Last year, we put out a gift guide with all of our recommendations for the holiday season, but we made one mistake: we released it on December 20th, just five days before Christmas. What were we thinking? I honestly have no idea. This year, we decided to try to be a bit more helpful and put something out at least a couple of weeks ahead of time. You're welcome.
Without further ado, here is the Android Police Holiday Gift Guide for two-thousand fourteen.
Anxiously waiting for 8.1 to land? It would appear that today is the day. Google has just released both the OTA files for sideloading 8.1 and the requisite factory images. Intrepid Android enthusiasts can flash the update, though it is worth noting that the OTA files aren't currently working when sideloading from DP2 on at least one device.
This story was originally published and last updated .
Putting Android and iOS side by side in the smartphone arena has never been easy. While big software differences still separate the platforms in fundamental ways, even things like hardware just don't mean the same thing when you're comparing an iPhone to an Android phone. Even for us—people who are generally familiar with both—it can be difficult at times to explain what can sound like subtle contrasts end up painting two wildly different pictures. We obviously have a clear agenda when it comes to which platform is better, even if the 2020 iPhone SE seriously wowed us. But with the Pixel 4a, Google fired back in a more effective way than I think any of us had necessarily predicted.
As some had expected based on the timing of last year's Android N announcement, Android O was due sooner or later, and today's the big day: Meet Android O. Which, obviously, doesn't have a full name yet, and probably won't for a long time. So for now, just make up conspiracy theories about those concentric circles up there.
What does Android O do? When can you get it? We'll aim to answer all that in posts to come, and I'll give you the brief summary here.
First, when can you get it? Well, Google says Android O developer preview images should be available for flashing soon (they'll be here), but it's not clear when "soon" is, but we'd tend to assume based on last year that means today.
Google's Pixel 4a appears to have become a sensation — even though no one has one yet. It's only open for pre-order, and already it's become the best-selling unlocked smartphone at Amazon and Best Buy. And that makes sense; it's a pretty great phone. But you know what else is great? It has a goddamn headphone jack.
Despite being frozen out of the US market due to political opposition, Huawei still managed to surpass Apple this summer to become the world’s second largest phone maker behind Samsung. The Chinese manufacturer was the first to market with triple rear cameras in the P20 Pro this Spring, and many lauded its photos as the best produced by any smartphone.
Huawei’s latest flagship effort is the Mate 20 Pro, with a similar camera setup and innovations such as an in-display fingerprint sensor and 3D laser depth sensing for secure face unlock. It’s powered by the proprietary Kirin 980 chipset — the world’s first 7nm mobile SoC — and sports a 6.39” 2K+ OLED display.
The only Samsung smartphone I have owned and used was the Galaxy S3 (well, I also had the Galaxy 5 - not S - for a few weeks, but that doesn't count). I had been eyeing the company since the original Galaxy S, checking what it's doing and waiting for it to be convincing before I dipped my toes and grabbed the S3. I liked the rounded design, even though everyone criticized it. I loved the powerful hardware too, but I hated TouchWiz. It took me two weeks to get fed up, root the phone, flash a custom recovery, and start trying different custom ROMs that removed some of the bloat and smoothed the experience.
Back at MWC, while everyone was waiting for Sony to announce its follow-up flagship, the Xperia Z4, the company decided to keep it under wraps and instead unveiled the mid-range Xperia M4 Aqua and the Xperia Z4 Tablet. Today, the phone has finally been made official in Sony's home turf of Japan during a press conference that made all of the Z4's details public but left out any information regarding its global release or price.
The Xperia Z4 follows the same design as its predecessors, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on how you look at it. The squarish shape, metal frame, and glass back are part of the brand's identity, but at the same time they're iterative and have become boring.
It's no big secret that I'm a huge fan of NVIDIA's SHIELD. In fact, I believe I called it my favorite device from last year on a recent podcast, a claim that I readily stand behind. To me, it shows how versatile Android can be, despite the fact that the unit itself is essentially a one trick pony (it's damn good at that one trick, though).
Then there's NVIDIA's second foray into device design, the Tegra Note 7. Unlike SHIELD, TN7 is actually just a design that other companies can use as a base to release their own hardware from. The tablet's highlight feature is DirectStylus, which brings active-like features to a passive stylus.
OnePlus came out of nowhere last year with a phone that appealed to a lot of cynical smartphone-using curmudgeons. A device with great specs, capable software, and a reasonable price? What's the catch? Oh, invites. Well, the OnePlus One still managed to win a lot of fans, and now the company's followup, the OnePlus 2 is (sort of) available. This device also has an invite system, and the price is a little higher. Is it worth scrounging and begging to get an invite to buy this one, though? After all, they claim it's a "2016 flagship killer." Let's find out.