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printed July 28, 2015
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Hands On with the Moto X

Today, 10:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola showed off three new handsets today, including the Moto X Style - or "Pure Edition" - for the U.S. market. This handset runs stock Android and offers some solid updates to last year's model in terms of design and features. Here are our initial thought about Motorola's latest.

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Moto G Is Waterproof and Can Be Customized Via Moto Maker

Today, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 9:21 AM

Motorola today announced the Moto G, its mid-range powerhouse. The phone has a 5-inch HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera, and 5-megapixel user-facing camera. The Moto G is water resistant and can sit in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. The handset features a quad-core Qualcomm 410 processor and comes in several memory/storage configurations. Importantly, the Moto G has been upgraded with support for LTE 4G. The Moto G comes in black or white with a metallic frame. A variety of Motorola shells are available online, but it can also be customized via Moto Maker to be completely personalized. The 2015 Moto G goes on sale in select markets, including the US, beginning today. It costs $179 for the 8 GB model.

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Moto X Play Boasts Better Battery Life

Today, 8:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 8:34 AM

Motorola today showed off a variant of the Moto X called the Moto X Play, which indulges a 3,630mAh battery with Quick Charge technology. Motorola says the handset can last two days on a charge, and can gather 8 hours of battery life with just 15 minutes of charging. The Moto X Plat has a 5.5-inch full HD screen, 21-megapixel camera, Qualcomm 610 processor, and 5-megapixel user-facing camera. It will be available in August. Pricing was not yet disclosed, but Motorola said it is not announcing U.S. availability at this time.

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Motorola Reveals the Moto X Style

Today, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 8:37 AM

Motorola today announced the Moto X Style, its flagship handset for 2015. The phone carries forward the same design from the last few years with a metallic frame and customizable rear panels, including silicon, wood, and leather. The Moto X Style has a 5.7-inch screen, 21-megapixel camera, and Quick Charging technology that Motorola claims is faster than competing devices. The Moto X Style will be available as a "pure edition" handset, sold unlocked with support for worldwide LTE networks. It will ship with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. The Moto X Style will reach the U.S. in September. The Pure Edition will cost $399.

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Qualcomm Intros Wireless Charging Through Metal

Today, 7:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced new technology that allows metallic handsets to charge wirelessly. Most wireless charging pads are tolerant of some metal in the charging field, but Qualcomm says it was able to boost the sensitivity enough, via Near Field Magnetic Resonance technology, to allow for wireless charging through metal handset enclosures. Qualcomm's WiPower is based on the A4WP's Rezence standard and can deliver up to 22 watts of power to charge handsets wirelessly. Rezence pads can handle several different devices, with varying charging requirements, at a time. Qualcomm did not say when it expects to see the metallic device charging technology reach consumer handsets.


Liveblog of Motorola 2015 Event

Today, 7:42 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Today, 7:43 AM

We're live from Motorola's big phone event today in NYC. We're expecting at least one new phone, if not two or three. A new Moto X and/or Moto G seems likely. Tune in for live updates as the happen on stage!

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CAT's Latest Handset Is a Rugged Android Slate

Today, 7:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

CAT today announced the S40, a new rugged handheld for those who need a tough, waterproof phone. The CAT S40 features a hardened exterior (mil-spec 810G) that can handle drops from 6 feet as well as protect against water and dust intrusion. The S40 has a 4.7-inch qHD screen that's protected by Gorilla Glass 4 and can work with gloves and/or when wet. The phone is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and the user-facing camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. The phone supports North American GSM/LTE networks and includes Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi. The phone will be available soon. CAT did not disclose pricing.


OnePlus Announces Its Second-Generation Flagship

Yesterday, 9:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 10:24 PM

OnePlus today revealed the OnePlus 2, its second-generation flagship Android smartphone. The OnePlus 2 features a 5.5-inch 1080p HD IPS LCD display with 178-degree viewability, and is powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage. The main camera captures 13-megapixel images with laser-assisted focus, f/2.0 aperture, optical image stabilization, and larger pixels to aid with low-light performance. The user-facing camera features a 5-megapixel sensor. Other hardware features include a slider switch for controlling alert profiles, a fingerprint sensor for security, 3,300mAh battery, and USB Type C for reversible connections. The handset will offer swappable rear covers, including some made from bamboo, black apricot, kevlar, and rosewood. The OnePlus 2 runs OnePlus' version of Android 5.1 Lollipop, which it calls Oxygen OS. The OnePlus 2 will be available August 11 in the U.S., Canada, India, Europe, and China, with other regions to follow later in the year. It costs $389. A version of the phone with 3 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage costs $329.

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Nextbit Targeting Android Phones

Yesterday, 9:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nextbit, a small San Francisco-based startup, today announced that it plans to build smartphones. The company is only teasing an Android handset at the moment, and said it will reveal more details about the device and its plans in the weeks ahead. Nextbit is run by CEO Tom Moss and counts among its staff at least two former HTC employees, including Scott Croyle, HTC's former head of design. "We want to set this off as something different," said Croyle, speaking to Recode. "We don't have to be for everybody." Nextbit already offers cloud-based storage. The company remained mum on the specifics regarding its smartphone plans, such as whether it will target the entry level, middle, or top of the market.


T-Mobile One M9 Scores Modest Update

Yesterday, 3:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC has made a system update available to the T-Mobile variant of the One M9, and the phone earns some significant improvements with the new code. To start, it gains the camera enhancents given to the international edition earlier this year, as well as the kill switch required by California law. It also adds battery improvements and new support for Google Wallet. The update is being pushed out over the air.

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Google Promising More 'Focused' Google+ Experience

Yesterday, 11:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said some changes are on the way for its Google+ social network. To start, people will no longer be required to create Google+ accounts to access all of Google. People will be able to maintain separate Google+ and Google profiles, though some information will be shared between them. YouTube will be the first product that separates Google+ profiles from Google accounts. Google also said it wants to make finding content in Google+ easier, and new features, such as Google+ Collections, allow people to do that. Collections let users organize posts by topic. Similarly, Google believes removing Google+ Photos from Google+ helps to streamline the core Google+ offering. Moreover, functions such as location sharing will be moved to Google Hangouts. "We think changes like these will lead to a more focused, more useful, more engaging Google+," said Google. "As always, your underlying Google Account won't be searchable or followable, unlike public Google+ profiles. And for people who already created Google+ profiles but don't plan to use Google+ itself, we'll offer better options for managing and removing those public profiles." Google said the changes will roll out slowly over the next few months.


Microsoft Debuts Android Launcher

Yesterday, 10:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently released a launcher for Android smartphones that delivers a different take on the home screen. The launcher, which replaces the standard Android home screen, uses three panels to display various information. The left-most panel focuses on people, including recent contacts complete with addresses and numbers. The central home panel is where users can put their apps. It also includes a section for recently-used apps so people can jump back into those apps quickly. The last screen is for notes and reminders and can display calendar items as well as personal reminders. Microsoft's Arrow Launcher is available in a closed beta, which means people need to join the Google+ community in order to access the launcher. However, the APK is available directly from Microsoft, as well, for those who want to bypass the community aspect. Arrow Launcher is free to use. Microsoft has created a wide range of apps for Google's Android platform. Arrow is the latest.


LG Terra, Flip World Phone, Lands On Verizon Wireless

Sunday, 6:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless recently added the LG Terra to its lineup of basic feature phones. The Terra is a flip phone that runs a simple operating system with features such as text-to-speech for listening to text messages and photo ID for identifying incoming calls. The handset operates on Verizon's CDMA 1x network in the U.S., but includes quad-band GSM/EDGE radios, too, so it can be used when roaming abroad in more than 200 countries. Other features include a 2.4-inch main display, 1.77-inch secondary display, and a 1.3-megapixel camera. The LG Terra cots $96 at full price, or $4 per month with a Verizon Edge payment plan.


AT&T Completes Purchase of DirecTV

Friday, 3:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it has completed its acquisition of DirecTV. The FCC approved the acquisition earlier today, and AT&T was quick to finalize the paperwork. "Combining DirecTV with AT&T is all about giving customers more choices for great video entertainment integrated with mobile and high-speed Internet service," said Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO. "This transaction allows us to significantly expand our high-speed internet service to reach millions more households, which is a perfect complement to our coast-to-coast TV and mobile coverage, We're now a fundamentally different company with a diversified set of capabilities and businesses that set us apart from the competition." AT&T said current customers will not need to take any action now that the deal is complete. It will take several months to fully merge the operations of both companies. AT&T said it will roll out new television, internet, and wireless packages in the months ahead.


FCC Officially Approves AT&T/DirecTV Acquisition

Friday, 1:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Friday, 3:39 PM

The FCC today gave formal approval to AT&T's proposed acquisition of satellite TV provider DirecTV. The FCC believes that as long as AT&T adheres to the conditions of the deal, it will serve the broader public interest. Specifically, AT&T will be required to expand its deployment of fiber-optic broadband service to 12.5 million customer locations, as well as to eligible schools and libraries. Further, AT&T will be prohibited from using discriminatory practices to disadvantage online video distribution services. Last, it will be required to offer broadband services to low-income consumers at discounted rates. The merger improves the reach of AT&T's cable television business. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had floated a draft approval of the acquisition earlier this week. Today's decision, following a vote of the remaining commissioners, makes it final.


BlackBerry All But Gives Up On Smartphones

Friday, 12:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen said the company plans to reduce the number of handsets it makes each year to one or two. Chen said the company will make a couple of flagship-class devices and ignore the low-end of the market. "We make four phones a year. We are not going to do that anymore," said BlackBerry CEO John Chen to Fox Business. "We are going to at least cut it down to maybe two, maybe one and [shift] those resources [to] the security and software side" of the business. BlackBerry has spent the last few years cutting costs and refocusing its business on providing mobile device management and security services to its business customers. Just this week, BlackBerry announced plans to buy AtHoc, a crisis messaging product. Earlier this year, BlackBerry revealed plans to further trim back its hardware team. The one or two devices BlackBerry brings to market will "be a high-end phone that you can walk into AT&T and get it, as a professional," said Chen to Bloomberg. "The low-end phone is not BlackBerry's sweet spot." Several of BlackBerry's most recent handsets have targeted the low end of the market, such as the Leap and the Classic. Chen did not say when the company might next release a handset.


Verizon Adding Carrier Aggregation to 20x20MHz Channels

Friday, 11:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless is upgrading its LTE network with several different technologies meant to boost capacity and speeds. Mike Haberman, Verizon's VP of network support, said the company is deploying carrier aggregation in its 20x20MHz channels. It expects this will let it offer paths wider than 20MHz to help increase peak speeds. Moreover, Verizon has begun deploying 4x4 MIMO at cell towers to help boost coverage. Combined, the efforts will have a significant impact on the performance of Verizon's LTE 4G network. Verizon has other technologies, such as small cells, distributed antenna systems, and macro cells, on deck to further improve network performance. Verizon did not provide a timeframe for completing these upgrades, nor did it tie them to any specific geographic areas. Earlier this week, Verizon said it is using only about 40% of its licensed spectrum assets for LTE, mostly in the 700MHz band. Verizon is supplementing the 700MHz-based LTE with AWS-based LTE.


Review: LG Tribute 2 for Boost Mobile

Friday, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

This low-cost Android smartphone targets the budget buyer with its entry-level specs, but the LG Tribute 2 is hardly an upgrade from last year's model. Find out if we recommend the Tribute 2 in this full review.

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