Google has unveiled the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, its new own-brand flagship Android phones. The phones have Motion Sense, which uses a tiny RADAR sensor to read mid-air hand gestures, and power advanced face recognition for phone security. Google claims its face unlock is the fastest on the market, and requires no screen touch at all. This technology was first developed as Google's Project Soli. The OLED display supports an auto-adjusting refresh rate, up to 90 Hz. The Pixel 4 also reacts to squeeze gestures. The Pixel 4 comes with Google Recorder, which includes real-time, on-device voice recognition and dictation that produces searchable transcripts. The camera includes both standard (12 megapixel, f/1.7, 77º) and telephoto (16 megapixel, 52º) lenses, as well as multi-frame hi-res digital zoom. The improved HDR+ now supports live preview and dual exposure controls for greater creative control. An AI-powered white balance feature recognizes scene elements to provide better color. The improved portrait function uses both cameras. The new night mode supports astrophotography with long exposures up to 4 minutes. The larger XL model has a 6.3-inch QHD+ display and 3,700 battery, while the smaller model has a 5.7-inch FHD+ display and 2,800 mAh battery. Both models have a Snapdragon 855 processor, 6 GB of RAM, 64 or 128 GB of storage, and 18W fast charging. The Pixel 4 will be available from all major US carriers on October 24th, with pre-orders available today. It will start at $799 ($899 for the XL) and come in Just Black, Clearly White, and Oh So Orange.
Google today announced that its Stadia game-streaming service will launch on November 19th. Separately, Microsoft has formally launched a public preview of its xCloud game streaming service, starting with Android.
Google today previewed the new Pixel Buds, which are its first fully wireless Bluetooth earbuds. They feature built-in machine learning processing that powers Google Assistant, language translation, and other experiences to be announced. They have long-range Bluetooth that can reach up to the length of a football field. The design fits almost completely inside the ear, with a spatial vent that allows you to hear a limited amount of ambient sound at all times. Beam-forming mics allow you to be heard clearly on calls, and power an auto-volume feature. The new Pixel buds last 5 hours on their own, or 24 hours with the included charging case. They'll be available in the spring of 2020 for $179.
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Motorola is bringing its One Action phone to the US this month in an unlocked version for $350. This otherwise typical mid-range Android phone has a wide-angle (117º) camera on the back that's oriented to shoot landscape video when the phone is held vertically. The phone also has a standard 12 megapixel camera, a depth camera for portrait effects, and a 12 megapixel selfie camera. The 6.3-inch LCD screen has full HD resolution and a small hole-punch cutout for the selfie camera. The One Action has a Samsung Exynos processor, 4 GB of RAM, memory card slot, NFC, fingerprint reader, and 3.5mm audio jack. Pre-orders start today and the phone will be available from Motorola, Amazon, Best Buy, and B&H Photo by October 31st.
The Nubia Red Magic 3S gaming phone will launch next week — October 16th — starting at $479. It has a faster processor (Snapdragon 855+) and storage (UFS 3.0) than original Red Magic 3, but the specs and design are otherwise almost identical. It has a 6.7-inch, full-HD OLED display with 90 Hz refresh rate, 240 Hz touch sampling rate, 5,000 mAh battery, shoulder buttons, liquid+air cooling with integrated fan, and a customizable light-up strip on the back. It also has a 48-megapixel Sony main camera, 3.5mm headset jack, fingerprint reader, and 27W fast charging. It does not have NFC, wireless charging, nor a memory card slot. It supports LTE 2/4/5/12/25/26/30/41/66 for US networks, giving it better support for AT&T's network than many other unlocked phones. The base version has 8 GB of RAM / 128 GB of storage, and is available in black or silver for $479 direct from the Red Magic web site. An upgraded "Cyber Shade" version has 12 GB RAM / 256 GB storage and a red/purple gradient design for $599.
Hulu is rolling out the ability for users on its ad-free plan to download shows to watch offline. The feature is available now for iOS, and soon for Android.
Sony is updating its PS4 software this week for both console and mobile platforms. The new PS4 Remote Play app for Android will work on all phones with Android 5.0 and up; it was previously available only on Sony Android phones. Remote Play is already available for iOS. Sony is also updating its Second Screen app that turns your phone into a companion device while console gaming. Second Screen will now include a voice transcription accessibility feature for group chats, which converts party voice chat to text, and enables you to enter text that is read aloud to other party members. The new software is rolling out this week.
The Asus ROG Phone II is a beast of a phone. It's loaded to the gills with top-end specs and unique extra features that cater to hard-core gamers. But some of its wilder specs — like its massive 6,000 mAh battery and huge screen — might appeal to casual gamers, and even people who don't game on their phones at all. Other sites will tell you how this phone stacks up for gamers; we're going to focus on whether it makes sense for anyone else. Here are our thoughts after using it daily for two weeks.
The Microsoft Surface Duo is a unique dual-screen device running Android that functions as a foldable tablet and mini version of the company's just-announced Surface Neo. Its dual 5.6-inch displays are joined by a 360-degree hinge that lets it fold with the displays facing either in or out. When folded, it's far wider than most phones, making it a slightly distinct category of device. It can run two apps side-by-side, use the second display as a keyboard, or function like one unified tablet. It won't be available until fall 2020.
Microsoft's new Surface Earbuds are true wireless Bluetooth earbuds that promise 24-hour battery life. The buds integrate with Spotify and Microsoft Office. Touch controls on the outside can control Spotify music, or a PowerPoint presentation. They also include voice dictation and translation features. For example, they can add real-time captions of what you're saying to a live PowerPoint presentation, and translate those captions into any one of 60 languages. Surface Earbuds will sell for $250 and be available this fall.
LG's entry-level K30 2019 model has launched in several different versions, under a variety of names, at AT&T, T-Mobile, and Cricket in recent weeks. Cricket launched the phone as the Escape Plus a few weeks ago, and sells it for $80. Since then, AT&T Prepaid has launched the same phone as the Arena 2 for $120, and LG now sells it unlocked as the K30 2019 for $140. Also, a slightly higher-end version with a fingerprint reader and better camera (13 megapixel instead of 8) is now available as the Prime 2 on AT&T (also $120) and Aristo 4+ on T-Mobile for $162.50. Those two models also differ: the Prime 2 has NFC, while the Aristo 4+ has dual-band Wi-Fi instead. Unusually, the Prime 2 and Aristo 4+ have only 16 GB of storage, while the otherwise lower-end Escape Plus and Arena 2 have 32 GB. All versions in the series have a tall HD display, 3,000 mAh battery, dedicated Google Assistant button, 5-megapixel selfie camera, 3.5mm headset jack, and a memory card slot.
Going forward, all new phones shipping with Android 9 or 10 will come with the YouTube Music app. On Android 10 devices, it will be the only music app from Google to be pre-installed, replacing Google Play Music.
Cricket now offers two different $80 phones running Android 9 Go Edition. The company launched the Alcatel Insight today, and the Cricket Icon on Monday. Both phones have a MediaTek MT6739 processor, FWVGA+ LCD display, 5 megapixel main camera, and 2 megapixel front camera. Go Edition is a special version of Android designed for entry-level phones with less than 2 GB of RAM and limited storage. Both the Icon and Insight have 16 GB of storage, but do have a memory card slot. The Alcatel Insight also has Google Lens, full-HD video recording, and a 2,200 mAh battery with Battery Saver Mode.
OnePlus today revealed the OnePlus 7T, a new model that's a blend of the 6T and 7 Pro, offering most of the best features of both, for less money than the 7 Pro. It has a small-notch screen design like the 6T, but in an extra-tall 20:9 ratio with full-HD resolution and HDR10+. The 20:9 ratio allows the 7T to be slightly narrower than the 7 Pro. It also has the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ processor, a slightly faster, gaming-optimized version of the top-end 855. Like the 7 Pro, it has three rear cameras (standard, wide, and telephoto) including a 48-megapixel main sensor, but the telephoto camera has been upgraded from 8 megapixels to 12. A new Macro Mode lets users to get up close to a focus distance of 2.5cm. Also like the 7 Pro, it has 90 Hz display refresh rate, "Warp Charge" fast charging, 128 GB of UFS 3.0 storage, Cat 18 LTE, and an in-display fingerprint reader. The 7T has 8 GB of RAM and a 3,800 mAh battery. It will ship with the just-released Android 10. Available color options are Glacier Blue and Frosted Silver. It will sell for $599 unlocked starting October 18th, and T-Mobile will be the exclusive US carrier for it.
Amazon's new Echo Buds are true wireless Bluetooth earbuds with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, although they are also compatible with Siri and Google Assistant. Using three microphones in each bud, they offer Bose Active Noise Reduction, as well as Passthrough Mode for bringing in ambient noise when desired. Each bud has two premium, balanced armature drivers for better sound. They're rated IPX4 to withstand "splashes, sweat, or light rain." The buds alone last 4-5 hours, and the case provides three additional charges. Using Alexa requires the Alexa app on your connected phone. Echo Buds will cost $130. They are available for pre-order now and will ship October 30th.
Anker today introduced a new range of Spirit and Liberty Bluetooth earbuds. The new buds are much-improved over the original Spirit and Liberty series, but also much more expensive. While last year's Liberty models were all well under $100, the new Liberty 2 models range in cost from $100-150. Similarly, last year's Spirit models were all under $50, but the new Spirit 2 models range in cost from $60-100. All six new products charge via USB-C. The new Liberty 2 lineup are true wireless buds with enhanced sound quality. They all feature 4-mic noise cancellation and HearID personalized tuning.
- The top-end Liberty 2 Pro feature Anker's unique Astria Coaxial Acoustic Architecture for better sound quality. Anker collaborated with 10 Grammy-winning audio producers to tune the sound to match professional studio monitor speakers. The buds alone last for eight hours, and the buds+case lasts for 32 hours. Ten minutes of charging in the case provides two hours of listening time. They will sell for $150.
- The $100 Liberty 2 have the same design, features and specs as the Pro model, just swapping the Astria drivers for diamond-coated drivers of a more traditional design.
- The Liberty Air 2 have specs and features similar to the Liberty 2, but in a style closer to Apple's AirPods, including the case. They also add wireless charging for the case, but still cost $100.
- The Spirit 2 are the most affordable in the new range at $50. Like the original Spirit, they have a wire connecting the two buds behind the neck. But this year's edition has improved battery life (14 hours vs. 8), better waterproofing (IP68), and a built-in USB-C connector that can deliver two hours of juice after just fives minutes of charging.
- The Spirit Dot 2 are small true wireless earbuds with a charging case. Their unique design has "Zero-Pressure AirWings" integrated into one end of each bud, so that the part that would normally stick out instead clips into your ear to hold them in place. The buds alone last for 5.5 hours, and the buds+case lasts for 16 hours. Diamond-coated composite drivers deliver superior sound. They will run $80.
- The Spirit X2 are also a true wireless model, but with an over-ear loop, beefier 12mm drivers, better battery life at nine hours (36 with case), and an IP68 waterproof rating. They will sell for $100.
The FCC this week launched an investigation into allegations that Sprint collected federal subsidy payments for 885,000 subscribers that were not actively using Sprint service, violating a key rule of the Lifeline program for low-income consumers. If true, this would amount to Sprint collecting over $8 million/month of taxpayer money that it was not entitled to. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the investigation yesterday. Today, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks released a statement saying that the investigation "directly impacts our review of the proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile, one of the largest wireless transactions in FCC history. Given the enormity of the apparent wrongdoing committed here, we must pause our Commission review. ... There is no credible way that the merger before us can proceed until this Lifeline investigation is resolved and responsible parties are held accountable."
Cricket is offering a choice of eight different phones for free to new customers through the end of the month, and two models after that. Until October 1st, the free choices include several mid-range models such as the Moto g7 Supra, LG Stylo 5, and Nokia 3.1 Plus. Also free are the Samsung Galaxy J2 Pure, LG Harmony 2, LG Fortune 2, Moto e5 Cruise, and Nokia 3.1 C. After Oct. 1st, the Moto e5 Cruise will continue to be free until Nov. 21. The Samsung J2 Pure will be free again Oct. 11 - Nov. 21.