All posts in “Mobile”

Google will make page speed a factor in mobile search ranking starting in July


Google today announced a significant change in how it ranks websites for mobile searches: it will now take page speed into consideration as one of its signals, the company says. The change, which Google is referring to as the “Speed Update,” will go into effect in July 2018, and will downrank very slow websites under certain conditions.

Though speed will become more of a factor in determining the order of search results, the change is not so drastic as to make it the only factor. There will be times that slow pages still rank highly – like when they have the most relevant content related to the search query at hand, for example.

Google says the update will only affect pages that “deliver the slowest experience to users” and it will only affect a small percentage of queries.

The search giant has been increasingly prioritizing page speed for some time.

In February 2016, it began to highlight AMP sites (pages using its Accelerated Mobile Page technology to speed up mobile rendering) in search results, and then in April 2016 gave AMP pages a more prominent position in Google News.

More recently, it began rolling out its new, mobile-first search index to a handful of sites to make good on its promise to shift its overall search index to favor the mobile version of the website over the desktop version. That change, in particular, is focused on forcing web publishers to ensure their mobile site has the same information as their desktop site – something that’s not always the case today.

This Speed Update, however, is unrelated to whether the site contains the same info as desktop, nor is it related to any requirements surrounding AMP usage.

Instead, it’s about the page performance in general, with the goal of offering mobile users a better overall experience when searching via mobile.

Google is not offering a standalone tool for web publishers to help them get ready for this shift, but did point to a number of resources that can provide general insights about site performance.

This includes the Chrome User Experience Report, which offers user experience metrics for popular web destinations; Lighthouse, an automated tool for auditing site performance and other web quality metrics; and PageSpeed Insights, which shows how well a page performs on the Chrome UX Report and makes suggestions about how performance can be improved.

This is not the first time that page speed has been used as a signal on Google, to be clear – that’s been the case for some time on desktop searches, the company notes. It’s just never been explicitly taken into consideration for those same searches on mobile.

These sorts of mobile-focused changes to Google search are critical for the company, given that the majority of Google users today search the web via mobile devices, like smartphones.

In fact, mobile searches surpassed desktop searches back in 2015, and mobile has continued to grow in the years since. Though Google hasn’t provided an update on what percentage of its searches are mobile, some third-party reports placed this number near 60 percent last year. Another resource, Statista, says that Google accounted for over 94.4 percent of mobile search market share in the U.S.

These figures mean that mobile has been more important than desktop for several years now, and it’s time for the search index itself to reflect that.

Google’s Project Fi now caps data bills at $60

Google’s Project Fi cell service never played the “unlimited data” game that most carriers in the U.S. like to play (and which is never truly unlimited). Instead, Google simply offered data at $10/GB/month and would give you a refund for any data you paid for but didn’t use. Now, however, it’s taking its own stab at what is essentially an unlimited data plan. With its new ‘bill protection’ feature, Project Fi users who use more than 6 GB of data in any given month will never pay more than $60 for that (plus the standard $20 for unlimited talk and text).

Update: A Google spokesperson told us that the company also changed how the data billing for Fi works now. You now pay for the data you use at the end of the month, so there’s no need for refunds anymore. We have amended this post to reflect that.

So now, you will simply pay for the data you use, but once you hit 6 GB of data, your overall cost for the month won’t go beyond that $60 limit.

Because no unlimited plan is ever unlimited, Google, too, will slow your data speeds once you hit 15 GB of data. The company says only 1 percent of current Fi users actually use that much, but then that number may go up once you don’t have to pay $150 for using that much data. If you go over 15 GB, you can always opt to pay $10/GB to get faster speeds again (or, in Google’s word, “opt out of slower speeds”).

The bill protection feature includes international data (which is always included) and also applies to data-only plans for laptops, tablets and cars.

If you are on a group plan, the bill protection kicks in at different levels, depending on how many people are on your plan.

Google never positioned Fi as the cheapest carrier and indeed, you’ll find better “unlimited” plans with other carriers. Instead, Google always argued that Fi was a fairer plan that let you pay for what you actually used (though, yeah, you’re paying for unlimited calls and you probably don’t make a lot of those…). With the ability to use three networks (T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular), Google also argues that its networks gives you access to more cell towers and 4G LTE than its competitors.

To use Project Fi, you’ll need a phone that supports switching between the various networks. Currently, supported phones include Google’s own Pixel 2 and Pixel lines, as well as the Android One Moto X4 (as well as some of the more recent Nexus phones).

Lenovo’s upcoming Moto G6 Plus could come with up to 6GB of RAM

Fresh from the success of the Moto G5 and G5 Plus, Motorola parent company Lenovo is reportedly at work on the two smartphones’ respective successors: The Moto G6 and G6 Plus. Rumor has it that this time around there might be a surprise in store: A cheaper, lower-end model called the G6 Play.

It’s early, but that hasn’t stopped rumblings about Lenovo’s new smartphone lineup from ramping up. Here’s everything we know about the Moto G6, Moto G6 Plus, and Moto G6 Play so far.

Design

While initially we might have assumed that the new phones would feature a similar design as the Moto G5, it looks like the Moto G6 series will adopt some newer features that make it a little more reminiscent of the Moto X. According to a leak from Droid-Life, the phones will feature an 18:9 aspect ratio. The standard Moto G6 and G6 Play will both sport 5.7-inch displays, with the standard G6 featuring an FHD+ resolution and the G6 Play coming in with an HD resolution. Last but not least is the Moto G6 Plus, which will come in at 5.93-inches with an FHD+ resolution.

Like previous Moto G phones, the new devices will have a fingerprint sensor on the bottom of the device, which will double as a navigation button. It will also feature a dual-lens camera — though hopefully the quality of that dual-lens setup will be better than the previous Moto G5S Plus.

The phones will reportedly ship in a range of colors. According to Droid-Life, the Moto G6 will come in black, silver, and rose gold, while the Moto G6 Plus will come in Deep Indigo, Nimbus, and Dark Lake. The G6 Play will come in dark charcoal, gold, and deep blue — though the names will likely be a bit fancier than that.

Specs

Along with the image leaks from Droid-Life, we were also treated to some of the specs to expect under the hood. For starters, it looks like the phone will boast an upgraded processor in the form of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 for the standard Moto G6, and the Snapdragon 630 for the Moto G6 Plus. For battery life, the Moto G6 will apparently sport a 3,000mAh battery, while the Moto G6 Plus will feature a 3,200mAh battery. The Moto G6 Play comes in with a hefty 4,000mAh battery.

Apart from the processor and battery, the standard G6 will come with options of either 3GB or 4GB of RAM, with either 32GB or 64GB of storage. The Moto G6 Plus will step things up a bit with options for 3GB, 4GB, or 6GB of RAM, with either 32GB or 64GB of storage.

Around the back, the rumors note that the Moto G6 and G6 Plus will feature a 12 megapixel+5 megapixel rear-facing camera, along with a 16 megapixel front-facing camera.

Price and release date

We don’t know the pricing or release date of the Moto G6, Moto G6 Plus, and Moto G6 Play, and probably won’t for some time, but given the Moto G5 launch history, they’ll likely be released in the next three months or so.

According to VentureBeat’s Evan Blass, all three new phones in the G6 lineup — the Moto G6, Moto G6 Plus, and Moto G6 Play — will go on sale in 2018.

If history is any indication, they’ll likely debut in spring. The Moto G5 and G5 Plus were announced at Mobile World Congress in February, and shipped to Asian and European territories the following month. We expect the new phones to become available at MWC 2018.

Updated: Added details from the leak published by Droid-Life in mid-January.

Editors’ Recommendations

Global app downloads topped 175 billion in 2017, revenue surpassed $86 billion


Global app downloads topped 175 billion and consumer spending exceeded $86 billion in 2017, thanks to growth in emerging markets including China, India, Brazil and Russia, according to a new report from App Annie out this morning. Notably, India has now become the number two country by downloads, passing the U.S., which is now third. China has long since been in the lead.

The difference between the total downloads App Annie is reporting (175b) and the 91.5 billion recently reported by the firm Sensor Tower in its own year-end wrap-up can be attributed to how the data was gathered. Sensor Tower’s figures are drawn from the iOS App Store and Google Play. App Annie, however, also includes third-party Android stores in its analysis – that’s how it has visibility into China, where Google Play doesn’t have a presence.

India becoming the second largest country in terms of downloads is a significant change in the worldwide app market over this past year.

Downloads grew 215 percent over the past two years in the country, compared with 125 percent growth in China, and negative 5 percent growth in the U.S.

  1. top countries by downloads 2017

  2. app downloads worldwide 2017

App Annie notes that app usage in India was driver by the introduction of subsidised, unlimited 4G access by Jio in September 2016, which has allowed users to come online in large numbers.

Although the U.S. has now become a more mature market, App Annie says there’s still a significant volume of absolute downloads here, as well.

For example, the firm found that U.S. users downloaded 3 apps per month, and at least 70 percent downloaded at least one. It’s worth pointing out that this stands in contradiction to earlier data from comScore which has continually reported that the majority of U.S. users don’t download any apps per month.

Related to this, App Annie claims that users aren’t just downloading apps – they’re engaging at record levels, too. In most markets, the average smartphone user has more than 80 apps on their phone, and uses close to 40 of them per month (or between one-third and one-half of the apps on their phone per month, on average).

In addition, consumers are spending nearly 3 hours in apps per day on average, and the markets analyzed (see below) have averaged nearly 30 percent growth in average daily time spent since 2015.

In a number of markets, including the U.S., Brazil, Russia, and others (see below), smartphone users spent 7x more time in mobile apps than on the mobile web, and access them 13x more often.

While India has surged in terms of downloads as more users come online, those figures don’t necessarily translate into revenues. Instead, the U.S. remains the number two market by gross consumer spend, behind China but still ahead of India.

  1. top countries consumer spend apps 2017

  2. consumer spend apps 2017

Consumer spend in app stores – including the iOS App Store, Google Play and third-party Android stores – has more than doubled over the past two years, to top $86 billion by the end of 2017. The top markets by consumer spend have all seen double-digit percentage growth during this time, with China in the lead (+270%), followed by the U.S. (+75%), India (+60%), Brazil (+80%) and Russia (+35%).

The app market will continue to grow next year, as well. App Annie’s recent 2018 forecast pegged consumer spending worldwide to top $110 billion in 2018.

The new report also delves into app categories that did well in 2017, including finance/fintech, retail, video streaming, travel/ride-sharing, gaming, and social, and it spends some time analyzes China’s market in particular. You can request the full report here on App Annie’s site.

Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra vs. Moto X4: 2018’s new midrange challenger

It might be tough at the top, but it’s even tougher in the middle. The midrange market is a highly competitive space, and handsets from above and below constantly challenge the midrange for the ultimate goal of being your favorite pocket filler.

Sony has announced the follow-up to 2017’s XA1 Ultra, the Xperia XA2 Ultra, into that very market. But before it can challenge anything above or below its price range, it needs to prove its mettle against another great midrange device. The Moto X4 is a fine phone, and one of the front runners in this category. We took a look at the two phones, side-by-side, to figure out which deserves your time and your money.

Specs

Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra
xperia xa2 ultra
Moto X4
Moto X4
Size 163 x 80 x 9.5 mm (6.42 x 3.15 x 0.37 inches) 148.4 x 73.4 x 8 mm (5.84 x 2.89 x 0.31 inches)
Weight 221 grams (7.80 ounces) 163 grams (5.75 ounces)
Screen 6-inch Super LCD 5.2-inch IPS LCD
Resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels (367 ppi) 1920 x 1080 pixels (424 ppi)
OS Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo/Android One
Storage 32GB, 64GB 32GB (64GB international market)
MicroSD card slot Yes Yes
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 Qualcomm Snapdragon 630
RAM 4GB 3GB (4GB international market)
Connectivity GSM / HSPA / LTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi GSM / HSPA / LTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Camera 23MP rear, dual 16MP & 8MP front Dual 12MP & 8MP rear, 16MP front
Video 2160p up to 30 fps 2160p up to 30 fps, 1080p up to 60 fps
Bluetooth Yes, version 5.0 Yes, version 5.0
Audio 3.5mm headphone jack Front speaker, 3.5mm headphone jack
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes
Other sensors Accelerometer, proximity, compass Gyroscope, accelerometer, proximity sensor
Water resistant No Yes, IP68 rated
Battery 3,580mAh 3,000mAh
Charging port USB-C USB-C
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Colors Silver, Black, Blue, Gold Black, blue
Availability To be announced Newegg, Amazon, Motorola
Price To be announced $399
DT review Hands-on review 3.5 out of 5 stars

Specifications aren’t everything, but they are a good baseline for the general performance of a device. Based on these specs, you’re likely to see a similar level of day-to-day performance from these phones, since both come with the Snapdragon 630 processor. It’s a decent chip, but as we pointed out in our Moto X4 review, if you’re a heavy user who likes to play high-performance games, you might want to look elsewhere, as performance is simply not as smooth as it is on phones with cutting edge processors. Anyone who’s not an avid gamer (or is a more casual gamer) should find good, steady performance here, with an occasional sluggishness that reflects the lower price of the devices.

Both devices have space for a MicroSD card for additional storage, and they both come in 32GB and 64GB flavors, though the 64GB Moto X4 only seems to be available in international markets, so if you’re looking for more storage, then the Xperia might be your bag. The Xperia gains more points with the addition 4GB of RAM — the Moto X4 only has 4GB options available in international markets. That said, RAM isn’t everything in smartphones, so the 3GB offered by the U.S. Moto X4 is going to be plenty for most people.

Moving on, we find even more similarities. Both devices are rocking the latest Bluetooth 5 with all the benefits that brings, both devices offer NFC for Google Pay, and both have the increasingly rare headphone jack.

With the specs being as close as they are, we have to award the win to the phone that creeps ahead, even ever-so-slightly. The extra RAM and additional extra onboard storage in the Xperia XA2 Ultra takes the day.

Winner: Xperia XA2 Ultra

Design and display

Moto X4 tips and tricks

Julian Chokkattu / Digital Trends

While there were rumors of a redesign for the Xperia range throughout 2017, we’re not really seeing that with the Xperia XA2 Ultra. The bezels have shrunk when compared to last year’s models, especially the Xperia XZ1, but it’s still not at the point where we could call it “bezel-less“. It’s clear the bezels around the sides of the phone and the top and bottom edges have reduced, but it’s still a phone that looks very 2016 — and it’s safe to say we’re a little disappointed. One nice addition is the fingerprint sensor being moved from the side of the phone to a more conventional area on the back. It’s also finally being included in the U.S. model, which must be a relief for anyone who’d been put off by the bizarre omission in previous Sony smartphones.

With that said, we still prefer the Xperia Omnibalance style to the also dated looks of the Moto X4. The glass and metal design on the X4 is nice, but the extremely large camera bump means the phone rocks when placed on its back, and the glass used tends to attract fingerprints very quickly. It’s a problem solved with a good case, but it would still have been nice to not feel compelled to buy one. Still, it’s a decent design, and not ugly. It’s just fairly basic, and not as nice as some of the previous Moto X models.

There’s a massive difference between the two phones in terms of their displays. While both devices have IPS LCD screens displaying a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution, the Xperia XA2 Ultra has a much larger 6-inch screen, compared to the 5.2-inch display on the Moto X4. If you’re a fan of a larger screen, then the XA2 Ultra is the perfect midrange device for you — but fans of sharper displays may appreciate the larger pixels-per-inch measurement on the smaller Moto phone. It is also worth mentioning that the Xperia XA2 Ultra is significantly larger and heavier than the Moto X4, being a plus-sized version of the regular sized Xperia XA2, so keep the additional bulk and heft in mind when you’re considering the Xperia.

For pure physical durability you’re going to be looking at the Xperia XA2 Ultra over the Moto X4. While the aluminum frame and polycarbonate back on the Xperia doesn’t exactly feel premium, it is more resistant to damage than the glass on the Moto X4. However, the Moto X4 turns the tables with a very impressive IP68-rating that should see the Moto phone survive trips down the toilet or into the bath; not something the Sony phone can boast since it has no water-resistance at all.

This is a tough category to call. The XA2 Ultra has the edge in looks and pure physical durability, whereas the Moto X4 has full IP68-rated water-resistance and a sharper display. It really comes down to which set of advantages you prefer and the disadvantages you’re willing to put up with.

Winner: Tie

Camera

Xperia XA2 Ultra

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Moto X4 has a dual-sensor rear camera, pairing a 16-megapixel lens with an 8-megapixel lens. It’s a good combination, and as well as offering “bokeh” style selective-blur shots, it also offers a wide-angle mode like the LG G6 or V30. It takes good photos, but you need good lighting to get the best out of it; low lighting led to some disappointing shots in our review testing. The shutter lag in the camera software itself was also quite significant.

Around the front of the Moto X4 you’ll find a 16-megapixel selfie camera with an accompanying flash. It performs okay, but the quality doesn’t seem good enough for such a high megapixel count. Still, it took good enough selfies during our tests, and the flash was useful.

We haven’t had any significant time with the Xperia XA2 Ultra’s camera yet, but the raw numbers are encouraging. Sony has prided itself on cameras with exceptionally high megapixel counts and that continues here with the 23-megapixel monster mounted on the rear of the XA2 Ultra. In the small amount of time we had with it we noticed very little shutter lag, and a very high ISO of 12,800 — which should mean the XA2 Ultra is very good at handling low light. We’ll delay proper judgement until we’ve really tested it.

It’s around the front you’ll find major changes on the Xperia phone. The XA2 Ultra is rocking two front-facing selfie sensors; paired 16-megapixel and 8-megapixel lenses. The 16-megapixel lens seems to do most of the work, but the 8-megapixel lens kicks in when you want to take a wide-angle shot for group selfies, or if you want more of the background in view. It’s well implemented, with little lag when switching between the two lenses. Sony has also included a “slow-sync” flash on the front that helps to illuminate the background of shots, as well as the foreground. It’s especially handy in dim areas you want to show off, like nightclubs, and it worked well in our short amount of time with it.

The Moto X4 has a good camera, but it’s let down by poor low light performance and too much shutter lag. We might not have had too much time with the XA2 Ultra’s camera yet, but we’re confident it will be the better performer.

Winner: Xperia XA2 Ultra

Battery life and charging

moto x4 hands on review

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Battery life shouldn’t be too much of an issue with either of these devices thanks to their large battery capacities. The Moto X4 comes with a 3,000mAh battery that should easily last you the day, even with heavy use. With lighter use, it should last even longer than that. When recharge time came around, Motorola’s TurboPower fast-charging charged the Moto X4 from zero to 85 percent within 40 minutes. That’s really good.

But it’s up against a monster. Sony has taken battery capacity seriously in this generation of phones, and has significantly increased the battery capacity of all of 2018’s models so far. The XA2 Ultra comes with a massive 3,580mAh battery that should easily see you through the day. That’s bolstered by Sony’s Smart Stamina battery technology to help your charge last for as long as possible, and QuickCharge 3.0 means that your battery refills quickly when plugged in. We’ve not had a chance to test the XA2 Ultra in the wild yet, but we’re anticipating the battery life to be one of its high points.

While we are fans of the Moto X4’s battery capacity, with its significantly bigger battery, the Xperia XA2 Ultra takes this round.

Winner: Xperia XA2 Ultra

Software

Xperia XA2 Ultra

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

There are two versions of the Moto X4 that you can pick up; the regular version, and the Android One version. Android One is essentially a pared-down version of Android made for lower-end phones that comes without any additional manufacturer bloatware, and benefits from security patches directly from Google itself. However, unless you’re really into the idea of Project Fi, you might want to stick to the regular version of the Moto X4. It still runs close to stock Android, and comes with additional features like Amazon Alexa integration, and the Tempow Bluetooth Audio Profile that we really liked. Updates to Android 8.0 Oreo have been rolling out since December as well, so there’s no need to worry about being left behind.

How’s the Android 8.0 Oreo experience on the Xperia XA2 Ultra? Again, we need longer with it to really give you the low down, but despite being close to stock Android, the model we saw did have a good few pre-installed apps from Sony. Your mileage on that will vary, and patience for bloat depends entirely on your previous experiences, but it’s certainly not ideal for us. The XA2 Ultra does come with AptX HD as well, combating Tempow on the Moto X4.

Android vs. Android is always a tough task, and it’s made extra difficult when Android One is thrown into the mix. However, we prefer the implementation of Android on the Moto X4, and the option for Android One is good, if you want it. The Moto X4 takes this round.

Winner: Moto X4

Price and availability

moto x4 vs. moto z2 force

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Moto X4 is currently available, and you can grab the Android One version from Google’s Project Fi for just $324 at time of writing. Alternatively, if you want the regular version of the Moto X4, then you can grab it from a number of retailers, including Newegg and Motorola for a reduced price of $350. Amazon Prime members can increase their savings by buying a version with lockscreen ads and “offers” for just $280 — but you have to make the choice of whether that’s worth it for you.

At the moment, we’re not sure of the price of the XA2 Ultra. We’re hoping it’ll be around $400, putting it in a similar initial price bracket as the Moto X4. We’re also not sure about who will be offering the phone, but we expect it will at least be available from Sony and on Amazon.

Sony’s Xperia phones haven’t traditionally been supported well in the U.S.. We’re giving this to the Moto X4 for the better value, as well as the larger marketplace.

Winner: Moto X4

Overall winner: Xperia XA2 Ultra

Xperia XA2 Ultra

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

There might be a lot of elements of the XA2 Ultra that we’re unsure about, but based on what we’ve seen, there’s also a lot to love. At the moment, the Xperia phone looks to be a fine contender in the midrange smartphone market, capable of trading blows with the very best. But that doesn’t mean that the Moto X4 is bad; quite the contrary — there are plenty of reasons to buy the Moto phone over the Xperia, not least value. The much smaller size is also a big selling point if you don’t fancy the massive XA2 Ultra.

Still, for our money, the Xperia XA2 Ultra is currently the stronger of these two handsets.

Editors’ Recommendations