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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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Phone Scoop    Eric Zeman    Rich Brome
 

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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.


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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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.


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.


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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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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