Published on December 31 2015

Chinese smartphone maker ZTE has been offering variants to its flagship Axon handsets in a way to expand its market coverage.

Chinese equipment manufacturer and smartphone maker, ZTE, launched Axon Max in China in late December -- a sibling of its flagship Axon model featuring a 6.0-inch screen -- in a move to reach a broader market.

The phone features a 6-inch 1080p display and a 4,140mAh battery, offering the largest screen among the ZTE's Axon family. It also packs with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, 13 and 16 megapixel front and rear cameras, 3GB RAM, 32GB storage, and runs Android 5.1.

ZTE launches Axon Max in effort to boost market reach

Axon Max was firstly officially launched on Chinese e-commerce website JD.com with a pricetag of 2,799 yuan (US$432). The Chinese company in July launched its flagship Axonmodel, and then offered a smaller-sized Axon Mini in October at more competitive prices.

Waiman Lam, senior director of technology and partnerships from ZTE Mobile Devices, said the company launched three different kinds of Axon phones in a row in a bid to serve different demands of different consumer groups.

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The rollout of Axon series was done after extensive surveys and research conducted with consumers in the Chinese and US markets, Lam claims. The handsets have been receiving very favorable response from the consumers, with 97 percent positive feedbacks on China's JD.com and an overall of four and a half consumer reviews on US's Amazon.

But Lam didn't disclose the sales data of Axon phones despite the first Axon model has hit the market for over more than five months.

Earlier reports indicated ZTE has set a 60 million shipment target for 2015, a 25 percent lift from its actual shipment of 48 million devices in 2014. The company shipped a total of 26 million smartphones worldwide in the first six months of 2015 according to its mobile device head, but the number didn't include Axon phones as they were launched in the second half in 2015.

ZTE has pinned high expectations on Axon phones as the company lagged behind major competitors in the populated Chinese market.

A TrendForce report in October showed the top five smartphone brands in China during the third quarter of 2015 were Huawei, Xiaomi, Lenovo, TCL and Oppo, which together shipped 63.2 percent of total 149.5 million handsets in the Chinese market during the quarter.

ZTE has been stepping up promotion activities in the country, according to Lam, with the company planning to double its marketing expenditure on smartphone segment worldwide each year for the next three years.

Lam added that ZTE remains the fourth largest smartphone maker in the US in terms of shipment.

Article Source: ZTE launches Axon Max in effort to boost market reach

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Published on December 31 2015

Galaxy S6 Android 6.0 Marshmallow update revealed in massive photo gallery

Samsung recently released a beta version of its Android 6.0 Marshmallow update for the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge. Unfortunately, the test was limited to the U.K., but a new gallery from SamMobile shows us everything we’re missing here in America.

The biggest visual change is the way Samsung now shows app icons. Each application is flat instead of a shadowed image. Samsung redesigned a few of its own icons, too. The company is also introducing the option to download new themes based on color.

The status bar and quick toggle menus have been tweaked with an all-white design. Samsung also updated its power menu with a minimal style. Finally, the company’s added a new shutter speed option to the Pro mode in its camera app.

Of course, the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update includes Google’s new features. That means advanced permission controls for apps, Google Now on Tap, Doze mode for saving battery life and more.

We’ll probably find even more changes once the update makes its official debut. Enjoy the gallery above and stay tuned for any news on the official upgrade.

Article Source: Galaxy S6 Android 6.0 Marshmallow update revealed in massive photo gallery

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Published on December 23 2015

One area where Android is lacking in comparison with Apple is the tight integration of software and hardware. Apple makes great play of the close integration of all parts of its hardware solutions, allowing for better battery life, improved CPU utilisation, tighter packing of hardware components, all resulting in a better experience for the user.

Android rarely has this advantage. The Nexus line of devices is the closest to that arrangement, where Google contracts and works alongside a manufacturer to work on that year’s ‘developer’ device. This does showcase the latest version of Android, but the Nexus devices are focused on developers and the geekerati, not on retail sales.

Galaxy S7 Leaks Reveal Samsung's Weak Point

Android devices tend to have more powerful chips, more memory, and access to more storage than the iPhone competition, but the real-world performance is either on a par with Apple’s handset, or lagging behind. Android’s ‘cross-hardware’ compatibility allows for a wide variety of choice for each manufacturer, but it leads to an OS that is bloated and slower to run than iOS, which needs only concern itself with a handful of iPhone configurations.

The hardware/software interface is rather technical, but most users only see the results, be it weaker battery life, a slower user interface, or other smaller details that diminish the user experience Which makes it all the more interesting that Google is reportedly working with Samsung to improve TouchWiz

Galaxy S7 Leaks Reveal Samsung's Weak Point

TouchWiz has been seen by many as the weak point in Samsung’s Android offering (Amit Chowdhry, previously on Forbes). As the manufacturer that sells the most Android based hardware, Samsung’s choice of user interface is seen as being ‘Android’ by many consumers. The perception of ‘not quite up to the job’ relicts on Android as a whole.

In a perfect world Google would prefer that every manufacturer just uses an ‘out of the box’ Android configuration, but the differentiation is required by the manufacturers and the market, even if it is Android at the bottom. But this is not a perfect world. Alterations to the user interface in an Android smartphone swing from the pure experience of a SIM Free Nexus device and various implementations of an ‘almost pure’ Android UI (such as Sony’s Xperia line of devices), to those that go through wholesale changes for a new experience such as LG’s Optimus.

It makes sense for Google to work with Samsung to reportedly create “a non-delayed operating experience” that has a “greater fluency than iOS”. That will give Android a much better reputation when the next South Korean flagship arrives with improves to TouchWiz, it gives Google input into the design process that previously delivered the Magazine UX from Samsung (something that Google was not at all happy about), and it helps keep the look and feel of Google’s vision of Android.

Samsung is struggling with Android at the moment, and there is a danger that 2016 could see it rely more on mid-range handsets for revenue and profit if the Galaxy S7 does not turn the ship of flagship handset sales around. If Samsung were to fall into this ‘pile em high and sell em cheap’ model, Google would lose a vital ally in the high-end Android flagships. With many companies working on their own Android forks all with their own interfaces (for example Xiaomi, OnePlus, and WileyFox, to name three), Google’s stewardship of Android’s look and feel could be in peril.

Samsung’s continued presence and power with a ‘Google-approved UI’ in its handsets is an important part of Google’s Android ecosystem. As Samsung’s mobile division looks to improve under its new leader, improving the speed, the visual look, and the impact of the Galaxy devices is an easy win for Samsung, for Android, and most importantly, for Google.

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Published on December 23 2015

Anyone who's been on Android for as long as I have (five years), knows that Android updates can break things. But usually these are just minor annoyances; little things you can afford to wait on for the next update to fix it.

That's not the case for Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, which got pushed out to Nexus owners about two weeks ago. It hit my personal Nexus 6P $499.00 at Google Store on Dec. 16—I know the exact date because that was the day I lost 50 percent battery in less than an hour by doing nothing more than listening to Audible with the screen off.

It's a fairly staggering downturn for the Editors' Choice-winning Nexus 6P, which clocked 9 hours, 59 minutes during PCMag's battery rundown test (screen brightness to max and stream fullscreen video over LTE). Android 6.0 Marshmallow similarly received high marks from us due to its battery life improvements, particularly Android Doze, which puts your phone into a deep sleep state when it's untouched for a period of time.

Android 6.0.1 appears to have broken that as well. Charging my phone to 100 percent before going to sleep at night normally resulted in a battery drain of 2 or 3 percent at most. After the 6.0.1 update, I would wake up with a 20 percent battery drain. By the time I arrived at the office in the morning, I was down to nearly 50 percent, from completely regular usage on the train and a screen on-time of a half hour.

I'm not the only one who has been suffering from this. A significant number of users who upgrade report serious problems with rapid battery drain, LTE connectivity issues, touch input drops, Doze failing to work, and Wi-Fi.

We spotted the same touch input drops on the Google Pixel C. Users of the Nexus 5X $379.00 at Google Store, meanwhile, have also reported issues with battery life, suggesting that this is not a device-specific problem.

Unusual battery drain is sadly all too common on Android. Due to the nature of the OS, a single misbehaving app can absolutely destroy your battery by keeping your phone awake, using up data, or some other weirdness that only Google's Android team truly understands (and possibly not even them).

Taking that into account, I went through the full troubleshooting steps, uninstalling Audible, Facebook (a common culprit in these situations), and several other apps that I thought might be causing wakelocks or preventing the phone from going into Doze. I installed a battery monitor and did a full factory reset—a solution that normally works and is recommended after big Android updates.

Nothing helped. As far as I could tell, my phone and its battery were truly ruined. It was at this point I sent the Nexus 6P back to Google.

Could rooting and flashing back to an old build of Marshmallow have solved my problem? Yes, probably, but I should not have to do that. The Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X are both clearly targeted at general consumers at this point, not just Android enthusiasts. You can see advertisements for the Nexus 6P in regular public settings like the bus stop and even on TV.

The Pixel C, Nexus 6P, and Nexus 5X are all clearly part of Google's consumer-facing lineup, not just a proof of concept or developer devices. Updates can't and shouldn't break things. And most of all they shouldn't require you to unlock the bootloader and flash a custom recovery because that's just not what an average consumer will do.

A few years ago, I would have had no issue rooting, installing a custom recovery, overclocking, setting my phone on fire, etc. But these days, I just want a phone that works and won't lose major functionality from a small update. That's why I'm returning my Nexus 6P. If you have one, you might want to hold off updating your phone to Android 6.0.1, at least until Google acknowledges and promises a fix for these bugs.

And if you're wondering what phone I ended up getting after returning my Nexus 6P, well it was the iPhone 6s Plus because you can take an Android fanboy away from his OS, but you can never take away his love of phablets.

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Published on December 23 2015

Lumia 650 revealed in unofficial renders, launch incoming

Microsoft will reportedly launch a new Windows 10 smartphone sometime either next month or in February that will come in at a much lower price point than the flagship Lumia 950. It’s called the Lumia 650, and Windows Central recently partnered with @PhoneDesigner to give us a look at what the phone will look like. The photos you see in the gallery above aren’t from Microsoft but, as Windows Central explains, were created using leaked documents.

The design looks like a cross between the Lumia 930 and the new Lumia 950. The renders show likely support for two SIM cards and microUSB instead of USB-C. Also note the refined edges that suggest there’s a metal frame running around the phone. You’ll find, however, that there doesn’t appear to be a dedicated camera button, which Microsoft typically reserves for its more premium smartphone.

Windows Central says the phone will sport a Snapdragon 212 chip and 1GB of RAM, which is far less powerful than the Snapdragon 808 and Snapdragon 810 that power the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, respectively. It seems weird to me, then, that Continuum is also apparently confirmed to run on the Lumia 650, given that it already runs pretty poorly on more capable processors. Other specs reportedly include an 8MP camera, a 5MP front-facing camera and a 5-inch 720p display.

Microsoft usually has a presence during Mobile World Congress, so if we don’t see it before that show in February, I’d guess it makes an appearance there. Hit the source to learn more from Windows Central.

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Published on December 10 2015

Our favorite new iPhone feature Apple added in iOS 9.2

Better late than never, as the saying goes, and this time we’re talking about the iPhone getting a feature you’d think it should have had from the get-go. iOS 9.2 has added support for SD cards to all iPhone models with which the software is compatible (you can find the full list right here).

That means you can connect a Lightning to SD Card Reader adapter or even a digital camera to the iPhone and transfer pictures directly to the iPhone, completely eliminating the need for an intermediary PC.

The new feature is buried in the iOS 9.2 official change log, and it’s definitely a feature that many of us will appreciate. As PetaPixel reports, all you need to do to take advantage of the new feature is connect a Lightning to USB Camera Adapter or a Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader to the iPhone. Once that’s done, the Photos app will open on the iPhone, at which point you can import the photos and videos you want.

In addition to releasing iOS 9.2 to compatible iOS devices, Apple also confirmed that the iPad Pro supports USB 3.0 download speeds over its Lightning port, releasing a new Lightning to SD Card Reader Adapter to take advantage of the new speeds. Best of all, the new adapter is still priced at $29, just like its predecessor.

When unveiling the iPad Pro, Apple did not mention that its Lightning port would support USB 3.0 data speeds, though some teardowns noticed that Apple had quietly upgraded the port.

Article Source: Our favorite new iPhone feature Apple added in iOS 9.2

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Published on December 10 2015

Smartphones to Disappear in 5 Years, Says Study

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

Show your iPhone 6 some extra love tonight.

Stroke your Samsung Galaxy and tell it just how much it's done for you over the years. Well, over the months, perhaps.

Whisper to your Motorola that it's never over till it's over, but you always have to prepare for the bitter end.

Why am I asking you to do this? Because it could be that in five years' time your smartphone will be no more. I don't just mean your smartphone. I mean everybody's smartphone.

This is the startling suggestion emerging from the "10 Hot Consumer Trends" study conducted by Ericsson.

Its ConsumerLab delved deep into future trends and identified some quite predictable results.

The Lifestyle Network Effect, for example. This is a fancy phrase encompassing the thought that the more people use online services, the more people use online services.

It's the thing sometimes referred to as the sharing economy--the one that might be better known as the Someone Will Give It to Me This Instant and Cheaper Economy.

The near future will apparently see the rise of electronic things being inserted into our bodies, so that we can know everything our bodies are doing and feeling and thereby improve our bodily functions.

And, as if this hasn't happened already, another hot trend is that we'll want to stream everything and be commanded by nothing.

But it's the smartphone prediction that's truly moving.

The idea is that very soon artificial intelligence will be so advanced that we'll interact with things that we wear--and, who knows, with doors, ceilings, and Britain's Houses of Parliament.

Smartphones have awful battery life. They're clingy, too. They're in constant need of being held.

It just isn't the basis for a long-term relationship.

AI will just allow us to talk into thin air and be heard and even understood.

But wait.

Was this study done by asking experts, or even people who claim to be experts? Actually no (and yes).

Ericsson asked real human beings--100,000 of them, in 39 countries.

This ought to cheer smartphones up a little.

Steve Jobs was always fond of reminding everyone that real people don't know what they want. So can they really be sure of what their desires will be in the future, at least in terms of gadgets? (Actually, in terms of anything.)

Can they be sure that the exciting prospect of the Internet of Things, which suggests every single household item will be controlled from your phone, will suddenly divorce the phone without a second thought?

Sometimes in surveys people give answers that make them look wise. Could it be that these respondents pander better than they prognosticate?

Or perhaps these 100,000 have been watching more sci-fi movies than the average and have good reason to wish their smartphones away.

But how will Apple make money then?

Article Source: Smartphones to Disappear in 5 Years, Says Study

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Published on December 10 2015

Apple has done something pretty great since the release of iOS 9: been upfront about things. After its near silence to bugs found in iOS 8, it has gone on record on multiple occasions in three months since the release of iOS 9 to front up to problems both big and small. And this has continued following the release of iOS 9.2 yesterday…

Following in the footsteps of other iOS 9 releases, iOS 9.2 has detailed and highly transparent release notes that openly confirm issues users have suffered. These include the heavily reported alarm bug (“Addressing an issue where updating iOS could prevent an alarm from going off”), iCloud failures news of which I broke (“Fixing an issue that prevented some manual iCloud Backups from completing”) and email attachment hangs (“Fixing an issue that caused mail attachments to be inaccessible for some users with POP email accounts”).

Apple iOS 9.2 Release Admits To High Profile Problems

In addition to this iOS 9.2 comes clean over a plethora of other issues:

  • Improved stability of Safari
  • Improved stability of Podcasts
  • Resolving an issue for some users that caused attachments to overlap text in mail
  • Fixing an issue where Live Photos could have turned off after restoring from a previous iCloud backup
  • Addressing an issue that could cause search in Contacts to display no results
  • Resolving an issue that could have prevented Calendar from displaying all seven days in week view
  • Fixing an issue where Camera screen on iPad could be black when attempting to capture video
  • Addressing an issue that could cause instability in the Activity app when viewing the day of Daylight Savings Time transition
  • Fixing an issue that could prevent data from appearing in Health
  • Fixing an issue that could prevent Wallet updates and Lock screen alerts from displaying
  • Fixing an issue where some users were unable to login to Find my iPhone
  • Addressing an issue where using the iPad keyboard could unintentionally trigger text selection mode
  • Fixing an issue on Cyrillic keyboards where caps lock would be enabled when typing in URL or email fields
  • Fixing issues with VoiceOver when using Camera face detection
  • Fixing an issue with speech rate of Speak Screen
  • Fixing an issue with Guided Access when trying to end phone calls
  • It’s a pretty lengthy list covering almost every major area of the operating system (and actually omits mention of the Touch ID bug). That said, it also sets the standard for customer transparency in an age where Microsoft has famously hidden numerous Windows 10 updates behind the vague description: “This update includes non-security-related changes to enhance the functionality of Windows 10 through new features and improvements.” Thanks a lot!

    Of course, despite it containing a mass of bug fixes, iOS 9.2 also brings six handy new features to the table. Consequently, while it remains far from ideal that iOS 9 has run into so many issues in its short lifespan (the scale of which is unknown, but clearly wide enough for Apple to call them out directly) it is a long way from the “Just avoid holding it in that way” era of responses.

    No software is ever bug free, but when bugs do come this is the sort of open admission users expect and deserve from all companies…

​Article Source: Apple iOS 9.2 Release Admits To High Profile Problems

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Published on December 9 2015

Last week Samsung’s leaky supply chain spilt news that the upcoming Galaxy S7 would look a lot like the Galaxy S6. Given the polarising reaction to the S6’s premium yet impractical design it’s a risky decision, though less so than the latest surprising revelations…

Industry stalwart GSMArena has attained schematics it claims Samsung is now distributing to case makers (in this case ITSKINS) and they reveal not only that two Galaxy S7 models are on the way, but they’re both getting bigger.

The minor changes come to the Galaxy S7, which the diagrams show as measuring 143.37 x 70.8 x 6.94mm. These are very similar to the Galaxy S6’s 143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8mm, but go against the usual trend of ever thinner smartphones by being both slightly thicker and wider. The changes aren’t enough to imagine Samsung squeezing in a screen larger than the 5.1-inches in the S6, but hopes will be raised that we’ll get a bigger battery this year after the S6’s battery life fell short.

Galaxy S7 Leak Reveals Massive New Smartphone

Where the bigger news lies (pun very much intended), however, is the revelation of a massive second edition of the Galaxy S7 which comes in at 163.32 x 82.01 x 7.82 mm. To put this in context, the 5.7-inch Galaxy S6 Edge+ measures 154.4 x 75.8 x 6.9 mm. Furthermore arguably the largest mass market phone, 2014’s 6-inch Nexus 6, measures 159.3 x 83 x 10.1 mm so the mystery Galaxy – while thinner – has an even bigger footprint than this.

Quite what Samsung is planning here remains to be seen, but it certainly opens the doors for a ‘Galaxy S7+’ to come with a 6-inch screen. Is this too big? For my money yes. I lived with the Nexus 6 for a year and was very happy to swap it for the thinner, narrower and admittedly brilliant Nexus 6P. If Samsung is also going to keep the Galaxy S6’s glass finish here the Galaxy S7+ could be one massive, slippery phone.

Other observations: the diagrams show the home button to be more angular than the current models, the SIM card slot has moved to the side of the phone (could it possibly house an integrated microSD slot this time?) and a microUSB charging port.

Galaxy S7 Leak Reveals Massive New Smartphone

The latter two are actually big news and, for those concerned by these increased phone dimensions, I’d argue microUSB hints they may not be finalised. After all the industry is expected to follow the lead of the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X in dropping MicroUSB and widely adopting the fast, reversible USB Type-C in 2016.

So am I skeptical? A little. The practice of handset makers giving out detailed dimensions to case makers well ahead of release is common practice (it lets them ready accessories), but it can also be exploited for self promotion and occasionally manufacturers use it as a trap to catch case makers who let information leak.

Then again Samsung is already taking a big chipset gamble for the Galaxy S7, so it’s highly possible the company is also looking to shake up its handset sizes. After all the Note range popularised the phablet form factor in the first place. So could 2016 be the year it gets even bigger?

Article Source: Galaxy S7 Leak Reveals Massive New Smartphone

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Published on December 9 2015

HTC will launch its Vive VR headsets in April 2016

It doesn't sound like HTC will be able to make a limited number of Vive VR headsets available for purchase by the end of 2015, as it once told Engadget. But at least it now has a set date for the device's commercial release: April 2016.

In a blog/social media post detailing the device's timeline, HTC said that it's hosting a developer conference in Beijing on December 18th and launching a second-gen dev kit before the masses can start buying the headset.

It also plans to distribute 7,000 units to developers in early 2016 and taking the product of its partnership with Valve on a demo tour at a number of key events, such as The Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, GDC and MWC.

Bottom line is that the headset will finally come out next year, likely a bit after the consumer version of Oculus Rift becomes available -- good luck to your poor, poor wallets.

Article Source: HTC will launch its Vive VR headsets in April 2016

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