Phandroid » Featured Android Phone News, Rumors, Reviews, Apps, Forums & More! Sun, 21 Dec 2014 19:11:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 20 Most Debated and Popular Phandroid Articles of 2014 Thu, 18 Dec 2014 21:04:54 +0000 Top Phan 2

2014 was a very busy year for us here at Phandroid. In typical Android fashion there were tons of new devices, new device categories, software updates, and much more. On top of all that we increased our focus on unique original content, which resulted in some really fun stuff. Earlier this week we recapped the top stories in Android this year, but now we’re looking back at all the most debated and popular Phandroid posts from 2014. Enjoy!

Most Debated

First we’ll talk about the posts that received the most comments. We love hearing your opinions, and in these posts you did it a lot. Phandroid is nothing without its readers. In 2015 we hope you leave even more comments!

1. 8 things I hate about the Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5 back DSC05780

In this editorial from April Chris shares the 8 things he hates about the Samsung Galaxy S5. He wrote this piece during the height of GS5 hype. It was an unpopular opinion at the time, which led to a lot of comments.

Like my mother used to tell me, you’ll never find the perfect woman, only the perfect woman for you. Because, Android is a wonderful mess right now, manufacturers put a lot of time and effort into offering their unique versions of Android, that simply put — aren’t for everyone. Having owned the Samsung Galaxy S5 for a full week now, I think it’s time to stop beating around the bush: this phone simply isn’t for me. [Read More]

2. FBI snatches Google Glass off the face of innocent AMC movie-goer


Rob wrote this post way back in January, and it all turned out to be a misunderstanding. The original story that we reported on stated a man went to a movie theater with Google Glass, and halfway through the film a FBI agent snatched it off his face. Eventually an official statement was released which stated the man was not recording. It was dropped at that.

This story received tons of comments because it was during a time when Google Glass was very controversial. There were other stories at the time about businesses not allowing customers who wear Google Glass, and people getting pulled over for wearing Glass while driving. The idea of someone getting Glass confiscated at a movie theater was just another case of people not understanding the technology. [Read More]

3. Samsung officially announces the Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5 hand DSC05788

Surprise! People were excited about the Samsung Galaxy S5. Obviously Samsung news is always a big deal in the Android world. They didn’t become the largest Android manufacturer without gaining a few fans in the process. Back in February Samsung officially announced the Galaxy S5, and you guys left over 300 comments about it. We’re sure the Galaxy S6 will get the same reception in 2015. [Read More]

4. Why you should never sign another carrier contract

hands tied

Joe doesn’t like carrier contracts, and in this editorial he urged everyone to never sign another one. His arguments include freedom to upgrade or leave whenever you want, a cheaper monthly bill, and more control over your device and services. The comments on this post were great, especially from our non-US readers.

The moral of the story is very clear. If you want control of your device and service don’t sign a contract. Look at the big picture and don’t let them hook you in with the cheap initial cost. They want your money more than anything. [Read More]

5. The 5 types of Android users you meet


This hilariously true post about the types of Android users was written by Joe back in April. He argues that all Android users can be sorted into five types based solely on homescreen personalization. You’re either a Stock Jock, Themer, Minimalist, Hot Chick, or Ugly Duckling. Here’s the description for Minimalist:

Who: The Minimalist has been through the Themer phase. They’ve seen it all, and now it’s time to take things slow. Keep it simple. They have a keen eye for design, or at least that’s what they will tell you.  The Minimalist is also a tad OCD about how things are set up. Every app and widget is meticulously themed and organized. Man, I would love to download this new app, but I just can’t make that icon work.

Item they order at McDonald’s: Hamburger

Favorite beverage: Water

[Read More]

6. Did Google create a better smartwatch interface than Apple?

apple wear

One of the biggest stories in tech from 2014 was the announcement of the Apple Watch. Of course by the time the Apple Watch was announced there were already several Android Wear devices available. In this post Joe compared the UI’s of the Apple Watch and Android Wear.

The crazy thing about this comparison is how much better Android Wear looks compared to Apple’s weird watch software. It’s one of the rare, but happening more frequently, times that Google has bested Apple in software design. Most of you agreed whole-heartedly in the comments. [Read More]

7. If Apple made an Android-based iPhone, would you buy it? [POLL]

iPhone Android thumb wm

When Steve Wozniak talks the tech world listens. His comments about Apple “diversifying their options” inspired Quentyn to create this poll. The question was simple: if Apple made an Android device would you buy it? The reason this poll got so many comments is the real underlying question.

Do you dislike the iPhone because you prefer Android over iOS, or do you just plain hate all things Apple? The comments were very split on this topic. Many of you praised Apple’s hardware design, but just as many of you said you refuse to own an Apple product. The war wages on. [Read More]

8. HTC One M8 vs Samsung Galaxy S5 vs LG G Pro 2 vs Sony Xperia Z2 [CAMERA FACE OFF]

LG G Pro 2 HTC One M8 Samsung Galaxy S5 Sony Xperia Z2 camera

A big thing to consider when deciding on an Android phone is the camera performance. The easiest way to compare cameras is to get a bunch of phones and take the same photos with all of them. Chris reported on a comparison between the HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G Pro 2, and Sony Xperia Z2 (can you believe the Z3 came out in 2014 too?).

The funny thing about comparing photos is different people see different things. Rarely is it easy to pick a unanimous winner. That was certainly the case with this post, which is why so many of you left comments. [Read More]

9. iPhone 6 vs Galaxy S5 (and Android)

Galaxy S5 and iPhone 6 Camera

When it comes to smartphones there were two obvious top dogs in 2014: the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5. For many people these were the only two phones to consider, so naturally a lot of people wanted to compare them. As you might expect, the comparison between an Apple product and top Android phones resulted in a lot of comments.

Some people think the iPhone 6 is better. Some people think the Galaxy S5 is better. Others didn’t even think the GS5 should have been included in the comparison. Posts like these are a great place to see a wide variety of opinions. [Read More]

10. Motorola’s Shamu, the first Nexus phone I do not want [Opinion]


The last post on our most debated list comes from one of Phandroid’s newest members. Derek Ross wrote an opinion piece about the rumored “Motorola Shamu” device, which we now know as the Nexus 6. At this time it was the first we heard about the next Nexus having a 6-inch display. Derek had this to say about the size:

That’s just insane. I might be a self-proclaimed Android fanboy, but holy hell. I do not want something that big. I might live and breathe Nexus and Android, however I’m saddened to say that this might be the first Nexus phone that I won’t salivate over or end up buying. It’s just too damn big to comfortably use.

The best part about this story is the twist ending. Derek is now using the Nexus 6 as his daily phone. A lot can change when you actually get a device in your hands. [Read More]

Continue to 10 Most Popular Articles

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5 Reasons you need Amazon Prime right now Wed, 17 Dec 2014 19:58:50 +0000 amazonprime

While many folks have gotten their shopping done during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other special events throughout the holiday season, there’s always bound to be one person who hasn’t quite gotten their stocking stuffers secured just yet. You could brave the cold and venture into brick and mortar stores to cross off those last few items on your shopping list, but that isn’t always the best route for a few different reasons:

  • You can’t always find what you’re looking for inside the specific stores in your area
  • The prices tend to be better online
  • And sometimes, well, we just like to be lazy

With Amazon being the first online stop for many shoppers we thought it’d be a good idea to show you why you shouldn’t proceed to order anything without having an Amazon Prime subscription. It offers many benefits that can not only help you save money on shipping, but also take care of some other holiday needs that may arise. Let’s run them down!

A box from is pictured on the porch of a house in GoldenFree 2-day shipping for those last minute Christmas gifts

Most products on Amazon ship extremely fast, but if you need to ensure your gifts make it to doorsteps in time for Christmas then you’ll likely want to opt for two-day shipping. With Amazon Prime, Amazon guarantees 2-day delivery on all Prime-eligible items, of which there are a ton.

Not only is there that guarantee, there’s also the fact that it’s free — no need to shell out extra dough for increased peace of mind. And should you really push the clock and need 1-day shipping, you can pay anywhere between $4 and $8 on most items, instead of the usual $15-20 you’d have to pay without Prime. This alone is usually worth the cost of admission for anyone who shops with Amazon on a daily or even weekly basis.

Access to Amazon’s daily lightning deals 30 minutes before the rest of the crowd

Of course, saving money doesn’t only have to apply to shipping. Amazon likes to put hundreds of items on sale for ridiculous prices through their lightning deals each day. If you’re worried that a deal that’s too good to be true is going to be sold out before you get a chance to order, Amazon Prime now gives you the added benefit of accessing those deals 30 minutes ahead of the rest of the pack. Nothing like a steep discount to help make your gift purchasing decision that much easier.

Holiday entertainment with Amazon Prime Instant Video, 500,000 eBooks and Amazon Prime Music


Whether you’re traveling to see family for the holidays or hosting a crowd at your own home, Amazon Prime equips you with enough multimedia to keep the family entertained. Amazon Prime Instant Video gives you access to a large library of movies and television shows, Amazon Prime Music has thousands of free songs (check out our review right here), and you even get access to over 500,000 Kindle eBooks through the Kindle Lending Library, all for no cost over the typical $99 per year Amazon asks for.

Unlimited photo storage to save your holiday memories

Amazon recently added another cool perk for folks who decided to sign up for Prime — unlimited photo storage. While the gigabytes of space you’re afforded from other services are typically more than adequate for storing quick photos, a large collection of high quality images (like those taken with DSLR cameras) could take up a rather big chunk of space. If you need somewhere to store tons of photos for long-time safe keeping, there’s no good reason to venture outside the comfy confines of your Amazon Prime account (especially considering Amazon prides themselves not only on server speed, but also availability and stability, as well).

It’s free for 30 days if you haven’t already tried it!

The last reason is the most obvious, and it should be the one that tips you over the edge: you’ll get the first 30 days for free, which you can sign up for right here. Even if you decide you don’t like it, you’re not on the hook to continue the membership past that initial 30 days.

You’ll get full access to all the perks paying members enjoy during that time, so whether you’re just looking to save money on some last minute shipments or looking to let Netflix rest for something a bit different you should definitely give it a go.

It’s worth mentioning that you get a full year of Amazon Prime with the purchase of an Amazon Fire Phone, so you’re potentially getting a serviceable smartphone and Amazon’s premier service for just over $100 each. Not a bad deal there. Oh, and students can also get the service for free for a whopping 6 months, after which they only pay $50 per year. What are you waiting for?

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Top 10 Android Stories of 2014 Tue, 16 Dec 2014 21:07:56 +0000 news

As the calendar gets closer to 2015 it’s time to look back and recap the past year. 2014 will go down as one of the most important years in the history of Android. We saw tons of wearables, a brand new design language, new hardware manufacturers, new Nexus devices, and a few fails along the way. It’s been a fun year. Here are the top 10 Android stories from 2014.

Material Design

Google Material Design multiplatform

Perhaps the most easy to spot story from 2014 is Material Design. If you’re an Android user or just an Android fan it’s impossible to look anywhere without seeing Material Design. Every since Google announced Material Design back in June we’ve been seeing it slowly trickle out to all things Android.

Material Design is the biggest change we’ve seen in Android since Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s much more colorful, playful, and full of animations. Google describes it as being made of digital paper. When something moves or expands into view you can see exactly where it’s coming from or how it appeared. Android has never looked better, and we have Material Design to thank for that.


OnePlus One DSC06079

One of the most controversial stories of 2014 has been a start-up hardware company named OnePlus. Before they even had a phone to show off they were making waves with their #NeverSettle marketing campaign. OnePlus claimed that phones from Apple, Samsung, HTC, and others required users to “settle.” In April they finally announced the OnePlus One. It had excellent specs and an even better price, but the trouble was just beginning.

First they caught flack for a “Smash the past” campaign that urged people to break their old phone to get a OnePlus One invite. No one could simply buy a OnePlus One online. You had to win an invite and then you were able to buy the phone. It wasn’t until August that OnePlus opened the gates and sent out 10,000 invites.

August was also when OnePlus’ arguably most controversial situation occurred. In an attempt to open up the invite system to more females, OnePlus asked their female fans to post photos of themselves in the forums. The photos with the most votes would win invites. Hours later it was removed due to an influx of complaints. OnePlus has stretched the definition of “any publicity is good publicity.”

Android Wear

Moto 360 DSC06955

In 2014 we were introduced to a brand new version of Android for wearables. Previously, Android had been used on smartwatches in clunky implementations. Google’s solution to the problem was a slimmed down version of Android that focuses on notifications. Android Wear was born.

The first couple of devices to get Android Wear were pretty boring, but they’ve picked up speed since the Moto 360 was launched. These devices display useful cards for notifications, alerts, and other info you might be interested in. Android Wear is incredibly simple and easy to use, which makes it one of the best platforms for a category that is about to get much more crowded in 2015.

Amazon Fire Phone Fail


The Amazon phone. Rumors about Amazon creating a smartphone can be traced back several years, but in 2014 it finally happened. Amazon used everything they learned with their Kindle Fire line and put it into the Fire Phone. The specs were mid-range, and it had a bunch of crazy features, but despite the hype it just didn’t sell very well.

There are many reason for why the Fire Phone burnt out. It was priced at $650 unlocked or $200 with a contract from AT&T. The specs were from last year’s flagship devices. Amazon’s UI is clunky and flat-out bizarre when you throw in the weird 3D effects. No Google services are present on the devices. Not even prominent placement on Amazon’s homepage could save this phone.


Verizon Moto X 2014 DSC07000

Motorola had a very good year. A year after releasing the original Moto X and Moto G, Motorola came back with a new Moto X, new Moto G, the Moto E, DROID Turbo, the Moto 360 smartwatch, and the Nexus 6. You could make a very good argument that Motorola has the best Android phone, phablet, low-end phone, and smartwatch right now.

Over the last couple years Motorola has become very popular among Android fans, thanks in large parts to being owned by Google at one time. In early 2014 they were sold to Lenovo, but their vision and design have not changed. Motorola continues to offer great build quality, stock Android software, and super fast updates. We hope 2015 is even better.

Android Everywhere


We already talked about Material Design and Android Wear, but both of those are part of a bigger story from 2014: Android is everywhere. You could argue that Android was already everywhere, but in 2014 Google made a big push to make it actually work well everywhere.

Android Wear. Android Auto. Android TV. All of these new branches of Android come off the Lollipop tree. The idea is simple, and something Android fans have wanted for a long time. One version of Android that adapts to whatever interface you need. Plug it into a TV and it looks one way; plug it into a car and it looks completely different.

Google has always boasted about how Android can run on many different kinds of devices, but in 2014 they started taking it serious. Android TV still has a long way to go, and Android Auto has barely left the garage, but in 2015 expect to see Android truly be everywhere.

Nexus Goes Phablet


Phablets are certainly not new to the world of Android. Samsung kicked off the big phone movement way back in 2011. In 2014 the Nexus joined the party. The Motorola-made Nexus 6 was released with a giant 6-inch display.

Reviews of the Nexus 6 were a mixed bag. People loved it for Android 5.0 Lollipop, the build quality, battery life, and horsepower. The one point of contention has been the size, but that has been the story with every phablet device released the last few years. Even the iPhone 6 Plus received criticism from some critics for its outlandish size. Phablets are here to stay, and now Google has a contender.

Apple Pay


“How is Apple Pay on a ‘Top Android Stories’ list?!”

Android fans usually don’t get too excited about Apple announcements. That changed with Apple Pay. Mobile payments have been possible with Android phones for quite a while, but it hasn’t been very popular or well-know. People have been saying it will take Apple to make mobile payments mainstream. They were right.

Immediately after the announcement of Apple Pay retailers started advertising their compatibility. The funny thing is that most of those retailers have been capable of mobile payments with Android phones for a long time. Apple Pay has brought even more retailers on board, and since it uses the same technology as Android mobile payments we can all benefit from it. Thanks, Apple!

Nokia finally adopts Android


Every time a sexy new Nokia Lumia phone is announced we see the same comments: “I want this phone with Android on it!” In 2014 those people finally got their wish, but it came in an unlikely way. Early in the year Nokia announced the Nokia X family of Android devices.

The initial announcement came with three phones: the Nokia X+, Nokia X+, and Nokia XL. All three devices had very low-end specs and were marketed toward emerging markets. On top of that they ran a skinned version of Android that looked like Windows Phone and had no Google apps. These devices were nothing close to what Android fans were hoping for.

In July it was reported that Microsoft would be killing the Nokia X experiment. The dream of a high-end Android phone with Nokia hardware lives on.

Samsung Tried Stuff


Samsung is a company that loves to try a lot of different things, and they aren’t afraid to release some weird products. Their “spaghetti flinging” strategy has received a lot of criticism, but it has produced some very interesting devices. In 2014 alone we saw a lot of interesting devices from Sammy.

On the smartwatch front they released the Samsung Gear Fit and Gear S. Both of these devices feature curved displays that fit comfortably around your wrist. The Gear Fit was marketed as a fitness device, while the Gear S abandoned Android for Tizen in a monstrous body.

The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge was one of the strangest phones to be released in 2014. It was announced alongside the almost identical Galaxy Note 4, but the Edge has one big difference. The Edge gets its name from the display that curves around the right side of the device. This extra screen real estate can be used for a number of things that don’t do anything really compelling.

Maybe the most surprising thing Samsung announced in 2014 is the Gear VR, a virtual reality headset made with Occulus. The Gear VR uses the Galaxy Note 4 as the display and internals to power the device. It’s easier to use than the Occulus Rift because it’s a completely mobile system. The only problem is finding something cool to do with it.


It’s been a great year here in Android World. Tons of great new devices, software updates, apps, games, and so much more. We can only hope 2015 is just as good. The future for Android is brighter than it has ever been. We’re interested to hear what you think was the biggest Android story of the year! Let us know in the poll below, or write in your own picks in the comments below!

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Unboxing: Samsung Gear VR Tue, 16 Dec 2014 19:42:12 +0000 samsung-gear-vr-unboxing

The Samsung Gear VR is Samsung’s latest and perhaps most unique wearable. Announced alongside the Galaxy Note 4, the Gear VR relies on the handset to create a virtual reality headset for viewing video, playing games, and experience other types of immersive content. Backing the Gear VR is technology from Oculus, makers of perhaps the most well-known virtual reality platform the Oculus Rift.

As we dive into exploring the features of the Gear VR and its integration with the Note 4, we thought we’d share a quick unboxing and hardware walkthrough of the so-called Innovator Edition of the headset. Aside from the goggles themselves, the set includes a 16GB MicroSD and and adapter, a screen cleaning cloth, and an extra bit of cushioning should it be needed. Perhaps the best touch is the inclusion of a nice soft-shell travel case to hold the entire package.

We’ll be giving the Gear VR a thorough once over in the coming days. Stay tuned for more coverage of Samsung’s wearable headset.

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ASUS ZenWatch Review Fri, 12 Dec 2014 18:33:20 +0000 asus-zenwatch-hero

If the ASUS ZenWatch is a sign of things to come, we like where Android Wear is headed. The watch itself is one of the more thoughtfully designed devices to sport Google’s wearable software platform, but like those before is not without its flaws. Those looking to make a fashion statement will love the look of the ZenWatch on their wrists. Power users might still be left wanting more, however.



As we enter what we could more or less consider generation 1.5 of Android Wear devices, manufacturers are seemingly gaining confidence in the form factor. It shows in the design of devices like the LG G Watch R with its analog-inspired hardware and now the ASUS ZenWatch. The ZenWatch opts for the square/rectangle form factor seen in devices like the Samsung Gear Live and original G Watch, but does so in a way that pays homage to traditional watch roots.

Immediately noticeable is ASUS’ choice of default watchband. It’s a thin strap of brown leather that sits in stark contrast of other Android Wear devices, all of which seem to skew toward chunky and black regardless of material choice. The ZenWatch utilizes a clasping mechanism more commonly seen in conjunction with metal watchbands. It adds a bit of intrigue to what might otherwise be a boring bit of leather by providing a nice accent on the underside of the wrist. Still, if it’s not quite your style it can easily be swapped out for any other 22mm watchband.

The brown leather of the band blends seamlessly into the body of the watch thanks to the classy yet subtle addition of a band of copper-colored metal sandwiched between the silver halves of the ZenWatch’s stainless steel case. The case itself is slim with a subtle curve to its face, though the bottom half is more or less flat. The whole package exudes effortless style — a classic look hardly dated by the modern technology buried within.

While the ZenWatch looks great on the wrist, we can’t say it feels like the greatest fit. Those with larger wrists will find themselves on the borderline of needing to replace the included watchband out of the box. My wrists are by no means thick, and even after maxing out the length of the clasp the ZenWatch still felt a bit too snug for my liking. Sizing issues aside the flat, rigid steel case didn’t sit all that comfortably on the wrist. A more ergonomic design could have gone a long way to prevent the constant abrasive rubbing against the wrist bones.

The watch design includes one hardware button for standby and power on/off (plus quick access to settings), but it sits tucked under one side and flush with the case. The design implies the button is meant for use only when the ZenWatch is off the wrist, and indeed it is quite hard to reach when wearing. A more accessible placement would have been nice (a mock crown would have been a nice design accent, as well), but the action assigned to the button can be accessed directly from the interface so it is far from a deal breaker.


The ZenWatch features a hardware compliment more or less standard with other Android Wear devices. The internals include Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 SoC and 512MB RAM. 4GB of internal storage are there should you need it, but most content will be accessed over a wireless bridge with your Android smartphone; it is unlikely you will need to be worried about running out of space.

The display is a 1.63-inch AMOLED fortified with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. At 320×320 resolution it’ a far cry from the HD our eyes are used to, but on such a small screen it still boasts a solid pixel density of 278 ppi. Fans of efficient design won’t be too pleases with the amount of bezel here. In addition to the metal edges of the case, large swaths of black surround the display on all sides. One could only imagine if the ZenWatch featured an edge-to-edge display. Sadly, it’s not what we get here.

A built-in heart rate monitor is becoming an expected feature for Android Wear devices, but with the ZenWatch it isn’t immediately apparent where this bit of hardware is tucked away. To utilize the monitor, a finger must be placed on each side of the display touching the front bezel/metal casing.

The ZenWatch is water resistant but not waterproof, which is fine. Not too many folks are swimming or bathing with a leather-banded watch, in any case, and the metal clasp makes the ZenWatch easy enough to take off.



As an Android Wear smartwatch, the ASUS ZenWatch is privy to all the goodies Google has baked into the platform. Unlike Android on smartphones, the Big G has been pretty firm about keeping the interface standardized, so voice interactions, Google Now information, and phone-based notifications and controls work about as effortlessly as they do on any other Android Wear offering. There’s not much to the basic interface that can’t be gleaned from the quick tutorial upon booting up and pairing the device to a smartphone (worth noting that only Android devices are supported as of now) for the the first time.

But the standardized interface hasn’t held back ASUS and friends from finding their own ways to make each Android Wear a more unique software experience. ASUS does so with a few additions, primarily in the form of Android smartphone apps that further interface with your ZenWatch. These apps include ZenWatch Manager, software that allows you to customize the look of the device’s exclusive watch faces.

A more useful feature allows your ZenWatch to notify you if you wander off without your phone. This is important because an Android Wear device is more or less useless without its accompanying Android smartphone, but also because losing your phone is a real bummer. Other possibilities unlocked by ASUS-specific apps are remote viewfinder and shutter capabilities for your smartphone thanks to Remote Camera.

Wellness features include the built-in heart rate monitor and accompanying software to track your well-being based on feedback from that sensor and the watch’s pedometer. The software side can be a bit finicky in terms of an accurate heart rate reading, but that could also be partly due to the actual heart rate monitor hardware.


A chief complaint against Android Wear devices early on is disappointing battery life. Users will find no solace with the ZenWatch. While the 369mAh battery has more than enough juice to get the average user through a day of use, power users pairing many apps and service with their watch might end up scraping by on fumes.

On the short side, the ZenWatch will reliably produce 12-13 hours of uptime on average. With slightly more conservative usage, the number can be pushed to closer to 20. What is clear, though, is that the device will require daily charging. No, they have yet to design and Android Wear device that runs on watch batteries that last for years at a time. Sorry, guys.

Key to getting the most out of battery life is opting to turn off the always on display option. We’d also suggest running a lower brightness setting.

The Bottom Line


As the Android Wear ecosystem begins to mature we are starting to see some truly great smartwatch contenders, and the ASUS ZenWatch is one of them. It has all the style of a classic time piece while introducing the modern advantages of Android Wear, though it brings along the platform’s shortcomings, as well.

For those looking for a smartwatch that is both a fashion accent and utilitarian object, you might look no further than the ASUS ZenWatch. For all its minor flaws it is truly one of the better Android Wear devices currently available — especially at a price of $200.

The Good

  • Sharp, classic design
  • Quality materials at a great price

The Bad

  • Not the most comfortable watch to wear
  • Battery life a bit disappointing

Overall: 3.5/5

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5 factors that future Nexus 6 owners should consider before upgrading Thu, 11 Dec 2014 20:38:04 +0000 Nexus 5 Nexus 6 upgrade

The Nexus 6 (our review) is a big phone, both in size and importance. It’s available from four US carriers right now (though it’s still hard to buy), which is a big deal for the Nexus line. The Nexus 6 is also Google’s first Nexus in a while to offer a “no compromise” experience. Top notch build quality. High-end specs. Available on most carriers. It’s the Nexus we’ve always wanted.

That’s not to say the Nexus 6 is without faults. In fact the biggest feature of the Nexus 6 is it’s biggest point of contention. Some people love the “phablet” experience, but others aren’t quite ready to give up precious pocket space. Unfortunately it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to upgrade phones without upgrading in size. In actuality the Nexus 6 asks for the biggest compromise of them all. Is it worth it?

Size Matters

nexus 6 nexus 5

Obviously the number one question that potential upgraders will ask is about the size. The Nexus 6 has a 6-inch display (5.96 to be exact), but there is minimal bezel around the top, bottom, and sides. It’s still a very large phone, but it’s not as big as you might expect from a 6-inch display.

Figuring out how big a phone will be in your own hand can be tricky. The obvious thing to do is find one in a store so you can try it out. If that’s not an option for you we can compare it to a device you might have, or even regular household items. Check it out.

Credit Card AA Battery Playing Card Note 4 iPhone 6 Plus Galaxy S5 HTC One M8 iPhone 5S

Personally, the Nexus 6 is too big for me. I can palm a basketball in one hand, but using the Nexus 6 is a bit unwieldy. It’s slightly top-heavy, which is not good since you’re usually holding the bottom half. When I unlock it and draw my lock pattern with one hand it feels imbalanced.

I can’t say the Nexus 6 is impossible to use. Despite it being too big for my liking I’ve been able to use it as my daily phone for over a week. The size does have its advantages in some areas. Watching videos, playing games, and taking photos is awesome on a big screen. It all depends on what you’re willing to sacrifice. I can safely say the Nexus 6 is too big for most people, but the question is will you care?

Super Saturation

nexus 6 brightness

Another thing to consider about the massive 6-inch display is that Motorola has chosen to use AMOLED. If you’re thinking about upgrading from the Nexus 5 or other LCD-toting phones you will notice a big difference in colors. I’m not going to try to tell you one display tech is better than the other. Your preference will depend on your own eyes.

However, one thing that Nexus 6 users have noticed in the display is a reddish hue. This is especially noticeable when you have the display brightness turned all the way down with adaptive brightness enabled. People have complained about this, but I actually like it. The red tint makes the display much easier on the eyes in dark conditions. AMOLED in general is great in dark conditions.


  • Pure blacks
  • Vibrant colors make Lollipop…pop.
  • Easy on the eyes at night


  • Colors aren’t true-to-life
  • Red hue can be annoying to some

Build Quality

nexus 6 nexus 5 2

As mentioned above, the Nexus 6 is the first Nexus in a while to offer top-notch “flagship” build quality. This is the reason why the Nexus 6 didn’t meet the insanely low price points of the previous two Nexus phones. If you want high quality you have to pay for it. Unlocked the Nexus 6 goes for a whopping $650, but you can get it for more typical prices with carrier contracts.

Coming from a Nexus 5 it’s easy to tell that the Nexus 6 has superior build quality. The Nexus 6 feels like a solid piece of futuristic material in your hand. It has a nice weight too it, but can feel imbalanced at times. Compare that to the Nexus 5 which has some give in the back and feels much lighter in the hand.

The only real issue I have with the build quality is the slippery material they’ve chosen for the back. A phone of this size is hard to hold in general, but with the slick back it’s even worse. A texture of some sort would have added some much-needed grip. As it is you will want to put a case on it, which only increases the size of the device.


nexus 6 camera

Nexus devices have been plagued with bad cameras for a while. The Nexus 4 was dreadful, and the Nexus 5 is only respectable. Motorola’s focus on build-quality for the Nexus 6 didn’t just stop at the dimple on the back. They’ve put together the best camera a Nexus device has ever had.

The rear camera on the Nexus 6 sports a 13 megapixel shooter with auto focus, optical image stabilization, and dual-LED “ring” flash, which is powered by the Sony IMX214 CMOS sensor. The biggest improvements come in low-light. If you’re coming from a Nexus 5 you will notice big improvements. Users of HTC, Samsung, and LG flagships won’t notice much, if any.

Lollipop & Phablets

nexus 6 tablet UI

Perhaps the most compelling reason why people might be considering the Nexus 6 right (besides “Nexus!”) is to get Android 5.0 Lollipop. Most Nexus devices already have Lollipop, but if you’re out in HTC or Samsung Land you’re still waiting. Lollipop is definitely one of the best things about the Nexus 6, but it’s also one of the most disappointing.

Lollipop is just as good on the Nexus 6 as it is on the Nexus 5, if not a little snappier. The problem is that the OS doesn’t treat the 6-inch display like a phablet. The Nexus 7 is only an inch bigger, but it gets tons of optimizations for the bigger display. Lollipop on the Nexus 6 is just a blown-up phone interface. This is one area where Samsung does a much better job with phablets. Stock Android is just not suited for a phablet.

Worth the upgrade?

nexus 6 nexus 5 3

I really wanted to like the Nexus 6, and I believe I could use it every day if I had to. That being said, I don’t think it’s worth the upgrade. There’s not enough to make me feel like my Nexus 5 is outdated. The same can be said for owners of the HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G3, and especially Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

Make no mistake, the Nexus 6 is an excellent device. It’s the best Nexus that has ever been made. The only problem is it’s not enough better to make it worth the upgrade. The best way to think about it is if you would switch from the Galaxy S5 to the Note 4. You’re getting almost all of the same features, but with a bigger display. If that’s all you want then the Nexus 6 is for you, but if not it’s time to wait for the next Nexus.

Should Upgrade

  • You love stock Android
  • You need a big display
  • You don’t care about one-handed use
  • Camera quality isn’t important to you

Shouldn’t Upgrade

  • You own a Galaxy Note 4
  • You’re fine with a 5-inch display
  • Camera quality is important to you
  • You hate AMOLED displays
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LG G Watch R Review Tue, 09 Dec 2014 18:07:13 +0000 g-watch-r-wrist

While LG was quick to jump into the Android Wear ecosystem with the original G Watch, the G Watch R feels more like their first true attempt at an Android smartwatch. It refines much of what was introduced with the G Watch while opting for a circular form factor that serves to merge the traditional with the futuristic. Albeit for a few flaws inherent in nearly all Android Wear devices, the G Watch R is about as good as it gets for a smartwatch.



The LG G Watch R is the first piece of Android Wear hardware that, at least in terms of designs, recognizes it is a watch first and a smart computing device second. A lot of attention has been paid to the details of the design, from an analog-inspired bezel that serves to mask the issue of bulky screen-edge electronics to a genuine leather 22mm strap. If the latter doesn’t suit your taste, it can be swapped out for a nearly endless selection of watchbands currently available for your more run-of-the-mill (i.e. non-smart) watch offerings. A mock crown serves as a screen on/off switch and can also be used to power down the device or access system menus.

Going back to the bezel, it is one of the few instances where an Android Wear watch pays service to the more traditional form factor, but it also showcases a unique integration between hardware and software that hasn’t been explored with previous smartwatch offerings. The hands of the virtual watch faces sync up seamlessly with the physical markings on the bezel to great effect.

While the Moto 360 has won over plenty of fans with its round design, the G Watch R exploits the form factor to create perhaps the most complete Android Wear device to date. Its mix of flat black accents and quality leather for the strap imbue a refined classiness. This is a watch that looks sharp with any outfit, including a suit. On that note, the design of the watch is decidedly masculine, a trend all too common with the first crop of Android Wear devices. One can’t help but feel like the bulky, stark looks of many Android Wear devices completely ignore the female segment of the market.

And the G Watch R is indeed bulky, a chief complaint levied against the device in most early reviews. We would counter that at 46.4 x 53.6 mm, it is not quite as bulky as some would have us believe, but we can see how those with smaller wrists or an affinity toward a more subtle fashion might find it a turn off. In defense of LG, they did manage to cram quite a bit of hardware within, so we can be a bit forgiving of the watch’s girth.


The focal point of the G Watch R experience is a circular OLED display measuring 1.3 inches in diameter. It’s 320×320 resolution is far from HD (and at times noticeably grainy), but it does not lack for visibility in nearly any lighting condition. In fact, at higher brightness settings the light from the watch face has a tendency to drown out the physical markings on the bezel, making them difficult to read in some lighting conditions. It’s a minor annoyance that can be avoided by choosing a proper brightness setting, but one worth mentioning.

The G Watch R is one of the more powerful Android Wear devices on the market with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC clocked at 1.2GHz and 512MB of on board RAM. The watch features 4GB of built-in storage, though since the device must be constantly synced with a a smartphone where much of its data will be streamed from it’s hard to imagine a case where all of that storage space will be needed.


Rounding out the hardware are features like IP67 resistance to dust and water and a built-in heart rate sensor position on the underside of the watch. As with much of the heart rate sensing technology that has made its way to mobile devices in recent months, it is not always the most cooperative, but it comes as a nice bonus for those planning to use their G Watch R to monitor fitness-related activities.



We’ve already mentioned how the G Watch R’s watch faces integrate nicely with the physical bezel of the device, and we won’t delve too deeply into the intricacies of Android Wear. For that, you might want to check out our Moto 360 review or our look at seven things we hated about Android Wear. It’s worth noting that Android Wear is a developing platform and looks to only get better with time; a Lollipop update that apparently addresses many of our concerns should arrive soon

Back to the G Watch R. While Google has promoted the circular watch face option alongside the more common square form factor found in watches like the original G Watch and Samsung Gear Live, the Android Wear software does not seem to support both equally. Info cards are cut off by the curving lower edges of the display, greatly reducing the amount of visible content when using the G Watch R. This is perhaps its biggest flaw. As a device designed for at-a-glance info, these display issues are a major hinderance to usability.

As with other Android Wear devices, the software experience is designed to act as a companion to and compliment an Android smartphone (we should point out that Android Wear devices are as of now only compatible with Android and not iOS or Windows Phone handsets). While the benefit of this is a platform that doesn’t attempt to do more than truly fits its form factor, it also amplifies its limitations. Far too often the Android Wear interface prompts the use to complete an action on their smartphone. Certain actions — music playback controls come to mind — possible through Android Wear end up feeling redundant.

We chalk most of this up to a platform still in its infancy. Some will argue that Android Wear launched before it was ready, and we can’t really say there isn’t some truth to that. How Android Wear matures will greatly influence the usefulness and longevity of devices like the G Watch R.

Battery Life

One thing the G Watch R has going for it is battery life. Depending on how you have your device set up (brightness, watch face always on, etc.), you can expect anywhere from a full day of use on a single charge to closer to two days. It features one of the larger power cells an Android Wear device has seen at 410mAh to help it achieve this goal (and a bit of additional design bulk).

Two days is impressive for an Android Wear watch, but it’s far from what many expect of such a device. Until manufacturers can replicate battery times of traditional watches on their smart counterparts, those looking for a truly watch-like experience will always be disappointed in the final result.

We’re not sure this a truly fair comparison given everything the G Watch R does beyond simply tell time, but it’s understandable that folks don’t want yet another device to charge at the very least every other day. Still, as we said the battery time is impressive for an Android Wear device of this class, especially considering its fairly powerful hardware.

The Bottom Line


The G Watch R gets so much right in terms of design and hardware that it’s hard not to call it the best Android Wear device on the market. It’s bulkiness won’t be for everybody, but aside from faltering in the software department slightly, which falls more on the side of Google, it is a well-rounded (no pun intended) smartwatch that provides an experience that melds our expectations of a traditional watch with the forward-thinking capabilities of wearable tech.

The Good

  • Sleek design integrates hardware with software
  • Top-notch hardware
  • Battery life among the best for Android Wear devices

The Bad

  • Software experience still needs refinement
  • Bulkiness might be a deal breaker for some

Overall: 3.5/5

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Vote now for the Phandroid 2014 Reader’s Choice Awards Fri, 05 Dec 2014 15:27:22 +0000 phandroid-readers-choice-poll

2014’s final days are less than a month away, and that can only mean one thing: the end of year lists are coming. While it would be easy to make our own proclaiming the best of the best and be done, we would rather hear it from our readers. Here is your chance to sound off on your favorite Android apps, games, and devices from 2014 with Phandroid’s Reader’s Choice Awards.

Vote for categories including Best New App, Best Smartphone, and Manufacturer of the Year, and let your voice be heard. We’ve provided a few suggestions for each but feel free to fill in your own if you have a better choice. The poll will be open until December 19th. We’ll tally up the votes and announce the winners at the end of the month.

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13 Nexus 6 Tips & Tricks Thu, 04 Dec 2014 21:09:02 +0000 Nexus 6

The Nexus 6 (our review) may have been announced a while ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to buy now. People are still waiting for theirs to arrive, and the Play Store is struggling to keep them in stock. If you’re still waiting, or you finally got one, we have some must-know tips and tricks to help you get the most out of this giant Nexus.

Tap & Go

tap and go

The first thing you have to do with a Nexus 6 is set it up. Lollipop introduced a new feature called “Tap & Go” which makes the process very easy. If your old device has NFC you can simply tap the devices back-to-back and all your Google account info, settings, data, widgets, wallpapers, and apps will be synced over to the Nexus 6.

Screen Pinning & Guest Mode

Lollipop screen pinning

A smartphone is full of personal information and sensitive content. This can make it difficult to let people use your phone without your supervision. “Screen Pinning” is a new Lollipop feature that lets you lock your phone to one app.

You can “pin” a specific app so the user can’t do anything else. To enable this feature go to Settings > Security > Screen pinning. Then open the app you would like to pin, press the Overview (formerly multitasking) button, scroll up and tap the blue thumb tack icon in the bottom right corner of the most recent app. To unpin an app simply long-press the back and Overview buttons simultaneously.

Android tablets have had user accounts for a while, but the Nexus 6 is the first phone to get them. By default there is your account and a “Guest Mode.” In Guest Mode users are able to make phone calls and sign into apps as if it was their own device. Your user account is password protected from the guest. To switch to Guest Mode swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers, tap your profile icon, and choose “Guest.”

Keyboard with Numbers Row


The Nexus 6’s giant display offers a ton of screen real estate, but the default Google Keyboard doesn’t make use of it. With a few tweaks in the settings you can add a number row (and more) to the Google Keyboard.

With the keyboard visible long-press the comma key and select “Google Keyboard Settings” from the pop-up. Next choose “Appearance & Layouts” and then “Custom input styles.” Tap the (+) button in the upper right and choose your preferred language. Now select “PC” from the layout drop-down. Now you just have to back out to the “Languages” options, un-toggle “Use system language” and select the PC layout.

Battery Saver

 Lollipop battery saver

The Nexus 6 has a big 3220 mAh battery and Turbo Charging technology, but if you still need to squeeze out more juice you can use “Battery Saver.” When Battery Saver is enabled it reduces your device’s performance, turns off vibrations, and blocks most background data. It can be turned on manually or set to automatically kick in when your battery is at 15% or 5%. You’ll know it’s working when the status and nav bars turn orange. Go to Settings > Battery > tap the menu button.

Read More: 15 Tips & Tricks for Android Lollipop Users

Quickly Check Data Usage

Lollipop data

Here’s a quick way to check how much data you’ve used. Simply tap on the data connection from Quick Settings and you can see how much data you’ve used in the last month. It also shows any warnings or limits you have set up, and tapping “More settings” takes you to the full Data Usage page in the Android Settings.

Set your account photo

Lollipop guest

You’ll notice that the Nexus 6 (and Lollipop in general) shows a tiny profile icon in the upper right of the lock screen and notification shade. By default it shows a generic silhouette, but you can change it to something more personal.

To do this swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers. Tap on the little profile icon and you’ll see the users on your device. With your account selected tap “More Settings.” On the next screen tap on you account and a pop-up will allow you to change your name and photo. We’re not sure why it doesn’t automatically use your Google account photo, but at least it’s easy to fix.

Control Notifications


The Nexus 6 and Lollipop give users control over notifications like never before. Every app installed on your device can be configured to send notifications only when you want to see them. You can also put the phone is special modes to restrict notifications. Each app can be put into three notification categories:

Block – Never show notifications from the app.
Priority – Show notifications at the top of the list and let them through when in Priority Mode.
Sensitive – Content is not displayed in the lock screen notification

To adjust the notification options for apps go to Settings > Sound & notification > App notifications. To switch your phone into Priority Mode or Do Not Disturb Mode press the volume keys and use the options in the pop-up.

Smart Lock

Lollipop smart lock

It’s a good idea to have a layer of security on your device. The only problem with using a password or pattern lock is that it ends up slowing you down way more than anyone else. The Nexus 6 has a feature called “Smart Lock” that lets you tell your phone when it’s safe. Right now there are three ways to make your phone trust you.

Trusted devices – Any Bluetooth or NFC device can be added here. When those devices are connected your lock screen security is disabled.
Trusted face – This is Google’s much better implementation of “Face Unlock.” After you scan your face it will look for you every time you unlock your device. If it recognizes you the lock screen security will be disabled.
Trusted places – In this option you’ll see any locations you’ve added to your Google account. You can toggle those on or add a new place manually. When you are in those locations the lock screen security will be disabled.

With these three options you can make it so you don’t have to constantly enter passwords or patterns, but if your device is stolen or left behind it will know to lock others out. These options can be accessed in Settings > Security > Smart Lock.

Read More: Top 10 Android Lollipop Features [VIDEO]

Lock Screen Shortcuts

lock screen

The lock screen has a few shortcuts that can get you into certain apps quickly. Swiping up on the lock screen unlocks the device, but swiping right launches the camera (or apps like Snapchat), and swiping left goes straight to the phone. These are two things you don’t want to be fumbling around to find.

Shoot 4K Video


Did you know you are now the proud owner of a 4K camera? Google hasn’t advertised it a lot, but the Nexus 6 can indeed shoot 4K video. To enable 4K video open the default Google Camera app and swipe from the left side to open the menu. Tap the settings icon in the lower right of the view finder. On the next page tap “Resolution & quality.” Here you can adjust a few things, but we’re interested in “Back camera video.” Switch that to “UHD 4K.” Now go shoot in 4K!

Enable High Quality Audio


If you watch a lot of stuff with the Google Play Movies & TV app there is perhaps no better device to own than the Nexus 6. It has a huge beautiful display and awesome dual front-facing speakers. There is even a way to turn on surround sound audio.

In the Play Movies & TV app swipe from the left and select “Settings.” Scroll down and make sure “Enable surround sound” is checked. You can then play a demo to listen to the surround sound in action. It sounds great with the speakers, but if you have headphones available you’re in for a real treat.

“Ok Google” When Device is Locked

ok google

The Nexus 6 is one of few devices that can hear the “Ok Google” command while locked. With this feature you can ask “how many ounces in a pound” without touching your phone with dirty hands, or start playing music from across the room.

Swipe up from the Home button to open Google Now. Swipe from the left and tap “Settings.” Tap on “Voice” and then “Ok Google’ Detection.” Before you can turn on “Always on” and “When locked” you’ll need to train the voice model. It will ask you to say “Ok Google” three times and then you can toggle the switches.

Turn Off “Merged Tabs”

Lollipop overview

Chrome on the Nexus 6 comes with a feature that merges tabs and apps in Overview (formerly multitasking). Instead of seeing your tabs in Chrome they get put into the same place as recent apps. This feature sounds like a good idea in theory, but in practice it’s annoying.

The problem is you end up with a million tabs open and no easy way to manage them. Overview remembers dozens and dozens of recent apps, so if you opened a tab once and never looked at it again it’s lost way back in the list. To turn of merged tabs go into the Chrome settings and change “Merge tabs and apps” off.


The Nexus 6 is a big phone with big features. If you don’t know what to look for you can miss a lot of the best things. Hopefully this list shed some light on features you didn’t know about. What is your favorite thing about the Nexus 6? Did you know about these tips and tricks?

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Announcing this holiday season’s must-have Android tablets Wed, 03 Dec 2014 16:48:39 +0000 best tablets 2

Yesterday we unveiled the top Android phones of the holiday season — the ones we wouldn’t mind seeing wrapped in a bow and placed under the Christmas tree. Now we are counting down the top Android tablets for the end of 2014.

As with our Best Phones list, we have migrated our tablet rankings to a new home for easy accessibility and flexibility in updating as the landscape shifts with each new release. We will, at a minimum, be refreshing our list at the beginning of each month, but you might want to check more frequently in case of other changes. We will always announce any re-ordering of our list with a post here on the Phandroid main page.

So if a tablet is on the wish list of one of your loved ones this holiday season and you just don’t know where to begin, start with our top five (plus a look at the honorable mentions and upcoming tablets worth waiting for).

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The best Android phones this holiday season [VIDEO] Tue, 02 Dec 2014 18:23:51 +0000 The holiday season is officially here, and a new smartphone is a gift any Android fan would love to receive — as long as you know which phone to give. We have a present for all those frazzled shoppers out there unsure of what to buy: our latest look at the best Android smartphones on the market.

If you are a frequent reader of Phandroid, by now you are familiar with our monthly list of the best Android Phones. In an effort to make the list as accessible as possible it has moved to a new, permanent home. This new method not only means you, the readers, can quickly and easily locate the most up-to-date ranking of Android phones, but it also gives us more flexibility in updating said list. We’ll always notify readers of any changes here on Phandroid.

As for this month, our new system brings quite a shakeup in the top five devices. We took a minute to count down and debate the top Android phones in the video below:

To see our full list of best phones, including honorable mentions, upcoming devices, and those churning through the rumor mill, check out our updated look at the best Android phones available.

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Gift-a-day Giveaway: 20 prizes including Nexus phones, tablets, and smart watches! Mon, 01 Dec 2014 20:34:13 +0000 giftaday

Check here to see all the gift ideas and chances to enter!

The calendar has switched to December, which means the Holiday season is now firmly upon us. Finding that perfect gift can be the most stressful part of the Holidays. This year we’re doing our part to make the gift-giving much easier, and you might even win a few awesome prizes for yourself.

Today we’re announcing the Phandroid Gift-a-Day Giveaway! This is the biggest giveaway that we’ve ever attempted. What that means for you is more chances than ever to win awesome gifts from ‘ol Santa Droid. Here’s what you need to know about the giveaway.

  • Starting tomorrow (12/2) through December 21st we will post one “Gift Idea” each day.
  • These “Gift Idea” posts will be cool things that we think would make great gifts. Most of them are Android-related, but not all.
  • At the bottom of each “Gift Idea” post will be a widget that allows you to enter the Giveaway for that day.
  • Every “Gift Idea” post is a new chance to win something. Each post is open for entries until the 22nd.
  • On December 22nd we will have a live Google Hangout where select the winners for each day and match them up with their prize.



All of the 20 winners are guaranteed to win something. Some prizes are better than others, but a majority of the winners will be getting a device from our vault. Here is what will be up for grabs:

  • Nexus 6 (2)
  • Nexus 9 (2)
  • Nexus Player (4)
  • Moto 360 (2)
  • Sony SmartWatch 3 (1)
  • LG G Watch R (1)
  • ASUS ZenWatch (1)
  • An assortment of additional gift ideas and prizes to be determined

That’s 13 devices in total, which means 65% of winners will walk away with a new Android device. The other 35% will get other great Android-related stuff. TL;DR: you will win something, and it will be awesome.

Rules & Conditions

Every good giveaway comes with some rules. To enter this contest you must be of the age 17 or older. The contest is open to participants from ALL REGIONS. Prizes will be shipped out on the day following the winners selections.

Good Luck!


The contest begins tomorrow (12/2) with our first “Gift Ideas” post. Keep your eyes peeled each and every day to give yourself as many chances as possible to win! Happy Holidays and good luck!

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Google Nexus 6 review, a whale of a phone built by Motorola Sun, 30 Nov 2014 16:22:55 +0000 Nexus_6_Midnight_Blue-4

Since the release of the Nexus One in January 2010, Google has made the Nexus line of devices some of the most important devices across the entire Android community. Nexus devices represent Android as a whole and in theory pack everything that Google has to offer, acting as somewhat as a reference device for the Android ecosystem. With the launch of Android 5.0 Lollipop the device set to tackle the daunting task of showcasing Google’s ‘sweetest’ update to date is none other than the Motorola made Nexus 6.

When Google purchased Motorola Mobility for 12.5 billion dollars in 2011, many Android fans became elated as Motorola has often been seen as an industry leader when it comes to design, quality, and performance. The thought was that someday we’d see a Motorola made Nexus phone and we’d see a marriage of hardware and software to the tone of something that only Apple could accomplish. While Google has since sold Motorola to Lenovo, we’re still seeing that dream come true in the form of a Nexus.


In the past, Nexus phones may have lacked or had a subpar feature, such as battery life or camera quality, and it was generally accepted due to the phones extremely wallet friendly pricing. That isn’t the case this time around. Google didn’t focus on aggressive pricing as they did with the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5, but have accomplished something that’s possibly even more important to the average consumer, launching on every major carrier here in the United States. With top tier hardware and carrier support, Google’s strategy with the Nexus 6 differs from previous devices not only with quality, but with pricing and availability.

Before we get started, it’s worth mentioning that I was pretty critical of Motorola’s “Shamu” when rumors started to surface surrounding the Nexus 6. We were flooded with credible reports stating that Google and Motorola were working on a phablet, a term that just makes me shudder. I very publicly stated that a smartphone of this size would not be something on my wishlist, in fact, I stated it would be the first Nexus phone that I didn’t want at all. I’ve never owned a phone that sported the “phablet” (shudder) moniker as my daily driver until now.

How have my thoughts changed over the past 5 months, from rumor, to actually using the massive phone? Let’s get started with the Nexus 6 review below.

Nexus 6 Specifications

  • Price: $649 / $699 from Google Play Store
  • SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
  • CPU: Quad-core 2.7GHz Krait 450
  • GPU: Adreno 420
  • Display: 1440 x 2560 5.96″, 493PPI
  • Memory: 3GB RAM
  • Storage: 32GB / 64GB (no microSD)
  • Cameras: 13MP rear with dual-LED flash / 2MP front
  • Battery: 3220mAh
  • Gorilla Glass 3
  • NFC
  • Qi Wireless Charging
  • Ports: MicroUSB, 3.5mm Audio
  • Dimensions: 159.3 x 83 x 10.1 mm
  • Weight: 184g

Hardware Design and Feel

The overall design of the Nexus 6 is somewhat different than what we’ve seen from previous Nexus phones and tablets over the past couple years, even including the new Nexus 9. The Nexus 6 doesn’t sport a flat back as other Nexus devices. In all honesty, it’s literally a blown up Moto X 2014, from the speaker grills, to the SIM tray, to the back, and to the metal edges that encompass the phone.


There are some differences between these cousin devices though. Unlike the Moto X from this year, the Motorola dimple on the back of the Nexus 6 is more akin to the style of the original Moto X from last year. The power buttons have been slightly moved too from the smaller Moto X design, moving them down more towards the middle of the phone to accommodate the larger size.

The Nexus 6 is a very solid feeling smartphone that just feels great in the hand albeit it’s massive size. The curved backing of the Nexus 6 allows the phone to fit and feel very comfortable in the palm of your hand. That said, not all tasks can be completed one handed all of the time. I find myself attempting to use the Nexus 6 one-handed, which does work for many short termed tasks as I mentioned, but ultimately using the phone two-handed for longer interactions is the way to go as it’s much more comfortable.


The phone does fit in my front pocket without any issue, though I do find myself having to adjust my tighter jeans a little bit before I sit down. It’s nothing that’s out of the ordinary as I’ve had to adjust for a large set of keys from time to time, so that I do no stab myself in the leg. It’s something you get used to and eventually it’s a task that becomes second nature. And sometimes, I’ll just take the phone out of my pocket before I sit down too.


As someone that has never used a phone that’s even close to this size before, I will say that after a week I didn’t mind the large size anymore.


The 5.96 inch display of the Nexus 6 is truly one of the better displays you’ll find around thanks to the AMOLED panel. The 1440 x 2560 resolution with 493 pixels per inch provides an incredible viewing experience and a great amount of detail. On some lesser dense displays I can see the pixels. On this display, I could not. The display on the Nexus 6 is very vibrant with color and provides excellent viewing angles.

Where the glass meets the side of the phone, the minimal bezels and sweeping design allow for easy side swiping navigation gestures as your fingers very naturally glide over the edges. While this does help, no matter how you look at it, the Nexus 6 is a huge phone and navigating the large display will not be for everyone.

WiFi, Bluetooth, Data, and Call Quality

Motorola is known far and wide throughout the Android world as providing some of the best radios in the business. The Nexus 6 backs up those claims with ease. I had great WiFi performance, connecting to my 802.11AC router at home with impeccable speeds. The Bluetooth 4.1 radio connected fine to my Bluetooth speakers, Google Glass, and Moto 360 without hiccups. I live in an area that has very poor cell reception, but the Nexus 6 performed well while on Straight Talk via AT&T’s network. At home my dBm ranged from about -100 to -119 (not the phones fault) and I had much better service around town with a dBm in the -90’s.

Call quality on the Nexus 6 is on par with the rest of the device’s hardware. Voice comes in loud and clear, without the need to strain your ear to hear the person on the other end of the call.

Speakers and Audio

Thankfully, the Nexus 6 sports two front facing speakers and not just two front facing speaker grills like the Moto X 2014. The Nexus 6 has not only great audio quality, but produces sound that is actually quite loud. In fact, I found myself turning the volume down a notch or two during frequent jam sessions with the Nexus 6 around the house.

I have a fairly long commute and often listen to Google Play Music while in the car. With every smartphone I’ve owned, I found myself subconsciously reaching for the volume button on my steering wheel to crank up volume. My car doesn’t haven’t Bluetooth support, so sadly this doesn’t do anything. With the Nexus 6, I found myself not yearning for louder music as often as I had with other smartphones. Simply put, I’m quite pleased with the speaker performance of the Nexus 6 which is a night and day different when being compared to the Nexus 5.


Additionally, the speaker grills on the Nexus 6 aren’t flush with the display surface, jutting out ever so slightly. You’ll either love or hate this. Personally, I like this feature as the speakers ever so slightly lift the display off of the surface if you happen to place the phone face down, helping to prevent minor scratches.


Another pain point for Nexus users has often been the camera. There’s no easy way to say it: Nexus devices generally have subpar camera output, especially in low-light. However the Nexus 6, with it’s focus on hardware quality and design, performs just as well as the rest of the package in the camera department, and I’m quite impressed.

The rear camera on the Nexus 6 sports a 13 megapixel shooter with auto focus, optical image stabilization, and dual-LED “ring” flash, which is powered by the Sony IMX214 CMOS sensor.  The rear camera is able to capture 4K video at 30FPS.

The front facing camera on the Nexus 6 comes in the 2MP HD flavor and is able to capture video at 1080P.

My impressions of the Nexus 6 camera are quite positive as mentioned above, producing great photos in normal mode, eye popping vibrant photos in HDR, and performing quite well in low light scenarios. However, the occasional HDR overprocessing does exist and sometimes normal photos can seem a bit washed out. These very minor issues can most likely be tweaked with software. Overall, the quality and detail of the Nexus 6 camera is a major improvement over previous Nexus offerings.

Nexus 6 Normal Nexus 6 HDR Nexus 6 Normal Nexus 6 HDR Nexus 6 Normal Nexus 6 HDR Nexus 6 Normal Nexus 6 HDR Nexus 6 Normal Nexus 6 HDR Nexus 6 Normal Nexus 6 HDR Nexus 6 Normal Nexus 6 HDR Nexus 6 Nighttime Flash Nexus 6 Low Light No Flash Nexus 6 Low Light Flash Nexus 6 Low Light HDR Nexus 6 Nighttime Indoor Flash Nexus 6 Nighttime Flash

Everyone has different expectations when choosing a mobile camera. Take a look for yourselves at the images above before you make a decision on the camera. You can also view all of my photos taken with the Nexus 6 here.

Battery Life

The final pain point of Nexus users or Android users as  whole surrounds battery life. The battery life portion of the review is always quite hard and highly subjective as each user has quite the different setup, including usage habits, applications installed, and even signal strength can play a major role in overall longevity.

The Nexus 6 is equipped with a 3220mAh battery, which depending on who you are, might seem a little small seeing as the battery has to push a QHD display and a beefy Snapdragon 805 processor. The battery optimizations done in Android 5.0 Lollipop gives the Nexus 6 respectable battery life, maybe even great battery life depending on your use cases.

Screenshot_2014-11-28-09-19-18 Screenshot_2014-11-28-09-19-24 Screenshot_2014-11-28-09-19-12

As I sit here writing this review, my Nexus 6 is at 17%, has been off the charger for 24 hours, and has a little over 2 hours of screen on time. Based on my usage the past day, the battery meter is telling me that I have about 10 hours left until I’m fully drained.

Throughout the past week I’ve had similar experiences, able to gain 4+ hours of screen on time during 18-20 hours of use or 3 hours of screen on time with about 28-30 hours off the charger more than once. That’s not always the case though. On two occasions I had my battery die in about 14 hours, with only 3 hours of screen on time, however I do believe the severe lack of service was to blame for one of those days and the other was due to an odd Google Play Services bug which kept my phone awake for 3 hours straight.


And speaking of bugs, let’s talk a little bit about the performance of the Nexus 6. I’m not going to read a lot into benchmarks or numbers as I don’t feel they’re worth all that much in the grand scheme of things. I’m much more concerned with real world scenarios. Additionally, some benchmark applications aren’t updated to support the hardware properly or even the latest version of Android properly. For those that like big numbers though, here they are:

Nexus_6_Benchmark-3 Nexus_6_Benchmark-2 Nexus_6_Benchmark-1

The Nexus 6 takes a very long time to start-up, I’m talking a little over a minute. I wouldn’t say this is that big of a deal, because most people don’t reboot their devices all that often. It’s just mildly annoying. That said, once your device is up and running the Nexus 6 is extremely fast and responsive.

Moving around the Google Now Launcher I see no jitteriness or lag moving from home screen to home screen or launching the application drawer and swiping through the pages. The animations on the Nexus 6 don’t hinder performance or slow down the devices hardware unlike other OEM devices. I don’t see any lag while launching the Overview (Recents) or when tapping the Home button.

Sometimes opening the camera can be a little slower than I would prefer, this seems to be a random occurrence though. No matter if the camera opened slow or fast, shooting a photo is always instant, unless doing HDR, which does take an extra second to begin processing, which then takes about 3 seconds itself. You can continue shooting more photos while they’re being processed in the the background.

Shooting video in 4K seems to work quite well, unless you’re moving around. As you move the phone around you’ll notice a slight hiccup from time to time, skipping a frame. This doesn’t always translate to what is recorded when you’re watching the video as you can see in the sample above. My guess is the display is having trouble keeping up with what’s being recorded. Once again this is most likely a software bug that can be fixed in the future.

When it comes to stability, the stock firmware on the Nexus 6 is very stable, with only minor hiccups. I’ve had the Google Camera app on the Nexus 6 crash on me a few times and I’m not quite entirely sure what caused the issue. I believe this happens when switching from HDR to normal and back and forth again over and over while also looking at photos as they’re queued up to be processed. I’ve also had Google Cloud Print crash on me a number of times and I’ve never even attempted to print anything from my Nexus 6. So there’s that. Everything else is very reliable and very fast though.

Android 5.0 Lollipop

The Nexus 6 is the very first phone to ship with Android 5.0 Lollipop and will act as a reference device for the entire ecosystem. I won’t go too far into all of the ins and outs of Lollipop nor will I touch on some of the more prominent features as these aspects of the platform have already been covered in Phandroid’s previous articles.

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The Nexus 6 comes with encryption enabled out of the box and you won’t be able to turn it off unless you’re into tinkering with your Nexus. This is a new feature of Android 5.0 Lollipop and will be enabled on all future new devices. While this is a great step forward in terms of security and privacy, some will argue that encryption hinders the device’s performance. I haven’t tested this theory, but there’s plenty of supporting evidence out there.

Android 5.0 Lollipop also allows carriers to automatically install their bloatware applications if you activate your phone with their SIM card inserted at the time of activation. These applications are generally for account management and can easily be uninstalled to remove their blemish from your stock Android experience.

Lollipop also has a new feature where a device will verify the subscription status when a user attempts to use the built in WiFi Hotspot functionality. I’m using Straight Talk via AT&T’s network and my Nexus 6 wants me to visit AT&T’s website or call AT&T’s customer support while trying to enable the built-in WiFi Hotspot. Since I’m not an AT&T customer, that warning message that’s display is of little value to me. I do find it slightly annoying that I can no longer tether, which I only used in very rare situations, but it’s technically not supported on Straight Talk, so I’m okay with it.

One of the better features of the Nexus 6 and Lollipop surrounds notifications. Ambient Display on the Nexus 6 or Lollipop in general is Google’s take on what Moto X users have been accustomed to for a while. The screen will pulse in a low power state when the phone has active notifications ready to be seen. Whenever you touch the screen, the display lights up, ready for action. Additionally, when there are no notifications to be seen and you’d like to see the time, picking up the Nexus 6 and bringing it into the upright position displays the time. Then, just a simple upwards flick of your finger across the screen unlocks the phone and you’re ready to go.

There is no Tap to Wake functionality as seen on the Nexus 9, however with Ambient Display and the Nexus 6 waking upon picking up the device, I really see no need for it and did not yearn for that feature at all.

Again, the Nexus 6 is a massive phone. Normally devices in this category have some sort of functionality to help users deal with the extra screen real estate. Apple offers reachability and Samsung offers split screen or windowed mode. While not everyone uses those features on their respective devices, it would have been nice if Google would have implemented a feature or two into Lollipop to take advantage of the extra screen space.


Coming from the Moto X 2013, then the Moto X 2014, and disliking extremely large phones in general, I was quite apprehensive about Google’s Nexus 6. If I haven’t made myself clear, this is an insanely large phone that just will not work for everyone. However, given the chance to use it for over a week, I don’t mind it’s size and every other phone feels extremely tiny now. Even though the Nexus 6 is one of the larger flagship phones currently available, Motorola has done a fine job at maximizing the display, producing a device with minimal bezels, and more importantly, the Nexus 6 feels extremely solid and well put together in your hand.


The only problem right now seems to be actually obtaining the Google’s “Unicorn” device. They’re still back ordered and many are still awaiting shipment details. And to top it all off, the Nexus 6 isn’t available on all carries at this time. Only Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile are selling the Nexus 6, besides the Google Play Store and Motorola’s online store.

At the beginning of my review I mentioned that the Nexus 6 is supported on all major carriers in the US, while that is technically true, it does come with a major asterisk. At the time of writing, you cannot purchase the Nexus 6 from Verizon nor can you activate a new SIM / account with the Nexus 6 in mind. You need to go through a few small hoops, such as buying a new SIM, activating the SIM in another Verizon device, then taking that activated SIM out of that phone, and finally popping it into the Nexus 6. If you’re already a Verizon customer with a nano-SIM all you need to do is transfer the SIM from your current device to the Nexus 6 and you’re all set. This really only causes issues for those looking to move to Big Red and will continue to do so until Verizon officially supports the device.

If the Verizon debacle doesn’t apply to you, I urge you to head into a store and check out the Nexus 6 before purchasing it. It’s a very large device that just won’t work for everyone. If you can handle all that Shamu has to offer, the Motorola built Nexus 6 is probably one of the top designed phones available on the market right now.

As for me, I was wrong. I won’t be going back to the Moto X after all. The Nexus 6 has superior battery life, a superior camera, and will receive the latest bug fixes and enhancements for Android 5.0 Lollipop before the Moto X. And after all, the Nexus 6 is Motorola made. It screams quality from every angle of the device, just as we’ve been hoping for years. We finally have our Motorola made Nexus and I couldn’t be happier.Nexus_6_Midnight_Blue_Cloud_White-2

Be sure to leave us a comment  below and let us know what you think of the latest Nexus phone and don’t forget to drop by our official Nexus 6 forums for additional tips, tricks, and information.


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11 Best Android Games from November 2014 Fri, 28 Nov 2014 20:00:14 +0000 games NOV

November kicks off the time of year when you may be spending more time with family than you’d like. You’ll be dying to escape conversations about work, school, the weather, and relationship status. Luckily there have been some great new games released this month that will help you pass the time. Just don’t let anyone catch you playing at the dinner table. Enjoy!

Assassin’s Creed Unity Companion

assassins creed unity companion 2

The Assassin’s Creed Unity companion app will equip you with a real-time in-game map that can show you the location of both you and your co-op partners. It also features a heat map that’ll show you the paths other assassin’s took to complete their job, including any resistance and kills they’ve experienced along the way, and more.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

duty advanced

If you’re a fan of the latest game in the Call of Duty franchise you need the official companion app. The Call of Duty Advanced Warfare App gives players the tools they need to create and manage their clan, produce in game player and clan emblems, and participate in Clan Wars on the go from their tablet or phone.

Civilization Revolution 2

civ rev 2

The sequel to one of the most successful strategy games on mobile arrived this month. Civilization Revolution 2 challenges players to build an empire that will stand the test of time. This is the first game in the Civilization series to be developed and available exclusively for mobile devices.

Far Cry 4 Arena Master


This month was all about companion apps, and Far Cry 4 has one too. In Arena Master you can collect animals and mercenary fighters for your own personal arena and send them to battle against other Far Cry 4 players for fame and fortune. Arena Master can be linked directly to your console game, allowing you to share your arena progress.

Kingdom Rush Origins

kingdom rush

Kingdom Rush Origins is the third installment of the award-winning Kingdom Rush saga. In this exciting prequel, command your elven army and defend mystical lands from sea serpents, evil sorcerers, and wave after wave of gnoll tribesman, all with the help of new towers, heroes, and spells to fend off every enemy.

Lollipop Land

Lollipop Land 2

It’s hands-down the coolest Easter Egg we’ve seen in an Android release: a Flappy Bird-like mini-game inside Android Lollipop. Since not everyone can actually get their hands on Lollipop at the moment, one developer made the mini-game available in the Google Play Store for everyone.

Strike Suit Zero

strike suit zero

In the year 2299 an interstellar war rages. Take control of the Strike Suit, a craft with the ability to transform into a hulking suit of space armor, in a bid to save Earth from destruction. Immerse yourself in massive fleet battles where your dog-fighting skills will directly affect the fate of the universe.

The Banner Saga

banner saga

Embark on your own epic journey in this critically acclaimed tactical RPG fantasy realm inspired by Norse mythology. Your strategic choices directly affect your personal story, as well as the outcome of conflicts encountered during your struggle for survival.

Turbo Dismount

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If you love to crash things this is the game for you. Turbo Dismount is a kinetic tragedy about Mr. Dismount and the cars who love him. Perform death-defying motor stunts, crash into walls, create traffic pile-ups of epic scale, and share it all with your friends.


twodots wall

Remember Dots? TwoDots is the sequel that builds on the premise of the old, with your objective being to connect two or more adjacent, identical dots to clear them from the screen and complete your goal. New game elements include ice blocks, anchors, fire, and much more.

XCOM: Enemy Within

xcom ew

Fans of the first XCOM mobile game have something new to play. XCOM: Enemy Within is now available in the Google Play Store for $12.99. That might seem a little steep, but this game has tons to offer. New abilities, new weapons, new enemies, new strategies, and of course a new story.


As you can see there are plenty of games to be thankful for this month! What game from November is your favorite? Did we miss any in our list? Happy gaming!

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21 Best Android Apps from November 2014 Fri, 28 Nov 2014 16:00:15 +0000 bestNOV

Previous Best Apps of the Month

It’s the time of year to be thankful for the good things in life. Some of the things we’re most thankful for are Android apps! Turkey and copious amounts of mashed potatoes has not slowed down Android developers this month. A bunch of great new apps were released in November. Here are the 21 best apps that you should check out!

Amazon Echo/Fire TV Remote

Echo Fire

Amazon released Android apps for two of their newest devices this month. The Echo app turns your phone into a remote control so you can interact with the weird “smart” Bluetooth tube. The Fire TV Remote simply allows you to control your Fire TV on your smartphone or tablet.



One of the best things about social media sites is the “shared experience” phenomenon. Like when everyone you know is tweeting about Game of Thrones. With Clippit, you can essentially take screenshots of your favorite TV shows that are on the air now and share those clips. It’s really fun.

Disney Movies Anywhere

Disney Movies Anywhere Android

Disney Movies Anywhere app is now officially available on Google Play. The app allows users to explore a library of over 400 titles spanning across Disney, Pixar, and Marvel. The best part is the app allows you to link your Google account so any purchases made will transfer right over and be playable in Google Play Movies & TV.

Facebook Groups

FB Groups

Facebook continues to break apart their main app into little specialized apps. This month they released an app for Groups. See all of your Facebook Groups in one place. Discuss, plan and collaborate easily and without distractions. Like Facebook’s Messenger app, this one is much better than the full Facebook app.

Google Messenger


Many people have complained about Hangouts being the default SMS app on Nexus phones.  Google finally released a simple stand-alone SMS app called “Messenger.” This app doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Hangouts, but that is exactly why you would download it.


If you happen to have one of HTC’s weird GoPro-like RE cameras you need this app. The RE app makes it easy to control your RE camera remotely with your Android phone. The app serves as both a content browser and live viewfinder, mirroring what the camera is seeing.

Mirror Beta


Koush has released a brand new version of his Mirror app to the Play Store. With this app you can record your screen to a video file or screencast to connected devices such as Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and even other Android devices. Android 5.0 users don’t even need to be rooted.

Milk Video

samsung milk video

Samsung announced a new service this month to add to their growing collection of “Milk” offerings. Alongside Milk Music, which helps you discover new tunes based on your listening habits, Samsung Milk Video will look to do the same for viral videos.

NOOK Audiobooks


If you’re in the business of selling books you have to also offer audiobooks these days. NOOK is now in the game too. The new NOOK Audiobooks app has thousands of bestselling audiobooks are just a tap away with no subscription required. When you sign in for the first time you’ll get 2 audiobooks free.



Google isn’t the only one making beautiful simple SMS apps. QKSMS aims to make “texting magical again” with themes, quick reply windows, MMS, group messaging, and everything else you’d expect. It sounds like your typical SMS app, but what makes QKSMS special is the clean and refined UI.

Sleep Better with Runtastic


Runtastic has a new app for sleep, and it has nothing to do with running. Sleep Better offers you a simple and engaging way to improve your sleep quality. It can track your sleep, monitor your dreams, improve your bedtime habits, and help you wake up better. Who doesn’t want that?


SUPER by Jelly Industries

The brainchild of Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, SUPER is a social networking app that oozes style. Bright colors and ALL CAPS typography can be found littered throughout the app, something that’s sure to catch on with the kiddies once they take hold.


Simply put, Yonomi connects you to connected devices. Devices like Sonos speakers, Jawbone UP24, Nest devices, Philips Hue lights, Belkin Wemo Switches, and of course, your phone and tablet. The app allows you to set up simple routines to coordinate your devices together.

Z Launcher

z launcher screens

With the announcement of Nokia’s very first Android tablet, the company also had some other great news to share this month. Nokia Z Launcher is now available for download in the Google Play Store. It learns what you want and when you want it, so when you unlock your phone it’ll show you the apps you’re most likely to use at that moment.

Next: Android Wear Apps

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