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Editorials

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Moto Mods: Thoughts and first impressions

If you ask Motorola, Mods are the story with Moto Z. If you ask most smartphone enthusiasts? The Mods are decidedly not the story - they're just accessories. Well, which is it? Are Motorola's modular pieces central to the authoritative and complete Z experience, or are they forgettable add-ons? I've had a few days to play with them, and while I am not "reviewing" any of them here, I am going to share some thoughts on them.

First, we have the not-really-Mods: the style shells.

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Moto sent out two woodgrain shells and one that I would describe as a black nylon fabric weave.

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Day three: this is a $60 Pokémon GO phone (at least until we're all tired of it)

Pokémon GO is a phenomenon. And to an extent that I think Niantic and Nintendo scarcely could have imagined. Last night, my girlfriend and I walked down the street to have a nice dinner, and on the way there I counted four or five people clearly playing GO (several were walking their dogs).

On the way back, we spotted a small crowd - perhaps a dozen or so - standing outside of a rather famous recording studio in our neighborhood. "Oh," I said to my girlfriend, "there must be some kind of event at the studio tonight." As we walked closer, I noticed these weren't the, uh, sort of individuals who I'd expect at a venue like this.

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I'm going to use Amazon's "Prime Exclusive" $60 smartphone for a month

A $60 smartphone (or rather, $50 - but hold on) is basically a headline unto itself. It is a novelty solely because of its cost. And that makes talking about it in a way that doesn’t always use “yeah, but it’s only $60” as a reflexive crutch difficult. (Which is not to say I won't do that, because I will. Probably even in this post. Several times.)

BLU’s Amazon-supported R1 HD is far from the cheapest smartphone ever. And it’s far from being a revolutionary product - the only thing interesting about it is, frankly, the business model. And in particular, Amazon’s proposition that it being a nag on your lockscreen and in your app drawer is worth $50 if you’re already a Prime member.

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Google, stop playing with my heart with these bad Android statues

Nougat. Listen, I can get over the name, Google. And I know, this is such a hot take. But the name isn't my big problem here. The name could be salvageable, even if I'm pretty sure the last time someone ate "nougat" unironically was in like 1783 or something. No, the problem is this statue. It's just bad.

What we have here is a bugdroid, slightly posed, standing on top of what admittedly are probably the most appetizing representations possible of the candied joylessness that is nougat. It's just standing there... over some nougat. Who stands on nougat? Why? What does this statue convey - that the bugdroid feels so unexcited about its dessert-y namesake that it just decided to trample on it on its way to the big unveil?

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Has the "affordable" smartphone let us down? (opinion)

I consider myself an advocate of the affordable smartphone. 2015, and the years before it, seemed to paint a picture of promise for the mid and low-end smartphone, a noble future as the no-frills alternative to the $800 wonder-brick. I cannot help but feel we have failed to watch that potential emerge in a way that we can really say has served consumers well.

Who’s to blame for the promising ZenFone turning into a bloatware-ridden pile of bugs languishing on Lollipop, seven-plus months since Marshmallow was released? What’s the reason Alcatel’s relatively unbloated Idol 3 took nearly as long to get Marshmallow itself (mine still doesn't have it)?

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Editorial: iOS 10 is Apple’s not-so-secret love letter to Android

Three years ago, if you had told me “Apple is copying features from Android and putting them in iOS,” I would have absolutely believed you. If you had told me “Apple is now essentially modeling iOS on Android,” I would have called you crazy. With the announcement of iOS 10 on Monday, I thought I was losing it - though admittedly in a good way. That’s because iOS 10 looks and feels like an Apple admission that Google’s vision of the future of smartphones has been right all along.

There is no doubt that the headline feature of iOS 10 as far as Apple and Google is the opening of Siri to developers.

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[Editorial] Now On Tap's Image Recognition Is Quickly Becoming The Google Goggles I Always Wanted

Google's Goggles is all but abandoned now. We've seen Google resurrect apps from the dead and update them after years of neglect, but it's hard to imagine the company putting a fresh coat of paint on Goggles at this point. If only because the app has been superseded by others from Google, with its functionality cut off into little pieces and moved to various places inside the ecosystem.

But that doesn't take away from the fascination and respect that Goggles deserves. It could recognize landmarks before Google Photos, read and translate text before Google Translate, use OCR on images before Now on Tap, and even solve sudoku puzzles, scan and add contacts from a business card, and find and suggest similar products — all options that have yet to be transplanted into any other Google app.

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It's Time To Let The Phrase "Stock Android" Die (Opinion)

Sundar Pichai made a series of statements at recode's Code Conference yesterday that seem to have the internet aflutter. Pichai claimed that Google would be adding more software features to future Nexus devices, specifically: "You’ll see us hopefully add more features on top of Android on Nexus phones... There’s a lot of software innovation to be had."

Some have taken this to mean that "stock Android" on Nexus phones is no more. That Google will begin to differentiate just like its partners, with proprietary features and software, and that this marks a move away from a "purer" interpretation of Android. This makes sense until you actually think about it, because Nexus phones haven't run "stock" Android in years, and it's time for us to have a conversation about what that word even means, let alone the idea that Google's interpretation of Android is somehow "purer."

For starters, all of the following applications that ship on Nexus phones today are closed-source.

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Car Manufacturers May Finally Be Taking Android Auto Seriously

Android Auto is quite possibly shaping up to be the dark horse in Google's larger Android family. At I/O 2016, Google announced more new Android Auto features than it ever has before, including the much-demanded wireless mode which will finally see Android Auto freed from the tether of a USB cable (if that's something you're into).

The real story from an adoption perspective, though, wasn't really Wi-Fi mode, the standalone phone app, or Waze integration: it was a silly little tire pressure notification in a Honda Civic.

You see, to date, Android Auto's interface has had five tabs - telephony, navigation, media, home, and the mysterious "OEM" tab, which has an icon that looks like a vehicle gauge.

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"Modular" Smartphones Are Now The Official Gadget Gimmick Of 2016 (And Possibly Beyond)

When LG announced the modular G5 at MWC in 2016, we were all taken a bit aback. Admittedly, there was plenty of reason to hold judgment - it seemed possible that LG had actually done something interesting and innovative with a smartphone that hadn't quite been tried before, and gadget-lust is an easy feeling to succumb to in the face of something new and weird. It turns out that the G5's "friends" were basically DOA as a concept, though, and there has been little indication that consumer response to the idea is even existent, let alone positive.

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Proprietary pogo pins: yesterday's technology, tomorrow!

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