Google today made several changes to its Google Lens visual search tool. First and foremost, it is adding Google Lens directly to the camera app of Pixel phones. Several other phone makers, including LG, Motorola, Nokia, Xiaomi, Asus, and Sony, will add Lens to their camera apps in the near future. With Lens, Google is relying on machine learning to help power Google searches based on what the camera sees. Google is baking more searching and shopping tools to Lens, making it easy for people to discover where they can buy items such as clothing with a function called Style Match. A feature called real-time results provides instant search results as people move their camera over items. It scans text, images, and other data points to search things such as concert posters, books, and such. The results offer links to more information, videos, images, as well as the ability to make purchases. Google says this update will reach Google Lens on the Pixel in the next few weeks. Google's partner OEMs have not specified exactly when they'll update their own camera apps with Lens.
Asus has a "lite" version of its flagship prepped for a March release. It will be called the Zenfone 5Q in the US. This phone isn't quite like the more high-end Zenfone 5. Instead, the Zenfone 5 Lite offers middling specs in a middling piece of hardware. It is unique in that it has four cameras, so that's something. Here are our first impressions.
Asus today announced the Zenfone 5, its flagship handset for the year. The Zenfone 5 takes a lot of cues from some well-known competing devices complete with a notch in the display. The 5z is a version in the same exact body with upgraded internal specs. It's a premium device thanks to glass surfaces, metal frame, and high-quality cameras. Here are our first impressions.
Asus today revealed its new flagship series handsets, the Zenfone 5, Zenfone 5 Lite, and Zenfone 5z. All three phone run Android 8 Oreo with the new ZenUI 5.0
- Zenfone 5 Lite / 5Q:Called the Zenfone 5Q in the US, this low end of the series has 2.5D curved class on the front and rear with a plastic frame in between. It boasts a 6-inch full HD+ 18:9 display. The Zenfone 5Q has four cameras, with an ultra-wide, 120-degree lens on each side. The main sensor on the rear captures 16-megapixel images, while the selfie camera has a Sony 20-megapixel sensor. It features a number of shooting modes, including portrait/bokeh. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 630 processor and will come with in 3 GB / 32 GB and 4 GB / 64 GB configurations. The phone ships with a 3,300mAh battery. Other features include NFC, dual SIM, face unlock, speaker, and microUSB.
- Zenfone 5: The middle of the pack is powered by a Snapdragon 636 processor with 6 GB of RAM. It features a massive 6.2-inch display with a 19:9 aspect ratio with full HD+ resolution. It can automatically adjust the color temperature to suit its surroundings. The display features a notch, similar to the iPhone X, where it holds an array of sensors and more. Asus shrunk the size of the status bar icons to ensure they fit. Tapping them will drop the notifications down so they are all visible. The camera includes OIS and an aperture of f/1.8 for the 12-megapixel main camera, which has a Sony IMX363 sensor. The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.0. The camera relies on AI-assisted scene detection to adjust for the subject. The company uses AI to improve the efficiency of the 3,300mAh battery, particularly when it is not being used. The phone includes stereo speakers and noise-cancelling microphones, DTS, and aptX. It will come with either 4 or 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. It supports dual SIMs and expandable memory cards.
- Zenfone 5z: The star of the series is the Zenfone 5z. It shares nearly all features with the Zenfone 5 — including an identical body externally — but it upgrades to the Snapdragon 845 processor from Qualcomm. Options will include 4, 6, or 8 GB of RAM and 64, 128, or 256 GB of storage.
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.
Qualcomm today announced the Qualcomm Artificial Intelligence Engine, a package of hardware and software components meant to help developers bring AI-assisted apps and services to Qualcomm-powered handsets. The AI Engine is supported on the Snapdragon 845, 835, 820, and 660 mobile platforms, though it shines brightest on the 845, which has its own AI processing built in. The AI Engine relies on three core hardware components: the Hexagon Vector Processor, the Adreno GPU, and the Kryo CPU. On the software side, Qualcomm's AI Engine runs on the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine, software that was created so developers can target the exact core they want powering their apps. The NPE supports Tensorflow, Caffe and Caffe2, and the Open Neural Network Exchange for developers. The AI Engine supports the Android Neural Networks API, which is baked into Android 8 Oreo, and gives developers access to Snapdragon hardware directly through the Android operating system. Last, the AI Engine banks on the Hexagon Neural Network Library so developers can run AI algorithms directly on the Hexagon Vector Processor. This powers machine learning and accelerates AI operations. Qualcomm says the sum of all these parts is real-time responsiveness, improved privacy, and enhanced reliability on the supported Snapdragon mobile platforms. Phone companies including Xiaomi, OnePlus, Vivo, Oppo, Motorola, Asus, ZTE, Nubia, Smartisan, and Blackshark were among the first to commit to using the AI Engine on future handsets. Qualcomm will be demonstrating the technology at the forthcoming Mobile World Congress trade show.
Asus is back with another smartphone for the U.S. market. The ZenFone Max Plus (M1) is an entry-level device that offers dual cameras, a large battery, and stock Android. Here is our first look at this low-cost smartphone.
Asus today announced the ZenFone Max Plus (M1), a new Android handset that goes big. The phone has a metal exterior and 2.5D curved glass on front to help give it a modern look. The phone includes a 5.7-inch screen at 720p resolution and it is powered by an octa-core processor with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. The phone adopts two cameras on the rear, one standard view and the other wide angle. The main sensor captures 16-megapixel images and can take advantage of PDAF, HDR, and an LED flash. The secondary sensor captures 8-megapixel images at 120-degrees wide. The front camera is either 8 megapixels or 16 megapixels, depending on the market. It comes with Asus' beautification software tools. Asus stuffed a 4,130mAh battery into the chassis, which provides long battery life. Other features include a fingerprint sensor, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and an FM radio. It runs Android 7 Nougat with ZenUI 4.0 on top. The phone supports LTE Bands 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 17, 28, which gives it basic support for U.S. networks. Asus said the phone will be sold in the U.S., though it didn't say if that would be direct to consumers or via carrier. (Verizon sells the ZenFone V Live.) The ZenFone Max Plus (M1) is priced at $229.
Google today said it has decided to wind down Project Tango, its ambitious augmented reality platform that used on-device cameras and sensors to blend reality with computer-generated content. "As we focus on bringing augmented reality to the entire Android ecosystem with ARCore, we’re turning down support of Tango," said Google. The company will officially cease to support Project Tango on March 1, 2018. The company worked with several hardware partners to create Project Tango handsets, which were laden with special equipment to make the platform work. The most recent such device was the Asus ZenFone AR, sold by Verizon Wireless. Moving forward, Google will push its ARCore platform as a means for generating and consuming augmented reality content on Android handsets. To that end, Google today released ARCore Developer Preview 2, an update to its augmented reality toolset for app writers. "We've taken everything we learned from [Project Tango] to build ARCore. Whereas Tango required special hardware, ARCore is a fast, performant, Android-scale SDK that enables high-quality augmented reality across millions of qualified mobile devices." The updated ARCore Developer Preview includes a new C API for use with the Android NDK. Google says this dovetails nicely with its existing Java, Unity, and Unreal SDKs. Another addition is the ability for AR apps to pause and resume without losing their spot in order to allow people to perform actions such as answering calls. Last, the new developer preview improves accuracy and runtime efficiency. Developers interested in the new ARCore Developer Preview can find it through Google's developer web site. Google says it expects ARCore-based apps will reach the Play Store before too long.
Verizon Wireless and Asus today announced the ZenFone V Live, a social media-focused handset that includes a real-time blemish remover. With the ZenFone V Live, people can take advantage of the selfie camera's beautification options to soften complexions and remove skin blemishes when livestreaming to Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. (Such effects are typically applied to still images after the fact.) Otherwise, the ZenFone V Live is a mid-range handset with curved glass and a metal body design. It has a 5-inch 720p HD display and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor with 2 GB of memory and 16 GB of storage. The 13-megapixel camera includes features such as panorama, slow-motion, time-lapse, and bokeh modes with boosted low-light performance. Additional features include a fingerprint reader, 3,000mAh battery, USB-C, and support for microSD memory cards. It runs Android 7 Nougat. Verizon is selling the Asus Zenfone V Live beginning today for $168, or $7 per month for 24 months.
Asus' mid-range ZenFone 4 and high-end ZenFone 4 Pro may look alike, but they differ quite a bit under the hood. Where the former is an affordable handset, the latter is closer in price to today's flagships. If you're looking for a finer Android phone from Asus, the ZenFone 4 and ZenFone 4 Pro are where you should start. Here are our initial thoughts.
The Asus ZenFone 4 Max series includes two budget-focused Android handsets. The two phones share most design characteristics and many specs, with the screens (5.2 inches and 5.5 inches) serving as the biggest differentiator. These unlocked devices are available online if you're looking for an affordable alternative to today's carrier fare. Here are our first impressions.
Asus recently announced plans to bring its ZenFone 4 series of phones to the U.S. unlocked market this year. The lineup includes the flagship ZenFone 4 Pro, the mid-range ZenFone 4, and two versions of the ZenFone 4 Max, both of which have large batteries but otherwise lower-end specs. The ZenFone 4 Max 5.5" is available now, while the rest will go on sale in the coming months. All have basic support for AT&T and T-Mobile LTE networks, including bands 2, 4, 5, and 12.
- ZenFone 4 Max 5.2": Has a 4,100 mAh battery, 5.2-inch HD LCD display, Snapdragon 425 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. Also includes a fingerprint reader, memory card slot, 13 megapixel camera, 5-megapixel wide-angle camera, and 8-megapixel front camera.
- ZenFone 4 Max 5.5": Has a 5,000 mAh battery, 5.5-inch HD LCD display, Snapdragon 430 processor, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and a metal body. Other features are the same as the 5.2" version. (shown)
- ZenFone 4: Has a 3,300 mAh battery, 5.5-inch Full-HD LCD display, Snapdragon 630 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, and a glass back. It also sports NFC, USB-C, Cat. 12 LTE, and a better main camera with OIS and 4K video recording. Like the rest of the series, it has dual rear cameras and the touch screen works through gloves.
- ZenFone 4 Pro: A flagship-class phone with all of the features of the ZenFone 4, plus a Snapdragon 835 processor, 6 GB of RAM, an AMOLED screen, 3,600 mAh battery, fast charging, auto-focus front camera, 16-megapixel telephoto camera (instead of a wide-angle camera), laser focusing, and better support for AT&T's LTE network with bands 29 and 30.
Asus recently unwrapped the ZenFone V, an Android smartphone that's exclusive to Verizon Wireless. The ZenFone V features a metal chassis with 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass on the front. The handset sports a 5.2-inch AMOLED display with full HD resolution. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor, Qualcomm's 2016 flagship chip, with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The main camera has a 23-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization, dual-LED flash, an aperture of f/2.0, and phase detection autofocus. The front camera boast an 8-megapixel sensor with a GIF maker and aperture of f/2.0. Other features include a 3,000mAh battery with rapid charging, high-resolution audio, fingerprint reader, and USB-C. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat with Asus' ZenUI, and it comes in black. Pricing and availability have not yet been disclosed.
The Asus ZenFone AR for Verizon is the first phone in the U.S. to support Google Tango, the advanced AR (augmented reality) platform for Android. It supports a small variety of apps so far. The most useful so far are online shopping apps that display virtual items for sale (such as furniture, decorations, fixtures, and appliances) in the room you're currently it. We take it for a spin by decorating a dingy subway station. Check out the full video to see Tango in action.
You can finally get a phone with Google's "Tango" AR technology in the US. The Asus ZenFone AR goes on sale with Verizon today. With support for Tango apps, it can scan the room and show you life-size, realistic virtual objects placed in the room in real time. It's also a powerful high-end phone with decent specs, especially in the camera department. What's it it like? We checked it out in person and have first impressions to share.
The Asus ZenFone AR is available to U.S. consumers today from Verizon Wireless. The phone, initially announced in January, is the first to support both Google's Project Tango augmented reality platform and Google's Daydream virtual reality platform. Triple cameras on the back support Tango applications with a 23-megapixel main camera, depth camera, and motion tracking camera. Asus says its PixelMaster 3.0 camera system uses Sony IMX318 sensors with a TriTech autofocus system. It includes 4-axis optical image stabilization for photos and 3-axis electronic stabilization for videos. Additional camera tools include low-light shooting, optimized presets, manual controls, and 4K video capture. Multiple microphones capture Hi-Res Audio and DTS virtual surround sound. The phone sports a 5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 6 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, and a vapor cooling system. Other features include NFC, memory card slot, USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack, and Cat 12 LTE. The 3,300 mAh battery supports Quick Charge 3.0. Verizon is selling the phone for $648, or $27 per month for 24 months on an installment plan. The phone will include the Wayfair augmented reality shopping application, which lets ZenFone AR owners add furniture and other items to their home virtually to see how it will look before making a purchase. People who order the phone from Verizon will be rewarded with a $25 Wayfair gift card. Asus is also selling unlocked versions of the phone directly to consumers with different RAM / storage combinations. The 6 GB / 64 GB model costs $599, while the 8 GB / 128 GB model costs $699.
Verizon Wireless will be the first U.S. carrier to offer a Project Tango smartphone to its customers. The forthcoming Asus ZenFone AR will arrive later this summer, according to Google executive Johnny Lee. The ZenFone AR is significantly smaller than the first Project Tango handset, which was the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. The ZenFone AR will also be compatible with Google's Daydream virtual reality platform. Asus first announced the ZenFone AR in January. It sports a 5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a vapor cooling system. Triple cameras on the back support Tango applications with a 23-megapixel main camera, depth camera, and motion tracking camera. Other features include NFC, memory card slot, USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack, and Cat 12 LTE. The 3,300 mAh battery supports Quick Charge 3.0. The exact availability is not yet known.
Google today provided some insight on its Daydream virtual reality platform and says a new version of Daydream will soon make its debut. Daydream 2.0 Euphrates targets standalone VR headsets and is powered by Android O. The entire experience is handled in virtual reality. Daydream 2.0 updates the home experience for standalone headsets and smartphones. Euphrates includes a new dashboard that will appear on top of any app and lets people remain in VR even when checking settings, reading notifications, and multitasking. Euphrates also adds Google Cast support, allowing people to pick a destination and cast from Daydream to other devices such as television sets. Daydream 2.0 makes it possible to capture screenshots and then share them via social networks. Google said there are eight Daydream compatible handsets right now, and it expects that number to increase significantly by the end of the year thanks to new entries from LG, Motorola, Asus, and others. Google believes tens of millions of Daydream devices will be in the market by the end of the year.
Project Tango, Google's augmented reality platform, gains a new virtual position system that can locate phones indoors. Google envisions it as a helpful tool in retail and similar environments, helping people navigate stores to find items. For example, Google is working with Lowe's stores as well as a handful of museums to bring VPS to real-world locations. Google thinks it might be particularly helpful for the visually impaired. Further, Google says a new Project Tango augmented reality handset from Asus will debut later this year. Asus didn't provide details about the new handset, which is called the ZenFone AR.
Asus today made the ZenFone 3 Zoom available from its web site for $329. The phone was first announced in January. The device relies on two cameras much like the iPhone 7 Plus to create a zooming effect. Both the standard and 25mm and 59mm lenses have 12-megapixel Sony IMX362 sensors. The main lens has an aperture of f/1.7. Other camera features include portrait mode, OIS, laser focusing, PDAF, RAW support, and a dedicated color sensor for improved white balance. The phone's user-facing camera has a 13-megapixel Sony IMX214 sensor with a 140-degree panorama mode. The 3 Zoom includes a 5,000 mAh battery that can be used to charge other devices via USB-C. Specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 5.5-in full-HD display with Gorilla Glass 5, fingerprint sensor, memory card slot, and 3.5mm audio jack. It ships with Android 6 Marshmallow, but Asus indicated that Android 7 will reach the phone via update soon. The ZenFone 3 Zoom supports GSM/LTE networks, including AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The phone is sold unlocked.
Asus today announced the ZenFone 3 Zoom, a new "optical zoom" phone that uses two cameras, much like the iPhone 7 Plus. Both the standard and 2.3x zoom cameras are 12-megapixel. It can also do a portrait mode with depth effect, and the main lens has f/1.7 aperture. Other camera features include OIS, laser focusing, RAW support, and a dedicated color sensor for improved white balance. It includes an extra-large 5,000 mAh battery that can be used to charge other devices via the USB-C connector. Specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 5.5-in full-HD display, fingerprint sensor, memory card slot, and 3.5mm audio jack. Its US version will include LTE band 17 to support AT&T's network.
Asus today announced the ZenFone AR, the first phone to support both Project Tango AR and Daydream VR from Google. This large phone sports a 5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, an unprecedented 8 GB of RAM, and an advanced vapor cooling system. Triple cameras on the back support Tango applications with a 23-megapixel main camera, depth camera, and motion tracking camera. Other features include NFC, memory card slot, USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack, and Cat 12 LTE. The 3,300 mAh battery supports Quick Charge 3.0. It will also run Android 7.0 Nougat and be available in Q2. The company did not announce which LTE bands the phone will support. The Qualcomm chip is a departure for Asus, which was previously one of the few major manufacturers to use Intel chips.
Asus is bringing its Zenfone 3 series of devices to the U.S. this month. This quartet of Android smartphones is attractive thanks to all-metal designs, good build quality, and solid specs. Asus is covering a broad range of price points by changing up the components within each phone, but all four share a commonality that makes them family through and through. Here are our first impressions of the Asus Zenfone 3.
Asus today announced pricing and availability for its Zenfone 3 family of smartphones. The Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.7 Special Edition, Deluxe 5.7, Deluxe 5.5, and Laser will all be sold unlocked, directly to consumers via Asus' web site. The phones share nearly identical designs, with aluminum unibody chassis, full HD AMOLED displays, rear-mounted fingerprint readers, dual SIM card and memory card support, USB Type-C, Android 6 Marshmallow, and Asus' ZenUI 3.0. The Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.7 Special Edition is the most significant of the bunch, as it is one of the first devices to ship with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor aboard with 256 MB of built-in storage. The Deluxe 5.7 Special Edition and Deluxe 5.7 share most other features, including a Sony Exmor 23-megapixel camera with OIS/EIS, but the Deluxe 5.7 uses a Snapdragon 820 processor. The Deluxe 5.5 steps down the display to 5.5 inches, and includes a Snapdragon 625 processor with 4 GB of RAM and a 16-megapixel camera. The Zenfone 3 Laser is the budget-minded member of the family with a Snapdragon 430 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 13-megapixel camera. The phones support the GSM/LTE networks operated by AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and MetroPCS. The Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.7 Special Edition costs $799, the Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.7 costs $499, and Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.5 costs $399. These three phones are available for preorder and will ship later this month. The Zenfone 3 Laser costs $199 and is shipping today.
Asus today announced the ZenWatch 3, its third-generation Android Wear-based smartwatch. The ZenWatch 3 is the first round wearable from Asus and features a rose gold accent surrounding the watch face. The smartwatch is made from stainless steel and comes in gunmetal, silver, and rose gold. The chassis measures 9.95mm thick and Asus says it is strong enough to withstand the rigors of daily use. The watch will be sold with leather or plastic bands. There are three buttons around the exterior edge for controlling the watch, one of which can be customized to launch user-defined actions. Asus says the ZenWatch 3 will have more than 50 watch faces preloaded, many of which support complications, such as the weather, step counts, or notifications. A separate app will allow owners to design their own watch faces. A new health-focused app is better at counting steps and can remind people to move after long periods of inactivity. Last, Asus claims the ZenWatch 3 offers two days of battery life and can take advantage of rapid charging to reach a 60% charge in just 15 minutes. More details are yet to be announced.
The Asus Zenfone 3 will come in not one, but three variants. Asus revealed the new lineup at the Computex trade show in Taiwan this week. Shared features include USB Type-C, fingerprint sensors, and Google's Android operating system.
- Zenfone 3: The entry-level model uses a glass design with a metal frame. It sports a 5.5-inch full HD screen, octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor with 4 GB of RAM, 3,000mAh battery, and 16-megapixel Sony sensor with OIS and EIS. It will cost $249.
- Zenfone 3 Ultra: This mid-range handset has a unibody metal design and steps up the specs a bit. The screen measures 5.7 inches with full HD resolution and it is powered by a Snapdragon 652 processor with 4 GB of RAM. The Deluxe carries over the same 3,000mAh battery found on the entry-level model, but takes advantage of Sony's latest 23-megapixel IMX318 sensor in the camera. It supports Quick Charge 3.0 and will cost $479.
- Zenfone 3 Deluxe: The top of the range has a unibody design similar to that of the Ultra, but increases the screen size to 6.8 inches at full HD. The Deluxe relies on a Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM. It carries over the same 23-megapixel Sony sensor from the Ultra model, but the battery capacity was enlarged to 4,600mAh. It supports Quick Charge 3.0 and will cost $499.
Google today said its Chrome operating system will soon have access to the Google Play Store and the Android apps therein. ChromeOS will support all Android phone and tablet apps, including games, productivity apps, and social networking. Android apps can run in three different window sizes in ChromeOS and users will be able to move the windows around and multitask as needed. Keyboard, mouse, and touch input will all work together within Android apps, and Android-based notifications will be pushed to Chromebooks as well as phones. Moreover, users will be able share files seamlessly between Chrome and Android devices through a new Files app. Google says developers can add admin-level network support to their Android apps for Chrome so businesses and schools can control options such as Bluetooth and WiFi. Android games should run very well on Chromebooks, according to Google. Google Play for Chrome will be available to developers on the Asus Chromebook Flip, Acer Chromebook R 11, and the Chromebook Pixel with a wider launch expected later this year. Google says it will add support for Android apps to more Chromebooks over time. ChromeOS is Google's light-weight, browser-based operating system that runs on inexpensive laptops.
Google today announced Daydream, a brand new platform for expanding virtual reality to more devices. The Daydream spec will be defined so hardware makers can make sure they create compatible phones. Android N will be able to tell if phones are Daydream ready based on the sensors, display, and processor within. Android N brings improvements to performance VR thanks to low latency (20ms) and the simplified system user interface. At the same time, Google created a blueprint for Daydream-compatible headsets. It will share the headset / controller blueprints with device makers. Google believes a secondary controller (like a small remote) will help the Daydream VR experience. Google expects Daydream-ready devices, including phones from Samsung, Alcatel, and Asus, to reach the market by fall.
Google today announced Android Wear 1.4, which adds a fistful of new features. Chiefly, Android-based smartwatches can now make and take calls via Bluetooth when the wearable itself includes a speaker. Google says this is limited to the Huawei Watch and the ASUS ZenWatch 2 at the moment, but it expects more watches to ship with speakers and calling support over time. Watches with speakers can also be used to listen to audio messages from apps such as Glide. Android Wear 1.4 also expands the number of apps able to use voice actions to dictate and send messages, which now includes, Google Hangouts, Nextplus, Telegram, Viber, WeChat, and WhatsApp. Last, Google added a few new wrist gestures to the platform. For example, Android smartwatches can now expand cards, bring up the app drawer, or return home with a push, lift, or shake, respectively. Google says Android Wear 1.4 is rolling out to Android smartwatches over the next few days.
Asus today announced plans to bring the Zenfone Zoom to the U.S. The Zoom was first announced a full year ago at CES 2015. This Android smartphone features a 13-megapixel camera with a 10-element lens, 3x optical zoom, laser focusing, optical image stabilization, and macro mode. The Zoom camera app sports a full manual mode with control over white balance, focus, and exposure. The front camera is 5 megapixels. The Zoom has a 5.5-inch full HD display and runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. It supports LTE bands compatible with AT&T and has a 3000 mAh battery. It will be available beginning in February for $399.
GoPhone, AT&T's prepaid brand, today dropped the prices of several handsets. Customers who activate a plan costing $45 or more can snag the ZTE Maven for free, or receive $40 off a small selection of other devices. After the new-line discount, for example, the Asus Zenfone 2E costs $59.99, the Microsoft Lumia 640 costs $19.99, the Motorola Moto E costs $14.99, and the ZTE ZMax 2 costs $89.99. AT&T did not say how long the discounts will be available, but they kick off beginning today.
Asus today announced the ZenFone 2 Laser, which will be sold unlocked in the U.S. The Laser looks nearly identical to the ZenFone 2, but makes a number of tasteful upgrades that add up to a much more capable handset. The ZenFone 2 Laser has a 5.5-inch full HD screen protected by Gorilla Glass 4. The processor has been improved to an octa-core Snapdragon 615 with 3GB of RAM, 16/32GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 128GB. The Laser's 13-megapixel camera has an aperture of f/2.0 with dual LED flash, and has been upgraded with laser-assisted focus. The front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with f/2.0 aperture and wide 85-degree field of view. The phone has a 3,000mAh battery, which can be removed. It includes Bluetooth 4.1, WiFi, GPS, and LTE Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 17, and 20. The ZenFone 2 Laser runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and ships with Asus' ZenUI 2.0. The Laser is available from Newegg and Asus.com starting today for $199/$249.
Asus and Microsoft has expanded the scale of an existing patent-licensing agreement between them and expect the change to benefit customers. The cross-licensing deal will allow Asus and Microsoft to use one another's technologies in their own products. Moreover, Asus said it will let the two work closer together on products down the road. Last, the deal will result in Microsoft's Office productivity suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) being preloaded on Asus Android smartphones and tablets. Samsung also preloads Office on some of its Android devices. Terms of the agreement between Asus and Microsoft were not disclosed.
The ZenWatch 2 is an Android Wear watch available for an unusually low price of well under $200. We checked it out.
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 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.
Google today announced the OnHub, a WiFi router meant for use in the home. Google and hardware partner TP-LINK hid the antennas inside and gave the router a more useful set of lights so people will be more apt to put it out in the open, where it will work better. Google says the device automatically selects the best frequencies for optimal performance and an accompanying app (Android and iOS) lets owners manage it remotely. The app can provide details about bandwidth usage, run network checks, and suggest fixes to problems. It also lets people more easily control the router's password. The OnHub will update the firmware automatically to keep it secure and add new features. It supports Bluetooth Smart Ready, Weave, and 802.15.4 for potential connected-home uses. Google said it expects to release more OnHub-branded products later this year with Asus. The OnHub WiFi router is available for preorder today. It costs $199 and will ship in the coming weeks.
Asus today announced the ZenFone 2E for AT&T's GoPhone prepaid service. This entry-level handset features a 5-inch 720p HD screen, and relies on a dual-core Intel Atom Z2560 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. Asus says the Atom chip works hand-in-hand with the PowerVR SGX544 MP2 GPU for smooth gaming performance. The ZenFone 2E has an 8-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture and a 2-megapixel front camera. The 2,500mAh battery is good for more than 19 hours of talk time. It includes Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, GPS, and support for LTE. The phone runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with Asus' Zen UI skin on top. The ZenFone 2E is available today at Target and Walmart stores, and reaches AT&T stores on July 24 and Best Buy on August 2. The phone costs $119.99.
HTC is not interested in being acquired by Asus, said the company today. Last week, Asus' executive team suggested it was considering such a move, but hadn't made a final decision. "[HTC] has not made any contact with Asus regarding this matter," said HTC on its web site, "and it will not consider a merger with Asus. As an international brand, HTC will continue to design world-class innovative smart devices through its pursuit of brilliance brand promise." Asus is much larger than HTC, which has struggled in recent years to bounce back from sagging smartphone sales. HTC recently forecast a significant drop in profits for the current quarter. Its financial position leaves it susceptible to acquisition.