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3 years ago

Top Android device, accessory, and app deals for October 3

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We've dug up some solid deals on apps, accessories, smartphones, and tablets. If there's something you've been wanting to get your hands on, check out the list below. As always, if you find any sales out out there that aren't listed, let us know in the comments!

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3 years ago

Huawei announces the affordable Ascend Y550 with 4G LTE for under £100

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Huawei has today announced the affordable Ascend Y550 will be heading to the UK later this month for under £100. The smartphone is powered by Android KitKat 4.4 and comes with 4G connectivity, perfect for 2014 in the UK. It's a sleek looking device, equipped with some advanced components to ensure the user experience isn't hindered by the affordable price point.

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3 years ago

Top Android device, accessory, and app deals for October 2

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We've dug up some solid deals on apps, accessories, smartphones, and tablets. If there's something you've been wanting to get your hands on, check out the list below. As always, if you find any sales out out there that aren't listed, let us know in the comments!

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3 years ago

Samsung Galaxy Alpha teardown reveals razor thin display assembly

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A full disassembly of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha gives us a peek under the hood. The most noteworthy aspect of the device's internal hardware is the super-slim 1.4 mm display, which is half the width of the iPhone 6 front panel. This actually makes repairing fairly difficult given how much adhesive Samsung uses. There's also a gasket around the headphone jack, which hints that all-around waterproofing may have been a consideration at some point.

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3 years ago

Vertu's latest luxury phone offers exotic materials and high-end specs for $6,900

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The $10,300 Signature Touch out of your budget range? Vertu understands your plight, which is why the luxury phone manufacturer just announced the Aster, a $6,900 hand-crafted smartphone constructed out of titanium.

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3 years ago

This is Android One

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Android One

Pure Android in a Google-backed $100 smartphone

This year's Google IO developer conference wasn't just about the upcoming Android L release and the design changes coming with that version. One of the keynote's most important announcements was packed into a two-minute segment at the start of the event. Android One, as Android chief Sundar Pichai explained, was designed to level the playing field for smartphones in developing markets, making it easier for smaller phone makers in these countries to ship relatively high-quality stuff at relatively low price points.

Three months later we're seeing the first fruits from this endeavor, as Android One arrives in India. We've got our hands on the Micromax Canvas A1, one of the first Android One phones to go on sale. And what we've found is a surprisingly speedy vanilla Android handset with a few tweaks for the Indian market.

What is Android One?

Android One

From a Western perspective, it's easy to draw parallels between Android One and the Nexus or Google Play edition programs (or even the rumored Android Silver endeavor). In reality, the purpose and execution of Android One is very different. Hardware components are selected by Google, which also takes the lead on software for these devices. From there, local OEMs can add relevant apps and tweak the external hardware to add their own flavor. (The current Android One lineup includes similar-looking devices from Spice and Karbonn, for instance.)

Essentially, the goal is for Android One to facilitate the spread of Google-controlled Android among the next billion (or two billion, or more) smartphone buyers by offering a compelling entry-level product, aided by local OEMs. In turn, the fact that manufacturers won't need to worry about software or sourcing hardware components means they can turn around products more quickly. From Google's perspective, Android One lets the maintain more control than is possible in the wild west that is the general Android ecosystem, and ensure that Google services and Google's design language are front and center.

Android OneAndroid One

For the purposes of this article we're looking at the Micromax Canvas A1. The two other Android One handsets available in India right now, the Spice Dream Uno and Karbonn Sparkle V, feature the same internal hardware in similar (though somewhat tweaked) chassis.

The device we have sells for Rs. 6499 in India — around $100 U.S. without a contract.

Android One — The hardware

Android One

It's clear Google's had a hand in the design of the first-generation Android One hardware. Even aside from visual cues like the Nexus 5-style circular earpiece and rear speaker, the Canvas A1 is, like recent Nexus devices, basically a vessel for Android. You'll find few distractions around the screen, and the battery door is covered with soft-touch plastic with minimal branding.

Android One delivers as much hardware muscle as some more expensive phones.

The in-hand feel is comfortable — more rounded than the N5, and despite the presence of removable battery door the device feels sturdy and well-built. There's a standard collection of ports and buttons — power and volume on the right, microUSB down below, headphone jack up top. Around the back, a large faux-metal camera bump protrudes through the back panel. And behind that back panel you'll find a microSD slot — highly recommended due to the limited internal storage — alongside two microSIM slots and a 1700mAh removable battery.

On the inside, Android One delivers as much hardware muscle as more expensive phones like the Moto G, though with fewer bells and whistles. There's a quad-core Metiatek chip running the show, with four cores clocked at 1.3GHz, 1GB of RAM and an ARM Mali 400MP GPU.

Android One

It's not going to run Crysis anytime soon, but still, it's kind of ridiculous how fast this device feels considering the price tag. The Canvas A1 is as responsive as phones four or five times its price. And this is a £65 phone. Seriously. Apple sells cables that cost more than this thing.

Apple sells cables that cost more than this phone.

But when you're selling a phone so cheaply, something's got to give, and you don't need to look far to see where money's being saved. There's just 2.27GB of available internal flash, of which 1.6GB was left after installing a few basic apps. (Though as we'll discuss later, apps can be moved to the SD card to free up space.) And the display is also a pretty basic 4.5-inch WVGA panel (480x854) behind a plastic screen that gets gunked up with finger grease pretty easily. That said, it offers better viewing angles than the HTC Desire 510, a more expensive phone — though one with differing priorities. And despite the low pixel density and subdued colors, it's not horrible-looking. Not surprising considering it's an IPS panel, not the bog-standard LCD you might expect.

Android One screen

Similarly, the camera setup is unspectacular — a basic 5-megapixel rear shooter with LED flash — though you do get panorama, photosphere, lens blur, HDR and other effects to play with. Around the front there's an even more basic 2.4-megapixel shooter. Don't expect too much out of either, as even in well-lit conditions we encountered plenty of noise from both front and rear cameras.

Android OneAndroid One

Micromax Canvas A1 — Android One specs

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Category Features CPU 1.3GHz quad-core RAM 1GB Storage 4GB (2.27GB available) + microSD Display 4.5-inch FWVGA (854x480) IPS LCD Frequencies GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
WCDMA 850/2100MHz (up to 21Mbps/5.76Mbps) Battery 1700mAh removable Other GPS, Gyroscope, Proximity sensor, Light sensor, Magnetic sensor

Android One software and features

For the most part you're looking at "stock" Google Android, just as you'd get on a Nexus or Google Play edition phone. The software is built and maintained by Google, and as such you're good for "up to two years" of updates to subsequent versions of the OS.

So what's different? Well, Micromax has loaded a handful of apps on top of the standard Google suite —

  • Amazon: The same Amazon shopping app you'd get on the Play Store in any country.
  • AskMe.com: An Indian classified ads app.
  • FM Radio: A no-brainer for emerging markets — gives you unlimited music playback even when mobile data is unavailable or expensive.
  • Hike: An Indian IM app.
  • M!Live: A web shortcut to Micromax's web-based app portal.

Android One

Some additional features have been added to fit with Android One's target market, however. As it's a dual-SIM phone, you'll find SIM configuration settings under Settings > SIM cards, letting you choose your default SIM for calls, data and SMS.

You'll also need a microSD card to take screenshots or photos; due to the limited internal storage space the phone will flat-out refuse to take these if you don't have an SD card installed. On top of that, you'll want to send heavier apps over to the external storage wherever possible. Google has reimplemented the ability to move apps to the SD card in the Android One firmware, a smart move given the limited internal storage.

Aside from that, it's more or less identical to what you'd find on a Nexus 5. The Google Now launcher brings predictive search to your home screen, while Chrome serves as your default browser, and the entire suite of Google Play applications are present and correct.

Android One

Some other bits worth mentioning —

  • You can unlock the bootloader in the usual way, with the fastboot oem unlock command. The bootloader UI is a little more basic than we're used to dealing with, though, with a mostly text-based layout.
  • Out of the box, Android One runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat, build KPW53, and a Google-built Linux 3.4.67 kernel dated Aug. 20.
  • The experimental ART runtime is available in the usual place under Developer Options, if you're feeling adventurous.
  • The codename of the device we're using is "sprout." Go figure.

The bottom line

Android One

The first-generation Android One hardware isn't going to turn the heads of those used to premium smartphones, nor is it designed to do so. Instead it's a cookie-cutter template intended to spawn dozens of $100 smartphones that are actually decent, while giving Google greater control over this new family of devices for emerging markets. Just like Android Wear, when you sign on with Android One you're playing by Google's rules — and that makes sense given the assistance Google's offering, and the likely razor-thin margins involved.

Android One gives Google control over the platform in emerging markets.

What's more, as the high end of the smartphone market becomes increasingly saturated, Android One allows Google's OS to expand its reach into markets with plenty of room to grow.

Android One generation one is a promising start, but things are only going to get cheaper (and more competitive) from here onwards. This year's $100 smartphone is next year's $50 device; future Android One templates could incorporate features reserved for premium handsets just a few years ago.

It's an important part of Android's future, and an area we'll be watching with increasing interest.

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3 years ago

Top Android device, accessory, and app deals for October 1

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We've dug up some solid deals on apps, accessories, smartphones, and tablets. If there's something you've been wanting to get your hands on, check out the list below. As always, if you find any sales out out there that aren't listed, let us know in the comments!

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3 years ago

Sony Xperia Z3 heading to Canada starting on October 31

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Sony has today announced plans to launch the Xperia Z3 in Canada on October 31, with support from Bell, MTS, Rogers, SaskTel, TELUS and WIND Mobile. Should folk wish to purchase the new flagship smartphone without heading down to their local carrier store, Sony stores will also be stocking the same device for purchase on launch day.

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3 years ago

Moto X 2014 available in the UK, limited supply shipping from Unlocked Mobiles

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Unlocked Mobiles has confirmed with us today that the UK retailer has the Moto X 2014 currently in stock, but supply is limited. Should you be looking to get your hands on an unlocked version of the new smartphone, this may well be your opportunity to grab one for £395.

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3 years ago

Hands-on with the rugged Cat S50

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Cat Phones has announced their S50 model earlier this month. It's a rugged LTE smartphone designed specifically to be used outdoors and in challenging environments. It's waterproof, scratch-resistant, dustproof and can withstand more than just a few bumps and scrapes. We first played with the Cat S50 at IFA, but we met with them again last night to have a closer look. Watch our hands-on video.

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3 years ago

Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 versus iPhone 6 camera shootout!

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Increasingly the camera on a smartphone figures into a buying purchase. The iPhone 6 is the new kid on the block but here in the Android space we've got plenty of competition. Our pals at iMore have put two of the big Android devices of this year, the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8 up against Apple's latest and greatest.

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3 years ago

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 review

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Huawei Ascend Mate 7

Huawei is back with another crack at the oversized smartphone, and it might be the Chinese manufacturer's best device yet

Huawei has been stepping up its game of late, with modern Android devices that are significantly better than its earlier offerings. The world's No. 3 smartphone vendor is more of a household name in Asia than in Western markets; nevertheless it's shown it's serious about making inroads in Europe and North America.

The Ascend Mate series, it's fair to say, hasn't dazzled us yet, and it takes more than a "me too" approach to make a great oversized smartphone. Earlier in 2014 the Ascend P7 arrived and was the best Huawei device to date, with a premium design and high-end specs. Then the Ascend Mate 7 landed at IFA 2014 in Berlin. And as we've discovered in recent weeks, it's actually pretty good. Read on to find out why.

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3 years ago

Hands-on with Alcatel OneTouch Pop Mega LTE for Straight Talk

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Alcatel OneTouch will have three devices heading to Straight Talk soon. The Pop Mega LTE is one of them and we played with it for a bit last night in New York. It features a 6-inch qHD display, 1.2GHz quad-core processor, a long-lasting 3400mAh battery, 8-megapixel camera, and supports 4G LTE. Go watch our hands-on video!

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3 years ago

LG G3 coming to U.S. Cellular in October

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LG's well-loved G3 will be gracing U.S. Cellular shelves next month for as low as $0 down on an installment plan. Specifics on pricing beyond that or any set dates aren't available just yet. Those who go in on the G3 will be eligible for U.S. Cellular's rewards program, where you earn points towards devices, accessories, events, and other goodies.

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3 years ago

Galaxy Note 4 screen gap 'a necessary manufacturing feature,' says manual

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Galaxy Note 4

Issue acknowledged in Note 4 manual, gap 'may expand slightly' over time

As the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 launches in South Korea, reports have emerged in the Korean press of an unusual hardware issue affecting some Note 4 units. The story, first broken by local outlet IT Today, says some Korean Note 4s include a gap between the screen and the metal trim large enough to insert a business card. Given that the Note 4 isn't available globally just yet, it's unclear exactly how widespread this issue is — and isolated build issues with new smartphones aren't exactly uncommon.

Curiously, though, Samsung directly addresses this issue in its manual for the European Galaxy Note 4, which arrived on the company's support site in the past day. Tucked away on page 180 of the document, under the "Troubleshooting" section, is the following —

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