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Playing a review game is a fun way for students to test their understanding of a topic. At the same time those review games can give you insight into what your students know and what you might need to spend some time reteaching. Playing review games in teams can promote cooperation amongst students while also making it harder for one student to dominate a fun review game. Here are three fun, online, game platforms to try the next time you’re hosting classroom review activities.

Blended Play is a service for creating educational games to use in your classroom. Blended Play games are designed to be played in teams. The game boards are projected in the front of your room and students answer questions aloud to progress through the games. When students answer a question correctly, you mark it correct and their game pieces move forward on the digital game board. Watch my video overview of Blended Play to see how it works.

How to Use Blended Play for Classroom Review Games - YouTube

Last week I asked an audience of about 100 teachers in a conference break-out session, “how many of you have played Kahoot?” almost every hand went up. When I then asked, “who has played it team mode?” less than half of the hands went up. So while Kahoot is massively popular, it does have features that are overlooked. Kahoot’s team mode is a great option for classrooms in which not every student has a laptop, tablet, or phone to use. When using team mode Kahoot provides a pause after each question is asked and before responses can be submitted. During that pause teams can discuss the answer choices then one player from the team makes the actual submission on his or her computer, tablet, or phone. Watch this video to see how Kahoot’s team mode works.

Long before Kahoot arrived on the scene, Socrative was enabling teachers to create engaging review games for students to play on their laptops, phones, and tablets. From the start Socrative offered a feature called “Space Race” that randomly assigns students to teams. All players on the team then have to answer the questions on their devices. Rockets represent the teams on the screen. The rockets move when teams answer correctly. Watch this video made by Russell Stannard to learn how to create and play Socrative Space Races.

Socrative 2018- How the Space Race Works - YouTube

These were last week’s most popular posts on FreeTech4Teachers.com: 
1. 10 Tools for Gathering Real-time Feedback From Students
2. An Easy Way to Create a GIF from Google Slides
3. Formatically Offers a New Instant Citation Tool
4. How to Protect Student Privacy With Blurring Effects in Videos
5. Three Tools That Can Help You Save Time on Routine Tasks
6. These Chrome Extensions Can Help You Stay On Task
7. Add Music to Your Google Slides With the AudioPlayer Chrome Extension

Join me for a webinar this week!
On Tuesday I am hosting Google Earth, Maps, and VR Tours. On Thursday I’m hosting Fast & Fun Formative Assessment. I hope to see you at one or both! They will be recorded for those who cannot attend the live broadcasts.

Bring Me to Your School
My fall calendar has only two openings left! If you would like to bring me to your school for a professional development day, please get in touch. I offer professional development workshops on G Suite for Education, Teaching History With Technology, and many other topicsClick here to learn more or send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to book me today.

Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com book me today.

The post Three Online Review Game Platforms That Support Team Play appeared first on Practical Ed Tech.

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Developing your own search engine can be a good way to help students limit the scope of their searches. You might want to do this if you’re teaching younger students about search strategies and you want them to use a search engine that only indexes a few dozen websites so that you can have some assurance that they won’t be landing on pages of questionable content. Creating your own search engine is relatively easy thanks to the Google Custom Search Engine tool.

Take a look at my video and slides below to learn how you can create your own custom search engine.

How to create your own search engine - YouTube

Slides of the process are embedded below.

These were last week’s most popular posts on FreeTech4Teachers.com:
1. 5 Google Forms Features You Should Know How to Use
2. 51 World Geography Games for Kids
3. Educational Games for Elementary School Science Lessons
4. PhET PowerPoint Add-in – Add Science & Math Simulations to Slides
5. TypingClub’s Typing Jungle Offers Hundreds of Typing Lessons
6. How to Add a Timer to PowerPoint Slides
7. 7 Places to Create Your Own Educational Games for Students to Play at Home

Bring Me to Your School
My fall calendar is almost full! If you would like to bring me to your school for a professional development day, please get in touch. I offer professional development workshops on G Suite for Education, Teaching History With Technology, and many other topicsClick here to learn more or send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to book me today.

Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com book me today.

The post How to Create Your Own Custom Search Engine appeared first on Practical Ed Tech.

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A couple of weeks ago Tony Vincent published a great infographic about creating flowcharts in Google Drawings. That infographic prompted me to take a look at some of the tools that students and teachers can use to create infographics and flowcharts online. But first, take a look at this video on how to make a mind map in Google Drawings.

Google Slides and PowerPoint both have capabilities for making interactive mind maps and flowcharts. Watch the videos below to see how to Google Slides and PowerPoint to make mind maps.

How to Create an Interactive Diagram in Google Slides - YouTube

How to Create Interactive Diagrams in PowerPoint - YouTube

Connected Mind is a free mind mapping tool that you can use in your web browser and is also available as an iOS app and as an Android app.

How to Make a Mindmap on Connected Mind - YouTube

Padlet is a tool that can be used for many things including exit tickets, KWL charts, and it even offers a nice feature that will let you collaboratively create flowcharts.

How to create a flowchart on Padlet - YouTube

These were last week’s most popular posts on FreeTech4Teachers.com:
1. MathsLinks – A Good Place to Find Resources for Math Lessons
2. 82 Math in Real Life Lessons
3. PhET PowerPoint Add-in – Add Science & Math Simulations to Slides
4. NRICH – Another Good Place to Find Math Activities
5. 4-H STEM Lab – A Good Place to Find Hands-on STEM Activities for K-12
6. How to Use the New Google Forms Customization Options
7. How to Find Free Images to Use in Multimedia Projects

Bring Me to Your School
My fall calendar is almost full! If you would like to bring me to your school for a professional development day, please get in touch. I offer professional development workshops on G Suite for Education, Teaching History With Technology, and many other topicsClick here to learn more or send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to book me today.

Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com book me today.

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The right video clip can help you make a point in a lesson by showing a “real world” application of a concept. And, of course, a good video clip can provide instruction or reinforcement of a concept. Finding the right video clip isn’t always easy. You could search on YouTube for a long time without getting the right clip. That’s when it’s time to try ClassHook.

ClassHook is a fantastic service that can help you find educational video clips to use in your classroom or as part of lessons that students complete online. ClassHook picks up where YouTube falls short. ClassHook’s does this by providing tools to search for video clips according to subject and topic. The bulk of the clips that you will find through ClassHook come from well-known television shows and movies.

New Premium Features
The options to search for video clips according to subject, topic, and grade level are completely free for all users. This week ClassHook introduced a premium plan ($25/ year) that gives you access to advanced search tools. The premium search tools let you refine your search according to standards alignment and decade of the video clip’s production.

ClassHook’s premium plan also includes the option to collaboratively create playlists with other users of the service. You can start a playlist and then invite your colleagues to make contributions. Your colleagues don’t even have to have a premium account in order to make contributions.

Free Features
ClassHook’s free service still includes options to search according to subject, topic, and grade level. The free plan also includes a profanity filter for all users. And users of the free plan can still request clips if they cannot find one in ClassHook’s library.

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The annual ISTE conference was held last week. It is during this conference that the biggest brands in field of educational technology, and technology in general, announce new products and new product features. Here are the highlights from what Google and Microsoft announced during this year’s ISTE conference.

Five New Things from Google EDU

Measurements in Google Earth Chrome and Android versions.
The Chrome and Android versions of Google Earth finally got a measuring tool last week (iOS version will get it soon). This is a feature that was always a core element of the desktop version of Google Earth. Having a measurement tool in all versions of Google Earth opens up a world of possibilities for its use in math lessons. Watch my video to learn how to use the measuring tool in Google Earth.

How to Measure Distances in Google Earth - YouTube

Add Audio to Your Virtual Tours in Google VR Tour Creator.
This is an update to the VR Tour Creator that was launched just a couple of months ago. This update lets you add audio to each of the scenes and points of interest within your VR tours. Watch my new video to learn how you can create a VR tour that includes audio.

How to create a virtual tour that includes narration - YouTube

Customize Your Google Forms Fonts and Color Schemes.
Technically, this was announced before the ISTE conference, but it is worth repeating. After years of waiting for this, Google Forms users can now choose the font style that they want to use. Additionally, users are no longer restricted to the color schemes that Google thinks is best. Google Forms users can now customize the color scheme for each of their Forms.

Locked Mode in Google Forms Quizzes.
This update is a response to a request that teachers have made for years. Locked mode in Google Forms will be a setting that you can activate in Google Forms when you create and distribute a quiz. The locked mode will prevent students from leaving the Google Form until they submit their final answers. Locked mode will be available in the fall.

It is important to note that Locked mode will only work on Chromebooks that are managed by your school. So if you don’t use school-managed Chromebooks you’re going to need to find another solution to prevent students from opening new tabs or windows while completing an online assessment. One possible solution is the new Lockdown Browser option from Otus.

Google Classroom Gets a Classwork Section.
Google Classroom now has a section called “classwork.” The Classwork section is where you’ll now place assignments and reference resources for your students. In the Classwork section you can organize materials according to unit of study or topic instead of just organizing materials by date. A header of Classwork will now appear at the top of your Google Classroom page.

Five Microsoft EDU Updates to Note

Add Forms to Assignments in Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Forms provides a good platform for creating quizzes and surveys. You can now add your Forms to assignments that you distribute to students through Microsoft Teams.

If you haven’t tried Microsoft Forms, watch my video to learn how to get started. It has some features that I think you’ll like.

Use Rubrics in Microsoft Teams
This was actually announced a couple of weeks ago, but it is worth sharing again. You can attach rubrics to assignments for students to see before and after completing an assignment. Equally important, you’ll be able to grade an assignment using that rubric without having to open multiple tabs or windows.

Dictation Available to More Users
From Immersive Reader to Dictation, Microsoft tries to make their products as accessible as possible to everyone. To that end, Dictation is now available in the Win 32 versions of PowerPoint and Word. This is in addition to all of the other places that Dictation is available including the Windows 10 version of OneNote.

Math Quizzes in Forms
Microsoft Forms has an excellent math feature. You can use this feature to create math quizzes in Microsoft Forms. After creating your quiz you can add that form to an assignment in Microsoft Teams.

MakeCode for LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3
If you’re lucky enough to have the budget for LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3, you’ll want to check out Microsoft MakeCode for LEGO MINSTORMS EV3. MakeCode is a drag-and-drop, block-based, programming interface that students can use on any computer to program their robots.

Prior to ISTE Microsoft announced some other product updates including expansion of Immersive Reader functions and page-locking in OneNote class notebooks

What's New in Microsoft EDU | Episode 21 - YouTube

These were last week’s most popular posts on FreeTech4Teachers.com:
1. Five Google Classroom Improvements Announced During ISTE
2. How to Use Flipgrid to Publish Instructional Videos
3. SeeSaw Unveils a New Activity Library – 1500+ Activities to Use Now
4. How to Create a Virtual Tour That Includes Audio Narration
5. Vynchronize – Watch Videos and Discuss Them in the Same Window
6. A Lesson for Beachcombers – How Seashells Are Made
7. Exciting New Features Coming to Scratch Later This Year

Bring Me to Your School
My fall calendar is almost full! If you would like to bring me to your school for a professional development day, please get in touch. I offer professional development workshops on G Suite for Education, Teaching History With Technology, and many other topicsClick here to learn more or send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to book me today.

Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com book me today.

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In case you missed it last week, Flipgrid was acquired by Microsoft. Microsoft then made all of the premium features of Flipgrid available for free to everyone! (If you had previously paid for a premium Flipgrid account, you will get a pro-rated refund). Now that all aspects of Flipgrid are available to all users, let’s take a look at some of the ways that you can use Flipgrid in your classroom.

Instructional videos
Now that you and your students have up to five minutes for each video, consider using Flipgrid to have students post short instructional videos. Students can position their webcams or their phones (Flipgrid has free iOS and Android apps) to record themselves teaching a lesson on a whiteboard. Or rather than using a whiteboard students can use the Flipgrid mobile apps to record themselves showing to complete a physical project like an Arduino or other robotics project.

Scheduled Launch & Freeze Dates
The ability to schedule a launch (activation) date and freeze (closing) date for a topic with a grid was a premium feature until this past week. Now everyone can schedule a date for a topic to become activate and accepting of responses. And now everyone can schedule a freeze date on which a topic will stop accepting responses. Scheduling a freeze date can be a good incentive for students to submit a response on time. Schedule a launch date can use helpful to busy teachers who want to create a bunch of Flipgrid topics at once and then have those topics become activate over the course of a week or month.

A Grid for Every Section or Every Unit
Previously, Flipgrid limited users of the free plan to one grid. Within that grid you could have many topics. That wasn’t a bad system but it could get cluttered over time. That was particularly true for middle school and high school teachers who might have four or more sections of course and they were making a different topic for each section. Now those teachers can make a different grid for each section of a course. On a similar note, you can now make a different grid for each unit of study that you teach.

If you have never tried Flipgrid, take a look at my video for a brief overview of how it works.

How to Use Flipgrid - YouTube

These were last week’s most popular posts on FreeTech4Teachers.com:
1. Huge Flipgrid News! – All Features Now Free
2. New Google Forms Customization Options
3. Identifying Cities from Historic Maps – A Geography Game
4. Five Ways to Create Mind Maps and Flowcharts Online
5. Grackle – Assess the Accessibility of Your Google Docs & Slides
6. Vynchronize – Watch Videos and Discuss Them in the Same Window
7. Add Voice Recordings to Maps

Sale! 5 Webinars for Just $25!

The summer is a great time to do some professional learning at your pace. In this summer sales pack I have included my most popular webinars of the last six months. You can watch these webinars whenever you like and as often as you like. Purchased individually these five webinars would cost $100. But during this sale you’ll get them all for just $25!

Included in this professional development package:

  • 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom
  • 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lesson
  • Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners
  • Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know
  • Intro to Using Augmented and Virtual Reality in Your Classroom (only available through this sale package).
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The summer is a great time to do some professional learning at your pace. In this summer sales pack I have included my most popular webinars of the last six months. You can watch these webinars whenever you like and as often as you like. Purchased individually these five webinars would cost $100. But during this sale you’ll get them all for just $25!

Five on-demand professional development webinars:
  • 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom
  • Intro to Using Augmented and Virtual Reality in Your Classroom
  • 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lesson
  • Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners
  • Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know


Purchase here

5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom
Learn how to create and complete five video projects that can be done in almost any classroom. You’ll learn how your students can make animated videos, make documentary-style videos, and instructional videos. Examples from real students and teachers are shared in the webinar.

Intro to Using Augmented and Virtual Reality in Your Classroom
Take a look at any ed tech blog or magazine today and you’re bound to see an article about virtual reality or augmented reality. You might think that these are new technologies but they’ve actually been used in education for more than two decades. But today it is easier and cheaper than ever to bring virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) into your classroom. In this webinar you will learn how you can use these powerful technologies in your classroom.

5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons
In this recorded webinar you’ll learn five ways that you can incorporate technology into outdoor lessons. These strategies can be used in elementary school, middle school, or high school settings. You’ll learn about augmented reality, digital mapping, geocaching, activity tracking, observing and collecting scientific data.

Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners
From creating and scoring meaningful formative assessments to organizing school events, Google Forms and Google Sheets are powerful tools to help you get things done. But you need to know where to start. That’s why I created this webinar. If you’ve ever read about or seen a neat use of Google Forms or Google Sheets and thought, “I want to do that,” this webinar is for you.

Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know
Too often our students don’t get beyond the first few pages of search results before declaring, “Google has nothing about this!” Why? Because the average time spent on a search is just 1 minute! And the average search term only has three words! We can help our students do better than that. In this recorded webinar you will learn why informational searches are the hardest types of Internet searches for students to conduct. You will learn how to help students break-down complex search topics into manageable pieces and then put the whole picture together. You’ll learn how to help your students save students tons of time by thinking before searching. And you’ll learn how to develop instructional search challenge activities to use with students of any age.

Sale Ends June 30th!


Purchase here

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PowerPoint has been around for more than three decades! Google Slides has been available for free more than a decade. Despite that longevity both presentation tools have many features that often go overlooked by new users and veteran users alike. Some of those “hidden” features will help you make your presentations better while others will just help you get things done a little more quickly. Whether you’re a long-time user of these presentation tools, you’re just getting started, or you’re taking a second look at them after a hiatus, this list includes features and tutorials for you.

5 Overlooked PowerPoint Features

Screen Recording
Making a presentation about your favorite software or websites? Try using the screen recorder that is built into PowerPoint. Your recorded video is automatically inserted into the slide that you have open at the time you make your recording. Of course, you can use that video in other slides too. Find the screen recorder in the “Insert” menu in PowerPoint.

Sound Recording/ Sound Upload
Add your voice to your slides through the audio recorder built into PowerPoint. This is particularly useful if your slides will mostly be viewed independent of your presence.

Have music or sound effects that you want to add to your slides? In PowerPoint you can upload those recordings directly to your presentation and play them on the slides of your choice.

The sound recording and sound upload options are found in the “Insert” menu in PowerPoint.

Word Art
Tired of the same old Times New Roman, Georgia, or Comic Sans (gasp!), use Word Art to create custom fonts. You’ll find Word Art in the “Insert” menu in PowerPoint.

Dictation
Microsoft’s Dictate tool will let you dictate the text that you want to have appear in your slides.

Add-ins
Google Slides has Add-ons, PowerPoint has Add-ins. Add-ins offered by third parties can provide additional functions in PowerPoint. In my video embedded below I demonstrate how to find and install PowerPoint Add-ins. The following video features the Pixabay Add-in that provides access to thousands of images that are in the public domain.

How to Find & Install PowerPoint Add-ins - YouTube

5 Overlooked Google Slides Features

Add Audio to Your Slides
There are two ways that you can do this. You could place a YouTube music video in your slide and then shrink it down and hide it in the corner of your slide. Or you could use the AudioPlayer for Slides Add-on which makes it quite easy to play music behind your entire presentation.

Make Interactive Diagrams
I made a video about this and featured it in the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week back in January. By using the hyperlinking tools in Google Slides you can link multiple parts of one slide to other slides within the same presentation. Take the model to its fullest extent and your students can begin to build choose-your-own-adventure stories in Google Slides.

Play videos without using YouTube. 
Last year Google finally added the option to include videos in your slides without those videos having to be on YouTube. Upload any video to your Google Drive account and then you can import it directly into any slide.

Live Q&A
Launch a live Q&A channel forum for your audience directly from the Presenter View menu. Your audience can submit questions by going to the Q&A link that is automatically displayed across the top of your slides when you have Q&A activated. You can also disable this feature at any time.

Import your old PPT slides
If you’re making the switch from a Windows-based environment to Chromebooks or just to G Suite for Education, you might be worried about having to recreate some of your favorite presentations. You don’t have to do that. You can import your old PPT files into Google Slides right from the “file” drop-down menu in Google Slides.

These were last week’s most popular posts on FreeTech4Teachers.com
1. An Easy Speech-to-Text Option for Word, OneNote, and PowerPoint
2. Educational Games for Elementary School Science Lessons
3. Camp GoNoodle – Four Weeks of Fun and Educational Summer Activities
4. Three Ways to Use Screencasting In Your Classroom
5. The Economics of Seinfeld – Lessons Based on Seinfeld Clips
6. Now You and Your Students Can Create Quizzes in Kahoot’s Mobile App
7. Crayon – Super Simple Collaborative Whiteboard

Bring Me to Your School
I offer provide professional development workshops on G Suite for Education, Teaching History With Technology, and many other topicsClick here to learn more or send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to book me today.

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Developing multimedia ebooks can be a good way for students to enhance portions of fiction and non-fiction stories that they write. By adding drawings, pictures, audio, and video students can further their points and explanations in ways places where just using text could fall short. Creating multimedia ebooks also gives students the opportunity to showcase some of their other skills like drawing or video production along with their writing skills. The following two tools are the ones that I frequently mention when asked for recommendations on making multimedia ebooks.

Book Creator for Chrome & iPad
Book Creator has been used by students of all ages for everything from making multimedia comics to publishing in-depth science reports. Book Creator is available for use on iPads and in the Chrome web browser. On each page of their books students can type, make free-hand drawings, insert pictures, record themselves talking, add music, and insert videos. Book Creator offers a variety of page layout templates that students can use or they can work from scratch on a blank page. You can use Book Creator for free or you can upgrade to a paid plan to get more storage space and realtime collaboration options. Watch my video below to learn how to get started with Book Creator for Chrome.

How to Use Book Creator's New Web App - YouTube

WriteReader
WriteReader is one of my favorite writing tools for elementary school students and their teachers. This free service works completely within your web browser. One of WriteReader’s outstanding features for teachers is the option to write corrections directly beneath a student’s original writing in the ebook before publication. The feature that students like is gallery of artwork including Sesame Street scenes to use in their stories. And parents like that their children can record their own voices in WriteReader books. Watch my video below to see how WriteReader works. WriteReader is available in English and Spanish.

WriteReader Helps Students Create Multimedia Stories - YouTube

These were last week’s most popular posts on FreeTech4Teachers.com:
1. Quizalize Introduces New Differentiation Tools
2. Turning Milk Into Cheese – A Science Lesson
3. Changes Coming to the Google Sign-in Screen
4. Three Free iPad Apps for Creating Animated Movies
5. Five Things You and Your Students Can Make With Canva
6. Microsoft Adds New OneNote and Teams Features for Teachers and Students
7. Purpose Games – Create and Play Educational Games

Bring Me to Your School
I provide hands-on professional development workshops on G Suite for Education, Teaching History With Technology, and many other topicsClick here to learn more or send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to book me today.

Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com book me today.

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The Essential phone is the one to buy if you value flexibility and freedom from carrier installed and manufacturer installed bloatware. My favorite phone since my custom Motorola Pure Droid shattered on my bathroom floor 18 months ago. It’s a fantastic phone that rivals the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy s9, and Pixel 2 at a price that is hundreds of dollars less. Only complaint, the camera leaves a bit to be desired.

What is an Essential phone?
The Essential phone is an Android phone. Essential is the brainchild of the Andy Rubin. Rubin was one of the original developers of the Android operating system and lead its early development after Google acquired it. He started Essential to offer an Android phone that was completely free of the pre-installed and impossible to remove bloatware that most cell phone manufacturers and service providers install on your phones today. In other words, an Essential phone only has the apps that you choose to install. Motorola did this briefly with the original Moto X Pure Droid but has since reverted to forcing apps on you.

Essential uses the line “it’s your phone” on their website. That’s reflected not only in offering an unlocked operating system it’s also found in the exterior of the phone. If I handed you my phone right now, you would have no idea who manufactured it because there is absolutely zero branding on the phone.

Form and Function

The Essential phone sports a screen size of 5.71.” The screen covers the entire face of the phone much like the Samsung Galaxy s9 but without the curved edges. This means that you get a slightly more usable screen size than on an iPhone 7+ and just a .29″ less than a Pixel 2 XL but without the bulk of a larger frame. For me that means I can stick my Essential phone in the back pocket of my cycling jersey without any worry of it bouncing out. That’s something I haven’t been able to do since I had a Samsung Galaxy S4.

From an everyday use standpoint, the size of the Essential phone lets me reach all icons with one hand while still getting the benefit of a screen the size of the “plus” iPhone, Galaxy, and Pixel models. For someone who wants a large screen without the bulk of a large phone, Essential is the way to go.

The essential phone is made of titanium. Initially they advertised that you don’t need a case for it, but that wording doesn’t appear on their site today. That said, CNET did a test of Essential’s earlier claims and the phone held up well, but you’ll still want a case. I haven’t the nerve or budget to do an intentional drop test myself. I accidentally did a drop test while getting out of my truck last week and it survived without a scratch. I’m not sure if that’s a testament to the phone or to the Incipio case that I have it in. By the way, I’m a huge fan of Incipio cases. They have always given me the durability of an Otter Box case without the bulk of an Otter Box. This is the Incipio case that I have on my Essential phone. It’s not the slimmest case you’ll find, but it’s not Otter Box bulky either.

Faster updates!
You get updates faster on the Essential phone than any other phone except the Pixel 2 marketed by Google. Essential uses the latest Android build (currently Android version 8.1) and updates whenever Google pushes an Android update. Because Essential doesn’t install any bloatware (those annoying apps that you can’t uninstall on other phones) the phone runs smoothly and quickly. The only pop-up or push notifications you’ll ever receive are the ones that you enable from the apps that you install.

Storage! Storage! Storage!
The Essential phone comes with only one option for storage and that is 128GB. You get that storage for far less than the cost of 128GB models of other premium phones. With 128GB of built-in storage you may not ever worry about not being able to install or update an app because you’ve run out of storage space. With all that storage you also have plenty of space for videos and pictures of your cute children, your pets, or summer sunsets viewed from a patio with a cold drink in your hand. Of course, just as with any phone, you should still back up your photos on Google Photos or another cloud service.

USB C and no earbud jack.
Most premium phone manufacturers are going in this direction and Essential is no exception to that trend. The Essential phone doesn’t have an earbud jack. You can either use wireless earbuds or use the included USB C to earbud port connector to connect your wired earbuds.

The camera
This is my only area of complaint about the Essential phone. I read lots of complaints about the camera on the Essential phone before I purchased mine. My thinking was that I don’t use a phone just for its camera so I’m willing to sacrifice a little bit of camera quality to get all the other benefits of the phone including cost, storage, and freedom (as my attorney friend says, “what’s your freedom worth?”) After a month of using the Essential phone I will confirm that it does struggle to adjust quickly to low light conditions and to extremely bright conditions. That said, if you’re patient and manually adjust the camera you can take good pictures with the Essential phone. And it does capture 4K video.

Cost and set-up.
You can buy the Essential phone directly on the company’s or on Amazon. The current price is $499 but I’ve often seen it for $479 on Amazon.

You can’t buy it through Verizon or AT&T and doing so would defeat the purpose of buying an unlocked phone anyway. You can buy it through Sprint but, again, doing that defeats the purpose of buying an unlocked phone.

When the phone arrives at your doorstep open the box and you’ll find the phone, charger, and USB C to earbud connector. Power on the phone and follow the prompts to install the SIM card. Depending upon your cell service provider you may be able to activate the phone without having to talk to a human at all. I use Verizon so I had to call Verizon to activate the phone which took about three minutes once I navigated through the maze of Verizon’s automated system to reach a live tech support agent.

Bottom Line
I’m very happy with my purchase of the Essential phone. In the last 18 months I’ve had extended hands-on experience with a Samsung Galaxy s8, iPhone 7+, Pixel 2, and Motorola Z. For my money, the Essential phone is the best choice. In fact, it’s my favorite phone since my custom Motorola X Pure Droid shattered on my bathroom floor.

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