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Android Police Readers' Choice Award 2016: Cast your vote for the best smartphone of the year

What's your pick for best smartphone of 2016? For the first time (well, that I can remember), we're asking you to cast your vote for the phone you think stole the show this year. I've assembled a list of 15 devices that I think stood out in one way or another in 2016, so please note that the list does not purport to be exhaustive - this is, gently, curated.

With that in mind, consider your vote carefully. The tallying will continue through December 16th at 11:59PM PST, at which point the poll will close. We will announce the winner in a separate post the following week, declaring that phone the recipient of the Android Police Readers' Choice Award for Best Smartphone of 2016.

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The Huawei Watch departs from the Google Store

With all the uncertainty, I don't imagine Android Wear smartwatches will be a hot item this holiday season. Some people are probably still willing to take a risk, but pickings are getting slim either way. Even though it launched more than a year ago, the Huawei Watch is still considered by many to be the best Android Wear device. It's no longer on sale in the Google Store, though.

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Google launches 6 new Daydream VR games, plus HBO Now and Go VR [Update: Need for Speed is live]

Google has a new round of games for Daydream VR out today, and some of them are pretty good. And some of them... are not that great. Hey, there's also HBO Now VR out today, which is only as good as the stuff you choose to watch. I've had the chance to play around with all of the new titles. Here's how they stack up.

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[Update: Available on Android] Google Drive Backups tab starts showing up, gives you a glimpse into your device and app backups

Android developers have been able to use Google Drive to back up and restore app and game data for their users for a couple of years now. Android devices too have been able to back up some data like installed apps, device settings, call history, and more to Google Drive and restore it to the same device after a hard reset or to a new one when you switch over.

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Google, Samsung, HTC, Oculus, Sony, and Acer form the Global Virtual Reality Association, the first VR special interest group

Perhaps you haven't noticed yet, but virtual reality is kind of a big deal. Samsung has holiday-themed ads running on primetime TV and sports, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are breaking new ground in a stale gaming industry, and even Google is pushing its new Daydream platform hard. The powers that be think there's money to be made, and that means they're willing to work together (at least to some degree) in pursuit of it. Hence the creation of the Global Virtual Reality Association, announced by Samsung on its corporate blog.

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Chrome 55 adds download manager, offline pages, performance improvements, and more [APK Download]

Chrome 55 was released for the desktop a few days ago, and now the Android version has followed suit. If you've been using Chrome 55 beta, most of this should already be familiar, but there are a few new changes in store as well.

Download Manager

Until now, Chrome has used Android's built-in download manager to list browser downloads. Back in September, Chrome's very own Download Manager appeared in Chrome Dev, and now it has finally made it to the stable channel. You can sort by file type, see how much space is being used by downloads, and view/delete your saved pages.

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New dialog interface for in-app purchases looks more in tune with the latest Play Store redesign

The Play Store team is killing us. Over the past couple of months, we've seen so many server-side tests for interface changes that we've lost track of them all, and which ones are official and which ones are still not available to everyone. Just today we discussed a significant improvement that could have apps and games show up separately on the Store, and now we're back with another change.

The in-app purchase dialog, the one that pops-up whenever you tap on a paid item inside an app or game, might be getting an overhaul soon. Instead of the old pop-up window showing up in the middle of the screen, this new IAP menu covers the bottom of the display and uses the Play Store's new shade of green along with a big Buy button akin to the new wide buttons in app listings on the Store.

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[Thank Googlness] Google testing separate Apps and Games sections in the Play Store

I have never understood why apps and games are grouped together on the Play Store. They're both software, but beyond that, there's really nothing there in common. Bundling them together also creates a lot of issues: top grossing or trending charts are a jumbled mix of apps and games, and games have had to use sub-categories to organize everything. Separating the two into their own main sections just makes sense.

And it looks like Google is finally, freaking finally, toying with the idea as well. One of our readers tipped us with this new layout that gives apps and games their own distinct upper-level sections, next to Entertainment (which also shows up as Music, Movies, Books for some users).

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The Google app's dual-tab 'Upcoming' UI is now official, rolling out to all Android users

For months a small subset of Android users have been seeing a new dual-tabbed interface in the official Google search app's UI. The second tab, initially labelled "Dashboard" and then changed to an icon-only "Upcoming," is now official. Google announced the big change on its Keyword search blog, revealing that the feature should roll out to all Android users starting now, with the iOS version of the Search app following suit later.

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Support for AMP links rolling out in the Google+ Android app

If you're not familiar, Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages project aims to make the mobile web faster and less data-heavy. Websites that choose to support it offer AMP versions of their pages, which are then loaded instead of the full site. Google mobile search and the mobile Google+ site already load AMP pages when available, and now the latter's native Android app is joining in.

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