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Hands On with the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

Today, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman and Rich Brome

Samsung's new flagship handsets, the Galaxy S9 and S9+, are here and they offer lots to be excited about. Samsung took the wining design of last year's phones and upped the ante with improvements to the chassis, cameras, and software. The S9 and S9+ are Samsung's most powerful, and perhaps most fun, smartphones ever. Here are Phone Scoop's first impression.

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ Offer Refined Hardware, Improved Camera, AR Emoji

Today, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced the Galaxy S9 and S9+ phones, updates to last year's S8 models. The devices bear a striking resemblance to their predecessors and make only modest changes to the hardware. The S9/S9+ feature 2:1 screens with slightly reduced bezels and glass panels front and back. Most significantly, Samsung rotated the camera/fingerprint module so the reader is in a central location on the rear. The phones also adopt stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos and produce louder sound than the S8/S8+. The S9/S9+ carry over features such as the waterproof chassis, USB-C port, headphone jack, and dedicated Bixby button. Samsung made significant improvements to the camera. The 12-megapixel cameras now include switchable aperture, from f/1.5 to f/2.4, to help with low-light situations. The camera sensor includes embedded DRAM memory — similar to Sony's premium phones — that allows the S9/S9+ to capture 960fps slow-motion. The slow-mo mode includes a motion detection function so it knows when to slow down the video for maximum effect. Each phone also includes an 8-megapixel selfie camera, along with face and iris scanning for security. Samsung added AR Emoji, a tool that echos the Animoji feature on the iPhone X to a certain degree. Users record their face which is then turned into a cartoon avatar and applied to 18 different personalized GIFs. The AR Emoji also let users animate faces such as a devil, and even apply (and purchase) various types of makeup. Further, S9/S9+ owners can easily save and share the AR Emoji with most other devices. Samsung says the S9/S9+ include a more refined version of Bixby that is now able to recognize more actions. More importantly, Bixby Vision now works in real-time, allowing for instant language translation and searches when viewing items through the camera. The devices ship with Android 8 Oreo, the Samsung SmartThings app, and the latest version of Samsung's DeX software. Samsung's SmartThings will allow the S9/S9+ to interact with other connected Samsung devices, such as refrigerators. The DeX software now works with a new dock that lets the phone act as a virtual mouse and/or keyboard. The S9 includes a 5.8-inch quad HD+ screen and 3,000mAh battery, while the S9+ includes a 6.2-inch quad HD+ screen and 3,500mAh battery. The only other difference in the hardware is found on the rear of the S9+, which features a second camera for 2x telephoto images. Both phones rely on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with 4 or 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The phones support microSD cards up to 400 GB. Preorders for the Galaxy S9 and S9+ kick off March 2 and the phones will reach stores March 16. Samsung is offering up to $350 for trade-ins when put toward the purchase of an S9/S9+. The phone will be sold in black, purple, and blue in the U.S. AT&T, Cricket Wireless, MetroPCS, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and Xfinity Mobile all plan to carry the phone. It will also be available form Best Buy, Amazon, Costco, Sam’s Club, Target, and Walmart. Pricing is about $799 for the S9 and $899 for the S9+.

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Nokia Brings Back the 8110 'Matrix' Slider

Today, 11:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global today announced the Nokia 8110, a feature phone that bears a striking resemblance to the Nokia handset used "The Matrix" from 1999. The 8110 us banana shaped so it better fits the owner's face during phone calls. A plastic slider drops down to reveal the keypad. The phone has 2.4-inch full-color display and is based on the Snapdragon 205 processor with 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of storage. It includes a 2-megapixel camera and ships with the refreshed Snake game of old. It supports European LTE bands. It goes on sale in May for $80.

HMD Global Updates the Nokia 6 with Better Specs

Today, 10:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global today showed off a new version of the Nokia 6. The phone carries over the same design as the original, but improves the specs under the hood. It includes a 5.5-inch screen and premium materials. Key features include NFC and a fingerprint reader. It jumps from the Snapdragon 435 to the Snapdragon 630 and comes with either 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage or 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The frame is milled from 6000 series aluminum and now comes in black/copper, white/iron, and blue/gold. Other features include face unlock, wireless charging, USB-C, and Android 8 Oreo. It foe on sale in April for about $300.

Nokia 1 Runs Android Go and Brings Back Nokia's Xpress-On Covers

Today, 10:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global today announced the Nokia 1, an affordable, entry-level smartphone that runs the Android Oreo Go platform. The phone features swappable rear covers, a feature the former Nokia called Xpress-On covers. The shell is made from polycarbonate with metal inserts to help strengthen the chassis. The phone includes a 4.5-inch FWVGA display and is powered by a quad-core MediaTek processor clocked at 1.1 GHz with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with LED flash, while the front camera has a 2-megapixel camera. Both are fixed focus. Other features include Bluetooth, FM radio, GPS, LTE, and WiFi; a 2,150mAh removable battery; and microUSB port and 3.5mm headphone jack. The Android 8 Oreo Go Edition platform includes slimmed down versions of Google's core apps so the device runs smoothly. The Nokia 1 goes on sale in April.

Nokia 7 Plus Packs Dual Cameras with Zeiss Optics

Today, 10:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global today announced the Nokia 7 Plus, a large Android slab machined from a single block of aluminum with copper accents. HMD Global says the rear is coated with a "ceramic-feel" paint for texture. The Nokia 7 Plus feature a 6-inch display with the 18:9 aspect ratio and full HD+ (2,160 by 1,080) resolution. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 660 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The phone has dual cameras on the back, both with Zeiss optics. The main sensor captures 12-megapixel images at f/1.75 and the secondary sensor captures 13-megapixel images at f/2.6 and offers 2x telephoto zoom. The selfie camera has a 16-megapixel sensor. The Nokia 7 Plus includes a "bothie" feature, which lets people take photos with the main and front cameras at the same time. Moreover, owners can apply AR stickers to bothies for fun. The phone packs a massive 3,800mAh battery that HMD Global says delivers two days of battery life. The battery also supports rapid charging. Other hardware features include Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, WiFi, LTE, and spatial audio. It relies on a USB-C connector and also offers a 3.5mm headset jack. The phone runs Android One, which means HMD Global has committed to offering rapid updates and security patches. The Nokia 7 Plus goes on sale in April for $399.

Nokia 8 Sirocco Relies On Stainless Steel Frame

Today, 10:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global today unveiled the Nokia 8 Sirocco, a stylish update to the Nokia 8. The phone has a stainless steel frame and curved Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back. A 5.5-inch quad HD plastic OLED screen adorns the face. The Nokia 8 adopts the Snapdragon 835 processor with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. The Nokia 8 Sirocco has the same camera configuration as the Nokia 7 Plus. The phone has dual cameras on the back, both with Zeiss optics. The main sensor captures 12-megapixel images at f/1.75 and the secondary sensor captures 13-megapixel images at f/2.6 and offers 2x telephoto zoom. The selfie camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with a display-based flash. The Nokia 8 Sirocco includes Dual Sight for "bothies." The software includes a new pro mode for manual control over the shutter and other features. The 3,260mAh battery supports rapid charging and wireless charging. The phone meets IP67 for protection against quick drops into water. Other features include Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, WiFi, LTE, and USB-C. It runs Android 8 Oreo One. The Nokia 8 Sirocco will be available in April for about $800.

Hands On with the ZTE Blade V9 and V9 Vita

Today, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman and Rich Brome

The latest in ZTE's Blade series phones are the V9 and V9 Vita. These devices bring ZTE's design language in line with current trends by adopting 18:9 displays. They also put the competition on notice with dual cameras designed to take better low-light photographs. Here is Phone Scoop's first look at the latest from ZTE.

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ZTE's Tempo Go Will Be Its First Android Go Phone for the US

Today, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Tempo Go, a version of the Tempo X that adopts the Android Go platform. Android Go is Google's slimmed-down version of Android for ultra low-cost devices with RAM of 1 GB of less. Earlier this week, Google promised that more Android Go phones would arrive shortly, and the Tempo Go is leading that wave. The Tempo Go has a 5-inch display with 854 by 480 pixels (FWVGA) and it is powered by a Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. Other features include a 5-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera, microUSB, 3.5mm headset jack, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and a 2,200mAh battery. The Tempo Go will be sold unlocked with support for the LTE 4G networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. Pricing wasn't immediately announced.

ZTE Debuts Blade V9 and V9 Vita with 18:9 Screens

Today, 10:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today expanded its lineup of Blade series handsets with the Blade V9 and V9 Vita. These mid-range handsets bring the Blade series up-to-date with competing designs by adopting the 18:9 aspect ratio display. Shared features between these two phones include Android 8 Oreo, dual rear cameras, microUSB, 3.5mm headphone jack, memory card support, GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi.

  • Blade V9: The V9 (pictured) drops the plastic build common to ZTE's older Blade designs for an aluminum frame and glass panels on front and back. The screen measures 5.7 inches and includes full HD+ resolution (2,160 by 1,080). It is powered by a 1.8 GHz octa-core processor and comes in a variety of RAM (2 to 4 GB) and storage (16 to 64 GB) configurations. The V9's dual camera system includes a 16-/5-megapixel combo on the rear and either an 8- or 13-megapixel camera on front. ZTE says it made significant efforts in improving low-light performance of the camera, and the dual-lens system allows people to take bokeh/portrait-style images. The V9's front camera supports Facebook detection for waking and unlocking the phone. Other stand-out features include NFC, fingerprint reader, and 3,100mAh battery. It comes in black or gold.
  • Blade V9 Vita: The Vita dials back the size and specs when compared to the premium V9. It drops the metal and glass for a polycarbonate shell that forms the entire rear of the device. The screen is reduced to 5.45 inches at HD+ (1,440 by 720) resolution. It is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The Vita also has a dual rear camera system with a 13-/2-megapixel configuration and a 8-megapixel shooter on front. The phone has a 3,200mAh battery and it comes in black, pink, blue, and dark blue.
ZTE said neither of these phones is slated to reach the U.S. immediately, but they may show up under different names from carriers such as MetroPCS or Cricket Wireless.

LG's V30S ThinQ Adds Color, Memory, Storage, Camera Smarts

Today, 4:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today updated its V30 smartphone with several new features and is now calling it the V30S ThinQ. The majority of specs of the phone are unchanged. The V30S ThinQ includes 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage, while the V30S+ ThinQ includes 6 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. The new handsets ship with Android 8 Oreo, and they are now available in new Moroccan Blue and Platinum Gray colors. Along with Oreo, LG has updated the software to include a handful of new tools under the auspices of its ThinQ artificial intelligence platform. First up is Voice AI, which LG says are custom commands for Google Assistant made available only to the V30S ThinQ. These allow users to run apps and change settings through voice commands alone. For example, V30S ThinQ owners can tell their device to take a panorama, time-lapse, or slow-motion photo, perform an image search, or scan a QR code, among other actions. These new commands join 23 existing commands already available to the original V30. Next, LG is taking aim at the camera with Vision AI, or the ability to recognize objects and adjust shooting parameters to capture better photos. Some of the initial scenes the V30S ThinQ will be able to recognize include portraits, food, pets, landscapes, cityscapes, flowers, sunrises, and sunsets. The camera will automatically analyze the surrounding scene to adjust focus, white balance, and shutter speed based on what it sees. LG says it has scanned some 100 million images to create a database of known objects to compare against. Last, the V30S ThinQ gains a new low-light shooting mode called Bright Mode that should deliver far more accurate results when shooting in the dark. LG says Bright Mode relies on its AI-based algorithms to brighten images by a factor of two for better looking photos without the noise. LG didn't say when the updated V30S ThinQ would go on sale, nor which markets it will be sold in.

Hands On with Alcatel's new 3 Series Phones

Yesterday, 1:03 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Yesterday, 2:58 PM

Alcatel has a new lineup of very affordable Android phones with 2:1 displays. They come in three sizes. Some have curved-edge glass on the front, and one has a dual camera setup with a wide-angle lens. Read on for our first impressions of the newly-announced 3 and 3x models.

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Alcatel 5 Series to Serve As TCL's Budget Flagship Phone

Yesterday, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today announced the Alcatel 5 Series, an Android handset that TCL describes as an "affordable flagship." The phone has a brushed metallic unibody design with a rear-mounted fingerprint reader and face ID for rapid unlocking. Core features include a 5.7-inch display with HD+ (1,440 by 720) resolution and the 18:9 aspect ratio. TCL opted for an octa-core MediaTek processor with four cores clocked at 1.5 GHz for high-power tasks and four clocked at 1.0 GHz for low-power tasks. The phone comes with either 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, or 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. Both variants support microSD cards up to 32 GB. The device has a single 12-megapixel camera on the rear at f/2.2 with EIS, HDR, and panorama. TCL added new editing tools called Social Mode, which allow owners to take and review square images at the same time, create instant collages, and apply filters through the Photo Booth mode. The 5 Series is unique in that it has two front-facing cameras, one at 13 megapixels and the other at 5 megapixels. The secondary lens offers wide-angle selfies. Other selfie tools include face beautification, face recognition, and video stories. TCL says the Face Key identity tool takes less than half a second to recognize the owner's face. Further, the fingerprint reader can be customized to take different actions depending on which finger unlocks the phone, such as the camera with an index finger or Facebook with a middle finger. Rounding out the specs, the Alcatel 5 Series has a 3,000mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi, GPS, Cat 4 LTE, USB-C, and an FM radio. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat and comes in black or gold. It is available immediately in select markets for about $250.

Alcatel 3 Series to Come In Three Different Sizes

Yesterday, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced its 3 Series smartphones, part of its larger family of new Android handsets. The 3 Series encompasses three phones that will offer screens measuring 5.5 inches (3), 5.7 inches (3X), and 6 inches (3V). All three screens adopt the 18:9 aspect ratio. While the 3 and 3x use HD+ (1,440 by 720) resolution, the 3V jumps to full HD+ (2,160 by 1,080) resolution. All three phones share a number of features, such as 2.5D curved front glass, curved rear panels, dual cameras, and fingerprint sensors. Each includes Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, microUSB, memory card support, and LTE 4G. The 3 series phones share the same 5-megapixel selfie camera with LED flash, and each packs a 3,000mAh battery.

  • 3V: The largest of the three phones (pictured) includes a quad-core MediaTek processor clocked at 1.45 GHz with 2 GB of RAM and 16 or 32 GB of storage. The rear camera has a 12-megapixel main sensor and 2-megapixel secondary sensor for bokeh-style photos. Other camera features include HDR, panorama, EIS, filters, and video stabilization. It comes in black, gold, or blue, and runs Android 8 Oreo.
  • 3X: The mid-sized member of this pack has a quad-core MediaTek processor clocked at 1.28 GHz and it ships with with 2 or 3 GB of RAM and either 16 or 32 GB of storage, depending on the variant. Its dual-camera setup includes a 13-megapixel main sensor with HDR, two-tone LED flash, and EIS, accompanied by a 5-megapixel secondary sensor with wide-angle shooting. It comes in blue, black, or gold, and runs Android 7 Nougat.
  • 3: The smallest of the three phones has a quad-core MediaTek processor clocked at 1.28 GHz and it ships with with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The camera boasts a 13-megapixel sensor with EIS and HDR. The Alcatel 3 runs Android 8 Oreo and comes in blue, black, or gold.
TCL said the 3 Series handsets will go on sale in select markets starting in April. Pricing ranges from about $150 to about $225, depending on the configuration. The company didn't specify if or when these phones might be sold in the U.S.

Alcatel 1x to Be TCL's First Android Go Phone

Yesterday, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL's Alcatel brand today announced the 1x, an entry-level Android device that runs Android 8.1 Oreo Go Edition. The phone is part of TCL's new lineup of Android handsets, all of which feature 18:9 displays. The 1x has a 5.3-inch screen with 960 by 480 resolution and it is powered by a quad-core MediaTek processor clocked at 1.28 GHz. The phone ships with 1 or 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor at f/2.0 with EIS and HDR, while the user-facing camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with selfie flash. Other hardware features include Cat 4 LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi; microUSB and memory card slot; and a 2,420mAh battery. Some variants of the phone will include a fingerprint reader. The phone is among a new wave of Android Go-based devices. It includes Go-optimized versions of core apps, including Google Assistant Go, Google Go, Files Go, Google Maps Go, YouTube Go, and Gmail Go, as well as performance optimizations to Chrome, Google Play, and Gboard. The Android Go platform is designed to run on low-spec'd hardware, particularly phones with 1 GB or less of RAM. The Alcatel 1x will go on sale in select markets in April. TCL didn't immediately say if or when the 1x might reach the U.S.

Alcatel Linkzone Hotspots Adopt Carrier Aggregation

Yesterday, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced two new mobile hotspots, the Linkzone Cat 12 and Linkzone Cat 7. The Cat 12 hotspot boasts a large 4,300mAh battery that delivers 15 hours of connected surfing for up to 32 devices. The Cat 12 LTE radio delivers download speeds up to 600 Mbps thanks to 3-channel carrier aggregation. The Cat 7 hotspot has a smaller 2,150mAh battery that delivers up to 8 hours of surfing time. The Cat 7 LTE radio supports download speeds up to 300 Mbps due to 2-channel carrier aggregation. Both devices support microSD memory cards up to 256 GB for connected storage. TCL says the Alcatel Linkzone Cat 12 and Linkzone Cat 7 all go on sale in select markets later this year. Pricing is about $200 for the Cat 12 and $125 for the Cat 7.

Google's ARCore 1.0 Released to Public, Google Lens Hits More Handsets

Friday, 11:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made ARCore 1.0 available to developers and the public, bringing augmented reality to some 100 million smartphones around the world. Handsets compatible with ARCore include Google’s Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL; Samsung’s Galaxy S8, S8+, Note8, S7, and S7 edge; LGE’s V30 and V30+; Asus’s Zenfone AR; and OnePlus’s OnePlus 5. More devices from Samsung, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Asus, Xiaomi, HMD/Nokia, ZTE, Sony Mobile, and Vivo will be compatible with ARCore later this year. The 1.0 release gives developers an updated set of tools to create virtual content. For example, it features improved environmental understanding that lets people put virtual objects on surfaces like posters, furniture, toy boxes, books, cans, and more. The refreshed Android Studio Beta supports ARCore in the Emulator, so developers can get to work right away. Some of the first brands to offer ARCore content include Porsche, FC Barcelona, and Sotheby's. Google says it is expanding the availability of the Google Lens Preview, which lets you take a picture and gather information about what's in the image. Google says Lens will hit all Google Photos English-language users over the coming weeks. Further, Google is going to add Google Lens to its Google Assistant on select Android flagship devices. Lens lets people create contacts from business cards, recognize plants and animals, and add events to their calendar by taking photos.

Android Messages with RCS to Reach More Phones On More Carriers

Friday, 10:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google says its Android Messages app is on the upswing thanks to new RCS-based tools and growing support from phone makers and wireless network operators. To start, brands now have more power to interact with consumers thanks to RCS business messaging. Google says brands can "send more useful and interactive messages" to their customers with photos, videos, and links for purchasing. A number of companies have been testing RCS business messaging via Google's Early Access Program. Some include 1-800 Contacts, 1-800-Flowers.com, Booking.com, SnapTravel, and Subway — all on Sprint in the U.S. Google says more businesses will be deploying richer messaging via the Android Messages app over the coming months. The Android Messages app has gained a lot of traction with phone makers and carriers, and more support is on the way. Moving forward, Alcatel, BlackBerry, Transsion, Blu, Positivo, Multilaser, Mobiwire, Azumi, and Essential will all preload Android Messages as the default SMS/messaging app. A number of phone makers already offer Android Messages, including Huawei, LG, HMD Global, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, Sony, and ZTE. The app has a growing footprint with carriers, as well. Google says America Movil, AT&T in Mexico, Celcom Axiata Berhad, Freedom Mobile, Oi, Telia Company, and Telefonica have joined Deutsche Telekom, Globe Telecom, Orange, Rogers Communications, Sprint, and Telenor in their commitment to launch RCS messaging. Sprint is the lone U.S. carrier to go all-in with Google's RCS and Android Messages. AT&T and Verizon each offers its own RCS-based messaging client for Android handsets. Google believes this new momentum for RCS and Android Messages will eventually mean a better messaging experience between people, brands, and more.

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