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Amazon Fire Phone for $159, includes one year of Prime

On June 23, I posted that an Amazon Fire Phone (32GB, Unlocked GSM) was selling for $179. I almost bought one, because it includes a year of Amazon Prime, which I pay $100 per year for. That meant the real cost of the phone was $79.

Today, Amazon is offering the same phone for $159, including the same one year of Prime deal. That did it for me. I bought one. I'm going to use it as my international travel phone (my iPhone is locked by AT&T so I can't use another carrier's SIM card) and a replacement phone for when my daughter drops her iPhone in the toilet.

The 5 best uses of a cell phone in video games

One of the coolest little tricks video games can pull is when they drop familiar real-world communication devices into the virtual space—there's something a little special about seeing an interface effectively brought to life inside an interface.

Lots of video games have mobile phones in them, but we think the best use of mobile phones in games (I really want to type 'cell phones', as some of these are definitely 'cell phones') comes from when they make us think about our relationship to those devices and the ways they are used. Here are our personal favorites:

Magical Maiden Madison

By Christine Love (Play here free) madison

Lots of girls from our generation grew up on magical girl transformation anime like Sailor Moon. Christine Love's Magical Maiden Madison is a brief, humorous game that scrubs off the patina of slow-drifting sparkles and rose backgrounds to examine what it might actually be like for a modern girl to be in those kinds of situations. The main interface, Madison's mobile phone, plays a key role in that modern imagining, a vehicle for teen emotes and shorthand as she talks with her friend Amy about her latest battle of the week—and everything that would entail. There was no texting on Sailor Moon; everyone had to talk to each other through "cosmetic pens" or something. I mean, I don't remember.

Cobra Club

By Robert Yang (Play here free)

(Read what we had to say about it) cobraclub

Cell phone cameras have doubtless massively democratized the dick pic, and Robert Yang's Cobra Club explores the issues of privacy, government surveillance and consent through this strangely vulnerable work that takes place in the uncomfortable light of your mom's bathroom mirror. It's inspired in part by that memorable conversation between John Oliver and Edward Snowden: Who can see our dick pics? Will that be the question by which we'll finally fully engage Americans in the surveillance conversation? How can we reclaim our dick pics from the government eye?

The selfie is often-discussed as a way for people, particularly young women, to regain control of their image; Yang's Cobra Club reminds us that when we wield a phone camera, we stand both to gain and lose all kinds of power.

SMS Racing

By Turbo Button (Coming to VR platforms later this year, play browser version here free)

(Read what we had to say about it)

It's hard to tell people they shouldn't do things without being a total mega buzzkill loser, but luckily games are a fun way to show how systems work and, often, to highlight the inherent absurdity of our behavior within systems. SMS Racing is about trying to text while driving, behavior which of course all write-ups earnestly warn you must not do. The creepy, defiant little thing started out as a browser game in 2015, and now is coming to full-blown VR, because of course it is.

Freshman Year

By Nina Freeman (Play here free)

(Read what we had to say about it) fyear1

Nina Freeman's distinctive vignette games are brief constellations of moments and memories, often about complicated subjects like sex and girlhood in her own life. Her game Freshman Year is an upsetting work about heading out to a college party and experiencing a brief but poignant assault. Although you can make choices in the game—what to wear, how much to drink, how to feel about the night ahead—fittingly, none of them make a difference to the outcome.

One of the most interesting techniques Freeman uses to pace her storytelling in Freshman Year is a mobile phone, which Nina consults throughout the night, searching for the friend she's supposed to meet at the event. The way the phone is used in the game does a brilliant job of dictating the way we turn to text messages for comfort, for space, for pauses in crowds, and when we're lonely or frightened. The insistent text communication with Jenna provides the rhythm that makes the game feel like a real memory.

Catherine

By Atlus (Buy it on last-gen consoles for about $15)

Catherine was a distinctly weird PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 game that launched in 2011. It's one part visual novel, one part wildly-frustrating block puzzle, but it took some interesting risks in its attempt to portray the inner conflict of Vincent, an aging loser-guy who's torn between his commitment-pushy longtime girlfriend and the exciting young thing who's suddenly showed up to exploit his weak temperament.

The most memorable part of that game remains the cell phone interface you'd get to interact with during those stretches of game you'd spend shuffling Vincent around a bar at night, long after his friends had found better things to do. You could read and reply to your text messages from each woman, and you'd be offered multiple options tonally as to how to respond—but the way the interface worked, replies typing themselves and then disappearing in favor of the next option, meant you experienced the awfully-human act of sitting alone in a booth, half-drunk, writing what you might want to say and then erasing it again until it seemed "right".

And then, of course, the agonizing after. It was a precise, excellent note on the part of a game which was otherwise all over the place (but which I nonetheless loved).

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Amazon Fire Phone for $179, includes one year of Prime

The Amazon Fire phone.


The Amazon Fire phone.

I'm tempted to buy this Amazon Fire Phone for $179. It's unlocked and it includes a year of Prime, which costs $99 a year.

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Motorola Moto G (2nd generation) - unlocked Android phone for $140

For the next 8 hours, Amazon is selling the Motorola Moto G (2nd generation) for $140, which is $40 off its regular price. It's got good battery life and a 5-inch HD display. It's only 8gb, so if you buy one, get a 32GB microSD card for about $14.

Motorola Moto G (2nd generation) Unlocked - 8GB White ($140) on Amazon

Who could resist this creepy Elfoid phone that will suck your soul out of your ear?

The Elfoid mobile phone was designed at Japan's Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR).

The cellphone-sized package is covered in soft urethane gel which, according to chief robot designer Hiroshi Ishiguro and his research team at ATR, “provides a feeling of ease."

India's $11 cellphone could change the world

micromax_joy_x1800_x1850_pouch_package The mobile market in India is flooded with new phones: three a day last year. Local provider Micromax has a gamble to claim a slice of that.

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A 10000mAh portable USB charger for $13

kmashiIn 2013 I paid $80 for a 6000mAh USB charging unit. Here's a 10000mAh charger for $13.

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Obama’s secret attempt to ban cellphone unlocking, while claiming to support it

Derek Khanna of Slate reports that the White House is pushing to keep cellphone unlocking illegal, and making the legal act of jailbreaking a crime punishable by imprisonment.

Last week, WikiLeaks made public a portion of a treaty that the White House has been secretly negotiating with other nations and 600 special interest lobbyists. The draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty, which is on intellectual property, shows that HealthCare.gov isn’t the only tech topic on which the Obama administration has some serious explaining to do.

The leaked treaty draft shows that while the White House was championing restoring free market principles to phones, the U.S. proposed that the TPP lock in the process that allowed the Librarian of Congress to rule this technology as illegal through international law. This would make many potential reforms impossible. But the TPP draft doesn’t stop there. It would ban numerous other technologies that have beneficial uses. In particular, the legislation would ensure that jailbreaking -- which is installing a different operating system on your phone, tablet, or e-reader—is illegal.

This treaty has long been shrouded in unprecedented secrecy. Congressional staff, press and general public weren’t allowed to read it; in many cases, even members of Congress were kept in the dark. Meanwhile, special interests were given full access. Now we know why: The White House didn’t want the public to know what was being negotiated in their name.

Obama’s Secret Attempt to Ban Cellphone Unlocking, While Claiming to Support It

KnowRoaming - good deal for international travelers?

You've no doubt heard the horror stories from people who've brought their smartphones with them to another country and were surprised with a roaming bill for thousands of dollars.

I have recurring dreams of it happening to me. When I travel overseas, I bring along a paperclip to remove my SIM card from my iPhone when I'm on the plane so that when I land in another country I don't get charged AT&T's exorbitant international roaming fees. Call me paranoid, but I have read reports that people get hit with roaming charges even after they turn the roaming setting "off" on their phones. By removing the SIM card (which is easy) I'm ensured that I won't get an unexpected fee.

On my last few trips abroad, I've purchased data SIM cards ahead of time. I've had great experiences with B-Mobile for Japan and HolidayPhone for Italy. I had a terribly frustrating experience with RebelFone (Here's my post about b-mobile and RebelFone).

So I read with interest about a new company called KnowRoaming, which sells a little sticker that you can apply to your phone's existing SIM card. The company says you can save up to 85% off of your voice and data in 220 countries. It sounds cool -- I would never have to buy another third-party Sim card again. But then I got to the bottom of the page and checked out the fees.

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How to get out of your AT&T contract early without an early termination fee

This month AT&T started charging a monthly "Mobility Administrative Fee" of $0.61 to mobile customers. If you want to get out of your contract early, you can use this fee increase to cancel the contract without paying an early termination fee.

This fee offers a rare chance to fight back against a corporate giant. You can use the administrative fee as a loophole to break your contract, without having to pay any costly early termination fees.

Even if the monthly fee isn't a big deal to you, upgrading your phone early probably is. By canceling your contract, you can get a new Samsung Galaxy S4 or HTC One with AT&T or another wireless carrier at the cheaper subsidized pricing.

Nelson Aguilar at Wonder How To describes how to do it