Smartphone Reviews

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Last year, we fell in love with the Huawei P9's excellent dual cameras and straightforward approach to Android. But it's half-way through a new year, and that means Huawei's P10 has a tough act to follow and some strong alternatives. How does the follow-up to its seriously impressive P9 perform when it's up against newly renewed competition like the very best of Samsung, LG and HTC?

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The Samsung Dex is a tiny new smartphone dock that wades carefully toward a world in which smartphones serve as our primary computers. It's about the size of a hockey puck, and when the Galaxy S8, a monitor, and a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse are connected, the Dex turns the phone into a surprisingly functional desktop. The idea is that instead of lugging a laptop around everywhere, you might just take your phone and drop it into a dock at home, the office, and so on.

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Pardon me dear readers. Normally this space is reserved for missives to you, but I am positive you do not care about the BlackBerry KeyOne, a new phone from BlackBerry Mobile. Besides Kim Kardashian, very few people have cared about BlackBerry phones in recent years. That's why today I'm going to take a moment to reach out to Kim. The girl's been a wreck since her ancient Bold 9900 died last year, and I really think she needs to know there's a new, actually kind of excellent, BlackBerry device.

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With the exploding Note7 battery fiasco, Samsung inadvertently did something that's increasingly difficult these days: It made smartphones interesting for a flickering moment. Super interesting, in fact. Besides the intrigue of the mournful saga of Note7, whose embarrassing recall cost the company billions, Samsung also set up a dramatic release narrative for the Galaxy S8. This wasn't just another smartphone — this was a make-or-break device charged with saving a company in the throes of an existential crisis. A smartphone that screams at the void — yikes!

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The Galaxy S8 and plus-sized S8+ are absolutely brilliant smartphones. They're not without their flaws, but in everything from industrial design to internal hardware to software refinement, Samsung has knocked this one out of the park.

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It's hard to stand out in the smartphone world, especially if your phone doesn't do anything unique. LG knows this and has never shied away from trying new ideas. It was one of the first companies to make use of curved screens, and last year, it released an insane smartphone with a "magic slot" that let you plug in accessories, including a camera and a speaker. The phone was a disaster. It was poorly reviewed, and few people bought it. This year, LG is hitting the reset button with the G6, a modern flagship with all the essentials and not much else.

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When did mid-range phones get good? When did they get waterproof, with good cameras, great battery life, and design that looks just about as high-end as anything else you can buy?

In so many different ways, the Galaxy A5 and A7 are a cheaper and more restrained version of Samsung's own chart-topping Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge from last year.

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Sometimes bigger is better. When it comes to phones, that's more true than ever — a bigger screen is easier to read, and a bigger body hides larger batteries and means more battery life. And that means Huawei's massive Mate 9 is one of the best new Android phones you can buy in 2017.

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The Oppo R9s is a smartphone that will cost you less than $600 to buy, but that promises an experience — camera, interface, design and build quality — on par with a $1000-plus iPhone or Pixel or Galaxy. Can it keep that promise?

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Step back, LG G5. There's a funky new modular smartphone on sale in Australia, and it's also — in its standard, straight-out-of-the-box guise — the world's thinnest. Motorola's Moto Z measures just 5.2mm from front to back, but still has the latest in high-tech hardware under the hood. Where LG's top Android phone ejects its modular components like a pistol's magazine, though, the Moto Z snaps them onto its rear case to add extra battery power, a high-res camera or a more powerful speaker.

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The LG V20 is a very late entrant into this year's Android phone boxing match, but for exactly that reason it's arriving to the fight fresh and with a whole set of new tricks up its sleeve. Is this — very quietly, now — the best Android phone of 2016?

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Sony actually has a top-end smartphone now. Learning from the stumbles of the rocky six month transition between the venerable Z Series phones and the Xperia X Performance, the new Xperia XZ brings back a little bit of finesse into Sony's smartphone design.

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Until I had my hands on Playstation VR I couldn't understand the need for any VR that wasn't mobile. Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard are both "good enough" experiences with price tags a mere fraction of those of hulking VR systems like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. For most people the only VR you need is the kind you show off at parties and family gatherings, and never think about again.

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The camera on the iPhone has developed such a reputation for excellence that it's one of the device's central selling points. It's worth upgrading to a new phone just to get the latest and greatest camera. After a week of rigorous shooting, one thing is totally clear: the iPhone 7 has a damn fine phone camera that's the best you can buy right now.

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At a glance, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus might both be confused for their predecessors, the 6s and 6s Plus. It's deceptive. The iPhone 7 is perhaps the most drastic revision of the phone since it was first released nearly a decade ago. It's not just the missing headphone jack. There are several other big ideas, including a new dual camera system (on the 7 Plus), a new touch sensor home button, and mercifully, newly added water resistance. These are substantial changes, and they hint at what we can expect from the future of Apple phones.

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Google has a new phone. Two new phones, actually — a 5-inch Pixel and a 5.5-inch Pixel XL — that are packed to the brim with brand new software from the tech giant, including a new Google Assistant that takes the fight to Apple's Siri, a camera that is apparently the best ever on a smartphone, and all of Google's massive trove of search engine and artificial intelligence machine learning know-how packed inside.

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A chat app with a built-in personal assistant, Google's Allo aims to be your virtual best friend. Back at the Google I/O developer conference in May, the search giant unveiled plans for two new communications apps in Duo and Allo. Duo is a simplistic video chat app, which was launched in August, while today Google takes the wraps off the far more ambitious Allo.