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printed December 11, 2016
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Motorola Debuts Two New Mods for Moto Z Series

Dec 1, 2016, 1:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today took the wraps off two additional Moto Mods for its Moto Z series of handsets. The first mod is a juice pack from Mophie (pictured) that packs a 3,000mAh power cell and 15W USB-C charging. A series of LED lights indicates how much power is within the juice pack and both the phone and the juice pack will charge when attached to one another and plugged in. The Mophie juice pack is available for preorder for $80 from Verizon Wireless' web site. The second mod is an in-car dock from Incipio. The $65 accessory holds, charges, and connects Moto Z handsets to most cars via the air conditioning fins. When docked, the phone automatically launches Android Auto for safer in-car use. Motorola didn't say when the two new mods will ship. The company did mention that it intends to release an average of four new mods per quarter moving through 2017.


Motorola May Create Project Tango Mod for Moto Z

Nov 30, 2016, 4:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Moto Z series of handsets might be given the power of Project Tango through a modular accessory, according to Motorola CEO Aymar de Lencquesaing. Speaking to journalists today Lencquesaing said, "The tablet folks did a phablet and worked with Google, the Tango team, to come out with a Tango phablet." That device is the Lenovo Phab2 Pro. "Going forward, we'll have to address as a group how do we reconcile the products that are at the fringe? We're likely to have a Tango module to basically enable the Z to have Tango functionality." Project Tango as realized on the Phab2 Pro uses a series of cameras to measure the environment and then map over it with augmented reality content. Lencquesaing did not say if a module for the Z is already in the works, nor when such a module might be released.


Motorola Bringing Nougat and Daydream to Z and Z Force

Nov 21, 2016, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola said it will roll out Android 7.0 Nougat to the Moto Z and Moto Z Force starting this week. Both handsets will be updated from Android 6.1 to Android 7.0. Moreover, the update will make the Moto Z and Moto Z Force compatible with Daydream, Google's new virtual reality platform. According to Motorola, the Z and Z Force are the first non-Google handsets certified as Daydream ready. Daydream requires high-resolution screens, quick refresh rates, and fine-tuned sensors for accurate head tracking. Daydream also requires the Daydream VR headset and controller, which are sold separately at Verizon, Best Buy, and Google stores. The Nougat update will start reaching the Moto Z and Moto Z Force globally this week. More information on country- and carrier-specific upgrades is available from Motorola's web site. Motorola did not say if or when the Z Play might receive Android 7.


Motorola Turns to Indiegogo to Kickstart Moto Mods Development

Nov 3, 2016, 8:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today said it has partnered with crowd-funding service Indiegogo in order to improve the selection of Moto Mods for its Z-series smartphones. Motorola is encouraging creators to share their Moto Mods ideas through its Moto Mods Developer contest. Motorola will reward select entrants with the Moto Mods Developer Kit, which includes a Moto Z phone. With the kit in hand, developers can then bring their prototypes to fruition with a small amount of help from Motorola. Mods that reach the working prototype stage can then apply to Indiegogo for initial funding. Motorola said it and partner Verizon Wireless will assist developers that make it this far by promoting the Indiegogo campaigns. Ten finalists will then have a chance to pitch their idea to Motorola and Verizon directly in Chicago. Winners will move on to production, shipping, and marketing, all of which will be aided in part by Motorola and Verizon. The Moto Z Play Droid, Moto Z, and Moto Z Force Droid are all compatible with Moto Mods, which are magnetic snap-on accessories. So far, some of the available Mods include a speaker from JBL, a camera from Hasselblad, and several battery packs.


Lenovo Phab 2 Pro Project Tango Phone Now On Sale

Nov 1, 2016, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 1, 2016, 8:49 AM

Lenovo made the Phab 2 Pro, the first Project Tango augmented reality handset, available for sale on its web site today. The phone was originally expected to go on sale in September. The Phab 2 Pro is a premium smartphone with an aluminum design, a 6.4-inch quad HD display, and a Snapdragon 652 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The phone has four cameras to help create virtual/augmented reality content: an 8-megapixel selfie camera, a 16-megapixel main camera, a depth camera, and a motion-tracking camera. The phone includes Dolby Atmos sound and is able to capture audio in Dolby 5.1 surround for more immersive sound. The Phab 2 Pro includes a 4,000mAh battery with rapid charging. It runs Android and costs $499. According to Google, the phone ships with 35 augmented reality applications that allow Phab 2 Pro owners to interact with the environment around them, such as measuring distances, visualizing furniture, and flinging projectiles at dragons.


Consumer Cellular Adds Moto G4 and G4 Play to Its Device Roster

Oct 12, 2016, 1:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Consumer Cellular today added the Motorola Moto G4 and Moto G4 Play to its lineup of Android handsets. Consumer Cellular is selling the G4 for $150 and the G4 Play for $100. The G4 has a 5.5-inch full HD screen and 13-megapixel camera while the G 4 Play has a 5-inch 720p HD screen and 8-megapixel camera. Both phones run Android 6 Marshmallow. Consumer Cellular also sells the older Moto G (3rd ed.) and the Moto E LTE.


Lenovo's Tango Phone Goes On Sale In November

Oct 5, 2016, 11:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo confirmed this week that the Phab 2 Pro will go on sale in November. It was originally expected to go on sale in September. Clay Bavor, head of VR at Google, shared the news with CNET. The phone, announced earlier this year, is the first Project Tango handset. The Phab 2 Pro is a premium smartphone with an aluminum design, a 6.4-inch quad HD display, and a Snapdragon 652 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The phone has four cameras: an 8-megapixel selfie camera, a 16-megapixel main camera, a depth camera, and a motion-tracking camera. The latter two are core to helping create virtual/augmented reality content. The phone includes Dolby Atmos sound and is able to capture audio with Dolby 5.1 for more immersive sound. The Phab 2 Pro includes a 4,000mAh battery with rapid charging. It runs Android and will cost $499 when it reaches stores.


Motorola Discloses Nougat Roadmap

Oct 4, 2016, 3:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today announced which devices will receive Android 7 Nougat in the months ahead. Motorola said it will start with the Moto Z series and Moto G series (fourth generation) during the fourth quarter. Those phones will be followed by the Moto X Pure Edition (3rd Gen), Moto X Style, Moto X Play, Moto X Force, Droid Turbo 2, and Droid Maxx 2. Timing for individual handsets will be announced ahead of distribution.


Lenovo Announces Layoffs, Remains 'Committed' to Motorola

Sep 26, 2016, 4:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 26, 2016, 4:17 PM

Lenovo today announced a workforce reduction that will see close to 2% of the company's 55,000 employees losing their jobs. Most of the more-than-1,000 cuts impact Lenovo-owned Motorola. Lenovo said the job cuts are "part of the ongoing strategic integration between Lenovo and its Motorola smartphone business." The company is still working to align its businesses and streamline its product portfolio. The company claims it is "making adjustments in other areas of the business" to manage costs and improve efficiencies. It insists the job cuts are necessary to ensure the company's long-term future. Lenovo said it "is absolutely committed to Chicago and we plan to maintain our Motorola Mobility headquarters there" where it will pursue research and development for its smartphone business. "We expect to take advantage of local talent to continue developing Moto products there." Lenovo bought Motorola from Google in 2014 for $2.91 billion. It has already cut more than 3,000 people from Motorola's payroll. Motorola's most recent handsets are the Moto Z, Z Force, and Z Play, which are sold unlocked as well as via Verizon Wireless under the Droid brand.

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Motorola to Sell Moto G4 Play Starting Sept. 15

Sep 6, 2016, 8:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today said it will make its low-cost Moto G4 Play handset available unlocked to U.S. buyers beginning September 15. The G4 Play is the least-expensive variant of the G4 family, which also includes the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus. The G4 Play has a 5-inch display at 720p HD, a 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 410, and an 8-megapixel main camera at f/2.2. The battery holds 2800mAh and supports rapid charging, but the charger is not included with the phone. Other features include LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, sensors, and micro USB. Motorola said the G4 Play is available for preorder today from the web sites of Amazon, B&H, and Motorola. The phone sells for $149.99. Verizon Wireless plans to make the G4 Play available to its prepaid customers in the coming weeks. Last, Amazon plans to offer a Prime version of the Moto G4 Play for $99.99. Amazon's lower price requires users to view ads on the lock screen.


Intel to Buy Movidius for AI Camera Tech

Sep 6, 2016, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Intel today said it has agreed to buy Movidius in order to supplement its RealSense computer vision technology. Intel says Movidius' visual processing unit can help it bring computer vision applications to market faster. Movidius' technology already powers drones and other products from DJI, FLIR, Google, and Lenovo. Intel's RealSense cameras use cameras as the "eyes", a CPU as the "brain" and a vision processor as the "visual cortex" in order to allow computers to understand the world around them. Movidius' VPU technology will allow RealSense to track, navigate, map, and recognize scenes and objects. Intel plans to first use Movidius and RealSense for augmented/virtual reality, drones, robotics, and digital security cameras, with more applications to follow. Intel last year showed off a version of its RealSense camera for smartphones. Intel expects the deal to close later this year.


Lenovo to Sell Moto Z and Z Play Unlocked In October

Aug 31, 2016, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo today said it will offer unlocked GSM variants of the Moto Z and Moto Z Play handsets later this fall. Pre-orders will kick off on September 15, with availability expected in early October. The Moto Z will cost $700 and the Moto Play will cost $450. Both devices will be compatible with the Moto Mods ecosystem of attachable modules.

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Hands-On with Moto Z Play Droid and Hasselblad True Zoom

Aug 31, 2016, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 2, 2016, 3:25 PM

Here are our first impressions of the mid-range Lenovo Moto Z Play Droid smartphone and the new True View camera mod from Hasselblad.

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Hasselblad Announces True Zoom Mod for Moto Droids

Aug 31, 2016, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Hasselblad and Motorola today announced the Hasselblad True Zoom mod for the Moto Z Play Droid. Like other Moto Mods, the Hasselblad True Zoom attaches to the rear of the Z Play via magnets. The Hasselblad is a full camera that covers and replaces the Z Play's built-in camera. The True Zoom has its own 12-megapixel sensor with 10x optical zoom lens and optical image stabilization for photos. It can capture full HD video with electronic image stabilization. The mod includes a grip for easy holding, a hardware zoom dial, and physical shutter button. Moreover, the Hasselblad True Zoom has a xenon flash for brighter lighting. Last, the Hasselblad True Zoom has a unique camera application for the Z Play that allows it to shoot in RAW mode. The mod will be compatible with the Z Play Droid out of the box. Motorola says the Z Droid and Z Droid Force will receive a software update on or about September 15 that adds compatibility with the mod. The Hasselblad True Zoom will be available in the U.S. for pre-order starting September 8 and in Verizon stores September 15 for $249.99. For a limited time, when you buy a Moto Mod, Verizon is offering 50% off another Mod of equal or lesser value. The Hasselblad True Zoom will also be sold on Motorola.com for $299.

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Moto Z Play Droid Does Moto Mods for Less

Aug 31, 2016, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today announced the Z Play Droid, a more affordable Android smartphone that is compatible with the company's Moto Mods system of modular attachments. The Z Play Droid is almost indistinguishable from the Z Force Droid: it has a thick profile with a metal frame and glass front panel. The device scales back specs in order to reduce the price. The Z Play Droid has a 5.5-inch full HD screen. It is powered by a Snapdragon 625 processor with eight cores clocked at 2 GHz. The processor is joined by 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The Z Play Droid includes a 16-megapixel main camera with laser autofocus and an aperture of f/2.0, while a wide-angle, 5-megapixel selfie camera with LED flash is around front. Like the Z Droid and Z Force Droid, the Z Play Droid has a fingerprint reader, water-repellant coating, and USB-C port. The Z Play, however, adds a 3.5mm headset jack. The Z Play is the first of the new Droids to be compatible with the new Hasselblad True Zoom camera module, which offers 10x optical zoom. The Moto Z Play Droid will be available in the U.S. beginning September 8 at Motorola.com and at Verizon for $17 per month on a Verizon device payment plan. The full retail price is $408.

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Verizon Debuts LTE Advanced with 50% Faster Speeds

Aug 29, 2016, 10:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said it has launched LTE Advanced service in 461 markets around the country, covering some 288 million POPs or 90% of Americans. Verizon's LTE Advanced relies on two- and three-channel carrier aggregation to boost speed and capacity. Verizon says LTE Advanced delivers a 50% improvement in download and upload speeds compared to its traditional LTE network. Close to 40 devices sold by Verizon are compatible with LTE Advanced. Many of the newest phones (Galaxy Note7, Moto Z Droid) will support LTE Advanced out of the box, though some devices will require system updates. Verizon customers can take advantage of LTE Advanced's faster speeds at no additional cost.


Lenovo to Preload Microsoft Apps on Android Phones

Aug 23, 2016, 7:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo has agreed to install Microsoft's core productivity applications on some of its Android-based devices. The apps include Microsoft Office, OneDrive, and Skype. Lenovo said the productivity apps will reach millions of customers over the next few years. The agreement between Lenovo and Microsoft also includes a patent cross-licensing accord, allowing Lenovo to use Microsoft patents on its own devices, as well as those that carry the Motorola brand. Microsoft has patent-licensing agreements in place with most Android device makers. Terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.


Verizon Kicks Off Preorders for Moto Z Droid and Z Force Droid

Jul 21, 2016, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 21, 2016, 8:19 AM

Verizon Wireless today began accepting preorders for the Motorola Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid, which will reach stores on July 28. The Moto Z costs $624 ($26 per month) and the Z Force costs $720 ($30 per month). Verizon customers may trade in their current flagship smartphone for up to $300 to put toward either Moto Z handset, or older phones for up to $200. Verizon Wireless also shared pricing details on the Moto Mods modular accessories that attach to the back of the Moto Z and Z Force: the JBL SoundBoost speaker costs $80, the Moto Insta-Share Projector costs $300, the Tumi power pack costs $60, the Kate Spade New York power pack costs $90, and Incipio's rear plates cost $15 each. The Moto Mods attach to the Moto Z and Z Force via magnets and enhance the capabilities of the phone. Verizon said that, for a limited time, customers who purchase one Mod with their Moto Z will receive 20% off any additional Mods they buy. The Moto Z and Z Force are Android smartphones. Each has a 5.5-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, USB-C with QuickCharge, and fingerprint reader.


Verizon Intros Trade-In Program for $300 Off Flagship Phones

Jul 1, 2016, 11:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said customers can trade in an old flagship smartphone for up to $300 off a new flagship smartphone. The promotion is limited to certain handsets. For example, only the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, S6, and S6 edge/edge+; HTC M9; Apple iPhone 6; and LG G4 and V10 are eligible to trade-in for $300. The phones must be in good working order and good cosmetic condition. Other phones traded in will receive a lesser amount to be determined by Verizon. The program also requires customers to activate a new line, upgrade, or switch to Verizon and then purchase a new device on a monthly payment plan. Customers can use the $300 toward the Apple iPhone 6S or 6S Plus; HTC 10; LG G5; Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 edge, and Note 5; and the Moto Droid Turbo 2 or Maxx 2 .(Customers interested in the Turbo 2 or Maxx 2 are allowed to trade-in phones with broken screens.) Verizon suggests customers perform the trade-in at Verizon's stores, where credit for the value of the trade will be applied immediately, but the company is also offering the promotion through its web site. New customers will receive the $300 via a gift card, while existing customers will be given an account credit. Verizon's didn't say how long the trade-in program will run.


Amazon to Sell Discounted Unlocked Phones As Long As You Agree to Watch Ads

Jun 29, 2016, 8:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today announced a new promotion that will allow Amazon Prime subscribers to buy unlocked handsets at reduced prices. The first two phones eligible for the promotion include the Motorola Moto G4 (pictured) and the Blu R1 HD. Amazon said the Moto G4 will cost $150, rather than $200, and the Blu R1 HD will cost $50, rather than $100. There's a big catch, however; people who buy these phones will be required to watch ads. "The breakthrough pricing on unlocked smartphones is supported by personalized offers and ads," explained Amazon, "including deals and product recommendations, displayed on the phone's lockscreen. When a customer sees an offer, they can tap to learn more about it or simply unlock their phone to dismiss." Amazon uses a similar model to discount the price of its own Kindle-branded e-readers. Both the Moto G4 and Blu R1 HD go on sale July 12. For a limited time, Prime subscribers can get an additional $25 off the G4, dropping the total price to $125.


Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 Optimized for Project Tango

Jun 29, 2016, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today said its top-of-the-line processor, the Snapdragon 820, is ready to power Project Tango hardware. Qualcomm initially supported Project Tango with the Snapdragon 652, which required a number of software optimizations. This is why the recently-announced Lenovo Phab 2 Pro Project Tango handset runs on the Snapdragon 652 rather than a different chip. Qualcomm retuned the 820 to match the 652's software optimizations. Specifically, Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 820 now offers "high accuracy, uniform time stamping of multiple sensor data streams, efficient processing without the need for external co-processors, and leading camera and sensor processing technology" — all needed for Tango. Qualcomm plans to support Tango with more of its Snapdragon 600 and 800 tier processors over time.


Motorola's Refreshed G Series Streets July 12

Jun 28, 2016, 10:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today said its fourth-generation G series smartphones will go on sale beginning July 12. The G4 will cost $199 and the G4 Plus (pictured) will cost $249. The phones will be sold by Amazon.com, Best Buy, BrandsMart, B&H, CarToys, Fry's, MicroCenter, Motorola.com, Sam's Club, and Walmart. Further, Republic Wireless will offer both phones with its service starting July 28. The Moto G4 and G4 Plus are sold unlocked with support for most U.S. carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.


Motorola's Jim Wicks, Design Chief, to Depart Company

Jun 21, 2016, 4:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jim Wicks, Motorola's head of design, plans to leave the company for a faculty position at Northwestern University, according to Crain's Chicago Business. Wick has led Motorola's design team for a dozen years, and has been with the company for more than 15. He's responsible for handsets such as the RAZR and Droid. "We greatly appreciate Jim's contributions in leading a consumer experience design team that delivered standout, iconic, and award-winning industrial design and user experiences for Moto's mobile and wearable products," said Lenovo in a statement provided to Crain's. Lenovo owns Motorola. The company said Ruben Caetano will take Wicks' place in Lenovo's Chicago office. Wicks' departure follows closely that of former Motorola CEO Rick Osterloh, who defected to Google earlier this year.


Hands On with the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro Project Tango Phone

Jun 9, 2016, 6:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo showed off what it claims is the first Project Tango smartphone, the Phab 2 Pro. This gigantic Android smartphone boasts four cameras to help it capture and create augmented and virtual reality content. Here are our initial impressions.

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Hands On With Moto Z Droid and Z Droid Force

Jun 9, 2016, 5:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola's new Droids take a modular approach that, at first glance, is compelling. Motorola hopes people will buy into the idea of enhancing their Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Droid Force with hot-swappable modules that add speakers, power, and more to the phones. Here is a first look at these exclusives for Verizon Wireless.

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Lenovo Picked USB-C Over Stereo Headphone Jack for Tech and Design Reasons

Jun 9, 2016, 3:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Neither the Moto Z Droid nor the Moto Z Droid Force has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. Instead, the two phones adopted the USB-C standard for charging and audio output. When asked why it made this decision, Lenovo executives said its new phones are a "platform for the future" and that USB Type-C is defining that future. The decision means the phones will be compatible with future Moto Mods, for example, and other accessories the company creates down the road. Lenovo also noted it could not have made the phones as thin or simple as they are with the headphone jack. This was purely a "future-focused decision," said Lenovo, but "to ease the pain, we've included a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle in the box."

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Moto to Stick with X, G, and E Series Devices

Jun 9, 2016, 3:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo executives today said the company plans to continue making its current lineup of handsets, called the Moto X, Moto G, and Moto E. It believes firmly in targeting the high-, mid-, and low-end segments to meet the varied needs of different markets. Lenovo developed the new Moto Z phones based on the X, but the company will still carry the X series forward. Lenovo implied the next version of the X may include features found on the new Z phones.

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Moto Mods to Be An Ecosystem, Says Lenovo

Jun 9, 2016, 3:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo's Moto unit said the Moto Mods, which attach to the new Z Droid and Z Droid Force smartphones, will be forward compatible with future devices. Lenovo said it has settled on a basic design size and shape for its smartphones that it will carry forward so forthcoming handsets will be able to use the existing set of Moto Mods. Moto imagines people will share and swap the Mods as needed. Moto plans to release a developer kit this summer so third-party companies can create their own Moto Mods.

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Moto's New Droids Will Be Sold Unlocked In the Fall

Jun 9, 2016, 2:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 9, 2016, 3:07 PM

The Lenovo Moto Z Droid and Z Droid Force, announced today, will be exclusive to Verizon Wireless when they go on sale later this summer. Verizon said preorders will kick off in July, but hasn't yet said exactly when the phones will reach stores. Moto said the two phones will eventually be sold unlocked in September. Consumers will be able to buy them directly from Motorola's web site.


Motorola to Let Others Make Mods for Z Droids

Jun 9, 2016, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today showed off the Z Droid and Z Droid Force handsets, which are compatible with magnetic modules that attach to the back. The Z Droid and Z Droid Force will have access to a handful of Moto Mods at launch, but Motorola hopes other companies will make Mods, too. Motorola plans to make an SDK available to companies so they can design and develop their own Mods for the Z Droid line of phones. Motorola has already partnered with JBL, TUMI, and kay spade new york.

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Motorola Debuts New Droid Zs with Swappable Back Modules

Jun 9, 2016, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today announced two new smartphones, the Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid, both of which adopt a modular design that allows users to enhance them with attachable accessories. The phones are spiritual successors to last year's Turbo 2 and Maxx 2 handsets, but take on new design language in addition to support for the Moto Mods modules. Unlike LG's G5, which features modules that insert into the bottom of the phone, Moto Mods attach to the back of the Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Droid Force magnetically. This allows owners to swap the modules more easily, and without requiring device reboots. The first batch of modules includes JBL SoundBoost stereo speakers, Moto Insta-Share Projector, and battery packs from TUMI and kate spade new york. Shared features between the phones include 5.5-inch quad HD screens, Snapdragon 820 processors, fingerprint readers, 5-megapixel selfie cameras, USB-C ports, and water-repellent coatings. The run Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

  • Moto Z Droid: The Z Droid is thin and light with an aluminum body, 13-megapixel camera, and 2,600mAh battery with rapid charging.
  • Moto Z Force Droid: This hardier handset makes use of second-generation Shatter Shield technology from Motorola for an unbreakable screen. Motorola says its new Shatter Shield tech is thinner, stronger, and has narrower edges. The Z Force improves the battery to 3,500mAh with rapid charging, and bumps the camera up to 21 megapixels.
The Moto Z Droid and Z Droid Force will both be sold by Verizon Wireless later this summer. Pricing was not disclosed.

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Lenovo Shows Off the Phab 2 Pro Project Tango Phone

Jun 9, 2016, 12:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 9, 2016, 12:53 PM

Lenovo today announced the Phab 2 Pro, a smartphone aimed at helping people capture virtual and augmented reality content. It builds on the foundation set by the first Project Tango tablet, but is a smaller and more refined device. Lenovo designed the Phab 2 Pro in partnership with Google, which heads Project Tango. The device is a premium handset with an aluminum design, a 6.4-inch quad HD display, and a Snapdragon 652 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The phone has four cameras: an 8-megapixel selfie camera, a 16-megapixel main camera, a depth camera, and a motion-tracking camera. Lenovo says these latter two are core to helping create virtual/augmented reality content. The phone includes Dolby Atmos sound and is able to capture audio with Dolby 5.1 for more immersive sound. The Phab 2 Pro includes a 4,000mAh battery with rapid charging. It runs Android and will be available in September at Best Buy stores for $499.

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Verizon to Delete Its Paid Visual Voicemail Service

Jun 8, 2016, 9:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless said it will discontinue its $2.99 Visual Voicemail service come July 8. All customers who use the Visual Voicemail app will be transitioned to Verizon's free, basic voicemail service. Verizon says customers won't lose their existing voicemails, but may need to make room in their voicemail inbox, as well as reset their voicemail greeting. The list of phones impacted by the change is significant, including old and new models from BlackBerry, Casio, HTC, Kyocera, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Pantech, and Samsung. Verizon did not say why it is discontinuing the Visual Voicemail service.


Fourth-Gen Moto G Comes In Three Varieties

May 17, 2016, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today announced the fourth-generation Moto G, which is a trio of handsets rather than a single phone. All three devices, which include the Moto G, Moto G Plus, and the Moto G Play, run Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and feature slimmer designs than previous generations. The phones share a variety of functions, such as support for LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, sensors, and micro USB. The first two phones both include 5.5-inch full HD screens, 1.5 GHz Snapdragon 617 processors with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage.

  • Moto G: The main model includes a 13-megapixel main camera with an aperture of f/2.0, dual-LED flash, and HDR. The front camera captures wide-angle, 5-megapixel images and boasts a display-based selfie flash. Both can capture full HD video. The Moto G ships with a 3000mAh battery and supports Quick Charge. Consumers can personalize the G via Moto Maker.
  • Moto G Plus: The G Plus carries over most features from the G. It chiefly steps up the main camera to 16 megapixels and allows for greater customization of RAM and storage. It also adds a fingerprint reader for security.
  • Moto G Play: The low-end model steps the display down to 5 inches at 720p HD, drops the processor to a 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 410, lowers the main camera to 8 megapixels at f/2.2, and reduces the battery to 2800mAh. It supports rapid charging, but the charger is not included with the phone.
Motorola said that Moto G family will go on sale in select markets soon, including North America. The devices are sold unlocked with support for GSM-based carriers. Price points were not disclosed.


FCC, FTC Query Carriers and Phone Makers Over Security

May 9, 2016, 12:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC and FTC today asked carriers and phone manufacturers how they handle security updates for their devices. The FCC sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and other carriers, while the FTC queried Apple, Blackberry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, and Samsung. In particular, the agencies want to know: the factors carriers/OEMs consider in deciding whether to patch a vulnerability on a particular phone; data on the specific phones sold in the U.S. since August 2013; the vulnerabilities that have affected those devices; and whether and when the company patched such vulnerabilities. The government said the line of inquiry is to help it further understand how these companies do or do not protect consumers. "Consumers may be left unprotected, for long periods of time or even indefinitely, by any delays in patching vulnerabilities once they are discovered," said the FCC. "To date, operating system providers, original equipment manufacturers, and mobile service providers have responded to address vulnerabilities as they arise. There are, however, significant delays in delivering patches to actual devices — and that older devices may never be patched." Google provides monthly security updates to Nexus-branded Android devices, but individual phone makers lag badly. Apple provides occasional updates.


ITC to Investigate 8 Phone Makers Over Patent Claims

May 6, 2016, 7:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The U.S. International Trade Commission has agreed to investigate a complaint from Creative Technology / Creative Labs that accuses eight different smartphone makers of infringing on patents. The ITC is prepared to look at phones made by BlackBerry, HTC, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony, and ZTE. Creative Labs says these companies are violating a patent related to media playback on mobile devices. The ITC did not say when it might make an initial ruling on the matter. Companies often use the ITC as a venue to settle trade disagreements because the ITC has the power to institute import bans.


Google Brings Back Motorola's Osterloh to Head Hardware Unit

Apr 28, 2016, 1:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Rick Osterloh, former CEO of Motorola, is returning to Google in order to run the company's new hardware division, which includes Nexus and Chromecast. Osterloh left Lenovo last month. Lenovo bought Motorola from Google in 2014. Osterloh will be responsible for working with Google's handset partners in designing Nexus phones and tablets, as well as Chromecast dongles and compatible products. Osterloh's role will also include oversight of Google Glass, ATAP, OnHub routers, Chrome-based PCs and the Android-based Pixel tablet line. Osterloh will serve as a senior vice president and report to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.


Motorola President Rick Osterloh to Leave Lenovo

Mar 18, 2016, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo today said Rick Osterloh will leave the company amid an internal reorganization. Osterloh has headed Motorola's efforts within Lenovo since the Chinese firm acquired Motorola from Google in 2014. The company is shifting its internal business groups. The PC unit will now include phablets, tablets, and PCs running Android, Chrome OS, and Windows. This unit will be led by Gianfranco Lanci, who is president and COO at Lenovo. The rest of the mobile business, including Motorola- and Lenovo-branded smartphones, will be led by company presidents Xudong Chen and Aymar de Lencquesaing. Lenovo announced new branding efforts for its smartphones earlier this year. The company is de-emphasizing the Motorola brand, shortening it to just Moto. Neither Lenovo nor Osterloh specified the reasons behind his departure.


Lenovo Reveals Moto Strategy for 2016

Feb 22, 2016, 7:42 AM   by Rich Brome

At an event at Mobile World Congress this week, Motorola unit President Rick Osterloh gave an update on the integration of Motorola Mobility into Lenovo, and gave new information on some future plans. The mobility unit of the company is now profitable. The company has integrated Motorola and Lenovo mobile design, engineering, and manufacturing teams, combining best practices from both. Former Motorola designers are working on an all-new, unified design language for the company's Vibe line of phones, while continuing to work on new Moto X, Moto G, and Moto E models. The company also plans to expand Moto Maker to allow even greater customization of phones, although there are no plans to bring a Moto Maker assembly facility back to U.S. soil. Moto and Vibe will continue as separate brands, each with a unique identity and focus. Moto phones are intended to be innovative phones for "trend-setters", while the Vibe line will continue to focus on value. The company is integrating hardware and software platforms in all "behind the scenes" aspects, however. This will allow it to consolidate component procurement and achieve better economies of scale across both the Moto and Vibe lines. The company expects to present a "fully converged" portfolio of Moto and Vibe phone models by mid-summer 2016. The company is still working on a more unified brand strategy for the longer term.

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Samsung's Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge Are Waterproof

Feb 21, 2016, 1:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 21, 2016, 1:30 PM

Samsung today announced the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, upgrades to last year's designs that make under-the-hood refinements and add several new features. The GS7 and GS7 Edge maintain the glass-and-metal design of the GS6, but update the chassis to provide protection from water and other liquids. The GS7 has a 5.1-inch quad HD screen, while the GS7 Edge has a somewhat bigger 5.5-inch screen at the same resolution. Samsung added an "always on" function to the screen, similar to that of LG's G5 and Motorola's Moto X for displaying notifications. Samsung admitted it made a mistake with last year's handset by bringing back support for expandable storage in the GS7. The phones ship with 32 GB included, but support memory cards up to 200 GB. Samsung reduced the camera's pixel count to 12-megapixels, but increased the pixel size by 95% for better low-light performance. The main camera has a lens at f/1.7, and Samsung changed the sensor from the 16:9 aspect ratio to the 4:3 aspect ratio. The front-facing camera captures 5 megapixels. The GS7 has a 3,000mAh battery, while the GS7 Edge packs a 3,600mAh power cell with rapid and wireless charging. The phones rely on Samsung's octa-core Exynos processor with 4 GB of RAM. Samsung decided to stick with a micro USB port, rather than update to the newer USB Type-C port. The phones run Android 6.0 Marshmallow and include refreshed apps and services from Samsung. For example, the S7 Edge has the new Edge Panel content for expanded content. The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge will be sold by all four major U.S. carriers. Preorders start February 23 and others will ship March 11. Pricing was not revealed.

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