Today's devices, downsized

What to realistically expect at Apple’s iPhone SE & iPad Pro event




Apple is a company of cycles. Traditionally, Apple has been bound to the calendar like Christmas to December; WWDC in June, new iPhones in September, and new iPads in October.

But Tim Cook’s Apple has been considerably more open to switching things up, forgoing expected events or making announcements at unexpected times. Today we find ourselves on the verge of one such aberrations with the announcement of Apple’s “Let Us Loop you In” Media Event scheduled for next Monday, March 21.

Apple hasn’t ever held an event quite like this, and that means no one is one-hundred percent sure of what to expect. Even so, there are a few smart bets to make. Let’s loop you in – here’s what you can realistically expect.

iPhone5S

1) Is it new iPhone time already? The 4-inch “iPhone SE” is a reasonably sized smartphone with more than reasonable specs.

Apple has never released a new iPhone off cycle before, instead opting to update the lineup all at once. That’s all about to change as Apple will on Monday announce the new “iPhone SE”, a sort of spiritual successor to the longstanding iPhone 5s.

The iPhone SE (the name is just speculation, by the way) will be Apple’s new “low-end” device, presumably filling either the slot that the iPhone 5s or the iPhone 6 – or possibly both? – do today. It will have a 4-inch display (the same size as the 5s) without 3D Touch support, the same A9 processor as the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, a top of the line camera, and Apple Pay support. Essentially, the iPhone SE will be an iPhone 6s mini in everything but the name, sans 3D Touch.

Seeing as there have been few to no truly reliable part leaks for the iPhone SE, it’s difficult to say what the new iPhone will actually look like. Reports from reliable sources have ranged wildly from a carbon copy of the iPhone 5s, to a miniature iPhone 6s, to somewhere in between. I’m most tempted to with Mark Gurman, who claims that the SE will resemble an iPhone 5s with the rounded glass and corners of the iPhone 6 and 6s. The biggest disappointment? I expect the iPhone SE to start with just 16GB of storage – or, in other words, not enough.

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2) Will the expected 9.7-inch iPad Pro be the iPad we’ve all been waiting for? And what about the iPad Air line?

Apple will continue to surprise with the reveal of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, a tablet we all knew was coming but expected to be called the “iPad Air 3.” If the recent leaks are accurate, we’re looking at everything the full sized iPad Pro is today, shoved into an iPad Air 2. That means an A9X processor, vastly improved stereo speakers, and the Smart Connector.

Support for the Smart Connector suggests that Apple will be releasing a smaller version of their Smart Keyboard accessory, which Apple currently sells exclusively to the iPad Pro. Rather than connecting via Bluetooth, the Smart Keyboard case will use the Smart Connector to magnetically attach the keyboard to the iPad. The benefit of this is clear – unlike Bluetooth keyboards, which require repeated pairing and repairing, as well as batteries, the Smart Connector allows accessories to be “hard wired” to the iPad, also using it as a source of power.

The real curiosity here comes in the form of the iPad Air. Given that the new iPad Pro sounds like an Air 3 in everything but name, will Apple opt to discontinue the Air line entirely, keeping the iPad Air 2 around as the entry point for the 9.7-inch iPad lineup? Or will the Air coexist with the new Pro line, similar to Apple’s current Mac lineup? There have been no rumors of a redesigned iPad Air, so my bet is on the eventual death of the line.

apple-watch-collections

3) We’re one year in, and that means it’s time for the Apple Watch to get… new watch bands?

When rumors of a March 2016 event initially started flying around, there were three big tentpole products rumored – a new iPhone, a new iPad, and a new Apple Watch. It now seems as though Apple has decided to wait on launching the expected Apple Watch upgrade, however, and will instead roll out a couple of nifty new watch bands. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I’m not expecting anything too crazy here, but rather just modest accessories for Watch owners to give them more choice. Expect more colors for Apple’s plastic Sport Band series, a new official “Space Black” Milanese Loop (finally!), and perhaps a new line of Apple designed nylon bands.

If you were holding off on buying a new Apple Watch until the second generation, you’ll have to wait a bit longer for that. Current whispers say a September launch is likely, however given how far away that target date, anything could change between now and then.


Oh, this is gonna be big

What to realistically expect at Apple’s iPhone 6s Mega-Event




Apple is a company of patterns. If you look at the release schedule of every major release of nearly every product line, things go off like clockwork. The Calendar strikes June; it’s time to announce the latest operating systems, while September has traditionally brought us new iPhones (and, as of last year, the Apple Watch), and October brings along new Macs and iPads. Take a break for the Christmas season, rinse, repeat.

And yet, if the rumors hold up, this year will go just a tiny bit different – instead of having two separate September and October events, Apple appears to be combining aspects of both into one mega event where they are set to introduce both iPhones and iPads, and even Apple Watch accessories. This “mega-event,” as I’m calling it, is currently scheduled for September 9th – Next Wednesday – and could very well shape up to be one of the most important days in the history of Modern Apple.

But a large event brings about a large amount of FUD, so it’s more important than ever to set expectations well, especially if you’re in the market for some new tech. So to that end, let’s make some sense of the madness and figure out what you can realistically expect.

iphone

1) A new iPhone has made its introduction every September since the iPhone 4S in 2011, and all signs are pointing to this year being no different. Apple has been on a tick-tock cycle with their iPhone lineup for years now, a tick being major design changes and a tock being major internal changes, and this year we’re scheduled for a tock release – something that most people have, for good reason, taken to calling the iPhone 6s.

So, what’s that entail? First, like the iPhone 6 last year, the iPhone 6s will not be one phone, instead actually being two phones of two radically different sizes. It’s safe to expect that both of these phones will come in the same sizes as last year’s phones – the 4.7 inch iPhone 6s, and the 5.5 inch iPhone 6s Plus (or whatever they decide to call it). Both of these phones will likely share incredibly similar, or exactly the same, internals with screen size and resolution being the primary differentiator. Last year’s iPhone 6 Plus did have a slightly better camera than the smaller iPhone 6 due to the inclusion of OIS (optical image stabilization), but it’s unclear if the iPhone 6s lineup will follow suit.

Since the iPhone 6s family is expected to share the same design as the iPhone 6 family, Apple has other tricks up its sleeves to help differentiate this year’s iPhone from last year’s. The most outwardly apparent change will likely come from a new color option – Rose Gold. Though we haven’t seen any parts leak from the supply chain with this color, a Rose Gold iPhone does make sense for two pretty simple reasons. Apple’s M.O. has been to keep their iOS device color options in relative sync, and since Apple this year introduced a Rose Gold Apple Watch, it would make sense to bring this color option to the rest of the lineup. Secondly, Apple used the iPhone 5s to introduce two new color options to help differentiate it from the prior year’s iPhone 5 – Space Gray and Gold. It stands to reason Apple would do the same this year.

But if upgraded internals and new color options are all you’re expecting, you’re underprepared. Apple is heavily rumored to be introducing one of the biggest changes to the iOS paradigm since the original iPhone in 2007 – Force Touch.

Every iPhone since the original 2007 model has had two primary touch methods: taps, and long taps. A long tap on a button may do one thing, such as open an application, while a long tap on an application will initiate the shaky-mode that lets you delete applications. With Force Touch on the iPhone 6s, you’ll be able to actually touch and apply pressure on a button to initiate a third function, whatever that may be.

Rumors on how iOS 9 will make use of Force Touch have been sparse, but I think the best guess may be that a Force Touch will bring up a context menu of sorts, similar to how Force Touch works on the Apple Watch. Force Touching on the Phone app on the home screen, for example, may bring up a menu that lets you immediately call a favorite contact, saving you valuable time by not even requiring you to open the application and navigate the UX to initiate a call. I could see Force Touch on the iPhone being the ultimate implementation of the feature, far surpassing its use case on either the Apple Watch or the Mac – done right, it could someday soon feel as fundamental to the core iPhone experience as third party applications do today.

Quick aside – you may notice that I’ve made no mention of the mythical iPhone 6c, a much rumored third model with iPhone 6 or 6s internals but a 4.0-inch display. It seems likely that the iPhone 6c did exist in some capacity at some point, but it also seems likely that it’s dead, Jim.

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2) Again, it certainly seems that Apple is preparing to break from tradition and introduce not just the iPhone 6s, but also the new iPad lineup on Wednesday. My theory for this is thus – smartphones are boring. Last year, Apple used the iPhone 6 event to introduce the Apple Watch, an admission that the iPhone on its own is no longer a big enough deal to warrant its own event. With no major revision to the core Apple Watch hardware on the docket for this year, Apple is likewise using the iPad to pad out the iPhone 6s event this year.

While the iPad line has been faltering lately, Apple is going to give it a much needed kick in the ass with the first major shakeup to the iPad line since the original iPad mini in 2012 – the introduction of the oft rumored iPad Pro. While the iPad has always been accused of being a consumption device, with the iPad Pro Apple is looking to flip that stereotype on its head by making the iPad Pro a content creator’s dream.

As for how it’s going to do that, well, I have one word – one dirty word that Steve Jobs would have cringed at, laughed at, mocked, but this isn’t Steve Jobs’s Apple anymore and life goes on – a stylus. Yup, all signs have been pointing to the iPad Pro making extensive use of a presumably bundled “Apple Stylus” for quite some time now, in a move that has already been and will continue to draw parallels to Microsoft’s Surface Pro line of tablets. Of course, styli for iOS devices are nothing new, and many-a premium styli have existed for quite some time now. The defining feature of Apple’s contribution will be, of course, extensive integration into the core of iOS 9 itself. Expect most of Apple’s bundled application to make use of the stylus in some way, from pressure sensitivity to handwriting recognition, and more.

The iPad Pro will supposedly have numerous other benefits/changes from Apple’s existing iPad line. For one, the iPad Pro will be big – likely around 13-inches, up from the little under 10-inches that the iPad Air 2 sits at. A larger screen, of course, will require a larger resolution, and code found tucked away in current beta versions of iOS 9 point to a 2732 x 2048 resolution with a 265 ppi being a likely candidate. Given the supposed focus on productivity, I would also expect significant updates to all of Apple’s “iLife” and “iWork” apps for the iPad, including iMovie and Garageband. If all of this works out, I could also easily see Apple bringing Final Cut Pro X and Logic X to the iPad Pro.

Aside from the iPad Pro, Apple will likely look to upgrade the most neglected part of their iPad lineup, the iPad mini. A fourth-generation iPad mini will likely be announced, bringing it in line with the iPad Air 2 spec wise with the A8 processor, more RAM, and full multitasking support on iOS 9.

On top of the internal changes, supply chain leaks have indicated that the iPad mini 4 will also have a slightly thinner, redesigned aluminum shell. Still, this will be relatively minor and will mostly just ape what Apple introduced alongside the iPad Air 2 last year. All in all, don’t expect anything huge – the iPad mini 4 will, essentially, be what the totally lackluster iPad mini 3 should have been last year.

appletv

3) While the iPad mini is certainly one of the most neglected products on Apple’s lineup, absolutely nothing can rival the level of neglect that the Apple TV has gotten since its introduction in 2007. We’re nearing a decade since the release of that original version, and the Apple TV we all know and kind-of-tolerate-at-best is only the third major revision in the entire history of the product line – and honestly really only the second, considering how minor an upgrade the 3rd Generation was.

All of that is about to change. Apple has often dubbed the Apple TV a “hobby,” but come next Wednesday it will officially be a hobby no longer. The Apple TV is due for a massive upgrade, both internally and externally, and will mark a complete change in the way that Apple views the television.

According to rumor, Apple has completely rethought the very underpinnings of the device, bringing it in line with Apple’s modern iOS devices. And as a modern iOS device, the Apple TV will be transformed into a full blown platform – complete with a software development kit. While Apple had provided partners with a private, extremely limited SDK for the existing Apple TV, developers were hand picked by Apple and were extremely limited in what their applications could do and how they could look. No more: if you believe the little birdies’ chirps, we’re talking a full blown SDK that will make developing complex applications and highly advanced games a real possibility.

That’s right – I said games. While Apple isn’t focusing on rivaling the Xbox and the PlayStation any time soon (sorry, Cult of Mac), rumors suggest that Apple will be incorporating complex gaming support into the core of the Apple TV, taking advantage of the latest version of Metal (roughly equivalent to DirectX on Windows) found on iOS 9. Developers should be able to take full advantage of the Apple TV’s new remote, which will feature a small trackpad, two dedicated buttons, and motion control support, enabling games that could capture the hearts and minds of the “softcore” gaming crowd in the same way that the Nintendo Wii did back in 2006, and that the iPhone and iPad have today.

One of the best features of the Amazon Fire TV has to be the built in microphone support, and Apple will apparently be “borrowing” this fantastic idea for use in the next generation Apple TV. If reports are to be believed, Siri is about to get a huge boost in the form of extensive knowledge about movie, television, and game content. Simply activate Siri on the Apple TV, say “I want to watch Boy Meets Girl” (because who wouldn’t want to watch Boy Meets Girl?), and Apple TV will automagically figure out where you can watch – whether that be on the iTunes Store, Netflix, Disney, whatever.

It’s hard to overstate how fundamental this change is. Back when there were only a handful of television channels on the air it was a lot easier to keep track of what station was home to what programming. But in today’s world with literally hundreds to thousands of sources of quality entertainment, the old “channel” model – which the current generation Apple TV so heavily relies on – is completely broken.

For example, I’ve watched “Mr. Robot” weekly since the show (which is fantastic, by the way) started earlier this summer, but not once have I paid any mind as to what channel that show is actually on. Why would I? To me, Mr. Robot is a show that I can play on Xfinity On Demand. To watch Mr. Robot on the Apple TV today, I would need to go find what channel Mr. Robot actually plays on (USA Network, apparently), find the USA Network app on the home screen if there even is one, and if not wade through the other Apple TV apps to figure out if it may be anywhere else. All of that will soon be solved with a simple “Hey Siri, watch Mr. Robot.”

In the eyes of the modern television viewer, the “channel” has been relegated to the technological dustbin of the twenty-first century, and Siri on the Apple TV will make this all the more obvious.

apple watch

4) Don’t worry Apple Watch, we didn’t forget about you! Even though the Apple Watch is by far the freshest mobile product in Apple’s lineup, it too will get just a little bit of love next week in the form of some new configurations and accessories. Trustworthy little birdies suggest that Apple will be releasing a new Apple Watch Sport model featuring the Watch’s signature 7000 series aluminum anodized gold, just like the iPhone and the iPad (not to be confused with the 17-carot gold found in the $10,000+ Apple Watch Edition).

Coming along for the ride will also likely include new color options for the Sport Bands, which are said to be deeper and richer in color than the current neon offerings, including a Product (RED) Sport Band. While this will be welcome news to many, this won’t be the first time we’ve seen such bands – Apple showed off new sport band color options during a private event earlier this year. Also in the cards – a price cut, likely to jumpstart Apple Watch sales heading into the Christmas season.

5) This may be a given, but new iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watch devices and configurations all suggest that new software is right around the corner. I would highly suspect that Apple will be releasing iOS 9 around the same time that they release the iPhone 6s, with watchOS 2 also making its official final debut that day as well. We know pretty much all there is to know about iOS 9 and watchOS 2 given their prominence at WWDC 2015, but if you need a refresher on that, I wrote some detail hands on impressions of the beta versions of both iOS 9 and watchOS 2 throughout the summer over on DotUnderscore.


Some good news and some bad news

Compromise is at the core of today’s Apple / Samsung patent decision




Apple-vs-Samsung

In the never ending patent battle between Apple and Samsung, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has handed down some good news and some bad news for both sides. According to the folks in high places, Samsung is indeed guilty of infringing certain, specific design patents in a previous (remember, this case is a couple of years old, now) version of Apple’s iPhone – a win for Apple. However, those same folks also decreed that Samsung wasn’t wholly copying the overall look and feel of the iPhone, instead creating an overwhelmingly original design.

This means exactly what it sounds like – Samsung will still owe Apple some money for those infringing design patents, but it’ll owe less – and likely considerably less – than before. Truthfully, this seems like a decent compromise. Apple’s claim that Samsung copied the overall look and feel of the iPhone years ago, an accusation which many claimed ridiculous. Many opponents to Apple’s accusation claim that Apple doesn’t own the concept of a rounded rectangle with a big screen in the middle of it, and today’s decision validates those doubts.

Source: The Verge


#SmartphoneEquality

T-Mobile to offer its best deals to those who pay their bills on time




t-mobile-logo-hugeI’m sure we’ve all done stupid things when we were younger that have negatively affected our credit scores, or perhaps we’re just getting our start as an adult and have no credit score to speak of. According to T-Mobile CEO John Legere, anyone who fits that description can’t get the deals that carriers advertise and instead either pay much more or leave with nothing.

In addition, Legere also stated the following as to why they’re doing this:

Ultimately, this initiative will lower the barrier for millions more Americans to get a smartphone – the most transformational technology in our lifetime. At a time when mobile connectivity is sweeping the globe, the United States ranks a miserable 13th in the world in terms of smartphone penetration − behind a dozen countries including Australia, Ireland, Israel and Saudi Arabia among others. There are more than 100 million American adults who don’t have a smartphone according to data from Pew Research and the US Census Bureau. That’s 100 million too many.

In today’s world, the smartphone is anything but a luxury. It’s a lifeline. It’s your source of news and information, your compass and your map. It’s how you stay safe and stay connected to family and friends. It’s how you do your banking and how you find a job. In other words, it’s an absolute necessity. The smartphone has become critical to plugging in to economic opportunity and participating in the global conversation.

Starting next week, any and every T-Mobile customer who has paid their bills on time for just one year is eligible for their best prices on phones and tablets. This also includes zero down, no interest and no credit check.

Source: T-Mobile


No, you're not getting Windows 10

Windows RT is dead




surfacefeaturedRemember Microsoft’s Surface RT? It was Microsoft’s own tablet that ran full Windows on an ARM chip, right down to the confusing Metro/Desktop switch. It had Office pre-loaded, but you couldn’t use any other desktop apps with it unless you jailbroke it. And with relatively few quality Metro apps in the store, there was really no incentive to buy a Surface RT over a comparable x86-based tablet.

If you were at or watched Microsoft’s Windows 10 conference yesterday, you may have noticed that not a single utterance of “Windows RT” was heard anywhere. In fact, according to C|NET, Microsoft “devoted only a few seconds to Windows RT, saying during a Q&A with reporters that it is ‘working on an update for Windows RT as well.'” Companies like Asus and Dell who both introduced Windows RT tablets have already gone and killed their products with the remaining holdouts being the Surface RT and the Lumia 2520.

While the Surface Pro lineup will naturally be getting the Windows 10 update, Microsoft only said that there would be a future update that brings some of Windows 10’s functionality to Windows RT. This statement feels eerily similar to how Microsoft mis-handled the Windows 7.5 upgrade path, where Windows Phone 7 handsets would never see an update to Windows Phone 8 but would instead be updated to have some of the same functionality as Windows Phone 8. We’ll be waiting to see what Microsoft has to say later on about Windows RT but for now, it certainly sounds like this is the end.

Source: C|NET


It's like the original G Flex, but better

The LG G Flex 2 is a more realistic spin on yesterday’s crazy idea




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As we reported in our pre-CES coverage, LG is back with the sequel to last year’s original G Flex smartphone – and this time, you might actually want it.

Whereas last year’s model featured a ridiculously large 6-inch display, the G Flex 2 has a much more manageable (yet still very, very large) 5.5-inch display. That’s still firmly in “phablet” territory, but let’s be real here – last year’s G Flex felt more like a small tablet than a big smartphone. The technology inside that warped body is also much improved; whereas the original G Flex had a 720p display, the new model features a 1080p resolution – a noticeable improvement over the older model at this screen size.

LG says this new G Flex 2 is 20% more durable than last year’s model, and is able to recover from more scratches, more easily than last ear’s model using an improved version of the company’s unique self-healing finish found on the back of the phone, whereas Gorilla Glass 3 strengthens the front.

lggflex2

There’s a next generation Snapdragon 810 processor inside, one of the first mass market a 64-bit mobile processors to make their way into an Android device. There’s also a 13 megapixel camera on the back and a 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera, for all your selfie needs.

The LG G Flex 2 will ship later this first quarter on AT&T, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular calling first dibs in the United States. Pricing has yet to be announced, however LG did say that the company is considering this a niche, high-end device that will likely cost more than the existing (and more capable) LG G3.

Via: Recode
Source: LG


Bringing Smart Homes to life

Apple may not be at CES, but their HomeKit system is a star




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I’ve been a fan of the Smart Home concept since I first saw the American classic movie “Smart House” by the Disney Channel, which means I’ve been waiting to talk to a robot house for the last 15 years. Finally, my time as come, and it figures it would be in part thanks to Apple to lead the charge; though Apple may not actually have any sort of presence at CES 2015, hardware supporting their HomeKit smart home ecosystem is absolutely everywhere.

iHome, manufacturer of an absolutely endless line of portable speaker systems that work well with iPhones, iPods, and iPads, came to CES with their first HomeKit accessory, the $40 SmartPlug. SmartPlug works as an intermediary between the electrical outlets in your house and whatever you plug into the wall, allowing you to turn nearly every piece of electronics in your house on and off, right from your iOS device. It even supports Siri, so if you’re really lazy, you could just say “Hey Siri, turn on my lamp,” and poof – lamp is on.

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There’s also Switch by accessory manufacturer iDevice, another device that plugs into your wall outlets and devices to do the same. iDevice’s accompanying application allows you to set “schedules”, which work as advanced timers. Know you get home from the library at 3:00 PM every day? Switch will remember to turn on the lights before you even get home.

Next up – and most ambitiously – there’s the Elgato Eve, a complete line of HomeKit connected devices and sensors that do everything from determine how energy efficient your home is to the amount of water you consume in a given timeframe, to automatically turning the lights on and off like the aforementioned devices, and even the weather both in and outside your house. Elgato’s Eve iOS application then puts all of this data together to give you a ridiculously specific idea of every element of your living environment.

EveApp

While Apple has yet to officially launch HomeKit, and none of these devices have hit the market just yet, CES 2015 is the sign we needed that smart homes will finally become a real, honest to goodness thing this year. While we may be a little while away from talking to a holographic avatar representing your house complete with a unique, crazed personality – especially one with the likeness of famous actress Katey Sagal – I think this is close enough to count. Welcome to the future!


The year of the budget Windows tablet

eFun came to CES with a bunch of bargain basement Windows and Android tablets




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Microsoft hasn’t had the best of luck with tablets running Windows 8.1 just yet, but that isn’t stopping some manufacturers from trying. Budget manufacturer eFun has come to CES with not one, not two, but three low-spec tablets running Windows 8.1, all of which will run you under $300, thanks in part to Microsoft’s still relatively new Windows 8.1 with Bing version of Windows.

The main differentiator between all of these devices would be, of course, screen size – all three models feature a quad-core Intel Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB to 64GB of internal storage. The cheapest model will run you $229 and features a 10.1 inch display, while one ring up gets you a 11.6 inch display for just $279.

The real deal, however, is the 12.5 inch model at $279. Not only is that on the upper end of tablet display sizes, eFun’s tablet also comes with a full year’s subscription of Microsoft Office 365. That comes with the full suite of Microsoft Office programs, something that many other tablets can’t boast.

But if Windows 8.1 isn’t your thing – and if sales are any indication, it might not be – eFun also has three Android tablets they want to offer you. A slightly smaller 8-inch device ships with bundled LTE support and a Snapdragon processor starting at $129 in a 16GB configuration, or you can upgrade to 32GB of internal storage if you need a little more room for activities. There’s also a 10.1 inch model for $229 with similar specifications, and an 11.6 model for $249 with a boosted 64GB of internal storage. All of the Android tablets feature 1GB of RAM.

ViaEngadget
Source: Microsoft


LG says they're redefining the curve

LG to announce flexible new G Flex 2 smartphone




lg_g_flex_2LG has just announced the new G Flex 2 smartphone at CES, the successor to last year’s original G Flex. While the smartphone itself likely won’t be revealed for a couple of hours or so, recent rumors imply that that the new smartphone will feature a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor.

Rumors also peg the G Flex 2 as featuring a now relatively standard sized 5.5-inch display, putting this firmly in the “phablet” category alongside the Apple iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung Galaxy Note, as well as Google and Motorola’s Nexus 6. According to BGR, LTE-A – which has yet to formally launch in the United States – will also be onboard for models sold in markets that support it. We’ll know more about the LG G Flex 2 soon, and we’ll be sure to let you know as soon as we know more.

Via: BGR
Source: The Verge


It's no flagship

HTC preparing to launch new budget smartphone at CES 2015




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HTC is preparing to launch a new budget smartphone at CES next week, according to today’s rumor mill. The new smartphone, which will launch with HTC’s existing “Desire” branding, is said to be codenamed “HTC A52” and will ship with a 13MP “selfie” front facing camera in numerous colorful configurations, including “navy blue/vivid blue, taupe purple/tangerine tango, terra white/almond, terra white/tangerine tango” according to @Upleaks.

The company has begun teasing the launch of their new budget smartphone on their official Weibo account, posting the above teaser image reading, “Always Desire more.” I’ll just continue reading into that as I will – to keep looking forward to the company’s true third-generation HTC One flagship device.

Via: 9to5Google
Source: @Upleaks (Twitter) / HTC (Weibo)


Great artists steal

Xiaomi now valued at $45 billion, still selling familiar looking products




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Would-be-succesful entrepreneurs, take note – if you want to launch a brand capable of raising $1.1 billion in a single investment round and dream of someday being valued at, oh, let’s say $45 billion, you only need to do just one thing; you need to make beautiful products, and they need to look a whole lot like the sort of stuff you’d find at an Apple Store.

That’s the sort of Xiaomi, a venture-backed Chinese based mobile phone manufacturer that has today announced that they’ve raised $1.1 billion in new capital, bringing their total valuations up to $45 billion. It really is a fairy tale; in 2012, Xiaomi was worth just $4 billion.

President Bin Lin said in a statement today that the company will use this money to “strive to continue bringing innovation to everyone, with a goal of producing high-quality, high-performance devices with great user experience.” Of course, innovation is a funny word – just a cursory look at the company’s product portfolio reveals that the company’s various innovations just happen to look a whole lot like the ones that come out of Apple’s front door in Cupertino.

Xiaomi takes all of that in stride, of course, with Vice President Hugo Barra previously pointing out that Apple’s own designs aren’t exactly always original. “I think it’s great that Apple took existing ideas that were very good and added their design twist on top… that’s what they do. That’s what we do.”

And he’s got a point, of course. Apple’s designs have never been shy about revealing their inspiration from designer Dieter Rams, and the work he did for Braun. In 2012, Cult of Mac put together a handy guide that compares popular Apple product designs with their Braun originals.

Xiaomi President Bin Lin also used today’s announcement to trump up hype for the company’s next generation flagship smartphone in January, likely on the CES 2015 show floor.

Via: Forbes
Source: Xiaomi (Facebook), Cult of Mac


Ohhh, Convergence

Android VP now the head of Chrome development




chromebookGoogle has long been heralding two very distinct platforms – Android, the company’s mobile first operating system that helped pioneer the modern smartphone market, and Chrome, which began as a humble, WebKit based web browser that grew to become an entire operating system with a not small library of developer and end user support.

Google’s two platforms couldn’t be more different, but Google is making strides towards bringing their two babies closer together than ever. According to The Wall Street Journal, Google has put the VP of engineering for Android, Hiroshi Lockheimer, in charge of the engineering team over on the Chrome side. That means that the same individual will now be responsible for building both the mobile-centric Android and the desktop-class Chrome OS. While this isn’t exactly a confirmation that the two platforms will grow closer together in terms of design and functionality, it does suggest that such a thing wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility.

Source: The Wall Street Journal