The largest phone makers in the world have gathered in Barcelona this week for 2014's Mobile World Congress. We're expecting the biggest phone show in the world to bring a set of new high-end smartphones, new models from manufacturers such as Nokia and Sony, and more wearables than anyone could ever wear at once. Find all the latest news from the Spanish show right here.
Feb 28, 2014
YotaPhone is an Android smartphone with a regular touchscreen on one side and an E Ink display on the other. It's been around for well over a year now, and in our time with previous prototypes we've been impressed with its premise, if not Yota Devices' execution. At MWC this year, the Russian carrier-turned-manufacturer is showing off an all-new prototype it believes solves many of the original model's flaws.Read Article >
The new YotaPhone improves over its predecessor in many ways. The original's 4.3-inch 720p display is now a 5-inch 1080p unit, and its blocky corners have been replaced with smooth curves. All of the specs you'd expect to improve have: it has a quad-core processor in place of a dual-core, a thinner profile, a lower weight, and it runs the latest version of Android. Its E Ink display is also massively improved; it's larger, has smaller bezels, higher pixel density (up from 170ppi to 235ppi), and is far more integrated into the overall design. It's so integrated, in fact, that when the E Ink display is showing a black image it's almost impossible to tell the display apart from its surrounding bezels.
Qualcomm announced its Snapdragon 805 processor back in November, but it wasn't until today that we could try out its promise of Ultra HD graphics for ourselves. The American chipmaker has built its own 4K tablet — spanning a 3,840 x 2,160 resolution — to demo the graphical capabilities of its latest chip and the consequent benefits of owning a 4K Android device. That tablet is on show here at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.Read Article >
A selection of widely available Android games are preloaded on Qualcomm's tablet, including Asphalt 8 and Injustice: Gods Among Us, none of which require any special adaptation to run at the higher resolution. Of course, their textures and graphical detail are still designed for a lesser resolution, so they don't look as awesome as they could, but the sheer fact that they can be run at 4K with a perfectly playable frame rate is impressive. The 4K res is exactly four times denser than 1080p and 2.6 times more pixel-rich than the iPad Air's 2,048 x 1,536.
At this year's Mobile World Congress, Mozilla is pushing its self-appointed mission to create a truly affordable smartphone with the demonstration of a $25 proof of concept device. Built by chip partner Spreadtrum, it runs the latest version of Firefox OS, but unfortunately does so with considerably more lag than the new generation of handsets introduced by Mozilla's partners. The basic spec is reminiscent of the original iPhone, with a 3.5-inch, 320 x 480 display, 2-megapixel camera, and no 3G connectivity. That's where the similarities end, however, as the Firefox OS prototype uses a quite terrible LCD display and offers a maddeningly slow user experience.Read Article >
These sacrifices may appear justified by the device's rock-bottom price, but they also place a question mark over whether it can really be considered a smartphone. You can access YouTube, take pictures, and browse the web on it, but the phone's responsiveness is so sluggish that you probably won't want to do any of those things.
Feb 25, 2014
Relations between Microsoft and Google are as icy as Nokia's hometown of Espoo, Finland, which made it a bit of a shocker when Nokia — by far Microsoft's largest mobile partner — dropped an Android-shaped bomb on Windows Phone this week with the introduction of its X handsets. Just weeks away from being swallowed by Microsoft, Nokia is releasing three cheap, Android-powered devices that are designed to appeal to the mass market. All three are low-end models that won’t compete with an iPhone 5S or Samsung’s Galaxy S5. Instead, they’re positioned as smartphones targeted at the millions of people globally who are currently switching away from feature phones. Windows Phone has seen a bit of success in this end of the market — and Nokia dominates sales of handsets running it — so why the switch to Android? And why now?Read Article >
It’s a question that Nokia has largely avoided answering clearly this week. Instead, Nokia explains its use of Android on the X series as a method to create devices that slot in between Asha, Nokia’s low-end smartphone platform, and Windows Phone. The end goal, Nokia says, is to produce feeder handsets for its Lumia line of Windows Phones: get people into smartphones, feed them Microsoft services, and hopefully convince them to buy Windows Phone handsets down the line. It sounds like a reasonable approach until you take a closer look at the specifics.
Hollywood film director Sam Raimi is at Mobile World Congress today, giving a content creator's perspective on the future of mobile entertainment. Sound, notes Raimi, is invisible, so "we don't know what we're missing" when experiencing a film at home or on a mobile device instead of a fully outfitted theater. Describing the ability of sound to convey emotion at a subliminal level, he asks the audience, "when was the last time you cried at something that was presented on a mobile device?"Read Article >
While screens on smartphones and tablets have grown ever denser and more attractive over the years, Raimi's comments identify the relative stagnation that the mobile audio experience has found itself in. He's not without sympathy or support, either, as the discussion panel he was part of was also attended by concurring voices from Telefónica, Dolby, and Qualcomm. No one had an immediate answer to the Evil Dead director's pleas, but it's at least encouraging to see that both carriers and component suppliers are aware of the need to upgrade a seemingly neglected part of the mobile experience.
The original Galaxy Gear was always a beta device. Samsung’s first smartwatch was testing waters the company had never waded in before, and it took a lot of well-earned criticism for its shortcomings. Less than six months later, however, Samsung returns to the fray with a new smart wearable that provokes a drastically different reaction: desire. Where the original was bulky and uncomfortable, the Gear Fit is slender and form-fitting. The Gear was rich on features but lacked a clear purpose — a problem arguably shared by the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo. The Fit, on the other hand, is clear-eyed in purpose and minimal in design.Read Article >
Every hardware spec of the Gear Fit serves a function. Yes, the Super AMOLED display is nice to look at, but it’s also a way to preserve battery power and delivers the excellent viewing angles that a glanceable device requires. Unlike the Galaxy Round smartphone, having a curved display here actually makes perfect sense as it eliminates the elongated flat slab that most current smartwatches force onto your wrist. Giving it a touchscreen also helps by removing the need for multiple buttons (the Fit has just one). In many ways, the Gear Fit feels like a Gear that’s been stripped of everything superfluous and focused into a viscerally purposeful device. An egg of an idea hatching into an adorable chick.
Feb 25, 2014
Google's surprise reveal of Project Tango, a smartphone equipped with a variety of cameras and vision sensors that provides a whole new perspective on the world around it, left us with quite a few questions about how this device actually works and what it's for. Google says the Tango smartphone can capture a wealth of data never before available to app developers, including depth- and object-tracking and real-time 3D mapping. And it's no bigger or more dependent on power than your typical smartphone. We sat down with Remi El-Ouazzane, CEO of Movidius, the company that developed some of the technology used in Tango, to get a better idea of what this device can do and what it means for applications of the future. We also got a chance to use the device Google will be delivering to developers next month.Read Article >
Movidius has been working on computer vision technology for the past seven years — it developed the processing chips used in Project Tango, which Google paired with sensors and cameras to give the smartphone the same level of computer vision and tracking that formerly required much larger equipment. In fact, El-Ouzzane says the technology isn't very different at all from what NASA's Exploration Rover used to map the surface of Mars a decade ago, but instead of being in a 400-pound vehicle, it fits in the palm of your hand.
AT&T customers now have more LTE options abroad: at MWC 2014, the company announced it added 4G LTE data roaming in 13 more countries, including Spain, France, Japan, South Korea, and Australia. This comes just a few months after AT&T became the first US carrier to provide international LTE roaming when they expanded to Canada and the UK. The company also has agreements to allow for LTE roaming in 200 more countries in the future. This comes on the heels of the September 2013 announcement that AT&T partnered with Fon to allow its customers to access Fon's Wi-Fi network overseas; AT&T is making a point to build on its historical advantage over Verizon when it comes to roaming abroad by adding partnerships to boost its network access.Read Article >
AT&T also released a new app called the AT&T International Travel App that shows customers information about their data plan, tracks usage, and sends alerts when customers reach their limit or don't have a roaming plan. Since it's easier to download more data more quickly with LTE, it might be worth the download — especially since most built-in data tracking tools on phones don't do a great job distinguishing between roaming and non-roaming data
What do you do when you’re one of the world’s largest smartphone makers and it’s time to update your flagship device? If you’re Samsung, you trot out the new Galaxy S5, a refined and updated take on last year’s wildly successful Galaxy S4. Like the new Gear wearables, the Galaxy S5 looks and feels familiar, but offers a number of improvements over last year’s edition.Read Article >
The Galaxy S5’s design is a minor evolution of the Galaxy S4 — in fact, the two are almost indistinguishable from the front. The S5’s display is ever so slightly larger at 5.1 inches, but it’s still a 1080p, Super AMOLED panel that doesn’t look very different from the S4’s screen. Below the display is a new home key with integrated fingerprint scanner and capacitive keys for multitasking and Android’s back button.
Samsung's latest takes on wearables, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, were among the flurry of announcements from the electronics company at Mobile World Congress this year. Representing a refinement on last year's Galaxy Gear, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are thinner, lighter, more comfortable and longer lasting than Samsung's first attempt.Read Article >
Both watches offer significant improvements on the outside — they are more comfortable to wear and provide the option to change the wristband with a standard 22mm watch strap, something that the first Galaxy Gear couldn't do. It's a small change, but in addition to the variety of colors that the new watches come in, it makes the devices much more personal and customizable. Samsung removed all of the electronic components from the wrist strap, so the camera (on the Gear 2), microphone, and speaker are now on the watch's body itself. A new home key is situated below the familiar touchscreen display, replacing the clumsy swiping gesture that was previously required to return to the home screen.
Alongside the new Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Samsung is expanding its line of wearable technology to include a fitness tracker. The new Gear Fit is a downsized version of its smartwatch siblings, with a focus on tracking your heart rate and counting your steps. It looks like a Samsung version of the popular wrist-worn Fitbit trackers, but with a larger screen and quite a few more functions.Read Article >
Feb 24, 2014
In the wee hours of the morning on Monday, Stephen Elop took the stage to announce the worst-kept secret in the mobile industry: Nokia is releasing a phone powered by Android. The Nokia X comes in three flavors and many more colors, with a completely different version of Android that eschews most of Google's services, and all of its aesthetic ideas, for Microsoft's.Read Article >
This was a last hurrah for Nokia, probably its last major unveiling before its acquisition by Microsoft is confirmed, and it may well also be the last time many of us see the Nokia X. So for news and posterity in equal measure, take a look back at the last big, colorful splash from Nokia at Mobile World Congress 2014.
Emerging in 2005 out of the need for a memory card small enough to fit inside a mobile phone, microSD cards have rapidly matured to their current status of global ubiquity and adoption. This year's Mobile World Congress marks a significant milestone in their growth, with SanDisk introducing the first 128GB microSD card. That will store a thousand times more photos, videos, and GIFs than the original maximum of 128MB.Read Article >
At such large sizes, microSD cards are approaching the typical storage you'll get on an SSD-equipped laptop or tablet, which will surely contribute to the ongoing erosion of the distinction between mobile devices and PCs. SanDisk is targeting Android phones and tablets with its new €149.50 card, even though some device manufacturers have moved away from including microSD slots in their flagship devices. With the availability of free cloud storage services also growing, it might seem like the humble microSD card is on its way out, but if it keeps growing at its present pace, it might stick around for a while yet.
All eyes will be on Samsung's "Unpacked 5" event at this year's MWC 2014 for reasons we already know: the company will almost certainly be announcing its Galaxy S5. It's rumored that the smartphone could be waterproof and have built-in fitness tracking features, but nothing certain has been leaked thus far. It's also likely the company will talk about its Gear 2 smartwatch models, launched just months after the first version. Follow along as we see what else Samsung has in store at MWC 2014 today at 2PM ET — and join us after for our live broadcast where we'll be talking Samsung, Nokia, and more!Read Article >
We're on the ground at MWC 2014, and events are in full swing as day one begins. Today, Mark Zuckerberg will be speaking to perhaps talk about Facebook's acquisition of the chat app WhatsApp, and we'll be live blogging the whole thing. Follow along with us live as we hear what else Zuckerberg has to say about Facebook and the $19 billion purchase.Read Article >
Feb 24, 2014
It’s official: the Nokia X Android phone is here. Microsoft might be buying Nokia’s phone business shortly, but the Finnish smartphone maker is still pushing ahead with the launch of three Android-powered handsets today. The Verge first revealed details about Nokia’s plans in December, and the company is now ready to talk specifics about the X, the X+, and the XL. As expected, all three combine Lumia-style design with low-cost hardware aimed at the masses, from a large 5-inch screen on the 109-Euro XL to the 4-inch display on the 99-Euro X+. The X will be released for just €89 in Eastern Europe, Asia, South America, and a few other global locations, but it won’t be making its way to North America, Japan, Korea, or Western European countries. These aren't competitors to Samsung’s Galaxy S4 or Apple’s iPhone 5S, and there are certainly no surprising hardware additions like a 41-megapixel camera or a giant 6-inch display. Instead, the standout feature of the Nokia X lineup is the software that powers it: Android.Read Article >
Nokia may have pledged allegiance to Microsoft’s Windows Phone software, but that hasn’t stopped the company from experimenting with Android. The X introduces a new “forked” version of Android that’s akin to what Amazon does with its Kindle Fire line. Nokia is effectively taking the open-source elements of Android and then bolting on its own services, a Windows Phone-like UI, and yet another Android app store. The downside to this is that the Nokia X devices won’t have access to Google’s Play store or Google-specific apps like Gmail, Chrome, Maps, and others. However, Android apps will run on the devices with only limited changes required by developers. Nokia is creating its own store where it will curate “hundreds of thousands” of apps. Third-party stores will also be integrated into the Nokia Store, providing other sources for Android apps. The Nokia X will also support sideloading, just as Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets do.
Measuring a mere 6.4mm thick, Sony's new 10-inch tablet immediately grabs attention with its aggressively minimal design. All potential excess has been filed away from the Xperia Z2 Tablet, leaving a device that's lighter than the slimmed-down iPad Air while also touting extra features that Apple's slate can't match. First among them is the Live Color LED display, which Sony claims has the widest color gamut of any mobile device and is shared with the newly announced Xperia Z2 smartphone. Also common between the new Xperia devices is the quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM, and Full HD resolution.Read Article >
Faithful to its name, the Xperia Z2 Tablet feels very much liked a scaled-up Z2, although it does make one compromise in using an 8-megapixel camera instead of the 20.7-megapixel sensor found inside Sony's flagship smartphone. Even so, both of Sony's devices are fully specced up to the task of satisfying your entertainment needs, and their new displays represent an enormous leap forward for Sony. They easily outdo their predecessors, though it's hard to distinguish a real advantage for them when compared against other strong displays like LG's on the G Pad 8.3.
Sony hasn't seen fit to alter the design or size of its flagship Android phone for 2014, with the newly announced Xperia Z2 occupying the same footprint as last year's Z1, and has instead focused on making notable upgrades on the inside. First and foremost, the company has moved to a new IPS display with what it calls Live Color LEDs, a technology unique to Sony that's claimed to give its mobile devices the widest color gamut on the market — bettering even Apple's excellent iPhone and iPad displays.Read Article >
When viewed in person, the Z2 does indeed have a very attractive display, with good contrast and color fidelity, immediately distinguishing it from the mediocre screen of the Z1. At 5.2 inches, the Xperia Z2 also gives you slightly more real estate, though the resolution remains unchanged at 1920 x 1080. The battery, RAM, and processor have all been upgraded as well: the new flagship comes with 3200mAh of power, 3GB of memory, and a quad-core 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801. Aside from a new set of stereo speakers, the external look of the Xperia Z2 is pretty much unchanged, including an all-glass front and back, IP58-certified waterproofing, and a dedicated camera key.
Feb 24, 2014
Qualcomm chief marketing officer Anand Chandrasekher thought eight-core chips were dumb, and called 64-bit processing a "marketing gimmick" last fall. How time flies. After demoting Chandresekher for those comments last year, Qualcomm is now building the Snapdragon 615, an eight-core, 64-bit chip for mobile devices. Along with the Snapdragon 610, its quad-core sibling, the new SOCs represent a new upper-middle class tier in the company's processor lineup. They feature up to eight 64-bit ARM Cortex A53 cores, integrated LTE, and an Adreno 405 GPU hat Qualcomm compares to those more expensive Snapdragon 800 devices. However, the company is quick to qualify that the new eight-core chip won't undercut its flagship chips. "It's definitely a 600, not an 800," says marketing VP Tim McDonough.Read Article >
Feb 23, 2014
We're live from Mobile World Congress in beautiful Barcelona this week. The show officially kicks off tomorrow, but our coverage has already begun with new products and news from LG, Firefox, and HP, among others. There's plenty more on the way — including Samsung's next flagship Galaxy smartphone — so you'll want to read our preview to set your expectations for the show.Read Article >
Sony and Nokia are first for liveblog coverage, but some of you will need to stay up late to follow the action on stage as it happens. If you're up for the task, you'll find the schedule below. It's a big week for the smartphone industry, so keep it locked to be sure you don't miss anything.
Feb 23, 2014
Last month, HP announced a pair of Android VoiceTabs, small tablets that can make regular voice calls. Although initially destined for an India-only release, the 6- and 7-inch VoiceTabs have been redesigned in record speed and at MWC 2014 the company has announced they're now coming to Europe and the Middle East this May.Read Article >
The Slate6 VoiceTab is a smartphone by another name. Its 6-inch display is in line with Nokia's Lumia 1520 and the LG G Flex, both of which describe themselves as smartphones. The general design of the Slate6 is pleasant; it takes cues from devices like the HTC One and BlackBerry Z10, especially with its speaker and mic grilles that line the top and bottom of its display. The rear of the device is relatively unfussy. It comes in a choice of six hues, some subdued, some garishly bright, and all of which feature an enormous HP logo.
Feb 23, 2014
Lenovo's Yoga 8 and Yoga 10 Android tablets have distinctive designs and low price tags, but didn't impress us with their slow performance and poor displays. Today the company announced an updated version of the larger Yoga, the Yoga Tablet 10 HD+, which offers a greatly improved screen and a faster processor.Read Article >
The Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ screen is now a full 1920 x 1200 HD panel, with greatly improved viewing angles and much better pixel density. The screen is a significant step up from the low resolution, 1280 x 800 pixel display used in the Yoga 10. In addition to the new display, Lenovo swapped out the low-cost MediaTek processor for a much quicker, though still entry-level, Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chip. The tablet is much more responsive as a result, and we didn't experience the lag and slow response that we saw on the original Yoga Tablet 10.
Feb 23, 2014
HP has rarely been afraid to copy good design. The company's Envy laptops have long resembled Apple's MacBooks, and last year many of the company's mid-range touchscreen machines adopted the detachable Asus Transformer style. Today, HP is announcing a computer cut from a slightly different cloth: the new HP Pavilion x360 is clearly inspired by Lenovo's successful Yoga lineup of backflipping convertible PCs. Like the Yoga, the x360 lid is on a hinge that rotates all the way around the machine, so you can hold it flat against the back like a tablet, or prop it up in "tent" or "stand" modes when there's a flat surface within reach. And just like Lenovo's most recent addition to the lineup, the Yoga 2 11, the computer runs Windows 8.1 on an Intel Bay Trail processor, in an 11-inch, three-pound laptop with 4GB of RAM, 500GB of magnetic storage, and a fairly low-resolution 1366 x 768 multitouch screen.Read Article >
Feb 23, 2014
ZTE, Huawei, Alcatel, and LG have all brought Firefox OS devices to this year's Mobile World Congress, with the latest generation of both software and hardware looking much more mature, complete, and potentially compelling. Whereas the very first Firefox OS phones had tiny screens with horrible displays and intolerable lag, the 2014 editions are much smoother in operation and more attractive in look and feel. Alcatel is leading the charge with three new handsets and a Fire 7 tablet, while ZTE is introducing the Open C and Open II phones.Read Article >
Handling the new devices with the latest version of the platform is like a night and day experience compared to prior Firefox OS smartphones. Apps open up much quicker, there is little to no input lag, and the browser is something that is actually usable for viewing websites on the go. Underpinning Firefox OS' on-device search is EverythingMe, which provides contextual results from the device and the web when you search for something like music.