Living with the G3: Can LG's newest flagship be as good as its predecessor?

You typically expect the latest smartphones to represent clear steps forward over their predecessors. However, I've been hearing a lot of people characterize the LG G3 as a baby step ahead of the G2, or even a step backward. That had me more than a little worried. Was I going to hate the follow-up to one of my favorite phones from 2013? There was only one way to find out, so I spent a few weeks with the G3 to see if those fears were overblown.

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Apparently I'm a masochist.

That's an odd way to begin a review. But to give BlackBerry's latest handset, the Passport, as thorough a review as possible, I decided to type the entire thing from the phone itself. My twisted idea came from a realization that this (mostly) square oddity is the first phone with a physical keyboard that I've used since the Motorola Droid 4 in 2012 or the BlackBerry Q10 in 2013. It's not even a normal keyboard by modern smartphone standards -- it's a flattened, hybrid setup with both physical and virtual elements and a curiously placed space bar. Needless to say, it's an odd device, one that truly deserves the ultimate test: Can I use it to crank out several thousand words of text?

Of course, there's more to the Passport than just its odd shape and the company's desire to resurrect a now-antiquated smartphone feature. I'm going to dive into what sets this phone apart from the hundreds of others already on the market -- that is, if my thumbs hold up through the experience.

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After last month's iPhone event, I was disappointed -- I realized the iPhone 6 and its "Plus" sibling were still catching up to Android in a lot of ways. Regardless, the devoted iPhone fan in me still pre-ordered an iPhone 6 a few days later, in the wee hours of September 12th. The next morning, I awoke to the alarm on my iPhone 5s and went to silence it, only to discover a small spot of water damage had worsened overnight, rendering the phone unusable. With less than 24 hours before jetting off on a work trip, I had no choice but to force myself into using another phone sitting on my desk: the OnePlus One. Now, you might be thinking that this was unusually convenient. The truth is, I decided to get a second phone a couple of weeks earlier and wanted one of the unlocked Android variety. Might as well ensure it's a good phone too, so with an Engadget score of 90, the One made sense.

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Step aside, Gionee, as your record for the world's slimmest smartphone has just been beaten by a fellow Chinese manufacturer. Oppo's R5, the successor to the Asia-only R3, comes in at just 4.85mm thick, thus beating the 5.15mm-thick Elife S5.1 from Gionee. Despite the crazy thin metallic body, the R5 still packs a handful of goodies: a 5.2-inch full HD AMOLED screen, an octa-core (quad 2.1GHz and quad 1.5GHz), 64-bit Snapdragon 615 SoC, 2GB of RAM, 5MP/13MP cameras (both with f/2.0 aperture), LTE radio and a 2,000 mAh battery. All of this comes in at just 155g heavy. Of course, there's bound to be a trade-off: You only get 16GB of internal storage, no microSD expansion and, unlike the Elife S5.1, no 3.5mm headphone connector here -- you'll need to use the bundled micro-USB adapter or Bluetooth (there's an optional O-Music Bluetooth clip for your headphones and for triggering the camera).

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If you thought Oppo was done with making eccentric selfie phones, you're wrong; the Chinese company is back with a new model dubbed the N3 to replace the N1 from last September. The iconic swivel camera at the top is here to stay, but this time we have a 16-megapixel f/2.2 module with Schneider optics, and it's motorised! It's actually much cooler than it sounds: You can quickly flip the camera with a flick gesture on the screen or on the fingerprint sensor on the back -- more on that later. In addition to that, the N3 comes with a new O-Click Bluetooth remote that not only acts as a remote trigger, but it also lets you adjust the camera's angle using the extra buttons.

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Nokia Lumia 735 and yours truly

Last year's Lumia 720 was an awkward middle child. It was more powerful than its 620 cousin, but not so much so that you'd consider it over the 820 unless you just had to have the first budget Lumia with LTE. If you're going to pay a lot more, why not get a lot more? Flash forward to 2014, and the Lumia 735 follow-up (along with the dual-SIM 730) appears to have more of a reason for being -- namely, catering to a selfie-loving public. With a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, more powerful internals and a €219 ($279) price, the 735 promises great self-portraits without decimating your bank account. But is it necessarily your best choice for those "I was there" photos? And more importantly, is it worth buying over both other Windows Phones and the other devices in its price class? You're about to find out.

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It's a conflicting time for Apple. On one hand, it's a joyous occasion for the company because its latest iPhones, which come in larger screen sizes than the last, set new sales records worldwide; but on the other hand, its lineup of iPads just experienced its third straight quarterly decline. Coincidentally, this comes just a week after Apple announced its annual tablet refresh, which includes a thinner and more powerful version of the iPad Air along with a Touch ID-enabled mini with Retina display.

Just because it's down doesn't mean it's out. Giving up on a product category isn't really Apple's style, and last week, it offered up the Air 2 as exhibit A. The company made it clear that making a solid top-of-the-line tablet is on the top of its to-do list, so naturally the new 10-inch device got plenty of upgrades in nearly every aspect of its design. Curiously, it didn't give the mini lineup the same kind of treatment: The mini 3 got so little love this time around that the best news about it is the fact that last year's version is now $100 cheaper. Should the new iPads still get a place in the consumer's backpack? Read on to find out.

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Apple's latest desktop operating system, Yosemite, is available today as a free download for anyone with a reasonably new (or not-so-new) Mac. Here's the thing, though: Many of you are already using it. In an unusual twist, Apple not only gave us a sneak peek of the software, but also allowed a large section of the public to take it for a spin while it was still in development. Though the company has declined to say how many people signed up for the beta program (there were a million available spots), we're sure many of you are running it right now, and don't even need to read a full review.

That said, I wanted to finish what I started. Back when I posted my initial preview, I was able to discuss lots of things -- the iOS-inspired design, the new Safari browser -- but certain stuff wasn't ready for prime time. I'm talking about iCloud Drive, Apple's new cross-platform storage service, as well as "Continuity," a set of features that allow Macs to better integrate with iOS. Think: the ability to receive calls on your Mac, or to start reading an article on your iPad and finish it on your laptop. Now that the software is final -- and now that I've had a chance to test all the features -- I'm ready to weigh in. Suffice to say, it's clear that to make the most out of Yosemite, you need an iDevice to go with it. But even for Mac users who don't also own an iPhone (guilty!), this is still a solid upgrade. Read on to see what I mean.

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No, that's not a bulk purchasing price. According to the folks at Beijing chip designer NuFront, some Chinese retailers are now selling 7-inch 3G phablets -- powered by NuFront's TL7689 chipset -- to consumers for as low as CN¥330 or about $54 per piece (the prices pictured above are for distributors). That converts to a mere $6 profit for every device sold, which is apparently the norm in the affordable market. On paper, though, it's still a seemingly complete package: you get a 1,024 x 600 LCD screen, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, 0.3MP/2MP cameras, a 1,800mAh battery and even HSPA+ connectivity.

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Smartphones are getting bigger with every generation, every new model. Even Apple, champion of the small screen, has finally caved to the trend. Over the past few years, however, some of the major smartphone players have taken to creating "mini" versions of their top handsets to satisfy those who still crave a smaller device. While these petite imitations benefit from shared design and branding, their hardware specifications are usually no match for the flagships they mimic. Sony does things a little differently, though, shunning the "mini" moniker and preserving as many high-end features as possible in its smaller devices. Case in point: the new Xperia Z3 Compact, which crams the best of the 5.2-inch Z3 into a 4.6-inch body, and is basically everything you could want in a smaller smartphone.

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Google has just revealed that the next major version of Android, 5.0, will be known as Lollipop. After months of teasing the OS, the search giant is finally taking what was previously known as Android "L" into the mainstream, with the first set of the devices expected to arrive early next month. Speaking of which, Android Lollipop will make its debut on the new Nexus 6, a big-screen smartphone from Motorola; the Nexus 9, an 8.9-inch tablet made by HTC; and the Nexus Player, a $99 media-streaming box with Android TV, the first one with Google's novel home entertainment platform. What's more, the company confirmed that Lollipop is coming to the Nexus 5, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10, as well as Google Play edition devices, in the coming weeks.

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What began in 2011 as a brand-new phone category has flourished into one of the most popular in the world. Smartphones with big screens (phablets, to some) are now ubiquitous, but it all started with an odd device called the Samsung Galaxy Note. At 5.3 inches, it was a behemoth for its day -- and yet, it sold like hotcakes thanks to its unique S Pen stylus, which provided users with extra functionality, and a copious amount of screen space.

Four iterations later, the Note series has continued to grow, mature and dominate the genre. Not only does the latest version, the Galaxy Note 4, come with the snazziest spec sheet on the market, but it also ushers in a fantastic new direction in Samsung's design. It sure sounds like an improvement over last year's model, and it is. Now that Apple's ready to tackle the Note with a large-screen phone of its own, however, is Samsung's baby still the best in its class?

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When a company names one of their products after the first letter of the Greek alphabet, it means business. Take Samsung's Galaxy Alpha: The name alone exudes confidence. Although the term typically signifies the first in a series, the Alpha obviously isn't Samsung's inaugural Android phone; rather, it ushers in a completely new design direction for the company. It's not a top-of-the-line flagship device on the inside, but what matters is that it actually looks like one on the outside, thanks to its premium aesthetics, metal frame and sleek body. Samsung has every reason to be confident in the Alpha's design. As always, however, there's more to a device than meets the eye.

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When you're trying to compete in the phone-making game, there are certain challenges. On the one hand, you want to dazzle customers with innovative features. On the other hand, you want to keep the suit-wearing shareholders happy with growth and strong, continued sales. The bottleneck in this equation is often technology. You can't force it to progress. So once you've more or less caught up, you're left with a choice: Innovate with software/hardware design, or take a risk with gimmicky features. Any of the above will do in lieu of the (unspeakable) alternative -- not releasing a new model this year.

We're not trying to preload this review of Sony's new Z3 flagship, which arrives barely six months after its predecessor. Or maybe we are. What we're definitely doing is spelling it out right here in the intro: The Z3 looks a lot like the Z2, and after a quick glance at the spec sheet, you might argue it sounds a lot like it too. This is pertinent because, by its own admission, Sony isn't doing very well at competing in the phone-making game. Given the above, is the Z3 going to tempt existing customers to upgrade? Or perhaps lure those over from other brands? T-Mobile will be stocking it this fall, though the price isn't yet known. Currently it's £550 in the UK -- a touch above the HTC One and Galaxy S5. Let's have a look, shall we?

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Whether it's government agencies, identity thieves, opportunistic hackers or marketers, everyone wants your personal data. As we live more of our lives than ever online, we're increasingly aware of how much data we produce, and the need to protect it. With smartphones playing a key role in our always-connected lifestyle, there's a new breed of services and devices for consumers who want to stay off the grid without going offline. Leading the charge is the Blackphone, a $629 handset that prioritizes privacy over everything else. Running a custom, secure version of Android and shipping with a wealth of privacy tools preinstalled, it claims to be an "unparalleled product" where data protection is concerned. Thanks to the awesome folks at online retailer GSM Nation, who were kind enough to send one for review, I've been getting to know the device and finding out how it keeps data safe from prying eyes.

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