Phone Scoop

printed October 22, 2017
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CES 2016

The mother of all trade shows, the Consumer Electronics Show takes over Vegas for the first week of January. Some major phones are usually announced, and we'll have hands-on reports for each one. This year, we expect big news from Huawei, Samsung, Sony, and Blu. Plus we'll have hands-on details of other interesting apps, services, and accessories in the world of phones.

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Panasonic Gives Your Phone an Upgrade on Your Next Flight

Jan 8, 2016, 5:41 PM   by Rich Brome

Panasonic's latest seatback systems for planes are more phone-oriented than ever, providing a dedicated spot for your phone, Qi wireless charging, USB 3.0 SuperSpeed for charging and media, and even an HDMI input. The multiple USB ports can not only charge your phone but also let you access your videos, photos, and music on the seat's 13-inch full-HD touch screen, which is actually based on an Android tablet. Panasonic showed off a couple of different designs at CES this week, and we checked them out.

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Hands On with Casio's Android Wear Watch

Jan 8, 2016, 12:05 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 8, 2016, 12:05 PM

Casio is finally getting into the proper smartwatch game with an Android Wear watch, in the form of the creatively-named "Smart Outdoor Watch". Weirdly, it doesn't don the G-Shock brand, but it's clearly of that lineage. It's not just any Android Wear watch; Casio has added quite a lot that's unique on both the hardware and software sides. Also, it's huge. We checked it out.

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Hands On with the Blu Vivo 5 and XL

Jan 8, 2016, 10:00 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 8, 2016, 11:27 AM

Blu is not only a fast-growing company, they're a fast-changing one as well. Most Blu phones to date have been cheap, plastic, and loaded with plain Android. At CES this year, Blu had a bit of a coming out party as a more aspirational brand. Their new Vivo 5 and Vivo XL have AMOLED displays, premium designs, advanced features, and a new, custom Blu skin on top of Android. Yet they stay true to Blu%u2019s mission of providing affordability, topping out at $200. We spent some time with the new models.

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Motorola Brand To Be Phased Out

Jan 7, 2016, 5:25 PM   by Rich Brome

Lenovo plans to phase out the Motorola brand from its phone lineup. Lenovo will now put its own name on all of its phones and related products. The company will still use "Moto" as a line brand, so phones like the Moto X will now be called the "Lenovo Moto X", making "Moto" a brand for high-end devices, while Lenovo's existing "Vibe" will designate lower-end Lenovo phones. The company will also keep using the iconic circular "M" logo on Moto phones. Lenovo bought Motorola Mobility from Google two years ago. Motorola Solutions continues to exist as a separate company making radio equipment for the public safety industry and related products and services.


Blu Monetizes Lock Screens

Jan 7, 2016, 3:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Blu and Celltick today announced a deal to put Celltick's Start screen technology on all new Blu phones. Start is an interactive lock screen that includes shortcuts to favorite contacts, apps, and more, while displaying content automatically personalized to the user. Users can customize the shortcuts and content they see, or turn off Start completely. Celltick and Blu make money form the arrangement by suggesting content from media partners — such as Huffington Post — and adding pre-roll video ads to video content selected by the user. Blu is also able to gather data to better understand which apps and content its users prefer. The new Blu Vivo 5 and Vivo XL include Start.

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Blu Vivo 5 Has Unibody Metal Design

Jan 7, 2016, 8:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Blu today announced the Vivo 5 and Vivo XL affordable Android smartphones. Both have a premium design, and similar specs. The Vivo 5 (pictured on the right) is Blu's first phone with unibody metal design carved from a single block of aluminum. Both phones sport a 5.5-inch HD AMOLED display, 1.3 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor, 13-megapixel camera, Type-C USB connector, and 3,150 mAh battery. The phones ship with Android 5.1, upgradeable to Android 6. Besides design, the two phones differ in a few other areas. The Vivo 5 is 6.9mm thick, while the Vivo XL is 7.5mm. The 5 has 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of memory, while the XL has 2 GB of RAM and 16 of memory (both have a memory card slot.) Finally, the XL supports LTE bands 2, 4, 7, 12, and 17 - for full US network support - while the Vivo 5 only supports LTE bands 2, 4, and 7. The Vivo 5 will sell for $199 unlocked next month, while the Vivo XL will go for $149 this month. Both will be sold via BestBuy.com and Amazon.com.

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Hands-On with Polaroid's Power and Snap Handsets

Jan 6, 2016, 6:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Polaroid is banking on its brand power to sell unlocked Android smartphones to unwitting U.S. consumers. Believe it or not, these phones are not the second coming of mobile photography. Instead, they are bland exercises in marketing gone awry.

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Hands On with RCA's Budget Unlocked Androids

Jan 6, 2016, 6:17 PM   by Rich Brome

The unlocked phone market is taking off in the States, and RCA is one company trying to take on the budget end of that market with a range of Android phones that sell for around $80-100 unlocked. We checked out the first LTE model in their lineup.

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Hands On with RCA's New Senior Phone

Jan 6, 2016, 5:54 PM   by Rich Brome

Feature phones with big, traditional buttons are becoming rare, but there's still a market for them among older consumers. RCA has a new phone out to address this market, with a number of senior-friendly features, and it costs just $29. We checked it out.

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Hands-On with Macate's GATCA Elite Smartphone

Jan 6, 2016, 5:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Macate's GATCA Elite smartphone is essentially a delivery vehicle for the company's suite of secure communication services. The handset is a decent piece of hardware, but is truly only for executives and VIPs who need extreme privacy. Here are our first impressions.

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Polaroid Shows Off Two Android Smartphones

Jan 6, 2016, 5:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Polaroid today announced the Power and Snap smartphones, two Android handsets that will be sold to U.S. consumers online. Polaroid did not make these phones; instead, it licensed its brand to Southern Telecom, which designed and manufactured the handsets. The phones offer attractive price points and will be sold unlocked. Each runs Android 5.1 Lollipop, has LTE compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile, and supports microSD memory cards.

The Polaroid Power and Snap are expected to reach the U.S. in the spring and February, respectively. Polaroid said more details will be available closer to release.


Nextbit Robin to Reach Early Backers February 16

Jan 6, 2016, 2:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nextbit said the first 1,000 people who supported the Robin through Kickstarter will receive their handset starting February 16. The company will push more deliveries to other supporters over time.

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BlackBerry Priv Wins Support from Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon

Jan 6, 2016, 2:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all agreed to sell the Priv smartphone. T-Mobile's variant launches January 26. Sprint and Verizon haven't yet set sales dates. The Priv is already available from AT&T. The carrier deals are a major win for BlackBerry, which claims demand for the Android-powered device is robust.


Macate Intros the Secure GATCA Elite Smartphone

Jan 6, 2016, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 6, 2016, 2:48 PM

Macate today announced the GATCA Elite, a smartphone that boasts advanced security tools. The phone was designed with VIPs in mind. It runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and offers 256-bit or 512-bit encryption, which goes beyond government-grade security. It relies on biometrics (facial recognition) to secure the handset. The facial recognition can't be fooled by a photograph thanks to "liveliness detection." The GATCA Elite has advanced controls over files, folders, location, and even the SIM card slot. For example, the phone can be set to automatically shut down if an unknown SIM card is inserted. The phone ships with a suite of pre-installed apps for securing basic communications, including calls, email, and messaging — all of which are encrypted from end to end. It includes a video conferencing app that supports up to 20 participants. The handset has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen and is powered by a 1.3 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6735 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It has a 13-megapixl rear camera and 5-megapixel front camera. It includes LTE Bands 2, 4, 5, 12, and 17 for compatibility with AT&T and T-Mobile. Macate is selling the GATCA Elite online for $850.

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Hands-On with the Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL with Windows

Jan 6, 2016, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Making good on a promise it made last year, Alcatel has shown off its first Windows 10 smartphone. Rather than start from scratch, the copy repurposed the Fierce XL handset, swapping Android for Windows. Here are our first impressions of this handset bound for T-Mobile.

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Alcatel Adds Windows 10 to the Fierce XL

Jan 6, 2016, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced a Windows 10 variant of the Fierce XL smartphone. The phone is a direct carry over from the Android version, which was announced last year. The hardware features a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen, a 1.1GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 32GB. The main camera features an 8-megapixel sensor with flash and the front camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. The Fierce XL supports LTE 4G along with VoLTE, HD voice, and WiFi calling. Though it runs Windows 10, it does not support the Continuum feature. Alcatel said the Fierce XL will reach T-Mobile stores in a few weeks. T-Mobile will carry the phone in the months ahead. Pricing has yet to be determined. Alcatel said it will eventually make an unlocked version available to U.S. buyers via its web site.

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Hands-On with Freetel's US-Bound Smartphones

Jan 6, 2016, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Freetel believes it can win over U.S. consumers with the Kiwami, Miyabi, Priori3, and Musashi Android smartphones. These inexpensive handsets should put other low-cost makers such as Huawei and ZTE on notice. Here is a brief look at these phones from the land of the rising sun.

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Freetel Sets Sites On US Market with Japanese Handsets

Jan 6, 2016, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Freetel today announced plans to sell its smartphones in the U.S. Freetel is one of the larger wireless network operators in Japan and also makes its own smartphones. The company believes the time is ripe to enter the U.S. based on the growing sales of unlocked handsets. Freetel will initially launch three phones during the first quarter, including the flagship Kiwami, the mid-range Miyabi, and the entry-level Priori3. The Kiwami is a high-end metal phone with a 6-inch quad HD screen, 21-megapixel Sony camera, 3,400mAh battery, fingerprint sensor, and rapid charging. It costs $389. The Miyabi has a 5-inch screen, 13-megapixel camera with image stabilization, and a metallic frame. It will cost $199. The Priori3 is a smaller, plastic handset that will cost $99. All three run Android, support LTE for AT&T and T-Mobile, and will be sold unlocked. Later in the year, Freetel hopes to bring the Musashi (pictured) to the U.S. This unique Android handset is a clamshell that features dual 4-inch touchscreen displays with a full numeric keypad. Pricing for the Musashi was not revealed.


Hands On with the Huawei Honor 5X

Jan 6, 2016, 2:47 AM   by Rich Brome

The Honor 5X is an "affordable premium" phone, a category that's expanding extremely quickly. It's Android. It has a metal back. It has respectable mid-range specs. It's pretty. Huawei is making a push to sell it online, unlocked. But what's it like in person? Read on.

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WeBoost, SureCall Roll Out In-Home Signal Boosters

Jan 6, 2016, 1:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

WeBoost and SureCall both used CES as an opportunity to show off new cell signal boosters. Both products work in a similar fashion: they collect cell signals from nearby cell towers, amplify them, and rebroadcast them within the home to improve coverage and signal strength. Each has two components — an antenna that is aimed at a cell tower and a broadcaster for supplying in-home coverage. WeBoost's product is called the eqo and resembles a WiFi router. WeBoost says the eqo is improved over its older products because the antenna can be kept indoors, rather than installed outside. This makes it more convenient for apartment dwellers. It can improve coverage over an area of about 1,200 square feet and costs $349. The SureCall EZ 4G is similar. Its antenna resembles a radar dish. The SureCall EZ 4G also provides one to two rooms of coverage and costs $399.99. The eqo and EZ 4G support CDMA, GSM, and LTE, and are compatible with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.


Huawei Honor 5X Steps Up Premium Design for a Low Price

Jan 6, 2016, 12:21 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 6, 2016, 12:23 AM

Huawei today announced the Honor 5X for the U.S., a phone very similar to the Huawei GX8 announced earlier today, but with a more premium design and $150 cheaper. The Honor 5X has a diamond-polished aluminum alloy casing. The four-step process includes applying a ceramic coating using a special brushing technique. It also has 4G LTE with full support for current AT&T and T-Mobile bands. Like the GX8, the Honor 5X is a mid-range Android phone with a unibody aluminum design, 5.5-inch Full-HD display, 13-megapixel camera, and Snapdragon 615 processor. The phone also includes a 3,000 mAh battery, rear fingerprint reader, and 5-megapixel front camera. Available colors include gold, silver, and gray. The Honor 5X will be available from Amazon.com and HiHonor.com on January 31 for $200 unlocked.

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Hands On with the ZTE Avid Plus for T-Mobile

Jan 5, 2016, 10:57 PM   by Rich Brome

ZTE's new most affordable smartphone for the U.S. is the Avid Plus. At just $115 MSRP (and probably less through T-Mobile and Metro) it's quite a low-end phone. Just how low-end does it feel? We checked it out.

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Hands-On with the Nextbit Robin

Jan 5, 2016, 10:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nextbit announced the Robin last year, but the company is using CES 2016 to re-introduce the phone just ahead of its launch. This phone focuses on optimizing on-board storage using the cloud. The hardware was crafted by a former HTC designer, so some of its characteristics are rather familiar. Here are our first impressions.

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Hands On wth the ZTE Grand X 3 for Cricket

Jan 5, 2016, 8:04 PM   by Rich Brome

The Grand X 3 is part of a growing trend to find new ways to bring premium features and design to mid-range and entry-level phones. The Grand X 3 is an extremely affordable phablet with a plastic body and low-end processor. Yet at the same time, it has the same curved-edge glass front normally found on much higher-end phones, plus an HD display and USB Type-C connector. We spent some time with one.

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ZTE Wants You To Design Its Next Phone

Jan 5, 2016, 6:29 PM   by Rich Brome

ZTE USA today announced Project CSX, "a community-sourced mobile device" that will be designed with the help of consumers participating in the company's new Z-Community member-led forum. ZTE plans to solicit ideas and feedback form US consumers during 2016 and launch the Project CSX device in 2017. The Z-Community will also offer members access to exclusive events, rewards, and products. Z-Community lives on the web at community.zteusa.com, and consumers can also participate in the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #zcommunity.


ZTE Avid Plus Offers 5-Inch Screen for $115

Jan 5, 2016, 6:18 PM   by Rich Brome

ZTE today announced the Avid Plus, an entry-level Android phone for T-Mobile and MetroPCS that will sell for just $115. It sports a 5-inch screen, Cat. 4 LTE, 5-megapixel main camera and 2-megapixel front camera. It can record video at 720p HD resolution. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM. Its 8 GB of storage can be expanded with memory cards up to 32 GB. It also supports Wi-Fi Calling. The Avid Plus is a follow-up to the Avid, which was last sold by MetroPCS in 2013. It had a much smaller 4-inch screen and was designed for MetroPCS's old CDMA/LTE network. The new Avid Plus will go on sale January 20 with both T-Mobile and MetroPCS.

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ZTE Grand X 3 Is Just $130

Jan 5, 2016, 6:18 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 8, 2016, 11:05 AM

ZTE today announced the Grand X 3 for Cricket Wireless. It offers a 5.5-inch HD screen and Cat. 4 LTE for just $130. It's also the most affordable phone to date to sport a USB Type-C connector, which is reversible. That connector supports fast charging for the 3,000 mAh removable battery. It has 2 GB of RAM and its 16 GB of storage is expandable via a memory card up to 64 GB. Its 8-megapixel camera shoots 720p HD video, and a 2-megapixel selfie camera graces the front. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor. The Grand X 3 will be available from Cricket later this month.

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Samsung to Make Gear S2 Compatible with iPhone

Jan 5, 2016, 6:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung said it plans to add support for the Apple iPhone to the Gear S2 smartwatch later this year. The S2, which runs Tizen, is already compatible with Android handsets. Samsung didn't say what features will make the jump from Android to iOS, though it may drop a few. In the past, Samsung has restricted its smartwatch compatibility to its own handsets. Bringing iOS support to the S2 is an important change of direction for Samsung.


Qualcomm Hopes to Improve Bluetooth Audio with aptX HD

Jan 5, 2016, 5:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced aptX HD, an improved stereo music Bluetooth profile that delivers 24-bit playback. Qualcomm says aptX HD picks up where the standard aptX profile leaves off, offering a significant upgrade to wireless audio performance by improving fidelity. Qualcomm says aptX HD is available immediately via its CSR8675 Bluetooth audio SoC platform. The aptX profile is included in many high-end smartphones.


Casio's First Android Wear Watch Defines Ruggedness

Jan 5, 2016, 5:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Casio today announced the WSD-F10, the company's first foray into the modern smartwatch market. Casio has long made rugged, outdoorsy watches, and the F10 looks to entice outdoor adventurers who might be seeking more than just a timepiece. The wearable is water resistant to 50 meters and rates mil-spec 810G for protection against shock, vibrations, temperature extremes, and humidity. Sensors include a compass, accelerometer, and air pressure for estimating elevation. It has a 1.32-inch screen with 300 by 300 pixels that can operate in full-color mode or monochrome mode to save power. The watch includes a bevy of Casio activity apps, as well as RunKeeper, ViewRanger, and MyRadar from its partners. The F10 is set to reach the U.S. in March for $500.

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Samsung Trots Out New Finishes for Gear S2 Watch

Jan 5, 2016, 5:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today revealed two new options for its Gear S2 smartwatch. The S2 Classic design will soon be available in platinum and rose gold. Other than the new colors and associated bands, the device itself is identical to the Gear S2 that launched last year. It has a 1.3-inch screen, can make phone calls, and runs Samsung's Tizen platform. Samsung said price points have yet to be determined, but the luxe wearables will reach consumers in February.

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Hands-On with LeTV Max Pro

Jan 5, 2016, 4:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LeTV is likely unfamiliar to U.S. consumers, but the company hopes to change that with the Max Pro smartphone. The Max Pro is a super-sized handset that claims a handful of firsts, including several key features from Qualcomm. Here are our first impressions of the LeTV Max Pro.

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Hands On with the Huawei GX8

Jan 5, 2016, 3:42 PM   by Rich Brome

The GX8 is a mid-range Android phone sold unlocked in the US market. It's an interesting entry into the growing category of phones that aim to marry premium design and materials with decent specs, for a low price. The premium design takes the form of a unibody aluminum frame and curved-edge glass front. Specs include a 5.5-inch HD display, Snapdragon 615 processor, and 13-megapixel camera. What's it like? We have some photos and first impressions.

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LeTV Max Pro Calls Dibs On Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Chip

Jan 5, 2016, 3:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 5, 2016, 3:36 PM

LeTV today announced the Max Pro, the first smartphone to use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor. In addition to Qualcomm's flagship chip, the Max Pro takes advantage of 802.11ad 60 GHz WiFi from Qualcomm and Qualcomm's ultrasonic fingerprint technology. The ultrasonic sensor, placed on the rear, can read prints through sweat and lotion, which should reduce the number of misreads. The Max Pro features an aluminum and glass design, with a 6.3-inch WQHD display. It includes a 21-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization and a 4-megapixel front camera. It has 4 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of storage. The device offers Dolby Atmos for sound processing, and has VoLTE / HD Voice. The handset uses a USB Type C connector. LeTV said it expects to release the Max Pro in the U.S. later this year.

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Qualcomm Intros 802.11ad 60 GHz WiFi for Phones

Jan 5, 2016, 3:06 PM   by Rich Brome

Qualcomm and Letv today announced the first phone with the Snapdragon 820 and Wi-Fi 802.11ad, which operates in the very high-frequency 60 GHz radio band. The Letv Le Max Pro also includes Qualcomm's Sense ID ultrasonic fingerprint sensor. Qualcomm's 802.11ad solution for phones includes the Snapdragon 820 SoC and QCA9500 Wi-Fi chip. The new standard and frequency band enable very fast (multi-gigabit) wireless data within the same room, such as 4K video streaming and screen mirroring.

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Ford to Add AT&T LTE to 10 Million Cars

Jan 5, 2016, 1:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ford today said it plans to bring connectivity to a large percentage of its cars over the next few years. The company will add its Sync Connect feature to as many as 10 million Ford cars by 2020. Sync Connect provides owners with a variety of features for interacting with their cars, such as unlocking the doors, locating parked vehicles, checking the fuel status and/or tire pressure, and remotely starting the engine. AT&T will provide five years of complimentary wireless service to new cars, beginning with the Escape this spring and expanding across the lineup over time. Network connectivity has been a feature for many Ford cars since 2011, but today's commitment will see LTE added to a broader range of vehicles along with vehicle management tools.


Nexus 6P Goes Gold

Jan 5, 2016, 1:23 PM   by Rich Brome

Huawei today announced the immediate availability of a gold version of the popular Nexus 6P Android phone. It's available in both 32 and 64 GB versions, from Best Buy and Google.

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GX8 Is Huawei's Take on Sweet Spot

Jan 5, 2016, 1:20 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 5, 2016, 11:30 PM

Huawei today announced that the GX8 will come to the U.S. later this quarter. The GX8 is a new mid-range Android phone with a unibody aluminum design, 5.5-inch Full-HD display, 13-megapixel camera, and Snapdragon 615 processor. The phone also includes a 3,000 mAh battery, rear fingerprint reader, and 5-megapixel front camera. Available colors include gold, gray, and silver. The GX8 will be available later in Q1 for $350 unlocked via Amazon.com and GetHuawei.com.

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HTC and Under Armour Launch Fitness Kit

Jan 5, 2016, 9:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Under Armour and HTC today announced UA HealthBox, a $400 box containing a suite of health and fitness hardware designed to work with the UA Record app for Android and iOS. The core device is the UA Band wrist wearable, which tracks basic heart rate and activity. It's designed to be worn 24/7, tracking both daily movement and sleep cycles. A more advanced, accurate heart rate monitor is included and designed to be worn during workouts and sport activity. As first reported by Phone Scoop over a month ago, the UA Scale — measuring both weight and body fat — is also part of the kit. It uses Bluetooth to identify the UA Band of the person standing on the scale and Wi-Fi to upload the data. The UA Record app collects and combines info from the hardware with food intake information entered by the user, to provide a complete health picture. The UA Band is similar to the HTC Grip device announced almost a year ago, but sacrifices GPS for a sleeker, smaller design that lasts longer between charges and can be worn 24/7. The new UA Band is encased in rubber and sports a thin white OLED display; it's controlled by touch gestures and a single physical button on the side. It also has an adjustable strap. The UA HealthBox can be pre-ordered immediately. It will go on sale January 22nd online and at UA Brand House stores in major U.S. cities. It will be available more widely later in Q1, including at third party sports retailers and internationally.

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Hands-On with the LG Tribute 5 for Boost

Jan 5, 2016, 1:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG introduced two mid-range phones today as part of its new K Series. The K7, which is the smaller of the two phones, will be sold in the U.S. as the Tribute 5. Here are our first impressions of this camera-centric Android smartphone from LG.

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Hands-On with Kyocera DuraXE and DuraForce XD

Jan 5, 2016, 1:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Kyocera kicked off CES with two new phones for AT&T. The DuraXE is a rugged flip and the DuraForce XD is a rugged phablet. Both are practically unbreakable and come with business and consumer-friendly features. Here are our first impressions of these two handsome handsets.

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Lenovo Shows Off the Vibe S1 Lite

Jan 4, 2016, 10:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo today announced the Vibe S1 Lite smartphone for select markets. The S1 is an Android handset that boasts a 5-inch full HD screen and a 1.3 GHz octa-core MediaTek 6753 processor with 16 GB of storage and support for memory cards up to 64 GB. The phone includes a 13-megapixel main camera with dual LED flash, and a wide-angle user-facing camera with software retouching so selfies turn out as clear as possible. The phone has a 2,700mAh battery, LTE, metallic frame, and curved rear edges to help it sit better in the hand. The Lenovo Vibe S1 Lite will reach China and India during the first quarter for approximately $199.

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Asus Says Zenfone Zoom to Reach US In February

Jan 4, 2016, 1:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus today announced plans to bring the Zenfone Zoom to the U.S. The Zoom was first announced a full year ago at CES 2015. This Android smartphone features a 13-megapixel camera with a 10-element lens, 3x optical zoom, laser focusing, optical image stabilization, and macro mode. The Zoom camera app sports a full manual mode with control over white balance, focus, and exposure. The front camera is 5 megapixels. The Zoom has a 5.5-inch full HD display and runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. It supports LTE bands compatible with AT&T and has a 3000 mAh battery. It will be available beginning in February for $399.

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Fiat Chrysler to Support Android Auto, CarPlay

Jan 4, 2016, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Fiat Chrysler today followed Ford in voicing support for Google's Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay interfaces. The fourth generation of Fiat Chrysler's Uconnect platform will add the smartphone-linking software to select 2016 models. Both Android Auto and CarPlay allow smartphones to push certain content to the in-dash infotainment center for accessing maps, music, messaging, and calling features. Fiat Chrysler did not say which cars will gain the latest Uconnect platform, nor exactly when it will begin the rollout.


WiFi HaLow Pushes Into 900MHz for Longer Range

Jan 4, 2016, 12:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The WiFi Alliance today announced WiFi HaLow (802.11ah), which it says is a low-power, long-range solution for a variety of use cases. WiFi HaLow drops into the 900 MHz spectrum band to help extend its range. Traditional WiFi gear uses the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. The WiFi Alliance says adding 900 MHz will enable hardware manufacturers to create tri-band WiFi devices capable of connecting to myriad form factors and automatically adjust power and speed requirements as needed. Some of the benefits allow a single access point to support thousands of connected devices, government-grade security, and easy set-up/management. WiFi HaLow will most likely be used in connected cars, smart homes / internet of things, healthcare, and other verticals. The WiFi Alliance didn't explicitly say if WiFi HaLow will reach mobile devices such as smartphones, smartwatches, or tablets.


LG Kicks Off CES with K Series Camera-Focused Phones

Jan 4, 2016, 12:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today announced the K Series, a new range of smartphones that prioritizes advanced photography features. The first two phones in the K Series are the K10 and K7. They offer LG photo tools such as Gesture Shot, Gesture Interval Shot, and Tap and Shot, as well as front-facing flashes for self portraits. The phones introduce new design language LG calls "glossy pebble" in order to attract younger users. The glass panels use what LG terms 2.5D Arc Glass to provide a smooth seam where the glass meets the side edge of the phone. Like many other LG handsets, the side edges are free of buttons, which are placed on the rear panel.

The K10 and K7 both run Android 5.1 Lollipop and come in several different colors. LG hasn't said if or when the K10 and K7 will be sold in the U.S.


Cricket Scores the Waterproof Kyocera Hydro View

Jan 4, 2016, 11:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 4, 2016, 11:49 AM

Kyocera and Cricket Wireless today announced the Hydro View, a waterproof Android smartphone that is similar to the Hydro Air. The View is rated IP57 against water and dust and can sit in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. It features a 5-inch qHD screen with wet finger tracking. The View is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 64 GB. The rear camera can capture 5-megapixel images or 1080p HD video. The front camera rates 2 megapixels. Radios include LTE, Bluetooth 4.1, and WiFi with support for mobile hotspot. The Hydro View runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and comes with several of Kyocera's apps and services, such as EcoMode and MaxiMZR to keep the 2160mAh battery up and running. The Kyocera Hydro View will hit Cricket stores January 8 for $79.99.


Kyocera Delivers Rugged DuraXE Flip Phone to AT&T

Jan 4, 2016, 11:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 4, 2016, 11:50 AM

Kyocera and AT&T today announced the DuraXE, an ultra-rugged feature phone that includes PTT and hotspot capabilities. The DuraXE is rated mil-spec 810G for durability and IP68 for protection against water and dust. The phone can handle shock, vibrations, blowing rain, temperature extremes, high humidity, and immersion in 6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The DuraXE has dual screens, including a 1.08-inch external monochrome display and a 2.6-inch main color display. The phone is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor and includes 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The phone runs on AT&T's LTE network and includes GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi. It can serve as a mobile hotspot for up to 10 other devices, which is novel for a non-smart phone. Kyocera says the 1500mAh battery provides extended standby time. AT&T will begin selling the DuraXE January 8. It will cost $13.50 per month for 20 months on an AT&T installment plan. AT&T will also sell the DuraForce XD phablet, announced several months ago, on January 8. The DuraForce XD will cost $14.97 per month with an AT&T Next 24 plan. Contract pricing is available only to business customers.


Nokia Gains Control of Alcatel-Lucent

Jan 4, 2016, 10:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 4, 2016, 1:46 PM

Nokia today said it has officially taken the reigns of Alcatel-Lucent after its public exchange offer for Alcatel-Lucent was accepted by the French stock market authority. Nokia expects to merge the two companies in order to form a telecommunications powerhouse to compete against Ericsson, ZTE, and others. "We will move quickly to execute our integration plans," said Rajeev Suri, President and CEO of Nokia. "Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent will offer a combined end-to-end portfolio of the scope and scale to meet the needs of our global customers. We will have unparalleled R&D and innovation capabilities, which we will use to lead the world in creating next-generation technology and services." Nokia already divested its handset business to Microsoft and its HERE mapping business to a consortium of automakers. The telecommunications business is now Nokia's core focus.


ZTE Takes On Partner to Fund Nubia Business

Jan 4, 2016, 10:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today said Suning Rundong has invested $297 million in Nubia Technology. Suning sells electronic goods online in ZTE's home market of China. ZTE first introduced Nubia as a sub-brand three years ago. With this capital investment from Suning, ZTE will control 60% of Nubia, Suning will control 33.33%, and Yingcai Investment will manage 6.67%. ZTE said accepting the additional funding is necessary to help push the Nubia brand into new markets, including Latin America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Some Nubia handsets are already available in the U.S.


MediaTek Unveils Range of Processors

Jan 4, 2016, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MediaTek today announced several different processors that target a handful of industries. The MT2523 packages together an MCU, GPS, Bluetooth LE, and PMU into a single piece of silicon for wearables. An ARM Cortex M4 forms the low-power processor. MediaTek says the MT2523 is 41% smaller than competing modules and can power small, but high-resolution screens with a full range of color. The MT2523 is intended for devices running operating systems less robust than Google's Android Wear. The chip will become available during the first half of the year. MediaTek also announced the MT8581 processor for 4K Blu-ray players and the MT7697 for Internet of Things and home automation applications. MediaTek competes with Qualcomm and Samsung.

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Ford Embraces CarPlay and Android Auto

Jan 4, 2016, 6:36 AM   by Rich Brome

Ford today announced an update to its Sync 3 in-car infotainment system, to support Apple CarPlay and Google's Android Auto. All 2017 Ford models with Sync 3 will support CarPlay and Android Auto, and an update will be offered for 2016 models with Sync 3. Ford has previously supported Apple's Siri Eyes-Free for integrated Siri voice control with iPhones. The new support brings a car-oriented visual interface to the dash display, powered by the phone. The update to Sync 3 also brings LTE connectivity, allowing owners to remotely start and unlock their car from their smartphone. Ford joins Audi, Volkswagen, Kia, GM, Hyundai, Nissan, Volvo, Subaru, and Honda in supporting both CarPlay and Android Auto.


Alcatel Teases Revamped Pixi Line Ahead of CES

Jan 3, 2016, 10:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel OneTouch offered a sneak peak at what it plans to announce during the CES trade show later this week. The company has fully revised its Pixi 4 series of devices, which comprises three phones with 3.5-, 4-, and 6-inch screens, as well as a tablet with a 7-inch screen. Alcatel describes the Pixi line as "premium entry-level devices" that offer top design, audio, camera, and battery performance for the dollar. They all run Android. Alcatel also has an 8-inch Pixi 3 tablet (shown) in the wings that will run Windows 10 Mobile. The Windows tablet features a TV remote control, voice-call capabilities, GPS, and front/rear cameras. Last, Alcatel plans to show off the CareTime Watch for children, a GPS-enabled wearable so parents can monitor kids' whereabouts. More details concerning these products will be made available as the week unfolds.


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