Verizon will fix your smartphone’s screen for $29

It happens to the best of us. You buy a new mobile phone, you get a case, you try to be extra careful, but you drop it. Cracked screens happen often enough that most major carriers and device manufacturers have a separate section in their mobile protection plans just for replacing a broken display. According to a report on Phandroid, Verizon has just added the repair type to it’s own mobile insurance plans with an affordable $ 30 deductible, down $ 20 from the previous $ 50 amount.

Verizon’s Total Mobile Protection Plan will run you $ 11 per month for a smartphone, $ 9 per month for a basic phone or tablet, and you can pay $ 33 per month to insure multiple devices. If you crack your screen, says Verizon, you may be able to get it repaired that same day, provided you live in “select markets” and have “certain devices.” The company also says a technician can meet you at your home, office, school or wherever you are while traveling.

Verizon isn’t the only carrier with this sort of plan. AT&T has three plans for $ 9, $ 12 or $ 35 a month each of which includes potential same-day cracked screen repair, though the deductible here is $ 90. Sprint’s Total Equipment Protection plan has five tiers (starting at $ 9 per month), which also includes cracked screen repairs for a variable rate, $ 50 for Tier one customers and $ 100 for Tier two folks. Apple Care Plus gets you an iPhone screen repair for $ 30, which is now a $ 170 service if you didn’t purchase Apple’s extended warranty plan. Complicated? Yes. Useful? Probably.

Source: Phandroid

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Samsung’s latest imaging sensors may rid smartphones of camera bumps

As Apple, Samsung and (perhaps, surprisingly) Google battle to claim the top spot in smartphone imaging, we’ve been left with lenses jutting out of the device, or in the case of the Note 8, a thicker phone. The iPhone 8 and Pixel 2 may be the latest offenders, but Samsung thinks its latest imaging sensor can keep things slim with its duo of new ISOCELL sensors: two different components with different selling points.

Its 12-megapixel Fast 2L9 sensor uses “Dual Pixel” tech to speed up its auto-focus, shrinking pixels to 1.28μm, down from 1.4μm in its predecessor. And what the heck does that mean? It should improve improve the speed it takes for future smartphones to focus, as well as the ability for the camera to keep locked-on and track moving objects. Samsung promises this is all possible in low light too, vowing that it’ll keep your next (presumably Galaxy-branded) smartphone bump-free, while also delivering ‘bokeh’ depth of focus effects with just a single lens.

The ISOCELL Slim 2X7, like its name suggests, will be able to slide itself into even more slender smartphone designs, despite its meatier 24-megapixel spec. It’s the first mobile image sensor to have a pixel size below 1.0μm — 0.9μm apparently, helping shrink that sensor size, but keeping color fidelity and low noise thanks to Samsung’s improvements with its ISOCELL tech and pixel isolation.The Slim is also built for improved low-light photography. It does so by combining four neighbouring pixels to work as one, increasing light sensitivity. It’ll still be able to tap into all 24 megapixels when lighting conditions are better. Samsung pitches it as a sensor that works at its best, regardless of how much light’s around.

Ben K. Hur, Vice President of System LSI Marketing at Samsung Electronics says in the release that the sensors are “highly versatile as they can be placed in both front and rear of a smartphone.” Better selfies too, then.

Source: Samsung

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Xiaomi aims to be more than king of the budget smartphones

The day after the Mi Note 2 and Mi MIX launch last week, the flagship Mi Home store next to Xiaomi’s headquarters was packed with visitors. Nope, they weren’t there to spend their yuan, but to simply wait for their turn to play with the new phones. But the real star was clearly the Mi MIX “concept phone.” People were drawn to its near-bezel-less display and fancy ceramic body. Despite this being Xiaomi’s most expensive smartphone ever, I heard many visitors ask if they could buy one immediately, only to be let down when told they have to wait until November 4th. Xiaomi must be doing something right

The Mi MIX didn’t just happen over night, of course; it was a two-year project with contributions from French designer, Philippe Starck. This man is no stranger to the tech world, he’s helped design headphones, hard drives, a smart radiator valve, electric bicycles and, even, the late Steve Jobs’ yacht. Barra described Starck’s role in the Mi MIX project as setting high-level priorities, especially when it came to convincing the Xiaomi team to keep things clean and simple.

Xiaomi’s aim with the Mi MIX is to showcase some of the breakthrough mobile technologies that will eventually trickle down to its mainstream devices. In this case, we have Sharp’s near-bezel-less display which we knew was arriving sooner or later. Hidden underneath that is Elliptic Labs’ ultrasound-based proximity sensor, which replaces the ugly infrared dot and turns the screen off when the phone is placed next to your ear. Last but not least, the full ceramic body is a nice alternative to the aluminum we’re accustomed to. The company hopes these experiments will lead consumers to see Xiaomi as home to serious innovation, rather than a budget brand.

Some would argue that it should be giants like Apple and Google bringing out devices like the Mi MIX. While Barra declined to comment on the iPhone 7, he was happy to praise his previous company’s efforts with the Pixel and even went as far as saying the series “sets a bar for the whole world.” He described Google’s latest phones as being “all-around optimized,” “very responsive” with “great battery life” plus an “awesome camera,” though he did say that they don’t necessarily have the best industrial design — especially with their “very tall chins.”

Could Google have done a phone like the Mi MIX? Barra defended his former colleagues by saying it would have been difficult for them to justify the risk of delivering a phone like this, as it wouldn’t sell in large quantities. The Pixel, on the other hand, doesn’t have this problem. “I think they’re gonna sell a lot of Pixels. Every Android enthusiast is going to try what they can to get their hands on one.” Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if Barra is still working for Google.

Save for the Mi Home’s strong resemblance to any Apple store, the Mi MIX could have almost peeled the copycat label off Xiaomi for good. Alas, people were quick to compare the Mi Note 2’s 3D curved body to Samsung’s S7 Edge and its discontinued Note 7. Barra was keen to point out that Xiaomi was actually the first company to release a smartphone with a 3D curved glass back — the original Mi Note. The same industrial design was applied to the smaller but more powerful Mi 5.

“I’m not worried about what people are going to say.”

Samsung then combined the 3D curved screen and the 3D curved glass back for the S7 Edge, to which Barra said, “Well, no one is going to give us credit for a curved back, right? They just care about the front.” It wasn’t until the Mi Note 2 when Xiaomi followed Samsung’s suit, courtesy of the flexible OLED display allegedly supplied by LG.

“In how many ways do you think you can design a curved display? Exactly one way,” Barra argued. “I don’t think that anyone can outright claim ownership of that as an invention because it’s kind of like a logical thing. They can claim that they were the first ones to do it, but certainly not the ones responsible for the most incredible idea in the world because it’s just a very straightforward engineering thing: As soon as you can come up with a flexible OLED display, you can design a screen like this.

“I’m not worried about what people are going to say, because we’re pretty confident in our design capability. I think [the Mi MIX unveiling] was a pretty clear demonstration of that.”

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The best smartphones on the UK High Street

Picking the right smartphone can be tough. With Apple, Samsung, LG, HTC and plenty of other manufacturers releasing handsets at a steady clip, it can be difficult to keep up with each and every launch. We use our smartphones for work, play and everything in between, so it’s important to settle on the right blend of hardware, operating system and price tag that makes sense for you.

After all, you’re likely going to be spending anywhere from 18 months to two years of your life with your new handset, unless your budget allows you to upgrade on whim. Deciding between so many candidates can be a bit of a struggle, but we’re here to help with our guide to the best smartphones around.

Article prices are based on the RRP, but more up-to-date listings can be found in the buyers guide widget below.

Apple iPhone 6s

iPhone 6

Score: 91/100

Apple’s follow-up to the iPhone 6 isn’t as much of an incremental update as some were expecting. The 6s is more powerful and carries a pressure-sensitive display, not to mention significant improvements in the camera department. As well as simply being another easy-to-use iOS device, new features include the “3D Touch” panel, which lets you “peek” inside apps, surfacing information and actions without opening the app fully. The upgraded 12-megapixel camera has a few tricks of its own, too, like the new 4K video mode and animated “Live Photos.” New Rose Gold option aside, though, the iPhone 6s is practically identical in looks to its predecessor. It’s not cheap either, so iPhone 6 owners might find it hard to justify an upgrade.

In a sentence: Apple’s iPhone 6s is a great phone and safe bet, especially for anyone moving from an older 5 or 5s.

Price: £539 and up

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7

Score: 90/100

Samsung’s Galaxy S7 takes everything that made the S6 great and improves upon it. The outcome is a flagship with a gorgeous Quad HD display, outstanding performance and subtle design tweaks that make the marriage of metal and glass that bit more appealing. Those already leaning in Samsung’s direction will be thankful for the return of expandable storage, with cards of up to 200GB capacity finding a microSD slot to call home. An IP68 water- and dust-resistant rating only sweetens the proposition. Only minor progress has been made in the imaging department, but the S7 has a capable and versatile camera nonetheless. A steep price is one of the only downsides of the device, but you’re paying for premium.

In a sentence: Easily one of the best Android smartphones available.

Price: £569

Moto X Style

Moto X

Score: 90/100

Motorola’s made a name for itself putting out great devices at reasonable prices, and the Moto X Style is a perfect example of that philosophy. A fondness for larger displays is a must. If that’s the case you’ll get a pleasing 5.7-inch Quad HD display to poke at, and Moto Maker means you can customise an already expedient design with whatever colour and texture combination you see fit. Purists in particular will enjoy the vanilla Android build with a light drizzle of Motorola chocolate sauce on top. The Moto X Style has a great camera, too, even if it isn’t quite as good as those on some rival devices. Similarly, the handset offers flagship performance, but it’s not the most powerful device around. There are compromises, but none that should tempt you to overlook the Moto X Style considering its relatively low price.

In a sentence: An expert lesson in striking the balance between user experience and price.

Price: £369 and up

Apple iPhone SE

iPhone SE

Score: 89/100

Many people felt left behind by Apple’s turn to bigger-screened iPhones, and the SE is an attempt to regain their favour. The 4-inch form factor feels both familiar and fresh in its design — like an iPhone 5s with softer curves — and the SE benefits from the inclusion of the same internals found in the iPhone 6s, meaning it’s lightning fast. The two also share the same, excellent camera, though the iPhone SE lacks “3D Touch” functionality and possesses an older, slower Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Still, it offers fantastic battery life and happens to be the cheapest iPhone Apple’s ever sold. Oh, and lest we forget: Rose Gold.

In a sentence: A no-brainer for champions of the 4-inch form factor wanting to upgrade from an older iPhone.

Price: £359 and up

HTC 10

HTC 10

Score: 88/100

The HTC 10 marks the end of a few uneventful years at the company, defined by a series of unremarkable flagships. But what a return to form. The HTC 10’s sleek, all-metal design packages a 5.2-inch Quad HD display and internals that are almost unmatched in their performance. While its competent 12-UltraPixel camera isn’t the best on the market and battery life is distinctly average, HTC has cleaned up its Android skin and included a few attractive extras like hi-res audio support and AirPlay compatibility. HTC has again created a flagship handset that can hang with the best of ’em, but that means you’re looking at premium pricing to match.

In a sentence: On the podium as one of the top Android smartphones on the market.

Price: £570

Google Nexus 6P

Nexus 6P

Score: 87/100

The Nexus 6P is another device for those who prefer a larger-than-average screen. The 5.7-inch, Wide Quad HD display isn’t all the handset has to offer, though, with an abundance of processing power and impressive battery life. Being a Google device, the Nexus 6P also receives Android updates as soon as they become available, so you’ll always be on the latest version. Combine all these features with a solid camera, and you get a large-screen smartphone at a pretty competitive price. However, it’s worth bearing in mind the Nexus 6P lacks a microSD slot to expand storage, and its all-metal design is like the smartphone equivalent of Marmite.

In a sentence: A great option for people who like a larger screen that also benefits from the most up-to-date Android software.

Price: £449 and up.

Moto G

Moto G

Score: 87/100

When Motorola launched the first Moto G a few years ago, it immediately stood out as offering unparalleled value for money. Now in its third generation, the Moto G is still one of the best all-round smartphones for anyone on a budget, or those that would rather not pay for bells and whistles they’ll get little use out of. While it doesn’t excel in any one area and ignores flagship-grade components to keep costs down, there are no particularly uninviting compromises either. The Moto G’s outward appearance can also be heavily personalised using Moto Maker, at which point avid mobile gamers and users of more demanding apps might want to pay a little extra for more RAM and internal storage.

In a sentence: A decent, affordable Android smartphone that makes minimal sacrifices to hit its low price point.

Price: £149 and up.

OnePlus 2

OnePlus 2

Score: 86/100

OnePlus is in the business of making serious smartphones and selling them for a fraction of the price of competitors. Case in point: the OnePlus 2. It has all the guts and performance of a market-leading flagship, with style and build quality being far from an afterthought. Those features alone make the price tag easy to justify, and that’s without mentioning the versatile 13-megapixel camera. OnePlus has held back in a couple of areas, understandably, such as opting for a 5.5-inch 1080p display instead of a Quad HD panel. Other compromises include a lack of expandable storage and NFC, which are likely to be either deal-breakers or features you can easily live without.

In a sentence: A inexpensive, near-flagship device that prioritises performance and price.

Price: £249

LG G5

LG G5

Score: 81/100

LG has released some excellent flagship smartphones in the past, but this year the company has skipped an incremental upgrade in favour of something much more adventurous. Top-tier performance and fun, flexible dual-camera array aside, the bottom bezel of the device is completely removable, making space for a couple of modular accessories LG calls “Friends.” These include a hi-res audio attachment and a camera grip that also extends battery life, which is pretty average otherwise. At this point, however, you have look beyond the few accessories currently available and hope others will explore the potential of the modular design even further.

In a sentence: A powerful Android smartphone that dares to be different

Price: £449

Sony Xperia Z5

Sony Xperia Z5

Score: 80/100

The Xperia Z5 is either another of Sony’s beautiful, polished products, or a slightly lazy attempt to tweak its tired “Omnibalance” design. Regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself on, you can’t dispute the build quality and high waterproof rating. The Xperia Z5 offers the kind of performance you’d expect from a genuine flagship, but pairs that with a 5.2-inch 1080p display. Gorgeous it might be, but it does fall short of competitors’ higher-resolution screens. What your money is primarily going towards is the 23-megapixel rear camera, which happens to be one of the best on the market. The Xperia Z5 isn’t cheap, but it won’t disappoint serious smartphone photographers.

In a sentence: Another lovingly built Sony smartphone with one of the best cameras around.

Price: £469

Wileyfox Swift

Wileyfox Swift

Score: 79/100

Fledgling British brand Wileyfox has made an extremely good first impression with the Swift. Like the Moto G, the Swift is all about crafting a low-cost smartphone that still provides an excellent user experience. With a relatively charming, all-plastic design, a bright 5-inch, 720p display and easily customisable Cyanogen software, there’s plenty to like. You also get a decent amount of processing power for an affordable device, though the 13-megapixel camera leaves quite a lot to be desired. However, aside from its underwhelming camera, the Swift deserves serious consideration if you’re after a good smartphone that doesn’t weigh heavily on your wallet.

In a sentence: An affordable Android smartphone that represents excellent value for money.

Price: £129

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