April 4, 2017 brianradio2016

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The Apple iPhone tends to take the top spot in most of my biannual lists, with Samsung making an appearance every once in a while. With continued innovation in the Android space and much of the same from Apple, the advancements in technology outweighed simplicity this time.

It is not easy to pick the top phone when so many great options exist. While you may not agree with my particular order, it’s likely you have most of these in your top 10. I was fairly certain of my top pick this year, especially after attending the launch event in NYC last week, but I still posted a Twitter poll that confirmed my top two phones.

1. Samsung Galaxy S8/S8 Plus

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I actually had the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 at the top of my last list in December 2016, but after two recalls it was removed from consideration. The Samsung Galaxy S8/S8 Plus takes first place this time for many reasons.

Samsung’s Infinity Display looks fantastic and minimizes the top and bottom bezel while removing anything on the sides which roll down from the front to the back. We see ample RAM and internal storage with the ability to add inexpensive microSD cards, new Bixby assitant and a hardware button dedicated to its use, improved front facing camera, Samsung Pay payment technology, wireless and fast charging, IP68 dust and water resistance, a USB Type-C standard port, and traditional 3.5mm headset jack. There is nothing missing from the Galaxy S8 and it deserves the top spot.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 can be pre-ordered now and will ship in the next couple of weeks. The S8 is priced at $750 and the S8 Plus at $850. Pre-orders include a free Samsung Gear VR and controller too.

My Galaxy S8 Plus review will be posted in a couple of weeks. I’m picking this as the top device based on my limited time with the S8 at the launch event and my extended time with the S7 and S7 Edge.

2. Apple iPhone 7/7 Plus

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Whenever I need to make sure I have a phone that does it all and gets me through a long day, I regularly pop my SIM into the Apple iPhone 7 Plus. The water resistance, improved cameras, more RAM, a larger capacity battery, a faster processor, and stereo speakers are all compelling features.

However, the iPhone 7 ends up in second because it has no fast charging technology, internal storage is locked to whatever capacity you purchase, there is no standard headphone jack, there is no wireless charging, Apple Pay has limitations, and the phones are quite large for the display sizes.

The Apple iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are also the most expensive smartphones available today, when compared to similar flagships.

Check out the my full review of the iPhone 7 Plus (9.3 rating) and Jason’s iPhone 7 review (9.0 rating). CNET also has reviews of the iPhone 7 Plus (8.8 rating) and iPhone 7 (8.7 rating).

3. LG G6

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LG was the first to get its flagship out to customers with the new 18:9 aspect ratio and after using one for more than a month I considered it as a possible number one contender. It is priced the lowest of these top three at just $650 with a microSD card slot, incredible performing dual rear cameras, shock resistance, minimal bezels and a pocketable form factor, wireless charging, and dust and water resistance.

The LG G6 has a rather thick uniform body and doesn’t have anything that particularly makes it stand out from the crowd. The LG UX is OK and is not too intrusive, but LG doesn’t have a great track record with regular software updates and there is still something for LG to prove in 2017. But the LG G6 is a wonderful device to show that LG is able to compete with Samsung and Apple.

Check out my full review (9.5 rating) of the LG G6.

4. Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL

It’s hard for me to pick a phone for the top three that six months after release still has a back order from four to five weeks. The Google Pixel and Pixel XL are outstanding devices and for about a month I owned a Google Pixel XL.

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Image: CNET

The Pixel has a 5 inch display while the Pixel XL has a 5.5 inch display. Both are powered by a Qualcomm 821 processor. Other key specs include 4GB of RAM, 32 or 128GB of internal storage, 12.3 megapixel camera and 8 megapixel front facing camera, and Android 7.1 Nougat.

There is no water resistance or wireless charging capability, internal storage is locked to either 32GB or 128GB, and the bezels of the phone are quite large when you compare it to the new LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8.

Just like the iPhone, you will get updates to the Android software first on a Google Pixel or Pixel XL so if having the latest version of the software is important to you then you can’t beat a Pixel.

The camera helps you take wonderful photos and that was the one reason I almost kept mine. However, there are too many other compromises with the hardware that I was not willing to make. The Google Pixel is priced at $649 and $749. The Google Pixel XL is priced at $769 and $869.

Check out the Jason Cipriani’s full review of the Google Pixel XL (8.0 rating). CNET also has a review of the Google Pixel (8.8 rating).

5. Moto Z/Z Force Droid

It’s been a while since I’ve been impressed by a Motorola phone, but the Moto Z and Moto Z Force Droid look great, feel great, and perform well. These phones incorporate a modular design that actually makes sense and works well.

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The Moto Z is available as a GSM unlocked phone for $699 with the Moto Z Force Droid a Verizon exclusive, available for $720 (32GB) and $770 (64GB).

The Z Force Droid edition adds a shatterproof display, which is something we don’t see often today. Both phones have high resolution displays, leading internal specifications, a water repellent nano-coating, and battery life that lasts longer than an iPhone 7 Plus.

Motorola has done a good job updating these latest Moto Z phones with the operating system and monthly Android security updates. You can also use the Moto Z Force Droid in a Google Daydream headset for a VR experience.

The Moto Mods snap on and off easily and are very functional. Motorola has spent time and money fostering the Moto Mods development and we are starting to see projects on Indiegogo and elsewhere.

Check out my full Moto Z Force Droid review and the one from CNET.

6. Huawei Mate 9

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CNET/CBS Interactive

While I enjoy testing out Huawei phones as part of my ZDNet experience, I don’t usually include Huawei phones on this list since they are rarely sold in the US. However, the Huawei Mate 9 is available for GSM phone users on Amazon and other US retailers for just $599.

If long battery life, high quality photos, and a big 5.9 inch screen are important to you then you may want to consider the Huawei Mate 9. You can now install the Amazon Alexa app and have another assistant to work with Google Assistant.

The Huawei Mate 9 has a powerful Kirin 960 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB internal storage with microSD card slot, dual rear cameras with Leica branding, and a massive 4,000 mAh battery to get you through two days of work.

Check out my full Mate 9 review and the one from CNET.

7. Galaxy S7/S7 Edge

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While the Samsung Galaxy S8 may be the ultimate Samsung flagship, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are still fantastic smartphones that can be found at reduced pricing with the S8 soon hitting store shelves. These smartphones have industry leading specifications, refined design, and capabilities that had me almost awarding it a perfect 10 in my review. The only con I could come up with for the S7 was that it is a fingerprint magnet and for the S7 Edge that the edge screen sometimes facilitated inadvertent screen presses.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have extremely fast cameras that take excellent photos and video, responsive fingerprint scanners and advanced Samsung Pay support, water resistance without the fuss of ports, elegant refined design with the use of metal and glass, and also launched with sweet offers from US carriers and Samsung.

The S7 and S7 Edge still use microUSB and have a front physical home button, both of which may still appeal to some people.

CNET also awarded the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge an Editor’s Choice award so there’s little doubt that Samsung’s year old smartphones are still some of the best smartphones available today.

8. BlackBerry KEYOne

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BlackBerry KEYone (Image: TCL)

The BlackBerry DTEK60 is a solid device, available at a great price, that offers a high level of security in an elegant design. However, I decided to award the spot on this list to the upcoming BlackBerry KEYone that brings a physical QWERTY back to BlackBerry customers.

The BlackBerry KEYone doesn’t have all of the highest flagship specs found in the DTEK60, but it is a very capable device with an excellent camera. The KEYone has a 4.5 inch display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, massive 3505 mAh battery, 12 megapixel rear camera, and fingerprint sensor built into the keyboard spacebar.

TCL is now making BlackBerry hardware and as I saw on the DTEK60 it is doing a fantastic job at providing monthly Android security updates, which is not something many Android manufacturers can say.

The BlackBerry KEYone was scheduled for an April release but with the latest news it may be delayed until May. It is priced at $549, which is reasonable for this unique BlackBerry device.

9. OnePlus 3T

There are a number of excellent Android smartphones available today in the $400 range and one of the best is the OnePlus 3T. OnePlus has recently sold some special color options, including midnight black, in order to satisfy customers looking for a unique device.

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Image: OnePlus

The OnePlus 3T feels much like an HTC 10, but the customization, more RAM, and longer battery life make it compelling. It does have a 1080p display so the resolution is not as high as an HTC 10, but it is priced significantly lower.

The OnePlus 3T has a Snapdragon 821 processor, 6GB RAM, and 64GB/128GB of internal storage. There is a 3,400 mAh battery to keep you going, along with Dash Charge for quick top off when you need it.

OnePlus has shown it can update the phone regularly as well with a few updates already made since its release. It has some awesome customization options and is one of my favorite low price smartphones.

Sandra Vogel gave it a 9/10 rating in her ZDNet review. CNET awarded the OnePlus 3T 9.0/10 in its review.

10. HTC U Ultra

For many years I was an HTC fan and purchased most of the One series. The HTC U Ultra was released over a month ago and while it looks gorgeous it is a bit of step back from the HTC 10 and doesn’t compete well with the current flagships.

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Like the HTC 10, the HTC U Ultra provides a fantastic audio experience with dual stereo speakers and an included USonic headset that maps the specifics of each of your ears.

The U Ultra has a 5.7 inch high resolution LCD display in a 162.41 x 79.79 mm form factor. Despite the size of the phone, you will only find a 3000 mAh battery inside that didn’t even let me make it through a full day of work.

The price is a bit high at $749, especially when you compare the HTC U Ultra to other flagships. The back glass, an unusual move for a company that set the bar with aluminum unibody designs, is stunning. However, it is also a major fingerprint magnet.

There is no level of water resistance, wireless charging is not present even though the back is glass, and there is no headphone jack.

I awarded the HTC U Ultra a a 7.0/10 in my review, while CNET awarded the HTC U Ultra a comparable 6.8/10.

While it’s always fairly clear which devices are in the top five, the second five are a bit tougher and some devices get left off the list. I didn’t expect a BlackBerry and an HTC device to be on the list this year, but could also add in some more affordable Motorola and other devices. What other devices would you recommend for this top ten list?

Related ZDNet top 10 smartphones articles

April 4, 2017 brianradio2016

The latest update to the ONOS open networking operating system should make it easier to automatically configure devices and services on a network.

ONOS Junco, demonstrated at the Linux Foundation’s Open Networking Summit on Monday and available now, adds dynamic configuration and new virtualization capabilities. ONOS is designed to be a scalable controller for vast, software-defined service-provider and enterprise networks.

The new release is the first one that works with YANG, a language defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force for specifying network devices and services. ONOS can now exchange information with devices and services that speak YANG, using the standard Netconf protocol for those exchanges.

The result is that network operators can discover and configure devices like switches without having to use techniques or command-line interfaces specific to those devices, said Guru Parulkar, executive director of the Open Networking Foundation. ONF and ON.Lab oversee the ONOS Project, which began in 2010.

April 4, 2017 brianradio2016

In-building location and tracking is possible today thanks to the Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices that have become indispensable for organizations and consumers alike. Both wireless technologies can provide great accuracy, and a broad and growing range of security, marketing, and other location-based applications are already at work.

For example, if you’re in a museum standing in front of the dinosaur exhibit, relevant information can be sent to your smartphone. If you’re in a medical complex and need to go from a doctor’s office to the X-ray facility, the technology can provide turn-by-turn in-building directions.

On the retail side, let’s say you’re walking through a mall. The technology lets retailers send location-specific coupons to your smartphone. The same can be done inside a specific retail store. And retailers can gather data on where shoppers are walking within their stores and can analyze that information to improve their marketing and operations.

While Wi-Fi has dominated the in-building location and tracking space for many years, the rise of small and inexpensive beacons based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology has introduced an option that many find superior.

April 4, 2017 brianradio2016

Last week, Amazon Web Services launched Amazon Connect, a cloud-based contact center service. The objective is to provide enterprises with an easier-to-use and faster-to-deploy call center system. But there’s deeper meaning to Amazon Connect than simply a new service from AWS.

From a technology perspective, Amazon Connect works the same way as Amazon’s customer service system, incorporating its Lex AI technology for natural language processing, which is also used by the Alexa virtual assistant—yes, Alexa from the Amazon Echo.

The service lets users to dynamically configure customer interaction processes. Of course, it’s easy to integrate with AWS’s IaaS cloud.

But what’s unique about Amazon Connect is that AWS is moving up the stack. Although storage and compute are AWS’s bread and butter, higher-level services like Amazon Connect are likely to be AWS’s focus going forward.

April 4, 2017 brianradio2016

Biometrics like fingerprint readers, iris scanners, and facial recognition are either the solution to passwords’ unmanageability or a fool’s-gold technology that will compromise us all. Both and neither are true.

The forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 introduces facial recognition to unlock the smartphone, becoming the fourth unlock option for Samsung’s flagship device, in addition to fingerprint reading, iris scanning, and good ol’ manually entered passwords. And mere days after its introduction, someone has already fooled the Galaxy S8’s facial recognition by showing the device a picture of the person. That would be an easy way to unlock someone else’s phone without their permission. (An earlier Google facial-recognition technology in 2011’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich had the same flaw, by the way.)

Samsung’s lax implementation doesn’t mean that facial recognition is a bad idea. As in all security matters, the question is how deep to make the security mechanism for its intended use.

Samsung knows its facial recognition is not very secure, despite marketers’ hope that you think it is. In fact, Samsung doesn’t allow use of its facial-recognition technology for its Samsung Pay service or to access online banking. But it does let you use its smartphones’ fingerprint reader or iris scanner for those; those scanners are much harder to fool because they rely on greater biometric detail than the its facial-recognition implementation does.

April 4, 2017 brianradio2016

Apple has placed orders for bendable organic-light emitting diode (OLED) panels from Samsung Electronics for use in the upcoming iPhone, Nikkei reports.

Cupertino ordered 70 million units, Japanese media said citing unnamed sources, matching estimates from IHS Markit analyst David Hsieh.

“Apple has ordered 70 million units of OLED panels from Samsung this year, while Samsung is preparing to churn out as many as 95 million for Apple in 2017, in case demand exceeds expectations,” Nikkei quoted Hsieh as saying.

A report from South Korea last year said Samsung signed a supply deal with Apple worth 3 trillion won to supply 100 million OLED panels for use in the next iPhone.

Nikkei said there will be three models for the 10th anniversary iPhone. The premium version will sport a 5.2-inch curved OLED display, while the other two will have 4.7- and 5.5-inch LCD displays.

The company has never used an OLED panel for its phone before.

Apple orders components such as display and camera modules from Japan and Korea, and assembles them in greater China, including Taiwan.

Nikkei also said the new iPhones will be waterproof and have wireless charging. One model will have a 3D sensor that allows facial recognition and no home button.

Samsung, meanwhile, has used bendable OLED panels for its recently unveiled Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus and its Infinity Display screen.

The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus also removed the physical home button and features facial recognition.

LG Display has the technology to make bendable OLED panels as well but cannot match Samsung in capacity.

April 3, 2017 brianradio2016

A new bipartisan Senate bill would let Medicare experiment with paying for more telehealth services, enabling physicians and other healthcare providers to evaluate patients via video chats such as Facetime.

Sponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Col.) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act would allow selected hospitals to test  telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries, particularly those who live in hard-to-reach rural areas.

“It would also incentivize the healthcare industry to develop new technologies that could potentially reduce costs and improve patient health,” Gardner said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time a bill has been introduced that aims to expand the use of physician services via technology; similar bills were introduced in the House in 2015  and in the Senate in 2016. Both died.

April 3, 2017 brianradio2016

Android last month slipped ahead of Windows to become the world’s most popular operating system, an Irish analytics company said Monday.

“This is a milestone in technology history,” said Aodhan Cullen, the CEO of Dublin-based StatCounter, in a statement. “It marks the end of Microsoft’s leadership worldwide of the OS market which it has held since the 1980s.”

StatCounter measures usage share — a proxy for online activity — by tallying the operating systems of the devices used to browse to its clients’ websites.

According to StatCounter, Android’s usage share of all computing devices, including smartphones, tablets and personal computers, was 37.93% in March, just a hair ahead of Windows’ 37.91%. It was the first time since StatCounter began tracking usage share that Windows did not hold the top spot.

April 3, 2017 brianradio2016

Microsoft Windows 7 may not go quietly into the night, according to data published Saturday.

March’s Windows 7 user share — an estimate of the percentage of the world’s personal computers powered by the 2009 operating system — was 49%, said analytics vendor Net Applications. However, Windows 7 ran 54% of all Windows machines: The difference between the user share of all PCs and only those running Windows stemmed from Windows powering 92% of the globe’s personal computers, not 100%.

More importantly, Windows 7’s share has barely moved in the last 12 months. Since this time in 2016, it’s dropped just 2.5 percentage points, representing a meager 5% decline. As a portion of just Windows personal computers, Windows 7 has been even more obstinate, remaining steady over the past year at 54%.

During the same stretch, Windows 10 added more than 11 percentage points to its share, ending March with 25% of all PCs and 28% of those running Windows.

April 3, 2017 brianradio2016

Twisted, tangled cords and wires are an eyesore. Organize your space with this simple 6-piece cable management system that works for power cords, charging cables, USB cords, phone chargers, audio cables, headphones, or any other wire up to 1/4-inch diameter. The cord organizers are made of a soft, flexibile material, will not damage your desk and cables, also you can remove it easily without damage or residue. The bundle includes four 5-channel clips (two black and two white), one single-slot clip and one double-slot clip as well. Its list price of $20 is discounted to $8. See it on Amazon.

This story, “60% off YOCOU 5-Channel Cable Management System, 6-piece – Deal Alert” was originally published by TechConnect.