Google Play Store with a Material Design flair

It looks like you won't have to wait long at all to check out Google's visually rich Play Store revamp -- it's rolling out now. The refresh doesn't appear any different on the surface, but a quick dive shows very different product pages that are clearly inspired by the company's multi-layered Material Design philosophy. Cover art plays a much larger role, and details like rating overviews and genres have been moved into easy-to-read icons. You might not like everything about the new storefront -- there's considerably more scrolling involved, for one thing. On the whole, though, it's both prettier and easier to understand at a glance. The revamp should reach your device within days, but Android Police has an installer if you just can't wait to see what's new.

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Amazon Fire phone review: a unique device, but you're better off waiting for the sequel

After producing a long line of e-book readers and tablets (not to mention a set-top box), Amazon has its sights set on the smartphone market. But finding success here won't be easy, even for an established tech giant like Amazon. With the Fire phone, the online retailer is coming in as an unproven underdog, hoping to bring iPhone and Android users into its fold. CEO Jeff Bezos says the only way to do that is to differentiate; to wow potential buyers with new features they didn't even realize they needed. These unique offerings include 3D head-tracking, product scanning and fast help from customer service agents.

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Moto X digital tattoo unlock

Hate unlocking your Android smartphone so much that even Face Unlock or Skip feels like too much of a hassle? Motorola just came to your rescue. The company has partnered with VivaLnk to launch the previously teased Digital Tattoo, an NFC-based skin tag that unlocks your phone (currently limited to the Moto X) with a quick tap. The tattoo can stay on your body for up to five days, and it should survive abuses like showers and sweat-laden runs. It's a clever approach that might be appealing if you're fed up with PIN codes and patterns, although the back-of-a-napkin math suggests that you're paying a lot just to save a couple of seconds when checking your email. VivaLnk is asking $10 for packs of 10 tattoos, or enough to last 50 days -- you'll have to spend $80 to get through a whole year. It could be useful for those busy days when you're constantly waking up your handset, but you might be better off rolling that money into a Moto 360 or your next big phone upgrade.

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Apple had a very strong second quarter. iPhone sales were up significantly over Q2 2013 and the company pocketed $700 million more in profit than it did during the same period last year, even though iPad sales slipped slightly. The company's third quarter results, released today, reflect a similar trend. At $37.4 billion, revenue is up $2.3 billion over the same period last year, thanks in no small part to boosted sales in Asia. iPhone and Mac adoption remains strong, with 13- and 18-percent increases over the same period in 2013, respectively, but iPad and iPod sales both slipped, registering 9-percent and 36-percent respective drops. Apple sold 35 million iPhones during Q3 of this year, compared to 31 million in 2013, while iPad sales dropped to 13.3 million, from 14.6 million last year.

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woman photographing a beach with i-phone

Roaming charges aren't something you should be worrying about on holiday, as most major UK carriers are well aware. Vodafone will let you use your usual call, text and data allowances abroad for as little as £2, while Three lets you do the same for absolutely nothing. After falling behind the curve somewhat, O2's now updated its Travel tariff to make roaming more attractive, leaving EE as the only network still following the old-school megabytes-for-money package model. For £1.99 per day, pay-monthly O2 customers can take advantage of unlimited data roaming across Europe, as well as favourable call and text rates. Pay-as-you-go customers can also purchase the travel bundle, but will only get 50MB of data each day. While it is truly unlimited for contract holders, O2's fair use policy means that after 100MB (or half that amount of streaming video/audio), your connection speeds will be throttled. Still, that's more than enough for checking email, using maps and posting the odd self-congratulatory Instagram snap.

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Tried Apple's Passbook and Google's Wallet and not feeling satisfied? Perhaps Amazon's flavor of mobile payment app will strike your fancy. It's also named Wallet, and it arrived in beta form on the Google Play store recently. Like Apple and Google's versions, Amazon Wallet collects your gift cards, loyalty programs, and membership cards in one place -- on your phone -- and pushes them to the cloud. Should you switch from, say, Apple's iPhone to Amazon's Fire phone, all that information would move over with you, tied to your Amazon account.

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There's soon going to be a glut of custom keyboards for iOS 8, many of which will have word suggestions in multiple languages. However, they might not be as well-versed as KeyPoint Technologies' upcoming Adaptxt for iOS. Besides supporting over 100 languages, the keyboard touts 30 dictionaries targeted at specific industries; it shouldn't be flummoxed when you're chatting with your accountant or lawyer. It will also be aware of both your location and the apps you're running, so word predictions should change when you go on vacation or check out a favorite social network. KeyPoint is only taking sign-ups for a beta test at this stage -- not surprising, since iOS 8 isn't out yet -- but it's already promising that Adaptxt will be free on iPads and iPhones alike.

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In January 2013, NVIDIA unveiled its first end-to-end consumer product: NVIDIA Shield. In our review, I wrote, "NVIDIA Shield is a truly strange device" One year later, that statement stands -- only now it applies to NVIDIA's second consumer product as well: the Shield tablet. Okay, okay, Shield Tablet isn't quite as bizarre as the original Shield, but it's a close second.

Shield Tablet dumps the original Shield's 5-inch screen in favor of a bigger 8-inch, 1080p display, swaps the original Tegra 4 in favor of K1 and drops the controller bit entirely. Should you wish to pair a controller with Shield Tablet -- and NVIDIA thinks you should -- the company's making one (it's even got WiFi Direct for lower latency than Bluetooth), but it's totally optional and doesn't come packed in with the tablet. So, what is this thing? Who is it for? And is it any good? Let's find out.

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The OnePlus One's a handsome little devil as is, but there's always room to accessorize. Though you're probably still waiting on the actual handset to turn up, OnePlus has announced the phone's first "SwapStyle" cover will arrive at the end of August, and it's made from bamboo (the material's all the rage, you know). The standard white and black polycarbonate shells that come with different variants of the phone will also be available online soon for $29, €25 or around £20, while the flashier bamboo version will retail for $49, €39 or £32. Other SwapStyle covers should cost about the same, though we could be persuaded to pay a little more for the one that makes double-denim acceptable again. We wouldn't say a bamboo phone cover needs its own two-minute promo video, but who are we to kill OnePlus' buzz?

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Verizon logo above a store

Verizon's money machine continues to plow on, but much of its wireless growth this quarter came from tablets, not smartphones -- a trend that started last quarter. Big Red added some 1.4 million net retail connections, of which a whopping 1.15 million used LTE-equipped tablets. Many of those may have come via its new More Everything plan, which only adds $10 to an existing contract for a tablet, compared to $40 for another smartphone. Though all those devices technically count as new connections, Verizon only added 304,000 net phone customers, compared to 940,000 472,000 this time a year ago. Despite that smartphone connection dip, however, Verizon still saw 7.5 percent more wireless revenue ($21.5 billion) and a similar bump in operating profits.

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Having sold 26.11 million phones in the first half of this year, the beast from the East that is Xiaomi is back again with a new flagship Android phone: the Mi 4. For the first time ever, the company is adding a touch of metal -- the common SAE 304 stainless steel, to be exact -- to the phone's frame, which is sandwiched between a flat 5-inch 1080p screen and a swappable, slightly curved plastic back cover. The internal specs are as you'd expect: 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 SoC, 3GB of RAM, 16GB/64GB of internal storage, 13MP f/1.8 main camera, 8MP selfie camera, LTE radio (at last), 802.11ac WiFi plus a 3,080mAh battery. As a bonus, you also get an infrared transmitter to play with the TV (which Xiaomi also sells). As usual, the Mi 4 will be very affordable: Just CN¥1,999 or about $320 for the 16GB version, and CN¥2,499 or about $400 for the 64GB version (both off-contract, of course).

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Twitch 3 for Android

If you regularly catch up on eSports or "let's play" sessions while on the move, today's your lucky day. Twitch has revamped its Android app with a fresh interface that lets you get to the biggest game streams as quickly as possible, with impossible-to-miss links to the hottest titles. It's also much better suited to tablets, and you can now check out both user profiles and offline channels; that's handy if you missed a big event or want to follow someone with similar tastes. It's much easier to sift through search results, too. The remake isn't well-timed -- it's arriving right as Valve's The International tournament is winding to a close -- but it's still a big deal if you like to spectate games as often as you play them.

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Looks like Amazon plans to take advantage of the Fire phone's head-tracking tech at every turn, so it put its Game Studio to work developing two new titles especially for the device. The first one called Saber's Edge is a strategic pirate puzzle game, while the other, called To-Fu Fury, is a puzzle platformer (think 'Splosion Man) that stars a tofu martial artist. They sound like funny, typical mobile games, other than the fact that they support the Fire phone's "Dynamic Perspective" feature that tracks the movements of a user's head. Sadly, you can't exactly control the games by moving your noggin (that might sound silly, but at least that'll make the games truly unique), but you can peek around the corners to see hidden obstacles or bonuses. Of course, you can always just tilt the phone if you don't want to look silly in public. If you don't mind the games' limited support for the feature, you can grab em for $1.99 each -- but only if you're also getting the Fire Phone, which starts shipping this week.

Updated (07/23/2014): While To-Fu Fury costs $1.99, it turns out Saber's Edge is actually free!

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Vivo Xshot

Want to know why traditionally PC-centric companies like Microsoft are pouring so much energy into their mobile efforts? Look no further than China, which now says that more of its residents are getting online with phones and tablets than PCs. Of the 632 million internet users recorded this June, 83 percent (527 million) were using mobile devices at least some of the time; meanwhile, 81 percent (512 million) hopped on using computers. Internet adoption was almost exclusively driven by ultra-portable gadgets, in fact. While overall internet use grew about 2.3 percent in the space of half a year, the number of mobile surfers jumped by 5.4 percent. The growth pattern suggests that many first-timers don't have a PC at all -- whatever's in their pockets may be the only way they connect to the digital world.

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Dying to know what the top ten best shows from the 1990s are, but just don't have time to click through that Facebook link? That's okay -- the social network's app is about to get a new feature: Save. Think of it like Pocket, but just for Facebook. Links, movies, places, music and more can now be added to a "saved" list by tapping on the item's options drop-down, enabling them to be viewed later through the app's "more" tab. Saved items (like an interesting restaurant) can be re-shared to your friends, and if you forget to check your saved items for too long, Facebook will remind you. The update is rolling out to iOS, Android and web users over the next few days. A simple, but welcome change. Skip on past the break to see the new feature in action.

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