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Editorials

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The OnePlus 6 is the best Android phone with a notched screen yet

OnePlus is a company that, historically, hasn’t been known for adventurous smartphone designs. And while much of the OnePlus 6 merely iterates on the same rather staid, minimal hardware language, there is one part that stands out: this is the first Android phone with a screen notch I haven’t felt repulsed by.

Now, I don’t mind screen notches, in theory. The iPhone X manages to incorporate one well, particularly owing to the fact that the rest of the screen bezel around the phone is equally thin. Which is to say, there isn’t a chin.

The OnePlus 6 does have a chin - and there are reasons for that - but I think it incorporates that element far better than, for example, Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone.

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Hey Google: Alarms and timers should work seamlessly across all my devices

Alarms and timers are probably two of the things I use the Google Assistant for most often. Voice commands make setting them dead simple (especially important for the kitchen, when my hands are often covered in food), and I can use them on my phone, my Pixelbook, or one of my Google Homes.

The problem is that, for all the endpoint ubiquity of setting and managing these timers via the Assistant, I can't actually control or set timers for one device from another. That's kind of silly, and it's a feature I've been wanting for years now. If the appeal isn't obvious to you, let me just put it this way: Have you ever wanted to set an alarm or timer on your phone, only to have your Google Home respond to the query instead?

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For Google, it's full speed ahead with Android Automotive, but not so much with Android Auto

By some measures, Android Auto is a huge success. Google's infotainment system is available in cars from dozens of automakers, and consumers will be using these vehicles for years. That's a lot of people incentivized to use services like Assistant and Maps, but Auto is inherently limited as a projected interface from your phone. The car integration tab in Auto remains barren in virtually all vehicles. Google's solution is to build a version of Android that runs on cars, which it calls Android Automotive. We now have a better idea what that could look like.

I/O 2018 marks the second time Google has partnered with automakers to set up elaborate demos of what Android is like when it's actually running on a car.

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How does Project Treble impact Android and the custom ROM community?

Project Treble, something that you might read in some of our reviews and comment sections, is an important shift in Android as we know it. One of the pieces of Oreo, Treble was Google's attempt to improve the terrible update situation we see on many third-party phones, especially from Samsung, Asus, and Huawei. So far, only a few manufacturers have implemented it to any noticeable degree, with others outright ignoring it until the last possible minute.

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Android P's gesture navigation is bad, Google

When I used the iPhone X for a month, one of the things I most loved about the experience was Apple's gesture navigation model. It was simple and, once I'd become accustomed to it, extremely quick and natural to use. The bonus to Apple's approach is that it completely obviated the need for anything like software navigation keys, opening up more of the screen for content. The iPhone X also looks striking as a result - the edge-to-edge screen displays content from top to bottom - and it allowed Apple to keep the phone a more manageable size.

Google has now entered the gesture navigation fray, along with OEMs like Huawei, Motorola, OnePlus, and others that have been experimenting with alternative nav models for years now.

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A brief history of Android tablets: From galaxies to gravestones

The year was 2010, and Apple made good on the rumor mill's predictions when it unveiled the iPad. This device was, essentially, a bigger iPhone without the phone part. It turns out that consumers were into that sort of thing, and the first modern tablet sold in huge numbers. Not to be outdone, Android OEMs began launching Android-powered slates. For a time, it seemed like Android tablets would be a thing, but sales slumped, and most current Android tablets are ultra-low-cost junk. With the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to see how we got here.

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Google, please fix Android's slow, bloated share UI

Sharing from one app to another has been a mainstay of Android for years and years. It was one of the features that first drew me to Android: no more copying and pasting, no more having to open Twitter or WhatsApp to send a picture I just saw in my Gallery. Apps could talk to each other and the experience felt cohesive and seamless.

But with time, the Share UI in Android has languished, stuck with the same features and problems. It switched from a vertical list to a grid, it added direct share in Android 6.0 and app pinning in Android 7.0, yet these felt like putting lipstick on a pig: the Share UI remains slow, bloated, convoluted, and if you pay close attention to it, one of the most inconsistent experiences on Android to date.

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What the new Gmail gets wrong: Annoyances, broken features, and things we wish were left unchanged

The mobile world thrives on change, and we're always waiting expectantly for the next big OS update, next hot phone, or next service that changes our lives for the better. But that ceaseless hunt for improvement can also backfire on users when something they've loved and relied on is suddenly upended in the name of progress.

A good number of us are feeling that kind of frustration right now, as we get to know Google's latest Gmail redesign. We shared with you the news of its launch last week, and while there's a whole lot it does well, including the introduction of some powerful new features, we've also been putting together a not-so-insubstantial list of gripes.

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This is what it's like using only open-source software on Android

Technically speaking, Android is open-source. This means anyone can look at the operating system's code, or change it - this is how OEMs like HTC and Samsung add their own tweaks. That openness has often been a rallying cry for hardcore Android enthusiasts. Why use a closed platform like iOS, when you can have a free and open-source platform?

But even from the beginning, there were components of Android that were closed-source. The Gmail app, Maps, Google Talk, and the Play Store were some of the earliest examples. To combat the always-present fragmentation of Android, Google offers many APIs through the Play Services Framework.

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When does it make sense to buy last year's smartphone?

Smartphone prices have been getting ridiculous. Granted, they've been high for the better part of forever, and to an extent, with good reason — these devices exist at the intersection between advanced performance and miniaturization that's always going to be expensive. But while we all got used to the idea of spending several hundred dollars on a new handset, we're starting to get into the era of the $1000 smartphone, and that's at least a psychological barrier that can be tough to work through. Is there any good way to still buy a nice smartphone without spending all your rent money?

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