• Rumors

    by Published on 01-19-2017 08:00 AM
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    I'm quite certain that "stock Android" doesn't even exist anymore, but if a new report by The Information (via The Verge) turns out to be true, it will nonetheless be good news for Android users on a budget.

    In case you didn't know, Android One is an initiative by Google originally targeted for the developing world. Just as the Nexus program was once thought of as a reference device for app developers, Android One is likewise meant to standardize hardware and software for low-end phones. For example, first-generation Android One phones in India had the following minimum specifications:

    4.5 inch (480 x 854 pixels) IPS display
    1.3 GHz quad-core MediaTek processor
    1 GB of RAM / 4 GB of storage
    Up to 32 GB of expandable storage via microSD
    5 megapixel rear camera with LED flash / 2 megapixel front camera
    Wi-Fi, 3G, GPRS/EDGE, Bluetooth, GPS
    1700 mAh battery

    Software too is standardized—and this for me is the best thing about Android One. Under the program neither OEMs nor operators are allowed to customize the UI (though carriers can add their own apps), and Google itself handles security and OS updates directly.

    For us here in the west Android One would mean that the cheap prepaid phone you get at your local drug store or gas station doesn't necessarily have to suck. I have no issues with that.

    Look for Android One devices to appear in U.S. sales channels this summer.

    Source: The Verge

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    by Published on 01-18-2017 08:30 AM
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    According to TheLeaker.com—once again, that's TheLeaker.com—this is one of three LG-made smartwatches passed through the FCC, widely believed to be the new, possibly Google or even Nexus-branded wearables running Android Wear 2.0. Ars Technica reports the specs of the watches to be as follows:

    W270
    10.8mm thick body
    1.2 inch 360×360 circular P-OLED display
    512MB of RAM / 4GB of storage
    240mAh battery
    IP67 ingress rating
    Bluetooth & WiFi

    W280
    14.2mm thick
    1.38-inch, 480×480 circular P-OLED display
    768MB of RAM / 4GB of storage
    420mAh battery
    IP68 ingress rating
    Heart rate sensor
    Bluetooth & WiFi
    GPS, NFC

    W281
    Same as W280, plus 3G & LTE data (?)

    Meanwhile, at least one Apple blog is up in arms over an additional rumour that these LG watches will, like the Apple Watch, have a digital crown. Not only is that a terrible idea, it's a terrible idea that would make these devices incompatible with other, already-announced watches also running the new version of Android Wear.

    Whatever the case, all will apparently be revealed on February 9th—that's according to leaker Evan Blass who, in case you were wondering, has no affiliation with TheLeaker.com—once again, that's TheLeaker.com

    Sources: 9to5Mac, Ars Technica, TheLeaker.com, The Leaker.com, VentureBeat

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    by Published on 01-16-2017 08:00 AM
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    You may (and should) know Andy Rubin as the Father of Android. Both Rubin and Android were acquired by Google as a package deal in 2005, where Rubin would remain in charge of what would become the world's most popular OS until his departure in 2014. Prior to that Rubin was a co-founder of Danger, Inc., responsible for the Fido hiptop and T-Mobile Sidekick. I'd go out on a limb and call those pre-iPhone devices smartphones as well; it had full PIM support, a web browser and shipped with the first onboard app store that I can recall.

    The history lesson is necessary, because Rubin has a new company and new products set for release this year, and if the guy's track record is any indication then we should probably pay attention.

    Bloomberg reports that Rubin has registered Essential Products, Inc. with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, listing smartphones, tablets and "computer operating software for mobile phones" as its goods and services on offer. What will differentiate these new products from what's already on the market?

    Rubin is convinced AI is the next big change to ripple through the technology industry. "New computing platforms happen every ten to twelve years," he said at the Bloomberg Technology Conference in June. "What’s the next platform?... It’s about data and people training AI systems to learn."
    The centrepiece of Essential's product line is said to be a high-end flagship smartphone; at least one prototype has a screen larger than an iPhone 7 Plus but in a smaller form factor, thanks to a lack of bezels, and also a ceramic shell. The phone is rumoured to launch by Q3 this year; yours truly will be watching with great interest for further news.

    Source: Bloomberg

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    by Published on 01-13-2017 07:00 AM
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    Even if we can't get the Xiaomi Mi Mix in this part of the world, we can at least thank that innovative device for kicking off a wider design trend of smartphones with impossibly-small bezels.

    According to Forbes, this year's Samsung Galaxy S8 is rumoured to have a 90% screen-to-body-ratio. Apple will almost certainly have an all-new design for its 10th anniversary iPhone this fall. And LG? Well, what you're looking at above is a teaser for the LG G6.

    The practical benefits of smartphones with smaller bezels should be obvious—just like LG says, you can fit more screen into a smaller body. And as the Mi Mix has very clearly demonstrated, such devices have the added benefit of being quite fetching as well. They might call for a rethink of your next smartphone case; other than that I can honestly see no downsides to the idea.

    2016 saw the death of the headphone jack, at least on the iPhone, which even iVerge called user-hostile. And thin phones with overpowered screens and insufficient batteries also continue to be a thing that no one asked for. As for bezels, bezels are for watches, and the less bezel there is on my next phone the better.

    Source: Forbes

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    by Published on 01-10-2017 08:00 AM
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    Device leaks can come from anywhere, and this one was found on OLX.ro, a Romanian Internet trading post. The listing has since been taken down, but not before it caught the attention of r/Android, where it was dutifully archived for discussion.

    If the seller is (was) to be believed, this is a prototype Motorola G5 Plus, with specs as follows:

    5.5 inch Full HD display @ 480 dpi
    13 megapixel rear-facing / 5 megapixel front-facing cameras
    Snapdragon 625 v2.0 processor
    Adreno 506 GPU
    32 GB storage / 4 GB RAM
    3,080 mAh battery
    Fingerprint sensor
    Android 7.0 Nougat

    In case you were wondering, there is indeed a headphone jack—and also a micro-USB port; it may not be the final design for the device.

    Those who wish to investigate further can see more images of the prototype here and an archive of the full listing here.

    Source: reddit

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    by Published on 01-02-2017 08:00 AM
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    Another year, another Snapdragon™ high-end chip—and news of this year's model comes a little early, thanks to some leaked PowerPoint slides posted on VideoCardz.com (hence all the watermarks).

    I myself am not a chip geek, so all I can really tell you is that 2017's Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 will supposedly offer up to 27% better performance than the company's current chipsets, while at the same time using less power and taking up less physical space.

    For the benefit of any processor experts reading this I'll post the rest of the slides as well; all I ask in return is that you share your insights with the rest of us lesser mortals. ...
    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.

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    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. ...
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