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The US smartphone market is devolving into a Samsung and Apple market - and that's bad for Android

If you live in the United States and walk into a Verizon store, you have essentially four options when it comes to choosing a premium smartphone brand: Apple, Samsung, LG, and Google. Yesterday, we learned that continuing to expect LG will be one of these options probably isn't the best bet.

While there may yet be a premium LG phone that launches on Verizon, the Korean conglomerate looks poised to join Motorola as one of Verizon's when-it's-convenient handset partners, and is quite possibly on its way to the Verizon graveyard with the likes of HTC, Sony, and BlackBerry.

The same can generally be said of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

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Opinion: Google has quietly become one of the world's most important hardware companies

As we say goodbye to 2017, I'd like you to think back to five years ago - specifically, Google five years ago. At that time, if I had told you Google was one of the world's most important consumer electronics manufacturers, you'd probably have laughed at me.

Mentally put yourself in 2012: Google's just announced the fourth Nexus phone, the Nexus 4, running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, along with the Nexus 10 tablet. At Google I/O six months prior, it unveiled the Nexus Q - a device intended to be some sort of smart entertainment hub... and proceeded to cancel its public launch.

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Android to iPhone, part two: What I've liked about switching to the iPhone X

I can already tell I’ll have a hard time going back to Android’s software navigation keys.

One of the most pleasantly surprising features of the iPhone X - and something that’s going to read like it’s straight out of Phil Schiller’s marketing playbook - comes in the form of what Apple removed from the phone: the home button. By forcing the issue of gesture navigation instead of going half-in with soft keys, Apple’s made a convert of me. I like gesture nav.

It’s also kind of broken. There’s no universal gesture to go back (some apps let you swipe from the left - sometimes), and the quick switcher button at the top left of the phone requires some serious thumb acrobatics to reach.

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Opinion: The Pixel 2 XL, despite one big flaw, is still my favorite phone ever

I've been using the Google Pixel 2 XL now for over a week. Its predecessor, the 2016 Pixel XL, is what I called the best Android phone ever six months after its release. I'm fairly certain that the 2 XL will take the original's title, at least in my opinion, without issue.

Before flaws, refinements

Around the internet, I am seeing a lot of revisionist history claiming the original Pixel XL was essentially a no-compromise, highly polished smartphone. Here's the thing: it wasn't.

The original Pixel had significant flaws, and in spite of them, I still thought it was the best smartphone I'd ever used.

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Opinion: The new Pixels will have the same problem as the current ones - they're just Android phones

A little-acknowledged but persistent problem has plagued every Google handset since the original Nexus One: Their most defining characteristics - Google's services and Android itself - are not unique to them.

With each new Google phone, consumers do often get their first chance to buy (well, assuming they're in stock - a big assumption) a device that ships with the latest version of Android. Or, they can wait four or five months and buy one that ships with that same version of Android from another, better-known vendor, typically with all of the major improvements and new features intact. Such a limited window of exclusivity on a highly iterative and admittedly quite geeky facet of a product all but ensures most people cannot be bothered to understand any of this.

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The iPhone X and Apple Day: Thoughts from five Android Police team members

The iPhone X is, undoubtedly, the most radical rethink of the iPhone to date. Not just for what it adds, but also what it eliminates: no home button, no fingerprint scanner, and no real bezels to speak of. While the design of Apple's new phone isn't exactly unfamiliar, it's still fairly stunning in its own right, and pretty much seals the deal on low-bezel phones being the future.

There's no doubt in my mind that the iPhone X will create an attention vacuum for all other smartphones. Certainly, other phones will still be announced and get coverage, but it will be far more limited in terms of staying power and general interest to the smartphone-buying public.

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Opinion: The Galaxy Note8 is the beginning of the end of the Note - at least as we knew it

The Galaxy Note8 is, by all accounts, a perfectly competent high-end smartphone from a trusted smartphone brand. Samsung will sell millions of Note8s to Note fans the world over, which will amass Samsung a not-inconsequential pile of money, having made the whole enterprise ostensibly worthwhile. But behind a muted-to-mildly-positive critical reception and a sound business case lies a pretty inescapable truth: the Galaxy Note just doesn't make very much sense anymore.

Product overlap plus

The Galaxy S8+, released alongside the S8 earlier this year, offers a screen that is just a tenth of an inch smaller than the Note8's, a battery with 200mAh more capacity, and a basically comparable software experience.

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Opinion: Good smartphones are getting more expensive - because we're demanding more from them

When OnePlus announced the OnePlus 5, the newest handset from a company that has become synonymous with value for money among smartphone enthusiasts, there was some real sticker shock. The phone starts at $479, making it $30 more expensive than the OnePlus 3T, and $80 more expensive than the base OnePlus 3. The OnePlus 3 was, in turn, $70 more expensive than the OnePlus 2, which was $30 more expensive than the original OnePlus One.

To take things end to end, the original OnePlus One 64GB retailed for $349 when it was announced in 2014. Today, the 64GB OnePlus 5 costs $479, a price creep of nearly 40% over the years if you compare along the same storage capacity.

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Opinion: Software updates shouldn't just be faster, they should be better

The software update giveth and the software update taketh away - it’s a tale as old as updateable tech. On the one hand, updates come bearing gifts: exciting new features intended to breathe new life into our devices, as well as the essential security patches necessary to ensure they are protected from exploitation. On the other, every new software build is also an opportunity for the update deliveryman to enter your home unannounced, pick up a metaphorical hammer, smash your device to a practically useless pulp, and leave - with little to no recourse available once the warranty period has expired.

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Opinion: Even if you can, you probably shouldn't buy a Google Pixel anymore

The Google Pixel is a notoriously hard phone to get a hold of. Persistent stock issues have plagued Google's first "in-house" handset from day one, and things really are little to no better six months after the launch event. Honestly, it's a bit embarrassing just how consistently incompetent Google seems to be at keeping a reasonable inventory of phones available for purchase. But setting that aside, as one of the Pixel's most ardent evangelists, I think there's something it's probably time for me to come clean on: Even if you could buy a Pixel today, I really think you shouldn't.

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