The Pixel 3’s camera receives a DxOMark score of 101

From specs, pricing, features, and more, here’s the latest on the Pixel 3 and 3 XL.

Following months of leak after leak, Google’s officially taken the wraps off its Pixel 3 and 3 XL smartphones. The two handsets look exactly like what we saw in all the early photos and renders, and while the element of surprise may be gone, we’ve still got two impressive Android handsets to talk about.

Without further ado, this is everything you need to know about the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL!

The latest Pixel 3 news

December 21, 2018 — The Pixel 3’s camera receives a DxOMark score of 101

Whenever a new phone comes out, the folks at DxOMark get their hands on one, puts its camera through a series of rigorous tests, and then provide a highly-detailed explaination on everything said camera gets right and where it could improve.

The Google Pixel 3 recently went through this treatment, receiving a final score of 101 that ties it with the Apple iPhone XR as the best single-lens camera you can get on a smartphone.

Here’s what DxO had to say about the Pixel 3:

The camera is a great all-around performer in a variety of conditions, and has one of our highest-ever Video scores of 98. Autofocus is extremely fast, and detail preservation is also very good in most conditions. Its flash is also an excellent all-around performer. Target exposures were generally accurate, with good dynamic range, although sometimes images were a bit underexposed. There is some luminance noise and color shading in low light, but in good light, the only artifacts were occasional ghosting and slight color fringing.

If you want to dive into the full breakdown yourself, you can check it out here.

December 20, 2018 — Google explains how Top Shot works on the Pixel 3

The Pixel 3’s greatest strength is, undeniably, its camera. Google’s outfitted it with a heap of intelligent software features to help you get the best possible photos every time you press the shutter button, and one of the most impressive is the feature called “Top Shot.”

Top Shot works before and after you press the shutter button when taking a picture to help you capture the perfect moment every time. If someone blinked in a picture you took of them, Top Shot will analyze the scene and suggest a new instance of them where they weren’t blinking that you missed. It’s pretty magical stuff, and in a post shared on the Google AI Blog, Google explained exactly how this all works.

According to Google, Top Shot was created using what it learned while developing Google Lens and captures up to 90 different images before and after you press the Pixel 3’s shutter button. From there, those images go through a series of tests and the two with the highest scores are recommended as alternative shots and given the HDR+ treatment.

When a user opens the Pixel 3 Camera app, Top Shot is enabled by default, helping to capture the perfect moment by analyzing images taken both before and after the shutter press. Each image is analyzed for some qualitative features (e.g., whether the subject is smiling or not) in real-time and entirely on-device to preserve privacy and minimize latency. Each image is also associated with additional signals, such as optical flow of the image, exposure time, and gyro sensor data to form the input features used to score the frame quality.

Top Shot primarily looks for a face that’s in focus when determining which alternatives to recommend, but in situations where a face isn’t the main subject, it then rates the other images based on auto focus, auto exposure, auto white balance, motion blur, and motion salience.

Google also notes that:

Importantly, we tested the Top Shot system for fairness to make sure that our product can offer a consistent experience to a very wide range of users. We evaluated the accuracy of each signal used in Top Shot on several different subgroups of people (based on gender, age, ethnicity, etc), testing for accuracy of each signal across those subgroups.

We were pretty blown away when Google first announced Top Shot alongside the Pixel 3 back in October, so it’s cool to get a deeper dive into just how it works.

Read Google AI’s full blog post here

December 3, 2018 — Google is expanding eSim support for Pixel 3 and rolling out new Call Screen transcripts feature

For those sick of dealing with those tiny carrier SIM cards, Google is expanded the Pixel 3’s eSIM support to work with more carriers. In the same blog post, Google also announced that it’s working on a program to allow other Android device makers the option to create their own eSIM-compatible smartphones in the future. From the Google blog:

If you’re in the U.S. and would like to purchase a phone that has eSIM, head over to Google Fi or the Google Store. If you’re in Germany, look out for the ability to purchase Pixel 3 with eSIM functionality from Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone soon. Sprint in the U.S., EE in the UK, Airtel and Reliance Jio in India, and Truphone and Gigsky in various countries will also roll out eSIM support for Pixel 3 in the coming months.

The other bit of Pixel 3 news announced today involves the Call Screen feature which was unveiled alongside the Pixel 3. It appears that Google is slowly rolling out the transcription feature that lets you go back and read the transcript of any screened calls, but not everyone is seeing it just yet. It appears to be rolling out to some users enrolled in the beta program for the moment, with a wider rollout expected in the new year.

November 20, 2018 — New Pixel 3 bug renders the camera useless, Google working on a fix

The Pixel 3 and 3 XL have been no stranger to various bugs/glitches since their release, but a new one that’s popped up over the last few days has proven to be particularly nasty.

According to complaints spanning across Reddit and the official Google Product Forums, some users are reporting that the camera on the Pixel 3 can crash and, in a lot of cases, can’t be permanently fixed.

What in the world causes this? Right now, it looks like any of the following three things:

  • Using a third-party camera app
  • When another app tries to access the camera
  • Doing nothing by using the official Google Camera app

A device reboot can apparently get things working again, but only temporarily. Even worse, it’s said that this problem keeps popping up even after a factory wipe and when using the Pixel 3 in Safe Mode. In other words, your only option is to get a replacement. Yikes.

Thankfully, Google has since reached out to 9to5Google and confirmed that a fix is on the way. Unfortunately, it won’t be here until “the coming weeks.”

November 15, 2018 — Google confirms it’s fixing the Pixel 3 XL’s buzzing speaker issue

There has been a myriad of issues plaguing the Pixel 3 since its release, but according to Google, one of them is in the process of being fixed.

Some Pixel 3 XL owners have reported poor speaker quality and an unwanted buzzing sound that often occurs. One Google support agent told a user on Twitter that “a software update in the coming weeks” will fix this, and following this, a representative for the company confirmed to Android Police that the agent was, in fact, correct. Hooray!

November 8, 2018 — Take a look at this Pixel 3 that was delivered completely destroyed

Google’s Pixel phones have had quality control issues ever since the original Pixel from 2016. From Bluetooth connectivity issues to phones shipping in an endless bootloop, the Pixel line has seen its fair share of problems.

The Pixel 3 has followed in its siblings’ footsteps, and one Redditor has now been graced with a Pixel 3 that was shipped with a completely smashed up screen.

To be fair, there’s no way of telling whether this is the fault of Google or FedEx that shipped the phone, but either way, that’s not something you want to see after throwing down a minimum of $700 on a new phone.

The poor soul that received the above phone says that Google is currently handling the situation like a regular RMA, so they should hopefully have a new, non-destroyed phone soon.

November 5, 2018 — The Pixel 3’s memory management issues will be fixed ‘in the coming weeks’

As much as we love the Pixel 3 + 3 XL, there’s no doubt that both phones have their fair share of issues — one of which being that neither phone uses is 4GB of available RAM particularly well. Apps tend to force close far too often on the Pixel 3, going to the point where music being streamed on Spotify will simply stop if you try to take a picture while it plays in the background.

Thankfully, Google’s finally addressed what’s going on.

According to a Google spokesperson that sent a statement to 9to5Google:

We’re rolling out a software update in the coming weeks to keep background apps from being prematurely closed in certain situations.

That fix will be available in a monthly security patch, so while we could see it as soon as December, we could also be looking at January or later before it’s patched.

October 29, 2018 — A fix is coming for the second notch bug on Pixel 3 XL

Earlier this month, reports started popping up on Twitter about a bug with the Pixel 3 XL that caused a second notch to appear on the right side of the display — creating for one of the most horrifying things we’ve ever seen a smartphone. Seriously, just look at that thing. 🤮

Thankfully, Google’s aware of the issue and working on a fix!

According to a spokesperson that contacted Android Police, a patch for this odd bug is “coming soon.”

Have you noticed this behavior on your Pixel 3 XL?

October 23, 2018 — Google explains Pixel 3 wireless charging confusion

After it was discovered that the Pixel 3 requires a Pixel Stand to charge at its allotted 10W fast charging speeds, and that other chargers — even those that technically support the Qi standard at 10W — only charge the phone at 5W, Google released a statement:

We don’t limit third-party devices, in fact, we’re working with our partners in the Made for Google program to get fast 10W chargers certified for use with Pixel 3 (Belkin announced its 10W Pixel 3 charger already which will launch in the coming weeks). Pixel Stand and Pixel 3 work together through the protocol we’ve developed for fast charging. Everything else charges at the industry standard Qi 5W.”

In other words, Google made a proprietary wireless charging standard that isn’t Qi, and uses it with the Pixel Stand and other wireless chargers that are part of the “Made for Google” program. The Pixel 3 does support Qi wireless charging, but only at 5W. Disappointing? Yup. Confusing? Yup, yup. Totally Google? Yup, yup, yup.

October 23, 2018 — Early Pixel 3 Night Sight photos are beyond impressive

The Google Pixel 3’s camera is one of the best you’ll find on a smartphone, but one of its most impressive features — Night Sight — won’t actually arrive until sometime in November.

However, a user on the XDA Developer forums modified the latest version of the Google Camera app and has enabled the feature ahead of its official release. XDA then put Night Sight to the test on the Pixel 3, 3 XL, and 2 XL, and the end results are simply amazing.

As you can see in the example above, the first photo without Night Sight turned on is barely visible at all. The second shot with Night Sight enabled looks like a completely different photograph. The amount of detail and light Google’s able to pull in with this new mode is literally jaw-dropping, and it’ll be even more exciting to see how it evolves and improves over time.

If you want to try out Night Sight early for yourself, download this APK to your Pixel phone. After you open it, tap More -> Night, and you should be good to go.

October 18, 2018 — The regular Pixel 3 uses an LG OLED display

Earlier this week, a teardown of the Pixel 3 XL revealed that it’s using an OLED display made by Samsung. The folks at iFixIt recently put the smaller Pixel 3 through that same treatment, and while doing so, discovered that its OLED panel is sourced from not Samsung, but LG.

If you remember the Pixel 2 series, this is a total flip-flop of what was going on last year in which the Pixel 2 had a Samsung panel and the Pixel 2 XL had an LG one.

In that situation, the Pixel 2 XL’s screen was noticeably worse with greater burn-in potential, color shifting, and more. That’s not the case for the LG panel on this year’s Pixel 3, and in fact, both displays have been tuned to look nearly identical to one another. Even so, it is interesting to see that Google’s still not relying on just one supplier when it comes to its smartphone displays.

October 17, 2018 — Google explains how the Pixel 3’s Titan M security chip works

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have a lot of tech packed inside them, and while it’s easy to get excited about their new OLED displays and improved cameras, one of the most important features is the new Titan M security chip.

Titan M is an all-new chip that’s designed with the single goal of keep the Pixel 3 secure, and in a post on the Android Developers Blog, Google recently dived into further detail about just how Titan M works.

The chip is a security module that was made by Google itself, and it works to protect the Pixel 3 + 3 XL against all sorts of potential threats. Since Titan M is a physical piece of tech, it’ll help protect against hardware-specific exploits such as Spectre, Meltdown, and Rowhammer much more efficiently than phones without it. On the technical side of things, Google explains the following:

Titan M’s CPU is an ARM Cortex-M3 microprocessor specially hardened against side-channel attacks and augmented with defensive features to detect and respond to abnormal conditions. The Titan M CPU core also exposes several control registers, which can be used to taper access to chip configuration settings and peripherals. Once powered on, Titan M verifies the signature of its flash-based firmware using a public key built into the chip’s silicon. If the signature is valid, the flash is locked so it can’t be modified, and then the firmware begins executing.

With the chip, Google notes that it hopes to achieve “transparency and building a platform for future innovation.”

Custom hardware allows us to provide new features, capabilities, and performance not readily available in off-the-shelf components. These changes allow higher assurance use cases like two-factor authentication, medical device control, P2P payments, and others that we will help develop down the road.

October 16, 2018 — The Pixel 3 XL uses a Samsung OLED display

While last year’s Pixel 2 XL had one of the worst displays for a phone in its price range, that’s an issue that’s been completely squashed with the Pixel 3 XL.

The screen on this year’s larger Pixel is brighter, colorful, and has less blue shift + burn-in potential compared to the 2 XL. The reason for this? A Samsung OLED panel.

Google opted for an LG-made OLED display with the Pixel 2 XL, but thanks to a recent iFixIt teardown, we now have confirmation that the Pixel 3 XL is using a Samsung one.

October 16, 2018 — Google explains how the Pixel 3’s Super Res Zoom feature works

The Pixel 3 comes chock-full of neat camera tricks, but perhaps one of the coolest is Super Res Zoom. This is the name of Google’s process for improving the clarity of digital zoom by collecting data from your hands shaking as you hold the phone in preparation to snap a photo.

Recently, the Google AI team took to their official blog to detail how exactly this works.

The Super Res Zoom technology in Pixel 3 is different and better than any previous digital zoom technique based on upscaling a crop of a single image, because we merge many frames directly onto a higher resolution picture. This results in greatly improved detail that is roughly competitive with the 2x optical zoom lenses on many other smartphones. Super Res Zoom means that if you pinch-zoom before pressing the shutter, you’ll get a lot more details in your picture than if you crop afterwards.

If Super Res Zoom detects that the camera isn’t shaking (e.g. the Pixel 3 is on a tripod or propped up on a table), it’ll actually start moving around on its own to simulate natural hand movement.

The post goes on to dive into of color filter arrays, multi-frame super-resolution, and a bunch of other nitty-gritty details. If that sounds like something you want to dig into, you can check it out here.

All the big details

Check out our full review

Here it is, folks — the full Android Central review of the Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL!

These are easily two of the best Android phones you can buy right now, and no matter if you opt for the regular or XL model, you’ll be getting a fantastic display, an excellent software experience, and some of the best cameras on a smartphone in 2018.

They may not look like much on the outside, but these are two really special phones.

Google Pixel 3 review: Fewer features make incredible phones

Here are the specs

If you’ve got a Pixel 2, a lot of the specs for the Pixel 3 and 3 XL will look very similar. There’s still 4GB of RAM and a starting storage amount of 64GB, but the Snapdragon 835 processor from last year has been replaced by the newer 845.

For a full rundown on both phones, check out the link below. 👇

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL specifications

The displays are a lot better

Shortly after its release, one of the biggest controversies that popped up for the larger Pixel 2 XL was its poor display. We have an LG-made OLED panel once again, but the year-over-year difference is huge.

Google’s touting 400+ nits of brightness for both phones, 2X less burn-in potential, and less color shifting.

There are still three different color profiles to choose from so you can fine-tune your experience, and out of the box, both the Pixel 3 and 3 XL have been optimized so that their displays look identical next to one another.

For an extremely detailed analysis of the Pixel 3 XL’s display, check out DisplayMate’s full in-depth review in which it received a top A+ rating.

The Google Pixel 3 addresses our biggest complaint with the Pixel 2: its display

There are three colors

Google’s probably the best when it comes to naming its device colors, and this year we have Just Black and Very White. New this year is a pink hue that’s been aptly named “Not Pink.”

All three colors are available for both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL no matter where you decide to buy them.

An all-glass back brings wireless charging support

For the past two years, Google’s used a mixture of aluminum and glass on the back of its phones. This year, the Pixel 3 shakes things up by adopting an all-glass construction.

There’s still an etched section near the top that adds a nice matte finish that allows for more grip and fewer fingerprints. Google’s also integrated Qi wireless charging support and selling a new Pixel Stand wireless charging accessory that’ll charge the Pixel 3 + 3 XL and put them into a new “dashboard” UI that shows a slideshow of pictures on Google Photos and various Assistant info.

The Pixel Stand is a $79 wireless charger for Pixel 3 that unlocks special display modes

Google’s made a ton of camera improvements

The Pixel 2 and 2 XL have some of the best cameras we’ve ever seen on a smartphone, and with the Pixel 3, Google’s making the camera experience even better.

Perhaps the biggest change includes the addition of a second front-facing camera. You now have access to a regular and wide-angle lens for all of your selfies and portrait mode works no matter which one you use. Google’s also integrated an algorithm to remove any distortion caused by the wider lens.

Other changes include:

  • 40% faster HDR+ processing
  • Improved detail retention while zooming
  • Night Sight mode improves low-light shots
  • Top Shot mode captures multiple frames before and after your picture and then recommends an alternative shot compared to what you actually captured

Along with all this, Google Lens is also built right into the Pixel 3’s camera app and works automatically when it detects something.

Android 9 Pie is available out of the box

As you’d expect, Android 9 Pie is running on the Pixel 3 and 3 XL from day one. This is the same Android Pie we’ve been using on the Pixel 2 phones, including the new navigation gestures, quick settings panel, etc.

The Pixel 3 does bring a handful of new software goodies, including the full release of Digital Wellbeing outside of its beta state and a slightly updated UI for the camera app.

There’s also a new call screening feature that’ll allow you to send your caller to a system that asks them to provide information about who they are and why they’re calling. What they say comes through in real-time and you can choose to hang up or pick up at any point.

Bugs happen — these are the latest ones

No matter what smartphone you buy, chances are you’re going to be faced with a bug or two (be it big or small) at some point down the road. Google’s Pixel line isn’t an exception to this rule, and right now, these are the latest bugs/issues you’ll want to keep an eye out for:

  • Double notch bug on the Pixel 3 XL — Some Pixel 3 XL owners discovered that a second notch was appearing on the right side of their display after messing with developer settings or restarting the phone. On October 29, Google said that the company’s working on a fix and that it’s “coming soon.”
  • Pictures aren’t always saved to Google Photos — After many users reported that some pictures they captured weren’t being saved at all to Google Photos, Google responded on October 22 saying that a software update will be available “in the coming weeks” to address this.
  • Speakers sound distorted/make a buzzing sound — Similar to the Pixel 2 XL last year, we’ve seen quite a few complaints about how the speakers on the Pixel 3 XL make a buzzing noise/sound distorted sound when listening to audio (even at lower volumes). Google’s yet to officially address this one, but if it’s really bothering you, you can always try to send your device in for a replacement and see if that fixes things.
  • The Pixel 3 series has terrible RAM management — As noted by Android Central’s own Daniel Bader, the folks at Android Police, and so many others, the Pixel 3 and 3 XL seriously struggle with RAM management. In other words, both phones fail to keep multiple apps open at once and often force shut them down if you have more than a few open and running at once. In some cases, this even means Spotify music that’s playing in the background will completely stop if you try taking pictures while it’s running. On November 5, a Google spokesperson said that a fix will be available for this “in the coming weeks.”

There are already a ton of accessories

The Pixel 3 and 3 XL are great phones, but you can make them even better with a good collection of accessories.

Whether you’re in the market for a heavy duty case, screen protectors, or something else entirely, here are a few helpful links to get you started with outfitting your new phone.

Here’s when and where you can buy it

If you want to pick up the Pixel 3 for yourself, it’s available for purchase right now. The regular Pixel 3 costs $799 for the 64GB model and goes up to $899 if you get the 128GB variant. For those same storage configurations on the Pixel 3 XL, you’ll pay $899 and $999, respectively.

The Pixel 3 series is being sold at Verizon, Best Buy, the Google Store, and Project Fi.

See at Google Store

Samsung could bring Google Assistant to TVs, lowering wall around Bixby

A new report from Variety suggests some interesting news: Samsung could bring Google Assistant to its 2019 televisions. This would be the first time Samsung has allowed a virtual assistant on its TV products that isn’t its own Bixby.

Although information is scarce at the moment, Variety suggests the two virtual assistants will live next to each other in harmony, similar to how Google Assistant and Alexa are both made available on LG televisions. If this is the case, customers could then choose whether to use Bixby or Google Assistant for all or some of the necessary tasks.

Editor’s Pick

Samsung’s flagship smartphones — such as the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9 — come with Bixby heavily integrated, including a physical Bixby button. Users can install Google Assistant on these phones, but Samsung makes it very clear that it wants you to use Bixby instead.

If Samsung does allow Google Assistant onto its 2019 televisions, it will represent a sizable shift in its attitude towards Bixby, which as of now has been pretty much “all or nothing.” The company has already committed to putting Bixby on literally every product it makes by 2020, but if it also brings Assistant to its TVs, that means it could integrate Assistant into other products as well.

Although there are advantages to using Bixby over Google Assistant — such as better command functionality when asking your smartphone to perform a task — in almost all cases Google Assistant is superior. Assistant’s superiority is especially clear when you discuss smart home integration, considering there still is no Bixby-powered smart speaker available and no third-party integration available yet.

What do you think? Are you going to be more apt to buy a Samsung TV if it has Google Assistant? Let us know in the comments.

NEXT: If your phone has an OLED display, Samsung likely made its screen

15 best Android games released in 2018!

Here we go, folks. Mobile gaming always seems to take great strides year after year. Last year, we saw a huge push in niche genres like text games and indie puzzle games. This year, we saw a bunch of excellent games in the shooter, tower defense, rhythm, indie puzzle, and simulation genres. In fact, this might be the best year of mobile gaming that we’ve ever seen. There was just a bunch of new content from PUBG to Fortnite, Kingdom Rush Vengeance to Bloons TD 6, and even some excellent new RPGs. This is a long list, so let’s get right down to it. Here are the best Android games of 2018! We don’t have them ranked in any specific fashion. However, the last game on the list is our choice for the very best of the year.

Alto’s Odyssey

Price: Freemium
Alto’s Odyssey is a 2D, side-scrolling infinite runner and Noodlecake Studios’ biggest launch of 2018. The game features gorgeous, simple graphics, easy mechanics, and smooth game play. Players ski down hills and make massive jumps for points. They also collect coins for unlockable content in the game’s shop. You also get a Photo Mode because the visuals in this game make for perfect wallpapers as well as a zen mode where you just play to relax. It’s certainly not treading any new ground. However, it’s as solid of an infinite runner as you’ll find these days and it’s also kid friendly. Everybody wins!

Asphalt 9: Legends

Price: Freemium
Asphalt 9: Legends is arguably the most popular new racing game in 2018. It features above average visuals, solid racing mechanics, and a metric ton of events, missions, and challenges to complete. The game also includes an online multiplayer mode, online social elements like clubs, a campaign mode, and over 50 unlockable cars. This is a game you can play for a very long time before you get everything. It’s a freemium game and you deal with that a lot. However, Gameloft’s long-running racing series is popular for a reason. Those who are more into hardcore racing sims may need something a little extra, but this is great for casual racing game fans.

Bloons TD 6 and Kingdom Rush Vengeance

Price: $4.99 with in-app purchases (each)
Tower defense is alive an well on mobile with the releases of both Bloons TD 6 and Kingdom Rush Vengeance. Both games are continuations of the popular franchises and both bring new features, new game elements, and fresh ideas to the table. Bloons TD 6 is a slightly deeper game with 19 towers and a bunch of upgrades. Kingdom Rush Vengeance is the slightly more casual friendly game but it still gets pretty difficult. Both games support offline gaming and have optional in-app purchases for power-ups. We couldn’t choose between the two because they are both excellent tower defense games. Maybe you’ll have better luck. We have Bloons TD 6 linked at the download button above.

Cytus II

Price: $1.99 / Up to $9.99
Cytus II is the latest rhythm game from Rayark International, Rayark makes exceptional mobile rhythm games and this one is no exception. The game uses tap, swipe, and tap-and-hold mechanics and players use the entire screen with this game. It’s colorful, intense, and surprisingly smooth for how many on-screen elements there are. Players get a story mode with 30 songs in the $1.99 base game with more songs available as in-app purchases. There are over 300 total step charts between the songs and the various difficulties. We also recommend the first game in the series if you need something a little easier to start with.

Friday the 13th

Price: Free / Up to $9.99
You don’t see a lot of horror games on best of the year lists, but Blue Wizard Digital found a way with Friday the 13th. The game features both horror and puzzle elements, decent mobile controls, and tons of optional gore and violence. You get over 100 levels, a PG mode in case blood makes you squeamish, and plenty of unlockable customizations for the venerable Jason Voorhees. The game also comes with offline gaming support. It might only be truly fun during the Halloween season, but the mechanics are just that good in general. The somewhat retro style graphics also helps take a bit of the edge off of all of the gore.

HQ Trivia

Price: Free
HQ Trivia has the distinction of being the first Android game launched in 2018. We know that because it ran its very first live game seconds after midnight on New Years Eve. HQ Trivia is one of the most unique quiz games on mobile. It features live quizzes conducted like an actual game show. That includes a real, actual host. Games run every day at 9PM EST with additional games on week days at 3PM EST. Players even win actual money if they last long enough. The game is occasionally laggy, but shoving a few hundred thousand people into a single game show can do that. Those wanting something a little more typical can also try Trivia Crack 2, another new quiz game in 2018.

Monster Hunter Stories

Price: Free / $19.99
Monster Hunter Stories is an excellent new RPG. It has the same core experience of every Monster Hunter game. Players travel the world, collect monsters, train them, and fight with them. You get action, adventure, and RPG elements. It uses a turn-by-turn battle structure and you also get colorful graphics. Perhaps our favorite part is the demo version of the game. The demo version is actually its own self-contained game that acts as a prologue for the actual game. We think that is a genius idea. The demo version’s data ports to the main game upon purchase. It’s really expensive at $19.99 so we don’t blame you if you want to skip this one.

Part Time UFO

Price: $3.99
Part Time UFO is a puzzle game by HAL Industries, developers of the first Super Smash Bros and most of the Kirby series. The developer’s first mobile game is a rousing success. It features boss fights, puzzles, and a fun little adventure with plenty for players to do. The puzzles are delightful, if somewhat easy and the story is charming and inoffensive. You also get a fun soundtrack, some social sharing features, and more. The game rocks a 4.9 rating on Google Play. It may not be the most popular game ever, but virtually nobody who plays it dislikes it. That’s a rarity for mobile gaming.

Pocket City

Price: Free / $3.99
Pocket CIty is a city building simulator much like SimCity. You start with a plot of land. Players then build a functioning city. You must achieve balance between business and residence, expand in a smart way, and deal with things like natural disasters. Players unlock more buildings and land as they progress and they must manage things like population happiness and traffic. The game also comes with support for portrait and landscape modes as well as offline support. The free version contains ads. For $3.99, you get no ads and more features. It might be the best non-freemium city building sim on Google Play right now.

Reigns: Game of Thrones

Price: $3.99
Reigns: Game of Thrones is an interesting card game. Players get cards with various scenarios on them. You choose one of two options by swiping the card left or right. Some choices are simple like selling wood and others involve more serious matters. The result is your continued reign or ultimate downfall. This version of the game also includes Game of Thrones characters, story elements, and themes. It’s not a deep game with a deep story and that may disappoint some Game of Thrones fans. It is one of the better time killer games on mobile, though, and it goes for a single $3.99 purchase with no freemium elements. We appreciate that.

Returner 77

Price: $4.99
Returner 77 is an indie puzzle game with a sci-fi story line. The story involves an alien invasion with humanity on the brink of extinction. You work your way through an alien ship while solving puzzles and making progress. The game features beautiful graphics, enjoyable puzzles, and an interesting story. It’s one of the few indie puzzle games over the last few years with a narrative that drives the game forward. It rounds out the experience with live action video clips, voice overs, and a reasonable price tag. It’s easily one of the more under-rated games on 2018.

The Room: Old Sins

Price: $4.99
The Room: Old Sins is the latest game in one of mobile gaming’s most critically acclaimed puzzle franchises. This is an easy choice for best mobile games of 2018. It comes with outstanding graphics, a narrative to follow, and simple mechanics. Players make their way through a dollhouse full of puzzles to solve. The game also supports cloud saving and Google Play Games achievements. It maintains a lot of the elements of previous games, so many people already know what they’re in for with this one. Is it the best of the year? No, but it’s definitely up there and that’s why it’s here.

Shadowgun Legends

Price: Freemium
Shadowgun Legends is one of the top three shooters from 2018 without question. It’s a fairly standard mobile shooter. Players get a campaign to play through with sci-fi and action elements along with online PvP, an RPG-style progression system, and tons of loot to collect. Of course, you get good graphics and as good of a game play experience as a shooter can be on mobile. By and large, there isn’t much in this game that isn’t a positive experience, although we would appreciate some tweaking of the inventory space. We’re quite happy to see a new Shadowgun game and Madfinger Games delivered. This is a great shooter.

Square Enix (Life is Strange, Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition)

Price: Free / Varies
Square Enix always has a host of mobile game releases every year and many of them are candidates for this list. This year was no exception. Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition, Life is Strange, and the Valkyrie Profile Lenneth port are all outstanding new games for 2018. Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition avoided the port label by being designed from the ground up for a mobile experience. Life is Strange is one of Square Enix’s more thought provoking point-and-click adventure games in recent memory, and Valkyrie Profile Lennth is a decent RPG for fans of old PlayStation games. The games vary in price, but they are all quite excellent. Well done, Square Enix.

Game(s) of the year: PUBG Mobile and Fortnite

Price: Freemium (each)
PUBG Mobile and Fortnite orbited around the mobile gaming scene for pretty much all of 2018. Both games brought the battle royale shooter to the forefront in a way that no other game ever has on mobile. PUBG Mobile represents a more serious feel while Fortnite gives players a more animated experience. Both games have solid mechanics, but both still need some work. PUBG Mobile is easier to obtain in the Play Store with a Lite version for lower end devcies. Epic Games launched Fortnite on its own website instead of Google Play. However, Fortnite has account linking between it and the console and PC version. Both games have pros and cons, but you didn’t see anyone talk about a mobile game more than these two in 2018. Thankfully, they are both excellent games. If we had to choose one, though, it would be Fortnite. The account linking is such a cool feature.

Honorable mentions

The list for 2018 was so huge that we wanted to list a few honorable mentions so we didn’t leave any of the great games out. We did narrow down this list from a master list of over 120 games. Here are our honorable mentions for 2018:

If we missed any great Android games from 2018, tell us about them in the comments! You can also click here to check out our latest Android app and game lists!

Festive special: Arduino starter kit and projects for under $45

Arduino Uno Ultimate Starter Kit and Course Bundle

Gadgets are cool. If we build them ourselves they’re double cool. The hobbyists among you will be excited to hear that the Arduino Uno Ultimate Starter Kit and Course Bundle is on sale right now, and with our promo code it’s only $44.20.

Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. The circuit boards are able to read inputs like a light on a sensor, a finger on a button, or a Twitter message, and turn it into an output like activating a motor, turning on an LED, or publishing something online.

Perfect for beginners to electronics and coding.

The Arduino Uno Ultimate Starter Kit and Course Bundle is perfect for beginners to electronics and coding. It assumes no prior knowledge, but you’ll quickly be working on an array of projects.

All the hardware you need is included in the 194-piece starter kit. The four training courses included in the bundle provide you with over 16 hours of hands-on instruction. You better free up a weekend.

The full Arduino package:

There’s over $350 worth of kit in the bundle, but we’ve just come across a deal offering the lot for only $51.99. Better still, it’s part of the Tech Deals Christmas sale, so you can save a few bucks more with our promo code.

Use the code MERRY15 at the checkout, and you’ll pay just $44.20. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

The deal expires in less than three days. To find it just hit the button below.

The AAPicks team writes about things we think you’ll like, and we may see a share of revenue from any purchases made through affiliate links. To see all our hottest deals, head over to the AAPICKS HUB.

Looking for a new phone or plan? Start here with the Android Authority Plan Tool:

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What’s your favorite phone this year? Vote now and win!

What’s your phone of the year? Vote now and enter to win!

What a year it’s been for smartphones. We’ve seen companies bring their best to the smartphone game — and then some — as the race to 5G approaches. Ahead of the next technology revolution, 2018 has seen companies push the boundaries of what we can expect from a flagship smartphone.

Samsung brought its best Note ever in the Galaxy Note 9; OnePlus released two incredible smartphones in the 6 and 6T; and Huawei showed its camera prowess with two of the best camera smartphones ever made, the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro. LG made its most feature-rich smartphone ever in the V40; BlackBerry cemented its return to the smartphone space with the KEY2; and Xiaomi showed that great phones don’t have to be expensive. Then there’s Google, which, with the Pixel 3, continues to show that more cameras don’t necessarily make better photos.

There were many great smartphones launched this year, but some stood out much more than others. We’ve whittled down all the phones we’ve reviewed this year to a shortlist of just eight, and we want YOUR votes on which phone you think is the Best of 2018.

As part of our end of year awards, we’re launching the first Android Central Reader’s Choice Phone of the Year award and your vote counts. Here’s the eight you can pick from:

Now you’ve got the shortlist, it’s time to VOTE! In the widget below, cast your vote for your phone of the year and we’ll reveal the winner in a couple of weeks alongside the rest of our Best of 2018! Voting closes next Thursday (December 21st) at 23:59 Eastern time so get your vote in NOW!

We’re also giving away the winning product — one lucky winner will get the Reader’s Choice Phone of the Year! To enter the contest, vote for your winner below and fill in your details. There are also additional ways to gain entries, which you can find in the contest widget below! The contest closes at the same time as the voting, so you don’t have long to enter!

Win the phone voted Top Choice in the Android Central Reader’s Choice Awards!

Last Minute Holiday Accessory Gifts for Samsung Galaxy

If you’re picking up a last-minute holiday gift for a special Samsung Galaxy owner, you’re in luck. Samsung has a huge ecosystem of accessories, and the expansive feature set of the latest phones like the Galaxy S9 and Note 9 means it’s easy to find something they’ll love. From everyday things like power banks and wireless chargers to more expensive gifts like a new Galaxy Watch, you’re sure to find something to fit your budget.

Flagship smartwatch

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Released in late 2018, the Samsung Galaxy Watch is a great all-round smartwatch that’s available in 42 and 46mm sizes. It uses Samsung’s own Tizen OS, and the rotating bezel lets you quickly navigate through apps and menus. As well as full-blown wrist-based apps, the Galaxy Watch can show you important notifications, and track your progress towards your fitness goals in Samsung Health app. The larger 46mm option even offers cellular connectivity, so you can leave your phone at home when you work out.

$277 at Amazon

Lightweight wearable

Samsung Gear Sport

The Gear Sport, released in late 2017, is a great option if you’re after something smaller than the Galaxy Watch that still ticks all the boxes for a health-focused smartwatch. The smaller form factor means it’s less heavy on the wrist, while it runs the same Tizen software as Samsung’s more recent wearables, with the same great rotating bezel for scrolling through apps and notifications. It’s a little tougher to find the Gear Sport a year after its release, but Samsung’s own online store has it for $100 less than the Galaxy Watch.

$179 at Samsung

Workout earbuds

Samsung Gear IconX (2018)

Samsung’s second-generation fitness-focused earbuds improve significantly on their predecessors, with longer battery life and a more consistent software experience. As well as being pretty good everyday earbuds, the Gear IconX buds differentiate themselves through excellent workout features like heart rate monitoring and exercise coaching when linked to the Samsung Health app.

$129 at Amazon

Power Pad

Samsung Fast Qi Wireless Charger (2018)

Samsung flagships since the Galaxy S6 have supported wireless charging, and this latest model of Qi wireless chargers from Samsung will provide the fastest wireless charging possible on any modern Samsung phone. (Check your phone’s spec sheet to ensure it’s supported.) The charger works with the phone in landscape or portrait orientation, with charging rates of up to 9 watts.

$42 at Amazon

Twice the power

Samsung Wireless Charger Duo

This premium wireless charger can fast-charge two Qi-compatible phones at once, or juice up a Galaxy phone and Samsung smartwatch (Gear S3 or later) at the same time. Built-in ventilation fans ensure everything’s kept nice and cool even when charging quickly. This is a great choice for households with multiple Galaxy gadgets.

$67 at Amazon

Twice the power

Samsung LED View Cases

These LED cases have been around for more than four years, and are a great way to protect your Samsung phone while showing extra information on the LED-equipped cover. Check them out for the Note 9, S9+, S9, Note 8, S8+, S8

$67 at Amazon (Note 9)

Juice up!

Samsung 5,100mAh Fast Charging Power Bank

This mid-capacity power bank is no larger than the average smartphone, making it easily pocketable. Meanwhile, its 5,100mAh capacity means most Samsung phones will get a single full recharge out of it — and thanks to the inclusion of Adaptive Fast Charging technology, your phone will be able to juice up faster than a standard power bank. Comes with soft-touch finish, loop strap and USB-C/USB-A/micro-USB combo cable.

$18 at Amazon

Kick back

Sony Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

These are our top recommendation for wireless headphones for the new Galaxy Note 9, with noise cancellation capabilities as good as anything else out there, exceptional audio quality and great comfort even when used for long periods of time. Throw in up to 30 hours of battery life and you’ve got a pair of headphones that more than justify the price tag.

$348 at Amazon

Virtual worlds await

Samsung Gear VR (2017) + controller

Smartphone VR has been out of the headlines this year, but Samsung’s Gear VR experience still represents a compelling gateway into the world of virtual reality — whether it’s gaming, education, 3D/VR movies or any other interactive experiences to be had by taking advantage of your phone’s graphical power and high-res display. This version comes ready-equipped for the Note 9 (older Gear VRs need a new adapter), and is bundled with Samsung’s own VR controller.

$102 at Amazon

Fitness band

Samsung Gear Fit2

Samsung’s most recent dedicated fitness band is more durable than its mainstream smartwatches, with a focus on health tracking and workout coaching — though it also delivers all the basic features you’d get from a smartwatch, including notification support. It also looks the part, with a slick futuristic design featuring a vertical display. Whether you’re tracking your nutrition, runs or swims, the Gear Fit2 has a lot to offer.

$129 at Amazon

Whether you want to spend a little or a lot, there are plenty of accessories and other gadgets that’ll work well with your giftee’s Galaxy smartphone. Which ones will you pick?

OnePlus 6T update tracker: OxygenOS 9.0.10 rolls out to unlocked variant

Welcome to the OnePlus 6T Android update tracker page. This page covers all major software news for the OnePlus 6T and will be updated regularly with new information.

Editor’s Pick

Since the OnePlus 6T is the first device from OnePlus to launch in both an unlocked and a carrier variant, this is the first time OnePlus fans have had to deal with certain models getting updates much faster than others. This OnePlus 6T updates hub will hopefully help you understand when you’re getting an update and what it will contain.

We recommend you bookmark this page so you can stay up to date with the very latest OnePlus 6T updates.

SEE ALSO: Android 9 Pie update tracker

OnePlus 6T vs T-Mobile OnePlus 6T

There are two versions of the OnePlus 6T: the global, unlocked model you buy directly from OnePlus and the T-Mobile exclusive variant. Both devices look the same and feature the same hardware specs, but there are some notable differences.

You can read the full description of the differences in our summary article here, but the basic differences are listed below:

  T-Mobile Unlocked
Dual SIM Card No Yes
Carrier Locked Yes No
Bootloader Unlock Yes (per T-Mobile guidelines) Yes
Software Updates Source T-Mobile OnePlus
Pre-Installed Apps T-Mobile + OnePlus apps OnePlus apps

OnePlus 6T Latest Updates

OnePlus launched the OxygenOS 9.0.10 update for the unlocked variant of the OnePlus 6T on December 20, 2018.

The update brings the December 2018 security patch and a few bug fixes and improvements. Now, the T-Mobile variant is stuck on the November 2018 security patch while the unlocked variant is up-to-date.

The OxygenOS 9.0.10 update has the following fixes and upgrades:

  • Updated Android security patch to 2018.12
  • Improved Wi-Fi stability for better connectivity
  • Face Unlock improvements
  • Improved Nightscape performance

Consult the table below to see the latest available OxygenOS versions for the unlocked and T-Mobile variants:

  T-Mobile Unlocked
Latest Update Date December 11, 2018 December 20, 2018
Latest Update Version OxygenOS v9.0.1 OxygenOS v9.0.10
Android Base Android 9 Pie Android 9 Pie

Previous Unlocked OnePlus 6T updates:

  • December 3, 2018: Update to OxygenOS 9.0.7
    • Addition of a special audio tuner for Bluetooth earphones
    • Improved Bluetooth stability for better connectivity
    • Optimized stability for Wi-Fi connection
    • Optimized standby power consumption
    • Fixed display issues for lock screen wallpaper
    • General bug fixes and improvements
    • Improved performance for slow-motion videos
  • November 21, 2018: Update to OxygenOS 9.0.6
    • Improved unlocking experience
    • Optimized standby power consumption
    • Fixed issues with adding APN on Verizon network
    • Fixed issues with no notifications from Play Store
    • Optimized image processing
    • General bug fixes and improvements
  • November 6, 2018: Update to OxygenOS 9.0.5
    • Improvements for Screen Unlock
    • General bug fixes and improvements

Previous T-Mobile OnePlus 6T updates:

  • December 11, 2018: Update to OxygenOS 9.0.1
    • Updated camera app
    • Updated in-display fingerprint sensor algorithm
    • Fixed Google Play Store download notification issues
    • Optimized face unlock
    • Optimized hidden Wi-Fi AP login UI
    • Optimized unlock speed with live wallpapers
    • Improved audio quality
  • November 20, 2018: Update to OxygenOS 9.0.0
    • Google monthly security updates
    • Various bug fixes and system improvements

If you’ve received an update we’ve missed, hit the comments below or Tip us!

Microsoft intern claims Google tried to sabotage Edge browser, Google issues denial

  • A former Microsoft intern claims that Google introduced minor code into YouTube in an effort to sabotage the Microsoft Edge browser.
  • Google just issued a statement denying the validity of the claim.
  • This isn’t the first time someone has alleged that Google purposely gives other browsers disadvantages.

Earlier this week, Joshua Bakita, a former software engineering intern at Microsoft, posted a comment to Hacker News which lays out a stunning allegation: that Google allegedly tweaked YouTube code in order to hinder other browsers’ use of YouTube content, specifically Microsoft Edge.

According to Bakita, Google introduced “a hidden empty div” over YouTube videos, which caused no effect in Chrome browsers but caused the Edge browser’s hardware acceleration fast-path to malfunction. The result of this hidden code made YouTube videos display faster and more efficiently in Google Chrome than in Microsoft Edge.

Editor’s Pick

Bakita points to this alleged coding trick as an example of Google’s playing dirty to keep Chrome on top and other browsers struggling. He also says it is one example of why Microsoft is overhauling the Edge browser and re-building it with Chromium as its base, which will make it work more like Google Chrome.

Today, via The Verge, a YouTube spokesperson issued a formal statement on the matter, categorically denying Bakita’s allegations. The statement is here:

“YouTube does not add code designed to defeat optimizations in other browsers, and works quickly to fix bugs when they’re discovered. We regularly engage with other browser vendors through standards bodies, the Web Platform Tests project, the open-source Chromium project and more to improve browser interoperability.”

According to the YouTube spokesperson, the “hidden empty div” code Bakita suggests was sabotage was actually simply a bug, which has now been fixed.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time someone has claimed that Google stacks the deck in favor of Chrome. Earlier this year, a Mozilla program manager claimed YouTube code created a page load bottleneck for Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge, resulting in five-fold speed deprecation in non-Chrome browsers. The Mozilla employee pointed to a Firefox extension which circumvented the problem.

What do you think? Is Google playing dirty in the browser wars, or are these isolated incidents of bugs blown out of proportion? Let us know your opinions in the comments.

NEXT: Chrome for Android’s ‘Sneak Peek’ loads a link without leaving current tab

Moto G7 series renders leak: Here’s what the four handsets may look like

An alleged render of the Moto G7 series featuring four smartphones. Droid Shout

Motorola is tipped to launch its next round of Moto G phones in the coming months, and we might now have a look at them. Droid Shout picked up the renders and they potentially show off four G models: the Moto G7, G7 Plus, G7 Power, and G7 Play.

The G7 and G7 Plus would apparently come with a waterdrop notch, while the G7 Play and G7 Power would have a wider (and in the G7 Play’s case, ultra-wide) notch. It also appears Power and Play would feature vertically-mounted dual rear camera sensors while the standard and Plus models would have a horizontal camera setup.

A dual rear camera setup on the G7 Play could be an upgrade over the G6 Play’s single rear camera. However, Motorola has previously used housings that give the impression of a dual camera setup on the likes of the single camera Moto E5 Plus and Play. We could be looking at single camera setups on the Power and Play, after all.

An alleged render of the Moto G7 Droid Shout

The regular G and G7 Plus once again appear to be the more ‘premium’ handsets, while the less-angular Play and Power would likely be less expensive variants.

Editor’s Pick

Previous rumors suggested the Moto G7 would pack a 6-inch, Full HD+ display with 64GB of internal storage. A dual 16MP + 5MP camera setup is tipped for the rear, while it’s also said to house a 3,500mAh battery. You can expect the Plus variant to have a larger display, the Power variant to have a larger battery, and the Play variant to be slightly less powerful.

The Moto G6 series appeared in May this year and the G5s arrived in April 2017. Based on those timelines, it could be that we still have some months to wait before the G7 series launches, despite the rumors.

As for the source, we don’t know much about Droid Shout so should treat the renders cautiously. With that being said, we have seen the Moto G7 Plus render once before, from a different source, and it is identical to the one above (save for the color), which suggests it’s legit.

Hit any space with FenSens — The world’s first smart parking sensor

Reverse parking might be something of a skill, but parking sensors have made it a breeze. Even if they do take some of the sport out of parking, they’re a useful tool. Most older cars don’t have them though, and it’s not worth upgrading your vehicle for a parking aid.

FenSens is changing the game. It’s the world’s first smart parking sensor, and you can fit it to your car license plate in just a few minutes. Best of all, right now you can pay little more than $100.

FenSense was successfully funded on Indiegogo, and it’s not hard to see why. It can be installed on any car and alerts you when you’re getting too close to objects. The simple app launches instantly, so you can be alerted to a collision even if your phone is in your pocket.

FenSens Parking Sensor

You don’t need anyone to help you install FenSens as there’s no wiring or anything complicated. It uses Bluetooth, and it’s secured to your car with four security screws to prevent theft.

FenSens at a glance:

  • Installs in five minutes with no wiring or professional help needed
  • Provides instant audio, visual, and vibration alerts for objects detected in front or behind your vehicle
  • Launches the app hands-free, even if your phone is in your pocket
  • Keeps itself safe thanks to anti-theft features that track your vehicle or device
  • Stands up to any weather for long-lasting use

FenSens has a list price of $149, but right now it’s on offer for $119.99. Even better, Android Authority readers can make a further festive saving. Enter the coupon code MERRY15 at the checkout, and you’ll pay just $102.

There are only a few days left on this deal. Hit the button below to find it.

The AAPicks team writes about things we think you’ll like, and we may see a share of revenue from any purchases made through affiliate links. To see all our hottest deals, head over to the AAPICKS HUB.

Looking for a new phone or plan? Start here with the Android Authority Plan Tool:

This smart tool lets you filter plans by phone, price, data tiers, and regional availability. Stop overpaying for cell service you hate and a phone that you’re tired of. Use our Compare Phones & Plans tool to fully customize your mobile experience and painlessly transition from one carrier to another!