5G has arrived – here’s what you can expect from AT&T

AT&T

AT&T’s plans for 5G are somewhat confusing at first glance, as the company talks about at least four current and upcoming 5G-related services. At the forefront are 5G Evolution and Mobile 5G, mobile services offering different connection speeds. AT&T also promotes LTE-LAA connectivity for 1Gbps downloads along with an upcoming in-home fixed wireless service.

Of the big three, AT&T’s puzzle pieces were harder to put together. In comparison, T-Mobile is more black-and-white, taking a simpler approach to its public 5G rollout plans. Simply put, T-Mobile is focusing on a long-range nationwide 5G service first followed by an in-home fixed wireless service at a later date. Its short-range service using millimeter waves will open shop in specific markets at the end of 2018 and into 2019 as devices hit the market. Full nationwide coverage isn’t expected to become available until 2020.

Meanwhile, Verizon is rolling out a 5G-based fixed in-home service first based on a proprietary 5G TF network standard. Customers now signing on are coined as “First on 5G” members and will see free equipment upgrades when models based on the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 5G NR standard arrive. Verizon also plans to launch a mobile 5G service six months after the full launch of its fixed in-home solution.

Related:

For AT&T, we broke down the AT&T 5G rollout into four confusion-free sections. Take a look:

AT&T Shutterstock

AT&T 5G Evolution

This isn’t AT&T’s real 5G network, instead serving as the foundation for the true AT&T 5G service that will arrive later. This platform only provides theoretical peak wireless speeds of up to 400Mbps for compatible devices. Think of it as an “evolving” 4.5G platform (or ramp) that will eventually give way to a full-blow AT&T 5G service.

According to AT&T, this 5G Evolution platform consists of upgraded cell towers and new small cell networks powered by LTE Advanced technology, such as three-way carrier aggregation, 4 x 4 MIMO antenna setups and 256-QAM modulation. The company is also using software-defined networking, artificial intelligence and more to increase data transmissions over the current 4G LTE speeds.

Rollout schedule

5G Evolution launched on April 25, 2017 in select areas of Austin, Texas. AT&T expanded this platform to more than 400 markets in 2018 and expects to provide nationwide coverage for more than 200 million customers in the first half of 2019.

Here’s a map of the 2018-2019 planned coverage.

Plans and prices

Because 5G Evolution is a back-end upgrade to AT&T’s 4G LTE service supported by newer phones, AT&T doesn’t provide new plans or pricing.

Mobile 5G

This is the true AT&T 5G service for mobile devices, based on the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 5G New Radio standard.

AT&T says it’s currently establishing small cell networks in mid-size and big cities to transmit AT&T 5G coverage “in pockets of dense areas.” Because millimeter waves can’t easily penetrate buildings and other obstacles, and are absorbed by plants and rain, AT&T is strategically placing these small cells throughout the cities to provide the best reception. These small cells can mount on streetlights, utility poles, and more.

Connecting the company’s wireless towers and small cells are “millions of miles” of fiber optic cables already feeding gigabit internet to more than nine million locations. AT&T is still expanding this wired network, shooting to reach 14 million locations by the middle of 2019.

For urban, suburban, and rural areas, AT&T says it will rely on its claimed mid- and low-band spectrum although the company doesn’t provide any specifics.

Spectrum

For now, the mobile AT&T 5G network primarily uses millimeter waves on the 39GHz band, but it will also shift small portions of its low-band spectrum to support its true 5G service. AT&T says more spectrum will be allocated from its 4G service to 5G as devices emerge and customer demand for 5G connectivity increases.

AT&T controls a combined 145 MHz of the sub-3GHz spectrum in North America. It also has access to a nationwide 20MHz block of the 700MHz spectrum held by FirstNet. Whatever is not currently in use by the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network can be utilized by AT&T when needed. Here are the claimed spectrums:

Low-band

  • 700MHz (BC and DE)
  • 850MHz (Cellular)

Mid-band

  • Personal Communications Service (PCS) in the 1,900 MHz range.
  • Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) in the 1,700 MHz (uplink) and 2,100 MHz (downlink) ranges.

High-band

  • Wireless Communication Services (WCS) in the 2,300 MHz range.

Rollout plans

AT&T’s Mobile 5G service is currently available in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, San Antonio, and Waco.

By early 2019, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose will support AT&T’s true 5G connectivity as well.

Plans and prices

For now, AT&T is not providing this information.

Other things we know

AT&T said in April its test in Waco, Texas provided a transmission speed of 1.2Gbps when standing more than 492 feet away from the source cell site using millimeter waves and the 400MHz channel. Latency rates were between nine and 12 milliseconds. The test, conducted at a retail location, supported “hundreds of simultaneous connected users.” Another test in Michigan saw speeds of more than 1Gbps across 900 feet.

AT&T CEO Andre Fuetch said in a recent conference call that every radio in the sub-6GHz range deployed since early 2018 will support 5G connectivity through a firmware upgrade.

Here is AT&T’s current list of compatible phones for both 5G Evolution and Mobile 5G:

Android

  • LG V35 ThinQ
  • LG V40 ThinQ
  • Motorola Z2 Force Edition
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 Series
  • Samsung Galaxy S9 Series
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 8
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 9

iOS

  • iPhone 8 Series
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR

LTE-LAA

Part of AT&T’s Mobile 5G plans include LTE Licensed Assisted Access. According to Qualcomm, this technology is part of LTE Advanced Pro, which enables Gigabit LTE, voice services, private networking, and more. LTE-LAA combines a licensed LTE band with the unlicensed 5GHz spectrum used by networking routers. Combined, download peak theoretical wireless speeds reach up to 1Gbps, but AT&T’s use of the unlicensed spectrum shouldn’t interrupt or degrade in-home wireless networking.

“Fair Wi-Fi coexistence is a key principle in LAA,” Says Qualcomm’s website.

“This is accomplished by dynamically selecting clear channels in 5 GHz to avoid Wi-Fi users. If there is no clear channel available, LAA will share a channel fairly with others. This is accomplished by a feature called Listen Before Talk (LBT). LBT will be used by all technologies in unlicensed spectrum to ensure fair coexistence globally.”

Rollout plans

As of October, LTE-LAA is in use in parts of 20 cities. At least 24 cities will provide this connectivity by the end of 2018. Cities currently on the list include Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Little Rock, Los Angeles, McAllen, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Francisco, San Jose, Tampa Tuscaloosa, and several others.

Other things we know

The first commercial LTE-LAA service made its debut in select downtown areas of Indianapolis in November 2017.

Todd Kravos

Fixed Wireless

AT&T plans to launch a fixed 5G wireless broadband service for home use and the enterprise in U.S. cities in late 2019. It will be based on Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) networking technology accessing 150MHz of the 3.5GHz band. Samsung will provide the CBRS-based radios and base station equipment while. CommScope will supply the Spectrum Access System. Testing won’t begin until early 2019.

“CBRS is an innovative spectrum band which allows both licensed and shared access that helps enable efficient use of finite spectrum resources,” AT&T said in a press release. “As part of the rollout, we will start by using LTE in CBRS Spectrum and then migrate to 5G.”

In contrast, Verizon’s 5G plans are the exact opposite, as it’s now rolling out a fixed 5G wireless service first followed by mobile 5G connectivity in 2019.

Kingdom Hearts 3’s newest trailer showcases Tangled’s Kingdom of Corona

Want to know what’s going on with Kingdom Hearts 3? Here’s everything we know so far

In the early years of gaming, there were quite a few swings taken at the creation of a game utilizing Disney properties. Most of those games ranged anywhere from unplayable to mediocre as far as quality goes.

Then in 2002, Square released Kingdom Hearts onto the PlayStation 2. Disney fans and gamers rejoiced as they finally had a significant video game with Disney characters. Thus far, there have been a total of nine Kingdom Hearts games and here in 2018 Square stands poised to release a new entry to the gaming public.

We have been hearing rumblings about Kingdom Hearts 3 for years now but there is finally light at the end of the tunnel for fans of the series. As it stands now, we should see a release toward the end of 2018. However, what do we know about Kingdom Hearts 3 right now? Let’s take a look.

What’s new with Kingdom Hearts 3?

All the latest Kingdom Hearts 3 details can be found straight ahead. Be sure to check back often to find out everything new as we head toward release!

November 3, 2018 — New trailer shows off the Kingdom of Corona

During the Italian comic and games festival LUCCA 2018, Square Enix revealed a new Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer showcasing the Tangled world, Kingdom of Corona. While fans got a better look at the upcoming game, franchise director Tetsuya Nomura could unfortunately not be in attendance as planned.

“I was supposed to visit #LuccaCG18 but as development on #KingdomHearts III is coming to an end, I have to focus on development,” he said. “Instead, I’ve prepared a special trailer for everyone – please watch!”

October 3, 2018 — Grab the Deluxe Edition for a tad cheaper

Amazon is putting on a nice deal for the Deluxe Edition of Kingdom Hearts 3. Normally $80, the game is sitting on Amazon for $75.16. That’s a savings of 6%. Take another $1.53 off when applying the coupon attached to this deal.

The total upfront discount isn’t massive, but it effectively eliminates your tax obligation, so that’s a win. Don’t forget that Amazon offers a $10 credit for Prime members who pre-order it. The credit is delivered 30-35 days after the game ships. That’s nearly $20 in savings with no hoops to jump through if you’re already a Prime member (and if you’re not, a free trial gets you there just as well).

The Kingdom Hearts 3 Deluxe Edition comes complete with a premium steelbook case, a hardcover art book, and a collectible pin. Look forward to the game launching in the west on January 29, 2019.

See at Amazon

September 18, 2018

Following the trailer released last week, Square Enix has released an extended trailer diving deep into the world of Big Hero 6! This is our best look at the recreation of San Fransokyo yet. Expect to hear more information soon as Tokyo Game Show 2018 begins in a couple of short days.

September 10, 2018

Ahead of Tokyo Game Show (TGS) 2018, Square Enix has released a new Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer showcasing the world of San Fransokyo in Big Hero 6. Along with new gameplay, we got a glimpse at cinematics from the worlds of Monsters, Inc., Tangled, and Toy Story.

July 17, 2018

Those looking to pre-order Kingdom Hearts 3 just received some extra incentive to do so from GameStop. The company has revealed that one of three fabric posters will be included with your pre-order of the game, and it’s up to you to cast your vote on Twitter with the hashtags noted in the image above to decide which one it will be.

June 11, 2018

Sony had their own piece of exclusive Kingdom Hearts 3 footage to show at E3 2018. The new footage confirms the inclusion of Pirates of the Caribbean. This isn’t the franchise’s first appearance in a Kingdom Hearts game, with Kingdom Hearts 2 having been the first.

Yes, Captain Jack Sparrow is back, and Sora’s crew are on deck to help him live the pirate’s life. The gameplay sequences for this world seem pretty epic, with both a ship battle and a fight with a huge sea monster being featured. The trailer also shows that a replica version of Riku will make an appearance.

Alongside that new footage, we get word that not only will there be a special edition Kingdom Hearts 3 PlayStation 4 console, but you’ll also be able to buy all three mainline Kingdom Hearts games as a bundle. That means you’ll get Kindom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix, and Kingdom Hearts 3 in the same package. They’ve even thrown in Kingdom Hearts 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue for good measure.

A release date for the special edition PS4 has not yet been confirmed, though it’s likely we’ll see it on or close to Kingdom Hearts 3’s release date, which was previously confirmed to be January 29th, 2019.

June 10, 2018

Square Enix has announced a release date for Kingdom Hearts 3. It’ll be arriving January 29th, 2019. Originally, their goal was to get the game out in 2018. However, the company needs more time to ensure the game is the best it can be before launch.

With that news, we also saw a new trailer at E3 2018 that revealed new details, namely showing off new content and abilities surrounding previously unannounced Disney franchises. Those franchises include heavy-hitting staples such as Frozen and Lion King, with Elsa and Mufasa making appearances, respectively.

A whole new world

Since its inception, an important element of the Kingdom Hearts games has been the setting. Part of the joy of these games is the opportunity to explore familiar Disney worlds in a way that is not possible when you’re watching a film. Some of the worlds which have been tapped for inclusion in KH3 include Andy’s House from Toy Story, Twilight Town, Mount Olympus from Hercules, Monsters Inc, Tangled, and even San Fransokyo from Big Hero 6.

With Disney owning just about every existing IP under the sun there doesn’t seem to be many worlds left that are not within their reach. However, everything indicates that all the worlds tapped for inclusion will remain those who lie directly under the Disney Umbrella, as well as some from underling Pixar.

While Kingdom Hearts 3 isn’t a traditional open world game, Square Enix has a clear goal to increase the scope and capacity of each world. Some of these levels are the most expansive we’ve ever seen in a Kingdom Hearts game. You’ll especially feel the scale at places like Toy Box in the Toy Story world, or Mount Olympus over in Hercules’ corner. Despite the increased size, Square Enix manages to create each world with the level of detail that’ll make you feel like you’re in the theater watching your favorite movies all over again. It’s this nice balance of scope and focus that gets us excited to be sucked into Disney’s magical kingdom once more.

Characters Welcome

Another critical element of the Kingdom Hearts series has, of course, been characters. There is something undeniably exciting about running into some of your favorite Disney denizens whilst you progress through a KH game.

While your main characters will remain steadfast – Sora and the gang are back – there are some additions. With the inclusion of the aforementioned worlds, it should come as no surprise that we will see end up crossing paths with their related character inhabitants. You’ll certainly be seeing Woody, Buzz, and the glutton of other toys living in Andy’s room for the Toy Story sections. I, for one, am totally ready to get some heals from Beymax.

And that’s alongside mainstays such as Goofy, Donald Duck, and Mickey Mouse, all of whom have proven to be valuable comrades for Sora over the years.

Gameplay

Kingdom Hearts 3 will seemingly feature a keen blend of all the combat mechanics introduced in each previous title. Keyblades still cut foes down with ease and magic is still here to help you quickly dispel waves of enemies. However, we’ll also be seeing new mechanics such as character summons, keyblade transformations, link attacks, something Square Enix is calling “attractions,” and more. Here’s a quick rundown of what those types of attacks are:

  • Character Summons: You can call on one of your Disney or Pixar friends to fight alongside you for a short time.
  • Keyblade Transformations: Alongside your keyblade’s normal abilities and combos, you can transform the keyblade after hitting a series of uninterrupted attacks. The temporary transformation unlocks a wealth of new abilities, as well as a finisher attack.
  • Link Attacks: Like Character Summons, this mechanic brings your friends into the fray, but instead of being there as a sidekick they’ll execute a more coordinated and powerful attack with Sora.
  • Attractions: These are flashy, big abilities that play out like rides you’d see at Disneyworld and Disneyland. For instance, you can call on something like a water ride to splash through a ton of foes.

There will also be other miscellaneous gameplay mechanics that may be unique to certain worlds and sequences. For instance, Sora can take control of robot Gigas at Toy Box to help him get around the store and fight enemies faster. Expect a lot of variety in this regard.

Players will get stronger as the game goes on with a leveling system that should increase your power, health total, mana pool, and offer new abilities. And it’s not just Sora getting this treatment, either – all your mainstay companions have their own experience to grow.

World traversal has been a big part of the Kingdom Hearts series, and Sora’s movement abilities are seeing some interesting changes with this entry. Sora has seemingly been practicing parkour as a new mechanic allows him to scale up, down, and across walls. This is likely to help players quickly maneuver through a world is just as wide as it is tall, with verticality being a staple element of Kingdom Hearts.

As was the case in most Kingdom Hearts games to date, you’ll be fighting enemies who use Darkness for evil. Darkness is both an alternate realm and an actual force of energy. Good characters can use Darkness to augment their abilities, though the bad ones use it with far more malevolent intentions. Much of your battling will be done against those known as the Heartless, a common enemy in the game. The Heartless are actually living forms of the darkness that exists in everyone’s heart. Their goals are likely driven by some evil no-gooder behind the scenes, as the heartless don’t act on any sort of feeling or emotion of their own.

When can I play?

Square Enix has announced that Kingdom Hearts 3 will now launch January 29th, 2019. The game was originally given a 2018 launch window, but Square Enix has felt the need to delay it, likely to make sure it gets the polish it needs.

If you want to get in line early, you can always head over and preorder a copy for $60.

See at Amazon

In its long and storied history, Kingdom Hearts has done a stellar job of taking the elements that work and adding new ones. Like a fine wine, Kingdom Hearts has (mostly) gotten better with age. At this point, we don’t know everything about what is in store for us but as the year progresses we will undoubtedly see more new pieces of the puzzle unveiled.

I think Square knows that part of the magic and joy in these games is the surprise of running into unexpected characters. I have no doubt that they are holding a few cards close to their chests for the time being but I can’t wait to find out what those cards are.

What do you want to see in Kingdom Hearts 3?

Updated November 2018: Square Enix has released a new Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer showcasing the world of Tangled

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We asked, you told us: You want the OnePlus 6T over the Google Pixel 3

This week’s poll wanted to find out if the new OnePlus 6T could compete against the big boys, as we pit it against the also-new Google Pixel 3 (and the XL).
It was a simple question: which is better?

It’s an interesting comparison because the two approach the task of being the perfect Android smartphone quite differently.

There are similarities between the two. Neither have a headphone jack, both are all-glass, both come with Android 9.0 Pie, and both utilize the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC.

From there though, they’re very different phones. The battle becomes the Pixel’s camera and tight Google integration, versus the value and increasing refinement of the OnePlus 6T.

Google Pixel 3 XL vs Pixel 3 screen

 

The 6T now has the in-display fingerprint sensor, and it is has a much smaller notch. It also uses Oxygen OS which is a well-liked skin over stock Android. The 6T also boasts more RAM – double what you can get in the Pixel. No wireless charging either, which the Pixel does have.

But the OnePlus 6T camera isn’t a game changer. It’s good, sure, but it’s not as stunning as the Pixel 3. And at this point, I’m going to trust that Google’s camera software will advance further than OnePlus over the coming months and years.

So how does this matter to you, and how did you vote? Well, you guys climbed out from everywhere to vote on this one – more than 60,000 votes giving us great insight this week.

OnePlus 6T or Google Pixel 3?

It’s a huge win for the 6T – breakout the champagne OnePlus!

It’s a huge win across the board for the OnePlus 6T. The votes ranged from as strong as 64% in favor of the 6T in the straight shootout, but that was a little softer when we gave more options. The ‘neither’ option picked up a few votes, often from folks wanting to point out they need a headphone jack. Which is fair enough, and that saw the Mate 20 and Samsung Galaxy devices mentioned heavily in the comments.

oneplus 6t tmo

But why did the 6T beat out the might of Google? Most of the comments agreed it’s simply a value case – OnePlus keep offering some of the best value even seen in what is now a flagship device. OnePlus phones keep getting better, even if they don’t get every decision right.

Meanwhile, the Pixel 3 isn’t cheap and has a deeply polarizing notch at the XL size, but did win votes for the camera and well regarded daily driver aspects, particularly the smaller size non-XL.

Here’s what you guys said:

  • The price for value makes sense. OnePlus 6T has a water drop notch, Pixel 3Xl has airport notch. Both lack 3.5mm jack. But OnePlus 6T has in-display fingerprint scanner and bigger battery and faster charger.
  • Pixel 3 for its camera, but otherwise, the OnePlus 6T blows it away. That said, I’m happy with my Note 9 with microSD card slot, headphone jack, & stylus, so neither of those would be a perfect fit for me.
  • OnePlus isn’t a flagship killer anymore. It is the Flagship.
  • OnePlus 6 (NOT the 6T, because of the boneheaded move to drop the headphone jack) with the Google Cam APK installed.
  • Rephrase the question to put the price difference in play. I want the Pixel 3 XL but I can’t afford it, not taking away anything from Oneplus 6T.

That’s it for this week gang! And thanks for all your votes. Here’s a hint for next week… keep thinking about your favorite Android smartphone of the year. We’ll be wanting to know. That’s all I can say, for now!

Google Pixel 3 camera shootout

Smartphone cameras have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. The Google Pixel 3 hasn’t improved too much on the Pixel 2’s impressive performance, but it does a few key things differently. To see just how well the Pixel 3 stacks up against the rest of the premium smartphone crop, we put it up against the Pixel 2, iPhone Xs Max, LG V40, Samsung Galaxy Note 9, and Huawei P20 Pro (I unfortunately did not have access to a Mate 20 Pro at the time).

In this shootout, you’ll be able to clearly see where each device leads the pack, where things are too close to call, and where things go terribly wrong. Night Sight was not officially available on my Pixel 3 at the time these shots were taken, so we’ll have to come back to that. Let’s dive right in. To truly see the differences, you can see all of the hi-res original photo samples for each device at the links below:

Exterior building

Google Pixel 3 camera
Google Pixel 2 camera
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 camera
iPhone Xs Max camera
Huawei P20 Pro camera
LG V40 camera

Both Pixels have high contrast and saturate the red in the vehicle nicely. The iPhone handles the red similarly but is a little flatter throughout. Both Pixels look slightly underexposed compared to the rest of the phones, with the shaded areas of ivy under the scaffolding particularly losing detail where the dynamic range of other phones pick up more detail.

The V40 and Note 9 struggle to clearly define the smaller text on the signs and the P20 Pro’s heavy processing doesn’t do it any favors. Huawei’s device does manage to get as much detail as the top contenders, though. Especially if you zoom into the brick wall. You can clearly see more sharpening in the newer Pixel compared to last year’s model and less noise overall.

The V40 is the worst performer here, followed by the Note 9 and P20 Pro, with the iPhone Xs Max and two Pixels at the top — which you prefer will depend on whether you like the higher contrast and darker result of the Pixels or the flatter and more evenly exposed iPhone shot.

Manhattan skyline – wide

Google Pixel 3 camera
Google Pixel 2 camera
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 camera
iPhone Xs Max camera
Huawei P20 Pro camera
LG V40 camera

On a gloomy day in NYC, the iPhone Xs Max managed to add the most texture to the flat gray sky. The Note 9 and P20 Pro had the best white balance despite the tricky lighting, while the Pixel 3 and iPhone Xs Max tried too hard to turn the sky blue (which it most definitely was not).

Zoom in on the Empire State Building and you can see the Pixels and iPhone produced very similar detail and clarity. The Note 9 and P20 Pro exhibit the same degree of sharpening which looks great at a distance but a little fake up close. The V40 is far too muddy and noisy to be a contender here.

Related: Google Pixel 3 vs Huawei P20 Pro camera comparison

Manhattan skyline – zoomed

Google Pixel 3 camera
Google Pixel 2 camera
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 camera
iPhone Xs Max camera
Huawei P20 Pro camera
LG V40 camera

The P20 Pro has a 3x optical zoom while the iPhone Xs Max, LG V40 and Note 9 all have 2x optical. The Pixels use digital zoom only. As you might expect, the 3x optical zoom on the P20 Pro reveals far more detail on the Empire State Building’s spire and it is the only camera to clearly recreate the horizontal lines on the building at the base of the Empire State. Looking at the 2x optical devices, the Note 9 and iPhone Xs Max are the best up close, producing very similar results. The Note 9 manages slightly better detail and better contrast than the iPhone.

When zooming, the Pixels struggle due to the lack of a secondary lens – but are still comparable to the LG V40 which has a 2x lens.

The Pixels struggle without a secondary lens, but their images are still comparable to the LG V40 (which has one). The Pixel 3 has significantly less noise than the Pixel 2 and resolves more detail, as seen in the glass building at the base of the Empire State. The Pixel 3’s processing starts to wade into P20 Pro territory with artificial sharpness replacing the noisy realism of the Pixel 2. I prefer this approach — less noise and sharper detail — but it likely won’t please fans of previous Pixels. The V40 is again quite muddy with plenty of artifacts surrounding the buildings.

Mural

Google Pixel 3 camera
Google Pixel 2 camera
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 camera
iPhone Xs Max camera
Huawei P20 Pro camera
LG V40 camera

This colorful mural of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat reveals a lot about how each camera saturates color. Looking at the yellow triangle in the center, the iPhone and Pixels saturate it a lot, while the P20 Pro (with Master AI enabled) sits at the other end of the spectrum. The iPhone and Pixels saturate to the same degree but the Pixel 3 plucks out slightly greater texture on the wall. In terms of realism, I’d say it’s a close race between these three phones. The Note 9 exhibits a metric ton of detail — it’s actually too much — by unrealistically enhancing the edges of every single part of the wall.

Diner interior

Google Pixel 3 camera
Google Pixel 2 camera
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 camera
iPhone Xs Max camera
Huawei P20 Pro camera
LG V40 camera

There are three parts worth noting in this dark interior: the wine glasses on the table, the window to the left of frame, and the dark area behind the bench closer to the camera.

All phones handle the glasses similarly. The Note 9’s effort is a little noisy, but maintains fine detail the best. The Pixels are noisier and demonstrate less sharpness, but the Pixel 3 slightly outperforms its predecessor. The iPhone really struggles to define the edges of the glasses or napkins with the image breaking down noticeably. The P20 Pro shot is the worst of the bunch. Given the gloomy interior, all phones performed pretty admirably.

Google Pixel 3 camera
Google Pixel 2 camera
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 camera
iPhone Xs Max camera
Huawei P20 Pro camera
LG V40 camera

The window is where things get interesting. The Pixel 3 is by far the best here, capturing the most realistic and detailed scene. The Pixel 2 is more blown out and demonstrates far less dynamic range. The P20 Pro is less detailed, but still quite realistic. The iPhone has better clarity but the flat coloring generates a bizarre otherworldly scene. Once again, the V40’s aggressive processing produces a comically bizarre-looking result. The Note 9 is just plain fuzzy.

As for the third factor (the back of the bench), this is a clear way to distinguish dynamic range capabilities. The more detail and better exposed this shaded area is, the more a phone can do to level out exposure in a scene with multiple light levels. The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 2 are the obvious winners here, with a wider well-exposed area and more texture in the details. The Huawei P20 Pro follows with fair quality, but the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, LG V40, and iPhone Xs Max fail miserably. Balancing out the glasses against the window and the bench, the Pixel 3 is the clear winner here.

Evening exterior

Google Pixel 3 camera
Google Pixel 2 camera
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 camera
iPhone Xs Max camera
Huawei P20 Pro camera
LG V40 camera

At first glance, the street scene at dusk shows just how far low light performance and noise reduction has come. There’s still plenty of light in this scene though and it proves tricky for more than a few of these phones. The P20 Pro does the best job of not blowing out the shop’s interior, though it leans heavily on processing to define features around the neon open sign to the right of the open door. The V40 and Note 9 follow not too far behind. While the Pixel 2, Pixel 3 and iPhone Xs Max all blow out the interior highlights, all three show much greater detail on the shelves inside. The three results are almost indistinguishable up close.

The Note 9 resolves the least detail on the white window ledges at the top of the building and is much darker than the other shots. The V40 doesn’t capture much more detail on the ledges but does lighten up the left side of the building noticeably. The P20 Pro provides marginally better detail, but only the Pixels and the iPhone offered realistic-looking detail, where we can clearly make out the brickwork. The iPhone exhibits less noise in this area, however, and overall comes out on top.

The P20 Pro provides marginally better detail but it isn’t until you get to the Pixels and iPhone that realistic-looking detail is visible.

One more subject I would like to touch on is motion blur. Because these shots are taken in the dark, the shutter speed usually needs to slow down, which might affect the image if there are moving objects or you just happen to have shaky hands. The LG V40 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9 can’t manage freezing the moving cars, for example. This would look cool if done on purpose and the shutter speed was even slower, but it just looks like a mishap here. For these specific photos, much of the detail is lost. This could be simple over-softening, though.

Portrait mode

Google Pixel 3 camera
Google Pixel 2 camera
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 camera
iPhone Xs Max camera
Huawei P20 Pro camera
LG V40 camera

First up, faces. The first thing to notice here is the iPhone Xs Max’s exposure is darker than the Android phones. It also over-saturates the skin, making it far pinker than the rest. The Note 9 and P20 Pro show evidence of a residual beauty mode, even though I had all settings turned off, with the pores on my nose noticeably less visible on the Note 9. Both the P20 Pro and Note 9 are also softer on detail. Sharpness is better on the Pixel 3 than the Pixel 2, most easily seen in the whiskers of my beard while the iPhone sits somewhere in the middle. The Pixel 3 wins this part.

Now, on to portrait mode background blurring.

Before we move onto edge detection around my hair, let’s look at the earbud cables in these portrait mode selfies. Only the Pixel 3 manages to keep them entirely in the foreground, but that was also the only shot where they lay close to my face. The Note 9 does a decent job keeping the earbud cables in focus. The iPhone Xs Max and P20 Pro do a comically bad job of blurring them out. The V40 gets the wires wrong, but does a better job of obfuscating them than most.

My unruly hair is the ultimate test for portrait mode edge detection and I’m yet to see any phone do a really good job of it.

My unruly hair is the ultimate test for portrait mode edge detection and I’ve yet to see any phone do a really good job with it. Surprisingly the LG V40 managed the best here, with only a little weird blurring going on where the skyline in the back meets my hair. Notably, the wild strands at the top of my head remain in focus, something no other phone got right.

The Note 9 did perhaps the best job at gradually blurring out my hair realistically (rather than having the hard edge between foreground and background hair most phones demonstrate), but I think the overall image is just too soft. The iPhone attempts a similar graduated effect but fails at it. Both the Pixels do a decent job at cutting my head out, but the effect is unrealistic. The P20 Pro does a decent job until you get to my right cheek when everything goes to crap fast.

While no phone did an exceptional job, it’s still interesting to see the approach each camera takes: whether it tries to differentiate between hair at the front of my head and hair at the back, or if it takes all of my hair as foreground and only tries to separate the actual background.

All phones did a nice job on the actual background, but I prefer the added detail in the water closer to the bottom of the frame in the shots by the iPhone, Pixel 3 and Note 9 to the generic background blur of the V40. Given the iPhone’s issues with skin and horrendous earbud treatment, it’s out of the running for me. The Note 9 managed the background and earbud wires well but the super soft skin is wrong. That leaves me with the Pixel 3, which handled the earbuds well (perhaps through unfair advantage), did a pretty good job on my hair, and handled the background nicely with plenty of good detail in the face.

Old building

Google Pixel 3 camera
Google Pixel 2 camera
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 camera
iPhone Xs Max camera
Huawei P20 Pro camera
LG V40 camera

In the high contrast shot of the corner of the old brick building, none of the cameras manage to get much out of the cloudy sky. The iPhone Xs Max fails the most miserably, completely blowing out the right-hand side of the shot while turning the left hand side unnaturally blue. The P20 Pro gets the best texture across the sky, followed by the Note 9. Note: In all of these shots, the focal point was on the front-most corner of the building.

Looking at the rest of the shot, the P20 Pro turned the sky too gray, messed with the white balance and made the building a little too orange. I suspect this was the work of Master AI, but I can’t recall if it kicked in or not when I took the shot. The other phones handled colors much better, barring the iPhone which overexposed the shot.

If we zoom into the set of windows at the corner above the white wall, we can see only the iPhone managed to properly outline the columns inside and does a good job at creating realistic detail on the building’s exterior. Both Pixels are very close to the iPhone and look almost identical to one another. The Note 9 and P20 Pro exhibit similar sharpening around the brickwork and windows, with just a bit more contrast in the P20 Pro. Neither looks terribly good up close. The V40 is muddy and lacks detail once again. This one definitely goes to the iPhone and the Pixels.

Fruit and vegetable stand

Google Pixel 3 camera
Google Pixel 2 camera
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 camera
iPhone Xs Max camera
Huawei P20 Pro camera
LG V40 camera

All six phones did a great job with the produce stand at night, mainly differing in saturation and white balance. Looking at the pickles and tomatoes on the corner, the Pixel 3 does a much better job than the Pixel 2, handling both the highlights on the tomatoes and detail on the pickles better. There’s also a bit less noise. The iPhone handles the highlights well too, but doesn’t get as much detail as the Pixel 3. The V40 is a little soft and washed out, but not terribly so. The Note 9 produces a slightly more lively palette, but lacks details on the pickles. The P20 Pro processes too hard as usual, with too much contrast and no real detail.

Dynamic range is important in night time photography (especially when artificial light is present). With darkness and harsh lights, shadows are tough to deal with. To see performance in this matter just look at that shadow under the shelf above the pickles, right below the watermelon in the center. How much can you see down there?

All six phones did a great job of the fruit and veg stand at night, but I’m giving this one to the Pixel 3.

The Huawei P20 Pro’s aggressive approach to crushing blacks performs the worst in this area. The contrast is too high, so the shaded area is almost totally blacked out. The iPhone Xs seems to do pretty well at this, and the Pixel 3 is probably the next best contender. The other phones provide varying degrees of OK.

Looking at the top left corner of the shot, the P20 Pro again crushes the blacks in the hanging flowers and is altogether too contrasty. The Note 9 and Pixel 2 get a little noisy on the white underside of the roof but both offer similar levels of detail. The iPhone displays less noise than the Note 9 or Pixel 2. The V40 does a surprisingly good job in this section, with little noise and good detail, but the contrasty processing lets it down a bit, producing an unrealistic effect under scrutiny. The Pixel 3 produces less noise and more detail than the Pixel 2 in this section and is altogether a more balanced and pleasing result overall. I’m giving this one to the Pixel 3.

Low light bar interior

Google Pixel 3 camera
Google Pixel 2 camera
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 camera
iPhone Xs Max camera
Huawei P20 Pro camera
LG V40 camera

The bar interior shows just how far smartphone cameras have come in low light situations. The Pixels handled the lamp very well, again with less noise and better detail in the Pixel 3. The V40 brings out the shadows just as well, but over-processes too much, highlighting edges at the cost of realism. The Note 9 seems a little soft and the P20 Pro completely blows out the lamplight. Both phones get the white balance wrong. The iPhone balances out the extremes very well but captures the least lively lamp shade.

White balance isn’t just about being warmer or cooler, it’s also about the tint — the balance between green and purple. See how the V40 image looks really purple? It is way off. You can tell the difference in things like the skin and the paper by the lamp.

The bar interior shows just how far smartphone cameras have come in low light situations.

The iPhone struggles to bring out the alcohol bottles on the bottom shelf but is arguably more authentic looking than some. The Pixel 2 lightens things up a bit but is again quite noisy. The Pixel 3 reduces that visible grain and adds a little sharpening for better definition without going overboard. The Note 9 has a natural look in this area, even with the yellowish white balance. However, it can’t produce as much detail as the P20 Pro, which for a change doesn’t overdo the processing. As expected, the V40 does, and ends up looking a little cartoonish. All in all, every phone did great in this very tricky situation but I’m giving this one to the Pixel 3 as well.

Conclusion

The story the images above tell is pretty consistent. For starters, each phone performed very well across a variety of different scenarios, barring perhaps the LG V40. These days you need to really nitpick a flagship phone’s camera to claim it’s significantly better than the rest — they’re all just that good.

I would happily trade in a perfect shot every now and then for an almost-perfect shot every single time – that is what the Pixel 3 provides.

Some conclusions are clear, as you likely noticed with the recurring observations I made about phones in different sections. These results are not one-off accidents, but because of how each company has tuned its image processing and the capabilities of the hardware. While each camera performed exceedingly well in several specific areas or lighting conditions, I can confidently say the Google Pixel 3 performed the most reliably the most often. I, like most people, would happily trade in a perfect shot every now and then for an almost-perfect shot every single time — that’s what the Pixel 3 offers. For that fact alone it is my choice here.

Note: We’ll be comparing the Pixel 3 to the Huawei Mate 20 Pro soon enough, and as soon as Night Sight is officially available we’ll be revisiting the Pixel 3 camera.

Next: Here’s what the Pixel 3’s Night Sight can do

Smartphone quiz: Do you remember these gimmicky features?

Each question in this quiz revolves around a smartphone feature that was considered to be nothing more than a gimmick by many. These include a rotating camera, a secondary screen, and even a dedicated Facebook button. Your job is simple: match the gimmick to the phone. There are four choices available for each question, only one of which is correct.

Are you up for the challenge? Show us what you got by pressing the Start button below — and don’t forget to share your result on social media at the end.

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


This is the 15th 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.

Sony Xperia XZ3 review: A low-key entertainment winner

I know I’m a little late to this one, but Sony products are ones that I feel the need to luxuriate in, to get a feel for their pros and cons, benefits and drawbacks, over the course of a few weeks, not a few days. I think that’s OK, too, because the average Sony smartphone buyer probably isn’t lining up on day one to buy the company’s new phones. That is, if they’re even in a country that sells Sony products in stores.

The Xperia XZ3 was announced back in September, during the IFA conference in Berlin, and comes just six months after the Xperia XZ2. While the cadence was not surprising — Sony’s been doing twice-yearly phone refreshes since 2013 — the number of changes, physical and otherwise, were meaningful. The XZ3 is Sony’s best phone ever, but it comes at a $100 price increase over the XZ2, and given the number of high-end phones in that price bracket, I’m not sure the PlayStation maker has done enough to justify the surge.

A slippery sensation

Sony Xperia XZ3

$900 at Amazon

A smartphone that’s good at almost everything

Sony’s Xperia XZ3 nails the fundamentals with a beautiful OLED screen, outstanding performance and battery life, a decent camera, and plenty of charm. But at $900, it’s too expensive.

I’ve used the Sony Xperia XZ3 on and off for a month now (it’s been a busy October, give me a break) and it’s been a sturdy companion. But should you buy it — especially when the up-front cost for most Americans is $900? Let’s dig into it.

Sony Xperia XZ3 What I love

Category Xperia XZ3
Operating System Android 9 Pie
Display 6-inch OLED, 2880×1440
Gorilla Glass 5
18:9 aspect ratio
HDR support
Processor Snapdragon 845 64-bit
Adreno 630
Storage 64GB
RAM 4GB
Rear Camera 19MP Exmor RS, hybrid AF
960 fps FHD slow-mo, 4K HDR video
Front Camera 13MP f/1.9 wide-angle
Battery 3330mAh
Charging USB-C, PD
Qi wireless charging
Sound Stereo S-Force front speakers
Water resistance IP68
Security Rear fingerprint sensor
Dimensions 6.2 x 2.9 x 0.4 in
Weight 6.8 oz
Network 1.2Gbps (Cat18 LTE)
Colors Black, White Silver, Forest Green
Price $899

Repelling (or ignoring) years of criticism about its phones, Sony has slowly been moving towards a style and feature set that it thinks will win over enthusiasts. Display, sound, and camera, all meant to bolster the entertainment experience of using one’s phone. With the XZ2 redesign, the company’s phones became a bit more ergonomic (and slippery), but considerably more in line with what you’d expect from a high-end smartphone in 2018. The bezels were reduced, the display quality improved, and the sound boosted.

And yet, even compared to other phones released in early 2018, the XZ2 was bulky and awkward. With the XZ3, there’s just enough refinement in the build and design that I’m willing to concede that the phone looks great, albeit a bit more generic than previous generations. The front is covered with a 6-inch QHD+ OLED display, with glass that slopes in slightly to meet the narrow metal bezel and color-matched glass back. I love this display, with its bright, vivid colors, excellent brightness, and HDR for supported content (though the company’s X-Reality engine reportedly upscales SDR to HDR, but that’s not really a thing).

It’s funny to think that just a few years ago Sony was rightfully excoriated for releasing phones with some of the worst LCD panels on the market. Things improved in 2014 with the Z3 line — viewing angles and colors grew more in line with the industry standard at the time — and the company is playing catch-up once again with the XZ3.

But it’s fine, because this is one of the nicer OLED panels I’ve seen on a phone. At 2880×1440 pixels, it’s much sharper than the XZ2’s LCD panel, and touch response is as good as ever. Not only that, but Sony managed to eliminate more of the bezel above and below the display while maintaining the superlative S-Force stereo speakers the line is known for, all without resorting to a notched design.

Sony’s phone looks fantastic, if a little generic, but it’s in the feature set that the company hopes to differentiate itself this generation.

The best (and given the recent price drops, perhaps worst) thing I can say about the XZ3 from the front is that it looks a heck of a lot like the Samsung Galaxy S9. Sony’s paying attention to symmetry here, with an evenness and balance to the bezels above and below the display as well as the metal frame around the phone.

All of the phone’s buttons are on the right frame, and I’ve grown fond of their placement: volume near the top, power dead center (and well apart from the others), and a dedicated camera shutter near the bottom. While I love that Sony continues to emphasize the tactility of photo taking by offering a physical button, its usefulness has declined proportionally to the slipperiness and reduced size of the bezel. With the XZ3, Sony’s most svelte and slippery smartphone to date, I find it nearly impossible to use the shutter button without dropping the damn phone. It’s a problem (that requires a case).

Around back, the phone’s single 19MP camera is flanked by a trail of sensors and LEDs, along with a capacitive fingerprint sensor that, while still too low, isn’t as awkward to use as it was on the XZ2, as the phone is slightly taller overall. We’ll talk about the camera later, but let’s talk sound now, because it’s one of my favorite aspects of this device.

Sony’s dual front-facing speakers are loud and clear, and combined with the Dynamic Vibration System, makes for an engrossing and enjoyable video-watching or music-listening experience. Dismissed as a gimmick in many of the reviews of the XZ2 and XZ3, I’m a big fan not only of the feature itself but of the concept: in lieu of using the phone’s internals as a resonance chamber a la LG G7 or Pixel 3, Sony’s chosen to focus on tuning its speakers for sparkling highs and warm mids while relying on an ultra-powerful vibration motor to recreate bass within the phone.

I think it works, and because it’s a motor it can be tuned to your liking; the G7’s bass increases and decreases proportionally to the phone’s volume. And while the Dynamic Vibration System doesn’t reproduce low-end the same way as a subwoofer, I think it’s a stupendous solution to a problem many companies have struggled for a long time to solve.

Battery life is characteristically Sony excellent, which means all-day-plus, in my experience. Despite only having a cell size of 3,330mAh, Sony’s imperious killing of background processes ensures that there’s no workflow this phone can’t survive. In my multi-week torture test of the XZ3, I didn’t kill it before bedtime even once. Plus, it supports Qi wireless charging and USB-PD, so topping it up is fast and reliable.

As for software, I’m satisfied, if not elated, with Sony’s restraint in Android 9 Pie. Yes, it ships with the latest version of Android, but it also looks increasingly like Google’s version but for a launcher that can be easily swapped for something better. Sony doesn’t inundate users with gimmicky features (save for one, which I’ll get to), but there’s plenty to like about the pre-loaded experiences, including a well-designed camera app and gallery, and first-party options that are inspired by, but don’t copy verbatim, Google’s Material Theme.

A few more things the Xperia XZ3 does well:

  • Call quality is excellent, as is Bluetooth reliability.
  • I used the phone on TELUS and Wind Mobile in Canada throughout my testing period, and both networks performed extremely well. Speeds were often well above 150Mbps in tests, and signal strength remained strong.
  • While the XZ3 doesn’t have a headphone jack, it’s compatible with every USB-C headphone I own, which is encouraging.

Sony Xperia XZ3 What’s not great

There’s a lot to like about the Xperia XZ3, but one thing dooms it, especially for the price: the camera isn’t great. The 19MP sensor and f/2.0 lens combination goes all the way back to early 2017 with the Xperia XZs, and while Sony gave image quality a boost with the XZ2, switching from its own proprietary processing engine to Qualcomm’s, and it showed — daytime images had better colors, and low-light photos weren’t as bogged down with noise. Here’s what I wrote when I reviewed the XZ2 back in June:

The phone makes smart decisions most of the time, but not every time, particularly in scenes with blown-out areas that require HDR, something Superior Auto is reluctant to apply.

That still applies today, but the points of comparison aren’t the same. Since the XZ2’s release, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, Pixel 3, and iPhone XS have all been released, lengthening the delta Sony has to narrow to get back into camera conversation. The problem isn’t that the XZ3 shoots bad photos — the sensor is good and the lens is sharp, so there are no real technical roadblocks here — but that they’re lifeless and boring, especially when compared with the current crop of great camera phones. While Sony’s camera app has improved immensely with its phones’ Android Pie update, the software just makes poor decisions.

Sony’s photo (left) overexposes the sky and doesn’t capture the correct white balance for this difficult daylight shot. Google’s HDR+ on the Pixel 3 (right) is wonderfully rich and visually impressive.

Colors aren’t just lifeless, they’re often wrong. White balance errs on the cool side, and exposure is infuriatingly inconsistent. And in situations where HDR is necessary, the automatic shooting settings don’t activate it, washing out skies and other bright areas, or keeping darker areas completely imperceptible.

When Sony’s camera (left) exposes properly it does grab lots of lovely, deep color, but it’s still overshadowed (pun intended) by the Pixel 3 (right).

I have taken great photos on the XZ3, and on Sony phones in general, but they are usually done in manual mode, and with a bit of patience tweaking settings. That shouldn’t be necessary.

Sony’s nighttime shooting (left) captures some detail, but even at high ISOs can’t manage to eke out enough light to make this low-light shot usable. The Pixel 3 (right) performs much better.

Sony’s video prowess is also marred by an issue I also experienced on the XZ2: dropped frames. Shooting a random video in 4K nearly always results in blips in the viewfinder — it looks like of like a glitch in the Matrix — which translates into dropped frames in the final product. I hoped this would be resolved with the update to Pie and the improved camera app, but it doesn’t appear to have been prioritized.

Elsewhere, Sony’s one software “gimmick”, Side Sense, could have been great but is criminally underutilized. The idea of having a touch-sensitive side area isn’t new to the phone industry — HTC’s Edge Sense is probably the best-known and most robust example— but Sony’s Side Sense tries a different tack. By default, double-tapping anywhere on either side of the phone’s slightly curved glass — not the metal bezels, but the actual OLED display — shows your last eight most-used apps, with shortcuts to bring down the notification shade or to disable auto-rotate, among others. You can also configure a slide up or down the side to emulate Android’s back button.

The Xperia XZ3’s Side Sense feature could be an invaluable tool for power users, but it’s bogged down by Sony’s narrow thinking.

Side Sense would be useful were it not for its unreliable nature — you have to be very precise with your taps and swipes — and its lack of customization. Why not let me bring down the notification shade with a double-tap or slide instead of making me wade through a bunch of icons? Why can’t you disable the app switcher altogether and just emulate the quick settings menu? Sony’s idea is sound, but it didn’t take into account that the last thing I need is yet another way for me to access my apps; the home screen is a single tap away, as is the multitasking menu.

For Side Sense to be useful it would have to let me automate tasks that aren’t already within thumb’s reach. (Can we also talk about the fact that Sony lets me pull down the notification shade using a shortcut within Side Sense but not by swiping down on the rear fingerprint sensor like nearly every other manufacturer? Come on.)

Moving onto hardware, I’m all-in on Sony’s new design language and aesthetic, but my gosh this phone is slippery. Sony really should be including a case in the box — even a cheapy clear case — if it wants people to buy this. I can’t tell you how many times I almost dropped this phone during my testing period, and it slid out of my pocket more than once while sitting down.

Sony Xperia XZ3 Should you buy it?

The Sony Xperia XZ3 is a good phone, and competes well with other flagships in its price range in every way but one: camera. That’s unfortunate given Sony’s position in the camera sensor market; it creates the actual sensors that go into every phone that destroys it in terms of photo quality and video performance. As Huawei, Google, Apple, and others invest in computational photography, Sony’s left exposing the weakness of relying on hardware alone (or the consequences of bad software processing).

The phone’s display and sound make for an enjoyable, if slight, upgrade over competing products, but it doesn’t trounce any of them. Indeed, the screen on the newly-released OnePlus 6T is almost as good, though it lacks the XZ3’s stereo speakers and powerful haptics. Sony also lacks a carrier ecosystem to fall back on in the U.S., so there’s no getting the phone on a generous financing plan. Nor can you use the XZ3 on Verizon, which limits its potential uptake in the U.S. Even the OnePlus 6T can boast of being sold at a U.S. carrier and being compatible with Verizon’s network.

3.5 out of 5

I’m a big fan of the Xperia XZ3, and have enjoyed my time with it. But like I’ve said with almost every other Sony phone (except the exceptional XZ2 Compact, which you should buy right now if you prefer small phones), it’s too expensive, and requires a pretty substantial price job to even be considered in the same breath as today’s flagships. As many people pointed out to me already, why should you buy this when the Galaxy S9 and G7 ThinQ are available for under $700 right now, or when the OnePlus 6T debuts at a tantalizing $549?

I don’t really have an answer for you. And that’s a big problem for Sony.

See at Amazon

Keep your battery green with this one-day Anker charging accessory sale

These discounts expire today, so grab ’em while you can!

As part of its daily deals, Amazon has dropped the price of a number of Anker charging accessories including wireless chargers, car chargers and multi-port wall adapters. These are some of the best prices we’ve seen for these items, so be sure to pick up what you need before the promotion ends tonight.

Some of our favorite deals include:

Be sure to check out the whole promotion and make the most of these limited-time prices.

See at Amazon

Best LG phones you can buy (November 2018)

 LG has had its share of ups and downs in the smartphone business, and the company hasn’t made much of an impact in the market lately. The company’s phones have never shied away from taking chances, even if not all of them clicked. It was one of the first companies to feature a flagship with a Quad HD display, introduced a unique rear-button layout, and experimented in modularity with the LG G5.

Apart from solid flagship offerings, LG has robust mid-range and entry-level portfolios, with options along on the price spectrum. It has something for everybody. Here is a roundup of some of the best LG phones you can buy!

Read next: Best Samsung phones – flagship, mid-range, budget models

Editor’s note: We will be updating this list of the best LG phones regularly as new devices launch.

Best high-end LG phone: LG V40 ThinQ

LG V40 ThinQ in hand showing home screen

The V40 is LG’s latest and greatest smartphone from the OEM. Its biggest feature is the triple camera setup on the back with a standard 12MP lens, a 16MP wide-angle lens, and a 12MP telephoto lens. The flagship also sports two cameras on the front, allowing you to add the bokeh effect to selfies.

Read next: LG V40 accessories: Here are the best ones you can get

In addition to being camera-focused, the device was also designed for music lovers. Not only does it have a headphone jack, which is slowly becoming a thing of the past, it also has a 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC for improved audio quality.

The V40 is a large device, sporting a 6.4-inch QHD+ display with a notch. Like many other 2018 flagships, it packs a Snapdragon 845 and 6GB of RAM under the hood. The battery comes in at 3,300mAh, making it quite a bit smaller than the ones of the Galaxy Note 9 and Huawei P20 Pro — both have a 4,000mAh battery. The phone is up for pre-order in the U.S. and will set you back $950.

Specs

  • 6.4-inch OLED display with 3,120 x 1,440 resolution, 538ppi
  • Snapdragon 845 chipset
  • 6GB of RAM
  • 64/128GB of storage, expandable up to 2TB
  • 12, 16, and 12MP rear cameras, 8 and 5MP front cameras
  • Non-removable 3,300mAh battery
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • 158.8 x 75.7 x 7.6, 169g

Read more


Honorable mentions:

LG G7 ThinQ

LG G7 ThinQ screen

The LG G7 shares many similarities with the V40. It’s powered by the same Snapdragon 845 chipset, with up to 6GB of RAM, and up to 128GB of storage. It’s IP68 rated, has a headphone jack, and features a Quad DAC.

However, it has a smaller 6.1-inch LCD display, two cameras on the back instead of three, and a single shooter on the front. This means it also carries a lower price tag: B&H currently sells the G7 ThinQ for $570, making it $380 cheaper than the V40. 


LG V30 and V35 ThinQ

lg v30 and v30 thinq

LG has five different V30-V35 ThinQ models to choose from. All of them have the same design, with a 6-inch, 18:9 display with a resolution of 2,880 x 1,440, and the same 3,300mAh battery. The differences are in the processor, storage, memory, and cameras.

The standard V30 has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage, while the V30 Plus increases the storage to 128GB. Both have the same 16MP and 13MP rear cameras, and the same 5MP front camera. The V30S has 6GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. The new V35 ThinQ has the Snapdragon 845 chip, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage, while the V35 Plus boosts the storage to 128GB. Both have twin 16MP rear cameras and an 8MP front camera. You can check prices via the links below.


Best mid-range phone: LG Q7 Plus

A look at the LG Q7 in various colors. LG

There are three phones in LG’s Q7 series: the Q7, Q7a, and Q7 Plus. They all look the same, but there are minor differences between their RAM, storage, and cameras. The LG Q7 Plus is the best of the three and the only one released in the U.S. Its successor — the LG Q8 — has already been announced, but it hasn’t gone on sale yet.

The LG Q7 Plus has a Quad DAC on board, just like the V40.

The Q7 Plus sports a 5.5-inch Full HD+ display and comes with the Snapdragon 450 and 4GB of RAM under the hood. There’s 64GB of storage available, which can be expanded with a microSD card. The phone also features a 16MP rear camera, has a fingerprint scanner on the back, and is IP68 water/dust resistant. It even has a Quad DAC for an improved audio experience, just like LG’s high-end phones.

The handset can’t compare with the LG V40 in terms of specs, but it still has enough power under the hood for the average user. It’s also way cheaper with a full retail price of $350 at T-Mobile. Unfortunately, an unlocked version wasn’t released in the U.S.

LG Q7 Plus front side back

Specs

  • 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 2,160 x 1,080 resolution, 442ppi
  • Snapdragon 450 chipset
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 64GB of storage, expandable up to 512GB
  • 16MP rear camera, 8MP front cameras
  • Non-removable 3,000mAh battery
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • 143.8 x 69.3 x 8.4mm, 145g

Read more


Honorable mentions:

LG Q Stylus

LG Q Stylus in use at IFA Berlin 2018 (front)

The LG Q Stylus comes with a Samsung Galaxy Note series-style stylus for taking notes with the display off, editing captured images and videos, and creating GIFs. The handset sports a 6.2-inch Full HD+ display and packs the MediaTek MT6750S chipset along with 3GB of RAM under the hood. Other specs and features include a 3,300mAh battery, 32GB of expandable storage, and a single 16MP camera at the back.

The phone is available in various European countries including Germany, where it retails for around 290 euros (~$335).


LG Stylo 4

An image of the LG Stylo 4 and its stylus pen. YouTube

This is basically a variant of the LG Q Stylus for the U.S. market, although it comes with slightly different specs. The LG Stylo 4 is powered by the Snapdragon 450 chipset, has a 13MP primary camera, and a 5MP selfie snapper. The rest of the specs are the same as those on the Q Stylus, which means you get a 6.2-inch Full HD+ display, a 3,300mAh battery, and 32GB of expandable storage, among other things. Of course, the phone also comes with a stylus. You can get it from Best Buy for $300.


Best cheap LG phone: LG K30

LG K30 back and front T-Mobile

There are loads of cheap LG phones out there, but not a lot of them are available in the U.S. One of the best LG phones on a budget you can get stateside is the K30, which sports a 5.3-inch HD display, powered by the Snapdragon 425 chipset and 2GB of RAM

Editor’s Pick

These specs won’t blow your socks off, but they’re fine for average users who just want to check email and social media, browse the web, and watch an occasional video. The great thing about the K30 is that it’s available unlocked in the U.S. — most other cheap LG phones are only available through carriers.

The LG K30 comes with 16GB of expandable storage, an 8MP primary camera, and a 3,00mAh battery. It also has a headphone jack and a fingerprint scanner. It normally retails for $180, but it’s currently on sale over at B&H for $130.

LG K30 screen

Specs

  • 5.3-inch IPS LCD display with 1,280 x 720 resolution, 277ppi
  • Snapdragon 425 chipset
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16GB of storage, expandable up to 512GB
  • 8MP rear camera, 5MP front cameras
  • Non-removable 3,000mAh battery
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • 148.6 x 75 x 8.6mm, 168g

Read more


Honorable mentions:

LG Zone 4/K8 Plus

LG Zone 4/K8 Plus screen

This phone goes by many names. U.S. Cellular calls it the K8 Plus. Verizon named it the Zone 4. Don’t let the different names fool you: the phones are identical. They feature a 5-inch HD display, run on the Snapdragon 425 chipset, and have 2GB of RAM. Other specs include a 2,500mAh battery, 16GB of storage, and an 8MP camera. You can get it from Verizon for $120 or U.S. Cellular for only $20 with a Simple Connect Plan.


LG Aristo 2 Plus

LG Aristo 2 Plus home screen

The last device on our list of the best LG phones is the Aristo 2 Plus, which is nearly identical to the LG Zone 4 and K8 Plus smartphones. It looks the same and comes with a 5.0-inch HD display and the Snapdragon 425 chipset. The device also features 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage but has a slightly smaller 2,410mAh battery and a different primary camera: 13MP instead of 8MP. It’s also a little more expensive, coming in at $150. You can get it from T-Mobile via the link below.


There you have it — these are the best LG phones in our opinion, though there are plenty of other great options to choose from. Two of them are the LG G7 One and G7 Fit, which were announced in August, but we don’t know when they’ll actually come out, or what they’ll cost.

Which models would you add to our best LG phones list? Let us know in the comments!

Q3 2018 smartphone shipments are in: how much longer before Huawei claims top spot?

huawei p20 pro vs samsung galaxy s9 quick look aa (10 of 10)

  • The latest smartphone shipment numbers from Counterpoint show big year-on-year gains in market share for Huawei and Xiaomi.
  • Despite a drop in shipments, Samsung is still number one by a fairly large margin.
  • HMD Global, owners of the Nokia brand, had the largest year-on-year percentage increase.

Huawei and Xiaomi were the big winners in Q3 2018, according to smartphone shipment figures from Counterpoint Research. While the numbers say Samsung is still the number one OEM in terms of market share, a 13 percent year-on-year decrease in shipments combined with a 33 percent increase from Huawei saw the Chinese company close the gap.

Smartphone-Shipment-Q3-2018 Counterpoint

Samsung’s total share of global shipments is now 19 percent, while Huawei has 13 percent, according to Counterpoint. The company says Xiaomi, the fourth OEM on the list, saw shipments increase by 25 percent, giving it a nine percent share of total shipments.

Apple is third on the list with 12 percent. While Apple saw only very slight growth year-on-year, Counterpoint says iPhone revenues grew 29 percent due to the iPhone lineup’s average selling price of $793.

 Smartphone-Shipment-Q3 Percentage-2018Counterpoint

The company that saw the biggest year-on-year growth by percentage was HMD — the makers of Nokia phones. It saw sales grow a massive 71 percent when compared to Q3 2017, says Counterpoint. The list suggests HMD is now the ninth biggest smartphone maker globally, continuing an incredible rise that started when HMD released its first Nokia branded Android device in 2017.

Editor’s Pick

Overall, the top ten smartphone OEMs make up 78 percent of total smartphone shipments, according to the figures. This leaves all the other OEMs — Counterpoint says there are 600 of them — fighting for only 22 percent of the market. Brands not in the top ten include those with high-profile phones such as Google, OnePlus, and Razer.

According to Counterpoint, overall global smartphone shipments fell three percent annually — the third quarter in a row that shipments have fallen. There has been much debate about why this may be — including on this site — but the tracking firm puts it down to improvements in smartphone build quality and a lack of meaningful innovation.

Next up: The most important Android smartphones since the Google Nexus 5

Why should you buy a PlayStation 4?

Best answer: When it comes to its exclusive games lineup, Sony still remains king, and you’re getting a machine known for its solid performance.

Sony exclusives

PlayStation has a lot to offer that Xbox is lacking, most notably in the exclusive games department. Though Microsoft has shown a commitment to growing its first-party portfolio with the acquisition of new game studios, Sony already has several studios under its belt that have been pumping out quality content for years, whether they be new IPs or established franchises.

Titles like The Last of Us, Uncharted, God of War, Spider-Man, and Horizon: Zero Dawn have all been heralded as some of the best games ever made, and they are all only available on PlayStation. Where Microsoft seems to be pushing for more social experiences, Sony is doubling-down on high-quality single-player experiences that are getting buzz from critics and fans.

PlayStation Plus

Both PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold allow members to snag a few free games each month, but PS Plus usually has the better lineup. Not only do you tend to get newer games offered through PS Plus as opposed to older titles on Xbox Live Gold, the monetary value tends to be greater as well, with PlayStation offering $1,287 worth of free games in 2017 compared to Xbox’s $1,029.

Larger community

PlayStation 4 console sales numbers alone exceed well over 80 million, dwarfing those of Xbox One (although experts do say that Xbox One sales are up). Earnings reports peg PlayStation Network monthly active users at over 80 million as well, while Xbox Live hit just 59 million monthly active users in Microsoft’s third fiscal quarter of 2018. Odds are that if you have friends who play video games like you do, they’re likely on PlayStation. Though cross-play functionality is slowly being implemented in a handful of games, if you want to play with your friends, you’ll likely need a PS4 to do so and with one.

Higher-end model is relatively cheap

The PS4 Pro may not have a power advantage over the Xbox One X, but it does have a price advantage. For only $400, compared to the $500 price tag of an Xbox One X, you’re still getting a 4K-capabale machine that can run games at 60FPS, albeit less frequently than the competition.

If you’re short on money and don’t want to break the bank, the price may be its biggest selling point.

How important is performance?

Certain people live and die by a game’s performance, so you’ll need to ask yourself how important that aspect is to you. The PS4 already runs better than a standard Xbox One, though the Xbox One X does beat Sony’s higher-end PS4 Pro model in terms of raw computing power. Despite this, the PS4 Pro’s performance is by no means bad in any way, so you won’t be missing out on much.

PlayStation 4 vs PlayStation 4 Pro

Related to the above section, the biggest difference between either PlayStation model is how well it can run games. While the base PlayStation 4 can deliver crisp 1080p visuals, the PS4 Pro can bump resolutions all the way up to 4K, containing four times the amount of pixels. Both consoles are technically capable of running games at 60FPS, but the Pro will hit this mark more frequently. The PS4 Pro is the way to go if you truly care about even the smallest performance advantage and have a 4K television to view its crystal clear graphics. For those with a 1080p display or those who just want to save money, the base PS4 is still an impressive machine.

Any game released for PS4 can also be played on any PS4 model. There are no “Pro exclusive” games or vice versa.

Our pick

PlayStation 4

$300 at Best Buy

Popular and reliable

PlayStation and Xbox can go toe-to-toe in a lot of regards, but Sony’s exclusives catalogue tends to blow Microsoft’s out of the water. Not only that, but your PlayStation Plus membership certainly goes to good use with quality free games each month.

That 4K goodness

PlayStation 4 Pro

$400 at Best Buy

The best Sony offers

If you want quality exclusives along with the best performance possible on a Sony machine, upgrade to the PS4 Pro.