• Rumors

    by Published on 12-01-2016 08:00 AM
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    As a fan of their cheap and cheerful smartwatches, this sucks.

    Of course, it's only a rumour, and from a single source at that. But that source, paywall-protected site The Information, is fairly reputable. And it certainly doesn't help that Pebble tweeted, then promptly deleted, this shrug emoticon last night.

    I woke up to this story with a post from Android Police in my RSS feed, but it's big news all around the web:

    Fitbit is reportedly close to buying Pebble (The Verge)
    Fitbit in talks to buy smartwatch pioneer Pebble (Financial Times)
    Fitbit Buying Pebble? Smartwatch Company Acquisition In The Works, Reports Say (IBT)
    Fitbit could be close to acquiring smartwatch maker Pebble (Neowin)
    Reports: Fitbit wants to acquire Pebble (liliputing)

    Worst of all is that there are apparently no plans to continue the Pebble line; Fitbit's interest is in the company's technology and intellectual property only.

    Contrary to what you might think, there is still an active and significant userbase for Pebble products. The subreddit devoted to Pebble actually has more subscribers than its Android Wear equivalent. And unlike Android Wear I actually see people wearing Pebbles out in the world—including the new Pebble Time Round on my girlfriend's wrist.

    So where did they go wrong? I can think of two things: The refocus on fitness with Pebble Health, heart rate sensors and such was bound to end badly—if anything, it got Fitbit's attention and made them an acquisition target. Also, the wide distribution to retail chains like Best Buy—though great for bargain-hunting consumers—might, in hindsight, not have been the best idea. Pebble could perhaps have done better as a boutique online-only smartwatch-maker, funding products via Kickstarter then building them to order.

    Then there are the market forces working against them. Smartwatches are tanking as a product category, so it might well have been inevitable for Pebble to be gobbled up by a competitor with deeper pockets. But it would still hurt to see them go. Pebble wasn't the first smartwatch on the market, but if you know your wearable history you'll remember that it was the first successful one.

    ---------
    by Published on 10-17-2016 08:00 AM
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    I'm no fan of Google's iPhones and it doesn't seem like many of you are, either. I am, however, duly impressed with Android Police's reporting on the devices prior to their official launch. Leaks came early and often—AP had full specs for one of the phones as far back as last June.

    Now they've taken the unprecedented (for a tech blog) step of revisiting their Pixel coverage and grading themselves on what they got right and what they got wrong. Since they got almost everything right the exercise amounts to a pat on their collective backs, but the accuracy of their reporting is impressive, nonetheless—that is, with one notable exception. ...
    by Published on 10-14-2016 08:00 AM
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    One other bit of news to catch up on, and potentially good news for anyone in the market for an Android phone that punches above its price tag. Last Friday Chinese OEM LeEco slipped up and published pretty much everything slated for its big U.S. announcement next Wednesday, October 19th. The pages have since been taken down, but the Internet doesn't forget!

    Here are the specs of the two unlocked smartphones headed our way:

    Le S3
    5.5" Full HD display
    16MP rear camera
    Snapdragon 652 processor
    3000mAh battery
    Quick Charge 3.0
    Fingerprint scanner
    Android 6.0

    Le Max2
    5.7" Quad HD display
    21MP rear camera
    Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
    4GB or 6GB of RAM
    3100mAh battery
    Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
    Fingerprint scanner
    Android 6.0

    The bad news? Neither phone will have a headphone jack, but international versions of these devices have shipped with USB to audio adapters. The good news? Price. The larger Le Max2 will retail for $349 USD, with a sale price of $289 until December 18th. The Le S3 will sell for $299 USD, with an introductory sale price of $169. That might be a typo, though. ...
    by Published on 10-12-2016 08:00 AM
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    Make of this rumour what you will. I'm still trying to deal with the name.

    In the past few days two separate sources have reported that there will shortly be a super-sized OnePlus 3. Thankfully, there's no confirmed moniker for the actual phone; "OnePlus 3 Plus" is, at least for the moment, pure conjecture.

    So why would OnePlus dilute their 2016 product line with a second device? To capitalize on the Note7 disaster would be a good reason, but there's another, more practical one: the company is apparently having a lot of trouble securing AMOLED panels for production, and a new phone would give OnePlus an excuse to switch to LCD. ...
    by Published on 10-04-2016 08:00 AM
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    The Pixel and Pixel XL won't be the only hardware that Google will be announcing at 9am Pacific Time today, though they'll obviously be a big part of the event—oh look, here they are in blue and silver.

    Over the summer there have been rumours and leaks of other devices which, taken together, would suggest that Google is pushing further into VR, further into your home and further into your life... like there was ever any doubt that they would.

    Here then, is an early look at what else is likely to be announced by Google today. ...
    by Published on 10-03-2016 08:00 AM
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    Yesterday, Bell Canada published some images of the new Pixel Phones from Google. Shortly thereafter, higher-res version of those same images were discovered on the French version of the TELUS website. And then, UK retailer Carphone Warehouse trumped them both by publishing product pages for both devices. The listings were since removed, but the Internet—in this case reddit—does not forget.

    Here are the confirmed specs for the Pixel and Pixel XL:

    Google Pixel

    • 5 inch 1920 x 1080 pixel AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass 4
    • 2.15GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
    • 4GB of RAM
    • 32GB and 128GB storage options
    • 12.3MP rear camera with image stabilization
    • 8MP front camera
    • 2,770mAh battery with fast charging and up to 32 hours of talk time
    • USB Type-C
    • Fingerprint scanner
    • NFC
    • 143.8mm x 69.5mm x 8.6mm
    • 143 grams

    Google Pixel XL

    • 5.5 inch 2560 x 1440 pixel AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass 4
    • 2.15GHZ Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
    • 4GB of RAM
    • 32GB and 128GB storage options
    • 12.3MP rear camera with image stabilization
    • 8MP front camera
    • 3,450mAH battery with fast charging and up to 26 hours of talk time
    • USB Type-C
    • Fingerprint scanner
    • NFC
    • 154.7mm x 75.7mm x 8.6mm
    • 168 grams

    And here are the images. Enjoy! ...
    by Published on 09-27-2016 08:45 AM
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    Here's yet another render of the Google Pixel, found by Evan Blass and posted to VentureBeat yesterday. With exactly one week to go before its official unveiling I thought it might be instructive to compare what we know about it (and the larger Pixel XL) against a list of traits one would expect in a Nexus phone of days gone by.

    Note that I won't have definitive answers for everything you'll read in this post; chalk that up to rumours I've heard on podcasts and my unfamiliarity with Verizon. ...
    by Published on 09-19-2016 08:30 AM
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    Over the weekend XDA posted an intriguing rumour about Google's new Pixel phones, the ones supposedly making their début on October 4th.

    Anyone who's ever used a custom recovery to backup their Android device or flash a new ROM onto it will be familiar with the more critical partitions in an Android installation—/boot, /system, /recovery, etc. Even if you've never modded your Android phone or tablet you've probably at least seen the stock recovery; on a Nexus device it's the screen showing the robot with the spinning gears in its belly, most often seen during the flashing of an OTA update or a factory reset.

    So the rumour, put forth by Dees_Troy, the lead developer of TWRP, is that the Pixel phones will be doubling up on key partitions. Here's the direct quote:

    The new Pixel phones will have 2 system partitions, 2 boot partitions, 2 vendor partitions, 2 modem partitions, etc. One set of partitions will be active—the set of partitions that are currently used to boot the device. When an update is published, the update will be applied to the second set in the background. Once the update has been applied, a prompt will appear asking to reboot. The reboot will not include booting to recovery. Instead, the device will switch which set of partitions are used to the second set and you will quickly, perhaps nearly instantly, boot an updated device.
    Pretty cool, right? You'll still be able to use your Pixel phone while a software update is being applied in the background. And for modders the news is even better: if those second set of partitions could be hijacked the savvy user would suddenly have a proper dual-booting device. That would also be pretty cool! ...
    by Published on 09-14-2016 08:30 AM
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    What we're looking at here is a video demo of HydrogenOS, the firmware installed on OnePlus 3s sold in China. Why are we looking at it? It seems that some of its features—or at least the back-end code—are bound for OxygenOS, the ROM that powers Western variants of the device.

    The official story, as told to XDA, is that the two ROMs are being merged to make software updates faster. The progress of this undertaking can be seen in the community builds of OxygenOS that OnePlus is posting to their English-language forums. I've not flashed any of the community builds myself only because the official OxygenOS has been so great—this is honestly the first time I've run stock firmware on an Android device (with root, of course) since I bought my first Nexus in 2010.

    But Android Central has learned that there's a bit more to it than that. Apparently some key members of the OxygenOS team have left the company:

    Long hours and insufficient resources in the run-up to OnePlus 3's launch led to a number of OxygenOS team members striking a deal to terminate their contracts just after the phone's release, according to people who didn't want to be named because they signed non-disclosure agreements.

    According to these people, despite a 3:1 ratio of OxygenOS users to its Chinese market counterpart, OnePlus was disproportionately pouring resources into HydrogenOS, causing strain between the two teams and leading the subsequent talent purge.
    This puts OnePlus in a tough spot, as the fast and efficient OxygenOS has been a major selling point for the OP3 thus far. The good news is that a new version of the official ROM, as discussed on reddit, seems to be carrying on that tradition. More on this as it develops. ...
    by Published on 09-13-2016 08:00 AM
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    Just finished reading a long-winded editorial over at Android Police, wherein author David Ruddock posits that Google's forthcoming Pixel phones will, more than any Nexus phone before them, be positioned as direct competitors to Apple's iPhone. Mmkay...

    As the world's largest smartphone OEM, you could argue that Samsung is already a pretty good iPhone competitor. You could also argue, I suppose, that its S apps and such detract from a "pure" Android experience. In that case the OnePlus 3 makes for a worthy iPhone adversary—but even this unabashed OnePlus fanboy knows that his smartphone camera can't compare to what's on offer from Apple.

    It seems to me that the Android platform has flourished with diversity and choice, and that having a direct iPhone competitor isn't really the point. That said, the AP editorial does point out that Google's Nexus phones have already begun shifting from a platform for "stock Android" (which isn't even really a thing anymore) to a more premium offering. Do first-party accessories and a device protection plan make an Android phone more "iPhone-like"? I'm not so sure. Read on and see what you think. ...
    by Published on 09-07-2016 08:00 AM
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    Well, that was easy.

    YouTuber DetroitBORG has uploaded a particularly "crispy" video demo of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, set to launch later today—a redditor browsing the Hong Kong Apple site has confirmed the names of the two phones. The dummy units you see in the video here are reference designs for case-makers; Apple doesn't produce dummy units for carrier stores, at least not in the Americas.

    Unfortunately I've a family obligation during the launch event today, but iPhone fans needn't worry; I'll have all the official details for you in the news round-up later this afternoon. In the meantime, The Verge has compiled a list of features to expect—with sources, no less!


    If you're available at around 10am PT / 1pm ET, you can watch a stream of the event right here. Oh, and there's one more thing. ...
    by Published on 09-02-2016 08:30 AM
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    Nexus is dead; long live Pixel? That's what a pair of new exclusives from Android Police would seem to suggest.

    Overnight they reported that the two new Google-branded HTC phones, the 5-inch Sailfish and 5.5-inch Marlin, would launch as the Pixel and Pixel XL, respectively. An hour later they published a launch date: Tuesday, October 4th. The phones will supposedly be announced alongside a Daydream VR viewer and 4K Chromecast.

    So what would Pixel branding mean for Android modders? Nothing good, I fear. Using the Android-powered Pixel C tablet as an example there is still, more than 9 months after its release, no official TWRP recovery available, and rooting it—on Marshmallow, at least—requires flashing a custom kernel. To be fair, though, it's widely thought that the C was originally intended to run Chrome OS, and as such might well have some wonky code that would impede an otherwise straightforward rooting procedure.

    Does Pixel branding make you any more or less interested in a white-label HTC phone? ...
    by Published on 09-01-2016 08:30 AM
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    If Android Central is correct, the forthcoming duo of HTC-made phones coming this fall will not bear the Nexus logo. Google almost managed to pull this off in 2014 with Android Silver—you'll recall that the gargantuan Nexus 6 was originally intended to be Motorola's contribution to the Android Silver program. But this time its for reals, with some further evidence in that Android Police render showing only Google branding on the back of the device.

    Speaking of Android Police, I heard a bit of juicy gossip on one of their recent podcasts: Apparently Google was in talks with Huawei for a multi-year contract to produce devices for them, but Huawei walked away when they heard that said devices could only have Google branding.

    But I digress. ...
    by Published on 08-31-2016 08:00 AM
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    Anyone remember that mystery mini-flagship I wrote about back at the beginning of August? Well, this is it.

    Yesterday XDA published these photos of the forthcoming Moto M (XT1662) from the Chinese certification site TENAA. This 4.6-inch powerhouse will rock a Snapdragon 820 processor, Full HD display and at least 3GB of RAM. There might also be a 5.5-inch version with a 3,000mAh battery.

    So is this why Motorola has summoned Howard to downtown Toronto later today? I'm guessing no.

    Remember, both Howard and I live in the mobile backwater of Canada, where the Moto Z hasn't even launched yet. That's my bet for what today's event is going to be about. And while I'm grateful to be invited along, there will be much smiling and nodding from yours truly while he pretends that the American tech press hasn't already covered this thing to death. ...
    by Published on 08-30-2016 08:00 AM
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    Look, I get it. We're all excited about the new iPhones. And while I don't doubt that Apple put a lot of thought into the design of their invite, I will humbly suggest the possibility that said invite might be designed to suggest a serious photography tool, and nothing more.

    If you agree then there's no need to click on the link below; they don't deserve the traffic.

    Source: Cult of Mac ...
    by Published on 08-08-2016 08:30 AM
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    Over the weekend MacRumors managed to find a 4K video featuring three variants of the forthcoming iPhone 7. The video is from a YouTube account associated with a Japanese iPhone reservation store.

    I've no idea how credible the source is, but the basic design matches what I've seen in other leaks, with cleaned-up antenna lines, larger camera humps and, of course, the absence of a headphone jack. The one red herring is the version with the dual-lens camera—at one point Apple was thought to be working on both a "Pro" and "Plus" version of the phone, but the current consensus seems to be that the Pro version has been abandoned, with the Plus getting the Pro's dual-lens camera instead.

    Confused yet? Me too. ...
    by Published on 08-05-2016 08:00 AM
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    It would be the perfect candidate for a OnePlus 3 Mini, but Carl Pei insists that it's not. So what is this mystery 4.6 inch high-powered phone, then?

    Here are the details from its GFXBench listing:

    OS
    Android 6.0.1 (CyanogenMod)

    Display
    1920 x 1080, 4.6"
    Touch screen with at least 5 finger gesture support

    CPU
    Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
    2x Kryo @ 2.1 GHz + 2x Kryo @ 1.6 GHz - ARMv8

    GPU
    Qualcomm Adreno™ 530

    Memory
    5.6 GB

    Storage
    53 GB

    Back Camera
    Picture: 15 MP (4640 x 3480)
    Video: UHD (4K) (3840 x 2160)
    auto focus / face detection / flash / HDR photo

    Front Camera
    Picture: 7 MP (3264 x 2448)
    Video: 3264 x 1836

    Features
    accelerometer / barometer / bluetooth / compass / gps / gyroscope / light sensor / nfc / pedometer / proximity sensor / sim cards (1) / wifi

    For comparison's sake, 4.6 inches is smaller than both the original Moto X and the current iPhone 6s (each with 4.7 inch displays). Whatever this thing turns out to be, it will definitely be going against the grain of current phablet-sized phones. ...
    by Published on 08-04-2016 08:00 AM
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    Android Police has a trio of new Nexus leaks, which I will now share in order of most to least interesting.

    First up is a new launcher, which will apparently make its début on the pair of HTC-made devices expected this fall. As you can see in this gif, the app drawer button has been replaced by an indicator (with swipe-up gesture), and there's now a button/tab combo in place of the persistent Google search bar. These two elements alone give your home screen significantly more real estate to play with, which I like. A lot.

    But wait, there's more! ...
    by Published on 07-05-2016 04:30 PM
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    If there's one source I believe for Nexus leaks, it's Android Police. After posting specs for both upcoming devices—the smaller Sailfish and the larger Marlin—they've just posted a render that they say can be applied to the both of them.

    Here's author David Ruddock with a quick tour:

    "On the front we see the single earpiece speaker, front-facing camera, a small sensor cluster, and that's about it. On the back, you've got some antenna bands on the bottom (horizontal) and top (vertical, off-center), with that big glossy pane likely serving as a window for NFC and other radios. The three holes next to the camera are a bit of a mystery at this point, but our guess is that two of them relate to the camera (auto-focus and perhaps a secondary sensor of some kind) and one is likely a secondary microphone."

    Also interesting is that both made-by-HTC devices will sport an all-aluminum body this year. And what's really interesting is a rumored (but not confirmed) "electric blue" version—perhaps to match the iPhone 7?

    AP gives this render a "confidence level" of 8/10. Assuming they're right, what do you make of the new Nexus(es)? ...
    by Published on 06-27-2016 07:25 AM
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    Entirely believable and somewhat questionable.

    I'll start with the almost sure thing first. On Saturday Evan Blass tweeted this graphic, giving more weight to the rumours that Samsung will be skipping the Galaxy Note 6 and going straight to 7 this year, to better compete against the forthcoming iPhone 7 and fall in line with the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge.

    Some specs were leaked as well:

    • 5.7 inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel AMOLED display
    • IP68 waterproof design
    • Iris scanner
    • 12MP rear and 5MP front cameras
    • 64GB of storage
    • microSD card slot
    • black, silver, and blue color options

    The latest iteration of the original phablet is expected to be revealed on August 2nd. I think Blass may have leaked that too. ...
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