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opinion

30

The Pixel 4a 5G hits the value sweet spot of 2020

The Pixel 4a 5G hits the value sweet spot of 2020

It's nearly the end of the year, and while many of us are waiting for the expected autumnal/Black Friday sales to upgrade phones, it's time to put that list together and consider just which models you'll be keeping an eye out for. And if you're still on the fence examining the 2020 lineup, we've got a specific recommendation: The Pixel 4a 5G. At $500 bought outright and unlocked, it offers a nearly ideal balance of value to performance.

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156

Google needs to set an example and go beyond three years of Android updates

Google needs to set an example and go beyond three years of Android updates

I admit, I held hope that Google might surprise us with the Pixel 2 and 2 XL. They were only guaranteed updates until this month, but Google was able to bring the original 2016 Pixels Android 10 last year even though they weren't promised to get it. Secretly, I wanted that to be a trial run for the Pixel 2, dreaming that Google might surprise us with an extra year of updates. After all, 2017 wasn't that long ago, and the hardware has the headroom for at least another year or two of updates. But, though the phones commanded a premium $650-750 price tag at launch, they're being left behind.

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174

It's time for Google to kill the rest of its 'Play' branding

It's time for Google to kill the rest of its 'Play' branding

Mixed in among the Pixels, Chromecast, and speaker yesterday was another important tidbit. Google is essentially rebranding Android TV to Google TV over the next few years. But "Google TV" is more than just a software skin, it's also the new name for Google Play Movies & TV. That's makes it the second Play-branded service to get the boot in the next month if you consider Play Music, and I don't think this change goes far enough. It's been eight years, and it's time for Google to kill the "Play" branding across the board.

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122

Including expensive mmWave 5G on the Pixel 5 was a big mistake, Google

Including expensive mmWave 5G on the Pixel 5 was a big mistake, Google

When it launches, the Google Pixel 5 will cost $699 in the United States — easily making it the most expensive Snapdragon 765 device on the market globally. For comparison, OnePlus's Nord costs around $470 in Europe, while the US-sold LG Velvet retails for $600. Both phones have larger screens, more cameras, in-screen fingerprint scanners, and still support the actually-usable sub-6GHz 5G being deployed globally. And I think that pretty much tells us what we need to know about why the Pixel 5 is commanding such a premium — mmWave 5G no one asked for or needs.

Only the American Pixel 5 will ship with the antenna modules required for compatibility with mmWave 5G networks, and those antenna modules are expensive.

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22

The latest OnePlus leaks have me worried

The latest OnePlus leaks have me worried

OnePlus is gearing up for two new Nord-branded phones in the US market, according to leaks from Android Central in the last month, including what might be its first entry-level phone. If the details regarding the ~$200 "Clover" and sub-$400 "Billie" are both true (and they probably are), then OnePlus might have a problem on its hands. While the company was once known for its massively disruptive influence in the flagship space, now it's settled comfortably into the market it once upset. And its usual strategies won't work here.

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77

I did my entire job from the Galaxy Z Fold2 for a day

I did my entire job from the Galaxy Z Fold2 for a day

I really can't stress enough how game-changing folding phones are. I know they're frequently (and fairly) criticized for things like display durability and price, but once you actually use one and understand the experience, something just clicks — or, at least, it did for me. They're still not for everyone, but if you absolutely need to maintain productivity on the go, then the Z Fold2 will be as disruptive to your idea of work as the early Blackberry phones were. In fact, to prove a point, I was able to do my entire job here at Android Police from the phone for most of a whole day.

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63

The Note20 Ultra feels like the end of the smartphone's gilded age

The Note20 Ultra feels like the end of the smartphone's gilded age

The Galaxy Note20 Ultra is big, probably very fast, and has Samsung's most advanced stylus tech ever. Add in the obligatory 5G tax, and everyone knew this was going to be a very, very expensive smartphone: it is wholly unsurprising.

In fact, I am a bit surprised that it doesn't cost more. The $1400 Galaxy S20 Ultra is in no significant way more capable than the new Note. It actually has a less technologically advanced display (with an older version of Gorilla Glass), lacks the Note20 Ultra's laser autofocus, comes with a slightly slower chipset, and has an inferior iteration of Samsung's "Space Zoom" camera.

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20

Google took one great idea from the iPhone SE this year: Launch quietly

Google took one great idea from the iPhone SE this year: Launch quietly

A whole lot is going on right now, and not just when it comes to phones. Life is much more complicated in 2020, and it can be hard sometimes to narrow your focus on the hot new gadgets, even when it's your job. Phone announcements are always exciting — and, for me, a little bit stressful — but yesterday's almost low-key launch of the Pixel 4a was unpretentious, a little bit familiar, and down-right refreshing.

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186

Google's 2020 smartphone strategy looks like a mess

Google's 2020 smartphone strategy looks like a mess

It sure looks like the Google Pixel smartphone lineup is about to get weird. Based on what we know so far, it looks like there will be a Pixel 4a, a Pixel 4a 5G, and a Pixel 5. A defunct Pixel 4a XL is out of the picture, and there was never even a leak suggesting the existence of a Pixel 5 XL to begin with. This has rightly left many bewildered: just what is Google trying to accomplish here? While I won't claim to have all the answers, I do think there's a lens worth interpreting this through, and that lens is Google's Silicon Valley rival, Apple.

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479

Ads are taking over Samsung's Galaxy smartphones — and it needs to stop

Ads are taking over Samsung's Galaxy smartphones — and it needs to stop

I've used a Samsung Galaxy smartphone almost every day for nearly 4 years. I used them because Samsung had fantastic hardware that was matched by (usually) excellent software. But in 2020, a Samsung phone is no longer my daily driver, and there's one simple reason that's the case: Ads.

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