Sony today announced the Xperia Z5, its flagship smartphone, which features a 4k display. The handset relies on the same slim metal design from pervious generations of Xperia Z devices with glass on the front and back surfaces. The phone is waterproof and protects the handset from accidental spills. The Xperia Z5 features what Sony says is "the best camera" it has ever put in a phone by speeding up autofocus to 0.03 seconds, while also improving the pixel count to 23 million. The camera features Sony's G-Lens and uses "clear image zoom" to power 5x zooming with no loss in clarity. The camera also performs well at night and in low light thanks to a new night capture mode powered by the XMOR sensor. Last, video includes steady shot intelligent shake reduction. Sony added a fingerprint sensor to the screen lock button, which is positioned on the right edge. The phone will be offered in a 4.7-inch screen size with all the same features. The Z5 Premium has a 5.5-inch 4K display (with upscaling for full HD content). Sony didn't immediate say when the Z5 Premium and Z5 Compact will go on sale. Both handsets run Android.
The ZenWatch 2 is an Android Wear watch available for an unusually low price of well under $200. We checked it out.
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Huawei today announced the Mate S, its new flagship Android smartphone. Its most notable feature is Force Touch, which precisely measures pressure on its touch screen. The harder you press on a photo in the gallery, the more it zooms in, for example. It is precise enough that Huawei will ship the phone with an app that turns the screen into a small scale. The screen is 5.5-inch full-HD AMOLED. The phone also has a 13-megapixel main camera with RGBW sensor, 1.2-degree OIS (optical image stabilization), sapphire lens, and advanced manual controls. The front camera clocks in at 8 megapixels. Another unique feature is directional listening, which uses three microphones to pinpoint voice locations and filter out background noise. The Mate S is also water-resistant using a nano coating. Like many new Huawei phones, it has two card slots; one for a SIM card, and one for a memory card or a second SIM card. It supports 13 LTE bands, including U.S. bands. It has a thin metal body and fingerprint sensor. It's powered by a Huawei Kirin 935 2.2 GHz, 8-core, 64-bit processor accompanied by 3 GB of RAM. It will be available within the next month in Europe starting at 649 Euros for the version with 32 GB of internal storage.
Huawei today said its Android-based smartwatch will go on sale this month for $349, putting it in Apple Watch territory. The wearable will come with several face variations, including stainless steel, black stainless steel, and rose gold, with leather, steel, and gold strap options. Prices vary depending on the chassis and strap combination, with the gold models costing as much as $799. All models have a 1.4-inch screen with 400 by 400 pixels protected by sapphire crystal. The watch is powered by a 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. The Huawei Watch includes Bluetooth and WiFi for connectivity, and sensors such as barometer, accelerometer, and gyroscope to help track movement. The 300mAh battery delivers up to two days of usable life and can reach an 80% charge in just 45 minutes. The watch runs Android Wear 1.3 and is compatible with Android and iOS smartphones. The stainless steel and black models can be pre-ordered beginning today and will ship on Sept. 17, which is also when the watch will reach general availability. The Huawei Watch can be purchased from GetHuawei.com, the Google Play Store, Amazon.com, and BestBuy.com.
Today at the IFA show in Berlin, Asus announced the ZenWatch 2, an affordable Android Wear smartwatch. It comes in two sizes and three stainless steel case colors, for just 149 Euros (approx. $168). The company claims two days of battery life, and the watch charges via a magnetic connector on the back. A set of exclusive Asus apps includes a messaging app that communicates directly from one watch to another. 18 different strap options are available.
Google has decided to clean up how mobile search results present ads for app installs. In particular, it hopes to negate the use of interstitial app install ads that hide content when users try to view search results. "Our analysis shows that it is not a good search experience and can be frustrating for users because they are expecting to see the content of the web page," explained Google. Google has updated the Mobile-Friendly Test — a barometer the company offers to mobile web site designers — to help demonstrate how interstitials fail the friendly test. Web site designers can use the tool to see the number of pages across their site(s) affected by the issue. Google is giving mobile web designers two months to clean up their interstitials. Beginning November 1, sites that continue to show interstitial app install ads will no longer be consider mobile friendly, which will drop their search rankings. Google suggests publishers use alternatives, such as banners, to coax mobile users into installing their apps.
Google has updated the appearance of its Google Now and Google Search tools on Android devices to match the company's new design motif. First and foremost, the apps adopt the new logo and font changes Google made earlier this week. Second, in Google Now the cards are arranged by category and will shift and change size throughout the day to reflect important appointments and other events. Third, the Google Search app now displays the Google Doodle on days it's published, and search results make it easier to sift between types of content (web, images, video) with new swiping gestures. The Google Search app is free to download from the Google Play Store. Google said other Google-branded apps will be given visual tweaks in the days ahead to reflect its new design language.
Motorola's official Google+ page said that U.S. consumers will be able to order the Moto X Pure Edition beginning Wednesday, Sept. 2. The phone can be customized via Moto Maker and starts at $399.
Instagram today improved the private messaging features of its Android and iOS apps through an update. To start, messages between individuals and groups are now threaded, rather than separate. Threaded conversations contain all the shared content in a single stream. The new Instagram makes it easier to forward posts to other users, so public photos can be sent back and forth. The direct message function now also includes a camera for quick selfies, and huge emoji for "when there are just no words," according to Instagram. Privacy is not changed; private feeds will remain private, and those photos cannot be shared with non-subscribers. The new Instagram makes it easier to share with groups, as well include hashtags and location data. The updated app is available to Android and iOS devices today; it's free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
The Galaxy S6 Edge+ is a bigger and better version of the Galaxy S6 Edge. It makes improvements to the screen and battery life, and adds some extra functionality to the curved side edges. Here is Phone Scoop's full report about this powerful Android smartphone.
Amazon today said Prime customers can now download videos for offline playback. The feature, part of Amazon Prime Instant Video, is compatible with Fire tablets, the Fire Phone, Android phones and tablets, and iOS devices, such as the iPhone. Amazon is offering an unknown percentage of its video library for offline playback, including televisions shows, classic movies, and newer cinematic releases. Not all videos are available for download/offline playback; compatible videos will be marked as such. Prime subscribers can download the video file via WiFi and will have between 15 to 30 days to watch the video (varies by title) before the viewing period ends. Offline viewing is only available to residents of the U.S.
Nexbit today revealed the Robin, an Android smartphone that intelligently uses the cloud to help manage storage space on the fly. The handset includes 32 GB of "offline" storage and 100 GB of "online" storage. The hardware itself has 32 GB, but the Robin has access to another 68 GB of storage on Nextbit's servers. When the Robin is connected to the internet (via LTE or WiFi) it has access to all 100 GB of this storage space. Most interestingly, Robin's software will learn which apps are used the least and will proactively remove them from the handset until they are needed. Removed apps still appear in the menus, but are greyed out and unusable until the user chooses to reload them. Users won't have to re-enter credentials for removed apps; Robin keeps account and login details intact. The handset has a unique industrial design created by Scott Croyle, a former designer for HTC. The main chassis is made from metal and it is book-ended by two polycarbonate caps. The caps house stereo speakers (each with its own amplifier), camera modules, sensors, and wireless radios. The Robin features a 5.2-inch full HD screen and is powered by a Snapdragon 808 processor with 3 GB of RAM. The Robin has a 13-megapixel main camera with two-tone LED flash, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. Nextbit added a fingerprint sensor to the screen lock button, which is located on the side of the Robin. The phone has a 2,650mAh battery that is sealed in. Wireless radios include Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi, HSPA+, and a wide selection of LTE bands for compatibility with networks such as those run by AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S. Nextbit is launching the Robin in the U.S. via Kickstarter beginning today. Early bird supporters (first 1,000 backers) can score the Robin for $299. Follow-up Kickstarter supporters will have to spend $349. The Robin will ship for $399 in the first quarter of 2016.
PayPal today launched a new service that purports to make it easier to send and receive money. With PayPal.Me, PayPal users create a unique URL associated with their account. The link, when shared, gives others the avenue they need to make payments or send funds. "Family and friends or customers click the link, enter the amount and their PayPal password, and they're done," says PayPal. Want to request a specific amount of cash? Send the link with a number at the end, like so: PayPal.Me/JohnDoe/25 and the recipient will be asked to send $25. Other than requiring a PayPal account, PayPal.Me is free to use.
Samsung's latest wearable features a circular shape, rotating bezel, and the ability to make phone calls independent from a smartphone. The device comes in two basic models: the Gear S2 has a simpler, more modern look, while the Gear S2 Classic has a more traditional appearance. Both feature a 1.2-inch circular AMOLED screen with 360 by 360 pixels. The Gear S2 is powered by a dual-core 1.0GHz processor and has 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. Samsung says the 250mAh battery provides up to two days of battery life. Connectivity includes Bluetooth, NFC, and WiFi, and internal sensors include an accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate monitor, ambient light, and barometer for tracking movement and otherl conditions. The Gear S2 runs Samsung's Tizen operating system and comes with a handful of tools for managing email, messaging, calendar appointments, and weather. Other functions include voice commands, S Health and Nike+ Running apps, a media player, and photo gallery. The Gear S2 is also available in a 3G variant with the ability to make calls and handle limited data when not around a smartphone. The 3G version has a larger 300mAh battery and a thicker chassis than the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic. T-Mobile was the first U.S. carrier to voice support for the 3G version of the watch. For $5 per month (when added to a phone plan), Gear S2 owners will be able to make unlimited calls, send unlimited messages, and use 500MB of data from their smartwatch. Pricing and availability were not disclosed.
Google today released an Android Wear application for iOS devices that makes the iPhone compatible with Google-based smartwatches. The Android Wear app works with the iPhone 5, 5s, 5c, 6, and 6 Plus as long as the phones are running iOS 8.2 and up. Android Wear allows iPhone owners to check their information at a glance, such as calls, messages, and notifications; set and follow fitness goals, such as tracking steps or heart rate; and also receive timely information about flights, traffic, calendar appointments, and more. Android Wear for iOS supports "OK, Google" voice-based queries, as well. Google says the LG Watch Urbane is the first Android Wear smartwatch to support iPhone compatibility, and that all future devices, including those from Huawei (pictured above), Asus, and Motorola, will also support iOS. Many of these manufacturers are expected to debut new smartwatches this week at the IFA trade show in Berlin.
Qualcomm today said the Snapdragon 820 processor will contain new anti-malware tools to protect smartphone users from threats. Qualcomm Snapdragon Smart Protect can provide "real-time, on-device machine learning" to detect zero-day malware before it wreaks havoc on smartphone owners. Snapdragon Smart Protect relies on Qualcomm's Zeroth technology, which adds "classification and cause analysis using an advanced cognitive computing behavioral engine." The end result, says Qualcomm, should be safer smartphone use across the web. Qualcomm is making the technology available to phone makers and app developers, along with an API, so they can build Qualcomm Smart Protect into their products. The Snapdragon 820 isn't expected to arrive until the first half of 2016.
T-Mobile is today taking action against a small percentage of customers abusing the mobile hotspot feature by enforcing its terms of service. T-Mobile customers who sign up for unlimited smartphone data plans are given 7GB of data allotted specifically for mobile hotspot use. Users who exceed that 7GB tethering cap experience reduced speeds for the remainder of the billing cycle. According to T-Mobile, some users are hiding their tethering activity to get around the limit and consuming far more than the allowed 7GB. "These violators are going out of their way with all kinds of workarounds to steal more LTE tethered data," said T-Mobile CEO John Legere. "They’re downloading apps that hide their tether usage, rooting their phones, writing code to mask their activity, etc. They are 'hacking' the system to swipe high-speed tethered data. These aren't naive amateurs; they are clever hackers who are willfully stealing for their own selfish gain. It's a small group, but some of them are using as much as 2 terabytes (2,000GB!) of data in a month." Legere said T-Mobile is initially targeting about 3,000 customers. Beginning today, T-Mobile will notify this group of users about their terms-of-service violations with a warning. Those who don't alter their tethering usage will be dropped down to T-Mobile's entry-level plan. T-Mobile says the move is meant to help protect its network for all users.
Microsoft escaped what could have been a harmful ban on its devices as the U.S. International Trade Commission decided not to block the import of Microsoft's smartphones into the U.S. Microsoft lost a patent case against InterDigital in April when it was found to be infringing on two patents. The individual trade judge who reached that decision recommended Microsoft's handsets be banned from import. The full ITC panel rejected that judge's decision on Friday, however, which means Microsoft will continue to be allowed to bring its handsets into the U.S. Microsoft expressed relief at the decision, while InterDigital voiced disappointment. Earlier this month, Microsoft filed an antitrust lawsuit against InterDigital, claiming the company charges exorbitant fees for standard-essential patents. Such patents must be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discrimonatory rates. InterDigital is a patent-holding company and has had mixed success in suing companies such as Samsung, ZTE, and Huawei.