Info & Phones News
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.
T-Mobile today said it will make Wi-Fi calling available to all its postpaid customers for free. The move, announced at an event in San Francisco, is meant to help provide improved voice coverage in spaces where T-Mobile's network doesn't reach. Wi-Fi calls can be made from any open network. Even so, T-Mobile also debuted the T-Mobile Personal Cell Spot. This Wi-Fi hotspot, made by Asus, requires a $25 deposit and works with existing in-home internet service. It will permit T-Mobile customers to experience high-quality Wi-Fi calls when at home. It prioritizes voice functionality over data functionality. New phones sold by T-Mobile (including the iPhone 6) will have this new functionality built in from the get-go, while older devices will receive an update to gain the new Wi-Fi calling features. The Personal Cell Spot will remain private; only those with the Wi-Fi password will be able to use it for calls and messaging. The Wi-Fi calling feature is free to use for all customers. T-Mobile offered a similar service back in 2007, called Hotspot@Home, but discontinued it in 2010. T-Mobile also announced a partnership with GoGo that will let its customers send and receive SMS/MMS messages from GoGo-equipped airplanes, as well as receive visual voicemail. The in-flight messaging service goes live September 17 and is free to all T-Mobile customers. The service will work with select phones at launch, including Samsung Galaxy S5, Apple iPhone 5s, HTC One, and LG G3 among others. More will be added over time.
Asus today announced the ZenWatch, its first smart watch to runs Google's Android Wear platform. The device has a classic design, with a stainless steel body and leather strap. The ZenWatch's 1.63-inch AMOLED display is gently curved and offers 320 x 320 pixels. It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.2GHz. The ZenWatch includes 512MB of RAM and 4GB of on-board storage. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 LE for connectivity and has a 9-axis sensor for monitoring and interacting with its surroundings. It features what Asus calls a biosensor, which is fitted into a ring that surrounds the watch face. When used with the proper app, ZenWatch owners will be able to check their heart rate by pressing their finger onto the display. Asus added other unique features, such as an SOS function that can place emergency calls if the ZenWatch determines that the wearer has fallen and needs assistance. The ZenWatch will be available later this year for about $260. Asus didn't say if the device will be sold in the U.S.
Google is working on several updates to Android Wear that will introduce more features to the platform for wearables. Director of Engineering for Android Wear, David Singleton, told CNET that the first update to arrive will add certain Bluetooth functions to Android Wear. "We'll have an update coming that allows you to pair a Bluetooth headset with your watch. And that means you can play music stored on your watch directly on your Bluetooth headset," said Singleton. Google also plans to add support for GPS, meaning properly equipped devices will be able to track location data directly without an accompanying smartphone. These updates are expected to arrive later this year. The company is also working to make Android Wear compatible with a wide range of sensors. Google envisions Android Wear devices interacting with a broad scope of other devices in order to develop richer and more useful data for owners. According to Google, thousands of Android applications have already been updated with support for Android Wear, and Google created a separate section of the Play Store for compatible apps. Several Android Wear devices are currently available and LG, Asus, and others are expected to debut more Android Wear devices this week.
Asus' smartphone-tablet hybrid is finally here! The combo device includes a smartphone and dock that transforms the PadFone X into a tablet. Can this device really succeed at being two things at once? Here are our first thoughts.
AT&T today announced the availability and pricing details for the Asus PadFone X. The smartphone-tablet hybrid can be purchased from AT&T's web site and stores beginning June 6. The device will cost $200 with a two-year contract, or $22.92 for 18 months, or $29.80 for 12 months with AT&T Next plans. Asus announced the PadFone X at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. It includes both a 5-inch Android smartphone and a 9-inch dock that converts the PadFone X into a tablet.
Google today formally introduced its effort to port Android to wearables. The company announced Android Wear, a version of the Android operating system that will start with watches and eventually move on to other form factors. Google's immediate vision for wearables - and watches in particular - include some basic functions. Google believes smart wearables should provide useful information when the wearer needs it, such as posts, social network updates, and messaging notifications. Google thinks wearables should be able to answer questions, such as "OK Google." Google's Android-based wearables will include Google Now, its voice-based assistant, for performing searches and issuing commands. Android Wear will give people a better way to monitor their health and fitness, such as help with exercise goals and provide fitness summaries. Last, Google sees wearables as the key to a multiscreen world. Android Wear will let users access and control other devices - music players, phones, TVs - through Google Now. Developers interested in Project Android Wear can sign up to participate in a preview. Developers will be able to customize their app notifications for watches powered by Android Wear, for example. Google said that more resources, including APIs, will be available to developers soon. Google also noted that it is working with Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung to create Android Wear-based watches, which should arrive later this year.
Asus introduced a flurry of new devices at CES today, the most interesting of which are those that combine a smartphone and a tablet. Here are our thoughts about the PadFone Mini and PadFone X.
Asus today showed off the Zenfone series, a new line of smartphones that range from small to large, but focus on ease-of-use and simplicity. There are four devices in the series, including the Zenfone 4, Zenfone 5, Zenfone 6, and Padfone Mini. As their names imply, the Zenfone 4 has a 4-inch screen with 5-megapixel camera; the Zenfone 5 has a 5-inch screen with 8-megapixel camera; and the Zenfone 6 has a 6-inch screen with 13-megapixel camera. The Padfone Mini has a 4-inch screen and docks with a 7-inch tablet. All of the Zenfone products use the Zen user interface, called ZenUI, that has a modern style and spartan design, yet remains powerful and customizable with 3D animations. The devices are inexpensive, ranging from $99 to $249 without contracts. Asus did not say when the devices might become available. Asus also showed off the PadFone X, which will be sold by AT&T later this year.
AT&T and Asus today announced that AT&T will carry the PadFone X, which is a smartphone/tablet combo device. The PadFone X has both a 5-inch smartphone and a 9-inch tablet that dock with one another. Both screens are full 1080p HD. The screen and apps will instantly transition from the smartphone to the tablet when the smartphone is docked with the tablet. The PadFone X tablet device has a soft-touch back cover, a metallic frame, and stereo speakers. It includes a large battery that will charge the smartphone device when it is docked. The PadFone is one of the first from AT&T to include LTE-Advanced technologies, such as Carrier Aggregation. It supports both VoLTE and HD Voice, which are firsts for AT&T. The Asus PadFone X runs Android 4.4 Kit Kat. Pricing and availability will be shared closer to launch.
Asus CEO Jerry Shen said that the company is developing a PadFone for a U.S. network operator. Shen made the revelation in an interview with Engadget. To-date, Asus has only made its PadFone products available in Asian markets. The company wants to expand its smartphones to the U.S. and Europe, and is targeting the U.S. first. The PadFone includes a tablet and phone that work together as one, with the phone docking in the tablet. "Once this product is launched [in the US], we will definitely have no problem tackling Europe with the same product, because this U.S. operator is very big," said Shen. The device is set to arrive during the second quarter of 2014, but Shen didn't provide any specifics, such as the name of the network operator.
Asus may already sell tablets in the U.S., but it wants to expand its stateside product offerings to include smartphones as soon as next year. Speaking to AllThingsD, Asus chairman Johnny Shih said the company is working to build its relationships with U.S network operators. Asus is already well-known as the maker of Google's Nexus 7 tablet and the FonePad smartphone. Shih did explicitly not say what types of smartphones the company is seeking to sell in the U.S. Asus would like to get into the U.S. as soon as this year, but thinks 2014 is a more likely timeframe.
We spent a few moments with the new Padfone - a phone that that plugs into a tablet - and the Fonepad, a small tablet that doubles as a phone.
Asus today announced the Fonepad, an affordable phone/tablet with a 7-inch display for just $250 full price. The Fonepad is powered by an Intel Atom Z2420 processor and has a microSD memory card slot. The display is an IPS LCD panel with 1280 x 800 pixel resolution. It has a 3-megapixel main camera and 1.2-megapixel front camera. It has WCDMA 3G, but no 4G. It ships in April.
Asus today announced the Padfone Infinity, a new Padfone with a 5-inch 1080p display, that plugs into a 10.1-inch tablet, also with 1080p full HD resolution. The Padfone sports a 13-megapixel camera with an f/2.0 lens. The body is made from brushed aluminum alloy, with an NFC antenna embedded in the Padfone logo on the back. Like the HTC One, the Padfone sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 1.7 GHz quad-core processor. It has 64 GB of storage, 2 GB of RAM, and LTE. The company also announced Asus Open Cloud Computing (AOCC,) a cloud platform to compete with iCloud.
It's probably not coming to the US, but the Padfone is quite unique and interesting. It's a phone that docks into a tablet that docks into a keyboard to make a laptop. We took a quick look.
Asus today announced a new product that blends the functionality of both an Android smartphone with an Android tablet. The Padfone features an Android smartphone that docks inside a slate-style tablet device. The tablet device offers a bigger screen, stereo speakers, and an extended battery, but the operating system and core features are provided by the smartphone. Asus says the operating system can transition seamlessly between the phone and tablet when the phone is inserted. Asus points out that this will allow users to "eliminate data transfer" as all the data and media are kept on the smartphone and don't need to be installed/replicated on the tablet. It also supports the smartphones cellular capabilities without the need for a second SIM card/data subscription, and the pad can be used to charge the phone's battery when needed. Asus shared few other details, but indicated that it is targeting a holiday launch for the product.