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printed February 28, 2017
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Hands On with the LG X power2

Yesterday, 11:03 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Yesterday, 11:11 AM

LG's X power was a unique phone focused almost exclusively on having an unusually large battery. This year's update improves almost every spec, including battery size (naturally), screen size, camera resolution, and memory. With fast charging, it's a battery beast. What's it like in person? We find out.

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T-Mobile to Give Away Free Line of Service

Yesterday, 9:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said most customers who have a service plan with two or more lines can snag another line for free. T-Mobile says this free line can be used for a phone, tablet, watch, or mobile hotspot. It will match the features of the least-expensive line that's already on the plan. For example, T-Mobile is offering two lines of the T-Mobile One plan for $100. This new deal would allow customers to score the third line of T-Mobile One at no extra charge. T-Mobile says the promotion is available to nearly all T-Mobile One, Simple Choice, and Simple Choice No Credit plans, as long as the account already has two or more lines of service. The free line is being given away in the form of monthly bill credits. Handset payments are not included. Customers who cancel one of their existing lines will lose the bill credits for the free line. Customers will need to subscribe to auto-pay to receive the free line, and it may make one or two payments before the bill credit is applied.

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Hands On with the Nokia 3, 5, and 6

Yesterday, 8:14 AM   by Rich Brome

Nokia is back in the phone game, now with proper Android smartphones. Their strategy is affordable, mass-market phones with premium design and construction. They have three models in this lineup, all with solid metal bodies, generic Android software, and low, low prices. We checked them out. Read on for our impressions.

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Jolla Ports Sailfish to Sony Xperia X, Launches China Venture

Yesterday, 6:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sailfish OS will find a new home on the Sony Xperia X smartphone. Jolla and Sony today said Jolla has created a custom version of Sailfish that can run on Xperia X handset. Jolla is taking advantage of Sony's Open Device program to make this happen. The Jolla-enabled Xperia X won't be sold to consumers, however, and is instead meant to serve more as a developer platform. It's a modern handset that's more powerful than the aging Jolla C device, allowing developers and enthusiasts to make use of newer technology in their projects. Jolla said the Sailfish Xperia X will be made available to its community members later this year. Jolla today also announced that it has formed a consortium in China. The Sailfish China consortium will develop Sailfish OS based platforms for smartphones, the automotive industry, TV, IoT, and smartwatches. Jolla says a number of companies plan to join the consortium. Jolla is run by ex-Nokia employees. Sailfish OS is based on Nokia's failed Meego/Maemo mobile Linux platform. Sailfish originally intended to sell its own phones, but was forced to reorganize. It now develops the operating system and licenses it to other companies.

Oppo's 5x Dual Camera Zoom Makes Use of a Periscope

Yesterday, 6:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Oppo today announced a new camera module that hides a telephoto lens inside the phone chassis. The main camera makes use of a wide-angle lens. A rotating prism set inside the camera module can divert light 90 degrees through a secondary lens to a second imaging sensor. Oppo claims the arrangement creates lossless images even at 5x optical zoom. The prism is able to rotate in increments of 0.0025 degrees, allowing for precise tuning. Both the prism and the telephoto lens group can move to compensate for vibration in real time to help ensure sharp shots. Opponents didn't provide details on the camera sensor's resolution, nor did it suggest what phone might first include the 5x dual camera zoom. The company has spent more than a year developing the system, which has more than 50 components.

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ZTE Cuts Into the Entry-Level Space with Two New Blade V8s

Yesterday, 4:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Blade V8 Mini and the Blade V8 Lite, two low-spec'd devices that will sit under the Blade V8 Pro released earlier this year. The phones share a number of features, including metal designs, rear-mounted fingerprint sensors, 5-inch HD displays, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. They both run Android 7 Nougat with ZTE's MiFavor 4.2 UI.

  • Blade V8 Mini: The Mini (pictured) is the more capable of the two phones thanks to its octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 processor. It features a 13- and 2-megapixel main camera combo for advanced features such as bokeh and 3D depth shots. The front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and its own selfie flash. The fingerprint sensor supports a handful of gestures for answering calls and such. The V8 Mini has a 2,800mAh battery.
  • Blade V8 Lite: The lesser of the new ZTEs includes an octa-core MediaTek 6750 processor. The V8 Lite has an 8-megapixel main camera, a 5-megapixel user-facing camera, and a 2,500mAh battery.
Both phones are expected to ship to Asian and European markets during the second quarter. For now, the Blade V8 Pro will be the only Blade handset sold in the U.S., according to ZTE.

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Helio X30 Is MediaTek's Premium Mobile Processor

Yesterday, 3:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MediaTek today announced the Helio X30 system-on-chip, its most advanced mobile processor for smartphones. The chip relies on a 10nm process, which gives it 2.4 times more processing power and 60% more efficiency when compared to MediaTek's 16nm process. The X30 is a 10-core processor with a tri-cluster architecture. It has two ARM Cortex A73 cores at 2.5 GHz, four A53 cores at 2.2 GHz, and four A35 cores at 1.9 GHz. This gives the chip the ability to handle high-intensity tasks as well as low-power tasks. It is paired with the Imagination PowerVR Series7XT Plus GPU clocked at 800 MHz. As for connectivity, the Helio X30 includes support for Cat 10 LTE, three-channel carrier aggregation on the downlink and two-channel carrier aggregation on the uplink. MediaTek claims the X30 SoC is the first to support 4K2K 10-bit HDR10 video decoding in smartphones. It also incorporates two 14-bit image signal processors supporting dual cameras up to 16 megapixels. The Xelio X30 is already sampling and MediaTek expects to see it in devices during the second quarter of the year.

AT&T Debuts Unlimited, But Really Slow, Plan

Yesterday, 2:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced the AT&T Unlimited Choice service plan, which offers unlimited everything at reduced speeds. For example, Unlimited Choice includes maximum download speeds of just 3Mbps, with video capped at 480p standard resolution and limited to streams of 1.5Mbps. To put these speeds in perspective, AT&T's LTE network often supports speeds in excess of 50Mbps. Further, AT&T-owned Cricket Wireless offers speeds of up to 8Mbps. The 3Mbps limit on this new plan will allow for web browsing and social networking, but will likely impact app downloads and other data-intensive actions. The Unlimited Choice plan starts at $60 for a single line or $155 for four lines. AutoPay and paperless billing are required to get these prices. The AT&T Unlimited Choice plan will be available starting March 2.

AT&T Changes Unlimited Plan After Just Two Weeks

Yesterday, 2:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today responded to consumer feedback concerning its new unlimited plan by overhauling the offer. The new AT&T Unlimited Plus plan for a single line provides unlimited talk, text, and data, and 10 GB of tethering for $90 per month. When first announced on Feb. 16, the plan cost $100 and did not include tethering at all. AT&T says four lines on the new Unlimited Plus plan will cost $185 per month. AT&T is tossing a $25 video credit into the mix that applies to both its wireless customers and those customers who subscribe to both AT&T for wireless service and DirecTV for television service. AT&T wireless-only customers can add DirecTV Now (the mobile TV offering) for just $10 per month after the $25 bill credit. That makes the Unlimited Plan with DirecTV Now $100 in total single line and $195 for four lines). AT&T and DirecTV customers will see their DirecTV bill dropped from $50 to $25 with the credit, making the Unlimited Plan with DirecTV $115. AT&T says the new plans are open to all customers, including those who recently jumped to the unlimited option. Customers who exceed 10 GB of tethering will see tethering speeds capped at 128Kbps for the remainder of the billing period. Tablets cost $20 extra to add to the Unlimited Plan. AutopPay and paperless billing is required. The new Unlimited Plan will be available starting March 2.

Hands On with the Sony XZ Premium

Yesterday, 2:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony's luscious new phone is to die for. The 4K HDR screen is the best display you've ever seen on a mobile device and Sony wrapped it up in a serene metal-and-glass package. We spent a few moments looking at what might be Sony's finest-ever smartphone.

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Hands On with the Sony Xperia XZs

Yesterday, 2:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The XZs is a carry-over from last year. Sony took the XZs and gave it many of the amazing powers lurking under the hood of the XZ Premium, such as the camera sensor and image processor. The XZs is a better phone than last year's, even if it looks mostly the same. Here are our first thoughts.

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Hands On with the Sony Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra

Yesterday, 2:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony is betting on these two mid-range Xperia smartphones to help it find traction with U.S. buyers. They have reasonable prices, reasonable spec sheets, and that Sony design language. Here are our first impressions with Sony's XA1 and XA1 Ultra

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Sony XZ Premium Dazzles with 4K HDR Display

Yesterday, 2:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today announced the XZ Premium, a high-end smartphone that has a 4K HDR display. The screen measures 5.5 inches across the diagonal and packs 3,840 by 2,160 pixels for the ultimate in high definition. It includes Sony's TriLuminos and X-Reality technologies to improve video performance. The phone features Gorilla Glass 5 both on front and back, with an aluminum frame in between. The XZ Premium is powered by the Snapdragon 835 processor with an Adreno 540 GPU. It includes 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, with support for memory cards up to 256 GB. Sony has updated its camera and lens technology for the XZ Premium, which has a 19-megapixel sensor, optical image stabilization, and the ability to capture 960fps super slow-motion video. Other camera features include predictive focus, predictive capture, and an anti-distortion shutter. The user-facing camera captures 13-megapixel images and shoots full HD resolution video. Sony gave the phone a 3,230mAh battery with rapid charging and Qnovo adaptive charging to help lengthen the life-span of the battery over multiple charge cycles. Other specs include USB-C, IP68 for waterproofing, high-end audio processing, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, and NFC. The device ships with Android 7.1 Nougat. Sony did not announce pricing nor availability.

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Xperia XZs to Stand In As Sony's Flagship for Everyone

Yesterday, 2:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today announced the Xperia XZs, a flagship phone that carries forward the company's design philosophy of metal-and-glass slabs. It may not be as impressive as the 4K Xperia XZ Premium, but it is still meant to compete with the likes of the iPhone 7, Galaxy S8, and G6. The XZs has a 5.5-inch full HD screen and is powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor with an Adreno 510 GPU, 4 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 256 GB. The phone has the same 19-/13-megapixel camera combo as the XZ Premium, which includes 5-axis stabilization, 960fps super slow motion video, predictive focus, and triple-image sensing. Sony gave the phone a 2,900mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 and Qnovo adaptive charging to help lengthen the life-span of the battery over multiple charge cycles. Other specs include USB-C, IP68 for waterproofing, high-end audio processing, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, and NFC. The device ships with Android 7.1 Nougat. The phone will cost $700 when it goes on sale in early April. Sony plans to sell the phone directly to consumers unlocked.

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Sony's XA1 and XA1 Ultra Find a Home In the Middle

Yesterday, 2:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today announced the XA1 and XA1 Ultra, two mid-range Android smartphones. These devices rely on the same design language seen on Sony's pricier handsets and share almost all internal components. The biggest difference is in screen and battery size. Where the XA1 has a 5-inch 720p screen and 2,300mAh battery, the XA1 Ultra (pictured) has a 6-inch full HD screen and a 2,700mAh battery. The XA1 series feature MediaTek octa-core Helio P20 processors with the Mali T880 GPU, 2 or 4 GB of RAM and 32 or 64 GB of storage. The devices support microSD memory cards up to 256 GB. Each has a 23-megapixel Exmor RS camera with 24mm lens and an aperture of f/2.0. The XA1 has an 8-megapixel selfie cam, while the Ultra improves upon that with a 16-megapixel sensor and optical image stabilization. Other specs include USB-C, Qnovo adaptive charging, rapid charging, Cat 6 LTE, and Android 7 Nougat. The XA1 will go on sale April 26 for $300. The XA1 Ultra goes on sale this summer. Pricing for the larger Sony wasn't announced.

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Hands On with the Alcatel A5

Yesterday, 2:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Here's a neat one. Alcatel showed off the A5 LED this week, an entry-level smartphone that packs some visual pow thanks to light-up LEDs that cover the back surface. The phone by itself may not be all that impressive, but the light show is a riot. Here are our first impressions of the Alcatel A5.

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Alcatel A5 with LED to Make Its Way Stateside

Yesterday, 2:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Alcatel A5 LED smartphone is serious about having fun. The phone features an LED-covered rear panel that can blink a few dozen LEDs with color. The LEDs can be used to serve as notifications for incoming calls, messages, or alarms. The included Color Catching 2.0 app lets owners create unique LED patterns and themes. Last, the LEDs can provide a light show when listening to music. The A5 has an octa-core processor, 5.2-inch HD screen, 8-megapixel main camera, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera with Face Beauty software for that perfect look. Alcatel didn't announce pricing, but the phone is meant for younger people. Availability isn't yet known, though Alcatel did say this phone would reach the U.S. at some point.

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Alcatel's A3 and U5 Serve As Entry-Level Phones

Yesterday, 2:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced the A3 and the U5, new additions to the bottom of its lineup of inexpensive Android smartphones. The devices are made mostly of plastic and share similar designs.

  • A3: The A3 is the more capable of these two devices with a 5-inch HD display, 4G LTE, 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash, 5-megapixel front camera, fingerprint sensor, quad-core CPU, and metal frame.
  • U5: This phone includes a 5-inch screen, LTE 4G, front and rear cameras, and Simple Mode for novice users. The plastic rear shell comes in a variety of colors for personalization.
Alcatel didn't share pricing nor release dates for these phones, but neither is slated to come to the U.S.

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