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3 weeks ago

Liveblog: Huawei at IFA 2016 — 10:30 a.m. CET (4:30 a.m. ET) Sept 1


It's time to see everything from Huawei live from Berlin.

We're coming at you live from Huawei's 2016 IFA press event, from the Velodrom in Berlin. If this year comes anywhere close to last year's event, we'll be looking at some sort of new phone. But this is Huawei we're talking about. Something exciting and unexpected isn't out of the realm of possibility, right?

Only one way to find out. We're liveblogging this bad boy stating at 10:30 a.m. CET — that's 4:30 a.m. in New York City, and 1:30 a.m. on the West Coast (the best coast) of the U.S.

See you there!

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3 weeks ago

HTC unveils One A9s with 5-inch 720p display, Helio P10 SoC


At IFA 2016, HTC announced the sequel to last year's mid-range One A9, the One A9s. The phone retains the design aesthetic of last year's model, with a few subtle changes: there's no HTC logo above the home button, and the camera sensor at the back is no longer centered. Overall, you're looking at the same minimalist brushed aluminum design with rounded edges and antenna bands along the sides at the back. This time around, HTC is targeting a lower price point, and as such we're looking at revised internals.

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3 weeks ago

MrMobile uses the Moto Z Play and Hasselblad camera Mod!


Whatever else you can say about the Moto Z – and there's no shortage of opinion on the subject — you have to admit it's an interesting smartphone. The problem for many is that it's also an expensive smartphone, and while its camera has some useful features, it also has a fair number of drawbacks.

Lenovo's answer to these concerns: a less-expensive Moto Z, and a brand new Moto Mod from a legendary camera maker. I spent about a week with the Verizon-exclusive Droid Edition of the Moto Z Play and the True Zoom Moto Mod from Hasselblad. I came away with a new appreciation for the Snapdragon 625, oversized batteries ... and steady hands. Join me for MrMobile's Moto Z Play review, and Hasselblad True Zoom review!

Don't forget to be social!

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3 weeks ago

Shadowgun Legends is ready to blow minds on NVIDIA Shield in 2017


Madfinger Games is bringing back Shadowgun for another turn, with help from the NVIDIA Shield TV.

NVIDIA had a fairly quiet Gamescom this year on the Shield front, but there was still something pretty tasty to show off. Coming to the Shield TV in Q1 2017 is Shadowgun Legends and it's a substantial step forward for Madfinger from its mobile games of past years.

Shadowgun Legends has been tailored to the Shield TV and the Tegra X1 chipset to exploit its power and create a full fledged first-person shooter. It's a way off from being finished, but what I've seen at the show already has me salivating for more.

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3 weeks ago

This is the Hasselblad True Zoom, the essential camera add-on for the Moto Z


Motorola and legendary camera manufacturer Hasselblad have created the essential smartphone camera add-on.

The moment I learned about Moto Mods, the magnetic add-ons for the Moto Z line, I yearned for a camera. Batteries, sure; a speaker, fine. But a camera: to me, that made the platform truly compelling.

Now, months later, we are getting just that, in the form of the Hasselblad True Zoom. The Mod is the first mainstream smartphone accessory the legendary Swedish camera company has ever attached its name to, and while it doesn't quite live up to my admittedly high expectations, it's a truly remarkable piece of engineering, and at $249, a compelling proposition.

The hardware

The Hasselblad True Zoom celebrates the medium-format camera company's 75th anniversary with the insignia '4116' imprinted on the inside of the frame. 1941 to 2016: a long time to perfect a craft.

When installed, the True Zoom replaces the Moto Z's built-in camera. Indeed, the Mod has a small foam slot for the phone's camera module to rest to avoid getting it scratched. Being independent, the True Zoom has its own sensor, lens and optical image stabilization module, and uses the phone's screen as a viewfinder and its battery as a power source. As I quickly found, lacking its own battery and generating an enormous amount of heat means that the True Zoom is better suited to the thicker, more capacious Moto Z Force or Play, but it will work with the flagship as well.

It's clear care was taken in designing the True Zoom, since it attaches to any of the Moto Z phones with a satisfying click and immediately initializes. A modest grip on the right side makes it easy to hold in one hand, and the dual-stage shutter button mimics the responsiveness of much more expensive cameras. A separate power button extends and retracts the optical lens, and the zoom slider attached to the shutter button engages the zoom — all familiar ideas to anyone who has used a digital camera since, oh, 2003. A real Xenon flash attaches to the left side, making me nostalgic for the Nokia Lumia 1020.

It's inside that the True Zoom loses some of its luster: I had a chance to speak to Motorola's head of product marketing, Jim Thiede, and President of Hasselblad's American arm, Michael Hejtmanek, and it quickly became clear that this is a partnership in name only. None of Hasselblad's actual technology is inside the True Zoom, which, given its modest $250 price tag, is not surprising. Akin to Huawei's partnership with Leica, it appears Motorola sought expertise and brand alignment more than intellectual property.

Still, the 1/2.3" sensor and f/3.5-6.5 lens, with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 25-250mm, is superior to anything you'll find on a smartphone today, and the photos that come out of this thing are stupendous.

Using the camera is not always stupendous, though. Because its weight is biased to the right side, near the grip, your thumb is forced onto the glass just to the right of the screen in landscape mode, jutting up against the navigation keys. I cannot tell you how much times I accidentally pressed the home or multitasking button as I depressed the shutter, and that Motorola doesn't include an option to temporarily disable those touch areas when the True Zoom is connected confers a dearth of consumer field testing. Thankfully, you can hold down the power button (next to the shutter) once the Mod is connected to quickly launch the camera app from any app.

None of Hasselblad's actual technology is inside the True Zoom, which, given its modest $250 price tag, is not surprising.

It's unclear whether people will want to keep the True Zoom attached while they're out and about, since even attached to the lithe 5.2mm frame of the Moto Z it doesn't comfortably fit in a pants pocket. In my week using the Mod I was constantly caught in between attaching and removing the attachment depending on what I was doing.

The Software

A quick note: my Hasselblad True Zoom has been paired with the Moto Z Play, a phone that has yet to be released, and is running pre-release software. When I first got the Mod, it frequently crashed the camera app and overheated the phone, but Motorola released an update to its Moto Mods platform a few days into my testing that considerably improved the True Zoom's stability.

Using the True Zoom is easy, since it merely subsumes the existing camera experience. It takes advantage of the same simple camera UI, and automatically turns on when entering the app — or any app that uses the camera — so the learning curve is relatively low. Still, due to the larger sensor and more versatile zoom lens, Motorola has surfaced a number of unique camera modes, including monochrome capture, and the ability to save RAW files in addition to vaguely useful presets like "Sports" and "Night landscape". While Motorola is hedging right now, claiming these modes are still works in progress and will be more useful by the time the Moto Z and Z Force are updated in mid-September to support the Mod, I rarely noticed any improvements to my photos with these turned on.

Hasselblad also plans to release a version of its Phocus PC software to make it easy for users to offload and edit the RAW files captured by the camera. That and Motorola's offer of two years free full-quality backups to Google Photos, and users won't need to worry about on-device storage.

The Photos

So what about the photos themselves? A 1/2.3" sensor in a phone is not unheard of — Sony's Xperia Z and X line have housed one that size for years — the combination of relatively large pixels and an optically stabilized zoom lens should make for some good results. And they are good. Don't believe me? Have a look for yourself.

Let's be clear: These are not of the same quality as you'll find on a mirrorless camera, or even most point-and-shoots these days. If you're expecting otherwise you'll be disappointed. The photos captured by the True Zoom are merely very good for a smartphone, with the added benefit of being able to optically zoom with no loss in quality — just a slightly narrower aperture.

The good news is that at its widest the lens is sharp and focuses quickly, with vibrant, warm colors that will please most users. That the photos are captured directly to the phone and can easily be shared to social media is a bonus. Like many zoom lenses, though, the True Zoom becomes more difficult to stabilize the longer it extends, and with a fairly unforgiving minimum focus distance I've had trouble getting the thing to lock onto a subject, even stable ones.

But it's also that zoom function that most users are going to love. Here are some samples of the True Zoom at its widest and longest.

Left: Hasselblad True Zoom — widest (25mm equivalent) / Right: Hasselblad True Zoom — longest (250mm equivalent) — click image to view larger

And here's a typical sample comparing the True Zoom to the Moto Z. Both have 12MP sensors, though the one on the True Zoom is slightly larger. As with all of its photos, the Hasselblad is warmer and more true to life, but due to its slightly narrower f/3.5 aperture at its widest focal length it doesn't let in quite as much light as the Moto Z's fixed f/1.8 lens.

Left: Hasselblad True Zoom — (f/3.5, 25mm equivalent) / Right: Moto Z (f/1.8)— click image to view larger

Should you buy it?

When everything comes together, the True Zoom is a wonderful piece of technology, and almost justifies the $250 cost — but I can't help but feel that most people would be better off spending a bit more to get a proper zoom camera to get better results.

If the Moto Z line takes off, and Moto Mods with it, I can see a family investing in a True Zoom and sharing it between members when necessary.

The Hasselblad True Zoom will be available starting in September from Verizon for $249, and Motorola for $299, and will be coming to other markets in the coming months. An update will be issued to the Moto Z and Moto Z Force on September 15 to add compatibility with the True Zoom.

More: Moto Z Play preview: The most accessible modular phone yet

See at Motorola

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3 weeks ago

Moto Z, Moto Z Play and Moto Mods are coming to Canada in September


Motorola's ambitious Moto Z line is coming to Canada in late September. The company has announced that the Moto Z, Moto Z Play, and a number of the associated Moto Mods accessories will be coming to various carriers by the end of September.

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3 weeks ago

Moto Z Play Droid preview: The most affordable modular phone yet


Can Motorola bring its modular phones' best features to the $400 price point? The Moto Z Play Droid gives it a good shot.

For the past two weeks, I've been carrying around two phones — one in each pant pocket. Both are alike in many ways, but one costs around $300 more than the other. This is the truth of the Android market in 2016: high-end, expensive smartphones are increasingly difficult to differentiate from their much-cheaper counterparts. Such a supposition is even more profound when you consider the two phones I am carrying with me: the Moto Z Droid, and the brand new Moto Z Play Droid, Motorola's newest entry into its modular lineup.

Coming to Verizon on September 8 for just over $400, to the rest of the world (as just the Moto Z Play) at the end of September, can the Moto Z Play Droid stand on its own as a phone while successfully integrating into the growing lineup of Moto Mod accessories? Let's find out.

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3 weeks ago

Lenovo's Yoga Book aims to be the tablet-laptop convertible the Pixel C never was


Lenovo Yoga Book

Lenovo's not new to tablets or convertibles — but the Yoga Book is something fresh and exciting.

The end game for any sort of tablet is, really, for it to transcend its status as merely being a tablet. And this is the stuff of legend, folks. We're talking about the likes of the aborted Microsoft Courier. We're talking about what ASUS tried to do with its Transformer line. Or, really, what Microsoft has managed to accomplish with its Surface devices. And we're also talking about what Google generally failed to do with the Pixel C.

And now we have the Lenovo Yoga Book. Two, really. One running Android, the other Windows 10. (With the latter named "Yoga Book with Windows.") Two huge swaths of glass, but only one is a display — the other moves between a touch-only keyboard and giant stylus tablet. And it's a really neat idea — let's take a look.

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3 weeks ago

Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Plus hands-on: A 10-inch tablet for entertainment


Lenovo rolled out the Yoga Tab 3 series last year at IFA, and this time around we're being treated to the latest addition to the lineup, the Yoga Tab 3 Plus. The big change from last year's Yoga Tab 3 Pro is the shift in hardware from Intel's Atom x5-Z8500 to the Snapdragon 652.

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3 weeks ago

Top Amazon Echo tips and tricks

Top Amazon Echo tips and tricks

Optimize your Echo experience with our handy tips and fun tricks!

The Amazon Echo, Amazon's smart speaker, is taking the home automation game to another level, thanks to Alexa and the fact that "she's" constantly learning to serve you better.

See at Amazon

If you have an Echo of your very own or are considering buying one (you really should!), then we've got some tips and tricks that'll help you get the most out of your experience and/or entice you into picking one up (Did I say you should? You really should!).

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3 weeks ago

Google's OnHub celebrates first birthday with Philips Hue integration and $20 off through September


We've always thought that Google's OnHub routers were some of the best products in their class, but we've also been waiting to see something done with the low-energy radios that they shipped with. From our initial review in January 2016:

With built-in support for IEEE 802.15.4, Low-energy Bluetooth Smart and Weave, OnHub will be able to connect to new products like door locks, cameras, automated sprinklers, vacuum cleaners and more directly. This opens up plenty of possibility for Google in the home automation and Internet of Things space.

OnHub turns one today, and we are finally seeing it.

Google has announced native Philips Hue integration is now available when using an OnHub router with the Hue hub. Users on both the protected and guest Wi-Fi networks can access the controls by simply navigating to On.Here in any browser. This makes Philips Hue the first devices that can be controlled and not just accessed through OnHub. We hope to see it followed by many more.

Google is also cutting the price of the TP-LINK OnHub model for folks who buy from Google or Amazon between now and September 30. If you've been waiting to get one — especially if you use Philips Hue lamps — now is a great time to buy.

See at Amazon

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3 weeks ago

Get your Eye of the Tiger on with these ferocious wallpapers!


Some cats are cuddly. These are not.

Who's a good kitty? Who's a good kitty? These are good kitties, with their massive paws, their sharp claws, and enough bite force to crush your throat. Okay, maybe that last part isn't so good, but these good kitties make good wallpapers, because while they look cute and cuddly, they are also deadly, which takes your home screen from glum to grrrrrrrreat!

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3 weeks ago

Samsung Gear S3 preview: Big watches, bigger wearable family

Gear S3 Frontier and Gear S3 Classic

Two new entries iterate on what the Gear S2 started, rounding out a full line of wearables.

Samsung was in at the ground floor with smartwatches with the original Galaxy Gear, and since then has dramatically changed its design and strategy year after year as the idea of what a smartwatch should be has evolved. They've dabbled with full-blown Android, Tizen, and Android Wear, but the Gear S2 of 2015 marked a refresh of the Tizen wearable platform that was dramatically better than previous iterations.

And in creating its best-yet smartwatch with the Gear S2, Samsung also made one of the top smartwatches available from any company. Its choice to open up beyond just Samsung phones had a large part to play in that, sure, but the sleek round hardware and new software experience were also great. A year on from that victory Samsung is rolling out the Gear S3 in two different variants: the Gear S3 Frontier is leading the charge with a masculine look and optional LTE while the Gear S3 Classic carries on from its predecessor. But in both cases we're looking at upgraded internals, slicker hardware and a refreshed circular software experience.

In an interesting move, Samsung has also decided to launch the Gear S3 Frontier and Classic into a wearable lineup that still includes the now-year-old Gear S2 and S2 Classic, which will let these new models sit at the top of a line rather than be the sole offerings. Having the previous-gen models available at new lower prices below it can act as somewhat of a safety net for the upcoming Gear S3 Frontier and Classic, but we're here to see how they shape up all on their own — here's our hands-on preview with the latest Samsung Gear smartwatches.

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3 weeks ago

MrMobile goes hands-on with the Samsung Gear S3


Samsung's smartphones have matured into some of the best on the market in 2016, and its smartwatches seem poised to do the same.

With the Gear S3, Samsung evolves some of the solid ideas behind last year's S2, while further honing its software and industrial design to produce a device that's a wristwatch first and a smartwatch second – an often-touted but seldom realized ambition in the wearable world. Whether Samsung ultimately meets that goal will have to wait for MrMobile's full Gear S3 review; for now, join me for a quick Samsung Gear S3 hands on!

Socialize with MrMobile!

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3 weeks ago

Samsung will continue Gear S2 and S2 Classic sales, update with latest software

Samsung Gear S3, S2 and Fi

Keeping old models will fill out the wearable lineup.

When the Gear S3 Frontier and Classic are released later this year, they won't be taking store shelf space away from the Gear S2 — all four watches will sit together along with the Gear Fit 2 as important components of Samsung's wearable ecosystem. Going a step further, the Gear S2 models will also be receiving an update by the end of the year with all of the new features being shown off on the Gear S3s — and considering that the Gear S2's hardware is more than capable even a year on, they should be able to handle the software just fine.

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