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3 days ago

Samsung's building-sized Galaxy S7 edge billboard is unmissable

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Most billboards have a tough time catching your attention, which is why companies tend to go all out to promote their products. That's certainly the case with Samsung's billboard showcasing the Galaxy S7 edge in Sokol, Moscow, which is 80 meters high and 40 meters wide. The billboard takes over one side of an office building, and can be spotted from 2.2 kilometers away.

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5 days ago

Allo Messenger is a big deal for Google's mobile-first strategy

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In a mobile-first future, Allo may not be revolutionary, but it is a big deal nonetheless.

In recent years, Google has released no fewer than eight ways to communicate with friends and family. From the heady, Jabber-powered simplicity of Google Talk to the bulging interior of Google+ Messenger to the most recent volley, Hangouts, to say Google has struggled to capture market share in the effervescent messaging space is an understatement.

These days, Talk is no more, and Google+ Messenger was rolled into Hangouts in 2013. With the announcement of Allo, Google's newest artificial intelligence-powered chat app, it would seem that the company struggling to connect with with consumers in this increasingly-lucrative space is once again poised to be outplayed by the incumbents, names like WhatsApp and Line and WeChat.

Indeed, Google's tenacity in returning to messaging is remarkable given its poor track record. Allo, even with a sufficient tally of unique features, appears to be little more than a showcase for the Google Assistant, a confluence of research into artificial intelligence and machine learning that coalesces into a bot available to the user at any time.

Minimizing Allo's potential impact on the market is shortsighted given Google's newfound approach to app development.

But minimizing Allo's potential impact on the market is shortsighted given Google's newfound approach to app development. Not only was it announced alongside an ultra-simple but technologically advanced video app, Duo, but Allo is proudly mobile-only — Android and iOS, specifically — and uses a customer's phone number for authentication. In that way, it picks up some of what makes WhatsApp so compelling, along with pieces from others like Facebook Messenger (bots), Telegram (Incognito Mode), Signal (end-to-end encryption), and Snapchat (doodles, timed messages).

Breaking down those individual components, it's plain why Google built Allo, keeping it separate from Hangouts. First, the app doesn't require a Google account, which cleans the slate for mobile users who still have a metallic taste in their mouths from the forced linking of Google+ to other services on the company's platform. While users will benefit from pairing their Google accounts with Allo, by giving the bot more context about their likes and dislikes (and their previous searches), the linking the two is neither necessary nor intrinsic to getting use from the assistant.

Relying on a phone number for authentication over a Google account further restricts and focuses the app: a single point of entry, and no desktop mode. Unlike Hangouts, which subsumed Talk, which was built into Gmail on the web, Allo will always be mobile-first, a hugely important tenet of the success of both WhatsApp and Instagram — both owned by Google competitor Facebook — along with Snapchat, the ultimate mobile-only messenger. (Yes, WhatsApp has since grown to have desktop apps, but they are still directly linked to a single-instance mobile device. You can't sign up for WhatsApp from the web.)

Allo gives Google a way to experiment with features without worrying about reaching parity on the web.

This unbundling of Google's primary messaging platform allows Allo to scale across mobile in ways that Hangouts never could. It also gives Google a way to experiment with features without worrying about reaching parity on the web, a rising tension among messaging startups. Google, unlike many of its competitors, has leeway to make these decisions, given its existing product lineup. Don't want to use Allo? Hangouts isn't going anywhere.

It's also no accident that Allo is the Google assistant's first host: a messenger app allows the company to be nimble and imperfect, allowing the tool to grow within its confines, rather than represent the bulk of the opportunity, like Google Home, the company's speaker-cum-voice-companion. Google Assistant is at the heart of what the company hopes is its next salvo in continuing to dominate search, which is inevitably turning into something more contextual and mobile. It's one thing for Google's in-app bot to be able to identify clams in a photo of a bowl of seafood linguine; it's another to use that information to make it useful in helping people make better decisions about where to eat, how to get there, and how to pay for it.

Of course, no number of features and amount of finesse will guarantee Google a place at the messaging table, increasingly dominated by Facebook and Snapchat in the West, and Line and WeChat in the East. But Google has to try, and in trying has to set itself up to iterate quickly should it fail. None of its previous messaging concerns have been mobile enough, in the canonical sense, to properly compete with the incumbents, and there is good chance Allo is too late to the game to make an impact. But whereas Facebook's past messaging app failures — who remembers Poke, or Slingshot?— have long been forgiven as they're forgotten, people tend to hold onto Google's duds, because they feel almost like betrayals.

The truth is that Allo may very well be inconsequential, a blip on Google's, and our, radar in its grand platform strategy. But its core tenets — data-gathering, bots, and a mobile-first approach — will not be. Those unequivocally represent Google's future, and will impact as many people as use the internet today. It is in this context that Allo should be viewed, not as a short-term mistake, but as a long-term bet on mobile.

More: Unified messaging is a joke, and it probably always will be

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5 days ago

LG G5 now up for pre-order in India for ₹52,990, CAM Plus module bundled for free

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The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge launched in India over two months ago, and until now there hasn't been much in the way of when other flagship phones will be available in the country. That's changing today, as the LG G5 is up for pre-order in the country for ₹52,990 ($785). The South Korean vendor has mentioned that all customers pre-ordering the phone will receive the CAM Plus module for free.

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5 days ago

Indian OEM Intex launches its first smartphone with fingerprint sensor and VoLTE support

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Indian handset maker, Intex, today announced the launch of its latest smartphone, the Aqua Secure. The smartphone is first device from the vendor with a fingerprint sensor. The fingerprint sensor on the Aqua Secure allows you to scan and authenticate, as well as supports features like clicking selfies, phone unlock, access to gallery, et al.

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5 days ago

ZTE's 6-inch Grand X Max 2 is now available at Cricket for $199

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Cricket has announced that it is now carrying the ZTE Grand X Max 2, a phone with a 6-inch, 1080p display running Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Customers can pick it up in Cricket stores and online today for $199.99.

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6 days ago

Google's modular smartphone Ara is still breathing and will launch in 2017

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During the Google I/O 2016 developer conference, the company gave an update on its "Project Ara" modular smartphone. Google says the consumer version of the phone will launch sometime in 2017.

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6 days ago

AT&T expands its BOGO offer to include Galaxy S7, LG V10 and more

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AT&T has expanded its BOGO (Buy One, Get One) free phone offer to include a number of Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge, the LG V10 and many more.

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6 days ago

Sony Xperia X, Xperia XA now up for registration in India

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We don't have availability details for Sony's Xperia X or Xperia XA in India, but the vendor has opened up registrations for both phones.

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6 days ago

Coolpad Max debuts in India, lets you use two WhatsApp accounts

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In a press conference in New Delhi, Chinese handset maker Coolpad launched flagship smartphone for the Indian market — the Coolpad Max. This is the second phone to be made available from the vendor, following the launch of the Coolpad Note 3 in October.

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6 days ago

Motorola's June 9 event teaser takes us back to the Razr flip phone days

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Motorola has posted a teaser video for a big announcement on June 9, and it takes us back to the days where its Razr flip phone was all the rage.

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1 week ago

Nextbit Robin will make its way to India on May 25

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The Nextbit Robin will debut in India on May 25. The vendor has received regulatory signoff, and Kickstarter backers from the country are getting their hands on the Robin this week.

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1 week ago

Indian startup Smartron's t.phone offers Snapdragon 810, 4GB RAM for ₹22,999

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In a press conference in Hyderabad today, Smartron unveiled its first Android smartphone —the t.phone. The phone will be available in the market for ₹22,999, with the vendor offering beefy specs for the price. You're looking at a 5.5-inch Full HD Super AMOLED display, Snapdragon 810 SoC, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB storage. tphone is a thin smartphone elegantly styled with bold dual tone scheme and at 149 grams, it is one of the lightest smartphones in its category.

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1 week ago

Samsung's metal-clad Galaxy C5 passes through TENAA, launch slated for May 26

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Samsung that it would trim its smartphone portfolio, focusing on clear-cut product lines across varying price segments. Thus far, we've had the entry-level Galaxy J series (and to a lesser extent the Galaxy On phones) and the Galaxy E series, the mid-range Galaxy A series, and the flagship Galaxy S and Note lines. It looks like Samsung is now looking to roll out another lineup of phones in the Galaxy C series, which will also fall into the mid-tier category. The first phone in the series, the Galaxy C5, passed through TENAA earlier today, giving us a look at the possible hardware on offer and the design.

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1 week ago

You'll soon be able to use Android Pay in more apps and on the mobile web

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Android Pay has only recently expanded to the UK, but Google has no intention of slowing down on its burgeoning contactless payment solution.

Starting today, the company will make its in-app payments API available to everyone, a considerable expansion compared to the small number of partners it began with when the feature launched last December. In addition to apps like Uber, Lyft, OpenTable, Wish, and Fancy, any app that has an e-commerce element will be able to tap into securely stored credits cards on compatible smartphones — in countries that support it.

Perhaps more interesting, though, is the expansion of Android Pay's in-app purchase workflow to the mobile web. Developed in conjunction with the Chrome team, a new experience will allow merchants to quickly integrate e-commerce solutions on mobile web pages that leverage the necessary hardware — in particular, fingerprint sensors — to complete transactions on web pages without having to manually enter credit card numbers, shipping and billing information, and more.

During a session at Google I/O, Pali Bhat, Senior Director of Product Management at Google, demoed the new feature, which optimizes payment experiences on a smartphone — app or no app — with the same workflow. While Android Pay was initially envisioned as a solution for contactless in-store payments utilizing popular standards such as tokenization and dynamic transport schemes, it has since expanded to be a full-scale payments platform, allowing anyone with a Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover card to potentially leave their plastic at home.

And while Google already announced loyalty integration with Android Pay, it has now gone one step further, working with popular drug store Walgreens to facilitate loyalty signup, in addition to collection and redemption. Walgreens can merely send an email or SMS, or use an NFC-based reader in-store, to quickly sign a customer to a points program and begin collecting.

Finally, Bhat demoed a new feature with Android Pay in the UK, working with Transport for London (TfL) to not only replace existing Oyster payment cards with a phone, but track when a rider has tapped on and off. If a customer forgets to tap off, he or she will receive a notification with a reminder to tap off or risk having to pay the maximum fare.

While none of the Android Pay announces are on their own particularly exciting, they represent a new phase for digital wallets where payments alone are no longer the crux of the experience. From loyalty to convenience, the ability to replace an increasing number of physical cards, payment or otherwise, with digital equivalents, reducing the number of total actions in the process, is the incentive people need to leave their wallets at home — for good.

More: Google I/O 2016 coverage

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1 week ago

HTC 10, One A9 and One M9 will all get Android N updates

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HTC has confirmed that three of its smartphones, the HTC 10, HTC One A9 and the HTC One M9, will all get the Android N update sometime after the OS launches later this fall.

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