Google today said it has decided to wind down Project Tango, its ambitious augmented reality platform that used on-device cameras and sensors to blend reality with computer-generated content. "As we focus on bringing augmented reality to the entire Android ecosystem with ARCore, we’re turning down support of Tango," said Google. The company will officially cease to support Project Tango on March 1, 2018. The company worked with several hardware partners to create Project Tango handsets, which were laden with special equipment to make the platform work. The most recent such device was the Asus ZenFone AR, sold by Verizon Wireless. Moving forward, Google will push its ARCore platform as a means for generating and consuming augmented reality content on Android handsets. To that end, Google today released ARCore Developer Preview 2, an update to its augmented reality toolset for app writers. "We've taken everything we learned from [Project Tango] to build ARCore. Whereas Tango required special hardware, ARCore is a fast, performant, Android-scale SDK that enables high-quality augmented reality across millions of qualified mobile devices." The updated ARCore Developer Preview includes a new C API for use with the Android NDK. Google says this dovetails nicely with its existing Java, Unity, and Unreal SDKs. Another addition is the ability for AR apps to pause and resume without losing their spot in order to allow people to perform actions such as answering calls. Last, the new developer preview improves accuracy and runtime efficiency. Developers interested in the new ARCore Developer Preview can find it through Google's developer web site. Google says it expects ARCore-based apps will reach the Play Store before too long.
Verizon Wireless and Asus today announced the ZenFone V Live, a social media-focused handset that includes a real-time blemish remover. With the ZenFone V Live, people can take advantage of the selfie camera's beautification options to soften complexions and remove skin blemishes when livestreaming to Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. (Such effects are typically applied to still images after the fact.) Otherwise, the ZenFone V Live is a mid-range handset with curved glass and a metal body design. It has a 5-inch 720p HD display and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor with 2 GB of memory and 16 GB of storage. The 13-megapixel camera includes features such as panorama, slow-motion, time-lapse, and bokeh modes with boosted low-light performance. Additional features include a fingerprint reader, 3,000mAh battery, USB-C, and support for microSD memory cards. It runs Android 7 Nougat. Verizon is selling the Asus Zenfone V Live beginning today for $168, or $7 per month for 24 months.
Asus' mid-range ZenFone 4 and high-end ZenFone 4 Pro may look alike, but they differ quite a bit under the hood. Where the former is an affordable handset, the latter is closer in price to today's flagships. If you're looking for a finer Android phone from Asus, the ZenFone 4 and ZenFone 4 Pro are where you should start. Here are our initial thoughts.
The Asus ZenFone 4 Max series includes two budget-focused Android handsets. The two phones share most design characteristics and many specs, with the screens (5.2 inches and 5.5 inches) serving as the biggest differentiator. These unlocked devices are available online if you're looking for an affordable alternative to today's carrier fare. Here are our first impressions.
Asus recently announced plans to bring its ZenFone 4 series of phones to the U.S. unlocked market this year. The lineup includes the flagship ZenFone 4 Pro, the mid-range ZenFone 4, and two versions of the ZenFone 4 Max, both of which have large batteries but otherwise lower-end specs. The ZenFone 4 Max 5.5" is available now, while the rest will go on sale in the coming months. All have basic support for AT&T and T-Mobile LTE networks, including bands 2, 4, 5, and 12.
- ZenFone 4 Max 5.2": Has a 4,100 mAh battery, 5.2-inch HD LCD display, Snapdragon 425 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. Also includes a fingerprint reader, memory card slot, 13 megapixel camera, 5-megapixel wide-angle camera, and 8-megapixel front camera.
- ZenFone 4 Max 5.5": Has a 5,000 mAh battery, 5.5-inch HD LCD display, Snapdragon 430 processor, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and a metal body. Other features are the same as the 5.2" version. (shown)
- ZenFone 4: Has a 3,300 mAh battery, 5.5-inch Full-HD LCD display, Snapdragon 630 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, and a glass back. It also sports NFC, USB-C, Cat. 12 LTE, and a better main camera with OIS and 4K video recording. Like the rest of the series, it has dual rear cameras and the touch screen works through gloves.
- ZenFone 4 Pro: A flagship-class phone with all of the features of the ZenFone 4, plus a Snapdragon 835 processor, 6 GB of RAM, an AMOLED screen, 3,600 mAh battery, fast charging, auto-focus front camera, 16-megapixel telephoto camera (instead of a wide-angle camera), laser focusing, and better support for AT&T's LTE network with bands 29 and 30.
Asus recently unwrapped the ZenFone V, an Android smartphone that's exclusive to Verizon Wireless. The ZenFone V features a metal chassis with 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass on the front. The handset sports a 5.2-inch AMOLED display with full HD resolution. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor, Qualcomm's 2016 flagship chip, with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The main camera has a 23-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization, dual-LED flash, an aperture of f/2.0, and phase detection autofocus. The front camera boast an 8-megapixel sensor with a GIF maker and aperture of f/2.0. Other features include a 3,000mAh battery with rapid charging, high-resolution audio, fingerprint reader, and USB-C. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat with Asus' ZenUI, and it comes in black. Pricing and availability have not yet been disclosed.
The Asus ZenFone AR for Verizon is the first phone in the U.S. to support Google Tango, the advanced AR (augmented reality) platform for Android. It supports a small variety of apps so far. The most useful so far are online shopping apps that display virtual items for sale (such as furniture, decorations, fixtures, and appliances) in the room you're currently it. We take it for a spin by decorating a dingy subway station. Check out the full video to see Tango in action.
You can finally get a phone with Google's "Tango" AR technology in the US. The Asus ZenFone AR goes on sale with Verizon today. With support for Tango apps, it can scan the room and show you life-size, realistic virtual objects placed in the room in real time. It's also a powerful high-end phone with decent specs, especially in the camera department. What's it it like? We checked it out in person and have first impressions to share.
The Asus ZenFone AR is available to U.S. consumers today from Verizon Wireless. The phone, initially announced in January, is the first to support both Google's Project Tango augmented reality platform and Google's Daydream virtual reality platform. Triple cameras on the back support Tango applications with a 23-megapixel main camera, depth camera, and motion tracking camera. Asus says its PixelMaster 3.0 camera system uses Sony IMX318 sensors with a TriTech autofocus system. It includes 4-axis optical image stabilization for photos and 3-axis electronic stabilization for videos. Additional camera tools include low-light shooting, optimized presets, manual controls, and 4K video capture. Multiple microphones capture Hi-Res Audio and DTS virtual surround sound. The phone sports a 5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 6 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, and a vapor cooling system. Other features include NFC, memory card slot, USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack, and Cat 12 LTE. The 3,300 mAh battery supports Quick Charge 3.0. Verizon is selling the phone for $648, or $27 per month for 24 months on an installment plan. The phone will include the Wayfair augmented reality shopping application, which lets ZenFone AR owners add furniture and other items to their home virtually to see how it will look before making a purchase. People who order the phone from Verizon will be rewarded with a $25 Wayfair gift card. Asus is also selling unlocked versions of the phone directly to consumers with different RAM / storage combinations. The 6 GB / 64 GB model costs $599, while the 8 GB / 128 GB model costs $699.
Verizon Wireless will be the first U.S. carrier to offer a Project Tango smartphone to its customers. The forthcoming Asus ZenFone AR will arrive later this summer, according to Google executive Johnny Lee. The ZenFone AR is significantly smaller than the first Project Tango handset, which was the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. The ZenFone AR will also be compatible with Google's Daydream virtual reality platform. Asus first announced the ZenFone AR in January. It sports a 5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a vapor cooling system. Triple cameras on the back support Tango applications with a 23-megapixel main camera, depth camera, and motion tracking camera. Other features include NFC, memory card slot, USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack, and Cat 12 LTE. The 3,300 mAh battery supports Quick Charge 3.0. The exact availability is not yet known.
Google today provided some insight on its Daydream virtual reality platform and says a new version of Daydream will soon make its debut. Daydream 2.0 Euphrates targets standalone VR headsets and is powered by Android O. The entire experience is handled in virtual reality. Daydream 2.0 updates the home experience for standalone headsets and smartphones. Euphrates includes a new dashboard that will appear on top of any app and lets people remain in VR even when checking settings, reading notifications, and multitasking. Euphrates also adds Google Cast support, allowing people to pick a destination and cast from Daydream to other devices such as television sets. Daydream 2.0 makes it possible to capture screenshots and then share them via social networks. Google said there are eight Daydream compatible handsets right now, and it expects that number to increase significantly by the end of the year thanks to new entries from LG, Motorola, Asus, and others. Google believes tens of millions of Daydream devices will be in the market by the end of the year.
Project Tango, Google's augmented reality platform, gains a new virtual position system that can locate phones indoors. Google envisions it as a helpful tool in retail and similar environments, helping people navigate stores to find items. For example, Google is working with Lowe's stores as well as a handful of museums to bring VPS to real-world locations. Google thinks it might be particularly helpful for the visually impaired. Further, Google says a new Project Tango augmented reality handset from Asus will debut later this year. Asus didn't provide details about the new handset, which is called the ZenFone AR.
Asus today made the ZenFone 3 Zoom available from its web site for $329. The phone was first announced in January. The device relies on two cameras much like the iPhone 7 Plus to create a zooming effect. Both the standard and 25mm and 59mm lenses have 12-megapixel Sony IMX362 sensors. The main lens has an aperture of f/1.7. Other camera features include portrait mode, OIS, laser focusing, PDAF, RAW support, and a dedicated color sensor for improved white balance. The phone's user-facing camera has a 13-megapixel Sony IMX214 sensor with a 140-degree panorama mode. The 3 Zoom includes a 5,000 mAh battery that can be used to charge other devices via USB-C. Specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 5.5-in full-HD display with Gorilla Glass 5, fingerprint sensor, memory card slot, and 3.5mm audio jack. It ships with Android 6 Marshmallow, but Asus indicated that Android 7 will reach the phone via update soon. The ZenFone 3 Zoom supports GSM/LTE networks, including AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The phone is sold unlocked.
Asus today announced the ZenFone 3 Zoom, a new "optical zoom" phone that uses two cameras, much like the iPhone 7 Plus. Both the standard and 2.3x zoom cameras are 12-megapixel. It can also do a portrait mode with depth effect, and the main lens has f/1.7 aperture. Other camera features include OIS, laser focusing, RAW support, and a dedicated color sensor for improved white balance. It includes an extra-large 5,000 mAh battery that can be used to charge other devices via the USB-C connector. Specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 5.5-in full-HD display, fingerprint sensor, memory card slot, and 3.5mm audio jack. Its US version will include LTE band 17 to support AT&T's network.
Asus today announced the ZenFone AR, the first phone to support both Project Tango AR and Daydream VR from Google. This large phone sports a 5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, an unprecedented 8 GB of RAM, and an advanced vapor cooling system. Triple cameras on the back support Tango applications with a 23-megapixel main camera, depth camera, and motion tracking camera. Other features include NFC, memory card slot, USB-C port, 3.5mm audio jack, and Cat 12 LTE. The 3,300 mAh battery supports Quick Charge 3.0. It will also run Android 7.0 Nougat and be available in Q2. The company did not announce which LTE bands the phone will support. The Qualcomm chip is a departure for Asus, which was previously one of the few major manufacturers to use Intel chips.
Asus is bringing its Zenfone 3 series of devices to the U.S. this month. This quartet of Android smartphones is attractive thanks to all-metal designs, good build quality, and solid specs. Asus is covering a broad range of price points by changing up the components within each phone, but all four share a commonality that makes them family through and through. Here are our first impressions of the Asus Zenfone 3.
Asus today announced pricing and availability for its Zenfone 3 family of smartphones. The Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.7 Special Edition, Deluxe 5.7, Deluxe 5.5, and Laser will all be sold unlocked, directly to consumers via Asus' web site. The phones share nearly identical designs, with aluminum unibody chassis, full HD AMOLED displays, rear-mounted fingerprint readers, dual SIM card and memory card support, USB Type-C, Android 6 Marshmallow, and Asus' ZenUI 3.0. The Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.7 Special Edition is the most significant of the bunch, as it is one of the first devices to ship with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor aboard with 256 MB of built-in storage. The Deluxe 5.7 Special Edition and Deluxe 5.7 share most other features, including a Sony Exmor 23-megapixel camera with OIS/EIS, but the Deluxe 5.7 uses a Snapdragon 820 processor. The Deluxe 5.5 steps down the display to 5.5 inches, and includes a Snapdragon 625 processor with 4 GB of RAM and a 16-megapixel camera. The Zenfone 3 Laser is the budget-minded member of the family with a Snapdragon 430 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 13-megapixel camera. The phones support the GSM/LTE networks operated by AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and MetroPCS. The Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.7 Special Edition costs $799, the Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.7 costs $499, and Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.5 costs $399. These three phones are available for preorder and will ship later this month. The Zenfone 3 Laser costs $199 and is shipping today.
Asus today announced the ZenWatch 3, its third-generation Android Wear-based smartwatch. The ZenWatch 3 is the first round wearable from Asus and features a rose gold accent surrounding the watch face. The smartwatch is made from stainless steel and comes in gunmetal, silver, and rose gold. The chassis measures 9.95mm thick and Asus says it is strong enough to withstand the rigors of daily use. The watch will be sold with leather or plastic bands. There are three buttons around the exterior edge for controlling the watch, one of which can be customized to launch user-defined actions. Asus says the ZenWatch 3 will have more than 50 watch faces preloaded, many of which support complications, such as the weather, step counts, or notifications. A separate app will allow owners to design their own watch faces. A new health-focused app is better at counting steps and can remind people to move after long periods of inactivity. Last, Asus claims the ZenWatch 3 offers two days of battery life and can take advantage of rapid charging to reach a 60% charge in just 15 minutes. More details are yet to be announced.
The Asus Zenfone 3 will come in not one, but three variants. Asus revealed the new lineup at the Computex trade show in Taiwan this week. Shared features include USB Type-C, fingerprint sensors, and Google's Android operating system.
- Zenfone 3: The entry-level model uses a glass design with a metal frame. It sports a 5.5-inch full HD screen, octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor with 4 GB of RAM, 3,000mAh battery, and 16-megapixel Sony sensor with OIS and EIS. It will cost $249.
- Zenfone 3 Ultra: This mid-range handset has a unibody metal design and steps up the specs a bit. The screen measures 5.7 inches with full HD resolution and it is powered by a Snapdragon 652 processor with 4 GB of RAM. The Deluxe carries over the same 3,000mAh battery found on the entry-level model, but takes advantage of Sony's latest 23-megapixel IMX318 sensor in the camera. It supports Quick Charge 3.0 and will cost $479.
- Zenfone 3 Deluxe: The top of the range has a unibody design similar to that of the Ultra, but increases the screen size to 6.8 inches at full HD. The Deluxe relies on a Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM. It carries over the same 23-megapixel Sony sensor from the Ultra model, but the battery capacity was enlarged to 4,600mAh. It supports Quick Charge 3.0 and will cost $499.
Google today said its Chrome operating system will soon have access to the Google Play Store and the Android apps therein. ChromeOS will support all Android phone and tablet apps, including games, productivity apps, and social networking. Android apps can run in three different window sizes in ChromeOS and users will be able to move the windows around and multitask as needed. Keyboard, mouse, and touch input will all work together within Android apps, and Android-based notifications will be pushed to Chromebooks as well as phones. Moreover, users will be able share files seamlessly between Chrome and Android devices through a new Files app. Google says developers can add admin-level network support to their Android apps for Chrome so businesses and schools can control options such as Bluetooth and WiFi. Android games should run very well on Chromebooks, according to Google. Google Play for Chrome will be available to developers on the Asus Chromebook Flip, Acer Chromebook R 11, and the Chromebook Pixel with a wider launch expected later this year. Google says it will add support for Android apps to more Chromebooks over time. ChromeOS is Google's light-weight, browser-based operating system that runs on inexpensive laptops.
Google today announced Daydream, a brand new platform for expanding virtual reality to more devices. The Daydream spec will be defined so hardware makers can make sure they create compatible phones. Android N will be able to tell if phones are Daydream ready based on the sensors, display, and processor within. Android N brings improvements to performance VR thanks to low latency (20ms) and the simplified system user interface. At the same time, Google created a blueprint for Daydream-compatible headsets. It will share the headset / controller blueprints with device makers. Google believes a secondary controller (like a small remote) will help the Daydream VR experience. Google expects Daydream-ready devices, including phones from Samsung, Alcatel, and Asus, to reach the market by fall.
Google today announced Android Wear 1.4, which adds a fistful of new features. Chiefly, Android-based smartwatches can now make and take calls via Bluetooth when the wearable itself includes a speaker. Google says this is limited to the Huawei Watch and the ASUS ZenWatch 2 at the moment, but it expects more watches to ship with speakers and calling support over time. Watches with speakers can also be used to listen to audio messages from apps such as Glide. Android Wear 1.4 also expands the number of apps able to use voice actions to dictate and send messages, which now includes, Google Hangouts, Nextplus, Telegram, Viber, WeChat, and WhatsApp. Last, Google added a few new wrist gestures to the platform. For example, Android smartwatches can now expand cards, bring up the app drawer, or return home with a push, lift, or shake, respectively. Google says Android Wear 1.4 is rolling out to Android smartwatches over the next few days.
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.
GoPhone, AT&T's prepaid brand, today dropped the prices of several handsets. Customers who activate a plan costing $45 or more can snag the ZTE Maven for free, or receive $40 off a small selection of other devices. After the new-line discount, for example, the Asus Zenfone 2E costs $59.99, the Microsoft Lumia 640 costs $19.99, the Motorola Moto E costs $14.99, and the ZTE ZMax 2 costs $89.99. AT&T did not say how long the discounts will be available, but they kick off beginning today.
Asus today announced the ZenFone 2 Laser, which will be sold unlocked in the U.S. The Laser looks nearly identical to the ZenFone 2, but makes a number of tasteful upgrades that add up to a much more capable handset. The ZenFone 2 Laser has a 5.5-inch full HD screen protected by Gorilla Glass 4. The processor has been improved to an octa-core Snapdragon 615 with 3GB of RAM, 16/32GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 128GB. The Laser's 13-megapixel camera has an aperture of f/2.0 with dual LED flash, and has been upgraded with laser-assisted focus. The front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with f/2.0 aperture and wide 85-degree field of view. The phone has a 3,000mAh battery, which can be removed. It includes Bluetooth 4.1, WiFi, GPS, and LTE Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 17, and 20. The ZenFone 2 Laser runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and ships with Asus' ZenUI 2.0. The Laser is available from Newegg and Asus.com starting today for $199/$249.
Asus and Microsoft has expanded the scale of an existing patent-licensing agreement between them and expect the change to benefit customers. The cross-licensing deal will allow Asus and Microsoft to use one another's technologies in their own products. Moreover, Asus said it will let the two work closer together on products down the road. Last, the deal will result in Microsoft's Office productivity suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) being preloaded on Asus Android smartphones and tablets. Samsung also preloads Office on some of its Android devices. Terms of the agreement between Asus and Microsoft were not disclosed.
The ZenWatch 2 is an Android Wear watch available for an unusually low price of well under $200. We checked it out.
Today at the IFA show in Berlin, Asus announced the ZenWatch 2, an affordable Android Wear smartwatch. It comes in two sizes and three stainless steel case colors, for just 149 Euros (approx. $168). The company claims two days of battery life, and the watch charges via a magnetic connector on the back. A set of exclusive Asus apps includes a messaging app that communicates directly from one watch to another. 18 different strap options are available.
Google today released an Android Wear application for iOS devices that makes the iPhone compatible with Google-based smartwatches. The Android Wear app works with the iPhone 5, 5s, 5c, 6, and 6 Plus as long as the phones are running iOS 8.2 and up. Android Wear allows iPhone owners to check their information at a glance, such as calls, messages, and notifications; set and follow fitness goals, such as tracking steps or heart rate; and also receive timely information about flights, traffic, calendar appointments, and more. Android Wear for iOS supports "OK, Google" voice-based queries, as well. Google says the LG Watch Urbane is the first Android Wear smartwatch to support iPhone compatibility, and that all future devices, including those from Huawei (pictured above), Asus, and Motorola, will also support iOS. Many of these manufacturers are expected to debut new smartwatches this week at the IFA trade show in Berlin.
Google today announced the OnHub, a WiFi router meant for use in the home. Google and hardware partner TP-LINK hid the antennas inside and gave the router a more useful set of lights so people will be more apt to put it out in the open, where it will work better. Google says the device automatically selects the best frequencies for optimal performance and an accompanying app (Android and iOS) lets owners manage it remotely. The app can provide details about bandwidth usage, run network checks, and suggest fixes to problems. It also lets people more easily control the router's password. The OnHub will update the firmware automatically to keep it secure and add new features. It supports Bluetooth Smart Ready, Weave, and 802.15.4 for potential connected-home uses. Google said it expects to release more OnHub-branded products later this year with Asus. The OnHub WiFi router is available for preorder today. It costs $199 and will ship in the coming weeks.
Asus today announced the ZenFone 2E for AT&T's GoPhone prepaid service. This entry-level handset features a 5-inch 720p HD screen, and relies on a dual-core Intel Atom Z2560 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. Asus says the Atom chip works hand-in-hand with the PowerVR SGX544 MP2 GPU for smooth gaming performance. The ZenFone 2E has an 8-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture and a 2-megapixel front camera. The 2,500mAh battery is good for more than 19 hours of talk time. It includes Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, GPS, and support for LTE. The phone runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with Asus' Zen UI skin on top. The ZenFone 2E is available today at Target and Walmart stores, and reaches AT&T stores on July 24 and Best Buy on August 2. The phone costs $119.99.
HTC is not interested in being acquired by Asus, said the company today. Last week, Asus' executive team suggested it was considering such a move, but hadn't made a final decision. "[HTC] has not made any contact with Asus regarding this matter," said HTC on its web site, "and it will not consider a merger with Asus. As an international brand, HTC will continue to design world-class innovative smart devices through its pursuit of brilliance brand promise." Asus is much larger than HTC, which has struggled in recent years to bounce back from sagging smartphone sales. HTC recently forecast a significant drop in profits for the current quarter. Its financial position leaves it susceptible to acquisition.
Asustek Computer is thinking about buying competitor HTC, but it hasn't made a final decision just yet. The company has discussed the matter among its executives, according to CFO David Chang. "Our chairman has chatted about the topic internally," said Chang to Reuters. "Still, the chances of an actual takeover are not big as Asustek is a company that has depended on organic growth." Asus and HTC are both located in Taiwan. HTC has struggled in recent years. It once held a high spot among Android device makers, but stumbled badly. Earlier this week, HTC forecast a steep loss for the current quarter due to unexpectedly low sales of its flagship smartphone, the One M9. HTC's precarious position prompted acquisition talks. Asus has a more diverse product portfolio and a stronger balance sheet.
Intel today said it has agreed to purchase Altera Corp. for $16.7 billion. Altera makes chips for servers and Intel sees the acquisition as a way of protecting its server business from competition. Specifically, Altera sells field-programmable gate arrays, which are chips that can be programmed by the end customer. FPGAs are an in-between step for chipmakers in that they aren't bulk, off-the-shelf products, which are cheap to make, nor are they fully custom chips for customers, which are expensive. The FPGAs let Intel offer semi-specialized products to companies deploying servers for web sites and cloud storage. Intel expects the deal, which will be funded by cash and debt, to close in six to nine months. Intel makes most of the chips that end up in servers, and many of the chips that end up in PCs, but it has yet to really penetrate the smartphone market. Asus recently began selling the ZenFone 2 in the U.S., which has an Intel processor inside.
Asus today said it will sell its 2015 flagship smartphone, the Zenfone 2, in the U.S. beginning May 19. Asus first revealed the Zenfone 2 at CES in January. The device has a 5.5-inch full HD screen and relies on a 64-bit Intel processor. The Intel Atom Z3580 chip has four cores clocked at 2.3 GHz, and is paired with a 533 MHz GPU, and 4 GB of dual-channel RAM. The chip includes integrated Cat 4 LTE-Advanced with Carrier Aggregation for compatibility with today's fastest 4G networks. The Zenfone 2 also includes a 13-megapixel camera with an aperture of f/2.0, Toshiba sensor, Super HDR, and dual-tone LED flash. Asus says the fast-charging mode can power the 3,000mAh battery to 60% capacity in 39 minutes. The device runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with Asus' ZenUI. It comes with a range of interchangeable rear covers, which Asus says consumers can use to personalize their handset. Asus is offering 100 GB of Google Drive storage to buyers of the device. The phone costs $299. (A slower version of the phone with 1.8 GHz processor and 2 GB of RAM costs $199.) Asus plans to sell the device unlocked via Amazon.com, Newegg, Groupon, and B&H photo. It is compatible with AT&T's network.
Asus today announced the Zenfone Zoom, an Android phone with top-end camera features. The 13-megapixel camera has a 10-element lens with 3x optical zoom, laser focusing, optical image stabilization, and a macro mode. It also sports a full manual mode with control over white balance, focus, and exposure. The front camera is 5 megapixels. The Zenfone Zoom has a 5.5-inch full HD display and runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. It supports LTE bands compatible with AT&T and has a 3000 mAh battery. It will be available in Q2 for $399 unlocked. Specific US release plans were not announced.
Microsoft recently updated its Torque application for Android Wear and carried it over from smartwatches to smartphones. With Torque, Android Wear and Android smartphone owners can shake or twist their device to launch Bing Voice Search. Bing Voice Search requires internet access, but can be controlled through a wide variety of voice commands to check the weather, perform simple math, or search for information. Torque works with most Android smartphones, and works best with the Asus Zen Watch, LG G Watch, and Samsung Gear Live Android wearables. Torque is free.
AT&T today announced the pending availability of the Asus PadFone X Mini — a smaller version of Asus' smartphone-and-tablet combo device. The PadFone X Mini features a 4.5-inch smartphone that transforms into a 7-inch tablet with a dock. It is notable as being one of the first smartphones to be sold in the U.S. with an Intel processor. It features a dual-core 1.6GHz Atom Z2560 with 1GB of RAM and built-in LTE 4G. Other features of the PadFone X Mini include a 5-megapixel main camera and 1-megapixel user-facing camera; Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and GPS; a removable 2,060mAh battery in the smartphone and a non-removable 2,200mAh battery in the tablet; and a stereo headphone jack and support for microSD cards up to 64GB. It runs Android 4.4 KitKat with Asus' ZenUI. The PadFone X Mini will be sold by AT&T's GoPhone prepaid brand beginning later this month. The device costs $200, with plans starting as low as $40 per month. GoPhone doesn't require contracts. AT&T has sold the larger PadFone X since earlier this year.
T-Mobile said the Personal CellSpot is available to its customers beginning today. The CellSpot is a Wi-Fi hotspot for in-home use that allows smartphones to make voice calls over Wi-Fi rather than T-Mobile's cellular network. This particular hotspot prioritizes voice traffic over data traffic and can hook into any existing home network. The idea is to provide better in-home voice service to customers where T-Mobile's network doesn't quite reach. The CellSpot is made by Asus. It costs $100 to own outright, but T-Mobile is allowing people to take one home if they put down a deposit of $25. All new T-Mobile smartphones will have Wi-Fi calling enabled moving forward. T-Mobile's existing customer base will be able to add Wi-Fi calling to their handset through a software update, though T-Mobile didn't say when to expect it. Separately, T-Mobile customers will be able to send text and picture messages, and listen to voicemail via the Wi-Fi networks provided by GoGo in select airplanes. T-Mobile says more than 2,000 aircraft offer the service in the U.S. In-flight messaging is free to T-Mobile customers.
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.