Phone Scoop

printed September 18, 2014
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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.

by:  Google


Amazon Says FireOS 4 'Sangria' to Reach Fire Phone Next Year

Today, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today announced a new version of its FireOS platform. FireOS 4 Sangria further integrates Amazon's devices with its cloud-based content offerings. The revised operating system has a redesigned user interface and adds individual Profiles, which allows family members to have their own email and social media accounts, as well as settings such as display brightness, bookmarks, and game levels. Fire OS includes ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction), which Amazon says can predict the movies or TV shows the owner may want to watch and streams them instantly. Another feature called Smart Suspend will use individual user profiles to determine when the device is most often dormant and can then proactively take steps to conserve battery life, such as turning off the wireless radios. FireOS 4 adds a function called Family Library, which makes it easier for families to share apps, games, books, and other Amazon content. Last, FireOS 4 brings Firefly to Amazon's tablets. FireOS 4 ships on Amazon's newest fourth-generation Kindle Fire tablets and will be available for Amazon's third-generation tablets through an over-the-air system update. Amazon said Fire OS 4 will be available on Fire Phone early next year. FireOS 4 Sangria is based on Android 4.4 KitKat.


Republic Wireless to Offer Moto E in October

Yesterday, 10:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Republic Wireless has begun notifying customers that it will soon sell the Moto E smartphone from Motorola. The Moto E is Motorola's entry-level handset and features a 4.3-inch display with Gorilla Glass 3, a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon 200 processor with 1GB of RAM, and 4GB of internal storage. It comes with a 5-megapixel camera that can capture panoramas as well as 720p HD video. The phone also includes support for a microSD card up to 32GB, an FM radio, and a 1,980mAh battery that Motorola claims is good for a full day. The Moto E runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat, but is limited to 3G data. Republic said the Moto E will cost $99 when it launches in October.


Google Now Pushing Play Services 6.1

Yesterday, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google said it is delivering Play Services 6.1 to most Android devices running 2.3 Gingerbread and up. This update targets three aspects of Play Services: analytics, Google Drive, and Google Fit. Developers will be able to use the Enhanced Ecommerce tools in Google Tag Manager to assess the success of their apps and ad campaigns. Google enhanced the Google Drive Android API with a new Completion Events feature. This lets developers see when their apps are talking to the server. The Drive API has also been updated with Material Design in the UI, and adds support for Recent and Starred views. Last, the Google Fit Developer Preview has been refreshed so developers can test their fitness apps on any Android device. Google expects to complete rolling out Play Services 6.1 over the coming days, at which point it will make the updated SDK available to developers.


ZTE ZMax Phablet Coming To T-Mobile

Tuesday, 6:18 PM   by Rich Brome

ZTE today announced the ZMax, a large-screen phone exclusive to T-Mobile in the U.S. The ZMax has a 5.7-inch HD screen, Corning Gorilla Glass 3, 8-megapixel camera with flash, 1.6-megapixel front camera, large 3400 mAh battery, and runs Android 4.4. It also sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core processor, 16 GB of internal memory, and a memory card slot. Unlike many previous ZTE phones, the ZMax is fully ZTE-branded. It will go on sale September 24 for $252 (full retail), or $10.50/month on a payment plan.

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Microsoft Ports OneNote to Android Wear

Tuesday, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its OneNote application to support Google's Android Wear platform. The app allows Android Wear owners to wake their device and use OneNote to dictate notes that are saved on the host Android smartphone. In addition to Android Wear compatibility, Microsoft also updated OneNote for both the iOS8 and Windows Phone platforms. The iOS8 version of OneNote adds extensibility, which allows users to save files to OneNote without leaving the app they are currently using. The Windows Phone version of OneNote was updated to allow users to convert photographs into PowerPoint or Word files. The updated OneNote apps are free to download from the Play Store, iTunes App Store, and Windows Phone Store.


Sprint, Boost, and Virgin to Sell the HTC Desire 510

Tuesday, 9:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 3:55 PM

Sprint today announced it and its prepaid brands will all soon offer the HTC Desire 510. HTC announced the 510 last month. It is an entry-level handset with LTE 4G on board. It features a 4.7-inch display, a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor with 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of built-in storage. The main camera captures 5-megapixel images, and the user-facing camera captures VGA images. Connectivity features include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, GPS, and DLNA for sharing media. The 510 runs Android 4.4 KitKat and includes HTC Sense and Blinkfeed. Sprint plans to sell the device with its postpaid service. It will reach Sprint stores on September 19. It will cost $9 per month with Sprint Easy Pay. The full retail price is $216. Sprint didn't spell out the contract price. Boost Mobile will begin selling the Desire 510 on September 22 for $100, and Virgin Mobile will begin selling it on September 23 for $100. Neither Boost nor Virgin Mobile requires contracts. The Desire 510 is also being sold by Cricket Wireless.


Subway to Accept Softcard Starting October 1

Tuesday, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Subway today announced it has partnered with Softcard and will begin accepting Softcard-based mobile payments on October 1. Softcard, which launched last year as Isis, is backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. The service allows smartphone owners to link their credit card to the Softcard app on their phone and use it to make mobile payments at select retailers nationwide. Subway said it will accept Softcard at 26,000 locations around the U.S. Further, the company is offering $1 back on every purchase made with American Express Serve through 12/31. Last, Subway will eventually add its Subway Card Rewards Program to the Softcard app, which will let customers earn rewards points when making mobile payments. Softcard is available to a wide number of Android smartphones through a dedicated application.


Motorola Makes Moto Voice Available to 2013 Droids

Tuesday, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola recently published a version of its new Moto Voice app that is compatible with the 2013 Moto X, as well as the Droid Ultra, Droid Mini, and Droid Maxx. Moto Voice, formerly Touchless Control, combines several of the key functions found on the 2013 Moto X, such as the Active Display, Google Now voice prompts, and Google Assist. It allows users to customize their own catchphrase; and adds voice command support for YouTube, Facebook, and WhatsApp; allows users to switch modes via voice commands; and includes support for Moto Hint and Moto 360. Moto Voice requires Android 4.4 KitKat and is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Sprint to Sell LG G3 Vigor

Monday, 2:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 3:56 PM

Sprint today announced the LG G3 Vigor, an affordable smartphone that places the volume and screen lock keys on the back, like LG's flagship devices. The phone has a 5-inch 720p HD display and quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor under the hood to keep costs low. Stand out features include LG's suite of specialized apps, such as Knock Code and Knock On, LG Gate for enterprise security, as well as QSlide Apps, QuickMemo, and LG's Smart Keyboard. The phone runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and is compatible with Sprint Spark. Sprint services on board include HD Voice and Wi-Fi Calling. The full retail price of the LG G3 Vigor is $312. Sprint also offering the G3 Vigor for $13 a month with Sprint Easy Pay.


Google Releases Trio of Android One Phones in India

Monday, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google and its partners today revealed the first three Android One handsets. Google initially spoke about Android One in June. The idea behind Android One is to bring low-cost handsets to the largest-possible populations around the world. To that end, Google worked with hardware makers, component suppliers, and wireless network operators to develop inexpensive smartphones for India. The first three devices are the Karbonn Sparkle V, the Micromax Canvas A1, and the Spice Dream UNO. The phones include front and rear cameras, large touch screens, MediaTek processors, dual SIM card slots, memory card slots, FM radios, and removable batteries. All three phones are being sold for about $105. According to Google, the devices ship with Android 4.4 KitKat, but will be among the first to receive Android L later this year. Google, rather than the local network operators, will provide all the system updates for these devices. Google said it has signed more manufactures to the Android One project, including Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, Asus, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic, Xolo, and chipmaker Qualcomm. Google plans to expand the Android One program to Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka later this year, with more to follow throughout 2015. The main goal is to connect as many people as possible - more than 5 billion - to the internet.


Preorders for Moto X Begin Sept. 16, Moto 360 Back in Stock

Sunday, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today said consumers can order some of its new products beginning September 16. The Moto X for AT&T and the Moto X Pure Edition will both be available for ordering on Tuesday. The AT&T Moto X costs $99 with a new contract, and the Moto X Pure Edition - which runs stock Android 4.4 KitKat and features an unlocked bootloader - costs $499. Other carriers plan to announce availability soon. In addition to these handsets, the Moto Hint wireless earbud and the Moto Turbo Charger will also be available. The Hint costs $149 and the Turbo Charger costs $35. Last, Motorola said the Moto 360 smart watch will be back in stock on Tuesday, though quantities are limited.


GreatCall Touts Touch3 for Seniors

Sep 12, 2014, 2:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

GreatCall recently announced the Samsung Touch3, an Android smartphone designed specifically for senior citizens and older users. The Touch3's major selling point is the user interface, which has been stripped down to the bare essentials in order to make it easier to use. Select apps, such as the phone, messaging, camera, and help are front and center in large fonts so they can be found faster. The Touch3 offers the usual selection of GreatCall services, such as 5Star, Urgent Care, and MedCoach. The device itself features a 4-inch screen, 4-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, and 8GB of built-in storage. The Touch3 is available from GreatCall's web site. It costs $150 and doesn't require a contract commitment.


HTC Desire 610 On Its Way to Big Red, According to FCC

Sep 12, 2014, 11:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Documents seen on the FCC web site suggest that Verizon Wireless will soon have its own version of the HTC Desire 610. Based on the model number (OP90300), SKU (HTC331ZLVW), and spectrum support, a newly approved phone made by HTC is earmarked for Big Red. The 610 is an affordable Android phone with a 4.7-inch display, 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, 8-megapixel main camera, front camera, 4G LTE, and a memory card slot. It sports a clean design inspired by the HTC One, but in high-quality plastic. Like the One, it features BoomSound dual front speakers and Zoe video functions. HTC announced the Desire 610 earlier this year, and it is already being sold by AT&T.


Google Gives App Buyers Two Hours to Return Apps

Sep 11, 2014, 11:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has extended the time during which Android device owners can seek a refund for app purchases. Google used to allow app buyers a mere 15 minutes to decide whether or not they liked an application enough to keep it. Now, app buyers have two hours to make that decision. According to Google, users will see a "refund" button in the My Apps section of the Play Store during a 120-minute window after they purchase apps. Once the refund button disappears, the app can no longer be returned for a refund. Device owners will still be able to uninstall unwanted apps at any time.


Cricket to Sell HTC Desire 510 for $150

Sep 10, 2014, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today said it will offer the HTC Desire 510 to customers beginning September 19. The handset will cost $150 and is compatible with Cricket's array of prepaid service plans. HTC announced the 510 last month. It is an entry-level handset with LTE 4G on board. It features a 4.7-inch display, a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor with 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of built-in storage. The main camera captures 5-megapixel images, and the user-facing camera captures VGA images. Connectivity features include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, GPS, and DLNA for sharing media. The 510 runs Android 4.4 KitKat and includes HTC Sense and Blinkfeed. The handset will be available from Cricket's web site first, with a phased rollout across the company's 6,000 retail points through October.

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Hangouts Gains Free Voice Calls

Sep 10, 2014, 10:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Hangouts service with the ability to make free voice calls from Android and iOS devices, as well as from the web. Hangouts users can call one another and regular numbers in the U.S. and Canada without incurring any costs. Google says calls to other countries will require fees, but its rates are low. Google plans to make Hangouts version 2.3 available to Android devices over the next few days, and users wishing to make calls will need to install an additional dialer. The feature will show up automatically in the iOS and web versions of Hangouts. Hangouts users are already able to use the app to send IM and SMS messages, as well as make video calls.


Amazon Makes Prime Video Available to Android Phones

Sep 9, 2014, 11:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today made Amazon Instant Video, a service available to its Prime customers, available to Android phones for the first time. The service lets people stream movies and television shows to their handset. Before today, Amazon Instant Video was reserved for Amazon's own tablets and Apple's iOS devices. In order to install Amazon Instant Video, Android phone owners need to update the main Amazon shopping app. Only then can you use the in-app tools to download and install Amazon Instant Video, which is a plug-in that operates inside the Amazon shopping app. Amazon Instant Video is not available from the Google Play Store. Users also need to allow app installs from "unknown sources" in order to get Amazon Instant Video up and running. Checking this setting is often viewed as a security risk. Amazon Prime membership costs $100 per year, and includes streaming music and video services, as well as reduced shipping costs and cloud-based storage. Amazon Instant Video is still not available to Android tablets.


Amazon Slashes Fire Phone's Price to $1

Sep 8, 2014, 2:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon and AT&T today announced the Fire Phone is now available for the price of $0.99 with a new two-year contract. The Fire Phone was sold for $200 on contract when it launched just two months ago. Alternately, consumers can pick it up for $0 down and $18.75 per month (for 24 months) with AT&T Next 18. The Fire Phone runs FireOS, a forked version of Android, and uses Amazon's services rather than Google's. It has several distinctive features, such as FireFly for searching/shopping; Dynamic Perspective, which provides a 3D-like user interface; and a free year of Amazon Prime.


The Motorola Phones That Never Were

Sep 6, 2014, 8:13 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Sep 8, 2014, 12:44 PM

In a rare peek behind the curtain, Motorola reveals early prototypes of its phones, as well as phones that never saw the light of day. Explore a full gallery of prototype Motorola phones and watches, including a RAZR flip-phone for Android, phones made of cork, and early versions of the Moto 360 watch.

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Chrome for Android Earns Its Material Design Stripes

Sep 5, 2014, 5:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated Chrome for Android devices. The update makes several changes to the browser. For example, signing into Chrome automatically signs users into all Google sites they visit. The app has also been updated with Google's Material Design, which has a new look and feel. The update also fixes bugs and improves performance. Chrome for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Alcatel Debuts Hero 2 with 6-Inch FHD Display

Sep 4, 2014, 2:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced the Hero 2, an Android phablet for the masses. The phone features a 6-inch full HD display that Alcatel claims covers 90% of the phone's front face. It is protected by Dragontail glass to prevent against breakage. It is powered by an octa-core processor with two banks of four cores running at 2.0GHz each. It has 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and supports microSD cards up to 32GB. The Hero 2 has a 3,100mAh battery, which Alcatel says gives it a full day of intense usage. The main camera captures 13.1 megapixels and includes HDR, face detection, optical image stabilization, and 1080p HD video capture. The user-facing camera captures 5 megapixels. The Hero 2 boasts the usual spate of wireless radios, including various LTE bands, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS. It also supports DLNA for sharing, includes an FM radio, and is stuffed with a wide range of sensors. The phone is compatible with Alcatel's MagicFlip covers, which can display current track information, as well as alerts for incoming/missed calls. Alcatel didn't say when the Hero 2 will be available, nor what it will cost.


Hands-On: Huawei Ascend Mate 7 and G7

Sep 4, 2014, 12:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei kicked out two new Android smartphones in Berlin this week. Here our our first thoughts on the Ascend Mate 7 and Ascend G7, which compete on cost, but not necessarily quality.

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Huawei Launches the Ascend Mate 7

Sep 4, 2014, 8:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 4, 2014, 8:59 AM

Huawei today announced the Ascend Mate 7, a new Android smartphone that adds a fingerprint sensor for biometric security. The fingerprint sensor, located on the back, can read fingerprints in any orientation and can even read wet fingers. The Mate 7 has a 6-inch IPS screen with what Huawei calls "negative liquid crystal display" technology. The bezels along the sides of the screen are minimal. Huawei calls the look "invisible edge." Its screen-to-body ratio is 83%, meaning the screen takes up a huge proportion of the front face of the device. Huawei added metal to the design in order to give it a more premium look and design. The entire back plate is forged from metal, and the edges are chamfered to give it a high-end appearance. Despite the metal materials, it still supports NFC. The Mate 7 is 7.9mm thick, but houses a 4,100mAh battery. It is powered by an oct-core processor in a big.LITTLE configuration. The Huawei Kirin 925 processor batches four A15 1.8 GHz chips and four A7 1.3 GHz chips with integrated graphics. The Kirin 925 has a co-procesor to manage sensors in low-power mode. The phone has a 13-megapixel camera with BSI and f/2 aperture; 5-megapixel user-facing camera; Quick Charge; and Category 6 LTE. The phone comes in black, gold, and silver.


HTC Brings 64-Bit Power to Desire 820

Sep 4, 2014, 1:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 4, 2014, 1:42 AM

HTC today announced the Desire 820, a follow-up to the 816 from earlier this year. HTC took care in its design, creating new process - Double Shot - to combine the different colored plastics that give the phone its unique look. The 820 is notable because it uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor with two banks of four cores, one at 1.5GHz and one at 1.0GHz. It has 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and supports microSD cards up to 64GB. The 615 integrates Category 4 LTE, as well as smartphone standards such as dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS. The phone features a 5.5-inch 720p LCD screen surrounded by HTC's signature BoomSound stereo speakers. The Desire 820 includes a 13-megapixel main camera and an 8-megapixel selfie camera with BSI sensor and 1080p HD video capture. The main imager has a 28mm lens at f/2.2. The phone has a new app called Photo Booth, which can be used to create photo collages. It also has a software tool to instantly "add makeup" to faces to improve their appearance. Another novel photo feature allows users to mashup two portraits into one, creating a single face from the two source photos. The HTC Desire 820 runs Android 4.4 KitKat with Sense 6.0 and will come in a variety of colors. It will ship to various markets beginning at the end of September. HTC didn't say if the phone will be made available in the U.S.

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Sony Uses Android Wear in SmartWatch 3

Sep 3, 2014, 9:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 3, 2014, 10:01 AM

Sony today revealed its first smart watch to run Google's Android Wear platform. The SmartWatch 3, Sony's third-generation device, ditches its home-grown platform in favor of Google's platform for wearables. Sony says the SmartWatch 3 offers a wider range of stand-alone features when compared to other Android Wear devices. Some include a media player and built-in accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, and GPS for fitness tracking. The screen measures 1.6 inches across the diagonal and includes 320 x 320 pixels set in a stainless steel frame. The SmartWatch 3 is waterproof and dust resistant. It will be sold in several colors in the months ahead. Sony also announced the SmartBand Talk, a wearable that uses a 1.4-inch e-paper display for always-on functionality. The device has a built-in microphone and speaker and can be used as a Bluetooth phone accessory for making/taking calls. It is also waterproof and dust resistant. Both devices are compatible with Sony's Lifelogging platform for tracking fitness activity and sharing via social networks.

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Samsung Note 4 Is More of A Big Thing

Sep 3, 2014, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 3, 2014, 9:19 AM

Samsung today announced the Galaxy Note 4, the latest version of its flagship productivity phone. The Note 4 carries over a lot of the design ideas set forth in last year's Note 3, though it makes a number of refinements. The phone features a 5.7-inch quad-HD display with 2560 x 1440 pixels. Samsung stuck with its Super AMOLED technology for the screen. According to Samsung, the larger, higher-resolution screen enhances the phone's multitasking capabilities, with more content visible in each window. The Note 4 has two processor variants. The U.S. variant will use a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with four cores at 2.7GHz each. It has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, with support for microSD cards up to 64GB. The Note 4 ups the ante with the camera, which captures 16-megapixels and includes optical image stabilization, HDR, and ultra HD video capture. The user-facing camera jumps up to 3.7 megapixels and has a wide aperture of f/1.9. The phone runs Android 4.4 KitKat and comes with he latest version of Samsung's TouchWiz user interface, which includes S Health, S Voice, and other apps/services common to Samsung phone. The S Pen stylus has been refined to provide a more natural feel to the on-screen writing behavior, and it carries over the tools and functions from the Note 3, such as Air Command, Image Clip, and Smart Select. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 will be sold by all four major U.S. carriers and should be available in the months ahead.


Broadcom Intros New Wi-Fi Chip for Smartphones

Sep 3, 2014, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Broadcom today announced the BCM4358, a high-end Wi-Fi radio for flagship smartphones and tablets. The BCM4358 employs an 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO configuration for improved throughput and speeds, which Broadcom says can reach 650Mbps. Broadcom says the combo chip makes significant improvements with respect to Bluetooth performance, too. In addition to the wireless speed bumps, the BCM4358 is much more accurate at determining location. Broadcom says it is accurate down to one meter. The BCM4358 has integrated power and low-noise amplifiers, as well as beamforming and Low Density Parity Check Codes. It supports the Android, Windows, and Chrome operating systems. The BM4358 is already in mass production and Broadcom says it will appear in high-end devices before the end of the year.


Asus Debuts Android Wear-based ZenWatch

Sep 3, 2014, 6:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus today announced the ZenWatch, its first smart watch to runs Google's Android Wear platform. The device has a classic design, with a stainless steel body and leather strap. The ZenWatch's 1.63-inch AMOLED display is gently curved and offers 320 x 320 pixels. It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.2GHz. The ZenWatch includes 512MB of RAM and 4GB of on-board storage. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 LE for connectivity and has a 9-axis sensor for monitoring and interacting with its surroundings. It features what Asus calls a biosensor, which is fitted into a ring that surrounds the watch face. When used with the proper app, ZenWatch owners will be able to check their heart rate by pressing their finger onto the display. Asus added other unique features, such as an SOS function that can place emergency calls if the ZenWatch determines that the wearer has fallen and needs assistance. The ZenWatch will be available later this year for about $260. Asus didn't say if the device will be sold in the U.S.

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Nokia Routing Maps Apps to Android and iOS

Sep 3, 2014, 6:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia is preparing to release versions of its mapping application for the Android and iOS platforms. Nokia executive Sean Fernback told The Wall Street Journal the apps will offer features not available to Google Maps and Apple Maps. For example, Nokia Maps users will be able to download maps of cities, regions, or states so they may be used when offline. This is a hallmark feature of Nokia's HERE Maps for Windows Phone. Nokia believes its offline maps will draw users away from Google and Apple's alternatives. The offline maps will support searches, as well. "I'm convinced people are looking for alternatives," said Fernback. "Google Maps is a good solution for many, their maps work very well, but it has looked the same and done the same for a long time." Nokia released a version of its HERE Maps for iOS back in 2012, but later pulled the app after it received poor reviews. Nokia plans to release the new Android and iOS mapping apps before the end of the year. Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft earlier this year, but retained ownership of its mapping business.


Google Plans to Add Bluetooth, GPS to Android Wear

Sep 2, 2014, 11:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is working on several updates to Android Wear that will introduce more features to the platform for wearables. Director of Engineering for Android Wear, David Singleton, told CNET that the first update to arrive will add certain Bluetooth functions to Android Wear. "We'll have an update coming that allows you to pair a Bluetooth headset with your watch. And that means you can play music stored on your watch directly on your Bluetooth headset," said Singleton. Google also plans to add support for GPS, meaning properly equipped devices will be able to track location data directly without an accompanying smartphone. These updates are expected to arrive later this year. The company is also working to make Android Wear compatible with a wide range of sensors. Google envisions Android Wear devices interacting with a broad scope of other devices in order to develop richer and more useful data for owners. According to Google, thousands of Android applications have already been updated with support for Android Wear, and Google created a separate section of the Play Store for compatible apps. Several Android Wear devices are currently available and LG, Asus, and others are expected to debut more Android Wear devices this week.


Sprint Selling the HTC One (E8)

Aug 29, 2014, 9:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 29, 2014, 11:59 AM

Sprint today added the HTC One (E8) to its roster of Android smartphones. The E8, which was announced earlier this year, is a plastic version of the M8. It carries over many of the same features, such as the 5-inch full HD screen, BoomSound speakers, 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, and 2,600mAh battery with Android 4.4.2 KitKat and HTC Sense 6.0. The device trades the M8's 4-ultrapixel camera for a standard 13-megapixel sensor. The Sprint E8 includes Sprint Spark, Wi-Fi calling, and HD Voice. It is being sold in gray or white online and via telesales. With Sprint Easy Pay, the HTC One E8 can be purchased for $0 down followed by 24 monthly payments of $20.84. Alternately, it costs $99 with a new two-year contract or $499 at full retail.


T-Mobile to Sell HTC One for Windows this Fall

Aug 28, 2014, 10:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today voiced support for the HTC One for Windows on its web site. The company will sell the device in the weeks ahead. It is already sold by Verizon Wireless, and will also soon be sold by AT&T. The One for Windows runs Windows Phone rather than Android.


OneDrive for Android Adds Business Account Support

Aug 28, 2014, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its OneDrive cloud storage application for the Android platform. The primary new feature of the app is support for OneDrive Business accounts, which allows device owners to sign in with either or both of their personal or work-assigned accounts. Android device owners can access their personal and business files separately and easily save files to either account. Other new features include support for pin code lock, improvements to camera backup, and the ability to open OneDrive files with the storage access framework. OneDrive for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Sprint Adds Avatars to Visual Voicemail

Aug 28, 2014, 9:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced a new service that will allow customers to add animations and avatars to their voicemail messages. The service is available to Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile USA customers with select Android handsets. The base service includes 12 free avatars and 12 free backgrounds that can be paired together in any combination along with voice effects in order to create unique animations. The avatars are lip-synced with the caller's voicemail (up to 20 seconds for free, up to two minutes with premium subscription). According to Sprint, the content library will be updated often, with new free and paid avatars and backgrounds appearing each week. Sprint customers can use their own voice, or an optional voice effect with variable pitch to make the message more fun. The avatar messages can be shared via voicemail, email, SMS, and even posted to Facebook. Further, messages can be sent to any user on any network, and can also be viewed on the web from desktops or tablets. Devices compatible with the service will receive an update to the visual voicemail application beginning this month. The initial list of compatible devices includes the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, and S5, and Note 2; the HTC EVO 4G LTE and HTC One. Sprint said more devices will be made compatible with the service over time.


LG Debuts Round Android Wear Watch

Aug 27, 2014, 9:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today announced the G Watch R, a round smartwatch based on Google's Android Wear platform. LG already offers a square-shaped device called the G Watch. In designing the G Watch R, LG said it carefully weighed how consumers view watches as accessories and often require them to be stylish as well as functional. The G Watch R is made of stainless steel and features a 22mm calf-skin strap. According to LG, the G Watch R is the first wearable to feature a plastic OLED display, which measures 1.3 inches across the diagonal with 320 x 320 pixels. It is highly visible, even in direct sunlight. The G Watch R is powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of built-in storage. It boasts an IP67 rating against water/dust intrusion, and can withstand up to 30 minutes in one meter of water. The device features a heart rate monitor, 9-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, and barometer. It has a 410mAh battery, but LG didn't offer information on expected battery life. The G Watch R can run all apps compatible with Android Wear, and includes a number of LG-designed fitness apps. The LG G Watch R will go on sale in select markets early in the fourth quarter. Pricing and exact availability will be announced on a market-by-market basis.

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AT&T One (M8) Receiving Android 4.4.3

Aug 27, 2014, 10:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC said via Twitter that owners of the AT&T variant of the One (M8) can download Android 4.4.3 beginning today. The minor system update, which fixes bugs and improves performance (esp. GPS), can be installed over the air.


T-Mobile to Sell Alcatel OneTouch Fierce 2 and Evolve 2

Aug 27, 2014, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 27, 2014, 9:10 AM

T-Mobile and Alcatel today announced the addition of the Fierce 2 and Evolve 2 to T-Mobile's value handset roster. Both devices run Android 4.4 KitKat. Shared hardware features include 5-megapixel main cameras, VGA user-facing cameras, 4GB of built-in storage, support for microSD cards up to 32GB, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

  • Fierce 2: The Fierce 2 (pictured) is the larger of the two phones, boasting a 5-inch qHD display. It is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor and includes 1GB of RAM. The camera includes HDR, panorama, and burst modes. The Fierce 2 has a 2,000mAh battery.
  • Evolve 2: This compact phone has a 4-inch WVGA display and it is powered by a 1.3GHz dual-core processor with 512MB of RAM. It has a 1,4000mAh battery. Alcatel is pitching the Fierce 2 as an entry-level smartphone.
T-Mobile's web site lists the phones as "coming soon." Pricing was not provided.


HTC Intros Desire 510, A Low-Cost LTE Phone

Aug 27, 2014, 7:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today announced the Desire 510, an entry-level device that includes LTE 4G for many regions around the world. The 510 is made from polycarbonate and HTC created a DotView case for the device, which allows owners to answer calls even when the case is closed. The phone has a 4.7-inch FWVGA display and is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor. It has 1GB of RAM, 8GB of built-in storage, and supports microSD cards up to 128GB. The main camera captures 5-megapixel images, and the user-facing camera captures VGA images. Connectivity features include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, GPS, and DLNA for sharing media. The 510 runs Android 4.4 KitKat and includes HTC Sense and Blinkfeed. HTC said the Desire 510 will be sold in most countries around the world in the months ahead. None of the U.S. network operators have announced plans to sell the 510, and pricing wasn't immediately disclosed.


Boost Mobile to Sell Low-Cost ZTE Warp Sync

Aug 26, 2014, 10:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 26, 2014, 10:39 AM

Boost Mobile today announced the ZTE Warp Sync, an inexpensive Android handset for Sprint's pre-paid network. The Warp Sync features a 5-inch display with Gorilla Glass 2 and a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor from Qualcomm with 2GB of RAM. The Warp Sync includes an 8-megapixel main camera and a 1.6-megapixel user-facing camera. According to Boost Mobile, the Warp Sync is the first handset from ZTE capable of accessing Sprint Spark and offering HD Voice. Other specs include a 2,300mAh battery, mobile hotspot, Mobile ID packs, and Android 4.4 KitKat. The ZTE Warp Sync is available online beginning today for $180. It will reach Boost Mobile stores September 1. Boost Mobile does not require contracts.


LG Shows Off the G3 Stylus

Aug 26, 2014, 7:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today announced the G3 Stylus, a variant of the G3 that adds a stylus, but seriously ramps down the specifications. The device carries over the design language of the G3, but the 5.5-inch display goes from Quad HD (2560 x 1440) to qHD (960 x 540). The G3 Stylus also loses the G3's quad-core 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801 processor and instead includes a quad-core 1.3GHz processor. It offers a 13-megapixel main camera and 1.3-megapixel user-facing camera. The G3 Stylus has 8GB of storage, 1GB of RAM, and a memory card slot, and it boasts a removable 3,000mAh battery. The G3 Stylus runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat along with a number of LG's signature apps, such as QuickMemo, QSlide Apps, Knock Code, and the Smart Keyboard. LG didn't call out any specific features or applications customized for the stylus. The device is limited to 3G networks for now and goes on sale in Brazil, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa this fall. LG didn't indicate if a version of the G3 Stylus will reach the U.S.


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