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Hands On with Alcatel's new 3 Series Phones

Yesterday, 1:03 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Yesterday, 2:58 PM

Alcatel has a new lineup of very affordable Android phones with 2:1 displays. They come in three sizes. Some have curved-edge glass on the front, and one has a dual camera setup with a wide-angle lens. Read on for our first impressions of the newly-announced 3 and 3x models.

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Alcatel 5 Series to Serve As TCL's Budget Flagship Phone

Yesterday, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today announced the Alcatel 5 Series, an Android handset that TCL describes as an "affordable flagship." The phone has a brushed metallic unibody design with a rear-mounted fingerprint reader and face ID for rapid unlocking. Core features include a 5.7-inch display with HD+ (1,440 by 720) resolution and the 18:9 aspect ratio. TCL opted for an octa-core MediaTek processor with four cores clocked at 1.5 GHz for high-power tasks and four clocked at 1.0 GHz for low-power tasks. The phone comes with either 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, or 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. Both variants support microSD cards up to 32 GB. The device has a single 12-megapixel camera on the rear at f/2.2 with EIS, HDR, and panorama. TCL added new editing tools called Social Mode, which allow owners to take and review square images at the same time, create instant collages, and apply filters through the Photo Booth mode. The 5 Series is unique in that it has two front-facing cameras, one at 13 megapixels and the other at 5 megapixels. The secondary lens offers wide-angle selfies. Other selfie tools include face beautification, face recognition, and video stories. TCL says the Face Key identity tool takes less than half a second to recognize the owner's face. Further, the fingerprint reader can be customized to take different actions depending on which finger unlocks the phone, such as the camera with an index finger or Facebook with a middle finger. Rounding out the specs, the Alcatel 5 Series has a 3,000mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi, GPS, Cat 4 LTE, USB-C, and an FM radio. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat and comes in black or gold. It is available immediately in select markets for about $250.

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Alcatel 3 Series to Come In Three Different Sizes

Yesterday, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced its 3 Series smartphones, part of its larger family of new Android handsets. The 3 Series encompasses three phones that will offer screens measuring 5.5 inches (3), 5.7 inches (3X), and 6 inches (3V). All three screens adopt the 18:9 aspect ratio. While the 3 and 3x use HD+ (1,440 by 720) resolution, the 3V jumps to full HD+ (2,160 by 1,080) resolution. All three phones share a number of features, such as 2.5D curved front glass, curved rear panels, dual cameras, and fingerprint sensors. Each includes Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, microUSB, memory card support, and LTE 4G. The 3 series phones share the same 5-megapixel selfie camera with LED flash, and each packs a 3,000mAh battery.

  • 3V: The largest of the three phones (pictured) includes a quad-core MediaTek processor clocked at 1.45 GHz with 2 GB of RAM and 16 or 32 GB of storage. The rear camera has a 12-megapixel main sensor and 2-megapixel secondary sensor for bokeh-style photos. Other camera features include HDR, panorama, EIS, filters, and video stabilization. It comes in black, gold, or blue, and runs Android 8 Oreo.
  • 3X: The mid-sized member of this pack has a quad-core MediaTek processor clocked at 1.28 GHz and it ships with with 2 or 3 GB of RAM and either 16 or 32 GB of storage, depending on the variant. Its dual-camera setup includes a 13-megapixel main sensor with HDR, two-tone LED flash, and EIS, accompanied by a 5-megapixel secondary sensor with wide-angle shooting. It comes in blue, black, or gold, and runs Android 7 Nougat.
  • 3: The smallest of the three phones has a quad-core MediaTek processor clocked at 1.28 GHz and it ships with with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The camera boasts a 13-megapixel sensor with EIS and HDR. The Alcatel 3 runs Android 8 Oreo and comes in blue, black, or gold.
TCL said the 3 Series handsets will go on sale in select markets starting in April. Pricing ranges from about $150 to about $225, depending on the configuration. The company didn't specify if or when these phones might be sold in the U.S.

Alcatel 1x to Be TCL's First Android Go Phone

Yesterday, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL's Alcatel brand today announced the 1x, an entry-level Android device that runs Android 8.1 Oreo Go Edition. The phone is part of TCL's new lineup of Android handsets, all of which feature 18:9 displays. The 1x has a 5.3-inch screen with 960 by 480 resolution and it is powered by a quad-core MediaTek processor clocked at 1.28 GHz. The phone ships with 1 or 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor at f/2.0 with EIS and HDR, while the user-facing camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with selfie flash. Other hardware features include Cat 4 LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi; microUSB and memory card slot; and a 2,420mAh battery. Some variants of the phone will include a fingerprint reader. The phone is among a new wave of Android Go-based devices. It includes Go-optimized versions of core apps, including Google Assistant Go, Google Go, Files Go, Google Maps Go, YouTube Go, and Gmail Go, as well as performance optimizations to Chrome, Google Play, and Gboard. The Android Go platform is designed to run on low-spec'd hardware, particularly phones with 1 GB or less of RAM. The Alcatel 1x will go on sale in select markets in April. TCL didn't immediately say if or when the 1x might reach the U.S.

Alcatel Linkzone Hotspots Adopt Carrier Aggregation

Yesterday, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced two new mobile hotspots, the Linkzone Cat 12 and Linkzone Cat 7. The Cat 12 hotspot boasts a large 4,300mAh battery that delivers 15 hours of connected surfing for up to 32 devices. The Cat 12 LTE radio delivers download speeds up to 600 Mbps thanks to 3-channel carrier aggregation. The Cat 7 hotspot has a smaller 2,150mAh battery that delivers up to 8 hours of surfing time. The Cat 7 LTE radio supports download speeds up to 300 Mbps due to 2-channel carrier aggregation. Both devices support microSD memory cards up to 256 GB for connected storage. TCL says the Alcatel Linkzone Cat 12 and Linkzone Cat 7 all go on sale in select markets later this year. Pricing is about $200 for the Cat 12 and $125 for the Cat 7.

Google's ARCore 1.0 Released to Public, Google Lens Hits More Handsets

Friday, 11:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made ARCore 1.0 available to developers and the public, bringing augmented reality to some 100 million smartphones around the world. Handsets compatible with ARCore include Google’s Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL; Samsung’s Galaxy S8, S8+, Note8, S7, and S7 edge; LGE’s V30 and V30+; Asus’s Zenfone AR; and OnePlus’s OnePlus 5. More devices from Samsung, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Asus, Xiaomi, HMD/Nokia, ZTE, Sony Mobile, and Vivo will be compatible with ARCore later this year. The 1.0 release gives developers an updated set of tools to create virtual content. For example, it features improved environmental understanding that lets people put virtual objects on surfaces like posters, furniture, toy boxes, books, cans, and more. The refreshed Android Studio Beta supports ARCore in the Emulator, so developers can get to work right away. Some of the first brands to offer ARCore content include Porsche, FC Barcelona, and Sotheby's. Google says it is expanding the availability of the Google Lens Preview, which lets you take a picture and gather information about what's in the image. Google says Lens will hit all Google Photos English-language users over the coming weeks. Further, Google is going to add Google Lens to its Google Assistant on select Android flagship devices. Lens lets people create contacts from business cards, recognize plants and animals, and add events to their calendar by taking photos.

Android Messages with RCS to Reach More Phones On More Carriers

Friday, 10:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google says its Android Messages app is on the upswing thanks to new RCS-based tools and growing support from phone makers and wireless network operators. To start, brands now have more power to interact with consumers thanks to RCS business messaging. Google says brands can "send more useful and interactive messages" to their customers with photos, videos, and links for purchasing. A number of companies have been testing RCS business messaging via Google's Early Access Program. Some include 1-800 Contacts, 1-800-Flowers.com, Booking.com, SnapTravel, and Subway — all on Sprint in the U.S. Google says more businesses will be deploying richer messaging via the Android Messages app over the coming months. The Android Messages app has gained a lot of traction with phone makers and carriers, and more support is on the way. Moving forward, Alcatel, BlackBerry, Transsion, Blu, Positivo, Multilaser, Mobiwire, Azumi, and Essential will all preload Android Messages as the default SMS/messaging app. A number of phone makers already offer Android Messages, including Huawei, LG, HMD Global, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, Sony, and ZTE. The app has a growing footprint with carriers, as well. Google says America Movil, AT&T in Mexico, Celcom Axiata Berhad, Freedom Mobile, Oi, Telia Company, and Telefonica have joined Deutsche Telekom, Globe Telecom, Orange, Rogers Communications, Sprint, and Telenor in their commitment to launch RCS messaging. Sprint is the lone U.S. carrier to go all-in with Google's RCS and Android Messages. AT&T and Verizon each offers its own RCS-based messaging client for Android handsets. Google believes this new momentum for RCS and Android Messages will eventually mean a better messaging experience between people, brands, and more.

T-Mobile and Nokia Hit 1.3Gbps Downloads Using LAA

Friday, 10:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Moble says it has attained download speeds of 1.3 Gbps using LTE-LAA technology from Nokia. The result was reached in a lab using Nokia's commercial Nokia AirScale Micro RRH platform. The companies paired licensed and unlicensed bands using five-channel carrier aggregation, 256 QAM, 4x4 MIMO, and LAA on 14 antenna layers. LTE-LAA is a stepping stone between today's 4G and future 5G networks. T-Mobile says it plans to deploy LTE-LAA in small cell configurations in high-traffic urban locations to help densify its network, boost speeds, and improve capacity. T-Mobile didn't say what markets might gain access to this network technology, nor what devices might support it.

Google Working with Carriers and Phone Makers to Expand Assistant's Reach and Capabilities

Friday, 9:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said the Google Assistant is prepared to grow in a number of significant ways. First, the voice-activated tool is picking up some new languages. Google says Assistant will speak Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai on Android phones and iPhones in the next few months, with more languages on the way. Google expects Assistant to understand as many as 30 languages by the end of the year. Further, Google Assistant will be able to understand multiple languages at a time, meaning people can speak both English and German to their Assistant without changing settings. This feature will first be available between English, French, and German, with other languages to follow. Google also noted that it is working more directly from carriers and phone makers to improve Assistant. For example, LG, Sony, and Xiaomi are all prepared to rollout device-specific commands and features based on Google Assistant. Moreover, carriers Sprint, Koodo, Telus, and Vodafone are developing integrations with Assistant. Between the phone makers and carriers, Google expects Assistant to support individual device features, customer service queries, and more. Last, Google Assistant is adding two new tools to help people manage their day. Routines let people issue one command and set off a chain of actions. For example, say "Hey Google, I’m home" and the Assistant on Google Home or phone can turn on the lights, share any home reminders, play your favorite music, and more. Location-based reminders have now expanded to Google Home speakers. People can tell Assistant on their speaker to set reminders for specific locations, such as to get milk when at the store, and the alert will popup when appropriate. Google expects to bring even more features to Assistant throughout the year.

Samsung Max Offers Data Savings and Security for Android

Friday, 9:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced Samsung Max, a free app for Android devices that will provide new data conservation and security tools. The app, a reborn version of the former Opera Max app, includes Data Saving Mode to help people stretch their mobile data buckets a bit further each month. The app can monitor which apps are using data and alert users to apps that consume too much. It also helps by actively compressing images, videos, music files, and web pages within apps and the browser to keep data consumption down. People can fine-tune how Data Saving Mode polices other apps in the advanced settings tools. On the security front, Samsung Max includes Privacy Protection Mode, a VPN for securing phones when on WiFi. It encrypts WiFi traffic with a single tap, blocks trackers and cookies, and includes a Domain Name System masking service to hide the user's location. Samsung says Samsung Max will reach the Google Play Store on February 23. The company will also preinstall it on some devices later this year.

Google Says New Android Oreo Go and Android One Phones On Deck for MWC

Thursday, 12:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today highlighted some forthcoming announcements that should have Android fans excited. To start, the company says a number of its handset partners are bringing new Android Oreo Go devices to market, and that the phones will be available for purchase soon. Android Oreo Go is a lightweight version of Android that can run on inexpensive devices with 1G of RAM or less. Google has built light versions of Gmail, YouTube, Search, and other apps so people with Android Go devices can still access information and entertainment on the go. Further, Google's hardware partners have new Android One phones in the works. Android One is a pure version of the platform that includes a streamlined user interface, regular security updates, major system upgrades, and solid performance. Google said it also has news regarding Google Assistant, Google Lens, and its RCS efforts for mobile messaging. Specific announcements are expected as soon as Sunday, February 25.

Cat's Rugged S61 Improves Thermal Camera

Thursday, 11:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cat Phones today unveiled the S61, an update to the S60. The S61 is a fully rugged Android smartphone that is waterproof, dirtproof, and able to handle temperature extremes, drops, vibration, and salt water. The S61 provides a major upgrade to the FLIR Lepton thermal imaging camera, which now offers higher resolution imagery (up to full HD) and a wider range of readable temperatures (-20C to 400C). Owners can even livestream thermal video to Facebook if they wish. A new indoor air quality sensor alerts people to high levels of indoor air pollutants, such as paints or solvents, and will sound an alarm of levels become dangerous. The S61 packs a laser-assisted distance/area measuring tool that has a range of 32 feet. The S61 includes a 5.2-inch full HD display with Gorilla Glass 5, glove sensitivity, and wet-finger tracking. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 630 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. A standard 16-megapixel camera adorns the back and an 8-megapixel shooter is on front. Other specs include USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack, FM radio, Bluetooth 5.0, and a 4,500mAh battery with Quick Charge 4.0. Cat says the S61 will go on sale during the second quarter. Pricing in the U.S. is expected to be in excess of $1,000.

Net Neutrality Repeal Goes Into Effect April 23

Thursday, 9:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today published its "Restoring Internet Freedom" rules governing net neutrality in the Federal Register. Per the filing, the agency will repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules effective April 23. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai believes the open market, rather than actual rules, will prevent telecommunications companies from acting in bad faith. Pai is doing away with bright-line rules that prevent throttling and paid-prioritization and suggests that as long as companies are transparent about their policies all will be good. Further, the FCC believes the FTC should take on a greater role in protecting consumers. The FTC, however, is a reactionary body that takes steps only after grievances have occurred. The move is seen as a victory for telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon. April 23 may mark the official end of net neutrality rules, but the FCC's order is the target of litigation. The attorneys general from 21 states plan to sue the FCC in a bid to overturn the reversal. Further, the governors of Montana, New Jersey, and New York have introduced their own rules that compel telecommunications firms to abide by at least some elements to treat web traffic equally. Similarly, some 50 senators have agreed to introduce legislation that would keep net neutrality rules in place, as well as give control over the matter to Congress. Many consumer groups have also vowed to fight the new rules.

Intel Targeting 2019 5G Launch in Phones and PCs

Thursday, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Intel today announced a range of efforts in the 5G space, including its timeline for bringing new Intel-powered 5G devices to market. The company says it has been developing 5G technology for some now, including virtualized network functionality and software defined networks. It is relying on the 3GPP 5G NR spec and is working with vendors and partners to create an ecosystem of products to support 5G as it rolls out. One of the primary pieces of the 5G puzzle is Intel's recently announced Xeon D-2100 system-on-a-chip (SoC) processor. It can handle intensive compute and network workloads demanded by 5G at the network edge. Further, Intel has partnered with China's Unigroup Spreadtrum and will pair a Spreadtrum processor with its own XMM 8000 5G modem. Intel expects to see phones packing the combined Spreadtrum/Intel SoC during the second half of 2019. PCs with embedded 5G are on the horizon, too. PC makers Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft all plan to enable their mobile computers to support 5G connections with the Intel XMM 8060 modem. Intel and its partners will have some concepts on display at the forthcoming Mobile World Congress trade show. They also expect to bring these concepts to market during the second half of 2019.

LG Refreshes K8 and K10 Series Phones

Thursday, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today revealed two new handsets, 2018 updates to its K8 and K10 mid-range series. Both phones carry over the previous generations' pebble-shaped contours and 2.5D arc glass, but make advancements in the materials. The K10, for example, has a U-shaped metal frame while the K8 relies on polycarbonate. Shared features between the new K8 and K10 include improved low-light photography thanks to Low Light Noise reduction that's combined with HDR to eliminate grain and provide more luminosity and contrast. The cameras also gain a new Timer Helper feature that uses the flash as a visual guide during timer countdowns. The Flash Jump Shot feature takes one photo every three seconds and pastes them together into a shareable GIF. Shared specs include LTE, GPS, Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi, FM radio, microUSB, and Android 7 Nougat.

  • K10: The larger of the two phones includes a 5.3-inch 720p display and a 1.5 GHz octa-core processor. It will ship with 2 or 3 GB of RAM and 16 or 32 GB of storage, depending on the variant. The phone features a 13-megapixel main camera and either a 5- or 8-megapixel wide-angle front camera. The selfie camera can capture bokeh-style shots. Other features include a 3,000mAh battery and fingerprint reader.
  • K8: The K8 steps down to a 5-inch 720p display and a 1.3 GHz quad-core processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The rear camera has an 8-megapixel sensor while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. It has a 2,500mAh battery.
LG says both phones will be sold globally, though it didn't specify if the K8 or K10 will reach North America. The phones come in blue, black, or gold. LG didn't say when the phones will go on sale.

Samsung Will Manufacture Qualcomm's 5G Chips

Thursday, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today said it has expanded its long-standing agreement with Samsung to use the company's foundries to manufacture Snapdragon 5G mobile chipsets. Samsung's new 7-nanometer, low power plus (LPP), extreme ultra violet (EUV) lithography techniques produce significantly smaller chips that give phone makers more space in their designs. The 7LPP process also provides significant improvements to battery life. Compared to Samsung's older 10nm FinFET process, the 7LPP EUV process boosts chip efficiency by 40%, with a 10% increase in performance or a 35% drop in power consumption. Neither company provided a timeline for expected manufacturing of the chips, nor did they suggest when such chips might reach phones or other mobile devices.

Broadcom Lowers Offer for Qualcomm, Qualcomm Says No Way

Thursday, 8:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Broadcom revised its offer to acquire Qualcomm downward by $3 per share after Qualcomm increased its own bid to buy NXP Semiconductors. Broadcom said, "Qualcomm's board acted against the best interests of its stockholders by unilaterally transferring excessive value to NXP's activist stockholders." Broadcom would have preferred to see Qualcomm act together with Broadcom to broker the right deal for NXP while still allowing Broadcom to move forward with its own offer to buy Qualcomm. Qualcomm wasn't impressed with Broadcom's revised offer. "Broadcom’s reduced proposal has made an inadequate offer even worse despite the clear increase in value to Qualcomm stockholders from providing certainty around the NXP acquisition," said the company in a statement. "Broadcom has refused and continues to refuse to engage with Qualcomm on price." Broadcom says it is still committed to buying Qualcomm, but Qualcomm feels Broadcom's current plan doesn't properly value Qualcomm and, most importantly, has little chance of success.

Apple Seeds Third Public Beta of iOS 11.3

Wednesday, 1:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 11.3 Beta 3 available to those signed up to test pre-release versions of the platform. iOS 11.3 tweaks performance and includes the battery health meter for certain devices. The tool is meant to help people balance battery life and speed/performance of older iPhones. Other new features of iOS 11.3 include new animoji, new business chat functions in iMessages, and an update version of Apple’s ARKit augmented reality. Of note, the AirPlay 2 features that appeared in the second beta has been removed for the time being. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring. Earlier this week, the company released iOS 11.2.6 to resolve several bugs. Apple also released tvOS 11.3 Beta 3 and macOS 10.13 Beta 3.

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