Oura Ring 2 review: The early adopter catches the worm

The Oura Ring 2 is an exciting ring-shaped health tracking device that measures something a little different from all the other calorie-focused trackers out there. In theory it can help you to feel better, perform better, and make smarter decisions regarding health and training.

This is the second iteration of a relatively-underground product that launched on Kickstarter a couple of years ago. The company is still small, but it has begun generating quite a buzz in the biohacking community.

In this Oura Ring 2 review, let’s see if this really is the game changing piece of kit that the health tracking industry sorely needs.

The concept

To my mind, fitness trackers have huge untapped potential to help us measure our daily activities, mental performance, and physiology in actionable ways. Unfortunately, most trackers amount to little more than fancy pedometers with not-so-accurate heart rate monitors.

For all I love the idea of tracking my fitness, I go through long stretches of not wearing these devices because, quite simply, the data they provide is not quite worth the inconvenience of wearing them.

fitbit charge 3 black band display

If you’re want to lose weight, a Fitbit or similar alternative can be a useful tool for tracking calories, but as I’ve explained on the site before, those measurements are imperfect and the entire strategy has its issues.

The Oura Ring 2 places its focus elsewhere: on providing deeper, more actionable data around sleep, stress, and recovery. This isn’t just about losing weight; it’s about performing your best and feeling better. That the video on the original Kickstarter campaign featured people playing the piano and conducting business is telling. This isn’t just for running and weightlifting. Oura calls it “living ready.”

Oura calls it ‘living ready.’

Can a ring really help you to overcome the chronic fatigue and stress endemic to the 21st century?

Hardware: Put a ring on it

The ring is packed with the usual sensors: an infrared heart rate monitor measuring slight changes in the color of your skin, a gyroscope, accelerometer, and three temperature sensors. Using that, it can autodetect when you fall asleep, identify how long you spent in each sleep stage, count how many times you wake up in the night, and measure your heart rate. Likewise, it counts steps during the day and lets you manually add activities. All this information is then visible through the app, divided into days.

Oura Ring 2 Heart Rate Monitor

I have no complaints with the design and comfort of the ring. The original Oura was rather large and ostentatious looking, and drew a lot of attention to itself. The new ring is much subtler and can easily pass for a regular piece of jewelry. It comes in matte black, glossy black, rose gold, or chrome, and looks like a perfectly round wedding band apart from a slight point indicating which way is supposed to face up.

The device has no blinking lights or other readouts (even the IR sensor remains dark), and a welcome feature for many is the option to put it into airplane mode. That’s handy for airplanes (this could be a useful tool for combating jet lag), but also for people who are funny about wearing technologies that emit any kind of signal.

It’s very easy to forget it’s there. If you’re used to wearing any other kind of ring, this is no different.

Most importantly, I found wearing the device during my Oura Ring 2 review very comfortable. It’s very easy to forget it’s there. In fact if you’re used to wearing any other kind of ring, then this is no different. Because it’s so subtle, you can easily wear this along with a watch and not look ridiculous — which is another benefit of a finger-bound device.

Oura Ring 2 Jewellery

The Oura Ring 2 is not that different from a wedding band

There are practical advantages to wearing a fitness tracker on your finger too. It’s much easier to obtain a heart rate from the thin flesh here, and your extremities are the first to show a change in body temperature. More on this later.

Related

When I reviewed the Motiv Ring a few months back, one complaint I had was that it got scratched very easily during training and wasn’t comfortable when weight lifting or boxing. While this is still true to a degree with the Oura Ring 2, the titanium with scratch-resistant DLC construction is certainly superior to the ceramic Motiv ring. I’ve only picked up a few light scratches on the underside so far. However, seeing as this is more of a health tracker than a fitness tracker, it actually matters a whole lot less.

Motiv Ring vs Oura Ring

The slightly less durable Motiv Ring

The ring can store six weeks of data without syncing, and you’ll be able to get six days of use between charges. It charges pretty quickly, so you can just place it on the stand during your morning shower when prompted (though it is water resistant if you wish to keep it on).

Overall, the design and attention to detail is excellent here.

Overall, the design and attention to detail is excellent here — especially for a small startup. The entirely white, cube-shaped box makes a strong first impression, and the charging stand looks good and is easy to use as well (which bucks the trend for fitness trackers that normally come with fiddly and unusual charging methods). The app does need some work in a few key areas, but we’ll discuss that more in a moment.

Oura Ring 2 review: The best sleep tracking in town

Don’t miss

The Oura Ring 2 is probably the best sleep tracker I have ever used. On the face of it, like the best Fitbit devices, it will give you a detailed breakdown of your time in light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. This tells you not only how long you have slept, but how restorative that sleep was likely to have been. Sleep detection is also incredibly accurate, with the reports being spot on 99 percent of the time. I had one night that didn’t seem to correlate with what I’d experienced, but it wasn’t major difference and it was a one off — something any device on the market will occasionally experience.

The Oura Ring 2 is probably the best sleep tracker I have ever used.

The only big omission I noticed, is that it doesn’t seem able to detect day-time naps. I know that’s something Bailey will be disappointed to hear. Similarly, while my wife was in labor the other week (woop!) I actually went one entire night without sleeping and rather than registering that for what it was, the ring acted as though I had not been wearing it (even though it would have been able to detect waking movement the entire time). Rather than saying “oh no, you haven’t slept like… at all,” it instead treated the data as missing.

Oura Ring Sleep Tracking

This is what sleep looks like when you’re a new dad

So, there are a couple of drawbacks, but what’s impressive is all the additional data the Oura Ring 2 tracks during sleep.

Resting heart rate is an excellent indicator of recovery, and of overall physical fitness, for example. A post on the Oura blog explains how a U-shaped curve demonstrates your body has fully recovered from the day before, whereas as a downward slope might indicate you could have benefited from a little extra nap time — explaining why you perhaps wake up feeling groggy and what to do about it next time.

Resting heart rate is an excellent indicator of recovery, and of overall physical fitness.

You’ll also be able to see how long it took you to fall asleep (sleep latency), how optimal your sleep timing was with regards to external cues, how efficient your sleep was, how many times you woke up, and more. Tapping on any of these points will then provide more detail — often a graph or chart accompanied by some explanation by Oura and perhaps a link to an external blog post. All this is great and it is by far the most detailed sleep tracking I’ve ever encountered.

Oura Ring 2 side view

A Biohacker’s dream: Readiness and heart rate variability

But wait, there’s more.

Digging deeper, there’s a whole lot more data you don’t typically see in these kinds of apps. To name a few: body temperature, a recovery index, and heart rate variability.

Oura ring body temperature

Body temperature of course tells you just how hot or cold you were during the night. This very useful inclusion could bring to light some interesting patterns and trends. For instance: does being cooler at night help you sleep better?

It can also indicate that something might be wrong, like if you have the start of a fever. Not many other trackers provide users with this data and the Oura has an edge here, seeing as it’s easier to measure temperature changes from the fingers and toes.

Oura Ring 2 on Hand

Resting heart rate data is meanwhile taken and used to generate a “recovery index.” This shows you how long it takes for your resting heart rate to stabilize once you hit the sack. Tapping that item in the app tells us this should happen in the first half hour after you hit the hay. There’s so much to dig into here and explore, you can spend a long time each morning reading your stats.

Heart rate variability is an even more interesting stat a lot of people won’t be familiar with. This basically tells you about your sympathetic tone, and whether you are sympathetic or parasympathetic dominant (fight or flight, or rest and digest).

There’s a lot of fascinating heart rate variability research being conducted at the moment, and it could also be linked to optimal mental states for performance and other cool stuff.

While many of us assume our heart rate takes on a steady rhythm, the truth is it changes as you breathe in and out. When you breathe in, your heart rate should increase slightly, and when you breathe out, it should decrease. If you are highly stressed, your heart rate will be constantly elevated and your breathing will have less of an impact on it. This essentially suggests you are either chronically stressed or overtraining and need more time to recover.

There’s a lot of fascinating heart rate variability research being conducted at the moment. It could be linked to optimal mental states for performance and other cool stuff. Other fitness trackers simply aren’t accurate enough to provide this data, but the 250Hz infrared lights here are more than capable (the pulse strength in the finger is also greater than on the wrist — 50-100 times greater in fact!).

Oura then takes all of this data and uses it to provide a “readiness score.” This intended to advise your training schedule. If your readiness is low, then you should avoid intensive training that day, maybe reschedule a hectic meeting, and perhaps reflect a little on what you could change about your current lifestyle. In short, it aggregates all that complex data and turns it into a single number you can act on.

Oura Ring 2 Readiness Score

I will never be ‘ready’ again

A couple of miss-steps

I’m singing the Oura Ring 2’s praises a lot here because it is the device I’ve been waiting for a long time. This fitness tracker doesn’t just measure the same old tired data, and it provides some actually useful and actionable advice. It’s a glimpse at how technology can help us perform better.

That’s not to say it’s perfect.

Oura Ring 2 Design

One area of concern for me was with the step counting. I noticed the app often reported I had completed thousands more steps than my other tracking methods. I spoke to a rep from Oura about this and they explained that the “steps” counted are actually a measure of overall movement and energy expenditure, translated to steps (the metabolic equivalent to steps). This is actually a more useful method on the whole than strictly tracking steps, though it is a little confusing given the app reports the score simply as “steps.”

It’s a shame there isn’t also a simple step count shown. It would be useful if this was a pedometer, too. I’m also not 100 percent convinced — how can the motion sensors pick up enough movement from a single finger to recognize such a broad scope of movement?

The app was often reporting that I had completed thousands more steps than my other tracking methods

Activity tracking could also use a little smoothing out. It detects activities like walks and runs automatically, but it won’t recognize every type of training. That included my own workouts, which was probably fair enough. I was mainly doing a lot of pull ups and push ups, which don’t provide much movement in the hands.

It is reasonable to expect it might at least notice the elevated heart rate and register that as a period of heightened activity. No such luck.

Training wearing the Oura Ring 2

This triceps workout will need to be added manually to the app

Another shortcoming is with compatibility. Apple users can connect the app to Apple’s Health Kit without an issue, but Android users have no such option. There’s no support for Google Fit for instance, so you can’t register workouts with a second tracker and have the data sync up automatically. There’s no way to connect to MyFitnessPal either, which means you can’t really use this as a tool for losing weight, as you might a Fitbit.

This is coming to the product very soon (sometime in 2019) so it’s not totally fair to mark it down on that basis. However, as it stands, don’t expect the kind of deep integration with third party offerings that you’ve maybe come to expect.

There’s no way to retroactively add a workout for a previous day

For now, any workouts you do will need to be added manually. Unfortunately, if you should forget to do this one day, you’ll miss the opportunity. There’s no way to retroactively add a workout for a previous day. That’s down to the complexity of the algorithms used and understandable, but it’s still a shame that my data will be incomplete (and corresponding advice wrong) if I forget to log my training — something I often do. I wouldn’t mind seeing my readiness score change when I update my data — in fact it would be encouraging.

The app’s UI also needs work. It’s quite fiddly to find what you’re looking for and syncing with Bluetooth occasionally takes a little longer than it should. Still, the app is being actively updated all the time and I’ve already seen improvements. In fact, they just recently added an on-boarding process to the iOS version for orienting new users. Presumably the Android version will get the same treatment soon.

Oura Ring App

Some of those might sound like big problems, but Oura assures us more updates are coming. This is still a product in its infancy (despite this being the second hardware iteration) and apparently a lot of cool stuff is planned.

In future, I’d really like to see some graphs and charts showing relationships between the data. For instance, I’d love to see how my body temperature correlates with how soundly I slept. As it is, it’s great to be able to see trends over time and a baseline though.

Oura Ring Review

Perhaps the best way to think of this is as a health tracker first and a fitness tracker second. It’s actually ideal for wearing in conjunction with a traditional wrist-worn tracker, and once integration with other apps is introduced, it will become even more potent in that regard. Although the data it offers is slightly imperfect due to the shortcomings I’ve identified, it’s still more than enough to be actionable and it’s the only device doing anything like this right now. I’m really excited to see where this goes in future.

What to do with all this data?

Ultimately, the amount and quality of the data here is better than any device I’ve used before. It truly makes it possible to make positive lifestyle changes and see them reflected in my sleep and the way I feel. This is the promise of every sleep tracker, but very few provide enough detail or explanation to be practical in that regard. None of them offer insights like body temperature and heart rate variance.

For instance, I was feeling a little rough a few weeks ago and when I looked at the app, I could see my “recovery index” was low. Tapping the icon explained this could be a result of a late-night workout — which I did that night — and my resting heart rate was exactly what you might expect it to be as a result of this.

I read a user review stating they used the Oura Ring to predict the onset of a cold before it hit. Personally, I’ve been using it to track how well I’m coping with the extreme sleep deprivation that comes from fatherhood. Suffice it to say, not well! However, at least I now know how bad the damage is and whether or not to consider training as a result.

One user used the Oura ring in order to predict the onset of a cold before it hit

In some ways the Oura Ring 2 still finding its footing, but it is pretty awesome already and there’s a lot more awesome coming. For the price (around $350), it might be worth hanging on a little while longer if you’re a casual user (perhaps until the Google Fit integration next year). If you love this stuff as much as I do and consider yourself an enthusiast, you’ll have no regrets becoming an early adopter. Whoever you are, the ring can certainly help you understand more about yourself and why you feel rough some days and great on others.

This is an excellent device for any biohacker and has the potential to become essential for a much larger audience soon.

The most underrated smartphones of 2018

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

We saw plenty of fantastic smartphones in 2018, ranging from the Google Pixel 3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9 to the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and OnePlus 6T. All that’s even before we get into the ultra-competitive mid-range sector, where phones like the Pocophone F1, Honor 8X, and Realme 2 Pro fought for supremacy.

These phones got plenty of critical (and likely commercial) acclaim, but what about some of the sleeper hits of 2018? Let’s take a look at some of the more underrated phones of the year.


BlackBerry Key2

Blackberry Key2

The new BlackBerry isn’t generating as many headlines as the new Nokia, but that doesn’t mean its phones aren’t worth a look. In fact, the BlackBerry Key2 might just be the best BlackBerry phone since the brand switched to Android.

Believe it or not, some people out there still prefer a physical keypad. The Key2 should make them feel right at home. Its keyboard has a couple of neat tricks too, such as the ability to assign an app to each key or the unique fingerprint scanner embedded in the spacebar. There’s also the convenience key, which gives you another shortcut to pretty much anything.

The BlackBerry flourishes are felt in the software too, such as the BlackBerry Hub for notifications and messages, the Privacy Shade to prevent people snooping over your shoulder, and DTEK security suite. Despite all that, the phone still looks and feels like a stock version of Android rather than something more garish.

The core specs don’t quite fit the $650 price tag though, largely due to the mid-range Snapdragon 660 chipset. You also get 6GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of storage, a rear dual camera with two 12MP lenses (one standard and one telephoto), 8MP selfie snapper, and a 3,500mAh battery.

And how many other phones offer a physical keypad anyway?


LG G7 ThinQ

The LG G7.

The company’s first proper flagship of the year delivered almost everything you could want in a high-end LG phone. That means a wide-angle 16MP secondary camera (albeit with a slightly narrower field of view), quad-DAC audio hardware, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The company also included extras like water resistance, wireless charging, a Google Assistant button, and an interesting BoomBox speaker. The latter uses the space inside your phone to create louder sound, and you can even amplify the sound by putting it on a hard surface.

Related

Other noteworthy specs include a bright, 6.1-inch LCD display (3,120 x 1,440), 4GB or 6GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of expandable storage, a 16MP main camera, and an 8MP selfie snapper.

The phone could do with a bigger battery and it’s not a groundbreaking release, our own Lanh Nguyen wrote in his LG G7 review. He still thought the phone had the “firepower” to duke it out with other flagships. With the device available for just under $600, it certainly seems like a wise purchase.


Motorola One Power

A promo shot, showing the Motorola One Power Motorola

The budget Moto series has seemingly been overshadowed by Huawei and Xiaomi devices, but phones like the Motorola One Power show that the company still has a lot to offer.

The phone’s headline feature is a 5,000mAh battery, which means two-day endurance — even more if you really try — should be well within your grasp. You’ll need to look at the Xiaomi Mi Max 3 and the Honor Note 10 for similar endurance from the two Chinese super-brands.

This isn’t a one-trick pony, however, offering a 16MP and 5MP rear camera pairing, a 12MP selfie snapper with LED flash, USB Type-C connectivity, and a headphone jack. Toss in a Snapdragon 636 chipset, 3GB or 6GB of RAM, 32GB or 64GB of expandable storage, and a 6.2-inch notched full HD+ display, and you’ve got a capable phone for around $226.

You’ll also be glad to hear that the phone is part of the Android One program (hence the “One” in the name, presumably). This means the device is running stock Android for the most part and is guaranteed to receive feature updates for two years and security updates for three years.


Motorola Moto Z3

The front of the Moto Z3.

Motorola’s Verizon-only flagship felt more like a Moto Z2.1 in some ways, with the same fundamental design and 2017’s Snapdragon 835 chipset. However, it’s definitely one of the more underrated smartphones thanks to the $500 price tag.

The Moto Z3 also continued the Moto Mod tradition established back in 2016, allowing you to slap a variety of add-ons onto the back of the device. So if you need a better camera, louder speakers, a gamepad or even a projector, Motorola has your back.

Read: All you need to know about the 5G phones confirmed so far

The Moto Mod system also allows the company to claim it’s the first to launch a 5G-ready phone. Yep, the company confirmed the Moto Z3 will have 5G thanks to a separate Moto Mod accessory in 2019.

Motorola’s phone also sports 4GB or 6GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of expandable storage, a dual 12MP rear camera setup (one standard and one monochrome), an 8MP selfie snapper, and a 3,000mAh battery.


Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

If ever a brand was perennially known for underrated smartphones, it would be Sony. The company has quietly been crafting polished flagships for a while now, even if the camera quality is often inconsistent. If you’re looking for a smaller high-end phone, the Xperia XZ2 Compact is pretty much the winner by default.

Staying with the camera experience, the Compact offers a single 19MP f/2.0 shooter. This camera offers proper 960fps super slow-mo (in 720p or 1080p), predictive capture, and 4K HDR video recording too. Selfies are handled by a bog-standard 5MP front-facing snapper.

Sony has generally focused on multimedia, and this rings true for the Xperia XZ2 Compact as well. It has SDR-to-HDR conversion, front-facing speakers, high resolution audio support, and LDAC support for Bluetooth headsets.

Other noteworthy specs include the Snapdragon 845 chipset, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, a 2,870mAh battery, water resistance, and a rear fingerprint scanner. The phone’s currently available for around $500, so you’re definitely getting a good deal.


Sony Xperia XZ3

The back of the Sony Xperia XZ3.

Two Sony phones on the list? You’d better believe it.

The Xperia XZ3 improved on the XZ2 series in a few meaningful ways.

Gone is the XZ2 Compact’s 5-inch full HD+ LCD screen, being replaced by a 6-inch 1,440p OLED screen. The smaller phone’s 5MP selfie snapper has also been replaced, with the XZ3 featuring a 13MP front-facing camera instead. Sony has also bumped the battery size to 3,300mAh, from the Compact’s 2,870mAh pack. And yes, Sony has tossed in wireless charging too.

Editor’s Pick

Probably the weirdest addition is the dynamic vibration system, however, which is essentially force feedback for video clips and movies. It’s not new — first seen on the standard Xperia XZ2 — but it’s yet another feature missing from the Compact model.

The rest of the phone is largely similar to the XZ2 Compact, so that means a Snapdragon 845 chipset, 4GB of RAM, a 19MP f/2.0 main camera with 960fps super slow-mo, water resistance, USB Type-C, and no headphone jack. You can’t win ’em all, right?


Those are our picks for the most underrated smartphones of 2018. What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments section!

This dashcam keeps you safe on the road, and it’s just $25

Black Box HD Car Dashcam

YouTube is awash with audacious insurance scammers. There are people who throw themselves onto stationary cars and slide down the hood. They’re pretty funny as a neutral observer, but it’s only a dashcam saving the drivers from being defrauded.

Having an accurate record of bad behavior on the road can save you your insurance premium. It could even save someone’s life if you stop the perpetrator causing future damage. The easiest way to do it is to get a dashcam, and we’ve got just the deal for you.

The camera records in a continuous loop, so you always have the latest footage.

The Hi-Res car dashcam from Black Box is an affordable option that does everything you need. It’ll happily record what’s going on in the road ahead of you, and protect you in the event of any dispute.

The dashcam records hours of HD footage, but obviously you only need it if there’s an incident — you’re not going to be reliving the memory of your smoothest journeys in a few years time. To save space, it records in a continuous loop, so you always have the latest footage.

The dashcam at a glance:

  • Captures HD footage
  • Operates as both a recorder and digital camera
  • Ensures any accident is recorded
  • Records over older recordings so you always have the latest footage
  • Continues recording when your car suddenly jerks or shakes, even if the device is turned off
  • Offers up to two hours of recording time with the 8GB microSD card
  • Includes capacity for a microSD card up to a 32GB (not included)

The dashcam has a list price of almost $120, but it’s on offer this Christmas season. Well, until Monday anyway. If you get in quick enough, you can pick one up for just $24.99. If not for you, maybe you can tick your dad off the gift buying list, and it free international shipping is included.

To get your hands on the dashcam while it’s in stock 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:

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!

Explore Greece in the $30 Assassin’s Creed Odyssey for PS4 and Xbox One

Pick your side.

The video game Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is down to $29.99 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 at Amazon today. This is a fairly new game, just released in early October, and still regularly sells for around the $60 price. Today’s deal is a price-match of a one-day sale at Best Buy, so it’s very likely this deal won’t last for very long.

While it is just another game in the long-running Assassin’s Creed series, Odyssey takes some new twists and turns to make the game seem fresh. For one thing, it takes place in ancient Greece. You will be able to choose between Athens or Sparta in the middle of the Peloponnesian War. For another, it adds a lot of RPG elements where previous games depended on a more action-game format. It even brings back a bit of the excellent naval combat from previous games. Watch your men get eaten by sharks. On Metacritic, the game has 82 on PS4 and 87 on Xbox One.

See at Amazon

Today’s sale on board games and more is perfect to get the family together

Don’t miss your turn at grabbing these at some of their best prices ever.

Board games, card games and the like are an easy way to get the family all in the same room for the holidays, though you’ll want to be careful you don’t choose anything that will upset the delicate balance between fun and competition (a.k.a. Monopoly). Luckily for you, Amazon is having a one-day sale on tons of games for kids and adults alike so you can bring a new game to the table this holiday season. Prices are discounted by up to 30% today, and it’s also worth remembering that Amazon’s offering free shipping for everyone through December 18.

There’s a good mix of board games in this sale, so you could choose a classic like Trivial Pursuit for $11.75 or grab something more recent like the Dr. Eureka Speed Logic Game for $9.21. Both games are at new low prices here too. Maybe you want an oversized Jenga set for your backyard or want to build your own roller coaster… in either case, this sale’s got you covered. This $4 Rubik’s Cube would be a nice stocking stuffer too, though it can only be shipped with orders totaling $25 or more.

Other deals in today’s sale include:

This is only a small selection of the games available, so be sure to check out Amazon’s full sale to see if there are any other games your family might love.

See at Amazon

CuriosityStream is documentary heaven for $1.25 per month

CuriosityStream

Most people enjoy a good documentary. You learn interesting things, but you don’t have to read a book, and you often get stunning visuals.

If you know someone who particularly loves documentaries, CuriosityStream is the ideal Christmas gift. It’s an on-demand streaming service specializing in award-winning programming about science, nature, history, technology, society, and more.

Launched by the guy who founded the Discovery Channel, CuriostyStream has an unparalleled library of over 2,000 documentaries to choose from. You’ll find high-quality shows from some of the giants of the genre such as Sir David Attenborough and Professor Stephen Hawking.

CuriosityStream

There are even original documentaries exclusive to CuriosityStream, making it worth the signup fee alone. You can stream them to all of your devices of course.

CuriosityStream at a glance:

  • Stream an unlimited amount of content every month
  • Enjoy your content any time and anywhere via web browser, mobile app, TV, or tablet
  • Explore more than 2,000 documentaries and shows, including award-winning originals
  • Discover new favorites with personalized recommendations
  • Browse collections and lists curated by CuriosityStream’s expert team

CuriosityStream normally costs $3 per month, or $20 per year. However, right now at Tech Deals you can pick up a two-year subscription for just $29.99. That’s just $1.25 per month, and you don’t even have to go shopping.

The deal expires in less than two days, so move quickly if you’re interested. The link below takes you to 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!

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) review: The rise of the mid-range

To a lot of people, Samsung just makes flagship devices like the Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy Note 9. However, it also makes a range of mid-tier devices with its “J” and “A” series. The “J” phones are the more competitively priced and the “A” range is designed to be more premium. I recently got hold of a Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) because I wanted to run Speed Test G on it and its Exynos processor. I was so impressed, I thought it warranted a full written review!

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) design

The first things you may notice about the A7 are the bezels. In an age where flagship devices are all about edge-to-edge displays and getting the highest screen-t0-body ratio possible, the A7 (2018) might seem a little jarring. When I showed the device to a teenager in my family, the first reaction was, “wow, look at the bezels.”

The A7 (2018) has a 10 percent lower screen-to-body ratio than a device like the Galaxy S9 Plus, which is one of the reasons it’s cheaper. Making all those curved edges costs money in the manufacturing process. That doesn’t mean the A7 (2018) is ugly — it isn’t. In fact, if you can see past the bezels, it has a certain elegance, even a premium look and feel.

The device has a 2.5D rear glass back, which means it is a glass sandwich with some kind of toughened plastic frame acting as the filling. The glass on the back can be a fingerprint magnet, or more precisely a finger-smear magnet, but that is par for the course nowadays.

The buttons are fine but the volume keys may be a bit too far up. All the buttons are on the right side and the SIM tray is on the left. My biggest gripe is with the power key — not as a power key, but as a fingerprint reader. It works well as a power button, but it is quite narrow, which means using it for authentication or unlocking isn’t as seamless as other Samsung experiences. Yes, you can wake and unlock the phone using your registered finger on the power button, but not 100 percent of the time. Once it in while it will glitch and you need to try again (or even a third time). I guess we have been spoiled by the high accuracy of existing fingerprint reader technology.

On the bottom edge of the device, there is a headphone jack (hooray), a MicroUSB port (not so much hooray), and a single speaker. The audio is clear and loud and doesn’t suffer from distortion at higher levels.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) display

The A7 (2018) has a 6.0-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED Infinity Display. It is bright, clear, and vivid. The colors are rich, and as usual with AMOLED the blacks are deep. Once you have grown accustomed to the bezels, the vibrancy of the display makes using the Galaxy A7 a pleasure. You might even catch yourself wondering why you need to spend so much money on a flagship, when devices like this exist in the mid-range.

There is no physical home button, so on-screen navigation is the order of the day, something that’s been the Samsung way for quite a while now. The 6.0-inch display offers a screen resolution of 2,220 x 1,080 (FHD+), which is actually the default resolution for flagship devices like the S9 and Note 9 (although they can go higher). The display has a 18.5:9 aspect ratio, and a 411ppi density.

Overall the display is certainly a strong plus point for the A7 (2018).

See also: The best displays of 2018

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) software

The A7 (2018) comes with Android 8.0 Oreo and Samsung Experience 9.0. If you are familiar with Samsung’s skin and UI then you will feel right at home here. Because of the unifying nature of the Samsung Experience, the UI looks and responds exactly like a bigger flagship. When I put the Note 9 next to the A7 it is hard to tell them apart from a UI perspective. The settings menu is the same, the Samsung icons are the same, and the theme is the same.

Editor’s Pick

One thing missing compared to its bigger siblings is Bixby Voice. While Bixby Home is present (swiping left from the home screen) the voice assistant isn’t included and there is no dedicated Bixby button. I guess Samsung considers Bixby a luxury for flagship owners. The snarky side of me is tempted to say the lack of Bixby voice is another reason to buy the A7 (2018), but I shall resist! The device still has AI functionality, though — you can access Google Assistant by long pressing on the home key.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) performance

The A7 (2018) uses the 14nm Exynos 7885 processor. It has an octa-core CPU with two 2.2GHz Cortex-A73 CPU cores and six 1.6GHz Cortex-A53 cores. For gaming, there is good news and bad news. The 7885 features an Arm Mali-G71 GPU. The G71 is an advanced GPU using Arm’s latest Bifrost GPU architecture.

Unfortunately the G71 can be configured by chipmakers like Samsung to including anything from 1 to 32 shader cores. The Exynos 8895 in the Galaxy S8 and Note 8, has a G71 GPU with 20 shader codes. The Exynos 7885 has two. That said, I tested the device with both Asphalt 9 and PUBG Mobile (using the Medium graphics settings) and found the gameplay to be smooth.

The Exynos 7885 also has a built-in LTE modem which supports 2G, 3G and 4G, with LTE download speeds reaching 600Mbps. There is also a nifty Image Signal Processor (more on that in the camera section). On board, there is also 4GB of RAM (6GB on some models), 64GB of internal storage (128GB models available) and a microSD card slot.

For those who like benchmark numbers, the A7 (2018) scored 1524 on Geekbench’s single-core tests and 4379 on its multi-core tests. That puts in into the same ballpark as a Galaxy S7 with a Snapdragon 820 processor. For AnTuTu, which also tests the GPU, the score was 123,302. The AnTuTu score puts the A7 (2018) in the same general area as a flagship device from early 2016.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) battery

The 3,300mAh battery in the A7 (2018) is larger than the battery in the Samsung Galaxy S9 and certainly big enough to give you all-day battery life. According to my testing, you should get at least six hours of screen-on time per charge. That number will increase if you mainly do less demanding tasks like watching YouTube. If you enjoy a bit of 3D gaming, then no fear, five hours minimum. Remember, screen brightness can dramatically change the battery life. If you bump up the brightness to max, expect to shave at least an hour off of all those numbers.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) camera

The camera on the A7 (2018) is a story of simultaneous brilliance and woeful inadequacy. It is brilliant in that it has three cameras — one for normal photos, one for wide-angle shots, and one for depth information. It is brilliant in that the depth camera adds the ability to alter the depth of field while taking a shot, and afterwards. It is brilliant in that the main camera has a 24MP sensor and an f/1.7 aperture, which is great for low-light.

It is woefully inadequate in that the wide-angle camera is just 8MP. It is inadequate because it lacks OIS. It is inadequate because it can only record FHD at 30fps.

Related: Best of Android 2018: The best cameras

Maybe “woefully inadequate” is harsh — this isn’t a premium device — but Samsung has managed to raise the standard with the A7 to a tantalizing level, only to fumble the details. For daily use, there is little bad to say about the main 24MP camera. The colors are true, the dynamic range is good, and the HDR functions work well.

However, the 8MP wide-angle camera is just a little too wide. The pictures often suffer from barrel distortion and the slower f/2.4 aperture isn’t as good in low light.


The third camera is for depth information. It uses a 5MP sensor and an aperture of f/2.2. Those numbers aren’t so important as the purpose of this camera is to enable the depth-of-field functions. The inclusion of a bokeh mode is certainly a plus for the A7, as it is often a feature reserved for more premium devices. While the effect isn’t as precise or advanced as flagship devices, it is nonetheless useful and fun to play with.


Having opted for an 8MP wide-angle camera on the back, there is some redemption for selfie lovers. The A7 (2018) has a 24MP front-facing camera! There is a f/2.0 lens and lots of computational photography options, including bokeh selfies, beauty mode, pro-lighting (for “a more glamorous look and feel”), AR emoji, and wide-selfie, which is basically a panorama mode for the front-facing camera.

It’s not like the 8MP sensor and the occasional barrel distortion on the wide-angle camera ruins the camera experience. Overall the A7 (2018) packs a solid setup backed by lots of interesting trickery from the software.

Here are some more sample photos so you can judge for yourself. If you want to see the full resolutions images you can find them here.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) specs

  Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018)
Display 6.0-inch Super AMOLED
2,220 x 1,080 (FHD+) resolution
SoC Exynos 7885 Octa (14 nm), 64-bit
CPU Octa-core (2 x 2.2GHz Cortex-A73 & 6 x 1.6GHz Cortex-A53)
GPU GPU Mali-G71MP2
RAM 4 or 6GB
Storage 64 or 128GB
MicroSD card slot
Cameras Rear cameras:
Triple camera: 24MP (F1.7) + 5MP (F2.2) + 8MP (F.24)
Flash

Front camera:
24MP sensor, f/2.0 aperture, LED flash

Battery 3,300mAh
Network 2G:
– GSM850, GSM900, DCS1800, PCS1900
3G UMTS
– B1(2100), B2(1900), B4(AWS), B5(850), B8(900)
4G FDD LTE
– B1(2100), B2(1900), B3(1800), B4(AWS), B5(850), B7(2600), B8(900), B12(700), B13(700), B17(700), B20(800), B28(700), B66(AWS-3)
4G TDD LTE
– B38(2600), B40(2300), B41(2500)
Connectivity MicroUSB
3.5mm headphone jack
Bluetooth 5 (LE up to 2 Mbps)
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2.4G+5GHz, VHT80
GPS, Glonass, Beidou
Software Android 8.0
Samsung Experience 9.0
Dimensions and weight 159.8 x 76.8 x 7.5mm
168g
Colors blue, black, gold

Pricing and final thoughts

Overall the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) is a better than average mid-range device. It has a great Super AMOLED screen and an intriguing triple camera setup. The battery life is good and it has a headphone jack! The dual-core GPU could potentially be worrisome to gamers, but if you are more of Candy Crush kind of person, you have nothing to worry about.

If the A7 (2018) doesn’t tempt you, plenty of other mid-range phones have solid chipsets and good cameras, including the Xiaomi Mi A2, Nokia 7.1 Plus, Honor Play, Asus Zenfone 5Z, Moto G6 Plus, or of course the flagship spec’d Pocophone F1.

The Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) is available in blue, black, and gold for 279 euros (~$317) in Europe and 249 pounds (~$315) in the U.K. Those prices are dependent on various seasonal discounts. It won’t be coming officially to the U.S. but you can find it on Amazon!

Fortnite quiz: True or false?

Fortnite Season 7 Battle pass skins

Last week, we tested out just how familiar you are with PUBG Mobile. The results were impressive — 97 percent of all participants got at least seven correct answers out of ten. This week, we’ll test out how much you really know about the mobile version of Fortnite, one of the most popular battle royale games on Android.

The quiz below contains 10 statements that revolve around things like weapons and controls, and your job is to figure out whether they are true or false. If you think you’re a Fortnite expert, you should get the majority of them right.

Click the Start button if you’re up for the challenge — and don’t forget to share your score with friends on social media when you’re done.

Note: There is a widget embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s widget.


This is the 21st quiz in our regular weekly series. You can take a few of the most popular ones via the links below or check out all of them by clicking here.

Let us know which questions you thought were the hardest and share your result with others in the comment section.

The 1More Stylish TWS are affordable alternatives to the Apple AirPods

1More Stylish TWS true wireless earbuds.

Android device owners have another alternative to Apple’s AirPods with audio device company 1More’s Stylish TWS. The Stylish TWS are 1More’s first pair of true wireless earbuds.

In terms of design, the Stylish TWS are in-ear earbuds with circular silicone hooks that help them stay in your ears. The earbuds include three different sized ear tips and silicone hooks just in case the installed ones don’t fit.

Each earbud features a multi-functional button near the back. The left earbud’s button lets you play, pause, skip, and rewind your music. The right earbud’s button lets you answer, hang up, and decline incoming phone calls.


1More is known more for sound quality than design, however. To that end, the Stylish TWS feature 7mm dynamic drivers for sound quality and a MEMS microphone to block out environmental noise in phone calls.

Editor’s Pick

Unfortunately, the Stylish TWS will only last two and a half hours at 50 percent volume. The included charging case provides an extra seven hours of listening.

The price makes it easier to deal with the mediocre battery life. You can pre-order the Stylish TWS at the link below for $99.99. You can pick up the earbuds in black or gold, with pink and green color options coming soon.

Does the Nokia 7.1 have wireless charging?

Best answer: No, the Nokia 7.1 does not have wireless charging. You’d think it would because of the glass back, but likely in an effort to keep the price as low as possible, Nokia chose to stick with wired USB-C charging only.

Amazon: Nokia 7.1 ($350)

There’s no wireless charging here

When you see a phone with a glass back, that’s often an indicator that it has wireless charging. This is true for Samsung phones, the Google Pixel 3, the LG G7 and V40, and more. However, it’s not always a 100% sure bet.

While the Nokia 7.1 does have a stunning glass back, placing it on a wireless charger won’t do anything.

It’s always a little disappointing to get a phone that could support wireless charging only to find out it doesn’t, but then again, we really wouldn’t expect a feature like that from a phone that only costs $350.

Thankfully, USB-C wired charging is great

With no wireless charging support, you’ll need to top up the Nokia 7.1 with a wired cable. The 7.1 uses USB Type-C for speedy fast charging, and thanks to the design of USB-C, there’s no “right” way to plug it in. Unlike microUSB, USB-C can be inserted right-side up and upside down.

It also helps that the Nokia 7.1 gets fantastic battery life

If you really don’t like having to plug your phone in to charge, the Nokia 7.1 may still be a good purchase. Thanks to its 3,060 mAh battery and power-efficient Snapdragon 636 processor, battery life is fantastic.

In my full review of the phone, I regularly saw around 5 hours of screen-on time even with moderate-to-heavy use.

This isn’t a phone that’ll last you through two full days, but it will get you through one quite comfortably.

Our pick

Nokia 7.1

$350 at Amazon

A fantastic phone even without wireless charging.

While it would have been nice to see Nokia include wireless charging with the 7.1, it’s still a fantastic device in spite of the feature’s absence. It has a gorgeous design, a fantastic software experience, and a crisp, colorful display.