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3 weeks ago

Sony Xperia XZ + X Compact specs

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Sony Xperia XZ + X Compact

Sony's late-2016 handsets are official — the Xperia XZ, a new flagship-tier phone with the latest Sony camera tech, and the Xperia X Compact, a trimmed down version in a 4.6-inch body. If you're wondering how both phones stack up in terms of raw specs, we've got all the info you need down below.

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3 weeks ago

Sony Xperia XZ review: Return of the flagship

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Sony Xperia XZ

Sony's late-2016 flagship is the phone it needed six months ago, with some of the most important upgrades in years for an Xperia phone. But is it enough?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. With the apparently sunsetting of the Xperia Z line and the move to Xperia X, Sony appeared to have lost interest in the traditional spec-chasing high-end smartphone game. Yet here we are less than half a year later with a new Sony flagship: The Xperia XZ.

The naming convention speaks to the nature of the phone: A continuation of the X series spearheaded earlier this year with the Xperia X and X Performance, but with hints of the old Xperia Z brand: A bigger screen, a more capacious battery, and some seriously important camera upgrades — including, for the first time in a Sony phone, hardware stabilization.

This is the phone Sony needed half a year ago — and arguably a device which is more of a complete through than the overpriced, underwhelming X Performance. But the competition in the high-end space hasn't died down since the spring, and the XZ will face a similar band of challengers as its immediate predecessor.

So how does the most interesting Sony phone in two years measure up? Read on to find out.

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3 weeks ago

Sony's Xperia Ear is launching in November

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Sony Xperia Ear

Listen up: You'll soon be able to put Sony in your ear.

Sony's Xperia Ear was first launched as a prototype back at Mobile World Congress in February, and it'll soon be ready for prime time. The Japanese firm has announced that the wearable will be launching in "select markets" from November.

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3 weeks ago

Sony Xperia X Compact hands-on

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Sony Xperia X Compact

Sony's fan-favorite 'Compact' line returns with what might be its most compelling installment yet.

If you want a flagship-class Android phone in a smaller form factor, Sony's Compact series of phones is basically the only game in town. Unveiled at IFA 2016 in Berlin today, the Xperia X Compact is the series' fourth addition, bringing the internals of the Xperia X down to a more manageable size. We've had an early look at the X Compact ahead of today's unveiling, and what we've found is a worthy addition to one of the most unique Android families — though one lacking the trailblazing specs of previous generations.

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3 weeks ago

Moto Z coming to the UK in September for £529, Moto Z Play debuting at £369

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The Moto Z Play is the latest addition to Lenovo's modular Moto Z series. The phone will go up for sale on Verizon next week for $399, and will be available globally at the end of September. In the UK, the Moto Z Play will be available at John Lewis and Amazon for £369 ($490). Verizon's global exclusivity on the Moto Z is also set to come to an end later this month, and as such the Moto Z will make its debut in the UK for £529 ($700).

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3 weeks ago

Jio launches in India: Free voice calls, lowest LTE tariffs in the world

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Jio is here to make high-speed 4G accessible to Indians.

After months of delays, Reliance Industries head Mukesh Ambani launched Jio, the first LTE-only network in the country. The network has been active for several months, albeit in a pre-launch mode with SIM cards doled out to select customers. With today's announcement, the network is now open to all in India, with registrations kicking off from September 5.

There's a lot to talk about, but the main highlight with Jio is its disruptive pricing, with the carrier offering the lowest LTE data rates in the world. In a first for the Indian market, Jio is offering free unlimited voice calls for its entire userbase across India, even those on roaming.

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3 weeks ago

Huawei MediaPad M3 review: Excellent hardware meets frustrating software

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Huawei MediaPad M3

Huawei brings its top specs to a new, smaller MediaPad — and the result is basically an 8.4-inch phone.

Android tablets are in a weird place right now, with slow sales and relatively few compelling devices on the market. Huawei is one of the rising brands in Android phones right now, particularly in Europe, and thus the company has cash to plow into making high-end tablets where others might shy away.

The Huawei MediaPad M3 is the latest creation of the Chinese firm, with significantly upgraded specs from the previous-gen M2 — let's just forget about that thing, okay? — as well as refreshed software and refined build quality. Huawei's latest fits neatly into its portfolio between devices like the MateBook and P9 series, with an 8.4-inch display size that hits the same sweet spot as the iPad mini.

But can a company still struggling to find its way in smartphone software step up and create a worthy Android tablet experience? Read on to find out.

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3 weeks ago

Huawei Nova and Nova Plus preview: Making affordable feel premium

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Huawei Nova + Nova Plus

Huawei makes its best build quality more attainable than ever in a brand new line of metal-clad phones.

In the past ten months since it shipped the Nexus 6P, Huawei has firmed up its place among the best Android manufacturers when it comes to industrial design. Sure, the software has often been a whole other mess, but it's hard to argue with the build quality of phones like the P9 and P9 Plus. Huawei makes good stuff — hardware that deserved a spot next to the Galaxy S7

But premium hardware often demands a premium price tag, and that's where the Chinese firm is looking to differentiate itself through a new mid-level line: Huawei Nova.

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3 weeks ago

Huawei unveils mid-range Nova and Nova Plus, MediaPad M3 tablet

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At its IFA 2016 press conference, Huawei unveiled the Nova and Nova Plus, and the metal-clad 8.4-inch MediaPad M3 tablet. The Nova and Nova Plus are the latest entrants in Huawei's mid-range series, which sits one tier below the flagship P9. The phones are aimed at a younger audience, offering an 8MP front camera and a 12MP rear shooter (16MP on the Nova Plus) with large 1.25 μm pixel size.

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3 weeks ago

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

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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

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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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4 weeks ago

MrMobile uses the Moto Z Play and Hasselblad camera Mod!

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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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4 weeks ago

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

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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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4 weeks ago

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

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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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4 weeks ago

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

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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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