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Phone Reviews

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Samsung Galaxy Note7 Review: A great (very expensive) phone

A few years ago, Samsung was not known for making phones that looked nice. Oh, Samsung made popular phones, but no one swooned over them. That started to change after the sour reception Samsung got with the Galaxy S5. It began taking risks with materials and designs, and it made some bad phones in the process. However, here we are with the Galaxy Note7, a device that represents the culmination of Samsung's design refinements over the years. Samsung is clearly proud of what it has on offer with this phone, but you'll pay handsomely to get your hands on it. Can a phone be good enough to justify an $850 price tag in 2016?

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Galaxy Note7: Six days with Samsung's latest

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.
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ZTE Axon 7 review: Mostly good hardware, but bad software

ZTE has long been known as a purveyor of inexpensive devices—you might even call them cheap. Many phones manufactured by ZTE in past years didn't even have the company's name on them. Last year, it started going after the premium device market with the Axon Pro. ZTE is back in 2016 with another Axon—the Axon 7. This $400 phone seems to target potential OnePlus 3 buyers with similar specs and a few notable improvements, at least on paper. Does the Axon 7 mark ZTE's arrival in the budget flagship space or does OnePlus still own it?

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Wileyfox Spark review: Could do better

Phones have progressed enormously in the last few years. If I look at my beloved Nexus 4, bought new in 2012, it had a Snapdragon S4 Pro chip, 2GB RAM, and 16GB storage. It cost me £279, or $349 in the US. For a phone of that quality, $349 was a stupendous price, much cheaper than comparable phones from Samsung, Motorola, or HTC. It kept me going for two years before the battery finally gave out.

Fast forward to this year. A tiny British company, Wileyfox, has released a phone, the Spark, with 1GB RAM and 8GB storage, for £89.99 ($120).

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Alcatel Idol 4S review: Too much money for too little phone

Last year, Alcatel made its first real foray into the US unlocked smartphone market with the Idol 3. That phone cost $249, but at the time, offered quite a bit for the money. A large 5.5" 1080p display (with a fairly good LCD panel), dual front-facing speakers, no real bloatware to speak of, LTE, solid cameras (13MP/8MP), and a microSD card slot. High on features, low on price may as well have been the tagline for the Idol 3, and while it was at times excruciatingly slow owing to its Snapdragon 615 chipset, I found it an overall good value proposition.

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Moto Z and Moto Z Force review: A modular miss

Motorola is trying something new—it's like a whole new company with new owners, new phones, and a new approach to making money on said phones. The Moto Z and Z Force (currently only available as Verizon exclusives) are "modular" phones with a series of snap-on rear panel accessories. They're also very thin and lacking a headphone jack. There are certainly reasons to be skeptical of these devices, but they're also very interesting in an industry that has had trouble innovating beyond the standard black slab.

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Moto G4 and G4 Plus review: Still the best budget phone you can buy

Motorola has had a strange couple of years. It was making some interesting, though mediocre phones, then it was acquired by Google. Then, it started making great phones. Before we could truly enjoy the new Motorola, the company was sold off to Chinese mega-firm Lenovo. We all worried what this would mean for Motorola, and now we're seeing the first products from the new-new Moto—the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus.

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The $60 phone, day eleven: the "slowening" begins, I take a hiatus

Aziz Ansari's cultishly popular Master of None is a show you should watch (and also a Netflix exclusive). Ansari plays Dev, a not-convincingly-struggling actor in New York City. At one point, he is cast as a doctor in a film called The Sickening. Which, in the words of the show, is a "black virus" movie. The plot is familiar: there's some kind of unstoppable super-plague that turns everyone into not-zombies, and Dev's character is the one man who is trying to stop it. He, too, of course, succumbs to The Sickening in the end.

The purposely generic and vague namesake of that fake movie, though, I find is perfectly fit to be coopted and molded for use in describing a common Android smartphone phenomenon: the slowening.

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ZenFone 3 review: Zen and the art of great midrange phones

The original ZenFone would be two years old this month, but I doubt many of them are still in use. It was highly anticipated before release, and widely panned shortly thereafter. I have friends who bought the first generation ZenFone, and the issues were obvious right from the start: the battery couldn't last half a day, the UI was clumsy and unresponsive, it got so hot you could barely hold it, and the build quality and design really weren't up to par.

A lot has changed in the last two years. The ZenFone 2 was well-received by our team and continues to be a good buy for the price.

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Moto Z and Z Force hands-on and first impressions

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.

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