numbers from your recent calls.

If you have Android 4.2.2 you can also opt to send all calls from a specific contact directly to voicemail. Once you get a call, make a contact out of that incoming number. Then view that contact (the People widget) and tap on the menu to see the option “All calls to voicemail.”

If your version of Android doesn’t have what you need, check out one of these apps that specialize in dealing with annoying calls in different ways.

Best for blocking spam: Mr. Number

Mr. Number lets you block calls and texts from specific numbers or specific area codes, and it can automatically block private or unknown numbers. It also lets users report spam, so when you get a call from an unknown number, you can see what others have reported about it.

When a blocked number tries to call, your phone may ring once, though usually not at all, and then the call is either disconnected or sent to voicemail, based on how you want the call handled.

Price: Free at Google Play (reverse lookups for a fee)

Best for Identifying Calls: Truecaller

While Mr. Number focuses on blocking calls and texts, Truecaller focuses on identifying who’s trying to get in touch.

Truecaller provides caller ID information and reverse lookup data for incoming calls and texts — and all this info means that Truecaller knows who spammers are and lets you block them before they start bothering you.

The app makers maintain a database of spam callers and telemarketers and will automatically flag incoming calls as such. This database comes from both white and yellow pages services as well as crowdsourced from the Truecaller community. And, it’s proven effective in screening out the One Ring Phone Scam calls.

Truecaller will ask to add your list of contacts to its database, but this is purely optional. You will have to verify your number with Truecaller before being able to use the service.

Price: Free at Google Play

For iPhones

iOS 8 has built-in options for blocking numbers.

Go to the Contacts app and tap on the contact you want to block or find the number on the Recent Calls tab (clock icon) on your Phone app and tap the circled “i” icon to the right of the number. Both these methods will take you to the contact page for that caller. Scroll to the bottom and click on the Block This Caller.

But what about identifying incoming calls or texts as spam?

For that you can rely on Truecaller listed above in the Android section. It also has an iPhone version that will identify incoming calls against their extensive list of telemarketers and spammers.

Price: Free on iTunes

Other blocking options

If you don’t find any built-in features or apps to your liking, your carrier might offer blocking options (although they could come at a cost).

  • AT&T users should look for Smart Limits, a parental control feature that lets you block calls and texts for $4.99 per month.
  • Sprint users can set up call blocking from My Sprint.
  • Verizon users can block five numbers for free or pay $4.99 a month for more blocking options.
  • T-Mobile offers the fewest features here, though you can block all text messages or contact support about potentially blocking specific numbers.

Finally, try filtering by using a Google Voice number as your primary means of contact. Google Voice offers great spam filtering options with a database of known spam numbers, and it can automatically block potential spam. You can port an existing number to Google Voice for a $20 fee to enjoy first-class call filtering options no matter what kind of phone you’re using. This method works for both iPhones and Android smartphones.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME apps

Livestreaming Apps Will Totally Crush Your Data Plan

Meerkat; Periscope
Meerkat; Periscope Meerkat; Periscope

Will mobile operators strangle services like Meerkat and Periscope?

Looking back, I probably used to sound a bit like Charlton Heston. But the only reason I can admit that today is because I’ve mellowed over the years. “From my cold, dead hands!” I used to say — only I wasn’t talking about a gun. I was talking about my unlimited mobile data plan.

As an early iPhone adopter, I got grandfathered into one of the sweetest deals going: an endless buffet of mobile data. Whether I needed it or not, the megabytes were there for the taking, letting me download more or less anything I needed.

The problem was, I needed less — and eventually that’s what I settled for. AT&T rang every enjoyable drop of data out of this deal, blocking apps like FaceTime from their service, putting caps on app size downloads, and even throttling users. For me, the last straw came when I realized that my data usage wasn’t even close to justifying my bottomless cup of bytes. I was really only paying for the potential, should I need it later. So I kissed goodbye the infinite Internet connection, and threw in on a family sharing plan with my wife. We thumb wrestle over 10 gigabytes per month, which is not necessarily digital austerity, but it is life on a data budget.

Now, with live-streaming apps like Meerkat and Periscope and cord-cutting services like Netflix gobbling up bandwidth, I’m kicking myself. This shouldn’t come as a surprise — the fact that file sizes and download opportunities only grow as time’s slider bar inches forward isn’t exactly Moore’s Law, but it’s just as certain. Last year alone, according to Cisco, the world’s mobile data usage swelled 69%. These handheld devices alone accounted for 30 times more traffic than the entire Internet used in 2000. And video, not surprisingly, is the biggest culprit, accounting for 55% of mobile data traffic last year.

All this went down after my unlimited data plan went away. Sure, you could call that bad timing on my behalf, but I was not alone. And if there was already lot of friction between mobile operators and consumers, there’s even more now that cloud-centric apps are steaming things up.

It’s early yet to talk about how Meerkat and Periscope will impact the mobile data landscape, but Ustream has been in the live-streaming game for more than five years already. Much more than just a video-sharing app (though they also do that), Ustream also helps media companies, businesses, conferences, and various other entities get their videos online. To date, they’ve done more than 75 million broadcasts, including feeds for the Federal Reserve, NASA, and even Occupy Wall Street videographer Tim Pool.

Live-stream users should expect their data bill to reflect how they use these apps, says Ustream CEO Brad Hunstable. “If you broadcast for one minute, once to twice a week it’s not a big deal, “ he says. “But if you broadcast for an hour once or twice a day, you could have some sticker shock.”

For instance, on Ustream, users can broadcast using high definition 720p at bitrates up to 2.5 megabits per second (Mbps) on Android, or at 360p for 1.5 Mbps. When it comes to watching videos, you can view at a resolution up to 720p on either platform, but the Ustream dynamically adjusts the video feed for the network or device.

“We’re optimizing for quality in the background,” says Hunstable. “If someone is on a poor connection, we’re actually going to send them a lower quality file to make sure that it gets delivered and works, and is not choppy.” In comparison, Meerkat and Periscope only play in standard definition.

Of course, live-streaming apps are a niche use case for data consumption. But they’re a fast growing one, with the ability to wipe out a monthly allotment in no time at all. And instead of limitless data plans, AT&T now provides a tool for determining your monthly data usage (though live-streamers may prefer Verizon’s calculator, because it includes a video-calling option that’s comparable to live-streaming). That’s a nice gesture, I suppose, but I’d prefer to hit the undo button and get my grandfathered plan back instead.

Read more: Periscope vs. Meerkat: Which Is the Livestreaming App For You?

Interestingly, notes Hunstable, mobile operators like AT&T and Verizon began capping their data just as the love for video apps has grown. “It’s only happened because the quality of the networks have improved over the past few years,” he says. Giving credit where it’s due, this is true. I have had no complaints on my service in the past two-plus years, whereas before my handset sounded like a ham radio, and downloaded apps like it was plugged into a dial-up modem.

But I refuse to give up hope that unlimited data is forever dead on AT&T or Verizon. After all, it has thrived on T-Mobile and Sprint, as these competitors using the opportunity to differentiate themselves in an attempt to steal customers away from other carriers. Whether that strategy is working is another story altogether, but it’s starting to make me think about switching, at least. And I’ve been with Ma Bell since the start of the century.

“My personal opinion is that we’re in a temporary place where they charge a lot for this data consumption,” says Hunstable, who is looking forward to technologies like 5G networks to make prices more reasonable and bandwidth bigger. And you can bet our appetites will keep pace.

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