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Created by Google, Android is a smartphone OS and platform that is open-source and open for any manufacturer to use to make a smartphone. Most Android phones use a version that is mostly provided by Google and requires Google services. Android phones can run Android apps, available from the Google Play Store, or, optionally, from other sources.

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BlackBerry and Microsoft Partner On Mobile Services

Today, 8:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry and Microsoft announced a new partnership that will see the two deliver mobile software and services to businesses customers. A new solution, called BlackBerry Bridge, lets business users access Microsoft mobile apps from within BackBerry Dynamics. This means corporate employees will have the same experience opening, editing, and saving Microsoft Office documents on any Android or iOS device. It gives mobile workers a secure way to access their files that are immediately backed up in Microsoft's cloud. Microsoft says the partnership also brings new powers to the IT department, which will better be able to secure company data and maintain privacy while remaining compliant with regulatory statutes. In order to make this work, the companies have integrated BlackBerry UEM Cloud, Workspaces, Dynamics, and AtHoc into the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Microsoft and BlackBerry didn't specify how quickly these new services will be available to their customers.

Google Play Instant Lets You Test-Drive Games Without Downloading Them

Yesterday, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced several changes to the Google Play Store and Google Play Games apps that should entice Android device owners to check out the latest games. A new feature called Google Instant Play lets people tap and try games directly in the Google Play Store and Google Play Games app without first downloading the game. Google first introduced Instant Apps in the Play Store last year. Play Instant marks the tool's expansion to gaming. Google says it is starting with a few sample games today and will post more Instant Play games over the course of the year. Google is also making games more visible in order to appear to game developers. The Google Play Games app now includes an "Arcade" tab that lets people view game trailers or take advantage of new tags to browse through game categories. Last, the Google Play Games app will include YouTube videos related to users' favorite games, such as tutorials, to help them boost their skills and/or interest in the game. Google says these new features are hitting the Google Play Store and Google Play Games apps for most Android handsets.

Alcatel Says 1X with Android Go and 3V to Hit US In Coming Months

Friday, 1:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 12:14 PM

TCL today announced that it intends to sell the Alcatel 1X with Android Go and the Alcatel 3V in the U.S. at some point over the next few months. Both phones were announced earlier this year. The Alcatel 1X (pictured) is a small, entry-level device with the Android 8.1 Oreo Go Edition on board. Android Go is intended for low-powered phones and includes optimized Go variants of core apps such as Gmail, Maps, and YouTube. The 1X has a 5.3-inch, 18:9 screen with a quad-core MediaTek processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, 8-megapixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera. The U.S. version, priced at $100, will include a fingerprint reader. The Alcatel 3V has a 6-inch, 18:9 display and includes a quad-core MediaTek processor with 2 GB of RAM and at least 16 GB of storage. The rear camera has a 12-megapixel main sensor and 2-megapixel secondary sensor for bokeh-style photos. The 3V comes in black, gold, or blue with a fingerprint reader, and runs Android 8 Oreo. TCL said more details will be made available soon.

Google Rebrands 'Android Wear' as 'Wear OS by Google'

Mar 15, 2018, 10:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is getting rid of the Android Wear brand that has been a part of its smartwatch strategy for years. Moving forward, Google's platform for wearable devices will be called Wear OS by Google. "As our technology and partnerships have evolved, so have our users. In 2017, one out of three new Android Wear watch owners also used an iPhone," explained Google in a blog post. "We’re announcing a new name that better reflects our technology, vision, and most important of all — the people who wear our watches. We’re now Wear OS by Google, a wearables operating system for everyone." Google didn't say if the OS or platform will change along with the name. It did, however, say that smartwatch and phone apps will be updated with the new name over the coming weeks.

YouTube Debuts Dark Mode on Android and iOS

Mar 13, 2018, 7:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

YouTube today updated its mobile app for Android and iOS devices with a dark theme. The latest version of YouTube allows people to opt between light and dark theme. The dark theme changes the white background to dark gray. This makes the app easier on the eyes during nighttime viewing. The update is rolling out over the next few days.

Essential Phone Being Updated to Android Oreo 8.1

Mar 13, 2018, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products today said that the PH-1 Essential Phone is now receiving the Android Oreo 8.1 update. Essential says both beta testers and general users should be able to check for and download the update via the systems settings. Essential had been testing the Oreo build in beta for the last few months. Core improvement include notification dots, picture-in-picture, and autofill. The update is free to install.

Google Adds Captions to Image Search Results

Mar 13, 2018, 11:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is now providing more information in image search results. When people perform searches using Google Images, they'll see new captions that include the title of the web page where the result is published. Google believes this will give the results more context that is easily discerned from the main results page. Google already offers badges that call out image results based on what type they may be, such as products or recipes. Image search results also already include web site domains and URLs so people can see where the image is coming from. Google says image captions are rolling out globally today in the Google Search app for Android and iOS.

FitBit Steps Up Its Smartwatch Game with Versa and Ace

Mar 13, 2018, 8:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FitBit today announce a range of new wearables, including a new smartwatch and a new fitness tracker specifically for children. The Versa is a smartwatch aimed at the masses thanks to its $200 price point and solid list of features. It includes a color touch screen, accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate monitor, altimeter, light sensor, vibration motor, WiFi, Bluetooth LE, and NFC. These sensors allow the Versa to track 15 different exercise modes, including swimming, assess cardio fitness level, provide personal reminders, track sleep, store and play music, and make mobile payments. Battery life is as good as four days. The Versa is compatible with Android and iOS. FitBit is accepting preorders now and expects the wearable to ship next month. The Ace is a simple movement tracker for kids. It is a wristband that counts steps, lets kids share and compare with family members and friends, participate in step challenges, as well as track sleep. Battery life is as good as five days. The Ace costs $100 and will ship in late May.

Alexa Now Handles Follow-Up Requests and Makes Calls on Tablets

Mar 12, 2018, 11:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon has updated Alexa with several new powers that make it a more usable and fully-rounded voice assistant. First, Alexa gains a "Follow-Up Mode" that makes interacting with the assistant more natural. Once enabled, Alexa will listen for 5 seconds after completing an exchange for follow-up requests. The idea is to negate the need to repeatedly use the "Alexa" or "Echo" wake phrases. People will be able to wake an Echo device once, complete an interaction, and then immediately follow it up with a second request/interaction without using the wake phrase again. According to CNET, the blue ring on Echo devices will remain illuminated during this 5-second listening period. If no request is made, the Echo device will go back to sleep. Separately, TechCrunch reports that Amazon has brought Alexa voice calling to iPads, Android tablets, and Amazon-branded fire tablets. Alexa on Echo devices has been able to place voice calls for several months. Tablet owners can now initiate voice/video calls and send messages with Alexa on the slate of their choice. Amazon Fire tablets further gain the ability to act as intercoms, called Drop-In Mode, for talking to other Fire devices on the same WiFi network. Both Follow-Up Mode and voice calling on tablets need to be activated within the latest version of the Alexa app on mobile devices.

Honor View10 Available for Preorder In the US for $499

Mar 12, 2018, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei said that its Honor View10 smartphone is available in the U.S. starting today. The phone will be up for preorder between March 12 and March 22, with shipments starting March 22. The View10 has a unibody aluminum chassis with smooth edges and curved glass. The display measures 5.99 inches and adopts the 2:1 aspect ratio with full HD+ resolution. The phone is powered by Huawei's top-of-the-line Kirin 970 processor with 8 cores, 6 GB of memory, and 128 GB of storage. The View10 includes a dual-camera array on the rear. The main camera has a full-color, 16-megapixel sensor and the secondary camera has a monochrome, 20-megapixel sensor. They can tap into PDAF and the Kirin 970's neural processing unit for sharp focus and portrait photos with blurred backgrounds. Other features include a 13-megapixel selfie camera, fingerprint sensor, NFC, dual SIM cards, 3,750mAh battery, 4K video capture, aptX HD, Microsoft Translate, muted notifications during gaming, screen recording, face unlock, and 3.5mm headphone jack. The Honor View10 runs Android 8.1 Oreo with Huawei's EMUI 8 user interface on board. It includes U.S. LTE Bands 2, 4, 5, 7 12, and 17, which gives it average support for AT&T and T-Mobile. Missing are newer bands such as T-Mobile's 66/71. The View10 is being sold in blue and black, unlocked, for $499. Honor is selling the phone from its own web site. The company didn't say if other online retailers, such as Amazon, Best Buy, or B&H, will also sell the phone.

Microsoft Selling Customized Variants of Samsung Galaxy S9

Mar 9, 2018, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has added the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ to its online store. The devices are pre-configured with Microsoft apps and services. "A Microsoft customization is applied to the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ Microsoft Edition when the devices are unboxed and connected to WiFi," explained Microsoft. When users first boot the device, they will be prompted to download Microsoft apps such as Office, Outlook, OneDrive, Cortana, and Microsoft's launcher for Android. Other than the software, the specs and features of the S9 and S9+ are unchanged from other versions of the phone. When purchased from Microsoft, the S9 and S9+ are unlocked. The S9 costs $720 and the S9+ costs $840.

Google Maps Adds Mario Time for Navigation

Mar 9, 2018, 12:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Google Maps for Android and iOS with a fun feature: Mario. Once users update to the latest version of Maps, they'll be able to turn on Mario Time for navigation. When activated, Mario will appear in place of the navigation arrow while driving, walking, or commuting. Google says the bonus feature is rolling out starting today and will be available for about a week.

Google Assistant Lets Device Makers Create Custom Actions

Mar 9, 2018, 10:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today introduced new Custom Device Actions for Google Assistant that will give devices native functionality specific to their hardware. Custom Device Actions build on the Assistant's existing Actions tool for issuing specific commands. Google says, for example, washing machines that include Google Assistant will let owners ask the machine to activate specific wash cycles simply by asking. Google is showcasing some of these new customized actions at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin this week, including a machine that sorts socks and a beer-ordering system. Google isn't stopping there. Assistant is gaining more functionality. For example, people will be able to subscribe to notifications via Actions. For example, Assistant can alert people to changes in stock prices in real time, or help them subscribe and then listen to Forbes' quote of the day. Moving forward, Google Assistant includes better media playback controls. Actions will support media playback on speakers and Android phones, meaning people will be able to pause or replay audio with simple voice requests. When using a phone, Actions will display a media player when listening to mediation sessions, relaxing sounds, or clips from TV shows. For example, Google says the new Daily Show Action lets people listen to the latest show and control playback via voice commands. Last, Assistant gains access to more brand-based Actions. Brands that have added the ability to interact via voice queries include American Idol, The Mindfulness App, and more. People will be able to launch and control these apps and/or experiences via Google Assistant on their home speaker or phone. Google says these new Actions for Google Assistant are rolling out over the next few days.

MoviePass Yanks Some Location-Tracking from iOS App

Mar 8, 2018, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MoviePass has updated its iOS application and in so doing pulled unused app location features. The change comes after MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe spoke about how much user location data the company tracks both before and after users attend movies. The revelation was met with disapproval from many. "Today, MoviePass released a new app update, including the removal of some unused app location capabilities," said the company in a statement provided to Engadget. "While part of our vision includes using location-based marketing to enhance the movie-going experience for our members, we aren't using some of that functionality today. Our members will always have the option to choose the location-based services that are right for them today and in the future." MoviePass hasn't said if or when it will make a similar change to its Android app.

Nexus 6P, 5X Won't Get a Taste of Android P

Mar 8, 2018, 8:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's aging line of Nexus-branded smartphones are being left out of the Android P party. The company this week released Android P Developer Preview 1 to the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL handsets. Noticeably absent from the list? The 2015-era Nexus 6P and 5X. Google confirmed to Ars Technica that the 6P and 5X will not be updated to Android P. Each has received two years worth of system updates, which was the limit under the original terms of sale, though both phones will continue to receive security updates through November 2018. Google changed the terms with its Pixel devices, which will receive system and security updates for three years. The Pixel C tablet has also been left of the Android P update list. The Android P developer preview is truly for developers only. Google will launch the public beta program in the spring, with the full release to follow during the third quarter. Major new features of Android P include improved messaging notifications, support for displays cutouts, and more.

Google Releases First Preview of Android P with Improved Notifications and Notch Support

Mar 7, 2018, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made the first preview of Android P available to developers. The revised version of Android adds a number of user-facing features as well as tools for app writers. For example, Android P tackles notifications for messaging. Users will be able to see image previews in notifications, as well as better see who sent the message and select auto-responses. A new API for developers gives them more power over devices with dual rear- or front-facing cameras, and Android P adopts supports for the HDR VP9 Profile 2 and HEIF multimedia formats. Android P brings with it support for "display cutouts" similar to the notch on the iPhone X. This will let developers build apps that natively fit around notches or cutouts in device displays without losing information or features. Android P makes significant improvements to indoor tracking. It adopts the WiFi Round-Trip Time (RTT) protocol which helps narrow down users' location when inside by using WiFi-based triangulation. This will let apps add features such as indoor voice-guided navigation. Android P adopts a new version of the Neural Networks API for more AI-based operations; makes multiple improvements to the autofill framework; introduces a unified fingerprint authentication dialog and high-assurance user confirmation for better security; makes it easier for developers to add accessibility features to their apps; and ensures that Android P devices will be better able to decode various image types. In the Play Store, developers will find they can no longer use private APIs beginning in November 2018. All apps submitted to the Play Store will need to target Android 8 Oreo or higher. Android P Developer Preview 1 is available for download from Google's developer portal. Developers will need to manually flash the operating system to their phone from a computer. The over-the-air public beta is not available yet and won't be until later this spring. Android P is compatible with the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL handsets. Google expects to release the full version of Android P in the fall.

Google Duo Gains Video Message Function

Mar 7, 2018, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Google Duo video chatting application with a new video message feature. The idea is to allow video callers to leave a video message in the event the person they call can't pick up. Google says people can record video messages up to 30 seconds long. Once the video is finalized, it will be sent to the Duo app. Recipients of video messages can play the message back any time, and easily video call the sender back. Video messages will automatically disappear within 24 hours after they've been watched, though Google says people can save video messages to their phone if they wish. Video messages are rolling out on Android and iOS starting today and should reach all users worldwide within a few days.

Facebook Adds Video Chat to Messenger Lite

Mar 7, 2018, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today made its slimmed-down messaging app a bit more powerful with the addition of video chatting. Facebook calls video chats "an expected and essential part of everyday communication" and the company is pleased to offer the functionality to users of the Messenger Lite app. Messenger Lite already offers core messaging tools, such as text, photos, links, and audio calls. It easily connects to people who use either Messenger Lite or the full version of Messenger. Once people update to the new version of Messenger Lite, a video icon will appear in the upper right corner of conversations allowing for instant video chats. Facebook says Messenger Lite users can also upgrade audio-only calls to video chats with but a tap. Messenger Lite is meant for older Android devices or for use in areas where networks may not be as robust. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Chrome 65 for Android Introduces Language Preferences

Mar 7, 2018, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is now rolling out Chrome 65 for Android devices through the Play Store. The upgraded browser introduces a handful of new tools. Primarily, users will be able to set language preferences for web content in the settings screen. Further, web surfers can turn on the simplified view prompt for all supported articles via the accessibility settings. Last, the downloads screen makes it easier too share and delete downloaded web sites. Chrome 65 is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Huawei Mate 10 SE Is an Upgraded Honor 7X

Mar 7, 2018, 8:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei recently began selling the Mate 10 SE via Amazon and other online retailers. The phone carries over most specs from the Honor 7X, which means it includes an aluminum unibody chassis with 2.5D curved glass and a 5.9-inch 2:1 aspect ratio display. It is powered by Huawei's Kirin 659 processor and has dual cameras, a fingerprint reader, a 3,340mAh battery, and Cat 6 LTE. It runs Android 7 Nougat with Huawei's EMUI 5.1 user interface on board. The one significant change under the hood concerns memory and storage. Where the Honor 7X had 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, the Mate 10 SE has 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The improvement in RAM should give the Mate 10 SE an edge in performance over the Honor 7X. On the exterior, the Mate 10 SE loses the Honor branding in favor of Huawei's, and the dual-camera array is encircled in a single frame rather than two. Amazon is selling the Mate 10 SE in gray and gold for $230 (about $30 more than the Honor 7X). It is unlocked and compatible with AT&T/T-Mobile and their prepaid brands.

Google Lens Rolling Out to All Android Users in Google Photos

Mar 6, 2018, 12:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said all Android users can try Google Lens via the latest version of Google Photos for Android. Google Lens is an image-recognition function that relies on mobile cameras to perform searches. Using Google Lens, Android owners can aim their camera at just about anything and Google will instantly perform a search and suggest results. For example, users can snap a shot of an old car on the street and immediately gain information about that car and discover where it might be available for sale. Google Lens can recognize objects such as flowers, vehicles, gadgets, business cards, and more. The tool works within the Google Photos mobile app. Google Photos is free to download from the Google Play Store. Google Lens has been available to Google's own Pixel and Nexus devices since last year.

Gboard for Android Now Supports Chinese and Korean

Mar 6, 2018, 9:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is adding 22 new languages to Gboard for Android, including Chinese (traditional and simplified) and Korean. Google says these were the top two language requests for Gboard, which now supports more than 300 languages, or 74% of the world's population. In addition to major additions such as Chinese and Korean, Google added Fulani, a language chiefly spoken in Guinea. Google says the new languages will reach all Gboard users worldwide over the next few days. Google's swiping keyboard is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Microsoft Says It Optimized Skype for Older, Slower Android Devices

Mar 5, 2018, 8:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 5, 2018, 9:03 AM

Microsoft recently released an updated version of Skype for Android meant for older smartphones. Specifically, this down-tuned variant of Skype is intended for Android devices running 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich to 5.1 Lollipop. Microsoft says Skype for these phones uses less memory and less storage, allowing the app to run faster while also improving audio and video quality even in challenging network conditions. Microsoft is rolling out this update worldwide over the next few weeks. Those who want to download the app immediately can do so via the Skype Insiders Program. Skype is free from the Google Play Store.

Xiaomi Looking to Enter US Market As Soon as This Year

Mar 5, 2018, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Xiaomi, the smartphone maker based in China, said it is eying a launch in the U.S. market within 12 months. "We’ve always been considering entering the US. market," said Xiaomi Chairman Lei Jun to the Wall Street Journal. "We plan to start entering the market by end 2018, or by early 2019." The company already has a handful of products on offer in the U.S., such as a 360-degree camera, Mi TV Android set-top box, and headphones. Xiaomi's Jun did not say if the company will seek to strike distribution deals with U.S. carriers or sell directly to consumers via channels such as Amazon and Best Buy. The former would give it the best chance of success, but other Chinese companies haven't fared so well winning carrier deals. Earlier this year, Huawei failed to close such deals with AT&T and Verizon Wireless thanks to pressure from the U.S. government. Worse, the heads of the CIA, FBI, and NSA recently suggested that American consumers should avoid Chinese phones — particularly those made by Huawei and ZTE — altogether. Xiaomi is China's fourth-largest phone maker, and has been highly successful in India. It was one of the first to make an all-screen device, the Mi Mix, back in 2016.

Hands On with the Asus Zenfone 5Q

Feb 27, 2018, 4:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 28, 2018, 2:54 AM

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.

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Google's Flutter Toolkit Lets Devs Create Android and iOS UIs

Feb 27, 2018, 11:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made the first beta release of Flutter available to developers. Flutter is a set of tools that can help developers create user interface designs for Android and iOS. Google says Flutter is quick and easy to use, and can be utilized by experienced and novice developers alike. It includes frameworks for windows, widgets, animations, and image libraries. It includes a GPU-accelerated renderer and native ARM code runtime. It supports accessibility features, right-to-left text, localization, and internationalization. On the iPhone X and iOS 11, it support inline video, additional image formats, and background processes. Google says developers who've been testing the alpha release since last year can switch to the beta channel via Android Studio. The end result, hopes Google, will be better looking and better functioning mobile apps that developers can create once for both Android and iOS.

Android Phones Gain Access to Amazon's AR Shopping Tool

Feb 27, 2018, 10:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon has made its AR View mobile shopping application available to Android handsets. The app allows people to visualize products in their home, such as furniture, before they buy them. Amazon says everything from couches to kitchen appliances and more are rendered in life-size, so shoppers can gauge whether or not the items will fit their space or style. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store. Other retailers, including Ikea, offer similar tools in their mobile shopping apps. AR View has been available to iOS devices since last year.

Google Actions for Assistant Work Better Within Apps

Feb 26, 2018, 11:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today improved its Actions on the Google Assistant in several ways that should expand its reach and usability. To start, Actions on Google gain support for seven new languages (Hindi, Thai, Indonesian, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Dutch), making for a total of 16. Developers can now use the Actions SDK to build support for these languages into their apps. Google also made it easier for developers to code for different languages thanks to new templates. Moreover, the upgraded developer tools allow code writers to link actions deeper within their apps. This will eventually give end users more control over what each app can do via Actions. Another new functionality will help apps gather user location data mid-conversation. This means people won't need to start their queries over from the beginning if something changes. A dialog box will pop up so users can sort of location details when in the middle of a request. Last, the update will ensure that returning users aren't bothered with the same conversation starters again and again. Apps will be able to learn over time certain location details so end users can simply use the app without repeating or re-entering commands. Google says these expanded features are rolling out in pieces over the next few weeks.

Jolla Debuts Sailfish OS 3 for Low-Cost Hardware

Feb 26, 2018, 9:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jolla today revealed Sailfish 3, a significant update to its Linux-based mobile operating system. Jolla is targeting Sailfish 3 at inexpensive devices, such as feature phones, PDAs, and similar hardware. Jolla says the updated platform is chock full of new functionality. To start, the platform is offering developers a handful of new APIs, providing new access to the camera, VPN, location, WebEngine, and crypto. It now supports the latest version of Qt with 30% faster performance. Many of the new tools focus on business users. For example, it packs full cloud integration, enhanced security (biometrics, device wipe), and corporate mobile device management. On the connectivity side, it brings expanded support for VoLTE and Bluetooth Low Energy. Sailfish 3 also introduces new themes and animations, and improves multitasking with a new top menu. Jolla says Sailfish 3 will roll out during the third quarter of 2018. Jolla, formed by former Nokia employees, had originally hoped Sailfish would become a rival to Android. For now, the company is focusing on Latin America, Russia, and China.

Hands On with HMD Global's New Nokia Android Smartphones

Feb 26, 2018, 4:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 26, 2018, 4:37 AM

HMD Global debuted no fewer than three brand new handsets, including the Nokia 1 with Android Go, at Mobile World Congress this year. The devices range from an $85 entry-level phone to an $800 exercise in design chops. None of these phones support the LTE bands to work in North America, but we took a quick look anyway. Here are our first impressions.

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Hands On with the Sony Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact

Feb 26, 2018, 2:45 AM   by Rich Brome

Sony's new flagship phones for 2018 pack all the bells and whistles into a curvy new glass design. Both phones include top-end features like a Snapdragon 845 processor, 2:1 ratio display, stereo speakers, HDR video capture and viewing, water resistance, and advanced cameras. The larger XZ2 sports an advanced haptic engine and fast wireless charging. The smaller XZ2 Compact continues to be one of the only truly small Android phones available with top-end specs. Here are our first impressions checking them out in person.

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Sony Debuts New Design Language with XZ2 and XZ2 Compact Flagships

Feb 26, 2018, 2:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today announced the Xperia XZ2 and Xperia XZ2 Compact smartphones, two devices that take on a brand new design aesthetic the company calls Ambient Flow. The phones feature a metal frame and deeply curved rear panels. The XZ2's rear panel is glass made by Corning, while the XZ2 Compact's rear panel is made from polycarbonate. The XZ2 has a 5.7-inch display in the 18:9 aspect ratio with full HD+ (2,160 by 1,080 pixels) resolution. The XZ2 Compact's screen shrinks down to 5 inches, but maintains the same resolution. The phones share nearly all specs other than size. Sony opted for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 premium processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The phones rely on Sony's imaging sensor with embedded DRAM. The main camera captures 19-megapixel images at up to ISO 12,800 and can snag 4K video, or 960fps slow-motion video in full HD. The user-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with Sony's 3D Creator software for mapping 3D scans of people's faces. Sony said it has improved the software, which now produces more details images. Sony gave the phones S-Force stereo speakers and the larger XZ2 has a Dynamic Vibration System haptic-driven subwoofer. The phones support Cat 18 LTE with 4x4 MIMO and 5-channel carrier aggregation for theoretical download speeds up to 1.2 Gbps. The XZ2 includes a 3,180mAh battery with wireless and rapid charging. Other specs include NFC, fingerprint reader, Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, USB-C, and support for memory cards up to 400 GB. The phones will ship in the late spring unlocked with Android 8.0 Oreo. Pricing will be revealed at a later date.

HMD Global Updates the Nokia 6 with Better Specs

Feb 25, 2018, 10:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 25, 2018, 3:06 PM

HMD Global today showed off a new version of the Nokia 6. The phone carries over the same design as the original, but improves the specs under the hood. It includes a 5.5-inch screen and premium materials. Key features include NFC and a fingerprint reader. It jumps from the Snapdragon 435 to the Snapdragon 630 and comes with either 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage or 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The frame is milled from 6000 series aluminum and now comes in black/copper, white/iron, and blue/gold. Other features include face unlock, wireless charging, USB-C, and Android 8 Oreo. It goes on sale in April for about $300.

Nokia 1 Runs Android Go and Brings Back Nokia's Xpress-On Covers

Feb 25, 2018, 10:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 25, 2018, 2:56 PM

HMD Global today announced the Nokia 1, an affordable, entry-level smartphone that runs the Android Oreo Go platform. The phone features swappable rear covers, a feature the former Nokia called Xpress-On covers. The shell is made from polycarbonate with metal inserts to help strengthen the chassis. The phone includes a 4.5-inch FWVGA display and is powered by a quad-core MediaTek processor clocked at 1.1 GHz with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with LED flash, while the front camera has a 2-megapixel camera. Both are fixed focus. Other features include Bluetooth, FM radio, GPS, LTE, and WiFi; a 2,150mAh removable battery; and microUSB port and 3.5mm headphone jack. The Android 8 Oreo Go Edition platform includes slimmed down versions of Google's core apps so the device runs smoothly. The Nokia 1 goes on sale in April.

Nokia 7 Plus Packs Dual Cameras with Zeiss Optics

Feb 25, 2018, 10:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 25, 2018, 2:56 PM

HMD Global today announced the Nokia 7 Plus, a large Android slab machined from a single block of aluminum with copper accents. HMD Global says the rear is coated with a "ceramic-feel" paint for texture. The Nokia 7 Plus feature a 6-inch display with the 18:9 aspect ratio and full HD+ (2,160 by 1,080) resolution. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 660 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The phone has dual cameras on the back, both with Zeiss optics. The main sensor captures 12-megapixel images at f/1.75 and the secondary sensor captures 13-megapixel images at f/2.6 and offers 2x telephoto zoom. The selfie camera has a 16-megapixel sensor. The Nokia 7 Plus includes a "bothie" feature, which lets people take photos with the main and front cameras at the same time. Moreover, owners can apply AR stickers to bothies for fun. The phone packs a massive 3,800mAh battery that HMD Global says delivers two days of battery life. The battery also supports rapid charging. Other hardware features include Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, WiFi, LTE, and spatial audio. It relies on a USB-C connector and also offers a 3.5mm headset jack. The phone runs Android One, which means HMD Global has committed to offering rapid updates and security patches. The Nokia 7 Plus goes on sale in April for $399.

Nokia 8 Sirocco Relies On Stainless Steel Frame

Feb 25, 2018, 10:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 25, 2018, 2:56 PM

HMD Global today unveiled the Nokia 8 Sirocco, a stylish update to the Nokia 8. The phone has a stainless steel frame and curved Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back. A 5.5-inch quad HD plastic OLED screen adorns the face. The Nokia 8 adopts the Snapdragon 835 processor with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. The Nokia 8 Sirocco has the same camera configuration as the Nokia 7 Plus. The phone has dual cameras on the back, both with Zeiss optics. The main sensor captures 12-megapixel images at f/1.75 and the secondary sensor captures 13-megapixel images at f/2.6 and offers 2x telephoto zoom. The selfie camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with a display-based flash. The Nokia 8 Sirocco includes Dual Sight for "bothies." The software includes a new pro mode for manual control over the shutter and other features. The 3,260mAh battery supports rapid charging and wireless charging. The phone meets IP67 for protection against quick drops into water. Other features include Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, WiFi, LTE, and USB-C. It runs Android 8 Oreo One. The Nokia 8 Sirocco will be available in April for about $800.

ZTE's Tempo Go Will Be Its First Android Go Phone for the US

Feb 25, 2018, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Tempo Go, a version of the Tempo X that adopts the Android Go platform. Android Go is Google's slimmed-down version of Android for ultra low-cost devices with RAM of 1 GB of less. Earlier this week, Google promised that more Android Go phones would arrive shortly, and the Tempo Go is leading that wave. The Tempo Go has a 5-inch display with 854 by 480 pixels (FWVGA) and it is powered by a Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. Other features include a 5-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera, microUSB, 3.5mm headset jack, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and a 2,200mAh battery. The Tempo Go will be sold unlocked with support for the LTE 4G networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. Pricing wasn't immediately announced.

LG's V30S ThinQ Adds Color, Memory, Storage, Camera Smarts

Feb 25, 2018, 4:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today updated its V30 smartphone with several new features and is now calling it the V30S ThinQ. The majority of specs of the phone are unchanged. The V30S ThinQ includes 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage, while the V30S+ ThinQ includes 6 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. The new handsets ship with Android 8 Oreo, and they are now available in new Moroccan Blue and Platinum Gray colors. Along with Oreo, LG has updated the software to include a handful of new tools under the auspices of its ThinQ artificial intelligence platform. First up is Voice AI, which LG says are custom commands for Google Assistant made available only to the V30S ThinQ. These allow users to run apps and change settings through voice commands alone. For example, V30S ThinQ owners can tell their device to take a panorama, time-lapse, or slow-motion photo, perform an image search, or scan a QR code, among other actions. These new commands join 23 existing commands already available to the original V30. Next, LG is taking aim at the camera with Vision AI, or the ability to recognize objects and adjust shooting parameters to capture better photos. Some of the initial scenes the V30S ThinQ will be able to recognize include portraits, food, pets, landscapes, cityscapes, flowers, sunrises, and sunsets. The camera will automatically analyze the surrounding scene to adjust focus, white balance, and shutter speed based on what it sees. LG says it has scanned some 100 million images to create a database of known objects to compare against. Last, the V30S ThinQ gains a new low-light shooting mode called Bright Mode that should deliver far more accurate results when shooting in the dark. LG says Bright Mode relies on its AI-based algorithms to brighten images by a factor of two for better looking photos without the noise. LG didn't say when the updated V30S ThinQ would go on sale, nor which markets it will be sold in.

Hands On with Alcatel's new 3 Series Phones

Feb 24, 2018, 1:03 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Feb 24, 2018, 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

Feb 24, 2018, 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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