It's Galaxy Note7 review day here in the US! ...Our review isn't ready. I received my evaluation device less than a week ago, and we've been swamped here with various leak posts and bringing on some new faces (say "hi!" to the newest members of our team when you spot their bylines), and there just hasn't been time for me to fully formulate thoughts and compile them into a 5000-word-plus post for you. But would you take an abridged review/extended hands-on until I can make good on that promise? If so, read on.
Early review notes
Industrial design and attention to physical detail continue to climb to ever-greater heights at Samsung.
There is perhaps no better-selling “enthusiast” or “power-user” smartphone than Samsung's Galaxy Note series. When it debuted in 2011, it was dismissed as ridiculous by many (myself included). It was too big, we said - too big to hold, “and for what? Who needs this?” many of us barked at the time (how wrong we were). But the Note series became a runaway success, and each year, millions of Samsung fans await the latest iteration.
Last year’s Note, though, may have been the biggest letdown in the Note series yet. It had no microSD slot, no removable battery, and it didn’t even launch in Europe - perhaps a signal of the Note series entering a wind-down phase.
Motorola under the stewardship of Lenovo is doing something very different this year. The Moto X brand may not be gone, but it's certainly not the company's focus right now. Instead, we have the Moto Z and Moto Z Force. They're thin and they have Moto Mods—snap-on modules like projectors and speakers that make the phones much less thin. The Z is coming to Verizon first as a Droid phone (that's what I have to review), but the device I'm looking at now is very similar to what Motorola will release unlocked later this year.
In London today, Wileyfox, a tiny (CEO Nick Muir says it has 27 employees) British phone manufacturer, announced the Spark: a £89.99 ($120) phone that has razor-thin margins. Specs include a 1.3GHz MediaTek processor, 1GB RAM, and one 8-megapixel camera on each side.
When I first picked this phone up, all I thought was "for £89.99, damn that is nice." It makes you wonder how Wileyfox does it; its previous phone, the Swift, was similarly received with exclamations of "how?!" when it launched for £129.99.
Onto the phone: it's very light, weighing only 136g. The screen, an IPS 5-inch display, seems to be bright and responsive, and the buttons are clicky.
OnePlus likes to talk a big game, but sometimes the company fails to live up to expectations. The OnePlus One offered solid specs at a low price, but it was hurt by scarce invites and the collapse of the Cyanogen partnership. The OnePlus 2 struggled with hardware and software issues throughout its life as well. In fact, that phone just got Marshmallow a week ago. That brings us to the OnePlus 3. Again, OP is making big promises, but at least it's not threatening to kill other phones this time. This is a big departure for OnePlus in terms of design, and for once you don't need an invite to buy it. I've been using the OnePlus 3 for a day, and I have some initial thoughts to offer.
I had a chance to go hands-on with the Moto Z and Z Force today (full name: Lenovo Moto Z DROID Edition and Lenovo Moto Z Force DROID Edition... which, OK), and here are my initial thoughts. Videos also follow.
First, I think both phones actually feel of a high quality - the design Moto is going with here is actually a lot nicer in person than I think various leaked photos have given these devices credit for. In particular, I love the black / dark gray versions of both devices - they have kind of a Darth Vader thing going on, if you ask me.
Now that the primary Galaxy S7 series has regained its water-resistant powers, one might wonder why we need a ruggedized "active" version. And the answer is that, while the S7 and S7 Edge are some damn fine phones, all that delicately curved and exposed glass isn't exactly what you'd call durable. If the general tank-like construction of the Galaxy S7 Active isn't enough to turn your head, consider that it has almost exactly the same capabilities as its more mainstream brother (which is fairly unusual for rugged phones), plus an even bigger 4000mAh battery.
I can't recall ever using a smartphone larger than the Xiaomi Mi Max. The Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 is the closest I've ever come, and the Mi Max is over a tenth of an inch larger on the display diagonal than even that phone. While it's not the largest smartphone ever, the Xiaomi Mi Max is certainly in the upper echelons of size in the taxonomic order smartphonus, dwarfing 5" devices we once called "large" just four or five years ago.
While we've got our textual first impressions of the HTC 10 up and available for you, we've also got them in easy-to-digest video form! Mark Burstiner takes a quick look at the newest flagship from HTC in our latest set of moving pictures we have placed on the YouTube.
To give you the quick rundown: the HTC 10 is coming out here in the US in early May, and the unlocked version with 32GB of storage will sticker for $699. The 10 ticks many of the same boxes as the LG G5 and Samsung Galaxy S7 here in America - a Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, at least 32GB of storage, microSD card slot, a strong on-paper camera, a fingerprint scanner, and Android 6.0.
Let us waste no time: the HTC 10 is here, and we're able to tell you a little bit about it today (a very, very little, frankly). While the phone doesn't ship to consumers (in the US, at least) until early May, we've got a production unlocked version of the US handset right now, and I've got some thoughts on it. Unfortunately, I am only able to tell you about certain aspects of the phone in strongly suggested single sentences (i.e., camera, speed, display, audio performance, software). Which is weird. But hey, I'll try!
The design of phone is fair game, though, so let's dig in on this point.