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There isn’t a truly complete Android experience right now

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Google’s was disappointing if you were expecting a major Android upgrade that tackled deep-seated issues, at least based on the details shared so far. The company didn’t spend much time discussing Android 13, and most of the announced updates were known, minor or both. They were largely defined by media and privacy controls. The release as-is won’t be a revelation unless you’re a . While we might not have seen all of Android 13’s features just yet, and there are already some genuinely useful improvements (such as a the status quo will largely remain intact.

And that’s unfortunate. While Android is a very capable platform with some exceptional hardware to match, there’s no one device that nails every experience consistently well. Buy a powerful phone and you’ll probably be saddled with quirky software; get your dream Android variant and you may have to put up with mediocre cameras or chips. It’s time Google and manufacturers worked together to produce devices you could more easily recommend to others.

Software: Too much or not enough?

Samsung Galaxy S22 and S22+

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

To be fair, Google is only partly responsible for the current state of affairs. The very beauty of Android is the potential for vendors to add their own spin — a uniformly Google-made experience would defeat the point.

The company still plays an important role, though, and it’s increasingly clear there’s more it can do. Use a or another phone with ‘pure’ and you’ll realize the stock OS, while visually cohesive and free of fluff, is still relatively barebones. You won’t get an advanced camera app, extensive media integration, special browser features or other clever tricks you often get with customized Android experiences. The polish isn’t always there, either — just . Apple had its share of dodgy updates in years past, but it appears to have ironed out the glitches that Google occasionally leaves in.

You can install apps, launchers and other utilities to flesh things out, but that’s not realistic for some users. I wouldn’t hand a Pixel to a newcomer or anyone who wants strong out-of-the-box capabilities. Google could stand to improve its functionality and quality to more directly compete with its partners beyond the usual handful of (usually) temporary Pixel exclusives. While the company has lately shifted more toward regular feature drops than mammoth OS revisions, Android 13 as we know it is still somewhat disappointing on this front.

That’s not to let those partners off the hook. While phone makers don’t overdo customization as much as in years past, some non-stock Android experiences still include their share of arbitrary tweaks. Samsung is the classic example. While One UI is much cleaner and friendlier to third parties than , it still tends to duplicate Google features or push services you probably won’t use. Do you really need two browsers, or to buy apps from the Galaxy Store? You’ll also see some over-the-top Android implementations from Chinese brands, although we’d note that Xiaomi has been reining in MIUI.

And the situation is seemingly getting worse in some cases. OnePlus originally attracted enthusiasts precisely because its customizations were limited and usually very helpful, but there has been evidence of the creeping influence of parent company Oppo’s top-heavy software design on devices like the . The OnePlus Shelf pop-up menu got in the way during our review, for instance. Update policies have likewise sometimes taken steps backward, as Motorola still doesn’t guarantee more than one major OS upgrade for some phones. It would be great to see OnePlus and other vendors strike a more delicate balance that adds thoughtful touches without veering into excess or limiting software updates.

Hardware: Flies in the ointment

Motorola Edge (2021)

Igor Bonifacic/Engadget

Software hiccups wouldn’t be so problematic if the devices were more well-rounded. It’s all too common to find an Android phone that performs superbly in most respects, but has at least one weakness that tarnishes the experience or even proves a dealbreaker.

A quick survey of major Android phones illustrates this all too well. The regular series is one of the best all-rounders on the market today, but it has modest, non-expandable storage, a 1080p screen (fine, but not the 1440p some crave) and reduced features in its smallest version. Pixel 6? An outstanding value, but the notoriously fussy fingerprint reader and limited storage can kill interest quickly. The OnePlus 10 Pro is only a slight improvement over its predecessor, and still suffers from lackluster camera quality. You can overcome some of these limitations with spare-no-expense flagships like the or Sony’s , but then you’re likely spending well over $1,000 for the privilege.

It becomes even more of a challenge with more affordable models. Motorola is increasingly popular among budget users, but its and missing features (like NFC) create serious problems for shoppers. Samsung’s mid-tier phones can be sluggish or otherwise unexciting, and the even feels like a step backward. Handsets like the Poco F4 GT and upcoming offer high-end processing power at a low price, but you can safely assume you’re making compromises in areas like camera tech. And don’t get us started on companies that deliver huge but low-resolution screens that can prove to be eyesores.

To be clear, every phone has its compromises. It wouldn’t be realistic to expect a perfect product from any brand, including those beyond Android. Apple is often conservative with iPhone design, and has been slow to embrace common Android features —120Hz and USB-C, anyone? More often than not, though, you’re choosing an Android device based on the major flaws you’re willing to tolerate, not because it’s clearly the best you can get for the money. Combine that with the software dilemmas mentioned earlier and a truly well-rounded Android phone can be very difficult to find.

Glimmers of hope

Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro

Google

This isn’t to say the Android phone industry is in a dire state. The very gripes at the heart of this piece underscore how far the platform has come. Android 12 (and soon 13) is decidedly more polished than previous iterations. Once-obnoxious brands like Samsung have shown some restraint, and it’s much easier to buy a budget phone that will make you genuinely happy, even if there are clear shortcomings.

You can also point to some devices that are showing the way forward. While Sony’s recent Xperia phones are increasingly expensive and geared toward niche audiences, they tend to deliver strong performance, good cameras, top-tier displays and moderately customized software. And if the can address some of its predecessor’s hiccups, it might just be the Android phone to beat in the second half of the year.

Rather, the concern is that there’s a lot more room to grow. Companies ought to take a more holistic approach to phone design where there are few if any obvious sacrifices in the name of price, bragging rights, storage upsells or peddling services. Google could do more to lead by example, such as matching the more advanced software features of its vendor allies. It’s entirely possible to make a phone that excels simply through the lack of glaring weaknesses — it’s just a matter of finding the resolve to make that happen.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.



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Buffalo shooting suspect reportedly shared plans on Discord

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The alleged gunman behind the attack in Buffalo, New York that left 10 dead and three injured on Saturday used Discord to discuss and share plans ahead of the assault, according to Bloomberg.

As far back as December, the suspect is reported to have used a private server on the popular chat service to describe his intentions to carry out an attack. He later shared links to Discord logs describing his attack plan and white supremacist views, according to Bloomberg. The report says that the suspect mentioned the terrorist who attacked a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand more than 30 times and used racist slurs and extremist phrases while in the app.

“As soon as we became aware of it we took action against it and removed the server in accordance with our policies against violent extremism,” a Discord spokesperson told Bloomberg. The company did not immediately respond to The Verge’s request for more information on its moderation policies.

Discord’s moderation team “splits its time” between responding to user-reported messages and “proactively finding and removing servers and users” engaged in “high-harm activity,” the company wrote in 2021. That approach to moderation was created after Discord learned that white supremacists had used its app to organize the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

“Trust & Safety has spent a lot of time since 2017 trying to ensure that another event like Charlottesville isn’t planned on our platform,” the company wrote last year.

As recently as 2019, Discord was primarily relying on user reports to moderate its platform and not actively monitoring private or public servers, according to a PC Gamer story from that year. The company’s moderation team does have the ability to read messages from private servers, the story said, but Discord typically only did so when a message was reported by a user.

Saturday’s attack is being investigated as a hate crime, Buffalo police have said. CNN reports that the suspect, identified as Payton S. Gendron, told authorities he was targeting a Black community; 11 of the people shot were Black.

The suspect is also alleged to have used Discord to plan to livestream the attack. Video of the assault was broadcast live on Twitch, which claims to have stopped the stream “less than two minutes after the violence began.” Even so, footage has continued to spread online as major platforms struggle to crack down on new uploads of the horrific footage.



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With Twitter deal on hold, Musk says a lower sale price isn’t ‘out of the question’

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Billionaire Elon Musk is continuing to clash with Twitter over the accuracy of its bot count, and hinted today that he may try to renegotiate the $44 billion deal. Musk told attendees at a Miami conference that a deal at a lower price wasn’t “out of the question,” reported Bloomberg. Musk’s potential bid for a lower price is an unexpected twist, given that the SpaceX exec agreed to pay a 38 percent premium on Twitter when he reached a deal with the company’s board back in April.

“Currently what I’m being told is that there’s just no way to know the number of bots,” Musk said at the conference. “It’s like, as unknowable as the human soul.”

Musk’s potential bid for a lower price is an unexpected twist, given that the SpaceX exec agreed to pay a 38 percent premium on Twitter when he reached a deal with the company’s board back in April. 

Last Friday, Musk had announced that a buyout of Twitter was “temporarily on hold” due to concerns that the number of bots on the platform was much higher than the company estimated. The billionaire tweeted that his team would do an independent analysis on bot count and also tried to crowdsource bot estimates from his own followers. Musk was later reprimanded by Twitter’s legal team for revealing — in a tweet, of course — the company’s methodology for estimating the proportion of bot accounts across the platform.

Earlier today, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal explained in a series of tweets that external estimates of bots are likely wrong, since the platform includes private data in its count.

“Unfortunately, we don’t believe that this specific estimation can be performed externally, given the critical need to use both public and private information (which we can’t share),” tweeted Agrawal.

Musk responded to Agrawal’s explanation with a series of his own tweets, one that included a single poop emoji. Musk also suggested that Twitter verify whether users are human or not by calling them on the phone.

Tesla expert Dan Ives — an analyst at financial advisory firm Wedbush Securities — put the chances of Musk going through with the deal at under 50 percent. If Musk chooses to walk away, he’ll be subject to a $1 billion “kill fee”. But according to legal experts who spoke to The Washington Post, Twitter could sue Musk for the financial damages inflicted on the company due to the hasty reversal of the deal.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.





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Apple will let your subscription apps charge you more money without asking

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Apple has updated its App Store rules to make it so subscriptions can auto-renew without your explicit permission, even if the developer has raised the monthly or annual price. Before the rule change, users would have to manually opt-into a subscription renewal if it came with a price bump; now, that won’t necessarily be the case, though you’ll still be notified about the price change before it happens. Apple says it’s making the change to help avoid the situation where users unintentionally lose access to a subscription because they missed an opt-in message.

According to Apple’s Monday evening post, there are specific conditions that developers will have to follow if they want to offer what the company is calling “an auto-renewable subscription price increase.” For starters, it can only be so big — Apple’s rules say that if a developer increases a weekly or monthly subscription price by more than 50 percent, and that difference is over $5, it doesn’t qualify. For an annual subscription, devs can still raise the price by 50 percent, but can’t raise it more than $50 USD without requiring an opt-in.

Here are some examples of what that could look like: let’s say I have a subscription that’s $60 a year. The developers could raise it to $90 ($60 plus 50 percent), and it would auto-renew without me having to opt-in. If I have a monthly subscription that’s $15, and the developers wanted to raise it to $22, in theory I’d have to opt-into that — it’s less than a 50 percent increase, but over the $5 cap.

However, Apple’s wording leaves things a bit unclear: what if there’s an app that costs $10 a year, and goes up to $60 a year? Apple’s rules say, verbatim, that consent is needed if the price increase is:

More than 50% of the current price; and

The difference in price exceeds approximately $5 United States Dollar (USD) per period for non-annual subscriptions, or $50 USD per year for annual subscriptions.

Reading that literally, it means that both conditions would have to be true to require an opt-in. But the example scenario seems so ridiculous that it’s hard to believe that’s what Apple intends. We’ve reached out for clarification on this point, and will update if we receive any.

The price can only be raised once per year without requiring an opt-in, which should help prevent scammy apps from slowly increasing their price by a buck or two every other month. Apple also says the price increase has to be “permissible by local law,” though that one was probably a given.

If any of those conditions aren’t met, you’ll still have to opt-in to the price increase, otherwise your subscription will lapse. Apple says that users will be warned about upcoming automatic renewals with price changes by “email, push notifications, and in-app messaging.” It’s worth noting that you could easily turn Apple’s logic on its head: if users were missing those renewal opt-in notices, wouldn’t they also miss these new price change warnings? But it does sound like they’ll be relatively in your face.

We’ve seen evidence that this change was coming — last month, TechCrunch reported that Apple appeared to be testing this change with a Disney Plus price increase. Developer Max Seelemann also posted a screenshot in March showing what one of the notifications looked like, though it’s not clear whether this the final design. At the time, Apple confirmed that it was “piloting a new commerce feature we plan to launch very soon,” and said that it would provide details. It looks like that day is here.

The screenshot from March shows that, near the “OK” button, there’s a link that says “to learn more or cancel, review your subscription.” Apple’s post on Monday says that it “will also notify users of how to view, manage, and cancel subscriptions if preferred,” a promise that would seemingly be fulfilled by that link.

From my point of view, Apple’s definitely making a trade-off here between consumer friendliness and convenience. There are probably a lot of people who will be happy that they won’t have to go and re-subscribe to a thing just because the price went up by a buck and they missed an opt-in prompt.

Personally, though, I like to know where every dollar is going — and since I almost always opt for annual subscriptions, it seems like I’ll have to be on the lookout for apps that could be going up in price by a pretty significant sum (that $60 subscription wasn’t a hypothetical example). There is an easy fix to this: let users pick whether or not they want the auto-renewing price increases instead of deciding for them. In my mind, that’d just be a toggle in the App Store settings that says something like “Always ask for opt-in if price increases,” and turning it on would make it like this change never happened.

Apple didn’t immediately respond to The Verge’s question on whether there were plans to add such a toggle.

Or, if Apple wanted to be really consumer-friendly, it could make it so subscriptions don’t auto-renew by default. As my colleague Sean Hollister pointed out in his piece on how Apple could show it cares about App Store users, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has a relevant quote (though at the time he was talking about privacy):

Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking them if they get tired of your asking them.

With this rule change, Apple has moved one step further away from that.





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